To Have And Not To Hold by mtemplar [Reviews - 266] Chapter or Story |
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.
"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.