Warnings: Crossover, occasional dirty language, shameful anti-Ten propaganda (depending on how liberal your definition of 'propaganda' is)
Summary: Post-"Journey's End". Donna's looking for something, and she doesn't have the slightest idea what it is. She's in the worst rut she can remember, and for her to escape-- well, it would take magic...
Notes: CROSSOVER with Doctor Who. I want to be really clear about that, because if you're not familiar with the recent episodes, I suspect this will make very little sense. It continues the plot of Doctor Who, following the characters of Doctor Who, while making the whole of that series a subset of the YW universe and thus subject to its laws; so in short, I have contrived to alienate as many people from my readership as possible. :D It was a lot of work, I can tell ya.
Also, if you can hear no ill word spoken against the Tenth Doctor, then this story is not for you. However, if you do think you could take a bit of subversive propaganda if something interesting's spun out of it, by all means, you should give this a whirl. And if you are one of those rare souls who actively dislikes the Tenth Doctor... then welcome home, my sisters and brothers, welcome home. :D
If I've got Donna a bit off, well, please chalk it up to the series-end incidents and don't bother telling me, 'cause while I'm usually committed to excellence, now that I've sent this one last fic out into the world, its father and I are finally breaking up for good. It's been a long time coming-- the bitch cheated on me with a teenage boy the second I walked down the aisle-- but I've stayed with him a while for the sake of the kids. Now I'm packing the last one off to y'all so I can finally move the hell out. ;D And then I'm gonna key his TARDIS. Oh yeah. You heard me.
Donna doesn't dream.
Well, not like she used to. Used to have things that happened, things she could remember. Now it's all just blank-- light, and golden light, and streaming light, and nothing. Light and show and emptiness, and she wakes up aching all the way through. Before her alarm. In the middle of the night. Aching everywhere, aching when she tries to think, and it only does seem to ease a bit in the hours before dawn.
She's always forgetting things. She forgets them and when she finally remembers them she's still positive there's something she's forgetting. Something else, somewhere.
But she's lost it and she aches down to her soul and whatever it is that's out there, it's beyond her reach forever.
She wakes up early, these days. She can't sleep properly. Which she finds vexing, considering she's so little to be awake for. She'd rather prefer to be asleep. Maybe to stay asleep. To never wake up.
But she wakes up early, which leaves her a good hour to fill before she goes to work her meaningless job. Not knowing what else to do-- the telly at this hour is undiluted misery-- she's always drawn to the bookshelves, looking for some sort of distraction, because she'll need one.
There's something comforting about the bookshelves, thoroughly unstately as they are-- these aren't beautiful old heirloom bookshelves, these are cobbled-together cheap contraptions that couldn't possibly survive a move. But she loves them, anyway. The books, she thinks, used to fascinate her when she was young. She remembers these shelves, remembers staring up at the books, wanting to know... Remembers what it was to run her hand along the bottom of a shelf, until her hand--
Her hand is stopped by a book that's sticking out a good inch further than any of the others. She shoves it flush with the back of the shelf, grabbing her (not actually) injured hand and giving the book a venomous glare. Wasn't any bigger than any of the others, what business did it have sticking out so far? It was just a small old hardback, with one of those strangely textured covers she'd always wondered whether or not were some sort of actual fabric-- decades old, and who in the house would've been reading it?
She grabs the book, more out of spite than anything else, and squints at the title, nearly too faded to read against the blue cover. 'So You Want to Be a Wizard'? What in God's name is something like that doing here?
Curiosity combines with the pique to create an irresistible force. She flips the book to the first page, hoping it will give her a sense of what in the hell the thing is.
Wizardry is presumed by most of the world to be a dead art, the efficacy of which was doubtful to begin with. Most are willing to explain away its purported miracles as a sort of proto-science; others believe that magic did exist, and does exist, but is only available to followers of Satan.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
She glances at the clock; she has to get going. She looks down at the book-- well, at the very least, it ought to keep her occupied for a little while. She tries desperately to occupy her mind these days. She's got the strangest idea that otherwise, it might fall apart.
There's a lull at her work (there's too many lulls there, these days; she has a feeling there's layoffs ahead), and she pulls out the book. Back to the first page.
There are also those who dream of magic. There are several reasons for this; one is the misguided notion that magic would make one's life easier. This notion should be dismissed from your mind immediately. But the main motive, underlying them all, is the certainty that there is more to the world than meets the eye. That there are places in outer space, and inner space, that the human race has yet to get the merest inkling of. This is a yearning to learn how the world works, how the self works-- and, more than that, the yearning to at least attempt to fix it.
Most people, at least occasionally, have a sense of what it truly means that entropy is in the universe; that everything will, someday, die. Most people suspect that there is a malevolent force behind it. And most people suspect that there is another, greater force beyond that, withstanding Death's assaults.
Wizards are those people who fight in this all-but-endless battle between life and death. Some do this by research; some work on making systems more efficient; some strengthen the world against the onslaught of Death; and some fight Death head-on.
This is the purpose of magic. Magic is not, in common parlance, "magic"; there is always a price.
Wizards, who have longed to do the impossible, find having the most efficient means to change the world, at any scale, more than worth the price.
Her supervisor is walking through the door, so she shoves the book back in her handbag. It's a copying job; she heads toward the machine.
Magic that isn't magic? Battles between Good and Evil? What the hell is that book, anyway?
Lunchtime rolls around, but she eats at her desk, these days; she doesn't want to eat with any of the others, and the feeling is largely mutual. She's not much company, probably. During the days, when she's distracted, the ache doesn't hurt, not quite-- but there's something on the tip of her tongue, she feels, all of the time, and it's frustrating beyond belief. Something she knows, something she's trying to remember, except she's got to remember what it is she thinks she's trying to remember first, and even that is proving unreasonably difficult. Even when she tries not to think of it, tells herself she doesn't even care what it is, as it can't possibly be that important, it's still there, and she doesn't know what to do about it.
It's making her very angry, actually.
She pulls the book out again. It's nonsense, but it's strange enough to be interesting.
A wizard is a person who has taken an oath to fight for Life, as a representative of Life itself, against Death in its myriad forms. This oath gives them a power. This power comes in the from of knowledge of the programming language of the universe itself-- the language the world was built with. Knowledge of this language gives the user great power, to see how things work and how they can be changed, or fixed. Wizards can persuade the very air to turn solid for them, and stone to melt-- or even come alive. A wizard can hear the songs of the stars, and the grumblings of household pets. A wizard can travel to other worlds, or change the one they live in. This is the power of wizardry.
This power comes with its risks. Death does not take kindly to those who fight for Life. While there are certainly grey-haired wizards, the profession is in no way a "safe" one.
But being alive isn't especially safe, either, and most of us consider it worth the risk.
Risk... She'd love to risk something. Anything. From her life to a tenner.
Why does she want that?
Ridiculous as the book is, it's got a hold on her mind, now. She's read through its suspiciously Judaeo-Christian mythology (and there was war in heaven, and the one who had created Death was cast out), and its "Self-Assessment Quiz" (strangely enough, it does tell her she has some aptitude for this fictional Art-- must be very general questions), and now she's in a rather strange little section: two blocks of text, facing each other, oddly solemn.
Wizards are usually chosen in childhood, at an age just before puberty. At this age, they are old enough to make a conscious decision about their life, and young enough to have the power they will need to survive their initial testing by the Lone Power. However, there are rare exceptions to this rule. On a few occasions, a gifted enough child or a dire enough situation will cause a wizard to be tested earlier than the norm. On even rarer occasions, the flow of time that usually binds adults to a firm sense of how the world works will serve to release them instead. There are a few situations in which adults can show an aptitude for wizardry that either did not exist during their childhood or was, for a variety of reasons, overlooked or denied.
While the challenges of being a new adult wizard are vastly different from those a young wizard would normally face, any adults who discover wizardry will have enough power and/or experience to stand an equal chance of making their way through.
However, convincing the adult wizard of the reality of wizardry, and the reality of what accepting it may mean, is often far more difficult than convincing a child. An adult has often been taught not to believe in miracles. While the mere fact that an adult is being considered for wizardry means that they will have less difficulty being convinced than others, it is still a formidable task.
So, Donna Noble, as your supervisor is about to arrive to pursue her daily ritual of inspection, you may find it advisable to stop reading for a moment and put this book away.
Donna doesn't realize what she's read for a moment.
And then she does.
It's impossible, it's entirely impossible, and oh crap, it's 4:05--
She shoves the book under her desk just as the supervisor walks by, glaring at her with a thorough contempt. Every day she does it, sometime between four and five, because she's convinced they won't get any work done at the end of the day otherwise. Donna admits she's got a point, but this warden-like round of hers just breeds resentment and makes them all even less motivated to be productive. But in this company, she doubts they'd be motivated anyway.
She risks another glance at the book.
While the mere fact that an adult is being considered for wizardry means that they will have less difficulty being convinced than others, it is still a formidable task.
Yes, you did just read what you thought you read, Donna. You might want to consider the ramifications of that fact before reading any further.
She slams the book shut and takes a deep breath. I've lost my mind, she thinks.
And the comfort that thought gives her is just further proof.
The book wants her to think about it, so she'll think about it. Nothing else to do on the London Underground.
She's gone mad, is what it is. The book knew her name. It knew her full name. That couldn't be a 'lucky guess'. Not to mention, it changed. She's sure it did. She's irrationally sure it did, which is further proof she's gone mad.
Why doesn't that bother her?
Because she wants to be mad. She wants to do something utterly stupid and utterly insane. Wants? Understatement of the century. Needs. Needs it desperately. She doesn't have the faintest idea why that could be. Maybe she's bored. She never got this bored before, but maybe it was just a matter of time. Temping drives them all mad, in the end. It was just her time.
Yes, she's had it coming. She finds the thought so relaxing. No need to worry about the things she can't remember, the things the feels are missing, the ache at the core of her heart-- just madness, that's all. The book's a manifestation of it.
And, thinking about it? The idea of magic? Changing the world? Fighting as an emissary of life? It's bloody brilliant, it is. It's a fantastic delusion. Maybe she'll just go with it.
She opens the book, one more time.
While the mere fact that an adult is being considered for wizardry means that they will have less difficulty being convinced than others, it is still a formidable task.
That being said, the main difficulty in convincing adults of the truth of wizardry is not getting their attention, or convincing them of their own sanity, but of convincing them to truly consider the risks and rewards involved. An adult will tend to either dismiss the notion as ridiculous and risky at first sight, or decide that, since none of this can possibly be serious, the risks cannot be serious, either.
To the latter, who can only be convinced by time, the only thing to do is reiterate the truth, begging their indulgence. Pretend it's true, Donna. Pretend the death is as real as the magic. Make a choice you won't regret if you turn out not to be mad after all. Whatever that is, is up to you.
Donna lets out a breath, and stares at the blank fluorescent lights, aching and flickering and still not as haunted as the light in her dreams. 'If you turn out not to be mad after all.'
She sets herself to considering it.
Dinner is at home, and it's perfectly cordial; the sort of dinner you have around someone who's fragile, who might break if you say the wrong thing. It's like high school, when she broke up with Randall-- when she was furious and hurting and they went to astonishing lengths to talk their way around it, because they didn't know what she would do if he or it or anything reminiscent of him were mentioned. And whatever it was, it would break the status quo...
She wants the status quo broken. She can't say why. It feels like there's some great unspoken thing they're dancing around, a conspiracy between them and her own mind, something that can't ever be mentioned to her. That's ridiculous, but it almost makes sense of her world.
But if it's so important that she not know this hypothetical thing, why does she feel like it's following her everywhere? Why does she feel that she wants to know it, wants to know everything, needs to know what the hell has been going on before she finally loses her mind and starts dancing on bar tables or beating street people with cricket bats or something?
In Life's name, and for Life's sake, says the book. I assert that I will employ the Art which is Its gift in Life's service alone.
Something dangerous about it. And something right.
I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; nor will I change any creature unless its growth, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened.
Even reading the words in her head seems to make the room a little more quiet. They ought to be meaningless-- a joke, a trick, a delusion-- but she knows better. Something about those words gives her pause. Serious, deathly serious, and something about them... something about them almost seems...
She shakes her head, looks at the block of text one more time.
To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will ever put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is fit to do so-- looking always toward the Heart of Time, where all our sundered times are one and all our myriad worlds lie whole, in That from Which they proceeded...
Donna takes a deep breath, thinks again, This is entirely insane, and quietly, as the whole world seems spelled into silence, swears her allegiance to the forces of Life against Death.
The light's still in her dreams, blank and merciless like stark fluorescent bulbs against the night. But for the first time in weeks, the alarm wakes her.
Before she leaves the house, she makes sure she's got the book.
It was a silly thing to do, reading that oath, she knows. After all, it couldn't possibly be real. The world didn't work that way; there wasn't any magic, there wasn't a sort of-- War on Death you could enlist in. It would be a stupid idea even if you could. After all, it's obvious who'd win.
Or, maybe it isn't. What's winning look like, anyway?
Something in her believes it, she's found, to her astonishment and faint fear. Something in her wants to believe it, too.
That scares her, honestly. She leaves the book in her bag all morning, deliberately turning her attention away-- and it's odd just how many times she has to turn her head back toward her proper work.
The lunch hour comes, and she stares at her computer screen, and thinks, I'm dying.
She stares at the screen for another two seconds before she has the sense to be startled by the thought.
Her first thought is she's being thoroughly and shamefully melodramatic. It's such a pathetic, lovesick-teenager thing to say. She's not ill. She doesn't have cancer. She doesn't have the slightest right to say she's dying.
But it's true: she knows it. Now that the thought's occurred to her, she's sure of it down to her bones, everything starts to make sense. This feeling she's been fighting something, half herself, trying to remember, trying to-- what, exactly?
Trying to live?
She grabs her handbag, shuts off her computer, and gets the hell out of the building.