“Enjoying the view?”
Jamie’d been wandering back and forth before the window of their little compartment for so long the Doctor had been starting to worry he might make a groove in the floor — but now, abruptly, he stopped. “Eh?”
The Doctor cleared his throat. “You know, I think there’s a proper star-gazing platform on one of the upper levels — shall we go and find it?”
“No, that’s alright,” said Jamie. He turned back to the window, pressing shoulder to the glass.
“It’s just — surely that’s getting tiresome?” The Doctor nodded at the window, with its unchanging field of stars.
Jamie shrugged. “I’m thinking.”
“Really? About what?”
Jamie shrugged yet again.
The Doctor rubbed his hands together, looking around the room, casting about for something else to say. “Shall we go for tea, then? Maybe —”
“I’m no’ hungry.”
“You go if you want,” said Jamie, gazing out the window. “I’m no’ stopping you.”
“I did think we might do something together,” said the Doctor. “I’m, I’m pleasant enough company, aren’t I?”
Over his shoulder, Jamie shot him a somewhat disdainful look.
“Really, Jamie — this is the nicest place we’ve been for, oh, I don’t know how long, you could at least try to appreciate it —”
“Why are you being like this?”
The Doctor blinked. “Why am I being like —”
“Why’re you acting like everything’s normal?”
The Doctor said, “ah.”
“Everything’s not normal!” Jamie snapped.
“Perhaps,” the Doctor hedged, “perhaps we ought to talk about this.” There was nothing he wanted less — but he could try to — well, he could try, for Jamie.
“Oh, now you want to talk!”
“I — I thought you’d rather not talk about —”
“Of course I want to talk!” Jamie’s expression softened and for a moment the Doctor thought things were lightening up, but then he said, “you — you just left her behind.”
“Now, that’s hardly fair,” said the Doctor. “Victoria made her choice.” Jamie scoffed. “It was her decision!”
“Only after you put the idea in her head!”
“That’s not what happened,” said the Doctor.
“That’s what it looked like to me.” Jamie folded his arms.
“Now, now is it possible your, ah, feelings on the matter might be clouding your judgement?” said the Doctor. Jamie glowered. “Really, Jamie, Victoria wanted to settle down — it was entirely her own decision. Now, are you sure you won’t come to tea?”
“D’you even care?” said Jamie.
“What?” said the Doctor. “I, I — of course I care!”
“Really?” said Jamie. “Cause I don’t think you care a bit.”
“That — that really isn’t true,” said the Doctor, reeling from the accusation. It stung. Coming from Jamie, it really did sting.
“Then why’re you being like this?”
“I only thought we could both — well, we could both use some time to, to — to take our mind off things.”
“With tea parties?”
The Doctor spread his hands. “I thought it might cheer you up.”
Jamie scoffed. “You know, sometimes I think you just don’t have feelings like a normal person.”
“I’m not a normal person,” said the Doctor shortly. This was getting tiresome. He was only trying to be nice. He was only trying to make Jamie happy. That was all he wanted. Jamie, safe and happy.
To his surprise, Jamie actually laughed. “Aye, I forgot,” he said. “Because you’re so much cleverer and better than the rest of us.”
“That isn’t what I meant,” said the Doctor.
“Aye, of course it isn’t,” said Jamie, shaking his head in mock seriousness.
“It’s only that — well, well we have to keep moving forward. That’s what life’s all about.”
“I don’t want to move forward,” said Jamie. “I want Victoria back.”
“Well, she isn’t coming back,” the Doctor snapped.
“Aye, you saw to that.”
“Now, now Jamie — that, that isn’t fair —”
“I’ve had it up to here with this,” said Jamie, throwing up his hands. “I’m off. I need — ach, I don’t know.” He stomped towards the door.
“Where are you going?” said the Doctor, wringing his hands like an anxious parent.
“How should I know?” Jamie paused in the doorway, staring the Doctor down.
“Well, well when are you coming back?” Are you coming back, that was what he really wanted to ask.
“Later,” said Jamie. “Maybe.”
He turned the corner and was gone, leaving the Doctor alone beside the window, alone beside the vastness of space.
The Doctor passed the evening sitting upon one of the suite’s chairs, gazing out at the stars, so lost in his own thoughts that he almost didn’t hear the soft knock upon the door, when it came. He started, twisting in his seat, momentarily wondering who it was before, somehow, he just knew. Relief flooded him like a cool breeze.
Outside, the corridor was dark, well into the station’s night-cycle. Jamie was slumped in the doorway. At the sight of the Doctor, he breathed deeply, and spoke. “I came back.
“Jamie,” breathed the Doctor, releasing the door handle to reach for him.
“I wasnae going tae,” said Jamie as the Doctor drew him into their room. “I was — I dinnae ken what I was going tae do.” He sucked in a breath, gripping the Doctor’s arm, his head bowed. “M’drunk.”
“Oh, dear,” said the Doctor.
“I found th’bar, and I wasnae going tae — but then I — I’m sorry. I’m sorry for, for what I said, about you not having feelings, I didnae mean it — and I’m sorry for walking away and I’m sorry for being drunk, and I’m sorry,” he slurred, leaning into the Doctor. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“Hush, now.” The Doctor rested a soothing hand on Jamie’s back. “It’s alright. I’m sorry, too.” There was more he wanted to say. He’d been thinking of what he’d say when Jamie came back all afternoon and all evening, but he hadn’t expected this.
Jamie slumped still further forward, all but pressing his face into the Doctor’s neck, and the Doctor clutched at him, holding him upright. “I miss Victoria.”
“Oh, Jamie.” Semi-consciously, the Doctor held him tighter.
“She just left, Doctor,” Jamie said, his voice ragged, his shoulders shaking. “Just like Ben and Polly left. They all just left me.”
“I miss them too,” said the Doctor softly. “I miss all of them.”
“I want.” Jamie straightened up, his eyes wet. “I just — I want —” Then he kissed the Doctor on the mouth.
It was sloppy, uncoordinated, and the Doctor was too startled to so much as close his eyes. Jamie’s mouth was terribly soft, and wet. He drew back, their noses bumping together, and murmured, “I want — I want you,” before going in for another kiss.
“Jamie.” The Doctor pushed at Jamie, coaxing him away. “Jamie — no.” it had been so long since he’d been intimate with anyone, and now of all people Jamie was kissing him, touching him — it wasn’t right. He knew enough of human psychology to understand what was happening. Jamie was lonely, and highly intoxicated. He was throwing himself at the nearest warm body. If he didn’t stop soon, he’d regret it in the morning. He was mouthing at the Doctor’s neck, now. “Jamie,” the Doctor said more firmly. He put his hands on Jamie’s shoulders and pushed him away. “I think you ought to stop.”
“Oh.” Jamie nudged at his face. “Sorry. I didn’t mean tae —”
“Hush,” said the Doctor. “Hush, now. It’s alright. Jamie, I, I think you ought to have a drink of water and then get some rest. Hm?”
“Aye,” Jamie mumbled. “M’tired.”
“Yes, I’m sure you are,” said the Doctor, rubbing his back, trying to sooth him.
“I’m sorry,” said Jamie. “I only wanted tae —”
“I understand,” said the Doctor. “Come along, now. Settle down.”
On the edge of the bed, Jamie sat gulping down water, the Doctor hovering beside him. He wanted to touch, to comfort, but he wasn’t sure how — he was terribly afraid he might only make things worse.
Jamie finished his water, and hiccupped softly. The Doctor dabbed at his mouth with his handkerchief, half expecting Jamie to brush him off.
But he didn’t. “Thank you,” he mumbled.
“You lie down, now,” said the Doctor, stooping to help Jamie with his shoes.
From the other side of the room, he fetched a blanket, unzipping it from its plastic wrapping. Jamie slumped half-curled on the bed, and the Doctor thought he was already asleep, but as he tucked the blanket over him his eyes opened. “Will ye stay?” he said.
“Of course.” The Doctor perched on the edge of the bed. “Until you go to sleep, anyway.”
“What about after that?” said Jamie.
“Well, I, I,” the Doctor stammered, not at all sure what Jamie meant. “I don’t really know. People tend to leave me — rather than, well, the other way around."
“I won’t.” Jamie groped for his hand, and the Doctor returned the touch, interlacing their fingers. “I promise.”
The Doctor gave him his warmest smile. “You sleep, now. You’ll feel better in the morning.”
Jamie nodded, mumbled something into the pillow. His eyes fell closed. The Doctor waited a few hearts’ beats, and rested a hand on Jamie’s head, stroking his hair. This sudden intimacy between them was so tenuous, it could dissolve at any moment — and he felt sure it’d be gone by morning.
Seeing Jamie hurting like this hurt him, too, a deep ache in his chest. He only wanted what was best, what would make everyone happy, but he couldn’t always — he couldn’t.
The Doctor sat with Jamie till he was sure he was asleep; then reluctantly he let go of Jamie’s hand, laid it on the pillow, and turned out the light. “Pleasant dreams,” he said. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
In the doorway, he lingered a moment, contemplating Jamie’s sleeping face. The sorry truth was, sooner or later Jamie would leave him, even if he couldn’t imagine it now; he’d find something else, something better, something more real, and then, just like that, he’d be gone.
He closed the door.
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