They got into this same situation with ridiculous regularity, in Rose's opinion. Although, she mused as she contemplated the smoldering wreck behind them, it could be worse. At least this time they weren't being arrested for hand-holding or licking sacred objects.
She ran a hand over her hair, just to double-check that nothing was on fire.
"But you see, we had to, er, borrow the hovercraft," the Doctor explained in a hurry to the large, sentient, purple slug of alien law enforcement. "Because the Swcolians were under the impression that this was their world, and they thought that you were alien invaders. It was all just a mix-up in their navigation systems—they were aiming for Swcol 3 on the other side of the galaxy, but ended up here on Sigmuria by accident. So they were busy having a "you blew it up, you maniacs!" moment and had started to remotely activate their weapon systems."
"That's why we swiped the hovercraft," inserted Rose helpfully. "'Cause we needed fast transportation to stop them before it was too late."
The Doctor nodded firmly. "Exactly." He patted absently at a slightly singed patch on his favorite coat.
"So you two alien hominids stole the hovercraft to take some other, different aliens back to their ship?" asked the Sigmureth police officer skeptically.
"Well, no," said the Doctor. "We borrowed the hovercraft to go find the aliens in the first place in order to convince them that it was all a mistake."
"And the fact that you then drove it out onto the Blurring Sand flatlands…?"
"See," said Rose, "after we talked 'em into seeing the error of their ways, we had to race back out to where their ship was parked in order to diffuse the weapons systems."
"You see?" The Doctor beamed. "Totally necessary for saving the world."
"So," said the police officer, tapping its left enzyme excretion orifice against its data recorder thoughtfully, "Let me get this straight: you took the hovercraft in order to stop an alien invasion."
"Right," the two time travelers agreed. Behind them, the heap of machinery let out a spray of golden sparks.
"And you kept the hovercraft in order to deactivate some sort of doomsday device on the alien spaceship."
They both nodded, a thin plume of smoke weaving through the air above their heads and drifting up into the sky.
"An alien spaceship which is conveniently missing."
"Well," said the Doctor, tugging on one ear, "once the disaster was averted, I thought I ought to fix their navigation problem. After that was done, the Swcolians took off, heading back home. Alien invasion averted! Really, I should get a medal, when you think about it."
The police officer fixed them both with a beady stare. "And the fact that you then spent the next two hours joyriding around the flatlands in a stolen hovercraft?"
"Ah," said the Doctor uncomfortably. "Well…" His eyes shifted over to his companion. "It's possible that I might have been trying to give Rose a few piloting lessons."
Rose bit her lip and tried for a disarming grin. Unfortunately, the Sigmurethra were about as non-humanoid (and asexual) as you could get. The officer was not amused, especially when the wrecked hovercraft picked that precise moment to burp up a huge cloud of noxious smoke.
"She's really quite rubbish at it," the Doctor whispered confidentially.
Luckily, justice on Sigmuria was quite reasonable. They were given a three day jail sentence, to be followed by ankle bracelets that would prevent them from leaving the city of Buretha and its surrounding townships, removable upon receipt of payment for the irrevocably damaged vehicle (plus several hefty speeding tickets).
Unluckily, however, the prison facilities on Sigmuria weren't really set up for beings of the non-slug variety.
"But why are you taking our clothes?" Rose demanded as their alien jailors insisted that she removed everything. "S'not like we're going to come up with some sort of daring escape plan featuring my knickers!"
The Sigmurethra weren't really able to appreciate her objections, since they didn't wear any kind of coverings themselves. Sorry, she was told, but although they firmly believed in compassionate prisoner treatment, they had learned to be cautious when detaining bipedal life forms. The head of security explained that the last time they had arrested a humanoid, he had escaped out a window using a rope made from his own garments.
"Oh, right," said the Doctor looking around the room at anything but her. "I thought this place seemed familiar."
"So how are we going to get out of here?" Rose asked as she paced back and forth inspecting the prison. She had decided, while being forcibly escorted in the buff to the only cell adapted for humanoids, that the only way to get out of this situation with any shred of her dignity intact was to treat it all with an air of nonchalance. After all, what was a little harmless nudity between friends?
Maturity, she had thought to herself firmly. It was all about maturity.
She ran her hands over the walls of the cell. They had a strangely organic look to them, sort of like interior of the TARDIS. The one wall with a door was made of some sort of clear plastic material, and the door was hermetically sealed so as to prevent the escape life forms with the capacity to ooze. There was one window, also tightly sealed. The only ventilation was through a series of complicated ducts on the ceiling.
In the center of the room was a large depression full of some sort of jellied substance. There was a small closet featuring somewhat alien toilet facilities, though Rose thought she'd seen worse—at least it was semi-private, and the sink provided water instead of acid or soap or, as on one memorable occasion, alcohol.
Rose didn't see any obvious ways out, but she figured that it never hurt to check. "How did you escape last time?" she asked the Doctor as she prodded the door and knocked on the walls.
Strangely, the Doctor didn't seem much in the mood to help. Upon entering the cell and getting an eyeful of his naked companion, he had sat on the floor with his legs drawn up and his ankles crossed so as to cover as much of his body as possible. He hadn't moved since and didn't appear all that interested in looking for a means of escape. In fact, one of his hands was shielding his eyes. "Last time, I just opened the window and climbed out," he muttered.
"Really?" Rose checked out the window. They were on the ground floor of the prison, at least, but there didn't seem to be any way of opening the window. "How? And why would the window just open, anyway?"
"It's a speciest thing. The Sigmurethra don't interact with their environment the way we do—everything they do, they do with chemicals. So for example, since they don't have hands, they can't use latches and such without a special chemical-mechanical interface. Basically, like a key. The window used to have a latch like that. But they aren't really used to keeping non-gastropods imprisoned. Having digits and an opposable thumb, I just opened it and climbed out."
Rose tried pushing on the window, but no luck. "Oh, they've just moved the latch to the outside. Don't think we're getting out that way." She mulled it over. "Maybe if they bring us our food on a tray, we can fashion it into some sort of lever to pry the window open, like we did on Barnid…Barnod…"
"Barnox," corrected the Doctor from behind his hands.
"Right," said Rose. "Whatcha think? Could it work?"
The Doctor paused before answering, and Rose got the impression that he was not looking forward to telling her this bit. "Because," he said tentatively, "I'm fairly certain that they have already provided us with food." Without looking, he waved a hand toward the pit of goo in the center of the prison cell.
"Oh, you've gotta be kidding me. Seriously? This is the only food we're getting?"
The Doctor shrugged. "Speciest, like I said. This is what the Sigmurethra eat."
Rose leaned over the depression and gave the reddish substance a poke. It jiggled a little. "What is it?" she asked unenthusiastically.
"It's a nutrient rich agar," sighed the Doctor. "Made from algae. Very like what your scientists use to cultivate bacteria." Although his eyes were covered, the Doctor seemed to sense the face Rose was pulling. "It is edible," he assured her. "Well…technically."
"Ugg," said Rose as she flopped onto the floor. "Ok, so dinner isn't high on the priority list right now. Ow. This floor isn't very comfy." She looked around the room again—no beds, she realized. "Where are we supposed to sleep?"
"We-ell," said the Doctor slowly, "I'm pretty sure the agar is meant to fill that purpose as well."
"WHAT!" Rose hopped up and rounded on him in disbelief. "You mean we're supposed to sleep in our FOOD?"
The Doctor seemed to wince again behind the cover of his hand. "Well, that's what the Sigmurethra do, you see. They don't have mouths, so they absorb nutrients through their semi-permeable membranes during their rest periods."
"Oh, no," said Rose, starting to pace again. "That's not happening. No way I'm sleeping in a gross pile of jelly that I'm supposed to turn around and EAT. FOR. BREAKFAST!" She kicked at the door, but it wasn't budging. "Oi!" she yelled at a passing guard through the comm-grate, thumping her fist against the wall for good measure. "We can't eat this stuff! What about 'compassionate prisoner treatment', and all that! You need to bring us human food!"
The guard had paused when she started shouting but now resumed its slow patrol without acknowledging her complaint, slinking along a preordained path of slime.
"You know, at least we are really getting a chance to live like the natives do," the Doctor said, in an uncharacteristic attempt at putting a good spin on imprisonment, but Rose was in no mood to listen.
"You can't be serious," she snapped at him. "This is just…inhuman!"
The Doctor's lips twitched. "Well, yeah, that's sort of my point."
"Why are you just sitting there, anyway?" demanded Rose. "Get up and help me find a way out of here! Use that great big Time Lord brain of yours!"
"I'm trying to maintain some sense of decorum," said the Doctor, gesturing somewhat primly with his one free hand. "You're all…exposed, and I'm all exposed, and it's an awkward situation."
Rose stared at him. "You're kidding. Please, tell me you're kidding. You're not finding us a way out of here because of some sort of…modesty hang-up?"
"It's not that!" protested the Doctor. "It's just…well, I know how you humans are. Dancing is all you people ever think about."
Rose groaned. "When you say dancing, you mean sex, right?" she asked, rubbing the heel of her hand over her forehead, trying to alleviate a growing headache. "'Cause the whole dancing metaphor is starting to creep me out."
"Um," said the Doctor. "Well…"
She sighed. "So let me get this straight. You're sitting there, all…covered up, because you're afraid I'm going to go all human on you and start demanding that we have sex just 'cause we're both naked?"
"Um," he repeated. The tips of his ears had turned an interesting shade of red.
"Ok," said Rose. "That's really just…incredibly insulting." She fisted her hands into her bare hips and glared at him. Here she was, being mature and nonchalant with all her might and main, and he had the nerve to sit there, spouting some of his 'superior species' nonsense at her.
The Doctor whipped his head up only to quickly turn his head to the side as he remembered her state of undress. "I don't mean to insult you," he stressed, staring with apparent fascination at the wall. "It's just…with companions…and, well, it can be complicated…and it's you…and you're…and, well, you remember how Jack was…and…" The Doctor trailed off when he sensed that he wasn't really making any headway.
"You just think we're all going to be overwhelmed with lust for your Time Lordly magnificence," said Rose caustically. "Well, I can't speak for the rest of you what with you all curled up like that, but your ego is certainly very impressive."
"It's not just that," protested the Doctor, ducking his head down onto his knees once again. "I don't want to be invading your privacy, either."
"Yeah, it's a little late for that," said Rose. "And it's not like we can both sit here with our eyes covered the whole time. Just look and get it over with so we can find a way out. You're just making it more awkward by being weird about it."
The Doctor didn't move, although Rose observed that the interesting red tinge was creeping up his neck and ears again. Rose sighed and slid back down to the floor, letting her head fall back against the wall. She stared up at the amorphous ceiling.
"Look," she said in the most kindly, sympathetic voice she could muster, "I realize that being trapped here, in this cell with me, y'know, naked is quite possibly,"—here, her lips started to twitch—"the single most erotic thing that has ever happened to you,"—here, the Doctor's head snapped up—"in your entire nine hundred years of existence, but,"—here, she just managed to suppress a snicker—"you'll really just have to try your best to fight the urge to ravish me in this bowl of nutritious goo."
She tilted her head back down to give him a sweet smile, but the look of outrage on his face was too much for her. With a snort, she broke character and laughed until her sides ached.
"Glad this is all so amusing to you." He was still glaring at her.
"At least you're looking at me now," chuckled Rose, stretching a leg out to poke him with her toe.
Of course, the second she reminded him of that, his eyes skittered away.
I think," he said, clearing his throat, "that we should just sit tight and try not to…move around too much. The sentence isn't really that long, and…"
"It's three days!" protested Rose. "You're gonna spend three days curled up like a shrimp? With nothing to eat but our own gelatinous bedding?"
When the Doctor didn't answer, she groaned and thumped her head against the wall.
They spent several minutes in extremely uncomfortably silence.
"You have a very simplistic view of human sexuality, y'know," said Rose, feeling that she should at least try to defend her species.
"If you say so," muttered the Doctor, rather ungraciously. His hand was covering his face again.
"It's true," Rose insisted. "Sex isn't just about nakedness."
"Sure. That's why every time we go to the market, there are rows of magazines with half-naked humans frolicking on the front pages." Even all hunched over, he was practically radiating higher being superiority again. "Face it: your species is obsessed."
Undaunted, Rose thought about this for a moment. "But that just proves my point," she decided. "'Cause, sure, they're half-naked, but they aren't just standing there in the altogether. It's all about the bits that are still covered up."
The Doctor just snorted.
Rose eyed him speculatively. Something didn't seem to be adding up, but she wasn't quite sure what it was. Besides, for some reason—maybe because of the nudity or perhaps just the Doctor's apparent mortification—she was feeling strangely uninhibited. "It isn't just about having your clothes off," she continued in a dusky voice. "It's about taking your clothes off. Sex," she said, deliciously rolling the word around in her mouth, "is all about…intent."
When this didn't get a reaction from him, Rose huffed. He was just being ridiculous, she decided. "Anyway, my point is, you're perfectly safe," she informed him archly. "Just hanging out here in the buff doesn't really do it for me. And in any case, we're in a slug prison. Slug prison." She let that sink in for a moment. "Which means I don't care who waltzes in through the door—I'm not interested. Not even Orlando Bloom. Not even Robert Pattinson. Not even," she said, wagging a finger in his direction, "Christopher Eccleston. So, you see? No need to worry."
She glanced at him and snickered when she saw the bright shine of his eyes, glaring out at her from between his ever-so-slightly parted fingers. "See something you like?" she asked in an intentionally over-the-top flirt. Sometimes, he was just too easy to wind up. But when he just ducked his head back down into his arms again, Rose sighed. "What is with you, anyway?" she demanded. "I'm sure you've seen naked people before. I promise not to look," (much, she silently amended) "so hop on up and let's find a way out of here."
His answer was muffled by his arms. "You don't understand."
Rose struggled between annoyance and bafflement. "What don't I understand?"
The Doctor took a deep breath and then, bizarrely, began what sounded like an extremely complicated genetics lecture, all about the role of triple helix chromosomal strands on the suppression of autonomic limbic brain reactions and the possible effects of explicitly triggered telomeres on post-loomed Gallifreyan DNA under specific and sufficient stimuli.
As the words tumbled from his mouth faster and faster, Rose's eyebrows crept higher and higher on her forehead. She didn't understand one bit of what he was talking about, but there were two things she knew for certain: 1) when he started throwing around the complex science, he was usually trying to avoid saying something completely obvious, and 2) when he talked that fast, it was only because he was too flustered to think of a more effective means of distraction. But distraction from what? She tapped a finger to her chin, mulling over the possibilities.
"…And then, when you factor in the effects of the activation of those genes on the parietal lobes, the right parietooccipital sulcus, the left superior occipital gyrus, and the precentral gyri, as well as the decreased signal to the right posterior cingulate gyrus and the left precuneus, you find that really, certain autonomic reactions are to be expected, and…"
"Wait," interrupted Rose suddenly. A thought had just struck her. Could it be…? She turned to him, incredulous. "Do you?"
He paused, mid-lecture. "Do I what?"
"See something you like?" she squeaked, her eyebrows achieving maximum lift.
The Doctor took a deep breath and let it out. "Yes," he admitted in a rough voice.
Rose stared at him and then she couldn't help it; she laughed. It wasn't that she found the idea of him being attracted to her funny, because honestly, it had only taken him the better part of two years to take notice. It was just that the whole situation was so horribly absurd, what with the nudity and his embarrassment and the only available bed being made of jelly.
This was definitely her life, all right.
"Oh, I suppose if I was Orlando Bloom, this would all be less hilarious to you," he snarked.
"M'sorry," she giggled. "It's not that, it's just…" But when she looked at him, still all curled up, and realized exactly why he was positioned that way, she couldn't quite finish for laughing.
"It's a very common autonomic reaction," he scolded, lifting his head. "In most bipedal species, the male is more attuned to visual stimuli. It's completely normal."
"Of course," said Rose, wiping her eyes. "Although, generally the males don't go casting the blame for his 'autonomic reactions' on the females' species' lechery."
"Yes, well," said the Doctor hurriedly. "In any case, you don't have to worry. I promise to keep my, er, eyes to myself."
He was staring at his knees, his knobbly, pale, beautiful bare knees, looking flustered and embarrassed and completely adorable, and Rose was seriously considering just leaning over and snogging him, but what with them both still naked, that seemed a little premature. So she settled for wiggling her eyebrows flirtatiously. "Oh, I'm not worried, Doctor. You can look all you like. Besides," she added, tapping a finger to her forehead, "I keep all my really sexy bits up here." She hopped up to continue her investigation of the cell and flashed him a grin over her shoulder.
His only response was a swift intake of breath, and then the room seemed to develop an uncomfortable case of silence.
Rose's hand was halfway up a wall when she paused, realizing in retrospect that her comment might have seemed a bit more…salacious…when delivered to a member of a telepathic race.
She turned back toward him, and her breath caught in her throat at the sight of his eyes—dark, hooded, and locked onto her face. His mouth was slightly open. "Er," she said, even as a slight flush crept over her chest and up her neck under the heat of his stare, "so did I just give you the equivalent of a really cheesy pick-up line?"
The Doctor cleared his throat and nodded slightly. "Something like that." His voice was low and smooth, and Rose felt something curl pleasantly in her belly.
A slow smile crept across her face. A certain Glenn Miller song popped unbidden into her head, and she licked her lips, feeling bold. "Y'know, Doctor, if I'd known it would take getting rid of my clothes to get your attention, I'd have done it ages ago."
The Doctor's eyebrows shot up. "Trust me, Rose," he said, just a hint of wicked heat lacing his voice, "you already had it."
"That so?" she asked, mock-serious. "You sure about that?" She pressed her lips together to smother a smile.
In a surprisingly rapid move, he was on his feet, everything completely visible, and the first thing that popped into Rose's mind was, bizarrely, a cheer for the wonderfulness of certain autonomic reactions.
Two quick strides later, and he was standing so close that she could feel the static coming off his skin.
"Yes," he murmured, dipping his head toward hers so that the front lock of his hair brushed against her forehead. "Quite."
Rose would have answered, but when his eyes dropped to her mouth, her coherence left on holiday without leaving a forwarding address. "Wha…?"
"I'm sure." His breath brushed her cheek. But then he gripped her by the elbows and pulled back to look into her eyes. "Rose, are you?"
Slightly distracted by the way her name fell off of his lips, she failed to respond in the affirmative, and the Doctor began to withdraw. But Rose was having none of that. She snaked a hand around the back of his neck and pulled his mouth down to hers.
The desperate, hungry noise he made as he stepped closer, leaning into the kiss was really…just…fantastic, Rose decided; she definitely wanted to hear it again. She grappled at his neck, her fingers searching the space where his suit collar should be, but her hand ended up full of the tight, corded flesh where his neck gave way to shoulder. No suit, no shirt, no jacket, no tie...it was like all the things that made him the Doctor had been stripped away.
The part that made him a man, though…well, that was pressing rather pleasantly into her stomach.
His hands were tenderly cupping her face, his fingertips gently tracing the line of her jaw, as he moved away from her mouth and pressed a line of kisses across her cheek. "Rose." His voice dripped with suggestion, as he murmured against the skin of her neck. "You are very conveniently naked." His hands reached around her waist to dance up her spine.
Rose bit her lip. Now that he was no longer kissing her, her mind had cleared enough to remember their rather unfortunate location. As much as she wanted this to happen, there was no way she was shagging anybody here. "Doctor," she whispered, pressing a hand against his chest. "It's just…slug prison." She cast a meaningful glance at the horrible excuse for a bed and the entirely transparent wall.
He pulled back. "Oh, right," he said, blowing out a breath. "No luck for me or Orlando." He looked around, suddenly extremely serious. "We cannot stay here for three days," he said darkly.
"Agreed," she said with a hidden smile. "So how do we get out?"
The Doctor didn't answer, but Rose could practically see the wheels spinning at a break-neck pace inside his head. His eyes roved over the door, the window, the ceiling ducts, and Rose bounced impatiently on her pads of her feet, waiting for his usual brilliant pronouncement.
"Er," said the Doctor, grimacing. "Actually, we may be…slightly stuck."
"You're kidding," she said, deadpan, crossing her arms in front of her.
"Weeeell, I don't exactly keep a spare sonic screwdriver in my birthday suit. So to speak." He ran his hand through his hair, unintentionally making it even more ruffled and gorgeous. Rose bit back a groan of frustration.
"We have to find some way out of here," she snapped. "No way I'm spending three days in here with you naked. I'll spontaneously combust!"
The Doctor shot her a wicked grin. "I am good, aren't I?"
"Doctor!" she protested.
"Sorry, but there's not a whole lot I can do…" But he trailed off as something rattled at the cell door. They both turned to look and saw a guard standing right outside their cell.
"Request for specialized prisoner relief granted," came the tinny voice through the comm-grate. "We have obtained human food for your consumption." It activated a tiny hatch in the base of the door and shoved something through.
The Doctor and Rose stared at it. Three withered carrots, a cup of uncooked white rice, and a jar of ancient looking peanut butter sat on a tray—a perfectly lovely metal tray.
"Does the food fulfill your species' requirements?" the guard enquired.
"What? Oh, yes, definitely," said the Doctor, a grin spreading across his face. "Brilliant! Tip-top! Decrepit carrots—love 'em! And look, Rose! Raw rice! Lovely!"
"Mmm," said Rose, bobbing her head and trying to sound convincing. "Thanks so much. We'll just…er, start eating this, then." She grabbed a handful of the rice and brought it to her mouth. "Perfect," she mumbled around the hard grains.
The guard stared at them for a moment longer as they tried to exude complete gustatory satisfaction. Then it slid away, leaving them alone with their bounty.
"You know, Rose," said the Doctor, flipping up the tray and scattering rice everywhere, "I usually like a bit more variety in my escape attempts. But seeing as there are, well, extenuating circumstances…" His eyes drifted down over her naked body. "How about we take a walk down memory lane, eh?"
"Run naked across a planet full of intelligent slugs?" Rose grinned. "Don't think we've ever done that before."
"Oh, good point. Well, allons-y!"
"Um, Doctor…don't s'pose you have a TARDIS key hidden somewhere in your birthday suit?"
"Not as such, no."
"So…fancy breaking back into slug prison?"
He grabbed her hand. "Allons-y!"