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Title: Diverging Truths
Series: Riverlets Through Time
Rating: T (angst, reference to character death)
Author: tkel_paris
Summary: Ten's mind is a jumbled mess after River Song's surprising revelations. Although the one connected to Donna is the most shocking...
Dedication: nini_cuddles, since this wouldn't exist with her story, “The Bride.”
Disclaimer: Believe me, if I owned anything, Ten and Donna WOULD'VE been married. And they'd be raising Jenny and Handy. ;P
Author's Note: After Muse finally ended “Bridal Fears” the way she did, there was no way this wouldn't turn into a series. Now it's Ten's turn... Here come at least ONE of the answers you've been seeking since the last story... and a few new questions for you! ;P Also some speculation on why the Doctor laughs and points at archaeologists.


Bridal Fears


Watching someone die has never been one of the Doctor's favourite things. Out of the question. Not even slightly. Not even a tiny bit!

Even when they were someone really strange to him, who seemed to know a lot about him, who gave him a very bad feeling from the moment he met them. Not even then did he like seeing someone pass. He was a Time Lord, after all, who disliked seeing his enemies die!

But the Library was the one of the worst days of his life. He knew that was saying something given his long and twisted journey as a Time Lord, and now the last Time Lord, but it was the truth.

As he finally managed to grasp one of the Sonic screwdrivers to work on the cuffs, his mind was whirling over the implications of what happened today. Especially what was said. And the things that the woman who'd died in the nearby chair were all he could think about.

He had good reason to laugh at archaeologists. Not because of the history of the profession, which had enough bad examples to fill a dozen enormous spaceships (and that was just the human kind!), but also because they made so many ridiculous assumptions based on so little evidence. When a true historical record is lacking, one must qualify all hypotheses with the acknowledgement that you are doing a lot of guessing. Also, too many got into the profession for the thrill of finding objects – not for the real purpose of trying to preserve the remnants of long-gone cultures and peoples for the future to see.

He hadn't had enough time to determine which type River Song was, but that kind of reckless eagerness for adventure? Didn't bode well in his experience. The thrill-seeker kind seemed most likely. The type that assumed one would have Indiana Jones-type encounters with traps and other seekers. Really, the creators of that ought to receive a few Donna-slaps. That would teach them!

And Professor Song's smiling and blue book disturbed him. He'd done his best to ignore the smiles and looks his way (really, why did this incarnation get all the attention?!), and he could do really well at ignoring things he didn't want to pay any attention to, but the woman was relentless! And calling him a pretty boy?! Oi! That was offensive!

Even if Donna had implied that maybe she saw him as attractive. That had given him some reason to put up with Professor Song, the sudden hope that his Ginger was warming up to him in a way she'd said she wasn't having any of.

Though why he held that hope didn't become clear until later...

The book was even more confusing. She had spoken like she knew him, and knew him well. But it took a lot longer than it should've to convince her that he didn't know her! It was so many times worse than the aftermath of meeting Sally Sparrow, and she'd been nothing but helpful that first time for him! It said a lot about how much River Song unnerved him that he would've rather been fighting to get the TARDIS back to him against the Weeping Angels than endure three words conference with the smug archaeologist.

He'd also seen the look in her eyes when she looked at him. He'd seen that look in Rose's eyes, and it wasn't a happy reminder. It was filled with all the hopes that he could never fulfill – especially after the last him died. Knowing how self-centered Rose could be, he had wanted to believe that the woman was delusional, and that he could get to the bottom of things if she wouldn't keep claiming Spoilers all of a sudden.

He still wanted to believe that...

Then, as the Vashta Nerada threat grew, he was worried about Donna's safety above all else. He hated that he had uttered words that she would've been able to see through if not for her own fears, but they just spilled out. He rarely wanted to make her shut up. Just sometimes mind her words at critical moments – which she was getting so good at. Fear could make anyone slip.

And then Professor Song had showed him her Sonic screwdriver. The sight froze him. Who could this woman be if she had a screwdriver frighteningly like his?!

But his mind had refused to look at those implications; he had to get Donna to safety so he could focus on saving the others. And the teleport system seemed the perfect way. With her tucked away in the TARDIS, he had thought could figure out a solution without distractions! (Although the Professor's awareness of the one emergency program made him blink; it begged more questions about what all she knew of.)

Then... the worst thing imaginable: Donna's face on the Node.

Even after freeing himself from the cuffs, knowing that everyone – including Donna! – had been restored, the Doctor's hearts still clenched, like a vacuum was forming inside his chest. The shock of the sight had made him unable to move, except to touch the simulation of her face in numb horror. He hadn't been able to move until River Song grabbed him and his running instincts took over.

Freed and standing slowly, the Doctor looked at River's sonic, still resting by her spacesuit. Numbly, he collected it and the book. He stared at them, remembering how she'd snapped his patience by referring to Donna as his friend. Yes, Donna was his best friend ever, no question about that. But... he'd finally hit upon the truth in the heart of his being: he loved Donna Noble. With everything he was, utterly, completely, and beyond anything he'd thought possible. He really hadn't meant the Detox; he'd wanted her to kiss him again. His denials had always been more muted than hers because his instincts were thinking about her in that way for who knew who long. He'd said all sorts of things his hearts didn't truly mean because he was desperate to keep her with him. He'd been willing to accept friendship if that was all she would offer, but he craved so much more from and with her.

And it had seemed all gone. All thanks to his desperation to keep her safe. It made him tetchy.

Then a moment happened that had frozen him in place. River's eyes had flashed with something like realization, horror, and grief. She'd looked like she was thinking something over, and not liking her conclusions. (Not that he would've or could've cared.) Then she'd squared her shoulders, and told him that she knew Donna was still alive. When he had opened his mouth to protest, she'd leaned in and whispered something that now had his thoughts in absolute chaos:

Because Donna will one day know your name.

He'd stared in disbelief, hope trying to revive his cold insides. She'd looked at him with a strong hint of sadness – and rubbing her head as though a headache had started – before asking whether they were good, for now. It was all he could do to nod then.

He shook his head, brining his mind back to the present, and scanned her Sonic with his – and promptly noticed something. There was an empty slot in her Sonic all of a sudden. It didn't take long for him to realize that River's data circuit fit perfectly inside, that he could use the Sonic to upload what was left of her consciousness into CAL. Since he didn't like people dying, he did it. His time senses told him that something had shifted today in his time-line, something that was connected somehow to River Song.

Her cryptic words at the end, after he woke from her knocking him unconscious, spoke to that. She'd hinted that he must've known all along what her fate would be, and endured so much because he'd felt trapped. That she was taking the gamble of causing a paradox for the sake of his happiness. That she only asked him to take her to Darillium one day to see the Singing Towers, and to give her the Sonic that she was currently using. She was crying when she said it, like her heart was breaking.

The Doctor thought about that moment as he moved out and back to the surface of the Library, shutting CAL safely away forever. River had known that he had a secret name, and its importance. But how did she know? Time Lords kept a lot very secret. Not even Jack or his fellow Time Agents should've been able to find out that detail, although one never really knew where that Boe-Kind got his knowledge from.

One implication hit, and it made him nauseous. River had known his name somehow. Oh, he couldn't stand the thought that he would be married to such a creature! She wasn't attractive to him, she was far too smug, acted much too recklessly, and she did things that only he had the right to do!

But... she'd implied that she might've created a paradox. That she somehow knew he'd felt trapped in their relationship – whatever it was – and that she was freeing him to make his own choices. That if it was meant to be, it would still happen, but he'd have a chance to be truly happy.

Did she mean with Donna? Had she managed to find a way around whatever reason she had for not even knowing Donna? Or was Donna simply so special to him that he kept all bits left of her to himself? (A distinct possibility, he owned to himself.) Was she telling him to act on his feelings?

It was easier to focus on that than the three things she had to tell him right before she'd died. Those would've stunned him on their own, and puzzled him. But he had to think on other things first, like finding Donna.

He that when he found her, he couldn't let her out of his grasp now. His hearts cried for her, his being ached to hold her, he needed to hear her voice! And she had such a compassionate heart. Could he... maybe... persuade her to let him try and court her? To woo her into wanting them to be married? To be willing to let him bind them to each other for eternity?

When he finally saw her, he was so happy that she seemed as relieved to see him as he was to see her. They'd rushed into each other's arms, and her clutching him and crying about how they'd told her he was nothing but a hallucination gave him hope. He opened his mouth to speak... and was promptly cut off by her little bombshell:

She'd been married in CAL's world. Had twins. And had promised to find her husband, if he existed.

He felt crushed. River had to be wrong... In which case he couldn't trust anything else she said.

It spoke to how used he was to not getting what he wanted for himself that he was able to speak calmly when he encouraged Donna to look through the Library database of the visitors. But he wasn't able to help her. That was too big an ask. No, he had no doubt that the man would be real, and that Donna would consider going off with him. It certainly sounded like the man might be perfect for her. He also encouraged her to look for variations on the name she knew, just in case the man had traveled under an assumed name – which happened sometimes in this century.

So the Doctor waited, leaning against a wall and letting her work over one of the terminals. His eyes couldn't leave her as he wondered if he could've done something different over the course of his time with Donna. All of the mistakes he made flashed before his eyes...

Calling her unimportant that first day. Oh, that had to be in his top five things he wished unsaid list! He now knew why it came out: he thought that despite everything Rose had done, he'd still loved her. He was uneasy with how drawn he was to Donna Noble, even then, and used words to try to put an invisible wall between them. Obviously it hadn't worked, given how crushed he'd been that she said no. If only he had tried to soothe her fears...

In fact, defending Donna more often was something he should've done. If anyone insulted her or made her feel less than special, he ought to have given them what-for. Starting with all those family and friends who had the reception without her. Her father might've been overruled, but her mother! Now he wondered what he might've said to bring shame to all of them for celebrating and then blaming Donna for the whole mess!

Then when they were reunited... He shouldn't have said the whole thing about just wanting a mate. What if he'd spoken more about trying to be honest about expectations and wishes? Then he could've left things more open. But he was too afraid, thinking he didn't want another entanglement like Martha's time with him had been, and not wanting to give Donna good reason to be mad at him. Oh, that just mates thing might be the biggest thing he wished unsaid now...

After Pompeii... perhaps he could've given in to the urge to tell her more about his past. To explain better about time-lines and fixed events so she could grasp more fully what it meant. She was always willing to hear him, without judgment or scorn. What kind of verbal comfort might he have had sooner if he'd been willing?

On the Ood planet... He should've admitted how impressed he was that she managed what only another Time Lord would've been able to: to see an Ood as a person. Well, he supposed that the Time Lords would've placed all sorts of qualifiers on that, but it was so much more than Rose had ever been able to do. That should have been another clue about how special Donna was, her ability to accept things and people as they were – with no beliefs about what ought to be clouding her judgment. Of course, if he admitted to that, then he also should've admitted that he was alarmed over her wanting to go home, that he would do a lot to make her feel comfortable enough to stay.

Would've saved him some embarrassment in front of the UNIT soldiers... Talk about wanting the ground to swallow you! (And he finally understood that expression, even without realizing why he felt that way!)

Of course, he should've given her more flying lessons. Donna had glowed with the joy of being trusted so when he'd agreed to her request. She was the first companion he thought had the maturity to handle the instructions, and the TARDIS had happily agreed. Oh, the Old Girl adored Donna! Made up a room that Donna loved, never let her lose her way, and helped keep her food supplies easily available. The Old Girl even teamed up with Donna to play pranks on him! Not even Jack could talk her into that! For he, the Doctor, to actually become lost in his own ship! For the Old Girl to act up, ignore all he did, and then for Donna to seemingly correct it by hitting some button! To hide his treats!

He forced himself to skip over Messaline, although it was on his mind. Especially how Jenny was so clearly imprinting on Donna, and how wonderful Donna was to her. He should've hugged Donna when she gave him that reassuring talk afterward. She certainly would've understood his need... and Rassilon knew he'd needed comforting more than he was willing to admit to...

And 1926... Oh, he wished he could've introduced her as either Mrs. Noble or Mrs. Smith! Would've kept that cheeky son of Lady Eddison's from flirting with her! (He'd been a bit embarrassed when Donna made it clear that she considered Roger on the other bus, but riled over her saying that was where all the good ones were.) And the Detox... He hung his head. Okay, he hadn't meant to admit anything close to wanting a repeat, but, in his defense, he had just escaped death by poisoning! That would mess with his thinking processes!

All those and other moments besides floated in his mind, taunting him just as the nightmares he did his best to avoid did. Whatever River thought, Donna was never his... and never would be...

A hand slipping into his startled him. Donna! She tugged him along, saying they should find the TARDIS and leave, that Mr. Lux had everything in order. She acted like she wanted to go. He glanced up and around, looking for a sign of the man she'd been married to in CAL's world... but no one looked their way. Unlike when Rose forced him to take Adam along, there was no one coming but them.

He'd had to pause to find out whether River was right about snapping his fingers, and she was. The discovery should've made him smile, but his hearts were too heavy and confused to feel much else other than the knowledge that Donna had returned to him – alone. Before she could help him start flying the TARDIS away, he had to ask whether she'd found Lee.

The opening was alarming. She had, after expanding her search as he'd suggested. She'd tried to talk with him, but the realities of dealing with Lee's stammer made a number of things she felt while in the computer world come back. She'd known on some level that none of it was real, because even as the dreamworld transported her into marriage and motherhood, the idea that she'd merely imagined the Doctor – and all of their adventures! – was too much to bear. She'd been forced to forget, which she felt guilty over. And now she couldn't just go for the life that CAL had provided for her; she needed to make a difference too much. Besides, she'd added as she met his eye, he needed her more than Lee did.

And there was the matter of the violations of her free will. Even Lee had admitted that they'd had no choice in the matter, that CAL and Dr. Moon had set everything up. That, in the cold light of the real world, they were not a match. Besides, Donna didn't want to accept that her perfect man could barely speak a word at times. It said too many ugly things about her, and it was too much to deal with. Add in how much she and the others had been forced to forget about their own lives, and she and Lee were doomed from the start.

That gave him hope. She hadn't wanted to leave him because she'd realized that the type of man she used to think she would go for wasn't interesting her anymore. She'd rather travel with him than marry now... Could he manage to give her what he could tell she still wanted?

Between his nervousness and the stress of thinking she'd leave him, the Doctor lost the courage to talk. He instead decided to take Donna somewhere relaxing, give her some safe time off looking out for him while he went and explored something to distract him. Maybe the little time apart, though on the same planet, would help them both...

Of course, he didn't count on really wanting her to go with him in the end. Or that the journey would turn into a nightmare...

Grateful as he was that Donna was safe, and relieved as he was that a horrible paradox wouldn't happen because of his being shoved out into a lethal atmosphere, the Crusader journey left him utterly drained. He'd seen humans at one of their worst moments, and knew that anyone could be driven to such extremes under the right pressures.

It also left him painfully aware of how alone he was. Even in the TARDIS, there was a divide between him and Donna that he hadn't realized was there. Who was he to think that such a wonderful person as Donna would endure someone as damaged and baggage-ridden as himself?

Still, he would take whatever she would grant him. And one of her healing hugs, latching him tightly against her, would do... He would make it do...

TO BE CONTINUED IN "Truth Shines Through"

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
nini_cuddles
Feb. 17th, 2012 04:19 am (UTC)
I'm not gonna lie, for some reason this made me cry and I'm not even PMSing.
beautiful, beautiful. I loved on what River told him this time around and her getting a headache because of the paradox. and man, do something fast Doctor becaus when Shan-shen comes there is no turning back.
ok, *grabs food to wait for next chapter without leaving the computer*
tkel_paris
Feb. 17th, 2012 05:09 am (UTC)
*offers tissues*
Thank you. It means a lot that you like it.
I'm trying to finish and polish the story after the next one a bit before I post the next bit. Will try to get it up soon. So take bathroom breaks. ;P
katherine_b
Feb. 17th, 2012 08:11 am (UTC)
There is so much I love about this, but most of all the fact that you wrote it at all. It's heart-breaking of course, but it proves River did a good job at what she had to do. Excellent.
tkel_paris
Feb. 17th, 2012 08:37 am (UTC)
Just wait till you see the next part... :D And thank you! *hugs*
bas_math_girl
Feb. 17th, 2012 05:05 pm (UTC)
I absolutely love the way the Doctor dismisses River here, like some annoying fly. And his refusal to help Donna search the databank is heartbreaking.

Well done, love, on a brilliant edition to your series (and apologies for not telling you that beforehand).
tkel_paris
Feb. 18th, 2012 04:48 pm (UTC)
Like some annoying fly. I LOVE that description of River! ;D

Well, we all know he didn't help her in canon. Here's why...

Thank you, love! *hugs*
nipponophile05
Mar. 10th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC)
Great chapter...so poignant the Doctor reminding himself of all his regrets vis-a-vis Donna, leading to realize how much she means to him. And how his hope, ignited by the revelation that one day Donna will know his true name, is crushed by Donna's revelation of what happened to her in CAL's world, is just so heartbreaking, the Doctor unable to overcome his fear of losing her enough to be unselfish and be more helpful in looking for Lee.

Very moving piece.
tkel_paris
Mar. 10th, 2012 04:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, he doesn't trust River here. With cause. So he wants to believe the idea that Donna will know his true name, but it's all too easy for him to be side-tracked with his history. :(

Thank you for the kind words. :)
fansquee
Mar. 15th, 2012 09:14 am (UTC)
So heartbreakingly sweet. Love it.
tkel_paris
Mar. 22nd, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you. *hugs*
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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