Vortex, Psychografts, and Denial of a Different Sort

Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who...I'd very much like a TARDIS though...if anyone would oblige?

A/N: I'm still working on The Domestic Approach and Soul Catching (and Artificial Light to a certain extent) but I banged this out today as an early birthday present for ConfusedinTime...anything to get me out of my extended project work...It's a Stolen Earth/Journey's End one-shot and at the start, I wasn't sure if I was going to go down the route of 'What if that sodding Dalek had never pwned Ten?' but in the end, I decided to stick with canon and this is what came out...it's very angsty and instrospective but I hope it shows just how much Ten really loves Rose. So, um, enjoy!

A/N Take Two: Reviews are purdy and I am a whore for them...pretty please have a go at pressing that lovely little button at the bottom of the page when you've finished reading this...there may be an even prettier Time Lord in it for you!

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It's not like Donna to be cryptic, she's usually brash and straight to the point, whether you want a blunt answer or not. For one of the very few times in your life of centuries, you're puzzled; you'd even go so far as to describe yourself as confused.

"Why don't you ask her yourself?" What's that supposed to mean? You can't ask her, she's stuck in a parallel universe, trapped forever with her mother and Mickey the Idiot. You want to ask Donna again, force her to explain herself but she's not even paying attention to you, staring at something beyond your shoulder. So you turn…and there's Rose and you question everything you ever believed in, except her.

You said once, a long time ago and yet so far ahead; "If I believe in one thing, just one thing…I believe in her!" and for a split second, you wonder if that belief ever fluctuated, ever changed or, worse still, disappeared entirely. You realise it must have done because this is just impossibility in a universe that you're so sure of. You can see every atom of Space and Time, every fibre of living existence; all that was, all that is, all that ever could be, all that must be, and all that must not. So how did you miss this? If you'd take a second to be honest with yourself, you'd realise that you never truly believed that she would ever come back to you, you even wanted to kid yourself that she wouldn't try. She was sealed off, you lost her…but now?

You come to your senses after wasted seconds of staring; her hair is longer, framing her face in wisps of honey blonde. It's a few shades darker, more natural and it suits her, just as the toned-down make-up compliments her in a much better way. It reminds you of how she always looked in the mornings after the few snatches of sleep you managed to allow her before your need to impress took over you again; she always looked innocent, childlike. Now it's different. All innocence is lost, floundering in a sea of spilt tears and frustrated screams. She looks older, but the smile on her face is wide and warm and you run. It hurts, pushing you past your limit as you sprint. You find that you notice it more, as if it is the first time you've ever run towards her but you remember crinoline and pink and the scent of 1953; copper wire and orange juice.

When the ground seems to lift away from the soles of your Converse, your hearts leap and your grin widens, even reaching all the way up to your ancient brown eyes until you're smiling so much that you realise that you'd forgotten how to be truly happy; the last time you smiled like this was before the ghosts became Cybermen and the Cult of Skaro became more than just a nightmarish legend; before your universe was torn apart. Your fingers are itching to touch her, to pull her towards you and run your fingers through that honey-coloured hair and the tiny human instinct inside you stretches up, feeling through your mind until there are images of possibilities; flashes of lips and skin and heat and you want that.

Your eyes water at the contact of cold air against your face but none of it matter; in a few seconds she will be in your arms where she belongs, but as always, nothing in your life is ever as simple as 'And they lived happily ever after'. You don't see the Dalek until it's too late; you hear its battle cry just as you hear it in your dreams, cold and metallic. Screaming. There is just enough time to turn and the jet of icy blue light glances of one side of your body as you lose your balance and collapse, hitting the tarmac that feels so solid now. From somewhere in the fog of your mind, you hear a gun cock, its sound muffled slightly as fragments of polycarbite shatter around you.

A hand lifts you head slightly, supporting its weight and you look into her eyes after what feels like an eternity of loss and grief. She's here and you still can't quite believe it even when she reassures you. You force her name out but it doesn't feel like forcing, despite the laboured breathing and the sharp pain that glitters along your body, squeezing every ounce of energy out of you but her name feels right. You've spent so long using her name as a trigger for a fight or a breakdown, or an excuse because she made you better but she wasn't around to do it again when the loss of her broke your hearts. The banter slips out, fitting into your old routine as easily as if you had never lost her. The old team, Shiver and Shake, and right now, that's all you can do and the pain shoots through you again, piercing your every nerve ending until its all you can acknowledge and she pleads, begs you not to die, not to leave her without you again. She has spent so long trying to find you; you don't even know how long it was for her but if it felt anything like it did for you…

Jack's voice, commanding. You wonder how she feels about seeing him again but suddenly the cool ground lifts away from you as they carry you into the TARDIS; Donna's shaking hands at your head, Rose's steady ones against your ankles. She knows. But even so, she won't let you go. They lay you down on the grating in the Console Room and her hand winds into your hair, her face streaked with tears as Jack's words penetrate the air around you, slicing through the tension like a knife as Donna's panicked voice shouts at the world, even though no one is listening and none of it registers. Except her.

"But I came all this way…"

And suddenly you realise the enormity of her journey; she has crossed through so many parallel worlds to find you, breaking down the walls of reality for this. A new man with a new face and a new personality who she will have no shared memories with. It's like the first time, only so much worse. You lift your hand, groaning at the effort, and it glows lightly and suddenly you hate the colour of gold. Jack pulls her away, lifting her bodily and holding her into his chest as she cowers from you, and you're jealous. Jealous of Jack Harkness, has it really come to this? Yes, you decide, because he can hold her and you can't. Not again, not like this anyway, and that pain is more intense that the sting of Dalek weaponry. He watches as she explains the process to Donna, slipping over the words as they catch in her throat and she tries one last time to stop it from happening; from taking you away from her.

As the light surrounds you, slipping into the haze that the TARDIS has become, you hear a Northern accent that you vaguely remember, you smell leather and metal and bananas, and you see her face and you think, just for a second, you dare to think that what you want – what you've always wanted – might just be possible…

Her lips curve into a smile, ruby and glistening in the alien light and her hazel eyes sparkle. It's all a cliché but that doesn't matter. You lean down – she's tiny compared to you, a perfect fit under your shoulder – and your thin lips meet her full ones. It doesn't taste of Vortex or Psychografts this time, it's just pure, unadulterated Rose and you wonder why you've left it for so long, putting it off and pretending that you didn't feel this way when in truth, you've had these butterflies in the pit of your stomach since you first took her hand when you were coarse and broken five years ago. Half a decade of denying yourself when you could have had this…

The pain and searing light slice through your dreams of a man braver than yourself but an idea clicks into place. That handy spare hand, right there, just within reach; a matching biological receptacle. It's a million-to-one chance…but it just might work, so you concentrate, pulling all your regeneration energy away from your dying cells and pushing it into your already tingling fingertips. You can feel it slipping away from you, leaving you whole and healed. Unchanged. For her.

You stagger backwards, feeling the adrenaline from your regeneration energy coursing through your veins and you immediately launch into full-on babble mode, trying not to stop and let yourself look at her face because you're afraid of what she might think of you and suddenly, inspiration hits you and you reel off the tale of how you lost that hand in the first place, as if you think she might have actually forgotten. You're still the Doctor, her Doctor, in exactly the same way as you were then and she walks towards you slowly, tentatively and you're grateful that you're not prattling on about hopping for your lives or dogs with no noses this time, although it would be so reassuring if she'd crack a smile…

"You're…still you?"

Oh yes. You're most definitely still you and you're still completely and hopelessly in love with her and your arms around her feel weightless and free and oh so alive. But you feel the changes; she's thinner, as if she hasn't been eating well – when you last held her, she was so solid and constant but now she feels like a ghost, flimsy and insubstantial – and when you pull back to study her face, to commit it to memory again and relive everything you felt for her, you notice the purple shadows beneath her eyes and wonder if she has been losing sleep and, worse still, if you're the cause of it. But there's no time to worry about that because you're hurtling into danger again. Daleks. Oh god…well, that's what you'd think if you had a god.

You never did kiss her; the coward inside you made sure of that. The words she wants to hear stick in your throat and you wonder if this is the price of playing the hero and if it's really worth it. As the wind whips around you, sea salt stinging your face, you watch him lean over – the pretender, the false coin – and you don't need to know what he's saying, don't want to know, even though you can see his – your – lips forming the words that you could never say even if you tried. As she pulls him towards her and his arms wrap around her just like yours are aching to do, you wonder why she has never kissed you like that. Are you too closed off from human contact? Are you so alien that she couldn't bear to touch you in such an intimate way? You shake the thought from your mind. Only a few moments ago, she had been pleading with you to let her travel with you again. She doesn't want the impostor. But she's his now, you've seen to that, and you walk away, trying so hard not to look back because you know that you won't be able to resist the urge to pull her away from him and claim her for your own.

When silence is your world again, you stare at the empty space of your magical machine and feel so full of emptiness that you might just explode from the sheer weight of its juxtaposition. You're in denial, you always were; not the denial of her feelings, or of your own, but you denied both of you the chance that you have had twice and a small, seditious part of your consciousness wonders if you would have denied that chance again had the circumstances been different, because that's who you are. The Destroyer of Worlds. Oh, not the huge civilizations (although you have done that before now), but the destroyer of intimate, ordinary lives. You destroyed half of Martha's life, you've wiped Donna's memory, leaving her just an unemployed temporary secretary in Chiswick…and Rose…Still. Gone now. Again.