"Do you remember it, Clara?"
He doesn't turn from the console as he inquires, knows she's hovering just a few feet behind him, trying to find the best way to approach him. And he understands her hesitation. Clara hadn't witnessed him lose his temper before, not to the extent that he had; it wasn't fear, necessarily, that she was feeling, but an unease that came with an unaskable question – was it because it was me?
It was her face lying cold and pale on the operating table in the lab. Her skin bruised and bloodied. Her bones bent and broken. Her body left to suffer the excruciating pain as they demanded that she call out to him – her stubborn determination that kept her from doing so. Her life gone from shock and blood loss, eyes vacantly staring at the ceiling, lips parted slightly, as if in the midst of a breath.
Except that it wasn't her; it was one of her echoes.
To the Doctor it had made no difference. To him the Clara that laid dead in front of them as the woman cackled and then shrugged an apology was a part of her; to him she was a piece of her who felt, just as she did, and to him she was just as important. And for a moment, Clara knew, the Doctor saw her on that table, even though she stood just behind him, just behind his outstretched hand – one that had tried to shield her from danger at first, and then to shield her from seeing herself.
It was in that moment that he raised his Sonic, not as an instrument of peace, but as a weapon of destruction and Clara could see the way his body trembled just before he released a roar of a scream, words lost to the sound of the explosions around them. Machines – scanners and computers and medical devices – popped and hissed and burned and he charged forward, screwdriver still lifted because he'd already detected that the woman before him was a cyborg.
The woman before him could be tortured just as she'd tortured Clara.
And he'd aimed his Sonic as Clara had shouted, "No!" but she knew he couldn't hear her over his wrath. The Doctor couldn't hear her over the sight of her face, lying motionless in front of him, just at the edge of his line of sight. The buzz of the Sonic had never sounded as menacing to her as it growled for him, fought for him, and sent the woman into a panic, hands reaching for her head and varying spots over her body – spots now on fire with electrical currents that sent a stream of smoke billowing from her left ear and nostril.
Clara rushed forward then, hearing alarms blaring behind her and she took hold of his arm, bringing it down roughly and calling to him, crying out to him and then shifting between his body and her echo's. She'd gripped his waistcoat and she'd cried as she murmured, "Doctor, please, stop this!"
She could still see the way he stumbled back away from her, head giving a small shake of confusion, as if he'd just snapped out of a trance – one of blind rage – and stared down at her, hand fumbling with the Sonic, turning it over within his grip. In the silence surrounding them, despite the red flickering lights and the high pitched beeping, the clicks of the metals tapping against each other were deafening and she passed a look back at her body, closing her eyes because there was some flash of memory then.
Some faded recollection of having her skin scalded, of having her teeth pulled. The feel of her fingers being smashed, her right thumb removed, her ankles twisted until they snapped. Clara felt, in that instance, the adrenaline that had rushed through her each time they entered the room; adrenaline that numbed her just enough, but not enough, and she remembered the last fleeting thought in her mind just before she'd exhaled that last time. I have to protect the Doctor.
And he knew.
He knew because she'd told him. Every single echo didn't consciously think about it, but the thought was wandering about in the back of their minds, like a subconscious order – you have to help the Doctor; you have to protect the Doctor; you have to save the Doctor. He knew that the woman who was lying on that table had died because of him; died because he hadn't arrived in time and he understood that somewhere in her memories, Clara should have a vague recollection of the events that had transpired.
She rushed into him as he turned from the console to meet her wary gaze with his, so filled with remorse… the way she'd wanted to when they'd stood in that room – when they'd had to run, leaving her body behind. Clara clutched at him, arms wrapping so quickly and so tightly around him she heard him exhale painfully before she heard him choke on a sob of guilt. He drops back against the edge of the machine as his cheek comes down atop her head and his arms surround her, pulling her desperately to him.
"No," she lies, "I don't."