A/N: This fic was written in an attempt to get over the depressing, rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest-and-smash-it-into-tiny-bite-sized-pieces experience known as watching Journey's End and The End of Time for the first time. All the feels for Ten and Donna! Story's set in The End of Time, before the Doctor visits Rose.
A huge thank you to the awesome GoldenHeart92 for beta-ing! This is my first DW fic, so I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing this.
Oh, and I own nothing. *sob*
The Doctor's brows were furrowed as he stepped out of the TARDIS.
He was in an alley somewhere, probably on Earth by the looks of it. He sniffed the air, the smell of smoke and rubbish filling his nostrils. If his instincts were right, and they usually were, it should be around the middle of November at the time, year 2014. He turned his attention back to the blue box behind him, confusion written on his face.
The Doctor had set his course to the Powell Estate when the TARDIS decided it had other plans and took him to wherever he was at that moment instead. There were no distress signals, and the sky above him was clear of aliens and whatnot. But there had to be a reason for the unplanned detour, and since the TARDIS wouldn't be answering him any time soon, he knew he had to find out by himself. Hands in his coat pockets, he made his way towards the streets.
The sidewalk was teeming with all sorts of people. He assumed it must have been the weekend. He looked around and found a newspaper stand by the corner, where he picked up one of the papers. A quick inspection of the articles inside revealed nothing unusual, except for maybe a story on an octopus with nine legs on page eight. He was determined to go through it once more when his attention was drawn to the upper part of the front page. There, in small print below the paper's logo, was his current location.
He was in Chiswick.
"No, no, no, no, no!" He grew more agitated with each repetition.
Eyes wide with panic, he surveyed the area in all directions for any sign of his former companion, unaware of the strange looks passers-by were throwing his way and the admonitions of the newspaper vendor when the paper he held fell to the ground. It was only when a third sweep yielded no flash of the familiar red hair that he breathed a sigh of relief. He took a moment to calm his nerves.
He was about to explore the place further when he hit someone behind him. His apology was automatic.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Oi, watch it!"
He could have sworn his two hearts stopped beating for a second. It can't be. He turned slowly on his heel, bracing himself for his final encounter with the most important woman in the universe.
Donna looked exactly as he had last seen her, albeit with a more lines on her face and a wedding ring wrapped around her finger. He must have almost knocked the bag of groceries she cradled in her arms. Her indignant expression had vanished at the sight of him. She was staring at him with those piercing green eyes with what he was almost certain was recognition – which was bad. Really, really bad.
"Wait, do I know you?"
"No, no you don't. I am a complete stranger."
"Bob, from the copy place."
"Yeah, that's right. Bob, that's my name. I like Bob."
Donna looked at him from head to toe, her eyes settling a bit longer on his trainers which judging from her scowl she obviously did not approve of. She gestured towards him.
"What's with the fancy get-up?"
"There's this, uh, wedding."
"At nine in the evening?"
"They're night people. Can't stand mornings, the Smiths. Too sunny and stuff."
It took quite a few false starts before she finally warmed up to him. They talked about her recent promotion, her trip to New York in the coming week, her husband's anniversary gift. It was great, seeing her smile and hearing her laugh again. He missed his best mate so much that it took a mighty effort for him not to grin when she made an offhand comment on his skinniness. It was just like old times. But then she'd call him Bob and the illusion was shattered. Still, he loved every minute of it.
He was over the moon when he learned that she had named their kids John and Agatha. It was more than comforting for him to know that somewhere deep in the recesses of her mind, she remembered. His happiness must have showed, if her next question was any indication.
"The hell are you smiling about?"
"I'm just really, really happy to see you."
"We saw each other this morning." She was about to ask him how much he had drank that evening when she noticed him wince ever so slightly. "Are you all right?"
"You look pale."
"It's nothing, rea-" He clutched his sides as pain surged through his body. "Really. I'm fine."
"No, you're not!"
"Yes, I am."
Here he was, a complete stranger to her under the guise of some guy named Bob, but she could still see through his lies like an x-ray machine. She grabbed his arm in a firm yet gentle grip.
"You need a doctor."
The way she said doctor, it killed him. In one quick motion he put both hands on her shoulders, leaned forward, and locked his gaze with hers as Donna yelped in surprise. Their faces were barely an inch apart.
"Okay." It was only when the Doctor released his hold and took a step back that she managed to reply, though her voice was uncharacteristically weak.
Neither said a word for a while. The streets were as busy as ever but to Donna everyone was invisible. It was only him and her, this man who seemed much more familiar than he was supposed to be. She watched his shoulders rise and fall, fall and rise, as he struggled to keep upright, to stay alive for as long he could. She wanted to help him, she really did, but somehow she knew that she could do nothing. She nearly jumped when he finally spoke. He was beaming like a madman all of a sudden.
"Well, I better go. I have some…things…to do." He took her hand and shook it enthusiastically. "Stay brilliant, Donna Noble!"
And without as much as a second glance the Doctor walked all the way back to the alley where his ship awaited, leaving a very dazed and confused Donna in his wake. She eventually followed suit, but it was too late, the TARDIS had gone. She could have sworn she had seen a little blue box fading away for a split second, but she assumed she was just tired and brushed it off with a shrug.
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