Jack and the Princess

"I'm sorry, we've landed where?" Rose looked at the Doctor, glancing towards Jack, who didn't seem to have been confused by the Doctor's announcement. Jack saw her glance and shrugged, clearing up that bit for her at least. Jack had no clue, but didn't care.

"Frtothuusotustioidhts," the Doctor said again, enunciating the middle part. Rose wondered if that meant there was a neighboring planet named something similar that he thought she might have mistaken this one for.

Rose nodded slowly. "Right. And that's...what? Planet? Space station? Consumer Rights Corporate office?"

"Actually, the Frotians are well known for their adherence to moral and legal rights. Some of the best lobbyists in the galaxy." The Doctor grinned. Rose felt weirdly like he was proud of her for knowing. As if she had a clue what he was talking about.

She focused on the important bit. "Frotians? That's what they're called? I mean, that's what I can call them without insulting them and starting a war?"

The Doctor pouted. "Now that's not fair. I told you the Riffleitties were sensitive. I meant it when I said 'no giggling.'" He looked a mix of stern and sheepish, and Rose scowled at him.

Jack looked from Rose to the Doctor, and laughed. "Let me guess. The Doctor started an intergalactic incident on Riffleittishia?" He suddenly looked thoughtful. "When were you there?"

Rose answered, seeing that the Doctor was now pretending to ignore the entire conversation. "The year one-teen-nine, he said. Year of the--"

"Year of the Malash Quandary?" Jack asked, eyebrows going up in an expression of wonder. "That was you? That incident is in all the history books, Doctor. I'm impressed."

The Doctor smiled. "That's nothing. You should see what I can do in just a pair of swim shorts."

Rose laughed as Jack just said, "Any time, anywhere." He grinned in that flirtatious way Rose had come to recognise as pure Jack. She never knew when he was serious, or only teasing, and was beginning to suspect that Jack just always meant it both ways.

The captain hadn't been traveling with them for long, unless one considered that traveling half a million years back and forth counted as a long time. But it had really only been a short while and Rose was still getting used to having someone else around.

It was nice -- Jack was a lot more human than the Doctor. Mysterious and experienced in the aliens and places of the universe, he was still sometimes refreshingly normal in ways the Doctor never was. Jack was the one who'd discovered ice cream in the TARDIS' freezer, and they'd stayed up one night eating and talking about celebrity crushes.

She'd half-expected, when Jack had joined them, that three would be a crowd. But Jack had seemed to fit right in seamlessly, and the Doctor was already a lot nicer to the captain than he had been to Mickey or Adam. Although to be fair, Jack was a lot better at defending himself against the Doctor's wit than either of those two.

"Actually, a beach holiday sounds nice," Rose said, smiling. Sitting on the beach eating ice cream cones or candy floss and building sand castles -- she'd never been on a proper holiday to the beach growing up, but she remembered the other kids talking about them every autumn back at school.

Jack turned his smile on her. "Ooh, Rose in a bikini. Gets my vote."

"Come on," the Doctor said, moving forward -- in between Rose and Jack, then on towards the door. Rose gave Jack a grin, which he returned. Jack held up his elbow and she put her hand on his arm, letting him escort her out of the TARDIS.

~~~~

She wasn't sure what she'd expected -- the Frotians might have been good lobbyists or whatever, but the Doctor had apparently brought them right into the middle of an enormous flea market. Not precisely right in the middle; the TARDIS was back in a corner near the end of an alley, though the alley wasn't exactly deserted. A few stalls lined the alley, pressed up against high brown walls. The main streets were even more crowded with stalls and doorways leading to indoor shops. Frotians were everywhere, shouting at one another and waving three or four hands as they haggled over prices.

At one point the Doctor stopped and bought drinks -- bright red bags with straws sticking out of the top. The liquid had been sweet and spicy, and had been called something even more confusing than ' Frtothuusotustioidhts.'

She'd enjoyed herself just walking about and looking at all the people and products. She made no attempt to talk to any of them, half-afraid she'd end up trading the TARDIS for a bracelet or something. Jack showed no such restraint; Rose watched as he paused at one stall after another, looking at some things and disregarding others until she had no idea what it was he was shopping for.

As they walked, the Doctor pointed out various structures and items, talking about their history and importance. It was fun listening to him talk, even though half the time Rose wasn't exactly sure what he was talking about. But she listened and looked where he pointed and asked questions when she thought she had enough of a grasp to not ask really stupid ones.

When the Doctor's face lit up, Rose honestly expected trouble. But when the Doctor dragged them into a large, plain-looking building, it had turned out to be--

"A library?" Jack looked up at the ceiling, and around at the pillars and drawings on the walls.

"Isn't it fantastic?" the Doctor said. "It's the most amazingly tedious library invented -- the governmental library. Everything cross-referenced and duplicated five times, and each new entry has to be signed and counter signed by fifteen librarians before anything gets recorded. And what doesn't get saved in the official library, gets archived in the auxiliary library just in case it turns out to be useful after all."

The Doctor rubbed his hands in glee, and Rose had sudden visions of a nice afternoon totally ruined by dust and headaches.

'So you want to play around in the library books?" she asked. The Doctor nodded, eagerly. She tried to force a smile. "D'you mind if we keep wandering around the market?"

The Doctor looked momentarily disappointed, then nodded. "Oh, right, you wouldn't be able to read the books anyway. Unless you learned Frotialiananilia in school."

"Not even for extra credit," Rose admitted, trying to sound like she was at all sorry.

"I did, and I don't recommend it," Jack put in. "You really need three eyes to make sense of the vowels."

"Right," the Doctor agreed. "Then you two run along and have fun -- and don't sell each other into slavery, because the forms required to get a slave free take longer to fill out than just serving out your time. I'll meet you two back here in one hour. That should give me plenty of time to catch up on section 'rxf'." He waved them on, back towards the door, already heading off to one of the librarians.

Rose gave Jack a frown. "He's not joking?"

"The unwary traveler can get sold into slavery on almost every planet," Jack explained with a wise air. "They don't always call it that. Sometimes you think you're just asking the waiter to show you to a table and next thing you know, you've got shackles on your wrists -- and not in a fun way." He winked.

"I'm not going to ask if you've ever been sold into slavery, because knowing you, you'd tell a story too unbelievable to be true. Then you'd offer to show me the photographs to prove it."

Jack just waggled his eyebrows. "I do have the photos, you know."

Rose just laughed, thumped him lightly in the chest and headed back to the market. They continued walking along the street after Jack reassured her they wouldn't get lost, pointing out the library's spires clearly visible above the other buildings. Then he began stopping at stalls again, looking at objects that for all Rose could tell were rare gems, or possibly alien moth balls.

They spent the next hour wandering about looking at stalls and poking inside the indoor shops. Jack did finally make one purchase in one of the shops: a green scarf , highly decorated with black lines interwoven into it. He presented to Rose and she let him drape it around her neck and admire her in it, laughing when he suggested she could wear it to the beach -- instead of a bathing suit. Two steps out into the crowd and Rose stopped and gave Jack a rueful look. "It's a lovely scarf, but it's a bit warm. Maybe I should keep it for snowy planets?"

Jack gave her a look like he was about to say something, then only smiled. She drew the scarf off, tucking it inside her jacket.

Then it was time to head back to the library and collect the Doctor. They joked about the chances that they would find trouble -- the library burnt down or the books no longer alphabetized. Rose kept an eye and an ear out for rumblings of angry mobs or the arrival of the authorities, but everything seemed just the same as they walked back to the library. Once they reached the library, they found the Doctor sitting alone at a stone dais, starring intently with a look on his face that could only mean that he was happily reading his way through the entire archives. "I'm almost disappointed," Rose admitted, and Jack shushed her.

"Don't tempt fate, Rose."

"I'm almost done," the Doctor said suddenly, not looking away from the stone. They waited quietly for two minutes, then the Doctor stood up, clapping his hands together. "Brilliant! Amazing, the sort of things they decide to keep and what they throw away. Are you two ready?"

"Ready for what?" Rose asked, used to the way Doctor never really shared his plans ahead of time, then forgot that he was the only one who knew.

The Doctor looked surprised. "I thought we were going to the beach?"

Rose opened her mouth to point out they'd been joking and had never actually decided to go. Then she stopped, giving herself a mental slap to the face. "We are," she said firmly. "The beach. A nice one," she added, sternly.

"Of course!" The Doctor looked wounded.

"And you'll wear swim shorts?" Jack asked, hopefully.

"Maybe I will, and maybe I won't," the Doctor responded; Rose blushed even as Jack grinned happily.

On the way back to the TARDIS, the Doctor told them all about what he'd been reading. Again, Rose found herself nodding absently at things she had no clue about. Jack seemed to understand but found it all terribly boring, so they took to making faces at each other behind the Doctor's back.

As they stepped up to the TARDIS door, the Doctor turned around. "Right. See if I ever try to educate you lot again."

Rose stuck her tongue out at him and walked past him inside.

"It's really interesting," the Doctor said, sounding like a little boy. "Entire cities have devoted their existence to the manufacture of rxuf."

"I'm sure, Doctor," Rose said. "And I promise, next time I'll listen. Probably. Do you want to see what Jack bought for me?"

The Doctor looked faintly surprised, and he said nothing as she pulled out the scarf. She draped it around her neck -- then looked up, startled to find the Doctor glaring in genuine anger.

"He bought that for you, did he?" The Doctor glared at Jack, who only held up his hands.

"It wasn't exactly her home planet, was it?" Jack gestured toward the now-closed door of the TARDIS.

"What's that got to do with it?" Rose asked, growing concerned. "Wait, he's not.. he doesn't own me now, does he? We're not married or something?"

"No, he doesn't own you. You own her."

Rose blinked. "What?"

"And now we can take her home," Jack interrupted, sounding exasperated. "It isn't like I was shopping for her. I walked in and there she was. What was I supposed to do, leave her there?"

The Doctor paused, giving Jack a surprised look.

"Will someone please tell me what's going on?" Rose demanded. Instead of answering her, the Doctor walked forward and addressed...the scarf.

"Your Highness, are you all right?"

Rose blinked. The dark pattern on the edge of the scarf shifted suddenly, and Rose let out a small cry.

The Doctor looked up at her. "She says you're a lovely girl, and that Jack is her hero." He looked at Jack. "For rescuing her."

Jack held out an arm expansively. "That's what I was trying to tell you."

"Rescued? Her Highness?" Rose asked, feeling rather like giving the Doctor a hard shake to make him start making sense.

"Her Royal Highness Princess Abal," the Doctor said, inclining his head towards the scarf. "You can tell by the tattoo on her left side."

"Her people are from Cabla, the planet next-door," Jack explained. "There have never been good relations between them and the Frotians. They're not quite as advanced, technologically speaking, as the Frotians, so they're more or less at the Frotians' mercy when the Frotian ships come calling."

"Slave raids are fairly common," the Doctor added. "I imagine the Royal Family will be happy to get their Princess back."

"I--" Rose lifted her hand towards the scarf around her neck, then froze. The Doctor, fortunately, came to her rescue and reached up and gently drew the scarf -- the Princess -- from her neck. She looked at Jack, then the Doctor, then at the scarf. "She's... a scarf? A sentient scarf?"

"Not a scarf, no," the Doctor said. "But they do resemble them, don't they?" He grinned, still holding the scarf -- princess -- gently in his hands. He paused, then said, "She says to tell you thank you," he said to Rose. Then he rolled his eyes. "And she says Jack should be rewarded."

"Of course," Jack agreed, his chest puffing out and giving the scarf...princess an pure Captain Jack Harkness leer. "All good heroes get a reward."

"Usually it's getting to marry the princess," Rose pointed out.

"How about it?" the Doctor asked Princess Abal. "Did you want to marry him?" There was a pause, then the Doctor grinned. "She says it's a lovely offer, but as she's only sixty, she will have to get her parents' approval. Until then, she thinks maybe a feast in your honor and a piece of ceramic pottery."

Jack's smile never wavered. "Food, wine, dancing: I'm always up for a feast in my honour."

"Right then, let's be off and return Princess Abal to her home planet." The Doctor draped the Princess Abal over his shoulder and headed for the controls. He stopped, cocking his head, then looked at Rose. "And she says she would be delighted to be your swimsuit."

Rose felt her face go completely red, and she glared at Jack. Jack just nodded. "Told you."

the end