Don't throw your life away
Don't throw your life away…
-Interlude 2 by the Eclectic Collective
He's really too selfish to let her go. Not yet.
She stutters and stammers and he knows the safest way to save her is to wipe her mind of everything but he can't because that will make her less than the woman she's become and she won't be there, she'll have to go back and he just can't be alone anymore.
Not after Rose. Not after all this. He can't lose the woman he loves and his best friend all in the same day.
So he peels the layers of himself from her mind slowly (probably too slowly) and she screams and twists in his arms but eventually goes quiet. She's not the DoctorDonna anymore, she's just Donna Noble, temp from Chiswick.
She cries a little in the privacy of her room and he allows her that weakness. After all, he's got a few tears of his own saved up from today that he doesn't want her to see either. From the small smile on her lips when he reemerges to the console room, he knows she knows and understands.
That's why he just can't really let her go. Not yet.
"I used to just get all this stuff," she says. "Bit like Charly now to you, right? Not quite on par?"
He shakes his head and takes her hand. "I like you better as Donna Noble, 100% human. Besides, hearing you say Molto Bene is sort of…well, odd."
"Should've heard yourself say stuff 'round here was 'wizard'. Bleeding bonkers, he was." She gives his hand a little squeeze and her voice goes quiet and serious. "I'm guessing you're 'all right' right now."
"Anything I can do?"
The sincerity in her voice is something she didn't have as the DoctorDonna, it's something for Donna and Donna alone, and he finds himself smiling at it despite everything. He flips the control that sets the TARDIS screen to space.
"Pick a star. Any star."
She picks Gravorinos. She really wishes she hadn't because, of course, the moment they land there they're chased by giant dung-flinging monsters made out of tar.
He holds up a smoking cobbled together lump of equipment and grins at her. "Flux capacitor," he says, proudly.
"Star Wars," she replies automatically.
He tsks. "Back to the Future. Get your movies straight."
She snorts. "I knew I was right back then; it's always like this for you." She grumbles as she pulls her hand out of a bubbling pile of goop that was once a monster.
"Could always take you back," he says. "Fish and chips and all that."
"Not on your life, Space Man. Besides, I hate chips."
"Right, forgot, it was always Rose with the chips."
"And if you start comparing me to her, I'll start slapping you again."
He glares over the pile of dung at her and the absurdity of the situation and their conversation takes over and the next thing they know, they're laughing. It feels really good (if really, ridiculously inappropriate) to laugh right now.
It shows that he's lost so much but, really, he hasn't lost that much at all. He offers her a tar-covered hand and they run again. Always running.
They're too content to run off, despite the disgusting nature of this adventure. Not yet.
She's a proper best mate. The right sort of give-and-take in a relationship. They stay up late watching his favorite Earth programme and she drags him to Teranora to do some shopping. God, he hates shopping.
He's got another pink bag draped over another arm as Donna bounces happily out of another tiny shop. He's also been forced to try on a new tie and get a haircut, so he's not exactly happy with Donna at the moment.
"This doesn't feel like equal pain to asking you to watch a few episodes of the West Wing," he says, irritably.
"Yeah, but you recite every line along with the show and giggle like a complete and utter nerd," Donna says with a snort as she directs him into another shop.
"Another perfume store? Donna, I think you're pushing the lines of cruel and unusual punishment."
"Shaddup and tell me what you think of this."
Mercifully, there's an explosion on their level and the Doctor can drop all of Donna's many, many purchases and run to find out what's happened.
"You did that on purpose!"
"Brought on a space cruiser with blood-sucking parasites?"
"I wouldn't be surprised."
He grabs her hand and they run. He wonders if one day she'll ever tire of giving up her shopping in order to run. Donna grins at him as if to say 'not yet'.
They're two timeless travelers, but the world around them ages. Donna's mother calls to say that her grandfather's ill and the Doctor doesn't hesitate to turn the TARDIS back around to see him. He won't admit to being fond of the old man, but he is.
Donna's grandfather is frail and tired and Donna has tears streaming down her face as she sits by his bedside. The Doctor stands in the doorway watching. This is the life she had without him, he won't make himself part of it.
"I'm going to miss you," her grandfather says.
"No, no, you can't talk like that," she's all attitude and anger. The Doctor's come to realize that means she feels out of control. She's hurting, he can see it falling off her shoulders in waves.
"Can't stop the inevitable, Donna, not even you and all your stubbornness."
Her grandfather's words make the anger go away and she sniffs, trying to get control of her tears. "But I don't want you to go."
"You keep on traveling with him," her grandfather says, firmly. "He makes you better."
"She makes me better," the Doctor corrects him.
"Then that's the right sort of friendship," her grandfather nods weakly. "You make sure you watch over my granddaughter, show her those stars."
Donna puts up Wilf's telescope in her bedroom in the TARDIS and together they scatter his ashes over the Eye of Orion.
"It's not fair," Donna says, dangling her legs over the edge of the cliff. "He always wanted to see the stars. Should've shown him them at least once."
The Doctor doesn't disagree, he just twines his fingers with hers. He's secretly terrified of heights, but she needs him right now, like he needed her after he lost Rose.
There's no way he's leaving her. Not yet.
They move on, as travelers do.
She's never been a romantic sort and he likes that about her. She's been burned and learned too often to think that it's worth it to chase after a man. He knows how that feels and, really, that's what makes her special; she's just a mate who isn't looking for love. Still, he watches her fall in love with a silver-skinned Dryad from Chantille 3.
They're certainly not well matched at all, in the Doctor's opinion. But, from the way she smiles as they help stop his village from being decimated by a race of intelligent squids, the Doctor can see he makes her happy and really, that's enough.
The Dryad wants her to stay, to marry him and have lots of sterile silver ginger babies. She kisses the creature tenderly and walks back to the TARDIS, some tears touching her eyes.
"You don't have to stay on my behalf," he says. He knows he's rebuilt himself enough now that if she were to go, he'd be all right. For a while he'd be the 'all right' that was really, really not all right, but he'd actually make it to 'all right'.
"Nah, he's all right, but there's a whole skyful of stars up there, right? Can't compare with a bloke, can it?"
He blinks at her. "I can't believe it."
"You actually get what I've tried to explain to every companion I've ever had."
She smirks and the creases around her lips stand out. "I'm brilliant. Obviously. Besides, I'm gettin' on a bit for havin' kids. I think he just doesn't know what old on a human looks like."
He should do what he did with Susan, he thinks. Trick her to stay outside of the TARDIS, make her stay with the man that she loves. But she's always prided herself on making her own decisions and…well, he doesn't want to give her up. Not yet.
She gets older.
Force of the inevitable, just like Wilf said. She runs until she can't anymore and he starts to take certain adventures off of their repertoire. She doesn't like the idea of showing physical weakness or any weakness so she frustratingly kicks the side of the console and he worries about the strength of her bones.
They don't stop traveling, though. Everywhere, he promises her. They just visit places that are easier for her to walk around, more of a holiday than an adventure. When adventures come, she shoos him away to run and save the day while she waits behind at the console like the command center.
She starts to show the signs of Alzheimer's and he takes her to 2122 for the cure.
She winces as the needle pricks the thin skin of her forearm. "Not a cure for aging out there, is there?"
"Not unless you want to become a half-scorpion monster."
"Become my Mum? Are you bonkers?"
They laugh together and despite how different they look in age the pharmacists still confuse them as being married.
That'll stop being funny one day. Not yet, though.
"I apologize, Dr. Smith, I don't want to interrupt you and your wife---"
"We're not married."
"So not married."
The cat nurse nods slowly, a little confused, then hands the Doctor Donna's medical chart. He flips through it and his hearts sink. Nothing that can just be fixed, Donna's in the best physical condition she can be for her age. She's just…old.
The nurse leaves them alone in the hospital room, a Time Lord and his best friend for the last 45 years. Not nearly enough time, he says. They've got too much running left to do, too many shops she hasn't shopped in, too many reruns of the West Wing for him to inflict her with.
She laughs and despite its brittle, dry nature, it still warms his heart to hear it.
"Felt like I could run forever," she says, tilting her head to look over at him. He puts a hand to the side of her face, wiping a tear from the creases around her eyes. He can feel that she's in pain and it's one of the many things he wishes he could just pull away from her. There has to be something he can do but there isn't and that hurts.
"Stop blaming yourself, Space Man. Even with the pout it's not a good look on you."
He chuckles, sadly, at her words. For the first time in as long as he can remember, he can't figure out what to say. It feels like anything would come off as…less than what she means to him.
"I love you," she says.
He smiles though his eyes are dark with tears. "Donna, we've already had this discussion. Mates, remember?"
He imagines she'd snort if the oxygen tube wasn't in the way. "Oh, get off."
Her smile is small and thin and his is pained and aching but they're smiling and that's the best way for them to be in this moment, he thinks. She's brought him so many smiles when he thought he didn't have them in him anymore.
"Thank you," he says. For so much. For everything. It's not enough, but it's something and from the way Donna's smile upturns just the slightest bit more, maybe it's enough for her.
The heart monitor blips and Donna winces. "Don't leave me."
"I won't," he says. "We've got forever, you and I."
It's never forever and he's fooling himself if he tries to think that her heart will last much longer than the end of the day. But he's too selfish to let her go. Not yet.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 2,046