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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

tkel_paris
Sep. 9th, 2014 02:24 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. :/

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