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justprompts Prompt: New

Surprisingly, he meets her only by a complete coincidence.

It's never occurred to him in the several months that he's been here that there might be an alternate Donna in this world, and he later thinks that that's a rather stupid thing not to have occurred to him.

There had, of course, been every chance that a certain ginger-haired woman did not exist on this side of the Void, but there had also been every chance she did, and it nags at him now, the idea of not to having sought her out, too busy, perhaps, with the knowledge of what was probably going on with the real Donna.

Real. That was a word that was becoming rather overly used, in his mind, his thoughts, his daily life. Everyone used it.

What would the other you think of you, just sitting around, useless lump and all? The real Doctor would never do this.

What was real, after all. This Donna was just as real as the one the real Doctor had met while orbiting a splintering sun.

Nobody's the fake here, except him. It's something he has to remind himself. It almost shocks him every time he picks up something and notices that his hands doesn't simply slip through. He's not just a ghost of his own imaginings. This isn't a dream. His head really is that silent. No presence of other beings, not even the slight thrum that used to be his TARDIS.

The sight of Donna momentarily makes him light-headed in shock with a sudden and completely illogical thought that Donna, his Donna, had somehow crossed universes to show him that she was all right and to give him a smack for ever thinking otherwise. He's both elated and... elated. How had she arrived? Where his other self? Was this seemingly interminable exile at a close already?

But she's just Donna, he realises, just as quickly. Not the Doctor Donna, not the Donna who met an alien with a blue box on her wedding day and saw things, did things that showed the universe what she was really capable of. Not the Donna who told him to find someone. Not the Donna who put her hand over his (who's?) as Pompeii met its sealed fate. Not the Donna who saved them all, defeating Daleks.

She's just Donna.

Just Donna.

Loud, callous, ignorant, and very very rude.

He's not exactly sure what he should be most disappointed about. The knowledge that boils in him sharply because he's not free, almost hating her for making him hope for that infinite second of delirious happiness. He decides that it's her he's disappointed by, the way her eyes don't have that feeling of knowing, that feeling that they understand that the universe is amazing, because they've seen it. He's disappointed by the knowledge that she would probably prefer a trip to the mall rather than a wild ride through a super nova.

But then, he can't give that to her now anyway. The universe isn't his to offer.

She doesn't even give him a second glance when she and her box of stolen office items tumble straight into him in the street.

"Oi! Watch where you're going, mate!"

"Oh, I'm sorry, I wasn't... You're-..."

He doesn't get to say much else before she starts a tirade of expletives, which she floods furiously at her former employers, and he thinks that's just as well that she walks away before he can get a word in otherwise, because he finds he can't say much else than he has.

--

The second time he meets her, it's something much more than a coincidence. It's a cosmic joke over two universes.

A coffee shop on the corner, a time that's too early to be lunch, but too late to be breakfast. A time where people are milling around, hard at work. Or supposed to be. Not her. He knows why. Probably was partially the reason.

Another day, another morning of unemployment. He can only guess she's sitting in a coffee shop to get away from her mother's degrading drivel for a few minutes.

He's very surreptitious, or he hopes so, peering over his coffee mug to the mound of ginger by the window. Her eyes are distant, lonely, bored. He knows that feeling. He's seen that feeling. He's lived that feeling. He's living that feeling.

The way that you suddenly look up in a crowd, not at people, but over them, watching the sea of heads move in tandem, never looking up, never looking around, faceless and impossibly ephemeral. He knows about getting that urge to pounce out of your skin, to scream that you're not part of this. You're not just a wave in this sea, you're something. With a name. With a face. You can look up. You can watch the sky when people look at their shoes. You're different. You're sole. Single. One. Not one of many.

The mug lands a little harshly back onto the table, and droplets of brown liquid dance precariously on the brim as they debate on whether to spill over to the counter top or not.

Maybe this is a chance, he thinks, to make up for the incredible failure of words that had plagued him before. Maybe this is a chance for her, for him. For him to be the Doctor, for her to be Donna Noble. Maybe that's his purpose. Maybe he's finally found one.

The chair next to one Donna Noble slides back.

--

"Hi, I'm the Do-... Er... I'm John Smith."

"Blimey, your parents must have been boring."

"Oh, you have no idea."

--

Donna Bennett, actually, thank you very much, she tells him snappishly as they delve into their conversation of the terribly interesting, like the weather and current gossip, which he's shamefully gotten embroiled into. Worse is, he's actually interested.

Whispers of the Donna on the other side still speak through him and sometimes it's strange enough to make him shudder.

Thankfully (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) there hadn't been giant red spiders to ruin the wedding this time. It isn't a mother at home she's avoiding by being in a coffee shop, no, she has her cell phone off for that.

She doesn't want to go home and do what she's always doing nowadays. Turning on the telly and staring mindlessly at the screen until Lance comes home. She's happy, she says. With the marriage, at least. Not with her life.

It's the way she divulges this, the world-weariness of her voice, that the words come out before he can even rearrange them into a proper sentence, tumbling out the door, tripping over each other's consonants. She stares at him for a moment with a look he's used to. The 'you're completely insane, but all right' look.

He tries again, and the words come out right this time.

--

"What do you know about Torchwood?"

--

A nervous pair of Converses stand in the kitchen, and the Doctor (why can't that stop sounding wrong when he uses it) shuffles them about, head down like a child who's been called to his father's study for having stolen something valuable.

Which is more or less a frighteningly exact description of this situation.

Questions get thrown this way and that, questions he doesn't want think about, questions he didn't consider then because he doesn't want to consider now.

"Doctor, I know Torchwood isn't exactly as undercover as it was... is in the other universe, but at least use a little discrepancy, please!"

He doesn't comment that discrepancy was hardly evident when the Cybermen had stormed the streets. Subtlety was never a Torchwood favourite.

Pete Tyler. Founder of Vitex (rubbish drink, he'd tried three before he'd gotten the hint), current Director of Torchwood. He wasn't a bad man, but he was hardly an outstanding model of his species, no matter how frightening Jackie Tyler was to make him think otherwise. Sacrifices could be made, and weapons were what Torchwood was focused on finding. He was a politician, essentially. Politicians were generally the worst type of people to have in politics.

"You don't even know if she's the same!"

That quick anger he's been trapped in this world for flares out of his chest and shoots up his throat at the accusation, snarling and demanding to be let free at the man, but he wrestles it down and sets his jaw, glaring at the floor as it mocks him, simply and absolutely refusing to open up and whisk him away.

"I'm not asking you to throw her out onto the field and talk to aliens. I'm just asking you to give her a job."

It's only Rose who asks him the only question he wants to hear, after what seems to him like hours (wasted) of castigation and he finally escapes the room, battle-worn but victorious.

"What did she say?" She's standing by the door, arms folded and too different from the Rose Tyler he's supposed to know. It's strange how the people who are the same are the most different.

He grins and tries not to think about how unfamiliar the sensation is.

"She said she'd be in by eight on Monday."

--

This Donna cooks and bakes, and the world doesn't stop and immediately hurtle itself screaming into the sun.

"Are those biscuits?" he asks, bounding over to her desk take some. She smacks his hand away, but the wily fingers of his other hand manage to grab one and he's out of her reach before she can take it back.

He eyes it carefully before taking a bite.

It's amazing.

"Where did you buy these?"

"I made them."

"Sorry?"

"I made them."

"You did what now?"

"Oi! Do you think I'm incapable of handling a stove? Bet you couldn't without shutting down London completely. Again."

"That last power outage was not my fault!"

"Right, you were just there."

They argue for a moment over who did what, who ruined this, and what alien did what to ruin that, interspersed with questions like "How's Lance?" and answers like "Fine." He takes five more of the baked confectioneries, and is still a bit bewildered when his body doesn't immediately react to spit it out.

The transition from guy-who-she-owes-a-favour to friend is frighteningly easy. They clash plenty, but that's only natural with two brash personalities. Hers, specifically.

Sometimes he knows what she's going to say before she does, his mind still echoing that part of his past (and it delights him that it's his past for once, not someone else's). Sometimes the alternate part of alternate Donna came, in his opinion, thrashing out, like a broken rubber band, sudden, unexpected and painful. She doesn't notice. Of course she doesn't notice. She doesn't have anything to compare it to.

He lies awake at night occasionally, staring at the ceiling (it's boring and white and it doesn't hum), wondering about what happened to Donna, the other Donna (the real Donna), if she's all right (human-Time Lord metacrisis never worked), if she's dead, if he'll ever know. If it's his fault for having come alive in the first place.

He wonders if it's better this way, not knowing. Like Schroedinger's cat. She wasn't dead until he was told.

The questions burn in his mind until he falls into unfamiliar sleep, and he wakes without answers in the morning.

--

It relieves him, the fact that he doesn't have to go through the whole tedious process of explaining aliens to someone who narrow-mindedly refuses to believe they exist like last time.

Then again, last time he ruined her wedding and then did a nice job ruining the reception, so he could sort of understand why she hadn't been to terribly trusting of him then. He'd cleverly sidestepped that obstacle here.

Maybe it's the difference of alternate universes that makes this Donna more curious than disbelieving of alien artefacts. Or maybe it's because this Earth's already had its fair share of strange happenings; clearly she couldn't have been scuba diving for three years while the Cybermen had terrorised London, which has made her more open to the abstract.

Didn't-miss-the-big-picture Donna. It's almost regrettably easier.

Desk job, she has. Which is the best he could have asked for, the best he'd haggled, but even if she's happy with it, he's not. He tries to be happy too, that she has a job, something to keep her occupied, but the happiness falls just short of reaching his heart, single as it is.

He wants her to know. She's different. In another world, another time, another universe, she was the most important woman in all of creation.

She actually misses a lot of the real action that goes on behind the forefront of the giant Tower that stands more or less for the public to point at. She files and types, never given anything that might be just the slightest bit classified.

He wants to tell her who he is. Tell someone who doesn't know him that he's the Doctor. He's an alien. A selfish but existing wish to watch someone's fascination as they realise he's not normal.

Maybe he wants that because he wants... needs someone to tell him he's not normal. He's not human with one life, one heart, picket fences and rides to work. Except he is, now. Maybe he was forever destined to be.

I was born a few months ago from a hand. I'm alien, but you can't tell because an alternate version of you kind of... blended with me and now I'm sort of but not exactly part human with one heart. I used to have two. Well, I guess, when the hand I was grown from was still attached to me, or him, whoever... it's a little complicated...

He can imagine five hundred and seventy six ways that conversation can go and only five of them end positively. Even less end with him with a fully uninjured right side of his face, but only because a few of them end with an injured left side of his face.

He knows that this isn't the Doctor and Donna relationship that was supposed to happen, she's tired, jaded, and he doesn't have his ship or his two hearts. But during some moments, it's not any different. Split seconds during which he's the Doctor and she's Donna Noble.

He still wants to show her things that are amazing, be in situations that fascinate him and would exhibit one of the many qualities that make Donna who she is, but he's hampered by... circumstances.

And paperwork. He'd always known bureaucracy would take its revenge one day.

So he watches, coaxing her just a little this way into an alien invasion, nudging her that way into a full confrontation. And he gets a familiar (finally) thrill. He's the Doctor. It takes a little more time, but he's doing what he's always been doing.

Confusion isn't an emotion that's rare when it comes to him. He'd been plagued by it long before he'd stood on a beach in Norway, but since that beach in Norway, some things have gotten answered, and other things have gotten even more bewildering. He's confused by life now, confused in things he used to be arrogantly confident in. He's confused by death, confused by meaning. Confused at identity, because 'Doctor' sounds like a lie and 'John Smith' sounds like a different man entirely. Confused at normality, confused at being normal.

When it comes to Donna No-... Bennett, however, he knows who he is. He knows what he's doing here.

He's here to be the Doctor. Not a Doctor, not that Doctor, whose presence still haunts him where ever he goes, but he's finally the Doctor. He finally has an identity, a face, a name, he's not just a wave in the sea of heads.

And those moments are worth growing old for.

The Duplicate Doctor
Doctor Who
2,566 words

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
not_from_mars
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC)
This was wonderful. I really love your writing style, and I love getting a look at what life on his side of the Void is like, what it does to him. He's very believable. Great job.
isntthatwizard
Aug. 5th, 2008 06:28 am (UTC)
Thank you so much.

Take the previous words, repeat until appropriate. And by appropriate, I mean until I can fully express my eternal gratitude and delirious happiness.
handysparehand
Aug. 6th, 2008 06:57 am (UTC)
ooc
Oh, this is very good. I love in the beginning, his whole conflict with that word real. You've also managed to bring this alternate Donna into his world so naturally and beautifully.

He's confused by death, confused by meaning. Confused at identity, because 'Doctor' sounds like a lie and 'John Smith' sounds like a different man entirely. Confused at normality, confused at being normal.

I just love that line. It captures what 10.5 must be going through so well.

This works beautifully. <3 I love it.

p.s. And as far as his identity crisis goes, I mean he even has an identity crisis in the fandom. Find me three people who all call him the exact thing, and I would fall over in shock.
dtstrainers
Aug. 14th, 2015 11:54 pm (UTC)
Your writing is amazing and I'm so happy to have found this. I have to fine one perfect sentence in a work when I read it, and for me, it was this:
He's both elated and... elated.

I hope you wrote more in this vein, as I'm just in love with your John Smith and Donna.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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