This is quite an interesting plot bunny that hopped into my head this morning. I had to write it. It's quite sad, so be prepared to grab the tissues! I almost cried writing this.
Set when the 10th Doctor is getting his reward, right before he regenerates. There is one last gift he has to give Donna Noble.
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who, though I sincerely wish I did. Or that I could be a companion. That works too.
He feels the radiation coursing through his veins. There isn't much time left, but he has another stop to make, before he visits Rose for the last time. He grits his teeth against the pain and sets the TARDIS's course. There is another he has to visit, someone so very special.
The blue box whirs and appears behind a white curtain, casting a shadow on the cloth. He can already smell that hospital smell, something that he detests, but he will happily endure it for her. The room is vacant except for one patient, whose machine whirs softly and beeps faintly, showing that yes, she is still alive. This is the elderly ward in Albion Hospital, the place he knew she'd be. It is many years in the future. She is 86 now.
The Doctor takes his coat off out of respect for Donna Noble and exits the TARDIS. He shuts his eyes tight against another wave of pain and leans against the blue box for support. Straightening his posture and steeling his resolve, he gently lifts the curtain aside.
She is laying on the bed in front of him, so fragile and so very not Donna. Her hair is gray and her face wrinkled. Time has been kind to her, however; she is not terribly old looking, despite her advanced age. She is asleep, with tubes to assist her breathing. There is a picture on the table beside her bed; it is of her husband, who he knows passed away a few years ago. Another frame sits beside it, of two much younger people; her son and daughter, who inherited their father's looks and their mother's spirit. The woman in the picture is holding a child, Donna's grandbaby, a boy. The picture is many years old; he knows there have been two more grandchildren since then, and all three are in college thanks to their grandmother's benevolent nature.
She stirs abruptly, as if the presence of the Time Lord has disturbed her rest. He stands at her side, watching silently with his hands in his pockets as she drifts back into her slumber. She is meant to die today. In exactly three minutes, Donna Noble, his Donna, will die of a heart attack in her sleep. It seems far too calm and quiet for the death of the most important woman in the universe. Then again, he's usually first in line to argue with history.
He takes a hand from his pocket and grasps her own, which wakes her gently. She opens her eyes wearily, taking in the odd stranger with the spiky hair and suit. In the back of her memory, she remembers him; she has seen him once before, many years ago, in her house. Her mouth and lips are dry, but she manages to speak with that same Donna attitude. "Hello. I was sleeping, I..." She pauses in thought. "Do I know you?"
He smiles a genuine smile, one that lights up the room and sends the both of them far from the hospital and back to the Medusa Cascade. "I should say so, Donna."
She furrows her eyebrows slightly, in an attempt to remember. Her mind has become fragile over the years from age, though she has never suffered Alzheimer's or any such disease. "I don't remember."
"You will." He takes his other hand out of his pocket and lifts it to her face, two fingers on her temple. He closes his eyes and enters her mind, removing every block that he ever placed, awakening the DoctorDonna one last time.
Donna gasps loudly, feeling the memories rush back to her like a flood. The Doctor watches, grasping her hand tightly every second. She is not alone anymore, not sad; she doesn't have to be. He is here now.
She squeezes her eyes shut as tight as they possibly can be, forcing back the pain that is erupting behind them. Against every instinct, she opens her eyes and meets those of the Doctor, who is watching her with sorrowful eyes. "Doctor." She raises her wrinkled hand to his face, those familiar features as vivid as the pain that now swirls in her mind.
"Donna," he smiles sadly, then embraces her tightly, careful of the machines around them. She returns it as much as she can, then her breathing becomes erratic. Her mind is beginning to boil, the synapses overrun with information; blessed, amazing memories that she had been searching for for so long. Even as her face contorts with pain, she smiles. Tears run down both their cheeks. "I never forgot you."
"I know, Spaceman." He can't help but smile at her old pet name for him. She cannot move anymore; the pain is running down her limbs into her blood. She is almost gone. She screams; he can't do anything else for her. He drops her hand and turns to leave.
"Find someone," are the words that reach his ears. He turns on his heel to find Donna still fighting. She looks up at him from her deathbed, eyes full of familiarity and adoration. She knows he's alone again.
"I will," he promises, swallowing the lump in his throat as more tears fall. His eyes are locked onto hers for what seems like an eternity. "I swear I will."
She nods almost imperceptibly and screams again, the machines around them going haywire. He can't bear to watch her die; he runs into the TARDIS and leaves quickly, lest the nurses and doctors around witness the odd blue box. He doesn't have to check the medical records to know that 'heart attack' has been changed to 'stroke', for lack of a better explanation by the medical community. The radiation is moving faster now; he only has enough time for one more stop.
The sound of the TARDIS is the last thing Donna Noble hears before she dies. She decides it is more than enough.