Title: Like A Friend
By: angstytimelord
Pairing: Tenth Doctor/Arthur Eddington
Fandom: Doctor Who/Einstein and Eddington
Rating: PG-13
Table: 1, prompt_palooza
Prompt: 95, Friend
Author's Note: Continuation of Lose Again.
Disclaimer: This is entirely a product of my own imagination, and I make no profit from it. I do not own the Tenth Doctor or Arthur Eddington. Please do not sue.


The Doctor looked around him, wondering where Arthur had gone off to. The other man had said that he would join the Time Lord on the lawn in front of the house, but at the moment, he seemed to have disappeared from sight.

Could it be that his resemblance to the man he'd loved and lost bothered Arthur so much that he didn't want to be in his presence? The Doctor frowned at the thought, hoping it wasn't true. If that was the case, it would be impossible for them to get to know each other.

He had another immediate problem, as well. How in the world was he going to tell Arthur that the man he'd loved and lost was .... well, himself? The same body, but a different man. That wasn't going to be easy to explain.

The Doctor propped his chin in his hands, frowning. First, he would have to get Arthur to talk about the time he'd spent with John Smith, to tell him at least some approximation of what their relationship had been like. Again, not an easy thing to accomplish.

What he would have to do was ask the right questions to bring out Arthur's need to talk about John. He'd have to phrase them carefully; it would be hard for Arthur to talk to a new acquaintance about himself, much less about a lover.

Given the time that Arthur lived in, and the fact that same-sex relationships were condemned, he'd have to be very careful in what he chose to say. The last thing he wanted to do was to make Arthur step away from him, or think that he was prying.

After all, Arthur's relationship with John would seem to be none of his business. The Doctor sighed, his frown deepening. It wouldn't be his business if he wasn't John Smith. The fact that he was the same man who Arthur had fallen in love with changed everything.

He knew that Arthur had been in love with John. He'd seen the look of torment on the other man's face when John was briefly mentioned; that look couldn't be anything but love, the expression of someone who had lost the person closest to their heart.

But Arthur hadn't lost him, the Doctor told himself fiercely. He might not technically be John Smith any more, but he was still the same man. John was somewhere inside him -- and so were the feelings he'd had for Arthur.

"You certainly look serious. Is something wrong?"

The sound of Arthur's voice jerked the Doctor out of his throughts; he looked up from whree he was sitting under the tree on the lawn, his dark eyes wide with surprise. Arthur was standing there, a small smile on his face, looking somewhat nervous.

The Time Lord shook his head, managing a smile, though his mind was whirling. Was this the best time to try to get Arthur to speak of John? Or should he wait for another time? For once, he couldn't decide what was the best way to proceed.

Arthur sat down beside him, only a foot or so away, close enough that the Doctor could feel him near but far enough away to put what he probably regarded as a "safe" distance between them. The Doctor had to hold himself back from sliding closer to the other man.

After all, he told himself sternly, there was more than likely a reaosn that Arthur hadn't sat right by him. He might be fighting an attraction, or -- he could be bothered by the fact that the Doctor looked just like his beloved John.

That would be enough to disconcert anyone, the Doctor told himself with a sigh, hoping that the way he looked wouldn't make Arthur keep his distance. He had to think of ways to draw the other man closer to him, not send him fleeing away.

He looked over at Arthur, wondering just what to say to start the conversation. But Arthur surprised him by speaking first, his words soft and hesitant, as though he was having a hard time getting them out and trying to measure what he was saying.

"I'm sorry .... I don't mean to stare, or be rude. But you look exactly like someone I knew a short while ago .... someone I ...." He gulped, not looking at the Doctor as he continued to speak, his voice choked and hushed. ".... Someone I loved."

"Someone you were in love with?" The Doctor kept his voice pitched low, hoping that his tone sounded soothing and didn't betray the sudden rapid pounding of his hearts. He hadn't expected this kind of admission from Arthur so soon.

Arthur nodded slowly, the movement almost imperceptible at first. "Yes," he answered, the whisper barely audible. "A man named John. He was .... more like a friend than anyone I've ever known. More than a friend." He gulped before he continued, the words even softer than before.

"No .... that's not quite true," he murmured, his voice hollow. "He was much, much more than a friend. John was the love of my life. He was everything to me. And I .... I lost him .... because I told him that it was best for him to go away until we could be together."

The Doctor didn't quite know what to say; this was far beyond what he'd expected to hear. He'd thought that it would take Arthur a while to talk about the relationship he'd had with John Smith; he hadn't expected it all to be poured out to him so quickly.

"You remind me of him," Arthur whispered, raising his head to look at the Doctor. "You look exactly like him. Its .... remarkable. There's such a strong resemblance -- in fact, I could say that you're twins, and I think I wouldn't be exaggerating."

"What do you mean -- you lost him?" he asked, wondering if Arthur thought that John was dead. Well, for all intents and purposes, the human that he'd become when he used the Chameleon Arch was dead. But that man was still a part of him.

"He died." Arthur's voice was flat, expressionless. "I was sent a letter from London, from the school he taught for. They knew that he'd stayed with me when he'd come here, and they thought I should know. But of course, they didn't know how I felt about him. No one did."

He'd never known that a human face could carry such sadness. The look on Arthur's handsome features made the Doctor want to take the other man in his arms, blurt out the truth, assure him that John wasn't dead -- that his love was here in front of him.

But he couldn't do that. He wasn't really John Smith -- not the John that Arthur had known and loved. John was a part of him -- but that part was buried inside him. He was the same man, but different. And he didn't know how to explain that in a way that Arthur would understand.

All that he could do was say the words that he'd said to so many other people when they'd told him of their losses -- words that he knew were inadequate, though they were the only thing he could say. He desperately wished that they could be enough.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, his hearts clenching in his chest. "I'm so sorry."

Arthur's eyes met his, the other man's pain staring out of those depths directly at him. The suffering he could read there hit the Doctor almost like a physical blow; suffering that he had indirectly caused, without knowing that he was inflicting it.

If only he could take that pain way. If only he could take Arthur in his arms right at this moment, cradle him and tell him the truth -- and be believed. It would be the least he could do for this man, after the unwitting pain he'd caused.

There would be a time for that, he vowed to himself. He'd make sure there was time. He'd stay here until he could find a way to bring himself closer to Arthur -- close enough to let feelings develop between the two of them. Feelings that he was already nurturing.

Would it be possible for Arthur to feel the same? he thought, hoping with all his hearts that it would be so. He was already drawn towards this man, inexorably, as if there was a gossamer thread pulling him towards Arthur, not letting him back away.

All that he could do for now was to hope that he could find a way into Arthur's heart -- and if the fact that he looked exactly like this man's lost love would help with that, then so much the better. He'd take any advantage that he could get.

"I know that nothing can bring him back to me," Arthur whispered, finally looking away. "But when I saw you, I thought .... I felt my heart leap in a way that it hasn't since I first saw John. I thought there might .... be a chance for me to love again."

The Doctor's own hearts seemed to skip a few beats with those words. Careful, an inner voice warned him. He wants John, not you. You're going to get hurt if you let yourself leap into this without weighing all the risks. To him as well as to yourself.

But John was a part of him. And hopefully, in time, Arthur would come to understand that. For now, they had to meet as the people they were at the moment; his revelations would have to wait until Arthur was in a better frame of mind to accept them.

"I'd like that," he said softly, reaching for Arthur's hand and twining his fingers through the other man's. "I've felt drawn to you since we first met -- I don't know if you only feel that because of my resemblance to him, but that's something we'll have to work out."

He was rewarded with a smile and a nod, though Arthur still looked faintly troubled. "I don't know, either," he confessed, looking down at their clasped hands. "But I'd like to think that it's more about you than about my past."

"So would I," the Doctor answered, squeezing Arthur's hand and wishing that he could give the other man some reassurance. "Let's take things slowly and see how they work out, all right?" he said softly, a smile starting to curve his lips.

Arthur smiled in return, lapsing into silence. But he didn't let go of the Doctor's hand, and that gave the Time Lord more hope than he'd thought he could have at this early stage of their relationship. There was already something of a bond forming between them.

He hadn't even told Arthur that he was attracted to men, he mused. Maybe the other man had somehow just known -- and maybe there was something in him that was responding to that part of John Smith hidden in the Doctor.

He would be more like a friend to Arthur than anyone had ever been. He would find a way to tell Arthur who he was -- and he would pick up the threads of what they'd had. Only this time, it would last -- and he wouldn't be hiding behind a person who wasn't really him.

Could Arthur accept him as he was? He had no idea, really. But he had no choice but to take the risk of rejection. He already wanted this man too much to forget about him and walk away.

There was no telling how this would end, if Arthur would be able to believe him and if they could make a life together. But he was committed now -- and there was no turning back.


Next story in series - Touched By Moonlight.