“I know your grandfather always calls you his lucky star.”
The Doctor’s voice catches, his fingers curled in Donna’s limp, unresponsive hand. He stares at the ring on her finger, not able to bring himself to look at her face, to see her closed eyes, the shock of her ginger hair on the bleak, white, flat pillow.
“You were a charm for me, Donna. My lucky charm. You charm everyone you meet — did you know that? I didn’t even know what hit me when you appeared in the TARDIS like that — screaming and yelling and smacking me all over the place. And I probably shouldn’t admit this, because I know it’s going to come back to haunt me, but I didn’t really mind them that much. Not after the first one, anyway. Well, the first two. They hurt though!”
He raises his free hand and reminiscently smooths his fingers down the abused cheek, a faint smile tugging at the corners of his mouth so that his dimples fade in and out.
“You’ll never know how much it meant that you came back.” He sighs shakily, stroking the soft skin of her hand with his fingers. “Nobody else ever looked for me like that, not after turning me down.”
He sighs, hearing the sound echo off the four bare walls. “You never believed me, Donna,” he murmurs. “Never once believed me when I told you how brilliant you were, how you saved my life, and how I couldn’t do without you.”
His lips twist into a bitter, painful half-smile.
“We did so much together, didn’t we?” he whispers harshly, the sibilant hissing back at him so that he flinches at the hard sound. “All that running and laughing and everything. Saving people and planets and Universes. I wonder if you can remember all that now.” He wipes viciously at his eyes. “I hope you can.”
He smoothes her hands one more time, stroking his thumb over each carefully painted nail. He knows she’s always hated her fingers, but he loves them, loves the feel of them wrapped in his, loves how he can feel her energy through her firm clasp on his hand.
Hates how there’s nothing there now.
He places her hand down on her stomach, as gently as if the action could break her, laying her other hand on top. Then he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small, silver box.
“I brought you something, Donna.” His voice is rough and harsh. “Found it in a market — not Shan Shen. I’ve never gone back there. Just in case, you know, the Trickster’s still hanging around or something. Wouldn’t want to go through that again.”
He opens the box and pulls out the small, shining object, lifting a tiny, spherical object into the air and returning the wrapping to his pocket.
“Now, I know it looks like a warp star,” he tells her as he fastens it to the necklace that is just visible under her top. “But it’s not — I promise. Warp stars aren’t usually purple, for starters. But as soon as I saw this, I thought of you. I imagined how I’d give it to you, what you'd think if a complete stranger ran up and tied this around your neck. How much you’d slap me. Or call the police.”
He chuckles to himself, although it’s a terribly sad sound, as he fastens the silver braiding securely to a necklace he now recognises as one he bought for her on Midnight before that trip turned into a nightmare. He touches it gently and the two objects glisten in the brilliant overhead light.
“A charm,” he tells her, his voice a harsh whisper. “I hoped it might be a lucky one, for both of us — that maybe there was a way.”
The Doctor lifts his eyes from the lights to eye the tiny rainbows that the charms are casting on the bleak cement walls. The scent of disinfectant stings his nostrils. The room is cold and sterile, the single light above the narrow cot swinging a little as the air-conditioner shifts up a notch, the movement casting strange shadows on the bare floor.
Apart from the faint hum of machinery, however, the room is noiseless, as if waiting. He falls almost respectfully silent, straining his ears for the sounds that won’t come.
The soft breaths that will never sigh in and out of Donna’s motionless lungs.
The almost inaudible throb of blood being forced through the elastic arteries and back through less pliable veins. All still now.
He drags his eyes to her face — a final chance to imprint the memory of her features into his mind, but a remembrance that will always be marred by the fact that her skin is grey, not healthy pink, and cold, not warm.
He will always have to remember being too late.
And it’s with that bitter fact burning into his mind that he reaches down to pick up the stiff, starched sheet, but somehow he can’t bring himself to place it over her face, to cover her, to admit that she’s gone.
Instead he draws the sheet up to her neck, folding it back as if she’s in bed rather than here. As if she needs protection from the cold.
As if he can still do something to help her.
As if she’s not forever beyond his reach.
He steadfastly refuses to allow himself to weep the bitter tears that are rendering him speechless as he turns away from the narrow cot.
And he misses the tiny light at Donna’s throat that gradually grows brighter with every passing second until it begins to shine through the sheet.
The door closes behind him, leaving a room devoid of life.
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