Well, here's the epilogue, you crazy kids!
Disclaimer: Doctor Who belongs to the Beeb, and the closest I'll ever get to owning the Beeb is making up drinking games for the HYS threads on their news website... which isn't really all that close, now, is it? Though it is fun. Also, the characters sort of took over and thumbed their noses at my original ideas for the epilogue. It happens.
Perhaps it was a tiny scrap of leftover Time Lord brain in her head that had urged her to go topside for a walk on that particular day, at that particular time. Perhaps it was all-too-human instinct, or women's intuition, or maybe she was an Indigo Child or something, or maybe it was just dumb luck. Regardless, the end result was that when the TARDIS finally materialized over the rift in Cardiff for a refuel, Donna Noble just happened to be standing only a dozen paces away.
Her head had snapped up the moment she heard the familiar grinding of the TARDIS, and by the time the noise had faded, Donna had already alerted Jack and covered half the distance to the blue police box. A moment later, she was standing in front of the familiar, worn doors. She hesitated, then rapped sharply on the wood.
There was no response.
Donna frowned, upping her efforts to 'pounding.' Another pause dragged itself laboriously by, and any charitable feelings she'd been secretly harboring for the Doctor began to dissipate. The skinny little git wasn't even going to get a hug if he didn't open up in a hurry. Finally, she gave the door a good, solid kick. "OY!" she bellowed for good measure.
The door was flung open so quickly that she was sure the Doctor must have been standing right next to it. And there he was, same pinstriped suit and ridiculous, foofy hair. He stared at her, several amusing expressions chasing each other across his features: shock, then alarm, then joy, then (as he took in her expression) something akin to fear. "...Donna?"
"Ooooh, you remember me, then?" she asked with disarming sweetness. The Doctor gaped at her, and she seized the opportunity to pull her hand back and smack him across the face. Hard. "WELL, HOW NICE FOR YOU!" she shouted.
"Ow!" he yelped, putting a hand to his cheek and staring at her in consternation. "What was that for?!" To his credit, he seemed to instantly realize what a stupid question that was, and he took a step backwards, out of arm's reach.
"'What was that for?'" Donna stormed towards him, provoking another retreat deeper into the TARDIS. "What the bleeding hell do you think that was for?! No means no, Doctor Mind-Rape!" The Doctor bumped up against the console, which conveniently cut off his retreat (though he did manage to buy himself another foot by leaning backwards).
"What," he snapped, scrabbling to regain his composure, "I was just supposed to let you die, then? Is that what you wanted?"
"I wanted a solution that didn't involve forgetting all of the best parts of my bloody life, Doctor! Evidently, one existed!" she snapped right back, gesturing pointedly towards her very-much-not-dead self.
"Well--how did you manage that, anyway?" The Doctor fished his specs out of his pocket and leaned forward to peer at her intently, the threat of an imminent slap forgotten. Donna hesitated, thrown (though she belatedly realized that she should have anticipated such tactics from someone as chronically distracted as the Doctor).
"That was me," Jack said from the doorway, where he was catching his breath after his sprint from Torchwood HQ. Donna and the Doctor both turned to stare at him, and he waved his hand in a 'carry on' sort of way. He glanced at the Doctor, adding, "You're welcome."
Donna turned back towards the Doctor, fully intending to resume her tirade. She'd had a good few weeks to think of all the things she wanted to say to him (well, shout at him, more like), and she didn't want him to think for one second that he was getting off the hook. But before she could say anything, she was treated to the cheery blue glow of the sonic screwdriver that the Doctor was buzzing right in her face. "Oy!" she swatted it aside.
"Completely neutralized," he breathed, ignoring her entirely as he peered at the instrument's readings. "That bit of Time Lord DNA reduced to just... junk." He tucked the sonic screwdriver away, staring pensively into the middle distance and apparently unaware of the stink eye she was giving him. Then he lowered his gaze, and a slow grin spread across his face until it almost threatened to split it in two. "Oh, have I missed you, Donna Noble!"
Donna pursed her lips, her annoyance beginning to begrudgingly evaporate. "If you'd had it all your way, I wouldn't even be able to say the same," she scolded.
"So," he gave her that kicked-puppy look of his, the one that made her want to both roll her eyes and ruffle his hair, "no hug?"
She glared at him a few moments more for good measure, then gave in and cracked a smile. "Oh, go on, then." The words had barely left her mouth before he scooped her up and spun her about with such enthusiasm that her legs smacked into the console. "Ow! Watch it!"
"Sorry!" the Doctor said, setting her back on her feet, but not letting go.
"You should be," she muttered, returning the hug for a few lingering moments before loosening her grip. "All right, spaceman, we don't all have respiratory bypass systems."
He released her with some show of reluctance, then went back to eyeing her like she was a fascinating new species (which she sort of was, she supposed). "Memories all intact, I take it?" Before she could reply, he barreled on, "But how? And what are you doing in Cardiff?"
Donna jerked her head over towards Jack, who had recovered himself and moseyed up to the pair. "Ask that one."
The Doctor shot an inquiring look at Jack, who folded his arms. "Well, when I happened to bump into her outside a Tesco, I accidentally triggered a memory recovery. Seems someone wiped her mind without letting any of her old friends know that they weren't allowed to walk up to her and tell her all about herself." Jack raised an eyebrow, and the Doctor had the decency to squirm a little. "Damn good thing it wasn't Martha who triggered her--or Sarah Jane. They wouldn't have been able to do anything but watch. Poor Luke would have been traumatized for life."
"And what about all my extended family?" Donna chimed in, getting a fair amount of perverse enjoyment out of the Time Lord's increasing embarrassment. "I can't get through a family function anymore without my Aunt Millie getting sloshed and telling me that Lance was as close as I'll ever get to bagging a man--can you imagine if my head had exploded all over her sitting room?" She paused, imagining it. The expression on old Millie's face was rather satisfying. "The stains never would have come out!"
"Your head wouldn't have exploded," the Doctor sulked, though she got the distinct impression that he wasn't one-hundred-percent certain of himself on that point. She gave him a Look, and he frowned at her. "And even if it had, just splash a little hydrogen peroxide around and--"
"Doctor!" Donna stared at him, torn between looking aghast and cracking up.
"What? It really works!"
"That's not the point!"
"Anyway," Jack interrupted, "Thanks to my ability to think quickly in a crisis--"
"He snogged me."
"I loaned her some of my regenerative energy," Jack finished, smug. Only Jack could make 'regenerative energy' sound like a dirty euphemism.
"By snoggin' me," Donna reiterated with a grin. It was her favorite part.
"Was that... strictly necessary?" the Doctor asked, raising an eyebrow at Jack.
Jack smirked at him. "Oh, like you're one to talk, Mr. 'Genetic Transfer.'" (Jack wasn't the only one who could make 'genetic transfer' sound like a dirty euphemism; ever since Martha had shared that little story with the crew, they'd all been doing it.)
"Yeah, Martha told us all about that," Donna said with a knowing nod.
The Doctor flushed. "That was just--"
"Hold up," Donna cut him off. "Are you actually blushing? 'Dear Diary...!'"
He glared at Jack, avoiding Donna's eyes. "I was improvising!"
"So was I," came the swift retort.
"Subject change!" the Doctor announced, abruptly turning to face Donna. "You still haven't told me what you're doing in Cardiff."
Donna stood up just a little bit straighter. "Jack's given me a proper job--no more temping!"
"What, at Torchwood?" The Doctor wrinkled his nose.
"We needed her," Jack said, his expression grave.
Donna nodded in sympathetic agreement. "You should have seen the state of their files."
The Doctor stared at her. "You're handling Torchwood's files?"
"With Tosh gone and Ianto out in the field half the time, we needed the extra assistance." Jack slung an arm around her, and she had to work to hide her giddiness. "She's completely revamped our filing system. She'd probably have a go at the archives, too, if Ianto--" he stopped abruptly and put a hand to the bluetooth in his ear, then rolled his eyes at Donna. "The Hrallak is out again.I'd better go tackle it before it eats someone."
"Don't forget about its tail like you did last time," she advised. He was already almost out the door, but he flashed her a brief smile before disappearing from view.
He hadn't said, 'I'll see you back at HQ in five,' Donna couldn't help noting. Then again, he also hadn't said, 'Goodbye.' She wasn't sure whether to be grateful or annoyed.
"So," the Doctor said, leaning back against the console and fiddling idly with a lever, "what do you think? One more trip?" He snuck a glance at her.
"Martha told us all about that, too," Donna replied, raising an eyebrow at him.
He grinned at her, though it didn't seem to quite reach his eyes. "Can't put anything past you, can I?"
"Course not," she scoffed. Then, her tone softening, she continued, "I have a real job, now, Doctor. And I like it, I really do."
"Sure," he replied, clearing his throat and examining his trainers.
"And I can't just swan off like before."
"Course not." He sniffed, then looked up at her. "I'm sorry, Donna."
She nodded. "I know."
There was a pause, and she let it drag for a bit before clearing her throat. "But then, it is Friday."
The Doctor perked up almost imperceptibly, but kept his tone casual. "Getting on four PM, if I'm not mistaken."
"More like two."
"So if you had me back by Sunday," Donna said, slowly circling the console, "I wouldn't have to leave my shiny new job with the pretty, pretty Captain, now, would I?" Aha--there was the hand brake. She'd nearly forgotten that one without the Doctor's help. She tapped it with her finger, then pointed up at the Doctor, who was grinning at her like a loon. "And I mean a reasonable hour on Sunday, got that? I've got laundry to do."
"Reasonable hour, check!" The Doctor bounded around the console, flicking switches and turning dials, until he stopped right next to her, looking pointedly from her to the hand brake and back.
"And if you're really nice to me," Donna said, grinning up at him as she released the brake, "we might even make a habit of this."
"Weekends in the stars, it'll be brilliant!" the Doctor enthused at the TARDIS hummed. "And back by Sunday! Course, there was that one time I got off by about a year, but the chances of that happening twice are..." he made a hand gesture that could have been interpreted as meaning anything from 'titchy' to 'quite likely.'
"You were off by an entire bloody year?!"
She couldn't hear his answer over the grinding of the TARDIS, but she could hear the laughter that followed it. And--she couldn't help it--she joined in.
Now, off to poke at a cracktastic hand!Ten plotbunny!