It's been ages since I finished writing this, and I posted it on tumblr back in April, but only got around to posting it here, now. Hope you enjoy!
Donna shot up from her bed, cold sweat causing her nightie to stick to her back. She was out of breath and scared, hands over her abdomen in an attempt to calm her nerves. She took shaky breaths, slowly coming back to herself when she realized that something wasn't right. The year she had spent backpacking through Europe now felt like a story, and she realized that's because it was. She had not been traveling for ages, only to lose her camera on the flight home. No! She had spent that year with the most wonderful man she had ever met. A man who helped her realize how special she was. She smiled, his name working its way from her throat to be spoken aloud.
She laughed, a sort of strangled, manic chuckle, and clasped her hands over her mouth. Her mind began to wander, strolling quietly through resurfaced memories; she felt the pain and joy and love that came with each one as if she were experiencing it all over again.
Oh, she could kill that bloody Spaceman. Who did he think he was taking her memories from her? She thought back to that night. The Doctor had been certain that she was going to die, and quickly did the only thing he could think of to save her. But he had ignored her! He had completely ignored her wishes to stay with him. That made her angry. But she could forgive him, knowing that he was trying to save her. Though, if she ever saw him again, she was certainly going to bring it up.
Among her own memories were the Doctors, but she was able to sort them from her own. She saw the faces of past companions, what had happened to them. Some of them were like her; they had had their memories erased and forced back into a life of normalcy, never again the same as they once were. Donna tried not to think about it. She saw terrible things, magnificent places and people, but most of all, she felt the love that the Doctor had for all of his friends. It moved her deeply, but she felt as if she was intruding on private matters, so she brought herself back to the present. But oh! There was something else. Donna reached into her bedside drawer and pulled out a small pile of papers. She had been drawing these pictures for almost the whole year and a half after the Doctor had left her, and now she finally understood them. It was Gallifreyan.
She looked them over carefully, taking in the intricacy of what she had drawn. Some of them were single words and others were complete sentences, things she remembered saying to the Doctor, or things she remembered him saying to her.
Donna glanced at the clock for the first time since waking; it was just after 7:00 am. She would go see her grandfather that afternoon. She really needed to talk to him. But for now she tucked the papers carefully back into their drawer and got out of bed, heading for the bathroom.
The morning went by quickly, and in the early afternoon, Donna found herself sitting with a cup of tea across from her mum and grandfather.
Sylvia had been quite different over the past year. Instead of constantly belittling her daughter, putting her down and squashing her self esteem, she listened, giving her opinion only when it was asked for. She told Donna how proud of her she was, and that she loved her. It wasn't faked though; she had realized -after the Doctor had called her out- that she was a major contributing factor to her daughter's lack of self-assurance. She decided that very minute that she would change, for her daughter.
"Is everything alright, love?" Wilfred asked, growing increasingly anxious the longer Donna was silent.
"Yes grandad, I'm fine." Donna played with her spoon, searching for the right words. She realized that she could beat around the bush all day, and that it would be best to just spit it out. So she did.
"I remember him, the Doctor," she said, looking up at them. "I remember everything."
Sylvia gasped and Wilfred leapt up, not sure of what to do but knowing he had to do something. Donna was going to burn up, wasn't she?
"But the Doctor," Sylvia said his name in a whisper, "he said you would… burn if you remembered him."
"I know… Grandad, sit down, I'm not burning up, see?" She took his hand and pressed it to her forehead, smiling.
"How is this possible?" Sylvia wondered aloud, frowning when Donna simply shrugged. Surely there had to bean explanation.
"I don't know, mum," Donna said quietly. "But it happened, and I'm so thankful."
Sylvia stood and walked around the table, hugging Donna when she reached her. She knew how important the Doctor was to her.
"How could he do that to you?" Wilfred demanded, suddenly very upset. "How could he steal all of that from you if you would have been okay?"
Donna pulled out of her mother's embrace, regarding her grandfather gently.
"He didn't know, Grandad. I know he didn't, because I've got his memories. I know he told you what he knew, and he was certain that I would have died. And I might have, then. It's been two years. Maybe something's changed. But I trust that man with everything, and I know he wouldn't do something like that unless he had a reason."
Wilfred sat down, knowing of course that Donna was right, but still upset nonetheless.
"You've got to find him again, sweetheart," he said, taking Donna's hand. "You've got to find him and set everything right."
"I'll try, Gramps. I really will. But it's going to be a lot harder than last time, I'm sure."
Later that night, when Donna was washing dishes, a feeling of dread began to creep up on her. It started at the base of her spine, rising to settle over her scalp. She nearly dropped the plate in her hands the feeling was so intense. Turning the tap off, she swallowed hard and found a chair, almost unable to stand. She ran a hand through her hair and breathed deep, but it wasn't helping.
Calm down, she told herself, wondering what could possibly be bothering her this much. She thought about the current happenings in her life, and when she couldn't find a culprit, she frowned. And then she heard it.
She gasped, frightened and unsettled. But she knew one thing for sure; the voice she had heard was the Doctor's. She'd know it anywhere. And then it clicked. She and the Doctor were connected, telepathically. So much so that his feelings were projected onto her, and vice versa (so she assumed). This required further investigation and testing. Maybe she could communicate with him, let him know that she was alright. She stood and walked into her bedroom, closing the door behind her.
It was still there, Donna could feel it. The link between her and the Doctor was getting stronger, perhaps because she now knew about it. She sat in silent concentration, determined to make a connection. She had never done this, not even before the Doctor had wiped her memory. No, there had been no time for it then. But today, the woman she used to be had awoken, and she had set out once more to find her Doctor. So now she sat in silence -in the dark, even- willing her mind to find his. She was getting closer. She could feel him, feel what he was feeling, and it was enough to make her sick.
The grief, the waves of guilt she felt pouring out of him were almost unbearable. And then Donna realized that he was grieving her, the loss of her, and the hole she had left in him. Donna sent him waves of comfort in efforts to alleviate some of his pain. She tried to call out to him with her mind, but if he had heard her, she did not know.
There was a sudden spark of something -something that Donna very much wanted to call hope- from the Doctor before the connection was abruptly severed, and Donna felt herself detached from him.
She rested her head in her hands, eyes still shut tight, trying to rid herself of the sorrow she had felt from the Doctor.
Donna was discouraged, but reminded herself that she had in fact made the connection -even if it was only for a few moments- and perhaps it had been enough to let the Doctor know that she was there, she was safe, and she remembered him. She sighed, ran a hand through her hair and stood, flicking on the lights. She would try again in a little while, but right now she was exhausted, and had a killer headache.
The rest of the evening went by as usual; call Mum and Gramps, eat supper, read. She was so bored, and so lonely. She wished she had tried harder to talk to the Doctor. She needed him.
Well, it wasn't so much that Donna needed him, because she was perfectly capable of living life on her own. But she wanted him, and craved his company.
The TARDIS was silent except for the gentle thrum of the engines. The Doctor sat unmoving in the jump seat. He had not been to any distant planets, or helped mend a rift between feuding civilizations since he had had to leave Donna with her family (which admittedly, had not been long for him). He hadn't even left the TARDIS. No, he couldn't seem to shake his grief. Not this time.
There was strange sort of twinge at the back of his mind and he tried to ignore it, but when a sense of calm seemed to wash over him, he realized that something out of his control was going on.
He jumped up, certain he had heard his name called. But that was impossible. He was all alone. Though he had heard it clear as day, and it had sounded so much like…
No. He was imagining things.
And then he heard it again, even clearer. He stood still, waiting to hear it again.
He was now certain that it was Donna's voice. But how?
And then her voice was gone, taking with it the calm that had been blanketed over him. He ran to the controls eagerly, but then realized how careful he had to be. If he approached Donna before she remembered him herself, the consequences could be catastrophic. He needed to know when it was that Donna had reached him. He took his hands off of the console, but then the TARDIS lurched violently, knocking the Doctor off his feet. He was tossed around on the floor, trying to find his footing until the TARDIS was still once again. He dusted off his trousers and took a calming breath before pulling open the door.
It was dark and chilly, he could see his breath in silver puffs at his lips. It was a moment before he realized where he was. He climbed the hill slowly, taking in the familiar scents of the place.
The voice was aged, raspy, full of a tenderness that went straight to the Doctor's hearts.
"Wilfred Mott!" The Doctor grinned, extending his hand to the older man. But when Wilfred didn't reciprocate, he retracted his hand to rub his neck.
"Donna told me you were coming for her," said Wilfred. "Well, she was hoping."
"I sort of… heard from her." The Doctor ducked his head and shifted uncomfortably. "How has she been?" he asked, peeking at Wilfred from under his hair.
"Better now… Before she, uh, remembered you, she wasn't all there. She was frustrated, I think. It was like she was trying to remember something, but it would just slip away."
The Doctor's hearts sank, and he was flooded with guilt.
"But Sylvia… She and Donna have started patching things up."
"She's living on her own now. Got a flat a few streets over that way," Wilfred continued, pointing behind him.
The Doctor nodded and shoved his hands into his pockets. "How are you, Wilfred?" he asked, and Wilfred shrugged.
"Oh, stop it," the Doctor huffed, not wanting to think of the man he so admired getting older.
"Can't be helped, Doctor," said Wilfred, chuckling.
"I suppose not." The Doctor's eyes fell on the telescope aimed at the night sky, and Wilfred followed his gaze.
"I said I'd keep a look out for you," Wilfred said simply. He smiled, but it faded as he tried to pluck up the courage to ask his most burning question.
"Are you going to see her tonight, Doctor? She's here, inside with Sylvia."
The Doctor stiffened. He could feel Donna was near, and it was making his stomach churn with anxiety. He hadn't prepared for this! There was so much to say, and so much to ask. He ran his hands through his hair, trying to come up with a plan, but the only one that seemed to please him was to run away, back into the safety of the TARDIS. Donna was getting closer to them, and the Doctor could feel her excitement. There was movement at the bottom of the hill and the Doctor panicked, recognizing the figure at once. He turned to Wilfred.
"I have to go."
"I'll see her in the morning, I promise. But I'm not ready. I'm not…"
There was a rustling of leaves and a flash of ginger hair, and the Doctor slipped down the hill, stopping only once he was sure he was out of sight. He crouched in the tall grass, catching his breath and trying to listen to them speak. He missed what Wilfred said to Donna but he heard her reply, and it was enough to stop him racing back up the hill and apologizing profusely.
"…It's okay, Gramps, I know he'll be back."
That was all the Doctor needed to hear. He descended the hill carefully and let himself into the TARDIS. Once inside, he found his bedroom, suddenly delighted at the idea of sleep. He stripped down to his boxers and crawled beneath the covers, but sleep just would not come. He became anxious, his muscles beginning to twitch and his breathing becoming shallow. But that feeling was soon replaced with one of contentment. Donna's doing, he realized. He found it interesting how they were unable to communicate (telepathically) with words, yet they were able to sense what the other was feeling, and project a feeling to replace it. He sent her feelings of gratitude, and fell asleep. Alone, but very far from lonely.
The Doctor woke several hours later and checked the time, disappointed to see that it was much too early to drop in on someone. He felt for Donna through their connection, and was pleased to find that she was at peace. He rubbed his eyes and got out of bed, shuffling towards the bathroom. Darting around various tools, bits and pieces of TARDIS, and discarded clothing, he made a mental note to clean up as soon as possible.
His shower took only minutes, and soon he found himself in the kitchen searching for something to eat. As he pawed around in the refrigerator for a jar of blueberry jam he was certain was still good, he thought of Donna, and how scared he was to see her again. He knew that she was not upset with him, at least not that he could sense, but still, he worried. She could want nothing to do with him anymore, or absolutely hate him for what he had done. He wouldn't blame her if he did.
Ohh, snap out of it! he chastised himself. You're getting yourself all worked up.
He finally found the jam and spread some over toast, but upon the first bite, discovered that it had in fact gone bad. He spit out, his appetite gone. Sighing, he checked the time again. Eight o'clock. Still a bit early… and he *was* going to be asking Donna to forgive him for many things. Waking her up should not be one of them. But he quickly talked himself into it, was out of the TARDIS in seconds.
Once outside, the Doctor realized that he had no idea where Donna lived. He had not had time to ask Wilfred the night before. He jogged back into the control room and stroked his hand over the console.
"It's up to you, Old Girl," the Doctor murmured. "Take me to Donna, eh?"
The engines whirred and the Doctor silently hoped that they would not be making a jump in time as well. He watched the monitors carefully, letting out a sigh of relief when they landed and date on the screen still read the same. He took a few moments to prepare himself and then he opened the door, feeling his jaw drop slightly at the sight in front of him.
He was in the backyard of a small house, but that did not matter. What mattered was the woman standing in the back doorway, a shy smile playing on her lips.
"It's you," Donna whispered, covering her mouth with her hand.
"It's me." The Doctor strode across the yard in quick strides, stopping when he was just feet away from her, unsure of what to do next.
"I've missed your hugs," Donna prompted, and in one swift movement the Doctor crossed the last few feet between them and pulled her into a tight embrace. Donna wrapped her arms around his waist, and suddenly she was overcome with emotion. She pressed her face into his neck and the Doctor could feel hot tears on his flesh, his own tears threatening to spill.
Donna pulled away from him almost reluctantly, wiping her eyes.
The Doctor smiled and brushed away the last trace of wetness from Donna's cheek.
"I've missed you," the Doctor said, a teary grin plastered on his face. Donna smiled too, even wider when her palm hit his cheek with a good slap.
"I deserve so many more of those," he said, not even raising a hand to soothe the angry welt that was beginning to appear.
"Nah, I think one's enough, at least for right now," Donna said, walking into the kitchen, pursing her lips in amusement when she saw the Doctor's reluctance to enter her house.
"You can come in if you like, you know. No use standing out there when we've got things to talk about."
"Such as?" the Doctor inquired, knowing full well what he wanted to talk about, but wanting to let Donna's concerns come first, and she jumped right in.
"I remember it so clearly… all of it. Everything you took away, it's all there again. I went to bed one night completely clueless of any of it, and the next morning, bam." She sat down and gestured for the Doctor to do the same.
As he sat he explained, "Well, I never actually took your memories away, just sort of put a wall around them. It should have been impenetrable, but in your sleep, little flickers must have been able to bleed through."
Donna thought back to that morning.
"In the dream I was having, I was holding your hand and we were running to the TARDIS. I felt hot, and then hotter, until it felt like I was on fire, and then I was awake, and I could remember." The Doctor cupped his chin in his hand, deep in thought. Donna said she had felt like she was on fire. Surely there had to be a reason for it. The only time he ever felt something similar was when…
"Donna, that's it! The Time Lord consciousness in your head was being pushed further and further to the surface, and in your dreaming state you were able to bring those hidden memories to the front of your mind. You began to burn up but the Time Lord instinct kicked in!"
The Doctor pulled the stethoscope he always carried from his jacket pocket and gestured towards Donna's chest.
"May I?" Donna nodded her consent, and he placed the cool metal end over the left side of Donna's chest.
Thump, thump, thump.
His eyes met hers with such intensity as he lifted the stethoscope and placed it over the right side of her chest.
Thump, thump, thump.
"Ha!" he exclaimed, an enormous grin spreading over his face. "Haha!" He kissed her forehead, holding his lips to her skin a little longer than maybe he should have. "Oh, Donna, my brilliantDonna Noble… "
"Doctor? What is it?" She knew it couldn't have been anything bad, but he was unnerving her! She wanted to know what he was so happy about.
"Donna, you've regenerated."
She stared blankly at him, the information having yet to set in. The Doctor took her hand and held it tightly between the both his.
"But… how could I have? Regenerated? No, it's… I still look like myself." She had so many questions, but voiced none. She looked to the Doctor to explain further.
"Well, there was nothing physically wrong with you, except for the fact that your brain and your organs were, for lack of a better description, unsuitable for a Time Lord. That big brain trapped inside of a tiny human body… No room for everything! So the inside of you changed to accommodate your mind. The outside of you didn't change because it didn't need to."
"So I'm an alien?"
The Doctor smiled. "Yes, Donna."
"Blimey." Her voice was just a whisper. "I don't feel like an alien… Does this mean that when it's time for me to die, I'll turn into someone else?"
The Doctor's smile faltered. "I don't know," he said quietly. "Try not to think about that, eh? You'll cross that bridge when you get to it."
"There's something else, Doctor. I'll be right back." Donna got up from her chair and disappeared into her bedroom. The Doctor leaned back in his chair, another smile creeping over his face. Donna remembered! And more than that, she was like him now. He scratched his chin. How much she was like him he could not say. He didn't want to tell her that there was every possibility that when she died, she would die for good, with no regeneration. The thought sickened him, but he quickly distracted himself with a happy thought, not wanting Donna to feel his fear. Another thing was that she had all of his memories up to the meta-crisis running through her head, which meant she knew every tiny detail about him. He had never been so close to another companion before, though Donna was more than just a companion.
In a few moments Donna returned, carrying a stack of paper.
"I used to wake up some nights with these pictures in my head. Well, not pictures really, more like symbols." She slapped a piece of paper marked with intricate circles and lines on the table in front the Doctor.
"I didn't know what they meant. I'd never seen anything like them before." She shuffled the papers away from him and replaced them with three new ones.
"These three kept cropping up. I tried so hard to figure them out, but now I know."
She pointed to the first sheet of paper and read the word aloud.
She pointed to the second sheet.
And finally, her fingers brushed over the third scrap of paper.
"I can't say this one, can I?"
The Doctor turned his gaze from the papers in front of him to Donna, looking quite bewildered.
"If it's in your head, it's in mine," she reminded him, tapping her temple with her index finger.
Of course. He had known that. He picked up the the slip of paper that she had resisted reading aloud.
"You know what this is then?"
Donna began gathering the scraps of paper, pressing her , as if she were putting off answering him. The word water stared up at her when they were once again in a neat stack.
"That's your name."
"Yes, yes it is."
The Doctor was silent for a few moments before clapping his hands together loudly, bouncing out of his chair.
"I don't suppose you'd like to come with me again," he began, taking a few steps toward the front door, looking back at her with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "There will be plenty more time to talk in the TARDIS."
Excitement pooled in Donna's belly and she ran the few feet between them, throwing her arms around the Doctor's neck. How badly she had wanted to be with him again, even when she couldn't quite remember him. There had been a nagging emptiness inside of her where he was supposed to be. She tried now to remember what that emptiness had felt like, but she couldn't. She felt whole again.
When Donna pulled away from him, the Doctor could see there were tears in her eyes, and he felt his hearts twinge for her. She deserved to be angry, to shout at him for what he had put her through. But here she was, crying happily simply because he had returned for her. He didn't think it was fair, having that much of an influence over her emotions. It wasn't right. But then again, she had just as firm a hold over his own happiness. He felt complete once again, her presence quickly filling in the empty spaces inside of him. Oh, what he would have missed if he hadn't come back.
"I was afraid of that, you know," Donna sniffled, regaining her composure. "That you wouldn't come back for me. I mean, you heard me, and you came, but I couldn't hear you, not then." She smiled. "But I can now."
The Doctor narrowed his eyes.
"Mm, it seems our close proximity restored the psychic connection between-"
"Oi, never mind the reason." She paused, searching his eyes for the loneliness she had seen in them many times before.
"You haven't got anyone with you, have you." It was a statement, not a question.
"No, I haven't." He paused. "There hasn't been anyone since you."
Donna whacked him in the stomach.
"Ow! What was that for?" he demanded, bringing a hand to his abdomen.
"I told you to find someone!" Oh, she was angry. How dare he disobey her? "Someone who would keep you from making stupid decisions, and…" She reached out and placed her hand over where she had hit him. "Someone to keep you safe." The Doctor put his hand over hers.
"But look at me!" He exclaimed. "Safe and sound, fit as a fiddle." He smiled, but it faltered when he saw -and felt- how concerned she still was. "Donna, I'm fine."
"This time!" She softened. "You need to promise me right now, before we set foot into that TARDIS, that if something happens to me, and I don't… and I can't come back, that you'll find somebody else."
"I promise," he said firmly, squeezing her hand.
Donna nodded somewhat awkwardly, slightly embarrassed for becoming so emotional. But it needed to be said. If there was one thing she couldn't bear the thought of, it was her Spaceman being all on his own.
"So…" Then Doctor drew out the O sound. "Shall we get going? Do you want to pack some things? Or are you already packed?" he asked with a cock of his eyebrow, remembering his second encounter with her.
"It doesn't matter," Donna said, heading towards the door. "We can come back."
She ran outside, stopping a few inches from the TARDIS.
"Hello, Old Girl," she murmured, running her fingers along the blue paneling of the door. She pushed it open, and sighed contently. The control room looked exactly as it had the last time she had been in it. She ran to the console, running her hands over everything.
"She's missed you too, you know," the Doctor said, leaning on one of the coral beams.
Donna looked around and felt at peace.
She was home.