“Jo, huh?” Oswin said. “First boy I ever kissed was named Joe.”
“Really?” asked Jo, edging away from what she obviously thought was an even-more-insane-than-usual Dalek.
“No,” Oswin admitted. “But people make disparaging remarks when I admit he was named Humperdinck.”
Fortunately, they were in a cell–now there was a sentence that, well actually it wasn’t a full sentence, it was a clause, okay, a clause that you didn’t hear everyday–so Oswin had a captive audience (literally!) for the hour it took to outline her how her exciting career as Junior Entertainment Manager had been cut short with a demotion to Genocidally Inclined Bit of Goo in a Tank, how she had taken a brief vacation to Delusional Fantasyland and learned that even in her imagination she couldn’t cook, how spoiler-spoiler-I-really-shouldn’t-be-telling-you-this a future incarnation of Jo’s best friend had revealed the truth, how Oswin had selflessly sacrificed herself and then decided sod that, she was a screaming genius and could easily jerry-rig a Dalek time machine in twenty seconds using only Dalekanium chains, some nearby computer chips, and her amazingly impressive brain.
Oswin paused to take a breath. She didn’t need to, but old habits died hard.
“Was it a bit tricky, kissing Humperdinck?” Jo asked. “I mean, did he have to kiss your plunger thingamabob, or–”
“I WAS NOT A DALEK THEN!” Oswin raged, in–oops–her Dalek voice. All rage-y and single-pitch and emphatic and did she mention rage-y? Definitely rage-y. And now Jo was probably going to start crying, and never believe that Oswin was really human, and–
“Well, there’s no need to shout,” Jo said firmly. “We don’t want the guards to come checking on us, now that we’re breaking out.”
And Jo swung open the door whose lock she had been picking behind her back the entire time Oswin had been reciting her monologue. She tossed her blonde hair, and grinned like the sun.
Oswin was very nearly speechless. But only nearly.
“Jo Grant,” she said as she trundled after the small human, “that is the best excuse anyone has ever had for not listening to a word I say, and you are a total. Screaming. Genius.”
“So you see,” Oswin was saying to Jo in their new cell, after they had been captured for the second time (at least this time it was by the other warring alien faction, how embarrassing would it be to get captured by the same faction twice?), “I don’t even have a mental picture of myself as a Dalek. Whenever I picture myself I just see this adorable little brunette, about your height, snappy little red dress, saucy smile, some absolutely killer boots–”
Jo had been almost nodding off as Oswin rattled on about matter transporter technology and the starship Alaska’s office politics and other assorted trivia, but at this she perked right up. “What kind of boots?”
“And this,” Jo said, two weeks later when they finally arrived back on Earth and had smuggled Oswin out of U.N.I.T. headquarters and into Jo’s flat, “is my shoe closet.”
This time Oswin really was speechless.
Jo just grinned, watching Oswin’s lights flash on and off like an overexcited alien Christmas tree, her eyestalk scanning the twenty different shelves of go-go boots in all the colors of the rainbow, over and over again.
“This is nice,” Jo said. Her voice was sleep-mumbly, and muffled by blankets.
“Sssh,” Oswin whispered, “I’m watching the program.”
Dalek voices weren’t really made for whispering, being more ideally suited to screeching orders, screeching genocidal rants, and screeching a nervous breakdown when you spilled the paperclips and remembered that you didn’t have hands anymore, so the whole ‘ssh’ thing was a bit of a failure. But Jo just smiled, and snuggled closer.
It was a bit difficult for Oswin to leave the house (it had been hard enough to get her up three floors in the first place), so she’d been going stir-crazy all day, but for the moment she felt wonderfully…settled. It probably had to do with the surprisingly quality evening programming, and nothing to do with the fact that it was now Jo’s habit to curl up next to her with some blankets and hot cocoa, and watch The Avengers with her.
“Are you sure this is all right?” she asked again, just in case ten was the magic number that brought Jo to her senses and got her to admit that a genocidal killing machine in her living room wasn’t a terribly bright idea. Oswin fervently hoped it wasn’t. “I don’t mind, really, if you’d rather I went back to U.N.I.T."
“Don’t be silly,” Jo murmured, resting her head on Oswin’s side. “You’ve only exterminated two cocoas this week. I like the burnt taste. And the Doctor won’t watch The Avengers with me; he says it’s ridiculous. I think he’s just jealous of Steed’s hat.”
Inside her head, where only she could see, Oswin felt herself smile. “Aren’t we all.”
“And what’s the use of this whisk thing anymore? I mean, I’m not terribly comfortable using it in self-defense, since it tends to fry people from the inside out–”
“Maybe you could make a soufflé?”
“Believe it or not, I considered that, but–”
“Or pancakes? Or an omelet? Or–”
“Jo, are you hungry?”
“…well, it’s been ever so long since tea, and I’ve been haring across the countryside with the Doctor investigating mysterious happenings…”
Oswin accidentally exterminated the omelet.
“No, Jo, you are calling a plumber. I’m not–the puppy dog eyes aren’t going to work on me! I used to have puppy dog eyes, you know, and I was very good with them, so I think I can recognize when–”
“Thanks for fixing the telly.”
“Least I could do after I accidentally exterminated the loo.”
“Oh, you can’t buy me a bowler hat, Oswin! This shopping trip is for you!”
“Well, I certainly can’t pull off a bowler like you.”
“Well, then I’ll buy you–I don’t know, what would you like? We’re celebrating you getting a job, after all.”
Job interviews were difficult as a Dalek. People tended to run and scream. Thankfully, the Doctor had recently foiled an alien invasion at the BBC, and in the process run across a tiny budget-less show that was more worried about actually having any special effects than whether the special effects supervisor communicated solely by telephone and mailing in parcels of type-written instructions.
“Oh, all right, a bowler for me too then. We can match.”
The bowler hat turned out to be surprisingly handy for distinguishing Oswin from the other Daleks every time they invaded.
The other Daleks insisted it was ridiculous and undignified, but they were just jealous.
“The Master, huh?” Oswin said, interrupting his monologue. “The first boy I ever kissed was named the Master.”
The Master boggled. Oswin hadn’t ever seen anyone actually boggle before she turned into a Dalek, but she was becoming pretty familiar with the expression. “What? I–what?”
“Not really,” Oswin admitted. “I was just flirting to put you at ease. You seem pretty stressed, what with the Cybermen betraying you and the Doctor not returning your calls. Is he your ex-boyfriend, or do you just have a lot of unresolved sexual tension?”
The Master boggled again, which served as a nice distraction for Jo to sneak up on him, kick him between the legs, and break Oswin out of her Dalekanium cage.
Jo insisted on stopping to apologize to the Master for kicking him, and under the threat of Oswin’s newly recharged whisk-gun, he gracefully accepted.
“His name wasn’t really Humperdinck,” Oswin said, apropros of nothing. “It was Nina.”
“Oh,” said Jo.
“And he was a she.”
“Oh,” said Jo.
“I mean, it can be a boy’s name. In the future. But it wasn’t.”
“Oh,” said Jo for the third time. “Well,” she added for a change of pace. “Good,” she concluded, her cheeks burning.
And for the third time in her entire life (well, she might be exaggerating, but she could only remember three times, and three’s a nice number, very symbolic, let’s go with three) Oswin could not think of a thing to say.
“I just, um.” There were bright pink spots on Jo’s cheeks. “You’re terribly clever. I like clever. And funny. And your bumps are cute.”
And it was such a Jo thing to say, and the way she said it, all earnestness and sincerity and big sweet eyes, her lips trembling slightly with nerves and with anticipation–
And it made Oswin feel all the way human, through and through.
“I think your bumps are rather cute as well,” she replied, and saucily wagged her eyebrows in her head.
“So, how do we–”
“I’ve been experimenting with adding different attachments…”
“Looks like someone was awfully sure of herself.”
“Well, I was a Girl Guide, you know. Be Prepared!”
The Doctor was less than pleased, but as Jo and Oswin pointed out, it wasn’t so odd. After all, they were both two tiny, adorable, plucky young girls, one of whom just happened to go around in battle armor all the time. And he should respect their life choices.
When he didn’t, Jo very innocently brought up the matter of the Master, and the whole subject was dropped.
Jo assisted Oswin in refining her new attachments, Oswin got Jo a Patrick Macnee autograph for Christmas, and aside from a few minor hiccups–Jo finding out that Oswin’s lead actress was a war criminal from the planet Refusis and deporting her before the season finale, Oswin accidentally exterminating two of Jo’s houseplants–they lived happily ever after.