Author's Note: Firstly, the response to this story is still a little 'omg' overwhelming. All the reviews, follows, favourites and lovely messages are so very welcome. Thank you. Secondly, that was a frankly fail filled amount of time between up dates so many apologies for that. Not only did this chapter kicked my arse, RL was a bitch and I was sick. Not the most productive combo. On the positive, the fourth (and finale part) is on its way FAR sooner than this one, I promise! Enjoy!
On the bright side, it seemed that a really good kiss was just the ticket to stop the Doctor being so grouchy with everyone. According to the sailors that Clara overheard talking at dinner he'd been miraculously quiet all afternoon and not in the slightest bit annoying. It was declared a very pleasant change.
Unfortunately she didn't get to see any of this for herself because the Doctor was blatantly avoiding her.
In light of what'd happened, she hadn't exactly expected him to make one of usual afternoon visits - to check on her and complain bitterly about how bored he was as though she might have the solution - but she had hoped that he'd eventually come shuffling in and nervously ask to speak to her. But no, nothing. He hadn't even, as she considered far more likely, bounded in to chat to her about unrelated nonsense, pretending nothing had happened and hoping she'd do the same. Which she wouldn't have.
His absence was annoying - Clara hated leaving things hanging - but she refused to make the first move right up until he didn't show for dinner. Then she'd gone look for him, not as thoroughly as she might considering she was now quite nervous of wandering around the sub alone, but she checked all the places she knew of and he was no where to be found. There weren't exactly that many spots to hide in a submarine but he'd clearly vacated all his usual haunts and managed to find one.
She spent much of the early evening half expecting one of the crew to come in and say they'd discovered him curled up and rocking in a torpedo tube.
Okay, she decided when she heard the siren that denoted both change of shift and the official start of night on board - goodness was she beginning to hate the lack of daylight here - he was a big boy and was entitled to sulk or fret or whatever he was off doing right now, even if it was stupid. She wasn't angry at him - well, yes, she was cross that he was hiding from her but that was a different matter - and when he did finally show up she'd make sure that he knew that. Then they would talk properly, whether he liked it or not, which she had to admit was a bit of a scary prospect even for her. It was the worst part about waiting in fact; the anticipation of what she would say and how to get it just right. They needed to talk calmly this time - without the shouting or the kissing - and she needed to find out what was going through that ridiculous head of his. She understood that he was frustrated by being stuck down here but there was something else going on too and there had been for a few days even before they'd arrived. Everything about him seemed increasingly off balance of late but she'd been afraid to ask until now. Kissing might have made him scared but apparently it'd made her brave and she was determined to make that last until he showed up. Searching for him would be an exercise in futility if he really didn't want to be found but even he couldn't hide forever.
To take her mind off things, Clara decided to indulge herself with a long shower, wash away some of that uncomfortable in her own skin feeling that still lingered from her encounter earlier. Not the kiss which was more a 'cold shower please' kind of feeling - were her lips really supposed to still be tingling after this long? - no, her run in with the sailor. Even thinking about it made her feel like every inch of her needed a good scrub. Fortunately he hadn't showed his face since lunchtime either. She sincerely hoped it stayed that way for the rest of the trip.
The water in the sub never got hot, she supposed that would require too much energy, but a lukewarm shower wasn't so bad. She scrubbed her hair clean with rather blokey smelling shampoo - although she hadn't complained about that too much since they'd managed to find her some conditioner to go with it - and rubbed soap into what felt like her entire skin. Twice. It made her feel a lot better and she was almost relaxed for the first time in hours when the sound of movement caught her attention from the other side of the curtain.
The subtle, quiet movements of someone creeping around like they knew they weren't meant to be there.
Clara instantly stilled, her heart giving a little jolt as her treacherous mind went immediately to a bad place; was it the sailor? Is that why he hadn't shown up for dinner? Had he been waiting to follow her back here to finish what he'd started? There was no lock on the door, anyone could just walk in.
She should have told someone what happened, she immediately scolded herself; the professor or the captain. They might have had the man locked up. But no, she'd talked herself out of it, arguing that it was the 80s and no one here would take her seriously. A bit of sexual harassment? She'd probably be told it was her own fault for being a woman and that she should take it as a compliment.
She heard more noise, more badly concealed footsteps, and a cold rush of fear again attempted to freeze her but she battled it as she reached out slowly to turn off the shower. She tried very hard not to think about the fact that she was both naked and trapped in here.
Was there anything she could use as a weapon nearby?
Able to hear better without the running water, she cautiously peered around the curtain.
She was so relieved to see that it was only the Doctor - why hadn't that been her first thought? - that she forgot to be cross with him. Even if it did look like he'd been trying to sneak in and out without her noticing; she seemed to have caught him tip toeing for the door when he'd heard the shower stop.
"Only me," he assured sheepishly, turning in her direction, gaze fixing on the wall next to her. For a moment Clara frowned - not even looking at her was just rude - but then she caught the flush on his cheeks in the ship's dim lighting and realised what he had; the last time she'd seen him they'd been kissing in a way that could easily be described as 'wanting' and now she was naked with only a thin strip of plastic curtain separating them. It even made her blush slightly although she wasn't entirely displeased that the idea of her being naked flustered him.
"Sorry," he continued, scratching the back of his head awkwardly. "I can…" He gestured towards the door.
"It's all right, I trust you. Won't be a minute."
"No, really, Clara, I should…"
She gave him one of her no nonsense looks that she usually saved for when the children were being particularly trying.
"Don't even think about walking out that door. If you do, I'm coming after you and I have nothing but a bath towel to wear right now. Do you want me wandering around this submarine in a bath towel?"
He mumbled something unintelligible but since he walked over to the bed and plonked himself down she presumed he meant 'no'.
Disappearing back behind the curtain, she reached for her towel and dried quickly before wrapping herself in it. The towels were enormous on her, probably covering more than her dress did, but she was still careful to make sure that she tucked it very securely around her body before stepping out. She didn't want to risk an accident and give him an attack in one or both of his hearts.
The Doctor was still sitting perched on the edge of the bed when she emerged, looking like a man about to face an inquisition that he was reluctantly steeling himself for. Clara on the other hand kept her demeanour perfectly calm, walking over and sitting down next to him, the dipping of the thin mattress pushing them slightly closer together than she'd intended. Her wet hair lay over her shoulders, droplets of water occasionally skimming down her skin. She saw the Doctor glance across at her, silent, thinking. His eyes inadvertently fixed upon the path a drop took down her collarbone, trickling to the center of her chest before it disappeared beneath her towel. He swiftly looked away, back to his hands that he had clasped between his knees.
Clara said nothing. After what'd happened, he was the one who should be making the first move. He'd been quite good at 'first moves' before she thought dryly.
He remained silent for what seemed like an age but she waited him out, looking at him with expectant patience until finally he glanced up at her again.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly and she was pleased to see the gentle, kind man there where she'd seen an angry one earlier. "What happened this afternoon…did he hurt you?"
It wasn't what she'd hoped they'd be talking about but it was a start.
"No," she assured. "A bit shook up maybe but…" She smiled at him. "Thanks, by the way. For helping out."
She hadn't had a chance to say that before - they'd gone straight into arguing and then kissing. Whatever his mistakes, the Doctor had only been trying to keep her safe and she couldn't be too cross at him for that.
He nodded in acceptance but didn't really smile back, still looking troubled. "I shouldn't have shouted at you."
"No," she agreed, "you shouldn't."
"I was just…"
"A grumpy sod taking it out on me?" Her suggestion held a ring of truth but was said in a way that was light, almost playful. She didn't want him feeling that bad after all.
He faintly smiled although the expression didn't light his face as it normally did. "Something like that."
There was further silence but it felt more comfortable this time.
"I don't really blame you, you know?" Clara said, content to be the one to break it. "For what happened. I did freak myself out a bit and no you didn't help with that, but it was entirely that sailor's fault. He was the one acting like a complete creep."
The Doctor nodded, seeming grateful to hear that. "Did you tell anyone? Did you talk to the captain?"
"What are they going to do about it? It's my word against his anyway and nothing really happened. He was just being an arse. Besides, I think he's far too frightened of you now to try something like that ever again."
She saw the Doctor flinch at that, as though the idea that he was feared was uncomfortable to him. "People have done worse things in fear of me."
"I can imagine."
Those words slid out unbidden and they clearly pained him, causing him to glance up at her in wounded surprise, his expression hurting her right back. No, she didn't want him to feel that at all. Gently, tentatively, she reached out and rested her hand on his arm. When he didn't pull it away, she stroked her thumb across the material of his jacket in comfort.
"I know you don't like being stuck here and it's made you moody," she reasoned, "but…well, that was a bit scary. Especially the bit where you threatened to take me home."
She'd be lying if she said that hadn't been playing on her mind, wondering whether that kiss meant he was more or less likely to follow through with the threat. Her uncertainty showed clear and he immediately jumped to push her doubts away.
"I didn't mean it," he said with a rapid shake of his head, as though the notion that it might be true was genuinely scary to him as well. "Of course you can stay." He stilled a moment, a thought striking him. "If you want to."
She smiled gently, reassuring. "I want to. You've still got a few stars to show me after all, Chin Boy."
That made him grin at last, reaching out to squeeze her hand in something akin to relief.
"There's one or two good ones out there still, yes."
"Don't want to miss the good ones."
He looked so much happier again, his face all the better for it. Which was why it was a pity she had more to say but there was no way she was just letting this drop and be forgotten.
"Don't you think we should talk though?" she continued, prompting gently, toying with the edge of her towel. "About what happened after?"
He seemed confused for a moment and then a realisation dawned on him and he stood up rapidly, all sudden, startling nervous energy.
"Yes," he said, and for a moment she was pleasantly surprised at his compliance before it became clear he was actually completely ignoring her. "You have to stay. Of course you do. I still haven't shown you half the brilliant things I planned to yet. I have a long list."
Oh no wasn't getting away with that. He wasn't just sticking his head in the sand on this one.
"There's the dancing moons of Trillium next I think-"
"Not that they really dance of course. Complex thing to do with the refraction of the light in the atmosphere."
"Then maybe Lay-Sta IV. They do have the best breakfasts in the galaxy."
Clara stood up, hands on hips almost aghast at his ability to blatantly pretend she wasn't talking. "Doctor, I asked-"
"They say they're the best in the universe, but they're over egging themselves really."
"Okay, you need to stop ignor-"
"Ooo! Over egging! Oh that's a pun! I do like a good pun! Remind me to use that when we go there."
"If you don't-"
"So when is all right for you. I mean you'll probably want to-"
"Doctor!" Clara snapped, reaching the limits of her exasperation. She stepped into the path of his frantic pacing, laying her hands firmly on his shoulders and looked directly up at him. It turned out to be a very effective way of stopping him rambling. "You're ignoring the question here; why did you kiss me?"
He was silent for a moment, looking cornered, eyes darting as if plotting an escape route. He only answered her when he apparently didn't find one.
"That wasn't the question," he stuttered nervously. "You didn't ask it. It's not a question if you don't ask it."
She remained calm. One of them had to be. "Well I'm asking you now."
He positively squirmed in front of her. "It's not that important really is it?"
Her mouth twitched into a smile. "Actually it is a bit, yeah."
"No it's not," he insisted, emotions flicking to irritated, as though this was all her fault. "That's just you humans. You're a bit too obsessed with what you get up to with your mouths."
Clara arched an eyebrow at him. "Actually it's what your mouth was up to that I'm more interested in."
"Clara!" he scolded before realising that false outrage wasn't going to get him anywhere and he was running out of 'tricks'. "Why does it matter anyway?" he asked in exasperation, positively trapped between her and the lockers behind him. Well this was a nice reversal of roles.
"It matters, because that was an amazing kiss. And, yeah, I'm a little bit of pissed off at you about it but I still want to know. Why did you kiss me?"
He was doing a very good job at looking anywhere but at her.
"Well, you know, stuff…happens and then there's things…and stuff…"
Infuriating man. Clara grabbed his chin, making him look at her.
"Doctor, why did you kiss me?"
It was a question that brooked no argument; he would answer whether he liked it or not.
He took one last wild look round. Still no magic escape route had appeared.
"I don't know!" he finally exclaimed in a rush. "It seemed like a good idea at the time!"
That made her pause, confused for a moment before her expression dropped into a frown of annoyance. He what? He'd kissed her because they were arguing and it struck him as a good idea? That was it?
In truth she wasn't really insulted more…hurt. But it was much easier to pretend to be insulted.
"Excuse me?" she demanded.
If he had any sense, he would've said something else very quickly.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," he repeated in an awkward mumble, apparently getting the sense she didn't like that answer but not attempting to change it.
"Oh yeah?" she said crossly, arms falling from his shoulders. "Well it wasn't, so don't do it again, okay?"
She turned huffing back towards the bed, her heart pounding in the most uncomfortable manner. Wounded but hiding it in anger.
By the time she'd sat heavily down and faced the room again he'd already fled.
He crept in like a teenager who'd missed their curfew. Clara had some experience of those - Angie was hitting that difficult age - and she'd perfected both the timing of her flicking on the light and the wilting look she now shot him from her seat on the bed.
"What time do you call this?" she asked brusquely, eyebrow raising.
The Doctor checked his watch, clearly not getting the notion of 'rhetorical question'. "Two twenty seven am," he confirmed. Then he frowned before looking somewhat hopeful. "Why what time do you think it is? Was there some kind of temporal anomaly?"
Oh he'd like that, wouldn't he? Some weird timey mystery to solve. Well tough Chin Boy, there was no squirming out of this one; they were going to talk. Again. Hopefully a with a bit more success this time. That seemed quite unlikely though considering that she was far more cross than she had been before.
"Would a temporal anomaly explain where you've been for the last four hours?"
He had the good grace to look sheepish.
"You were supposed to be asleep," he mumbled.
She huffed in disbelief. Like that made it better.
"Yeah, well I'm not." She stood - making him look rather nervous - and walked around him. He took a step away from her and she instantly took advantage of that reaction, all but rounding him up, making him back away in just the direction she wanted until his legs hit the edge of the bed and he sat back on it with a thud. "So you and me, we're going to talk."
She towered above him for once, arms folded, cross expression brooking no argument. Didn't mean he wasn't going to try though. He had a fondness for fighting impossible odds.
"I don't like talking. I'm no good with talking. Rubbish at it in fact."
She arched an eyebrow.
"Okay," he conceded, "I'm excellent at talking. Just not about…stuff." That last word was punctuated with a grimace.
His continuing grimace made him look like he was chewing a wasp. "Feely, humany stuff."
"What like the stuff you were feeling when you snogged me?"
"Yes, that stuff!" he agreed, pleased that she got it before he realised what she'd said and became more grumbly. "And don't use the 's' word. I hate that word. It's all…clumsy."
Her instinct was to retort that so was his kiss but she bit her tongue because it wouldn't have been true. It'd been anything but clumsy. It was the kiss of a man who, contrary to all previous evidence, very much knew what he was doing and it completely belied the fact that he could barely even talk about kissing without blushing. It was just another thing to confuse her about him. Okay so he was an alien and a time travel and a thousand years old, she understood that he'd be complicated. But even for the Doctor he seemed all over the place at the moment and she couldn't even tell which man was the real him.
She looked at him carefully, thoughtful, as if contemplating a route of attack.
"So," she began, expression giving nothing away, arms folded still, "what you're saying is that Time Lords are above all that 'feelings' nonsense? Is that it?"
"No!" he instantly defended. Rather quickly too. "We can feel as much, if not more, as any other species."
Well that was good. She'd be lying if she said she hadn't wondered.
"Do you like me then? "
"Of course I like you."
She rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean."
He hesitated and Clara was beginning to think that was a bad sign - that he was considering how to let her down gently - before he looked up at her again with a more open if more pained expression on his face. She didn't know what prompted such honesty, maybe her prodding really had just worn him down, but she was glad to be getting somewhere.
"It's complicated," he reasoned.
"That's a cliche."
"Because you're an alien and I'm human?"
He shook his head and looked at her carefully, his words slower and more considered now. "Because I'm a Time Lord and humans are brilliant and beautiful and live so brightly but far too brief."
Clara frowned at him, a bit taken aback by such a confession after all his avoidance.
"That's a lot of b-words for one sentence," she said, joking without a trace of humour. She got what he was saying though and it made a certain amount of sense. Her expression softened and she regarded him with a mixture of sympathy and questioning. "So you…don't want to feel those things?"
She was trying to tread a fine line between getting him to open up to her and not being too blunt. She seemed to be doing well so far.
"I'm not supposed to feel them."
"I don't think there's any 'supposed' about it," she replied with a shrug before quirking a smile. "Unless there's some ancient Time Lord 'eww, nasty humans' clause I should know about."
His returning smile was half hearted. "You'd be surprised." She was about to ask if that was meant to be a joke when he reached out for her hand, long fingers stroking over hers in a gentle caress. He didn't look up. "It's not a rule, it was a promise I made to myself," he explained. "You are lovely, Clara. And you'll be gone too soon."
He let her hand go.
Clara sat next to him hurriedly, picking his hand back up again, holding it between her own. Impulsively his fingers tried to clutch at hers as though seeking something he was afraid to have. She found encouragement in that and she wasn't going to let this moment go. Not when they were so close to…something.
"But I'm here now," she reasoned, trying not to make it sound like a plea. It wasn't, not really. She just wanted him to see sense.
He did look at her then, such a sadness in those ancient eyes of his that she almost couldn't take it. "And for how long? Do you have any idea how many people I've had to say goodbye to? How many people I've lost that I…"
It was all right. She understood why he couldn't say that word to her.
"Everything that begins has to end somewhere," she countered. "It happens to people every day. But they don't try to stop things from beginning. That would be a really sad way to live."
"I'm not sad." His current mood didn't support that but… "I'm happy as I am. Or…I'm better as I am. I don't like endings. I'd rather avoid them at all costs."
Clara was quiet a moment. She understood what he was saying, truly she did. She just happened to think that he was hurting himself in the name of protection.
"After my mum died," she began carefully, taking her time to word it right, "things were…well they were rough for dad. She was everything to him. She held him together and when she was gone…He tried to be strong, for me, and I thought he was doing okay until I came home one night and found him drinking and crying. I'd never seen him like that before; he just wasn't my dad. I didn't know what people really meant by someone being 'gutted' until then. Anyway, I had to help him to bed and keep an eye on him - got a bit worried in case he was sick and choked or something. He didn't really sleep though, he just kept talking. He was so upset and so angry at the world. He swore that he was never going to go through this again. There were a lot of night's like that and I made him go and see a grief counsellor in the end. I was trying to do exams and I could barely cope as it was. I begged him to go and he only did it for me."
The Doctor wrapped both his hands around one of hers, warm and comforting. "Losing someone you love is hard. Makes you selfish." He understood.
She nodded. "That was the advice he got actually; be selfish. Be angry and devastated. Grieve without apology. And some day, something or someone will change your mind about all those things you promised you'd never do again." She smiled as though she was only just realising it herself. "That's what living is sometimes; giving in."
The Doctor was looking at with an expression that was utterly unreadable.
"Did your dad change his mind?"
Her smile brightened. "He's getting married again next summer. Nice lady. Grows plants for the garden center."
"Must be hard for you."
"Not really. Not at all. She makes him happy."
"But she'll never be your mother."
"No and she doesn't have to be, not for him or me. She's not a replacement and she's not second best. She's just someone else that he loves and it doesn't make me think that he loves my mum any less. Besides, it's what she would've wanted."
The Doctor's head dropped. "For him not to be alone."
And he looked so sad, so lost in that moment, like he understood better than anyone what that felt like that she couldn't help but kiss him even if she wasn't sure it was the best idea. She tilted his chin up gently, her hand coming up to brush his cheek. She only had to glimpse the look in his eyes before her mind was made up and her lips surged to meet his. It was a far gentler affair than their previous kiss, a tenderness there that made her stomach tighten in delight. At first he was utterly unresponsive and she almost pulled back in disappointment before she felt his lips starting to brush hers. They were tentative and uncertain but it was like he couldn't resist. The tiniest brush of her tongue against his lips made him shiver. He tasted like impossible things and it made her pressed closer.
"Clara," he whispered, breath warm against her lips, hands still clutching hers, "I…"
"Shh…" she insisted. It clearly did him no good if he thought too much.
Unfortunately she couldn't trust his brain to remain silent for too long.
The kiss continued slowly for several more moments, long enough for Clara to feel warmth spread through her, quite unlike the heat from last time but equally as welcome. It turned into a chill as he tensed, pulling away from her abruptly.
"I can't," he mumbled, shaking his head in confusion, standing up so quickly that he hit his head on one of the low hanging pipes. He barely seemed to notice, wiping his lips with the back of his hand, not even looking at her. "I…I need to be somewhere else."
He left, stumbling his way out, catching the door frame as he went. Clara made no attempt to follow him, more worried by the expression on his face than that the fact he was feeling from their second kiss in twelve hours. He was afraid, she could see that so clearly in his eyes and it left her with a distinct fear of her own - had she just ruined everything?