Author's note: This started as an exercise in writing stream-of-consciousness and morphed into a fix-it of series 4's Stolen Earth/Journey's End two-parter. What can I say? I like my version better.

With a soft smile, Donna answers him, "Why don't you ask her yourself?"

His hearts seize in his chest. Shouldn't be able to do that, he thinks to himself. Perfectly good dual cardio system, shouldn't be that easily disrupted. He realizes he's trying to distract himself. She might be right behind him. But she might not be. Just to check, just to make sure it's not her—it can't be her.

He turns, sees a petite blonde figure carrying a ridiculously large gun staring at him with the most beautiful smile he's ever seen in over 900 years and Oh Rassilon, it's her, it's really her and he starts running and she's running, too (still with that ridiculous gun) and her hair is glinting the firelight and the blaze from destroyed cars shouldn't be so beautiful but it's her. He's almost got her, ready to swing her up into his arms where she should be, where she should always be and curl his face into her neck and never let her go and he hears the most horrifying sound in the universe.

"EXTERMINATE!"

His hearts seize up again. Really, my old age must be catching up with me. He and Rose are frozen in time and he can see the sudden fear in her wide eyes, the crashing awareness that something's gone wrong again and won't this damned universe ever leave them alone? The moment is flying by and completely still and why does this always happen and then suddenly there's a blast, and both he and Rose are left staring dumbly at the smoking husk that used to be a Dalek. Their eyes move in unison from the blasted metal to the brilliant grin of Captain Jack Harkness.

"Oh, don't mind me. Keep on with the running, really. This is like something out of the movies— I only wish I'd brought some popcorn."

There is another infinite moment when he and Rose stare at each other, brown eyes locked together. His mind is blank and filled to the brim, thoughts flickering through at blinding speed without any staying in place. Rose suddenly shifts her weight, throwing off the enormous gun (finally) to hurl herself at him, and after years of emptiness, his arms are once again filled with the warm comfort of Rose Tyler. The hurricane of thoughts flashing through his brain stutter out of his mouth, a whispered mantra of it's you, it's really you.

He clings to her and she clings to him and elbows and knees and various body parts try to get in the way of them being as close as physically possible, but they manage somehow. His nose is in her hair, golden and soft and smelling of smoke and destruction, and her arms circle his back, pulling him to her like a planet orbiting the sun. His eyes are clenched shut, refusing to acknowledge the chaos of the street, luxuriating in the feel of her body in his arms.

She starts to pull back, and he tightens his arms around her. With a soft chuckle, Rose shoves herself away from his chest. When did she get so strong? mixes with Why is she pushing away? in his brain, all swirling around in a paranoid stupor until she pokes her tongue out of the corner of her grin (Oh, how I've missed that), saying gleefully "I've always wanted to do this!"

His magnificent Time Lord brain finally stutters to a halt as she grabs him by his tie and yanks him down to her lips. Noses bump, teeth clash, eyes stay open until they abruptly shut as they fit, sliding into place like the cogs of a machine. All his significant brainpower focuses on him and her, finally together, their lips shifting together like a choreographed dance, his tongue slipping through to tease her mouth and her soft arms (and breasts and stomach and legs) curled around him.

They press together, mouths and tongues and hands and it's primitive, he knows it is, but there are some forms of comfort that go beyond what the mind can regulate and right now they're both focused on establishing that they are here, that they're really, finally together. It's becoming harder to breath, even with the respiratory bypass, and a thought is wandering into his head asking how Rose is able to keep up with him when a stage whisper behind him reminds them that they're not the only things in the universe.

"Blimey, how are they keeping that up?"

"No idea. Don't mind, though. Damn, I wish I had a camera." Donna's snicker breaks through the Doctor's concentration, and as the Doctor oh-so-slowly releases Rose's mouth he can almost hear Jack switching into Full-Charm Dashing Time Agent® mode.

"Name's Captain Jack Harkness, by the way. I don't think that I've had the pleasure of being introduced to you yet, gorgeous."

The Doctor opens his eyes to roll them, only to catch Rose doing the exact same thing. They burst into laughter, clinging to each other helplessly as they laugh until there are tears running down their faces and there's a slight edge of hysteria in the air. Rose peeks out of Doctor's arms to grin wildly at Jack, joy writ large on her face. She reaches out an arm for him, never pulling away from the desperate grasp of the Doctor, and then Jack's there, his arms around both of them and his laughter joining theirs in the smoky air.

Donna chuckles indulgently until a car door falls off one of the wrecks behind her, reminding her where this is taking place. "Oi, space man! Hate to break up the love-in, but don't you think we might be a bit safer in the TARDIS?"

Jack straightens and pulls away, his eyes scanning the street around them while he jogs over to pick up Rose's hulking beast of a gun. As he picks it off the ground, a surprised oof puffs out of him.

"Damn, Rosie! You've been working out since I last saw you! This thing weighs a ton!"

At that, Rose gulps and looks up at the Doctor, her lower lip pulled in between her teeth.

"Doctor? I need to talk to you. Can we head to the TARDIS?" He blinks, his mind reattaching itself to their war-torn reality instead of a painstaking memorization of Rose's face (he'd somehow forgotten that little wrinkle just outside the curve of her mouth, the mark of a quick and joyous smile). A quick sweep of the road reveals no one else about, and the small party troops back into the TARDIS.

As Rose enters, the golden green light brightens. The TARDIS hums a welcome as Rose hurries up to the console, her hands brushing over the eclectic bits and bobs that make up the Universe's most advanced time ship. The Doctor stands back and watches her, his eyes filled with her joy as she greets the TARDIS. He blinks, his attention wavering, as the TARDIS greets her back. And as she communes with his beloved ship, he notices a tickle on the edge of his mind, a soft warmth on the brink of the yawning emptiness where his people once lived. His eyes sharpen as he focuses in on that warmth, and as it envelopes his consciousness Rose lifts her eyes from the console to meet his.

The shock of that gaze and the mind behind it bowls him over nearly as effectively as any TARDIS landing, and he grabs for the railing as Rose's mind opens to his. Their eyes are locked as Donna and Jack look on, and the Doctor's eyes are wider than Donna's ever seen them, more shocked even than when she'd appeared in her wedding dress out of nowhere.

Only one word makes its way out of the Doctor's (formerly) never-ending gob.

"How?"

Rose smiles tremulously at him, their eyes never leaving each other's. "Dunno, exactly. Closest guess I have is when I was Bad Wolf. Guess when I wanted you safe, I thought you couldn't stay safe alone." They both ignore the snort of agreement from Donna and the muffled laughter of Jack.

The Doctor reaches for her throat cautiously, every movement carefully restrained. His long fingers brush against her pulse, and he gasps as he feels the steady double rhythm beating underneath her skin.

His throat is dry, and he barely manages to croak out one word. "Impossible."

A brilliant smile flashes across her face. "You keep usin' that word." She leans into him and winks, trying on a ridiculous, near-unintelligible accent. "I do not think it means what you think it means."

A burst of insane, impossible euphoria floods through him. This is too much for him to handle, too much elation and relief and shock and disbelief and love for him to ever contain. For a wild moment he wonders if it is possible to regenerate from sheer joy.

"Rose Tyler." His hands cup her face, framing it, as his eyes drink her in. "I love you."

She smiles through her tears and no, this is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.

He lowers his face to hers, meeting her lips with his own, and reality drifts away. About ten minutes later nine minutes and thirty-four seconds later an impatient female voice breaks into their universe.

"Sweet as this all is, does anybody want to bother telling me what the hell is goin' on?"

The Doctor sighs and reluctantly releases Rose, though their hands slide together like instinct, like they'd never been anywhere else. He rests his forehead against Rose's and takes a deep, unsteady breath.

When he turns around, Jack and Donna are standing unreasonably close together, both sipping from steaming mugs of tea, and their expressions are wavering somewhere between impatience and extraordinary smugness. The Doctor's grin is so wide it feels like it just might crack his face in half.

"Right, you know how I mentioned that one time that Rose took the power of the Time Vortex into herself?"

Jack's stunned "Oh, god, what do you mean?" is overlaid with Donna's incredulous "No, you bloody well didn't!"

The Doctor blinks. "I didn't? Well, I meant to. Rose opened up the TARDIS and merged with her somehow, and became, well, to use a primitive term that doesn't really describe it but gives a general idea, a goddess."

The goddess in question rolls her eyes, but he's too busy just looking at her to make a snide remark.

"She held all the power of time and space for about half an hour. Resurrected Jack, saved my life, and destroyed an army of Daleks with a thought. I thought she was going to die from all that power, and there was no way I would ever let that happen. Not to Rose." He glanced at her and blushed. "I, ah, managed to take the power from her and return it to the TARDIS. It's why I regenerated."

"Oh, god." Rose's face was pale in the green-gold glow of the TARDIS, and the Doctor turned to her with an awkward, eager smile.

"No no no, Rose, don't worry about that. If you hadn't come back, there was no way I would've survived. Even Time Lords can't survive extermination. And this... you've given me something far better than I could have ever imagined." He turns to Jack and Donna with a grin bright enough to rival the sun. "Jack, Donna, I'm not the last of the Time Lords anymore."

Their disbelieving eyes rest on Rose's beautiful, familiar face, and she attempts a smile that comes out more as a grimace, waving nervously. "Hello."

Jack's whoop of joy is near deafening, and Rose is abruptly yanked away from the Doctor into Donna's arms. He's left pouting on the sidelines (except Time Lords don't pout, they contemplate unhappily) as Jack plucks Rose from Donna's arms and spins her around, laughing like a madman. The Doctor is watching them twirl giddily around the console when Donna ambushes him, her arms warm around him and her eyes sparkling.

Her voice is tight with unshed tears, "You won't have to be alone anymore."

"Oh, Donna." He looks at Rose and Jack, dancing gleefully, at the monitor that was so recently filled with his family, at the incredible woman in his arms. His eyes lock with Rose's. "Even when I was the Last of the Time Lords, I was never alone. I had all of you with me. I just needed reminding, occasionally." He smiles back down at Donna, and his voice lowers conspiratorially. "Don't know if you've noticed, but I can be a right arse sometimes."

She bursts into loud, merry laughter and he spins her jubilantly, twirling her around until they bump into Jack and Rose, and with some slick maneuvering on the Captain's part suddenly his arms are full of Rose while Jack waltzes off with Donna. He stares down at her, near drunk on her presence alone. She's beaming up at him, and he will never be tired of that smile. A thought strikes him, and he stills their tuneless dance suddenly. "Rose? What about your family?"

Her smile fades a bit, and he hates himself for dimming it. "They know I'm where I'm meant to be." She catches his jaw with her palm before he can abuse himself much further. "Doctor. Remember what I said on Krop-Tor? Everybody leaves home in the end. If they're lucky, though, they'll find a new home. I'm lucky, Doctor. So lucky. I found you."

He shuts his eyes against the stinging sensation of tears and leans his forehead against hers. "Oh, Rose. I don't deserve you."

She snorts. "Oi, none of that. Don't you think that's for me to decide?"

He hears Donna's guffaw and remembers they aren't alone. Jack and Donna have waltzed closer to them, completely unrepentant about eavesdropping (odd phrase, that. Eavesdropping. Doesn't really apply in the TARDIS, right now—the current scheme's completely lacking in eaves).

Donna's grin is disturbingly similar to that of a cat that just sighted its prey, and the Doctor feels a deep shiver of foreboding. "Oh, I like her."

Rose grins back at Donna, and her eyes are watery in the green glow of the TARDIS. "I like you, too." She lurches out of the Doctor's arms suddenly, and engulfs Donna in a hug. "Oh, I'm just so bloody happy you're all right." She starts crying into Donna's shoulder, and the redhead pets her blonde hair gently, murmuring soothingly to her.

"Shh, it's all right. You did the right thing, Rose. I forgive you."

Jack is left standing next to the Doctor, and he can't help but remember the old times of Team TARDIS, running through Cardiff or causing chaos in Kyoto (Ooh. Good alliteration, there). He'd never really thought that they would be together again, but here they are—older, wiser, and a bit more weary, but still so amazingly alive.

The Doctor pulls Jack into a bear hug, and Jack laughs and returns it. "Not that I mind, Doc, but what's this for?"

"Thank you. If you'd been a moment later, Jack…" his voice chokes off, and he clutches the Captain more tightly to him.

"You're more than welcome, Doc. You know I'd happily give my life for either of you." He pulls back and winks cheekily, even as his eyes are heart-stoppingly sincere. "And I'd do it even if I weren't immortal."

"What!" They glance back at the women and find Rose staring at Jack with thunder-struck eyes. "How the hell did you manage that?"

Jack coughs uncomfortably as the Doctor's arms fall away. "Well, something like the way you did, sweetheart."

Her reddened eyes widen comically. "You mean you're a Time Lord, too?"

"Not exactly, Rose." The Doctor's voice is soft, and he gently tugs her from Donna's arms, who is watching her anxiously. "When you resurrected Jack, you didn't make him a Time Lord. He's… he's immortal, Rose. When you were the Bad Wolf, you took away his death."

Her eyes narrow dangerously. "What do you mean?"

"Just what he said, Rosie. I'm lucky I work for Torchwood, otherwise the paperwork would be killer." Jack winces a little at his word choice as Rose pales.

"What, d'you mean you can't die? Not ever? Oh, Jack, I'm so sorry." Her voice breaks, and Jack hugs her carefully.

"It's okay, Rosie. I've come to terms with it, I really have. Because of you, I've been able to save so many lives." He tips her face up to his and kisses her chastely on the lips. "Never regret saving a life, sweetheart."

"Speaking of savin' some lives, don't we have some shiny pepperpot arse to kick?" Donna has a worried eye on Rose, but her voice is stridently cheerful. The Doctor swallows and nods. It had been so lovely to just ignore the darkness encroaching on them, but the universe was waiting on them.

Jack grinned dangerously. "Right. Last time we were together, the Daleks ended up as so much golden dust."

The Doctor fills in the coordinates for the Crucible, his jaw set. Rose steps up to him, her expression warm and worried. "Doctor, we can do this. Don't forget how many people are ready to help you."

His face is calm, but his eyes smile down at her. "Oh, I could never forget that." His hand grips hers desperately. "Not when I finally have you here with me again. I'm not going to lose you, Rose. Never again."

The bumpy ride to the Crucible is silent as they each prepare to face the Daleks once again.

The Doctor is busy typing at the console, and when they land he swallows heavily, staring at the monitor in front of him. A harsh metallic voice calls for them to leave the TARDIS, and he looks up reluctantly. "We'd better get out there."

Donna frowns. "What d'you mean? If they're as dangerous as all that, wouldn't it be better to stay inside until we can figure out a plan?"

The Doctor looks at the monitor once again, and his voice is heavy. "Even a single, half-broken Dalek is enough to wipe out the Earth, Donna, and right now they're at the height of their empire. With their technology, those doors are only wood."

Jack straightens his shoulders and steps forward, always the brave commander. Donna has paled to the color of parchment, so the Doctor takes her hand comfortingly and follows Jack out the door. Rose had been looking more closely at the monitor and she follows them slowly, lost in thought.

It only takes a moment for the doors to slam shut and the Doctor's life to be changed forever.

He slams himself against the simple wooden doors, trying desperately to reach her. He can hear Rose, can feel Rose pounding away at the door from her side, her voice high and angry.

The TARDIS lurches away sickeningly as the floor beneath it gapes open, leaving the Doctor to reach for it hopelessly. He can feel the growing heat through his bond with the TARDIS, can feel her panic—wait a minute. He can feel Rose, flaring against the edges of his consciousness.

He straightens and stares blankly in front of him as her voice reverberates through his mind. Doctor? This doesn't have to be the end. You can show me how to get us out of here.

He feels Donna take his hand back on the Crucible as he stiffens, both mentally and physically. Rose, you don't know what you're asking. Somewhere near him, Davros was crowing about his ultimate victory, but the Doctor couldn't be bothered to listen. If I connect with you like this, you and I are bonded for the rest of our now very long lives. You'll be stuck with me, Rose.

You idiot. He feels the warm glow of her nervous amusement even as he feels the TARDIS continue its plunge towards the blistering furnace. Do you really think I'd have a problem with that? Doctor, there is nowhere I'd rather be than at your side. Honestly. You'd think a brilliant mind like yours would get that already, Mr. Thick Thickety Thick-face from Thicktown, Thickania.

He ignores her attempt at humor as her fear swells. Rose, this is essentially marriage for my people.

There was a moment of stunned stillness from her, and he grips Donna's hand more tightly (oh, look, there's Martha on the screen). The heat from the TARDIS is getting unbearable, but he feels a burst of sudden determination from Rose.

There's no one else I'd ever want. Do it, Doctor.

His eyes shut as he focuses on the warm glow of Rose in his mind, on all of the determination and love and fear and joy that sings from her mind to his. He is sinking into her mind and she welcomes him in, draws him to her like a moth to flame. His eyes open with a snap, and he sees the smoke, feels the heat inside his beloved ship, and knows that there is no way he could lose this, his home and his love.

With a jolt of movement, Rose's body flies around the controls, his mind and hers united in determination to save their home. A hard-edged smile tilts Rose's mouth. So Davros thinks he's won, does he? Time to show him what he's really dealing with. She slams the last button down and strides towards the door.

The Doctor opens his eyes, vaguely surprised to see the occupants of the cells around him. Sarah Jane? Martha? Mickey? When did they get here? The Doctor blinks. And when did Mickey started eying up Martha that way? Tom isn't going to be too happy to find he's got a universe-jumping Torchwood agent as competition.

A grinding noise echoes behind him, and his fellow prisoners stare in blank astonishment as the TARDIS materializes behind him.

The Doctor's eyes narrow at the revolting scraps of his old enemy. "You may crow about your ultimate victory, Davros, but you've forgotten one thing: while Rose and I live, neither of us are helpless."

The door flies open and she steps out, angry and a little bit singed and so beautiful it hurts. "And you've underestimated us for the last time." She steps over to the control panel and twists a series of dials, slamming the last button with a grand flourish. The cells are opened and the Daleks twirl around ineffectually, furious and helpless as they cry out their rage. Jack runs forwards and shorts out Davros' controls, leaving him shrieking futilely. Donna and Sarah Jane are shoving spinning Daleks out of the way as the Doctor and Rose dart around Davros' machine, moving in synch so quickly that they're nearly blurred.

Martha blinks and leans closer to Mickey. "Blimey, were they always like that?"

He grins at her. "Not that bad, but yeah, definitely along those lines. I'm Mickey, by the way."

"Martha." The hand she extends is noticeably lacking in an engagement ring, and Donna's eyebrows jump in surprise. She meets Martha's eyes, and Martha mouths Later. The redhead nods, and turns to see the Doctor and Rose staring at each other over a large yellow button. The Doctor's expression is guilt-stricken, but Rose's look is full of determination. She takes his hand in hers, and together they press the final button. The Doctor closes his eyes, but Rose turns briskly back to the others.

"All right, let's get back into the TARDIS! Everybody move, now!"

The humans and Time Lords flee into the TARDIS as the Crucible goes up in flames, and the Doctor orchestrates his ramshackle family as they tow the Earth back into its place. Donna and Jack are hugging ecstatically, Mickey spins Sarah Jane in a clumsy waltz as Martha laughs, and Rose turns back to the Doctor. His brown eyes are dark.

"Doctor." He looks down at her, and staggers a little at the flood of empathy and love that flows into him. "He made his choice, yeah? And he made it again and again. I know you hate ending lives, but think of all the lives you've saved. By eliminating the Daleks, you just saved the whole bloody universe, and I won't have you feeling guilty for that."

"Oh, Rose." He gathers her in his arms, his eyes wide. "How did this happen? How did I ever end up being this lucky?"

She smiled into his neck. "What d'you mean?"

"Somehow we all survived, and here you are. I've found you." She pokes his side and he laughs and picks her up, spinning her around. "All right, you found me. And we're… Rose, we're married."

She grins up at him in wild glee, and the rest of the control room falls silent. Mickey and Martha have paled, and Donna and Jack glance at each other and speak in unison: "WHAT?"

"When did that happen…" Jack demanded, "And why wasn't I invited?" Donna finished.

The Doctor and Rose stare at them and burst out laughing.

FINIS... for now.