Hello dear readers, it is I, the I come bearing the penultimate chapter to Closed Doors and Open Curtains. On the menu? Feels, feels, tiny bit of smut, and a reunion ( or two ;))
The truth is that it takes time. Nothing is ever natural about change. It takes time to acknowledge the fact that neither of them is going to run out on the other, or abandon them. So they take it one day at a time, slowly, carefully, as if to make sure that they aren't going to scare the other into leaving, or worse, scare themselves into running. Clara isn't sure who makes the most efforts. She is unexperienced when it comes to love and John has had his heart broken in the most terrible manner. The only thing she's sure about is that they're both going to need time. However, something else starts to torment her.
River is on her mind. She didn't know her and yet, she can't shake the idea that maybe she's taking someone else's place. She tries not to compare herself too much to her when he talks about their time together. It doesn't happen a lot, at least not at first, but after a month of 'officially' being together, he opens about her with less difficulty. And when he does, Clara's heart clenches and she doesn't know whether it is because his voice is tainted with a sadness she's afraid will never leave him, or if it's because there is a voice in her head telling her she'll never measure up to a woman like River.
She calls Amy several times to tell her about the recent developments in her love life. At first, Amy is thrilled for her:
"Finally, lassie, you've found someone stranger than you to make you seem normal. He must be quite the catch!" Clara laughs and the conversation digresses to other topics.
But Amy isn't deaf, and before long, she hears that something's off in Clara's voice: "Clara, what's the problem? Is everything fine with John?"
She denies it at first, she doesn't want to seem paranoid or clingy. After all, she's lived all her life being an independent woman. There's nothing she can't handle.
"Sweetie, you have to make the difference between being independent and hiding away from the world. You've been holding yourself back from most relationships since your mum died."
Tears are welling up in Clara's eyes. "I'm not- I don't –"
Amy sighs. "I know it's difficult for you. I still remember how long it took you to open up to me, and to Rory, when you first got to school with us. Sometimes, I think if I hadn't been so obstinate in trying to make you talk, you'd still be at the back of the classroom, trying to ignore everyone. And I'm so sorry Rory and I went away. But you have to fight for what you want and stop being afraid of getting hurt by other people. Those you love don't always leave, Clara. Unless you let them."
Clara hangs up the phone after that, unable to say goodbye, or anything else for that matter, as tears are now flowing freely down her face. She's terrified. It's taking her everything she has not to end things with John. She is so afraid to wake up one day and find him gone. She hates herself for becoming so dependent on another human being and yet… And yet she knows that there is no coming back from loving him. And she does. And she's petrified by the idea of telling him how she feels and him telling her that he doesn't feel the same way, or worse, that she's not River.
John isn't blind. He notices quickly that Clara is holding out on him. At first, he doesn't press the issue, asking her if she's alright and when she says she is, he doesn't believe her but still gives her some space and the chance to come to him in her own time. Meanwhile, he tries not to worry too much, but fails spectacularly.
A week, then two go on. Clara smiles but doesn't quite look him in the eyes anymore. John then decides he let her ample time to tell him the truth when the third week rolls around and Clara still won't look at him like she used to. So he cooks dinner and invites her to his place, telling her he's got a surprise for her. She arrives, smile in place, and he sits her at the kitchen table before pouring them two glasses of Pinot Noir. He doesn't know if it's more for her or for him. It doesn't matter. They both need it. He cuts right through the chase:
"Clara, please, tell me what's wrong."
She raises an eyebrow. "What do you mean? There's nothing wrong-"
"Clara, it's been several weeks since the last time you've let me do anything more than kiss you or hug you. And I'm not complaining. Kissing and hugging are great. I love it, we should totally have kissing days and hugging days. The world would be a better place with more kissing and hugging and-"
"Yes, sorry. I got carried away. What I mean is, I'm not trying to make you do anything you don't want to do. But, Clara, I can see something's off and I can't help but think I've done something to upset you and-"
Clara interrupts him before he can finish his sentence and almost shouts: "Are you ever going to fall in love with me? Or is it too late?" John is taken aback, as if he's just been slapped. Clara's face betrays the same emotions. She gets up from her chair, afraid to look at him and see rejection. She tries to explain, her voice far less assured:
"I mean, River. Was she 'it' for you?"
John, a little less confused, although not by much, manages to ask:
"Clara, where is this coming from?"
She takes a deep breath or three, pacing for a few moments around the kitchen before facing him once again. "I don't know how to say that. I only said it a handful of times and it was always to my mother. I don't know why I never managed to say it to my father but that's not the point. The point is, I could only say it to my mother and now, I think that I've met another person to whom I could finally say it to – I need to know. I need to know if you think that one day you'll ever be able to tell me… to tell me… Oh shit! Why can't I say it out loud?!"
Her hands and arms are wound up around her and she's shaking. John gets off his chair and takes her in his arms. She is crying, her face hidden in his neck, and John finally understands what has been eating her away for all those weeks. He closes his eyes, rocking her slowly against his chest. He never wanted to put her through that. He loved River and yes, he still does to this day. But he's changed so much since she died and Clara, wonderful, beautiful Clara, who's as afraid as he is, found a way to open her heart to him and since that day, he's thanked the universe for giving him yet a second chance at life, and at love.
He decides to forego dinner and leads Clara to his workshop. Words are not enough, he needs to show her. The room in question is just below the roofs and the stairs are a bit steep, so he doesn't let go of her hand until they are in the workshop.
"It's not finished yet, so don't judge it too harshly." He then uncovers a large block of stone hidden beneath a white sheet, which appears to have been sculpted in. It takes a few seconds for Clara to realise what she's looking at. It's a sculpture of her, asleep and lying down in a tangle of sheets. She seems to be naked but her modesty is artfully concealed although she can easily discern the curves of her body. A part of her legs and feet are not yet done but the rest of her is… breathtaking.
"How did you-"
"I drew you. Several times. At first it was just to pass the time because I didn't want to wake you up and you were so beautiful, I just couldn't help myself. And then at some point, I knew I had to sculpt you. Just so at least I had a memory of you that would never fade away, even after I've gone completely senile with old age. I took a few pictures of you too, for the face, but the rest, I relied on drawings and um, personal experience." He is blushing by then but she doesn't notice.
Clara is stunned and all at once, she feels very stupid indeed. Here she was, doubting the man who had never been anything less than honest and caring towards her, and she just... She let him down with her doubts and lack of faith in him.
"I'm so sorry. I should have told you sooner. I should have-"
He interrupts her by putting a finger on her lips "Let me stop you there. You didn't do anything wrong, Clara. If anything, I'm the one who's sorry. I didn't realize that I was putting you in a difficult position. I never wanted you to feel like you had to compete with River. Because you don't. You're both different and I wouldn't change that for anything in the world. And I do love you, Clara Oswald. Nothing's ever going to change that. I don't expect you to say it back. At least not right now. But I do want you to know that I'll wait as long as it takes for you to say it back. Or to tell me that it's not going to happen. There's absolutely no obligation for you to ever say it back. But I will say it to you. Everyday, if you'll let me. Are you okay with that?"
Clara's in tears so she just nods. He smiles and bends towards her, kissing her chastely on the lips.
"Now, I don't want to sound insensitive, but I'm starving."
She laughs, and everything is right in the world.
He tells her later that the sculpture was not, in fact, the gift he had intended to give her – "but it's so beautiful, surely you can't have something else to give me, nothing can beat having your own sculpture, you know".
However, he does manage to come very close to beating it. He hands her an envelope, which she opens to find inside a pair of return tickets to New-York.
"There are no dates on them, so you can use them whenever you want. I know you've been meaning to see your friend Amy and her new baby for a while now. And I think you need it."
Clara is thankful they've eaten dessert already because she doesn't want either of them to be interrupted by growling stomachs. So she reaches for him and kisses him with as much feelings as she can pour into it. After that, it's a blur of clothes being shed (or torn) away on the way to his bedroom. They don't quite make it to the bed but they couldn't care less anyway. Clara rides him on the wooden floor, screaming his name as his buries himself as deep as he can into her. Her climax shatters her as she loses her balance and fall on him. He catches her in time, still hard inside her, leaving her the time to ride the waves of her orgasm. He then carries her to the bed, spoons her from behind, and thrusts into her as carefully as he can until he feels her coming a second time and lets himself go with her. They both fall asleep like that, her back against his chest, sticky and sweaty, but happy nonetheless.
She calls Amy back a few days later and apologises for their last conversation and hanging up on her. Amy too feels sorry for the way she handled things, she truly didn't want to upset her and should have been more tactful in her approach of the problem. Clara then tells her that John purchased plane tickets for her, and potentially him, although he told her she could use the tickets however she wanted, his coming with her being one of her options.
Amy almost renders Clara deaf as she screams into the telephone. Clara hears Rory in the distance "Everything alright, love?", but Amy is too excited to reply and starts planning Clara and her new boyfriend's arrival.
In the end, John encourages Clara to go first before joining her a few days later. Clara is a bit reluctant but finally agrees that she'll need a few days to be alone with Amy, Rory and Melody.
"Then you can come fetch me at the airport and we can have one of those reunions like in those idiotic American movies."
Clara laughs and shuts him up by kissing him. Two weeks later, she's on the plane to New-York, her lips still swollen by the goodbye kisses she shared with John.
Amy is waiting for her at JFK airport and Clara runs for her as soon as she sees the redhead. They both cry, so absurdly happy to be in each other's arms again that they don't fight their tears of joy.
"Rory would have come with me but he just got back from a night shift and had to recuperate. Melody's with him, I can't wait for you to meet her."
Clara smiles through her tears. "I can't wait either! And I'm finally going to see where you live! I'm so jealous you're living in Brooklyn."
Their conversation soon digress to what Clara has planned to do while she's in New-York and how they'll have to plan ahead so that everything is ready for when John arrives. Amy doesn't say it, but she's quite curious to meet her friend's boyfriend in the flesh. Clara sent her a few pictures a while back but Amelia needs to know more about the man before she can form a definitive opinion about him. She hopes to do just that during the few days he'll be there. She's also really thankful that he finally got Clara to cross the Atlantic Ocean. She missed her friend terribly.
Amy, who doesn't have her driver's licence yet – "I'm working on it!" – hails for a cab. The drive home takes an hour because of the insane traffic but neither of them is complaining, as they are far too excited to be reunited with each other. When they get to her place, Amy asks Clara not to make too much noise, as both Melody and Rory might still be asleep. The door opens and Clara can't help but smile. Although she's never been in the Williams' flat before, there's no mistaking it for any other place. The flat is a vibrant and happy mess of colourful furniture, with travel and medical books stacked all over the place, baby stuff and smiling pictures of the family. And of course, the walls are painted with Amy's favourite shade of blue. Clara instantly feels right at home.
The young mother leads her directly to the guest bedroom where Clara immediately starts unpacking. Meanwhile, Amy fetches Melody who just started fussing in her crib and brings her to Clara. She falls in love with her goddaughter as soon as she lays eyes on her and directly asks to hold her, a demand to which Amy complies happily. The rest of the morning goes by with Clara cooing at Melody and feeding her while Amy watches the brunette get acquainted with the new most important person in her life. And as she observes them, she can't help but feel guilty that her job took her and Rory far from London and from Clara when they always have been such a close family. But she knows it won't be forever and when Rory finishes his residency, they'll probably go back to England. And who knows, maybe they'll have a fourth passenger with them on the return flight.
Rory emerges from the bedroom a little after noon and hugs Clara immediately.
"Finally, a reasonable woman in this house."
Clara laughs at Amy's offended "Oi!" as Rory takes his seat next to their new guest.
"Welcome to New-York, Clara. Sorry I couldn't be at the airport to greet you, but I'm sure you girls had a lot to say to each other. When's your friend coming?"
"In three days, he's got a few things to take care of in London before he can leave. And he also thought I might need some time alone with you guys."
Rory smiles into his toast. "Sensible man, I like him already."
They wait for Rory to eat and take a shower before taking the baby for a walk in a park nearby. They all spend a couple of hours there before Melody makes them known in no uncertain terms that she's hungry and also needs a change of nappies.
At the end of the day, they are all too tired to make dinner, so they order take away after Melody is finally asleep. As they eat their Cantonese rice and spring rolls, they talk while watching a terrible B-movie that none of them really pay attention to. An hour or so later, as they are all full from the Chinese food and slowly drifting away on the Willams' enormous couch, Clara thinks sleepily that only John is missing to make this moment absolutely perfect.
A few days later, Clara waits for him at the airport's arrival lounge. He lets go of his bag as Clara jumps immediately into his arms. He spins her around, not in the least preoccupied by the annoyed looks of the passing tourists.
He asks: "Miss me?"
She smiles, unable to stop herself: "Always."
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