How nice to see you taking an interest again
We was just getting acquainted
It’s Wednesday, he’s leaning decisively against the console, facing the door, brushing future lint off his trousers (checkers; cool!), waiting. Waiting, and admitting it. Waiting for her to pack and tidy the house and sit in car queues and whatever else it was she did that she wouldn’t do Tuesday evening.
With her, he’s almost patient.
She was his big friendly button, his reset after the dark days. After the Pond and the Roman and the greatest story never told.
He, who had resigned himself to walking with lead in his steps and who had convinced Sexy to make him coats with wider shoulder pads for heavier burdens, he felt like knocking his heels again. Didn’t do it in front of Clara, necessarily, but maybe he should.
She deserved to see it.
She probably already knew.
Wait’s over. She skips down the lawn, finally, in the millionth variation on cute dress and wedges he’s seen, clutching 101 Places to See to her chest.
Why do you call yourself Doctor?
I saw all of you
He saw her through his own time stream — much of her, most of her; maybe. The line of her spine and the weight of her hair as she saved him, again and again.
Not an open wound any longer, but a bit raw still, and held together by plasters shaped like Clara, smelling like Clara.
To her, he’s not a mystery, and barely a moniker. He has a sneaking, side-eye worthy, cause-to-reel-backwards suspicion she considers him... a man. They should probably talk about it, haven’t yet.
He wanted to drop her off at the Maitlands’ doorstep for good; pat her head and kiss her fingers, yes, but leave her because it hurt. He wanted to not face her and to cradle her face.
He wanted to leave like he always did, and keep her painting and his life to remember her by. He’d told himself: this time was the last time.
The next Wednesday, some Wednesday, the nearest Wednesday... he was waiting on her lawn again. Leaving would be like pretending she didn’t remember all her deaths and all the times she’d saved him. To pretend like she didn’t have bad dreams and phantom pains from a million hurts. Oh, she said she didn’t, said those were just nightmares, said she didn’t know more than the paper and the ink that made up her Mum’s collection of recipes — and then he caught her just staring.
Of course she remembers.
Never met you
Just as he’d mapped her life, her lives, before he’d known who she was... just as little could he stop searching for her echoes now. Oh, the TARDIS didn’t like it, and no Clara would have approved had they known, but he just. couldn’t. stop.
She was fighting for him; not with violence, but with lies and cheats and faulty information. He had to fight for her.
Don’t travel alone, Doctor
Remember me for we shall meet again
They’re subtly different, his Claras, but subtly — still so very much her. Oswin, Clara. His chicken and egg. Eggs-ter-min-ate.
(a name on a door and he waits slumped against it, yo-yoing four thousand five hundred and fourteen times. She never shows.)
(holding a cup of coffee with one hand and having parkin with the other)
(a flowery trenchcoat over tights and, logically, there’s a possible skirt underneath. It de-nerves him. She laughs, because she knows it does. He tries so hard, but she dies, too.)
(married and wears an apron and placing a pie on a windowsill. He gets out as quickly as he can, and the Universe lets him go without turning an ankle in the middle of traffic. Five years later; her funeral. Cancer.)
(inviting him into her flat and making him tea, and he touches her things, everything that meant something to her.)
(finding him again and again, most of the time, too often, (Oi!) and in his hearts of hearts it hurts to pretend not to hear.)
(not listening to him)
(always saying “You’re not real”.)
Her bones were in a thousand places, a thousand times.
With Oswin, with too many, not even that.
She’s not a ghost, but the lights flicker all the same.
She’s always twenty-something. Sometimes younger. There’s never a Clara making soufflés with her grandchildren. She never grows old.
His version, the original, still has that chance. He’d saved her; with her, all the others.
I never know why I only know who
Dunno why I’m crying
Looking back, remembering times when his mind was addled by his burning timestream, when the world beneath his feet heaved and breathed like a pit of jelly slugs, when he wasn’t looking hard enough, he could never be sure if that was an unusually handsy Ace pressing her palms against his shoulders or if it was Clara in a leather jacket... if that was Barbara pushing him out of the way or if it was Clara wearing a cardie... was that Clara in Jamie’s kilt, Turlough’s uniform, Mickey’s t-shirt, Leela’s skins, Adric’s tunic and Donna’s scarf?
Did it matter, really? They all saved him.
Of course it mattered.
This isn’t a ghost story it’s a love story
He thinks about regeneration sometimes, of course he does; he’s a Time Lord with a body of a certain age.
He’s still not prepared when it happens, but Clara’s there and he can’t think of a better hand to hold. It’s like having kin present, which is how it was meant to happen, how it had never happened for him. She’s wearing one of her little dresses, one that happens to have a collar almost as high and well-buttoned as the ones he’d grown up with on Gallifrey, but hers was softer, with a pattern that was definitely human.
Afterwards, she says — sorry, hints — that he wasn’t regenerating quite right, that he should have relaxed and lain down during. Hah. Then she’d turned and whipped him in the new face with her ponytail.
Twelfth Doctor, thirteenth body. I saw all of you.
No need for boring explanations. He’s reborn content and hungry and barely has to stop for breath. She enjoys getting to know a new him almost as much as he enjoys getting to know himself.
They keep travelling, of course; she’s only actually seen 44 of her Places (and only heard 45).
It doesn’t take them long to run into the Daleks. Always the Daleks.
They still don’t know him, aren’t afraid of him. It’s so much easier like this.
He’s crouching in a battle-scarred corner of a smoke-filled corridor, waiting.
Clara, despite being her original not-prone-to-wandering self, has wandered off; worrisome, because he knows he knows she remembers being Oswin and being Time Lord and being exterminated again and again and again.
After facing some Daleks valiantly, as usual, he’d gathered the remains of his tattered coat triumphantly (because he hadn’t his name to throw around triumphantly) and laughed; too loudly and for too long, probably. He’d run off, then, because the Daleks had been gathering their wits and he’d had enough of banter.
Clara has to be well, he thinks, the cold from the wall seeping into his ribs. She can’t die at the hands of the Daleks, not now. Not the Daleks.
There’s one coming; he hears it close in. Just one. He stands cautiously; never really knows what to do when there’s just one anymore.
The Dalek rounds the corner, trundling unsteadily. Damaged. The eyestalk points upwards at an impossible angle.
He has some excellent taunts in store.
Except there’s suddenly a lot of scratching and whirring coming from that Dalek and he loses his train of thought. There’s a shudder followed by a great pop, and... Clara’s head in place of the dome.
She’s absolutely ashen-faced, translucent-faced, brave-faced. Clara Oswin Oswald. “Found an empty casing,” she says. “Led most of them the wrong way, but some are... not far, coming here, you know how it is.”
“Why on Earth would you get in there?” He barely gets the words out, and he always gets the words out.
“Why not? You’ve done it. Knew I could get out. Defeat the Daleks, put some nightmares to rest... all in a day’s. Remind me to thank Nina for dragging me to yoga.”
“You ran off. I thought you had a plan!”
“I did. Then this one came along.” She pats the top of the casing. “Would’ve been even better if I’d figured out how to use the plunger thingie, but...” She reaches dirty hands toward him. “Pull, would you, old man? My foot and my shoulderblade were not meant to be this close.”
He eases her out and into a hug, holds her up because her knees are shaking. He could have sworn he’d meant to regenerate shorter this time.
“You smell like a smokery and you’re pressing my nose against the only button left on that waistcoat. Good thing, it was hideous.” She pushes off his chest, spins around and weaves down the corridor. She’s barefoot and has a hole in the back of cute dress number two million. “We’d better go back the way you came.”
“Impossible girl,” he says. First time with this new mouth; he’s held back for months and months. It still feels right on his tongue.
She turns, slowly and unsteadily, and grins.
The navigation system’s knackered
But you’ll have much more fun