"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.
"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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