ellerkay: (Writing)
[personal profile] ellerkay
Title: Temp
Fandoms: Doctor Who & BBC’s Sherlock
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 2600
Disclaimer: All for fun, none for profit.
Summary: [livejournal.com profile] nevacaruso requested Mycroft Holmes and Donna Noble: "Who died and made you Grand High Minister of the Universe?"
A/N: Set after Reichenbach for Mycroft; Donna is after "Runaway Bride" but before DW S3. (Which probably doesn't make sense, but hey, poetic license.)
CONTAINS SPOILERS for Series 2 of Sherlock.


***

Generally speaking, Mycroft Holmes preferred to interview potential underlings himself. Generally speaking, he insisted upon it. Temporary or not, he needed someone with half a brain whom he could be reasonably certain was sufficiently trustworthy.

But when his assistant had to take a two-week leave of absence due to a family emergency, Mycroft simply could not find the time. The election was fast approaching, and it was proving to be an annoying one. So, he let the agency send someone to him, sight unseen.

That was his first mistake.

His second occurred when she arrived. A redheaded, buxom woman who rapped on his open office door. Mycroft barely glanced up from his computer, and he took her for a tourist.

“Did you get separated from your group, madam?” he asked absently, reaching for the phone to call someone to collect her.

“No, and who are you calling ‘madam’?” she replied sharply. “I’m younger than you, I can tell you that much!”

Mycroft looked all the way up then, took in her clothes, bag, hair, and realized his error. (She was also no more than two years his junior, if that, but he deemed it prudent not the mention that fact.) He rose from his desk.

“Ah, you must be Ms. Noble,” he said smoothly. “My apologies.”

“Why d’you say ‘Ms.’?” she replied, suspiciously. “I could be married.”

“You’re not wearing a wedding ring,” Mycroft pointed out. Donna glanced down at her left hand, which had a big, sparkly plastic ring on its middle finger, but nothing else.

“Oh, right,” she said. “Sorry. I’m a bit on edge. Thought I was going to be late. Took me ages to find your office – this place is like a maze.”

“It can be confusing, when you first arrive, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it in no time,” Mycroft replied, deciding not to point out that she was late.

“I could be married, though.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I could be married. If I wanted to be. I mean, it’s a matter of finding the right person, isn’t it? I’m not going to settle for any old slob off the street, am I?”

Mycroft allowed a slight pause before replying, hoping that this would indicate to his interim assistant that he really wasn’t interested in personal conversations. “Of course not,” he said finally. “Now, your desk is right outside. Please feel free to take a few minutes to get settled, and when you’re ready, come back in here and we’ll discuss your duties.”

“Right,” Donna said cheerfully. “I’ll be back in two shakes.” She turned to go.

“Oh, and Ms. Noble?” She turned back. “If you could bring a cup of earl grey tea with you when you return.”

She frowned for just a second, and Mycroft wondered if she was going to protest, but the expression was gone as soon as it came, and she nodded and left the room.

Mycroft returned to his desk and sat down, rubbing his temples. Perhaps he should call the agency and ask them to send a different person. He was not particularly convinced he and Donna Noble would be a good match.

But just then, his phone rang, and he was distracted by a conversation with one of the candidate’s people. And the tea Donna brought him was hot and strong, and Mycroft decided that he could always fire her in a couple of days, if necessary.

***

Mycroft’s third mistake came when he asked Donna to bring him his dry cleaning at the Diogenes Club. He was giving a speech at their annual member’s dinner that evening, and he wanted to practice it and get her notes on it. He’d already found that she could bring a refreshing perspective; she wasn’t stupid (though oddly, she sometimes acted like she thought she was), but she was somewhat more…everyday than Mycroft. And she was, apparently, funny. The jokes she’d vehemently insisted he try out (“Do you want your audience to fall asleep? Because if you do, that was brilliant.”) in a speech he’d made a few days ago had gone over well, and Mycroft was hoping for more help in that vein. Levity was not his strong suit.

Donna got out of the taxi (nothing like transportation on the government’s dime!, she thought) and entered the Diogenes Club. The first room she came to was filled with old men – typical – sitting in armchairs, reading books or newspapers. Donna stood in the doorway.

“Excuse me,” she said, trying to keep her voice soft since it seemed like maybe she’d stumbled into the library. No one answered her, so she tried a bit louder. “Excuse me!”

A few of them looked up, but didn’t otherwise acknowledge her. Some of the men still reading were shaking their heads.

“Excuse me, can one of you tell me where I can find Mycroft Holmes?” Donna asked. The ones looking at her wore horrified expressions. Others were reaching towards buttons situated every few feet along the wall.

Donna gave up on politeness as a lost cause. “EXCUSE ME, but are you all mutes?” she demanded. “And if you are, shouldn’t you have little signs that say, ‘Sorry, I’m a mute’ that you can hold up when someone tries to ask you a question? Or a little placard on the door that says ‘Mute room, don’t expect a bloody answer’?”

Everyone in arm’s reach of one was pushing the buttons frantically.

“Have I gone completely starkers?” Donna was railing, just as two men with their feet in tissue boxes came up behind her and grabbed her arms.

“OI! GET YOUR BLOODY HANDS OFF ME!” Donna shouted, but one of them clapped a hand over her mouth and they hurried her out of the room and down the hall.

***

“You couldn’t have told me about the mute room before I got here?” Donna snapped. Mycroft handed her a cup of tea and sighed.

“I would have, had I not assumed that you would find your way to the front desk, instead of barging into the first room you came to.”

“This is bloody mad,” she muttered, blowing on her tea. Mycroft looked pained.

“Language, please, Ms. Noble,” he said.

“I’ll say anything I want to after that!” Donna said. “I was assaulted. I could sue!”

“Do let’s try to be civilized,” Mycroft said, rubbing his temples. “I apologize for failing to warn you about the front room. There, does that make you feel better?”

Donna set down her teacup in the saucer hard enough that it rattled. “It might if you didn’t sound so bloody resentful about it!”

Mycroft looked at her, lips pursed, and took a long breath. “I’m sorry,” he said, trying to be less perfunctory. “I didn’t mean to cause you any embarrassment.”

“They’re the ones who should be embarrassed,” Donna replied, but she sounded mollified. “All right, then. Let’s hear this speech, and I’ll tell you when I start feeling drowsy.”

***

Donna arrived back from lunch and sat down at her desk again, just in time to see a man in a suit with short blonde hair leave Mycroft’s office. He looked familiar, and Donna squinted at him, trying to remember where she’d seen him. When he caught her staring, he gave her a grin and a wink. Donna found herself starting to smile back, even though he was a scrawny thing, not her type at all.

She sat for a moment, trying to work out who he was. When it finally came to her she jumped up with a gasp and ran to poke her head cautiously into Mycroft’s office. He wasn’t on the phone, so she blurted out,

“That man who was just in here. That wasn’t – ”

“Harold Saxon, yes,” Mycroft confirmed. “All signs point to him being elected shortly as our next Prime Minister.” He sighed and rested his elbows on his desk, steepling his fingers in front of his face. “And there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.”

He hadn’t meant to say the last sentence out loud, but he had, and Donna scoffed.

Do about it? I’m sorry, but who died and make you Grand High Minister of the Universe?”

Mycroft shifted his gaze to her and allowed the hint of a smile to appear at the corners of his lips.

“I assure you, Ms. Noble,” he said, “No one had to die.”

“Well, I like him,” Donna said. Mycroft noticed that she was tapping her fingernail in beats of four against the doorframe.

“So do I,” he agreed.

“Not so bad, then, if he does end up PM,” Donna said cheerfully, and, turning, disappeared from Mycroft’s view.

But it was bad, Mycroft knew, although he couldn’t figure out why. Perhaps it was the very fact that he did like Saxon. Mycroft did not, in general, like people. Some he loathed, many he tolerated, a few he cared for, but there were even fewer that he truly liked. Saxon got on his nerves every time they met, and yet somehow, at the end of each encounter, Mycroft walked away thinking about how much he had enjoyed it. There was something very wrong with that.

He realized suddenly that he was tapping his middle finger on his desk, in beats of four. Mycroft stopped, mentally shaking himself. It wouldn’t do to pick up his assistant’s bad habits. The previous day, she’d almost convinced him to eat a slice of the cake she’d bought for someone’s birthday. (A week on the job, and she was already organizing birthday parties. Donna Noble had interesting potential, he had to admit. But it was difficult to say whether she’d ever do anything with it, or – if she did – what it would be.)

***

This wasn’t really the sort of thing that would have been on his list of guesses.

Donna sat in a chair in Mycroft’s office, wiggling her foot impatiently as he paced slowly behind her.

“What were you thinking?” he asked finally.

“Are you going to arrest me, or what?” she shot back.

“Did it not occur to you that we have security cameras? And ways of tracking what happens on our computers?”

“Tomorrow’s my last day. I was on a deadline.”

Mycroft sighed and sat behind his desk so he could look at her. She looked away, still with an expression of stubborn defiance on her face.

He had been relaxing at the club when he’d received the call that someone was trying to access his U.N.I.T. files – without success, but they were trying. There weren’t any cameras in his office, of course, but they had seen her going in. Mycroft gave the order to keep her in the room and wait for him. For the moment, he was more curious than anything.

“Were you one of his companions?” Mycroft asked finally. Her eyes widened.

I beg your pardon?” she breathed.

“The Doctor. That’s what you were looking for, they told me. Information on the Doctor. Were you one of his companions?”

Donna stood up. “Just what are you implying?” she demanded. “I would never! Especially not with him, I mean, all right – he’s not ugly. But he is built like a matchstick. I could break him in half hugging too hard. And that hair! It goes STRAIGHT UP!” She gesticulated wildly near her head.

“Please, sit down, Ms. Noble,” Mycroft said wearily. “I only wanted to know if you’d ever travelled with him. We know he takes companions sometimes, but we can’t ever seem to find any information on them. And on the rare occasions we do, it gets corrupted immediately by something called the Bad Wolf virus.”

“Call Jim in I.T.,” Donna suggested as she sat, calmer now. “He got things sorted in a second when I forgot my password and locked myself out of my computer.”

Mycroft grimaced.

“We have called in top computer experts from all around the world,” he said. “None of them have ever been able to do a thing about it.

Donna was staring off into space, apparently no longer listening. Her face was uncharacteristically serious. Mycroft cleared his throat.

“Well, have you?” he asked.

“Have I what?” she asked distantly, voice lacking the attitude it usually held no matter what she was saying.

“Travelled with him.”

“Oh.” She looked sad, now. “No. I haven’t. And here’s the thing – I could have. He asked me. But I said no.” She gave a little laugh. “How stupid is that? Dumb Donna, that’s me for you.”

Mycroft studied her briefly, then tapped a few keys and motioned her to come around to his side of the desk.

“Is this him?”

Donna leaned over his shoulder to look, then nodded. “That’s him.”

Ah. That one. He’d been around for the Torchwood disaster, of course. “And you’re trying to find him again, is that it? Take back your refusal? That’s why you tried to break into the records.”

“Yeah.” Donna looked at him hopefully. “Do you know? When he might turn up again?”

Mycroft shook his head. “We never do. Though I will say that, excepting a fifteen-year gap, he’s visited fairly often since the 1960s. Much more frequently than any other period in our recorded history. But only, it seems, when there is some imminent danger to the Earth.”

“So, it could happen,” Donna said. “The way things’ve been going the past few years.” Mycroft stared at the computer screen in a reverie until Donna startled him by reaching across his face to the single picture he kept on his desk.

“Who’s this you’re with?” she asked. “He looks like an alien. Even more than him.” She tapped the computer screen where the Doctor’s picture was displayed.

“My brother,” Mycroft said tersely. “He’s dead.”

“Oh,” Donna said, in that same hushed tone everyone always used. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t you read the papers? It was quite the sensation. The suicide of the famous Sherlock Holmes.”

“Holmes – you’re that Holmes? You’re his brother? God. I knew he looked familiar, I just didn’t think – ”

“No one ever does.” Mycroft took the picture from her hands, firmly, but without actually grabbing it away. He shut it in a drawer. Donna slunk to the other side of the desk again and sat down.

“I am sorry, though,” she said. “I mean, I can’t imagine. Your brother dies, and then there are all these stupid people saying all these stupid things, and it doesn’t matter if they’re right or not, does it? Because he’s dead either way.”

Her tone was surprisingly sympathetic, and Mycroft couldn’t think of a way to answer her. After a moment’s silence, Donna looked up again.

“Are you going to arrest me?”

“No.”

“Are you going to sack me?”

“Yes.”

They were both smiling, just a little, as Donna rose again.

“I’ll get my things, then,” she said. “Well – not such a bad assistant, was I?”

“You mean, besides embarrassing me at my club, trying to get me to cheat on my diet, and breaking into my office in an attempt to gain access to classified government files?”

“Yeah.” She was smiling for real now. “Besides all that.”

“No. You weren’t such a bad assistant.”

“Can I get a reference, then?”

“Don’t push your luck, Ms. Noble.” He sat back in his chair and looked at her. “Besides, I expect you’ll do fine without my help. You could do quite a lot, I think, though for the life of me, I can’t imagine in what context.”

“Who, me?” Donna laughed. “Not a chance. I’m no one. I’m just a temp.”

And she was gone. Mycroft sighed, rubbed his temples, and turned back to his computer to check his email. He might as well get some work done, if he was here anyway.

***

A/N: If Harold Saxon runs into Jim from I.T. on the way out, I suspect someone will end up with a new campaign manager!
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