It meant so much to him. It meant everything to him, maybe. Clara could see that in his face, in his clasped hands held over his heart. It wasn’t a conscious gesture; it was every bit of him pleading. They’d exchanged rings, the token of her species; would she do with him what his species did?
It wasn’t a question, really. Now that she knew it was possible, that he wanted it, she was going to say yes to him. He had, after all, said yes to her.
“How do we-- I mean, is there a ceremony?”
“Yes and no. It all takes place in our minds.” He gestured between the two of them, pointing at his chest where his hearts were and not at his head.
“Right here will do,” he said, pointing at their bed.
And there was such a note of longing in his voice that Clara could not have denied him for all the worlds of humanity.
“Okay. Now. Here.”
He sat them down on the bed, cross-legged, facing each other. He closed his eyes for some minutes. He looked at if he were meditating. Gathering himself for something. Clara waited for him to tell her what to do next. She was impatient, but she held onto it tight. This was meaningful to him, and she wasn’t going to mess it up for him.
The Doctor opened his eyes. Blue, so very blue, so intent upon her.
“May I take your hands?” he said.
Formal, so formal. Clara said, “You may,” and held her hands out to him. He clasped them in his.
“Will you join with me?”
“I will.” It seemed to have been the right answer. He closed his eyes and a great weariness settled over him. Clara had seen him like this before: when he was looking across time, when he was telling her what would become of them all.
And then she felt him inside her mind, reaching out to her, inviting her to join with him. Yes, she said again, and they were joined.
It was sexual and it wasn’t. It was emotional and it was rational. It was their minds joined and the Doctor weaving a golden cable that stretched between them. He was laboring over it, she saw. Sweat dripped from the end of his nose and wet the metal strands as he braided. A hot sun beat down on them mercilessly but he was resolute.
“Can I help?” she said.
“Just be with me.”
Clara stood beside him, stroking his hair, while he did whatever it was he was doing. Molten gold, fine wires, something running them and sparking. Energy, flowing from him into what he was building. From his hearts into this braid.
He was on hands and knees, breathing. Clara knelt beside him and wiped sweat from his forehead. He straightened up, with her help, and held what he had made up between them.
“Will you become one with me?” he said, in a language that wasn’t hers.
“Yes,” she said, in English.
He touched the wires to her chest over her heart. Metaphor became reality. Now it was sexual and it was emotional and it was nothing she had words for. It was something she had to invent an entire language for. They were wrapped around each other and they were sitting on the bed holding hands and they were showing each other their lives and they were laughing.
She had something she hadn’t before he’d touched her. She was more than she had been. And he had done it all, had touched her and changed her by pouring something into her. Metaphor was slippery but Clara knew it with certainty, just as she knew with certainty that the new sense she had was an awareness of him. Not of anyone else. Of him, the Gallifreyan with his hands wrapped around hers. The man whose name she now knew, because she was joined with him in his culture’s commitment ceremony.
“Now you understand,” he said, with a voice that was ragged and barely audible to her ears, ringing clear to that new sense. He released her and fell back onto the bed. Clara slumped away from him. Another sense. Sixth sense? No, a seventh. A seventh sense: connection to her partner, her life-mate, her husband, her other half. Metaphor? No. This was real. She was changed. They were joined.
“Always with me, now,” he murmured. The expression on his face-- Clara wanted to weep, because she’d never seen him looking like that. She’d seen him happy, she’d seen him post-coital, but she’d never seen him beatific.
Beatific, and drained. He wasn’t getting up from the bed. Flat on his back, one hand flung out, the other clutching his sweat-drenched t-shirt over his stomach.
“Are you okay?” she said, and even as she spoke that seventh sense was giving her the answer. He had pushed himself past his limits to build that connection. It was something that they had been supposed to do together, that she was supposed to have done half the work for. But she hadn’t had the ability-- still didn’t have the ability to create that.
He’d done it all himself.
“Idiot,” she said, “killing yourself for five minutes of telepathic sex.”
“Clara,” he said. His eyes rolled back in his head.
The TARDIS made a noise and to Clara’s utter shock she knew what it meant. It wasn’t words, not as such, not like a person speaking, but there was meaning and emotion. It was concern and a nudge to action, mixed with a bit of comfort: he’d be okay, but she had to help.
“Right,” Clara said. “First thing. Clean dry clothes.”
Six drawers and an entire closet full of identical copies of his three outfits. The closet was beyond huge; it seemed to recede back forever. Clara blinked, decided to think about that later. She snagged the nearest t-shirt and baggy plaid trousers, took the top pair of boxers from what seemed to be a drawer full of an infinity of boxers, and went back to him. He lay just as she’d left him, eyes rolled back in his head.
“Hey, you blazing idiot, can you sit up at all?”
No response. Well, that was – something she’d have to work around. But when she touched him, when she took his hand between hers, it changed-- he was there, present, wanting to help, but needing her help to pull him back into his own body. To anchor him there. Clara didn’t know how to do that, but apparently holding his hand was enough to do it. Her mental energy supported him.
He blinked, and she could see his irises again. She tugged him up to a sitting position. He groaned, voice still faint, but managed to brace himself while she stripped off his sweat-soaked clothes.
Clean warm clothes on him, blankets swaddled around him, a sugary sports drink in a sippy cup set in his limp hand. The TARDIS burbled. It meant that this was enough for now. Clara touched the wall to thank her, then sat on the edge of the bed. The Doctor sucked at his cup and made a face.
“What flavor is this?” he said.
“Electric flavor. No idea what that means. There were about four hundred bottles of it in the fridge, though.”
“I liked the color,” he said. “Blue. Electric blue.”
“You would,” Clara said, fondly. She pulled the blankets up under his armpits and tucked them around him more tightly. She stroked the hair back from his face. Ridiculous hair, so long and so soft. Why did he ever cut it short? He looked so severe with it short, so beautiful with it curling around his ears like this.
He made a face. “Don’t fuss.”
“You love it.”
“Do. Don’t even try to lie to me any more, mister.”
He glowered at her, but this only made her laugh. He hadn’t thought this through properly. Or maybe he had.