A/N Hello everyone! Sorry for the late update, stuff happened. But I promise that this will all be published before the Christmas special airs, cause afterwards its not going to be valid anyway. Oh well. Thank you so so much for all your reviews, they make me smile so much and I love you all. It will really make my week I you could do the kindness of dropping me another one...please and thank you? Also, to that Guest: yes I do have a tumblr. Unfortunately for my social life and general productivity. URL's on my profile if you feel obliged to check it out.

Now, without further ado, onward to chapter two!

•••

Guess where I am sitting, as I write this. Just guess.

Your flat, you say. Sitting cross-legged on your bed like you always do when you're thinking. Or perched on the tip of the rotting stump, beside the ribcage tree with lungs of bracken and a wooden chest for a heart. In the park near your house, the one you took me to on that day you had a cold and weren't in the mood for adventuring. Maybe you're in the TARDIS! Maybe I've come back, maybe you've no need to write any further!

Idiot. You know yourself, don't you? You haven't come back. Whoever you are, whatever you are, you haven't returned to me.

But what am I saying? I'm giving you a voice from my own mind. Giving you words you might have spoken, and dreaming up a fitting reply. Writing letters to a man who no longer exists. First sign of insanity, they say. Or first sign of loss.

Sometimes I think the two are one and the same.

You won't have guessed, where I am. I can barely believe that my feet have led me here myself. Enough guessing, now. Enough games. We played too many of them, for too long, for too little. Enough.

I'm in a graveyard.

Mostly that presence is physical; the mess of weeds and strangled grass crushed beneath my feet, the cold and weary gravestone I'm resting my back against, the air so heavy with age and silence that it's sagging right into the earth. It could be metaphorical, too, I suppose, but let's not get into that.

It's not like I never visit graveyards. I go to this one often enough. Place some fresh flowers on Mum's grave, stand a minute and think. Every six months or so I come, more often if Dad accidentally calls me Ellie when talking over the phone or if I see myself in photo albums and find my own smile morphing into hers.

I don't know why I'm here today, though. I just wanted to get out of the house, to find someone, to see something. But my troublesome feet directed me here, which is more a place of loss, and blindness, than the opposite.

I made sure to find the oldest grave I could, one so old the name and date once engraved upon it has melted and smoothed across the stone and been replaced by decades of afternoon sun and scratchy lichen. I don't know why. I don't know why. But then, I don't know the reason for more than half the world's happenings these days, so how am I to explain away my own?

There's no one else within at least three blocks of where I sit, for the cemetery sprawls far around, overwhelmed and overflowing with the weight that death heaves. Being the only living, sentient thing within this space is strangely peaceful. There's a tranquility about it, sitting alongside the obvious crawling creepiness that you'd expect to find in such a place. Or maybe it's the same, the eerie nothing is like a void, muffling and swallowing anything that could threaten its still surface.

But then I look down again, at these words in my own careful hand, addressed to a 'you' who won't answer. A you who is the Doctor, and a you who may as well be dust and dead memories in the wooden coffin six feet beneath me.

I think about you, I think about what—who—you were, I think about who I was, with you. I think, I think too long and too hard and too fast and too deep. I think, and the silence is gone. The comfort is past. The peace is soaked into the tear-stained dirt.

Now many of the gravestones are cracked and crumbling, commemorating the lives of forgotten people and times best left alone. Names have been chipped away with time and wind and careless shoes. Skeletons without faces nor pasts nor people to put to them, and even the memories are dead in this place.

Now my skin shivers in the cold breeze that ancient years blow, my bones ache with a weariness that would sooner take me in death than in sleep. There is a sun glowering down at me in the early morning sky, no warmth nor kindness in its gaze, only malice, harshness. No birds, no bees, no bodies but mine and the ones that no longer count.

Now as I think, I remember, the cemetery is not a cemetery any longer. The gravestones are not gravestones, they are decaying, rotting teeth. Fangs and molars sprouting from roots made of bones and bitten wood.

I sit, swaying against one such crumbling offender, and imagine this place swallowing me whole. Crunching me up for breakfast, body and soul lost in a maw rich with the losses of the living and the dangers of the dead.

No, I don't imagine. I don't think that I imagine.

I hope.

•••

It was going to be just me and my dad that Christmas.

But that was okay.

My two remaining grandparents were splashing out on their retirement savings to spend December careening around Europe. It was their subtle way of telling us that they knew they only had a few more years left in them and wanted to spend them wisely. Or unwisely, depending on how you look at things. They'd taken most of my cousins and their children with them, to provide the youth that they were lacking in.

Then there was Aunt Sara, who was loath to make the trek in the stormy weather we were having, and her husband, Uncle Richard, who had sort of stopped the Christmas thing after mum died. She loved Christmas just as much, if not more, than I did, and her death took its toll on him in an irreversible way.

The remainder simply preferred to stay at home, go out with other extended family, or get drunk with old friends at the bar. That was okay. Just me and dad. That was fine.

It was still Christmas.

And then, out of the blue, Aunt Sara rapped on the door with her stone hard knuckles, and a barrage of children streamed through into the front passageway. Well, three. But one duo of cheeky eleven year olds and a kindergarten-aged girl fond of climbing things added up to at least a smallish barrage.

Sara was quick to explain that 'the weather had suddenly turned' (even though it hadn't) and she'd decided she didn't want us eating a whole great turkey on our own. Dad shot me a secret smile, and we both knew that she was just lonely staying at home with three crazed kids and a husband who didn't believe in Christmas anymore. Which was fine. Brilliant, actually. It felt more like the old Christmases, with children running about and old uncles heaving massive laughs and doubtful cousins teasing your life choices.

It was hours later, after presents and a slushy snowball fight and a half-hearted lunch in anticipation of the feast that was to be dinner, that I heard it.

You know the noise. The sort of wheezing, groaning whine, rising and falling into a final boom. Of course you know it. Of course you do.

Anyway, I heard it. We all heard it. Though only the kids looked up, and only I went to the door.

There you were. Quite literally, out of the blue.

I wasn't expecting it, no. The Doctor, joining my family for Christmas dinner? But when I saw that bluest blue box parked in the shattering of hard snow and cold rain, I realised that I had been hoping for it all along.

You stepped out of the TARDIS with a grin and a flurry and a pair of reindeer antlers, and I ran up to meet you with a laugh and a hug and a comment about your flashy Christmas headwear. There was no question as to whether you would be staying, you never even had to ask and I never even had to answer.

The introductions were, at best, slightly awkward. At worst, they made me want to kick you in the shin when no one was looking.

The trouble was, Dad thought you were my boyfriend. Even made a comment about the mistletoe he'd hung above the doorway when you introduced yourself. It really didn't help that the next thing you did was laugh and sling your arm around my shoulder, kissing the side of my temple. That part was especially detrimental to the label of 'extremely close but definitely platonic friends' that I was going to propose.

So then that set me up to be standing at the head of the living room before the stragglers of Christmas Day, telling them all that "this is the Doctor, my boyfriend."

Later, I took you aside into the corridor, fixed you with my best glare and a snap of "what the hell was that all about?"

You replied with indifference (that was what really irked me), "Play along, I don't want to be slapped by anyone's family members this Christmas. Really, it happens quite a bit more than you'd expect."

I was almost sure at this point that you were going to be slapped by several family members, including myself, and told you so.

"Come on, Clara," you said earnestly. "It's Christmas! The time of facades and pretend, and the time I tend to get smacked by people's mothers. You don't have to do anything! I won't...ah, kiss you, if that's what you're worried about. No, no. And besides, you did the same to me one Christmas, if I recall!"

"That wasn't me!" I was hoping to heaven above that you wouldn't hear the anxiety, the slipping lies, the earnestness to prove that this 'pretending' wasn't twisting my mind every which way.

You scoffed lightly, wringing your hands, obviously exasperated with my disinclination. "No need to worry! I'll be a good fake human boyfriend." Then you turned off towards the dining room, straightening your bow tie with a wink. "Smile for the cameras!"

I laughed at that. Or, I pretended to. It seemed I would be wearing double the facades that day. Both contradicting the other. You believed it, though. My laugh, my irritated words, my breezy smirk. All to mask the fact that the idea of being your boyfriend for a day sounded much more appealing than it should've. You believed it all, though. You always believed it.

Until you didn't.

We started on dinner, the great feast, 'fit for an army of starved Sontarans' as you said. Dad and George were still trying to figure you out at this point, although they'd accepted that you had a right to be there. Still, they gave you quizzical looks at the mention of 'Sontarans'.

The twins were on salads, Dad attempting to replicate a couple of basic hot meal recipes courtesy of Jamie Oliver, Aunt Sara was appointed dessert duty, and the main piece was allocated to me. Even though I had repeatedly insisted that I had never cooked a turkey before, nor did I have the slightest inkling how.

As it turned out, you proved yourself to be quite the accomplished cook. I probably shouldn't have been surprised, and you looked rather irked when I laughed in disbelief, but it is true that your clumsy limbs don't look to be at home in a kitchen.

And they weren't. You may have known just the right amount of spices to sprinkle a turkey with, but the Doctor and ovens aren't a particularly impressive combination. Especially when a sonic screwdriver is added to the mix. Dad wasn't that happy when it was discovered that the roils of black smoke weren't supposed to be seeping out the oven door.

And then you suggested the TARDIS. Rather too loudly. I'm almost certain no one believed my cover-up about the 'TARDIS' being a nickname for one of your friends who lived in the same apartment block. What else was I supposed to say? I was running out of excuses for you, and your much too alien quirks were certainly not helping.

So we cooked the turkey in the TARDIS. Pretended you had the spare key to some imaginary friend's flat, yet another facade that was severely doubtable. When in reality I was just yelling at your spaceship's disobedient oven and trying to see if it obeyed a click of the fingers just like the TARDIS doors did.

The whole saga ended with me collapsing on the kitchen floor, skin scalded and ego severely ruffled, to watch you race about with trays and tongs and chopping boards. Sonic and professional chef skills and all. Fine, it was delicious. I admit it. At least, more delicious than the charred mess I would have managed to procure.

Christmas dinner started the way it always did, with the twins stealing half a bowl of mars bar slice and wolfing it down while the rest of us set the table. And then the crackers, of course. Used to scare the hell out of me, those things, though I loved them.

That was always one of my favourite Christmas moments. With the whole family sat around the table in complete silence, arms crossed to clutch the ends of another's cracker. All counting softly together, one, two, three, crack!

And then is the moment Christmas really begins, with a bang and a spark and a deluge of laughter. This time was no different, and Christmas blossomed fully into life just as it always did.

The contents of my Christmas cracker, which I had to retrieve from where it had flown across the table, was a spinning top and a bright purple paper hat. You got a twisted piece of string and a crown of fluoro green. Which you were, as I recall, rather unsatisfied with.

"I am thoroughly underwhelmed by the contents of this Christmas cracker, Clara," you said, with a frown at your flimsy prize. "It's even frayed at the ends!"

I laughed and handed you my spinning top, which you took with a grin before fixing your green hat on top of my head and patting it.

"You're missing half of the Christmas colours," you murmured. "Nice cardigan, by the way."

I haven't worn that jacket since.

Will – the oldest of the twins by two minutes, as he never stopped reminding us – challenged you to a spinning top battle a bit further into tea. It ended messily, with two bits of brightly coloured plastic landing in the coleslaw and a bottle of red wine spilt all over the carpet. Nobody cared, though, not even Sara.

It was Christmas, after all.

One of the moments I most remember about that night was the one where you stood up at your place at the table, clutching a piece of paper in front of you. You squared your shoulders and cleared your throat as if you were about to make an inspiring speech, but what came out of your mouth was anything but.

"What do you call a bird that's out of breath?"

All eyes on you. The clinking of forks on plates. The rustling of paper crowns.

"A puffin!" This was where you flung up your arms like you were the funniest comedian the world had ever seen, and the whole table groaned loud enough loud enough to make your reindeer ears droop.

You sat down, mouth twisted into a pout. "I thought it was funny," you whispered to me, and, though you were wearing a pretend frown, your eyes were practically glowing with mirth.

And then Dad thought he'd be able to tell a better one (he couldn't), and the dinner soon dissolved into the two of you tearing open cracker after cracker, torturing the rest of us with the corny jokes we'd all heard a billion times before.

There were only so many snarky remarks one could bring to mind in answer to every cheesy one-liner you two spouted, and eventually the collective groans became tiring. Soon the whole little table was chuckling and giggling and laughing outright, mostly at you and your exaggerated attempts to make knock knock jokes funny. You of all people should know that such a feat is against the very fundamental laws of this universe.

Just a hop, skip and a jump and dinner was over, chocolate tart just a couple of crumbs in a pan, conversation dying down to awkward fiddlings with the tablecloth.

It only occurred to me then, watching you fidget among the quiet murmurings, that I had no idea why you were there. Why you were sitting beside me at my dad's dining room table, wearing reindeer ears and an over-exaggerated sense of Christmas spirit.

Why did you come?

Not a particularly Doctor-like thing to do. Domesticity and all that...it's not your style. Don't try to deny it, I know you. I know you better than anyone.

It took me a while to work it out. I mean, you're a Time Lord. You're the Doctor. And though I'd suspected, maybe even harboured some silly little hope...I'd never believed such a thing could be true.

Before Trenzalore, I had a trick, you see. Well, not a trick. A plan. A safeguard. A fallback.

Very simply, I'd promised myself that I would not fall in love with you.

I can imagine the look on your face if I said that to you in person. But I can't imagine what you might have said back.

The truth was, you were captivating. Stop grinning, I know you are. Your ego'll explode if its inflated much more. Plus your chin looks bigger when you smile. Bet that put you in your place.

But that doesn't quite work, does it? I don't suppose you have that magnificent old chin any longer. Take a look in the mirror and imagine up a fitting tease for me.

Creeping back onto topic, from the first moment you turned up on the doorstep – okay, maybe not the first. In the first you were a crazed monk with funny hair who could possibly have been a door-knocking serial killer. How about from the moment that I woke up? I remember that all too clearly.

I looked down at you in the driveway with my computer and your electronics and your big blue box and I was captivated. Not in that way—not at first—but I wanted to know who you were, where you were going, why you were there. It took me a very long time to find the answers to those questions, but I did. It turned out that I only needed to tear myself into a thousand pieces and suffer through the pain of a million memories that were not mine.

I'm not resentful, don't think that. I wouldn't change what I did that day at Trenzalore. Because there is a reason that I stepped into your timeline, there is a very good reason.

My trick, my plan, my safeguard, failed.

Make of that what you will. But it isn't a flimsy trivial thing to throw behind you, to run away from like you do everything else. Because that's what I used to do, and it doesn't work. Not even for Time Lords, I'd wager.

Do you remember the Tower of London? The gallery? You probably recall the events of that day even better than I do. I should hope so, I should hope that you don't forget it for the rest of your life. However long that may be.

That was the decider. The events of that day. You, and the hero, you, and the warrior. That was when I decided that you needed me just as much as I needed you, even if you weren't aware of the needing. That was when I decided to leave my trick behind.

I know why you came. I know why you parked your box in the snow, I know why you cooked our turkey in your TARDIS, I know why you sat at the dinner table and read excruciating pun after excruciating pun to the rest of us.

The same reason I was there. The same reason my dad was there. The same reason Aunt Sara and her kids were there. The same reason anyone gathers together on Christmas Day, surrounded by the scent of pine and the crackle of wrapping paper and the warm glow of many people.

Hope.

That's Christmas, in four letters.

Hope for the future, hope for one's family, hope for the person that next year will make of one. Hope for a home, hope for some joy, hope for a time of relief and celebration. Hope for the sake of hoping.

You had hope.

And, for you, hope equals happiness.

But also, for you, happiness equals tragedy of equal potency.