Lewis is not an impulsive man. He's, well, considered. Painstaking. He certainly doesn't blurt out comments that seem to have bypassed conscious thought entirely.
Which is why, one Sunday evening when he's improving Hathaway's education with a classic Doctor Who serial the lad missed because he was--well, best not to think about how old he was when it aired--he's startled to realise that he's just said, "You ought to find yourself a nice girl."
Hathaway looks at him, one of those looks that would've been a professional asset if he'd become a priest and isn't un-useful for a copper either, and says, "Why?"
Only Hathaway would ask that. Trouble is, Lewis's mind has gone blank. "Oh, come on. You know."
"Do I?" Hathaway takes a swallow of that expensive Belgian beer he likes, which tastes like burnt toast dissolved in alcohol. "Do I instinctively understand, and moreover accept, that I ought to want a romantic relationship with a woman?"
"Oh, Christ, we're not having another round of 'Is Hathaway gay?', are we? I thought we'd settled that."
"Yes!" Lewis presses "pause" and the Master freezes in mid-rant. "Unless you're going to claim Fiona McKendrick was just a cover story. And the Mortmaigne girl."
"No. You're absolutely right. I've had two known relationships with women, therefore I am heterosexual and want nothing more than to settle down with a nice girl who'll wash my socks and bear my children. Congratulations on your perspicacity, sir."
"That's not what I - why are you so angry? And by the way, if you're going to use that much sarcasm on me, you might as well call me Robbie."
Hathaway stares deep into his half-empty beer glass, which he's holding in front of his face like a riot shield. "You want it to be simple. You want me to be simple. But I'm not."
"But I'm the hidebound old copper who couldn't possibly understand, yeah?"
"Touché." Lowering the glass, Hathaway tries for a smile.
It's all right, Lewis thinks, but doesn't say, because of course it's all right and Hathaway doesn't need his bloody permission to be whatever it is he is. Lewis doesn't say I don't mind either, or I wish you'd just given me an honest answer when I asked, instead of all this mucking about. "You can tell me whatever you like, James. Including telling me not to stick my nose in."
"It's not a state secret." Never mind that Hathaway acts like his life has had a D-notice on it since the day he was born. "I like women. I like men. I like men a bit more, actually."
Lewis nods, waits. He's handled his share of interrogations, and he knows that once someone starts talking, the last thing you should do is interrupt.
"But it's . . . it's not the sin thing, I'm not stupid, I worked that out for myself years ago. It's just . . . if I'm seeing a woman, no one cares. If I were with a man - a relationship, I mean, not just . . . well, everyone would have an opinion. They'd want explanations, they'd want to know why I didn't tell them my whole psychosexual history and spare them the shock. So it seemed easier not to."
If there's one thing Hathaway isn't, Lewis realises for what he estimates is the twentieth time, it's simple. And being, well, he reckons bisexual is the word for it (although Hathaway has conspicuously not used it himself), being bisexual can't be half as simple as Jack Harkness makes it look on the telly. After a while, when Hathaway has slipped back into a silence that feels like it could go on for a year, Lewis prompts him: "Seemed."
"Past tense entirely intentional. I've been getting fed up lately."
"So if I'd said 'Find yourself a nice fellow,' would that have been all right? Or should it be 'nice person,' and mind my own sodding business about the rest?"
Hathaway's smile finally looks genuine, or at least half genuine. "Ten out of ten for the avoidance of heterosexist assumptions." Lewis files away the word heterosexist for future reference. "But I'm not sure I want to meet a nice anyone, not in the sense you mean. I don't like long walks on moonlit beaches, or thinking up interesting small talk, or the way people's faces change when I say I'm a police officer. Or all the little lies people tell each other. You can go to bed with someone, fall in love with them, and then find out you don't know them at all." He takes a large and somehow sudden drink of his beer, and Lewis thinks again of perspex shields and body armour. "I'm happy enough sitting here on your sofa and watching a time-travelling alien visit a highly anachronistic version of the twelfth century."
Lewis is still listening carefully, interview-room carefully, and he knows that Hathaway seldom picks a word without deliberation. "Happy enough? It's not the same thing as happy, is it?"
Hathaway shrugs and reaches for the remote, which Lewis drops over the arm of the sofa onto the rug. From behind about four feet of invisible stone wall, Hathaway says, "It's happy enough."
"Bollocks. You're lonely."
"Really, I've had enough of Uncle Robbie's Agony Column for one evening, thanks."
"I know you're lonely." Whatever hidden, incautious part of Lewis's mind has been playing up this evening takes over again. "I know you're lonely, because I am." If there's logic in that, it's a sort unknown to science, but Lewis is sure that it's true. And more than that, it's important. "What would make you happy, James?"
"Don't try to have this conversation with me. Don't. Or you'll wish you hadn't."
There it is. The moment when the truth begins. The answer that has all the other answers, and all the other questions, layered inside it like a Russian doll. An infinity of tiny fragile questions that Lewis could crush if he wanted to, because it turns out that they're about him and not about Hathaway at all, and they start with why Hathaway's loneliness means as much to him as his own. Questions nesting endlessly deeper, turning the world inside out, making a hole that Lewis might fall into and never escape.
Not might. Will. Already has.
"I'm sorry," Hathaway is saying from that other world where Lewis has been sitting silent and frozen and nothing has happened at all. "I never meant to . . . I knew that . . . sorry. I'll go."
"Don't." Lewis catches his sleeve, holding him before he can retreat back into his damned closed-mouth Hathaway mystery and leave Lewis alone with all the questions. "Let me think."
But thinking does no good. Thinking is a freefall down the abyss. So Lewis talks instead, letting words come that he's never, ever thought about. "I know . . . bugger all, really, but I know this isn't like any friendship I've ever had with a man. You . . . I'd got so used to being unhappy, I didn't even notice. But I'm happy enough, when I'm with you. And I'm lonely when you go."
At some point, Lewis's hand, which he's left as undirected as his mouth, has shifted from holding Hathaway's sleeve to holding his forearm. Looking down at it, Hathaway says, "If you're being kind to me, I will never forgive you."
"No." He waits until Hathaway meets his eyes, which is almost unbearable, but not quite. "I'm sure of that much."
Hathaway frowns and looks past him, eyes unfocused. Lewis can guess a little of what he's thinking, but Hathaway has an ocean of a mind, and there are depths that maybe no one can ever follow him into. Surfacing, he asks, "What would make you happy, Robbie?"
Lewis knows he deserves the question. But he couldn't be more stumped if Hathaway had asked him how to build an atom bomb or count the angels on a pin.
"Right now," Hathaway says, rescuing him. "That's all."
"Don't leave. Sit here with me. We'll have another beer, finish watching Doctor Who. Get a takeaway." His fingers have settled themselves around the curve of Hathaway's arm. It feels warm, and confusing, but it doesn't feel strange. If he stretched his thumb, he could touch Hathaway's skin above the border of his cuff, and perhaps that wouldn't be strange either. "And later, maybe you could . . . not leave." Lewis's imagination won't take him that far, but his hand tightens and his thumb strokes Hathaway's arm through the heavy cotton of his shirt.
"Well, I'd hate not knowing how the Doctor saves King John."
"Yeah." In a minute, Lewis will get up and retrieve the remote. In a minute or an hour, when he can bear to let go of Hathaway, who is solid, and certain, and may be just as much the answer as he is the question.