The Wave That Runs For Ever
She stood up abruptly and walked to the window, leaving the tall chair, the short table, and the books behind her. It was hot. How absurd. The Captain never let it get hot; he was far too fastidious, and he liked to maintain a steady temperature at all times. Why was it hot? Was she hot?
She looked for a moment through the little glass circle that was only the size of small plate, then turned away and went back to the table. The books were irritating her. Clearly they'd been written by some opinionated fool of an Englishman with no sense whatsoever and a distinct condescending tone, and she hated them all. What she wouldn't give for one of those nice, slim little volumes of poetry Lucy had always had. How stupid it had been to pack only practical things. She didn't always need practicality, although it was important. She needed playthings, too. One of those little volumes of poetry, and perhaps something boring and time-consuming, like knitting. Well-bred women embroidered. Village boys' blind grandmothers knitted. Perhaps she should weave. The Lady of Shalott wove.
She shook her head. What she needed was to get out of this hot room. Perhaps she could go up and get some air. She pushed open the door and made her way through the passages of the submarine. She wondered idly why all the walls were the same colour. One could never tell where one was. That was the whole point in papering houses.
But at last she was out, standing on the platform and seeing nothing but a vast expanse of sea in every direction. It was curious, the emptiness. How did the Captain stand such monotony? There were only waves in every direction, lapping against one another, stretching out to the horizon, disappearing in the distance, meeting the clear sky. How did one manage living amongst this dull uniformity? And it wasn't just /dull/--if one looked at it long enough and saw how empty it was and how wide and neverending and /separate/, one realised that it was hideously sad. There was nothing to touch and no one to live with. One needed someone to live with; someone to talk to and smile at and weep with. She used to have Jonathan, once upon a time.
How incredible it was. Once upon a time there was Jonathan, and her happy letters to Lucy and her silly diary entries full of joy and expectation, and now there was--this. The sea.
Here she put her face in her hands and sniffled, undignified, against her fingers, feeling them grow slick and hot. She lifted her head. Why cry? She was sick of the heat!
Now she moved, walked to the other side of the platform, gazed despairingly at the ocean, moved again, searched for a corner to sit in and found that there were none, because the railing on the platform was curved, cursed softly, and at last just sat down in the middle, tucking her skirt around her neatly. Then she folded her arms and glared at the door, so that anyone who came up and invaded her privacy would receive the full force of her displeasure at once.
She missed Jonathan and Lucy. She even missed home. Why was she here in the middle of the ocean without even something as trivial as a corner? Where were the fields, trees, tall cliffs and houses? Perhaps she should take up weaving. At least the Lady of Shalott could make pictures of the things she wanted to see. But faugh. The Captain would never consent to bring his submarine to land simply for her to purchase string or yarn or whatever it was one wove with. He was becoming a recluse, anyway. It'd been a week since she'd seen him.
Suddenly she heard a noise, and looked up irritably to see a man coming up on the platform. It was obvious who he was. The expression on his face left little doubt. She stared at him darkly and drew up her knees.
Blinking, the man hesitated for a moment, and then approached her. She cursed again.
He nodded shyly, and said, "Good afternoon, Lady," before resting his arms on the rail of the platform and looking out, eyes entranced.
She frowned. Of course, he didn't mind the sea at all. He was enraptured by it. Was she the only one who couldn't stand it? And he was forever calling her "Lady", as though "Mina" or "Ms. Harker" wouldn't suffice. "Doctor," she said, trying to make her shaking voice as polite as possible, "please call me Ms. Harker. 'Lady' is far too untrue."
He started and looked over at her with an expression of bewilderment. "Untrue?"
"Certainly. Do you think me a lady?"
"But I am not. Please call me Ms. Harker." She wondered why she was bothering. He would try at first, and slip back into the annoying habit after a few days.
"If you wish it, then I certainly shall."
"Thank you," she murmured, and hoped for silence. Almost of its own accord, her glare redirected itself to his calves, as it was too much effort to raise her head. This dreadful heat!
"Aloe vera," said the Doctor suddenly, wistfully, propping his cheek on the back of one hand.
"What?" she asked, without thinking, and looked up.
"Oh," he smiled a little, "I wish I had some aloe. Isn't it odd that one forgets the simplest things? I thought always to have medicines such as quinine or laudanum with me, but now I need aloe. It is the one thing I thought too unimportant to bring when they allowed me to go back and fetch my things," he added.
"What is aloe for?"
"You've burned yourself?"
"In the control room," the Doctor admitted. "I put my hand down on something and it's rather swollen now."
"Shouldn't you put it in cold water?"
"That didn't help." He sounded apologetic, and ducked his head a little.
At once she felt inspired. Here was something to think of, to take her mind of the ocean and the emptiness and the heat. "Perhaps I have something," she said, beginning to stand. He offered her his hand automatically, and she got to her feet. "Thank you. Perhaps there's something else for it. Can't we make a compress of water and soda?"
"Of course, you're quite right. How stupid of me." His face had gone apologetic again, and she controlled a slight urge to slap him and make him act even /slightly/ less humble and inferior.
"No," she said crisply, "it slipped your mind. Come."
He followed obediently as she went down, down, in the submarine again, through the passages that all looked the same, and finally found her room. Damn! she noted as she went in. It was still unbearably hot. The books were as she had left them, and she shut them and put them on her bed so that the table was clear.
"There! Now, let me--" She fetched her things, mixing the white powder into a thick paste, and then applied it messily to his burnt hand, which really did look painful. Carefully, she wrapped a bandage around the hand and tied it off loosely, feeling rather proud. She had done a good job on it.
After that, they sat for a while, she in the tall chair and the Doctor on a stool she drew over from a corner. At least her room had corners. She suspected the Doctor, at least, was feeling very awkward, because he suddenly asked, "Have you been to London?"
"Yes," she said. "Several times. We had some family living there, and I saw a play once."
"Really?" he asked eagerly. "Where did you go? What did you see?"
"It was only a little theatre called 'Le Bijou', performing King Lear. A dreadful production." She didn't mention that she had met Dorian there. "Afterward, we went to a tavern or something." Yes, she remembered quite well, and smiled a bit. "Horrid steak, but lovely peas and potatoes. The best I had in England. And once my cousin dressed me in old clothes and took me to a pub. It was called 'The Silver Lamb', if I remember. It was awfully smoky, but I was so excited."
The Doctor smiled too. "I'm afraid I don't know that one. Before I--er, before--well, that is to say--well, when I was still something of a member of society, I went to clubs or restaurants, and afterwards--well--I wasn't the one picking the places. I don't remember well," he said, going apologetic again.
"Understandable," she told him.
Then, "Ms. Harker?" he asked, going over her name carefully.
"Do you miss London?"
"No," she said firmly. It wasn't London she missed. It was Jonathan and Lucy.
"Oh," said the Doctor softly, evidentally somewhat crushed.
She relented. "Not London. England, perhaps. Parts of it. I miss the countryside. London is dirty and full of smog. I miss the people I knew, but if I went back to England I wouldn't find them. Perhaps you understand what I mean. I find myself pretending it would be good to go back, but I really do know better. There would be no one there for me, no one I loved, no family. I would be alone in the middle of a land full of people who would hate me if they knew about me and ignore me only because they don't know me." Before she knew it, she was making a complete fool of herself, saying everything she'd been thinking for the last year. "It would only be an empty place, and heaven knows it's empty enough here. I'm lonely enough among people who accept me. What do you think it would be like among people who didn't? Of course I miss the air when it smells of something besides salt, and I wish there were trees, but are they really important enough to draw me back to England? I'm safe here. Aren't you? What would you go home to? People you ran away from in the first place because Hyde started killing them off? What is there? What could you find? We stopped the war, but did it make a difference, really? Do you think they'd overlook your monster purely because you saved their lives? I'm /old/, Doctor. I /know/. It doesn't matter. The only thing I miss about England are the things I remember, and I could make myself foolish with nostalgia and still know I don't want to go back. It would be painful and pointless."
When she finished, she was shaking slightly, and felt a wave of despair as she realised her cheeks were wet. In front of him! Oh, of all the /stupid/ things!
"Ms. Harker!" he cried, jumping to his feet at once. She nearly told him to sit again, but she wasn't sure that her voice might not come out ragged and choked and pathetic, and she stopped herself. So there he stood, looking at her with an expression that was both anxious and earnest, clearly wanting to do something but having no idea what to do.
After a few moments, she drew a deep breath and shook her head. "I'm all right, Doctor. Please, don't concern yourself. I was merely a little over-excited."
"Yes, of course," he murmured, gazing at the table.
She sighed. He wasn't like Jonathan. Jonathan was gentle and quiet, but he did impulsive things, too, and he would have embraced her or petted her hair or told her not to cry. She doubted the Doctor was capable of such comforts.
"Ms. Harker, I'm very sorry. Shall I go?"
"If you wish to, Doctor."
"I--I'm very sorry."
"It's all right." How she wanted some yarn or string or something! Something mind-numbing! "Doctor," she said quickly, before he'd reached the door. He froze. "What does one weave with?"
"Er--yarn, I believe. Thin yarn. I... suppose."
"Are you--do you want to--?"
"I don't believe I could. Still, it's a thought. Good afternoon, Doctor."
She crossed over the bed and collapsed on it, sighing in exasperation. All was dreadful; she was still lonely; and she was considering seeking out the Captain in desperation. She could force him to play chess with her. He did play occasionally. Clearly the Captain didn't want to have anything to do with her or he wouldn't have vanished, but she was feeling merciless.
However, the search was futile and she quickly gave up. It took more energy than she was willing to spare presently, and she returned to her room. What was there to be done? The room was hot, but it had been hot up on the platform, as well. She looked over at the books on the bed, sighed again quite deeply, and began to read.
Several days later, she woke late at the sound of someone tapping gently on her door. She wondered briefly if the Captain had come out of hiding. No, no. He would knock harder. She put on a robe and went to answer, feeling the cold floor under her bare feet and scolding herself mentally for sleeping so long.
"Yes?" she said, opening the door.
The Doctor blushed absurdly at the sight of her in her bed-things, but managed a "good morning".
"Good morning, Doctor," she replied, smiling tiredly. There must be some reason he'd awakened her. "How is your hand?"
"Oh, much better now! And it has, indirectly of course, to do with why I woke you (I apologise for that). I--I recalled your mentioning yarn a few days ago, Ms. Harker. You said you rather wanted to weave, but you didn't think you could, and I thought--well, we stopped near Ireland late last night. I was awake, and I thought perhaps you might like--I asked permission to go on land from the Captain's mate, and took the liberty of purchasing several skeins of yarn and a small hand loom for you." He blushed again, ducking his head.
"You did?" She blinked at him stupidly for a moment, and then burst out laughing. "Did you really? How wonderful!"
"It's in my room at the moment, but I shall fetch it--"
"Yes, of course. Please do."
He gave her a quick, shy smile, and hurried off, and she closed the door behind him and leaned on it, still laughing a little. A loom! and yarn! and she really would be like the Lady of Shalott! She hurried over to her chest of clothes and began to get dressed. Oh, but how funny he was. Now /that/, /that/ was something Jonathan might have done for her.
When he returned, she was busy straightening her room a bit and feeling disgustingly cheerful.
"Is that it? Heavens, it's wretchedly large. Please, bring it in. Thank you very much, Doctor!"
They set it by her bed, and he gave her the package of yarn. For a moment, she thought she'd open that too and gush girlishly over the different colours, but instead she looked up at the Doctor and said, "'She knows not what the curse may be, and so she weaveth steadily, and little other care hath she'." She was no longer longing for an occupation, but he'd given her one anyway, and she was really very pleased. "Thank you utterly," she added.
The Doctor ducked his head again. "You're certainly welcome, Lady."
"Oh, for heaven's sake." But she kissed his cheek and smiled. "Now, what colours did you bring me?"
"Red, rose, blue, purple, and jade. And one that's rather sort of smoky blue. But it's very pretty," he said earnestly, "and..."
As she listened to him speak, she realised that it was no longer hot in her room. How lovely! she laughed in her head. And what an idiot she was! But she didn't mind, really.