“Well, isn’t this just wizard.”
It isn’t, actually. Not even a little bit. Because Donna is standing on a ledge, fifty stories up the side of some swanky 51st-century apartment building, trying not to look down, no matter what.
All because some bloody alien couldn’t keep his big fat gob shut.
The muttering to herself really isn’t productive, but it’s helping to quash the panic rising in her chest, giving her something to focus on besides the way the wind is whipping her hair around her face, or how freezing it is up here, or how much her hands are shaking.
She shouldn’t have ended up here. All he’d needed to do was just be quiet. Quiet, so that they didn’t wake up the owner of the apartment they were breaking into – and more importantly, so that they didn’t alert the slavering guard-dog-creature sleeping on a mat in the kitchen.
And then the Doctor had gone and noticed something fascinating, and he’d opened his great bloody mouth to say look at this, Donna, this is brilliant without thinking, and there’d been a horribly loud snuffling noise to indicate that the guard-thing had woken up.
Thankfully, the Doctor had managed to distract the beast, but in doing so put himself between it and the front door, blocking the preferred method of escape. Then there’d been noise from what Donna assumed was the bedroom, the shuffling sounds of someone getting out of bed and a snappish voice saying what’s going on out there?
And the Doctor had said run, and the way that the dog had been looking at her was really quite intimidating, so Donna ran, over to the open living room window and out onto the ledge.
Looking out – decidedly out, rather than down – at the sparkling cityscape, dimly lit by the fading electronic glow of nighttime lights going off, gradually being traded for the natural early-morning light of this planet’s twin suns, Donna finds herself regretting that decision.
That said, she can still hear the growling of the unpleasant creature from inside the apartment, along with the muffled sounds of an argument and what she’s fairly sure is the whir of the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. It all smacks of chaos and possible bloodshed, and Donna thinks that it might actually be safer to take her chances out here.
“Out here”, in fact, is not entirely without promise. The ledge is fairly wide, as these sorts of exterior ledges go – and that she has a standard for comparison is quite the commentary on this barmy life of hers – and from the place she’s perched she can see another open window not far off, what looks to be a few apartments across. Once Donna’s got herself to calm down a bit, it’s actually not too difficult to inch over that direction, edging along the side of the building towards a way back inside. She prays, the whole way over, that whoever’s apartment she’s planning to invade does not contain any pets of an unusual size.
Maneuvering herself through the window from the ledge is actually more difficult from the journey over, and more than a little panic-inducing. Eventually, though, Donna manages it – not very gracefully, though. She sort of falls rather than climbs in, tumbling forward onto the carpeted floor in a heap of shaking limbs and harsh breathing.
After a beat, when the adrenaline rush starts to fade and her pulse begins to return to normal, Donna pulls herself up to look at an apartment that’s very much the same as the one she’d just left. She appears to be in the living room, which opens right into a kitchen, where there are no snarling guard dogs, just sensible white appliances and blue tile and–
And then she freezes, because there’s someone sitting at the kitchen table, and it’s someone she knows.
Donna finds herself looking at a picture she’s seen a hundred times before – a tall, dark-haired man in a dressing gown, sitting at the breakfast table with a mug halfway to his mouth.
She knows how many sugars are in that tea (two), and that he’s only just picked up that cup now, even though it’s been sitting on the table for five minutes or so, because he likes the temperature just so and he’s willing to wait to have it. She knows he’s wearing socks even though she hasn’t looked at his feet, because he always wears socks in the morning, slips them on when he gets out of bed because his feet are always cold.
“D–Donna?” Lee stutters, and hearing her name, spoken in that familiar halting voice – it’s a memory and a dream all at once, a tangled-up mess of did I and was it and I said I’d find you.
Donna holds on to her command of the English language just long enough to croak out, “Lee?”
He’s moved up and out of the chair before she’s halfway through his name, stocking feet padding quickly across the tile and onto the carpet. He comes to a stop just in front of her, eyes looking her up and down like he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing.
Donna can relate.
“N–no–” he stutters, of course he stutters, and in anyone else Donna would probably find that annoying, but it’s Lee, and with him it never was, not ever. She knows exactly how many times it’ll take for him to stop and start and stop again before he finally gets out the words he’s looking for, and she nods and smiles and just waits for him to get there, because with him she doesn’t mind the waiting.
“Nobody’s c–called me that in–” he shakes his head, then looks up at her, all soft eyes and big daft smile. “–in a v–v–very long time.”
It’s a moment before Donna can actually speak – and when she does it sounds horrid, absolutely wrecked, like she’s hungover or sobbing or just smoked a pack and a half. “I thought you weren’t real.” she chokes out, and the prickling sensation in her eyes gives her the sneaking suspicion that she may actually be crying, which is a little bit mad. “I looked for you, afterwards, but I couldn’t find you, not even the computer could find you, it said there wasn’t anyone with your name in the whole bloody place–”
“M–middle name,” he laughs, and steps a bit closer, brings his hands to rest on her waist, thumbs smoothing over the soft curve where hip turns into abdomen. “Middle name’s L–Leopold.”
Donna buries her face in her hands and tips forward into his chest, embarrassed and overwhelmed and still not quite believing that any of this is real, that it’s actually happening.. “And you just let me call you something else all those years?” She looks up at him sharply, with an expression that she knows he knows means explain and do it quick, buster.
Lee doesn’t shrink back from her, though, or even look affronted at all. He just smiles, beatifically, like her prickly question is the most wonderful thing he’s ever heard. “Always w–wanted someone to–” He takes a deep breath, the way he does when he’s psyching himself up to say something important, and Donna finds herself reaching up to lay her hands on his upper arms, stroking them soothingly through the fabric of his dressing gown. It’s an old habit, and she sinks into it gladly, the warmth and familiarity of this comfortable position warming her from the inside out.
“Always wanted someone to call me Lee,” he finally manages, and then Donna can’t help it – she surges up and kisses him, hard and deep and lingering, taking her time to map out the inside of his mouth, to make sure it’s the way she remembers.
It is, and so is the way he kisses her back, gentle and giving where she’s firm and demanding, and she just drinks it all in – drinks him in – until it tapers off naturally. Long kisses slowly turn into small, short ones, and then Lee just presses his forehead to hers and closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and smiles.
“W–why did you climb in my window?” he asks, after a moment, and it’s only then that Donna realizes she’s completely forgotten about the Doctor, and the guard dog, and the whole reason she climbed into this apartment in the first place.
That, of course, is when the lights go out.
She remembers leaving Rose in the electrician’s booth on the first floor, and knows, without having to wonder, that she’s got her to thank for this.
“Oh, bloody hell.” she mutters darkly.
Lee’s face is obscured by the lack of light, fuzzy in the early-morning half-dark, but he slides his hands up from her waist to her cheeks, cupping her face with warm fingers, and Donna smiles despite herself.
She doesn’t need to see his face to know that he’s smiling too.
It’s Rose who finds them, in the end.
She and Lee make their way down to the lobby of the building, after the lights come back and on and he’s gotten out of the dressing gown and into some proper clothes. When they get out of the lift, Donna casts a glance around the expansive room, hoping to catch a glimpse of pinstripes or gangly limbs or blonde hair. At the very least, she knows that the TARDIS is here – parked off in a corner, tucked between two potted plants – and they can wait there, if it comes to that.
Before it does, though, she hears Rose’s voice calling her name from across the lobby, and she turns to see her hurrying over towards them. The Doctor is trailing along behind her, one of his hands clasped with hers, and they both look a little flushed, grinning madly with success – or maybe, Donna thinks wryly, with something else.
“I got the ionic converter!” the Doctor says brightly as soon as he and Rose reaches them, holding up a spherical bit of metal studded with bright yellow bulbs – obviously whatever he’d been looking for, in their aborted attempt at breaking and entering earlier. “And you got–“ he looks confusedly between her and Lee, gesturing in his direction with the ionic whatsamahoozit, “–a…man?”
She means to say, with as much exasperation as she can possibly muster, thanks for leaving me on the bloody ledge up there, dumbo, and also to probably call him a wanker, but Lee’s hand is in hers and Rose is grinning knowingly at her, and for once it just seems like too much effort.
Rose will take care of the name-calling for her, anyways.