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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