Romantic Entanglements (1/?)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Series: Talk to the Hand
Characters: Ten-II, Rose Tyler, Donna Noble
Beta: None, though that would've been a damn good idea, don't you think?
Spoilers: Journey's End, obviously.
Disclaimer: I don't own them, obviously.
Summary: Follows This Immortal Coil. Rose's attempt to spice up her love life goes a little awry. To put it mildly. Uses the 'alien sex pollen' cliché, without using any actual sex.
A/N: It should be interesting to see how well this particular cliché goes with my seeming inability to write smut. Oh, and the Doctor/Donna interaction is fun to write!
Part One – Guys Night Out
"So, how about dinner?" Rose asks, tongue in teeth. The Doctor is sprawled across a tattered blanket spread out on the concrete floor, bits of alien tech scattered around him, wires looped around his neck. He's dressed in a stained blue t-shirt a few inches too short for his long torso, and every time he shifts she gets a tantalizing glimpse of his back or belly. It almost distracts her from the rumbling of her empty stomach. "We can go to that chippie down the road. Or if you'd prefer, we can go to the Ivy and hobnob with the snobs." Showing him off to society is rapidly becoming her favorite hobby. He may be noisy and have the attention span of a small child, but he cleans up real good.
A noncommittal grunt is his only response, and Rose sighs. Her eyes stray towards the piece of TARDIS coral in the corner, an irregularly shaped amber chunk roughly the size of a mastiff floating in a nutrient bath. She's at a loss as to how something that resembles a sea creature can be transformed into a bigger on the inside time machine. The Doctor's rambling explanations about 'block transfer computations' and 'pocket universes' leave her none the wiser.
"Or I could order a pizza and we could eat it here," she continues. "You could tell me what you're working on, and I can pretend to understand one out of every ten words you speak while in reality I'm mentally undressing you and thinking of all sorts of naughty things we could do together."
"Umph," the Doctor replies. He's critically examining several wires which have grown a sheath of coral – components he's modifying to be compatible with the TARDIS. She wonders if he's heard anything she's said; usually the words 'undress' and 'naughty' cause him to prick up his proverbial ears – as well as other, definitely not proverbial, parts – and he'd be all over her.
Rose sighs. Clearly, getting his attention is going to require a more hands-on approach. So she rises from the desk where she'd been pretending to work on a Torchwood report and in actuality drawing doodles of the Doctor's bum, kicks off her heels and stands behind him, lightly running her stockinged toe along the hollow of his spine. He automatically arches into her caress like a cat, and she grins down at him as he puts the components aside and angles he head to eye her obliquely. She'd reach down and stroke his hair, but at the moment, it scares her.
This week, he's investigating the truth behind the 'blonds have more fun' saying. It had given her the shock of her life to come home two evenings ago to find his hair done up in white-blond spikes, his eyebrows dyed to match. The hair is disturbing enough, but it's the near-invisible eyebrows that are driving her spare. She wants to pin him to the ground and color them in with a Sharpie.
And then move on to other things. And she wants to do those other things before she dies of sexual frustration.
Their first few months together, he'd been insatiable (once she'd realized he was actually interested in women – it'd been a bit iffy, at first, and sometimes she's still not sure…) He'd thrown himself into learning every aspect of being human with the same enthusiasm he'd exhibited when exploring a new planet. And he's proven to be a very good student.
He's matured quite a bit since then, becoming less demanding of her. He's become more like his Time Lord self, content with using hand-holding and hugging to express his feelings. Rose had thought that she'd like a man who wasn't thinking about sex non-stop. She hadn't realized that that would result in her thinking about sex non-stop. It's making concentrating on work frustrating, to say the least.
The Doctor rolls over so he's looking up at her, over the rims of the brainy specs he refuses to admit that he actually needs.
"Can't," he says finally, jolting Rose out of her reverie. For a moment she flounders, trying to remember what they'd been discussing. Then her stomach rumbles helpfully. Oh, yeah. Dinner.
He tweaks his ear absently. "Donna and I are going to that new club tonight," he says, his tone resigned. "I can't put it off any longer; Greg's been after me for a review." Which explains why he's been burying himself in his work on the TARDIS, she realizes. For two months, he's been stuck writing for The Star's weekly homo/bi/whatever-sexual column until a new writer is found and, while he's proven to be surprisingly adept at it, he's uncomfortable with researching the subject matter. He's still very young and naïve when it comes to matters of human sexuality and his body's reactions to it, and he really doesn't like exploring it so publicly.
"You mean that 'gentleman only' club?" she asks. His only answer is a rueful half-smile. "Can't wait to hear how you're getting Donna into that one." He just grins mischievously.
Rose is happy he's found someone to hang around with, even if too much exposure to Donna brings out his own inner Donna. He's much happier now that he has someone he can spend time with when Rose is busy – as is Rose, since leaving the Doctor alone for too long inevitably results in ruined appliances and vanishing cosmetics.
But still, this is the third time in a row he's blown her off to do some research with Donna. If he were any other man, Rose would suspect him of cheating.
Rose just sighs. "And I suppose you don't have time to eat, then?" That's another problem with his friendship with Donna: she's currently on a diet, and the Doctor tends to unconsciously mimic her habits when he's around her. Lately, he's had days where all he's eaten are a light salad. He's aware of the problem, and makes a conscious effort to eat, but his diet just isn't as healthy as it should be.
"I'll eat there. I promise," he adds emphatically, when he sees her skepticism. "I have to review the food anyway, and I don't want to fill up before then."
Her shoulders slump. "All right… I'll just… grab something from the cafeteria then after I finish my report." Dejectedly, she walks back to her desk. She really misses spending time with him, and even sharing a hasty dinner would have been nice.
She's suddenly grabbed from behind and pulled against his thin chest.
"I'm sorry," he breathes into her hair. "I know I haven't been the best boyfriend lately, but I promise, once I hand over this column to the new writer, I'll make more time for you." He tightens his hold on her. "It's just for one more week. And I promise, I won't let it get in the way tomorrow night. We'll make it a Valentine's Day to remember, all right?"
Valentine's Day is a somewhat more boisterous holiday in Pete's World, Rose has found. Rather than the private custom of celebrating with romantic dinners and expensive hotel rooms, the day is celebrated with a holiday from work and a lively, city-wide festival, usually culminating in masquerade parties, in which couples dressed in coordinating costumes, drank wine and feasted on sinfully delicious holiday sweets. Rose has heard tales of parties where the sweets are laced with aphrodisiacs, and the stories of the goings-on, told in whispers around water coolers across London, are legendary. And more than a little XXX-rated. There's a reason so many people in this universe have November birthdays…
Rose has spent the last several years avoiding the holiday, finding it a bitter reminder of all she has lost. This year, she has no excuse. The Vitex heiress and her mysterious beau are expected to put in an appearance at at least one social function. Surprisingly, the Doctor readily agreed to go, provided it wasn't one of the huge, star-studded extravaganzas. The Doctor loves to read and write celebrity gossip – but he hates being the subject of it.
They're planning to attend a costume party one of Pete's business associates is holding. Fortunately, since the guest list included more professional acquaintances rather than personal, the party should be more low-key than many of the others Rose has received invitations to. There will be private rooms for those thus inclined – and oh, is Rose inclined! – but it will all be very discrete.
As for the matter of costumes… The Doctor had argued for butler and French maid in honor of their first visit to Pete's World, but after the revelation that her step dad periodically dresses in a maid's outfit for her mum, Rose has lost the taste for the idea. She eventually managed to talk the Doctor into a pirate and wench combo, on one condition.
She isn't going to be the wench.
It had taken quite a bit of wheedling on his part for her to agree to this. She's used to his occasional need to get in touch with his feminine side – which, thanks to his unique biology, is far more literal with him than in your standard male – and no longer even bats an eye when she catches him in a dress, or stockings or, on one memorable occasion, a stuffed bra. But it's always been a private thing, known only to the two of them. And her mum. And Pete. And anyone who bought a tabloid after the 'satiny red girly knickers' incident at London's most posh restaurant. Rose isn't sure how well it'll be received in public; he could be seen as playful, cheeky, eccentric, or downright odd. Rose doesn't care how it'll reflect on her, but her mum will raise hell if the Doctor causes a Tyler family controversy that doesn't involve her.
The Doctor glances up at the clock on the wall. "I'd better get ready," he says, sounding as if he's heading off to his execution. "Donna's going to be here in fifteen minutes, and I haven't even done my hair!"
Rose releases him reluctantly. "I'll see you later, then. Try to enjoy your boys' night out with Donna." The Doctor just humphs again and runs off.
Rose watches him go, then begins picking up the tools he's left scattered on the blanket. In some ways, she thinks irritably, he is such a normal bloke. When she's gathered them up and tossed them haphazardly in the Doctor's tool box (which he'll raise hell about, but it serves him right for not picking up after himself) she goes to TARDIS in the tank, reaches in and pats the slick surface. Something brush her mind in response, a feather-light touch that makes her smile. She'll never be able speak with it like the Doctor can, which may be a good thing, considering the infant ship's insistence on calling the Doctor 'mummy.' Rose doesn't really want to know what sort of relationship the ship thinks it has with her.
With the clean-up done, Rose gathers up her paperwork and is preparing to turn it in when she notices that no one has signed off on the autopsy report. She groans inwardly; Owen is the last person she wants to see right now. Or ever, really. Resignedly, Rose rides the lift down to the basement to the isolated morgue. Rose still isn't sure if the morgue's seclusion is because of its grisly purpose, or its head of staff, sugeon-turned-xenobiologist Dr. Owen Harper.
Rose braces herself at the entrance to Owen's lair – lab, she corrects herself, you are above using the nicknames the rest of Torchwood has given him. Even if he is a creepy little troll and treats the morgue like his lair.
Owen is examining a sample under the microscope when she enters, his back to her. Rose pauses, fixing a smile to her face, then clears her throat loudly. Owen makes a dismissive wave, choosing instead to begin preparing another slide. Rose's smile slips, and she slaps her foot against the floor impatiently. Owen responds with a rude hand gesture, and Rose sighs."The annual employee review is next month, Dr. Harper," Rose says flatly. "As one of the Torchwood team leaders, they ask for my opinion on everyone I've worked with. Don't make 'prat' the kindest thing I say about you."
Owen whirls around, putting on his best smarmy grin. "Miss Tyler! I didn't see you there! I was busy with this very important experiment – "
"If it had been important or delicate, you'd have started yelling at me the moment I walked through that door," Rose snorts. She's been on the receiving end of far too many Harper rants to let this bother her. "I just need you to sign this so I can file my paperwork and go home."
"Wouldn't want to keep the Boy Toy waiting," Owen says.
Before she can stop herself, she growls, somehow managing to express all the frustration she couldn't find words for with the Doctor in one inarticulate sound. A slow smile spreads across Owen's sharp features, and Rose's heart sinks. Of course. While the Doctor is Captain Obtuse, Owen Harper can read her like a book.
"Oh-ho! Pretty Boy not doing it for you?" Owen sneers. Really, she should know by now that if anyone can identify sexual frustration, it's Owen. After all, he's an expert on the subject. He'd written the Torchwood manual on how sexual frustration can affect job performance.
Rose grits her teeth. "It's none of your damn business," she snarls.
Owen has had it in for the Doctor ever since the Great Severed Limb Emancipation two months previous. The Doctor had been deeply distressed by the sheer number of limbs in jars on display in Owen's lab. Rose had had no idea just how upsetting it had been to him until one night she and the Doctor had been working late at Torchwood. She'd just put the finishing touches on a proposal for the Board when she'd received a frantic call from Owen – the Doctor had broken into his lab and was dumping out the containers.
Rose had raced downstairs just in time to witness a newly-freed lump of flesh – a foot, from the looks of it – launch itself from the shattered glass of its container and towards Owen's face, stubby toes struggling to gain a foothold in the man's mouth.
Owen had run around the lab shrieking like a little girl while the Doctor, oblivious, had crouched among the piles of limbs, his face crestfallen as he prodded one sodden foot with his sonic screwdriver. "I wanted to see if any of them could be like me," he'd told her sadly. "That's the only one that's alive," he'd gestured towards Owen. Rose had wanted to take him into her arms and comfort him, but realized that saving Owen should probably be the first priority. Pity, that. Owen had survived the encounter with several scratches from toenails and a nasty case of an alien equivalent of athlete's foot on his tongue and lips.
That was when Rose had first realized how lonely the Doctor was, shortly before he'd met this universe's Donna Noble.
"Ah," Owen says. "Do I detect the lovely dulcet tone of someone who isn't getting enough?"
"Drop it. Now."
Before Owen can jump on that, she shoves the papers into his hands and snaps, "Sign."
He does, but before she can snatch the papers back, he yanks them out of the way. "I could help you with your little problem," he says.
"I don't. Have. A problem," Rose grits out.
"No… there's nothing wrong with you," Owen says with a lascivious grin. Rose somehow manages not to strangle him – murdering one's co-workers, no matter how well-deserved, leads to even more paperwork. "Your boyfriend, however, is a half-alien with a hormone imbalance. This could lead to… dry spells."
"It's not the first time I survived a dry spell."
"You may survive, but I'm not so sure about the rest of us," Owen says. "It's only been two weeks, and you're ready to bite off my head."
Rose doesn't want to know how Owen knows how long it's been since she and the Doctor were last intimate. "And you think you can help?"
"Yeah. Sounds like you need a little ASP," Owen smirks.
Rose reflexively slaps him.
"Oi!" he shrieks. "I said ASP – A-S-P!"
Rose mentally runs through the catalogue of Torchwood acronyms and comes up blank. Meaning this is an Owen acronym, and odds are good that the 'S' stands for 'Sex.' "And that would be…?"
"Alien Sex Pollen," Owen clarifies. "It's, er, not an official classification, but even the higher-ups use it. It's an umbrella term for alien plant-based chemicals with aphrodisiac qualities." Owen goes to one of the stainless steel cabinets and removes a locked box. He opens it by pressing his thumb to an electronic reader, and the lid slowly opens to reveal vials and packets of fluids and powders of various colours and consistencies.
There are a lot more varieties than Rose has anticipated. She wonders if Unresolved Sexual Tension is a devastating epidemic across the galaxy, for there to be so many possible cures for it.
"And why would you want to help?" Rose demands.
"Ohh… there's the little matter of the employee performance review," he says. "I might have pissed off Dr. Rourke again, and I could really use some positive feedback. You don't have to say I have a charming personality," he adds hastily, when she wrinkles her nose in disgust, "just tell them I'm good at my job."
Unfortunately, Owen is good at his job. The best, really. So she wouldn't actually be giving in to his demands since she'd be saying what she'd normally have said anyway. And, dammit, she is more than a little desperate. "All right," she says cautiously. "Tell me about this… ASP."
"I've sampled all of them," he says.
"That's not something to be proud of," Rose says dryly. "In fact, it's a little disturbing. Do you always try out random extra-terrestrial plants and hope for sexy results?"
"I tested them on Weevils, first," he defends. "It's perfectly safe! There are some side effects, yeah; this one, for example, works quickly and makes both partners insatiable for several hours, but the Weevils were lethargic for a day afterward. This one, on the other hand, acts more slowly and lasts longer, and there isn't as much passion, but at least you'll be able to get out of bed the next morning." His eyes brighten. "It all depends – "
"Owen, if you use the 'lesser of two Weevils' pun again, I'm going to assign you to a clean-up crew for the next six months."
Owen scowls. "The point is, they're all safe. Not only that, but most of the Torchwood staff uses ASP; it's why we cultivate so much of it in the Hothouse. Even your father has been known to –"
"If you value your life, you will shut up right now," Rose growls.
"Right," Owen says, tugging at the collar of his shirt. "Parents don't have sex; forgot that little fact."
Rose ignores him. "If I do this – and it's a very big if – I want something that won't have either of us throwing ourselves at the nearest available object – living or inanimate – and shagging it rotten. I don't want to be focused on sex to the exclusion of all else because, with our luck, that's when aliens will invade. I don't want to be incapacitated for hours or days afterward. I just want one good night with the man I love!"
"I'd recommend this one. Basically, it amplifies your feelings, so you won't go around shagging sofas if you don't fancy them." He selects a packet of what looks like pink dust. "It's potent, fast-acting, and wears off in a couple of hours with no side-effects beyond what's caused by your… activities. Things'll get a little primal for awhile, but you'll still be able to react if there's trouble. So far, there haven't been any complaints."
Primal? That sounds messy. And fun. Still, she eyes the packet warily.
"It's safe; I promise. In fact, this particular compound is a legal drug on many planets – and there are very strict guidelines for something like this. Look, I may not be fond of your bloke, but I'm not stupid enough to give you something harmful and destroy my career because of some stupid vendetta."
Rose considers. Sexy clothing and subtle (as well as not-so-subtle) hints have had no effect on the Doctor. Maybe a little something to spice up their love life won't hurt. And she can always change her mind and return it.
"All right," she sighs. "I'll give it a try. And if you tell anyone, Owen, I'm slipping some of this in your food and sending you into the Weevil pens." He blanches, and she turns on a heel and stalks out, the packet clutched in her fingers.
I can't believe I'm doing this…
The line to the club wraps around the block, and the Doctor eyes it in dismay. The club is far busier than any of the others the Doctor has reviewed – and it's the first he's been to that is strictly men only. He's starting to attract attention, and it makes him feel uncomfortable. He suddenly finds himself wishing he were in his previous body – this incarnation is far too 'cute' and 'adorable' and 'pretty' for his own good, and he feels like he's going to be eaten alive. He tries to hide behind Donna as they head towards the club, but she stops and shoves him in front of her. "You first!" he squawks.
"Oh, no, Alien Boy. It's up to you to get me in. In case you haven't noticed, I'm not exactly their target demographic." She grabs her chest in emphasis. "You might be oblivious to my feminine figure, but they won't be."
The Doctor gets the feeling this is one of those dreaded situations there's just no right response for. So he simply grabs her arm and steers her towards the door. "Just play along," he murmurs into her ear. "Trust me. I'll get you inside." He grins broadly and winks. She glowers suspiciously.
"Check out that line," she groans as they get closer. "We'll be out here all night. I was hoping to get a little bit of sleep before work tomorrow, you know."
The Doctor clucks his tongue. "You're getting old, Donna Noble," he chides. She smacks his shoulder. He pouts, then says, "Besides, I don't have to worry about lines." He walks straight up to the bouncer, and Donna trails behind him, intrigued. No doubt she wants to see him try to take on the bouncer who may be the same height as the Doctor, but is three times as wide, and all of that is muscle.
"I'm John Smith. I'm with The Star. I should be on the list," he says haughtily. "I was invited by the owner to review the club for my column."
The bouncer makes a show of checking his list, then frowns when he actually finds the Doctor's name.
"Looks like you're in," the bouncer says. He eyes Donna and scowls. "But your… friend may want to go somewhere else."
"Oh, don't mind Donald," the Doctor says, slinging his arm around Donna's shoulders. "He woke up this morning wanting to be pretty."
The bouncer studies Donna closely, then nods and steps aside.
"He didn't put up much of a protest, did he?" Donna says as they go through the entrance. They're standing in a short hallway which ends at another doorway. The Doctor pauses to brace himself for what's to come, which is made more difficult by the photos lining the wall. They're artistic, even tastefully so – but they still all portray nude men in suggestive poses. One photo, situated at the Doctor's eye level and portraying two men and some rather creative uses of gardening implements, makes his mouth dry and his heart beat faster. He really, really hopes he isn't going to see that in the club… And he's never going to be able to look at a corkscrew the same way again.
He swallows, and forces a grin. "Come along, Donald!" he says, and with a cheeky wink and a click of his tongue, he hauls her towards the second door, which he opens with a flourish.
"I hate you," she mutters into his ear. The Doctor ignores her, taking a deep breath and steeling himself as he takes his first step into the seething mass of wiggling, gyrating, sashaying humanity. The deafening music washes over them, and he fights the impulse to cover his ears. I can do this… I've been to Mardi Gras, to Carnivale, to planet-wide celebrations that make this seem tame in comparison. This… this is nothing!
The club takes up two floors. The ground floor is primarily taken up by the dance floor, interspersed with cages and small platforms for scantily-clad club dancers. A stage for the DJ or a live band is set up along one wall, and a crowded bar takes up two more walls. The fourth wall is filled with a massive mirror. Strobe lights flash, music hammers against his ears, and humanity ebbs and flows around them. The Doctor feels ill from the sensory overload and wants to sit down.
"Okay, I've changed my mind – I bloody love you," Donna says, her eyes eagerly sweeping around the crowded club to take in the athletic young men in skimpy costumes that were gyrating in cages or on tables. "This is much better than any of the clubs I've been to with Nerys."
"You do realize you're not their type, right?" the Doctor murmurs in her ear. It's a condition he envies; they've barely taken ten steps into the crowd and he's already received more leers and pats on the bum than he's comfortable with.
"I'm never their type at a straight club, either," Donna says. "Doesn't stop me from looking." She licks her lips. "Or groping."
"You do remember that you're here to work?"
"Sure," Donna says vaguely. The Doctor sighs. Really, you'd think I would know better by now after last time… He'd leave her behind, but he hates going into clubs on his own.
They shove their way through the crowd and manage to reach the stairs up to the dining section with most of their dignity intact. By now, most of the patrons have moved downstairs, more interested in showing off their moves on the dance floor or chatting up potential dates at the bar, and he and Donna are able to secure what their host assures them is a very good table, next to a massive stage. "The Captain's performing in ten minutes; you'll definitely want good seats for that," the host says with an outrageous wink before leaving them.
"The Captain," the Doctor mutters. "Joy." He really, really hopes this isn't a full monty show…
This floor is smaller, used for those who want dinner and a show. A series of tables are arranged around a curtained stage, and there's a smaller bar with a classier – and more expensive – selection of drinks. Instead of garish club lights, there is dim overhead lighting, presumably meant to be romantic.
The music from below is muffled to the level of a dull roar, and the Doctor can actually hear again. Which is a pity, considering the current train of Donna's thought.
"The Captain," Donna muses. "Think he's a pirate or something? 'Cause I wouldn't mind watching a Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike shiver his timbers," she purrs.
As the Doctor tries to puzzle that out, a waitress sidles up to their table. At first glance, the waitress is the blond Barbie type, all long legs, trim waist, unbelievable bust and a spill of wavy gold hair that he can't help but envy, his own peroxide locks having turned out more 'bleach' than 'blond.' Then a startling bass voice asks if they want anything, and beside him, Donna jumps in surprise.
The Doctor is about to ask where the wait… person bought his shoes; he's never seen spiked heels like that in his size, and he's a little envious. But he stops himself just in time. Donna doesn't know just how far his cross-dressing tendencies go, and he'd prefer to keep it that way. He doesn't want to lose a friend because he's just too bizarre.
Remembering his promise to Rose that he'd at least try to eat something, he orders the house chips and a soda. Donna orders something considerably stronger, and the Doctor fervently hopes she's not going to overdo it. Last time, he'd had to haul her offstage. And it turns out, she bites when she's sloshed.
When the waitperson is gone, Donna leans over and mutters into the Doctor's ear, "It's not fair when a man's prettier then I am."
"Now we know why the bouncer believed me," the Doctor muses. "Compared to him, you're positively mannish – oi!" he yelps when she flicks his ear in annoyance.
She's still glaring at him in stony silence when the waiter returns a few minutes later with a basket of chips and their drinks. The Doctor grabs a handful and begins to wolf them down, but on his sixth chip, he notices something a little odd about them.
The Doctor eyes the chips warily. "Er, Donna, do these look… phallic, to you?"
Donna picks one up, examines it with a smirk, then slowly slides it into her mouth. The Doctor promptly loses his appetite and slides the basket to the side.
Just then, the lights around them dim and the spotlights snap on. Music blasts out of a speaker near the Doctor's ear, and he grimaces in anticipation of the lovely ringing sound he's going to be hearing the next few days. The Doctor is mentally composing his outline for what he knows is going to be a less than stellar review when the stripper struts out on stage, and all thoughts of food quality and atmosphere fly out of his head as the Captain takes center stage, blue greatcoat flaring around him
"You have got to be kidding me," the Doctor breathes, voice pitched slightly higher as his inner Donna takes over.
The stripper is Captain Jack Harkness.