“For the love of Rassilon, how much longer?” the Doctor mutters to himself.
“Not too much longer,” Donna’s voice says cheerfully from the other side of the curtain as if in reply. “Only another two outfits. Well, three. No, okay, four. Oh, wait, no, I have to see if this goes with these. Say — um, six?”
The Doctor rolls his eyes and hunches his shoulders, trying to ignore the fact that he’s the only male in the shop.
“Ooh, I’d forgotten I’d grabbed this,” Donna remarks from the changing-room cubicle, delight in her tones. “Might be a bit longer actually.”
Groaning, the Doctor sinks further into the uncomfortable plastic moulded chair, his shoulders hunched up under his ears as he twirls an elastic band the chair’s previous occupant had left behind between his index fingers.
“You sure you don’t need any help?” he asks hopefully, not because he thinks she will, but because it might save him from going out of his mind.
“Oi!” Donna’s face appears in the gap between the curtains, glaring at him as she holds the flimsy material to cover the rest of herself. “Pervert!”
“What? No!” The Doctor chokes, sitting bolt upright in the chair. “I didn’t mean that at all! It’s just — I’m bored,” he adds, his voice perilously close to a whine.
“Oh, grow up,” she retorts. “It’s been two minutes!”
“Two minutes and eighteen seconds,” he corrects. “And you expect me to sit here for how much longer?”
“As long as it takes.” She rolls her eyes and disappears behind the curtain. “After all, I waited for you in that junk shop for ages!”
“That was — two minutes,” he says unconvincingly.
“Yeah, if so then your internal clock needs checking,” she tells him. “More like twenty. Probably closer to thirty actually.”
He twiddles his fingers for a few seconds. “Three minutes,” he reminds her as soon as the seconds tick over.
Her reply is muffled, presumably by the fact that she’s changing her top, but he thinks he heard her use those words when she accidentally slammed her thumb in the kitchen drawer. His apparent lack of concern on that occasion (in hindsight he probably shouldn’t have checked on the drawer first) meant that he’s not quite willing to ask her to repeat what she’d just said in case it was what she'd said to him then, too.
He shoves his hands deep in the pockets of his jacket, but can’t find anything, even in their depths, that could keep him busy for more than a few minutes or that wouldn’t leave something broken and them turned out of the shop in disgrace. He learned that lesson the hard way last time, when his yo-yo smashed through three mirrors in quick succession.
Staring at the ceiling, he’s disappointed that there are no cobwebs that he can try to interpret as some language from one of the lesser-known galaxies. In fact, he remembers that Donna was astonished by how clean this entire planet is.
“I mean, not a piece of rubbish anywhere,” she’d told him as they strolled down the main street. “No dirt. Not even bird-droppings!”
“Well, it’s a bit thing, this day,” he’d replied. “Only place in the whole Universe where this event happens, so they like to get ready. People come from all over the place to experience it.”
“And probably leave such a big mess behind that it takes until the same day next year to clean it all up again,” Donna suggests with a laugh.
“Well, pretty much,” he’d been forced to concede. “In fact, waste disposal is the largest industry here. After t-shirt making, of course.”
“But do they all have to be the same?” she’d objected. “The t-shirts, I mean. Always those same eight words. I mean, really, couldn’t they have been a bit more imaginative?”
The Doctor snaps out of his reverie at the sight of the curtains moving, but when they stay closed, he realises that Donna must have been changing out of her trousers and into one of the skirts he seems to recall her having taken off a rack nine and a half minutes ago.
“This is the longest day ever,” he complains.
“So you told me when we got here,” she retorts from the other side of the curtain. “Which makes it perfect for shopping — more actual hours in the day, although I’m still not sure how that works exactly.”
He’s opening his mouth to speak when she continues.
“And I don’t really want to hear the long, drawn-out and frankly boring conversation, of which I will only understand about one-third, so when you ask me at the end if I understood, I’ll either have to lie and say ‘yes’, or say ‘no’ and risk you repeating it.”
“Hah!” he snorts indignantly. “Not a single one of those tops you picked up from the racks in this shop will remind you that you got it here, unlike those t-shirts.”
“What, because they don’t have ‘Home of the Longest Day in the Universe’ written on them? Did it occur to you that I don’t want to walk around with a t-shirt that advertises where I’ve been on it? Have you not noticed that I never bought any of the tatty tourist stuff that you seem to love filling your pockets with?”
“Uh…” He falls silent because he’s actually never paid that much attention.
“You get all that rubbish,” she says triumphantly. “I get far more meaningful stuff. Here!” He catches her jacket as she tosses it over the curtain railing. “Take a look.”
“Hey!” He picks up the familiar jacket and glares at it before staring at the curtain. “Have you been poking around in my wardrobe?”
“Well, if you won’t take me shopping, how else am I meant to get other clothes?”
“Donna, need remind you — you brought your entire wardrobe onto the TARDIS with you!”
“It wasn’t my entire wardrobe,” she retorts quickly, poking her head out from between the curtains just so he can watch her rolling her eyes. “It lasted me through the first half-dozen planets we visited, but after that I needed a change. Oh, and I thought I should have decent-sized pockets after what happened at H.C. Clements.”
He rolls his own eyes as she disappears back into the cubicle. “So you nicked my coat.”
“Well, you weren’t using it!” Donna’s tone suggests that she’s rolling her eyes again. “It would never have gone with your suit — and you can’t wear a coat over that duster of yours. It’d look ridiculous!”
Holding up the coat, the Doctor shakes it gently, listening to the objects rattling around in the pocket, just as they do in his clothes. He’s amazed to realize that he’s never actually worn this item of clothing in any of his past incarnations, and Donna’s correct that it wouldn’t suit his current attire.
“Mementos in the right-hand pocket,” Donna’s voice tells him.
Spreading the brown leather over his lap, he tips the pocket upside down and lets the objects inside tumble out.
“A rock,” he says drily, holding up the first object and peering at it with only mild enthusiasm.
“Volcanic rock actually,” she replies quickly enough.
“Oh, from Pompeii!” He turns the stone over in his hand, feeling that it’s smooth and shiny to touch, evidence of the fact that it was collected so soon after the lava stopped flowing. “Nice, Donna!”
“Go on then,” she encourages him. “Keep looking. I’m not finished here.”
“Well, I don’t have to ask what this is,” he muses, turning over a defused ATMOS box, before cramming it back into the pocket with a slight shudder. “But,” as he picks up the other black object, “Donna, why do you have the Unicorn’s tool-kit?”
“Oh, I thought it might come in handy,” she tells him. “I took it before we went back into the sitting room to confront the murderer, and since the fake Robina Redmond never asked for it, I thought I might as well keep it.”
“And this,” he picks up a small red and white object, “Donna — an Adipose capsule? What possessed you to keep something that dangerous?”
“Well, it won’t do anything without Matron Cofelia instigating the parthenogenesis, will it?”
He frowns. “Do you know how much I hate it when you’re right?”
“I bet you do,” she giggles. “Keep going, Spaceman. I’ll be finished soon.”
The Doctor picks up a silver object and dangles it between his thumb and index finger. “Do I want to know why you’ve got a pair of handcuffs?”
“Those are really good handcuffs!” she assures him, and then he remembers.
“I don’t even want to know where — or when — you managed to get them,” he tells her.
“Hey, the Ood released you first,” she reminds him. “I just kept hold of them after I was freed and pocketed them. Easy!”
“And this twig?” he asks after he’s tucked the handcuffs away with the Adipose pill and the toolkit, twirling a small object with several green leaves between his fingers.
“From Messaline.” She sighs and he echoes the sound as memories resurface, prompted by that name.
He asks no more questions about that, only tucking that object away with a certain degree of reverence.
“Nothing from our first adventure together,” he says, having rummaged around in the pockets and failed to find anything.
“Well, I didn’t know I was collecting souvenirs then, did I?” she asks reasonably.
“True,” he admits, fishing around in his own jacket pocket.
Pulling out a gold-coloured object with red and blue lights, he only just manages to cram it into Donna’s coat pocket before the curtain swishes back and Donna emerges from the cubicle, a large pile of clothes draped over her arm.
“Ready to go?” she asks with a cheerful smile, as if he hasn’t been dying to get out of here ever since they walked in.
“More than ready!” he insists, about to lunge for the door when she stops him with a hand on his arm.
“Just a tick, mate. I’ve got to pay for all these first or we’ll both end up in jail for shoplifting.”
Rolling his eyes, the Doctor groans and leans against the doorway, watching as Donna approaches the counter, where one of the women takes her card for payment while the other begins folding the numerous pieces of clothing with practiced ease.
Averting his gaze before he says anything he might regret later, the Doctor begins a study of the four walls of the shop. It’s either that or have a look through the other pockets in Donna’s coat and he doesn’t want to do that without time to examine it all more closely, preferably with her there to tell him why she kept particular objects.
Finally, by the time the Doctor decides that the largest crack in the ceiling is in the exact shape of a breed of cat that is peculiar to the planet Rextanofolos-6, Donna turns from the cash register, her hands full of bags.
“All done,” she says cheerfully, sliding her hand into his as he takes half the bags.
“You’re done?” he asks, almost in disbelief. “Really?”
Donna squeezes his hand. “Really,” she says with a sympathetic smile. “Clothes all sorted.”
And for a microsecond, he believes her. Until she opens her mouth again.
“Just shoes and accessories now.”
And as he groans, she drags him into the next shop.
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