Title: Lay By Author: love-in-the-time Rating: M for language, ‘cause people really do say the F word all the time. Summary: The Doctor, having been bitten by a large poisonous alien flower with very sharp teeth, contracts a fever. Donna waits it out with him.
He’s giving her instructions as they go, panting and clearly in agony from the wicked teeth mark on his shoulder. The gashes go clear through his jacket and shirt down to the flesh beneath, which is red and bloody and angry-looking. Donna supports his good side, crashing back through the muggy vegetation to the TARDIS.
“The medbay,” he slurs. “There’s a… there’s an antidote, we just…” He trails off because he can’t breathe. Donna heaves him back into a better, more supported place and fumbles with her TARDIS key.
“Bloody old fashioned way to get into such an advanced machine,” she grits between her teeth, shaking with fear and adrenaline. She wrenches the door open and pulls the Doctor inside with her. She pulls him clear past the console room and fervently blesses the dimensional flexibility of the TARDIS. The first door she opens is into the medical bay, where she hauls the Doctor, nearly insensate with pain, onto the waiting Earth-style bed.
“Ah fuck!” he groans, evidently not completely incoherent. “Fuck, fuck, fuck, it hurts!”
Donna does her best to be gentle as she undoes his tie and helps him shed his jacket and shirt, but he’s worryingly limp. “Stay with me, Spaceman,” she says, using her nickname for him out of sheer agitation. “No need to fall asleep on me, eh? You’ll need to tell me how to make that antidote.”
“Antidote, yes,” he says, grasping at the concept he knows. “Computer. Go over there.” His eyes are dropping shut.
Donna locates the console, her mind repeating, be calm and listen, be calm and listen as she taps the screen. “What bit you?” she asks.
There’s no answer.
He’s lying very still, his eyes closed. Donna rushes over from the computer and taps his face with her open hand. “Wake up, wake up,” she says. “Wake up, I need you to tell me what bit you.”
He stirs but doesn’t answer.
“Doctor!” Donna shakes him. His eyes slide open and regard her.
“What?” he asks on a breath, and then his face screws up in pain. “Oh, fuck, my shoulder.”
“What bit you?” Donna demands. “Bloody tell me or I’m going to lose you!”
“Bit me?” he asks muzzily.
“It was a flower!” Donna exclaims, her voice getting higher. “It was a flower with bloody teeth and it bit you!”
“There are thousands of those,” the Doctor says with difficulty. He seems to be having trouble moving his mouth. Then he retches and Donna jumps back to avoid it as he vomits onto the floor.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Donna cries. “This one’s killing you!”
The Doctor shakes his head as if it hurts and winces. “I’m tired,” he says, wiping at his mouth.
“No,” Donna says, and bends low to talk to him. “What was it? A purple flower, huge fucking teeth. Bit you. On your shoulder.” Her voice is low and shuddery.
“That’s a star flower,” the Doctor says immediately, even despite his stupor. “Found on the planet Meridion Four-Seven, a small life-supporting planet in the third quadrant of the Moon Fields of Poosh Minor.”
“You’re a bloody encyclopedia even with you’re dying,” Donna says, rushing back to the console. Her fingers fly, a hundred words a minute, across the keys, and the synthesizer built into the wall produces a cup which contains a clear liquid, along with a jar containing a thick pale-green substance like petroleum jelly. It’s clearly medicine, and Donna snatches them up and goes to the bed.
“Take this,” Donna says, helping him sit up and drink.
The labored breathing slows. The Doctor seems to relax a little, though his shoulder is still angry and raw. He opens his eyes fully and looks at her. “Thank you,” he says.
Donna shakes her head in dismissal of that and scoops the green ointment onto the jagged gashes in his shoulder. He tries to turn his head to see what she’s doing but can’t. “That feels better,” he says. “What is that?”
“I don’t know,” Donna says. “Computer gave it to me.” She doesn’t know how much to apply, so she smears as much as she can. She wipes her hands on the corner of the sheet on the bed and looks at his arms and legs for other injuries. “You took the antidote,” she says, inspecting his face. “What happens now?”
The strain on his face lessens a tiny bit. “Now we just wait,” the Doctor says grimly. “My system will deal with the poison and it’ll all be over.”
“What does that mean?” Donna asks.
“I don’t know,” the Doctor says. He looks tired. “Common symptoms are high fever, nausea, hallucinations, lethargy, and extended periods of sleep.”
Donna retrieves the bandages. “I need to patch you up,” she says. “Can you move?”
The Doctor nods but really he can’t move. Donna, though she is worried sick, grits her teeth and works as gently as she can. By the end he is bandaged as best as she can, and Donna’s hands are bloody and her eyes are teary. It clearly hurts him.
“Okay,” she says at last. “Now for the floor.”
Donna follows his instructions on how to direct the floor to clean and sanitize itself from the computer, and she uses the synthesizer to produce a huge comfy sofa next to the bed, with pillows and a blanket. “You’re gonna get bored,” the Doctor says tiredly. “I can sleep.” But he looks so pale and exhausted that Donna shakes her head. She can see a red flush creeping up his neck to his face. “I feel hot,” he says a moment later. His eyes are dropping shut for real now, into sleep.
Donna puts a hand to his forehead. He is hot, which is saying something for Time Lord physiology, with its lower internal body temperature to compensate for two working hearts. Speaking of which, she places her hands on his chest. Both hearts are beating rapidly. With a final once-over of his condition, reassured that he seems to be sleeping, Donna settles herself on the sofa. Sighing, she pulls out a book from the cushions of the sofa, the same book she’s been reading for a while now. The TARDIS is good with details like that.
Donna awakes to the sound of gasping. Her eyes open wide when she remembers and she sits up.
The Doctor is lying stiffly in the bed, seemingly paralyzed with fear. Donna gets up and puts her hand on his chest. The other hand touches his face. He is still very hot. “Doctor,” she says. He doesn’t wake but shifts in his bed. “Doctor,” she repeats, shaking him a little. She winces at the fresh blood that seeps from his shoulder when she does it. “Sorry, sorry,” she whispers. “Doctor, wake up.”
He groans and his eyes open. “My shoulder,” he moans. “Fuck.”
“Are you all right?” Donna asks. “You’re so overheated.”
The Doctor looks up at her. “Donna?”
“Yes,” she says. “I’m here.”
“Where did you go?” he asks. “I was just… I thought you just…” He trails off.
“No, I’m here,” she says again. “I’m here.”
“Don’t go, okay?” he says, and his eyes are wide and afraid.
“’Course not.” Donna gestures behind her. “I have my own place to sit right here.”
“Okay, just…” And he seems to fall asleep again. Donna watches him carefully.
Then: “Donna?” This time his eyes pop open. “Donna?”
“I’m still here,” Donna says. “I haven’t moved.”
His hand searches hers out and holds on tight. “I don’t feel well,” he says. “I feel horrible.”
“I know,” she says gently.
“What happened to me?” he asks her.
“You got bitten by a star flower,” Donna says.
“Malfloris stella,” The Doctor says. “If it had a Latin nomenclature, which is unlikely since it is not an Earth flower and no one speaks Latin even on Earth anymore, right?” He looks at her and his eyes are big with pain. “Miserable fucking plants.” Then his eyes slam shut again and Donna watches his face for signs of distress for a good long time before she relaxes enough to sit back down.
He dreams while he sleeps, what must be hard dreams, because his face twists in agony and his body shivers. His hands open and close against imaginary enemies. His breathing is short and painful. Finally, after what seems like resistance, he groans from deep in his core. Donna abandons her book and her sofa and climbs into the bed next to him. There’s room for her (dimensional flexibility still at work) and she gingerly slides in against him, crawling under the covers and putting her hand flat against his chest. His hearts are thrumming in concert, slowing from a rapid pace. Donna rests her cheek against his chest and feels him make a great sigh. After long moments his body seems to calm. She drapes an arm across him and settles against his uninjured shoulder. It’s a good spot.
She drifts off as the Doctor’s agitated sleep eases into something more healing.
Donna is woken by the Doctor moving next to her, and sits up as he leaps out of the bed. There is a bathroom off the med bay and she hears him retch and vomit again and again. Donna moves as fast as the Doctor had and gets down on the floor with him. She rubs his back and brings him water.
The Doctor, though he is pale, seems more steady and is looking at his redheaded companion with immense tenderness even through the pain. He shivers and heaves again, and the sound of it is so painful that Donna’s eyes sting into streaks of worried tears, that she’s managed to hold back so far. Surely he has nothing left in him to vomit any longer. “How much more of this?” she asks him, wiping her eyes with her palms. “I’m so afraid for you. Can’t I get you something to stop the vomiting?”
“I hope this is the last bit,” the Doctor says, truly exhausted. “My body’s purging the poison. Can’t stop it.”
It’s a long while before he can get up, and Donna steadies him at the sink where he rinses his mouth and spits, and opens the endless medicine cabinet to retrieve some alien potion or other to disinfect. Donna wipes his face with a clean cloth in cool water and he pushes his cheek against her gentle hand. He does this thing where he looks at her with his heart in his eyes and he’s doing it now. Donna sniffs and wipes her eyes with a tissue. “Come back to bed,” she says when she’s done, and holds his hand the whole way back. She helps him lie in a way that is comfortable and climbs in beside him. This time he wraps his good arm around her.
“Don’t go, okay?” he says to her.
“Never,” Donna answers, turning her head to rest her cheek back on his chest. The Doctor sleeps immediately and deeply.
The fever runs in cycles, leaving the Doctor sweaty and restless, but it stops spiking and eventually there is no more fever. Donna wakes and sleeps alongside him until she wakes up alone in the bed.
She sits up. “Doctor?” she asks, then calls, “Doctor!”
On receiving no answer she gets out of the bed and checks the bathroom, which is also empty. “Doctor?” She leaves the medbay and turns left to the console room, where the Doctor is standing at the main computer, dressed in his brown suit. He looks up from the screen at her.
“Hi,” he says.
“Hi,” Donna says back. “All right?”
“All right,” the Doctor says simply. Donna joins him at the console and he puts an arm around her.
“Your shoulder?” she asks.
“Put it through the healing beam,” the Doctor replies. “Once the poison was gone I could close it. Feels good as new.”
Donna sighs with relief, pressed side-by-side to the Doctor. “Saved my life again, Donna Noble,” the Doctor says, using her first and last name like he likes to do. His heart is back in his eyes and Donna can only smile, down and away.
“S’nothing,” she says.
“No, it’s everything,” the Doctor says, but he’s smiling too, and Donna pulls his hand up to press her lips against it. It’s brief and then she steps away to adjust the gyroscope, which is leaning slightly. The Doctor follows her and lifts her chin. “Thank you, Donna,” he says earnestly and lovingly.
“Of course,” Donna manages around a suddenly-tight throat. “Wasn’t going to lose you to a bloody flower.”
“Not this time,” the Doctor says, laughing, and gives her a firm, meaningful kiss, and because they are alone Donna responds. “Half of it was you next to me,” he adds. “Everything else was just nature.”
“I’m glad you’re okay,” she says, wrapped in his embrace.
“Me too,” he says. He lets her go and she circles around the console like she’s born to it, the most important safety system in his whole ship.