Preferred Title: Displacement
Genre/Fandom: SGA/DW crossover
Word count: ~23,800
Pairings: Rodney McKay/Donna Noble, plus canon pairs and suggestions
Rating: PG for language?
Warnings: Just some kissing and mild cursing, plus a breakup of a canon couple
Spoilers/Timeline: SGA: Starts somewhere after 5x16 "Brain Storm"; DW: Starts after 4x13 "Journey's End". May now or eventually conflict with SGA after "Vegas", SG-1 post-series (movies), DW after "Journey's End", Torchwood after S2, or Sarah Jane Adventures after S1 … but should be consistent with anything before those points, aside from some should-be-clear tweaking to enable crossover.
Disclaimers: Plot mine. Stargate and Doctor Who environments and characters not.
Notes: This is a My First Fic. Also, that title? Yeah, I know. (The "Preferred Title" was added 2/6/08, when I realized — far too late — the term I had been seeking.) Otherwise, if you don't know both the Stargate 'verse and the (new) Doctor Who 'verse pretty well, you will be sore confused. Concrit very welcome.
Inspired by a comment by xparrot at her journal; if I didn't quite capture it, maybe I'll at least inspire NYFfic. ("No, You Fool! That's not how it goes at all! It should go like this!")
Beta by (and my most profound thanks to) aurora_novarum, who kindly led me from the wilderness, bravely volunteered to review a first-fic, and then gently but thoroughly kicked my tail and forced me to bring my actual game. Any "Phase 10" cards left on the basketball court are solely my fault.
Archives: Single page at Dreamwidth; Single page at AO3
Summary: Another day, another "science conference" gone horribly wrong. For once, Dr. Rodney McKay gets help saving the world … but then Donna Noble remembers.
"That does it. I am never going to another science conference ever again. Ever."
Donna glanced over at the man standing next to her. The conference had started hours ago, leaving her bored at the registration desk, so she had slipped into the nearest lecture hall. She couldn't say why, exactly, any more than she could say why she had needed to sign up for this position in particular. All the words were a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and the pay for a three-day posting wasn't all that much.
But she couldn't seem to settle to anything. She was a temp, so a bit of moving-about came with the job, but she always used to try to find the most stable postings she could get. Now she couldn't seem to help taking short listings, or ones that had her driving halfway around the country, or ones to do with universities or high-level science conferences, and she really didn't know exactly why.
This conference had been a little more interesting than most of them were. Most of them, some boffin stood at the front and droned until everyone was asleep. This one, several boffins had stood at the front and excitedly promised a whole new world while the room around them was falling asleep, until a man suddenly stood and called them all insane.
He had called them a lot of other things, too, most of them quite insulting, and the room turned on him. He eventually kicked his way to the aisle and stormed to the back of the room to stand against the back wall, about a meter from where Donna was … well, lurking. Crossing his arms, he scowled at the room.
Now he was muttering irritably. In a mocking whine, he continued, "'Oh, just go, just sit in and listen, you can network with all your colleagues, you can make it into a little vacation,' as if these idiots could possibly be colleagues. They're like kindergarteners with guns. No, actually, they're not, because they'd probably have some idea what they're doing. This is a bunch of monkeys with nuclear weapons. Some 'vacation.' It's always 'ooh, let's siphon off all the excess heat from the entire world to another dimension and blow up the planet,' or 'let's show off our flaky new energy pulse weapon and blow up the planet,' or —" he gestured at the front of the room "— let's revolutionize domestic power production and, that's right, blow up the planet."
"What d'you mean, blow up the planet?" Donna asked, even though he was clearly a nutter.
He looked over at her as if he was surprised she had been listening, or possibly that she existed. But his brown hair was thinning, his eyes were a brilliant blue, and his accent was American. She felt strangely disoriented for a moment. "Well, okay, not the entire planet," he admitted. "And not right away. That secondary control panel will go first. Pretty soon now, actually … in three, two, one …."
His knowing smirk turned uncertain. "But they —"
That's when it blew up.
Donna ducked and covered her head the way they always said to on the telly in case of terrorist attack. The room erupted in screams, but the angry man had just shielded his eyes for a moment and now was glaring up at the stage again.
"You knew that was going to happen?" Donna fumed. "Why didn't you tell anyone?"
"Oh, yes, because I stand up in the middle of the world's — well, slightly above average minds and humiliate myself because it's fun. I tried. They wouldn't listen to me. No one ever does. They all think I'm some hyper-cautious shut-in crank. Because it's not like I've ever done this before or anything. No, Bill freaking Nye saved the world."
Everyone had been alarmed by the explosion, but one of the presenters was trying to calm them and most of the audience hadn't left. "And you said it's going to blow up again?" His expression — which was smug and annoyed but not scared, oddly — answered her first, so she didn't wait for him to speak. "Right." She climbed up on the nearest seat, one foot on the front of the seat and one on the arm for balance. "Oi!" she bellowed. "You lot! It blew up once, it'll probably blow up again, so get the hell out of here!" She pointed to the nearest door and, after a moment, people started moving out.
The man was watching her as she climbed back down. "Not bad," he said, looking slightly impressed. "Not that it'll do much good. Once it reaches critical and blows, this won't be a good hemisphere to be standing in."
"Hemisphere?!" Then she paused, despite the urgency. "D'you mean the Northern one or the east-west bit?"
The man rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine, it'll probably actually be only about a quarter of the planet, but once that happens the rest of the planet really isn't going to be a whole lot better. It's funny, I always figured I'd die from some stupid experiment, but I thought it would at least be thanks to my own staff. This is embarrassing."
"Well … but someone will come. They'll shut it down. The … I don't know, the fire department, or the army."
The man snorted. "If they even get here in time, they wouldn't know what to do. I know some people, but —" he waved his mobile "— your countrymen up there just shorted out the nearest several miles of the power grid, including the cell towers, which by the way can I just mention how stupid a design that is?" Donna checked her own mobile, but she didn't have a signal either. She hadn't even noticed that the lights had gone out, but the only light in the room now was from windows high up the walls. "And silly me, I neglected to buy a satellite phone, which, never again. If I'd realized what they were toying with sooner I could have gotten a call through, or tried anyway. It takes forever to convince them you're not making it all up in some moronic kind of joke because that's the sort of thing I like to do with secure numbers. That's not even counting the part where I would have had to spend forever trying to find anywhere that gets an actual signal even when there is power, and did I mention the whole stupid design thing?"
"Yeah, thanks. So what do we do?"
"Well, I was hoping the idiots would get scared and run away, but they stuck around, and they're not going to let me anywhere near their little project. So I need a way to get them out of the way. An explosion is the time-honored distraction, but, well —" He gestured up at the stage in disgust.
"Wait. Are you saying you can fix it?"
"Yes. Well, probably. Almost definitely."
"Right then." She grabbed his hand and hauled him all the way across the room to the stage, ignoring his attempts to pull free of her. Once they were up on the stage she let go as she demanded, "Which one of you bozos built this thing?"
The three men and one woman looked up from their quietly frantic fiddling with the machinery and shuffled a bit before one straightened and said, "It's primarily my design. We've got it under control, so if you'll please —"
"Yeah, no. Did you know it was going to blow up? No, you didn't. So get out of the way and let him fix it."
A second man sneered. "Him? He hasn't published in years."
He might have a sneer, but Donna knew that the one thing she really had — besides typing — was her attitude. "Oh, really? Let's see. Who was right about it blowing up? He was. Who was right about it still being out of control? He was." She let her voice get louder. "So far, he's been a hell of a lot more right than any of you, so let him at it!"
They got out of the way and the man gave her a look that was both surprised and pleased before diving at the machinery. He pulled a small torch from one of the pockets of his suit jacket and worked his way up under one of the consoles, and she shook off a wave of dizziness. "Can I help?"
"You know much about zero-point energy? Or … mutant bastardizations of zero-point energy … what the hell were you people doing in here? Honestly, even the Genii wouldn't try something this stupid …." He trailed off into muttering.
"No, but I can get you things if you need. I'm Donna, Donna Noble. Best temp in Chiswick, hundred words-per-minute."
"Well, unless you're a temp with a wrench tucked down your —" He cleared his throat suddenly. "Pocket. A wrench in your pocket. I mean —"
"Wrench, that's a sort of spanner, isn't it? You! Tools!" The woman pointed at a pile of boxes, so Donna went over, grabbed something that looked like a toolbox, and brought it back. "Okay, I've got tools here. What do you need?"
"A screwdriver and a … three-eighths wrench. No, the other kind of screwdriver … no, the other-other kind and smaller, yes, and bigger on this —" He kept handing out spanners back out and telling her larger or smaller until she gave him the right one. "Thanks. Zelenka, he's not stupid, he'd be handy right about now. And coffee, god, I'd kill for decent coffee …."
"I make fantastic coffee," Donna assured him. "Hang on, is there time, though?"
"Not really, no, not before either I fix this or we're all dead." He snorted again. "Just another day at the office."
He didn't say anything else except for muttering at the machinery, so after about a minute she prompted, "What's your name then?" Because if he didn't manage to fix it, she at least wanted to die knowing the name of the man who had tried.
"Oh. Right. McKay. Dr. Rodney McKay." Donna heard a snicker behind her, but when she glared in that direction, no one would meet her eye. "Astrophysicist, mechanical engineer, about ten other specialties that I can't discuss here. Normally, that would include zed-pee-em technology, no thanks to the Four Stooges over there." His hand emerged briefly to gesture at the group.
"Zed-pee-em? Oh, that zero-point thing you were talking about earlier? Hang on, I thought the Americans said zee, not zed."
A painful-sounding thump came from under the console. "What? I'm not American. I'm Canadian."
"Well, sorry, but it's not like there's a whole lot of difference in the accent."
"No, of course not," he said sarcastically. "Just like there's not a lot of difference between Cockney and, I don't know, Scottish." His voice sharpened. "Stand back!"
The console suddenly fountained sparks and Donna ducked behind her arm until they stopped.
"There, now I can actually do something," the man — McKay — said, wriggling out from under the console with a groan and standing. "Because I know a Scottish doctor and trust me, even I can tell you sound nothing like him." He started to type on a keyboard but quickly stopped, scowling. He snapped his fingers over at the huddled group. "You. Get me in."
The woman glared at him. "That's a secure and proprietary system —"
"How nice for you, I'm sure. I could crack it in two minutes but that's two minutes we don't have so get me in."
Donna smirked as the woman hurried over and typed in a few passwords. She could get to like this McKay fellow.
McKay soon shoved the woman out of the way and started typing madly. One of the men drifted over from the group to look over McKay's shoulder. Donna looked, too, but it all looked like gibberish —
except for just one second it didn't
— but then it did again. McKay seemed to understand it, though, and the other man, who was starting to frown. "But you're …. You don't have to …. We've got …." He fell silent and watched for about a minute. Then a look of horror crossed his face. "Oh my god. You're right, it's going to — oh, bloody hell." The curse was heartfelt and his voice shook. "We — we have to get out of here —" He backed away for about three steps and then turned and ran at top speed out of the room.
"What was his name?" McKay demanded, not turning or even slowing.
"Who, Hollander?" one of the other men asked.
"If that's who just left, then yes, Hollander. Remember his name, people, because he's the one who was smarter than all of you, because he just worked out the problem."
"But you already knew, right?" Donna said.
McKay smirked, his eyes never leaving the screen. "Yeah, but I had an unfair advantage. Smartest man on the planet here." The group scoffed, so they missed that he dropped his voice and added in a low mutter, "In two galaxies, actually."
And for just a moment Donna knew that was wrong. Of course it was wrong, it had to be wrong, because how would he know anything about other galaxies? But she wasn't sure that was what she had been thinking. She pressed at her temples until the sudden headache faded. "You can fix it, right?"
"It's practically impossible, so yes, I can, if I can just get this piece of crap to work with me in time."
"So what are you doing, then?" She wasn't sure why she asked. He was busy, and she wouldn't understand anyway.
But he answered without even pausing in his work. "I rerouted the feeds. It's destabilizing because they're trying to kick-start a reaction to get enough power to force a tap of zero-point energy, but the reaction's cascading because they didn't account for the particle creation, much less the interactions." He raised his voice for the benefit of the remaining presenters. "Which is why we do not toy with forces we don't understand!" He lowered his voice again to add, "If the reaction keeps going, they'll force enough of a breach that the whole thing will overload, but luckily, it's —" he raised his voice again "— small enough that we probably won't lose the entire solar system, but that's not going to be much comfort to anyone within about a planet of here!" He lowered his voice once again. "So far they've just managed to tap a trickle, and I can stop that from getting out of control if I can stop the reaction. Now that I've rerouted the feeds I can dump enough fuel into the system to swamp it out. Like flooding an engine, or smothering a fire with a blanket, as long as you do it before the fire gets big enough to just burn the blanket."
She didn't understand a lot of that, but she got his point, and she liked that he put it in a way that she could get even that much. "That actually sounds a bit clever." He paused to glance over at her with surprise, so after several seconds she asked, "What?"
"Oh. Nothing." He went back to typing. "Of course it's clever, I mean actually, no, it's not just clever, it's brilliant." Then, very quietly, he muttered, "Not that anyone ever actually notices."
Donna bet that was because he always beat them to saying it. She would have said so, except suddenly she understood.
She understood how you just had to go ahead and say it yourself, so you didn't have to notice just how long it took before someone else did … or that sometimes no one said it at all.
So instead she just said softly, "All right, then, it's brilliant."
His fingers hesitated for just a moment, and then he gave her a brief glance with an actual smile. "I'll get it. Don't worry, I actually do do this sort of thing all the time."
His eyes went back to the screen immediately, so he didn't see that she had to grab onto the nearest piece of machinery as her head spun and … and she —
"You said you type, right?" McKay demanded suddenly.
Donna shook her head desperately to clear it. "Yeah. Yeah, hundred words."
"To dictation? Even if it doesn't make sense?"
"Of course." She could type anything. She had typed requests-for-proposals and Christmas letters dictated by sotted old codgers and government requisition forms.
"Good, because I need another pair of hands, and I certainly don't trust any of those morons. Take that keyboard. You, get her in." The woman was looking daggers at McKay's back, but she quailed at Donna's glare and obeyed.
Barely slowing at his own typing, McKay started telling her what to type at the same time. She couldn't really go full speed because she had to keep reading things back, but then he sent one of the Stooges over to do the reading-back for her because she wasn't sure what half the things on the screen meant. Some of them weren't even proper letters.
His voice got urgent a couple of times, but whatever it was worked out and they kept going. Finally, after another couple of minutes, he had her wait and then press a button at his signal, while he did something at just the same time.
The machinery suddenly gave off a fierce hissing. Donna flinched and braced herself, but the hissing just continued for about a minute and then faded away.
They didn't seem to be blowing up.
She tried opening her eyes. McKay was looking upward warily but then let out a long-held breath. Meeting her eyes, he smirked. "See? Told you I'd get it."
"So … that's it, then? We're not going to blow up?"
"Not anymore." He glared over at the remaining Stooges. "If you even think of touching any of this you won't see daylight for ten years. One of your security services will be over soon to pick it up, as soon as I can get a call out. And as for — oof." He seemed to have a little trouble talking as Donna hugged him fiercely. "Oh, um, well, okay, hi, I guess. Um?"
Donna pulled back slightly. "You did it! You were brilliant!"
"I … well, yes, I …." He looked lost.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, doesn't anyone ever thank you?" By the sudden weary look in his eyes, she could just bet they didn't. "You just saved the world with a screwdriver and a spanner! I could —" Her head swam and she staggered.
A hand caught her arm, surprisingly strong. "Are you all right?" His voice was distant.
"You didn't have to reroute the feeds at all, you know," she told him thickly. "Oh, my head … you just needed to start a back-excitation of the tertiary particle generation so the subspace envelope would fold the radiation back into a stabilization matrix, except you'd need a proper screwdriver for that, and what you've got there's barely a screwdriver at all, is it even sonic?" She pressed both her hands to her head to try to keep it from bursting.
"Are you just making up sentences out of things I told you to type?" His voice was peevish now. He was trying to lead her somewhere. "Come on, sit down, you really don't look too good."
"My head is killing me," she told him. "Hurry, you have to shut it down before it … before it …."
But it was too late, and everything surged back up, and she remembered, and she gasped, "Doctor!"
And then she was gone.
Rodney paced frantically. Stupid country. Stupid, stupid country.
They converted college lecture halls into lethal reactor systems and acted like he was the loony one. Then out of all of them exactly one woman had been surprisingly useful, and nice to him, and then she started talking crazy and collapsed. He tried to explain that she needed to be taken to an ER, foolishly thinking one of the Stooges might help him get her to a car or something, but the Stooges were confused until they decided he meant A&E. They also thought he was overreacting, which just went to show they never learned. He spotted a landline phone off in the wings and realized that system might still have power, so he tried to call 911, but that didn't work, and one of the Stooges snottily informed him that he wanted 999. Then they wanted him to know her name on the phone, and he hadn't really caught it because he sucked at remembering names. Another of the idiots snidely volunteered the Donna part, but he had to check her pockets until he found some kind of ID that gave her full name.
He wanted a quick ride out of the power-down zone so he could use his own phone, because calls like the ones he needed to make took about ten times longer from unknown numbers, even without the whole international credit card nightmare. He also kind of wanted to know if she'd be okay — it might just be stress from being almost blown up, but still. So when the ambulance people showed up, he waited to be out of earshot of the Stooges and claimed to be her husband — so of course they'd take him along, right? He was prepared to go into a self-righteous rant about archaic assumptions about women taking their husband's name or patriarchal symbols of possession as dictated by the jewelry industry (and it was thanks to Jeannie that he knew exactly how to put all that), but they didn't really seem to care. They mostly wanted him to give them her medical history, which right there showed the problem with his brilliant plan. He just told them he'd never been any good at that stuff, she always kept track of all that, he didn't think she'd had any of those things, but he didn't remember for absolute sure so don't count on it.
She was burning up.
They let him follow her into the ER — A&E, whatever — and started giving her things to try to bring her temperature down. He had a brief moment of panic that they might try to change her into hospital-type garments, but they were in too much of a rush to even take off her shoes. He had been in the infirmary enough to know by their tones that they had no idea what was wrong with her and were alarmed. And again, stupid country, because with the Americans he could at least have started throwing money at them so that they would start trying various tests and treatments and specialists until they found something that worked. These people just shrugged when he tried to push and assured him they were doing what they could, even though they ended up just backing off and hardly doing anything.
She had believed in him, right away.
And he couldn't fix this or even pay for someone else to fix this, so what good was he now? And he had yet to find a single cup of drinkable coffee in the entire stupid, benighted, stupid country. So he paced, and he worried, and he waited for his phone to get a signal.
Luckily he had one within a few minutes of when the useless people left him alone with her, as they headed off to think or search the web for answers or have their tea. If getting a signal had taken much longer, he really would have had to go fight for access to a hospital landline, but he hadn't wanted to leave her alone. Someone somewhere had managed to boost a tower, though, so he started making calls. He had to report the Stooges first, because they were dangerous and if they tried to blow up the planet again he wouldn't be there to stop them. It wouldn't matter what happened to Donna, because they'd all be dust. The second he had someone on that, though, he called the SGC and tried to track down someone medical who knew Beckett or even Keller, because those were the only names he could drop that might get one of them to cooperate with him.
A few minutes into that fruitless quest a man suddenly swept into the little curtained-off corner. He looked like he had stepped out of a 1940s film, all dark-haired good looks and chiseled chin and charisma. Rodney hated him on sight.
The guy barely glanced at Rodney and then went over to Donna. He leaned in close. "Oh, Donna, I'm so sorry. Donna? Donna, come on, wake up a minute for me, okay?" American accent, too, or sort-of-American. Something about it was a little off.
She hadn't even twitched before, but of course she woke for Mr. Handsome. She blinked at him for a bit, looking confused, but then she reached up to grab at his coat. "Jack?"
"That's right." He smiled gently at her. "How are you doing?"
"Where's … where's the Doctor?" she asked faintly, closing her eyes with a pained whimper.
"I'll … go get somebody," Rodney muttered.
Mr. Handsome gave him a sharp look. "She doesn't mean them. Donna, he's not here. I'm sorry, this wasn't supposed to happen. You weren't supposed to remember."
"He … he sent me back, I didn't … it hurts …."
"I know, I know, shhh. I'm sorry, I didn't want to do this, but it buys us time. You're going to sleep now, Donna, okay? It's just until we can fix this." He stepped back, pulled a small egg-shaped device from a pocket of his coat, and held it over her torso. With a flash, a bubble formed around her.
The man then turned to Rodney. "Okay, now who the hell are you, because you certainly aren't her husband."
"No, I just … I was worried about her. What's wrong with her?"
Mr. Handsome's smile was flat. "Nothing you'd have the clearance to know about. You can leave now. We'll take care of her."
"Right, because that's not suspicious at all, you just suave-ing in here with no name and talking about clearance and 'taking care of' people and using stasis technology. Where did you even get a stasis field generator that small? Because seriously, it's bad enough you people are fiddling with zero-point energy, and there's only one of me to keep a lid on this stuff."
Mr. Handsome was looking at him very sharply now. "Name."
Rodney considered ignoring him again, but he did have just about any clearance the planet had to offer and they would kind of need his name to confirm that. So he folded his arms and drew himself to his full height — which was sadly still shorter than the other man — and lifted his chin. "Dr. Rodney McKay," he announced.
The man touched his earpiece. "Ianto. Tell me about a Dr. Rodney McKay. I'm thinking Canadian, knows stasis tech on sight. And knows zero-point energy." At least someone around here knew a Canadian accent. The man listened intently for a while, but suddenly he said, "Hang on a second, Ianto. McKay. You shut down the power generation demo over at Oxford?"
"Yes, I did, just in time, saving the planet, and you're welcome." He realized where they were and amended, "Well, we did," gesturing to include Donna, or at least the pod-thing encasing her.
"Saving the planet? Happens all the time. Wait, what was — Ianto, he says Donna was there. What was she doing there? Why is she even in Oxford? More to the point, why the hell didn't we know where she was?" He listened for a while longer and eventually said, "Okay, I'm going to drop out for a bit here. Thanks, Ianto."
He then pulled another gadget from his pocket and gave a twist to a part of it. It flashed and then pulsed gently as he set it on the bedside table. "What's that thing?" Rodney demanded.
"Blocks eavesdroppers." He smiled easily, and more than a little cheesily, his attitude now completely different than before his call. "Sorry for the delay, and nice work over at Oxford. Back at Adelaide, too, and … what was that other place? Kramer something … Innovations, that's right. Don't they have enough for you to do out in Pegasus?" He put his hand out. "I'm Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood."
Rodney didn't care for shaking hands, but he figured he should be polite to the person who had at least put Donna's distress on pause. Not to mention the way the guy could bring up that whole Kramer thing and somehow pass up the chance to even mention Nye or that weasel Tunney. At the last second, though, he recognized the name from the fog of the world's national and international agencies and snatched his hand back. "Torchwood — you work with the Trust."
Harkness raised an eyebrow. "Not anymore. That was the old organization. They were pretty much destroyed a few invasions back now. I'm rebuilding it. You can check with your IOA — we're much closer to your goals now."
Of course. Rodney couldn't possibly meet a beautiful, forceful, kind, beautiful, not-stupid, beautiful woman and have her not turn out to be a spy. A possibly Trust-sympathetic spy. "She works for you."
"Actually, she doesn't. And before today she wouldn't have recognized me. She's just a temp, but …." He sighed. "We have an … offworld ally called the Doctor. She traveled with him for a while, and she was amazing. But we were facing a massive threat, and they had to do this … sort of biological merger thing. It worked, but his biology — it's too complex for her. It was destroying her. He had to wipe her mind of everything and send her back here. If she ever remembers, it'll burn her up." He made a face. "I was supposed to keep an eye on her, keep her away from anything that might trigger any memories. But she's been slippery lately, taking on jobs in fields she shouldn't be interested in. I think the wipe was already failing. And whatever happened today — actually, what did happen today?"
Rodney hadn't actually heard of much linking Torchwood to the Trust recently, so maybe the guy could be trusted. Torchwood would have about the same general clearance level he did, too, so at least he wouldn't have to explain every little thing. "A bunch of idiots messed with zero point energy and nearly lost control of it. Probably would have taken out about a quarter of the planet if it really got going, but I shut it down. And she — Donna helped. I mean, she actually believed me, and she, you know … made them listen to me."
Harkness winced. "Yeah, Atlantis really wrecked your career, didn't it? Shame about that. But she believed you? Even though she doesn't know anything about your field?"
"Yeah, I mean, she noticed that I was right about more than the idiots were, so she shouted them down. She has quite a pair of lungs," he noted with a smile.
"Among other attributes," Harkness winked.
Rodney flushed, because yes, the woman had truly amazing breasts, but even he knew better than to refer to them while standing right next to her. He cleared his throat. "And she got the civilians to leave, but she stuck around and handed me tools while I rerouted the feeds, and then she helped me enter commands."
"I think I'm starting to see the problem," Harkness muttered. "Then what?"
"Well, um, then she hugged me, and then she started babbling and collapsed."
"Do you remember exactly what she said?"
He would probably remember a few things she had said until the day he died, but he wasn't about to repeat them. "Something about my saving the world with a screwdriver and a spanner, and then that I didn't have to reroute the feeds because I could have started a back-excitation —"
"No, I think the part about saving the world with a screwdriver would have done it. For a brainy guy who does the run-on talking thing and heads towards the thing that's going to blow up? Yeah, that probably would have been close enough to trigger her."
"So, wait, what, you're saying it's my fault?"
"No," Harkness sighed. "If you actually knew the Doctor, you'd take it for a compliment."
"Well, I don't, so — wait. Wait." He snapped his fingers absently as it all came together. "You said she was modified biologically. And that her body can't handle the changes — they're too advanced, they're overwhelming her, yes?" When Harkness nodded, he grinned. "I can fix this. I think. I think I can fix this, her, I just need to —" He pulled out his cell phone, but it just squealed into his ear, so he gestured irritably at the gadget. Harkness shut it off. As soon as his phone recovered, Rodney called the SGC and told them to patch him to the Daedalus for an emergency.
Harkness just glanced briefly upwards, raised an eyebrow at Rodney, and waited.
Once he was patched through, Rodney told Caldwell, "Locate me. There's an … energy field about one meter away from me. Make sure you get that and not an MRI or something, and … transfer that straight to the sick bay." Stupid curtain walls. "And tell them not to mess with it, don't even touch it. Don't pick me up yet, I have to get something else. Stay on the line." He looked up at Harkness. "I need her family. Probably not her actual husband — that'll work if we have to, or if we really have to maybe we can reconstruct it from a kid or something. But a parent would be best, probably, someone who would have things of hers from before whenever this happened to her. Not just personal stuff but scrapbooks, stuff like that. Is there anyone?"
"She lives with her mother and grandfather, down in London. But you'll have to take me with you. They'll never listen to you. I can explain it. And frankly, I'm not letting you just take Donna alone."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Fine, whatever. Caldwell — me and the one person next to me, send us straight to the closest secure point you can find to …." He looked at Harkness meaningfully, and the man finally gave the address.
The stasis pod glowed first, and then he and Harkness shifted, ending up in an alley.
"Asgard always did have smooth beaming tech," Harkness noted easily, unimpressed. Because clearly he beamed point-to-point on a regular basis. Harkness looked around, either missing or ignoring Rodney's disgusted look, and said, "This way."
He led them about a block to a row house. He knocked and when an older man came to the door he immediately said, "Captain Jack Harkness. I'm a friend of the Doctor. It's about Donna."
The man ushered them inside swiftly. "Yeah, yeah, I remember you from the computer. What about Donna? She shouldn't see you here — he said if she remembers —"
"I know. Wilf, I'm sorry, but she did remember." The old man put a hand to his mouth, devastated. Harkness hurried on, "She's okay for right now. I had something to keep her stable, but I don't know if we'll be able to fix this. But Dr. McKay here might have something."
"Oh. I, um, we — we have this machine that, well, repairs DNA, if it has a reference sample. So we'd need that, and I was thinking maybe you'd have something — not just a hairbrush or something because it has to be from before the changes started, that's very important, so I was thinking maybe one of those scrapbook kind of things people do for their kids. Like that card from the hospital with the drop of blood or the curl of hair from the first haircut or, you know, something."
The old man looked at him. "And you can fix my Donna with that?"
"I — I mean, I think so. We can try, anyway."
"And … will she remember? From before?"
"I honestly have no idea. I mean, I did, mostly, but I think it's probably different —"
"Wait a second," Harkness said. "You've been through this thing?"
"Well, yeah, it …." He glanced over at the old man but Harkness just nodded at him to continue, so he shrugged. "It's an Ascension machine, and I got caught up in it. Only without a reference, it just changes the body on a whole Ascend-or-die plan, and then at the last second I worked it out. They used an old blood sample as a reference and it, well, reset me I guess, and —" he waved "— here I am."
Harkness turned to the old man. "I think it's our best chance, Wilf. We need that sample."
Wilf nodded. "You take anything you need and you fix my Donna."
The old man had given them a couple of boxes of stuff, in the end, anything they could think of that might possibly work. Harkness said it was fine for them to beam straight out, even in front of the guy, so they gathered everything in the living room. The old guy and Harkness shared a salute, which, whatever, but Rodney had to look away from the intent way the old man was watching him as he and Harkness beamed with the boxes to the ship. You fix my Donna, he'd said, and he actually got that.
They dumped the boxes out on a table and one of the medical types poked around until she found something they could definitely use as a DNA source. She packed that away carefully, and Rodney made her take at least two other backup options just in case.
Harkness assured her that he and Rodney could pack the rest back up, which left the two of them alone. Rodney wasn't exactly interested in the chore, and he didn't want to poke around in her history like that, so he just shoveled things blindly into boxes to get it over with. Harkness tried to chat with him about the Ascension machine, but Rodney really didn't want to talk about it, so he just agreed that yes, it was in Atlantis, and no, there really wasn't a way to bring it to Earth.
When the boxes were closed Harkness looked over at him. "You head back tomorrow, right?"
Rodney nodded. Caldwell had stubbornly refused to leave any earlier than they were already scheduled. He just made smug comments to the effect that one extra day wouldn't make any difference to someone in stasis and suggested Rodney was the one being unreasonable.
"I'd go with you, but I can't be away that long. You're sure this will work?"
"Of course not. I told you that."
"Yeah, you did. I get it. If you think there's a good chance, do it, but if you're not sure, just wait. The stasis field will last for about a month, and I know you've got proper stasis chambers in Atlantis to hold her for a lot longer. She's too good to lose."
"Yeah, I get that," Rodney snapped.
"Yeah, I think you do," Harkness said, smiling at him. Rodney tried to figure out exactly when the guy got so close. He was really looking at Rodney now, very intently, and he kept moving in, and Rodney tried to back up but there was a wall in the way, and then Harkness was right on top of him, specifically with his mouth, which what the hell, and his fingers did not have permission to cup Rodney's face, and excuse me hello tongue! and what the hell?
Harkness drew back slightly just as Rodney worked out where his arms were and was trying to remember how to use them to shove. He patted Rodney's cheek, winked, and said, "Take care of our girl. But don't let her find out your net worth." Then he stepped back three paces, said something into his earpiece, and beamed away with the boxes, and when the hell had he arranged that? And also, what the hell?
One of the worst things about visiting Earth was how long it took to get back to Atlantis after.
Rodney always hated those weeks, stuck between, unable to do much of anything except try to find a corner to hide with a laptop, surrounded by people who really didn't like him too much. He wondered if it would have been easier to ride it out the way Donna was, just in suspension, blink out on one side and back in on the other. But at least he could work things out on his laptop, and he wouldn't have wanted to lose three weeks completely.
And he was never entirely convinced that being in stasis was completely blank the way everyone said it was. The Weir who had gone back in time had suggested she didn't know of anything outside the chamber when she was suspended, and the same for the new Beckett, and Sheppard from his time in the Far Future, but … still. That was just what they remembered, and how could they be absolutely completely sure?
So he spent part of this trip in the sick bay, talking to Donna. Just for little snatches of time, because it got to him after a while, the way she didn't respond at all, and he felt a little weird about looking at her like that. He could see into the field, mostly, enough to make her out. It felt wrong to just sit there looking at her for very long.
So he told her little things, random things, stuff he didn't really remember after, until he started to squirm, and then he went to eat something or to hole up in a corner somewhere to rip apart the work he'd brought to review.
Once they got close enough for communication with Atlantis, it was a little better, because he could arrange the repair of the Ascension machine. He had to yell at Zelenka, because he knew for a fact the man hadn't really chucked the crucial pieces into the sun the way Rodney had told him to, because they were all scientists and knew better than that, but Zelenka was very stubborn about maintaining the fiction for far longer than was really necessary. Then he rolled his eyes when Rodney told him to be careful around the thing and bring a Marine guard and a medical support team, just in case, because that thing was dangerous and he sure as hell didn't want to have to run the science division without Zelenka around to dump some of the paperwork on. But Zelenka — Mr. Bad News himself — thought he was being a mother hen for suggesting perfectly rational safeguards.
Zelenka thought his idea was possible. He agreed that the effects sounded similar enough that it probably wouldn't hurt to try. Rodney swallowed and told him to get started.
Over the last hour of the trip, Rodney was in steady contact with Zelenka, arranging the last details, checking the diagnostic files, and making sure a medical team was there for afterwards. Finally, there was nothing to do but wait, so he packed up and made sure the reference sample was in a handy pocket.
Novak beamed him straight to the device room, as requested, about an inch higher than the actual floor, leaving him a jarring drop. But right after that she placed the pod precisely on the platform between the beacons Zelenka had set up, not even a tiny bump, so he mostly forgave her.
Several people tried to talk to him, but he was busy, so he just waved them off irritably. He hadn't been on this side of it last time, so he had to give the sample over to Zelenka and ask what to do, which was galling, but he didn't want to waste time.
Finally it was ready. He leaned in, deactivated the field the way Harkness had shown him, backed way the hell across the room in case the device had a wide field or remembered him or anything like that as Donna gasped, and urged Zelenka to do it, now.
The green glow coiled down and swirled around Donna, but then it just sort of hovered around her, which he didn't remember happening before. Zelenka shook his head, frowning and working different parts of the console, and Rodney couldn't work out what he wanted to do most — run from the room, or shake Zelenka, or use Harkness's device to put the field back around Donna again even though they had no idea how it might interact.
But she was hurting. "Dammit —" he started, strangled.
Zelenka gave him an odd look, muttered something in Czech, and did something different with the console. The green coil suddenly spiraled around Donna and retreated. Zelenka kept working the console, and the machine spat out another coil.
Rodney realized, too late, that Zelenka was trying a full cycle — hit her with the ascension effect and then the reset. It might work, but it might not, and he hadn't meant to use the thing on her that way at all. His original plan had been risky enough, because they couldn't be certain whether the different effects would interact. He was about to get furious when a golden mist suddenly clouded around Donna.
The gold slowly dissipated, and the green glow traced an insolent final spiral around Donna before fading.
Zelenka raised his eyebrows. "It did not do that before," he noted with interest. Seeing Rodney's expression, he hastily added, "The readouts suggest that it has worked, as it did for you. If the machine is correct, she has not been harmed. And she seems well."
Rodney looked over to see Donna starting to sit up, looking around at the room in confusion. He hurried over to help her. "Donna? Did it — are you okay? I mean, how do you feel?"
"I'm fine," she said slowly, frowning, as if even that confused her. "But what is this place? It's a bit … dank, isn't it?"
He looked around, surprised. "Oh. I didn't really notice before, what with the whole not-dying thing, but it really kind of is, isn't it? Ucch. Sorry."
"I've been worse places," she assured him.
She moved to stand and then suddenly Sheppard was there, at her other side, also helping her. "Hi there," he said, smiling at her. "John Sheppard. And I hear you're Donna."
Oh, for heaven's sake. He really couldn't help himself, could he? It was supposed to be a game, Rodney knew that, but he really didn't need this right now.
What he really didn't need was the way Donna was looking at Sheppard. "Yeah, that's me, Donna Noble," she agreed distantly, staring at Sheppard.
Rodney just closed his eyes for a moment. Apparently he had let himself forget for a while just how very much his life sucked right now.
"Well, Donna, let's get you out of this room first, and then our doctor wants to take a quick look at you, okay?" Sheppard guided her away, shooting Rodney a look that started as a smirk but then shifted to something almost apologetic. Rodney stayed behind briefly, making sure that Zelenka was planning to take the machine back apart right away. Zelenka finished pulling the last of the data he wanted from the system and agreed, so Rodney headed out to the hall.
He was lucky — the medic was someone he didn't know very well. She was giving Donna a basic once-over. Donna cooperated, giving Rodney a quick questioning look at one point but not yet demanding an explanation.
The medic finally shrugged. "You seem fine, but I'm supposed to take you to the infirmary to be sure."
Right. Not lucky at all. Of course.
On to Part 2