Warning: Contains one incidence of implied pub violence. Some slight discussion of adult themes, but nothing scary.

Summary: Donna is invited on a girls' night out, but can the Doctor let her go alone? Seems not.

Disclaimer: If I said these characters were mine you'd know I was lying, right?


Protective Padding

Part 1

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"Guess what? Nerys just rang; she wants us to meet up for a singles night. The old gang are all without men it seems, so I'm allowed back in." Donna had sprung into the console room, all excited, beaming at the Doctor in happiness.

"I take the invite doesn't extend to me?" he asked teasingly.

"Well, it can if you're desperate to spend the evening with Nerys, Veena, Alice, and Carol," she offered. Not that she expected him to take her up on it as she knew how he felt about them.

"I'll pass thanks! So where are you meeting?" he vaguely asked, twiddling with a knob.

"Down the Feathers as far as I know... I'd better go and get ready for this singles night," she told him.

"But you're not single!" he exclaimed.

"I think you'll find I am, Sunshine! You remember the whole 'not a couple' thing don't you?" she giggled at him. She turned on her heels and made for her bedroom.

"Yeah, I forget sometimes..." he mumbled out loud, watching her go. With a sigh, he set about putting in the required coordinates to get Donna to her girls' night out with the Witches of Eastwick, as he liked to think of them.

Donna reappeared about twenty minutes later, wearing a short-ish close fitting dress, black tights and amazing high heel shoes. "Are we there yet, Spaceman?" she asked as she fished through her handbag, checking she had everything she needed.

He wrenched his eyes away from her legs. "Yes, but do you think you should be wearing something as short as that?"

She laughed at his pout. "Give over! What are you, my Mum?" She walked over to him and planted a 'thank you' kiss on his cheek. "Be a good boy while I'm away; no talking to strangers and no playing with matches!"

"Okay, Donna!" he grinned back at her, and made a decision as he followed her departure from the TARDIS.

~o~

"Donna, don't look now but there's some bloke been watching you for ages over by the fruit machine." Alice whispered to her.

"Which one? I can see at least a dozen blokes over there." Donna flicked her gaze over all of the blokes standing in the corner, and none of them caught her attention.

"The geeky one in the John Lennon glasses," Alice pointed out verbally. "Do you see him? He's got the whole college look going for him."

"Him? He looks in need of a good meal. Do you think he wants to drag me away and eat me? Not sure he'd have the strength though," Donna commented.

"He looks like he'd like to do something to you, judging by the way he's been ogling you! Maybe you shouldn't mention it to that bloke of yours." Nerys put in.

"I keep telling you; we're just mates!" Donna insisted.

"You never said he's gay!" Nerys retorted.

"Maybe because he isn't! Just 'cos a bloke don't fancy you don't mean he's gay," Donna emphasised.

"And the Pope isn't Catholic! I've seen blokes around you, Donna, and if they don't ogle your bust then they're gay...or not breathing anymore." Nerys smirked at her in victory.

"Thanks for that, I think?" Donna responded, not knowing quite what to do with this unusual compliment.

"Don't worry about it and have another drink! We'll get you a bloke that'll actually talk to you later," Veena said good naturedly.

It started to get rowdy in the pub; some Millwall and Chelsea fans were having an argument that was leading up to a fight. Unfortunately Donna didn't know this as she came out of the ladies toilet. Narrowly missing a well-aimed punch, she staggered and almost hit her head on a stool, but a pair of strong arms stopped her.

She found herself gazing up at a strangely familiar face. "Are you...?"

"I'm James. James McCrimmon," he told her in a strong Scottish accent.

She snorted. "For one awful moment I thought you were going to say James Bond!"

"Och! He's my brother!" he laughed. "Are you all right? Did he hit you?" He surveyed her face anxiously.

"No. No harm done, thanks to you." She let him help her stand, and brushed his hands away from her hips. "I think I need to thank you with a drink, don't you?"

"No need for that," he protested, but she was already dragging him by the sleeve over to her cronies and away from where the landlord was dealing with the football fans.

"Girls, this is James!" she announced. "He just saved me from kissing the carpet!"

"What are you going to save him from kissing?" Nerys asked.

"You!" Donna immediately answered, and the others cackled. Nerys merely looked peeved.

"You don't have to do this," he tried to insist, but Donna was pushing him down onto a seat by now.

"But I will anyway, so you might as well make the most of it," she told him, before sweeping off to the bar and leaving him sitting there like a lemon.

"Hello!" he weakly greeted the rest of them as they stared at her stalker with curiosity.

"Got a thing for our Donna, have you?" Veena quizzed him. "We saw you earlier checking her out. You need to know that she's living with a bloke at the moment, though not in the biblical sense."

The rest of them laughed. "We think he's gay," Alice told him with a conspiratol smile. "Either that or he's blind, from what Donna tells us. Don't tell her this, but not many men would pass her up. She never sees it though."

"That's cos she's thick!" Nerys put in. "All those blokes gagging for it, and she never notices. You've got a hard job ahead of you, mate, if you want her."

"Oh! Thanks!" He spluttered. "So...erm...she's available then?"

"Oh yes! Help yourself. Go easy on the flattery, but show her a bit of kindness and you'll be fine," Alice told him. "Don't drone on about your ex though, that's a killer!"

"She won't touch you if she thinks you're remotely taken," Carol added, gulping down the last of her lager.

He didn't have a chance to reply because Donna appeared at that moment with a tray of drinks. "Get these down you, ladies! The night is still young even if we aren't!" And they all laughed together as James had a pint of best bitter thrust into his hand.

Donna's friends seemed keen for him to 'pull' Donna he noted. They kept nudging the conversation onto her good qualities, playing on his sympathy, and not exactly allowing her to get a modest word in. They even high tailed it at the end of the evening, leaving him and Donna sitting in the bar nervously eyeing each other.

"Hello," she meekly said. "I feel like we haven't exactly been allowed to talk to each other tonight."

He chuckled. "I got the same feeling. Though it has had a bit of a 'Blind Date' vibe now that I think about it?"

"Shall we start again? I'm Donna. Donna Noble," she re-introduced herself.

He shook her offered hand. "I'm James. Nice to meet you properly."

"Talking of which, am I mistaken in thinking you've been watching me for the best part of the evening?" she asked bluntly.

He blushed. "No," he lied.

"Thought so!" She smiled smugly at him." I know you might get this a lot, but you don't 'alf remind me of someone! Apart from looking like you know Einstein pretty well."

"He was great bloke," he put in without thinking.

She gave him a wide-eyed shocked look. "Did you... No, can't be. You're talking about college stuff, aren't you?"

"Guilty as charged!" He smirked. "I work down..." And he waved vaguely in a direction.

"Thought so," she smiled broadly. "I seem to attract that sort lately. Well, when I say attract I'm exaggerating. So, those glasses; what's the story? I don't mean to be rude, but are you wearing them for a bet? They're a bit old fashioned, you have to admit!" then she noticed his hurt expression. "I'm sorry!" she rubbed his knee consolingly. "I didn't mean to offend you; I was trying to tease you, but I often end up just being a silly cow."

He placed his hand over the top of hers. "I'm fine, don't worry about me. I've had far worse, I assure you."

"That don't make what I said right though; and I'm sorry," she frowned at him in concern.

He gave her hand a squeeze, "In answer to your question, I wear these because I like them, and I need them. I'd be blind as a bat without them!"

"According to Nerys you're blind for considering me, but we'll ignore that one for now," she chuckled modestly, and was surprised when he moved nearer.

"Nerys is wrong about a lot of things," he told her in a low voice.

Seeking to change the subject onto lighter things, she asked him, "So what part of Scotland are you from?"

"Glasgow," he immediately answered. "Have you been there?"

"Not yet, but I hope to one day," she told him brightly. "We don't tend to make it beyond London very often. Don't ask me why."

"Why?" he impishly asked, and they laughed together. "Who's 'we'? You and your husband?"

"Oh no! Don't have one of those; almost did, and sort of didn't, now I think about it. But no, he... er... he only gets mistaken for being my husband. We laugh about it a lot!" Donna took a last sip from her drink. "I can feel this loosening my tongue; I need to shut up now."

"Ah, was I wasting my time sitting here talking to you? I didn't mean to step on any toes...," he began to apologise.

"No need for all that!" Donna quickly consoled him. "It's not even close to being anything like that! We hang about together because we're mates, nothing more; honest. You're fine sitting here with me. In fact, more than fine." She contemplated him as he sat on his stool uncomfortably, "You two have got a lot in common, though he can probably outdo you in the brainy stakes. Did I mention that? He's very clever; almost too clever for his own good at times. But then that's why he needs me in his life, to bring the everyday stuff."

"I'm sure he needs you for more than that," he tried to add, but she cut him off short.

"And don't give me all that blarney, or whatever it's called in Scotland. I'm thick and we all know it; but he pretends I'm not sometimes. I like those times." She wavered on her stool for a bit.

"Donna, do you think we ought to get you home?" he offered gently.

She gave him a wry smile. "Fed up with me already? Okay, Jamesie, we'll get going, back to where I belong."

She let him help her to stand steadily whilst putting her coat on for her. Such a gentleman! She was impressed. She filed it all away to boast about later; and tried not to think that it would also mean she wouldn't have anything after it to boast about. This was a one night thing after all. "Are you okay, Donna?" he asked having noticed her sudden downturn in mood. "Are you feeling sick?"

She gave a small shrug, "I feel a bit down, but it isn't your fault, it's mine for wanting what I can't have." Seeing confusion on his face, she added, "I willingly chose a lifestyle that doesn't allow for this. I should have told you that, shouldn't I? But I wasn't sure if you were really interested or just... It doesn't matter; ignore me!"

"No, tell me." He stood looking down at her intensely under the streetlight.

Her breath caught in her throat. For a moment he looked so much like the Doctor that it was otherworldly; or the drink. She couldn't decide yet. She took in a drawn out breath, "I'm not a nun or anything, before you wonder that. It feels like I am at times; what with the other type of being, the sleep deprivation, and other people's hero worship. But it isn't like that. No praying and no scrabbling about on my knees most of the time. Yeah, I forgot to mention I get told to get down onto my knees far too often! Oh no! Nothing kinky, before you go there! We get arrested lots."

"Arrested? Are you professional protesters or something?" he gasped.

"Something like that," she agreed. "Come on, your turn. Tell me about you and your job." The rest of their journey down the road was spent with the tales of his academic career. And then they were standing in sight of Sylvia's house.

Donna was beginning to realise that she might have to actually go into her mum's house instead of the hidden TARDIS to get to her bedroom; the one she considered home now. "Here we are, home sweet home," she announced to him. "It was lovely to meet you, James; I can't thank you enough for seeing me home safely."

"Why aren't you allowing me up to your front door? Is he in there?" he asked, in a weird tone that Donna didn't recognise.

Startled, she admitted, "Yes he is in there. But he wouldn't disapprove, I assure you. I'm more wary of Mum."

"Ah, your mum," he seemed pleased now. "So we have to say goodbye here do we?"

"Looks like it," she agreed. "Why..."

And that was when he grabbed and kissed her. She hadn't expected it at all in the circumstances, thinking she'd be lucky to get a peck on the cheek. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, she grabbed him back, returning his ardent kiss. Him bodily picking her up, however, had come as a complete surprise.

Before she knew it, she was wedged up against a brick wall out of sight of the whole street, being kissed to within an inch of her life. If she'd have known he was going to be this passionate she'd have suggested the walk home hours ago!

"Oh Donna!" he groaned, his hands wandering down her form to caress her body.

"Oi! Hands!" she admonished, hitting away his wandering fingers. "Who do you think I am?"

"Oh! Sorry!" he exclaimed in horror. "I thought... I mean... it seemed... I thought you wouldn't mind; that you'd expect it."

"Well, you thought wrong, chum!" she huffed, adjusting her clothing. "I may be sad and lonely, but I'm not easy! And I certainly wouldn't do that on a first date."

"I didn't realise. I'm sorry!" he tried to placate her. "You give off this vibe..."

"Yeah, I've been told that before. Goodness knows how exactly my boobs give off that vibe, but apparently they do!" She was turning away from him now, wondering where it had gone wrong but secretly glad it had. It made walking away from him miles easier than it had looked earlier. "I've got to go, James. I'll see you around."

"Bye then!" he weakly called out after her. "Can I see you again?"

She stopped, and turned to consider him standing there forlornly. "If you're lucky!" she threw at him, before she disappeared. "Thanks James, I can see myself home from here." She stumbled into the TARDIS, calling out softly, "Doctor! Are you asleep?" Getting no reply, she headed for bed.

The Doctor watched her progress at the TARDIS doors. "No Donna. Now what the heck do I do with all this new information?" He shook his head in wonder, and made his way into the TARDIS. "And when will she notice I shaved my sideburns off?" he asked himself.