Author's Note: Wellll, here it is at last. I don't even know if this could be called an epilogue, it's so long – but…I had a lot of stuff I wanted to have happen in here. I'd say it could be standalone, except it really ties everything up from the previous chapters. Anyway…thanks to all who've hung on. I'm aware this story wasn't nearly as exciting as its predecessor, but to the few of you who've left me feedback – I appreciate it so much. This is also the end of this AU for me, so – enjoy! : )
"But I really can't come with you?"
Clara glanced at him in the mirror as she put the finishing touches on her makeup. "I told you – it's a girls' night. Marcy got dumped again and it'll probably just be a whole evening of all the reasons men are evil and should die." She snapped her compact shut, sighing. "At least, that's how it was the last time Jim dumped her."
The Doctor was trying not to pace, but failing somewhat miserably. "But – I can be one of the girls! I can talk all about the evils of men!"
She smirked at him. "Then she'll just think you're gay."
He scoffed at this, muttering how no one could ever mistake him for gay. Then he grew quiet, and far too still for her liking.
"Are you…ashamed of me?"
The brush caught mid stroke, leaving clumps on her lashes. "What?" She hastily screwed the mascara brush in and turned around. "What makes you say that?"
His foot scuffed at something invisible on her rug. "Well… I haven't met any of your friends. Or your dad."
"No, I –" She spun back around, grabbing the lash comb and going to work on the clumps. "It's not that – it's – well…no one knows about you yet. I haven't found a way to tell them you even exist – let alone that we're married." And do you leave the part out about alien or not? "I mean, I'll have to come up with a story that at least makes some sense for how we met, and – I just haven't figured that out yet."
He looked thoughtful. "Because of the wibbly wobbly bits or the timey wimey ones?"
Clara made a face. "All of it.
He wrung his hands. "Is that why you took off your ring?"
"Doctor…" Catching his eye in the mirror, she grasped her TARDIS key between thumb and forefinger, the diamond-like gem in its centre sparkling and shimmering in the artificial light. "Didn't take this off. This is my real wedding ring." She smiled at him, her eyes shining like they always did whenever she thought of that day. He finally returned the smile.
"We've gotta go." She brushed past him, picking up her purse from her bed and throwing in a few last-minute items.
He swayed on the balls of his feet. "Actually, Mr. Maitland popped out for a bit while you were in the shower, and Artie was asking about his maths. So I was going to stay and help him."
"Oh – okay. Well, in that case – see you tomorrow, then?"
He nodded vigorously. "Yes, absolutely. Tomorrow."
She squinted at him. "And tomorrow is…?"
"Tomorrow is…tomorrow is – Monday."
"Right – tomorrow is Friday. Friday – I knew that."
She snickered. "'Course you did." Glancing at her watch, she groaned at the time. "Why is it that now that I have a time machine, I'm always late?" Throwing her jacket over her arm, she blew him a kiss. "Bye. Love you."
He flailed for a bit. "Um – me, too!" He answered, then winced.
Clara pulled a face. "Uh –"
"An improvement on 'same,' though, don't you think?"
"Yeah. Getting there, I guess." She gave him a little wave as she closed the door. Honestly, she didn't need to hear the words: she knew, of course.
Unwittingly, an image flashed into her head of John on his knees before her, uttering those words that came straight from the Doctor's heart:
I love you more than my own human existence.
It wasn't cheating when the man you thought of was the one you were married to…even if it was the human version of him that had died. Right?
Wibbly wobbly, indeed.
"She's cheating, you know!"
Clara's eyes widened. "Who?"
"His new skank – she's already got a boyfriend!" Marcy stabbed angrily at one of the olives – or at least tried to, somehow missing it the first few times.
"That's his problem; not yours, love." Sharon swirled the remnants of her drink in her highball, the ice cubes clinking together. "'Sides – he's a wanker. Match made in heaven, if you ask me."
"Exactly – let her have him and good riddance!" Clara added, raising her martini glass in salute.
Marcy's head dropped onto her hands, ginger hair curtaining her face. "Why won't anyone look at me?" she whined, glancing forlornly about. "I just want a good shag, y'know? Something to get me mind off of Jim. I'd even take a snog at this point."
"No one wants to snog you when you've got snot running down your face – now get it together, love." Sharon gently prodded, handing Marcy a cocktail napkin.
Clara reached her hand across Sharon, grasping Marcy's arm as she dabbed at her eyes. "Hey – if any of the guys in here don't want you – then you don't want them, either, okay?"
Sharon rolled her eyes. "Oh, you're too bloody nice. You really know what your problem is?"
Clara shook her head at Sharon. "Oh, don't start – c'mon…"
Sharon turned to Marcy, setting her glass down. "You like arseholes. You always have, ever since we were kids. Remember that skinny bloke Mum told you to stay away from after he went for the dog? And who did you go for?"
Marcy folded her arms defensively. "Don't remember Mum saying anything, but I do remember you beating the shit out of him when all he wanted to do was walk me home from school. 'Cause you always knew better, didn't you?"
Clara hid her head in her fist, giving her the opportunity to look at the people on the other end of the bar to her left. There was one guy looking their way, doing the quick glance back and forth. She waved a hand in Sharon's direction, cutting them off mid-squabble. "Hey! Shut it, you two – there's a guy looking this way."
Marcy immediately sat up straighter, flipping her limp hair over her shoulder. "Who's he looking at?"
Sharon stared unabashedly for a few seconds before shrugging. "Can't tell. One of us anyway."
Marcy shoved her older sister in the arm. "Oi, he's probably looking at you – you're wearing your boob shirt!"
Clara raised an eyebrow at her friend. "Does Ollie know you're wearing that tonight?"
"Are you kidding? It's Ollie's favourite shirt." She glanced apologetically at Marcy. "Sorry, love – his red pants got into the whites again, dyed that new white shirt pink. Had to find something right quick."
"Again?" Clara laughed. "Seriously, how many times has he done that?"
Sharon raised her glass. "To the joys of married life. It's not all hearts and flowers and romantic candlelit dinners, loves. It's knowing how to forgive the poor sod after he's ruined your new shirt." She downed the contents. "Not as easy as it looks."
Tell me about it. Clara nodded, trying to look like she was listening to her older friend's wisdom and not actually agreeing with her wholeheartedly.
"Believe me – you'll miss being single one day. So enjoy it while you still can!" Sharon flagged down a bartender and ordered another drink.
"Not me. I hate being single," Marcy said glumly. "I can't believe I am – I mean – I'm single again! There was a time when I thought I was gonna marry Jim…" She said wistfully, sniffling.
"No, you bloody well didn't, so you can stop with that bollocks right now."
"What, just 'cause you never liked him -"
Sharon snorted. "No one liked him, and that's why you'd never've married him 'cause we wouldn't have let you, you stupid –"
"Okay!" Clara waved her hands, cutting both of them off. "Marcy – you're right. We don't know what would've happened – none of us can tell. Maybe you would've married Jim, but the thing is – you didn't. So you know there's got to be someone out there for you. Someone better. And you'll find him."
Marcy begrudged a weak smile. "I guess so." She let her head fall into her hand. "Jus' not gonna be at this pub."
"You don't know that!" Clara indicated Sharon. "Hey – she met Ollie at a pub, didn't she? Who's to say the same won't happen for you?" She smiled encouragingly.
"Or for you, Clara." Clara had forgotten how Sharon's gaze could penetrate from behind her dark-rimmed glasses. Or maybe they just magnified it. "Maybe you'll meet your future husband here tonight. Since you're so unusually optimistic." She eyed her with a hint of suspicion.
"No – I'm – I'm not looking for anyone. And I really doubt that…" She muttered, fiddling with her swizzle stick.
"Why? Cause you like being single?"
"What?" She fumbled. "No, I – I just...I really don't want to date – that's all. I just – don't have time. I'm not interested."
"I think she's afraid of getting hurt," Marcy said.
"Oh, don't be stupid – no, she's not. I think she's –"
"Um – hello? Is this – oh!"
All three women started at the sound of a meek voice coming over a microphone.
"Sorry – sorry. Um – we don't normally do this, but I guess it's a special night." The woman's nervous laughter was squeaky. "So – we've got a dedication to…Clara. This is for Clara, from her – husband. No, sorry – her – what?" Her voice faded a bit, as she seemed to be talking to someone next to her. "Her…doctor? Right…anyway! Here it is. For Clara!"
Clara wasn't even aware of her reaction until Sharon nudged her.
"Stop looking like that - at least it's not you. Who marries their doctor?!"
"And who dedicates a song in a pub?!" Marcy added.
Clara could only sputter out a "Yeah!" in agreement as she tried to keep her attention on her glass, effectively preventing herself from looking every which way around the pub to find him. It became easier as the first unfamiliar notes sounded, and she had to strain her ears to listen over the din.
More than you know
More than you know
Girl of my heart, I love you so
Lately I've found you on my mind
More than you know
Sharon let out a bemused noise. "I feel sorry for her, whoever she is. Married her doctor and then he dedicates a song that's this old? Probably married him for the money, then."
"Yeah – and the singer sounds American or something, like he's trying to be posh," Marcy agreed.
Clara couldn't respond due to the lump in her throat for a few moments. "I think it's…from the forties. If I had to guess, I'd probably say 1948."
"What?" Sharon looked at her curiously. "How would you know?"
"Developed an interest a few months ago. There was a… time back in the spring when I only listened to forties music. But I don't know this one."
Loving you the way that I do
There's nothing I can do about it
Loving may be all you can give
But darling, I can't live without it
This time she couldn't stop herself from smiling, especially at the "darling," her fingers finding her TARDIS key. She took another sip of her drink to avoid the attention her friends were starting to pay her.
"Aww – are you pretending it's for you? See, I told you – she's just afraid of getting hurt. I'm not afraid of getting hurt."
"Yeah, we know - which is why you keep getting hurt. Oi, Clara? What are you on about, love?"
Oh, how I'd cry
How I'd sigh
If you got tired and said goodbye
More than I show
More than you'll ever know
Clara had to take a few breaths to prevent herself from actually crying in front of her friends, to a song whose era should be unknown to her, dedicated by a man unknown to them. A man who still had the ability to surprise her, even when she least expected –
Clara whipped her head around to the sound of that familiar, beloved voice and found – yes, the Doctor, standing there, smiling brightly at her and her two friends as though he'd just happened upon them there.
Now that he was standing in front of her, though, she found herself at a complete loss for words, only able to gape at him.
"I'm John Smith!" He informed them cheerily, looking from one to the other. "I saw you sitting over here, and I thought you looked –"
"Single?" Marcy hinted.
"Yes! Single!" He nodded emphatically. "Absolutely – you look very single, all of you."
"Well – I'm not," Sharon responded drily, holding up her hand. "Sorry, mate."
"Ah! No harm done – but are the rest of you then?" He was looking pointedly at Clara, and she noted he'd removed his wedding ring as well.
"I am!" Marcy gave a flirtatious little wave, which made Clara's jaw clench. "I'm Marcy," she added, winking rather obviously.
But the Doctor didn't return it. Instead, he brightened even more. "Marcy!" Clara could see he was reaching for her shoulders to do his kiss-kiss thing, and given Marcy's state and her aforementioned desire for snogging and shagging, well - that snapped her into action.
Leaning over Sharon, she extended her hand out. "I'm Clara," she said, poised for a shake.
He stopped before his hands could touch Marcy's shoulders, then turned towards her. "Ah. Clara." He grasped her hand, squeezing it a moment before taking the hint and shaking it.
She poured every emotion she could into her eyes. "Really, really nice to meet you, John," she said furtively. "Really."
He smiled at her softly. "The pleasure is mine. Clara."
Marcy was fuming, and she cleared her throat loudly.
The Doctor spun towards her. "Sorry! Yes, Marcy – it's very nice to meet you, too!" He shook her hand vigorously, beaming at her. This seemed to be enough to soften her, gazing at him dreamily as he moved to Sharon. "I'm John!" He informed her again.
"I know," she deadpanned. "I'm Sharon." She shook his hand perfunctorily.
"Excellent! Now that we've all been acquainted – Marcy!" He rubbed his hands together, turning to her. "Marcy, a little bird told me or…maybe it was a cat – was it a cat?" He scratched his temple. "Hmm – difficult to remember what the proper phrase is nowadays…"
The dreamy look drained right off Marcy's face. "What?"
"Sorry! Anyway – the point is I heard that you were feeling sad."
Marcy's mouth dropped open. "Who told you that? Are you a mate of Jim's?"
"Oh yes! I'm a mate of –"
Clara coughed loudly, shaking her head just the tiniest bit when he glanced over.
"No! No, no – definitely not. Not a mate of Jim's – I'm a mate of Jim…bo's Jimbo. Jimbo and me – we're very good mates."
"Who the hell is Jimbo?" Marcy demanded, not a trace of dreamy smile left to speak of.
The Doctor's hands flailed for a bit. "Jimbo is Jim's…cousin's brother's flatmate."
"Jimbo! Anyway – I was just wondering – if you'd like to dance?"
Marcy screwed up her face. "Here? In a…pub?"
The Doctor started. "Oh!" He looked around as if noticing his location for the first time, then leaned in, his thumbs worrying his fingers. "Do people not dance in pubs?"
"Don't know about people, but I don't." Marcy leaned away from him, as though to ward off his strange disease of pub-dancing.
"Hmm. Well, that's rubbish – no dancing in a pub. Who made that rule anyway? Doesn't matter, though because rules are made to be broken, eh? I'll dance anywhere!" He made some sort of motion with his arms that vaguely recalled the disco era, spinning about in place.
"Ohh." Marcy visibly deflated. "I get it now – of course!" She looked him mournfully up and down. "Even if you are a bit mad, you're definitely gorgeous – but with that dress sense…" She sighed dramatically. "You're gay."
Clara had to bite her lip to hide her snort.
The Doctor was frowning. "I'm not gay! You think someone's gay just because he likes to dance in pubs and wears –" He looked down at his outfit. "- sensible clothes?" He straightened his bowtie, puffing out his chest a bit.
"I'm gonna do something completely wild and agree with Marcy on this one, mate," Sharon nodded at him. "There's something off about you. I'm pretty clever when it comes to the vibe – and you've definitely got a vibe."
Marcy nodded. "See? Sharon's got the best gay-dar of anyone." She tilted her head at him in obvious pity. "Nice try, though."
Clara had to duck her head now to keep from outright laughing, especially at the utterly gobsmacked look on the Doctor's face.
"I'm not gay, seriously. Look, I'll - I'll – I'll prove it. I'll kiss you!" He hurriedly offered to Marcy, smiling at his wonderful idea.
Both Clara and Marcy responded, Marcy recoiling a bit and Clara leaning forward, mouth open.
The Doctor's eyes went wide, catching Clara's. "With – with – your friends' permission, of course – I don't kiss without obtaining everyone's permission." He glanced at her sheepishly.
Clara was one notch away from a proper look, and opened her mouth to say something but was cut off by Sharon.
"Fine by me, mate." She waved a hand dismissively. "If you feel the need to assert your masculinity by kissing Marcy, be my guest."
"Well, it's not fine by me!" Marcy squeaked. "I don't want to be your – your way of feeling all masculine or just 'cause you're uncomfortable with who you are, you've got to go around kissing random girls in pubs."
"Says the girl who was just dying for someone to snog ten minutes ago," Sharon reminded her.
Marcy huffed. "Yeah, but – not just anyone. I wanna make sure he's straight, so – y'know – there's at least a chance…" She grumbled the rest into her drink.
Sharon raised an eyebrow at the Doctor. "Well, John – you might actually have been the cause of two unprecedented events in one evening. You just raised Marcy's standards." She was eyeing him like a scientist eyes a new specimen. "There's definitely something about you…"
The Doctor looked flummoxed. "Um…okay. But – so that means you don't want to dance, then?" He asked, looking positively crestfallen.
"I'll kiss you," Clara offered, hoping that she didn't sound too eager.
The Doctor caught her eye, one corner of his mouth turning up. "Ah! Well…" He shuffled slowly over to her. "If I have your friends' permission?" He asked, addressing the ladies to his right.
Sharon narrowed her eyes at him. "Hmm. It can't just be a kiss – any gay bloke can fake that. It's gotta be a good and proper snog. I'll be able to tell whether or not it's fake if it lasts longer."
"Yeah," Marcy agreed, folding her arms. "And that means it needs to last at least ten seconds."
Clara raised her eyebrows at him, fighting another smile. "Well…John. Sounds like you've got your work cut out for you."
His eyes twinkled mischievously. "Indeed it does." He walked right up into her space. "So – Clara – apparently I have to snog you for at least ten seconds so Marcy will dance with me. Do I have your permission to do that?" He placed his hands lightly on her shoulders, pushing slightly into her knees.
"Yes, you have my permission." Raising a coquettish eyebrow at him, she parted her knees just enough so he'd see without drawing her friends' attention. "And if you have to prove you're not gay, then you also have my permission to hold nothing back."
"Hmm…" His hands stole up to her face as he leaned in. "For some reason, all I can think of right now are numbers…"
Her thrilled giggle was cut off as his lips caught hers. They both immediately sighed into the other's mouth, tongues colliding. It escalated quickly, his arms winding round her waist, pulling her against him, whilst hers grabbed the nape of his neck, using it as leverage to nearly lift herself off her stool, melding herself with him. But he pushed back, and she conceded, parting her knees even more to allow him better access. Some small part of her brain clued her in to two things as she hooked her legs at his waist. One: she should probably not be doing this in public, much less in front of her friends. Two: they hadn't kissed from this angle since the infamous soufflé incident, and Clara would ensure that at some point, that they'd finish what they started…
They might well have, friends, pub, and public be damned if it weren't for the booming "Oi! That's enough, now – get a room, you two!" from behind the bar, which broke them apart, both straightening themselves and fixing their hair. Clara finally noticed Marcy and Sharon, both gawking wide-eyed, Marcy a little comically so.
Sharon spoke first. "Well…you certainly proved me wrong, John. Guess there's a first time for everything though, innit?"
Marcy looked like she might've forgotten how to shut her mouth properly as the Doctor strode over to her again, his step light.
"So, Marcy…how about that dance?"
She nodded at him as though in slow motion. "Uh…okay," she managed. Still looking stunned, she let the Doctor grab her hand as he led her away from the bar to an area about twenty feet off.
Clara tried to pretend she didn't notice Sharon's laser-like attention on her, spinning to observe the scene that was sure to provide some measure of entertainment in a few moments.
"Well…" Sharon began.
Clara ignored her, giggling as the music started and the Doctor's limbs were set free with a gleeful abandon. The brightness of his smile was a comical contrast to the look of utter horror on Marcy's face.
"He's completely mad," Sharon remarked, sounding almost impressed. "But doesn't seem to matter for you, love, does it?"
"Oh, c'mon – the way you've been looking at him since he first showed up here – and the way you just went at it with him like you were ready to shag him on the bar?"
Clara ducked her head, her cheeks reddening, smile playing over her lips.
"And it's not just that – it's the way he looked at you, too."
Sharon had her full attention now. "What do you mean by that?"
Sharon grew thoughtful for a moment, studying her empty glass. "It's the way Ollie used to look at me," she said quietly. "Still does sometimes, of course – it hasn't all gone away." She looked up at Clara, her features softened. "It's like – you could place every woman in front of him on the planet, and he still wouldn't stop looking at you." Shaking her head, she smiled. "Imagine that, eh? Three billion women in front of him. And he'd still be craning his head to get a glimpse of you."
For the second time that evening, Clara found an unexpected lump in her throat.
"Normally, I'd tell you to be careful – especially 'cause it involves my baby sister."
Clara nodded. "I know."
Sharon heaved a great sigh. "But…he's kind. And Marcy doesn't go for kind. She goes for wanker, arse, git and bastard, but not kind." She motioned with her glass at how Marcy had finally seemed to let loose a little, smiling and laughing as the Doctor spun her around. "Even if he's finally got her enjoying herself, she'll find something wrong with him, believe me. She always does," she said resignedly.
"She'll find someone, Sharon. She just needs to…"
"Get a lobotomy?" She sounded like she was only half-joking.
"I was thinking – maybe focus on herself more. Stop focusing on finding the next one, you know?"
Sharon smirked at her. "'Cause they seem to drop out of the sky unexpected when you do that, don't they?"
Clara's eyes widened. "What?"
"Oh, c'mon, you've got to admit, love – he looks like he stepped off the pages of a Victorian novel. Like he forgot what century he was in when he got himself dressed this morning, or…he's actually from a different time period or…something." She shook her head again. "Like I said – something very off about that one…"
Clara couldn't help snickering her agreement.
The Doctor and Marcy returned, both rosy-cheeked and breathing fast. Marcy was laughing.
"You…are…bonkers!" She cried, pushing at the Doctor's chest. "I mean seriously – who dances like that?! You're terrible!" She hopped into her seat, taking a large swig of her drink before smacking it down on the bar. "You are properly embarrassing!"
The Doctor laid his jacket over a nearby stool, going to work on his shirtsleeves. "Well…I suppose I've never heard anything different."
Marcy continued to giggle as she swiveled on her stool, and Clara couldn't help smiling at how much her spirits seemed to have improved.
The Doctor walked over to Marcy again. "So, Marcy – I think this is where I ask for your phone number."
Marcy stopped mid-swivel, her face falling. "Oh, um…thanks, John, I'm uh – I'm really flattered, but…" Laughing nervously, she tucked her hair behind her ear. "I just really don't think you're my type. Sorry." She gave an apologetic smile.
Sharon glanced pointedly at Clara and they shared a look.
"You can have mine," Clara offered.
"Oh!" The Doctor swaggered over to her. "Can I?" His mouth worked like it was fighting a grin.
"Okay, then," he agreed, reaching into his pocket and feeling around for a moment. "But – you should know – Clara – that I won't actually call you because I prefer to text."
Clara was very successful in keeping a straight face. "Okay."
He withdrew his mobile, handing it to her and leaning on the bar in the worst imitation of a casual pose she had ever seen. "Yeah. Texting. Because talking on the phone is so last century." He scoffed, waving a hand vaguely. "It's so…1912."
Clara raised an eyebrow.
He straightened. "2012. It's so 2012."
Clara gave him a look, handing his phone back to him. "Okay. So text me, then."
"I will." He resumed his horrible imitation of a normal person pose. "And when I do, it will be to ask you out for more texting and…scones."
Her smile was genuine now. "I look forward to it."
The Doctor returned her smile, brightening suddenly. "Ooh! And - maybe I'll take you to an art gallery! We can look at all the pieces, and you can tell me who your favourite artists are - and then we can go meet the ones who have already dii –" He caught himself as her eyes widened. "Dyed – their…paintings. With different colours. And who are most certainly still alive."
Clara didn't hold back her giggle now. "Sounds lovely."
The Doctor pointed his fingers at her in a slightly less awkward gesture than his previous attempts. "So…I'll text you, then."
"You will," she replied, holding his gaze.
The Doctor turned to Sharon and Marcy. "Well! I've got to pop off now – things to do, other pubs to – dance in, but – it was lovely meeting all of you!" He shook Sharon's hand, who regarded him bemusedly.
"It was quite the introduction, John. I expect to see more of you in the future," she added meaningfully.
"Yes! In the future," he repeated her phrase, though it clearly had no meaning to him. He came to Marcy, and grasped her hand. "Marcy –" Suddenly he leaned down and planted a soft kiss on her hand. "Thank you," he said fervently.
Marcy let out a nervous giggle. "For what?"
The Doctor smiled wide. "For the dance, of course!" He straightened again, casting a glance Clara's way. "And Clara – you'll be hearing from me." His voice had dropped lower, a different kind of look in his eyes.
Clara matched it, her heart speeding up. "I'd better."
"Perhaps sooner than you think."
"I'll be on the lookout, then."
They smirked at each other before the Doctor turned and left.
Clara sighed, though from what, she couldn't be certain as she turned back to the bar, taking a drink.
Marcy didn't take long to descend. "Are you actually going to go out with him?! He's a raving nutter!"
Clara didn't get a chance to respond as Sharon replied for her. "Yeah, he might be a bit mad, but he's kind. And if you'd been paying the slightest bit of attention, you'd have noticed that he looks at Clara like she's the only woman in the world for him."
As if to add to that, Clara's phone beeped. She didn't even have to slide the bar to read the whole text:
34, 15, 29, 51. See you soon…
Her eyebrows shot up. Seemed like the numbers kept getting higher and higher…
"Has he already texted you?! See? Who does that?! But what'd he say?" Marcy couldn't seem to decide between her shock and her curiosity.
Clara's cheeks burned. "Oh, y'know…just some ideas for the next time we see each other," she said nonchalantly as she finished her drink. "See you soon?" Cheeky, that one…
"Oh, well, would you look at that?" Sharon drawled. "Guess who left his jacket?"
Clara glanced down and saw his jacket draped over the stool next to her. She had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. "Right – guess I should go give this back to him, then – I mean…if he's still around. If he hasn't left yet."
Sharon snorted. "I'd be surprised if he's not waiting for you outside." She waved her hand at her. "Go get him. We're all right here."
"I'll be back," Clara protested. "Just…in a bit. I might have to look for him."
Sharon shook her head smiling. "Right."
Sharon was right, of course. He was leaning against a streetlight, bent over his mobile.
"Hey!" She sauntered over to him, jacket hugged to her middle.
He held his mobile out to her questioningly. "'Wife'?"
She shrugged, lips quirked. "51?!"
He let out a low chuckle.
"I wasn't even naked."
"Would it surprise you if I told you that I actually have quite the imagination?"
She stopped in front of him, arms raised. "You forgot something."
The streetlight seemed to magnify the twinkle in his eyes. "Did I? Dear me – so glad someone noticed."
Wordlessly, she unfolded it and placed it round his shoulders, using it as leverage to draw them into a slow, lazy kiss. The promise of so much more to come. "Thank you."
A tiny crease appeared between his eyebrows. He could really be so endearingly clueless. "For what?"
She smiled at him like she couldn't believe he existed. "For the song. For meeting my friends. For giving us a believable meeting so I don't have to make something up. For being John Smith again – or – y'know – trying to, at least."
"Oi! I was a good John Smith – I thought I made a very believable human!"
She giggled. He was far too easy a target sometimes. Then her smile softened. "For trying to cheer up Marcy."
He swiveled his head as if weighing the accuracy of her statement. "Don't know how well I succeeded at that one – she didn't seem very impressed by my dancing. But regardless, I…I owed her one."
They gazed at each other in silent understanding of what he meant.
Heart full to bursting, she had to take a breath for the weight of her next statement. "I love you."
This time there was no flailing, no awkward pause. Only a tender smile, a gentle hand running down the side of her face. "Oh, Clara," he murmured. Then his hands on her cheeks, and that look…that look that Sharon had described. Her – the only woman in the world. But it was more than that – she, the beginning and the end of all things for him. Love meant more when you had all of time and space to choose from, and in that moment, she felt it.
But he was learning, wasn't he? Because the next words out of his mouth sealed the concept of forever, their eyes shining at each other.
"More than you'll ever know."