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Noble Little Boxes (The Doomed Italian Remix)

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Sarah looked at herself in the mirror. It seemed strange to be preparing for a ball as cultists were preparing to destroy the world, but that's what happened, wasn't it, when one travelled with the Doctor? She was starting to think there was nothing unusual in having guns pointed at her, or other nasty things, or ending up in a dungeon as she had in this trip. Certainly, being hypnotized and commanded to kill the Doctor was a little unusual, but she couldn't help but think it was one of the hazards of the journey.

It seemed the Doctor had a knack for getting in trouble, or his TARDIS sought it out, she wasn't sure. Sure, there were quiet stops - beautiful sunrises and sunsets, wonderful foods, exotic worlds. But there were times like these, where she was once again worried about how they were going to get out of this one. How they were going to survive, and save the world. Or at least how the Doctor was going to save it; sometimes, she felt like she was along for the ride, a useless decoration. It rankled her, but she had to admit he had centuries more experience than she did. He'd done the same to Harry, so she didn't have problems with what he did.

Stepping into the court, she saw Giuliano and Marco. They were both not bad looking in their own ways, stylish, well-kept-up as expected for someone of their ranks. Giuliano was looking at her, focused on her as if he had never seen her before, even as she wasn't wearing her mask. She tried to smile, but it was hard to when she still had the nagging doubts that this time, this place, the Doctor would fail and she'd die five centuries before she was even born, her skeleton in an unmarked grave in a ruined world.

She tried not to think of it as she danced, trying not to seem too out-of-place in this court, in this time. Heavens knew what Giuliano thought as she kept an eye on the other dancers. Of course, did it really matter? Saving these people, this place, was what they were there to do, not impress the local nobility. Not to dance correctly, even as she tried.

It said something about her nervousness that she asked Giuliano five times during the dances about whether he'd heard anything from the Doctor. It was funny how that was really the only thing the two of them had in common, which made conversation hard. She felt like she should be witty, but it was hard to find her place, sometimes, in strange lands, in strange times, among strange people. Giuliano looked like there were other things he wanted to talk about, but what could she share with him? Almost certain death was not something on which to base a conversation.

At least she felt somewhat prepared for getting sacrificed. Silly how that was, really. Everybody else was in a panic; she had to admit she was too, a little, but experience with the Doctor helped. Having encountered strange things really helped.

Not that she wasn't relieved, as they all were, when the Doctor turned up and saved them all after they'd been kidnapped. It was starting to feel sometimes like the same old, same old, except it was a new world, or a new time, or something else different. It was a relief that the whole thing had ended the way she'd hoped, though it was hard to convince her heart to stop pounding and relax and realize the danger was over.

Maybe she'd get a few quiet days of vacation in a beautiful land, courtesy of the local duke. She certainly didn't mind. They were guests, he was nice, she could forget about her work and all the danger she'd been through since she'd gotten there. A grateful Duke was someone she wouldn't complain about being in their debt.

"So, the evil is over. The threat has passed." He was still staring at the altar as if he couldn't believe what had nearly happened. She'd noticed people were like that, no matter where they came from. They weren't involved in danger of the kind that the Doctor tended to end up in; they were used to their own issues, their own threats.

"Yes." She smiled at him. "There's nothing more to worry about; the Doctor is good at this sort of thing." Sometimes smiling was all she could do, all that was left for her to do. And explaining the Doctor, but that was a bit harder.

"Oh." he looked over at the Doctor, as if amazed, again, that it had all happened, or maybe that it was over. He then looked back at her. "In all that happened, I didn't ask... are you married?"

After all that happened, he was worried about that? Of course, social etiquette and appearances were probably paramount in his realm. Which was why she was surprised she and the Doctor didn't stick out more; neither of them were typical for the time and place. Maybe the same gift that allowed her to speak all languages without noticing made it seem like they belonged.

"No," she said. He probably expected her to be; she was probably even old enough to be widowed, if she had been from his time. She didn't know.

"Ah." He looked at her. "Betrothed? Widowed?"

"Neither." She gave him a brilliant smile. "In the land I'm from, it's not uncommon for some women not to marry." He probably didn't understand, or maybe would think of her as a nun.

Things had changed so much, between his time and hers. Yes, there was still a fair amount of pressure for women to marry, settle down, and have kids, to be good wives and mothers and mot much more. But women had so much more freedom to be educated, to break out of their molds, to be who they wanted to be and what they wanted to be instead of meekly following their husbands. She couldn't imagine what it was like to live in Giuliano's century, or any other place where women didn't have a chance as being seen as equal to men.

Of course, it didn't matter, not really. She and the Doctor would be out of his life soon enough.

"But you are a noblewoman, are you not?" He was still trying to figure out how to treat her, now that everything was over. It was politics, but sweet in a way. "You are too educated, too graceful, to be a commoner."

She wished she could fit neatly into his worldview, but that was the trouble with the travel she did.

Thinking of her Aunt Lavinia, of her grandmother before her, she smiled. "I come from a family of scholars who made sure I was well-educated. I don't think we can claim nobility as such...." She was probably confusing him even more, not fitting into a neat little box. Things had changed so much between her time and his own! "But thank you for the compliment."

"Are you sure?" he asked, looking a little forlorn. She wished she could comfort him, but there was nothing she could do. "You seem like a noblewoman in all but name...."

"I don't hold a title." That was what was important, wasn't it? To him, at least. "Or at least nothing you would consider a title."

She was pretty sure that the term "Investigative reporter" wouldn't be popular for a few centuries yet. Nor would it be any title nobility would recognize. In fact, if Giuliano knew what she did for a living... well, at least he didn't.

"Ah, so you are a noblewoman, you just do not call yourself such!" He'd finally found a box to put her in. She reminded herself it didn't matter. "And he is your escort."

"I don't know if he'd think of it that way...." He'd gotten excited, she could tell, from his decision. People seemed to be relieved when they could frame things in a way that they could understand. "But our land is much different." The Doctor's even more than hers.

"Does he hold your father's authority?" he asked, and suddenly things clicked into place.

He'd been asking her all these things because he wanted to marry her. Or at least court her. She wasn't sure which. She had to admit, he wasn't bad looking, he was really sweet, and if she'd found herself stuck there, he'd probably be a good husband. But she had no intention on staying in this time and place, and she knew the Doctor didn't either.

"To be honest, I'm not sure." She tried to picture him asking the Doctor, and her imagination utterly failed at that point. She really hoped he wouldn't try to marry her off without her consent; she didn't think he would, but this was the Doctor, after all, and he was... a little unpredictable.

But he knew she belonged in the twentieth century, not the fifteenth. He generally knew where he'd taken his fellow travelers from.

"Of course," he said smoothly. "Forgive me for asking." But he didn't go away, end the conversation to speak to the Doctor. Which was fine by her; she didn't mind his company. "I will talk to him later."

She had a feeling that he was only doing it because he had to, and he'd rather pay attention to her, which was flattering, if confusing, in a way. One could do worse than the local ruler liking one.

He looked at her for long moments, as if deciding something. "The masque is not over," he said finally. "We should return." He looked at her, holding out a hand. "Would you like to dance with me?"

There would be things to straighten out later; there always would be. Always complications. But she was fairly sure the Doctor would not marry her off, and Giuliano was a pleasant person to be with for a few hours more.

"Certainly," she said, and laid her hand in his. And he smiled.