Important!: The first story in this series is Solutions and Sacrifices. Please read that first!
They were lying in bed. They both still had their clothes on. They hadn't made love. They were both too physically and emotionally exhausted. Plus, the Doctor was still feeling guilty and Rose was still a little angry.
They were lying side by side on his bed facing each other. Rose was fighting sleep to talk to him a little longer. "I don't want you to be alone," she said. "Not ever."
"I'm sorry," said the Doctor. "What I did, I did out of love. Cowardice as well, I suppose, but mostly love."
"Why are you so afraid of happiness?" asked Rose.
"It's not the happiness itself I'm afraid of, it's the losing it." He gazed at her with eyes full of love and sorrow. "Everything I have gets taken away. I've learned not to let myself get too attached. I couldn't help myself with you though. The love just welled up inside of me from the day we met and by the time I realized what was happening it was too late to fight it. Maybe I wouldn't have been able to fight it no matter what. I knew I couldn't spend the rest of my life with you, no matter how much I wanted to. I thought I'd take what I could get and spend the rest of yours with you. But then Canary Wharf happened and I had to learn to live without you. I think I loved you even more when I lost you." He lay his hand tenderly on her face. "It hurt so much, but I couldn't let it go. You kept my hearts beating. Then all this happened and there was a version of me who really could spend the rest of his life with you. I wanted to give you that."
"Have I ruined everything by coming back?" She was worried she'd made his sacrifice insignificant. That he'd rather she be over there with the other Doctor.
"No! Of course not," he reassured her.
"I'm sorry you'll have to watch me grow old," she said regretfully. "I know it'll hurt you. I never wanted to do that."
He took her hand in both of his and brought it up between them. "I love you enough to do that. It will hurt, yes, but it is better, I think, than living without you. Better than wasting the memories we could make. And it is nice to know that there is a version of us living the day-to-day life and growing old together. Even if we can't."
Rose smiled. "We can be happy for a long time. Even if I can't give you your version of forever. I'll take care of myself better. I won't be so reckless anymore. I'll eat better, stay healthy. I want to make my forever longer for you."
The Doctor was touched. "And with our access to future medicine and the TARDIS's immune boost, you could live to 160 or older without your body breaking down."
"No nappies or Alzheimer's?" she joked.
"No, none of that," he chuckled a bit.
"I'm so glad I'm home." She snuggled into his chest and tucked her head under his chin.
He kissed the top of her head. "Me too."
And with that, Rose let sleep take her.
The next morning Rose went to her old room to get some clothes. Everything was just as she'd left it. It felt strange and wonderful to be in here again. She sat down on her old bed. Nothing was even dusty. She supposed the TARDIS didn't get dust. Her old purple shirt was on the bed. She tried to remember the last time she wore it. She remembered folding clothes in the console room to take to her mum's for the washing up. She thought she had left it there. She held it up to look at it, see if she could wear it today. There was a thin film of something on it and it was a bit stiff. She realized her pillow was the same way.
"All right in here?" the Doctor stood in the doorway.
"Doctor, what's this?"
"It's you're shirt," he said.
She rolled her eyes. "No, I mean there's stuff on it. My pillow too."
His eyes widened. "Oh..."
"What is it?"
"That's...tears." If it was possible to look sad and embarrassed at the same time, he did. "And...maybe a bit of snot...well, a lot."
She looked at him with wide eyes. He cried in here? How many time times?
"I'm sorry," he said quickly, grabbing the shirt from her hands . "I forgot about that. Let me get that cleaned for you." He quickly began taking her pillowcase off, but she stopped him and grabbed his face in her hands, kissing him.
He kissed her back, first gently and then more fiercely. Oh, he had missed her so much. Her lips were so soft and she smelled so good. Even after running around and spending the night in the same clothes, she smelled amazing! Perhaps a human would not have thought so, but she smelled so very Rose, even in the sweat and the dirt and the ash. One hand tangled in her hair while the other wrapped around her back clutching her to him. And then the phone rang.
He could hear it in the console room. Ring Ring, Stop enjoying yourself, Ring Ring, You have work to do. That phone never rang unless the world was ending. But why now? He wasn't ready! Ring Ring! Fine.
The kiss stopped. "I should get that," he said. He didn't move.
"Yeah," Rose answered.
He steeled himself and gave her one quick kiss before dashing off to get the phone. There would be time for that later, he convinced himself.
"Hello?" he answered, falsely polite.
"Doctor, it's Martha. I just ran into Donna at the shop and she acted like she didn't know who I was."
The Doctor stilled. "...Oh."
"What's going on?" she sounded angry. She must have been able to tell from his tone that he'd known about this.
"Did you mention my name?" he asked quickly.
He sighed. "Good."
"Doctor, What's happened?"
"It was the metacrisis," he answered sadly. "It was killing her. I had to take it all away, all her memories of me."
"It was the only way. A human mind can't handle the consciousness of a Time Lord. I had no choice."
"But all of her memories of you?" she asked sadly. "You worked together so well. She really cared for you."
"I know. I cared for her too. I cared a lot. She was brilliant. Like a sister to me. But my consciousness was ingrained so deep in her mind that the only way to put it back together again was to take it all away."
"You couldn't have kept her on board afterwards?"
"She can't remember me." he choked on the words as he said them. "Besides," he sucked it up, changing tact. "When she first met me she didn't like me all that much," He smiled, remembering her screeching at him in her wedding dress.
"That doesn't seem right. You shouldn't have to lose someone else like that."
"She's safer this way anyway."
"Oh, there it is!"
"That whole, 'I'm too dangerous. I'm better off alone.' thing."
"I'm not alone! I've got Rose." He didn't feel right defending himself since the only reason he did have Rose was that she fought to get back to him. He had pushed her away. He had made himself alone.
"I still don't think it's right, but I guess I can't make you do anything," she conceded. "I just called to see what was happening. I'll let you get back to Rose now." There was a pause. "Bye, Doctor."
"Goodbye, Martha." He hung up the phone and stared at it. He really would miss Donna. He loved her. Not romantically of course, but she'd helped him in so many ways and they'd grown so close. He remembered how she'd begged him not to take it away. But he'd done what he had to.
"That's what happened to Donna?"
He turned around. Rose must have followed him to the console room.
"I thought she was just visiting her family or something," said Rose.
"She was dying. I had to do it." He didn't know why he was defending himself. She wasn't accusing him.
"There was really no other way?"
"No. There was no time. This was quickest."
Rose looked mournful. "I really liked Donna."
He hugged Rose. "Me too."
Donna woke with a start. She'd had another dream with that man in it again. She couldn't really remember it. There was fire and she may have been in Rome or Greece or something. She shook her head and went down to breakfast.
Her gramps was already up and poking irritatedly at his grapefruit with his spoon while her mum made the tea. She sat down at the table and leaned over to him.
"What are you really having?"
"Powdered doughnuts," he said conspiratorially. "I'm waiting for your mum to leave so I can get 'em out of their stash."
"What are you two mumbling about over there?" asked Sylvia, coming over with two cups of tea.
"Can I have some more sugar for this?" asked Wilf, changing the subject.
"No," Sylvia answered sternly. "No more sugar. You put enough in your tea as it is."
Sylvia took her tea and went into the sitting room. Wilf got up to check that she wasn't coming back and went to the cabinet above the fridge to dig out his doughnuts.
"Who was that man who was here the other day?"
"What man?" asked Wilf warily.
"The skinny one in the suit. Smith or something."
Wilf froze. "Um...He was my doctor."
"What? What's wrong?" Donna asked concerned.
"Oh, uh, he's just my podiatrist," he said quickly. "It's those bunions again."
"Oh," Donna was relieved. She worried about her granddad. He was old and she loved him so much. "Blimey, I didn't know they made house calls anymore."
"Mm," Wilf grunted distractedly. He wanted Donna safe and he trusted what the Doctor said, but he was torn. She was so much happier, so much more confident with him. "Why do you ask?" he said before thinking.
"I keep having dreams about him."
Wilf looked at Donna. She was looking down at her hands on the table, lost in thought. Beautiful memories she couldn't find. Shouldn't find. "He's just my Doctor, Donna."
"What did you just say?"
"He's just my podiatrist. Leave it alone."
Donna was taken aback. That was an unusually stern tone for her grandfather. Still, she supposed it was nothing. Just one of those weird things dreams do. Taking things you've seen and using the images.
"I'd better get to work." she said, getting up. "The agency called. I'm starting another job today."
"Good, luck dear," said her granddad as she walked out the door.
God, this job stunk! Everyone there was so dreadfully boring! Donna was on her lunch break, but she only really had time for a smoothie. Wasn't it illegal to make lunch breaks this short?
She walked back toward the office. Why did it have to be in Cardiff of all places? They'd paid for her transport and put her up in a hotel. Very swanky business, yes, but the people were so stuffy and most wouldn't even talk to her. Walking past The Millennium Center, she heard someone call her name.
"Donna! Hey, how you doing?"
She turned around. It was a man in a navy blue greatcoat. A very handsome man. "Well, hello," she said.
"Hey, I saw you walking by. Thought I'd say hi." He was American.
"Sorry, do I know you?"
He looked confused. "Donna, it's me."
"I'm no good with faces," she said awkwardly. She was pretty sure she didn't know him though. So how did he know her name? "You know, you're the second person this week to do this to me. Is this some sort of prank?"
"It's me, Jack. What's wrong with you?" he reached for her shoulder, but she stepped back.
"Oi! Don't get all handsy, mister! You may be cute, but I don't know you!"
He looked worried now. "Donna, It's Jack! Jack Harkness? We saved the world together, like, a week ago! I'm an old friend of the Doctor's!"
Donna froze. Memories fell unbidden into her mind. His smiling face, his broken eyes as he said "Her name was Rose", pride in his eyes, planets and wonders, running, friendship, and far too boney hugs.
She dropped her smoothie and clutched at her head. It was killing her, burning behind her eyes.
"Donna!" She distantly heard Jack call out in concern. Her knees gave way, but he caught her before she hit the ground.
Pain, so much pain!
Jack picked Donna up. He hit the button on his com. "Ianto! Tell Gwen to call the Doctor and get out here quick!"
"The Doctor?", came Ianto's voice over the head set.
"Yes, THE Doctor! Hurry!"
"So, do you want to start traveling again right away or do you want to rest up for a little while?" the Doctor asked Rose as she poured the tea and came over to the kitchen table where he sat.
Rose contemplated the question for a moment. "I dunno. We've both been through a lot. Maybe a few days rest would do us good." She mixed the sugar into her tea and then looked at him through her eyelashes with that mischievous smile he loved so much. "I am itchin' to get out there again though."
He grinned. Her eyes were filled with that old excitement. That spark behind her eyes that flared when he told her of someplace he wanted to take her. He longed to see the look on her face when she stepped out onto alien ground again. She was right, though. They'd both been through so much. They were different people now. They were still the Doctor and Rose though, and that was all that really mattered. And a few days alone in the TARDIS with Rose definitely didn't sound like a bad thing. He reached across the table and took her hand. "I think it wouldn't hurt to take a few days to get reacquainted."
The tone may or may not have been suggestive, but it still sent shivers down Rose's spine. Not to mention the many different ideas that came to mind of ways they could get...reacquainted. She squeezed his hand and gave him a sultry smile. "Why not start now?"
Oh that tone was promising, thought the Doctor and he leaned over the table to give her a kiss. And as she leaned in to meet him...the phone rang.
The Doctor's head fell to the table in a gesture of exasperation. He groaned and stood up to get it. "I swear to the stars, it had better be the end of existence as we know it! And I still might not come!"
Rose laughed and got up to follow him.
He picked up Martha's old cell phone. "What is it?" he asked, not a little irritated.
"Doctor," said a woman in a Welsh accent, "This is Gwen Cooper. I'm with Torchwood. Your companion is in trouble."
The Doctor paused. "Which one?"
He heard her call out away from the phone. "Jack! What's her name?"
Distantly, he heard Jack answer. "Donna Noble!"
Gwen Cooper was repeating the name back to him, but he couldn't hear her over the sound of the blood rushing in his ears. Donna? How? 'How'? Of course Jack must have run into her and mentioned him! The same thing had almost happened with Martha. For a genius, he really was exceedingly stupid, wasn't he? To think that her family would be the only ones who might bring him up; to only warn them. He collected himself quickly. "I'll be right there!"
"Doctor?" Rose noticed his urgency.
"It's Donna," he answered before she asked.
He set coordinates to the source of the call as fast as he could.
Please let me get there in time...
The Whirring of the TARDIS filled the hub. Everyone looked round.
"Gwen, watch Donna!" Jack ordered as he ran to where the ship was materializing.
The Doctor and Rose rushed out. "Where is she?" asked the Doctor.
"In the med lab," he said, running with them as they headed there.
"Did you give her anything?" asked Rose.
"A sedative, but it doesn't seem to be working."
"Of course not," the Doctor said as he descended the stairs to the med lab where Donna lay on the table whimpering, her throat horse from screaming. "A little downer won't work against a Time Lord consciousness."
"That's what's killing her?" Jack was stunned. He had thought that the transfer was a good thing.
"Yes," the Doctor responded as he bent over Donna and wiped the tears from her face. "And it's my fault. I should have warned you."
"Doctor?" Donna whispered, barely able to focus on him.
"It's going to be okay, Donna. I'm gonna fix this." She didn't have long. Ten minutes at most. He had no idea what to do.
Rose came down and took Donna's hand, looking at the Doctor with concern.
"How did you save her before?" asked Jack.
"I sealed away her memories. They're spilling out now."
"Can you do it again?" asked Rose.
"No. The door is broken. You can't seal memories off more than once without doing serious mental damage."
"What about transferring it?" Rose suggested.
The Doctor shook his head. "No good. It would kill any human, everything Time Lord rejects what Jack is so it won't go into him, and it can't go back into me because it's like positive ions approaching more positive ions. They'd repel."
"Isn't there anything we can do?" asked Gwen.
"You can convert positive ions into negative ions," said Ianto. "Can you do something similar here?"
The Doctor looked up. That would only hold for a few seconds. But it was long enough to transfer it into him. "Yes! Jack, do you have any psychic devices here?"
"We have a psychic projection machine and a memory mining device."
"That explodes heads," added Ianto.
"It worked on Beth!" said Gwen.
"She was a Sleeper! You don't know what it will do to her!"
"No time!" shouted the Doctor. "I'll figure it out as I go." He ran up the stairs followed by Jack, who showed him to the machines.
The Doctor worked at lightening speed, jiggering together pieces of the machines, computer circuits, and several things from around the hub (some of which were as simple as a paper clip or a pen). Finally, he put the gem from the mind reading pendant in the archives into the circuits of his creation. It took him eight minutes and 2.5 seconds, but he managed to hobble the machines together into something altogether new.
The chairs from the two machines sat back to back and the headsets that hung over them had new wires connected to them. All the wires led to a shoddily put together mainframe which in turn was connected to Tosh's old computer since the Doctor had said it was, by far, the most technologically advanced.
"Jack, get Donna and put her in that chair!" The Doctor indicated the chair from the projection machine. It was padded and reclined, so it was better for someone in her condition, as opposed to the upright metal chair from the memory machine.
The Doctor calibrated the systems as Jack got Donna situated. They had about a minute to pull this off. Donna was sweating and convulsing as Jack strapped her into the chair. Her eyes were rolling back in her head. The Doctor just prayed her brain would be alright when this was finished. He turned to Rose, who was at the computer with Gwen. "Alright, when I give the signal, hit 'enter'."
Rose nodded. "Good Luck."
The Doctor positioned the headset on Donna, then sat in the chair opposite her and did the same to himself. "Now!"
Rose hit the key and the machines powered up. Gwen monitored their vitals on the screen. The Doctor and Donna began to scream. Both their eyes shot open, glowing with a deep gold energy. Donna's pulsed and became light blue before her whole body glowed and the energy seemed to separate from her entirely. It traveled over the wires between the chairs and entered the Doctor's body, collecting at his head and concentrating in his eyes before turning gold again and then fading. Both bodies went limp, the computers sparked and all the power went out for a moment. Everything powered back up in less than a second except for the equipment from the Doctor's machine.
The Doctor's head shot up. He took his headset off and ran around to Donna. "Donna?!" He bent over her and put his hands on her face. "Donna?" She didn't respond. "Donna? Donna, please." She was still limp. She had a pulse, but she wasn't responding. "What do her vitals say?!"
"Everything's fried," Gwen responded. "I don't know."
The Doctor looked at Donna's face in his hands. Nothing. Comatose. She was brain-dead. His consciousness had been ravaging her mind for too long. She'd lived, but she lost everything she was. She was a vegetable. Tears welled in the Doctor's eyes. She had been brilliant. She had been his best friend. She had been family. "Oh, Donna...I'm so so sorry." He leaned over, closed his eyes, and gave her forehead a chaste and tender kiss.
"Get your lips off me, Twig Boy," she mumbled.
His eyes shot open. "Donna?!" He look at her face. Weakly, she gave him a teasing smile. "HA!" He picked her up and hugged her tight.
"Put me down!" she feigned annoyance, but she was laughing.
He put her down and, immediately, Rose came over and hugged her. "We thought we'd lost you," she said.
"I'm fine," Donna assured her, though she was still a little wobbly when she stood back. "But what are you doing here? I thought this git pulled a runner."
"You agreed with me!" the Doctor argued.
"That was when my mind was too clouded by your self-loathing martyrdom to see sense."
Rose smiled "I came back," she said in answer to her previous question.
"And I can't tell you how glad I am that she did," said the Doctor, changing tact and putting his arm around Rose, kissing her on the cheek.
Donna smiled. "You don't have to. I may not have you in my head anymore, but I remember what it was like." She pointed at him knowingly. "I know exactly how much you love her. I only hope I find someone to love me that much someday. Someone attractive, I mean."
"Oi!" the Doctor objected. "I'm very attractive!" He turned to Rose and, in a lower, less assured, tone asked, "Aren't I?"
Rose smiled. "You're very sexy," she said, patting him on the arm. He grinned. Apparently, that was all the reassurance he needed.
"Where's the other one, though?" asked Jack.
"He's still in the other universe," answered Rose. "With a clone of me."
"Oh." Jack looked mildly disappointed and the Doctor knew what he was thinking.
"It wasn't gonna happen, Jack," he said.
"Yeah, but it still could've fueled my fantasies," he adopted a pout, then brightened. "On the plus side, though; We've added another Rose to the mix." He winked at Rose and she giggled in response. The Doctor Rolled his eyes.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," said Ianto with a wry smile. "But would you like anything," he asked Donna, who was still looking fairly winded.
"Some water, please. I'm so thirsty."
"That machine will have dehydrated you," said the Doctor.
"Actually, I could do with some food too," said Donna. "I'm bloody starving! Haven't eaten since breakfast."
"I'm a bit peckish myself, come to think of it," the Doctor said.
"Yeah, but you're a bottomless pit," joked Rose.
"Honestly, I don't know were he puts it!" Donna agreed.
"Pizza or Chinese?" asked Ianto, holding up two menus.
"You get food delivered to your secret organization?" asked the Doctor.
Jack just shrugged.
"...and Jack's pointing the gun at her an' we're all cowering in the bedroom. And it really is Rhys's mam!" Gwen finished.
They all laughed. They were all sitting around the table in the the conference room eating Chinese food and telling stories of past adventures. Donna had told the story of how she met the Doctor and that got Gwen talking about her wedding. It was a World's Worst Wedding contest.
"Brenda is an ugly bitch, though. You were right on that," Gwen smiled at Jack as she sipped her drink and he laughed.
"Yeah well, at least you ended up married at the end of the day," said Donna. "My fiance ended up getting killed by the giant spider he was in cahoots with."
"Yeah, it all ended up okay," Gwen conceded.
"At least your family knows what you do now," said Rose.
"No, Jack Retconned all the guests," said Gwen. "They don't remember a thing."
Jack chuckled. "They were all out like lights by the time Ianto and I finished dancing."
"I hope Martha's wedding goes okay," said the Doctor.
"It should," said Ianto. "Jack's not invited."
Jack frowned. "She said she didn't want it to go like Gwen's."
"It's not your fault she got impregnated with alien spawn," said the Doctor.
"That's what I said!" exclaimed Jack. "Are you going?"
"No," said Donna. "He ruins weddings too."
"And it's not my fault your fiance was working with the Racnoss!" the Doctor argued.
"Do you want to go?" Rose asked the Doctor.
"Why, do you?"
"If she invites us," she said. "Might be fun."
"I suppose it might," said the Doctor, smiling.
"Never thought you one for weddings, Doc," Jack said.
"Well, I have a date now," said the Doctor, putting his arm around Rose.
Donna turned to Jack. "You can come as my date and she might let you in."
"I thought you wanted to go with me," said Ianto.
"Yeah, but you said no, remember?" Jack said. "Said you wanted to honor Martha's wishes."
"I was only teasing," Ianto's normally stoic face revealed a slight pout.
"Well, nothing says I can't have two dates," Jack smiled.
The others continued to talk and the Doctor took a mouthful of his chow mein as he listened. Rose stared at him and smiled. He looked like such a dork with his napkin in his collar and half his noodles hanging out of his mouth with his eyes widened in interest. She smiled. "You're adorable," she said.
He looked at her and finished the food in his mouth. "Time Lords are not adorable," he said in false indignation. "handsome, dashing, charming maybe, but not adorable."
"When you're adorable, I want to shag you," she said.
His eyes widened. "Did I ever tell you I'm half puppy?"
She laughed and took his hand under the table.
The Doctor cleared his throat. "Donna, you must be knackered after this whole ordeal," he said. "What do you say we go back to the TARDIS and you can rest up a bit, hm?" His tone was quite insistent.
"Yeah, actually. I could use a kip," she turned to the rest of the table. "You don't mind if we go, do you?"
"No," said Jack. "You need your rest." He leaned over to her. "Besides, I don't think that's really why he wants to leave," he whispered, inclining his head towards Rose.
Donna giggled. "Yeah, I bet."
Donna, Rose, and the Doctor got up and Jack followed to see them out.
"It was so great to see you again," said Rose, hugging Jack when they got to the TARDIS. "I missed you so much."
"I missed you too, sweetheart," said Jack fondly. "You take care of her," he said to the Doctor.
"You know I will." He and Jack hugged. "Goodbye, Jack."
"It better not be," he said. "I expect you to visit."
The Doctor laughed. "Count on it."
"See you, Captain," said Donna. She looked like a girl talking to the cutest boy in school.
"Bye, Donna Noble."
To Donna's chagrin, he merely shook her hand. She huffed and went into the TARDIS. Rose laughed and followed her in. "Bye, Jack"
Jack waved. The Doctor gave Jack a two fingered salute and went in after his companions.
"Call me tomorrow with the details!" Jack called after him.
"Stop it," was the last thing he heard as the door closed. He chuckled as he watched the TARDIS fade away.
Back inside, Donna had already gone to bed. The Doctor turned away from the console to face Rose. He widened his eyes and puckered out his bottom lip.
Rose stared at him. "What are you doing?"
"It's a puppy face!" he said indignantly.
Rose tried not to laugh and failed. "Are you trying to be cute?"
She laughed harder at his offense and went over to him, pulling him down by his tie and kissing him. "Now," she said, taking his hand as she pulled away. "What was that you said about getting reacquainted?" she smiled suggestively.
He smiled, making a low hum in his chest, and followed her towards the bedroom.
The next two stories in this series are Existentialism in a Human Life and Love is Divine