A/N Here's the last part. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think.
Clara and Danny had grabbed dinner at a Thai restaurant in the west end, near Clara's house. Once again the conversation had been lively and the company enjoyable. There were undoubtedly many characteristics and behaviours the Doctor had stolen from Danny, but, as with Casanova, there seemed to be just as many traits that were unique. It seemed the more time they spent together the less Clara saw the Doctor and the more she saw Danny, which suited her fine. Danny insisted on walking Clara to her door, Clara welcomed the company and, upon arrival, realized she didn't want the conversation to end. "Do you want to come up for tea?" Danny looked genuinely surprised, but pleased. "That's real tea, not any other..."
"Shenanigans? I'd love some."
Danny took a seat on the couch while Clara put the kettle on. "I like your place." He said, glancing around the clean, but rather empty room. "Did you just move in?"
"A little while ago," Clara said, placing a tray in front of him. "Haven't had a lot of time to decorate."
His eyes were now scanning her bookshelf, and seemed to go wide with wonder, "Is that a fez? That's cool!"
"Yeah, that was my friend's. The one you remind me of."
"'Was' as in he gave it to you and it's now yours, or 'was' as in..." Danny looked suddenly forlorn, wishing he could take back what he'd said.
Clara wanted to save him, "No he..." But what was she to say? He regenerated and now is someone else. "He died. Last Christmas." She tried to say it matter-of-factly, but her voice betrayed her.
Danny looked sympathetic. He was quiet for a long time, and then, unsure of what to say, responded, "Another reason to hate the holidays."
Clara laughed, "Exactly. As if they weren't hard enough. You're not a fan either?"
"The holidays for me involve my mother ignoring me, praising my brother for even the tiniest thing, and my step father being pompous. I guess he's that all year round, but at Christmas—"
"You actually have to be there for it?" Danny nodded with a laugh. "Last Christmas my father's 'special friend' just rhymed off all the boys she could set me up with, said she could make a boy band out of them."
Danny made a face, and then looked sympathetic again, "Wait was this after your friend had died?"
"Yeah." Clara lied, because at the time she honestly believed she would never see the Doctor again, so it might as well have been.
Danny looked even more disgusted. "I think we should do away with it altogether."
"Yes. Let's put a stop to it. Except maybe Christmas crackers. I like the jokes."
Clara laughed, "I'm partial to the hats."
"Alright so Christmas crackers we'll keep. And food."
"Not if I have to cook. The only way I'll ever cook a successful turkey is if I have a..."
"Yeah," she smiled. In his unintentionally knowing moments, all she saw was the Doctor. Clara tried to ignore that impulse.
"Then we'll order in Thai. Christmas crackers and Thai food! How do you feel about ugly Christmas jumpers?"
"I'm for them," Clara said as seriously as she could muster.
"Against. The only time I sing is on a hen night. Or if the world's about to end."
Clara gave this one some actual thought, "Yes, but by video phone or something so they can be muted or down right switched off if needed."
"I was just going to go with cardboard cutouts, but yeah, suppose we should give them a chance. It is Christmas after all."
"A much improved one." Clara raised her tea cup and clinked it off of Danny's. After taking a sip she asked, "So what holidays do you actually like?"
Danny's mouth was full of tea. He swallowed before answering, "Election Day."
Clara raised her eyebrows, "You're serious? That's not just something they make you say?"
"No. It's always been my favourite holiday. Even as a kid. My dad was Labour. So were all of his friends. We'd all get together and have a big party. It would be a lot of joking around, future hopes discussed in loud, cheerful voices, champagne if we won. One time there was confetti. It always felt the way New Years is suppose to feel but never really does, that this was the first day of a whole new time. That everything had changed and anything was possible." Maybe earlier in the night Clara would have wondered if Eleven got his optimism from Danny, or if it was just inherent to the Doctor, but that wasn't what came to mind. Her thoughts weren't on the Doctor at all. She took Danny's hand. He looked down at it in wonder before smiling back at her, "What was your favourite holiday as a kid?"
"My Mom's birthday," she replied, as she ran her thumb gently over the back of his hand. "I'd get up as early as I could, so I could sneak down to the kitchen."
"Surprise her with breakfast in bed?"
"That was the plan. But she would always hear me. Or at least knew I'd be there, because every year she'd be in the kitchen just as I finished getting out the ingredients."
"What would you make her?"
"She helped. A LOT. And once it was out of the oven and we had put together a tray. She would go back to bed and pretend to be asleep when I brought it into her. Even acted surprised. And then the three of us would sit on my parents' bed and eat the soufflé right out of the pan."
"It was. But, you know, I think I liked the baking part of it even better. When it was just the two of us on those quiet mornings. I liked having her all to myself."
Danny noticed the past tense, but this time he decided not to ask. No need to lead them down that path again. Instead he said, "We're definitely adding soufflés to our new and improved Christmas."
"We're visionaries, we are." Clara smiled at him with a wicked grin. Her eyes darting down to his lips. He did the same, but was too shy to make the first move. Fortunately Clara's never been terribly timid. She kissed him. Lightly at first, but then with more urgency, wrapping her arms around his back. Danny was motionless for a moment, as if unsure what to do, and then, kissed her back with equal fervor.
They pulled away from each other breathless. Clara laughed at the impossibility of it all. For a moment she couldn't help but wonder if that's what the Doctor would have kissed like. The thought made her uncomfortable and she pulled away to reach for her (now cold) tea. Cup in hand she settled back under Danny's arm.
"So, if I play my cards right, will you make me a soufflé?" he teased.
"No, I like you too much. I'm rubbish at them. See my mom always said, 'the soufflé isn't the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe'. But I have all of her recipes and they never turn out the way hers did."
"Just a pale imitation?"
"Exactly." Clara tried to smile, but the words rang out in her head. It wasn't fair, Danny was the original and the Doctor the copy, but it would never seem like that to her. If only he looked different. She really did like him and if Danny was just another guy she wouldn't be questioning her motives. But then if he was just another guy she never would have started talking with him in the first place. "I'll be right back," Clara said, before fleeing to the loo.
Clara had to sort this out and she had to do it quickly. She wanted to believe decision to kissing Danny had nothing to do with the Doctor, but she honestly couldn't be sure, and she didn't want a repeat of what happened with Casanova. That wouldn't be fair.
Clara walked back into the living room. Danny looked up excitedly, but his smile fell when he saw her face. "What's wrong?"
He sounded so much like the Doctor in that moment she knew she was right to end it. "This is going to seem bonkers, but..." How was she suppose to explain it? She took a seat next to him. "My friend, the one you remind me of... we were..." What were they?
"But you could have been. If he hadn't..." He didn't want to say 'died'.
"Possibly. I certainly had... feelings. Which is what's making this complicated."
It took Danny a moment to catch her meaning. He looked a bit deflated when he did, "Oh."
"I really like you," Clara said, but her reassuring tone was actually making it worse.
"But I'm not him."
"To be honest, I wish you didn't remind me of him at all. Then it would be easy. But the similarities keep making me second guess myself. I think it might be better if..."
"Yeah..." Danny stood up to take his leave. Clara walked at his side, neither quite sure what to say. He opened the front door, then he turned back to Clara and said, "It was very good to meet you, Clara Oswald."
"You too, Danny Foster." He stuck out his hand, but Clara pulled him into an embrace. They lingered there a long time before Danny pulled away. He smiled weakly, gave Clara a quick nod, and walked down the path to the street. Clara watched him go. She waited until he was out of sight before walking over to the blue box parked in her front garden.
"So he comes back, does he? I thought you were busy this Friday?"
"Well that's the beauty of a time machine," the Doctor didn't look up from the repair work he was doing to the console. "Doesn't matter how long I'm busy for, I can still arrive whenever I like. You were busy tonight, I take it." Even though the Doctor was still fixated on the console, Clara looked away. "I would have come up, but I thought it best not to cross my own timeline."
"Wouldn't be in danger of that."
"No, I suppose not. The skinny tie is a dead give away. I don't know if I'll ever understand them. How is Danny Foster, by the way? I always liked that lad. He wants to change the world. Very passionate." The Doctor met her eyes.
Clara did her best not to look away, "He's alright. Although tonight I think he might be a little... heart broken." The Doctor face was unreadable. She expected him to say something, but he simply look at her. After a long period of silence Clara asked, "So you know them all, then. All of your doppelgängers, all the people your regenerations are based off of?"
"Yes," he replied simply.
Clara moved until she was standing beside him, looking up into his lined face, "Who was this one, then?"
The Doctor was quiet for a moment, as if trying to decide whether to answer, finally he said, "He was a fool. A marble trader. I met him in Pompeii on volcano day."
"But why him?"
The Doctor looked at her with a softer expression, "He was a father, a family man. He would have done anything to protect the people he loved." He said this as though it in itself was an explanation, but Clara still didn't understand. "Whole new set of regenerations, all bets off, who knows who I might be. I wanted someone who would look out for you. Protect you. Which is silly." He walked away from her, under the pretense of putting his tools away.
"Why's it silly?"
He looked back at her over his shoulder, "Because, let's face it, you're the one who protects me." He smiled and Clara smiled back. All the tension suddenly gone. "Now what do you say to a trip to Yorkshire?"
"What's in Yorkshire?"
"Should I know him? Who is he?"
"The man my Ninth self is based off of. Just thought I'd help you continue your quest to snog your way through my lookalikes." He shot her a wicked grin and it took all of her composure to keep from laughing. The sarcasm was definitely a change from his last self, but Clara quite liked it. Without cracking a smile she replied, "Think I'll take a pass."
"It's the nose, isn't it?"
"No, I like the nose. It's the ears. Too wibbly wobbly."
"I'll have to remember that for my next regeneration, no wobbly ears."
Clara couldn't help but laugh at that. She stopped abruptly when a thought occurred to her, "If regeneration isn't completely random and you have some control over it, do you think you will ever look like one of your old selves?"
The Doctor thought of the curator's message, that he'd be 'revisiting old faces'. The Doctor had thought that he was referring to the time they spent with Casanova, but perhaps Clara was closer to the mark. Only time would tell. The Doctor shrug, "Would you like me to?" He had asked Rose a similar question. He hadn't particularly like the answer.
Clara gave it some thought. "No," she said finally. "Besides, with eleven regenerations left I can hold out for a better looking one."
"Good luck with that," the Doctor said with a chuckle.
Eleven would have said, 'Oi!' He would have blushed and become flustered. And Clara knows she would have shot him a teasing grin and wondered for the millionth time if he fancied her. Twelve simply began punching in coordinates, neither pleased nor offended by her statement. And in that moment Clara realized she liked that better. As much as they could bicker and fight, there was a comfort between her and Twelve. There was no overanalyzing of feelings or actions. She knew exactly where they stood. They were best friends, it was as simple and easy as that. "So where are we actually going?"
"Winllan. Finest vineyards in the galaxy." She gave him a surprised look. "While I was waiting I found that wine skin you stole. It was dreadful. And since you seemed to like it I've decided you are in need of a formal wine education."
Clara was reminded once again that everything had changed, but instead of making her miss Eleven, it made her feel hopeful. Maybe Danny and his infinite optimism were right, maybe change could mean that anything was possible.