A Christmas Story
A/N: A very special thanks to my amazing beta reader, nobilisinnomine! Go follow her o tumblr for some amazing Donna Noble RPs! ;)
This story takes place before Rule One, the other Donna Who? prequel.
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. And this is a prequel to these events.
More info about this series can be found at mymistrust dot net or donna-remembers dot tumblr dot com
And please tell me I don't need to tell you that they don't belong to me...
As Donna shuffled through old cardboard boxes, dust and spider webs, she could not help but think of her mother. And how much she'd like to kill her right now.
Leave it to Sylvia Noble to make her daughter go through old packed house stuff on a Christmas Eve. And she didn't even have the decency to be in the same country! No, Donna's mother was off to Italy, permanently on vacation for the past ten months or so. With a new boyfriend. An Italian boyfriend. Ten years younger than Sylvia was. And he was a bloody opera singer, for crying out loud! If someone asked Donna about how that happened, her truthful answer would be "how the hell should I know?". As far as she was concerned, only three months after meeting the said Italian gentleman, Sylvia was off to Italy without a second thought.
Donna grit her teeth, trying not to scream aloud in frustration, as yet another heavy box fell on her toes. God, she really hated Christmas. And even from a distance, her mother was still able to make it worse.
She was surrounded by piles of boxes and furniture covered with stained white linen sheets. Specks of dust danced in the air against the faint sunlight that entered through half-drawn curtains. The silent that prevailed for months in that house was finally being broken by Donna's presence, who was uncomfortably sitting cross-legged on the floor in the middle of the room, unpacking box by box. Her mother had asked her to send some clothes she had left behind, as well as a pair of trainers and her one expensive pen that her late husband had given her when she started teaching at the local high school, over thirty years ago.
After a couple of hours, Donna had found the clothes and trainers, packed in her mother's bedroom, but the pen would be a little more difficult, since it was mixed with her dad's old office stuff. And god, did he have paperwork!
She had gone through four boxes labelled "office", and had five more to go.
Donna sighed, tired. "Oh gosh... like looking for a needle in a bloody haystack" she said to herself, cracking her sore neck. "Thanks, mum, for a lovely Christmas", she mumbled, bitterly, putting on an angry smile at the vacant house around her.
Her phone rang, snapping her out of her hate-you-mum moment. She pulled her phone out of her purse and checked the screen. She smiled. "Hi, Gramps. I've found the clothes and the trainers mum asked for... I'm halfway through the office stuff, any minute now I'll find the silver pen".
"That's great news, Donna! Listen, uh, do you think you'll be here by six?"
"Gosh, I hope so. Why do you ask?"
"Oh, nothing. You know, since you don't wanna go to the club's party, I wanted to see you before I went there, you know... To give you your Christmas hug and your present".
Donna smiled at herself. "Sure, Gramps, I'll be there".
"Oh, wonderful! See you at six? Half six?"
"Half six, let's not be that positive".
"Oh, but let's! It's Christmas, Donna! It's the day of the year we must be positive! Today is a day of miracles, anything can happen!"
Donna couldn't help but crack a smile at that. Leave it to Wilf to incorporate the Christmas spirit. "Alright then, see you at six!"
"Six it is!"
"But if I don't find mum's silver pen, I'll be telling her it was your fault for rushing me!"
He laughed loudly. "Love ya, sunshine!"
And he hung up. Donna pocketed her phone and shook her head. Wilf thought he could fool her. He had set up a surprise Christmas party for her at her house, with his old mates and some of Donna's closest friends, all the while telling her he'd be spending Christmas only with his mates, since Donna was feeling a bit down with her divorce and some everlasting problems at the Temple-Noble Agency.
As if Wilfred Mott, the true spirit of Christmas, would let her skip the celebrations that easily. That man could make the Grinch love Christmas; Donna was no match for him.
Nope, she'd have to celebrate Christmas like any other year... As if this year wasn't bad enough.
Donna sighed, as she opened another cardboard box and started shuffling through its contents, mostly yellowed papers and manila folders.
After Donna won the lottery a few years back, they got rid of the mortgage on the house and Sylvia could finally breathe relieved again. Donna looked around her, and realised how weird it was for her to see that house packed into cardboard boxes and covered in white sheets. Her parents had moved there almost twenty years ago, and if someone told Donna all those years ago that she was going to win the lottery, open her own temping agency and see her mother off to Italy with an opera singer for a boyfriend, she'd have smacked them across the face before they could even finish the sentence.
And yet, there she was. It was a chilly winter day, but with no snow. She could see through the semi-open curtains the empty street outside. Nothing had changed outside those creamy walls, and yet, Donna felt like she was living another woman's life. Everything was different.
As she shuffled through the paperwork, trying to grasp anything that felt remotely like a pen, she couldn't help but let her mind wander down memory lane. That repetitive, slow work was the equivalent of a long shower, when you have time to think about everything that is wrong in your life but that you tend to ignore during the day.
Donna knew her marriage was doomed.
And that wasn't even new news. She knew that for many months... Only it was different now. It was one thing to know that things were going downhill with your partner, and it's another thing to see it written down and formally signed by them. She had received the letter two weeks ago. Shaun had finally filed for the divorce, but Donna was postponing and ignoring it as much as she could. Even in the rare occasions that they would meet and talk, she'd pretend it wasn't happening - but the bastard always brought up the subject, which left Donna in a very bad temper, which, in consequence, would lead them to some ugly argument.
And then, he stopped seeing her. And after a while, he stopped answering her phone calls. It wasn't long enough for him to cut her out completely from his life. He'd only talk to his lawyer so that he, in turn, could talk to Mrs. Scully, Donna's lawyer.
The bloody idiot.
She shrugged to herself when she realised she had been staring down at the cardboard box contents without really going through them for the past five minutes or so. She was drifting away.
Donna sighed, as she put that box aside, coming out empty handed. That was so typical. Donna wouldn't be surprised if the goddamned pen was in the last cardboard box. It was the way of the universe of telling her exactly how unlucky she was.
Donna sneezed and closed (very poorly) the box, pulling another one to her, quickly opening it with her keys. During that evening, she had become quite a pro in opening sealed cardboard boxes, developing a technique that would minimise the time she spent fumbling with duck tape.
She sneezed again. Gosh, all that dust wasn't doing her any good. And God forbid that she arrived at Wilf's surprise Christmas party ill... But that would be very Donna. Getting ill a few hours before a party.
Donna felt hazy and a teensy bit dizzy, and if she wanted, she could blame the stuffed room for it, but she knew this wasn't the case.
"Goddamn pills" she mumbled to herself, putting aside the box (containing only manila folders) and proceeding to the next one labelled "office". The new anti-depressants her doctor prescribed her had been able to hold back Donna's qualms over the ongoing divorce, but the haziness and dizziness weren't the only side effects.
Donna had been having terrible migraines, followed by a spark of energy and brilliance that weren't her usual state of mind. But those moments didn't last more than a few minutes, and then she'd be back to her slower, intoxicated self.
She opened the next cardboard box, hoping that the dizziness wasn't a preview of yet another migraine. Donna didn't want to go to Wilf's surprise Christmas party with a migraine and a flu, she already hated Christmas as it was and was making an enormous effort to go home instead of hiding away until the next day.
"I'm living the life!" she exclaimed to herself, cynically.
Many would kill her if she said out loud that she felt like the unluckiest woman in the world. Apparently, winning the lottery was something that automatically nullified bad luck in one's life. Or at least, that's how all of her friends, family (apart from Wilf) and co-workers thought. But Donna Noble wasn't so sure.
Yes, that money allowed her to have a good, stable life of her own, as well as give more comfort for her mother and grandfather. And yes, she had started her own business, side by side with her beloved husband. Donna had travelled to many places since then (although she hadn't enjoyed it as much as she had expected). She had gone to some amazing posh parties. She had amazing clothes and shoes and purses and... And yet...
And yet, Donna felt like the Universe hated her. All the little things she tried to do would end up as a proper mess. And slowly, very slowly, her perfect lottery-winner life started to crumble.
The first big slap across her face from the Universe came with the news of her infertility. Apparently, she was barren - and no doctors could explain exactly why. Biologically, or at least from what their equipment could gather, there was nothing wrong with her. She was tested for every single thing, and all came back negative. She was perfectly fine... And perfectly barren.
Every time she thought about it Donna felt like tearing up, and this time was no different. Shuffling through the box contents, she had to stop for a second to gather herself and hold back a sob. "Damn" she'd mutter under her breath, as if the swearing could take away the pain. "Damn, damn, damn! Old news, Donna Noble, get over it!..." she whispered, trying to convince herself that she had already accepted her reality, but failing miserably.
The strangest thing was that not many years ago, when she was first engaged with Lance, her fiancé who disappeared on their wedding day, she had some tests done and everything came out fine. Properly fine, not inexplicably-barren fine. Sure, those days just before her wedding were a bit of a haze in her mind, but she had the test results in black and white, telling her she was fine.
Donna inhaled deeply and resumed her search for the needle in the haystack. That box had less papers and more office supplies, such as staplers, paperclips and pens.
Gosh, Donna thought, please, be there.
She turned the box upside down and let all its content fall on the floor. She started shuffling through it. That way it was much better.
Donna never stopped wondering where the hell that lottery ticket came from. To the world outside, she dismissively mentioned it as someone's attempt at a joke that backfired completely, but on the back of her head, she never stopped wondering. Was it really a prank's gift? Or was something else entirely?
Donna figured she'd never know.
And as if being barren wasn't enough, there was her depression, diagnosed shortly after her honeymoon - which as dreadful, because she was in such a mood... And she had no idea why, because she loved to travel, and yet, that trip seemed dull and incomplete, and she'd be sad for things she couldn't possibly remember, and Shaun had to put up with her very patiently. Gosh, was she lucky, she thought, bitterly. That inexplicable sadness that she felt, for apparently no reason, that sometimes consumed her very soul... Everyone agreed with the Doctor's diagnose: depression. Her mother and her granddad, though, weren't very keen of any of her psychiatrists, and they both kept telling her that she didn't need the pills that were prescribed to her... And yet, when she asked them why they didn't want to accept her diagnose as a proper, treatable disease, they would silence and look at each other as if they knew a big secret she wasn't aware of.
In the end, they gave up and let her take her pills as her psychiatrist prescribed.
And if all of that wasn't enough... There was Shaun, caught in the middle of all this. Donna knew she had abused of his patience and his kindness and his love and pretty much had sucked him dry of his energy when the pills started to falter.
It was all her fault, and she knew that. Donna had pushed his buttons to the limit. If only she had discovered that new medication prior to all this... She was feeling much better now. She wasn't slipping into her self-destructive moods or feeling sad for something she couldn't possibly remember. She had traded all that for dizziness, migraines and intoxicated hours, with some minutes of her mind sparking to life like never before. It seemed a good trade to her.
"Ouch!" she exclaimed, cradling her left hand on her right. She looked down and found a small paper cut on her palm. How did that happen?
Donna shook her head. The dizziness always made her lose track of things around her, and she hated it. She looked at the scattered contents of the cardboard box. Yep, lots of papers and sharp office supplies there. It could have been anything, really.
Something silver caught the dim sunlight and glimmered. Could it be...?
She shuffled and fished out the silvery thing from the mess she had made.
But not her mother's silver pen.
It was a black, sleek pen, with touches of silvery metal. And a very small torch-like thingy at the top. Now that was weird. Her mother hated anything flashy or modern. She wouldn't have bought a pen with a light on top, it didn't matter how sleek it was.
There was a small button at the side of the pen. Donna clicked it.
The bulb lighted with a blue shade, making the weirdest of noises.
A nearby window flipped open out of nowhere, startling Donna, who let out a shrilling "aaargh!" before covering her mouth with her cut hand, and tasting a tang of her own blood.
If she was standing, Donna would've jumped up. "Holy cow, what was that?!" She got up and walked up to the window. "Who is this?! Is it some prankster?" she shouted out, leaning over the windowsill and looking outside. "C'me on, you little punks! Show yourselves!"
There was no sign of anyone outside the house. "What? Can't even face a bloody woman, can you? Well, you might as well run for it because if anything of the sorts happen again I'm having the bloody coppers on ya all!" she shouted out, outraged, albeit feeling a bit silly at the end, as she closed the window and entertained the possibility that it might just be that no one was actually out there.
But it had to be someone, because there was no wind coming through the house or anything that could burst the window open like that.
Donna closed her eyes when feeling that her dizziness was slowly becoming one of those migraines again.
That was it. Donna was fed up with all of that. Her mother would have to come here in person to find that damn silver pen, because Donna was having none of that anymore. Not with a migraine coming up.
Leaving behind the mess she made while opening the cardboard boxes, Donna gathered her purse and the bag containing her mother's requests and made her way to the front door. Wilf was eagerly waiting for her with a Christmas party, she had a lot of thinking to do regarding Shaun and her future and she was feeling tired and useless. Enough of running errands for her mother.
Donna stormed out of the house, trying to get to her car before her migraine took over her brain. Fumbling with the keychain, she let it fall to the ground.
"Crap" she cursed under her breath, bending over to collect her keys.
The migraine was settling down. Donna felt like she was racing against her own body. And she was losing.
She grabbed her keys and tried to fit the first one, with a round head, on the lock.
It didn't fit.
She cursed again.
There were only two keys on that old keychain (she never mixed her new keys with the old house's), and as usual, she got the wrong one. Donna grabbed the other one, with a square shaped head, and it fit into the lock.
She finally turned and marched down to her blue SUV, as fast as she could.
When Donna finally sat down in the driver's seat... Her migraine was gone. She raised an eyebrow at herself. That wasn't normal. At all.
She checked herself in the rear view mirror. Well, migraines didn't have visible symptoms, but Donna just checked herself for the sake of it. She had black bags under her eyes.
Donna shook her head vigorously like a proper headbanger.
Nope. Not a sign of migraine or dizziness.
"Well..." Donna shrugged to herself, still quite not believing it. It was too good to be true. "Very well, then". But she wasn't about to complain.
Slowly, she put her purse and the bag on the passenger's seat. Her old keys fell on the floor, and she sighed as she bend down to pick them up once again.
And that was the moment that something sparkled in her mind.
Donna cradled the keys in both her hands and looked down at it.
She had two keys on her old keychain, she realised it.
But only one door.
She had lost the backdoor key a few months after they moved to that house and never replaced it. Since her mother couldn't stop complaining how irresponsible she was, Donna had decided that since she was that reckless, she couldn't possibly be allowed to have another key. When she expressed that thought to her mother, half-hoping that she'd say she was being silly, Sylvia just mumbled one "very well" under her breath and stormed out of Donna's bedroom. Since that day, Donna had only used the spare key hidden in the backyard.
Since that day, Donna Noble had only one key on her keychain.
And yet, now she had two.
She stared down at the round one. She never had a round key. Never ever.
Where did that came from anyway? When did she put it there? What did it open? And most importantly, why did the idea of throwing it away seemed so blasphemous?
Donna could not fathom where that feeling of utter care was coming from. She held the round key firmly, as if her life depended on it. Donna had no recollection whatsoever of when did acquired it, all she knew was that she couldn't possibly throw it away. That key was important. That key was so important. She should never ever throw it away.
"But... Why?" she asked herself, completely amazed by her own train of thoughts.
Then the world became darker again. And her migraine came head on.
Donna let the keychain rest on the console and put both hands on her temples. God, did she hate those migraines... Now she'd have to wait for a while so she could drive home.
That was fine, though. As much as migraines are fine. Donna was used to this wait, so she just pulled back her seat and closed her eyes, patiently waiting for the pain to go away, because every painkiller in the world had proven to be useless on her. As fast as Donna's migraine, all the worries about the extra key were completely gone from her mind.
And she hadn't even noticed that she had kept the sleek black pen with her during all that time.
Author's Notes: SO. Theories, anyone? :) I myself have a good explanation for everything here, but it's unlikely that I'll talk about them just right now. Feel free to comment or send me direct messages with your ideas! I hope you enjoyed this. I particularly find this piece better than the previous one, "Rule One" (which, in fact, takes place after this one). What do you think? After this little Christmas story, I'm afraid you'll have to wait until late January to read more about Donna's story... Unless my muse REALLY kicks in, which is unlikely. You know how muses are...
Part One is titled THE EVERLASTING DEATH, and it's when our journey really starts...