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One side of Leader was blackened and burned, but pain evidently did not hinder him. "You! Your mere presence dishonors me. The fact that you still live dishonors my clan, may they feast forever more. After I conclude my business here, I shall dress you out myself for table and roast you slowly over the fragrant wood fire of this planet. I will also have your criminal friend, the Doctor, and take his miserable life. Before that however, I shall force him to watch me feast on you and then he shall die in agony, I assure you."
Clara tried to scream a warning but Leader increased his grip on her throat and effortlessly lifted her in the air, her heels drumming futilely against the wall. Leader then shoved her into the wall a few times for good measure, Clara's head snapping back to make hard contact with the wood behind her.
"Where is he?" Leader roared, holding up her into his face. His breath was rancid and Clara nearly gagged.
Eyes watering and choking, Clara couldn't reply if she'd wanted to. And she most certainly was not going to. She never, ever, give up the Doctor.
Leader grew more incensed. He started shouting. "Where are you, Doctor, you murderous coward! Come out and face the wrath of Leader! Cease your hiding at once! Come out or I shall carve your companion right here. Or will you continue to hide yourself away?"
"I am right here, you pompous carnivore."
Clara was dropped unceremoniously on the floor when Leader heard the Doctor's quiet words. Her gaze drifted upward to the top of the stairs, where the Doctor stood, hands in his pockets, jacket flared out behind him, the very picture of nonchalance.
Oh God, Clara thought with despair. The Doctor stood there unarmed and seemingly a bit bored that Leader had the bad taste to reappear again.
DW DW DW
"So, you killed everybody else to get back here?" The Doctor came slowly down the stairs, his face a combination of disgust and anger.
"It was a righteous sacrifice. They were pleased to know that I will avenge them."
The Doctor scoffed. "Oh, did you take a vote? Before you vented the engines into the cabin in order to free your pitiful little escape capsule? Decent of them, not to object to being killed."
"You killed them, Doctor, not I. You would not repair the ship properly. I will kill you. The recorder of Deeds Past told us the Time Lords were all dead and we rejoiced. But now I will rejoice even more than before, for you are still alive and I shall take revenge in the names of Chessene and Shockeye, honored ancestors. The story has been passed down in legend, how you killed our clan members so long ago."
The Doctor scoffed. "Oh, I'm sure that's accurate then. The only thing that's constant about Androgums is their treachery and their appetites."
"We have advanced since the old days. The order of Chessene, of which Engineer belonged, has dedicated themselves to the study of technology and how it may be used to better our society."
"Your society," the Doctor spat out, "is dedicated only to your pleasure, which is constant eating. Any decent chef can help you with that."
Bleary eyed, Clara stirred slightly, trying to move away from Leader. The movement only attracted his attention. "Perhaps I should start with her. She is young and prime, excellent for feasting, if a bit small. I can combine her with the other female however and have a quick lunch."
The Doctor produced the sonic screwdriver and aimed it at Leader. "I think not. Why don't you try being vegetarian for a change?"
Further away in the house, all three heard a pounding and furious shouting. Leader looked smug. "When I am finished with you, I shall kill and sample the strange green female I locked in some cubicle. Are they good eating?"
Clara, seeing everything as a blurry out of focus maze, barely contained her disgust.
The Doctor didn't bother. "Back to my original point, I think. Why don't you go find a nice landfill planet, there are plenty of them around in the future. Munch away to your gluttonous content."
Leader smiled, a chilling sight. "No, I prefer fresh kill." He produced something behind his back and suddenly it burst into flames. Clara had no time to warn the Doctor before Leader hurled it at him.
Looking almost bored, the Doctor aimed the sonic screwdriver at it and in midflight the flames went out. He ducked out of the way as the device thudded into the wall behind him. "How quaint; a Tycondrian flame ball. Very effective but so easily disarmed."
Leader roared in frustration and suddenly one of those dangerous multi bladed knives was in his hand. "Let's see you escape this!" Charging the Doctor, he ran up the stairs.
The Doctor jumped out of the way but Leader turned sharply and reaching over, raked the Doctor's arm with the blades. Clara watched helplessly as his coat and white shirt were shredded. His face creased in pain, the Doctor pushed Leader away and managed to put himself between Leader and Clara. "I suppose that whole running with scissors thing is beyond your grasp," he said, grimacing. The stairway had little room to move in. The Doctor came down to stand in front of Clara.
"Always so clever, you arrogant Time Lord!" Leader charged again but this time the Doctor twisted something on the sonic and the blades started vibrating in Leader's hand. He was forced to drop it when it began slicing his own hands.
Clara felt like cheering.
"I will destroy this place and a good part of this planet," Leader howled. He drew out a small box and flipped a switch. "You recognize this?"
The Doctor looked annoyed. "Yes. An old Rutan ion bomb, something the Rutans stopped using centuries ago because it was too unstable. Yet, here you are, fiddling with something you cannot control. Again."
Clara watched helplessly as Leader hurled it at the Doctor, who caught it, made some fast adjustments, and was going to throw it out the window but Leader pounced on him and caught his arm, savagely twisting it behind the Doctor's back. The bomb fell on the floor and the Doctor kicked it away, managing to shove Leader back as well.
The bomb actually came to rest just within reach of Clara's foot. Looking over to the struggle, she saw Leader slam his hand into the Doctor's wounded side. While the Doctor struggled for breath, Leader fought his way clear and charged over to Clara.
Rising up, Clara stretched her leg until her foot was able to kick the bomb into the parlor. She would have done more but the Androgum shoved her down and literally ran over her, chasing his bomb. With a snarl, he dove for it.
Vastra came charging out, broadsword in hand and murder in her eyes.
"Vastra! Get down!" the Doctor yelled. Leader picked up device as the Doctor flung himself over Clara.
The explosion was deafening.
DW DW DW
Clara awoke in a strange bed until she remembered she was at Madame Vastra's house. Immediately, she froze; somebody was sitting in a chair next to her bed. Hazy images of terror combined with a sleep muddled brain almost compelled her to bolt out of bed screaming.
Finally the fog cleared and she realized it was the Doctor slumped in the chair, next to a softly glowing lamp.
Clara sat up slowly; the Doctor was asleep but he looked dreadfully uncomfortable. She also noted the bandages that showed below his purple shirt cuff; Leader had indeed inflicted more damage with his latest deadly toys. The Doctor looked like he had even more bruises than yesterday. To her dismay however, Clara found her short term memory hazy.
Moving slowly to get out of bed, the Doctor suddenly shot awake, nearly leaping out of the chair. "Clara! What are you doing?"
Biting back a smile, (his hair was a disheveled mess), she said, "I was getting up to check on you."
Confusion reigned briefly on his face. "Why? I am fine. The question is, how are you feeling?"
"What happened to Leader? He is gone, right?" Clara asked cautiously.
"Gone for forever." The Doctor said, with just a hint of smugness.
She sighed in relief. "Then I am fine." Clara patted the side of her bed. "Come talk to me."
Moving cautiously, the Doctor headed for the chair, but Clara grabbed his hand and pulled him down on the side of the bed. "Sit here."
"Yes, boss," he said meekly.
"Now what happened? And what happened to your arm? How badly are you hurt?"
"Leader is dead, the others are all right, got scratched and not bad." The Doctor wore a satisfied smile. "Anything else?"
She barely restrained from punching him in the good arm. "Actually, yes!" Grumbling, Clara sat up straighter in bed and the Doctor pulled the pillows up behind her so she could lean back. "Thank you. Now, tell me what happened. And don't leave anything out!"
Looking put upon (but secretly pleased Clara was showing her old spirit), the Doctor began. "Leader got the jump on Jenny and Strax, for which I will never let Strax hear the end of that. Vastra got locked in her bedroom; she made a mess of that, trying to get out. Huge repair bill there." He looked appalled at the thought.
Clara gritted her teeth. "Doctor!"
"What? Oh, right. Well, Leader tried to kill me, you and everybody else who was breathing. Only thing is, he had more weapons than before. Really, these Androgums are much more advanced than the last time I met them. Then, it was 'you die, me eat,' sort of foolishness."
"How is your arm?" Clara asked quietly.
The Doctor glanced down at his left arm. "I have a few more cuts, that's all. Just an annoyance really." At Clara's look of open disbelief, he sighed. "Yes, some of them are deep and I lost a bit more blood. But in the grand scheme of things, it's going to be okay, Clara. Not worth your concern."
Clara ignored that. She would be concerned and watchful, no matter what he said. "Did he really kill all of his own people?"
"Had to, in order to use the escape pod. I didn't touch it; the propulsion engine was damaged. Vented fiery exhaust right into their ship." The Doctor looked like he was feeling a bit guilty. "I never thought he would go that far. Only room for one. Which made it a rubbish escape capsule, if I do say so."
"Don't you feel guilty over him," Clara said firmly. "He made his choice. What was that last thing he used?
"Oh, he tried to use an old Rutan weapon, a primitive sort of ion bomb. I used the sonic screwdriver to reverse the polarity and to buy us some time. Long story short, his weapon exploded on him. One of the reasons the Rutans stopped using those bombs was the unpredictability. This one should have leveled the block, at least. Instead, it made a decent sized hole in the floor and scorched the walls. Another repair bill to the house," he added gloomily.
"Jenny and Strax are okay?"
"Yes, although Jenny has a lingering headache. She will be fine in a few days. Strax is prowling around now, being a nuisance."
"He's taking care of your arm, right? Oh, and how is your side? And just straight answers, please." Clara put on her best 'firm teacher' look.
"Yes, he is being completely tiresome, trying to cover up the fact that a heavy footed Androgum got the better of him. My side is nearly healed and my arm will be fine in a couple of days, due to superior-"
"Time Lord physiology, yeah, yeah," Clara said fondly.
The Doctor's expression turned serious however. "My hearts nearly stopped when I saw you kicking that bomb away."
"Well, my heart nearly stopped when I saw that bomb lying next to me," Clara retorted.
He gave her a small smile. "Point taken. It was quick thinking however."
Clara made a small sound of disgust. "Not really. Not gonna lay there and say, ooh's there a bomb here, somebody help me. I was just afraid I didn't get it far enough away."
They both laughed a bit. Studying her face, the Doctor asked quietly, "How are you doing, Clara?"
She considered. "Actually, I'm feeling pretty good. I feel rested, I don't have a headache and I didn't even have bad dreams - hang on, did you do something to me? Did you do that finger to the forehead thing, like you did to little Rupert?"
"No." He didn't, however, meet her eyes.
"Oh, you did, didn't you?" Clara felt her ire rising. "No wonder I can only recall bits and pieces. Look, I can handle myself, you know. You don't have to worry about me every time we set foot outside of the Tardis. I know I acted like a wimp the other day but I wasn't really that scared, just so you know."
"I was," the Doctor said quietly.
"Huh," Clara replied, less than intelligently, she thought with great annoyance.
"Clara, I didn't do this because I thought you were weak or couldn't take it. Two of my previous selves had an encounter with the Androgums. My second self was turned into an Androgum briefly. It was not an experience I cared to repeat." The Doctor shuddered, then leaned forward, his gaze intense. "The mind touch was something I could do for you. All I did was to make some of those graphic images in your mind a bit hazy and help you to relax and get some rest. I didn't tamper with your memories; well, much, but when you close your eyes tonight, you won't remember that gruesome cage quite so clearly, I just wanted to give you some serenity, and a release from the terror and injuries the Androgums inflicted on you. That was all." He leaned over and placed his hand over hers, his gaze intense. "I didn't want you to leave me because of this."
Clara was touched; she knew all too well how he hated emotional declarations. "It would take much more than this to make me leave you, you know that, right?"
"Androgums are pretty intense. I couldn't blame you if you decided that was enough." The Doctor looked anxious and a bit sad, making Clara wonder anew if there had been some before who couldn't take it and left.
"Well, that is so not gonna happen, so you can stop worrying about that." Clara chuckled softly. "And here I was, afraid you would want to get rid of me, being all clingy and crying."
The Doctor gave her one of his rare, shy smiles. "As if I could ever roam about the universe without the Boss." His expression turned serious again. "Please don't be mad or sad. I'm not up to the bulging eyes right now," the Doctor said in a curiously hopeful tone, his own eyes shining with hope.
Smiling, (she could never stay mad at him for too long) Clara said, "Okay. And thank you. This one time."
The Doctor slumped in relief. "Don't mention it," he said with heartfelt sincerity.
Her expression softened. "When's the last time you got any sleep?" Clara asked.
The Doctor looked dismissive. "You know I don't need sleep."
"I know you don't require much sleep, when you're healthy, that is. Which you're not." Clara scooted over and pulled out one of her pillows from behind her back. "Lie down here and rest a bit. Or at least talk to me."
The Doctor looked annoyed and immediately started to get up from the bed. "I'm all right, Clara. Besides, I've got a lot to do. Vastra's home defense system is in a shambles. Plus the entire house was damaged by the bomb. Might be structural damage."
"And it will all wait. The house hasn't fallen in yet. Come on, Doctor. Just for a bit. Then we'll get something to eat." Clara's face clouded for a bit. "Um, maybe just eggs, though."
The Doctor clearly wanted to leave the whole subject behind and, true to form, started to go to the door. "Right, let's go. Eggs are fine."
"Not now," Clara insisted. She caught his arm, and opened her eyes very wide, very deliberately. Inflating them, as he would say. "Please."
The Doctor gave her a look and grumbled but finally did lie down beside her. Lying stiffly, eyes wide open, hands folded on his chest, he affected a put upon 'why am I wasting my time' here pose, so Clara retaliated by keeping up a constant chattering about everything she could think of, including what to wear, a subject she knew bored him instantly. As she fully expected, his mind soon drifted away, tuning her out as he began thinking about all of Vastra's repair projects.
Eventually though, even exhausted Time Lords who don't need sleep finally do succumb.
Clara tossed half of her blanket over him and snuggled closely, listening to his twin heart beats. There was no way Clara was going to let the Doctor pull that finger to the forehead trick very often on her, but, this time, it was okay.
Feeling content, she put her arm over the Doctor's chest. "This way you don't leave without I know it," she whispered softly.
"Many times I've tried."
Clara raised her head, to see the Doctor looking at her with a bit of a devilish grin. "Why aren't you asleep?" She asked in some exasperation.
He gave her a bland look. "Somebody insists on talking."
"Oh shut up!" Clara suddenly had a thought. "Are you hungry?" Maybe she was forcing him to hang around when he was starved?
The Doctor gave her a sideways look. "No. You?"
"Oddly enough, no. I'm not sure I'll eat again for some time, I think," Clara replied earnestly.
"You go to sleep then. Get some rest," the Doctor said.
"No, you go to sleep first, then I will consider it. Otherwise you'll run off the minute my eyes close."
The Doctor looked a bit miffed and Clara knew that was indeed his plan. "The words of the control freak."
"Yeah, whatever. I think it is more like the words of a smart woman."
The Doctor smiled. "Whatever."
Much later, Vastra, wondering how they were doing, quietly looked in from the doorway and saw them lying together, both peacefully asleep. She smiled and crept out silently.
Thank the Goddess. All was well here.