To Have And Not To Hold by mtemplar



Summary: The Sacred Flame of the Sisterhood of Karn has failed. Will the Doctor once again be able to put things right? Rose soon finds herself in over her head as she learns a few secrets about her traveling companion.
Rating: Adult
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: Rose Tyler, The Doctor (10th)
Genres: Angst, Het, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Warnings: Explicit Sex, Explicit Violence
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 2007.11.07
Updated: 2008.06.11


Index

Chapter 1: Un
Chapter 2: Deux
Chapter 3: Trois
Chapter 4: Quatre
Chapter 5: Cinq
Chapter 6: Six
Chapter 7: Sept
Chapter 8: Huit
Chapter 9: Neuf
Chapter 10: Dix
Chapter 11: Onze
Chapter 12: Douze
Chapter 13: Treize
Chapter 14: Quatorze
Chapter 15: Quinze
Chapter 16: Seize
Chapter 17: Dix-Sept
Chapter 18: Dix-Huit
Chapter 19: Dix-Neuf
Chapter 20: Vingt
Chapter 21: Vingt et Un
Chapter 22: Vingt-Deux
Chapter 23: Vingt-Trois
Chapter 24: Vingt-Quatre
Chapter 25: Vingt-Cinq
Chapter 26: Vingt-Six
Chapter 27: Vingt-Sept
Chapter 28: Vingt-Huit
Chapter 29: Vingt-Neuf
Chapter 30: Trente


Chapter 1: Un

Author's Notes: My first Who-fic - please be gentle! Thanks to slayersgrl and nonlinear musings for the initial read-throughs and suggestions. Grammar and formatting helpfully beta'ed by brit_columbia and banshee196; general content/grammar has been kindly betaed by platypus - thank you all so very much!

This story is loosely based on the Fourth Doctor serial, 'The Brain of Morbius' and contains elements from the 1996 TV Movie and the NA novel 'Lungbarrow'. Spoilers are present for Series 2, up to 'School Reunion'.

Disclaimer: I do not own 'Doctor Who' and am making no profit from this fanfiction.


"Do you mind?" Rose snapped irritably. "I'm just brushing my teeth. It's really nothing exciting...do you have to stare?"

Rose and the Doctor had just been shown to their temporary quarters after what Rose thought was probably the most amazing dinner party she'd ever been to, given by the matriarchal society to welcome them to the city. After a somewhat bumpy arrival, the Doctor had surveyed the world that awaited them outside the TARDIS and thought that it looked familiar...perhaps he had been there before in a previous incarnation...but seemed to have quickly shaken off his initial unease when he noted the enthusiasm of the rapidly gathering crowd greeting them. Rose was initially reluctant to follow the group that was escorting the Doctor (with a little more fanfare than was good for his ego, she decided) to the center of the city, but upon their arrival, she soon changed her mind. The imposing hilltop ruin appeared to be the remnants of a once magnificent castle, festooned with brightly colored banners. It almost reminded her of a picture-postcard image of Mont St. Michel, decorated as if for a festival. The people were friendly and what she had seen of the interior of the building, despite its outward appearance, was neat and well-kept. The food at the banquet had been sublime...though she hadn't tried every dish, unlike her companion, who had several different and unusual dishes pressed upon him at every turn, it seemed. After seeing the sheer amount of food he had consumed, Rose had wondered where he managed to put it all, and more importantly, whether he would share his miracle diet secrets with her. Maybe she could pry the information out of him after she stopped being so annoyed with his current behavior. "Really. Don't you have anything better to do? I'll be done in a minute...surely there's telly here you can watch or a book you haven't read before."

"Sorry, it's just...well...I can hear your eyes blink. It's a bit distracting...that's all." The Doctor lingered in the bathroom doorway a moment longer before turning away. "Didn't mean to bother you."

"What?" Rose slowly lowered her toothbrush to rest it on the edge of the sink. "I didn't quite catch that...what did you say?"

He poked his head back through the doorway, grinning. "Your heart has sped up too...unless I'm quite mistaken."

She accidentally swallowed her toothpaste, sputtering briefly. "What - you're saying you can hear my heart beating? From over there?"

"Oh yes...I can. I can detect your scent from here as well...and Miss Tyler!" He crossed the short span from the doorway, and gave her an mock accusatory stare. "If your mother could smell the pheromones you're putting out right now, I'd be the one getting the slap for sure. And I don't even deserve it, at least not yet." he added.

Sure that he was having her on, she chanced a look at his face, expecting to see the all-too-familiar manic grin. It was not there. He looked deadly serious, and she started when she realized that his normally warm brown eyes were dilated so that only a thin rim of chocolate was discernible at the periphery of his wide pupils. A thin sheen of sweat was on his brow. "Doctor? What's wrong? Why are you acting this way?" she squeaked out while edging away. "This isn't like you at all."

The Doctor paused, blinking as if he'd just been doused with a bucket of cold water. His eyes cleared, and he looked at her, frowning. "You're right...this isn't like me. It's the most odd sensation, Rose. It's almost as if...." He trailed off, dubiously peering into her eyes. "I need to say things to you. It's the strangest thing, really. I almost have no control at all."

"Oh-kay..." Rose slowly backed out of the bathroom into the small sitting area of their guest quarters. "Is this another Time Lord thing that you've forgotten to tell me about then? Like you've got a 'Star Trek' Vulcan mating season and all that?"

"Oh no...I shouldn't think so. Time Lords as a species don't reproduce in that way...well, most of the time anyway...that's what the Looms are for." Rose noted that the Doctor's eyes were darkening again as he followed her into the sitting room. "Rose...."

"So what's wrong with you then? Maybe you ate something that didn't agree with you, yeah?" She continued backing away from him until the backs of her knees hit a small settee and she sat down, hard.

"Maybe there was something...." he murmured. "Can't imagine what it would have been though, I didn't detect anything unusual. Rose, it's happening again." He had now closed the gap between them and loomed over her. "I can't control myself."

"What should I do? Do you think I should leave then?" She tried glancing around his trousered legs for an escape route, but he was too close.

"I...I don't know. Maybe you should take notes?" He offered brightly. "I've really no idea what I'm going to say next - it's absolutely fascinating!" He dropped down to one knee before her, beaming.

"Notes...right." Rose scooted over to a small side table, finding a convenient writing instrument. A quick search of the attached drawer yielded a tiny red book with small, foreign print. Gideons, Rose thought...they're everywhere. Surely they wouldn't mind a few notes in the margins - nobody ever read those things anyway. She turned back to the Doctor, smiling. "All set." She frowned when he slid onto the settee beside her. His pupils were almost completely dilated again.

"You're so beautiful."

Rose's jaw dropped. She hadn't expected that. She stared down at the tiny red book on her lap and tried to ignore her rising blush. He must be drugged...that was the only explanation she had. He'd never say anything like that to her otherwise. She didn't even know he was capable of this behavior...after his complete lack of a reaction to some of her skimpier outfits, she'd decided that Time Lords, as a species, were completely asexual and that their status as 'friends' or 'companions', as he was wont to say, was better than nothing. She looked up, noticed that he was starting to lean in toward her, and began scribbling madly in the margin of the book. "You're...so...beautiful...."

Strong, elegantly long fingers closed around her right wrist, making her drop the delicate glass pen onto the floor. "Doctor...I c-can't take notes if you've got my hand." she stammered nervously.

"Your pheromones, Rose," he said softly. "They're intoxicating." Still holding her right hand in his, he leaned in to inhale at the pulse point of her neck and she felt a jolt in the depths of her abdomen as his breathy exhalation seemed to caress her cheek. The tips of his fingers stroked gently at her temples and she found herself leaning into the caress. They were nose to nose now, and Rose's head was spinning.

"Please..." The Doctor implored, his eyes now closed and breath fluttering against Rose's cheek. "I want to kiss you...." Soft lips touched hers and suddenly....

She was somewhere else.

Rose found herself standing in a meadow full of lush, long grasses studded with pink sweet-smelling flowers. Wild roses... She thought. What the hell is going on? A gentle breeze swept her long blonde hair into her face. Swiping it away, she saw the storm clouds on the horizon, dark and rolling. Thunder sounded in the distance and then...blackness.

Rose blinked rapidly as someone slowly lifted her body into a sitting position. Her vision began to clear and the face of a lovely young woman slowly swam into view. She wore a beautifully embroidered reddish-orange silken robe-like garment with an intricately tooled bronze breastplate. An ornate golden headdress with dangling brass beads crowned her long brown coiled hair, the beads weaving themselves into her curls. Curious bright green eyes accentuated with heavy gold makeup bored into hers.

"She has regained consciousness. I do not detect any ill effects. She will recover shortly." The woman seemed satisfied with her assessment of Rose's condition and pulled herself up to stand beside the settee, hands delicately folded at her waist. Rose could now see that ten similarly dressed women were also crowded into her sitting room. One was kneeling on the floor, her back to Rose.

Rose's hand went to her lips...she could still feel the sensation of the Doctor's tongue slowly gliding across them, gently probing for access. She suddenly realized that he was no longer next to her and began to panic. Where was he?

The kneeling woman shifted, partially turning to address a tall, slightly older-appearing regal woman who appeared to be the leader of the small party. Rose spotted a supine, unconscious, pinstripe-suited figure at the woman's feet, his head partially supported by one of the woman's hands, her other hand trailing at his mouth. She gasped - the Doctor appeared to be alternating between softly moaning and licking at the woman's proffered fingers.

"The Time Lord is ready. We must take him to Sister Ohica at once."

*************************************************************************

"Get off me! I can walk on my own." Rose squirmed in the grip of her captors. Two of the mysterious orange-garbed females were escorting her down a dimly-lit tunnel, making several turns along the way. They were trailing behind the others by several paces. Every so often, Rose caught a glimpse of the dark hair of the Doctor, barely visible between the flowing robes of the individuals in front of them. He had been unceremoniously loaded onto a litter back in the sitting room, and was currently being carried down the tunnel by eight of the women. The apparent leader of the party led the way through the labyrinth, holding a burning torch aloft. The flame flickered with the barely perceptable breeze as they made several turns through the maze of tunnels and Rose began to seriously doubt that she could find her way back to the surface if, by some miracle she managed to escape.

"Do not fear for your friend. He will come to no harm while he is in our care."

Rose started - the journey through the tunnels thus far had been silent, save for her struggling, the swish of reddish-orange robes and the occasional soft groan from the litter.

"My name is Sister Lyra." the woman grasping her by her left arm offered, smiling gently.

"I'm Rose...Rose Tyler. You said 'Sister' - are you part of some, uh...religious group then?" Rose stopped squirming and regarded the green-eyed woman who she had first seen after she had regained consciousness.

"It is nothing that simple," the young woman replied, the pleasant smile on her face fading. "We are what remains of the Sisterhood of Karn."

Questions were swirling through Rose's head at a rapid pace. First and foremost though was her concern for the Doctor. "What have you done to him? Will he be all right?"

Lyra smiled, her gaze briefly falling on the litter ahead of them. "He was given a powerful soporific...one that has interesting side effects in his people. I assure you though - no harm will come to him. Did you not try the fruit?"

"Wait...so you're saying that you've drugged him? But why....what do you want with us...." Rose fell silent as the rest of what Lyra had said began to sink in. His people. Her mind whirled as she tried to recall if the Doctor had mentioned that he was a Time Lord to anyone at any point during their brief time on the planet's surface.

The flaming torches bracketed into the sides of the tunnel cast a shadow onto Lyra's face, suddenly making her appear much older. "I do not know if I am able to answer those questions at this time, Rose Tyler. I must speak to Sister Ohica first."

"Rose. Call me Rose...hang on...I think I must've been hallucinating before - one minute I'm with the Doctor, next thing I know, I'm in a meadow. There was a storm coming...and then I wake up and see you. Did you drug me too, then?"

Lyra's bright green eyes regarded her curiously. "You are human. I do not believe you ingested the soporific, you would have merely fallen asleep." She paused, thinking. "The Time Lord must have entered your mind before we were able to subdue him."

Suspicion confirmed, Rose thought. Somehow, these women knew that she was human and the Doctor was a Time Lord. She briefly wondered if they knew that he was the last of his kind. "You're saying he was in my head?" She was suddenly glad that the light in the tunnel was dim...the better to hide the blossoming redness of her cheeks. "Just by kissing me, he can do that?"

Lyra smiled, shaking her head, golden beads glimmering through her curls. "No. The Time Lords are able to share their thoughts by contact, here." She indicated her temple. "He must have touched you there. Their mental capabilities are nearly as advanced as the Sisterhoods'. You did not suffer any ill effects?"

"No. I'm fine...." Rose trailed off, momentarily lost in thought. No ill effects whatsoever here.

The group rounded another corner and were met by another similarly dressed young woman, also bearing a flaming torch. Rose strained to hear the conversation between the new arrival and the leader of their party, but couldn't quite make out what they were saying. "What's going on?" she whispered to Lyra.

Lyra whispered back. "There has been a change of plans. We will be taking the Time Lord for the preparation rituals before he is presented to Sister Ohica."

"Preparation?" Rose was rapidly becoming more alarmed by the second. "Preparation for what?"

"Extraction, of course."

Back to index


Chapter 2: Deux

Author's Notes: Thank you very much for the kind reviews of the first chapter - it's nice to see those little notifications in my inbox!

Part Deux - Rose meets with Sister Ohica.


Rose looked back over her shoulder and followed with great reluctance as Lyra guided her into a small chamber hewn into the dark rock adjacent to an expansive central common room. She could see reddish-orange robes and a brief glimpse of the litter disappearing into what appeared to be yet another hallway, leading away from the main room she and Lyra had just passed through. Where the common room had been brightly lit with several flaming torches and was elegantly appointed with numerous richly-woven scarlet tapestries and Grecian-style columns, this small chamber contained only a small round wooden table and a few uncomfortable-appearing weathered wooden chairs. A small glass carafe filled with a clear liquid sat on a golden tray on the table, and a chandelier-like fixture containing several candles glowed above. A cheerily flickering fire burned in a stone fireplace set into the wall opposite the door.

"Please sit down and make yourself comfortable, Rose Tyler. Sister Ohica will join you shortly. There is water in the carafe if you are thirsty." Lyra said, pulling out one of the chairs at the table for Rose.

"No..." Rose said, refusing Lyra's offer. "I'm not eating or drinking anything down here. I don't trust any one of you!"

"As you wish, Rose Tyler." Lyra bowed slightly and began backing toward the door where her immediate exit was blocked by a tall, regal figure in robes similar to those of the other women. This woman, however, wore no headdress or breastplate, and her face was devoid of the heavy gold eye makeup that Rose had seen on the other members of the group. She looked slightly older and more care-worn. Rose noted that Lyra bowed low as she was dismissed by this new arrival.

"I am Sister Ohica. The Sisterhood welcomes you and your companion to Karn."

Rose felt suddenly uncomfortable - looking into the woman's piercing eyes, she had the sensation that Ohica could see right through her. She shoved aside her unease and willed herself to concentrate. "I'm Rose," she tried to force her voice to remain steady. "Rose Tyler. What have you done with the Doctor?"

"Ah...so it is indeed the Doctor. I thought that it was he whom I sensed. It has been nearly two hundred of your earth years since he has last visited us." Ohica stood by the pulled-out chair and gestured for Rose to sit.

Rose sat without further argument. "The Doctor's been here before?"

"Yes, he was of much assistance in ridding us of a great enemy and restoring the Sacred Flame when it initially began to dim."

Rose tried to focus on what Ohica was telling her, realizing that it might come in handy later. "Sacred Flame? I only saw torches out in the other room."

Ohica scowled, making Rose suddenly feel as though she were a child that had misbehaved and was about to be punished. "Outsiders are not permitted to view the Sacred Flame." Ohica turned back toward the fireplace, staring into its brightly leaping flames. "We are the Sisterhood of Karn, servants of the Sacred Flame, keepers of the Elixir of Life. The secrets of the elixir are known only to ourselves...and the High Council of the Time Lords, with whom we share the life-giving waters." Ohica paused, gripping the back of one of the chairs now and sagging slightly with what looked like extreme fatigue to Rose. "The Sacred Flame has not burned for nearly a century now though...and that was after several decades of not producing any elixir. When your Doctor was last here, he said that the Flame would burn yet for millions of years. He was obviously mistaken. We did contact the High Council of the Time Lords for assistance, but we were told that there was a war, and because of that, no envoy could be sent." She turned back to Rose, orange-red robes swirling about her ankles. "Since then, we have only done what we must to survive."

"And that includes kidnapping people? For this...this extraction thing?" Rose accused. "I'm sure the Doctor would've helped you if you'd only asked."

"The Time Lords we captured previously traveled alone. You would appear to be a novelty, Rose Tyler. The Sisters brought you here on my orders. I regret that your movements on this planet must be restricted, but I am afraid it is necessary. As for the Doctor, yes...he will be of great assistance to us yet again."

"What? There've been Time Lords here before? What have you done with them?" Rose's heart leaped in her chest. Maybe the Doctor wasn't the last of his kind after all.

"Only five. We extracted some of their artron energy, and then they were allowed to depart. Peacefully. No harm was done to them."

Rose's heart sank. "Artron energy? What's that?"

Ohica sighed, folding her arms across her chest. "The Time Lords, as a people, utilize artron energy - a source of naturally-occurring power that even they do not fully understand. They use it not only to power their machines, but also within their own bodies, becoming symbionts with their time-travel devices, so to speak. Have you ever witnessed their regenerative process?"

Rose nodded guiltily. "Yeah...I've seen it. There was this light...a golden light...with millions of these tiny star-things in it. Hurt to look at it, it was so bright. When it faded, the Doctor was still alive, but he was...different. It was still him, but he was in a completely different body, it was really weird."

Ohica smiled. "That was the artron energy you saw. It drives the process of Time Lord bodily regeneration when their lives are threatened. We of the Sisterhood may be distantly related to the Time Lords, but we have no such regeneration process. We must routinely partake of the Elixir of Life to continue to exist."

"So...." Rose's mind was spinning at this information. "Are you saying you're immortal then? And you're somehow related to the Time Lords?"

"The Sisterhood is originally from the same planet as the Time Lords, yes. We fled to Karn when the Time Lord Rassilon expelled the Cult of Pythia from Gallifrey and established the scientific Time Lord society as we know it today. The Sisterhood is indeed immortal, but only because of routine ingestion of the Elixir of Life." Ohica turned to Rose, her gaze growing cold. "Now that the Sacred Flame no longer produces the Elixir, we had to find a substitute or perish. It was very long ago when we first used our collective power to draw a Time Lord to Karn in an attempt to obtain assistance after our pleas for help were ignored by the High Council. We were able to bring him and his machine here...directly drawing him out of the vortex. Unfortunately, the Time Lord attempted to escape the city that exists on the surface above our sanctuary, and was severely injured by a fall. We had brought him here to the Shrine to care for him, but it was to no avail. He regenerated into a new form and during that process, purely by accident, we discovered that we too were able to use the dispersed artron energy after it had left his body. With the other Time Lords we captured, we were able to experiment and further refine our techniques to obtain some of their artron energy, as the process of extraction is not a natural one for their people."

"So...this extraction thing." Rose was becoming more alarmed by the second. "You're taking his...his artron energy or whatever it is...you're going to be making him regenerate to get it?" She rose from her chair, back rigid. "I can't let you do that."

Ohica's face was impassive. "Do not be absurd. We are able to extract a small amount of artron energy without harming the Time Lord. The Time Lord race may have been cursed to suffer sterility by the great goddess Pythia, but the males are still able to climax and emit a small amount of that same artron energy in the process. By collecting it before it dissipates and then refining it, we are able to produce our substitute elixir and thus assure our continued immortality."

Rose's jaw dropped. "So you're saying...you're saying you're going to...."

Ohica interrupted, frowning slightly. "The Time Lord will know only pleasure while he remains in our care and he will easily replace the energy that we take. Through him, we will ensure our survival. Would you condemn us to death, we who have existed in this universe for longer than even the Time Lords themselves?"

Rose was silent, suddenly finding the polished stone beneath her feet to be the most interesting thing in existence. There had to be another way; she didn't think she could just stand by and let this...extraction process happen. Surely the Doctor could think of some way to restore their 'Sacred Flame' as they called it. She could feel Ohica's eyes on her and her cheeks burned hotly. "Seems I don't have any way to stop you...." she mumbled. "I know the Doctor could help you, if you would just let him wake up."

Ohica regarded Rose with a curious glint in her eyes. "I can sense that you care quite deeply for your friend and that the process I've detailed would cause you considerable distress...."

Rose sniffed. Distress wasn't quite the word she would use, but it'd do.

Ohica continued. "We have not been able to locate any sign of a Time Lord traveling in the vortex for a great many years now. We have been saving our last few vials of the substitute elixir and perhaps our powers are starting to fade; but regardless. We need the Doctor. We will cease to exist without him. I do not wish to do so, but we will confine you if we must for the duration of the extraction."

"Then you'll have to confine me. Because I'm not going to let you do this to him. The Doctor can find another way to help you..." Rose's somewhat tearful speech was interrupted by a flurry of activity at the door to Ohica's private chambers. One of the sisters entered, her eyes wide with alarm.

"Sister Ohica...you must come quickly. There is a problem. He is not responding to the usual draughts and potions. The Time Lord is fighting us."

Back to index


Chapter 3: Trois

Author's Notes: Things go from bad to worse, and Rose is in for a shock.


Rose hurried to keep up with Sister Ohica as she moved briskly through yet another tunnel in the labyrinth, catching brief bits of the conversation between the two women ahead of her. From what she could hear, she gathered that one: whatever drug they had given the Doctor was starting to wear off; and two: this was apparently unexpected and highly unusual. As she was considering this, the tunnel came to an abrupt end at a large ornately carved wooden door with a simple metal ring pull. The second woman opened the door, and Sister Ohica ushered Rose through a short rocky entry. Rose gasped. The cavern they had entered was enormous - with numerous glittering beige and off-white stalactites hanging down from the ceiling. Hundreds of candles twinkled on strategic ledges hewn into the rock walls and flickered from their positions on the rocky outcroppings protruding from the floor of the chamber, giving the room a cathedral-like feel. A small irregularly-shaped pool of near opaque turquoise liquid glowed in the center of the cavern, its still surface reflecting the twinkling lights of the room, marred only by the occasional column of rising bubbles.

"S'gorgeous...." Rose murmured, looking up into the faintly glimmering roof of the chamber.

Lyra appeared while Rose was regarding the ceiling. "There are numerous such caverns throughout the Shrine. This is one of the largest and most beautiful...and," she whispered conspiratorially into Rose's ear, "the only one with the medicinal waters."

"Looks like a hot spring to me." Rose looked around the cavern, realizing that Sister Ohica and the other woman had slipped off while she had been preoccupied. Quickly scanning the remainder of the chamber, she located Ohica, standing with the woman who had retrieved them from the other room. They appeared to be having an animated discussion alongside another small group of orange-garbed women, kneeling down around what looked to be the litter that had been used to transport the Doctor. "Oh no..." she breathed, starting to make her way over to where Sister Ohica and the litter were.

"Rose Tyler, wait!" Lyra called out, but Rose was determined to reach the Doctor and was already picking her way through the rocks and stalagmites to reach the side of the pool, passing a wooden chair on which a carefully folded brown pinstriped suitjacket lay, with a dark maroon silk tie resting on top. She tripped over a pair of Converse trainers in the dim light, unfortunately attracting Sister Ohica's attention.

"Restrain her. She must not interfere." Rose was immediately seized by Lyra and the woman who had originally come to retrieve Sister Ohica. She struggled vainly in their grip, even as the three Sisters kneeling by the pool turned to stare at the new arrival. Rose's eyes widened as she saw the Doctor lying on the rumpled linen of the litter, supported by a cradle-shaped depression in the poolside rock. One of the women appeared to be sitting on the Doctor's pinstripe-suited legs, while the other two were holding his arms down. His white dress shirt was partially unbuttoned, and Rose saw that his feet were bare. She watched helplessly as he sluggishly jerked and twisted in a vain attempt to escape the two women holding his arms, his eyes screwed shut and a grimace marring his features.

"Sister Valna," Ohica addressed the woman holding Rose's right arm, her eyes glittering and her tone cold. "Are you absolutely sure that he received the full allotment of the soporific?"

Valna bowed her head slightly, her eyes downcast. "I cannot be sure, High One," she replied. "I provided the soporific-laced fruit to the surface dwellers, and the Time Lord appeared to be the only one who partook. It would seem that all of the fruit had been consumed, as the bowl was returned to the kitchens emptied of its contents."

"Then I suppose we have no choice," Ohica murmured softly, her gaze falling on the Doctor's struggling form. "Prepare a second dose."

Rose jerked her left arm hard as Valna quickly bowed and exited the cavern, but Lyra held fast. "Rose," Lyra pleaded. "I have no wish to harm you, but you must not interfere."

"I would listen to Sister Lyra, Rose Tyler." Ohica now stood in front of Rose, effectively blocking her view of the Doctor and regarding her thoughtfully. "How much do you know about your...companion, so to speak?"

"I know enough," Rose stated defiantly, glaring at Ohica.

Ohica stared at her, and Rose once again had the impression that her thoughts were transparent to this woman. "He is resisting the effects of the soporific - do you know if he is a mated Time Lord?"

"What?" Rose wasn't sure she was hearing correctly. "Mated? You mean, like...married? I don't think so..." she trailed off, her voice uncertain. She vaguely recalled the Doctor mentioning that he had been a father, but he hadn't elaborated. He certainly had never mentioned that he'd ever had a wife, but then again...he'd never mentioned Sarah Jane either....

"You lie. I can see it clearly in your thoughts. The Time Lord told you in the past that he had been a father once. Do you deny this?" Rose was briefly rooted to the spot by fear. Ohica apparently was able to read her thoughts with crystal clarity. Fortunately, she was spared from further interrogation by the arrival of Sister Valna with a small green glass bottle. She watched helplessly as Valna knelt by the Doctor's head, unstoppered the bottle and forcibly poured the amber-colored contents into his mouth. Ohica turned her back on Rose and strode towards the Doctor, who was coughing and sputtering. "We will get our answers from the Time Lord, not this human woman whose thoughts prattle about like a child's...she knows nothing that would be of value to us."

"Rose," Lyra whispered to her left. "You must remain calm. You won't be of any help to your friend this way." Rose watched in dismay as the Doctor's struggling slowly ceased, his mouth going slack and his head lolling.

*******************************************************************

Rose watched helplessly as Lyra was ushered by Sister Ohica over to where the Doctor lay. She tested her new restraints without success - Ohica had ordered her to be bound, and bound she was...trussed up like a Christmas goose to a large and rather uncomfortable stalagmite. The only good thing about her current predicament, she mused, was that she now had an unobstructed view of the proceedings that were going to take place. She shifted about a bit, trying to get as comfortable as the rocky floor and the rope binding her would allow. The sisters were now sitting at the Doctor's feet, chanting softly with their hands outstretched. Lyra sat opposite them, cradling the Doctor's head in her lap. Rose knew what was coming next. Lyra had told her while calmly tying her to the stalagmite that she would be the one to probe into the Doctor's mind in an attempt to fathom his odd resistance to the soporific before they went any further with him, as she was considered the best among the Sisters at doing so. Rose was somewhat glad that it would be Lyra and not Ohica entering the Doctor's thoughts, but although Lyra had been kind enough to privately assure Rose that she would be most gentle, she still felt sick with fear. Just what did 'gentle' mean exactly when one was talking about probing the thoughts of another individual? She had little time to consider this, though, as Lyra placed her fingers loosely on the Doctor's temples and he gave a sudden jerk, a grimace on his face and his back arching off the linen-covered stone. Lyra partly opened her eyes, gazing at Rose for a moment as the Doctor stilled again.

"His thoughts are of you, Rose Tyler," Lyra intoned, a far-off quality to her voice. "He is concerned for your well-being."

"Sister Lyra..." Ohica spoke, a warning tone in her voice. "Attend to the task at hand."

Lyra's eyes closed again, a look of great concentration on her features. "Yes, High One." She bowed her head and Rose saw that she was beginning to press her fingertips more firmly to the Doctor's temples. Lyra's brow furrowed as she resumed her task, the far-off quality returning to her voice. "He is young...for a Time Lord...so young to be in this, his tenth incarnation...."

Rose started at this. She remembered the Doctor telling her that he was 900-some years old - just how long did Time Lords live? How long was each body supposed to last? And eight other faces that she'd never seen - no wonder he'd immediately asked her after his disastrous 'regeneration' what he looked like! Rose's attention was drawn back as Lyra continued.

"And...he is indeed a mated Time Lord...such a long time ago...but something happened...." Lyra paused, concentrating and Rose's curiosity was now piqued. She again recalled the Doctor saying that he had been a father once, but that was all that he'd told her. She strained to catch Lyra's voice, which had faded to almost a whisper.

"Something...that he keeps hidden...." Rose saw Lyra grimace as she renegotiated her grasp on the Doctor's temples. Her brow furrowed in deep concentration as she continued.

"High One," Lyra began, her voice uncertain. "The deeper portions of his mind are...so quiet. I cannot sense his connection to the Time Lords...I don't know why...." she paused, frowning. After a moment, Lyra cried out. "They are gone, High One! There are none left - this one is the last! The great loss of life that we had sensed...it was them! They all burned...." Lyra had released her hold on the Doctor in her shock, though his head remained in her lap.

Rose bowed her head as Ohica, who had risen from her kneeling position, turned toward her with an accusatory glare in her gaze.

"You knew this, didn't you, child. I should not have dismissed you so readily. How many other secrets are you still hiding from us?"

Rose gulped as Ohica loomed over her. She tried to look away but was transfixed by Ohica's piercing stare. Ohica pressed her long manicured fingertips to Rose's temples and Rose suddenly had the sensation of...someone else in her head, much like she had experienced with Cassandra on New Earth. Only this time, she was very much aware of pain...dreadful pain along with flashes of memory going by at rapid speed. All of her memories of her time with the Doctor up until the present flew by, the pain in her head rapidly increasing. She cried out in anguish....

And then everything went black.

For the second time, Rose awoke to see bright green eyes that slowly came into focus. She tried to sit up, but Lyra held her down with a hand to her chest. "I would advise against getting up too quickly, Rose Tyler." Lyra's voice was soft, but Rose could hear the shaky undertone to it.

"What is it? What happened...oh my head!" Rose tried to sit up but was hit with a wave of pain, originating from both of her temples. She put a hand to her forehead, wincing. She'd been untied, apparently - that was an improvement. Looking up, she could see glittering stalactites above where she lay by the turquoise pool, the Doctor not far from her. He was starting to stir again, his head lolling from side to side. They appeared to be alone in the chamber, with the exception of Lyra, who was kneeling beside Rose, her head bowed. "Lyra, what's wrong? Where has everyone gone?"

Lyra was silent for a moment before she replied in a soft voice. "Sister Ohica and Sister Valna are working on a different formulation for the soporific," she started, briefly glancing at the Doctor's increasingly restless form.

"A different formulation..." Rose paused as a wave of nausea washed over her. "So you're just gonna keep on drugging him then? Until you find something that works?" She looked Lyra in the eye, silently imploring her for help. "He's the last one, you know. The last Time Lord. There aren't any others for you to...experiment on!"

Lyra shook her head, laughing softly. "Yes, we are all very aware now that he is the last. That is why Sister Ohica has ordered that the new soporific be tested on you, Rose Tyler."

"Me?" Rose was confused. "Why me? I'm a human being, in case you haven't noticed. From Earth, yeah?"

"He didn't tell you then." Lyra smiled sadly. "It would appear the reason that our usual draughts and potions are not working, is that your friend..." she paused, glancing over at the Doctor, who was beginning to toss and turn, "...is half human."


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Chapter 4: Quatre

Author's Notes: More secrets are uncovered, and Rose gets caught 'looking'.


Rose gaped at Lyra in disbelief. "Half human? You have got to be kidding me." Her mind was racing. She didn't think that Lyra would lie, but still...all of the Doctor's comments previously about 'stupid apes' and now...this. It would have been laughably ironic, had they not been in their current predicament.

"I am afraid it is true," Lyra replied, somewhat shakily. "Sister Ohica thought initially that he was simply a mated Time Lord, and therefore more...impervious to our initial methods. After I saw what I did in his mind though, Sister Ohica had me search a bit deeper. That is what I found."

Rose frowned. How long had she been unconscious? "I don't understand - just what did you see? Is he really half-Time Lord half-human then?" Rose moved closer to Lyra, who had drawn her knees up to her chest and was slowly rocking back and forth in apparent distress.

"Something like that." Lyra answered, as she glanced over at the Doctor. "The Gallifreyan DNA is dominant over the human DNA...particularly after his re-looming."

"You just lost me there." Rose put a tentative hand on Lyra's shoulder in encouragement. "Gallifreyan?"

"I am sorry, I assumed that you knew. Let me explain." Lyra took a deep, shaky breath before continuing. "All Time Lords are from the planet Gallifrey, but not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords. Only the Gallifreyans that complete their studies at the Academy are awarded Time Lord status."

"I see." Rose had always thought that 'Time Lord' sounded a bit pompous, and now she had a little bit of proof. "So it's like they graduate and get a diploma so that they can get called a fancy name then?" Rose asked before adding under her breath, "One of these days I'm gonna have to get my A-levels, aren't I?"

"It is more than that." Lyra answered, her voice becoming stronger. "Gallifreyans are sterile. The way I understand it, to reproduce and maintain the population, a male and female mated pair each contribute genetic material to a machine - which the Time Lords refer to as a loom. The loom somehow knits the DNA of the pair together along with the life force already contained within itself to create a Gallifreyan child. I do not understand the process entirely, but if the child that is produced is found to be a Time-Sensitive and subsequently completes his or her studies at the academy, they are re-loomed. They are put back into a similar abomination of a machine at their academy, and I believe twelve random sets of DNA, manufactured by this machine, are added to the Gallifreyan's genetic make-up. When they are damaged, their artron energy somehow activates, and one of the added sets of DNA combines with their original DNA..."

"And gives them the ability to regenerate, right?" Rose interrupted, repressing the urge to punch her fist in the air. "And that makes them a Time Lord as opposed to just a...Gallifreyan?"

"Yes, along with their academy training and other added physical traits and senses," Lyra affirmed. "They are able to regenerate their bodies twelve times. This one," she nodded in the Doctor's direction, "has already done so nine times. This is his tenth form."

Rose frowned, still trying to figure out Lyra's odd reaction. "And his being half human is...bad?"

Lyra smiled sardonically, staring at her slippered feet. "Not at all. The Gallifreyan DNA is dominant, even in its modified form. He is a full Time Lord and therefore still suitable for our purposes...with only a few minor differences, a rebellious trait apparently common to humans among them. I can sense that you're already aware of this?"

Rose grinned, despite their current situation. "Yup. I'll agree with that one." She sobered as she saw that Lyra was still disturbed. "So why are you so afraid? Is it because he's the last?" Rose had to strain to hear Lyra's reply, even though she was quite close.

"He destroyed them. The entire society of the Time Lords, the planet Gallifrey itself...everything. They all burned at his hand."

Rose pulled back slowly. "Because of the war, the Time War, between the Daleks and the Time Lords, right? He told me that he ended it...and because of that his people are gone, but they took the Daleks with them. Doesn't that make it a little bit better?" She didn't mention the numerous Daleks that had been at the game station orbiting Earth - she wasn't sure what exactly had transpired after she had looked into the TARDIS's console, but the Doctor had assured her that all of the Daleks had been destroyed.

Lyra sniffed, glancing at the Doctor, who had now rolled up on his side, his back to them. "I suppose...what he did still frightens me, but all the guilt and sorrow that he carries...I don't know how he can bear it...." She trailed off, looking back at Rose. "Even though he was commanded to perform the task by the High Council of the Time Lords...." She paused again, her eyes welling up. She dabbed at the corners of her eyes with an orange-red sleeve and continued in a small voice. "He didn't expect to survive. I think it came as something of a shock to find that he was still alive."

"Do the others know about this?"

"No, they only know that he is the last existing Time Lord. The Sisterhood does not require contact to connect our minds, only close proximity. When Sister Ohica and Sister Valna return with the reformulated soporific and bring the remaining Sisters to form the circle, they will find out soon enough, as they won't be needing to concentrate to boost my mental powers." Lyra replied, her eyes downcast.

Rose drew out a long breath, shaking her head. She got up and crossed over to where the Doctor was unsuccessfully trying to wrap himself up in the linen of the litter. "Shhhhhh," she crooned, kneeling at his side and tracing her fingers over his damp forehead and smoothing the fringe of his hair away from his eyes.

He rolled slightly toward her in response, his body in a fetal position, with his right hand slightly curled under his chin. "Don't wanna get up..." she heard him mumble. She smiled softly at the resemblance to a drowsy child and had a sudden urge to ruffle his hair.

"S'ok," she soothed, continuing to stroke his forehead. "Rest. I'll figure out something." Rose kept a wary eye on Lyra as she joined her at the Doctor's side. She wasn't sure she could trust Lyra, even though she seemed somewhat sympathetic to their situation. She didn't know if she could overpower the taller Sister, and she really didn't relish trying. She also didn't think she'd be able to drag the unconscious Time Lord to safety, even if she knew where she was going in the maze of caverns and passageways. Rose decided that her only logical course of action was to give the Doctor time to recover from the effects of the soporific, if she could. At least he was seeming more sleepy now than flat-out unconscious, so that was good.

"So...why'd they leave just you here with us?" Rose asked Lyra. "Weren't the others worried at all that he'd wake up while they were gone?"

"I am to give him another dose of the soporific if he awakens," Lyra replied.

Rose was silent, continuing to stroke the Doctor's forehead, hoping that Lyra wouldn't notice the slight twitching of his right hand.

"You care for him a great deal, I think..." Lyra continued. "And yet you go to a great deal of trouble to hide it...why?"

Rose started, wondering if Lyra could read her thoughts just by being close to her. "It's nothing...we're friends, that's all. Nothing else." Still, she thought, if it was true that he was partly human though, then maybe.... She banished the idea angrily, not wanting to delude herself. The Doctor had made his thoughts on the subject of 'domestics' abundantly clear in the past, and also when they had run into his previous companion, Sarah Jane Smith. And yet, she thought, feeling a twinge of guilt at doing so, Cassandra had been right. She had been looking. She still couldn't seem to keep from doing it even now, as her eyes roved over his unguarded form. He looked much younger in repose and still appeared to be as thin and wiry as she remembered from last Christmas. She and Mickey had changed the Doctor into a pair of her mother's extra men's pajamas after he had regenerated, and she wished now that she hadn't been so embarrassed - especially in front of Mickey - about 'looking'. Her gaze drifted to the small area of pale skin with a smattering of dark hair, exposed by his partially unbuttoned dress shirt. She couldn't resist resting her hand there for a moment, feeling his steady double heartbeat under cool skin. She sighed, drawing her hand back, but it was suddenly caught in a firm grip. Startled, Rose jerked backward, but was held fast. A pair of slightly bleary brown eyes was regarding her curiously.

"Rose?"

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Chapter 5: Cinq

Author's Notes: The Doctor's awake - and he's not happy.


"Have I...regenerated?"

The Doctor's eyes were open, Rose noted, but appeared unfocused, and his voice was low and gravelly from not being used. In fact, Rose thought, this might have been the longest stretch of silence from him in quite some time, considering the gob he had. She grinned at him, squeezing his hand. "No, and it's good to have you back!"

"Oh, that's good." He released her hand and rubbed at his eyes, blinking. "Things can't be that bad then. Although...I appear to have misplaced my shoes." He sat up, wiggling his long toes. "And my jacket, it seems. And a perfectly good tie." He craned his neck upward, taking in the numerous glittering stalactites. "I loved that tie. It had those lovely little swirly things on it...what were they called?"

Rose cleared her throat, bringing the Doctor's attention back to herself. She raised her eyebrows and inclined her head toward Lyra, who had a worried look on her face.

"Oh, sorry...hello. Lyra, isn't it? You haven't aged a day." He lowered his voice, leaning in and speaking quietly into Rose's ear. "And I mean that quite literally."

Lyra had the decency to look slightly uncomfortable. Rose saw that she was nervously twisting a small, stoppered green vial in her hands. "Doctor," she started, desperate to warn him of Lyra's previously stated intent. "Sister Lyra here is supposed to drug you again now that you've woken up." She pointed a finger to the vial and the Doctor's gaze followed with mild interest.

"Really? Whatever for?"

"Why don't you tell him then, Lyra?" Rose could tell that Lyra was wavering, and she hoped that she could help along her indecision. Surely the fact that the Doctor seemed to remember her from his previous visit would help.

"We..." Lyra hesitated, continuing to twist the green vial. "We need to extract some of your artron energy, Doctor...to create a substitute elixir. We have performed the procedure before on other Time Lords, and the process seems to be more...pleasant...if the Time Lord has been given our soporific."

The Doctor swallowed, absorbing this information. "Other Time Lords? There have been other Time Lords here? How long ago?"

"I am not sure, Doctor, but I believe it has been nearly half a century since any other Time Lord has been brought to Karn," Lyra replied.

Rose saw the Doctor's slender form sag slightly at this news, his head bowed. He'd obviously been hoping, and her heart went out to him.

"And what do you mean by 'substitute elixir'? Your flame should burn for millions of years - I put it right the last time I was here."

"The Sacred Flame has not burned for over a century. It wasn't long after you and your companion left Karn that the ground shook...and the Sacred Flame once again burned low. No elixir was produced after that - and eventually the Sacred Flame extinguished completely." Lyra held up the vial, gazing into the emerald glass. "The High Council of the Time Lords was unwilling to help us, they said they had more pressing matters to deal with. We were forced to help ourselves...by learning some of your Time Lord science."

The Doctor raised an eyebrow at this. "Time Lord science? Are you referring to how you mix your 'substitute elixir'?"

Lyra nodded. "Yes...the main ingredient would be the small amount of artron energy extracted from a Time Lord - without harming him, of course," she hastily added. "The artron energy is collected and channeled through the rock of this chamber," Lyra waved a hand indicating the vast space around them. "Then, some of the medicinal water and a bit of powdered rhineweed is added. It is a fairly simple formula, but almost as effective as the Elixir of Life itself."

"But...that's brilliant!" the Doctor exclaimed, his face lighting up. "It's almost as if the artron energy replaces your flame in the whole equation. Your 'Elixir of Life' is formed much in the same way, you know. The volcanic activity underneath your shrine forces the gases from deep below up to the surface to feed your flame, which interacts with the rock here - heats it up, condenses the water vapor in the air from your 'medicinal pools', so to speak..."

Rose watched as he absentmindedly reached for his ever-present glasses, frowning at not finding them readily at hand, as his jacket was still missing.

"...Thus producing your elixir. With the artron energy, you can replace the flame entirely! So simple, it's brilliant!" The Doctor stood up slowly on shaky legs. Rose jumped to steady him. "So just how do you get the artron energy without...harming...the aforementioned Time Lord then?"

"You are as clever as Sister Ohica has said, Doctor," Lyra said quietly, staring at the floor of the chamber. "Time Lords may be sterile, but you are still able to emit artron energy...if properly stimulated."

"Oh," the Doctor said in a small voice.

After a moment, he moved away from Rose and began to carefully pace in a small circle, his legs appearing to grow stronger with each step, even without the benefit of his trainers. Rose thought briefly about grabbing his hand and making a run for it right then and there, but the Doctor turned back toward Lyra.

"You can't. Take any of my artron energy, that is," he said, coming to a halt in front of Lyra and crossing his arms.

Lyra looked up at him with what appeared to be mild amusement. "And why is that?"

"My artron energy levels would be off the scale - I've been in the vortex for too long." He nodded, as if that would close the matter.

Lyra regarded him curiously. "Sister Valna has become very proficient at mixing the substitute elixir, Doctor - I am sure that she would be able to compensate."

"No. It won't work. We'll just have to think of something else." He sat down heavily on a flat rock, determination written on his face.

Rose sat down beside him. "But Doctor...I thought you said their substitute was brilliant. Why couldn't they just...um, dilute the artron energy or something like that?"

The Doctor hung his head. "You don't understand, Rose..." he trailed off, staring into space. Rose grabbed his arm and squeezed, encouraging him to continue.

"Back before the war, most Time Lords never left Gallifrey - they had what would be considered 'normal' artron levels. They were able to schedule their regenerations, some could even pick out what features they wanted their new bodies to have. I do envy that - I'd pick out ginger hair for sure...ow!" He rubbed his side where Rose had just elbowed him. "All right, getting to the point. You've probably noticed that I can't...well, control...my regenerations? And that I might be ill for some time after the process?"

Rose nodded. "Yeah, Christmas wasn't very fun, was it? But I still don't understand why you can't help..."

"Rose, I've been in and out of the vortex for well over five hundred years. The build-up of my artron energy would be enough to be dangerous to someone without Time Lord physiology - it could very well kill them."

Rose felt a chill go up her spine as she tried to comprehend what the Doctor was telling her. "So just by traveling in the TARDIS, your...your artron energy increases? What about me, then? Am I carrying this artron energy too?"

The Doctor picked up a small stone from the ground and pitched it into the pool, following with his eyes as it skipped along the surface. "Well, yes. Yes and no, really. You carry a small amount, but you don't actively absorb it. Only Time Lords have the physiology to do that. Allows us to bond with a TARDIS and be able to pilot it. You, on the other hand, are one-hundred percent human. For humans, artron energy is just a bit of harmless background radiation. It's enough to wake up a sleeping Dalek, but that's about it."

"So what happens to the artron energy if maybe you're not a one-hundred percent Time Lord?" Rose inquired, her gaze trained on the Doctor's face as he turned to regard her, one eyebrow raised in question.

"Sounds like we might have a few things to discuss...later," the Doctor said in a low voice, holding Rose's gaze. Rose shivered.

"I am sorry to interrupt, Doctor, but Sister Ohica and Sister Valna will be returning soon." Lyra sounded nervous, and her eyes kept darting to the wooden door leading out of the cavern.

"Well, we'd best be finding the TARDIS then." The Doctor helped Rose to her feet, his eyes scanning the room. "Has anyone seen my shoes...ah!" He bounded over to where the wooden chair sat by an outcropping, his jacket and tie folded carefully over the back. He sat on the chair, pulling his trainers on. "That's much better."

A low sob from across the room distracted him and Rose turned to see Lyra crumple to the floor, her face covered by her hands. She went to her side, and began awkwardly patting her hand, not sure what to say.

"How many have you lost?"

Rose somehow managed to suppress her body's response to hearing the Doctor's low, quiet tone voice from so close behind her. Remorse for her entirely inappropriate thoughts flooded through her as Lyra looked up, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears.

"Only three so far - but there are many who have voluntarily gone without the Elixir for so long," she murmured, her voice wavering. "They won't last much longer. Please," she implored. "You must help us."

The Doctor had dropped to one knee at Lyra's side. Like a knight in shining armor, Rose thought.

"I promise - I'll be back. I just need to get some equipment from the TARDIS to see how the seismic activity beneath your sanctuary here has affected your flame's outlet. Then we can get to work on putting it right again. I'll be as quick as I can."

As Rose watched, Lyra wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her robe and nodded, avoiding the Doctor's gaze. "I'll guide you through the secondary passage. You'll have to find your way from there. And Doctor, you'll have to hurry. Sister Ohica will not be pleased."

The Doctor helped Lyra and Rose to their feet, dusting off the knee of his trousers. "Thank you, Lyra."

Rose breathed a sigh of relief as they began to make their way through the rocks and stalagmites toward a partially concealed passage in the rear of the chamber.

"And...you will have to be careful. The terrain you will have to cross to reach the entrance to the city will be most treacherous - especially in the darkness," Lyra warned as they made their way through the corridor, the Doctor nodding in acknowledgement. They eventually arrived at a massive wooden door, barred with a heavy slab of metal. The Doctor lifted the bar and Lyra tugged the door open. They were greeted by flashes of lightning in the darkness, and a steady drizzle. Rose sighed as the Doctor grabbed her hand and led her out into the storm.



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Chapter 6: Six

Author's Notes: The Doctor and Rose have escaped from the Sisterhood...or have they?


Rose gritted her teeth as she clambered over another massive boulder, clinging to the Doctor's hand as her foot slipped on the surface. The storm they had encountered upon their hasty exit from the Shrine was greatly hampering their progress across the harsh terrain, and only intermittent flashes of lightning illuminated the barren landscape. The Doctor had told Rose that they had exited on the opposite side of the hill from where the TARDIS had initially materialized, but she hadn't realized it was quite so far away.

"C'mon, not so far now. The city is just over there."

Rose tamped down her rising urge to strangle her companion. A steady drizzle was still falling and the rocky landscape was extremely slippery. "You said that five minutes ago and I still can't see the city. You sure you know where you're going?"

The Doctor tapped his forehead. "Extra Time Lord senses. If I'm close enough, I can feel the TARDIS. And we're close enough. We'll be there in a jiff."

"Too bad we had to take the scenic route." Rose muttered under her breath.

"What was that?"

"Nothing, nothing. I could use a breather, though." Rose found a convenient, gnarled tree to lean against, ignoring the exasperated look on the Doctor's face. "Feels like we've been walking for days."

"It's only been an hour, and we're not nearly far enough away." The Doctor surveyed the darkened landscape, his eyes lighting on a small, sheltered outcropping. "Over here - if we have to stop, let's at least get out of the rain."

Rose gratefully allowed herself to be ushered over to the small opening in the rock. It was cold, but at least it was dry. She began to wring the water out of her hair.

The Doctor sat heavily beside her. "I'd offer you my jacket, but I'm afraid it's soaked through. Are you cold?"

"'S all right," Rose lied. "I'm warm enough. What do you mean, we're not nearly far enough away? I thought we were going back to help them."

"There's no 'we' here, Rose. You're staying in the TARDIS. I'll go back to the Shrine. Alone."

"Oh no you don't, Mister!" Rose sputtered indignantly. "You did that to me once before and you ended up dying - you're not gonna do that again." She could feel his eyes on her as she muttered, "Someone's got to keep an eye on you."

The Doctor shifted, leaning against the rocky wall behind them and sighing. "You don't understand, Rose - I can't let you go back there."

"Then help me to understand." She caught his gaze and held it as another flash of lightning briefly lit up the sky. "'Cause I'm not staying in the TARDIS this time."

The Doctor sighed, shrugging his shoulders slightly. "The Sisterhood is dangerous, Rose. Their combined mental capacity is nearly unmatched - we're fortunate that they're weakened by lack of Elixir right now. They're able to implant false thoughts and visions in your head, enough to drive you mad. I'm able to close my mind to them - well, when they haven't decided to drug me, that is. But you're human, Rose. You don't have the capability or the training to shield your mind."

He leaned forward, tugging on the sleeve of his suit jacket, and Rose had to strain to catch what he was saying.

"I won't risk you. I want you protected - the TARDIS can shield you to some degree."

"Can you teach me?" Rose asked quietly. "How to close my mind? Lyra said that you were half human, and if you can do it, then maybe I could try...."

The Doctor abruptly stood up and reached for her hand. "Time we were off, I think. I really don't fancy a telekinetic visit from the Sisterhood right now. Lyra's going to be in a lot of trouble if we don't hurry." He waggled his fingers at her. "Coming?"

Rose grabbed his hand and allowed herself to be pulled up. "I guess that's a 'no' then," she muttered.

"Does it matter?"

Rose was briefly taken aback. "What?" She could barely see the Doctor's features in the darkness and swallowed hard at the intensity of his gaze.

"Does it matter to you if I am half human?"

Rose paused, the tension palpable in the air. "No. It's just...you're always being so mysterious and all that. I'd really like to know more about who I'm traveling with, that's all." She shivered from the cold, waiting for his response.

"You're cold - we'd better get moving." He pulled at her hand and they set off again across the craggy landscape.

Serves me right for asking, Rose thought. She was indeed getting colder and the drizzle had soaked the thin fabric of her hoodie and jeans. After plodding along for some time, listening to the Doctor expound on the many, many virtues of moss, she was starting to become sleepy. She couldn't feel her fingers and hadn't felt her toes for the last few minutes.

"Rose? You all right? You're slowing down."

The Doctor had stopped suddenly and Rose almost fell in her attempt to avoid crashing into him. "'M okay - just c-can't feel my feet, that's all."

"We're almost there. Look - you can see the lights of the city. The TARDIS isn't far."

He turned to face her and Rose swallowed as he took her face in his hands, peering into her eyes, which were dangerously close to drifting shut.

"C'mon Rose, it's not much further. Stomp your feet a bit - that'll help."

"'M freezing...and I'm t-tired." Rose's teeth were chattering full throttle now. "Are you s-sure we c-can't stop for just a bit?"

"Tell you what," the Doctor offered. "You keep moving and I'll answer whichever questions you want. Until we reach the TARDIS, anyway," he added hastily.

Rose perked up immediately. She wasn't about to waste an opportunity like this. The Doctor was always so reluctant to tell her anything about himself that the likelihood of this happening again was pretty much nil in her opinion. She briefly touched her face, wondering how awful she must look to garner such an offer.

"Move first, then you can fire away, ok?"

"Deal."

Rose slipped again on the uneven, rocky terrain, finding herself suddenly devoid of questions. "Are you really half human then?" she asked.

"Yes. On my mother's side. A little faster, please."

Rose stuck her tongue out at his back. "I'm doing the best I can - it's slippery!" She plodded along behind the Doctor, momentarily enjoying the view as he clambered up another small rock formation. She grasped his proffered hand and he hauled her to the top. "So how'd that happen?"

"Now, Rose." The Doctor was grinning at her. "I would have thought that a young lady like yourself might know a little bit about the birds and the bees."

"That's not what I mean and you know it," Rose retorted. Her cheeks were burning and she was suddenly glad for the near darkness around them. "How did they meet?"

The Doctor slowed his pace as they began to pick their way through the rocks again. "Well, it's really a long story. And we don't have much further to go to get to the TARDIS, so if you're content in just asking one question...."

Rose sighed, exasperated. "OK - I'll take the short version then."

"The short version it is," the Doctor replied. "My father worked for the Celestial Intervention Agency on Gallifrey. He was called to your little planet for an...well, an 'incident'. What happened next was strictly forbidden in Time Lord society then - thank goodness they had relaxed the rules a bit when I took Leela there...."

"Strictly forbidden?" Rose interrupted. "What happened?"

"Well, if you must know....he fell in love. With a human."

Rose's thoughts were whirling...if his father, a Time Lord, was capable of falling in love...then maybe the Doctor.... Her thoughts were interrupted as her foot caught on a rock and she pitched forward, the Doctor turning to catch her before she fell against the rocks.

"Not that shocking, is it?" He grinned at her, setting her back on her feet. "Mind you, it was completely unheard of in those days - mating with an un-Gallifreyan, that is. Punishable under Statute 694 of the Gallifreyan legal code, 'Interference with Other Species'. My father had to hide my mother - she lived in a very small house that he built for her on the slope of Mount Lung. Very close to a hermit's cave, incidentally."

Rose squeezed his hand tightly in encouragement. "So that's where you were born then? In that house?"

"Born? Nah. Well, not really. Gallifreyan children are loomed. There's strict quotas, you know - on the number of loomlings that a house may contain. My house - well, my former house could only have 45 members at any one time - "

"So how," Rose interrupted before the Doctor could continue his ramble. "How is it that you're half human then? If you came from this 'Loom'?"

The Doctor veered to the right, leading Rose through a small open passage through the rock. Rose had to strain to hear his voice. "My mother wanted children, I suppose - and my father, being the sort that he was in that regeneration...indulged her." Coming out of the passage, the Doctor paused, peering through the near darkness to determine the best route. "On the tombing day of one of my ancestors, he smuggled her into our house - the 'Ancient and Noble House of Lungbarrow' and hid her near the plinth of the family loom - close enough for it to pick up her DNA and his...."

"Resulting in you." Rose smiled as she allowed herself to be pulled along again after the Doctor selected another fairly rocky path. "But Lyra told me that your looms only work with mated pairs...."

"Not entirely true," the Doctor said, coming to a stop. Rose looked down at the barren landscape below. They had come to the edge of a cliff in the darkness. "Drat. I should really be paying better attention. C'mon - back down. We'll try the other path. If that's no good, we may be in for some rock climbing. Or another delay."

They started back down the narrow path, reaching the passage again. The Doctor selected another route, this one continuing downhill. Rose had to walk slightly sideways to keep from falling. "What do you mean, 'not entirely true' then?"

"Well, the DNA of a mated pair is optional, of course. If there aren't any around at the time of a tombing, the family loom can create a child completely from its reservoirs. And there wasn't a mated pair - at least, not that anyone knew about - on my name day."

"So what happened?" Rose paused in her descent as the small rocks beneath her feet shifted ominously. "With your parents? Did you stay with your mum or your dad?"

The Doctor took Rose's hand to steady her, then led her down to a more stable area. "Both, actually. My mother's house had to be kept a secret, so I couldn't spend much time there. There was a cave nearby that I did spend quite a bit of time at when I was very young. K’Anpo Rinpoche lived there - he kept my mother company when my father was called away, which was quite frequent if I remember correctly. K'Anpo was an exiled Time Lord who chose to spend his days on Gallifrey in quiet reflection, as a hermit. He'd traveled to so many places and had the most amazing stories. Maybe that's why I had such difficulty at the Academy - I'd rather listen to K'Anpo's stories than study...."

Rose clamped a hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. "You didn't do well in school?"

"Oi! At least I passed on the second attempt. With a 51%, no less!" The Doctor's smile broke into a full-fledged grin. Rose rolled her eyes at him.

The drizzle was starting to clear, and Rose was surprised to note that she could once again feel her toes within her trainers. "So why did you leave Gallifrey? It sounds like a wonderful place."

"Not so wonderful if you've been brought up on tales of travel and adventure and you find yourself stuck in a dead-end government job."

Rose couldn't hide her mirth any longer. "Government job? You left so that you wouldn't have to work?"

There was a long pause before the Doctor answered her. "No. It wasn't quite that simple - I wish it had been."

Rose, sensing that the mood had changed, sped up a bit so that she could walk alongside him. "What happened?"

The Doctor wouldn't look at her, keeping his gaze firmly on the lights ahead of them instead. "It was around the time of the tombing of the Kithriarch of my house, Ordinal-General Quences. He'd reached the end of his thirteenth span, and it was widely speculated amongst my cousins that I would be the one to replace him." The Doctor paused briefly before continuing. "My cousin Glospin, though, had other ideas. He'd somehow found the anomalies in my genetic coding - very un-Gallifreyan anomalies - from the Bureau of Loomographic Records. I'd never realized just how ambitious Glospin was - or what lengths he'd go to to become Kithriarch of the house. He threatened to expose my background, which quite frankly didn't bother me. It was when he said it would also affect my child and grandchild...I agreed to disappear. At least long enough for him to establish himself as Kithriarch. When I returned, I discovered that Glospin had me declared 'rogue', or a renegade in my absence - I had been disinherited and replaced. I would have contacted my family, but they had already mourned my loss and moved on. They didn't need to be put through more grief on my account - they had their own lives to lead."

Rose sniffed in the cold, remembering that Lyra had told her that he was a mated Time Lord. She squeezed his hand and summoned up her courage. "Did you love her very much?" she asked in a small voice.

"Yes," the Doctor said simply. "I loved my family with all my hearts. That's why I didn't fight Glospin. After all the work that my parents had gone to to hide my background and get me into the Academy, I managed to muff things up quite spectacularly. C'mon, we need to get moving again."

Rose allowed herself to be pulled along again. "Couldn't your father help?"

"No. He wasn't there. My mother had died some time after she'd reached her eighty-second year, and my father was devastated. When his time came to regenerate, he...he chose not to."

"Not even for you?"

"No. Not even for me," the Doctor said quietly, continuing alongside a rocky hillside.

"I'm really sorry. I wish you'd told me," Rose started. "All that carrying on I did about my dad and I had no idea...."

"It's all right, Rose. Really. It was a long time ago and now it's over. Finished. Done. No need to waste any time or energy thinking about it. I always found the Time Lord society too stodgy and stuffy anyway. Besides," he added, "I did meet up with my granddaughter again. She traveled with me for a time - she decided that someone needed to look after me while I was on the lam from Glospin and his cronies on the High Council. It was great fun while it lasted. Still - gone now, though." He squeezed her hand as they continued toward the lights ahead.

Rose sighed. The Doctor had been both a father and a grandfather. She wondered how young she must seem to him. It was difficult for her to conceptualize, as he definitely did not look to be as old as he claimed. She decided to change the subject to avoid thinking about the massive age gap between them. "So just how did you 'disappear' then?" she asked, feeling the chill start to seep into her again.

"Glospin had it arranged so that...well, an 'opportunity' arose. One that he knew I couldn't refuse. I had a chance to leave the planet and travel like my mentor K'Anpo had."

The Doctor began to increase his pace and Rose hurried to keep up. "The TARDIS?"

"Yes. She was to be decommissioned. Like myself, really. I liberated her from drydock...."

"You mean you stole her!" Rose exclaimed.

"Well, more or less. She was on the schedule to be cannibalized for spare parts. She needed me, I needed her - we make a good team."

"I think we make a good team too," Rose said as she made out a familiar rectangular shape in the distance.

"Rose." The Doctor's voice had taken on a concerned note. "I need you to run - fast as you can."

Rose's arm was jerked and she struggled to keep her footing as she ran toward the TARDIS. A bolt of lightning streaked across the sky and she was shocked to see a flash of reddish-orange at the mouth of a cave at the base of the rock formation near the TARDIS. She realized too late that their absence from the Shrine had finally been noticed. Sudden pain jarred through her temples and she came to a screeching halt, grasping at the sides of her head. She screamed....

Pain, horrible pain. She saw images swimming before her mind's eye...terrible, horrible images. Mickey being blasted by a Slitheen...her father being consumed by a Reaper. Her mother lay dying and she couldn't reach her. She could hear the flapping of massive numbers of birds...the sounds ringing hollow in her head. Now she could see the Doctor's lifeless body, lying on the jagged rocks below. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. Someone was screaming....

The flapping was getting louder.


Back to index


Chapter 7: Sept

Author's Notes: I'll be out of town for the holidays - sans internet, unfortunately. The next update *should* be posted on Jan 2nd. Happy holidays everyone and enjoy watching the Christmas special for me!

The Doctor and Rose return to the Shrine....


Rose continued to drift in and out of blackness. The pain in her head had ceased for the most part, but she felt completely drained. She was vaguely aware of a gentle rocking sensation, and a sense of descent. Turning her head, she felt her cheek brushing up against damp, smooth fabric. A faint but steady double heartbeat pulsed against her temple. Although the dampness wasn't entirely uncomfortable, it kept her from snuggling up as much as she'd have liked.

"In here. You may lay her down on the bed."

That was Sister Ohica. She'd recognize that voice anywhere. She could smell the fragrant oil of the burning torches - they must be back at the Shrine! Rose tried to struggle - tried to open her eyes, but she was fighting a losing battle. She was lowered down onto something very soft and extremely cushy. She tried to resist the urge to burrow into the downy material beneath her, to cling to the source of the double heartbeat instead, but she found that her limbs were leaden and lethargic, and she was unable to move.

"What's this room for then? You running a hotel now? Little gift shop on the main floor, is it?"

That was the Doctor. He sounded angry. Rose was getting incredibly sleepy again and she fought against the blackness.

"Nothing of the sort, Doctor. It is tailored to Time Lord specifications, for recovery after extraction. It will suffice for your companion for now."

Rose desperately wanted to start shouting at Ohica - she even considered giving her the patented 'Tyler slap' that her mother was so fond of - but weakness and lethargy prevented her from doing so. The bed was so comfortable that she couldn't help drifting off, despite the voices she could hear raised in argument a short distance away.

***************

Rose's consciousness again resurfaced. She found that if she concentrated, she could lift her hand a bit. Her eyes fluttered open to reveal a small room with rock walls and plain, rustic furnishings. A rough-hewn wooden table stood beside the bed, a water-filled glass carafe resting on a golden tray on top. A fire flickered in a fireplace cut into the stone wall opposite the bed and was putting out a fair amount of heat. Her clothes had dried and were no longer damp and uncomfortable. Warmth and drowsiness seeped through her body as she lay listening to the voices that she could barely pick up outside the door to the room.

"You can't do this - please! Let me go back to the TARDIS since your collective is too weak to bring her here. I'll get the equipment I need to fix your Sacred Flame - properly."

"No, Doctor. We do not have time to waste. Since your arrival, we have lost more of our number. I have no doubt that you would eventually be able to restore the Flame, but it would take time. Time that we do not currently have to spare. I cannot lose any more of my sisters."

"But - my artron level - it's going to be dangerously high - it could kill you rather than extend your lives...."

"That is a chance I am willing to take. We of the Sisterhood may not possess the genetically-engineered bodies of your people, but we are similar enough to each other that it should not be as dangerous as you believe. I have confidence that Sister Valna will be able to refine your levels, once the artron is extracted."

"I want to see that Rose is okay."

"She will recover fully without ill effects. If you do not cooperate with us though, we will be forced to use her again as a means to persuade you...."

"No! You can't do that - she's human! Her mind is fragile...."

"Then cooperate. Do not resist us."

There was a long pause. Rose kept trying to roll to the side of the bed to no avail - she was too weak. She had to let the Doctor know that she would be strong - that he didn't have to cooperate with the Sisters to save her. She tried to cry out, but found that she had no voice.

"If I submit - to your extraction, you will let Rose go. Lyra too - I haven't seen her since we left. What have you done with her?"

"Lyra is to be punished for her traitorous act."

"No. I want your word - no, swear. Swear on the blood of your sisters that if I submit to your extraction, both Rose and Lyra will be freed - unharmed."

"I so swear."

Her stomach clenching, Rose found the strength to claw her way to the side of the bed. She tried to swing her legs out, but found that they would not support her and she crashed to the floor in an ungraceful heap. Blackness claimed her again.

***************

"Here, sit up. Let me help you."

Rose felt herself being slowly eased up into a seated position. She was still on the floor of the room, and a dull ache in the region of her left temple was beginning to register. Her throat was parched and she was so very, very thirsty.....

"Water - please," she managed to whisper. She felt cool glass pressed to her lips and she tried to drink, but swallowing was painful.

"Here. Just sips."

The voice sounded familiar, but Rose couldn't quite place it. The liquid burned as it hit the back of her throat and she choked briefly, sputtering and gasping for breath.

"Shhhhhhh. Not so fast. We don't want to spill a drop."

Rose sipped again at the liquid. It wasn't water - it was cloyingly sweet, almost syrup-like in consistency. It tasted vaguely of the heady aroma of masses of flowers. She took another sip, but still couldn't place what she was drinking. She sipped at the last bit of fluid, and realized with some disappointment that it was finished.

"Good. Here, drink this."

Another vessel was pressed to her lips. Rose took a tentative sip, realized it was water and began to drink greedily. She finished with a satisfied sigh, a trickle of water dribbling down her chin. "Where...where's the Doctor?" she managed to rasp out.

"He is well. You need not be concerned - you must rest."

Rose felt two sets of hands hauling her up and pushing her back down on the bed. Her eyes fluttered open briefly long enough to see reddish orange robes with glimmers of gold over her. Rose wondered if Lyra was there as she allowed herself to sink back into the soft bedding. She drifted out of consciousness with a worried frown on her face.

***************

Rose awoke again, feeling even more disoriented than before. The once blazing fireplace across the room from her had died down and was now only imparting a dim orange glow to the chamber, yet Rose felt extremely overheated. She shifted on the bed and gasped - her skin had somehow become exquisitely sensitive. She swore that she could feel every point of contact of her garments with her skin - especially over her breasts and abdomen. As she lay on the bed, the sensation grew more and more disconcerting until she was unable to ignore it any longer. Her hands grappled with her clothes as she decided that being wrapped in the satiny sheets beneath the soft bedding would surely irritate less than the air-dried stiff jeans and hoodie that she wore. Biting her lip to stifle a moan, she stripped down to her undergarments and slid quickly between the ivory-colored silken sheets. Momentary relief coursed through her, but was short-lived. She shifted again, trying to relieve the pressure building in her core and whimpered as molten heat shot through her body, concentrating at the junction of her thighs. Realizing that she could once again hear raised voices outside the room, she tried to ignore her body's increasing distress in order to listen.

"And why is it that I can't see her? What have you done?"

"The new soporific that Sister Valna has created is untested. We needed to make sure that it would not harm you. We will not risk the last remaining Time Lord."

"So you decided to test it on Rose, did you? You will let me see her. Right. Now."

Rose could hear the barely leashed anger in the Doctor's tone and shivered, the slight movement sending another jolt of heat coursing through her. She whimpered, biting her lip again to try to remain quiet. She didn't want him to see her like this.

"Doctor, I do not advise...."

"I said NOW!"

By the time the door had been unlocked and the Doctor ushered in, Rose was beyond trying to be quiet - or caring about her appearance.


Back to index


Chapter 8: Huit

Author's Notes: Thank you everyone for your kind reviews! It's really nice to see them when I'm struggling with a new chapter. I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday and Happy 2008!

Huit: The Sisters have tested their newly reformulated soporific on Rose...


Rose could feel cool fingers smoothing her hair away from her face. She reached out blindly, grasping a hand and holding it against her burning cheek. "Please," she rasped. "So hot."

"Rose, I'm sorry - I didn't know."

"Please don't leave me...." she pleaded, clutching at the Doctor's hand.

"I'm right here, Rose - I'm not going anywhere."

She shifted toward where the Doctor sat on the edge of the bed, and gasped as the bedcovers slipped and cooler air hit her overly sensitive shoulders. "Ohhhhhhh...what's wrong with me?" she groaned.

"She won't remember this at all, will she?"

Rose could hear the Doctor's voice, could feel every point of contact with the soft bedding as it was pulled up over her shoulders again and re-adjusted. Who was he talking to?

"No, she most likely will not. That element of the soporific remains constant."

The voice sounded like the one Rose had heard before - the voice that she couldn't place. It didn't seem very important now, though, as another jolt of heat coursed through her body. Moaning softly, she rubbed her cheek against the Doctor's cool hand, hoping to bring his attention back to herself. "Please help me...."

"I'll get you through this, Rose, I promise." The tone of his voice changed abruptly as he addressed whomever else was in the room. "You...may leave. Now."

"Doctor, the effectiveness of the new formulation needs to be documented...."

"Oh, I think it's quite 'effective'. The safety of it, though, has yet to be determined. Leave us."

"Very well."

Rose heard the soft swishing of robes, then the sounds of a heavy door being pulled open and shut. She rolled toward where she knew the Doctor was still sitting, groaning as a wave of liquid desire washed over her. "Please...."

"Oh Rose, I'm sorry," the Doctor said, gently caressing her burning cheek. "I should have been paying better attention to where we were when we landed. I've really stuck my foot in it this time, haven't I?"

She bit her lip again to stifle a building moan, flinching with the sudden pain that resulted.

"Ah. You're bleeding. Stop that - let me help."

She felt the Doctor move away from her and couldn't help moaning softly at the loss of contact. She could hear a brief ripping of fabric and the clink of glass on metal, and then he was back, pressing a wet cloth against her lower lip.

"There. It's not so bad, just a superficial wound. Should heal up in no time, provided of course that you stop trying to injure yourself."

She knew he was close, could feel his touch as he gently cleaned the traces of blood from her lower lip. She couldn't help herself - she braced herself on trembling arms to push herself up and touch her lips to his....

He didn't respond - didn't kiss her back. Maybe he was worried about further injuring her lip or maybe...

She'd gotten it wrong, obviously. Hot tears pricked at the corners of her eyes as she let herself fall back to the bed, another wave of longing - somewhat bittersweet now - rushing through her body. He was alone, the last of his kind. She couldn't blame him for being lonely. Or for wanting a hand to hold. The tears were coursing freely down Rose's cheeks now and she wished that she'd listened to Sarah Jane....

She heard the Doctor swallow heavily and tried to mentally prepare herself for what she knew was coming. The part where he would let her down gently, where he would tell her again just how fleeting her human life was, and how lonely he'd been before he'd met her. And how sorry he was for anything he'd said or done to make her think there was anything...more...between them. What she wasn't prepared for was the sudden contact of cool fingers with her temples.

She was in the meadow again, fully clothed, a light breeze ghosting over her skin - now surprisingly unheated. She wasn't alone this time, though; the Doctor was there with her, the wind gently ruffling his hair. She glanced at him briefly, taking in the tightness in his jaw and the fists his hands formed at his sides before looking away, dismay flooding through her.

"No, Rose," he said, while she regarded her now trainer-clad feet. "This isn't your fault. Please don't feel embarrassed."

He shifted briefly from foot to foot as Rose looked up to watch him. "I know that you're not going to remember this, what I need to do. You're still suffering the after-effects of the attack on your psyche as well, so I'll try to hurry and not overstay my welcome - here in your mind, that is." He tugged at his earlobe, taking in the scenery around him. "Nice meadow, by the way," he added.

Rose moved forward in the meadow, standing toe-to-toe with the Doctor, who now looked nervous. "You'll save me. You always do. And it's not your fault either - we're in this together, remember?"

"I won't take advantage of you, Rose - I'd never do that," he insisted through clenched teeth. "But I can't just knock you out until the drug clears. Ohica showed me the ingredients for the soporific that they've given you. It will drive you insane unless I, ah, assist you. I should've realized that they'd try something like this, to test it on you - "

"'S ok. Just - just do what you have to and don't worry about me. I'll be all right." Rose could feel her heart shattering even as the words came out of her mouth.

"I'm so sorry, Rose - I'd never hurt you. Please believe me." The Doctor paused, and Rose had to strain to hear him as he continued, his voice low and intense. "You deserve better than this, better than me. I'm not meant to have - or to hold..." Rose swiped at her eyes as his words became barely audible. "...Or to love." With a curt nod, the Doctor's form disappeared from the meadow and Rose was alone. She sank to her knees amongst the wild roses, crying uncontrollably into her hands.


The heat had returned and Rose whimpered with discomfort. She gasped as she felt the Doctor lie down beside her, his pinstripe-suited front pressed to her mostly bare back and side, the contact briefly overwhelming her. He stroked soothingly over her hair and temples as she tried to turn toward him. Then his hand moved lower, ghosting over her abdomen and flank. She groaned loudly as he lightly touched her over her knickers, and Rose pressed back against him as she tried to remember how to breathe. A second, cool hand slid from its previous position of cradling her head to press two fingers to her temple and suddenly she could feel numerous other sensations - the spin of the planet beneath them, the steady hum of the TARDIS, the rapid fluttering of her own heart in her chest. The fingers at her temple shifted, the sensations slowly disappeared and Rose focused again on the slick warmth building between her legs. She began to tense and it seemed that the Doctor knew somehow - knew what she needed, and she felt his long fingers push her knickers aside to press into her core, sliding in and out as she bucked against him. It wasn't long before she felt the building pleasure thrumming through her body and the flare of her climax exploding within her like a thousand stars erupting. She cried out, her hand clutching at his.

As Rose's orgasm faded, she slowly rolled to face him. "Doctor?" she whispered uncertainly as her shaking hands crept up his shoulders to entwine around his neck.

"Shhh," he soothed, bringing his fingertips that had been under Rose's head to her lips. She kissed them and watched as his eyes slowly fluttered shut and his mouth went slack. Snuggling up against his chest, she dropped off to the reassuring sound of a steady, double heartbeat.

***************

Rose awoke feeling warm, sleepy and lethargic. She slowly stretched her arms above her head and realized with embarrassment that she was only wearing her undergarments. Pulling the bedcovers around her, she sat up to find herself in a small chamber on an extremely luxurious bed. A small fireplace was the only source of light, the glowing embers giving out a feeble orange glow. She swung her legs over the side of the bed, frowning at a slight soreness in her lower abdomen. Quickly searching the room, Rose found her clothing neatly folded on a small table by the side of the bed, her shoes nearby on the floor. She had just finished dressing when a small knock sounded at the wooden door, and Lyra entered. Rose gasped - Lyra had visibly aged since she had last seen her. Scattered white hairs stood out from her brown curls, and she could see numerous fine wrinkles on her face.

"Lyra - what happened?" Rose asked, alarmed at the change in Lyra's appearance.

"I am well, Rose Tyler. There is no need for you to concern yourself," Lyra replied, entering the room and shutting the door. "Are you feeling better?"

"What?" Rose was momentarily confused. She felt fine - fantastic, even - but she didn't remember how she had gotten back to the Shrine. In fact, she didn't remember much of anything after she'd run for the safety of the TARDIS....

"Rose? Are you still unwell?" Lyra prodded.

"I - I don't remember how I got here - where's the Doctor? And what's happened to you?"

"I was to be punished for letting you both go free, but thanks to the Doctor, that is no longer the case." Lyra replied, her eyes downcast.

"Lyra, please," Rose begged. "Where is he?"

"He stayed with you for quite some time, after Sister Valna tested the new soporific on you."

"New soporific?" Rose racked her brain trying to recall what had happened but kept coming up blank. "How long ago did he leave?"

"Just a few minutes ago, when you began to stir. After Sister Ohica and Sister Valna made certain that you would fully recover, he left with them."

"Left? But why - " Rose trailed off in her confusion.

"He is submitting to the extraction voluntarily in exchange for our freedom, Rose Tyler. We are not to interfere."


Back to index


Chapter 9: Neuf

Author's Notes: Another wrench is thrown in the works...


"What?!" Rose was starting to panic as Lyra's words sank in. The Doctor was voluntarily having some of his artron energy extracted - in exchange for her and Lyra's freedom? Her insides clenched uncomfortably at the thought as she recalled how helpless she'd felt at Christmas after he'd regenerated. If his state after the 'extraction' was anything similar, she didn't think she could go through that again. "Lyra, please - I need to be there. I need to make sure the Doctor's all right."

Lyra gave her a questioning look. "I will do as you wish, Rose Tyler, but we cannot be seen. I have been cut off from the rest of my Sisters as part of my punishment, so they will not sense me. They will more than likely be too preoccupied to notice you - the radius of your thought broadcast is small. If we are caught, though, I do not think your mind will withstand another direct assault...."

"Never mind that - please, just take me to where he is."

Lyra hesitated, giving Rose an assessing glance before turning to the door. "We must hurry. They should be giving him the soporific soon - if we get to the Chamber of Candles quickly, we should be able to find a place to hide our presence." She opened the door before turning back to Rose. "Are you sure this is what you want to do? You are willing to risk another attack?"

Rose didn't hesitate. "Yes. He'd do the same for me."

"Very well."

***************

Rose was slightly surprised that they were able to reach the large cavern after moving through two short passages. She'd been expecting a much longer journey.

"They will bring him back to the chamber we just left after some of his artron is extracted. They wouldn't want to take him far," Lyra commented, sensing Rose's unspoken question. Rose nodded glumly.

Lyra carefully opened the wooden door a crack and peered inside. "They are here - it looks like they are just giving him the soporific now. Follow me, and remember - you must keep quiet," she hissed.

Rose quietly followed Lyra into the large cavern with its numerous twinkling candles. It seemed that they had entered on the opposite side of the large chamber from where Rose and the Doctor had been before. She could see the Doctor now, mostly surrounded by a small group of the Sisters. He was perched on the flat rock again next to the abandoned litter, which lay rumpled by the of the pool of opaque turquoise liquid. Rose noted that the Sisters' attention was entirely on him, watching closely as he drank from an ornate, metal-rimmed goblet half-filled with amber liquid. Lyra touched her arm and Rose allowed herself to be guided over to a rocky outcropping not far from the pool.

"Quickly, in here," Lyra whispered, gesturing to a small opening in the rock, and Rose crawled in on her hands and knees, hoping that Karn's insect population hadn't also found the same hiding spot. Lyra crawled in behind her. The fissure was small, and ended in a second opening blocked partially by stalactites. Rose found that their concealed space was just large enough to accommodate the both of them - as long as no one tried to stand up - and afforded a decent view of where the Doctor was on the other side of the still waters of the pool. As she watched, three additional Sisters entered, each carrying a large, earthen crock-like container. Rose stared in puzzlement as the vessels were left near the litter, along with a folded off-white sheet that was left on the chair.

"The receptacles are for the elixir," Lyra whispered, momentarily startling Rose. "It must be collected as it forms."

Rose swallowed hard as the bile rose in her throat. She couldn't believe she was just going to sit and watch this, whatever they were going to do to the Doctor. As she wrestled with her conscience, though, she heard a familiar voice. Looking across the pool, she saw the Doctor handing the empty goblet over to Valna.

"Ooooh - that soporific of yours is quite lovely - tastes of flowers, it does. Bottled flowers - you could make a fortune selling it, you know. Of course, you'd be needing a shop - I'm sure you could work something out with the small village above you. Give them a cut, they'd be all for it. Then again, they probably pick the flowers - elbeflowers, was it? Tasted of elbeflowers. And a little bit of that rhineweed that grows here. Maybe they should sell it and give you a cut if they're the ones doing all the work - "

Rose smiled. Maybe the Doctor could simply talk them into a stupor and they'd be able to escape. He was still babbling as he stood up and was led over to where the litter lay. Two of the Sisters rushed ahead to neaten the fabric.

"This it, then? I just wait for your supposed soporific to take effect? Ooooh - I like that, 'supposed soporific'. You might have to rename it, because I'm not feeling sleepy at all. Warm milk might do the trick - I've tried that before in a pinch - "

Rose watched as Valna caught Ohica's gaze, rolling her eyes. Lyra nudged her on the left. "Does he always talk this much?" she whispered.

"Yep," Rose confirmed. "Gets worse when he's showing off." Or nervous, she thought to herself.

"You probably don't have any, though...oh." Rose watched as the Doctor swayed slightly, bringing a hand to his forehead. "Works faster on an empty stomach, does it?" Two of the Sisters moved to steady him.

"You have already had two doses of a similar formulation, not very long ago," Valna stated. "It might be a slight cumulative effect that you are feeling."

"Ah, most unfortunate," the Doctor said, temporarily righting himself before swaying again. "Thought I'd have more time...time to...."

Rose tried desperately to get her emotions under control as the two Sisters carefully assisted the Doctor to a sitting position on the litter. One of them reached a hand inside his jacket.

"Stoppit." The Doctor swatted at the robed woman's hand. "I can do it myself." He fumbled briefly with the buttons of his suit jacket before sighing in frustration and slumping slightly, allowing the woman to undo the remaining buttons and slowly ease the garment from his shoulders. Another Sister came forward, taking the jacket and carefully draping it over the back of the wooden chair.

"My name is Sister Melina," the woman said as she busily worked on divesting the Doctor of his clothing. She had waist-length honey-blonde hair and wore no headdress. "Please try to relax. Do not fight us." Rose bristled as Melina grasped the Doctor's tie and began to undo the knot. "You will only end up harming yourself, and that would be most...unfortunate."

"Hello - I'm the Doctor. Nice to meet you," the Doctor said cheerfully, slurring his words slightly. "You look a bit like Rose." He leaned forward, peering into Melina's eyes. "She's prettier than you, though," he said in a small voice, closing his eyes and listing to one side.

Rose's eyes widened as she listened - had she heard correctly? She watched anxiously as another Sister quickly moved into position behind the Doctor, holding up his slumping form while Melina removed his tie and began undoing the buttons of his dress shirt.

"This will be a pleasure, for once," Rose heard Melina quietly tell the other Sister. "We have not had a Time Lord quite this...comely...before." Rose watched as Melina stroked a finger down the Doctor's chest, fighting the urge to strangle the woman.

"Sister Melina and Sister Riza - enough of your dalliance. The Time Lord is not your plaything - attend to the task at hand."

"Yes, High One," Melina mumbled, and Rose watched as she and the other Sister carefully eased the Doctor's unresisting form down to lie on the linen-covered rock, a soft moan escaping him at the contact. His trainers were removed, revealing a smattering of hair on the tops of his feet, and long toes. Rose's eyes glittered in anger as she watched Melina then go to work on the closure of the Doctor's pinstriped trousers. She wasn't able to see much, though, as Riza brought over the fabric from the chair to drape it over the lower portion of the Doctor's form while Melina made short work of his trousers, sliding them easily from his slim hips. Rose bit her lip as she fought to control her emotional response, and was startled by a sharp pain. She carefully touched a finger to the area and was surprised to see a spot of blood at the tip. She tried to remember if she had been injured somehow, but all she could recall were hazy memories of heat, a meadow and a gentle press of wet cloth to her lip. Rose glanced up again to see Riza carrying the Doctor's dress shirt over to the chair to add it to the growing pile of clothing. One of the tails was badly torn, with a large portion missing. Had he torn it in their escape from the Shrine? Rose fingered her lower lip in confusion as she observed Melina scooting over to the Doctor's slightly restless form, lifting his head and placing it in her lap. The remaining Sisters formed a circle around them, chanting quietly.

"What's going on?" Rose whispered to Lyra.

"Our collective is weak," Lyra replied quietly. "My Sisters form the circle to temporarily provide a boost to Sister Melina's abilities."

"But I thought you already probed his mind before?" Rose asked in puzzlement, as she watched Melina place her elegantly manicured fingertips on either side of the Doctor's temples.

"This is different," Lyra responded. "The new soporific is meant to interact with the human aspect of the Time Lord. That aspect, however, is weak compared with his dominant Gallifreyan make-up. Sister Melina is attempting to block his extra senses so that his human side will have a chance to respond to stimuli -- "

"Extra senses? What extra senses?" Rose interrupted.

"He has many that you and I do not. They are difficult to comprehend if one does not possess them, but I have been told that our ancestral planet of Gallifrey existed as a temporal anomaly - it existed not only in what has been called the Universe of N-Space, but also within its own exclusive time stream. The Time Lords, as a people, were said to have had a sensitivity therefore towards time and its movement. They are able to distinguish alternate timelines - even see echoes of different realities. Although this one," she pointed to the Doctor, who now had a grimace on his face, "is now the last piece of that temporal anomaly, he retains this ability."

Rose pondered this, watching as the Doctor weakly tossed his head in an attempt to shake Melina's fingers from his temples. "I remember him saying that he could feel the turn of my planet once."

Lyra nodded in the darkness. "Yes. All of these special abilities and senses will interfere with the function of the soporific, which is why Sister Melina is making an attempt to block them."

"Will it be permanent? It won't hurt him, will it?" Rose asked, watching the Doctor's face with concern. His eyes were now screwed shut and teeth gritted.

"No, his Time Lord senses will only be temporarily blocked. There is no cause for concern - " Lyra trailed off, looking worriedly at Rose.

"What is it?" Rose asked, taking in Lyra's concerned gaze.

"You can understand me?" Lyra asked.

"Yes...?" Rose replied. "I haven't had any problems, why?"

"You are connected via the Time Lord to his TARDIS. The link between the Time Lord and his ship is to be blocked as well," Lyra replied, her eyes widening.

"What, you're saying this is going to affect me too?" Rose questioned.

"This is a problem that I am afraid we did not foresee. You are able to use the Time Lord's TARDIS to understand and speak any alien language. In a few moments, when the Time Lord's link with his ship is blocked, we will not be able to communicate."

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Chapter 10: Dix

Author's Notes: Thank you everyone for your kind reviews - both here and on my fic journal. They are greatly appreciated!

Dix: Seducing a Time Lord....


"Do you trust me?"

Rose turned away from the opening in the rock, momentarily reliving the fear she had felt while on board the alien spaceship at Christmas. She had been entirely reliant on the UNIT translator to communicate with the Sycorax leader until the Doctor had recovered from his post-regenerative trauma. Then again, she had been able to understand the Doctor during his brief moments of lucidity. She wavered, considering her options as Lyra waited for her response. Rose knew that the Doctor was able to speak English, but she had no idea what state he'd be in after whatever the 'extraction' process entailed. What would she do if he needed help? And for that matter, how would she know? She gritted her teeth together as she made her decision. "All right - I trust you. What do I need to do? Just let you in my head?"

"It is not that simple, Rose Tyler - there are a few things I can try, but we must be quick before the link between the Time Lord and his ship is blocked."

"Just do it, then." Rose closed her eyes, steeling herself for the by-now-familiar pain in her temples that a connection with the Sisters generally caused. She wasn't disappointed. After the initial pain faded, she could feel a slight warming sensation with the contact and was startled to realize that she could hear the faint humming of the TARDIS in her head. Just as suddenly, though, it was gone. She chanced a peek at Lyra's face, noting that her eyes were closed, the frown on her face making the new wrinkles seem much more prominent. "Lyra?" she whispered, "What was that?"

Sighing, Lyra dropped her fingers from Rose's temples. "I attempted to make contact with the Time Lord's ship, but the connection is being refused. I am too weak for another attempt, but there is something else we could try."

Rose nodded, closing her eyes, preparing herself for the inevitable pain. She felt Lyra's fingers at her temples again and suddenly it seemed that she was viewing her entire childhood. Images flashed before her eyes in rapid succession, including one of her first Doctor, when he had sat next to her infant self in a carrier and lectured her about not bringing about the end of the world. She smiled softly at the memory as she felt Lyra's fingers slip from her temples. Lyra sat back on her heels, a haggard look on her face. "Lyra?" Rose hissed in alarm. "Are you all right?"

Lyra closed her eyes briefly, looking extremely weary. "I am well, Rose Tyler - just tired. It would have been much easier to keep your link to the Time Lord's ship open, had it allowed us to, than it was to attempt to link my thoughts to your mind's speech centers."

Rose blinked in surprise. "Were you - were you able to do it?"

"I am not sure. You will have to give me a moment, Rose Tyler. I am extremely fatigued. I do not think I have the reserves for another attempt at this time, I am sorry."

"'S ok," Rose watched as Lyra sat heavily, leaning against the side of the small fissure they currently occupied. "Just rest. Try to get your strength back."

"Thank you, Rose Tyler," Lyra said quietly, closing her eyes again. "I just need a moment."

Rose turned her attention back to the opening in the rock, barely able to see the Doctor's still form through the circle of orange-red robes around him. His head was still cradled in Melina's lap, her fingers pressed firmly to his temples. The volume of the Sisters' chanting increased, and Rose watched as the Doctor once again tried to dislodge Melina's grasp, his body arching off the linen-covered rock. Riza scooted forward, placing a hand on his chest to still his effort. Rose fought back a wave of profound jealousy as Riza's touch became a caress, her hand trailing slowly down the Doctor's pale chest and abdomen. Riza briefly ran her hand over the sheet-covered lower portion of his body, frowning as she did so.

"His response is slow, High One," Riza reported, returning her hand to the Doctor's bare chest and stroking softly.

"Give it time, Sister Riza - Sister Melina has yet to complete her task. Regardless of the status of our other Sisters, we cannot rush him." Ohica was frowning as she moved to Melina's side.

"It is almost completed, High One," Melina said quietly to Ohica, her eyes remaining closed. "His connection to his ship is unusually strong and it is taking longer than I had anticipated - " she paused as the Doctor gasped, a look of pain crossing his features. "Just a moment more - " Melina fought to maintain contact with the Doctor's temples as he began to toss restlessly. As he slowly relaxed, Melina released her grip, addressing Ohica in a series of melodious tones. Rose's eyes widened as she realized that the Doctor's connection to the TARDIS was now gone. She glanced over to where Lyra was still leaning against the side wall of the fissure, apparently asleep. Rose frowned, reluctant to disturb her, and turned her attention back to the Doctor.

The Sisters seemed to have no further need of their circle, and Rose guessed that whatever 'extra senses' the Doctor possessed were now completely blocked. Her suspicion seemed to be confirmed as she watched Melina slowly ease the Doctor's head from her lap and shift over to his side, opposite to where Riza was. Ohica had moved as well, and was now addressing the remaining Sisters. She appeared to be giving instructions, and Rose watched as the Sisters hurried to position the large earthen vessels not far away from the Doctor's feet. They seemed to be placing them very deliberately, and Rose began to wonder just how they were going to collect the Doctor's artron. A soft groan interrupted her train of thought, and she looked back over to see Melina dropping soft kisses to the Doctor's face and neck, before gently guiding his mouth to hers. Dismay flooded through her as she watched him hesitantly return her kiss, bringing both of his hands up to her shoulders. Riza began to softly massage the skin at his temples, and Rose watched as the Doctor turned from Melina to lick and nip at Riza's fingers. Melina grasped his chin and gently turned his face back to her, kissing him deeply. Was this how one seduced a Time Lord? She guessed that the soporific must have a great deal to do with it, as she'd never known the Doctor to be the type to...dance.

Rose's thoughts were interrupted again as she saw that the Doctor had broken away from Melina's kiss and was muttering softly in a musical-sounding language, somewhat similar to the Sisters'. Rose's relief at seeing him resist Melina was short-lived as she realized that she couldn't understand what he was saying either. She watched as he weakly tried to roll away from Melina, only to have Riza pull him into another deep kiss, continuing her massage of his left temple as she did so. Melina scooted up behind him, stroking gentle circles over his abdomen with one hand and restraining his arm with the other. As Melina continued her delicate ministrations, Rose could see the beginnings of a faint, glittery golden trail on the Doctor's pale skin that marked where Melina's hand had been. The sheet had ridden low, displaying the Doctor's lithe, slender frame, flat abdomen and the prominent crests of his hips. He was beginning to moan softly, giving a loud groan as Melina's hand slipped under the sheet. It undoubtedly wouldn't be long until.... Rose quickly turned away in frustration, wiping at her eyes with the back of her least grimy hand.

Rose.

"Lyra? What --" Rose saw that Lyra seemed to have recovered somewhat, but still looked extremely fatigued.

You can hear me? Do you understand?

"Yes?" Rose responded. She realized that she could hear Lyra's voice in her head, even though the Sister hadn't actually spoken. "I can hear you - you're talking English!"

Good.

Rose watched as Lyra's eyes closed again and she tried to block out the noises that she could hear the Doctor making - noises that sounded...distressed? She quickly looked back through the opening to see Melina and Riza being joined by additional Sisters in an attempt to subdue the now struggling Doctor.

Rose - we do not have much time.

Rose turned back to give Lyra her attention. Her eyes remained closed, a serene expression on her face.

I cannot maintain this contact with you for long - it is too much of a drain on my system right now.

Rose swallowed hard as she heard the Doctor's loud, pained cry - followed by what sounded like rapid, agonized speech. "What's wrong, Lyra? What's happened? Is he ok?"

It is difficult to understand him, but he is fearful - he thinks he will regenerate. It is a common reaction to one of the elements within the soporific. I believe is telling my Sisters to move away from him.

Rose blinked back tears, remembering how her first Doctor had yelled for her to stay away - just before his body was consumed by golden energy and he had changed. "But - I thought you said that this wouldn't hurt him...."

He will not regenerate. It is the mobilization of the artron that he is feeling.

Rose hung her head. "So it's almost over then?"

No. He resists - he is no longer responding to my Sisters.

"What?" Rose questioned. "I thought that the new soporific of yours and that blocking thing that Melina did --"

Do not be alarmed. I may have the solution.

Rose gritted her teeth, turning back to the opening. The Doctor was still struggling vainly against a multitude of Sisters, while Ohica was trying to press her fingers to his temples. Her eyes widened as she suddenly saw Lyra in her peripheral vision, slowly approaching the group. "Lyra, no!" she hissed. She watched helplessly as Ohica rose and approached Lyra, speaking to her in their melodic language. The other Sisters were watching intently.

Suddenly, Ohica was looking right at her through the opening in the rock, and Rose felt a stab of fear. She scrambled backwards in the dirt to get away from the opening, quickly reaching the fissure's entry and preparing to run. To where, though, she had no idea, as she didn't think she'd be able to find her way back to the TARDIS. Rose paused, realizing that she couldn't just leave the Doctor - she had to try to help him regardless of how afraid she was.

A moment later, she realized that her brief hesitation may have cost her her freedom, as her arms were grasped and she was brought to her feet by two of the Sisters. She tried to dig her heels into the dirt but to no avail as she was dragged, kicking and struggling, to be dumped in an unceremonious heap at Ohica's feet. Ohica addressed her in a low voice, narrowing her eyes as she did so. As Rose blinked in confusion, Lyra touched Ohica's arm, gesturing toward Rose, seeming to explain about something. Ohica's eyes widened briefly and Rose waited, fervently hoping that the Sisters wouldn't throw her in the nearest convenient dungeon. Ohica turned, giving what sounded like orders, and Rose found herself hauled to her feet again - only this time, she was dragged over to where the Doctor was being restrained by several of the Sisters. His eyes were tightly shut and a grimace marred his features as he continued to toss and twist. As Rose was pushed down to the rock by the Sisters, she looked back to where Lyra stood, a questioning look on her face. Lyra nodded to her.

Kiss him.

Back to index


Chapter 11: Onze

Author's Notes: Onze: 'Kiss me, I'm dying....'


Kiss him.

Rose was almost positive that whatever jiggery-pokery Lyra had done inside of her mind to make her thoughts understandable was failing. She looked back at the Sister in silent question.

Rose Tyler, please do as I say - there is no time to waste. The Time Lord believes that he will soon regenerate and that his ship is no more. He must be calmed before the extraction can proceed.

"You think he'll calm down just because I'm familiar? Why can't I just talk to him?" Rose asked, as the Doctor continued to struggle against the group of Sisters restraining him.

He will calm because he is bonded to you.

"What?" Rose was now sure that she wasn't hearing Lyra's voice in her head correctly. "Bonded? What are you talking about?"

When I probed his mind, I could see the bond. It is weak, but exists. The Time Lord more than likely does not realize its presence.

"You mean, the fact that we're friends? Something like that?" Rose questioned, trying to ignore another pained cry from behind her.

No. The Time Lord is mated, but his mate is no more. He subconsciously seeks another and has begun the process with a bonding - to you.

Rose sat still for a moment, trying to digest this information, feeling her heart pounding erratically in her chest. It seemed silly - the Doctor had never shown any interest in her in that way, or given any indication.... The only time she'd had any contact with him of an intimate nature, with him not being drugged, of course, was when her body had been possessed by Cassandra on New Earth. She had kissed him then, but Cassandra had been the one in control, not her. The Doctor had never mentioned the kiss afterward, and she assumed he had done so to save her from embarrassment. Now she wasn't so sure.

She looked over her shoulder, seeing that the Doctor was still fighting the group of Sisters attempting to restrain him. A thin sheen of sweat was on his brow, and his breath came in short pants. Rose was sure that she hadn't been wrong about the exact nature of their relationship. They were friends, companions - nothing else. When they had run into his previous companion, Sarah Jane, and she'd asked him if he would eventually leave her behind as well, he'd told her why he avoided close relationships, avoided love. With the prospect of assisting in the Doctor's seduction staring her in the face, and the newfound knowledge that there was some kind of 'bond' between them, she hesitated. Rose knew that he'd consented to the extraction, but he had not known that she might be involved in the process. If she cooperated with the Sisters, her relationship with the Doctor would change - but into what, she didn't know.

Rose Tyler. My Sisters are dying. You must help us - please!

Then again, surely the Doctor wouldn't be upset over one kiss? That was all the Sisters were asking for, after all. One kiss. She could handle that. Of course, when all this was over, things might be awkward between them for a little while, and she'd be nursing a broken heart all over again, but it would eventually pass. It always did.

Steeling her nerves, she turned around and closed the short gap between herself and where the Doctor lay, still tossing and twisting. The Sisters actively involved in restraining him looked at her quizzically as she approached. Rose noted with a small amount of satisfaction that Melina was frowning. The soft candlelight of the chamber brought out the rich chestnut of the Doctor's tousled hair, contrasting with the paleness of his skin. The light dusting of freckles across the bridge of his nose and cheekbones only added to his charm. One of the Sisters had drawn the sheet back up to his waist at some point during his struggle, but she could see enough of his unclothed form to be greatly appreciative. He had the physique of a dancer, lithe and graceful. She could easily imagine his elegantly long limbs entwined about hers and quickly dashed the thought, a strange flutter in her chest.

Kiss him. His Time Lord senses are blocked and he is fully under the influence of the soporific. If the formulation is correct, his human side should not be able to refuse his feelings for you. You won't be able to telepathically stimulate him as Sisters Melina and Riza did, but there should be no need.

The Doctor was continuing to thrash and Rose's heart went out to him. She gently laid a hand on his chest, feeling the rapid beats of his hearts under her palm. "Shhhhhh," she soothed. "I'm here." Taking a deep breath, she cupped his cheek to still him long enough to place a chaste kiss at the corner of his mouth.

He quieted almost immediately, his eyes fluttering open and a shocked expression on his face. "Rose?" he rasped out, continuing in a musical language that she couldn't understand.

"Doctor - I can't understand what you're saying," Rose said quietly, taking in the dilation of his eyes. Only a thin rim of chocolate remained at the periphery.

He blinked, looking momentarily confused before his face contorted in anguish. "Rose - the TARDIS - can't sense her - she's gone!"

Rose wanted nothing more than to comfort him, to stroke her fingers through his hair and assure him that everything would be fine. She settled for touching him lightly on his shoulder. "'S ok - the TARDIS is right where you left it. You just can't feel her right now."

He seemed to consider this, remaining quiet while the Sisters released him and slowly moved back. Once he was freed, though, he tried to roll up on one side to face Rose but was unsuccessful. "Can't sense - she's all that I had left - can't sense her. Going to change - can feel it." He arched off the linen, gasping. "Need to move - you need to stay back," he said haltingly between shuddering breaths.

She shifted from her knees to sit beside him, patting his arm and feeling somewhat awkward. "Doctor, Lyra said that you're not going to regenerate. She said it was the artron that you're feeling." Rose could see that he still gritted his teeth and wondered if any of what she was saying was getting through to him. "Doctor?"

"The TARDIS?" he inquired, looking up at her with pleading eyes.

Rose gave up her pretense and began to smooth his ruffled hair away from his eyes, watching as his eyes slid shut with her touch. "They've blocked some of your - senses? Your link to the TARDIS, too."

The Doctor began to squirm again, his eyes screwed shut and teeth clenched. "Hot - burning up. Never said - they never said - they'd block. Feels - like I'm blinded. So hot - " He fought to speak coherently, rolling toward Rose.

Rose continued to stroke his forehead lightly and as she watched, a faint glimmering golden trail formed where her fingers had been. The Doctor tossed restlessly, beginning to moan at the contact.

Kiss him! His artron has activated - he will continue to be distressed until it is mobilized and extracted - you must distract him!

Mustering up her courage, Rose bent forward and kissed the Doctor full on the lips. She felt his sharp intake of breath, his eyes opening wide and eyebrows arching up into his hairline.

"Rose, I...."

She leaned in for another kiss, catching him open-mouthed this time. Lyra had said in her mind that he might not be aware of a bond, at least not yet. Rose slid her lips softly along his, trying to coax a response out of him.

It didn't come. Her kiss wasn't returned and she pulled back, watching as he opened his mouth, then closed it, regarding her with a strangely dark, intense gaze.

"I can't...."

She hung her head, trying desperately not to cry. Lyra had seemed sure, so sure that he would respond to her. Obviously she'd been mistaken. The Doctor had told her before on several occasions that he avoided 'domestics' and she should have listened, to avoid this horrible, empty pain she could now feel building in the center of her chest. Hot tears gathered at the corners of her eyes and began to spill down her cheeks. "'M sorry...won't do it again," she managed to mumble, her voice cracking.

"I can't stop myself...." With an extreme effort, the Doctor pushed himself up on shaky arms and twisted toward her to press his lips to hers.

Rose's mouth dropped open in shock. He was kissing her...he was actually kissing her - he was obviously under the influence of the soporific, but still....

"Please," the Doctor implored, his voice ragged. He collapsed back down to the rock, taking Rose with him. She landed heavily on his chest and lay there for a moment, listening to his racing hearts. She quite suddenly became aware of his fingers stroking and shifting at her temples, his lips pressing against her forehead.

"Doctor?" she whispered.

He groaned loudly as he buried his hands in her hair and moved his lips to hers. Any coherent thoughts Rose might have had went out the window as the Doctor deepened the kiss, tentatively lapping at her mouth with his tongue. He tasted of honeyed flowers, heady and sweet. She realized it must be remnants of the soporific and wondered if enough remained to affect her, but banished the thought as he continued to kiss her deeply and tenderly. It was as though he'd been wanting to do so for a long while and now that he was being allowed to, he was going to savor it for as long as it lasted.

The Doctor eventually broke the kiss, moaning quietly. Rose looked into his hooded eyes and swallowed hard at the raw need she saw reflected in their dilated depths. He shuddered under her gaze, and she could feel him trembling from trying to keep himself under control.

Rose Tyler, Sister Ohica's patience runs short. She is asking Sister Melina to assist you or take over bringing the Time Lord to climax.

Sitting up, Rose looked over to where Ohica and Melina stood, deep in conversation. Melina turned her head to look at Rose, a smug expression on her face. "No!" Rose exclaimed. "She's not putting a hand on him! Just - just tell me what I need to do," she said softly, her voice wavering.

Lyra turned back to Ohica, conversing animatedly. Ohica looked at Rose, frowning.

His human side is in control now that his Time Lord traits are blocked. He should respond as such. You will need to touch him.

Rose felt her cheeks color in embarrassment. "What, you mean under the sheet?" She tried to briefly ignore the Doctor as he murmured something that she couldn't understand and grasped one of her hands, nipping at her palm.

He will need to be uncovered for the extraction. If you do not feel that you can bring him to climax, Sister Melina has indicated her willingness. She has no bond to him, though, so he will not respond as quickly or thoroughly -

"No!" Rose quickly interrupted Lyra's voice in her head. She looked down at the Doctor, who was now licking and sucking at her fingers. "She can't have him!" She lowered her voice, looking directly at Lyra. "I'll - I'll do it, but I want all of them - except you, Lyra - to get back!"

But we will need to collect the elixir -

"I mean it - GET BACK!" Rose watched as Lyra addressed the rest of the Sisters, who began to move away, looks of confusion on many of their faces.

When Rose felt that the Sisters were far enough away to afford the Doctor some semblance of privacy, she slowly drew the sheet down, exposing him to her view. He was beautiful, his skin smooth, like something that had been born yesterday. A smattering of soft downy hair covered his chest, his lithe form glistened with a thin sheen of sweat and a faint glow of gold. His breath hitched as she ghosted her hand down his side. His state of arousal was very evident and she felt her heart race uncomfortably. Steeling her resolve, she lay down beside him, her hand moving lower.

She smiled softly at the look of rapture that was apparent on the Doctor's face as she tentatively took his cock into her hand. He turned his head to nuzzle at her neck, then began to pant as Rose began to stroke him lightly, the trails of glowing gold on his skin intensifying. He whimpered as her touch grew increasingly provocative.

He is very close. The artron mobilizes. You will need to move away from him when he climaxes.

Rose wanted nothing more than to ignore Lyra's voice in her head, to draw out the Doctor's pleasure as much as she could, but he began to thrust erratically into the confines of her hand, moaning softly. She watched as his face contorted in pleasure, and he cried out, his body arching off the linen-covered rock. Golden, glittering light suddenly blazed in the chamber....



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Chapter 12: Douze

Author's Notes: Douze: 'You share a bond and he needs you.'


Rose quickly rolled a short distance from where the Doctor's convulsing form lay, an arm thrown up to shield her eyes from the glare. Intense golden light shot through with glittering sparkles blazed in the immediate area, concentrated mostly directly above where she and the Doctor were. Finer clouds of rapidly expanding golden dust were quickly spreading through the chamber and Rose watched as the Sisters were enveloped in the haze. The previous looks of suspicion and confusion directed toward her were rapidly changing to smiles and exchanges of tearful hugs.

Someone knelt down beside Rose and a hand tapped at her shoulder. Rose?

Rose sat up to look at Lyra in amazement. The numerous fine wrinkles marring her face had disappeared, her bright green eyes once again clear and luminous. She now appeared to be no older than Rose herself, even though the Sisters had claimed that they had been around for longer than the Time Lord race itself. "Lyra? What's happening?"

The Doctor's artron energy has rejuvenated us - our powers are restored.

Rose turned back to where she could barely make out the Doctor's form in a cloud of fairy floss-like gold. He was still shuddering from the force of his release and Rose was relieved to see his familiar features as the cloud began to dissipate. She started to crawl back over to where he lay, but Lyra restrained her, her hand grasping Rose's arm.

Do not approach him - we must wait until the artron clears.

"But - why? The Doctor said before that I don't absorb it."

We have never seen this much artron at once. The Doctor was indeed correct when he said that his levels were extremely high. Sister Ohica and Sister Valna said you are to be kept from exposure - they do not want you harmed.

Rose watched the Doctor impatiently as she waited - his chest was heaving as he lay gasping for air. "Lyra, is he all right?"

I believe so, but again, we have never seen this much artron discharged at one time. We will be better able to assess him after he is moved.

Rose felt her stomach drop like a stone at Lyra's words. What if he wasn't all right? What would she do? Somehow, she had the feeling that her mother's tea wouldn't be enough to put things right this time. She glanced over at the Doctor's restless form as her guilt and remorse continued to build. What had she done?

A commotion from behind her interrupted Rose's brooding. Ohica was giving orders again, and the Sisters were in the process of adjusting the placement of the earthen receptacles. Many sets of eyes were looking up into the roof of the chamber, and as Rose followed their gaze, she was surprised to see that the most intense focus of golden glittery energy had vanished. The stalactites that had been enveloped by the light were now glowing with gold, and moisture began to condense on their surfaces as Rose watched. Droplets of fluid coalesced and ran down the sides of the stalactites, leaving a glowing trail in their wake. As the liquid began to splash into the receptacles, Rose saw the smiles on many of the Sisters' now youthful faces grow. Lyra touched her on the arm.

The artron has cleared. They will be ready to move him now. Come with me.

Exhausted, Rose allowed Lyra to help her to her feet. Leaving Valna to supervise the collection of the liquid, Ohica moved over to where Lyra and Rose stood, issuing orders. Six of the Sisters moved forward to where the Doctor lay, Melina and Riza among them. Rose bristled as Melina drew the sheet back up to the Doctor's chest, smirking at Rose as she did so and making sure to touch as much of the Doctor's skin as possible. Rose couldn't suppress her grin of triumph as the Doctor visibly flinched and turned away from Melina's touch. Melina frowned.

Rose Tyler, please - come with me. You need to wash.

Rose looked down, noting with dismay that Lyra was correct - she was filthy. Several cobwebs clung to the ends of her hair and clothes, and the knees of her jeans were caked with dirt. Her palms and fingers were also grimy, with the exception of the ones that the Doctor had been sucking on. While her stomach churned at the thought of her dirty fingers in his mouth, she couldn't help but shiver at the memory of the gentle suction of the Doctor's mouth on her digits, or his lapping tongue....

She shook her head to clear her thoughts and watched as the six Sisters lifted the litter and hauled the still-shuddering form of the Doctor out of the cavern, Ohica leading the way. Lyra grabbed Rose's arm and together they tailed the strange procession through the wooden door.

***************

Rose was taken through familiar corridors to a small chamber alongside the room the Doctor was taken to. It reminded her of a sauna, with minimal furnishings and a small pool of water within, all dimly lit by several flickering candles. Several wooden buckets sat on a low bench alongside the pool, intermingled with a few stoppered glass flasks filled with amber-hued oil. Two unused orange red robes hung from a wooden rack against one wall and several fluffy towels were piled on a nearby chair. A basket sat nearby with what appeared to be clean cotton undergarments.

You may change into one of the robes while your clothing is cleaned. I will return shortly to retrieve you.

When Lyra had exited, Rose looked into a polished piece of brass that hung on one wall, serving as a mirror. She looked a fright. Her hair was limp and scraggly after having been out in the rain, and her mascara had run and was smeared across both of her cheeks. Her lips were slightly swollen from the Doctor's kisses, and her bottom lip was still sore to the touch. She ran a finger over it, remembering the feel of the Doctor's warm tongue gliding across....

Shaking her head, Rose quickly shrugged out of her soiled clothing and tested the temperature of the pool with a toe. It was warm, and she quickly climbed in and immersed herself, the water immediately soothing her frazzled nerves. She unstoppered one of the glass bottles and after sniffing cautiously at it, poured a bit of the fragrant oil onto a small sponge that she had found. She hurriedly cleansed her skin and hair and rinsed, wrapping herself in one of the towels on the chair. After drying herself, she had rummaged through the basket, finding a camisole and a pair of knickers that fit decently. She put them on along with one of the borrowed robes and was trying to comb the worst of the knots out of her wet hair when Lyra returned.

Good. You are almost ready. Your presence is needed.

"By who?" Rose muttered, yanking the comb through her hair aggressively. Lyra approached her, taking the comb from her hand and gesturing for her to sit on another wooden chair.

The Time Lord must rest to recover his strength. He is fighting our efforts to assist him.

"I'm not helping you hurt him - I've already done enough," Rose responded in a small voice. She willed herself not to cry as Lyra removed the remaining tangles from her hair and carefully braided it into a single, wet plait.

Lyra stood, reaching a hand down to Rose and smiling gently. This is for him, not for us. You share a bond and he needs you. Please come.

Rose allowed Lyra to help her to her feet and followed her to the adjacent chamber, swallowing hard. The room was the same comfortable place that she had awoken in before, especially now with a familiar occupant in the large central bed. The fireplace once again blazed high, but the Doctor appeared to be shivering under the thin sheet, his body tightly curled, eyes screwed shut and teeth clenched. "Lyra? Is he cold? What's the matter with him?" Rose inquired.

He is not doing well - Sister Ohica believes it is the result of losing so much artron at one time. Lyra paused as the Doctor muttered in the musical language that Rose couldn't understand. He is asking for you.

"Because of the bond thing?"

Yes. His mate is long since gone and he is newly bonded. He seeks Gallifreyan comfort.

"But - but I'm not Gallifreyan. Will I still be able to help him?" The Doctor shuddered and Rose could feel her guilt multiplying by the second.

I do not know how long Sister Melina's block on his senses will last, but it appears to be quite durable. I will assist you if necessary. Lyra nudged Rose toward the bed. Go to him - please.

Rose slowly approached the bed where the Doctor was still huddled, intermittent spasms racking his body. Climbing onto the bed, she immediately sank into the bedding, hindering her progress. The borrowed reddish-orange robe that she wore wasn't helping either and Rose cursed under her breath. Finally reaching the Doctor, she flopped down beside him, pressing her face into his shoulder. Inhaling deeply, she thought that she could smell the same fragrant oil that she had used in the neighboring bathing area. She glanced over to the bedside table to see that a shallow water-filled basin along with a stoppered bottle and sponge now sat alongside the glass carafe. Intense jealousy shot through her as she realized that he had been bathed - by Melina, no doubt. Her murderous thoughts were interrupted by a sharp intake of breath and a small grunt as the Doctor shifted closer to her.

Rose held perfectly still as the Doctor reached a hand across to her face, stroking one temple gently. Rose didn't notice anything untoward associated with the gesture, but gasped in surprise as he suddenly pulled her flush against him. She blushed hotly, realizing he was still naked under the sheet. His lips met hers, and he began to kiss her, lapping and sucking gently at her lower lip. As his tongue began to explore the interior of her mouth, Rose realized that his fingers were still at her temples, shifting and pressing intermittently. The Doctor broke the kiss and pressed his forehead to hers, moaning in frustration. "Lyra?" Rose whispered. "What's he doing?"

He is attempting to enter your mind. His senses still appear to be blocked. If you are comfortable accepting him, I will assist. Lyra stopped short of the bed, hands folded, awaiting Rose's response.

"Yeah, it's ok," Rose murmured, running her fingers down the Doctor's cheek as he continued to finger her temples. "Whatever he needs, just do it."

Very well. Rose watched as Lyra moved into the tight space behind the ornately scrolled metal headboard of the bed to reach her hand through, pressing two fingers to the Doctor's temple. He shuddered, arching up against Rose. Lyra then reached out her other hand to Rose's temple, stopping just short of contact.

Rose nodded. "Do it." Lyra's fingertips touched her temple and she was suddenly overwhelmed....

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Chapter 13: Treize

Author's Notes: I continue to be humbled by the amazing response to this story - thank you so much for all of the kind reviews!

Treize: Gallifreyan comfort...and a discovery.


Rose reached out her hands to steady herself as a violent storm raged around her. She was caught out in the open, though, with nothing to hang on to and no shelter to be found. Driving rain and wind lashed at her as she attempted to peer through the gloom. She could barely see the clumps of tall grasses a short distance from her, the tips of their long blades nearly touching the ground from being buffeted about by the wind. Scattered rose petals blew by her feet, crushed and torn. Shock began to register as she realized that this was her meadow.

Please remain calm, Rose Tyler. The Time Lord's senses are still blocked. He is having difficulty initiating contact and holding corporeal form. I will assist him.

Rose flinched at Lyra's words inside her mind. This was all her fault. A fresh blast of wind-propelled rain stood her straight up and she welcomed the stinging spray, turning her head to the side and squinting to avoid the full impact on her face. The force of the gale suddenly began to die back and Rose opened her eyes to her storm-battered meadow, the wild roses completely stripped of their petals. As she surveyed the damage, a huddled form partially hidden amongst the tall grasses caught her attention. She ran to it, dreading what she might find.

The Doctor was once again attired in his pinstriped suit, splattered with mud from the damp ground beneath them. Rose rolled him over to lie on his back, noting that he seemed even paler than usual, a streak of mud standing out on his cheek. His eyes were closed and brow furrowed in concentration. As she knelt at his side, he reached out a hand in her direction. She took it, kissing the tips of his fingers and watching as he shuddered.

Replacing the Doctor's hand on his chest, Rose was wondering what she should do, stranded in a virtual meadow with an incapacitated, panicky Time Lord who needed what Lyra had called 'Gallifreyan comfort'. She wasn't Gallifreyan by a long shot, she mused, and she had no idea what he needed. Recollections of Christmas came flooding into her head as she looked at the Doctor's still form, feeling miserable.

As she continued to watch him, though, the Doctor began to stir, rolling over onto his hands and slowly maneuvering his body closer to her until he flopped back down, his head in Rose's lap. On impulse, she threaded her fingers through his ruffled hair, stroking gently. He groaned in response, twisting his body to lie on his back, his head remaining in her lap.

Rose continued to stroke through his hair and across his forehead, her fingers lingering at his temples, trying to emulate the caresses she had seen Melina and Riza give him. The Doctor seemed to relax at her touch, sighing in contentment. As Rose continued her light massage, she was amazed to see the low clouds above her part, revealing cerulean skies dotted with fluffy white clouds. A gentle breeze swept through her hair and she could have sworn she heard birdsong, but the noise was drowned out by soft snores...the Doctor had fallen asleep. Rose shifted slightly, trying to relieve the prickling pains running through her legs, which had gone slightly numb under the weight of the Doctor's head. She glanced up to see that the periphery of the meadow was blurred - and the blurring was advancing slowly toward where she sat. Alarmed, she lifted the Doctor's head off of her legs and to the side, prepared to drag him if necessary away from the advancing distortion. There was no time to run, though, and no escape - both she and the Doctor were engulfed by the anomaly....


***************

Rose came to slowly, rubbing at her eyes to clear her vision. The Doctor's face gradually swam into view. He appeared to be sleeping peacefully, his face relaxed and lips slightly parted. He continued to snore softly, his cool fingers slipping from her temples to trail slowly down her cheek, eventually falling to the mattress below.

You did well, Rose Tyler. The Time Lord should sleep off the remainder of the soporific.

"Is he all right?" Rose asked, sitting up to see Lyra still behind the headboard. "I mean, everything sort of disappeared in the meadow. What happened?"

The Time Lord has calmed enough to fall asleep. He lost tactile contact with you when he did so and whatever vision you saw in your mind while he was linked to you would have vanished. He must rest now and so should you. Are you hungry?

Rose blinked, trying to remember her last meal. The banquet suddenly seemed like it had been ages ago and she was famished. "How long...how long have we been here?"

You have been here for approximately one of your Earth days - twenty-five hours. Would you like something to eat? Something to drink?

Rose gaped at Lyra. An entire day? No wonder she felt like she was starving. "You're not going to drug it again, are you?" she asked Lyra, her eyes slightly narrowed.

I assure you, it will not be, Rose Tyler. There is no need now. Lyra moved from behind the scrolled metal headboard and crossed the room, pausing by the door. I will return shortly.

Rose felt slightly bereft as Lyra exited, closing the heavy wooden door behind her with a dull thud. She turned her attention back to her companion, who had shifted from his side to his back and was obviously trying to take up as much of the bed as possible. "Figures you'd be a bed hog," Rose muttered under her breath. "C'mon, budge up."

When the Doctor didn't stir, Rose sighed, lying down and snuggling in close to him, his arm under the arch of her neck. She fully intended to wait for Lyra to return, but her exhaustion caught up with her and she drifted off into an uneasy slumber.

***************

It was cold in the room when Rose awoke. She was momentarily disoriented, wondering which room in the TARDIS she'd managed to fall asleep in. A quick glance around the room, and specifically across the bed from her, brought the memories and guilt flooding back. The Doctor was still deeply asleep, not appearing to have stirred. The fire had burned down to embers and emitted a dim orange glow. Sitting up, Rose rubbed her orange-red robed arms in an effort to warm them. She noticed that the basin, sponge and oil had been removed from the bedside table and replaced with a tray of unfamiliar food and a large carafe of water. A thick crimson blanket with a chunky, rustic weave lay draped at the foot of the bed, contrasting with the whiteness of the sheeting. The Doctor didn't appear to be cold under the sheet, but she pulled it up over his shoulders and draped the heavy blanket over him, just in case.

Rose shivered from the chill of the stone floor beneath her bare feet as she crossed over to the fireplace, shoving one of the two handy gnarled wooden logs into the embers. After a few moments, the fire blazed to life, imparting comforting warmth and light to the chilly room. She briefly stood in front of the rekindled fire, rubbing her hands together to warm them. Feeling a bit better, she moved over to the bedside table to investigate the contents of the tray. She recognized some of the foods that she had eaten at the banquet, but most were unfamiliar. She decided to avoid the exotic-appearing fruits, even though Lyra had assured her that the food would not be drugged. The dish that resembled bread pudding appeared to be safe, and Rose ate hungrily, washing it down with a glass of water poured from the carafe. Glancing at the tray again, she decided to leave the rest for the Doctor for when he awoke, but a dark, rock-shaped object caught her attention. Picking it up and inspecting it closely, Rose thought it resembled chocolate and knocked off a tiny piece, tentatively placing it in her mouth. It was gorgeous - a rich milky chocolate that melted instantly on her tongue. She sighed happily, wondering if the Doctor liked chocolate, and if not, if she could have the rest.

She was licking the sticky residue off her fingers when a soft keening noise from the bed caught her attention. The Doctor was shifting in the bed, the blanket and sheet falling away from his pale shoulders. Rose immediately climbed up on the mattress, scooching over to where the Doctor lay and smoothing his fringe away from his eyes. "'S'ok - you're safe," she soothed.

His eyes remained tightly closed, but he grasped her hand, pulling it to his lips and inhaling deeply. Rose felt a strange fluttering sensation in her abdomen as the Doctor tentatively licked her index finger, then gasped as he took her finger in his warm mouth, sucking ravenously at the chocolate residue. Flushing at the intimate gesture, she reluctantly extracted her hand from the Doctor's grasp, clumsily wading through the bedding on her way back over to the bedside table. Picking up the chocolate, she struck it against the edge of the table to break it into smaller pieces, gathering them up into the empty dish that had previously held the bread pudding. She climbed back up onto the bed, moving carefully to avoid spilling the contents of the shallow container.

She scooted up to him, pressing a small piece of the chocolate to his lips, watching with fascination as his pink tongue appeared. He licked at the chocolate briefly before engulfing both chocolate and Rose's fingers in his warm mouth. Her stomach was doing flip-flops as she extracted her fingers with a soft popping noise and grabbed another piece from the dish. She continued to feed him, and all too soon the chocolate was finished. Rose wondered what else he might like from the tray and was shifting to go back over to look when the Doctor grabbed her hand, yanking her down alongside him. He kissed her soundly, his tongue making a thorough sweep of her mouth as her eyes widened. Could he still be under the influence of the soporific? Had the chocolate been drugged? A sudden flash of hope flared within her - could it be that he was reacting to whatever bond was between them? Rose reluctantly broke the kiss, breathing hard. The Doctor was panting, eyes still closed, a smear of chocolate at the corner of his mouth. Steadying herself, she sat back, a hand at her chest trying to slow the rapid beating of her heart. After she had calmed somewhat, she began to look around for something to wipe the chocolate away with, deciding against the white sheets or the sleeve of her robe.

Rose glanced over to the tray on the bedside table, not seeing anything that would be useful. As she didn't feel comfortable leaving the room to go to the bathing chamber for a towel, she had reluctantly decided on using a small corner of the sheet when her eyes lit on a small scrap of material tangled in the folds of the sheet. She grabbed it up, curious as to how it conveniently came to be in the middle of the bed. As she unfurled the cloth, she noticed that it looked familiar. It was the missing piece of the Doctor's torn shirt - and was stained with blood.

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Chapter 14: Quatorze

Author's Notes: Quatorze: Rose remembers, and some trouble with timelines....


Rose stared blankly at the bloodstained piece of cloth. It was the missing piece of the Doctor's shirt, but how? She didn't remember seeing any marks or wounds on his body while they were in the Chamber of Candles, but then again, she hadn't seen his back. Surely the Sisters would have treated any injuries he might have sustained in their flight from the Shrine? She hesitated, her fingers on the crimson blanket, wondering if she should check to see that the Doctor wasn't injured. The object of her concern moaned softly in his sleep, rolling up on his side away from her, and Rose decided that she really should look for herself. She slowly drew both blanket and sheet away from his back and leaned in to take a closer look.

The Doctor's back was smooth and unmarked, with a light dusting of freckles on the tops of his shoulders. Lean cords of muscle ran the length of his back on either side of his spine, tapering gently into the slight swell of his buttocks. Rose couldn't see where any blood might have come from, but she did notice a small, dark mole, right between the Doctor's shoulder blades. She smiled, remembering his sensing of it shortly after his regeneration, and wondered if his skin remained that sensitive. On a whim, she blew lightly across it, and was startled as she heard his sharp intake of breath. She sat back quickly, heart pounding with the fear that her exploration might have been discovered. The Doctor remained still, however, his breathing even and deep. Rose relaxed and slowly let out the breath that she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Still sensitive, all right.

She sat back, looking at the piece of the Doctor's shirt clutched in her hand. If the blood wasn't the Doctor's, where could it have come from? Her eyes widened as she remembered... she'd woken in this room... after they'd left the shrine and made a run for the TARDIS.... Lyra had said that the Doctor had stayed with her... after she'd been given the new soporific by Valna. The pain of her injured lower lip returned tenfold with a rush of hazy memory and realization. He'd stayed with her. Blotted the blood from her lip and held her gently while...while he was the perfect gentleman. Without taking advantage of the situation, he'd brought her to the brink and relieved her suffering.... But then, he'd left her, to offer himself up as a kind of sacrifice to save not only her, but Lyra as well. She'd been so weak that she had gone right along with it, going so far as to even help the Sisters take what they wanted from him. For a moment, she couldn’t look at him, couldn’t breathe because of the tight band of guilt slowly constricting around her chest. She wanted nothing more than to crawl back to the TARDIS to hide rather than to see the look in his eyes when he remembered what she'd done. As she dropped the bloodstained cloth to the floor, a half sob escaped her and she wiped at her eyes with a reddish-orange sleeve.

Taking a shaky breath to steady herself, she looked down at the Doctor's still form. He was so beautiful, and so different from anyone she'd ever met. He doesn't need this, Rose thought, trying to get herself under control. She wasn't doing anyone any good in the state that she was in. There was only one thing that mattered to her right now and he was snoring softly, his nose buried in the sheets. She'd gone to the chamber to protect him as much as she could, and while she'd kept him from Melina, he'd still been hurt - possibly even damaged - and she was going to do whatever she could to make it right. She needed to stay strong for his sake.

"Doctor, please wake up," she said, addressing his still form, "because I have a few things I need to say to you. I want to say I’m sorry for not protecting you. But I really didn't have a choice and I won't always be there to help you, like you can’t always be there for me. So yeah, it hurts that I screwed up, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I mean, I pretty much have already, and I’m done doing it. I'm sorry."

Rose took a deep breath, pausing momentarily.

"OK, one more thing and I’ll shut up," she said. "There's something I want to tell you, something I say to you a lot, really, just never out loud. It’s hard for me to say it, but you've stuck by me, been more than patient with me when I've messed up, and helped me when I needed it the most. I think about you, I think about how you'd react, knowing that I like... looking at you and... touching you. I like talking with you and making you laugh and listening to you, even when you're teasing me. Maybe especially when you're teasing me, yeah? I like traveling with you and just being with you. I more than just like it." Rose swallowed hard and leaned in close to the Doctor's ear.

"I want you to know," she said softly, "that I lo…"

The Doctor suddenly jerked slightly and rolled to his back, his eyebrows twitching. Rose lurched back, startled.

His voice, hoarse and low, whispered to her. "I made that bond to you before I regenerated." The Doctor sighed, shifting in the bed, his eyes remaining closed.

"What?" Rose asked, confused.

"At the game station - had to take the time vortex out of your head," the Doctor said groggily. "I couldn't lose..."

Rose, overjoyed to hear the Doctor's sleepy confirmation of a bond, pressed her lips to his, briefly silencing him.

"...you," he finished when Rose pulled back. The Doctor blinked, opened his eyes and regarded her in a very unfocused manner. "Knew that I might not survive, not in that body. That's when I made the bond - when I kissed you. I'm not sorry that I made it - is that all right with you?"

"Hell yes," Rose said, grinning.

"Oh, good," the Doctor sighed. "And if there's any more chocolate, bring it when you come back to bed." Then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Rose rolled her eyes, exasperated.

***************

After watching the Doctor sleep peacefully for some time, Rose got up and tried the door. It was locked. Figures, she thought. The fire was still giving off a good amount of heat and she warmed her hands briefly before moving back over to further inspect the contents of the bedside tray. There wasn't any more chocolate, she noted with some disappointment. Besides the exotic-looking fruits and several other strange-looking dishes, there was what appeared to be a loaf of rustic-looking bread that she somehow hadn't noticed before. There was also a bowl of a slimy green substance that she absolutely wasn't touching under any circumstances.

"Rose - don't leave me, please!"

Rose jumped at the cry from the bed. The Doctor was struggling to sit up, his eyes still shut. Rose climbed back up onto the bed, taking his hand in hers. "Shhhh...it's OK. Lie back down. I'm not going anywhere," she soothed.

"No - she'll leave me. I can see them, the timelines - starting to come back. She's gone!" the Doctor wailed, a look of anguish crossing his features.

Rose pushed the Doctor back down to the bedding with some difficulty, her hand remaining on his chest. "What, there's a timeline when I'm not with you?"

"You're - Rose - you're here. In - in one of the timelines, you've left me - left me because of what I did," the Doctor panted. "But I had to - had to do it to help you, couldn't just watch you suffer - Rose, I'm sorry!"

Rose watched as the Doctor wrestled with his own guilt - it was as touching as it was heartbreaking. "'S ok," she said. "I know that you had to do it." She removed her hand from his chest and gently stroked her fingers along his forehead, trailing down his cheek. "It's all right. There's nothing to forgive."

He turned his face into her touch, pressing his cheek against her hand. "I'm still dreaming," he murmured.

"Why do you think that?" Rose asked softly.

"Mmmmmm..." He nuzzled at her hand. "You're touching me - feels good...."

She gasped as he began to lick at her palm. She'd no idea how long he'd slept, but surely the soporific had worn off by now? And the Doctor had said he could feel his 'extra' senses starting to come back. "Doctor...."

He slowly opened his eyes to look at her before flinching and dropping her hand, turning his head to the side. "No... wrong timeline - can't be...."

Rose was alarmed. "What? What do you see?"

He gritted his teeth, still avoiding looking at her. "You've become one of them. One of the Sisters...."

"Oh." Rose frowned, looking down at her borrowed robe in sudden realization. "Doctor - I just borrowed this. My clothes were dirty, I - "

He looked back at her, grimacing. "Still not right... timeline... so many - so many of them where you aren't there - or I'm not there... can't be...."

Rose threaded her fingers through his and squeezed. "Maybe it's because your blocked senses are coming back, yeah?"

"Yes. No. I mean... I don't know. Haven't had this before...."

Rose watched, feeling helpless as the Doctor continued to struggle with whatever visions he was seeing, and her heart went out to him. "Maybe you should try to rest and save your strength?"

"No... no, no, no...." He released her hand and rolled up onto his side, bracing himself with an elbow, his eyes downcast. "There are some things I need to tell you - tell you while I still can," he said. "I hope you'll let me, after what I did to you - "

"What do you mean, while you still can?" Rose interrupted in alarm. "What do you think is going to happen?" she asked, her heart constricting in her chest.

The Doctor shook his head and looked up at her. "I can't tell you, because I don't know," he said, pushing himself up on shaky forearms, his eyes straying from Rose's eyes to her lips. "But what I can tell you is that I am bonded to you. The bond is getting stronger - and I want your touch, I - I need it, while I can still have it."

Rose was in shock at his words, her hands flying to her mouth. A wave of liquid warmth rushed through her, pooling in her lower abdomen.

"I know that it used to be strictly forbidden, but...." His mouth was opening and closing wordlessly, seemingly at a loss for what he wanted to say. He looked away from her again, eyes downcast and head bowed. "Please," he implored, before looking up and pushing forward to kiss Rose softly and deeply. His tongue lapped at hers before trailing over the roof of her mouth and then withdrawing. When he pulled back, he did so only slightly, so that their lips were still almost touching. Rose could feel the rapid in and out of his breath on her mouth. "I'm yours," he whispered, the sheet slipping perilously low on his hips.

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Chapter 15: Quinze

Author's Notes: Quinze: Une danse pour deux....


Trying to hide how badly her hands were shaking, Rose reached out a hand to trace a path down the Doctor's cheek. He pressed forward to kiss her soundly, but withdrew all too soon, and she moaned softly from the sudden loss of contact of cool lips to hers. Blinking her eyes open, she saw that the Doctor, still weak and groggy from being drugged as well as from his recent artron loss, had collapsed back down onto the bedding. He was panting lightly, and watching her with impossibly dark eyes. Eyes that held mixed emotions... want and need were surely there, but she thought she also could see anxiety... and perhaps fear? She realized that he was waiting uncertainly for her to make the next move and she quickly closed the distance between them. Bending to kiss him, she threaded her fingers through his hair, marveling at its coarse yet soft texture.

The Doctor groaned loudly into Rose's mouth, a hand reaching up to lightly ghost over the planes and angles of her facial features, lingering at her temples before skimming over her braided hair to cup the back of her head and deepen the kiss. His other hand moved to the small of her back, tugging her against him.

Rose, losing her balance, collapsed against his chest with a gasp, breaking the kiss. She lay there briefly, her cheek pressed to his cool, pale skin, listening to his racing hearts before pushing herself up on one elbow to look at his face. Her mouth went dry as she took in the intensity of his gaze, the flames of the dying fire across the room reflected in their depths. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, catching his scent. He still smelled of the fragrant oil that had been used to bathe him, but it somehow smelled different on him than it did on her. She thought she could detect... lotus? Lotus flowers spiked with honey and sandalwood - a warm, lazy scent, seductive and sensual and filled with promise. Bending her head, she softly kissed his chest over both of his hearts, feeling him shudder in response.

Her breath unsteady, Rose shifted, planting soft kisses down his chest to his abdomen. The hem of the sheet was even lower now, revealing the bony crest of one of the Doctor's hips. She pressed a kiss to the inside curvature, delighting in the deep groan that it produced. Sliding a hand down the plane of the Doctor's abdomen, she felt brave enough to skate her fingers over the sheeted outline of his obvious arousal. He jerked at her touch - his breath hitching - and Rose smiled, feeling ridiculously giddy. He wanted her. He really did.

Strong hands gripped Rose's upper arms and suddenly she was hauled up along the Doctor's lean body, coming to rest on his chest. He reached down to bring one of her hands to his lips, kissing each of the tips of her fingers. His eyes gleamed with mischief as he nipped at her palm, his tongue slowly licking a path back up the side of her hand before suddenly engulfing her index finger in his surprisingly warm mouth. All coherent thought left Rose's head as he began to suck gently on the digit, with the occasional nip and graze of his teeth at the side. She could feel warmth continuing to build in her belly as she watched him, his eyes closed as his tongue continued its slow and tortuous exploration.

Releasing her finger with a wet popping sound, he grasped her arms roughly, bringing her up for another kiss. Rose moaned at the sensation of his soft, wet tongue curling about hers as the kiss deepened. She felt herself beginning to burn as he broke the kiss, shifting to drop soft wet kisses to the side of her mouth and the angle of her jaw, before moving down to the hollow of her throat to lick and suck at her skin. She felt more than heard his growl of frustration as he reached the edge of the silken fabric of her borrowed robe. Taking advantage of his brief distraction, Rose pushed herself up and astride his recumbent form, adjusting to sit squarely on his lap.

He gasped, instinctively trying to push up into her through the sheet and her robe with several jerking thrusts. As his hips rocked into hers, she could distinctly feel the size and shape of him through the layers of fabric. On impulse, she reached down between her legs to fondle him through the sheet, grinning as he squirmed and cried out in her grasp. He spoke raggedly in the musical language that she couldn't understand as she began to stroke him, a lovely moan escaping him as he clutched helplessly at her moving hand.

Rose felt a rush of pure feminine triumph as she continued her sensual torture; she wanted nothing more than to see him come undone at her hand and smiled at each low groan and soft whimper that her actions produced. As she slid her fingers along his shrouded length, she delighted in the dazed look in his eyes. He didn't resist as she shifted, moving to straddle his thighs. He pushed himself up on his elbows to watch her intently with darkened eyes as she traced the outline of his cock beneath the sheet, now flat against his belly. Rose caught his gaze briefly before slowly lowering the sheet down his hips, exposing him again to her view. He shuddered as she moved in for a closer inspection that she hadn't had time for previously, teasing him with puffs of air to his cock. He appeared to be uncircumcised - decently long, and not overly thick. She felt his sharp intake of breath as she lightly touched him, his hands fisting in the material beneath him.

Sliding off of his thighs to sit at his side, Rose looked up to see the Doctor's eyes go to half-mast as she curled her hand around his cock, feeling the odd, pulsing double beat beneath smooth skin which, like the interior of his mouth, seemed much warmer than the rest of his body. His mouth went slack as she started to tentatively pull and stroke him, his upper body collapsing back against the pillows of the bed, hips beginning to thrust in time with the movement of her hand.

Bending to press a kiss to his forehead, she watched the bob of his Adam's apple as he swallowed heavily, his breathing ragged. He opened his eyes to her gaze, revealing a raw need that made her throat constrict painfully. Pausing to collect herself, she leaned in again, kissing the hollow of his throat to produce a loud groan of desire - the sound of it sending another rush of liquid heat through her belly. Realizing that she'd stopped her ministrations, she gave his cock a small squeeze, his hips jerking in response to the sudden renewed sensation.

Lying down beside him, she continued to touch the Doctor lightly, feeling the velvet softness of his skin contrasting with the hardness of his erection. As her touch grew bold enough to alter his breathing, he rolled to face her, pressing his face into her shoulder, murmuring in melodious tones. She kissed his cheek, gasping as he turned into her kiss, lapping at her mouth. Rose again squeezed him lightly and he tore his mouth from hers, groaning low and deep before latching on to her neck to lick and nuzzle. His fingers grasped her hips and suddenly Rose found herself pushed down onto her back. The Doctor leaned over her, holding her arms down by the voluminous sleeves of her borrowed robe before swooping in to kiss her. He was a fantastic kisser, Rose thought, trying to stop her head from spinning as his tongue toyed with hers.

Rose felt as if she were falling through stars as he continued his duel with her tongue, his warm, sensual scent filling her senses and setting her aflame. Slipping one hand free, she reached for him, her hand lightly caressing his chest, tracing his lean musculature. Her breath caught in her throat as his hand captured hers, returning it to the surface of the bedding. His mouth shifted from hers, lips and tongue nibbling and sucking at the side of her mouth to the angle of her jaw, sending wave after wave of pleasure crashing through her overheated body.

Rose's breath came in ragged pants as he continued to move slowly, his mouth trailing down her throat. He released her hands as she clenched her fists in the bedding, knuckles white as he sucked gently at the base of her neck. She could feel the coolness of his fingertips as they traced along the edge of her robe. Feeling him shift, she looked up, watching as his gaze drifted lower. White-hot pleasure shot through her as he nuzzled her clothed breast, but he moved back up to kiss her soundly, his eyes burning, still darkened with desire. Anticipation coupled with frustration coursed through her as she watched his gaze rove over her robed form.

With maddening slowness, the Doctor traced with cool hands where his eyes had roamed. Rose was breathless, captivated by the feel of him moving lightly over her robed skin. Her thoughts scattered again as she felt him lean in, his wet tongue tracing the shell of her ear. She gasped, trying to wrench needed air into her lungs as he settled himself onto her body, his hips moving in lazy circles against hers. He propped himself up on his elbows and Rose felt his cool fingertips slowly sliding up the sides of her face, stopping at her temples. She opened her eyes as he pressed his forehead to hers, moaning softly.

Rose could suddenly see flashes of her meadow around her, but it was fuzzy and dull in contrast to its usual vivid clarity. From what she could see in the brief images, the previous damage appeared to have vanished, and the wild roses were once again in full bloom. The Doctor was not there, but she could see the increasing darkness of rolling storm clouds in the distance, and a sudden gust of wind lifted her hair from her shoulders, tangling it behind her.

Rose blinked, feeling the Doctor's fingers shift from her temples. He was looking down at her, his eyes dark and unfathomable. She reached up to him, hands shaking, her palms slick with sweat. He lowered his mouth to her neck again, mumbling indistinctly. "What's that?" Rose murmured, her voice sounding very low and breathy to her ears.

"Your pheromones - can smell them - oh." He shuddered against her and her arms slid under his to encircle his back, squeezing him to her. "Can't think...."

"Want you," Rose panted as his teeth nipped at a particularly sensitive spot on her neck. "Please...."

"Mmmmmm... clothes," the Doctor said softly. "Too many."

Rose watched as one of his hands slid to the front of her robe, searching for the fastenings. He toyed briefly with the hooks before slowly beginning to undo them....

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Chapter 16: Seize

Author's Notes: Seize: Une danse continue pour deux....


"Rose." The Doctor was breathlessly murmuring her name into the hollow of her neck as he fumbled with the hooks of her borrowed robe. She placed the flat of one hand on his temple in an attempt to calm him, rubbing in slow circles. He groaned against her, and scattered goose bumps rose on her skin in the wake of his breath. Rose shivered, clutching at the small of his back.

Finally managing to undo the hooks, he spread the front of her robe open, and Rose felt a flush staining her cheeks at his scrutiny. The pad of one thumb softly traced the edge of her camisole as he propped himself up on one elbow opposite her. His hand moved to one of the thin straps of the camisole, giving it an experimental tug before pulling it down completely. Whispering words of nonsense to her, he moved his hand to lightly skim up her side, tucking a stray lock that had escaped the braid of her hair behind her ear.

He shifted suddenly, pushing himself up above her again, his eyes dilated and wild. Rose's breath caught in her throat as he pulled down the other side of her camisole and moved to settle himself between her thighs. As he pressed a soft kiss to her belly, his hand traced a path through the valley between her breasts, his lips and tongue following. She gasped as his mouth closed around a taut nipple, and buried her hands in his hair to hold him there. Her mouth went dry at the sight of his dark head at her breast, beginning to suckle, his tongue curling about her nipple, sharp teeth scraping at her delicate skin. Sparks shot through her as he shifted to her other breast to repeat his ministrations.

The Doctor paused, breathing raggedly. "Beautiful, you... you're so...." He swallowed hard, shaking his head slightly. Rose could see that he was trembling, trying to keep himself under control. "I - I want...."

"Shhhhhh... " she murmured. "'S ok." She brought a hand up, trailing her fingertips along the side of his face. He watched her with his fiery gaze, his eyes roaming from her lips to her belly. Rose sat up, cupping his cheek to bring his lips to hers. She nipped at his lower lip and pushed her tongue between his lips to twine with his, the kiss wet, soft and messy, and she delighted in his subsequent shudder.

She started, her eyes widening in surprise, as the Doctor suddenly broke the kiss to rip the thin material of the camisole beneath her breasts in two. After a long and appreciative assessment that made her blush hotly, he cupped the weight of her breasts in his hands before moving lower to lap and nip at the sensitive skin of her belly. She jerked from the sudden contact, the voluminous sleeves of the robe that she still wore hindering her efforts to reach for him.

Her desire was climbing rapidly as he continued his gentle mapping of her body. Gasping for breath, she felt a growl vibrate his throat as he reached the hem of the plain cotton knickers she wore. She twitched beneath him as he ran a finger down the front of them, considering the problem. He lightly nipped her over the top of the white cotton, instantly setting her ablaze. She moved to tangle her fingers in his hair, but he shifted, settling his body further down on her thighs, bringing his face closer to the junction of her legs and... oh God. He'd hooked a thumb in her knickers, pulled them to one side and buried his nose in her damp curls, inhaling deeply. She jerked reflexively, the fabric snapping back, barely missing his nose. Before she could register what he was doing, he had grabbed the hem of her knickers, drawing them quickly down over her hips and past her knees, catching them with a well-placed foot to finish pushing them off her ankles.

The room was growing darker, lit now by only glowing embers, and as the Doctor's smoldering gaze roved over her now mostly bare skin, Rose ran a hand over the smooth coolness of one of his shoulders, the light from the fireplace imparting a golden, honeyed hue to his pale skin. She began to pant and shudder in anticipation as she felt his warm breath so close to her core, liquid heat coursing through her body.

Rose jumped slightly as he lowered his head and began to nibble at the inside of one thigh, spreading her legs apart as he pushed himself in between. Her mouth ran dry as she watched him move a hand to her apex, jerking as his fingers parted her folds. His dark head bent closer, his warm tongue snaking out to taste her. Rose couldn't stop her hips from bucking up and gasped as he grasped her buttocks, anchoring himself to push in further. As his tongue traced over her clit, she cried out helplessly, pulsing shocks of pleasure flooding through her body.

"Please - oh God!" Intense pleasure radiated through her as he latched onto the tight bundle of nerves between her folds and began to suck gently. Rose yelped as one of his cool fingers entered her, not as unpleasantly cold as she had imagined, but still unexpected. As he continued to suckle her, Rose's skin was set aflame and she began to greatly appreciate his lower body temperature, his head pillowed on her thigh as he inserted another cool finger into her burning core, slowly stroking her and curling his digits as she bucked wildly against him. Intense feelings of power and possession coursed through her while she watched him, as he continued to worship her with long fingers, lips, tongue and the occasional gentle graze of his teeth. He looked up at her through his fringe, his eyes hooded and filled with pure, intense need and with a twist of his fingers, she was flooded with liquid heat, the blinding light of galaxies and stars exploding behind her eyes.

As she came back to herself, she felt the Doctor's cool body behind her. He had moved to curl himself around the back of her, draping his long limbs around hers. His chin rested on the top of her head, and he stroked gently at her temple with one hand as her heart rate gradually slowed.

Rose pushed a damp lock of hair out of her eyes as she lay temporarily sated, rolling to face him. His eyes were dark and unfathomable as she watched him, hardly daring to breathe as he brought one of his wet fingers to his nose, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply before licking his fingers clean, pink tongue lapping at the web of skin in between. As he hummed his satisfaction, Rose could distinctly feel the hardness of him pressed up against her thigh. "Doctor?" she breathed. "Do you... I m-mean," she stammered, suddenly shy.

He wiped his fingers off on the orange-red robe that still clung to her shoulders, not meeting her gaze. "I want, I mean - well." He shuddered as she curled her fingers around his erection. "The bond - it'd be consummated," he rasped out as she began to stroke him. "Don't know if you - if that's what you w-want," he stammered, breath hitching as Rose continued to gently fondle him. "Gallifreyans - they, we...."

Rose found his awkward hesitation endearing and shifted up to kiss him, tasting the musk of her climax on his lips and tongue. It was intensely erotic, and she could feel her desire beginning to flicker back to life.

He broke the kiss, murmuring in her ear. "We m-mate for life - in the mind. Not just the body."

"So I'd be stuck with you then."

He nodded, swallowing hard, seemingly unable to speak.

"And you wouldn't be so alone," Rose added, watching as his eyes slid shut.

"N-no," he managed to get out. "I don't expect - I mean, I'll understand if you don't...."

Rose brought both hands up to twine around his neck, pressing her hips flush against his. "I want you. 'M never leaving you."

The Doctor groaned, his mouth descending to her neck. "Sure - you're sure?" he murmured, his teeth grazing her pulse.

"More than anything." She shrieked with delight as he attacked her neck with mock ferocity, nipping and biting at her collarbone as he rolled her beneath him, shifting his hips to bring his hard cock into contact with her wet curls. Reaching a hand between their bodies, she guided him to her entrance, gasping as he slid inside of her with minimal resistance.

"Oh. Ohhhhh - Rose." The Doctor began to babble incoherently into her shoulder, his speech punctuated with small gasps and groans. "Hot - burning - Rose, you're burning. And wet, ohhhhhhh...."

Rose could feel the effort he was making to hold himself still, to allow her to adjust to his intrusion. Her breasts brushed against his cool chest, her nipples hardening as she lifted her legs to lock her ankles behind his back, drawing him deeper. He began to move inside of her, shifting his angle and oh, Doctor.

He withdrew from her and plunged back inside, filling and stretching her. As he groaned loudly, Rose gently rocked her hips against his, concentrating on the amazing feel of him sliding in and out. She could feel every inch of him inside of her and she buzzed with pleasure.

His hands gripped the backs of her knees, and he thrust rapidly into her, deeper and harder. Rose clenched down, tightening the grip of her thighs on him as she gyrated her hips. She smiled as the Doctor gasped, throwing his head back and moaning her name. The pressure in her lower abdomen was building quickly, and she gripped the bedding beneath her tightly in her fists. His movements were becoming more erratic, but were still intensely pleasurable. One of his hands slipped from her knee to move between her legs, pressing against her clit. Her hips bucked up against him as he plunged deep inside her, driving her into the soft confines of the bedding. She was beyond caring about how loudly she was screaming as the wave of her second climax ripped through her, catching her unawares.

Rose came to slowly, realizing that the Doctor was still moving within her. He was babbling again, in the beautiful language that she didn't understand. She slowly brought a hand to his face as he slammed roughly into her, his hands on her hips as he buried himself to the hilt inside of her. She gasped as he moved against her sensitive clit, pulling back slightly.

"Please," he groaned raggedly into the hollow of her neck. "Stay with me - don't go...."

"'M never gonna leave you," Rose murmured to him, bringing her arms up to clutch at his shoulders. "Not going anywhere." As she pulled him closer to her body, an alarming thought suddenly crossed her mind.

The artron.

Both Lyra and the Doctor had said that she didn't absorb it, but remembering the glittery golden energy produced by the Doctor's extraction began to fill her with panic. "Doctor?" she managed to squeak out between his thrusts. "What - what about the artron?"

He continued to move within her, becoming more and more erratic. "No soporific. It'll be - ok. You'll see...."

Her thoughts splintered into a thousand fragments as his mouth closed over her breast, sucking gently with each thrust. Her nerves were again set aflame, her skin still exquisitely sensitive to his touch. She felt her muscles trembling as he reared up, pausing for just a moment above her, moving his hands up to either side of her head to anchor himself. Dropping to his elbows, he quickly slid his fingertips back to her temples, his blazing dark eyes capturing hers as he looked down at her, speaking again in his beautiful melodic language. He cried out as he thrust deep within her.

Tendrils of golden warmth and achingly bright pleasure pulsed through her body, filling her with a languid, exquisite heat. She could see a golden glow behind her closed eyelids and she blinked them open to look at him, wanting to see his face in climax.

He wasn't there. She was lying on her back in her meadow, tall blades of grass tickling the backs of her thighs.

Great, she thought, realizing that she was also completely naked. She sat up, wondering if this meant that the Doctor's 'extra senses' had completely returned. She glanced around, not seeing any sign of him.

A clap of lightning coupled with booming thunder caught her attention. As she looked up into the sky above, her jaw dropped as the dense clouds began to roll and boil, a sky the color of burnt orange peeking through the gaps in between.

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Chapter 17: Dix-Sept

Author's Notes: Dix-Sept: A visit and a visitor....


The clouds boiled away to reveal the sun in the sky above - a sky that was burnt orange in color. Rose stood up, wondering what was going on, and began to panic as the world around her began to expand and transform. The periphery of the meadow became more clear and she could suddenly see huge, majestic mountains jutting out of the landscape in front of her, with gleaming silvery trees and shrubbery not far from where she stood. Looking down, she gasped - the tall grass had turned the color of blood. She spun on her heels, finding a sheer rock face not far from her. There was a small opening in the rock that appeared to be the entrance to a cave. Where was she?

Strong hands gripped her shoulders from behind and she started.

"Shhhhhhh. The second sun will be up in just a minute."

The Doctor's voice in her ear was soothing, and Rose's frazzled nerves began to calm. She relaxed in his hold and watched as a ball of flame appeared on the horizon in front of them. As the sun gradually rose higher in the sky, the silvery foliage around them picked up the light and began to glow - appearing to be ablaze - and Rose gasped in astonishment.

"Beautiful, isn't it?" the Doctor murmured in her ear.

"Where are we? I've never seen grass or trees like this."

The Doctor was silent for a moment before replying. "This planet doesn't exist. Well, not anymore. Just in my memories."

"This is your home, isn't it? This is Gallifrey," Rose said, turning to face him. He wasn't in his usual pinstriped suit, but was instead wearing a loosely-fitting flowing robe similar to the one she had borrowed from the Sisters. She flushed hotly as she noted his state of dress as compared to her lack thereof.

He smiled gently at her, tipping her chin up with his hand. "Yes, it is. Or was." He kissed her gently, a soft smile on his lips. "And there's no reason to be embarrassed. There's no one here to see you - well, except for me, of course, and I much prefer you this way, and - "

She pulled his face down to hers to kiss him, effectively cutting off The Oncoming Babble. When she released him, she was more than pleased to see the dazed look on his face. "You were saying?"

"Yes. Well - " he started, clearing his throat. "These are the southern mountains - Mount Lung is just over there and if you look very closely, you'll see Lungbarrow about halfway up on the side of it. K'Anpo's cave is just here." He lowered himself to sit heavily on the red grass, pulling Rose down with him. "This was one of my favorite places as a child." He looked wistfully around him, and Rose saw that his eyes were misty with unshed tears as he paused, momentarily lost in thought.

"Still. Gone now, but I wanted you to see - "

Rose squeezed his hand. "It's beautiful. I'm sorry I won't get to see it for real." She looked around her, taking in the vastness of the landscape compared to her small meadow. "We're inside your head, aren't we?"

"Yes. I'd much rather be in yours, but this seems to be all I can manage right now - inviting you in, that is."

They sat together in silence for a few moments before a niggling thought surfaced in Rose's consciousness. "Doctor? What happened to the artron?"

"Well, without the Sisters' soporific, there shouldn't have been much of it, really. Would've passed right through you - you don't absorb it. It did help with the connection though - I don't think I could've managed this otherwise." He yawned suddenly, trying to stifle it and failing miserably. "Sorry," he apologized. "Still can't quite manage it - I feel completely knackered."

"'S ok," Rose murmured. "Maybe you could use some more sleep, yeah?" She ran a hand through his hair as he shifted his body to recline on the red grass, his eyes drifting shut.

"Oh, Rose?" He spoke quietly, not bothering to hide his fatigue. "If I fall asleep, I'll probably lose contact with you... you might notice that things will start to dissolve away... don't be alarmed...."

"Got that bit already, thanks," Rose replied, smoothing his fringe from his eyes.

"Really? I don't remember telling you about that...." He trailed off, his voice low. Rose looked up to see the now familiar distortion approaching them.


***************

Rose blinked rapidly, realizing that she was having great difficulty getting air into her lungs. She soon identified the problem - the Doctor had collapsed on her chest, his body spent. His light, even breaths tickled her neck and she smiled as she tried to shift from beneath him without disturbing his slumber. Rose gasped as his cock slipped from her body, not having registered that he had remained inside her. She carefully pushed his unresisting form onto his back, drawing up the rumpled sheet to cover his nakedness. Glancing down with a grimace, she pulled her robe closed over the tattered remnants of her camisole, wondering when she might be able to get her clothes back.

A shifting movement in the far corner of the dimly lit room startled her and she clutched at the fastenings of her robe. "Who's there?" she called out.

An elegant, shapely woman in flowing robes moved from out of the corner. She paused at the fireplace, throwing in a gnarled log. As the fire flared back to life, Rose saw the woman's waist-length honey-blonde hair.

"Sister Melina," Rose said with some contempt. "Did you come to let us out?"

The Sister gave her a withering glance, anger flaring in her deceptively young hazel eyes. "I am able to understand your speech again," she sighed. "What a pity. My blocks must have worn completely off." She turned toward Rose, a sneer marring her youthful features. "You seem to have taken something that belongs to me."

Rose moved closer to the Doctor, her hand protectively curling over his sheeted hip. An uneasy feeling washed over her as she realized that something was very off about the Sister's behavior. "I have no idea what you're talking about. You've got what you wanted from him, now let us go!" she exclaimed, her voice only slightly wavery from her jarred nerves.

"That will not happen. Sister Ohica might wish to release you, but the Time Lord is much too valuable. You won't be going anywhere."

Rose cast a quick glance at the Doctor, seeing that he was still deeply asleep, completely oblivious to this new turn of events. "I want to see Sister Ohica," she said, trying to hide her increasing unease and wondering if she'd be able to wake the Doctor anytime soon.

"Oh, I don't think so. Our esteemed 'High One' should be testing the substitute elixir at any time now, along with Sister Valna. Valna got it in her head somehow that she could trust me to make the final dilutions - a most grievous error. It would seem that your Doctor will be correct after all; the elixir formed from his artron will be fatal."

Rose's heart began to hammer in her chest as the Sister moved to the side of the bed where the Doctor lay peacefully sleeping. "What?" she questioned, keeping a wary eye on Melina. "What do you mean, fatal?"

Melina knelt on the floor, her arms crossed on the bed, gazing at the Doctor's relaxed features, a small smile on her face. "I have been studying for some time now with Valna to learn to mix and dilute her concoctions - I was surprised to find that she was most susceptible to my power of suggestion and very easy to manipulate. The substitute elixir will be quite lethal when tested, I assure you."

"I don't understand." Rose was struggling to wrap her head around this new information. "Why would you want to kill Sister Ohica or Sister Valna?"

"The Sisterhood of Karn has been under the rule of Sister Maren, then Sister Ohica for far too long. Your Doctor himself said that we were stagnant and unchanging the last time he was here - I think I would agree. It is time for us to stop hiding within this mountain and take our rightful place as rulers of this universe." She trailed an elegantly manicured fingertip down the side of the Doctor's face, and Rose repressed the urge to bat the woman's hand away.

"It is time for the Cult of the Pythia to rise again," Melina said softly. "And with your Doctor's assistance, it can and will happen. There is no Rassilon to banish us this time and the Time Lord society that held us in check is no more. We will not fail."

"Your Sisters," Rose said, doing her best to remain level-headed and not panic. "They'll stop you. You're a collective, right? They'll find out about your plans by reading your mind. Just because you can manipulate Sister Valna doesn't mean that you'll be able to get away with this!" Melina raised her gaze to Rose's face and Rose gulped at the glittering coldness of the woman's eyes.

"During one of our previous visits by a Time Lord, I discovered that a small amount of extra artron, obtained after the extraction, does wonders for one's mental powers. They are now such that I am able to hide them from my Sisters while my abilities continue to grow."

Rose was confused for a moment. "Extra artron? Where would you get that?" Melina smiled at her, a knowing smile that made her blood run cold.

"Oh, can't you guess? The soporific drops the mental barriers of a Time Lord for quite some time - and my mental stimulation can be quite powerful," Melina said, suddenly leering at Rose. "With the encouragement that I gave him, he would have slept with anyone after the extraction - oh, I suppose he did, didn't he?" Melina taunted. "Did he beg you? Or did he only have to look at you? He does have quite lovely eyes, doesn't he?" Her gaze roved appreciatively over the Doctor's slumbering form as she toyed with the hem of the sheet.

Rose felt her stomach drop as her cheeks flushed hotly. Surely Melina couldn't be telling the truth... or could she? What about the bond between them? He had wanted her, she was sure of that....

"And the rest of him is beautiful as well. It's a shame that you were here to receive the extra artron instead of myself - and you can't even absorb it," Melina sighed. "What a waste. I won't be making that mistake again." She pressed two fingers to the Doctor's temple and he gasped, his body going rigid. "And he is so responsive, too," she crooned. "So starved for mental stimulation and affection now that he is the last of his kind - I imagine he will be utterly delightful once he is mine and sleeps in my embrace. It will truly be a pleasure to bend him to my will once I have been elevated to lead my Sisters."

"He's bonded to me," Rose said angrily between gritted teeth. "You saw. He didn't respond to you in the Chamber of Candles - "

Melina let her fingers slip from the Doctor's temple and he slumped back to the bed. "You forget how short your lifespan is, human," she said with contempt. "It can be made even shorter and upon your demise, the bond will be broken and he will remain at my side as my consort. Eventually, he will be under my control enough for the Sisterhood to gain access to his TARDIS, to travel and conquer. Like the great Pythia, we will be Goddesses ourselves and rule the stars!" she exclaimed. "We would only have to return to this horrid little rocky planet to produce more of the elixir - although that will be much, much more enjoyable now."

Rose's alarm was growing rapidly. "But," she started, desperate to find any flaw in Melina's plan. "He's not immortal either - what are you going to do when he's gone? He's the last Time Lord!"

Melina glared coldly at her. "He is Gallifreyan - just as we were before our banishment. Even though his physiology has been modified by Time Lord science, his life will still be extended by the elixir. He will be with me for the rest of time."

Rose felt hot tears beginning to prick at the corners of her eyes. "He'll never willingly help you," she said. "We'll find a way to stop you!"

"I don't think so." Melina gracefully rose to her feet and crossed to the door. "He will help my cause because he has a weakness that I might still need to make use of. That is the only thing keeping you alive right now, Rose Tyler." She opened the heavy wooden door, pausing briefly. "When I next see you, I will be our exalted High One. My Sisters will be under my command and your Doctor will submit to me. I look forward to our next meeting."

Rose scrambled off the bed and ran for the door as Melina pulled it shut behind her with a heavy click. It was locked.


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Chapter 18: Dix-Huit

Author's Notes: Thank you everyone for your continued kind reviews - they are greatly appreciated!

Dix-Huit: In which there is confusion and a misunderstanding.


Rose slumped against the heavy wooden door, exhausted, her voice hoarse from shouting for help. She allowed herself to slide to the floor, her legs folded beneath her. Her hands were beginning to hurt, and she held one up to the light of the fire to examine it; her palm was red from her fruitless pounding on the unforgiving door, and her knuckles were scraped and raw. She felt like crying, but realized it wouldn't do any good. Looking up to the bed, she spied her knickers perilously close to falling over the edge. She crawled over to the bed, snatched them up and awkwardly stood, tugging them on beneath the folds of her borrowed robe. She knew that it was silly, but she somehow felt better about her situation now that her knickers were on.

The Doctor still appeared to be peacefully sleeping despite her earlier noisy shouts, with only the rumpled sheet covering him. Rose drew it up to his shoulder along with the crimson blanket, smiling softly at the serene innocence of his facial features, relaxed in sleep. His hair was in complete disarray, with tufts standing up here and there, while his lips were reddened and slightly swollen. He looked well and thoroughly kissed, and Rose decided that he really should look that way more often, even as she wondered about Melina's spiteful words.

Rose sat on the edge of the bed, trying to calm her racing thoughts. Had Melina been telling the truth or had she merely been taunting her out of anger? Her heart fluttered as she remembered how the Doctor had sweetly told her that he was hers, that he was bonded to her and that he wanted her touch....

While he could still have it.

He'd told her that he could see different timelines - some in which either he or she wasn't there. Could Melina's plan for her early demise have been one of those timelines? It would explain why the Doctor had been so anxious. Or was what Melina had said actually true? That he was so worked up that he would have slept with anyone? Surely anything Melina had planted would have worn off with her blocks of his Time Lord senses, she thought, as her head began to swim with the endless explanations. Even if it meant that she might be killed, Rose decided, she still had to try to warn Lyra.

As she shifted to slide off the bed, the Doctor groaned softly, bringing a hand to his brow. Rose started, catching herself before she fell over the side. "Doctor?"

He slowly rolled toward her, dropping his hand to her robe-covered knee. "Rose," he responded, his voice low and husky. "You're here. Good - that's good. Very good."

"Doctor? Are you all right? Because we need to get out of here really, really soon," she said, somehow resisting the urge to run her hands through his already mussed hair.

He stretched languidly, reaching his hands over his head and drawing her attention to the subsequently revealed wiry musculature of his upper chest. She frowned as she saw him wince. Had she hurt him somehow? "Doctor?"

"Sorry," he huffed, his breath coming out in a rush. "Not used to sleeping so much," he said, looking at her dubiously. "I take it the" - he paused, apparently finding the word distasteful - "extraction went as planned, then?"

Rose hung her head, nodding. He didn't remember! "Doctor," she began in a shaky voice. "There's something I need to tell you."

"We've shagged, haven't we."

Rose's stomach dropped upon hearing his matter-of-fact assessment. She could feel her heart shrinking in her chest as it appeared her worst fears were coming true. "Yes," she whispered, her breath hitching as she tried to breathe around the lump beginning to form in her throat. "'M sorry, I didn't know that you weren't, weren't aware - " She didn't finish as she couldn't hold back any longer and began to cry in earnest, a loud sob escaping her. She felt the bed shift and she was suddenly drawn into a hug, her head resting on the Doctor's chest as his strong arms encircled her.

"Oh, Rose, please don't cry," he said as he began to stroke soothingly up and down her back. "Was I that bad at it?" he asked quietly.

"What?"

"I mean, well, I'm a bit out of practice - it's been a really long time for me, and well, when I say 'a really long time', I mean a really, really long time and - "

Rose let out a deep breath that she hadn't realized she'd been holding as the Doctor continued to babble nervously.

"I'm so sorry if it wasn't any good for you," he said, hugging her tightly to his chest. "But we're bonded now and I'm afraid there isn't anything for it. You'll just have to teach me."

Rose sniffed in his arms, trying to comprehend what she was hearing. His heady scent was making her lightheaded again. "Teach you?"

"Yes. Teach me. What you like. So I won't be absolute rubbish at it next time."

"But... next time?"

"Please," he implored, burying his nose in her hair and inhaling deeply. "I'll learn. I'm a fast learner. Good thing, that, right?"

Rose pushed at his chest, leaning back in his arms to look at the Doctor's earnest face and pleading, warm brown eyes. "But... Sister Melina - " She was cut off as he leaned in to kiss her softly, sucking gently at her upper lip.

"Sister Melina what?" he murmured as he nipped at the angle of her jaw.

"She said, ah - " Rose gasped as the Doctor began to trace his tongue along the shell of her ear. "She said she'd stimulated you or implanted a suggestion - so that you'd... you'd sleep with her - "

The Doctor drew back slowly. "She did what?"

Rose looked up at him, desperate to tell him of Melina's intentions. "Doctor, we have to get out of here. Melina said she's going to kill Sister Ohica so that she can take over - she said she's been getting extra artron to boost her mental powers!"

"What?" The Doctor pushed back from her, grasping her upper arms and looking intently into her eyes. "Rose, you need to tell me exactly what she said."

As Rose filled the Doctor in on what Melina had told her, an incredulous look crossed his features. His eyes unfocused for a moment as he stared at a fixed point on the wall. "Oooooooh, that's not playing fair!" he exclaimed.

"What?" Rose asked. "What is it?"

"I can feel it - it's there. Just the faintest trace. Oh, that's clever!" He looked back at Rose, sliding a hand around hers. "It's fading, I almost missed it. She's put a bond on me - a false bond. That must've been how she could do it - extract the extra artron from the other Time Lords. If a Time Lord has his mental defenses shut down via soporific, and has that bond in place, well - "

"Wait," Rose interrupted. "Mental defenses?"

"Walls. Barriers. Mental shields, if you will. I'm just starting to be able to reassert mine. With them down, the, ah, more primitive mating urge of my people can become quite strong."

"So you're saying that the only reason that we, um, slept together is because you couldn't resist...."

The Doctor leaned forward, took Rose's chin gently in his grasp and looked into her eyes. "A bond, well - a true bond is much stronger. I wouldn't want to resist," he said softly.

Rose watched, transfixed, as he moved in to kiss her. She lurched back in realization at the last moment, startling him. "Doctor - we don't have time for this right now - we have to stop Melina! We need to get out of here!"

He blinked at her for a moment before closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. "Sorry - you're right, of course, sorry, I'm sorry." He opened his eyes, blinking rapidly again before looking at her. "I have some rudimentary barriers up for now, that should do it. Now, let's see about getting out of here." He scooted to the side of the bed before realizing his state of undress. "Ah," he said, looking around the room. "Any idea where my clothes might be?"

"Not here," Rose replied. "Mine aren't around either."

"Oh-kay," the Doctor said, glancing down and tugging at his ear. "Plan B then."

Rose watched as the Doctor stripped the sheet free from the bed to fashion a simple, toga-like garment to protect his modesty as he surveyed the room for a possible means of escape. He wrestled briefly with the door as Rose had previously done, getting a similar result.

"Even if we had it, the sonic screwdriver couldn't get us out of here. It's a primitive lock, but very effective," he said offhandedly. "And unfortunately, it's on the other side of the door, along with the hinges. We'll have to try something else."

"Good thing we've got you, then," Rose muttered sarcastically under her breath, moving to follow him.

The Doctor, not appearing to have heard her, moved over to the fireplace, examining it closely. Kneeling down, he angled his head to examine the chimney through the flames. "I'd presume that this goes up to the surface. It looks a bit too small for either one of us to climb up, though, and besides," he added, holding out his hands in front of the fire, "it's far too hot right now."

Rose held her hands out in front of the fire as well to warm them and heard the Doctor's sharp intake of breath.

"Rose, you're injured! Why didn't you say something?"

She looked down at her hands, her knuckles scraped and raw from her earlier attempts at escape. Now that she thought about it, they were beginning to hurt.

"Hold on." The Doctor had moved over to the bedside table and was looking over the contents of the tray. He dipped a finger into the bowl of slimy green material and brought it to his mouth to taste. Rose cringed as she watched him suck at his finger.

"Ooooooh, this is lovely - you should try this, Rose. It's a danube paste. It's really good and might help your hands a bit as well - here." Rose flinched as he grabbed one of her hands and spread some of the slime over her raw knuckles with a finger, but was surprised by the almost instantaneous cooling sensation. The Doctor dug his fingers back into the bowl, glopping a generous amount on her other injured hand. "There," he said, surveying his handiwork. "Should be right as rain in a few minutes, then we'll wash it off."

She let him guide her over to the bed and sat heavily, trying not to touch anything with her slimed hands. Clasping them together, she watched as the Doctor continued his survey of the room, pressing and rapping against several points of the rocky walls. After his examination, he picked up the carafe of water and an empty dish from the table, bringing them to the bed.

"There's nothing, I'm afraid," he said, gently placing Rose's hands in the confines of the dish and pouring some of the water over them. "It looks like we're stuck here for the time being."

Rose was amazed to see that the angry scratches and raw patches over her knuckles had been partially healed. "That's incredible!" she exclaimed. "What happens if you eat it?"

"Nothing really," the Doctor replied. "The paste does heal damaged surfaces, but it leaves everything else pretty much as is. It is very good for you, loaded with antioxidants and all that."

Rose flexed her fingers experimentally, feeling the newly healed skin stretch. She resisted the urge to scratch as the Doctor carefully dried her hands with the hem of his makeshift toga. He picked up one of her hands to examine it closely, and Rose felt her mouth go dry as he pressed a kiss to her knuckles. "All better," he murmured, a thoughtful expression on his face.

A knock sounded at the door and Rose jumped back, startled. The door swung open to reveal Lyra, carrying a large pile of familiar-looking clothing.

"Lyra!" Rose exclaimed, jumping up from the bed. "Am I glad to see you. We need to see Sister Ohica right now - before it's too late!"

Back to index


Chapter 19: Dix-Neuf

Author's Notes: Dix-Neuf: A visit to Sister Valna's laboratory and constructing some barriers....


Lyra stood in the doorway for a moment, seemingly confused. "I am able to understand Rose again without linking to her mind - you must be feeling better now," she said, looking at the Doctor. "For that, I am glad."

Rose watched as the Doctor tugged at his ear, obviously embarrassed. "Lyra, please - we need to see Sister Ohica."

Lyra crossed to the bed and deposited the pile of folded clothing on top, separating it into two distinct piles. "I will have to return for your footwear," she said, doubt registering in her bright green eyes.

"Lyra," Rose said, grabbing the Sister's arm. "Please listen - you have to believe me. Sister Melina is planning to kill Ohica and take over. We have to warn her!"

Lyra looked dubiously at Rose. "I have not sensed anything amiss with Sister Melina or her recent behavior. She would not be able to hide such an intent from the rest of us."

"But she has," Rose replied. "She's been getting extra artron from the Time Lords you've captured and has been using it to boost her mental powers!"

"I'm afraid it's true," the Doctor interjected while pulling on his pinstriped trousers. "She's put a bond on me," he continued as he dressed in record time. "It's almost worn off now, but had she been here while my mental barriers were down - has anyone seen my tie?"

Rose rolled her eyes. "Not now!" she growled over her shoulder. She turned back to Lyra. "Please - just take us to Sister Ohica."

"I can sense that you believe that you are telling the truth. I will do as you ask, Rose Tyler, but I am having a difficult time believing what you say about my Sister," Lyra said as she moved to the door. "I will warn you that Sister Ohica asked not to be disturbed while she and Sister Valna dilute and test the new substitute elixir. Sister Melina will be there as well. She has been apprenticing with Sister Valna for the last twenty years."

Rose turned back to the bed, grabbing up her clothes. "Great - just let me get dressed -"

"Rose, we need to hurry. Besides, that robe might help keep you from being noticed for a little while longer," the Doctor said, grabbing her elbow and making her drop her clothing. He ushered her to the door to follow Lyra into the hallway.

***************

Lyra brought them to a small chamber that resembled an apothecary, the walls lined with wooden shelves holding numerous glass jars and stoppered bottles filled with various and sundry concoctions. One large shelving unit stood mostly empty, with a single, large earthen vessel filled with unstoppered, empty glass flasks resting on the bottom shelf. A single similar flask stood on the center shelf, a clear liquid contained within. Rose watched as the Doctor snatched it up and swirled it, producing a golden glow shot through with glimmering sparkles. He carefully placed it back on the shelf and ran a hand through his hair to muss it further.

"Is this Valna's lab?" Rose asked, watching the Doctor pace the room, sans trainers.

"Yes," the Doctor responded. "Sister Ohica showed me what some of these are for - that one over there is the last of their substitute elixir," he said, waving a hand at the flask he had just held. "That bench over there is Melina's."

Rose went to the smaller working surface, which appeared to have been recently used. Crushed ash-green stems littered the wooden bench, along with small chopped fragments of brown leaves. A small ornate knife also lay on the surface, the blade unwashed and stained at the tip. Two abandoned small stoppered vials filled with a rusty-colored fluid caught her attention. "Lyra?" she asked. "What's in these?"

Lyra picked up one of the vials and the Doctor stopped his pacing to join them. "I am not sure, Rose Tyler. Sister Melina was last here to observe the reformulation of the soporific, but she did have several projects of her own. It is likely that this is one of them, as I do not recognize it."

"Are you sure that Melina said that she hadn't done the dilutions correctly? She didn't say she was going to poison it?" the Doctor inquired.

"I'm sure - I mean, I don't think so," Rose replied.

"Well, only one way to find out what she was working on then."

Rose watched as the Doctor unstoppered the vial and poured a small amount of the orange-colored fluid into the palm of his hand, taking a cautious sniff. He stared into space, blinking and before Rose could stop him, he'd raised his palm to his mouth and licked it.

"It tastes very much like your soporific," he told Lyra while smacking his lips. "It's missing something though, I'm not sure what, but... oh."

"Doctor?" Rose quickly took the vial from him and looked for something to wipe his hand with other than her robe.

"My mental barriers... it's affecting them. Not that they were very good, I could only manage some rudimentary ones. I'd guess it's part of the reformulated soporific, except it doesn't appear to be having any effect on my artron," he said as he inched away from Rose, a look of discomfort briefly crossing his features. After wiping his hand on his trousers, he resumed his pacing of the room, more slowly than before. "We need to find where they're preparing the elixir, Lyra."

"Only the early preparations are done in this room. They must have completed that portion of the process already," Lyra replied. "The raw fluid is diluted with the medicinal waters that are present in the Chamber of Candles. After the final dilutions are made, Sister Valna adds the powdered rhineweed." She picked up a glass jar half-filled with a powdery green substance. "There were four such containers here before - they must have taken them to the Chamber of Candles and are most likely close to testing."

The Doctor stopped pacing to regard Lyra. "Just how do they do the testing?"

"One of the Sisters usually volunteers. Either that or Sister Valna will ingest it herself - "

"C'mon, quickly," the Doctor said, moving toward the door. "Lyra, which way to the Chamber of Candles?"

***************

Rose exited Valna's laboratory behind Lyra and the Doctor but fell behind rapidly, cursing her lack of trainers with every step. The Doctor seemed not to notice his lack of footwear, picking his way along the tunnel with apparent ease.

"C'mon, Rose - keep up!" he called back to her.

"Sorry, it's just - I could really use my trainers, you know?" Rose grimaced as she stepped on a particularly sharp rock.

"Quiet!" Lyra hissed. They had reached the large, ornate wooden door that marked the entrance to the Chamber of Candles. "We may enter here, but our presence will more than likely be immediately detected."

"Another entrance, then," the Doctor suggested. "I'd rather we had the element of surprise on our side - we might need it, depending on the extent of Melina's powers."

"And Sister Ohica's willingness to believe you, Doctor," Lyra added as Rose caught up to them. "There is a limited amount of time in which the substitute elixir can be diluted and stabilized, and she will be focused on doing so. This way, please."

Lyra led them down another passage that opened into a small rocky chamber that Rose thought she recognized from their previous attempt to return to the TARDIS.

"Doctor, you said your mental defenses were rudimentary," Lyra said in a whisper as they entered the chamber. "Rose has none. Now that our powers have been restored, you will risk detection unless you are able to clear your minds."

The Doctor turned to Rose, looking deeply into her eyes. "Maybe you should stay here," he murmured.

"Not a chance!" Rose exclaimed quietly. "'M not letting you go in there by yourself."

"All right then," the Doctor sighed. "You'll have to try to keep your mind blank, at least until we can warn Sister Ohica about the substitute elixir. I'm not sure how enhanced Melina's powers are, and I've no intention of finding out."

"How do you do that? Just not think?"

"I can help you... if you want," the Doctor said, gazing into her eyes, his voice low.

Rose squeezed his hand, returning his gaze. "Yes," she said, mesmerized by the darkness of his eyes in the dim light of the chamber.

"Just relax." Rose felt the Doctor's fingers at her temples and closed her eyes....

Rose was in her meadow again, but it was blurred and almost colorless, her surroundings taking on a sepia-hued cast. As she watched, the indistinct borders of the field began to shimmer and solid walls made of gold appeared out of nowhere to circumscribe the area. She blinked in amazement as a wave of distortion approached her....

Rose opened her eyes to see the Doctor stumbling back from where she stood. "Doctor!" she hissed in alarm.

He steadied himself with a hand against the wall, panting with exertion. "That... s-should help," he said, grinning weakly at her.

"That wasn't wise, Doctor," Lyra admonished. "I can barely perceive your mental barriers now."

"I'll be better able to keep my mind clear than Rose," he panted. "I want her protected."

"You shouldn't have done it at your own expense," Rose whispered angrily.

"I'll recover quickly - you wouldn't." The Doctor pushed away from the wall, straightening up with some difficulty. "Are you able to sense her now, Lyra?"

Lyra closed her eyes, frowning. "No. I cannot sense you either, Doctor."

"Good. Time we were off, then."

Rose gritted her teeth and moved to follow Lyra and the Doctor as they began to silently traverse the small chamber.

***************

It wasn't long before they reached another wooden door that marked the back entrance to the Chamber of Candles, and Rose began to recognize various rock formations and the rocky outcropping where she had previously hidden with Lyra. As she and Lyra crawled into the narrow fissure, she almost felt like she was meeting an old friend. There was barely enough room for the Doctor to squeeze in behind them and Rose felt her heart flutter at the close contact.

Rose peered through the stalactites that blocked the second opening, quickly locating Ohica, Valna and Melina on the opposite side of the turquoise pool from them, not far from where the Doctor's extraction had taken place. Valna was stirring the fluid contained in one of the three earthen crocks, pausing while Melina added a carefully measured bit of grey powder.

"That's the rhineweed," Lyra whispered. "It's the final step. Doctor?"

Rose turned to see that the Doctor was missing - where had he gone? She heard a gasp and looked back through the opening to see Valna dip an ornate goblet into the liquid contained within the container. As Ohica gave her a curt nod, she raised it to her lips to sip.

"No! Stop!"

Rose's eyes widened as the Doctor rushed into her view and startled Valna as she had begun to drink. Valna sputtered as she dropped the goblet, clutching at her throat.

"What is the meaning of this intrusion!" Ohica's eyes were blazing with fury as she regarded the Doctor, who had moved to catch Valna's slumping form in his arms.

"Sister Valna - " Lyra whispered. "She is dying! You were correct, but why would Sister Melina do such a thing...."

"I've got to help the Doctor, Lyra," Rose made to turn around to crawl out of the fissure, but stopped as she heard the Doctor's shout.

"Don't drink it - it will kill you all! Sister Melina - AH!"

Rose watched in horror as the Doctor dropped Sister Valna's limp form, clutching at his head and grimacing in pain. His cry of agony echoed through the chamber as he slumped to the ground.


Back to index


Chapter 20: Vingt

Author's Notes: Vingt: Sitting target....


"Doctor!" Rose scrambled awkwardly to the entrance of the fissure that she and Lyra were hiding in, but was brought up short - Lyra had grasped her borrowed robe from behind, leaving Rose flailing briefly before landing on her bottom. "Lyra, let me go!" she whimpered.

"Quiet!" Lyra hissed. "If what you have told me is true, Sister Melina won't hurt him - he is too valuable to her ambitions. You, however, would be expendable. If she can overwhelm his mind with the little effort that I felt, then she could kill you with a glance. Be still!"

"But - " Rose was cut off by a hand clamping down over her mouth.

"Shhhhhhh! You will not help him by getting yourself captured or killed!"

After Rose stopped struggling, Lyra released her hold on her and she was able to scoot over to where the stalactites partially hid the second opening of the fissure she and Lyra were hiding in. The Doctor hadn't stirred, but Ohica was now kneeling beside Valna's body and checking for signs of life. After a moment, she bowed her head.

"Sister Valna is dead," Ohica sadly proclaimed. "I do not understand. She assured me that she would be able to compensate for the large amount of artron that was extracted. This should not be!"

Melina moved over to where Ohica knelt, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Perhaps the Doctor was correct and his high artron level overly changed the composition of the elixir. He should be extracted again before he is allowed to depart - his artron should be down to a more normal level now." Rose's eyes widened on hearing Melina's suggestion.

"Oh, yes, the Doctor," Ohica murmured, turning to the Doctor's crumpled, unconscious form. "Why did you strike him down?"

"I... I feared that he would harm either you or Sister Valna, High One. I am afraid I may have acted rashly," Melina said.

Rose could hear the veiled sarcasm dripping from the Sister's voice and scowled. "She is so full of crap," she whispered, ignoring Lyra's inquisitive glance.

"It is all right, Sister Melina, I might have done the same," Ohica replied, standing and brushing off her robe. "Our Sister is dead, though, and we should attempt to discern what went wrong with the substitute elixir so that her death will not have been in vain. With the Doctor's artron level being what it is, perhaps we should at this point simply allow him to attempt to restore the Sacred Flame - "

"With all respect, I must disagree, High One," Melina interrupted, eyeing the Doctor's still form. "We have no guarantee that he will be able to restore the Flame and even if he does, we do not know if the resulting Elixir of Life will be the same as it was before the ground shook." She knelt down where the Doctor lay motionless. "Now that his artron has been reduced, he should be extracted again as soon as possible, before he is able to actively resist," she said, tracing a fingertip along his cheek.

Ohica seemed to consider this, tapping at her chin while gazing down at Valna's body, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "There are a few considerations to be made, Sister Melina," she said, a contemplative tone in her voice. "The Time Lord has already had three doses of the soporific. Even in a difficult extraction with a mated Time Lord, we have never given a fourth dose. It could put him in danger and I am not willing to do that."

"I have already prepared for this eventuality, High One. I have a different formulation of the soporific that Sister Valna helped me to prepare. It will be completely safe to use on the Time Lord."

Rose snorted. Lyra was more thoughtful. "Why is Sister Melina so insistent on another extraction - unless," she whispered as she turned to Rose, "she thought that Sister Ohica would be the one to test the substitute elixir. She doesn't have the mental power to overcome her yet."

Rose considered this for a moment. "You mean, she's not actually going to do another extraction - she's going to try to take his artron like she did in that room with the other Time Lords? By forcing him?"

"Exactly," Lyra said quietly. "Direct exposure to a large release of artron such as that obtained with extraction would be dangerous for any one of us. She only needs a small amount to boost her mental powers in order to harm Sister Ohica. I would hazard a guess that Melina's version of the soporific would facilitate... things without mobilizing any excess artron."

"Then we've got to stop her, now!"

"She may not be able to overcome Sister Ohica, but we would make easy targets for her, Rose Tyler. We will have to wait for an opportunity," Lyra whispered. Rose nodded glumly.

Ohica was speaking again. "If you are confident that you have learned Sister Valna's craft," she said, "then I suppose I will consent. We will have to find the human female and bring her here."

"What?" Rose said softly as she turned to Lyra, confused. "Why?"

"Didn't you realize?" Lyra whispered. "During the previous extraction, when his mental barriers were down, he could feel your proximity within the chamber before his Time Lord senses were blocked. That's why Sister Melina had such trouble getting him to respond to her."

"Oh," Rose said, her cheeks flushing. She turned from Lyra in time to see Melina scowl.

"With all due respect, High One, the different formulation would ease the extraction process even if the Time Lord were currently mated. The human female will not be necessary." Melina ran a hand through the Doctor's mussed hair before standing with a slight bow to Ohica. "I will summon Sister Riza to assist."

"But, Sister Melina," Ohica remarked. "You must admit, it would be much easier on the Time Lord if we use his bonded partner - "

"She will not be necessary."

Rose was finding it more and more difficult to try to keep her mind blank as her anger grew. Clenching her fists, she watched as another Sister entered her field of view. It was Sister Riza, but how? Melina hadn't left the room - had she been able to summon her using her mind? Rose's eyes narrowed as she saw that Riza held several lengths of twisted cording in one hand - and that her face was completely devoid of any emotion. "Lyra? What's wrong with Riza?" Rose whispered, confused.

"I am not sure," Lyra replied quietly, an uneasy tone in her voice. "I see her, but I do not feel her presence."

"Why do you bind him?" Ohica was asking as the blank-faced Riza helped Melina drag the Doctor's unconscious form over to the large flat rock adjacent to the turquoise pool. Riza then assisted Melina in looping the cords over his body and through gaps between the rock and the floor of the chamber several times before tying each of them securely.

"Sister Riza?" Ohica frowned as Riza again did not respond.

"It is merely a precaution, High One. We would not want him to harm himself if he struggles." Melina's response was as smooth as glass, Rose thought, but it apparently wasn't having the desired effect on Sister Ohica.

"I grow suspicious of your motives, Sister Melina," Ohica said, a troubled expression on her face. "I do not know what you have done to Sister Riza, but I wish to see this altered soporific that you and Sister Valna have created, but did not see fit to inform me of."

Melina was already unstoppering the small flask that she had withdrawn from a pouch at her waist, but paused to look up at Ohica, an innocent expression painted over her features. "I was about to administer it to the Time Lord, High One. Before he wakes."

"Give it to me. And you will release Sister Riza immediately from whatever hold you have on her."

For a moment, Rose entertained the thought that Sister Ohica would miraculously be able to put a stop to Melina's plans right then and there. It didn't look good, though, as Melina drew herself up to her full height and crossed her wrists over her chest, the fingers of her hands splayed upward. She fixed Ohica with a cold, glittering stare.

"You do not need to examine the soporific," Melina intoned flatly. "Sister Riza, remove Sister Valna's body from the chamber and await further orders." Rose flinched at the coldness of the Sister's voice and watched as Riza lifted Valna from underneath her shoulders and began to drag her body from the room.

"You have possessed Sister Riza's mind and you are now trying to influence my thoughts," Ohica said incredulously. "You have been... using the captured Time Lords to gain power. You have abused the trust I have put in you, Sister Melina. This ends now."

Ohica folded her hands in front of her in a similar fashion to Melina, and Rose could see a large, ornately-crafted silver ring on her left hand, with a flat, dull coral-colored stone set in the center. Behind the two Sisters, she saw that the Doctor was beginning to stir, his head lolling to one side while his eyes remained shut.

"You may be the oldest among the Sisters, but the time of your leadership is at an end." Melina's voice was low and dangerous, and Rose gritted her teeth.

"You have become soft in your old age, Ohica. We have hidden under the rock of Karn for too long. I will succeed you and the Sisterhood will return to dominance. With the Time Lord's assistance, we will no longer be dependent on the elixir produced by the rock of this planet for our immortality. We will be able to travel and conquer, using the Time Lord's TARDIS, and we will take back our rightful place in the universe!" Melina exclaimed.

"You would subjugate the Time Lord and enslave your own Sisters? Your ambitions are greater than I thought, Sister Melina." Rose's eyes widened as Ohica raised her left hand, turning it so that the stone faced where Melina stood defiantly.

"Your energy will be depleted and you will be cast out from our number," Ohica said calmly as a bright beam of blue light shot out from the surface of the stone toward Melina. Melina raised one of her hands, her palm shimmering and golden as she blocked the ray with ease.

"You are weak, Ohica. I may have enough power to bring you down after all." The air between the two Sisters shimmered with a wavy distortion, and Ohica gasped, falling to her knees.

"The Time Lord is bonded - you will fail if you attempt to hold him in thrall," Ohica rasped, raising her hand to fire another beam of bright blue energy at Melina.

"That problem is easily solved," Melina spat as she blocked the beam, reversing its course. It hit Ohica square in the chest as she struggled to rise and she again fell to her knees.

In the darkness of the crevice, Lyra touched Rose's shoulder, startling her. "Rose," she whispered as she pressed a cool metallic handle into her palm. Rose looked down - it was the ornamental knife they had seen in Valna's laboratory. "You must free the Doctor while Melina is occupied. She would be unstoppable if she were to obtain any more artron. You must return to your TARDIS and leave Karn at once."

"But... but you'll all die without elixir - "

"We will die free. Our time has passed, along with that of our brethren, the Time Lords. I will attempt to buy you time enough to free the Doctor and escape. And remember, you must try keep your mind as free of emotion as possible - the barriers that are in place will only hide so much."

"But - "

"Go." Lyra hissed. "I must assist Sister Ohica!"

The two women silently exited the crevice, and Rose hurried to the shadows at the periphery of the large chamber, moving as quickly as she could while trying to keep as quiet as possible. She managed to avoid stepping on any sharp rocks with her bare feet and crept toward the flat rock on which the Doctor lay, looking up to see both Ohica and now Lyra engaging Melina. The chamber was intermittently lit up by golden sparks and the occasional blue ray, and Rose knelt behind the flat rock and tried to clear her mind of her fear. Taking a deep breath, she began to cut at the rope that bound the Doctor. A low, familiar moan distracted her, and she poked her head cautiously up to see the Doctor blinking blearily at her.

"Shhhhhhh," she whispered as she ducked back down, trying to simultaneously soothe him and saw at his bonds with the knife. "Lyra said we've got to get out of here - she's holding off Melina...." Rose couldn't finish as her eyes began to well up at the thought of Lyra's more than likely imminent demise at Melina's hand. She blinked away the tears and sawed faster, snapping one of the loops of rope that bound the Doctor's upper body to the rock. She was starting in on the loop that bound his midsection when his hand drifted down to catch her wrist.

"Rose, stop," the Doctor ordered in a low, strained tone. "We're part of events. If by some miracle we did manage to escape without Melina realizing it, they'll die without their elixir. I can still fix their flame, if they'll let me."

She watched as he shrugged his upper body free of the bindings and leaned toward her as much as the ropes still around his waist and legs would allow. "Your barriers are still intact," he breathed, his exhalation caressing her cheek. "Melina shouldn't be able to sense you. As long as you can keep your mind as clear as possible, and not give yourself away, I have a plan that might work." Rose shivered as his lips brushed her ear.

A loud scream echoed through the chamber and she peered over the Doctor's body in time to see Lyra crumple to the floor. She quickly ducked back down, heart racing. "What do I have to do?"

"You have to hurt me, Rose - badly enough to make me regenerate."

Back to index


Chapter 21: Vingt et Un

Author's Notes: Vingt et Un: In which the Doctor has a plan, and Rose has kittens.


"S-sorry?" Rose stammered. "Don't think I heard you right. You want me to hurt you? So that you'll regenerate? I don't think so! Why would I do something like that?" she hissed angrily.

"Yes, you heard correctly," the Doctor said tersely. "Stabbing would probably be best, I think."

"Bloody hell - you can't be serious!" Rose exclaimed. "You think that Melina will be less interested in you 'cause you've got a different face? That's your brilliant plan?" she asked, frowning. "'Sides, you were fairly useless for a while after the last time you changed."

"No, no, no. That's not it at all," the Doctor growled at her in a low voice. "Remember when I was telling you about how Time Lords with, well, more normal artron levels regenerate? How they can control the process enough to pick features and whatnot that they'd like their new bodies to have?"

Rose nodded, not sure where the Doctor was going with his explanation.

"I can tell I've had quite a bit of artron removed - I may just be able to control the process now. Enough so that I might be able to direct the energy outward, away from myself."

Rose blinked in realization. "You mean, kind of like an explosion? What'll happen when the energy goes out away from you - you won't actually regenerate?"

"Yes - that's it exactly. It should be enough artron to overwhelm Melina. If it works, I won't actually regenerate, but I'll hopefully be able to heal up whatever damage you've done to my person." He beamed at her but Rose shot him a dubious look.

"So you've done this before, then?" she asked.

The Doctor looked sheepish. "Ah, no. Can't say that I have exactly done this before, but if other Time Lords have been able to control the process, there's no reason why I shouldn't be able to do so as well with a more normal artron level."

Rose peeked over the rock again. Melina and Ohica were continuing to exchange bolts of energy, while Lyra's motionless form remained crumpled on the floor near Ohica. She ducked back down behind the rock, her stomach churning. "I can't believe I'm actually considering doing this," she whispered.

"Believe me, I'm not looking forward to it any more than you are, but it's the best thing I can think of right now," the Doctor replied softly.

"And why is it that I can't just stab Melina instead?" Rose asked. "I'd really like to," she added under her breath.

"Melina would be more likely to sense an attack on herself than one on me. We should stand a better chance."

"This has got to be the craziest idea I've ever heard," Rose muttered, taking another peek over the rock to see where Melina was.

"Rose, we don't have time to argue. Believe me, I'd never ask you do something like this if there was any other way I could see all of us getting out of here alive," he implored, his eyes wild. "I've no intention of being an artron donor for the rest of my lives - you have to do it."

"Exactly how do you want me to do this - stab you, I mean."

"Well, I was thinking you could use one of the many lovely stalactites in here, but you have that handy little knife there, so, if you don't mind, I'd prefer 'Rose Tyler, in the Chamber of Candles, with... the knife!' Easy-peasy," he said, waggling his eyebrows at her.

"This isn't some silly board game! We're talking about stabbing you!" Rose hissed.

"Sorry, just trying to keep things light. I'm sorry," he said, frowning. "Oh, and Rose? You'll have to mean business - a little scratch isn't going to do it. I'd suggest stabbing me in the left chest area, where my left heart is - since I'm right-handed in this regeneration. Just make sure you pull the blade all the way out afterward. Leaving it in might be... well, bad."

Rose slid back down the side of the rock, the gravel crunching under her knees. "This idea is sounding worse and worse," she mumbled.

The Doctor peered down at her from above. "Think of it this way, if something does go wrong, I'll just go ahead with the regeneration and we'll have the same result - Melina will still be overwhelmed. Problem solved."

"It's just, I don't - " she started, having difficulty getting out exactly what she wanted to say. "Don't wanna lose you. The way you are now, I mean." She swiped at her eyes with her sleeve. "That sounds awful, doesn't it?"

"It'll still be me, Rose," he murmured. "If I do end up regenerating, I'll be the same person inside. How I feel about you isn't going to change."

"I know that," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "'M just being silly, I guess." She poked her head up above the rock again to see where Melina was and narrowly avoided being hit by a stray energy beam, the blue bolt crackling through the air mere inches above the Doctor's body. "Bloody hell, that was close!" she hissed, ducking down quickly.

"Stay down," the Doctor said in a low voice. "You'll need to be close, so that you can do this quickly. And Rose?" he said, looking her in the eyes. "You'll need to try to keep your mind as clear as possible. If Melina detects you, the game's up, I'm afraid."

"Wait," Rose said. "When you were extracted and even when I saw you regenerate before, your artron doesn't go that far away from you - are you really going to be able to affect Melina from here?"

"No," he admitted. "She'll have to be quite close. More than likely I'll have to be holding on to her, which is why I'd really prefer to have you stab me in the left chest, so that my right hand'll be free - "

"What?" Rose squeaked. "You're going to be holding on to her? And just how do you expect me to sneak up on you then?"

"Shhhhhhhhh!" the Doctor hissed. "She more than likely won't even know you're there until it's too late."

"How do you figure that? I mean, she'll be right there!" Rose whispered angrily.

"I'll be distracting her," the Doctor said quietly.

"What?"

"You heard me, I'll be distracting her. She'll be otherwise" - he paused, swallowing hard - "occupied. When I can, I'll shift her to my right side, and you stab me in the left. Mission accomplished."

"And I'm just supposed to sit and watch this AND try not to react? I don't think so!" she hissed.

"Rose, you have to. It's our best chance. Melina won't be expecting you to attack me."

"No - she'll be too busy trying to seduce you again!" Rose whispered, feeling her cheeks flush. "What happens when she tries to give you that - that soporific of hers? You're just not going to swallow, then? What if she tries to put another bond on you?"

"I'll figure out something. C'mon, you need to get behind that rock over there - " He was cut off as Ohica's scream echoed through the chamber. "Rose, hurry!"

Rose squeezed the Doctor's hand and quietly tiptoed over to a nearby rock formation, slipping behind it as she clutched the knife tightly. She peered out from the side to see Melina approach Ohica's slumped form from across the room. Lyra still hadn't stirred, and Rose felt her heart clench in her chest. Melina looked up, and Rose suddenly realized that the Sister might be able to sense her and quickly took several deep breaths, trying to think of something other than her fear and concern. Kitties, she thought. Fluffy, fluffy kitties playing with string....

Rose let out a deep breath as she saw Melina turn back toward Ohica. The Sister slowly approached the fallen leader, nudging her leg with a slippered foot. When Ohica didn't move, Melina knelt by her body and lifted the other Sister's hand. Rose watched as Melina attempted to remove Ohica's ring, but it held fast and Ohica suddenly jerked her hand away.

"So, you still have some life in you yet, High One," Melina said, panting slightly with fatigue.

"You... you will not take control. I will stop you." Rose looked on as Ohica dragged herself across the short span to where Lyra lay and checked the Sister for signs of life.

"You still defy me. No matter," Melina said, glancing over to where the Doctor was bound. "With the Time Lord's... cooperation, I will obtain the boost that I need to defeat you." She raised a hand and Ohica shrieked, slumping to the floor at Lyra's side. Rose gulped as Melina turned and approached the Doctor. Cute kitties....

"Ahhhh," the Doctor said as Sister Melina moved to stand at his feet. "Sister Melina. We meet at last - I've heard so much about you." Rose watched as he waggled his eyebrows at the Sister. Was he flirting with her? Kitties?

"Enough with your inane chatter, Doctor," Melina said, her voice cold. You have something that I need. If you will not cooperate, then I will forcibly take it from you."

"And we haven't even been properly introduced - think of the scandal! Unless, of course, you're asking me out on a date. In which case, I'd rather like to be untied first, please - "

"Stop!" Melina roared, moving around the rock to press a fingertip to the Doctor's forehead. Rose tried to fight her rising panic as he grimaced, his eyes slamming shut and body going rigid. Cute little kitties with ribbon bows around their necks....

"Your mental barriers are still down, Time Lord," Melina said, a smile creeping onto her features. "Maybe I won't need to dose you again with soporific after all."

The Doctor tossed his head, shaking off Melina's fingertip. "No - no more soporific," he gasped. "You need me awake and somewhat alert, correct? Wouldn't it make sense for us to work - together?" he asked silkily, turning his face to where her hand had come to rest on the rock and closing his eyes. "You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours?" He opened his eyes and grinned wolfishly at her and Rose's jaw dropped. What was he doing?

"You will get no such agreement from me, Time Lord," Melina said, snatching her hand away.

"Ah well, was worth a try, right?" the Doctor said as he squirmed against the cording that bound him to the rock. "I'll give you fair warning then, Melina. You will stop your manipulation of your Sisters and free me and my companion right now or suffer the consequences."

Melina smiled coldly. "You're in no position to make demands, are you, Doctor?" Rose's eyes widened as the Sister once again traced a finger along the Doctor's forehead, coming to rest at his left temple. "Without your mental barriers, you cannot defend yourself against me. It will be quite simple to take what I need from you."

"Melina, please - stop this now."

Rose watched in horror as Melina pressed her fingertips to the Doctor's temple, her eyes narrowed and glittering. The Doctor gasped, his upper body arching slightly away from the rock while his legs and waist remained bound. His hands moved to try to dislodge her grip to no avail. Kitties, kitties, kitties....

"By the great Pythia, I bind thee to myself, Time Lord...."

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Chapter 22: Vingt-Deux

Author's Notes: Vingt-Deux: In which the Doctor's clever plan goes awry....


Rose watched as Melina released her hold on the Doctor's temple and he slumped back down to the surface of the flat rock, a dazed look on his face.

"That's much better," Melina purred. "Now we can proceed with what should have been before the human female so rudely interfered." Melina suddenly glanced around and Rose had to quickly duck back behind the rock to conceal her presence. "Where is she? I'm surprised she isn't here trying to stop me." Melina smirked and turned back to her captive. "She's quite attached to you, you know. No matter - I have enough power to kill her quite easily if she happens to show herself."

"Leave Rose out of this!" the Doctor panted breathlessly. "She's no threat to you!"

"Oh, but she is," Melina remarked as she tugged on the cording still draped over the Doctor's chest. She held up one of the cut ends that had fallen to the ground and looked at it closely. "And it looks as though someone is yet again trying to take what is mine," she said, leaning in to speak quietly into his ear. "How terribly naughty. Where is she? I cannot sense her - "

Rose's jaw dropped as Melina was suddenly cut off as the Doctor turned his head and kissed her softly, bringing one of his freed hands up to rest on her cheek. She looked away for a moment, trying to control her emotions. Thinking about cute kitties seemed to work before, she thought to herself, wondering if it would be still be enough to distract her from the sight before her.

The Doctor quickly pulled back to break the kiss as Melina licked her lips. "You - the soporific - " he sputtered. "You drank it?"

"It does not affect me, and my formulation will not mobilize your artron, but there should be enough residue in my mouth to facilitate your cooperation, Time Lord. Do not think that you will be able to distract me," the Sister stated, a sardonic smile crossing her features. "I know exactly what you try to do. If I find the human female, I will have no qualms about ending her life right here in front of you while you watch." Taking a seat on the rock alongside the Doctor, Melina ran a fingertip down the front of his dress shirt, which looked starkly white in the absence of his usual tie. "I shall so enjoy breaking you." Rose saw the Doctor shudder slightly and hoped against hope that the combination of soporific and Melina's bond wouldn't affect their plan. She briefly wondered how long it would take Ohica to recover her strength... and if Lyra was still alive.

"But - time runs short, and that is most... unfortunate," Melina said as she threaded her hands under the looped cords to go to work on the buttons of the Doctor's shirt. "I've been looking forward to this since the moment I laid eyes on you, and I do hate to be rushed." Leaning forward, she kissed the newly exposed skin at the hollow of his neck. "I would love to take the time to map out the entirety of your lovely, lovely body," she said, pausing as she opened the remaining buttons of his pinstriped jacket and shirt. "Find all of those secret places that make you squirm and moan in pleasure." Rose shuddered as she listened to Melina's syrupy voice, her stomach churning. She knew that Melina had to be distracted for her to even have a chance to sneak up on them, but just how far was the Doctor going to take this? She heard the Doctor's low moan and peeked around the rock to see Melina's fingers at his temples again. Kitty pouncing on a toy mouse....

"So responsive," Melina was crooning to him. "And so easily bent to my will." She released her grip on the Doctor's temples, tracing her fingertips down his bare chest beneath his opened shirt. Placing her palms to either side of his sternum, she slid her hands across his chest, spreading his shirt and jacket wide open beneath the remaining cords that bound him to the rock. "A perfect specimen," she added as she dropped a soft kiss to his abdomen. Rose gritted her teeth, her jaw beginning to ache as she watched the Doctor struggle to hold himself absolutely still, his eyes shut and hands clenched into fists at his sides.

"Ah, if only we had more time. I would have wanted our first coupling to be more... comfortable for you." Melina stroked slowly over the light musculature of the Doctor's abdomen as she spoke. "You should have been with me in that bed - I would give you the pleasure and comfort that your kind foolishly deny yourselves." She dragged the silken fabric of the sleeve of her orange-red robe over his chest, smiling as he jerked, his breath hitching.

"Sensitive, are you?" Melina's smirk spread slowly over her face. "How long have you been in this body?"

"L-long enough," the Doctor stammered as Melina drew the silk of her robe lightly back over his abdomen.

She crouched over his body, her hands sliding beneath the fabric of his clothing over his shoulders. "All of that Time Lord training - teaching you mastery over your engineered bodies - " she said, pressing a quick kiss to his lips. "Denying yourselves pleasure - " she said breathily, pressing another kiss to his lips, longer than the last. "Ignoring the demands of your body until it screams - " Rose watched helplessly as the Doctor pushed himself up on his elbows to return Melina's kiss. Was he 'distracting' her as he said he would, or could he be responding to the bond the Sister had placed on him? She tried to keep her mind clear, but she was transfixed as Melina threaded her fingers through the Doctor's hair to deepen the kiss. Kitty lapping at a bowl of milk....no, no, no!

"You want this," Melina was saying between kisses, her voice breathless. "Without your mental barriers, your body can feel the bond I've placed on you and is begging to be fulfilled." She reached a hand down and cupped the Doctor through the thin fabric of his trousers, pressed, and began to rub against him with slow, circular motions.

The Doctor moaned low and soft, and Rose felt goosebumps prickling up her spine as she continued to watch for her opportunity, desperately trying to keep herself under control. Kitty batting at a toy mouse....

The Doctor was trying to stretch against the cords that bound his waist and lower body, and he arched upwards, grinding against Melina's proffered palm. His eyes slowly blinked open and he regarded Melina muzzily. His lips were reddened from Melina's kisses and Rose's stomach did flip-flops as she watched him lick them. When Melina leaned in to kiss him again, he opened his mouth to her and tentatively returned her kiss, as Melina pushed her tongue between his lips. Melina eventually broke the kiss for air, but kept her face close to his. The Doctor was almost imperceptibly trembling, and Rose watched as he pushed slightly closer to Melina, reaching down with his hand to cover hers. Kitty!

The Doctor was muttering incoherently as Melina continued her ministrations. He tilted his head back, showing his throat, and Melina immediately pressed forward to lick and nip at his exposed flesh. She left off stroking him to work at the closure of his trousers, and Rose felt her heart clench in her chest as she saw the Doctor clumsily attempt to help.

Melina batted the Doctor's hands aside as she finally succeeded in opening the front of his trousers, and easily slid her hand under the waistband of his boxers. He jerked against her and whimpered, trapped by her mouth at his throat.

Rose felt the bile rising in her throat - she didn't want to watch this, but she had no choice. She couldn't let the Doctor come undone at Melina's hand - if she obtained any more artron, she'd be unstoppable. Even though she wasn't sure if he'd be able to keep up his part of the plan, she had to continue to watch for any sign of an opportunity.

Melina had released the Doctor's throat, and he turned his head immediately, pressing his face hard into her shoulder.

"It's ok," she murmured to him as she continued to stroke him. "I'm going to make you forget everything... except for who I am and how I will make you feel. With my mental power, I can be whoever you want me to be... even your hearts' desire...."

"Rose?" The Doctor was looking blearily into Melina's eyes and Rose's stomach dropped in dismay. So much for the kitties, she thought dully. Melina may as well just kill me now.

"I will break your bond to the human female," Rose heard Melina tell the Doctor. "Perhaps I will even let her go. The surface dwellers could always use more... slave labor. I still do not understand why you bonded yourself to a human. Their lives are so desperately short - she will die all too soon and you will be left alone... again."

"No," the Doctor groaned, his hips beginning to jerk as Melina started to ramp up the speed of her strokes. Rose saw movement out of the corner of her eye and watched incredulously as she saw Lyra begin to stir and Ohica move to assist her. She was alive! Bolstered by this knowledge, Rose renewed her efforts to suppress her emotions. Kitty!

Unfortunately, Melina noticed the recovery of the two Sisters as well and withdrew her hand from the Doctor's boxers, moving both of her hands to the top of his trousers. The Doctor squirmed and clutched at her hands, but she managed to slide his trousers slowly down his hips despite the cords around his waist and legs that still bound him to the rock. Moving to sit astride him, she leaned forward to place her fingertips to his temples. "The human female cannot telepathically stimulate you, can she?" Melina grinned as the Doctor arched up against her, his eyes screwed shut and hands flailing helplessly in the air. "I would love nothing more than to draw this out, but I am afraid I will have other matters to deal with shortly and I need your artron." Melina pressed her fingers more firmly to the Doctor's head and he gasped, his shaky intake of breath cut off as she moved in to kiss him, sucking greedily at his bottom lip. Rose's eyes widened as she saw his hands move from the surface of the rock to slowly trail up Melina's arms, coming to a rest just below her shoulders as she continued to possessively kiss him. Almost imperceptibly, he was beginning to shift her - to his right.

As quietly as she could, Rose got to her feet, moving to the front of the rock that had concealed her presence. The cold metallic hilt of the knife was heavy in her hand and she took a slow deep breath, trying to calm herself. The Doctor was continuing to return Melina's kisses, giving as good as he got even as she tried to adjust her robe and position herself astride his hips. Rose saw that the Sister was still shifted, and she began to creep toward the flat rock. Kitty stalking a toy mouse, creeping slowly along the floor....

As Rose came within touching distance of the flat rock, she saw the Doctor open his eyes, distress on his features. Kitty crouched and ready to pounce....

"Rose," he murmured as Melina nipped at his lips and rubbed herself against him. "Please...."

Rose raised the knife above her head, gritted her teeth and plunged the blade into the Doctor's left chest, feeling a sickening crunch as the blade passed by one of his ribs. He cried out in agony and Rose stared for a moment at the hilt protruding from his skin in shock, her heart racing in her panic. Melina was also now staring at the knife as the Doctor's blood began to well up around the entry point of the blade. She tried to roll off of him, but the Doctor caught her around the waist with his right hand, holding her in a vise-like grip as she struggled to free herself. Remembering the Doctor's instructions, Rose tugged hard on the hilt of the knife to pull it out from its position between his ribs, a bright red jet of blood released as the knife came free in her hands. She staggered back, dropping the knife to the floor, looking on in horror at what she'd done as the Doctor struggled to breathe while hugging Melina to his chest, his skin beginning to glow with a golden hue.

Rose shielded her eyes as a blinding golden light shot through with glittering sparkles suddenly obscured the two figures on the rock.


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Chapter 23: Vingt-Trois

Author's Notes: Vingt-Trois: The aftermath of the Doctor's clever plan....


The blinding light of the Doctor's artron was beginning to fade, and Rose felt herself fighting to not hyperventilate during the agonizing wait for it to disperse. She still couldn't see the Doctor's face, didn't know if he had indeed regenerated, and she felt sick with fear. As she watched, the faint cloud of residual energy floated outward to engulf Lyra and Ohica. They both staggered to their feet, and Rose was relieved to see that they seemed to have somewhat recovered their strength after exposure to the artron.

She looked back to where the Doctor and Melina had been on the flat rock and was overjoyed to see the Doctor's familiar features come into view. She couldn't see Melina, though - it seemed as though she had disappeared, leaving her orange-red robe covering the Doctor's still form. Rose slowly moved toward where he still lay bound, only to come up short when she realized the robe was moving. Her mouth dropped open in shock when a small hand emerged from the folds of Melina's robes and a distressed wail pierced the silence of the chamber. She hurriedly crossed the remaining distance to the rock where the Doctor was still bound and pulled the fabric of Melina's robe aside to reveal a now squalling infant girl clutched to the Doctor's right side. A pair of embroidered slippers fell to the floor along with Melina's bronze breastplate as the baby beat on the Doctor's robe-covered chest with her tiny fists. Bewildered, Rose carefully eased the naked infant from the Doctor's grasp and held her awkwardly out in front of her to examine her. The baby's wispy, fuzzy tufts of honey-blonde hair and hazel eyes were the only things that resembled Melina now and Rose was suddenly reminded of what had occurred when Margaret the Slitheen had looked into the heart of the TARDIS and been regressed to an egg. Had the Doctor's artron done the same to Melina?

"Give her to me. She is of no threat to us now - her powers have been drained." Ohica's voice still sounded weak, but the underlying authoritative tone was unmistakable. Rose quickly handed the crying infant to her and turned back to the Doctor.

He still hadn't stirred, and Rose guessed that he was out cold again from losing more artron. She located the ornamental knife on the floor and was intending to cut the remainder of the cords that bound him to the rock when she was joined by Lyra.

"What happened?" the Sister inquired.

"The Doctor had me wound him - enough to trigger a regeneration," Rose replied, contemplating the situation. "He said he'd force the energy outward to blast Melina. I guess he meant to um, regress her, so she wouldn't be a threat anymore. You'll have another chance to raise her right this time - "

"What about his wound?" Lyra interrupted. "He still bleeds."

"What?" Rose dropped the knife to the floor with a clatter. "He said he'd be able to heal it with the energy - oh no!" She pulled back Melina's robe from where it still covered the left side of the Doctor's chest to examine him. The wound was not only still there, it was bleeding profusely, the blood running down his side to stain the white of his scrunched dress shirt and soak into his pinstriped jacket. His right hand moved to cover his injury as his face contorted in agony.

"Oh, God - Doctor!" Rose leapt up onto the rock, moving his hand away and pressing down hard to try to stem the pulsing flow of the bright red blood from the wound. He cried out in pain and gasped for breath as he tried to roll away from her. "Lyra! Help me!" she yelled.

Lyra quickly moved to join Rose, grabbing up Melina's robe and pulling it up to bring it to where the Doctor's wound continued to pulse. "Here - use this," she said as she thrust the orange-red silken fabric into Rose's hand. Rose quickly pressed the fabric to the Doctor's wound and watched in dismay as it was almost immediately soaked through.

"Doctor, please," Rose implored as she continued to try to staunch the flow from the wound. "You're going to bleed to death at this rate - what should I do?" He didn't answer and Rose growled in frustration. She couldn't lose him now! What if he wasn't able to regenerate? Her hands were stained with his blood and she tried to wipe one of them on her robe as she adjusted where Melina's robe pressed against his wound with the other. Ohica had come forward to offer Lyra her assistance, but Rose barely registered her presence. She was grimacing at the amount of blood that remained on her hand when a sudden wild thought occurred to her. The paste - it had healed the cuts and scrapes on her hands before....

"Lyra," Rose called out. "That green slimy stuff that was on the tray in the room where we were before - I don't remember what you call it, but I need it - right now! Please!" The Sister looked at her quizzically, but quickly left the chamber. Ohica came to stand by where Rose knelt on the rock, the baby girl in her arms still screaming and pulling at her long, brown hair.

"The Time Lord does not regenerate - he is dying. What is your intention?" Ohica asked. "If he dies, we will all perish."

Rose pressed harder on the Doctor's wound, trying to ignore his grunts of pain. "He... he healed up my hands back in the room with that green stuff. 'S worth a try, right?" She blinked back the tears that were starting to obscure her vision. "I can't lose him...."

Ohica nodded, and knelt with some difficulty alongside the rock as the infant Melina continued to fuss. Raising her ring, she pressed it to the remaining cords that bound the Doctor to the flat rock. They hissed and snapped in the blue light, the short ends falling to the floor. "There," she said as she got to her feet. "I will return with assistance."

Rose nodded as Ohica left the room with the wailing baby, leaving her alone with an unconscious, injured Time Lord. "Oh, Doctor, what have I done?" she murmured, her voice wavering as the tears began to run down her face. She watched the Doctor closely while she waited for Lyra, noting with alarm that he seemed to be having more and more difficulty breathing, and was reduced to short, quick pants with intermittent, hitching gasps for air. His blood continued to seep from between her fingers where the cloth pressed and Rose was beginning to panic. He couldn't die - not now!

After what seemed like an eternity, Lyra returned, rushing quickly into the room holding a small, carved bowl filled with the green slime Rose remembered from before. She peeled the orange-red silk away from where it had adhered to the skin of the Doctor's left chest, a feeble pulse of blood escaping as she did so. Gritting her teeth, she plunged her fingers into the proffered slime and withdrew a generous amount to glop into and around the Doctor's injury. Her gruesome work done, she quickly replaced the orange-red silk, pressing firmly. "Please let this work," she muttered under her breath.

The two women waited, both watching the Doctor carefully as he continued to pant, occasionally grunting or moaning in distress. Rose noted that he was paler than usual, the pallor of his skin making the light dusting of freckles on his skin stand out in stark relief. He still seemed to be struggling to breathe, and Rose pressed harder at his chest. After a few moments, she again peeled the robe from his skin, relief flooding through her at seeing shiny, reddened skin beneath the congealed blood and residual slime where the wound had been. "Thank goodness," she said softly.

Lyra visibly relaxed, setting the bowl down at the foot of the flat rock. "We should take him back to the recovery room. Sister Ohica should return shortly with help to carry him - oh!" Lyra was cut off as the Doctor turned his head to the side and feebly coughed up a small amount of blood, a bright red dribble at the corner of his mouth.

"Shit!" Rose and Lyra looked at each other in horror and Rose quickly pressed a palm to the Doctor's left chest. Nothing. She slid her palm to the other side and felt the racing pulse of his right heart. "Lyra, his left heart's not beating!" she exclaimed.

"He is also having great difficulty breathing," Lyra observed. "I fear his lung may be damaged as well. Why does he not regenerate?"

"I don't know!" Rose wailed. "Doctor, please! I don't know what to do!" She watched him struggle to breathe, feeling helpless. He weakly coughed again, bringing up more blood, and Rose's heart lurched in her chest. She smoothed his hair from his brow, realizing that his skin felt slightly clammy under her fingers, and was slowly taking on a greyish hue. He was dying and there wasn't anything she could do to help him. Why didn't he regenerate? Had he lost too much artron?

Ohica had returned to the chamber - not with a baby, but with the litter and six other Sisters, a bewildered-looking Riza among them. Rose barely noticed their arrival, but Lyra quickly filled Ohica in on what had happened and Ohica hurriedly moved to Rose's side by the flat rock.

"Are you able to move him? At least tip his head up - he must drink this." Ohica produced a flask from her belt pouch, the fluid within shot through with golden, glowing particles. It was the last vial of the Sisters' substitute elixir that she had seen in Valna's laboratory! Rose quickly shifted on the rock to sit near the edge, Lyra helping her to pull the Doctor's upper body toward her, guiding his head to rest in her lap. Ohica knelt, unstoppered the vial of precious fluid and as Rose gently opened the Doctor's mouth with her fingers, Ohica poured the contents of the vial past his lips. He coughed and sputtered, but eventually swallowed.

"What happens now?" Rose whispered in the sudden hush that had come over the chamber. "Will he regenerate?" The Doctor remained still, but his color was improving and Rose felt a glimmer of hope.

"He should make a full recovery," Ohica said softly. "We owe him this much after his ordeal at Melina's hand."

"Thank God," Rose murmured, watching as the Doctor stirred slightly, his pink tongue running over his bottom lip. His eyes fluttered open and he looked at her blearily.

"Rose - 'm ok. Need rest. I'll be fine," he rasped, his voice nearly inaudible.

"'S good to see you again," she whispered to him, a grin spreading over her face. "Melina's gone - you did it. You can sleep now," she said, but his eyes had already drifted shut and his breaths were deep and even. Sighing, she put a tentative hand on his left chest, relief flooding through her as she detected a steady, if faint, beating. "Where is Melina, anyway?"

"Sister Morgana is watching her. It has been a very long time since we have had a child in our midst. We may take her to the surface dwellers to raise; I have not yet decided." Ohica stood, dusting off her robe, and signaled to the group of Sisters standing nearby. "Come, we need to move him."

"Where are you taking him?" Rose asked, suddenly uncertain.

"He needs time to rest and recover from his trauma. We will return him to the guest quarters so that he may do so," Ohica replied. Rose raised an eyebrow.

"You have my word that you will not be confined," Ohica added. You will be free to move about as you wish - within reason, of course." Rose nodded, twisting part of the sleeve of her borrowed robe with her hands nervously.

"Can I stay with him?"

"Of course. I believe your presence will aid greatly in his recovery, as you are his bonded partner," Ohica responded. "He should be soothed by your proximity."

Rose leaned back slightly as the six Sisters, three on each side of the rock, carefully lifted the Doctor's unresisting form and transferred him to the litter. Rose shuddered as she looked at the rock's surface - it was covered in blood, as were her hands and robe. She climbed off the rock to follow the procession with Lyra, but as she stood on shaky legs, she felt extremely lightheaded - and the periphery of her vision was darkening. She could hear Lyra calling her name, but couldn't seem to move her lips to respond. She crumpled to the floor in a heap as everything went black.

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Chapter 24: Vingt-Quatre

Author's Notes: Vingt-Quatre: A cool body was snuggled up to her front, its head pressed to her breast and even breaths penetrating her robe to tickle her skin....


Rose awoke to the strange sensation of being warm, yet cool at the same time. She carefully stretched her leadened and lethargic limbs, becoming aware of a dull heaviness behind her eyes. Sensations began to register as she slowly moved to full awareness - one, she seemed to be lying on an extremely cushy bed and her desire to let herself sink into the bedding and resume her slumber was increasing rapidly; two, she was still wearing her blood-stained robe and it was beginning to itch; three, she was cocooned in the warmth of a plush covering that she desperately wanted to feel against her naked skin; and four, a cool body was snuggled up to her front, its head pressed to her breast and even breaths penetrating her robe to tickle her skin. Her eyes snapped open, taking in a mop of disheveled brown hair directly in her line of sight. Remembering the sight of the Doctor's blood-soaked clothing, she tentatively brushed a hand down his back, feeling smooth skin beneath her fingers. Someone had taken the liberty of removing his ruined jacket and shirt, and Rose felt somewhat thankful.

She carefully eased him away from her, gently disentangling her limbs from his, and ignored his small, sleepy squeak of protest as she rolled him onto his back to examine his wound. All that remained was a thin stripe of shiny skin, the redness of it standing out against the paleness of his chest. Flakes of dried, crusted blood were still adhered to his skin, along with a small amount of residual green slime. Rose wrinkled her nose, wondering if he'd be able to wash up anytime soon. She laid her head on his right chest, placing a palm on his left, to hear and feel his reassuring twin heartbeats. They were steady and strong, and she wanted to weep with relief. With his right heartbeat in her ear, she allowed her gaze to continue downward, and saw that his pinstriped trousers had been drawn up and refastened and she frowned. She didn't want to think about anyone touching him there, and marveled at this new feeling of possessiveness.

Despite the weight of her head on his chest, the Doctor slept on, leaving Rose alone to deal with the maelstrom of thoughts whirling through her head. She wished he were awake to distract her from having to confront her feelings resulting from their ordeal, but she supposed that she'd have to deal with her emotions at some point, and now seemed as good a time as any. She surrendered to her musings, her mind turning to speculation as her heart ran to hide.

She allowed herself to ponder a possible future relationship with him, a very complicated-sounding proposition. From what little she understood about the Gallifreyan bonding process, it seemed that telepathy played a large role in it, something that she most likely would not be able to provide for him. She wondered if it was a skill that she could be taught, hoping that it wasn't just wishful thinking on her part. She hoped that if she did ever muster up the courage to ask him to teach her, she wouldn't make the request sound as pitiful as it just did in her head. Then again, she mused, as different as the two of them were, just how could things work out between them?

Rose reluctantly pushed herself away from him and sat up, rubbing at the sudden pricking at the corners of her eyes. The Doctor still hadn't stirred and she shivered, longing for something that was both warm and cool at once. She tried to fight the resurfacing doubt that plagued her, that once she and the Doctor left the influence of this planet, things between them would revert back to how they had been before. She sat back, drawing her knees up and hugging them to her chest. 'To have had something is better than having nothing' was a saying she remembered her mother telling her as a child. She hadn't understood at the time, but the words now returned to haunt her. She still didn't want to believe that they might be true, at least in her current situation, but as much as she didn't like it, she was learning a difficult lesson: that to love such an ethereal being and face possible heartbreak was a risk worth the taking. Emotion overwhelmed her, and she lowered her face to her knees, closing her eyes.

Whatever happens, I was blessed to have you even for the short time I did.

All I wanted was you.

Sarah Jane was right - some things are worth getting your heart broken for.

You were mine, and even if I was only able to hold you for a little while, it was worth it.

It was all worth it.


Hugging her knees tightly to her chest, she realized that she loved the Doctor with a depth and intensity she hadn't thought possible. She loved him so much, in fact, that if things reverted back to the way they had been between them when they finally left this planet, she would cope. Because that's what adults did. Whatever happened, he was hers for the moment, and she planned to savor it for as long as she could. The chaos of her racing thoughts stilled, and she moved to lie beside the Doctor's slumbering form, catching his hand up with hers and pressing a quick kiss to his knuckles before closing her eyes against the light of the fireplace. Order restored, Rose returned to the land of dreams.

***************

"Rose?"

Rose pushed at the hand on her shoulder, doing her best to dislodge it so that she could resume her slumber. The hand, however, had other ideas and continued its insistent gentle shaking.

"Rose!"

"Not now, Mum," she mumbled as she tried to pull the bedcovers over her head. "'M tired - "

"Rose Tyler! I have no doubt that you need your rest, but you have slept for several hours now, and the Time Lord should be attended to - "

Rose sat bolt upright in the bed, coming face to face with Lyra. "Lyra! What... how long have I been asleep?"

"Several hours," the Sister repeated. "Sister Ohica thought it best to let the two of you rest, at least initially, but he should be bathed, and I've brought food for the both of you."

"Um, wait," Rose stammered. "Bathed?"

"Yes," Lyra responded. "Sister Morgana will be bringing supplies shortly. His sleep will be more restful if he is clean."

"Yeah, I 'spose," Rose responded, scratching at her itchy, soiled robe.

"Sister Ohica thought it would be best for you to bathe him. He might not react well if one of us were to do it."

Rose looked back over her shoulder at the Doctor's sleeping form, his face relaxed and lips slightly parted. Her stomach turned over as she remembered how she had felt upon discovering that Melina had washed him before, and she nodded as she turned back to Lyra. "I'll clean him up," she said softly. "The bed's still gonna be dirty though - "

"I've brought clean sheets for the bed. I'll change them now, and it would be much easier if you would assist. We'll put some towels beneath him, and they can be easily removed when he is clean."

"Oh, ok," Rose said as she looked down at her hands, trying to ignore her burning cheeks. She glanced over to the bedside table, seeing that a new tray had been brought in while she had been asleep. Lyra followed her gaze.

"I wasn't sure what you might like, so I brought a little more of what you consumed before. There is also some elbeflower wine, if you wish to have something other than water." Lyra stood, her eyes reflecting mild amusement at Rose's sluggish efforts to slide out of the bed. "I've brought fresh clothing for you as well. Come, if you could roll him toward you, I can replace the bottom sheet on this side."

Rose squatted slightly as she tried to drag both Doctor and covering over to where she stood at the side of the bed. For someone so slight in appearance, he was solid, and she found herself struggling to move him. Lyra ended up coming around to her side to help her.

"Here, you'll end up hurting yourself if you attempt to move him that way. Let me show you."

Rose watched as Lyra hauled the upper portion of the Doctor's body toward her first, then shifted to move his legs and feet. Returning to the opposite side of the bed, she managed to change the sheet beneath as efficiently as any nurse in a proper hospital. Lyra then laid down several overlapping thick towels in the center of the bed, moved the Doctor's body back to the towels in two stages, and stripped off the last of the dirty sheet, tucking the newly placed clean one in beside her. Rose guiltily realized that she hadn't helped at all.

"Is there another one of these?" Rose asked, holding up the plush covering as the Doctor shivered slightly in the bed.

"Yes, there is," Lyra replied as she gathered up the soiled sheet from the floor. "It's in the basket, along with more linens and towels, should you require them. You should use the old one until he has been bathed." Crossing the room to the fireplace, Lyra deposited the sheet in a heap on the floor. She then dragged a wooden bench from across the room into position beside the bed. Rose didn't recall having seen it when she had been in the room previously, and wondered if it had been brought in while she had been asleep. A knock sounded at the door, and Lyra went to answer it as Rose again marveled at her efficiency.

"Sister Morgana - let me help you." A Sister with long, straight brunette locks entered, a strange yoke about her shoulders from which were suspended two sloshing containers. She also carried two large hammered metal bowls and several sponges. Lyra assisted her in divesting herself of the yoke after setting the bowls and sponges on the bench. Slipping back to the fireplace, she snatched up a stoppered bottle filled with a familiar-looking amber-hued oil from the basket and brought it back to the bench. Morgana poured steaming water from the containers into both bowls, and Lyra added a bit of the oil from the flask to one of them, mixing water and oil in the bowl to create a sudsy froth. Rose closed her eyes as the unmistakable heady fragrance of lotus again filled her senses.

"Rose? Are you all right?" Rose snapped back to reality in time to see Morgana exit with the yoke.

"'M sorry," Rose apologized to cover her reverie. "Must be more tired than I thought."

Lyra smiled gently at her. "You should bathe first, then." She crossed back over to the basket near the fireplace, withdrawing Rose's previously abandoned clothing, along with another robe, undergarments and delicately embroidered slippers. "I wasn't sure what you might want to wear, though you might not find your previous attire to be the most comfortable. I'll leave out both." Setting the clothing on the bench, she returned to the basket and withdrew a thick towel, depositing it on the bench next to the clothing. Another knock sounded at the door and Lyra hurriedly crossed to open it, revealing Sister Morgana again, this time with a bundle of wood in her arms. Lyra directed her to leave it beside the fireplace, and the Sister departed with a curt nod. Rose fidgeted, not quite sure what to do.

Lyra stood in the doorway, also nodding to Rose. "I would bathe quickly, if I were you. The water will be warmer and more comfortable. It should be fairly easy to pull the towels out from under him when you are finished. If you require anything, the door will not be locked. One of us should be nearby." And with that, Lyra exited, shutting the door behind her with a firm click. Rose stared at the door for a moment before her gaze settled on the shivering Time Lord in the bed.

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Chapter 25: Vingt-Cinq

Author's Notes: Vingt-Cinq: In which there is a bath and some contemplation....


Right, Rose thought with false bravado. The quicker I get this over with, the better. After tucking the shivering Doctor under the soft bedding, she stripped off her robe and undergarments, grimaced at her tattered camisole, and picked up a sponge. As she immersed it in the heated, scented water, she kept a wary eye on the occupant of the bed, but the Doctor still hadn't stirred. She quickly scrubbed her face and body, getting the worst of the blood and grime off. After rinsing with a small amount of plain water from the second basin and toweling herself dry, she had to admit that she did feel much better now that she was clean. Deciding against putting on her jeans, she slipped into another set of undergarments and robe, feeling the orange-red silk glide sensuously over her skin. After putting on the embroidered slippers, she padded over to the bed, wondering how she should proceed. Should she try to wake him? She ended up deciding to just get it done, as the water would grow cold soon, and she didn't think that he would appreciate a cold bath. His lashes were dark against his pale cheek and she felt confident that he wouldn't wake anytime soon.

Rose grabbed a clean sponge and plunged it into the frothy water. After wringing out most of the moisture, she climbed up on the bed and began to dab at his face, having a sudden urge to eradicate all physical traces of what Melina had done to him. She gently swiped at his reddened lips a few extra times, wishing she could take away what may have happened to his psyche just as easily.

She continued to slowly cleanse his cheeks and chin, which were beginning to show signs of stubble growth. She realized she'd never seen him shave or style his hair, and suddenly wanted to, very much so. Moving to his throat, she encountered not only more stubble, but scattered reddish-purple marks marring the paleness of his skin. A sudden, quick anger suffused her as she remembered how Melina had nipped at him... just there. She hadn't realized she was pressing quite so hard at the marks until the Doctor shifted slightly in the bed, a grimace on his face. Rose guiltily went to rinse where she had washed, albeit much more gently this time.

She continued her ministrations, the water warm and comfortable to her hand, and she hoped it felt the same for him. The heady fragrance of lotus spiked with sandalwood and honey soothed her frazzled nerves and made her feel relaxed and safe. She was steadily lulled into an almost dreamlike state, with the flickering light of the fireplace adding to her reverie. Drawing aside the plush bedcovering, she felt her heart swell at the sight of him. He lay vulnerable before her, with his bruises, traces of green slime and dried trails of rusty blood. His hair was completely askew, his trousers were dirty and he was a mess, but he was, at the moment, the most precious thing she'd ever laid her eyes on. The reality of the situation was beginning to catch up to her as her dreams began to fade and she was left with the creature in front of her. She soon settled into a comfortable rhythm - wash, rinse, repeat.

Picking up his right hand, she carefully traced the sponge along each of his fingers, watching the bubbles run down his arm to his elbow to drip onto the towel below. He has such beautiful hands, she thought, suddenly wanting to feel them on her, ghosting lightly over her skin or pressed to her temples - she'd happily take either. She repeated the process with his left, finishing with a kiss to his palm after rinsing.

The light of the fireplace set the Doctor's skin aglow and Rose swallowed painfully as she looked at his unguarded form, his lips slightly parted in sleep. She desperately wanted to feel his body curved about hers, to feel the subtle press of his squared male hips against her own.

Rose just wanted.

She wished that she could keep her mind from straying to what had transpired not so very long ago, though it seemed like a lifetime away. When he had lain beside her in this bed, naked and willing, and they had danced.... A pang of longing hit her, of wanting to feel his cool weight pressing her into the mattress, even as her traitorous body insisted on recreating the sensation of him moving within her, filling and stretching her and making her feel gloriously alive.... The Doctor shivered again, snapping Rose out of her reverie, reminding her that the water would soon grow cold. The urge to lie down beside him and put her arm around him was almost overwhelming. She wanted so badly to curl up to him and warm him with her body, to hold him close while stroking her fingers through his hair, but she didn't think she had that right after what had happened. At least, not at the moment. She squeezed her eyes shut, feeling a familiar wetness there, and returned to her task.

She began to wash his chest, rubbing lightly over his pectorals, trying to remove the worst of the blood and slime before having to rinse. As she carefully stroked over his newly mended skin, she fought to keep the tears from blurring her vision. She had done this to him, and even though he had asked her to, she still felt the need to do right by him. Though she would hardly call him fragile, she would call him vulnerable, relying only on his wits, his wonderful TARDIS, and occasionally her to make his way in the universe. He needed her now, regardless of her feelings, and she wasn't about to let him down.

Rose hesitated, trying to remember how Lyra had rolled the Doctor over so easily earlier. Cross left foot over right, she thought as she did so, then pulled his left shoulder and hip toward herself. He rolled to her readily, exhaling softly as she propped him on his side against her knees and examined his back. Some traces of blood lingered from where they had run down his side to pool on the rock, and she gently eradicated them as she steadied his shoulder with her other hand. He twitched as the soapy water sluiced across the skin between his shoulder blades and she froze momentarily, peeking down to look at his face. He appeared to still be deeply asleep, and Rose relaxed, changing sponges to rinse, stroking gently down the slim cords of muscle to remove all traces of soap. Task completed, she gently eased him away from her and back onto the towels, dropping a light kiss to his forehead. Sliding off the bed, she hurried over to the fireplace, seeking the clean bedcovering that Lyra had told her about. She found it near the bottom, plush and soft against her questing hand, and quickly pulled the covering from the basket. It was a deep maroon in color, almost jewel-like in tone, and she unfolded it as she brought it back to the bed, shaking out the creases. The Doctor was still shivering; she quickly yanked the now damp towels from under his upper body, and draped the covering over him, tucking it in tightly around his arms.

She lifted up the bottom of the covering and frowned as she examined his feet. They were filthy from running around without his trainers, and he had several small cuts on them - most likely from the sharp rocks that seemed to be ubiquitous to Karn. They seemed to have been very recently healed, much like his chest wound, consisting mainly of dried, crusty blood with reddened but intact skin beneath. She began to cleanse his feet with the soapy, scented water, trying to press carefully around the where the numerous small wounds had been.

Rose had just begun to clean the arch of his left foot when the Doctor suddenly jerked it out out of her hand. She stood up quickly, thinking he must be awake, almost upsetting the twin basins on the bench at the foot of the bed. He wasn't awake, but he had drawn his knee up, and the grimace on his face was beginning to fade. Rose frowned and grabbed at his foot, trying to bring it back to her to finish cleaning the grime from it. Realization hit her as the Doctor again jerked his foot from her grasp - he was ticklish! Smiling softly, she climbed up onto the bed, sitting carefully on his thighs, her silken robe pooling beneath her. He jerked slightly as she again picked up his foot to resume her task. Carefully rubbing around the sensitive areas of his feet, she methodically got rid of the worst of the dirt, even as his legs continued to jerk beneath her. Satisfied that she'd done as good of a job as she could, she dried his feet with the towel beneath them when she was finished.

She slid the damp towel from the bed and discarded it on the floor with the others, dumping the used, soiled sponges on top. Only a small handful of clean ones remained, and she glanced at the sleeping Time Lord on the bed, huddled with the maroon plush bedding wrapped tightly around his upper body and still wearing his dirty trousers. Rose dipped a finger in the sudsy basin, finding that the water was quickly cooling. She sighed, deciding that his legs probably weren't that dirty, but she should really remove his trousers and the remaining towels from the bed in order to keep it clean for him.

She picked up the end of the bench, slowly dragging it away from the bed and nearer to the fireplace, trying to avoid spilling any of the water still contained within the basins. After warming her hands briefly in front of the now dying fire, she threw in two of the additional logs that had been brought by Sister Morgana and decided that she couldn't delay the inevitable any longer.

As the fire flared back to life, Rose climbed back up on the bed alongside the Doctor's still form, now curled up with his nose buried in the bedding. She gently pushed him onto his back and reached with shaking hands for the fastening of his trousers. She was fumbling with the closure when she heard a small squeak. Looking up, Rose froze in place as a pair of wide brown eyes stared back at her.

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Chapter 26: Vingt-Six

Author's Notes: Vingt-Six: In which there is a confession and someone's kink is discovered....


Rose slowly drew her hands back from the closure of the Doctor's trousers, feeling incredibly awkward. He lay unmoving before her, his upper body tangled in the bedding and eyes wide.

"Doctor? 'M sorry, I wasn't... I mean, I just didn't wanna get the bed dirty...." She trailed off, unsure of what to do as he blinked at her and shifted in the bedding.

"Rose?"

His voice sounded hoarse and scratchy, but it was real and alive and she felt grateful with every fiber of her being. She risked glancing at him and was surprised to see a flash of what looked like fear cross his features. Thinking she could soothe him, she brought a hand to his forehead to smooth the fringe from his eyes and was dismayed when he flinched away from her touch.

"Rose? You... are you Rose?" Confused, Rose watched as he weakly pushed up from the bed and reached a tentative hand to her face.

"Please," he implored, his voice unsteady.

She suddenly realized with a pang of guilt that he didn't know whether she was herself or Melina, and that Melina had used their bond to confuse and deceive him. Leaning forward to facilitate his touch, she closed her eyes as she felt the contact of his cool fingers with her left temple.

She was in her meadow again, the golden shimmering walls that had served as mental shields now crumbling to dust around her. The shimmering particles were kicked up and swirled about by the wind, and she shielded her eyes from the assault, looking for the Doctor. She couldn't see him, but she could feel the warm sun on her face as the wind calmed to a gentle breeze that caressed her features. She could almost sense his presence if she concentrated....

"Rose." The Doctor's voice was a groan as his fingers slipped from her temple and he collapsed back down to the bed, his face drawn and exhausted. He panted for a moment before pursing his lips. "Same teeth," he noted quietly. "What happened? From the way I feel right now, I take it things didn't go quite according to plan?"

"No, not quite," Rose affirmed. "Gave me a scare, you did. I didn't know if you were going to make it for a few minutes there. Sister Ohica had to give you the last of their Elixir."

"Oh. I suppose I'm still rubbish at regeneration, then," the Doctor said quietly. "Among other things," he added under his breath. He was silent for a few moments and Rose squeezed his hand. "Where's Melina?" he asked, his eyes quickly scanning the room.

"Um... she's a baby," Rose replied. "Did you know that would happen?"

"I was fairly sure that would happen, yes," he responded, still looking around the room. "She's not in here, is she?"

"No. Sister Ohica took her. She's probably getting her nappy changed, or maybe having a sleep."

"Good, I'm glad." The Doctor shut his eyes wearily. "She'll have another chance, and I'm usually not one for second chances. Maybe she'll turn out differently this time."

"So, um... " Rose changed the subject. "Your trousers are pretty dirty and I think there might be some of that slimy stuff on them. You're gonna get the bed all messy if you leave them on."

"If they bother you that much, take them off," the Doctor replied, his eyes still closed.

"And you're ok with that?"

"I can control myself, if that's what you're worried about," he replied. "My mental shields may not be the best right now, but they're serviceable enough - " he trailed off as Rose kissed him on his cheek.

"Good to have you back," she said, grinning. Her smile faded as he opened his eyes to stare at her, an uncomfortable expression on his face. "So is this how it's gonna work then?" she accused. "You're just gonna keep shutting me out?"

He rubbed at one eye tiredly before blinking at her. "It's not like that, Rose."

"Then why don't you tell me how it is, exactly - 'cause I really think I should know." Rose prepared herself for the inevitable as the Doctor sighed heavily.

"It's just, well, it's hard to explain, really," he said as he fidgeted in the bed. "I've put a bond on you, without your consent or permission. I'm pretty sure that I remember you saying you were ok with it. Well, after the fact, of course." He paused, swallowing hard. "But that still doesn't make it right."

"'M ok with it, really - " Rose tried in vain to interrupt before he said something she really didn't want to hear, but the Doctor continued as if she hadn't spoken.

"It's a strange thing, the bonding process," he said, fatigue filtering through his voice. "I think I must've put it on you when we were on Satellite Five. I'm guessing the energy that I absorbed from you dropped my mental shields just enough to facilitate the contact. With my barriers intact, I barely perceive the bond at all. It's not that it's a bad thing, it's just something we're taught when we're young - absolute control."

"So the only time you ever, um... really feel things is when your barriers are down?" Rose asked. "That's really sad. But you can do that, yeah?"

"What, just drop them?" The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "That's actually rather difficult - goes against years of training and it isn't something that comes naturally. More of an involuntary thing, really," he said, not meeting her gaze. "Takes some getting used to - not having those barriers up. For you, it'd be akin to walking by the crowds at Buckingham Palace starkers."

"I don't understand," Rose said. "How did your people ever, um, get together with all of these barriers and things?"

"They didn't have to," the Doctor replied groggily. "With the advent of the looms, there was no real need to. At least not for the most part. When Gallifrey still existed, there were bondings and matings, for, ah... recreational purposes, in addition to providing a family unit for primary child-rearing, before secondary education commenced at the academy. Bondings were still considered a throwback to the pre-Rassilon era - a more primitive aspect of my species. They were considered a very significant cultural... thing, though, as we mate for life. Even a weak bond can affect one quite strongly." He paused, obviously uncomfortable. "After the looms were created and artron energy replaced huon energy in general use, the barriers served more of a protective function, for the males, at least. Otherwise, in a telepathic species - it'd be complete chaos. Without those barriers, all you'd be able to think about would be going off with your mate or bonded partner and... well, snogging them, to put it in human terms. Nothing would ever get accomplished, hence the training that makes it terribly difficult to get the barriers down on a conscious level - I'd have to be very relaxed, I think," he said, rubbing at one eye with a finger.

Rose tried her best to ignore the Doctor's discomfort with the subject. "If it's an involuntary thing, to drop your barriers, I mean, how did the Sisters' soporific do it?" she asked.

"I've no idea. Maybe we can get a sample later and analyze it back in the TARDIS," he replied softly.

Silence settled in the room, save for the crackling of the fire. After a few moments, Rose decided to throw caution to the wind. "Would you ever want to have your barriers dropped again? So that you could feel... things?" she asked hesitantly.

"I... I think I'd like to be able to feel a bond again. I've been on my own now for a really, really long time and it's difficult to recall how it feels - to be part of a bond, that is. But it wasn't like what it could be now... back then. I'm not making any sense, am I?" He turned his head to her, looking at her sidelong.

"Um, no."

"Didn't think so." He lay back on the pillow, closing his eyes. "It's just, it's something that will take some getting used to. I'm very obviously out of practice."

Rose scooted over to the Doctor's side, grabbing his hand and giving it a squeeze. "Is there anything I can do? Something I should be doing differently that would make things... easier for you? More comfortable?"

"No," he replied drowsily. "I'd never change anything about you, Rose. It wouldn't be you then, would it? If it happens, it happens."

She stroked her thumb across his in what she hoped was a comforting manner. "So... it could happen?" she asked in a small voice.

"I'm the one who put the bond on you in the first place, aren't I?" He turned on his side toward her, still holding her hand. "I don't know if I'm terribly suited to this sort of thing anymore. In fact, I never thought that I would be bonded again. It's not that it's a bad thing, just unexpected," the Doctor said, trying and failing to stifle a yawn.

"'S ok," Rose said, trying to keep her voice as normal as she could. "I won't make you talk about it." She gently disengaged her hand from his and began to rub his side slowly, up and down, until his breathing slowed and she believed he had gone back to sleep. "You'll have to put up with my lousy attempts to play nursemaid until you're feeling better, though," she said quietly.

"I've survived worse," he replied sleepily, his voice muffled in the bedding. Rose jerked in surprise.

Well, Rose thought. Still rude and, thankfully, not ginger.

***************

The Doctor slept for another short period of time, during which Lyra returned, bringing two pitchers of warm water and another basin with her, leaving them by the fireplace to keep them warm. After checking the Doctor's pulses and the rhythm of his hearts, she seemed to be satisfied with the progress of his recovery. Rose couldn't think of anything additional that was needed, so Lyra exited again, taking the used basins and laundry with her.

The Doctor woke again soon after Lyra left. He seemed a bit more awake, so Rose helped him into a sitting position after finally removing his trousers, ducking her head as she did so to hide her flaming cheeks. When he was tucked in again under the maroon plush bedding, Rose went through the food, finding with some disappointment that there was none of the gorgeous chocolate that had been there previously. The Doctor didn't seem upset by this, however, and proceeded to wolf down most of the bread pudding, but took his time with some of the smaller fruits that had been provided, sharing them with Rose. One tasted like a fizzy pink grapefruit with a hint of vanilla, and Rose smiled at the effervescent feel of the fruit on her tongue.

As the Doctor polished off a bowl of yellow grape-shaped fruit, Rose's gaze was drawn to his hair, still wildly askew. "We should really wash your hair," she suggested.

The Doctor paused, the last of the yellow fruit halfway between the bowl and his mouth. "Oh. Well, washing would be... good. Better than good - brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I'll wash up when we get back to the TARDIS - "

Rose cut him off mid-sentence. "You've still got a little bit of blood in it, and I think you'd feel a lot better. We could do it right here - Lyra brought more water, so we should have everything that we need."

"Except hair gel," he pouted.

Rose rolled her eyes. "Yeah, I don't think the Sisters would have any of whatever it is you use. C'mon, let's just get it done." She watched as the Doctor popped the yellow fruit in his mouth and set the bowl back on the tray. He was obviously still reluctant, and Rose had no idea why. Exasperated, she helped him disengage himself from the bedding.

After a few minutes of gentle coaxing, the Doctor lay face down, still shirtless, with his head and shoulders hanging off the side of the bed and his lower half covered up with the maroon plush. On the floor below him was the empty basin Lyra had brought, the stoppered flask of amber-hued oil, the pitchers of warm water and the remaining towels. Rose's fingers were buried in his hair, massaging and scrubbing thoroughly and eradicating every itchy spot that she was directed to. By the time she reached the nape of his neck, the Doctor was gripping the mattress hard while kicking his feet, and giving her all sorts of throaty encouragement.

Rose grinned and indulged him, enjoying the feel of his wet hair sliding between her fingers. She was fairly sure that his hair had been clean for a while now, but every time she tried to remove her fingers, the Doctor would groan pitifully and she would go back to her gentle massage of his scalp. She'd already let him get away with it four times and her arms were beginning to tire.

After rinsing his hair with the last of the water in the second pitcher, she grabbed a towel up from the floor and began to dry his head, rubbing in slow circles while he moaned heavily and kicked his feet anew. After a second toweling to get it as dry as possible, she ran her fingers through his hair to style it as best she could, and the Doctor made a soft, contented sigh, his head and shoulders drooping over the side of the bed. Rose leaned forward to press a kiss to his bare shoulder, standing up to help resituate him back on the pillows.

After getting the Doctor tucked up in the bed again, she gazed down at his profile, wanting very much to lean closer to take in his scent as well. He turned his head to look at her then, and smiled softly, making her heart skip a beat. She scooted closer to him, curling her fingers into the crook of his elbow.

"There's something I want to tell you," Rose murmured, trying to muster up her courage, which threatened to desert her now that the Doctor was very much awake.

"What's that?" the Doctor responded, his eyes unfocused. Rose caught herself leaning forward slightly for a better look and quickly shifted back. "What is it you want to tell me?" he offered when the silence stretched longer than it should have. Rose squeezed his arm, wondering why she suddenly felt like hiding.

"Sorry, it's just... hard, that's all."

He waited patiently for her to speak and Rose tried to loosen the death-grip she now had on his arm.

"I... I love you. Please don't say anything yet, just let me finish. I mean, I love you and I think this could work, between you and me. I know how much older you are and I feel like I want to run away from you right now, but I'm through with that! Oh God, I sound completely mental, don't I?" she babbled, not wanting to meet his gaze.

"Rose," the Doctor began in a low voice, "I don't think you sound crazy at all, I know - "

"Wait, please," she pleaded in desperation. "I want, no, I need to tell you this, because you said you weren't suited to this. I've never had trouble just talking to you before and here I have something important to say to you and I feel like I'm ten years old! I don't understand this bonding stuff, but... I want to. I want to learn. I want to learn everything I can about it, from you and with you... because I love you. I don't want to make you nervous around me, or uncomfortable, or push something on you that you maybe don't want or aren't ready for, but I had to tell you. I had to," she said, her shoulders slumping.

"Rose, I understand what you're saying, but there's something I have to tell you, too. My mental barriers - " the Doctor started.

"Whatever you want to do," Rose interrupted, "I'll do it. Whatever you want, I want that too. I want you to be happy, I'll do anything to make that happen for you, just please let me try! Whatever you decide, I'll live with it, I promise. So don't feel like you have to - "

Rose was interrupted by a pair of soft lips pressed to hers. How had he sat up so quickly? He broke the kiss to whisper in her ear.

"My barriers are down."

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Chapter 27: Vingt-Sept

Author's Notes: Vingt-Sept: "J-just to make sure I'm understanding correctly - sorry, still a bit fuzzy," he stammered, shyly looking up into her eyes. "You're to be the designated driver, then?"


"What... what do you mean, your barriers are down?" Rose didn't even try to keep the tremor out of her voice.

"Told you I just needed to relax, didn't I?" The Doctor's tone was light, but Rose could hear a tinge of uncertainty beneath.

"Oh," Rose said softly, trying desperately to clamp down on her suddenly scattered thoughts and the swell of longing in her chest. "But... you nearly died back there - you're supposed to be recovering! You can't possibly want to... to - "

"You... you don't want...." the Doctor's voice had dropped to a mumble, and he collapsed back down to the bed, closing his eyes and visibly swallowing. "Sorry, I'm sorry. Was silly of me, really. I misunderstood. Just give me a minute - "

Rose reached out her hand, tracing around the reddened stripe of skin on his chest as the Doctor visibly shivered. "No, that's not it at all," she murmured, moving her hand up to press it to his chest. Twin heartbeats thundered against her palm and Rose fought the urge to shake him. "I love you and I do want you, don't get me wrong - but I nearly killed you. It can wait... until you're feeling better."

He grimaced, shifting in the bed. "Touching me isn't helping," he growled. "I'm doing my best to get my barriers back up and flooding my system isn't making it any easier."

How could he be like that, Rose wondered as she snatched her hand back. How much was one small human being supposed to be able to endure? She really wished she knew the answer, because she was pretty damn sure she'd reached her limit. Alarmed, she watched the Doctor turn from her to curl into a tight ball, struggling to control himself. Did he think she was rejecting him? Her chest began to tighten painfully and she made a soft keening noise. The Doctor made a questioning sound in response and Rose hung her head.

You're alive - you've come back to me.

I almost killed you and there's no way I can ever pay whoever I need to pay back.

I'm not rejecting you, but you nearly died and
now you drop your barriers?

Rose couldn't help it - waves of pent-up emotion crashed over her, and her breath began to hitch; her eyes welled up and blurred her vision as the tears began to fall. She swiped at her eyes in embarrassment, but then she felt a cool hand clutching her shoulder, sliding to her neck and trying to pull her forward.

"Please don't cry, Rose. Please - I'm such an idiot," his voice implored. "Please don't cry like that. I'm sorry, Rose - I'm so sorry. Please, I'll do anything," the Doctor pleaded, his eyes wide.

Now that the floodgate had been opened, Rose couldn't seem to stop the tears. "I'm saying all the wrong things," she wailed. "I would have done anything to have kept you from being hurt," she said, her voice cracking and chest heaving. "I nearly lost you back there - " She suddenly couldn't breathe and the Doctor pulled her into his arms. She grabbed onto his shoulders and clung to him wretchedly until her sobs began to subside some time later.

"It's ok, Rose - I'm fine. Just fine," a soft voice murmured against her cheek. The lips that moved across her forehead were softer.

"I know," she hiccuped as she wiped her nose with the sleeve of her robe.

"I didn't mean to upset you," he said quietly. "I wasn't thinking. I shouldn't have snapped at you."

"Don't worry about it," she sniffed, tilting her head back a bit to look at him. "I thought dropping your barriers was supposed to be hard to do." The Doctor was silent, and Rose watched as he ran a hand through his now dry and strangely flat hair. "Doctor?"

He smiled at her sheepishly. "I guess I find your fingers in my hair extremely relaxing?"

Rose laughed despite herself. "I'll have to remember that. Were you able to fix your barriers?"

"No," he admitted. "It seems once the process is set in motion, it's very difficult to stop. Don't worry about it, though. I'll be ok, I can handle it."

She skated her fingertips experimentally across his bare chest, feeling and hearing his sharp intake of breath.

"Unless you are intent on teasing," he hissed. Rose tried to withdraw her hand, but he caught it in his and brought it to his lips, licking at the tips of her digits. His warm tongue curled around her fingers and pleasurable sensations began to register in her belly.

"If you're sure you're feeling better," Rose murmured, her resolve to give him more time to recover beginning to crumble, "I do want you. I want to make love to you. Very much."

The Doctor brought her hand to his chest with a sigh. "I know that I made you cry before," he said in a low voice, not meeting her gaze. "But I promise... I'll do whatever you ask me to do. I'll learn what you like and how to please you - I'll do my best to make it good. I'll even try not to talk too much."

The Doctor's words hurt, and Rose stared into the weary eyes of the man who lay before her in disbelief. It wasn't supposed to be like this. It felt as though he was sacrificing himself again for her sake and her guts churned uncomfortably. "But that's... that's not what I want," she murmured. She pressed her hand over his hearts and leaned in close, her lips centimeters from his. "I want it to be good for you, too - for both of us."

He inhaled sharply, his breath catching in his throat, and she turned her head to whisper close to his ear. "And for the record, you're not rubbish at it. Not at all," she said, watching as his eyes widened in surprise.

"What? But... you - " he sputtered indignantly.

"Shhhhhh," she crooned to him. "It was... really," she paused to lean in closer yet, her lips brushing the shell of his ear. "Really good."

"Oh," he said in a small voice, shuddering beneath her hand.

He was so tantalizingly close, and she could see that he was responding to her. Desire began to stir low in her belly, spreading tendrils of warmth through her. Her hand was suddenly lifted from his chest and she felt the softness of his lips pressed to the back of her hand in a lingering kiss. A shiver ran through her body, and her mind momentarily went blank, transfixed by the feel of his mouth on her skin. She looked up to see his gaze fixated on her, the pupils of his eyes beginning to dilate, and the room seemed to grow quite warm as he released her hand.

"What do you want?"

He blinked, seemingly surprised by her question. "What do you mean?"

Indecision gripped her as she tried to work up her nerve to clarify what she had asked. "I... I mean, what should I do?"

"I think you should do whatever you like," the Doctor said, shyly reaching out his hand to her. A faint blush began to spread across his cheeks, and Rose's heart fluttered in her chest. His obvious embarrassment at even discussing the subject of sex was endearing, and she felt a swell of affection toward him.

"I know what I would like," Rose said as he suddenly fidgeted in the bed. "As long as you're sure you're ok, and are... up for it," she grinned and continued in a low tone, trying to make her voice sound as seductive as she could manage while her eyes roved over what little of his skin she could see above the maroon covering. "I think you should let me make you feel good, since you're still recovering and all that. I promise I'll be very, very gentle. Are your barriers still down?"

"Yes," he hissed between gritted teeth.

"Good," she said quietly as she moved down to kiss him softly, her lips brushing against his. The Doctor tried to sit up to deepen the kiss, but Rose pressed her hand hard against his chest, pushing him into the mattress.

"J-just to make sure I'm understanding correctly - sorry, still a bit fuzzy," he stammered, shyly looking up into her eyes. "You're to be the designated driver, then?"

"Yep," she responded, popping the 'p'. "You're supposed to be resting."

"I see," he said dubiously. "And you're sure it's not because I'm rubbish at it?"

Rose grinned. "Very sure."

"Ok," he squeaked, as she traced her fingers along the edge of the maroon covering.

"There's something I did want to ask you, though," Rose said, her voice low. "You're telepathic, yeah? Is that something you'd be able to teach me to do? To make you feel good?"

"I... I don't know if it's something you can learn to do," the Doctor said, his voice unsteady. "I can assess your capability when we get back to the TARDIS, but - " He swallowed hard, closing his eyes. "In all fairness, I really don't think you'll be needing that particular skill right now."

"I just want to be able to please you - "

"Rose, believe me, that won't be a problem," he said as he propped himself up on his elbows and toyed nervously with the hem of her robe. "And do we really have to talk about this now? And when I say now, I mean, right now?"

"All right," Rose said, smiling. "Have it your way. I'm sure we can find something else to talk about. Or not." She bent to kiss him, shifting her body over at the same time in an attempt to sit astride him. Unfortunately for Rose, the Doctor had drawn up one leg under the bedding, and her hand came down on his knee as they both shifted, causing the Doctor to jerk violently and Rose's hand to slip, making her pitch face-forward to the bedding between the Doctor's legs.

The Doctor's eyebrows arched into his hairline, and his mouth dropped open in a rounded 'o' of surprise. Rose didn't move for a moment, then she pushed herself up, her hands on either side of his hips while he stared at her, his eyes darkening. She sat up on her knees, and watched him intently as she slowly crawled up his front, pushing him again into the bedding. He was panting wildly as she lowered herself down to kiss him, a lovely moan escaping him at the contact.

He reached for her as she broke the kiss, and she shifted back, using both hands to grab his wrists and press them down to the mattress below. "Promise me you'll let me take care of you," she insisted.

"I'll try," he gasped, his arms twitching in Rose's grasp. "But no promises. Do your worst, Rose Tyler."


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Chapter 28: Vingt-Huit

Author's Notes: Vingt-Huit: "Do your worst, Rose Tyler."


Do your worst, Rose Tyler.

Rose fully intended to do just that, slowly drawing the maroon plush bedcovering away from the Doctor's body. He fidgeted nervously and shifted in the bed, and she sat back on her heels, admiring his form as it was gradually revealed to her. While he was not overly muscular, his lithe form was a symphony of male planes and angles, trailing into a flat abdomen and slim, squared hips. He was only wearing his boxers, and Rose buzzed with the thought of how very accessible that made him.

The Doctor looked up at her, wide eyes taking her in. He looked breathtakingly handsome, with his skin glowing in the firelight, and freshly washed hair falling softly to his forehead instead of sticking up at crazy angles. Rose's mouth ran dry and she licked her lips nervously, wondering how best to please him.

"Rose," the Doctor said softly, and reached out a hand to her as his eyes went to half-mast. Rose took it in hers and pressed a quick kiss to his palm before releasing him, her shaking hands moving to the fastenings of her robe. His eyes darkened further as she slowly slid the reddish-orange silk from her skin and dropped it to the floor with slippers following, leaving her in only her camisole and knickers.

Picking up his foot, she kissed the top of it, sliding her lips and tongue slowly across his ankle. She could hear the Doctor's breathing becoming more erratic as she continued up his leg, dropping kisses as she went. He shuddered as she kissed up his thigh to the edge of his boxers and he moaned softly, his hands coming off where they had gripped the mattress to reach for her again. She briefly moved into his grasp, smiling as he tentatively ghosted his hands over her arms, moving up to caress her cheek. She turned her head to kiss his fingers and the effect on him was dramatic - he jerked, chest heaving and breath coming in a strangled gasp.

Rose shifted, moving to sit between his parted thighs while he watched her with darkened eyes, darting back and forth across her features. Sliding a hand slowly across his throat, she tangled her fingers in the thick softness of his hair at the back of his head, then slowly moved her hand to force his head back. The Doctor was noticeably shaking as she lowered her face to his, stopping just millimeters from his lips. His breaths were hot and rapid against her mouth as she traced lightly over his lips with her tongue, and he made a sound that was both plaintive and longing before offering his own, making shallow thrusts into her mouth. She slid her tongue against his, delving deeply into his mouth and he yielded with eagerness, sucking gently as his fingers dug into her upper arms. Rose brushed her chest against his and he gasped and arched against her as she continued to explore the interior of his mouth, her tongue twining with his.

Breaking the kiss, she withdrew slightly as the Doctor's hands moved to the fabric of her camisole. The thin fabric gave as he panted heavily and pushed the garment up to her shoulder with one hand before dragging his fingers over the swell of her breast. Rose batted at his hands and moved in to the base of his neck, suddenly wanting very much to mark him as her own. She nudged the Doctor's chin away and sucked hard, as he tilted his head to give her better access. He made a soft keening noise, and she sat back to look at him, flushed and trembling, his lips red from her kisses, the mark she had made on his neck even redder.

"Please," he groaned, the sound caressing her ears. "I... I want...." Feeling emboldened, Rose stretched her body up and slowly removed her camisole, surprised and pleased by the way the Doctor's mouth dropped open as he watched her.

After a moment of silent perusal, he swallowed hard, his Adam's apple bobbing. "So beautiful," he murmured. "You're so beautiful, Rose." Rose smiled as she sat back, fighting the urge to cross her arms over her breasts at his intense scrutiny.

The Doctor raised one leg to move his knee back to his chest, and pointed at her knickers with his toes. "Take them off," he ordered, his voice husky. Rose hesitated, licking her lips before she moved to obey. Rising to her knees, she slid the simple cotton garment past her hips and sat back on her buttocks to work it down and off her feet. She looked up into the Doctor's dark eyes before letting the fabric fall from her grasp to the floor below. She grinned as he squirmed on the bed in appreciation, his cock pushing insistently against the front of his boxers. Leaning forward, she traced her fingers along the waistband of his boxers before slipping underneath. He slammed his hands into the mattress, pushing himself up on his elbows and raising his hips to assist. Rose carefully slipped the undergarment over his cock and down his thighs, tossing it over her shoulder.

She looked down at his erection and gave him a wink. "Looks like you're getting some ideas, there."

"I like ideas, ideas are good," he said darkly. "In fact, I think I'm getting one right now... a very top-end of the clever scale idea... mrrphh!" He was cut off as Rose's lips found his mouth and he was roughly kissed.

She released him, pulling back and grinning. "Thought you said you weren't gonna talk so much!"

"That's... you... not fair!" he managed to get out. Rose decided he still sounded far too eloquent, and moved in to kiss him again until they were both breathless.

She broke the kiss, breathing hard. The Doctor lay still before her, his chest heaving. Rose moved to lie beside him and reached down to touch him, encircling his cock in her grasp and he gasped, turning to bury his face into her hair. She smiled as he moaned and clutched at her hand, curling his fingers around hers as she began to slowly stroke him, his breath tickling her ear. The Doctor groaned softly and began to thrust erratically into her fist, his breaths wildly rapid. Looking down to where she intimately held him, Rose felt her breath catch in her throat at how erotic it seemed. A hand closed on her arm and tugged madly, trying to pull her atop him, and Rose acquiesced, her lips finding his mouth and the Doctor gasped into the rough kiss. Pulling away again, she began a downward trek to explore his body with lips and tongue - down his frantically working throat, his heaving chest with its twin fluttering heartbeats, his twitching abdomen, while he followed her progress with wide eyes.

"Please, Rose - not going to last... " the Doctor moaned as she nipped at the crest of one hip, the rest of what he said coming out garbled and choked as he flailed wildly in the bed. Rose quickly grabbed his hips to still him as he tried to arch beneath her. As he began to calm in her hold, she released his grasp on his hips to move over him, her hands pressed to the mattress on either side of his head. She moved to align herself with his cock, and he turned his head to kiss the inside of her wrist as she did so. She wanted to be careful with him, to move with slowness and tenderness - to give him the pleasure that he hadn't had before, but the combination of his urgency, her own arousal and her body's insistence on joining with his immediately were making her good intentions almost impossible. She felt his cock at her entrance, and very gently pushed back on him until he was buried within her, filling and stretching her once again as he gasped and cried out beneath her.

It shouldn't be so amazing, Rose thought, but it was. After a moment, she began to move on him, her pace unhurried as he showed his appreciation with shallow upward thrusts, his hips rocking into hers. She tilted her head back and held on to him tightly, letting the sound of his moans wash over her ears as she moved gently on him to try to elicit more such noises.

As her need heightened, she began to quicken her pace, feeling the coil of pleasure beginning to tighten in her belly. The Doctor's moans had been reduced to broken, stuttered pleas and Rose continued to work him, trying to hold off her own climax for as long as she could. It was all that she had ever wanted, ever dared to imagine, and it was perfect. His shuddering body was held tightly between her knees, his hands at her waist to assist her, and she could smell the warm, sensual scent of the oil that she had used to bathe him intermingled with the spicy smell of his sweat and sex. His voice sounded raw now, and his hands moved to tangle in her hair, tracing a path to her temples. She didn't want to lose control of the moment and carefully shook her head to dislodge his grip. He submitted, trembling as his fingers trailed down her arms to the sides of her chest, to anchor her as he thrust up. He shouted out noisily as his climax hit him and he came inside her, and Rose was suddenly flooded with liquid warmth and bright pleasure. It felt distinct and almost strange - and seemed to originate from outside herself. Could it be his artron? The fleeting thought vanished as she continued to move on him and came with a hoarse cry, with all of her complicated feelings and emotions colliding and exploding behind her tightly closed eyelids. She collapsed to his chest, pressing a kiss to his shoulder as her orgasm faded.

There was tenderness afterward - shy touches and soft strokes, gentle kisses and the press of a cool body to her own. Rose trailed her fingers over the Doctor's damp forehead as he curled toward her, sated and drowsy. She could tell that he was fighting the urge to sleep, and she traced over where the wound had been on his chest. He moaned, husky and soft, his voice ragged from his own completion, and Rose pressed her naked body to his.

He tilted his head back, blinking tiredly at her. "How long," he started, his voice raw with emotion. "How long will you stay with me?"

"Forever," she responded without hesitation, gazing into his hooded eyes. "I'll stay with you forever."

His breath hitching, he clutched her to him tightly, kissing her eyes closed. She snuggled up to the coolness of his chest as he moved to rest his chin on her head, and slowly ran her hand up and down his side as his breathing slowed. Succumbing to her own post-coital lethargy, she fell asleep with the beating of his hearts in her ear.

***************

Rose slowly woke from her slumber, rubbing at her eyes to clear her sleep-blurred vision. The room gradually came into view, lit by the now cheerfully flickering fire. She saw that her clothes had been carefully folded on one of the wooden chairs that had been moved to her side of the bed, her TARDIS key gleaming on top of the pile. A quick glance around the room revealed no evidence of the Doctor's presence. She was alone.

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Chapter 29: Vingt-Neuf

Author's Notes: Vingt-Neuf: Seeking the Doctor....


Rose hurriedly dressed, putting her own clothes on in lieu of the orange-red robe, and replaced her keychain around her neck. She thankfully found her trainers neatly placed on the floor by the side of the bed and pulled them on, exiting the room in a rush. She hoped that the Doctor hadn't attempted to retrieve the TARDIS without her - she'd seen for herself how dangerous the terrain was, and Sister Ohica had already told her that one Time Lord had already regenerated because of it.

The rock-hewn corridors were deserted, with Rose finding no evidence of any of the Sisters, much less the Doctor. She moved quickly toward where the common rooms were, desperate to find someone who could tell her where the Doctor might have gone. Rounding the corner, she came face-to-face with Lyra, and stumbled back, startled.

"Lyra - where... do you know where the Doctor is?" she asked, putting a hand on the wall to steady herself.

The green-eyed Sister smiled. "Yes, of course. I will take you to him."

Rose breathed a sigh of relief as she followed Lyra through the corridors. Lyra didn't seem to be anxious, so surely the Doctor was still within the Shrine and safe. They rounded a familiar-looking corner, coming to a halt in front of an ornate, wooden door. "Lyra," Rose began warily, several unpleasant thoughts beginning to surface in her mind. "Why are we back here?"

"He is well. You need not be concerned," Lyra replied as she opened the door and allowed Rose to pass. The numerous flickering candles and glittering stalactites of the Chamber of Candles greeted her, along with the familiar outline of a tall, wooden, rectangular box standing beside the central pool of dense water. The TARDIS! She ran to it, placing a hand on one outside panel, feeling a comfortable hum beneath her palm. Grinning, she moved around to the door and pulled her key out from where it hung around her neck. The door was already open an inch, however, with long cables running out to connect with several metallic, boxy pieces of mechanical equipment, placed at various points throughout the chamber. Lyra had caught up with her, and pointed to where a narrow gap existed in the rock of a nearby wall before exiting. Rose could just make out the high-pitched whine of the sonic screwdriver, and hurried over.

She knelt by the opening to peer inside and caught sight of the Doctor's slight form. He was awkwardly scrunched into the small space and alternating between wielding the screwdriver and another unfamiliar piece of equipment on a fissure within the rock, a determined look on his face. His pinstriped trousers were coated in dust, and his face was smudged with dirt. Rose briefly entertained the thought of giving him another bath and promptly dashed it, her cheeks burning.

"Finally up, are you?" The Doctor's cheerful voice emanated from the gap, startling her. "You've been asleep for almost fifteen hours now."

"What?" Rose's mind boggled. "I slept how long?"

"Almost fifteen hours. I figured you needed the rest, so I didn't wake you. I did check on you a few times, though. Did you know that you snore?"

"I do not - oh, bloody hell. What are you doing in there?"

"Fixing the flame," the Doctor replied, and Rose swore that she could hear him snickering at her.

"For almost fifteen hours?"

"Well... a little more than that, actually. It took a bit longer than I thought it would to reach the TARDIS - and that was using the Sisters' shortcut - so I dropped back in a little while after I'd originally left."

"Oh," Rose replied, dismayed that he'd had to retrieve the TARDIS on his own. "I wish you'd waited for me. Please don't wander off like that again - I was worried about you!" She heard a loud thunk emanate from the gap, accompanied by soft swearing. "You ok?" she asked.

"Fine, fine. I just thought I'd get started while you were sleeping. The sooner we get out of here the better, I think," the Doctor replied in a frustrated tone. "Give me a hand out of here."

Rose grabbed the hand he extended and pulled him from the gap. It, too, was dusty, and the Doctor brushed his palms on his trousers as he stood up and stretched after pocketing the screwdriver. "You're a mess," she observed as she looked him over, noting that the Sisters' skills weren't the best at laundry, as his pinstriped jacket and white dress shirt still bore the faded evidence of their latest misadventure.

The Doctor quirked one eyebrow at her. "Re-routing an outlet isn't the cleanest job in the universe. I think I've just about got it, though. Ohica wasn't pleased that the TARDIS's scans indicated that this chamber would have the most direct access to the gas pocket beneath us, but as I told her, earthquakes don't always shift things where you tell them to, and well...." he trailed off as Rose scowled at him. "Something the matter?" he asked in a small voice.

Rose looked at him, feeling all of her mixed emotions, joy, ecstasy, terror, longing, confusion, love, faith and trust swirling through her. Moving closer before she could change her mind, she stood on tiptoe to press her lips to his. He kissed her softly and drew back, a look of confusion on his face.

"Rose," he began, but she interrupted.

"Your barriers are back up, aren't they?"

"Yes," he said in a low, wary voice, his eyes widening as Rose advanced on him. He backed away until he came up against the wall of the chamber and could go no further. Rose pressed against him, effectively pinning him to the rock.

"You are going to tell me things," she said, her voice unusually deep and husky. "Things that you've kept from me to supposedly protect me, because you're here and I want to know. You can't just hide things from me anymore." Rose narrowed her eyes and the Doctor swallowed hard, pressing himself hard against the rock with a small squeak. Rose jabbed a finger into the center of his chest. "Start talking."

"W-what do you want to talk about?" he stammered, not meeting her steady gaze.

"I want to know why you put a bond on me."

"Oh." He slid down the rock wall, sitting heavily on the ground. Rose moved to sit next to him, her back against the wall. He stretched his long legs out in front of him, tapping his dusty trainers together lightly and running a hand nervously through his hair. "It was subconscious on my part, really, but I can make a guess," he offered.

"This'd better be good," Rose sighed, waiting for his response.

"It's just... I've lost just about everything that's ever been important to me, Rose. Anyone that I've ever cared about gets taken from me. I don't abandon my companions - they move on when they're ready... without me. I was at a pretty low point in my life when I met you, and you changed that, you made me see things in a new way, feel things that I hadn't expected to feel again - "

"It's ok... " she murmured to him as her heart turned in her chest, moving closer to nestle her hand in his.

"I... I suppose I wanted to be close to someone, well, not just someone, to you. I wanted to be close to you," he continued softly. "Before I regenerated - I knew that I wasn't going to survive, and I imagine that the energy from the TARDIS facilitated things faster than I might've wanted, because I would really like to be able to remember actually putting it on you, and - "

He was silenced by Rose's finger on his lips. "What does it feel like?" she asked, her eyes glimmering with unshed tears at his fumbled confession. "A bond, I mean. Butterflies in your stomach? That sort of thing?"

"I can show you, if you want," he said, turning to look at her, his eyes fathomless pools of emotion. "You don't have barriers, though - I'd have to keep it short."

"Ok, yeah. Show me."

She watched, transfixed, as he moved to kneel before her, his Adam's apple bobbing. He slowly brought his fingertips to her temples, giving her the lightest of caresses before pressing firmly and closing his eyes.

Rose was nowhere. She seemed to be floating in nothingness, with the odd sensation that part of herself was missing, and that the missing part was nearby. Quite close, in fact. Her senses seemed to be amplified, and she stretched them tentatively. Vision returned, and the blackness melted away to reveal the twinkling of hundreds of candles and the man before her - the man who held the missing part.

As sizable as it was, the Chamber of Candles suddenly felt very, very small, and the Doctor was far too close to her. Her amplified senses were hyperaware of him - the rapid beating of his hearts, each breath, the warmth of his body, the smell of his skin, every minuscule movement that he made. She was being flooded with an immense amount of sensory input, and her brain was rapidly overloading. Wanting tactile contact and also to kiss him until he was breathless, she reached out to touch him, feeling a fierce, overwhelming need to be one with him building in her chest....


Rose's eyes widened in shock as the Doctor's fingers dropped from her temples. "All right?" he asked in a low tone, sitting back on his heels.

She nodded slowly, taking in the intensity of his brown eyes. "Yeah, 'M more than all right," she said, smiling softly. He grinned at her before pulling her into a hug.

Sarah Jane was right. Some things were worth taking a risk for.

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Chapter 30: Trente

Author's Notes: And so we reach the end. Thanks again to my wonderful betas who made this story so much better than what it would have otherwise been; and also thanks to all those of you who took the time to leave such kind comments. They are greatly appreciated. And without further ado....

Trente: Of bondings, matings and departures.


Rose shifted, trying to get as comfortable as one could when sitting on a hard surface and leaning against an uneven rock wall. The Doctor once again occupied the gap in the wall, toiling to reroute the gas source for the Sacred Flame, and a loud mechanical drone resonated from the opening in the rock.

"Almost there." The Doctor's voice drifted out from the gap again, briefly interrupting her reverie. A steady humming noise started up, but was quiet enough that she no longer had to shout to be heard. Her thoughts drifted again as he continued to work, and took on a slightly darker tone. She'd been contemplating asking him about the numerous different timelines he'd seen when his extra senses first returned - many of which had an unfortunate outcome. Maybe someday she'd get him to tell her what he'd seen, but not just now, with recent events so raw on his psyche and on hers. Feeling useless, she decided to see if he wanted something to eat or drink; however, something intriguing that he had said before surfaced in her consciousness. Wondering if he was still in the frame of mind to answer very personal questions, she decided to throw caution to the wind and ask.

"Doctor? You said before that the mental barriers that Time Lords have are protective for the males. What's up with that? Are females so different from males?"

The humming stopped. "Well," he said, his voice sounding strained. "Both male and female Time Lords utilized artron, but...." He trailed off as he extricated himself from the gap and plopped down opposite her.

"But what?"

"When Gallifrey was cursed and became barren, the Looms were created to stabilize the population. The Looms may have saved us, but bondings continued to exist to facilitate matings and subsequent donations of genetic material to the Looms for the continuation of Time Lord society, if you will. Bondings and matings amplify the more primitive urges of my species, as you probably were able to feel before." He paused, taking a shaky breath. Rose rubbed his arm in what she hoped was an encouraging manner.

"Gallifreyans are telepathic, so barriers were needed for a general sort of protection, if nothing else. It'd be very loud in your head all the time otherwise." He grinned before continuing. "The females had the same barriers as the males, but only males were able to emit artron, which I've heard is... highly pleasurable, if you're able to absorb it. The males needed a bit of extra protection, as they were the ones being seduced...." A faint blush began to spread across his cheeks, and Rose felt her heart swell at his continued charming embarrassment at discussing the subject of sex.

"Seriously? So males have extra barriers? To keep out those pesky artron-grabbing females?" Rose asked, a grin on her face.

"Well, essentially... yes. Besides, it'd never do to sleep through your exams if maybe you've happened upon one of those 'artron-grabbing females', as you so crudely put it."

Rose giggled at this revelation. "So just how many exams did you sleep through, then?"

"Oi! I know better than that, and besides, my barriers - when they're in place, that is - are more than adequate, thank you very much."

Rose smiled. "So you, with your high levels of artron, would have been very much in demand, then?"

"Ah," he said, the stain on his cheeks increasing. "My artron levels weren't that high before I left Gallifrey. That's the result of several hundred years of TARDIS-travel - well after when I was first mated."

"So how is a mating different from a bonding, then?" Rose asked, lowering her gaze to the floor as she drew aimless circles in the dust, giving him the occasional sidelong look.

"Oh. Well, a mating would establish a rather strong telepathic connection between the two, ah, involved parties. I wouldn't have to necessarily touch you to link to you," he said, stealing a glance at her face. "Matings are more easily facilitated when a bond becomes strong enough, but the process would still be dangerous - for me, I mean."

She looked up worriedly. "What do you mean, dangerous for you?"

"I'd have to be making the telepathic connections on my own if I were to be mated to you. You wouldn't be able to help me, most likely. I can remember my father telling me a little bit about his experience with the process. My mother wasn't telepathic, and their mating had to be done in secret. If K'Anpo hadn't been able to help him when the process became difficult, things might have turned out quite differently than they did."

Rose swallowed. "Maybe it's not worth it, then?"

The Doctor looked her in the eye, his voice seductive. "Oh, but it is. Very, very worth it." He grinned at her. "Sort of like how a kiss is nice, pleasant, in fact - with you, I mean. But a connection would make it so much more - and I want more - not to say that a kiss isn't enough, it's brilliant, in fact, kissing you, and, well - "

Rose shushed him with a well-placed finger to his lips. "Point taken. Maybe someday."

His eyes widened in surprise. "You... you'd consider?"

"Of course I would." She traced her finger to his cheek and cupped it. "I told you, I'm never leaving you. Remember?"

He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing as he held her gaze for a moment. "I remember."

"Good," she murmured, watching as his eyes darkened.

He nodded slightly and grinned at her, the spell suddenly broken. "Besides, if we were mated, I'd be able to find you quite easily should you ever decide to wander off."

Rose raised an eyebrow. "What - you'd be spying on me?"

"No, no - nothing like that. I'd be able to call to you, though. You'd be able to hear my voice in your head. I don't think you'd be able to do the same to me, though. A shame, that... " He trailed off as a large group of the Sisters entered the chamber, carrying various items and led by Sister Ohica. The Doctor and Rose quickly scrambled to their feet.

"Doctor." Ohica made a slight bow to him, as did the other Sisters. He nodded in return, and Rose followed his lead. "We have brought the relics from the Chamber of the Sacred Flame. Are your preparations completed?"

"Yes," he replied, grabbing Rose's hand and giving it a small squeeze before leaving her to take a silver shield-like object from two of the Sisters. He set it before the gap, reaching inside to drag the machinery that he had been using out and across the rocky floor. A few hums of the machinery later, the shield was firmly attached to the rock, covering where the gap had been. The Doctor opened the shield, and after pushing the machinery behind him with his foot, withdrew his sonic screwdriver and aimed it into the gap. A few seconds later, a fire roared to life within. After some initial gasps and noises of astonishment, the Sisters knelt before the flame, arms outstretched. Sister Ohica moved forward to place an ornate metal goblet on the ground near the base of the flame, between the rocks that formed the walls of the gap.

Rose moved to where the Doctor stood watching the Sisters and leaned in close to whisper in his ear. "I don't get it - you said that the rocks just needed to get heated up to condense the water in the air. Why couldn't they have just built a fire in here if that's all they needed? Would've saved you a lot of trouble."

"It's not that simple, Rose," he murmured back in a low tone. "The material used to build a fire would have residue once burned - ash, carbon dioxide and whatnot. Some would end up in the Elixir and change the composition, rendering it useless. The Sisters need to use a very pure energy source to get the chemical reaction just right. The superheated gas from the volcano beneath us is unique in that the residue, what little of it there is, actually is a component of the Elixir. Artron may be a workable - if ah, problematic - substitute, but the real thing will be best for them in the long run."

Rose turned away to watch as the Sisters began to spin and dance in a tight circle, continuing to chant to the Sacred Flame, their reddish-orange robes swirling about them. She squinted to see inside the gap and was amazed to see the rocks gradually grow wet, with the moisture eventually condensing and running down the sides of the rock to where the goblet stood. After adjusting the goblet to catch the first splash of fluid, Ohica moved back to join the rest of the Sisters, chanting to the revived Sacred Flame.

"Doctor, this is amazing... " She trailed off as she realized that the Doctor wasn't standing next to her. Glancing over her shoulder, she spied him quickly moving cables and equipment back into the TARDIS.

"Best to get going, I think," he whispered to her as she tiptoed over. He was chucking the last of the cables into the TARDIS when they were joined by Sister Ohica.

"Doctor. The Sisterhood thanks you. Once again, we are in your debt."

"Yes, well, no need for thanks, we'll just be on our way, then, " he said, watching warily as Lyra approached.

"If you are ever in need of our assistance," Lyra said, a knowing look in her eye, "please do not hesitate to call on us."

"Are you sure you cannot delay your departure? We could give you elixir to take with you. It might prove useful in your travels," Ohica offered. "It appears that we will have more than enough in a short time thanks to you, Doctor."

"Quite sure, but maybe in the future I might take you up on that," the Doctor said, nodding toward the flame. "Especially since my friend here is what you'd call jeopardy-friendly - Ow!" He rubbed his shin where Rose had just kicked it. "Ok, Ok. If you do have any problems, I showed Lyra how to contact the TARDIS's telepathic circuits. You should be able to get a message through to me."

"Very well," Ohica said, bowing again as the Doctor returned the gesture.

"What will happen to Melina?" Rose asked.

"We will raise her, and she will be given the Elixir when she is of age. Under careful supervision, of course," Ohica replied, turning to the Doctor. "We will be needing to replace our number, Doctor. Would you have any ideas - "

"Anyway, time we were off," the Doctor hastily interrupted before Ohica could finish her question. "We'll be late for... tea! Yes, tea. Rose?"

"I'll see you again, I hope," Rose said, turning to Lyra and giving the green-eyed Sister a hug.

"I am sure that you will, Rose Tyler. You will always be welcome here on Karn," Lyra replied, returning Rose's embrace.

The groan of the TARDIS's engines reverberated throughout the chamber, and Rose gave Lyra's hands one last, firm squeeze. "Thank you, Lyra... for everything." She stood in the TARDIS's doorway, giving the Sisters a final wave before pushing the door shut behind her.

Rose felt the welcoming hum of the TARDIS as the Doctor disengaged the handbrake and they dematerialized into the vortex. "'S good to be back," she murmured, settling herself in the captain's chair to watch the Doctor dance at the controls.

"So, Rose Tyler," the Doctor said as he began to flip switches. "Where would you like to go now?"

Rose's gaze locked with his from the other side of the console. "Mmmmm... I think you could still use a holiday. And I think I know just the place. Has the best tea in the universe."

The Doctor groaned.

fin

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