Inside the TARDIS, Donna is unable to link back to the ship. There's simply nothing there to hold her together; the TARDIS is no more than coral walls and endless space. Donna keeps an iron grip on the Doctor's arm as he tows her around unknowingly, an invisible afterthought caught to his sleeve.

She's trying very hard not to think about that one brilliant moment of being seen, of being acknowledged. It would have been too good to be true, anyway. So instead she fills her mind with unimportant questions, like why for some reason the Doctor makes such a good anchor. Most probably because he's an alien fancy pants Time Lord or something. If that's the case, Donna's glad that' she's the only ghost who seems to have discovered him; otherwise she'd be sharing her armhold with a bazillion other ghosties.

And that thought brings her to Jack. Because as much as she'd like to demand where Jack is, the fact that he isn't with them is answer enough. He must be dead, and already on his way to wherever souls were supposed to go. Which is okay – Donna tells herself firmly – though she thinks Jack would have made a fabulous ghost. They would have had so much fun, haunting the TARDIS together! He could have been….he could have been a true partner, someone who saw her and heard her and understood her. And for one warped instant, Donna is jealous. Furiously, insanely jealous. Jealous that Jack was able to move on to where he must truly belong, where he would find peace or reconnect with all his loved ones. Jealous that he wasn't stuck trying to fool himself into thinking there was any rhyme or reason to keep clinging to a world that didn't acknowledge his exisence.

If only she weren't so stubborn (scared), Donna wonders if she'll get a chance to meet Jack again one day, in that place where souls go to rest.

She shakes those thoughts off as the Doctor sets Rose down. Rose is coming to, finding her feet and looking around blearily.

"You need to step back, Rose."

Rose does, fearful of what's next, though she does so reluctantly.

Donna does not. She's dead anyway, what does it matter, and she has nothing else to hold on to.

He presses a complicated configuration of buttons, finally pulling an impressive-looking lever. Donna hears the familiar click of a panel opening, the same one that once contained the heart of the TARDIS.

The Doctor stumbles back, dragging Donna with him in his drunken weave.

He starts making a speech. Donna tunes out most of it, too busy looking at his face, and how his skin seems to glow from within. She reaches up with one hand to touch, drawn to it somehow.

The Doctor startles mid-speech, a hand raising to cover where she touched him. "Donna, was that you? Are you next to me?"

"Yeah," she says, then tugs his ear for good measure.

He grins in her direction. "Not sure you're gonna have such fantastic ears to pull in a bit," he tells her, as the glowing intensifies.

Rose is sobbing in the background, but Donna is not afraid for the Doctor. Who better than she knows what death truly is? And the Doctor is simply so full of life; if he can cheat death with this "regeneration" thing, what does it matter? As long as he can continue to have his wonderful adventures with the TARDIS, everything else is cosmetic.

Of course, Donna's blase attitude only lasts until the Doctor explodes like a bloody Roman candle, and Donna gets a faceful of magic fairy sparkles or whatever the fuck it is. And, quite frankly, she wasn't expecting the resurrection of Tinker Bell.

A brighter set of golden tendrils escape from him, swimming lazily back to the TARDIS: the energy Rose stole, being returned back to the ship. As more flows away from the Doctor, Donna experiments by putting one uncertain foot down on the floor. Sure enough, she feels her connection to the ship click back into place.

She could let go of the Doctor now, but she doesn't. Donna's always been too curious for her own good. It's fascinating watching up close as his features seem to melt under all that light, reforming into something else.

Except, suddenly, the energy backlash hits her like a subatomic wave. It moves straight through her, a gut-twisting sensation, like it's trying to take her in and rewrite her and put her back together again in a different order.

It's horrible. Worse than that time she and Nerys drank a bottle of absinthe. Worse than dying. If it weren't for the fact that she hasn't eaten anything in over two years and is, more importantly, already dead, Donna is sure she would have vomited all over herself. As it is, she can't guarantee that she isn't going to spew ectoplasm (if there is such a thing as ghost vomit). She makes very sure to face the Doctor, just in case. Because if she is going to vomit, it's going to be on his stupid face, for not taking the time to warn his resident ghost that maybe she should step back, too.

And in that moment she realizes she's looking into completely different eyes. A completely different face. Straight into brown eyes under new hair – so much hair – and yes, the big ears are gone.

"Blimey," she breathes, shocked.

The new Doctor blinks at her. "Hello!"

She blinks back. "Wait, you can see m…"

He falters a bit, concentration broken. "O– new teeth, that's weird…"

Rose makes a strangled, funny sounding noise from where she stands holding on to a coral strut. The Doctor's gaze swivels to her, dazed, crazed smile on a young new face. "Where was I?! Barcelona!"

He pounces forward and starts hitting levers as if he never paused to have a bit of an inconvenient regeneration, swimming in a black leather jacket that no longer fits him.

Rose stares from her safe location, several feet away. Donna glares, from her own location, rooted to the spot where he was standing before. "You bloody tease!" she shouts. "Can you see me or can't you? Because I'm kind of getting sick of guessing!"

And for one improbable moment, Donna and Rose are completely united in their mistrust of this strange new Doctor.


In the midst of disjointed babble, it becomes clear that the Doctor is taking Rose home. Rose sits on the jump seat, unusually quiet. Donna floats high in the coral rafters, miffed, glaring down at the top of this new Doctor's head. Gosh, he really does have a lot of hair, doesn't he? All kinds of fluffy and soft looking and…

And that's not the point! The point is she's giving him the silent treatment – even if he doesn't know it. Because she was SURE he saw her before he regenerated, and she was SURE he saw her right after, but now he's acting like he never did and instead of sad she's just angry. Is he having her on? Was is "play a joke on the your resident ghost" day? And if not, what the hell is going on!

They land with a jolt. Barely a second has passed before the Doctor runs for the doors with the faulty energy of a child who's had too much sugar. Rose wanders out after him, cautiously, and finally the TARDIS and Donna are alone once more.

Donna turns to the glowing column of energy beside her. "I'm not so sure I approve," she sniffs.

The TARDIS keeps a smug silence.

But a day later, Donna's ire has evaporated. She floats from room to room in worried circles. Where are the Doctor and Rose?

She just lost Jack, she can't lose the Doctor! She doesn't care that he has a new Martian face or how fluffly that hair might be, she just wants him back!

Hours later and he's till not back. Donna's trying to distract herself by pressing interesting shapes in the grass of the TARDIS garden when she hears the main doors open and slam shut. She rushes through floors and walls and ceilings to reach the main control room, flying at top speed.

"Wait, what's going on? Where's the Doctor?" demands Donna as Rose barges inside, going straight to her room to throw things willy-nilly into a bag. Rose looks worried and frightened, which causes even more anxiety to creep up Donna's spine.

"Rose, talk to me. Rose. Rose!" Donna plucks at Rose's hands, trying to still her movements.

Rose brushes the cold feeling from her hands, casting an annoyed look around the room. "Is that you, Donna? I don't have time for this! Stop trying to touch me!"

"Just tell me where the Doctor is! Is everything okay?" begs Donna. The TARDIS echoes her concern with an inquisitive groan.

Donna glances up at the ceiling. "I don't know what's going on! He changed, and hasn't come back. And he didn't look altogether in tip top shape. Why isn't he back? What should I do?"

The TARDIS creaks back at her, an answer Donna knew all along, but one that petrifies her.

"I'm afraid," she admits to the TARDIS. "What if I float away? I'm safe here, with you."

The TARDIS chides her with a clanging of pipes. Rose finishes packing, zipping up the large bag with decisive movements before leaving her bedroom and heading towards the control room. Donna floats behind her indecisively, hovering as Rose pauses by the TARDIS doors just long enough to shrug on her coat.

The TARDIS gives another harsh creak, a final warning. Donna gathers her courage and resolutely grabs on to Rose's hood. Rose steps through the doors, unknowingly carrying Donna with her, and Donna feels the security of her connection to the TARDIS break. She's free from her anchor, and now it's only her grip on Rose that keeps her from dispersing into space. It's her only chance to get to the Doctor.

But her grip on Rose is slippery, like she's trying to hold on to water.

In a panic, she realizes it's because she has no real connection to the girl, not at all the way she was able to securely hold on to the Doctor when she left her home in Chiswick. And when she "rode" on Rose the last time, Rose was infused with the heart of the TARDIS, literally taking the TARDIS with her – and Donna's connection along with it.

She feels the air rip at her, tiny pieces of herself ready to float away. She tries to bury herself within Rose, reaching through skin and flesh for heart and bone in a poor approximation of possession. It barely buys her any purchase; if they don't get to their destination soon, she'll be lost.

They enter a small flat. Rose abandons her bag on a couch, so Donna assumes this is their final destination. Donna breathes a sigh of relief and carefully reaches out to a wall with the intent of anchoring herself.

Nothing happens. The room refuses to hold her.

Terrified, she grabs for Rose again just as Rose moves to go farther into the flat. Donna is crying in fear as her tenuous hold slips and slides along Rose's arm. She can't hold on for much longer, and then she's going to float away and be lost!

Even worse, without an anchor something deep inside tells her she won't get to go to wherever her Gran is, or her best friend who died when they were seven, or to Jack's never-ending party in the sky. She will simply cease to exist, because if she had belonged in the afterlife she wouldn't have been left stuck here on Earth to begin with.

Donna's grip slides from Rose for the final time right as they enter a bedroom.

And there, in the middle of a bed, is a sleeping Doctor.

With a will born of desperation, Donna propels herself to him. Her hands reach him, grip him, hold. Secure and true. All her edges coalesce and hold firm so she's whole once more.

"Oh thank god, bless you, you stupid spaceman!" she cries in relief. She'd kiss him if she could, but he's unconscious and that's just creepy. Instead, to show her appreciation, she makes a grab for an ear to pull. But they really are boring normal ears now. So she grabs a handful of hair and pulls that, instead.

The Doctor grumbles in his sleep, and Donna laughs. Rose and her mother stop their conversation to look down at him.

Donna has only had a little bit of time to snuggle in close, making herself at home in the Doctor's bed, when a Christmas tree attacks.


to be continued