He carried her out of his time stream and back into the tomb with a small grunt of effort to a chorus of gasps before Vastra was on her with the scanner, giving the Doctor a curious look. "Doctor…" she started, staring down at the readings and shaking her head.
"She'll live," the Doctor assured firmly, walking past the trio watching him and back out through the maze of graves towards the Tardis, all the while passing glances at Clara as she dreamt uncomfortably in his arms, leaf still held tightly atop her stomach. "Clara," he whispered down at her as he laid her gently in his bed, "Just hold on; I'll make this right."
Vastra was the one to stop him from closing the doors when they landed in her foyer in Victorian London, a scowl of concern etched into every scale of her face as she hissed, "She's not well, Doctor – no one's ever survived being ripped apart by the time winds. You don't know…"
He smiled, stopping her words with a fierce stare before nodding, "She's Clara."
"And I know you think that makes her invincible – she's your companion, aren't they all…"
"It's not that she's my companion," he interrupted lowly, "She's Clara."
They stared at one another a moment, neither willing to back down from their stance, until finally Vastra jerked with a small bit of understanding – the woman she knew was lying in a room seldom seen was more than just a companion and because of that he refused to acknowledge the truth: Clara had been unwound, pieces scattered to time and then pulled back together and it wouldn't be without consequences.
"I understand matters like this are never simple, but you know better than most – what happens when you meddle with time." Removing her foot from the threshold of the Tardis, Vastra warned, "You should prepare yourself for the worst, Doctor."
Jaw clenching, he offered her nothing more than a small flaring of his nose before he was back inside, door firmly shut behind him, hands at the controls to take them into the Vortex where he closed his eyes and took a long breath. He understood what Vastra saw, the tears in the fabric of her reality; the fissures in her genetic code, patched with unknown variables, and he made his way back into the room where she was curled on her side, leaf crushed into her chin as she whimpered through a nightmare.
He plucked her shoes off, setting them down gently at the foot of the bed before kneeling next to her to stroke her cheek, pushing her hair behind her ear. Leaning forward, he watched her eyes shift under their lids before pressing a kiss to her forehead and whispering, "Clara, I know you're in there and I know you can hear me."
But Clara was drifting.
That's what it felt like. Drifting on clouds with her feet firmly on the ground. And in a flash of melting landscapes the vacant city street lined with old carts and vegetable stands, the cobbled stones underneath her were gone. Replaced with another new place. Another in the ever changing canvas around her. Within a moment the steel walls and the grates underneath flickered and then dripped away, giving way to shifting long grass that swam around her.
Some parts of her recognized where she was standing, hills like sunsets and a sky like fire, but most didn't. It'd been happening that way for a while – for an eternity in bits and pieces lasting only minutes since she'd gone unconscious in the Doctor's arms. Clara looked to the leaf in her hand and though her heart was pounding in her chest, she found the will to smile because she knew it meant she was holding on.
He wasn't in this place, except, Clara knew he was. Just beyond the surface, cutting through in a delicate breeze on her cheek; a shift of her hair; a warmth above her right eyebrow. And a song in her heart. She didn't know when he'd put it there, but somehow she felt she'd always had it, she just hadn't had a name for it before that moment. The quick quadruple-parted thud, as if too much blood had rushed through all at once, as if her one heart had striven to match his two.
"Bit of a nasty place right now, your head," he told her from just beside her and she smiled up at him as his fingers wove their way around hers, gripping on tightly, "Right now you're sorting yourself out. A million versions of you bouncing around – a million pieces – all trying to figure out where they belong, all carrying back with them billions of new memories and wounds and loves and favorites and friends. It's quite a jaunting task, even for you."
"I feel like I've gotten lost again," Clara admitted as he turned to face her. "As if I don't know where I am and yet, I know exactly where I am."
He glanced around and rocked his head slightly as the red winds against the snow capped mountains in the distance shifted; bright green grass bloomed around them and the skies went blue, dotted with puffy white clouds, a countryside village springing up on either side of them. "Memories are sort of tricky," he held up one hand as though he were grasping for a thought and Clara giggled as he continued, "They're stored away, sometimes forgotten, sometimes jumbled up a bit with others, sometimes created altogether from moments that never even happened. Both a display of the powers, and faults, of the mind."
"How do I sort them out?" Clara asked as he reached for her other hand, taking hold of it in his, not allowing the leaf to flutter away, and smiling down at them before raising his chin to her.
"You have to decide which are yours and which aren't and unfortunately this means losing your knowledge of me, at least your full knowledge – you'll still have everything we've done together now, and you'll always have glimpses, tastes and sounds, and sometimes random facts that'll pop out when you least expect them about the past," he chuckled as he brought her hands up in front of him, "But you'll have yourself and that's what's important. A whole and vibrant Clara Oswald who can go back into the universe she's saved."
"But I won't lose all of you," she stated as her heart beat quickened.
The Doctor kissed the knuckles of each hand and he whispered, "Come home, Clara."
Her lips trembled as the world dissolved around her, everything except him floating away, and replaced by her bedroom at the Maitland's. The Doctor sighed as she prompted again, "But I won't lose all of you, will I Doctor."
"When you wake, I'll be right here," he told her softly as he smiled and released her.
But Clara reached for him, grabbing his hand tightly as she shook her head, "No, I don't lose you, Doctor, please tell me I don't lose you."
"I see you there, Clara," he sighed on a laugh as everything around her went black and he nodded. "Come back to me. Wake up, Clara, it's alright – I'm right here…"
Nodding slowly, Clara lunged forward, closing her eyes, and when she opened them, she did so with a soft whine and she found herself staring into his smiling face as he stroked her hair. Clara managed a weak smile and she told him quietly, "How do you manage to make everything better?"
Nudging her chin with his knuckle, he replied, "You make everything better."
"My head hurts," she told him honestly, looking down to see her hands clasped within one of his, her leaf crumpled between their fingers as his other hand spread over the side of her head – as though he might be able to ease her pain with a caress – and she asked nervously, "Am I going to be alright?"
He shrugged, then grinned, "I suppose that depends on you."
"I don't want to let go of all of those memories, Doctor – they're you, they're parts of you," she paused, taking a small breath to finish, "They're me, parts of me – people I loved. Children," she smiled and looked away, flashes of small faces giggling up at her sending a pang of pain through her mind.
The Doctor's hand continued to move soothingly over her hair as he told her, "You're never truly letting them go, Clara – they, we… everything you experienced will always be a part of you in one way or another. But if you don't let the dust settle, it'll eat at your mind." He took a breath and finished quietly, "It will kill you, Clara."
She nodded, taking small breaths and bringing her eyes back up to meet his, watching them search her face for signs that she truly understood. Clara smiled, gripping his hand in hers tightly before bringing it slowly up to her mouth to kiss, before asking soundlessly, "How?"
"Let me help you," he pleaded.
With a little shift of her head to tell him she was willing, he stood and sat on the bed, urging her to lie on her back and he reached to touch his fingers to her temples and over her ears, his thumbs dropping just beneath her eyes and he leaned forward, meeting her forehead with his own and in a flash Clara gasped at, her mind was alive. She could see her mother and father watching her on the playground and chasing her in the yard and telling her to clean her room and rocking her to sleep. She saw shopping trips and places they'd traveled and school friends and boyfriends and the familiar streets. Inhaling deeply, she relived her mother's funeral, the day she'd had to hold Artie crying until he fell asleep, Angie's shouting, the knotted muscles of George's shoulders as she gave him a reassuring rub at the end of a long day.
Clara laughed lightly, seeing the Doctor's monk getup and then his face smiling up at her from the pavement below. She saw their adventures and his Tardis and heard his voice, his spectacle of words, and then there was darkness as she felt something wet drop onto her eyelids. Blinking, she felt their tears mingle and roll over her temples and onto his fingers and she waited as he breathed slowly against her lips until they dipped slightly.
Eyes closing again, Clara opened herself to him as he delicately kissed her and she moaned into him as she saw another flash, a warped image of a familiar place and a group of youngsters laughing as they ran through tall blades of grass that seemed tainted a blood orange. She could see ahead the flowing brown locks of a young girl as she deviated from the group and he moved after her, rounding a tree with silver leaves and Clara could hear her giggles as the Doctor brushed his tongue over hers before tilting his head and diving into her with enough force to make her whimper.
"Stop running," she heard a boy panting, "I'm not quite as fast as you!"
"Oh, you're a clever boy, I bet you'll fly one day," a girl responded.
And as soon as she'd realized it was her and the Doctor, children on the fields of Gallifrey almost two thousand years ago, the memory locked itself away safely in her mind and she was left with only the Doctor's lips, dropping light kisses to hers. He lifted away and his fingers slipped off, one hand landing on the bed beside her waist, the other rising up to rub his knuckles at her cheek before it fell into his lap as she opened her eyes to look up at him.
"Any better?" He asked shyly, face pink as she touched her lips, feeling them buzzing.
Clara smiled and then shrugged, brow dropping as she questioned, "Was the kissing necessary, Doctor?"
He turned away with a frown before she pushed herself to sit up, his hand instantly at her side, his other hovering at her left elbow and she could see the concern in his eyes as he watched her. Knew he wanted her to lay back down and rest, but Clara reached for him, palm caressing his cheek, and she inched forward, pecking his lips lightly with her own and then smiling when he drew back and smirked up at her.
"It wasn't necessary," he supplied, "But it generally makes the experience of mind transference or manipulation more pleasurable."
Nudging his nose and hearing him sigh, Clara agreed in a whisper, "It was."
"Necessary?" He questioned.
She laughed, "Pleasurable."
His thumb stroked at her hip as he asked painfully, "How is your head – memories still bleeding through?"
"No," she told him plainly, "Everything seems normal now." Then she frowned, "Except I really really want a banana daiquiri and I don't know why."
He laughed and pulled her against his chest, kissing her temple and bowing momentarily into her shoulder, grateful for her presence and for her mended mind. The Doctor sighed with Clara knowing she'd fall asleep soon, every bit of her yearning for rest and in a day's time they'd fall back into the stars together, the same race they'd started so long ago, continuing on. Just the way it should.