Warning: This might invoke angst, so I apologise in advance.
Summary: What it says on the tin really. This is set between JE and EoT.
Disclaimer: In a perfect world we'd own everything we want.
A/N: This started out as an angsty drabble, but my muse decided I had to carry on with it this week.
"What you doing in here, love?" the barmaid wiped down the bar as she spoke to him. "You look like you're a million miles away."
"Normally I am," the Doctor told her enigmatically. She quirked an inquisitive eyebrow at him, prompting him to continue, "Normally I'm so far away from here you wouldn't believe it!"
"Somewhere like the Far East?" she asked.
"Yeah," he softly replied. "Somewhere like that."
"Do you want to talk about her?" she moved nearer to him as she polished the beer pumps.
He looked at her in shock, "How did you know…?"
"Because blokes like you always get angsty over some woman. Call it intuition or whatever you like, but I know what it is," she ran her cloth over another pump.
"And I thought it was sheer nosiness," he muttered to himself as he took a swig of his lemonade. He grimaced; it was not a good brand of lemonade, that much was sure.
The wind outside howled as the public bar door swung open and a wet figure ran in, dripping all over the carpet.
"Raining outside, is it?" the barmaid chuckled sarcastically.
"Just a few drops," the figure replied, before shaking off their raincoat and looking around for a place to hang it. The pinging of a fruit machine distracted them for a second.
"What can I get you?" the barmaid offered. It was about as friendly as she was likely to get.
"I... erm…," the figure hesitated, and stepped properly into the light to peruse what was on offer from the bar. She ignored the gasp to her side, and examined the optics more closely. "I'll have a Bacardi and coke, please," she asked after a few moments of indecision.
"Coming right up," the barmaid grabbed a glass from above the bar and turned to the Bacardi optic. "Meeting someone in here, love?" she asked as she busied herself.
"No. I mean… I don't think so… but I sort of am," she stuttered out in surprise.
"What? A sort of a blind date is it?" the barmaid probed, holding out her hand for the drink money.
"It might be," the woman seemed to be guessing. She stood patiently waiting for her change and then swept her gaze over the bar, looking for somewhere suitable to sit with her drink. She momentarily caught his eye as he sat watching her, and gave him a half-hearted smile before turning away.
"Out of your league," the barmaid mumbled to him as she walked passed to get to the cellar.
"In more ways than one," he whispered to himself as he watched the newcomer choose a seat by the open fireplace.
He tried not to watch Donna, he really did; but he was mesmerised. Mesmerised by the way her hair glowed and softly curled in the heat from the crimson lamp light. It worried him that she gripped the edges of her jacket with a determined air. Surely she didn't think he was trying to look at her body? Yes, that must be it. Blushing, he forced himself to look away.
She had noticed his gaze following her across to her seat. Typical bloke trying to ogle any woman sitting on her own in a pub! How dare he! Can't a lone woman just sit in such a place, for goodness sake, just for once? She pulled her jacket closer to stop him getting a free show; but as she did so she saw his scrutiny drop and a blush cross his features. Ooh! Perhaps he wasn't such a predator after all?
The door blew open again, and an old man stumbled into the bar. "Hello Marie!" he called out to the barmaid, who eagerly reappeared. "The usual, please?" he made a great show of taking off his overcoat, folding it and plonking it on a bar stool, and then he searched his pockets for his wallet. "There you go, love," he handed the correct money to Marie and checked to see if there was anyone else he knew in the bar.
There wasn't and the Doctor just knew he'd make a beeline for him. The old man nodded at him in greeting, and sidled towards him. "Bad night out, eh?" the old man spoke in gruff tones. "Could've planned it better."
"Yes, it's atrocious," the Doctor reluctantly agreed.
"So you…," the old man looked between the Doctor and the woman sitting by the fire, "… you two had a row or something?"
"Not quite a row," the Doctor admitted before meaning to.
"But a disagreement," the old man stated confidently. "Take my advice and make it up with her. It can't be wise upsetting your wife like that."
"We're not…," his voice faded away. Oh heck this was difficult! Even after all this time they were still being mistaken for a married couple, and the joke was wearing thin! Not only that, but she had looked up suddenly, hearing herself referred to in such a way. She looked angry.
The old man saw her response and wandered closer to her. "Hello my dear! I hope you don't mind an old fool saying something, but your husband here is obviously sorry for whatever he did. Can't you forgive him yet?" he smiled his pleasantest toothsome grin at her.
"He's done nothing to forgive," she replied and turned her attention back to her drink.
"I take it that the thing you did was pretty bad," the old man insisted on commenting to the Doctor, noticing the guilty response this got, and he forged on. "Don't let a good-looking woman like that out of your life because you'd be a fool to. Mark my words. They're not ten a-penny!" he waggled an index finger at the Doctor. "Make it up with her as soon as poss."
Just as the Doctor thought he was going to get a full tirade the door opened again and another old man who obviously knew his accoster entered and drew him away. The Doctor sighed with relief. He jumped with a start when he realised Donna was standing next to him.
"Do old men always attack you in pubs?" she smirked at him. She motioned towards the barmaid that she wanted serving.
"No, it's a new phenomenon," he replied. "The being thought of as married isn't though," he gave her a low chuckle.
She eyed him curiously, "Is that any woman or one particular woman?"
He rubbed at his neck nervously. "The same one; it tends… tended to be the same one."
"And that's the one you're moping about I suppose."
"How did you know…?" he found himself asking for the second time that evening.
But she wasn't paying attention; she was asking the barmaid for a packet of cheese and onion crisps. "Do you want some?" she asked him; her generosity catching him unawares.
"Yes please," he involuntarily replied. Donna amended her order and a bag was thrust in his direction. He quickly thanked her and ripped the bag open. He'd forgotten how good a packet of crisps could taste, and munched away happily.
"You'll make yourself sick if you eat them that quickly," she admonished him; bringing back many memories where she'd said similar things to him.
"Sorry!" he tried to say through a mouthful of crisps, and almost choked himself.
She patted him on the back, "Cough up, chicken! Blimey! Anyone would think you haven't eaten in ages!" She stepped back and stared at him. "Have you? Have you eaten recently?"
He found his resolve to not engage with her weaken under her scrutiny. "Not for a while, no."
"They do good sandwiches here. You should treat yourself," she advised.
"I will if you will," he found himself saying, much to his astonishment. "I mean, I'll buy you a sandwich," he quickly amended.
Donna looked him up and down, obviously trying to come to a decision, "Yeah, go on then!"
He grabbed Marie's attention long enough to place their food order and then turned back to Donna. She gave him a twinkling smile that he couldn't resist, and she nodded towards her spare seat in invitation.
"What about the person you're supposed to meet?" he asked.
"She was meant to be here half an hour ago. I don't think she's coming, do you?" she smiled encouragingly at him, and he obediently followed.
"So… mystery man," Donna began, "why are you sitting here all alone and moping? Shouldn't you be getting plastered with your mates?"
The Doctor swallowed hard, "They've all gone home to their own people and I'm left…"
Her face fell into sadness and understanding, "You've only just lost her… I'm sorry." She touched his arm briefly, but withdrew her hand as if bitten. "It's good that you're out and about."
"Is it?" he asked sadly. "I seem to see her everywhere."
"Grief's like that. You'll find you see her in a lot more places," she warned him.
"Is that a promise?" he gave her a wan smile, and she smiled back.
"Yeah! Those sandwiches are taking their time, aren't they?" she was obviously filling in the gap now. "Oh! Here they are!"
Marie appeared beside them and placed two plates on the table. "Here you go! Sorry about the wait." She fussed with serviettes and cutlery, then disappeared back behind the bar.
"Service with a smile!" Donna giggled, and the Doctor joined her.
"I ordered you salmon and shrimp, is that okay?" he shyly asked.
"More than okay!" she grinned; and he found himself loving this moment more and more.
As they sat there they chuckled together like the old days, and he found himself telling her more and more about his life since he'd left her; a surprising amount of it was the absolute truth too! In turn, he heard about her latest temping exploits, and the problems she had been having with her head. She'd waved away any concern he had shown, declaring it was something she expected to sort itself out eventually.
He'd made the awful faux pas of trying to hold her hand at one point; he'd instantly regretted it when her eyes had glazed over at the contact, and he mentally kicked himself for almost cueing an unwanted memory. His babbling apology had saved his, and her, bacon so he managed to relax a bit with her again.
It was as he stood at the bar waiting to refresh their drinks that the old man accosted him again. "Made it up with your wife, I see!" he grinned cheerfully at the Doctor. "Glad to see it. Can't let a beautiful woman sit all alone in a place like this. It's just not done! Still, tonight should be impressive, shouldn't it?"
"Pardon? I don't know what you mean," the Doctor answered vaguely as he finished paying for their drinks.
The old man nudged his arm in reply, "When you get home, if you see what I mean. A woman like that must be a little cracker!"
The Doctor viewed him aghast. Did such people still exist? He stammered some sort of response; enough to please the old man, making him chuckle knowingly. Aware he was probably blushing profusely he quickly made his way back to where Donna sat.
"What did the old codger say to you this time?" she asked him as soon as he'd set their drinks down on the table.
"Him? Nothing!" he felt himself blush again.
Donna eyed the old man beadily, who grinned leeringly back at her. She made up her mind quickly. As the Doctor sat down beside her she placed a hand on his knee, leant closer to him, and whispered, "Let's give the old boy a show for his money?"
Before he could respond with a "What?" she was moving in on him, closer and closer, until she was kissing him. It was extremely pleasant, as it happens, and he responded readily. What started out as reasonably chaste, in the circumstances, moved on into wow territory very quickly.
As he kissed her, exploring her mouth, learning the feel of her tongue and her unique taste; through all of that he could see their timelines intertwine, see them making tender passionate love together along so many options it was heartbreaking. He wanted this moment to go on for ever. He could see himself returning to her time and again, sharing such precious moments of love but he knew, just knew, this wasn't to be.
He was brought back into the bar room by the snort of derision from Marie, and the smug sigh from the old man who was still watching them. But, he did not pull away from her. Her scent was intoxicating, and he had not finished drinking his fill of her.
By the time they pulled apart they were clutching each other's heads and plundering each other's mouths with abandon. They both panted and grinned, keeping their faces within an easy distance.
"That was different," she smiled.
"I'll say!" he replied, flashing her his megawatt smile. "I wasn't expecting that when I walked in here."
"Funnily enough nor was I?" she looked quite flushed as she hastily sipped her drink. They exchanged a cheeky look, and laughed together.
This was what he had been missing most of all; this ability to laugh together at virtually anything. The fact it was now happening because they had kissed was a relatively new experience. The last time they'd kissed they'd positively ignored it just in case it had ruined things between them; and this one had occurred just as randomly. Not that he was displeased, and judging by the way Donna had reactive she wasn't too miserable about it either.
As he sat there he had to tell himself more and more to stop thinking about their kiss; their all too brief, utterly fantastic kiss. His gaze kept straying to her lips, and he sensed she was doing the same to him. She was stroking the stem of her glass, watching his eyes, flicking her hair and slightly thrusting her chest forward; along with dilated pupils and breathing more quickly he suspected she was more than a little interested in him. And he was going to regrettably turn her down, even though he wanted to grasp this opportunity with both hands. He was admiring the colour of her blouse against the creaminess of her skin when she spoke to him, bringing him out of his revelry.
"Oi! I'm up here!" she pointed to her face. "That part of me is by invitation only."
"What?" he threw her his best puzzled look before laughing. "I wasn't expecting to buy a ticket… or storm the blockade… and that was totally inappropriate wasn't it?" He had the feeling being this saucy with her would not end in a slap this time.
She picked up his glass and sniffed it. "Have you put something in your lemonade?" she asked him.
"No!" he grinned broadly at her. "I just love being here with you!"
She began to move closer again; he could feel the energy surge between them as he anticipated something wonderful happening. Instead, the mood was broken by Donna's phone playing some horrible ditty. She quickly dragged the phone from her pocket, scowled at the name displayed, and pressed a button. "Hello? Where the hell have you been? I've been sitting waiting for you for ages!" she angrily admonished the person on the other end of the line. She listened carefully to whatever explanation was being given. "A bloke? What bloke?" she huffed, and swept her gaze around the bar. Her gaze fixed on a lone drinker twenty feet away near the saloon bar door. "Him? What's so special about him?... True!... Well, he doesn't look too bad... Yes I know!... Look! I'm sort of with someone now... No, you don't know him... Yes I do... for your information... Right, see you then!" She huffed loudly and switched her phone off. She turned back to her puzzled companion to explain, "That was my 'friend', the one I was supposed to meet here tonight. Well, she thought she would do me a 'favour' and abandon me in order to be rescued by him sitting over there," she pointed to the bloke sitting alone by the door, "I was supposed to be impressed by him taking pity on me! Well Shaun was too late for that one, eh?"
The Doctor tried not to look crestfallen as he offered, "So… do you want me to move away and give him his chance?"
She grabbed his hand, "Oh no! You've won the right to be sitting there, so don't you worry! If it was meant to be it will happen. I'm not worried. I'm enjoying myself talking with you."
"Is that the only bit you enjoyed?" he asked cheekily, with a knowing grin.
She playfully swatted his arm, "Geroff!"
His expression changed when he contemplated this Shaun as he sat peering into his pint of bitter. There were timelines linking him to Donna; quite strong timelines, now that he looked properly. The Doctor returned his sad gaze back to Donna. "Perhaps I should leave you to...," he began to ask.
"Do you want to leave me?" she softly enquired, as she gently stroked his arm.
Her tenderness was almost his undoing. "No! I want... I want...," but he found himself unable to form the words as tears sprung to his eyes.
"I'm not her. I can be for a short time, but I can't take her place," she almost whispered to him as she took in his emotions.
He just managed to stop himself choking up. Of course she wouldn't think it was her he wanted! She would never have thought that. "Donna Noble, you are b-...amazing!" he told her and immediately took in a shocked breath.
"Yes, I know I didn't tell you my full name... John Smith! I'm not completely daft!" she gave him a small smile. "My memory may have gaping great big holes in it, but I remember meeting you that time. Mainly because Gramps was so upset afterwards it took him weeks to raise a smile." She contemplated him again, "Was that when you told him about her... about losing her?"
How had she worked that one out? She was truly brilliant. He meekly nodded. Too frightened to say much beyond that, he replied, "Yes, it was happening then."
Her face crumpled into sadness, and she pulled him into an embrace that he gratefully accepted. "Shall we go home?" she asked as she held him tight.
"Yes please," he replied, and hugged her closer, wishing that they truly could.
They stood, finishing up their drinks, and he helped her on with her coat. He knew she had glanced at Shaun through curiosity, it was only natural after all, but he felt the jealousy it invoked keenly. He nodded a salute to the old man by the bar, who visibly preened himself with satisfaction, and stepped out of the pub.
The storm outside had abated considerably, and the rain merely dripped down. "They got that bit wrong on the telly," she told him. She pointed upwards, "The rain! They said it would be wicked tomorrow but not tonight."
He pulled her into a half embrace as they walked. "I'll keep you warm and dry, shall I? Never can trust a weatherman's forecast!"
She chuckled. "After all this time of them getting it wrong? Not on your nelly!" She paused slightly. "Thanks for doing this. I appreciate your kindness."
"Which bit?" he found himself asking.
"All of it!" she replied. "It means a lot to me."
"I'm not sure if you'll believe this, but it means a lot to me too," he grinned down at her.
She gave him a squeeze back, and changed the subject, like she always did when things got too personal, "Did you see Strictly Dancing the other week? I can't wait for the Comic Relief version to happen again." And they were back to banalities again as they headed for her house.
The street was virtually deserted as they turned the corner into her road. One lone soul hurried along, dragging their poor bedraggled dog with them. "Well, here we are," he felt the need to announce.
"Aren't you coming in to say 'hello'?" she asked hesitantly. "Gramps will be miffed to miss you."
He released his hold on her waist to cup her face. "I think it best if I don't, in the circumstances. Your mum might... Well I'm not sure what she might do, if I'm honest, but..."
"I know she won't do this," she told him as she brought her lips up to his. A glorious, slow and sensuous kiss was shared between them. She gazed deeply into his sad and soulful eyes. "I hope you find her; that special someone you can love," she said.
He kissed her languidly again, taking his time, and wrapping his fingers in her glorious hair. Her response pushed him into kissing her more fervently; and he fought his rising passion. "I don't want to leave you," he admitted softly. "I need you."
"I know," she told him, before quickly kissing his lips again and releasing herself to head towards her front door.
He waited for her to open the door, enter the house, and turn to mouth and wave goodbye. He returned the wave as cheerily as he could, and trudged back home, deep in his thoughts. At least this time he had properly said goodbye.