A/n: This is the first oneshot of (hopefully) many. All are set in the same universe that's established in this oneshot and are 100% Human!11/Clara focused. Most will be unabashed fluff. Because they're oneshots, there's no linear layout for the chapters (as in, this first one focuses on Clara and 11 in their early thirties as parents, whereas the next one could feature them on their first date or as children playing in the street together, etc. etc.). Hope you enjoy!
three mischievous children, one stuck lift, and a surplus of unconditional love
It was once said to Clara, many years ago, that miracles could happen if only one wished hard enough. But she wished with all her might that her family might be on time for something once—just once—and here they were.
"—so then you loop this shoelace around the other, like so…and then take this one and pass it underneath the other—"
"—no, no, not like that, honey. You have to—okay, please don't throw the shoe…don't throw the shoe! It'll never tie that way!"
"LOTTIE! I SAID DO NOT THROW THE—OUCH!"
"DADDY! IT'S IMPORTANT!"
"Yes, yes, what is it, Ellabell? I'm trying to help Lottie tie her—do not tie the shoelaces to the cat! CLARA!"
Clara, currently attempting to wrestle her son into his button down, ignored her husband's cry for help. She could only imagine what Ellabell was screaming about (the child was almost as mischievous as her father), but she was too busy thinking with mute terror about the ticking clock. They were supposed to be out of the house twenty minutes ago. They should have been in the car on their way to the building by now. Instead, she was in a wrestling match with her three-year-old, the Doctor was giving shoelace tying lessons to her incredibly clever daughter that somehow could not master it no matter how hard they tried, and God only knew what the four-year-old was up to. She was never going to get promoted to anything.
When her son inadvertently socked her in the face in his mad attempts to wiggle out of her arms, she felt her patience snap. She gripped his arms tightly and peered into his brown eyes.
"Bristol, if you don't sit still and let me put this shirt on, I'm going to ban all sweets for two months. Two months!" She whispered fiercely, her tone low and threatening. The boy stared at her challengingly, his eyes appraising his mother's expression like he was looking for a chink in her resolve. When he found nothing but steely determination, he groaned. Then he went slack in her arms, flopping over so his face was almost touching the floor.
"I surrender." He moaned dramatically.
"That's what I thought," Clara murmured underneath her breath, her eyes narrowed as she righted her son and quickly dressed him. It went a lot quicker when he wasn't throwing a tantrum.
Once she had her battle won, she noted that she hadn't heard a peep from the others in a while. She peered nervously out the doorway to his bedroom and took his small, sticky hand, pulling him behind her.
"Let's go check on Daddy and the girls," she suggested.
She was already thinking of ways to punish her husband for whatever inappropriately timed games he had begun with the girls (she was expecting anything from a spontaneous baking experiment to an abrupt board game) as she practically jogged into the family room. Her husband—self-named the Doctor and rightly so—hated these events more than her children did and thought every moment was a moment to play. His reluctance for timeliness was the only thing they'd fought about in their many years of marriage. To Clara's chagrin, time hadn't changed his habit of showing up hours late for events (if he even made it to them at all). It was a running joke in Clara's family, the punchline being the fact that he had been late to two of his children's births. He was only on time for Bristol's because Clara wouldn't let him go anywhere the last few weeks of her pregnancy, not even to the grocers, convinced he'd somehow end up in Paris by accident ("That was only one time!" he'd protested).
So when Clara walked into the family room and found all three sitting innocently on the couch, dressed perfectly from head to toe with pristine smiles on their faces, she was instantly horrified.
"Oh, Christ, what did you do?" She asked all three. Her hand dropped from Bristol's as she rested both on her hips. She looked expectantly at each of their guilty faces, saving her husband's for last. He looked torn between humor and fear.
"Clara, my beautiful Clara, that dress looks absolutely—"
Clara lifted her hand, cutting off her husband's flattery. She leveled a look his way that made him gulp. She lifted an eyebrow. He tugged nervously at his bowtie. Then, after a tense five seconds, they all broke.
"IT WAS AN ACCIDENT!"
"I WAS JUST TRYING TO TEACH LOTTIE TO TIE, I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT ELLABELL WAS DOING!"
"I TOLD THEM TO STICK THEIR HAND DOWN THERE BUT THEY WOULDN'T AND THEN—"
Bristol stomped his small foot.
"YOU HAVE TO TAKE TURNS!" He shrieked, silencing his siblings and father. Clara spared him a proud beam, smoothing his hair back lovingly as she turned her gaze to her now quiet family once more.
"What happened?" She asked slowly, her eyes glued on the Doctor.
He inhaled deeply and then exhaled slowly, steeling himself for whatever reaction was coming from his wife.
"Ellabell dropped the keys down the toilet!" He blurted, pointing an accusing finger at their four-year-old, who peered down at her tights in shame.
Clara blinked. Her heart began sliding down to her toes as his words sank into her.
"What keys?" She breathed, already knowing the answer but dreading it anyway.
He mumbled something quietly underneath his breath that Clara didn't catch. She walked forward and stood between his parted legs, settling her hands on his shoulders seriously.
"Doctor! What keys?!" She repeated.
"The keys!" He wailed in despair, his face twisting with guilt. "Your keys! The car and the house and your dad's and the beach house and my office and your office!" He reached up and grabbed her hips, staring up at her with a miserable expression. "Please don't ban sweets from the house again, Ellabell didn't mean to do it, I swear! I can't live that long without Jammie Dodgers again! I can't, I'll die!"
He dramatically fell back against the couch cushions as if to demonstrate his point. Clara rolled her eyes and turned her gaze to her guilty daughter.
"Ellabell?" She asked.
Ellabell took a deep breath.
"I wanted to see if they would sink or float." She explained. Her small face brightened considerably for a moment as she looked up at her mother. "They sank, mummy. Big time."
Clara's voice was sour. "I'm sure they did, Ellie. And why exactly did you flush it?"
Ellabell tapped her chin (which was, unfortunately, her father's). "Well, I wanted to see if it was too big to go down."
Clara gritted her teeth. "And was it?"
Ellabell beamed. "No! It went down the very first time I flushed! I was surprised. Are you surprised to hear that, Mummy? Did you think all those heavy keys would fit?"
She stared expectantly at her mother, her green eyes widened with happy curiosity. The Doctor was watching his wife hesitantly, and after she had stared incredulously at Ellabell for twenty seconds without responding, he leaned over and hissed in Ellabell's ear.
"This is when you apologize." He suggested.
Ellabell's eyes widened slowly, suddenly realizing her mother didn't find the science experiment worth the sacrifice.
"Oh. I'm sorry." She said, and then she promptly began wailing, caving underneath her mother's angry look.
Clara took one look at her and threw her hands up in the air.
"That's it. We're not going tonight."
Bristol's joyful cheer was silenced the minute the Doctor began shaking his head profusely at him, mouthing no! and shooting Clara fearful looks. Lottie tugged on her father's arm.
"Does this mean you can help me with my shoes now?" She stage-whispered.
Ellabell slid off the couch and stumbled over to Clara, wrapping her arms around her waist and burrowing her face into her swollen stomach as she sobbed. Clara rubbed her back, feeling her anger evaporating even as she tried to hang onto it. She sighed and lowered down with a little difficulty so she was face-to-face with her daughter.
"Next time you want to see if something sinks, tell me and we can test it in a bucket, okay? All those keys were very important. Mummy needed them and now I'm going to have to pray the plumber can fish them out." She explained gently.
Ellabell nodded and reached up, wiping her snot on her bare arm. Clara grimaced.
"Go grab some tissues," she suggested gently, and Ellabell took off without a moment's hesitation.
Clara rose slowly to her feet and then turned her back on the Doctor and Lottie, kneading her forehead and taking a deep breath. She had hoped to make a good impression at this staff party. It was a Christmas party for the employees and their families and her boss was extremely family-oriented. Showing up with her normal, happy, functioning family was supposed to earn her the upper hand. Instead she had to admit it to herself: she didn't have a normal family. Not that she ever wanted one, but at times like this, it would have made her life a hell of a lot easier. She needed the promotion now, because she had spent a year getting on her boss's good side and if she didn't put the final nail in the coffin now, before her maternity leave, she thought her long absence might negate all she had worked for. They'd replace her and forget about her and she'd never get the promotion.
"Clara?" The Doctor asked hesitantly.
"This is all your fault. All three got your cleverness." She replied, her back still to him. She pressed a hand to her stomach. "And I just know this one will as well. It's only a matter of time before someone sets the house on fire 'just to see what happens'."
"I caught her in time before the curtains caught flame, don't worry." The Doctor soothed.
Clara laughed despite herself, unsure if the Doctor was joking or serious. She decided she didn't want to know either way. When she heard him tell Lottie to wait in the foyer with her siblings, Clara smiled. She could feel her anger and stress evaporating before the Doctor even said anything at all.
He set his hands on her shoulders and leaned down, pressing a soft kiss to the back of her neck. He nuzzled the exposed skin there, the curve of his smile making Clara feel a sudden glow of happiness.
"I love when you wear your hair like this. It makes me think of our wedding." He told her absently, his long fingers caressing her hairline almost thoughtfully. She smiled despite herself.
"Me too. That's why I do it that way." She turned a little reluctantly and faced him, letting her hands fall to her stomach where they normally rested.
"Remember our hippie phase?" She asked suddenly, her eyes crinkling as she grinned.
He beamed in response and wiggled his eyebrows playfully.
"Pretty well. If I remember correctly, you were going to burn your bras and I was going to grow a beard and take up beekeeping."
She laughed and rolled her eyes at her expanded middle. "And we were going to never, ever have children."
The Doctor did a double take at her stomach, his eyes widening comically.
"Whoa! When did that happen?! I just stepped out to check on my bees and now—this!" He gestured at her stomach.
She laughed. "I think I saw three small humans move in with us as well, while you were outside with your bees."
He smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand. "I've got to fix that lock."
"You've got to. They keep peeing on the beds and flushing our keys down the toilet." She ground out the last words, her teeth clenched again as a wave of anger overcame her. It passed when the Doctor's smile widened.
"And I bet they aren't even paying rent, are they? The little criminals!"
They laughed with each other, their laughter trailing off to soft smiles. The Doctor took another step forward and settled his palm on her stomach, causing the baby to kick painfully at Clara's ribcage.
"I love our mad life and our mad children and my mad wife. It's so much better than beekeeping." He told her.
"I guess it beats making bracelets all day. And bras have grown on me." She teased. Then she rose up onto her tiptoes and tapped the Doctor's nose. "And I'm rather fond of my mad husband."
He became aware of the three sets of little eyes watching them from the doorway.
"And what about the little criminals?" He asked.
Clara beamed. "Surprisingly, they've grown on me." She joked. She glanced down at her stomach. "Pretty literally."
The Doctor gave her hands a final squeeze and then turned, peering seriously at his children.
"All right team! Here's the deal! We've got to get to your mummy's party ASAP! No buts or complaining! And while we are there there will be absolutely no science experiments of any kind! I don't care what inspires you! Is that understood?"
All three groaned, earning them a stern look from their father. Then, begrudgingly, they all murmured agreement.
"Fantastic." The Doctor turned back to Clara. "I've already called a car. They're parked out front waiting."
Clara smiled despite herself and settled her hands on his shoulders. She pressed down and lifted herself up enough to press a brief, thankful kiss to his lips.
"You're the best." She told him, earning her a cocky bowtie-adjustment. His ego would probably be too swollen the rest of the night to even fit in the car, but they'd have to deal.
The family trudged out front, the Doctor practically dragging Bristol by the hand. Once they were in the back of the cab—with Bristol on the Doctor's lap, Ellabell on the edge of Clara's knees, and Lottie shoved in the small space between her parents—Clara began scanning her children's appearances for faults. She noticed a run in Lottie's red tights almost immediately, but she'd expected that. She fished out the clear fingernail polish in her purse and began shakily applying it to the run in the six-year-old's tights, ignoring her complaints.
"We're like sardines in this thing!" Ellabell shared. "Mummy, will we have to take two cars when Miles is born?"
It took her a few minutes to process her question, as she was already leaning across Lottie's lap to fix Bristol's socks.
"No, honey, he can just sit on Lottie's lap." She murmured absently.
Ellabell oh'ed. Lottie added her five cents to the conversation. "But we can't have any more brothers or sisters because then we'd really have to take another car."
Clara sat back up, Bristol's socks officially folded over correctly, and shot the Doctor a look.
"That's right, Lottie. No more brothers or sisters. It'd be bad for the environment to take two cars." The Doctor agreed. Clara nodded firmly. But then she remembered that they said that every time.
Unfortunately, this triggered unexpected and unnecessary wailing from Ellabell, who spent the rest of the ride sniffling about the fact that she wanted a little sister, not another stinky brother, earning her an angry smack from Bristol, who was scolded by Clara for hitting. Then he began sulking. Clara told Ellabell to complain to her father about the baby being a boy, as it was technically his doing (albeit it was out of his control), and Ellabell spent a good amount of time giving him the cold shoulder, much to his annoyance. By the time the car pulled up to the building, pretty much everyone was cross with one another. Clara looped her arm with her husband's once they were free from the car and leaned in to whisper to him.
"Sod it, next time we're taking two cabs anyway." She hissed.
He pressed an exasperated kiss to the top of her head. "Agreed. We'll just recycle more to balance it out."
Clara and the Doctor grabbed hold of a child's hand, keeping their eyes on their eldest as they walked into the large, sleek building. They stopped in front of the lifts, jumping slightly when all three of their children let out excited yelps.
"AMY! AMY AMY AMY!"
The redhead was immediately latched onto by three different sets of arms before she even came to a complete stop. Clara rushed forward to free her children's godmother from their restrictive holds, but Amy shooed her off.
"They're fine, they're fine, I've been missing them!" She assured Clara. She reached down and hugged each in turn, lifting her head to give her best friend a smile. He returned it, still hovering near the lifts.
"Give Amy some breathing room, you little monsters!" The Doctor teased. The kids fell into giggles and Bristol let go of Amy for the sake of stomping around her in circles, growling like a monster. The other two joined in, their giggles filling the cavernous lobby, and Amy joined Clara and the Doctor back in front of the lifts.
"You're looking large," Amy greeted Clara.
Clara turned to the Doctor. "I'm thinking this baby needs a new godmother."
Amy laughed and reached forward, pulling the other woman into a hug.
"Relax, you look—"
"Do not say glowing. I repeat: do not say I'm glowing. If I hear that word one more time…" Clara trailed off angrily.
Amy let go of her and pulled the Doctor into her arms, giving his forehead a friendly kiss.
"I'm guessing you're the guilty party who keeps using the word glowing?" She teased him.
He bowed his head. "Well she is," he murmured underneath his breath.
Amy clapped him on the shoulder. "I've no sympathy for you, mate. All my sympathy goes to Clara, whom I'm convinced has spent the majority of the last six years of her life pregnant."
Clara shrugged. "The boy at the market always carries my bags out to my car when I'm pregnant. Wasn't quite ready to give that up yet."
Their laughter was interrupted by the chiming of the lift as the doors slid open. Clara and the Doctor herded their children through the doors and followed after them. Amy gave them a wave as the lift filled.
"Still waiting for Rory, he got held up at work." She informed them.
"See you at the top!" The Doctor told her with a grin.
The lift was brimming with people already when someone ran forward, pushing their hand between the wall and the closing door. The man was in his early forties and wearing a casual outfit. He didn't seem to notice how full the lift was and hurried on, causing another passenger to have to shove herself into a corner to keep from being rubbed up against. Clara shifted uncomfortably as the doors closed and drew Bristol closer to her to hopefully generate more room between all of the strangers. She did a quick headcount as it began moving up floors. There were ten people. What was the limit? A quick glance at the wall told her twenty-four, but she didn't see how that many people could have possibly fit. It was bursting with her family of five and the five others.
She scanned her eyes over the others, noticing that her husband was doing the same. There was the forty year old man in his partially unbuttoned shirt, a woman in her fifties that was rapidly texting on her smartphone, a young, attractive couple glowering at Clara's children, and an elderly man who appeared to be snoozing in place. None of them looked particularly threatening. Clara hated to admit it to herself, but the state of the world had made it necessary for her to keep tabs on people like this. Even someone vaguely worrisome was usually watched like a hawk whenever they were near her children, both by Clara and the Doctor.
Bristol turned around to face Clara, accidentally whacking Clara hard in the stomach with his elbow. She grimaced as the baby kicked angrily at her ribs, as if in retaliation.
"Mummy, I've got to wee-wee." He whined loudly.
The couple on the far side shot Clara an angry and threatening look, as if daring her to allow her child to piss in the lift. She briefly entertained the idea of telling him to go for it, but then the Doctor intervened, probably seeing the short glare she shot the blonde woman.
"Just hold it for a moment, okay, buddy?" He whispered to Bristol.
Bristol grabbed his crotch and squirmed.
"I gotta go now." He informed the small group with gritted teeth. Clara looked up nervously to see what floor they were on. Nine. Only five more.
"Really, you should have taken him before."
Clara looked up at the woman, her eyebrows raised. She heard the Doctor murmur oh dear God underneath his breath as she slowly straightened her posture, her hands finding her hipbones. She was about to tear the woman a new one when the lift came to a sudden, shuddering halt. The force of it made several people stumble and jerked the elderly man awake with a gasp. Ellabell began tumbling forward and Clara's heart froze before the Doctor reached out by instinct, pulling her back against him and holding her securely.
It was quiet for a moment as they all righted themselves. Clara set her hands on her son's shoulders and glanced at her family quickly, making sure they were all upright, and then she glanced to see what floor they were on, thinking someone had stopped the lift to get on. But where it normally showed the floor number, it had three dashes.
"Are we there, then?" The iPhone woman asked, lifting her eyes from her phone for the first time.
"What's that mean, Louis?" The blonde woman asked nervously, her dislike for Clara's children fading to panic.
"MUMMY I CAN'T HOLD IT ANYMORE!"
Clara noticed the man with the slightly unbuttoned shirt taking the opportunity to peer down the blonde woman's shirt as she leaned forward, examining the row of buttons. She shot him a look of disgust before turning to her husband.
"Stuck?" She asked him lightly.
He scratched his face nervously. "Appears so."
Clara felt a sudden warmth against her legs. When she glanced down, she saw it was from her son's now wet bottom, as he had peed his pants.
"Christ, Bristol," she murmured.
By now, everyone on the lift had latched onto the word stuck.
"Stuck? What do you mean stuck?" The blonde woman's husband, Louis, demanded. He had the air of a rich man who had everything handed to him on a silver platter.
"I always knew these things were more trouble than they were worth," the old man sighed. He leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
"STUCK?! I can't be stuck in here!" The blonde woman shrieked. She then turned to Clara and looked at Bristol accusingly. "I can smell his urine!"
Clara smiled. "Congratulations."
"We can't be stuck. My reception's terrible." The iPhone lady moaned.
Clara saw the Doctor shuffle forward to fiddle with the buttons. She watched him press the emergency call button a few times, frowning when nothing much happened. He tried pressing the ground floor button a few times, but it didn't budge. She began to wonder if perhaps the power had gone out. Maybe the lights had their own power source or were on a generator.
She voiced her thoughts to the Doctor. "You think it's the power?"
He turned to look at her and shuffled back over to his family. He shrugged.
"That's what I was thinking, but there's no way to know."
Ellabell leaned against Clara's side and began sniffling.
"Stuck forever?" She wailed.
Clara didn't have to look up to the know the blonde bitch was giving her the stink eye. She smoothed back Ellabell's hair and smiled at her reassuringly.
"Not forever. Just a little bit."
They all waited tensely for five minutes, talking sparsely amongst themselves. After the first five minutes, everyone in the lift but Clara's family began to grow extremely worried. iPhone Lady had called for help almost immediately after it stopped, but they'd informed her that it could take hours until the technicians were free. Apparently there was something going on at the London Eye that required all on Holiday call. After being told to "hold tight", Louis addressed his girlfriend/wife, who Clara learned was named Cassandra, and began ranting about how "someone" was going to "pay" for "wasting his time". Clara and the Doctor exchanged an eye-roll.
"Well, since we're all stuck on here, I'm Jack Harkness." The leering man in the corner spoke up, revealing an unexpected American accent. "And might I say you've got a great rack." He winked at Clara and shoved past the iPhone lady to extend his hand. She took it carefully and gave him a friendly shake.
The Doctor bristled. "Oi!"
Clara sidestepped his indignation. "Thanks. It's because my milk glands are enlarging. I'm pregnant, you see."
She expected that brash comment to turn his smirk into a grimace. But instead he winked.
"Well, might I say you look radiant?"
Clara turned to her husband. "Radiant! Now there's a fresh word! Much better than glowing." She turned back to Jack. "Thanks, Jack."
The Doctor gently pushed Lottie to the side so he could step forward and take Jack's hand. He shook it rather vigorously.
"Hello. I'm the Doctor. I'm the impregnator." He greeted.
Jack laughed. "Brilliant! Are all four yours?"
"Without a doubt." Clara answered for him, her mind still on Ellabell's experiment earlier.
"How domestic!" Jack cooed. He then turned to Cassandra, even though her posture screamed her distaste of everyone in the lift. "And you've got a lovely everything, my dear."
She stiffened. "I am not your dear, you disgusting, chauvinistic pig. And I don't want to small chat with you. We're stuck in the bloody lift!"
Louis wrapped his arm around her. "Count to ten, Cassandra," he whispered. She shut her eyes and began mouthing numbers. Clara smirked at the Doctor who muffled his laughter behind his hand.
"Can I have my book?" Lottie whispered to Clara.
Clara took a moment to beam proudly at her children, who—despite Bristol's pants-wetting—were handling this situation much better than the other adults. But then again they weren't normal children. They were Oswald-Smiths. She dug Lottie's book out of her bag and Ellabell's coloring book and crayons, passing them to them quietly. Ellabell crawled behind her father's legs so she was wedged between him and wall and began coloring, humming almost silently to herself. Lottie leaned against her mother's side and opened her book.
"Let's change you, Bristol." Clara told her son. "No telling how long we'll be in here."
The iPhone woman turned her phone off to "save battery" and watched as Clara turned her and her son around, so he was facing the wall and she was blocking him from everyone else's view. She thanked her lucky stars that she'd remembered to pack a spare pair of khakis and underwear for him. She changed him swiftly with no complaints from him, which she found a little concerning. Before they turned around she leaned down and kissed his forehead.
"Are you all right?" She asked him softly. "We're not stuck forever and ever, I promise."
He was frowning. "There's lots of people in here. That lady smells."
"I know, baby. It's only for a little bit. Do you want Daddy to hold you?" She volunteered the Doctor, knowing she couldn't hold him with her stomach at its current size. Bristol nodded and shuffled almost pathetically to the Doctor, who was quick to lift him into his arms.
"You and yours are taking this rather well," the iPhone woman spoke up.
Clara waved her hand nonchalantly. "My husband and I spent six months sleeping on the floor of a Tibetan monastery with a newborn and two toddlers. Nothing can faze us."
The woman cocked an eyebrow. "For all our sakes, I hope that's so."
She'd somehow piqued the elderly man's interest. He opened his eyes and peered at her like he was examining her.
"Why?" He asked after careful consideration.
Clara glanced at the Doctor, allowing him to explain this one.
"I'm a surgeon. During training I was doing volunteer work in China and we lost our Tibet Entry Permits. Nasty business, but I know a guy who knows a guy who knows the 14th Dalai Lama, so we got some accommodations while we worked out the paperwork."
The man brightened considerably. "Ah, so you practice Tibetan Buddhism as well?"
The Doctor floundered. "Ah, no, I'm much more science-oriented."
Cassandra seemed done with her counting. "You don't just know the Dalai Lama. Who are you?!"
Clara and the Doctor exchanged a brief look, their lips curling up into smiles. They'd grown up next door to each other, and as long as Clara had known the Doctor he'd been called that. He had a legal name of course, but it was boring and dull, and he'd always been the Doctor to her. When they were children they used to play a game where whenever someone would ask Doctor who? they'd take turns making up the most outlandish stories they could think of to explain his title.
That same twinkle was in the Doctor's eyes right now.
"Just the Doctor. When I was born, my parents wanted to give me an English name, but they couldn't speak a bit of the language. They kept hearing the nurses say Doctor! and thought it was a name suggestion."
The woman narrowed her eyes as Clara bit back laughter. She saw Ellabell look up curiously, knowing that was untrue, but she didn't say anything. Lottie was too absorbed in her Amelia Williams novel to even hear.
"You don't look foreign." Cassandra said suspiciously.
The Doctor looked at her gravely. "I'm photosensitive. It's a grave tragedy. Lottie has it too."
The woman scoffed like the Doctor was something gross on the bottom of her shoe. Clara reached over and pinched his arse discretely, earning her a scandalized look. She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing out loud.
"Do you think we'll run out of air?" Cassandra asked Louis quietly, her voice pinched.
Jack leaned forward. "If we breathe into each other's mouths it'll save oxygen."
He didn't look the least bit fazed when she began slapping his arm aggressively.
"Hey! We've only been in here for ten minutes, stop hitting!" Clara scolded.
Cassandra turned on her, her cheeks red and her eyes narrowed angrily. "Piss off! And keep your sodding kids quiet! I've got a headache!"
Clara pointed a finger at her. "Hey, these children are my gifts to the world, okay? So watch your mouth." She glanced at Bristol, his sudden movement catching her eye. "Bristol, no, don't eat your boogeys."
"Some gift," Cassandra muttered underneath her breath.
The Doctor was quick to set Bristol on the floor for the sake of wrapping his arm around Clara's waist.
"Don't do it," he whispered lowly.
"I want to pull her hair," Clara growled underneath her breath, her glare on the woman.
"She's not worth it," he soothed.
"It'll feel worth it," she replied darkly.
"Remember that time you punched Tara, thinking it would make you feel better? And then it didn't because you felt guilty?"
She glanced distractedly up at him.
"I only pretended to feel guilty because you cried." She hissed.
He frowned. "No, that's not true! You and Great Aunt Tara get on great now!"
He was in clear denial. Clara and the Doctor's adopted mother never got on and never would. Even when Clara was little she hated her, and nothing had changed now.
"Last Christmas she purposely got me a sweater two sizes too small." Clara reminded the Doctor.
He shot her a reproachful look. "Yes, well, you bought her soap with traces of peanut in it. Her hands were swollen for days."
Clara snorted at the memory but then quickly rearranged her features to look slightly ashamed.
"Fine. Fine. I won't pay her any mind." Clara finally caved, shooting Cassandra one last dirty look. The Doctor hugged her tightly.
Once out of their small bubble, Clara began listening to Jack and the iPhone Lady's muffled conversation.
"Apparently the London Eye's just stopped with everyone on board," she filled Jack in.
"Yeah, God help those poor blokes, stuck up in the sky with all that open air around them," he said sarcastically. Clara had to admit he had a point. Their situation was much less idealistic, but they wouldn't be given any rivaling attention as their story wouldn't make the papers.
"I'm bored," Lottie finally declared, and Clara felt her heart sinking. It only took one to say they were bored to get the idea into the other kids' heads, and then they'd be hell on wheels.
"I thought you were reading?" Clara reminded her, turning her gaze to her eldest. She sighed and pushed her brown hair back with one hand, carelessly waving her book with the other.
"I've read this one three times already and it smells like Amy's house when she's making a new perfume in here." She complained.
Clara resisted the urge to point a blaming finger at Cassandra, who had definitely applied too much perfume while getting ready.
"I'm hungry," Ellabell spoke up from behind her father's legs. She patted her stomach pathetically. Clara automatically looked to her son, waiting to see what his complaint would be.
"Gotta wee-wee again." He whispered to her from over his father's shoulder.
Clara and the Doctor exchanged fearful looks. If their children decided to start pitching fits, there wasn't much they could do to stop it. Clara caught that look in Ellabell's eyes, the look where she was teetering between staying quiet and throwing a tantrum, and she felt like she was talking a suicidal man off the edge of a building as she quickly mouthed no and took a quick step towards her.
"I'm h-h-huuuuungryyyyy!" Ellabell began wailing, and Clara cursed underneath her breath.
"Mummy said a bad word!" Lottie cried gleefully.
"I'm scared!" Bristol shrieked, and then he succumbed to tears as well.
Clara glanced around at the other adults. Her children's crying was inducing brief glimpses of their own emotions. The iPhone woman looked almost longingly at their displays of emotion, as if wishing she too could just start sobbing on the floor. Cassandra had her ears covered in disgust. The elderly man had long put on headphones that were playing what sounded like an audiobook. Jack was rummaging wildly through his long, dark blue jacket.
Clara turned to Ellabell, about to attempt to pull her up into her arms even though she knew it was impossible, when her line of vision was suddenly blurred by a Snickers bar. She turned her head and glanced at the owner of the hand waving the bar, feeling her heart warm considerably as she put two and two together.
"Is it all right for her to have this? It isn't much and it's mostly sugar, but it'll help. 'You're not you when you're hungry', after all."
Clara took the bar in relief.
"You're a right hero, Jack Harkness." She told him thankfully. She turned and leaned down, handing the bar to Ellabell, who took it with shaky hands. She sniffled, her crying dwindling off slowly.
"I like chocolate." She said softly, giving Jack a watery and hesitant smile.
"I want some chocolate," Lottie muttered underneath her breath, glaring jealously at her sister. Bristol was leaning over the Doctor's shoulder and peering down at Ellabell with his lips parted and a fresh glaze of tears shining on his cheeks. He looked equally reproachful. Clara resisted the urge to slam her head back into the metal wall.
"All right, any new news on when we're getting out of here?" Clara asked the rest of the lift. She wasn't panicking yet, but she was getting irritated. And she'd thought all of them sharing a cab was bad. When she glanced at her husband, she knew he was thinking something similar.
iPhone Lady lifted her phone. "I've called three more times but they said to just "relax"."
"Relax where?!" Louis demanded. He completed Clara's mental image of him as a spoiled posh child by stomping his foot. "We are literally shoved into a metal box with almost a dozen other people!"
Lottie spoke up.
"Mister Sir, I read a book about the boxcars they transported people in during the Holocaust and—"
Clara almost topped over in her haste to slap a hand over Lottie's mouth, stilling her words. Lottie looked up at her in surprise, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.
"Nooooo," Clara whispered, drawing out the word as she shook her head. "Not in the lift."
"You let your young child read about the Holocaust?" Cassandra demanded. She had regained her what-a-terrible-mother tone.
"She's six with a reading level three grades higher. She goes to the library every Sunday. By the time we see what book she's reading, she's already read two others." The Doctor responded. Clara noticed that her tone had also made him bristle. "Besides, we encourage her healthy curiosity. She's an intelligent child."
Clara piped up. "Also, it was a historical nonfiction children's book. Wholly age appropriate, not that it's any of your damn business."
Lottie gasped softly beside her. "MUMMY SAID—"
"YES, thank you, Lottie. I said damn. We're all aware." Clara said loudly.
Cassandra sniffed. "It is my business. The lower class is producing too many children per family, which causes our crime and overpopulation problems."
Clara felt the Doctor's hand latch around her arm. She could feel the hatred boiling inside of her.
"Miss, with all due respect, it would probably be best to shut up." Jack Harkness suggested to Cassandra, his eyes glued to Clara's furious expression and the Doctor's dumbfounded one.
"We aren't—we're not…" the Doctor trailed off, as if unsure which part of her statement he should be refuting first. "And even if we were…you can't say that we—"
He stopped and clenched his fists, taking deep, calming breaths. Clara took a deep breath as well, but hers was to fuel her speech, not to suppress it.
"Exactly who do you think you are?" She asked Cassandra evenly.
She flicked her blonde hair over her shoulder. "Cassandra Evans. My husband is a pilot."
Clara lifted an eyebrow. "Yeah? Him and about a thousand others who fly for this airline. My husband's a neurosurgeon and I'm junior manager of the IT Strategy PMO. As in, among many other things, I'm the one who makes sure autopilot is working so the pilots get a nice nap."
Louis' head shot up. "Hey!"
"Don't 'hey' me. And don't you dare presume to know me or my family. I don't want to hear another word from either of you about my parenting or the number of children I've birthed or any of the sort. Grow up."
"Yeah, you're being very immature," Lottie provided, nodding her head. Cassandra looked angrier than ever, but she didn't say anything, probably recognizing that Clara outranked her husband.
Clara pointed a finger at her daughter. "You, hush."
"Well, I think you're a model mother." Jack supplied. "All of them have clean faces and you're spending time with them. That's a feat in my book."
Clara smiled sincerely at him. "Thank you, Jack. If I ever have to pick a stranger to get stuck in a lift with again, you're definitely my pick."
"I'm finding it harder and harder to be patient," the iPhone Lady said suddenly. She checked her watch again. "Where are they? It's been an hour almost."
"Maybe it's the apocalypse." Lottie shared, her eyes widening with excitement. "Maybe there's been a solar flare that's knocked all the power out all over the world!"
All the adults' eyes fell on the six-year-old.
"She's very imaginative," the Doctor explained. He set his hands on the top of Lottie's head. "It's not the end of the world, Lottie. We just might miss dinner."
"Isn't that the same thing?" She groaned.
"Hold on, little lady!" Jack said cheerfully. He began digging in his coat pockets again, producing a bag of pretzels. "How's this?"
Lottie immediately threw herself forward and latched herself onto Jack, her arms wrapped around his stomach in a hug. Clara made a move to pull her off, but he chuckled cheerfully and patted her back.
"You've got a vending machine in your coat!" Lottie said, touching his dark blue coat affectionately.
Ellabell hurried over to him as well, accidentally shoving into Cassandra.
"Is it a magic coat?!" She breathed.
"Is there a toilet in there?!" Bristol asked. All looked down at him at that strange question, but then they all saw he was holding his crotch again.
"How in the world could you have to wee again?!" Clara asked in disbelief.
He shrugged his tiny shoulders.
"Life's a wild ride." He said profoundly. "Like The Big One."
"You can't even go on The Big One, stupid, you're too little," Lottie shot at her brother, her mouth full of pretzels.
"Uh huh! Grandpa said he would take me!" Bristol argued, stomping his foot.
"Nuh uh!" Ellabell yelled back. "I can't even go on! Lottie can't either! You're a liar!"
"MUMMY TELL THEM I CAN! I CAN TOO!" Bristol shrieked angrily, his eyes filling with tears. Clara highly doubted her father told her three year old he could go on one of the largest rollercoasters in Europe, but she was eager to calm Bristol before he started bawling.
"Girls, stop picking on your brother. No one is going on that ride. Mummy and Daddy don't even ride it."
Mostly because Daddy would piss his pants, Clara thought to herself. She felt her lips curve up into a smile, one that the Doctor automatically saw through. He glared at her in response to the statement she hadn't even said. My phobia of rollercoasters is a secret!, his eyes screamed back. She rolled hers in response.
Jack found another chocolate bar for Bristol, and once her children were fed, they quieted down. They wedged themselves between the backs of their parents' legs and the lift walls and dozed on and off. iPhone Lady called for help about every thirty minutes. Clara and Jack spent a while talking about his job in Cardiff (Clara still wasn't entirely sure what he was doing here by the end of their conversation) while the Doctor talked to Rory on the phone. By the end of hour two, Clara was about to pee herself too. Her baby was situation directly over her bladder and no matter how many times she prodded over him, he didn't shift. She grabbed the Doctor's elbow once he got off the phone with Rory and yanked him over to her.
"I've got to go," she hissed at him.
He looked at her in concern. "Like…right now? You can't hold it?"
She huffed. "I've been holding it. For two hours. The baby's on my bladder."
He frowned and scratched his cheek. "Blimey, that's awful. But what do you expect me to do about it?"
She flung her head back, accidentally knocking it into the wall behind her. She winced. The Doctor prodded at her skull as she crossed and uncrossed her legs, doing the typical "potty dance" her children always did.
"I don't know! You're a genius; do your brainy thing and fix the lift!" She pleaded.
He lowered his hands and looked at her skeptically. "And you're the one with all the computing stuff in her head. You fix it."
"I can't!" She moaned. "Trust me. If I could I would have done way before Blondie over there opened her mouth the first time."
"I can block you if you want to piss in the corner." He offered.
"Now that's true love!" Jack spoke up. Clara turned and glared at him, as if he were intruding on a private conversation. She looked back at the Doctor.
"I'm just going to take a nap." She decided. "Can't think about my bladder while I'm unconscious."
He lifted up Ellabell and then helped Clara sit down in the spot she had been in. She leaned back against the wall, tucking her legs underneath her to take up as little space as possible, and then opened her arms for Ellabell. The Doctor placed the half-awake girl beside Clara and in the circle of her open arms, so she was cradled.
"Mummy," she whispered tiredly, giving her mother a smile as she burrowed in closer to her side. Clara leaned her cheek against her daughter's head and did her best to fall asleep.
Sometime later, between the haze of sleep and boredom, Clara heard the Doctor's thin conversation with the elderly man break off as a newly-awoken Lottie spoke up.
"Daddy, how would you know if a button's jammed?" She asked curiously.
The Doctor gave her a distracted answer. "Well, it would be pressed in all the time, honey."
"Oh." She said. There was a brief pause before she spoke again. "So it would stick out less than all the other buttons?"
"Hm." A beat. "How would you get a button unstuck?"
"Oh, I don't know, Lottie. Pry it out with something, I suppose."
Clara could tell the Doctor was growing exhausted. Their children's neverending questions could get quite taxing after a while. It was easy to dismiss their seemingly random and overtly curious questions while tired and stressed, but Clara had realized long ago that there was a certain method to the madness of the way children think, especially her children. It all came from somewhere and it all meant something, even if the adults couldn't make sense of the patterns yet.
"Can I see your screwdriver pen?" Lottie asked the Doctor innocently.
He was immediately suspicious. "Why?"
Clara knew his suspicion was fifty percent fear of Lottie with a sharp object and fifty percent possessiveness over the pen/screwdriver duo he carried with him everywhere.
"I wanna circle the words I don't know in my book." Lottie said, but her voice was too high. Clara knew that meant she was lying. She opened her eyes, taking in her daughter's wide, pleading eyes. Definitely lying.
She was about to speak up when she noticed where her daughter was standing. She'd moved right beside the panel of buttons, where she'd most likely been examining everything curiously.
"Okay." The Doctor said, still a bit suspicious. He dug the pen out of his pocket and handed it over to her. Clara watched as Lottie waited until the Doctor had turned back towards the elderly man—to continue their conversation—and then she hurried over to the buttons. She opened the small plastic door that hid the bright red emergency stop button. And then she used the screwdriver part to pry out the stuck button. She stood back after it was free and bit her lip, tapping her chin with her fingers as she thought. And then she pressed the ground floor button again.
Clara could hardly believe it when she felt the lift lurch. She struggled to rise to her feet, her victorious cry caught in her throat. The Doctor stared at Lottie wide-eyed until noticing Clara's battle, and then he walked over and helped her back to her feet.
"The stop button was stuck!" Lottie announced proudly to everyone.
Clara laughed and pulled her eldest into her arms. Her eyes sought out Cassandra. "What exactly were you saying about my gifts to this earth?"
"Hmph," Cassandra said, but that was all she could say. Because Lottie had noticed what no one else had.
The first thing Clara did when the doors opened was make a beeline for the toilets, convinced in that moment that she'd rather pee than get a promotion. But after explaining their ordeal to the retiring senior manager, she was told her "coolheadedness" was exactly what they needed in their new senior manager. Clara grinned the rest of the night, feeling the glow of success on her person. So when the Doctor told her at the end of the night that she was glowing, she didn't scold him this time.
They put the fatigued kids to bed when they got home, pulling off their shoes and the girls' damp tights and Bristol's nice trousers. They tucked them in and pressed kisses to each of their heads, retreating to their bedroom tiredly. They collapsed on top of the covers and rolled over to the middle of the bed, meeting each other halfway.
"That child is the best of both of us." The Doctor declared sleepily. Clara curled up in his embrace, inhaling the familiar scent of him that always soothed her. It was her favorite smell in the entire world as he was her home (and had been since she was a child herself).
"Mmm, they all are." Clara agreed.
In the end, Clara decided that her children's inquisitive attitudes were much more of a blessing than a curse.