I don't need anyone. - The Doctor to Donna Noble
He'd laughed like a maniac earlier, when they'd stood atop the Thames flood barrier and looked out at the drained river. He'd chortled like a delighted child when they'd ridden down a corridor on electric scooters. But now he looked just as cold and remote as he had when he'd destroyed the children of the Racnoss Empress. He looked quite terrifying.
He looked... alien.
At first Donna hadn't quite believed the Doctor could be anything other than human. He appeared to be an ordinary bloke, with scruffy hair and a skinny body and a slightly crooked nose and freckles. In all the drawings she'd ever seen of aliens, they'd been green and hairless, with enormous black eyes, and not a single one had ever had a freckle. So at first, despite the evidence of the wooden-box-that-wasn't, she somehow hadn't been able to convince herself he was truly an alien.
But when he'd destroyed the Racnoss, she'd looked up at him, standing there in the rushing water and the flames, and in his eyes she'd seen--
Well, whatever she'd seen there, it hadn't been human.
He was wearing that expression now. His eyes looked ancient and weary and bitter. She wasn't sure if it was because he'd destroyed the last survivors of a long-gone species, or because he'd just announced he was taking her home to Chiswick.
It seemed egotistical in the extreme to think that maybe that expression was because of her. And she didn't suppose it was, really. He hardly knew her, and although they'd been through a lot together today, she couldn't possibly mean much to him. But it was obvious that he was dreadfully lonely. He clearly missed his "friend," the unnamed woman he got so tetchy about any time the subject arose.
He was lonely, and no wonder, she thought, looking around at the vast interior of the small blue box with a shudder. She saw corridors leading off the enormous main room, and wondered just how big the interior of the box was. It seemed terribly vast for one person travelling all alone.
"I'm soaked," she said, more for the sake of breaking the silence than for any other reason. "So are you. Don't s'pose you have any towels?"
He stripped off his wet jacket and tie and tossed them aside, then reached behind her and plucked two fluffy blue towels off one of the giant coral struts. It was odd, but she would've sworn those towels hadn't been there a second ago. She decided not to worry about it-- one more impossible thing in a day full of impossible things didn't seem to be worth troubling herself about-- and scrubbed energetically at her hair, which was indeed dripping.
"Sorry about your gown," he said from beneath his own towel. "It's a right mess."
"Oh, well." She sighed. "Not like I'm ever gonna use it, is it? Don't even want to put it away for posterity. I'll probably give it to charity, or something. I don't particularly want to be reminded of today, or of Lance, ever again."
"Donna." He draped the towel around his neck and looked at her. His brown hair stood up all over his head, wild and ridiculous, and his dark eyes looked human again, full of warmth and concern. "Those things he said to you--"
"Some of them were true." She kept on rubbing her hair, and casually ran the towel over her cheeks too, because they were damp as well. From the Thames water, of course, and not from tears. "I mean-- when he said it, it all sounded so pitiful-- Atkins and Pringles and Brad and Angelina--"
"You're more than that." His voice was very gentle and very kind, and he seemed entirely unlike the man who'd intoned What happens next is your own doing in that glacial voice. "I haven't known you a full day yet, Donna Noble, but I already know you're more than that. The way your first thought was for the children around the Christmas tree-- the way you jumped from the car on the motorway-- the way you stepped in front of me when the Empress told her robots to shoot me--"
The words, and his admiring tone, made it sound like she'd almost been... heroic. But she knew she hadn't been. She'd only done what she'd had to do today, and that didn't constitute heroism. She was just ordinary Donna Noble, a temp from Chiswick. Foolish, uneducated, stupid Donna. She heard Lance's voice again, mocking her, and she swallowed hard.
"I can find Germany on a map." Her voice cracked a little, despite her best efforts. "I can. I'm not that stupid."
"Course you're not." His voice was still kind, and he reached out and patted her on the shoulder-- rather awkwardly, just like any human man faced with female tears.
"Oh, but I am," she burst out, turning around and flinging the towel over the strut. She began stalking back and forth. "You said it yourself. I'm not clever."
"I shouldn't have said that. I was wrong."
"No." She stopped her pacing, and stood there, drooping. Tears ran down her face, and she didn't bother to wipe them away. "You were right, and so was Lance. I'm almost forty, and I'm... nothing. Nothing at all."
"That's not true." He stepped toward her, and brushed her tears away with his fingers. He looked down at her, his eyes very dark. "You're Donna Noble. And believe me, that is definitely something."
The certainty and the warmth in his voice touched her heart, and she lifted her head and looked up at him. He was so tall she almost had to crane her neck to see his face. In his eyes, beneath the kindness, she saw an echo of what she herself was feeling. Loss, and the terrible conviction that somehow, he deserved the loss. That somehow, he hadn't been good enough to deserve happiness.
She knew how that felt. Oh, she knew.
"I loved him," she choked out. "I know it sounds daft, after everything he did, but--"
"You didn't know." His thumb stroked over her cheek. "You loved him because you thought he was worthy of your love. It's not your fault he wasn't."
"I should have realised--"
"That he was working with a giant alien spider and dosing you with a substance that hasn't existed for billions of years? How exactly should you have realised that?"
His tone was carefully light and teasing, and despite herself, and the very real pain she felt, she snorted. "You have a point," she admitted.
"Everything that happened today-- it was his fault, Donna. Not yours. He almost destroyed the planet. But you... you helped save it."
"Yes," she said in a low voice, knowing he was right. She hadn't been the one to cock everything up. Lance had done that. "I helped save the planet. And now... I don't have anyone."
"I know how that feels," he said, just as softly.
His words were an eerie echo of her earlier thought. She looked into his eyes, saw the pain and the loss there, almost as fresh as her own. She wondered exactly what had happened to his unnamed "friend." She's gone, he'd snarled. I lost her. But then later he'd said, She's not dead. She is so alive.
So the friend had left against her will, somehow, or been taken away from him. Maybe she'd been lost on another planet. But even if she was still alive somewhere, it was clear that he couldn't get her back, and was mourning his friend's loss just as she was mourning Lance's. He was alone, just as she was.
He was lonely. So lonely that if she hadn't been there to stop him, she suspected he would have stood there beneath the Thames and drowned right along with the Racnoss. She could see the lonesome grief in his face, and she suspected he could see the exact same emotion on hers.
They stared into each other's eyes for a long moment. She felt inexplicably drawn to him, as if something buried deep inside her was being pulled toward something inside him, almost as if they were both glowing with Huon particles. Deep calling unto deep, she thought, recalling a phrase her Gramps was fond of. Not that she thought of herself as particularly deep, but there was an unmistakable pull inside her.
He must have felt it too, because he lowered his head, very slowly, and his lips brushed over hers.
She remembered the last time Lance had kissed her. This morning, he'd seen her in her dress-- over her mum's indignant objections-- and dropped a quick, casual kiss on her mouth. You look gorgeous, he'd said. She knew now he hadn't really meant it, but that didn't dim the memory's brightness, the way it had made her feel at the time. He'd looked so handsome in his tux, and she'd imagined he was her Lancelot, her knight in shining armour...
She mentally slapped herself, aware that she shouldn't be thinking of Lance while she was kissing another man. A rather nice man, really, a man who didn't deserve to be treated like a substitute warm body. But there was something oddly distant about the way the Doctor was kissing her, and she suspected he was thinking of someone else, too.
And that, she thought, didn't make either of them bad people. It just made them people who'd been scarred and battered and damaged by love and loss, and who were seeking comfort from one another. There wasn't anything wrong with that.
She slipped her arms around his neck, and kissed him a bit harder. He made a humming sound deep in his throat, and leaned into the kiss a little more, less distant, more focussed on her.
He tasted... different. Not quite like a human. There was a sort of sweet flavour to his mouth, and a coolness, as if he wasn't quite as warm as humans were. She let her hands slip down his back, over the damp fabric of his shirt, and--
She jerked her head back and blinked at him.
"Two hearts," he said, looking at her with a slightly defensive expression. "I told you I was an alien."
She pressed her palms to his ribs again, feeling the odd dual thudding. The two hearts had startled her, but they weren't particularly strange or frightening, when she thought about it. He was still very like her, with blood flowing beneath the surface of his skin, just as hers did. He was breathing a bit harder in the aftermath of their kiss, and so he had lungs, too. If he happened to have four or five of them, she couldn't see why it should matter. He might not be human, but he was still flesh and blood.
It occurred to her that to him, she was the alien.
He was watching her, waiting for her reaction, that distant, remote mask beginning to settle into place on his features. She stood on tiptoes and pressed another kiss to his lips, trying to tell him without words that she didn't care, that she didn't find him frightening or weird or creepy. The mask fell away, and he responded, his mouth devouring hers eagerly, his arms tightening around her. He'd expected her to reject him, she realised, and had been relieved when she hadn't.
Her hands tugged at his shirttail, and then she let them slide up beneath the fabric, exploring his skin. But for the slight coolness, he felt much like a human, satiny smooth skin over hard male muscles. She could even feel the small raised spots of a few very ordinary moles. At her touch, he moaned into her mouth, and one of his hands slid beneath her hair and began caressing the nape of her neck, his fingers stroking her with a gentle, knowing touch.
She'd missed being touched this way. She and Lance had never made love-- he'd convinced her he wanted to wait for marriage so it would be more special, but now she knew it was because he was revolted by her, or maybe he'd just wanted to avoid coming into contact with the deadly Huon particles he'd been dosing her with-- but she'd had plenty of boyfriends over the years, and had always enjoyed the physical aspects of a relationship. It had been quite a while, though, and she'd almost forgotten how intense it was to have a man's hands on her body, stroking, investigating, and his mouth on hers, warm and intimate and sweet.
He pulled away from her, buried his face in her hair, and whispered a name. She almost expected it to be his friend's name, and wouldn't have been terribly upset if it had been. But what he whispered was, "Donna."
"Doctor," she murmured into his throat.
His arms tightened around her, as if he'd half expected her to say her dead fiance's name, and was grateful she hadn't. "I don't usually-- I mean-- this isn't the sort of thing I--"
"Me neither." She considered that, and added honestly, "I mean, I don't usually do this with men I've just met. And Lance and I never--"
"I guessed," he said wryly, "given all those things he said. And my friend and I-- we never did, either."
She pressed her face against his throat, feeling the twin pulses fluttering like birds' wings. "Why not?"
"Age difference." He sighed into her hair. "She was so very young. Just nineteen when I met her."
She could understand his reluctance to get involved with someone so young, someone almost young enough to be his daughter. Given the lines at the corners of his eyes, he must be nearly her own age, somewhere over thirty-five-- and for all she knew, aliens aged differently, so he might even be a little older. Certainly his eyes looked old, even if the rest of him didn't.
"I've done so much in my life," he said thickly. "So many terrible things. And she was so innocent. I didn't want to-- to sully her."
"To sully her?" She drew back a little and looked up at him. "Doctor, if she loved you, then I don't see how making love to her could have been a bad thing."
"She was too good for me. Too..."
"Too pure?" She cocked an eyebrow at him. "It sounds almost like you were keeping her on a pedestal."
He lifted his chin a little and glared at her defensively. "She deserved to be on a pedestal."
"I doubt that, somehow. No one deserves to be on a pedestal, Doctor. No one's perfect. She might've been young and innocent, but that's true of almost anyone of that age. Give your friend twenty more years, and she'd be just like you and me."
A bit of dark humour flickered in his eyes at the words "twenty more years," but he didn't explain the joke. "Not her," he said, more firmly. "She was perfect, and I'm... well, not."
"Oh, come on." Donna found herself annoyed-- not out of a sense of jealousy, but on behalf of the Doctor's unknown friend, who would probably have been quite irritated to find he'd thought of her as a sort of flawless china doll, too fragile to ever take off the shelf and touch. "She never did anything wrong? Ever?"
He hesitated, and lowered his lashes to conceal his too-expressive eyes.
"I figured as much," she said gently. "I'm sure your friend was very nice, but I also reckon she was pretty much like everyone else on the planet. I don't know about your people, but on Earth... none of us are perfect."
"I know that," he muttered. "I do. I just..."
She could guess at what he was feeling. He hadn't made love to his friend, probably because he was waiting for her to grow up a bit more, to gain some maturity, and he'd thought they had all the time in the world. And then, through some tragedy, he'd lost her, and now he was naturally trying to canonize her in his memory, to remember all of her good points, and none of her bad ones. It was, she thought, very human of him.
But that wasn't fair to the unknown friend, who'd probably been a perfectly normal girl with faults and flaws and foibles. And it wasn't fair to him, either. He couldn't ever move on properly if he was going to remember her as some sort of angel, rather than as a real person. If he was ever going to get through this, he needed to remember his friend as she truly had been, and not look back on her through a golden idealised haze.
In a way, Donna had to admit she envied him. She rather wished she could look back on Lance through a fog of radiant memories. But every happy memory she had of him had been tarnished and distorted by what she now knew. He'd never been the man she'd thought he was. He'd never been in love with her-- in fact, he'd actually been repulsed by her. And far worse, he'd been willing to hand the Earth and all its people over to ravenous alien monsters. She could never forgive him for any of that.
And yet despite everything she now knew about him, she kept seeing the moment when he fell screaming to his death, over and over again, and every time it replayed in her head, her eyes welled with tears. She couldn't just turn off her grief. Emotions didn't work that way. She'd loved Lance, and despite all she'd learned about him today, she still did. At least she loved the man she thought he'd been, and her heart still ached at losing him. She wondered if the Doctor's loss was as recent as hers.
"How long has she been gone?" she asked gently.
"Weeks," he answered, his voice barely audible. "But it took me all that time to figure out a mechanism to say goodbye. Just before you came aboard the TARDIS, I'd seen her... well, a sort of projection... for the last time ever..."
He looked just as grief-stricken as she herself felt. She remembered the purple jacket that had still been sitting there, weeks after his friend had left, and sympathy curled inside her. Reaching up, she ran a hand through his thick hair. His eyes fluttered shut, and he leaned into her hand a bit, then turned his head and kissed her palm. She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his throat, and he made that little humming sound again.
"Donna," he said, his voice taut, "I don't--"
"I know you don't." She began stroking his back again, and beneath her hands he trembled. "I don't, either. This is just... oh, I don't know what it is. But I'm not young and innocent, and you don't have to worry about sullying me, Doctor."
He stood there, trembling, for a moment longer, then picked her up, spun around, and dropped her onto the edge of the console. The machinery whirred, in what seemed oddly like a complaint, and the Doctor grumbled, "Oh, quit your whingeing." The whirring stopped.
The console was covered with all sorts of odd levers and buttons, some of which looked familiar (was that really a bicycle pump?) and some of which looked entirely alien. But he'd placed her onto a spot that was fairly free of controls. Now he shoved up her heavy skirts-- she was still wearing her wedding dress, she realised with an odd sensation of guilt, as if she should feel guilty for betraying Lance, of all people-- and his hand found her thigh, squeezing and exploring, as his mouth investigated her throat and her cleavage.
She leaned her head back and moaned, clinging to him. The console wasn't flat, and at first she was a little worried she might slip off. But he had one arm wrapped around her tightly, and she knew she was safe.
Her hands slid down, unfastening his trousers, and then she hesitated. "Condom," she whispered.
He pulled back and blinked at her. "Do you have any?"
She rolled her eyes at him, echoing an exchange they'd already had twice today. "Pockets!"
"Oh, right, I forgot." A glimmer of mischief deep in his eyes suggested he hadn't forgotten at all, and that he'd just been teasing her. "I think I might have... somewhere..." He dug into his trouser pockets and pulled out a little packet with a flourish. She was a little surprised he had such an item on his person, but if his pockets were really bigger on the inside, then she supposed he might have almost anything in there.
"There you go." He grinned widely. "Human condoms wouldn't fit me, anyway."
The smug egotism in his voice made her long to take him down a peg or two. "They'd be too large for you, I reckon."
"Oi!" He ruffled, but she saw the humour still tugging at the corners of his mouth. "It's quite the opposite, actually."
"Of course it is," she scoffed, but despite herself, she was curious. She slipped a hand into his unzipped trousers. "You feel just like a human to me," she said. A big human, maybe-- not that she'd tell him that-- but still more or less human-sized.
"Now you've hurt my feelings." He flashed another grin that drove the shadows from his eyes. "You'll have to make me feel better."
"I can do that." She wrapped her fingers around him and began stroking.
He hissed through bared teeth, and shoved the condom back in his pocket for the time being. His hands went back to work beneath her skirt, taking off her garters and unrolling her stockings, and then yanking off her white lacy knickers. She helped by kicking off her high heels. He shoved her skirt up around her waist, so that the satin flowed over the console, and the machine started chiming irritably.
"Maybe," she suggested, "this isn't the best place for this."
"Yeah. Good point. If you move to the left just a bit, we'll rip a hole in the space-time continuum, and we should probably avoid that." He picked her up bodily, staggered backward, and fell into the tattered vinyl seat, dragging her down into his lap.
She hadn't had sex on a vinyl seat since she'd lost her virginity in the back seat of her first boyfriend's old Ford Cortina, but the seat was more comfortable (and quite possibly safer) than the console, so she didn't complain. He dug in his pocket, finding the condom again, and she took it from him, removed it from its packaging, and rolled it on, while he leaned his head back and hissed some more at the light brush of her fingers.
Beautiful, she thought, looking at his thick erection, though she wasn't about to say so out loud. She leaned forward, brushing his mouth with hers, and he caught her by the hips, shoving her voluminous skirts out of the way, and lifted her.
The seat was wide enough that she could brace a knee on either side of him. She did so, and slowly slid down onto him.
He hissed again, his spine arching like a drawn bow, then his mouth dropped open and a long, low moan escaped him. It was a sound of need and hunger and aching sorrow, and it somehow echoed the feelings rioting inside her. She knew how he felt. Her chest was tight with hunger and grief tangled together, too.
She wanted him-- but in a way, she wanted someone else, too. Someone who was gone for good.
And yet, as their bodies began to merge together, she found that she wanted him, and only him. She felt that inexplicable sense of attraction again-- deep unto deep-- and she didn't try to fight it. She lowered her head and pressed a tender kiss to his mouth. He kissed her back, just as tenderly, and this time the soft moan he uttered had no undertones of loss or sorrow. It was a dark sound of pure lust.
She was moaning, too, and she was almost embarrassed by how wet she was. It had been such a long time she was practically a born-again virgin, but that was no excuse. She was wet and hot and seriously bothered for a man she hardly knew, on a day that should have been her wedding day. And instead of a honeymoon in a posh hotel, she was having it off with an alien in a time machine.
And a pretty bargain-basement time machine, at that. What sort of shonky time machine had vinyl seats and a tyre pump on the dashboard?
But none of that seemed to matter, compared to the reality of his body slipping into hers, hard and hot and shuddering with need. She pressed down harder, taking all of him inside her, and his head fell back. His throat was long and pale, dusted with freckles, and she could see the slight shadow of bristle along his jaw. He looked just like a human, but for the double pulse she could see skittering wildly just beneath the skin.
She moved on him, slowly rising, then falling, and this time his hips lifted to meet hers. He groaned her name-- her name, not some other woman's-- and his hands tightened on her arse, clutching her desperately, almost possessively. He opened his eyes and stared into hers, and in his dark gaze she saw a need so great it made her throat tighten.
She brushed her fingers over his hair, his sideburns, the nape of his neck, and then her hands slid down to his front, and she unbuttoned his shirt and shoved it open. And then her fingers were exploring his chest and her mouth was on his shoulder, and he sighed with unmistakable pleasure, grinding into her harder.
This should have been Lance, she thought, and wondered if he was thinking, This should have been...
But it wasn't Lance, and she wasn't at all sorry about it. in fact, she was grateful that she'd never slept with him, knowing what she did now. She far preferred this man, despite his occasional terrifying remoteness, because it seemed that at heart (or was that at hearts?) he was decent and good and kind. He'd saved the world today, even though it wasn't his world to save.
The Doctor had no reason to prefer her over his friend, though, and she was sure he didn't. But she was here, willing to offer comfort and warmth and caresses, and she suspected that was what he needed right now.
For her, right now, this was what she needed. The two of them had somehow forged a connection over the past hours, and strange though he seemed, he'd come to mean something to her. Maybe it was the fact that he'd saved her after Lance's betrayal. Or maybe it was just that he seemed to respect her, even to like her. And that was a rare and precious thing in her life.
She remembered his voice: You're Donna Noble. And believe me, that is definitely something.
Right now he seemed much like an ordinary human, gasping and groaning as his body strove for a climax. His hips moved harder, in a rapid, staccato rhythm, and he wrapped his arms around her and turned his face into her hair as if trying to suffocate his moans. He felt impossibly good inside her, and pleasure swelled inside her, growing and expanding and finally bursting through her like bubbles surging out of a champagne bottle. She clutched at his shoulders and cried out, burying her face against his neck. Their bodies strained together, and as ecstasy continued to roll over her in hard spasms she felt his body jerking inside her, felt him quivering all over, heard his voice raised in a long wordless cry of release.
And then she fell against him, panting. She was suddenly aware that her face was wet, and that she'd been crying against his throat. Embarrassed, she lifted her head and saw that his face was wet with tears, too.
"Doctor," she whispered, and leaned forward, kissing his tears away.
"I'm sorry." His voice was choked. "It was fine-- it's not you--"
"I know. I understand."
"Yes." His voice wobbled. "I reckon you do."
She took his face between her hands, leaned forward, and pressed her forehead against his. "Thank you," she whispered.
His arms tightened around her waist.
"Thank you," he answered, just as softly.
Standing in the street in front of her parents' house a little while later, he showed off for her like a little boy, making it snow, and then grinning with delight at her amazement. And then he shyly suggested she come with him and travel in the TARDIS.
Part of her very much wanted to say yes, to go with him, to fly off to the stars, leaving all her worries behind.
But when he looked at her with those big, hopeful eyes, she remembered how they'd wept in each other's arms, and slowly shook her head.
"I can't," she said gently, and meant it. He needed someone-- but that someone wasn't her, not right now. He needed someone who was confident and certain of herself and... and whole. And after everything she'd been through today, she was the furthest thing from whole. She'd realised that when she found herself weeping against him. She was as wounded and fragile as he himself was, and she couldn't be the rock he needed right now.
Her life had been ripped apart today, and she needed to fix herself before she could help anyone else.
He looked so tragic at her refusal that she wanted to relent, but she didn't dare. Right now, she thought, she needed to focus on putting herself back together. Running away wouldn't help, not even with a beautiful, sad-eyed stranger from the stars. She had to face what had happened, not run from it.
So she made an excuse about how frightening his life was, and how frightening he was. And on some level, it was true. He did frighten her, if only because looking into his eyes was like looking into a mirror. She couldn't bear to face that expression of grief every day. It would only remind her of everything she'd lost. And she couldn't hope to move forward if she kept looking back.
But because she wasn't quite ready to say goodbye, she invited him in for Christmas dinner.
"All right," he agreed, rather reluctantly, after some discussion. He waved at the TARDIS. "I just have to park her properly... she might drift off to the Middle Ages. I'll see you in a minute."
He stepped back into the time machine, and it began to grind. She'd heard that noise before, and knew what it meant. "Doctor!" she yelled. "Doctor!"
The grinding noise stopped, and he stuck his head back out. "Blimey, you can shout," he grumbled.
She studied him for a long moment, and finally decided not to try to force him into staying for dinner. She could easily imagine that it reminded him too much of the Christmas dinner he'd told her about, the dinner he'd spent with his friend and her family last year. Happy times, now gone for good. Who needed to be reminded of that?
The truth was, she wasn't looking forward to dinner, either. It was another reminder of everything she'd thought she was going to finally get today, all the joy that had been snatched from her grasp at the last moment. A happy future, lost to her forever.
She looked at the man in front of her, and realised that if she let him go, he might be lost to her forever, too.
"Am I ever going to see you again?" she blurted.
He smiled at her, very gently, and for just a moment all the sorrow faded from his eyes.
"If I'm lucky," he said.
She felt that he was sincere, that everything they'd done together today, even their lovemaking, had meant something to him, too. Something strange swelled inside her. An odd certainty that one day, she would see him again. And that when she did meet him again, she'd be herself again, and ready to take on the universe.
She couldn't explain why she felt that way, except the peculiar impression she'd had earlier that the two of them were somehow drawn together was back, stronger than ever. Deep calling unto deep.
"Just promise me one thing," she said gently. "Find someone." Someone whole, she thought. Someone who can help you until I see you again. If I ever see you again. And I hope I do. Oh, I hope...
"I don't need anyone."
But his voice wobbled again, and she knew he was wrong. He needed someone strong and tough and resilient, someone he could rely on, someone he could lean on.
On another day, that might have been her. But today... it wasn't.
"Yes, you do," she answered. "Because sometimes, I think you need someone to stop you." Someone to protect you from yourself, she could have added, but didn't. Someone to hold your hand, and to wipe your tears away.
But she thought he understood what she didn't say, because he nodded. "Yeah," he said. He cleared his throat. "Thanks, then. And, Donna, just... be magnificent."
Something in his eyes said, You already are. But she knew she wasn't. Not now. She'd gone through too much upheaval today, too much anguish. But time would heal her eventually. She might not be all that clever, but she was wise enough to know that the old cliche about time healing all wounds was true.
"I think I will," she said, and smiled. "And so will you."
He smiled a little uncertainly, as if he didn't quite believe he could ever attain magnificence again, and looked for a moment as if he might step toward her and kiss her one last time. But then he glanced toward the house, and probably realised that if her parents were watching, it might be a little hard for her to explain why she'd been kissing a strange man on what should have been her wedding day. He only looked at her for a moment longer, his eyes saying a great deal, then turned and walked into the TARDIS.
This time, it didn't make that grinding sound and fade into nonexistence. It shot straight up into the air like a rocket, and disappeared in the swirling snow.
Showoff, she thought again, and chuckled.
She stood there for a long while, staring up into the sky, while the snow drifted down around her. She still wasn't sure she'd made the right decision. After all, the Doctor needed someone, and so did she. Maybe she should have gone with him. Maybe they could have healed together...
She remembered the desperate way they'd made love, and the way they'd both cried afterward, and shook her head. Her wounds were too fresh, too raw, and she suspected the Doctor's were, too. She wouldn't have done him any good if she'd come along. She was simply too needy and broken to be the support he needed.
Right now, she thought, she needed to focus on putting her own life back together. Right now, she had to keep her feet planted firmly on planet Earth. But someday, maybe...
She looked up into the sky one last time, and then turned away from the stars, and went back to her quiet Earthly life... until someday came along.