This is a missing scene from chapter 3 of my Clara/12 fix-it story, Orpheus's Rescue, but it can be read alone with the understanding that after Clara returned to Gallifrey to face the raven the Doctor discovered a way to go back and rescue her before she died – and these two finally acknowledged their feelings.
She's not expecting it the first time he climbs into bed with her.
They've fallen into bed often enough in the past five days – his usually, except when hers is closer. Sometimes the control room is closer, or the kitchen floor. Once it was some sort of closet, on a resort planet dealing with a particularly nasty parasite infestation. She'd rather expected the Doctor to have more self-control, the way she'd danced around him for years and he'd never acted the slightest bit affected. It's delightful that he doesn't.
But tonight all she's in the mood for is a long stretch of uninterrupted sleep. They'd run miles today and waves of exhaustion crash in her head whenever she closes her eyes.
"What are you doing?" she asks him as he slides under her sheets and attacks her pillows, tossing one to the floor before pounding a second into submission. She hadn't expected to find him in her room when she'd emerged from her shower, sitting demurely on her bed in a t-shirt and boxers, reading the copy of Sense and Sensibility that had been on her nightstand.
She'd felt more than seen the way his eyes had left the book as she dropped the towel and pulled on her comfiest pair of jim-jams, not bothering with modesty. She was nearly certain she heard his breath hitch over the rustle of fabric. Was just as certain he'd grow bored and leave after the show. Perhaps he'd thought of the next place they'd visit while she was showering and couldn't wait until the morning to tell her.
Except he hadn't said anything at all. He'd just gotten into bed beside her.
"Preparing for bed. Am I doing it wrong? I don't understand why you insist on so many pillows. If you want your head to be so elevated you might as well sleep in an armchair."
"I'm going to bed now, Doctor. No funny business. I mean it."
He glares at her like she is a six year old idiot. It's hard to take his condescension seriously now considering all that has passed between them. "You've made that quite clear. You're not even releasing any pheromones."
She still finds it uncomfortable that not only can he tell, but he also lacks the sense not to mention it. A blush creeps into her cheeks. It really hasn't taken much to get those flowing lately, but she's determined not to be distracted tonight. "Then why are you here?"
"To sleep, Clara. Isn't that what one does in a bedroom?"
"You're going to sleep?" she asks incredulously.
"Not much. You're always bleating on about how much time humans waste with their brains shut off, and you got a good few hours yesterday, unless you got up in the middle of the night and came back before I woke up."
"Thought I'd get a few hours more." There's something just a tad off about his voice – and his behavior – but she's really too tired to work out what. "Unless you don't want me here. I can go."
"Stay," she commands, frowning at the strange vulnerability that seems to have come over him. "I don't mind. You're just acting weird."
"I always act weird," he responds automatically, but by the end he seems to realize that's a poor defense.
She huffs out a laugh. "Weirder than normal."
"Go to sleep, Clara," he says, and he reaches over her to turn off the light.
The domesticity of that action washes over her, freezing her for a while until she shifts onto her side, facing away from him. Suddenly she is wide awake, the almost silent sound of his breathing like a beating drum. With his lower body temperature he barely gives off any heat at all, but her skin tingles at his proximity because she knows he's there, just a foot away. She'd just have to stretch a little for her leg to brush his – and what would he do then? Would he bumble and apologize, making some excuse that he was needed elsewhere on the TARDIS? Would he pull her toward him and tangle her up in his arms like he did after their lovemaking, endearingly tender and clumsy and shy?
She wonders if this closeness is for her benefit. Obviously he isn't actually tired. But maybe he thinks this is what she expects now, because if he was a normal bloke she'd moved in with they would share a bed each night, even when all they did was sleep. Her heart flutters a bit at the thought he'd do that for her, even as she resolves in the morning to tell him it's not necessary.
But that seems too intuitive for him. He's been different since he rescued her from the Trap Street, but he's still mostly clueless.
Clara isn't sure how much time has passed when she feels the bed shift, and then one of his cool hands takes hold of hers where it's resting on the mattress.
It takes everything in her not to react as his fingers caress hers, the feel of his calloused thumb skimming over her palm as all her other senses lie dormant sending her reeling.
Her breath is completely stolen when he shifts again to lean over her, and she feels him push her hair away from her neck. His fingers skim across her skin, leaving electricity in their wake that jolts straight to her heart when she realizes he is seeking the tattoo that foretold her demise.
When his lips press to the accursed spot she cannot stop the shudder that goes through her. "Clara," he whispers against her skin, his voice as dry and scratchy as his lips. "My Clara." These syllables that she's heard a thousand times seem ripped from his very soul, and while she'd been preparing to answer him she realizes he'd never intended her to hear at all. This is a private vigil she's intruding upon.
Something like panic churns in her stomach as she contemplates feigning sleep and letting it go. The Doctor doesn't like being vulnerable and she's so weary she can barely think straight. In the morning she can pretend this never happen and they can go on with their lives.
Except she loves him too deeply to let his pain go unacknowledged. He'd been boisterous and affectionate and she'd thought he'd been fine, but maybe she'd just seen what she wanted. It's always been easier with them to slap on a band-aid and keep moving forward.
She needs to care for him better, before he's the one that breaks.
"You do know I'm awake, don't you?" she says.
She can somehow feel the way he tenses, and then his lips retreat and the rest of his body follows as he rolls away. "No," he answers after nearly a minute, right after she despairs of him answering at all.
"Come back here," she implores, suddenly missing him even though he's only a few inches away.
"Is that a command?" he asks, his voice a dark tenor.
"No. It's a request."
He creeps towards her slowly, and her body tingles in anticipation. His hand flutters against her waist and then his chin digs into his shoulder. She holds her breath until suddenly his face is buried in the crook of her neck and he presses himself flush against her. His hand brushes the underside of her breast but there's nothing sexual about it. His whole body is rigid, more planes and angles than usual, but it trembles against hers ever so slightly.
It makes her afraid, the same way she fears those moments he loses control and flies off in a rage – not of him but for him.
"What's happening here, Doctor?"
"Don't know what you mean," he mumbles, but there's not even any energy in the lie.
"Don't," she says sharply, sounding slightly hysterical even in her own ears. "No lies, not when we're here like this."
"Clara, I don't—" He trails off, leaving her to conjure how that sentence should end.
"The truth, Doctor. Please." Her hand finds one of his in the dark and rests on top of it, everything within her silently begging him to open up to her. She'd grown accustomed to his brooding deflection, but that was before they'd voiced their love and started expressing it physically. She's been naked and raw before him, and if he refuses to reciprocate she's not sure she'll be able to stand the inequality.
She knows that might be unreasonable. He has lived thousands of years under radically different cultural standards. But she is only human and her obviously distressed boyfriend is keeping her awake and she needs to know why.
He sighs. She can feel the exhale on her neck. When he speaks the words are muffled, pressed into her skin. "The truth is I want to hold you like this all the time. Every minute of every hour. Wherever we are. But I know you'd never allow it. Independent you are, my Clara Oswald, and we could hardly run clutching each other like this. So I have to behave, in the daylight. But at night—"
"You thought I might not notice," she finishes, his confession leaving her both flattered and concerned.
"Obviously I miscalculated."
"Patience never has been your strong suit."
"Clinginess has never been my drug of choice. Before now, apparently." He kisses her neck, pulling her even closer. "Four and a half billion years you were lost, Clara. And you'll be gone again in the blink of an eye."
There is so much heartbreak in his voice that it wrenches her soul. She wants nothing more than to convince him otherwise, but she knows, with unavoidable certainty, that he is right.
"But I'm here now." She turns in his arms, desperate to see his face as she reassures him. The room is dark and it takes time to pick him out, but his eyes are bright and only inches from her own.
"God, you really are handsome," she says. Her filter's gone to sleep, even if no other part of her has.
Confusion flickers over his face, and she hates how he doubts himself. "Really?"
"It's those eyes," she admits, reaching out to trace around them, brush her thumbs across his bushy eyebrows. "Those sad, mad, brilliant eyes of yours. The way they look at me like I'm the most spectacular thing in all of time and space – and I know you've seen it all."
"Only the exciting bits," he corrects.
"Hard not to find that maddeningly attractive. Even if your mouth sometimes ruins it."
His lips quirk upwards just for a second. Half the time she baits him it's just to see that fond exasperation.
"All my years of traveling, I've worked so hard to keep myself at a distance. To witness beauty, but not be enthralled to it. But you – my magnificent, controlling, impossible girl – you have made yourself essential to me. Now I'm not sure how to carry on when you are gone."
"You can't say that!"
"You said it to me, on that base before the flood. You told me if I loved you at all I needed to survive. So I did, flouting all the rules I lived by. We are dangerous, you and I. Have been long before Ashildr called us the Hybrid."
He is right, and she knows it. So many times she has asked him to put the universe at risk, and sometimes he has done so without prompting. As much as she does not want him to wreck the world on her behalf she cannot bear to leave him either. Not again.
But there are some things that cannot be changed, no matter how desperately she wants them. She cannot rewrite her own DNA to keep her cells from failing her. Immortality is not a gift she's been given.
What she has been given is one human life – and a wondrous man to spend it with.
"I am going to die someday, Doctor," she says in the tone that usually gets him to listen. "Not tomorrow. Not anytime soon. But after fifty, sixty years. It's inevitable. That's all we humans get. That's all we've ever gotten, since the dawn of our species. The summer can't last forever. But I'll be damned if it's not the best summer anyone's ever had. And when I'm gone I want you to remember every glorious moment. You will keep on living, and you'll do that because you'll know that you were loved by an amazing woman, and you gave her the most magnificent, magical life she ever could have imagined. The pain and the loss will be worth it because you'll always have the memories of who we were together. I miss my Mum, but I'd never wish away the time we had together so it hurts less. Don't waste our time worrying about what comes after. You can hold on to me as tightly as you need to at night. But in the morning we run."
He nods, his face so close to hers that their noses almost brush. She shifts up to press a kiss to his forehead and she hears him sigh, the tension draining out of him with the exhalation. The storm passes and she relaxes too. She will sleep tonight pretending he will be fine without her, and maybe someday it will be true.
"Yes, Boss," he whispers.
Normally that nickname amuses her, but not tonight. "I'm not your boss," she corrects, pulling back so she can look him in the eye. "And I'm not your sidekick. We're equals. That's the only way this is going to work."
She isn't sure he can comprehend that, honestly. They aren't equals biologically, intellectually. It's something she's had to cope with every day, and this version of him has reminded her incessantly. Mostly to protect himself, she's realized.
She certainly doesn't expect him to declare: "You're my better half."
"What?" she says sharply, shocked by the soft fondness in his voice as much as his words. He uses this tone with her quite often now, and it undoes her to be the center of this man's world.
His eyebrows draw together. "Isn't that the Earthling expression?"
"Yeah," she admits, her throat suddenly dry at the thought of that.
He rolls onto his back, pulling her with him. He gazes up at her thoughtfully. The wrinkles at the corners of his eyes still hint at melancholy but the terror is gone. "Might be some truth in that," he says pensively, reaching one hand up to twine in her hair while the other is clutched possessively at her waist. "There's been such chaos in my head ever since I regenerated. But lying here with you I feel at peace."
"Can't say peaceful is the first word I'd use to describe my life since I met you," she says, making it into a joke although it's absolutely not. It's still so new, this seriousness between them. Goading each other to hide the truth is an instinct, but as she sees the way his eyes close off at her response she knows it's one she'll have to unlearn.
She leans down to press her lips against his forehead, as she would when Angie or Artie needed comforting. She was his carer, after all, long before she became his lover.
"You make me happy," she says, willing him to recognize the honesty in her words. "Happier than I could ever imagine being. All the craziness is more than worth it."
His smiles blooms slowly, but it makes him look younger, like he's just two thousand years old instead of four billion. "I am going to kiss you now," he warns her. "It's not because I wish to initiate intercourse, but because I'm overcome with love for you—"
She cuts him off, kissing him first, overwhelmed by his awkwardness and the vulnerable sentiment behind it. She keeps things soft, a gentle slide of lips against lips as her hands reach out to frame his face, gently stroking. When she pulls away she shifts off him so she can curl into his side, her head finding its place between his comforting double heartbeats.
"Sometimes you talk too much," she whispers.
He chuckles as he wraps an arm around her. "Sleep well, my Clara. In the morning, we run."
I'd love to hear what you think! And there is a final chapter of Orpheus's Rescue that will be published someday; real life has just been keeping me busy.