Prompt: The Doctor actually realizes he can't give the Duplicate to Rose because there's a bond between Handy and Donna.

Warning: This contains a few mild swear words. And this makes a reference to a BBC Radio 4 comedy drama.

Summary: I've slightly twisted the prompt and used the question: what if the metacrisis was only one way? Set after the events of JE, where only Rose got dumped anywhere, the Doctor runs into his best friend.

Disclaimer: I don't own much here apart from the DVD of this. Shame on me.

A/N: another fic written for the Alternative Handy Fic Challenge set by tkelparis and posted today to wish her Happy Birthday.

A/N2: This is how Just Around The Corner was originally meant to go before the angst got me.

Just Good Mates

Part 1: When He Knew


When he really thought about it, the Doctor could pinpoint the exact moment he had known he was lost; it was when Donna opened her mum's front door to him and he self-consciously uttered the words, "You would not believe the day I have just had!"

He had known because she had merely looked at him with understanding, compassion and amusement. Rose would have dived on him and kissed his cheek, Martha would have hugged him while coyly hoping for a kiss; but Donna had stepped aside and let him enter her home, accepting who he was and what he had gone through at his word. In that moment he knew for certain that he loved her and this pseudo domesticity. He was returning home, to Donna.

After that their friendship just grew and grew, as did his own personal feelings; but nothing happened beyond keeping a respectful distance if you ignored the kitchen episode…. Something that they had mutually decided to ignore with a passion.

That respectful distance fortunately included the ability to share a bed on the odd occasion.

The Doctor and Donna happily snuggled together on her bed, enjoying their close proximity tremendously. Donna threw an arm around his neck, and declared, "I love you, Spaceman!"

The Doctor grinned madly with pride at her words. "And I love you, Donna Noble!" he declared in kind.

She then snuggled down, burying her face in his chest. "You're the best friend ever. I hope you are always my friend."

He felt his grin melt off his face and slide downwards. "Friend?" he queried sadly.

All she did was nod her agreement before slipping into sleep.

The Doctor could have cried. Here he was, cuddled up in bed with someone he was in love with and all she saw him as was a friend; her best friend. This was so unfair! He was supposed to be her knight in shining armour; he was supposed to sweep her off her feet. For goodness sake, she was supposed to fall in love with him, and not write him off as safe with a 'friend' label!

He gazed down at the woman in his arms, and wondered if he ought to ask Jack for some advice. No, he couldn't see himself doing that. Donna would be his best friend for ever!

The Doctor watched stunned as Donna stomped away from him. "Are you serious?" she demanded as anger blazed across her features. "You want to send him with her… to that alternate universe? Oh no you don't! Over my dead body you will!"

"Donna, be reasonable," he tried to argue.

"Reasonable! I'll give you bloody reasonable! How can you turn away your own flesh and blood like this?" She was almost apoplectic now. "He stays with me, and if you can't stand the sight of him that much then I'd better walk out that door and take him with me, right now!"

"No, Donna! Please don't leave me," he pleaded, oblivious to the stares Rose was giving him as he raced passed her.

But all Donna did was look sadly back at him. "You've made your mind up; I know what you are like, Spaceman. You want to give him away and I can't let you do that," she said vehemently. "While you drop Rose off I'll be packing."

His chance to stop her heading for her room was sabotaged by Rose wanting to know why she was being returned to the Alternate Universe. He really could have done without all that fuss. And he couldn't deflect the situation onto his duplicate because he had gone with Donna to help her get her stuff together.

When it was down to just him, Donna and the duplicate left in the TARDIS he was almost in tears as they piloted the ship to Chiswick. "Are you sure about this?" he quietly asked them.

"Only as sure as you are in the opposite direction," Donna replied, cupping his cheek with a last fond gesture. "Have a nice life. I'll miss you."

The duplicate stepped up and took her hand. "Come on Donna. Let's find where we'll be welcome," he encouraged her; and they walked out of the TARDIS and the Doctor's life.

Donna woke up feeling very grumpy; not an unusual thing to happen these days, she conceded. It was just the thought of starting in yet another new place as she strove to find 'the perfect job' now. Only she had found it once, but her 'boss' had turned out to be a complete wanker. Who would have thought it of him? And after all they'd been through together as well.

The alarm bleeped angrily at her 'get up, get up, get up!' in its own digital way. With a well-aimed swat she shut it up instantly and pulled back the covers.

According to her paperwork she was working for a media production company called Old Harry's Game. Weird name, but to each his own if they were prepared to be mentally associated with a comedy drama about the devil. And talking of devils, she needed to prod James awake; he was an incurable stay-in-the-bed and wouldn't get up until gone noon given half the chance. Idiot! But he was her idiot and the nearest she would ever get to having a teenage son.

Chuckling to herself, she crept into his room and was struck by the sharp smell of essence of old socks as well as sweaty bloke. "James! Jamesie!" she softly called out. "Time to get up!"

"I'm getting up," someone beneath the covers mumbled.

"Yes, I know you are. The question is when?" She took hold of the edge of his duvet and peeled it away from his face. "There you are," she declared. "Who knew you still exist in the wild."

"Ha ha, very funny," he griped. "What time is it?" he asked, sitting up and wiping a hand over his sleepy features.

Donna glanced at her watch. "It's 6.20 and you have to be in early today without looking like a tramp."

"I do not look like a tramp!" he protested indignantly; but something in him wasn't convinced. "Do I?"

She laughed at him. "Just get up, shower, shave; and open a bloody window. This place reeks!"

He made an angry gesture at her, and she made an equally angry one back. "I will if you haven't used up all the hot water," he countered.

She sighed, heavily. "Just get up, you tart! You're even worse than your…" A bite on the bottom lip halted that momentary slipup. "But only sometimes," she ended her sentence, keeping her tone friendly.

James visibly flinched at the reference. "I'm nothing near to being like him," he muttered testily. Knowing she had regretted the slipup, he added, "All my bad points come from you."

It was the relief that he wasn't angry with her, and slight indignation at his tease, that made her pounce on him. "Is that why you are ticklish here…" She got him in the ribs. "…or here?" She then tickled his neck, and had him squealing beneath her fingers.

James fought to catch his breath when the onslaught faded, leaving them giggling together.

"Donna! James! What are you two up to again? Get down here now!" was shouted at them good and loud from downstairs.

James stuck his tongue out at Donna. "It's your fault she's annoyed at us."

"Oh no! This is your fault," she contradicted him. "And to think Mum always speaks so highly of you." She added in an eye roll for good measure.

He patted at his hair. "Of course she would. She has good taste like that. Well, you just have to look at me…"

"You know what your trouble is, mate? You think…," Donna began to take a piece out of him, but the voice from below shouted up again.

"I am not telling you two again! Get your bums in gear and stop mucking about!" roared Sylvia from somewhere within the house.

"Your fault!" Donna sing-songed as she prodded James in the arm; and then she almost danced away in her delight that he was in trouble.

"She still loves me more," he retorted in the same way, resisting the urge to add, "ner ner dee ner ner" at the end since he was above thinking such things. Now what should he wear today? That was a much more pressing question.

Donna arrived at O.H.G. Productions in good time, with at least fifteen minutes to spare. It was quite an impressive modern building, designed by someone who obviously was influenced by the Bauhaus movement. Taking a deep breath, she squared her shoulders and stepped up to the large glass entry door. The woman sitting at the reception desk looked friendly enough; she had expected someone who was quite intimidating.

"Ms Noble? You're expected up on the second level," the receptionist said helpfully. "Here is a map of the place and I've marked off where you need to go."

Donna expressed her thanks and headed towards the room that was marked as Finance on the map. Oh good, she could deal with numbers, no problem! Not as good as James could, but then not many people could keep up with him. And a position in wages would help her meet all the blokes in the company. There must be one of them that would be interested in her, surely? A sudden thought panicked her: what if they were all young whizz kids? None of them might look in her direction. Unless she could meet their dads… Now how could she engineer that? She decided to leave that sort of planning for later, as by this point in her thoughts she had walked all the way to Finance and was faced with another office to learn the geography and politics of. Starting with the bloke sitting in the navy suit, who looked like he needed a good tease in his life, among other things.

The day went quite well, all in all. The people in the office were all the usual types, and Donna found herself inventing little nicknames for them all. Within three days Donna felt she had it all under control; she knew who did what, how they lived their lives, their hobbies, important members of their families, and what their major gripes were. Nothing out of the ordinary, no plots to overthrow the government and most of all, no sign of any aliens in any form whatsoever. Funnily enough that was the part she missed most of all. She'd enjoyed knowing she was speaking a completely different foreign language.

This thought had just passed through her head when she almost reached the exit door on the way home and someone gasped to her side. Standing in reception was an extremely well-dressed man; his suit could not have fitted him any better. Donna found herself captivated by his warm smile and his intense light brown eyes as he gazed in wonder at her.

"Excuse me, and I know this sounds like a really bad chat up line, but do I know you?" he asked her.

"I don't think we've met," Donna answered. "But you do look awfully familiar. I feel as though I ought to know who you are."

He smiled even more brightly. "Let's start again, shall we? I'm Harry," he answered, and held out his hand in invitation.

"Okay. I'm Donna," she quickly replied, taking his hand to shake, in a way that she hoped wasn't too enthusiastic or too wet.

"Lovely to meet you, Donna," he said. "Now that we've got the formalities out of the way, may I suggest that we get together and catch up on all the news we've obviously missed?"

"That sounds like a good idea. And can I have my hand back, please?" she asked him.

Harry didn't even look sheepish when he released the hold he had on her hand. "Sorry," he said, not sounding sorry at all. "Are you free for lunch tomorrow?"

Donna had no idea why she agreed to this but she found herself saying, "That would be lovely, Harry. Where and when shall we meet?"

A little voice in the back of her head told her to be careful with this one but to find out more. This would be a spy mission, and that idea cheered her up enormously. Finally she had a possible adventure in her life; her sad, normal life.