- DONNA WHO? -
A/N: Video prequels, graphics and more info about this five-parter story can be found at either my tumblr (donna-remembers) or my website, mymistrust dot net. There you'll have access to the full list of parts as well as more detailed info.
Donna's Time Lord knowledge is back, but not her memories. She doesn't know what she means to the world or how all that knowledge got inside her brain. All Donna knows is that she wants to use it for a good cause, but this may be far more difficult than she imagines - especially because having her Time Lord consciousness back wasn't a gift of any kind, but a manoeuvre to a greater (and darker) cause.
This is the story of her journey in search of who she is and how she came to be. This is the last story of Donna Noble, the most important woman in the whole of creation.
This is a prequel to these events.
It was the fourth time in a month that she had spotted him.
The man was surely following her around.
At first, Donna Noble didn't give him much thought. The first time she saw him she had just signed the papers of her divorce with Shaun, and her mind had little space for anything else. The man was on the elevator when she got out from her lawyer's office, feeling like the worst and most useless person in the entire universe after signing those papers. Shaun wasn't even there; he didn't want to be... And the worst part was that Donna couldn't blame him. Not after everything she made him go through.
But there he was, the man on the elevator. He cleared his throat and looked up at the elevator's panel as the numbers blinked. He was politely avoiding her gaze, and for that she was glad. Donna knew she looked a mess: her makeup was smeared on her face, her hair was tangled and her clothes were askew. He didn't say anything, he just kept staring at the blinking numbers. When she was about to start crying again, he reached into his pocket and, still without looking at her, offered her a hankie. She took it and muttered a "thanks" under her breath. She was so angry with herself. She hated to be so emotional in public, that was very un-Donna like.
Then, they just got out on the lounge and each went their separate ways. The only thing that struck Donna was that he was very polite - and that he was wearing suspenders, which made him look like a character from a Laurel and Hardy movie.
Donna didn't give him another thought after that dreadful Thursday. God, she hated Thursdays. Especially Thursdays afternoons.
The second time she saw him was a week later. She was standing on queue to get her morning coffee before heading into her office at the Temple-Noble building when she spotted him, sitting at the same café, hiding behind a newspaper. At first she thought he was glancing at her, but dismissed it as being just some inner paranoia. After all, her shrink told her she should take action and control this feeling of dread that crept up on her without warning.
Come to think about it, her shrink had just prescribed Donna some new medication, and she was supposed to start taking it that same morning.
So Donna put that as just another coincidence and tried to survive one more day post-divorce.
The worst part of her day was going to work. There, she'd walk past this huge sign that had his name side by side with hers: The Temple-Noble Agency. The counselling board was unanimous when deciding that, regardless Shaun's departure, it was out of the question to change the agency's name, once they had just been elected one of youngest rising investments in London. Just two years since they set up the temping agency, half of the great London area offices had contracts with them. Donna and Shaun, side by side on this new attempt of Donna's to make something out of her life, build that agency, thanks to the mystery lottery ticket.
Six months ago, exactly when their fall out really began, they had also set up a research lab on Information Sciences, in order to work deeper with cataloguing, data keeping and affiliated interests.
The lab was Shaun's idea, of course. He was a dreamer: half the board didn't think it was a good idea - "let's keep it Personnel only" they said. But he really thought they could go beyond a temping agency, and Donna agreed with him, so the Lab of Research and Development of Information Sciences was created, name given by Donna herself and fondly referred to as the LARDIS Project. She had loved the sound of it. The LARDIS. It sounded very trendy in her mind, though everyone else disagreed with her.
But now he was gone. He sold to Donna and some other board members his shares of the Temple-Noble Agency and left. He couldn't even bear to share this with her. No, he had to go and cut all links between them. He couldn't even look her in the face - instead, he sent that private investigator to stalk her.
Because she was sure that man was stalking her, and there was only one person who would pay for that. And that person was her ex-husband.
She arrived at that conclusion the third time she spotted the Suspenders Bloke. She was heading for her weekly appointment at her shrink, and on the lounge area, while making her way to the elevators, she saw him. Just standing there in a corner, typing away on a strange looking phone.
Throughout that day she had been particularly emotional. Her depression, which was diagnosed two years ago, had taken all of her feelings towards Shaun and their divorce and turned into an ugly-looking monster. Sometimes, she cried for no reason at all. Other times, she cried because of herself. That particular day she had been crying because of that feeling of emptiness inside her, that from time to time would surface again.
It was a different kind of sadness, those times. It was different from disappointment, anger, fear or frustration. The only time she had felt that way before was when her father had died. It was the only thing she could relate that feeling to, and even then it wasn't quite grief. She felt... Grieving, sort of. Only she had no reason to. And yet, she felt like somebody that she loved very much had just died and she just couldn't cope with the loss.
But nothing nor no one was missing in her life. And yet, the feeling was there, for years now.
If she was in her normal state of mind, she would have walked up to Suspenders Bloke and asked bluntly what the hell he thought he was doing, that she'd sue the living soul out of him and his employer and then maybe crack a smart-ass joke at his suspenders.
But those were other times. Right now, feeling like the crappiest human being on the surface of the Earth, she couldn't bring herself to confront him. So she just walked past him and made a mental note to phone her lawyer to get in touch with Shaun and end that silly, yet cruel, joke. She was having none of that.
Obviously, between her session and a quick trip to the pharmacy to get a brand new bottle of drugs, she forgot to call her lawyer.
But two weeks later, when she saw Suspenders Bloke once again, she didn't forget. That day wasn't one of the Miserable Days. That day was one of the Rage Days, and people in the office hated those days the most. In the Rage Days, Donna was like a dog who wouldn't let go of a bone, and pity the person who was holding the other end of said metaphorical bone.
When leaving the Agency to get some lunch at her favourite Chinese place, she saw him across the street, typing on his strange mobile phone. He didn't seem to be looking at her, but she knew better.
She inhaled deeply and with long strides walked up to her stalker.
He was looking down at his phone when she approached. He didn't even know what hit him.
"Oi! Tinker tailor soldier spy! Are you stalking me?!" He looked up at her, and she could see that he was completely taken aback. "Are you working for my husband? Is that it? Shaun set you up for this?! That bloody idiot!" she exclaimed, while Suspenders Bloke backed away from her, visibly mortified that she was talking to him. "How much is he paying you? How much is it, heh? I can pay you double if you leave me the hell alone! Oi! I'm talking to you, Mister!" he stared back at her, and she could tell he was getting ready to run for his life. "And what's wrong with you, anyway? Don't you ever change clothes?! It's easier to spot you that way, you know!"
He mumbled something and then turned away from her, running as fast as he could, mortified, until she lost track of him amidst the rush hour crowd. And that was it. She called her lawyer and hoped that Shaun would let go of that silliness.
That same night she got home with a brand new bottle of anti-depressants specially cooked for her and takeaway for two - she and gramps.
"Gramps! I'm home!" she shouted in the large entrance hall. Living in a big house was her mother's idea, of course, and now without Shaun she felt the place just a bit too big for just her and her Granddad. Maybe they should move out...
"Donna! I'm up here!" shouted him back from upstairs.
"Of course you are" she said to herself, half-smiling. He was on the small amateur observatory that Donna had built specifically for him. Instead of an attic, they had a clear glass dome above them, with three different telescopes and dozens of Astronomy books for Wilf to enjoy himself. She would never forget his face when he first saw the place. He mumble something about how he could always look up to the sky and think...
She climbed the stairs and found him with his smaller telescope at hand - even though he had other two new ones, he liked his old one better.
"I come in peace. I bring food" she said, approaching him. He had his back turned to her, so he just waved his hand to acknowledge that he knew she was there.
"What have you got for us tonight?" asked Wilf in his usual cheery tone, not turning his eyes from the telescope.
"Oh, I hate Italian!"
"No, you don't. You hate one Italian!" replied Donna quickly. She knew he was talking about Sylvia's new boyfriend, Pietro, who had snatched her away a year ago to live with him in Naples, and every month that passed she phoned home less and less. Donna was at the same time thankful that her mother wasn't there to see her marriage crumble to the ground, and sad that she didn't have her mother's lap to cry on. Ever since Donna's depression was diagnosed, her mother had been extremely understanding and less intense with her.
"Same difference. Hand it over" he asked, stretching one arm in her general direction.
She sat down by his side and set the boxes down on the small table between them. "Come on, Gramps. You can't eat your food while stargazing".
"Try me!" he said, laughing, but reclined back on his chair and turned to her. He had his kind smile on, but Donna could read the worry in his eyes. "So how were you today, dear?"
She let out a heavy sigh. "Alright". He raised an eyebrow at her. "Oh, ok, it was dreadful, but it was no different than yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that... Or pretty much any other day for the past six months..."
Those big blue sad eyes stared at her, and Donna couldn't take it any longer, so she looked down and started serving the food in mechanic movements.
"I saw the Suspenders Bloke again today" she said casually, upon his silence.
"You saw who?"
"Suspenders Bloke. I saw him for the first time the day I signed the divorce papers. Then again a week later, at the café and on my psychiatrist's lounge. Today I saw him across the street from the Agency".
"Just following you around?" inquired Wilf curiously, with his dense eyebrows raised, very interested in what she was saying.
"Yeah... And he's always wearing the same clothes, and today I walked up to him and said that I'd pay for him to stop following me... But you know what? He didn't say a word".
Wilf's brow furrowed. "Anything at all?"
"Not a peep. I bet Shaun's paying him to check up on me... And I'm telling you, I'm having none of that, Gramps" she said, but the certainty was faulty in her voice. "I've already phoned Mrs. Scully so she can sort this out with his lawyer".
Wilf scratched his head. "Shaun? How can you be so sure it's Shaun?"
"Who else would it be, Gramps? Who else would stalk me, hiding in a corner, looking at my general direction and not saying a word to me?"
Wilf just gulped down on his food and shrugged. "Maybe..."
"Well... Maybe..." as he opened his mouth to complete the sentence, he changed his mind and added something else entirely: "Maybe it's something like those big American movies. 'Industrial espionage'", and he said the last two words as if they were alien.
"Industrial espionage, Gramps? Industrial espionage?!" she rebuffed, cynical. "What have you been watching while I'm at the office?"
He shrugged once again. "You're the lead woman of a promising temping agency that is taking over London in just two years of existence. Certainly you have some sore losers out there that are really envious of my beautiful girl".
"Oh, don't be so daft, Gramps" she replied, rolling her eyes. "I'm nothing special. I was never the face of the agency. Shaun was the charm, I was just taking care of numbers and figures and bossing people inside the office. You know that".
Sure, she liked the fancy parties and the cocktails as much as Shaun did, and they were always together. But every time it was the moment to climb on a stage and give a speech, she'd grow extremely insecure and leave that to Shaun. She was never able to feel confident enough to expose herself publicly that way.
"Oh, Donna... Don't say that" Wilf said, those big eyes beaming up with pride and sadness. "You're very special. You're... Donna, you're the most important woman in the universe! My little girl. My Donna".
She gave him a weak smile. "Alright, I may be that for you. But not for the agency. The counsel board has bought a fair amount of Shaun's shares of the Agency... I might not be needed very soon".
"That's because you allow them, Donna!" replied Wilf with more gravity in his tone. "You're letting them rule that agency, that place that you built out of nothing, and you worked so hard for it! Why can't you see it? I keep telling you, get a hold of what belongs to you and don't let anyone take that away."
"No, Gramps, don't lecture me today. Not today", she reclined back on her chair and looked down at the floor. She was so tired. "I keep telling you, they don't need me there, they're sorting things out by themselves... Turns out I'm expendable even in my own Agency".
"Why are you doing this, Donna? Why are you giving up?" he asked, worried. "You loved that place. You loved working in that Agency... You can't give it up because of your divorce".
"Can't I, Gramps?" she asked, truthfully and painfully. "Can't I?"
"No..." he said, but he wasn't answering her. He was realising something. "It's not just the divorce, is it?" She looked him in the eye, letting him know. "No... You're tired. You're so tired... You're tired of trying to keep it together. Oh, Donna, don't give up! You're so much more than that! If I could just tell you..."
"Tell me what, Gramps? If you could just tell me what?" she replied, just a little bit harsher than she expected. She felt hurt and hopeless, and yes, she was tired of fighting back the depression and the feeling of lack of purpose she had in her life. She was tired of it. She was so very tired.
"Just... tell you that everything is going to be okay. Because you're so strong, and I believe in you, Donna" he said firmly. "You can do anything you set your mind to. Anything".
Donna shook her head. "Except that one thing, Gramps". She didn't know it was possible, but his sad blue eyes became sadder. "I can't have children, can I?"
"My baby girl..."
"But how is that possible, tell me, Gramps?" she asked again, more firmly, with tears in her eyes. "How's that possible if just a few years ago I made the tests with Lance and everything was perfectly fine with me? How can I, in a matter of years, suddenly become inexplicably barren, Gramps? How's that possible?!" She let the tears wash over her face. Donna was so very tired of holding them back, and that subject always got the best of her.
During their first year of marriage, they were always very eager to get pregnant. Donna actually had a stock of pregnancy tests, and practically every month she thought "that is it". But it never came. So they went to a Doctor. Got tested. And the results came out: everything was absolutely fine. There was nothing biologically wrong with Donna, and yet... She was barren. They couldn't detect the specific cause, but they could tell for sure that she wouldn't be able to conceive. They said that maybe, with some more technological advances in the decades to come, they could explain her situation better.
But Donna didn't have decades. And Shaun had always wanted kids. At least three, he used to say. And that, Donna thinks, is when things started to get really bad for them.
"Don't do this, Donna... Please, don't. You're so much stronger than this..."
"No, Gramps, stop. Why do you always have to do this?" she cleared her throat and wiped away the tears, angrily getting rid of them. "Why do you always say that? I keep telling you, I'm nothing like that! I know I'm not, so stop it..."
"But, Donna, you don't understand..."
"Please" she whispered, firmly. "Just... Stop it". She shook her head, angrily and sadly. "I'm nothing like that. People keep telling me that I should let go, that my life is wonderful, and that there's nothing wrong in being barren, that I can always adopt, right? Well, Shaun didn't like the idea! And that I can survive a divorce and run the agency and be happy and everything is going to be so fine, isn't it Gramps? Isn't it what everybody keeps telling me?" her tone was rising to a high-pitched voice. "Well, I might as well change my name to Pollyanna!", she burst, trying to laugh at her lame joke but failing miserably.
Wilf's big blue eyes just gazed at Donna, very softly and lovingly, but she knew he could do nothing to make her feel better... And the worst part was, he also knew that.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Gramps..." she apologised, embarrassed. "I'm so tired. I think I'll just take my pills and go to bed now... It's not like I'll make anything better by crying like a flipping kid". She shrugged, dismissive of her own outburst.
Wilf didn't reply to that. He knew there was nothing he could to do help his granddaughter. And that just tore his heart in two. "Goodnight, love".
"Goodnight" Donna whispered, very softly, almost painfully.
But she didn't went straight to bed. Instead, she went downstairs, walked through the entrance hall, opened the front door and stepped out of the house to meet the darkened garden, surrounded by thick overgrown hedge the smell of night, grass and city.
Donna inhaled deeply and looked up at the stars.
This always made her feel better.
The deep blue that tinted the sky was her favourite colour in the whole world. Which was strange, because her favourite colour had always been purple, even when she was a little girl, and she couldn't possibly remember when she started liking deep blue over purple.
She closed her eyes and sighed, feeling the chilly early spring wind blow through her, still smelling of winter. Donna could still feel the cry in her throat, but it slowly subdued.
Donna inhaled once again the night air.
Now. Better. Much better.
After a few minutes, when her fingers were starting to get blue, she went back inside ready to take her pills and go to bed like she told her granddad.
From all the drama of that long, tiring day, at least she had got rid of her stalker, she pondered, while closing the door behind her.
What Donna Noble didn't know was that he was just outside her overgrown garden, with his strange looking phone on his hands, as it beeped and glimmered with green and yellow lights. This time he wasn't trying to conceal himself. This time he felt very comfortable.
Upon hearing the front door closing, he took his real mobile phone from one of his pockets and hit number one on his speed dial. The person on the other end picked up immediately.
"Have you got good news for me?" answered the hoarse voice on the other end of the receiver.
"The readings are finally stable. She's ready", announced the stalker, proudly.
"Good. You know what to do next".
"Yes, master. I'll start processing her immediately".
"And remember rule one".
"I do, master", and he heard the other man hung up. Turning away from the Noble's residence, he slowly made his way down the darkened and empty suburban street. "Don't let her remember", he recited to himself as if quoting from the Bible. "Whatever it takes, don't let her remember".
A/N: Very angsty, I know, but it won't always be like that. This is the stage of Donna's life right now, though, and there's nothing much I can do about that for the time being. =P