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To Err is Human

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Prologue - How Donna Finds Herself in an Uncomfortable Situation


There were many, many things Donna hated about the year 1913. She was keeping a list:

1. Corsets. Damn the Doctor that they couldn't have landed just a few short years later and she would have missed this torture. Yeah they made her breasts look truly fantastic if she did say so herself, but they were bloody uncomfortable!

2. The men were jackasses. Like, more than usual. She was constantly fighting the urge to throttle these "gentlemen" she was surrounded by. And the snooty upper-class boys at the school were little better.

3. Bloomers! The most ridiculous undergarment (second only to corsets) ever invented. Why the hell did a woman need knee-length underwear for, anyway, and with a split crotch, at that?

4. Total and complete lack of entertainment.  She would give just about anything for a television!

5. Nurse Redfern kept giving doe-y "woe is me" glances at the Doctor. She thought Donna hadn't noticed, but, c'mon, she wasn't blind.  Donna figured the good nurse would be well served by getting laid (by someone other than the Doctor, naturally), then maybe she wouldn't follow an oblivious Doctor around like a bitch in heat.

But the worst...the absolute WORST part of 1913:
6. The Doctor kept giving doe-y "woe is me" glances at Donna.

Donna sat contemplating these myriad troubles as she completed some mending (mending! blergh) by the window, bored out of her flippin' mind. The Doctor - no, sorry, John Smith - had been in classes all day. There were no ipods (there was a gramophone with a collection of scratchy, maudlin music to play, but she hoped she never got that desperate), no movies, no magazines, no anything to keep her occupied other than the tasks expected of a lady of her class. These included the aforementioned mending, needlepoint, reading (though the Doctor's collection tended towards textbooks), and long walks on the hills she didn't take lest she leave the Doctor - no, wait, John Smith, aaarrrgh! - alone to some tragedy.

They (i.e. Nurse Redfern) didn't approve of her speaking to the "help" who were, in Donna's opinion, the only interesting people around here. Normally Donna would have told Joan just where she could stick her disapproval, but the whole point of this little foray into Edwardian torture was to not make waves. So she really didn't made the effort, too afraid to interact much with other people lest she give the whole game away. Which, by the way, would be a hell of a lot easier to do if the Doctor had though to make her a maid in this little charade, or a school teacher, or his sister, or his sister's cousin's brother's childhood friend, or anything other than--

Her musings were interrupted by fumbling noises at the flat's door. Then the door swung open and the Doctor - for god's sake, Donna, John Smith! - tumbled in under a stack of books.

"John," she squeaked, surprised. "You're here early."

The Doctor grinned at her from around his stack of books, setting them down carefully so he could hurry to her.

"I couldn't stay away," he murmured, leaning over her chair and fully invading her personal space.

"I've missed you, wife," and he kissed her.

Donna hated the year 1913.


-A few days ago-

The Doctor was pulling down some kind of helmet-looking thingy from the ceiling, and babbling on about DNA signatures and the like.

"For the record," she cut in, loudly enough to make him shut up, "I think this is a horrendously bad idea. One of epically bad proportions."

"It's the only way, Donna! I don't know how else to explain it. I need to hide from the Family of Blood and the vortex isn't safe; they can follow my genetic signature, quite literally sniff me out. Only way to fix that is to change my signature to human."

She settled her hands on her hips, tried to radiate all her misgivings in one concentrated glare. "And what am I supposed to do while you swan around as a human with no memory of anything, including me."

"Oh, I'll remember you. Of course I will. The TARDIS will take care of all of it, set us down somewhere and sometime on earth that will be easier for us to blend into, fabricate memories of a human life that would make sense to me, and make sure to find a reason for you to be there. You won't have to worry about a thing. You can just sit back and enjoy peace and quiet for three months; like a holiday!"

"Then is the TARDIS guaranteeing we're going to end up in Hawaii?"

"Uhhh...no. Not that it couldn't  be Hawaii, but when you think of all the land mass on Earth in all of time - and Hawaii being a tiny island, really, when you compare it to, oh, Greenland, for example - then the odds of us landing in Hawaii become rather astronomical."

"So what you're saying in too many unnecessary words is that, with our luck, we're going to end up somewhere not tropical and fantastic. Wow, you are SO not selling me on this plan."

He stopped fiddling with the helmet to stare at her beseechingly. "But, but I need you there! You'll be the only one who'll be able to snap me out of it when necessary. I can't trust anyone else to-"

"I'm not saying I won't go, Doctor! I'm not leaving you to your own devices for 3 minutes, much less 3 months. I'm just making it very clear, for when this all goes pear shaped, that this is a bad idea. And I reserve the right to say 'I told you so' as often as I like, later."

With a happy jump of pure adrenaline, the Doctor danced around the contraption one more time. "Ah, you worry too much. It's a great idea - one of my better ones, I must say! - and nothing's going to go wrong. Anyway, I've left you instructions for any possible hiccup that we may encounter."

Donna glared back, dubious. "If we land on Greenland, at least we won't have to worry about the homicidal aliens."

"Right, s'what I've been telling yo--wait, why not?"

Donna cocked a hip. "Because I'll bloody kill you myself!"

He rolled his eyes at her, giving her a friendly arm bump as he sped by her around the console one more time, pushing buttons and pulling levers. Finally he settled the helmet thing on his head and shot her one last, brilliant smile. "You'll see, three months will pass by before you know it and we'll be back here, having a good laugh." His hand reached up and alighted on a switch. "Now, don't fuss. This is going to get a little loud."

He flipped the switch and started screaming.

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In short order she'd found herself with an unconscious "man" on her hands, two sets of antiquated-looking clothing, and packed bags sitting decisively by the TARDIS doors. She had changed quickly, cursing all the unfamiliar fastenings (laces, stockings, teeny-tiny buttons...it didn't bode well, this lack of zippers!), then turned her attention to the Doctor. She'd fumbled him into his own clothes with a lot more cursing, huffing, and averted eyes.

She hauled the bags outside, finding herself in a musty barn. Not Hawaii, figured. Then more puffing and groaning as she dragged the surprisingly heavy Doctor the short distance out the door. As soon as she stepped out the TARDIS disappeared, safe behind its perception filter.

She left the Doctor in a heap, uncaring he was in a pile of hay, as she stormed out the barn doors to find - of course - landscape that looked depressingly like rural England. Holiday her ARSE! What could be worse? Okay, well, Greenland. But this wasn't much better!

Donna found the answer to that question a few hours later, after a dizzy Doctor had risen from the hay, chided her lightly for letting him fall asleep in such an undignified manner, and then led them to an academy of some sort. Donna had remained mute throughout the trek; with no knowledge of the TARDIS-supplied back story, she was too wary of sticking her foot in it.

It wasn't until they were let into the foyer of the Farringham School for Boys that the Doctor introduced himself as the new teacher, John Smith, and she, Donna, as his...wait for it... WIFE.

"WHAT?" she would have screamed, if she hadn't suddenly choked on her outrage and started a coughing fit. "John" had immediately turned to her, all solicitous "oh dear" and "are you quite all right, darling?", which only made her choke harder until she thought she'd die and, god, if that wouldn't have been a mercy.

Because, apparently, the TARDIS thought the most believable scenario was making them husband and wife; newlyweds, to be precise. And had gone beyond the call of duty and filled the Doctor's head with a suitably romantic courtship.


-Present - well, in 1913...it's sort of a timey-whimey -

All this meant that Donna was now responsible for a besotted former Time Lord who seemed rather invested in getting under her skirts. She could put him off for a while with excuses: headaches, 'time of the month', ear infection, perhaps even the black plague if it got to that point... Thankfully, times still being especially prudish, he'd assumed she was actually just overly shy. He had reassured her (with such a patronizing "gentlemanly" mien she'd wanted to shove him back and show him just how 'shy' she was thank you) that he would never wish to rush her and her "'feminine sensibilities"; he'd be happy to wait until she was ready. 

This was, she quickly learned, code for "I'm not going to pressure you for sex, per se, but that won't stop me from oozing unfulfilled need your way every chance I get. Twice on Sundays."

It was ludicrous, that she'd find the Doctor hell bent on seducing her, of all things. And god forgive her, she would have sworn that would be a tall order, but in truth her Martian was becoming impossible to resist.


to be continued...

Up next, Mr. & Mrs. Smith's first night in 1913

Chapter Text

Donna had decided to face her new predicament with a happy-go-lucky attitude, calmly not jump to conclusions and see what developed.

Or not. At the very least she did decide to see what developed mostly because her only other alternative was to run away screaming, jump in the TARDIS and figure out how to pilot herself away, Doctor be damned.

And since she couldn't do that, Donna figuratively pushed up her sleeves and told herself that she'd make sure no nonsense went on, and that maybe things wouldn't be so bad.

She was wrong.


-First day in 1913-

That first day at the academy saw them ensconced in a flat under the eaves of the big old building. The headmaster had led them to their new home up several flights of stairs. Donna had been puffing under the unfamiliar constraint of the corset, but hell, she told herself she'd have a great arse after 3 months of climbing up and down these stairs.

And then, as if glorious fortune was finally smiling down on her, she'd found out it was customary for married couples to have their own bedrooms! She barely restrained herself from throwing herself at the headmaster in relieved joy and twirling in circles like a mad Julie Andrews. The feeling of impending dread she'd had since she found out they were "married" lifted slightly from her shoulders.

She had fumbled through cooking a late lunch (NO MICROWAVE! horrors) for her and the Doctor. He'd praised her lukewarm attempt at stew and waxed poetic about the soggy vegetables. Although dubious, Donna was glad to know he wasn't going to be picky and ooh, was he gonna owe her big-time when this was all over. Donna and kitchens were unmixy things, and she liked it that way.

After lunch he had to tour the rest of the premises, doing no more than giving her a fond kiss on the temple on his way out. Donna graced him with a pale smile. Apparently they weren't the icky type of newlyweds, so that was a plus. Maybe they'd been promised to each other or something, like a business arrangement. Her mum had loved watching those types of soaps! Even better, maybe his human form was secretly gay and she was his beard.

She could live with that. She could suck it up, cook crappy meals while the Doctor played at being teacher for 3 months. This would be easy! The future glowed with her new, suddenly optimistic outlook.

In the evening the Doctor returned with an invitation to dine with the headmaster and other faculty. Overjoyed at the idea of not having to cook, Donna ran to her room and struggled into a dress she hoped was suitable for dinner.

The Doctor was waiting for her when she stepped out, looking dashing (she admitted to herself, grudgingly) in a dark suit.

"Oh, darling, you look smashing." He leaned over and kissed her absently on the cheek, hustling for the door, obviously more concerned with being late than whatever she was wearing.

"Thanks," smiled Donna, for the first time ever relieved at a bloke's lack of attention. Also, she was keeping a running tally of how many times he called her 'darling' or 'sweetheart' so that she could blackmail the Doctor with them, later.

"Shall we?" he offered Donna an arm. She took it gladly, reminded of their adventure with Agatha Christie.

See that, Donna? Not different from any other adventure with the Doctor. You're going to be fine.

And with that bit of overconfidence, they headed off to dinner.
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Her sweet little fantasy of a loveless, platonic marriage began to go awry at dinner.

She had been seated on the Doctor's right, with the school nurse – an aloof blond named Joan Redfern – on his left. After seeing Joan's hungry, speculative gaze land on the Doctor, Donna made a mental note to watch her back along any dark stairwell. She wouldn't put it past the lady to make the Doctor a widower by giving Donna a helpful shove.

Nah, but Donna couldn't blame her. The Doctor was the only man older than 18 and younger than 50 in the whole school. He must have seemed like manna from heaven to the not-unattractive nurse.

Overall the conversation had been flowing smoothly, Donna doing little more than smiling and nodding, half checked-out and longing for her bed. She kept a stealthy eye on the Doctor's table manners as the meal proceeded, dutifully copying his use of the utensils. Why the hell did they need three different forks? Blasted inconvenient. And the teeny-tiny pitchfork-looking one seemed like some sort of exotic torture device, she thought suspiciously.

"So tell us, Mister Smith. How did you and your lovely wife meet?"

Well, this would be interesting. Donna pushed tiny pitchforks from her mind and cocked an ear, relieved to learn a bit more helpful back-story.

The Doctor turned to Donna with a smile. "Darling, would you like to tell them?"

"Oh no, by all means. I like how you tell it," she lied.

His smile left her briefly dazzled. Under the table his hand settled on her knee.

Wait. What is he doing with his hand!  Maybe...maybe that was normal in 1913? She really, really hoped so. And he was drawing small circles over the silky material of her dress, which she found oddly distracting even through layers of skirts and petticoats. Donna grabbed her water and started gulping it, ready to reach for the menacing little fork if necessary.

"Was it an arranged marriage?" asked Nurse Redfern hopefully, the cow – though Donna was wondering (and hoping) the same thing.

"Oh, no. You see, I kidnapped Donna from the church."

Donna snorted water out through her nose. Thankfully, everybody else was making such excited exclamations that no one seemed to notice.

"Well, I say! Really, sir, you'll have to explain that one!" came the delighted cry from a portly gentleman down the table.

And the Doctor was in his element, spinning a romantic tale of childhood friendship, running wild over the grassy hills of their hometown, growing up best mates until he realized that there was more than friendship between them. Then a dark separation when he was sent off to study abroad, traveling the Continent for many more years than he had anticipated, only to return and find that his love was marrying another. He'd stormed into the church and broken up the proceedings, dragging her away to confess his feelings for her, suitable dramatic music crescendoing, from a clifftop. The rest was history.

Or the present, whatever.

"So here we are!" finished the Doctor with a flourish, amongst hearty congratulations and a flurry of questions.

"Here we are, indeed," echoed a dumbfounded Donna. It was actually very clever, she had to admit, how the TARDIS had somehow woven their real past into this veritable bodice-ripper of a romance.

The Doctor's hand on her knee shifted, and she turned to see him watching her with, she realized in a moment of terrifying clarity, a completely stupid-in-love look on his face. Amidst roars of encouragement from the peanut gallery, he leaned over and pressed his lips lovingly to hers.

It was a chaste kiss, barely a touching of lips, but when he leaned back his cheeks were flushed and his eyes sparkled.

Donna was mostly preoccupied with keeping her food down. I'm going to kill the TARDIS with that deranged little fork, if it's the last thing I do.

"Oh, Donna. You are a lucky woman to have such a dashing husband!" gushed the matron beside her.

"Yeah. Couldn't have written it better myself if I'd tried." She turned from her "husband", smiled her sickliest smile and downed her wine. "Mrs. Sutherland, would you pass the wine, please? Actually, I'm going to keep that bottle here, if no one minds."


 

She couldn't make it to her room fast enough. Pleading a headache she rushed away from the Doctor as soon as they stepped into their flat, firmly closing her bedroom door behind her.

Sleep. Yes, god, then maybe she'd wake up from this crazy dream. Donna stripped completely before slipping into some huge voluminous nightgown that she just knew was going to end up riding up and half strangling her to death in her sleep. She would have traded an arm for her pajamas. Then she sat at a little dressing table that would have delighted her if she weren't actually in, you know, flippin' 1913.

She had just finished pulling the pins from her hair and picked up a heavy wooden brush when a knock sounded on her door. Before she even had the chance to give permission (or try to climb out the window) the door swung open and the Doctor walked in as if he owned the place. Donna bit back her instinctive bitchy admonition of "privacy, thank you!" and tried to adopt a demure wifely demeanor. She was quick to notice that he got to wear pajamas, the lucky bastard.

"Here, let me do that," the Doctor said, moving behind her and plucking the brush from her hands. Donna stared at his reflection in the vanity's mirror as he began to brush out her hair for her.

"How is the headache?" he inquired.

"Heada-? Oh, um, better. You know, so much excitement."

"You've been awfully quiet today," he mused.

That would be because I don't want to fuck this up. Since she couldn't say that, she settled for a non-committal, "Have I?"

He nodded, running the brush through the long strands. "I know you didn't want to be here."

"Hmmm," was her cunning response to that one, and she wondered if the TARDIS had worked in her objection to this plan into his memories, too, the sneaky ship.

"But we could not stay in our hometown indefinitely, dear, you know that. I need this job to make us self-sufficient. We can not live off your family forever. Especially if we are going to start a family soon," he smiled lovingly at her through the mirror while Donna fought valiantly to not look petrified/nauseated by the very idea.

"Errrrr..." was her brilliant follow-up to that one.

"You could love it here if you give it a chance. You will see. As long as we are together," he murmured, setting aside the brush and shifting her hair to the side so he could lean down and place a kiss on the nape of her neck.

Oh. Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

The Doctor took her shocked silence for approval and began to move his kisses down the side of her neck, keeping his eyes trained on hers through the mirror. She could sort of only watch - as one watches a particularly gruesome highway accident - as he shifted the baggy nightgown off her shoulder and set his mouth to the newly bared skin, eyes fluttering closed.

OH DEAR.

"Uh...um...J-John?"

If he heard her he was too busy running the tip of his tongue over the freckles on her shoulder to answer her. Shades of the Doctor's oral fixation!

"JOHN?" her squeak had reached the upper registers.

He returned his attention to her reflection and correctly read the panic in her eyes, if for the completely wrong reasons. He allowed himself one last lingering kiss and then smoothed her nightgown back in place. "You're still not ready yet, then?" he asked in a dejected voice.

Still? Does he mean in his memories we haven't...

"I – I just don't want to rush things?" she ventured, taking a stab in the dark.

He moved around from behind her and knelt at her feet, grasping her hands and looking at her with innocent sincerity. "I know it was a shock to you to learn about my feelings for you, and that the wedding was hurried. But you admitted you loved me, too." He paused, obviously waiting for a confirmation from her.

Donna could feel her eyebrows raise so high they almost crawled off her forehead. She forced them down and tried to assume the same look of sincerity. "Of course I would love my husband," she prevaricated, and didn't have to fake the color that rose to her cheeks.

The Doctor's eyes softened at what he perceived a maidenly blush; he stroked her hand somewhat indulgently. "Do not worry, sweetheart. We will take this at your pace."

Donna almost fainted in relief. She discreetly pulled her hands free and awkwardly patted his head like one would pet a puppy who had finally learned not to piddle on the carpet. "Thank you, Do-- oh, uh, darling." She slid out from her seat at the vanity, leaving the Doctor kneeling by the empty chair. "Oh, look at the time. I'm exhausted; such an exciting day!" She waited by her open door pointedly.

The Doctor slowly rose from his position, coming to her and looming so he could press a kiss to her forehead. Donna blinked and tried to hold back from making "shooing" motions with her hands.

He moved towards the doorway and she thought she was in the clear, finally, when the Doctor suddenly paused and turned to her.

"Can I hold you through the night? I hate being away from you. It worries me, for some reason."

"But...but you have your own room. That's not quite proper, is it?" she practically wailed, hopes dashed.

"Donna, you have never worried so much about propriety before - are you sure you are all right?"

"I haven't?" well, of course she wouldn't have. Even a fake 1913 Donna wouldn't have had the patience for much of that nonsense, she mused. 

"Oh, how your mum despaired!" He cupped her face in his hands and gazed at her imploringly. "It is our first real night finally alone, in a flat of our own. Your mother is not around, no one is here to know who has slept in which bedroom. Please, darling, I just want to have you by my side, nothing more."

Donna tried to make up an excuse but panicked at the mounting uncertainty in his eyes. "O-okay then. Yes. Of course you can stay."

The uncertainty on his face faded to relief. He gave her one of his big, reassuring, patented Doctor hugs before leading them to the bed, pulling her down beside him and smoothing the covers over them before turning away to extinguish the lamp.

As the room plunged into darkness Donna consoled herself with the fact that it was a big bed; she wouldn't even have to know he was there.

Until the Doctor pulled her into his arms as if she were his own personal teddy bear.

The Doctor must have still been exhausted from his transformation into human, because almost immediately she felt him relax into slumber behind her. Donna, unfortunately, could only stare out into the dark, just too aware that it was the Doctor's arm around her waist, and the Doctor's thighs pressing up against her thighs, and against her bum it was the Doctor's…oh fuck.

Of all the ridiculous situations. Why, oh why do you hate me, God?

But then, beyond all her expectations she found the warmth of his body lulling hers to sleep, and her eyes getting heavy until...
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She was roused by birdsong, drifting in that twilight space between sleep and wakefulness. She was deliciously warm, surrounded by something strong and secure...ah, an arm. Why was there an arm around her? Ooh, and a hand. A cheeky hand, cupping her left breast. Well, it was a fabulous breast. She couldn't really blame the hand for taking advantage. And it felt nice, really really nice. She smiled sleepily at the pleasant flutter in her stomach.

She stretched a little and also became aware of a leg between hers, soft cotton between her bare thighs. Now, why were her thighs bare again? Where were her pajamas and why did it feel quite breezy down there, now that she thought about it? And most importantly, why was there another hand inches from her...

Wait.

Donna's eyes snapped open. The Doctor was wrapped around her as fiercely as an anaconda, her back to his front. One arm was over her waist, hand curving over to cup her breast as if he were afraid it was going to run off in the night. The other arm was underneath her, curling around her to splay on her naked belly, fingertips a hairsbreadth away from PLACES THE DOCTOR SHOULD NOT EVEN KNOW ABOUT.

He'd wedged a leg between hers and that useless, useless nightgown was rucked up around her waist, leaving her bottom half fully exposed.

Oh god, the Doctor had already gotten to second base and was heading towards third without even being conscious!

Well played, John Smith, thought Donna darkly, only to freeze completely when his hands flexed on her.

Donna ceased breathing, ceased blinking, ceased anything until she confirmed that yes, his breathing was still slow and even and he was still dead asleep. It was imperative that he not wake up! Not only because he'd get ideas but because once they got back on the TARDIS she'd simply die of embarrassment, just wish for the ground to open up and swallow her whole. And so would he – after she slapped him repeatedly.

There was no way she was going to get out of his grip without waking him; the only thing she could hope to do was make everything less...just less. With this aim, she slowly eased her nightgown down, sliding it under his hand on her belly, and then wiggling it over her hips.

She was not going to think about what her wiggling was doing to the anatomy of the man behind her. NO SHE WAS NOT!

Next she gingerly took the wrist of the hand clutching her breast and inched the appendage down to safe territory. The Doctor made a snuffly disgruntled noise behind her.

"Tough cookies, ex-Martian," she whispered.

And through the dawn, Donna stayed awake to safeguard against any more creeping hands.


To be continued ... Donna runs for the hills

If any of you are hungering to know, Donna was entranced by a crab fork at dinner. They look like long little pitchforks, with a shovelly bit on the other end.

Reviews are like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies that don't make you fat.

Chapter Text

She avoided devastating awkwardness by hauling arse out of bed as soon as the Doctor stirred and loosened his hold on her. He barely had time to protest as she escaped, reminding him he'd better get ready for class and that she would cook up some breakfast. She had never been so happy to be responsible for putting breakfast together!

She fried a couple of eggs (because frying an egg was frying an egg, regardless of time period) and was sliding breakfast onto a plate when he stepped out, dressed in the most ridiculous outfit in the history of ever. She wobbled the pan in surprise and almost dumped the eggs on the floor before righting the pan. She abruptly had to turn around to avoid pointing and laughing.

"Good morning, dear. Join me at the table?" he sang out cheerfully.

She steeled herself, turned around, and then immediately had to look away again. Oh god, she was going to pee herself, he looked so ridiculous.

She sat at the table and focused solely on her eggs.

"So, what do you think?" he asked, obviously referring to his ensemble and fishing for compliments.

With no other choice, she glanced up and immediately turned her giggles into an unconvincing cough. "Very...professional." *snort*cough*snort*. Good god, his cap had a tassel!

He preened at her words, then quickly finished off his eggs, gave her a hurried peck on the forehead and grabbed his books. His robes fluttered behind him. Robes! Honest to god robes!

"I am running rather late; sorry to rush off on you. Will you amuse yourself during the day?" he called, as he made for the door.

"Oh, yeah, don't worry a bit. You just got out there and instruct those little minds," she managed, wiggling her fingers in a wave as he cast one last smile her way and closed the door behind him. "At Hogwarts," she added after he was gone, dissolving into laughter.

She gathered up the plates, still giggling, and was getting ready to tidy up when she froze. What was she doing? Standing here giggling like an idiot and getting ready to clean up as if she were really playing "Little House on the Prairie"? She had to move.  NOW!

She dumped the plates back on the counter unceremoniously and dashed back to her room, dressing as quickly as the unfamiliar clothing allowed. Then she was rushing out the door, only slowing when she reached the ground floor to sedately walk out the doors (some tiptoeing and skulking around corners may have been involved). Some paranoid part of her kept expecting the headmaster or the Doctor or Nurse Redfern to burst out of a room and scream "Stop her!" (and then Storm Troopers would pour out, for some reason) but of course no one did. She was just the new teacher's wife, going out for a stroll.

It was a leisurely thirty-minute walk to the old barn on the edge of town where they'd left the TARDIS. Donna made it in twenty, half running when people weren't about, and briskly speedwalking when they were. But finally she was safe inside the old, musty building and unbuttoning her ruffly shirt so she could dig down the front for the chain that held her most precious possessions: the TARDIS key and the watch that would release the Doctor.

The blue doors opened with a soft snick and Donna bolted inside. It had only been 24 hours – possibly less – since she'd stepped out of the TARDIS and yet she felt like she was coming home after years away. She paused at the ramp and took a deep, cleansing breath.

The TARDIS, quieter than usual since running on emergency energy, still hummed a greeting at her.

"I'm not well pleased with you – I'm not talking to you!" warned Donna, and the hum quieted to a dull murmur.

Donna flung off her coat and stepped up to the console screen, jabbing at buttons until the video the Doctor had promised came onscreen. All right, now maybe she'd get some answers as to why they were in this stupid predicament and how she could fix it.

As static cleared and the Doctor's face resolved on screen, Donna wouldn't have admitted, on threat of death, how her stress drained away suddenly. God, she actually missed him like this. He would know what to do; he'd tell her how to make everything okay.

"Donna, here's a list of instructions for when I'm human. One, don't let me hurt anyone..."

Relieved, Donna sat back to watch the video.

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Fifteen minutes later, all the tension on Donna's shoulders had returned and brought along friends. She was back at the console, shouting obscenities and fiddling with the dials as she replayed the video for the third time.

"C'mon you stupid stupid thing," she muttered, pressing the fast forward button on the console. At the low sound of indignation from the TARDIS she relented and patted the console gently. "No, not you – not this time. The video. The video is stupid and the moronic alien who filmed it is stupid. Very very very very stupid!" She was simply too angry to think up better insults.

"Five. Don't let me eat pears..."

IDIOT! She twirled the dial, hoping that through the magic of wishful thinking she would find instructions that actually helped, instead of the list of hogwash he had just recited to her.

She let go of the dial randomly and the Doctor's face stilled once more on the screen. "This is extremely important, Donna. History-altering important, so pay attention to the next one: rule 17. DO NOT let me invent Jelly Babies. Wherever I am, odds are that I'm going to start craving them, and then I'll invent them because I'm, y'know, a genius. And we can't have that! I mean, it would be fine if I kept the ones I created to myself, but the best thing about Jelly Babies is to share them, and I can't imagine that I wouldn't start handing them out once I invented them-"

Donna's finger determinedly returned to the fast forward.

"21. You are not allowed to take incriminating photos of me, no matter what time period we land in and what I am forced to wear. I know you, and I -"

"AAARGGH! You useless, thoughtless man! What the hell am I supposed to do if you want to SHAG ME. Ever thought of that?!"

"And 23. If anything goes wrong, if they find us Donna, then you know what to do. Open the watch. Everything I am is kept safe in there. Don't open it unless you have to 'cuz when it's open then the Family will be able to find me. It's all down to you, Donna. Your choice. Oh, and...thank you."

Donna pounded the off button in fury with one last, "Well, THANKS FOR NOTHING to you, JACKASS!" shouted as farewell to the Doctor's face.

She stomped around the room, making as much noise as she could as her boots hit the grating, pulling at her hair in frustration - altogether having herself a nice little tantrum. Finally, worn out, she slumped on the jump seat and stared dully at the control column.

"I'm so fucked."

__________________________________________________________________

She ended up taking a long, steaming bath back in her room on the TARDIS. The time in a proper tub helped ease her muscles. Afterward, she slathered on the expensive lotion made with the sea kelp from the famed kelp beds of some planet where they'd scuba dived. Immersing herself in the luxuries of the future helped take her mind off the wretched, confusing role she was being made to play. Yeah, she was a little concerned at leaving the Doctor by himself for the while, but if she didn't try to calm herself she'd end up killing someone (him) and then all of this would be for naught.

Finally she stood in front of her full-length mirror with petticoat, chemise and corset in place, sliding the heavy skirt over her head. Then there were the itty-bitty buttons on the ruffly white shirt that went tucked into the skirt. By the time she had dried her hair she was calmer. The final and most important piece of her ensemble went over her head to drop beneath the high neck of her shirt, the chain with the TARDIS key and the pocket watch. By the time she was done, she knew exactly what her next step would be.

Completely composed for the first time in over 24 hours, she began her determined trek back to the console room. The TARDIS gave one long low sound of inquiry upon sensing her mood.

"Oh, you know perfectly well what I'm going to do."

Another long, slightly more concerned hum.

"Well you should have thought of that before you made him believe he fancied me. What were you thinking?!"

An affronted hum of denial, which Donna ignored completely. She reached the doors and pulled on them angrily, but they stuck firm.

"Oh, so mature!  You let me out right now! I TOLD him this was a stupid idea. He'll just have to figure out another way to avoid those things for three months."

Low groans, which she took to be argument.

"Well of course you're on his side. You're his flippin' ship! Never mind all those times I told him to stop whacking you with the mallet, huh? All those evenings of me faithfully making sure he picks up after himself to give you a break, all forgotten now! Well guess what, you big BOX, I never signed on to play loving wife to an amnesiac Time Lord!"

She stomped her foot rather impressively. "He's gonna open up this damn watch if I have to shove it in his face, and we're going to rethink this whole stupid thing and that's final! He left me in charge, after all, so OPEN THE BLOODY DOOR!"

The quiet humming stopped. It was kind of eerie, really. The TARDIS had never been so silent before. Donna turned and pushed at the door gently; it swung open.

"Thank you," she said with as much dignity as she could muster, and then ran out of there.


Her return to the academy was not as hurried as her dash out of it. She took her time, looking into store windows and actually enjoying the experience of being in another time, now that she knew it would end very soon.

But it was a small town, and soon enough she was huffing up the last flight to their flat. She cleaned up the breakfast things, mostly because she hated seeing dirty dishes, then wandered into their bedroom to make the bed. She repacked her suitcase. She had no idea how fast they would need to leave after the Doctor opened the watch. Would the Family of Blood be upon them immediately? Would they have to run?

Would the people here be safe?

Donna felt the first shiver of misgivings. They were after the Doctor, no one else. Surely there would be no point sticking around here for them...Right?

This was dumb. Of course they'd be okay. The Doctor would think of something.

Before she knew it it was three o'clock, and she was sitting on the couch facing the door, watching the doorknob turn.

The Doctor swept in, hat and papers in hand, his face brightening as soon as he caught sight of her.

"Darling! Were you waiting for me?" he walked to her quickly, leaning down to kiss her cheek lingeringly. "I hope you weren't too bored all day. What did you do?"

"I...I toured the town. It's nice. Calm," Donna said slowly, unsure how to start up the "you're really a Time Lord, take a look at this nifty watch" conversation.

The Doctor was nodding, sliding the robe off his shoulders and making to toss it across a chair before guiltily casting a glance at Donna and moving to hang it neatly on the coat rack instead.

"Lovely little town, isn't it? Perfect place to raise that family we've always wanted," he stated casually.

Oh boy. Maybe she didn't need to have a conversation with him at all. He had said it was up to her, right? He would have never planned for things to go like this. He'd understand.

"Doct- John. I need you to fix something for me."

"Oooh, of course! Already some handy household repairs for me to do?" he beamed at her, delighted at the domesticity.

"No, it's a trinket. That old watch I have," she pulled the chain from her shirt, having to undo a few buttons from the tight, high neck to do so, and unaware of how the Doctor's eyes followed the movement of her fingers.

She handed the bundle to him - chain, key and watch. "I think it's broken. Can you fix it?"

He gave the TARDIS key a long, confused look, but didn't ask what it was for. The watch, however, he barely glanced at.

"Huh, old, simple thing. I could just buy you a new one."

"But I like that one." She said pointedly. "Can you take a look and see what's wrong?"

"Of course, dear, if that is what you want. After I finish up some coursework, yes?" He put the watch aside, almost as if he couldn't keep his attention on it. Any other time he would have asked where she got it, why she had a man's pocket watch, what was wrong with it, etc. But it simply seemed to skip his mind.

"No, I'd rather you-"

The Doctor had already moved on to snatch up his bundle of papers, humming happily as he used the dining table to comfortably spread out all his notes.

Donna huffed out a frustrated breath and picked up the chain. He'd stopped humming and was telling her about his day; she kept half an ear on it as she thought about what to do next. Could she open it herself? Did the "eau d' Time Lord" become less potent if the Doctor didn't do it himself? She didn't really know the mechanics of all this, but he'd said  she could open it. Of course, he'd also said this would be a "like a holiday, Donna!" and boy if she had a penny for every time he'd been wrong-

It was after a second that she realized he'd gone silent, and it caught her attention enough to look his way.

He was gazing at her from the table and his eyes were soft. "I forgot to tell you, your hair looks lovely. Did you put it down for me?" he asked shyly, almost hopefully.

Her hand flew up and indeed, her hair hung loose over her shoulders. "Oh! I forgot to put it up after my bath!"

"It's beautiful. You're beautiful."

She blushed at the compliment and stammered out a "you're daft" as he rose from his seat to go to her, take her hands and lead her to sit with him at the table.

"I wish you would believe me when I tell you," he murmured sadly, before perking up. "How about you sit here and keep me company? Or I can use your brilliant mind at maths to help me grade these papers?"

She was still flustered, so only nodded her head dumbly.

Pleased, he twinkled at her and placed a neat stack of papers in front of her, then attacked his own stack with gusto and a continuation of endless babble.

Donna gazed down at the first page of neat figures and numbers, basic algebra. On automatic she picked up a pen, only to put it down again. This was crazy. She just needed to get it done. He'd find another way.

Donna shook off her sudden stupor, tightened her hold on the watch and looked up at the Doctor. And then she really LOOKED at him.

And was taken aback completely.

He was grinning like mad, talking about all those "brilliant young minds, thirsty for knowledge, blah blah blah" and that grin was genuine. Not manic, not crazed, not 'I'm always all right' but an honest 'this is fun!' grin.

For weeks she'd been making herself sick worrying about his health and state of mind after Jenny and the Library and Midnight, and now he finally looked...relaxed. For the first time in what seemed like forever.

It finally struck Donna - ooh, you are so thick! soooo thick! - what she should have known all along: none of this was about escaping the Family of Blood. This was simply about escaping from himself. He said it'd be like a holiday for her, ha! No, this wasn't about Donna at all (fancy that!) It was all about him and his need to run, to forget if even for a little while. To let the mundane concerns of a human consume him - no more loss, no more choices, no more "who lives, who dies", no more "second chances" that weren't chances at all.

He had that, for three months. Three months of not grieving or second-guessing.

Just John Smith, a regular bloke. Could she really take that away?

"Donna?" he asked quietly.

She blinked, refocused. "Eh?"

He smiled at her crookedly. "Why are you looking at me like that?"

She flushed and reached for one of the papers in front of her. "You look happy, is all."

His smile widened and he was suddenly reaching over the table to grasp her hands. "I am happy. I finally have a position where I am making a difference, I have a gorgeous wife I love, and everything is right in the world."

You made a difference before. This is nothing! she screamed internally. But he'd never looked so carefree.

His hands tightened on hers and his eyes turned serious, cautious. "Aren't you happy, Donna? You, me, starting this new life together?"

Donna sighed and smiled back because that was all she could do. "Yeah, love. I'm happy."

He stood and reached over to pull her up into a fierce hug, radiating contentment, and Donna just closed her eyes and hugged him back. This was her Doctor, and he needed her to not just stop him, but to also run with him when that's all he could do.

And he was running now, perhaps harder than he ever had before.

Oh, you silly Martian, she thought in sad fondness as he gripped her tightly. All right. I'll let you run a little longer.


Another evening passed. Donna created something vaguely edible (if you squinted and didn't chew too much) for dinner, but the Doctor never complained. Afterward they sat companionably in the living room, she learning the fine (read: brain-numbingly dull) art of crocheting, he with books, coursework, and a little blue journal. This, she would find in the coming days, would become their routine.

At bedtime she stood in front of her mirror, giving herself a pep-talk. She could do this, she told herself firmly. It's not like this was life threatening! All she had to do was avoid a few amorous advances, and she had that skill honed to perfection thanks to her time as a temp. 'Course, the men putting the moves on her weren't usually her very alien, very platonic, (and actually pretty damn attractive if she had to be completely honest but really, what was this, the Spanish Inquisition?) very best friend. But then when all was said and done she'd have plenty of fodder to endlessly tease the Doctor with. They'd have a good laugh at the preposterous idea of him being hot for her and then she'd make him take her shopping.

Somewhere posh and ridiculously expensive. And she'd make him carry all the bags. Yeah, that would work.

When she heard a knock at the door she turned to see the Doctor already entering her room, but this time she was unsurprised. 'Cuz she was going to be the best damn friend he'd ever had, make sure he got his "holiday" without anything really damaging happening between them, and after 3 months she was going to have a mountain of new shoes.

And life would go back to normal, even if it killed her.


To be continued – The Doctor's getting antsy

Comments are like shots of magical booze that bring Donna back from having her mind wiped.

Chapter Text

Days passed, Donna did not make some horrendous faux pas and the universe did not come to an end. Donna started to think, with wary optimism, that they would manage to get through this.

True to his word to "give her time", the Doctor didn't try out any sexy moves on her during the day. He confined himself to hand-holding, hugs and barely-there kisses on forehead, cheek, or (if he was feeling particularly adventurous) lips. Other than the brushing of lips, it wasn't all that different than when she and the Doctor were on the TARDIS.

Which led, of course, to a startling realization for Donna: she and the Doctor touched a lot. She would have said that it was just what friends did, except she didn't recall ever being quite so touchy-feely with anyone else. Why hadn't she noticed? Why hadn't it bothered her? She fretted about this for a full afternoon and then filed it away under "things Donna didn't want to think about" (which was becoming rather full, but she didn't want to think about that, either.) And anyway, she'd never gotten a hint that all those touches were anything other than platonic, before now.

They'd settled into such a comfortable routine, and he played the gentleman so well, that Donna was almost lulled into a sense of complacency. Almost.

The only speed-bumps were at night. However, they were humongous, towering, wreck-the-car type of speed-bumps that she had not yet learned how to avoid.

Because at night the Doctor's control wavered.

He had refused to use his bedroom ever since their first day in 1913, and spent his nights in her bed, curled around Donna as if he feared she'd be snatched up by ninjas during his sleep. She'd grown used to being his human security blanket suprisingly quickly. After all, it was...pleasant. He was so warm and solid and he needed her and why she liked that, she wasn't going to think about either.

Anyway, it would have been innocent enough but...

But his hands - oh, those hands that behaved themselves so well during the daylight hours - at night, when sleep took over, those hands wandered, became fervent and demanding. Donna often awoke, aroused and flustered, to fluttering fingertips on her skin and the Doctor's lips murmuring into her neck as he slept.

He was asleep; she knew that for sure. She would lay awake at night, counting his breaths and feeling the calm thudding of his heart against her back as those sly hands inched their way across her skin. He dreamed vividly, because if she didn't wake up at his touch then she was waking up to his cries during the night. Mumbled words: Gallifrey, Daleks, Cybermen. Or names whispered in sadness: Master, Martha, Rose, and myriad others she hadn't heard before. But most often, her own name, Donna, groaned breathily or shouted in fear.

There wasn't much she could do about his wandering hands other than try to squirm away, at which point he usually tightened his hold on her like a limpet and began to shout her name in his sleep. However, she could stop wearing that stupid nightgown. After a few nights of waking to find herself practically straddling the doctor with his hands gripping her bare hips, and that ridiculous nightgown doing absolutely nothing to preserve her modesty, she had decided she could at least control that much. So she'd appropriated a set of his pajamas: soft linen drawstring trousers with an oversized sleep shirt.

Let's see you get your hands under these, she had thought gleefully when she first donned them. It was her first act of rebellion in 1913 - wearing men's clothing to bed.  She wondered if this was considered very scandalous for the times, and walked into her bedroom looking forward to shocking the Doctor. However, his appreciative and somewhat proprietary air when he'd seen her walk in wearing his sleep-clothes made her doubt her choice. Oh well, anything was better than a nightgown that had a worrisome habit of working itself up to her armpits.

But those clever fingers still wandered, dipping just past the tight drawstring waist of the bottoms, skimming under the sleep shirt to settle warmly on her stomach or brush the underside of a breast, or alternately clutching and smoothing the soft linen over her thighs. And all the while the constant movement of his lips against her neck, her throat, her cheeks, her hair...murmuring names and locations, sometimes in languages she didn't always recognize.

Which all meant Donna became an extremely early riser, untangling herself from his grasp before he woke fully each morning. At first she did so indignantly. But after days of falling asleep and waking to his touch, now she did so almost hesitantly. Because as much as she hated to admit it, she was NOT unaffected.

It's just been so long, she argued with herself on particularly difficutl mornings. She'd had no time for romance after Lance, not while looking for the Doctor. And no wish to find anyone to fill that basic human need after beginning her travels. Nothing killed your sense of romance quite like having your fiancee try to feed you to giant spiders. She assured herself that her body was just catching up with her, that was all.

She refused to admit to herself how heady it was to have the Doctor's affection focused so squarely on her. Of course, she knew the Doctor cared for her - she was his best friend. But she always imagined him with a big "DO NOT TOUCH" scrawled over his forehead. And it's not as if he would ever fancy Donna, even if he didn't apparently love another. He'd made it very clear he just wanted a mate. And that was just fine, she repeated to herself on those nights when she stayed awake, feeling his fingertips grazing over her. She didn't want anything else either... Right?

Whatever. It didn't have to be a big deal. As long as he remained asleep and unaware of what he was doing, and she continued to hold him at bay - well, what did a few sleepless nights matter, anyway. She hadn't come up with any excuse to kick him out of her room. Honestly, she hadn't tried that hard to think of one. Regardless of the mounting, uncomfortable frustration she was experiencing, she felt better knowing where he was, safe and sound beside her in the dark.


Donna was sleepily eating her breakfast (watery, flavorless porridge) and staring daggers at the Doctor, who seemed to have no problems shoveling in the porridge (okay, maybe more like gruel, really) and telling her all about his lesson plans for the day. And well of course he was all cheery and awake, she mused grumpily, since he hadn't been up most of the night fending off hands hell-bent on getting under her shirt.

This was always how mornings went now; she'd scramble out of bed at the earliest opportunity, try to make something edible, and then listen to him with half an ear until he left for classes, counting the seconds until she could return to bed and fight to fall back asleep.

With a quick kiss to her hair he set the plate on the counter and dashed for his hat and robe before exiting the flat. Donna waved him off, then eyed the rest of her breakfast before deciding to dump it. If anything good came out of this little "vacation", it was that she was losing weight. Having to eat her own cooking was torture. She didn't understand how the Doctor could wolf it all down, and without a word of complaint. She wanted to complain about her own cooking, for godssake. It took her forever to make anything, and the end result was often tasteless, soggy, or burnt. Or a fascinating combination of all three.

She washed the dishes halfheartedly and then crawled back into bed. This was the time when she tried to catch up on the sleep she missed at night, warding against Mr. Happy Hands. Mostly she rarely did more than toss and turn, stare at the ceiling and curse sleep that wouldn't return. In a few hours she'd have to get up, get dressed and go into town to buy groceries, then fumble for a recipe that looked doable for when the Doctor got home. Ack. Why hadn't they landed in a time that had microwaves and instant food and little packets of sauce and …

She sat up, hair flying in her face. Oh my god, she was an idiot! Days now she'd been making things from scratch, like a big stupid moron! And LAUNDRY! Dear lord, she'd been washing things by hand!  What was she thinking?

She scrambled up, dragged on a dress that wasn't quite ripe, and grabbed a big carpet bag out of the closet. She stuffed all of her and the Doctor's dirty clothes in there – she'd been putting off the wash for days now – and then flew out of the flat with a smile on her face, the first genuine one in days.

_________________________________________________________

She let herself into the TARDIS, huffing slightly from her quick dash there. The TARDIS hummed smugly at her, happy for the company but obviously rubbing in her failed attempt to re-Doctorize John. Donna snapped out a quick, "oh, shut up" at the TARDIS, then moved on to the laundry room.

The great thing about space-age laundry machines was that you didn't need to sort a thing. She just shoved all the clothes into a hamper-looking receptacle and let the TARDIS do the rest. She stripped off her dress and dumped that in too, for good measure, wrapping herself in her favorite terry robe in the meanwhile. Then she continued on to raid the pantry. Hell if she was going to continue cooking from scratch for months.

She managed to stuff several boxes of instant rice, some type of intergalactic Hamburger Helper, and ramen noodles into her bag. Then came the canned soups (to think she'd tried doing a tomato soup with ACTUAL TOMATOES a few days ago! Crazy!) and some tins of biscuits for good measure. Now all she needed was a quick trip to the grocers to round out some fresh ingredients and she was set for another few days - oh, happiness! She would have to be careful, hide everything in her room and make sure to pack up the trash to dispose of during a restocking trip. She was NOT going to have the Doctor accuse her of causing some type of paradox because she'd inadvertently left behind a box of Rice-A-Roni, even if she was doing all of this only to ensure they didn't starve.

She whiled away a bit of time in a steamy bath. The big iron-foot club in the flat wasn't bad, but it took forever to fill and never seemed quite hot enough. Not to mention the lack of hair dryer, straightener, assorted lotions…sigh. Donna gave a fleeting thought to packing some other modern luxuries she hated going without, but didn't want to risk anything else. Besides, she could always come back if necessary. Not that she could make this a habit - couldn't trust the Doctor to be left alone in that school for very long - but if she really needed something like, say, enormous quantities of vodka...

The laundry dinged at her helpfully, and off she went to pull out clothes. They were clean, softened, fluffed, and wrinkle free. She chortled to herself as she folded everything up and added it to the top of her overstuffed bag. It'd be heavy to carry, but worth every step.

Time had passed quickly; she only barely realized the Doctor would be done with classes soon. She changed into her clean dress and lugged the bag to the door. As she reached for the handles the lights dimmed briefly; she imagined this was the equivalent of a TARDIS wink. "Yeah yeah," she replied, relenting and patting the blue doors, "thanks for the help. Still, though, you're not forgiven!"

She imagined the TARDIS would have laughed at her if she could.


 Feeling flush with all the goodies stolen from the TARDIS, Donna walked into the flat with a jaunty step.

To abruptly halt as she was greeted with the most atrocious sight ever: Nurse Redfern with her hands on her Doctor's hair!

Donna almost stumbled at the unexpected yet fiercely stinging jab of jealousy she felt. Why the hell should she be jealous? It sure wasn't her  business whose mangy paws the Doctor allowed on him, was it? Donna fought down the completely irrational and uncalled-for urge to hurl a shoe at Joan, and then the accompanying shoe at the Doctor, and instead walked inside with an air of unconcern.

"Well, hello there, Nurse Redfern. I didn't know you had planned to call on us today."

The Doctor looked up from his ever present journal and beamed at Donna. "Love, you are finally back! Couldn't find you earlier."

"I took a quick walk into town," explained Donna, setting her bag full of pilfered TARDIS food down behind a chair.

"Oh, I assured Mr. Smith you would have to return quickly, seeing as you left without a maid and would barely have time to begin dinner preparations if you dallied much longer," came the prim response from Joan.

I can assure you that I will slap that smug smile off your face if you don't get your hands off him right now, thought Donna. She huffily tossed back her hair, trying to control her rising ire. Why was the Doctor just sitting there, like a big stupid lump?

"And your hair has come unpinned, Mrs. Smith. It is rather unseemly."

"Oh, that's all right," drawled Donna, smiling with teeth. "John likes it this way. Don't you, darling?"

She swiveled her gaze towards John, who jumped at the sudden attention before gazing back at her fondly. "Yes, it is beautiful."

Donna's own smile softened at that admission, before she remembered that Joan was still in the room. "So what's all this then?" 

"Haircut!" beamed an oblivious Doctor. "The headmaster asked me to get a little trim, and Nurse Redfern was passing by and offered."

Didn't she just.

"Ah, well, isn't that nice of her," replied Donna with such treacly sweetness that it was a miracle Joan didn't drop from diabetic shock then and there. "But I'm back now and we don't need to take up any more of your valuable time. I'll finish up from here, thanks."

"Oh, I am almost done. It will be no bother-"

Donna walked up to Joan and deftly snatched the scissors from the nurse's hand. She was very proud of the fact that she didn't then turn the scissors on the mealy-mouthed blond. Instead she just gripped an elbow and frog-marched her to the door.

"Madam, I must pro-"

"Thanks! Ta!" Donna sang as she slammed the door shut.

The Doctor was staring at her with surprised pleasure on his face, which turned a bit uncertain as Donna stomped over to him with scissors in hand.

She stood behind him without a word, surveying the cleaning up Joan had already completed. Which, to be perfectly honest, she'd been doing a pretty damn good job of, but that admission only made her clutch the scissors angrily.

No doubt sensing the waves of ire coming from a woman standing behind him with scissors at the ready, the Doctor craned his head slightly to try to glimpse her over his shoulder. Eyes Bambi-wide, he mustered up the courage to ask, "Sweetheart? Are you upset that Nurse Redfern was cutting my hair?"

"Nah," she said disdainfully. "It's completely okay for me to walk in and see some floozy with her hands on my husband!"

The Doctor recoiled slightly at the volume of that comment, before looking absurdly delighted.

Donna, however, was a little shocked at her outburst. She'd called him "husband." Willingly! That had -- that had come out rather quick, hadn't it?

Well, it was her job to make sure the Doctor didn't do anything stupid! Falling into the clutches of the desperate nurse would definitely count as that, wouldn't it?

Donna looked at the hair before her and considered giving him a mohawk for not knowing any better than to let some hard-up woman, who obviously had designs on his string-bean body!, near him. God, it was like the Library and that River Song all over again. Oblivious, dim BLOKE. How had he survived 900 years?!

She would have to come up with some suitable retribution. Perhaps next time she went to the TARDIS, she would pick up some pears.

________________________________________________________

That evening passed, like so many others, with Donna and the Doctor sharing the small living room after their meal. The Doctor had praised her new and improved cooking, asking with enthusiasm what she called this dish. She demurely replied "Japanese style noodles," at which point he'd rhapsodized about his clever, inventive wife.

Who knew some ramen noodles, with a handful of vegetables thrown in, could make her the household hero.

They sat side by side now, she with a book she was forcing herself to read and he with his journal. He spent time recounting his most recent strange dream, and now he documented them in his little book. Not that he had to tell her; she knew what he dreamed well enough; she'd had each story whispered into her skin every night.

When he had first admitted to her that he was keeping a journal, he had begged her not to think ill of him for imagining the fair-haired girl and the dark woman who'd traveled with him. They were just friends, he assured her. And besides that, imaginary. Donna had tried very hard not to roll her eyes at him.

If she was surprised at how often her own image was captured on those pages, she didn't let it show.

That night in bed he held her as tightly as ever. Donna found herself running her hands through his newly-trimmed hair, only realizing what she was doing and stopping immediately when she felt him smile and snuggle against her shoulder. When his body relaxed into slumber against her, she stared into the dark and thought that the months couldn't pass quickly enough.



To be continued - Donna has a melt down

Every time someone comments, an angel gets its wings...or the Doctor frolics naked through a field of flowers. One or the other; I'm always confused which.

Chapter Text

But after a few weeks, the routine that had at first seemed harmless enough began to wear on Donna.

Time began to blur. Her nights were spent sleepless, tense and worried against the Doctor's warmth. His dreams were becoming more vivid, his movements more pronounced against her, his touch more proprietary. One night he cried out "detox!" and levered himself over Donna, pressing his lips hungrily to hers and no, that had not been John's shy touch she felt. She spent hours shaking off unwanted arousal and staring at the ceiling then, chastising herself for being sentimental and overly-hormonal.

Her days were spent counting time, aware of each second that passed, wishing for it to go faster so the farce would end. But then she'd feel guilty. He needed this time, and he'd never before asked for anything else from her. She castigated herself constantly, telling herself to buck up, take things in a stride. Here she was getting all worked up because her best mate liked to cuddle. Her friend, who had taken her out of a directionless life and shown her the universe, and she couldn't handle a few weeks of cooling her heels. Each evening she resolved to try harder; by each morning that resolve had crumbled.

Yet a few days more and Donna was climbing the walls, cabin fever setting in. She felt shut in, stifled. There was nothing to do to take her mind off her problems or disperse her restlessness. Now that she had figured how to cheat her way out of cooking there really were just too many hours in the day. She would get up in the morning, sleep-deprived, wait for the Doctor to leave so she could go back to bed but then, in that evil way that exhaustion works, her body would refuse to sleep. She knew it was because she was used to being active – constantly looking for jobs in London, and later running for her life on the TARDIS. Her system wasn't used to just sitting anymore.

And that's all that was expected of her here. Keep her home tidy, care for her Doctor, knit, mend, sit sit sit. The monotony was only ever broken by infrequent, quick trips to the TARDIS to dispose of the containers of futuristic food and pick up some more. She was scared of spending too much time out only to return to find out that the Doctor had run into trouble while she was gone.

She was petrified of returning to the flat to find Nurse Redfern in her space again.

Joan was pretty, after all, in that insipid blonde way the Doctor preferred. She was appealingly vulnerable, a widow who was so obviously lonely. Donna would have pitied her if it weren't for the fact that she was trying to move in on her husband. And with Donna keeping him at arm's length, what if at some point he should turn to someone else for...

Wait no, that was wrong. He wasn't her husband. Just the Doctor. Just the Doctor playing at being human and it didn't matter what he did with anyone else; they'd be leaving in the end.

She was making herself crazy. The sleep deprivation had obviously driven her barmy, to be thinking like that. What did she care that Joan was interested in the Doctor?

She felt paranoid and stressed, constantly on guard for an attack that never came. The days left her exhausted in her inactivity, the nights even more so in growing frustration as the Doctor became increasingly restless in his sleep.

She wanted to scream. She wanted something to happen so she could at least be forced to move. Just something!

And with her tempting fate this way, of course something did.


It was another morning, like all the others that had passed her in a blur. Unable to lie in bed even one extra second with the Doctor's weight beside her, Donna had risen early enough to bathe, dress, and fix breakfast before the Doctor came out and ate, ready for classes.

She was running on fumes, hardly noticing the taste of the instant oatmeal in front of her, and barely aware of the Doctor's hands as they settled – a little too warm, a little too long – on her shoulders.

On autopilot, she lifted her face to accept the customary goodbye kiss. She was prepared for the innocent pecks she had gotten used to. He kissed her fleetingly, a butterfly touch, and drew away. She was lowering her face already when suddenly his hand was on her chin, lifting her face again, and his lips were on her once more. Another brushing of lips, and another, and yet another, sinking down to her and she was completely unprepared. The wanting hit her with an unexpected, fierce blow. Before she knew it she was kissing him back, leaning towards him, parting her lips and angling her head, tangling her fingers in his hair.

He made a low sound of surprise, his hands gripping her shoulders, pulling her out of her seat.

And Donna – tired, frustrated Donna – just...forgot. Forgot she wasn't supposed to do this, forgot that she was in charge of making sure the Doctor didn't do something he would regret… because it was too hard. It was too hard to keep saying no when it felt so good and he seemed so sure to want this and god, she wanted it too.

He parted his own lips to fit with hers; with mounting passion she invaded his mouth with her tongue and felt him freeze in complete shock. She was fuzzily trying to work out why, some niggling voice whispering 1913, and this is John, shy, inexperienced John but she ignored that and instead teased his tongue with hers until he was tentatively reciprocating, copying her and learning ever so quickly until he was overtaking her with his enthusiasm.

Any stray bit of reason left her because he tasted so good – no anchovies and ginger beer here, no – just warm and moist (the faintest traces of maple from the oatmeal) and oh she'd been waiting for this…

She tugged harder on his hair, bending him closer to her, pressing her body against his. He broke away, gasping, staring at her with eyes gone wide and dilated and before she knew it he was attacking the buttons on her blouse and she was helping him, baring neck and shoulders, the lacy chemise underneath that she had always found so pretty if impractical at containing her breasts, and the corset that she hated so much but cinched her in and pushed up an indecent amount of creamy skin.

His hands were immediately drawn to all that flesh pushing against the paper-thin chemise. He brushed the pads of his fingers gently (oh, god, too gently) against the dark shadows her nipples cast through the linen, watching them tighten with glazed eyes. With a groan he buried his face against her, tasted her skin as his hands learned the weight of her breasts, tongue ghosting over throat and clavicle until his mouth settled with sudden ferocity on the grouping of freckles on her shoulder that had so captivated him that first night.

Donna could only clutch at his coat. Everything was just too much. His touch was colored with the desperation of someone who had been denied something they had craved, needed, for far too long, to suddenly find it all within reach.

She was taking gasping breaths, trying to force air into lungs that were abruptly so constrained by heat. She heaved against the corset and the Doctor's eager fingers. "Can't breathe," she moaned, and he quickly reached around her for the laces of the undergarment. He tangled them in his inexperience as Donna strained against him.

"Sorry, sorry, sorry," he chanted, his lips against neck and shoulder once more as he pulled at the ribbons in mounting frustration, practically tearing at them. Donna was seeing stars - he was holding her so tightly and inadvertently tightening the corset as he fought to get it off her - she was both starved for air and inundated with sensation.

The Doctor gave a half sob, half growl, but managed to loosen the corset the fraction she needed to breathe before another knot destroyed him and he gave up on trying to get the garment off her. Instead he danced her backwards, pushing her against the wall and pinning her there with his body so his hands could begin a fevered exploration of her body through the layers of clothing. He gripped her hips to push himself against her desperately; she could feel him, hard, long and aching even through the layers of skirt.

His lips returned to that favored spot on her neck, moving in hungry appeal around her throat: "I want you so much. I need you so much." She barely heard him, her ears were ringing and all she could focus on was his weight against her.

His hands moved to clutch handfuls of dress, hauling up yards of fabric until her skirts frothed at her waist and she obligingly lifted a leg to wrap around his hip. Her name was a strangled sound on the back of his throat as his busy hands settled on her bare thighs. At encountering her skin, those hands froze, then flexed on her, fingers digging into her flesh.

"You're not wearing pants," he breathed, equal parts scandalized and euphoric.

And she wasn't. There was no way she was going to wear flippin' knee-length bloomers under several layers of skirts already, and who would have known, anyway?

She wasn't sure if he expected an explanation and didn't think she had the mental faculty to think of one, but dismissed the thought as his hands immediately continued their exploration. One hand gripped the leg she'd hooked around his hip, long fingers skimming her inner thigh; the other ran ticklishly along her other leg, up up up her thigh only to pause uncertainly.

"Ahhhh," she gasped against him, a pleading noise, drawing him closer as her leg tightened around him.

"Oh, can I…can I please…" he begged faintly.

"Yes," she groaned, almost undone by his careful movements and his endearing fumbling. She reached down, grasped the wrist of one hand and gave it that nudge it needed to touch her where she wanted him most.

They both groaned as his fingers found her, wet and slick. Careful fingers explored, gaining confidence with every moan and gasp she was unable to hold back. He panted in time with her, excited beyond comprehension by the feel of her, the smell and sound and taste. His open mouth found the top of her breast, latched on and pulled against the delicate skin.

There was a little voice somewhere in her head, screaming at her, you aren't supposed to let this happen. You're supposed to protect John. But it was so hard to think, and it wasn't just John's but the Doctor's sure hand, calloused and strong, cupping her with just the right amount of pressure to make her tremble. His quick, clever fingers dipping inside her, moving in sure strokes in and out until she clenched around his hand, a sharp cry escaping her throat. His sly mouth and his tongue, with that delightful oral fixation, tasting her breasts, laving, nipping, teasing.

And when she came she did so with a wordless scream, because she dared not call out the wrong name, either way.

----------------------------------------------------

She came back to earth to find herself pressed against the Doctor, his damp hands on her still and his dark eyes gazing at her in proud astonishment. She could still feel tremors move through her. Her knees had buckled; he was holding her entire weight, both legs wrapped around him now.

"You're so beautiful," he managed before claiming her lips again with all the skill she had just taught him.

Hands were fumbling between them. They might have been hers, maybe his, readying to unbuckle his trousers. For Donna, everything was soft around the edges, floating on the dregs of her orgasm.

But reason was trying to reassert itself. You can still stop this. It's not too late. But he was so hard against her and made her feel

"Master Smith? Master Smith are you in there?"

They both froze, the Doctor in his determined bid to move forward, Donna in her confused indecision.

"Master Smith, are you well? You're late for classes. Mrs. Smith, are you home? Is your husband—" the Headmaster's insistent voice spoke through the front door, doorknob rattling when he didn't get a response.

"I am here, sir," the Doctor finally called out loudly, his forehead dropping to hers, eyes closing as he took deep breaths. "I apologize. I'll be down presently."

The Headmaster called out a baffled agreement and then there was silence. The Doctor looked down at Donna with an expression of frustrated agony. "Darling, I..."

"You'd better go," said Donna shakily. The Doctor nodded regretfully, and gently untangled himself from her, smoothing down her skirts. He dropped a long, lingering kiss on her hair.

"I will be back later," he promised with a gleam in his eyes.

Donna said nothing, just watched him throw on his teacher's robe (which hid a multitude of sins), grab his hat and walk out the door.

Her unsteady legs gave out and she sunk to the floor. She felt as if her entire body had been submerged in freezing water. Her heart was thudding and she broke out into a cold sweat all over as panic finally overtook her.

She had wanted something to happen. Oh god, what...

What had she done?


To be continued - Donna confuses the Doctor; major freakage ensues.

Reviews are like a TARDIS that stocks all your favorite food without you even having to ask, and then the Doctor feeds it to you, wearing a frilly apron.

Chapter Text

Donna sat on the couch, curled into herself miserably. She turned the watch over in her hands endlessly. She should have opened it a month ago. She should open it now. Things had spiraled out of her control.

But if pity stayed her hand the first time, guilt stopped her this time around. She wasn't ready to face the Doctor after what had happened. He would be so angry; rightfully so. She'd ruined everything.

How was she supposed to face him when he was back to normal? She, who'd always been so adamant about just being pals. Who shouted "hands!" every time she even got a whiff of inappropriate touching. Who argued down anybody who even hinted at them being a couple. Who'd promised, so very emphatically, that if he just wanted "a mate" then she was the gal for that. No mad Martha or puppy-love Rose, poor infatuated fools. No, not her. She was Donna, older and wiser, and she'd have none of that nonsense.

She was a hypocrite.

She flicked a fingernail under the watch's latch, braced herself...and couldn't do it. All she was able to do was sit here, think about how weak and stupid she was, and promise herself to not let anything like this happen ever, ever again. How she would be able to do that, now that "John" thought she was receptive to intimacy, she had no idea. There weren't many people who would patiently agree to not consummate their marriage; she had been very, very lucky. The Doctor's – John's – sense of gentle chivalry had been the only upper-hand she had. But after this morning, she was sure he thought she was finally ready. She had lost her only advantage.

She wanted badly to run to the TARDIS, but she was ashamed to go to the ship. Whatever stupid story the TARDIS had thought up, she had entrusted the Doctor to Donna's care. She had handed him over, innocent, with his romantic ideas and faulty memories, so that Donna would keep him safe from the Family of Blood.

But he hadn't been safe from her.

Donna wrapped the thin shawl she had donned tighter around herself. Her eyes were repeatedly drawn to the wall where she lost control, and every time she closed her eyes the entire scene replayed before her, making her shudder with a sickening mix of sensory memory and guilt. She fought it for a while, torn between her wish to escape the scene of the crime and her unwillingness to face the TARDIS' wrath.

But in the end, however much the TARDIS blamed her now, she couldn't stay here.


Donna quite honestly thought her key would no longer work on the TARDIS doors, that the ship would have locked her out as punishment. But the lock turned smoothly as always and she stepped into the vast space, shutting the door behind her.

The lights were dimmer than ever; the TARDIS was completely silent, as if waiting for her to make the first move. Somehow, Donna knew the TARDIS was already aware of her failure. The TARDIS always seemed to know, when it concerned the Doctor.

She slowly walked up to the console, set her fingertips on the controls. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

An array of lights winked on and off in quick succession. Donna had no clue what that meant. A scolding? An "I don't want to hear your half-assed excuses"? Or a request for clarification? Since she didn't know, she forged onward.

"Um," she tangled her fingers together, "I messed up really badly. The Doctor, you see, John has been wanting to-" this was so humiliating, she couldn't even say it out loud, to a ship, even. Did the TARDIS even know what sex was?

"I tried so hard not to be affected, I really did. But I'm tired and frustrated and before I knew it I was kissing him and he was kissing me and there was a wall and I...I let him. I let him."

She didn't know what she expected – a siren, sparks, something to show the ship's displeasure. And though the lights on the console continued to twinkle at her in a random array, there was no other reaction from the ship.

She stepped back, dropped heavily onto the jump seat. "God, he's going to hate me." She fell silent and lost herself in her dark thoughts, staring at the twinkling lights in front of her in mute appeal.

Gradually she became aware of a very low, tentative hum. She looked up to find the control room was still dim, but there was a light shining from the hallway. Donna sniffed wetly, wiped her nose on her sleeve like a child and followed the light, wondering what the TARDIS had in store for her after such a fantastic fail.

Confusingly, the light stopped right in front of her bedroom door, cracked open. Donna held her breath, pushed the door open the rest of the way, and felt her tears completely overflow as a sob escaped her in relief. All her stuff was still there. The light was soft and calming, and the bed was invitingly turned down.

Donna rushed to her bed and burrowed under sheets and blankets, not caring that her dress was confining and uncomfortable. For whatever reason, the TARDIS didn't hate her for being such a dismal companion, and hadn't kicked her out.

Emotionally drained, Donna let herself be soothed by the gentle hum of the TARDIS. She would have to think of something later, make some sort of plan; but for a little while, this was her escape.

It was her turn to run.


The Doctor bounced into the flat with unmasked enthusiasm, all but tumbling over himself in his haste to get inside. But if he had been expecting his wife to attack him in quite the same manner she had in the morning, Donna had a rather different surprise in store for him.

He ground to a halt. "Darling? Are you all right?"

Donna reclined on the small couch, wrapped in a blanket and with a warmed brick placed tellingly over her stomach. She wore a dressing gown over the voluminous nightgown she had abandoned weeks ago.

"Oh, John." She didn't have to fake the sickly look on her face. "I'm not feeling well."

He dropped his books to the floor without a thought. They sounded loud as gunshots in the small room. Donna flinched as he rushed to her side, dropping on his knees besides the couch to place a dry hand on her forehead. "What's wrong? Are you hurt? What happened? I'll get Nurse Redfern to come. No, I'll call for a doctor. You need a doctor-"

She managed to snag his arm with a surprisingly strong grip before he could take off in a panicked rush. "No, I don't need the doctor," she stated firmly. "This is normal. It's my monthly."

He paused, looked at her in confusion before realization dawned and his ears turned pink. "Oh!" he managed, then patted her arm awkwardly. "Of course, I never noticed...we have been here a while now, haven't we."

She nodded. As excuses went, it was one of the lamest, most cliched ones ever and she was half-ashamed that it was the best she could come up with, but she was banking on his being embarrassed enough with the subject matter that he wouldn't ask questions.

Such as how likely spontaneous menstruation was, given that there had been no indications of it that morning.

He continued patting her arm, as if she were a particularly skittish pony. "Do you need anything? Can I get you," he gazed at her, completely lost, "um, tea? Would that be good?"

Donna felt a smile stretch across her face, strained and insincere. God, this was pathetic. "Yes. That would be lovely. Thank you."

He smiled back, obviously relieved to have found something useful, and scampered off to make the tea. Donna dropped her head in her hands. The Doctor, scared away by the idea of a woman on her period.

It was laughable. The first month she'd been on the TARDIS and delicately broached the subject of stopping by an intergalactic Boots equivalent, the Doctor had marched her to the infirmary and proudly flung open a cabinet to display every kind of feminine hygiene product available in several human-populated galaxies. Then he'd cheerfully explained how the ones she didn't recognize worked.

When she'd looked baffled at some of them, he'd broken out the sock puppets.

Yet here was John, who couldn't face the idea of his wife on the rag without blushing like a schoolgirl. It only served to remind her how innocent and how unlike the Doctor he could be, and why she'd been placed here to protect him.

She tamped down the niggly guilt she felt at lying to his face. Of course, no force in the universe could convince her to deal with her period in a time before the invention of super absorbent tampons, at the very least. She had circumvented the whole ordeal by taking one of those nifty 28th century pills, one of the options the TARDIS kept stocked. A single tiny pill halted menstruation for six months with nary a side-effect, and had become one of Donna's personal favorite things about the future.

The Doctor hurried back with a brimming cup of tea. He seated himself at her side. "Here you go." He handed the cup over carefully, so evidently pleased to be of help that Donna felt another prickly stab of conscience.

He watched her drink her tea, playing with the fingers of her free hand and apparently more than happy to amuse himself with that indefinitely. Donna swallowed thickly, wondering if he would bring up what had happened in the morning, but he didn't say a word. When she finished her tea, he took the cup from her and toddled off to the kitchen with it.

"What would you like me to make for supper?" he asked from the kitchen.

Donna flailed and half fell off the couch. "What? Really?" She flung the blanket off her legs and sped to the kitchen. He was already taking off his coat and rolling up his shirtsleeves. "You're cooking?"

He looked at her oddly, obviously wondering at the shocked disbelief in her tone. "Of course I am, if you are not feeling well."

"But...but you don't cook," she blurted out. It's not that the Doctor didn't know how. She figured after 900+ years of life, you learned to make something. Yet he generally avoided the task like the plague (just like she did), probably used to too many companion willing to feed him. He'd really struck out on that plan when he picked her up.

He walked over to her, smoothed a hand down her hair. "I can manage, and you can rest." He took her arm solicitously and steered her back towards the couch, settling her down and tucking her in with as much care as if she were suffering from the bubonic plague.

"It's really not that bad. You don't have to do any of this," she protested, shame gnawing at her over his gentle treatment.

"Nonsense. And I like taking care of you. No need to worry, I know how much you love being in charge of the kitchen; I will gratefully cede it over once you feel more yourself."

Donna was thankful she had finished her tea; if she were still drinking it she would have spewed it all over the couch. Loved being in charge of the kitchen. Right. Absolutely.

When he returned to the kitchen, she stealthily slid out of her cocoon to follow him. He pulled out vegetables and began to scrub them clean, then reached for a knife and carefully set to dicing.

Donna was agog, watching a man (in 1913!) cooking (willingly!) while a woman (her!) was in the same building. It was like watching a magnificently bizarre circus act.

She must have made some noise, because he turned and caught her once more. He sternly directed her back to the living room to continue her "rest."

So she returned to her couch to brood. He'd believed her act without question, but her course of action would buy her a week's time at the most. What was she supposed to do after that? She'd have to cross that bridge when she got there. At least she could use this week to distance herself, and break some of the habits she had allowed to form.

.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.

The simple meal he cooked was a million times better than any effort she'd ever made. Her hum of appreciation at the first warm, soothing spoonful of broth made him beam as if she'd awarded him a medal of honor.

Afterward he seated them again on the small couch and leaned her against him. She squirmed fitfully when he wrapped an arm around her.

"All right?" he asked her gently, running a hand soothingly down her arm.

"Erm. Hot. S'hot in here."

He rose to bank the fire burning in the small fireplace, saying nothing when he returned to the couch to find she had appropriated the opposite corner and stretched out her legs a little. She buried her nose in a book and acted like she didn't notice he wouldn't be able to sit next to her that way.

Instead he placidly sat on the unoccupied end, and then lifted her feet onto his lap to start a gentle foot massage. Donna dropped her book, gripped the side of the settee.

"Oh! You don't, you don-"

"I want to, you look tired," he cut in before she could voice a protest. "You've always loved foot massages."

Well yeah, who didn't. That was like exclaiming that someone loved fluffy kittens that turned everything they touched into gold.

Donna bit her lip, hands clenching in the fabric of her dressing gown. She could find no kind way to refuse something she had apparently allowed before, as improper as it would be during this era.

He dug his fingers into a sensitive spot on her heel and Donna's eyes fluttered closed without her permission. Well, regardless how scandalous it may have be now, in her time it was nothing but an innocent foot rub. She'd paid many a random pedicurist for one. And it felt sooo good.

Which was how this whole mess had started.

Donna jerked herself out of the pleasant haze. She didn't deserve even this tiny bit of indulgence. She had to stay vigilant.

Donna steeled herself, fisted her hands at her side, and strengthened her resolve.

And she didn't enjoy a minute of the foot-rub. Mostly.

.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~.

When nighttime fell, Donna raced to excuse herself. The Doctor had spent the evening massaging her feet, then reading to her in a low, melodious voice that had come close to lulling her to sleep. It had been too much time spent in his presence, his attention solely on her, and she needed to escape.

So when she closed her bedroom door behind her, she did it with a sigh. At least she would have the nights to herself now.

Donna changed from the hateful nightgown into the more comfortable pyjamas, brushed her hair, and was turning down the sheets on the bed when she heard her door open behind her.

She froze, then turned with sick certainty to find the Doctor entering her room, ready for bed.

"Oh, D—John! I...I didn't think you would be staying here tonight."

He smiled gently at her. "I wouldn't leave you just because of your, errr, 'woman's time,' love."

Donna's felt the color drain from her face as she saw her only plan crumbling. "But I – it's not right for you..."

"Oh, sweetheart. No cause to be embarrassed. We are married; you should not have to hide yourself away. I do not mind that-"

"But I do," she cut him off harshly. "I'm not comfortable with you in my bed at this time. I think it would be best if you stayed in your room from now on."

He startled at her sudden sternness. He half turned, and Donna gave a soft sigh of relief.

But he simply closed the bedroom door, not leaving. "No," he said quietly.

Donna's sigh of relief turned into a sharp inhale. "Excuse me?"

"I said no, I am not leaving. I am sleeping here."

Donna, who had not been expecting malleable John to fight back, gaped soundlessly before gathering her anger around her like armor. "But you can't. It's my room. I don't want you here."

He flinched, but then faced her with grim resolve. "I don't care. I am your husband and I am not leaving."

She felt a wash of cold fear climb up her spine. She wasn't an idiot; she knew enough about the time period to know that married men had expected sex to be their right, a wife's "duty" to submit - lay back and think of England and all that rubbish. "John," she said carefully, moderating her tone. "I'm not feeling well and it's...well, you know it's my time. I don't...we're not...you can't expect me to be ready to receive you," she euphemized stiffly.

The Doctor stared at her, aghast, before drawing himself up in injured dignity. "Madam, I assure you I would never press my attentions on my unwilling wife, nor was it my plan to inconvenience you during your delicate state! But I am not leaving you alone at night. I shall sleep on the floor if it offends your sensibilities that I share your bed during this time."

He marched out of her room as she stood frozen by her bed, only to reappear minutes later with armfuls of blankets and pillows taken from his own room. He dropped the mess on the floor and began to arrange a small pallet for himself.

"This is ridiculous. You have a perfectly good bedroom. There's no reason to stay here with me; I'm fine. I don't understand why you're being so stubborn."

"I worry," he answered shortly.

Donna threw her hands up in frustration. "About what? We're in this tiny town," middle of bumfuck nowhere, "and the only danger is that I may be trampled by sheep as I cross the road. Your room is right next door; I'll call out if a particularly nasty mosquito gets inside."

He looked at her, his hands stilled where they were smoothing out the blankets. His jaw clenched, upset at her flippant tone, she could tell. She would have felt badly except that all her carefully constructed excuses were crumbling around her.

"I have dreams," he said quietly, eyes dropping to refocus on his task. "I have told you about a few of them. But some of them are...horrible." He turned to her, pinned her with worried eyes. "You -- bad things happen to you. You cry. There are fires and floods, explosions and cages, and you are trapped by all of them." He took a moment, swallowed hard. "In one, I keep seeing your face painted on a mechanical doll, and you are gone because I sent you away, alone. I know it is childish; they are just dreams. But I...I am not leaving you alone again."

Donna hadn't known. She knew he dreamed of being the Doctor, of course, but she didn't know he worried so much about her. "John, I'm alone all day," she reminded him softly.

"I know that; I cannot help that," he said stubbornly. "But you will not be alone at night."

He resolutely climbed into his nest. Donna stood, chastened, by the bed for a few minutes. Other than trying to bodily haul him from the room there was really nothing else she could do. Donna got into her own bed and turned off the lamp, leaving the room awash in moonlight. She heard him shift around. The floor was wood, with no carpet. It must have been very uncomfortable.

Well it was nobody's fault but his.

There was a bit of a thump, the sound of an elbow or knee hitting floor as he moved. Donna brought her hands to her face to scrub hard. She'd wait it out; sooner or later he'd find an okay position.

Another hollow thud.

"Bad things happen to you...I'm not leaving you alone again." And so the big idiot was sleeping on her floor.

The rustling continued. There really wasn't any padding on that man, was there? Every one of those long, bony limbs must be digging against the floor. Donna sighed gustily. Why can't things ever be easy?

"John, get up here."

The sound of movement stilled. "I am perfectly well down here. You made it clear you would rather I not-"

"GET UP HERE!" she roared.

The sound of hurried scrabbling, and then the Doctor was sliding clumsily into bed beside her, careful to stay away from her as if she might detonate if they accidentally brushed. No doubt, like all men, he was thinking her hormones were making her irrational.

They lay side-by-side for a few moments, Donna so aware of him that it was making her itchy. It was as if the universe itself was hell-bent on making as hard as possible what should have been the simple decision to distance herself.

The Doctor shifted infinitesimally closer and Donna jumped as if he'd attacked her. She knew how this was going to play out - he was going to keep his distance until he fell asleep, and then he'd snatch her up again and she'd be back at square one.

Well not this time.

Donna abruptly left the bed.

"Donna, where are-"

Donna gathered the mass of pillows on the floor and returned. She felt him watch her in the silvery light of the moon, bemused and struck dumb, as she began an architectural pillow feat that rivaled the Wall of China, neatly separating their sides of the bed.

Finished with the pillow fort, she met the gleam of his eyes in the gloom. "You kick," she said, before he could ask any questions, and settled herself down on her side.

She heard a huffy, offended "hmph!" but didn't care. She felt safer. He was safer. She resolutely closed her eyes.

Hours later, she was woken up by the sound of muffled screaming. She peered over the wall of pillows to find the Doctor moving fitfully, arms clutched tightly around himself and his face buried in the wall between them, muffling his words. She recognized her name, then a stream of gibberish she didn't understand.

The dreams again, of course. Well, they would pass. It's not like she could do anything about them.

She watched his arms loosen from around himself, grasp out, clutch at pillows. That was fine; he could grab on to all the pillows he wanted. He could play Mister Roamy Hands with as many pillows as he liked.

She made herself lie back down, turn the other way, tune out his frantic mumbling. It was just nightmares. People had them all the time.

But then he began to recite the square root of pi.

Oh god. Midnight.

Each number he recited got louder than the last, until he was almost screaming them. Donna shut her eyes and covered her ears, curling into a little ball, aching to reach out but unable to do so.

Abruptly the screaming stopped. Donna's eyes snapped wide, relieved and half-scared by the sudden silence. She sat up warily and looked over at him. The Doctor lay still on his side, eyes closed and breathing labored. His hands moved, clutching at air. But he'd stopped talking. Maybe it was all over-

"Donna?" he called plaintively.

Donna's breath caught in her throat.

"Where are you?"

Dread unfurled heavily in her stomach.

She hadn't been there, at Midnight. She'd left him alone. He was searching for her. She hadn't stopped those people from hurting him.

"Leave me...Donna!" her name was a wail, choked off in the end as if someone had grabbed him by the throat.

With a cry she scattered pillows, throwing herself into his arms. "I'm right here. I'm sorry, I'm right here now. Shhh. You're safe, they can't get you."

His arms closed tightly around her, his body folding over hers, settling almost immediately.

And Donna was back to square one.


To be continued - a doubting Doctor

Comments are like John Smith giving you a foot rub that lasts two hours, and then you blink and realize it's not just John, but the Doctor too, one for each foot. And then things can get really dirty, if you're into that.

Chapter Text

Because all her other plans had failed so miserably, the only path Donna could find was to meticulously distance herself from the Doctor during the day. She figured if she was too soft to keep him out of her bed, then she'd have to make up for it everywhere else. Touch, no matter how innocent, could not be allowed. Even something as simple as holding hands – it was a lie, perpetrating the hopes that he had.

She stopped worrying about leaving him alone at the school. The stupid Family of Blood weren't coming. There was no threat there. The real threat was that Donna would allow them to do something that would ruin their friendship. She had to stay away.

From the moment he left for classes to right before he returned for supper, she ran. She hid away in the TARDIS, changing into her own clothes when she bothered with laundry, watching videos, swimming in the pool, reading from the vast library. THIS, she reminded herself each day, was reality. That...that life with a man who thought he loved her, that was the lie. It was playing house. She didn't need that.

If the Doctor needed the escape, then he could have it. But he couldn't expect her to participate anymore, could he? She was there in the evenings, a vague, cold, dutiful wife, and that had to be enough.

So she pulled away, day by day, first by turning her head away when he went to kiss her goodbye. Then pulling her hands from his when he reached to clasp them. Skittering aside if he tried to touch her hair. Days came and went, the excuse of being on her monthly going with it, but he didn't try to bring up the subject of being intimate. There was no way he could – she would stay up late, reading in the living room until he gave up waiting for her. He'd go to her bed, alone. She would join him later, let him cuddle her through the nightmares, and rise before he woke.

He had stopped even trying to hold her hand anymore, and the only touch she allowed was the weight of his eyes, following her around their small flat.

He was baffled and hurt - she knew that - but all her other excuses had fallen apart and this was what she had left. Every time he tried to have a real conversation with her, she evaded, babbled on about the fashion in London, the goings-on at the school and the town. She was, in fact, acting the part of Donna Noble, shallow temp, expertly.

She took a page from his book: talked a lot and said nothing at all.


It was a Sunday, and because there were no classes for him that day and no extra duties he had to deal with, she had no chance to escape him. He had suggested they walk into town, but she had no wish to stroll arm in arm with him. So she resigned herself to faking an interest in knitting, sitting by the bright light of the window and looping together an endless line of puke-green yarn. He had refused to leave without her and had been writing furiously into his journal.

But when she happened to glance up, she found his interest was on her, while his hand busily moved over the paper.

"What are you looking at me for?" she questioned testily.

Used to her recent cold demeanor, he ignored the tone and glanced down briefly, making some sort of correction with his thumb. "I am sketching you."

Donna dropped a stitch, swore quietly and unraveled the section to start over. "Why would you do that?"

"Because I want to remember you like this, sitting in the light of the window." He rose, walked to her and placed the journal in her lap, then stepped behind her to view the pages over her shoulder.

Intrigued against her will, she studied the sketch he had created. He was skilled, of course; as far as she knew there was nothing the Doctor didn't excel at. He had captured her with gaze downcast, light seeming to beam from behind her. Curious, she flipped several pages back. The journal was crammed with writing, page after page. Strange mathematical formulas scattered amongst bits of text, and drawing after drawing. There was one of Martha, one of whom she assumed was Rose, the TARDIS, and then a domed city she knew was Gallifrey. But more than anything there was Donna. Donna by the kitchen. Donna at the table. Donna reading a book. Donna curled by the fire, half dozing.

Donna in a wedding dress, overlooking a vast cityscape too modern for 1913.

Donna in an oversized coat, hair tumbling down her back in a cascade of curls.

She became aware then that his hands had settled on her neck, tracing small figure eights while she studied the last picture. Slowly his hands traveled up. She sat perfectly still as he ran his hands through her hair, scattering pins and ruining her demure chignon. "I love your hair down. I do not know why; in my thoughts it is always loose." He rubbed his cheek against the top of her head, inhaling slowly. "Not all my dreams are nightmares, and you are always there beside me, hair aflame, like my beacon when I lose my way."

Donna felt something low in her belly clench dangerously. His hands were migrating from her hair to her shoulders, long fingers curving along her clavicle. The lustful flutter in her stomach was joined by a curl of pure panic. The Doctor had not tried to touch her for days; her attitude had made every overture unwelcome.

"I...I have to..."

"What?" he breathed by her ear. "What do you need?"

One long, slow shiver began at the base of her spine and worked its way up as he hovered even closer, lips moving softly by her ear.

"KITTENS!"

"...Kittens?" he repeated, faintly.

"Yes, I forgot completely! K-kittens in the, uh, the old barn. I have to go make sure they're okay because they're, you know...kittens. And their mum abandoned them so they need milk and...other stuff that I...have to go give them right right now."

"I'll go with you, I-"

She jumped up from her chair and fled, leaving the Doctor forlorn and alone, staring after her retreating form.

She had not taken any milk with her.

The Doctor dropped to her abandoned chair and buried his face in his hands.

--------------------------------------------------------------

She walked in hours later, when the setting sun was painting the horizon pink and orange, to find the Doctor pacing their small living room. Upon seeing her he rushed over, hauling her up into a tense hug before pushing her away to arm's length.

"Where have you been?" he demanded.

Donna, still off balance from the hug, could only blink owlishly at him. "Huh?"

He whirled away from her, hands in his hair. "I have been waiting for hours for you! No one knew where you had gone - no one knows where you go, ever."

"I told you about the kittens and the barn. And then I...walked."

He spun to face her. "I looked for you! No one in town had seen you. You had not been to any of the shops. The barn was empty!"

Donna scrambled for a lie. "I was on the hills, w-walking. I was bored."

"Bored! I was here. And anything could have happened to you!" he shouted at her.

Donna stumbled back, wary and confused. "You said this is a safe town. I don't understand why suddenly - what's gotten into you?"

He advanced on her, snagged her wrist and dragged her to the settee, pushing her down to sit. Donna was too shocked to struggle, too concerned to be angry.

He stood over her, looming. She felt distinctly small and very aware of the fact that she'd been in the TARDIS for too long this time.

"This is not the first time you disappear. You leave constantly, unchaperoned. No one sees where you go."

"I walk a lot," she whispered.

"I do not believe you!" he raged. "People are talking and I...I did not want to listen, to believe, but you do not allow me to touch you!"

Donna froze. This was not at all what she had been expecting and she had no idea how to deal with it. "What do you mean 'people are talking'?"

"The staff, the other teachers. They say you leave as soon as I go to classes, and return barely before the class day ends. Like today, gone all day to Lord knows where."

"What do you care what they say? I can't leave the school without permission now, is that what you're telling me?"

The Doctor ignored her, eyes bright with anger. "Nurse Redfern tells me you sometimes leave wearing one thing, and come back wearing another."

Donna sputtered, in rage at the meddling nurse and at her own carelessness. "Bugger what the blond bint says!" she shouted, making the Doctor gasp at her language. "Are you insinuating I'm being unfaithful?"

The Doctor's visage was wrecked, eyes haunted. "What else am I supposed to think, Donna? We were doing well, you were relaxing around me and then that morning when you and I...there was joy in that, Donna - but suddenly you are so distant again. You are never here. You can not stand to spend a single day with me. You do not tell anyone where you go and I -- I have been trying to be trusting, to be your friend, in not asking. But-" his voice hardened, fired with determination. "I am not your friend. I am your husband."

He stared down at her, breathing hard. "Maybe I have coddled you too much. Everyone says I am a fool."

She gasped, incensed. "You are a fool, if you think I'm running around behind your back! I'm trying to-" She bit the rest of her sentence off harshly. Trying to keep us safe, trying not to go stir crazy, trying to let you have your three months of peace, trying to keep us both from making a mistake.

"Trying to what, Donna? Trying to what?"

"Trying to fit in," she filled, and she didn't bother masking the trembling in her voice. "I didn't want to come here; I'm just trying to make it work."

"How is running away from me, from any time I try to get close to you - to be a real husband to you - trying to make it work?" he demanded in frustrated anger.

"I'm not running! You're overreacting!"

He was suddenly very, very close. "Let me kiss you," he challenged, voice so low she almost thought she misheard.

"What? No! I'm not going to reward your insecurities!"

"You do not even allow me to kiss you on the cheek any more. You treat me with less intimacy than you would a brother."

"That's daft," she breathed, color rushing into her cheeks because he was right. Of course he was.

"Prove it to me. Kiss me. Kiss me like you did...before."

She leaned forward, eyes wide and trained on his, and allowed her lips to brush his. Gently. Once. She pulled back, licked her lips guiltily.

His eyes were very dark on hers, strained and sad. "That is not how you did it, before."

"No," she admitted softly. "This isn't the time for-"

"When is the time?" he cried. "I am your husband!"

"Well, I don't know what you want me to say to you!"

"I do not want you to say anything at all! I want you to love me!" and he pounced on her, took her lips with frustrated heat and little finesse.

But it was like fire to Donna, a match lit on dry brush. The hands she had instinctively braced on his chest clenched, pulled at his shirt. She angled her head expertly, eased the kiss into exactly what she'd been craving ever since the last time, a hot tangle of tongues and breath. He needed no urging to follow her lead, letting her take exactly what she wanted from his mouth.

It felt wonderful, it felt like coming home.

And it was utterly wrong.

She pushed against his chest, putting her considerable strength into it. He was ripped away from her, falling back against the opposite end of the couch.

They faced each other, panting. He was dumbstruck, she was horrified. "Why?" he pleaded. "I do not understand."

She stayed mute.

"Just talk to me," he begged.

"I...I can't. I'm not supposed to - I can't!"

His hands rose to clench in his hair, a move so patently Doctor-ish that Donna felt the leaden ball of guilt settle more heavily in her stomach. "And I can not make sense of you, Donna! At first I thought your reticence was due to normal maidenly nerves, but the way you touch me, the way you kiss... I have been wondering if maybe ... if you are not sneaking out to meet another, perhaps you think I would judge you if you are not..." he clenched his jaw, exhaled gustily as his hands clamped over his knees. Donna had no clue what he was leading at.

When he said nothing more she prompted him. "If I'm not what? What are you trying to say?"

The hands on his knees fisted abruptly. "If you are not chaste."

Chaste? What the fuck did he mean by that?

He glanced at her briefly and must have seen how stymied she was. "We are older than most embarking on their first marriage. You were affianced to another for a long while; I barely returned in time to stop your wedding. You and he may have both experimented in...it is not unheard of for engaged couples to try the marriage bed before the wedding."

Donna's jaw dropped, mouth forming a perfect 'o' in realization. God, she hadn't even thought of that. Hadn't recalled for a second that he would be expecting a virginal bride if they ever did actually have sex.

"Are you asking me if I'm not a virgin?"

He resolutely kept his gaze trained on his knees. "It would explain why you have kept me away, not wanting me to find out. And would explain your...your...your skill."

And Donna wanted to laugh. She wanted to cry. She wanted to run out of this room and scream. How could she even be having this conversation? She wanted to tell him the truth, just to see his little mind run in circles. Why yes, John. I've slept around plenty. Popped my cherry at 17; wasn't that exciting, really, Ronnie Stanley had no clue what he was doing. Oh, but let me tell you about my second boyfriend, David. Damned talented he was. He could do this thing with his tongue... But anyway, s'been a while lately, haven't gotten laid since Lance - and let me tell you, he was nothing to write home about - oh unless you count Lee, 'cos we had fabulous imaginary sex and had little imaginary children together.

Perhaps he had been waiting for Donna to deny it immediately. When she didn't, he turned stiffly her way, grabbed her hand fiercely and brought it to his lips. She focused on him abruptly, pulled from her little internal monologue, to find him regarding her with brave determination.

"You have always been so curious, beloved; I adore that about you. If you thought you were to be wed, maybe he convinced you to move forward and...I do not care. I would accept anything from you, anything in your past. You are mine now, that is what I care about. Even if you cannot come to me untouched."

Donna bore down on the hysterical bubble of laughter choking her. Brave little John Smith, going against all his upbringing, all his mores and cultural expectations, for her. The bride he suspected might be the 1900's equivalent of a slag. She couldn't bear any of this anymore. "I was never intimate with my fiancée," she said softly.

His hand clenched in hers, and he dropped his head. Relief? Disbelief?

He breathed heavily, chest expanding in and out, face hidden from her. "If...if you were, I would not love you less."

"Well, that's good to know. But I wasn't with him." whoever the fuck 'he' was. I can give you a list of the people I have been with, if it's any consolation. "And I'm not cheating on you with some other bloke, either."

He nodded, hastily rubbed his sleeve over his face, still turned away from her. When he did face her, they both pretended to not notice his red, wet eyes.

"Then why? Why do you turn from me, more every day? I wonder often if you would rather I had never returned from Europe. If you would have been happier had I not interrupted your wedding." He raised his head to pin her with those dark eyes, which she had not seen so determined since the TARDIS created this persona. "I wonder if you would run from him as you do from me, any time I try to be a husband to you, in every sense."

Donna felt like a complete idiot not knowing how to handle this conversation. And she was just a tiny bit afraid (just a tiny bit, mind) of this new side of 'John Smith' that was more reminiscent of the Doctor, in all his focused fury. "I married you, didn't I?"

He gripped her hand, so hard it almost hurt. "Yes you did. Why? Why did you?"

Ah, and this one she could answer, and truthfully even. "Because I can't imagine my life without you."

He searched her face for many long moments. Donna didn't know what he was looking for, but kept her eyes on him and at least willed him to see the truth in that.She was always meant to be at the Doctor's side. She had never doubted that before.

Suddenly, all the fight drained out of him. His shoulders drooped and he was not so scary anymore. Just John Smith, trying to understand why his new wife was running away from his touch, and beset with all the common fears of a man married to a woman he loved too much. Donna reached out and touched him tentatively, fingers soft on his cheek.

"I'm sorry I make you worry. You know me; you know I wouldn't be unfaithful." Truth, he needed truth now, and Donna tried to put her mixed feelings into words. "But we were friends for a very long time and you changed things on me rather quickly; you may have had time to come to terms with this new relationship, but I'm having trouble adjusting."

And to her utter shame, she started to cry.

The Doctor scrambled to gather her in his arms. "Oh, oh darling. Shhhhh, don't cry. Don't cry. I am being a fool again, letting my doubts overcome me! Shhhhhh." He rocked her, words babbling desperately, panicked in the face of her anguish. Donna struggled to reign back the tears, but couldn't. All the fear of messing up, the agony of denied need, the stress of half-truths, of facing this gentle man who just wanted to have a normal relationship with his wife -- it was too much.

"I don't fit in here," she gasped out. "This is all wrong. I shouldn't be here with you; I'm making all of this worse. The world is wrong."

"No, no sweetheart. I would never want to be here without you." He gathered her face in his hands, forcing her to look at him through her tears. "You have always been my light in the dark, my fiery Donna. Do you think I would have married you if I wanted you to be anything other?"

He tucked her back under his chin, locked his arms around her and rocked her again. She shook in his arms, trying to take gasping breaths between the force of her tears and the restriction of the corset.

"I have been a fool, they are right about that. Letting myself be swayed by idle country gossip, " he said, disgust clear in his voice.

She clenched her hands in his suit, unable to stem tears that had been waiting weeks to come out.

"I have misconstrued your passion, your fire, and let myself be swayed by dark thoughts and insecurities. I didn't stop to think that maybe this has all been a shock to you as well."

He smoothed his hands over her hair, waited patiently until she was down to hiccups and sniffles. "This has all been my fault, for rushing you. After what happened the other day and the...and the...and the wall, in the morning, that other day." His hands fluttered in her hair, too embarrassed to continue and she hated the fact that she found it adorable.

"You started pulling away on that day." He paused, suddenly coming to the correct realization, in that insightful way he sometimes had. "You...you were scared, weren't you? I scared you."

No, you didn't scare me. I scared me. I am still scaring me. But she wasn't going to say that so she only nodded her head and admitted, "Yes, I am scared."

I am terrified.


To be continued

Reviews are like coming home to a Doctor playing with a litter of kittens, or the fuzzy animal of your choice.

Chapter Text

The problem, as Donna saw it, was that she had vacillated between extremes.

First she had allowed too much touch: the cuddling and the kissing and petting -- which had uncovered a need in her she had not expected (or kept well-buried), until she had lost all common sense and let fatigue and hormones take over. She had fooled herself into thinking it wasn't too outrageously far off from what she and the Doctor had in the TARDIS, but he'd never kissed her, nor had she ever shared a bed with a clingy Time Lord, either. And she had underestimated the power of all those "innocent" kisses and those deadly full-body hugs. The relentless touching had worn down her will and led to that spectacular meltdown.

When she'd faltered, in her panic she had veered too far to the right, a cold freeze that shut "John" out so completely it had only served to drown him in insecurities.

What she needed to do was strike a happy (or perhaps "uneasy" was the likelier term) medium of some sort.

Her final plan of action required she treat the Doctor like a bloke she was casually dating. A bloke she rather liked and was willing to get to know, but with whom she was nowhere near intimacy quite yet. She couldn't do anything about the Doctor's troublesome need to cuddle in his sleep, but she could control the kissing and hugging without going overboard and turning into Ice-Queen Donna, surely. There was little more than a month left and maybe she could hold him off with subtle promises. And hopefully when the Doctor truly returned to himself he would forgive her for her failures, understanding that she had tried everything else.

Thus they went on "dates" during the day. Picnics and horseback riding (god, never again. ouch) and long walks on the hills whenever his schedule allowed. It was all very Jane Austen-y, she thought in her more indulgent moments. She allowed him to "court" her, in all its quaint old-fashioned meaning.

He fell asleep on the grass with his head in her lap while she read aloud. They walked hand-in-hand along the town, him gifting every passerby with a delighted greeting. And it was easy, because this part really, finally, wasn't any different than when they were the Doctor and Donna, exploring the universe.

That thought made her hyperventilate a little -- good god, were they really that disgustingly domestic together? What did that mean about them that a courting John and best-mate Doctor were practically identical?! -- but she shoved it ruthlessly away because if she dwelled on that she wouldn't be able to last another day, much less a month.

Of course, in private there were a few marked differences between what was allowed of John Smith and what had been normal for the Doctor. Though she no longer allowed the kisses she had freely given on her first attempt to act the part of his wife, she didn't curb his need to touch her. Nothing improper, certainly, but he just never stopped. Constantly, his hand was at her wrist or her waist, or playing with the curls that fell from her updo. He brushed her hair out for her in the evenings, going so far as to braid it for her (fancy french braid she wouldn't be able to reproduce herself. She would have teased him about it but he looked so happy to do it.)

Since kissing and nuzzling were gently discouraged, as a consolation she went back to joining him for bed at the same time, grudgingly assuming her position as human cuddle toy. He'd hold her gently, carefully, afraid she'd bolt at any second as she held herself slightly stiff until he fell asleep. Her body had acclimated to his, however, and he didn't know she would ooze into perfect comfort in his arms as soon as he dropped into slumber.

So what if once this was all over and they were back on the TARDIS she happened to miss the feeling of laying in the Doctor's arms, his breath skittering over her skin - no one had to know. Her fault, her problem.

And if he did happen to succeed a little in wooing her after all, well, no one had to know that either.

 

 



"I have been thinking," began the Doctor carefully one evening during supper.


Uh oh. That was never a good thing. Donna set her fork down slowly. She didn't have much appetite today, and those four words had just ruined what was left of it.


"You have seemed more relaxed around me lately and I thought..I mean...I know you have set some reasonable boundaries for us but...perhaps we should start getting you used to me."

"I thought that's what we had been doing, with all the walks and the picnics and stuff. And the horses. I don't climb up on a horse for just anyone. Y'know, 'courting.'" She held back from the actual air quotes, in a heroic display of maturity.


"Well, yes, we have. But I, I would like for you to begin viewing me in a more romantic sense...physically."


Donna raised one eyebrow, dangerously.


The Doctor continued in a fast babble. "I rushed you, before, I know that, and you need time. I ran in and took you away, overwhelmed you with my feelings and pushed for a wedding. But perhaps instead of thinking you must get used to the idea of a marriage bed, we can start off more slowly? Just focus on getting us used to touching?"


Oh god. Donna swallowed with some difficulty against a tickle in her throat and grabbed for her water glass. "We touch all the time!" she whined, dearly wanting to add a well-placed bloody damn in the middle of that sentence.


"But all touches acceptable to friends, Donna. I would like you to feel comfortable with at least treating me like a man you are more attached to."


"Time, John. You promised me time, and this doesn't seem like--"


"No, no! I am just...I am only thinking maybe the idea of consummation is so scary, that you are not ready, because we need to start off with simple things."


"Like what," Donna asked dully, already knowing where this was headed.


The Doctor scrambled to stand, making his chair clatter behind him. He moved to her side, took her hand and led her to the couch. 


She was really beginning to hate this couch. Nothing good ever came of this couch.


"Simple things. A kiss. You have evaded my kiss for a long time now."


Donna wasn't a fool; there was a whole world of difference between "courting" and sucking face. Donna leaned forward, swiped his lips with hers and leaned back. "There we go! Ah, I'm all aflutter. Now I'm going to go finish my dinner."


"Donna, a proper kiss!"


Donna speared him with a look, bringing fingers to rub at her temples where a headache was beginning to form. "Well, I would, D--John. Except the last time we kissed you accused me of being an unfaithful tramp!"


He immediately looked woefully ashamed, red creeping from his throat to stain his face and ears. He cleared his throat awkwardly. "You have every right to be angry at me for that. But I was wrong."

He moved forward to settle his hand firmly on the nape of her neck, draw her in to him. Donna's heartbeat thundered in her ears.

"I know it is considered unseemly for a lady to have the same urges as men, but the last thing I want to do is curb your passion," he breathed at her.

"I don't think this is a good idea," began to argue Donna feebly, just as he leaned that final centimeter in and cut her off, slowly settling his lips on her.


He could disarm her so easily. It drove her mad, this mixture of shyness, innocence, determination and sensuality all at once. Juxtaposed with the knowledge that beyond everything, the hand that held her so gently had brought down empires, galaxies...and now all it wanted to do was touch her.


But she didn't trust him to control the situation, and trusted herself even less. She held herself back stiffly and let the Doctor (John, this is John right now) -- let John lead the kiss. Her lack of response would surely make him abandon this plan.


His mouth moved over hers inexpertly, learning the contours of her quiescent mouth. At her lack of participation he increased the pressure, tried to encourage her lips to part. He experimented with the angle and licked inquisitively along her lips.


And Donna refused to move, hands curled at her sides, heart thumping erratically and the refrain don't lose control don't lose control chanting through her mind.


He groaned in frustration, wanting more from her. He was tentatively using his tongue now, trying to put what she had taught him into use, to coax a reaction from her. But she was staying still as a doll.


He persevered for a long moment that felt like an age to Donna's straining hold. But finally he drew back slightly, no more than a few inches, taking one long shuddering breath. Her open eyes found his closed ones, clenched shut with disappointment, broken by her lack of response. 


"Please try," he whispered to her, defeated.


And Donna's resolve shattered, the wall of indifference she hid behind crumbling in the face of his misery. A kiss, he just wanted a kiss from his “wife.” She could do that. He deserved that, at the least, and what was the harm of one simple kiss?


Giving up, she gently threaded her hands through his hair and pulled him back to her. The Doctor would hate her when he was back to himself, but she just didn't have it in her to hurt the man who he was now, either.


He wrapped his arms around her, gratefully handing the reins over to her. She opened and melted at the smooth touch of his tongue as he tasted back. If she could keep it at this level, everything would still be okay, surely.

 

One of his hands raced to her hair, tangling in the thick strands at the nape of her neck to pull her head back with just enough unexpected demand to send heat straight to her belly.


She brought teeth in to play, nipping at his bottom lip so his breath hitched. He returned the favor, suckling slightly at the release, and was rewarded with a low moan from her.


Then it was all touch and taste and sensation. The kiss was heady, deep and lingering and wet as they took their time in learning each other. His lips were very smooth against hers, his mouth that perfect combination of slick and warm, with a clever tongue that made her wonder what it would feel like if he used it between her legs. That mental picture eased another throaty sound from her, made her tighten her grip on him.


Her world shifted unexpectedly, as he reared up on his knees to push her back, one arm firm around her waist and the other behind her head as he eased her down onto the narrow couch. The weight of him settling above her was exactly what her body craved, his fingers still deep in her hair and massaging slightly as he held her still so the kiss could remain unbroken.


She had to part her legs to allow him between them; there was no other way for them to fit on the narrow couch. He took that as an invitation and pressed his arousal against her with a groan, rubbing, pelvis to pelvis, through the multiple barriers of fabric. The friction was exquisite; her hips rose without her permission in counterpoint.


She tore her mouth from his, fought for clarity as he moved against her. It would be mere moments before the layers of clothing between them began to disappear. 


"More," she gasped.


"Yes."


"No...more than... more than a kiss. This is more than just a kiss."


He stopped moving against her with a force of will that left them both trembling. She could feel the vibrations in his arms where he held her, each shudder of his legs between hers. His forehead dropped to her neck as they both took unsteady breaths.


“Yes, of course. Forgive me. I was carried away,” he managed. He dropped a brief kiss on her hair and levered himself off her, raising her gently until they sat side by side.


He looked away from her, shifting in discomfort, embarrassed at the rustle of sound as she smoothed her skirts and swiped her sweaty forehead with her sleeve. Equally shamed, she nudged him with a pointy elbow. "This is why your ideas never work!"

 

He fidgeted, abashed, and ran a hand through hair she'd already mussed thoroughly. “I can be patient, Donna”


She snorted softly, an unstated yeah, right.


He took her hands, looking at her earnestly. “I can. You, you just have to remind me, sometimes,” he admitted sheepishly. “Until you decide you no longer want to remind me.”


Donna nodded woodenly and left him, moving back to the table to finish her cold dinner. 

--------------------------------------------------------


That night he brushed her hair out as normal. She rolled her eyes and pretended to not notice the subtle sniff he took when he thought she was distracted. Subtle as a brick to the stomach.


When he was finished they climbed into bed, the Doctor staying still until she had settled her head carefully on his shoulder, and then his arms closed around her like a snuggly venus flytrap.


He snuck a quick kiss to her forehead as she wriggled in place, trying to get comfortable. The old mattress was making her achy, and the room was hotter than usual. She pulled at the neck of her borrowed night shirt, trying to get some cooler air on her skin. God, if she could just shuck off her pyjamas entirely and sleep blessedly naked!


"I am sorry I lost control today. I would not make you feel rushed again," he said quietly when she gave up on trying to get comfortable and semi-relaxed into his arms.


"I think we should keep with what we were doing -- you know, the walks and stuff. That's been working so far, right? No need to rush."


"I wonder sometimes if that is too much like when we were solely friends, though. I would so like for you to view me as your husband, Donna. I can wait, but I just worry that--that you do not lov--"


Donna went so still beside him she wondered if she felt like a lump of warm rock. He noticed, obviously, and backtracked hurriedly.


"No, do not listen to me. I am being a fool again. You take all the time you need; I willl wait for however long it takes. Just...do not pull away from me. Please, just not that."


Donna forced her protesting muscles to unclench and leaned in very carefully to place a kiss on his cheek as a conciliatory gesture. But she knew they were both fooling themselves. John Smith was just a man; he was a tiny shadow of the Doctor and he didn't have the confidence, patience or conviction of her alien friend. It had taken her far too long to come to this understanding. She had to change how she viewed him -- he wasn't just "Doctor Lite, The Amnesiac Version." She needed to remind herself of this constantly if she was going to see this through until the end without messing up anymore. 


He was promising her all the time she needed. And she needed just a few more weeks -- she hoped they could both hang on for that long in this twilight stage.



Donna  was suffocating in wild heat. His body was hard and cool beneath her and it felt delicious.


The TARDIS lights were dimmer than normal, the hum of the great machine gone. When had night fallen? Donna couldn't remember. And why was the Doctor in her bed? She couldn't recall that significant detail, either. This was definitely not allowed in "mates only" territory, but for some reason she didn't care. Though she wasn't sure how they'd gotten to this point, she knew she didn't want to stop.

Or was this perhaps one of those dreams she would occasionally have? The kind which made it somewhat difficult to face the Doctor in the mornings? 


Did it matter? Providence or fate (perhaps even alien sex pollen? yes, that would explain so much) meant she found herself straddling him now, gripping him with thighs made strong by months of running, holding his wrists to the bed so she could lever herself down to bring her mouth over his.


"Donna? Donna, sweethe--" He was trying to call her name, but she didn't want that, no, so she silenced him with her lips, slid her tongue into the warm cavern of his mouth for good measure (just as a precaution, to keep that gob occupied.


His protests (surely that's what they were, her dumb Martian, always over-thinking things and talking too much, even in her dreams) turned into muffled groans, deep purrs that escaped his throat and into hers as she rubbed against him in one long sinuous motion. There was clothing between them, too much clothing. She pulled restlessly at his shirt, then slid hot hands under the material to scrape her nails up his abdomen. He had an elegantly muscled torso, slender and wiry under her hands. The muscles bunched and relaxed under her touch. She found a small masculine nipple, the nub hard under her fingertips, and tweaked it playfully.

The Doctor's back arched off the bed in a brilliantly satisfying reaction. So she did it again, holding on tight with her thighs as he reared up beneath her once more. It was, she compared delightedly, almost like riding a mechanical bull. How fun!


His hands, newly freed, wrapped frantically around her with surprising force to pull her flush against him, trapping her arms between them. Her breasts pressing against his chest sent bolts of lazy fire to her core, but he was holding her still and she was burning and bothered and this was her dream and she wanted to play! 


Enterprising Donna managed to wriggle a hand down, between her legs and his, to grasp his impressive length through the thin layer of his pyjamas. He froze, then shuddered at her touch, bucking helplessly against the firm stroke of her hand.


Oooh, best dream ever!


He was growling in earnest now, losing the ability to return her kiss as his breath panted heavily through this lips. She fuzzily wondered if his respiratory bypass would kick in. That would be kinda fun to see. She was the one who should be gasping.


And she was, she found. Now that her lips were no longer glued to his she realized she was laboring to breathe as each inhalation seared into her lungs. It was just that the room was so hot, and the Doctor's big hands, sliding down over her bum to press her down, had lust swimming through her blood until she was dizzy.


"Tell her...tell her to bring the heat down," she begged the Doctor. The TARDIS was usually spot on with keeping her room comfortable.


"What? What...oh, ooohhh," words were lost in the pleasure her hand was giving him. 


She settled her mouth on his throat, dipping her tongue into the hollow there to sample his skin, salty and damp. And oh, his skin was blessedly cool against her face. How wonderful to have a personal alien cooling machine as her best mate -- with new and improved benefits! She rested her hot forehead against his neck and sighed as she adjusted her grip slightly, applied more pressure to make better use of the soft friction of the cloth between her hand and his length.


"Nnnnngh! Aaaaaah, oh...darling....I...."

 

"S'kay," she mumbled fuzzily, "you'll tell her later to cool the room down, won't you? She's usually so good at keeping the temperature just right. Maybe she wants to give us privacy."


He stilled beneath her touch, though the effort must have cost him as his breathing thundered by her ear like a bellows. Maybe the cloth had begun to chafe, though by the tremors running through his body she could tell he was close...She leisurely walked her fingers to his waistband, more than happy to dip underneath for bare skin. But his cool hand was suddenly around her wrist, stopping her.


She made some small sound of protest, tried to tug free, but then the world was spinning as he flipped them over. She giggled as the room spun in crazy circles.


"Who? Donna, who are you talking about?" the Doctor was speaking to her with a strange undertone she was too tired to figure out.

She sighed grumpily. She just wanted to get her hands back in his pants. "Duh. Your ship, you silly Martian. If only it weren't so bloody hot."


Then his hands were on her face, forcing her eyes to try to focus on him. He was all blurry. Stupid dim lighting.


"Oh god, oh god. You're burning up. You're burning up and I was just... and we...oh god."


She couldn't understand why he was panicking, but he was. She recognized panic when she heard it as well as the next gal. "Shhhh, Doctor--"


"Yes, of course. I'll get a doctor," he made to scramble off her, but Donna wanted none of that. She clamped on to his wrist, kept him still.


"The only Doctor I ever need is you," she smiled goofily at him, and then her dream faded to black.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------


There was worried whispering somewhere to her left. The Doctor's voice, and a woman's voice she vaguely recognized.

 

She forced gritty eyes open, blinking furiously against a nearby light that seemed to stab straight to her brain. Why were people in her room, waking her from a truly epic dream?


"...is extremely high. We need to cool her down with cold compresses, and I have aspirin powder to mix with water. I can stay through the night."

"No, I will care for her, but thank you. If you would write down what I should do?"


Donna felt something cold placed on her forehead. It dribbled wet down into her hair. Yuck.


"Doctor?"


A hand was abruptly gripping hers. "Oh, sweetheart. You are awake. No, the doctor was too far into town; Nurse Redfern is here instead. You have caught an influenza."


Nurse who? What? Why didn't the idiot just give her those lovely pills the TARDIS had that cured just about...


Oh.


The situation came rushing back to her. Stuck in 1913, and with a flu to boot.


Well, goddammit.

 


To be continued

Comments are like having a magical couch, that unerringly manages to put you and the Doctor into compromising situations.

Chapter Text

That night, her fever intensified. The flu, which had been circulating around the school with little consequence, had taken Donna down hard. In her rare lucid moments she would think to herself that it only made sense; she had no defenses against a strain from the year 1913.

For the past year while traveling with the Doctor, she had been disgustingly healthy. Not even a measly cold. The TARDIS kept a sterile environment, and the Doctor was forever brandishing hypo-sprays at her whenever he suspected she had so much as shared the general vicinity with a sickly person on their intergalactic stops.

But now she was reminded how frail humans were, and how dangerous influenza had really been before the advent of modern medicine. People died of the flu all the time.

As her fever rose, she drifted in and out of consciousness. Sometimes she would awaken, and know exactly where she was, that she was very ill, and that Nurse Redfern and the Doctor were taking turns caring for her.

But most of the time she lost all track of where she was and what was happening. She would startle awake to freezing cloths being placed on her chest and forehead by a blond she didn't recognize. She decided this was Rose. At one time, Rose - obviously gone crazy - dumped her into a freezing bath. Jealous cow. Donna screamed at her that it wasn't her fault she was stuck in a parallel universe and she should take it up with the Doctor and leave her alone!

Sometimes it was the Doctor leaning over her, dressed in clothing she didn't recognize, urging her to drink endless mugs of bitter tea. She didn't understand why he kept bothering her when all she wanted to do was sleep. He would assure her everything was all right; she was sick, but they were making her better. Donna demanded they call Martha, because "Doctor" or not, she'd never seen a diploma, thank-you-very-much, and Martha was certified.

Well into her fever - during one of her last coherent moments for many hours to come - she had been roused as she was draped over the Doctor's chest, sitting up in her bed. An elderly man she'd never seen before stood beside her, pressing a stethoscope to her back. The head of the instrument felt freezing cold on her skin.

"Her fever is not abating. My main concern is that the infection should move into her lungs."

Donna clutched weakly at the Doctor's coat, her head heavy on his shoulder. There was a lot more "blah blah blah blah" going back and forth between the Doctor and, well, the doctor. She didn't hear the words so much as pick up on the tone. The town doctor sounded clinical, but every question her Doctor asked trembled with fear.

Stupid man, no need to be afraid. She wasn't about to kick the bucket in 1913 from a flippin' flu of all things, and then leave him stuck here all mortal and stuff.

Donna Noble, death by sniffles. She wouldn't have it!

The portly physician left at some point - Donna may have dozed off - but as the Doctor lay her back down, she opened her eyes to see his face. He looked so tired, and his eyes were suspiciously wet.

"Don't cry, silly, it's not that bad," she whispered hoarsely.

He shook his head convulsively, then dragged a wrinkled sleeve across his eyes. "Of course not. You are going to be fine. We are going to make you well; I do not want you to worry at all. Just sleep, darling."

For all his reassurances, his eyes continued to stream tears.

"C'mere," Donna demanded, grabbing at the lapels of his crumpled shirt. He moved willingly into her embrace, clutching her hard as she feebly returned the hug.

"M'not gonna let a dumb flu do me in. Don't you know?"

He held her tighter, face hidden against her neck so she felt his tears soak her chin and shoulders.

"M'not leaving you alone, ever. I promised you forever."

His arms tightened around her so fiercely Donna felt her ribs shift. "You did," he confirmed softly into the shell of her ear.

"There you go, then," finished Donna, case closed as far as she was concerned, and let the heat drag her back into slumber and fevered dreams.


She woke up feeling like hell. Not the "the Doctor's 'time-piece' is poking me where it shouldn't, and I kinda like it...I'm going to hell" type of feeling like hell. No, her throat was scratchy, her head and back ached and it felt like a cotton had been shoved up her nose.

She sat up gingerly, running hands through hair matted with sweat and oil. "Oh, ick."

The Doctor was asleep on a chair pulled up to her bedside, his head resting on arms folded on the bed. He looked completely worn, his face gaunt and pale. His mouth was slightly open and his breathing was slow and heavy.

There may have been drool.

Donna poked him inquisitively with a finger, and shrugged when she got no response.

She felt disgusting. She wanted a bath ASAP. She eased her legs out of the other side of the bed and stood up.

To fall flat on her face on the floor.

"Donna?" came the sudden alarmed cry from the other side of the bed.

"Ow."

"Darling! Why are you trying to get out of bed?"

"Owwwww."

There was the sound of feet shuffling hurriedly around furniture, and then the Doctor's arms were around her, depositing her back on the mattress. Donna looked absolutely baffled at having taken a nosedive.

"My legs don't work!" Although the stuffiness made it sound more like "m'eggs dong wok!"

"You moved too quickly; you haven't the energy yet." The Doctor placed the back of a hand against her forehead, dropping his head in relief at the cool skin beneath. "Your fever finally broke."

Then to Donna's further astonishment, he pulled her into his lap and just held her, rocking slowly as his arms shook around her.

She worked a hand loose and patted the nearest arm awkwardly. "Umm, there, there."

"Your temperature had been improving a little, but I did not really dare hope. I thought...I thought..." he didn't finish the sentence, and Donna strung together the vague memories of hours (days?) spent being covered in wet cloths, force-fed medicinal tea, and an elderly doctor standing over her and shaking his head uselessly.

He tucked her even more firmly under his chin and she let him relax in his relief, until the constant rocking made her sleepy once more. But she did not want to get back into the bed, filthy as she was

She patted his arm again, in a bid to get his attention more than anything. "Hey, look, it's okay! I'm all right now. Just...ick. I really, really want a bath."

The Doctor gave a shaky laugh and pulled back enough to give her a thorough once-over. "You will not manage on your own; I will help."

"Whoa there, Sparky," protested Donna, while the Doctor quirked a confused eyebrow at the endearment. "How 'bout you fill the bath for me and I do the rest?"

With the kind of resigned sigh the Doctor perfected after being her "husband" for two months (and don't think she hadn't noticed), he kissed her forehead and grudgingly set her back on the mattress so he could step away from the bed. "Try to stand again, Donna."

She pursed her lips at the challenging tone, then carefully set her feet and forced herself up. She stood with barely a quiver, and shot a triumphant grin at the Doctor.

"All right. Can you walk with me to the bath?"

Donna rolled her eyes. What was she, two? She took one step, then two, then three - she almost made it to the door before a full-body shake made her legs collapse beneath her. The Doctor caught her (smug bastard) and lowered her gently to the floor.

"You have been very ill, sweetheart. It will take some time for you to get your energy back," he explained patiently, failing to catch Donna's averted eyes. "You do not have the energy to bathe by yourself. I can-"

Donna shook her head obstinately, and he gave that world-weary sigh once more.

"Shall I get Nurse Redfern to help you, instead?"

Donna weighed her desire to get clean against her unwillingness to deal with Nurse Redfern.

"Yeah, that should work," muttered Donna, trying not to be ungracious as she lay like a pile of discarded rags on the floor and wondered if anyone would think to look into her mysterious death of "accidentally drowning in the tub."

------------------------------------------------

It wasn't nearly as horrible as she imagined. Nurse Redfern, for all the ill-will between them, had that matter-of-fact manner that Donna appreciated. She was stronger than she looked, too, with years of having to manhandle little boys to keep them still. With her help Donna was able to lower herself into the steaming tub and bliss out, letting the other woman scrub her hair clean.

And to her credit, the nurse did not try to murder her in the bath, as Donna had half-suspected she would.

With no use for small-talk between them, it didn't take long before Donna was being bundled into a clean nightgown (a ridiculous long affair, with lace and ruffles, proof that Nurse Redfern hated her) and helped back to her bedroom. Donna had to admit that the simple act of sitting for a bath had drained her energy.

The bed linens were fresh, though there was no sign of the Doctor. "My husband?" queried Donna lightly as she settled on the bed and Nurse Redfern made herself busy mixing another smelly tea by her bedside.

"Probably in classes by now. He has missed two full days seeing to your care," she was informed stiffly, in a tone of voice that implied that this had always somehow been a part of Donna's evil master plan.

Donna made a face at the nurse's back as the woman continued to stir the tea with more force than necessary. But the sound brought up a nugget of recollection, and Donna remembered the woman beside her bed, mixing endless cups of tea. A blond head peering down at her, cajoling her to drink up, just one more sip. Hauling her with surprising strength up and out of bed, helping her to use the necessary chamber pot and dealing with the more intimate tasks, thus saving her the indignity of having had the Doctor see her that way.

Flushing in shame, Donna muttered out, "And you. You've been caring for me, too. Thanks, by the way."

Nurse Redfern colored positively scarlet, stirring a little packet of something into the tea with renewed fervor. "Yes, well, I am a nurse."

Donna had the distinct impression that sentence was supposed to convey an "I had no choice" in there somewhere.

And Donna, who was feeling rather guilty at her own unkind thoughts and had little to no patience with brooding (unless she was the broody one) decided to take the matter into hand.

"Look, I get that you think my husband is hot stuff, really I do, but have I also personally done something to insult you?"

Nurse Redfern rattled the cup she was stirring, spilling half the contents down her apron, before turning to face Donna, agog. "I..well, I never. I ..."

"No, seriously, I don't blame you. The hair, the smile, the whole 'look at how adorable I am and I don't even know it!' thing he's got going on," Donna waved her arms around in agitated circles, the overlong sleeves of her nightgown flopping over her hands. "Drives me bonkers, I can only imagine it does the same for others."

Nurse Redfern stood frozen in place, staring at her as if she'd just encountered a rabid dog.

"What I don't get," continued Donna, blissfully ignorant of how close to cardiac arrest the nurse was, "is why you hate me. Like, I've known him for years, you see. It's not as though I stole him away from you or anything."

Finally Nurse Redfern seemed to remember she was holding a dripping tea cup in hand, and turned slowly to set the cup down and begin the process of mixing more tea once again. Donna let her have her few minutes of peace, hedging her bets, until she handed her the steaming cup and sat down gingerly by the bedside chair.

"I do not hate you. I just...do not understand you," admitted Nurse Redfern quietly.

"Yes, well, join the club."

Nurse Redfern took a few seconds to try to understand what 'club' Donna spoke of, then decided to ignore the nonsensical comment. "You have everything a woman could ever want. You are loved by a brilliant man who sees no fault in you through the stars blinding his eyes."

The blond smoothed her fingers over the damp spot of tea on her apron while Donna watched, eyes curious over the rim of her teacup. "For three days you have been so ill; the town doctor was convinced the infection was overtaking you, that there was nothing else to do. And Mr. Smith, he was like a man possessed; as if he could change the outcome of fate by will alone. I have never met a man such as he."

Donna hadn't realized her arm had started trembling until tea splattered her slightly. She set the cup aside, eyes wide.

"He told me you had promised not to leave him, and that he was going to make sure you kept that promise. And, well...here you are," finished Nurse Redfern with a wry twist of lips.

"Yes, I'm rather stubborn that way."

To Donna's surprise, the nurse's smile widened. "That is what your husband said, too." But then her smile disappeared and she lifted her small chin, meeting Donna's eyes. There was a fire she would never have expected to see in the other woman's gaze.

"He treasures you and you seem so unhappy about it. You make no effort to make his life here easier. You do not accompany him to faculty functions as other wives do, and so he does not attend at all. It seems to me as though you would rather not be here with him, not be part of his life. If you would rather be free, why are you here? It's such a waste of a wonderful man!"

Nurse Redfern's voice had risen. "I do not hate you, Mrs. Smith, but I resent that Mr. Smith is tied to one who does not value him!"

Donna met her gaze unflinchingly. "If there's one thing I do, is value him. He's worth more than any of us. Maybe you don't see it - I don't really care if you do - but I'm taking care of him the best way I know how."

Joan opened her mouth but Donna forestalled her. "That may not mean fancy dinners and henning it with the rest of the 'womenfolk' as the men toddle off for cigars or whatnot, but John knows the kind of person I am. And the last thing he needs is you or anyone putting lies and doubts in his head!" She ended her short tirade by pointing accusingly at Joan, though the effect was ruined somewhat as her hand was covered by a layer of fussy lace on her sleeve.

Nurse Redfern put one hand on her chest in a classic affronted pose, dull pink easing up her neck and onto those milk-pale cheeks (not one freckle, the cow). "I never!"

"You did! You told him you'd seen me leave and come back wearing a different dress!"

"I daresay you are in for a rude surprise, Mrs. Smith, if you think that is the worst thing that is being said. Mr. Smith heard some of the younger wives talking and I happened to pass by. He asked me if I thought your behavior was also questionable, and I merely told him what I had noticed. You were, indeed, wearing a different outfit," she ended primly.

"And it didn't occur to you or anyone that maybe I like to walk and that's where I go? Did you think that maybe I had spilled something and needed to change?" Donna shouted, then clamped down hard on the mattress as the room reeled around her.

Nurse Redfern was at her side quickly, taking her wrist and placing a hand on her forehead. After a second she tutted lightly in concern and pressed a glass of water into Donna's hands.

"You need to calm down; you are not well. Your fever is gone but you are still sick."

Donna gulped the water gratefully, but managed to keep her angry gaze on the hovering nurse. "S'cuse me if hearing people accuse me of infidelity upsets me. It's a funny quirk of mine," she sneered, nonetheless managing to keep her voice down.

Joan sighed, setting aside the empty glass to sink down tiredly into her chair. It occurred to Donna, somewhat belatedly, that Joan had been caring for her almost nonstop for days now.

"I understand you are upset, but you must also understand that by keeping yourself apart - and by having such a different attitude than most are used to seeing in a woman - you open yourself to gossip. And that gossip will hurt your husband."

Donna closed her eyes wearily and cursed herself for an idiot. Of course she knew that. First rule of temping, 'don't stand out.' You fit in with the office girls, no matter how inane they were, because otherwise they could make your life a living hell. Who the hell thought she'd have to deal with office politics in 1913.

"I just - I didn't think it would matter," admitted Donna quietly, before straightening with a bit of lingering ire. "But you know what? I've had more important things on my mind. And no, I'm sorry if I don't think having a clever husband is 'everything a woman could ever want,' or that my not hanging on like a limpet to his side would start the rumor mill. "

The room was silent for a long moment, both women lost in thought until Nurse Redfern broke it with a grudging sigh. With quick efficiency she took a clean cloth, dipped it in an ever-present ewer of water and laid the cloth on Donna's forehead.

Donna blinked owlishly at her before the coolness registered, a relief against her skin. She murmured a very quiet 'thanks,' and Nurse Redfern inclined her head.

"You are a ... modern woman," observed the nurse, as if this excused Donna's behavior.

She said 'modern woman' the way any other person would have said 'baby-eating cannibal.' Donna stifled giggles. "Yes. Why, imagine, one day we may even be allowed to vote!"

"You are a suffragette, then, truly?" Nurse Redfern sounded appalled and unwillingly interested.

"I don't suffer anybody."

"No, I meant-"

"Yeah, I know what you meant, I was just teasing you. Seriously, you need to learn to loosen up!" said Donna with an eye-roll. "What's wrong with women voting, anyway? Half the world's population aught to have a say in how it's run, don't you think? Or do you honestly believe men know what they're doing?"

"Surely it isn't my place to opine on how the government should be run."

"Look, Joan - can I call you Joan?" Donna steamrolled over Joan's apalled reaction to the suggestion. "Seems to me you're rather more 'modern' than you think. Here you are, a lone woman, in an educated profession, supporting yourself."

"Not by choice, Mrs. Smith," she stressed the formal name tellingly. "I am widowed, with no family. There is nothing more I would rather do than marry again, raise a family and leave all this behind."

"But you could have been a...a...what do you call them...governess? Or a shop girl. Or whatever. But you chose to be a nurse which, I figure, is not the easiest thing to do. And you take your job seriously." Donna patted the cold compress on her forehead, then indicated slightly the half-full mug of steaming tea by her bedside. "You don't like me much, you don't approve of me, but here you are, taking care of me."

"My personal feelings should not interfere with the care of a patient. Everyone has the right to equal care."

"Ah, and there you go," smiled Donna sadly. "You're actually a lot like my husband in that opinion. You know, you and I would probably even get along if you weren't...well, if it weren't for John."

Joan looked down and wrung out the next cool cloth with unnecessary strength. "You have no cause for concern, madam. I would never dream of endangering a marriage. And besides," she faced Donna with sudden brave candor, "there is nothing I could do that would. Mr. Smith sees nothing in this world but you. I just wish...I wish you appreciated that more, the gift you have been given, so that I was sure you were worthy of such a man."

Donna couldn't be flippant in the face of such honesty. "I don't think anyone ever will be worthy. But I can promise you, all I ever seem to think about is his future happiness."

Joan nodded curtly, then set about gathering her medicines. She eased the drying cloth off Donna's forehead, replaced it with the cooler one and admonished her to finish drinking her tea.

"I will check on your progress in the evening," she said, heading for the door.

"Thank you. And Joan?"

Nurse Redfern paused, hand on the doorknob. "Yes, Mrs. Smith?"

"There are worse things in this world than being a single, smart, capable woman."

For the first time, a hint of humor appeared in Joan's pale blue eyes. "You would not think so, listening to the Headmaster and other teachers here!"

"And maybe that's why they shouldn't be the ones making all the decisions, eh?"

A considering light appeared in the nurse's eyes. "Perhaps. Rest well, Mrs. Smith."


After that day, Donna spent almost two more whole days on enforced bed rest, under the eagle eyes of the Doctor and Joan (who had thawed marginally.) She hadn't thought she would mind, at first; her body was still so tired and she would fall into deep sleep with little provocation. She drank endless glasses of water, cups of tea, and bowls of soup. She thanked her lucky stars she could move under her own steam enough to make it to the bathroom and back with minimal help. The idea of willingly using a chamber pot when indoor plumbing was available perturbed her 21st century sensibilities.

On the third day she was allowed out of bed to enjoy the unfettered excitement the living room could provide. Mending and needlework, joy!

Thus found Donna languishing, bored and irritated, on the hated living room couch. She wasn't normally such a bad patient, but knowing that all this time a cure had been just a brisk walk away and she couldn't get to it was killing her. And though the fever was gone, the aches and pain and stuffiness remained.

It was all the Doctor's fault, she thought in a fit of bored pique. Making her stay around here for three months, surrounded by dirty little boys - veritable walking cesspools of ickiness was what they were! It was like he wanted her to get sick!

And here he was, smiling like a clueless dunce while she was the one having to sit here, useless.

"Sweetheart, you have to eat something. Nurse Redfern said-"

"I don't care what she said! I'm not hungry. I'm drowning in soup."

The Doctor looked down at the steaming bowl he had offered her, fresh from the academy kitchens downstairs. He had carefully climbed three flights of stairs with the tray laden with soup, fresh bread, and juice. And one colorful late-blooming rose he had found outside. With a sigh he set it aside.

"Well, what would you like then?"

Donna lifted one shoulder huffily.

"I can try to make something else with what's in the larder. How about-"

"Biscuits," said Donna, pouting.

"For dinner? Darling, you need better nutrition until you are better. What about a little soup now, and then we find you something sweet?"

"I don't want soup!" Donna reiterated loudly, and faced with Donna's pouting lower lip, his only option was to cave.

"All right, just for today. I am sure the staff kitchen would have some. I will run down-"

"Like my gran used to make," interjected Donna mulishly, purposefully being impossible.

She was hoping he'd throw up his hands in frustration and tell her she was being unreasonable, because then she'd really let him have it. She'd tell him whose fault it was she felt like crap run over, and how he was obviously trying to kill her by bringing her to this ass-backwards town and then surrounding her with sniffling, snotty kids. And if all he wanted was to be rid of her, well then he should have told her ages ago and she would have left his sorry ars-

"You will have to tell me how to make them."

Donna - in the midst of working herself up to a fine lather - deflated. "What?"

"You shall have to direct me." He exited briefly to leave the tray in the kitchen, then return to Donna's side, hauling her into his arms, blankets and all. Donna squeaked.

"Oi!"

"Be a good girl and settle." He strode into the kitchen, plunked her down on a chair and fussed until she was wrapped in her blanket like a mummy.

"I coulda walked to the kitchen by myself!"

"When my wife is acting like a child then I assume she wants to be treated as such."

And that shut her up.

She watched, sulking, as he set about pulling eggs, flour, sugar and other ingredients from the cupboards. But slowly the reality of the situation registered and the pout turned into a sly smile. Ha! She had conned the Doctor into baking! And it only took almost dying from the flu.

But when he turned her way, she made sure to look as dejected and pathetic as possible.

"So, step number one, madam?"

"Apron," said Donna, straight faced. "I'd rather you not cover your suit with flour."

Without a word of complaint or a moment of hesitation, the Doctor reached for the lone apron hanging on a peg - a full-length, ruffled deal that would cover a woman from chest to ankles. He briskly drew it on over his head, then cinched the ties around his slender waist. It fell in girlish ruffles from his chest to his shins.

"Satisfied?"

Not trusting herself to speak, Donna bit her lip to and nodded hurriedly. She hoped he would attribute the gleam in her eyes to lingering illness.

What followed was Donna wracking her brain for her "sainted gran's biscuit recipe," which quite frankly didn't exist except for on the back of ready-to-bake mix. She instructed the Doctor in preparing the dough, wishing for a camera as he twirled around the kitchen in a frilly apron.

Donna rested her hands on the table and lowered her chin to her hands, smiling impishly as the Doctor finished spooning the mixture onto a cookie sheet, filling the silence with a running commentary on his classes, the weather, her health, etc.

It reminded her of their mornings on the TARDIS, and her stumbling into the kitchen to find the Doctor preparing their toast and tea, a hop in his step, holding a one-sided conversation with his ship. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine them back and safe already.

Would they be able to go back to that? Would she?

She fell asleep to the sound of the Doctor's voice and the scent of sugar in the air.


To be continued

Y'know when Ten is all bouncing around being adorable and then something upsets him and he looks all stern and Oncoming Stormy - and then he goes off and randomly licks something? Reviews are like that, except that the person he's going Oncoming Stormy-on is you, and the person he is licking...is also you

Chapter Text

There was warm breath in her hair, a softly-stubbled jaw against her neck, and Gallifreyan words tumbling by her ear.

Donna opened her eyes to dim pre-dawn light, confusion clearing as she realized she was spooned against the Doctor's body. For the first time in almost a week, she felt well, only slight soreness lingering from her stint with the flu.

She began the process of untangling herself, ready to escape the bed and the Doctor before the day started. The past week of illness had been the only exception when she hadn't forced herself up early to avoid facing the Doctor. But then, she'd been unconscious half the time, and then he'd been up while she recuperated - caring for her, bringing her tea and making sure she was comfortable before he left for classes.

The inactivity had driven her nuts, but she hadn't felt as smothered by the attention as she had expected. In her mind's eye she could see the Doctor being as equally solicitous should she have gotten ill on the TARDIS.

Except for the biscuits. He probably wouldn't have baked her biscuits.

And, of course, the Doctor would not have been wrapped around her, sharing her bed as if it were his god-given right, arms pulling her tight against a body that was happy to see her. So no matter how comfortable Donna found the warm bed and the body around her, she had to leave.

She allowed herself another five minutes of cuddling before the guilt prodded her on and she gently began to ease her legs off to the side, sliding over to the edge.

And the arms around her tightened.

Surprised, she turned her head to find the Doctor's slumberous eyes open and regarding her with a touch too much seriousness.

"Where are you going? You need rest," he murmured sleepily.

Donna shook her head and plucked at the fingers that had locked around her middle as he drew her back. "Nah, I'm fine. Feel great."

"Stay," he said in a sleep-roughened voice that raised goosebumps up her arms.

"I should get breakfast started."

"Please. I am not hungry. Stay."

She could have fought it, could have told him that she was hungry. But he looked so young and tousled and vulnerable at the moment that she couldn't. Something told her that it was very important for him that she stay in that bed a while longer.

"All right," she murmured, settling back in his hold although she knew she shouldn't. "For a little while."

He snuggled her under his chin, tucking her against him with unnecessary care until they fit like puzzle pieces. Almost instantly - in that odd way his human form had - he dropped off into sleep.

Donna focused on the window and watched the sun finish rising, telling herself that she'd be happy when things got back to normal and she had her own bed to herself back on the TARDIS. The Doctor would be embarrassed for a little bit, and maybe stuff would be awkward for a few days - but in the end they'd go back to being Donna and the Doctor, intergalactic pals and nothing more.

It'd be just like old times. Exactly what she wanted. What they both wanted.

And if her view of the morning sky happened to get a little watery, well that was because the dawning light was so bright.


Donna chewed a leftover biscuit thoughtfully, trying to count exactly how much time they had left as she sat at the table and nursed a hot cup of tea.

Almost two months exactly had passed. She couldn't believe she'd made it this far. If she played her cards right, she could hold the Doctor off, easy. Time for another "period" after all, and then some more "courting" and there you go. Back to normal.

It would be a relief. Really it would.

Donna swallowed hard, forcing the bite down a sudden lump in her throat.

The Doctor entered, rumpled and sleepy in pyjamas and a dressing gown, to stand by the door and stare at her long enough to make her fidget. Donna lifted one auburn brow. "Something on my face?"

He moved to stand behind her chair, dropping a hand to her hair and tilting her head back slightly so she looked up at him, a smidge upside-down.

"You look well. Fully recovered," he stated, relief making his voice catch slightly. He bent forward and dropped his shaggy head briefly so they rested forehead to forehead.

Donna, always unaccountably embarrassed by these displays of affection, reached her free hand up and over to pat his head awkwardly. "M'all right. Good as new."

He didn't move, his arms draped over her shoulders like a rag doll. Donna shifted slightly - it was almost easier to deal with his sexual advances than with these moments of tenderness. It was when she felt as if she were playing on his fake emotions more keenly. Stupid TARDIS and her stupid manipulations.

Donna clumsily lifted up a biscuit with her free hand, almost poking him in the eye. "Biscuit? It's yummy."

He straightened with a wet laugh and took the offered good. With one last stroke to her rumpled hair, he moved away and seated himself across from her.

"Why aren't you dressed for classes?"

"Boys are doing a run around the field this morning. I have some extra time."

"Ah, well then," smiled Donna, rising to pour him a cup of tea and nudge the plate of biscuits over. "Breakfast of champions, served."

He quirked a smile back, took the cup of hot liquid from her, then sat staring down at the biscuit in his hand.

"Wot's wrong," mumbled Donna around another mouthful. "Biscuits not good enough for the morning? Do you actually want breakfast after all? I can scramble up some eggs and toast if you want."

"I am sorry."

Donna spluttered crumbs. "What? Why? I mean, okay, so they're a little dry, but I'm not picky when someone bakes me biscuit-"

He looked up at her, amusement warring with shame. "No darling, not the biscuits. I - I am sorry I did not realize how sick you were sooner."

Donna rolled her eyes. "What are you now, a doctor?" Oh, the irony..

"I should have known something was wrong when you- and you were so warm, but I ..." he went back to staring at the biscuit, leaving a confused Donna trying to decipher his rambling.

"When I what? Did I say funny things in my sleep? 'Cos I was delirious, you know, so, um, stuff I might have said...well, no need to dwell on it is all." And she remembered quite a few snatches of fevered dreams, and seeing Rose, asking for Martha, begging for the TARDIS.

"Yes, I know that. I had not thought you had taken my stories quite to heart so much they would give you nightmares. But no, I meant the night the fever hit you. I should not have let you work yourself into such a state. I knew you weren't yourself, but it was so hard to think around what you were...what we..."

He lapsed once more into shamed silence while Donna stared. Let her what? What had happened? She remembered well the day before she fell ill, the kiss gone out-of-control, his promises of patience, but then the fever had struck and it had all been heat and dreams.

Giving up, she returned drily, "You know what would be really helpful? If any of those were complete sentences."

He flushed crimson, and Donna immediately felt bad for teasing. "Hey, I was just kidding-"

His eyes rose suddenly to pin her in place, the biscuit in his hand crumbling to pieces as his hand clenched into a fist. "I am sorry I took advantage of you in your illness. I did not realize at the time that you were ill, but I knew something was strange and yet-"

The biscuit that Donna has been bringing up to her mouth dropped down into her tea cup with a wet splash, her brain processing what he had just said. "WHAT!"

Her mind flashed to all the nights spent in delirium, burning up. She could not possibly imagine the Doctor - in any form - taking advantage of that. "When!"

The Doctor lifted his teacup, set it down abruptly as his hands shook. "The first night you fell ill - when you kissed me and then were...amorous. I should have known you would not touch me that way. I have been thinking, if only I had stopped you sooner, paid more attention, fetched Nurse Redfern more quickly. Oh, Donna, you were so very ill." He made to reach for her hand, then pulled back abruptly to clench his hands together around his cup, scattering crumbs. "Can you forgive me?" he pleaded.

Donna's vision had glazed in shock. Her mind helpfully supplied the required memory: Donna riding the Doctor as though he were a bronco, pinning his arms, giving him a handjob as he shuddered beneath her. Donna's skin exploded with appalled heat. That was supposed to be a dream!

Donna finally focused on the Doctor's anxious, guilty face and could only imagine that her own face held the same sick expression. "You mean, that really happened?"

The Doctor's eyes shut in a brief display of pain. "You did not recall? Of course not; your fever must have already been too intense."

"I thought it was a dream," murmured Donna in a small voice.

"Darling, I am so sorry. Please, please - tell me you forgive me," he cried, clutching his teacup so hard she feared it would shatter.

I keep fucking everything up! She reached over, carefully tugged at a hand until it unclenched from around the fragile porcelain to grip her hand instead. "It's okay. Hey, you didn't know."

"But I should have-"

"No, let's not...let's not think about that. Let's pretend it never happened. Okay?" Oh god, I was assaulting him in his sleep!

"But-"

"Shush. Just...just go and get ready for the day. I'm all better, no harm done. Couple of hours wouldn't have made a difference anyway," she railroaded over him with determination. Can't even trust myself unconscious!

"Donna..."

"John! Just go!" at his stricken look, she tempered her voice. "Please. I really, honestly don't blame you, not even a little. Can we not bring this up again?"

He nodded once at her mutely, gaze downcast as he moved from the table and left the room, shutting the bedroom door very quietly behind him.

Donna dropped her head to the table and pounded her forehead against the wood in defeat.


About half an hour later, Donna had struggled and fought for composure. She'd been sick - she couldn't be held accountable, really. The Doctor had stopped her in time, and surely he wouldn't hold what she'd done in the throes of a fever against her, later.

And she'd hurt his feelings, just now. Donna wasn't stupid, she could learn, honest she could. Walking this knife edge of push and pull was exhausting, but she only had to do it for a few more weeks - surely she could manage not to harm the Doctor's fragile human feelings further.

The bedroom door opened and the Doctor stepped out in his wool suit, struggling with his tie in a bid to avoid her eyes.

"Here." Donna made her way to him, easing the tie from his fumbling hands to straighten out the knot. He looked down at her with sad eyes.

Finished, she smoothed a hand down the soft fabric of his shirt, fussing with a collar that didn't need adjusting. She could already feel a blush climbing up her throat. "Look, seriously. I don't blame you at all for my, uhhh, being 'amorous.' And I don't expect you to have some crazy divination powers, either. Don't feel guilty 'cos you didn't know I was sick sooner."

His hands came up to cover hers where she was nervously wrinkling his collar. "Donna," he said in a very low voice and her eyes flew up to his. "I almost lost you. I do not think I can ever forgive myself for not realizing something was wrong."

She opened and closed her mouth a few times, helplessly looking for a way to reassure him gently. "Well that...that..." She blew a frustrated breath out. "That's just dumb."

His mouth dropped into a little shocked 'oh'. "Pardon?"

"That's just dumb, you feeling guilty when you've exhausted yourself taking care of me and putting up with me this whole time. I'm not going to let you do this to yourself; I don't blame you even a bit. I was all but holding you down and it's hard to think when someone attacks you in your sleep, okay? Look, can we please drop this now - I'm gonna die of embarrassment here."

His gaze softened in that way that made her knees tremble. "Oh, Donna. No, none of this was your fault and you should never be embarrassed for t-touching me." He swallowed noisily. "It felt wonderful."

Her skin, already rosy, flamed crimson. Wow, she so didn't want to be talking about this anymore.

"I...I...um, I...Ha! Well, look at the time!" She swiveled her head towards a wall that, incidentally, had no clock. "You should really get going, huh?"

The Doctor turned to look at the correct wall - the one that actually held a clock - and sighed a little when he saw he still had a full ten minutes before he needed to leave. Regardless, he released Donna's hands and stepped back to retrieve his robe and hat.

Donna moved to viciously punch some couch cushions into shape, looking very industrious as she waited for the Doctor to take his leave.

"Donna?"

"Yeah," she called absently, giving another cushion a solid smack.

"Since you are feeling well, would you like to - the village is having a dance; the academy staff will all be there and I was wondering -"

She paused in her task of abusing the couch, and cast him such a horrified look he backtracked hastily.

"No, forget I asked. You have barely recovered, the last thing you need is a noisy crowd. We will spend a nice evening here; I can tell you about how my students are coming along," he blathered on, swinging his robe around his shoulders.

Normally Donna would have loved a party, but the very idea of dressing up and facing down the snooty, sexist crowds that had been passing along stories of her supposed infidelity - it made her want to throw something. And having to act the part of demure wife for a whole night would just kill her.

"I will be back a bit earlier than usual then, eh? Since the school day is abbreviated for the festivities."

"Sure," responded Donna, just anything to get him out so she could recoup and escape to the TARDIS.

But then her conversation with Joan niggled at her: not fitting in, making everything harder for the Doctor, causing talk... Not to mention the Doctor was hiding his disappointment so poorly.

She blew out another gusty sigh (she'd been doing that a lot lately, hadn't she?), disturbed the cloud of dust her cushion pounding had created and ended on a sneeze. "Wait. I changed my mind. Maybe a dance would be fun after all."

The Doctor paused in the act of putting on his ridiculous hat and graced her with a smile that was blinding as he took one loping step her way and swept her up in an impromptu happy hug.

"Just don't step all over my feet if we dance, 'kay?" she muttered gruffly, flustered at the show of overt joy.

"Of course not," he smacked a kiss on her forehead and practically skipped to the door.

Well, hell, in for a penny... Another heartfelt sigh and sneeze combo. "And I'm going into town today. Gonna take a walk around the hills to get some fresh air, and then head to the market. Y'know, in case you get back and are wondering where I am; so you won't worry."

He stared, startled, for a full beat. But then the look he shot at her was so grateful that her blush returned with a vengeance.

"Thank you," he acknowledged quietly, and finally exited the flat.

Donna smoothed a hand down her burning cheeks grumpily, then kicked the couch leg in a fit of bad humor. Going to dances and keeping him informed of her whereabouts like a sodding lil' homemaker.

Turning into a regular pansy, I am.


She stepped into the TARDIS, first time in weeks, and the lights from the console flared so brightly Donna had to close her eyes, the afterimages like star-bursts behind her closed lids.

"Gee, I take it you're happy to see me?" stated Donna deadpan as she cautiously reopened her eyes. A low thrum of noise echoed through the chamber, making Donna grin.

"Yeah, I missed you too, a lil' bit." She demonstrated a measly amount with thumb and forefinger.

The TARDIS moaned a protest and Donna laughed, patting the console fondly before moving deeper into the ship.

"But I can't stay long; just came to restock some food since I figure unless I break an arm, the Doctor won't be cooking anymore."

She entered the kitchen and found a tall, frothy glass of orange juice waiting for her at the table.

"Aww, that's sweet. But too little too late. All cured now." She moved past the juice and the thrum that had continuously followed her down the hall took on a disapproving edge.

"But I'm not thirsty!" argued Donna, flinging open the larder to root for packages of ready-made meals. Crap, all out.

Sibillant hisses that sounded like steam escaping from pipes made her jump and almost smack her head into the cupboard. She'd never heard that one before!

"All right! All right! No need to shout!" she countered petulantly, dropping the last few bags of instant oatmeal into the bag waiting at her feet.

She downed the contents of orange juice - wait, not juice so much as some type of fizzy orange-flavored drink - and immediately felt the lingering achiness fade. "Okay, so maybe you were right," she admitted, setting the empty glass in the sink.

Self-staisfied clanking vibrated through the kitchen, prompting Donna to roll her eyes. "Now now then, Miss Smarty-TARDIS. S'not like I would have even been sick if you hadn't dumped us in 1913, would I?"

The hum cut off abruptly.

"That's what I thought."

She returned to stuffing what she could find into her bag, resigning herself to the fact that she would end up having to actually cook for the most part. Their two month stay had depleted almost everything that was ready-made.

She spent another half an hour loitering in her bedroom, giving herself a mini facial (her skin was a dehydrated mess after being ill) and having a one-sided conversation with the ship. She refused to admit to herself that she was stalling.

Finally there was little more she could do, so she sailed for the doors with one final pat to the console. "Won't be long now. Just a few more weeks and I'll have him back to you. Everything will be back to normal," exclaimed Donna with an edgy smile.

"A beach," she rambled, affected cheerfulness dripping heavily from her tone. "He totally owes me a beach after all this. You..."

Finally Donna lost her carefully-maintained steam, the forced joviality fading away to leave only plaintiveness as she rested her hand on the doorknob. "You'll let him know I tried my best, right? He'll understand about...everything. Right? It'll be okay?"

The TARDIS was startlingly silent once more.

Donna nudged the door open, then gripped the edge of the door with unsteady fingers so she could rest her forehead on the blue wood, hoping for one last reassuring hum that wasn't coming.

"Yeah, okay. Of course it'll be fine. No need to get the validation of a ship for chrissakes. Stop being an idiot, Donna," she chided herself quietly, before slipping through the opening and letting the door swing shut behind her.

The TARDIS lights dimmed down to a moody green as she went into shut-down mode once more.


Donna moved quickly down the quiet path that wove between verdant fields. For all her complaining - because, c'mon, all of time and earth and they were dumped into ENGLAND 1913? What, Bora Bora, during the age of poolside bars and basic antibiotics was too much to ask? - the town and farmland were picturesque. The dresses were pretty, if uncomfortable, and the customs charming, if stifling. She would have enjoyed a quick trip with the Doctor; it was the situation and extended stay that made it unbearable.

Donna lengthened her stride. She'd dallied a bit too long, as always. She hoped the Doctor wasn't already done with classes.

Donna turned to gauge the position of the sun, looking over a long stretch of farmland.

Her attention landed on a scarecrow, hanging in solitary watch over the field. It looked disturbingly as if a person had been crucified with a burlap bag over their heads.

Yeah, that's not creepy as fuck at all!

Donna shivered, looked away and sped up a little bit more. Movement from her peripheral vision had her abruptly stopping to whirl and stare.

Had the scarecrow just waved at her?

She waited, heart pounding, staring intently. Nothing happened.

Then the wind picked up a little, the strong breeze causing the scarecrow's limp arms to sway back and forth.

Donna's frame slumped in relief and she laughed at herself. God, that's what happened when there was no excitement for a while; she started imagining moving scarecrows. Life with the Doctor had utterly ruined her.

And crap, she still had another 15 minutes ahead of her before she made it home.

Readjusting her hold on her bag, Donna turned and made her way quickly down the rest of the hill.

Never noticing the scarecrow's head turning to follow her retreating figure with empty eyes.


To be continued ... Donna finally gets to kick some ass

 

Chapter Text

Donna had walked into the small flat just in time to get tea started when she heard the front door open and close again. "Donna?"

"In the kitchen!" she called out.

She turned around with fresh cups of tea to witness the Doctor stumble through the door, two large boxes in his arms, his hair an untamed mess over his trademark grin.

"Good timing! Just in time for tea." She set the brimming cups carefully on the small table. "What are those?"

The Doctor's grin widened, impossibly, and he thrust the boxes at her. "For you."

Presents! Well, who didn't love presents!? "Really?" she squealed, ripping the boxes out of his arms. "What is it?!"

"Open them," he prompted indulgently, enjoying her glee.

Donna didn't need to be told twice. She untied the ribbon holding the first large box closed, pulled it loose and flung it over a shoulder. The lid received the same treatment, and then her hands were buried in tissue paper until she encountered silk. Dancing in place, she lifted the dress - because that's what this was, a gorgeous concoction of lace and silk - out of the box.

"Oh my god! Oh my god!" She reached over, grabbed him by a lapel and half strangled him as she hauled him over the table to plant a smacking kiss on his cheek.

With a laugh he straightened, smoothing down wrinkled shirt and jacket. "You like it?"

"I love it!" She held the dress against herself, gave one giddy twirl. "For tonight?"

"Yes, I was unsure you would have something suitable. And I have been wanting to get you something pretty. I know this town can be a bit drab."

The dress fell in filmy ice blue layers, lace thick at the square cut neckline. Now was surely when she was expected to act the part of the responsible wife and say something like "oh no, but it's too expensive, blah blah" but really, c'mon!

"You shouldn't have," Donna began, before breaking into an impish grin, "but nah, who'm I kidding. You totally should!"

The Doctor's smile was incandescent as he stepped around the table to lift her off her feet, dress and all, and give her a quick twirl.

"Wrinkles!" cried Donna, clutching the dress to her more carefully than she would a newborn. "Don't wrinkle it!"

With another burst of amused laughter he set her on her feet, returning a similar smacking kiss to her cheek as she wiggled free.

"So what's in that one?" asked Donna, moving towards the remaining unopened box, petting the dress over her arm as if it had become her favorite kitten.

To her bemusement, he blushed, and one hand sneaked up to rub his neck in that nervous gesture that was so subconsciously the Doctor. "Oh, uh...well, the lady at the shop suggested I go to the adjacent shop and also purchase the necessary...underthings."

Donna bit back a snort of amusement. The mental picture of the Doctor rooting through women's underwear was classic. "Oh really? And how did you know what the 'necessary underthings' were?" she needled.

"Oh no! I would never...I could never...I have never..." Flustered, John gripped the edge of a chair and stared down at tense fingers, blushing scarlet. "The shop girl knew everything you would need and packaged it."

"Wouldn't, couldn't, shouldn't," she singsonged playfully, teasing as she eased the cover off the second box and filtered through layers of fine linen, silk and ribbon. And they fleeced you by selling you the most expensive stuff, too, innocent lamb. But they were leaving in a month; so what if he blew his paycheck on a dress and fancy underwear for her. Not like they needed to worry about their savings, anyway.

She carefully replaced the top and beamed at him as she gathered the dress and boxes. Moving towards the door, she paused at his side to stretch up and to sweetly peck his cheek again. "Thank you. Everything's gorgeous."

He looked down at her, brimming with pride. "I would do anything to make you happy. I would give you anything you wanted."

Her heart suttered in her chest, one long, slow beat as emotion welled up her throat.

Oh Doctor. "You ..." she had to swallow thickly, "You already have." The galaxy, the universe...you.

Then she scurried out of the room before she started crying and embarrassed them both.

______________________________________________________________________

Fresh from her bath and suitably coiffed, Donna surveyed the array of underthings spread before her bed. Why did women have to wear so much stuff!

She rooted through the pile of soft fabric until she fished out the improbable knee-length drawers. No thank you!  She hadn't been wearing them for two months and she wasn't going to start now. They were exiled to a corner of the bed.

That still left her with stockings - which she had seen no reason to wear until now - a chemise, several types of slips, a corset cut lower than normal, and some more sets of petticoats. God, what a bother! Donna had never prescribed much to the idea that feminine fashion was some kind of tool used by men to keep women in control - but looking at the huge pile of useless, stifling, undergarments, she was willing to reconsider.

Well, no use in dithering. It was going to take her an age to get it all on so she may as well start now. She dropped her dressing gown to the floor and started with the stockings, rolling the thinly-knitted silk over her knees. She stood up and they promptly slid down her thighs to sag around her ankles in unattractive rolls. Oh, right, garters - Donna spent a good five minutes looking around for the frilly garters she was used to seeing in old-time movies before she realized the garter clips were attached to the corset. What the hell?!

So she tried again, slipping on a sinfullly soft silk chemise that barely kissed her upper thighs. She rooted through the pile of soft fabric and came back up with another slip, this one linen. Wait, did that slip go over or under the corset? Did she even need another slip? Was it supposed to be worn instead of the petticoats? Was she supposed to have been wearing one all along? Eh. She decided the slip and the vast majority of petticoats should join their fellow exile in the growing pile of no-way-in-hell-am-I-putting-that-on.

Ah, but the corset - her arch nemesis - she couldn't abandon as much as she wanted to, since it was the only form of support for her breasts. She looked at it with distaste even if it was a pretty little thing, all lace and tucks and ribbon, fancier than the one she usually wore.

She shimmied it over her head, the back laces already partially tight. Now began the contortionist act, as she struggled to pull the laces tight behind her. The gown looked slightly forgiving, though and she had lost a bit of weight due to her illness and her horrible cooking, so she didn't have to cinch herself up quite so much.

Now back to the stockings! Gawd, it was like a flippin' puzzle, figuring the order of these things! She rolled the stockings back up, cursing a blue streak as she fought to situate each garter clip so it was properly aligned to the stocking and then affix them in place with the stupid button-loop-thingies that apparently took a doctoral degree in engeneering to figure out. After some truly creative cursing, she finally stood up and (hooray!) the stockings stayed in place. She wiggled in a few experimental dance moves and though she wouldn't bet on them staying in place if she decided to break out into the Roger Rabbit, they would do.

One last layer of thin petticoats and it was finally time fo the good part! Greedy hands reached for the blue silk. She carefully stepped into it, tucking the petticoat down as she pulled the gown up and settled the fluttery sleeves on her shoulders. The teeny tiny buttons went up the side of the bodice, thank god, and not the back.

She slipped on her only pair of nice shoes then viewed the whole effect in the mirror. She gazed at herself critically, smoothing back a few stands of hair she had dislodged from her up-do in her struggle with the corset. Not bad! The square neckline and pale lace set off the creaminess of her skin while a broad band of darker blue circled her middle, emphasizing the generous hourglass curve of her waist.

Giving herself a confident salute, Donna sailed out her bedroom door to find the Doctor patiently waiting for her in the living room.

"Darling," he breathed, "you look wonderful!" He gripped her hands and brought them to his lips in frank adoration.

"You're looking pretty good yourself, Sp- sweetheart." And he did look dashing in a dark wool suit, his bowtie charmingly askew.

"I have one last gift for you," he murmured.

Donna had the overwhelming urge to quip back with the line "well nothing else is fitting into this dress," -- because how often was she in a positon to use "Pretty Woman" quotes? -- but then she swallowed her quip and almost her tongue when he did, in fact, pull a jeweler's box out of his pocket. If he has a ruby diamond necklace in there, all bets are off.

Her gaze flew to the box as he nudged it open. Inside was a simple silver chain, a small pearl teardrop pendant nestled in the middle. It wasn't breathtaking or particularly expensive, but probably the most he could have afforded after the expense of the dress and underthings.

The last time someone had given her jewelry, it was the Doctor slipping a biodamper on her finger.

"It's lovely," she murmured, not trusting herself to speak more as she ruthlessly squashed the fluttery swell of emotion.

"Would you like to trade?" he asked shyly.

"Huh?"

"Your watch for the necklace," he clarified, hand lifting to her neck, fingering the sturdy old chain that held the watch and TARDIS key, hidden now under her dress' neckline.

Terror at the idea of being apart from them shook through her, and it must have shown on her face because the Doctor pulled back, self-consciously. "Of course, if you do not care for it, you do not have to-"

Donna got a grip on her irrational concern. Nothing has happened for months; you can leave this here for one night. And it looks ridiculous with this dress. And now the Doctor was babbling about the silver necklace being "just a tiny thing, really, nothing of any consequence...we can buy you a nicer one, what was I thinking, you probably do not even like pearls, I should have asked-"

She silenced him with a finger to the lips. "I love it, and it's just perfect for tonight. I was only surprised; I'm so attached to this old watch. Don't mind me being silly."

She drew the thick chain over her head and carefully placed it in a small bowl on the fireplace mantel, then turned around so the Doctor could settle the silver chain around her neck and hook the tiny latch.

When he moved his hands away, she turned on her toe, striking a pose. "How does it look?"

"You make it stunning," he swore.

"Flatterer," she accused, but then surprised them both by launching herself at him with a spur-of-the-moment hug. "Thank you," she whispered into his ear, nuzzling for one weak instant before she pushed away.

Before he could regain his balance she was gripping his hand and practically pulling him off his feet as she tugged him to the door. "So do you even know how to dance?"

"I- I honestly have no clue if I do!"

"Well, c'mon then! Let's find out!"


Joan Redfern had had a horrid week. Mrs. Smith had been the only one to suffer so severely from the influenza, but she had not been the only one taken ill. Joan's days had been a constant parade of sniffling boys and whining men, along with the usual repertoire of cuts and scrapes and bruises.

She was exhausted. Although in her most secret of wishes she had longed for some eligible bachelor (of which there were none, frankly) to ask her to the village dance, ultimately she was looking forward to a quiet evening free of work.

She trudged into the kitchen, arms laden with used cups, and almost ran into Jenny, one of the maids.

"Jenny, do please watch where you are going!" she snapped.

"Sorry, ma'am," apologized the maid robotically.

Joan pressed a hand to her temple, tired and contrite. "No, forgive me for snapping. I am not myself."

Jenny's eyes sharpened, an odd smile stretching her thin lips."Really? Whatever is wrong? Do sit a spell, ma'am."

Joan would have told the maid to mind her station; she wasn't one to indulge in idle chatter with the staff. But the idea of putting her feet up with a cup of tea overrode her concerns.

She eased onto a chair, the staff kitchen unusually empty due to most heading home early to ready themselves for the dance.

Jenny brought over a brimming cup of lukewarm tea, almost splashing Joan. Joan bit back the instinctive scolding. "Jenny, are you not attending the town dance tonight?"

The maid twitched her head like a curious bird. "Dance? Oh no, not me."

"Me, either. Frankly, I am relieved. This past week of caring for Mrs. Smith has been almost more than I could handle."

"How so, ma'am?"

"Well, the fever would not break. She was saying the craziest things - I really feared we would lose her. I do not know what Mr. Smith would have done."

Jenny leaned so far forward Joan had to hastily lean back. The maid's eyes glittered, wide and staring. She really hoped the maid was not coming down with the influenza now, too.

"Crazy things? Oh how very exciting. Like what? Do tell."

Joan took a sip of tea and relaxed her shoulders, trying to not feel disheartened that instead of being at the dance, here she was slumped in the kitchen and sharing idle gossip with the maid. "Nothing you need to be spreading around the school! It was the fever, you understand. People say strange things when ill. I think she took her husband's stories to heart; they translated into dreams about...oh, many odd things... monsters and blue boxes. She kept crying for a doctor, the poor woman, though one had already seen her."

Jenny sat back suddenly, hands clamping on the table. "Where is this Mrs. Smith now?" she demanded.

Joan stared at the maid, jaw agape. "Watch your tone!"

"Forgive me," replied Jenny, not sounding contrite at all, "I merely wondered if I could offer to help care for her."

Slightly mollified, Joan sipped at her tea again, grimacing at the over-steeped brew. "No need now, she is quite well and probably attending the dance with her husband."

Jenny stood abruptly, jostling the table and causing Joan's teacup to slosh tea over everything. "Jenny!" began Joan, another round of chastising on her tongue.

But without a single by-your-leave, the maid turned and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Joan gaping at the mess on the table.


Donna stood in the small water closet of the town hall, trying to pin back the curls that had escaped her chignon. The dance was a rousing success, practically every couple in the small town in attendance and the hall serving as ballroom was crushed with people.

She had managed three laughing, fumbling waltzes with the Doctor - who it turned out knew the bare essentials of the dance but had picked it up fast enough - before she plead for a bathroom break.

Giving up on the escaping tendrils, she eased the door open, expecting to find the hallway lined with waiting women even if the WC was a bit far from the main dance room. But for once the hallway was clear. She'd already walked down a ways and turned several corners before she realized she was going the wrong directlion. Rolling her eyes at herself, she was about to turn and start retracing her steps when the sound of voices reached her ears.

"Mother of Mine, are you certain the Doctor will be within this useless crowd of humans?"

Donna froze, instinctively pressing herself flat against the wall. Heart pounding, she peered around the corner. A male student, that maid Jenny from the Academy, and a portly older man stood by a back door. Surrounding them were strange scarecrow creatures.

Donna felt slightly ill, and the room made one dizzy turn around her in shock. The scarecrow in the field had not been her imagination then. And...and...oh god, the watch! No, they'd made it two whole months, why now and on the one night she didn't have the bleeding watch!

"Yes, Son of Mine. The nurse from the school said Mrs. Smith talked about the Doctor. This body of mine has memories of a red-headed woman."

"How serendipitous. Let's find this Mrs. Smith, shall we, and ask her about the Doctor." The student he called Son of Mine smiled in a strange disjointed way, and Donna eased her head back around the corner, closing her eyes in a moment of pure agony. They knew she was here, and whatever had taken Jenny's body recognized her. It was time to get to the Doctor and run.

Good thing they were both good at that.

Donna turned as quietly as possible, easing away from the Family and holding her skirts tight against her body as she moved away. When she rounded the next corner, she bolted.

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"John! John!" She pelted into the ballroom, rushing unerringly to the tall figure loitering by the food.

"Oh, there you are! I was-"

She cut him off mercilessly. "John...Doctor. We have to go. They're here."

His brow crumpled in confusion. "Leave? Why? Who? You need a doctor?"

"No! No - look, I don't have time to explain right now. You - YOU are the Doctor. Remember, your journal, the dreams and the box and everything? That's you. We have to go NOW."

His features stilled in fear and he grasped her arms. "Oh no, your fever. Are you ill again?" His hands reached up, cupped her face. "You do not feel warm yet, but..."

Donna was trembling in her need to get them out, and she honestly couldn't expect him to believe her. "Okay, yes. I'm sick, you're right. Let's go, take me a to Nurse Redfern." She grabbed his arm and began to tug him towards the door.

"Donna, sweetheart. Stop; you are not thinking straight. The town doctor is here with his wife, we should just pull him aside right now. I knew I should not have rushed you to exert yourself," he berated himself as he forced them to a stop. He pulled his arm from her grip so he could grasp her elbow instead and steered her towards the center of the room again.

"Goddammit, Doctor!" fussed Donna, and the people immediately around them hushed in disapproval. "I'm not really ill. We need to leave! Look, look at me," she hissed at him and he turned back to her, surprised at her vehemence.

She grabbed his lapels, captured his eyes with hers and said, very carefully. "Think, really think. You know somewhere inside you already that something's been wrong all along, hasn't it. Your dreams aren't dreams; they're memories, and you wrote them all down in your little journal because you couldn't let them go, could you? You are the Doctor and they're coming for you. You just have to trust me, there's no time." Eyes steady on his, she tried to will all the truth she could into her words. "Won't you just trust me?"

His hand cupped her cheek gently as he studied her face, and she felt a hopeful moment of triumph at getting through to him.

"You are delirious," stated the Doctor sadly and his grip on her elbow changed from cajoling to implacable as he resumed hauling her with iron determination towards the town physician.

"No! Not that way you amnesiac dumbo!"

"YOU WILL BE SILENT! ALL OF YOU!" came the shouted command from the hall's doorway, and Donna's stomach dropped to her feet as she whirled to view the Family walk through the door.

"Wha-" began the Doctor, and Donna gripped his wrist, nails digging in as she stepped in front of him.

"I SAID SILENCE!"

"Mr. Clark, what's going on?" demanded someone from the crowd, and Donna watched in horrified acceptance as "Mr. Clark" shot the man with a laser gun, reducing him to so much dust. Around her, women and men screamed.

"John," said Donna very quietly, pulling firmly on the Doctor's frozen form as the townspeople blocking them from view began to panic and rush for the door, "Move towards the doorway. Forget I said anything-"

"We asked for silence!" bellowed the student, and Donna clamped her mouth shut, looking up to realize she had the leader's undivided attention, his gaze sweeping over her red hair, her hand clutching the Doctor's sleeve, and coming to the correct conclusion.

His head turned as if disconnected from his body as he swiveled his attention over to the shocked Doctor, struck immobile by the sudden violence.

"Now, then, we have a few questions for you, Mrs. Smith."

"No, better than that," chimed a young voice from somewhere in the crowd, as a little girl holding a balloon appeared. Donna vaguely remembered her sitting at a nearby table while she and the Doctor danced. Donna closed her eyes, already seeing where this was headed. "The teacher, her husband...he's the Doctor. Heard them talking."

Glittering eyes settled on the Doctor. "You took human form!" came the delighted realization from the student.

"Of course I am human! I was born as human as were you! And you, Jenny and...and Mr. Clark, what is going on? This is madness!" the Doctor cried in alarmed confusion as he realized they had somehow become the center of attention. He grasped Donna's elbow and tried to step in front of her, but she was immobile as stone.

"Ooh, and a human brain, too, simple thick and dull," noted Son of Mine.

"But he's no good to us like this!" complained Jenny.

"We need a Time Lord," mumbled Mr. Clark.

"Easily done," smirked the student, raising the laser gun to point at the Doctor. Donna's heart clenched, brain calculating a hundred possibilities as everyone flinched back. "Change back," he demanded.

"I don't know what you are talking about! I literally don't know what you-!" shouted the Doctor, and Donna was too focused on his pale face and on her own fear to feel Jenny come up beside her and yank her into her grip with one sharp tug.

Her gaze arrowed to the Doctor's horror-stricken face as she felt the laser gun pressed to her temple.

"This is your pretty little companion, isn't she? Your 'wife'?" Jenny's breath blew over Donna's ear, redolent of stale, rotten things. "Doesn't this scare you enough to change back?"

The Doctor compulsively moved toward them, desperation on every line of his face. "No! Don't hurt her! I do not know what you mean! Please, please just...I will give you anything you want, just tell me what you mean and...and let her go."

"Have you enjoyed it, Doctor? Being human?" taunted the student, the twisted grin never leaving his face as his unblinking gaze traveled between the Doctor and Donna. "Has it taught you wonderful things, having the 'love' of a good woman? Are you ready to lose her?"

"Wait, please, you can't hurt her! I will do anything, but I don't understand," begged the Doctor. His brown eyes focused on Donna, silently pleading with her to somehow make sense of a world gone crazy so that he could magically do as they asked and she could go free.

Donna felt Jenny becoming impatient, the gun wobbling against her temple. "Now, now, let's all calm down," said Donna carefully. "He doesn't know what you want, right? Look at him, you can see he has no clue. But I..." she let herself go limp, felt Jenny's grip on her fumble as the maid tried to compensate for the sudden weight.

In a whirl she dipped under Jenny's arm, wrenching the gun away as she strong-armed Jenny into a shield. "I," Donna declared, "have been mugged twice in London and they were far steadier at hangin' on to their weapons than you lot!" She leveled the weapon on the ringleader.

Donna faintly registered the Doctor gasping her name in surprise but she didn't dare turn to look at him as all weapons rounded on her.

"Now this companion is full of fire!" chortled Son of Mine.

"Yeah, redheads are known for it, bub. Now back off or I shoot your creepy head off."

"Would you really pull the trigger?" he taunted.

Donna shot one quick blast over their heads as people screamed, her hand rock steady. "Not a fan of them, but pretty simple, yeah? Point and shoot, think I can manage to shoot that deranged grin off your face if I have to."

"Careful, Son of Mine," cautioned Mr. Clark. "It's all for you, so you can live forever."

With a conceding nod, he dropped his own weapon and the rest of the Family followed suit.

"Doctor, get everyone out that side door, now!" she commanded.

"But Donn-"

"Do it!"

Donna held still, heart pounding as she heard the Doctor ushering everyone who hadn't already escaped through the door, the flurry of sound as people began to stampede out quickly fading off until the room fell silent and the Doctor's footsteps were hurriedly returning to her. "Now you! Go!" she shouted at him.

"No."

"Goddammit Doctor, now's not the time to argue! Go!"

"Stop calling me that! And I'm not leaving without you!"

"Of all the time to turn stubborn!" she hollered, suddenly throwing Jenny at the rest of the family so she could back up until she felt the Doctor's body bump up against her.

She aimed the gun at the Family as they advanced and she and the Doctor backed up. "Don't try anything!" she warned.

"Quite fast on your toes, aren't you? Should have taken one like you instead," sneered Jenny.

"So they're dead then? Those bodies you're wearing; you've killed them?" demanded Donna, unable to keep her eyes from straying to the little girl. So young!

"Indeed. Useless little lifespans, like flies they are, and their bodies give up so easily."

"Then there's nothing really keeping me from shooting you, now is there, so I'd watch what you say about us humans, thank you!"

"She's almost brave, this one," laughed Son of Mine. "You must have enjoyed having her, Doctor; a real firecracker."

"Oi! Are you calling me a slapper-yeeeeh!" Donna screeched, as she and the Doctor stumbled into a scarecrow coming in through the door.

She felt a hand pluck the gun from her but she was too busy grabbing hold of the Doctor and tugging him away from the mass of bodies converging on the doorway, and then they were running down the hallway and out of the building, into the night.


To be continued ... who needs a gun when you've got cookware

Reviews are like a kissogram from the Doctor (or Donna, equal opportunity. Or you can just watch them snog each other, if that's your thing.)

Chapter Text

There was no time or breath for talk as they ran, just the steady pounding of shoes on cobblestone as they legged it to the school. Donna was huffing like a locomotive, cursing the corset that compressed her lungs and the skirts that tangled around her legs until she hitched them up to her knees, and wishing desperately for her jeans.

When they finally entered the building she forged on, full steam ahead. She had already outlined their plan neatly in her head.

"Right then. We go upstairs, grab the watch, get to the TARDIS, and away from here. The Family won't stick around once we leave; they'll want to follow. We can think of our next step when we're in the vortex. If we jump around enough maybe they won't be able to pin down our loc-"

So focused was she on getting to the stairs - and completely used to dragging the Doctor behind her like a rag doll - that when he suddenly refused to move forward she practically suffered whiplash as she was jolted to a halt.

"Oi!"

Then came the completely new and unwelcome experience of having "John" ignore her as he grabbed the big alarm bell in the hall and began to ring it piercingly, refusing to let go of her.

"OI!" she screeched again. "What in the blazes are you doing?"

"Rousing the troops. We need to warn the school. We are the best line of defense for the town."

She spluttered, dumbfounded. "But..but... are you mad?  What we need is the watch and the-"

"Hush," he ordered stridently, already in the middle of directing confused students as they stumbled down the stairs. "It is not the time for your science fiction."

Her jaw dropped. "MY SCIENCE FICTION?"

She was ignored once more as he towed her firmly around by the wrist, moving from group to group of boys congregating in messy clumps.

Realizing she wasn't going to get through to him, she began to twist in his grip, prying at his fingers with her other hand. "Look here, this ain't the time to be playing Army Men or whatever it is you think you're doing. At least let go of me so I can do what needs to be done!"

If anything this grip tightened and he rounded on her, eyes alight with his own ire. "I am not letting you out of my sight, madam! We shall deal with your strange notions later."

"Strange notions?" she parroted, before shaking her head decisively and swinging around so that she momentarily blocked his way. "Okay, I get it. You're scared and none of this makes sense. I wish we had more time and I could explain this to you better, I do, but for now you need to just believe me and do as a I say. You put me in charge here. You are the Doctor, those aliens are after you, and we need to get out. So we're going to go upstairs, and get the watch and-"

He grasped her face carefully and ended her warbled explanations. Denial and fear swirled in his worried eyes. "I do not know what sick disease has a hold on those people, or what strange technology they are using, or how you seem to be struck by the same illness - but I promise you I will make you better, as soon as we are sure the students and townspeople are no longer in danger." And he was grabbing her wrist again, toting her along like a recalcitrant child.

"Oh for the love of - I will kick you!" she threatened loudly, then found herself summarily hauled in front of a group of four strapping lads, upperclassmen.

"You four. You are in charge of watching over my wife. You will make sure she does not stray from here and under no circumstances do you allow her upstairs, is this understood?" barked the Doctor in a tone of voice Donna had ever only heard him use when facing hoards of earth-invading aliens. The boys nervously nodded, successfully cowed. "Fail in this and you shall answer to me," warned the Doctor in a parting shot as he finally released Donna's wrist and scurried off to order around more students.

Donna and the boys stared at each other in a silent stand-off. They had formed a loose cordon around the stairwell, blocking her path.

Donna eyed them appraisingly. They were each a good half-foot taller than she, and shifted ill-at-ease as she cast them a beady eye. "You lot think I can't take you down if I want?"

They looked positively sick at the idea of having to restrain her. "Please don't try it, ma'am," begged one of the four. "Master Smith wouldn't much like it if we were to lay a hand on you."

She considered it, she really did. She was spry and a dirty fighter - she could probably kick one in the nuts and vault over him before the others even figured out what she was doing. But truthfully, there was no way they wouldn't be able to catch her on the stairs, as hobbled as she was by her dress. "This is ridiculous," railed Donna. "We're wasting time!"

She about-faced and found that the lobby had emptied during their silent showdown, so she abandoned the foot of the stairs and stormed towards the courtyard, where she could heard the Doctor barking out instructions as if he were a seasoned general. Her entourage followed her like four overgrown ducklings.

She was confronted with a sight she would have sworn she would never have to deal with: the Doctor directing the students in setting up a protective wall of sandbags, and teenagers manning old-fashioned machine-guns and rifles.

"What the hell!?"

"Ah, Donna. There you are," stated the Doctor, for all the world acting as if he hadn't set his guard dogs on her. "I have directed the women and other staff to take refuge in the cellar." There was, of course, and unstated order in that comment.

"Bully for you. Now what do you think you're doing, giving these boys guns?"

"They are in charge of protecting the school from those madmen in costumes."

"They aren't in costumes and you know it! This isn't the time for denial, or the time for cowboys and Indians. What the hell happened to my mild-mannered husband to turn you into General Doom? And you hate guns!"

He seemed completely baffled by her comment. "It is a war, Donna. Guns are necessary. This is what I have been preparing the students for all semester."

Donna gaped and blinked double-time. "You what?" Holy crap, how had she not known this?  She'd been so worried about their "relationship" that she hadn't taken the time to really pay attention to what else he'd been doing.

"Oh my god, you're going to freak when you're back to normal. This was instruction #1 in the video, and I'm not supposed to let you do this!" Fantastic, another way she had failed him.

"Stop saying things like that!" he commanded.

"I won't stop! And I won't let you lead these boys into a battle they can't possibly win. You can't; they're children!"

"They are men, trained for war."

"Please believe me! There's no need for any of this. They're after us, you n' me, not them. If we just go, if we leave right now, no one has to fight."

"I am not leaving these people defenseless! Now get in the cellar, Donna."

"No!"

"Get in the cellar!" he shouted at her, gripping her elbow and marching her to the storm cellar. She readied a particularly stellar kick, got caught in her own skirts and cursed, then shrieked in outrage when he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her off her feet to haul her bodily to the opening.

"You stupid man! Do you have any ide-" she banged on his back and shoulders with her hands, and smacked him good and hard upside the head.

He set her down at the threshold to the storm cellar, took her fiercely by the arms. "DONNA!" he roared, and the entire courtyard seemed to hush as the assembled students witnessed kindly John Smith finally lose his patience. "For once in your life you will listen to me and get in the cellar. I refuse to have anything happen to you, do you understand me?"

"This isn't about me. If you'd just listen; you're doing everything wrong!" she shouted back.

He advanced on her and she instinctively backed up, not wanting to get grabbed again, but she tripped over the threshold behind her and bumbled down the shallow steps. A young girl, part of the kitchen staff, caught her and hustled her into the mass of waiting women and younger children.

By the time Donna untangled herself from the flurry of hands and pushed away from the crowd, the Doctor was just a silhouette against the night, shutting the big double doors tight.

She scrambled up the steps and for the doors, pushing with all her strength against them, but they had been barred.

Donna gave them one last kick. "Son of a bitch!"

Children and staff gasped behind her, then took one step back as she rounded on them, hands on hips. "All right, then. Who can tell me where the trapdoor to the kitchen is?"

They looked at her blankly.

"C'mon now! I've seen my fair share of 'Masterpiece Theater'. There's always a trapdoor to the kitchen!"

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It was Nurse Redfern, sitting patiently in one corner with bandages and clean water at the ready, who had finally stepped forward and pointed out the almost-invisible panel in the ceiling leading up to the kitchen. Donna hauled herself out of the square opening and onto the kitchen floor, then peered down at the frightened faces looking up at her, Nurse Redfern among them.

"Okay, Joan. You're in charge of this lot. They're not after you; I can get them away from here. I'll cover this up with something. Keep everyone calm and quiet and you'll be fine. When everything quiets down outside you should be able to lead everyone out."

Donna was ready to pull the trapdoor shut before she hesitated for one second, her curiosity niggling at her.

"What, you're not going to argue with me and try to convince me to stay down there with you?"

Joan slanted her a wry glance. "You would not listen if I tried. And you were always an odd one, Mrs. Smith. Something tells me you know more about this than anyone else."

"Damn skippy I do. Take care then, and..." she searched her brain for something Doctor-y and inspiring to say as a goodbye to the woman who was keeping such a cool head in an emergency, "be brilliant and...er...go for the girl-power and vote and stuff, okay?"

She closed the trapdoor on Joan's confused face and hauled a hearth rug over it, before the sudden burst of gunfire had her whirling towards the windows. She watched, horrified, as the students open fired on a seemingly endless stream of scarecrows. The gun fire cast the Doctor's face in harsh lines of doubt and regret as he instructed children to kill.

He was going to be so sorry later. Donna stumbled back, almost retching. It was all for nothing; they were after the Doctor and would keep coming until they got what they wanted. And they weren't going to believe the Doctor couldn't give it to them until they were shown otherwise.

It was going to be all up to her. Once she had the watch she could draw them all away.

She grabbed a heavy skillet from the nearby rack as a weapon, then a rolling pin for good measure. She wasn't going to kid herself, the knives freaked her out a bit much and she didn't have it in her to stab anyone. But a good clobber over the head would take anything down just as good.

Thus doubly armed, she raced through the building and for the stairs, taking the well-worn path up to the flat she had shared with her "husband" for the last two months, never once noticing the little girl with a red balloon that traced her path.

When she burst into the flat at an all-out sprint, heart pounding, it was half-expecting the watch and TARDIS key to be mysteriously gone. But no, the chain and its treasures were still in their little bowl. Thank you god!

She had the chain around her neck in a heartbeat, and had picked up her weapons once more, halfway out the door before a niggle of sentimentality made her look back at the cozy flat she had shared with her human Doctor.

There was the accursed couch, where he'd kissed her so passionately. Through that door was the small old-fashioned kitchen where he had baked her cookies in a ruffly apron, and praised her own inedible meals.

And in the back were the bedrooms. His bed, never used. Her own, where she had spent countless sleepless nights enfolded in his arms, his lips pressed against her skin and his hands ever roaming.

It was all going to be finally over, one way or another, and he would never look at her that way again. He would never touch her that way again.

Way it should be, anyway. Don't you dare become a stupid maudlin cow at a time like this, Donna!

She shut the door forcefully behind her.

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She had reached the ground floor again, stationing herself by a seldom-used servant's entrance. One final glance out the windows confirmed no scarecrows near this end of the grounds. The sound of weapons firing echoed dully through the big building. Her race through the school had taken only minutes and every breath she took pulled painfully against the tight corset but she couldn't afford to rest yet.

Mustering her courage, she slipped a fingernail under the clasp of the watch and eased the lid open a scant sliver.

Golden light streamed out; it seemed to caress her as it danced briefly around her, sending a warm rush of welcome through her. The smell of stardust - of the Doctor - hit her senses and she choked up. She missed him!  It was the scent of galaxies, starlight and impossible things, and if she could smell it, then the Family would doubtlessly be upon it immediately.

She forced her fingers closed, snapping the watch shut and cutting off the light. The tiny bit of energy that had escaped moved about the room, searching for its true owner. Unable to do so, it traveled back to her, coalescing in faint streamers of gold that affectionately brushed her in a slightly-inappropriate tickle - almost the sensation of warm hands trailing fingertips over her skin - before seemingly being absorbed back into the closed watch.

Donna took a deep, steadying breath, brushed off stupid useless tears she hadn't even realized she had shed, and hustled towards the door.

But on the other side, the little girl from the dance stood blocking her path, red balloon in hand.

She was the creepiest thing Donna had ever seen.

"I swear to god, you say 'come play with us' or 'redrum' and I will end you!" threatened Donna, inching around the wall, skillet and rolling pin held high.

"So it is you who has been hiding him." The girl said as her nose twitched, a small rodent-like quiver. "This room reeks of him. You reek of him. Tell me where it is and you can continue on with your pitifully short life."

"Says the energy mass that only has 3 months to live," drawled Donna.

"You have no concept of whom you mock, human!"

"Doesn't matter who you are, does it, when you're in stuck in a body I can turn over my knee!" Donna kept inching forward, keeping to the wall until she had almost crept past the girl blocking her way. The girl followed her with her eyes, and it was only due to the fact that Donna was completely focused on every twitch of movement that she noticed the girl withdrawing a weapon from the folds of her dress.

Before she could overthink it, she swung with her rolling pin, bringing it down hard with a sickening crack across the wrist of the small hand with the gun, sending both gun and the rolling pin sliding deeper into the room and under a bookcase. Not a little girl, not really, just the thing that took her body. She chanted it to herself as young eyes, shocked at the new experience of pain, pierced her accusingly.

"Not so much fun being in a human body now, huh?" Donna growled. Then for good measure she yanked the red balloon from the girl's other hand. "And you look ridiculous carrying this around. You're an evil body-snatcher, for god's sake; have some self-respect!"

The creepy thing gave her one last furious look and turned away to retrieve her weapon and, presumably, either try to shoot her again or go off and tattle to her family. Donna wasn't going to stick around to figure out which one it was going to be, so she turned tail and began running once more.

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The sound of guns had stopped as the Family ended their assault, sidetracked by the sudden release of Time Lord energy. Donna had exited the building through a servant's door, and double-backed by keeping to the deep shadows cast by the hedge surrounding the school. She found a suitably dark corner just in time to watch the panicked retreat of schoolboys and teachers, fleeing now that they were no longer the Family's target. The little girl had ended up returning to tattle on her after all, and now she led a platoon of scarecrows, and the entities they called "Mother of mine" and "Brother of mine," back towards the room where the Time Lord energy had last been released. Donna watched them from a distance, hardly daring to breathe, hoping they couldn't sniff her out from this distance. She wondered nervously why "Mr. Clark" was not with them.

But then there was a sudden rush of kitchen staff and other women running out of the destroyed courtyard gates, evacuating the cellar now that the battle had stopped. The tall figure of the Doctor came frantically running after them, catching up to Nurse Redfern who was dutifully bringing up the rear and making sure everyone escaped.

From her vantage point, there seemed to be a spirited discussion going on, with Nurse Redfern pointing vaguely back inside the building and the Doctor spearing hands into his hair in building hysteria. With a sorrowful shrug, Nurse Redfern followed the last of the departing staff.

Donna scouted the area thoroughly, making sure no scarecrows lingered, and began doing her best James Bond impersonation, dashing from shadow to shadow as she closed the distance between the Doctor and herself.

"Donna? Donna!"

"DONNA!"

Donna winced as the Doctor hollered her name in an ever-increasing frenzy; she sped up her hunched-over run, keeping to the low surrounding wall and the cover of tall hedges. Finally alongside him, she reached through the brush and pulled him into the hedge.

"Donn-urk!"

"Shhhh! Stop shouting! I'm right here!"

The Doctor seized her in a lung-crushing squeeze. "Where did you go? I told you to stay with the women in the cellar! How could you run off like that?"

"Had to get this," whispered Donna, lifting the watch from under her dress. "Told you I did."

The Doctor's reached out and touched the watch gently, before jerking his fingers back. "You are still talking of this nonsense?"

"Doctor..."

"I'm not this Doctor!"

"You can't still not believe! You've seen what those things can do! You know they aren't human."

"The...the soliders dressed as scarecrows. Donna, there were no bodies in the costumes, only straw. You seem to know how this is possible but I...it can't be real!"

Donna said nothing, watching the Doctor struggle with the facts he had witnessed. Coming to some sort of conclusion, he scrubbed his hands harshly over his face. "Even if those things aren't human, that doesn't mean I'm this 'Doctor' they keep saying I am!"

Donna blew out an aggravated breath. "Well, at least you're admitting those things aren't human. I guess that's as good a first step as any. Here," she pushed the skillet at him.

"A skillet?" he goggled.

"Yeah. We're heading to the TARDIS. I figure if anything will convince you, it's her. So anything comes near us, you slam that over their head, yeah?"

"Donna," he said very quietly and calmly, the calm before the storm, and she paused in her attempts to clear a way out of the hedge for the both of them. When she caught his eye in the dim light, he continued. "Please tell me you did not leave the safety of the cellar armed with only a skillet."

"Of course not!" said Donna, affronted. "I had a rolling pin, too!" And she grabbed his hand and hauled him out after her.


To be continued...Denial ain't just a river...

By the way, the rating for the next chapter is truly "M", so be forewarned. 

Chapter Text

Donna and the Doctor stood hidden in a small copse of trees. She stared blindly at the scene in the distance, one trembling hand wrapped around the watch that hung around her neck. As if invisible strings had been cut, her energy finally gave out and she sank to her knees onto the leaf-strewn ground. She'd been banking everything on getting to the TARDIS and now...

Mr. Clark, "Father of Mine," had somehow found the blue ship, and it was guarded by a platoon of scarecrows. Their one true sanctuary, gone.

"What is that blue box?" asked the Doctor in a hushed voice, following her down to the ground.

Donna grabbed a handful of dried leaves and hurled them angrily at nothing. "That was our last hope that everything could go smoothly. That's the TARDIS. You've dreamed of her, haven't you?" Donna demanded, watching him all the while from the corner of her eye.

He scrubbed one hand hard over his head, gazing at the TARDIS with what Donna would bet was grudging recognition before he closed his eyes decisively. He shook his head in one hard negative. "No, I don't know what that thing is."

Donna turned to him and he swiveled away, refusing to meet her eyes. Anger at his continued denial burned in her chest.

"Yes you do."

"No, I--"

She gripped his lapels, forced him to face her. "Yes you do. I saw the drawing in your journal. You HAVE seen this before and something in you knows it. You can't still argue that none of this is about you!"

"It is but a wooden box; what does it matter?"

"It's a she! She's the TARDIS and she's alive and she probably hates being held captive and she'd thump you so hard right now for calling her an 'it!'" She dropped her head wearily. God she was tired. "I was sure once I got you inside, you would have to believe me. You would open the watch and we'd be safe and could get away. Now we have to find some other place, farther from here, for you to change back."

He ignored her words with hard-headed determination, focusing only on what he wanted to hear. "I agree we have to find somewhere where you are safe."

Donna struggled with her breathing until she could bury her frustrated anger. It would do them no good, especially as she knew he would not be able to maintain his denial much longer.

She climbed achingly to her feet, then nudged him with her foot as he studiously looked away from her. "Come on," she said quietly, pulling at his arm until he clambered to his feet beside her. "Let's go find somewhere to rest, and I can tell you all about the Doctor as we walk. There's time now."

"I will not listen."

"You will, because you have no choice. We never do." She marched off into the woods, knowing he would follow.

And he did.


By the time they found the empty cottage, her throat was scratchy from talking and dawn was creeping over the horizon. The Doctor's facade of calm disbelief had steadily crumbled with each step and each word. There was no denying that none of the fantastic stories were new to him - so much of what she talked about had haunted his nights, and had recorded in his journal. In fact, his journal contained facts and stories she herself had never known.

And the Doctor - John - was wrecked in the face of so much proof. His jaw was one hard line of tension and his hands shook as he shut the door behind them.

The cottage had the look of being hastily abandoned. The small table held cups bearing cold tea. A couch nestled in one corner, and the thick rug underfoot was laid out over a scrubbed floor.

The Doctor noticed none of this, his eyes trained pleadingly on Donna.

"We can keep going, you and I. They cannot find us. This does not have to be true," he argued, collapsing at the table. The cold tea service rattled.

She walked carefully to him, laid a hand on his shoulder. "They won't give up; they'll start attacking the town when they can't find you. You are the only one who can save us now."

"Then...then we give them the watch and they go away. That is their true goal, right? Give me the watch, Donna, I will take it to them!"

Donna pressed a protective hand over the watch, nestled beneath her neckline. "There is no way I'm handing this over to them. The Doctor is in here! And those things would live forever, can you imagine? This is you, the real you in here!"

"NO! I ... all those dreams, he's a monster! He's ended planets, killed millions. Is that what you want me to become?"

"The Doctor is not a monster, he's never had a choice!"

"He set off Pompeii!"

Donna stumbled back as if he'd struck her. "And so did I, am I a monster?"

He reached up, grabbed blindly for her before she could move farther away. "No, no you are wonderful. You are everything. You are the only thing worth anything."

"Oh, no, you don't understand. I'm not anyone. He's the important one; the Doctor is the only one that matters."

As soon as the words left her mouth Donna knew she had made a mistake. The Doctor's face twisted from despair to rage, and the lightning-fast shift left her reeling. He rose so abruptly the chair clattered to the floor.

"That was it all along...Doctor," he growled with disdain. "All the times you almost called me something else; I always thought you were too shy to call me darling," he laughed without humor, and the venom in his voice made her step back warily. Too slow; he caught her shoulders with his hands. "You meant to call me 'Doctor' all along."

He shook her briefly. Not enough to do anything other than startle the both of them, and send her hair, already coming loose from its pins, tumbling down. "Have I never been real to you?" he demanded. "Have I never meant anything to you at all?"

"Y-You know you do. Keeping you safe is all I ever really wanted."

"Yet all I ever wanted, these past weeks, was you. My bride. I have planned out a future for us, and you are telling me none of that is real; there is no future for me, for us."

"There is. When you rememb-"

"NO! I won't be me anymore, when that 'Doctor' takes my place. You will be at his side, not mine," he argued, hands tight around her arms.

"You're the same person, don't you understand!"

"Are you my wife, then, when I am this 'Doctor'?"

She didn't answer that one because she knew he had guessed the truth.

"All this time, all the kisses and touches - were you humoring me? Did I disgust you? Is that why you always pulled away?" he asked, tremulously.

"I...no, I just couldn't..I wasn't supposed to... it was for your own good!" she cried.

"My own good? I am not your child, Donna, I am your husband! I do not care who or what this Doctor is - but I, I am your husband!"

And he took her down to the floor so they tumbled in a tangle of her skirts onto the soft, aged carpet.

Donna may have made some small noise of surprise, but it was cut off by by his mouth, almost angry as it settled over hers.

He was frenzied, raging against what he must know had to happen and what he had already deduced: she had never belonged to him. His marriage and dreams of hearth and home had been reduced to ash; nothing but a kind lie from a woman he had sworn to cherish and keep. And Donna understood his fury at the loss, because she had once had a husband and family who had not been real. Her heart ached for him. Tears blinded her as she allowed the kiss, let him sink down upon her, body heavy over hers.

Everything was already so lost, their purpose gone askew. She'd erred so horribly and continuously, not protecting the Doctor correctly, not finding the right way (and there must have been one, she was just too dumb and had missed it) to keep her distance without harming "John's" feelings. What difference did it make now, giving in when she'd already wronged the Doctor so completely, and the man he was now was in so much pain?

His body trembled against her, holding her fast as he kissed her, fury draining into anguish. "Don't make me go...don't make me go..." he murmured brokenly against her lips, until she ended his words with her tongue, unable to bear hearing more.

Dimly she felt him rapidly undoing the long line of small buttons at her side, finally pulling the sleeves down her shoulders and arms to expose her chest as the bodice loosened. There was no time to protest or even think, really, as one arm wrapped around her back and arched her forward towards his lips. Her breasts overflowed from the tight corset, restrained now only by the filmy silk of her chemise. His mouth settled warm and greedy upon her, teasing the peaks through increasingly damp silk until even that flimsy barrier was too much and he pulled the low-cut material down impatiently. The unhindered touch of his tongue against her nipple had them both gasping. Need pooled instantly between her thighs. The languid swirl of his tongue continued, free hand moving to lightly ghost his palm over her other breast so she was caught between the aching pull of persistent suckling and the barely-there tingle of grazing fingertips. With a shudder of surrender she clutched at his unruly hair with one hand to press his mouth more firmly against her.

Wrong wrong wrong wrong. It was all so wrong and she was going to do it anyway. Tears streamed out of her eyes, running down her temples to get lost in her hair.

She quested between them, ripped the foolish bow-tie from his neck then yanked at his waistcoat and shirt until buttons went flying. It was his turn to groan in surprise as she hauled him up by the hair so she could set her teeth to his throat, nipping hungrily. The loss of his warm mouth from her breasts had her nipples peaking almost painfully in the sudden cold and she shivered at the rough friction of his tangled shirt against her. She raked her nails down his chest in retaliation.

Dying man's last request.

His hand was moving under her skirts then, caressing her thighs with deliberation. This time there was no shocked gasp at her lack of suitable underclothing. Unerringly he found her; his fingers pumped slickly into her until she was riding his hand with abandon. He remembered exactly how to make her writhe. How crooking his fingers within her made her whimper. How his thumb against that delicate cluster of nerves made her quake. He stroked her so that every touch had her panting and keening until he moved to swallow her cries into his mouth.

But no, it wasn't, not really.

Her quick fingers were unbuttoning his fly and shifting material aside so she could release him. He pressed his thick length urgently into her hand, and she wrapped her fingers around him, the feel of him hard and silky against her palm. With a sharp, surprised cry he pumped reflexively into her grip.

John wasn't dying, just becoming something more.

She was stroking him firmly, matching her rhythm to that of his own fingers within her. He buried his head against her neck, breath panting unevenly against her shoulder with every adept twist of her fingers. They were moving against each other in tandem now; everything was building within her, a spiraling pressure.

This was really all about her. Her last request, her last chance.

Abruptly his hand left her, and his soaked fingers were wrapping around her wrist to pull her hand away from him. She had no time to question why he was stopping, because in seconds he was pulling her body tighter against him with the arm behind her back as his other hand released her wrist and moved to hook behind one of her knees. Her legs opened instinctively wider for him, allowing him to settle against her, heat against wetness.

And how much was she willing to pay for it? How much would he despise them for this moment?

Her breath caught in her throat. Some noise or sixth sense made him finally look up; he focused on her through the haze of want and noticed the steady trail of tears dripping from her eyes. He froze against her, the need on his face giving way to confusion.

He freed a hand to tentatively touch her face, testing her tears as if to ensure himself his eyes weren't deceiving him.

"You - you don't want this," he whispered wretchedly.

She shook her head harshly in denial, hair flying, and took a strangled breath, wanting to be understood. "No, it's not me. You don't want this, not really."

His gaze on her was wild and incredulous. He strained against her, flesh on flesh, insistent and throbbing against the smooth skin of her inner thighs. "How can you doubt this?"

Another shuddering breath as she forced words out of her mouth. "It's not you, really. You just think you...you're going to hate us both."

"Donna," he breathed, "I could never hate you, for anything. You are the only thing I have wanted, the only thing that has mattered to me. How can I, how can -" Lost, he gathered her against him. "Don't you understand? I just want to be here, with you. I want a life with you," he begged desperately.

Donna wiped ineffectually at her eyes, grimly forcing the tears to stop even as her hands betrayed her again and moved to bury themselves in his hair. "But, we do have a life. You n' me. A really really good one, I promise."

He stared bleakly at her, daring her to contradict him. "Do we have this?" he demanded, pressing against her meaningfully.

Her breath caught in her throat and her eyelids fluttered. "We're not like that," she whispered.

"Then I am a fool!" he hissed angrily.

She stroked the stubborn line of his jaw softly and cradled his face - so tired and dejected - between her palms. "You just think that because you don't remember. When you do it will all make sense. You'll see, I promise; you'll be glad."

He shook his head, tears glistening. "I can't go back to that. I love you, Donna."

"You don't love me; well, not like...not like this. You never have. It's the false memories."

"No, you're not listening. I love you." He hid his face in her hair, sobbing. "I love you. I love you. I love you...!"

"Shhhh, shhhhh. Okay, okay..." She shifted, cradling him to her as she slowly lifted the watch from where it rested by her neck, her own tears thick in her throat though she refused to let them fall again. "Then it won't matter, will it? It won't matter when you open this because you'll still feel the same. And...and we can finish this then, if you still want to."

Though he wouldn't, she knew, and it hurt; it hurt so much more than she ever thought it would. A ball of regret for missed opportunities rose in her chest, smothering her, and for the first time in...a long time...she admitted to herself how much she had wanted this to be true. How much she had fought the idea of feeling anything more than friendship for the Doctor because she knew it would kill her when it was taken away. "We'll still be together," she assured him.

"But I won't be me! He'll be here and I'll be gone, won't I? You'll be with him."

He lifted his face to gaze at her and she smiled at him determinedly through the regret. "I don't know," she confessed. "You are him. You're just missing some pieces, I think. You'll be you, just...more. It will all be fine."

If he read the uncertainty on her face, he ignored it. "I don't really have a choice, do I. We won't make it out alive if I don't."

She shook her head, mute.

He touched her face once more, memorizing her features with his fingers, holding her gaze with his. "I love you. Whatever else happens, Donna, I love you."

She couldn't hold the tears back anymore. They overflowed, running over his fingers. "I know you think you do. I...I..."

He took pity on her, covered her lips briefly with his fingertips, salty with her tears, to end her confused stuttering.

Not breaking eye contact he took the watch from her, brushing her breasts slightly as he did. And then he was kissing her ferociously, almost devouring her as he tasted her mouth, memorizing every flavor and texture one last time. She kissed him back just as frantically and became acutely conscious once more of their positions - him between her legs, her thighs curled around him. His length, amazingly, still pressed unrelentingly along her bare flesh, a hairsbreadth from completion. He released her lips and she struggled for breath. "Maybe we should-"

But before she could suggest they move, he flipped the watch open.

Gold streamers erupted from the watch to brush against her again. Though this time it was a tidal wave of heat washing over her like demanding hands, running over her possessively instead of the playful tickles of before. Then the power was running up her form to surround the man in her arms in a blinding rush. Donna blinked her eyes furiously, determined to witness the Doctor's return. His entire body tensed as the light coalesced around him, a soundless scream bringing the muscles of his throat into stark relief as he threw his head back.

Suddenly it was over and the Doctor stared back at her, eyes so wide she could practically see the untold years return to his gaze as all the missing information processed neatly into his brain.

"Donna," he gasped, like a man taking his first breath after a long time.

"Doctor," she confirmed quietly.

He shifted in her grip and her legs compulsively tightened around him. Awareness hit them at the same time and their eyes locked, unguarded and startled.

Then something, something dark and urgent that she couldn't name, flashed behind his eyes..and with a sudden twist of his hips he buried himself in her to the hilt.

She cried out, arching beneath him in shocked pleasure, nails scrabbling on his back before digging in. He moved within her, frantic, his head dropping to rest his forehead against hers.

"Donna, Donna. Oh, oh god, Donna..."

She moaned, knees lifting to wrap her legs around his waist to draw him in even deeper. He clutched her to him like a lifeline, coincidentally aligning their bodies so every one of his thrusts rubbed his pelvis deliciously along her and sent her nerve endings aflame. She moaned again, long and low, aching, aching aching as sweet tension built within her.

"I...I'm sorry.. I" the Doctor panted thickly. "I shouldn't be-ngggggh!" he cut off as Donna tightened every internal muscle she could control around him.

"Doctor, shut up," she ground out, proud of herself for managing the entire sentence, then losing all thought as he shifted minutely and lights exploded before her eyes. She screamed as she shuddered through her orgasm.

He buried his lips at her throat, sucking at the delicate skin in order to muffle his own noises. His thrusts quickened, becoming manic, losing rhythm as she milked him and he came with his own wordless shout, arms wound around her so tightly she temporarily lost her breath.

The lay together for what must have only been seconds, but galaxies were born and died in that short moment of peace.

Then inevitably reality returned. The Doctor lifted himself off her and sat back to stare down at her, shell-shocked. Donna could only wonder at what he saw: her with her hair a wild sex-aided tangle, skin flushed and straining against her corset, skirts bunched at her waist and her thighs naked to his sight. She slowly attempted to tug down her skirts. His eyes followed the movement.

When he tore his attention back to her face, his countenance was as still as stone and she recognized the flat look in his eyes as that of the Oncoming Storm. She wanted to hide.

He stood abruptly, turned away and adjusted his trousers back into place. Without a glance back at her, he stalked out of the cottage.

And Donna Noble began the tedious process of doing up all her buttons, and she did not cry again. Finally all done, she ran from the room to catch up, because like hell was she going to let him face the Family of Blood alone.


To be continued - hell to pay in the TARDIS

Reviews are like naughty Time-Lord essence, sneaking in a few cheeky gropes before it has to go back in the watch.

Chapter Text

The TARDIS door shut with a somber note of finality. The Doctor moved straight to the console, not sparing Donna a single glance where she leaned against a strut. This suited Donna fine, as she was busy fiddling with her dress sleeve and acting as though she didn't feel as if she were about to be sick.

Because she...

She had not been able to stop him.

For the first time, Donna had not been able to do what she was supposed to do: keep the Doctor grounded, give him a sense of scale, of justice tempered with compassion. She rubbed her arms, trying to find warmth, still chilled by the fate the Family had suffered at the Doctor's hand.

It had been the type of cruel, ironic punishment that only a madman would plan. They had craved immortality, so he had decided to torture them for eternity. "Mother of Mine," dropped into an event horizon, "Father of Mine" bound in unbreakable chains and falling into infinity, "Son of Mine" frozen into a parody of those scarecrows he had created, and "Sister of Mine" forever trapped in a mirror.

It had horrified her. It had brought back to mind blank eyes, uncaring as the Racnoss queen screamed for her children.

Donna had begged him to just kill the Family; it would have been kinder. When her attempts to dissuade him failed, he'd ordered (shouted, actually) for her to leave to her room.

But she had refused. If he was going to do this, then she was going to stand as a witness to his actions. She'd watched with tears streaming down her face as he cast each member of the Family into their own little twisted version of immortality.

Her face felt sticky with dried tears. And the rest of her was still slick - sweat and other things. She turned away from the controls and finally started to make her way to the hall leading to her room.

"Donna."

She stopped at the quiet word. "Yeah?"

"I'm sorry."

She turned, saw those same dark eyes were trained on her. "For?"

"You know what for."

She was quiet for a long moment, before managing, very softly, "Oh...so not for the way you dealt with the Family, then."

"No, not for that."

"You should, though. We can still rescue them, can't we? Just turn around, Doctor, please. We can imprison them, if you want, let them live out their last few weeks in jail or-"

His jaw clenched in a hard, stubborn line of rage barely contained. "They deserved it. It was because of them that I... They got what they wanted. I won't be sorry for that, ever."

She wanted to ask "because of them, what?" but was too afraid of the answer. Deep down she feared the severity of their punishment was all her fault. She had messed up, she had ruined everything, and unable to vent his anger on her then he had been even harsher with the Family. And now he was apologizing to her, as if she didn't know  what a miserable mess she'd created - as if she weren't aware that he was probably itching to get rid of her.

Useless, useless Donna. Not even able to stop him anymore.

But because she was a coward, she said none of this and instead shrugged with a nonchalance she didn't feel. She met his eyes guardedly, "Look, if it's about the other...thing, then, I know it didn't mean...you weren't yourself and the situation was odd and...I don't want to talk about it."

The conversation was closed, as far as she was concerned. All she wanted to do now was get out of this godforsaken dress, take a long bath, forget anything in the past months had ever happened and pray he let her stay.

"Donna..." he called again, but she ignored him and kept walking.

------------------------------------------------------

The atmosphere in her room was very still; she wondered if the TARDIS was giving her the sentient-ship equivalent of the silent-treatment. She wouldn't blame her one bit.

But as she shivered in delayed reaction, the floor warmed underfoot. And she noticed her little vanity from 1913 - the one she had always so admired - now sitting daintily in a corner. She realized the TARDIS had brought it onto the ship for her (or recreated it, she couldn't tell) and she laughed with a bitter edge of hysteria. Maybe the TARDIS felt guilty too, after having put them in that situation.

Hell, why not. Plenty of guilt to go around.

She stripped off the rumpled dress and undergarments, hurling each piece into a dark corner in her closet as if getting them out of her sight would somehow erase what had happened.

"I never want to see that dress again," she muttered, then panicked as she felt the answering vibrations of the TARDIS around her. "Wait!" she cried, rushing back to pick up the bundle of clothing before they could slide into a chute that had mysteriously appeared on the floor.

"Don't get rid of them or anything, okay? They were, the Doctor, John, they were a gift from him." She realized she was clutching everything against her chest and rambling like a mad woman. She forced her fingers to let go of the material, laying out the dress and its accompanying undergarments gently on the bed, trying to ignore, once more, how her hands trembled. "Maybe you could just wash everything and put it away for whomever-"

Whomever he replaces me with. "Whomever needs them," she finished dully.

The clothes stayed where she put them and she took that for an affirmative, before closing herself off in her bathroom.

Her reflection in the bright bathroom mirror made her stop and stare. Her skin was milky pale and translucent after weeks of conservative dresses and shirts that covered her from wrist to chin, any tan she had developed from previous travels had faded; the delicate chain of bruising that decorated her throat seemed very stark. It was a little crazy to be standing naked in front of her bathroom mirror and realize that the purpling love bites on her chest and neck could be attributed to the Doctor. His mouth on her skin, hurried and frantic. His tongue laving each mark.

A traitorous shiver worked itself up her spine until she forced herself to turn from the mirror and ordered her mind to push all that aside. Instead she concentrated on easing her stiff body into the blissfully steaming bath the Tardis had provided. The initial shock of the hot water awoke a concerto of tiny pains she had been ignoring: a consistent ache in her back and soreness in her thighs and between them. Slowly she felt each overworked muscle group relax and she groaned in pleasure, letting her head fall back and roll to the side.

"Thank you for this, at least," she whispered into the steamy air around her.

The TARDIS gave what she would classify as a moody huff.

"Don't give me any attitude, miss. It was your grand idea to make us married in his head that got us here. Everything's all weird now." Donna traced nervous circles in the silky water.

All weird and strained and wrong. Wrong even more because she knew, if she were fair, that it wasn't really the TARDIS' fault. She, Donna, was the one in charge of making sure nothing got out of hand with the Doctor. John had thought he was in love, and acted accordingly. It was Donna who knew better, Donna who should have kept making up excuses, evading, and not let herself get seduced, for crying out loud, by her best friend. She could have found a way so that scene in the cottage would have never even been a possibility.

Just what the hell had she been thinking! Donna clenched her eyes shut and brought her wet hands to her face.

The unexpected sound of knuckles against wood had her sitting upright in surprise, sloshing water over the lip of the tub.

"Donna?" called the Doctor through the bathroom door, knocking once more. "Donna, I need to talk to you."

Her breath hitched in her throat. So soon?  The water around her suddenly felt chilled around her panicked body, though she could still see the steam rising from its surface. "Can't it wait?"

There was a pause, long enough that her fingers on the tub's rim curled into a white-knuckled grip.

"No," came the final response from the Doctor. "No, I'm not sure that it can."

Donna nodded dumbly, then forced words out of her mouth when she realized, like an idiot, that he couldn't see her. "Yeah, all right. I'll be out in a moment."

A faint shuffle of sound marked his retreat from the door, while Donna stayed looking down at her hands curled around the tub's edge. Couldn't even wait for her to finish her bath.

Well, it was his ship, his perogative. 

Little droplets of salty water fell on her hands. She blinked rapidly to clear the moisture seeping from her eyes, and suddenly she was angry. At herself, for crying, again. At him, for not even giving her the time for a bath. Well, fuck that. She would take her bath and he would just have to wait and if he couldn't stand her presence on his ship for another measly hour when he was over 900 years old and she'd searched for him for over a year and it hadn't been her idea to get stuck in 1913 and now she wouldn't ever see another time let alone another planet let alone him because he'd steer well away from London after...

A sob escaped her and she clapped her hand over her mouth, horrified the sound would travel outside the bathroom. But she couldn't stop; it was all rising up to strangle her. Tears - god, more tears, would they never end, she would swear there were none left in her - plonked into the bathwater like raindrops. It was hard to breathe and the more she muffled the noise the more the strangled sounds seemed to echo off the tiled walls.

"Donna? Are you all right? Donna...open the door." The Doctor at her bathroom door again, jiggling the doorknob.

"No," she gasped out.

"Donna, I'm coming inside." The sound of the sonic, firing up.

"Don't you dare!" she shrieked at him. "You come into this room, I swear I'll...I'll...I'll slap you so hard... I'll...don't you even think about..." Threats failed to come to mind, trying to speak around labored breaths. "I'll be out in ten minutes. Just give me ten goddamn minutes!"

The sonic stopped. She could sense his presence, waiting, on the other side of the door, but the doorknob did not move again.

And Donna let herself slide underwater, where bathwater would mix with tears and she could pretend there was no difference.

------------------------------------------------------------------

She exited the room wrapped in a thin toweling robe, her hair a wet mass down her back, but with dry eyes. Ten minutes had afforded her a hasty bath and endless deep breaths, shoring up a calm facade.

The Doctor was waiting in her room, sitting on the edge of her bed, hands clasped tightly around the dress she had left there - the dress he'd bought her. A heavy weight seemed to have settled over him, so that his strong shoulders were bowed. He looked very still and very tired. Gone was all the energy and blabber she was so accustomed to.

She had only seen him this way after great catastrophe or sacrifice: Messaline, Midnight. Donna flinched at the idea of being lumped in the same category.

His attention was completely focused on the mass of icy-blue fabric in his hands, as if the silk held deep answers to the universe's questions.

Donna fidgeted in place. "Right then. Well, here I am," she muttered, unable to stand the quiet. "What was so flippin' urgent."

"I wanted to say...I needed to say I'm sorry," he murmured softly, never raising his head to face her.

This was her opportunity - her one big chance to say it was she who was sorry. That she knew she had made a mistake -- more than one, too many. To please not make her go. But too many words boiled up in a nonsensical jumble she couldn't voice. Because what was he sorry for? For making love to her? For trusting her with him? For ever bringing her along? For assuming she could do this right?

The silence stretched, expectant, and it was obvious he was waiting for her to say something. Every second that passed in her continued endeavor to force words out of her throat made his shoulders curl ever inward, as if each second added more weight to the invisible burden he already carried.

And just like that she knew her chance had passed. She couldn't say she was sorry because she was sorry for so much that no matter how many times she said it, the word would never ameliorate all the ways she had failed him.

All she could really get to come out of her mouth was, "I wish you'd stop apologizing."

His hands clenched in the delicate fabric of the dress he held, and he nodded his head once, sharply, as an indication he'd do as she asked. His eyes finally shifted from the mass of fabric in his hands to fix on her bare feet. She curled her toes into the plush carpet and felt his gaze sweep up her form, lingering on her throat, before meeting her eyes. She felt distinctly like some rare specimen under a microscope.

He set the dress aside and rose so suddenly from the bed that she stumbled back, and he froze. The look he fixed her with was one she couldn't decipher, before he began to move towards her again, more cautiously this time.

When he was an arm's length away, he peered down at her neck, motioning with his sonic.

"What is that?"

"What's what?" she craned her head down, but obviously couldn't see her own neck.

He shuffled a midge closer, laid a fingertip briefly on her collarbone. "Bruising, here and here and here."

Her hand flew to her neck, covering the marks as she gaped at him and her whole body flushed in embarrassment. She remembered well the chain of love-bites marking her skin.

Was he serious? How couldn't he know what those were?

The sonic was suddenly whirring and coming towards her. She slapped it away.

"Hickies, Martian. They're bleedin' hickies," she countered, her tone harsh in her self-consciousness.

He looked confused for a millisecond before the term found meaning in his brain, then stepped hastily back from her.

The emotion that flitted over his face before he closed it off completely was regret. And though she didn't expect any different, it still burned - a sharp, hot lance to the heart - that he should regret being with her.

He turned away from her and reached for a small glass of fizzy blue liquid.

"Drink this," he commanded.

Still keeping one hand clapped to her neck to hide the bruising, she reached for the little glass. "What is it?"

He was studiously looking away from her, fiddling with settings on the sonic. "Emergency contraceptive."

"Emerg...oh. Oh." She almost bobbled the glass of pretty blue liquid.

She clenched the little glass in her hand for an instant, glanced up to find him watching her from the corner of his eyes. She could have told him it was unnecessary; she'd been taking the little pills from the 28th century. But more than anything, she just wanted this agonizing moment to end.

"Well, good on you, mate, being all prepared," she drawled with the fake bravado she was so skilled at employing. Knowing his gaze was still on her, she shot the liquid back as if it were some fruity girly shot she and her girlfriends were pounding at the local pub, then dropped the empty glass on the side table with a clatter. "No alien babies, check."

A muscle clenched in his jaw and a part of her - the one that knew what was coming and railed against it - rejoiced in this little telltale hint of aggravation. But in contrast to her, he picked up the glass very gently, so he could turn in over and over in his hands.

Another lengthy silent moment; there had been more silence between them in the past hour than there had been in the past year.

"Donna, thank you for taking care of me for the past two months," he said, finally.

So this was it, then. Her hands traveled to the robe, clutched the edges together. She nodded once, awkwardly, in affirmative.

She was a temp, after all, and she'd gotten her walking papers many times before. She was the queen of pink slips. Of "we've hired a permanent replacement." "Thank you for fixing the problem; we don't need you anymore." "You've been great, but--."  She'd heard them all.

He waited. What he expected her to say was beyond her. All she could really do was look back at him with a mask of blank politeness as it took every once of stubborn strength she had not to crumble.

Suddenly his expression turned agonized, almost pleading. The stranger of two-word sentences and cold distance who'd been standing in her room disappeared and it was the Doctor's mobile face, haunted and weary and needing something from her to make it all okay. But she just didn't know what that was this time. Do it. Just get it over with! she wanted to scream,

The moment of vulnerability ended and he seemed to shut himself off, put the emotions away.

"I - I can take you home when you're ready," he finally said, tone so low she might have missed the words if she had't already known they were coming.

And no one could accuse Donna of being anything but the most consummate professional, when needed. She'd been here before, after all, oh, countless times. She drew indifference and tattered dignity around her, straight and regal as if clothed in a velvet cape and a not a threadbare robe, hiding heartache and all those cutting edges of guilt.

"I'll pack my things."


to be continued - communication breakdown

Reviews are like the TARDIS "accidentally" locking you and the Doctor together in a very small, very warm broom closet so you can "work out your differences."

Chapter Text

He was walking away. It would take him ten steps to reach her door. Nine. Eight.

The door would close behind him and if the TARDIS was feeling generous she would help her pack. Donna had brought almost everything she owned on-board.

Ready for anything. Planet of the hats, here she comes.

Ready to travel with him forever.

Six. Five.

Once he walked out that door...

His hand reached for the knob.

"Doctor!" the cry was out of her mouth before she realized it; he froze by her doorway. He turned cautiously to face her. All her feigned dignity slipping away as she stared back, eyes wide, only now realizing his name had escaped her throat in a panicked wail. And she had absolutely no idea what she wanted to say.

Only that she needed to say something. Anything.

He was waiting for her to speak, hand clenched tight around the doorknob.

Donna nervously smoothed down the collar of her robe, unsure what to do with her hands or where to look. She settled for a spot somewhere on his right shoulder.

C'mon Donna! Just say something! Don't be a coward!

Oh god, but she was. In the face of those dark, sad eyes, she was. She couldn't meet them, couldn't bear to see disappointment in there, along with the regret.

He had only ever wanted a mate.

But could she step out of this blue box, leave this mad, wonderful man and the life he could give her? The only life that made her feel worth anything at all, the only life she was actually good at because she was better, so much better with him -

Was she going to let him have the easy way out, slinking off with tail between her legs as he abandoned her like wayward flotsam? After everything they'd been through, didn't she have the right to demand he at least have the decency to tell her exactly how she'd irrevocably fucked up, and why she had to go?

At least at all her other jobs when she was given her walking papers, they always had the balls to tell her why they couldn't keep her.

"I-Is that it?" she stuttered brokenly, anger and self-disgust welling in her throat. She breathed sharply, close to gasping, as waves of contradictory emotions threatened to take her under. "'Thanks for taking care of me, Donna' and that's that?"

His hand around the doorknob tightened, knuckles stark and white. "You have forbidden me from apologizing further. I don't know what else I can say to you."

The ember of rage in her chest had begun as self-directed, but his flat answer fanned the growing flame and made him a very convenient target. "I don't want your bloody useless apologies!" she cried. "I want you to man up for once and tell me what you really think."

He maintained his silence, looking so sad and resigned and disappointed - the one thing she could not stand -that something in her snapped.

She grabbed the closest thing within reach. Her hand closed around heavy, wrinkled silk and she hurled the crumpled blue dress at his feet. "For fuck's sake, John Smith, you had so much to say before!"

He stumbled back as if struck, his body hitting the door behind him with as much force as if she'd physically pushed him. His face bled to white, knees collapsing and he slid to the floor, back against the door.

"What else can I say that will possibly help? You think I don't know exactly what happened?" he demanded hoarsely. "I remember it all, like a film on replay in my head!"

She felt blood rush to her face, as if the paler he got the more she burned, fury and shame fighting for supremacy, painted on her skin.

"I remember every kiss, every touch, every night in your bed. Every time he asked for more, demanded more from you. When I -" he shut his eyes, shuddered, "he took you against the wall. And when you were sick, so very ill, and all he noticed was your body over his."

She stood looking down at him, her body tensing with unspent adrenaline as he struggled on.

"And I remember every excuse you made, so I," another stumble in words, as he pressed trembling fingers against his eyes, "so he wouldn't go further. The headaches, the long walks away, the mountain of pillows because he, I-"

"Will you settle on a pronoun already!" shouted Donna, overwhelmed and shaking at the memories and how foolish she felt for all of it, thrown in her face now. "You're giving me a headache with all the jumping around! It's fine, you know, to admit it wasn't you. I know it wasn't, that it was all the stupid lie the TARDIS made up and that John was a shadow that thought he was in love with me, poor fool."

The Doctor sat with head cocked to the side as he considered her choice of words, then pulled his knees up so he could rest his elbows on them, hands hanging limply and head bowed. "An empty shadow," he repeated, laughing shortly without mirth. "No, not quite. How terrifyingly simple things would be if it were so - blame it on the TARDIS and we go our merry way." He raised his head sharply, captured her with an expression made fierce with sudden determination. "But no, I can't blame the TARDIS for this."

The TARDIS, quiescent up to this point, rumbled smugly underfoot. Donna stomped her foot on the carpet in retaliation, unable to deal with the ship's antics. Not when she was reading quite clearly between the lines that if the Doctor didn't place any of the blame on the TARDIS then the only person left was Donna.

"I know I could have tried harder," mumbled Donna, voice cracking. "Okay? I know my excuses were rubbish and that I could have found other ways to keep you - John, whatever- away. And if you want to take me home because I messed up, I get it. But...at least...I just thought after everything else we'd gone through you would at least give me a chance to explain..."

She trailed off, because the Doctor was staring at her with something like dawning realization, which was quickly morphing into horrified understanding.

He was on his feet in a blink of an eye, so fast Donna's mind couldn't even process how he'd gone from slumped against a door to mere inches away from her, hands wrapped tight around her upper arms.

"No, no, oh Donna, no. Is that what you think? All this time, did you think I blamed you?"

Donna squirmed away, fighting for a spare few centimeters of space between them. "Who else is there, if not the TARDIS? All that's left is me!"

The Doctor moved as if to reach out for her again, hands left grasping as he seemed to stop himself mid-motion. "Oh, Donna. What more could you have done? All the lies you tried, the pulling away and keeping secrets; you all but broke John's heart. What else was there to do, under those circumstances? I'm  the one who put you in a situation where you felt compelled to cross a boundary you obviously never wanted to cross. And after, in the cottage, for me to so completely lose control - I know my apologies are useless, but they are all I have!"

"I told you I understood," said Donna, stiffly. "You thought you were John Smith and John Smith thought he was in love with me."

The Doctor's jaw clenched, hard. Donna watched the muscle there tick briefly, before he seemed to come to some internal resolution. "No, Donna, John Smith was in love with you," he corrected.

"That's what I said."

"You said he thought he was in love with you. But he didn't just think it, he was."

Her brow furrowed. She really wasn't up to arguing semantics with him."I don't understand the distinction."

"The TARDIS created the memories, but she can't give anyone emotions. Those were his own."

Donna stared at him for an endless moment, then forced her brain to understand. "So what you're saying is that over the months we were together, the ideas the TARDIS implanted became reality?"

The Doctor just looked away, hunted and uncomfortable. "No, that's not what I'm saying."

Something akin to panic was jiggling uncomfortably in her stomach. She tamped it down, took one more careful step back as she noted how close they seemed to be standing again. "Doctor, you're going to have to break it down for me if you're trying to get me to come to some grand conclusion, because I don't understand the point you're trying to make," she sniped at him, discomfited.

He did not crowd her again nor did he meet her eyes; his gaze seemed to be captured by the line of small bruises on her neck. He took another deep breath and expelled it in a rush of words. "At the cottage, after...after the watch. That was me. I knew I wasn't John Smith anymore."

"I know that," she whispered.

"And I still – Donna, that was me."

"I know that. We were in a bit of strange, compromising situation, Doctor, so don't you start apologizing again."

"NO! Goddammit Donna, you're not listening."

Donna goggled, dumbfounded. It was almost exactly what John Smith had said to her. "It's because you're not saying anything that makes sense, Doctor!"

The Doctor buried his hands in his hair and pulled in frustration. "The TARDIS, that day I used the Chameleon Arc, I didn't know she was going to make us 'married.'"

She blew a harried breath up to ruffle her damp bangs. "I am well aware. You're not telling me anything I don't alread-"

"Shush. Just listen to me," he cut in impatiently. "I didn't know, but remember when I said the TARDIS would make up a story that made sense to me?"

She nodded.

"She made us married because it made sense to me."

And Donna GOT IT. Of course she did, but it was so unbelievable she had to be wrong. "You mean, 'sense to you' as in the 'well, duh, it's 1913, easiest thing to have us be is a married couple coz it's safer' way. That's what you mean, right?"

"No. Sense to me as in the 'well, duh, I love her so we should be married' way."

Donna blinked, sure she had somehow misheard that entire sentence.

The Doctor correctly interpreted her disbelief, and forged forward, ensuring there were no more doubts. "John Smith loved you because love you. He wanted you because want you."

And thus repeated, she could not fool herself into thinking she'd heard otherwise.

Reality stopped for one instant. For one millisecond planets stopped spinning and suns stopped burning as her universe teetered on the edge of an event horizon. For that one moment her existence narrowed down to the feeling of her heart beating one slow, long beat. Hope and longing blossomed, unfurling where she kept them so well hidden, reaching for the impossible.

The utterly impossible.

Time resumed and her legs failed her so she sank ungracefully onto the bed.

She would have been less dumbfounded had he forcibly pushed her out of the TARDIS while they floated in the vortex. Because this? How could she have been so wrong about something like this?

"Donna? Donna, please say something."

What could she say? Grand romances did not happen to Donna Noble! The last time a 'grand romance' had come her way, he'd been maneuvering to feed her to a giant spider! How could this possibly be real?

She opened her mouth several times, rationalizations pressing up against her lips that she discarded as soon as they tried to form on her tongue: you hit your head and gone straight 'round the bend; the TARDIS is fucking with your brain; are you sure there isn't some hallucinogenic in the air like love pollen, sex pollen's romantic cousin?

A burble of hysterical laughter escaped her lips and she clapped a hand over her mouth, wide eyes trained on an increasingly distressed Doctor.

"Donna..." he eased closer again, sank to his knees beside the bed so he could put one tentative hand on her leg, nudging it briefly. "Donna, you're starting to frighten me."

She swallowed loudly and forced vowels and consonants together into some semblance of sense as her mind finally settled on a feasible explanation. "I think...I think you're confused," she admitted softly, and when she re-focused on him her expression was one of anguished sympathy. "I can't imagine what it must be like to live thinking you were someone -something else and then have all that changed on you. Actually, no," she tried a tired smile, "I can. It must have been like the Library for me."

His lips compressed into a hard, tense line and she fidgeted. "I mean, you had all these memories of stuff that never happened - of romance and shared history and I... what I'm trying to say is I understand  how you could feel confused and I don't blame you, Doctor."

She wrung her hands under that intense stare, feeling it laser through skin and bones to the center of her. Slowly she edged away on the bed, his hand falling limply from her knee, before she stood up and turned aside. She couldn't concentrate with him so near, and it was very important to be clear now that she was finally taking responsibility. Because she couldn't let this sham continue; couldn't allow herself to dwell in castles in the sky when a more realistic explanation was at hand.

Stepping to the quaint dressing table, she seated herself on the little bench, fighting for a mien of calm certainty she didn't feel. The same heavy brush she'd been using for the past two months lay before her and so she picked it up to keep herself busy, rubbing the smooth wood between her fingers. She raised her head and resolutely focused on her own reflection. "I was in charge of you, of making sure you were safe as John. I knew that, and that John was just a construct; not really you, or at least, not all of you. But...but it got confusing and then John started to look so hurt and suspicious. It was hard being the cause of that."

If she focused on herself, he blurred into the background - and that was a blessing. She dragged the brush through her wet hair fiercely, forcing it through the tangles. This was all so humiliating.

"And well, I should have stopped you and I didn't. So it's my fault, not yours. Which is why I don't want your apologies." She braced for one brave moment and forced herself to meet his eyes through the mirror. "You don't have to rationalize your actions or twist your feelings to make me feel better about it."

He stood abruptly and she was almost certain he was going to leave. But instead of heading towards the door, he came her way, stilling only when he stood behind her.

"Here, let me do that," he stated, stealing the brush from her nerveless fingers. Before she could protest he was running the soft bristles through her hair, deftly smoothing out tangles.

It was so completely unnerving, to be sitting here in the present (or future, or whatever) watching the Doctor brush her hair in exactly the same way John Smith had done.

As if he read her mind he stated, "You think this is all in my head. Would it make more sense to you if I did everything John did? Does this make it more clear? John brushed your hair because I wanted to brush it; he just had the guts to do something I've always longed to do but never could."

He held her gaze in the mirror, her mouth a small 'oh' in disbelief. "That wasn't really you," she argued.

The Doctor sighed, frustrated. "I don't know how else to describe it to you, Donna. You are right and yet you are completely wrong. John was an intellectual with the memories of being brought up in the early 20th century, and the socialization and ideals of such. Those pieces of him were constructs, yes. But the emotions, the needs...those were the parts ofme that remained, don't you see? He was me, pared down to the basest needs and wants."

"But, he was training kids to be soldiers. You would never do that!"

"Wouldn't I? What is it you think I do, Donna? I take people - good, brilliant, kind people - and I make them soldiers in this never-ending war I wage against the universe." His reflection was dejected as he smoothed out a red curl. "It's what I did to Martha, what I've done to Jack. To Sarah Jane. To Romana. What I've done to so many in my past. I like to tell myself I'm not a soldier, but Jenny knew better."

"Doctor..."

He shook himself briefly, forcing the thoughts away and closing the topic. "The point is John was honest where I could not be. He wasn't weighed down by fear of ruining what we already have. He wasn't constrained by the idea of some larger responsibility, and that made him brave where I'm not."

"Don't. You're the bravest person I know," Donna protested softly.

"No, I'm really not," he interjected sadly "I can bring down civilizations, I can make the big decisions but when it comes to those I love..." He faltered, stared at her pleadingly through the mirror. "When it's about people, and the idea of losing them, I'm a coward."

She skewed her gaze away, settling on where her hands twisted anxiously in her lap. Her heart was thrumming like a wild thing, trapped and aching to escape. "Well, you seem plenty brave now," she croaked in a miserably embarrased attempt at humor. A warmth was rising inexorably in her chest, and try as she might to temper it with reality, it was refusing to stay down this time.

He set the brush down carefully, preferring to comb her hair with his hands. He wrapped the rich strands around his fingers, pulling gently until her eyes flew to meet his once more. "Because I'm terrified that if i don't explain, that if I don't fix this, you'll want me to take you home," he choked, babbling desperately. "I have needed you for so long now, Donna, it's become second nature to deny myself. And as John, I had an excuse to stop denying myself and take, selfishly and thoughtlessly. And now I know how it could be and I want that. God, Donna, I want that so much but I won't ever ask more of you than you can give - not ever again - and if you want to be friends, if you just want to go on as we have then I can do that, I swear I can just...just don't make me take you home."

Tears inundated her eyes, drawn by relief and a roaring tidal-wave of emotion she could no longer refuse. "I thought I failed you," she sobbed, lips trembling. "I thought you would blame me, think I'd taken advantage, and that you couldn't wait to get rid of me, to dump me back in Chiswick and I'd go back to being the same thick Donna."

He folded over her, gripping her tightly, "No no no no no. I'd never. I want you here. I thought... I swore you'd hate me for acting the part of your husband, and that you were rushing to leave me."

She laughed wetly, then reached up to tug playfully on the hair that tickled her cheek where he rested his head against her shoulder. "You were going to have to drag me kicking and screaming to the door, and I'd still cling to the side of the TARDIS until you made her shake me off. I came to see the universe and by god, I'm not leaving until you show me every inch of it."

"I'll hold you to that," he murmured against her neck, resting briefly, expectantly, against her skin before straightening abruptly, eyes unnaturally bright as he released her and stepped back.

And suddently there seemed to be yards of space between them, when before she'd been fighting for even a spare inch.

"So then!" he exclaimed in mock cheer. "Three months of being stuck in the same place couldn't have been fun for you - wellll, 2 months, 6 days and 12 hours but who's keeping track, right? I don't think we'll count this one as a proper part of your tour of the universe. Where do you want to go next? Coral reefs of Kataa Flo Ko, I believe I promised you those. Or shopping? Good old shopping trip in Rodeo Drive XXVII, that's what you'd like."

She scrubbed her hands impatiently over her eyes, banishing the wetness. No more need for tears, were there, not with the wonderful glow seeping through her blood. It was seeping through her heart, strong and heady. Emboldened, she turned around in her seat so she could face him properly and appraised him curiously, head tilted. "That sounds lovely, but Doctor?"

"Yes, Donna. Already ahead of you, know what you're thinking, you're going to be wanting some tea before the 'running starts' though I promise no running and this time I mean it! Unless we're running towards the spectacular sales held every 18th Monday on Rodeo Drive XXVII!"

"That would be stellar, too. But hey, Spaceman-"

"Right, right! Maybe a visit to your gramps and mum before all that; we need to restock the biscuits anyway. Mind you, a quick visit, eh? In and out, no dallying, and no we absolutely can't stay for dinner. Welll, unless you really really have your heart set on it, that's my final wor-"

"Oi, MARTIAN!" she finally roared.

He shut his mouth mid syllable, teeth making an audible click.

"Finally!" huffed Donna. "I thought you'd never shut up. So this is it, eh? Now that you know I'm not scampering off, you gonna pretend you didn't tell me you loved me and all that? Business as usual?"

The Doctor shoved his hands into his pockets, gracing her with a kind smile that didn't quite reach his ancient eyes. "It's okay, Donna. You didn't say anything back to me and you don't have to; I get it. You came with me to see the universe and be my mate and I swear to you we can go on as we have and everything will be fine. I'm fine."

Donna stood from her perch, cocking a hip as she narrowed her eyes at him. "Glad to hear it. It's fantastic, it truly is, that your humongous Time Lord brain has suddenly developed even more amazing mind reading powers and that you know exactly what I want without me having a word in edgewise," she drawled as the Doctor fidgeted miserably by her door.

"And since you're a super-duper brain-reading genius now," she continued, joyously daring, fingers playing restlessly with the belt of her robe, "I figure you can tell me what I'm thinking now."

She tugged the belt free.


Next Part - the TARDIS is a voyeur

Reviews are like the Doctor joining you in the bath (which is what I wanted to do in the last chapter, but angsty angst forbade it.)

Chapter Text

She let the belt slip through her fingers like a silken snake, to the floor. The thin material of her robe parted instantly, displaying a stretch of pale skin to the Doctor's eyes and making it very clear that she was wearing nothing underneath.

The Doctor's eyebrows rose skyward, jaw dropping in shock. "What?"

She shrugged her shoulders, letting the robe slide down her skin, catching just barely on the curves of her breasts. Not that it was covering much anymore, as the gaping material left her front bare.

Spots of color appeared high on his cheekbones and the tips of his ears. "WHAT?"

Then he was bounding to her, grasping the edges of her robe at her chest and pulling them closed. "Donna!" he squeaked, "what are you doing?"

Her gaze dropped to his hands, clutching her robe closed. She raised one ginger brow wryly. "Well, gee. I take back what I said about you being a genius."

"I ...I..." gaped the Doctor, then stretched to keep the robe closed with one hand as he dropped to his haunches, blindly searching for the belt she had discarded. Donna toed it away from his questing fingertips and he stilled, breathing heavily as he settled on his knees before her. Donna's other eyebrow rose to join its twin as her interest in this new position mounted. Feeling quite smug at discomfiting him so obviously, she reached down and ran her fingers through is hair, nudging his shoulder playfully with her thigh.

He gave up searching for the belt, dropping his forehead against the soft fabric over her midriff. His free hand settled on her hip, grip hard and tense through the thin cotton. "Donna. You don't have to do this."

"Don't have to do what?"

"Thisss," he hissed sibilantly, and she felt his hot breath through her robe. "I wouldn't - don't - want you out of pity."

"Pity?" she exclaimed, surprise making her tighten her grip on his hair and she felt him stifling a groan, the hand on her hip flexing. "Is that what you think I'm doing?"

"I'd prefer we go on as we were, than you moving forward to spare my feelings."

"God, Doctor," Donna drawled, rolling her eyes at this new bit of stupidity. She abandoned his hair and set to work on the white-knuckled grip he was using to keep her robe closed, prying each finger away. The Doctor's face rose sharply as his hold was steadily freed, and she looked down at him with a smirk. "I'm the first to admit I'm a fabulous friend. A mate's feeling down, I'll buy them a round at the pub. But I don't shag them, you big dunce; I'm not that good a friend."

His hold finally gave, the robe parting again. He closed his eyes quickly as if to spare her dignity, then ruined the gentlemanly gesture by pressing his cheek to the warm skin of her naked belly.

"I don't mean to imply that," he said, and the movement of his lightly stubbled jaw against her stomach had her fighting back her own shiver. "But John pressed you so insistently... I remember you being reticent and-"

"Did it ever occur to you, Doctor," she cut him off quietly, "that just as John wanted me because you want me... I gave in to John because I wanted to be with you?"

He inhaled sharply, fingers digging into her hips so swiftly she had to stifle a yelp. "Do you mean that?" he demanded, pressing his face even closer against her as if he could burrow within her.

"I wouldn't say something like that if I didn't mean it, Spaceman!"

"But you didn't say anything before, when I told you about how I felt."

"What, you mean all of five minutes ago, when you started jumping to conclusions and babbling like a nutter and wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise? You mean then?"

The familiar whine was back in his voice. "Don-na! When a man lays his heart at your feet, every second legally counts as a century!"

She looked sky-ward for patience. She honestly hadn't thought there would be much need for discourse after she'd tugged that belt free - didn't actions speak louder than words in this case? But here he was having a bleedin' heart-to-heart, with his chin a few scant inches away from her girly bits, the clueless muppet!

She tugged on his hair insistently. "All right, up you go. If we're going to rehash this conversation, I'd rather not do it with you on your knees and me with an open robe, yeah?"

He finally looked up at her, opening his eyes, and she abruptly noticed his pupils were blown, dilated so completely the soft brown of his irises had disappeared. His nostrils flared slightly, breathing her in. Donna realized suddenly that, for all his protests that they could continue as mates, the Doctor was barely holding on to his control. "Nah. M'good right here."

"Seriously. Get up. You apparently want to talk." She pulled harder on his hair.

"Donna, you keep doing that and I can't promise I'll be able to control what happens next," he said tightly.

Donna's eyes widened, mesmerized and slightly intimidated by that same dark gleam of something she had glimpsed once before, when he'd looked down at her in that little cottage and taken her on the floor.

But hell if Donna ever backed down from a dare.

She pulled his hair again.

And she was on her back, bouncing off the softness of the mattress, propelled by the Doctor's body as he pounced. The air in her lungs whooshed out; her next quick intake caught in her throat as she felt the Doctor lick a warm path down her body, sternum to belly-button, to settle with a hot open-mouthed kiss on the point of one hip-bone.

"Holy fu-"

"Tell me you mean it," he commanded while chaining kisses across her belly, to nip the other hip.

"What?" she asked on a strangled note, acutely aware of how his hands were traveling up her thighs.

"When you said you wanted me, all along, did you mean it?" he nuzzled his way up to the valley between her breasts, then paused to breathe her in deeply, seemingly intoxicated by the warm scents rising from her, the fragrance of her bath intertwined with the musk of arousal. "I need to know."

Blimey, was he still talking? How could he still be talking? Donna ignored his request because the answer was so obvious, with her melting underneath him! Talk about stupid questions. A better way to spend her time was untucking his shirt so that she could slide her hands into his trousers and over the cool, smooth skin of his bum.

The Doctor hissed between his teeth, then with herculean willpower dragged her hands away from him and pinned them to the bed, levering himself to hover over her. "Tell me, Donna! Tell me you want this, want me...And be sure, because I don't think I can stop touching you after this. I won't be able to bear it if you're planning this to be a one-time thing."

His voice was low, his gaze piercing, but under the veneer of command Donna saw there was a messy jumble of emotion: want and need and love mixed with the fear that he had pushed her into giving into him out of some misguided sense of friendship.

"Oh, Spaceman," she breathed on a sigh laced with affectionate exasperation. "You are particularly slow on the uptake tonight. I don't just want you, you git - I love you!"

It seemed to take a second for the words to sink into his brain, but then he jerked back in shock, surprise turning into stunned hope. He stared down at her as if she were offering him the world, and he didn't dare dream she wouldn't snatch it away once he reached for it.

"Y-you...you do?" he queried hoarsely, barely breathing.

She twisted her wrists free from him, wanting to touch, to somehow chase away that kernel of uncertainty in his gaze because it broke her heart, that he should doubt her word.

She reached for his face, that strange mish-mash of features that was somehow so attractive. She ran her fingertips gently over his lips, his cheekbones, his eyebrows, before settling once more in the thickness of his hair, bringing him down close enough so she could arch up to him.

"Who else would I follow into 1913! It's because I love your stupid hair, and your crooked nose," she murmured at him, half shyly, before covering her self-consciousness by nipping the tip of said nose playfully. "And those crazy eyebrows, and that mouth that won't shut up." She nipped that pouting bottom lip, too, for good measure.

"But mostly, Doctor," she whispered, an inch away from him, "I love how much you care about everything, and that when you look at me I seem to matter, too."

His arms wrapped around her fiercely; the tiny gap between them closed and his lips were upon hers, hungry and possessive. He tasted of stardust and mint and time, endless time. In a moment of clarity Donna realized that this was the first time they were truly kissing, Donna and the Time Lord - not the Doctor trapped in a human body, or a moment of desperation while he was poisoned. Just them and what they wanted, no extenuating circumstances.

They broke away, panting, and the Doctor rested his forehead briefly on hers. "Donna, you don't just matter. You're everything. You're my universe."

She smiled, wrapped legs and arms around him and felt the cosmos steady around her as he molded to her like a missing puzzle piece. "Then why are we still talking?"

He gladly occupied his mouth with other matters.


If he feared Donna would feel confusion over which man had really wanted her, there was none. There was no question of whose hands were on her now. Gone was John's shy if enthusiastic exploration; it was undoubtedly the Doctor's touch on her skin, sure and unhurried, drawing sounds from Donna's throat that she had never made before. He took his time, carefully, exploring her as he did each new world they landed on -- as if were conducting the most important research, cataloging each touch that drew a sigh, each kiss that drew a moan, how she arched up when he used his tongue there, just there. And though his muscles quivered against her, testament to the price of his control, he stayed his course, mapping every sensitive inch of her body.

When she could think around the drowning sensations, it was to note that there were still too many clothes on him, while she was laid nude on the bed before him like a banquet. Donna thought this was grossly unfair. But it was a battle getting him to keep still enough to get each piece off him; he kept getting distracted by constellations of freckles he had to explore, or curves he had yet to taste.

She finally had him down to just his trousers, but he'd taken residence at the curve of her neck, mouth entranced once more by his favorite grouping of freckles on her shoulder. His hands were busy between her legs and she was moving helplessly against him as he ruthlessly drove her to peak. She scrabbled at his slim hips, digging her nails into the pinstriped fabric still clinging to him, wanting more of him against her even as her body greedily rode the aftershocks of the orgasm.

Just when he shifted and she could get her trembling fingers on the zip of his trousers, he was shimmying out of reach, his lips tickling her as he whispered Gallifreyan endearments along her breasts, her ribs, her belly and lower and oh god. That clever tongue was lapping at her, drinking her down, his hot breath brushing against her intimately as he sighed in satisfaction. Her hips bucked sharply; he held them still, keeping her anchored so he could maintain his mouth open and avid against her to savor to his heart's content while Donna came hard once more in a rush of wet heat.

It was almost too much - every nerve ending was alive - but even as the thought came to Donna that she couldn't take any more pleasure, she was yearning for him inside her. The Doctor was kissing another trail over her body and really, Donna thought, enough was enough.

She scissored her legs around his hips, twisted her torso, and rolled them tidily over the bed. She found herself peering down at the Doctor, who looked dazed and thoroughly debauched, slack mouth dewy from her.

Donna attacked his trousers, getting button and zip undone in record time. And finally, finally he was helping her, kicking them off the rest of the way in a frenzy until at last they were skin to skin. His hard length was gliding sinfully along her damp flesh. She rocked against him there, teasing them both, until he made a deep, guttural noise of tormented bliss, hands gripping her thighs desperately. "Donna...please..." he begged.

She rose slightly and angled her hips until he was sliding into her. Their bodies meshed perfectly, setting a perfect rythm, rising and ebbing like the tide. Her hands sought his; he gripped them tight, fingers interlacing as she rose and fell over him and it was like running, hand in hand, over planets, galaxies, universes. Knowing that if they fell, it would be okay, because they were together.

And they did fall, screaming their pleasure into the expectant silence of the TARDIS.


They lay in a sweaty tangle of limbs, Donna's head pillowed on the Doctor's chest. Perhaps they dozed, Donna wasn't sure, but when she next opened her eyes it was to the dim glow of her room.

"Since when did I get candles in here?" she asked, voice gone hoarse. She squinted and batted a strand of red hair out of her eyes. "Much less light them?"

The Doctor gave a non-committal grunt and buried his nose deeper in her hair.

"And satin sheets," marveled Donna. "No wonder I almost slid off the mattress that last time."

When all she got was another snuffle of warm air against her hair, she poked the Doctor in the side. "Why do I have candles and satin sheets?"

To avoid another poke, the Doctor finally gave in and cracked an eye open, viewing the generous (almost fire-hazardous) amount of lit candles scattered around the room. "TARDIS feeling romantic, I suspect," he mumbled with a shrug.

But if he thought Donna was going to shrug just as philosophically, he was in for a rude awakening. Instead she bolted upright, scrabbling for the sheet (yep, red satin). "You mean she was watching us?" she squawked.

The Doctor was distracted by what a lovely contrast the red satin made against Donna's pale skin and titian hair. "I imagine so. I mean, we're in her. And I suppose she has a vested interest."

"Vested interest? How? Why?"

He sat up beside her, just because he absolutely had to touch all that tumbling red hair, sift it through his fingers, and kiss the delicate, fragrant skin at the nape of her neck.

Donna's head dropped forward on a neck gone boneless, giving him better access, before she remembered she'd asked a question. "Wait, why?"

"Hmmmm?" came the Doctor's distracted reply.

"Why does the TARDIS have a vested interest?"

He smiled against her skin. "Silly Earthgirl. And you call me thick."

"Oi!"

"She loves you too, Donna. We're linked, remember? But beyond that, she found you for me. All of time and space, and she beamed you into my ship in a wedding gown. Really Donna, that's a bit too pat to be coincidence, no? Moreover, she's been trying to get me to make a move since Pompeii."

"What?"

"Yep. But you...you really took my 'just mates' speech to heart," he said, abashed. "Not one of my smartest moves. I didn't want to drive you away and so...the TARDIS decided to take matters into her own hands, where I wouldn't be able to deny what I felt."

The penny dropped. "Oh my god! So 1913, that was her doing!  You thought we should be married but she, she picked a date and location where I wouldn't have any other choices but to go along!" She glared up at the ceiling. "You made me cook! And wear corsets!"

Recognizing an impending explosion, the Doctor hurriedly wrapped his arms around her and laid back, pulling her down with him.

"Yessss, that corset. You looked divine in that corset, and that frilly, thin chemise...loved that one. Do you have any idea how crazy you drove John, knowing you weren't wearing knickers under those dresses?"

"They were flippin' knee-length bloomers! Those don't even count as knickers! Do you have any idea how much torture it was to wear so many layers every day? You owe me, Spaceman, you owe me big."

He grinned, rubbing a stubble-roughened cheek on her shoulder fondly. "I baked you cookies."

"Oh I see how it is. I drove John crazy but you baked me cookies. Do I need to worry about you developing a split personality on me?"

"How about when we inevitably end up getting chased by angry mobs it's John's fault, and when I do something fantastic to get us out of it, it's me?"

"You're becoming senile in your great advanced age," she muttered, shifting over him. His hands settled warmly, almost unconsciously, on her bum.

"We can role-play. Get you back in those stockings and that corset. I'll come home from a hard day of teaching, to find my lovely wife knitting me a tea cozy. You liked the knitting, didn't you, Donna? Seemed quite taken with it; didn't even want to leave the house over the weekend, so engrossed were you with your knitting."

"How about you just stop talking? I can see this will be an ongoing issue," Donna noted, and leaned down to experimentally flick one flat masculine nipple with her tongue. He cried out, bucking under her so fiercely she almost went flying, just as she remembered. She glomped on harder so she could assault his other nipple similarly, riding the resultant reaction. "Or we can go back to talking about knitting. Choice is yours." Then she slithered down his body, her hair a fiery banner as it traveled down his chest.

"Oh..ohhhhh. No," he managed, head dropping back as a hot tongue surrounded him. "This works, too."

The TARDIS hummed quietly to herself, satisfied with a job well-done. And enlarged the bed just enough so that they didn't fall off in the subsequent acrobatics.

Then she dimmed the candles and left them to it.


Epilogue

Donna Noble is buying her second cup of coffee that day, on a chilly London evening. She just wants to come in from the cold, from hours of pounding the pavement, and doesn't really care if the dose of caffeine contributes to another sleepless night.

Because Donna is living her life, day to day, like every other human on earth. She gets up, trolls the London streets for a job, and makes her way home to a family that can't quite hide their worry and disappointment.

She's used to it, this routine. It shouldn't matter that she can't remember several years of her life - what difference could they have made, anyway? Just a few more years of temp jobs and failed relationships that she can't remember. They shouldn't matter, but they do.

Because she knows she's missing something very important...

She pours creamer into her coffee, then two sugars. She didn't used to take it this way, used to drink her coffee black. But this is how she drinks it now, even if she doesn't know when she acquired the taste. She sips the over-sweet brew as she opens the paper; her excuse is that she needs to cross out the various "wanted" adds she's already hit, but the truth is that the newspaper makes her feel less exposed in this cafe filled with people and chatter.

"Excuse me, all the tables are full. May I sit here?"

A shadow falls over her, blocking the tiny print of the page she's not really reading. She sighs with exasperation at the crappy pick-up line. "Look, there's plenty of empty ta-"

She looks up and her protest derails, caught up in the deepest eyes she's ever seen and a face that niggles at some deep-buried memory. A face that looks down at her in poorly-concealed hope.

"Y-yeah. Yeah, go ahead," she stutters, clearing the paper off the small table.

He sits across from her, his long legs bumping hers under the table. His knee presses warmly against hers, and he leaves it there.

So does she.

"I'm...I'm Donna Noble," she says, extending a hand. He takes it in both of his, laces their fingers and holds on, and she shouldn't be okay with such familiarity but for some reason she is.

When he grins goofily at her, all messy hair and mobile eyebrows, she finds herself grinning back. It takes her a beat to realize he hasn't said his name yet. "And you are?"

"John," he says. His grin spreads into a smile. "John Smith."

Donna Noble smiles back, and something long-buried, sheltered and fragile within her begins to bloom.


finis