Title: Live Long and Prosper
His Universe series, Chapter 3
Author: Lilac Summers
Rating: PG 13
It's her first official stop after she came back to the TARDIS. She doesn't count the previous one, where they had landed on Earth and she had been sternly grounded on the TARDIS, lest she cause a paradox or have her head explode or some other stupid reason the Doctor gave for her not being 'ready' for an adventure just yet.
But she isn't going to be denied this time, especially since she's been promised another planet. Donna is failing spectacularly at acting cool as she waits by a strut, trying not to wriggle in excitement. Normally she wouldn't have cared, but she's all too aware that it's no longer just her and the Doctor.
As soon as the TARDIS settles she's at the doors, determined to be the one to open them. She looks over her shoulder, impatient, to find Rory smiling at her, Amy studiously looking away.
And the Doctor, gazing at her with the sort of warm amusement she was used to seeing on a different face.
But she's not going to think about that.
She flings the doors wide, gets a face-full of sunshine and sea breezes, and gasps. Dear god, he actually did it; he brought her to a beach!
She steps out and just basks for a moment. She's on a new world, in a new time, and she feels her shriveled, starved sense of adventure finally breathe. It doesn't matter that the sand is your basic sand color, the water and sky are blue...that she could be on a beach on earth as far as her eyes are concerned. It feels different to her. Full of possibilities for fun or mayhem, or both.
She's so engrossed in enjoying the feel of sun and sound of surf, she's startled by the swish of displaced air as Amy sails past. She's got Rory on one arm and the Doctor on the other.
Donna stares at their moving backs, a rueful twist to her lips.
She doesn't blame the younger girl, not really. She gets it, the feeling of having her position threatened, of thinking "what if I'm here by mistake and he figures it out?" She remembers the feeling well enough. And though she'd loved having Martha along when they'd first met, there had always been that little niggle of doubt; it's hard to compete against so much shared history. Amy apparently couldn't quite grasp the concept that, by now, the Doctor probably had had many more adventures with Amy and Rory than he ever had with Donna. Donna and he had had so little time together before it all went...wrong.
She guesses age really does give you perspective, if nothing else.
Beyond that, Rory is adorable, with a core of steel in him that's well-hidden and very appealing. She'd tap that, if he were single and if she wasn't certain Amy would all-out murder her. And if he wasn't a good fifteen years younger than she. Gawd, okay, so perspective was great and all, but age did narrow your dating options. She feels every one of her 38 years watching Amy saunter on ahead of her.
The Doctor probably knows all about feeling old, though, and she wonders if his regenerations are looking younger in an attempt to compensate? He was a charming thirty-something-looking beanpole before, and now he's a twenty-something-looking hipster.
She trails behind them. The Doctor alternates wary glances her way and confused glances at Amy. Hmph, but apparently age doesn't make the Doctor any wiser when it comes to women.
With a squaring of her shoulders, she decides she's had enough. This is stupid; she's not gonna let petty jealousies ruin her first outing. She had enough of feeling like the new girl as a temp, thank you very much. She bounds forward, passing the threesome, and heads straight to the colorful booths along a town square that overlooks pristine water.
"Wait - Donna, don't wander off!" the Doctor warns her and she waves an arm back at him dismissively. Nobody ever listens to that rule, anyway, and she can take care of herself well enough.
Most importantly, she's now in the thick of things, admiring the willowy, multi-armed natives, sniffing out the interesting scents of strange foods cooking nearby. The bazaar-like atmosphere reminds her suddenly and poignantly of Shan Shen: how much she and the Doctor had laughed, and how it had been the beginning of the end. She feels tears prick at her eyes and compensates by moving into the throng faster.
She continues to ignore fainter and fainter calls from the Doctor as she wanders deeper into the crowd. She snags a sample of something that looks like shrimp (she really, really hopes it's shrimp), weaving around pockets of aliens who are much taller than she and hardly notice her as she passes.
Finally, she meets a friendly stall keeper who beguiles her over with a cart-full of colorful textiles. She's knee-deep in trade negotiations (the Tic-Tacs in her pocket for a lovely teal afghan) when another native bumps roughly into her, turns, and then gasps when he gets a clear look at her.
"DoctorDonna!" it cries, waving his (or was it a her?) four arms in the air.
The nice alien chap trading with her freezes in his negotiations. He fishes around in his robes for an interesting visor-looking thingy that Donna realizes are specs, and when he puts them on he peers at her in sudden horror. Before Donna quite knows what is happening, he's prostrating himself in front of her and begging her to take the afghan as a humble gift.
In a blink, so much faster than she thought possible, a crowd is building around her. She backs up, confused and scared, as the chanting of "DoctorDonna!" increases and the natives start to pluck at her clothing and hair with their many hands.
"No, listen, I'm just Donna. I'm not..."
The afghan is shoved into her arms, trinkets pushed over her head, and with no warning she's being lifted up and carried along overhead by a growing procession, merchants and clients abandoning their booths and people streaming in from alleyways.
Donna cranes her neck, sees the Doctor, Amy and Rory trying to fight their way into the crowd. "Doctor!" she calls, panicked.
He's trying to shoulder his way to her, but more natives keep joining the crowd from the fringes, coming out of nearby buildings and tidy homes as the word spreads. The square has become an honest-to-god mob, with her the center as she body surfs the crowd. The Doctor shoots her a frantic look. "Donna! Command them to stop!"
She's not sure that's going to work but she twists around anyway and grasps the wrists of the hands currently beneath her. "Stop!" she cries.
The native beneath her, and the crowd around them, immediately stills. "P-put me down."
She's lowered tentatively from above until she's being held at chest level, her feet swinging a good foot from the ground.
She tries her most imperious frown. "All the way down," she commands.
Reluctantly she's lowered until her feet touch the ground, but now everyone around her goes down on their knees, foreheads to the floor. It causes a ripple effect, a slow-receding wave as everyone drops to the floor. Finally it's just her in a vast courtyard surrounded by a genuflecting four-armed crowd, and the Doctor, Rory and Amy picking their way to her.
When the Doctor reaches her, he grabs her hand fiercely and begins to tug her away. The crowd protests, one raising wail of "DoctorDonna! Do not abandon us without your blessing!"
And just like that, Donna feels very foolish for panicking. Panicking at what, after all? Crowd surfing and getting merchandise shoved at her? She's had worse at the local pub on a Saturday! Besides, she's been dragged into cells at gunpoint, tied down to sacrificial altars, and hurled into a burning cauldron - yet here she is acting like a rank amateur.
She digs in her heels and the Doctor is forced to a stop, as well. He tugs insistently on her arm but she ignores him.
"Um," she clears her throat nervously. The natives, still prostrated, tilt their heads upwards and stare at her with huge, hopeful eyes.
"You have a lovely planet and I'm glad I was able to help in not, uh, getting you all erased from reality, or whatever," she says lamely.
Enthralled eyes continue to look up at her and Donna tries not to shrivel in embarrassment. She realizes she's still clutching the afghan and various other goods.
"Thank you for the gifts but I don't need to take all of this. Here," she tries to hand the bundle to someone closest to her feet, and the poor dear actually squeals and falls back, scrambling away on hands and knees in their haste to move out of reach of the proffered goods.
"No, really, I don't - here," she tries for another hand-off to someone else, and this one clasps all four hands tightly behind their back.
"Ooo-kay. Look, then take this. You can all share it or save it or, I dunno, use it as a maraca. Sorry, s'not much but it's all I'm carrying." She fishes the little container of Tic-Tacs out of her pocket and hands it to another person at her feet. The alien looks at the plastic bottle, dumbfounded, and then tears of joy stream from his (yes, yes it's definitely a he...maybe) eyes. He stands and raises the Tic-Tacs into the air, arms waving, shaking the little bottle. A chorus of "oohs" rises from the crowd, everyone
now raising their multiple arms to wave them in sync.
The Doctor is about ready to rip her own arm off, he's pulling so hard, so she gives a final little wave and wracks her brain on how to finish up. "So, I gotta be going now. Lovely to meet you all, really must make time for tea next time, thanks again and...live long and prosper?"
The crowd breaks into wild cheers, punctuated by "we love you, DoctorDonna!" and a few more trinkets thrown her way. It's rather, she thinks, like a more profitable version of Mardi Gras, and without her even having to flash her breasts.
She juggles her armful of loot until she's beside Amy and Rory, who helpfully take a share as the Doctor determinedly herds them all back to the TARDIS. He snaps his fingers and the doors open (show off!). Amy and Rory hustle through before he's pulling her in, as well.
"Ow," she hisses her protest, tugging at her wrist to no avail. "Pull my arm off why dontcha. I've only got the two, unlike our alien friends, and I'd rather keep them. What's your hurry anyway, I really wanted a dip in that ocean and I-"
The TARDIS doors slam shut and he suddenly rounds on her, merchandise flying when she's backed up against a wall. His lanky form traps her there.
"What did I tell you!" he shouts at her.
Donna's eyes go wide. Rory and Amy freeze on their way up the stairs, and slowly edge back down to take a seat at the console, avidly watching.
"Oi! Don't you shout at me!"
"WHAT DID I SAY!" he roars.
"I DON'T KNOW!" she roars back. "YOU SAY SO MANY STUPID THINGS IT'S HARD TO KEEP TRACK!"
"Don't. Wander. Off!" He smacks a hand hard against the wall in punctuation. It makes her jump, which just makes her angrier. "You aren't new at this, Donna - it's rule number one!"
"Oh, like anyone listens to that one!" she defends, then drills a finger into his chest. "Back the fuck off!"
The old Doctor, her Doctor, would have done so. Would have stomped around and pulled his hair and then gone off to sulk, but he would definitely have backed off.
This Doctor does not. He looms closer, and his tone becomes jarringly conversational, which doesn't match the seething anger in his eyes and makes it that much more scary. "I didn't expect I'd have to babysit you like a child."
Donna fumes. "Back it up or prepare for a slap, Spaceboy," she drawls out as a purposeful reminder of how ridiculously young he looks now. As if he can pull that attitude on her!
"Just you try it, Noble, and we'll see how that goes," he responds dangerously.
Is he threatening her?! The Ponds gape, enthralled, until she turns her head to catch them in her glare. "And what are you two gawping at?!" she demands.
The Doctor instinctively looks their way and with his attention diverted she takes the opportunity to slap him, quite spectacularly, across the face.
The Ponds gasp and the Doctor rears back, stumbling a few steps cos yeah, she's still got it. He stares at her, incredulously. "I can't believe you actually slapped me."
"You deserved it, you git. Who do you think you are, threatening me?!"
His face goes thunderous, but she cuts off the impending explosion by advancing on him, so he's now the one being crowded back. "Oh, put a lid on it, Oncoming Scowl. I wasn't afraid of you when you were a beanpole; I'm certainly not going to be afraid of you now that you're a hipster Cro-Magnon."
The Scowl disappears in a wave of hurt pride. "I beg your pardon?" he demands stiffly, affronted, smoothing his palms down his jacket lapels as though to reassure himself that the ugly old thing is indeed the height of fashion.
"You can beg all you want, with your tweed jacket and floppy hair and gigantic forehead - it don't give you no right to get shouty with me!"
"Oh, but you have the right to be shouty with me!" he shouts.
"I've always been shouty! You knew that going in!" she shouts in return.
"Well maybe now this me is shouty, just like the other me was rude!" he shouts back.
"Don't kid yourself, you're still rude. And you don't shout at anyone else but me, don't think I haven't noticed!"
The Ponds follow the argument like spectators at a tennis match.
"Maybe that's because you drive me ABSOLUTELY MAD," thunders the Doctor, arms flying wide in frustration.
"S'not fair, is what it is!" cries Donna, still moving forward so she can drill his chest again with a sharp finger. "With them you're all 'Come along, Ponds,'" she says in a simpering sing-song voice, and then throws in a copy of one of his stupid twirls, to add insult to injury. "With me it's 'don't wander off, Donna. Don't touch that Donna, don't go in there, Donna. Your head might still explode, Donna!'"
"Well your head might still explode!"
"From listening to you, I almost wish it would!"
She's the one who has backed him up against the console now, pointer finger coming in for a last jab. He finally evades, slithering away with a contortionist move that all but bends him in half, and manages to put the control panel between them. He presses his hands to his head in mounting annoyance. "You're just...urgh, your're just so...so Donna!" he declares.
"And what does that mean? It's too hard now so you wanna send me back? Coz you're awfully good at that," accuses Donna, arms akimbo and radiating threat, so that only Rory notices that her chin trembles.
"No! Of course I don't," denies the Doctor hotly, "though it wouldn't hurt you to listen to me, just for once, so we could avoid a bit of the mayhem!"
"Oh, that's just rich, coming from you. And you never listen to me, so I don't see why I gotta listen to you when all your decisions are sheer IDIOCY!"
"I...they most certainly are not...I.." He falters, all too aware that she's talking about the last decision he made concerning her. The old guilt irritates him, so his long arm reaches out, imperiously pointing to the hall. "Just...go to your room!" he demands.
"You go to your room! Oh, wait - you don't have one! Nyah!"
The Doctor slams a hand down on the dematerialization button, for want of anything to say to that one, and takes pleasure in watching Donna stumble as the TARDIS rocks.
Donna glares at him as she trips, then reaches over without thought and flicks a switch to correct their flight. She misses the Doctor's stunned look, because she's too busy rounding on the Ponds.
"I can't believe you let him get like this!" Donna says angrily at Amy and Rory. They both raise their arms in surrender, before Amy realizes what they're doing and reaches over to bring Rory's arms down, too.
"Like what?" dares Rory.
"More of an enormous pain in the arse than before!"
"Hey, he was like that when we met him, so that's on you!" Amy snaps.
"Then you obviously get more senile with each regeneration!" Donna directs at the Doctor, who still stares at her with huge, shocked eyes.
She's expecting some kind of answer to that, so when he keeps staring at her in silence, she gets a bit nervous. His eyes flicker downwards and she follows the direction of his gaze to where her hand is still securely settled over the stabilization switch - a switch she probably shouldn't know anything about.
"Donna..." he says very softly. Because all at once the room is very very quiet.
She snatches her hand from the console. "I'm going to my room!" she declares, loudly. "And not because you said so!"
She begins to stalk off, senses the Doctor's intention to follow, and whirls around to face him. "And don't you follow me, until you're ready to say you're sorry for being spectacularly wrong. About everything. Again." She stomps up the stairs, pauses at the top to whirl one more time to check he's not following - gives him a double-fingered I'm watching you sign - and backs out into the hallway.
The three left in the control room take one very long, very relieved breath.
"Consider yourself thoroughly pwned," Amy says, once she's sure Donna is out of hearing.
The Doctor looks as though he's just survived a siege, and at her words his face twists in dismay. "Yes, Pond. And what now? Do you also want to shout at me, perhaps? Rory, would you like a go?"
"Since you're offering," mutters Rory, until one dark look from his wife shuts him up.
"No, Doctor. I don't think you can handle another row today," says Amy magnanimously.
"Thanks for that, at least."
"Although I do have a question you aren't going to like."
The Doctor takes another steadying breath, straightens his bow-tie and squares his shoulders in an attempt to regain some dignity. "Now that's not true. I love questions, me! Questions are my forte, since I always know the answer. No such thing as a stupid question - scratch that, there is, but I'm sure your question won't be stupid. Fire away!"
Amy stares into his clueless eyes and then let's the bomb drop. "When are you going to tell Donna about River?"
And alas, the Doctor doesn't know the answer to that one. And judging from the gobsmacked look on his face, Amy believes he had forgotten about his erstwhile wife altogether.
To be continued...
Let me know if you enjoyed it! I'm even thinking of giving Rory more than one line, next chapter. Livin' on the wild side!