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Title: A Mother's Awakening
Series: Riverlets Through Time
Rating: T
Author: tkel_paris
Summary: Sylvia (Mott) Noble had her reasons for being like she was. Hear them now. Sixth story in the “Riverlets Through Time” series.
Dedication: nini_cuddles. It's still going on! :P
Disclaimer: Did any of this make it to the screen? Then you know who owns what.
Author's Note: Well... Redeeming Sylvia Noble is a challenge for any D/D writer, but one worth the effort. Here's mine at explaining Sylvia as seen in canon, and how that changes in this ficverse.

And yes, I know the icon's from the wrong genre. I wanted to express the feelings of Sylvia for the majority of the time covered in the fic, and this Alex Eames icon seemed to have the right thought behind it...

Bridal Fears
Diverging Truths
Truth Shines Through
Flowers of Time
Handy('s) Story

Sylvia Mott was born with ambition in her blood, and intelligence in her mind. She was determined to not be completely dependent on another person, to have her own business and to make as much of her own destiny as she could. She knew she had the skills to make it work.

Of course, she fought an uphill battle her whole life. Although women were gaining equality, even a woman owning her own shop could be seen through less than sympathetic eyes in her youth. And never mind the way she'd had to use her opinions and words to get what she needed to turn it into something viable! Bolshy women weren't exactly considered a good thing, and being driven could get you labeled as such – even when you knew a man would be praised for doing the types of things you did!

Still, she met Geoffrey Noble, who admired her ability to make things happen and her determination to ensure her customers were pleased with the results. The man was a policeman, and somehow held rather different opinions than any other man she'd run across. Not to say it was an easy courtship, but she was a married woman in her early 20s and soon had to adjust her life for a daughter.

A daughter she wanted to become just like her. Even with the ginger hair that somehow came down from a few generations ago in her family tree. Though she did wonder if it had been that vibrant... Perhaps eating right had helped there...

Her poor daughter... Sylvia knew that Donna was bright, but she seemed even more opinionated than Sylvia herself had been, and that – combined with being a ginger – earned her teasing throughout her childhood. Sylvia wasn't very good at comforting, unless there was a genuine hurt. (Although once when a fight provoked by another girl left Donna with a bruise and torn hair, Sylvia had felt compelled to march down to the school and coax the truth out of the other girl. It was one of the few memories of holding Donna and being the one to soothe her tears that stuck out in both their minds.)

Sometimes she wished Donna hadn't been so like her. Somehow, being ginger made being opinionated worse in the eyes of others, and made life so much harder for Donna...

Sylvia knew her daughter was bright, and could do anything she wished. She was her and Geoffrey's daughter, after all! But the girl never did well in school, and didn't pursue higher education. A business degree would have been the thing, but Donna seemed to lack something that Sylvia had had in buckets since she was young: a sense of direction, of where her life was supposed to go. Donna barely passed her courses (except for maths – that was the one place where she completely excelled, even shaming the boys with her scores), and sank into temping to earn her keep. She'd started just out of secondary school, and hadn't stopped since.

Well, until late last year when she was placed on the dole after not working. But doing... whatever she was doing!

It broke Sylvia's heart to see her daughter's heart broken by all the men who drifted in and out of her life. More then once, she wished Geoff had a protégé who was like him; Donna absolutely adored her father. Oh, Sylvia would've even been glad for a soldier like her own father – even if he now spent his evenings looking at the stars, seeking aliens. After all, her father was a good man, and doted on Donna. Sylvia wished that Donna would show good, polished manners more often. Then she might attract the kind of man who would be good to her. More than once, Sylvia had driven off a man because she thought he was absolutely wrong for Donna.

Donna never cried in front of her over any of them. In fact, Donna stopped crying in her presence back in her teens. But Sylvia sometimes knew that her daughter had cried in private. She wished Donna didn't have so much compassion and cared so much about others; it would help her in life.

Sylvia had had to train herself out of such behaviors. Now, she liked it in Geoffrey; it was part of how he commanded respect as he got some of the people he dealt with to turn their lives around. Where Donna was concerned, he and her father had absolute faith that Donna would find her path. That perhaps life was making it difficult for her so that she would be ready for it when it came.

Fate. Sylvia Noble didn't believe in fate. Destiny was made of the choices you made throughout your life. She refused to believe that anyone, anything would make her daughter endure all those worthless boyfriends and the teasing and disrespect from being a ginger. That was just cruel. But she had no outlet for it... except nagging Donna, praying it would give her a push in the right direction.

She wanted so badly to see her daughter married at least. Grandchildren were beginning to look like they wouldn't happen. Donna was in her thirties, and was running fast out of time. And Sylvia could tell that Donna knew it painfully well. She could see the agony in her eyes when Nerys had her twins, the pain when she saw a woman pushing a pram along, and the take-your-child-to-work days seemed to stab at her soul.

Sylvia was grateful that Donna could at least go to Geoffrey and Dad for comfort. She didn't know how to do the same for her girl...

When Donna got the job at HC Clemment's, Sylvia had managed to line up something else for her. She tried her darnedest to talk Donna into turning right instead, but the stubborn girl stuck to her plans. The irony of it was that such behavior earned a bit of respect from Sylvia; she hadn't let anyone tell her what to do when she was younger, and it was – in a way – a reason to be proud of her her daughter. But heaven forbid she actually show it over an act of willfulness!

But she was engaged from it. Lance... Well, Sylvia worried that it was too good to be true, and she somehow knew that Donna had been the one to suggest marriage. Something bothered her about the whole thing, although Geoff and her father had been more concerned – though they all desperately wanted this to work out for Donna. So they swallowed the big production the wedding and reception would be.

Then Donna vanished right from the church. Sylvia's bolshy manner hid her terrified imagination's rambles over what could have happened. After the strange call, she had a flashback to when Donna had run away on what she'd called a holiday. It seemed like Donna being willful again, although how she'd managed to vanish was something new. Still, Sylvia decided they were going to get their money's worth out of the reception hall, and she'd give Donna what-for later. Not that she'd needed help; everyone wanted to know what had happened.

But they didn't get any answers. Donna, apparently overwhelmed, started crying and side-stepped the questions. Although that didn't stop Sylvia from wondering who that weird man who walked in with her was, and why the hell was he called the Doctor when he didn't treat people?! That question seemed perfectly natural after the fright with the decorations and those strange Santa figures. Robots?! Exploding decorations?! What was going on?!

Lance had driven Donna and the Doctor to HC Clemment's, where the Doctor seemed convinced the answers to what happened to Donna would lie. They'd ignored Sylvia's shouts... and she never saw Lance again. And Donna wouldn't tell her.

Except Sylvia could see a hurt in her eyes whenever he was mentioned. The one thing she got was that Lance had lied. She had enough compassion to not tell Donna that she told her so; it was too much even for her.

But soon after the trip to Egypt that Donna went on alone, the stubborn girl started investigating the sort of strange reports that her father liked to read about. At least, she seemed to be. Why else would she be so curious about the bees disappearing or weird sightings?! Whatever she was doing, it wasn't getting her work or money! The only good things about this coming in at all hours was that Donna wasn't wasting her time with men who weren't worthy!

And what was with having all her things packed? Who did she think was going to come along and take her away?!

Of course, Sylvia had worse things to deal with. Geoffrey's cancer, which had been in remission, flared again and he died. Suddenly, she couldn't afford the house they'd lived in for years, and had to sell it, moving back in with her father. Donna joined her. Oh, her father was happy to have them both around, but the whole thing grated on Sylvia's nerves. She was still a businesswoman! This wasn't supposed to be her lot in life! She wasn't supposed to share in her father's grief over losing a spouse for a number of years yet!

And she couldn't really talk with him about it, either. It just... wasn't them. Or with Donna, who was hurting, too. Sadness hung over Donna a lot following Geoffrey's death... Not that Sylvia could fault her daughter for that; Geoffrey was such a wonderful man...

The whole thing with the Adipose pills did freak her out. Suzette nearly died before her eyes, apparently ready to turn into those weird little white blobs. What had those pills been about?! And where was Donna?! First she whispered over the phone that she was in church, and hung up without warning! Then she called to say she was leaving the keys to the car in some rubbish bin?! Who did this girl think she was?!

And her father! He wasn't worried when Donna didn't come home. He said that the Doctor had come her way again, and she'd gone with him. Now that alarmed Sylvia. They knew nothing about him, although her father swore he'd seen him before – despite not having been at the wedding.

Sylvia worried endlessly over Donna. She thought back to every moment spent teaching her girl about taking care of others, of herself, of shopping trips to make her beauty shine. Oh, she'd wished Donna had tried harder to make the most of her looks; even if her weight had been the bane of her existence since her teen years (something else that Sylvia had nagged her over), there were things one could do to flatter their shape! Still, as grateful as she would be just to see Donna again, she knew that she would nag her.

And she did. With cause. Especially since that bloody Doctor was around for the mess with the cars! She had to rescue her own father with an axe! The bloody axe she kept for dealing with intruders now that Geoff was gone. And yet Donna kept going with the Doctor, even though it was clearly unsafe!

Sylvia wondered what she'd done wrong in raising Donna. Nothing clear could hit her. She didn't know what else she could've thought to do... and it made her feel like a failure... Which made her all the more sharp with others, including her own father.

Then the planets appeared and the sun vanished. She was terrified out of her mind, and that was just for herself and her father – whose idea of defending himself and the people being taken involved a paintball gun! If that Rose girl hadn't appeared and shot the pepper pot...

She was looking for Donna and the Doctor, and helped them find their way onto watching the subwave network. Listening to all the people who apparently knew the Doctor and were trying to find a way to help him find Earth made her head spin. This Doctor... He certainly seemed to inspire loyalty! Especially if Harriet Jones was willing to die to protect the network – despite the Doctor apparently being behind her downfall...

Then... Donna and the Doctor and some sweet-faced blonde appeared in the screen that had previously shown Harriet's room. That provoked reactions, but none stronger than Martha Jones', who practically screamed that someone was supposed to be dead, that she'd seen them die.

The sweet-faced blonde smiled and waved. Her answer, mentioning terraforming gases, baffled Sylvia. But she found herself more intrigued by watching how Donna was right up against the Doctor, hugging him as if in support – and how he clearly didn't mind... How the Doctor didn't like Donna's curiosity about Jack, and was even harsher when Jack asked who Jenny – the blonde – was. And Sylvia wasn't the only one insatiably curious. Rose was absolutely dismayed over the clear emotional closeness, and how Donna's touch seemed a tad possessive...

But then that frightening creature broke up the talk, and soon Rose vanished to find the Doctor. Sylvia and her father were left to the terrors of their imaginations... until a call from Donna telling them to get under a table and hang on. The following time was the bumpiest of Sylvia's life – literally. But then the sun reappeared, and they had to go outside to cheer. The pepper pots were gone, and Earth seemed safe!

But where was Donna?

That question wasn't answered until night fell. Donna suddenly opened the door, and they fell upon her in relief. She was safe! Sylvia pulled her into her arms tightly, too worked up to nag her over scaring them... But what was behind her...

There stood the Doctor, carrying Jenny, who looked either asleep or unconscious. Next to them... was a man who looked exactly like the Doctor, save for his outfit! Donna motioned them inside, as it was about to rain. Once in proper light, Sylvia could see that the second Doctor looked much younger. She would've sworn he was barely out of his teens, if that!

She made space for the Doctor to gently lay Jenny on the couch, and offered a blanket to keep her warm. She noticed his surprise at her silent offer, but he took it and covered the girl. Once done, he sat in a nearby chair, and Donna stunned even him by sharing it – practically sitting on his lap! The younger man smirked and just sat on the floor by Jenny, across from where Sylvia and her father sat to hear the explanation.

And what an explanation! What really happened with Lance... well, she wasn't surprised to learn he had been too good to be true! But learning about the danger Donna had been in made her cringe over her own actions at the reception. Knowing that Donna had been looking for the Doctor because she knew she'd made a mistake in turning him down made Sylvia understand Donna's keeping her thoughts mostly to herself since that Christmas. She was amazed that Donna had effectively been the one to save Suzette, though!

That she'd traveled time and space with him was mind-boggling enough, but the knowledge that Donna met Agatha Christie?! Only hearing what Donna had done to protect everyone, becoming the Most Important Woman in the whole of Creation was how the Doctor put it, put that in its proper place.

Only after she'd regained her voice, because her father seemed to sense that he had to hold his own questions back to let her try to absorb what she heard, did Sylvia manage to ask about the other two people in the room. Jenny's creation and resurrection was astonishing enough, and Ben's birth (oh, God, no wonder he looked like the Doctor but sounded like Donna!) was a bit much to swallow. But... neither was the big shock. The big one?

Donna had married the Doctor. And was expecting Ben's twin... around Christmas next year.

Sylvia nearly fainted. She did sink against her father, who managed to mute his own joy a bit. Yes, only he would be happy for an alien to join the family. Now she had an alien son-in-law, an adopted alien granddaughter, one born half-alien grandson, and another half-alien grandson in the oven.

Finally, when Donna asked her mother if she could possibly learn to be okay with it all, Sylvia slowly recovered her thoughts. She'd been watching Donna with the Doctor while they explained, and was stunned with what she saw. Her daughter had a confidence to her that she'd never shown before, was comforting to the Doctor whenever a reminder of a painful memory visibly floated to his awareness, and was so plainly in love that it all took Sylvia's breath away.

And, most importantly, she could see that her daughter's feelings were returned in full by the Doctor. This man... an ancient alien... considered her daughter like a priceless treasure, who'd given him gifts that he'd forgotten could exist...

What answer could she give? It was everything she'd dearly wanted for Donna. It didn't matter that it wasn't in the way she'd thought it would come. In fact, the only regret she had was that Geoff couldn't be there to share in the joy...

When Sylvia stood and finally voiced her blessing and that she was proud of her daughter, she was stunned by Donna starting to cry, standing up, and hugging her tightly. It was probably the first time they'd shared such a hug since Donna was a little girl... and it made Sylvia weep.

The three men in the room pretended to not notice the tears. Instead, they kept quiet, leaving the women to sort things out between them a little.

Sylvia reluctantly broke the hug to take a good look at Donna, and pull herself together. She quickly formed a cover story to explain her grandchildren. She would claim that Donna and the Doctor – who needed to choose a human name that she could refer to him by, thank you very much! And could he please choose something other than John Smith?! – had met when they were young. Donna had visited a friend in the United States, who she'd since lost contact with and who no one else in their circle knew, at just the right time for this to work... Jenny and Ben would be called twins who Donna had during her journey. Their father obtained custody, for reasons that they would figure out soon, and they met each other again during the mess of the failed wedding. Donna's drifting would be explained away by taking the time to know her children, and then visited with them for the months she was gone this year. They'd need to create some photos to make up the wedding cover story, since a mental bond wasn't something you could admit to your neighbors about!

Donna had laughed a bit, mostly – it seemed – over her husband's cringing over the need to come up with such an involved tale. She said that he'd signed up for it when he told her his name, which confused Sylvia and her father, but made the Doctor blanch and Ben laugh.

They moved to the kitchen so Sylvia and Donna could prepare a late dinner, leaving Jenny – the poor dear – to rest further. Sylvia took the time to ask a lot of questions of Ben and his own father. The former warmed up pretty quickly to her, since he had the advantage of being her grandchild. The Doctor... remembered all too well her earlier anger at him, and looked like he was eying her for a relapse into her old behavior toward Donna.

Well, it wasn't going to happen. Donna was too happy, and she was a hero to the whole planet. Sylvia was fine with this world not knowing that; she didn't want intrusions on her precious time with her child, and she didn't trust anyone near her grandchildren – given their origins!

Just as dinner was served and the tea finished brewing, they heard Jenny wake. The Doctor quirked a grin, and muttered something about like father, like daughter. Sylvia didn't have the time to ask; Jenny walked into the room, blanket wrapped around her, and asked where they were.

Sylvia insisted on being introduced first, so she could hug the girl who saved her Donna. She was a lot like Donna in many ways: affectionate, curious, and deeply protective of those she loved. (Definitely helped the cover story that Sylvia could spot some features that be called family resemblances...) She was also extremely ignorant of the ways of life, and clearly needed a lot of training. Fortunately, Sylvia reflected as her father gushed over his newest girl, she had the right people surrounding her. She would quickly learn how to act like a proper English girl of their class.

Once the cover story was settled in stone, of course... They had to pick where she'd supposedly lived since her birth. But such things could wait until morning. Sylvia wanted to bask in the joy of knowing her daughter had finally found her own happiness, and to get to know the new family members. She felt like they'd earned a good peace. That, after the day's disaster, nothing could go wrong.

TO BE CONTINUED IN “Soldierly Ramblings”


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2012 07:36 pm (UTC)
I think this one is my favorite part after River's. (the next one is about Wilf for the name so I may change my mind about that).
I love Sylvia, for many reasons and the main one is because she is just like my mother personality-wise. Donna/Sylvia relationship is very much like my relationship with my mother, so I do understand where that comes from.
Another beautifully written part. *hugs Sylvia and Donna and cries with them*
Feb. 24th, 2012 03:56 pm (UTC)
*hugs* Thanks. I hope everyone enjoys Wilf's part, too.
Feb. 24th, 2012 11:33 am (UTC)
You actually made me like Sylvia in this chapter. I feel like I have a better understanding of her personality now. I like the Eames icon. You can never go wrong with CI!
Feb. 24th, 2012 03:53 pm (UTC)
I feel like I do, too, after writing her so much.

:D Yay! Now I know which genre to use icons from in response to your posts and comments! ;P
Feb. 24th, 2012 12:09 pm (UTC)
Awww, I like Sylvia in this. I can see her point of view better. Well done. =)

Feb. 24th, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks! :D
Feb. 26th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
I'll step out of my lurking zone to say how much I love you for writing a Sylvia fic ♥ I like Sylvia a lot, I wish we had more Sylvia fics. I absolutely adored the way you described her and her personal story in the fic. :D

I can't wait for Wilf's part, too!

*Goes back to the lurking zone*
Feb. 26th, 2012 04:54 am (UTC)
Wilf's part might be up shortly... ;) And thanks for the kind review. :D
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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