Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T/M (violence, whump)
Summary: Sequel to “Altered History: The Runaway Bride”. The Doctor's getting the location wrong (again) lands him and Donna in Pompeii on Volcano Day. She's determined to save as many as possible, but for him the events bring back the nightmare that still haunts him. Donna is in for a lesson on the consequences of the Dark Times.
Disclaimer: Not mine. I only just got into Classic Who heavily in the last three years. This idea would've been unthinkable for me back in early 2014.
Dedication: My friends cassikat and hezikiah, who between them brought me to an appreciation for the Eighth Doctor. The rest was all my own doing. I also thank my beta, tardis_mole, whose impatience for this brought my muse to start writing right away. And... since I'm positive I wouldn't have had the idea without seeing him at Gallifrey One this year, the always delightful Paul McGann. Although I'm not sure I ever want him or any DW actor reading any fanfiction I write... Of course, if the next showrunner wants to bring Donna back then he or she can read them all they want for ideas. Just appreciate an acknowledgement in that case. ;)
Author's Note: If you haven't read “Altered History: The Runaway Bride”, go back and read it now. Then come back to this one. Otherwise you will be very confused.
And Happy Birthday, cassikat! Sorry for no Noble Girl postings, but I hope this makes up for it. :D
Altered History: Prophecies and Pompeii
Started March 20, 2017
Story unfinished as of start of posting
Chapter One: Changed Circumstances
December 26, 2006
The Doctor stepped into the Noble home through the back door, a spring in his step. “I feel rejuvenated after a needed healing sleep and some actual sleep. Strange how light I feel now,” he muttered. “This almost seems alien to me, feeling ready to take on the universe again.”
Of course, this was only after being made to stay for Christmas Eve and Day. Donna, and later Sylvia, was adamant about that. Staying too long in one spot had nearly made him flee, and not just because of the time-line risks to staying in one place too long that wasn't Gallifrey. Or the real danger of someone with evil intent finding him and the TARDIS.
But the Nobles surprised him. It had taken him a long time to adjust to eating Earth foods, even with two exiles to motivate him. His stomach still required him to take small bites, but he could manage almost any Earth food now.
It helped that nothing he was unused to was served, but he had to admit that even his hesitant hostess, still wary of him, made him feel welcome. Never had two nights and one day on Earth been so quiet. He almost wished for something to happen when Geoffrey kept expressing gratitude for saving Donna's life.
Although that changed when Donna convinced him to tell stories about Gallifreyan traditions and the planet itself. Even Sylvia was transfixed, nearly forgetting to finish preparing the tea in the midst of a curiosity she rarely let out.
He sighed. “The restlessness is back with a renewed vigor. I'm ready to go on adventures with Donna. And she seemed eager the night before. But why did she insist on taking the one extra night?” he wondered quietly.
Then he paused. “I wonder if Donna will call me up on my habit of talking to myself.”
“Ah, Doctor, please come up front,” Geoffrey called out. “I've brought Wilfred to see you.”
Donna's granddad, then. Ill with some sort of flu and yet she would not hear of leaving without introducing him to her new friend. Although he had a feeling that there was another reason she had not vouchsafed to him. History suggested that.
The Doctor grimaced. “Let's hope this goes well,” he muttered.
Entering the front room where he had confronted Sylvia Noble, he saw Geoffrey sitting next to an older, bearded man who looked like he had been through the wringer – nose was red and he acted weighed down – and yet holding himself high.
And the man perked up on seeing the Doctor. “Is that him, eh? Oh, did I clean my hands?”
“You did. Three times,” Geoffrey said, smiling. “Doctor, my father-in-law, Wilfred Mott. Amateur astronomer and leader of the Silver Cloak, his local active elder community. Do take care to not meet Minnie the Menace without Donna around,” he added as a sudden afterthought.
“Good morning. Donna speaks very highly of you, Mr. Mott,” the Doctor greeted warmly, extending his hand and ignoring the other part of the introduction.
“Oh, call me Wilfred,” he said. “I won't get you sick, will I?”
“Takes a lot more than a simple Human flu to knock me over.”
Wilfred laughed with wide eyes as he accepted the handshake. “Alien hand.”
“Don't broadcast it, please.”
“Oh, I won't. This is too important to Donna, and I wouldn't cause harm to any friend of hers. You will take care of her, eh? 'Cause she acts like she don't need it, but she does.”
The Doctor smiled as he knelt before Wilfred, reaching into his pocket. “Given what I've seen of those around her, you've done her a world of good. And I wouldn't have expected to call her a friend after we met.”
“What's that?” Geoffrey asked as the Doctor withdrew his hand.
“My medical probe,” he said as he scanned Wilfred.
“I thought you said-”
“While it's more of a title I do know things about Human medicine and anatomy. Once spent part of two lives exiled to Earth and so I studied the medicine to fit in a bit better. Ah! Good news, Wilfred. You're already on the mend.” The Doctor returned the probe to a pocket, and quickly drew a small bottle out. “Here. Some liquid medicine. It'll boost your ability to knock out what's left, shorten your recovery and keep others well.”
“Is this like what you gave me?” Geoffrey said.
On Christmas Day the Doctor had surprised them with a present each. Checking in with an old friend from UNIT had ensured that the Nobles would receive compensation that would recover the cost of the wedding, along with a bit extra. It almost but not quite endeared him to Sylvia. For Donna, it meant she wouldn't have to seek additional work right away, although he intended to surprise her if she continued to prove herself. UNIT could always use good people. And Geoffrey received some pills to help halt the cancer he had.
“Not quite as strong, but effective. Take 10ml three times a day until you finish the bottle. Just don't let anyone know that you have that.”
“Of course,” Wilfred agreed instantly. “Where's something I can use to take the first dose?”
“I'll get a medicine cup,” Geoffrey said, getting up. “We certainly have enough of them floating around.”
“As for taking care of Donna, I suspect she'll not like that much,” the Doctor continued, sitting down near them. “She speaks like I'm the one needing care.”
“Well, she's always done things her way,” Wilfred said, laughing. “The little general, we always called her. Or Trouble, depending on what she'd done. Did they tell you what she did when she was six?”
“No, but I suspect I'll be fascinated,” the Doctor said, smiling. “What did she do?”
Geoffrey chuckled as he returned, having overheard the whole exchange. “Money was extremely tight for a while, and Sylvia told her, 'No holiday this year'. Well, that didn't sit well with her. She'd had a bad final few weeks at school, getting bullied and not being believed,” he explained, helping measure the dose for Wilfred.
“She endured that all throughout her schooling years?!”
“Oh, she learned to challenge them enough to mostly leave her be as she got older,” Geoffrey explained while Wilfred took the dose. “And when she started maturing some of the boys started paying attention to her. Not that any of them were worth her time. She saw through them better than her mother thought she did, but not without a few mistakes. Donna's words, not mine.”
The Doctor rubbed his forehead. “No wonder she felt so desperate to get Lance to marry her. So, what did she do?”
The memory made Geoffrey smile and Wilfred chuckle. “She packed one of her bags and got on a bus by herself,” Geoffrey said. “Made it all the way to Strathclyde.” He shook his head. “My colleagues in the police force had to hold me down while they all went off to search for her, from one end of the country to the other. They didn't have CCTV and radios on buses like they do today, or they would have found her straight away, but back then it took an agonising two days.”
The Doctor laughed with them. “A bit of a free spirit? Well, she'll do just fine in the TARDIS. I've done my share of running away from situations I hated.”
“Your ship?” Wilfred enthused. “May I get a little see? I always dreamed about the stars, going out there. But I'm an old man now. Biggest adventure I had was going out with the Paras, being in Palestine at the end of the Mandate. I lied about my age so I could help on the home-front with the volunteer fire brigade when the war hit Britain. Just getting to see how Donna might touch the stars, that'll be enough for me now.”
“As soon as she's ready. Speaking of Donna, where is she? I thought she'd be downstairs by now.”
Her relatives laughed out loud.
“Oh, Doctor. You have so much to learn about Donna,” Wilfred chuckled. “And possibly Human women in general.”
“What's that about learning about me, Granddad?”
The sound of Donna's voice drew the Doctor into the hall. He looked at the landing, which he had ignored earlier and stopped still, eyes going huge. “What-what-what is all this?!”
A pile of luggage, of varying shapes and sizes, sat in the hall in a very organized way, each fitting tightly together. Like a Tetris puzzle, filled completely in. He could swear it wasn't there when he entered the room.
“I did ask her what she needed it all for,” Sylvia said as she followed Donna downstairs.
Donna placed two more bags down as she responded to her mother, smug over managing to get one over her new friend. “Well, he said he can go anywhere. So, I have to be prepared. Hot weather, cold weather, no weather.”
“Wait, wait, wait... there's a wardrobe in the TARDIS,” the Doctor protested.
“And how many of your friends had figures like mine? I question that. Besides, I like having my own things.”
“Is that a hatbox?! What is it doing here?”
Donna grinned. “Planet of the Hats? I'm ready!”
The Doctor vaguely heard Geoffrey and Wilfred chuckling, but his attention was more on the baffling sight before him. “Why does anyone need so many clothes?”
“Well. That'll earn you a slap if you're not careful, Doctor. Don't know a lot about Human females, do you? Well, we are all different, but I don't believe in wearing the same thing over and over again like you do. So... are you going to help or do I have to prove how much I can carry in one go?”
He sighed. “All right, all right, all right. No need to make a lady do everything.” He began picking up many of the bags, first making sure he had the TARDIS key ready. Although he avoided the hatbox. He had heard weird stories about what Humans kept in them, and hoped that friends like Bernice had been merely trying to pull one over him.
She had certainly tried to pull a few things over him. Mostly failing, but not often enough for his comfort.
“Will it all fit inside your ship?” Wilfred asked as the Doctor led the way – quickly because he was feeling a little cooped up and wanted to get a move on starting the adventures. Everyone was carrying something, even Wilfred. Although Donna wouldn't let him carry more than two small bags.
“Oh, Granddad, you are in for a surprise,” Donna said, grinning at him. “The TARDIS isn't like anything you imagined. Don't let the appearance fool you.”
“She's the finest ship to ever sail the Vortex,” the Doctor called out from ahead of them, already outside.
“Doesn't look anything like a spaceship,” Sylvia muttered. “And how can he hear us?”
“Apparently that's something Martian he can do,” Donna answered quietly, smirking as no reply came from the Doctor. “And it seems that boasting is common to his kind.”
The Doctor had landed the TARDIS at an angle to the back door, which meant that none of them could see the doors as they exited. He had already brought her cases inside and was stepping back out. “Here she is.”
Wilfred stopped and stared. “A bit small for the pair of you, isn't she?”
“Go closer, Granddad.”
As Wilfred did, Geoffrey leaned in toward Sylvia. “Who is he going to react more like? You or me?”
She shrugged, ever so slightly. “Probably you. Or Donna. Would be like him to inspect the outside.”
Wilfred stepped up next to the Doctor. “How can this work?”
“Time Lord science. We can make things bigger on the inside,” the Doctor said as he smiled and opened the doors. He also quickly took the bags off Wilfred, just in case.
The old man's shock was comical. His eyes were wider than the roundels. He leaned in, looking at the interior. Then he drew back to check that the outside was the same size as before. He gaped at the Doctor.
The Doctor, once he had got used to the idea of people traveling with him, always enjoyed the reactions to the TARDIS. In retrospect, he was able to find humor in how Barbara and Ian handled seeing the TARDIS and realizing that there was far more to the blue box than they had assumed. At the time, he had just been furious that his and Susan's privacy had been invaded.
“Well, at least you didn't wander about the outside, touching as you went,” Donna said, smiling a little. “That's what I did when I realised what I'd stepped out of.”
“It's barmey!” Wilfred whispered in shock. “And amazing! May I look a little inside?”
The Doctor sighed, feigning being put upon but really loving every second. “Okay, okay, okay. I doubt Donna would forgive me if I tried to stop you. Just not for long.”
It had taken longer than he was comfortable with, but they finally finished the little tour.
Donna waved to her family as she stood in the half-open doorway. “I'll call regularly!”
“You'd better, Lady,” Sylvia said, her smile belying the tension in her words.
“Bye, Love!” Wilfred said. “Go on, you reach for those stars!”
“Take care, Donna,” Geoffrey said, simply but firmly.
She waved one more time and then closed the doors. She took a deep breath. “Oh my god, I didn't think I'd be this nervous,” she said quietly.
The Doctor promptly began adjusting the Controls. “Okay, I told them how far to step back. We're ready! A little whirl in the Vortex while we get your things situated, and then on to our first adventure!”
“Are you sure that we had to keep it to the Control Room?” she asked, stepping up to the Controls. “Or were you merely getting impatient?”
“I don't know if the Old Girl has finished your room yet. It wouldn't do to make them think you had to sleep in here. I can only imagine what your mother would say.”
“This from the alien who had no trouble reducing her to tears when she tried to rip into me?”
“I suppose you could say we reached an understanding, but we're not friends. Ready?”
She grabbed a part of the Controls that looked safe. “Ready as I'll ever be,” she breathed.
He worked the Controls and drew down the lever. The dematerialization sounds rang around them, and they left Chiswick for the universe. For a take-off, it was rather calm.
The Doctor was pleased that it stayed that way. “There! We'll spend a little time in a quiet part of the Vortex. I'll check her systems and you can get ready for your first proper adventure. And after your comments about what kind of weather you like I've thought of the perfect first stop.”
“Ooh! Where and when is it?”
“That would be telling,” he teased.
“Oh, how will I know what to wear?” she griped.
He glanced at the coat and sweater she wore over her jeans. “Well, you won't need the coat, and I think that top will be a bit warm where we're going.”
“So, short sleeves will do?” At his nod, she squealed. “Will there be real sunshine as well?”
“Very likely. There, that should do for now. Shall we see what the Old Girl has drummed up for you?”
“Why do I have the feeling that's going to be the most-polite you'll be towards me all day?”
But there was no venom in it. Not when he was flashing a teasing grin at her. She aimed a swipe at his arm, but he was very able to dodge it.
She scoffed. “Prawn.”
He lost his smile as a thought hit him. “Why are you calling me a crustacean? My species doesn't have a near common ancestor with them.”
Donna laughed. “It's a nickname. Slim, quick, and hard to find. Get used to being the recipient of one after the other. I give nicknames to those I like.”
“You must like me rather well because you have already given me several: Martian Boy, Spaceman, Prawn, Sunshine, dumbo. And I hate that last one, by the way.”
“I was angry and scared. What did you expect? At least I didn't call you weird.”
“No, you called my ship weird.”
“Again, angry and scared.”
His smile returned. “Forgiven. Or I will as soon as I have my space in the Control Room back.”
“Help me with my bags and cases, and it'll happen sooner.”
“So, where are we?” asked Donna as the Doctor opened the TARDIS doors. “Where's my first proper adventure located? And when?!”
He led her to a roughly hewn curtain and pushed it aside, grinning. “Welcome to Ancient Rome, Donna.”
Her eyes opened wide as she looked upon the people wearing items she only ever saw in museums or at costume parties. And the smells were nothing like the modern era. She could smell the evidence of animals living in the area, of foods for sale, and the faint hint of the sea.
“Well, not to them, obviously,” the Doctor continued as they walked along. “Right now... this is brand new Rome.”
Donna squawked wordlessly. “Oh my God, it's... it's so Roman. This is fantastic!” She threw herself into hugging him.
He laughed as he returned it. “Careful, Donna. You might give someone the wrong idea.”
She swatted his arm, but continued with her marveling as they walked along the street. “I'm here... in Rome. Donna Noble in Rome.” She paused a few seconds, looking around. “This is just weird. I mean, everyone here is dead.”
“Well, I wouldn't tell them that. Bad things tend to happen.”
She stopped him as something caught her eye. “Hold on a minute. That sign over there is in English. Are you having me on? Are we in Epcot with the Welsh and Continental designs in the 'English Pavillion'?!”
“No, no, no. Is that what they're teaching in America? No wonder things seem a mess over there,” he muttered as an aside before returning to business. “That's the TARDIS translation circuits, making it look like English. It does the same for speech. To anyone listening, you're speaking Latin right now.”
“I just said 'seriously' in Latin.”
“Well, you don't hear it as Latin. Only someone from this era, someone who's never heard English would hear it as Latin. Which they wouldn't have; not even Old English was around then. At least six other languages were.”
She laughed, eyes twinkling skeptically. “What if I said something in actual Latin? Like 'veni, vidi, vici'? My dad said that when he came back from football. If I said 'veni, vidi, vici' to that lot, what would it sound like?”
He paused. “I'm not sure. No one's ever asked. You have to think of difficult questions, don't you?”
“I'm gonna try it,” Donna said, before walking up to a stallholder.
The Doctor's eyes widened. “You're brave,” he muttered under his breath.
The Stallholder smiled genially. “Hello, sweetheart. What can I get for you, my love?”
“Veni, vidi, vici.”
“Hunh? Sorry? Me no speak Celtic. No can do, missy.”
“Yeah,” Donna said, reflectively. She promptly walked back to the Doctor. “What does he mean 'Celtic'?”
He shrugged. “Perhaps Welsh. To his ears you sound Welsh,” he said as he led her along the streets.
“Won't our clothes look a bit odd?” she asked after a few minutes.
“No. In ancient Rome, anything goes. Think of it as like Soho... but bigger.”
“Oh 'eck. Not necessarily a good thought. You've been here before then?”
“Oh, ages ago. Before you ask, that fire had nothing to do with me.” He paused, thinking a moment. “Well, at least not this me, but I didn't get the chance to look around properly.” He frowned. “The Coliseum... Pantheon... Circus Maximus... You'd expect them to be looming by now. Where is everything?” he asked rhetorically as he stopped to look around. “Let's try this way.”
They finally came to a wider street. Donna looked around. “I'm not an expert, but there are Seven Hills of Rome, aren't there? How come they only got one?”
The Doctor looked where she was. One mountain loomed in the distance. He frowned. But before he could speak the ground shook.
“Here we go again,” one vendor said as he fought to save his stall and merchandise. So, did all of the others nearby.
Donna's eyes went huge. “Wait a minute! One mountain... with smoke... which makes this-”
“Pompeii,” he finished for her. “We're in Pompeii... and it's Volcano Day!”
Chapter Two: The Ghosts in the Past