When they first encountered one another before filming the Christmas special of Doctor Who, a million words passed between them before either said a thing.
They processed. They made a silent agreement.
“Hello Catherine. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“Yes, it certainly has.”
Their greeting was not cold. They were not angry or scared. Neither of them felt that there was a score to be settled.
In fact, when they were called off in separate directions in regards to costumes or hair or make-up, they walked away smiling.
Originally, she was dating the mate of one of his mates.
This mate of David’s was throwing a party at a pub, and he’d been selected as a designated driver for three of his friends.
He noticed from across the room that she wasn’t drinking any alcohol and wandered over to her, saying, “Your mates making you drive them home tonight too?”
This question just made her laugh. “No. I don’t drive.”
“So why aren’t you drinking?”
“I don’t drink.”
No woman had ever made him so curious with two sentences.
“I’m David,” he said.
“Catherine.” She stuck out her hand, and they shook.
Ridiculous smiles were on both of their faces. Neither of them cared.
“How do you know the man of the hour?” David asked. He wanted to know, so that he could then go to his friend and discover why the hell he’d never been introduced to Catherine before.
She frowned slightly. “I actually don’t. My boyfriend does.”
“You know, I kind of threw a fit about you being here,” David mused.
This alarmed her slightly, although she did her best not to let it show. “Why?”
Regardless of how much she tried to hide it, though, he saw that she was worried. Because he was very good at that in general; he’d had enough practice reading her. “Oh. I mean, it was just because… because your show is what you’re known for and such. It was just… I wasn’t quite sure how you’d—“
“Make the adjustment?” Catherine wanted to laugh. David wasn’t the only one who’d expressed that type of concern. “Okay. I thought maybe…”
“Oh, you thought—no, why’d you—no. I mean, we’re both…” He frowned at the ground.
“Perfectly mature adults. Yes. I agree entirely.”
“Yes.” He smiled, pleased. “Mature adults. We can handle…”
For the next few minutes, their conversation comprised of agonizingly boring small talk while the two of them attempted to become comfortable again.
She broke up with the mate of David’s mate, but their paths kept crossing. She’d see David on the tube or they would somehow end up in the queue together at some shop.
But it wasn’t until they bumped into each other at an audition for a play that he decided to say, “Dinner?”
And while she was startled, she was most certainly pleased. “Yes, dinner sounds wonderful.”
They could handle it, being mature adults. Both of them felt… odd, yes. Because they knew each other, deeply and intricately. At the same time, though, it was as though they hardly knew each other at all.
But for how much Catherine spoke differently, the nuances of her actions had not changed. For how much the particular aspects of David’s life had developed, his mannerisms were exactly as she remembered them.
Just as when they first met, Catherine was with someone, and David treated her accordingly. He wanted her to be aware that he harbored no feelings for her. None. Whatsoever. The past was the past.
And if that wasn’t entirely true, he didn’t have to say so.
“I love you, you know.”
“Oh Christ, you’re not just saying that because I’ve slept with you.” Catherine sat up suddenly and stared at him as though a thought had only just occurred to her. “David, please tell me you don’t run about shagging women and telling them you love them immediately afterward. Because that’s really not a good way to go about things.”
He laughed. “No. I mean it. Really. I just felt as though I should inform you. I mean, I’ve loved you essentially since I met you, I think, so why not tell you so?”
“Well, as long as we’ve got that cleared up, I do love you too. Although,” she frowned slightly. “I can’t exactly say that I’ve loved you since we met, can I?”
“I know. But that’s not what I need to hear. What I need to hear is that you love me now.”
Catherine took his hand and brought it up to her lips, kissing it softly. “I love you now, David.”
And that was all that mattered.
David wasn’t about to say it, but he was pretty certain that he was in danger of being in love with her forever. From the moment she stepped into his life, she’d had an impact, and he wanted it to never stop.
They became friends again. Just friends. After filming the Christmas special, they kept communicating—chatting on the phone, maybe meeting for dinner once a month or so. Because he liked her company, and she liked his.
One evening, she appeared on his doorstep when he wasn’t expecting her. She looked horribly flustered. “Hi. I know you weren’t expect—“
“Nonsense.” He wasn’t busy, and even if he had been, Catherine looked so horribly out of it that he would have let her in anyway. Taking a step back so that she could brush past him, he said, “C’mon then.”
She stepped inside. Almost before he even had a chance to close the door, she whispered, “I think we should talk about it, David.”
Sometimes, Catherine lay awake late at night long after David had fallen asleep. And she just… looked at him. She considered the fact that she was entirely his, and that he wholeheartedly wanted to be hers.
And very often, she came to the conclusion that they were really too young to feel so devoted to a single person. Maybe they would be fine, yes. But maybe they wouldn’t. This relationship had lasted for a year, and that was already far longer than any other relationship she’d ever been in before. Why had things still not fallen apart? Wasn’t that long past due?
Of all the men she’d dated, David was the one she least wanted to see get hurt.
She couldn’t help but wonder when she’d fuck up.
Because really, Catherine always fucked up.
This made him hesitate slightly, but he still led her to his living room. She sat on the couch and he sat with as much space between them as humanly possible without allowing it to be clear that he was simply trying to put space between them.
Obviously, Catherine was able to tell that he was trying to put space between them. And she didn’t comment.
“So.” He said. Because one of them had to at least attempt to get the ball rolling, and it wasn’t going to be her. “Why? Have you always been so intent to reminisce about the past, or was it a sudden urge that brought you here?”
She didn’t like how cold he sounded. But she didn’t understand, not really. She didn’t understand that David had spent a decade trying to make himself forget. She didn’t understand that since she’d reappeared in his life, he’d spent months honing the ability to be entirely indifferent—where it really counted, at least.
Most importantly, he’d spent all of that time telling himself to just forget everything that had ever passed between them ever.
Not really succeeding.
And, therefore, hating himself. Because he thought that was what Catherine wanted… And all he wanted to do was make her happy.
This fact made him hate himself a bit more.
But she knew none of this. So when she said, “Well, I wanted to see if we could let it go. But I think it’d be better if we actually… y’know. Talked.”
David contemplated this for a moment, expressionless. And then all of a sudden he was chuckling. “Our lives certainly have gone in different directions, haven’t they?”
After dinner that night, he was going to ask her if she wanted to move in together.
But his plans altered slightly when she cleared her throat halfway through dessert and said, “David.”
It was her serious voice. He couldn’t help but be a bit alarmed when Catherine pulled out her serious voice. “Oh God. What is it that I did this time, Catherine? Did I forget something? It’s not your birthday, is it? I swore to myself I wouldn’t forget that this year, Jesus. I swear, I’ll—“
“No, no, David it’s nothing like that. I…” She glanced down at the table, then looked back up at him. “I think maybe we should take a break from each other.”
Couples that had been out on five dates “took breaks”. Couples that had been in an exclusive relationship for two years did not just take a break. What was she playing at?
“I just… I think maybe we’re going different places in our lives. And I think we should take some time to look at the directions we want to go and… think about if they’re the same.”
She was giving him a textbook break-up speech, and it outraged him. It outraged him that he’d already circled some apartments that he thought they could look at together and it outraged him that he seriously had not seen this coming and it outraged him that, knowing Catherine, she probably had an awful reason for this. “Would you say that you know me pretty well?” he said after a moment.
“I…” While David watched, she went through a process of turning the question over in her mind, trying to figure out if it was a trick. Apparently, it was okay, because she said, “Of course. Better than anybody, I think.”
“Then give me an actual reason. No different directions bull shit. Don’t you think I deserve better than that?”
She smiled. “I must say, I never expected us to actually be working together. Neither did you, I’m assuming.”
“No, I didn’t.” David hadn’t expected to work with her even once, let alone what they’d done and what they still had plans for. “Honestly, I don’t think I expected to see you again… ever, really.”
“David…” She swallowed, and his expression became soft because she sounded like she’d never been more unhappy with a decision in her life. “I’m… I’m really happy with you. But I think I’m getting too comfortable. I’m worried that I can’t stay in touch with myself—fuck, this sounds like utter nonsense. I mean it, David, really. You’re… you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But I think right now I need something different.”
He knew she meant it. And that was why it hurt so much.
They were sitting closer, now, because David couldn’t really help it. As long as he knew there wasn’t going to be shouting, he wanted to be in a good position to just… touch her. If the occasion happened to arise.
Which it wouldn’t, but he couldn’t help it.
“Could I have said anything?” He asked eventually.
Catherine looked at him closely. “To change my mind?”
“Maybe? I don’t know, I’m not in that mindset anymore, am I? I’m all… settled.”
“I was going to ask you if you wanted to move in together that night.”
“Oh.” Her voice was feeble. “I didn’t… Why… You should have…”
Even though he didn’t like seeing her uncomfortable, he couldn’t help being a little bit amused. “I thought you said nothing would have mattered.”
“No. Nothing would have stopped me from ending it. Don’t…” She scooted closer to him, took his hand in her own. “Don’t say it wouldn’t have mattered.”
“And maybe our paths will cross again when I feel comfortable with what my life has become.”
When they walked away that night, though, neither of them expected that to happen.
“Do you know how many times I’ve wondered how my life would have been different if I’d stayed with you?” Her head was on his shoulder now, his arm across her back.
“Oh, Catherine, I would have married you. Had you make an honest woman of me.” When he looked down at her, she was raising her eyebrows at him. “Seriously. We’d be married right now. Maybe another me running around.”
“I can hardly handle one of you, how would I handle another one?”
He laughed, but as something about that comment sunk in for both of them, they became silent. Eventually, he kissed her on the crown of her head. She just sighed and leaned in closer.
“What made you come now, Catherine?” He whispered the words into her hair, like he wanted to ask the question but didn’t want to hear an answer.
But she did answer. “I had a row with Twig. He said I wasn’t invested enough in him. Which was part of the reason I broke up with you—I was scared that I didn’t care for you as much as you cared for me.”
“I’ve loved you since we met; why should that have mattered to me?”
“It mattered to me. You deserve someone who absolutely reveres you.”
“And you don’t deserve that?” he murmured.
She smiled and shook her head. “No. No, I don’t.”
Catherine wanted David to kiss her. She knew, though, that he wouldn’t. She knew that he still loved her… But that was why he was going to sit there and simply hold her until she was ready to go home.
This man certainly deserved better than her.