DISCLAIMER: No psychic papers were harmed in the making of this.
WORD COUNT: 1100 words.
RATING: PG/all ages
CHARACTERS/PAIRING: Doctor/Donna (-ish)
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A big thanks to shining_moment for britpicking and beta-reading. All mistakes are my own.
SUMMARY: Donna and the Doctor discover something... unpleasant about the psychic paper.
Also archived on Teaspoon and AO3.
Another planet, another adventure. One minute Donna is sipping drinks in the sunshine and the next, the Doctor is dragging her off to places with considerably less drinks and sunshine.
Like suspicious alien labs, for instance. It's not that Donna has anything on principle against investigating strange and possibly (make that probably) evil doings, it's just that it would be nice if once they could go somewhere where people could take care of their own problems, so she could stay in the sunshine, sip alien alcohol and relax. It's all making her a bit annoyed. The Doctor is flashing his psychic paper in front of a guard, talking very fast and putting on his most friendly smile, and Donna can just tell what the guard is going to say next.
"And before you say it," she chips in before the guard has a chance to. "No, we're not married, we're not a couple, we're not together or connected in any kind of romantic way."
The guard squints towards the Doctor's psychic paper and looks confused. "It says you're married right here."
"What?" the Doctor says and his eyebrows shoot up higher than Donna knew they could. "It does not!"
"It says we're married?!" Donna glares at the Doctor.
"'Doctor Noble and Mrs Noble'," the guard reads out loud.
"Oh. My. God," Donna says. "Your paper thinks we're married. Has it been doing that all this time? Is that why everyone and their flipping mother always assumes we're a couple?! Because you're running around with BROKEN PAPER!"
"It's not broken," the Doctor says defensively. "Don't be silly. Psychic paper can't break. Well, it can, if you shred it, or burn it, or expose it to delta wave radiation..." the Doctor trails off as he takes notice of Donna's less than happy glare. "But my point is," he says and pockets the paper, "it's not broken."
"So why then," Donna says and puts her hands on her hips, "is that thing under the impression that we're married?"
"What are you looking at me for?"
"It's your bloody paper!"
"Well," the Doctor says defiantly. "I don't know."
Donna eyes him suspiciously. "You don't know? That's a first, Mr 'Oooh, look at me, I've got a Time Lord brain and I'm not afraid to use it'."
"Well, I don't. Know, that is. I do have a Time Lord brain that I'm not afraid to use, but I don't... know."
"Yeah", the guard interrupts them. "I don't really care either way. But if you're not coming in, I'm closing the door now."
They do want to come in. And then explosions, nefarious plots and a lot of running happen, and there is no time to discuss the matter further. But later, in the TARDIS, Donna reaches for the Doctor's coat on the chair by the console, and pulls out the psychic paper.
"How does this thing work anyway?"
The Doctor is running around, pulling levers, kicking things and doing all those other weird things that flying the TARDIS seems to entail (really, Donna doesn't want to know). "It lets people see what you want them to see," he says and hits a control button with the mallet.
Donna rolls her eyes. "Yeah, I know that. But how does it do it?"
"Well. It interprets the projected psychic energy from the person holding it," he says and relaxes as the TARDIS engines wind down. "And translates this into an appropriate form for the person reading. Got to be careful though, if you don't concentrate properly it can pick up on stray thoughts or subconscious desires. Like right now, for instance," The Doctor leans in over her and eyes the paper, "it's saying 'God, is he ever going to shut'-- oi! You asked me!"
"Yeah," Donna sighs. "Note to self: never a good idea."
But the Doctor has already moved on, grinning to himself and leaning back against the console. "Did you know I once tried to use it on Shakespeare?"
"Really," Donna says with all the interest she can muster, which frankly isn't a lot. "Wait," she says then and frowns. "Hang on, did you say..."
"Didn't work at all - he's a genius, saw right through-- ow!" The Doctor rubs his arm. "What was that for?"
"Subconscious desires?!" Donna smacks his arm again for good measure. "You better not be going around having any 'stray thoughts' about being married to me!"
"Ow, Donna, I'm not!" He backs away and straightens his jacket. "Of course not. The paper could have picked that bit up from anyone close enough."
"What, are you accusing ME?" Donna says and waves the paper about threateningly.
"I'm not accusing anyone. I'm just saying. It wasn't me."
Donna's cheeks are feeling very warm with - rage, definitely rage. "You better not be. Even if I did - and I don't, I definitely DON'T - it's not possible. The psychic paper has never picked up any of my thoughts before, unless I've been holding it myself. If anyone has any hidden desires it's YOU."
"Me?!" the Doctor huffs. "I'm a Time Lord! We're always in full possession of our cognitive processes. Time Lords don't have stray thoughts!" He grabs a hold of the paper in Donna's hand. "Now give it back."
Donna pulls the paper to her, meaning to argue, but then her eyes, and the Doctor's too, fall on the paper they're both holding on to, which is now displaying in big, bold letters 'Doctor Noble and Mrs Noble'. Donna lets go of the paper at the same time the Doctor does and it drops to the floor, going blank on the way.
The Doctor's eyes have gone very wide and he's looking quite pasty, for some reason. "That wasn't me."
"Well, it certainly wasn't me!" Donna squawks.
"There's only one explanation," he says as he stares intently on her hairline. "Obviously, it's broken."
"I've been telling you!" Donna agrees, folding her arms before her chest.
"Let's burn it," the Doctor suggests.
Donna nods vigorously. "Let's tear it apart, and then burn it."
"Let's tear it apart, burn it, and bombard it with delta wave radiation."
"Let's tear it apart, burn it, bombard it with... whatever and throw out the ashes in space."
The next time they try to get in somewhere where they're not really allowed, in order to foil another evil plot for planetary domination, their lack of psychic paper lands them in a prison cell.
And people still assume they're married.