To Err is Human (chapter 16 & epilogue)
Author: Lilac Summers
Fandom: Doctor Who
Rating: M, sexual situations
Category: Humor, Romance/Angst
A/N: To all of you who have stuck with me so far, thanks! And extra thanks to those who have reviewed - I always love hearing what you think. Though this is the last chapter of "To Err is Human," I do have in mind a few side-stories and, perhaps, a sequel altogether.Part 1 here
Part 2 here
Part 3 here
Part 4 here
Part 5 here
Part 6 here
Part 7 here
Part 8 here
Part 9 here
Part 10 here
Part 11 here
Part 12 here
Part 13 here
Part 14 here
Part 15 here
She let the belt slip through her fingers like a silken snake, to the floor. The thin material of her robe parted instantly, displaying a stretch of pale skin to the Doctor's eyes and making it very clear that she was wearing nothing underneath.
The Doctor's eyebrows rose skyward, jaw dropping in shock. "What?"
She shrugged her shoulders, letting the robe slide down her skin, catching just barely on the curves of her breasts. Not that it was covering much anymore, as the gaping material left her front bare.
Spots of color appeared high on his cheekbones and the tips of his ears. "WHAT?"
Then he was bounding to her, grasping the edges of her robe at her chest and pulling them closed. "Donna!" he squeaked, "what are you doing?!"
Her gaze dropped to his hands, clutching her robe closed. She raised one ginger brow wryly. "Well, gee. I take back what I said about you being a genius."
"I ...I..." gaped the Doctor, then stretched to keep the robe closed with one hand as he dropped to his haunches, blindly searching for the belt she had discarded. Donna toed it away from his questing fingertips and he stilled, breathing heavily as he settled on his knees before her. Donna's other eyebrow rose to join its twin as her interest in this new position mounted. Feeling quite smug at discomfiting him so obviously, she reached down and ran her fingers through is hair, nudging his shoulder playfully with her thigh.
He gave up searching for the belt, dropping his forehead against the soft fabric over her midriff. His free hand settled on her hip, grip hard and tense through the thin cotton. "Donna. You don't have to do this."
"Don't have to do what?"
"Thisss," he hissed sibilantly, and she felt his hot breath through her robe. "I wouldn't - don't - want you out of pity."
"Pity?" she exclaimed, surprise making her tighten her grip on his hair and she felt him stifling a groan, the hand on her hip flexing. "Is that what you think I'm doing?"
"I'd prefer we go on as we were, than you moving forward to spare my feelings."
"God, Doctor," Donna drawled, rolling her eyes at this new bit of stupidity. She abandoned his hair and set to work on the white-knuckled grip he was using to keep her robe closed, prying each finger away. The Doctor's face rose sharply as his hold was steadily freed, and she looked down at him with a smirk. "I'm the first to admit I'm a fabulous friend. A mate's feeling down, I'll buy them a round at the pub. But I don't shag them, you big dunce; I'm not that good a friend."
His hold finally gave, the robe parting again. He closed his eyes quickly as if to spare her dignity, then ruined the gentlemanly gesture by pressing his cheek to the warm skin of her naked belly.
"I don't mean to imply that," he said, and the movement of his lightly stubbled jaw against her stomach had her fighting back her own shiver. "But John pressed you so insistently... I remember you being reticent and-"
"Did it ever occur to you, Doctor," she cut him off quietly, "that just as John wanted me because you want me... I gave in to John because I wanted to be with you?"
He inhaled sharply, fingers digging into her hips so swiftly she had to stifle a yelp. "Do you mean that?" he demanded, pressing his face even closer against her as if he could burrow within her.
"I don't say things I don't mean, Spaceman!"
"But you didn't say anything before, when I told you about how I felt."
"What, you mean all of five minutes ago, when you started jumping to conclusions and babbling like a nutter and wouldn't let me get a word in edgewise? You mean then?"
The familiar whine was back in his voice. "Don-na! When a man lays his heart at your feet, every second legally counts as a century!"
She looked sky-ward for patience. She honestly hadn't thought there would be much need for discourse after she'd tugged that belt free - didn't actions speak louder than words in this case? But here he was having a bleedin' heart-to-heart, with his chin a few scant inches away from her girly bits, the clueless muppet!
She tugged on his hair insistently. "All right, up you go. If we're going to rehash this conversation, I'd rather not do it with you on your knees and me with an open robe, yeah?"
He finally looked up at her, opening his eyes, and she abruptly noticed his pupils were blown, dilated so completely the soft brown of his irises had disappeared. His nostrils flared slightly, breathing her in. Donna realized suddenly that, for all his protests that they could continue as mates, the Doctor was barely holding on to his control. "Nah. M'good right here."
"Seriously. Get up. You apparently want to talk." She pulled harder on his hair.
"Donna, you keep doing that and I can't promise I'll be able to control what happens next," he said tightly.
Donna's eyes widened, mesmerized and slightly intimidated by that same dark gleam of something she had glimpsed once before, when he'd looked down at her in that little cottage and taken her on the floor.
But hell if Donna ever backed down from a dare.
She pulled his hair again.
And she was on her back, bouncing off the softness of the mattress, propelled by the Doctor's body as he pounced. The air in her lungs whooshed out; her next quick intake caught in her throat as she felt the Doctor lick a warm path down her body, sternum to belly-button, to settle with a hot open-mouthed kiss on the point of one hip-bone.
"Tell me you mean it," he commanded while chaining kisses across her belly, to nip the other hip.
"What?" she asked on a strangled note, acutely aware of how his hands had settled high on her thighs.
"When you said you wanted me, all along, did you mean it?" he nuzzled his way up to the valley between her breasts, then paused to breathe her in deeply, seemingly intoxicated by the warm scents rising from her, the fragrance of her bath intertwined with the musk of arousal. "I need to know."
Blimey, was he still talking? How could he still be talking?! Donna ignored his request because the answer was so obvious, with her melting underneath him! Talk about stupid questions. A better way to spend her time was untucking his shirt so that she could slide her hands into his trousers and over the cool, smooth skin of his bum.
The Doctor hissed between his teeth, then with herculean willpower dragged her hands away from him and pinned them to the bed, levering himself to hover over her. "Tell me, Donna! Tell me you want this, want me...And be sure, because I don't think I can stop touching you after this. I won't be able to bear it if you're planning this to be a one-time thing."
His voice was low, his gaze piercing, but under the veneer of command Donna saw there was a messy jumble of emotion: want and need and love mixed with the fear that he had pushed her into giving into him out of some misguided sense of friendship.
"Oh, Spaceman," she breathed on a sigh laced with affectionate exasperation. "You are particularly slow on the uptake tonight. I don't just want you, you git - I love you!"
It seemed to take a second for the words to sink into his brain, but then he jerked back in shock, surprise turning into stunned hope. He stared down at her as if she were offering him the world, and he didn't dare dream she wouldn't snatch it away once he reached for it.
"Y-you...you do?" he queried hoarsely, barely breathing.
She twisted her wrists free from him, wanting to touch, to somehow chase away that kernel of uncertainty in his gaze because it broke her heart, that he should doubt her word.
She reached for his face, that strange mish-mash of features that was somehow so attractive. She ran her fingertips gently over his lips, his cheekbones, his eyebrows, before settling once more in the thickness of his hair, bringing him down close enough so she could arch up to him.
"I love your stupid hair, and your crooked nose," she murmured at him, half shyly, before covering her self-consciousness by nipping the tip of said nose playfully. "And those crazy eyebrows, and that mouth that won't shut up." She nipped that pouting bottom lip, too, for good measure.
"But mostly, Doctor," she whispered, an inch away from him, "I love how much you care about everything, and that when you look at me I seem to matter, too."
His arms wrapped around her fiercely; the tiny gap between them closed and his lips were upon hers, hungry and possessive. He tasted of stardust and mint and time, endless time. In a moment of clarity Donna realized that this was the first time they were truly kissing, Donna and the Time Lord - not the Doctor trapped in a human body, or a moment of desperation while he was poisoned. Just them and what they wanted, no extenuating circumstances.
They broke away, panting, and the Doctor rested his forehead briefly on hers. "Donna, you don't just matter. You're everything. You're my universe."
She smiled, wrapped legs and arms around him and felt the cosmos steady around her as he molded to her like a missing puzzle piece. "Then show me."
He gladly took that challenge.
If he feared Donna would feel confusion over which man had really wanted her, there was none. There was no question of whose hands were on her now. Gone was John's shy if enthusiastic exploration; it was undoubtedly the Doctor's touch on her skin, sure and unhurried, drawing sounds from Donna's throat that she had never made before. He took his time, carefully, as if conducting the most important research, cataloging each touch that drew a sigh, each kiss that drew a moan, how she arched up when he used his tongue there, just there. And though his muscles quivered against her, testament to the price of his control, he stayed his course, mapping every sensitive inch of her body.
When she could think around the drowning sensations, it was to note that there were still too many clothes on him, while she was laid nude on the bed before him like a banquet. Donna thought this was grossly unfair. But it was a battle getting him to keep still enough to get each piece off him; he kept getting distracted by constellations of freckles he had to explore, or curves he hadn't yet tasted.
She finally had him down to just his trousers, but he'd taken residence at the curve of her neck, mouth entranced once more by his favorite grouping of freckles on her shoulder. His hands were busy between her legs and she was moving helplessly against him as he ruthlessly drove her to peak. She scrabbled at his slim hips, digging her nails into the pinstriped fabric still clinging to him, wanting more of him against her even as her body greedily rode the aftershocks of the orgasm.
Just when he shifted and she could get her trembling fingers on the zip of his trousers, he was shimmying out of reach, his lips tickling her as he whispered Gallifreyan endearments along her breasts, her ribs, her belly and lower and oh god. That clever tongue was lapping at her, drinking her down, his hot breath brushing against her intimately as he sighed in satisfaction. Her hips bucked sharply; he held them still, keeping her anchored so he could maintain his mouth open and avid against her to savor to his heart's content while Donna came hard once more in a rush of wet heat.
It was almost too much - every nerve ending was alive - but even as the thought came to Donna that she couldn't take any more pleasure, she was yearning for him inside her. The Doctor was kissing another trail over her body and really, Donna thought, enough was enough.
She scissored her legs around his hips, twisted her torso, and rolled them tidily over the bed. She found herself peering down at the Doctor, who looked dazed and thoroughly debauched, slack mouth dewy with her juices.
Donna attacked his trousers, getting button and zip undone in record time. And finally, finally he was helping her, kicking them off the rest of the way in a frenzy until at last they were skin to skin. His hard length was gliding sinfully along her damp flesh. She rocked against him there, teasing them both, until he made a deep, guttural noise of tormented bliss, hands gripping her thighs desperately. "Donna...please..." he begged.
She rose slightly and angled her hips until he was sliding into her. Their bodies meshed perfectly, setting a rhythm as old as the sea, rising and ebbing like the tide. Her hands sought his; he gripped them tight, fingers interlacing as she rose and fell over him and it was like running, hand in hand, over planets, galaxies, universes. Knowing that if they fell, it would be okay, because they were together.
And they did fall, screaming their pleasure into the expectant silence of the TARDIS.
They lay in a sweaty tangle of limbs, Donna's head pillowed on the Doctor's chest. Perhaps they dozed, Donna wasn't sure, but when she next opened her eyes it was to the dim glow of her room.
"Since when did I get candles in here?" she asked, voice gone hoarse. She squinted and batted a strand of red hair out of her eyes. "Much less light them?"
The Doctor gave a non-committal grunt and buried his nose deeper in her hair.
"And satin sheets," marveled Donna. "No wonder I all but slid off the mattress that last time."
When all she got was another snuffle of warm air against her hair, she poked the Doctor in the side. "Why do I have candles and satin sheets?"
To avoid another poke, the Doctor finally gave in and cracked an eye open, viewing the generous (almost fire-hazardous) amount of lit candles scattered around the room. "TARDIS feeling romantic, I suspect," he mumbled with a shrug.
But if he thought Donna was going to shrug just as philosophically, he was in for a rude awakening. Instead she bolted upright, scrabbling for the sheet (yep, red satin). "You mean she was watching us?!" she squawked.
The Doctor was distracted by what a lovely contrast the red satin made against Donna's pale skin and titian hair. "I imagine so. I mean, we're in her. And I suppose she has a vested interest."
"Vested interest? How? Why?"
He sat up beside her, just because he absolutely had to touch all that tumbling red hair, sift it through his fingers, and kiss the delicate, pale skin at the nape of her neck.
Donna's head dropped forward on a neck gone boneless, giving him better access, before she remembered she'd asked a question. "Wait, why?"
"Hmmmm?" came the Doctor's distracted reply.
"Why does the TARDIS have a vested interest?"
He smiled against her skin. "Silly Earthgirl. And you call me thick."
"She loves you too, Donna. We're linked, remember? But beyond that, she found you for me. All of time and space, and she beamed you into my ship in a wedding gown. Really Donna, that's a bit too pat to be coincidence, no? Moreover, she's been trying to get me to make a move since Pompeii."
"Yep. But you...you really took my 'just mates' speech to heart," he said, abashed. "Not one of my smartest moves. I didn't want to drive you away and so...the TARDIS decided to take matters into her own hands, where I wouldn't be able to deny what I felt."
The penny dropped. "Oh my god! So 1913, that was her doing! You thought we should be married but she, she picked a date and location where I wouldn't have any other choices but to go along!" She glared up at the ceiling. "You made me cook! And wear corsets!"
Recognizing an impending explosion, the Doctor hurriedly wrapped his arms around her and laid back, pulling her down with him.
"Yessss, that corset. You looked divine in that corset, and that frilly, thin camisole...loved that one. And do you have any idea how crazy you drove John, knowing you weren't wearing knickers under those dresses?"
"They were flippin' knee-length bloomers! Those don't even count as knickers! Do you have any idea how much torture it was to wear so many layers every day? You owe me, Spaceman, you owe me big."
He grinned, rubbing a stubble-roughened cheek on her shoulder fondly. "I baked you cookies."
"Oh I see how it is. I drove John crazy but you baked me cookies. Do I need to worry about you developing a split personality on me?"
"How about when we inevitably end up getting chased by angry mobs it's John's fault, and when I do something fantastic to get us out of it, it's me?"
"You're becoming senile in your great advanced age," she muttered, shifting over him. His hands settled warmly, almost unconsciously, on her bum.
"We can role-play. Get you back in those stockings and that corset. I'll come home from a hard day of teaching, to find my lovely wife knitting me a tea cozy. You liked the knitting, didn't you, Donna? Seemed quite taken with it; didn't even want to leave the house over the weekend, so engrossed were you with your knitting."
"How about you just stop talking?" Donna argued, and leaned down to experimentally flick one flat masculine nipple with her tongue. He cried out, jerking under her so fiercely she almost went flying, just as she remembered. She glomped on harder so she could assault his other nipple similarly, riding the resultant reaction. "Or we can go back to discussing knitting. Up to you." Then she slithered down his body, her hair a fiery banner as it traveled down his chest.
"Oh..ohhhhh. No," he managed, head dropping back as a hot tongue surrounded him. "This works, too."
The TARDIS hummed quietly to herself, satisfied with a job well-done. And enlarged the bed just enough so that they didn't fall off in the subsequent acrobatics.
Then she dimmed the candles and left them to it.
Donna Noble is buying her second cup of coffee that day, on a chilly London evening. She just wants to come in from the cold, from hours of pounding the pavement, and doesn't really care if the dose of caffeine contributes to another sleepless night.
Because Donna is living her life, day to day, like every other human on earth. She gets up, trolls the London streets for a job, and makes her way home to a family that can't quite hide their worry and disappointment.
She's used to it, this routine. It shouldn't matter that she can't remember several years of her life - what difference could they have made, anyway? Just a few more years of temp jobs and failed relationships that she can't remember. They shouldn't matter, but they do.
Because she knows she's missing something very important...
She pours creamer into her coffee, then two sugars. She didn't used to take it this way, used to drink her coffee black. But this is how she drinks it now, even if she doesn't know when she acquired the taste. She sips the over-sweet brew as she opens the paper; her excuse is that she needs to cross out the various "wanted" adds she's already hit, but the truth is that the newspaper makes her feel less exposed in this cafe filled with people and chatter.
"Excuse me, all the tables are full. May I sit here?"
A shadow falls over her, blocking the tiny print of the page she's not really reading. She sighs with exasperation at the crappy pick-up line. "Look, there's plenty of empty ta-"
She looks up and her protest derails, caught up in the deepest eyes she's ever seen and a face that niggles at some deep-buried memory. A face that looks down at her in poorly-concealed hope.
"Y-yeah. Yeah, go ahead," she stutters, clearing the paper off the small table.
He sits across from her, his long legs bumping hers under the table. His knee presses warmly against hers, and he leaves it there.
So does she.
"I'm...I'm Donna Noble," she says, extending a hand. He takes it in both of his, laces their fingers and holds on, and she shouldn't be okay with such familiarity but for some reason she is.
When he grins goofily at her, all messy hair and mobile eyebrows, she finds herself grinning back. It takes her a beat to realize he hasn't said his name yet. "And you are?"
"John," he says. His grin spreads into a smile. "John Smith."
Donna Noble smiles back, and something long-buried, sheltered and fragile within her begins to bloom.