Clara woke, thinking of the Doctor, as usual. He had been gone for quite a long time and had made no attempt to contact her; she was growing increasingly worried day-by-day. The last she had seen him, he had helped her move into her new flat, since she was no longer working for the Maitlands.
He couldn't have just abandoned me. There was no sign that he was planning on doing such a thing. Their relationship had been… good, recently, and she had been hoping that it would turn into something more, but now, all chances of that seemed dashed.
So, she was certainly surprised when after showering, dressing, and eating breakfast, that she happened to look out her kitchen window and spot something achingly familiar in the field outside of the building. That lovely blue police box now looked old and worn down. The paint was peeling and faded, and there were dents in the wood.
My god, what has he been up to?
Clara waited eagerly for that goofy man to walk out of his box, but no such thing happened. A painful minute passed, and yet, no movement, no sign of him. Dread trickled like too-cold water into the pit of her stomach. There was something terribly wrong.
Without further hesitation, Clara darted out of her flat and started making her way down the stairs as quick as she could. She bumped into a man in a business suit on her way down, causing him to drop his papers and his coffee.
"Shit! Watch where you're going, woman!"
"Sorry!" Clara hurriedly grabbed the papers that she could with rushed apologies as more fluttered down the several flights of stairs, handed them to him, almost tripped on the now empty coffee cup, and continued on her way, the man yelling an insult at her back.
She burst out into the field, empty save for the faded blue TARDIS. The Doctor had not emerged during her time on the stairs.
Realizing that she looked absolutely ridiculous running to a strange police box with no one else in sight, she slowed her pace and took a deep breath.
There's probably nothing wrong, she told herself. Were you expecting him to rush out, run to your flat, and hug you?
No matter what she tried telling herself, she knew that something was off. She still made an attempt to compose herself as she walked over. She was dressed in an outfit that was business casual. She had a job interview at Coal Hill School in about two hours. She hoped the Doctor wouldn't hold her up long.
I'm being silly! It's a time machine! He can always bring me back at the time I need to be.
All those thoughts fell apart when she saw a dark stain on the bottom of the doors, a blotch of maroon that stood out against the blue. The anxiety in her stomach turned to terror that made her feel like she was going to be sick.
"Doctor!" she called frantically as she opened one of the doors, avoiding the blood as best as she could. At least she thought she did. Her first step into the TARDIS landed her right in a coating of it.
With horror, her eyes followed the path of the liquid to what looked like a bundle of bloodied bones with a scruff of hair, arranged in a fetal position beneath the console.
"Oh my god! Doctor!" She thought it was him, she knew it was him.
Clara ran over to the sad figure on the gray metal floor and knelt beside him. She should have cared about the blood that was already soaking into her skirt, all nice and ready for her job interview, but what really mattered was who the blood was coming from.
"Doctor!" He seemed unconscious, and she gingerly took his shoulder and rolled him onto his back. She pulled in a panicked breath of air. "Oh my god, oh my god!" She was aware of her hands beginning to shake. She felt tears stinging in the corners of her eyes. "Oh my stars, Doctor, what happened?" Her voice was no longer a shriek. She wasn't capable of that. Just quiet horror.
There was a halfway stitched-up gash from his collarbone to the hem of his torn trousers. Numerous bruises, the most grotesque shades of black and purple and green, covered every inch of his body. The flesh of his seemingly broken arms was slashed to ragged pieces. Cuts littered his face and his left eye was swollen and puffed up. There was a wide red mark on his neck that seemed to go all the way around. She knew without looking that all these horrors continued beneath his trousers, crowded all over his legs. He was terribly thin and his hair was limp and faded, without its usual sheen. She wouldn't have recognized this half-dead being in front of her as the Doctor if not for his distinct nose and the fact that he had arrived in the TARDIS.
His only reply was a quiet moan.
"Oh god, what do I do?" She was talking to herself more than him, knowing that he couldn't give a reply, that he probably hadn't even heard her.
What if he dies?!
An anguished sob left her throat and she took his hand, though it wouldn't do anything for him. "Doctor!"
His fingers gingerly squeezed hers back and she looked up to see him gazing at her, left eye barely opening. His eyes had lost the usual light that they held. They looked dead, and she only knew that he wasn't because of the shallow rise and fall of his chest and the weak movement of his fingers.
"Doctor, what happened?" Clara whispered. She could feel another sob rising in her throat, but she held it back.
"L-Long story," he rasped out. His voice was not his own: hoarse and scratchy - like he had swallowed a mixture of thorns and hot sand - and sad. Just so sad.
"I don't know what to do." She was becoming hysterical again, voice rising in pitch and volume. "Oh god! I don't know what to do! What am I supposed to do?!"
"No!" Clara stood and smoothed down her blouse, trying to ignore how violently her hands shook. "You need proper care! You need a hospital! I can't do this!" She was sobbing wildly now, chest aching, feeling as if she couldn't get enough air.
"TARDIS has an infirmary," the Doctor murmured. He looked pained by how hurt she was at his state, but then again, that just could have been his own physical pain that he was expressing.
"How the hell am I going to get you there?!"
"I can walk." He sounded so tired saying that, so defeated.
"Not in this state!"
The Doctor sat up with a loud groan. "Help me up," he gritted out.
"Clara, I need to get to the infirmary. There's no way around it. Hopefully the TARDIS will shorten the way there. Besides, I've been walking like this, though I'm a little more run down than usual."
"Excuse me?!" It came out of her mouth before she could even think. "Do you have nerve damage or something?" Her next words came out as a sob. "You must feel what state you're in!"
"Oh, I do," the Doctor groaned, and then he began to stand without Clara's assistance. She rushed over to him, but she didn't know where to grab him to help him up. It would hurt if she touched him anywhere.
"Doctor, please tell me what happened," she pleaded tearfully.
"I need to lean on you." That was the only warning she was given before most of the Doctor's weight suddenly slumped against her. She nearly fell but hurriedly caught her balance. In this state, she didn't think the Doctor would be able to survive something so small as falling on the floor.
Clara still felt panicked and shaky, confused beyond belief. How had this happened to him? She didn't ask for an explanation again though. He didn't seem like he wanted to talk about it.
The Doctor gave her directions to the infirmary in his quiet, pained voice and the two slowly hobbled along the halls of the TARDIS. Something about them seemed so empty and ominous to Clara. Perhaps it was because she hadn't been inside in a while, or perhaps it was the half-dead man on her arm. Either way, it was unnerving, and she was glad when they made it to the infirmary. And then a new wave of panic began to set in.
"Doctor, what am I suppose to do?! What can I do?!" She could hardly see through her tears. She felt like such a weakling, crying here like this when the Doctor was the one in real pain.
"J-Just put me on the nearest bed. I'll walk you through it."
Even with their combined efforts, the Doctor did not end up in the bed comfortably. His bruised and bloodied body looked so wrong against the stark white sheets. They were going to stain.
"W-Walk me through it?" Her voice was small.
What does he want me to do? Sew him up! She looked down at her shaking hands in horror and then back at him. He seemed to know what she was thinking.
"Don't worry. There is technology that will do all of the work for you. I just have to show you how to set it up and put in the right settings."
"You can do this, Clara." His voice didn't sound at all reassuring, probably due to the fact that it was barely audible, yet still tight with pain.
"I…" She wasn't even going to bother protesting. Of course she was going to help the Doctor, no matter what it took. She was letting her anxiety jump ahead of her.
I can do this.
The Doctor somehow seemed patient while she stood there for about a minute, taking deep breaths to try to calm her racked nerves. How could he be? What had he gone through?!
"Okay. I'm ready."
His open wounds were the easiest to take care of, though he whimpered and cried while the stitches were being cut. Then the technology, a strange contraption that hovered over the bed and could float around to wherever it was needed, sealed the wound with some sort of golden light. That left him with a scab all the way down his torso and Clara nearly started crying again when she realized how terribly he would scar.
The next part was much harder. The Doctor had to quietly talk her through how to set the bones in his arms, though he seemed incredibly reluctant to do it. After much crying on her part and irritability on his, that job was done.
Then she had to gingerly pull off his trousers, (she was relieved he had underwear on,) and she bit her lip as his legs were slowly revealed, inch-by-inch, just as damaged as the rest of him. She held in her gasps of shock and only a few tears trickled down her face. The technology then took care of the open wounds on his legs. There were some particularly nasty ones on his thighs that looked like whiplashes.
The Doctor was utterly exhausted by the time all of this was finished, and he laid there with his head tilted to the side, eyes closed, breathing heavy.
"Doctor, will you tell me what happened?" Clara asked gently. She had never imagined him returning to her in such a state, not once. Of course she would worry, but her worries didn't go to this extent.
"M-Maybe later," he murmured. "Will you stay with me?"
She had ditched the idea of actually getting to her job interview long ago. She was late by now and how could she possibly leave the Doctor?
Clara looked around for a chair, found the nearest one, and dragged it noisily to the side of the bed.
"Of course I will," she told him reassuringly. All her panic had faded from her, though her face was still a little wet from tears. She gently took his hand and stroked her thumb over the back of it. "I'm not going anywhere."