They've consumed a rather alarming quantity of food, as well as an entire bottle of wine (Amy and Rory) and a pretty goblet filled twice with bubbly fruit juice (the Doctor) by the time dinner is complete. As they carry dishes into the kitchen the Doctor can't help marveling at how good this feels, how ordinary and homey. How easily they have slotted into one another's conversational patterns again.
He should have known it wasn't going to stay that simple.
"I'll load the dishwasher," Rory offers. "You two go sit."
So the Doctor follows Amy into the lounge. She curls up at one end of the sofa; after a split second's pause he chooses the big chair beside it, not entirely certain whether or not they are the kind of friends who cuddle on the sofa anymore.
Not, he reflects to himself, that it was ever entirely clear whether or not they were that sort of friends. Since mostly they weren't. Except for when they were.
"So," Amy says. "Was there a reason you waited two years?"
And there it is: the thing they haven't been talking about. It's as though he's standing on the front step again, uncertain of his welcome. The temperature in the room seems to have dropped ten degrees.
"There was a matter of safety," he begins, and Amy flaps a hand at him.
"River told us. Had to keep the universe believing you were dead, paradox, all of that."
"Oh," he says, feeling relieved; though if she knows that, then what is she really --
"You know we would have kept it secret." Amy hugs her knees to her chest and in the flash of her eyes he sees her daughter's impetuous spark. "It's not as though we spend our time chatting with your enemies."
"Point," he concedes.
"Then why." It's not a question; it's a demand. And it's clear that he's going to have to do better than he's just done, or this blissfully familial evening is going to end with undue haste.
He notices that his hands are clenched together, that he is fidgeting with his own fingers, and with an effort of will he makes himself stop. "At first," he says quietly, "I convinced myself that half the universe wanted me dead anyway, and the other half would be fine not knowing I was here."
"Which of those halves did you place us in, exactly?" The anger reminds him, for an instant, of the Amy he failed -- the one who spent thirty years in isolation, slowly losing hope of his return.
"You have to understand--"
"I'm not sure I do," Amy interjects.
"--a surprising number of my relationships have ended poorly." And isn't that the understatement of the millennium. There's a small end-table next to his chair, and on it there is a book with tasseled strands protruding from between the pages. His hands are too empty; he pulls the bookmark free.
"Not sure it's so surprising." Amy sounds -- ever so slightly -- amused. Which is a good sign; he grasps onto that and holds fast.
"I thought, you have Rory, Rory has you; I hadn't ruined things altogether; maybe I should just let the two of you have a normal life." The threads of the tassel weave over and under his fingertips, a soothing repetitive motion.
"Because we'd given you every indication that that was what we wanted." Dripping with sarcasm.
"Actually, you had." That startles her, he can tell. "Rory had."
Amy doesn't break her stare. "You might have at least considered telling us you were alive. An email. A postcard."
"I know." The admission is so easy, now. He's had more than enough time to consider it. The bookmark in his hands is becoming bent and mangled, but he doesn't have the mental space to worry about it. "And after a while I discovered that I'd grown unaccustomed to being on my own."
"Oh?" She's aiming for blasé, but he can tell that she's moved. Another sign of hope.
"But by the time I worked that out --"
"You'd already waited too long," Rory says. The Doctor looks up; he hadn't realized Rory was standing in the doorway, wiping his hands dry on a dish towel. How long has he been listening? Long enough, apparently.
"I was," he admits, "afraid you might be cross."
"Really," Amy drawls. Rory crosses the room and sits beside her on the sofa. She tucks her feet beneath his thigh. The unthinking, casual intimacy of their contact takes the Doctor's breath away. It makes his hearts ache. But then, what doesn't, tonight?
"Did it ever occur to you," Rory asks gently, "that we knew you were alive and thought you were avoiding us?"
He's making a ridiculous face, he's sure of it. The Doctor blinks, then shakes his head. "I...no." It didn't. Not for an instant. He hadn't been surprised that River had told them. He'd expected that. She is extraordinary, always, and she serves her own agenda, not his. But he never imagined that they thought that.
"We took turns," Amy offers. "Deciding that we'd been boring you and you'd been looking for a reason to cut us loose."
"Or assuming we never should have tried to seduce you in the first place," Rory adds.
"That was you, mostly," Amy says, nudging him with her toes.
"What? No, we did that together, I distinctly remember--"
The Doctor remembers it too, every scorching instant. He has remembered it more times than he cares to admit, and he is probably blushing now, just from remembering the remembering.
"I mean, you were the one who thought the sex was the reason he didn't come back," Amy says, and that shuts Rory up.
The Doctor feels as though there isn't enough oxygen in the room. "Please," he says, and that gets their attention; both Ponds turn to him now, expectant. "Please believe that I--" He has to swallow hard; the words don't want to come. "I thought you'd be better off." Without me remains unspoken, but fairly obvious, he thinks.
"You could have asked," Amy says. "Instead of deciding for us."
He nods, not sure whether he can -- or should -- speak.
There's a pause.
"Shove over," Amy says, giving Rory a gentle kick, and he smiles broadly and moves to the far end of the sofa. There's a space between them now, and the Doctor feels his pulse speeding at the implicit invitation.
"C'mon," Rory says, thumping the cushion. Feeling as though he's moving through liquid glass, the Doctor stands, takes two shaky steps, and sits between them. And then, for effect, he rests his feet on the coffee table. This looks nonchalant, doesn't it? None of them is wearing shoes at this point in the evening; it's not as though he's going to damage the table with his stocking feet.
Two pairs of sock-clad feet join his, one on either side. And then, as though they had planned it, each of the Ponds rubs a foot against his. Playing footsie with him on both sides. The contact warms him and suddenly he feels almost drunk with possibility. He took the plunge and showed up; they were as angry as he had feared; and it's still okay. In a burst of exuberance he flings his arms around both of them and draws them close.
And oh. Oh, this is what he's been missing. Both Ponds nestled against him, their warmth and their breathing and their scents. He closes his eyes and lets himself float.
"So," Rory says, after a while. "Will you stay?"
Arousal and adrenaline spike through him in equal measure. His eyes fly open. "I can't--" He's fumbling for words. What is Rory asking? What is he turning down?
"Not forever," Amy says, with a hint of fond exasperation in her voice. "We know you won't do that."
"Things to do," he protests. "People to save!"
"Fine," she says, "but it's Christmas."
"So it is," he agrees.
"Besides," Amy says, and now she's swallowing a smile, he can hear it in her tone. "Did you even think to bring us a Christmas present?"
"...not exactly," he admits. In retrospect, he will realize that that was the moment when he said yes.
"That settles it, then." Amy's voice is emphatic.
"I...what?" His head is spinning.
"You beautiful moron," Amy says, raising her head to look him in the eye. The smile has escaped despite her attempt to look stern, and her face is luminous. "We're trying to seduce you again."
"You're the Christmas present," Rory offers, by way of explanation. His voice is muffled where he's leaning against the Doctor's jacket, but he's perfectly audible all the same.
If he weren't blushing before, he is most certainly blushing now. "I'm not certain whether to be offended or flattered."
"Which one's more likely to convince you?" Rory asks.
"We can just sleep," Amy offers. And that's surprising; he turns from looking at Rory to looking at her. "If you don't want to do anything else. That's fine."
And oh. Oh. How can she -- can they -- possibly think that he doesn't want them?
"I assure you," his voice lowering without any volition, "my sin has never been a failure of desire."
"We know we don't get to keep you," Rory says. "But it's Christmas."
"It is, at that."
They both seem to be holding their breath, waiting for him. Just as they've been waiting for him ever since the date of his death, knowing he was out there, setting a place at the table. How many times did they lay the place setting and then have to remove it afterward, confronted once again by his absence, his cowardice?
"Happy Christmas," he says, letting out a breath. "Lead on."
Amy whoops, beams, and kisses him. Exquisite, human, hot, yearning: the words don't add up to anything like the reality of the Amelia Pond he knew as a girl, this glorious grown woman, the stunningly-beautiful older woman he knows she will become, all of them holding his face in her hands and kissing him so thoroughly his toes curl.
When they break, her smile is so delighted he can't remember why he was denying himself this -- denying all of them this. What had he been thinking?
"I'll see you two in the bedroom," Amy says, and rises, and pads toward the door which leads to the W.C.
"Right," Rory says, and stands, and gestures with his head. "Shall we?"
"Please," the Doctor says, because it's not a word he uses often, and in a bedroom context it tends to make his partners swoon. Rory gives him a wicked smile and fairly dashes out of the room; the Doctor follows him at a run, and has to stop awkwardly when, having entered the bedroom, Rory turns to face him. They nearly run into one another, which seems to be exactly what Rory had in mind, because his arms come up and then they are kissing, too.
The Ponds kiss the same way. He remembers realizing that last time, and the thought gives him the same frisson now that it did then. They probably learned to kiss from one another. Lazy hours experimenting on someone's sofa, discovering each others' bodies. And now they are trusting both of those bodies to him. It's almost more than he can bear.
"I would like," the Doctor says, breaking the kiss, "to suck you now."
Rory's pupils are dilated and his breathing is coming fast. "I hope you're not expecting an objection."
It feels so natural to push Rory down on the bed, tugging Rory's trousers and pants off so he can fit his mouth to Rory's length. So humanly hot: silky and spectacular under his tongue. Oh, he had missed this. He loses himself in the taste of it, the rhythm and dance of it, Rory's muffled gasps and little sighs. He gets so lost, in fact, that he's startled when the bed dips beside them.
"That," Amy says from beside them, "is quite possibly the prettiest picture I have ever seen."
"You think it's pretty to look at," Rory says, and his tone conveys the rest of the sentiment: it feels even better than it looks. The Doctor can't help grinning, even though it makes the blowjob more difficult to deliver. Amy's lying beside them now, kissing Rory while the Doctor sucks and touches him, and Rory's whole body is tensing as though he's trying not to succumb quite yet.
The Doctor reaches out one hand blindly and finds Amy's calf -- bare skin, now; she's taken off her stockings -- and as his hand caresses her knee and moves upward, she gasps into Rory's mouth, her legs parting for him. And that, apparently, is what sends Rory over the edge. The Doctor takes his hand from Amy for a moment, focusing wholly on gentling Rory through.
And then it is the easiest thing in the world to pull back, scoot just a tiny bit over on the bed, and pull Amy's panties out of the way. They are cream-colored and silky and quite damp, which means she was enjoying their little show every bit as much as she said. The thought is absurdly exciting.
His mouth. Her quim. Her thighs spreading luxuriously around his ears. Her little sounds of satisfaction. She likes the slow and gentle application of tongue, he remembers, so he goes with that for a while, and he's fairly certain she's come at least once by the time he twists one finger inside. That definitely does it: she's keening, her body going taut.
"That's a good trick," Rory says. "I've tried that one a few times, too."
Since their liaison, is what he means. Which in turn means that the Doctor has been the invisible third partner in their bed, as they have been in his. "Oh, Ponds," he murmurs, pulling back and pressing a kiss to Amy's thigh.
"If I didn't know better," Amy says, her voice slightly hoarse from all the glorious noise she has been making, "I would think you were performing a penance."
The words penetrate his ribcage like a weapon, sparking a mixture of shame and yearning.
"Tending to both of us first, you mean," Rory agrees.
"And him still all dressed." Amy's voice is -- fond. Teasing. Inexplicably causing in his eyes something suspiciously like a tear, which he blinks away, hot and fast.
"Our turn," Rory says, and together they tug him to the top of the bed. His eyes are pressed shut as they undress him, clever fingers unfastening his tie (Rory) and shirt (Amy) and trousers (Rory) and stripping everything off until he is completely bare between them. They pause to press kisses as they go: to his shoulder and his inner upper arm and his ribcage and then, oh, then to his hipbone, so close to where he craves their touch. Despite his best intentions his hips rise in a wordless plea.
"Let me," Rory murmurs, and then Rory's beautiful generous mouth is swallowing him whole.
He chokes back a sound, flinging one arm over his eyes as though he could make this feel safe somehow. It has been so long.
"Oi," Amy says presently, and Rory's mouth is gone. Without meaning to, the Doctor makes a plaintive noise, his arm slipping away so that he can see. And what he sees takes his breath away all over again: Amy wearing only a black silk camisole now, withdrawing two fingers from herself (she has been watching them and touching herself, his brain is on the verge of short-circuiting from this thought but he can't stop thinking it) and pulling Rory up to kneel beside her.
She kisses Rory thoroughly, eyes closing in comfortable familiarity. And it is a pretty image, Rory's blue shirt now thoroughly wrinkled, Amy's creamy skin and scrap of black silk up against him; it's mesmerizing. The Doctor is throbbing in time with their movements and their little sounds of pleasure. And then they break and Rory falls to the bed beside the Doctor, grinning at him, and the Doctor grins back, the giddiness apparently contagious.
And then Amy is climbing over him, her fingers closing around him (too good, this is too good, he can't--) and guiding him in.
Hot and beautiful and amazing. His mouth is open, he's grasping for control, Rory's hand in his, anchoring him steady. Amy working herself, working him.
"You gorgeous, glorious Ponds," he hears himself say, as though from a great distance. "You have no idea how much I've -- how often I --"
"Us too," Rory murmurs, right next to his ear. The puff of breath almost tips him over the edge. Have to make her come first, have to hold on, hold on --
It's like the oscillation which has shaped his life, this crescendo rising and falling and rising again until he can't help but let himself be carried away.
"Oh," Amy gasps, clenching around him.
"God," Rory chokes out, "if I could come again this soon--"
"Ponds," the Doctor says, his eyes closing, not caring in the slightest that he must be wearing the goofiest post-coital face in his repertoire.
When he wakes, Rory is warm and snoring slightly and spooned against his back. There's no one on his other side, which is momentarily disconcerting until he hears the flush of the loo, and then spectacularly sleep-mussed and stunning Amy is sliding back between the sheets.
"Morning," he whispers, feeling ridiculous and happy and fond.
"Happy Christmas," Amy whispers back, beaming at him. Her thigh presses between his, her breasts against his torso. Her mouth tastes minty and sweet.
Rory's breathing changes; he's waking. But before the Doctor can muster even a hint of anxiety, Rory's arms come around him to stroke the length of his wife's back, holding him fast.
"Best Christmas ever," Rory says contentedly into the back of the Doctor's neck.
The Doctor shivers, unable to help himself. Lips against his neck. Breasts against his chest. Rory's morning erection prodding his arse.
"I put the coffee on," Amy murmurs, nipping at the Doctor's lower lip.
"Hmm," Rory says appreciatively.
"But it won't be ready for a while."
Might as well just let himself swoon, then. There doesn't seem to be any awkwardness this morning. On the contrary: he's fairly certain his bed-partners are angling for another round.
"Best keep ourselves busy, then," he agrees.
"That's my Doctor," Amy says approvingly, and kisses him again.
"I thought he was our Doctor," Rory says, mock-chiding. And then he disappears beneath the blanket.
"You're trying to kill me," the Doctor gasps, some time and another orgasm later.
"Actually," Rory says, his hair adorably mussed, "I think we're trying to convince you to make this a Christmas tradition."
"It's a date," the Doctor says, before he can second-guess himself.
"Somebody," Amy says, flopping back on her pillow dramatically, "should get me coffee."
"I can make breakfast," the Doctor offers.
Two Ponds chorus, simultaneously, "no you can't!"
"Coffee, then," he acquiesces, closing his eyes for another instant. "In a moment."
As soon as he luxuriates, just a little longer, in this feeling of being welcome; this sensation, old and peculiar, of being home.