Clara tossed and turned in her sleep and he was powerless in her dreams – just another time when he can't save her.
She has been sleeping fitfully since they got back from Trenzalore – her making little squeals, moans of pain, and sometimes tears would fall from her still sleeping eyes. And try as he might, he could not bear to wake her.
Strax had taken care of her – assured him that she was physically fine as he didn't trust himself enough to be a proper doctor right then. Madame Vastra and Jenny left him to his own devices as he flew his TARDIS back to Victorian London. When he was left alone with her, he was paralyzed for a moment when he saw her practically frozen on the makeshift bed-chair she was lying on. They had to make due for there was no chance in all the stars and supernovas in the known universe that he was letting her out of his sight, even for just a moment.
She lay there and she was so still that he feared she had stopped breathing. Then her eyebrows furrowed and her arms started to shake. Clara curled in on herself and cried in her sleep. "Doctor," she pleaded, even in her sleep.
He flicked on the blue stabilizers and flew.
When they got back to the Maitland household, it was mid-afternoon. He didn't even really check the dates. It was close enough to when she left, that much he was certain. He took her in his arms again and she was still squirming in her sleep, still sobbing, and all he could do was hold her as close as possible.
"Shhh," he tried. It was the first time he had spoken in hours. "I'm here, Clara. I'm here."
She did not calm from her nightmares and the decent thing to do was to wake her up. But how could he? How could he face her after what she did? Dying for him was one thing but her – his Clara – lived for him, a million times over. And he still can't save her from her own nightmares, from her own fears.
Clara was still crying in her sleep when he brought her to her bed back in the Maitland house. He wouldn't dare even sit on the bed next to her but couldn't bring himself to leave her side. He knelt by her bed. He swallowed what moisture had gathered in his mouth and brushed his thumb at her cheek. He tried to wipe her tears away. Her teeth were chattering then and she was still begging for him.
"I'm sorry," he choked. His voice broke and he was crying too. "I'm so sorry."
He rested his forehead against her and squeezed his eyes shut. Their noses were touching and he could feel her breath on his lips. He made himself break away but only for a moment – only to kiss the top of her head. He kissed her slowly and his lips lingered on her skin. He looked at her, his hand still cupping her face.
"Clara," he whispered like a prayer. "My Clara. Come back to me."
When she didn't wake from her nightmares, he buried his face on her bed sheets. The Doctor wept.
X X X
He was crying next to her when her eyes opened.
She just suddenly woke up and he was there. One hand of his was holding hers, the other hand was so close to her face that she could practically still feel his palm against her cheek and she knew he had been holding her. And he was crying next to her.
"Doctor," she murmured.
His head shot up immediately and his bright green eyes bore into her. A tear fell as he looked at her but he made no move to wipe it. They stayed like that for the longest second Clara could remember. And remembered every second – all of the seconds she spent waiting for him. She waited thousands of years to see those eyes again and she died to see those eyes again. She waited and died a million and one times and in that moment, she choked out a breath.
"Hello" was all he could say.
"Are you real?" she asked, her voice was soft and quiet and it broke at the end. She felt a tear come down too.
The Doctor looked at her with eyes that should never been allowed in the universe – a look so desperate with eyes so wide and bright and wet, she did not know if he was pain or if he had just seen the holy light of God. He smiled a big gapped smile and he was unable to stop himself from crying. She could see that he was uninhibited – completely vulnerable. He couldn't even put on the mask he usually did. This was all of him and this was whom she died for.
"You have to confirm actually, properly real?" And he was smiling while tears ran down his face. She remembered him saying that. She remembered and she smiled a grin that matched his own. She sat up and for once, she towered over him a little for he was still kneeling and now he was looking up at her. Not once did his hand falter from hers. Her free hand reached for his face.
"My Doctor," she muttered before she held him in an embrace so tight she could barely breathe. His back straightened and he hugged her back, taking in deep breaths, inhaling the very scent of her as he muttered "My Clara" as he held her. And they both cried as they held each other – just now grasping everything that had happened, everything that they saw, and everything that they did for each other.
And it was then that Mr Maitland decided to open the door.
"Clara, I thought I heard you-"
The Doctor and Clara jumped from each other in surprise – both of them blushing. But neither of them were embarrassed enough to let go of the other's hand. Clara tried as best she could to shake her head and smile as normally as possible.
"Hey," she said. "I didn't hear you come up."
"Sorry," said the equally embarrassed Mr Maitland. "I didn't realise he was here too. So you're the boyfriend I keep hearing about?"
The Doctor had the nerve to look bashful as he ducked his head and kept from laughing. "Yeah. Sure. In a matter of speaking, I suppose."
Clara could only grin at him before she diverted her attention back to Mr Maitland. "Something wrong?"
"No, no. It's been fine actually – though I have to ask where you've been these last two weeks. I mean, I tried to call but you let your mobile in your room."
"Two weeks?" she repeated and shot a glance at The Doctor. He shrugged his shoulders shyly and mouthed "sorry". Clara smirked in response. "Sorry about that. Lost track o'time. How'd you manage while I was away?"
"That's what I came to talk to you about, really," Mr Maitland replied. "Day you left, we got someone who responded to the advert. Kids seem to like her – even Angie if you could believe that – and I think I'm going to give her the job."
Clara's eyebrows raised, her jaw dropped. "What'd you mean? I- I can go?"
"Yeah," said Mr Maitland. He was beaming at her. Then, he got a knowing smirk and looked back and forth from Clara and The Doctor. "Right then. I'm, uh- I'm just going to go next door. Kids are over at Nina's, so- Yeah. I'll, uh-"
"Yeah, I got it," she chuckled. "Thanks."
X X X
"Sorry, did I just get you fired?" he asked her when Mr Maitland had left. The Doctor had gone to the door just to hear him go down the stairs and out the front door. Clara was sitting on the bed, looking awestruck and smiling. It was a difference from a few minutes ago though he couldn't see why.
She pursed her lips at his confusion. She even laughed and shook her head. "You know, for such a clever boy, you can be really thick."
"But he just let you go…" said The Doctor, gesturing to the door.
"Yeah, " she said, nodding. "He did." She tilted her head and made a face, as if she was waiting for him to get the point. And his confusion turned to wonder and he gazed at her with such an open longing, he felt his hearts hammer in his chest like the beating of a million drums all at once.
"So you can…" he started, rubbing his hands together like he was wont to do as he walked slowly back to her bed. "You can-"
"Yeah. I can," she said. "If you ask."
The Doctor smiled again and took a step forward. But that was when he stopped. His wonder turned to fear and he looked away from her. Clara's grin disappeared almost immediately and she hopped off the bed to go to him in long strides.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Clara was right in front of him then and he shut his eyes so tight to keep the threatening tears at bay. He couldn't make himself look at her because he knew now. He knew now what he had to say.
"I can't," he replied. "I can't ask you."
A long pause echoed between them and he could swear he could feel his hearts banging on his ears. She didn't look away from him, though. Just looked up at him with hurt eyes that cried. And by all the stars, he couldn't do this. He couldn't do this. He was gritting his teeth so hard and she was going to cry, he could feel it. And he could feel both his hearts turn to ice and shatter into shards that cut him from the inside out.
"Why not?" she asked in a quiet voice. "I don't understand."
"It's not safe," he managed to reply. "And I will do everything I can to save you, my Clara. I can't lose you again."
At which point she slapped him, which made him look back at her.
"Don't you dare!" she shouted as she grabbed the front of his shirt with surprising strength. "Don't you dare tell me what safe is, Doctor! Don't you bloody dare! I know what safe is! I've been there, I've lived it, and I've died in it! I've lived a million lives in safety and died alone a thousand more and in the last few seconds, I'd always remember why I had to. I remember every life, every death, and every love I've ever lost and you're not doing this to me! You're not going to push me away to keep me safe, you get that?"
"Clara, you've died-"
"A million times for you and I WOULD DO IT AGAIN-"
He took her wrist then – the hand that held his shirt to her – and looked at her with those eyes that made her swallow the rest of her sentence. "Don't you dare."
They looked at each other then, both of them trying to even out their breaths as if they've been running. And they have. He looked at her and right into those brown eyes of hers, he found that he never could. His anger dissolved and all he felt was remorse. As if he could ever leave her again.
He pulled her to him and held her. He could feel his fingers tangle with her soft hair and she buried her face to his chest and she sobbed. She was clutching at his shirt from the back as if she was never going to let go. His lips were on top of her head as he whispered his apologies and she said nothing. When the pulled apart just ever so slightly, he cupped her face in both his hands and gazed into her eyes.
"I'm sorry," he told her again. She kept her expression stubborn and nodded. "Damn right you should be," she said as she hugged him again but he pulled away quicker than she would have liked.
When he looked at her, she looked scared again. Like maybe he was going to make her go away again and make her understand why he needed her to be safe. He needed her to safe, yes. But he also needed her and he was selfish enough to want her more. He couldn't be as good as she was. So when he looked at her again, he offered a small smile and began to speak.
"So, then. Clara Oswald," he started. He reached into the back of his trousers with his other hand and fished out a key to the TARDIS. He flashed it in front of her eyes and all the fear from her eyes had gone – replaced by that same look of wonder and awe and excitement and she looked just as radiant as before. No sun or supernova could match her eyes at that moment.
"Will you come away with me?"
Her stubborn lips shook to a smile, to a grin. "Yes," she breathed out.
The Doctor grinned. He took one of her hands and made her hold the key. He closed her hand and kissed her knuckles. And before he knew it, he was kissing her.
X X X
Her name was Clara Oswald and this was a different kind of falling all at once.
When he kissed her, he grunted like he was giving up. She was taken by surprise for a second but kissed back all the same. She didn't know what to expect or how to expect it but she knew she wanted it. Wanted it – wanted him – more than all the stars and supernovas in the sky. In lives she'd had, she dreamt about this. She would dream of a man who loved her and would kiss her like she was the most precious being in all of creation.
And to this man, she was.
Because she saved him and he saved her. They saved each other because that's what they did. The loneliest man in the universe who always thought himself to be so alone – never realising the shadow of a girl who followed him and kept his stars burning. She dreamed of this kiss – wrote about it, painted it, sculpted it – for in every life, she was different. But all she knew and wanted was this man – this one brilliant, magnificent, impossible, clever boy. And she was his impossible girl.
She didn't know what to expect from the kiss or how she even dreamed it would happen. She just never expected it to be so desperate – filled with moans and laughter and involved the pulling of a lot of hair. But she didn't care because she wasn't even thinking. She couldn't think – not when he held her so close and gave her all of him, just as she had given herself.
It was all lips and shared breaths and wandering hands and it was like they couldn't be nearer each other – like even kissing wasn't close enough. Like they were trying to become one person, merging into a single entity so as to never part from the other ever again.
When he broke away to catch his breath, her eyes just looked at him. They were downcast. He was dazed and out of breath. So was she, if she was being honest. But she had been through so much and lived so much and so little all at the same time, it felt like she finally knew how to breathe properly for the very first time. Hell, it felt like finally.
"How?" he asked. "Why? Why would you even still want me? After all I've put you through?" His voice was a whisper, his forehead resting on hers. And she actually giggled before she grabbed the front of his shirt again with both hands and pulled him back for another kiss.
"Because I've seen the best of you," she murmured through kisses. "And the worst of you. And I choose both."
X X X
A/N: I would say that I didn't cry at least five times while writing things… but that would be a total lie. I cried seven times. I wrote this out of mourning for a post I had worked on for five hours straight. It was a deconstruction and analysis of "The Name of The Doctor" and it made me really, really sad to see it just taken away from me. And so I looked for a really detailed, really heart-wrenching whoufflé fic but found nothing. So I wrote one – as best I could – myself. I hope you enjoyed this little one shot as much as I enjoyed writing it! Also, I apologise for any and all grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. I didn't proofread this. I finished at 4 in the morning.
I wish I could say I was clever enough to come up with Clara's last lines in this fic but I didn't. It came from a poem called "The Origin Story by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye and I think you should all go listen to it and have a good cry about it for a while. Also, go listen to "Born for You" by David Pomeranz and tell me that song wasn't made specifically for this ship because seriously? "It's as if the powers of the universe conspired to make you mine and til the day I day, I bless the day that I was born for you"? It's not even a bloody metaphor. IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. Expect more whoufflé fics from me soon enough. I wish I knew how to quit you, whoufflé. But really… I don't want to quit you. Reviews would be so, so, so great, if you had the time to post really long detailed reviews about how you felt about this fic. I like those.
I hope you all have a day as splendid as you are! Wow this author's note is long. Okay, bye!