Written for the fraternizing community ficathon on LiveJournal. The epigraph was my prompt.

Hands in Slumber

She press'd his hand in slumber; so once more

He could not help but kiss her and adore.

—John Keats, Endymion

1. "Father's Day"

Rose slept, her face scrunched in pain. Even asleep, pain. She'd watched her father die twice today.

They half-sat, half-reclined on the sofa. Rose lay curled into his side, her face pressed into his chest. She gripped his left hand in her right, trapping their joined fingers between their bodies. Each time she inhaled, he could feel her ribcage move against the back of his hand, pressing her knuckles into his side. Her other hand was fisted in the material of his jacket.

She'd cried herself to sleep an hour ago, and since then he'd simply sat and watched her, occasionally touching her hair or shoulder when she twitched or moaned in her dreams. When he'd tried to carry her to her room, she'd awoken in a panic, babbling, "No, don't leave me, don't leave me, please, no, don't."

He'd soothed her, stroked her hair, and settled them back onto the couch. In the few moments before she slept again, she'd held onto him with enough force to make her muscles shake.

She'd watched him die that day, too.

The Doctor leaned his head back on the sofa and stared up at the soft lights of the TARDIS, letting his thoughts drift.

Humans, always clinging to life. Beyond reason, beyond hope, they clung to it with all the strength they had.

Like Rose clung to him now.

Warmth rushed up from his belly at the thought, and he pushed it back down. It was dangerous, this emotional attachment., but he needed it. Needed her to fill the wound in his soul left by Gallifrey. She never could, he knew, not completely, but every day she came a little closer. When he let himself think about it, it terrified him how much he needed her. How much larger that wound would be when she was gone.

Rose whimpered, trapped in her dreams, and the Doctor covered her hand with his, curving his fingers around her fist.

Clinging to her, just as she clung to him.

2. "Boom Town"

Rose slept, curled in a chair a few feet away. Her mouth hung open, and every few breaths, a small snore escaped her.

"She's adorable," Jack said.

The Doctor grunted in reply, unable to do more with the sonic screwdriver held between his teeth. He bent closer to the extrapolator.

"And she's got the right idea." Jack stretched, then laid his tools aside.

The Doctor lifted his head enough to watch Jack's feet make their way across the room, toward Rose. He pulled the sonic screwdriver from his mouth. "No. Leave her."

Jack turned. "She should go to bed."

"I'll wake her in a few minutes. Just…let her sleep a while longer."

Jack's look of confusion shifted to an amused smirk, and he shrugged. "Whatever you want. A little voyeurism never hurt anyone."

The Doctor opened his mouth, then shut it and bent over the extrapolator again, running the sonic screwdriver over its circuitry in a useless scan. When Jack's footsteps had retreated – taking their chuckling owner with them - and the only sound he could hear was the hum of the TARDIS and Rose's small snores, the Doctor lifted his head and let himself look at her for the first time since she'd fallen asleep.

Checking to make sure Jack wasn't lurking somewhere, waiting to catch him in the act, he stood and moved the short distance to her chair. Standing above her, he watched her breathe for a few moments, then stretched out a hand and pushed a strand of hair off her forehead. When she didn't stir, he dropped his hand to her shoulder and shook her awake.

"Rose? Rose, come on. Time to go to bed."

She blinked at him, and a sleepy smile curved her mouth. "'Lo, Doctor."

He pulled his hand away, covering his retreat with an awkward, sweeping gesture. "Get up. Let's go."

She stretched, then relaxed again, flopping back into the chair like a rag doll. "Okay," she whispered, not moving.

"I'm serious, Rose. If you stay in this chair, you won't be able to hold your head straight for a week."

When she didn't move, he bent to pick her up. The jostling woke her enough to process what he wanted, and she pushed at his arms.

"Mmph. I can walk."

He stepped back, giving her room to stand. As soon as she reached her feet, she yawned and nearly toppled back into the chair. He caught her by the shoulders.

"Come on," he said, steering her toward the corridor that led to her room.

Six steps later, he'd gone from guiding her by the shoulders to supporting half her weight by wrapping an arm around her waist.

"You're hopeless, you are," he muttered, helping her shuffle down the hall.

She made a sleepy, contented noise and sagged against his side. Her eyes drifted closed, and that small gesture of trust seemed to increase the speed with which her warmth seeped through his jacket.

"Mickey's gone," she said, startling him.

He looked down at her, remembering how upset she'd been yesterday when she couldn't find the boy after the rift storm. "Aw, he's all right. Promise."

They reached her bedroom door, and he tightened his hold on her waist to keep her from slumping to the floor while he reached for the knob.

"No," she mumbled, turning her face into his shoulder. "I mean, he's gone." She slid a hand down his wrist and pressed his fingers into her side.

His outstretched hand froze half an inch from the door. He looked down at her, surprised to see her eyes open and alert, though her head still lolled against his shoulder.

"Gone," she repeated, slowly shifting her fingers until they were interlaced with his. "Has been for a while, I think, but I didn't realize it until yesterday." She increased the pressure on his hand. "So maybe we—"

"About time you were shut of him," he said, too quickly and too loudly, turning his attention back to her door. With a savage twist of the knob, it opened, and he all but shoved her into her room. "There you are, home sweet home. Sleep well, and all that. See you when you wake up."

She swayed on her feet, confusion pulling her eyebrows together. "Doct—"

He slammed the door, then stood, eyes closed, waiting for his fingers to stop twitching.

3. "The Christmas Invasion"

The Doctor slept. This new Doctor. This different, strange, alien Doctor.

Rose knelt next to the bed and searched his face, trying to recognize something, anything of the man she knew. She stared at him, willing something familiar to appear, but everything was different. Hair, ears, eyes. Nose, mouth, chin. Voice.

She took his hand, but even that felt different. He didn't respond when she pressed it between both of hers.

"Where did you go?" she whispered. "Come back."

She laid her head on the bed, her cheek against the back of his hand, and watched him breathe.

4. "The Girl in the Fireplace"

Rose slept.

The Doctor hovered in the doorway to her bedroom, unsure what sleeping meant.

He'd expected to find her awake. More time must have passed than he'd thought, or perhaps the emotional blows she'd taken that day had left her exhausted.

He winced, and the darkness that had swamped him at Reinette's death — the grief and pain that had brought him here in the first place, seeking comfort — altered. A wave of self-hatred twisted his face into a sneer.

He'd left her. Not two days after he'd promised he never would, that she'd never be abandoned like he'd abandoned Sarah Jane, he'd stranded her. It didn't matter that he'd come back. He hadn't known he'd be able to when he broke that mirror.

Rose slept with her back to him, and the need to see her face propelled him into her room. He rounded the bed and looked down at her, smooth and young and peaceful. He needed her to open her eyes, to look at him and tell him she wasn't leaving.

He realized he hadn't come for comfort. He'd come for forgiveness.

He whispered her name and touched the hand fisted beneath her chin with the tips of his fingers. Without waking, she frowned and curled in on herself, tucking her hand against her sternum. Pulling away from him as though he'd burned her.

He took two quick steps back, his jaw working as he tried to swallow, and looked at his hands. He could still feel Reinette's in his left, but Rose's just as strongly in his right. He wondered if she'd understand if he explained it to her, that he could hold them both.

The Doctor crept from her room and shut the door behind him, then settled himself against the wall opposite her door. It wasn't a question of one or the other, of Rose or Reinette, and when she woke up, he'd make sure she understood.

And that she stayed.

5. "The Satan Pit"

Rose slept, and the Doctor shifted, arranging them more comfortably on the sofa. In just a few hours he'd lost everything, then gained it back. His ship hummed around him, Rose's head lay on his chest, and he smiled.

He should take her to her room, but selfish indulgence kept him still. Here, with his arms around Rose's waist and the strange intimacy of her legs lying next to his, he could almost forget what they'd been through. He could almost forget what it felt like to know he'd never see her again.

But he never forgot.

The valiant child who will die in battle so very soon.

He'd told her it was a lie, and she believed him. He wished he could believe himself.

He closed his eyes and tightened his hold on her. He'd already lived through her death twice; he wasn't sure what losing her again – for good – would do to him.

She wouldn't go home. If she hadn't left him yet, she never would, no matter how hard he tried to convince her. He couldn't send her away to keep her safe, so he'd just have to keep her close. Keep her hand in his and do his best to twist the truth of the devil's words into his own shape. He was a Time Lord, wasn't he? What use was he if he couldn't protect one human girl?

Everything has its time. Everything dies.

"No," he said, and Rose stirred, lifting the hand that drifted near the floor to lay against his side. Her warmth made him shiver.

"No," he said, and the TARDIS's hum dipped an octave.

He'd died for her once. He'd do it again.

Rose stirred again, rubbing her cheek against the fabric covering his chest and pressing her arms into his sides. He lifted one of her hands and kissed her palm, lingering to run his thumb over her knuckles.

The time would come, he knew. Their end. But it would not be tonight, and it would not be tomorrow. That was all Time could promise, but in that moment, with Rose breathing against him, it was enough.


Disclaimer: Not mine, not making money, just having fun.