Series: none – first part belonged to “There's The Door!”
Summary: Ten has been patiently preparing himself to meet his bride and impress her. Naturally, their first proper meeting doesn't go well. After all, she's intending to marry another.
Disclaimer: RTD clearly missed on some of the subtext created by the dynamic of Tate and Tennant.
Dedication: bas_math_girl, for Christmas. Started this back in May for you, after writing the first part Story-a-Day challenge. Love ya, Online-Mummy! (blows a kiss) Also to tardis_mole and cassikat for extremely helpful beta advice. :D
Author's Note: This started as a one-shot, but quickly grew into a story and a sequel. :D
Chapter 1 / Chapter 2 / Chapter 3 / Chapter 4 / Chapter 5
CHAPTER SIX: AWE AND HORROR
The Doctor peered around the console after they arrived. Looking utterly miserable and drying her silent tears, Donna sat in the jump seat, staring at the floor in front of her. His hearts sank into his abdomen. He'd been unable to help her earlier when she sat there, clearly crying, while he was piloting. But what hurt him the most was how silent she was. For someone so loud, she was holding herself back, not letting any sounds come out.
A person only did that when they felt no one would listen to them. When they were made to feel that they were not worth anyone's notice.
That had given him a lump in his throat. He wished so badly that he could go up to her and offer her a hug and a shoulder to freely cry on. But would she accept it if he did? The uncertainty kept him away, against his hearts' wishes.
Now he wasn't flying, so he could start to change that. He swung the monitor around, but quickly dismissed it – the view would be too small. Best to use her way – it would make a bigger impression. Possibly on both of them.
“We've arrived,” he said gently, walking around to reach her. She wiped her remaining tears away, and looked up when he stopped a foot away. “Want to see?”
She shrugged, unenthusiastic. “I s'pose.”
He leaned down slightly and held out his hands, pleading with his eyes. “Come on.”
Wanting to make that puppy-eye look go away, Donna accepted one of his hands and stood resignedly, letting him lead her. Anything had to be better than what she just went through.
He wrapped an arm around her shoulders as they walked to the door. “No human's ever seen this. You'll be the first.”
She flickered a glare at him. “All I want to see is my bed.”
This will be worth it, he thought at her. He let go of her to prepare. “Donna Noble, welcome to the creation of the Earth.” He opened the doors, hoping to awe her out of her grief.
Donna's mouth fell open slowly. Light was shining through the most beautifully colored dust and gas clouds, and enormous rocks floated around – spaced throughout what she could see – as far as she could see. Her mind lost sight of everything it had been focused on.
He grinned at the sight, leaning with a hand against the frame as he looked to check her reaction. “We've gone back 4.6 billion years.” Seeing the utter wonder in her face, he knew he'd succeeded wildly. “There's no star system, not yet. Only dust and rocks and gas.” He looked out again, and pointed. “That's the Sun over there, brand new. Just beginning to burn.” It was amazing to see the birth of a new system, and this one was special – it was the beginning of so many who were important to him. Especially this one.
Her eyes darted around. “Where's the Earth?”
“All around us... in the dust.” Their eyes met, and he wanted to be able to drown in the wonder in her face, always bring that kind of wonder to her.
Donna took a deep breath and broke the gaze. It was a bit much to deal with. Everything was a bit much at the moment. “Puts the wedding in perspective,” she murmured. “Lance was right. We're just... tiny.” And the knowledge was both comforting and humbling.
Worried that she was feeling down on herself again, he hugged her with one arm. “No, but that's what you do.” He sensed she was startled, but he had to make this point. “The human race. Making sense out of chaos. Marking it out with weddings and Christmas and calendars. This whole process is beautiful, but only if it's being observed.”
“So, I came out of all this?”
He tightened his hug. “Isn't that brilliant?”
She wasn't sure about that, even if this alien acted like she was the greatest thing he'd ever seen. She was saved from challenging him when a massive chunk of rock floated lazily past them. “I think that's the Isle of Wight.”
He laughed with her, pausing to take a breath before launching into an explanation – and thrilled she was able to make a joke. “Eventually, gravity takes hold. Say, one big rock, heavier than the others, starts to pull other rocks towards it.” He gestured with his free hand. “All the dust and gas and elements get pulled in, everything, piling in until you get...”
Donna knew the answer to this. “The Earth.”
“But the question is... what was that first rock?” His eyes scanned the horizon, looking for that clue.
Donna noticed a star shaped rock emerging through the clouds. “Look.”
He saw it a moment later. “The Racnoss,” he breathed. A moment later, he rushed back to the console. One of the benefits of being in a time field was that he could make time accelerate around him by turning a wheel – frantically. “Hold on, the Racnoss are hiding from the war! What's it doing?”
Donna's eyes widened. The rocks, the particles of dust and gas – they were all racing towards the Racnoss ship, drawn by an invisible force. “Exactly what you said,” she called out.
He ran back to see. “Oh, they didn't just bury something at the centre of the Earth... they became the centre of the Earth. The first rock.” If it wasn't such a bad thing, he'd marvel at their ingenuity. But he had no time to think – the TARDIS suddenly shook violently, nearly knocking them off their feet.
“What was that?” Donna cried.
“Trouble.” He slammed the doors shut, and led her back to the console. “Hang on, Donna!” he hollered as he urgently tried to stop the inevitable. Still, he was struggling as much as she was to keep balanced against the TARDIS' uncontrolled motions.
“What the hell's it doing?!”
Yelling was actually necessary over the noise. “Remember that little trick I pulled – particles pulling particles? It works in reverse – they're pulling us back!” His hands and feet tried to pilot the Old Girl, but he could feel them whirl through the vortex anyway.
Donna tried to think to every last science fiction movie or show she'd ever seen – no matter how bad. “Well, can't you stop it? Hasn't it got a handbrake? Can't you reverse or warp or beam or something?”
“Backseat driver,” he muttered, seeing his future mapped out. But an idea hit. “Oh! Wait a minute!” He reached under the console and pulled out a large rock with electronics built into it. “The extrapolator!” He could barely rest it against the console. “Can't stop us, but it should give us a good bump!”
Donna watched as his fingers flew over the thing, and wondered how it could help when she felt the ship stop moving. Then he grabbed a mallet. “Now!” he cried, whacking it.
There was a solid bump, but then it stopped. He led her outside, into the corridor. He couldn't find a grin, this was too serious. “We're about 200 yards to the right. Come on!” He hoped she would follow his running. Hearing her shoes hit the ground at the right pattern did make him smile. After all, how often could he count on her following him without question? Probably not much after this.
The Doctor stopped nearby the doorway that led him earlier to the Thames Flood Barrier. He pulled his stethoscope out.
“But what do we do?” Donna gasped, stopping beside him.
“I don't know!” he admitted as he listened for any signals or caution signs. “I make it up as I go along! But trust me, I've got a history.” It only now dawned on him that his words might not be enough to comfort her.
“But I still don't understand,” she pleaded with him. “I'm full of particles – but what for?”
“There's a Racnoss web at the centre of the Earth, but my people unravelled their power source. The Huon particles ceased to exist but the Racnoss are stuck.”
One robot grabbed Donna for behind, covering her mouth so she couldn't scream and dragged her away. She watched in shock as it moved her faster than should've been possible.
“They've just been in hibernation for billions of years. Frozen. Dead. Kaput! So you're the new key. Brand new particles, living particles! They need you to open it and you have never been so quiet.” Frowning, he finally looked behind him and realized he was alone.
“No!” he cried, feeling his blood turn cold. He looked up and down the empty corridor. The coldness inside turned into icy resolve despite the alarm. As he opened the door with his sonic screwdriver, he vowed nothing would stop him from saving Donna.
An armed robot was no threat.
"I hate you,” Donna snapped at Lance. Would anyone argue with her?! She was trapped in the web with him, and she wouldn't be here if he hadn't targeted her!
“Yeah, I think we've gone a bit beyond that now, sweetheart.”
He sounded too irritated. Especially given that it was his own fault for being there!
“My golden couple,” the Empress rasped, catching their attention. “Together at last – your awful wedded life. Tell me; do you want to be released?”
“Yes!” they cried as one.
“You're supposed to say 'I do'.”
“Ha,” Lance snapped. “No chance.”
Donna watched as Lance looked at her, and she pleaded with him to make the effort. He rolled his eyes. “I do.”
“I do!” she cried, knowing it would be futile.
“I don't.” The Empress cackled. “Activate the particles. Purge every last one!”
Donna was shocked to realize she and Lance were each glowing.
The particles flew out of them – brighter out of Donna – and down the hole. She was transfixed.
“The secret heart unlocks,” the Empress announced. “And they will waken from their sleep of Ages.”
Donna remembered the Doctor's words about the Racnoss, and hoped she was just hearing things. “Who will? What's down there?”
“How thick are you?!”
She turned to glare at Lance, well aware that he didn't consider her capable of thought. But the Empress prevented any response. “My children, the long lost Racnoss. Now will be born to feast on flesh!”
Now Donna would hear the chirping of the small spiders and the patters of their feet. Her heart sank into her stomach.
“The web-star shall come to me,” the Empress declared. A few moments later, she added as she looked toward the hole. “My babies will be hungry. They need sustenance.” She looked up gleefully.
Unseen, what looked like one of the robots was walking up the stairs. But upon her words, the outerwear was shucked off, revealing the Doctor.
“Perish the web.”
“Use her!” Lance pleaded. “Not me! Use her!”
“Not a chance!” the Doctor shouted, pulling out his sonic as attention flew to him. He aimed at the web. “I've got you, Donna!”
She felt the webbing pull away from her. “I'm gonna fall!”
“No, you'll swing!”
One large strand turned into a rope, and her hands clutched it reflexively as the last webbing supporting her weight fell away. She screamed as she flew over the hole and toward the stairs.
The Doctor held out his hands. “I've got ya!”
Unfortunately, Donna swung right below him. He'd made the rope too long. He heard her slam into the place below with a dull thud. He leaned over, hands on the railing and ignoring the surprised looks on the Empress and Lance's faces. He cringed as he saw Donna on her back, splayed. “Oh... sorry,” he offered, apologetic.
“Thanks for nothing!” Donna snapped, slowly getting to her feet. But, she had to admit, she wasn't in danger of being dropped for spider chum.
“The Doctor-man amuses me,” the Empress smirked.
“Empress of the Racnoss,” the Doctor declared, “I give you one last chance. I can find you a planet. I can find you a place in the universe to coexist. Take that offer and end this now.”
Donna was surprised by how much command he wielded. He had the air of someone who demanded to be obeyed. Not that she held much hope for the Empress – she was a mother who was desperate.
“These men are so funny,” she said, sort of aiming it at Donna. Who understood the nuisance of men assuming they could run your life. The Doctor wasn't taking the right path with her.
“What's your answer?” the Doctor snapped.
“Oh, I'm afraid I have to decline,” the Empress said, laughing. “My babies need sustenance now!”
The Doctor was not surprised, although he was disappointed. It left him no choice. “Then what happens next is your own doing.”
The Empress glared at him. “I'll show you what happens next,” she hissed. “At arms!”
Donna was horror-struck as the robots raised their guns, turning toward the Doctor, who seemed unaffected. All he did was put one hand inside his pocket, and lower the other to his side.
“Take aim! And-”
“Relax,” the Doctor said, calmly.
Donna watched in shock as the robots became limp, turning off. She turned up to him. “What did you do?!”
He smirked slightly, pleased to show off. “Guess what I've got, Donna.” He produced the remote the Santas had used earlier. “Pockets.” He waved it at her.
She frowned. “How did that fit in there?”
“They're bigger on the inside.” Really, she had so much to learn about him and the TARDIS. Maybe he could have the Old Girl make her pockets that worked like his.
“Robo-forms are not necessary,” the Empress decided. “My children may feast on Martian flesh.”
“Oh, but I'm not from Mars.” He knew his next words would trigger her anger, but he was past caring. Not like she could do anything to him now that Donna was safe.
That, Donna noticed, caught the Empress' attention. “Then where?” It sounded like she had a sudden bad feeling about the Doctor.
His voice was calm, concealing the anger and pain his words brought him. “My home planet is far away and long-since gone. But its name lives on. Gallifrey.”
The Empress hissed in fury. “They murdered the Racnoss!”
“I warned you. You did this.”
“You shall not stop my children! As for my funny little Lance, you saw that he was quite impolite to his lady-friend. The Empress does not approve, and I suspect you do not, either!” She made the web loosen, and he tumbled down the hole – arms flapping like mad as he screamed.
“Lance!” Donna cried.
The Doctor's mood turned grimmer. He knew that Donna genuinely loved Lance, and had a soft heart, but he'd wanted the chance to punish him. Now that was gone.
The Empress continued. “Harvest the-”
“I don't think so!” the Doctor shouted. He produced a handful of baubles, ones he'd recovered before leaving the reception.
Panic washed over the Empress. “No! No! Don't! No!”
Donna could only watch as the Doctor threw several handfuls of the baubles into the air, heedless of the Empress' pleas. He then held up the control, and the baubles started to move with purpose. Some surrounded the Empress, keeping her from moving. Other flew out of the room, and she heard explosions in the corridor. She heard the sound of rushing water coming toward them, along with an awful smell.
A few baubles exploded at the Empress' feet, causing fire that kept her stationary as water flooded into the chamber and down the hole. Additional openings burst, sending more water into the room. She wailed. “My children!”
The Doctor stood watching in silence, water raining over him from the ceiling. As the river water swirled down the hole, he fumed. His people hadn't survived except for him, and the Empress had been able to hide a slew of her children? It was wrong, so very wrong. And then she had to try to erase his and Donna's future. She had to be punished.
Donna was horror-stricken. The Empress was no longer a monster to her eyes. She was a hysterical mother pained by the fire around her and the cries of her babies, wailing to the universe. “No! My children! My children!”
She couldn't take it anymore. She looked up. “Doctor!” When he looked down at her, she pleaded with him with her eyes. “You can stop now!” Please stop, please end her suffering!
The Doctor blinked. He looked back as the Racnoss' cries reached him, as their mother writhed and wailed in agony. His dark eyes suddenly lost some of their pain as the truth of the moment hit him: if he didn't get Donna out now, they would both die here. He threw the control aside. “Come on! Time I got you out!” He rushed down to meet her, and help her shove items aside so he could lead her up the stairs. Escape was making it easy to ignore the smell of the water, and that they were already soaked through. At some point, they heard the Empress scream, “Transport me!”
Soon they were climbing another ladder, struggling against the water raining on them. “But what about the Empress?” Donna shouted over the noise.
“She's used up all her Huon energy. She's defenceless!” the Doctor exclaimed. Yes, it meant that she would likely be shot at, but she had left the military of this world with no choice.
As they reached the top of the ladder, an explosion filled the sky above, stopping them a moment. As it faded, they clambered out and onto the barrier. Donna couldn't help whooping and cheering in delight when she realized the Racnoss had been destroyed. The Doctor joined her, leaping to his feet and clutching her into a hug.
She hugged him back, but had to catch her breath to speak. “Just... there's one problem.”
He pulled back a bit. “What's that?”
She nodded toward the river.”We've drained the Thames.”
He looked down. Sure enough, the Thames was completely emptied of water. Boats blared their horns, their captains plainly confused and alarmed. A moment later, he looked back at her, and they soon collapsed into laughter once more, hugging again.
They were alive, and he could now focus on helping her. “Now we'll get out of here,” he said. “As soon as the TARDIS pumps enough water so the Thames begins refilling.”
Donna pulled back out of the hug in surprise. “She can do that?”
He nodded. “Oh, yes! And we'll need her to, because she's trapped in there and we have to wait for the water to drain enough to reach her.”
She blinked at him. “You are completely bonkers!”
He decided he'd take that as a compliment coming from her. Besides, he really didn't want to admit to her that he couldn't swim. Not very well.
Meant he had to go and visit his swimming pool, overcome that. And soon. He couldn't look foolish in front of Donna's SCUBA diving level abilities – proof that she carried a lot of muscle under those delightful curves.
Chapter 7: Facing Reality (And the Parents)