What can I say? Life gets in the way... I have no idea why the thought suddenly popped into my head today that I'd left a story unfinished three years ago, but sure enough I checked my old email account and there are still reviews coming in demanding an update! So I've tried my very best to remember how I planned to finish this all that time ago so as not to leave it on the worst unfinished cliffhanger... I don't know if my writing will be even vaguely similar but for anyone who's somehow still reading, I've given it a go! Not a lot of this chapter is adapted from the Shakespearean text but the interaction between Jack and Donna mostly is :) Many, many thanks for reading and reviewing! And my apologies for the logest wait for an ending ever. Donna xx
Chapter Sixteen - Our Own Hands Against Our Hearts
"I dunno, Gwen, I just think it's extreme, that's all." Ianto's voice was low almost to the point of a whisper as he glanced across to where Donna and Jack were sitting in silence.
"Me too." She looked at him from under her eyelids, continuing to tap away pointlessly at her computer, "But Donna and Jack are the two people who know the Doctor best, so if they say it was the right thing to tell him..."
"It just makes me uneasy, is all. Pretending she's dead, for god's sake-"
"Nothing else would have made him come." Jack cut across him, his sombre voice raised from across the room, "And stop whispering, you two. Neither of us are comfortable with this either." Jack blinked, and looked hesitantly at Donna, who was sat beside him, "I mean, uh... I don't mean to speak for you-"
"It's fine." Donna nodded at him slightly, "I feel the same. I don't want to do this either, and I couldn't feel worse. But he wouldn't have come otherwise, and besides, he needs to realise he shouldn't have reacted the way he did; leaving her like that without a chance to explain. For all he knows, she could be dead. She did faint, after all, I was worried about her for a minute."
Ianto sighed as he and Gwen got up from her desk and moved to be nearer Jack and Donna. "You're right, Donna." He admitted, "I just can't even imagine how he's going to react-"
But he was cut off once more, this time by the sound they all knew so well - the slow, rhythmic sound of the TARDIS, echoing loudly through the Hub. This time, it seemed, the Doctor was wasting no time parking above them in the square, as the ship began to materialise inside, near the cog door.
Donna's breathing was ragged and quick in the few seconds before the TARDIS door opened, knowing, along with the other three, that she was the one the Doctor would want. She was his rock, his best friend - and the one who was going to have to tell him this awful lie. Wishing she had more time to prepare, but knowing she didn't, Donna stepped forward as the blue door finally swung open and he emerged.
He looked like hell. She had only hung up the phone a few minutes ago, but the Doctor's eyes were bleary and his expression dazed as he stepped slowly into the Hub, his gaze roaming the room until he focussed on Donna - and sure enough, he stumbled immediately forward into her arms.
Jack watched as he and Donna held each other tightly, a single, heart-wrenching sob escaping from the Doctor and then one from Donna herself. Jack hated that she had to go through lying to her best friend like this, knowing how hard it would be for her. But, he thought, at least he didn't have to be there - for the two of them had walked wordlessly into the TARDIS.
Donna closed the door of the ship - her home -behind her, taking a deep breath to gather her strength before turning to face the Doctor, who was leaning against the console almost as though nothing was wrong. But, of course, it was.
He didn't need to ask any more.
"She... She ignored Jack's orders." Donna hated herself more for lying with every single word, but continued with the story she had been instructed to tell all the same. "After you left, she wouldn't listen to anyone. None of us. Right in the middle of us trying to work everything out, there was flare in rift activity that we couldn't ignore. We went to investigate, and Jack said it was too dangerous for any of us, but she wouldn't listen. It was like she didn't care about anything any more, not even whether she lived or died. She went after the alien on her own, against orders, because none of us were quick enough to hold her back. She couldn't see sense without you, Doctor, she..."
Donna couldn't finish her sentence, being overcome with tears at the utterly broken look on the Doctor's face. She put her face in her hands, feeling unimaginably guilty, and was less than a second away from blowing her cover and telling him the truth when he spoke.
"Well!" Donna looked up in shock at the strength and casual nature of his voice, "I guess I know what I need to do, then!"
Alarm bells began to ring in Donna's head as the Doctor began flipping switches on the TARDIS console, and she stepped closer warily.
"What's that? What do you need to do?"
"I need to fix it."
"Tell me when it happened."
"Donna, tell me exactly when this happened." He paused and looked at her now, a burning intensity in his eyes and his voice.
"Wh-" Her voice shook, "Why do you need to know that?"
"Tell me now."
They were both yelling, and in a flash he had moved so close to her that she could see the individual tears on his face, hear every glitch in his shaky, hoarse breaths. There were a few second of silence, and in them Donna knew what he was planning to do, and how much he must truly love Rose to be willing to risk everything.
Slowly, she reached out and held his arms with her hands tightly, and he sighed.
"I'm sorry." He whispered.
"I know." Donna nodded through her tears, "I'm sorry, too, but you're not crossing your own timeline, Doctor. The paradox would be unthinkable, especially with our proximity to the rift. You know that, and I do."
"It doesn't matter any more." He said resolutely, taking Donna's hands, "You have to know that I'll do anything to fix this. Please, Donna, just tell me when and where. I can't let this be the end, I just... can't."
Tears were falling freely down Donna's face now - she was utterly torn. It was killing her to lie to him, to put him through the worst misery imaginable, but at the same time this was exactly what the plan was for, to get him to prove the strength of his feelings for Rose and how far he was willing to go for her. For him to realise how much he had lost when he ran away from her.
"Do you understand why I need to do this?" The Doctor asked of her gently, and Donna nodded, "I know you do. Then tell me the exact time and location, Donna, please."
"I..." She could barely whisper, "I can't."
"Why not?" He pleaded, and Donna couldn't take it a second longer. She exploded.
"BECAUSE SHE'S NOT DEAD, OKAY!"
Shocked by the force of her own words, she stepped back, clapping her hands over her mouth. The impossible combined look of horror, disbelief, elation, betrayal and relief on the Doctor's face was breaking her heart.
"How..." It was a few seconds before he could fathom any words as he stared at the silent Donna as though she was the alien and not him. When he did speak, his voice was tight with something disturbingly close to hatred. "How could you possibly bring yourself to lie to me about something like that?"
"Doctor, you have to know it wasn't my idea, she made me tell you this story, said it was for the best, I'd never want to lie to you or hurt you or-"
"Who? Who could you listen to, who do you think knows me better than you do? Who made you do this to me?"
Donna couldn't reply. But luckily, she didn't have to, as a voice from the door of the TARDIS caused them both to turn in its direction.
"It was me."
At the sight of Rose, Donna watched the Doctor sink back onto the captain's chair, and couldn't take it any more. With a whispered "I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry" she stumbled past Rose and out of the TARDIS, emerging into the Hub and slamming the door behind her.
To Donna, Jack, Ianto and Gwen, the twenty minutes that the Doctor and Rose spent talking in the TARDIS felt like an eternity. After endlessly grilling Donna over what she had said to the Doctor, about his reactions, his potentially universe-ending plan of action, it was an immense relief when the blue doors opened once more.
The four of them stood up as Rose and the Doctor, looking exhausted but no longer miserable, stepped out and joined them.
"Rose..." The Doctor sighed, running a hand through his hair, "Rose explained what Martha and Mickey did. It never occurred to me and my reaction was inexcusable. To all of you." He looked around them, meeting each one of their eyes before resting on Donna.
"Doctor, I'm so-" She started, but he reached and put a finger to her lips.
"Don't." He smiled, "Don't you dare apologise to me, Donna. Yes, it was an extreme way of doing it, but you made me see sense, and you've got nothing to be sorry for." The Doctor pulled her into a crushing hug, adding with a smirk, "And besides, you're such a bloody good actress I can't understand why you worked as a temp all those years."
She let out a laugh, and almost instantly, the atmosphere between the six of them lightened immeasurably.
"Whew!" Ianto grinned, "I dunno about you, but after all that I could use a coffee!" He nudged Gwen, "Go on, love, get them on."
"Bugger off." She laughed, but started heading towards the kitchen all the same - before stopping dead in her tracks. A look of wild glee came over Gwen's face as she pointed at Jack and Donna. Or more specifically, at their entwined hands, which nobody, apparently themselves included, had noticed.
"What is that?" Rose squealed, as they stepped as far away from each other as possible with matching, horrified expressions and mutters of "Nothing", "Dunno what you mean", "Weren't even touching" etc. etc.
The other four remained silent, all of them looking at Jack and Donna with their eyebrows raised, waiting to see which would snap first. As it turned out, it was Jack, who sighed defeatedly, and turned toward Donna.
"Fine!" He looked mildly amused, "Come on, then. Let's just admit it."
Donna's mouth fell open obstinately, "Admit what, exactly?" She folded her arms.
"Well, you love me!"
"I what? No I don't!"
His cocky grin grew wider, sure she was playing along, "Well, then I guess that makes Gwen and Ianto bare-faced liars, huh? They swore that you did."
Donna's eyes narrowed, as she looked between Jack and the others, all of whom looked as though they were trying not to laugh.
"Well, do you love me?" She demanded.
"Well then it looks like Rose and the Doctor got their information wrong as well, because they said you did!"
"They-" Jack pointed at Gwen and Ianto, "Swore that you were ill, you were so in love with me!"
"And they-" Donna gestured to the Doctor and Rose, "Said you were pretty much dead for me!"
"I guess it doesn't mater, then!" Jack scoffed, "If neither of us love each other!"
"No, I guess it doesn't!"
"Nothing, eh?" Ianto smirked, unfolding his arms to pull a disc out of his pocket and sliding it into a computer, "Because, Jack, I've got something here that would suggest otherwise..." Jack's face remained blank, "I've always wondered if it's your best idea to have CCTV cameras in your office."
Slowly, recognition dawned on Jack's face, and he leapt at the computer - but it was too late. The footage was already playing.
"I love you. I think always have, and I know I always will. So there. What d'you say to that?... Okay, that was better. Maybe the 'I love you' was a little harsh..."
Triumphant, Ianto switched the video off, while Gwen, with a matching expression, pulled a piece of paper from her pocket, " And here's a very interesting letter that Ianto found on your desk, Donna... Well, it's not so much a letter as a collection of thoughts..." She cleared her throat before reading:
"I don't know how to tell you because I've never felt anything like it before... We've always been too busy arguing to see how similar we are... On some level I've always loved you..."
Gwen couldn't say another word before Donna, her face crimson, snatched the paper from her hand and shoved it in her pocket, folding her arms and sighing almost defeatedly.
"Fine." She muttered finally.
"What was that?" Jack asked, his embarrassment seemingly cancelled out by hers.
"I said fine!" Donna was still frowning, "I'll have you, I guess, but it was only ever because I felt sorry for you, I-"
"Oh, shut up." Jack grinned, and stepped forward to cut her off with a kiss so fierce it nearly knocked her off her feet. Donna smiled against his lips, wrapping her arms around his neck, completely unable to believe that everything could go from complete despair to complete happiness in such a short space of time.
As they watched the two proudest people they knew finally let the other in, The Doctor slid his arm around Rose, planting a gentle kiss on the side of her head.
"I'm sorry." He whispered, and she shook her head, beaming up at him.
"Don't be. Ever. But I'm sorry for the lie. I was just so upset that you'd left, but I know why you did it."
"I know why you did it, too."
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
"Ahem." Donna interrupted them, but the Doctor and Rose didn't care, knowing they would have all the time in the world together.
"So you two really did make up that whole plot to get us together? I'm impressed!" Donna laughed.
"Yeah, well it was mainly Gwen and Ianto's idea, too, wasn't-" The Doctor looked around to address them, but found the two other Torchwood employees were nowhere to be seen.
"Hmmmm," Jack smiled, "So those two have snuck off to the kitchen together again, huh? Seems like quite a regular thing... Maybe me and you could pay back the little matchmaking favour, huh Donna?"
Donna considered it, "Yup! I reckon so. I'll come up with a plan and let you know what it is."
"Whoah, hold on, what makes you think I couldn't come up with a plan?" Jack looked affronted.
"Well, no offence sweetheart, but you're not as clever as me, so-"
"What?! I could come up with a better plan in five minutes than you could in a lifetime!"
"In your dreams, future-boy..."
The Doctor squeezed Rose's hand, and she giggled, the two of them rolling their eyes at their friends' bickering. Some things never changed.