Written by Loverly Souris
o0o o0o o0o
Clare, Councillor Oswall's one and only daughter dies on an especially windy day. She is merely eighteen years old.
After everything she has gone through, it is an unusually quiet death – her fever rages until she can't even feel the constant pain in her body, and her heart gives up the fight as soon as she closes her eyes with an exhausted smile on her lips. It is like drifting off to a dreamless sleep and she is happy that she can finally rest.
However, Clare doesn't expect that the Angel of Death, who guides her into the eternal light, releases her hand halfway to her promised peace.
And she wakes up.
The first thing she notices is the lack of pain – no shivers, no heat, no migraines, stomach aches and spasms in her limbs. It is very comforting, but then she realises it's not only the symptoms of the illness that are missing.
She can't feel anything at all, like there is no air in her lungs, no blood in her veins. She opens her eyes – she can see, that's a good thing. She can also hear the soft conversation on the other side of the door. She moves her fingers on the bed sheet, running them across the softness. All of her senses are working, but it's like she is a hollow shell. A puppet.
The door opens and her father enters the room. He looks so tired and sad – Clare wants to cry, but she doesn't have tears. He is strange, he doesn't seem to acknowledge that she's awake. His sorrowful expression doesn't change as he watches her. She opens her mouth to say something to him, but she can't speak.
"My sweet Clare..." he whispers and hides his face into his palms.
Father, I'm here.
She sits up and touches his knee gingerly. He doesn't move, so she turns away – that is when she sees herself still lying on the bed, motionless, eyes closed and not breathing.
Her body is dead, but for an unfathomable reason, her soul decided to stay.
o0o o0o o0o
Clare attends her own funeral.
As she is eyeing the crowd of people, she is sure that only two of them are mourning her genuinely – her father, and her maid, Nina. Neither of them is moving, while everybody else is theatrically drying their eyes with lace handkerchiefs, or occasionally crying out sorrowfully, but she knows they are all fake. They all hated her, except those two.
Nina was her best friend. Clare wants to go to her and place a hand on her shoulder. The blank expression on her face as she is watching the coffin being lowered into the ground would be too painful to bear, if she weren't robbed of her emotions.
And her father. He didn't let her fall apart when her mother passed away less than a year ago. He protected her, sometimes more than it was strictly necessary, but he did everything to make her feel safe and loved – and now, it's her whom he is burying. I failed as your daughter, didn't I? I am so sorry, father.
The wind is still howling. After the short ceremony, the crowd walks away and two weeks later, the entire household leaves the Oswall Mansion. Her father, Nina, everybody.
And Clare is alone.
o0o o0o o0o
Clare has never seen that blue box in the hall. She doesn't know that man who is holding a strange device to his ear and seemingly talking to himself either.
"Hello, Clara! Checking in! I have news, a good one and a bad one. Good news is that I've got your favourite Canadian maple syrup. Bad news is that I'm in a pretty pickle right now, the TARDIS landed somewhere, no idea where or when, in an abandoned mansion, but it's alright. Abandoned mansions are cool. Anyway, the TARDIS won't leave for some reason. Maybe it's the helmic regulator again, I don't know. But don't worry, dear, I'll figure it out and fix everything. Enjoy your stay at your dad's. Talk to you soon!"
She watches him pacing around and wonders who he is. His clothes are funny, his accent tells her that he is definitely not from here and the box is very interesting as well – he occasionally steps into it, then walks out again. He keeps on muttering – now obviously to himself –, and as she moves slightly closer to him to listen, she realises she doesn't even understand half of what he is saying.
"No, it's not the helmic regulator. I'm not running low on Artron energy. It's either some other problem, or there is something very-very bad that doesn't let me take off. But then again, if there was something here with bad intentions, the HADS would have been automatically activated. Probably there is something wrong with the TARDIS herself then."
It becomes clear very quickly that, even though she wants to, Clare can't help him. She is torn between staying beside him and disappearing, because it has been such a long time since she had company, but once he leaves, she'll be alone again.
So she turns around.
Driven out by her curiosity, she comes back to the hall the next day. The strange man is still there. She sits down onto the stairs and watches him tinkering with something on the floor, leaning against the side of his box. He is so deep in what he is doing that he doesn't notice her, and the day slowly drifts by like that.
By the time Clare remembers that she shouldn't get too attached, the sun has already set and she feels something lurking in the depth of her chest – exactly where she shouldn't feel anything.
o0o o0o o0o
Clare follows him with her eyes from the top of the stairs. He is using that interesting device again, but unlike the other time, it seems like he is actually talking to someone on it.
"I know it's been six days, and I'm sorry... Yes, I think I discovered the problem. It's the Zeiton crystal. It's nothing more than an ordinary rock now... I have no idea, but I need some sort of energy, powerful enough to move the TARDIS... No. Don't worry, everything else is fine. Sure, the TARDIS is taking care of me, you know how she is... Good point, I haven't actually looked around in the house, although there isn't really much to see. Completely empty. But maybe I'll find something. Thank you, dear. Take care of yourself. Bye."
As he puts down the device, he sighs, burying his face into his hands in such a familiar way that Clare feels another pang in her chest.
She has stayed with him in the end, and her hollow shell has been filled with a variety of emotions. She is always happy when she finds him where he was after leaving him alone for the night. It amuses her to watch him trying and failing, those funny expressions he makes. However, his anger is her anger as well, because she can tell he is not very delighted to be here and he wants to leave as soon as possible. He sometimes speaks to this other person whose name is so similar to hers, this "Clara" – she suspects she must be his wife or lover, and he longs to be with her.
This thought breaks her a little every time.
"I know you are there."
Clare rouses and stares at him. He hasn't moved, but she is sure he is talking to her, even though he has never seemed to notice her, "I've felt you since I landed. I was waiting patiently for you to reveal yourself, but I'm begging now – please, show yourself." His voice is full of bitter desperation. "I don't know what to do."
Before she can stop herself, Clare stands up and descends the stairs. She walks to him – she hasn't been so close to him before. She places her hand on the top of his head, and she can tell he feels it.
He looks up. Straight at her, like he can see her.
"Thank you," he smiles. It's a sad smile that makes her chest ache, but it's the most beautiful thing she has ever seen.
o0o o0o o0o
Clare has fallen in love with this strange man, who later introduces himself as the Doctor.
For the next few days, she has moved down from the top of the stairs to sit on the floor in front of him, as he is trying his best to solve the problem with that crystal. She showed him around the mansion, but they haven't found anything.
She likes watching him. She likes having one-sided conversations with him, because even though she can't respond, he treats her like she can, like she is a person, not a bodiless soul. He shares his thoughts, his ideas, his feelings with her, and she listens intently – while gradually loving him more and more, despite of the sorrow that he'll probably never see her.
However, everything changes one evening, when the Doctor asks her to come inside the box with him.
It's actually much bigger than it seems, she thinks immediately and looks around. It's so beautiful, everything is made of metal, but it isn't cold at all. The column in the middle and the peculiar panel with the buttons and switches and toggles radiate warmth – like it is alive.
"It's a ship," the Doctor explains. "A time machine. TARDIS – Time and Relative Dimension in Space."
Clare steps closer to the controls and glances into a mirror-like object. She gasps as she sees her own face, her own brown eyes large with wonder, reflected in the polished glass.
"Make yourself comfortable," he adds from the other side of the room and she jumps away from the mirror. She reaches out to touch the silvery column – that's when it happens.
The TARDIS makes a tired whirring noise and the Doctor freezes.
"What?" He turns and stares at the spot where she is standing. Clare pulls her fingers back and the sound stops. "What happened?"
In a blink he is in front of her, pointing at her with another strange object, a metal pen with a green light and he exclaims joyfully. "You! You are beautiful! Utterly amazing!"
Clare frowns as she lifts her hand to meet the Doctor's flailing one. His grin is almost tearing his face apart. "You've just generated energy and transferred it to the Zeiton crystal! Oh you wonderful, wonderful thing! You can save us!"
He is happy, so happy that the permanent pain in her chest eases a little. She laces her fingers through his as much as she can and she almost feels the softness of his touch.
With a small smile on her lips, Clare places her free hand back on the column and it comes alive under her palm. The noise is more powerful this time, and the Doctor laughs. She closes her eyes.
What a nice lullaby...
o0o o0o o0o
Clare is entirely absorbed by the TARDIS, but before she disappears completely, a part of her remains in the console room.
She watches her Doctor.
It takes him a few seconds to realise that she's gone. The hand that she was holding drops to his side and immediately pulls out his metal pen to scan the area. When he can't find her, he falls onto his knees in shock. "Oh, no..."
It's alright. I'm fine, Doctor.
"No, I didn't want this... Why on earth did you have to eat her? A tiny bit wasn't enough for you, was it?"
Don't blame her, please.
"I'm sorry... You sacrificed yourself for me, and I didn't even see you."
I was glad to do so. I would do it again, in a heartbeat.
She can't feel the pain in her chest anymore. Her vision is becoming blurry, but she strains herself to look at him once more.
I love you... goodbye.
Every light in the console room turns red, and that is the last thing Clare sees.
Thank you for reading! :)
This one-shot was written for a Tumblr event "Seven Days of Whoufflé". The theme was "Heartache" – let me know in a review if I got it right. :) Also, if you are interested, you can find the other one-shots that I wrote for this event on my Tumblr, under the tag "seven days of whouffle".