She likes to consider herself a highly tolerant person. After all, she’s a secondary school teacher and is more than used to unruliness and the frigid wind of teenage rebellion. She understands how to quiet an argument and get her lesson plans done without having to bring the gum bucket around too many times.
However, Clara Oswald is very, very sure- 99.99% actually- that she has absolutely lost any semblance of patience in the past forty eight hours.
It’s not because of one of her students though, or a member of her family. She wishes it was. Instead, she just has to be exasperated with a two thousand year old alien from the planet Gallifrey.
Clara does have reasons to be angry. Forty-two of them, in fact, at her last count. At the conclusion of most TARDIS excursions she usually does, with the addition of her unruly and sharp (with a social IQ of about 0) Time Lord friend. But today he has seriously crossed the line.
It first started on this spaceship, where the Doctor completely disregarded the loss of a beloved friend and pet to the crew in favor of waxing poetic about the sonic capabilities of 22nd century machinery. It only got shoddier when the said spaceship got captured by a hostile band of Sontarans solely because the Gallifreyan in the party decided to take the ship up to light speed. And that fiasco wasn’t even considering that the whole team went into quite a panic when the Doctor announced that there was a 95% chance that they would all be vaporized by the Sontarans’ vastly superior plasma guns.
After that… well, Clara didn’t even want to think about it. It just got worse and worse. But of course, everything ended positively, with the crew of the spaceship not dead and quite alive, piloting their spaceship back into the stars of Ursa Major.
Or, they would have been, if the Doctor hadn’t actually landed said spaceship’s flight in 15th century Aberdeen, of any place.
Again, it really only went slightly well.
Needless to say, Clara Oswald was very cross indeed, and her attitude certainly hadn’t improved with the Time Lord continuing to rant happily about the events of the day while twirling about the TARDIS in that stupid black holey jumper.
God, she truly abhorred that jumper.
He was continuing to ramble. The incessant babble about technology and potato heads and pudding brains was burrowing into her skull and was supplying so much stress into her life Clara was quite sure that she was already sprouting a few white hairs. She couldn’t take this anymore, not another sentence, not another word-
“Clara? Are you… okay? You’re clamping down on your ears pretty hard, don’t want you damaging anything important," she heard the Gallifreyan say.
“No. No, I’m not okay. Thanks for finally noticing,” the Impossible Girl replied, sighing and releasing her ears so he wouldn’t tease her about them further.
“Why? What’s wrong with you? Did you drink that funny liquid that they served at that sushi restaurant on Claptrap IV? Because I’m pretty sure that I explicitly told you not to do that, there’s raw fish in that thing, so don’t try to come crying to me about it,” the Doctor stated firmly.
“What? No, Doctor. That’s not it at all,” Clara massaged her temples.
“Then what it is it? Why can’t you just tell me? I hate playing games like this Clara,” the man asserted.
She stopped rubbing her forehead and threw her hands into the air. “You! It’s you, Doctor! I can’t stand… this anymore!”
He stood there for a while, confused. “What do you mean, it’s me?”
Clara groaned, stepping up the stairs to where the Time Lord had been going around the upper level of the console room. “This! This, where you land yourself smack dab in the middle of a stressful situation and don’t even care about others’ feelings or insecurities! When you tell everyone they’re going to be exterminated or deleted and decide to take them to a completely different century! And I’m so- so tired of being there to clean up your messes, by making up excuses and letting you get away with it all. This. Has. To. Stop,” the woman enunciated clearly, letting the Doctor understand her words completely.
“You’re flapping your hands about quite a lot, you might want to get that checked out,” was all that her friend replied.
“I swear, you’re insufferable,” Clara lamented, pacing by the bookshelf. “If only…” Then her face lighted up. “But there is.” “
What is?” the Doctor asked. “What are you doing? I really don’t like that smile of yours, get it under control.”
“You like learning things, right? Well, guy with ten libraries filled with a thousand different books, you’ve got to least have an affinity for it all, I’m guessing,” the Impossible Girl deducted.
“Yes, I suppose so, big Time Lord brain and all, but what has this got to do with anything, Clara?” the Gallifreyan questioned.
“Flashcards,” Clara’s eyes twinkled. “You mean those insufferable scraps of paper that have somehow become a staple of higher education?” the Doctor replied.
She grabbed his hand. “You’ll never find out if you don’t come with me.” And with the Time Lord grumbling about cryptic companions, the pair went off into the TARDIS.
“Clara,” the Doctor moaned, dragging on the vowels in her name for as long as he could, and stretching out across the bed in her bedroom. “When you asked me to come with you, I didn’t know that I would literally be waiting an eternity for you to scribble on sheets.”
“Oh, hush,” Clara replied, indeed rapidly writing on about thirty different 8x12 flashcards at a desk in the corner of the room. “It’s only been about thirty minutes and I know you know that, Mr. Big Bad Time Lord.” The alien huffed in return, but Clara paid no attention, instead sighing contentedly, putting down her pen, and holding up the stack of flashcards. “See, there!” she announced proudly. “I’m finished.” Grinning widely, she pushed in her chair and sat on her bed with the Doctor, holding out the flashcards to him. “Take a look, go on.”
The Doctor frowned and snatched the cards away from her, trying to hide his eagerness at looking at the finished product by pretending to huff. One by one, he studied the cards, biting his lip and flipping the front and back ends of the papers. Clara watched him expectedly, her big brown eyes wide. “So, what do you think?” she asked after a few terse minutes of silence.
The man gazed back at her from the cards, a contemplative expression on his face, and an emotion that Clara couldn’t quite place. Finally, quietly, he muttered a response. “Do I really seem this sharp, Clara?”
The Impossible Girl frowned. She was prepared for a snarky response, or a noncommittal noise. Maybe even a thoughtful expression of gratitude. But not this. Not the sad downward tilt of his eyes or the way he focused on the sheets of the bed instead of her face. “What- what do you mean?” she asked.
“These cards…” He held the papers in his hands, still shuffling them about. “They’re for me. To help me. I just didn’t know… I didn’t know that I messed up so much.” He sighed. “I didn’t know that it seemed like… I didn’t care.”
Clara scooted nearer to him on the bed, still shocked by this unexpected display of remorse, but determined to make her friend feel better. “Doctor, the thing is, yes. Yes, you can seem a bit rude, sometimes, a bit sharp, more focused on yourself than others. You can, but I know that you care. You’re trying to be a good man. I’m just here to help you improve your manners, okay?” She smiled reassuringly and moved her hand to cup his chin, bringing his electrically blue eyes up to meet hers.
After a few moments of eyes set on each other, the Doctor grinned back, but turned his head away. “I thought that’s why you were here. To be my carer. Picking up after me.”
The brown-haired woman smiled. “Sometimes caring for everyone hurts too much, Doctor. You’ve got to help pull the weight.”
The Doctor’s expression suddenly became very serious as his eyes met hers yet again. “There can only be one Doctor in the TARDIS, Clara,” he said, slowly, making sure she understood.
“I know,” she said, simply.
The silence that followed afterwards was surely worse than a jarring Scottish accent. The Time Lord searched her face, clearly trying to find something in her countenance that would reveal her mystery in some way. But finally, breaking the hush, the Doctor put on a smile, his dimples far up in his cheeks. “Well then, Clara Oswald, I must say, these cards could be fairly useful.”
“Thank you,” Clara said, knowing that’s about as much of a compliment as he could give. “And if… you want to look through them more, study them a bit, that’s fine with me. Just give them back before we go on adventures so I can keep them for safekeeping. I think they’ll get us through a few jams,” she said, beginning to step off of the bed, before the Doctor grabbed for her arm.
“Clara, erm- Can I add my own card, to help me know what to say?” He questioned nervously, his firm grip keeping her arm in place. “I just didn’t see the card in here, but I know it’s something I need to work on.”
Astonished at his introspection, Clara nodded her head. “Yeah, yeah, um, of course,” she agreed, grabbing a lone flashcard from her desk and handing him a pen as he released her from his hold. She handed him the piece of paper. “Here you go.”
Nodding in thanks, the Doctor placed the card on the bed and uncapped the pen. Although the woman had been planning to freshen up, maybe start a shower in the time that her Gallifreyan friend needed to finish his card, she found herself not able to leave. Instead, she watched, entranced, as he wrote what he needed to say, drawn to the large harsh handwriting of this regeneration. Soon, the Time Lord finished and held out the finished product to Clara. “Will you read it over?” He asked. “Make sure it’s appropriate?”
“Of course,” she replied, smiling, touched by the fact that he seemed to want her opinion for once. She glanced at the front of the card, beginning to read. CLARA SAYS THAT SHE CARES ABOUT YOU, this hypothetical scenario said.
Breathing in a sigh of surprise- This- This is what he thought he had to work on? - What was he supposed to be saying that he wasn’t now? - Clara turned over the paper, interested to see what his instructions to himself could be, what words he could want to say.
CLARA OSWALD, I CARE ABOUT YOU JUST AS MUCH.
Her heart seemed to have left the usual place in her chest and climbed into her throat, thrown back to that day from hell- “
Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?” His eyes, begging, pleading, just as they had now-
And then Clara saw, and understood. Tears threatened to spill over as a part of her, that she had been denying so long, sprung unleashed.
He loved her.
And, oh god, she loved him.
“Doctor,” she started, determined to voice her realization, set on making him understand that he never had to be afraid. “I see you.”
The Time Lord’s eyes widened. He took her hand again, softly, tentatively at first, but then slowly and surely he tightened his grip, his thumb stroking her palm. “Clara, I l-“He started.
“I know, Doctor. I know.” She said, grinning wildly, the tears unleashed from her eyes. “You don’t have to tell me.” She smiled even more widely, shaking her head. “Doctor, I…”
The most important sentence in her life was to come, and she stuttered, fearful of messing it all up. “I do too,” Clara finally whispered, and leaned forward into his embrace, her lips meeting his.
She’d often wondered what he tasted like, but never really considered that one day she would actually know, or even have the words to describe the encounter. But now Clara knew, and could even write a poem. He tasted like starlight and supernovas, but also hand soap, and black coffee. They were one, but separate, and chaste, but not, all at the same time. It was one short moment, but also infinity. A beautiful, unending perpetuity, their song echoing throughout the cosmos.
Same old, same old. Just the Doctor and Clara Oswald in the TARDIS.
And with their limbs tangled in the sheets, breaths hot and sweet with pleasure, they came to realize the great truth of the known universe. Flashcards, those insufferable pieces of paper, were not needed.
The Doctor and Clara Oswald. As it should be.