"Now, Sarah Jane, calm down."
"I AM CALM!" The small council of the Mir surrounding her backed away a little and some brought their hands up. Not to their ears, to their foreheads, and they winced. Sarah Jane checked the psionic blocker that was strapped to her wrist and, pushing up the thick sleeve of her parka (this planet was a cold one,) ruthlessly turned it up higher. The power humming through it nearly made her teeth vibrate but all the hands came down. She cleared her throat and started over. "I am perfectly calm, perfectly cool and perfectly in control. I saw what I saw. There's no need to..." Despite herself she showed a tooth or two. "...double check."
The Doctor, towering above the short, slender Mir and his equally short, slender companion (We represent the Lollipop Guild, she thought to herself) carefully reached out a hand and patted her on the shoulder. "Yes, your details were..." His other hand idly played with an edge of his long, long scarf. A habit of his when he was slightly nervous.
"I identified the ringleaders!" she reminded them all.
"AND I learned what they were truly up to!"
"AND I escaped from them, no thanks to you, by the way."
"Oh, fuss, whine, moan." The Doctor rolled his eyes at some people's lack of understanding of his lack of opportunity.
But Sarah Jane wasn't through. "You have everything! What more is there to know?" Her agitated breath fogged the air.
"The papers?" the Doctor stubbornly prodded.
She glared at him and let out a silent curse. May a yak with a rash play with your face. Then Sarah Jane crossed her arms. "I only saw them for a moment. I couldn't read them."
"If you'd turn that thing off, I could read them in your memory," Doctor Big and Tall reminded her. "And I could share with the Mir."
"OR you could deal directly with the Mir," one of the slight men suddenly volunteered. "If you don't care for him." The Doctor glared down at him, insulted. Several other Mir smiled at her hopefully.
Sarah Jane's stomach did a slow roll. She'd been dealing with the Mir since she arrived. What else was this torture device on her arm for? "No, thank you. 'Sharing' with anyone isn't necessary."
Tirl, headwoman of this particular group, cleared her throat and all heads turned towards her. "Actually it's very necessary. The documents you say you spotted could be names. Could be plans. Could be incriminating correspondence."
Could be your SPANK shopping list, Sarah Jane thought and shook her head firmly.
"Yes, could be shopping lists, I suppose," Tirl continued mercilessly as she blinked disapproval at the human. Sarah Jane turned her blocker all the way up to maximum and gritted her teeth at the increased agony. Boiling hot hate for all telepaths filled her soul. Tirl continued. "We have to know. We have to make sure and it is your duty to share with us. You understand your responsibility, of course."
"Of course," Sarah Jane said. May a rabid holy man bless your nether regions with a power tool.
"Choose who you want to share with." The pompous old bag indicated the assembly with a flick of her wrist. Mir men and women waved at Sarah Jane.
"Aren't we the popular one?" the Doctor teased and she turned to him.
"The Doctor," she chose, reaching out and tugging on his scarf for emphasis.
"Sarah! This is so sudden."
"Quickly, then," Tirl commanded with another imperious gesture. The Mir pressed closer, gawking.
"IN PRIVATE!" Sarah Jane exploded. "Haven't any of you heard of privacy?! I could strip down and do a little dance for everyone, too, I suppose?!"
Hands on heads all over the council room. Sarah Jane felt only a little guilty.
Even the Doctor took a step away. Then he cleared his throat in imitation of Tirl and spoke up. "Yes, some privacy, please. My friend needs peace and isolation in order to, ah, commune properly. Where can we go?"
Tirl opened her watering eyes and took a long look at her strange guests. Unexpectedly her expression softened with something very close to understanding. "Here," she suddenly said. "It's a comfortable room. Take all the time you need." She snapped her fingers and the room cleared. "We will be in the courtyard. Join us when you've finished." Sarah Jane saluted but Tirl only returned a kind smile and left, too, closing the door gently behind her.
"Spot the loonie," Sarah Jane muttered. "There's nothing wrong with me!" She flipped her hood over her head.
"No, no, no, of course not," the Doctor agreed, sweeping his scarf out of the way as he sat down on the nearest chair. He hooked a long leg around another chair and dragged it into place in front of him. Sarah Jane ignored the invitation and began to pace.
"It's all right," he said, so gently she could barely hear it. She almost burst into tears at his patience.
She paced some more.
Two minutes and twelve seconds passed. Her breathing slowed. She stopped and leaned against the wall. The death-grip on her parka relaxed. At four minutes and eighteen seconds she flipped her hood back.
"It's like watching a turtle come out of its shell," the Doctor said.
"Shut uuuuuuuup," she repeated.
Finally she glanced in his general direction. He held out a hand.
She pushed off from the wall and approached, dragging ten-ton weights behind her. "I really hate this," she whispered as if it were some great secret and not painfully obvious to every sensitive being she came across. "I hate it." She sat down opposite him, their knees touching.
"I can understand why," and his deep voice held a strange disappointment. He lowered his eyes and reached into his pocket. Something rustled. "Would you like a..."
"No, thank you." He nodded and helped himself to a couple of sweets out of a small paper bag. He chewed. He swallowed. Sarah Jane put her hands on his knees and leaned forward. "You have to understand. It really does feel as if I'm about to take all my clothes off," she admitted softly.
He choked. He was facing her so she couldn't whack him properly on the back so she patted his shoulder in a supportive sort of way. He gasped and she smiled, unable to stop herself.
Then she dropped her hand and took another deep breath. Welcome and chilly air filled her lungs, then she slowly let it out. She must remain perfectly calm. Perfectly cool. Perfectly in control. Yes. "All right then," she said (To him? To herself?) and leaned back.
She clutched at her courage and then...
She released the large buckle of her thick left glove. She pulled it off her small, slim hand and dropped it to the floor.
She released the buckle of the right glove. She gently threw it down beside its mate.
She was amused to notice that her toasty warm fingers were steaming slightly in the cold. She rubbed them together. The steam made her skin extremely soft and she enjoyed the feel of it. She realized she was hesitating and determinedly went on.
The blocker was attached to her wrist with three leather straps.
She turned her wrist up and slowly unfastened the first...snap.
Then the second...the leather creaked in the cold...snap.
Then the third. Snap.
She slid the contraption over and off.
She held it a moment and then she powered it down completely. The irritating WAAAUUUGH! that traveled up and down her last nerve disappeared to be replaced by a simple, thudding pain.
She let out a gentle moan of relief.
She put the device on the floor next to her gloves.
She stroked her bare wrist, her pulse warm in the cold, still air.
Then Sarah Jane sighed deeply and, turning to face the Doctor, was surprised to notice she had his full, intense attention.
"I'm ready when you are."
"REALLY?!" he shouted.
"YES!" she shouted back, startled.
"I'm fine, thank you," the Doctor said. He blinked. "Oh. You're ready then?"
"Yes," he echoed. Then he raised a hand to her temple. The hand that still had the bag in it. She almost got a jelly baby wedged into her ear. "Oh, pardon." She laughed softly as he thrust the bag back into his pocket. It was kind of him to make jokes.
He reached up again, his fingertips brushing back her hair. She held her breath and cringed...
...it was over very quickly. Her memories of the documents she'd glanced at were now his and he could share them with the Mir. "I hope they're worth all this turmoil," she said and realized he was still touching her face. His mouth slightly open as if fascinated. "Doctor?"
He seemed to wake up. Then he goggled at her, a frightening thing at close range. "May a crazed weightlifter clean and jerk your sister?!" he said.
"I've been watching American TV in the library," she explained, growing slightly red. "Twenty-first century 'The Best of Johnny Carson.' The Amazing Carnac had some beautiful curses. Will have." The Doctor smiled. His long fingered hands were cradling her head, his fingers completely wrapped in her hair now. Sarah Jane was just beginning to worry about him when the buzz-saw irritation the blocker left began to fade. Then it was going...going....gone?
The vacuum it left filled with sheer peace and she almost swooned into the Doctor's lap. She caught herself on his knees again. Gone, gone, the pain was utterly gone. Her eyes slowly closed. Sarah Jane had an odd sensation of...of...warmth. Of floating. Relief, oh, the relief. Such sudden, total...bliss? Oh, yes. Yes, please. She felt his fingers twitch in her hair and her eyes snapped open. "Are you still in there?!" she gasped.
"Yes. NO! I could be?"
She jerked back. "OUT! Get out, get out out out!" She slapped at his arms and shoulders until he scooted his chair out of reach, laughing. They retired to opposite ends of the room. Gone. Her pain was gone! He just...he just took it away. She felt light. She felt free. What a relief to be away from that grinding ache and noise. She stared at the Doctor as if she'd never seen him before then tore her attention away to focus on the floor, the walls, the chairs...she didn't know what to say. She laughed. His smile, his genuine smile, not the pulling back of the lips he bestowed on half the Universe, lit his face. He had a nice smile. She smiled back at him. Maybe not all telepaths were dealers in pain, at worst, and embarrassment, at least. Hold on, if he could generate such a feeling of peace, what other lovely things could he make her...NO! No, no, no, no, that way lies madness.
"Ahhh, thank you? Yes, thank you," she said. She ran a hand through her hair. "Much better."
"It won't last if you insist on wearing that thing."
To cover her suddenly burning face Sarah Jane strode back to her chair and bent to pick up the psi-blocker and her gloves. She tucked the gloves in a pocket and began to strap the hateful thing back on.
"Must you?" the Doctor softly asked.
"I have to. The Mir are out there." The door opened and Tirl stuck her head in. "Correction. They're in here."
Tirl studied them both. "Just reminding you to take all the time you need." She disappeared.
"May the hot desert winds blow a scorpion up your hoop skirt," Sarah Jane answered and her friend laughed.
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