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Love Me in the Dark

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Clara suspects it amuses the Doctor when she has to stand on her tiptoes to peek inside tall spaces and dark corners, given his small smile when he suggests a new place to search. She pays him no mind but makes sure to be thorough. They check each classroom, the science labs, the basement, and are finally left with the gymnasium and the newly built locker rooms.

Clara remembers, between her rudimentary class and her advanced class, the Doctor, posing as the caretaker, pulling her into a broom cupboard and explaining his plan. “We’re going to lure him into an enclosed space. I have a sleeping agent that should knock him right out.” He had presented her with a wooden stake. “Plan B,” he had said gravelly, moving his hand in a practiced motion, making her mimic him. “More like Plans C through Z. Absolute last resort and only to slow it down. No killing.” And Clara had rolled her eyes because of course the Doctor’s Plan A was capturing it, studying it, and setting it free where it could do no harm.

As of late, their adventures consisted less of planet hopping and more of mystery solving. They have a pattern now: the Doctor notices an anomaly in the time stream or receives a distress message and they go and investigate, save the day, and carry on to the next. Clara likes the change, finds her chest swelling with pride when she can contribute more and help the Doctor in ways he doesn’t anticipate.

Other things have changed, too, and Clara has fallen into the habit of calling it The Shift. She doesn’t know when exactly The Shift occurred, but if she had to pinpoint it, she thinks it started in November, after her first and last date with Danny Pink, two weeks before final term exams at Coal Hill. During those fourteen days, Clara had spent most of her free time in the library, in her classroom, or in her flat, typing up exam review packets and last-minute lesson plans for her students.

And the Doctor was there, had been for the past several days, quietly holed up in a far corner of the library or her classroom or her flat, elbows-deep in his own books. Back then, Clara had thought nothing of it. Not when, one day, the Doctor sat across from her as she flipped through vocabulary flashcards, checking for errors. Not when, the following day, the Doctor pulled up a chair next to her and glanced over her cheat sheet for grammar rules. Not even when, two nights before the first day of exams, they sat side by side and, together, reviewed her helpful hints for reading comprehension.

Clara did start to think about The Shift on a cold February afternoon, when the Doctor brought her favourite order for black tea—splash of cream, no sugar—handed her the cup and held her gaze for a few seconds too long. Clara thought about it again in March when the Doctor grasped her hand as she boarded the TARDIS, and his fingers, warm and soft, skimmed slowly along the length of her palm and middle finger. And for the rest of the month, it was all Clara could think about when she stared thoughtfully at the back of the Doctor’s head or zoned out in class when her thoughts lingered on him for too long.

Back in April, beneath the shade of a tall oak tree in Green Park, Clara thought about The Shift again when she and the Doctor sat and playfully bickered about the themes and motifs in Jane Eyre. All the while, the Doctor’s shoulder grazed hers, his leg pressed against her own, his fingers tentatively wrapped around her waist. The Doctor was close, so close that Clara could smell his clean scent and see the flecks of grey in his blue eyes.

The first time, and maybe even the second, she could have excused. Yet taken altogether, she could not ignore the obvious: the Doctor wanted her attention. He was standing at the precipice of something neither of them had gathered the courage to name, silently beckoning her to join him. So by May, just one week ago, Clara had found the Doctor seated in her sitting room, wiggled into his lap, and pressed her mouth against his. Clara made her choice: she pitched them over the edge, and the Doctor readily followed when he kissed her back.

Sometimes, Clara thinks she’s dreaming because certainly she doesn’t deserve this. Real life, her life, could never be this sweet. It’s possible that all this is just a figment of her imagination, that she’s still a typical school teacher from Blackpool, going through the motions of life, coming home to a quiet flat and pretending to like it.

But then the Doctor touches her, spends long days with her, spends even longer nights with her, shows her impossible wonders, and she just knows she’s going to wake up and find that the most intimate thing the Doctor has done for her is break her washer dryer. One day she will wake up and find that the Doctor’s kiss doesn’t taste like she remembers, that she doesn’t remember the taste at all. And she would be more than happy to never wake up, if it meant she had to live a life without the Doctor in it. He has made himself essential now, replaced a part in her body necessary for her to function with himself, and Clara will dare not give him up or lose him. She cannot afford to.

“I guess this is it then,” Clara says as they stand in front of the locker rooms. She grips her stake in one hand and raises the other to push the double doors open. But the Doctor, looking solemn, stops her with a grip on her shoulder.

“Stay here,” he demands. “Better yet, go back to the TARDIS.”

“Absolutely not. What if you need back up?” The Doctor gives her a sidelong glance, his expression bordering on stony. She tries to haggle. “What about if I wait out here for a few minutes and just listen?”

“I think I can manage on my own.”

“Doctor, please,” Clara wheedles. She tries to catch his gaze. He told her once that her eyes were his weakness.

But today, of all days, the Doctor is immune to negotiation, to her begging. “Clara, this isn’t up for discussion. What did we agree on? What did you promise me?” 

Never be reckless, she thinks automatically. Do as you’re told.

Clara relents, crossing her arms over her chest and eyeing her boots. “What if something happens to you? What if you need my help?”

He ignores her questions. “Just remember what I showed you with the stake.” He jerks his head in the direction of the TARDIS. “Get going.”  

Dejected and a bit irritated, Clara walks back toward the broom cupboard near her classroom. She hears the doors to the locker room slam shut behind her and when she rounds a corner, Clara stops and listens very carefully. The Doctor’s definitely gone inside and there’s no way he’ll know if she stayed behind.

Clara tells herself she’ll wait five minutes, just to be sure. She understands the Doctor wants to keep her safe, but she can’t help the flutter of apprehension that settles deep in her gut. What if something happens to him? The Doctor should know by now, especially now, she’d rather be by his side than anywhere else in the face of danger.

Clara only makes it to three minutes before she hears a loud crash coming from where she just left. She doesn’t even think about it. She’s sprinting down the corridor, fear and adrenaline forcing her to move fast.

Clara stops at the entrance of the locker room, just long enough to square her shoulders and push the doors aside. She’s going to help the Doctor whether he likes it or not. They can have a row about it later, Clara thinks. Besides, he should know by now that she never does as she’s told.

Clara wakes to the sound of a blood-curdling scream and sluggishly sits up in bed. She spots the Doctor reading a book on advanced quantum physics in the corner and asks, “Did you hear that scream?” 

The Doctor visibly startles, and Clara sees the deep, dark circles under his eyes. At least two weeks, Clara thinks absently. The Doctor only looks this exhausted when he hasn’t slept properly in two weeks. He gets to his feet and comes to sit on the edge of the mattress.

“What do you remember?” the Doctor demands but Clara doesn’t answer. She’s distracted by the sight of a little, blue vein in his neck fluttering rapidly under his skin. The Doctor repeats his question again and more slowly, as if, Clara notes, miffed, he’s talking to an idiot. “What do you remember?”

“The locker room,” Clara replies without thinking, and that’s when she realises she’s not at Coal Hill fighting the good fight, just curled up in a blanket in the TARDIS, with the Doctor watching her anxiously. “What’s going on? What happened to the vampire? We got him, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” the Doctor says hurriedly, yanking out a large syringe from his jacket. He watches as Clara cocks her head to the side before she covers her ears with her hands. “What is it?”

“My ears,” she replies, bewildered. She shakes her head slightly. “That’s weird. The sound is off. What’s wrong with my ears?”


“Everything sounds wrong.” Clara frowns at him. “Doctor, what’s wrong with my ears?”

“It’s a side effect, I suppose.” It’s clear he wants to say something, but he keeps halting, keeps glancing anywhere but at her.

“A side effect of what? Doctor, out with it,” Clara says, growing worried. “Tell me please.”

He grips her elbow. “You’re—You’re a vampire now.”

What?” Clara shrieks and shrieks again when the Doctor plunges the needle into her arm.

Clara’s inspecting the locker room, trying to keep as quiet as possible when she hears it: a sound in the vents, like a tack scraping against metal, so soft that she knows she would have missed it if she weren’t directly beneath them. The vampire is in the vents, Clara realises. The thought of this makes a different type of cold overcome her. It shoots down to her very bones, a panic that has her heart thundering in her ribcage.

“Clara?” She startles at the sound of the Doctor’s voice, surprised and exasperated. He’s standing just a few meters away from her, near a row of benches. “What are you doing here? I told you not to come inside.”

The words are in her head, and she doesn’t even have the time to form the first syllable before the vampire rushes through the vent, tears through the metal like it’s paper. He lands on the Doctor, instantly knocking him unconscious as his head bangs hard against the tile.

It’s the first time Clara has gotten a good look at the vampire and the sight of him leaves her heart racing. She doesn’t know why she expected the vampire to resemble a human being, and maybe he did once before. But now, the vampire looks more like a beast than any form of a humanoid: large, bulging eyes covered in a thick film of white, a wide mouth baring yellow, sharp fangs, colourless skin puckered with sores, jagged claws that press into the Doctor’s arms and break skin.

It can’t be more than a handful of seconds, she knows. But time inches to a crawl as she watches the vampire open his mouth, flashing fangs, and lean down. Clara stares at the Doctor’s unmoving body, defenceless and vulnerable, and thinks about the countless times he’s come to her aid, kept her and numerous others from danger. Between the two of them, Clara knows she’s the dispensable one. It’s an easy choice. 

Her aim is true when she throws her stake at the vampire’s head. He howls at the impact, turning pale eyes on her. Clara doesn’t even see a flicker of movement, but the vampire is suddenly across the space between them, right in front of her, blocking her in a corner quicker than she can hurry toward the way out. She stumbles backward in her haste to put as much distance between her and the vampire. Clara looks around for anything: a weapon, an escape route. She tries to think of something clever, but nothing comes to mind, her thoughts too scattered.

“Doctor,” Clara calls. Her voice trembles as she backs up into a locker. “Doctor, please wake up.”

But as she fears, he doesn’t rouse, doesn’t even move. There has always been threats and close calls, but none that Clara had to truly face on her own. Now her dread gives way to outright fear and Clara thinks, in this moment, she can admit this is what terrifies her the most: dying alone, unable to fight back. She doesn’t want to die alone, not here in this place where no one can hear her cry out for help, not even the Doctor.

“Doctor!” Clara shouts. “Doctor, help!”

The vampire is only steps from her and she closes her eyes and shrinks away, bracing for the attack. Clara doesn’t see it but she feels it, a sensation like no other. Pain blooms bright and sharp against her neck, and claws pierce her chest with a force that leaves Clara screaming. 

Clara is a twenty-first century woman, meaning she went through the vampires-are-cool phase as a teenager, like a rite of passage. She has seen most of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes, watched and re-watched the Twilight films, read An Interview with a Vampire, and sworn her undying allegiance to Edward Cullen. So she expects the icy-cold skin, the death warmed over complexion, her missing reflection, the tapetum lucidum. But most of all, Clara expects the thirst, instant, overpowering, and all-consuming. Clara doesn’t.

For the first few days, all she wants is curry. 

And it’s like the Doctor can see it all over her face, see her absolute longing, when she goes reaching for his takeaway box of tikka masala, only for him to lightly smack her wrist away and, just to spite her, chew slowly on an extra-large piece of chicken thigh. Clara swallows and the Doctor, sitting across from her at the table, watches the motion of her throat. His next bite is even slower, more torturous. She tries again and he leans away from her reach. 

“Don’t,” the Doctor warns. “You’ll get sick.”

Clara lowers her hand back to the table. There’s an ache in her stomach, deep and wrenching, and Clara frowns, her eyes narrowing as the Doctor takes another bite of his dinner. He gives a pleased hum as he gulps it down.

“Then why did you order it?” she asks, trying to keep her voice level. “Why did we go halfway across the galaxy to London in the TARDIS just to order curry?”

The Doctor half-shrugs, pretending to consider her question before he answers. “Because I was hungry, and I wanted curry. Now, I want dessert.” He’s reaching for a large piece of apple cake. He doesn’t bother to offer her any.

Clara wants to smack the takeaway box out of his hands and spill it on the floor. She wants to smash and smear the cake on his clothes. But she just worries her bottom lip and doesn’t say a word. Clara bides her time until she knows the Doctor has gone to sleep or crept off to some far part of the TARDIS. She waits with wide eyes, cold and restless and empty.  

When she sneaks back to the kitchen, Clara doesn’t waste time. She devours the rest of the curry cold, swallows fistfuls of apple cake, and chugs a can of cola until her tummy wants to nearly burst. But ten minutes later, she’s painfully retching on the kitchen floor on her hands and knees, shaking with the effort. The Doctor finds her, of course he finds her, and holds her loose hair back as she vomits and cries all over the metal flooring.

The Doctor tsks under his breath. “Did you think I was lying to you, Clara?” he asks gently. “What did you think was going to happen?”

She gazes up at him with bloodshot eyes. “I-I didn’t…I didn’t want it to-to be t-true,” she stutters through her sobs.

The Doctor cleans her mouth with a handkerchief, tenderly wipes her tears with his thumbs, and Clara realises this is the first time he’s willingly touched her in days. She sits on the floor and leans back against a wall, her crying subsiding. The Doctor joins her, holding out a mug and for a moment, Clara thinks he’s made her some strong tea. But when she peeks over the rim, she gags loudly. It’s blood. Something or someone’s fresh blood in a mug and it’s still very warm.  

Anger and instinct drive Clara when she slaps it out of his hand. The mug shatters and the blood goes smearing on the floor with her sick. The Doctor stays silent but his outstretched hand clenches.

“I don’t want that!” she yells, glaring at him. “That’s disgusting! It’s blood and I’m never going to drink it!”

The Doctor inches away from her and the splinters of glass as he goes to find a mop. He says over his shoulder, nonchalant and a touch too cold, “Don’t be so dramatic, Clara.”

Each day, the cramping pain in her stomach grows worse, until it feels like her gut has turned to burning sludge. Clara does her best to ignore it, even when she wakes trembling and perspiring in the evenings, even when she drinks cup after cup of water because it’s the only thing her body can keep down. She even faints one day in the corridor near her bedroom, comes to with aching spasms coursing through her body. Thankfully, she manages to make it to her room before the Doctor sees her.

But nine days after she turns, there’s an incident and Clara realises the Doctor must have known everything, known it was bound to happen sooner or later and just wanted to move things along.

The Doctor steps into the TARDIS one evening as she rouses from sleep, palming a small blade in his hand. And just as she starts to make her way down the stairs to join him at the console, she notices the knife and the remorseful look the Doctor gives her. 

“I’m sorry, Clara.”

“Doctor?” she asks, just as the Doctor takes the sharp edge and runs it along his palm, blood spilling down his hand in its wake.

It scares Clara that she doesn’t remember, even after the Doctor reluctantly tells her much, much later. No matter how she tries, she doesn’t remember the metal railing twisting and splitting under her grip. She doesn’t remember jumping over the bannister, rushing toward the Doctor, trapping him against a bookcase. She doesn’t remember the Doctor’s shouts of pain, her nails scraping bloody trails down his neck because all she can think is bloodbloodbloodIneeditnow

Clara jolts awake to the sight of the Doctor seated across from her and watching her closely. The periodic beeps and shrills let her know they’re in the room where he keeps medical equipment for emergencies. Her stare lingers on the bandages wrapped around his neck and hand. Clara visibly wilts under his tired eyes. 

“What did I do?” she whispers.

“Clara,” he starts quietly but stops. He turns away from her for a long time and when he meets her gaze again, his stare is fierce, his eyes noticeably red-rimmed and wet. “This can’t go on. If there was any way to fix this, I would. I would do it in an instant. But the fact is you are a vampire now and a vampire needs blood for sustenance.

“I will not let you off this TARDIS until you feed. I know you already know that. And if you don’t, what just happened,” he gestures to his neck, “will happen again, could happen to others. It will be worse than this. If I have to, I will force this blood down your throat. Do you understand?” Her eyes blur with tears but she doesn’t answer. His voice is sharp now. “Clara, do you understand me?” 

“Yes,” she nods.

The Doctor stands, holding out a familiar mug. “Are you done with this hunger strike of yours?”

Clara nods again, tries to reach for the mug but realises her wrists and ankles are bound to a metal chair. She watches as the Doctor approaches her slowly, cradling the mug in his bandaged hand. You did that, she thinks to herself. You harmed him. Guilt and nausea settle in her, twist in her stomach, when she smells the blood and doesn’t despise the scent of it.   

Clara throws her head back, if for anything, just to stop herself from crying. “I’m sorry,” she says. “Whatever I did to you, I’m so sorry.”

The Doctor won’t meet her eyes anymore. His shoulders slump and he nods absently when she apologizes again. Clara can’t tell if he actually believes her or not. He’s pressing the mug to her lips.

She stalls, shifting her face away. “Whose blood is it?”

The expression that crosses his face is unreadable. “Does it really matter, Clara?”

It does matter. But Clara screws her eyes shut, parts her lips, and tilts her head back so the Doctor can carefully pour the blood inside. It’s coppery and thick and a little sweet and she hates how she swallows it up in quick, eager gulps, hates how pleasant goose bumps rise on her skin as the taste spreads on her tongue.

When she finishes the first mug, the Doctor has a second one already waiting for her.

The trick is, Clara tells herself over and over, not to focus on the pain. Just think about something else. She thinks about her twitching hand by her side, the slip of blood, her blood maybe, against the pads of her fingers, the Doctor’s unconscious body only a few steps away from hers, the bulk of the vampire hovering over her. Even still, the pain is unbearable, hot and throbbing, and she wishes she could pass out, too.

She must glance away for just a second because when she looks back at the Doctor, his eyes are open and growing wide with comprehension. Clara wants to tell him to look away or save himself. But words fail her. The vampire bites down hard, along her collarbone, and Clara manages a wet gasp around the blood in her mouth. How long has he been feeding on her? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Clara remembers the instant he bit into her neck, the way she screamed in terror. She never thought about it before, how the skin there was so fragile and paper-thin. 

It takes Clara several moments to realise the weight pushing down on her has lifted and the claws digging into her arms have disappeared. Her eyes dart to her side and the Doctor is gone, too. Where did he go? Did he manage to escape? Is he safe? It takes too much effort to shift her head and look around, so Clara decides not to try anymore. Besides, the pain is gone and sleep is closing in on her. She’s so grateful.

Clara forgets she’s stronger than most now, only remembers when she slams the refrigerator closed and the door tears clean off its hinges. Or when she stomps her foot in frustration and the metal floor under her shoe gives way like loose sand. Or when she embraces the Doctor one morning and accidentally breaks two of his ribs.

Clara thought, at least, having more strength meant more adventures with the Doctor, less excuses for him to keep her safe and protect her from harm. But the Doctor starts off gradually, just like he did when she first agreed to be his companion. A passing meteor shower one day, nebulas the next day, and finally a deserted planet by the end of the week, all under his careful eye.

Clara doesn’t like being awake during the day, the sunlight always leaves her disoriented and woozy. The Doctor adjusts without saying a word. He starts to take her on nocturnal trips, always together, no one else around. He teaches her about the different constellations, about how to figure out where she is based on the position of the stars, and this pretence of normality seems to lessen his unease with her. Still, Clara has to pretend she doesn’t notice the physical distance he keeps between them.

She finds herself spending less and less time in her bedroom, where the TARDIS lights seem to penetrate everywhere, even with the duvet drawn over her head. At least that’s what she tells herself.  The truth is she doesn’t really need sleep, it’s more of a creature comfort now. The truth is she could dim the lights, even turn them off. But Clara’s solution is to slink into the Doctor’s bedroom. During the day, it’s dark and cold in there, and huddled under his blankets, inhaling his scent, she can imagine he’s right next to her.

The Doctor doesn’t comment on Clara essentially commandeering his room, even when she sometimes wakes to the sight of him passed out at the foot of the bed or observing her in a corner, always at a distance.

She still dreams though, which is something Clara never associated with vampires. But they’re more like nightmares, and they always end with that blood-curdling scream. It will take Clara several more weeks to realise she’s been dreaming about her death and hearing her own screams.

This moment, the Doctor realises, will be seared in his thoughts for the rest of his life, consuming and relentless at first but something he’ll eventually think on when he first wakes in the morning, when he rests his head at night, always when he thinks of Clara. What could he have done differently? Was this the only solution, the proper one? Why did he let his emotions compromise him again? Why did he and Clara always compromise each other?

When the Doctor regains consciousness, it takes him three seconds to comprehend what’s happening: the vampire is feeding on Clara and she’s dying. He can see it in the almost vacant look in her eye, the colour leaching from her skin. But what if he had taken two seconds instead of three? Could he have understood in just one? 

Clara is dying. Rage and panic and fear push him to his feet quickly, make him seize the stake on the floor, and rush toward the vampire. But the panic and fear are two more mistakes against him. Too slow to understand and now these. Panic undermines recall and retention. Fear is detrimental to reasoning and judgement. Fear makes companions of us all. He wishes he could remember who told him that. Focus. Clara is dying.

There’s so much blood on the tile. How can Clara’s body contain so much blood, tiny thing that she is? So tiny that his thumbs easily touch when he wraps his fingers around her waist. So tiny that he bought her a stepping stool as a joke for her last birthday. No distractions. Clara is dying. His boots skid against the blood and he loses his footing for just one precious second.

The Doctor doesn’t deliberate and he doesn’t hesitate when he plunges the stake into the vampire’s back. It howls in pain and he uses that moment to shove it off Clara and onto its back. He knows enough about vampires to know that one blow to the chest will be enough to kill it. Just one blow through its heart and then a twist of his fist. But he doesn’t stop at one or two or three. He can’t. Clara is dying. 

He’s enraged. He feels it in the flush on his skin, in the flare of his nostrils, in the tightening of his jaw. It’s the kind of fury that will consume him whole and leave nothing behind. Or maybe this time it’ll devour him from the inside out and leave behind something hideous and half-formed. Fourth and fifth and sixth stabs to its neck. The vampire screams and he thinks he screams, too. He thrusts the stake along the vampire’s torso, loses count after six but manages to wipe the blood that streaks across his face.

He doesn’t like being angry because he’s no longer the Doctor when he is. He’s just stuck with this bitter, incensed husk of a man who embraces the wrath, who gives in to his wants. And he wants to kill this vampire, wants it to suffer so, so badly. Remember: It, not him. It, not he. That’s right. That’s the way. Missy cheerfully told him once that it’s much easier to take life when you dehumanise.

If only she could see him now. Missy would be so proud. Missy would gladly join him. He can hear her laughing, too. She’s whispering in his ear, telling him where to inflict the most pain and where to draw it out. But what about the Doctor’s promise? Never be cruel. Please never be cruel. It doesn’t matter, Missy coos and he agrees. The Doctor is no longer here. No promises to keep. Clara is dying.

Clara gasps. It’s soft and wet but it’s enough to bring him to his senses. The Doctor drops the stake and backs away from the vampire, hands curling into fists to fight off the shuddering in his fingers. He turns his attention to Clara as she tries to gulp down air but only manages to heave up blood.

The Doctor gently gathers her in his arms and sits on the floor. He leans against a set of lockers as he cradles Clara’s head in one arm and brings his free hand to the gaping wound in her neck. The Doctor tries to ignore her blood pouring through the gaps of his fingers and centres his thoughts. It only takes a moment for his hand to glow a distinct yellow. He’ll give it all to her, if he must, even if it forces him into his next regeneration. The Doctor meets Clara’s eyes and that’s his last mistake. She’s got him now and he can’t look away from them. Loveliest, darkest eyes he’s ever seen. They begin welling with tears and he shakes his head.

“None of that,” the Doctor scolds gently. He tries to smile and is afraid it comes out as a grimace. “I’ve got this. I’ve got you. When have I ever let you down, Clara?” She reaches up to graze her hand against his cheek and his throat clenches up tightly at the gesture. He can’t catch his breath.

“I should’ve known better,” the Doctor says, his voice quivering and soft and fond. “I should’ve locked you in a chair on the TARDIS, you daft girl. Anything to keep you safe.”

Clara’s brows draw together at his words. She strokes his face with her thumb and playfully traces a nail along his wayward eyebrow. Abruptly, Clara’s hand drops back to her side as she struggles on her next inhale. Then she doesn’t bother trying for another. Her eyes are half-lidded now and the Doctor carefully pulls her into a hug. 

“Don’t go,” he begs in her ear. “Stay with me.” 

Even as the Doctor feels her heartbeat gradually slowing beneath his fingers, he tells himself everything will be fine. Clara is dying but he’ll fix this. He’ll heal her. Everything will be fine.

Despite their misgivings, Clara and the Doctor gradually adjust.

She decides to take an extended leave of absence from Coal Hill.  

She gets used to being up late at night alone.

She learns to stop breathing because she doesn’t need it, it’s just a habit.

She tells her family that she’s gone on holiday indefinitely.    

She learns to stop asking to see planets and the future and the past, to stay within the confines of the TARDIS and her room.

The Doctor starts to give her animal blood, and she learns to taste the difference between each one. She prefers deer.

And each evening, without fail, the Doctor leaves a warm pint of blood on the nightstand when she wakes. It hurts Clara, makes her sick and excited all at once, knowing that the Doctor’s blood is always the sweetest, always the best.

Clara stopped breathing fifteen minutes ago but his fingers still rest on her neck, waiting for her pulse to resume, knowing it never will. The Doctor feels immobile, something heavy and dense weighs his arms down, keeps him from getting to his feet. But his mind works quickly, almost on reflex. 

For the human body, there are eight stages of death. He’s been keeping count in his head. Fifteen minutes. Nine hundred seconds. Nine-hundred thousand milliseconds. Fifteen minutes in and Clara’s already entered pallor mortis, made harsher by the florescent lights shining down on her face. She feels so cold now, no matter how tightly he holds her to his chest. It’s only a matter of time before Clara’s blood settles in the lower half of her body, only seven-thousand and two hundred seconds before rigor mortis.

The Doctor cradles Clara’s body as he finally stands and limps slowly toward the TARDIS. He starts a mental checklist of what he needs to do: take Clara to the TARDIS, clean up her body, tidy up the locker room, repair the damage, properly bury the vampire. At this last thought, the Doctor pauses in front of the corpse and studies him.

The Doctor counts sixteen stab wounds along his back, spanning his torso, with a finishing blow to the skull. Black blood pools around his crushed head and the Doctor’s eyes dart away from the sight of brain matter. He doesn’t remember attacking the vampire that brutally, just his rage and his fear and his guilt. But the evidence is there, laying before him, dry and sticky blood buried under his nails, Clara dead in his arms.

“It was him or you,” the Doctor confesses quietly to Clara. “I killed him because it was him or you. Do you think you’d understand?” He stares down at Clara and wishes so desperately that she would open her eyes and breathe. His throat clenches as a familiar, prickling sensation starts behind his eyes. “Look how far I went, Clara, for fear of losing you. And I lost you anyway.” 

He presses his forehead to hers, screws his eyes shut to keep the tears away but fails to stop them. “I killed a living creature. I wanted to do it. I went too far. I broke all my own rules. For your sake, for your safety. And I’d do it again, I would. In an instant. Without a doubt, I’d choose you.” He grips her tighter and sobs, “What have I done? Clara, what have I done?” 

She doesn’t answer him. With a shaky sigh, the Doctor steps over the vampire’s corpse, leaves the locker room and hobbles toward the TARDIS.

Eventually, the Doctor does take an immense interest in her. The scientific kind. 

He collects skin cells and hair, draws her blood—now the colour of dark, thick molasses—on Mondays, tests her strength on Wednesdays, and studies how much sun exposure she can withstand on Fridays. Through it all, she listens with rapt attention when the Doctor explains a new concept or discovery, when he details the differences between humans and vampires.

Today is Friday and the Doctor has her under something akin to a high-powered tanning bed. Clara is afraid sometimes she’ll burst into flames, wonders sometimes what it would feel like to burn up into thin air. But she never catches fire. She just feels fuzzy-headed, exhausted, and the Doctor has to frequently repeat his questions or snap his fingers in her ear to bring her back to the present.

Clara wouldn’t mind all the experiments and tests—she’s learning new things, too—if the Doctor didn’t always feel the need to restrain her against a metal table. 

“It’d be easier if you just said you don’t trust me anymore, Doctor,” Clara tells him, and she’s doesn’t do much to keep her annoyance in check. 

The Doctor shoves his sonic sunglasses from his face, brow quirking up. She can’t describe the expression he wears as he peers down at her. “It’s not about trust, Clara,” he replies after a long silence. He turns away from her to record notes in the TARDIS’s database.

She taps the cuff against the metal table. “Then what is it about?” But the Doctor ignores her, muttering something to himself about some calculation not adding up.

Clara feels taut, like wire pulled too tightly. She’s felt this way for weeks and feels herself unravelling at the seams because this moment, this confrontation, Clara, realises, is inevitable. 

She fiddles with the hem of her skirt, counts to three, and finally snaps. “Doctor, you’ve made it very obvious you’re afraid of me.” Faintly, she hears the Doctor’s rapid typing come to a pause.

Clara continues, her voice growing colder the more she speaks. “Tying me up for these experiments that lead to nothing. Always keeping your distance from me, always watching me as if I’m going to maul you to death. Treating me like I’m some bloody freak. Like some liability.” 

Four months in and her heart is dead, she is dead, and Clara thinks touching the surface of the sun wouldn’t hurt as much as the look the Doctor gives her now. She would much rather have the Doctor’s anger, something she’s witnessed and known first hand. It’s like going to battle against a wild storm. Thunder and lightning that course through his veins to cut her down and leave her ears ringing. Anger anytime over this: the Doctor’s revulsion, his disappointment, his aversion.

He schools his features into something carefully blank and retrieves a key from his jacket to unlock the chains. “You’re right,” he replies, his gaze focused on some point beyond her shoulder. “There’s no need to restrain you anymore.” He shuts off the device operating the artificial sunlight. “We don’t need to continue the research if you don’t want to.”

“I didn’t ask for this,” Clara replies. She feels an ache spring up in her, something not exactly like sadness, and tries to smother it. She knows she’s failed when her voice trembles. “I never wanted this. Why do you even bother anymore if I disgust you so much? You could’ve…you could’ve just left me on some planet or something.” 

The Doctor turns and heads for the door. “Don’t walk away from me,” Clara demands, sitting up quickly on the table.

For a moment, Clara suspects the Doctor will ignore her again and leave. But he lingers by the door, his back to her. And then he asks, “Why did you go inside the locker rooms?” Before she can answer, the Doctor is closing in on her, bracing his arms on either side of her, looking her straight in the eye. For the first time, Clara wonders if it really was fear that made him give her such a wide berth. 

“Why did you go inside the locker rooms when I told you to go back to the TARDIS?”

“I…” Clara trails off, recognizing her apprehension even if she can no longer feel it in her heart. Verbalizing the words she’s been wanting to say out loud for months is more daunting than she anticipated. But fear has always made her a little brave, and fear is what lifts her hand to lie against the Doctor’s and tangle their fingers together.

“I…I know I’m not a Time Lord but I couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to you. I went back on my word and I’m sorry. I know I promised but it was either you or the vampire. How could I not choose you? I thought you’d understand—”

Clara cuts herself off as the Doctor moves away from her, pulling their fingers apart, stripping her of his warmth. He refuses to look at her. “We’re too much alike,” the Doctor mutters more to himself than to her.

“What does that mean?” she questions but he won’t answer. 

Clara starts to quietly panic, thinking for a terrible moment that she’s said too much or said the wrong thing. She must have because the Doctor is leaving. All her eggs in a fragile basket sewn from the promises they made to each other, hurtling to the floor, about to shatter, and Clara doesn’t know what to do to stop the fall. She swore she’d never beg, she swore. 

“Doctor, don’t go,” Clara pleads quietly. “Please stay.” He walks out the room and down the hall. “Doctor!” Clara shouts. “Doctor!”

He doesn’t come back.

Even though she’s lived on the TARDIS for months, Clara doesn’t have many personal items. It takes less than five minutes to pack everything in a spare bag. She thinks it won’t take much to persuade the TARDIS to let her leave, just a compliment or two. But when she gets to the double doors that lead out of the control room, she tries pushing them open but they remain firmly shut.

“Let me go,” Clara demands, turning toward the console. “Let me go right now.” 

A series of beeps ring out but the TARDIS ignores her request. Clara doesn’t know exactly what the TARDIS is communicating to her. The Doctor’s better with this part, she more versed with the hand gestures.

Clara leans against the door. “Please let me go,” she begs. “I could just kick it down and neither of us want that.”

There’s a long stretch of silence, long enough that Clara thinks the TARDIS is out right ignoring her until the console releases a long hiss. It slowly rises into the air to reveal a set of narrow stairs leading down into darkness. Clara inches forward, squinting into the black before glancing up at the console.

“What is this?” she asks the TARDIS. “What’s down there?” She doesn’t answer and Clara rolls her eyes. “Fine. Okay.”

She starts down the stairs gradually, and as her eyes quickly adjust to the darkness, Clara descends a bit faster, realising wherever the TARDIS wants her to go is a lot lower than she would’ve anticipated. When she reaches the bottom, Clara comes face to face with a locked metal door. On cue, the lock snaps open and the door swings back. Clara peeks inside and quickly covers her face against the lights that automatically switch on.

Once her eyes have gotten accustomed to the brightness, Clara lets her gaze sweep over the room and her eyes go wide. The space is enormous—thirty meters high, sixty meters long. It would take decades for humans to build a structure this extensive. For the TARDIS, probably seconds, just as soon as the words leave the Doctor’s mouth. And within the vast room are looming shelves with rows of glass vials as far as the eye can see. Clara carefully picks up one and reads the label written in the Doctor’s large handwriting. 

“Test number thirty-two. Test for what?” she asks aloud. Clara holds the glass to the light, studies the dark liquid for a moment before she places the vial back. She walks down a few rows and plucks another one from its spot. “Test number two-hundred and thirty-seven.” And another. “Test number four-hundred and fifty-two. I don’t understand.” 

“They’re experiments.”

Clara whirls around, spotting the Doctor by the door, meters away from her. Even from this distance, his blue eyes, when Clara catches them, are alight with interest.

“Experiments with what?” He doesn’t answer immediately, and the muscle tightening in his jaw tells her he doesn’t really want to. “Experiments with what, Doctor?”

“Your blood, Clara.”

The Doctor falls asleep on the floor, at the edge of his bed next to Clara’s body, his fingers laced with hers. When he wakes several hours later, he expects to have to pry his hand away from her stiff one. But when he does, Clara’s fingers are still pliant, still soft, albeit terribly cold.

The Doctor presses his thumb to her palm and it easily gives under the pressure. His eyes shift to her face, and he feels equal parts hope and dread when he notices that all her injuries have healed and her skin is as smooth as always. The Doctor knows this isn’t him. He used his regenerative abilities too late to make such a difference. So this means…it means…

The Doctor bolts to the control room, his fingers caressing the console as he circles it. “Sexy, would you mind?” he asks sweetly. “As big as you can manage.” The lights overhead dim and brighten, the roundels illuminate, and the engines hum, loud enough that the Doctor can feel the vibrations beneath his boots. It won’t take her long to create the space he needs.

While the TARDIS is occupied with that, the Doctor heads down the hallway, past his bedroom, and to a room at the end of the corridor. He pushes the door open, reaching into a drawer to retrieve syringes, rubbing alcohol, and empty IV solution bags. If Clara wakes, he thinks. No. When Clara wakes, she’ll need blood. She might be a bit confused or alarmed but he’ll help her through it. They’ll figure it out. 

Adrenaline makes the Doctor’s hands shake a bit as he readies a syringe. But he manages to find a vein, dark blue along his pale forearm. He thinks, given his physiology and his metabolism, he can manage two full bags a day. That should be enough for now, he reasons as he feeds a needle into his arm, as he watches his blood fill the first bag.

The Doctor returns to Clara’s side after he places the filled IV bags in the refrigerator, sluggish on his feet, the last bit of excitement gone as the effects of ten millimetres less blood in his system sets in. Instead of checking on the basement the TARDIS has made, the Doctor settles in his normal place, on the edge of the bed by Clara’s side. He leans against the mattress and stares up at the ceiling. The TARDIS, clever as always, dims the lights.

“Clara, can you hear me?” the Doctor asks. She doesn’t answer and that’s okay. He searches for Clara’s hand, brings their fingers together.

“I can’t wait for you to open your eyes,” the Doctor admits, smiling a bit. “We’re not done, you and I, not by a long shot.” He stifles a yawn. “I’ve got so much more to show you: a cluster supernova not too far from here. I know you’d love that. Anura, where you can breathe underwater.” His voice grows a bit shy, a little tentative. “Maybe the bonding ceremony on Santiny. They hold them in the evenings, just when the floras start to glow. It’s…really beautiful, I hear.

“And I know it’s going to be difficult. I know this will be an adjustment. I’ve never done this before and I’m guessing neither have you.” He closes his eyes. “But if you don’t remember anything else I’ve said today, anything else I’ve ever told you, then please remember this: I’ll never give up on you, Clara. Not now, not ever. I promise.”

The Doctor quietly drifts into sleep, the sensation of Clara’s hand holding his grounding him, reminding him that she’s still by his side.

The Doctor guides her to the center of the large room, their footsteps echoing as they go. And as they pass each shelf, Clara catches glimpses of some of the glass vials, her confusion mounting as she silently reads off the numbers as they increase. Eight-hundred and six. One-thousand and twenty-three. Eight-thousand two-hundred and three. Ten-thousand four-hundred and sixteen. Fifty-thousand. One-hundred thousand. Five-hundred thousand.

“Why did the TARDIS show me this place?” Clara inquires to distract herself from the vials.

“I suppose she thought it was something you needed to see.” The Doctor exhales quietly, and Clara spots his warm breath rise into the air, finally noticing how frigid the room is, despite not really feeling it.

“Because you didn’t want me to,” Clara concludes. “Why in the world would you not want me to know?”

The Doctor stops, leaning heavily against a shelf, and Clara spies the label on a vial before she can stop herself from looking. Nine-hundred thousand eight-hundred. 

“I would’ve told you eventually. I just didn’t want to come to you without results, without something concrete. What would that have been like? Hoping only to have me presenting you with a failure each time.” 

“Hope for what?” Clara asks but she fears she already knows what the Doctor will say.

“For a cure.”

She looks about again because she can’t bring herself to meet his gaze for a moment. She sees a vial three shelves down. One million and two. “When did you start?”

“The very night you woke up.”

“And how many times have you done this?”

Just as she expects, the Doctor outright ignores her question. He sighs again, suddenly looking exhausted. “Clara, you are so human.” He stresses the word forcefully, not unkindly.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

It catches her off guard when the Doctor takes her hand in his and presses them against his chest, right over his pounding hearts. He’s like a furnace, and it feels as if liquid heat is pouring down her fingers. His eyes are steady on hers.

“It means you and I are made of different stuff. The worst thing that will happen to me is that I regenerate. But you, Clara,” the Doctor pauses, swiping his fingers through his hair with his free hand as his eyes drop to the floor. “You are so fragile. You are so delicate. And it’s probably my fault for making you believe you were invincible—”

“Taking responsibility for my safety was never your—” 

“Don’t you dare say it,” the Doctor snaps, meeting her stare again. Their boots knock together as he approaches her. “Don’t even think it. Ever. Whatever you may be contemplating in that head of yours, Clara Oswald, let me be very clear: I have a duty of care. The moment you agreed to travel with me, the instant you stepped into this TARDIS, your well-being was my responsibility to assume. And I took it. Gladly.”

Clara doesn’t know what to say. Even before she turned, sometimes the Doctor’s wilful blindness to everything but her welfare scared her. Despite the fear, more than anything, his devotion makes her ache in all the best ways, makes her feel like she’s soaring. She would do impossible things, be willing to do terrible things, to keep this prickly, brilliant, infuriating, beautiful man by her side. Her eyes scan over another vial. Two-million five hundred. 

The Doctor draws closer, resting his forehead against hers. “I had a duty of care to you,” he repeats very softly now. “And I failed.”

“Don’t say that. You didn’t fail. I’m the one who made the mistake.”

“You don’t understand. You died.” 

Tentatively, Clara brushes her hand against his cheek, feels a bit of stubble there. She can’t remember the last time she did this, didn’t realise she missed it this much until now. “Doctor,” she murmurs tenderly. “I’m right here—”

“You died,” he says again. His hand catches her arm, fingers splaying up and along her wrist, checking for a pulse that won’t be there. “Your heart stopped. You didn’t breathe. You didn’t move. Two weeks, sixteen hours, and forty-three seconds. I waited. I counted every second.” 

Clara thinks, I’m a fool. So self-absorbed in her own self-pity, she didn’t even consider what the Doctor was experiencing. And it makes a lot more sense now, the distance, the looks, the standoffish behaviour, signs she would’ve so easily recognised at any other time. It was never disgust or revulsion or hate that kept him away. How long had the Doctor been crippled by guilt and shame because of her reckless choice? Clara can’t fathom what it would’ve been like for her had their roles been reversed.

She cups his face, feels utter delight when the Doctor leans into her touch. “I’d do it again, you know,” she says, resolute, shivers when he laughs a little and his warm breath spreads on her palm.

The Doctor nods into her hand, meets her gaze. “Oh, I know.”

Clara wants to ask again, wants to know how many vials are gathered in this room, wants to know how many times he had to endure these failures alone. But something tells her now is not the best moment to press him for answers.

Instead, Clara tells him, “I think you and I…we’ve been going about this,” she gestures to herself, “not in the best way.”

The Doctor gives her a searching look before he finally nods. “We could’ve done some things differently,” he agrees. 

She continues, “We can figure it out together. Do it in a way we both agree on.”

The Doctor starts for the door, clutching Clara’s hand in his and gently bringing her with him. “Yes,” he says, “I think that would be better.”

As they start back, Clara takes one last, sweeping look over the cavernous room, at the shelves, and finally the vials. There is plenty of time, she realises, plenty of time to adjust, to learn, to make confessions. All they have to do is put one foot in front of the other, take it one day at a time.

“I’m terrified,” Clara admits against the Doctor’s chest.

She feels his chin come to rest on top of her head, his fingers raking through her hair. “I know,” he says. His arm gives her waist a gentle squeeze. “But we’ve prepared for this. You’re ready.” 

Clara wants to tell the Doctor that she would rather stay huddled in the broom cupboard with him, wrapped up in his arms, safe and sound. At least part of her desires that. But a greater part of her wants to leave the cupboard and step out into the corridor, see her students, greet her colleagues, teach the lesson she spent hours preparing the night before.

Clara swallows audibly, her lips skimming the Doctor’s neck and he makes a noise in the back of his throat. There’s a teasing lilt in his voice when he asks, “Hungry again, Clara?”

She flushes as she steps out of his embrace. “Honestly, Doctor. Don’t mock me.”

He catches her chin, his gaze appraising her face. “You’re blushing.”

Clara’s cheeks tint a deeper red. “Sometimes, it happens when I’ve recently fed,” she explains. “The deer was quite large.”

For a split second, she anticipates the Doctor drawing away from her or seeing disgust in his expression. But he looks more curious than anything else. In hindsight, the Doctor has never given her any reason to suspect he is repulsed by her, even when he insists she keep to a daily feeding schedule or when he takes her icy hands in his or when she takes deep breaths she no longer needs. But that little part in her mind that’s insecure and scared still undermines all the assurances he shows her every day, multiple times a day. 

The Doctor pokes her forehead. “Hey. Your mind just wandered off. Where did you go?”

“What if I mess up?” she asks. From outside the door, they hear a group of laughing students rushing down the hall and a teacher snapping at them to slow down. It won’t be long before the first class of the day starts.

The Doctor smiles. “You won’t. Besides, if you need me for anything, I’m just a phone call away.” 

Clara nods. “Though I won’t be surprised if I spot John Smith, the caretaker, lurking about.”

He gives a noncommittal shrug and cocks his head toward the door. “You ready?”

Clara turns to the door, cups the knob, and squares her shoulders. But then she hesitates, pivoting on her heels to face the Doctor once more. He quirks his brow, the beginnings of worry in his voice. “Not ready then?”

Super strength has its perks, especially now, when it only takes her fingers on his sleeve and a flick of her wrist to have the Doctor stumbling into her open arms. Very carefully, softly, Clara embraces him and smiles into his chest, feels her knees go a bit weak, when he immediately hugs her back. She wishes she knew how to thank him properly, for everything, for everyday he’s given her, because she knows she would not have been able to come this far without him. 

“I love you so much,” Clara confesses instead. Before she can glimpse the Doctor’s reaction, she moves away from him and rushes out of the broom cupboard.

The first day is the roughest, only because her nerves rattle her. But Clara pushes through it and makes it to the second day and the third day and the day after that. She falls back into old, familiar patterns, marking papers after class or back at her flat, preparing her lesson plans, and spending time with her students. The Doctor lingers by her more than he goes, tinkering with the TARDIS in her bedroom or catching up on his own reading in her sitting room or meddling with her kitchen appliances. It’s almost like it used to be. Almost. 

“Will I become like that vampire?” she asks one day while she makes a cuppa for the Doctor. “He looked…that is, he looked inhuman. Will I turn into something like him?”

He barely spares her glance. The Doctor’s attention is focused on her disassembled toaster in his hands and the numerous wires tangled around his fingers. “Not if I can help it, no,” he responds easily. “That vampire was feeding on his own blood anyway.”

“What about my makeup? How do I look?” Clara asks the next morning as she fastens the laces to her shoes before looking up at the Doctor. “I’m trying to go for pale and dewy.”

And the Doctor, who is still laying in her bed, nestled in her duvet, quips, “As opposed to deathly pale and dry?” He grins when she glares, laughs out right when Clara hits him in the face with a pillow that knocks him right off the mattress, drags her to the floor with him and kisses her soundly.  

“You’re showing off,” the Doctor says later that night, just after he trips from his perch on top of the TARDIS and a beaming Clara easily catches and cradles him bridal style. He can practically see the wheels turning in her head as she considers this new revelation, all the possibilities. Clara squeezes the underside of his knee, gives him a look, and the Doctor feels excitement and apprehension in equal turn. 

“Maybe,” she concedes. Clara lifts him further up like he weighs nothing, even as he presses a hand over his eyes, even as his face turns a lovely shade of pink. Her smile sharpens into a smirk as she touches her lips to his ear. “But you really do like it.”

Almost the same. Almost like before. Except Clara is relieved when she wakes in the morning and sees the day will be overcast. Except she keeps her curtains firmly shut on brightly-lit days. Except she finds herself gazing up at stars, counting the constellations. Except she misses the sun and the future and the past and planets and cosmos. And the Doctor notices, he always notices.

He waits until late June, when the London sun is at its most blazing, to take her to Hyde Park on a Saturday afternoon.

The Doctor opens the TARDIS door and Clara hesitates at the threshold. The park, as they anticipated, is packed with people, couples lounging under towering trees, groups of friends jogging down the winding pavements, children playing near the fountain. Although it’s always at the back of her mind, and she and the Doctor have contingency plan after contingency plan just in case, harming anyone is not her biggest concern right now.

Clara squints up at the sun. She can already feel her stomach clench as the nausea starts. She feels a bit lightheaded, the first tell-tale sign of an impending, splitting headache. He places his hands on her shoulders and Clara is grateful for the touch.

“How are you feeling?” the Doctor asks.

“Starting to feel ill,” Clara replies, patting her stomach lightly, finally looking away from the sun.

“I have something for you.” The Doctor turns her to face him and slips a pair of dark sunglasses over her eyes. “Supersonic sunglasses. Modified, of course, so they’re not as cool as mine.”

Clara rolls her eyes. “If they’ve been modified, what are they supposed to do?”

He gestures to the park in front of them. “Why don’t you step outside and see?”

Clara eyes him for a moment before she steps out carefully. The first thing she detects is the smell of freshly cut grass, sweet and cloying, a scent she did not know she had yearned for so keenly. Clara waits for a cyclist to pass her before she starts across the pavement and toward a tall tree, the Doctor close behind. When she reaches the trunk, Clara splays her fingers along the bark and looks up at the canopy of green, at the sunlight streaming down toward her, and the spots of clear, blue sky between the leaves.

“Today is a beautiful day,” she says as the Doctor comes to stand beside her. Clara leans against the tree trunk, plops down on a thick root, and sighs contently, soaking up the shade. She brings her legs to her chest and lays her chin on her knees.

“How are you feeling?” the Doctor asks as he sits next to her. Clara shoots him a quizzical look.

“I told you. I’m—” But Clara stops, realising that there is no more nausea and the pounding in her head is gone. She quickly puts out her hand, directly under a sunbeam, and immediately draws it back. She does it again, only this time much more slowly. She lets her hand remain there. “Oh!” Clara cranes her neck to stare up at the Doctor. “How?” she asks, incredulous. 

He smiles, says, “Science stuff. Don’t want to bore you with the details,” and leaves it at that. “How does your hand feel?”

Clara grins brightly, grateful for the sunglasses covering her eyes, hiding her gathering tears. “Deliciously warm.” 

“As a scientist, I should probably see for myself.”

“As you should,” Clara nods, smile broadening as the Doctor covers her hand with his. She turns her palm up and brings their fingers together. “Thank you, Doctor.” His other arm comes to wrap around Clara’s waist and bring her flush against him. She leans her cheek on his shoulder. “Thank you so much.” I love you, Clara thinks. I love you. I love you. I love you.

As the sun sets, hand in hand, they make their way back to the TARDIS.

“My place then?” Clara asks as she removes her sunglasses and carefully puts them in her pocket.

The Doctor fiddles with a lever on the console, the one that operates the main thrusters of the TARDIS. “So I was thinking,” he starts, stops when Clara laughs. “What’s so funny?”

“You thinking,” she answers, “It could be a very good thing or a very bad thing.”

“So I was thinking,” the Doctor repeats, ignoring Clara’s chuckle, “maybe…maybe you and I can go see some planets. Some place lively and crowded.” He curls his fingers around the lever.

She stops laughing immediately and meets his gaze. “Really? Are you serious?”

The Doctor is expectant, she can spot it in his eyes, in his smile. “It’s been a while. And I like London and all but—”

“You’re getting restless,” Clara finishes for him and when the Doctor nods, she feels a buzz of excitement rush through her. She places her hand on top of his.

Clara nods, leaning into the Doctor. “Yes, I would like that very much,” she says, using her free arm to circle his neck. “Please show me some planets.” She tips her face up to his and the Doctor readily meets her halfway. They share a kiss as they pull the lever down together.