Fandom(s): Doctor Who
Characters: Tenth Doctor, Donna Noble, Nerys
Summary: The Doctor investigates one of the most serious time anomalies he's ever encountered, right here on Earth.
Word Count (chapter): 2009
Nerys stepped out of the doors of the TARDIS into a narrow alley, stopping dead to assess where she was and wrinkle her nose at the muddy verge beneath the fence that hid the nearest house’s garden. Following close on her heels, the Doctor collided with her, eliciting an annoyed "Oi!" from his companion.
"Why'd you stop?" he asked as he grabbed her shoulders to steady her.
Nerys wriggled out of his grasp. "Get your hands off me! Did you have to choose such a dismal parking spot?"
Not sure what to do with his hands after her admonishment, he grabbed at the TARDIS’ door frame. "Didn't want to land in the street in front of the house, so we're down a couple from where you pointed, and this was the most convenient spot."
"Hmpf." She strode out to the sidewalk and made a show of scraping her wedges on the pavement to clean them off, even though there was nothing stuck to them. The Doctor strolled up next to her and gazed up and down the street, the tip of his tongue tracing his upper lip.
“Come on, then.” Turning right, he strode off.
Nerys sighed heavily and crossed her arms. “Doctor. This way.”
“Right!” He spun on his heel and returned, passing her with his coat flaring behind him. This time he didn’t slow to wait for her, and she kept up as well as her heels would let her. By the time they reached the right terrace, he was a good ten metres ahead of her. He stopped on the sidewalk across the street from the Thomas’ house, surveying it whilst he waited for his companion.
“Posh area,” he commented as Nerys stalked up. “If that’s any indication, she's got a comfortable life.”
“Very. Sam’s been good for her.”
She looked up and down the street as she replied, mortified that she might be seen with this daft bloke in pinstripes and trainers. “Before they met, she was temping, this firm, that firm, living at home making just enough to help her mum pay the bills, but that was all. He gave her stability, really. He’s a banker, so she didn’t need to work. She went back to school and got her accountancy licence. She’s always had a good head for numbers.”
“Yeah, I know.” He followed her gaze, wondering what she was looking for.
“She works on contract for a few small firms, doing their books, cos it gives her some accomplishment, you know? But mostly she’s mum to Sarah.”
“Everything she ever wanted,” murmured the Doctor as he looked over the terrace house again. It was well-kept, the red brick clean and the trim freshly painted. Even the tiny patch of grass and bush in front of the house was trimmed and neat.
“Yeah,” Nerys agreed. “Her fondest dreams, even when we were back in school.” She stared at the Doctor with a suspicious frown. “But how would you know that?”
“Oh! There she is!’ he exclaimed. The flash of ginger hair as the door opened was unmistakable, and Donna emerged carrying a tiny girl with a shock of curls that matched her mother’s. She fiddled with the lock on the door, then, securing her handbag on her shoulder, turned to walk out to the street. She stopped when she spotted the pair watching her from across the street and waved.
“Nerys! Why didn’t you tell me that you were coming by?” Donna called as she looked both ways down the road then crossed. The little girl cried out for her Auntie Nerys and twisted in her mother’s arms to beg to be held. “Can’t stay. We’re meeting Dad at the bank and heading for dinner, aren’t we?” She tickled her daughter’s stomach, eliciting delighted giggles.
“We just happened to be in the area,” Nerys explained rather unconvincingly as she took Sarah and planted a kiss on her cheek.
“I see that. Who’s your friend?” Nerys opened her mouth to answer, but Donna pointed at the Doctor, gaping in astonishment. “You’re that bloke, aren’t you? From the reception. That doctor bloke.”
Just that tiny bit of recognition from Donna warmed the Doctor’s hearts and he grinned like a schoolboy, plunging his hands in his pockets and leaning forward. “That’s me. I’m the Doctor.” It had been less than an hour since he’d last seen her in any timeline and yet he felt like he’d come home after centuries away. “Donna.”
“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out,” she quipped and turned to Nerys. “I didn’t know you two kept in touch.”
“We don’t,” Nerys declared, shooting a dark look at the Doctor. “He happened by at Anderson & Wilson.” She hurried on at Donna’s confused frown. “He mentioned he’d be coming out here so I thought I’d come out for a visit and catch up with him.”
“What a coincidence!” cooed Donna. “Meeting twice by chance like that. I’d say it’s destiny. You make such a lovely couple.” She laughed as the pair stared at each other with unmitigated disgust. “Oh, that settles it. Wedding bells next year, I’m sure of it. But I’ve got to dash. Already running late as it is. Call me, Nerys, okay?” And she was gone in a sweep of ginger.
The Doctor stared after her as she bundled her daughter into a car down the street. Then, with a little wave back at her friends, Donna slipped into the driver’s seat, and in a moment, she roared off.
“You see, Doctor, perfectly happy,” Nerys insisted. “Now can I go home?”
“What?” His flat eyes found hers and slid into focus. “Oh! Yes. No! You can’t. This isn’t right.”
Nerys pursed her lips and crossed her arms. “It isn’t right that Donna is happy?”
“What? No, no, that’s good and all. But something’s still wrong here. I can feel it. Whatever it is, it happened while ago.” He stared at Nerys, though his thoughts were obviously elsewhere. “You said they married four years ago?”
“Little less. Do you ever remember anything past fifteen minutes?”
“I remember a lot of things for a long time,” he murmured as he raked his hand through his hair. “I really didn’t think she’d been married before, but I suppose.” His eyes snapped back to Nerys. “And they’ve been happy ever since? No rocky points, no big fights or anything.”
Nerys rolled her eyes. “Every marriage’s got its moments. How’m I supposed to know? Well, there was that one time, but that turned out to be nothing.”
He frowned. “What one time?”
“It wasn’t anything!” she insisted. “And I am not letting you nose into Donna’s personal life! I’m done with you. I brought you here so you can see nothing’s wrong, and I’m done. Go find someone else to bother.”
“Nerys,” he whinged, sounding very much like her four-year-old nephew begging for a new toy, “you’ve got to help me. Something is definitely wrong. Someone’s been changing Donna’s life and I’ve got to put it back.”
“That’s bollocks, that is, ‘changing Donna’s life’.” She planted her fists on her hips. “What are you really after?”
“I’m not after anything. I’m just trying to help. Come on, Nerys, you know you can trust me. I really need your help.”
Nerys didn’t believe a word of it. Crossing her arms, she scowled at the Doctor. “Can I go now?”
“Please.” The single word was quiet, sober, and heartfelt. His reversal of attitude took Nerys by surprise, and her jaw dropped open. “This is important to me. Please tell me about the event that you thought of.”
Nerys searched his face for a moment. He might be alien, but everything that came to mind was written there plainly for anyone to see. She didn’t believe anything was wrong, and she had no idea why the Doctor was trying to interfere with her best mate, but she could tell that he believed there was danger and he was worried.
“All right,” she sighed. “It was about a year after they got married. Donna was about halfway through her certification and she’d just had Sarah. It was a hard time for her, so Sam took her out to relax. They were doing the London thing: you know, the royals and shopping and such. She mentioned to Sam how she was looking forward to raising Sarah after she was done with school, and Sam blew up. He thought he was putting her through school for nothing, that she wanted to just stay at home and have babies, and it just kind of escalated from there. She walked out on him, and she stayed in my flat for a week, baby and all. They almost called it quits there, and if Donna’s mum hadn’t stepped in, that would have been it.”
The Doctor stared at her, and he choked a few times before he finally gasped out, “Sylvia? She stepped in?”
“Yeah.” Nerys’ cynical smile didn’t mask the sparkle of respect in her eyes. “You’d never think that, would you, but she only ever wanted the best for Donna. And when they started having problems, she saw it right off and stepped right in. Turns out, she’s a brilliant mediator.” With a sudden frown, she whirled on the Doctor. “How do you know Sylvia?”
“Never mind that.” Waving dismissively, the Doctor paced off. “That sounds like the right kind of event. A big fight that could have gone so differently. That’s exactly the kind of thing I’d target.”
“I don’t know. Why would anyone want to change Donna’s life? Why her in specific?”
“No.” Nerys strode up and poked the Doctor in the swirly brown tie. “I’ve shown you what you wanted, just like you asked. Now it’s my turn. You tell me, what is this all about? What’s happening to Donna?”
The Doctor stared at the angry woman for a full five seconds, the tip of his tongue tracing the edge of his teeth. “All right. Yes. All right,” he finally agreed, his head bobbing up and down as his determination grew. “You’re right. You need to know. Someone’s been messing with Donna’s life, changing it. We’ve got to put it back and stop whoever it is from doing it again.”
“How do you know that?” she asked. “I mean, I’m Donna’s best mate and nothing’s out of the ordinary.”
“Oh, you’re only human, so you can’t see it,” he explained airily, completely missing Nerys’ insulted glare. “To you, it’s always been this way. But you know I’m a Time Lord, Nerys. I can see that things are wrong. I just don’t know when they changed.”
Nerys bit her lip. This all sounded like a load of tosh, but she had to remember, the Doctor was clearly worried that something bad was going to happen to Donna. She wasn’t going to let that happen - or let the Doctor meddle in Donna’s life. “But you think it’s some big event, like Donna’s fight with Sam.”
“Yes. You said they almost broke up at that point. That’s important.” Squaring himself in front of her, he took her hands and bowed his head. “Will you help me, Nerys? Will you help me set things right for Donna?”
“She’s my best mate,” she declared with a proud toss of her head. “Of course I’ll help - but I’m helping her, not you.”
“You don’t trust me.”
Nerys drew herself up and stared him in the eye. “You’re telling me that something’s changed in Donna’s life and I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m here. And you think I don’t trust you.”
The Doctor smiled. “Good.”
“No, Doctor, I don’t trust you. Not a jot.” His face fell. “But I saw the beginning of the Earth with you. If you say that something strange is going on, I can believe it, at least for the moment, and I’m not letting Donna hang out to dry.”
Grinning, the Doctor nodded. “I can work with that. Come on. Let’s get this sorted.”