Title: Bad Hospitality
Characters and/or Pairings: Nine/Jack/Rose, established relationship
Warnings: Non-explicit violence and sexual references
Summary: Bad steering and worse luck land the Doctor, Jack, and Rose in three different shades of trouble. Can they all make it out together?
Word Count: 4262 this part, 7839 total
The Doctor spent all of breakfast time whipping two sleepy humans into a a state of excitement by regaling them with tales of their next destination. The buildings gleamed, he insisted, and on the outskirts of the capitol city of the biggest country on the planet, there sat a gloriously disorganized museum. Visitors from anywhere and everywhere in the universe were encouraged to visit it, get lost in the artifacts of other cultures, and leave something of their own to add to the collection. Some found it too chaotic, but it wasn't, not nearly; it was a monument to the idea of a melting pot. Lots to learn, and in a nice, modern environment that the whole trio would appreciate after a week spent trekking through something like medieval wilderness (though Rose did prefer that wilderness to the smelly cities that interrupted it).
So of course when the Doctor, Jack, and Rose stepped out of the TARDIS, the first thing Rose saw was brown. The grime on the street and the stained, wooden walls around her coalesced into a muddy haze that totally underwhelmed her sense of sight. A half-second later, however, a smell assaulted her. It, too, seemed... brown, if maybe mixed with gray and definitely not underwhelming. A full second after that, the humidity settled thickly against her skin, and it felt noticeably different than a London summer. Somehow stickier.
The picture came together when she looked over the tops of the squat, mostly-wood buildings nearby to see fat smokestacks less than a mile away. They belched a noxious substance that blew downwind and settled right on their position.
“Ugh, this air is worse than early 21st Century Bangkok.” Jack's chiseled features scrunched up as Rose looked at him.
“Do I even want to know why you went there?”
“Hey, look at that- bunch of kids!” His voice was artificially high, clearly avoiding her question, but then his eyes narrowed. “Actually, do look at that. Do you think that dented tin of food is worth the uproar they're causing? Doctor, are we in the right place?”
They had exited the alley in which the TARDIS had landed, and sure enough, there were a group of small people rolling around and pulling at a warped tin as some of the city's larger denizens walked by, ignoring it. All the people were barrel-bellied, their round middles seeming to perch precariously on their two sinewy, double-jointed legs. Something about the hip region looked off to Rose's eyes until she realized that there was no bum in the area between belly and legs. It seemed they sat by folding their legs under them and sinking straight down to the ground. Long pairs of arms, also with two joints, swung along their sides and ended with surprisingly strong-looking, four-fingered hands. Finally, the people's heads struck Rose as horse-like, but thinner and with a larger jaw. The mottled oranges and browns of their skin completed the bizarre ensemble. Rose had never seen anything quite like it, like a child had formed a play-doh middle and stuck random limbs from other toys in it to create a creature that grew to be a head taller than her.
A yelp came from a child that had been shoved violently away from the tin conflict, and the culprit leapt up with surprising alacrity, taking off in a sort of careening, hopping run. Part of Rose noted that she likely wouldn't have much luck beating any of the adults in a foot race, if the kid's speed was any indication.
The altercation over, Rose started spotting other tell-tale signs of poverty, including a full-grown person sitting next to a wall and sleeping on the street. “Isn’t there anything we can do to help them?”
The Doctor grimaced, then started to walk forward. “Maybe for a few around here, but overall, no. This isn't like that settlement we nudged into revolution last month. We're in the right place, the planet Kyntha, but I’ve obviously undershot our landing by an era, and the requirements of the time line are clear. Things aren’t going to really get better for these people until one of their princes falls in love with an alien and eventually marries her. We can only hurt the planet's future by meddling in big affairs before that.” He didn't look at either companion.
A little hesitantly, Rose joked, “Shacking up with an alien? Scandalous.” She bumped the Doctor's hip with her own, and he looked at her at last, sparing a small smile.
“It makes for an interesting chapter in this planet's history books, actually. The affair appalls everyone at first – riots and everything – but the union becomes the basis for many mutually beneficial dealings between this people and their new queen’s. Enough that it leads to a paradigm shift after a generation or so. Just in this country at first, but eventually the whole planet buys into the idea of tolerance when they see the benefits of the trade that can be had.”
Jack said, “I believe it; nothing changes minds like money.” There was a pause.
“I guess good change for the wrong reasons is still good.”
“But is it wrong?” Jack countered. “Good business like that probably improved the quality of life for these people way faster than embracing actual tolerance did, since I'm sure that took a generation or five. I’d say it’s more an issue of priority.” Abruptly, he stopped speaking and walking, narrowing his eyes.
Rose looked away from him to see that, ahead of them, there stood an intimidating-looking person blocking the doorway of a shop into which they’d been wandering out of habit. The people of this planet were not very expressive that she could tell, but this one didn’t seem happy.
“Closed, I take it?” the Doctor asked lightly. “Should have known from the- window.” He gestured vaguely at the gritty shop front, which as far as Rose could see had no writing or symbols on it. “We’ll just be along.”
Though she let the Doctor steer her and Jack back to the road, Rose had to grumble, “Well, heaven forbid someone want to spend money in her shop. I suppose our currency smells funny or something?”
“It’s not their fault, Rose. I’ve seen a lot of places like this; I'd bet you a week of tea duty that they’ve been specifically told not to trust aliens. With that and the out of the way location of this place, any actual off-worlders they’ve met have probably been people trying to con them out of resources or just real rough types. Miners, shippers, or mercenaries on their way somewhere else, blowing off steam on shore leave. What are they supposed to think?”
Just then, a short Kynthan dashed out of nowhere and plowed directly into Rose's legs. She kept her footing by using Jack to steady herself, but the kid stumbled back and sat straight down, wobbling in a manner reminiscent of a bowling pin.
“Sorry!” Once he stilled, he sprang up again, angling away, but Rose jumped forward and grabbed his arm.
“Not so fast, now. Give it back.”
The small Kynthan dropped her wallet and turned away to bounce off. Rose smiled as she bent to retrieve it, making a note to thank Jack again for teaching her how to detect a pickpocket (no matter how much groping he'd snuck into the lessons). “Hey, you don't have to run; I'll get you something to-”
“What's going on here?”
At the sound of the new voice, both Rose and the kid froze in place, her bent part of the way toward her wallet.
The Doctor stepped forward. “It's nothing. These two just collided is all. Humans are clumsy, and the little one was in a hurry.”
“Then did the short alien need to hurt that child's arm?” The Kynthan, larger than most others they had seen, stalked up to the group, arms swinging widely with each step. “We don't need fresh brutes and bullies in this neighborhood.”
“Hey, ease up, guy. That child nicked my friend's wallet; she was just getting it back. It's over now, so let it go.” Jack stepped up to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Rose and the Doctor.
“I didn't steal nothing!”
That and the kid dramatically clutching his arm where Rose had grabbed it were apparently all the new arrival needed. With a snort, he threw extra power into one of his swinging arms, aiming for Rose's middle at mind-boggling speed. She tried to dodge, but it was no good – except then Jack was there, shoving her to the ground and taking the hit himself. He crumpled; Rose rolled away and up and bee-lined to his side as the Doctor stepped forward, shouting.
“Did you hear me? I said, I want to know where you've taken our friend. If you won't take me to him, at least tell me where he is and let me go. You can't keep us here; we haven't done anything!”
“I might do something if you don't keep quiet! Your friend is in custody for assaulting a citizen, and as his accomplices, you will be silent and appreciate the generous room we've provided for you while you await questioning.”
“Yeah, a pretty cell, thanks a lot. My friend needs medical attention, and only my other friend can provide it, unless you're hiding a human doctor somewhere behind your enormous ego.” Rose's charm had run out some time ago, but if nothing she said could help her at this point, at least heckling was more satisfying than silence.
“Your friend will last until you can be questioned, I'm sure. Why don't you be like him and lay longways on the floor like an infant. Silently.”
Rose kicked the door and huffed. “Oh, go sit in an alley and pray for a strike!” The thought of a giant bowling ball taking out a huddle of the pear-shaped alien guardsmen cheered her somewhat... until she turned around. Looking at Jack, she had to sigh.
He had been unconscious since before the planet's authorities had taken them, and she'd bet anything that brute had cracked or possibly broken several of Jack's ribs. The blow to his chest had been so hard, he'd blacked out during the fall and given his head an enthusiastic introduction to the unfriendly Kynthan street. His breaths came shallow, and a crinkle had permanently settled between his eyebrows. However, he didn't seem to be losing blood that Rose could tell, based on his color, and if any organs were in danger of further injury, undoubtedly they would have been damaged by the rough handling the Kynthians gave him on the way to this room, so there was that. If these people had claws on the end of those long, powerful arms, Rose didn't doubt his straits would be a lot more dire.
Could have been better, though. There were no beds or even chairs in the room, as there wouldn't be for a species that never lie down. Just sitting cushions with a flat middle, presumably where their feet would go while the cushion part supported the bulk of their bodies. Rose had piled them up as evenly as possible and pulled Jack onto the makeshift bed, and now she snuggled close to him to impart warmth. The building had air conditioning, and they had no blanket, of course.
“I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gotten into a fight with that arse, or I should have been able to move out of the way quicker.” Or he could have let her get hit. Now, even if she could crack the lock, the guard was too big for her, and she couldn't possibly carry Jack out – two things that wouldn't be so daunting if she had been the one injured. Jack could fell aliens twice his size and carry her to boot. But maybe not all the way to the TARDIS...
She sighed, carefully laying her head on his shoulder and placing an arm delicately over his stomach. She was scared to hold him too tightly.
The Doctor grumbled to himself, wishing for a guard to harass or at least something to do. Sadly, he was empty-handed since his jacket (with sonic screwdriver) had been confiscated, and he was also completely alone. Even the brain trust who started the entire debacle had been placed in a cell a few floors above this one. A floor that, the Doctor had noted, had electricity. The lout would probably spend a night in the equivalent of a drunk tank, while he, the party who had only acted in defence, was taken down to an old, under-used portion of the prison that looked a lot like a dungeon. Cramped cells, firelight, and damp, rough-carved walls. Actually, that pretty much was a dungeon, wasn't it? There wasn't even room to lie down, just to sit or crouch.
And what was worse, he had no idea what had become of his companions. That was simply unacceptable, doubly so with one of them injured. And he would do something about it, too, as soon as he found something on his person or in his vicinity to use as a lockpick.
“The prince will see you now.”
“And about bloody time.” Rose pressed a kiss to Jack's forehead and made for the door before the guard changed his mind. A few minutes later, she was in a plain room with no windows and just one door. A Kynthan with a blue belt waited there, and only he stayed with her when the door was closed. This was an interrogation room if she ever saw one, though it lacked obvious cameras or two-way mirrors, and her heart rate spiked at the thought.
“Please, sit.” The prince gestured toward a sad little cushion before sitting on an altogether taller one, and though Rose disliked the idea of giving him even more of a height advantage, polite seemed a good way to start. So, she sat cross-legged, and the prince, though he stared in a manner suggesting he found the contortion startling, managed to refrain from commenting on her ungainly human legs.
“I hope you don't mind me saying this to start, Your Royal Highness, but this is all a big misunderstanding. We didn't mean any harm, nor did we hurt anyone, so please, just let us go, and you won't hear from us again.”
The prince paused thoughtfully before speaking. “I don't doubt there is some amount of misunderstanding regarding the incident on the street, but surely you don't think I personally handle the interrogation of street ruffians?”
“Er, I... don't know.”
“You are here, human, because you are not here.”
Well, he had her there. She was terrible at riddles. “Come again?”
“Legally. Don't pretend ignorance with me, human; there is no docking record for any vessels carrying your kind, not right now, not anywhere on the planet.”
“My name is Rose, and what, do you catalogue every species on every freighter that sniffs around this place?”
“...Well, our captain is awful at paperwork. You should see his taxes – not that he's not paying all of your taxes, but he doesn't – probably didn't record everything correctly. About his crew. And maybe his taxes, but I'm sure they're paid right.” Yep. Smooooth. “If you just release us at the dock, we'll hide on board until we leave, and you'll never see us again.”
Looking bemused, the prince answered, “I don't believe I can do that.”
“Please, Sir. My friend back in the room they took me from is injured; he needs our other friend. He's a doctor, the one you separated from us. I know you don't get many humans here; your doctors won't do him any good.”
Rather than answering, the Prince stood up and started to walk a circle around her.
Rose didn't much mind begging, but she did mind it a lot less when it worked. Biting back an aggravated growl, she asked, “Look, what will it take for you to let us go?”
“We know of your species, human-”
“-but we hardly ever see you in this city.” She began to wish the royalty in this city was as direct as the street bullies.
“Tougher species do better than we do on the trading outskirts like the area this planet's in. Because we're so harmless. Definitely not worth the trouble to keep in gaol.”
At that, he laughed. “Guardsman! Take our guest back to the holding room. Rose, I shall consider what you said. Should I decide to do as you ask, surely you won't mind leading my men to your legally-docked ship and its absentminded captain?”
“...'C-course not. Anytime you're ready.” Damn. The pause had been too long, and Rose could read the prince's knowing, smug look even on horsey features.
“As I said, I shall consider.”
There was absolutely nothing available that could crack the lock on the Doctor's cell door. He actually had a small torsion wrench sewn into the leg of his trousers (a practice he’d begun after an incident similar to this one… and after discovering how awful it could be to run with a wrench in one’s shoe), but there were no companions to ask for pins, no sturdy twigs, not even flooring to tear into splinters. Not that all of those options would have worked, but any one would be something to try instead of sitting here, vaguely wondering if his hair was too short to tear out. At least, to tear out in appreciable clumps.
The Doctor, who had been pressing his eyes deep into his skull with the heels of his hands, started so violently that he hit his head on the stone wall. “Agh- Who’s there?” He squinted, then widened his eyes. “You!”
“Uh, hello.” The little Kynthan that had stolen Rose’s wallet now stood outside his cell, looking sheepish. The Doctor considered his position and bit back a scolding.
“How did you get down here?”
“My uncle is your guard. He didn’t want to let me down here, but I told him I wanted to…”
“Mock the alien?”
“Yeah. But, actually, I wanna say I’m sorry. I just wanted to get away and not get in trouble again. I didn’t think Grik would hurt your friend, or that the city guard were so close by.”
The Doctor couldn’t help but smile a little. “Yeah, our luck just goes that way. But I appreciate the apology. It’s brave of you to come here and offer it. What’s your name?”
“Sym’pec.” He perked up, bouncing a little on his springy legs. “First daughter of Sam’pin, but people call me Peck.” Oops, her springy legs.
“Nice to meet, you, Peck. I’m the Doctor. While you’re down here, could I trouble you for some news? Do you know where they took my friends?”
Peck’s face fell. “Oh. No, The-Doctor. My uncle didn’t say, ‘zactly, only that he couldn’t get me in there. I didn’t follow the city guards when they took you guys… I just ran when they came.”
The Doctor nodded gravely. “They could be in be in trouble, you know.” Or they could have been let go, since he was the one who had been caught shoving Grik.
“I guess so…”
“If I could escape from here, I could help them.”
“Wouldn’t they just be in more trouble if you got away?”
Drat, a precocious one. “Of course not! They can’t be held responsible for helping me if they’re stuck here somewhere can they? It would be impossible.”
Peck scrunched up her features to think. “Yeah, okay, but how’re you gonna get out?”
The Doctor grinned.
“Jack!” Rose sat up to better look at his face, which was scrunched in pain.
“This is already not my best morning ever.” He groaned, curling an arm over his belly but stopping short of his tender ribs. “Think I’ve had better ones in moose-man prison. And moose-man prison had antlers.”
“How concussed are you?! Jack, open your eyes.” When he didn’t do more than squint and shut them again, Rose gently pried open an eyelid to see a wickedly-dilated pupil. She let it go with a wince. “I need you to stay awake now. You can keep your eyes closed if you want; I even have pillows you can use to cover them. But stay with me.”
“Rose?” Jack gave his head a shake and immediately regretted it, judging by his expression. Still, his next words sounded more coherent than before. “Where are we? Are you okay?”
She sighed, feeling just a little tension leech from her shoulders. “I’m fine, thanks to you. You took a nasty punch for me and then hit your head on the way down. The Doctor defended us and got arrested for it, though, and we’re being held for questioning since there aren’t any humans registered at this port or something.”
“Lovely.” Jack finally cracked an eye open.
Rose smiled for him. “Hello.”
“Hello.” He tried to smile and succeeded in grimacing. “Déjà vu inverted. Any other details?”
“Locked door, guard outside, and you’re a mess. The prince of this place has been questioning me, but I have no idea what he’s after. Can you walk?”
Jack's words came in low croaks, obviously an attempt to use as little air as possible and negate the need for deep breaths. “I think getting up is going to be the hard part. Just...” he took a breath, “-thinking about it’s making me dizzy, never mind my ribs.”
“Well, thank you. My hero.” Rose kissed him gently, drawing out his first real smile since waking.
“Could I have a few more of those? They're not the best painkiller, but they're my favorite.” Having to pause mid-sentence to slowly inhale didn't dim his charm at all.
“I don't want to get your heart beating too hard against those ribs.” She delicately touched his side for emphasis, but not as delicately as she'd thought, because he let out a little grunt. “Oh god, sorry.” She sat up, intent on pulling his head into her lap until the door opened.
“The prince will see you again.”
Minutes later, Rose found herself in the same room as before, alone with the prince.
“Rose, welcome again.” This time, he did not bid her to sit, instead walking right up close to her. “Did you have enough time to consider your position?”
“Ye... Well, I was tending to my sick friend. But I know what's going on.” It wasn't a lie. Though she hadn't been able to read between all the lines in their last meeting, their parting shots were clear as day.
“Do you? Excellent. Then you know or suspect that I can have all three of you humans brought up on any number of unpleasant charges for being unregistered, and that's before any troublemaking in the street is considered.”
“Yeah, I got that.”
“And I sense that there's no legitimate ship and captain that can explain away all of this mess waiting at a nice, signed-and-paid-for dock.”
Rose chose not to respond to that. They understood each other; now he just had to tell her what he wanted. There had to be something, or she'd be in gaol already.
“Listen, I hear humans are very... adaptable. And Kynthans are very discrete. Do you understand?”
She gave him a blank look. Great, another left turn into alien subtlety. She was good with people – really good, at times – but she was lost just now.
“I am asking that you carry out procreational activities with me, after which your friend will be freed. It will be as if nothing untoward had occurred at all, though it would behoove him to leave the planet soon after. Even the illegal docking of your vessel, wherever it may be, will be forgotten.”
Rose's jaw dropped, eyes blinked, and legs staggered back a step. “Wh- Wha-!”
“I cannot speak more plainly than that.”
“You're blackmailing me for sex!”
“Quiet!” The prince's huge hands grabbed her shoulders and pulled her closer. “Discretion, please. I am curious; you are in trouble. Think of it as a... mutually beneficial cultural exchange.”
For a moment, their bodies too close, both people looked down and up each other's forms. Rose saw absolutely nothing she liked. On top of that, the lack of visible genitalia filled her with all kinds of unpleasant questions, though she knew from Jack that keeping such things hidden and safe was very common in non-humans. Mostly, though, the prince's sudden proximity and shockingly strong grip sent her whole nervous system on high alert, blood buzzing through her veins with tons of adrenaline.
“N...no,” she managed to croak out.
The prince looked puzzled. “No? Hm, that's not what I expected. Well, go think again, just one more time. But I won't wait-”
A clatter. “Your Royal Highness!”
The prince abruptly released Rose, and she turned around to see someone immediately start talking as the door closed behind him. If he had given them an odd look when he came in, Rose missed it.
“Sir, the human prisoner has escaped.”
“I'm sorry; we haven't yet ascertained how he did it...”
Rose bit her lip to keep from grinning, right up until the prince turned a furious look on her.
“It would be conducive to your companion's well-being if you strongly consider my offer. And soon. If he's caught again, it is no piddling jail sentence that awaits him.”
Continue to Part 2