A/n: The idea for this story originally came from a prompt on Tumblr in the whouffle tag. The prompt was for a story in which the Doctor is an actual, human doctor who works with Nurse!Clara. Well, this definitely contains that, but it kind of got away from me as I was writing it and turned into something I didn't expect! This will be a multi-chaptered fic. I hope you enjoy!
Three days before his eighteenth birthday, he saw his city burn.
It's not something someone forgets, and it's not something someone talks about it. It's something that sits inside of your heart for the rest of your life and screams.
John supposed that he always thought of himself as an entity with a very defined beginning and a very defined end. Life was what happened while trying to figure out exactly what that end was, and the burning was his beginning in every way.
At age five, he stopped his mother in the telephone aisle at the local electronics store.
He gave her skirt a tug and ignored her protests as he climbed up onto the shelf. She scolded him, reaching to pull him down, but he cried out and for whatever reason, she listened.
He stared at the rows of display telephones.
"Why is my name on these?" He asked her.
As a child, the world was his, and he was the world's. His only deduction was that the store had given these phones to him. What else could this be about? JOHN SMITH 555-555 was clearly printed onto each caller-ID screen.
"It's not your name, John. Get down." She told him. His mother was tired all of the time. He had gotten used to that.
But he clung to the metal shelf.
"It is so." He insisted. He turned to look at her. "I'm John Smith."
But the more he looked at her, the more he felt doubt creeping in.
"Aren't I?" He asked.
She grabbed him underneath the arms and lifted him up, hoisting him off the shelf.
"Many people can have the same name. John Smith is the most common name there is, so they use it for example. Just example."
He did not hold her hand the rest of the day, because he hadn't realized that other people could have his name, or that there were mothers who would willingly name their children something so plain. He felt like names were something important, something that belonged to you and only you, and somehow knowing that so many people shared it made it less important.
His mother didn't know it, and he never told her, but this was the day he pinned the loss of his childhood on. Funny thing, names are. They don't seem that important until they are, and then it's an ache in a tiny heart that already feels insignificant enough.
The nickname started not long after that.
John Smith started cringing each time roll was called in school. None of the other children seemed to think much of it, but to John, just the sound of it was like a glaring wound. He felt certain that at any moment the children would realize his vulnerability and take advantage of it. So he doesn't give them the chance.
He got away with it the first time by pretending to vomit in the toilet before school. His father believed him and his mother was too tired to argue. He pretended to be sick for two more days, and then once he knew he could no longer ride on that excuse, he tried the thermometer-against-the-lightbulb trick. Only too bad for John, because he held it on there too long and his mother realized quickly that he was faking when his temperature read so high it would have been impossible for him to be conscious.
She got an almost sly look in her eyes and declared that, if he was so sick, he'd have to go see the doctor. And, honestly, John Smith would rather see twenty doctors than go back to school.
So he bundled up in his jacket and pretended to be nauseated the entire ride over. He cringed a little when they called his name. And when he was inside the office with the doctor, his mother sold him out.
"He's faking. I'm trying to scare him into going back to school."
The doctor looked sharply at his mother.
"If a boy is so uncomfortable at school that he's consistently skipping, maybe it's a sign to ask him why." He told her, almost a little coldly. His mother flushed.
The doctor kneeled down in front of John, his eyes kind and exhausted. He smiled.
"What's going on at school, John? Surely you don't really want to be here."
John frowned. His eyes traveled from his mother to the doctor, because he wanted to tell him, to finally let it off his chest, but he didn't want his mother's feelings to be hurt. He glanced back down at the man and made a decision.
"I don't like my name. I'm afraid the kids will tease me."
His mother was quick to react.
"What? The reason I gave you that name was so that you wouldn't get picked on!" She demanded.
John couldn't meet her eyes. The doctor tapped his shoulder.
"I think John Smith is a great name. But I know how you feel. My name's Cornelius and I hated it my entire life. That's why I went to medical school. So everyone at work would just call me "doctor"."
He smiled and John smiled back, because why hadn't he thought of that?
He gets a lollipop from a kind nurse, much to his mother's chagrin, and smiles to himself on the ride home. He hadn't realized that names could mean rank and title. He had forgotten that sometimes you can pick your name. And so why couldn't he?
His mother scolded him most of the ride home, telling him that John Smith was a lovely name and it hurt her feelings that he didn't like it. John Smith shrugged his small shoulders and endured it until she finally let him go to his room. And once he was there, he shut his door behind him quietly, and walked over to his desk. He found his markers and pulled his folder out of his school bag. With only thirty seconds and a little bit of magic marker, he went from being John Smith—ordinary boy, unremarkable boy, with mediocre parents and too many siblings—to the Doctor, a boy who wanted to help people like a doctor does.
At the time, he thought that was his grand beginning. But he was very wrong.
He didn't date much until Rose Tyler.
She was quiet in school, funny and witty, but didn't stand out to the teachers. John Smith had physical education with her and couldn't help but watch her from afar, her blonde hair tied back and the nicest smile on her face. He started living for the moments when he caught her grinning, because he noticed it didn't happen much inside of the school building. She seemed relatively unimpressed by the entire institution, and even though the Doctor excelled in absolutely everything they threw at him, he was drawn to that unabashed honesty, that unabashed Roseness.
His best friend Donna teased him mercilessly about his crush for a year. She pushed him to say something to her, anything, but he wouldn't dare. He felt he was too lanky, too geeky, too…John Smith. He wasn't impressed with himself, no matter how many awards he won or how high his GPA was. There was always something missing.
He found what was missing for a very short period of time. In the end, Rose Tyler approached him, all pink cheeks and kindness. She took his hand in physical education and ran with him, and they ran so far together. They were each other's first everything and the Doctor learned what it was like to love someone so much you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that you'd take a bullet for them.
Nothing good ever really lasts. He had been aware of that from a very young age, but it was reaffirmed when Rose was taken from him. And Donna. And Martha. And Sarah Jane. And his parents, and his dog, and his home.
It was an unforeseen and unavoidable internal terrorist attack, they said. Gallifrey was a huge city, a urban center for the area, and nothing could have been done. But they didn't know what the Doctor knew, they hadn't seen what he'd seen. They didn't know that the bombs that destroyed the city, killing thousands of people and leaving the area in complete ruins, had been planned for months. They didn't know that the Doctor knew they were being built and planted. They didn't know that the Doctor knew the boys responsible for planting them because they were high schoolers—only high schoolers, even if they did go by the name the Daleks—and who would believe him even if he had told someone? No one could have believed it. And if he told them that twiggy John Smith, that strange boy who went only by the Doctor, had been the one to detonate them, they might have believed him. But that would have been all they believed. They wouldn't believe the rest, that he was forced to detonate the remote trigger for the ones around the city in order to destroy the trigger for the ones that were around the rest of the country, the trigger that was in the hands of the head Dalek and was going to be pressed at any moment. Or that he did it knowing full and well that, even though those he loved would die, those responsible would too. The government of Gallifrey had become infiltrated by the the Daleks, the mastermind hive of a gang that believed in one true way of life and condemned all others. This hive controlled the government, the police, the hospitals—everything. There was no healing it, no mending to be done. Only complete eradication. The Doctor knew because the Doctor knew much more than anyone else, clever as he was. Damaged as he was. Hopeless as he was, he accepted what had to be done, and did it swiftly. He would never forgive himself for surviving. He hadn't planned to, but the trigger for the city was logically placed far enough from the city that the blow only shook the windows.
There were no words to explain the torment that caused him. He lied awake every single night, burned and writhing with pain, wishing he had the strength to kill himself. But deep down he considered that an exit he didn't even deserve.
No one knows how they'd react in a situation like that until they're in it, and it's likely they wouldn't like who they'd be. After the fact, the Doctor was only tormented. He did not feel brave for having the strength to save millions for the sake of thousands. He did not feel like a hero at all. In the end, he felt he was more a villain than the Daleks were, because he actually killed people he cared about whereas they didn't even see Gallifreyans as people at all.
Of the few that survived, Donna was one of them. She was lucky enough to have been one of those heading away from the city when the bombs went off.
He sat beside her bed for two weeks. She was in the intensive care unit at a hospital two cities over from the ruins of Gallifrey. He left only to use the bathroom in her room and to get food from the vending machines. At night, he held her hand and cried.
"You're my best friend. I can't do it without you. Please come back. You make me better."
And she heard him, somehow, but decided not to listen. Because when she woke, she was missing still.
"Who're you?" Were the first words he heard from her mouth.
It was a blow to his stomach and a punch to his heart.
The brain damage was severe, the doctor's said. She would probably never remember anything from her old life. When they told him this, he thought to himself that he didn't really want to be a doctor anymore after all.
He tried. He tried to get to know her again, he really did. But it hurt her. She always felt like she was second best to a person in his memory, and person she could never be again. She asked him to leave and not come back one day, just like that, without any sort of emotion. In her eyes, where there was normally amused affection, was indifference.
And he cried.
He left three roses, a typewriter ornament, and a new pair of shoes on the memorial site.
A pair of new shoes for his friend Martha, who had looked at them lovingly through a shop window for months. She'd always stopped in front of them, pointing them out and smiling. "Why don't you get them, Martha? They're not that expensive." "I'm just going to wait. I'm going to save money for them this summer. I need to keep saving for university." Well, summer never came, and the Doctor spent weeks traveling around until he found another shop like that, and another pair of shoes like those.
A typewriter ornament for his friend Sarah Jane, who wanted more than anything to go to school to be a journalist. When he placed the ornament there, he wanted to weep for the world, because he wasn't sure what it would do without her. She was going to do so much more than anyone had before.
And three roses.
One pink, one red, one white.
Pink for the way Rose's cheeks blushed the first time he kissed her. Red for the color of her dress when she met his parents. White for the color of the dress he fully planned on asking her to wear one day.
He was lost, after that.
He got into his car and traveled from place to place, never staying long enough to meet anyone or make anything of himself. He was the Doctor in only name now.
That was until Amelia Pond.
She was a redheaded Scot with a passion for misbehaving and literature.
The Doctor's car broke down right in front of her and her fiancé's house, and instead of simply allowing him to phone for repairs, she offered him the couch.
"You're a raggedy doctor, aren't you?" She told him with amusement, peering at him on her doorstep after introductions. "Obviously homeless judging by the state of you. What are you running from?"
He was reluctant to tell her much, but somehow, she understood all she needed to. That he was homeless and lonely. She wordlessly pulled him by the hand into the living room and dropped his jacket onto the couch.
"It's not much." She told him. "But you can stay."
It turned out to be quite a lot more than "not much". Something about Amelia made him feel like a brand new man, like the soot from Gallifrey's ruins was somehow finally washed from his hands. They traveled around together in the Doctor's car, listening to music and sharing stories. Sometimes her fiancé Rory, a nursing student, came along, and sometimes not. Sometimes her best friend River Song, an archaeology student, did too, but not often and when she did there was normally hell to pay.
The Doctor became so enamored with his new life that he decided to enroll at their university. And just like that, he was a pre-med student.
"The Doctor's going to be a doctor, eh?" Amy teased him, jabbing him in the ribs with her elbow.
The Doctor smiled, because he hadn't felt any pride in hearing that title in a long time.
In a way, the love affair with River Song was expected.
There was a sexual tension between them from the get go that Amy never let go. She and Rory teased the Doctor mercilessly about it, until one day, he found himself helpless to resist acknowledging it. Their simple date for scones turned into seven years of passion. He counted each day in roaming hands and seductive smiles. And he loved her, he did. He loved her in a way that didn't make a lot of sense to him, and he knew she loved him back. He told her things he'd never told anyone before, and she accepted him, despite his past. But when he graduated medical school, she was finishing up her doctorate in archaeology, and they were headed their separate ways. The Doctor was searching for jobs, and she was off to Egypt.
Perhaps they loved running more than they loved each other. Or perhaps they didn't love each other as much as they always thought. Because when the Doctor asked her to stay with him, she declined, and he understood with no bitterness and only a slight twinge of sadness.
"I never thought you'd end up together forever." Amy told him, after they watched River drive off. She slipped her hand into his. "I thought you'd marry for a spell, but I knew it couldn't last forever. River's too flighty. Always has been. I think it's because of her home situation growing up."
The Doctor gripped her hand back and allowed himself to cry, just a little. Even though he understood it, and had seen it coming, it was hard to watch her drive away with ten years of his life stuffed into her trunk. It was hard to accept that he would no longer see her curls in the morning or hear her laughter at night. It was difficult to rearrange the landscape of his life so that River Song wasn't in the center.
He was grateful he had his Amelia and his Rory, more grateful than anything else. They'd found him when there was almost nothing left to find and loved him despite. And now they were helping him once more. They sat with him that night and made him laugh, even though for a few scary moments he worried he never would again. He remembered thinking, with his arms around both of their shoulders, that meeting them was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
"You're my family, Ponds." He told them affectionately, after one too many drinks. The married couple laughed and smiled and knew.
It was true. It was the truest thing he'd ever known.
The losses added up.
When Amy was a year short of getting her doctorate, she got pregnant.
Rory was busy doing a demanding nursing residency, and after months of tears and pain, the couple decided they would put the child up for adoption.
While Amy was in class, Rory sat with the Doctor on the couch, a drink clutched tightly in his hand.
"I always wanted children, you know. More than anything." He admitted to the Doctor.
The Doctor wrapped his arm around his shoulders, because that's all he could do. It was obvious his best friend was hurting, but he knew this wasn't an easy thing to figure out. It would be impossible for them to both continue their schooling with a child, not to mention the fact that they were pretty much broke. If Amy hadn't inherited the already-paid-off house from her aunt they'd all likely be in trouble.
"I could give you two some money. I have some put away. You can have as much as you want." The Doctor told Rory. He had an inheritance he hadn't even given much thought to at all, but he knew he would give it all to them in a heartbeat, just to keep them happy. Just to save them this pain.
Rory's eyes were swimming in tears.
"And then what? This is best for us, Amy and I both know it, but I hate it. I hate it, Doctor."
With his friend crying on his shoulder, the Doctor realized more than ever that life sometimes didn't give you clear-cut questions with right or wrong answers. Sometimes, there was just an overwhelming amount of gray.
Both the Doctor and Rory were present for the birth. It was a little girl. Amy looked at the baby for only a moment, her red hair sticking to her face with sweat, and then closed her eyes.
"Take her away. I can't see her anymore. Take her out of here."
Rory had to leave the room before he began sobbing. He followed after the doctors and left Amy in the room. The Doctor gathered her into his arms as she cried.
"I already miss her." She wept, and the Doctor could do nothing but hold her.
"I'm so sorry, Pond." He whispered.
Later, once Amy was asleep, he found Rory outside. He was slumped over in a chair, his face pale. The Doctor sat down beside him and set a hand on his shoulder.
"I named her Melody. Did you hear the way she cried? It was almost melodic. Like a song." Rory said.
The Doctor made no comment.
"The adopting parents are taking her home soon. They're nice, they said they'd keep her name Melody. Melody Maitland. It sounds nice, right? She'll have a big sister and a big brother. My classmate from nursing school has known the family her entire life, that's how we found them. She said they're very loving."
He nodded. He didn't know what to say. He could still feel Amy's body shaking with sobs against his own.
Rory stomped suddenly, his tears leaking from his eyes silently.
"Why did this happen? And why do I feel like I made a huge mistake?"
The Doctor gave him what he needed, even though he wasn't sure if it was true.
"She'll have a better life, Rory. Melody will."
Those words freed him.
Before River, During River, and After River became the ways in which the Doctor organized his life. It worked. After River turned out to be not as terrible as he assumed, thanks to his friends and his career. Slowly, Amy and Rory began to feel okay again. They received emails monthly from the Maitlands, with pictures of Melody in her new life, with her new family. It helped them both to see her so happy and healthy, and by extension, it helped the Doctor too. The Maitlands were able to give Melody what they couldn't at this point in their life, and they were slowly coming to terms with that. But Amy would never be the same again, and the Doctor knew that. He knew that because he knew her better than she knew herself.
"We'll have children in a few years." Rory told the Doctor. "And we'll be able to give them all the time and security a child deserves."
He really believed it.
The Doctor originally went into cardiology, and after only a year on the job, he became extensively well-known. He created a special type of artificial heart that could be surgically implanted next to the original, so that cardiac arrest survivors or those at risk could have a temporary back up heart if theirs was to give out. He won prestigious award after prestigious award, and one day he read that his invention had saved an estimation of two hundred thousand lives after only a year of distribution.
It almost evened the tally of those he had taken, and yet, he was not at rest.
He set his sights on a new disease called the Crimson Horror. It was a mysterious disease that slowly cooked the internal organs until, eventually, the person died and their skin turned a leathery red. No one knew much about it, and it was becoming more and more feared, even though it had only hit a small village and seemed to otherwise be contained. The health officials feared that one day it would return, but they wouldn't be able to isolate it.
The Doctor made it his mission to find a cure. He worked tirelessly, with a finesse and intelligence that his coworkers could only describe as breathtaking. He achieved more in a month than a team had achieved in a year. He was halfway there, and the papers were running stories about how Dr. John Smith was going to make history once again, when he stopped.
Life doesn't keep tally.
You have to understand that, at one point or another, it all becomes too much.
There is no sense to death. When Rory was killed, it was like Amelia went with him.
The Doctor couldn't remember those few days without crying so hard he couldn't breathe. It was unbearable for him, but it was impossible for Amelia Pond. When she got the news, she was with the Doctor, driving around France on one of their typical weekend trips.
She screamed so loudly the Doctor almost ran off the road when the hospital told her over the phone. It wasn't a scream the Doctor had ever heard before, or thought himself likely to ever hear again. It was the kind of scream that made your heart freeze and your skin chill. It was a scream that communicated, very clearly, that something had happened that would change the world forever.
He had pulled the car over, his stomach turning, and when Amy could not and would not speak, he recalled the number. When they told him that Rory Williams was shot while at work, by a madman entering the hospital with a gun, he stared through the windshield. And they sat there in silence for hours, the grief weighing them down so far that they couldn't even move from the car.
It was all a blur to the Doctor from that point on. The memory of the news was sharp in his mind, bitter, vicious. But the rest was faded and stretched. He had to identify the body, because Amy refused to leave her bed. She refused to believe what she had been told was true. She looked the Doctor in the eye and told him she couldn't go with him, because Rory was going to be home soon. And what was there to do but hug her close? Nothing. Nothing.
The sight of Rory's still body injured the Doctor in new ways he hadn't been injured before, and he hadn't thought that was possible until it happened. He'd seen so much death and lost so many that he figured he could shoulder it well. But he didn't. He cried in the bathroom once he got home, his hands gripping tight to the counter, and felt he couldn't bear it. Amy really couldn't.
For two days, he had to take care of her. He forgot completely about work. He had to coax her to eat, to drink water, to do anything at all. He held her when she cried so hard she started screaming and brushed her hair at night. In retrospect, he realized he was taking care of a corpse.
He found her dead in her bed, three hours before the funeral, with two empty pill bottles beside her on the sheets. He was not surprised. He was enraged. At himself, because it was his job to protect his Ponds. It was his job and he had failed.
He made sure they were buried together, their names on the same headstone. River came back for the funeral, but there was a coldeness between them that was a shape very similar to the layout of unbearable grief. He wanted to grab her shoulders and plead with her not to blame him, but he couldn't, because deep down, he blamed himself too. Amy and Rory had left everything to the two of them, and after they went through the motions and shouldered the burden of all the new things (things to trip over in the night, things to stare at with tear-filled eyes, things to serve as every day, constant reminders that the previous owners were gone), River left. There wasn't much to say. Sorrow changes the strongest of people, and it had devastated them both in different ways. River grew sad and steady, speaking of settling down somewhere and finding a more stable job. The Doctor grew wild. He couldn't bear anything anymore and had to run to keep the horror from overtaking him.
One morning, only two weeks after the funeral, he left in his car. He took nothing with him but the clothes on his back. Halfway out of town, he found himself automatically slowing down, thinking oh! I've left Amelia behind!
He pulled over onto the side of the road and threw up into the gutter.
For a while, there were no stars at night.
He parked his car in a dodgy parking lot behind an old building somewhere in Lancashire. For once, he didn't even really care where he was.
He lived there for months. He had a bit of money from his inheritance, but he didn't touch it except to buy food. He showered in hostels once a week and slept each night in the backseat of his car. He wondered, frequently, why he even bothered to keep living.
On the day he finally decided there was no particular reason, he locked his car behind him and walked towards the coast. He decided to stop in a diner beforehand, thinking that maybe a cup of tea might bring him a little bit of happiness. But it tasted like nothing and he felt empty.
He was rising to leave when someone began choking quite alarmingly from the corner of the diner.
He turned and watched as the man fell out of his chair, his eyes wide and his hands flailing helplessly. His airflow was very obviously cut off, and the Doctor felt a little twinge of alarm as he saw everyone crowding around him, staring, doing nothing.
He felt someone brush past him, muttering underneath their breath, and then he saw a young woman shoving people out of the way. She was short, with her hair pulled back into a bun, and something about the way she glared made people move back without question. He caught her eye for a moment and saw the worry for the man and disgust at the still onlookers in her gaze, and it knocked something into place for him.
He moved through the path she had made, his heart picking up pace.
"I'm a doctor," he called, almost tiredly, as he neared the body. He was about to kneel down when he felt a hand smack against his chest. He looked down to find the pretty young woman glaring at him.
"You're late. Get out of the way."
And he watched as she kneeled down and singlehandedly lifted the man up and preformed the Heimlich maneuver, her eyes determinedly focused on what she was doing the entire time. He caught no hint that she was scared, except perhaps a slight shaking of her small hands.
When the man was breathing again, she snatched someone's glass of water off the table and soaked a cloth napkin. She helped the man lean against the counter and pressed the wet cloth to his forehead as she took his pulse. The crowd was congratulating her, but she said nothing, her eyes still filled with that sheer determination. They began to disperse, and the Doctor followed them.
He was halfway down the block when he heard the ambulance arrive. It couldn't have been two more minutes after that that he heard running behind him.
He fell still immediately. It had been a long time since anyone had addressed him in any way. He was about to take off running from her when she reached him, her small hand gripping his shoulder with almost alarming strength.
He turned around reluctantly. She was gazing up at him, her pink lips pulled down into a frown. He was still too much in a haze to really take in her appearance, but he noted that she was beautiful. All the more reason to keep walking.
"You know, this is why nurses hate doctors." She greeted.
He stared. She pushed a finger into his chest, her eyebrows drawn down in anger.
"You lot just stand around, staring, waiting until one of us show up to save the day, and then you take all the glory. Fat load of arrogant arses. Were you just going to let the man choke to death if I hadn't shown up?"
He was at a loss. He gaped, his eyes trained on her angry features. She crossed her arms and scoffed.
"Yeah, thought as much."
She turned around and began to walk away, and the Doctor thought that was what he wanted, but he only felt worse. He turned back around and continued his journey, wearily, with a heavier heart. After another minute, he felt someone brush against his side again. When he looked, she was walking beside him, struggling to match his long-legged pace.
"Seriously?" She demanded. "You're just going to keep walking?"
He turned his head in the opposite direction.
"You're right. I am an arse." He said. "Which is why I don't associate with people. It's better for them."
He picked up his pace to a fast walk. She had to increase hers to a slight jog to stay beside him.
"Blimey, you do like to mope! And wallow in self-pity."
He stopped walking abruptly, and in her haste to stop as well, she almost toppled forward. He had to stop himself from reaching out to steady her because he had to remind himself that he didn't care. He was done. He didn't want anything to do with the world any longer.
He turned to look at her, tired beyond belief. Her brown eyes were framed with thick, dark lashes and her button nose completed her small-featured face. She had a small chin and a small mouth that were complimented very nicely by her large eyes. There was a slight flush to her cheeks, raspberry on cream, and she stared at him with an almost accusing look. She was a lot shorter than him, but something about the way she held herself made him certain she could hold her own in any situation.
"What's your name?" He asked her, without even realizing he wanted to know. He found himself tiredly amused and interested in her, in an almost passive way, the same way a dying man grins knowingly at the newspaper. It's interesting in a detached sort of way because you know, really, it doesn't affect you.
It hadn't been what she was expecting. Her eyebrows furrowed a tiny bit, creating a faint line between them. He felt his lips turn up into a small smile.
"Clara." She told him.
He waited for a last name, but none came.
"Clara who?" He pressed.
She lifted an eyebrow. "Doctor who?"
Fair enough. The Doctor almost felt the urge to laugh.
"Doctor no one. I'm not here to stay. It was nice meeting you, Clara. The world's lucky to have you."
The newspaper was read. He continued walking. The feisty, beautiful nurse would be someone else's problem and she'd have hundreds of stories more until her end came, and he found that comforting. Some dying men lament the fact that the world goes on without them, but the Doctor found that fact freeing.
Unless, of course, the nurse refused to accept that she was no longer his problem. Then that might cause a bit of a complication.
"Hey! I'm not done with you!" She called behind him.
He glanced over at her, his interest in her fading to annoyance. Her expression was pulled down into a frown now.
"Well, I'm not really a people person to be honest. Bit of a hermit." He replied. He knew if he ran there'd be no way she could keep up with him, but that seemed a little rash. If she didn't back off soon, though…
"You look like Dr. John Smith." She said.
He stopped walking again and turned to face her, his stomach turning.
"Well, I'm not. I'm just the Doctor." He snapped.
"Funny, he insisted on being called that too. And had the same ridiculous chin." She said. She didn't seem intimidated by him at all and held his gaze evenly. He was the first to break the eye contact, and oddly, he felt like she had beaten him somehow for this.
"They say he saved the world with his invention."
He said nothing, his shoulders tense and his fists balled. He could hear the traffic and chatter around him, which struck him as odd, because he hadn't heard much at all in a very long time. He'd been living in a cloudy fog since Amelia and Rory, and he got a sudden fear and sudden wave of hope that it might be slowly lifting. He didn't even know what he wanted anymore.
He could feel her eyes on him even though he was staring determinedly at his shoes.
"Personally, I think it's a bit of an exaggeration as well. But he was on his way to doing even more. He was going to be the man who cured the Crimson Horror." She pressed. Her voice was softer now, almost pleading. "They called him a genius, and then he just disappeared, his work halfway completed."
He didn't like the accusations in her tone. He looked back up at her, his jaw set, his eyes searing. He wanted to tell her that he didn't owe the world anything. He'd made up for his crime and yet things were still being ripped away from him. He wouldn't let it happen ever again.
"Why are you telling me this?" He finally asked, his voice hard and drawn.
Her large brown eyes were almost like a mirror when he stared into them. He saw fear, frustration, pride, sadness.
"Because the world needs saving again, Dr. John Smith. We've got a case of the Crimson Horror at the hospital I work at." She told him. And she was somehow on the same wavelength as him, because just as he decided to turn and run away from her, she reached out and grabbed his hand tightly. She had a confident grip, and even though she was retraining him, he felt somehow comforted. And then he felt a little sick.
"Are you a pediatric nurse, Clara?" He asked her. Her grip was the grip of someone who spent quite a lot of time with children who were being led places they didn't want to go.
She straightened up more, almost as if to appear taller. The Doctor felt his heart warm a little at that. Her eyes studied his, her mouth set in a line.
"Yes." She said. "And the patient who is sick is in my care."
He didn't even consider arguing with her anymore. He could tell from the fierce loyalty on her face that he was coming with her, whether or not she had to drag him herself. He would go look at the child and then leave. Then he could join Amy and Rory like he wanted to in the first place.
He closed his eyes and sighed.
"I'll look at him. Take me to him."
Clara's grip on his hand loosened, enough that he could easily slip away, but somehow she didn't seem worried about that. Like she somehow knew she had him in her control.
"It's a she. Melody Maitland."
This time, it was the Doctor who was holding tight to Clara's hand. His stomach dropped and his eyes widened. She didn't even seem surprised at the way he reacted to that name.
"I knew it was you." She whispered, her eyes searching his again. "Rory's best mate. The man who was going to save us all."
For the first time since the deaths, the Doctor was beginning to feel like a doctor once again.
"Take me to Melody." He demanded.
She didn't need any prompting. She gave his hand a squeeze and they were off, walking quickly in the opposite direction.