He had just left her house in Chiswick; the rain and Wilf’s eyes would forever mark his soul. One more scar, one more regret.
He was alone in his TARDIS when he vowed to find a solution, a way of saving his best friend. He set the controls to random and landed on Earth. “It’s always Earth, isn’t it?” It was raining and he almost went back inside, but as he stepped outside he realized it was the 70’s. He knew he had to be oh-so careful because he could meet himself.
A car stopped beside him and a young man got out, pulling his very pregnant wife out of the car.
“Oh, it’s you!” the man said. “Since you probably had that one on me, could you please help me carry her to the hospital, it’s just…”
“Geoffrey, if I feel this much pain one more time I’ll never let you touch me again!” the woman said in a shrieking voice. She looked familiar and as he helped the man, the penny dropped.
“I never asked your name.” the Doctor said as they waited for the woman to be wheeled in for the labor.
“Geoff Noble.” He raised his hand to shake the Doctor’s. “And you?”
“John Smith…” the Doctor beamed. “So, is it a boy or a girl?”
“Sylv thinks it’s a boy, God help us if it’s not… I think it’s a girl, I just know it.” Sylvia gave out a cry and Geoff moved to be next to her, holding her hand.
The Doctor fished a pen and a piece of paper inside his pocket, wrote a message, and gave it to Geoff. “Give it to your child for me, please.” Geoff eyed him suspiciously. “Nothing appears there, but… it’s a magical ink. Promise me?”
Sylvia didn’t want to give it to Donna, but Geoff hid it in a wooden box. A few years later the message appeared; it said, ‘I’m on my way.’
From that moment on the Doctor understood. It was true that he couldn’t see Donna, but he could watch her grow from afar, help her while never being noticed. That way he would be sure he wouldn’t forget – and he needed to get out of his comfort zone sometimes, for it was so easy for him to forget.
Then he understood why his ship had taken him there; this was his ship’s idea, and it was a brilliant one like everything about that glorious time machine. Every time he got one step closer to find how to save his favorite ginger, he would go back in her timeline, anywhere the TARDIS decided to take him, as a reward.
The first time he advanced on his researches he was with his Eleventh face. He had just dropped River back off at Stormcage after taking her to see the Singing Towers; soon she would be going to the Library.
He sat in his old laboratory for hours- he hadn’t used it in regenerations, but suddenly it was needed again.
The first step forward wasn’t much when he looked back at it. He had spent many uncountable days sitting, trying to figure the biological side of the metacrisis - exactly what happened and how. He didn’t know how to fix it yet, but he understood what had happened in Donna’s brain.
He stood and stretched, smoothed his bowtie, and grimaced. He was tired, but it was fine- he was going to see her.
He set the controls and waited for the TARDIS to land, and when she did it was plain old 70’s London again. He had a hunch that he would be seeing Donna following some chronological order, and he was fine with that.
He was at a park, convinced this wasn’t Chiswick. Maybe they’d been there for some special reason. He saw a blonde lady holding a small ginger girl and smiled- he knew perfectly who it was.
He sat away from them, not wanting to look like a pervert. Sylvia put Donna on the ground and she tried to let go of her mother’s hand, but Sylvia wouldn’t let her go out of extreme fear the little girl would hurt herself.
Donna let out a cry that would have been a shouting insult if she could already pronounce English words. Sylvia frowned, still holding Donna’s chubby hands. Sylvia set on a bench and slowly let go of the small hands, Donna wobbled slightly before giving two uncertain steps, making Sylvia smile- a sight that scared the Doctor a bit.
After the two said steps, Donna fell, sitting down harshly. Sylvia’s eyes widened as she expected loud cries that didn’t come. Instead of crying, Donna gave out a laugh and pushed herself up using her hands and gave two steps back to where her mother was sitting.
“Stubbornness is chronic,” the Doctor whispered smiling. Before they left, the Doctor managed to put a piece of paper on Sylvia’s purse, on which was written the same message he left when Donna was born.
He had just had an encounter with the Daleks when he took the second step towards her. His eleventh self had died by the hands of Madame Kovarian, but took her with him.
He was back to being blonde, his hair long like his Eighth’s self, but now completely straight. Brown-eyed and skinny, he looked no day over 30, which made him just a tad bit older than the previous body.
The first adventure with his brand new companion and there they were, the bloody Daleks. Every time he saw them the urge to give up grew, as they always survived. Always. And that’s what made him sit and go through solutions for Donna- the thought that she stopped the Apocalypse that would have happened by the hands of Davros.
He always thought of himself as a specialist in humans, but as he studied the human brain he realized he couldn’t be more wrong. They used so little of their brains that it made them much more complex than they seemed to be. It made the actual dimension of the damage caused by the metacrisis much bigger than he had imagined.
Until he finally measured it, he knew she would die if he hadn’t locked his memories- but oh, she wouldn’t simply burn up. It would have been so cruel and painful.
He sat on the library trying to put together what the metacrisis had been and what it had caused to Donna’s mind in order to see the bigger picture better. However, he came up with nothing, like it was an impossible puzzle.
But it was a step nonetheless, he didn’t need to set the controls anymore, he and his TARDIS had finally managed to come up with a mechanism that took him to Donna without him having to ask, the only thing needed was the TARDIS believing it was actual progress.
He wondered where in her timeline he had landed. For the first time he had a companion with him.
“Who is she?” Ella asked- she was a 27 year old teacher; it made him think of Barbara and Ian, but she had so much of Jamie and his loyalty.
“She’s an old companion from a long time ago; it keeps me grounded somehow, coming back. I don’t understand it myself. I was never one to do these things, you see.” He sounded oddly Scottish this time around.
They were at the back of a school, and for the first time he knew it was Chiswick. Ella respected him enough to keep comfortable silences at the right times, like this one.
He looked for a red head, but didn’t see it for half an hour. And then, with no warning, a group of girls came out of the back door.
“Donna, you are so stupid, he likes you!” a blond girl in pigtails said.
“Don’t be daft,” Donna said biting her nails, a habit she never lost; her nails were always perfectly painted with colorful varnish, but kept short so she couldn’t bite them.
“Argh, let’s leave her here alone. She deserves to be alone being the stupid bint she is”, scolded a brunette girl that wore too much make-up for her age; the Doctor calculated in his mind that they were around 13/14 years old.
The other girls left leaving Donna by herself; she let her bag fall on the floor and looked around to be sure no one was watching. The Doctor and Ella were wearing the TARDIS key as a perception filter on a necklace. And without warning she started crying, in that way Donna did: big sobs, barely breathing, tears flowing freely but no sound.
The Doctor had to physically stop himself so he wouldn’t go to her and interfere. After five minutes a boy, around the same age as the ginger girl, went out by the back door.
“You are here! Mrs. Ford said she saw you and the girls… Why are you crying?” he sounded as scared as a boy at his age did at crying girls.
“Get off.” She said in a small voice.
“Ok, but if it’s because of the kiss, I’ll still accept it now.” He smiled and winked at her.
“I don’t need a boyfriend now, I need to study. I want to be a stewardess.” She said with such conviction it made the Doctor’s hearts clench in his chest.
“Why do you want to be that?” he asked confused.
“I’m going to travel, and meet new people and places and…”
“And you will.” The boy said getting closer to her. Her breath hitched knowing what was about to happen. “It’s ok if you‘ve never kissed.”
“Of course I’ve kissed, how old do you think I am?” In fact, she hadn’t kissed, yet. He put an awkward hand on her waist and kissed her. She didn’t push him, but didn’t touch him either.
The scene was cute; however, if the Doctor was the crying type a tear would’ve rolled down his face for he knew what would happen. Donna had told him about her first boyfriend and how it ended, how it had changed her, made her give up on so much. But he couldn’t change that so he did what he could.
He handed the note to Ella and asked her. “Give this to her, I will wait for you in the TARDIS.”
Ella took it in her hands and approached the kissing couple, she cleared her throat. “Hi, you don’t know me but… I need to give this to you.”
Donna took it in her hands and opened it. “I’m on my way…” she read out loud. “Do you…” Donna looked up but Ella was gone. She hugged the note to her chest; she knew that one day she would meet whoever sent those notes. If she didn’t, she would go crazy.
The next time the Doctor was able to just sit and be, Ella was gone. The fact was he couldn’t always stop everything and try to come up with solutions, he had adventures to live. There was a little voice inside him urging him to run.
But every now and again running wasn’t enough and in those moments he realized he needed Donna, and so he sat down on his library or his laboratory and tried for hours, days, and sometimes even whole months to just think of something different.
He had a theory on how to save Donna this time, but for it he needed to build a special version of the chameleon arch. It had nothing to do with a chameleon arch but if it helped him to visualize it, he was all for calling it a special version of the chameleon arch.
He finished the main calculations, and all the subsequent ones to calculate the possible outcomes and problems. He was a genius and it took him thirty Earth days of no sleep, he didn’t eat either, but he also didn’t particularly care.
He now only needed the pieces for the machinery. The problem was they would be hard to find, so this treasure hunt would have to be incorporated to his daily life. Every time he had an adventure it would be a double one, so he could look all over this Universe for what he needed.
The TARDIS knew this was progress, so she set herself and then they were traveling.
Ella had left a note before they went on their last adventure, as if she knew what would happen, as if she knew of her death. The note said ‘The next time you see her, make sure you tell Donna she is loved.’
The Doctor at that point in his life had stopped caring for the companion’s families, so he never knew before that note anything about Ella’s family other than her mother had left her and she never resigned her mother for it. She thought her mother was the most amazing human being to ever exist. And the note made him realize what was staring him in the face the whole time; Ella was Donna’s daughter with Shaun.
As the Doctor waited for the TARDIS to take him where she thought was appropriate, he wondered how much Ella knew and never told him and felling even guiltier for not being able to protect her. Donna would have been disappointed.
He landed on Wilf’s allotment, which seemed odd since he knew that house was Wilf’s and had only become Donna’s when Geoff died. He walked in the direction of the house to find the door open.
Both of his hearts sped up their heartbeats, hoping he was caught up in the moment in Donna’s life he thought he was, because one mistake would change everything.
The Doctor knew more about Donna’s life than she intended to tell him; one day he was bored and having read all the books in the TARDIS he went to her bedroom in search of a book that he might haven’t read, and found her diary. It didn’t have many old memories, being the one she was keeping since she went aboard, but, on one page she talked about one thing that he confronted her about later. And after three slaps, a kick where the sun doesn’t shine and half an hour of him apologizing she finally told him everything that led to that moment he now hoped he wasn’t in.
He got into the house and immediately went upstairs. He opened the only door that wasn’t closed and found her lying on the floor. He gathered her in his arms.
“Wake up! Wake up,” he ordered in desperation.
“Get off,” She said with her words blurred.
“Just leave me.” She tried to push him but her arms felt boneless.
“What did you do?”
“Isn’t it obvious, Einstein? Nerys stole my first boyfriend, I don’t blame her; we’re friends, and he is a jerk. But then Dylan was a jerk too, and what is virginity? I gained so much weight and I can’t keep up with my grades anymore… I’m never gonna be a stewardess, am I? What’s the point of a fat stupid stewardess? And my mum hates me.” She said it all very fast, with the words tumbling over each other and sounding very weak, her eyes were closing and he kept shaking her softly to keep her awake.
“Please, please don’t fall asleep.” He looked to her side and found a bottle of pills. “How many did you take?”
“I was supposed to keep count, eh? I didn’t know, Strange Man.”
“I’m going to call an ambulance.”
“Don’t do that, my mother will kill me for doing this in her parents’ bedroom…Who are you?”
“I’m on my way.” He said on her ear and with the little strength she had she broke down crying. “You are so loved, so very loved.” He kissed her hair as she cried some more- other than her grandparents and father, the only people who said that wanted something from her. She was crying as her vision blurred and everything went dark.
She woke up in the hospital thinking it had all being in her mind, that her almost dying mind had created this man who loved her. Sylvia was screaming at her, saying things she ignored and basically didn’t hear anymore as her eyes opened. Her father made Sylvia leave and approached the bed.
“We will talk later, ok?” he said in a calm, soothing voice and left a piece of paper beside her. “This was attached to your note; I think it’s from your savior. I didn’t expect a strange man to be walking down the street and get into the house because he thought it was weird the door was wide open.” And after saying that, he left.
Donna’s hand flew to catch the paper; it said the words she knew well by now.
After two regenerations he was at last ginger, he had at that point found half of the gadgets he needed for the chameleon-arch-that-wasn’t-really-that, and only then the TARDIS had finally set herself on the way to Chiswick.
He understood now he had a counted number of times to see Donna’s past without ruining anything, he almost hit his face against the console for being stupid, but he wouldn’t do it. You never know what will kick you into a regeneration.
This Doctor, Doctor Fourteen was very careful and boring; he still loved the running but he would stay on the safe side more times than not. Occasionally, he would find himself at gunshot or in the middle of a war and whatnot; however, he was more centered than his other selves had been.
He landed inside a cupboard and felt nostalgic about things he shouldn’t be. The current companion was with his family as he did this quick trip, and the TARDIS had promised to go back to the companion’s timeline in the right day. And year.
There was a party in the floor he was on; there were offices and things like that in the building. He infiltrated himself as he usually would in everywhere, and people thought he was one of the temps and brushed the idea off.
“We would like to announce the secret we’ve been keeping.” Said a smiling blonde woman. “The new official member of our staff is…” she looked to all the faces before finishing, and by then he had spotted Donna. “Nerys.” The crowd applauded and Donna excused herself to one of the offices. He followed.
She started talking to herself. “I’m just a bloody temp. Twenty-two years old, time to get used to it, being a temp is as good as you will get.” He could see that she wanted to break something or slap someone’s face, but she turned just then and spotted him. “Who are you?”
“I’m… just the new temp.”
She gave out one of her dry sarcastic laughs and said. “Good luck with that mate, they don’t really like us gingers around here.” She tried to leave and said, “If you don’t move I’ll slap you into next week.”
He brought his hands to his face. “Don’t hurt me, I happen to be very fond of this face, this face is attached to a ginger hair and ginger is always good, don’t you think?”
She glared at him before rolling her eyes. “Are you being intentionally irritating or did you never learned to be a normal person?” she tried again to leave mumbling “The older I get, the weirder things get. Blokes will be blokes I suppose.”
He held her hand making her turn. “There was this man, he told me to give you this.” He handed her a piece of paper.
“Yeah, some bloke right?” she wanted to rip the paper, but he said:
“You might want to read it.”
She opened it and read it. She was suddenly very close. “Do you know who he is? Did you see him? Tell me!” her hands clenched on his shirt.
“I… I didn’t…” he was very lousy at lying so he didn’t say anything.
“Why do I care? Same notes since I was born, he is never coming, is he? Why am I even telling you this?” she crumpled the paper and threw it to the other side of the room.
“I’m on my way, I swear I am,” he whispered to nothing before going back to the TARDIS.
His very cautious fourteenth self had died of an allergic reaction to the Praxis gas, and he laughed bitterly at the fact that he had gone to a place with that gas, the only place that had that gas, for the first time in his life.
As he changed his clothes he thought about going back to using celery on his lapel, but decided against it, because now he was so close to getting Donna back, he could almost taste it. And she would definitely kill him if he was using a vegetable as an accessory.
But the reason he was on that planet was to find one of the compounds for his machine to fix her, now only one thing was needed and the TARDIS was in flight to the last memory he would get of her before she met him. He wondered how close she would be to the moment they met. How close would she be to that Christmas lifetimes ago?
He was back to dark hair, but it was curly as it had been on his sixth self and made him feel silly. He dressed in clothes that made him look as if he was a gangster from the 40’s, and for some reason it completed him. He took off his fedora before stepping out of his ship.
He was outside a hospital and it didn’t take him much to find her staring at nothing near the main door.
As he approached she turned in his direction. She was going back inside the hospital but couldn’t before saying. “Going to a fancy party of som’thing?”
“I’m actually here to give you one thing.” He stretched his arm holding the paper.
She started laughing. “Are you bloody kidding me? If it’s not from David Beckham I can’t accept it…” she looked at her cellphone as if she was waiting for something and then back at him. “Do you think I’m a flipping kid?” she took the paper out of his hand. “Let’s just see if he changed the message this time, shall we?” she opened it and read it out loud. “I'll be there the moment you come out in white because I'm on my way” only then he realized the tear stains on her face. “You know what, mate? Tell the guy who told you to give me this to shove it up his arse.” She hit his chest with her hand open and the paper crumpling between them. She started walking back inside the building.
“Donna…” he called out making her turn back.
“How do you know my name, huh? You know what? I have something better to tell him, so write it down so you won’t forget it.” She was almost crying again. “I got a call from the temping agency and I’ll be working on HC Clements, it’s in London and oh-so very posh. I will find someone who can be actually HERE, and tell him- do appear at the wedding so I can teach him a thing or two.” She said it with big hand gestures.
“Donna, why are you crying?” he asked softly.
“Nan died!” She had screamed at him. “Tell him that too.” She stormed inside the doors.
He went back to the TARDIS not wanting to stop; he ran as fast as he could and it took him 5 Earth years to find the last piece. And from that moment he locked himself inside his ship and worked.
He never stopped to eat or sleep, not properly; the TARDIS would place plates with things for him to nibble and he would sometimes take a nap against the steel table. He was filthy and hungry when he finished.
He stared at the machine and let out a sigh. The idea on how to do this came from two moments as his Eleventh self; One with River and the other at the Prison-Hotel.
He half-fainted of exhaustion as the TARDIS flew herself to their destination: Chiswick. He woke up some time later, took a shower, changed clothes to identical but clean ones, got the headpiece that was his machinery and left.
The Fifteenth Doctor looked somewhere around his fifties, for which he was grateful, as it was approximately the age Donna was by now. She was thirty-six when he left her in 2009; a newspaper that had been thrown on the sidewalk said it was the year 2026.
He looked around for any signs of where he was when he saw the Hill beside Donna’s old house and knew he had to go there. On the window of the kitchen he saw Donna crying on the table, she was wearing black and he could only guess Sylvia had passed. Shaun was on the far corner with no emotion on his face while a young Ella tried to calm her mother.
He knocked on the door and Ella answered.
“You are not here on a good day, Mister.” She said with that condescending voice she had for this kind of moment. He had to swallow down the knot on his throat.
“I need to talk to your mother.”
“Did you know Nan?” she asked.
“Yes, I did. And I knew Wilf too, once upon a time, anyway.” Almost right after he said those words, Donna was by the door.
“It’s you… you were there when… Nan died and… If you give me one more note…” she gave out a sob and pushed him away. She somehow saw his sonic screwdriver, as he stumbled back and his coat got slightly open. “I… I’ve seen this before.” She looked back at his face. “Who are you?”
“I need to get in, I can fix you, and I can help you get back those lost two years. I can do it Donna Noble.”
“It’s Donna Temple-Noble, Spaceman.” She said and clutched the counter next to the door. “It’s so hot so… why can I see a giant wasp?” she moved away from him in haste and he ran inside the house. Ella looked scared, Shaun looked lost, and Donna looked in pain.
“I need to do something, but once I do it there is no turning back for me or for you, so I need to know: Are you happy?” he put the machine on the table as he tried to keep her standing.
“No, my mother just died; do you think I am happy?”
“I’m not asking you about right now Donna, I’m asking about the big picture. I know silly old me used to be the one who looked at the big picture while you worried about the details but let’s change a bit, huh? Since 2009, have you been happy? I mean you got the child you always wanted, you even named her Ella and all that, but…”
“I just want to know what’s missing.” She gave out a yell of pain and Ella whimpered in the corner of the room.
“I’m not getting here; I’m not on my way. I’m here. Do you want your memories back?”
“Yes!” she yelped as he put the headpiece in place and turned it on; all at once the room was filled with golden lights and heat. Donna was glowing and the Doctor moved. As he moved closer to her his Donna was already back but close to death and she was fighting. “Don’t you dare doing what you are thinking about doing, Time Boy.”
“I’ve lived too long.” He grasped her head between his hands and kissed her. The lights were so bright Ella and Shaun had to put their hands over their eyes.
The energy flowed both ways until it stopped and they parted. River gave all her regenerations in order to give the Doctor his life back, Doctor gave all of his so he could stabilize Donna. The machinery was to absolve his memories from her head, but the brain damage was permanent, she would have developed brain cancer in some months and die a slow and painful death. He gave her some plus decades so she would exceed normal human life, and her memories back.
“You shouldn’t have done this, you dumbo!”
“River being River managed to live a long time with only one life, I think I can manage, don’t you?”
She hugged him. “It was you. ‘On my way’ and all that.” She got apart from him and slapped him across his face. “I could kill you right now, do you know that?”
“It still hurts!” he complained.
“That’s the purpose, Martian.”
“Shut up.” She hugged him again. “Mum died two days ago…”
“And Wilf?” he mumbled against her neck.
“Ten years ago…” she said crying again. “At least he met Ella.”
“She becomes my companion in the future.” He whispers in her ear making sure Ella doesn’t hear and Donna parts, her face glowing in joy. She looks over her shoulder to where Shaun stood, his head hanging in defeat.
“Your mother told me…” was the only thing her husband tried to say before leaving the house.
“I knew too, Nan told me that… I read the notes, you saved mum’s life. Just… Promise to come back to see me.” she asked.
“I will,” the Doctor promised, knowing he would.
“You will bring me to see her, won’t you?” Donna was unsure, when she was the companion, God knew how long ago it was for him, he would never land where he wanted to.
“Of course I will. You can even ask the TARDIS to…” he started, and she got impatient.
“Let’s go!” she pushed him in the direction of the police phone box. “Onwards!” she said to him.
“Onwards,” he said as they went inside to start their forever.