Pairing: Ten/Donna, Ten/TARDIS (sort of)
Genre: Angst, hurt/comfort
Length: Oneshot, 1850 words
Description: The Doctor is grieving after he loses Donna, and the TARDIS wants to help.
Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the BBC, not to me.
Note: Post "Journey's End." I know that in JE, the Doctor lost more than just Donna. But for the purposes of this fic, the loss of Donna is what he's grieving about most. Warning: Lots and lots of angst.
The TARDIS was worried.
The Doctor could feel her concern, washing over him in waves. He rolled over in bed, a little irritably, because right now he just wanted to be left alone.
“I’m fine,” he grumbled.
She didn’t agree. He got the mental equivalent of a poke. You’ve been in bed too long, the sentient machine seemed to be saying. Get up, get up.
He didn’t agree. It had only been a day since he’d dropped Donna Noble off at her mother’s house for the last time. Well, maybe two days. Three at the outside. And after everything that had happened, everything he’d been through lately, he was very, very tired. That was the only reason he was still dressed in pyjamas and curled up in bed. It had nothing to do with depression, or missing his best mate, or the lack of someone to talk to. He was just tired.
“Go away,” he muttered. “Leave me alone.”
The TARDIS hummed unhappily. He rolled over in bed, burying his face in the pillow and thinking about Donna. The way she’d begged him not to take her memories—the way she’d cried as he stripped them from her—the way he’d left her behind in Chiswick, and she hadn’t even recognized him, hadn’t even cared that he was leaving—
Well. Of course she hadn’t recognized him. That had, after all, been the idea. She mustn't ever remember him, or her mind would burn. Intellectually, he understood that. But it still hurt terribly to know that his best mate no longer remembered all the things they’d done together. It hurt to know that she’d never hug him again, or smack his shoulder, or call him Martian, or…
He drew in a deep, shuddering breath, and pressed his face harder into the pillow. Not to hold back tears, but just because the pillow was nice and soft and he was still very tired.
Get up? The TARDIS sounded almost plaintive. Please?
“No,” he mumbled into the pillow. “Go ‘way.”
The TARDIS uttered an unhappy sigh, and for a moment there was silence, and a cessation of her anxious presence in his mind. Grateful to be left alone, he wrapped his arms around the pillow and buried his face in it harder than before.
And then a familiar but different presence brushed at his mind, and he jolted in surprise.
He didn’t hear words, but he felt her there, fond and brisk and a little impatient. He could almost hear her saying, Oi, Spaceman, what are you doing lying around when there’s work to be done? Get up and have a cuppa, for heaven’s sake!
He jerked to a sitting position, looking around his room wildly. “Donna?”
But of course she wasn’t there. No one was on board the TARDIS except him. He was all alone.
He blinked, and pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead. Going senile, he thought grimly. Or crazy. He wasn’t sure which one would be worse, but neither sounded appealing.
The presence brushed his mind again, and he shuddered. “Donna,” he breathed.
But Donna wasn’t here. He’d left her back on Earth, in the care of her mother and Wilf. Was he really going crazy, then, or…?
A light dawned, and he looked up at the TARDIS. “How did you do that?”
He felt her give the equivalent of a shrug, which didn’t surprise him. She couldn’t explain how she did half the things she did. She just did them. Much of what was easy, obvious, and instinctive for her was impossible for any other sentient being.
But he thought he understood. She’d been in Donna’s head for a year now. She had psychic impressions of Donna—and all his other companions, for that matter—stored away in her memory banks. Afterimages of Donna’s mind, rather like the blurry but recognizable image one saw for a moment after glancing into a bright light and then looking away. She’d just shared one of those impressions with him, probably thinking it would help ease his sorrow.
“Don’t do that again,” he told her firmly. “I don’t want an… an echo of her. It’s not real.”
A pause, as if the TARDIS was contemplating his words, then Donna’s presence brushed his mind again. This time it was full of fondness and concern. A flash of Donna’s memories from some time when he’d been injured or sick or upset, he guessed. He trembled, trying not to get lost in the psychic impression.
It wasn’t real.
But it felt real.
Take a little more care, Martian, she’d said once, after he’d been injured rather badly by a spear thrown by a primitive warrior. Not that I’d miss you, but I don’t know how to fly this old tub on my own, y'know.
But her hand had been stroking his hair, and her eyes had been full of affection and worry, and he’d known she cared.
Her affection brushed over him now, and he closed his eyes, letting himself feel her, imagining her hand in his hair, imagining her right here beside him—
“No.” He spoke as firmly as he could, but he knew he didn’t sound really convincing. “Stop it.”
But of course the TARDIS wasn’t listening to his voice as much as she was listening to his mind. And inside, where he couldn’t help his reactions, he was basking in the warmth of Donna’s love and care. It might be only a memory, an echo, but it was better than the bleak loneliness he’d been feeling since he lost his best friend, and the TARDIS knew it. He couldn’t hide his reaction from her.
More echoes of Donna brushed through his mind, insubstantial as gossamer, and yet so very, very real. Her compassion. Her temper. Her strong feelings of friendship for him. Unable to stem the warm flood, he fell back on the bed, shutting his eyes and letting it all wash over him. There was nothing else he could do. The TARDIS was determined, and in this, at least, she was stronger than he was.
And maybe, just possibly, he didn’t really want her to stop.
He sprawled on his back, helpless against the surge of emotions, and the memories those feelings touched off. He could easily imagine Donna there, right beside him, holding his hand and laughing with him and hugging him…
Tears rose to his eyes, but he blinked them back hard.
He lost track of time as Donna's reflected emotions lulled him, comforting him, filling the emptiness inside him. For the first time in days, he felt almost content. And then, slowly, he became aware of an emotion that shouldn’t be there.
“Stop that,” he said, hoarsely. “She never—she never felt that way about me—we were just mates—we agreed from the beginning—”
The TARDIS was insistent, however, and he knew that it was the impression of a real emotion, that at some point Donna had begun to feel—
Oh, Donna, Donna, he thought wretchedly. I never knew.
She’d wanted him, and he’d never realised.
And now it was too late.
The echo of her desire rolled through him, hot and strong and very human. This was, he thought as analytically as he could, probably an echo of a fantasy she’d had about him while—
Well. He shouldn’t be letting himself experience this particular emotion of hers. Even though she’d never know, it was still an invasion of her privacy, and very, very wrong...
“Stop it,” he said faintly, and so entirely without conviction that the TARDIS ignored him completely.
To his chagrin, he discovered he was hard, throbbing with insistent physical need. He couldn’t help it. He might not be human, but he shared the same basic drives humans did, and the afterimage of Donna’s desire, swirling around in his mind and his body, wasn’t something he could ignore. And the knowledge that she’d actually wanted him thrilled him at the same time it made him ache with the terrible grief of chances lost forever.
He'd wanted her, but now he could never have her.
She'd wanted him, but now she didn't even remember who he was.
The echo of her feelings, so blunt and feverish and needy, swamped him, overwhelming his precarious emotional stability and knocking him entirely off balance. He imagined her voice whispering in his ear, telling him she wanted him, telling him she loved him, and a desperate hunger took hold of him. He reached down and shoved his pyjama bottoms out of the way, grasped his hard, aching cock, and began to stroke himself with a frantic urgency.
The need for release, the need for her, coiled inside him. He remembered the smell of her hair, the way her skin felt, the bright happiness of her smile, the warmth of her hand in his. Her emotions, her desire and hunger and lust, filled his head, and he sobbed, in mingled ecstasy and grief, as he climaxed hard, come gushing across his abdomen in long, hot spurts.
At last the pleasure faded away, and the TARDIS gently withdrew from his mind. He collapsed on the bed, vaguely aware that he was still sobbing, tears running down his face.
“Why—” He sobbed harder. “You didn’t help—you only made it worse—”
He felt the machine’s gentle reassurance, and her confidence that she’d helped him. And despite his pain, which felt like a barely scabbed-over wound that had been ripped open again, he knew she was right.
He’d needed to cry, to let himself grieve for everything he’d lost, to come to grips with his own feelings for Donna. To acknowledge his sorrow over not just the loss of his best mate, but the chances and hopes and possibilities that were now gone forever.
“But it hurts,” he whispered.
The TARDIS touched his mind, and he heard a gentle almost-voice telling him that it had to hurt, that he couldn’t expect to lose someone so important to him without pain. He felt her hopeful thought that it would get better, eventually. That one day he’d be able to think of Donna without wanting to scream in rage and pain and anguish.
Not today. And not tomorrow.
She was probably right, but that didn’t make it any easier to bear. He didn’t care about someday right now. Right now, he was drowning in grief and loneliness and guilt, and the only outlet for it all was tears.
And those, at least, the TARDIS had given him.
He cried like a child for a long, long while, grieving for the friend he'd had, and the lover he might have had. Grieving for everything he'd lost, and everything he hadn't had the courage to reach out and take. Slowly, his sobs died down, and eventually he fell asleep, tears still streaking his cheeks.
In his dreams, he saw his own afterimages, memories of his best mate and all they’d done together. All they’d accomplished, side by side.
And yet his dreams were less than comforting.
Because in his dreams, he dreamed of Donna… and of chances lost.