He isn’t sure entirely about this human custom of sex. He does it with Clara. She likes it. She is happy afterward. He enjoys it himself, though in ways that he finds difficult to explain to Clara. He tried to once, and she seemed upset, so he stopped. Bodies moving together, skin touching, minds touching, comfort requested and given and shared, and then some kind of moment of fulfillment: what more could anyone want? He gets everything he ever dreamed of receiving from her, and she seems happy with what he gives her.
He knows she also does the same things with PE. Danny. The maths teacher. The one who protects Clara but doesn’t want to travel with them. She was very nervous and upset when she told him this, but he didn’t understand why. He was deeply hurt about Danny until Clara showed him that she loved him too and wouldn’t stop loving him. She could love two beings at once. He’s fine now. Clara needs more of this sex thing than he does, so of course she should get the rest of what she needs from PE. Danny.
It’s all strange and emotional and it upsets him sometimes, but he does what he can to keep Clara smiling. He watches her and takes his cues from her and mostly she seems to glow in that way she does that means well-being.
Danny is a part of his life now. Danny doesn’t travel with them, refuses to come onto the TARDIS, so he spends evenings with them instead, in their flat. Weekends sometimes. They watch movies, play games, go for walks. He tinkers with things in their flat, fixes things, improves them. Tries not to watch when they go into their bedroom together, the one place he isn’t welcome to go with Clara. Hides himself in his TARDIS when they leave, rather than feel himself apart from her.
Danny hates him less than he used to. “Danny never hated you,” Clara says to him, but he finds it difficult to believe. He felt the waves of animosity. The hatred of soldier for officer, though he would deny with his last breath that he was ever an officer. He fled rather than be one. He could not bear what his people wanted him to be.
The animosity is something else now. Danny has shifted into something more welcoming. He feels comfortable now when he is with the two of them. He can say things to Danny now, tell stories, explain what is wrong with the universe today, for sufficiently vague values of “today”. He can kiss Clara in front of Danny now and it’s okay. What he feels in response is a wave of something he might call friendship if it came from anyone else. Camaraderie. They are united in their love for this woman, who wants and feels and lives in far brighter colors than either of them.
Clara is nervous again, telling him about something she wants from him. She wants him to come to her bedroom with her and do the thing she calls sex and he calls joining. Of course he will. Only Danny will be there. He looks askance at Danny, who is standing over to the side, not looking at them. Waves of ambivalence. Uncertainty.
“He’s not sure,” he says to Clara. “Danny.”
“He’s said yes.”
“He’s still not sure.”
“Danny,” says Danny, “is happy to do what Clara wants but is not completely sure he’s ready for sex with another man.”
“Are you?” Clara says.
He stares at her, puzzled. “I’ve done this before,” he says. “Rose and Jack. Though Jack was a lot more eager than he is.” And a gesture toward Danny.
And then they are in the bedroom, because Clara wants to be with both of them, and they are agreed on the topic of making Clara happy. And all he has ever wanted was to be with Clara. Near, touching, joined with. He is perfectly happy to be with them, in the same bed, while they touch each other and do those things. He’s happy to watch, to let their feelings flood over him and comfort him. He learns some things he might do to make Clara even happier when he is with her alone, and he is content. After Clara reaches her moment of fulfillment he lets himself reach his, riding along with her on the aftershocks.
Afterwards Danny is puzzled but Clara tells him not to worry about it too much. The Doctor isn’t human. He doesn’t want to be human. He wants to be with humans but he doesn’t work the same way and it’s okay. Which is so very right that he kisses Clara and then Danny to show his happiness, because at last, at last, he has someone who understands.
“It’s an empathic connection, you pudding-brain.”
“What did I tell you?” Clara said.
She was frowning at him and the Doctor didn’t need to touch her to feel her disapproval, all sharp and brown. He sighed and tried the sentence again. “It’s an empathic connection, Danny. Not telepathic. It would be telepathic if I were with my own species.”
“Which is a hive mind.”
“Sort of. Sometimes. At its worst.”
“And you’ve recreated this hive mind experience with us.”
“As best I can, given that you’re aliens and you don’t have the same senses I have. It’s different.” But it was close enough that it wasn’t being alone, he did not say. He’d explained that to Clara, once, and then she’d cried, and he wasn’t interested in making Danny cry right now. He wanted another feeling from him instead. More of that curiosity, more of that warmth. Maybe later the feelings that would let the Doctor touch him in ways that pleased him.
Maybe. If he would do this tonight.
“Sex. Human sex is what does it.”
“Connection. Skin to skin. Sweat helps. Sweat, saliva, semen. I can’t explain it. I could explain it, but it would take all day. It’s the DNA, basically.”
“You miss your hive mind family, so you’re with us.”
The Doctor shook his head. He still hadn’t managed to say it.
Clara said, “We are his family now. When you let him, you know, kiss you last night, that sort of cemented it. Inside his mind.”
That was close enough to how he felt that he let it stand. They were family, yes. They were his partners. It wasn’t usual for Gallifreyans to partner with so few others, but he’d never been normal about that. He’d tended to pair off, even as a boy. His own genetic background was to blame, apparently, if he believed the rumors told about him.
But genetics aside, it was his basic nature. It had always been difficult for him, as an individual, to let himself be open to others like this. Half the reason he’d fled his home world was his inability to let himself reconnect after he’d lost his first wife. It was painful again now, looking at the uncertainty in Danny, feeling it leak out from his skin in a sort of flickering yellow-green. The Doctor wrapped his arms around his knees and tried on a glower.
“And so you want me to make love to you. Which you don’t think is a big deal, because all Gallifreyans are bisexual.”
“The word is meaningless.”
“But you want me to.”
Danny. PE. The soldier-man, who’d killed and felt crippling guilt about it. The Doctor understood that, now. Understood what drove him to teach children. The man was worthy of Clara, which was why the Doctor had agreed to even try with him. And last night he’d allowed the Doctor’s touch at last, and the feeling of warmth all over had been glorious. He’d been enfolded by love at last. He’d been emotional about it. He was still emotional about it. It was frustrating that he had to say it to make them know. Clara knew more often than not, somehow. The connection had gone both ways with her a tiny tiny bit. Danny was not receiving anything, though. That was certain.
Well, perhaps time would help. Time on the TARDIS, perhaps, exposure to to the flux and warp of the vortex. Or not. Maybe he’d always have to find words to use to communicate with Danny.
Words. Yes. He needed to find some now. “Yes,” he said. “I’d like you to make love to me. I would, um, enjoy it.”
“And?” Clara said.
“Clara would enjoy it. And yes, presumably you would too.” He glowered again, as if to tell Danny that it didn’t much matter to him.
“Yeah. Okay. I will. Because you’re a good man despite everything, and Clara loves you, and I don’t know. You seem to be a good thing for the universe.”
And that was acceptance, signaled with a shift in the glow around Danny. Warmth now, reds and oranges. Much more welcoming.
Clara led them both into her bedroom. The Doctor undressed himself without hesitation. He watched Clara undress, knew that the fact that two men were watching her was exciting to her. Then last Danny, who stood stoic and silent while the Doctor and Clara cooperated to lay him bare.
A lovely body, this man had. Muscles, which Clara loved. Latent power everywhere, in those hard thighs, those biceps. The gentle touch he had despite the power. A cock that had been heavy and satisfying in the Doctor’s hand last night, and which he knew would feel good inside him tonight. Clara kissed Danny, and then him, and without prompting Danny came to him and kissed him. It was good. It felt good. The Doctor let Danny’s tongue slip into his mouth, let his own hands wander and find that firm backside. Let the blood heat, let the bodies rouse, until they were both panting.
Onto the bed. Clara’s hands on Danny, slicking him up, then on the Doctor’s body, doing the same. No hesitation, no embarrassment. She enjoyed touching them both, that he could feel. It warmed him to know it. He kissed her in gratitude. Went to hands and knees before Danny, because that was how he expected it to go. It would do for now. A deep breath. The last moment of uncertainty from the man behind him, ended with Clara’s kiss and whispered encouragement.
Clara’s hand clasped in his, her lips against his. Danny’s body, pushing against his, entering him. A moment of something that was almost pain, most definitely pleasure, followed by a flood of emotion, Danny’s emotion. The connection he craved, here, almost overwhelming him because Danny had no control at all, no concept that he needed control, no awareness of what his emotion was like to the person receiving. Pleasure, base physical pleasure, trepidation, determination, below it all a grudging respect. Clara held him, steadied him, told him it was okay. Danny was inside him, all the way. It had been a long time. He’d almost forgotten the feeling. He was hard, yes, it would be difficult not to be, with this much human sexuality all around him. Clara was aroused by the sight before her, two men making love for her because they loved her. But of course the Doctor loved Danny too, for his own sake, or he wouldn’t be here feeling like this, feeling utter satisfaction and safety because another man was moving inside him.
Danny’s hand crept around his waist, rested against his chest. The Doctor let go of Clara’s hand to take it. Comfort him, let him know he was doing it right, that he was wanted right here, right now. That was what Danny needed. To be loved, accepted, respected. Was this not what all sentient beings wanted? Even a lonely Gallifreyan.
Sweat, yes, from all three of them. Everything was flowing freely now, from Danny to the Doctor to Clara. Her eyes were wide, swimming with emotion. She could feel it strongly enough to wonder, he knew.
“Yes,” he said to her, and trusted she would understand. She kissed him, then leaned over his shoulder to kiss Danny, Danny who was close to his moment of completion, driving himself faster now while the Doctor pushed against him. Let himself open up now as he could at no other time, let himself feel another being, know another being. Waiting for that moment when Danny would open himself up and let the Doctor inside in return.
Harsh breathing behind him, a little cry at the apex of every thrust. Danny was close. The Doctor let himself feel it at last, unfiltered. Raw pleasure. A man inside him moving, going still, climaxing. The Doctor did the same, in his own way, coming, opening, connecting, finding Clara’s mind and Danny’s mind and joining them together for long blissful moments.
Then he was on his face on the bed, with a blanket over him. Time had passed and he hadn’t noticed it. He’d slept, apparently. They were asleep as well, one on either side of him. Family now, at last. Truly. He knew them both. Thank goodness they slept, because those were tears on his face.
The Doctor caught Clara’s jacket and tugged to her a stop.
“You forgot the beer.”
He took over the trolley and pushed it back into the center of the Waitrose, obediently not jumping on it to ride this time. She’d been most definite about that not being acceptable.
Clara chased after him. “Beer? Beer? That is not on our grocery list. Avocados, jelly babies, ginger beer, ginger candy-- why is there so much candy on this list? No beer.”
“It’s a hot day. Well, for your rainy little island anyway. Three-hundred five degrees, goodness, it’s a wonder you aren’t wilting where you stand.”
“What?” Clara stared at him for a second, then said, “Stop wittering and tell me why you want beer.”
“I don’t want the beer. PE wants the beer.”
“Trust me. PE wants some beer. IPA, he says. He’s imagining what it would feel like after he’s come in from the footie field.”
The Doctor frowned. It was a disturbing sensation for him, all that bitter and cold that PE was so vividly wishing for. He was sweating, though, even more than he’d been sweating last night when they’d joined while Clara watched. Awkward at first, that had been, until PE relaxed. Then it had been rather nice. Very soothing. A lot of skin against skin, a lot of positive emotion. Not the sort of thing one talked about the next day, mind.
He went to the refrigerated case and took out a set of beer bottles with a specific label on them. American, checkered flag on the label. Racer 5. Imported at great cost. e set it into the trolley.
“This is what he wants.”
“Danny really intensely wants beer. Not you.”
“The ginger beer is for me.”
The Doctor shoved his hands into his hoodie pockets. “Yeah. He wants that beer. Enough to visualize the label.”
“And you know this because?”
“It’s what he’s thinking about right now. Aside from kicking the ball and sweating.”
“You can read his mind?”
“As of last night.”
“Wait. What. Last night?”
“Last night, when he-- when we-- that is–”
“Stop. Just stop. We’re not talking about this here.”
“But you are going to explain it when we get home.” She fell silent and wheeled the trolley toward the front of the shop. The Doctor trailed after her, a little sheepishly.
When they were in line to pay, she turned to him and said. “Mine? Can you read my mind?”
“For ages now. Varying degrees of intensity, depending on what you’re thinking. It’s a side effect. Of the joining. And it’s not so much thoughts as feelings. Intense emotions.”
“Okay. Okay. All right. This is not weird at all.”
“Convenient. Danny gets his beer this way.”
“Ha! You slipped up!”
“You said Danny, not PE.”
The Doctor huffed and started emptying the trolley onto the counter. He was not going to dignify that with a response.