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Title: Altered History: Prophecies and Pompeii
Genre: Doctor Who
Rating: T/M (violence, whump)
Author: tkel_paris
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.


Chapter One / Chapter Two / Chapter Three / Chapter Four / Chapter Five / Chapter Six / Chapter Seven / Chapter Eight / Chapter Nine / Chapter Ten


Altered History: Prophecies and Pompeii

Started March 20, 2017
Story unfinished as of start of posting
Finished September 25, 2017


Chapter Eleven: Aftermath of Destruction

Gallifrey – the Year One Billion

Donna stared at her friend. Her eyes were huge and her mouth slackened.

The Doctor looked up at Donna. “Not a surprise that you're so shocked.”

They were now standing around with Ohila outside the Panopticon, waiting for the High Council to call them in. Given the news they carried and the still ongoing reactions to the time-line reset, it had required practically the whole of Gallifrey's elites to be present.

“So... she's not really gone then?”

“No,” he said. “I've seen enough since to convince me that she has indeed imprinted herself onto the TARDIS.”

“Yet she's been unable to cause too much trouble, has she?”

“No, and that is no small miracle. But she has caused enough.”

A Chancellory Guard walked into the waiting area. “The Lady Lord President calls upon the Doctor, the Karnaan Chief Priestess, and the Human woman to appear before the High Council.”

“Guard!” snapped Andred, who appeared at the man's side in an instant. Leela was right behind him, unusually silent. Just as the Guard snapped to attention Andred's sharp tone continued. “Remember: Humans have been our allies since before my marriage to the Lady Leela, when she helped win the war against the Sontarans. I expect an apology to both Human ladies at once!”

“At last,” the Doctor said, standing promptly and ignoring the now shaking Guard's avoidance of Leela's gaze. “Shall we get this over with?”

Donna stood and kept near enough to whisper as they walked towards the inner doors. “You really hated having that power, didn't you?”

“I told you.”

“I know why you put that badge in your back pocket. You wanted to give that seal the benefit of your ass cheek every time you sit down.”

The Doctor refused to answer. But between the twitching of his lips and the tiny smirk on Ohila's, Donna had her answer.

“I am Leela,” she said as she walked up to Donna. “You are now travelling with the Doctor?”

Donna drew back just a little at the over-the-top manner of this woman who was dressed completely unlike the Gallifreyans. “Donna Noble. And, yes, I just started as a companion.”

“Donna. That is a good strong name,” she said, clearly approving. “We shall get along very well.”

Realization flashed into Donna's eyes. “Oh, you're the Human woman who married a... Chancellery Guard.” She hesitated only to recall the term the Doctor used.

“Andred. Over there,” Leela added, motioning at her husband who nodded awkwardly back. “He rarely gets to defend my honour. I do it well enough myself.”

“My... my apologies to the Lady Leela and Donna of Noble,” the Guard said, his voice sounding like he was swallowing something awful just to say it.

Donna rolled her eyes. “Close enough,” she muttered as the Doctor led her and the others past the Guard. “Apology accepted.”

Leela slid her hand off the hilt of her weapon, although she kept her glare on the Guard. “I shall have your name, Guard, and when we have finished I shall decide what manner of punishment you shall take.”

The Guard was silent and trying everything to not shake as she passed by.

“Be careful, Donna,” the Doctor whispered. “Andred and Leela would normally never be allowed in here. Only Ohila's safety permits it.”

“Why?”

“The last time anyone unauthorised was allowed in here, a rogue Chancellery Guard shot the Lord President.”

She had no time to ask additional questions because her eyes struggled to take in everything she saw.

The Panoptican was an edifice in blue-grey marble, circular in design. Gallifreyans clearly liked circular design. The seating area was concentric rings of benches, each higher than the one in front, with walkways at each six places, equal distances apart. There had to be a hundred people in the room, sitting together in groups of identical colors. The ceiling was domed and painted like the Sistine Chapel, depicting what were obviously important moments in Gallifrey's official history. A series of thick columns, in pairs, encircled the Panopticon, each made of pure white marble, between which stood statues of figures from Gallifreyan History. In the spaces between those were busts of plaster, of past officials who were obviously big deals to the people. In the center of the room was a circular dais, on which a woman in the finest robes of any of them stood as if to address the assembled Senate.

“Doctor?” Donna whispered.

“Yes?”

“What's with the patchwork quilt effect of all those outfits? Or those giant headboards?”

He cracked a tiny smile, seeing why she might think that. “Each person is in the colours of their Clan and Chapter. Normally they would only be wearing the robes and caps, but here in the Panoptican they wear the headdress that sits on the shoulders and goes behind the head.”

“Looks a bit like a basket ball net.”

“So it would appear.”

“What are those images on the ceiling? Major events in your history?”

“In the official history, beginning with Rassilon's triumph over the Dark Times. And before you ask, the busts are of each Lord President since Rassilon.”

“Are you up there?”

He paused. “They're... hesitating still over that. I'm not hurrying things along, even if three of my faces belong up there.”

She harrumphed. “No surprise, knowing you. And the statues?”

He blinked at the outrage on her face. Like she thought he was missing out on something he deserved, and that she had picked up on how often he'd been walked on and passed-over. Part of him hoped she didn't get it into her head to alter that. “Omega, Rassilon, and The Other are the three most important ones. They mark the foundation of modern Gallifreyan culture and history. The other three I'll explain later.”

“How open for debate is this place?”

“Points are discussed here, but the final say will always be the Lord President's. In this case, Romana.”

The murmuring and disgruntled reactions at the sight of them was deafening. Donna, aware of the distrust between the Karnaans and the Time Lords, could tell that her presence was almost going unnoticed. She had to pause in her assessment of the place and people.

“Lady Lord President, you would let this abomination of a creature into our great chambers?!” demanded one Time Lord of the House of Blue Loom. The Doctor recognized him. Bulek. He was Straxus' contact in the High Council who gave the go-ahead to send the Doctor on those awful missions. Had probably okayed Lucie's being put under the Doctor's protection and might have authorized the alterations attempted on Karen's life.

“Oi!”

Even Ohila started at the sound of Donna's shout. The Doctor's eyes were huge, fearing she had just done something not smart – even if that was something she would not let lie – and he waited to see what would happen next. And if he had to intervene on her behalf.

Donna's eyes flashed as she tried to fix each member of the High Council – one by one – with a glare that the Moment might have wished to be able to give. “How dare you! You call yourselves so great and enlightened, but you won't even allow for a key reality of life. History is written by the victors, and the losers struggle to survive in the aftermath. You think you can see all of what was, what is, and what must be. And yet you don't even know the details of the prophecy that confirmed that a woman could be Lord President, do you?!”

Romana, eyes just as huge as the Doctor's, stared in shock. She plainly could not believe that Donna was challenging the so-called good and great of Gallifrey. She could not call them that in good faith after knowing how the Doctor's father lost his place in the Senate even before the Doctor was born. What would happen next?!

“That prophecy the Doctor told me about confirms something I could guess just by looking at all of you. It spoke of a breach between you and the descendants of the woman your great leader threw down. No wonder she retaliated against you! You were denying your own cousins!”

Bulek stood in the horrified silence and walked towards Donna, practically stomping his way over to stand right in front of Donna to intimidate her. “Silence, Human woman! You know nothing of what you speak! I ought to have authorised Straxus to do more in his work before he died.”

The Doctor's eyes narrowed and he started towards them.

“And here's my answer to that, Time Wart!” Donna bellowed before she slapped him.

Bulek squawked and went flying a few feet away, dropping to his side. The Doctor was stunned that not only had she hit Bulek harder than she had him, but that the Senator who had commanded Straxus had not thought to defend himself.

Donna stood tall and took in the now shocked and silenced room. “Didn't see that coming, did you?! No, you can't see everything and it's beyond time you accepted that! There are times when intervention is called for, but not like the nasty Celestial Intervention Agency you have. It doesn't even sound an honourable as MI6, but more like the Gestapo!”

The Doctor flinched. He remembered his run-in with them, back when Lucie was still alive. He never admitted to Lucie how on-guard he had been to avoid them searching him, to give them any reason to cause him physical harm. Given how he was been re-earning her trust after the end of Oribus and her ordeal at the Headhunter's hands, he felt she didn't need to know. He wasn't sure how he would speak of it now.

“You don't even know what this Straxus put the Doctor and some of his companions through!” Donna continued, bold and ready to get her say on the Doctor's behalf. “If you did, you would have known that the Doctor had recovered enough to leave Gallifrey. He hasn't told me much about what happened after that, but enough to know that part of him felt that Straxus deserved his end. You don't understand an important thing about living. You have to accept that you can't control others. You want the least amount of effort to rule? Let people learn to run their own lives! If they interfere with others, then maybe intervention is needed. But you have no right to twist someone's life in order to suit your own liking! That sounds like what you've done time and time again to the Doctor, a man who's worth ten times more than the whole lot of you put together! You know what you've become? Rotting vegetables in stagnant water!”

Her words left a sea of blank faces. The only ones who showed comprehension were Romana and Leela. The former was nonetheless shocked, and the latter not bothering to hide her amusement or glee.

“Oh, you don't get it, do you? You never factored for anything that went against what you thought possible. That is why you were nearly destroyed by that ancient war the Doctor spoke of, and why a left-over weapon nearly killed him! You act like you're our gods, yeah? Well, I've got something to say about that. Whatever happened in our past, we've grown past needing them. Those have become legends that no one believes anymore, moral tales of why too much power is bad for someone to have. So for once in your rotten lives, stop telling the Doctor what to do! And start listening for danger that needs more than you retreating behind some energy barrier while the rest of the universe lives in danger!”

Bulek, groaning his way to his feet, looked up in horror. “Doctor, you told her about Morbius?!”

“More than that. She knows about what you let Straxus do to Karen, and how well that turned out. Although I didn't get into what Straxus permitted the Master to nearly do to the TARDIS – and I mean all versions of her along my timeline.”

“Doctor-”

“Do you deny this whole thing, then?” Donna snapped, scathing as her eyes tried to shoot sharp arrows at the Time Wart before her. “Because I can't see the Doctor lying after I got him twice with a slap.”

Leela scoffed. “Sounds too mild.”

“You haven't been on the receiving end of one,” the Doctor muttered as he rubbed the cheek that still felt Donna's hand on it. Gallifreyan sense memory lasted even longer than he had thought possible.

Bulek had enough. “Guards!”

Three Guards who were on standby came in, baffled. The Guard who had insulted the Humans looked on from the doorway. They took one look at him on the floor, a red imprint on his face. Then they looked at Donna and then at Leela who had already drawn her dagger and was ready to advance on Bulek.

“Shoot this presumptuous Human!” Bulek shouted, pointing at Donna.

As one, they downed their weapons. “We shall not shoot someone our Lady Leela looks upon with respect,” the senior one said for them all. “Such a lady can be no threat to Gallifrey.”

Bulek spluttered, eyes trying to grow to rival the dome over the Citadel.

“Leela, please put the dagger away,” Romana said, attempting to inject some calm back into the room. “Stabbing him would merely put him out of his misery, and that is a way for him to avoid facing the consequences of his folly.”

Bulek looked on as he saw his support dwindle from even his own clan and decided it was best to not speak. He could not think of something that would not be provoking to a being he still considered lesser. Although if he could not see a slap coming and stop it, perhaps this one was underestimated. Or did that describe a high number of the Doctor's traveling companions?

“You stay here, thinking yourselves all high-and-mighty, but you ignore dangers that you could've stopped sooner,” Donna continued, seeing the danger to herself vanish. “Now a whole planet's gone missing and an old enemy of the universe is back – when you thought they were gone!”

“What is she talking about, Doctor?” Romana said, cutting into the murmuring of the junior members of the High Council and halting any attempts by the senior members to speak.

The Doctor took the opportunity to step forward and into the center of the room. “My Lords, members of the Senate of All Gallifrey.” He remembered every time he had set foot in this room thus far across his lives, and none of them were terribly pleasant. At least this time he felt like he truly had the upper hand. It was so rare that he was going to make the most of it.

“The day I met Donna Noble she appeared inside my TARDIS. At first I thought you lot had dropped another Human on me, and yet there were no warning signs like when Straxus managed to transport Lucie Miller through all the Old Girl's defences. It turned out that a few Humans had figured out how to create huon particles and one was poisoning Donna with them.”

“You cannot be serious!” cried Bulek.

“I know when my old friend and might-have-been-husband is joking,” Romana said dryly. “I assure you he is not, which is far more alarming. Did you unravel them?”

Donna shot a curious look at the Doctor.

“Later, Donna,” he whispered, well aware that it would only last until they left the High Council. “All except the ones already inside Donna,” he continued. “Those were being used to unlock a device left inside Theia, the planet that collided into Earth and fused with it. It was a Racnoss ship with hibernating young.”

The dismayed cries that burst from the High Council were indistinguishable from each other to Donna's ears.

“While I managed to stop the Empress of the Racnoss and her children, two more threats still linger. First, the planet Pyrovillia is missing. We discovered this back when Vesuevius exploded and buried Pompeii, and near as I can tell it's still missing in Donna's time almost 2,000 years later.”

“Only a few technologies can move a planet,” Romana said, contemplative and tense. “It was said that they had all been contained.”

“Clearly, one has not,” Donna said, matter-of-factly. “So are you finally going to be on the alert to any others?”

“We must,” Romana declared. “Plans must quickly be drawn for detecting missing planets, and then observing to determine how it happened. Then we will act swiftly to restore them.”

“And are your people going to drop the whole of that responsibility on the Doctor?” asked Donna, tone sharper than a glass shard. “Doesn't sound right to me.”

“No, this time more will be required. The Doctor's stance on our complete non-interference is right; while we must not interfere with history, we can neither permit others to do so. I could name several events that would never have happened had we been a bit more active in prevention. Morbius' brief resurrection is one of them.”

“It was wiped from history,” Bulek protested.

“But not forgotten,” Ohila interrupted. “The Sisterhood never forgot that we and all our fellow exiles were driven off of Karn by the threat that you ignored, or that the Time Lords increased the 'security' around the planet after we felt it was safe to return to the world we had to call home.”

“We must move past that,” the Doctor insisted, raising his voice to command all attention. “The peoples of Gallifrey and Karn must work together. Not just for the sake of Time and the Multi-Verses, but for our own. We were once the same people, but we let a squabble over how to go about dealing with our Time Senses kill many of our kindred and began what we should call the Great Breach. Had Rassilon and Pythia found a way to work together in peace I am convinced that not only would there be far more of us now, but that the Universe would be a better place. The dreaded World-Ender would have faded away, instead of what did happen. But they did not, and we must live with the consequences of that – which includes the fact that The Moment is still a threat.”

Cries of dismay filled the room, and even Romana's mouth slackened.

“Yet we can choose a new course, a path of reconciliation and peace. It could lead to the end of the Curse, and the revival of Gallifrey. Otherwise we will go extinct, and then what will happen to Time?” the Doctor asked the room.

Silence filled the Panoptican. He had not expected an answer anyway.

Romana took a breath and made her decision. “I believe that anyone who would oppose this should make their reasons clear now, so that we can discuss them openly, in front of the High Priestess. I will show all Senators the evidence we have found that proves our two peoples are the same. Whatever arguments you have, let us all hear them, so that we can resolve it now to avoid a situation that could lead to war.”

“I hope none shall, for we are all needed,” Ohila said. She took advantage of the silence to continue. “While my genetic memory tells me to be as suspicious of your kind as you are of mine, I cannot let my sistren suffer anymore. We none of us shall forget, but I am willing to forgive and work with you to create a blend of science and magic to solve our problems.”

The decision took far longer than the Doctor's best day of patience could take.

/=/=/=/=/

“So... you and Romana?” Donna finally asked as they walked outside, taking in the sights.

The High Council finally capitulated, one by one. Some were very reluctant, but it seemed that survival was a strong enough instinct even in a social class such as the Time Lords. As anti-social as they were, even they could see that working with the Karnaans was in their best interests. They would still have to sell the idea to the Houses who lacked a seat in the Senate, and that could be a lot harder.

However, the possibility of additional rations and other incentives would likely work miracles. Especially the chance to finally have a proper increase in the population since Leela's arrival. Gallifrey had lacked so much for so long that the promise of improvement might mean the people were desperate. If the situation had not looked good, the Doctor would have worried about his people being taken in by a con.

Although he hoped that Haspira was kept far away from the cooperation until Ohila brought her to heel. That one still seemed eager for his death even with her leader right there quieting them all.

Mind, Bulek might be enduring a lot of murderous glares. If they thought about the implications of Karnaan and Gallifreyan blood being the same, they would soon realize that Zarodnix had failed to consider nabbing a Karnaan as his source for DNA. Moribus might have revived as a woman, but would have been no less dangerous. Had that been the case, perhaps the Doctor would have endured even more danger in righting the situation. Maybe even failed.

But he clearly had bigger problems at present. He found the ability to laugh at the memory, even though it felt like Donna was heating a pan with some butter and adding popping corn. Namely, him.

“It was long ago, when I was in my fourth regeneration. Just after Leela had first come to Gallifrey and demanded my cousin as husband. Yes, Andred and I were forged from the same Loom. We may not be related by genetics, but we are of the same Clan. Red Loom. Cousins, on my mother's side. Being lowborn, Andred would have been lucky to have a woman smile at him from across the street, much less married. Anyway, as I was preparing to leave Gallifrey, I found the TARDIS had been broken into. And there she was; Romana, fresh out of the Academy, sitting in my Control Room. And I knew why she was there. My wife had died long before and in my absence, my House and Hers had been allied. Money had been exchanged for a seat in the Senate, and return I was supposed to marry her." He paused for a moment, before giving a mild chuckle. "We disliked each other on sight. We worked together, trying to locate the Key to Time and grew to respect each other, even love each other on some level. Such a union would have been frowned upon and ridiculed, and eventually punished. So, we mutually decided that it would be for the best that we parted company without fulfilling the agreement. In short, I found a loophole in the agreement and used it to our advantage." He gave another cough of a laugh, wistful and smiling gently. "She switched places with another companion of mine, Adric from E-pace. Long story. And then we lost touch for a time. But, that's the truth of Romana and me. We were very nearly married."

“And how did she get back?”

The Doctor looked mildly confused, but smiled and answered slowly. “I haven't the faintest idea.”

“Never asked her, then. Typical bloke. Could it be said that the Moment was acting on her to make her nearly use Leela and Andred for her plan?”

“I don't want to think about that. Desperation, Donna. The Looms have stopped working and we need more people. I think that opened Romana to thinking about what had been unthinkable before.”

“Do you think Andred and Leela will forgive her for trying to manipulate them?”

“Well, that will take a while. Although given how they were talking with Ohila I would not be surprised to hear of a child coming for them. And perhaps more will follow in their footsteps.”

“Is your House going to expect you to take a new wife?”

He laughed loudly, although his eyes lacked humor. “I doubt there's a Gallifreyan woman willing to have me even if her family were willing to consider me.”

Donna frowned over his choice of words. “The person who saved the whole planet and you couldn't find a wife among them?” She sighed and shook her head. “Well, maybe I shouldn't talk.”

“Donna, what do you think of Gallifrey?” he promptly asked, wanting to change the subject.

She snorted, letting him and taking the chance to vent a little. “A bunch of stuffed shirts, a lot of them. You get them down our way, too. The self-opinionated; the self-absorbed; the arrogant; most of them in government or the local council. They get like that because they're in office and there isn't a fig you can do about it. They get away with it because they can, and better than everyone else because they have that seat and you don't. They look down their noses at you, but you know what I think? I think it makes them look like a donkey. Long nose. But basically, the Senate here is no different. Two-faced bigots with two rear ends. Don't be too surprised if they change their minds in a few day's time, or stab you in the back while you're not looking. Your Senate isn't even a proper democracy, so they have even less reason to be swayed by public accountability and votes."

The Doctor grinned at her, refusing to remind her that once or twice he had been one of those 'stuffed shirts'. "I meant my planet," he said, holding in a laugh.

"Oh. Sorry. Well, not seen much of it to make a proper appraisal."

"First impressions," he hedged.

She laughed aloud. “You sound rather eager for me to like it. You know what you are? A great big outer space dunce who's going a bit soft.”

“Donna, I-”

She swat his arm and laughed harder. “You are too easy to tease! Oh, Doctor, you don't need to worry,” she promised as she quieted her amusement. “It's so beautiful. Silver leaves, red grasses, and two suns? I never thought I could see anything like this and not think it fake! Although why am I feeling like I've had to adjust my breathing?”

“Rarified air. I checked your vitals before coming here, and I was sure your lungs could handle it. If it had been a real risk I would have taken precautions.”

She glared. “Still would've liked a warning. It's a recipe for disaster if you don't tell your friends and assistants things like that. Anyway, how long have we got until it's a good idea to leave?”

“Do you mean before the High Council feels too threatened by two stubborn Human women, or before they get ideas about what they want me to do next?”

“Either. Although I have to ask. What is the deal with Leela?!”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, she's a bit... over-the-top. I thought I could be the definition of bolshy, but she's outright aggressive!”

The Doctor winced at the memories. “Leela is the heir of the King of the Sevateem. They're from a dangerous world where they had to be violent to survive. My fourth incarnation was the one who met her, and he... I did my best to at least get a veneer of civilisation over her. Trust me, she used to be much more... like that. After what you did, I think she'll find that she won't need to resort to threats of violence so much. You just showed them that Humans aren't that far removed from the War Lords, the warrior class of Gallifrey.”

“Okay,” Donna said. “Then I suppose the next time I see her I'll be able to talk with her. Takes all kinds of people, and as long as you don't harm others you can be however you like in my book.”

“Even though you'll have an opinion on their choice?”

“Oi!”

“After knowing you even a short while I know you have opinions on everything. I can only imagine what you would have made of the regrettable tastes in fashion my predecessors had.”

“Or lack of said?”

“I can't answer that without giving you more grounds to tease me.”

“Are they still in the TARDIS?”

“In the Wardrobe, yes.”

“Then you'll prove it later. And I'll still tease you. And why would someone like Leela travel with you?”

He rubbed his face. “Oh, you'll laugh. My fourth regeneration had a striking resemblance to their god, right down to the smile.” He paused for a second, glancing at Donna. “Well, perhaps the right word is identical,” he admitted, face roasting at the memory.

“Hence her cry when she saw you injured?”

“Yes.”

“Did her god dress like you did?”

“I never asked, and I never wanted to know.”

She decided to let that lie. Poor Spaceman's face looked ready to burst into flame, and she didn't like hurting him even unintentionally.

They were silent for a while, taking in the sights as they walked back to the TARDIS. The medics left them be, looking rather glad to get their space back.

As the Doctor brought them into the Vortex, Donna thought for several seconds, considering something that came to mind. “So... one day that potion will cease to work? How did it work?”

“There were two, Donna. Karnaans use words to manipulate objects and even Space and Time. Expert Karnaans can teleport themselves across great distances. It's how I was captured by them and how they escaped the danger from Moribus. Although the mental effort is exhausting. They're also excellent creators of healing elixirs. The first one was made to halt an impending regeneration.”

“That change that Evelina mentioned?”

“Yes. Ohila seems convinced that to properly thwart The Moment this me had to live beyond that dreadful day, that I still have some important role to play as this me. So she gave me that one, to convert the energy into a healing coma so I could recover. Although I needed more help.”

“You said in your tale that you didn't want to wake.”

“I refused to activate the methods to rise from the coma. Every Time Lord is fully trained in using their abilities even when near death. I think part of me wanted to die.”

She gasped. “That's awful!”

“I felt like I had nothing worth living for. And she knew that. So she also gave me something to force my body to wake, and give me an additional boost of energy to get me moving again. And it worked.”

“Was that her only motive, do you think?”

The Doctor winced and looked away. “No. I think she, seeing the healing that will come to Gallifrey and the population rebuilding that accompanies it, wanted to help me get ready to receive a wife who would bear me children.”

Donna's eyes tried to escape their sockets. “Who is it?”

He started, but calmed himself enough to sigh. “I don't know. Not even Ohila seems to know, but reading between the lines I suspect that someone will become as important to me as my own family. Although I can't imagine letting anyone in that much. It could be anyone. And I'm not ready. I can't let anyone in like that, even in the way I had to my children's mother. I don't want to think about it.”

“We all feel that way after a big loss,” Donna said, silently noting how jittery his body was as he thought about it. Not to mention the suspicion and eagerness to avoid Gallifrey. “My granddad didn't laugh for weeks after my gran died. Well, it didn't sound real. Mum got even harsher for a while, until she was able to adjust. And my Dad lost his parents when I was little. I suppose loss has a different perspective when you live so long.”

“My long memory means that I feel the pain longer,” he said. “Donna, the day I had to leave my granddaughter behind because she would have sacrificed her own happiness to stay with me? I still feel that emptiness the decision left me. Even though I gained a great-grandson from it...”

Donna's eyes watered at the sight of the renewed pain. She could guess in general terms the boy's fate. That Alex he had mentioned in painful passing. The details were none of her business unless he was willing to speak of them, and he was not ready to.

The Doctor heard her approach but did not look up. He waited to see how this Earthwoman would react to the latest bit from his past he admitted to. He felt her step right next to him, and blinked when she gripped his nearer hand in both of hers. Then he looked at her, questioning.

“I'm so sorry,” she whispered. “If I unintentionally poked holes in your pain-”

“You couldn't have known,” he said quietly, placing his other hand over hers. “I forgave you already.”

“And you need a friend more than you know.”

“Donna-”

“I know I can't even begin to make up for your losses. I won't even try. All I want is to be your friend, to help you find some measure of peace that still honours all of your lost friends and family. Because if you keep letting this consume you then The Moment and other enemies like her will win. And I won't let my friend sink to such depths ever again.”

“We won't have forever.”

“But I can give you a start on a better path than you were on. If you'll let me and can forgive a Human woman's presumption.”

He lightly snorted a laugh through his nose, nearly silent. “Presumption would be assuming that you were enough to make up for my losses. You're too wise for that, Donna.”

“Well, if you can forgive one act of presumption, there's something I think you need and never got enough of. Particularly when bad things happened.”

“What?”

She let go of his hand and tugged him into a hug.

He stilled, not sure how to react at first. But slowly his arms instinctively wrapped around her and he leaned his head against hers. “No one's ever wanted to share my burdens before.”

“It's what really good friends do on Earth, Martian Boy.”

The name got a chuckle out of him. When she adjusted the hug's tone, he quieted in realization. “You wanted to make me laugh.”

“Well, we either laugh or we cry in times of great stress, as my granddad Noble once said. He preferred laughing when possible, because sometimes the crying will incapacitate us for days.”

“I see his point,” he murmured, content to sink into the embrace.

They remained hugging for a while, both needing the contact.

Unbeknown to them, within the rotor the spirit of The Moment watched. If the Doctor listened carefully, he could hear her fuming. But he could not know what she was plotting.

THE END...

TO BE CONTINUED IN “ECHOES ON OODSPHERE”

Comments

bas_math_girl
Oct. 30th, 2017 12:19 am (UTC)
Oooh, I do love the hint of a plot bunny in the evening. *tries to decide if I should grin or look innocent*

Donna was magnificent as she stood up to the Senate. When others would feel intimidated, that's when Donna is at her best, because she hates bullying. And of course she would wait until they were on their own to offer compassionate and selfless companionship. her offer of forever has no overtones of being self-centred at all. That isn't the way she operates. :)
tkel_paris
Nov. 3rd, 2017 06:00 am (UTC)
Excuse me while I attempt an "Apocalypse Now" impression. Try this one: O:D See, you can do both. ;)

TM helped a bit, although the majority of that was my idea. I definitely needed help putting together the setting.

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