Break out the tissues people. Seriously. Go get the box. You're going to need it.
Author Note: I know that what happens in this fic is not something that's deserved. Not now, not ever. However, the idea wouldn't leave me alone and it does seem like something that she would do. I wonder if I can ever forgive myself for writing this.
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. If I did, this... wouldn't have happened, but still.
He hears the knock of four upon the glass and everything falls silently into place.
The Doctor stands from the floor, an answer to Wilf's knocking and watches the man give him a small wave. "They're gone then?" the human asks. "Yeah, good. If you could, uh, let me out?"
They're all gone. The Time Lords. The Master. Gallifrey. Everything's gone. The Earth is safe in its rightful place. Donna is safe. The humans of this planet are alive and well. But he has to die. Even if the prophecy had never been spoken in his ear, he knew the outcome would be the same.
"This thing seems to be making a bit of a noise," Wilf says, hands going every which way. He's confused at the noise, not sure what it is.
The Doctor stands from the floor. "The Master left the nuclear bolt running," he explains quietly. "It's gone into overload."
"And that's bad, is it?" Wilf asks, a bit more nervous now.
"No." His hands are in his pockets now. "Because all the excess radiation gets vented inside there. Vinvocci glass. Contains it. All five thousands rads, about flood that thing."
Wilf lets out a nervous, half-hearted chuckle. "Well you better let me out then."
"Except it's gone critical." He sees Wilf's face. Confused. Uncomprehending. "Touch one control and it floods." The Doctor pulls out his sonic screwdriver, waving it around like the answer to all problems. "Even this would set it off."
Wilf pauses, looking around a bit. "I'm sorry."
The Doctor puts the screwdriver back in his pocket and turns away. He hears Wilf's voice behind him. "Just leave me."
He raises his head from the floor in a half smile. "Okay, right then, I will." He takes a step away from Wilf and immediately turns back around. "Cause you had to go in there, didn't you?" He takes another step, speaking half to the prisoner and half to himself. "Cause you had to go and get suck, oh yes." He pauses, trying to fend off the anger that's boiling inside him. "Cause that's who you are, Wilfred. You are always this- Waiting for me, all this time..."
"No really, just leave me," the man insists. "I'm an old man Doctor. I've had my time."
"Well exactly, look at you!" His face is angry now, but the anger is not directed at Wilf. "Not remotely important!" He briefly puts his hands to his hips and watches Wilf's expression closely; the man is not scared, unlike the fear that's coursing through the Time Lord's veins at this very moment. "But me!" He takes a step away, dropping his arms in frustration. "I could do so much more!" He batters his chest with his fists, angry and yelling. "So much more!" He leans forward on a table, speaking all to himself now. The anger and frustration burns in his mind, as vivid as Gallifrey's twin suns. "But this is what I get. My reward... And it's NOT FAIR!" He sends a cascade of papers to the floor, clipboards clatter and echo against the tile. He stands slowly and faces Wilf, giving a deep sigh.
Wilf looks back, misty-eyed and insistent. No.
"Live too long." He starts toward the box.
"No. No, no, please. Please don't. No, don't, don't! Please don't! Please!"
But it isn't the Doctor he's speaking to.
The Time Lord hears the footsteps too late. They were there the whole time, he realizes, just in the next hallway. He was too busy having a monologue to notice; somehow that doesn't surprise him. The footsteps are even familiar. How is it possible that he didn't recognize them in time? He feels a heavy object come down on his right shoulder and he falls to the floor, clutching the now blossoming bruise.
His gaze shoots up to the last figure he expected to see, her red hair in a wild tangle, a huge chunk of computer dropping from her free hand. "Donna!"
Her teeth are clenched as tightly as possible, but she lets out a scream, finally able to make noise beyond her own footsteps. It was agony reaching this place. From the moment that the clones had passed out in the alley, she had woken up and ran. Ran as quickly as possible because she knows what is coming. It wasn't hard to find him; the TARDIS had a bit of a hand in it, though she'd never tell him that. She wanted to see him one last time, see his suit and his shoes, his spiky hair and his goofy grin.
What she found was something to give back to him.
One hand is on her head, clutching it in agony, the other on the door that will inevitably free her Grandfather. She knows that she's dying. She can feel it; what happened before in the alleyway only slowed the progression of the memories. She manages to bark out a single line, which makes him fight against the smile. "How dare you, you stupid Martian!"
The Doctor scrambles from the floor, but Donna yanks the door open and steps inside, shutting it behind her just as he presses his hands to the glass. "No, Donna, you can't, please!" He pulls at the handle but she holds it from the inside, refusing to let him in. Wilf's voice echoes in the room, saying the same words to his Granddaughter, but the Doctor barely hears it. He's almost in hysterics, pulling harder and harder on the door. He knows what 5000 rads would do to a human. They would be roasted from the inside out. Death would be practically immediate. "Please don't Donna, you can't!"
She's screaming and dying and she won't let him help. He's not even sure there's anything he can do at this point. The Time Lord mind inside her own is boiling her alive; the most important woman in the universe is dying and there's nothing he can do about it. And she knows.
Donna lowers the hand from her head just long enough to give him a pained smile. "Thank you for forever." She slams her hand on the red button and the box floods with radiation. Wilf doesn't move an inch. He yells. The Doctor quickly yanks at the door, but it doesn't budge.
They are forced to watch Donna die for his sake. Her body falls to the bottom of the small compartment, scorched and brittle. Her scream of pain dies in the air, but it is a sound he will remember until the end of his days.
The Doctor abruptly lets go of the handle and falls to his knees, gazing uncomprehendingly upon the ravaged form of his dead companion. Wilf is beside himself, sobbing so hard that he shakes. He can't look at her body any longer; he turns away and buries his face in his hands.
This was his fault. If he wasn't so selfish... Hadn't been so- but she...
His thoughts meld together into a stream of sorrow. It's a long moment before he stands, tears streaming down his face as he presses his forehead to the glass that encases his best friend.
She did the one thing that she always managed to do best, he realizes. She saved him. Again.