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Title: Waters of Lethe

Rating: heavy T for sadness, grief, angst, and attempted character death

Characters: Donna, Sarah Jane, Handy, Mickey

Summary: Donna Noble ponders why she's so sad... why she doesn't remember the world she lives in... and the people taking care of her. Second person POV, just for the personal writing challenge.

Challenge Recipient: ahalfpasttea

Prompt: Martha Jones detonates Earth in Journey's End. In doing so, she saves all of creation but erases humanity's future as we (and the Doctor) know it. Please explore the outcome from the POV of Donna, whose memories were still erased in order to save her brain but are resurfacing slowly, despite the Doctor's self-imposed absence. I prefer an undertone of angst, like an apocalyptic piece without all them zombies. The rest is up to you!

Doesn't want: Rose. Fluffy bunnies or all-consuming love (subtle romance is fine). A happy ending (there can be a tinge of hope, if you like, but only a tinge). Non-con.

Disclaimer: I would never have thought of this myself. Just like I can't pretend to own any of these characters.

Author's Note: When I got this challenge, I felt pulled more than a bit out of my comfort zone. So I put the prompt aside for a while to work on something else... which pushed me out of my comfort zone in different ways. And once I picked this back up... I found ideas hitting me.

The title comes from Greek mythology: the name of one of the five rivers of Hades, the Underworld. I needed to look up another word/phrase for “forgetfulness,” so I pulled out my thesaurus and found my title.

Beta reading thanks to cassikat and tardis_mole, whose help made me more confident about what I wrote. You two are awesome! :D

Happy Holidays, ahalfpasttea!

It's been a few months now, but you've barely kept track. Before, there were few things you couldn't keep track of. It made you good at all the various jobs you ever worked. But now... who would hire a woman with such enormous memory loss? About two whole years of your life, just... gone...

And never mind how you still can't make sense of where you are. You swear there were airplanes and such all your life. Now you only hear of those Zepplin things that you thought were stopped after the Hindenberg caught fire. The sight of one had unnerved you, and it still does.

Nothing is the same. Yes, the streets are there and the places are there. But where are the people? None of the people you knew as friends – or frenemies, perhaps that was the better term – were around. All seemed to have been taken by something called Cybermen. The word sends shivers down your spine still, but you can't explain why. You can't remember ever meeting them!

Although you get snatches of images in your dreams... that just barely linger for a while after you wake... Sometimes you wonder if you did meet them, and whatever accident happened was a blessing in that regard. But no one will tell you details. Those who would, don't know. And those who know... won't tell you.

All you have are two people you don't remember knowing before. A lovely older – but not old – woman named Sarah Jane Smith is your guide. She's taken you under her wing. There's a perpetual sadness in her eyes, like she lost something or someone unspeakably precious to her, and you are the only thing that keeps her grounded.

You don't think you were ever a touchstone for anyone. Not when you vividly remember your mother telling you how much you were wasting your life... and hers...

Your parents... Your grandfather... They're gone. You have no idea what happened to them. Some say it was the Cybermen, but your instincts tell you it was something else. Part of that time lost to you. The time that Sarah Jane must know about...

Her and William Michael. He's this skinny boy (well, you call him a boy, but he is a grown man – or should be, since he does sometimes carry the energy of a bloody teenager!) who's also taken it upon himself to look after you. You can hear Chiswick in his voice, but there's something else... And you could swear that it's one more thing you should know... but it's hidden to you...

The two of them are in your dreams. You can only jut recall bits from them now. Sarah Jane and dinosaurs... in London. (How daft was that?! A pure dream, you're sure of it!) Sarah Jane and a robotic dog... called K-9... Crazy things with wings at a school, with Sarah Jane investigating... And then there're weirder images attached to William's face in your dreams: spiders, robot Santas, being inside a live Vesuveus, comforting him in some odd room when he'd lost someone, meeting Agatha Christie...

Although sometimes you have the sense that the man in your dreams who wears William's face isn't William... but someone else. Because the images with Sarah Jane sometimes have you experiencing life as a man. Two different men, you think... And then you get glimpses of life through other's eyes – all of them men. All sorts of unbelievable things that vanish with the morning light... and sometimes glimpsing them, as if in a mirror, all of them different... but the same...

In your dreams, you're someone who was needed. Who did amazing things. Who saved lives and made a difference. Whether you're yourself or... someone else...

But in the harsh light of day... You tried to squeak by with awful temp jobs in bad offices. But so many thought that they could take advantage of you... and William finally arranged for the job you have now. A bit more permanent office secretary for a medical building. How he got it for you, he won't say. But you've been left alone by the leeches.

Probably because William let them think he's your boyfriend. Really, the idea was so silly the first how many times you heard it?! He's so skinny you'd get a paper-cut from hugging him!

When you first had that thought, you got that familiar tingle in the back of your mind, like it meant something. But then you had a massive headache... again... It always happens when you try to remember... and sometimes even when you don't try... There's hardly a morning that goes by where you don't wake with your head pounding...

And you didn't even get the pleasure of having been drunk or even buzzed. William and Sarah Jane are fiercely watching over your actions, like they're afraid you'll collapse at any moment. It's bloody annoying, and you've tried to shake them more than once to have a night out. It never works; they seem to know you extremely well, especially William. It's like he can predict what you might do a lot of the time...

You always wanted someone who could get you, but now... You wish you'd been careful what you wished for. Yes, he keeps you safe, but it's so stifling!

What he and Sarah Jane do to earn a living, you're not sure. You think computers are involved somehow. At least that's what you figure from how much this man named Mickey Smith (no relation to Sarah Jane, you're pretty sure of that much) comes by to talk. Lovely man, in character and looks. Bit young for you, though... Although you're pretty sure he's had a crush on Sarah Jane...

Not that he's much happier than the rest of you. You've had to resort to listening in on some conversations. They always talk too low for you to hear properly, but you've pieced together a few things. They've all worked together before, during that time you can't remember. You apparently did something incredibly brave (if the awe in William's voice when he talks about you is any indication) that led to your accident. And William and Mickey have each had dealings with someone who hadn't treated either of them well. Someone they both had to walk away from... more than once.

Someone who still tried contacting William every so often, but who he usually hung up on. Usually after growling something like, “Oh, get over that I'm not him already! That he didn't want you!”

You risked asking Sarah Jane if the two men had been interested in the same girl, and she – flinching – just said, “They don't like to talk about it. Just causes them pain.”

You get that. When you try to think about Lance, there's this... gut-wrenching agony in your heart... You can't recall anything, but it's like you saw him betray you and your heart remembers when your mind can't...

It's almost how you'd describe a lot of the images that bleed into your waking mind from your dreams. They make no sense in your head, but they seem to mean the world to your heart... and just make your loss weigh all the more upon you...

This isn't living, you tell yourself once again. This is hell on Earth... What, you ask yourself, am I doing being a burden on these good people...?

You shook your guards by not going straight home after work. Instead, you let yourself be drawn to this one tall building in London. It has one name, but your dreams gave it another. It's one more thing that bothers you... but somehow... You wonder if this place might hold the answers you're looking for...

It's too easy to get to the roof. It's an abandoned building, after all. Once you're there, you look over the skyline, still lit by the sun, and a few dream images float to your awareness. Standing up here with that man who was William and yet not him. There was something behind you, that he was putting out flames in... Yes, in. As strange as that sounded, it was the only thing that seemed right...

You feel another headache coming on, and have no choice but to let it go. Again! This whole trying to remember and only getting headaches for your trouble, of finding it practically impossible to get a good job without help, and being watched over by two guardians who won't tell you what happened to you... You feel lower than ever before... Worthless...

Life, you think as your feet draw you closer to the edge, would be better for them without me. I'm only holding them back, you feel... So your feet bring you closer... and you blind yourself to all other sensory input... including a feeling that you'd be betraying someone by going through with this...

And then someone's running behind you, and drags you away from ledge. “Donna!” It's William. Resolute protector who is like God, indeed! He's clasping you to him with a death-grip. “No, you have so much to live for!”

But you explode at him, struggling within his arms: “What?! To live as half a person?! To always wonder what you missed?! To always be the one who never notices the aliens and all the crazy things that happen around me?! I'm nothing, William! I'm a bloody burden to you and to Sarah Jane! You two won't even have the decency to tell me what happened to me!”

No!” His shout, just as explosive as yours, stuns you. He cries, “Donna, you nearly died because you did something so reckless and brave that it scared me senseless! Believe me, if I knew a way to give you back your memories, I would! You were so magnificent, it takes my breath away! It hurts to even think about all you lost, and I feel irrationally guilty about it. So yes, I'm over-protective of you because I can't imagine life without you in it! We've all lost so much, and you're all I have left! I can't lose you!”

As passionate as he's been in arguing on your behalf, this is the first time you can remember seeing him angry. But – even as you vaguely notice that it's self-directed, with a hint of frustration with someone else – there's something nagging at the back of your mind. “I've seen this kind of anger in you before, haven't I...?” you choke out.

He swallows, hard. “Yes.”

What he doesn't say, about what exactly happened, for once isn't your focus. You can see – clearly – how much whatever happened weighs on him. That his actions, however annoying, stem from a genuine affection for you... “What if you have to take care of me for the rest of my life? I'm an over-weight, over-opinionated, under-educated temp. What do I have to offer anyone?”

His eyes capture yours, and your breath is taken away by the intensity behind the water clouding his gaze. “The biggest heart I've ever known, a refusal to let me get away with anything, and a genuine caring instinct toward others. And I hate it when you say that you're not beautiful, because you are.”

You don't know if you've ever felt like your face tried to turn the color of your hair before, but the growing – and, yes, fond – smile on William's face makes it less embarrassing. No less awkward for you, but a lot less embarrassing. Maybe, if this determined and bright man thinks you're worth something, then maybe that's enough...

Although you, over the next few hours, press for something to explain the dreams you've had. He and Sarah Jane blanch so many times, but finally – finally – you get enough details out of them to piece together a very skeletal outline of what might have happened. (They're pleading that they don't want to prompt your mind to create false memories in place of the lost ones, and you sense that they're not really telling the whole story, but their unease is enough to persuade you to let it slide.)

William apparently has a twin, and he was the one you knew more of, saw more of, for some time. He's done a runner after the accident, evidently feeling horribly guilty about what happened. Although you can't help but wonder why William looks so angry with his twin... And yes, there was a girl involved... A girl who wanted the twin, and neither Mickey nor William – but who was left behind, too... And now neither man is talking to her, for reasons that William gets angry just thinking about. He mutters something about that girl not having enough respect for you, but you encourage him to let it go. And yes, there was an American man who worked with them. (You've seen him in your dreams, too.) Neither Sarah Jane nor William has any clue where he is, and there's no fibbing in their voices or eyes when they say that...

It's at that moment you realize what an odd pair you and William make. You long to remember everything but can't, and he wishes he could forget so much...

You're awake a while, forlornly contemplating what the hell you can do now. William needs you, very much if his tears on that rooftop were any indication... Taking care of you seems to help Sarah Jane find a measure of peace... Your earlier actions seem incredibly selfish now. You have to find a way to live on, for their sakes... You don't know what you're going to do... but it clearly involves finding a way to live with this mess...

A scream from William bursts your musings. You rush to his room without even realizing it, and plow inside. He's sitting upright, sweating, and staring in terror at the wall in front of him. “William...?”

The sound of your voice startles him, and his eyes fix disbelievingly upon you. “You're alive...” he cries, as if he can't convince himself that it's true.

It's enough to make you rush to his side and draw him into your arms, praying that you'll comfort him. He sags against you, which pulls you down on the bed. He clutches at you, crying softly into your nightshirt and murmuring incoherent words of relief.

When Sarah Jane appears in the doorway, plainly exhausted but still alarmed, you mouth that you've got this as your hands gently rub his back and stroke his hair. She watches for a long moment before leaving you two. She does raise an eyebrow when you mouth for her to close the door behind her, but she complies.

Once you're alone with him, you realize that you have something to focus on. This brilliant (and yes, quite intelligent) and batty man is so attached to you that he's distraught over the very thought of losing you. So you will be there for him, and somehow find a way to live as his own touchstone.

Whatever else might happen between you two... Well, there was something to be said for avoiding spoilers about one's future. It seemed very important somehow, as though you somehow know that spoilers hurt William's twin deeply...

This time, you push the thoughts aside before the headache can start. Instead, you sink into the bed and softly sing to the man who might become more to you one day. You might have never found skinny boys attractive before, but this one might be special enough to break the rules for...



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 6th, 2012 04:52 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on dealing brilliantly with such a hard prompt, love! I like the spark of hope you give us at the end. :D
Feb. 6th, 2012 05:30 pm (UTC)
So... did you have any clue I was the author? Just wondering. :)

And thanks! It was a tough one. I was grateful to still have NaNo to work on to give me time to think about it. Never would've thought a second-person POV would pop out, but it did. :D
Feb. 6th, 2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
If I'm totally honest, yes, yes I did guess it was you. But then there were quite a few clues for me. :D
Feb. 7th, 2012 12:12 am (UTC)
Monday 6th February
User eponymous_rose referenced to your post from Monday 6th February saying: [...] by [Amy/Rory | PG-13] Waters of Lethe [...]
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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