Author Note: This came to me while driving in the car and it wouldn't leave me alone. And- gasp! It's not angst! This is unusual for me. Hope you all like!
When Donna Noble was seven years old, she had an imaginary friend.
It had been getting dark, but it was a Saturday so she didn't have school in the morning. She had been playing in the front yard of her house with a bright, red ball that she'd gotten for her birthday just a week before. She accidentally kicked the object out into the street, watching it roll to the other side and up the curb, coming to rest on the sidewalk. She huffed and began the trek across the asphalt.
Suddenly, bright lights came around the nearby corner in the form of a large truck. She froze like a deer in the headlights, inexplicably frightened and unable to move a muscle. Then, she was suddenly across the street... and three feet taller. She looked around frantically, only to find a rather friendly face with a disgustingly out of place bow tie looking back at her. "Hello! You almost got hit by that car. Can I ask what you were doing that for?"
Donna immediately balled her hands into fists and began hitting him as hard as she could. "Let me go! You're a stranger and you're going to take me away!" The truck that almost hit her had sped off without checking to see if she was okay. The Doctor cataloged the license plate number in his vast mind and made a mental note to give them a flat tire when he was done here.
The Doctor smiled, amused as he tried to keep his face away from her hands. Always feisty, even as a child. "Now now, I promise I won't take you away. Here, see?" He gently knelt and put the seven year old down on the sidewalk. "You could have died from that truck," he chided gently.
She crossed her arms and kicked a nearby rock. "I could have done it all by myself."
"I'm sure you could have," he replied, as sincerely as he could muster. "But just in case, be careful about where you play ball from now on." He stood, watching her closely. His Donna, so very lively, even as a kid.
She didn't reply, just looked up at him in the light from the setting sun. "What's with the bow tie?"
The Doctor drew his head back in indignation. Seven year olds! "It's cool," he explained, straightening the tie. "Bow ties are cool."
"Bow ties are dumb," she declared, picking up the red ball next to his foot. She paused, then looked up at him. "Will you walk me back across the street?"
"I most certainly will," he said, ignoring her crack at his bow tie and holding out his hand for her to take. "And what is your name?"
"I'm Donna. What's your name?" She reached her hand up to take his, feeling immediately trustful of this man. He did save her life, she reminded herself.
"I'm... Well, my name isn't important," he declared, looking both ways exaggeratedly before starting across the street with his bowlegged stride. Donna kept up well enough and they were soon back in her front yard.
"You're weird," Donna declared. "You saved me, but you don't know who I am."
"Maybe that's what I do," he said as matter-of-factly as he could, shaking a finger at her.
"So you're a superhero?" she asked, looking up at him with her ginger hair and eyes that were a bit wider than before.
"No..." He said, trailing off for a moment. "I'm not a superhero. I am, however, an alien."
She laughed. "You're not green!"
"Who said aliens had to be green?" he asked looking around casually, pretending to be disinterested even though he was most definitely not.
She didn't reply, but looked suddenly thoughtful, as if the idea had never occurred to her before. She shook her head to clear it, then noticed the sunset. "It's dark, I have go to inside now." She stopped speaking, but didn't move. The Doctor watched her closely, slightly confused. She fidgeted with the ball, looking as though she was fighting with herself about something.
Suddenly she blurted, "Thank you for saving me from the truck!" She turned immediately and ran back to the front door of her house. The Doctor watched her go with a bit of a smile on his face. She wasn't supposed to die yet. The best of times were yet to come for her.
He turned to leave, then grinned broadly as he heard her already loud voice yell after him as he walked away. "Goodbye, Spaceman!"
"Yes Donna?" The Doctor looked up from the console, leaning around in his brown suit to see her back against the railing.
"Do you..." She paused in thought. "Nah, never mind."
"What? What is it?" He stepped away, clearly interested now. He stood in front of her, hands in his pockets. "Is there something wrong?"
"No," she answered immediately. "There's nothing wrong. But, I was wondering... You don't have a... weird relative that acts like you, but not like you?"
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at her. "No... Why?"
She told him of the man in the bow tie that had saved her life when she was seven. The Doctor listened carefully. It certainly hadn't been him; he only wore a bow tie once and that had been accompanied by a fur coat and a recorder, not suspenders and floppy hair.
"That's certainly odd," he agreed. "But you're alive! I should find that man and thank him."
"Oh hush," Donna chided, brushing off the odd feeling that they had been the same person. "Where to next, Spaceman?"
It wasn't until he saw himself in Prisoner Zero that everything clicked into place. He suddenly found himself quite liking the idea of a bow tie and suspenders, with floppy hair and a tweed jacket.
He ran off to the TARDIS, intending to give her a good run in. He took her to the moon and back, but he had one small detour to make before returning to Miss Amelia Pond.