The Doctor doesn’t know what makes him want to remember. It’s almost certainly got to do with the sudden and unexpected reappearance of that nickname that only Donna had ever used before Lady Christina de Souza unexpectedly said it.
But he’s really not good with memories.
Especially the sad ones.
Still, after getting the TARDIS off the back of the lorry and into the vortex, he heads down into the lower rooms and finds himself stopping in one that he hasn’t made much use of since leaving Donna behind.
Perhaps it was because she loved the library so much.
Or maybe it was because that was the room where they put up all the photos Donna had of them together — the ‘daft, touristy photos’, as she called them.
He sighs as he goes in, his eyes fixed on the carpet, but the first thing he sees when he lifts his gaze to the wall — is nothing.
The space is vacant.
The now-blank wall once held a selection of different frames in a variety of shapes and colours that set off the best in every photo.
He’d discovered that Donna had an unexpected talent for framing and hanging pictures.
But all of her hard work has completely vanished.
“All right,” he demands of the TARDIS, knowing this to be her handiwork, “where are they?”
A door leading off the room, which generally connects to the dining room, swings open with what the Doctor is certain is a mournful creak.
He catches his breath at the sight of Donna’s room through the opening in the wall.
He’s avoided that place ever since leaving Chiswick, even more consciously than he’s stayed away from the library.
But through the doorway he can catch glimpses of different shapes and colours on walls that were never so brightly decorated when Donna was a resident on board the semi-sentient ship. And as the Doctor moves over to stop on the threshold, he can see that the TARDIS has placed the photos exactly as he remembers them from their day of decorating the library.
He swallows an inconvenient lump in his throat and steps into the room.
Images of himself and Donna beam from every picture. For one long moment, he wishes that the moving photos in the Harry Potter books could be real, because although Donna’s smile is beautiful, the images don’t do justice to the light in her eyes or the glow of her hair. Still, as it’s all he’s got left, he can’t help being grateful to have even them.
But there’s one picture he wants more than any of the others.
He turns and stares at all the walls and the frames on shelves and dressers in vain.
He once more swallows the painful lump in his throat when, after a long search, he finally gives up looking for the only photo he ever took with Donna’s camera. Perhaps it was in the bags he gave to Wilf and now it’s gone forever. There’s a hollow ache in his chest at this realisation.
He leaves the room, closing the door behind him with a fond pat on the handle to acknowledge the TARDIS’ efforts.
The room leading off Donna’s now connects to his bedroom, but he doesn’t want to give in to his exhaustion and he ignores the turned-back covers.
What he can’t ignore is the flash of ginger that catches his eye, and he turns to stare at his bedside table.
There it is — the only picture of Donna alone. Not a ‘daft, touristy photo’, but a picture of her looking genuinely happy and comfortable, sitting on the jumpseat in the console room of the TARDIS, looking for all the world as if she belonged there.
Sinking onto the bed, he picks up the frame, unable to help replying to her contagious smile with a faint grin as his fingers stroke the image of her glorious hair. Placing the picture back onto the table, he stretches out on top of the covers, rolling onto his side so that he can still gaze at the image of her face.
And now, when he sleeps, he dreams about her…
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