“Anyone up for a thick juicy steak, served with a side of oysters marinated in butter?” the Doctor asked the group of Unit soldiers and lab assistant.
“What?” Jo asked. “I mean, that does sound rather good.”
“Really, Doctor, we are cleaning up what’s left of these hooligans, and you’re thinking about dinner?” the Brigadier said in exasperation. He peered around the corner to make sure there weren’t any more mad men with weird cultish clothes down the corridor.
“Maybe… slow-roasted duck in a plum sauce,” the Timelord suggested. “And venison… spiced with-“
“Doctor, that’s enough,” the Brigadier warned. “Please focus on finding whatever these people are using to create hallucinations.”
The Doctor let out a petulant pout, but stopped talking. It was clear that he was barely focused on the task, and completely lost interest when he found and deactivated the device in question five minutes later.
“Am I still needed? I have the perfect restaurant in mind for my cravings. It’s not far, and I really am feeling rather peckish.”
“Miss Grant,” the Brigadier addressed impatiently. “Would you please escort the Doctor to… wherever he wants to go?”
“Not Jo, no. She’s too… small to be a pleasure.” The Doctor’s gaze moved to Benton. He made no attempt to hide the way he looked the younger man up and down. “Sergeant, you’re a… strapping strong lad. A better feast for the eyes, while I indulge another pleasure. Would you be so kind to accompany me to dinner?”
“Doctor, are you alright?” Yates asked. He couldn’t help the confused smirk at the way the Timelord had invited Benton.
“Yes, of course. Now really, if I’m not needed here…?”
“Sir?” Benton turned to the Brigadier.
The Brigadier rolled his eyes. “Yes, go with him. I think we can manage without you, Sergeant.” As the Doctor started to head away, the Brigadier whispered to Benton, “Don’t let him out of your sight for a second. There must be something wrong with him.”
“I don’t think the Doctor wants Benton out of his sight, either,” Yates muttered. “Good luck.”
The restaurant wasn’t far, a very upscale place in London. The Doctor glanced over Benton before they got out of Bessie, which made Benton feel a wave of being uncomfortable with the hunger in the Timelord’s eyes. “Your clothes aren’t the norm for this sort of place, but they won’t turn away a man in military uniform.”
The Doctor acted flustered and impatient at the question of if they had a reservation, which got them a table. At the Doctor’s insistence that he eat, which Benton didn’t object to, the sergeant tried to order a water and a light appetizer. The Doctor shut that down, and ordered food and wine for the both of them.
And then the Doctor kept ordering after finishing off an entire duck and large steak. Benton could tuck away a good amount after a long eventful day at work, but not that much, and ask for more right after.
“Doctor,” Benton prompted after the fourth meat-heavy dish arrived. “Maybe we should head back to HQ?”
“Whyever for? There is delicious food and good company here.”
Benton decided not to push. “You’re right. We’re not needed right now.” He had to stop the Doctor from refilling his wine glass a third time.
“Appreciate the finer things in life, Sergeant, there’s a good lad.”
“Yes, this food is… extremely good. Far more fancy than I’m used to.”
“That’s a shame.” The Doctor cut a piece of pork from his plate and placed it onto Benton’s. “Here, try this. Exquisite.”
Benton gave a nervous smile before eating the offered sample.
It must’ve been over two hours they had been at the restaurant before the Doctor finally stopped ordering food. Then he laid his head down on the table and closed his eyes. Benton wasn’t surprised the Doctor had fallen asleep, eating and drinking the ridiculous amount that he had.
Benton got up and went to the headwaiter’s station, told him they were done, and asked if he could use their phone. He also apologized about the Doctor before calling the Brigadier’s office. He explained where they were, and that he needed help getting the Doctor home.
With Yates on the way to help, Benton returned to their table. The bill was waiting for him, and he groaned at the list of everything and the final owed amount.
That was how Yates found them, the Doctor passed out, and Benton hiding half his face in one hand staring at the tablecloth, also looking tired. “Really done a number, huh?” he said in greeting.
Benton looked up at his boyfriend, then silently handed him the bill.
Yates sucked in a breath at the long list, and winced at the total. “The Brig’s definitely not going to like this.”
“I wonder what that tastes like,” the Doctor whispered to Sarah as they were taken through a guided tour of the ruling family’s palace. He discreetly pointed at an animal that looked like a mix between a squirrel and a dog that padded down an adjacent hallway. It was probably a pet.
“No idea,” Sarah whispered back. She didn’t think anything of the somewhat odd question.
A few minutes later, Sarah squeaked at the unexpected nip to her bare shoulder. She stopped walking and turned to the Doctor. “Did you just-“
The tour guides, two personal servants to the princess, stopped explaining the history of the large room they were in, and inquired, “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, quite fine,” the Doctor replied, as though nothing had happened.
Sarah blew out a breath, then nodded her agreement. She intended to ask the Timelord what that was about later.
A couple minutes later, the servants left them outside a room, while they went in to check if it was ready to be seen.
Sarah let out a full yelp at the much harder bite to her shoulder. She spun around with an incredulous expression. “What are you doing that for?” she hissed, not wanting to cause a scene in case anyone came along.
The Doctor had an innocent look as he tilted his head. “I just wanted to know what you tasted like. Rather good, not that I’d eat you.”
Sarah’s mouth opened and closed a few times. “Right, firstly, you already know what I ‘taste’ like. Secondly, if you’re trying to get me in the mood for that, it really is not at all appropriate right now! Thirdly, that was hard enough to bruise.” Sarah had to yank her hand from his when he lifted it to nibble on her fingers.
“So, you are like us in that regard?” said one of the guide servants.
The Doctor and Sarah looked to the pair, the Timelord with that still innocent expression, and Sarah with an embarrassed one. “What do you mean?” the woman asked.
The servants glanced to each other, then one answered, “Our men get… aggressively bitey with their mates when at the peak of their fertility.”
“No, that’s not it,” the Doctor responded.
“Then stop it and behave yourself,” Sarah scolded. To the tour guides, she apologized, “I’m sorry, he must be in a weird mood. Maybe he’s hungry or something. Please, let’s continue on.”
There weren’t any more biting incidents for the rest of the tour, though Sarah could feel the Timelord practically vibrating from forcing himself to behave.
Then they were taken out to the gardens to meet with the queen, who was surrounded by several of those squirrel-dog animals. They were definitely pets.
After introductions had been made and personal thanks given for helping solve the earlier crisis, the Doctor inquired, “Do you eat those?” He got an elbow to the ribs from Sarah.
“Eat them?” the queen’s tone was disbelieving. “I know you are not from here, so I understand any lack of knowledge. These are precious creatures to us.”
Sarah cleared her throat. “They’re quite cute. Is it alright if I hold one?”
“Be my guest, dear.”
Sarah kneeled and picked one of the animals up. It licked her face and snuggled against her. “You are the cutest.”
“Imagine the beauty of the cooked meat, glistening with… What?” the Doctor stopped at the stares from Sarah, the queen, the two servants, and the guard behind the queen.
“Are you being serious?” Sarah asked.
“Quite serious, Sarah. Food isn’t a joking matter. Especially not the preparation and taste of it.”
Sarah looked to the queen. “I am so sorry. I don’t know what’s gotten into him.”
“I’m not saying we have to eat them all. On the contrary, just one for me to know how to best cook it, and… four, five, six for us to have as lunch.”
“Doctor, as grateful as I am for your help, I highly suggest you stop this train of thought,” the queen warned.
“Just three of them then, if none of you want any? Sarah and I would-“
“Don’t involve me in this,” Sarah protested.
“Mache, stun him,” the queen ordered.
Without hesitation, the guard stepped forward, raised his firearm, and fired at the Doctor.
The Doctor slowly awakened with a bad headache, and opened his eyes to find himself in a lavish bedroom. Guestroom in the palace, he guessed. He got up and went to the door, only to find it locked from the outside.
He blinked hard to try to clear the headache, and went back to sit on the edge of the bed. His memory was a bit fuzzy.
A few minutes later, the door opened to Sarah. The Doctor glanced up in time to see a guard outside the door. It was closed behind her.
“What happened?” the Doctor asked.
“What happened?” Sarah repeated. She went to stand close to him. “You kept going on about eating the queen’s precious dogs is what happened. Extremely insulting. I managed to convince her that you weren’t normally like this, and that the stress of stopping the invaders knocked you for a loop, and that you’d feel better once you’d slept. Please tell me you feel more like yourself.”
“Oh… the memory is clearing now.” The Timelord closed his eyes and let out a long breath. Then he looked up at Sarah, who now had her arms crossed. “They didn’t lock you in here with me?”
“I wasn’t the one insulting the queen.”
“Fair point. To answer your question, I am feeling perfectly like myself. I have no idea what got into me. Biting you like that and… well, I don’t know.”
Sarah’s expression softened. “You really don’t have any idea?”
The Doctor shook his head. “I had an intense craving for meat. No idea where it came from.”
“Well… if it’s passed now…”
“It has. I promise.”
“You have some apologizing and groveling to do.”
“Yes, sounds like I do.”
“And not only to the queen.” Sarah pointed to the dark bite mark on her shoulder.
The Doctor stood and took Sarah’s hand to pull her in for a soft apologetic kiss. “Yes, most definitely. In the privacy of the Tardis.”
“Tegan?” the Doctor prompted, walking into the Tardis wardrobe, where the woman in question was going through the vast variety of clothes.
“Yes?” Tegan asked, holding a dress up to herself and looking down at it.
“What would you say to a trip to Australia?”
That certainly got Tegan’s attention. “You really think you could that?”
“You doubt me?”
Tegan decided not to bring up how many times the Timelord had said he could get her back to Heathrow the day she had left. “What’s brought that destination to mind?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Tell me about the food there? Anything particularly… delicious?”
Tegan tilted her head slightly at the question. The man had hardly shown any interest in where she came from before, and now he was asking about the local food? She put the dress back on the rack. “You’re trying to get me to agree to going, by making me nostalgic for that food, aren’t you.”
“No, not at all. I am very curious.” Now the Doctor was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, like he was eager for the information. “Anything made with meat, specifically.”
There was a strange glint in the man’s eye, that seemed at odds with his sweet face. Still, Tegan answered with, “There’s all sorts of dishes with beef and chicken, and sometimes kangaroo.”
“Kangaroo… I haven’t had that before, I think. Do you sear it, roast it…? What method brings out the best flavour? What spices do you usually put on it?”
Tegan obliged, and told him whatever she could remember about specific kangaroo dishes she had. It didn’t escape her notice the way his eyes widened and his tongue licked his lips several times.
“And what about Australians?”
Tegan furrowed her brow in confusion. “Since it’s a local animal, we like it.”
“No, you misunderstand. I mean, Australians themselves. What do they taste like? How do you-“
“You’re joking, right? Are you asking me how we taste?”
“Yes… Oh, right, Humans don’t typically eat each other.” The Timelord fixed an uncomfortable stare on the woman. Something wasn’t right about him. “But, I’m not Human, so it wouldn’t be taboo, and-“
Tegan bolted out of the wardrobe. “Nyssa!” she cried out as she got close to the other woman’s lab. “Nyssa!”
“Yes, what is-“ Nyssa opened the door, and was nearly bowled over by the panicking Tegan. “What’s wrong?”
“The Doctor! Something’s not right with him. Not right at all.”
“Not right? You mean he’s ill?”
“I don’t know! Maybe? He started asking me about food and then-“
“Tegan?” called out the Doctor’s voice.
Tegan didn’t want to be trapped in the lab with the Doctor at the door, so she took Nyssa’s hand to pull her back out into the corridor.
The Doctor jogged into view. “Ah, there you are. Why’d you run? We were having a pleasant conversation.”
“Keep him away from me!” Tegan hissed.
Nyssa protectively stepped in front of Tegan, even though she didn’t know what exactly she was supposed to be protecting her from. “Tegan is just worried that you’re ill, Doctor.”
“Ill? I feel perfectly fine. Famished, but otherwise fine.”
“You were talking about eating Australians! While looking at me like I would make a tasty snack!”
“Snack? No, you’d be more than a snack.”
Tegan backed down the corridor, pulling Nyssa along with her. “See?” she whispered.
“You don’t think he’s playing a joke?” Nyssa whispered back.
“Look at him. Something’s not right.”
“Affecting his mind?”
“Whatever it is-“ Tegan glanced sideways, to a half-open door of a storage closet.
“Look, Doctor,” Nyssa said to the advancing man. “If you’re hungry, how about I take you to the kitchen and we can cook a nice meal for you.”
“That does sound nice… Could we put a little Trakenite in it? Just a little blood as extra flavour?”
Nyssa’s mouth hung open for a few seconds. Tegan gestured to the storage room, and Nyssa nodded. To the Doctor, she replied. “I suppose that’s… yes, just a little.”
“Great, a little feast. The kitchen should be well-stocked.”
Once the Doctor got close enough, both women grabbed him by the arms and shoved him into the closet. Tegan yanked the door shut and twisted the outside lock.
The Doctor banged on the door from the inside. “Let me out! This isn’t the kitchen! You said we could!”
“Sorry, Doctor,” Nyssa apologized. “It’s for your own good.”
“I don’t see how locking me up in here is for my own good, Nyssa!”
“You don’t think he can get out?” Tegan asked.
“Unless he can break down doors, no.”
“How long are you going to keep me in here? I’ll starve!”
“You had breakfast this morning,” Tegan retorted. “And if you get desperate, you can always eat that celery on you.”
“Eat this?” asked the insulted voice through the door. “This isn’t suitable for eating!” There was a pause, then a disgusted sound, like he had just tasted it and found it revolting. “Definitely not suitable for eating!”
“Do we just leave him in there and hope whatever it is wears off?” Nyssa asked.
“Unless you think you can figure out if it’s a weird virus or something and make an antidote?” Tegan suggested.
“We’ll just keep checking up on him, and if it gets any worse, then somehow find help.”
“Let me out! You said we could eat…”
“Sorry, Doctor. We’re leaving now. Hopefully you’ll start feeling like yourself,” Tegan apologized.
They ended up checking on him several hours later, having half-forgotten they had locked him in a closet, while enjoying a peaceful time with each other. The Doctor didn’t sound any worse when he answered, but Tegan didn’t want to risk that he was faking sounding better. They decided to leave him there overnight.
“Almost seventeen hours,” the Doctor stated in a very quiet yet intense tone when they finally opened the closet door.
“He doesn’t have that weird look anymore,” Tegan pointed out.
“What would you say to a breakfast of Australian with a topping of Trakenite blood?” Nyssa asked the man.
The Doctor shuddered with an expression of horror.
“Yeah, he’s back,” Tegan concluded.
“I was ‘back,’ as you say, less than two hours after you locked me in there.”
“Sorry, had to make sure… and maybe a little payback for all the stuff you’ve put us through,” Tegan replied. Nyssa failed to hide her giggle behind her hand.
The Doctor glared at them both, then stalked off in the direction of the kitchen.