Chapter 1: Prologue
Neither of them thinks about the night any more than they can help it. Catherine, because she always starts to wonder what would have happened if she had stayed. David, because for a one-night stand she certainly made his heart ache when he saw that she was gone.
Sometimes he dreams of her. Even over a decade later, she appears—that 25-year-old actress named Catherine who smiled at him and said that she liked him. In his head, she’s still that young woman. David wonders what she would look like. He’s sure that she’s still beautiful.
Catherine thinks about him too, despite her biggest efforts to drown the thoughts out. She can’t help but analyze, sometimes, the fact that she was the most frightened to face David, a man who made her completely giddy.
The first time David catches her show, he’s at his parents’ house for Christmas. He’s in the kitchen, making himself some breakfast.
Her face on the screen makes him drop a plate on the floor and swear so loudly that his parents come running.
The first time she sees his maniacal grin on Doctor Who, she screams.
David wonders what her first successful audition was for.
Catherine likes knowing that he didn’t give up.
He hears that they’re considering her for the Christmas special before she does. His reaction is hollow. “Oh.”
When she gets the call, she almost says no because David is the past. And she still sees his sleeping face, the easy smile he wore and of course the way he looked at her. She’s scared to see how he’ll react to her. She’s scared to see how she’ll react to him.
Somehow, though, she chokes it out. “Yeah. Okay.”
Chapter 2: Chapter One
The whole drive there, I tell myself that I’ll just follow her lead. If she doesn’t remember me, then I won’t remember her either. It definitely seemed like she didn’t want to remember me, considering the way I had to wake up and discover that she’d left.
This episode, she’s only going to be in for a minute or so. But she’s coming to the table read anyway because Russell thinks it would be a good idea for her to get a bit more familiar with our process before she has to jump into it herself.
And of course, today’s the day I just so happen to be running late. Nothing to make a good impression like arriving late for a show that you star in.
In any case, it’s not like I have any reason to make a good impression on her anyway.
Though that’s what all the complete arses do—you know you’ve made it big when you can arrive an hour late on set. Perhaps she would be impressed.
Except I don’t need to impress her.
I keep mumbling that to myself as I sit through traffic.
When I finally run into the room, everyone turns to look at me and I go red.
When I realize that she’s the only person not looking at me, I flush even deeper.
The only chair left open is next to her. Which figures, of course.
Dear Lord she’s even more beautiful in front of me.
As I settle into my chair, I vaguely catch Julie making a teasing comment, thanking me for actually showing up, but it hardly registers because I’m thinking about the fact that I’m sitting next to this woman who felt like a hallucination from the moment I woke up. Honestly, I wondered if I’d imagined her up until this moment right now.
She doesn’t look at me as we read—because I would notice, certainly, if her head even barely turned in my direction. It’s almost as though she doesn’t even know I’m there.
Meanwhile, I can’t stop sending her sidelong glances because she’s real and she’s close enough to touch. If I stretched out my arm I could run my fingers along her arm. And her hair. I’ve always sworn to myself that I remembered her hair as brighter and more vivid than it truly was. Sitting next to her, I see that if anything it’s even more intense than I’d allowed myself to picture.
I feel myself straining to sound normal and have to clear my throat more than normal.
Finally we get a break, and I practically run to get a water bottle.
When I return to my seat, Catherine is still there by herself, tuning out the chatter around her. But this time when I take my seat, she looks up at me.
“Oh, hello.” She gives me a small, slightly anxious smile.
Immediately, I want to reach out and pull her into a hug to comfort her. I resist the urge, but only just.
“Hi. Catherine, I presume? I love your show.”
I see something cross her face, but before I can figure out what, she smiles. “Thank you.”
Chapter 3: Chapter Two
I should have figured that he wouldn’t recognize me, but I’m disappointed anyway.
I really, really don’t want to be disappointed. Because after all, if we’re going to be working together, it would be good not to be hindered by things like one night stands when we were young and foolish.
“Are you enjoying yourself?” he asks me.
No, not really. Because sitting inches from David is enough to amplify all of my senses by a thousand percent. This whole time, I’ve been completely aware of every move he makes, the sound of his breathing and the smell of his soap and the idea that I could reach out and touch him with so little effort.
As soon as he entered the room, I could almost taste him on my tongue again.
So no. It’s rather difficult to enjoy yourself when you have all of that filling your mind.
“Yes. Just being here is a blast. I can’t wait to see what it will be like to actually work here.”
I told myself that I’d go along with it, if I found out he didn’t remember me. But our conversation feels so fake and insincere. It’s not that I think he’s not sincerely welcoming me. I just don’t think that he cares about our small talk as a meaningful discussion. It’s not something he’s going to walk away from and analyze for hours. It doesn’t mean anything. To him, at least. I find that it means a lot to me, no matter how little I want it to.
“Oh, believe me, it’s wonderful.”
Regardless of how irrelevant our chat is, he grins at me. He likes grinning. That was clear to me before, but it seems as though he likes it even more now.
I swallow and excuse myself to get something to drink so that I can get away from him and his charm and his easy demeanor.
The rest of the read is, if anything, even more difficult to get through. Before, at least I had the question in my mind of did he remember me. A question is reassuring, because when it’s a question you don’t have to decide which one you’re truly hoping for. But now I know that David doesn’t remember me. And of course it doesn’t matter. I tell myself repeatedly that I don’t care, that I was hoping he wouldn’t remember because things are easier if David doesn’t remember.
As soon as Julie says that they’re done, I’m out of my seat and across the room, pulling on the door.
“Catherine, wait a moment!”
I bite my lip, consider acting like I didn’t hear him, but he wouldn’t believe it in a million years. I turn and watch.
David takes his time getting to me, bidding farewell to everybody who he has to pass by. Again, he’s smiling. Why oh why does he have to smile so much? His smile just makes me want to kiss him.
“I was wondering if you’d like to go for drinks later. There’s a really nice pub around here…”
He’s asking me if I want to go out with him and drink alcohol.
Dear God he actually doesn’t remember.
He doesn’t fucking remember.
I didn’t even realize I thought there was a chance that he still remembered and was just being a gentleman until he could bring it up to me privately, until he asked me about drinks and he doesn’t fucking remember. I want to swear and scream and run and sob all at once.
“Oh, I’m sorry David, but I’m actually busy tonight.”
He looks a little disappointed, but only a little. “Okay. Some other time, though, okay? I want to get to know the woman behind Nan and Lauren Cooper.”
“Yes, of course. Some other time.”
I’m not one for being sentimental.
And yes, I’m the one who left his apartment.
That doesn’t stop me from going home and sitting on my bed for half an hour, staring at a blank wall.
Because David doesn’t remember me.
Chapter 4: Chapter Three
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
I spend my entire drive home thinking about how I hope she didn’t politely let me down instead of explaining that she doesn’t like alcohol. Because there are non-alcoholic drinks in pubs. I figured she’d just get one of those and not bother with an explanation if she really didn’t want to explain.
I hope I didn’t offend her.
I really don’t want to offend her.
Far too many times over the next few days, I consider calling Russell and asking him for Catherine’s number. I don’t, though, partially because I don’t want him to ask why, and partially because I don’t know what I would say if she picked up. “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but we actually slept together when I was still in school and you walked out on me that morning and I haven’t been able to forget you since,” probably wouldn’t go over all that well.
But I don’t have to think of something to say, because she calls me.
It’s the middle of the day, and I’m taking a shower when the phone rings. Because I was expecting to hear from Julia about a script change, I had the phone sitting on my sink just in case she chose to call. I stumble out of the shower and fling a towel around myself before I pick up my mobile.
My eyes widen. Catherine’s voice. Definitely Catherine’s voice. Dear Lord Catherine is calling me and I’m in my bathroom with my shower still going and I’m naked and fuck what if she realizes that I’m naked. “Catherine! Hi!” How did she get my number? Did I give her my number and forget?
“I hope it’s okay that I’m calling. I got the number from Russell.”
Oh. “Yeah of course, don’t worry about it. What can I do for you?” I brush across my mirror to wipe some of the moisture away, and I examine my face in the mirror. My hair is looking a bit wonky. I reach my hand under the shower faucet and run my fingers through it once.
“I… I was just wondering if I could still take you up on that offer for a drink.”
“Sure.” So maybe she really was busy. Or maybe she’s trying to spare my feelings and just wants to cover herself since she has to work with me. “W-when were you thinking of getting said drink?”
“Around seven or so? There’s a place one of my friends recommended to me, if that’s okay… Do you have something to write the address on?”
Do I have a pen and paper in the bathroom while I’m in the middle of taking a shower.
Do I flat-out tell Catherine that I’m taking a shower.
I could… But no.
Because then she might picture me naked and we don’t want that because that would just make things awkward and if she doesn’t remember then I should let things stay not awkward.
“Not with me. Could you just text it?”
“Yes, I’ll… I’ll do that. I’ll see you tonight, David?”
“I look forward to it.”
When I hop back into the shower, I take extra care to make myself look presentable. Not because I care about making a good impression on Catherine, of course. Because I’m not interested in making a good impression. I suppose a good impression would be more favorable than a bad impression, but I’m not seeking purely to impress her. I hardly even understand the concept of attempting to impress a person.
Before leaving, I even comb my hair.
Not because I’m trying to impress her.
While writing this chapter, I kept imagining Catherine's thoughts--I generally am thinking about the other character's thoughts when writing in first person, but for some reason in this case her internal reactions were making me laugh so hard.
So I wrote an alternative version of this chapter from her point of view, which you could read here: http://thismadgirlisthebox.tumblr.com/post/23873589859/so-last-night-i-wrote-this-chapter-of-your
Chapter 5: Chapter Four
When I arrive, David’s already found a table that’s sitting right near a window. This place is far more well-lit than where we met, so I can see him clearly as soon as I come in. It looks as though he’s actually bouncing slightly in his seat.
As soon as he catches sight of me he grins, and jumps up as I’m nearing the table. “Catherine! Hi! I wasn’t sure where you might like to sit so I just picked out a table and if you want we can go somewhere else.”
I think about the booth that we sat in at the very back of that pub years ago, and decide that a table by a window is just what I need. “No, this is wonderful.”
Satisfied, David sits down and I follow suit. I expected him to be drinking something already, but the table is devoid of beverages. He makes no indication that he’s intending to go over to the bar or to flag down a waitress. Instead, he just looks at me. “So. What made you change your mind about drinks?”
The fact that I wanted to talk to you again any way possible. “I didn’t change my mind about drinks. I was busy that night. I just so happened to be not busy tonight. Well, now I’m busy. But clearly, I’m busy sitting here with you, not busy with something else.”
He smiles and nods slightly, but I’m almost certain he doesn’t believe me. “Lovely. I’m glad you were able to fit me in to your schedule.”
I wish I could tell him the real reason I told him no. “Oh, of course. It’s the least I could do.”
I’m kind of hungry, and am considering asking him if we should get something to eat, but he’s looking at me so thoughtfully that I don’t want to break the spell by speaking. Finally he says, “Why did you say yes to Doctor Who?”
All of that staring just so that he can ask me why I agreed to be in a Christmas episode of the best show in all of Britain? “I said yes because from what Russell and Julie have told me, this character is right up my alley. And who wouldn’t pass up the chance to work on Doctor Who?”
Plus it means acting across David.
Although my choice was more despite David being on Doctor Who, not because of it. Just sitting across the table from him right now is making me wonder why I did what I did. It hurts to look him. Because I was just so fucking stupid then.
And part of my reason for doing Doctor Who was that I wanted to be held accountable for my actions.
Though looking at him looking at me like I’m the most fascinating person in the universe, I don’t particularly like that I decided to hold myself accountable.
“Shall we get some food?” I say, simply because he doesn’t seem to be planning to respond to me and I want to fill up some of our silence.
“Yeah, sure, that sounds good.”
Luckily, there’s a waitress coming in our direction, and I gesture to her. David orders a sandwich and a Coke. While I’m slightly surprised and can’t help but glancing sideways at him, I make no visible indication that I’m puzzled by his choice to drink Coke. But I order the same thing as him.
“Perhaps I should have just asked you out for dinner instead of drinks, since it appears neither of us will be drinking.”
“Perhaps so.” Except with dinner there are so many more implications and I don’t think I could handle it if I’m struggling so much already.
Something about the way he keeps looking at me, though, is making me wish that maybe he had asked me to dinner.
Even though I know I would just run away again.
“Why did you decide to do Doctor Who? If you don’t mind me turning the question over to you, that is.”
“Of course not.” He cocks his head at me, thoughtful. “I grew up watching this show. I wrote stories about massive Dalek-Cybermen wars, for goodness sake. And I wanted to be the Doctor. I didn’t think it would happen, but I wanted it. And now…” He shrugs. “Now it’s happened.”
I nod. “Right, okay. I’m glad you’ve figured out your speech for interviews and everything. But in all seriousness now. Why did you decide to do Doctor Who?”
His eyes drop to the table. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“That’s not true. That’s a great reason, of course. But there’s absolutely no way that’s your deepest reason. And that,” I point at him. “That’s what I’d like to know about.”
He’s saved from having to answer immediately because our drinks come. He grins at the waitress, wide and completely fake and it makes me cringe slightly. But she smiles back, oblivious. As soon as she’s gone, I turn back to David and he turns back to the table.
“Maybe I don’t have a reason.” He says after a moment.
“Of course you do. Everyone has a reason.”
He looks up at me, a small frown on his face. “Do you really think there’s nobody who just says, ‘I’ll do this because it looks fun’?”
“Maybe there are. But you didn’t.”
For a split second, David stares at me, at smile playing on my lips because I can see through him and he knows it. In that second, I feel the entire future I could have had rush at me and barrel me over.
And then he opens his mouth.
I’m not quite sure what I expect him to say.
I at least expect him to answer the question.
What I certainly do not expect is, “I’m sorry that I asked you out for drinks because I already knew you didn’t drink alcohol. Unless you do now. I don’t know.”
He already knows I don’t drink alcohol?
Unless I do now?
Is he trying to be funny?
Because I’m not fucking laughing.
Unless I do now?
Chapter 6: Chapter Five
I wasn’t trying to avoid the question. Well, I was because it bothered me a little bit how quickly Catherine knew there was no way that my official answer was my actual answer. But I was planning to actually answer then.
Except she looked at me like she was trying to dig into the deep recesses of my soul and I couldn’t handle it and I was tired of sitting on the knowledge that I met her before that I was even willing to face the potentially very uncomfortable consequences for telling her so.
“See, Catherine… A bit over ten years ago, I was sitting in—“
She’s now the one staring at the table.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“Why didn’t you?”
Our sandwiches come before I can even open my mouth to answer her question. Which is good, because I don’t know what I should say or what she expects me to say or even, really, my legitimate reason for not bringing it up.
Instead of answering her question, I start to eat. She follows suit, and for a few minutes both of us are absolutely silent as we chew. Neither of us wants to be the first one to speak.
Eventually our plates are clear of all crumbs. Our glasses are empty. The check is sitting directly between us, facedown. Neither of us will reach for it and neither of us will open our mouths.
My fingers slide across the table and land on one corner. Her hand shoots out and she catches the other side.
“I got it, Catherine.”
“No, let me.”
“It’s rude to refuse to let a man pay for a drink twice in a row.”
Catherine lets go. I barely glance at the check—the actual cost doesn’t even register to me—before I pull out a few notes that I know will be more than enough. I stand up and start walking to the door. I hear her chair squeak and she’s following me. But I knew she would follow me.
It’s raining outside. Of course. But that means that there’s almost nobody who we’ll bother with a conversation.
“Care to walk?” I ask.
She shrugs. Again, though, when I step forward she follows suit.
“I thought it would be awkward.” I say after a minute or two.
“I did too.”
“But I already felt awkward.”
“I did too.”
“Except now we both know that it’s awkward.”
I almost want to laugh, but this is not a time for laughter.
Eventually, I glance at Catherine. “Why? The least you could do is tell me that. Why?”
As soon as the question leaves my mouth, I feel strangely relieved. I never told anybody about my night with Catherine, especially once I realized that the beautiful, struggling young actress I brought home one night had a television show and was decidedly not struggling. I never had the opportunity to voice this question aloud. It caused me so many sleepless nights.
And now it’s out in the open. As much as the question hurts, saying it is taking such a huge burden from my back.
“I wouldn’t have been good for you. I wouldn’t be good for you now, either. But I would not have been good for you then. I wasn’t happy. And you…” She turns to look at me, and perhaps it’s just the rain dripping down her face but she looks so sad. “You looked at me like I was everything that you could possibly want in a woman and I had to show you that wasn’t true.”
Then, I would have argued with her that she was everything that I could possibly want in a woman. Now, though, that’s not the part of her statement that I’m stuck on. “What do you mean you’re not good for me?”
“Don’t. Stop. No.” She stops abruptly, and a person who’s behind us running to get out of the rain almost bumps into her. I turn to look at her. She looks angry, and it’s pouring now, and I want more than anything to get inside but there’s nowhere we can go. “Don’t start thinking. Turn your mind around right now. I left your apartment that night. Don’t start coming up with excuses for me because I didn’t have a fucking excuse. That’s just me, David. Don’t you dare start thinking that a woman could possibly be good if she did that to such a sweet, young kid who didn’t know any better. I knew from the moment you sat down at my table that if we fucked, I would walk away. No matter how nice of a guy you were, no matter how good you were in bed. I. Would. Leave.”
Jesus. I stare at her. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say in response to that. I feel like she wanted to just shut me up and that makes me angry. “People can change a lot in ten years.”
She shakes her head. “Not that much. I’ll never change that much.”
I feel my expression soften a bit already. “Do you really have so little faith in yourself?”
“Why do you have so much faith in me?” Based on the way her voice is quivering slightly, rain is no longer the only thing dripping down her cheeks. “I didn’t think you remembered because you seemed so genuinely happy to see me, happy to get to know me.”
“You should hate me.”
Before she can say anything else, I put a hand at her waist and the other behind her neck and I’m kissing her.
Chapter 7: Chapter Six
I find out that they’re considering asking me back as a series regular while David’s mouth is wandering down my neck, and while his cold fingers are skimming across my warm skin.
“They think it would make sense to the character development,” he mutters, and I wonder at the fact that he can simultaneously talk and –oh. “And apparently they have some great things planned for Donna.”
“Really.” The word comes out as a breathy sigh.
“Yes.” He kisses me, hard, bringing his hands up to cradle my face. “Will you do it?”
I should say no. Because working with him on the special… That was hard enough. It was hard enough when he fell against me while I stood near the TARDIS console, and hard enough when we sat on the rooftop together and his fingers inched their way across my thigh. It was hard enough to be so attached to him and feel myself light up when he stepped on set.
But I can’t say no. Because even though David knows that sometimes the sight of him is enough to make me want to rip his clothes off with my teeth, he doesn’t know how nervous the idea of working with him makes me.
We agreed that some semblance of emotional distance was okay, and I’m planning on keeping it that way. So I have to say yes, because if I were just thinking of my career I would say yes.
The plea in his eyes is a bit too emotionally charged for me, and agreeing would appease him more quickly.
He rewards me for my response.
When Julie calls me the next morning, I have to keep myself from agreeing before she even pitches. Because if I don’t, David could get into trouble for telling me.
And it might raise even more questions about the degree of communication he and I have outside of acting together. Because it’s not like we get enough of those already.
We’re sitting on his couch together, eating dinner. David grins wide when I tell him that Julie called me. “Ah Catherine this is brilliant. Acting won’t feel anything like work if I have you.”
I could protest that acting already doesn’t feel to him like work, especially when he’s playing the Doctor. At the same time, though, I know what he means. And I think that across from him, my acting becomes top form without me even thinking. I feed off of his enthusiasm and he feeds off mine and it’s a perfectly symbiotic relationship.
I suppose that’s what it’s like when you love someone.
Although of course I don’t love him so I wouldn’t know.
“I’m excited too.” I say, smiling in spite of myself.
“You don’t sound very excited.” He leans over, his lips grazing my jaw bone, his teeth nipping my earlobe. Too quickly, though, his mouth pulls back and lingers a millimeter away. “Be excited, Catherine. Please?”
His hot breath is hitting me in waves and I suddenly feel so cold, suddenly certain that I need him pressed against me to feel any sort of warmth ever again.
“Why on earth do you not think I’m excited?”
“Because.” David’s arm goes across my shoulder, and uses his hand to brush my hair aside. He slowly begins to wrap a strand around his finger. His lips are now drifting across my cheekbone, and while they occasionally meet my skin it feels almost accidental. I’d say it is accidental, but that’s not David. Everything he does is intentional, and I know that what he’s doing now is too fucking intentional too. “Because your eyes aren’t crinkling with your smile.” He absentmindedly kisses the spot where my eyes should be crinkling. “Because you’re not tugging on my hand and wrapping your arms around me.” He lifts one of my hands up, kisses the pad of each fingertip before releasing it. “Because you haven’t made me kiss you yet.”
I turn to look at him, and actually open my mouth to say something—whether to deny his statement or to simply promise that I’m thrilled, I have no idea—but it seems I didn’t have to make him kiss me because he lifts my chin up and does it himself.
It’s a hollow victory for me. As I reach for his collar and pull him closer, I feel warmth spreading through me. But I know that he’s right, and he knows that he’s right.
He just doesn’t care.
Or he doesn’t care enough.
It doesn’t particularly matter, though. Our plates slide off our laps and clatter to the floor. When David leans slightly against the armrest, I take the opportunity to straddle him and I lean into him, savor the feel of him arching up beneath me.
Maybe if I try hard enough, I can make him forget.
His slightly sad eyes as I bid him farewell that night tell me that no amount of sex is enough to forget.
Chapter 8: Chapter Seven
I feel her, feel the way she hides from me—unsuccessfully, of course. I feel her trying to hide the fact that she hides, too, and that doesn’t work well either.
Well, there’s one thing she’s done a splendid job at hiding, possibly what I’m most desperate to know.
I’ve got absolutely no idea how she feels about me. I know that I can make her bite and swear into my shoulder at night. I know that when we just sit next to each other to watch television or read, her hand runs through my hair absentmindedly. I know that the first time we’re on set together again, she’s able to finish my sentences and we earn a strange look from Russell because of it.
But through all of that, she’s hiding.
I try to keep a barrier up between us on my end too, but it doesn’t work very well. She sees through me, and I know it. I love her, and she knows it.
I haven’t said it. That would be too emotional, and I don’t want to scare her away. If I wait long enough, if I let her adapt, I think she’ll be ready.
I’m living under the completely sincere belief that Catherine will change.
Somewhere while we’re filming our second episode together, she stops going home whenever we’re in my flat together. The first time she glances at me and mumbles, “If you don’t mind, I’d really like to stay.”
The degree to which I don’t mind is so great that I almost want to grab hold of her and start all over. But I don’t. I just smile and take her hand, holding it loosely in my own. I watch her until she falls asleep, and become breathless at the sight of her looking so peaceful and at ease—I’ve never seen her look like that.
I drive her that morning, and while Russell’s arriving at the same time and sees us, he doesn’t ask.
I don’t really know what I would say if he did ask. And I don’t think I want to know what Catherine would say.
And then Russell starts to throw questions into the show. People asking the Doctor and Donna if they’re married, or in a relationship—or not even asking, but just looking at it as fact.
Each time, Catherine and I must adamantly shake our heads and insist that our relationship is completely platonic.
Sometimes I feel like it’s Catherine telling me, and that Donna is just so clearly against the concept of a relationship with the Doctor because Catherine doesn’t want to actually state that she’s in a relationship with me.
If I’m not in a relationship with Catherine, I don’t know what a relationship qualifies as. Because no one has ever made me feel so much more… complete. When I look at her, I feel like my heart is about to explode. I want to stroll down the street with her hand in mine, instead of always going everywhere with a reasonable, friend-sized distance between us. I want to wake up next to Catherine in the morning and I want to fall asleep next to her every night.
Once I get a taste of that, actually sleeping with her, I can’t get enough and I do everything within my power to keep her in my bed.
We have to go out of town for a week to film on location. That first night, she comes to my hotel room. We lie together on our sides, facing each other and chatting until three in the morning while I toy with her fingers.
Back when we first met, I felt immediately like I knew everything about her. But sometimes, on nights like this one, she lets down her wall a little bit and I learn new things. Every word that comes out of her mouth makes me fall in love with her more.
And I tell her, without a second thought, things I never imagined I could tell anybody. When I do, she looks at me and for just those moments, I see such immense affection in her eyes.
I don’t call it love, because as happy as that would make me, I don’t want to get myself hoping.
That first night, we doze for a bit over an hour in each other’s arms, before I nudge her in the direction of her own room.
Catherine keeps coming to me. Sometimes we have sex, and sometimes we just sit and appreciate each other’s company. I get hardly any sleep, but as soon as I walk on set and see her I become completely awake, immensely aware of everything.
On the last night, we eat dinner together in the hotel restaurant. And then she takes my hand and pulls me up to her hotel room instead.
I’ve never been to her flat. I’m sure she probably made a conscious decision about it, when we first started being… whatever we are. And I know that her hotel room is by no means the equivalent of a whole apartment full of Catherine, but this is the closest I’ve come and it’s thrilling.
My senses are on fire and every time we come into any sort of contact I burn a little bit more. I find myself savoring, in a completely new way, the taste of her tongue; the smell of her skin; the sound of her shouts that are muffled in my mouth; the look of complete ecstasy on her face.
Drifting off to sleep, I feel myself murmuring, “I love you.”
Chapter 9: Chapter Eight
I mumble it to myself, to the ceiling, and even to him. The question is entirely rhetorical, but with him sleeping beside me I can say it without worrying that he’ll actually say something.
I can’t run. There is absolutely nowhere I can go, no way that I could make a clean break.
David looks so innocent, lying beside me, and I hate it. I hate his perfect face and his perfect hair and his fucking perfect nose. I hate his ears, his lips, his eyelashes. I hate the way I can just barely see his teeth in between his lips, and the way his chest is rising and falling each time he breathes.
Except I don’t. Of course I don’t. I could put all of my energy into trying to hate David, and it still wouldn’t work because he’s just… well, he’s David.
Honestly, I know that I love him too.
But why does he love me?
He needs better than me. He needs someone who isn’t constantly terrified of becoming a bit too attached.
He needs someone who doesn’t give excuses.
Which in and of itself is an excuse. But that just makes my point more valid.
I look at him again. I would miss that, watching him sleep. He looks beautiful when he’s not stressing over everything in the world. When he’s not stressing about me.
One of David’s arms is outstretched toward me, his palm up as though any moment he expects to wake up and find my hand there too. It’s painful, to see him reaching out like that. He always seems to be reaching out, pulling me closer to him inch by inch.
And I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard to let him pull me closer. I brought him with me to my room because I thought that I could do it. Maybe, I thought, maybe when we got back, we could go out and then I could bring him back to my flat and after waking up that morning we could go out and have breakfast and neither of us would care if some rogue reporter happened to notice that he was wearing the same clothes two days in a row.
But then he had to go and ruin everything by telling me that he loved me.
I want to leave.
I can’t leave.
I don’t want to tell him goodbye.
But if I left, I would have to tell him goodbye.
I could say that he’s the one who would want to hear it. And it’s true, I s’pose. He would want to hear it. Me, though? I need to say it. I need finality. I need an ending where we didn’t have an ending the night we met because without an ending, there’s always room for something to start.
If I ended this, nothing would start ever again.
I would miss him, if this ended. Not just the feel of his hand on my waist every time we stood close on set, or the way that he grins at me, employing not only his teeth and lips but his tongue, his eyebrows, even in some weird way his ears. Not just calling him up at one in the morning on nights that we’re not together, or lounging around on his bed together until eleven in the morning on weekends.
No. I would miss him, in general, just the entity that is David. He’s wholly unlike anyone I’ve ever met; he’d have to be, for me to remember him for a decade after learning only his first name. I doubt I’ll ever meet someone else who makes me feel the way that he makes me feel.
But that’s what I can’t handle—feeling the way that he makes me feel.
He loves me. If I said goodbye, he might hate me for the rest of forever. He might hate me for making him hold on, for not loving him (although I do), for not wanting him around (although I do).
If this ended, though… He could move on. He could be happy. He could find a nice woman, a woman who wasn’t afraid to show that she loved him. He could settle down and live a life.
Once before, on a night when we just sat around talking, he told me that he wanted to get married. He told me that he wanted to become a family man.
I can’t give him that. I’m not ready to give him that, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready. So why am I doing this, holding on to him and keeping him from what he really wants?
Because he thinks that he really wants me.
It’s a satisfying feeling, being wanted. And it’s satisfying to want that person just as much as they want you.
I look at him again, sleeping in my bed. Some mornings, when he’s standing in front of me after a shower and he’s rifling around for clothes, I’ll look at his torso or his neck and see marks that I left on him from the night before. And I tell myself that he’s mine. But in this moment, right now, this is the first time I think he has really been mine.
His hair is falling into his eyes, and I lean over to brush it back. As an afterthought, I kiss his forehead, so softly that my lips barely graze his skin. “I love you,” I sigh. The contented smile that crosses his face nearly kills me.
I do. I do love him. Which is why, sooner or later, this will have to stop.
Chapter 10: Chapter Nine
When we film Journey’s End, she falls into my arms and sobs. Donna does that with the Doctor too, of course. But I can tell when Catherine loses control of her acting that little bit, just enough that I can see she’s being her. When she cries, her tears are entirely sincere.
I cry, too. As soon as the shot is over she flings her arms around my neck and pulls herself as close to me as humanly possible, burrowing her face into my neck. For once, we don’t care about the impression people might get of us, although this is probably also the only time that we can hold each other so close and not be accused of something more than platonic affection.
Under normal circumstances, I would kiss her tears away. But with other people around, I can only wipe them away with my thumb.
At the wrap party, I ask her if she would mind if I drank a beer or two; she waves me in the direction of the bar, so I go.
Something about the way she acts puzzles me, but I can’t put my finger on it. All I know is that when we’re standing next to each other, she always has my hand in hers, as though she’s concerned that any moment I’m going to run away.
When we’re leaving and climbing into the cab, I begin to give the cabbie my address before she grabs my arm to stop me. “Wait. Do you want to… Maybe go to my place instead?”
“I… uh… if you… sure.” I settle back in my seat and glance over at her. Her expression is entirely neutral, but there’s no way this was a spur of the moment decision.
Catherine reaches for my hand. “Thank you, David. For earlier, I mean.”
I don’t know, for once, what she’s talking about. “Thank you for what?”
“For holding me while I cried. For asking me before you got a drink. Just… thank you for being so good for me. Better than I sometimes think I deserve.”
That’s not the first time she’s said something along those lines, that she doesn’t deserve me. Like she’s such a bad person.
And aside from just telling her that I disagree, there’s not much that I could say.
Well, of course I have things I could say. I could say that I love her, because I still have no idea if she heard me or not. I could say that I can’t imagine life without her. Which is true—I’ve tried. I could say that I want to marry her.
It is true. If this relationship of ours was not quite so secretive, I would probably have proposed. Hell, the idea has still crossed my mind once or twice regardless of secrecy, regardless of how “unofficial” we supposedly still are.
Because there’s nothing unofficial about how we act. Not anymore. We are no longer subtle, no longer working hard to avoid detection. The fact that we’ve remained a secret so long is phenomenal.
But I love her, so I wait, wait while I could be shouting about my relationship with some women from the hill tops.
And I’m waiting because she’s worth it.
I lean over and kiss her on the forehead. “I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.”
Until we get up to her flat, our interlaced fingers are our only contact. Once we’re there, she doesn’t really give me much time to take in the surroundings, but as she kisses me and slides a hand up my shirt I can’t help but set my mind on more pressing matters, like removing all of Catherine’s clothing as fast as humanly possible. But when I begin to fumble with the buttons on her shirt, she smiles against my lips and pulls away to look at me. “Let’s take it slow tonight, David.”
I make a noise in my throat that is far too close to a whimper for my liking, but I nod. “Of course, Catherine.”
She pulls me close again and kisses me slowly. I savor the taste of her and consider the fact that I’m actually standing in the middle of her flat. Perhaps if she decided to do this… she might be ready to actually declare that we’re in a relationship.
After an undeterminable amount of time, Catherine takes my hand and leads me to her bedroom. Again, I attempt to remove her shirt, and again she stops me. I open my mouth to question her, but she puts a finger to my lips. I raise an eyebrow, but she just shakes her head slightly.
I doubt a tee-shirt has been removed so slowly in the history of humanity; she certainly takes her time, hands not only lifting the fabric away but also running up my torso, leaving goose bumps across my skin. Each time I move to pull it off entirely, she stops and looks at me sternly. Finally, she allows me to pull my arms out of the sleeves and she tosses the shirt to some unknown corner of the room.
My jeans are next, and while she’s tugging at the button and the zipper I toe off my shoes, kicking them aside. She lowers herself to slide the jeans off, and when her head nears my pelvis there is a sharp intake of breath that I realize a few seconds late actually came from me. But she rises and leaves me to step out of my jeans myself.
Catherine indicates that I should sit, and I do, watching as she unbuttons her own shirt, removes her own trousers. The whole time, her eyes are on me.
I don’t know when it occurs to me. Perhaps I realized it subconsciously, and was just a bit late catching up to myself. Perhaps I thought of it in the cab, or when she said, “Let’s take it slow,” or when she removed my shirt with not even the indication of a teasing smile. But as she straddles me, as she kisses me with an overwhelming ferocity, I’m certain.
She’s not accepting me into her life.
She’s saying goodbye.
Chapter 11: Chapter Ten
When I wake up the next morning, David is strolling casually around my room, retrieving various articles of clothing. He’s put on his pants, but other than that is entirely unclad, the rest of his clothes simply balled up in his hand.
He looks at me, a slightly startled look on his face. “Oh, Catherine. I was hoping to leave before you woke up. I figured that’s what you would want.”
I frown. “What are you talking about? Why?”
“Because you were going to end this. I thought I might as well save you the trouble, take a page out of your book. Let you wake up and wonder where I’d gone. I thought you’d like to see how absolutely thrilling it is.”
I have no idea what to say. I stare at him, watch as he shimmies into his jeans.
“Do you deny it?” David raises his eyebrows at me and when he does that it’s always playful but there’s nothing playful about it now.
Perhaps I could argue with him. I could tell him that that’s absurd, that he’s simply paranoid.
Except it’s not absurd, and it’s not paranoid. I’ve known for more than a month that as soon as we finished filming Journey’s End, I would end it. I’ve known for weeks that I would bring him back to my flat the night before.
All I can do is shake my head, staring not at his eyes but at his belly button. He pulls his shirt on and I have to watch as he covers it. I continue to stare at that spot, because it’s better than looking at his eyes.
“Catherine. Look at me, please.”
When I do, I almost want to burst into tears. It’s more than the fact that he looks sad. Yes, of course he looks sad, he looks almost destroyed. But he looks so disappointed. He’s looking at me like I seriously fucked up and I can’t help but feel like I did. I want to pull him back onto my bed, I want to cradle him in my arms and assure him that I love him and that everything will be okay.
But I can’t. Because he needs better; he just can’t see it because he’s so enamored with me.
“What, David?” I have to whisper the words because otherwise I’m pretty sure all I’ll be able to do is shout.
“I don’t believe this is what you want. I’m not going to fight you, but I… I love you, Catherine, and I fail to believe that you genuinely want to kick me out of your life.”
I love you too. I love you too I love you so fucking much that not having you next to me practically kills me and the idea of you no longer being in my life is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever considered ever. “I… David, I think it’s for the best.”
He stares me down for a moment and it takes all of my willpower to hold his gaze. Before I know what’s happening, he’s kneeling on my bed and crawling over to me. He stops when his face is mere centimeters away from mine. “Catherine.”
“Tell me that you don’t love me.”
“Tell me that you don’t love me, right now, and I will leave. You will never have to talk with me again, as far as I’m concerned.”
I don’t want to say that. With him so close to me I can’t think and I want to kiss him but dear God no I can’t because this is better for him. It’s better and I know it. And I know that in the future, he’ll look back on this moment and thank me for it.
There is legitimate hope in his eyes. I see it there, and I see that he’s trying so hard to hide it—possibly even so hard to stop it because he doubts it so much. But that goddamn hope is right there and I want so bad to quench that hope, to make him smile and make everything better.
“I don’t. I don’t love you.”
David recoils immediately. “Alright.”
As he sits on the edge of my bed and puts on his shoes, I watch him in silence.
I love him. I could tell him I love him. I could say it so easily and then he would be happy and then he would stay with me.
He’s made it to my doorway before I call out to him. “David.”
Too quickly, he spins around. “Yes?”
“I’m… I’m sorry.”
If it’s possible, his face falls even more. “Yeah. I know.”
For the first time but certainly not the last, I curl up and sob.
I hope I never have to see David again.