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): 3425
Donna spent the rest of the evening on the brink of hopping the Tube to work to search Jon’s personal file to get his address and phone number, but finally convinced herself that she could wait another twelve hours to talk to him. Well, fourteen hours, she told herself, because she knew she’d be mobbed the moment she walked through the doors of the company, and she was right. There was a crowd of people from all departments hanging about the receptionist’s desk, and they pounced on her as soon as she appeared, eager to get the Saxon story right from the source. She didn’t try to put them off, knowing full well there was no way to extricate herself from all of them. It took her nearly thirty minutes to make it all the way to her desk, and that turned into a revolving door of admirers, all wanting to hear about the corrupt politician and the new prime.
She was starting to despair of losing her voice when Veena came bustling through, shooing everyone away. “All right, everyone, bugger off. Donna and I have work to do. You can gawk later,” she screeched as she dropped a hot cup of tea in front of her friend. “That’s it. Get out.” As the last person stepped into the hallway, she trotted over to shut the door, then locked it.
Donna took a long gulp of tea, then rolled her eyes at Veena. “You just want to hear it all by yourself, don’t you?”
“Nope.” Striding over to her own desk, she pulled a paper from her top drawer, then hopped over and waved it at Donna. “I wanted to show you this.”
Donna snatched it with a sceptical smirk, then frowned as she looked it over. “This is a notice.” She stared at Veena, her jaw hanging. “Jon’s quitting?”
‘Yeah. He’s staying until he finishes Tom’s project, which he thinks will take him three days, and then he’s gone.” She sat on the edge of Donna’s desk. “He gave that to me first thing when I got in. I thought you’d want to see it.”
“Yeah,” she murmured, reading the paper over again. “Yeah, I did. Does Nerys know?”
“Nah. I’m not half busy, you know,” she explained airily. “Running errands all over the building. Prettying up that white paper for Anna. Making the tea. Trimming my nails. Haven’t quite gotten to it yet.” She winked, and Donna answered that with a mischievous grin.
“Yeah, you’ve been swamped this morning.” Raising a finger in the air, she brightened like a fantastic idea had suddenly occurred to her. “Why don’t you let me take it up to Nerys?”
Veena sighed with exaggerated relief, swiping the back of her hand across her forehead with a theatrical flare. “You’re a godsend, Donna, you are.”
“I suppose, if he’s working on Tom’s project, he’ll be down in the labs.” She tapped the side of her nose with her finger.
“Then I’ll definitely avoid there,” Donna stated as she opened the door and stepped into the corridor. “I’m certainly not going down to the labs.”
“Yeah, when you’re upstairs, say hi to Paul for me,” Veena called after her.
As Donna took the stairs down to avoid any adoring fans at the lift, she wound the paper in her nervous hands into as tight a tube as she could manage. The corridor outside the labs was mercifully empty, and, as she had done once before a few weeks earlier, she found Jon’s lab, knocked softly, checked the equipment light, then slipped inside.
The currently in-progress part of Tom’s old project was an array of specialised pumps and tubes intended for installation into a larger system at the work site. The parts were hung from a frame descended from the ceiling and hooked up to machines designed to test the fluid flow and output pressure. To Donna, it simply looked like a chaotic mess of plastic pipes and stainless steel cylinders that quivered as liquid was forced through it. The engineer was studying the graphs and numbers on a trio of computer monitors with his back to the door.
“Hello, Donna,” he intoned without turning around. “Just a tick.”
Jon continued to watch the data on the screen for a couple of minutes, then, nodding to himself, dashed over to the pump controls and shut them all down. He returned to the computer to type for a bit, then turned around to greet his guest properly. “Thanks. Just needed to let that test finish,” he explained as she approached.
“You always know, don’t you?” When his left eyebrow shot up in inquiry, she clarified, “Who comes in. You always know when it’s me.”
Hugging himself, he toyed with the shoulder seam of his shirt as he glanced away. “Yes. I can hear your shape, and the timbre of your breath and your heart, they’re as singular as fingerprints.”
Donna couldn’t help smiling at the intelligence and prime power hidden away in such an unassuming package. “You are amazing, Jon. So incredible and brilliant.”
His eyes squeezed shut. “Stop it!” he hissed through clenched teeth. “I’m not. I’m not any of that.”
“Yes, you are. I’m telling you the truth. You’re wond-”
“I know,” he cut her off. “I can hear that, too, you know. You really do believe that, I’ve no doubt in my mind. But you’re wrong.” He glanced at the rolled-up paper in her hand. “Veena should have given that to Nerys. There’s a reason I gave it to her and not you.”
“Oh, so you can hear the ink on the paper now?”
“No. Just a very educated guess.”
Donna walked over to the lab bench and placed the notice on a clear spot, smoothing it down with both hands. Then she tapped it and turned to the engineer. “Why are you leaving, Jon? Don’t you like it here? I mean, yeah, you’re starting from the bottom again, but the people here are great and your work’s been fine.”
His voice was very quiet. “Because it’s time for me to move on. I can’t stay here any longer.”
“You’re leaving because of me, aren’t you?” With a heavy puff of breath, Jon turned slightly to look anywhere except at her. “Why, Jon? We’ve done so much together and you know that I understand. You know that I would never tell anyone your secrets. I’ll never tell anyone who you are. After all we’ve been through, why can’t you trust me?”
With dark, tired eyes under heavy lids, Jon peered at her. “Oh, Donna, you don’t get it. You just don’t get it. You’re brilliant and brave and compassionate and oh so beautiful. I absolutely trust you. I trust you with my life and with my identity and with my heart. I’m not leaving because of you. I’m leaving because of me.” Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply and let his breath flow away before he continued. “I can’t trust myself, Donna. I just know that one day, you’re going to get hurt, and it’s going to be my fault.”
Donna drew herself up and stood as strong as she could. “You can’t take responsibility for me like that. I chose to go to that rally, and if I had gotten hurt there, that would have been my fault, not yours.”
“That’s not it, Donna. I mean, that’s part of it, yes. I couldn’t do what I did without worrying for you, but… but…” Burying his face in his hands, he trembled, his laboured breath audible. Setting his jaw, he swallowed and faced her. “Donna. I’m dangerous. I pretend I’m not, but it’s the truth.”
Donna laughed. “Jon, stop exaggerating to make a point. You’re not -”
“I’m not exaggerating!” he thundered, and she took a startled step back. Plunging his hand in his pocket, he pulled out his little silver thumb drive and tossed it to her. She could hear the pieces inside rattling as it tumbled in the air and landed in her hand. “Remember when I told you about the presentation? I told you I was so nervous that I was buzzing. That wasn’t a figure of speech. I was actually buzzing, and I shattered the thumb drive. I carry that with me because it reminds me every moment just what happens when I lose control. And you know that smashed basin in the executive toilet upstairs? That was me. HR called me in to tell me that Nerys filed a report against me and that I was being evaluated, and afterwards, I went in there to calm down and touched the basin and It. Fell. Apart.”
He spun around the lab, arms out to indicate the chamber and his work. “All of this, every single failure I’ve had here is due to my so-called ‘gifts’.” He spat the word at her. “Well, I should say, all except this last one, which was Dave’s error in machining, but only because I refused to step foot in this lab until the prototype was done. But in all the other projects… I’ve warped metal. I’ve fractured plastic and glass. I’ve destroyed equipment. Lucky for me, it all looks like incompetence and not willful violence.
“You see, Donna, I can’t stop it.” Flexing his fingers in front of his face, he stared at them in despair. “I am always emitting a sonic field; it just varies in frequency and intensity.” Whirling suddenly, he walked over to the computer and picked up the mouse. “Usually it’s just a whisper of infrasound, but if I forget, if I get distracted, or if I get angry or upset, then well, you see…” He held up the mouse so she could see it and with a sudden crack, it crumbled in his hand, the fragments of the plastic casing, laser, and circuit board pouring like gravel through his fingers, leaving the end of the cord trailing from his hand down to the computer.
“Jon…” she murmured, but he continued, talking over her.
“That chicken bone I told you about? That was accidental, not an intentional experiment like I told you, but it taught me so much. And it gets worse. The right frequency and strength of ultrasound, it can liquefy flesh. What if I have a nightmare, Donna? Can you imagine what that would do to the person sleeping next to me? It’s horrible, and I can’t… I can’t…” Drawing his hand down over his jaw, he shook his head, his eyes wide and desperate. “I can’t let that person be you.”
Astonished, Donna gasped, her eyes widening. “You… You’re worried about what you might do to me, because -”
“Yes, because I love you!” groaned Jon like it was the first basic fact that every idiot knows. “I’ve always loved you, from the moment I met you. How could I not? You’re the most fiery, beautiful, brilliant woman in the entire world!”
Donna was still stuck on the first statement. “It’s been two whole years… Why didn’t you say something?”
He gaped at her. “I couldn’t do that! I can’t let anyone near me, for their own safety. And besides, you were with Lance. ” Striding away, he cowered behind the array of metal and pipes, pulling at his hair with his hands. Donna could see his shoulders heaving as he trembled. Hand outstretched to comfort him, she took a few steps forward, but he whirled around and backed against the computer console, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he tried to compose himself. “Don’t. Don’t come near me. Really, I could hurt you with a touch.”
Donna was not afraid, and in fact, if anything, his protests made her want to help him even more. “Jon. Please don’t leave. I don’t want you to go. I know you’re worried about all of this, but that’s what we do, don’t we? We work it through. You and I together, we can handle anything. Look at what we did yesterday, together. We’ll figure it out, what we can do -”
“Don’t… don’t…” he choked out. “Stop, Donna. Just stop.”
Collecting his courage, Jon drew himself up and shook his head, his lips curved in a sad, frosty smile. “I don’t want your sympathy or your solutions, Donna. I’m not that far gone that I can’t see that it just won’t work.”
She stared at him. “What does that mean?”
“I’m not blind, Donna,” he murmured, his voice soft and gentle. “You’ve never been interested in me. You barely know me. You just think I’m the Doctor, the hero springing about the city rescuing damsels from attackers in dark alleys. He doesn’t exist, not anymore. I can’t be him. I could only be him because of the mask, because no one was looking, no one could see…” He threw his hands up, resigning himself to the reality of his life. “I’m just me, shut up in my lab, talking to spanners and pumps and lathes and trying not to destroy everything around me. I’m no one.”
“You’re no one? That's bloody nonsense!” Donna protested at once. She strode up to him and placed both hands on his chest, though he flinched from the contact. “Not even counting what you did yesterday, you’re a genius engineer and you’ve made my Gramps so happy, and you care so much that -”
He interrupted her with a sharp “Shush!” Taking a deep breath, he apologised for being so rude. “But please stop. You don’t owe me anything. You’ve been a delight to work with here, and I don’t know what I would have done, doing… being… you know, if I had to do all that without you. I hadn’t even thought to try until you opened my eyes. But this is where it has to end. I’m not the Doctor. I can’t be him. Not like this. I’m not who you want.”
Frowning, Donna stepped back. “Oh, Jon, Jon. I -”
He silenced her with a finger to her lips. Then he smiled, his eyes shining with tender affection. “Donna, please. Please just go. All I want is for you to be happy. You’ll find him out there somewhere, that hero that you deserve.”
“Jon.” She stepped back once more, then set her fists on her hips. “You great blimmin’ dunce!”
“What?” Completely taken aback by her sudden remonstrance, Jon stared at her, his lips curved in a perfect ‘O’.
Pursing her lips, she glowered at him. “For a bleedin’ wallflower, you’ve really got a gob. Takes a huge one to talk over me.”
“Shhhp!” she hissed, snapping a finger up in front of his face to shut him up. “I’m talking now, so you keep it zipped, Slim!” She glared at him for a moment to make sure he wasn’t going to try to interrupt her again. “Now you listen here. You’re going to give over saying this tosh about not being good enough. This,” and she squiggled her finger down his form, “this timid geek-boy thing. This isn’t you, innit, any more than you’re the Doctor? You’re just like this so people don’t get close. You’re neither Jon nor the Doctor. If I haven’t seen who you are, it’s because you haven’t let me.
“But!” And she held up her finger again as he sucked in his breath to reply. “But I think I have. Of all the people in the world, I’m the one that’s seen both of you and I see the real you, the man behind all of your masks. You’re a brilliant engineer and a courageous hero, and yes, you’re shy and insecure, but you’re also compassionate and caring. You’re Doctor Jonathan Smith, and that’s who I love.”
Donna knew it wasn’t going to be that easy and was not surprised to see Jon lean back to cower against the computer console, the doubt - the self-doubt - clouding his eyes. But though she had never thought of Jon in that way before, though her loyalty had always been to the Doctor, she knew she loved him with all her heart. After all, she had incontrovertible proof.
“Jon,” she sighed. “You’re such a rational, logical bloke, and you have to know the reasons for everything. Do you know why I was able to throw off Harold Saxon’s hold on me?”
Frowning at her, he thought for a few moments, then finally admitted, “No.”
“Well, normally you’re a clever boy and can figure it out on your own, but I’ll give you a pass considering your head’s all muddled up right now. You told me, when we were watching the rally, that he doesn’t control people. He convinces people. What he does is he just nudges you over into believing something you were on the edge of believing already, but he can’t change your mind on something you already believe. Don’t you see? He couldn’t make me question your character and he certainly couldn’t make me hate you, because I already believed in you and I already loved you. And I still do.”
Staring down at the tips of his shoes, Jon shook his head. “You love the Doctor. Not me,” he insisted.
“No, Jon, you’re wrong. At that moment, you weren’t the Doctor. You were Jon, standing right there before me with your mask in your hands. Yes, you, the Doctor, same man? Didn’t see that coming. And yes, I coulda slapped you for not telling me, for letting it all come to that, but I never lost my faith in you. I knew at that moment who I really loved. I just couldn’t tell you because Harold Saxon was breathing down my neck, and that was a tiny bit more important at the time, don’t you think?” It was her turn to look away guiltily. “It tore my heart to hurt you, but it was the only way I could take him by surprise.”
A spark of hope flared to life in Jon’s eyes, and he reached a hand out to her before snatching it back like he’d tried to grasp fire. “Donna, I can’t. I couldn’t bear to hurt you, and it’s only a matter of time -”
“Jon! Jon!” she called, pressing both hands on his chest to calm him down. “We can do this. Together, we can do anything.” She popped up on her tiptoes and reached up to curve her hand around the back of his neck. As she threaded her fingers through his soft hair and coaxed him down to her, he drew in a sharp breath to warn her off. “Shush,” she murmured as their lips met. He stiffened and tried to pull back, but she wrapped her other arm around his waist and held him fast.
“Mmpf!” he squeaked in a final shocked protest, then melted. Cupping her cheek with one hand, he drank in the warmth of her soft lips for a brief moment before stepping back, pushing her gently away with trembling fingers and gazing at her with a tentative smile, as if he couldn’t believe that he’d dared to kiss her and that she’d survived the experience.
“I’m still here, Ears,” she teased. “None the worse for wear and hoping there’s more where that came from.”
“No, I can’t,” he breathed then held up both forefingers to stop and explain. “I mean, I need to take this slowly. I still need to learn what I’m capable of.”
“I understand,” she assured him, catching his hand and squeezing. “After all of this, I really do. We go at your pace, but together.”
“Huh. ‘Together’. Not a word I’ve heard in a long time.” His eyes glistening, Jon bit back a hopeful smile.
“You’ll hear it every day now, I promise. But!” and Donna held up a finger. “That reminds me.” She hopped over and snatched the resignation from the lab bench. “You won’t be needing this, I think?” she asked, waving it him.
“No, I won’t. I’m staying right here.” Jon watched as Donna tore up the paper into tiny pieces and dumped them in the bin, letting them rain like confetti from her fingers.
“There. That’s done,” she stated as she dusted off her hands with the satisfaction of a job well done. “See you at lunch?”
“Oh yes,” he breathed, “please.”
“All the primes in the world couldn’t keep me away.” With a lilt in her step, Donna skipped to the door and, slipping through, spun to throw him one last fond smile before she left him to his work.