Chapter Seventeen

The Doctor, Rose, and Martha blinked as they burrowed up through the sand onto the dune. Rose gasped when she felt the hot sun on her skin.

"Oh, my God, it's hotter 'n hell up here!" she said as everyone removed their oxygen masks. "Why did you decide to come here?"

"I didn't choose it, you guys did."

"Well, then we were definitely under the other Doctor's control because I never would have made this choice of my own free will." Rose said.

The Doctor looked back behind him and sighed when he noticed Sssthor hadn't emerged.

"Get up here, Sssthor," he said reaching back through the sand.

He paused a moment and Rose and Martha watched as his hand moved around in the sand.

"Oh no," he muttered.

Furiously he tried to dig into the sand, but the faster he dug, the faster the sand covered the hole.

"Bollocks!" he said.

"What?" Martha said.

"He's slipped away and gone back." Doctor said getting to his feet. "Come on guys, I have a feeling we're gonna be overwhelmed by warriors in a couple of minutes. Let's haul ass back to the TARDIS!"

He helped his girls up and they clambered up the dune as fast as they could, praying that the warriors would be too busy with the alternate Doctor to follow them.

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It took about a half hour but they finally reached the safety of the TARDIS. To their relief, no warriors followed them and Rose and Martha let out a sigh when the Doctor opened the door and they went inside the air-conditioned console room.

Rose and Martha walked over to the captain's chair and sank down in it while the Doctor input some coordinates. They breathed another sigh of relief when the rotor began its familiar rotation and they entered the vortex.

"Thank God!" Rose said putting her head on the Doctor's shoulder when he sat down between her and Martha.

"Let's never, never, never go back there ever again!" Martha said.

"Yeah, don't ever, ever put those coordinates in the computer ever again!" she said.

"What, didn't you enjoy yourselves?"

He snickered when Rose and Martha both yelled no.

"Alright, well, I'm heading off to a nice forest planet that's like Belos Minor so we can take a breather. Nice mild climate and no insane snake people to attack us."

"Great! Wake me when we get there. I'll be in my bedroom." Martha said shuffling off.

Rose's eyes widened.

"Bedroom? Oh my God, Puff, I hope he's alright!"

"He should be. I fed him yesterday and he should be all snug and comfy in his cage." The Doctor replied.

Rose ran off to her bedroom. She returned a few minutes later with Puff singing softly on her shoulder. She sat back down beside the Doctor.

"He missed me." She said.

"I see that. He wasn't the only one." The Doctor replied.

Rose leaned in and gave him a kiss.

"I'm so glad we didn't hurt you when we were under the other Doctor's control." She said.

"Nah, I wouldn't have let you hurt me. If you'd tried anything, I would have gone all Jet Li on your asses."

Rose rolled her eyes when he let out a "Hai-yah!" and mimed karate chopping her neck.

He put his arm around her shoulders and she snuggled close to him. They sat quietly for a moment enjoying one another's company.

"Do you think that those Artaxis warriors did away with the other Doctor?" Rose finally asked.

"Oh, I'd say so; I don't see how he could have gotten out of that alive. Not with all of them in one room like that."

"Are you sorry he's dead?" Rose asked.

The Doctor sighed as he thought.

"Not really. I gave the man a chance to reform himself and he decided to take the opportunity I gave him and use it to come back over here and hurt you and Martha. He put chips in your heads and took over your minds and I'll never forgive him for that."

He glanced over at her ear.

"Speaking of, Rose, I want to put you and Martha under and remove that chip. It's disabled, but I'd feel better if it was completely out and away from your brain. After we finish taking a breather, I want to do that. It won't take long and it's completely painless, I promise."

"I would like that." Rose replied. "I hate the thought of it being in my head. I want it out and I'm sure Martha feels the same."

The Doctor nodded.

He laid his head on Rose's shoulder and closed his eyes as they listened to Puff's singing.

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Rose smiled as she and Martha and the Doctor walked through the forest on Delandandaron. After the punishing heat of Aradia, it felt good to feel the cool breeze against her face. The only one who didn't come along was Puff. Reluctantly, Rose put him back in his cage. Her heart ached when his singing stopped, but she didn't want him to get lost especially since it wasn't his home world. She made a promise to herself that she would let him out later on and play with him to make up for his confinement.

She skipped a bit enjoying the shady woods and the enchanting smell of forest flowers. She felt sorry for the Artaxis living on a planet that had none of this. Forced to live underground to survive. Never feeling a cool breeze on their face or tasting cool water on their tongues. If she had to live like that, she figured she would either kill herself or go crazy.

She bent down and plucked a purple flower. Giggling, she stuck the stem behind the Doctor's ear.

"Ah, you look cute like that Doctor." She said as Martha giggled.

"I am not "cute," I am manly." He said sniffing.

"Nah, you're cute. You're as cute as a little tiny button. I think since Doctor isn't your real name, I'll just go ahead and call ya Puff Junior."

She and Martha laughed as the Doctor eyed her.

"First off, Doctor IS my real name and secondly if you start calling me Puff, you will find yourself tied to the front of the TARDIS whenever we go through the vortex."

"Puff." Rose said poking him in the stomach.

"Rose…"

"Puff." she said poking him again.

"Rose Tyler, I'm warning you! Call me Puff again and there'll be hell to pay!"

Rose grinned at Martha.

"Puff!" she yelled and took off running.

"Right, I warned ya!" the Doctor said as Martha bent over laughing.

He chased her through the woods. Catching up to her, he grabbed her and wrestled her to the ground. He tickled her furiously.

"Say it, Rose, my name is the Doctor, not Puff!" he yelled.

"Never!" Rose gasped out.

He tickled her harder.

"Say it!" he said as Martha leaned against a tree and howled with laughter.

"Your…name…is…PUFF!"

The Doctor tickled her even harder and Rose's face turned red.

"SAY IT, ROSE TYLER!"

"Okay…okay…you're…the…Doctor…not…Puff."

She gasped for air as the Doctor stopped tickling her and got up.

"And don't you forget it!" the Doctor said wagging his finger at her.

He raised his eyebrow when she flipped him off.

"EXCUSE ME? DID I JUST SEE YOU MAKE AN OBSCENE GESTURE?" he yelled as he lunged at her, fingers wiggling and hungry for flesh.

Rose squealed and she grabbed herself as she curled up into a ball.

"I'm sorry…I'm sorry…I'M SORRY…" she screamed as the Doctor tried to get into her armpits.

Giggling, he leaned over and kissed her cheek.

"Okay, I'll forgive you this time, but you better not let it happen again." He said.

Rose nodded as he got up. When his back was turned, she flipped him off again.

"Doctor, she's flipping you off again!" Martha said pointing at her.

"Damn it, Martha!" Rose said scrambling to her feet as the Doctor spun around and took off after her.

"I guess a little more cootchie-coo is in order, eh, Tyler?" he yelled at her as Martha fell back against the tree laughing. "Then maybe you'll learn to take me seriously!"

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Rose rested herself on a fallen tree trunk. The Doctor had come up with the idea of having a cookout to celebrate their escape from the alternate Doctor and the Artaxis warriors and he and Martha had gone back to the TARDIS to fetch the supplies. Rose was tired from all the running and tickling she had been subjected to and had volunteered to stay behind to keep an eye on the spot they had picked. While she was waiting for them, she relaxed and listened to the birdsong floating down from the treetops.

She looked up when the Doctor emerged from the trees. She frowned when she noticed he was empty handed.

"I thought we were gonna have a cook-out." She said. "Where's the stuff for it?"

"Changed my mind. I wanna treat you and Martha to a nice expensive dinner." He said to her. "I came back here to get you so we can leave."

Rose raised her eyebrow.

"You…wanna buy us an expensive dinner?" she asked.

"Sure, after all that happened with us and all you and Martha did to help make our escape possible, I figure you guys deserve it." He said.

Rose smiled.

"Well, I kinda had my heart set on a cookout. " She said. "But dinner at a restaurant sounds nice too."

"Good, then let's get going then." He said.

Rose nodded and got up. The Doctor let her by and then he reached into his pocket and stuck a piece of paper under a rock beside the fallen tree. Putting his hands in his pockets, he followed Rose into the woods.

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"This way, Rose."

Rose looked back at the Doctor when he grabbed her arm and pointed off to the right. She frowned.

"I thought the TARDIS was this way." She said pointing ahead.

"No, it's just through these trees."

"Oh, it is? Oh, I guess all that running I did earlier confused me." She said.

She punched the Doctor on the arm and he chuckled.

"It's this way, Rose." He said leading her into the trees.

They walked a few feet and Rose smiled when she saw the TARDIS sitting there.

"Oh, okay," she said. "Like I said, I must have gotten confused after being tickled to death by you."

The Doctor smiled and winked at her as he reached into his pocket for the TARDIS key. He opened the door and stepped aside.

"After you, my love." He said.

Rose smiled and stepped inside…and paused when she saw the steel interior.

"Wait a moment, this isn't…"

She spun around.

"Surprise, Rose." the alternate Doctor said.

He grabbed her arm and brought a small spray bottle up. He sprayed a mist in her face and she slumped to the floor unconscious.

"I managed to escape from the Artaxis, Rose," he said gathering her into her arms and heading to the back of the TARDIS. "And thanks to your lover's overconfidence, I tracked his TARDIS to this planet without any trouble. After that, it was just a matter of watching and waiting and leading you away. Now, I know, you're just dying to know all about how I escaped, but right now I have to get you comfortable and get us back into the vortex. See, while I was fighting off those snake warriors, I had an idea for a game. It's called hide and seek. I hide somewhere in time and space and your Doctor and Martha have to find us. I left him a little note, but it's up to him to figure out where we've gone. And if he's as smart as he claims, I'm betting he'll find you in no time. Of course if he is lucky enough to stumble onto our hiding place, I'll be ready and waiting for him, but in the meantime, I have the pleasure of your company while he frantically searches the universe for his one true love."

He took her into the laboratory and strapped her down to one of the lab tables.

"Now I'm not sure whether or not I'll reactivate the chip. I'm thinking it would be much more fun to explore time and space with my companion when her mind is able to function properly. On the other hand, I don't want you causing trouble either. Maybe I'll just reactivate it, but keep it off unless I absolutely need it."

He leaned down to Rose's unconscious face.

"And if I were you, I'd behave yourself because I have a horrible temper and I might get pissed off and do something bad to you. Just letting you have a little friendly warning."

He chuckled as he leaned back up.

"Well, get some sleep. The whole tickling and running thing sounds exhausting. I'll see you after awhile…my Rose." He said.

He pinched her cheek and hummed to himself as he left the room.

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Rose?"

The Doctor and Martha paused when they reached the clearing and didn't see any sign of Rose.

"Rose!" the Doctor yelled as he and Martha set down the supplies. "Rose, you around? Martha and I are back now and we're ready to set up the campfire and---"

"Doctor."

The Doctor looked over at Martha who was reading a piece of paper. She swallowed hard and handed it to him.

"I found this under a rock." She said. "I…think you better take a look at it."

The Doctor took the note and began to read. His hearts stopped in his chest and his throat went dry.

My dimwitted double,

Despite what you and your friends may think, I am very much alive. I managed to escape and track your TARDIS to this planet and now I have your precious jewel in my possession. By the time you read this, I will be back in the vortex with her and we will be going to some random location. Where, I will not say, that is for you and Martha to figure out. But, while you are searching everywhere for your heart's desire, remember that you brought this on yourself by leaving me for dead in that arena. I always get my revenge, Doctor, one way or another and although I did not get to kill you, I have done the next best thing by taking away the one thing you cannot live without. Have fun spending many a sleepless night trying to locate her and remember this as you search…

It is your fault that Rose is gone and it will be your fault if she dies.

Love and kisses,

Your vastly superior twin.

The Doctor's arm dropped to his side and he closed his eyes in anguish. Martha stood by him hesitant about what to do. Tentatively, she touched his arm and he opened his eyes and gave her a sad smile.

"Doctor, we will find her." She said softly.

"Yes, Martha, we will." He said firmly. "And he will be expecting us to find him. Otherwise, why leave the letter? No, this isn't about Rose. He wants me. This is his way to torment me, cause me pain, and ensure that I'll continue to focus my energies on him. He knows how much of a threat I am and he's not gonna stop until I'm dead."

"So, what do we do?" Martha asked. "Where do we start?"

The Doctor thought a moment.

"Cardiff." He finally said.

Martha frowned.

"Cardiff?"

"Yes, I have to make a quick stop in Cardiff because this search is gonna take awhile and I don't wanna stop for anything. Rose is depending on us now and we can't fail her."

He grabbed up his supplies and Martha did the same.

"Come on, Martha, we'll have our celebration after Rose is back safe and sound in the TARDIS with us." He said.

Martha nodded and she followed the Doctor back to the TARDIS.

THE END (To be continued in the next story, The Dark Doctor's Master Plan…)