Characters: Ten, Donna
Summary: Post 4x03. Travelling with the Doctor isn’t always easy but Donna has come to realise that even the dreadful parts are worth it. That some things have to be seen.
Beta read by fredbassett
“I beg your pardon?”
“Go to bed,” the Doctor ordered briskly, pointing at the door leading to the rest of the TARDIS’ expansive interior.
“I’m not tired,” Donna lied.
“You just yawned your way through everything I said about...well, everything!” he exclaimed indignantly. “What’s the point of me describing all the brilliant places I could take you to when you’re half asleep and not even listening properly? Did you catch a word I said?”
She shrugged. “To be honest, I don’t think most people catch even half of what you say at any time.”
And maybe he could order her to bed, or at least he could go on at her until she went just to shut him up, but he couldn’t make her sleep. Nothing could. In fact, she could barely even close her eyes. And it wasn’t the strange room stopping her from settling like it had at first.
The problem was simply too many thoughts.
Too much to try and take in.
She didn’t know how he did it, really. After all they’d seen today, how could be just brush it aside and move on to the next adventure? Practice, she supposed.
But she was still a novice at all this and eventually she gave up trying to sleep, knowing it was pointless. Instead, she rolled out of bed and wandered into the garden adjacent to her room, sitting herself on a bench overlooking the flower beds. She had no idea what the flowers were. They could be alien for all she knew, not exactly being an expert on even the basic varieties from her own planet. And why should she be? She’d never bought flowers, her mum a hay fever sufferer, and she’d never received a bunch in her life.
Not that it bothered her, she told herself. She wasn’t a ‘flowers’ kind of person anyway. Still, it was nice to have a proper garden to look at instead of the uneven patio, rundown shed and poorly mown lawn she had at home. Even if she didn’t quite understand what it was doing there. Who on earth had an en suite garden?
But, she wasn’t on Earth. He was an alien and she was in his spaceship. Maybe that was the way they’d done things back home. Maybe everyone had had an en suite garden.
Before it had all burned.
Or maybe it was just his ship being a bit weird again. Maybe it thought she needed a garden for some reason. She’d quickly given up trying to fathom out what the vessel was all about, guessing that she was never meant to understand it and coming to just one solid conclusion; there clearly was something not quite right about it. Not necessarily in a bad way, but it was something she was sure she’d never get her head around. Something beyond the ability to time travel and the being bigger on the inside. Perhaps that was why it was the only place she was unwilling to explore. She could cope with the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom parts of it, the domestic and almost normal areas, but she was sure there was far more back there, places that she’d probably be happier not knowing about. It could go on for miles. It could go on forever. Or it could end in the next corridor. Either way she’d developed a healthy enough respect for the place to warn her off of poking her nose into parts where it may not be wanted. Or where it might get chopped off.
Although, to be fair, she never felt like she was in much danger when the Doctor was around. Which was pretty laughable considering how many times she’d been in proper, mortal peril since she’d met him. He just had that knack of reassuring people that it’d be all right, that he was looking out for them. She could get killed just as easily crossing the road at home, she reasoned. At least here she knew someone always had her back.
She remembered how, earlier that day, he’d gripped her shoulders and pulled her behind him almost casually, putting himself between her and the gun with no fuss at all. She’d been too horrified and outraged by everything else that had been going on to take much notice at the time, but now she could appreciate it; amongst everything that had been happening, he’d been looking out for her. It was a reassuring thought. And it was probably the most chivalrous thing a bloke had ever done for her which made her smile and feel sad at the same time.
Why couldn’t she find a nice, normal, not so skinny and a lot less alien bloke back home like that?
Another wry smile flitted across her face.
“You know, I really didn’t think my flowerbeds were that amusing,” the Doctor remarked.
She held her nerve and didn’t jump even though he had managed to sneak up on her like a stalking cat.
He stood, eyeing her curiously, hands shoved in his pockets.
“Your flowerbeds?” she snorted, “I can’t see you on your hands and knees punning and weeding. Bet they’re some sort of alien flower that, like, eats the weeds for themselves, aren’t they?”
“Something like that,” he replied with a vague grin before changing the subject. “Weren’t you meant to be sleeping?”
But Donna was pretty good at misdirection herself when she wanted to be.
“And didn’t your lot ever invent central heating?” she complained, ignoring what he’d said and looking more at her goose bump covered flesh than at him, “I’ve told you before, it’s bloody freezing in here.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Might not be for you, spaceman...”
“Well, you could put your slippers on for a start.”
“I don’t have any slippers.”
“Yes, you do.”
She watched, puzzled, as he strode back through the open door to her bedroom, throwing wide the doors on the cupboard and pulling out a pair of fluffy, booty slippers.
She frowned. Less than half an hour ago she’d hung her jacket up in there and she knew they hadn’t been there then.
Part of her felt like she should be taking things like that more in her stride now, but it was curiosity that won out.
“How...How did you do that?” said asked, as he walked back in and handed them to her.
“Oh, that would be telling...” he replied, with that annoying, secretive smile.
The slippers were warm and comfortable, her toes sinking gratefully into the soft fleece inside. They were perfect and she suspected that the ship had something to do with that but she said nothing, guessing that he wouldn’t give her a straight answer even if she did ask.
Silence reigned for a moment, something that rarely seemed to happen between them. Then, as if snapping out of deep thought, he hurriedly shrugged his jacket off and put it around her shoulders before sitting down next to her.
Just as he had the day they’d met, when she’d finally stopped ranting hysterically at him. Back then she’d used the moment to get in a dig about how skinny he was. She hadn’t been prepared to like him then. Now she just mumbled a ‘thanks’.
She expected him to say something, to ask her again why she wasn’t asleep or what was bothering her, but he just sat in expectant silence until she cracked first.
“What will happen to all the captive Ood?” she asked softly, inwardly irritated by the fact that she was probably giving him exactly what he wanted, “The ones whose brains they took away? Won’t they be like...androids or something? I mean, they removed their personalities.”
When he looked at her it wasn’t with sympathy, understanding or reassurance as she might have expected, but with a mildly impressed expression. It was similar to look in his eyes when she’d so vehemently berated Halpen for not realising that the Ood hadn’t put up a fight because being born with their brains in their hands made them peaceful by necessity. She hadn’t thought it was some great revelation – after all, she’d come up with it and she wasn’t exactly someone with loads of philosophical insight on life or anything – but he’d definitely seemed impressed by her reasoning.
She’d quite liked that, to be honest. She didn’t want him to just see her as some selfish, shrieking banshee, like she’d probably appeared to him when they’d first met. She had a heart just as much as anyone else, but maybe she was just a bit more wary of letting hers show. In her experience it didn’t get you very far.
She had a brain too, not that her old life had given her much opportunity to use it.
“They’ll never be fully right but the rest of the Ood will look after them the best they can,” he explained simply, “They’re a hive. That’s what they do.”
She nodded, satisfied. She had more questions. Too many. The one that came out surprised her a little.
“Why did you want me to hear their song?”
“Why did you say ‘yes’?”
The sudden retort startled her into a more honest answer than she probably would have been prepared to give otherwise.
“Just felt like I had to know.”
He nodded, as though he entirely understood what she meant.
It wasn’t like she’d wanted to hear it, but she’d realised that she couldn’t really appreciate what was being done to them without doing so. And it had been even more awful than she could have imagined but she was glad she’d heard it nonetheless.
“How could you listen to that all the time?”
He must have seen in her face well enough that she didn’t mean the mechanics of the process. She meant how could he stand it. She hadn’t been able to. It’d had been like something squeezing and tugging at her insides, so sad and despairing it was actually painful. She’d only managed a dozen seconds before she’d asked him to take it back. She’d felt weak in that moment. As though she’d let him down somehow when she was trying so hard to be as near his equal as possible. To be strong and to help. Was it just experience that allowed him to bear it where she couldn’t?
He just shrugged in response to her question.
“You focus your attention on making it stop,” he explained, “It stirs you on.”
She supposed too, with all he’d been through with his own planet, nothing seemed quite so overwhelming in comparison, but she wasn’t about to mention that.
Then, almost oddly, he smiled.
“You’re not the same woman I met on your wedding day, Donna Noble.”
He seemed pleased by the fact.
“I don’t think anyone’s the same after meeting you,” she replied with blunt honesty. He looked troubled at that, maybe wondering what she meant by it and so she added, “In a good way.”
No, things weren’t always sunshine, kittens and roses when travelling with the Doctor. She’d been more the guilty of idealising the notion of travelling with him and the harsh reality of it had been a sharp kick in the teeth. But when she looked at the big picture, the good far outweighed the bad, especially when she realised just how much it had changed her.
She had changed the day she’d met the Doctor. In fact, she knew the precise the moment of the change. It had been when she’d seen the beginnings of Earth, the dust and rock swirling, the infancy of the planet in its earliest stages. She’d been crying over Lance’s betrayal, so focused on that that she barely cared what the Doctor was banging on about. But all her problems had paled into pathetic insignificance when the he’d beckoned her over and showed her the view outside the TARDIS. He’d known she was upset, she was sure of that, but he hadn’t offered her commiserations or sympathy. Instead he’d shown her something wonderful. A spectacular distraction. A way to forget. She wasn’t sure it was entirely healthy to just brush things off like that but she had a feeling he did it a lot.
Since then she’d seen many more things, some wonderful and some terrible. All of them were changing her.
She liked it.
“Thank you,” she said solemnly, in a moment of clarity. “Thank you for bringing me along.”
A slow smile crept across his face.
“Oh. I wasn’t aware I had a choice.”
There was a fondness in his mocking and she smiled in return.
“You didn’t. But thanks anyway.”
“Still haven’t changed your mind then?”
His tone was light but there was an underlying seriousness there. She’d told she wanted to go home earlier that day, that the universe he showed her was terrible and sad and nothing like what she’d hoped. He’d looked so alarmed when she’d said that, but he’d had no time to respond before they’d been caught and other things had been on their minds.
“And why would I want to do that?” she pressed, not willing to just let the matter drop with a simple ‘no’.
He shrugged. “You seemed disappointed.”
The notion clearly didn’t sit well with him. He wanted his companions to love everything they saw. He’d revelled in her excitement when they’d first landed, her thrill spurring his on. She couldn’t imagine him travelling alone and not being able to share that with anyone. She wondered if she was the first to ever point out to him how horrible things were out there, the first to not be able to see the good things beyond all the suffering. The first to say she didn’t want to see anymore.
Maybe she had been disappointed. For a moment. But then she’d begun to think about it, think about the fact that them landing on that planet, totally by chance it seemed, had allowed them to help the Ood to be free.
It was worth the horrible moments for things like that.
“I’m just...still adjusting,” she settled on.
“Fair enough. And I promise,” he said earnestly, “I’ll take you somewhere brilliant next. No sadness. No slavery. No handcuffs. I’ll even try not to get us killed.”
She snorted a disbelieving laugh, “That’ll be the day.”
“And definitely no more tears,” he concluded, ignoring what she’d said.
“Oh I don’t know,” she shrugged, “Maybe tears are important. I mean, someone should see this stuff, right? Otherwise nothing would ever get done about it and we’d never learn, would we?”
He was looking at her again, thoughtful and with a hint of something that was almost like pride.
“And it hasn’t been all bad,” she added lightly, slightly embarrassed by his scrutiny.
“No, I suppose not.”
They shared a smile.
“Now,” she demanded, shrugging off his jacket and handing it back, “Go and turn the bloody heating up. Or at least bring me some hot chocolate. You do have that on this ship right? And nothing alien. I don’t care how good it’s supposed to be.”
He grinned like a lunatic as he stood, giving her a mock salute.
She watched him go.
Yes, she’d seen some terrible things since she’d met the Doctor and it made it all too easy to forget all the wonderful things she’d seen too. And all the people they’d helped.
She went back to bed, holding that thought.
When she awoke there was a mug of hot chocolate sitting on the side, a couple of biscuits resting on the saucer for good measure.
Somehow it was still warm.