I don't own any part of Doctor Who or its franchise; all rights to the BBC and co. No money is made off this fic.
AN: The sequel, but written first, to "Bonkers". Written for the Travellers Tales Prompt #13, "envelope", at LJ doctor_donna. Yes, there is a cameo at the end that leads to the crossover of the prequel/sequel. Enjoy!
Her hand was shaking. Not a lot, not so that it was noticeable to anyone else, but enough that she saw it, certainly. Felt it more. She was controlling it really well, all things considered, because it felt like an earthquake in her skin, rushing out to the tips of the fingers on her hand that held the nasty little bit of paper.
It was just an envelope. Just a stupid, plain, white, letter envelope. With her name on the front, handwritten. And…that was it. She didn't even recognize the handwriting. There was nothing extraordinary about it at all, and yet her hand was shaking (not a lot) and she felt sick (a lot). In fact, she was about to be sick, all over the kitchen table.
She propelled herself to her feet and turned round, throwing herself at the sink in time to heave her lovely breakfast all over the basin.
"Donna? Alright, darling?" her mum called and Donna wiped her mouth and washed the sink out.
"Fine, Mum," she called back. "Just…nervous," she finished weakly and leaned against the counter, staring blankly out the window. Funny, she couldn't even remember what had just made her so ill. Her hands were fine now, she noted.
"Big day tomorrow," her mother said, waltzing into the kitchen. "I'm not surprised it's all finally taking a toll. I bet Shaun is feeling it, too. What do you think? He's probably lying about in bed, nursing a weak stomach, himself." She chuckled as she tenderly brushed some of Donna's hair from her eyes and Donna gave her a small smile.
"Probably not because he's caught a stomach virus the day before his wedding, though. Been out all night, hasn't he? His party was last night."
Her mother tsk-tsked and patted Donna's hand.
"Nonsense. And you're fine too. Just nerves. Here, let me feel your forehead to be sure, though-"
"Mum!" Donna protested and Sylvia batted her hands away and touched the back of her hand to Donna's cheeks and forehead.
"There now, you're…" Her voice trailed off and she left her hand resting against her daughter's heated skin.
"Alright, that's enough, Mum."
Sylvia swallowed hard and her voice was gentle when she found it again. "Donna, I think you're right. It must be some kind of bug. Get on up to your room, then and put yourself straight to bed. I'll bring up some tea and aspirin."
"No, I'm feeling a bit better now-"
"Go to your room and go to bed," her mother replied firmly and Donna truly questioned her age. She felt about fifteen going on a hundred some days and now she gave her mother a suddenly tired smile.
"Alright, Mum. Going, I'm going," she said, holding her hands up in surrender. She passed the table on her way out and glanced down at it, spotting the envelope again. This time when she picked it up, her hand didn't shake and her stomach flip-flopped only a little.
"By the way, Mum, do you know who this is from?" she asked, turning back. Her mother walked over to her and took it from her.
"I don't recognize the writing. Where'd you find it?"
"I dunno. It was just on the table. It's for me though- think it's another card from someone, probably."
"It doesn't feel like a card," Sylvia replied uncertainly and Donna swiped it from her hands. It was with concern that she felt the tremors start to run down her arm again and she backed away, crushing the letter, or whatever it was, to her bosom in an effort to still her hand.
"Never mind. I'm just off to bed, then. Thanks." She left the kitchen swiftly, her awful treasure tucked against her, and the smile slipped from Sylvia's face as soon as she was gone.
Sylvia immediately called her father.
Donna took off her things and settled into the bed, tucked into a camisole and shorts. She didn't go to sleep, though. Instead, she held the letter up before her and stared at it, as if it would reveal its secrets without her having to open it.
She was terrified to open it. There was nothing in her stomach now, so she couldn't be sick, but it felt as if a whole host of butterflies had taken up residence there and she couldn't get comfortable, no matter how hard she tried. Something was building up inside her and she had no idea what it was or why it was happening.
Terror suddenly wasn't the right word for what she was feeling and she felt tears spring to her eyes. Wishing it would stop, she shifted on the bed, sinking down until her head was resting on the pillow and she rolled over so that she was lying on her stomach, her head turned, her cheek pressed against the pillow.
The strange, roiling feeling continued on and she closed her eyes against it, forgetting that she was still clutching the letter in one miserably unsteady hand. She tried to think of other things and fixed on Shaun's face, the handsome visage of the man she was going to be with forever, starting tomorrow. Except that was all wrong, wasn't it. His was the wrong face, the wrong man. Forever with the wrong man…
A sharp pain went through her, straight across her stomach, and she gasped. Her eyes flew open. Now what had made her think that? What a funny thing to think on the day before her wedding. She sat up quickly and realized her hands were beyond trembling now and she could barely keep either of them steady as she held the letter up once more.
Maybe it was just nerves and a handful of doubts, like she'd said. She was just feeling it, all the planning, the seriousness, the closeness of the final vows, even though she and Shaun had long ago declared their most intimate love for one another. I'm happy, she told herself firmly. I'm happy and content and all the things I never thought I would be again, after…
After what? She couldn't remember. Donna suddenly couldn't remember what had come before and she saw those blank years stretching away behind her, hellish in their dark nothingness until a pinpoint of light came and opened them up for her as it focused on one tiny object: the envelope in her shaking hands.
She pressed her lips together in fearful anger and threw it from her, but it simply floated to the floor harmlessly. Just a stupid, nothing envelope. With her name on it, in handwriting she couldn't remember, the same as those missing years.
And it was suddenly the most important thing in the room, in her life, in the entire bloody world. Anxiety filled her and Donna practically threw herself off the bed and to her knees in her hurry to have the envelope back in her hands. Once it was there, she sat back on her heels and regarded it seriously, screwing up her mouth and narrowing her eyes.
"Ok, mysterious envelope," she said aloud, feeling silly for talking to an inanimate object and at the same time, perfectly sane. She went on. "It's just you and me then. Let's see what you've got for me."
Turning it over, she stuck her thumb under the back flap and tore it open. There was one sheet of paper inside and when she dared unfold it, holding her breath, a check fluttered out. Fluttered like some of those butterflies that seemed in no hurry to leave her stomach. She picked up the check and saw the name on it: John Smith.
The butterflies grew more active and Donna pressed a hand across her abdomen, trying to still them, which was silly, really, wasn't it, since the butterflies were inside and they weren't even butterflies to begin with…Donna shook her head and refocused on the letter in her hands. John Smith, of course. She remembered him, at least, vaguely. Her mum or granddad must've let him know she was getting married. She supposed he felt some kind of connection to her, or fondness- no responsibility was more like. And rightly so, since he'd saved her life, or at least her dignity. She smiled softly and read the few lines on the page.
Donna, it began. Congratulations on your impending nuptials. I know we don't know one another, but I can't help feeling fondly towards you. I'm glad you're alright. Here's a little something as you start your new life. Then there was a scribble, where he'd started to write love- that was strange- and instead he'd finished it with a tame, Best Wishes, Yours, etc, John Smith.
How funny, she thought. And it was over such a simple, bland missive that her stomach had gone completely loony. Clearly I am losing it, she thought, and climbed back onto the bed, where she settled back down and closed her eyes. She was suddenly feeling very tired and the butterflies had moved so that they were in her head now, too. Perhaps a nap would sort her out.
She fell asleep, the letter pressed to her heart, and immediately dreamed. Strange dreams they were, too. She dreamed her mother and granddad came into her room and stood over her, watching her. Then she heard voices, an entire conversation.
"She's burning up."
"Just nerves, right, Sylvia? Don't bother her so much. You promised-"
"Feel her! She's running a fever and she got this letter- look at her! She's clearly not well, Dad. It's all that blasted Doctor's fault. He sent this letter-"
Someone tried to take the letter from her, but she clung to it, curling her fingers around it and the person gave up.
"She doesn't know who he is and I wish you'd stop throwing his name around that way. It's not safe."
"She's sleeping! How on earth is it not safe?"
"Sylvia, I'll not talk about it here. Let's leave her to rest."
A door closed somewhere in the recesses of her mind and then there was silence for a while as she drifted away in the dark, hollow spaces of lost years and memories she couldn't quite recall. A shadowy figure came and hovered before the darkness and pointed to her, but he drifted away with the escaping memories and was gone before she could even properly notice him. Her mind finally shied away- or was it being pushed- from that listless space and dove away, towards the spot of light that had come earlier and suddenly she was soaring, running through memory after memory, place after place. Amazing adventures and daring do awaited her in her dreams and she lived them all across incredible vistas and impossible times. All along the way there was a man- the right man this time- that she was going to travel with forever, and he smiled at her broadly, laughing like a little boy and yet at times he was an old, old man.
It felt like days, months, years and yet when her eyes finally flew open she knew it was mere minutes that she'd dreamed and two things struck her at once.
We-ell. Ok, yeah, three things.
One: she was shaking like a leaf all over, but it wasn't from fear, or the butterflies from before. It was with excitement. Two: she knew where those missing years she'd never thought about before had gone. Three…she knew John Smith. As in, she really, really knew him.
And his name really, really wasn't John Smith.
"Spaceman," she whispered.
She suddenly felt incredibly hot, like she was burning up, and wondered why she hadn't noticed that before. Why hadn't she noticed how hot it was? Rising, she stripped off her sweat-soaked clothes and put on a fresh pair of pajamas, then turned on the small fan sitting on her desk. She leaned over it, letting it cool her face and neck, then stood and pulled her hair up.
She glanced in a mirror on her way out the door, but in the dark she didn't see anything different. She didn't wonder why her eyes were glowing slightly, either, but by the time she'd walked downstairs it didn't matter anyway because the light faded away as soon as it'd come.
"Mum?" she called as she walked into the kitchen. There was no one there, but she could hear the sound of conversation- one voice raised in anger, another urgently hushed- coming from the living room. "Mum?" she called again. Finally she heard someone speak again.
"She's awake." Her mother, suddenly whispering, sounding frightened.
"What are you going to do?" It was her granddad. She started to respond to him without thinking when a third person spoke.
"There's a safety in place. She'll forget it all again in a few minutes. It's not easy on her, but it's necessary."
"Not easy on her- like that time, you mean? She'll pass out?"
"Isn't there anything you can do, stop it sooner?" Her granddad again. Sounding so worried for her…that wasn't good for him. Donna made a decision and walked across the kitchen and into the living room.
"I don't want to forget it all again," she said and the man who'd spoken before, the one she knew so well and didn't know at all, went very still. He was sitting with his back to her and all she could see was the familiar hunch of shoulders, the shock of brown hair, wild as all get out, the long, skinny legs ending in those ridiculous trainers. She suddenly felt incredibly angry and sad all at once. Positively grieved, she was.
"Did you hear me?" she snapped out. "I don't want to forget. I told you before, I'd rather die."
"Donna…" Not-John-Smith sighed out her name and then turned round to look at her. He looked even more grieved than she felt and she spoke again before he could. She didn't want to hear what he had to say, suddenly. Not if it meant another hollow place where good things used to be.
"Don't start," she said. "I don't know why I even want to remember, god. It's such a bloody waste, isn't it? All those wonderful things, and if I have them then I can't have all the other wonderful things in my life. And I have wonderful things now, too, you know. I have a job, and my mum is actually nice to me, and I'm getting married tomorrow. To a good man, one I deserve, that loves me because he thinks I'm special too, and he didn't have to drag me halfway across space and time to figure that out either, space boy. You hear me? He actually loves me, and not because his alien queen needs a meal, or because he's lonely. He loves me because he thinks I'm beautiful, and funny, and he likes the things I like and he listens to me…and…" She stopped to breathe and he didn't say a word to her, just continued to look like a damned lost puppy. "And he…and I…" she breathed, but was at a loss for words.
She took a deep breath and felt her head pound some, felt the butterflies replace the excitement again.
"And he's going to be heartbroken over this," she finally whispered as she felt her knees give out.
Like a shot, the Doctor was out of his chair and catching her before she could hit the ground.
"Easy there," he chided and half-carried her over to the chair he'd just vacated. He's strong, she thought. Has he always been this strong? Donna's mind whirled. She collapsed into the chair with his help and he knelt in front of her, holding her hands as they lay limp in her lap.
"Listen to me, Donna. Yes, you've remembered now, but it'll be over again soon. It has to be this way. You know it has to be this way."
She shook her head and her lip trembled as she felt the first of the heavy, hot tears course down her cheeks.
"Never," she whispered. "Never again. I'm keeping them this time. I'll fight it."
He looked pained. "You'll die."
"I know," she replied. "But it's not your choice to make."
"It isn't yours, either," he said and he sounded unbearably sad.
"That's because I am," he replied and she started. When had he put his fingers there, touching her face the way he was now?
"No," she mumbled.
"I'll speed up the process," he whispered. "I'm so sorry, Donna."
"Let me die, please," she begged. "Anything else."
"Donna!" her mother cried and she broke eye contact with him for one second to look at her mother and granddad. They were huddled together on the sofa, her mother clinging to her granddad, both looking worried in their own way. She smiled softly at them.
"I'm sorry," she told them, then looked back at him. His eyes were closed and he was concentrating- very hard, it looked like.
"Well?" she asked. "Are you doing it? I told you, I'll fight it, every step. Just don't you dare take me by surprise like last time, or I swear-"
"I can't," he breathed and his eyes flew open to meet hers. There was unchecked alarm in his brown orbs.
"I can't," he repeated. "It's not…there. The memories are there, but the Time Lord…wait- no, that's not it…well, hello there, you gorgeous thing, you, what are you doing unlocked that way…? No? And don't need to be put back, either…"
His voice trailed away in his astonishment and his eyes had shut again. Now his face was screwed up in intense concentration and Donna held her breath, waiting for him to finish, or ready to fight him if need be.
The first finally happened and his hands slid away from her face and rested on her shoulders. She frowned.
"You're not…taking them?"
"I don't need to," he said, sounding surprised, but pleased. "I don't know what's happened, or why, but whatever set you off…your memories came back, and some of the intellect, the knowledge, but…the Time Lord is gone." He smiled broadly at her. "Donna, you're ok. You're going to be ok!"
"But what about the headache? And the butterflies, and the shaking-"
"And she was running a proper fever earlier, too," her mother inserted.
The Doctor leapt up and pulled out his screwdriver, then waved it before Donna, back and forth, up and down. It beeped after a minute and he smiled again, his excitement catching.
"The flu. I'm afraid you have a stomach virus, Donna. Take some aspirin, eat some broth, you'll be alright."
"Perhaps tea and a bit of ginger-ale?" Donna asked in a tart tone of voice.
"Oh, yes, that'd be quite wise too- pardon?"
"I've just had all my memories restored and a meta-crisis averted- no thanks to you- and all you can do is recommend treatment for my flu?"
"We-ell, that's the most important thing now, isn't it? Getting you well again?" he replied innocently enough and Donna fumed and made to punch him. He jumped away and laughed, then swept her up in his arms and hugged her for dear life. She wondered how she could have doubted him, thought twice about it, and took it for what it was: life with the Doctor. Then she hugged him back fiercely.
"My god, Donna Noble," he murmured. "I never thought I'd see you again, talk to you again this way. I've missed you! Of course I have more to say- loads to say, in fact. But first things first." He held her away from him and she saw tears shining in his eyes, if only for a second. "You're getting married tomorrow."
She didn't know what to say to that yet, so she kept her mouth shut. Shaun was wonderful, but this was the Doctor. She still planned on traveling with him forever. She wondered what Shaun would think of that. God, she loved Shaun. She really did.
She loved the Doctor more, though, and he was still talking.
"Look, I hope you don't mind awfully, but this changes things a bit. I've got to monitor you a while, run a few tests- nothing invasive, don't worry about that and you know the TARDIS, she'll take good care of you- so I really need you to come back with me tonight; I've just parked up on the hill, there, you know the one- I may have knocked over your telescope, Wilf, by the way, my apologies."
"I'll get you a new one or fix the old if I've broken it."
"That's fine, just get on with it!" her granddad fairly exploded.
The Doctor stopped short, startled, and regrouped. He turned back to Donna- whom he was still holding, and quite tenderly at that.
"Right, so you have to come back with me for a week or two, I insist, for testing- just to make sure, you understand? And once that's taken care of I'll bring you right back here, to tonight, right now, and you can go on and get married in the morning and-"
"Will you come? To the wedding?" Donna asked suddenly and cursed herself even as she said it.
He shifted uncomfortably. "I'm rubbish at weddings," he said and she flushed.
"Right then. No wedding. That's fine. Yes, I'll come with you, why'd you even have to ask, you stupid Martian. Let me pack a few things."
Then she gently extricated herself from his arms and left the room. They heard the stairs squeaking and there was silence as they waited- mostly from shock. After a few minutes Wilfred spoke.
"There won't be a wedding," he pronounced and Sylvia glared at him and left for the kitchen, where pots and pans immediately started banging about. The Doctor turned to look at the old man, his face serious.
"I'm right, aren't I?" he asked and the Doctor shrugged and ran a hand over his hair before sticking both hands in his pockets.
"That's Donna's choice," he said and Wilfred harrumphed before a sly look crept over his face.
"She won't want to come back for the wedding, not once she's with you again."
"Have something against her fiancé, do you?" the Doctor asked, disgruntled. "How should I know what she'll decide to do? I'm the one responsible for putting her in this position to begin with- I hardly think-"
"Shaun's a nice lad," Wilfred replied evenly. "But he doesn't have a TARDIS."
"She's in love with him."
"She's more in love with y-"
"Alright then?" Donna interrupted, appearing in the doorway with a couple of bags in hand. The Doctor raised a brow.
"Fewer this time."
"A shorter trip, isn't it," she replied smartly, then walked past him to give her grandfather a big hug. The old man kissed her cheek.
"You take as long as you like," he whispered. "Let me handle your mum and Shaun."
She drew back, startled, but blushing. "I'm coming back."
"I'll keep an eye out," he agreed, but the look in his eyes told her he wouldn't hold his breath. Her blush deepened and she turned from him, all business.
"Mum! I'm leaving now."
Sylvia came to the doorway and gave her a short hug and a tearful kiss on the cheek. After some avoidance of the question exactly when she'd be returning and yes, she did want to get married, Donna and the Doctor finally were able to make the trek up the hill and into the TARDIS. Granted, the Doctor had to keep and arm around her at all times and he helped carry a bag, but they made it.
The Doctor placed both bags to one side of the door and shut it behind Donna, locking it carefully. He didn't move to the controls immediately and stood back, watching Donna as she took it all in again. She moved slowly around the central room, gently running her hand over the surfaces, saying hello in her own way. She finally stopped and turned back around, a huge smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
"The last thing I remember, before these past months, is being terrified of losing it all," she told him. "And thinking that I'd never see it again, even in my dreams. But I'm here again, aren't I? I'm really here."
He smiled at her softly and walked towards her. "You're really here," he said. He took her hands and his face grew serious again.
"Donna, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for all of it."
She shook her head.
"Forgotten me already, did you?"
He was taken aback. "What?"
"I don't care about what happened. It did and there's nothing I can do about it." She paused and gazed over his shoulder as she thought about it all. His eyes roamed her face, desperate to see what she did. She refocused on him and after a second, squared her shoulders and gave him a smile. Like she had once before, so long ago, she put her hands on his chest, one over each heart. He placed his own over hers.
"You're the best thing that's ever happened to me," she said frankly. "And I wouldn't change a thing. So no more apologies. Let's just get on with it."
"Get on with it?" he echoed. She raised her brows.
"Oh, right. We-ell. No need to start them tonight, exactly. I imagine you're tired. You do have the flu- although I'm sure I have something lying around here that'll take care of that for you. How about some sleep first?"
"I'm not tired."
"No." They locked eyes and the Doctor grinned. Donna returned it and clapped her hands. "Just one?" she asked. "And then sleep, rest, tests, whatever," she amended.
"We-ell," the Doctor said. Then he leaned over and flipped the first lever and the TARDIS began to hum. As Donna followed him around, exclaiming over the rediscovery of each new thing and sharing memory after long-lost memory, the Doctor suddenly stopped and turned to her.
"Donna," he began, "did you really mean that?"
She crossed her arms. He ran a hand over his hair.
"About me being the best thing that…" He coughed discreetly.
Donna kept her arms crossed and gave him a challenging look. "I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it."
"Ah, yes," he replied. "We-ell…I might feel the same way."
Donna didn't speak for a full minute and the Doctor went back to flying the TARDIS. After another moment he glanced at her again.
"He's going to be heartbroken," she said again, and her heart was heavy. The Doctor frowned.
"It doesn't have to be that way."
But Donna knew better this time and she was sticking to her guns…and the Doctor. And his TARDIS.
"It's ok," she said. "Like I said before, he loves me and…I think he'll understand."
"How do you know?" the Doctor asked quietly and Donna gave him a sad smile and shrugged.
"Because he would've made the same choice. I know he would."
"Choice?" Confusion again. How typical of this wonderful, alien man, she thought and she reached up, taking one of his hands and placing it over her one heart.
"He would save me, even if it meant he could never see me again, could never be in my life. He would choose loneliness to save my life. And that's exactly what he'll be doing, now."
The Doctor swallowed hard, felt her heart beating strongly within her chest. Felt his own hearts synching with hers. Felt himself stripped, even after all this time away from her. All that time to get over her being his best friend and the best woman he'd known and it hadn't done him any good at all. She saw straight through him in a way no one dared.
"Donna, I-" he began, and she took her other hand and placed her fingers over his mouth, shushing him gently.
"I know," she said. "And it's going to be ok. It's going to be just fine, isn't it?"
After several heartbeats, the Doctor took his other hand and removed her hand from his lips. He smiled at her softly and his old eyes regarded her tenderly.
"It will," he agreed.
From several yards away, hidden in the shadows, a tall man and a short young woman watched the blue phone box dematerialize.
"Well," said the girl once it was gone. "That was interesting. And surprisingly well intentioned. Should I be worried about what you took?"
"You should always be worried, Claire," he replied easily. "And it was your idea to heal her afterwards."
"This entire thing is all on you," she retorted. "But do you think I'd let you slice people's heads open if you weren't gonna heal them after?"
He actually took a second to consider that and then shrugged. "No."
"So. Now that's taken care of, can we please go sightseeing?"
"Sylar, you promised!" she exclaimed as he turned and started to walk away. She rushed after him, catching his hand, then casually linking arms with him.
They walked away into the Chiswick night, still arguing.