Wilf sat out on the hill gazing up at the sky. He'd seen a lot that he'd always known was going on around the world, and now that he knew everyone else did too... it didn't seem as special. At least it wouldn't be, if his Donna hadn't been a part of it. He looked out through the lens of his telescope each time hoping he'd see the Blue Box with Donna and the Doctor and find out they were alright too.
"Dad, you've got no business being out here on a night this cold. Get back in the house." Sylvia never understood her father’s fascination for other worlds and stars and what not; there was so much to worry about right here like the bills.
"I will as soon as I see Donna, and what's this bringing me pork pies. That's Donna's job."
"Well, you're just going to sneak out anyway. This way I can keep track."
"I'm glad you do, luv. And I wish we knew where Donna was too." Wilf gave his daughter a hug. She meant so well, but things kept making her feel so out of control. She and Donna where very much alike, it was no wonder they didn't see anything but the bad sides of each other. They both wanted the other to measure up and it never happened the way either one wanted.
"Where is she dad? Why isn't she here? It's that Doctor's doing..." She stopped when she heard an odd grinding noise that had no place up on the hill. A few yards away a police call box appeared. Sylvia looked at it like it was one of those pepper pot Dalek things, but Wilf finally felt relieved. A few moments later the door opened and all was right for him.
"Gramps! Mum! Oh, I have missed you!" Donna rushed out of the door to hug them both.
"Donna! We were so worried, but I knew the Doctor and you would sort things out. Well, I guess you have a few stories to tell your old gramps, yeah?"
"Do I? You're going to wish I couldn't talk by the end." Donna said kissing her favorite man in the universe.
"Here now, What about..., this is all too much..., and still trailing after that Doctor? What's he to do with it? I'll bet he got you into something and you want to hide it like your grandfather here." Sylvia could never understand why her daughter couldn't just be satisfied, or her dad, both always looking over hills and horizons. She grabbed Donna’s hands to make her daughter feel real to her again.
"Oh mum... I love you too, and there's nothing to hide, exactly..." Donna’s greeting trailed off as the Doctor came out of the Tardis.
"Hello, Everyone over the Daleks and the flight across the galaxy?" The Doctor bounded out of the TARDIS and up to Wilf, pumping his hand in a happy handshake.
"Never better, Doctor," Wilf said. "So, can you tell me a bit more about them alien "Daleks" you called them?"
"Dad, not now... Donna's freezing out here, and so am I. Let's take it in the house over some tea." Sylvia wasn't brooking anymore space talk and crazy enthusiasms. She was cold, and so was her daughter, too cold by the feel of her. She rubbed Donna’s hands vigorously. And she didn't care to be around the Doctor, everything got upset around that man.
They walked down the hill a babel of voices. The Medusa Cascade, Shadow Proclamation, Skaro, Davros; Wilf and the Doctor went on and on and Sylvia wished it would end since all she wanted was the strangeness gone and her daughter back home. Camp was made in the kitchen. Food and drinks were made and everything felt right for Sylvia except for the Doctor being there. It bothered her how well Donna, her dad, and the Doctor got along.
"That's enough of all the alien nonsense, you three. I want to know about my daughter," Sylvia said holding Donna's hand. "Are you really all right, Donna?" She was worried about her daughter. They'd been inside all of two hours and had had more than a couple of hot drinks. She wondered why Donna's hands never seemed to warm up. Sylvia felt more uneasy since the Doctor and Donna kept exchanging rather odd looks with one another during the whole conversation.
The Doctor was more than happy to tell Donna's family about what their daughter had done to stop the Daleks. "Well, she was brilliant. Saved us all and..."
"Do you suppose I could hear it from her?" Sylvia cut the Doctor off sharply. The man had far too much influence over her daughter for Sylvia's liking.
"Doctor, have you looked at those inertial mass shunting circuits? Carrying the Earth all the way from the Medusa Cascade might have put a bit of strain on them." Donna could tell when her mom was ready to go on a tear. And it was obvious to her that the Doctor being around wasn't going to help the situation. The man could face down the end of universe, but Donna knew he'd never faced her mom on one of her tirades.
The Doctor felt Donna's plea through their mental link and got up from the table taking some scones with him. "Good point Donna, so Mr. Mott, care to give me a hand doing some repairs?"
Wilf was in heaven, a chance to go on an alien spaceship. "I think I can say yes."
"Doctor, I'd like to have gramps here too. We still have a lot to talk about." Donna wanted some back up for what she was going to tell her mother. She wasn't sure how her gramps would take it, but she felt sure he'd be supportive, her mom, on the other hand?
The Doctor felt the plea in Donna's mind; he'd almost forgotten how hard it was to be a part of a family. The balancing act between self and community he’d almost forgotten how much he'd missed it. "Sure, the job’s going to take a while anyway. There'll still be plenty of work to do even after Donna's done talking, Wilf."
"Oi! Take a walk!" Donna got up and gave the Doctor a shove toward the door for some emphasis. The sight made Sylvia a little happier, but Wilf looked a bit lost not getting his chance to see the TARDIS where Donna had been adventuring.
Donna sat back down at the table. The three generations looked at one another across the table in a long pregnant silence.
"About time that Doctor was gone. Now, what happened while you were gone, Donna? And why are your hands still so cold?" Sylvia was starting to get herself worked up. She knew something was wrong. Donna didn't talk the same as she had before the Doctor came along. And the way they would look at each other in conversations, like they were reading each others’ thoughts. Sylvia was afraid her daughter had gotten too involved with the wrong kind of man. Her daughter would never have run off with those Sontaran things around or left her family in all that choking gas to be with some mad stranger.
"Yes, well, the Doctor isn't a bad guy, mum." Donna knew it was the wrong start when she saw how her mom's eyes narrowed with each word. Somehow they never seemed able to talk to each other. Donna wished she could reach her just once without fighting.
"Good men don't blow up wedding receptions, Miss Adventure." Sylvia hissed the ending louder to make her point. All her life Sylvia wanted her daughter safe and home, but no matter how hard she had tried Donna kept wandering off. "Why is it, you always have to go off on your own way, and never listen to anybody trying to help?"
Donna started to feel angry, too. Not even a Timelord consciousness was immune to a mother's button pushing.
Wilf headed off the coming bickering that was Donna's and Sylvia's too frequent way of communicating. "Now, Syl, whatever we think of the Doctor, we don't know more than what we do. And that's hardly enough to call him good or bad." Wilf had kept a lot of what he knew about the Doctor and Donna hidden from his daughter. He knew it would only panic her. Sylvia lived in a simple explainable world. Everything in its place and all was safe. She'd said that all the time, when she'd clean her room as a child, every toy, jewelry piece and piece of clothing put just so. Wilf had the feeling Donna's news was not likely to fit into his Sylvia's world. "Let Donna tell her story. What happened out there? Was it those Daleks?"
Donna explained about the crucible and Davros' plan to destroy everything. Also the regeneration and how she got caught up in the meta-crisis and how that had changed her. Her gramps chuckled during the story at how the Daleks were stopped and the 27 planets returned to their proper places with the help of the DoctorDonna. Her mother just sat quietly watching Donna and holding Donna’s too cold hand. She told her mother and grandfather about what came afterwards about the aftereffects of the meta-crisis and the instability of her half-human half-Timelord physiology and using the chameleon arch to save her.
Donna paused and looked at her family. Her grandfather had taken her left hand in his when he saw Sylvia's drop away. "The Doctor had to use the arch to save me. I'd have died without it, but... some things are a bit different." Donna looked at her gramps and asked him to feel her heart. She gently put his hand to her chest. "Thumping away fine..." Donna cut him off with a smile and a short shake of her head. She closed her eyes and moved his hand to her right side. He felt a firm thumping there as well.
Wilf felt both sides again to see if he was imagining what he'd felt. "Feels like two hearts. Are there two hearts in there, Donna?" Wilf had read on the Internet that aliens could do some strange things, Probing people, changing them. "Is that what the Doctor had to do? Change you because of this Meta-crisis?" Wilf had put Donna's story together as he'd understood it. Donna'd only been partly changed and that had been killing her, so the Doctor had used that chameleon thing to complete the change.
"Yeah... I was dying; my mind was burning out from having a Timelord consciousness inside it. The Chameleon arch finished the change so I’m not quite what I used to be, this body is Gallifreyan, a Timelord." Donna stopped when her mother abruptly stood knocking her chair backwards to bang on the floor. "Mum..." Donna reached out to take her mother's hand but Sylvia just stepped back staring at Donna like she was some kind of monster, then Sylvia fled the kitchen without saying a word.
The kitchen was profoundly silent. Donna picked her mother's empty chair up and put it back in its place. Then she sat down and stared at her hands, unsure where she belonged. She'd known this would be hard, but she hadn't thought she'd feel this abandoned. Her grandfather took her hand again and they sat in silence. A knock at the kitchen door broke the stillness and the Doctor popped his head in. "Everything all right, I could still use that extra pair of hands you know?" The Doctor grinned and looked at the table companions. The waves of pain coming from Donna's mind had brought him down from the Tardis and the current kitchen residents gave him an idea of the cause. "Donna, how did the talk go?"
"Brilliant, my mum thinks I'm a Martian." Donna's pain came off her in waves. The Doctor sat in the seat her mother had abandoned shortly before. She felt like she was dying inside. She felt the Doctor's silent intent concern wash over her; Donna smiled wanly back at him, grateful for any life line at the moment.
"Well, you sort of are now, sweetheart," Her gramps chuckled softly, "But it's still you inside, yeah?" Wilf covered Donna's hands with his. "You're my granddaughter, no matter what's happened, you hear?"
Donna shifted closer to hug her gramps. He was always a rock she could depend on. She hugged him fiercely, crying in relief that she was safe with him.
"What are we going to say to mum?" Donna's thoughts were a jumble at the moment. She'd never seen her mother look so awful. This wasn't just coming back to say she was out of another job.
"Just be honest and tell her what you told me. Right now, she's likely afraid. Your mum never handled changes well. And this is more than she can take all at once." Wilf knew his daughter well. He didn't know if she could ever take in this much. He wondered if he and Donna should have told her more. "Just don't push too hard, Donna. This isn't about you, deep down she loves you, but right now, she doesn't know who you are anymore."
Donna smiled at her gramps and gave him a hug. She started to head to her mother's room and tuned to the Doctor. "Why don't you and gramps get to work on the TARDIS?" Donna wanted to do this alone.
"Are you sure, love?" Wilf didn't want Donna to think she was alone in this.
"Yeah, this is something only I can do. You two run along." Donna watched the Doctor and her grandfather go out the kitchen door. Her gramps falling under the spell of going on a real alien spaceship he was starting to ask the Doctor a dozen questions all at once. The Doctor was flying off with answers and jokes at the same pace. She was warmed to know she had her grandfather to fall back on, and despite how they got along, she didn't want to lose her mother.
Donna walked softly to her mother's bedroom door and paused outside. She knocked on the door, but there was only silence. She tried again and was rewarded with a response. "Is that you, Dad?"
"No Mum, it's Donna. Can I come in?"
Donna heard the cracking of her voice, ragged from crying. She opened the door and looked inside. Her mother was sitting on her bed staring at a framed picture in her hand. Donna could see from the frame that it was the picture of her at high school graduation. Donna stepped into the room and stopped at the foot of the bed. "Mum, please... I can't let us be like this."
Donna walked gently to where her mother was sitting and stroked her mother's arm. Sylvia wouldn't look up at her daughter; she just kept looking at the photo in her hands. Donna sat next to her mother, trying to start some kind of dialogue. "What are you thinking?"
Sylvia breathed out a sad sighing whisper; "She's gone," Sylvia looked at Donna at last, her eyes reddened from crying. "This is my daughter... you... you're some kind of alien. Two hearts, hands cold as ice, my daughter was real, she was human. You're some kind of alien thing."
The words cut Donna to the quick. She'd used the very same sort of talk when she was teasing the Doctor. Now, that she heard them from her mother to her, she felt like she was dying. She felt hot tears welling and a flash of anger with them, but she wasn't going to let her mother goad her this time. Donna thought in a flash that maybe that's why they'd never been able to talk to each other for so long. They were always looking to get the last word. For once, Donna knew that last words didn't matter.
"Mum, I've changed, I had to." Donna took one of her mother's hands from the frame into her own. She looked at Sylvia, no longer caring to fight back her own tears. "I was dying and this was the only way to save me. Sometimes changes are good, and sometimes they're not, and sometimes they just are and we have to live with it."
The two women looked at each other one looking for her mother and the other her daughter, both unsure they'd ever find who they wanted. "You’re right; I'm not the same girl in that picture, but I never was even before this happened. But she is still inside me, she is what I was, I'm what she became," Donna prayed her mother was listening. "Whatever you think I am, I am your daughter."
"It's just too much. How can you ask me to just accept this?" Sylvia's voice was forlorn. She closed her eyes and lay down on the bed holding the photo to her breast.
Donna unfolded a duvet at the foot of the bed and pulled it up over her mother. For once Donna didn't feel anymore frustration with her mother's jabs. "I'm not," She kissed her mother and turned off the bedside lamp and walked softly to the door. "I just wanted you to know I love you." Donna paused in the door looking at her mother. Only time would tell if her mother truly heard her.
Donna closed the door and walked down to the kitchen. She washed up the dishes to give herself time to settle down. After she’d finished, she looked at the empty room. It was time she headed back to the Tardis. She opened the door and stopped to look back at the emptiness. "Parting is all we know of Heaven, and all we need of Hell." You got that right Emily, Donna pondered a second more before she closed the door quietly and walked back to the Tardis.
Inside the Tardis the Doctor was working on the Inertial Shunters while telling her grandfather about the Racnos and how their ship had been the catalyst that formed the Earth.
"Donna, the Doctor's been telling me about how you first met. That's quite the story and seeing the beginning of the Earth? I can't begin to imagine it." Donna smiled at him. He seemed twenty years younger in here. She knew this was stuff he'd always dreamed of as far back as she could remember. "But, that can wait. How are you and your mother?"
Donna was glad of the concern, but she wasn't ready to talk about it yet. "I don't know. She'll barely talk to me, and I don't know if she's even really listening or believing." The Doctor was working now with uncommon studiousness. Donna hugged her grandfather fiercely; she hadn't felt so lost since her father had died.
"She needs time, but she'll come around." Wilf hoped so at any rate.
"Well, that's got those fixed." The Doctor popped up from under the controls when the silence seemed long enough. "Thanks for the help, sir, couldn't have done better without you. Would you fancy a trip, see how the old girl works?"
Wilf looked around the control room with genuine delight, but he knew he couldn't. "Maybe next time, Doctor, I think my Sylvia needs me right now." He looked at Donna and gave her a reassuring squeeze. "Besides, if I take off like this one, she'll be thinking I'll come back green with two heads."
The three walked down the ramp to the Tardis doors. Wilf gazed back at the Doctor and Donna and the Tardis control room beyond them. "You take care of her, Doctor, or I will not be happy."
"Yes sir, I will. She's better at taking care of me though."
"I don't doubt it. She got that from her mum, you know." He smiled and walked out of the Tardis to tend to his daughter.
The Doctor and Donna ambled back up the ramp and the Doctor entered some co-ordinates. "Fancy a bit of quiet?" He felt Donna's silent sadness, "New Zealand, 5000bc, no human inhabitants, just giant Moa and other gorgeous birdlife. And the beaches, I could show you how to surf there."
"Sounds lovely," Donna stood over by the Doctor. "Do you think I'm a lot like my mother?"
"Oh yes," He nodded quickly. "Loud, abrasive, opinionated, stubborn, oww!" The Doctor was a bit reassured by the slap and the playful tinge his companion’s mind was starting to give off.
"Caring, brilliant, Why?"
"Because then I think things might be alright, never the same, but alright."