Walking Through Sunken Dreams
Doctor Who/Life on Mars | Donna/Gene | PG-13 | ~2,847
Donna's life is so boring it hurts. And then she's held at gunpoint and suddenly it's not. Post DW series 4.
A/N: For the hc_bingo prompt 'hostages'.
There's post on the mat when she gets home, brown paper shopping bag under one arm, milk from the front step in the other. Two bills and a letter from the Salvation Army. Nothing of circumstance. She puts everything away, makes some beans on toast for tea, listens to the radio until half past nine, and goes to bed.
She dreams of stars and a man in a long, brown coat.
In the morning she remembers nothing.
At the sound of the paper sliding through the letterbox she gets up, has a bath, brushes her teeth, and stares at herself in the mirror. The same red hair and pale skin stares back at her as it does every day. She blinks and gets dressed. Brown skirt, cream blouse, hair pulled back. Neat and tidy. Presentable.
Cornflakes for breakfast.
She opens the paper out on the table. March 23rd, 1976. The Ghost Still At Large. Another bank hit up yesterday; fifth this month. Two dead. A security guard and a young girl working behind the counter. Her chest aches and she puts it down to pity.
She leaves the house at seven-fifteen to catch the bus at the end of the street. Stares out of the window and offers her seat to an elderly lady when it gets crowded. Arrives at work on time.
At lunch she eats with a couple of the other girls who gossip back and forth about people they've never exchanged words with. She nods in all the right places. Laughs on time. She doesn't hear a word of it.
The afternoon is filled with typing up new reports brought down from CID. She reads each one carefully and her fingers move swiftly. She never makes a mistake. Fastest typist in the city, she's sure.
She goes home at five o'clock.
Her life is so boring it hurts.
Donna was born and raised in London, though she doesn't remember her parents and her memories of the city are fleeting at best. Apparently, when she was thirty-six years old, a car she was in slid on a patch of ice and collided head first with a brick wall. She only remembers afterwards, waking up in a hospital bed and not having any recollection of a life before besides her name. Donna Noble. It was the only thing that felt right in a world that seemed so out of place. So she'd moved up to Manchester with only her name for company, and got herself a job working as a typist (something that felt almost right) with the police. She's been there ever since.
"Donna," PC Robins says, peering round the door with a smile, "be a dear and take these down to the post office would you? They were supposed to be sent to Birmingham last week but those birds working behind the front desk are bloody useless. Don't know how Phyllis puts up with them."
Donna picks up the parcels and grabs her coat.
"There's a lass," Robins winks. Donna ignores him.
The post office is mostly empty when she gets there, just an old man chatting to the cashier, a young mum holding her baby on one hip, and a middle-aged guy waiting in line. She stands behind him and lets her mind wander.
Then the young mum screams and Donna's pulled back to her senses. She goes to turn around and there's something cold against her neck. Something cold and metallic. The middle-aged guy in front of her is wide eyed, and she can see the old man glancing around the room frantically. The cashier is sitting frozen.
"Everyone remain calm," a voice says, and he's so close she can practically feel his breath as it tickles her hair. She shuts her eyes and focuses on her lungs contracting and expanding. "Put the money and cheques into a bag as quickly as you can and don't do anything stupid."
The cashier looks on the verge of a full-blown panic attack. Any second she was going to break and then anything could happen. If this was the Ghost, and Donna's positive it has to be, then he wouldn't hesitate in leaving them all dead.
"Now," he says when she doesn't move, and then the gun's not pointing at Donna anymore, but at the cashier who's beginning to hyperventilate.
"It's alright," Donna says, and her voice sounds almost calm against the situation. "Do what he says. You're alright."
The cashier looks at her then and Donna forces a smile. Slowly, the girl stands.
"Wise girl," he whispers, and this time it's directly to her, the wool of his balaclava brushing softly against her ear. She tries not to flinch.
She thinks that maybe, just maybe, everything's going to be alright, but then there's the sound of sirens, quiet at first, and someone must have tripped an alarm – deliberately or not – and he doesn't have his money yet.
Donna sees it coming before it does, can't make her feet move, and then there's the echo of the gun too close to her ear and the cashier is falling backwards, hands flying to her shoulder where her white shirt is beginning to stain a deep, dark red.
The room stands still, frozen, and they can do nothing but watch as the Ghost moves forward, grabs the bag of money from the counter and ignores the girl he's left bleeding out on the floor. He starts scanning the room, looking for an out that won't leave him surrounded by coppers, and Donna sees the moment he notices the door leading out the side.
They move at the same time.
She grabs at his arm, dodges the fist aimed at her face and manages to land a solid kick to his shin before his elbow connects with her stomach and she's left winded. She tightens her grip, her fingernails digging in deep enough to draw blood, and when he manages to turn, his gun arm raising, she bites his shoulder as hard as she can.
"You bitch," he hisses, before his hand smacks against her cheek and she loses her footing and knocks her head against a concrete pillar.
The last thing she's hears before the world goes black is the sound of someone breaking down the door.
"Careful there," someone says as Donna comes around, her head throbbing loudly and painfully and jolts shooting through her shoulder as she tries to sit up.
Donna blinks until the world swims back into focus, and she's still in the post office but there are Police everywhere, talking to everyone.
"The cashier…" she says, worriedly, and it's Annie, Annie Cartwright from CID who managed to work her way up the ranks despite being female, and Donna's always respected that, and she seems to understand immediately.
"She's going to be okay. They've already taken her to the hospital."
"Good," Donna says. "Good."
The room looks like it's in a state of chaos, too many people with and not enough evidence, but there's a tall, wide shouldered man Donna knows on sight who's taking charge, his voice loud and booming as he calls out orders, and Donna can't help but notice that beneath his long, ugly coat there's something very attractive about him.
"I heard you got a good kick in," DCI Gene Hunt says when he's closer. "Good for you."
Donna smiles, grimaces at the way it just makes her head hurt more, and carefully looks up at him from her spot against the wall.
"I just wish it had been to somewhere that would have caused more permanent damage."
He laughs at that, surprised and pleased.
"What's your name?" he asks.
"Donna Noble," she says and he nods, recording it to memory.
"Well Miss Noble, Annie here's going to make sure you get seen to by a doctor and then home safely. I know all this can be quite a bloody shock, but you'll be back to normal in a few days, you'll see."
She doesn't tell him she hopes he's wrong.
For the first time in as long as she remembers she feels alive.
At home she ignores the post on the mat, remembers she's out of bread and doesn't care, and eats cereal for dinner like a child. Afterwards she runs a hot bath, takes a bottle of wine in with her, and doesn't get out until the water cools enough to give her goosebumps and her brain starts to fog over pleasantly.
She dreams of the robbery, of the Ghost angry and violent beneath her hands, but she isn't scared.
In her dream she beats him stupid.
The DCI Hunt who appears shortly afterwards is suitably impressed and his hands on her are anything but violent.
She opens her eyes feeling more awake than she has in a long time.
She dresses in jeans and a bright green blouse she's never worn, leaves her hair hanging loose around her shoulders, and skips breakfast in favour of walking to work. When she sits down at her station the other girls all stare at her like they want to start whispering behind their hands, and Donna has no doubt that as soon as she's out of earshot they will be. She doesn't care.
"Ah, Donna," PC Robbins says when he gets in twenty minutes late as usual. "I hear there was a bit of trouble yesterday. Are you, uh, alright?"
"I'm fine," she says, smiling brightly.
Robbins blinks, taken aback.
"Well," he says, "if you're sure –"
He gives her one last uncertain look before he leaves.
All she wants to do is laugh.
"You work here," DCI Hunt says when they collide in the hall, and she rolls her eyes as she picks up her dropped paperwork.
He doesn't help her but she doesn't expect him to. She's surprised when he stays standing there, though.
"How are you?" he asks, like he's afraid she's going to burst into tears in the middle of the corridor.
"Good," he says, crossing his arms. "Knew you were made of tough stuff."
She raises an eyebrow, straightening her shirt as she stands up and turns to leave.
"Drink after work?" he calls when she's almost 'round the corner.
She turns, watches the way his chest puffs out and his eyes dance with amusement, and grins.
"I don't get off 'till six," she says, "so you can get 'em in. Mine's a pint."
He laughs loud and deep with his head flung back.
Donna can't shake her smile for the rest of the day.
"So you're from London?" DCI Hunt ("Bloody hell, call me Gene") says when they're seated in a corner of the Railway Arms, the majority of CID talking loudly around them.
"Yeah," she says, "but don't go making any remarks about southerners or you might get a slap."
"Fairly warned," he grins.
They talk about his team and old films and where to get the best curry in town and it's light and easy with just the right amount of tension that leaves her fingers tingling with want. When he drives her home at the end of the night she doesn't say anything, lets him draw his own conclusions, and when he follows her to the door she's not disappointed.
He's warm and strong and focused and she loses herself in the feel of the sheets beneath her hands and the weight of his body over her.
In the morning she sticks bread in the toaster and looks at Gene until he makes the tea and it's not awkward, not at all, and she thinks maybe she should be surprised.
"Want to have dinner tonight?" she says when he's tying the laces on his shoes. "I'll cook."
"Great," he says. "I'll bring the wine."
For a beginning, Donna thinks, it's not half bad.
Really, she should have known everything was going too well.
She's walking back from the store, a bag balanced under each arm, when someone pulls her into a side road. The eggs– she thinks, and then Oh when hands tighten around her upper arms, painting bruises on her skin.
"Hello again," he says, whispering against her neck, and he's not wearing a mask this time. She's suddenly very aware of what that means.
There are no cars around, nobody in their gardens where she can try and draw their attention, but she takes in everything anyway, searching for some kind of distraction.
"I didn't appreciate the little stunt you pulled the other day," he says, and he's young, younger than her at least, and that should make him look less menacing except there's a glint in his eye when he turns her to face him that makes her blood run cold.
"Yeah, well, I didn't appreciate having a gun against my back," Donna says, and she knows she shouldn't antagonise him but like hell is she going to make this easy.
He laughs, cold and empty. "Would you prefer a knife?"
"Go to hell," she spits, and he slaps her hard enough to make her teeth rattle.
"Now, that wasn't very nice."
There's the sound of a door slamming in the distance and Donna doesn't hesitate, spins around and starts running, and she knows he's right behind her, feels the tips of his fingers against her back as he grabs for her, but she keeps going, tears ahead, and she has no idea where she is now, doesn't recognise the road, but she can't stop, can't stop –
A hand curls around the back of her shirt and her legs give out under her, slipping on concrete and shredding her tights as she falls. She's breathing hard, her heart pounding against her ribcage, and there's a cut on her leg that's bleeding too heavily, too quickly.
She thumps her hand against the back of his knee and rolls out of the way as he stumbles forward. Bits of gravel stick the palms of her hands as she tries to get up, but then he's pushing at her, pinning her to the ground, and she screams as loud as she can, feeling a sick sort of pleasure as he winces, but it's not enough.
And then she hears them, the sound of sirens coming closer by the second. The Ghost looks as if he's about to make a dash for it, gets to his feet and seems to be considering how long it will take to do away with her before the police arrive, but Donna's not having that. She scrambles to her feet, slides the shoe off her left foot before he can react, and brings the heel of it down hard against his temple just as the cars come skidding around the corner.
She keeps hitting him, over and over, and then Gene's there, arms wrapped tightly around the waist and whispering it's okay, it's okay in her ear until she can breathe again. Someone takes the shoe out of her hands, and it's only when the fog clears from her eyes that she realises there's blood on her hands, too much to just be her own, and she wants to laugh and throw up simultaneously.
"Come on," Gene says. "Let's get you home."
She lets him walk her to his car and then passes out in the passenger seat.
"Annie noticed it," Gene says when she wakes up later, tucked up in a blanket on her own sofa, the bandages around her palms obviously wrapped by someone with hands too big and unused to the task. "There was another girl who tried to stop him. Pushed the gun away from its target. She was found dead two days later by the canal – stabbed - but nobody thought to put two and two together. When you didn't answer your phone I got a bit nervous."
"I'm glad you did," she says.
"His name's Michael Turner," Gene says, and Donna closes her eyes, turns her head away. "He's at the hospital now being treated for severe head wounds but the doc reckons he's going to be just fine and then we can put him away for the rest of his miserable little life."
"I thought I'd killed him," Donna says, and it hurts to admit it aloud, the sick sense of relief she'd felt when she'd seen him crumpled on the ground against the horrific thought of ending someone's life.
"Nah," Gene says, and his smile makes some of the tension drain out of her. "But I bet you gave him one bugger of a headache."
"We didn't get to have our dinner," she says, and he laughs.
"Don't worry," he says, brushing the hair away from her face with uncharacteristic gentleness, and dropping a kiss on her forehead. "There'll be lots more opportunities."
Donna tries to smile but she's tired, so tired, and she just wants to doze off for a little bit.
"Don't go anywhere," she says, her voice slurred and quiet.
"I won't," he says, sitting back in the chair beside her, close and comforting.
She closes her eyes and doesn't dream.