Clara dragged her heels on her way through the TARDIS door. It closed behind her the moment she was properly inside, and the Doctor instantly threw home the lever. The rotors turned. Clara sighed.
“No time to waste, slowpoke,” the Doctor said.
Yeah. She didn’t have any more time to waste. It was now or never, and never was impossible. Though she could yet chicken out. She could. But running away was not something Clara Oswald was going to start doing now.
“Remember the night with the hypervodka?”
The Doctor smiled briefly: a moment of mutual embarrassment. Clara was sympathetic. There had been karaoke with a group of strangers in a bar on Ceti Alpha VI. The Doctor had belted out “Bohemian Rhapsody” like the best of them. There had been hypervodka shots. More shots. A duet on “Endless Love” that she really wished she couldn’t remember.
He said, “Parts of it. Mostly the parts before the bar. After that, not so much.”
“Do you remember waking up?”
“What’s this about?”
Clara ignored him and repeated herself, more firmly. “Do you remember waking up?”
The Doctor chewed on his forefinger. “Yes. Vividly. My head felt like it was doing the Titanian Two-Step all on its own.”
“You were in your bedroom when you woke up. With your clothes all over the floor.”
He stopped chewing on his forefinger and stared at her instead. “How do you know that?”
“Because I woke up first. In your bedroom. With you.”
His mouth opened and closed a few times. “We-- we-- Did we?”
“Yeah, we did. I didn’t remember it, but it must have happened, because. Well. Just because.” Because of the way her body had felt, because of the love bites in odd places, because of the chafing in places she did not want to describe to him.
“And I didn’t remember either,” he said, so quietly she wasn’t sure she’d heard it.
“Yeah. That was pretty obvious the next morning.”
His hands were now deep in his trouser pockets, and he was looking at the floor instead of at her. “Hypervodka is dangerous like that. I’m sorry.”
“Well, it’s okay, sort of. We’re both adults. We probably knew what we were doing. Even though we don’t remember it.”
He smiled at her very briefly, then moved toward the other side of the console from her. Clara followed. He pressed a few buttons as if they were the most important buttons ever, then stopped abruptly. He folded his arms, unfolded them, then shoved his hands deep into his trouser pockets again.
“Forgive me, Clara, but that was two months ago. Why bring it up now?”
“It’s only sort of okay. I, um.” There was no letting him off the hook on this one, but now that it came to it, she didn’t know how to say it. Words. Gone. Where had they gone? She’d written a speech out in post-it notes, but they were not in front of her now.
Clara couldn’t find any way to say what she had to say next without yelling and she wasn’t angry at anybody other than herself and she was more scared than angry anyway. So she pulled the little stick out of her pocket and held it out to him.
The Doctor took it gingerly and looked. Then he handed it back, pulled out his sonic, and scanned her.
“Yeah,” she said, when she saw his face change.
He yanked the viewscreen around toward them. He did something to the sonic and scanned her again. The monitor changed to a display of what she assumed were her guts, color-coded and moving in three dimensions. She leaned closed to take a look: tables of numbers flickering, an image of her belly, a cavity, a moving thing inside. He pointed at one of the charts of letters. It changed to a display of a double helix spinning, with labels along the edges.
Clara craned closer to the image on the screen. “Is that the baby’s DNA?”
“Yes. It’s Time Lord DNA. My DNA. Your DNA. The thing I don’t understand is-- oh.”
“What oh? Explain oh. You don’t get to say oh and then not explain it.”
“I was merely wondering how this–” he stabbed a finger at the helix – “happened. Humans and Gallifreyans can interbreed, yes, but to produce this requires intervention.”
“It happened on the TARDIS. She’d have-- there are machines-- I once set up something so that if – I set it up originally for River, a very long time ago, but nothing came of it. She was angry with me and so I went off for a year and built a semi-autonomous gene splicer and then when I went back to her the next day her time she was still angry and I’d completely forgotten what we were fighting about. And then I forgot about this. Until now.”
He was babbling. Still babbling, though Clara wasn’t paying attention any more. Well, that was annoying. She was pregnant because a thousand years ago he’d set up something to let his wife get pregnant, maybe, if they’d ever decided to, and the machine had just blithely done something with her DNA and his DNA and then it had spliced them together into a fertilized egg without even so much as asking her and she couldn’t even remember it.
Though she did remember the love bites on her shoulders. Those had taken days to fade. She’d been mortified because they’d been left by him and neither of them remembered it. She’d had wild monkey sex with the Doctor, and he’d got her pregnant, and she was going to have a Time Lord baby and she didn’t even remember it.
There was a clatter and a thump. The Doctor was now kneeling on the floor, with the screwdriver rolling away from him. His hands were on her shoulders.
“Clara? Are you okay?”
Clara noticed that she was sitting on the floor next to the Doctor. Speaking of things she didn’t remember: sitting down was another one.
“Yeah. I mean, aside from the morning sickness and the napping.”
“And the sudden collapsing.”
“That’s like the napping. Third period I have free, and I spend it asleep in the faculty lounge. I used to wake up with my head on my desk until I got smart and started commandeering the couch.”
“I think that’s normal,” he said. And then he reached out and laid a hand on her forehead, and tutted. The Doctor, who rarely touched her (except when he left love bites all over her shoulders, a traitorous part of her mind said), was touching her now, solicitously.
“Are you going to turn into one of those?”
Clara shook her head. He’d only deny it as if the suggestion outraged him.
“You seem well enough,” he said.
“What are we going to do?”
He was watching her now, almost warily. “I don’t know. What would you like to do?”
“What do you want to do?”
“I asked first.”
“No, you didn’t. I asked first.”
He sat down on the console steps, just below her, with his legs crossed. His thumb went up to the corner of his mouth and he worried at it with his teeth. Clara watched him fret. Could she see him as a father? Yes, she could. He’d been a father once; he sometimes boasted of his dad skills, and from what she’d seen, they were real, if off-kilter from what the average human thought of as a dad skill. The question was, did he want to be a father right now? Did she want to be a mother if he didn’t want to be a father? And what were Time Lord babies like, anyway?
“It’s your body. It’s up to you. You could terminate. You could put him into storage here in the TARDIS for a time later on when you wanted to carry him. You could put him into an artificial womb until he reaches full term. You could continue on the old-fashioned way.”
“Wait. Wait a second. Did you say him?”
“Oh, sorry, yes, XY chromosomes, other gene sequences say he’s probably going to turn out to be male in the usual way, which means most of the regenerations will be male except for a few extra-fun ones. I hope you didn’t want to be surprised.”
“It’s okay. Um. That’s a lot of choices. More than I knew I had.”
“You don’t have to decide yet. You have another week or so before some of the options become, er, tricky.”
“Well, actually, I sort of know what I want to do already. It was just more a matter of, well, you.”
“You. Do you want to help me raise him or would you prefer to show up on birthdays and give him wildly inappropriate presents that I’ll have to hide away before he uses them to splice cat and dog DNA or engrave his name on the moon with a laser or–”
“Help. Raise him.”
“Okay. See you do it, now. No vanishing for weeks at a time because you messed up the times. You’re here–”
“Mostly, and you’re helping. Even with the nappies.”
“Oh, nappies, there’s a perfectly good robot that can do those, I got it working once when Ace came to visit with her twins and it only malfunc–”
“Shut up. You’re changing nappies.”
They held hands now sometimes, at stressful moments. That was a thing. The Doctor would seek it out, even, and would hold her hand without any prompting whatsoever when things got weird. This hadn’t changed after their drunken night together. He reached out for her hand now and laced his fingers through hers. They sat like that for a while, hand in hand on the TARDIS floor, and Clara felt better. She had had some vague idea that he might have fled instead of welcoming it, dumped her in Croydon and come back in five years to see how it worked out. But no, he was sticking around and holding her hand and still smiling at her like he’d been given a present. Which, well, maybe he had.
The first thing that happened was that the Doctor parked the TARDIS in a corner of Clara’s living room and told her that was he was staying for the duration. Clara thought about objecting to losing the space until it occurred to her that she’d actually gained a lot of square footage. As in, an entire library, a city park, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and several miles of baffling corridors. And that was just to start. Who knew what else was hiding in there? Really, it was a straight-up improvement. So she smiled and nodded and tried to cope with the new reality of the Doctor as father-to-be, living in her flat, in and out at all hours of the day and night. Which seemed to be his intention; he’d taken her injunction not to vanish very seriously.
The second thing that happened was that he started outfitting a nursery in the corner of her bedroom, commencing with an odd cradle covered with markings in Gallifreyan.
“Mine, once,” he said to her. “And later River’s.”
“And that’s not weird in the slightest.”
“A lovely tradition.” He seemed to have chosen not to hear the irony in that.
“Why are you doing this?”
“He needs to sleep somewhere!”
“We have more than six months to do this. You do not need to re-arrange my entire flat right this instant.”
The Doctor coughed delicately. “About that.”
“What?” Clara said, dangerously.
“More like nine months.”
“I’m ten weeks along!”
“Yes, and the gestation period for a Gallifreyan is a year, so there you are.”
“Give or take.”
Clara’s mind shorted out. A year of this? A year of feeling queasy and taking unannounced naps and eating three meals and throwing up two of them? Then her mind latched onto the worst problem.
“But it’s supposed to take 40 weeks. People will notice if it’s longer. They’ll freak out. They’ll try to induce labor.”
“Over my dead body!” he said, which was the strangest thing he’d ever said, because he didn’t die. Much. In the usual way.
“So what do we do?”
“We travel,” he said, instantly. “In my time machine. You pudding-brain. An extra twelve weeks in lovely peaceful spots, spread out.”
“Do you even know any peaceful places?”
He looked mortally offended. “Of course I do!”
“The point is! The point. The point. Yeah. The point is that you have a lot of time. You do not need to completely re-arrange my flat right this second. You have even more time than I thought.”
“It’ll take a while to properly outfit a proper Gallifreyan nursery. Might as well start now.”
Clara opened her mouth and then thought better of it. Keep him involved. Keep him active. If he got bored there was no predicting what would happen. She was never sure how long he would stay paying attention to any one thing, so make use of him now, while she had him. That was a depressing thought; did he deserve it? She looked sidelong at him, now fussing with the exact calibration of the orrery that hung over the cradle. At one point in his life he’d careened around the universe with his granddaughter. That argued for some kind of ability to stick around and see the consequences of his actions.
He probably didn’t deserve it. She could probably trust him to stick around. Probably.
She sat down on the bed and watched him. She was tired again. Tired and hungry. She’d puked up her first dinner then immediately sat down and eaten a second larger one. The second had stayed down, thank goodness. Now she was hungry again. This was going to cost her a fortune in food. What did she want? She wanted tea. A nice mug of tea with milk and no sugar. Was she allowed to have tea? Caffeine was supposed to be bad. And it was Wednesday evening, and that meant it was a school night, and that meant she had to get a good night’s sleep, which she wasn’t going to do with this Time Lord careening all over her flat shouting cheerfully at her as he dragged caches of baby clothes out of the TARDIS.
“Oh my God,” she said, “what is that?” She snatched a onesie off the pile. It was a particularly horrifying combination of scarlet and orange, and on the front it said: “Scion of Rassilon?”
The Doctor grinned at her, showing all of his teeth rather adorably. “Ace had those made. There should be a second one around here somewhere. Get your little Prydonian started right.”
“Our little Prydonian?”
“Prydonian Chapter! Traditionally where the House of Lungbarrow ends up, we being a sneaky, devious lot.” His grin turned rather frightening for a moment, and then it vanished, replaced by an expression she couldn’t read. Thinking about Gallifrey for very long usually did that to him. Gallifrey was still hidden from him. From them, she supposed. But this seemed to be more complicated than that. That expression wasn’t exactly wistful.
He set down the onesie onto the stack of clothing, then tossed the whole bundle into the crib. “You’re right. I can work on this later. Plenty of time when you’re in that school teaching those pudding-brains to read. Can they?”
“Can they what?”
“Yes, they can all read, Doctor.”
“Good, good, better late than never.”
And in that moment, Clara was shaken. He’d just reminded her that he was alien, completely and utterly alien, and he’d grown up somewhere she didn’t know, in a family she’d never meet, in places she’d never see. How could she possibly raise the child of a Gallifreyan properly? She didn’t even know his name. She called him by a title, not his name. How could she possibly think he’d stay around afterward? She was pregnant with an alien’s baby.
Her face was wet. Damn these hormones. Damn the whole thing. What had made her think this was a thing she could survive?
“Clara?” he said. He was standing in front of her, looking completely upset. His hands were in his hair, pulling at it until it stood up straight.
“Clara. What’s wrong?”
“Not one of your better lies.”
Clara swiped her sleeve over her face. Well. He had a point there. “Nothing is wrong, really. Just-- The mother of your child needs a hug right now.”
He didn’t hesitate, but opened his arms. Clara moved into their circle and leaned her head against his chest. After a moment he closed his arms around her and squeezed. Clara felt him press a kiss to the top of her head. So much for not the hugging sort. If he ever said that to her again, she’d be able to tell him all the ways in which he lied.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. Mostly. No.”
“What do you need?”
“Could you-- could you stay? With me? Tonight. I don’t mean, that is–”
“You need some company?”
He studied her for a moment, brow furrowed. “The TARDIS,” he said. “Let’s bank one or two of those extra days now, yeah?”
He smiled at her for an instant, then reached out for her hand. Clara took it and let him lead her out of her bedroom and through the open door of the TARDIS.
“You go get changed,” he said. “I’ll send us somewhere safe for tomorrow.”
Clara felt the TARDIS shift out of the vortex just as she finished brushing her teeth. The Doctor knocked on the door and came in without waiting. At least he knocked. He didn’t always remember to do that.
She climbed onto the bed and slid under the blankets. She had no idea what was going to happen next. Was he going to get into bed with her? Was he going to sit in the chair next to her bed and read? Or play his guitar and sing to her? That might be nice, actually. She hadn’t heard him singing except by accident, when she’d walked in on him. He seemed to prefer to keep that to himself.
Clara watched the father of her child as he stood by the bed, looking at her. He bit at his thumb for a moment and seemed to come to some decision. Out came the screwdriver. He fiddled with it for a moment and aimed it at the ceiling. The light faded, shifted. The ceiling changed itself to a starlit night under a canopy of leaves, which was something that Clara knew the TARDIS could do but hadn’t ever asked it to do. Sound faded in: wind in trees, insects, running water somewhere nearby. The Doctor set the screwdriver on the nightstand. He stood. Clara watched him take off his jacket silhouetted against the starscape. Then his cufflinks. Then he sat again and unlaced his boots. She’d never seen this ritual before. Never seen him in anything but full dress, fully-defended against the universe. Except for that one morning, when she’d woken up next to him. The night she couldn’t remember, that ended up with her pregnant. The shirt came off next, revealing a t-shirt with a dancing skeleton printed on it. Then he pulled back the coverlet and slid himself under it, next to her.
“C’mere.” He held out an arm. Clara snugged herself up against him. “Was that the right thing to do?”
“Might make me some cue cards. When to hug you. When to make myself scarce.”
“You’re doing okay as is.”
“Just let me know, will you?”
“Why are you being so, so helpful? So present?”
“You’re carrying my child. Our child. It’s the least I can do.”
Clara pressed her face against his chest. She was pregnant. Everything was going to be different. A child. A boy. Half Gallifreyan, whatever that meant, and half human. She was going to be a mother. She’d always assumed she’d be a mother some day. She was afraid of it and not afraid of it at the same time. She knew it would change her, but she was okay with that. Sort of. Was she ready for it? What if she messed it up? What if she wasn’t a good mother to a Gallifreyan baby? What if she cocked everything up? What if he turned out to take a hundred years to grow to adulthood? She might die before he was even a teenager.
Dammit, she was crying again. She wasn’t even sure she could blame the hormones. This was scary and she was scared and she hadn’t planned this and her life was out of control and–
“Clara,” the Doctor said.
“What?” It came out sort of watery.
“I was a dad once. I told you, yeah?”
“Yeah. You had a granddaughter, even.”
“Much later. I became a father when I was young. Older than you by a little bit, but still young by the standards of Gallifrey. So young.” His voice was quiet, a little raspy. His hand shifted down and splayed out against her back.
“Did it-- was it okay? Did you make mistakes?”
“Oh, Clara, I made so many mistakes. But I got enough right that they, well, they turned out just fine. Got into less trouble than I did. Terrible disappointment.”
There was laughter lurking in his voice, and that was more of a comfort to her than anything else. He was happy. He wanted this. She could hear it.
“It’ll be okay,” he said. “You’ll be as amazing at this as you are at everything else.”
And he kissed her forehead again. His hand rubbed her back, slowly, soothingly. The stars overhead, a stream running, crickets chirping, his warmth beside her: Clara fell asleep into dreams that were sweet and soothing.
When she woke, the Doctor was not in bed with her, but there was herbal tea and a glass of disturbingly blue juice waiting for her on the nightstand. The juice tasted wonderful, and so did the tea. This was, Clara supposed, the Doctor doing his absolute best to take care of her. It would do.
After that the TARDIS was a fixture in her living room, and the Doctor a fixture in her bed, sometimes the one in her flat in London, sometimes the one in the TARDIS. A chaste fixture, but a soothing one. Clara wasn’t sure what she wanted from him, besides that, but this would do for now. He would lie with her until she fell asleep, then get up and do something inexplicable while she slept. She woke up one morning to find the walls and ceiling of her bedroom had been painted with nanobot-laced programmable paint that he’d set to simulate the sky over her flat, with all the constellations lovingly recreated.
Clara sat crosslegged on the bed eating a tub of full-fat yogurt-- amazing luxury of pregnancy, that she was supposed to eat the stuff that tasted good-- and looked up at her blue ceiling, at the sliver of crescent moon in the east. “And this is exactly the sky over London right now?”
The Doctor leaned in her doorframe with a mug of black coffee in his hands. He said, “Glasgow. Not London.”
“Glasgow? Specifically Glasgow?”
“I’ve programmed in the seasons, too. Realistic day lengths.”
“Why not Gallifrey?”
He shrugged then frowned at her, so she changed the subject. “I’m hungry.” She looked mournfully into her empty pot of yogurt.
“More yogurt? We have outrageous amounts in the TARDIS.”
“Fish and chips from that place you took me to that one time. Frankie’s.”
“For breakfast? Right, okay, I understand, back in a tick.”
The TARDIS door closed behind him. Clara sighed and scraped at the bottom of the yogurt pot with her spoon. He’d likely be back straight away. He’d learned pinpoint control with the TARDIS, or he’d come to some agreement with her that allowed him to coax her into going when he wanted. The TARDIS vanished, and then it reappeared exactly where it had been, and the Doctor emerged with a paper dish in his hands that smelled exactly like what she’d been dreaming about, all salt and grease. Clara snatched the bag from his hands and dug out a chip, still steaming hot. Perfect. Delicious.
The Doctor sat on the edge of her bed. Clara ate another chip and tried not to make the kind of noises she wanted to be making. This had been exactly what she wanted. What the scion of Gallifrey wanted. She’d taken to calling him that when it would most irritate the Doctor, which was pretty much any time she said it. He was staring at her, she noticed.
“You’re watching me eat.”
“Are you criticizing me? Trying to say anything?”
“Just watchin’ you. Worth it, going out to get those. Had to find cash for it. Ended up busking for an hour in the sunshine. Played 500 Miles and earned enough for the chips before I’d reached the third verse.”
“Get out,” Clara said, through a mouthful of cod.
“Great song,” the Doctor said. “I think I played it a decade before they wrote it.” And he insinuated a hand into the bag and stole a chip. Clara slapped at him half-heartedly. If he’d busked for the chips, he’d more than earned it.
Clara dug into the newspaper for the next piece of fish. It emerged with a slice of lemon. “Ooh! Lemon!” And then she got a good whiff of it and her stomach did things. She wrapped it up in the paper as fast as she could. The Doctor took it out of her hands.
“You feeling okay?”
“Nausea. Again. Getting really tired of it. This was supposed to end at twelve weeks.”
“Ah. Want me to get rid of the bag?”
Clara shook her head. She was feeling better with the lemon out of sight. There were at least five chips left that there was no way she was going to let him eat.
He said, “Implantation should be complete soon. It’ll get easier on you. More eating, more sleeping, less nausea.”
“Good, good. I’m due for a checkup,” Clara told him. “Overdue, actually. The clinic wants me back. The trouble is–”
“Two heartbeats. They told me last time there was some possibility it was twins. They were unsure, but. Yeah.” She met the Doctor’s eyes and they nodded to each other.
“Yeah. Won’t do.”
“I need checkups. Make sure I’m doing okay. Blood counts. All that.”
The Doctor made a complicated gesture that ended in a shrug.
“UNIT?” Clara said. “They like you. They know about aliens. They won’t freak out.”
“I don’t trust UNIT,” The Doctor shook his head. “The Brigadier was a friend, but Kate has been very high-handed with me. I think she’d help, if asked. But they’re soldiers.”
Clara was not entirely in agreement with him, but also not ready to argue just yet. She’d keep UNIT up her sleeve, just in case anything started going wrong. “So what do we do?”
“Rely on the TARDIS.” He looked somewhat consternated about this prospect, which did not please her.
She dug into the sack for more chips, but she’d eaten them all. And her hands were greasy. And she really ought to shower and dress. How much time did she have?
She yelped. “Oh, dammit, I’m late. There’s no way I’m going to get to class on time without riding the bike and–”
“No riding the bike.”
The Doctor pointed at the TARDIS. Apparently all his rules about no joyriding, no using it to be on time for things, and no frivolous trips were, as she’d always suspected, complete nonsense. He spun her off to her classroom in the TARDIS, which deposited her in place five minutes before they’d left, which meant she was early to work, which pleased her no end. How women without time machines managed pregnancy and work, she had no idea.
The morning conversation had been prescient, for UNIT settled the question for them that very afternoon. UNIT sent Osgood, not Kate Stewart or anyone in uniform. They sent her to Coal Hill, where Osgood presented the ID of the parent of one of her students. She was, Clara noted, wearing a black leather coat that came down almost to her knees, a dark jumper, and sturdy shoes.
“Hi,” she said. “Miss Oswald. I’d like a moment of your time, if I could.” She waved and smiled.
“Sure,” Clara said. She didn’t have a choice, and besides, she liked Osgood. They’d probably counted on that. She shut the door of her classroom, because why be overheard? Back to her desk, sit down, because Osgood looked nervous and that wasn’t good. She wanted the extra authority that being behind a desk gave her.
Osgood shoved her hands deep into her jacket pockets and fidgeted with something there. “There’s no particularly polite way to put this,” she said.
“I never like conversations that start this way,” Clara said. She picked up a pen and spun it on her thumb.
“We, um, monitor people of interest to UNIT and to, um, the Doctor.”
The pen fell. Clara felt herself get very very still. She knew this feeling. Fight or flight. Adrenaline rush next. “You monitor me.”
“Yeah. Sorry. It’s just safer that way.”
“Safer,” Clara said.
“For you as well as for everybody around you. You tend to attract attention from otherworldly entities.”
“You have a point there.”
“It also helps us keep track of where the Doctor is, in case we need him. We have ways of signaling him but they’re less reliable than the ways he gives you.”
“Is this all a polite, roundabout way of telling me that you want me to signal him? Because can do.” Clara pulled her cellphone out of her jacket pocket and held it up. Her hands were steadier than she had anticipated.
“No. This is a polite, roundabout way of asking you if you’re carrying his child. Because that’s what I think is happening.”
There it was, the rush, the tremble in her hands. Fight, that was the reaction she had more often than not these days. Fight. Run into the danger, not out. Osgood, she reminded herself, was not about to attack her. Maybe. Temporize.
“Why would you think that?”
“Well, you’re pregnant, and there is a cradle in your bedroom with an orrery over it for a solar system that isn’t this one, with Gallifreyan writing on it. The conclusion was easy to draw.”
Clara stared. The amount of anger she was feeling was really quite impressive. She wondered with one tiny corner of her mind if it was safe for the baby to be this angry. Her hand was shaking more than a little on the phone. Osgood saw it, because she grimaced and pulled out her inhaler. Breathed in, tucked it away.
“To be honest we were surprised to learn you’re, um, sexually involved, because it’s unusual for the Doctor. We’ve always thought of him as being too alien to be interested in sexual activity, despite his penchant for traveling with, um, pretty younger women.”
In other circumstances that all by itself would have enraged her, but Clara was stuck on the more important issue. “You bugged my bedroom.”
“Years ago now. When you were with the Maitlands. The Director at the time insisted. Director Stewart did not discontinue the program. If it’s any consolation, I just found out today. When they asked me to do this. I’m not happy either, Miss Oswald. Clara.”
Clara nodded tightly. Not Osgood’s fault; noted. When she had the Doctor dismantle UNIT, they’d spare Osgood. “Why?”
“There are beings in this universe who’d target you the instant they learned you’re the Doctor’s friend. If they learn you’re carrying his child–”
“And you think he’s not capable of protecting me?”
“We think he’ll protect you, yes. We’re just not sure he’d protect anything else.”
There it was again, adrenaline. Not good. Definitely not good. Clara closed her eyes, saw red, saw destruction. She breathed in, out.
“Get out of here right now or I will make so much noise you’ll never be able to set foot on school grounds again.”
“That won’t help. We’ll just wipe their memories if we need to. Miss Oswald, Clara, I am not your enemy. Truly.”
“You might not think you are, but you’re snooping in my bedroom. I am really angry right now and trust me, you do not want me angry at you.”
Osgood nodded. “Ms Stewart thought you’d say that. You have my number, I think. Please call me if you need anything. I mean that sincerely.”
“And you can sincerely stick your bugs where the sun doesn’t-- Never mind. Just get out.”
Osgood left, shoulders drooping, the very image of genuine misery. Clara sat at her desk, ignoring all the work she had to do, trying to calm down. Thinking through the implications. UNIT kept an eye on her. That she wasn’t shocked by. The bug in her bedroom, that was shocking. The revelation that they knew which ones of his previous friends the Doctor had slept with, that was also shocking. He hadn’t spent time with River Song on earth, had he? He’d spent a lot of time with the Ponds, but that had been different. They had a bug in her bedroom.
She pressed the button on her phone that contacted the Doctor. As was typical these days, he answered almost immediately. “Clara! Done with the remedial teaching yet?”
“Doctor. Osgood was just here. UNIT.”
A moment of silence. “You sound upset.”
“I am upset. They bugged my bedroom.”
“You at home? No, I see you’re in your classroom. One tick.”
The TARDIS groaned into being in a corner of her classroom a moment later. The Doctor ran out, looked around, looked to her.
“She’s gone,” Clara said. “She’s not to blame anyway. It’s UNIT.”
The Doctor heaved out a long sigh. “It’s my fault, I think. Kate sent me a message a week ago, asking to talk to me. I told her to leave us alone or I’d be most cross. I may have said one or two other things.” He looked at her, then away, a little shame-faced.
“What did you say?”
Now he looked sullen. “Nothing worth repeating.”
“Oh. Well. That explains it.”
“Why Osgood assumed we’re involved.”
“Involved? We’re not involved, as I understand the word.”
Clara bit her lip. “Think about it what it looks like. I’m pregnant with your child and you are acting hyper-protective and refusing to let them get anywhere near me.”
The Doctor huffed. “I’m just doing what any reasonable man would do in this situation! Taking care of his-- that is, taking care of–”
“What? His what?”
“The mother of his child. You can say it.”
“No! That’s not all. You’re, you’re-- you’re everything. My everything.”
He whirled around so his back was to her. He walked to the window of her classroom. He’d shoved his hands into his trouser pockets. Clara drifted up behind him. Rain on the windows, rain on the playground below them, puddles all over the chessboard. No one sensible would play chess on that board. Autumn rain, the trees with yellowing leaves. Their baby would be born in August of next year.
He said, in a calmer voice, “I’ll tell UNIT to bugger off. I’ll set up a warning system around your flat, and sweep for their bugs. You needn’t worry about being spied on any longer.”
Clara laid her hand on his back, flat. Wool coat, tense bow-string of a man underneath it. He was almost quivering, he was so tight. Silence between them. The dwindling noise of the school, as children and teachers left for the day. Rain spattered on the window, driven by a gust of wind.
“This is a bad idea,” he said, into the silence.
Clara flinched. Was he having second thoughts? “Why is it a bad idea?”
“Because I’m selfish.”
“I am,” he said, quietly. “Deeply selfish. You-- you’re in danger because of me. UNIT is right. But that’s the least of it. Cataclysmic danger! We cope with that every day. It’s boring. This! This will sow chaos and destruction in its wake, and I feel–”
“How do you feel?”
“So happy I might burst.”
Clara leaned on the windowsill next to him. Cool air from outside filtered around the window in its casing. The memories, the memories came floating back sometimes, fragments of that night. The way the room had spun, the way her whole body had felt alive and tingling, the way his hands on her skin had felt. He’d been behind her for a least some of it, behind her, buried deep inside her, biting at her shoulders. Did he remember it in flashes? Clara thought it was possible he remembered every little bit of it but was pretending not to, to spare them both.
Spare them? Stint them, more like. There was no point waiting. No point protecting yourself. If you did, you would just be protecting yourself from living. So, Clara Oswald, take the chance. Tell the father of your child what was what.
“Doctor,” she said, softly.
“I feel the same way. About both things. Our son. You.”
“Oh.” Some of that tension left him. He smiled at her, one of those heart-stopping smiles that sometimes lit him up. A moment of transfiguration, then he was biting at his thumb.
“Are you going to be okay coming to teach without protection?”
“I think they won’t mess with you. Come on. Let’s get my bedroom de-UNITed.”
He slipped himself into bed with her that night exactly as on all the previous nights, under a simulated Milky Way shimmering with light and color. This time Clara was tense, wondering what would happen. It was fraught, this time. He’d said what he’d said; she’d said it back; there was only one way to understand it. He hadn’t said it head on, no, and neither had she. They weren’t the kind of people who’d do that. But he was frighteningly intelligent and he had to have thought through everything.
He curled up behind her, as he’d been doing, tucked an arm around her, and let a hand rest over her belly. Protective. Affectionate. She’d have hesitated to say “loving” before today, but now she knew it was the right word. She rested her hand over his, and let her fingers stroke his. Gently, because she didn’t want to spook him.
“Clara,” he said. Voice so soft, so rough, like heavy silk.
She stilled her fingers. “Doctor.”
“What happened between us, that night. I don’t remember it. But–”
“I’m glad it happened. I’m selfish, I know it, but I’m glad.” His lips brushed against the back of her neck, lingered. He made a little sound, said something into her skin, something that she didn’t think was English, that the TARDIS did not translate. It didn’t need to.
Second trimester. The middle third. The boring part, where nothing happened other than eating, sleeping, and getting bigger around the middle. The nausea stopped, as the Doctor had predicted—the Doctor and every single book she’d read on the topic, plus the NHS’s online pregnancy guide—which was nice. Good to know some things were predictable. She still ate a lot, which was okay, though not as much as she had when she was puking up every other meal. She was also aware of other appetites returning, other hungers, ones that were made all the worse by the presence of the oblivious Time Lord who cuddled up with her every night. Every night? Yeah. Every night. Even the nights they spent on the TARDIS because he wanted to be sure she felt as supported as she needed to.
That’s what he said, anyway. Clara suspected him of having his own reasons for wanting it. Obscure reasons, alien reasons, human reasons: he’d had a family once that he’d lost.
The Doctor took her traveling on Wednesdays, sightseeing, planet-hopping. Clara wasn’t sure if it was a running joke between them, a charming routine, or both at once. Wednesdays were adventure days. If the adventures involved less peril and running and traps and more hyper-intelligent shades of the color blue with interesting libraries, well, she understood that. The time for peril was later, when Junior was able to run with them. She had no doubt that any child of theirs would enjoy every instant they spent in peril together. It was a thing. Nature, nurture, who cared: both would conspire together to turn their children into brave, curious, questing menaces to rules and order everywhere.
Children? There seemed to be no hope of the plural. The Time Lord in question had begun to allow himself to express open affection, but without the influence of hypervodka he seemed uninterested in the next step, the more intimate step.
Say it, Oswald, say it. She wanted sex. The Doctor was oblivious. He cuddled wonderfully, yes. He spooned up behind her and definitely did not fall asleep, thank you very much, while she lay awake and wondered what it would feel like if they ever did more than cuddle. Wondered and wondered and kept her mouth shut about it because, well, how was she supposed to explain it to him? Each way she imagined the conversation going was worse than the last. Petty humans and their undignified physical needs. Missy’s voice sometimes came back to her, her contempt for it all. What if he felt the same way when he was sober?
She couldn’t take care of things herself in her bed at night any more, since he was always there. Sometimes she’d get a bit edgy, but that was what the privacy of her shower was for. It wasn’t completely satisfying, not when she knew that what she wanted was the man in her bed, but it was better than nothing. As problems went, it was not that bad.
Really, she was okay. She wasn’t throwing up any more. None of her clothes fit, but the TARDIS took care of that for her. Massive advantage, the TARDIS was, once she’d chosen to be on Clara’s side.
Life outside the TARDIS was mostly okay. Mostly. Her students only sometimes teased her about her just-showing pregnancy, but were shocked into silence by the things the extra caretaker would produce to amuse them. Or her. It was amazing to Clara that nobody ever objected to his presence on school grounds and in her classroom. Psychic paper? Hypnosis? The coat? The sheer brass of him, marching in and taking over everything? More likely the fact that he seemed to be on suspiciously excellent terms with the school governor. But who knew?
A flat down the hall from hers suddenly went vacant and was as-suddenly occupied again, by very quiet tenants whom Clara never saw with her own eyes. Nice couple, clean-cut, the family next door told her, but they kept strange hours. And there might be more than just two of them, all quite neat and tidy. UNIT. Of course, UNIT. Clara thought this was creepy. The Doctor thought so too, and his face went very dark when she told him, and he stalked off to his TARDIS and vanished in a growl of outraged time rotor. Clara shrugged and returned to her marking. Whatever drama might develop in her alternative life, the one with UNIT and aliens and time travel, the marking remained as a constant, a tedious steady drumbeat in her life.
When the Doctor came back two hours later, he was glowering and his hair looked as if he’d been running his hands through it non-stop. Clara went up to him and fussed over it, trying to soothe him a little bit. He stood still and let her, which was a minor surprise.
“So?” she said, from safely behind his back where she couldn’t see those eyebrows in their full attack mode.
“It’s a guard, or so Kate says. I told her her father would be ashamed of her.”
“What did she say to that?”
“She said her father was a daft old man who trusted me rather too much for the world’s good.”
“Oh,” Clara said, but then he went on.
“But that he was fond of me so she was going to continue his tradition of cooperating with me. She thought I was being willful and stupid but she’d stay away from you.”
“I feel like there’s another shoe about to drop there.”
But he merely rolled his eyes and shrugged, so Clara let it rest for the moment. The UNIT people had to make do with bugging them from three doors down; her bedroom remained clear of devices. Non-Gallifreyan devices, that was. The Doctor had continued his project of fitting out a nursery many months in advance, with cradle and orrery and star maps and mathematical puzzles painted on the walls. Domestic Doctor, hovering over her, indulging a nesting urge in her tiny bedroom, in her classroom, in odd rooms of the TARDIS.
Before Clara’s pregnancy he would sometimes go a month or two between Wednesdays, he told her, subjective time, going off and doing things that he thought were too dangerous for her. Living a life on his own. Sometimes, he confessed, it went the other way. He’d jump forward from one Wednesday to the next because he hadn’t wanted to do things without her.
“That’s cheating,” Clara said.
“Going through time in order is boring,” he’d said. “And besides, I wasn’t finished with our conversation about tortoise intelligences. I had to bring you to meet one to show you how wrong you were about them.”
“But you’re doing time in order now.”
“Well, I’ve got Junior there to worry about, haven’t I. Need to make sure you’re eating right.”
“You have no idea what eating right means. You had three deep-fried Mars bars for dinner yesterday.”
And there went his hands, flying up in the air in exasperation, and he was happily engaged in telling her why Mars bars were the perfect food, the ideal balance of sugar and fat, and everything was sort of perfect now, in Clara’s view. Different, but good. That night with the hypervodka and the clothes on the floor, the night they couldn’t remember: the third turning point in her strange life. Everything was different now. The Doctor was different now. He was living synced with her, day for day.
And wasn’t that surprising, his faithfulness and his conscientiousness and his reliable presence with her? Less surprising now that she knew how deep his joy went. She was carrying his child, a son, a Gallifreyan, proof that his race could be repopulated without his people coming out of hiding, wherever they were. What that meant, neither of them were entirely sure. Conceived on the TARDIS; gestated to a large part on the TARDIS; part human, part Gallifreyan. Gene-spliced by a semi-autonomous machine. To what end?
She asked him that one day, while they explored the Thundering Mile Falls on Andromeda Cluster aleph-B ZZ34-9, planet IV. The planet had no other name Clara could pronounce, but the “thundering mile” part was translatable. At least, that was what the Doctor claimed it meant, and Clara bought his line of patter this time. If it wasn’t named that, it should be. Every five minutes another burst of super-hot water would blow out of the geyser, roar down the deep cut of the river channel, and then plunge over the falls to crash in a great noise at the bottom the local unit of distance down, close enough to an English mile as to make no difference. A vertiginous terrifying mile that Clara took one look down at and then backed away from carefully. The gravity wasn’t quite Earth’s, but that made her even less in the mood to take chances.
She found a perch on a pile of boulders with a good vantage point of the geyser and the water channel and sat with the Doctor waiting for the next burst. The Doctor explained the geology of the area and the exact volcanic forces that had produced this oddly robust little mountain range. He broke off mid-sentence and lifted his finger and pointed, and there it went. Water shooting up into the air, steam roiling off it, yellow and red streaks in it from the minerals, the strange scent of it coming to them on the wind. And then it fell to the ground and raced past them on its way toward the cliff.
Clara let the echoes of the latest crash fade, then asked him again: “Gene splicing. How. Why. What. What’s our kid going to be like?”
The Doctor sighed and wrapped his arms around his knees. “I could answer that question. I have the data. I just don’t want to. I’d rather be surprised.”
Clara pursed her lips and considered this. “Yeah. Okay. I get that. But will he need glasses? Is he right-handed or left-handed?”
“Some of that is development in the womb and can’t be predicted. But no, he won’t need glasses. Nor will he have any of the many possible genetically-linked diseases either of our species suffer from. Not that my species has suffered from them. At least not the Time Lords. Looming has some advantages. Looming, by the way, is our word for what we did.”
When he said that word, Clara heard him say two words at once, one with her ears and one with her brain, which meant he’d said it in Gallifreyan instead of English. Usually he spoke English with her, but this word was apparently special. The TARDIS’s translation circuit was doing something special with it, at least. Looming, right. The meaning nudged into her head, and she learned the word, the strange slurring liquid syllables of the Doctor’s native language. She whispered it, heard the meaning in her head. It meant gene splicing and reproductive ritual and sperm and egg carefully selected and joined and then something else she wasn’t sure about.
“Your machine is a looming machine.”
“Specially designed by me,” he said, proudly, “to cope with human and Gallifreyan DNA both. Took me most of a year, which should tell you something.”
The correct thing to do here was nod and smile and pet the Time Lord’s ego, so Clara did this. “It was a tricky problem indeed. But why did it do anything that night? Surely it had to be turned on.”
Now his face did some odd things, running through a glower to a look of rueful affection. “The TARDIS.”
“What about it? Does she still hate me?”
“Quite the opposite. It’s because she likes you that it happened. She trusts you now.”
“Good to know,” Clara murmured, and she tried not to roll her eyes because it was rude, and because the TARDIS might notice. She was close enough to translate for them, which meant she was close enough to notice Clara being snarky.
“Anyway, the TARDIS triggered it. Probably. I think. Maybe. I think this was the only occasion since, since—I don’t think River traveled on the TARDIS again after I built it.”
His face fell, and Clara felt a twinge of sympathy. She’d known River. She’d liked River. She’d seen his previous self, the chinny one, kiss River passionately in farewell. She knew he still missed her, as he missed every single one of the people he’d loved through his long, long lives.
Clara bumped him with a shoulder affectionately. He leaned against her and tipped his head so it rested against hers. More of that maddening closeness, intimacy but not really. He’d kiss River in his right mind, but not her. He’d get wistful about no longer kissing River, all melancholic and nostalgic, but he didn’t seem to care about his one night with Clara. Sometimes it drove her crazy with desire; sometimes with the urge to slap him. And didn’t that sum him up completely? Her alien companion. Or whatever the word was for him. Slap him, sleep with him, both, neither. Who knew which he wanted?
On impulse, she said, “Do you ever wonder?”
“About what?” He sat back and smiled at her, indulgent, relaxed, the amiable idiot.
“What happened. What we did that night. Whether we liked it or not.”
His eyes went wide for an instant, then his face sharpened. The idiot was gone and he was focused on her completely. He said, “There’s no point wishing. Hypervodka is particularly effective with my species. Famous for it. Designed for it, perhaps. You are far more likely to remember than I.”
“I get flashes, but nothing substantial. Pretty sure you enjoyed it, at least. Because, well.” Clara gestured toward her belly.
“That’s the only evidence I have. The first time I’ve been with somebody in hundreds of years and I can’t remember it.” He glowered at his thumb, then worried at it with his teeth.
“Does it take hypervodka to get you in the mood?”
He smiled at her for a second, mirthlessly, one of those smiles that meant he was trying his best to talk with her despite everything in him pushing him away from it. “I haven’t the least idea.”
“You’re not into sex, I guess. I’ve always wondered about that, too.” Missy’s voice was in her mind again. Reproductive frenzy. Animals.
“That’s rather personal.”
“What’s happening to me is rather personal, you know? I’m pregnant because of you.”
He shoved himself to his feet and strode away from her. Clara rolled awkwardly away from the edge of the rock and pushed herself to her feet. He was heading across the rocky field toward the river itself. It rumbled and he paused: the geyser had burst into life far upstream and the noise reached them first. Clara watched as the super-hot water roared down the channel, hiss and rumble, steam rising. Then another pause, silence. Clara counted the seconds, realized she could calculate the planet’s gravity from the timing if she wanted. Twenty-five, twenty-six, then the crash.
The Doctor had come back while she was distracted. He stood in front of her, hands in his hoodie pockets, head down. He said, “I’m not sure what you want from me right now.”
“I want to know what we are to each other. You and me. I’m pregnant with your kid now, so you’re here, you’re with me, but what happens afterward?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are we together? Am I just a looming convenience? A thing the TARDIS used when you slipped up and got drunk?”
“Clara! That isn’t fair.”
“Unfair? You showed no signs of interest in me that way until we got drunk.”
“I’m not your boyfriend, Clara.”
“Not my boyfriend.”
He nodded. And then his face changed, and the fixed smile was back. He leaned down and snatched her hand and tugged her to her feet.
“Come on, no time to waste, we’ve got the triple-ringed moons of Eloracon Twelve to see. It’s said to be good luck to expose developing fetuses to them. Pure nonsense, of course, but might as well find out.”
“Yes! Much more likely to have the proper twelve fingers and twelve toes if they’ve seen the moonrise. I’ve always wanted to see it, and what better time than now?”
He was avoiding the conversation. He was being an idiot. He was being utterly infuriating. “Doctor, you’re not changing the subject.”
“There’s nothing left to discuss. I’m not who you think I am. That’s that. Let’s go see a planet.”
“Take me home. Now.”
“No buts. Home.”
He followed her back to the TARDIS silently, thank goodness. Clara was burning with shame and hurt from what was a rejection she could have predicted and should have predicted and shouldn’t have risked. She’d known he wasn’t into her. Maybe this regeneration wasn’t into anybody. River, yeah, his previous face had loved her, and this face could remember that, but she didn’t rate. She was his friend he’d had an accident with.
She needed not to see him for a bit until her ego recovered.
Clara didn’t waste time waiting for him to send them to her home. She knew perfectly well how to control the TARDIS for simple hops to familiar destinations like her flat, ten seconds after they’d left. That was a preset, or the equivalent of a preset. Push these buttons until the console read like that, prime the engine, unlock the time synchronizer, and throw the levers. Wait for the TARDIS to make her way through time and space efficiently, rotors spinning. Clara had done it so often she could almost feel it, almost know when the TARDIS was nearing the point in space-time that was hers.
The rotors died to silence. Clara turned her back on him and marched out the door into her flat. She turned to close the door behind her, but he was on her heels, reaching out to her. She shoved him back with a hand, and he stepped away. He looked upset, but he didn’t get to look upset. Not when she was angry. Only she got to be upset like that.
“No. Go away until I’m not angry any more.”
She slammed the TARDIS door on him.
Into the kitchen, water into the kettle, switch it on. There it went, the TARDIS, leaving. In its wake the flat was disturbingly quiet. Some herbal tea mix into the tea ball, ready and waiting in a mug. So many things she’d given up for the sake of this half-alien kid. No wine, no real tea. Well, it would be worth it. He would be worth it. As for his father—Clara resolutely stopped thinking about him.
Wednesday night and Clara was now at loose ends. Nothing on the telly. No marking to do tonight; pop quiz day this week was tomorrow. She found a novel on the shelf. Trollope. She was in the mood for something inconsequential and long and chatty and full of pointless human relationships. No spiky difficult aliens with annoyingly long fingers and annoyingly curly hair. Damn him. Damn him for being exactly perfect for her.
If she didn’t feel about him as strongly as she did, it would be easier. She’d be less angry. Less disappointed.
“Get a grip, Oswald,” she said, to the silence of her flat. “He’s an alien and always has been. You can’t expect him to want the things you want. Take what you can get.” And she let herself get involved in the people of Barsetshire for a couple of peaceful hours, curled up on her sofa in her stockinged feet.
The Doctor appeared at her usual bedtime, to her surprise. The TARDIS ground her way into position in the corner of the living room Clara kept clear for her. The door creaked open and he slunk out, head down. He had a bouquet in his hand, hyacinths and white tulips. Clara accepted them from him gravely and set them in a vase on her vanity. He stood watching her do this quite silently, hands in his jacket pockets.
“I’m sorry too,” she said.
He nodded and bit his lip.
Clara kissed him on the cheek to let him know he was forgiven, then climbed into bed. She curled up on her side, facing away from him, in silent invitation. A moment later she heard his boots hitting the floor, his hoodie unzipping. The lights went out. The mattress shifted as he climbed onto it. The glow from the stars he’d put on the ceiling and walls was the only light in the room.
Traffic sounds outside, voices in the street far below, his breathing near her. He shifted and spooned up behind her. Was he wearing less than usual? A t-shirt, bare legs, yeah, he was more undressed than usual. Clara let herself relax against him. His hand came to rest on her belly, which was just starting to swell enough that she needed special waistbands in her skirts to cope. She wound her fingers together with his. It was okay. It would have to be, and it was: he was the father of her child, and her dearest friend, and he wouldn’t be with her that way without hypervodka to rip down his barriers.
“Clara,” he said. His lips brushed the back of her neck. Clara shivered. “Clara,” he said again, insistent this time.
Clara turned around in his arms. “Look, I’m sorry about earlier. I was out of line. I–”
“No, please. Listen to me first. I’ve been away a week, trying to work out what to say to you, and I need to say it.”
“I’m no good with human manners. I should have asked you to write me a card for this. What to say when you’ve buggered it up completely.”
“I said I’m not your boyfriend. I’m not. I can never be that for you. It’s not the sort of man I am this go-round. I can’t be that. I’m the father of your child. I can be that. I can be good at that. As for the other thing—the, the sex thing. I wasn’t sure. I had to think about it to be sure. What does it mean when I look at you and feel like I do? What does it mean when I hold your hand and feel better about everything? What’s this stew of hormones going on inside me? It’s almost as bad as what’s going on inside you. I feel like both my hearts are going to explode. It’s ridiculous.”
Clara laughed and it came out watery. There were tears on her face, which was ridiculous. Hormones, yeah. Emotions bubbling through her, relief and sympathy and overwhelming happiness.
“Clara. I’m not your boyfriend. But I’ll be your lover. I can be that. If you want that.”
“If I want it.”
“I might be rubbish at it.”
Clara laughed and sniffled.
“I’m serious! I’ll go off and come back five minutes later even though it’s been years for me and expect you to keep up.”
“You already do that.”
“I’ll never give you a house with a hedge and an estate in the drive with a retriever in the back.”
“I don’t want that.”
“I’m desperately afraid I’ll get you killed some day.”
“I know you are. I know. That’s my risk to take.”
“I look like I’m thirty years older than you are. I am two thousand years older.”
“That doesn’t matter to me even in the slightest. I want you. I know what I’m getting into, and I want that. Haven’t you understood that yet? That dream at Christmas and you still don’t get it? There was only one other man for me.”
“Me? Not just because I got you pregnant?”
“You got me pregnant because I want you, you dimwit.”
He had his nose pressed up against hers, and he looked completely wild and out of his mind and shocked. He pulled back from her and Clara was afraid for a moment that his courage had failed him, but then he took her hand in his and kissed it. He kissed it again, and lingered. Open-mouthed, soft, oh god, her heart was pounding.
“Dearest,” he murmured, into her hand.
Clara couldn’t speak, couldn’t do anything but gaze at him. That word, from him. Endearments? His gaze was locked with hers and his eyes were glittering with tears just as much as her were and what a ridiculous pair they were.
“Doctor, you are a daft old man.”
“I know. I know. Clara, can I kiss you? Properly, I mean?”
“Yeah. Kiss me.”
She couldn’t remember him kissing her that night, only him biting her, being inside her and moving hard and fast. This was completely different: no hands in her hair, no teeth. Only a soft brush of his lips against hers, a shy smile, and then his eyes fluttered closed and he kissed her again, all tentative tenderness. Clara felt herself tighten and thrill. God, she was completely turned on, and all he’d done was kiss her with his mouth closed. He kissed her again and this time it was a little more intent. Clara opened her mouth, touched her tongue to his lips, and was gratified to feel him shiver against her. More kisses, then, his mouth open now, wet and sloppy and slightly strange-tasting. Alien, she thought, a few degrees cooler than her and alien and oh god, she was so turned on now that her whole body was a live wire from her sex on out to her fingertips and he was kissing her, kissing her, pressed against her with his thigh between hers and his weight over her and if he didn’t do more soon she was going to die.
He broke off and pulled away from her. Clara whimpered. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s okay for humans to, um, make love when they’re pregnant?”
She laughed. “Yeah, it’s okay. I read a book about it and everything.”
He flung the blankets aside and knelt up on the bed then. Clara sat up. He was shouldering off his t-shirt, pushing down his boxers, revealing how turned on his was. Well, then, no drama. He helped her out of her nightgown, watched while she slid her panties off. Then she let herself look at him. There was his body, pretty much what she’d known it would be. Thin, almost bony, blue-white in the ghostly light of the star paintings on the walls. A very human-looking penis, graying hair above it, testicles below. She was staring, which was maybe impolite of her, but she was in bed with him, wasn’t she? And he was looking with just as much interest at her breasts. Her breasts! Foreign to her, so large now, the color of her nipples darker. But the Doctor found them lovely, judging by the expression on his face. He reached out to touch them gently.
“Okay?” he said.
“Gently. They’re sensitive. It’s weird.”
“So much going on inside you,” he murmured, and Clara had no idea what he meant by that. He touched her again, bit his lip, and cupped her in his hand.
“Mother of my child,” he said, and bent to kiss the tips of her breasts.
“Mother of a new race,” he said, and he kissed her belly.
“Mother of the next humanity,” he said, and his hand was behind her head and his lips were on hers and this time his mouth was open and his tongue touched hers. A shock ran through her. Arousal, pleasure, yes, but also connection, awareness. Of him. Of time. Of space. Of something huge that was too big for her mind and wouldn’t stay with her.
And then he was touching her right there, where she was tight and coiled and hot. Clara moaned and the Doctor kissed her again and oh, god, she was so turned on it was a wonder she hadn’t come at the first touch. So good, so good, and she tried to tell him so, but it was coming out strange.
He tipped her back onto the bed and followed her down. His fingers were between her legs, finding all the places that made her moan. His tongue in her mouth, his forefinger on her clit. A smile on his lips, and tenderness in his eyes, and his attention on her completely. It was almost frightening, realizing how focused this man—this alien—this super-intelligent being-- was on her, her, and only her. This moment, his fingers touching her, his lips brushing hers, his breath catching when hers caught, purely from empathy, because she’d lost the ability to touch him in return. All she could do was let her head fall back and gasp, let herself feel what he wanted her to feel.
“That’s it, that’s right, let it happen, oh Clara, Clara, let it happen.”
So she let it happen, let herself feel it, the taste in her mouth, the feeling of pleasure, of release.
He kissed her as she came down from it. A little flush of embarrassment ran over her, what she always felt when she’d come in front of somebody for the first time. But it wasn’t the first time, was it? And how could she feel that with the Doctor looking at her like that, as if he were feeling all the joy there was to feel in the universe, only doubled because he had two hearts? She smiled at him in return.
“May I?” he said, and it was absurd but also adorable, because he was taking nothing for granted. He wasn’t taking her for granted. He wanted her permission and she gave it, with what little voice she had. He gasped as he entered her. His eyes were closed and his face turned to the side, as if he were afraid of being seen like this, so vulnerable. Clara could not look away from him. When he opened his eyes at last she held his gaze. His eyes were so very blue.
“You okay?” she said.
“I’m supposed to ask you. I— Clara—”
He buried his face in her neck.
It was nothing like her flashes of memory from that night. No biting, no wild positions on the bed and on the floor, nothing like that. Just him on top of her, cradled by her, moving slowly, his face pressed tight against her. He surrounded her in more ways than just the physical, though how she was sure of that Clara couldn’t understand. It was a thing. He was doing a thing. He was touching her in all the ways he knew how to touch her, inside her and outside her and somewhere in a way Clara hadn’t known existed before. When he climaxed she heard it in his breath, felt it in his tension over her, felt it inside herself the way she might feel any man coming. And she knew it in another way, that strange sixth sense way, knew he’d reached completion of another kind, had an experience she wouldn’t ever be able to feel herself, but something he would share with her as much as he could, because she was now woven together with him. The two of them were one now, through their child, and would always be in some way.
“What the hell was that?” she said, a little while later, when she could breathe properly again. Her head was on his bare shoulder. He was breathing hard still, and there was sweat on his chest. “Don’t remember that happening and I think maybe I would.”
“The hypervodka suppresses that part of my mind. I should have warned you.”
“Yeah, that would have been something I completely could not have understood a warning about, no matter what you said.”
“If it’s any consolation, it’s difficult for humans to feel any of that, no matter how strongly I do. You are remarkable, Clara Oswald.”
His fingers stroked her cheek. “Mother of my child. Nothing I can say would exaggerate how remarkable you are.”
“Don’t like being reduced to the role of mother. I don’t mind motherhood. Always wanted to have kids. But I’m more than a mother. I’m a Clara.”
“Oh, and you are indeed a Clara. Don’t fear. There is nothing reducing about the role ahead of you. It is a heavy responsibility, the one you’ll take on, building a new civilization, but you’re more than equal to it.” He’d gone far, far away in that moment, and she heard the Time Lord speaking, not the man. But then he blinked and returned, and squeezed her tight for a moment. “More than equal.”
“What? What the what now with the civilizations?”
“Spoilers,” he said, and she heard the laughter and hope in his voice. Laughter? From this man? This spiky, angry, frightened, haunted man? Yes, laughter, and pure happiness. The universe had decided to let him have something good for once, and her too.