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What Else Should I Be, All Apologies

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“I slapped you,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry I slapped you.”

There was a rather pregnant, terrifying silence for a moment where his shoulders stiffened — a pause or a momentary skip in the fabric of time, it felt like — before he eventually turned towards her to respond. “I deserved it,” he merely said. And he was right, she knew that, yet she still felt the need to elaborate on her feelings and apologize to him. Not ask for forgiveness, no, but to tell him that she was sorry.

“Still, I shouldn’t have,” she said, slowly, and reached a hand up to play with her hair — as was a nervous habit of hers, he noticed, in rare moments where she found herself uneasy and anxious about something, anything.

“Like I said,” he told her, “I deserved it. You don’t need to apologize for something so… trivial. It doesn’t matter. It’s forgotten and you’re forgiven. What is it that Humans are always saying? Forgive and forget, is it? Well, it is. Let it go now.”

Clara pondered this for a moment, her eyes rising to meet his. Then, softly, she said, “It wasn’t trivial to me. Nothing ever is with you.” For that one, single moment, she laid her heart bare to him. If only for a fleeting moment. It wasn’t so much in her voice as it was in her eyes. She had something she needed — very desperately — to say to him. He wasn’t stopping her, either. He was going to let her say it.

“We would’ve died inside of that Dalek,” she began. “We would have actually died. You didn’t care. There really was a piece of you, in that moment, at least, that was a tiny bit pleased. Terrible, really. Seeing the look on your face was even worse. Saying I saw red would be an understatement.”

He was stood at the console, brows fiercely drawn together as he watched her. His expression was intense, eyes a deep, icy blue. There was something more, though. There was something lingering beneath that blue surface. Specks of green, she thought, and specks of pain. Regret, even. Disappointment in himself.

He looked, for all the Universe, like a man at war with himself.

“I know that there’s a chance I might not come home, every time I leave with you,” she continued on, her eyes falling away from his face, unable to hold his gaze. “I know that. It’s the risk I take. Every time I step aboard this TARDIS, I know that I might not ever be going home. I know the risks, and I also know the rewards. The latter far outweighs my fears of the former.”

He seemed to be sizing her up now. That’s what she read in the Doctor’s gaze as her eyes met his once again. Steely-blue, determined, curious. She didn’t quite know what to make of it.

“What I’m trying to say is that I know I might die,” Clara struggled to get out, voice shaky. “I know that, and I’m still here with you. It doesn’t change anything. But what happened back there, in the Dalek — that was unacceptable. You can’t just be that way. Not if I’m with you, or if anyone else is with you, or if you’re by yourself. Do you understand what I’m trying to say right now, Doctor?”

Not to mention he was incredibly arrogant and selfish and pig-headed earlier. But, she decides it’s best not to say any of that. Not right now, anyway. Things might get a tad heated.

“Yes,” he replied, voice low and hoarse from disuse. He hadn’t said a single word since they’d left the Aristotle and headed off into the Vortex to let the TARDIS relax and recharge her energy. Clara also wanted to shower. She hadn’t gone yet, though. They were exactly where they were when she announced her wishes earlier.

“Yes,” he repeated. “Yes, I understand.”

It was only then that she noticed how close they were standing to one another. His breaths practically warmed her face. His eyes were watching her every move, her every motion, his own movements lazy and laced with exhaustion. Up close, this close, he smelled heavenly. He smelled like cologne and something undeniably Doctor-y, like wind and adventure and home.

He was home to her.

The realization made her breath catch and hitch in her throat, brown eyes fluttering hopelessly for a moment before falling to his chin and lips. He seemed to notice because his own eyes fell to mimic her actions, gaze falling to admire her soft lips.

Had she never noticed he was so handsome? No, she supposed she hadn’t. She’d been too busy yearning for a Doctor who was gone to see the one who was right in front of her now.

It all seemed to click into place right then. He was the same man, yet so different. Dashing, undeniably so, and mad as ever. Mad and arrogant and utterly, irrevocably brilliant. It was everything that made him the man he was. He was the enigma, not her, as he’d once said.

The trance-like state they had briefly found themselves lost in was brought to an abrupt end when the TARDIS breedled and dinged to announce the arrival of an incoming distress signal from a faraway star system.

“I…” He stopped to clear his throat, then continued. “Weren’t you going to head off for a shower? I’ll drop you off at Coal Hill, as promised, just thirty seconds after we left. Then I’ll answer this incoming distress signal. Off you go. Do your womanly things. Shower, clean yourself up. Make an effort to look young, even if you aren’t anymore.”

And just like that it was over. She left without a single word, wandering off to shower and clean up and change her clothes. There was nothing more to say.