Crossroads – to move on
"Nooo, DonnAAH. You can NOT pull that switch," A slightly higher pitch in the Doctor's voice made Donna look up.
"Why not?" Her hand hovered over it.
"Because you can't. Shan't. Shouldn't." His eyes got wider with every word. "Just don't do it," he breathed out.
Donna hesitated. "Why? Just because you say so?"
"For starters," the Doctor replied, a bit tense as his slim body stretched across the console reaching for a lever just outside his reach. "Or the fact that I AM the experienced traveler, pilot, engineer of this highly advanced, sensitive technology and you are the passenger. How's that argument for you?" he added in a sharp undertone.
Donna frowned and pulled her hand back in an overdramatic gesture before crossing her arms in front of her chest. "No need to get all snotty with me, spaceman!"
The Doctor sighed. "Donna."
"No. Fine with me," she said with a shaky voice barely containing her hurt feelings. "I was just trying to help."
"I know," the Doctor pressed through tight teeth as he felt every fiber of his body being torn apart, not only from the strain to reach all controls, but from the fabric of time on the verge of imploding. He so had no time for this now. He bit his lip, took a deep breath, tightened every muscle of his body and lunged forward to flip the elusive switch.
The TARDIS shuddered and rocked violently before humming softly again. The Doctor let himself fall back, laughing uncontrollably with relief as time readjusted and fell into harmony.
"That was close, wasn't it?" Donna asked quietly.
He looked at her and nodded slowly.
Donna gasped as she clasped her hand over her mouth. Wide-eyed, she stared at him as he watched her solemnly.
"Oh, my God," she mumbled before stumbling backwards. "I didn't take you seriously. I thought… thought you were just showing off as usual."
The Doctor frowned, but remained silent, which spooked Donna even more. "This was serious?"
The Doctor nodded.
"How serious?" Donna swallowed hard, bracing herself for his answer.
"Well," he shrugged, "you know just like." He pulled his earlobe. "Just like tearing the whole universe and time fabric apart kind of serious."
Donna looked as if he had slapped her.
"Well, you know," he tried to cheer her up. "Nothing we haven't done before. Really. All's swell now. Everybody lives."
He turned to the console and stroked it caringly. "She pulled through as always. Good girl." He twisted his head to Donna. "So what—?"
Donna hadn't moved. Her lips were pressed tight as tears shone in her eyes. She took a deep breath. "You have to send me home."
"What?" Surprise washed over his face and he fully turned to her. "Why?"
"That's obvious, isn't it?" She wrapped her arms around her, holding his gaze.
"Not to me, it isn't," he said lightly, but Donna's eyes were still brimming with tears. Proudly, she swallowed them down and cleared her throat.
"I'm a hazard."
The Doctor opened his mouth to protest, but Donna held up her hand and continued. "I totally misjudged the situation." She took a deep breath. "And therefore, not only endangered us, no, this is bigger. Much bigger. I, Donna Noble, endangered the whole fricking universe. Time per se and all living beings etc., etc." She paused and looked directly into his big brown eyes. "That's a responsibility I can't carry."
The Doctor held her gaze, fiddling unconsciously with a dial, then he pushed off the console and strolled over to her. "Donna Noble," he said with a crooked smile. "Such a noble character." His eyes turned serious. "That is not your responsibility to carry. It is mine."
"But how do you do it – day in and out?" Donna stared at him, her eyes full of compassion.
He shrugged. "You move on. Always forward."
"Not for long or it gets complicated."
"So in the end you are left behind and stay alone?" Donna asked softly.
The Doctor pressed his lips together and looked over her head before answering. "Curse of the Timelords." He glanced at her, eyes dark with emotion better left buried.
Donna touched his arm lightly. "Tell you what, though."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows.
"I'll travel with you. The DoctorDonna team – forever."
The Doctor tilted his head with a small smile. "I'd like that."
Donna beamed. "Off we go then!"
The Doctor smacked his hands together, already turning to the console. "Off we go!"
Donna held him back. "Next time I screw up, you tell me!"
The Doctor flashed a mocking salute. "Yes, M'dam."
Donna smacked his arm.
"Ouch! What was that for?" the Doctor asked indignantly.
Donna swished her scarf over her shoulder as she sailed past him. "For not taking me seriously."
"Me?" the Doctor mimicked. "Never would dare to in my wildest dreams."
Donna stopped dead and faced him with narrowed eyes. "Dreams, Spaceboy?" She tilted her head accusingly, hands on her hips. "What kind of dreams?"
The Doctor sighed, exasperated. "It's just a figure of speech, Donna. Just an Earthling figure of speech."
Donna broke into a cascade of laughter as the Doctor realized she had caught him out yet again. He shook his head, but couldn't help the grin spreading over is face.
"Oh, Spaceboy!" Donna hiccupped between laughs.
He wrinkled his nose. "I'd really prefer if you wouldn't call me that."
"It's better than Martian," giggled Donna.
The Doctor's eyebrows arched up. "Yeah! For I am not from Mars."
"I know, I know." Donna puffed out between calming breaths. "But honestly, you dream? I thought you never sleep." She looked at him curiously.
"Sleep – ha!" The Doctor threw his head back. "Why would I do that for? Just something Earthlings do – wasting time like they had plenty of it." He flung his arms wide on the spot.
"So no sleep, I thought so," Donna studied him. "But you do dream? What, like daydreaming?"
The Doctor came to an abrupt stop. "Ya, well." He pulled his earlobe.
A smile twitched in the corner of Donna's lips. "I bet I know who you dream off."
The Doctor buried his hands deep into his pants pockets as he looked uneasily to the ground.
Donna came back to him. "You don't have to answer. Dreams like thoughts are free and very personal."
He glanced up and she smiled at him. "But they would make awesome teasing material."
His eyes widened and Donna slapped him in a friendly way.
"Oh, come on. Let's go exploring."
The Doctor grinned and strutted over to the console.