"You're coming for a swim."
"Beg pardon?" The Doctor looked mildly annoyed at her declaration, but Clara ploughed on.
"A swim. Come on. After the day we've just had, it'll do you good."
"I don't know if I care for swimming."
The protest sounded pro forma. Clara couldn't have said how she knew that, but she did. Maybe she was starting to trust her instincts with this new version of him. "Time to find out," she said firmly. "I'll see you at the pool in ten, yeah?"
"Have you always been this bossy and I just didn't notice?" he grumbled, but that wasn't a no. She grinned to herself as she walked away.
Clara briefly considered, and then rejected, her bikini. Pushing the Doctor into swimming felt like enough of a risk. She chose a fairly conservative red one-piece instead. She could tease him about how shy he was around other people's skin when he was feeling a bit more at-home in his own. She donned a thick white bathrobe (courtesy of the TARDIS, though it looked as though it could have come from some posh London hotel) and made her way to the pool.
The TARDIS had redesigned the pool chamber along with everything else. Now the ceiling was inset with tiny lights which gleamed overhead like stars, and the room had plush red couches along one wall. The upholstery hardly seemed wise for people wearing wet bathing suits, but the TARDIS operated according to her own logic. Maybe Time Lord technology included some kind of magic defense against mildew.
The pool's surface glinted now, lit from the sides by round underwater bulbs ringed in blue which reminded Clara of the ones in the new console room. It was narrower now, maybe only three meters across, but it stretched further than it had before. Olympic length at least, if she had her guess. Maybe longer.
Clara was standing waist-deep in the water when the door opened. The Doctor wore long dark swim trunks and he was practically glaring. If he'd been a human man, she would have read his expression as him daring her to say something disparaging to give him an excuse to walk away.
She'd taught at the Coal Hill School. It took a lot more than a glare to faze Clara Oswin Oswald. "The water's glorious. Come on in."
He waded down the steps and plunged into the water. Without surfacing he swam underwater with even strokes all the way to the far end of the pool. Her breath caught in her throat; he was graceful, a creature in his element. At the far end he spun underwater, turned, and swam back, all without rising for breath. When he surfaced beside her, wiping drops away from his eyes, he reminded her of a grey seal broaching the waves, sleek and powerful.
"Not bad," Clara said.
"I suppose this body does like swimming," the Doctor said absently, sitting on a low step at the shallow end of the pool and leaning back on his elbows. The tension had gone out of his posture. He looked as though he were beginning to feel at-home.
"That was amazing." Clara knew the admiration was too plain on her face, but she couldn't help herself. "The way you swim."
"Feels comfortable," he admitted.
"In your last body you galumphed about like a giraffe," she told him. He responded with a splash that stopped just short of her face. "Oh, don't you start that with me."
"You're the one who made me get in the water." The words were grumbling, but his eyes were pleased. She was definitely learning how to read this new him.
"How could you hold your breath for that long?"
"Altogether different vascular system to yours," he pointed out.
"You really didn't know you liked swimming?" Clara sat one step higher and clasped her hands around her knees.
"I've liked it before, but I'm never sure how a new body's going to respond to anything the first time I do it. Everything feels different."
"Everything?" Clara raised an eyebrow.
"Everything I've tried."
"If there's anything else you'd like to try, just let me know." The words were out of her mouth before she could think better of them.
It was all she could do to keep from clapping her hands to her mouth. After all of his going-on about how he wasn't her boyfriend, could she have found anything more wrong to say?
His relaxed body language had been instantly replaced by a poker-stiff spine. "Don't make promises you don't intend to keep," he said tartly.
That was not the response she had been expecting. Suddenly a new certainty: this was like the swimming. He wouldn't have admitted it, but he wanted her to push. "Who said I didn't intend to keep them?"
"I've seen how you look at me now."
"Apparently you really haven't," Clara bit out. Yes, when he'd first changed she'd looked at him as though he were a stranger, but that was because he'd been acting like a demented madman. Not because of the lines in his face or the grey of his hair.
"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm not pretty anymore." He said the words as though he were taunting her. Or himself? She wasn't sure.
"Pretty has never turned my head. No," she said, raising a hand to forestall his objection, "it really hasn't. Distinguished, now, that's more interesting."
"And yet you followed me into this blue box," he said, as though that proved his point.
"Not because you were pretty! Because you were you." And you still are, she thought. Even when you're driving me 'round the bend. Or maybe especially then.
The Doctor stood, drawing himself up to his full height. "I don't respond kindly to pity."
Clara stood too, because all of a sudden being seated felt like a disadvantage. "Good, because it's not on offer."
"Clara, you are playing a dangerous game." His eyes flashed like angry lightning.
Remembered words raced across her mind. The man you are with -- the man I hope you are with -- he is more afraid than you can possibly imagine. "I'm not playing at anything."
He stepped closer. Nervous anticipation prickled through her body, but Clara didn't back away. She was suddenly fiercely glad that their flirtation had never crossed this boundary. She'd wanted to, but the time had never seemed right. Now the fact that he'd become convinced that she didn't want him anymore, couldn't want him anymore, made her determined to break through his reserve and reach the man beneath.
With a sigh that could have been relief, the Doctor gathered her close. His kiss was fierce, almost punishing. As though he were saying: this is the depth of my yearning. I am the oncoming storm. I'm going to wash you away.
His lean body was strong against hers. Clara felt giddy with a kind of hysteria. She had done it, she had pushed far enough, and he was pushing back. Finally.
She pressed against him everywhere she could reach and kissed him with all the certainty in her heart. You can't wash me away if I want to be riding the waves, she thought, and as if in response his hand on the small of her back pulled her closer. He was hard and she wanted to climb him like a tree. The animal of her body was rapidly shouldering her mind out of the way.
When she broke away for a gulp of air, he tipped his forehead down to hers, his eyes closed. She wondered where he was, what he was thinking. "We should get out of this pool," she murmured.
"There's a sofa," he suggested, his voice low and rough. His arms released her and he turned to exit the water.
"We'll get it wet," she said inanely. Clara followed him out and felt a stab of uncertainty: now that they weren't touching anymore, would he change his mind?
He turned and the intensity of his gaze felt like sex. Her doubts fled. "Does it appear as though I care?"
"Not so much," Clara acknowledged, but by then they had reached the sofa and they stopped talking again.
Time seemed to slow in a blur of kissing, hitching her body against his, learning the contours of his shoulders and sides. Kicking her wet swimsuit away, pulling his trunks down over his bony hips. His long cool fingers probing her, finding the place inside that made her shudder and gasp. His mouth stealing her breath. He drew her pleasure out until she couldn't stand it anymore, pushing just a little bit too far, before rubbing with his thumb unerringly where she needed it. Her orgasm rolled over her like a wave.
He shifted to the side, gazing up at the ceiling with an expression Clara couldn't quite decipher. She pulled herself together and kissed his shoulder, which was what she could reach. He closed his eyes and she felt his exhale.
She moved over him and pressed a kiss to his neck. His body tensed, whipcord-strong, but he tilted his head back to give her more room. He liked that, then. She did it again, open-mouthed this time, and this time his sigh was just barely audible. She lingered over his pulse point, feeling the double beat of his hearts.
Time to discover what else this body enjoys, she thought, and dropped a kiss on the fine ridge of his collarbone. And then on one tight crinkled nipple. And down his ribcage. She could feel him holding still, tension coiled like a spring. She smiled against his skin and pressed a kiss to the inside of his right elbow. The palm of his hand. Curling his fingers in, she kissed his knuckles. The hand which had been there when she'd reached out, which had tugged her headlong into more adventures than she could count. The hand had changed, but it was still his.
She wanted to map his entire body this way. And she was also keenly aware of his cock jutting upwards, obviously craving her attention. He almost certainly hadn't yet had sex in this body. That was a thrilling thought. It made this a kind of gift he was giving her. Permission to touch. Trusting her with his new body, as he had trusted her with the birth of his new face.
She settled between his thighs, angled his cock up with one hand, and took in just the head, exploring with her tongue. That drew forth a choked-off groan, almost a sob. The sound enflamed her. It was raw and needy and she wanted to hear it again.
She tried different things with lips and tongue and hands, and he responded with sharp inbreaths and bitten-back sounds and pushing up as though he couldn't help himself. She returned to the combination of hands and mouth he'd seemed to like best, and was rewarded with another groan. Oh, she wanted to see his face -- to see this angular, striking new-old face inscribed with wanting. But she didn't want to stop what she was doing. She wanted to make him feel amazing and she wanted to be able to see his pleasure and it wasn't fair that she couldn't do both at once!
"Impossible girl, wanting impossible things," he murmured, and the gravel in his voice made her insides twist delightfully. How did he know what she wanted, how could he...? "You're shouting, I can't help it."
Realization bloomed: he could hear her. He could hear her thinking. She was going to ask whether this was a skill he'd acquired with the new regeneration. Later. When she wasn't busy doing this, she mentally amended.
His body twitched with what she was pretty certain was laughter. And then she thought: if you can hear me, then you know exactly how beautiful I think you are.
"You're daft," he managed, but she could hear the smile in the shape of his vowels.
She pulled back and looked up at his face. He looked happy, at-ease with the world the way he had seemed when he was swimming, and a wave of joy washed over her. "If you can still talk, I'm doing it wrong," she said archly. He opened his eyes and they were deep as the grey-green North sea.
"Come here," he said. It wasn't a request. She complied. She climbed over him -- there wasn't much room on these couches; next time they did this it was going to be on a proper bed! -- and he pulled her close.
This time his kiss was different. The intensity hadn't lessened, but the fury was gone. His hands spanned her hips, holding her snug, and with every shift she rubbed against the tantalizing press of his prick which felt startlingly cool against her. The necking was languorous and lush and for a while she lost herself in the sheer pleasure of it.
And then she remembered his fingers inside her. She had a sudden flush of imagining what it would feel like to have his cock nudging inside her instead, fucking her deep and slow. To feel him braced over her, eyes locked on hers, as she came apart --
In that moment he broke their kiss, gasping into her neck as he pulsed beneath her. Oh, God, he'd heard her wanting it. Wanting him. She squirmed against him, borne away on his tide.
She wasn't aware of falling asleep atop him, nor of him moving her gently or covering her with her bathrobe. When she woke the Doctor was standing over her wearing clean black trousers and fastening the buttons on his crisp white shirt.
"See, this is the trouble with you not-sleeping," Clara said. "You miss out on the pleasure of the post-coital nap."
"Can't spend all day lying about," he said, doing up one shirtcuff and then the other.
"Why not?" Clara pushed herself to sitting. The bathrobe slipped down, exposing her naked torso, and she noted that he didn't flinch. The energy between them had shifted. He wasn't afraid anymore. "You have all the time in the world, don't you?"
"Not so much as you would think." His expression was severe, but she could see the sweetness hiding beneath, waiting for its moment to be revealed. Like the rich red silk lining his black coat.
Then she remembered the question she'd meant to ask. "Have you always been able to listen to my thoughts?"
"Not just yours, and yes, always, and before you ask, no, I don't make a habit of it. That would be rude."
"And you're never rude."
"Oh, shut it," he grumbled. "Humans have too many thoughts, even when there's just one of you here," waving his hand to indicate the TARDIS. "Listening would drive me mad. But sometimes, under certain -- intimate -- circumstances, I can't help myself." A flush of colour stained his high cheekbones.
"I'll bear that in mind." That had all kinds of interesting potential applications, didn't it?
"Being overheard without their consent would cause most people to run screaming," he pointed out.
"I'm not most people."
"That's a bit tautological, isn't it?"
Clara ignored that. "Besides, if you're only doing it under intimate circumstances, I expect you'll like what you hear."
The Doctor tugged at his cuffs, adjusting their length, obviously trying to hide his smile. "You're going to be insufferable now, aren't you," he said, as though the thought wearied him.
He wasn't fooling her in the least. "Pretty much," she agreed.
"I'll see you in the control room, insufferable girl." There it was: the gleam of sly humor. That hadn't changed a bit.
"You will," she confirmed. After he walked out she flopped back on the couch and grinned helplessly at the ceiling. Did that all really just happen? It seemed as though the stars in the ceiling glimmered at her in response, a subtle twinkle. The TARDIS answering her, maybe. Or expressing approval? She hoped it was approval.
She stood and contemplated the pool. Her swimsuit was in a damp pile on the floor and the notion of putting it back on was supremely unappealing, but the pool still looked inviting, and she hadn't had as much of a swim as she'd expected. Not that she was complaining. But still.
What the hell, she thought, and walked down the steps nude. The water was a cool caress as she took a deep breath and plunged under.
Soon the floor dipped well below where she could stand, but the water buoyed her up. Clara swam joyously all the way into the gleaming deep.