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FIC: A Song at a New Key (1/1)

Title: A Song at a New Key
: Doctor Who
Series: The Many Things to Never Say to the Doctor series
Rating: T (language and anger)
Author: tkel_paris
Summary: You don't spoil the Doctor's future any more than is ABSOLUTELY necessary. What happens if he thinks you have? Alternate Library moment. Not for River or Rose fans.
Disclaimer: If I owned them, I doubt I'd have created River or let her exist. At least not as shown.
Dedication: tardis_mole, for helping with prompts. You are full of it – I mean, them. ;D Also for filling out the empty spaces in this story. Couldn't have done it without you! :D
Author's Note: Christmas present for serenityslady. Thought you'd like this one.

A Song at a New Key

Started May 7, 2013
Finished December 25, 2013

Never tell the Doctor something about his future unless he ABSOLUTELY needs to know about it. Otherwise he will inform you of something that you don't want to know about. If you're lucky.

River Song. She was keeping a major secret from the Doctor, and he needed to know about it. Number one rule of time travel: don't act like you know someone unless there is no other choice, and never spoil their future. In his experience bad things always happened when people tried to spoil someone else's future. Especially his. If you had no choice, you minimized what you told the person – just enough to warn then what they had to do. That was what Sally Sparrow had managed, mostly by his instructions.

It also bothered him that he couldn't dredge even a slight recollection of seeing this woman in the Untempered Schism. That was a warning sign. If he hadn't had another one from the moment she stepped into the room.

He'd accepted her 'demand' that he come over, despite cringing over being called 'Pretty Boy'. Only Donna's reaction had made it all right. If they hadn't been in immediate danger, he would've pressed her to explain her 'quick' reaction. It was intriguing coming from his platonic friend.

Good of you to come when I call.”

River's line made him tense even more. But it was nothing compared with when she opened her journal that shared its colour and design with the TARDIS, trying to place where it was for him in her timeline. Early years for him?! Enough! He grabbed the book out of her hands.

She gasped. “Give that back!”

But he pinned her on her front to the ground, shocking everyone from what they were doing. In a flash, he ran the Sonic over her body, and then grabbed two things out of her pockets and leapt back before she had a chance to shout. Not that she could – he'd knocked the wind out of her.

River sucked in a few breathes and struggled to even sit upright. “What was that about, Doctor?!”

You carry a sonic, nearly identical to mine but with features that I plainly haven't added yet. And a squareness gun. One I recognize as currently being inside the TARDIS. You stole this from a bag belonging to a former companion of mine. You're a thief of the worst order. You can't be trusted.”

She shook her head. “Doctor, what is with this younger version of you?”

Very suspicious of you, of your numerous lies. Starting with your name. Has to be false. Just as false as you are.”

Doctor, don't you know who I am?”

Don't plead. The fact that you're asking me that is breaking the first rule of time travel. If you know me, I've surely said it far too many times: don't spoil a person's future! I don't care if travelling with me is one big spoiler, but you never tell someone what's going to happen in their own time-line!”

River's eyes filled with tears. “I swear, one day you're going to trust me.”

How could I possibly trust someone who reeks of decaying time?”

She froze. “That's not my fault!”

There's a particular smell to you. Means you gave in to the call of being a Neverwere.”

In the silence that followed, Donna risked a question. “What's a Neverwere?”

They are the vilest creation of my own people, besides a Meanwhile, and trust me you wouldn't want to meet one. DNA pulled from another reality or another point in time, sprung into being and filled with an evil purpose. The worst was the Would-Be King nightmare resurrection of our greatest leader, born from a violent time in his own past. This woman you all see before you? She has all the smell makers, all the time markers of being born a Neverwere.”

I didn't ask to become one!”

None of them do. But it can be combated. You have human DNA in you, you were created from human parents. The lack of Gallifreyan genetics should've protected you against the worst of it, unless you were created within a chronon shell. Recognise the reference, Donna?"

"Chronon shell? Yeah, it's the field surrounding the heart of the TARDIS," Donna recalled. "I was accidentally attached to it."

"Exactly," the Doctor continued. "This vile creature was deliberately formed inside the field. That means, River Song, you would've been influenced by the first stray evil thought upon your conception. And evidently, your being Human means that unlike the other Neverweres you can lie. That makes you more dangerous than most of them put together. What am I going to find when I read your journal?”

River stumbled to her feet, crying, “Don't you read it! Spoilers!”

You can't stop me. A Neverwere's part in the timelines can be easily negated without hurting the future. Your contribution could only have been evil, and so anything I change will only be for the better. Remember: I am the Oncoming Storm. Don't incur my wrath.”

Doctor,” Donna cautioned, starting to worry.

Desperate to tell him the one proof she had of his trust, even if it was a terrible spoiler, River surged toward him. “Doctor, please!”

But he pushed her hard, forcing her foot to make contact with a shadow. River suddenly screamed, but it was cut off as her body was turned into a skeleton and she collapsed to the floor, the force separating her head from her body.

That froze the Doctor into momentary silence. “Oh, dear.”

Donna was also stiff, just as the others were. “Doctor, what was that?”

That, Donna, was the Vashta Nerada. And what will happen to anyone else who doesn't stay away from the shadows.” He turned to the others. “I know none of you know me, but I will do everything I can to get all of you out safely. But you have to follow my instructions to the letter. Anyone got a problem with that?”

Donna worried that the others would be furious about their leader's death, but not even Mr. Lux challenged the Doctor.

Good. Now, keep to your earlier tasks. Mr. Lux, I need you to explain more about the Library to me. I don't care what kind of a mission you thought you were on. Lies will only cost more lives. I need only the truth from you.”

Mr. Lux swallowed. As much as he wanted to protect his family's secret, he might not have much choice. “I'd rather not say some of it aloud.”

You don't get a choice.”

Not that it helped much. Knowing that the computer was the mind of a little girl who had been dying was a shock, but the threat was still there, overshadowing morality concerns. The Doctor became determined to try to save everyone else from River's fate, and particularly protect Donna from it. The others he could have put back on their helmets and he could dial up the mesh of their suits. Donna? Well, he wasn't going to tell them that Time Lords suspected that the Vashta Nerada couldn't handle the temporal field that surrounded a Time Lord – their sense organs were repelled by it, just enough to protect the person within. So all he could do was keep Donna within it, holding her hand at the least. At best? He whispered to her, “Donna, right next to me, like frightened toddler, that's it.”

She obeyed, but not without muttering, “I'll show you a frightened toddler if you don't keep that gob focused on getting us out of here.”

He would've retorted, except that Miss Evangelista was eaten. It almost scared him into using a teleport to send Donna to the TARDIS, except his fears about River made him worry that she'd laid traps for whichever companion he had with him. So he had to keep Donna at his side, and kept his time senses alert for the temporal holes that River's potential timelines could've left.

His efforts didn't save Proper Dave, Other Dave, or Anita. But he decided to use it to ensure that he could communicate with the creatures. He figured out how to access the Core, and forced the Anita creature to agree to let the people go. They gave him and Mr. Lux a tight deadline for getting everyone out.

Of course, he had to stop the planet from exploding first. And there was only one way he could entertain. Donna didn't approve. Her petrified face confronted him as she grabbed his arms. “Won't this kill you?!”

Not if I drop into hibernation just as the process starts. But I need you to connect the final cables. Or else we all die.”

She did not like having to flip a switch or anything like against him, but she didn't know of anything else to do. And he needed her to help him set up the cables.

Which she did. And then she had to sit while he spent two minutes before the countdown reached critical reading River's journal. He finished it, having actually read the whole thing thanks to Time Lord reading speeds, handed it and both sonics to her and lowered the helmet.

You know what to do and when to do it. If by chance I... do die, see everyone out and then hurry inside the TARDIS. She'll take you home. Look after her, all right?”

She nodded, tears blurring her vision as she held the two cables. As the countdown hit the right moment and she saw his body start to slump into hibernation, she connected them and closed her eyes as electricity flowed through her best friend's body.

The only benefit was that he couldn't scream.


Donna had to wait until the electricity had stopped flowing through the Doctor's body, and for Mr. Lux to call her with the news that the Saved had returned. She ordered him to call for the ships in orbit to began teleporting, since they had less than a day. Then she carefully pushed up the helmet and nudged the cables out of the way. She cupped the Doctor's cheek. “Spaceman?” she whispered.

His eyes slowly opened, blinking as he groaned. “Did it work?”

She cried. “Yes. Mr. Lux has started teleporting everyone out. We need to get out of here, lock CAL away so she can be safe.”

Help me. My control over my body is a bit limited right now.”

Donna gladly helped him to standing. He wasn't kidding. He was struggling to walk, even leaning against her. He was slowly able to grab on to things to help himself along, and his control returned a bit at a time. Still, she had to help him aim the Sonic to get them to the main level and then seal the door.

She wanted to get him straight to the TARDIS, to the infirmary. But he insisted on waiting until they saw everyone, including Mr. Lux, out. It felt like an eternity, but it finally happened. Then she helped him limp along to the TARDIS.

But he stopped her before they could approach with her key. “I want to try something.”

Donna looked at him in frightened exasperation. “What? How else are we getting in?”

There's something River noted in her journal, something I didn't think worked.” He raised his right arm and snapped his fingers.

The TARDIS doors opened.

Donna's mouth slackened. “That works?”

Evidently it does now.” He found a tiny smile. “And I'll take it.”

With that, they hurried inside and he snapped the doors shut behind them before they sent the Old Girl into the Vortex.

Finally, she led him into the infirmary and to a bed, with the TARDIS making the room immediately available. And not a moment too soon. He suddenly collapsed in a seizure.

Donna hovered over him as he suffered through it, and many more than she could kept count of. She kept giving him medicine, which calmed the symptoms for a while before they finally wore off. The scans suggested that his body was in a healing coma, but he needed this help while his body repaired the damage.

She was desperately worried, more than she had ever thought possible. She lost track of how many tears she shed out of fear that healing would prove too much, even for him.

Donna broke down by the fourth day. “I love you, you idiot Martian! Not like that fancy way or the romantic way, but love like a friend! You're the most important thing in my life! Like the little brother I always wanted! You better not die on me because I have questions I need to ask and things I need to tell you! Please! I'd do anything to help you, to make your life better, make you better, help the universe! Just don't die on me!” She clutched him, crying on his lapels.

Even though she was sure he couldn't hear her. She just couldn't hold it in anymore.


Donna sat with the Doctor in the TARDIS infirmary. It had been a long week of waiting, but he had finally stabilized and woke. She was also very aware of how much he was keeping a tight hold on her hand. He seemed to need the reminder that she was alive. She gave him tea and his favorite biscuits. He was on his fourth serving of tea and his tenth of biscuits. Not that she could even think to complain. And only the TARDIS' version of a replicator seemed to permit her to get him nourishment, since he had nearly panicked when she tried to go to the kitchen.

As he finished his current food, she finally had to ask him questions. “Doctor, do you really think Professor Song was a threat?”

He lowered his cup and sighed. “I do. I looked through the journal, as you might remember. Everything I read confirmed it. She caused more damage than any one person or army or species has done since the Time War. That includes Rose, and even trapped in another universe she might still cause damage, but River is my concern now. I have to stop her. And thanks to having her journal, I can be wary of the temporal holes left by her intrusions and avoid meeting her unless I absolutely have to be there.”

But doesn't mean that today you killed someone better than the person we saw. And how do you know that you didn't kill the person she becomes because you changed things?”

He had to smile. Donna was good at playing Devil's Advocate. “A Neverwere's timeline isn't cleanly erased or repaired. Some remnants will remain in their psyche, no matter how much you do to rewrite the lines of their past. All I want is to stop her from causing that damage, from fulfilling her programmed purpose to kill me at some point in her past, which I think was made possible by this me dying prematurely and far too violently.”

Donna shuddered at the thought of someone killing him. But she focused on the practical matters, and on keeping him in line. “I thought you said you shouldn't spoil your own personal future.”

I read that journal because I needed proof of what she was in order to act, so I felt the risk was worth it. And those spoilers are for things I think can be prevented.” He looked into her eyes. “The key is protecting you.”


She didn't know what you looked like, but she knew your name. That tells me in her timeline I lost you in some preventable way, and it destroyed me. Might've led to this me's death, and it wasn't supposed to happen because of the consequences to the universe. So I'm not going to let that happen. I don't care what it takes, Donna Noble. I'm not losing you to anything other than natural old age. Even if I manage to extend your life, which I'd like to and know of some ways.”

She squirmed slightly. She had never asked him to do things like that, but it seemed she was the only one he would think of doing it for – just because she wouldn't ask it of him. “I already promised I'm going to travel with you forever.”

He lowered his gaze. “But I'd never ask for more than you're willing to give.”


The Doctor looked deeply into her eyes and made sure hers were focused on his as he took her hands. “I have never spoken these words before, Donna, but you must be clear on how important they are and answer me in a very clear manner, because your answer will either save everything or destroy it all. But you must make that choice. Her or you. Your freedom or total destruction of the universe.”

Donna hurriedly nodded, suddenly feeling frightened. She held her breath, hardly daring to breathe as she waited for him to speak whatever the words were. But she had to retort. “Great way to put pressure on a girl, Spaceman!”

I'm sorry, but there's no other way, and I think you know that if I'm going to say it, there is no other choice.”

She sighed. “Go on.”

To negate her timeline interfering with mine, you must say one word, and only one word,” he warned her. “It will bind you for eternity to my timeline, my life. You can never be free.”

Yeah, I get that, scary as this is seeming. But what’s the word? What do I say?”

Your answer to this, the most important question ever spoken: Marry me?”

Donna eyes widened, and she had no idea her jaw could have gone any further down her neck. Even then she still managed to swallow. She was close enough to see through his eyes inside his mind and out the other side to his soul. Seeing all of that, her place in his hearts; the Untempered Schism; his memories; his future.

She closed her mouth for a moment. “You're asking me even though we're not in love with each other?”

I know that, and I did hear every word you said while I was in the coma.”

She sucked in a breath and turned red.

Donna, do you know how much I would've given for any of my marriages to be like what we have now? We have so much more than what most people have when they get married, and the knowledge that it'll take effort to make it work. And I... well, I feel like I require you in my life. You balance me out, stop me from going too far, and I want you at my side. More than I've wanted anyone else. I'll be a good husband to you, and I know you'll be the best wife I could ask for. Please, Donna... I can't lose you. Marry me?” He knew his eyes had turned utterly pleading, and he was weeping.

Without hesitation, and her own eyes watery, she gave him the word. “Yes.”


The Doctor stood staring out the window of the Mott home, reflecting on his lengthy past few days. London was still smoking in places, but he had warning this time. He was able to figure out that today was the pivotal moment that could have destroyed Donna and him. He couldn't save everyone, but he had saved the day.

Well, Donna had. With help. He'd more or less stood on the sidelines. And in fact had for a couple of hours.

He looked back into the bedroom. Donna was stirring slightly, probably disturbed from her deep slumber by his thoughts. But still sound asleep. Safe. Whole. His.

In another room lay their new teenage son, Geoffrey, exhausted from being born so radically and from being cleansed from the dangers of his creation. Between father and son, the meta-crisis was drawn from Donna and pushed entirely into the son, which turned him younger and healed him into a full Time Lord. And yet still half Doctor, half Donna. Once his hand, and now safe, too.

His fears about Rose had been right. This day would never have happened if Rose had actually died at Canary Wharf, or if she'd grown up. She'd been beguiled by the Trickster, and only her death would ensure that the Dimension Cannon could never work again. It also fulfilled Caan's prophecy, because Rose had set off the chain reaction that killed the Daleks – but the electric shock killed her, too.

And Donna, with the bond still there despite the Trickster, was able to see the wrongness of the parallel world and break free almost the instant she heard that the Doctor's body had been found. Rose had never seen it coming, and had reacted much as the Doctor expected a thwarted child would. Especially when his first action after the aborted regeneration was to hug Donna.

He felt terrible for Jackie, but he could do nothing except bring her and Rose's body back to Pete's World, with a big hug and Rose's remaining things. Weeping for what good she had done, and the person she could have been.

He smiled despite the pain of the day. Earth had a long way to go to heal, but his own life was shining much brighter. Donna's family had accepted him, welcomed him and his son, and he had an utterly wonderful wife. It didn't matter that he wasn't head over heals for her. She was perfect for him, and he hoped she thought he was right for her.

Not that explaining things to Sylvia and Wilfred hadn't been awkward. Especially since the necessity for the bond was no longer there. But they liked being bonded, having the added companionship, and so married they would remain. They remained silent when Wilfred had remarked that love could still bloom between the pair, as it often did in arranged marriages.

As the dawn neared, he heard Donna get out of bed and shuffle to wrap her arms around him from behind. “Don't you ever sleep, Spaceman?”

He laughed through his nose as he turned to hold her at his side so they could both look out the window. “Couldn't this time, Earthgirl.”

They'd played with variations on the names, but they liked the old standards too much. Why mess with what worked?

Looking over the world that he hoped they could help heal, the Doctor turned to face Donna. “I have another important question for you, and you need to consider your answer very carefully.”

Aw, not another one,” she grumbled with a teasing smile. “What this time?”

He grinned and leaned down to kiss her. They did that every now and then, rather more frequently than a token husband and wife might, but they did like the feeling.

Ready for a baby?”

She looked at him. “I'm not using a Loom, so you'd better be ready for some love-making, Theta.”

He smirked. “I'd do anything to make you happy. Learning to make love would be a pleasure.”

She smirked back. “Let's see who can turn who into putty the fastest.”



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 27th, 2013 01:32 am (UTC)
(so. I've read this three times and am now ready to comment)

Firstly, thank you so much for writing something just for me. It still humbles and tickles me to know that someone took precious time to write just for me. *blush*

Secondly, the review:

Both River and Rose are dispatched. I couldn't ask for a better tale! :DD And he read the journal. Obviously, the spoilers will come in quite handy.

"Like the little brother I always wanted!"
Oh, yeah. Right. Just how delusional are you, Missy?!?

"We have so much more than what most people have when they get married."
That is so true. Affection, respect, ability to make each other laugh. No wonder everyone always thought they were a couple.

"Between father and son, the meta-crisis was drawn from Donna and pushed entirely into the son, which turned him younger and healed him into a full Time Lord. And yet still half Doctor, half Donna."
That's how it should have been. *sigh*

She looked at him. “I'm not using a Loom, so you'd better be ready for some love-making, Theta.”
Oh such the threat there, Donna!!!

He smirked. “I'd do anything to make you happy. Learning to make love would be a pleasure.”
I'm just sure he would!!!! ;DDDD

She smirked back. “Let's see who can turn who into putty the fastest.”
And that's serenityslady turning into total mush and perving at the same time. GUH!

Thank you again so much for this gift.

Dec. 27th, 2013 03:04 am (UTC)
You're welcome. I feel better having cleared several WIPs from my plate. :)

Yes. Although I'll need to consider more about how I treat them in later stories. I want my reasons to come across as rational and the result of following the implications in the timelines. But yes, he needs the spoilers in this case.

I wrote this in such a way that their relationship COULD be platonic. I mean, their love was DEEP, no matter how you look at it.

Exactly. :) Which makes it fun to write them.

Ah, yes, and their final lines could suggest the friendship is about to catch fire. :)

You're welcome. *hugs*
Marishka Wollschlegier
Apr. 28th, 2019 12:50 am (UTC)
great!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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