A/N: Welcome! This is my first Doctor Who fic, which is kind of exciting for me. I sort of fell in Doctor Who a couple of months ago when it showed up on Netflix. I proceeded to devour it. This is prompted by the season four finale, because I adore Donna and what happened to her kills me every time. For the record, I haven't seen The End of Time or any of season five, so if Donna returns at any point I don't know about it yet. I tried to get the characterization as best I could, but please let me know if I missed the mark! (Or made any spelling/grammar errors.) Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Need I say it?
Donna Noble doesn't know what she's lost.
She lives in a state of not-quite-content, rushing around and working a meaningless job and dating men who range from completely boring to absolute nut jobs and never being happy but not pointedly being unhappy either. She always wants more. Better job, better boyfriend, better friends. She wants her mother to stop nagging at her and wants her life to improve without all that much effort on her part. She's a little selfish, just a tad self-absorbed, completely stubborn, and her mouth gets her into heaps of trouble. She notices that her grandfather gets a kind of sad look in his eyes when he looks at her but she never asks him about it, because she's afraid of hearing a rant on her inadequacies like the ones she gets from her mother.
She has no idea that she saved the world twice. She has no idea that time travel is possible within the confines of a blue police box that is bigger on the inside. She doesn't care about the possibility that there are other worlds out there beyond the stars—she's got enough to worry about right here, thank you very much—and she certainly doesn't know that she's been to some of those planets. She has no memory of a Time Lord called the Doctor, nor that there is or ever was a race called Time Lords. She has never heard the names Captain Jack Harkness, Martha Jones, Rose Tyler, Sarah Jane Smith. She doesn't know what a Dalek is, or that it would kill her without hesitation. She doesn't know that the secrets of the universe lay dormant in her mind, or that the act of remembering would destroy her from the inside out.
Donna Noble doesn't know any of this.
But there was a time when she did. Right before he all took it away she had a moment of perfect clarity, where she knew exactly who she was and what she was and how the universe worked. She had all the knowledge and memories and thoughts of the Doctor smashing around inside her brain. She knew that he looked at the world and saw time rushing around and branching off into a thousand different directions. She knew that he had seen worlds burn and die and that he carried a burden so heavy it would destroy anyone else who tried to lift it. She knew that she was not just Donna Noble, an un-extraordinary temp from London who would never amount to anything; no, she was Donna Noble and she was brilliant. She knew everything that could possibly be known.
When her brain started to rebel, when the knowledge was like a hammer and her mind was the anvil that it beat against, she had that moment of perfect knowledge, and of complete sorrow. She knew, once, exactly what she would lose when the Doctor reached out and touched her temples and took it all away. And God, she would rather have let her brain just melt and bubble and fry with the knowledge that couldn't be hers than have lost it all. She wanted to run from him. She could have. She could have fought him, held him off until the damage was irreversible. It was all in her mind, every step she would have to take to complete her own destruction. She would rather have died than become nothing again.
But she didn't. All the knowledge was swirling around in her mind, and it was perfectly clear. If she died, another part of him would die as well. She could see the ones before who had died—a boy, Adric, swirls to the front and dies and she can feel the guilt still—and she could see perfectly what those deaths had done. She cried and begged but did not fight as he put his hands to her head. She had to let him. She could already feel his guilt and sorrow over what was happening to her now. Imagine if she died. It would torment him forever, just like Adric's death, just like the destruction of Gallifrey. So she closed her eyes and choked on her sobs and let him erase the memories from her mind.
Donna Noble doesn't know what she has lost.
But when she did, she made the choice to give it all up. Now she doesn't know that she was brave and strong and brilliant.
But she was.
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