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): 2813
Whenever Donna had broken up with a boyfriend, she’d never found it difficult to find a confidante for compassion, comfort, and commiseration. That person was never her mother, as she was as likely to point out to Donna how she’d driven the man away as ply her with blankets and ice cream. Her usual choice for a shoulder to cry on was Nerys, her best friend since, well, since longer than she would ever admit to anyone. Nerys had never failed to bundle her off to a pub and helped her drown the memories of the relationship under a flood of ale whilst listening, just listening. Everyone was amazed that Donna could tolerate Nerys’ sarcasm and cynicism, but they never realised that her frosty shell was the way she expressed her friendship and that she honestly cared and understood - she was just very picky about whom she cared and understood.
However, it just didn’t seem right to seek out Nerys this time. Her best friend was now her boss and the broken relationship had been with a coworker. Donna knew it wouldn’t be appropriate to head out drinking with the boss to complain about the head of HR, and she wasn’t sure that, with a couple of pints in her, she’d be able to resist spilling the beans on what had really happened and whom Lance had turned out to be. Her mind was clouded by the shocking revelations of the day and the destruction of a love that she’d thought was the one, but not enough that she couldn’t clearly see that keeping Lance’s secrets were paramount. She also knew that Nerys’ sympathy would wane once she heard that the Doctor had been involved. Thus, by the time Donna dragged herself through the door at home, she’d decided to keep mum on the events of the day and break the news to her family a bit later in the week, when she could concoct a story that involved breaking up at work.
Sylvia and Wilf were surprised at Donna’s return, having expected that she would be spending the entire day and then the night with Lance, returning home the next day after work. Keeping a tight rein on her anger at her former boyfriend, she wove them a tolerably believable tale about arriving at his flat and finding that having forgotten about his promise to her, he’d already headed out with some mates. He’d returned when she called to find out where he was, but the ensuing argument had so discoloured the mood that after they’d gone out for a bit, she’d decided she’d rather be at home.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Sylvia exclaimed and motioned Donna toward the kitchen. “You want a cuppa? Let me put the kettle on.”
“A coffee,” Donna murmured as she and Wilf preceded her mother and sat down at the table.
“Anything you’d like. I’ve got in some of those biscuits you like, too.” She protested as Donna stood to help her fetch the biscuits and start the beverages. “Oh, no, sit down, Donna. I’ve got this.”
“What are you on about?” asked Donna as she sat back down, suspicious that Sylvia was actually being nice for once.
“I’m just trying to help you feel better. Yes, Dad, I’ll bring you one, too,” she shot at Wilf, who was timidly raising a hand to catch her attention.
Donna sighed. “What do you want?”
“I don’t want anything.” On her way to the pantry, Sylvia stopped and glowered at her daughter. “I’m not so old that I don’t remember what it’s like to be stood up. Not much I can do but supply the biscuits and be here if you want to talk, but I was about to go over to Suzette’s. I promised to help her with her garden today - she just doesn’t understand how to deal with the pests - but I thought, if you’d like, when I got back, we could all go out for a nice dinner. We haven’t had a family dinner in donkey’s years. Yes, you too,” she assured her father, “you can go off the diet for a day.”
With a soft smile, Donna accepted. Her mum really could be very sweet and caring when she wanted to be. To a point, anyway.
As she prepared the refreshments, Sylvia attempted to get Donna to open up with a few gentle questions, but as Donna had very little truthful to say about what had happened, she insisted that she didn’t want to talk about it and turned the conversation toward Suzette’s garden. The neutral topic gave her a chance to relax and let go of her anger a little. By the time Sylvia left for Suzette’s, Donna was simply broody.
“That was almost worse than being nagged at,” Donna sighed as soon as Sylvia was out of the house. “It makes me nervous when she’s that nice.”
“Your mother’s not blind, you know,” Wilf said, placing his cup down and leaning toward his granddaughter. “She’s been there before, so she knows what it’s like, and she can tell there’s something else going on.” He paused. “Isn’t there?”
Turning to stare out of the window at the garden where the new plants were just breaking ground, Donna refused to answer, and Wilf wagged a finger at her. “Neither of my girls’d come back from a ruined date with her tail between her legs. Not Sylvia nor you. You’d’ve whipped Lance into shape, so it must’ve been something else.”
“No, Gramps,” she lied. There was just too much that she couldn’t say and she had to figure it out on her own. “That’s all that happened. Lance wasn’t there when he said he would and we had a row. I don’t… I’m not sure I like the way he’s been treating me lately, and this was just more of the same.”
She shrugged. “He takes me for granted, treats me like I’m barely there. I don’t know. I know I’m getting too old for this, but I can do better. Find someone who respects me.” She declined to voice what was going through her head: Someone who thinks I’m brilliant.
“You sound like you’ve given up on Lance.”
“Yeah.” Her breathy agreement was resigned. “I think I have.”
Wilf peered at her. His granddaughter was upset, but not as upset as she should be, as any of the Mott women would be in these circumstances. He’d lived through three generations of them - four, if you counted the mother of his beloved Eileen (bless her), though she technically wasn’t a Mott - and they all shared the same fiery nature. There was only one reason why Donna wouldn’t be tearing the house apart just now. “That ‘someone’, you already found him, hey?”
It was not easy to embarrass Donna, but this time she could feel the warm flush of her cheeks. “No,” she said with a laugh, though she really didn’t find it funny, “not really.”
“Tell me about him,” Wilf pressed. He’d seen the brief sparkle in her eye before she’d ducked her head to conceal her blush.
“There’s nothing to tell, Gramps. He’s out of my league.”
“Oh, now, where’s my Donna, eh? No one’s too good for her. When you see something you want, you go out and get it, eh?” With an encouraging smile, Wilf reached over and knocked Donna on the shoulder, and she rocked with the gentle push.
“It’s not that. It’s just, well…” She signed. “Do you remember, Gramps, that man that helped me home when I twisted my ankle? It’s him.”
“Oh, ho!” With a big smile, Wilf clapped and pointed at his granddaughter. “That’s what you mean, out of your league. That doctor bloke!”
“No, actually,” and she gave him a sheepish smile, “he’s not a doctor, that I know of anyway. I lied just to give Mum a story she’d believe. I didn’t want to tell her that he’s a prime. You see, he attacked those men and checked me over using his powers.”
Wilf nodded in agreement. “Fair dos. I wouldn’t tell her that myself.”
“Yeah. But there’s more.” Donna picked at her fingernails as she explained. “That night, I told him that he was good at the hero business, and so he’s gone and done it. He’s got a mask and everything. Well, except he just wears regular clothes and looks daft with them and the mask. But he’s a real hero. There was a riot in the city today, and he saved so many lives.”
“Sounds like a fine young man. What’s he called?”
Her head bowed, Donna peered up at her grandfather through her fringe. “The Doctor.”
“The Doctor? That’s rubbish!” he exclaimed with a laugh.
“Yeah, that was my fault, too. It started out as a joke and he hadn’t chosen a name for himself, so...” She shrugged. “So, yeah, he’s not real.”
Wilf frowned. “Donna, he’s a prime, but that doesn’t make him not real. They’re human, too, you know. He’s as real as any other man.”
“No, he’s not.” She resisted the urge to jump up and pace. She didn’t want Wilf to see just how upset she was over the Doctor. “He’s made it perfectly clear that the hero I’m talking to isn’t real.”
“I’m sure when you get to know each other better -”
“No, Gramps! He said no!” she pouted, then immediately apologised with a soft smile. “I’m sorry. I’m just, welI, I don’t know. I don’t know what to think about him.” She shrugged. “He’s a rebound, Gramps. With Lance standing me up today, the Doctor was just the next bloke to pay attention to me. That’s all.”
“It don’t sound like that, sweetheart -” Wilf began, but Donna cut him off again.
“No, Gramps, that’s all it is,” she stated with finality. She was deluding herself, reading too much into the three conversations she’d had with the man, and she couldn’t allow herself to even think of starting down that path when he’d insisted on keeping her at arm’s length. Switching her attitude to force the end of the discussion, she asked, “Please don’t tell Mum about me and Lance yet. I’ll tell her when I’m ready.”
Will replied, “Of course, sweetheart…” and he dropped the conversation according to her tacit request, but he couldn’t help worrying for her. She was arguing herself out of her budding interest in this man, and she was always at her worst when going against what was in her heart. However, there was nothing he could do to help her; she needed to figure out what she wanted on her own.
By the time Sylvia returned from her errand, Donna had brightened into a considerably better mood, or at least had put on a tolerably cheery attitude, and the three of them went out for the promised dinner, a bit early to avoid the crowds. Sylvia managed to refrain from antagonising her daughter through the meal, and after the enjoyable evening out, they returned home to their normal activities, mother and daughter settling in front of the telly to make snide comments about the reality programmes whilst Wilf pored over his star charts to plan his evening’s stargazing.
Once the twilight settled into full darkness and Wilf began to gather his things to head up the hill to watch the stars, the doorbell rang. “Donna, will you get that?” Sylvia asked without taking her eyes off the screen. “It’s one of the Millers’ kids, I’m sure, selling their biscuits and whatnots. They’re always about on a Sunday night, and I tell them every time, they shouldn’t be out after the sun goes down.”
Rolling her eyes, Donna hopped up and pulled open the door, prepared to greet a nervous little girl with an armful of samples, but instead of a pair of hopeful eyes peering up at her, she found herself staring at faded jeans around a pair of long, skinny legs.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, her eyes snapping up to Jon’s astonished face. “Jon! Hi!”
Stumbling back a step, he clutched his arms around a brown paper bag peeking out of his grey hoodie and gaped like a goldfish for a moment. “Donna, er, hello,” he stammered. “I’ve, er, I’m, well, is your grandfather home?”
Suppressing a giggle at his discomfiture, Donna replied with a welcoming smile, “Of course he is. Come in!” She stepped back to hold the door open for him, and as soon as he was right in front of her, she bellowed toward the kitchen, “Gramps! Jon’s here to see you!” just to watch the man jerk like a startled cat.
“Donna!” Sylvia reprimanded her as she rose from the couch. “Behave yourself, won’t you? It’s good to see you again, Jon,” she smiled at their guest.
“Likewise, Mrs. Noble.” With a nervous smile, he glanced at the kitchen. “Don’t worry. I won’t touch your china again.”
“Oh, don’t even think about that. I’ve already forgotten it. Can I get you some tea?” she asked as Donna closed the door and joined them.
“Oh, no, thank you. Please don’t make a fuss. I’m just here to see Wilf.”
The old man came bustling out of the kitchen. “Good to see you, my boy! Back so soon?”
“Yeah, I’ve, er…” Jon glanced nervously at both Donna and Sylvia before continuing. “I brought that part for your telescope.” Bringing out the paper bag, he dug in it and pulled out a shiny brass object, its smooth surfaces and sharp edges glinting in under the lounge lights.
“Oh, you shouldn’t have! Come on in here. I’ve got it out on the table.” As they retreated into the kitchen, Donna and Sylvia grinned at each other, and as soon as she saw the opportunity, Donna crept to the door to listen in.
Donna! Sylvia mouthed to her eavesdropping daughter in horror, who shot a Shhh! motion back at her with a finger to her lips.
“How much do I owe ya for that thingummy?” Wilf was asking.
“Nothing at all. I couldn’t find the right part for this model, but I thought it would work a lot better if, well, you see, this bit here, on the original part, it faces this way and that bit’s up here. So I made this one at work. Should be a lot easier to use. Let me put it in and see.”
“You was at work today to make this for me?”
“Oh, no, that was yesterday. Today, I got these.” There was a bit of rustling paper and gentle clunks on the table. “I picked up a book on optics and it recommended these for minimising the chromatic aberration. Thing is, I’ll have to bring up some other tools to open the casing and mount them.”
“Oh, no, this is too much. I can’t take this.”
“No, please. She’s a beautiful instrument. She just needs a bit of care and she’ll bring the stars down for you.”
Pressing a hand over her mouth, Donna snuck over to sit next to her mother, her eyes wide. “What is it?” Sylvia whispered. “What’d you hear?”
“I never thought!” breathed Donna. “That Jon, you saw what he’s like, a squirrel in a skating rink. He just told Gramps that the fixes he’s making on the telescope will bring the stars down for him.”
“Oh, now that’s poetic,” murmured Sylvia. “Just goes to show, you never know what people are really like deep down, do you? We just get to see the surface, what they want us to see.” She settled back to watch the telly again. “He seems like such a nice young man.”
“Yeah, he is,” Donna agreed absently, distracted by another surface, another mask on her mind. She wondered if she’d ever meet the man inside that the Doctor was determined to hide.
Donna was still daydreaming when the two men finally emerged from the kitchen, the younger toting the telescope and a camping chair whilst the older carried the knapsack with his notebook, blanket, and thermoses of tea. “Takin’ the hill!” Wilf proclaimed as they paraded through the lounge.
“Aye aye, sir!” Jon responded with an eager smile before he cringed with embarrassment, avoiding eye contact with either Donna or her mother.
“Don’t wait up,” Wilf as he scurried out of the door.
“Dad!” Sylvia called after him. “It’s ten already. You can’t stay up… Dad!” Rolling her eyes, she jumped up to intercept Jon with a direct order. “You take care of him, young man. Make sure he keeps warm.”
Jon’s eyes were wide. “I will, Mrs. Noble. We’ll come back soon, I promise.”
“Oh, let him have his time up there,” she relented. “Just don’t let him overreach himself.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Saluting with the telescope, he flashed a shy smile at Donna and followed her grandfather out into the night.