Written for the 2007 Anywhere but Cardiff ficathon over at time_and_chips, and slaved over mercilessly in the Word mines for two months. Prompt: Thebes, Egypt, 1789 BCE. Many, many thanks go out to kitsune17 for the brilliant last minute beta. Seriously, girl, you deserve cookies or something.
Of the Sun and Stars
"Hurry up, Rose! We're going to miss it if you take much longer!" The Doctor stood against the railing, tapping one plimsoll-clad toe impatiently against the grating, hands shoved in the pockets of his pinstripe trousers.
An irritated female voice floated up to him from the wardrobe room, and the Doctor reflected that it was more than a little odd that Rose could hear him and respond in kind from that far back within the TARDIS's interior. "She's a time machine, Doctor! If we're late, it's going to be down to your driving, not my dressing!"
"'S true, though!" Rose exclaimed, smoothing down the front of her skirts as she stepped into the console room. "Besides," she continued, giving the Doctor a sly grin, the tip of her tongue playing against the corner of her upper lip, "You're the one who wanted me dressed up proper. If I didn't know better, I'd almost begin to think you like seeing me in these fancy skirts."
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck, trying not to look guilty and failing miserably. He pointed a finger at Rose's face and returned her grin. "Cheeky monkey!"
Rose clasped her hands behind her back and leaned over, smirking and wrinkling her nose playfully. "You love it, though," she teased, before straightening up and flouncing down the walkway to the TARDIS doors. The Doctor's eyes followed her progress, entranced by the twirling of her khaki skirts, and he hastened to avert his gaze as she turned to face him again.
The TARDIS had done well in supplying the khaki riding habit and matching straw bonnet, the Doctor reflected. The fabric was breezy and bound just under Rose's chest, skimming over her curves in a tantalizing fashion, in spite of the fact that the high collar and long skirts meant that every inch of her body was covered in fabric. Her blond hair was spilling out in a riot of curls from under her bonnet, which was decorated with roses that had originally been white, but had been dried to a color a few shades lighter than the fabric of Rose's dress. She looked stunning.
"So, mind telling me why I had to crowbar myself into this thing?" Rose grinned up at him, and the Doctor returned her smile as he flipped the final switches that would send them out of the vortex and to their destination.
The TARDIS landed with a jarring bump, although her occupants managed to stay standing. The Doctor swept his trench coat on with a flourish, and opened the doors, gesturing with a small bow for Rose to go first. Rose laughed and edged out the door and into the sunlight. Without looking up, the Doctor launched into his lecture as he closed and locked the TARDIS door.
"Rose, this is Thebes, Egypt, 1789. In about ten years, Napoleon's army is going to come barreling through to take Egypt from the Ottoman Empire. They discover the Rosetta Stone and make a slew of observations that kick off the whole Egyptology craze, but while the scientists are doing that the army tramples over and damages several other monuments and sites. In the years that follow, the archaeologists that come through are in it for the money as much as for the discovery, and end up selling off or destroying even more than they give to museums for posterity."
The Doctor looked at Rose, whose gaze was turned towards the dunes in open-mouthed wonder. He didn't bother looking at the town below, choosing to study her face and reactions as he continued. "I was thinking it would be nice to bring you here and explore the temples of Karnak and Luxor before the so-called archaeologists come in and muck everything up. They wound up taking one of the obelisks from the Temple of Luxor and relocated it to Paris. Paris!"
Rose looked up at him and smiled, stopping his rant short before he could really get going. "Um, Doctor?"
"Yes, Rose?" he smiled happily down at her.
"You said there were supposed to be temples, right?" she looked at him quizzically, pointing down to the town. The Doctor followed her gesture, and his mouth formed a moue of consternation; there was a bustling trade town below the dune the TARDIS was situated on, but the temple complexes of Karnak and Luxor were nowhere to be seen. The Nile shimmered in the distance, and he could make out barge-like ships traversing its tranquil surface. He tapped the watch on his wrist, and frowned.
"What?" Rose was looking up at him through her lashes, and he gave her an embarrassed chuckle.
"Seems I landed us on the wrong side of the BC/AD changeover."
"So, we're when, exactly?" Rose glared, crossing her arms. The Doctor was sure that, if he could see her feet underneath her skirts, she would be tapping one of them.
"Oh, it's still 1789... just BC, not AD." The Doctor smiled sheepishly at Rose. She glared at him another moment, before her expression shifted into the beginnings of a delighted smile.
"So, ancient Egypt?" she asked, arms uncrossing.
"Yup," the Doctor replied, popping the 'p'.
Rose bounced happily, grabbing his arm and beaming up at him. "Back to the wardrobe room then?"
The Doctor rolled his eyes and groaned.
The Doctor shifted nervously in the console room, fingers twiddling idly with the pleated fabric of his kalasiris. The fabric was lightweight, and in spite of the pleating and the loose sleeveless tunic that accompanied the calf-length kilt-like garment, he felt naked.
Rose had insisted that he change, arguing quite convincingly that even he could not blend in with a crowd in ancient Egypt in a brown pinstripe suit, and had refused to start changing until he came into the wardrobe room, picked out clothing for himself, and began to undress. It wasn't the first time he had dressed in period clothing, true enough, (he was even wearing the small pouch Rose had made to carry the sonic screwdriver when they had landed in ancient Rome) but that didn't mean he had to be comfortable with it, and it certainly didn't mean he had to like it.
Especially not when Rose emerged from the wardrobe room looking like that. The Doctor felt his jaw drop and the part of his brain that still functioned was frantically chanting, in a somewhat vain attempt at curbing his initial reaction, Time Lord, supreme control over physical reactions, we do not mingle with lower species!
"Rose, you look… you…" The Doctor saw Rose blush, and dip her gaze, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth as she hid her smile at his gobsmacked reaction, and he could have sworn in that moment that in all his centuries of experience he had never seen anything as delectable as this glowing pink and yellow human before him.
If she had been tantalizing in the riding habit, she was completely and utterly enthralling in the simple linen dress and leather sandals she now wore. The fabric of the skirt was white, sheer and loose, falling to her ankles in pleats not unlike the ones on his kilt, and bound just under her breasts with a beaded belt. Twin strips of fabric covered her breasts in the same sheer material, leaving precious little to the imagination, her arms and most of her chest bare. Her hair had been discreetly tucked beneath a black wig, gold and jeweled beads sparkling amongst the plaits, and her eyes rimmed with kohl. She looked like a goddess.
The Doctor swallowed heavily, trying to recall exactly why he wasn't to do anything with her (or to her) in other than the strictly platonic sense, and even the rational Time Lord portion of his brain was coming up blank. The Doctor allowed his gaze to sweep over her again, from toes to face, and he finally regained the power of speech, if not rational thought.
"Rose, you look beautiful!"
Rose gave him another one of her cheeky grins, tongue peeking out from between her teeth, and the Doctor felt as though one heart had stopped, whilst the other raced trying to make up the difference. "For a human?" she teased, the old dig turned into one of their many private jokes.
The Doctor briefly considered telling her the truth, that he'd never seen anything more beautiful in all his lives, and then quickly thought better of it. He doubted there were many things that could make the current situation more awkward, but he was fairly sure complete honesty was one of them. Instead of responding, the Doctor shook his head and returned Rose's grin, holding out a hand and wiggling his fingers in invitation. Rose grabbed his hand happily, practically bouncing with excitement (and driving the Doctor to no small amount of distraction).
The Doctor cleared his throat, and turned a brilliant smile on Rose as they exited the TARDIS once more and set off towards the city. "Right, then. The city below us is Waset, also known as Niwt or Niwt-rst, which will be renamed Thebes by the Greeks in about a thousand years or so. 1789 BC, which would make this… the end of the Twelfth Dynasty, I should think. Queen Sobekneferu is on the throne, the first female ruler of Egypt. Inherited the throne from her brother-husband when he died."
Rose looked up at him as they walked, and he could all but see the questions buzzing through her mind. "She was married to her brother? Seriously?"
The Doctor smiled down at Rose indulgently. "Yes, seriously. The pharaohs were supposed to be descended from the gods, so they all married within their families to keep the bloodlines pure. Not all that bright of an idea; all of the families declined quickly. The inbreeding made them susceptible to disease, infertility, and birth defects. It's why none of the dynasties managed to last more than a couple centuries."
Rose scrunched her nose up in distaste. "It seems so wrong."
The Doctor sighed, swinging their hands between them as they walked. "You have to realize, Rose, that it made perfect sense to them at the time, considering their religion and culture. The pharaohs took the concept of divine right and ran with it to its most extreme conclusion, instituting themselves as living gods. And for the most part, it worked; they were the most advanced civilization on your planet for over 2000 years, which means they had to be doing something right."
At Rose's look of disbelief, he continued, very much aware that lecturing her on the time period they were in would keep him from dwelling too much on…well, things he had no right thinking about, really. "I'm not saying they were perfect, Rose. They had slavery, and wars, and rampant class-ism. But they did get a lot of things right that the rest of your planet had no clue about at the time. Within the classes, men and women were considered equals, a concept that wouldn't become widespread in human culture until the early twentieth century, and even in your time a lot of people have trouble with it. The Egyptians made unparalleled advances in science and art; if the Library at Alexandria hadn't been destroyed, humans would have made it to the moon a good four centuries earlier."
"I suppose you had something to do with that?" Rose teased, nudging his shoulder with her own playfully, the contact of her bare skin with his reminding him of exactly how little they were wearing.
The Doctor turned a wounded expression in Rose's direction. "I'll have you know that I am not responsible for every major disaster in your planet's history!" As Rose's expression turned contrite, he rubbed his neck with his free hand, and mumbled, "Besides, I saved what I could."
Rose beamed up at him, bouncing with glee as she shook a finger at him in playful admonition. "Ha! I knew it!"
It was three hours and eighteen vendor stalls later before the Doctor decided that bringing Rose to the market was either a very, very bad idea, or a blessing in disguise. She hadn't attempted to buy anything, yet, but she was taking her time browsing and making a day of it, and part of the Doctor's mind was fervently glad of the distractions that the sounds and sights of the marketplace provided, in spite of his discomfort.
In this crowd, Rose's dress seemed downright demure; the Doctor had taken care to dress both himself and Rose as minor nobility, and while the fabric of their clothes was sheer, it was also much more covering than what many of the lower classes were wearing. Rose had initially blushed at the sight of the people now surrounding them (especially when a group of slave girls wearing nothing but jeweled knickers went scurrying past), but had quickly shrugged it off, slipping into her usual easy manner, and the Doctor found himself quite proud of her adaptability.
Rose had been gathering no small amount of attention to herself as the day wore on, her ebullient attitude and pale skin contrasting sharply with the practicality and dark tones of the Egyptians surrounding them. She seemed to glow as she smiled and wove her way through the crowds, pausing to examine the occasional bauble or piece of jewelry but shying away when asked to barter.
After watching Rose disappoint yet another merchant, the Doctor finally decided it was odd that Rose would browse for this long without buying anything, and caught her elbow as she walked away from the stall. "That's the tenth time you've walked away from the tables, Rose. If you're looking for something in particular, you could just ask."
Rose raised an eyebrow and gave the Doctor an amused look. "Sometimes, Doctor, it's fun just to look. Besides," she gave him a grin and poked him in the chest, "I don't have any money or anything to trade."
The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck, comprehension dawning. "Ah, yes, well…"
Rose took his other hand, entwining their fingers and nudging his shoulder playfully. "Doesn't matter. You can make it up to me later."
The Doctor groaned and rolled his eyes. "Not the…"
"Yup!" Rose smiled up at him, tongue skimming her teeth playfully, and the Doctor felt his cheeks grow warm as he once again became hyper aware of every inch of exposed skin on both their bodies. He wondered idly how Rose was able to affect him so easily. Certainly there had to be something else at work. There was no way a Time Lord could be thrown arse over teakettle by the simple sensation of a human girl's fingertips tickling over the exposed skin of his forearm. Simply impossible.
Then again, he always did like impossible.
"…Doctor?" Rose's voice intruded into his awareness again, and the Doctor realized he hadn't heard a word she had said over the last minute. He shook his head and gave a short, rueful laugh.
"Sorry, Rose. My mind wandered away for a bit."
Rose raised a skeptical eyebrow at him. "Right. That mind of yours wander anyplace interesting?"
The Doctor shot Rose a wolfish grin. "Oh, you'd be amazed."
Rose beamed back up at him, flushing slightly at the Doctor's flirting, but willing to give as good as she got. "Try me."
The Doctor swallowed heavily and licked his lips, suddenly finding himself at a loss for words. His mind raced, trying to find a way to divert the conversation from the dangerous territory he now found himself in.
"Temples!" The Doctor blurted out suddenly, earning a bemused look from his companion. He rubbed the back of his neck, feigning a thoughtful expression and congratulating himself on the change of topic.
"We're a few centuries early for Karnak, but I seem to recall that we started out to see some temples today. So, Ms. Tyler, how does dropping in on some religious ceremonies and scandalizing the priesthood sound?"
Rose threw her head back laughing, and hooked an arm through his. "Brilliant!"
The sun had arced into the hottest part of the afternoon as the Doctor led Rose into the cool shade of one of the small temples along what would become the Avenue of Sphinxes, and was once again in full lecture mode, face alight in childlike wonder as he explained the history of the buildings around them.
"Of course, none of these buildings are standing in your time. They all get torn down during the New Kingdom, and the stone is used as filler for newer building projects. Oh, a few of them are rebuilt during the 1980s when archaeologists discover the stones during excavations in collapsed temple walls, but the temple we're in now? Completely destroyed, dust and rubble being used as filler for the steps of Hatshepsut's funerary complex. Interesting woman; actually, now I think about it, the two of you would have got on like a house on fire."
He watched Rose's gaze sweep over their surroundings, her mouth slightly open and eyes wide. "'S beautiful!" she breathed, enchanted by the billowing linen hangings and low candlelight of the interior of the temple. Sweat glistened on her skin from the midday heat, and smoke from the burning censors curled about her form, giving her the appearance of some otherworldly nymph.
"Yes, it is," the Doctor murmured softly, his eyes never leaving Rose. She looked up at him, and this time he didn't bother averting his gaze. She smiled up at him, and opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by a cry from near the temple altar.
"The Gods have graced us with their presence! Lord Amun and Lady Mut walk amongst us!"
"What?" The Doctor spun to face the altar, greeted with the sight of a wild-eyed priest rushing towards them. "No, I think there's been a mistake..." the Doctor began, trailing off when confronted by milky irises, realizing that the priest's vision had long ago been taken by cataracts and age.
"There can be no mistaking you and your lady wife, my Lord Amun," the priest said while bowing deeply to the Doctor and Rose in turn. "You may wear mortal skin here, but your ka! The both of you glow as the sun, and carry the dust of stars on your feet."
The Doctor glanced over at Rose, whose eyes had widened at the priest's declaration. She reached over and gripped his hand, edging closer and leaning up to whisper in the Doctor's ear. "What's he going on about, Doctor?"
The Doctor leaned over to whisper in her ear as the priest excitedly began calling for attendants and other priests to join them. "Amun and Mut are the creator deities of Egyptian religion, the father and mother of the world, and two of the three patron gods of Thebes. And we," he paused, looking deeply into her eyes, "just got mistaken for them."
Rose looked back up at him searchingly. "Is that bad? We're not going to be sacrificed or summat, right?"
The Doctor threw back his head and laughed, earning several strange and questioning looks from the gathering crowd of acolytes. "No, no, Rose. Worst they'll do is..." the Doctor trailed off as he remembered exactly what they might be expected to do, and he blushed furiously.
"Doctor, what is it?" Rose tugged on his hand, drawing his attention back to her. He tugged his earlobe and fixed her with a worried look.
"Okay, it's definitely not bad. Well, not that bad," when Rose looked at him with a skeptical expression, the Doctor put up his free hand in a placating gesture. "I swear, I can get us out of this."
The Doctor let go of Rose's hand and waved over at the priest who had accosted them originally, joining the group of priests and attendants near the altar. "Could I have a word?"
Half an hour later, the Doctor and Rose were ensconced in a dimly lit bower. The entirety of the space was filled with plush cushions and fabrics, the walls draped in linen. The exotic scents of sandalwood and incense drifted from a censor in the corner. It would have been a fairly romantic setting, if not for Rose sitting with arms crossed against a wall, and the Doctor on the opposite side of the room, looking decidedly sheepish.
Rose arched an eyebrow at the Doctor. "Mind telling me what, exactly, we're doing in here?"
"Weeeell," the Doctor said, rubbing the back of his neck and looking anywhere but at Rose. "It's a bit complicated."
Rose rolled her eyes, and sighed. "So use small words, Doctor," her voice taking on an annoyed edge.
After a moment of internal debate, the Doctor decided that if he was in for a penny, he was in for a pound, and let out the explanation in one great rush of breath. "As the physical manifestations of Amun and Mut, they want us to bless the temple and ensure the fertility of the next harvest by re-consummating our heavenly union within the temple confines."
Rose's eyes narrowed at first, and then widened in dawning comprehension as she once again surveyed their surroundings. "They expect us," she gestured, pointing first to herself and then the Doctor, "to shag? Here, in the temple, with a guard just outside?"
Rose's voice had taken on a hysterical note as she trailed off, and the Doctor felt a deep pang of disappointment at Rose's tone, in spite of his own internal insistence that nothing ever should happen between them. He couldn't keep the disappointment from coloring his words, even as he sought to reassure her. "Don't worry, Rose. I'll think of a way out of this."
"Oh, ta," Rose shot back, her voice bitter as she hugged herself and gazed down at her feet with a broken expression. "I know you're rude, but you don't have to sound quite that disgusted by me."
The Doctor looked at Rose, startled by her words. "What?" he squeaked out, eyes wide.
Rose continued, her voice quiet and broken as she plucked nervously at the fabric of her dress. "Silly, really, when you think about it. I'm just a stupid ape, right? All of time and space at your fingertips, can have anyone you wanted in a snap. Snogged Madame de Pompadour. No reason for you to want a shopgirl who doesn't even have her A-levels..."
The Doctor's mind raced as he processed what Rose was saying. She sounded so hurt by what she perceived as his rejection. And, as she spoke, he found himself reevaluating his reasons for keeping her at arm's length in the first place.
Of course, there was an age gap, but there were only maybe a few dozen species he could think of where there wouldn't be, and most of those were fairly incompatible if not downright unattractive. Besides which, age really didn't make that much of a difference after the first couple of centuries.
There was the longstanding taboo, drilled into his head from the Academy, against fraternizing with lower species. But if he was being honest, the only one around anymore to enforce that was him, and it wasn't as if it had been followed too closely even when the other Time Lords were around to tut and fret over the breach in protocol; his own parentage was testimony to that. Perhaps it was a family affliction, this attraction to humans.
The Doctor blinked, realizing that he had once again tuned out Rose in favor of his own internal dialog. She was sniffling, and rubbed a hand across her cheek, scrubbing away a stray tear. "I understand if you want to dump me back home after this."
Without allowing himself the time for any more internal debate, the Doctor crossed the room and kneeled in front of Rose, tipping her chin up to meet his gaze with one hand. "I am sorry I ever called you a stupid ape, Rose, because you're not. You are so incredibly brilliant and clever, and I'm sorry I ever said anything otherwise," the Doctor gave her a small smile, brushing his thumb over the apple of her cheek, wiping away another tear.
Looking into Rose's eyes, he could see her doubt, and the last walls of his reserve crumbled. "And I'll have you know, Reinette snogged me, not the other way around."
Before Rose could react to his statement, he leaned forward, grazing his lips over hers so lightly it could barely be called a kiss. He only moved back enough to look into her eyes, which had widened in shock at his actions. The Doctor could feel Rose's breath against his skin in hot puffs, her mouth slightly agape as she searched his face, trying to figure out what had just happened.
"All of time and space wouldn't be half as much fun without my plus one there," the Doctor smiled at her, and then sobered again. "Rose, if we do this, there's no going back. Everything changes."
Rose searched the Doctor's eyes, placing her hand over his where it still lingered against her cheek. "Doctor, there hasn't been any going back for me for a long time now. And it's not me I'd be worried about if things change between us. When we get back to the TARDIS, you can't just pretend nothing's happened. I can't..." Rose's voice broke as another tear streaked down her face. "I don't think I can handle it if you just go on like you always do, ignoring the stuff you don't want to deal with once we're done running for our lives."
The Doctor raised his other hand, cupping her face in his palms and forcing her gaze to his. "I try not to make promises, Rose. They're tricky things, with all sorts of loopholes and obligations and hidden meanings. But I promise you, absolutely, that I am not going to ignore this anymore, and I'm never going to ignore it again."
With that declaration, the Doctor leaned forward again. This kiss was the polar opposite of the first. This was fiery, passionate, and demanding. The Doctor swept his tongue across Rose's bottom lip, and her lips parted with a sigh, her tongue coming to meet his as her fingers tangled in his hair. In a movement that almost seemed choreographed, he leaned back as she leaned forward, both of them rising to their knees and pressing their bodies close, the kiss becoming frantic as hands explored curves and planes.
The Doctor broke the kiss, leaving Rose gasping for breath as he trailed lips and tongue across her jaw, pausing to nibble on her ear before continuing down the ivory column of her neck. After a moment, Rose groaned, and tugged on his hair, trying to pull his attention away from the worship of her skin. "Doctor?"
He hummed an acknowledgment against her shoulder, pulling the strap of fabric away and exposing more of her flesh, not stopping. Rose tugged on his hair again and leaned back, pulling away from his mouth and forcing him to look at her face. Her face was flushed and kohl-streaked, her eyes dilated with desire, and she was nibbling on her bottom lip. The Doctor could not recall ever seeing a woman looking so desirable.
She tipped her head towards one wall and gave it a nervous glance. "Um, Doctor?" she queried anxiously, "I don't know if you noticed, but there's a guard just out there, and just a bit of fabric over the door. I'm not sure..."
The Doctor gave her a lascivious grin, and wiggled his eyebrows playfully. "Considering what they put us in here for, I don't think they'll mind, do you?"
Rose briefly gave him a horrified look, and then started giggling madly. "At least they didn't want us to do it on the altar in front of all and sundry!"
The Doctor tipped his head back and guffawed, falling back onto the cushioned floor and dragging Rose down on top of him, kissing her over and over as they laughed and tumbled in the fabric, shedding clothing and losing themselves in each other.
In the end, Rose didn't care about the guard.