Title- Hand in Hand For Eternity
Characters/Pairings- 4/II implied
Rating- K+
Summary- The Time Lords want Romana back; Romana wants to keep running. The Doctor knows what he has to do.

A/N- Because Romana = win. Because that scene at the beginning of Full Circle breaks my heart every time. And because if they're gonna demean her exeunt by copying it with ROSE of all people, I'm gonna change things so that they suit MY tastes.

"There's no fear inside.
This is our time, no giving up.
When we connect our hearts to our minds,
There's no stopping us!"
-Madina Lake

"You've made up your mind then?" Romana asked, as the renegade Time Lord she had become so fond of entered the coordinates for Gallifrey. Home, until recently. She felt a sinking in her stomach.

The Doctor nodded decisively. "Oh yes. We can't resist a summons to Gallifrey! And I'm so looking forward to seeing how Leela and Andred are getting on. You can meet your twin, K-9. You know, Romana-" He broke off sharply as he turned around to find the console room empty. The blonde had vanished from. He sighed. "Stay there, K-9," he told the dog. "You're in charge."

Ignoring the robot's affirmative answer, he strode out of the room, heading down the hall in search of Romana. It didn't take long to find her. She was in her room, and that- well, most of the time, anyway- was near the console room. She picked that particular room because she liked hearing the TARDIS "sing," he remembered. When he opened the door, she was sprawled face-down across her bed, staring at the wall.

"Romana?" he asked. "Do you mind if I come in?"

She didn't answer and she didn't look at him. "The Time Lords want me back," she said, and it wasn't a question. He noted the way she said 'Time Lords.' As if she weren't really one of them anymore. He said it the same way.

The Doctor felt his hearts squeeze painfully. He had hoped she wouldn't realize; it was probably cruel of him, but he had hoped they would get back to Gallifrey without having to have this conversation. He didn't want to have this conversation. Her leaving was hard enough. He didn't want it to be harder. He always dealt best with his own personal problems by running as far and as fast as he could. He had hoped that this time, which was so much harder than it should have been, he'd be able to get away before she realized what was happening.

"Yes. Well, ah... you only came to help with the Key to Time," he said, entering the room and picking up a book, anything to occupy his hands. It wasn't what he wanted to say, but it was all he found himself capable of saying.

Romana stood up and faced him. "Doctor, I don't want to spend the rest of my life on Gallifrey!" she said, and her voice was just a little choked. He was reminded forcibly of how very young she was.

He was also reminded of himself, some three hundred years earlier, when he had said virtually the same thing. He recognized the desperation in her tone and the wild look in her eyes. He had been the same just before stealing a decommissioned TARDIS and effectively declaring himself an outlaw. She was a mirror of his younger self, desperate to exchange the stifling realm of the Time Lords for the vast universe in all its beauty and its glory. He could travel to the very beginning of the universe, but this was really looking into the past.

"You can't fight Time Lords, Romana," he said, tone carefully neutral.

"You did, once," she pointed out.

The Doctor wouldn't wish his history with the Time Lords on anyone, Romana least of all. She was so young, so sparkling... she didn't deserve to have them chip away at everything that mattered to her, the way they had when they finally caught up with him.

"And lost," he reminded her.

"Well, there's nothing more to discuss, then. We have to go," she said, and he could hear her voice inching ever closer to tears. But she was strong. She wouldn't cry, not in front of him.

It was hopeless. No matter how much he wished he could keep her here by his side- and oh, how he did!- there was no way they could evade the Time Lords forever...

Or was there?

He suddenly found that if it meant Romana could stay, he was willing to do anything.

"Romana?" he asked tentatively.

She had been halfway out the door, headed to the console room. "Yes?" she acknowledged, pausing.

The Doctor set the book down and turned to face her. "What if we could fight Time Lords?"

A ghost of a smile tugged at the corner of her lips. "What are you suggesting?"

"Absolutely nothing," he said. "After all, Time Lords are extremely powerful, and... well, they mostly ignore me, but if I were to take you with me, they'd probably send someone. There's every probability that if we tried to run, we wouldn't get far."

Her eyes narrowed. She had gotten used to his circuitous explanations, it seemed. "So?"

He beamed. "Alright then. Let's go!" He headed for the console room, seizing her hand as he went past.

They had held hands before- he remembered hours spent wandering aimlessly through the streets of Paris, running for the joy of it because they never got tired, and laughing at nothing- but this time, instead of Romana following his lead, they walked together, side by side. Not quite running, but not taking their time, either, they made for the console room.

He glanced down at her and she looked up at him and simultaneously their faces split into wide grins.

The Doctor knew better than most that nothing was forever. Friends came and went, humans died and robots broke down. But if he was- just this once- insanely lucky, he might just have found a someone who could stay. He looked at her and saw the future, his future, their future. Romana and the Doctor, hand in hand for eternity.

He found he quite liked the idea.