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Title: From Ashes to a Phoenix

Rating: At the moment, T (emotional hardships, and later some suggestive implications). There's a shot that at least part of this story will jump to a strong M rating. We'll see as it develops.

Summary: “The Belted Doctor.” supplement: The story of Donna Belle, of Pete's World. How she lost her family, nearly lost herself, and was reborn with the right support.

Disclaimer: The simple matter of this fan-verse's existence should prove my lack of ownership. Capish?

Dedication: To MonkeesDoctorWho1987, whose review planted the seed of this story. So if you're getting sick of this universe, you know who to blame. (grins) Anyway, thanks for the idea. It allowed me to flesh out some other events within this universe when the tone of TBD didn't allow for it. Well, the truth is that I didn't want TBD to grow past 90 pages on my word processor...

Author's Note: I revisited this story since I've kinda been in a frustrated mood lately. But it also needed to be finished. So I'm trying to get through the planned ten total chapters. Let's see if Muse decides to try expanding this... And we're moving on past the alternate JE events! The happy starts building again! (Although Jenny is sure looking like she might need some serious therapy here... ;D)

Anyway, another shout-out to my beta, bas_math_girl , for the Brit-picking here that I needed. You're the best!

Part One / Part Two

PART 3: Her Baffling New Home

When she woke, Donna wondered why she didn't recognize the walls or the bed. That thought made her sit bolt upright, alarmed. Had she pulled what some of her friends had? Gone somewhere and shagged some random man?!

But it was just morning breath she felt in her mouth, and the room was clearly not a bloke's. It looked like something she might have chosen for a room long ago...

And then she heard voices she hadn't heard in ages. And remembered the events of yesterday. Being ready to end everything, and then getting swept off to another universe with her counterpart and a bunch of others.

She wept over the memory of, after waiting outside with Handy – as Blue Suit was bizarrely called, meeting this universe's Donna's family. Oh, God, how it both hurt and made her weep with joy to see her Mum and Gramps again – even if they weren't quite the people she knew! The tenderness they gave her, the complete understanding and patience... It was too much, and so she'd been led to her counterpart's bedroom to sleep – and she thought she remembered tasting something a little off in the tea she was given. Some sleeping aid, she realized, given how well she slept.

Had she had one decent sleep since...? No wonder she felt so much better...

That realization pushed her out of bed. She felt so torn about this whole thing, but for the first time, feeling didn't seem quite as scary as it had. These were people who cared, even the ones who left before that daft Box brought them here. Mickey had even hugged her before he went of with Military Jacket – who had given her a flirtatious smile before leaving (although she vaguely noticed – and wondered about – how Handy had scowled at the man) – and Dark-Skinned Beauty. Their names escaped her. Even they'd shaken her hand, and welcomed her to their universe – especially Kindly Mother, who had her own son to return to.

Then smells reached her, and her stomach growled with the force of a jet engine. Oh, feeling hunger made her dizzy! She hadn't even realized how much she'd been suppressing.

And, somehow, it felt... safe here. In ways that she hadn't felt in years.

It was also kind of disturbing... And unnerving...

Needing to escape her own thoughts, she rushed through changing into some sweats – which were very large on her now – before heading downstairs. She found it necessary to take her time, as hunger was making it difficult to judge distances quickly...

As she reached the bottom, the young blond, Jenny, stepped from the kitchen – clearly hearing her footsteps. She beamed, although there was what Donna could recognize as polite restraint. “Good morning, Aunt.”

Donna once again felt a little strange over suddenly being an aunt. Especially to a young (alien!) lady who looked twenty-something but was really only a few months old. But she was such a sweet girl, and had been so kind that Donna couldn't help but feel a bit protective toward her. So she couldn't help but return the offered hug.

Jenny had learned enough discretion to know to not ask certain questions. Especially after it came out that her new aunt had lost everything in the Cybermen attack her Dad had told her about. Knowing Dad, she'd thought, his overgrown sense of guilt made him wonder if he could be partly to blame for the whole thing. No wonder he didn't even argue over bringing Pete's World's version of Mum to our universe... “Come on, Aunt. Nan and Lee have made us a nice breakfast.”

Donna let herself be guided to the kitchen, where a very spirited discussion was taking place. The source of the sounds that woke her.

“What about Jonathon?” The Other Her, sitting down and drinking hot tea, was apparently giving suggestions for the name Handy would go by around others.

Donna remembered vividly the explanation of the people around her. Brown Suit (who'd shed his jacket and tie for the moment) was an alien who called himself The Doctor, was Jenny's father, and somehow already wed to the other Donna – in some alien fashion that necessitated an Earth wedding in a few weeks, apparently. Lee McAvoy was a man from the 51st century who'd come with them when he'd evidently fallen for Jenny. (Donna found the whole thing a bit creepy, but her “sister” promised that it was actually a lot nicer than it seemed at first sense – also promising to tell the tale eventually.)

And then there was Blue Suit. “Handy” was apparently the nickname the Other Donna had gifted him with upon his “birth” just yesterday. The whole Meta-Crisis explanation gave Donna a headache, but it did explain why he looked and acted so much like the Doctor – and yet sometimes sounded more like the Other Donna... Although she definitely could appreciate why Jenny was eager to forget having been there when Handy was created...

As Donna sat down, with food suddenly placed in front of her, the Doctor laughed. “Isn't that just another variation on 'John'? I already use that name!”

“How many people know that these days?” Gramps' question reminded Donna of how little people knew about name origins. It'd been important to her in selecting her children's names.

Handy grimaced. “Jonathon Smith. Yeah, that sounds lovely.”

Donna, even as she felt awed over the smells and sights of the food, had to hide a smirk over the dripping sarcasm in Blue Suit's whole demeanor. She wondered if the tendency toward adorableness had been part of the Doctor's charm – for her counterpart, that is.

The Other Donna frowned. “Well, you've shot down everything else I've suggested!”

Handy just glared at her. “I'd rather also go by 'the Doctor' and deal with all the confusion!”

Jenny frowned. “But what's wrong with it?”

Lee cleared his throat. “D-Doesn't t-that invite jokes about... Jonathon Swift?”

Then both the Doctor and Handy got horrified looks. “No,” they shouted as one. “Oh, no!”

Why the Other Donna looked a bit startled – and then understanding – was a complete mystery. “Okay,” she said, “then what are we going to call you around others?! We might as well call you 'James'!”

Handy flashed the most facially expressive contemplative look Donna had ever seen to some random spot on the wall behind them. Those men each had a wider facial repertoire than she'd thought possible. Then he shrugged. “Eh, it'll do. I can get used to it.”

Jenny looked thoughtful. “At least it's a name with some dignity. And something that doesn't require explanation.” She smirked. “Right, Uncle-Bro?”

He just waved off her snark and drank some tea. And then turned to face the table, nearly choking momentarily when he noticed the extra person. But he quickly recovered and grinned. “Oh, good morning! Enjoying your breakfast?”

Donna looked down at the plates in front of her, and she froze when she realized that she'd completely finished four slices of toast (with some butter and some jam), a few sausages, a few boiled eggs, and had almost finished the porridge before her. Oh, my God...

Then she felt Gramps come up and watched as some plates were taken away. “There, sweetheart. I think that's enough for now. You look like you need to get used to eating again.”

She was too struck by the realization that she also had lost all sense of the pleasures of eating. She vaguely recalled the tastes of what she'd just eaten, but had no memory of practically inhaling her food.

Sylvia silently placed a fresh cup of tea in front of her, and refilled the cup in front of the... She had to speak. “This is gonna get confusing, being in a place where there's someone else who's called Donna Noble.” Donna thought aloud to distract herself from thinking about her reawakened hunger. “How are we gonna handle that?”

Her counterpart sighed as she blew over her tea. “Anything you'd like us to call you?”

Donna thought about it, but froze as she realized she recognized the tea that her... “sister” was drinking. She'd only ever had it for one reason... Her eyes widened and her throat – and heart – clenched. “How far along...?”

The room went silent. It'd come out the night before that Donna had lost her entire family – including children – to the Cybermen. So no one had wanted to mention the news that – in the midst of panic – had been the saving grace for the Doctor's sanity yesterday. Her counterpart cleared her throat. “Ah, about... oh... a month. Give or take a few days. We just found out yesterday, and the symptoms only hit this morning.”

Donna noticed that Jenny tensed a bit over the mention of the timing, which made the Doctor look a little uneasy. There's a story there, she realized vaguely. But she just nodded. And sipped her own tea.

The newly christened James strolled over. “So, back to the original question: what,” he finished as he sat opposite the Donnas, “do you want us to call you?”

She could feel all eyes on her, but it wasn't as weird as she'd thought it would be. Somehow, she felt the difference between pity and curiosity – the latter was what she could feel from all of them at that moment. Empathy ran high among this crowd, so it was surprisingly... pleasant. “I...” Of course, she'd lost all ability to form a good sentence. “I don't know.”

Her counterpart's eyebrows drew together, which suggested that a memory was coming forward. “Did you have any nicknames growing up that you liked? At least, well enough? I'm sure the other kids had some nasty ones for you, seeing as how so many are biased against gingers.”

Donna was vaguely aware of the Doctor and James frowning, and exchanging a rather dark look. They look like they're plotting revenge, she thought idly. Shaking off the thought, and trying to not think about the odd look her counterpart was giving the two men (aliens?), she thought a moment. “Well, I remember my dad sometimes called me 'Belle.' I had my friends call me that for years.”

Her counterpart laughed in delight. “Same here! God, I haven't thought about that name in years!”

Jenny frowned and looked at her mother. “What does 'Belle' mean? It must have a meaning; you talked about what my middle name meant when you gave it to me.”

Both Donnas knew the answer, and spoke as one. “It's a French name, meaning 'beauty.'” And then they looked at each other, a bit surprised and a bit not.

James smiled fondly. “How about we call you 'Donna Belle,' in honor of that? You'd just be adding to your own name.”

She paused, feeling some tears forming. “I don't think anyone ever called me that...” Certainly, she thought, no one since... Shaun... thought of me as a beautiful lady...

James frowned, worried. “You don't like it...?”

Neither noticed the inquisitive looks the rest of the room was giving – with varying degrees of suspicion...

She thought a moment. The idea sort of made her uneasy, but then... There was something about how Handy – no, it was James now! – spoke when he said it. There was a respect, a seeing her as a person in her own right – as worthy of being treated well. A wish to help. When had anyone really done that for her – and it hadn't been based on pity? That was the tipping point for her. She looked at her counterpart. “You wouldn't mind?”

The pregnant her shook her head with a smile. “Only thing that matters is if you like it enough to let us call you that.”

She found a small smile. “Then I guess I have a new name.” It dawned on her that it was one more step distancing herself from the life she'd led. In the midst of all the pangs of guilt and hurt, she felt a hint of something else building inside of her.

It'd been so long since she'd felt any really positive feelings that she couldn't identify what it was...

James beamed. “Molto bene! Now it's just taking the time to help you adjust to being here. Which I also have to do; I'm not exactly a common occurrence myself, but I'll gladly be a help. I'm uniquely qualified to help with being a double.”

She laughed before she could stop herself. She couldn't help it; he looked so eager and excited about having something to do.

Although... it stunned her how easily the laugh fell from her lips. Had, she realized as the laughter stopped suddenly, she been healing and hadn't known it because she'd kept herself from feeling...?

James' face fell, and he gently took one of her hands. “Hey,” he said softly, “don't beat yourself up over the past. There's some very wise words to remember, something I remember her,” he nodded to her counterpart, “telling him,” jerking his head back toward his progenitor, “once about dealing with loss: 'We go on. We live. We remember. What else can we do?'”

That sounds like something I would've said... back when... She thought a moment, and nodded. Even threw him a tiny smile to show that she really heard him. It felt strange to move her lips like that, but – as he'd said – she had to go on. Shawn wouldn't have wanted for me to suffer so much, she finally realized.

James' own smile was rather quirky. “Is it okay if I stick around to help you adjust? I mean, I've got to find my own path. It's gonna be confusing enough as it is, but we've all got fantastic minds. We'll figure something out.”

I think he's the first man whose treatment of me makes me feel like a person again... I wasn't around Mickey enough for that to count... “Guess I wouldn't mind.”

Then a cup was semi-slammed onto some countertop. “James,” the Doctor barked tightly. “a word in the TARDIS.” It wasn't a request, and James – scowling – understood it and slowly followed the Time Lord outside.

Donna Noble – this universe's original – glared daggers at her husband's retreating back, although he didn't seem to notice. She nearly slammed down her own tea and pushed herself up. “Sorry, but I'd better go and referee those skinny boys in suits.” She rushed to follow them out.

Donna Belle Noble – only just starting to adjust to the name – watched, heard the front door close, and looked at the others. “What did I just miss?” They all look like they have a clue...

Lee surprised everyone else by answering. “T-they'll tell it w-when they're ready.” His tone was final, accepting no further discussion. The others nodded, with varying degrees of thoughtfulness as they, too, eyed the window that let them see the TARDIS.

Donna Belle sighed. Wonderful... How long will I be kept in the dark...?!

The TARDIS tried sending calming messages to her pilot, but he ignored every one of them. He even pretended to not hear his wife mentally screaming at him to, Cool off a minute, Spaceman! This, he was absolutely convinced, needs to be said – and the sooner the better, given all the signals that Handy's giving off!

He didn't note that the sheer fact that he'd noticed was a sign of how much his Donna's influence had changed him.

James followed slowly, and Donna rushed in right behind him. “What,” she demanded aloud of her husband, “do you think you're doing, Sunshine?!”

Knowing that he'd pay for ignoring her any longer, the Doctor sighed theatrically. “Something that someone needs to do and it's obviously got to be me! Do you really want Donna Belle to get hurt again?!”

“Excuse me?!” James' voice raised to match his “brother's” tone. “I'm trying to help her adjust!” What is he on about?!

The Doctor groaned aloud. “Oh, was I that thick and transparent?! And he's got some of you,” he tossed as an aside to his wife, “in him! How can he be equally unaware?!”

Some of Donna's anger faded a little. She realized that she hadn't been paying enough attention to what was coming off her husband in waves back there; she was moving past the last vestiges of the first bout of morning sickness, and hadn't noted much else beyond what the newly Christened Donna Belle was saying. Oh, blimey, he has a point...

The Donna side of James was very offended at being called thick. It brought up too many bad memories... “Oi! Are you going somewhere with these insults?! Or is it Pick-on-the-Duplicate Day all of a sudden?”

The Doctor stormed over, practically forcing James to step back a bit. “You carry all of my memories, and the emotions that accompany them. That means your actions toward Donna Belle could be influenced by my feelings for Donna. Have you even thought of how much she could be hurt by you overemphasizing anything?! Even I can tell she's raw emotionally! I can recognize what it feels like to have lost everything!”

Donna flinched. She couldn't quite voice an objection to the vehemence in the Doctor's voice. Best, she suddenly realized, to get this out of both of them so they can behave themselves again...

James' whole expression flared, indignation radiating from every pore. “I'd never hurt her! Besides,” he shouted back, thinking of the one thing guaranteed to shut his brother up for the moment, “ I'm just being helpful since you two are going to be focusing on getting you through the upcoming wedding!”

That got Donna's voice back. “Shut it, Spaceboy! That's going too far!” She pushed them apart.

Not that the Doctor could put up a fight over it; his face went from furious to slack in less than a second after James spoke. He numbly let Donna guide him the short distance to the Jump Seat.

Seeing the depth of the shock made James pause a moment. Oh, he slowly realized, maybe that was too much... Might've made things worse...

Donna pulled the Doctor's head against her, so he could be soothed by her heartbeats. (That she knew that the parts of her anatomy he was also resting against consistently distracted him did not factor at all into her reasoning.) She sighed as she sang to the panic-stricken alien – whose memories about weddings going wrong and how he was at his absolute worst rubbish at his own were running rampant – through their bond. Aloud, she gently told James, “Look, just don't allow whatever you remember about being him to unduly influence your behavior toward her, all right?” Is he as blind as Spaceman was, she wondered in a part of her mind that she wasn't letting him hear.

James couldn't yell at Donna. No, he knew, that's his claim – when she lets him get away with it. “I just want to see her recover, to once again be the brilliant woman we all know she is. That's what I want to focus on, and I'm not going to make plans beyond that. Except,” he owned, rubbing his neck in that embarrassed way that the Tenth Doctor showed being nervous as guilt over his previous words grew, “when I'm needed to help smooth... family matters over.”

That's a diplomatic way of putting it, Donna thought with some pride. He didn't get that entirely from the Prawn here... She nodded. “Would you make sure the others stay out for a few hours? Call when someone's ready to come back in.”

He frowned, but quickly realized that he should be elsewhere... promptly! “Okay... Guess I'll go... keep them from asking too many questions about the other moment.” He finished awkwardly, and hurried out – making sure the doors were shut. Don't want to make him any madder...!

Blindness to one's own feelings doesn't mean you're blind to others. Not even a duplicate Tenth Doctor could manage that when he had Donna's memories as well...

Donna shook her head, well aware that she was surrounded by cheeky people. And was practically assured of having equally cheeky children. At least, she sighed, we'll get the worst one out of the way first...

The Doctor was trying to not think about what would happen in a few weeks. About the awful things he feared could happen, but this incarnation was rubbish at avoiding the bad thoughts. Unless he found something else to focus on.

Donna sensed that thought, and smirked. Oh, and I know the perfect way of distracting you... She tilted his head back to snog him into needing his respiratory bypass.

Oh, Rass- He couldn't even finish the thought. The change in focus was so abrupt that his mind wouldn't produce coherent thought. Especially as her hands drifted down and her lips slowly traveled along his neck...

Donna's method was so effective that he couldn't keep a goofy grin off his face when they returned to Sylvia's a few hours later. Or quite walk steadily... The sight was so silly it even made Sylvia, Lee, and Donna Belle chuckle, and James and Wilf laugh out loud.

Poor Jenny, however, just covered her eyes. And prayed her parents would never publicly embarrass her with their obvious... love...

Next: Victorian London's Savior


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2011 10:07 pm (UTC)
Hmm, this is very interesting. I'm not sure I completely understand why James is all but getting into trouble for being so friendly with Donna Belle, but I'm sure you will go into more detail about it later. I love the way the others in the real universe were so wonderfully warm and welcoming to her though.
Aug. 14th, 2011 02:55 am (UTC)
Okay... I wasn't obvious enough... Will make up for it in later chapters. Actually, the next two will be good ones for that... once I write them.
Aug. 14th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
Good, that will help. It's otherwise such a fascinating story that I want to understand what's going on! *g*
Aug. 14th, 2011 03:21 am (UTC)
Sure. I've made a note to myself, and I think part of the scene where James starts to realize why the Doctor acted that way is forming already in my head.

Thanks for the review!
Aug. 14th, 2011 11:11 am (UTC)
I'm loving this, yo. The warmth they're giving her is wonderful, but I can also feel the uneasiness and awkwardness of it as well. I'm eager to find out where the whole James Donna issue will go!

and especially that last bit, gotta love that, too. hehe.
Aug. 14th, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC)
It's definitely going somewhere. I was actually a little surprised by how quickly Donna Belle started to react a little more favorably to James/Handy as I was writing, but I think she's actually more ready to move on than she's going to be comfortable with. It'll be a difficult process still... with some potential setbacks.

Yeah, I seem to love to torment Jenny with PDAs between her parents... I have the feeling it'll become a thing of mine in fics where she exists and there's also Ten/Donna stuff going on.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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