The Doctor said he had to take Donna’s memories away. He said they’re going to kill her. Donna knew he was right. Everything hurts. She’s burning like a dying star on the inside.
He reached out, about to take her memories when Donna tells him to stop. She begged him to stop with every last bit of energy in her body. And, in a rare turn of events, he listened.
The Doctor’s hands fell back by his side. His face was wracked with guilt, but he stopped.
“How much time do I have left?” Donna asked.
The Doctor was slow to answer. “A few minutes. Maybe.”
Donna nodded. She could already feel the seconds ticking away in her brain. “Enough for a quick trip.”
“No! I’ve earned this. I just save the entire universe and I’m going to get one final trip in with you if it’s the last thing I do.”
“… Where would you want to go?”
“I want to see the most beautiful thing in the universe,” Donna said. “I want to go, knowing my life mattered.”
“Of course, you matter.”
“I didn’t know that before I met you. And what’s stopping me from going back to that once I’m behind a temp desk for the hundredth time? I just… These are my last moments. I want to make them count.”
The Doctor frowned. He took a deep breath as if he was mulling the choice over in his head. But it wasn’t his choice to make. It was Donna’s.
“How about the caverns of Kaseyopa,” suggested the Doctor. “You know what that is now, right?”
And for the first and maybe last time, Donna did. “A crystalline cavern made entirely out of natural forming glass and diamond on the moon of Hakosurre. Discovered in the year 4783-2 by Noblewoman Roberta Garellen.”
“But Noblewoman is just a title, yeah? That’s not part of her birth name. It’s an honor bestowed on men and women who fight through social and economic adversity, and end up doing something great. Something that impacts the entire universe for the better. An honor given by those following the Temple of Heart.”
“A temple more focused on philosophy than religion,” Donna nodded.
“And do you know what that philosophy is?”
Donna cocked her head to the side as she tried to sift through memories that weren’t her own. “Big or small, all living beings can do amazing things.”
“Yes,” the Doctor said with a nod. “Both title and temple were named after a legendary hero lost to the winds of time. Someone who thought she wasn’t important. Someone trying to find her place in the universe. And when she found it, she held onto it with two hands, kicking and screaming and daring someone to take it away from her. Good thing she did, because that woman ended up saving the entire universe.
“And Noblewoman Garellen, just like the legendary hero-”
“Heroine,” Donna corrected.
“Right,” the Doctor said, a hint of a smile twinkling in his very old, very brown eyes. “Just like her, Noblewoman Garellen spent decades living with a mother that didn’t believe in her, spent years working temp jobs in search for a place to belong, spent ages thinking she was a nobody. She beat back the odds with a stick saying ‘not today,’ and ends up discovering this beautiful cavern on a peaceful moon.
“How about we tap into their feed and watch her discovery?” the Doctor said, swinging over the view screen.
Donna’s lips curled up into a quiet little smile. She looks at the Doctor for what might be the last time and says, “I’d like that, very much.”