Meanwhile, and six Earth centuries later, Donna reluctantly headed back to the TARDIS in the Midnight hotel's kitchen. After politely declining the French Maid robot's offer to sample the "fresh, white chocolate-covered salmon" (that evening's main course), she found the ship quite easily – right where the Doctor had parked it minutes earlier.
The only trouble was that it seemed to have cloned itself. Not one, but two identical blue London police call boxes sat amongst the eccentric twenty-seventh century appliances. Double the TARDISes. Or was it TARDi? She considered what the plural form might be for a moment, before cautiously knocking on the left one's doors.
She pressed an ear against it, and heard nothing, so she knocked on the right one's doors.
Still no response.
So, she decided to give it the ear-press treatment, and heard…
Swish. The doors swung open and Donna collapsed inwards to someone's arms, causing both of them to tumble over onto the floor, with Donna lying on top. She let out an involuntary yelp, and felt the body underneath shake with laughter.
"Why hello there, Donna Noble!" said the Doctor, patting her on the back. "Good to see you, too! Brilliant, in fact. Wellll, it's brilliant to see you again, I suppose. But not to straddle you so much. You mind getting up?"
Donna gladly hopped off, and smoothed out her 1950s-style skirt. "Oi! How'd you get here before me? You can teleport now too, Spaceman?"
Another fit of laughter came from behind them, and Donna noticed the copy of herself standing there in a white robe. She froze. She definitely hadn't stood in that place. In her memories of the events two weeks earlier, she had gone straight back to the TARDIS with her future-self at the Doctor's request. The two of them had waited there – without incident and without the Doctor – until he returned, saying that the angel problem had been fixed.
Donna opened and closed her mouth to speak, when she noticed the Doctor's clothing – back to pinstripes, not the 1950s getup. "Which…when…who? Is this another you?" She held her head. It hurt.
The Doctor placed a gentle hand to her forehead, as if taking her temperature. "Shhh, shhh. It's alright. This is just a temporary personal timeline disturbance anomaly; your memories will compensate for the discrepancies after the immediate past version of
yourself experiences the exact circumstances post-eventually. So shhhh. It's -"
"Oi, don't you go shushing me." Donna warned him, before turning to herself. "You! Explain this in English."
Her past self (except not really; it couldn't be) looked rather alarmed by the question. "I blinked again. Went to 1917. Australia. Pinstripes here was calmly sipping on a cuppa in a coffeehouse. Had to practically pull his arm to get him to rush back here. And now -"
"THE ARM! Yes, that's it!" The Doctor pulled away from Donna, and with an excited clap, he leapt up and bolted out of the TARDIS.
The Donnas shrugged at each other and followed him immediately out, only to find that (with the exception of with a tuxedoed butler-robot feeding strawberries to the slutty female android) the kitchen was completely empty.
"?" both Donnas said together.
"In here!" The voice came from behind, where the other TARDIS's door was open. They stepped inside and found the Doctor squatted down, cradling a hand. Except it wasn't his own hand; it was the dismembered one, which had belonged to Señor Hair Gel.
"What are -?" Both Donnas asked.
"HUSH IT! I'm working here!" the Doctor didn't look up. He was tapping and wiggling each finger of the hand, poking the veins and examining the fingernails. "It might still be alive."
"Uh, Doctor?" said the Donna wearing a robe, "I know you call yourself
'the Doctor' and all, but…it doesn't even have a body."
He waved those words away. "Tape. Go get some duct tape. There's a roll in the office."
"And that's where?"
"First right, third left, second on the left, go straight back, under the stairs, past the mirror, it's the seventh door on…oh, nevermind. Nevermind. I'll get it myself when I'm fin…ahhh! Finished! Take a look-see! Come on, both of you."
They leaned down, and saw –
Oh, but it couldn't be.
"But, it can't be," said one of the Donnas.
"Wellll, it can," the Doctor insisted. "Obviously, it can. It is."
The hand was moving again. And it didn't appear the least bit sinister now. Its finger- wiggles were not of the "I want to clutch at your hair and chock you" variety, more of a friendly wave. Still covered in sprinkles and chocolate sauce, it was actually a bit cute. It reminded Donna of the Adipose. But instead of waving at fat, a dessert was waving at her.
"It was simple, really," the Doctor explained, "the Trickster or his associate – not quite sure who exactly, but it doesn't matter – manipulated this alien being into animation to carry out his motives. Once it undeniably failed, it became doormat again. But, me being the brilliant genius that I am, was able to reprogram it with a little, uh...welllll, to use a technical term: jiggery pockery. Sooo-ah, here!" He held up the hand, eager to pass it off to the Donna in the 1950s gear. "Go on, take it. I'll just go get the tape, and then you can bring it to me. I'll still be staring down the angel with you, but just yell. Pretty sure you can handle that bit. Here: catch!"
Already starting to sprint into the TARDIS' depths, the Doctor tossed the hand out with a giant grin, and Donna caught it as enthusiastically as one might catch a ticking bomb or alien fecal matter. Before she had time to exchange bewildered glances with past-herself, the Doctor returned and handed her a strip of bright red duct tape. "Understand what this is for?"
"Tape the hand to the angel's eyes?"
"But the hand doesn't have eyes."
"Nope-ah." His next sentence came out in one giant word: "But-it's-still-a-living-organism-that-can-see-things-through-a-different-matter-of-perception." He sighed. "Annnd if you need a better explanation, just ask me. I'm a genius. No need to explain to me what I just explained to you. I'll understand once I see the hand, and then be able to explain it you, as I am right now. Must I explain further? Go now, Donna. HURRY!"
Donna bobbed her head in semi-understanding and turned to leave, but the Doctor grabbed her shoulder, with an urgent "Wait! Wait! WAIT!" and spun her forcefully around. "Blimey, I nearly forgot…"
"What's that, then?"
He gripped her shoulder blades and pulled her in to a half-second hug, offering a "be brilliant" and a single pat on the back. "Alright, that's taken care of." He sniffed.
Donna nodded and turned back again. As she walked out of the TARDIS, she felt the Doctor's eyes on her back, and thought he whispered something like "Piss loo", or maybe "Mixed goe." It sounded most like "Miss you", but she knew that that made equally little sense.
The Donna still in her terrycloth robe strolled back with the Doctor to the hotel pool, where he said his past-self would soon meet her after his bus tour. He was babbling a bit about the adventures he planned to take her on (meet JK Rowling! Go to the moon - not the planet - Uranus! See thirty-forth century colonized Antartica!) with a rather dreamy look in his eyes. As he was mentioning his favorite era and planet for chocolate milk production, Donna realized something important and cut him off.
"And the cows there sing show tunes while you milk –"
"Doctor. Who's Jackson Pond? I mean Jackson River. Or Lake? Yeah, that one. Who's Jackson Lake? "
That ceased his babbling. His brows scrunched together. "What do you know about him?"
"I met him in 2017 Australia. True nutter of a bloke. He pretended to be just a stranger, but I got the sense that he knew you. Maybe even knew me."
"He was in 2017?"
"Ya, after the angel attacked me. He was there right away. Really weird dresser. I'm guessing he was an alien? Helpful, though. Even gave me a map to where you'd be. Wanna see it?" She reached into her pocket, and handed the drawing to him.
He examined it closely, moving his fingers along the corners and tracing ink lines. Donna even caught him sniffing it. After a flicker of realization in his eyes, a satisfied smile, and a comment of "oh, brilliant!", he handed it back to Donna.
"So, who was he?" she asked.
"Doctor?" She lifted an eyebrow.
"Not a clue in the world. Galaxy, even. Sooo-ah," they had arrived at the pool. "Guess this is goodbye. Need to leave you with me." He smiled again. And –
"Did you just salute me?"
"Right. No. Sorry." He waved instead. "Goodbye, Miss Noble!"
" 'K, bye, Future Spaceman." She settled down on the lounge chair and closed her eyes, feeling exhausted. After several seconds, she felt the Doctor's eyes still lingering on her. "What? I'll see you in a few minutes, said so yourself."
"Right, right, yeah. 'Course."
She heard him shuffle a few feet away, before his voice was right in her ears again.
"But, wellll, I am going to require your hugging services when I return from the bus. And no offense, Donna, but you could use a lesson on the level of pressure you apply during a human-to-Time Lord embrace. So, come on. Stand on up."
She obliged, and the Doctor pulled her in for a tight squeeze, rocking her back and forth a few times. "Oh, Donna Noble. You stay bloody brilliant."
He winked as he pulled back. "Just don't tell me about anything that happened today. Don't. you. dare."
"Yeah, yeah, I know -" She made air quotes. "Spoilers."
"That's right." He half-turned around. "Oh, and Donna? If you do meet that Jackson Lake again, thank him for me, alright? If…if you remember? He'll take care of you."
"Oi, like I need taken care of!"
And with that, the Doctor gave a final smile and walked away.