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Butterflies

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Zoe’s quiet solitude in the library was broken, abruptly, by the squeak of a show on the floor, and a word. “Evening.”

It was Jamie, peering around a bookcase at her. “Good evening.” She supposed it was the evening, though that meant even less aboard the TARDIS than it had on the Wheel.

“Are you alright?”

Zoe looked at her books spread across the table, at the stack on the chair waiting for her attention, at her detailed notes. “Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”

“It’s just, you’ve been in here for a couple of days now.” Jamie came out from behind the bookcase, swinging his arms that way he did when he was trying to act casual

“I’ve been reading,” said Zoe. “I had to pass the time somehow.”

“Aye, aye I suppose so,” said Jamie. “The Doctor says it’ll be another day or so.”

“He said that last time we asked.”

“Aye, so he did.”

“Does this sort of thing happen a lot?”

“The TARDIS breaking down, or the Doctor pretending it’ll be fixed quick?” said Jamie.

“Both,” said Zoe.

Jamie shrugged and sheepishly grinned. “Now and then. She can be a bit tempermental, ye ken.”

“Hm,” said Zoe.

“Mind if I sit here?” Jamie nodded at the chair opposite.

“I don’t see why not,” said Zoe. “So long as you’re quiet.”

“I’ll be quiet as a mouse,” said Jamie, and sat.

Zoe did what she’d been about to do when he interrupted and followed up a reference to a thirty-first century volume on the moons of Jupiter. When she came back, Jamie’d found a book of his own and was so engrossed that he didn’t so much as glance up at her approach.

She thumped her book down on the table. He started. “Goodness. Are you actually reading?”

“I’m practicing,” he confessed.

“Practicing?”

“M’reading. The Doctor says I have to.”

“What are you reading?”

Jamie lifted the cover of his book. “Fairy tales,” he pronounced.

Zoe got on with her research. Jamie read on, very occasionally turning a page. AT length, he looked up and said, “I’m getting dinner. D’you want dinner?”

“Why not,” said Zoe.

Their books set aside, they sat across from each other in the soft, papery silence of the library, eating their meal-bars. “So,” said Jamie. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Of course I’m alright,” said Zoe. “Honestly, why wouldn’t I be alright?”

“Well it’s just, I know all this is new for you,” said Jamie. “And the last few weeks, things have been sort of – well, with the Cybermen and all.”

“I can handle it,” said Zoe.

“I never said you couldnae,” said Jamie. “I was just thinking of you and Isobel. You seemed close.”

Zoe didn’t meet his eye. “So?”

“It cannae be that easy,” said Jamie. “Leaving behind someone you – what with the TARDIS being the way she is and all.”

“I’m perfectly fine. We only knew each other for a few days,” said Zoe. “It would have been nice, I suppose. To get to know her better.”

“Aye,” said Jamie. “Well, I just wanted tae check up on you.”

“Thank you,” said Zoe. A thought crossed her mind. “Have you ever?” she said. “Left behind someone you had feelings for, I mean?”

“Erm,” said Jamie. “No. No’ really. Why?”

“Just wondering,” said Zoe. “I didn’t think you would have.”

“Oh,” said Jamie. “Hey, why not?” He shoved the last of his meal-bar into his mouth.

“Well, what with you being in love with the Doctor.”

Jamie choked on his dinner. “What?” Zoe nudged his water glass towards him. He ignored it. “I’m no’ in love with the Doctor!”

“You’re not?”

“No!”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure! Do you no’ think I’d know?” he said. “It’s the sort of thing a person tends to notice!”

“Fair enough.” Zoe turned back to her dinner.

Jamie said, “what made you think that?”

“Well.” Zoe thought back. “I suppose it was every interaction I’ve ever seen you have with him.”

“Eh?”

“You certainly act like you’re in love with him.”

“I don’t!”

“Actually, when we first met I assumed you two were a couple.”

“You – what?” Jamie gaped at her. “Why?”

“You just seem couple-y.” Zoe shrugged. “It’s not just me. Isobel thought the same thing.”

“We’re no’ a couple!”

“Of course you’re not,” said Zoe. “I worked that out for myself.”

“But you still thought I was – in love with him?”

“Well, yes. Sorry. I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“I just dinnae understand why you’d think that,” said Jamie. “What did I do to make you think that?”

“Well, you do touch him a lot,” said Zoe.

“So?”

“And the way you look at him sometimes – I don’t know. It’s hard to explain, but you do look at him like you’re head over heels in love.”

“I don’t!”

“You do.”

“I don’t!” protested Jamie. “I don’t look at him. I’ve never looked at the Doctor, ever.”

“You’re getting awfully defensive about this.”

“I’m no’ getting defensive!” Jamie snapped. Leaning back in his chair, he rubbed a hand over his face. “Och, this is daft. I’m doing my reading practice now.” He picked up his book. “See? I’m reading now.”

“Alright,” said Zoe.

“I am!”

“Enjoy your book!”

“I will!”

Zoe brushed her fingers clean and went back to her research. She’d written another half a page of notes when Jamie’s book thumped down on the table. “I just don’t understand why you’d say something like that.”

“I thought you already knew,” said Zoe, not looking up from her notes.

“See, there you go again!” said Jamie. “I’m no’ in love with him!”

“I know you aren’t,” said Zoe. “You said so already.”

“Aye, but you don’t believe me!”

“I do so.”

“You don’t!” Jamie said. “You’re doing that thing where you talk to me like I’m stupid, and I’m no’ stupid, alright? Well, mibbe I am sometimes, but no’ about my own damn life!”

Evidently this wasn’t going to end any time soon. With a sigh, Zoe put aside her notes and her book, leaned her elbows on the table, and said, “Jamie, please don’t take offense –”

“I’m no’ taking offense!”

“– but you do strike me as the kind of person who isn’t, um, entirely in touch with their own feelings.”

“I’m in touch with my feelings!”

“Are you, though?”

“Aye, I am so!” said Jamie. “Right now I’m feeling that you’re annoying! And rude! And – very annoying!”

“I mean, have you ever thought about this before?”

“Of course I havenae!” Jamie snapped. “I dinnae make a habit of thinking about whether I’m in love with my friends. Honestly!”

“Then maybe you should give it some consideration.”

“I already have,” said Jamie. “I’m considering it right now and you’re dead wrong. We’re friends. That’s all.”

“But you care about him?”

“Aye, of course.”

“And he’s important to you?”

“In a friendly way!” said Jamie. “We’re good friends. Best friends!”

This was going in circles. “We’re getting nowhere.” She stood up. “I’m going to look for a book. Enjoy your reading practice.”

She came back half an hour or so later bearing a box file, Jamie paging listlessly through his reading book. He looked up just as she dropped the file on the table.

“What’s that?” he asked.

“I found a solution to our little debate,” said Zoe.

“It’s no a debate.”

Opening the box file, Zoe produced a brightly-coloured magazine. “Teen Talk, November 2042 issue.” She flicked through the pages. “Here we are. How to tell if it’s love. There’s a test. See?”

“Is that a magazine for wee girls?”

“It was this or the psychology textbook.” Zoe lifted her pen, smoothing out the magazine.

“I’m no’ taking a test for wee girls,” said Jamie.

“Firstly, it’s for teenagers,” said Zoe. “And secondly, I’ve read it and it’s quite comprehensive.” He looked doubtful. “It could be fun.”

“If I take the test will you shut up and leave me alone?”

“Absolutely,” said Zoe.

“Alright.” Jamie put his book aside. “Alright! Fine. I’ll do the damn test.”

“Excellent,” said Zoe. “Now. Question One. Do you get butterflies when he walks in the room? Yes or no.”

“No,” said Jamie. “No’ butterflies. No.”

“Are you sure?”

“I wouldnae call it butterflies,” said Jamie. “Sometimes. Mibbe. I like seeing him.”

“I’m putting you down as a yes,” said Zoe.

“Aye, that’s fair.”

“Question two. Is he the first person who comes to mind when you want to ask someone to join you in doing your favourite hobby or activity?” she read aloud.

“Well, aye,” said Jamie. “But that’s hardly fair. You don’t like any of the things I like.”

“Mm-hmm,” said Zoe, drawing a neat circle around yes. “Do you prefer spending him with him over your other friends? I’m just going to put you down for yes.”

“I was gonnae say yes.”

“I know you were. Now. Do you miss his voice when you don’t hear it every day?”

“I suppose so,” said Jamie. “I’m used to him being around.”

“So when he isn’t around, you miss him?”

“Usually when he’s no’ around he’s in trouble.”

“That’s fair enough,” said Zoe. “I’m putting that down as another yes. Next question. Do you want to introduce him to your family?”

“Oh, God, no,” said Jamie.

“Yes, that’s fair,” said Zoe. “Is he the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you go to sleep?”

“Some days,” said Jamie.

“I’m putting yes,” said Zoe.

“I said some days!”

“How often is some days?”

“Och, I don’t know.”

“Once or twice a week?”

“Ah.”

“More often that that?”

“No’ every day.”

“But most days?”

“That’s no’ fair. Of course I think about him a lot. I’ve only got two friends.”

“Do you think about me before you go to sleep?”

“What? No,” said Jamie. “That’d be weird.”

“I’m putting yes,” Zoe said again. “Now. Does he make your day when he compliments you?”

Jamie thought about it. “Aye, I suppose so.”

“Mm-hmm,” said Zoe, circling yes.

“But it’s no’ like you cannae say the same.”

“I –” He had a point. “That’s different. Next question. Do you get jealous if he flirts with someone else?”

“He doesnae flirt with other people,” said Jamie.

“Well, if he did,” said Zoe. “Would you get jealous?”

“Erm. Probably,” Jamie confessed.

“Do you want to stay with him for the rest of your life?”

“Course I do.”

“Alright,” said Zoe. “Last question. When you see him, do you forget about everything else?”

“I – hm.” In spite of himself, Jamie’s eyes went soft. “I don’t know.”

“Is that a yes?”

“I said I don’t know!”

“I’m putting you down as a yes.”

“But –” Jamie gave him. His shoulders sagged. “Aye. It’s a yes.”

“Alright,” said Zoe. “I’ll just add up your score.”

“I get a score?”

Actually, she’d been keeping score as she went along, but she made a show of tallying up anyway. “You scored nine out of ten,” she said.

“Is that bad?”

“Well, according to the magazine,” said Zoe. “It’s the real thing. You’re absolutely, definitely in love. Then there’s a lot of little hearts.” She showed him his result.”

“Ach, it’s a stupid magazine.”

“I never said it wasn’t.”

“I’m no’ in love with him!” Jamie protested. “I’m not. I mean. I don’t think I am.” He gazed distractedly into the depths of the library. “I never thought about it before.”

“Yes, I’m getting that,” said Zoe.

“And I’m not,” said Jamie. “It’s just a stupid game. It doesnae mean anything.”

“Alright, how about this,” said Zoe. “If the Doctor were to come in here and say Jamie, I’m madly in love with you, let’s be together forever, how would you feel?”

“I don’t know,” said Jamie. “I – good. I suppose that’d feel good.” Zoe looked at him. “It’s nice to know someone loves you!”

“Do you ever think about kissing him?”

What?” said Jamie. “No. Mibbe. No!”

“Well, do you or don’t you?”

“Sometimes,” Jamie admitted. “But’s it’s no’ serious. I think about all sorts of weird things.”

“Do you ever think about kissing me?”

“No, of course not,” said Jamie. “But I used to think about kissing Victoria.”

“Were you in love with her?”

“Erm.” Jamie pulled a face. “Probably. Aye. Och, look, but that doesnae mean I’m in love with the Doctor! Just, just because I think about kissing him and just because I get butterflies sometimes, that doesnae mean anything.”

“It doesn’t?”

“I like the Doctor as much as the next man!” Jamie protested. “And alright, aye, I have feelings for him –”

“Loving feelings?”

“Aye, loving feelings. I have feelings of, of love for the Doctor, but that doesnae mean I’m in love with him. And mibbe I’m sort of attracted to him sometimes and alright mibbe I love him a bit, but that doesnae – it doesnae –” He look of acute horror crossed his face. “Oh, God in heaven!”

“Oh, dear,” said Zoe.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought you knew!” Zoe protested. “It’s really obvious.”

“But –” Jamie looked aghast. “Is it obvious to other people?”

“I couldn’t say,” said Zoe. “Isobel noticed. We were talking about it.”

“Och, that’s just embarrassing.” He slumped down upon the tabletop. “What am I supposed to do about it?”

“That’s not really my business.” Zoe picked up her book.

“You’ve been making it your business so far!”

“I just thought you might need some help getting to grips with your feelings,” said Zoe. “You’re welcome, by the way.”

“Don’t act like you’ve done me a favour!” he snapped. “I’m no’ happy about this!” He started to speak several times. “He doesnae – I mean, he won’t – the Doctor. He doesnae really – understand these things.”

“He might,” said Zoe. “You could try talking to him.”

“I’d just make everything weird forever,” said Jamie. “Och, no, this is just terrible.”

“You should have thought of that before you went and fell in love with him,” said Zoe, leafing through her notes.

“It’s no’ funny!”

“It is, a bit,” said Zoe. “Anyway, for what it’s worth –”

“It’s no’ funny at all!”

“For what it’s worth, I think he feels the same way about you.”

“You – really?”

“Well, yes,” said Zoe. “I thought that was obvious too.”

“Oh,” said Jamie, softening. “I didnae think of that.”

“I thought you mightn’t’ve.”

“You really think so?”

“I’d say it’s very likely.”

“He hasnae said anything.”

“Neither have you.”

“You think I should talk to him?”

“I think that would be highly advisable,” said Zoe. “Yes. You should go and talk about your feelings. Somewhere that isn’t here.”

“Alright,” said Jamie, getting up. “But if this makes things weird, I’m blaming you.”

“That’s reasonable,” said Zoe.

“Wish me luck,” he said.

“Good luck!” she said. “Let me know how it goes!”

“I will!” he called over his shoulder – and then he passed through the library doors and was gone.

“It probably won’t go down in flames,” Zoe surmised. She went back to her reading.