As Donna wended her way between the tables, pints in each hand, she stifled her inadvertent grin at the sight of Jon perched in his high-backed armchair like any movement might shatter everything around him. With his knees together and his hands clasped tightly in his lap, he stared at the corner of the table nearest him, his fringe standing up straight where he'd obviously pulled at it nervously. Jon was learning to relax when they were alone together, but it would take a lot more work for her to get him to feel comfortable among others.
She flashed a smile at him as she set a mug down on the low table, around which the four cushy armchairs were arrayed. This pub was a bit upscale, with walls and bar of dark polished wood and brass fixtures, and it favoured big comfortable arrangements and rich food for fewer guests over thick, loud crowds and baskets of chips. Mumbling his thanks, Jon reached over and snagged his drink without looking, though he simply set it on his knees without sampling it, his long fingers curled around the glass.
Slipping into her chair, Donna took a long drink before placing the mug down and leaning back to relax. "Bit too posh for me, this is," she grinned. "You're spoiling me, you know. I tell Mum where you take me, and she's starting to call me 'Dame Donna'."
"You deserve the best I can give you," he murmured.
She reached over and took his hand, holding it between both of hers. "Jon, it's not that I don't want to be wined and dined, but you don't need to impress me or give me anything. I have everything I want, right here," she explained, squeezing his hand. It suddenly occurred to her why he might be so uncomfortable. "Too noisy in here for you? You all right?"
He glanced up at her, his eyes twitching away as if he felt unworthy of being in her presence. "It's not noisy at all, no more than anywhere else. It's a fine place. I like it." He returned her squeeze and smiled for the first time since they had arrived.
Jon settled himself back in his chair, though he still didn't look quite comfortable or relaxed, and finally took a sip of his beer. "How was your weekend?" he asked. "Did you get to go out with Nerys?"
"Yes!" Donna sighed, half in excitement and half in exasperation. "Four calls and she finally gets out of bed, and then two more hours to get out the door. And then the moment we got to Soho, she dragged me everywhere, and I didn't get home until eleven."
"You'd never think that about her, working with her," commented Jon, shaking his head.
"She turns off the manager spigot at five o'clock sharp on Friday." Donna took another drink. "But it was a grand time! How about your weekend?"
"It was good. I... Well, I..." he stammered, then gulped as he made his decision to speak. "I fabricated a new mask."
Donna knew exactly what that meant, and her eyes grew wide with wonder. "A new mask! You're going to do it, then."
"I... I don't know." Jon placed his pint on the table, then scratched at the back of his head, ruffling his already messy hair. "I tried. I really did. I thought I'd make the mask again, to see how it felt, to try to be the Doctor again, but I couldn't even put it on. It felt stupid." Glancing down at his hands, he rubbed at his fingers obsessively. "What am I trying to hide anymore? Everyone knows who I am."
Donna protested, "Now, you know that's not the least bit true," but he continued talking over her.
"Everyone knows I'm just pretending to be a hero."
"Bollocks!" spat Donna. "Whinge all you want about what you might do in the future, but stopping Saxon, that credit's all yours." He cringed at her words. "You know that. You're a fine hero. Just do it, and stop worrying about the rest of that tosh. It'll come."
"I don't know. Saxon was a fluke. I can't do that again." He stared down at his hands, again clasped in his lap. "I'm not that powerful. Falcon could have killed me. Saxon could have... he could have corrupted me." He curled in on himself and murmured, "I'm scared."
"Oh, Jon, love," she crooned, moving a bit closer to reach over and take his hand. "That's entirely natural. But you don't need to do that. I know you want to use your gifts, but you don't need to set your sights that high." She tipped his chin up with a finger and held his gaze, staring into his soft brown eyes with her sparkling clear blues. "There's plenty of things you can do without fighting the big guys. Littler things, not the big flashy ones. In a way, they matter more." Frowning, Jon glanced away, off toward the bar. Donna knew he wanted to make a big difference in the world and wouldn't easily be convinced that the little things mattered as well. "They do!" she insisted. "Think about it. Think about all the lives you can touch, that you can make better by concentrating on the little things. You don't need to be a big superhero. The world doesn't need more of them. It needs little heroes, helping everyone along. All you need to be is -"
Jon jumped up and strode off. Startled, Donna faltered, her volume dropping to a murmur as she pronounced, "Er, a good person." She twisted in her seat to watch him cross to the far side of the pub, where a young woman stood with a man who was monopolising her attention. Clutching her drink to her chest, she was backed against the bar, leaning away as far as she could as the man pressed in on her space, talking eagerly. Her head was turned away from him, a grimace of disgust and panic creasing her cheek. They were too distant for Donna to hear what the man was saying but his intent was obvious.
Jon walked up to the woman, arms outstretched in greeting. As the man turned to size him up, Jon patted the woman's arm and gestured to where Donna was sitting, his smile big and friendly. He turned back to the woman for a moment, then said something to the man with a slight bow; Donna didn't need to read lips to know he'd apologised for the intrusion. Inviting the woman to precede him, he waited for her hurry past him, and they left the man sputtering and fuming. Jon followed her to their table, and as they arrived, Donna heard him murmur to her, "Pretend Donna's your good friend. Greet her and join us." He beamed at Donna and exclaimed in a loud, clear voice, "You were right! It was Lisa."
Lisa hesitated for just a moment, glancing between the two, before smiling broadly. "Donna! It's so good to see you." She took one of the vacant chairs, her hands clamped around her drink betraying her anxiety.
Donna was determined to keep the game going, and her brash voice rang across the pub. "Been nearly two years, hasn't it? Blimey! And we almost didn't come out tonight. I wanted to head home, but Jon insisted. How's your mum doing?"
"He's still there watching us," Jon mumured as he settled in his seat, keeping his eyes on Lisa. "Keep talking." The women obliged, chatting about family and interests. Donna was making it all up as she went along. As soon as the man gave up and left the pub, Jon let them know. "He's gone, finally."
"Oh!" Lisa sighed, finally relaxing back in her chair, and flashed a relieved smile at Jon. "You're a lifesaver, you are. I was waiting for my friend Anne and I thought I'd come in here for a drink. That man, he said his name was Nate. He asked me what time it was, and then he just started..." She faltered, the fear flickering in her eyes again for a moment. "I don't know what happened, but I suppose you saw. I didn't know what to do." She smiled sweetly at Jon. "Thank you for rescuing me."
Jon's courage broke, and he glanced down at his hands, his shoulders curved. "Anyone would've," he mumbled.
"Maybe," Lisa replied, "but no one did except you." When Jon refused to look up, she turned to Donna. "Thank you."
"Been there enough to know how it is. You're going to be okay?" she asked.
"I'll be fine. It's done, isn't it? He's gone." She dug her mobile out of her handbag. "I'll give Anne a call, tell her to get here quicker." She stood up and offered one more time, "Thank you again, Jon," before heading back to the bar.
"Take care, Lisa," Donna called after her. When she was out of earshot, Donna grinned at Jon. "That was brilliant!"
Jon's reply was a simple "Mmm."
"You heard them, didn't you?" she asked. "Whilst I was talking."
He shrugged. "It was hard to miss."
"And you did something about it."
"It wasn't anything," he insisted.
"It's never anything!" she exclaimed with a disdainful snort. "Au contraire, Ears. It was everything. You saved her from that greasy spiv. You heard what he was doing, and you did something about it. Who knows where it would have gone if you hadn't. That's what I was talking about."
"Being a good person," Jon murmured as he thought about it. "Not trying to be a hero, but just doing what you should."
Donna nodded. "Now you've got it. And you'll see. You just do that, and being the Doctor'll come naturally."
A waiter appeared and set down two pints next to their half-finished drinks. "From the lady at the bar. She says, 'Thanks again, Jon.'"
As he retreated, Jon looked over at the bar. Lisa waved at him, and he smiled their thanks to her, then turned back to Donna. "You're right, as always. The little things, the big things, no matter. The important thing is to just do it." As Donna pursed her lips into a soft, proud smile, he took her hand and promised her, "I'll be the Doctor again, someday."