The TARDIS door slammed shut and Donna turned a glare on the Doctor. “You lied to me.”
The Doctor didn’t answer. He began flipping switches on the console so he wouldn’t have to look at her.
“Twice!” The metal grating of the floor vibrated under his feet as she advanced toward him up the ramp. “You lied to me twice!”
He hit the dematerialization circuit and released the hand brake. “I was trying to keep you safe!”
“Oh, well you see how well that worked.” She planted her feet and put her hands on her hips, eyes flashing. “I ended up with my face on a statue!”
Indignant, he glared right back. “How was I supposed to know the teleport wouldn’t work?”
“You’re the clever one, you tell me!”
“The–what?” He frowned, suddenly puzzled. “What’s being clever got to do–ow!” Her slap cut him off. She stepped in close, almost nose to nose with him. He cupped his stinging cheek with his hand.
“You never think,” Donna said. “You just do. You didn’t even give me a choice!” She didn’t shout, but that almost made it worse; her voice had gone the sort of quiet that children dreaded from their parents, the kind of quiet that meant disappointment. Her eyes were bright, hurt.
He rubbed his cheek and opened his mouth to speak, not sure what he was going to say, but she held his gaze a moment longer and then spun, heading down the opposite ramp and deeper into the TARDIS.
“Donna!” He had known she would be upset with him for teleporting her out of the library, but he had hoped for a little leniency. He had saved her life, after all. Of course, it had been his trying to get her to safety that had endangered it in the first place, but–
He caught up to her outside her bedroom and almost plowed into her when she stopped abruptly and turned to face him again. She reached for the door handle. When he made a move to follow her, she lifted her other hand, stopping him in his tracks. “Don’t,” she said. The door slammed in his face.
Minutes ticked by while he stood in the hallway, still standing with his nose almost touching the dark wood of her bedroom door. Twice. Truthfully, he didn’t know why he hadn’t told her about the psychic paper. Habit, he supposed. It just hadn’t seemed necessary. He had done the same with Rose, back on New Earth. No reason, just–well. He was in charge. Rose had never questioned that, not really. She’d taken what he was willing to give and left it at that. And he’d told her bigger lies. There was the thing with the psychic paper, but that was a small thing. There was the Game Station. Jack. Canary Wharf.
Still. Donna wasn’t Rose, and she wasn’t Martha, either–and Rassilon knew he had lied to her, too, if only by omission; let her expect things from him he couldn’t give. It was going to take something different to put things right. He touched the door handle. The only question that remained was what that “something different” might be. He supposed talking might be a good start. He pushed the door open tentatively. “Donna?”
She stopped in the center of her room and turned to face him. She had a pile of shirts in her arms, still on their hangers. Her eyes were red from crying. A suitcase lay open on the bed, and the floor was strewn with clothes, hangers, shoes and hats. The ridiculous coat she had worn on the Ood Sphere lay flung over the top of the dressing table.
The Doctor took the scene in with dismay. “You’re leaving?”
She dropped the shirts onto the bed and started yanking them off the hangers and dropping them into the suitcase. “That depends on you,” she said.
He put his hands in his pockets and looked down at the floor. When he looked up again, she was watching him. No longer glaring, just–studying him. “I trusted you,” she said, her voice soft and level.
Trusted. Past tense. “You don’t now?” He understood she was angry–really, he did–but this seemed a little extreme.
She tossed the hanger she was holding onto the floor and picked up another one. “You lied to me. Twice.”
The Doctor spluttered a little. “Over psychic paper?” This was absurd. “You’re leaving because I didn’t tell you about the psychic paper?”
“That’s not the point!”
“Then what is?”
“You really don’t know?”
He really didn’t.
She dropped the last shirt into the suitcase and crossed the room. “You didn’t trust me,” she said, jabbing the hanger at his chest with each word. On the last, his hand came up and closed around it, holding it between his hearts. They looked at each other for a moment, the hanger held between them. Then Donna let go, turned away and began emptying one of her dresser drawers.
“Not going to deny it?” she asked after a moment.
The Doctor opened his mouth and shut it again without saying anything. He had asked her to trust him once, and she had, though she’d had no reason to. She was right. He hadn’t returned the favor. He turned the hanger over in his hands. “No.”
“Well.” He could hear her moving, drawers opening and closing, the whine of a zipper being shut. “Maybe it’s best that I go then.”
“No!” The Doctor looked up, panic overcoming him. “Please don’t. I--” He cut off. “Please don’t,” he repeated.
She raised her eyebrows. “‘Please don’t’ because of me, or ‘please don’t’ because you don’t want to be alone? Anyone will do, is that it?”
“No! Donna, no.” He felt suddenly tired. He crossed the room and sat down heavily on a corner of the bed, facing away from her. “You’re not just anyone.”
“I know that.” She crossed her arms. He could feel her eyes boring into him. “The question is, do you?”
“Of course I do! You’re–you’re my mate.” He looked up at her, finally. “I wouldn’t change that. Not for anything.”
She cleared a spot on the bed and sat down beside him. “The thing about mates,” she said after a moment, “is that they trust each other.”
He fidgeted with the hanger. “I tried to send Rose away once.” No idea why he was bringing that up–except maybe to say in his own, roundabout way that he should have learned his lesson the first time.
Donna made an amused sound. “Oh? How’d she take that?”
“She got her boyfriend to rip open the TARDIS, absorbed the Time Vortex, came back and saved my life. And then she almost died.” He glanced at her. “Though if I hadn’t...neither of us would be sitting here right now.”
Donna chuckled. “Funny old life, in the TARDIS, isn’t it?” she asked.
He frowned. He didn’t see what was so funny. “I do, you know,” he said after a moment. “Trust you. I just–“
“Thing is,” Donna interrupted. “I made a choice to come with you knowing full well what I was getting myself into. You walk into danger every time you step outside those doors, and that means so do I. But I expect to do it with both eyes open. Every time. You trust me enough to take me with you, then you trust me enough not to keep me in the dark. Got it?”
He picked his head up and looked at her, hope stabbing into him. “So you’ll stay?”
She raised her eyebrows. “That depends on you.”
He licked his lips. She wasn’t making this easy. But he had asked her to trust him once, and she had. Time he did the same. “Both eyes open,” he agreed. “Got it.”
They sat in silence for a moment, looking around at the mess.
“You’re really staying?” the Doctor asked again.
“It’ll take more than a fib about a message to get rid of me, Space Man.”
Hearing her call him that made the last of the tension release inside him. He smiled. “Thank you,” he said, meaning it.
Donna smiled back. “That’s the other thing about mates,” she said, bumping her shoulder against his. “They forgive each other.”