Fandom(s): Doctor Who (modern)
Characters: AU - Tenth Doctor, Donna Noble, Sylvia Noble, Wilfred Mott, Lance Bennett, Nerys
Pairing(s): Tenth Doctor/Donna Noble
Rating: R (well, probably more PG-13)
Genre: Sci-fi, adventure
Summary: Original AU. A normal human in a world in which a handful of individuals have suddenly developed superpowers, Donna lives her mundane life whilst always keeping one eye to the skies to catch a glimpse of the city's new heroes.
Word count (chapter): 2803
Sylvia’s decision to not spend Donna’s wages on catering meant that the two of them spent the evening prior to the party cooking, which wasn’t Donna’s favorite activity. She reminded herself that this was all her own fault and bore the drudgery of the evening, as well as Sylvia’s constant instructions and criticisms, rather well. The hot food, of course, needed to be made fresh, and so on Friday, Donna found herself in the kitchen more than she liked as people started to arrive, and Wilf was left to play host, which pleased him.
By the time everything was under control in the kitchen and Donna could peep her nose out, all of the guests had arrived. She glanced back at Sylvia, who waved a dismissive hand at her. “Go on. I’ve got this. Get out there and socialise. You’re the hostess, you know.” With a grateful grin, Donna pulled off her apron, hung it on the hook behind the door, and put on a air of relaxed grace as she walked out into the gathering.
There wasn’t much room or need in Sylvia’s small house for a large dining table, so most of the people, as well as the food that was already out, were in the attached lounge, but with the absence of the engineers and the mechanics, it wasn’t crowded at all. Nerys and Wilf sat on the couch whilst Veena and Lance occupied the two armchairs, and, as Donna had expected, Jon stood apart from the group, leaning against the wall behind them, listening quietly as the rest chatted.
Striding into the room, Donna grabbed two dining chairs and set them around the coffee table, then, marched directly to the wallflower and, taking his arm, coaxed him toward the empty seats. “Come on, Jon! Take a load off. It’s the weekend. Time to relax.”
“Oh, no, no. No, thanks,” he murmured, pulling his arm out of her grasp. “I’m fine here.”
The other guests had turned to watch, and Donna glowered at him in mock anger. “I’m not having guests in my house stand around like this. Come on, shift.” She gave him another tug but he refused to move. Deciding that was enough prodding for now, she shrugged and, winking at him, flounced over to plop down in one of the seats.
“Well, Donna,” began Nerys, “this has been better than I thought it would be. Sorry you got such a poor turnout.”
Donna shrugged her complacence. She’d gotten over the lack of interest a while back. “Should have chosen a better time, sometime after the Keller project. If I’d asked around beforehand, it wouldn’t have been a problem.”
“She wanted it to be a surprise,” explained Lance, “so she had it all planned out before she sent out the invitations.”
“Well, I think it worked out well,” Veena stated, looking around. “It would’ve been really crowded with five more people here.”
“Five more?” came Sylvia’s shocked voice as she nudged open the kitchen door with her shoulder and brought in a serving tray. “I’d no idea the group was so big. We wouldn’t have been able to breathe in here. Oh! No, no, I’m fine,” she protested to Jon, who had hopped over to help her unload the tray. “You go on and relax. I’m just bringing out more finger food. Oh, all right, if you insist,” she finally conceded as he silently continued to take the bowls and arrange them on the table. “Dinner’ll be another fifteen minutes but help yourself to any of this. Oh! Well, thank you!” she exclaimed as Jon held the kitchen door open for her. He followed her as she retreated into the kitchen.
Veena shook her head and murmured, “That one doesn’t know how to just enjoy himself.”
“There’s a lot fewer people in there than in here,” Lance pointed out. “That’s probably easier for him.”
“Is something wrong with that fella?” asked Wilf.
“No, Gramps. Just a bit shy, is all.” Veena snorted at Donna’s understatement.
“Could be more than that,” said Lance. “Possibly on the autism spectrum, though we’ve no proof.”
Nerys stared at he closed kitchen door, thinking. “When we went after him, what, two years ago? He was shy, yes, but not like this. Soft-spoken, more like, but he knew his stuff. Don’t know about autism, but he’s certainly gotten worse. Embarrassment, lack of confidence. Almost like he’s different man altogether.”
“Well, that, there’s a reason for, at least.” Donna eyed Nerys, and she sneered back.
“That’s not on me,” she insisted. “I can’t afford to keep someone who’s underperforming. His last project went well, so he’s off the hook for now, but I’m watching him. One slip-up and I will fire him. Don’t think I won’t.”
A crash of shattering china issued from the kitchen, followed by hasty, panicked apologies. As Sylvia’s voice rose above Jon’s, saying that it was fine, accidents happen, Veena stifled a laugh with her hand and Nerys rolled her eyes. “You see, that is so typically him. Everything he touches falls apart.”
“Nerys,” Donna chided her, “that was an accident!”
“Everything’s an accident with him,” Nerys replied.
“What say we talk about something else?” Lance announced in a low voice, shooting a reprimanding look at Donna. “This isn’t proper, bordering on illegal.”
During the short awkward silence before Nerys began telling Veena about a favourite appetiser that she knew Sylvia had prepared, Donna frowned at Lance, wondering why he’d singled her out as being inappropriate in the conversation, but he had turned to Wilf to check up on his girlfriend’s grandfather and make a bit of small talk. It was hardly important, though, and she popped up and wove among the guests to sit down on the arm of Lance’s chair, patting him lightly on the back. Lance looked up at her with one of his bright smiles, then returned to his conversation.
“As well as ever,” Wilf was saying. “With them two working on this party all week, it’s left me free to slip out when I please.”
“Don’t think Mum hasn’t noticed,” warned Donna. “You been down at the pub three times this week. I think she’s been saving it up for a big row with you.”
At Wilf’s guilty grimace, Lance laughed and gave him a companionable knock on the arm. “Oh, don’t I know it? Like mother, like daughter, they say.”
“Oi!” Donna was more than a little shocked. “What does that mean, laughing boy?”
“Well, you’re always keeping a close eye on me, aren’t you, love?” Lance asked with a bright, amused smile. “Keeping me close, making sure I stay out of trouble.”
Donna bristled at the implication that she controlled Lance like Sylvia controlled, well, everyone. “That’s bollocks. When’ve I asked you to come over in the last two months, sunshine? Except when my ankle was busted. You’re the one that insist I come out to the city, and that’s maybe twice a week. Who’s watching who, eh?”
“Hey, now, sweetheart,” Wilf tried to soothe Donna.
“And we haven’t gone out in forever, just ‘cause we work together and see each other almost every day,” she finished, her peevishness expended.
With his head bowed, Lance looked rather foolish. “You’re right, of course. But I’ll sort this. What say you come back to the flat after the party and the weekend will be yours, whatever you want to do. All of London if you want, or we could go out of town. You were talking about Brighton, weren’t you?”
It was exactly what Donna wanted, but there was no way she could do it, and she grimaced in embarrassment. “Can’t. Tomorrow’s Mum’s party for the club and I promised I’d help her with it.”
“Well, then, what about Sunday? Come into the city early and we’ll make a day of it. The whole thing, with dinner and a show on the West End.” And with an enticing grin, he added, “And Harrod’s...”
Donna shivered with excitement. “Blimey! You know how to treat a girl!”
“Anything for you, my love. You’re right. I’ve neglected you too long.” Donna leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.
“You two lovebirds have a great time,” urged Wilf.
Donna had always known her mother to be a great cook and fine hostess, and once Jon laid out the buffet-style dinner without breaking any more dishes, most of the conversation turned toward the exceptional food. As Donna had noted two weeks earlier, the most prodigious eater was Nerys, who kept returning for extra portions of everything, whilst, as Donna had expected, Jon had half-filled his plate once, retreated to a corner, and picked at his food as he watched and listened quietly; she suspected she’d discovered the reason he was so thin.
The most surprising discovery of the evening was how well Veena and Sylvia got along. Donna’s friend’s penchant for the most titillating gossip fed Sylvia’s superiority complex, and they laughed together at many celebrities’ expense. As with most conversations of this type, the discussion eventually turned to Kathica.
“And you know she’s changed the colours of her outfit again,” Veena declared, rolling her eyes. “She decided that red and yellow was too tacky, and now her leotard is gold lamé with sequins and feathery edging.”
“Ah, the fourteen-year-old figure skater image?” snorted Sylvia. “She’s probably thinking she’s starting to look old. What is she now?”
“Twenty-seven,” supplied Donna.
“That’s old for someone like that. She probably thinks she can’t stay relevant if she doesn’t look eighteen.”
“She’s a prime. She’ll always be relevant,” stated Donna.
“I don’t know about that,” Lance interjected. “She’s running scared of the Power Down movement.”
“Really?” Sylvia sat back, crossing her arms. “And what could they do to her? Much as I might agree with them, there’s nothing they can do to a prime like Kathica.”
Nerys spoke up for the first time in the entire discussion. “You don’t strike me as a Downer, Sylvia.”
“Well, I’m not, but they’ve made some good points.” Settling back in her seat, Sylvia lifted her nose in her usual supercilious pose. “Primes are dangerous. You can’t trust them. Now, that whole ‘give up your powers or leave Britain’ demand is insane, but there really needs to be some regulation and control. Primes are given too much freedom to do whatever they want.”
Sylvia and her daughter had had this discussion many times before, but Donna felt she needed to defend the heroes of the city. “Mum, primes are people, too. They have the same rights as the rest of us.”
“Yes, and do we have the right to physically fight in public and assault people and make arrests? Are we allowed to do all those things whilst keeping our identities hidden?” Sylvia’s disdainful sneer was almost as expert as one of Nerys’. “All I’m asking for is some accountability. Register name and powers with the government, so they know where you are and what you can do.”
Donna knew what that meant. “So the government can keep tabs on them.”
Sylvia nodded. “Someone needs to. They’re dangerous.”
“Sounds to me like the sex offender registry, except these people haven’t committed any crimes,” Veena offered.
“Many have,” Sylvia responded with a reasonable air.
“And many have defended us from them!” protested Donna.
Lance placed a soothing hand on Donna’s arm. “We could argue this all night, love. No use getting worked up about it.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” But Donna was already upset - arguments with her mother always did that to her - and she flashed a fake smile before standing up to put a little distance between them. “I’ve gotta hit the loo,” she lied to escape gracefully.
As she headed to the toilet, she realised that neither Wilf nor Jon were anywhere to be seen. Scooping up two of the empty plates from the dining table, she pushed the kitchen door open a crack and peered into the kitchen where she found the two of them deep in conversation as Jon worked on the older man’s partially-disassembled telescope.
“...should make the azimuth a bit more precise, but I’d really need to replace this piece here to make it work as well as it should. I think I could get you better quality lenses, too, though I’d have to look up how to order them. Optics really isn’t my specialty.” Jon seemed comfortable and unguarded talking with Wilf, though he tensed for a moment and jerked a little as if he were trying to stop himself from watching the door for interruptions. She smiled. Her Gramps was so good at putting everyone at ease.
“Oh, no, no,” Wilf protested, jiggling his hands in front of himself to turn down Jon’s offers. “Don’t do that. Can’t afford to buy new parts.”
“No worries on the expenses. This is a great little project for me.” His eyes shining with fondness, Jon gazed at the device, one hand gently curled around the long tube. “I had one when I was a kid. I thought I might be an astronomer, you know? It was a little cheap one and it broke a lot, so I had to fix it myself. I’d forgotten how much I loved doing this.”
“Well, when you’ve got that put back together, what say you come up the hill and show an old man the skies?” He looked Jon over from head to foot. “You’ve a coat, don’t you? Still a bit frosty out there at night.”
“I do, and I’d love to.” Jon didn’t smile, but his eyes sparkled as he turned back to reassembling the telescope mount.
Donna took this moment to push the door open. “Boys and their toys!” she exclaimed with a cheerful grin as she entered the kitchen and crossed to place the plates with the others next to the sink. “What are you two up to in here?”
“Meeting a fellow stargazer,” Wilf replied with a hearty laugh. Jon acknowledged Donna with a glance out of the corner of his eye, and she wondered if he’d ever stop cringing away from her. “Jon’s a old pro at this, Donna. Adjusted all the gears and bobs on this thing, and straightened the bent leg.” He tapped one of the metal legs of the tripod, which was currently detached from the rest of the assembly and leaning against the table leg between the two of them. “The old girl is almost good as new.”
Normally, Donna would have made a crack about Jon breaking the telescope instead of fixing it, but considering his current difficulties at work, she bit back her first impulse and smiled sweetly instead. “It’s gonna make Mum happy that you won’t have to take that thing in to the repair shop again.”
“That’s a mercy,” Wilf sighed.
“I’m almost done here. Then I’ll get it back on the base and we’ll be out of your way,” Jon commented without looking up, concentrating on reassembling the device as quickly as he could.
“Oh, there’s no hurry,” Donna reassured him. “I’m just bringing in a few dishes. Honestly, I’m going to leave it all for Mum for when she’s done moaning about the primes.”
“Oh, ho!” Wilf laughed, shaking a finger at Donna. “Then they’ll stay there all night.”
Donna flashed her grandfather a grin and strode back into the lounge. As soon as the door swung shut behind her, she leant back to listen in.
“There, that’s that,” she heard Jon say, followed by the clunk of a tool on the table. “Now for the base.” Scrapes of chair legs on the linoleum were followed by a few taps, sounds that Donna had heard hundreds of times from the tripod as it was unfolded and set out. “If you could hold that right there… Perfect… Wilf, do you… well…”
“What’s on your mind, son?” Wilf urged him.
“Well… Is it okay if I come around to join you on the hill now and again?” Donna bit back a soft smile at that. “I really did want to be an astronomer and I loved spending nights out under the stars. I’d love to do that again. And,” he hastily added, “that’ll give me a chance to maintain the equipment for you.”
“Don’t need to have a reason there. I’d love your company.”
Behind the door, Donna grinned. Perhaps she hadn’t accomplished her stated goal of making Jon more comfortable with his coworkers, but it looked like he’d warmed to Gramps, and perhaps that was even better. Not only did it seem like he’d made a friend on his own terms, if he came to see Wilf periodically, she’d get more chances to know him outside of a work setting and that cheered her. With a satisfied heart, she returned to the party.