Title :: You’ll Remember Me
Large, sloping print declared in bold letters to think blue, rather than green, and save the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers from pollution so that your children’s children would have fresh drinking water. Buffy’s lips twisted as she realized that not much had changed in the last fifty years or so, or more precisely, the ten minutes it took the TARDIS to bring them to this time and place. Her hand rose, black painted nails tracing over the next flyer offering up a litter of puppies to a caring home. Glossed lips curved upward as the photos of random acts of cuteness changed in steady progression on the paper-thin plastic.
According to the Doctor dogs were the only standard pets in the year 2062 since the not so recent discovery that most other animals could be the major source of transmission for chronic diseases. Pets such as cats, mice and hamsters had become rare, almost exotic, but dogs, dogs had been the human race’s companion for over ten thousand years and they’d shared every pathogen they could long ago.
“Mr. Smith? Ms. Summers?”
Buffy turned from her study of the corkboard and toward the nurse standing in the doorway to the visitor’s room. Her smile widened with the familiar sight of the comfortable scrubs that covered the older woman from shoulders to white sneaker-ed feet as the Doctor rose from his place beside the window and made his way toward the pleasant faced nurse, his own smile charming.
“I’m terribly sorry about the wait. We’re just not use to having visitors here so late.” Buffy’s brows sloped downward and she glanced toward the panoramic windows along the far wall and the sun, still high in the sky. She opened her mouth and then snapped it shut as the nurse rushed on. “No worries though. We’re all set for you now. Are you family?”
The Doctor blinked and Buffy nodded, stepping forward as she offered, “You could say that.”
“Oh, no.” The Doctor caught the nurse’s frown and trudged onward. “We’re actually just close friends. Though we very much consider Donna part of the family.”
The nurse smiled. “Well I think Mrs. Noble-Thymes will just be happy to have some visitors.”
Buffy frowned. “She doesn’t get many?”
“I’m afraid not.”
The nurse turned, leading them from the room and down a narrow hall painted a robin’s egg blue. The pale color made the hall seem colder, almost frigid and Buffy wrapped her arms around her waist, tucking her hands tight to her body as the Doctor slowed his long stride to match hers.
She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, saw the sharp lines of his face still holding a pleasant smile for the nurse and any others that would see them. Shaking her head she turned forward and sighed. “You know why we’re here. Why the TARDIS brought us here, to this place and this time.”
His voice was soft as he agreed, “I do.”
“How do you do it? How do you say goodbye over and over?”
The nurse stopped a few feet ahead of them and the Doctor paused, drew Buffy’s attention to him and she watched the pleasant mask fade away until dark eyes, filled with a darker pain met hers. “Because to not say goodbye would be worse.”
He turned, made his way to the nurse and turned through the open doorway and left Buffy staring at the cold blue wall. Her stomach knotted, but she forced herself too turn and make her way toward the nurse before stepping through that doorway and into a room filled with enough sunlight to bring a faint smile to her lips. She took in the soft cadmium red walls and pine furniture lined with photographs in one startled glance. Buffy had expected clinical instruments, metal and plastic not the warm comforter or the mound of pillows holding Donna upright.
Her smile widened when she noticed the mass of straight grey hair, tinted the faintest orange, and pushed back from a well aged face. Green eyes, paler than she remembered, were focused solely on the Doctor as he came to sit on the side of her bed. The lines around her mouth deepened as she frowned up at him and asked, her voice soft, “Do I know you?”
His hands rose with his words and came to rest against her temples and Buffy turned, hand catching the door’s edge before she closed it upon the prying eyes of the nurse. There was a startled sound behind her and she spun, watched a universe of knowledge fill those pale eyes and moved toward the bed.
She blinked up at the Doctor, surprise and a spark of anger filled her voice as she stated with great certainty. “I dreamed of you.”
The Doctor’s smile tightened things in Buffy’s chest, made it hurt to draw breath as he prompted, “Every night?”
Gray brows rose high before Donna’s head shifted and she met Buffy’s gaze. Her voice was still soft, but it filled with an all too familiar mocking as she asked, “Still thinks the world of himself doesn’t ‘e?”
Her lips quirked in response. “Oh, yeah.”
The Doctor sighed and Buffy didn’t need to see the eye roll to know it was there as he shot back. “Shut up, the both of you.”
Donna’s eyes narrowed. “Are you telling a dying woman, on her death bed, to shut up?”
Buffy moved closer to the bed and the Doctor rose, shoving his hand into the pockets of his slacks as he offered a beatific smile and assured her, “Only you.”
She snorted. “’Cause I’m the strongest person you know.” Her lips dipped and her gaze shifted back to Buffy before she amended, “Alright, second strongest.”
The blonde stepped forward to the other side of the large, comfortable looking bed and shook her head. “No, you win hands down.”
Those pale eyes softened. “Thank you.” She turned her head, motioned the Doctor to reclaim his spot beside her and asked, “You know what’s funny?” She didn’t wait for a reply as the Doctor sat. “I’m not scared anymore. I was just a moment ago, but now, now I feel ready.”
A choked sound escaped Buffy as she sat parallel to the Doctor and took one of Donna’s frail hands between her own. Those thin fingers wrapped around and between hers as she was hushed, “Oh now, don’t cry. Not for me. I know for a fact that I am the smartest woman in the world,” she hesitated a beat before adding, “at least for the moment.” Donna’s hand tightened as she turned her head, raised her brows at the Doctor and stated, “And you knew that would make me happy.”
The Doctor nodded and stated simply, “I did.”
“And the TARDIS knew it was my time.”
His chin dipped again and his lips quirked, “It did. It brought us here. To you.”
Donna’s voice was clipped, edged with emotion as she prompted, “Thank’er for me?”
She nodded and turned to Buffy, her lined mouth taking on a teasing quirk. “You know, my husband was handsomer than Jack and nearly as daft as ‘em.”
Her chin tilted toward the Doctor and Buffy smiled through her tears. “I know. You wouldn’t have settled for anything less.”
The peach colored comforter rose and fell with her next breath and Buffy frowned with the slight struggle to the movement as Donna turned her head, lifted her free hand to trace light fingers over the sharp lines of the Doctor’s face. “I did miss you. You, my outer space ponce.”
His hand rose, caught hers and pulled it flush to his cheek, held her hand immobile as he stared into her knowledge-filled gaze. “I missed you too.” A shudder wracked her frame, tightened the muscles in her hands and arms and the Doctor’s voice took on a familiar edge, a fierceness Buffy cherished as he stated, “You are brilliant. You know that don’t you?”
“I do.” Donna’s voice grew weaker, but the mocking tone remained as she stated, “Knew that even before you gave me back myself.”
His eyes narrowed. “You’re not mad? You’re not angry about what I had to do?”
“Of course I am.” The Doctor flinched with the bite to her words and she softened, Donna’s enter body sagged as she corrected, “But that doesn’t mean I don’t understand why and everything you gave me the chance to experience.”
Buffy tightened her grip on Donna’s hand as if by sheer force of will she could keep the other woman with them. Keep her alive and young, the perfect companion, but she couldn’t and instead of focusing on what she was about to lose Buffy attempted to live in the now, like Jack was always trying to teach her.
“He’s good at that,” she clarified the statement with, “the giving.”
“He is.” Gray brows sloped down as Donna prompted, “Take care of ‘em for me?”
“Always and forever.”
She smiled and some of the lines around her mouth smoothed with the wideness of it. “I know you can.” Her head cocked, smile fading a bit as she stated, “And I think I’m a bit jealous of that.”
Buffy nodded and lifted a hand to push at the hair crowding Donna’s cheek as she replied, “I know the feeling.”
“Yeah.” Those pale eyes filled with an understanding they’d never held before and she pulled her hand free of the Doctor’s check and gasp to cup Buffy’s tight grip on her other. “What a pair we make.”
Buffy’s eyes shifted to the side, studied the Doctor a moment before she corrected. “I think you mean a trifecta.”
Donna’s brows rose. “But we’re not all finishing at the same time.”
Buffy shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. You’ll always be with us. Forever.”
“Thank you.” Her chin lifted and a brief flash of pain made the lines around her eyes tighten before she shifted, met the Doctor’s gaze and slipped one of her hands between his. Her voice was weaker as she offered him a tired smile, “I think I believe in destiny now.”
His mouth lifted, formed a perfect smile as he confirmed. “I know I do.”
They stayed with her through the night, holding her hands, until the sun rose the next morning and her body was cold.