She circles the TARDIS in confusion, her blue eyes wide and stunned. She steps inside, then out, then circles 'round it, then back in. She touches the coral walls and then hops out and runs her hands along the wooden outside.
"Bigger on the inside?" Donna, Martha, and the Doctor all reply with fond grins. Her excitement and confusion is something the Doctor's come to expect out of new companions. He will never admit it, of course, but he's actually quite glad she is excited. It wouldn't be any fun if she wasn't.
"Transdimensional interface," he calls out to his daughter.
She runs her hand along the door. "Transdimensional interface." She repeats the words with the same awed voice one hears in children talking about magic.
"We're never going to leave Messaline," Martha says with a sigh, crossing her arms. She starts, then digs for her phone in her pocket. "I should text Tom, he'll be worried, calling my flat and I'm not there." She turns and walks deeper into the TARDIS, the only thing on her mind the man waiting for her back home.
The Doctor leans against the console, watching Jenny run around and Donna leans against his shoulder.
"It's like this with all of them, isn't it?" she asks. "All your companions? Run around, act like it's the most amazing thing they've ever seen?"
"Yep, well, except you. You refused to be excited about it."
"I'm difficult like that," she grins at him. "Glad you decided to take her with you?"
He looks back as Jenny hops up the ramp towards the console. He's not sure it's going to work out, the three of them on board, but he's certainly willing to try.
"It's amazing. This is amazing!" Jenny's grin takes up most of her face.
"She's amazing. The TARDIS is a living being, you know," the Doctor says, pointedly, his own grin growing.
"Bigger on the inside, takes you to anywhere in the universe and alive?" Jenny touches the side of the console in awe. "Is there anything the TARDIS can't do?"
"Make a decent cup of coffee," Donna remarks with a smirk. "Honestly, the food in that kitchen is rubbish. Make sure your old Dad doesn't try to convince you to eat anything in there."
"Oi, I went shopping," the Doctor says, crossing his arms.
"Yeah? How many decades ago?"
The Doctor scowls. Jenny laughs. Donna crosses her arms, triumphant. The Doctor is clearly outnumbered and this could prove to be a bit of a situation.
Martha rearrives, phone securely in her pocket.
"We ready to go?" she asks.
"Right! Off to time and space, then?" He hops around the console, flipping switches and turning dials. Jenny's eyes go wide as she tries to figure out the methods he's using to initiate flight. Martha sighs and sits in the captain's chair. Donna leans back against one of the coral columns and watches Jenny and her father interact.
It's very nearly like having a family preparing to go on a long road trip. Granted, the long road trip will only take a maximum of ten minutes and they're going to drop Martha off (and get lunch, Donna and Jenny insist). But still, it's more of a family than the Doctor's had in years.
And where's the first place they go? London, England. The Doctor couldn't be more thrilled to take his daughter to his favorite planet. They hug Martha good-bye and he leads his companions down to the waterfront.
"What's so special about Earth?" Jenny asks, sniffing the cold, wet air.
"It's his favorite planet," Donna says, with no small amount of pride. "And, really, it should be for how often we land here."
"With good reason," the Doctor adds, waving a finger in Donna's direction. "The favorite-planet, not the landing. The landing's really just random chance. You know how the TARDIS can be."
"I'm sure it has nothing to do with the pilot."
Jenny nods, enthusiastically, trying to keep up with their conversation. "What's the reason?" she asks, "For it being your favorite planet?"
The Doctor looks back at his daughter. She's all bright-eyed and full of curiosity. He rubs the back of his neck and tries to work out what to say to her in reply. How to explain the worlds he's been to and the terrible things that've happened? How to explain that Earth took him in when he had no home? How to explain that humans are just so amazing and perfect and beautiful for all of their many, many flaws.
"I'll tell you when you're older."
"I don't understand."
Jenny tilts her head as the music around them changes again. It's a slow ballad and the Doctor hops from foot to foot, uncomfortable in his tuxedo. He hates dressing up, but this is one of those occasions where dressing up is necessary.
It's the first time Jenny has seen her father outside of a suit since she met him, though to be honest it's the first time he's seen Jenny in a dress. Oh, Donna tried desperately to get the girl to try on the various clothes in the TARDIS and insisted they go shopping together, but Jenny always ended up picking out clothes that were really just a variation on her t-shirt and cargo pants from back on Messaline. Like her father, she's decided she likes a style and sticks with it, just in a variety of colors.
Well, Donna's never found a suitable shopping companion. But the Doctor has walked by her room to see her and Jenny painting each other's toenails and watching sappy romantic films.
And it's quite obvious that the light green dress the girl is wearing was picked out by Donna. Jenny always thinks of any accessory in its practicality, carrying weight, and the statistical probability she will actually use it. Donna always thinks of things in terms of prettiness. This dress is clingy in places that the Doctor doesn't approve of, and is probably not the sort of dress one could run in (though Jenny's refused to budge on her combat boots, and they poke out at the bottom of the long, sparkly hem). Donna's dress is much more subdued, a pretty shade of sparkly blue. She's unwittingly taken the more maternal role, even in the dresses she wears.
Though neither of them can quite match Martha's dress. They're not really supposed to.
"So it's basically a very complicated mating ritual," Jenny whispers to Donna, watching Martha and Tom dance. Jenny managed to stay quiet in the ceremony, but the moment the reception started, she's been nothing but questions.
"Sort of," Donna whispers back. "It's more a symbol that they're going to be together forever. Symbolizing how much they love each other."
"Can't they just know they love each other? Why do they have to symbolize it?"
"It's more of a way to show everyone that they're for each other forever. That way no one will question them."
"Do people question them?"
"Well, I love Dad. Should I marry him? Or you! Can I marry you, Donna?"
"No, honey. It's a different sort of love. Romantic love."
"What does that mean?"
Blimey, the Doctor is glad he has Donna here for this. He can only barely contain himself from giggling, just listening to them. He thinks if he were in Donna's position, he would take the whole conversation much more seriously. Which would mean concentrating on the conversation. Which would mean he would not be able to concentrate on his former companion and her new husband.
He's known for a long while now that Martha would never come back to the TARDIS, never forgive him and start traveling again. He can't help but blame himself, all the mixed signals he only now realizes he was sending her.
But then Martha looks up at Tom. She's beaming a brilliant smile and the Doctor can't feel guilty. He can't feel guilty because she's not unhappy. As a matter of fact, she looks thrilled. Love will do that to a person.
"So you have to be in love and not just love to get married," Jenny says, crossing her arms and making a little face. "This sounds like we're arguing semantics."
Donna is impossibly patient with Jenny. For all of her attitude with the rest of the universe, she's a brilliant mother. "In love generally means two people who---"
"Or more," the Doctor interjects, offhandedly. "Planetary differences."
"Like on Santhymum?" Jenny inquires.
"Oi. Universal schmuerversal, Space Man. You want to confuse the girl more than she already is?" Well, she's not very motherly with the Doctor.
He grins back at them, then steps out on the dance floor over to the bride and groom. He asks to cut in and Tom takes a step back, offering him Martha. She's beautiful and warm in his arms.
"You all right?" he asks her. "Settling down, having a husband? Living the normal, domesticated still-save-the-world-in-time-for-dinner life?"
"Could say the same for you," Martha replies. "Got yourself a grown-up daughter in five minutes. And garnering a lot of attention in that outfit."
"Yeah, I noticed that too." Fortunately, Jenny doesn't seem to have noticed. "Donna picked it out."
"Not one for shopping are you, Mr. Smith?"
"Thought we were talking about you." His face grows serious. "Are you happy?" It's really all that matters, in his opinion. Once they leave him, they think they have the right to just live their lives like they want, but to the Doctor they are still his responsibility. They still need to be happy, otherwise he's failed them.
Martha looks up at him and her smile is at once brilliant and nostalgic. "Yes."
It's enough. He spins her around in time to the music and she moves back into his arms. It's a dance that could be awkward, but it isn't. The boundaries set up by the rings on her finger are enough to keep her heart safe.
"Is Martha in love with Dad?" Jenny asks.
Donna sighs. "She used to be."
"So she stopped? Can you stop being in love?"
"It's not all that easy," Donna says. "Love is complicated."
Donna shakes her head. "I'll tell you when you're older."
"I don't understand."
The Doctor is about to win ten quid.
Especially after Martha's wedding, Donna has decided that Jenny needs to have 'the Talk' to understand all the sexual protocols and procedures (a much nicer way of saying 'ins and outs' and a way that doesn't dissolve the Doctor and Donna into immature giggles). She's five years old, now. That's a sign that she needs to be more grown-up, in Donna's opinion.
The Doctor, however, knows that sexuality is implanted into the minds of the Progenation children, and Jenny therefore does not need to be put through the torment of a 'birds and the bees' conversation. Granted, she probably still just thinks of it as a tool, like the many times she's grinned teasingly at guards or knowledgeable scientists to extract information or escape out of them. She never goes beyond kissing---thank the Sisters---but she knows what she's doing when she flirts.
Donna says that is not proof of actual knowledge. Progenation children think that all little babies come out of a machine and therefore she needs to know.
After some arguing, it was decided that Donna would have this conversation with Jenny and the Doctor would just deal with it. And if the conversation turns out to be necessary, then Donna gets ten quid. If the Doctor is right, then he gets ten quid. This is how a lot of their arguments end.
"They use it for recreation, though?" Jenny scrunches up her face as the Doctor steps into the kitchen to get some tea. Donna is sitting across from her, looking completely exasperated.
"Not recreation, exactly. It's more of a way to show affection towards someone. A sort of bonding experience, physically and emotionally."
"Some cultures believe you can't have sex without marriage," Donna says, "But it's more important that you think of sex as something you do with someone you love."
"And love is very complicated," Jenny says with a very serious nod. She's been talking a lot about how serious love is lately. It makes the Doctor a little nervous.
She's only five, after all. It doesn't matter that her brain and body are more developed. She's not emotionally ready to run off and deal with blokes (or whatever else she might run into). Or maybe the Doctor's just not emotionally ready to let her go just yet.
Donna continues, "Not familial love, though. You can't go off and shag a family member."
"Not familial affection," Jenny agrees, nodding emphatically. "So I would not have sex with Dad, but I could have sex with you."
"No," the Doctor interjects, quickly, at the same time as Donna.
Donna shoots him a look. "No, sweetheart. I'm not a romantic love to you, right? And I'm not into girls."
"That's the sexual preference you said, yes? How some people aren't attracted to members of a certain sex?" Jenny looks like she understands for half a second, then shakes her head, completely confused.
"Chemical brain differentials," the Doctor says, stirring his tea. "Sorry, Donna, I do know this bit."
Donna waves her hand.
"You mean the chemicals in a person's brain determine whether or not they'll be attracted to a member of a certain sex?" Jenny asks.
"Mmmm. In humans. Donna lacks the chemical gene to attract her towards women. Seeing as you and I don't have the same chemical makeup as humans, you don't have to worry about that."
"So, what? I've just spent the last twenty minutes explaining this to her for nothing?" Donna snaps. "Why didn't you---"
"I did warn you."
Donna sighs, stands up, and hands over ten quid. The Doctor grins at her triumphantly. He doesn’t need the money, but he does so like winning. Donna scowls and his grin only grows a little wider.
"You and Dad aren't family and you love each other. Everyone thinks that you're married," Jenny states, looking over at them curiously. "Is that because you two have sex?"
The Doctor and Donna turn and look back at their almost-daughter in surprise.
"No!" they say in unison.
"Why not?" Jenny asks, so innocent and curious it's downright painful.
The Doctor looks at Donna, who in turn looks back at him. She's not unattractive, and he's long since admitted to himself that he loves her. But that 'friend love versus romantic love' conversation is probably the most awkward of them all and they've yet to completely explain it to Jenny in a way she'll understand.
They talk in unison again. "We'll tell you when you're older."
"I don't understand."
He doesn't know how to explain aging.
As the Doctor and Jenny don't age, it's easy to forget that Donna is aging, quite quickly, before their eyes. Her ginger hair has taken on long chunks of gray, then white. The Doctor doesn't even notice until Jenny approaches him, asking if one day she'll grow white in her hair. Of course, why would she know about aging? They've never stayed anywhere longer than a few days at a time, the only constants in their lives being the TARDIS and its inhabitants. He doesn't know how to tell his daughter that her almost-mother is getting older, so he tells her not to worry about it and sets the TARDIS for another adventure.
He looks across the console at his aged companion. She still has that brilliant smile, still hugs Jenny with so much vigor. She still stays up late with him, leaning against his eternally-young shoulder and teasing him about his parenting skills. He still loves her like he did when she first became his companion. She's still got so much time, he thinks. Of course she has time.
He refuses to think she has anything but time.
Even though Donna can't run as fast as she used to, she still runs with them. Her legs are stronger than any humans' her age. They make it back to the TARDIS with only seconds to spare and they're out of breath and exhilarated.
"Love the running," Jenny says, as she has pretty much every day for the last thirty years. The last twenty-nine of them have been followed up with Donna saying 'Are you going to say that every time we get back to the TARDIS?'
But not this time. The Doctor turns back to his friend just in time to catch her as she falls, her hand clutching her other arm. Her eyes roll back in her head and the Doctor barks to Jenny to set the coordinates to somewhere, anywhere.
Jenny lands them in an extravagant hospital on Corleas, somewhere far in the future. The Doctor carries Donna into the emergency area and the medical doctors take her back. Initial diagnosis comes out that she may have had a heart attack. ("You mean their heart can actually attack them?" Jenny asks with wide eyes.) At her age, for a human? What were they thinking, having her run around like that?
The Doctor sits in the waiting room with a cup of horrible stewed water and waits. Jenny paces. He thinks about his youth, he thinks about sitting in a hospital on Gallifrey while his father (who looked about his age at that point) sat waiting for word on his fragile human mother. He remembers being furious at his father.
"Why did you love her, if she wasn't going to live that long?"
"How could I not?"
It was the only time the Doctor could remember his father being romantic.
He looks up as the emergency tech comes out, pulling the surgical mask down off his snouted face.
"I'm sorry," he says in a rough but sympathetic tone. "There was nothing we could do, she's gone."
Jenny shakes her head, letting out a bark of a laugh. "Don't be silly. Donna said she would never leave."
The Doctor goes quiet. It's not fair. He couldn't even say good-bye. He couldn't tell her how brilliant she was back there, or how brilliant she was the day before. He couldn't watch the West Wing with her, or argue about his piloting abilities.
He looks up at Jenny. He most certainly can't raise Jenny on his own.
"Miss," the emergency tech says. "I'm sorry, she's dead."
Jenny blinks and looks impossibly young in that moment. "What do you mean, dead? She can't be dead. Why would she be dead?"
"Her heart, Miss. Seventy-three is an old age for humans." He puts a hand to the Doctor's shoulder, then leaves.
Part of the Doctor has just died. He can feel a cold place in between his hearts where Donna used to be. He thinks about flying away, quickly away. Anywhere else, anything that can distract him.
But the quiet sobbing next to him is just a sign that he can't run anymore.
Jenny is crying. Tears run down her cheeks and she hugs herself, hiccupping to try to get herself together. She looks genuinely surprised that she's crying, and the Doctor can't think of a time he's seen his daughter cry before. A new experience, for her. One he wishes she never had to have. But everyone knows that everybody dies, and nobody knows it like the Time Lords.
"I knew," she says. "I knew she would die eventually. Humans all die. But she didn't---she shouldn't have to die now."
The Doctor puts a hand to her shoulder and Jenny cries harder, running into his arms to hug him. He thinks about how his own father pushed him away during their grief, so instead he wraps his arms around Jenny and holds her as she cries into his shoulder.
"It hurts. I don't like how much it hurts. It's like shrapnel is stuck in my hearts. It's rolling around through my cardiovascular system and everything hurts."
He closes his eyes and while he promised Donna he'd never cry over her, he can't help himself. "I know."
Jenny pulls back, suddenly. "She'll need a soldier's burial. Nothing less for Donna. And we'll have to set up a pyre, get some fuel---"
"No." His voice is a lot louder than he intended. Jenny looks frightened.
"I don't understand."
The Doctor shakes his head. "Donna was a lot of things, but she was never a soldier." He could burn the Master at a pyre and it felt right. He was cruel and calculating and a soldier just like the Doctor. Donna abhorred violence (except when it came to slapping the Doctor) and she'd never …just the thought of her being considered a soldier disgusts him.
"But she was an honorable woman," Jenny insists. "We have to treat her appropriately."
Taking charge like this is her coping mechanism. She's stopped crying, she's stopped shaking, she now has something to fight for. She stands up taller in her anger. She's decided she's not backing down.
Donna was right, she's just like him.
But she's not nearly as stubborn as the Doctor, and he wins out, in the end. He wants to just leave it, let her body be buried on this planet in the manner they observe for their departed, but Jenny insists that they take her back to Earth. She's buried in a small cemetery off of London with the Doctor, Jenny, Martha, and Martha's two grandchildren observing.
The Doctor shuts down for a while after Donna's death. Jenny doesn't understand, but she respects his need for space. She asks to be dropped off on Santhymum for a while during their golden period. When he picks her back up he's better but the TARDIS still feels empty.
She doesn't grieve quite like he does. He empties his bedroom of anything Donna'd ever given him and seals her bedroom. Jenny, on the other hand, occasionally wears the green dress Donna bought her and she keeps a photo of the three of them by her bedside.
"Good night, Donna!" she says in her cheerful voice to the photo every night.
"Good morning, Donna!" she says in that same voice in the morning. The Doctor hears her when he walks past her room to get his morning cup of tea.
He can't help it; he feels jealous knowing that his daughter can move on with her grief while his still settles heavily over his hearts. He wants to move on, but it's not going to be an easy process.
His emotions don't go unnoticed. Jenny puts a hand on his shoulder and offers him a small smile. She's only thirty. But she's still so grown up.
He smiles back. He wants to tell her why he is the way he is, but he doesn't think she'll understand.
He'll tell her when she's older.
"I don't understand."
"You don't understand why I'm unhappy?"
"I just wanted to share this with you!"
Jenny has just had sex for the first time. How does the Doctor know this? He knows this because when Jenny bounced into the TARDIS after being out far later than she said she would, she announced she had sex. With some bloke she's been talking to for a while. On Santhymum, of all places.
"Why would you want to tell me you've lost your virginity?"
"Virginity? What's a virginity? I've just gained a new experience!"
He wishes Donna were here right now. He does not know how to handle this embarrassing situation. He barely knew how to handle Jenny coming home late. He spent most of the night pacing the console room, wishing Donna were there. Now he's pacing the console room again, wishing the same thing.
"Y-You can't just think about sex as some sort of an experience."
"Isn't that what it is?" she asks, tilting her head. "I've done something new, it's an experience. Besides, I friend-love As'Str'S, I don't romantic-love him! I'm not going to leave you!"
"Sex isn't some sort of a game!"
"I'm not treating it like it's a game!"
"You don't know the first thing about sexuality in the 32nd century! What if you catch some sort of a disease or break some bloke's heart?"
"Or girl's," Jenny added. "Chemical differences!"
"You don't want to break someone's heart!" the Doctor says again. "You don't know how horrible it feels to do that! And you can do that with a sexual experience that isn't for the right reasons. What if that bloke---"
"What if he feels the romantic-love for you? Hmm? Then what are you going to do?"
"He doesn't feel that way about me!" Jenny insists. The Doctor has met As'Str'S. It's painfully obvious how the young Santhymumian feels about her. She's amazingly oblivious, and that's just further proof how much of her father's daughter she truly is.
The Doctor puts his hands on his hips. "And if he does? Sex can strengthen those emotions and the feeling of connection. You could ruin your friendship with him because of this!"
"It won't be ruined! You don't understand me at all! I'm 75 years old! I know how to handle myself!" She storms off to her room.
Without Donna, these arguments have become more frequent than he wants to admit. He doesn't understand her and she doesn't understand him. She tries to get him involved in things he doesn't want to be involved in. She tries to get him to listen to the Ft'Ras'Ys and he tries to get her to listen to the Beatles.
The multi-century age gap between father and daughter is starting to show.
He leans his head against the coral wall of the TARDIS and wishes he knew how to make things better. He can't even get a reasonable conversation out of her anymore. All they do is argue, when they aren't running.
Though they still love the running. No matter how much they fight, no matter how much they don't understand each other, they'll always have that.
The next day, she comes back to the TARDIS looking different. The smile she always seems to have on her face is gone, replaced by something that might even be considered quiet contemplation. It looks strange on her face.
He pulls off his glasses and looks over the console at her.
She blinks and looks over at him, almost as if she's surprised he's there. "Hi, Dad." The quiet response is startling. He doesn't know what to make of a daughter who suddenly doesn't complete run-on sentences with an excited bounce.
He crosses the console room and puts a hand to her shoulder. "What happened?"
"Did you know?" she asks. "About As'Str'S?"
"That he loves you?" the Doctor asks. "Romantic-love loves you?"
"Yeah, I've known a while."
She bites her top lip and looks miserable, but she won't cry. Tears are for special occasions, like the death of a loved one. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"You're 75 years old, Jenny. I had to let you find out for yourself."
"Make my own mistakes you mean?"
"Everyone makes them."
"He hates me now."
"He won't forever."
"That's not what he said." Jenny shakes her head. He wonders if her hearts are broken. He hopes they aren't. He doesn't want to think about Jenny in that sort of pain.
After all, he's had his broken more times than he can count.
"Love is very complicated," she announces with a nod.
"That it is," he agrees. He takes a breath. "You all right?"
She nods, and she takes in a deep, steadying breath. "I'm always all right."
He could laugh, hearing her say those words. Ever her father's daughter. But he thinks about what Donna said once after Messaline, about 'really, really not all right.' He lets Jenny go back to her room without saying anything.
He'll tell her about that one day, he thinks.
When she's older.
"I don't understand."
Jenny's fallen in love.
She doesn't realize it, of course, but the Doctor can see it. It's not with a person or an idea, it's with a place. A world, a time, a blip in the radar of the universe.
She loves Santhymum.
He figures it out when she insists on going there for her 125th birthday, as she's insisted every year since she was 20. She knows all of the Santhymumian holidays, she knows most of the pop culture, and she's made him drag along a few of the planet's inhabitants as companions.
He can't see the appeal in their race, but she loves it. She loves them for all their headstrong, soldier ways and their uncivilized lifestyle. And they, in turn, love her. She's not quite like them, but that's all right. She fits in, mostly.
It's her Earth.
He doesn't have the heart to tell her what happens to the planet after the Time War, but eventually they land there. Eventually she sees the destruction and the pain inflicted on her favorite alien race.
They stay two weeks to help, and then leave for an adventure. She wants to go back, they stay another three weeks. She asks to stay a little longer.
There's a Santhymumian woman named Gr'Rit'A with clear skin and tall antlers that makes Jenny smile in a tiny, secret way she doesn't think her father notices. He does. The woman's taloned hands slip into Jenny's while they work and Jenny seems to glow.
It's been a month. He's been ready to go since day one. His feet itch and the TARDIS whirrs in his mind. But Jenny's not ready to leave yet. One more week, she promises, as she runs off to the work sites. He looks down at the console and thinks that if he insisted they were going, Jenny would go with him.
Because she's never going to leave him. Not while she thinks he needs her.
And she's old enough, now. She's old enough that she'll understand.
He packs a sack with her clothes, her green dress, some money, his PO Box address, and the photo of her, him, and Donna, the one she still says 'good night' and 'good morning' to. He writes down some of the many things he's wanted to tell her over her lifetime in a book, labels it 'the Journal of Impossible Things' and puts it in the bag. She won't want to stay in this timeline forever, she is his daughter after all, so he extracts a growing piece of the TARDIS and puts it in the bag as well with instructions how to care for it.
He places the bag outside the ship and turns off the locks so she can't get in.
He considers leaving without a good-bye. He's terrible at them. He wishes Donna were here. He never got to say good-bye to Donna, either.
There's a slam at the front door and he can hear Jenny's voice through the walls, calling for him to let her in. He flips on the monitor. She's covered in Santhymum dirt and Gr'Rit'A is by her side.
She's home and she doesn't even know it.
"Dad, I don't understand! Let me in!"
She'll understand eventually. He thinks about the last time he stood in this position, his only family standing out there, crying for him to let her in.
He hits the intercom.
"One day," he says. "I shall come back."
Jenny shakes her head in disbelief. "No, Dad! Don't go!"
"Until then, there must be no tears, no regrets, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine."
Jenny's crying, he can see the little tear marks run down her face, but she nods. She truly does understand, now. And it's not the end, not really. He'll come back, or she'll write him a letter, and it'll never really be over.
After all, they both have so much running left to do.
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 5,735
This would never have been written without the inspiration and considerable help of the amazing morethananecho