The Doctor stormed through the TARDIS doors soaking wet and flushed with anger. Rose was right behind him, just as drenched and every bit as furious as the man in front of her. The TARDIS shut the door, sending a quick, inquiring tendril into the Time Lord's mind. But the Doctor was so blind with rage that the normally comforting song of his beloved ship was nothing more than a grating cacophony that he promptly shut out. The ship shuddered at the sudden disruption of the ever-present connection, and Rose stumbled a bit behind him. He almost felt guilty. Almost.

A deathly silence fell over the control room as the Doctor fiddled with the necessary controls to set them back in the vortex, but it seemed the TARDIS hadn't taken too kindly to his harsh treatment. The engines remained stubbornly silent, and the Doctor growled in frustration as he lashed out with a kick to the nearest strut. Rose, who had been content to stand off to the side and watched his futile dance with perverse glee, quickly jumped to the ship's defense.

"Hey, there's no need for that!" He whirled on her, and she was immediately frozen to the spot by his intense stare, fury and fire in his eyes. She had seen the effects of him on others, how whole armies had turned and fled in the face of his determined glare, but her own bull-headed pride wouldn't allow her to even flinch. He opened his mouth to berate her, to unleash a torrent upon her, but the sight of her shivering and defiant tugged at something instinctual within him. Changing his tack, he took a calming breath and turned away from her.

"Go get changed." His voice was flat, but she could hear his control being strained to its limit. She had seen him furious before, she had even seen glimpses of the darkness that he tried to hide away from her. But she had never been the target before now.

She thought back over their day, how everything had gone so very, very wrong, and how things between them had become even worse. She closed her eyes against the onslaught of tears that threatened to overwhelm her as she remembered the faces of the children, how she had tried so hard to save them, and how in the end the Doctor had had to make the heart-rending choice between their lives and hers. She could remember the water rising, then blackness as it engulfed her. A deep splash sounded somewhere nearby, and as she was hauled to the surface by the force of his tug she was still spluttering for him to save the children.

And he had tried. But in the time it had taken to pull her to safety, he'd lost them in the depths of the ocean. She shivered again, this time in combination of horror, regret, and the chill that was settling inside and out. But she still hadn't moved from her spot, and when she opened her eyes she could see the muscles in his jaw twitching as he clenched his teeth together. His eyes cut over to her and his white knuckle grip on the console tightened further.

"Rose, go change." His voice was so emotionless she couldn't tell if he was concerned for her health or just unwilling to be in her company. But remembering the events that had transpired had awakened her own fury, and she clenched her hands into fists at her side as the fire grew within her. Being youthful had its disadvantages, she found, as her own control strained and broke within seconds.

"Why didn't you save them? That's what you do, why you travel around. They were just children! You could have saved them!" She had started slow and soft, but in the span of seconds she was screaming at him, throwing her hands about her wildly as if trying to expend some of the immense energy coursing through her. It seemed her outburst was all it took to send him over the edge as well, and when he turned on her she was targeted with the full effect of his intensity.

"Why can't you ever do what you're told? You go wandering off, blundering in without a clue what's going on or what to do!" They were almost toe to toe now, their faces contorted in matching expressions of anger.

"I was trying to help," she stepped up and poked him in the chest, completely unfazed by the storm in his eyes. "While you were swannin' off doing God-knows-what!" He stared her down, and she couldn't help but take a few small steps back under his gaze. When he spoke again, she could hear the condescending, sarcastic tone of his ninth self seeping through.

"I was investigating, like always, so I could fully understand the situation before I acted. Just like a human to act before thinking."

"He would have killed them then if I hadn't stepped up!" She was unapologetic in the face of his accusations, her complexion flushed red with defiant anger.

"He killed them anyway!" Her eyes were misty as she remembered the faces of the children, so frightened but so trusting as she whispered reassurances that the Doctor would rescue them.

"But why didn't you save them? You could have saved all of them!"

"Because I chose you!" he shouted back, his face creased with rage and guilt, his brown eyes almost black with the force of his tumultuous emotions. "Because I will always choose you!" His words effectively silenced her, and she could finally hear the anguish he was hiding beneath the anger. His voice softened almost imperceptibly, but his tone was still heavy and dark. "Rose Tyler, whether it's one life, or five, or five thousand, or five billion...I will always choose you. You're the worst thing that could have possibly happened to me."

He didn't sound resentful, but his words cut her like a knife. Tears spilled over her cheeks then, and she choked back a sob. She forced herself to look him in the eye, trying to decipher the multitude of emotions there. He had never once indicated he regretted her presence, and even now it seemed like he was wallowing in remorse from his own words. But they were out there now, and he couldn't take them back.

"I'll just..." she swallowed once, then took a deep breath to try again. "I'll go pack." Another emotion swirled into the depths of his eyes, and he looked as if she'd slapped him.

"Why?" She had already begun to turn away, taking the first steps that would lead her away from the amazing life she had never imagined leaving.

"I need to leave." It was simple in her mind; as long as she was there, as long as he had to make the choice between her and the universe, then people would die. And no matter how much she loved her life now - how much she loved him - she couldn't be that selfish.

Her words washed over him like ice water, and his rage was lost in the panic that overtook him. He took two long strides to catch up to her, and his grip was strong on her arm as he spun her around.

"Don't you dare," he hissed, momentarily blinded to the fact that was gripping her arm hard enough to leave a bruise. All that mattered was that Rose never left his side, never left him bereft and alone. She didn't complain about his treatment of her, or even the possessive growl that had snuck into his tone, but in one quick motion she managed to shrug him off and step back.

"I have to," she shook her head, no longer able to hold back the tears that were building. He followed her movement, pressing her back into the wall of the corridor as he descended on her. Reaching out his hand, he ran his fingers over the area he'd just bruised, his eyes full of remorse and sorrow. Letting his fingers trail down her arm, he grasped her hand firmly. She couldn't help but grip him back, her body long used to the familiar touch.

"Don't leave," he pleaded, blocking her way with his own body. Words of need and want swirled in his mind, but his self-imposed punishment stubbornly refused to allow their utterance. Her hand left his and she deftly side stepped him, intent on following through with her plan no matter how badly it would tear them both apart.

"I can't stay," she replied desperately. "If I stay, you'll always have to choose. I can't be responsible for that!" She had reversed their positions somehow, though her back was to the hallway as she tried to reason with him. Every muscle in his body was taut, ready to spring after her, but she wasn't finished. "The universe needs you, Doctor, and that's worth more than one human girl." Her eyes moved away from him first, but before she could turn and flee he pounced on her. His hands returned to her arms, gripping firmly as his lips crashed into hers. Her back hit the opposite wall with the force of his stride, and he pressed his body so close to hers there was no room for escape.

Despite the surprise of his move and her confusion, Rose began responding to the kiss almost immediately. It was better than anything she had ever imagined, and at the same time it wasn't nearly enough. Her hands drifted up his chest and over his shoulders to take hold of his hair, tilting his head slightly to give herself better access to his mouth. The rumble that resounded within him at her move encouraged her, and she shifted her stance ever-so-slightly to allow him to eliminate any remaining space between them.

Time became meaningless as they explored each other, and when his fingers found a particularly sensitive area just beneath her ribs he smiled. She retaliated immediately, letting her hands slip beneath his jacket. Her nails scraped over the thin material of his shirt, trailing slowly down his back and then lower to grip the soft flesh there.

"Rose," his lips left hers to whisper her name like a prayer, and her mind snapped back from its fog at his voice. He didn't step back, but she made no move to escape his hold on her as she caught her breath. When she trusted her voice, she took a shaky breath and lifted her eyes to his.

"What - ?" Her question died on her tongue as she saw the desperation and need in his gaze. She shuddered at the thought of having that much power over him, and their previous argument reared its head again. Concern joined the need in his eyes as he caressed her cheek with his knuckles, and her vision blurred with tears.

"You're wrong," he told her quickly, and it took her a moment to catch back up with the conversation. When she did, the tears in her eyes spilled over and she shook her head. He grabbed her shoulders and tugged her forward, burying her head in his chest and his nose in her hair. Hiccuping sobs wracked her body, and he held her against the turbulent storm as her emotions spiraled higher. Throughout it all, he whispered words to her that she thought she'd never hear from him. Universe be damned, he told her, she was as necessary to him as air and he'd been a fool not to tell her before this moment. Her sobs quieted but she didn't move from her position except to turn her head. With her ear on his chest, she could hear the reassuring double beat of his hearts that seemed to echo her own as he continued his confessions.

"You didn't let me finish," he said softly, laying his cheek against her forehead as she hummed in response. "Before," he clarified, "when you stormed didn't let me finish."

"Before or after you said I was the worst thing that ever happened to you." He winced at the hurt in her tone, and his arms tightened around her in apology and reassurance.

"Well, after," he sighed. "I meant it when I said I would always choose you over anything else. You are the most important thing in the entire universe to me; that's why I sent you away on Satellite Five, it's why I was ready to kill that Dalek for you, it's why I was ready to tear the entire world apart to get your face back from the Wire. Because you are also the best thing to ever happen to me. You saved me even when I didn't realize I needed saving. You taught me how to hope, to believe again, and I can't even begin to describe what that means to me."

"But -"

"No," he cut her off abruptly, halting whatever protest was forming on her lips. "Without you, all of this means nothing to me. That night at Henricks, when I grabbed your hand and told you to run...that was it. I had planned on staying up on that roof." Her throat closed with emotion at his revelation, but she didn't dare interrupt him. "As I set the charge I kept seeing your face, so brave and curious and not at all like the stupid apes I'd given up on." She smiled at the familiar phrase, but her mind was buzzing with his words. Was it possible that one simple girl from London could be that important? She tried to remember the multitudes of planets and people they had saved since that day, imagining their fates if the Doctor hadn't been there. Now he was telling her it was all because of her, and she was having trouble wrapping her head around it.

"Rose?" She lifted her head and stared at him a moment, stunned at the honest emotion he was letting her see. Without thinking, she lifted herself up and kissed him again, this time soft and slow. He responded immediately, his fingers gripping her hips lightly as she tried to convey every emotion through the kiss. She pulled away from him and stared at him with an indecipherable expression.

"You kissed me." He gaped at her, replaying the last few seconds over in his head.

"I'm really very sure that was the other way round." She smiled humorlessly and leaned away from him.

"Before," she clarified, "when I said I was leaving. You kissed me."

"Yes, I suppose I did." He was feeling more nervous by the second, completely thrown by her calm demeanor.

"Why?" It was an innocent enough question, but though he'd admitted his need for her, he couldn't answer her question.

"Rose, I –"

"Why?" she repeated more forcefully, gripping the lapels of his jacket again.

"Because I can't bear the thought of going on without you," he confessed. Tears filled her eyes, and he could see the pain welling up with them. His hand lifted to cup her face, and he brushed a stray tear away with the pad of his thumb.

"Doctor," her voice shook with her plea, and he could deny her no longer.

"I love you." He lowered her head to hers, tasting the salt of her tears as they poured from her. The intensity of their first kiss had been almost overwhelming, but the power in this one was like nothing he'd ever experienced. Stars were born and burned in his mind, entire systems were created and destroyed, and Time itself stopped in its tracks as he opened himself completely to her.

She gasped from the force that assaulted her, but she ignored the initial shock and reveled in the glorious gift he'd given her. Sensations overwhelmed her senses, and in that instant she could feel the vortex swirling around them. He broke their kiss but not their contact, lifting his nimble fingers to her temple to help her make sense of everything. She kept her eyes closed, but the blissful smile that graced her lips made his hearts leap.

"It's beautiful," she whispered. "Is this what you see all the time?" Her eyes fluttered open, and the moment they connected with his he gently pushed his mind into hers. He showed her his home, his people, planets and faces she'd never seen, colors she hadn't even known existed. In a single moment, Rose became one with the universe. He pressed his forehead to hers, pouring as much of his love and emotion into their bond as he could summon. He gave her everything, all of him, and she accepted it willingly. He could feel her need for more, her plea to share with her all of it - the good and the bad - but he couldn't bring himself to show her the worst. The darkness that bubbled inside of him abated for the time being, and he pushed it as far away as he could manage, determined not to let it ruin this perfect moment. Very gently, he pulled away from her and left her mind, leaving her only with the feelings that coursed through him every time he saw her face.

"Rose," his fingers moved to tuck her hair behind her ear, smiling as she leaned into his hand affectionately.

"That was..." she trailed off, unable to find words to describe what had transpired between them. But he could feel it - feel her - and he smiled down at her knowingly. Her hand shot up to press his palm into her cheek, and tears spilled over onto his thumb. He could tell from the look in her eyes that these weren't the tears of sorrow and desperation from before, but tears of happiness.

"Don't cry, Rose," he ran his thumb over the crest of her cheek, wiping away the tears there. "I hate seeing you cry."

"I can't help it," she answered, laughing and sobbing all at once. "It's just...I never thought..." She took his hand away from her cheek and interlaced their fingers. She took a steadying breath and squeezed his hand. "I love you, Doctor." He smiled broadly, letting the expression take over his whole face.

"And I love you, Rose." Now that he'd said it, it seemed he couldn't stop, and he knew she could feel it through the initial bond he'd created. The time would come when she would ask questions, and he would have to explain what had happened between them. But for now he let himself be content to just hold her, to cherish the feel of her in his arms. And for now, that was enough.

This has been sitting on my hard drive for a while now. In time, I might be tempted to write a prequel, detailing the adventure that led up to this. Guess it all depends on you. Is there interest?