For someone who did as much touching as the Doctor, Donna reflected, he really did the strangest things when touched.
Oh, he was more than happy to snuggle up to her in bed, and he could brush against her while he rushed around the console. Hardly a day passed when he didn't hug her and proclaim her brilliance. But if she offered him her hand, or kissed his cheek, or even sat next to him on the bloody jumpseat, he got this look on his face like he'd been struck by lightning.
It was endearing, obviously. He looked like a puppy dog, with his eyes wide and his hair all sticky-upy, but she couldn't tell whether it was a good look or an I'm-trying-not-to-run-away-right-now sort of look. She knew from experience that, thanks to his habit of concealing any and all emotions that crossed his face, the two could sometimes be indistinguishable. He could probably go into shock right in front of her and she wouldn’t notice a thing.
And thus, she couldn't shake the feeling that maybe he didn't want her to touch him at all. When she thought back on it, as she’d been doing quite a bit lately, he really hadn't had the best history with other people putting their hands on him. Physical beatings did seem to follow him around. She’d lost track of the number of different nightmares he'd described to her in which he was being tortured. Hell, her own mother had slapped him once, and Donna got the feeling that hadn’t been his first altercation of that nature.
God, why couldn't he just talk about stuff?
She was next reminded of the issue when she went wandering in the TARDIS, late at night, and found the Doctor on a couch in the library. He was rereading one of the Harry Potter books, his lanky form draped over the armrest and his legs folded underneath him.
"Can't sleep?" he asked absently, without looking up.
"Not really." She skimmed a shelf on her way by and, finding nothing that caught her eye, plopped down next to him on the couch. She leaned against him so she could read along.
Then she felt his sharp inhale, and glanced up. He had his eyes trained on the page, barely acknowledging that she'd arrived, but he looked to be very nearly vibrating with energy. The spell was gone almost as soon as it came, and he wrapped an arm around her waist to pull her closer.
Donna disentangled herself and fixed him with a firm stare. "Alright," she demanded, "why do you do that?"
"Do what?" he asked confusedly.
"Go all–" she mimicked his stiff posture– "whenever I touch you."
The Doctor looked down at his lap. "I don't know," he mumbled, raising a hand to pull at his earlobe. "Never noticed."
"You know, you might be the worst liar I've ever met," she informed him.
To her surprise, she noticed a faint blush spreading across his cheeks. "I'm just not used to it, is all," he said quietly.
"What do you mean?" Donna asked. "Do you not like it? 'Cause I can stop, if you want, I don't–"
"No," he interrupted. "No, it's… good. Nice." He cleared his throat. "I like it."
She frowned. "Then why do you look like you're about to jump out of your skin whenever I grab your hand?"
The Doctor started chewing on his lip, and remained silent for several long seconds. "We didn't do that sort of thing," he admitted, the words coming out in a rush. "On Gallifrey, I mean. It's to be expected, really, in such a– a caste-focused society as ours, physical contact was… unofficially outlawed, just about. And I, well, I wasn't always popular back home. I just…" He sighed. "I find it hard to believe that you'd actually want to touch me. Not a lot of people do, unless they’re handcuffing me to something. Oh, Jack would find a joke in that,” he interrupted himself.
Returning to his point, he said, “I like it when you do, really, but it feels all… tingly. Like an electric shock. Or… something."
He glanced up at her briefly and returned his eyes to his book, looking like he was trying not to wince.
Donna felt a rush of relief, and had to resist the urge to laugh; he really was just being an emotionally repressed idiot.
"So you don't mind? Seriously?" she checked.
A hint of a smile pulled at one corner of his lips. "Course not. It's a good electric shock," he clarified. "I don't get those very often, you know, it's more… more the other kind. The actual shock kind."
She smiled. “You daft Martian,” she murmured, pulling him into a hug.
The Doctor set his book down on the side table and wrapped her up in his arms. He gave a soft sigh and turned his face into her hair, his breath tickling her skin.
“God, you really are touch-starved, aren’t you?” Donna said, trying not to laugh at the sensation.
He only hummed contentedly and nuzzled closer to press a kiss to the side of her neck. “You don’t seem to mind,” he pointed out.
“Nah.” Pulling back slightly, she returned the favour by kissing his forehead, then his cheek, and finally his lips, taking the opportunity to run her fingers through his wonderfully soft hair. “But I do mind that it’s nearly midnight, by my count, and I’m in a library. Thought I left that behind with high school.”
The Doctor grinned. “Always knew you were an academic at heart.”
“Watch it,” warned Donna. Her voice softened. “You want to go to bed?”
She held out her hand, and he took it after a split second’s hesitation. She couldn’t help but laugh at the look of shocked wonder on his face.
“What?” he asked, sounding slightly hurt.
“You’re cute,” she said.
His expression melted into a crooked smile.
“C’mon,” she mumbled, before he could start to tease her, and pulled him up from the couch.
The Doctor had to jog briefly to catch up as she led him out of the library. “I’m sorry I made you worry,” he said quietly.
Donna glanced up at him, saw he was being sincere, and gave a long-suffering sigh. “It’s not a big deal. Really.”
“Yeah?” he questioned, his tone turning playful. “‘Cause you seem pretty shaken up, calling me–”
“Never gonna happen, Donna N– unf! ”
She had rounded on him and pulled him down to her in a heated kiss, one hand moving to cup his cheek and the other tangling in his hair. She felt his hands fumble for a moment before coming to rest on her waist, and she leaned in, pressing the whole length of her body against his, as he finally came to his senses and began kissing her back.
When she pulled away, a good several seconds later, he looked well-snogged and thoroughly shut-up, his hair all awry and his cheeks more than a little pink. Feeling rather smug, she smirked at him, patted his cheek, and resumed her walk to the bedroom.
The Doctor came to his senses and hurried after. “Now that I could get used to,” he said coyly, and a bit breathlessly. Then he took her hand again, lacing their fingers together. “But I still think this is better,” he added, giving a gentle squeeze.
Donna couldn't help smiling at that. “Sap,” she teased.
“Maybe,” he agreed. “As long as it ends like this.”
“Oh, Spaceman, you know it will.”