Chapter 9

Following his precise—if sometimes confusing, instructions, Clara helped hook the Doctor up to the TARDIS console. He lay stretched out on the floor of the control room wearing an oversized cotton hospital gown. It was marked with 'Royal Hope Hospital' and 'Property of NHS' printed on the front. Wires of many colours were attached to his body, held in place by sticky tabs such as those used by EKG technicians.

As Clara understood it, he'd placed himself on top of a thick rubber pad with a sheet draped over it, in order to prevent her from being accidentally shocked by any electrical currents emitted by his body.

The fourteen year old Doctor's face gazed anxiously up at Clara. His voice cracked slightly as he asked, "Are you sure you what to do, now? Don't you think you should write this all down? In case you forget something?"

"You have to trust me, Doctor." Clara reassured him, "Just like I trust you. Now relax. I promise I'll do everything you told me to. I've gone over all of it three times with you, already. I don't need a list."

"What about that time I sent you to Tesco's? Hmm—? You told me then you didn't need a list. But of course you forgot the croissant. I mean, how on earth do you expect me to have my morning coffee without a croissant? My god, that was absolutely barbaric! It was like that time I asked Leela to brew me a cuppa." He shuddered, "Bleurgh! Awful stuff. Took me weeks to get the smell of sick out of my scarf."

"You're never going to let that go, are you?" Clara asked ruefully, shaking her head in resignation. "Something tells me I going to hear about it until the end of time."

"I've been to the end of time. Trust me, you don't want to go there." The Doctor muttered. "Would you believe they never even heard of a croissant? And you don't want to know what the coffee tasted like."

"Doctor." Clara said softly, as she crouched down beside the Doctor. Touching him gently on the shoulder, she added, "I know you're scared. And it's OK. Really, I understand."

"Scared? Scared? I think you'll find that I don't frighten easily, Clara. I'm absolutely fine, as it happens. What would make you think that I'm afraid?" The Doctor sniffed.

"Because you're changing the subject. Avoiding the inevitable. And that's OK. Really, it is. You know why? Because if you weren't at least a tiny bit scared right now, that would make you some sort of god. Because only gods are perfect, Doctor."

"I never said I was perfect, Clara." The Doctor frowned.

"Good." She winked at him, "Because people who think they're perfect are dead boring. Not to mention a tad delusional. And seriously in need of some therapy. Thing is, Doctor, I don't travel with you because you're some omnipotent being. I hang out with you because you're one of the most genuine people I've ever met."

Bending down to give him a quick peck on the cheek, Clara continued, "That, and you're my best friend. You may be able to regenerate, but you can't fool me. I know you're still mortal enough to be afraid of dying. And if you weren't," She smiled as she stood, "I wouldn't go near you with a ten meter pole. Can't stand anyone that pompous."

Clara placed her hand over her heart. "My word of honor, Doctor, I will do everything you taught me. By the book. I'm not letting anything happen to you if I can help it. You're the only one who knows how to fly this thing."

"Alright, Clara." The Doctor said quietly, turning his head away from her. "I'm sorry. I do trust you."

Yeah, I know. OK," she asked, jerking her head towards the console, "You ready for this?"

"No." The Doctor said nervously. "But go ahead, anyway. Remember, turn the retro-stabilizer dial to the right. Keep your eye on the monitor. The matrix's molecular-genetic stream should be constant. And do not to press the green button until the yellow one lights up. Then the blue one. Green, yellow, blue. Got that?And count off exactly five seconds between each sequence. If you don't do this properly, Clara, the TARDIS could end up instantly vaporizing itself and the entire solar system."

"Er—right." Clara nodded, as she stood with her hands poised over the console. "So no pressure at all then, yeah?" Taking a deep breath she muttered, "Maybe I should have made a list."

"What's that?" He called to her.

"Nothing, Doctor! OK, brace yourself. Here goes."

Taking a deep breath, Clara nervously grasped a device on the console which bore a resemblance to a shovel handle. Her white-knuckled hand slowly inched the switch forward to the first line marker. It was difficult, because the switch was stiff with disuse. Then Clara carefully went on to the second mark. She stopped when the switch clicked into the mark three setting. Sparing a glance at the monitor screen, she twisted a dial which looked like a combination lock to the right.

The console made a loud humming noise, which slowly began to build in pitch. Suddenly, an orange-blue aura shrouded the Doctor's body. His limbs started to twitch and sweat broke out on his forehead. As the yellow button lit up, the Doctor's body twisted in a spasm. Clara didn't notice. She was concentrating on watching both the monitor and the lights. The console noise built in crescendo until it was a throbbing whine. Unconsciously holding her breath, she counted a slow five and then pressed down.

The moment Clara pressed the blue button, the console began to shake. Sparks flew and white smoke wafted into her face, making her cough. The aura around the Doctor changed. It became a brilliant yellow, sparkling light. His face was contorted with pain as his body began to change back to that of an adult . Without warning, there was a bright flash that caused Clara to shield her eyes with her arm. The Doctor gave a horrific scream of agony.

Then, there was silence. The control room went dark, as smoke poured from the console. Clara turned anxiously and ran towards the Time Lord's prone body.

"Doctor! Doctor, are you alright?" Fear began to settle like an iceberg in her stomach when there was no response. "Hang on, I'm coming."

Clara's face was bathed in the red glow of the emergency lights, as she bent over the Doctor's pale, still form. She checked his pulse, then put an ear to both his hearts. Nothing. Clara felt tears welling up in her eyes. The Doctor was dead.

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