Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. My title is borrowed from a poem by Langston Hughes. I'm not trying to profit from either one.
Day 19 of my fic-a-day New Year's Project! Only 12 days to go!
He goes and sits beside her bed that night, after all the commotion is over. Sylvia has settled down, and the rain has stopped. The Doctor is gone.
"Donna?" he asks, very softly, hoping she's asleep. The granddaughter he's seen this evening has been different from the Donna who had seemed so happy when she stopped home last, who had let slip little details of wondrous things. This was the old Donna of two years ago, brassy and loud and somehow hollow, as if she doubted there was anything in the world to fill the spaces.
"Ah, my dear," he says softly, "That Doctor of yours was better for you than you ever let on."
She stirs when he says the name.
"Doctor?" she says, perfectly clearly, as if she's addressing someone in the room.
He's terrified for a moment, goose pimples running up his arms, afraid her memories have returned, remembrering the Doctor's warnings. Images of death and pain flash before his mind's eye.
"Oi! Spaceman! Can you hear me?" Her eyes are closed, and her face and body are as slack as a sleeping child's, but her voice is confident and very much awake.
"If you can, then let me tell you that you are daft. I was in the first 15 hours of the regeneration cycle, packed with your leftover regeneration energy! I could've regrown those fried synapses and had enough left over to double my hearts as well! Limited-time offer, one shot at a new Time Lady, get her while she's hot, two hearts and everything. Won't work now, of course, too much human in this body for it to work now that the energy's dissipating, but it would have worked this afternoon."
He's too frightened to speak, for fear he'll somehow tip the balance of the moment and knock her off the edge. She remembers…but he said…and this isn't the Donna from her last visit home, either. If the old Donna who came back to the dinner table tonight is less, this Donna is more. Not wrong, not really, but larger-than-life. Confident.
"But, thanks to your mucking about, this consciousness is all topsy-turvy, rotated by ninety degrees and shoved right down into the subconscious matrix, and I'm trapped in here. Buried. Stuck."
He reaches out a hand to shake her awake, then thinks better of it. Whatever this is, better if he doesn't interfere.
"I was right there! Centuries in the TARDIS? At my fingertips! Thirty more seconds for the cells to start dying and the regeneration would have started, but no! You saved me! I could have stayed, Doctor. I'd never've had to leave. People—normal people—would've travelled with us and then had to go again, and we'd have been sad, but you'd never've been alone again, not really. It could've been forever."
He sits, amazed, as the furious voice pours out of the still, pale face.
"We could've had the universe, and now we're both all alone. The TARDIS is too big to be alone in, and this head is too small…Doctor?"
She sounds like a frightened child now, like the little Donna that used to come in with nightmares as a girl, asking for a Granddad story to send away the dark.
"Doctor? I'm alone…I can't see. Can you hear me? Come back. I can't bear to think of you, out there, alone. It won't end well for you, I know it. You need someone to stop you. Let me come with you."
He sits very, very still, mouth a little open for words that aren't coming to him; he's not even sure what he wants to say.
"She has my body, Doctor. My body. I wore that body to Pompeii, and other planets and everything, and she hasn't a clue about any of it. There's a scar on its shoulder from Cephalops B, but she'll never know why it's there, that whole mad business with the Alaxx and the Hrakki, that that scar saved your life. She won't even know who you are."
He's choking up now, crying silently so as not to wake her.
"I'm trapped…there's no way out—and you can't hear me, can you? I'm all alone…"
A soft whimper from still lips, and then silence. He sits awhile before he goes to bed, keeping company with a ghost.
A dark beginning, I know, but there's more to come.
For the rest of this month, I will alternate between fics for DW and oneshots/drabbles for the BBC's Merlin. That means you can expect part two of this four-part fic the day after tomorrow.