All Things In This Wide World
“Is it the dream again, love?”
Donna jumped, startled, then smiled at her husband. “Yes. Woke me up again.” Bloody hot flashes, she knew she was too young for menopause, but sometimes the dreams had her waking up in a sweat, panting from the heat, too uncomfortable to think about the details until they’d slipped away completely. “Bollocks, it’s gone again.”
“Maybe that’s for the best,” said Shaun, rolling over and stretching.
Donna just nodded, curling up her legs and wrapping her arms around them as she stared out the window. The stars were starting to fade as the sun came up, but she looked at them, frowning slightly, thinking.
The stars. Something there, something about them, fit in with her dreams. She twined her fingers, moving the tip of her index finger over the smooth gold of her wedding band. Flash.
Another man, another marriage, children. It had never happened to her, a dream within a dream, something missing. Had to find the reality in the fantasy, and get back to the library.
Sapphire skies. Danger in the air, beauty under glass. Frozen mountains taller than any in Tibet. Carrying their brains in their hands. Monsters made of lava. Save just one family.
Staring at the spine of an Agatha Christie novel and remembering her face not from the black-and-white photos of the author, but her smiling, laughing, or screaming in fear. Donna Noble has left the library.
Wasps. Who was afraid of a tiny little wasp?
No, a bloody huge wasp, the size of an auto.
Donna pressed her forehead to her knees, closing her eyes. The flashes used to bring headaches, as well, but those had eased up recently. Now the ache was slight, and passing, and she could breathe her way through. A nice hot cup of tea would ease all the rest of the strange aches. Was it Mum who always said that? Someone else, too. Flash.
These aches weren’t physical, but some other sort of pain, an ache of longing. Something missing.
She eased her way out of bed and went to the kitchen to start the morning’s tea, happy to have a cup or two before Shaun got up. Since they’d won the lottery they only worked at what they wanted to, Donna puttering around their house and making it as homey as possible, while Shaun had thrown himself into the volunteer work he adored. It was a good life, a wonderful life, and Donna knew she was happy.
The only bad thing was when the dreams made her certain that something, something important, was missing. Something that made people whisper near her, or abruptly stop talking when she entered the room.
Idly scratching at the back of her neck, Donna sat down with her third cup of tea. The sky was turning orange as the sun rose, and that seemed wonderfully correct, orange. As though the sky was always supposed to be orange.
“Morning, love,” Shaun sang as he bustled into the room, wearing his favorite jeans and Community Outreach Volunteer shirt. Donna brightened at the sight of his face and she tilted hers to his for a kiss. “Oh, joy, oatmeal.”
“I should have cooked you something better, but I’m afraid I wasn’t focused enough,” she apologized.
“Stop, you know I love it,” he answered. He was always so sunshiney, her Shaun, she was so glad they didn’t have to live with Mum and Granddad anymore. Shaun never tip-toed around her with those sad expressions, whispering together in corners and jumping guiltily whenever Donna walked into the room. She watched with satisfied pleasure as Shaun sprinkled sugar and raisins on his oatmeal and added a generous dollop of clotted cream.
“I swear, I could make you mud for your supper and you’d love it,” she accused him. He smiled.
“Of course I would, if you made it.” He scraped out his bowl, swallowed the last of his tea, then bounded to his feet. “I’m off. Have a good day.” They kissed again, and Donna smiled up at him.
“You, too,” she told him.
Today she’d planned on widening their garden and adding a row of roses down the walk. That called for a quick trip into town for the plants. She needed some mulch, too, she realized, going through her inventory swiftly, and could use a new pad to save her knees. Donna drove down the hill feeling very chipper despite her truncated night’s sleep, because she did enjoy shopping. She always came home with more than she had planned.
It was an extremely fruitful trip. Donna loaded her packages into the bonnet and slammed it, then turned and bumped into a gangly man with unruly hair who was hurrying past on the walk. He looked at her a moment with deep-set, earnest eyes, and then he was gone, speeding on past her, leaving only a sensation of intense familiarity.
Donna felt her world tilt a little. She gripped her car and the flashes came, faster and sharper, and every one a little clearer than the previous one, as though her brain were putting together a jigsaw puzzle, and in a few heartbeats as her body heated up and then cooled down again, she saw the whole picture, everything, and the next wave of heat that flashed through her had nothing to do with her dreams.
It was plain fury.
“OI!” she shouted at the top of her lungs, spinning toward the rapidly retreating gangly man. “Space boy!”
He stopped as though he’d run into an invisible brick wall, almost jerking backward. Donna confronted him with her hands on her hips, waiting for him to turn, wanting to look him in the face. He didn’t turn. Instead, he started moving again, carefully setting one oversized foot down in front of the other, his balance just slightly off, his arms starting to windmill.
Donna barked, “Turn around and face me, you sodding arrogant pissant alien!” she demanded, her voice going shrill. She didn’t care if anyone heard her, if anyone saw, but apparently he did. He whirled around, a strange manic expression on his face, and nearly grinned.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” he asked with a certain amount of forced pleasantry.
“Do you know me, oh, you are pathetic! You think I don’t know about regeneration?” she tapped her forehead as panic settled into his new eyes. “You thought I’d never remember! You thought you were rid of me! Think again, sunshine! I remember!” She did shout that last, shouted it loudly, so angry now she could hardly think straight.
With that, he closed the distance between them, grabbed her arms, and looked down at her with that stranger’s face and stranger’s eyes with that familiar expression in them, wary and frightened and she knew, deep inside, that he was frightened for her and not angry with her. “How?” he asked.
“You should have known that my human half would be able to handle the Time Lord presence given time to compensate!” she managed to somehow refrain from shouting at him this time. She was furious, she was hurt, but somehow she also understood, understanding because he was still a part of her, and the analysis of her “Doctor” half was starting to work just as it had done when she’d saved the world.
SHE SAVED THE WORLD. And that wasn’t just a saying, she’d actually, really, saved the entire globe. She had, Donna, the “Doctor/Donna,” and she hadn’t been allowed to know that! She drew a deep breath, forcing herself to keep calm.
“I wasn’t going to burn if I was kept at a proper stress level, eased into the hybridization gradually. Yes, of course I was having problems during the actual crisis, but didn’t it occur to you that it would eventually reach a maintainable level? You didn’t think that the other half of the Doctor/Donna was going to have this problem, you didn’t strip him of memories, did you? Oh, no, for some reason he was able to survive all right! Why’d you think so highly of him, and not me? Just because he’s a man?”
The Doctor opened his mouth, then closed it again. He looked enormously embarrassed, as he always did when someone else out-thought him. “No, not at all! Donna, I...” he started.
Donna rolled her eyes and ran over his weak apology. “You thought he was safe, of course, because he looked like you.” She paused. “Or like your previous regeneration. But you said it to Rose. He’s human, same as me. Yet somehow, you didn’t think his brain was going to burn up.” She grabbed him by the lapels and shook him, making that silly new bow tie bob along with his floppy new hair. “And neither was I, once I stabilized. You took away three years of my life! People thought I was an imbecile when I couldn’t or didn’t remember important things! You took away everything that had meaning to me! Everything you gave me that made me a better person, the person I wanted to be! And you didn’t ask me, you just did it!”
Finally, that seemed to snap him into alertness. “Donna, I had to. You must understand, I was terrified of losing you, I was certain it was going to kill you...”
“Don’t you understand? I would have rather died than lose everything you gave to me!” Donna let him go so suddenly he stumbled backward. “And you did lose me. You lost me forever the minute you made that decision for me.”
At that moment a redheaded girl came ripping around the corner.
“Doctor!” she called, then pulled up short when she saw the two of them.
Donna looked from her to the Doctor, then back again. The Doctor had a sheepish look on his face. “She reminds me of you,” he said, and shrugged helplessly.
For a moment, Donna was insulted, then accepted the compliment for what it was. From him, that was probably all she was ever going to get. Although of course he followed it up with, “Would you like... um, do you want to come with us?”
Donna snorted loudly, and very rudely. “Of course I don’t. Not now. Oh, I would have gone with you again, in a bloody instant, even after what you did, if you’d come around sooner. But I have a life now, and I actually enjoy it. I’ll enjoy it even more, now. At least now I know why Mum and Granddad treat me like they do, and now I understand why everyone scans the news before they allow me to read anything or watch anything, and Granddad doesn’t talk about his star gazing with me anymore. God! When I think of everything I could have had, everything I did have!” She buried her face in her hands, for a few moments overwhelmed by everything. Pompeii, the Planet of the Ood, the beautiful skies of Midnight, and the deadly, quiet library, all of it. She blinked a few times, then swallowed and looked up. The Doctor and his new traveling companion were talking quietly, their heads together. Donna gripped her hands into fists. That is what it would always be like for him, she knew it. Someday this pretty new redhead would move on, and the Doctor would be alone for a while, then find someone else new.
That was the way he had always been, and she knew it. She took another deep breath and said, “I can’t go now. I have Shaun to think of. We have a good life.” She narrowed her eyes and continued, “Thanks to you. I assume you were responsible for the lottery ticket?”
“Wedding present,” he said. Apologetic. Always. Still, there was something nice about this new face. Something boyishly contrite. And somehow she knew he wasn’t as sad anymore. Regeneration had been good for him. Donna found she simply couldn’t stay angry at him. It was gone, and being angry wouldn’t bring it back.
“Come here, Space boy,” she said, grabbing him and pulling him into a tight hug. She felt him stiffen, then he relaxed, and hugged her back. “No matter what face you have on, I do love you,” she whispered. “Visit once in a while.”
“You’re my best friend, Donna. I will try,” he said, and Donna knew that was the best he’d be able to do. She turned to the little redhead.
“Watch him. He doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does,” she said.
“You don’t have to tell me that,” replied the other, then held out her hand. “Amy Pond. You’re Donna Noble.”
“Donna Temple-Noble,” she corrected, shaking the girl’s hand. “Nice to meet you.” She stepped back, almost off the curb. “Well. Goodbye, then, Doctor. Amy.”
The Doctor hesitated. He wanted to say more, but there was something that couldn’t be said, and Donna wondered how much he had lost with this regeneration. There were many Time Lord things she could remember, and many she didn’t know. For a second she almost changed her mind again, almost ran to them and begged to go along with them. After all, all her things were probably still on board the TARDIS, in the room she’d commandeered where all those other clothes had been, women’s clothes of all shapes and sizes. Always someone new. Who had worn the brown velvet jacket? Or the silvery jumpsuit? The little white sailor’s outfit? The kicky retro short dresses? The surprisingly high heels? He could bring her back right to this very minute, back to Shaun and her garden.
But she stayed where she was, and watched them go around the corner.
In a few moments, she heard the heart wrenching, familiar grinding of the TARDIS engines.
He was gone. She was herself again. But better, because she was all there. “Goodbye, Doctor,” she whispered again. Then she got into her car and took her roses home.
Although I have no earthly need for them, but I want THIS. Grabby hands, as evil_little_dog says.
This is a pretty good lesson for anyone who sees something that "might be" profitable and doesn't go for it!
Apparently, all oil companies have pretty much the same backup contingency plans for a disaster. These include saving walruses, which is of prime concern in the Gulf of Mexico.