Slap in the Face
Her hand connected with his face.
What was it with Earth mothers? The Doctor rubbed his throbbing check regretfully. He'd encountered many mothers in his 904 years, not all were over-joyed seeing him with their daughters, he had to admit that, but none had used physical repercussions. On many planets mothers welcomed him with open arms. Married him off, if they could have. But Earth?
All slaps and whistles.
And now. After feeling alive again, after what he had to do. After all he lost, it was an Earthgirl who saved him.
Rose – he sighed quietly as his hearts contracted in pain. The one who got too close. She made life worthwhile living again, but her mom was the first to slap him. She set off a cosmic chain reaction. First her, then Martha's mother and now Donna's, too.
Unbelievable – he did not deserve this and moreover he had no time for this. He wanted to move on.
The Doctor shook out of his musing and stared at Sylvia with hard eyes. "Where is Donna?"
"You tell me," she shot back. "You're the one who involved her in all this."
"Yeah, well." The Doctor rubbed his eyes. "Um, I did, but I NEED TO FIND HER NOW."
"Well, she's not here." Sylvia crossed her arms.
"What's going on?" Wilf shuffled into the kitchen. "DOCTOR!" His face lit up.
Sylvia sighed, exasperated, and turned away. Grabbing a towel, she attacked the juice glasses. She shoved it inside the glasses and wrenched it around while Wilf shook the Doctor's hand. "So good to have you back."
Sylvia shot around. "You would say that!" She glowered at Wilf who looked at her with round eyes.
The Doctor leant closer and whispered into Wilf's ear. "She's not happy to see me."
"She is NOT," Sylvia yelled, crumpling the dishcloth into a ball. "Get out of here and leave Donna alone."
Wilf rolled his eyes towards the living room and the Doctor nodded curtly. He turned to Sylvia and opened his mouth, but thought better of it when he saw her brows furrow in anger. His mouth snapped shut and he turned around with a shrug.
Wilf grabbed his elbow and pulled him along and out onto the veranda. "So?" he asked eagerly. "Seen anything exciting since the last time we met?" Wilf let go of the Doctor's arm and rubbed his hands in anticipation.
A smile illuminated the Doctor's face. "OH, yeah – you wouldn't believe it. The seamaids of Eurdora, you know kind of like the Earth mermaids, but with wings instead of arms."
"Get on with it," Wilf said with a big grin. "Mermaids don't exist."
"Oh, you should see them frolicking in Norway," the Doctor said at Wilf's dubious look. "And then, the Ushtun of Duru'n – marvelous, very friendly and generous. Nearly married Donna off," the Doctor said with a wink and Wilf laughed jubilantly. "They were a bit touchy, though," the Doctor added as an afterthought.
"What, can't take a joke?" Wilf said, slapping his hands on his knee.
The Doctor looked at him confused, then it clicked. "Oh, no. I'm saying they attached themselves to you. Hundreds of little Ushtun wabbling all over you."
Wilf stared open-mouthed at him.
"Is he telling you fishermen's yarns again?" Donna's voice came over the gate.
The Doctor and Wilf turned on the spot.
"Donna!" The Doctor jumped to the gate. "I've been looking for you."
Donna looked at the gate, then pointedly at her full hands with the dangling shopping bags.
"What?" The Doctor stared at her.
She rolled her eyes, then unhooked the gate with her hips, a well-practiced gesture, and bumped the gate towards him. Without paying attention, the Doctor caught it and went on. "We need to leave right away. Very urgent. Where were you?"
Donna looked at him disbelievingly. "What do you think this looks like?" She held up her bags and the Doctor looked over to Wilf for help, but the old man just grinned merrily, enjoying not being the center of attention for once.
"Shopping." Donna rolled her eyes. "Of course! You promised me a day off. So I went shopping."
"Oh." The Doctor swung his coat back to sink his hands deep into his trouser pockets.
"Well, can't have been that urgent," Donna eyed him, a smile teasing her lips. "For you'd be telling gramps all these stories. Did he tell you about the Uppsulan?"
"No! The what?" Wilf extended his hands to help her with her bags.
"They are these tall, lanky aliens – a bit like him," she nodded towards the Doctor and winked at Wilf. "But you know tall as trees and all in flashing yellow and orange."
"You're pulling this ole man's leg, love." Wilf said as he opened the veranda door to let Donna in.
"No, they really were. Bit stationary, though, didn't move a lot, if you know what I mean."
Wilf grinned wide as Donna dumped the bags on the sofa.
"So, you're back, then." Sylvia's voice came out sarcastically of the kitchen.
Donna looked quizzically at Wilf who shrugged, then half pointed to the Doctor.
"What?" mouthed the Doctor at Donna's raised eyebrows.
"Your…" Sylvia let the word hang in the air like dirty socks and turned and Donna scrutinized the Doctor, but he was suddenly very interested in the curtain pattern.
"Friend," Sylvia spat with disgust, "was looking for you."
The Doctor sprang to life. "That's right. And we have to leave now."
Donna eyed him with suspicion. "You said all the time I want."
"Yeah, well. A matter, something has come up – urgent one," he rubbed the back of his neck.
"I didn't even have time for a cuppa with Gramps and Mum," Donna started, but Sylvia stepped into the living room and, seeing the bags, interrupted her. "No job, but money to spend, have we?"
Donna's mouth snapped shut and Wilf shuffled uneasily towards the Doctor.
Sylvia peeked into the bags. "So he's keeping you, then? Playing the big sugar daddy?"
"Mother!" Donna's face turned beet-red. "How dare you?"
Sylvia turned to her. "I thought I taught you better. A little more self-respect!"
Donna balled her hands into fists; Wilf tugged the Doctor's arm and nodded towards the door. The Doctor had watched the exchange with interest. "Um, Donna." He retreated with Wilf to the door, but Donna kept staring at her mother. "I'll be waiting outside for you."
"What do you think we are doing, Mother?" Donna's voice was low with menace and Sylvia glared at her.
"You tell me! You don't need a lot of imagination when a man and a—."
"MOTHER!" Donna shouted and Wilf passed the Doctor at an amazing speed to step between the women. "Now, now, luvies."
"Um. We're not—" The Doctor stammered as both women's heads shot around.
"OH, and I should believe YOU?" Sylvia's eyes were squeezed together so tight, the Doctor was wondering vaguely if his image would be optically squished, too.
"Leave him alone, Mother." Donna said through pressed lips and the Doctor shrugged, resigned.
"What? Now he needs to be defended by you?" Sylvia said with a bitter laugh.
Donna's head swung back to Sylvia.
"He doesn't!" Donna and the Doctor said at the same time and as they looked at each other, he flashed her a big grin, which she returned with a lopsided smile.
"You know, I think I lost my taste for a cuppa," Donna said quietly. "You said we had an urgent message?"
The Doctor nodded heartily. "Very pressing. The physic paper said so–oh." He caught Sylvia's gaze. "Well, the message said," he finished lamely.
"Nutter! That's who you waste your time with instead of looking for a decent job." Sylvia said staring accusingly at the Doctor.
"Enough," boomed Wilf and everybody turned to him. Unused to all the attention, he fiddled with his cardigan. "Enough, I said," he repeated defensively. "I won't have you insult the Doctor in this house. That's my last word." He saluted the Doctor. "Good to see you again."
The Doctor grinned and tipped his index and middle finger to his temple in a mock salute.
Wilf turned to Donna, who gave him a big hug. "Take care, Gramps."
"You too, sweetie." He patted her cheek and then marched into the kitchen without looking back.
"Well, bye, mom," Donna said avoiding looking at Sylvia as she grabbed a few bags.
"What are these?" Sylvia stood stone-faced beside the couch.
Donna looked over her shoulder and said a bit too carelessly, "Oh, these were for you and Gramps."
The Doctor opened the door and they walked in silence over to the TARDIS. Swallowing a comment, the Doctor unlocked the door and Donna strode purposely past him till she reached the console. The Doctor followed her and observed her quietly as she sighed and dropped the bags on the bench.
"So what did the message say?"
The Doctor looked at her. "What message?"
Donna tilted her head and eyed him. "The one on your physic paper."
"Oh, that one." He dug into his pockets fishing out the black-wallet paper. He fiddled with it in his hands, not opening or reading the message.
Donna's eyebrows crawled upwards, and a smile twitched on her lips.
"You got bored."
The Doctor's eyes widened with innocent surprise. "Who me? Never get bored. Isn't in my vocabulary." He reached the console and busied himself with the dials.
Donna's smile grew wider. "You missed me."
He looked up at her and they grinned at each other as he pulled the lever down.
A day without Donna turns out differently than the Doctor expected.