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FIC: Reception Disaster (1/1)

Title: Reception Disaster

Genre: Doctor Who

Rating: T (angst, character death, grief)

Author: tkel_paris

Summary: The Doctor is horrified when he sees where the TARDIS has dropped him: far too close to where he last saw Donna. But that's not the worst of it.

Disclaimer: I wouldn't trust the Moff to not mess this one up. So I had nothing to do with the characters.

Dedication: tardis_mole, for prompting both the original idea and giving the trigger I needed within.

Author's Note: Have tissues at hand. Meta-Crisis implications.




Reception Disaster

Started May 5, 2013
Finished August 10. 2014

The Doctor pulled himself upright after the TARDIS landed. He pushed his floppy hair out of his eyes and exhaled, exasperated. “Another case of taking me where I 'need' to go instead of where I want to?”

The Old Girl's answer wasn't amused. If anything, it struck him as sad.

He looked at the controls to see where they were, but she wasn't cooperating. “Fine, I'm going outside!”

When he opened the doors, he noticed details about the surroundings and the skyline that seemed familiar. “Okay, where was I that I've seen that building from downtown from a similar angle before? It's been at least some years for me... Oh, no! It's Acton! It's where Wilf lives! Old Girl, we can't stay!”

Look, she spoke in his mind. Look!

He risked it, and froze as he noticed the details of his surroundings. “The local cemetery. Oh, Donna. Who did you lose?” He straightened his bow tie and steeled his nerves. “Well, I don't look the same, so maybe I can speak with her without triggering any memories. Wish me luck, Old Girl.”

He stepped outside. He didn't notice how silent his ship had become.

He walked through the entrance and started to look around. He knew that Donna had brothers buried in Chiswick Cemetery. Along with their father. She'd mentioned that one night when she'd cried about her father, and how she'd wondered if her life would've been happier had she been a boy – or if she would've died like they had. He wasn't clear on the details, but he did remember where her father was buried since she'd asked him to accompany her on a visit after Jenny died. Not that it helped him here.

As he approached, he saw there was a grave that already had visitors. Two of them. Sylvia and Wilf. The elderly man used a cane now, and he noticed that Sylvia's blonde hair was dulled, turning grey. Both looked haggard and worn out as their eyes focused on the grave in front of them.

He came closer, wanting to know what was wrong. His footsteps attracted their attention. Sylvia looked up first and frowned. But not as much as she used to. She seemed too exhausted to manage that. “Looking for someone, young man?”

Still, there was that hint of disdain for his appearance. Some things didn't change. Although was it? There was no fire behind the words, only numbness. He managed a tiny smile. “Hello, Mrs. Noble. Hello, Wilf.”

Wilf startled. “Eh? Who are you? How do I know you? And-” He cut himself off when he noticed in the distance a familiar sight. His eyes widened. “It can't be.”

You knew I was dying when you last saw me. And I did. This is the sort of thing that happens when we die: we change completely. But I have all of his memories, Wilf. I am the Doctor.”

Sylvia gasped and covered her mouth, tears suddenly forming. “Oh, god! So you died all alone, with no one to look after you.”

The Doctor's face fell. “Yes. Rather dangerously, but I'll be fine. Anyway, the TARDIS brought me here, and clearly won't leave until I've done or learned something. So... as much as the answer might hurt me, how's Donna? Started some charities with that lottery money?”

Both their faces fell. As one, they pointed to the gravestone.

Eyes widening to saucers, he looked. And sucked in a harsh breath at its inscription:

Donna Elieen Temple-Noble
July 18, 1968 – April 3, 2010

Dying while remembering is
more precious than making do
living an empty shell of a life

No!” screamed the Doctor. “That's the day she got married!”

Wilf touched his shoulder. “She remembered at the reception.”

The Doctor stared in horror at Wilf. “Who triggered it?”

No one. That's the thing. She started remembering a little at Christmas. When she seemed fine, we thought nothing of it, but... I lied when I said she was making do, Doctor. She was just trudging along because she couldn't let those who'd bullied her for years win by killing herself. She had no real joy in life anymore, was just going through the motions. Shaun... he made her smile sometimes, and I think she decided to accept someone nice who seemed interested enough in her to want to marry her. A last grasp at motherhood, though I think she thought it was a long shot. She kept him at a bit of a distance, but Shaun... bless him... he wouldn't take it personally. He wanted to lift her from her sadness, and before Christmas he sometimes managed... for a few hours. But after Christmas, she had these moments of withdrawing into herself. She focused more on the things that happened during the months she couldn't remember. We didn't know until the reception.”

Sylvia wept quietly, very much like her daughter that one Christmas. “She wanted to know what happened to her dad, was trying to piece together her work history. When we tried to stop her, she accused us of not loving her at all. Her granddad acting like me felt like a betrayal, she said. And she seemed okay, so we started trying to create stories to help her cope. Some she seemed to believe, but she mostly ignored them. She seemed fine at the wedding, but after the TARDIS left, it was like she was experiencing a slow energy drain. She'd been all excited about being married, but she wasn't exactly focused on her husband. Then she seemed to look around her like she suddenly didn't know how she'd got there in the first place. Just for a moment, but it came back every so often.”

Wilf carried on when her voice started breaking slightly. “It wasn't one thing in particular. She did go quiet over staring at the man recording the events, over a brief exchange between Nerys and Shaun, the DJ, and the dancing. After a moment, she sat down like she was trying to piece together some big mystery. Then her eyes went wide and she went very still. We checked on her, and then she stood and handed me the lottery ticket. 'Start a charity after you've settled the mortgage,' she said. 'You know what I'd support.'”

It was then we saw this golden glow appearing in her eyes,” Sylvia whimpered. “We begged her to rest, but she fixed the harshest glare she's ever thrown my way. 'I know what that Spaceman did to me. He ignored my wishes. He doesn't know what it's like to live without your memories, to think you're nothing and worthless. He took the knowledge that I'm none of those things away. He sent Earthman away, wrongly. I would've cared for him, calmed him. That was my last chance at motherhood, and he tossed him with the girl who killed me just to get to him. I can't change what he did, but I have figured out a way around his blasted defence mechanism. It was only a matter of time before I put it all together! I wanted to die with my mind intact and he didn't let me! So I'm going to choose my moment of death, when I can't do any more damage than he's already done.'”

The Doctor's mouth had long ago fallen against his chest.

Wilf grabbed Sylvia's hand. “That glow grew stronger, enough that everyone was looking. Then she collapsed with a cry, and didn't move again. Someone called an ambulance, but we called Martha. She and some UNIT blokes came, and quietly told us that Donna's mind had burned itself out. There was nothing anyone could do for her. They took her body, and cremated her in her dress.”

The Doctor choked on a cry, unable to move.

Sylvia wiped her eyes. “Shaun... he could've claimed up to half of that lottery money, but once he learned the whole story, he refused more than a quarter of what was left after we settled the mortgage. We used the rest to start a charity to help those with special needs reach their full potential, and to support head injury cases. It's all in her name.”

The alien shook and sank to his knees, unable to bear his own weight under the strain. He startled slightly when Sylvia touched his shoulder.

I'm so sorry I sent you away. You might've kept her distracted enough to be able to live with it. Maybe you could've protected her from the Master. That triggered her descent toward death. I don't know how much domestic you do, but if you'd cared about her even half as much as it looked like you did, then I think you would've done anything to protect her. If only I'd trusted you...”

She cut herself off as the Doctor broke down into wailing sobs. Within them were the broken sounds of Donna's name. She sank to wrap her arms around him as she broke down once again, Wilf touching their shoulders.

He already had made so many mistakes. He'd always known that what happened to Donna was one of them. Now he would never get out of his head the what ifs of how he could have protected her, never forgive himself for not sticking around even in the face of imminent regeneration.

How could he ever forgive himself now?

THE END

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
alimoseby
Aug. 11th, 2014 05:19 am (UTC)
Well. I'll just take myself off to a little corner and cry now...

And Cheeky will probably not understand why she'll get extra hugs tomorrow if she says she's Donna Noble. That's her latest game. She likes to pretend she's Donna Noble.

Loved it.

~Ali ♥︎
tkel_paris
Aug. 11th, 2014 05:24 am (UTC)
You can see why I wanted to get this fic posted and out of the way. :(

Aw... Tell her some of those extra hugs are from her mummy's friends who also love Donna. *watery smile*

*hugs*
inward_audacity
Aug. 11th, 2014 01:24 pm (UTC)
So, I'm gonna go cry in the corner now.

This was heartbreaking. But I guess a brilliant mind like Donna's, you can't just expect her to move on with not knowing what happened to that missing year of her life. Besides, she'll miss her best friend. She may not remember or know who he is, but she'll be missing someone and it'll suck.

I hate how they ended Donna's story. It's so cruel and unfair.
tkel_paris
Aug. 11th, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
To assume that she made it to the wedding with Shaun unaffected seems as insulting to the character as having Martha become a doctor far too soon is insulting to that profession. It completely ignores reality, and part of the appeal of DW is that it's supposed to be really close to our reality. Never mind the belittling of the characters by not letting them shine like they could have.

It's like they didn't look at head injury cases, or severe memory loss, and how the patient's life can be altered. No way Donna loses that much of her life and can work out. She might not have been able to get good work anymore even with her 100 wpm typing, given the extent of time she was not working.

*sighs* Better get off this train of thought and get ready for my day. Anyway, thank you for reading.
bas_math_girl
Aug. 11th, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC)
ARGHHHHHHH!!!!

I'll just be over here, sobbing in the corner.... *sniffs*

tkel_paris
Aug. 11th, 2014 09:22 pm (UTC)
*hugs* You summed how I felt about writing it. :(
morganfm
Aug. 13th, 2014 03:57 am (UTC)
::joins the growing pile of people crying in the corner::
when I read "Sylvia and Wilf", it was like what happened when Matt regenerated all over again. I thought the last time we'd ever see him was covered in old makeup, and I just sat there whispering "no. no. no. no." over and over, unable to tear my eyes away, and desperately wanting it to not be true. And unlike in the Time of the Doctor, reading this, my fears were true. Donna was gone. Forever.
::resumes sobbing uncontrollably::
tkel_paris
Aug. 13th, 2014 04:19 am (UTC)
*tight hugs*
Thing is, I fear this possibility for Donna. Memory isn't the clean thing the mind wipe assumes it is in humans. Maybe Time Lords work that way, but I don't see that working on a human without leaving them well and truly brain dead. No matter what we saw and what was said. So you can imagine how much distrust I've built up toward The Powers That Be (namely RTD and SM) for making this happen and not acknowledging their mistakes. And this fic was one of the results of said anger. Believe me when I say I was weeping when I wrote it.
*extra hugs*
(If this made you cry, I'd be careful reading my story "All I Have Left". I got myself into the mood to write that after several rounds of listening to Kelly Clarkson's "Cry", which I SWEAR sounds like the Doctor thinking about Donna.)
mandylouise
Aug. 25th, 2014 02:58 am (UTC)
I'm new to the fandom, but Donna is one of my favorite companions, which brought me to the community "doctor-donna" and to your story. You've really emphasized the tragedy of what the Doctor did in a way that made me cry into my computer. And Donna's words to Sylvia were spot on...the conclusion of Donna's story in canon is so unsatisfying, but I love that you've given her a chance to end things on her own terms. I'm having such an Aristotle-type moment with my enjoyment of this angst!
tkel_paris
Sep. 8th, 2014 03:30 am (UTC)
It is rather Greek, isn't it? Hadn't occurred to me before, but sometimes only a Greek tragedy level reaction might get through to the Doctor about the wrongness of his actions.

Thank you for reading. Hope you find more you like. I have started posting two new stories this month.
starseeker32
Sep. 8th, 2014 02:04 am (UTC)
*flops into the corner with the masses in a giant sobbing mess*

I'm wrestling with a post-JE fic of my own (multi-chapter, been working on it for a few months on and off) and I can't seem to get Donna's struggle "right." You, on the other hand, got it right in the most heartbreaking way possible. Do you have any tissues I can use?
tkel_paris
Sep. 8th, 2014 03:29 am (UTC)
*offers a whole box*

I've gone through a few of these working on the sad fics. Just... write and find a fellow fan whose judgment you trust to look it over for the voice or whatever you need. That's how I got to this point in fanfiction.
starseeker32
Sep. 9th, 2014 01:05 am (UTC)
Thanks for the tip. I might need it soon. Excuse me while I wrestle my own disobedient fic-in-progress to the ground and beat it over the head with an empty tissue box.
tkel_paris
Sep. 9th, 2014 06:24 am (UTC)
Welcome. I have several disobedient fics to wrestle with right now. And all three of them will eventually involve smut. Angst might be easier to write right now. Although... one will have plenty of it soon enough. :/
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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