Title: To Rest Your Head
Author: Lilac Summers
Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: Eleven/Donna, Amy, smidge of Rory
Classification: Ust and angst and other things ending in "st." Still could be read as friendship, if you are deeply in denial...barely.
Rating: PG. Lookit, no smut!
A/N: This is set between "Life Lessons" and "His Universe." Totally going out of order here. In fact, consider this immediately after "Life Lessons." Like, 2 seconds later. Maybe a few minutes, if someone had to go to the loo beforehand. Warning: contains uncharactersticallybroody!Donna.
"Donna saved the whole of creation," the Doctor begins as way of introduction. Amy casts one dubious glance Donna's way, one not unnoticed by either Donna or Rory.
Amy and Rory share the jump seat, looking up at the pacing Doctor -- two kids ready for story time, thinks Donna. Rory is already awestruck; Amy is reserving judgement and not so impressed quite yet.
"So did I," Amy reminds them, grandly.
"No, Amy," the Doctor's gaze is kind, and Amy rankles.
"Looked like I did, from where I was sitting -- in my wedding dress! -- imagining you back from an exploding TARDIS, you ungrateful--"
"You saved me, and you saved this Universe, and you are wonderful. Only you could have re-imagined the whole Universe. But that was this universe and there are countless others out there, parallel universes created by every important choice made differently. Donna saved all of it, everyone, everything, everywhere and everywhen. 'The most important woman in all of creation.'" He moves his arms expansively, performing a silly little twirl that doesn't seem to bother Amy or Rory, but leaves Donna with her brow furrowed incredulously as if to say twirling? You twirl now?
"I haven't saved anything yet," Rory soothes a grumpy Amy, in his awkward and adorable Rory way.
"That just means it's your turn next," she snarls.
"Yeah, no pressure," he mutters.
And so the Doctor continues with his story, and Donna edges away, quietly and -- she thinks -- unseen. Though Amy tracks the Doctor's eyes following her, even if he doesn't say a word as she disappears from the room.
By the end of the tale, Amy is impressed ... and intimidated as well as utterly confused. If Donna was such a special snowflake, why had Amy never heard this story before? She knew about Martha, who'd walked the earth for a year. She knew about Rose, the Bad Wolf who lived in a different universe, left babysitting a human Doctor. She knew about Romana, Susan, and hot Captain Jack, along with countless others.
But she had never known about Donna.
Later, when Amy walks into the TARDIS kitchen and sees Donna Noble already sitting at the table, she almost turns right back around.
But Amy reminds herself that she is Amy Pond! And Amy Pond is not going to be run out of her own kitchen just because she feels intimidated by a woman who apparently had the Doctor's huge brain stuffed into her human head and survived. She saved the Universe! a little voice inside her squeaks. And I imagined it back, she tells herself firmly.
And as is the case with Amy (and the other redhead in the room, though Amy doesn't know it yet,) when she finds herself intimidated she resolves to go on the offensive. With this girding of loins, she marches over to the table and sits down, radiating waves of so there.
She snags a cup of tea and then sulks over it, casting covert glances at the other woman, who is so deep in thought she seems to not even notice she's no longer alone. This makes Amy, for some unknown reason, angrier.
"He never mentioned you," she finally hurls out accusingly, when the silence has dragged too long. As if it's Donna's fault.
Donna looks up distractedly. "Oh? I'm not surprised." She takes a sip of her tea.
Amy deflates at the quiet answer and fidgets under Donna's gaze. There's something about it that reminds her of the Doctor; a hint of galaxies turning behind the changeable green-blue. "You're not?"
"Not really, no. He hates talking about anyone. Figure you haven't heard about Rose, or Martha, either. Or Sarah Jane, or--"
"But I have."
Surprise now, for the first time. "You have?"
"Yes," Amy says, and relishes the answer as she watches Donna's eyebrows raise in disbelief. "He tells me -- has told me -- everything. We've been traveling together for a while now, y'know. I've heard all the stories and explored all the guest rooms; he named each one when I asked. But he never mentioned yours. I've never even seen your room," she points out.
"Oh," murmurs Donna.
Amy feels triumphant for a second before she notices that the emotion in Donna's eyes isn't superiority, as she'd imagined, but deeply-buried hurt. She begins to feel as if she's kicking someone who's already down.
Donna's hands clench around her cup, knuckles white. "So this new, tweedy version is more talkative than mine, eh? Well, not a big deal," she says quietly, almost to herself. "We were just mates. Just good mates."
It occurs to Amy, finally, that Donna -- who saved creation, who found the Doctor multiple times out of all of space and time, who slapped and shouted at him as if she could make him behave by will alone -- is really just a woman who looks as if she's lost her best friend.
"I...the TARDIS is really big," states Amy stupidly. In there somewhere is the unstated apology of I'm sure we just never got to it.
Donna shoots her a wan smile, like she appreciates the attempt. "Well, it used to be right across from his. Let's hope it just got shuffled around." She flings back her hair, striving for a nonchalance that doesn't fool Amy one bit. "I think I left my favorite pair of earrings in there."
Neither one of them mentions that the wall across from the Doctor's room is blank now. Amy, in a rare moment of mature sympathy, bites back the urge to tell Donna that, as long as Amy has been in the TARDIS, that wall has always been empty and Donna's room ever missing, and no shuffling of rooms or remodeling of the TARDIS has ever made it different.
Donna wanders down to the halls housing the bedrooms. She'd noticed it before, of course, when she'd left the group to their story time: the blank wall where her door used to be. But she had simply assumed her room had been moved farther down the hall. Making room for the new, so to speak. After all, Martha's room had been forever away, and Rose's room had practically been leagues down the hallway when she started traveling with the Doctor. Running away from his most painful memories, even on his own ship. But if this Doctor actually tells Amy everything, and Amy has never heard of her, and he hasn't even kept her room...
She touches the unfamiliar copper wall carefully, gives a soft mental query to the TARDIS of Was I not worth remembering? But hears nothing back, the shifting of coral she was so used to now long gone and covered by unfamiliar copper walls.
It could all be a misunderstanding, she tries to convince herself. As Amy pointed out, the TARDIS is so huge who knew where her comfortable room had ended up.
She begins her trek down the endless hall. There's a long expanse of blank wall, a new, very concrete separation between his room and the beginning of the guest bedrooms. Ah, that one must be Amy's and Rory, the big double doors. Then a curve in the wall and the empty rooms begin. Sarah Jane's, Jack's, Rose's, Martha's -- all shuffled happily closer, with no rhyme or reason, in that brief, beautiful moment when the Children of Time had been together again. The hall loops, turns a corner, and she's passing in seemingly random order by Peri's, Turlough's, Ace's, Romana's -- names he spoke of so fondly, and she remembered them all because the love in his voice touched her, that he treasured them so well.
She makes countless turns, passes doors of all colors and materials, climbs up and down flights of stairs until she's breathless before she gives up. It's not here; she'd known it the instant Amy had mentioned it.
Since there's no one here to see her and she doesn't have to act strong anymore, she lets her legs collapse to slide down the wall and she curls up. The doubt and hurt and exhaustion she's been fighting all day drag her down. Should she have even come back? To an unknown Doctor and an unknown TARDIS and new (no, not new -- they'd been here longer than Donna ever had) companions who had so obviously made a happy home with this mad, brilliant Doctor? What could she possibly offer when she was so obviously unneeded and not missed?
She wraps her arms around her legs so she can rest her chin on her knees and stares at another blank wall in a fit of uncharacteristic melancholy. If I stay, maybe my room can be here. The TARDIS will build another for me. I can start over, find my new place, fill it with new memories. And it will be quiet down here.
She tells herself firmly she is not going to cry if he forgot her after making her forget him.
Of course people -- even Time Lords -- move on, and change, and grow. And if it can't be the same, maybe it can still be good, in time. I'm back now, that's all that matters, she lies to herself.
She hadn't been expecting a running-in-slow-motion, get-shot-by-a-Dalek-out-of-sheer-stupidi
She lays her head on her knees and sits there for minutes (hours? who knew) before she's raised abruptly by the sound of feet running down the hall.
"Donna? Donna!" Gangly hands are reaching for her, lifting her up for a hug that's awkward and fumbly, like he doesn't know what to do with all the length in those gorilla arms of his. "There you are! I've been looking for you."
She pushes back and steps away. His hands are left grasping, doing that strange fluttery thing that apparently is "his thing" in this body. Talks with his hands, this one does. His eyes look wide and panicked in the low light of the ship.
"What? Didya think I got lost in this tin can?" Donna scoffs, all bluster.
"No, I--" his hands flutter by her face and she backs off, wary. His hands form into fists and fall to his sides. "I couldn't find you. I thought you'd left."
She chokes out a laugh. "In space? Where would I go?"
"You do seem to come and go as you please," says the Doctor, referring no doubt to her strange ability to find him. But the sentence falls into heavy awkwardness as they are both struck by the thought that the last time she left it most certainly hadn't been at her pleasure.
A strained silence descends and it's surreal and just plain odd. They used to be able to fill the silence with so much nonsense.
"What were you doing down here?" he finally asks.
"Oh," Donna tries for flippancy. She probably fails miserably, she muses, but it was the thought that counted. "I was looking for a room to take up." She swallows. There's a lump in her throat trying to strangle her; she hates making a sentimental fool of herself. "I couldn't find my old room."
The Doctor's face (so new now, so different) crumples (and that's the same as always), lines of distress around his eyes finally giving a clue to his real age.
"Oh. Your room. Donna, I--"
She doesn't want to hear them, all the probable excuses: I forgot. The ship changed and it was gone. All the other rooms stayed but yours had to go. "Doesn't matter!" she waves him off cheerfully. "The TARDIS will make me a new one, right? I was thinking...I was thinking down here would be nice. Kinda quiet, and, dear god, away from the newlyweds! I don't need to be close to any strange noises in the night, know what I mean?"
"Donna," he tries to interject again.
I don't want to hear it. "It'll take some getting used to, the copper instead of the coral. Figures she'd pick something that clashes horribly with my hair--"
"Yeah, wot?" she bites out in her best stroppy tone.
"I need to show you something." He snags her hand (and oh, that feels just the same) and draws her up the hallway, backtracking around corners and hallways and stairs, past those many doors that stand like sentinels -- little pieces of his past, much-loved but long gone. Martha and Jack and Sarah Jane and Rose. Rory and Amy (and she hears giggling through the thick doors), then an expanse of empty copper sheeting before they're back to the beginning with the Doctor's closed door and the blank wall in front of it.
Donna had half been expecting her door to have miraculously reappeared on that wall. But there was still nothing there.
The Doctor stops and slowly lets go of her hand. She touches that wall again, remembers the feeling of an old-fashioned knob under her fingers, the vibrant red of the door.
During the time of the memory wipe, she had insisted on painting her bedroom door back home red. It had made her feel safe. See, she sends the message to the TARDIS, I didn't forget, not all the way. You could have made him wait for me. Just for a little.
She feels the Doctor shuffle up closer behind her back. She blinks, hard, to clear the stupid sentimental tears.
"You didn't have to get rid of it," escapes her in a rush. Oh God, how she hates herself that she couldn't hold the accusation in.
He startles behind her.
"My room," she clarifies. "You could have just shuffled it down the hall like everyone else's, right? You didn't have to get rid of it just because it stopped serving a purpose. There's plenty of space, it wouldn't have made a difference. You remember for everyone else, why wouldn't you even try to keep a little for me?" She'd striven to sound no more than curious, but there had been no hiding the hurt undertones as the words fell from her lips until the last were almost a shout.
"Hush," he says softly, so very softly and low that it's worse than shouting. "Just hush for one second." His hands are on her arms, turning her around to face his room and before she can pull away or argue more, he's opening the door and...
Her room. Her mish-mash of exotic carpets, her soft gold walls, her lavender sheets on the big sleigh bed, her overstuffed reading chair, her left-behind souvenirs on the table, her half-finished book still open to the last page she read, resting on the nightstand. Hers.
And it's his. A slew of mechanical parts on the floor, a haphazard collection of manuscripts by the bed, three different types of spanners on the vanity, an array of empty teacups scattered about and the lavender sheets rumpled instead of smoothed.
She walks in slowly, edging aside bolts and pieces of wire with her foot. "I don't understand," she admits, turning to him. He hovers by the door nervously. "Your room is always here. That's your door. Why is my room on this side? Where is your room now?"
"Emptied, gone. I hadn't used it in months and yours was just," he gulps loudly at her incredulous look and then squares his shoulders with new resolve. "If you think about it, Noble, I was really only being practical. No need to keep my room about when yours was so much nicer. Always did think the TARDIS was too fond of you -- look!" He points at the reading chair accusingly. "She gave you a comfy chair! I never had a comfy chair. And then I was turning the wrong direction so often that the TARDIS finally shifted your room here." He tugs on his braces in a move she realizes is embarrassment, then stuffs his hands decisively into his pockets.
It doesn't explain why all her things are still strewn about as if she might reappear at any moment, pick up that book and get to the long-awaited ending. She takes a slow turn around the space, her chest suffusing with warmth as the overwhelming doubt begins to melt.
Still, she's not willing to let him off the hook quite that easily, so she keeps a mocking eye on him as she taps a perfume bottle. "Practical, huh? And you kept all this around because...?"
"Well, yes, that uh...smells lovely on me. I've always been a freesia type of Time Lord."
She nods in acceptance, then moves to the nightstand to stare pointedly down at her abandoned book.
"I -- I've been reading that. Great book, grand story. Love it," he defends awkwardly.
She turns her head to look at him, the last dregs of sadness drowned under a wave of fond amusement. "Oh, really. What's your favorite part?" She picks up the book and leafs through it idly.
"Ooooh, so many to choose from I can't even begin to name them!"
"Yeah? Personally, my favorite part is where Pirate Longjohnson realizes his cabin boy George is conveniently really nubile Georgina," she drawls, snapping it closed. "Though would've been better if the chap had simply admitted he was gay. Anyway, didn't think Passion's Voyage was your typical reading material, what with all the explicit shagging in it."
The Doctor colors vividly and clears his throat. "As I said, lovely story. Touching, really."
"Yeaaah," she carefully sets the book down, then sinks onto the bed.
Her fingers run over the wrinkled sheets. It's a little surreal, seeing these lavender sheets after so long. She really hopes he's laundered them at least once. The thought makes her snort in laughter.
"What?!" he demands, suspicious.
"Nothing, nothing. I just," she bites back another bit of laughter that is more hysterical relief than actual humor. "I thought you'd left my room to rot and dumped it first chance. I thought you'd forgotten me."
He makes a little sound of denial, shifting awkwardly in his too-short trousers. "I wouldn't."
But I did. You made me. Almost as if he can read her mind, his shoulders slump tiredly. Even if the doubt is gone, Donna knows the anger is still there, and that the accusation is clear in her eyes. They have so very much to talk about. But not quite yet.
Besides, the sight of those slumped shoulders is more than she can bear right now. "But now I realize instead you've just been cluttering it up with empty teacups and wrinkling my sheets. Don't know which is worse, really," she teases, as a peace offering.
He makes another little noise, this one of affront and hurt dignity, though his eyes are glittering back at her and the slump is gradually disappearing from those broad shoulders. She purses her lips in feigned thought, leaving the bed to make her way to him again.
"So this is what you do now? Read romance novels, kidnap married couples, steal other people's room and dress worse than my grandfather? A bowtie? Seriously?"
"Bowties are cool," he protests.
"Oh gawd no, they really aren't." She adjusts it for him, feeling his gaze burn into the top of her head. She steps back and smacks his chest - none too gently -- to indicate she's finished. "But if you're going to wear that monstrosity at least make sure it's straight."
He recovers from the smack, rubbing his chest ruefully, and finally meets her gaze. "I'm glad you're back, Donna," he says very quietly.
"Yeah. S'm I," she says, just as quietly. Then she smiles toothily and slaps a hand on his chest again, marching him back 4 crucial steps.
"Now get your own room," she says, and closes the door in his face.
Continue to "His Universe"
Hope you enjoyed that! 2 more chapters in this series to go.