[Author's Note: Alright, where are my angst-addicts and my hurt/comfort lovers? Ah, there you are. I think you will enjoy this immensely. This was meant to be a chapter in my one-shot series, Little Moments, but I got really carried away, so it had to become it's own story. Plus, that series is supposed to be light-hearted fluff, which this is most certainty not. I needed to write some angst, because my blood is boiling after hearing 'The News' (I think we should just refer to it as that from now on), and I couldn't stand it. So this one-shot is the result.]
Blind (adjective)- Unable to see; sightless
The Doctor staggered in through the TARDIS doors, his face stiff with a stoical expression as he struggled to keep his composure. He paused a few feet inside, one arm still reaching out the open door. He turned back with a soft sigh and tugged his arm gently. And, after a long moment of hesitation, Clara stumbled in through the doors after him.
She was clutching his hand like a lifeline, so tight that the skin of his knuckles was turning pale. It was obvious she had failed at remaining as impassive as the Doctor; her face was streaked with fresh tearlines and her breath came in frantic, ragged gulps. She was making an attempt to stay calm, her tears were no longer flowing, but the terror and grief was easy to see on her face. Her eyes were squeezed closed as tight as she could.
The Doctor pulled her gently along through the control room. He walked slow, and she walked slower, moving with small, clumsy, unsure steps. At one point her foot caught on a bit of metal next to the console, and sent her sprawling on the floor, tearing her grip from the Doctor. She lost control again at that point, tears spilling from her closed eyes and racing down her face.
She felt hands gently but firmly wrap around her shoulders and pull her back to her unsteady feet. "Clara," The Doctor murmured as he steadied her gently. Even his voice was unwavering, and suddenly her tears felt once again foolish. She coughed and wiped them away rapidly, struggling to hold back anymore.
"I'm okay." She gasped roughly. "I'm okay." She took the Doctor's hand again and let him lead her silently through the console room, her still taking those small, inching steps, until he stopped moving. Gently, he took her by the shoulders once more and turned her around.
"Sit down." He ordered in a soft voice, and she thought, just maybe, she could hear the cracks in his facade as he spoke. She wasn't sure what to make of that: whether she was comforted by the thought of him being worried for her or terrified that what had, was, happening could break this impassive man.
She sat down carefully, hesitantly, almost not expecting to feel the chair under her. She sunk down into it heavily, her hands moving to grip the sides of the chair tightly, her fingers feeling over it's rough surface.
"Doctor?" She questioned after a few moments of silence. Instantly she felt his hands on her shoulders, slowly moving up to cup her face gently.
"Oh, Clara." He sighed, staring at her red, damp face. Her soft skin was hot, almost burning, from her earlier tears. Her eyes were still squeezed so tightly shut, stubbornly refusing to open. Just a bit of blood was clotted to her eyelashes, dried by now, and his chest tightened sharply at the sight of it. He carefully kneeled down in front of her, to be at her level.
"Clara," He murmured slowly. "Can you open your eyes for me?"
She shook her head, biting her lip. "No." She whispered.
"Please, Clara, I need to-" He paused for a moment. I need to know. "-I need to look at them to make sure you're alright." His words bled false hope.
"No, I-" Her voice cracked off with a choking sound. "-I can't." She finished slowly.
"Please." The Doctor repeated, moving his hands across her face so that his fingertips ghosted over her eyelids. "Clara, I need you to."
"No, Doctor." She raised one hand to push his away. "Stop, I can't. They just hurt, I- I can't."
"Clara, you need to open them." The Doctor insisted. "You know you need to. I have to see them. I can't-" He paused. "-I can't fix them if I can't see them."
Clara took a slow breath and started to shake her head again, but stopped after a moment, and finally looked up, her closed eyes level with the Doctor's. "Okay." She murmured, slowly, hesitantly. The Doctor saw her eyelids twitch as she attempted to raise them, the blood momentarily gluing them shut. They finally came apart and she let out a slight whimper of shock as they lifted. The Doctor let out a heavy sigh and reached forward, wrapping his long arms awkwardly around the shaking girl.
How, why, had this even happened?
Two hours earlier-
He hated when that happened: when he brought Clara somewhere promising her fun and entertainment and then they got caught up in some sort of native conflict. Oh, he loved how she played along, how she smiled and tried to be interested no matter what they were pulled into, but he knew she hated it, he could tell by the sour look in her chocolate-brown eyes.
This one especially seemed to be bothering her. They landed right outside an old-looking warehouse type of place, and upon entering found that a large group of people were camped out and, as he learned after asking around a bit, under siege. They refused to let them leave, either to go somewhere else or to go back to the TARDIS, explaining that it would compromise both their safety and the safety of the rest of the people there.
The Doctor, though he promised an irritated-looking Clara that he would leave if he could, found that he actually was rather happy to be there. The people were pleasant, if a bit battle-weary, and the entire situation was tantalizingly intriguing. After getting the exact time and place of where they were, he wracked his memory but could not find anything about this current battle. And there was nothing he loved more than finding out things he didn't already know.
Clara played her part, she followed the Doctor about and smiled and was pleasantly polite to the people, but he could tell she wasn't pleased, the way her thin eyebrows hunched down over her warm brown eyes.
He finally pulled her aside after he had finished chatting with the self-appointed lieutenant of the group, a pleasant young man with sandy red hair, taking her over to an small secluded spot.
"Are you alright, Clara?" He asked.
She sighed heavily, shrugging small shoulders. "Yeah, sure, Doctor. I just-" She paused, biting her lip. "-I hate it when you bring us to wars. I mean, how many people here are going to be dead in a few days?" She gestured to the people milling about idly.
The Doctor frowned. "I don't know. You shouldn't dwell on that though, these people don't. Live life like there's no tomorrow, eh?" He smiled at her, and she gave him a hint of one in return.
It didn't seem right though. Clara was rational, she was calm, she was generally a happy person. She'd been in this situation more than once, and never before had she ever really let it get to her, at least not on the outside.
"Clara?" The Doctor asked, tipping his head back and forth as he examined her closely. "You're sure you're alright?"
"I'm not scared." She snapped quickly, and the Doctor smiled; that was the Clara he knew. "I just... I dunno. It seems weird here. Maybe because of this siege thing. Feels like, you know, anything could happen at any moment." She looked genuinely nervous for a moment, and the Doctor felt a hint of concern.
"Well, of course it could. That's the best way to live, huh? Unexpected looming right around the corner?" He jabbed an elbow playfully at her, grinning widely, and after a moment she smiled back at him.
"Well, you exist off adrenaline, now don't you?" She teased. "You'd die without the unexpected." She trotted away cheerfully, and the Doctor let out his breath in relief. He never liked making his companions feel uncomfortable; who knew if they would even travel with him if he scared them too much?
It happened 20 minutes later. Clara was right, of course. Even the Doctor half saw it coming. A siege was still a battle, and an attack was inevitable at some point.
It started just with some gunfire outside. Heads shot up all around the encampment, but no one seemed terribly concerned; they were used to this. They had guards and weapons of their own. A bit of gunfire was child's play.
Then the bullets actually began to hit the front of the building. Several armed soldiers moved towards the doors and trained their guns on it, but the shooting stopped barely five minutes after it had began. Confused, the men retreated and sat back down.
"They're teasing us." The lieutenant explained calmly to the Doctor. "They've done that a few times before. Just trying to get on our nerves."
The Doctor nodded, accepting a cup of coffee from the man and leaning back calmly on his chair.
And then the roof exploded.
The sound was deafening, like thunder inside your ears, crashing and blasting and shattering. Huge chunks of burning woods rained down on the camp, smoke filled the room at an unbelievable rate, and the walls began to crumble too, rapidly exposing them.
The Doctor scrambled to his feet almost instantly, racing across the floor past people still too shocked to even scream. "Get up, get up! Run!" He shouted at them as he ran, looking this was and that for his companion. "Clara!"
He found her with a small group of soldier women, crouched on the ground with her hands over her head. He grabbed her by the shoulder and yanked her to her feet, shoving her violently towards the back on the building. "Go! Go! Get out of here! Run to the TARDIS!" He shouted, and after a few seconds of dazed hesitation she did as she was told, joining a group of other soldiers, mainly the younger ones, that were being ushered out the back doors, away from the enemy out front.
He ran for the front doors along with some of the other men. His lieutenant friend tried to pass him a rifle but he turned it down. "No need." he said quickly. "I'll just help you distract them until the rest of them can get away."
"Where's your girlfriend?" The man asked.
The Doctor didn't feel any pressing need in correcting his term for Clara at the moment. "She got out the back. She's safe." He answered, and believed it.
Until a second explosion came from around back.
The Doctor barely even thought, just turned on his heel and sprinted for the back doors all in half and instant. He vaulted the camp supplies and piles of burning debris, shouting Clara's name over and over, his hearts pounding wildly.
He grabbed the doors and flung them open with a bang, racing outside only to stop suddenly as pain suddenly shot through his face. He reeled back, clamped one hand over his face and swung the other at his assumed enemy, but it connected with nothing. He peered out through his fingers and saw nothing but hazy mist in front of him.
Gas bomb, he thought instantly. Powerful, too. It was already rapidly clearing and the Doctor just getting a few particles in his eyes and nose burned like hell. Whoever had gotten the brunt of it probably would have been-
His hearts sank in his chest like rocks. Shouting Clara's name again, he ran forward, one hand still clamped over his face against the painful haze around him. He looked around through the carpet of crumpled bodies around him, searching in terror for his companion.
He almost tripped over her, curled up in the fetal position on the ground, her hands pressed over her face. He dropped down and curled his arms around her, holding her tight. "Clara, Clara," He murmured frantically. "Are you alright?"
She gasped sharply and stirred in his arms, coughing, shaking hard. She pulled her hands from her face and clutched at the Doctor's shirt instead, gripping it like a lifeline. The Doctor's stomach tightened as he stared at her. Her face was taut with pain, her nose was streaming, but most terrifying was the two thin trails of blood running from the corners of her closed eyes down her cheeks.
"Oh God, Doctor." She gasped, pausing to cough heavily. "My eyes, they're b-burning so b-badly." She broke off with a gasping sob, and tears began to wash the blood from her face. "Oh God, it h-hurts."
"You're okay, you're okay." The Doctor whispered comfortingly, although his hearts were pounding in terror, because she was almost positively not okay. He curled his arms around her tighter, pressing his hands against her back and rubbing them in small circles as she cried in pain against his shoulder.
"C'mon, we need to get out of here." He said after a moment. She didn't respond, too busy taking slow, shaky breaths to try and stop her tears. He gently stood up, pulling her carefully to her feet. She reached blindly out with one hand, catching the Doctor's and holding it like there was no tomorrow.
I know what happens here now. He thought bitterly as they marched to the TARDIS. It seemed like painful irony now, he had been so damn eager to find out what was happening when they had gotten here, and now he did. If this was the universe's way of telling him to stop being so enthusiastic over everything, it was the cruelest trick the Doctor had ever seen.
"I'm sorry." The Doctor whispered brokenly, which was the only thing he could think of as he stared at her tear-blurred, bloodshot eyes. "I'm so sorry."
"It's not-" Clara gulped, trying so hard to hold back tears. "-your fault."
"It always is." The Doctor replied darkly, dropping his gaze from her unfocused one. "I thought you would be safe."
"S'not your fault." She repeated stubbornly, her voice starting to waver again as the situation at hand began to feel more and more real. The sudden burst of terror she had felt when she had first opened her eyes was gone, replaced with a numb, suffocating feeling.
"I-" The Doctor paused, surprised at the sudden prickle of tears in the corners of his eyes. He leaned forward again, wrapping his lanky arms around her. "This never should have happened to you." He murmured into her hair as he hugged her to him.
"Well, I guess it did." There was no lightness in her voice, which broke near the end. The Doctor could feel her hands gently moving over his body, subconsciously feeling over the details of him to compensate for her eyes.
The Doctor slowly released the hug, settling back to stare at her quietly. "Oh, Clara." He murmured, watching as her eyes followed the sound of his voice, locking on a spot somewhere near his neck. His chest tightened, and what he wouldn't give to see her look him in the eyes one more time. "Oh my wonderful, perfect Clara Oswald."
Clara gave a short, humorless laugh. "I'm n-not perfect." She choked out, tears threatening to spill over her eyelids again. "Especially n-not now."
"Clara," The Doctor's voice was serious, as she felt him gently reach up to cup her face in his hands. "You are always perfect and always beautiful, especially now." He leaned forward, and she felt his lips lightly touch over her forehead, her ears, her cheeks. "Don't you ever forget that."
She wanted more than anything to see him right now, to see his wonky hair scattered in front of his face, to see his twinkling green eyes, to see his inevitable blush at his affectionate contact. Almost without realizing it and with barely any attempt to stop it, the tears had resumed trickling down her face.
"Don't cry, Clara." The Doctor whispered, wrapping his arms around her again, more gently this time. "I'm right here."
"Not like I can see you." She replied snappishly, breaking off with a cough. "S-sorry, I just-" She took in a shaky breath. "I w-want to see your stupid chin one last time." She laughed, brokenly, tears cutting into the corners of her mouth.
One small tear that he gave up holding back ran down the Doctor's face because dammit, this wasn't fair. He tried to picture, just for a second, the darkness she was feeling right now, all the things she wanted to see 'one last time' flickering through her mind.
The tear dripped off the end of his cheek, landing on the back of Clara's hand. He didn't make any acknowledgement of it, just continued to embrace her gently, but he saw her fingers curl slightly and knew she had felt it.
"Doctor, are you crying?" She asked.
"No," He tried to respond, but it wasn't the truth, and right now, she didn't deserve anything except that. "No, I mean, I mean, yes." He coughed slightly, rubbing any tears that might attempt to join the first one from his eyes.
"You sh-shouldn't be." She declared, hiccuping from crying too long. "M-My problem, not yours."
"I'm sorry," He said for the umpteenth time, though he knew she was tired of hearing it. (It was almost for his own sake at this point.) "I never should have taken you there. It's my fault. I'm sorry."
Clara shook her head. "St-stop it." She ordered. "I k-knew what could happen when I c-came here. And I still l-love it here." She tried to picture the Doctor's expression now: Rapt, listening with his soft eyes to every word. "I love everywhere we go, and I even love the TARDIS," She reached out sideways with one hand until she could brush her fingers across the metal railing. "And y-you."
It didn't even feel so much like a declaration of love as more of a plea of desperation, because she knew. She had known from the moment she opened her eyes for the Doctor that her TARDIS career was over. She could never live in this endless maze of corridors and rooms, she got lost enough when she was... normal. And the Doctor wouldn't, couldn't take her on adventures like this. He would be more terrified for her safety than she was. They would never be able to do anything exciting, and she knew that would kill him.
He would never ask her to leave, she realized, he would never bring himself to be as cruel. But she couldn't stay here and force this man, who truly did exist off adrenaline, to tone everything he did down to compensate for her. So she would have to leave on her own, and the sooner the better, no matter how much the selfish half of her was pleading her to stay.
"Clara, I know what you're thinking." He murmured into her hair.
"No you don't." She replied, more focused on trying to scrub the annoying tears from her eyes than anything. She was sick of them, and she figured the Doctor was, too.
"Yes I do." He insisted, breaking their hug and leaning back on his knees in front of her. He reached out, taking both her hands in his own. "Clara, listen to me. I will never make you leave."
"I know you won't." She said, trying to slide her hands away, but he held them fast.
"No, look at-" He stopped himself before the slip-up was out of his mouth. "-listen to me." He covered up hastily. "I don't want you to leave. I would never have you leave for something like this. This is not your fault and you do not deserve it." He lifted her hands, turning them palm up and kissing the tips of her fingers lightly. "You're still Clara, my Clara, my friend. And I will never abandon you."
Clara continued to stare silently at a spot somewhere near his collar. Her fingers curled around his own delicately, hesitantly holding his hand. She said nothing, her mouth pressed shut tightly in an impassive expression.
"Whatever happens I'll always be here." He continued in a soft voice. "We'll do this together, yeah? You and me."
The corners of her mouth twitched slightly, not quite ready for a true smile but given enough encouragement to try. "Okay." She agreed finally, clutching his hands tighter as she tried to picture the wonderful man in front of her. "You and me." She whispered.
[Author's Note: Well. Um. That was quite alot of angst, even by my standards. Did the fluff at the end even it out? I lost my zeal for writing anguish right about then, so a little fluff squeezed in. ...Oh, damn. Did I just write Whouffle angst-y hurt/comfort fluff? Ah, I don't know if you guys will even believe me but: I don't ship them! Oh well. Hmmm, you know what? This was meant to be a stand-alone one-shot, but I'm actually giving some consideration to continuing it. Maybe make a (very small) series of how their life goes after this. What do you guys think? Please review if you liked this, and, hell, even if you didn't. I just like getting feedback. :3]