Putting your foot in it. 983

Donna was constantly amazed at how big the ship was. In her walk this afternoon she'd discovered a garden, a conservatory, a swimming pool, a butterfly room and a room full of shoes.

She couldn't wait to show the Doctor the six inch heels in silver fur. If only he could be found.

She'd assumed that he was surgically grafted to the console room with only a minor leash allowing him access to the kitchen. But she'd checked both places and he was in neither.

After three hours of searching, she was regretting wearing the shoes and wished she had her trainers instead.

Circling around another corner she finally spotted him standing stock still in the middle of the hallway, his eyes closed and one hand pressed against the wall.

"Your ship," she said, "is bonkers!"

He started and yanked his hand away from the wall. "Donna!"

"Jacuzzi? Gym, library, although some of your books look a bit damp. It's amazing. I found a room full of shoes. Shoes!" She pointed at her feet.

He followed her gaze and visibly recoiled. "Fur?"

She gave him a look.

"Lovely, love the fur. Did you know that Cinderella's glass slippers were originally fur? The change to glass slippers was because of a mispronunciation of the french vaire for verre."

Donna tuned him out, her attention caught by the door he was standing in front of. "Another room? What's this one then? Ball room? Dining room?"

She reached for the handle.

"No, Donna!"

"Don't tell me. Mediation room, space room?" She pulled open the door and walked inside. "It's a bit pink isn't it? I know, spare room? Girls' room?" She froze. "Oh, god, this is Rose's room isn't it?"

The Doctor's jaw tightened as he ducked his head and thrust his hands into his pockets. "Yeah."

"I'm sorry," Donna stepped back. "I didn't know."

He said nothing, just stood in the doorway, desolation written all over his face and Donna, despite her curiosity over the girl who had stolen the Doctor's heart, stepped back over the threshold and waited.

The Doctor didn't move.

"Weren't you going in?"

"No."

She frowned. "Why not?"

"I can't."

Donna didn't understand. "Why? Is there like a force field keeping you out?"

The Doctor gave her a tiny smile. "No. I just can't go in there."

She understood.

"Oh. Gramps was like that when Nan died. Said the memories hurt too much. 's why he moved in with us, he couldn't even look at her stuff."

The Doctor nodded slightly and Donna patted his arm, reaching forward to close the door.

"It's more than that," he suddenly blurted and she stilled.

"What?"

He touched the wooden door and he stared hungrily into the room. "I want to go in. I want to sit on her bed and look through her photo's but if I do that... if I do that then..."

He trailed off but Donna knew, could see it on his face.

"Then she's really gone."

He swallowed hard. "With the door closed I can imagine that if I open it she'll be there, half asleep with her hair all over the place, waiting to throw something at me for waking her up. She was worse than you for sleeping in. You humans waste so much time just sleeping. Hours when we could've..."

Donna touched his arm. "I bet she dreamed about adventures with you."

A choked sound erupted from his throat but Donna pretended she hadn't heard it. She closed the door and they stood for a moment staring at the wood.

"Is that why you were standing here? You were imagining her inside?"

"Hoping. Silly really. A Time Lord hoping."

"But I rather like hope. Hope's a good emotion," Donna protested. "Keeps us all going. What's she doing?"

He stroked the door. "She's laying on her bed, reading a space trash magazine, listening to music from the Oller Colony singers of Aventrax. She's singing along and nodding her head. And when I open the door she'll look up with a smile. That smile. Oh, Donna, that smile."

His hand stilled.

"She'll see you and..." Donna prompted.

"She pats the bed and I sit by her, telling her that what she reads is rubbish. I offer to take her to wherever she's reading about to prove it and she'll grab my hand and..." He looked down at his empty hand.

"And?"

"And nothing," he stated flatly. "She's gone."

His walls were back up and the slight hint of vulnerability she'd been allowed to see vanished.

"Doctor?"

He flashed her a bright beaming, patently fake, grin. "So you found the shoe room? Have you seen the sock library or the-"

"Stop it." Donna ordered. "I'm not Martha or any of those kids who you can fool. You're hurting and that's understandable. It's okay to miss her and it's okay to hope that one day when you turn around she'll be there."

"It's a fantasy."

"Yeah well, you live in a space ship that's bigger on the inside. I'd say fantasy is just a way of life for you. And if there's one thing I do know, space man, it's that fantasy has a way of coming true around you. Keep hold of that hope."

He watched her carefully and a slow, genuine smile slid over his face. "Donna, you're brilliant."

She grinned. "I know, supertemp."

"That you are." He looked up and patted the door one last time. "Come on then, supertemp. I'll take you to meet the real Cinderella."

"All right," she paused, "but first... sock library? Bonkers!"