Donna Noble shook out the dampness in her long auburn hair and slipped a fall coat over her shoulders. Fresh from a hot, clean shower that she had so sorely missed over the past fortnight, and armed with gifts, she stepped out of the front door and walked the short trek toward the footpath. The night was brisk, and she shuddered with its chill, unused to the biting cold after leaving extreme hot weather temperature only a handful of hours ago.
Thankfully her destination was close – next door in fact – and she was at the front door of Rose Tyler’s home in less than a minute. Months of friendship and easy social calls meant that Donna no longer knocked on the heavy wooden door when she visited. She simply turned the handle and let herself in.
Which she did.
Knowing that she would be accosted by two very protective dogs if she didn’t immediately announce her presence, she called out to her friend as she dropped her bag on loot on the floor and took off her jacket.
“Just me, Rose,” she called out as she hung the coat neatly on a hook at the door.
“In the living room,” Rose called out. “Come on in.”
Donna picked up the plastic bag and kicked off her shoes. On bare feet she walked into the living room with a smile. “Miss me?”
Rose was seated on a comfortable love seat. She wore an oversized hooded sweater with the sleeves rolled up to her wrists, paired with a pair of cropped black leggings. Her feet were tucked up underneath her, and she leaned an elbow on the arm rest. There was a glossy magazine on her knees and a glass of red wine in her hand. She looked toward Donna with a broad smile. “How was Egypt?”
“Hot,” she answered with a blown puff of breath held inside her puffed cheeks. “And very dusty.” She leaned forward to snatch an empty wine glass off a tray and helped herself to a generous serving of Rose’s wine. “But absolutely wonderful.”
“I can’t wait to hear all about it,” Rose said with a smile as she held up her glass in a salute. “And hope more to hear some sordid tales of a holiday romance with a handsome Egyptian boy.”
“None to tell, I’m afraid,” she admitted. “And besides, being on a safari trip where the only showering I could do was every three days under a filthy water bag, I don’t think any of them would go near me for the smell.” She took a sip of the wine and settled back in the armchair across from Rose. “I think I just washed about a year’s worth of dust out of my hair, and I was only there for two weeks.”
Rose chuckled. “But aside from lack of showering and bits of sand finding its way into places it should never venture, how was it?”
She groaned long. “It was amazing! Irving was right, the best way to experience it is by camelback and tents – not hotels and guided tours.” She pointed to her bag. “I got him something to say thanks if you wouldn’t mind giving it to him next time you see him. Also got some swag for the kids too. How are they?”
Rose tipped her head to her shoulder. “Mark started school last week for the fall semester. He’s still having trouble with his English skills, but is getting through without too much teasing from the other kids.”
“And Alirra? Started talking yet?”
Rose shook her head. “Still non-verbal. Brax arranged for a speech therapist to help out, but she’s remaining mute.” She sighed. “They think it’s the trauma of losing her dad, and don’t reckon she’ll say anything anytime soon.”
Donna offered a smile. “Well, look at it this way, Rose: The sooner they talk, the sooner they talk back.”
That made Rose laugh. “Isn’t that the whole truth?” She then sighed. “In time, I’m sure she’ll start talking, and will probably be talking in full sentences when she does.”
Donna’s eyes widened. “You know, you’re right. I had a friend of mine. Well, not so much a friend, she was a bit of a bint…”
“Donna!” Rose chided with a laugh.
“Oh, there are times that that word is really appropriate, Rose. Trust me,” she scoffed. “I bet you got an old friend or two that you call the same.”
Rose bit at the edge of her glass in a smile. “Maybe.”
“Anyway,” Donna continued. “So she had this friend, who had a little girl, who was completely non verbal till she was about four. They sent her to all the specialists to figure it out. Nothing. Nothing at all.” She took a sip of her drink and winced a little at the burn at the back of her throat. “Anyway. One day, the little one just pipes up out of nowhere and starts talking. Full sentences and all, like a walking thesaurus of words.” She tipped her glass toward Rose. “So little Alirra. Wouldn’t mind too much, she’s still a young’un with plenty of time to start snarkin’ back at her mother.”
“Spoken like a true genius in the ways of snarkin’”
“Sassin’,” she corrected. “I sass, not snark.”
Rose leaned forward a short way, enough that the magazine fell of her lap. “Really, Donna. Is there a difference?”
She shook her shoulders in a sideways and sassy manner. “Being sassy is sexy. You’re a woman of the world, not takin’ any guff.” She stopped her dancing. “Being snarky is just bein’ a bitch.”
“I see,” Rose said with a smile. “So, the actual definition of it is quite subjective.”
“You got that right.” She murmuered as she leaned down to pick up the magazine. Her face drew into an immediate frown as she looked at the front cover, turning it left, and then right. “My God, Rose. What the hell language is this?”
“Arcadian,” she answered with a shrug. “Romana brought it up in her last visit. It’s the Arcadian version of a trashy celebrity mag.” She tipped her glass toward it. “Except about the council members, and not actual celebrities.” She widened her eyes playfully. “It can get quite salacious.”
“No celebrities where you’re from, then?”
“I’m from London,” Rose said with a laugh. “Plenty of them here.” She shrugged. “My husband’s home, no. Not really. They really don’t have the time for that kind’ve nonsense. Everything is politics over there.”
Donna still turned the cover this way and that. “No music? No TV and acting? No sports?”
She shook her head. “Yes, but there’s no reverence to them like there is here.”
“How boring,” she noted as she set the magazine on her knee and flicked through the pictures. She held up her wine glass with her elbow on the armrest. Laziness to switch her position out to less of a slouch forced her to life herself up when she wanted a sip. “Not a very young looking bunch over there,” she mused after a moment and several flicks of the page. “Not a lot of eye candy either.”
Rose chuckled. “The fit ones stay out of politics.” She leaned forward to refill her glass. “The Chancellery Guard soldiers, on the other hand…” she winked and blew out a breath. “Puts the Fireman calendar to shame.”
“And have they put one out?” she practically hummed, not looking up from the magazine as she flicked page to page. “And if so, where do we get one?” She suddenly stopped flicking and let out a low purr of appreciation. “Right, now that’s a politician I can put my vote behind.”
Rose’s brows lifted curiously. She straightened up her back and leaned forward to peek. “Which one?”
Donna held up the page and pointed at the image, awkwardly extending one of the fingers still cupped around the glass to do so. “This one. Full details if you’ve got ‘em, including the next flight out of London toward Arcadia.”
Slowly Rose unfolded her legs and shifted forward to take the magazine in her hand. She put her wine glass on the coffee table and looked at the half-page image of her husband. Below was a caption indicating that a universe-wide warrant had been issued to secure his return to Gallifrey. A war was raging in the outer rings of Kasterborous, and all capsules had been recalled to Gallifrey. At the time this magazine went to print, the Doctor had not responded and was considered by Council a fugitive.
Her breath exhaled sadly as she drew the magazine onto her knees and let her middle fingertips of both hands trace along the sides of the face in the image. “Oh, Thete,” she whispered softly.
Donna gasped with realisation. “Is that him?” she asked breathlessly as she jumped from the chair and scooted around the table. She unceremoniously plopped down on the couch beside Rose – close enough that their legs lined up against each others – and snatched the magazine from her hand. “This is your husband?” she queried as she much more closely analysed the image; one of him staring impatiently into the camera as he walked the corridor of Council Chambers. “God, Rose, he was gorgeous.”
Rose shifted to lean against Donna’s shoulder and smiled. “Yeah. He really was.”
“What was his name?”
Rose had to think on that one. She could recite his real name, the one given to him by his parents, but that would raise far more questions about him than she’d prefer to have to answer. She could refer to him as Doctor, of course, but again: questions. Instead she settled on the name used by his brother, and in the end, the name she’d use for him.
“His name was Theta,” Rose answered. “But Brax and I, we called him Thete.”
“Unusual name,” Donna remarked softly. “But I like it. Makes him sound clever.”
“And he was,” Rose agreed. “Very clever.”
“Politician like Irving and Romana?”
Rose shook her head. “no, he wasn’t,” she answered with a small smile. “He viewed council business as being a pompous load of rubbish. Thete was a doctor. He headed up the medical team in arcadia’s main hospital.”
Donna lifted her head and took a cursory scan of the living room wondering just why it was that this was her first glimpse at Rose’s husband. While there certainly were plenty of photographs of her and the kids around, there didn’t appear to be a single image of their father – her husband – anywhere. She found that curious. “Tell me, Rose. Why don’t you have pictures of him around here?” she queried softly.
“It upsets Alirra,’ Rose answered quietly. “I don’t know that she’ll ever get over losing him in the way we did.”
“You’ve never mentioned what happened,” Donna remarked quietly, but with heavy curiosity in her tone.
Rose flopped back deep into the back of the couch. Her eyes were wide and locked on the image of her husband. Although obviously annoyed, the camera did capture the roguish, handsome expression that she’d fallen in love with so long ago.
How could she describe their loss to Donna? Did she want to tell her about the last time she saw him; on his knees with his chest forward and his head thrown back with a gaping mouth screaming out a long howl of agony as her mirror image tore everything from his mind … in full view of her and her children?
Could she tell her about him tearfully begging not to take it all away from him? Begging for the safety of his wife and their children? And then be told in the voice of the woman his hearts beat for that this life was never meant to be his … that victory would not come without sacrifice. He would never know, ever again, and she’d make very sure of that – whereas his wife, well she’d be condemned to remember it all….
…Their intact bond never allowing her to take another.
Bloody faery tales and boogey men. No, she couldn’t tell her that.
“It was a work accident,” she answered instead. “Just a typical day at the office gone horribly wrong.”
Donna let out a supportive and empathetic sigh. “I’m so sorry, Rose.”
Rose’s return smile was weak, but honest. She gave her a nod, wiped at her eyes and then took a long deep draw from her wine glass. “It’ll get better in time,” she suggested. “Who knows, maybe I’ll find love again?”
Donna laughed. “That, or you’ll at least have fun trying.” Her eyes blinked rapidly and she half spat out her own mouthful as she saw a familiar face on the silent television screen flickering ahead of them. She scrambled to find the remote control, leaning across Rose, swatting at the table and shoving a stack of unopened mail onto the floor.
Rose let up a yelp, and tried valiantly to hold her glass of wine high enough that it was spared the flailing of her friend. “Donna!”
“Sorry,” she breathed out as the remote was located and she used both hands to turn up the volume. “But. I have to hear….”
A very flatly delivered news report outlined the current breaking news item. The voice, which was far less enthusiastic than the footage from the scene deserved, spoke calmly of an industrial accident at Lazarus Laboratories. Zig zagging camera angles, the flash of blue and red lights, and finally a clear picture of a harried looking field reporter, trying his all not to sound too excited as he recalled the events so far.
Rose set her glass down on the table and leaned forward to listen to the cast. Donna, on the other hand was far more interested in monitoring the video feed. Her humming and sighing, and urging for the camera to move from the idiot talking head, took Rose’s focus off what was actually being relayed from the scene. She looked to Donna with a furrow in her brow.
“Are you okay?”
She hissed for silence, lifting her hand for more effect. Then in a moment she belched out a sound that was a mix between a laugh and a growl. “There!” She yelled out as she gestured urgently toward the screen. “Look at ‘im, Rose.”
Rose let her eyes shift to the screen, curious about what had her friend so worked up. “Look at who?”
“Him!” she said again with a flick of the remote toward a tall skinny man wearing a tuxedo, with Chuck Taylor Converse shoes. His hair was teased and up on end, and his face set in a wild, manic expression. “I know him!” She called out excitedly.
It didn’t take long for Rose to find him. She knew that run, that hair, and that expression very well. When his eyes shifted to look directly into the camera, she felt her breath catch.
“He’s called the Doctor,” Donna continued excitedly. “A strange bloke that I knew would end up on the news sooner of later.” She let up a laugh. “Can’t believe someone I know made it on telly!”
Rose slowly shifted her head to look upon Donna with worry in her eyes. “H-How do you know him?”
“Well,” she drawled with a roll in her eyes. “I don’t really know him, know him like we’re best mates or anything like that.” She shrugged. “He got me out of a jam one day. Remember when I was supposed to get married?”
Rose nodded. “When we both ended up drunk in my back porch singing cheesy breakup songs?”
“That’s the one.” She huffed out. “Turns out Lance had been lacing my coffee each day with some nasty chemical stuff. This guy,” she gestured toward the TV with her chin. “He saved my life, didn’t he? A regular old Spaceman Sherlock Holmes. Skinny streak of nothing, mind, but…”
“But a hero nonetheless,” Rose said with a sigh. She looked back toward the television, hoping for another glimpse. That glimpse came of him, her Pinstriped Doctor, running hand in hand with a very attractive woman.”
“Oh wow,” Donna remarked. “She’s gorgeous!”
“Yeah,” Rose agreed somewhat sadly. Watching the two of them share bright toothy smiles before running off screen hand in hand. “Stunning.”
“I’m glad he found someone,” Donna mused as she turned down the volume and chucked the remote onto the armchair. “I told him he should, and I’m glad he listened.”
Rose nodded, but said nothing.
“When I met him, Rose, oh you should have seen him,” Donna continued. “He was like a kicked puppy.” She let one side of her face pull up into a wince. “Well, not that I can blame him and all. Poor bloke just lost his girlfriend.”
Rose tilted her head toward Donna. “I’m sorry?”
She nodded and drew back on the wine, purring at the tingle in the muscles that just a teeny bit too much offered her. “When we met, he was a wreck, and I’m talking Titanic proportions kind’ve wreck. He’d lost this girl, Rose…” She chuckled. “Like you…”
“It’s a common enough name,” Rose sighed with a shrug, not willing to admit they were one in the same.
“Anyway,” Donna went on. “Turns out, the poor man had been searching for her for a month. Out in the desert, on his hands and knees, searching for the woman he loves. Do you believe that, a whole month? Didn’t give up, although the best of us would.” She let out a breath. “He was in love with her; with his Rose.”
“H-he said that?”
Donna nodded. “Yeah, but even if he didn’t say it out loud, it was pretty obvious. That man was absolutely destroyed. Didn’t half try to kill himself that day, too.”
Rose flashed a look of concern toward Donna, but remained silent.
“At the end of it, though, he didn’t. I think I talked him out of it well enough. Told him to go find someone new, because quite frankly that man,” she tipped her glass to the TV, which now had no sign of the Time Lord on it. “He needs someone to stop him.”
“Yeah,” Rose breathed out. “Sometimes.”
“And it looks like he found himself someone.” There was disappointment in her tone. “Shame.”
Rose’s eyes pinched, territorialism only a breath away. “Why? You fancy him for yourself?”
Donna looked at her with an expression of almost disgust. She held that expression and then suddenly burst into brilliant laughter. “Oh hell no, Rose. That skinny little hedgehog is as far on the opposite spectrum of what I go after, it’s not funny.” She frowned. “Well. It is funny, I guess.” She shook her head. “But no, not my type. I won’t deny that he’s got a lot to offer a girl in terms of travel and excitement, but as for something long term and romantic?” She shook her head. “I’d break that skinny body in half just thinkin’ about it.”
Rose curled a fist underneat her chin and turned her head toward the TV in hope that she may catch his image again. Unfortunately, the breaking news interruption was over, and the channel had switched back to a Coronation Street episode rerun.
“I would like to see him again,” Donna admitted.
Rose blinked and looked back to her.
“I got bit by the bug,” she admitted. “Saw what else exists outside of temping, chips, beans, and telly.” She sighed. “He asked me to go with him for a while, and see what was out there.”
“You said no,” Rose breathed out with understanding, remembering when she, too, had declined the offer to travel. “And immediately regretted it.”
“Yeah,” Donna answered with a sigh. “And I’d honestly, really … if I got that chance again. I wouldn’t say no.” She pulled her hair behind her ear. “Wouldn’t think on it twice.”
“Get rid of the humdrum existence of old Chiswick,” Rose managed with faked enthusiasm.
“Don’t’ I know it,” she groused.
Rose straightened up. She slowly lifted to her feet and stooped to pick up the now empty bottle of wine. She held it up and gave it a light shake. “I’m going to grab another one. Feel like sticking around for a bit?”
“Could be arranged,” she said with a cheeky smile.
“Good,” Rose said with a smile. “No more talk of Doctors and the women he picks up along his way.” She gave her a wink. “You still need to tell me all about Egypt.”