"Doctor Who" and all associated character names and likenesses are owned by the BBC. Used here without permission.
"Slave Girls and Shining Knights"
Another sort-of Doctor Who short; Fourth in the Songbirds Series
by Mayumi-H, a.k.a. BonusParts
On the dim, chilly morning of one fifteenth October – at seven forty-two, to be exact, after a second slap of the snooze button on his alarm clock – Lawrence Nightingale decided it time, at last, twenty-nine years to the day, in fact, for him to stop delaying the inevitable, and grow up. To be an adult, a man, a thoughtful, responsible, respectable member of civilised society. To pack up his collection of role-playing game campaign modules and rule books and hand them off to young Clive down the street, to purge the laptop of all the saved forum conversations about the merits of one starship captain over another, to toss the worn-thin tee shirts and hoody jumpers scrawled with in-jokes across the chests, and to face the reality that there were more important things in life than the fancies of his imagination.
Specifically, one very important thing: a bold, brilliant blonde miss, Sally Sparrow by name, who deserved a man thoughtful, a man responsible, a man respectable with whom she could be proud and pleased to spend her days and nights.
Larry could be that man.
He could keep his mouth shut when some idiot in a film used ridiculous tech that made no sense. He could resist the all-day marathons of classic science fiction programmes on the telly, certainly when he'd already seen every episode at least three times. He could sit up straight and smile behind the shop counter, even when a customer had absolutely no idea of the difference between "remake" and "remaster." He could shave every morning, and comb his hair so it didn't look like he just rolled out of bed; he could tuck a button-down shirt into his trousers, and wear proper shoes. He could even drink his tea without milk and sugar.
He might not have liked to do any of those things...but, for Sally, he could throw away and forget every piddling, childish remnant of his misspent and introverted youth, and become a real grown-up. For Sally, Larry could drop everything and come running at her call, or sit and listen to a mystery with no ending, or stare unblinking into the fanged maw of a flesh-turned-stone horror. Forever, if she needed him to do. Because no one or nothing else in this space and time or any other filled his heart to bursting with such joy and love, as Sally did.
So, shifting up from the bed, he tossed the sheets and blankets toward the pillows on his way to the door, then stopped, rethinking this action. A moment later, recalling both the even-toned, instructing voice of his mother and the higher-pitched, annoyed voice of his sister, he pulled the covers flat and folded the sheet down atop it, taking an extra second to tuck and straighten both beneath the pillows.
He smiled briefly to himself at his handiwork. Then, with a low breath of resignation, he shuffled toward the bathroom, to stop being the boy for real, and to start becoming the man he knew he could be.
He didn't quite make it there, though, not all in one go. For, glancing into the kitchen, his gaze settled on the little table near the wall, and he had to stop.
He'd expected the table to be bare, as it often was on mornings after Sally didn't stay. But, set upon its surface was a waiting teacup and saucer, along with a folded slip of paper with his name on it, and a carefully-wrapped box about the size of his fist, with a purplish ribbon tied into a neat little bow, beckoning to him from the top.
Stepping over to the table, he plucked the note from between box and saucer and smiled, recognising Sally's light, flowing hand.
Happy birthday, the note read, and he could almost hear the chuckling lilt in her voice. I wanted to surprise you, but you were asleep. Take your time. I'll see you at the shop. Love, Sally.
Reading over those words, Larry grinned. Then, he laughed aloud, at her extra message written beneath her name:
You're quite cute when you snore.
Still chuckling, he laid the note aside and reached for the box, unravelling it from its layers of colourful masks. Lifting the lid, he found within an impressive Victorinox timepiece, obviously meant to replace his old cuff Fossil watch, the one he'd stupidly forgotten in their hotel room on an overnight to Hull.
He pulled the watch from its display wedge and slipped it somewhat mechanically onto his wrist. The fit was close and tight, though not uncomfortably so, the leather band stiff only from lack of use.
This watch, he thought, was like him: unused to the rigours and formality of adulthood only because he'd never really tried them on. But, they should fit fine...if he'd give himself the chance to grow into them. And, who knew? He might even like being a staid and accountable adult.
Taking the watch off again, he laid it carefully upon the table. Then, he set the electric kettle to work, before he moved into the bathroom, at last.
He didn't change his morning toilet or shower routine (including the brief, cleansing wank beneath the hot water), but he did pause extra-long over the sink afterward, staring at his reflection as he fingered his still-stubbled jaw. Then, with a snort and a shake of his head, he reached past the electric trimmer and picked up the keen-bladed razor he'd used perhaps three times in twice as many months.
And that was that.
An hour later, walking to the shop, Larry couldn't help running the backs of his fingers over his jaw, as though to coax his whiskers to suddenly appear again. He also couldn't help tonguing the inside of his cheek, in the hope of getting that overly-bitter taste of straight black tea out from his mouth, or shrugging his shoulders back and forth in the unfamiliar tight confines of the Oxford shirt under his jacket, in an effort to get comfortable.
Still, the strange smoothness of his cheek and the acrid taste in his mouth and the straitjacket wrap of his shirt were all forgotten when he tripped the chime on the shop door and Sally looked up at him, her face alighting with a charmed expression that made his heart patter.
"Morning," he greeted as he moved toward the counter. He didn't miss the surprised look on her face, and, shrugging his jacket from his shoulders, he chuckled, self-consciously. "...What?"
She blinked, shook her head, and smiled, all in the same moment. "Nothing!" She tilted her head to one side, offering him another appraising look. "You look...different, today."
"Older," Larry said, folding the collar of his jacket over the hook behind the pass-through.
Sally's kittenish smile softened. "Different," she repeated.
"Better, then?" he guessed, and, now, she stepped close, to settle her hands upon his chest.
"Smart," she said, as though to appease him. Before he could press her, though, she rose against him with hips and chest and lips, kissing him gently and quickly in the morning quiet of the shop.
Stepping back a moment after, she smiled again, murmuring, "Happy birthday."
Larry felt a low heat start to turn his face flush. "Thank you," he replied, equally as quiet. He lifted his wrist, showing off the Victorinox. "Thanks for the watch, too."
"You're welcome," she said, still hushed. Then, she asked, almost shyly, "Do you like it? I mean, I know it's terribly practical, and it's not like your old one, but-"
"Yeah. Yeah, of course!" He glanced down at the watch, once more contemplating its deeper meaning, before turning back to Sally with a gentle smile. "It's quite thoughtful. Well appreciated."
The answer seemed to satisfy her, but a moment later, she clasped her hands in front of her, squeezing the fingers of one in the palm of the other.
It wasn't like her to be fidgety, so he narrowed his eyes and gave a puzzled chuckle. "What is it, now?"
She let go a quick hum, then said, "Perhaps we could have dinner out this evening? To celebrate? I was thinking Rhodes, if you like."
"Rhodes," Larry echoed in a mutter. "That sounds..." Adult, he thought. But, for her, he managed a more obliging smile. "...Brilliant."
Sally nodded and glanced away, for just a second. When she raised her gaze to his again, her hazel eyes fairly glimmered, and a tiny smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, only just making her dimples show in her cheeks. "And I could...stay...with you, tonight?"
While he found her odd timidity darling, the offer of her companionship delighted Larry even more, whether this proposal meant something sexual or not.
He enjoyed all permutations of sex with her, of course, and not only because she was beautiful. Deliberate and sweet or active and breathless, lovemaking with Sally had become precisely that, to spite the cliché of the word. Still, in recent months, he'd found himself taking as much pleasure in the simple joys of her company – the warm weight of her head when they'd snuggle in the glow of the telly, the tickling nudge of her foot when she'd curl up at the opposite end of the sofa with a book and biscuit, the squeaking sniffles, yawns, and hums she'd make when he'd crawl into bed beside her after late nights spent at his computer – as he did in their more intimate interactions. Even just feeling the gentle slope of her back beneath his fingertips made him smile again.
"Absolutely," he told her, quietly but with chuffed joy.
The rest of the work day rushed by, the passing hours marked by the swing of Sally's voice, and the flutter of her lashes, and the bounce of her hair as she talked to customers and him about books, programmes, and occasionally nothing at all, with an aplomb that made him think it really wouldn't be so bad to grow up, for her.
"Should I get a tie?" Larry asked at the end of the day. He looked to Sally for confirmation, just as she laid the last of the display books on the shelf below the main shop window.
She chuckled to herself. "I can't remember the last time I saw you in a tie," she said, with a musing shake of her head.
"I've worn them before," he said, unable to keep the offence from his voice. He straightened up, reminding her: "I wore a whole suit when we went to the bankers', for the shop. Remember?"
Sally rose, too, her head cocked. "So you did." Turning to him, she shot him a teasing smile. "I think that was the last time you shaved properly, too," she said with another airy laugh, then stopped, suddenly, her face falling.
"This isn't about money, is it?" she asked, sounding alarmed. "Because, if there's a problem with the accounts, I can-"
"No," Larry said, shaking his head. "No, of course not." He shrugged. "I just figured it was time for me to make a change."
"Oh," she said, and crossed to him, moving easily between the shelves of books on one side and disc display cases on the other. Reaching one hand toward his collar, she smoothed her fingers over it, then turned her hand around, letting her knuckles drift over the high, smooth angle of his jaw.
She smiled again. "Well, it's quite handsome," she said, shifting close and snaking both hands behind his neck. She pulled his face to hers, closing her eyes in the last half-second before she kissed him, quickly but oh-so tender and sweet.
When she dropped back to her heels, she fixed him with a curious look. "What about me?" she asked with a shimmy of her shoulders, the shiny threads in her sweater catching the light like tiny stars. "Should I change?"
The very idea struck Larry as preposterous. "Don't you dare," he said softly, and squeezed her for one more brief second before they both moved apart to collect their things, to leave the shop as a happy pair.
Amid impeccably white décor and tealight candles, and contented conversation over small but choice cuts of meat, dinner at the Tower was enchanting, if not exactly inexpensive. Sally told him not to worry, though, it being a special occasion and all. The leisurely walk home afterward charmed, as well, due in no small part to the warm clutch of Sally's hand in his, holding off the evening chill.
Along the way, they detoured into a closing bakery for some delectable sweet cakes to enjoy with coffee and tea for the evening...or, more likely, the morning, judging by how Sally draped herself from his arm for the last leg of their walk.
They made it to the house with neither fumbling nor amorous incident, though, and, as Larry dropped the carry box of cakes on the kitchen table, he blinked quizzically at Sally, who didn't pause beside him but instead shifted her overnight satchel higher onto her shoulder as she stepped toward the bathroom.
"I'm just going to slip out of these work clothes," she said, with a strangely-twitching smile. "All right?"
He nodded. "Did you want me to start the kettle?"
She nodded back, then, winding her fingers through one gentle curl of her hair, smiled again. "I won't be long."
He smiled, too, still seeing her slender outline even after she closed the door behind her. With that splendid image lingering in his short-term memory, he collected two mugs and biscuit plates from the cupboard and set about the simple task of making tea.
In the middle of that mundane but still somehow significant chore, he realised: This was what real men did. They found the wonder in the uncomplicated moments, the calm interludes between explosive action sequences and moody sex scenes, the ones they never showed in films or programmes on the telly. The boy in him would have called such moments boring, worth less than a thought. But the attentive adult in him found the untroubled preparation for and anticipation of his lady a bewildering sort of marvellous.
He could be that man. He wanted to be that man.
So, when the kettle chimed after it had done its duty, Larry laughed at himself, at the ridiculousness of his resistance to leaving behind the tomfoolery of his youth.
Until he looked up, and nearly dropped both cups to the floor when he saw Sally, waiting silent and cock-hipped in the doorway.
Later, he'd have liked to say it was her different hairstyle he noticed first: her loose blonde curls pulled back into a dangling pony tail that started high on the back of her head, beneath the gilded crown of a bun. But, in all honesty, what truly made him almost forget to breathe was the scanty grey-and-gold bikini she wore, the one that flaunted so much just how beautiful she was.
In detail, the costume was a near-perfect replica of the science fantasy slave girl outfit that – for years! – he'd imagined the girls of his masturbatory daydreams wearing. From Jenny Parkinson, who'd sat in front of him at school and who'd had such pretty ribbon curls; to Shula Bonjani, who'd worked the towel desk at the leisure centre pool, and in front of whom he'd mumbled and shifted from one wet foot to the other, in hopes she'd notice him but never did; to Lexi Jacobs, who'd surprised him with his first kiss in the little dark alleyway between the record and comic shops he'd used to frequent on Cheapside.
But, even his wildest pubescent imaginations could never have come close to capturing just how stunning Sally looked.
Shapely and bold, she was, the shiny metal wireframes of the bikini top curling provocatively around the curves of her breasts. But smooth and demure, too, with the red drape of the mantle hanging from her hips swaying between her thighs with every bashful shift of her feet. And winsome, and delicate, and strong – and so bloody gorgeous! – he couldn't decide if he was dreaming...or if he just happened to be the luckiest man in the universe, to have this woman come to him this way, his fantasies made real.
"Is that how I looked?" Sally said, interrupting Larry's mental stumbling.
He blinked at her, his jaw falling open as he muttered, "Whuh-?"
"When I saw you standing here for the first time," she explained, and smiled, equally impish and shy. "Did I look that surprised, as well?"
Larry coughed and glanced down to his feet, reminded of that embarrassing first meeting, when he'd stumbled tousled and bleary-eyed and naked in front of her, on that too-early April morning of close to three years past. Just the thought of that memory always made him flush red...which was likely why Sally enjoyed bringing it up every so often.
But he forgot about even that mortifying moment when she stepped toward him, padding lightly in her grey-green ankle booties, all tender flesh and beauty.
"I know you've always said you like the snow-planet outfit best," she said, her head bowed to watch her feet as she approached him. "But, this was the only costume they had." She looked up and chuckled, and he noticed of a sudden a faint darkening of the freckles across her nose, as she blushed. "It's the most popular, I suppose. For obvious reasons," she added, and gave a shrug of her shoulders that made her breasts shift together into delightful, peachy cleavage.
"Mh," Larry hummed, biting down on his bottom lip to make certain his tongue stayed in his mouth. The light hairs on her torso, which were invisible except when her skin perked in gooseflesh, like now, had never looked so soft before, nor so evident. He could almost trace with his gaze the path of them over the subtle rise of her belly, around her navel, to the metal band fastened low over her hips-
Sally's pointed tone jolted him aware, and he jerked his focus back to her face.
"Sorry!" he muttered, strangling back his fascination with a swallow. Hunching his shoulders, he wished he could strangle back the more physical evidence of his captivation, as well.
Sally just laughed, though.
It didn't sound mocking. Rather, she smiled as she moved closer to him, reaching out to take the cups from his hands and set them upon the table at his side. Then, she stepped between his arms, past the safe boundaries of his space, and pressed her hips to his.
"Sorry," Larry said again; there was no way she couldn't feel the anxious strain of his arousal, now.
But, once again, she didn't tease him for this reaction. She simply laid her hands flat against the center of his chest, and traced the row of buttons to his collar, where she snaked her hands around his neck, beneath his shirt.
Rising on her toes at the same time she pulled his head closer to hers, she pushed her mouth toward his ear, whispering, "I'll do whatever you wish."
He snickered with dizzy embarrassment. "What?"
The high and sweet blow of her breath tickled his ear as she explained, "I'm your slave girl tonight."
Winding his arms around her, he started them on a sway, from one foot to the other. "Well, then," he said, and grinned. "The bedroom needs hoovering, and I've laundry to do-"
Sally dropped one hand from around his neck, to slap him in the chest. "Not like that!" she said, laughing through her scold. She turned quiet again with a breath, though, and began to pull gently at his shirt, plucking loose one button and then another as she asked, "Isn't this every boy's fantasy?" Her gaze darted from the broadening V of his collar to his face and back again. "A girl in a skimpy slave costume, who'll do anything he wants?"
Despite the playful seductiveness of her tone, the words made Larry pause.
Perhaps, this was every red-blooded boy's fantasy. He'd certainly been one of those boys who'd dreamed of a pretty girl who'd flirt and flaunt her shape for him, get down on her knees to tease and pleasure him, then slink back up in a sexy swagger, to ride astride him 'til he'd had his groaning fill.
But – and he couldn't believe it had taken him this long to realise it – he'd outgrown such foolish boyhood fantasies. He wanted her, to be certain. Not to play, though, not to satisfy some wet-dream fiction. He didn't want the slave girl, any more, no matter how luscious or tantalising. He wanted the woman: keen, clever, inquisitive, lovely and sweet, full of delights he'd never dared to imagine.
Larry wanted Sally, and no other.
He tried to say as much, in a low murmur breathed into the crown of her hair:
"You don't need to do anything."
"No?" she said, sounding almost disappointed. "I thought you'd like me as one of your galactic princesses."
"I like you," Larry corrected, moving his hands over the smooth skin of her back, a light massage of his fingers over her curves.
She smiled softly, her lashes fluttering up at him.
"But, you're no damsel," he said, and the memory of her standing amid a circle of winged stone monsters – a memory he'd had a thousand times – struck him with a feeling of overwhelming pride and affection for her.
"You're more the brilliant detective heroine type," he told her, and her smile turned wider, now, as a precious blush bloomed through her cheeks. Though, of a moment, he recalled the delightful sway of her hips when she'd stack books at the shop, and added, "Or, a sexy librarian."
"I can live with that," she said, her body hitching with a laugh.
He laughed, too, just as his fingers stuttered at the band of her bikini top.
"Not that you don't look brilliant in this costume!" he said, backpedaling quickly. He pushed himself back then, just enough to look her in the eyes, and murmured, "But, a gorgeous slave girl rather needs a swashbuckler, I think, to come swinging to her rescue." He gave a sheepish shrug of one shoulder. "That's not me."
As though considering this, Sally almost frowned as she agreed, "No." But, in the next second, she pulled a deep inhalation, her chest ballooning as she pressed herself against him once more, with a new smile that made her dimples show. "You're more like a...shining Knight of the Round."
Larry squinted. "You mean, like Lancelot and them?"
She nodded, briefly, then pulled a sniffing face. "Not like Lancelot, though. He's so pretentious. You're more like...Yvain," she said, and the look of captivated love she gave him made him go a bit woozy.
Sally chuckled in the sudden silence. "You don't know who he is, do you?"
"Haven't a clue," he answered truthfully, and they both laughed. "But, the way you say it is nice," he told her, and it was, though that was only one of the reasons why he bowed his head to hers and offered her a light but clutching kiss.
Against his lips, she gave a shudder, almost like excitement but more likely a chill, and he broke from her with a hum.
"Milady needs a cloak, I think," he said, rubbing his hands up and down over her skin.
"She needs to not walk around half-naked in October," Sally replied with a low chuckle. Another involuntary shiver made her nestle in to his chest again.
This time, Larry welcomed the proximity, even if she could feel the renewed firming of his interest.
"Best find you something warm, then," he said, and wound his arms more closely around her.
She hummed against his shirt. "You're warm," she said, and, craning her head up, she fixed him with a smokey look. "And warmer, if you share." And, before he could respond with some complementary quip – though he always found it difficult to think of anything except her, when she'd look at him like that – she pushed herself up and kissed him with gentle passion.
A subtle bend of his knees put them at even height, so he could shift the wrap of his arms to around her hips. Lifting her from the floor then, he smiled back against her giggling as she changed the angle of her grip, too, to around his shoulders.
Like so, they made their way to the sofa in the front room, which wasn't much closer than his bed, but he preferred not to presume. There, he half-lowered and half-stumbled them to the cushions, pausing only to pull the knit blanket from one corner, cocooning them together within, around their winding embrace and tender kisses.
Later, after their ardour had cooled a bit and they lay simply cuddling beneath the blanket, Sally reached up and stroked at his cheek, informing him with a snicker:
"You're already getting scratchy again."
His deep breath made her rise upon his chest. "Do you prefer it like that? Or, should I shave it down again?"
"I like both," she said, as she ran her fingers around one edge of his mouth. Scratching at his chin then, she giggled again. "Though, you're a bit baby-faced when you're clean-shaven."
Larry laughed and rolled his eyes. "I'm twenty-nine! That's a bit too old to be 'baby-faced.'"
"No," Sally crooned. "It's cute."
He laughed again, but stopped when she tapped him lightly on the point of his nose.
"Is that what this different look was about? Getting older?" She gave another short giggle. "Because you're still a young man!"
"It's not that," he said, shaking his head. Drawing a sighing breath, he leaned his head back against the arm of the sofa, his gaze drifting away to nothing in particular.
"I've spent so much of my life fighting against growing up. Thinking about games, and films, and forums, all those things I used to think mattered so much." He sighed. "Kath called 'em useless. And, she was right. It's all just...rubbish."
Tilting his chin down again, he looked at her, a slow smile coming to his lips as he met her soulful hazel eyes.
"You are all that matters," he said. "I mean, this whole place could disappear – burn down, fly off, get zapped back in time! But, so long as you're with me, I know everything will be all right." He reached down to her face, stroking away a fallen lock of her hair. "Because nothing in my life is so important as you."
She hadn't moved as he'd spoken, just lay on his chest, silent and still. But, at his finishing words, she crawled up so her face was even with his. There, she caressed his no-longer-so-smooth cheek, and whispered, "I'll never be away from you." Pulling his mouth to hers then, she kissed him, long, deeply, and with supreme affection.
A minute later, she eased back from him, with another favouring smile.
"You're more mature than you think you are," she said, as she began to stroke at his face again, from the highest peak of his cheek to where his jaw curved beneath his ear, her touch light and tickling. "But, it's all right to stay a boy in some respects, as well."
Larry blinked up at her in grateful surprise. "You think?"
Sally nodded. "I enjoy seeing what excites you."
He snickered. "Even when it's something ridiculous?"
"Especially so!" she said, and they laughed together again. Then, she fixed him with a dreamy look as before, murmuring, "Besides," as she rolled her hips against his. "You are plenty enough man in other ways."
He started to give another laugh, lifting his head for another kiss. But she only smirked, and pushed herself beneath the loosened wrap of their blanket. The next second, he felt her hook her fingers around the waist of his trousers.
He stiffened, curling his own fingers around the edge of the sofa cushion in something like a nervous panic. "Wait, no, Sally-!"
"Relax, big man," her muffled voice chided. "This slave girl knows what she's doing." And he had no time to even start another half-hearted protest before he felt the unmistakeable caress of both her hand and her mouth around him. He could, in fact, think only that, while it might be all right for him to remain naïve and boyish about some things, it was also – oh, most definitely! – a very good thing to be an adult, indeed.
Larry never forgot the conversation of that night, nor the events surrounding it, full as they'd been with such romping passion and pervasive love. But it wasn't until another dim and chilly day in late March – Sally's birthday, to be exact – that he could fully return the favour of her understanding. Two gifts: the first, an impressive photographic lens attachment for her camera, for the discerning grown-up in her...and, second, a clanking suit of polished costume armour in which it was quite difficult to manoeuvre, but more than worth the sight of Sally's bright smile as she tumbled into his steel-clad arms.
"I took a guess you'd prefer this over an Errol Flynn type," he said, grinning down at her as she hung, laughing, from his neck.
"I do, indeed!" she said, and bounced up for a kiss. She didn't drop to her heels right after, though, instead lingering close to his lips to whisper, "My shining knight." She kissed him again then, and he held her as she did, creaking in his armour but pleased to delight her so.
The novelty of being her chivalric paladin quickly wore off, especially when it took him a full noisy minute to climb the stairs. So, amid both their silly laughter, she helped him from his armour, carefully and layer by layer, until he felt free again in his shirt and shorts.
But, only for a moment.
Stepping against him, Sally put her arms around his chest and rose on her toes, close enough to nuzzle at his cheek. "I like you best this way, sir," she murmured.
"Milady," Larry said, playing along with her girlish fantasy. "Don't protest." And he scooped her up with an arm beneath her knees, making her laugh dizzily near his ear before they kissed again.
So, together, they took to bed then, knight and lady fair, for joys and pleasures equally playful and mature.
I know I dwell a lot on these two, but I can't help it. When characters (or, in this case, a specific pair of them) capture your imagination, you just have to write to fulfill your desires, and to Hell with what any naysayers might think.
Sally's costume is the Princess Leia slave garb from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi; if you're not familiar with it, a Google search will garner you plenty of images. (The drawn interpretation for the cover, here, is mine.) Larry's costume is just a suit of armour, of course...though it, too, has a story, that maybe I'll decide to share, one day.
Thank you for reading!