Disclaimer: If I owned them, they woulda done it and we woulda seen it
Author's note: This little piece explores the second of the 'potential first kiss' scenarios revealed by the Doctor to Donna in Tell me when.
What if….you tell me when, the second time
Partners in Crime
And they were off again, running. Running, running, running. There was an awful lot of running in his life, he realised. Good thing he liked running. Though he suspected by the grim expression on Donna's face as he ventured a quick glance behind, and the fact he already had a good few metres on her, that she didn't quite share his enthusiasm.
They had gone down the darkened corridor a few metres when he saw it and screamed to a halt, whipping out the sonic and buzzing the door open.
"Well, that's one solution. Hide in a cupboard. I like it" he heard her quip, with a faintly detectable air of disappointment in her voice.
What's that all about then?
He was inside the tiny room in flash, tossing out the contents without even a backward glance, frantic to find what he was looking for.
And there it was, at the back of the room. He strode over and whipped open the door. The inducer. Instrument of dastardly purpose, the potential destruction of millions of human lives.
He couldn't let it happen. Miss Foster had to be stopped. He felt the panic rising even as his brain raced, calculating at light speed how he could hack the inducer, override the program, save humanity. Donna's uncharacteristic silence alerted him to the fact he had slipped into techno-babble, so he decided to provide some more straightforward commentary to break the tension.
"She's wired up the whole building. We need a bit of privacy." He improvised with a pair of spark plugs to put the guards out of commission.
At Donna's appalled look, he scrambled to explain: "Just enough to stop them." Why do I feel the need to justify myself to her? Like I need her approval?
Or don't want to disappoint her. Want her to like me.
Shrugging himself out of that strange, unbidden thought and back to the matter at hand, his alarm amplifying as the computer voice announced the inducer had gone online.
And it was then that she chose to speak.
"You look older".
Millions of lives on the line, not a second to waste and she suddenly wants to talk about my personal life?
"Still on your own?"
"Yup." A micro-pause. "Well, no, I had this friend, Martha she was called. Martha Jones. She was brilliant…and I destroyed half her life. But she's fine. She's good. She's gone." Why am I even telling her all this?
"What about Rose?"
No. NO. So don't want to talk about THAT right now. "Still lost." He swallowed and swiftly changed the subject. "I thought you were going to travel the world."
It worked. Suitably side-tracked, she proceeded to tell him about what she had done during their time apart. He was only half listening though, the majority of his attention still desperately focussed on trying to figure out a way to prevent an impending mass liquification disaster.
"….I must have been mad turning down that offer."
"To come with you."
"You'd come with me?"
He realised he should have phrased that last question better when she immediately responded: "Oh yes, please!" a little too enthusiastically for his liking.
The computer voice intruded to remind him again of the imminent danger to a large swathe of London's population.
She spoke once more. Fortunately, more on topic. "What's it doing now?"
"She's started the program."
He continued to talk as if somehow the sound of his own voice could calm him, and abate the growing fear that he wouldn't be able to save them all.
"So far they're just losing weight, but the Matron has gone up to emergency pathogenesis"
He heard his own fear echoed in Donna's voice. "That's when they convert…."
"Skeletons, organs, everything. A million people are gonna die! Gotta cancel the signal!"
He whipped the golden capsule out of his pocket and held it up to Donna for a look, continuing his commentary as if it were some bizarre mix of science lecture and reality TV show. Except that the reality if he failed this time was too awful to contemplate.
"This contains the primary signal. If I can switch it off the fat goes back to being just fat." He hooked the capsule up to the machine, praying that it would work. And felt his hearts drop through the floor as the computer tonelessly announced that Miss Foster had increased the inducer's strength.
"No no no no no, she's doubled it, I need…Haven't got time" It's too far, I can't override it! They're all gonna die!" He couldn't hold back the desperate despair in his voice as his words frantically tripped, tumbled and crashed into each other.
"Is there anything I can do?" he heard Donna say in the midst of his panic.
"Sorry Donna, this is way beyond you! Gotta double the base pulse, I can't…"
She spoke again, more firmly, as if insulted at his dismissiveness. "Doctor, tell me what do you need?"
Hardly the time to argue the point, Donna! He thought in exasperation. Like a dog with a bone. Still, there's something to be said for tenacity. Even if there's nothing she can do. Might as well humour her.
Eyes remaining fixed on the inducer, the switches, the lights, as if he hoped he could will them to tell him a way through all of it he told her, finally: "I need a second capsule to boost the override, but I've only go the one. I can't save them!"
And that was when he saw it. Out of the corner of his eye, a brief flash of something small and metallic. He turned to see Donna beaming as she held up another gold capsule, a tiny, shiny saviour.
Even as he thought it, he knew it was much more than that, though. Deeper, more powerful, more significant.
Back together, partners in crime, to save the world.
Save each other.
He looked at her then for what was only a second, but seemed like an eternity, , blown away by the sheer fortuity and unlikeliness of it all. Again, she had stuck with him, through the danger, the flurry, the sheer weirdness, and had hardly batted an eyelid. She had been brave and stubborn and persistent in finding a way to help him do what needed to be done. And she had come through, with exactly what he had been missing, what he had been looking for, at precisely the right time.
He realised at that moment he was not just referring to the gold capsule, either.
The sparkle in her eyes that he saw now, that came from knowing she had been useful, needed, that he had needed her and that together they had done something wonderful, saved so many…that glow, that light, was just so, so breathtakingly beautiful. It made the abundant life in her burn even more brightly than it had the first time they'd met, when he'd already fallen just a little bit in love with her.
He realised with a start (and not a little guilt) that he'd spent practically the whole time with Martha not just trying to forget Rose, but trying to forget Donna and that spark, that zest for life, her inherent brilliance that she didn't even know she had.
He thought he'd managed to do it, but with that one little triumphant flourish of a gift-with-purchase gold necklace, she'd undone him and he was right back where he'd found himself at the creation of the earth, standing at the doorway of the TARDIS with her, so close, so close…..
He wanted to kiss her then. Again. He'd missed his chance back then, he'd waited all this time for another chance, and here it was.
Here it was and there was just no time.
Why does this always happen? Why is my timing always so off?
So once again he hid his desire deep, deep down, and looked at her with incredulity, shock, and finally delighted relief. Then they both burst out laughing and he took the capsule from her, plugged it in to the transducer and watched its green lights die. Along with their moment.
But not his fervent hope that they would have another one.