They suddenly woke, huddled together beneath a large tree with Splodge wedged inbetween them; one hand holding Donna's and the other clasping the Doctor's lapel.
"Are you okay, darling?" Donna softly asked Splodge.
He gave her a sleepy nod in reply and then a cheeky grin spread across his face. "I wasn't sure if you meant me for a moment," he confessed, and flicked his eyes at the Doctor.
Donna laughed at the grin, and the look of horror on the Doctor's face. "I think I can safely say I have never called him 'darling'," she answered.
"You haven't lost your chance," Splodge mumbled. And then he broke her heart by adding, "I wish you were my mum."
She managed to hold in her tears until he had obviously fallen back to sleep. The Doctor reached out to caress her cheek, and drew her face nearer to his. He placed soft, consoling kisses on her tears; kisses of understanding and compassion. She tried to smile at him, putting on a brave face, but great big sobbing tears threatened to fall, and spoilt the affect.
"Let it go," he whispered. "If you can't cry in front of me, who can you cry in front of?"
"But I'm not supposed to be affected like this! He doesn't belong to me and he never will. No one will ever…" She let out a loud sob then, and fought dramatically to hold in the next one.
"Oh Donna!" he crooned, lovingly cradling her head. "It's okay, love; it's only us. Just us." He placed a chaste kiss upon her lips; and then another.
"Told you to kiss, didn't I?" Splodge sleepily remarked, to their embarrassment, causing them to splutter apart whilst Donna desperately wiped at her eyes with her free hand.
"I thought you were asleep," the Doctor testily said.
"You thought wrong," Splodge murmured, and settled down with his eyes shut again; not releasing either of them.
It was with some deliberation that Splodge wriggled out of the clutches of the Doctor and Donna when he woke in the cold light of dawn. They did exactly as he had hoped they would; they sought out each other's warmth in their sleep, and snuggled up close having both sighed. For the umpteenth time he shook his head in wonder at them. Why couldn't they say they were a couple? Even he could see it, and he was just a kid!
Grinning mischievously, he decided to conduct his own experiment. Reaching forward he gently manoeuvred the Doctor's head until his lips rested against Donna's; and then sat back to see what happened.
A soft groan left the Doctor's throat, and he moved his lips to press a tender kiss. Splodge smiled triumphantly when Donna kissed him back, and her hands moved up the Doctor's chest as his hand wove itself into her hair. Just as Splodge went to dance a little jig of happiness there was a joint cry of "Argh!" and the Doctor and Donna broke dramatically apart. There were cries of, "What the…?" and "Sorry!" from them and they avoided looking at each other as they suddenly found their feet extremely interesting.
Splodge felt his hopes sink to his boots; if they couldn't admit how they felt about each other there was no way they'd ever think of adopting him. He resolved to make himself as useful as possible. "Doctor, I found some berries on a bush over there! Shall I go and pick us some? I'm sure you are both very hungry after all that walking we did yesterday. And… and…I could look for some rabbits to eat or something," he said eagerly.
The Doctor looked at him indulgently. "Thank you, Harry, but you're staying exactly where we can see you. I'll come with you to pick those berries. That's if Donna fancies…" He gave an embarrassed cough.
Donna blushed and hurriedly looked away. "You go with the Doctor, Harry. I'll be fine on my own, unless you need me?"
What was the matter with them? Splodge didn't understand adults at times. He needed them together if his plan was going to work. With that in mind, he grasped hold of Donna's hand. "It will be quicker if we all do the picking," he encouraged her. "You can reach higher than I can." He decided he might even feign a little accident on the blackberry thorns…
The berry picking plan hadn't gone that well, since Donna and the Doctor were still acting weird and Splodge had abandoned any injury to eat as many of the berries as he could reach. If they weren't talking he might as well fill his mouth with something else, he reasoned. He wished he'd saved some to nibble on as they trudged along yet another country lane to wherever it was they were going.
"Ah! The Forbes estate!" the Doctor declared as they gazed at a large plaque on a huge gatepost.
Splodge considered the plaque and only saw fancy squiggles. As he stood looking at it some of it became slightly recognisable. He caught Donna regarding him, and gave her a nonchalant grin as he sought her hand. Something told him this was a significant moment.
"Which way do we go now?" Donna asked, sweeping her gaze over the densely wooded landscape.
The Doctor was about to make a guess when a boy appeared from behind a tree at the side of the road and halted when he spotted them. Splodge bound up to the boy. "Hello!" he greeted him. "Can you tell us where the main gate is, please?"
"Who are you?" the boy demanded in turn. He peered behind Splodge to gaze at the Doctor and Donna. "Why are your mum and dad dressed funny?"
"Oh don't mind them! There was a bit of a mix up with our luggage," Splodge said, glancing behind him. "Dad loves Mum's hair, so she wears it down like that. Pretty, ain't she?"
"Yes," the boy answered distractedly. "Is she one of them suffer women?"
"Don't think so," Splodge replied with some confusion. "But she's good at running."
The boy made a scoffing noise. "She don't look like she's made for running."
"Well she can!" Splodge insisted indignantly. "Dad loves her just the way she is!"
"Son, is there a problem?" The hand of the Doctor landed on his shoulder, startling him. "Hello, I'm the Doctor," he introduced himself to the boy. "If you could just point us towards the main gate we'd be grateful."
"It's that way, sir," the boy readily told him, pointing in the correct direction.
Splodge was pleased to note that Donna and the Doctor automatically reached for each other's hand again as they walked along the estate road. Things had been a little bit tense since he'd caught them kissing, and he was glad to see things returning to normal. He grinned up at the Doctor.
"What were you two arguing about?" the Doctor asked.
"He erm… he said Mu-Donna wasn't built for running," Splodge stammered.
"Well I'm not," Donna, agreed, exchanging a glance with the Doctor at the slip up. "Certain things make that very clear."
"Donna! Stop saying such things about yourself," the Doctor admonished her. "You know it isn't true."
"I'm afraid I do, Spaceman. You know I have trouble keeping up," she argued.
"I know no such thing! You have always stayed by my side," he insisted.
"Aw, aren't you sweet?" she stopped to ponder. "I only keep up because you have hold of me."
"Then that's what I'll continue to do," he stated. "I have no intention of letting go of you now."
She made a strangled sound. "I was all ready to argue you into the ground, and you go and say something as lovely as that!"
"Do you want to know what else I'm going to say?" he asked. When she shook her head he replied, "I was about to say 'run!' because the heavens are about to open and you'll get soaking wet!"
"Romantic!" she retorted; and they began to run.
By the time they reached the main house they were almost soaked through. It was teeming down as they used the huge bell pull by the front door. It was eventually answered by a snooty looking doorman. "May I help you?" he asked.
"Yes! We have a delivery for you," the Doctor announced grandly, sweeping a hand towards Splodge. "Please tell his Lordship that the Doctor and Donna Noble have arrived.
"Come this way," the man haughtily ordered them, and led them inside; he asked them to wait in the drawing room.
Splodge looked about him in wonder. "Why have they got so much stuff?" he eventually asked.
"E-Bay?" offered Donna, much to Splodge's confusion.
"His Lordship will see you now," the doorman instructed them, beckoning them to follow. "Your Lordship, may I present Doctor Noble and Mrs Donna Noble."
"Oh we're not married…"
"We're not a couple…"
Splodge giggled behind his hand. This was easily the third time he'd seen this act now, and it was still funny.
"How do you do, Doctor; Miss Noble. And who is this young man?" his Lordship asked.
"This is their son…," began the doorman.
"I'm afraid he isn't," interrupted the Doctor. He swept a sad smile at Splodge. "I wish he were, but he belongs to someone else. And now we've brought him home."
Splodge gasped loudly in shock. "No!" he cried out and flung himself at Donna. "I want to stay with you!"
Donna petted his head fondly. "But you're not ours, sweetheart. You belong with your family," she sadly stated.
"You ARE my family!" Splodge insisted. "I'll be good. Please don't leave me here."
The Doctor dropped down to look him in the eye. "I wouldn't leave you unless I felt you were in the right place, Harry. You belong here with your grandfather because it's time you found out who you really are." He reached up and took Donna's hand, giving it a consoling squeeze.
Splodge gave a wet sniff. "I know who I am. I'm your son; I can be! I know I can! Just take me with you and… and… I'll do anything! Please, Doctor! I promise I won't call you Dad again, not if you don't want me to!" He clung to Donna's leg even harder than when they'd arrived at the barn.
Donna was openly crying now; she was so torn between doing what was right for Splodge and what her heart wanted.
"What is the meaning of all this?" His Lordship's voice cut through the scene before him.
The Doctor slowly stood up, and sighed. "Your Lordship, I'd like to introduce you, or should that be re-introduce you, to Master Henry Winston Forbes."
"What?" his Lordship blustered. "You mean this is he?" He peered intently at Splodge. "This scrap of a lad is…?"
"Yes; he is your grandson. We tracked him down and brought him to you for safe keeping," the Doctor solemnly said. "And now we'd better go." He grasped the quietly sobbing Donna's hand and started to try and lead her away.
"Let Parsons take you down to the kitchen for something to eat first," his Lordship declared. "You should be rewarded for your trouble."
"No reward is necessary," the Doctor replied hollowly. "We did what was best for Henry." It was only then that he risked looking at Splodge again.
There were accusations of treachery and disappointment on his small face. "You're leaving me? Like this?" he spat out in pained disbelief.
"We have to go," Donna spoke meekly. "Can we go please, Doctor?"
"If you are my grandfather then stop them!" Splodge shouted at his Lordship. "They can't do this to me!"
But his Lordship clearly had no idea what the problem was. "No need to get agitated, my boy. Parsons will get them some food and they can be on their way."
Splodge looked into the Doctor's eyes and saw real regret; Donna was obviously heartbroken, and he instantly understood how difficult it was for them too. If he was indeed the grandson of a Lord he would never be allowed to stay with them, let alone socialise with them. Some dim and distant memories came to the fore. Ones that explained why this house seemed so familiar. "Why?" he simply asked the Doctor.
"Blackmail; kidnapping, call it what you will," the Doctor stated. "The Parfilal wanted to exchange you for some plutonium extract. I couldn't let that happen; not in this time frame. Not ever."
"Did you like me?" he asked in hurt tones.
"Like doesn't begin to cover what we felt," admitted the Doctor as he pulled Donna closer.
"We," spluttered Donna. "We'll miss you."
"But you can't keep me," Splodge added. "It's to do with the fact you call him Spaceman, isn't it?"
Donna only just managed to nod her reply.
"Harry, you'll see us again," the Doctor told him in soft tones. "Promise."
When Splodge watched them run down the long path from the house, hand in hand as always, he could not help wonder if he would truly see them again or if the Doctor had merely said that to placate him. The housekeeper tsked at him as he stood at the large window watching the piece of happiness he had wanted so badly escape from him. "Goodbye Mum and Dad… for now," he said in a whisper before removing his hand from the windowpane and allowing himself to be led away.
Colonel Sir Henry Winston Forbes, or 'Harry' as he was known to his friends, was sitting eating lunch with his grandson and granddaughter in a hotel restaurant when a little girl with vibrant curly hair skipped up to him. "Hello," he greeted her. "Are you lost?"
"No," the little girl confidently replied. "I know where I am!"
"You do?" He chuckled at her. "Where is that?"
"I'm in Scotland. I'm on holiday," she declared. "All on my own!"
"That's a very brave thing to do," he commented. "I'm Henry; Henry Forbes." He lifted a hand to shake her's.
"I'm Donna. Donna Noble," she replied.
"Of course you are," he said to himself as he recognised the woman she would become. "You are a wonderful person, Donna Noble."
"Thank you," she answered. "You look just like my Gramps."
"Do I? Is there any way I could talk to your Gramps and tell him that? I'm sure he would love to hear from me," Harry replied.
She considered him for some seconds. "Yes, I think he would too. Gramps loves to talk to people."
"In that case, shall we go and find a telephone? I think the manager here might have one," he suggested, offering her his hand.
"Are you a stranger?" she asked him sternly. "I'm not allowed to go with strangers."
He gave her a whimsical smile. "No, I'm not a stranger. I know you from old, Donna Noble. Why don't you let me get you home safely this time?" With that he called over a waiter and asked for a phone.