Title: Winterlude
Author: Van Donovan
Characters: The Second Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Ben Jackson, Polly Wright.
Pairing(s): Two/Jamie, Ben/Polly
Rating: G
Word Count: 12,383
Warnings: Spoilers through "The Macra Terror."
Summary: There's fun for all at a winter carnival..
Note: Written for dwliterotica's April Easter challenge. My prompt was "Winter Carnival." Have tried a British writing style for this, so I hope it works.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I made no money from this, but if you want to hire me, I'm cheap. Betaing provided by Starkiller.

‘Oy, look, Duchess!’ Ben cried, pointing to the near distance. ‘It’s a bloomin’ winter carnival, so it is!’

‘Oh, you’re right, Ben! How splendid,’ Polly cheerfully replied, peering in the direction he was pointing.

The TARDIS had materialised on the very outskirts of the wood, nestled just inside the trees. The boughs were heavily laden with snow and there was quite a bit of it piled up on the ground. The sky overhead, however, was sparkling clear, the stars glittering brightly. A nearly full moon hung overhead, illuminating much of the carnival that was going on in the field nearby.

Jamie watched his breath crystallise on the air as he stepped out of the TARDIS, looking around. He eyed the sparkling carnival in the distance warily, uncertain what all the lights and noise were about. What he did know was that it was bitterly cold and his grey polo-neck jumper wasn’t doing much to cut the chill.

‘Oh, Doctor,’ Polly pleaded. ‘Can’t we go? We do so deserve a break, after all we’ve been through.’

‘What’s all this?’ the little man in the frumpy clothes asked, stepping out of the TARDIS at last. He looked up in surprise at the cool, crisp night, his face filling with a delighted, childlike wonder. ‘Winter!’ he crowed, clapping his hands together exuberantly. ‘Oh, how marvellous!’ Excitedly, he tugged on Jamie’s arm. ‘Look at the snow, Jamie!’

‘Och, I see it,’ Jamie said, nonplussed. He crossed his arms sulkily.

‘And a carnival!’ Polly insisted. ‘A winter carnival! I bet they have spiced cider!’

Jamie brightened considerably on this point. ‘I could use a drink!’

‘That we all could, mate,’ Ben agreed, nodding. ‘Hey, so where are we, Doctor? Don’t look quite like home, but sure is familiar.’

‘It does look like Earth,’ Polly agreed, wrapping her arms around herself, to ward off the cold. It wasn’t snowing, but the temperature was still decidedly low.

Thoughtfully, the Doctor looked around, stroking his chin. ‘Judging by the type of copse, the angle of the stars and the degree of snow . . . I’d definitely say this is Earth, probably North America, somewhere. Perhaps Canada.’

‘Well, wherever it is, it’s cold!’ Jamie protested.

‘Eh?’ Ben mocked, nudging into Jamie. ‘Though you Scots were used to the cold, living up north as you do.’

Jamie bristled, glancing over at Ben cautiously. The two had made up after the events on the colony station where they’d encountered the Macra, but it was clear that much of Jamie’s blind devotion to Ben had been shattered and not entirely repaired. ‘Och! But there’s snow everywhere!’ Jamie protested, throwing his arms out to take in the white expanse of field before them. ‘It’s no like this back home!’

‘Yes, Jamie’s right,’ the Doctor said, turning back to the TARDIS. ‘You all three need warmer clothing if we’re going to enjoy ourselves here. Yes, I do think you will,’ he mused. ‘And I’ll have to see if I can’t find some proper currency.’ He wandered back inside, whistling to himself.

Ben eyed Polly as the Doctor shuffled away. ‘Proper-like money, now, eh? That’ll be a first,’ he mused.

‘Don’t jinx it,’ Polly warned. ‘I just hope he doesn’t come out with Mexican pesos or Dalek coins or something.’ Ben started inside, but Jamie remained standing out on the snowy grass, staring into the distance. ‘Jamie?’ Polly called, turning back. ‘You’ll freeze yourself if you don’t get something warmer on.’

Sheepishly, Jamie turned back to her. ‘I wouldnae know what tae even wear,’ he began.

‘Oh, you silly boys! You’ve seen the Doctor’s wardrobe; I know you have.’ She grabbed his arm, tugging him back inside. ‘Leave it to Polly, then. I’ll find you something nice and warm.’

With that sort of determination, Jamie had no choice but to follow the headstrong woman back inside and do as she told him.

Before long, all four friends once again found themselves outside the TARDIS, this time more properly attired. Polly had found a beautiful sky blue coat lined with soft, white fur. She wore a matching cap on her head, which highlighted her blonde hair and made her look rather like a snow goddess. Ben had found a sturdy brown leather jacket and matching leather gloves, as well as a pair of heavy-duty boots. Jamie was dressed in a comfortable tan anorak, although he’d refused to change out of his kilt into something more sensible.

The Doctor had donned a blue knit cap, but otherwise looked the same. He locked the door of the TARDIS and took a deep breath of the cold air. ‘Ah!’ he brightly said. ‘This shall be splendid!’

‘Got proper money then, did you?’ Ben asked, adjusting his gloves as they began to walk towards the carnival in the distance.

‘Yes, of course.’ The Doctor peeled some paper money off a small stack he had, handing it over to Ben. ‘Do try not to spend it all in one place.’

Jamie eyed the exchanged slyly, sliding up besides the Doctor once Ben had hurried off to catch up to Polly. He held out his hand anxiously.

The Doctor studied the proffered palm. ‘Yes?’

‘Och, dinnae I get money too?’

‘Oh, Jamie,’ the Doctor sighed. ‘Even if I gave it to you, would you know what to do with it?’

Trying not to look offended, Jamie lowered his hand. ‘Ye could tell me,’ he protested.

‘That I could,’ the Doctor agreed, looking up as they neared the carnival entrance. There were 20th century vehicles parked in the lot around them, some dusted with snow. Eager pleasure seekers were queuing at the entrance, stamping their feet against the cold. Despite the darkness of the sky, it was clearly still quite early, the sun having only recently set. ‘But I think I’ll hold on to it for now, just the same.’

‘Hey, Pol,’ Ben called as he paid the nominal entrance fee into the carnival. The pair of Londoners passed a massive ice sculpture of a reindeer as they entered. ‘We never did get to have our lunch date that day back home, ‘fore all this began. What say we make up for that now, eh? My treat.’

Polly laughed. ‘The Doctor’s treat, you mean?’ she teased. But, nodding her head, she agreed. ‘All right Ben. I accept.’ Turning back, she took in her other two companions. ‘You don’t mind too terribly much, do you, Doctor?’

‘Oh, heavens no!’ the Doctor cheerfully replied, patting himself down. ‘Do have fun, that’s what we’re here for!’

Ben and Polly looked at each other impishly, before each took off in an opposite direction—Ben towards the carnival booths, Polly towards the ice gardens. The pair laughed at their different desires and Ben finally acquiesced to Polly’s choice, following her into the somewhat secluded gardens, hidden by hedges, lined with neatly carved ice statutes. It wasn’t long before they were lost in the crowd.

‘Come along, Jamie,’ the Doctor started, turning to find the boy staring wide-eyed up at the ice reindeer just in the entrance. It was nearly nine feet tall, up on a large wooden dais, and wrapped in fairy lights. Jamie was rather blocking the path as he gawked, causing people to mutter as they squeezed past him.

The Doctor’s expression softened as he approached Jamie. ‘It’s an ice sculpture,’ he explained gently. ‘Artists use all sorts of tools to carve statues out of the blocks of ice. It’s a winter hobby. We can look at all the rest in the ice garden, if you’d like.’

Jamie finally looked away from the figure, letting the Doctor lead him out of the path of the crowd. ‘It seems like a waste of time,’ he said, eyeing the gardens Ben and Polly had disappeared down somewhat enviously.

‘I think they’re very lovely,’ the Doctor protested. ‘And they require great skill to make. Their fleeting nature appeals to me. It very well might melt tomorrow, and certainly will come spring. It takes a certain sort of artist to create art that he knows will be destroyed.’

‘Aye, well, they’re nice enough tae look at all right, but what a waste, seeing as it all melts anyway.’ Jamie’s eyes were then pulled by the white fairy lights strung about most of the faire ground. They trimmed most of the carnival booths, as well as the ice skating rink. Combined with all the pristine snow lying in drifts against the booths and rides, it made the carnival seem like quite the storybook Wonderland.

‘Yes, well, we don’t have to go see them, if you’re not interested. Maybe you’d enjoy something more physical? Oh, I know! Have you ever been ice skating?’ The Doctor started towards the rink, which was mostly populated by laughing children and happy couples. ‘It’s quite a feat to learn to ice skate, but such fun! I wonder if you can?’

‘Och, how hard could it be?’ Jamie asked. His eyes were pulled off the lights, to focus on the people gliding around the ice so effortlessly. The boy tilted his head, studying them. ‘They’ve weird blades on their feet,’ he noted.

The Doctor broke into an impish little grin. ‘Indeed they do, Jamie. Would you like to try it?’ He tugged the boy’s arm. ‘I’m somewhat fond of ice skating, myself. It’s been decades since I last tried! Oh, look! They’ve a rental house over this way,’ he added, talking as they moved. ‘There’s really nothing quite like the feel of the ice beneath your feet, the wind in your hair.’

‘You’ll look daft out there,’ Jamie noted. ‘It’s all children and couples.’

‘Nonsense!’ the Doctor protested. ‘Anyone is allowed on the rink.’ His eyes were twinkling as he looked up at Jamie. ‘Don’t tell me you’re afraid to try!’

‘I’m no such thing!’ Jamie hotly protested.

The Doctor clapped his hand together delightedly. ‘Splendid! Then I’ll have a partner.’ He turned to the rental clerk. ‘Yes, two pairs of ice-skates, please. One for me, and one for my friend here,’ he said, gesturing to Jamie.

When Jamie was finally handed a pair of rental skates, he lifted them up by the laces, eyeing the blades dubiously. Then he looked across the way at the Doctor, who had already sat down and was fussily unlacing the pair he’d picked for himself. ‘I dinnae ken about this, Doctor.’ Jamie sat down roughly besides the little man, the heavy shoes in his lap. ‘Cannae we no leave all this and find a warm place tae have a hot drink at instead? I’m no a wee bairn—I’ve no need for this.’

The sad eyes that the Doctor gave him made Jamie regret his words. ‘But I thought we’d have fun!’ the Doctor protested. ‘It’s been so long since I’ve had the chance, and I thought you’d . . .’ He sighed, the lines in his face deepening as he frowned. ‘But I suppose, if you really object . . .’

Jamie’s ears were suddenly burning and he felt awful for upsetting his friend. ‘Och, forget I said anything,’ he protested. ‘Just so long as we get a wee dram after.’ He did not care to mention how little his kilt was keeping out the cold. He felt his exposed knees were already numb, and the icy chill of the metal bench he was now sitting on sliced right through the wool of his kilt.

“Of course!” the Doctor cried, returning to his laces. “I promise you’ll enjoy this!” the Doctor reassured him, pulling on his skates.

Jamie grinned despite himself; he had to admit that pleasing his friend was quite contagious. The Doctor acted like it was Jamie who should be enjoying the carnival, as he was the one seeing it for the first time, but it was obvious to the Scot that the Doctor was the childlike one here, full of eager desire to see and explore all the sights. Once he realised that, Jamie found it suddenly became much easier to enjoy himself. It was so much easier to enjoy these strange, ridiculous things for the Doctor’s sake than it was to enjoy them for his own.

He could accept that the Doctor liked them without understanding why they were fun. That was just how the Doctor was, full of love for strange things Jamie didn’t understand. But so long as he understood it that way, everything made a kind of sense. He quickly removed his boots and replaced them with the skates.

It was when Jamie tried to stand with blades on his feet that he realised that this was actually quite a challenge. He teetered one way, then the other, before his ankle gave out. He toppled into the Doctor, clinging to him to keep from falling over. ‘How’re ye supposed tae walk in these things!’ he cried.

‘Steady on, Jamie!’ the Doctor said, setting Jaime upright. ‘It’s a bit of a balancing act, I admit. Things get easier once you’re on the ice, you see.’

‘I’ll say!’

The Doctor stored their shoes in a cubby and then held open the gate to the skating rink for Jamie. ‘Come along,’ he called, putting out his hand to help Jamie over.

Unwilling to be outdone by the little man, Jamie ignored the offered hand and wobbled his way over. He clung to the edge of the rink, stepped out onto the ice, and immediately lost his traction. He would have crashed to the ice on his backside if the Doctor’s strong arms hadn’t caught him around the armpits, from behind.

‘Careful now,’ the Doctor breathed into his ear, setting Jamie back against the wall. ‘Perhaps you’d best see how I do it before you take off on your own.’

Effortlessly, the Doctor released the wall and simply glided backwards. Then he picked up his feet and skated away from Jamie, moving smooth and easy over the ice. The Doctor kept out of the way of those making a full circuit on the rink, and came back around to Jamie. ‘Do you see? Come on now, let’s you try it. I won’t let you fall.’ He held out his hands to Jamie.

Reluctantly, Jamie looked around the rink. There were several parents doing similar gestures to their small children, encouraging them to skate out onto the ice. Jamie wasn’t sure what bothered him more: that he was being treated as a child, or that the wee little things were more willing to skate out onto the ice than he was.

And then a little boy, no more than eight, whizzed by right between Jamie and the Doctor, laughing his head off. Outraged, Jamie followed the trajectory of the boy with his eyes. The boy cackled, swung around until he was skating backwards, and stuck his tongue out at Jamie.

‘Och, that does it!’ the Scot cried. He launched himself at the Doctor, who wasn’t quite recovered from the surprise of the boy darting between them. So instead of taking Jamie’s hands and leading him gently out onto the ice, Jamie ploughed into the Doctor and only the little man’s good sense of balance prevented the two of them from crashing in a heap to the ground.

‘Oh my word!’

The momentum took them quite a ways from the wall, and Jamie now found himself positively clinging to the Doctor’s middle, aware if he were to let go his legs would slide out from under him. Nevertheless, he was embarrassed and felt foolish. ‘I’m fine!’ Jamie quickly retorted, straightening up.

The Doctor moved with him, pulling Jamie’s hands from around his middle, to hold them at arm’s length. He wasn’t pushing Jamie away, but helping him keep his balance in a slightly more dignified manner. ‘We can’t give up now!’ he cried triumphantly. ‘You’re almost there!’ Without waiting for Jamie to reply, the Doctor began skating backwards again, pulling Jamie along the ice with him.

‘What are ye doing, ye daft old man!’ Jamie cried. He would have flailed, but the Doctor’s hands held his steady. ‘I’ll no go wi’ ye!’

But of course by the time Jamie had uttered the words, he was already quite a ways out, and picking up momentum. Instinctively, the boy’s thighs tightened, his feet levelling. With the Doctor’s help he had gained his balance, even if he hadn’t realised it yet. ‘You’re doing it, Jamie!’ the Doctor enthusiastically called.

Jamie opened his mouth to retort, but as he did, the Doctor released his hands, leaving the boy to skate along with the momentum he had gained. ‘Doctor!’ he cried, eyes opening wide, as he was abandoned.

‘One leg in front of the other, Jamie,’ the Doctor encouraged, skidding a bit to catch up with him. The little man turned sharply on his skates, until the pair was side-by-side. ‘Watch my feet and do as I do.’ The Doctor serenely put his hands behind his back and skated forwards, gliding effortlessly over the ice.

Jamie watched him with a mix of admiration and distrust. He was certain if he picked his feet up off the ice, he’d end up a splatter on the rink. Worst, he was rapidly losing momentum. ‘I cannae do it, Doctor!’

‘Of course you can, Jamie!’ he encouraged. He skated back around and gave Jamie another gentle shove, to work up his speed. ‘Give me your hand.’

Jamie didn’t think about it, just stuck his hand out for the Doctor to grab. ‘Now, do as I do,’ he repeated. He slowly mimicked the motions with his feet, showing Jamie the gliding in-out movement required, tugging the boy along as deadweight. ‘Come along, then! At least try it.’

At last summoning up his courage, Jamie did it. He slid his right foot forwards, in front of his left, and then quickly countered with his left foot. He wobbled slightly, but did not topple. Furthermore, the pair neatly glided forwards together.

‘That’s it!’ the Doctor encouraged. ‘Oh, Jamie! You’ve got it!’

Jamie repeated the action, eyes trained on the Doctor’s feet, doing what they were doing. He felt the muscles in his legs tighten as they learned the motions, felt his body shifting and adjusting moderately to make up for the balance and the speed he was gaining. It did not take long until he was confident in what he was doing. It really was easy! He looked up with bright eyes at the Doctor, grinning with elation.

‘Now, just do like this,’ the Doctor said, stepping foot-over-foot, ‘to turn.’

Jamie released the Doctor’s hand and followed his lead, terrified to move so dramatically, but finding the exhilaration was half the fun. His turn was wide and sloppy, but achieved its purpose. After two circles around the rink, he had it down pat.

‘Excellent, my boy!’ the Doctor cheered. Then, to show off, he matched Jamie’s pace, only backwards, arms crossed in front over his chest, looking back occasionally to prevent himself from crashing.

‘Och, now you’re just showing off!’

‘I can’t help it,’ the Doctor said, smiling in embarrassment. ‘It’s been such a long time since I’ve gone skating.’

‘Oy, look at that, Pol!’ came Ben’s voice, as he stepped out onto the rink. ‘Jamie and the Doctor skating! If that don’t beat all!’

‘Hallo Doctor! Jamie!’ Polly called, waving. She took a hesitant step onto the ice, before quickly finding her stride, skating out to meet them. ‘I didn’t know you knew how to skate!’ she said.

Ben took a bit longer to catch up with them, clearly more uncertain on his feet than Polly, but he joined them shortly. The two Londoners framed the other two men with the Doctor on Ben’s right and Jamie on Polly’s left.

‘He’s a very quick study,’ the Doctor said, looking at Jamie with a twinkle in his eyes.

Polly was suitably impressed. ‘You’ve only just learned?’

Jamie nodded.

‘It’s not like it’s that hard, Duchess,’ Ben said, skating out in front of the group a bit.

‘It must not be,’ Polly teased, ‘seeing as how even you can do it.’

‘Hey, now, that ain’t nice!’ Ben protested, but he was still smiling.

‘How were the ice gardens?’ the Doctor smoothly asked. ‘Jamie and I thought about going to see them.’

Polly stopped grinning at Ben, turning her attention back to the Doctor. ‘Oh. Well, they were beautiful of course.’ She eyed Jamie a bit from beneath her long lashes.

Ben dropped behind. Then, he skated up besides Jamie. ‘Hey, don’t let him trick you into seeing those ice sculptures, mate,’ he warned. ‘Great if you catch yourself a bird, but I wouldn’t want to be seen in there with just the Doctor, if you follow me.’

Jamie didn’t follow him, but had little desire to see the ice sculptures anyway. ‘All right,’ he muttered.

‘Have you two had anything to eat, yet?’ Polly asked. ‘Ben and I were just thinking of getting a funnel cake when we saw you two out on the ice.’

‘Yeah, they got funnel cakes and cider. Hot dogs too! It’s like a real American carnival, it is,’ Ben chimed. ‘Only, I think maybe we’re in Canada. They got real busty birds too, though course I weren’t looking.’

Polly glared at him disapprovingly, but then refocused on the Doctor as the group completed another circuit, awaiting his answer.

‘Oh, we haven’t eaten yet, I’m afraid,” the Doctor said mildly. “I’ve spent the last few minutes teaching Jamie here how to ice skate.’

‘I’m ready tae eat,’ he announced. ‘If ye want.’

The Doctor looked expectantly to Polly. ‘Well, we’d be delighted to join you, if you don’t mind the company.’

‘Mind the company!’ she repeated, laughing. ‘Why would we!’

Ben was all cheek. ‘The Doctor’s just being polite, Pol. He don’t want to get in the way of our epic romance and all, you see.’

Pointedly to the Doctor, Polly said, ‘You don’t have to worry about that.’

‘Oh, you wound me!’ Ben replied. Then he glanced to Jamie, speaking loud enough for all of them to hear. ‘Just don’t understand birds, me. One minute they’re all over you, making eyes like the moon, the next they’re pushing you away like they ain’t just been giving you signals for the past half hour.’

Jamie smiled uncertainly. ‘Aye. I dinnae understand lasses either.’

‘Well, then,’ the Doctor announced, clapping his hands together like a schoolteacher calling order. ‘Why don’t we go see what they’ve got to eat?’

‘All right,’ Ben called. ‘I’m game.’ He smirked at Jamie. ‘C’mon then, mate. I’ll race you there.’

‘I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, Ben,’ the Doctor warned. ‘Jamie’s only just learned to skate,’ he began.

‘Och, I dinnae need ye babysitting me,’ Jamie snapped.

The Doctor straightened, surprised at the tone of Jamie’s voice. Before he could utter another word about the boys’ behaviour, the two had streaked off down the rink, with Ben clear in the lead.

A sigh from Polly made the Doctor turn. ‘They claim they don’t understand girls,’ she said, ‘but they’re the ones that refuse to open up and tell us how they feel.’ She skated off rather sadly, leaving the Doctor alone to watch the outcome of the race.

Jamie was gaining on Ben rapidly, but it was obvious the sailor would reach the goal long before the Scot ever did. Ben skidded to a halt gracefully, kicking up a spray of ice as he braked sharply at the exit. He turned to gloat at Jamie, but the Scot zipped right past him, showing no signs of slowing.

Suddenly alarmed, the Doctor began sprinting towards the boy: he hadn’t taught Jamie how to stop! ‘Jamie!’ he cried, but even as the words left his mouth, Jamie’s arms flailed out and the boy crashed to the ice in a mighty tumble, nearly taking out a practicing child and her parent as he did. ‘Oh, my giddy aunt!’ the Doctor exclaimed worriedly, hurrying faster towards the boy, who was still skidding along the ice from the momentum of his fall.

Jamie finally came to a rest against the wall of the rink, a twisted mess of limbs and fabric. He groaned and struggled to untangle himself, but the ice was slippery and cold and he was rather disoriented about how he’d ended up on the ground.

‘Oh, my word! Jamie, are you all right?’

That was the Doctor, and Jamie managed to look over at him. The little man was upside down to him, his bright blue eyes filled with concern. It was a sight that embarrassed Jamie, and he struggled to right himself. ‘Och, I’m fine,’ he lied. The truth was he felt like he’d just been walloped good.

‘You just had a rather nasty spill,’ the Doctor observed, dropping to his knee besides him. ‘I’m afraid I forgot to teach you how to brake.’

Jamie could see the guilt laced in the Doctor’s eyes and quickly waved him off, determined to worry about his bruises later, after he’d assuaged the Doctor of his fears that he was hurt. ‘I just tripped, that’s all,’ Jamie countered. He put his hands down on the ice to push himself up, but as soon as he put weight on his left ankle, his leg collapsed beneath him in a flare of pain.

‘Jamie!’ the Doctor cried.

‘Och, it’s my leg,’ he groaned. He adjusted his kilt beneath him on the cold ice and got into a sitting position. With his back to the rink wall he could stretch his legs out in front of him. His left leg, at the ankle, throbbed intensely.

‘Oh, dear,’ the Doctor said. He gingerly lifted the foot, gauging Jamie’s reaction as he manoeuvred it. ‘You may have sprained your ankle,’ he lamented.

Someone, somewhere, was blowing a whistle. It was a type of acknowledgement out on the frozen lake: man down. Ben and Polly were on the sidelines, trying desperately to get around the crowd to see what had happened, but there was a security man on the rink now, ushering everyone off. A second man, carrying a small handheld medical kit, was making his way over to the downed pair.

‘Let’s get these skates off you,’ the Doctor said. Jamie gripped his thighs painfully as the Doctor did his best to relieve the pressure on Jamie’s ankle by loosening the strings.

‘What happened?’ the medic asked, kneeling down besides them once he’d arrived.

The Doctor looked at the new arrival with a mixture of surprise and relief. ‘I think he’s sprained his ankle,’ he admitted, wiping his icy cold hands on his trousers. ‘He had a rather nasty fall.’

The medic took over from there. He removed Jamie’s skates, assessed the boy’s injuries and got him up off the ice. A small cheer went up in the crowd as Jamie was led, limping, off the ice: people were glad to see he wasn’t serious injured. Jamie’s cheeks burned with embarrassment.

His ankle was treated and wrapped. There was nothing broken, but the ankle was bound to swell. The medic gave Jamie some pills for the pain, but there wasn’t much else he could do.

‘I suppose we had better head back to the TARDIS then,’ the Doctor said softly. ‘You ought to keep it elevated.’

‘Och, no!’ Jamie protested. ‘I’ll just sit here until you’re all done. I dinnae want tae cause anymore trouble.’

‘It’s no trouble, Jamie. You’ve been hurt and I feel it’s my fault.’

Jamie crossed his arms. ‘It’s no your fault, Doctor.’ It wasn’t really Ben’s fault, either, but Jamie had to admit it was a bit easier to blame him.

As if summoned, he and Polly hurried up to them, back in their street shoes.

‘Oh, Jamie!’ Polly cried, taking up his hands. ‘Does it hurt terribly much?’

‘No if I don’t walk on it,’ he reassured her with a stiff upper lip.

‘Hey, sorry about that, mate,’ Ben said, staring at the ground sheepishly. ‘Got a bit carried away, yeah? No hard feelings though?’

Jamie shrugged. ‘Ye dinnae mean for it tae happen.’

Ben brightened. ‘Hey, let’s get him a wheelchair! They’ve got those things here, don’t they? No sense in him just sitting about, not having any fun!’

The Doctor smiled softly at the idea. ‘That’s not a bad idea, Ben. What do you think, Jamie? A wheelchair would mean you wouldn’t have to go back to the TARDIS.’

Ben had already darted off, to catch up with the medic that had helped Jamie. The sailor managed to acquire a wheelchair before the Doctor could even finish explaining to the Scot what one was. The boy eyed the apparatus apprehensively. ‘I’ll no sit in that, tae be pushed about like a bairn!’ he protested instantly.

‘Hey, come off it, mate,’ Ben protested. ‘Ain’t none of us gonna have any fun leaving you sitting about here like that.’

Jamie crossed his arms defiantly. ‘I dinnae care, I’ll no do it.’

Wearily, the Doctor shook his head. He did his best to keep the peace. ‘You two go on and have fun,’ he told Ben and Polly. ‘I don’t mind sitting here with Jamie, to keep him company.’

‘Aw, but that ain’t fair!’ Ben protested. ‘Come on, Jamie. It my fault you’re in this mess, let me make it up to you!’

The glare Jamie gave Ben was not nice.

‘Come on, Ben,’ Polly intervened. ‘You’ve done enough already. If he doesn’t want the wheelchair, you can’t force him.’ Ben scowled and muttered something under his breath, but Polly ignored him. ‘Are you sure you’ll be all right, Jamie? We really can go back to the TARDIS, if you’d rather.’

‘And how do you propose we do that, eh, Duchess?’ Ben protested. ‘I ain’t gonna carry him.’

‘Stop it, Ben,’ she chided.

Jamie looked between Polly and Ben. He hadn’t thought at all about how he’d get back to the TARDIS and the sudden fear that they might opt to leave him behind gripped him. He knew it was utterly unfounded, but having once thought of it, he couldn’t get it out of his mind.

‘What about crutches?’ the Doctor quietly asked. ‘Would you be all right with those, Jamie? You’d be able to move around better with them, and not be so dependent.’

‘That’s right,’ Polly said, encouragingly. ‘Ben, go take that wheelchair back and get a pair of crutches for him.’

‘I ain’t doing it unless he says he wants them.’ Ben focused his gaze on Jamie. ‘So, what is it, mate? You want some crutches so you can hobble about like a cripple then?’

‘Ben!’ Polly hissed. ‘Stop antagonising him!’

‘I think crutches will do,’ the Doctor decided. ‘Run along and get them, will you, Ben?’ he curtly said.

Ben straightened at the order, staring hard at the Doctor. At last he deflated and turned to go, moodily pushing the wheelchair in front of him as he did.

‘Maybe you had better go with him, Polly,’ the Doctor added. ‘I know he feels guilty, but right now isn’t the time for bickering. We’ll be fine here.’

‘All right,’ she said, although clearly she hated leaving them. ‘I’ll check on you in a bit.’

Once Polly was gone, Jamie glowered at the Doctor. ‘Why’d ye go and do that for?’ he demanded in a low, quiet tone.

‘Because Ben and Polly are your friends and I’d like to keep it that way.’ The Doctor sat down on the wooden bench besides him. ‘And you should too.’

Jamie didn’t say anything. He just sat there and sulked.

‘How does your ankle feel?’ the Doctor ventured.

‘Fine,’ he lied.

‘Jamie, I am sorry you got hurt,’ he said. ‘It wasn’t my intention, you know. Nor Ben’s.’

Sighing deeply, Jamie nodded. ‘I know. It’s no you I’m upset with.’

‘Why are you and Ben fighting?’

Jamie stared off into the distance, but said nothing.

‘He’s older and more experienced than you are,’ the Doctor gently said. ‘It’s only natural that you should be jealous of him.’

‘That’s no it,’ Jamie feebly protested.

‘I know I’m a poor substitute for Polly,’ the Doctor said with a slight smile. ‘But am I really all that bad?’

Sheepishly, Jamie looked over at him. The Doctor was the kindest, most generous person he’d ever met. It was impossible to stay upset with him, or to even let him think Jamie thought badly of him. ‘No, of course you’re not. I just feel the fool.’

‘As do I! I didn’t even teach you how to brake. Some teacher I am.’

‘It’s all right, Doctor. It’s my fault. I shouldnae have raced him.’

‘We all make mistakes,’ the Doctor said. ‘The important part is to learn from them.’ Then he brightened. ‘Oh, look,’ he said, straightening up. ‘Here comes Polly with your crutches.’

Ben was actually carrying the crutches, looking like he’d just had his ears boxed. Polly led the way, chin held high, smiling brightly. In her hands she carried two cups of steaming cider. ‘I thought you two might need something to warm you up,’ she said, handing the cups down. ‘And we got you some crutches.’

‘Thanks very much,’ Jamie meekly said, without meeting Ben’s eyes. He held the cup in his hands, watching the steam waft out of it, but did not sip it.

‘Why thank you,’ the Doctor echoed. ‘I trust you didn’t have any trouble with them?’ He inclined his head towards the crutches.

‘None at all,’ Ben said. He rested the crutches against the back of the bench the Doctor and Jamie were sat upon. ‘Need anything else then?’ he asked. ‘Could bring you some grub, if you like.’

‘No, I think we’re fine for now,’ the Doctor said. He took a sip of the cider and nodded, pleased with the taste. ‘You two go enjoy yourselves, all right? Just do try and stay out of trouble.’

‘All right, Doctor. Just give a call if you need anything, yeah?’ Ben said. He looked at Jamie, as if wanting to add something, then shrugged. ‘Sorry about all this mess.’ But he was looking at the Doctor as he said it.

‘We’ll be back in a while,’ Polly insisted. ‘Please don’t sulk, Jamie.’ She gave his arm a fond squeeze, but was already turning away by the time he looked up.

In a few seconds Jamie and the Doctor were alone again, surrounded by fairy lights, but no people. The Doctor took another sip of his cider. ‘At least it’s peaceful here.’

Jamie nodded wordlessly, but his eyes were on his hands. The cup he was holding was nearly scalding compared with how numb his fingers felt. He wished the throbbing in his ankle was as numbed.

The Doctor studied Jamie’s profile quietly. ‘Would you rather I left you alone?’

Jamie shook his head. ‘Och, no. I’m sorry, Doctor. That’s the last thing I want.’ He finally took a sip of his cider and found the strange taste not only pleasing, but warming too. ‘I just hate being the one tae ruin the holiday.’

‘Nothing is ruined, Jamie. Ben and Polly undoubtedly want some time alone together, and, well. I certainly don’t mind keeping you company.’ The Doctor blew coolly over his cider and took another sip. ‘If you’re hungry, I can go fetch us something to eat.’

Jamie twisted, to look at his crutches. ‘I dinnae mind going wi’ ye, if ye just tell me how these things work.’

‘Oh.’ The Doctor brightened. ‘Well, it’s rather simple, really, but you’d do best to use both hands. Maybe once we finish our cider, perhaps?’ His face fell a bit. ‘I must admit, I am a bit leery of teaching you how to do anything else new. But I don’t suppose there’s much danger in learning to use crutches.’ He smiled nervously. ‘I hope.’

Jamie gave him a smile in return. The tablets the medic had given him earlier seemed to have started working. He was far from pain-free, but the intensity of it had considerably lessened. ‘I trust you,’ he pointedly said, looking right at the Doctor. ‘After we finish our drinks, we’ll go and get some food, together.’

‘Yes, all right,’ the Doctor replied nodding, apparently pleased.

The pair sat in amiable silence whilst they sipped their cider. Jamie finished his first and the Doctor hurriedly downed the rest of his to match. He got up and tossed the cups, before fetching Jamie’s crutches.

‘Now, I’ll just demonstrate,’ he began. He tucked the crutches under his arms, lifted his left foot like he was injured, and showed Jamie the proper way to use them. He hobbled in a complete circle and returned to find Jamie watching him with a sly, amused little grin. The Doctor immediately straightened up, cottoning on immediately. ‘You knew how to use them all along!’ he accused.

Jamie’s grin broadened. ‘Aye,’ he said. ‘But it was fun tae see ye try tae show me how,’ he added.

The Doctor would have scolded him, but seeing Jamie smile like that filled him with warmth. It was much better than watching the boy sulk. ‘You’re terrible,’ he said, but he was smiling as he did. At last, he handed over the crutches.

Jamie hoisted himself up with them, tucking the ends under his arms. He grimaced as he moved his foot, but once he had it positioned he relaxed. ‘Now about that food,’ he remarked.

The Doctor shrugged noncommittally. ‘I really shouldn’t humour you anymore, if you’re just going to tease me like that,” he sulked.

‘Och, get off it,’ Jamie said.

The Doctor studied the boy out of the corner of his eye, grinning to himself. ‘Well, I suppose I can forgive you, since you are on your feet and smiling again.’

Jamie didn’t say anything, but he looked resolutely in the opposite direction.

The Doctor decided not to push his luck. ‘Ah, this way,’ he called, starting off towards the food vendors. ‘What would you like, Jamie? Perhaps a hotdog? Caramel apple?’

They picked out their food items—hamburgers and French fries for each, along with another round of hot cider—and settled on one side of a picnic table together to eat. Jamie devoured his food with great gusto. If his ankle still bothered him, it did nothing to impede his appetite. The Doctor consumed his food somewhat more modestly, watching Jamie with twinkling eyes as the boy licked the last remnants of ketchup off his fingers.

‘Fond of American cuisine, are you?’ he questioned.

‘Eh?’ Jamie asked. ‘What’s that?’

‘What we’ve just had, of course,’ he replied. ‘These hamburgers are rather Western styled, and, well, we’re in America.’

‘Are we?’ Jamie asked, looking around curiously.

‘Well, it would go a ways towards explaining all the American accents, wouldn’t it?’ the Doctor mused. ‘Or maybe they are Canadian,’ he added thoughtfully.

‘Aye,’ Jamie said in a dismissive sort of way. He drank the last of his cider, unbothered by the heat of the drink, and then his eyes settled on the remains of the Doctor’s hamburger.

It was a look that did not go unnoticed. ‘Jamie,’ the Doctor warned, waiting until the boy lifted his eyes before continuing. ‘Are you having untoward thoughts about my meal?’

‘Eh?’ Jamie said. ‘Och, no. I just, if you’re no going tae finish it, I’d do the job for ye.’

‘I’m certain you would,’ the Doctor said. He studied Jamie for a few moments and found himself grinning again. The way Jamie was openly admiring the remains of his hamburger was irresistible. How could he deny eyes like those anything? ‘You could have asked, though,’ he pouted, sliding the burger in its paper dish over to the boy.

‘May I eat your hamburger, Doctor?’ Jamie asked with fluttering lashes. He picked it up with sticky fingers.

‘Well, you had better now that you’ve put your filthy hands all over it,’ he teased. The Doctor sat back to sip his cider, watching as the boy devoured the sandwich in three large bites.

When he finished, Jamie once again licked his fingers clean, despite the fact that the Doctor threw a small stack of paper napkins at him in dismay. The boy pointedly ignored them. When he was finished cleaning, he twisted about to look at the view of the carnival behind him. Ben and Polly were nowhere to be seen, but as the night had worn on the carnival filled up with patrons. Music played from somewhere—a lively, cheery band—and the twinkling of the lights over the snow and ice gave everything a rather ethereal look. ‘Now what?’ Jamie asked.

The Doctor turned to look with him. ‘Well, whatever you’d like to do, Jamie.” He observed what was available. ‘There are carnival games, the ice sculpture gardens, and of course ice skating, which I think we’ll pass on for now. We’ve just eaten, so that’s out, but there is still lots to see, if you don’t mind walking around a bit.’ He glanced to Jamie’s injured leg.

The boy tugged down on his kilt, as though he were self-conscious. ‘Aye, I think a wee bit of walking about would do me good.’ He pushed to his feet again, grimacing once more before he got his crutches in place. Once situated, he spent some considerable time blowing his warm breath onto his very cold hands.

‘Are you quite all right, Jamie?’ the Doctor asked, moving to stand behind him.

Jamie noticed the worried look in the Doctor’s eyes and shrugged quickly, to reassure him. ‘I’m fine,’ he lied. ‘Just a wee bit cold, is all.’ He did not give the Doctor the chance to protest, hobbling off, away from the concession stands. ‘A bit of walking will aye get the blood flowing again.’

Jamie didn’t really know where he was headed, but he was aware the Doctor was following him. He mostly just wanted to keep moving, to keep his circulation up. His foot pounded as the blood rushed down to it, but that was a small price to pay compared to the numbness in the rest of his body. He had been cold since their arrival, and his crash on the ice had done nothing to help. It was almost all he could do to keep his teeth from chattering together.

‘Maybe we had better go inside?’ the Doctor mildly suggested. ‘I believe they’ve got games for children in that barn. It might be fun to watch.’

‘Och,’ Jamie said, wrinkling his nose. ‘I’ve no desire tae watch a bunch of bairns at game,’ he chided. Not even his cold was enough to make him do that.

He ignored the way the Doctor curiously eyed him and took off, limping towards a strange archway that had been created from a tall hedge. It looked void of chattering patrons, and through the arch was what appeared to be a hedge maze of sorts. As such, it was largely cut off from the bitter wind, and therefore warmer than the rest of the carnival. Jamie’s breath huffed heavily as he entered, and he didn’t look back to see if the Doctor was following him.

‘Jamie,’ the little man called warningly. ‘Jamie, I’m not sure this is such a good idea.’

Jamie turned a corner, easily navigating the narrow hedge maze. It was well lit with fairy lights, and even if it weren’t, the moon overhead was bright enough to illuminate the area. ‘Och, it’s just a wee maze, Doctor,’ Jamie admonished. ‘Ye cannae tell me you’re scared?’

As he spoke he turned another corner and found the maze opened up somewhat. Various types of evergreen were planted in pots aesthetically around the clearing, set around the occasional stone bench. In the centre of the clearing was a slightly raised dais, holding a trumpeting angel carved of ice. A single spotlight illuminated the ice sculpture and the whole scene was so startlingly unexpected that Jamie came to a halt.

‘Oh, that’s quite lovely, isn’t it?’ the Doctor crooned, sidling up besides Jamie.

‘Aye, but what’s it doing in the middle of a hedge maze?’

The Doctor quickly pushed his fingers together thoughtfully, down casting his eyes somewhat guiltily. ‘This isn’t a hedge maze, Jamie. Not quite as such.’

Behind them, the sound of someone loudly clearing his throat made the pair spin around. There they found a rather irate looking man glaring at them. In the man’s arms was a large-eyed brunette girl, whose mouth was dark from kissing. The pair was neatly wedged on a stone bench, against a bush, nearly out of sight. ‘Do ya mind?’ the man snapped. ‘Can we get some privacy here, buddy?’

‘Oh dear,’ the Doctor said, fretting instantly. He grabbed Jamie by the arm rather abruptly and started dragging him away from the man and his woman, completely ignoring Jamie’s cries of complaints as he did.

It wasn’t until they were safely down another corridor of the hedge maze and back into a similar clearing that the Doctor acknowledged that perhaps Jamie was lamenting for a reason. The boy suddenly sagged against him and might have toppled over completely had the Doctor not grabbed him in support.

‘Oh, my word, Jamie! What’s wrong?’ He attempted to straighten the boy.

‘I have a sprained ankle, ye daft old man!’ Jamie hissed, clinging to the Doctor. He adjusted his weight, leaning heavily against the Doctor with one hand so he could use the other to rub ineffectually at his foot. ‘Ye cannae just go dragging me about like that!’

‘Oh, my!’ the Doctor cried, the lines on his face deepening. ‘I’m so sorry Jamie, it completely slipped my mind.’

‘I’ll say,’ Jamie grumbled.

Before the boy could protest anymore, the Doctor looked around anxiously and then guided him to one of the stone benches to sit. Jamie thought about protesting, because the bench was undoubtedly freezing cold, but his ankle really did hurt and he was anxious to rest it if just for a moment. He sat down heavily, grunting as he did. His eyes finally alighted on the ice sculpture in this clearing. It was a rearing winged horse wearing a real pine wreath.

‘Let me see your ankle,’ the Doctor fussily said. He didn’t wait for Jamie to react, just reached out and pulled the Scots injured leg delicately into his lap. Jamie nearly toppled over backwards, but reached behind him and braced himself against the bench.

‘I’ll be fine,’ he began.

‘I’m not usually so clumsy,’ the Doctor cut in, by way of apology.

‘Och, yes ye are. Ye are all the time.’

The Doctor looked momentarily wounded, but then his expression cleared. ‘Yes, well, I am sorry. The very last thing I wanted was to hurt you more.’

‘Nay,’ Jamie said, a teasing lilt to his voice. ‘The last thing ye wanted tae do was stay in that other glade and watch yon lass be half devoured by her man.’

‘Yes, well,’ the Doctor said, coughing subtly and looking properly shamefaced. ‘They quite clearly wanted some privacy.’

‘Well, they shouldnae go tae a winter carnival full of people if they want that!’ Jamie protested.

‘Some people don’t have a choice about that sort of thing. Besides, I believe it’s rather well known that this area is used for such . . . meetings.’

Jamie raised an eyebrow. ‘I dinnae see why.’

‘It’s secluded,’ the Doctor ventured. ‘Lovers think the setting is romantic and the solitude gives them a false sense of privacy. It doesn’t really matter whether or not it makes sense, it’s just the way things are.’

Jamie suddenly felt rather self-conscious with his leg up in the Doctor’s lap, with those deft little fingers gently prodding the bandage. ‘These are the ice gardens,’ he stated in sudden realisation. It wasn’t a question. Ben’s words from earlier rang through his head, and he was starting to realise what he meant.

‘Yes, I’m afraid so,’ the Doctor agreed. ‘It did appear to be a hedge maze when we entered, though. In fact, I think it is one, with the sculptures arranged throughout it.’

As if on cue, a new couple appeared from the direction Jamie and the Doctor had come, cuddling close as they strolled along. The girl giggled softly at something her companion said, looking up at the large ice sculpture. The two only stopped laughing when they noticed the Doctor and Jamie sitting in plain sight together, the boy with his leg in the old man’s lap. The girl coloured appreciably.

‘Sorry!’ her companion blurted, as the two attempted to shuffle quickly past.

Jamie felt a sudden surge of dread and excitement rush through him and would have been instantly spluttering on his feet if he weren’t injured.

As if picking up on Jamie’s sudden discomfort, the Doctor quickly released his hold on the boy’s foot, which was still in his lap. ‘Not at all!’ he called to the departing couple. He then said to Jamie, ‘If you’re all right to walk, I suppose we had better find out way out of here.’

Jamie found that his had foot hurt significantly less when it was elevated in the Doctor’s lap, but he did not protest the movement, setting it lightly back down on the ground. He could feel his ears burning now from embarrassment, although what exactly he was embarrassed about he couldn’t quite say. ‘I dinnae want tae walk back through there and bother them again,’ Jamie said, inclining his head in the direction they’d come from.

‘I’m afraid we’re likely to just encounter more of the same the further on we go.’ The Doctor gestured in the direction the couple had gone. ‘Those two, for instance, are likely to settle somewhere to cuddle.’

‘Och. Is there no way out besides those two paths?’

‘Well it is a maze, Jamie.’

‘So we’re trapped.’

Thoughtfully, the Doctor said, ‘It isn’t a very big carnival, all things considered. Perhaps the maze isn’t very long. There might be only a few clearings after this. Besides, if we’re quiet, I doubt the happy couples will even notice us.’

Jamie grumbled under his breath. ‘So we go on.’

‘Yes, I think that’s the best course of action.’ Getting to his feet, the Doctor brushed his frumpy clothes free of snow.

Jamie followed suit, taking a bit longer to steady himself on his crutches. His hands were numb with cold by now, as was his backside from sitting on the stone bench for so long. The throbbing in his ankle persisted as well, now more acute since the Doctor had dragged him around. ‘What do we do if it’s no a short maze?’

‘Perseverance, Jamie,’ the Doctor encouraged. ‘We’ve faced Cybermen, Redcoats and even giant crabs together. I think we can handle a few innocent couples.’

‘Aye,’ Jamie said dourly.

There wasn’t as much maze between that clearing to the next, and Jamie immediately noticed the large ice sled that dominated the new clearing. It was so large it had two spotlights illuminating it. A strange, jolly ice sculpted man sat inside the sled, and besides him was a real brown sack stuffed with presents. Immediately after noticing the sled, Jamie crashed into the back of the Doctor, who had stopped abruptly. ‘Och, what is it?’ he hissed.

The Doctor was staring fixedly at the only other occupants in the clearing—a couple on a stone bench against the hedge wall. Jamie was going to jab his elbow into the Doctor’s side and tell him to stop staring and keep moving, but then he realised that the couple in question was none other than Ben and Polly.

At first he thought they were necking, and the strange sensation that flooded through him at the sight was almost unbearable; he was unsteady enough on his feet as it was. It took a few seconds longer to realise that while the pair might not be far off from such activities, they weren’t there yet. Instead, the two had their heads together, brows nearly touching, and were talking secretively in low voices. Jamie had never seen Polly look so demure before.

They had not noticed the Doctor and Jamie’s arrival.

‘No good,’ the Doctor hissed, pushing back into Jamie, his eyes still riveted on the pair. ‘Back the way we came!’

Jamie did not hesitate to comply. They soon found themselves in the small passageway between the two clearings. Jamie found himself suddenly full of a strange energy he desperately wanted to expend, and the Doctor pawing him as he pushed him around was not helping. ‘Och, if only these weeds were no as thick!’ he cried, reaching out to grab the hedge. ‘I could cut us a way out!’

The Doctor busily mopped his brow down with his handkerchief. ‘I don’t think that would be very appreciated by the hedge owners,’ he said.

Sulkily Jamie turned around, pressing his back to the hedge. ‘I cannae go back through there, Doctor,’ he said pointedly.

‘No, no, neither could I, I’m afraid.’ The little man began stroking his chin, contemplating. ‘You know, I’m sure there must be another way out of here.’

‘Aye. If we had shovels we could dig our way out,’ Jamie sarcastically said.

‘No, no. But those ice sculptures; they’re very large, aren’t they?’

Jamie did not care to return to one of the clearings to make sure they were large; he knew they were. ‘Aye,’ he said, studying the Doctor warily. ‘What of it?’

‘Well, don’t you see, Jamie? They don’t plant the hedges around the sculptures, they bring the ice blocks here and let the carvers work on site!’ Seeing that Jamie still did not understand the significance of his words, he elaborated. ‘That means there must be a way to move these hedges to get the ice blocks in here!’ He turned and began feeling along the hedge wall. ‘If we can just find a break, we might be able to squeeze our way out!’

Jamie thought it was worth a try, so he started searching along the opposite side of the hedge. It was no easy feat, considering he had no idea what he was looking for, his hands were numb and his crutches kept getting in the way. The movement helped keep him from concentrating on how cold he was though, or on Ben and Polly, which was a welcomed distraction.

‘Aha!’ the Doctor triumphantly called. ‘Jamie, come quick!’

Turning, Jamie found the Doctor had somehow opened up a small part of the hedge, like a door. It seemed heavy though, as the Doctor strained to maintain the gap. ‘It’s wired up against vandals,’ he explained. ‘Hurry through.’

Jamie knew better than to question an order from the Doctor, so he ducked under the little man’s arms, tucking his crutches behind him, and hobbled across. The Doctor slid through moments later, letting the brambles slip shut behind them. Outside, the illumination from the spotlights and fairy light were cut off and it took several seconds for their eyes to adjust to just the moonlight. It was darker than Jamie had expected, having prepared himself for the white expanse of snow they’d seen coming in.

‘Where are we?’ he asked, confused.

The Doctor reached a hand out, brushing his palms curiously over the plants in front of them. ‘I do believe we’ve exited right into a cornfield, Jamie.’

‘Well that’s no good!’ he said. Getting his crutches under him again, he hobbled out a few paces, brushing against the cornstalks as he did. ‘How do we get back?’

The Doctor was contemplating that question as well. ‘We should be able to just follow the edge of the maze. The carnival is that way,’ he said, pointing in the opposite direction. He turned completely around and peered into the distance. ‘I think.’

‘Och, with all the twists and turns we made in that maze, I’ve no idea which way tae go.’

Overhead, the moon was shining directly down, at its zenith. Not even it was going to provide them with a proper path. ‘Well, I think it’s this way,’ the Doctor repeated. ‘There’s a light on the horizon, which is most likely from the faire grounds.’

‘All right,’ Jamie said, despondently.

At his tone, the Doctor looked sharply at him. ‘You’re still all right? We can always return to the maze and rest a while longer.’

‘Och, no. I’m fine,’ Jamie insisted. The fact of the matter was, though, that he was terribly cold. Outside of the protection of the hedge maze, the wind seemed to slice right through what he was wearing. But standing around complaining was not Jamie’s forte, so he forged on.

The Doctor led the way, navigating neatly between the hedge maze and the cornfield. Jamie followed as best he could. At one point the hedge wall turned a corner and the pair found themselves out of the cornfield, but no nearer the carnival. Furthermore this side of the maze obviously faced the winds, and moderately sized snowdrifts had accumulated along the hedge. It kept the interior of the maze rather insulated, but outside it created something of a walking hazard for them.

They continued on, steering wide of the snowdrifts until they were trudging through calf-deep snow. Jamie focused solely on putting his crutches down and hobbling over the obstacle. It wasn’t until he stumbled and nearly collapsed onto his numb knees that he realised how far behind the Doctor he had fallen. ‘Doctor,’ he called, his crutches tumbling to the ground.

The little man pulled up short, obviously having gone into his own trace of foot-after-foot. ‘Jamie!’ he cried, turning to hurry back to him. ‘What happened?’

‘I’m fine,’ Jamie insisted, but he sounded weak even to his own ears. The Doctor’s hands pressed into him, pulling him to his feet and Jamie found himself unwittingly sagging into the older man.

‘You’re freezing,’ the Doctor fussed, drawing him closer.

A distant part of Jamie thought there was something odd about all this, but the only thing he could really focus on was how warm the Doctor felt. It was strange because Jamie knew that on average the Doctor was usually cool to the touch. He found it wasn’t worth contemplating right now though - warmth was warmth. Without asking permission, Jamie simply nudged his hands into the Doctor’s coat, sliding them around the Doctor’s waist and up his back, where everything was deliciously warm and welcoming. He felt like he could crawl inside the Doctor’s coat completely, if only he’d fit.

The Doctor straightened in surprise at the movement, but quickly relaxed into the pose. His hands slipped around Jamie’s back, rubbing his shoulders and arms gently, trying to work up some circulation in them. ‘I should have never dragged you out here,’ he murmured in Jamie’s ear.

Even the Doctor’s breath was warm and Jamie found himself involuntarily squirming against the Doctor at the ticklish way that heat blew over his ear. Unbidden, the thought of Ben reacting the same way to Polly’s actions came into his mind and he found himself burying his face against the Doctor’s neck as a flush of heat spread across his cheeks. It seemed inappropriate to think such thoughts in the position he was now in, but once thought, he couldn’t unthink them. ‘It’s all right,’ he replied, his voice muffled against the collar of the Doctor’s shirt.

‘I should’ve made you put on more than just this anorak,’ the Doctor protested.

‘I wouldnae have, though,’ Jamie answered. ‘I dinnae feel so cold at first.’

‘I suppose you’re right,’ the Doctor quietly conceded. ‘Hindsight is 20/20, as they say.’

Jamie could sense that the Doctor wanted to keep talking, to fill the silence, but that he had nothing really to say. They ought to keep walking, he knew, but he found himself loath to move away from the Doctor’s warmth, loath to pick up his crutches from the snow, loath to pull away at all. Even the strong, strange thudding of the little man’s heart was strangely appealing to Jamie. ‘I’ll be all right,’ he insisted softly. ‘In a few minutes.’

‘I’m sure you will be,’ the Doctor agreed. ‘And at least the view out here is spectacular.’

Curious at the words, Jamie lifted his head and peered over his shoulder. With the moon directly overhead there were nearly no shadows cast along the pristine snow. The field stretched on and on beyond them, eventually vanishing into a dark wood in the distance, which glittered silver and white in the snow and moonlight. Beyond the trees loomed a jagged, purple mountain and over it rose a glorious indigo sky, filled with stars.

‘Mm,’ Jamie agreed, taking the view in. It was nothing at all like Scotland and yet his heart was yearning as he looked at it, in the same way it did when he thought of the rolling moors and billowing heather of home. ‘That’s aye more romantic than any daft ice sculptures and twisty mazes.’

‘I agree,’ the Doctor said, his voice barely more than a rumble in his chest.

Jamie turned his head back and nearly bumped his nose against the Doctor’s. The closeness surprised him and he instinctively pulled back. His eyes were suddenly drawn to the Doctor’s mouth and he shocked himself by suddenly wondering what it would be like to kiss the other man, out here in the icy cold, under the full moon and stars. Would his mouth be as warm as the rest of him? What would he taste like? How would he react?

‘Jamie,’ the Doctor said in a voice full of question.

Jamie swallowed tightly and pulled his gaze off the Doctor’s mouth. He suddenly found himself lost in those fathomless blue eyes. A slowly creeping heat began spreading through him. ‘I dinnae understand this,’ he softly said. His hands on the Doctor’s back flexed, tightening to grasp at the fabric of his shirt.

For once, the Doctor seemed a little lost for words. ‘You’re . . . you’re simply reacting to the environment,’ he explained. ‘It isn’t anything abnormal. Humans are just somewhat predisposed to react specific ways to certain stimuli.’

Jamie blinked slowly. ‘What does all that mean?’

Smiling somewhat nervously, the Doctor said, ‘I think it means you want to kiss me.’

Jamie felt his cheeks burn. ‘Why would I want tae do that?’

‘Well,’ the Doctor began, ‘well, because . . . it is romantic, isn’t it?’ The Doctor’s eyebrows rose, almost imploringly, vanishing into his fringe. ‘And we are very close, aren’t we?’

‘Aye,’ Jamie said, swallowing the lump that was suddenly in his throat. His chest was pressed against the Doctor’s, his arms around the man’s waist. He’d never stood like this before with anyone, not even the few girls he’d kissed back home in Scotland. The fact of the matter was that the Doctor was right: he did want to kiss him. Jamie was just surprised at how easily he could be read, like the Doctor knew what he was thinking. ‘Doctor,’ he whispered.

‘Yes, Jamie?’ he answered in a voice just as soft.

Tingly hot prickles raced through Jamie and all of his senses seemed to become hyper-aware. His eyes were back on the Doctor’s mouth and his throat felt dry. He could feel the warm breath of the Doctor as it washed over him, could smell the scent of him, so close, and the sharp cold smell of the snow, and the distant green, earthy smell of the nearby wood. There was still the icy wind on his skin, but it was largely countered by the heat of the moment, and even his ankle seemed to have stopped throbbing. The snow seemed brighter, the sky darker, the universe larger.

And then the Doctor’s hands tightened slightly against his back and Jamie closed his eyes to all the stimulation, pressing forwards until the Doctor’s mouth found his and he could focus solely on one thing. In all this cold, the Doctor was warm and inviting. His mouth was soft and gentle but eager enough to let Jamie know that this was not a one-sided affair. The boy’s grasp on the Doctor’s shirt increased as he pulled the little man harder against him, longing to deepen the kiss, to discover more than just this tantalising taste.

The Doctor let him, parting his lips slightly, tilting his head as he did. The man’s hands rose as they kissed, until one was cupped against the back of Jamie’s head. Then Jamie felt the Doctor’s tongue prod ever so curiously against his bottom lip and the jolt of electricity that surged through Jamie in reaction was incomparable. He opened his mouth in response, letting the built up passion inside him tell him what to do. His own tongue touched the Doctor’s lip, followed by his tongue and Jamie let out a strangled gurgle in the back of his throat at the intimacy of it all and redoubled his efforts.

The Doctor gave an appreciative sigh and Jamie felt the tension seem to flood out of the little man. He hadn’t noticed how rigid the Doctor had been, but now that the man was relaxing into the kiss, it was like the floodgates had come down. The Doctor was enthusiastic about all things in life and this was clearly no exception. Jamie had honestly never pondered such things before, but if he had he never would have assumed the Doctor’s absurd flailing and strange eccentricities would give way to such a deft tongue and enticing mouth.

When at last Jamie broke the kiss, the Doctor buried his face against the boy’s neck, his lips picking out the skin there, leaving blazing hot trails along his flesh as he continued to kiss. Belaying his own control of the situation, Jamie let out a groan of appreciation at the unexpected continued attention, and his mind raced, remembering seeing Ben and Polly so recently and thinking they were engaging in such similar acts. And yet, as his fingers tightened again and again against the Doctor’s back, Jamie could not imagine either of them experiencing something as scorchingly hot or unexpectedly wonderful as this.

‘Doctor,’ he groaned, but it came out as more of a growl.

‘Mm?’ the Doctor replied. His mouth had moved to kiss the curve of Jamie’s jaw and his breath rushed loudly in Jamie’s ear as the little man fought to regain control of his breathing. ‘Oh, I got a bit carried away, it seems,’ he amended, pulling back.

Jamie thought of laughing at the absurdity of that; of saying ‘I don’t mind’ or ‘It’s all right’, but it seemed his mouth had completely stopped working.

An impish grin spread slowly over the Doctor’s face as he took Jamie in. His eyes twinkled in the moonlight. ‘And I can see it wasn’t exactly an unwelcome advance.’

‘Aye,’ he managed.

‘I’m glad.’ The Doctor’s hands dropped back down, lightly touching Jamie’s sides, but no longer holding him. ‘How is your ankle?’

‘Mm?’ he dreamily answered. Blinking a few times in rapid succession, he cleared his head. ‘It’s . . . I’m all right.’ The pain was still there, numb in the background, but he had found better things to concentrate on.

‘And the cold?’

If Jamie was ever sure of anything it was that he was no longer cold. Parts of his body felt almost as though they were on fire, but he couldn’t say that. Apparently the flush of his cheeks said it all for him, anyway.

The Doctor’s devious little grin widened. ‘Well, that’s quite the ego boost, I’ll say!’ he cheerily decried. ‘Now then, since you’re a bit revived, perhaps we can make it back?’

Jamie nodded wordlessly. Warm though he had become, he feared that perhaps his legs still wouldn’t support him, but for an entirely different reason now.

‘It does mean you’ll have to let go of me, I’m afraid,’ the Doctor kindly said. ‘Although I am flattered you’re so attached.’

Embarrassment drove Jamie to release him, but the smile the Doctor kept on his face alleviated Jamie’s fears that this was all too much, too soon. While he balanced precariously on one foot in the snow, the Doctor stooped down to pick up his crutches and handed them back to him.

‘Thanks,’ he quietly murmured, tucking them back under his arms. He felt foolish, acting so shyly around the Doctor, but he found it suddenly somehow unbearable to meet the little man’s piercing, knowing eyes. They began to walk slowly, keeping an even pace.

The Doctor casually reached out and put his hand over the small of Jamie’s back. ‘It’s all right, you know. The way you feel. We don’t have to discuss it, but you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.’ He glanced sidelong at Jamie.

‘I’m no ashamed,’ he answered, but kept his eyes firmed fixed on the snow he was navigating. His mind, however, was focused on the hand at his back, so casual and yet so intentional.

‘That’s good,’ the Doctor said. ‘I . . . I quite enjoyed myself, you see. I’d be terribly upset if you hadn’t liked it.’

‘I liked it,’ Jamie quickly said.

The Doctor studied him, grinning as he did. ‘I’m glad.’

They walked in silence the rest of the way, but both quickened their pace when the carnival finally came back into view. They’d somehow ended up on the opposite side from where they’d come in and had to walk the perimeter of the faire grounds as well, to get back to the entrance. The Doctor only dropped his hand off Jamie’s back when they were in view of the front gates.

‘Och! We dinnae have tae pay tae get back in again, do we?’ Jamie protested. He glared angrily at the ticket taker.

‘I suppose we must,’ the Doctor said, staring forlornly at the entrance. ‘Which is a pity really, as I’m sure Ben and Polly will be anxious to leave soon.’

‘Aye,’ Jamie said dejectedly. He secretly lamented to himself that they could have spent more time together, out in the snowfield.

‘Oy, Doctor!’ a voice called.

Both the Doctor and Jamie looked up to find Ben waving at them from across the perimeter fence.

‘Hey, Duchess! I found them!’ he said, turning to look over his shoulder. Polly shortly joined him at the fence. ‘You two about to nip off with out us then, eh?’

‘We were starting to get worried,’ Polly added. ‘We couldn’t find you anywhere.’

‘Oh, dear! I do apologise for worrying you two,’ the Doctor cheerfully said. ‘Jamie and I decided to enjoy the scenery out here for a bit. It’s lovely.’

Jamie studied his toes quite intently.

‘How is your leg, Jamie?’ Polly sweetly asked. Her eyes were full of concern when he looked up at her.

‘It’ll be all right,’ he said. ‘The crutches help a lot.’

‘I’m glad.’

‘Well, you two coming back in or are we headed out then?’ Ben asked.

Jamie noticed a suspicious looking pink mark on Ben’s collar that rather matched the shade of Polly’s lipstick. He wasn’t sure how any of it made him feel anymore, but the sight of the mark made him touch his own neck, where he could still feel the place the Doctor’s lips had been. The jealousy and animosity he’d felt earlier had dispersed though, and it seemed like Ben realised it too. ‘Think I’d like tae get back tae the ship,’ he said.

‘Aw, no wine tasting for you then, Pol,’ Ben said, gently nudging her.

‘Wine tasting?’ the Doctor asked, perking up slightly.

‘Yeah,’ Ben answered. ‘They got a little wine hut as opens up round ten. Me and Polly was thinking of having a taste or three.’

‘I didn’t think it’d be a good idea to go without telling you and Jamie though,’ Polly said. ‘I wouldn’t know what to do with a drunken sailor.’ She smiled delightedly.

‘Hey, I can hold my drink, I can,’ Ben protested good-naturedly.

The Doctor rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. ‘I do love a good merlot,’ he said eagerly. His eyes drifted to Jamie and his expression immediately changed. ‘Of course, I’d better see Jamie back to the TARDIS.’

Jamie blinked owlishly. ‘Eh? If ye want tae stay ye can,’ he quickly said. ‘I can find my own way back.’

‘Nonsense,’ the Doctor fussed. To Ben and Polly he said, ‘I’m afraid there’s no re-admittance, anyway.’

‘Well that ain’t half fair!’ Ben protested.

‘It’s all right,’ the Doctor insisted. ‘I’m sure Jamie and I can find something to occupy ourselves with back at the TARDIS, right Jamie? You two have a splendid evening together, but do try not to stay out too late?’

Polly beamed. ‘All right, Doctor. I promise we’ll behave.’

‘Oy, speak for yourself, Polly,’ Ben teased.

‘If there are any good wines, we’ll bring a bottle back,’ Polly called.

‘Oh, yes, please do,’ the Doctor replied.

‘Eh, why bother?’ Ben asked. ‘We could just go back in time and pinch whatever vintage we liked, yeah?’

‘That’s not the point, Ben,’ Polly fussed. She began waving. ‘Goodbye Doctor, Jamie! Goodnight!’

Jamie smiled, returning the wave, surprised he felt not at all bad, nor apprehensive, to be returning to the TARDIS alone with the Doctor. Neither did he begrudge Ben and Polly their night together anymore. ‘Goodnight!’ he returned.

‘Oh, and Polly?’ the Doctor called, turning back after several paces. Polly looked at him inquisitively. ‘If he gets too rowdy,’ he said, nodding at Ben, ‘shave his belly with a rusty razor and put him in the back of a paddywagon!’ he sing-songed.

They departed to the sound of Polly’s delighted laughter.

‘Come along, Jamie,’ the Doctor cheerily said, putting an arm around his shoulders. ‘We’ll have a wine tasting party of our very own back at the TARDIS.’

Jamie felt the warmth beginning to spread through him again and smiled up at the moon. He was starting to think that maybe this sprained ankle might just turn out to be the best thing that had ever happened to him.

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