Do not own any part of the Doctor Who franchise, all rights to the BBC and co. No money made off this fic, thanks.
AN: Third bit to "Choices" and "Bonkers" (in that order). The "stinking, rotten liar" line is from LJ lady katherine_b, with her permission. :)
Donna burst through the doors of the TARDIS and stopped dead, one arm outstretched as she pointed at the Doctor. Her other hand held a couple of shopping bags.
"You!" she exclaimed in that voice she generally reserved for being really, really angry with him. He turned about, a look of surprise frozen upon his face. He blinked.
"Pumpkin?" he dared and she marched forward and he considered creeping back for two whole seconds until he remembered who he was and who she was and that he usually stood his ground around her. We-ell. Most of the time.
His thoughts were cut off by her stabbing him in the chest with that pointed, pointy finger- blast, but she'd had a manicure, hadn't she, had some of those awful French tips put on or something…actually, they looked rather nice on her- god, she had lovely hands. He got a thrill every time she let him grab them when they were on the run from utter destruction or psychopathic aliens or whatnot…and she was still poking him. It was starting to hurt, to be honest. And not in the good way- not that there was a good way with Donna, per se, but-
He blinked a few times and refocused as she started shouting again.
"You! You stinking, rotten liar!"
"Me?" he asked innocently enough, but under the force of her glare his face dissolved into a cheeky grin. "I am, aren't I? Not all the time, though, you have to admit. And when I do it's usually for a really, really good reason, isn't it?" He rushed ahead as he saw her growing impatient with his babbling. Hell, he was growing impatient with it. He wanted to know why she was so angry. That way he could fix it and they could maybe have make-up sex this time.
Nooo…he didn't think that, did he? Oo. He did. What was he now, a saucy teenager? God, maybe it had been a mistake to take her back. The last thing he needed was his body suddenly deciding it was time for a second spring and inducing Time Lord hormones and pheromones and whatever else it did that was making him so damned randy just now. He winced and felt her poke him again, then grab his suit jacket and haul him to her, chest to chest. And what a lovely chest it was-
"What did I lie about this time?" he managed to say, cutting off that train of thought- just in time, too, before it reached a certain part of his anatomy. Oo! There he went again! What on Gallifrey was the matter with-
"You, I can't believe you sometimes," she said, then paused slightly as she breathed him in. Her pupils dilated. Oh, that was interesting.
"Donna?" he questioned and she shook her head after another second.
"I knew you were wearing cologne," she said, almost to herself and when she looked up at him again she blinked a few times. "Where was I?"
"You were rather angry with me, actually. Apparently I lied to you about something…?"
Although… "What do you have there?" he asked, pointing to the grocery bags she'd dropped on a nearby seat. He suddenly had a bad feeling about those bags. We-ell, not really about the bags, not even about what was in the bags. More like what the bags indicated, really.
Because if they had what he thought they had in them, and it was that day…oh, he was in for it.
Donna's jaw dropped as she watched his face while he figured it all out and she pummeled his chest some- ok, a lot- before grabbing his jacket and hauling him to her again.
"You are a dirty, stinking, rotten liar! I can't believe you knew! You knew the entire time that I was ok and you stood there in front of me and pretended- you let me think I was going to lose it all over again! I can't bloody believe you!"
"No! No, please, Donna, I'm so sorry, Donna, I'll never let anything like that happen to you again, Donna-" She was doing more than glaring up at him now- he could see she was trying not to cry, she was that angry. Or was that hurt? Or both- yeah, probably both, if he knew his Donna. And oh, if she'd never proven she was his before, it was clear enough now. She took a deep breath and pummeled him some more and he let her this time, no protests, just stood there and took it. "And then," she went on, "you knew already that I was going to leave Shaun, knew what choice I'd make and you still acted as if nothing was even the matter! Doctor, how could you?" She lifted her face and he saw that some tears had already made their way down her cheeks.
He resisted the urge to wipe them away, knowing she'd hate him all the more for it.
"Just tell me that," she whispered, the fight finally gone out of her. "Tell me why you did that. Why you'd let me believe those awful things, make that awful choice, all by myself. After what you'd already done. Why?" She sniffed and suddenly released him and stepped away, looking anywhere but at him as she tried to surreptitiously wipe her cheeks and nose. "Or don't I deserve an answer?"
The Doctor regarded her quietly, pain pouring from his tall, still being. It was clear to him now that she had loved Shaun- more than he'd realized and he knew she was regretting her choice back then. She had to be- otherwise why would she torture him this way, by asking him those things? His twisted face pled his case with her in a way he knew his voice couldn't just then, if only she would look at him. Donna lifted her head as if she'd heard him, but instead of forgiveness, her face matched his sorrow for sorrow.
"Oh, Donna," he breathed. "I am sorry."
"That's lovely," she replied, sniffling a little more. Still pretending she wasn't sniffling at all. "But it's not what I want to hear right now," she admonished. "Tell me the truth, Doctor. I've never asked for anything less."
"No, you haven't, have you," he said softly and gave a small sigh. He ran a hand over his hair and turned from her to walk around the console some. When he spoke, he determinedly kept his eyes trained on the controls, avoiding her gaze just as she'd done to him a moment before. He huffed a little, an almost-smile curving his lips. How alike they were. Or maybe they were just rubbing off on one another after all this time. Maybe because they couldn't tear their eyes from one another.
He decided not to go down that road just then and turned his attention to explaining himself.
"I couldn't tell you those things, Donna," he began, "even if I'd wanted to."
"Are you saying you didn't want to?" she asked, her voice accusingly intimate and he cringed even though the words weren't the wrong ones to use.
"I am," he replied and dared a glance at her. Looked away again just as quickly.
"And are you going to explain why that is- was?" she went on, pursing her lips and looking really, really put out with him. And sure, he might not be looking, but she knew he could feel her anger and frustration rolling off her in waves. He was telepathic, after all, and an alien, and he knew her well enough- too well, a voice in her mind hissed- to know how upset she'd be with him over something like this.
He sighed again and it was sort of heartbreaking to hear. Donna had the feeling she wasn't going to like what he was about to say.
"I couldn't tell you about the memories- I didn't want to, because I didn't believe it, myself. Not at first."
"You'd seen me! That day- today, in fact! In that shop, and you went and found me at home right after that, didn't you? So don't you dare stand there and tell me you 'had to make sure,'" she said, using her fingers to make air quotes and laying it on thick.
"I did!" he shouted at her, spinning on his heels so that he faced her, one hand on the controls, the other flung out with his impassioned cry. "That was exactly what I had to do!" he went on. "Don't you understand that? After all that time without you, I had to be absolutely certain that it was real, that this future wasn't just going to collapse on me and I'd lose you all over again- I couldn't live with that, Donna. I barely made it through those years without you as it is. And as for Shaun-" He paused, searching for the words, stripped down as he was by her accusing eyes. "As for him, I couldn't tell you what choice you'd made. For all I knew, you'd married him anyway and he'd come along with us. No, that had to be your decision. I could never make it for you, not about that. Not when it came to him. Not…" The rest of the thought lay in the air between them, unspoken and heavy.
Not when it came to me.
He would never choose himself for his companions, Donna thought. Invite them to travel, share his life with them, sure, but only once he was sure they wanted to come along. And as soon as there was any sign of distress or heartache, it was always with the offer to take them home, or the no complaints when they wanted to go home. He'd never plead with them to stay, no matter how much he'd miss them, or cared for them. Not even at the expense of his humanity…which was a little ironic, to say the least. Here he was, the last of his kind, a destroyer of worlds, and so damned lonely…and a realization dawned on her.
He didn't think he was anymore worth it or special than she used to feel about herself.
Her heart beat wildly for him and she took a step forward without thinking. He lifted his head and stared at her. His eyes were wide and pleading, desperate for her to understand and accept his decision, to accept the pretending that hadn't really hurt either of them, in the long run.
The anger on her face melted away and was replaced with a different sort of hurt.
"Oh, Doctor," she breathed. "I'm so sorry I didn't see it."
His mouth worked silently for a moment and then he tore his eyes from her and moodily turned back to the controls.
"I guess," she went on in his silence, "that I was so caught up in being back here with you that I just…I was too busy for you." She gave a small, disbelieving laugh. "Can you believe that? Me, who was always on you about your feelings- and I didn't even see what you must have been carrying around this entire time."
His shoulders shook a little, but he didn't turn around again.
She knew he was crying, or trying not to.
She was suddenly very glad she'd gotten those bananas after all. He was really going to need them. But first he needed something else.
Donna crossed the floor to him and wrapped her arms around him from behind, hugging herself to his back and he stiffened as he had, minutes ago in the shop. But this was an older Doctor, this one. The one she'd had all sorts of new adventures with. The one who'd been so afraid of losing her again that even after seeing her alive and well, hearing her talk about life in the TARDIS, had gently, tenderly, taken her face in his hands and made absolutely certain that she was alright.
Because he needed her desperately, and couldn't stand a repeat of that loss. Not that way.
She thought she knew how that felt.
"Doctor," she breathed against him and felt him finally relax some. His arms came up and rested across hers and she felt him turn his head to see her. She lifted her chin and propped it against his shoulder.
"I'm not going to leave," she said simply and he smiled through the tears that had already fallen, hope filling him.
"Even if he was better for you?"
"He's a good man, yeah," she murmured. "But nothing is worse than making do."
The Doctor turned his head back, looked up the long column of the TARDIS. Donna looked with him and hugged him tighter.
"You're still a liar," she said and felt him give a small laugh. One of his hands laced through hers and he reached down with the other to adjust some of the controls. The smile slid off his face slowly.
"Yeah," he agreed. "I am." He looked over his shoulder at her again. "Can you forgive me?"
She pursed her lips as she pretended to consider it and he wished he could kiss them, felt his face flush at the thought. He tried to look away and found he couldn't.
"Yeah, alright," she finally said, frowning a little. "I suppose I can do that for you, Sunshine. But only if you promise me something."
He very nearly breathed, anything, but stopped himself in time. It was rather dangerous to make blind promises. He'd know- he'd made a few before, hadn't he? Although he knew before she spoke that he'd promise her anything she wanted just then, whether he said it or not. He didn't think he could refuse the ginger beauty ever again.
"I want you…" she began slowly and his hearts competed with one another, as he almost wished she would stop there. Yes, his mind cried. You can have me. But she went on.
"…to stop comparing yourself to the life I could've had. I chose this, Sunshine. And you owe me that much."
She looked fondly exasperated and his hearts started their clamor again.
"To stop second guessing me. My choice, my life, end of story. It's not fair to me if you keep undermining it every step of the way. I thought you trusted me more than that. I thought you knew me better."
The Doctor faced forward again, staring ahead of himself in consternation and his hand tightened over Donna's. She clasped his fingers in return and rested her forehead against his back as she waited for his response.
"You're right," he finally said, taking a deep breath. He turned around so that they were front to front and she started to let go of him in that intimate position, but he wrapped his arms around her as well, holding her to him, gazing down into her face with a look so sweet it made her heart ache.
"I think that's a first," she managed to breathe, trying to inject a little humor, but his face remained serious and ardent.
"No, you're right so often, Donna Noble," he responded. "It's one of the things I love about you."
"One of the things you what?" Her eyes had gone wide. His words, coupled with the look on his face, the way he was holding her, the cologne wafting from him- it was all doing strange things to her. We-ell. Not that strange, really. She already knew she had feelings for him, after all. But she'd been doing really well with ignoring them and now he was pushing all her defenses against the truth out of the way, one by one.
"That I love about you," he supplied. She choked a little, but managed to bluster it away.
"Oh? And what are the other things? How many of these things are there?"
His eyes swirled darker as he gave in to the feelings he'd been having ever since she'd come back. Since before she'd come back, really. Bloody second spring.
With a soft smile, he lifted a hand to run his fingers along a lock of her hair.
"Your ginger hair," he said after a moment. He locked eyes with her again before bringing the hair to his lips and kissing it reverently. Her lips trembled and he smiled slightly, then let the hair fall. His fingers brushed along her cheek as he considered again. "The way you argue with me. You stop me when I need to be stopped," he went on. "No one's ever done it quite the way you do. With compassion…and tears. You're very good at that," he said and his smiled had turned more predatory than thoughtful. She edged out of his grasp and backed away to where she'd set the grocery bags, trying to be casual.
"By all means, go on," she said, waving a hand at him, but her voice shook just a little.
"I love your sense of style," he offered. "It's as good as mine, isn't it? I think we make a handsome couple."
She choked again. "C-couple?"
"Donna," he said and she stopped moving and stared at him.
"You know why I'm saying all this."
There was a pause the space of a heartbeat and she swallowed hard.
"Yeah," she whispered.
He took a step towards her. She took another step back. He stopped.
"Donna, if you want me to start acting like I trust you, the way we both already know I do, then there are a few things that need to be said before we go any further."
"Some things don't need saying," she responded, chin set stubbornly, arms across her chest protectively.
His face softened. "How about actions, then?" he said quietly and she shivered.
"Don't you dare, space man."
"Are you going to stop me, earth girl?"
"I do, all the time," Donna replied. "Stop myself, too. Don't know if you noticed that, but…" She huffed and attempted to glare at him. "Look, I don't want to ruin…this," she said, waving her arms. "I like what we have."
"But you're not entirely happy."
"I am!" she cried. "You just wanted a mate, I just wanted to travel with you, there we are. That's all there is. Don't complicate it, Doctor."
"Oh." He paused and his brows drew together. "You think that's what we'd be doing? When it's already complicated? I think we'd be uncomplicating it."
"Yeah, well, you'd be wrong, wouldn't you?" she challenged and he regarded her silently, then closed the distance between them before she could blink.
He felt the chemistry between them- really felt it for the first time- and felt the electricity humming through the TARDIS as she watched things unfold. Felt Donna shaking like a leaf in his arms, but not from fear. Their eyes met, their hearts raced.
"Maybe." He paused. "And maybe I'd be right."
Then he kissed her.