The Doctor stabbed the comms button viciously, cutting off the conversation with Davros. He'd thought… when the new signal had come through, he'd really hoped it would be Rose.
He threw the dematerialisation lever and paced in front of the console while the TARDIS took them to Earth. Donna got to see her in that pocket universe. Why can't I see her? His hand opened and shut spasmodically, as if his body thought he could will Rose into being just by trying to hold her hand.
He snorted derisively. That hadn't worked once in the four years since he'd lost her.
Four years. Four years without his bondmate at his side, or in his mind. Four years, and he still ached for her with every breath he took.
He'd thought she'd made it back six months ago, on the same night he'd met Donna. Right after Donna had left to take care of her car keys, he'd felt… well, he'd thought he felt Rose. He'd gone tearing through the streets of London, trying to find her, and then her telepathic presence had vanished as suddenly as he had sensed it.
Left alone on a busy street, the Doctor had leaned back against a building and pressed his fist to his mouth to muffle a sob. Then he'd straightened up and gone back to the TARDIS, where Donna had been waiting for him.
After that, he'd tried to lock away his memories of Rose. Tried not to think about how perfectly her hand always fit his, no matter what body he was in. Pretended he didn't dream about making love to her, that the gaping hole in his mind didn't ache every minute of every day.
The TARDIS landed, pulling the Doctor from his morose thoughts. He took a deep breath and walked down the ramp, feeling more uncertain than he usually did when he visited London. Sarah Jane had said they were taking people, and he had no idea what he would find when he left the ship.
But as soon as he pulled open the door and stepped out onto the dark street, the eeriness of the abandoned cars was swept away by a familiar presence in the Doctor's mind. His head felt light, and he suddenly realised the ever-present ache had been missing most of the day.
He took a few tentative steps towards where he thought she was, then Donna muttered something about ghost towns and he lost the telepathic signal for a second. He waved his hand at his friend. "Shhh," he ordered. "Just… quiet."
Donna quieted, and the Doctor reached for the presence again. Are you there, love? Please be there. A burst of joy answered his plea, and he took off running, dodging open car doors like a skier on a slalom course and hurdling piles of rubbish like a champion sprinter.
Doctor! I'm here! Oh, my God, I'm here!
The Doctor heard footsteps pounding against the pavement, then a figure burst out of an alley thirty feet ahead of him. Rose skidded slightly when she turned the corner, and he laughed gleefully as they both put on extra speed to cross the remaining distance between them.
When they were five feet apart, the Doctor stopped and caught Rose when she leapt into his arms. "Rose!" he said, her name catching in his throat on a sob. He nuzzled into her hair, and the familiar fragrance of her shampoo unlocked the vault of memories he'd spent six months repressing.
Rose kicked her legs slightly, just like she had all those years ago when she'd jumped into his arms after Krop Tor. The Doctor banded his arms tightly around her waist and swung her from side to side, completing the remembered hug.
"Doctor!" Rose pressed a kiss to his neck as he set her down on her feet. "Oh, God, I missed you."
The Doctor sighed and turned his face so he could catch her lips in a kiss. At the same time, he reached for their bond, which pulsed brightly in his mind with joy and awe. Oh, Rose. I missed you so much.
Rose groaned when the Doctor's tongue swiped at her lower lip. She opened her mouth and his tongue slid inside, brushing against hers, and she clenched her hands in his hair. This was what she'd dreamed about for five lonely years in Pete's World. Being back home, in the Doctor's arms, where she belonged.
She scraped her nails over his scalp and smiled against his lips when he growled. Yep, still got it, she teased, throwing his own words back at him.
A wave of foreboding washed over Rose, drowning out whatever the Doctor said in response to her teasing. During her time at Torchwood, she had learned to pay attention to the subtle feeling of disquiet she sometimes got, the shiver like something was about to happen that should not happen.
Rose tuned in to her surroundings, and she immediately heard the quiet, unmistakable hum of a Dalek rolling towards them. She gasped and pushed the Doctor back as she reached for the weapon that still hung at her side.
The Doctor stumbled and turned around just in time to watch her shoot the Dalek as it rolled out of an alleyway, some twenty feet away. "Rose… you… that's…" He rubbed his hand over his mouth and stared at her in awe.
Rose reached up and stroked his cheek. "I want you safe, my Doctor."
She felt a surge of new and yet familiar power course through her at those words, and the Doctor's eyes widened. He reached for her hand and laced their fingers together, looking into her eyes the whole time.
"You are the Bad Wolf," he whispered as he pressed his forehead to hers.
"Yes." He'd told her most of the story—the parts he knew at least—before they'd bonded. The rest had come back to her in dreams over the years of their separation. Looking into the Vortex, seeing all of time, adjusting the timelines so she would always be there to keep him safe.
She felt his shaky breath against her lips. "How long are you going to stay with me?"
Rose tilted her head to kiss him, and when only a millimetre separated her lips from his, she whispered one word.