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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