Meeting the Future Past

By Kate Carter

Disclaimer: I'm still poor, so this still isn't mine.

Series 4 story, originally written in summer 2008, which has been stuck in my files since then. I'm still not really doing any writing (despite having graduated from college in December) but that's because I've apparently misplaced all my plot bunnies. Although a couple have popped their heads up, so maybe something new will be coming soon!

They were in London, 2003, chasing gremlins. Donna hadn't really been surprised when the Doctor had told her that gremlins were actually a mischievous little race of aliens. "I thought I'd caught all of them when they were messing about with the London Eye at the end of 1999, but I must have missed a couple. They've bred, very fast breeders, gremlins, almost like rabbits. Put a pair together and you can have a hundred running around in a few months. When you think you see movement out of the corner of your eye, it's usually a gremlin. Luckily, they're easily disoriented, which makes them easy to catch," he said, waggling the sonic screwdriver with a grin.

Donna hadn't really paid much attention to where in London they were. South London, a good forty minutes away from her home in west London, more if you took public transport. At this point, she'd just started temping at H.C. Clements. Her heart gave a slightly pained twinge as she recalled that at this point, she was probably going gah-gah for Lance…that no-good, idiotic, backstabbing, conspiring –

She was brought out of her thoughts by the sudden stiffening of the Doctor beside her. His breath caught and he seemed frozen. "Doctor?" she asked, startled. "Hello, Doctor!" She waved her hand in front of his face, and this seemed to snap him out of it.

He looked at her, and his eyes conveyed the odd mixture of pain and longing. "We need-" he gulped, "we need to leave. Now."

Donna looked at him askance. "What do you mean, we need to leave?! You were just talking about we needed to catch all these gremlin things, and now that we're close to one, you're sayin' we need to leave?!" She crossed her arms and glared at him. "What's up with that, you crazy Martian?"

He ignored the fact that she'd called him a Martian, something that had really become an in-joke between them, and this concerned her. "I-" his eyes darted around nervously. "I didn't realize we were at the Powell Estate."

"Right, bunch of council flats, really explains why we need to hightail it out of here," Donna said dryly. "Don't want to mingle with the chavs?"

"No!" the Doctor said. He grabbed her hand and started trying to pull her. She dug her heels in and refused to move. "Donna!" He gritted his teeth and decided he had no choice but to tell her. "This is where Rose lived. Lives. She's around here somewhere, and I can't risk running into her."

"Oh." Donna was a little shocked. Not completely, but a bit. "Right. Why didn't you just tell me?"

"Because…because…oh, I don't know, but we need to leave, now!" He tugged futilely at her hand again.

"Doctor?" Donna was staring off into the distance. "Rose was blonde, right?"

He spun around. "Oh no," he said. Donna hadn't known it was possible for him to go that pale. "She can't see me…she can't see us! Donna, hide!"

Donna looked at him as if he was crazy. Which, she reflected, was entirely possible. Who knew what passed for sane with Martians? "Where?" she asked.

There really wasn't anything to hide behind. A modestly-sized paper recycling bin was about six meters away, and the Doctor darted into it and dove in. "Donna!" he hissed, barely sticking his head over the edge.

"I don't need to hide! She's never met me at any point in her time line!" Donna hissed back. "Besides, I want to see her!"

The Doctor shot her a pained –yet–aggravated glance before he was forced to duck, as Rose and the girl she was walking with came within earshot.

"I can't believe Jimmy said that!" the girl with Rose giggled.

"I know!" Rose squealed, grabbing her friend's arm. She danced around, pulling her friend with her. The girl squealed, and Rose laughed. "Oh, I like him so much," Rose said, sighing.

"Bet he'll ask you out," her friend said, grinning. Rose squealed. "You think?" she said happily.

Donna made a decision. Before she could talk herself out of it, she strolled forward. "Girls!" she called. "Hello, can I talk to you?"

Behind her, the Doctor hissed, "Donna, NO!" from his bin, but she ignored him. "I'm writing an article for GirlTalk magazine," Donna improvised. "Do you mind if I ask you some questions?"

"All right," said Rose. "Not like we have to be anywhere." She shot her friend a sly glance and they giggled nervously.

"Skiving off school?" Donna asked, smiling. "I did that a few times." The girls made no reply, but from their combined expressions of joy and guilt, and the nervous giggles they gave, they confirmed her theory.

"So, what are your names?" Donna said. She was observing both girls. They wore eyeliner and mascara that were too thick, and clothes that were perhaps a bit too tight. The typical types of girls for this area.

"'m Rose, and this is Shireen," Rose said, indicating her friend.

"Nice to meet you, I'm Donna," Donna said, shaking their hands. "How come you don't have a notepad or somethin'?" Shireen asked, looking at her suspiciously.

"Tape recorder in my pocket. Makes people less nervous," Donna invented. Oh, she was good at this! "So, you both live around here? How old are you?"

"We're both sixteen," Rose said. Shireen elbowed her. "Liar, you're only fifteen," she said, but her smile showed it was meant in a friendly manner. Rose rolled her eyes. "Well, I'll be sixteen in two weeks, 'M as good as," she said.

"What do you want to do with your lives?" Donna asked.

Shireen shrugged. "Dunno. Probably wind up working in a shop. Don't really care, s'long as it pays all right."

Rose seemed to put a bit more thought into it. "I want to travel," she said at last. Her tongue peeked out from her mouth as she grinned. "Travel all over, see everything." Then she sighed. "But I'll probably wind up working in a shop."

"Thinks she's gonna marry a musician, she does," Shireen sniggered. Rose elbowed her, but her cheeks flared pink. "Never said I was gonna marry him," she groused.

"But you would!" Shireen teased.

Donna laughed. "Oh, I wanted to do the same thing when I was your age. I was gonna marry the cutest boy in my class, and we were gonna go everywhere, because he was gonna be a rich businessman." She sighed. "Obviously, that didn't work out."

"Is he the guy hidin' in the bin over there?" Rose asked.

"What?!" Donna was taken aback. "Oh, him? He's just some nutter. Did you get a good look at him?"

"No," Rose shook her head. "Just saw some guy in a big brown coat."

"Yeah, he's just some nutter, don't mind him," Donna said. "Well, it's been wonderful talking to you two, but I've got to run, have to meet up with someone. Oh, and don't go by the bin, you never know what those type of people might do," she added in a confidential tone.

Impulsively, she pulled both girls into a hug. "Good luck girls. And…I think your lives will turn out to be something you're not expecting. Something wonderful." She smiled at them, her gaze lingering a bit longer on Rose, and then she turned and walked away.

"She seemed quite nice," Donna said later that night, as she and the Doctor sipped tea in the kitchen. "I can understand why you liked her."

"You barely know her," the Doctor said. He got what Donna had secretly termed "the Rose look," the mixture of pain and loneliness and sorrow and love. "She was…she was wonderful."

Donna reached across the table and laid her hand on his. "You can tell me about her. Sometimes. Maybe it'll help," she said softly.

The Doctor looked at her, and it was as if a mask had come over his face. "Donna Noble, you're a treasure," he said affectionately, patting her hand with his other one. He stood up. "Go get some sleep. I've got some work to do. And Donna? Thank you," he said, and his brown eyes stared into hers sincerely.

Donna looked at him and smiled softly. "You know, you're not that bad yourself," she said fondly. "For a Martian." She left the room, and the Doctor sighed.

"I'm not a Martian!"