SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Chapter Fourteen

To the Doctor's dismay, the Valeyard had the TARDIS transmat him to a holding cell while he spoke to Rose and Rory. The cell was small and cramped with only a steel bench to lie on that was built into the wall. There was a door but the TARDIS had absorbed it and all around him were steel walls and roundels. He lay back on the bench and tried to think of a strategy but all he could see in his mind was the heartbroken look on Rose's face when Rory told her about River. He gave up on thinking of a strategy and just relaxed, waiting for what happened next.

About a half hour later, the Doctor noticed the door reforming and he sat up, his mind filled with fury and his fists aching to pummel the Valeyard when he walked through the door. But to his surprise, Rose came in by herself and the moment she closed the door behind her, it reabsorbed into the wall. The Doctor didn't move, just observed Rose while she walked towards him. He swung his legs off the bench and she sat down beside him.

"The Valeyard wants to send us to another location and let us battle to the death. Me, you, Rory, my Doctor and Jack," Rose said, looking at the floor. "The Valeyard wants to do something to you and my Doctor to cancel the regenerations and as for killing Jack…"

Rose trailed off, fell silent and just shrugged instead. She stared down at her hands while the Doctor watched in silent anguish.

"I know you think I'm upset about River and I was," Rose said while she continued to look at the floor. "But then I thought about it and I realized that you once loved Sarah Jane as deeply as you loved me. You've lived far longer than me and you've done so much. If I end up somewhere else eventually, why wouldn't I expect you to move on and find someone else to love. If you moved on from Sarah Jane…"

She trailed off again and stared at the floor dully while the Doctor's hearts ached. He slid towards her and put his arm around her.

"I have cared for all my companions," he said while Rose continued to stare at the floor. "Loved them dearly and I cherish each and every one of them but there are several that got closer to me than the others and made an impact on my life. Sarah was one of them, yes. And you are another. And River is a third. I love all of you and all of you will always have a place in my hearts. I left Sarah behind because I was forced to and I didn't go back for her because I figured she was moving on and finding someone else. I want all the people I loved to be happy even if I can't see them anymore. Rose, please don't become suicidal and sacrifice yourself for me. If you land up as his slave that would torment me far worse than seeing you dead at my feet. At least if you were dead I would know you were far from his reach. He's doing all this to torture me because he knows the love I have for my friends is my greatest weakness. I don't want you to become his concubine, even if it means my freedom because I would spend the rest of my days wondering what's happening to you. And actually, I would turn right around and rescue you from him so it wouldn't work to begin with."

Eleven put his hand on her back and rubbed it.

"Whatever his plan is, I can't kill you," the Doctor said. "Or Rory or Jack and certainly not my former self. He's having a laugh at all the chaos and anguish he's causing, I'm certain of that."

"But what if I end up his slave?" Rose said, finally looking at him.

"If there is no hope for you, then I will kill you but only if there is no hope of escape," the Doctor said, rubbing her cheek. "I've only encountered him a few times so I don't know if he's telling the truth about this other universe and evil version of you but you're not going to become like her if an evil version does exist. I did not train you to become some evil, slutty concubine of a twisted version of me."

He raised his eyebrow when Rose giggled.

"What?" he said, amused.

"Would you rather I was your evil, slutty concubine instead?" she said coquettishly.

She laughed when the Doctor pretended to think that over.

"Perhaps if we left out the evil or the slutty. I don't like tarts," the Doctor said. "Concubine might do though."

"Do you love her? River?" Rose said.

"I do and I love you as well," the Doctor said.

"How old is she? Rory seems awfully young," Rose said. "Like my age, in fact."

"Well…it's a long story and I'd rather tell it to you in the comfort of the TARDIS. Besides, you need to meet her and Amy."

"I asked the TARDIS to try to free them," Rose said.

"She told me because I could sense her straining against her programming. But even if she can't, we'll figure something out," the Doctor said.

"Will she like me? I mean, I'm competition, yeah?"

The Doctor thought that over.

"Um…that I'm not sure of. But I will be a referee if she tries a catfight," he said.

"The Valeyard wanted me to come in here and tell you what he had planned so I probably better go before he hurts you," Rose said.

"What about Rory? Is he alright?"

"He was when I left. Rory's worried about you as well. He won't fight the Valeyard right now, not until we can come up with a strategy. Where did you find him? He's a nice bloke."

"Leadworth."

Rose made a face.

"So I'm guessing time travel was a bit of a shock for him?" Rose teased.

"Rose Tyler, are you being judgemental," Eleven teased back. "Are you implying that Rory probably snored his way through life before he met me?"

"Mum and I visited Leadworth when I was younger because I had a cousin that lived there for awhile. And I pretty much snored my way through Leadworth so yeah, I'm guessing he did," she said.

"Well, Amy is from Leadworth as well."

"Wow, two snorers. I hope you didn't overwhelm their minds when they saw their first planet," Rose said. "And River, is she from Leadworth as well?"

"No, River is from…well, she was conceived inside here," the Doctor said.

"Inside the TARDIS?" Rose said with mock surprise. "You allowed sex in here?"

She giggled when the Doctor leaned in close.

"One thing you must know about the Ponds," he said softly to her. "They are like dogs in heat and I couldn't stop them from having sex in here if I tried. I believe once they lock on to each other, game's over. And believe me I've tried everything from loud noises to garden hoses to get them to behave."

Rose giggled.

"Boyfriend/girlfriend?"

"Married. I said Ponds, plural. You didn't hear that?"

"No, I was busy imagining them rolling around on the console room floor like two dogs in heat."

"No!" the Doctor said, holding up his finger while Rose laughed. "No, they have not done it in there because I would chuck them out the door if they did. The rest of the TARDIS is fair game but I'm not stepping over them while they roll around, panting and drooling on my floor. But River was conceived in here and she somehow became part Time Lord because of it."

"So if you kill her, she'll also regenerate?"

"Not now, she used up her regenerations to save my life. Long story," the Doctor said, holding up his hand. "But if she dies, that's it for her. But supposedly she's not going to be a part of this special competition, yeah?"

"I don't think so. He didn't mention Amy or her when he told me to tell you this."

"Probably doesn't want to risk bringing in more people than he already has. Amy and River can fight, especially River. If anyone could bring the Valeyard to his knees besides me, it would be her."

"Oh?" Rose said, raising her eyebrow. "And I couldn't?"

"No, you're the cheerleader of the group. You just stand back and say "Rah, rah, rah," while we kick arse."

"Okay, I'll be the cheerleader of the group then," Rose said.

The Doctor chuckled. He leaned in close and kissed her cheek.

"You are still special to me and always will be, I swear that," he said softly. "You live in my memory and my hearts."

"And you live in mine," Rose whispered.

The Doctor kissed her forehead and gazed into her eyes for a moment before he told her that she better go before the Valeyard comes to get her. Rose nodded and kissed his lips deeply. Reluctantly she pulled away from him and the Doctor watched lovingly while she stood up and turned towards the wall. The door reformed for her and with last look over her shoulder, she opened it and walked outside. The Doctor watched wistfully while the door closed. Then the door was absorbed back into the wall and he lay back on the bench and closed his eyes while he rested.

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