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for you alone i will be weak

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Clara kneels in front of the frightened boy in her foyer and asks him his name.

“Safa,” he replies, already knowing hers, pronouncing it as though he’s had practice.

Kate Stewart, stalwartly determined to run UNIT from her hospital bed, tells Clara that the boy’s closest known family is an aunt living in New Jersey. Clara is assured that immigration will be of no issue for the friend of the former president. This makes her inwardly cringe. He must have hated every minute of it (then again, would have revelled in it too).

They’re States-bound that very evening. On the way out the door, Clara leaves a voicemail for the Doctor.

“It’s me." She does her best to sound crisp and in control. “Call me back, when you can. I have some news.”

She doesn’t know what else to say, a horrid thought in the back of her mind, that her closest friend found his way home and couldn’t bother to say goodbye.

 

 

 

On the way to Heathrow, their minicab nearly collides with a lorry while turning off the M4. She imagines the lorry overturned, cars on fire, a vast emptiness, and having to face Danny with this child, the life he took and promised back. “I gave you one job, Ozzie,” he’d say, unable to stay mad, because he never could. Life wasn’t meant to be, they’d realize, and they’d be together.

She remains alive, however, trapped in a crossfire of blaring horns and clinging to the seat in front of her.

Safa hesitatingly touches her shoulder. An act of comfort.

In Englishly pronounced Pashto, she thanks him, a lump in her throat and hating herself for her own thoughts. She puts her hand to the back of his head, making him flinch, and asks him in English if he’s alright.

He nods for her sake. The minicab begins to move.

 

 

 

She watches him get into his aunt’s car in front of arrivals at LaGuardia with a shy, hesitant wave goodbye. She waves back warmly, swallowing the impulse to weep. She knows Danny would want her to keep in touch, make sure the boy’s alright with a life ahead as a refugee, likely an orphan.

There are no new messages on her phone when she waits at the gate for her flight back to England. She looks around for her fellow travellers, who are sombrely immersed in their own lives. The world's gone grey, once overcast with the dead, and it’s been a long while since she’s had to wait to travel anywhere.

 

 

 

Nine hours later, she finds her bedroom windows open, her fish having changed colour, and a bouquet of pink roses on her vanity laid next to a pregnancy test kit she’d purchased recently.

For a second, she thinks she sees the Doctor outside her bedroom door, blood trickling from his fist.

 

 

 

The Doctor sulks in a dark backroom of the National Gallery, sitting against a wall, knees nearly to his chest, looking for all the world like a victim of shipwreck.

The painting Gallifrey Falls is before him in all of its grim grandeur. He glares back, reeling from the failure of which it reminds. He hears his own voice, and a hologram of himself looms over him, looking monstrously furious. It’s the TARDIS Voice Interface.

“Hey, idiot,” it snarls, sounding more Scottish than he’s ever sounded in his own head. “Yeah, you.” A holo-finger juts out at him. “Get your arse off the floor, and stop drowning in your mind-numbing annals of regret. She’s not alright, and neither are you.”

 

 

 

She’s freezing her bones off on a Saturday morning and losing a fight with herself to get out of bed. She practically lives in it nowadays, curtains unopened, surviving on one meal a day, her interest in existing dwindling.  

But her eyes shoot open when her phone buzzes. It’s the Doctor. A text inviting her to coffee and chips, his treat.

She stares at the message, somewhere in between dumbstruck and displeased.

Where the hell have you been? she writes back.

She sets the phone on the pillow next to her, glances up at her cracked old ceiling, and smiles slowly, dragging a foot out from under the covers.

The phone buzzes again.

 

 

 

Clara finds the TARDIS parked next to a carousel in front of the café. Passersby don’t give it a second thought. She wonders if anyone’s ever tried to put up cards for sex like in London's other mostly derelict phone boxes. She wonders if anybody ever tried with this Doctor inside.

She sets her cheek and hand against the door. “Hello, you old snogbox."

The Doctor sits in the cafe with his back to the door, offering the server a basket of chips. His table is covered in chips and coffee cups from at least four different continents. It’s a habit of this face, taking twenty of something when two would do.

He senses her presence and turns around, a relieved and knowing glint in his eye when he spots the Master’s bracelet.

She sits down, tells him the truth, and proves him wrong.

 

 

 

“This is untoward,” the Doctor says.

“Oh, shush.”

Clara’s flat emanates the scent of vanilla and sugar, in a way that happy childhoods are remembered. She feels an exasperated flutter of lashes against the palm covering his eyes. When she returns his sight, he discovers a vibrantly blue birthday cake set on the table. She waits for him to squirm and scold, but he only sighs as if having held his breath for a long time.

“I meant to put ‘I’m sorry I tried to strand you on the edge of a volcano on your birthday.’”

“That’s okay,” he says, faintly dazed. “I like the minimalism.”

She pulls a card out of her waistband. “You might find it on here, however.”

The card is made out of sugar paper she stole from Coal Hill. It features a stick figure with grey eyebrows holding hands with a lady dinosaur with giant curly eyelashes. Big Ben peeks out behind the lovers. Her finishing touch is a speech balloon that has the leggy eyebrows exclaiming, Nice tae meit ye!

The Doctor looks up at Clara. “Did a wee child make this?”

She squeezes his shoulder. “Shut up.”

“Clara, you really didn’t have to—”

“Don’t sing my praises just yet, Doctor. This is just the start. I may not have an army of the dead, but I have a day planned.”

His jaw hangs a bit, brow raised, as if recovering from the shock of overhearing a gaggle of sweary old grans.

“Too soon?” she asks.

He shrugs. “Sense of humour. A good survival skill.”

“I’ve been racking them up,” she says, flipping over a large knife in her hand, poised to cut him a piece of his own cake. “Now make your wish a good one.”

 

 

 

The Doctor incredulously watches Clara mount her motorbike as she reminds him that he in fact lost the ability to drive in his last regeneration, along with cookery skills and the ability to speak French. So, yes, she will be driving today.

“The TARDIS tell you that?” He sullenly swings a leg over her bike, his helmet not quite fitting on top of his wavy hair. “Are you friends now?”

She and the TARDIS are conspirators on this birthday gift. Long gone are the days of being Tinker Bell to Clara’s Wendy. This makes the Doctor feel like he’s being left out of a private joke (and that the joke may be himself).

“I know you’re against it,” she says, moving her hands over the clutch, “but you will have to hold on.”

He looks daggers at her, which turns into outright terror, his hands hovering over the line of her body, bewildered over finding the most virtuous destination to place them. He clasps onto the sides of her helmet.

Doctor,” she protests.

“No?”

He sucks in a breath, his arms slipping to wrap around her waist, moving himself closer to her in the process.

She presses her chin to her shoulder, biting her lip, doing an appalling job at fighting a smile at his expense.

“One marvellous thing you’ll notice about my way of getting places." She puts on her aviators, doing her best Steve McQueen. The TARDIS cracks its doors open to reveal the sun-drenched and perfectly green hills of southern Tuscany. “Everything’s bigger on the outside.”

 

 

 

Every muscle in her body is burning from having dragged her best friend around the world in a day. He’s probably seen these places, but the Doctor, for all his spikey obtuseness, doesn’t make a complaint about reruns. Not that there weren’t any antics along the way to keep him on his toes. This includes a brush with the Judoon in Porto Alegre, running out of petrol near Seoul, and sampling the universe’s best biscuits and gravy found literally in a crack in the wall in Brooklyn.

The last stop is in Tromsø for the Northern Lights. They sit on the roof of a deserted old barn and admire the wraithlike swirling of crimson, blue, magenta, and bright green amid feathery clouds and the illimitable stars of the heavens.

In his fingers, the Doctor reflexively twirls the stem of a dahlia that Clara plucked for him on whim from a Mexican mountaintop. They stay warm with the aid of her girlhood duvet, decorated in pastel floral patterns. She feels a pitying affection at the sight of him, Johnny Cash swallowed up by Strawberry Shortcake.

She breaks the silence. “There’s a myth that the lights are the reflected glow of Valkyries.”

“Not completely a myth,” he answers, his gaze fixed on the sky.

“'Course not,” she says, feeling a shock of déjà vu, a long-forgotten dream evoked. Many of her dreams, she suspects, are from the lives of her echoes, something the Doctor must have programmed to keep her sane while having a million lifetimes in her head.

She likes the idea of some otherworldly version of her, immortalized and guiding the likes of brave souls like Danny, Journey, and the Doctor to Valhalla, the very shine of her armour having the power to make the skies explode in colour.

She puts her cheek to his arm, feeling kinship with a man who’s also lived and died for over two thousand years, several versions of his own self scattered throughout the whole of creation. But at least she has a home to return to, a kind to which she belongs, and humanity, as she witnessed today, beautifully persevering—often because of him.

“I’m sorry she lied to you,” Clara says hesitantly. She worries she’s failing to find the right words.

“It’s out there.” His answer sits uneasy in his throat.

“Think of it this way." Her cheek presses harder into him. She notes that he no longer vehemently resists when she’s affectionate. “Somewhere in space and time, you’ve already found it. You’re walking down those streets, you are home.”

The Doctor breaks his gaze away from above to direct it on Clara. He feels a flourish of fondness, touched by her in a way that surprises even himself.

“I can see why he loved you so much,” he says sincerely, “the love that saved the world.”

She struggles to keep her composure, eyes damp and inflating, and she knows he would hate it if she burst into tears on his belated-birthday (or really any day). She isn’t sure whether she wants to weep over lost love or for the joy of finding this daft grumpy bastard next to her.

“I hope you had a happy birthday, Doctor,” she wishes, as evenly as she can. “Eventually.”

“You’ve only made it harder for me on your birthday.”

She laughs at that, because he missed her birthday last month, and he’s crap at birthdays anyway. Last year, he got her a retinol cream pump. She refused to speak to him for a week.

“You did that to yourself, clever boy,” she says. “When you show a girl a new planet every other day, what are you going to do when it really counts?”

 

 

 

He’s in the middle of planting a sprawl of electromagnetized jelly bellies within a ten block radius of the Irish Sea. Unexpectedly, hard-booted feet punt him on the nose. It is Blackpool in the early 2000s, he's been setting traps for a vengeful sea spirit, and those feet belong to a cherubic sixteen-year-old girl. She hangs out her bedroom window, sporting dark makeup, a heavy fringe, and an oversized black leather jacket over a torn Radiohead t-shirt.

Those feet belong to Clara Oswald at the onset of teenage rebellion.

“Sorry,” she says lightly, dropping to the ground, too excited to be really sorry.

She stands up and hugs a raggedy rucksack to her chest, which also managed to hit him in the face. She’s sneaking out of her gran’s to attend Glastonbury. Her friends have been summoned to pick her up in a green Vauxhall Corsa a couple of blocks down the road exactly five minutes past midnight. Clara likes to plan her teenage rebellion with immaculate attention to detail.

The Doctor gawks. “What are you doing here?” It hasn’t hit him that this younger Clara doesn’t have a clue who he is.

“None of your business,” she says without malice. She catches sight of the headlights of a police car and immediately falls back behind the bush with a very polite-sounding “shit!

On instinct, the Doctor falls to the ground with her as they listen for the car to pass. Clara grins at him in the spirit of mischief, and it finally dawns that she is yet to have met him for another eight years.

She eyes the packet in his hand and makes a guess that he’s probably some kind of smartly-dressed tramp, and yet—

“I’d never think you were the type,” the Doctor says as he helps her stand.

Clara makes a face. “Do I know you?”

The Doctor hesitates, tempted to convince her to abandon her plans to eat scones at a disco or whatever it is very young humans do and instead go ghost-busting with him along the Pleasure Beach.

“No, no,” he says with a fond smile. “We’d never get along.”

Clara tilts her head, intrigued, but she's been told not to speak to strange men, advice she heeds even during calculated acts of teenage rebellion. Roaming Scotsmen dressed like magicians hiding jelly bellies in bushes count especially.

“We probably wouldn’t." She nods a bit wistfully.

Clara takes a red jelly belly, gives him a quick farewell salute, and then cringes at having done so when she’s turned around and he can’t see her face.

“See you later,” he says.

He watches her leave, and Clara spares him one last curious glance back.

Thirteen years into the future, he finds her reading the paper in a coffee shop, job-and-bill-addled, hand pasted to her forehead in eternal drudge. She looks up to find him sitting across from her, a massive bruise on his nose.

“Did someone kick you in the face?” Clara reaches out a hand to examine him, putting her iced coffee on the wound. He faintly smiles at the attention until she adds, “What on Earth did you say to deserve it?”

He sighs, aggrieved. “How was Glastonbury?”

“Oh, a mess. I was grounded for the rest of the su—” she stops, penny dropping. “It was you!” She puts a hand on his shoulders with a laugh. “Serves you right.”

“What?”

“Loitering like that in my gran’s neighbourhood.”

“Excuse me, I was saving your town from a ravenous sea spirit.”

“What they all say.”

“Typical,” he mutters, pouting.

“I’ll buy you a coffee to make it up to you.” She begins to rummage through her purse and then points at him warningly. “You will go easy on the sugar, Doctor.”

 

 

 

Clara flings open the TARDIS doors. “I know what I want.”

She finds the Doctor lying flat on his back and engrossedly peering into a kaleidoscope that also forecasts the weather, suggests lotto numbers, and serves as a pepper shaker. She lies down on the floor next to him and stares up at the ceiling.

“Alright,” he says, putting the kaleidoscope down, “but I draw the line at Tickle-Me-Elmo. I just do.”

In order to avoid any further awkwardness and embarrassment, it was decided that Clara would name what she wanted for her belated birthday, and the Doctor would provide it.

After a month of fretting, she’d come to a decision. “My mother.”

The Doctor twitches, quickly checking his neck and her hands for a sleep patch. “Clara.”

“No, Doctor, I’m not asking to bring her back. I’d like to see her again when she was alive. Five minutes.”

They have a staring match, both of them losing at the same time when he sneezes due to a delayed reaction to the pepper and startles her with the Caledonian ire of it.

He sits up, sighs heavily, and rubs his nose. “How about a couple of hours?”

She clasps his arm and tries her best not to completely implode with excitement. “You’ve done this before, haven’t you?”

“And I never learn,” he says quickly. He points at her as he gets up and walks to the console. “We’re going to have to go back before you’re born so you don’t accidentally touch yourself and cause the world to end.”

Clara smirks, and the Doctor scowls back at her. “Oh, shut up.”

They emerge out of a cupboard in the Blackpool Community Centre in 1981.

“She’ll be teaching a cookery course for pensioners, I think,” he informs Clara as he holds open the door.

They situate themselves in the back of the room. The class is attended mostly by old couples floating around in their twilight years. They have pet names for each other like “bunny” and “pumpkin.” Ellie teaches another course with more age diversity, but the Doctor thinks they’ll blend in better with this crowd.

He puts on a commemorative Charles and Diana royal wedding apron with their disembodied faces floating within a heart-shaped ether. Clara slyly takes a photo of him for blackmail purposes.

The teacher steps in with a large grey portable cassette player in her jacket pocket and a self-possessed smile on her face. Ellie Ravenwood, twenty years young and an infinite unlived days ahead.

“That’s her,” Clara says. “Doctor.” She feels as though she’s about to meet someone famous, someone she’ll recognize but who knows nothing of her—except the person is her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in over ten long years.

“Nothing to fear,” he says as if reading her mind. “You’re destined to be the most precious thing in the world.” He blinks and then amends, “To her.”

He tightens her apron and gives her fingers a reassuring squeeze.

Ellie begins the lesson by reciting the line, “The soufflé isn't the soufflé, the soufflé is the recipe.” Clara attentively, adoringly mouths along with her.

She approaches Clara and the Doctor while meeting with each of her students as they cook, the names “Jane Smith” and “John Smith” on their name tags.

“Hello.” Clara shyly tucks her hair behind her ear. The Doctor is in the middle of literally juggling the paprika, Gruyère, and nutmeg in the air. His aim is to incorporate the milk and butter by the end of the evening.

Ellie smiles, happy to see someone close to her age. “I hope you don’t mind my saying you look a bit out of place.”

“Oh, well, I’m here with my f—”

“—twin brother,” the Doctor finishes, catching everything in his arms.

Clara closes her eyes to gather patience and reopens them to fake laugh.

“He likes to joke. I’m an end of life baby—late in life baby, like in ‘You’ve Got Mail.’” She’s ready to go on about a rich earl who had children really young and then really old and also lost his memory in an air balloon accident. She’s been watching a lot of Julian Fellowes dramas as of late.

Her mother nods, not quite following, yet charmed. Clara cringes when she’s gone, and the Doctor elbows her. “You do realize that ‘You’ve Got Mail’ won’t come out for another two decades?”

“In what universe are we twins!?”

“Fraternal twins.”

“Doctor, you do realize I turned twenty nine last month?”

“Is that that what you’re telling people?”

They linger after class. The Doctor holds his and Clara’s soufflé under his arm, which is cracked open, burnt, and looks like a public safety advertisement on the consequences of drug abuse. He’s quite proud of it.

He approaches Ellie and hands her a banana as if it were a tip. “For your trouble.”

She looks down and then back up at him, both amused and confused. “Goodbye, John.”

“Call me Doctor." He winks. She would have made a good travelling companion, he thinks, someone who’d go out of her way to save a stranger and raise a daughter like Clara.

“Jane,” Ellie says to Clara after the Doctor leaves them. She is taken aback when Clara hugs her tightly and tearfully hides her face in her mother’s shoulder.

“You were really amazing, you know?” Clara says. “Everything, everything I could have ever asked for. Everything I want to be. Thank you.”

“Oh—” Ellie is breathless. She pats Clara’s back gently. There’s never been a weirder cookery lesson in her life. She’s almost certain she saw “John” whisking the batter with a screwdriver. “You’re welcome.”

“Love you,” Clara whispers as she lets go and kisses her mother on the cheek.

Before a stunned Ellie can say anything, Clara runs into the corridor and dashes into the nearest cupboard like the White Rabbit.

Ellie follows her and hears the sound of something taking off. She opens the cupboard door only to find the sight of office supplies twirling in the air.

Inside the TARDIS, Clara hugs the Doctor in a vice-like grip of zealous gratitude, trapping him against the console. He whinges, though smiling despite himself, and holds the deflated soufflé protectively over his head. “Within reason. I said within reason.”

 

 

 

The plan is to leave for a Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on Epsilon, but before any of that, she’s at his desk marking exams she’d given on Friday. The Doctor passes the time scribbling on his chalkboard, trying to remember the recipe for the Sontaran pudding (like Yorkshire pudding but eggier). Halfway through the stack, Clara finds an exam submitted by a student who has identified himself as “the Doctor.”

She squints at it, immediately runs downstairs, and holds the paper up to him. “What’s this?”

He gives her a look as though it’s incredibly obvious what it is. “You left it for me.”

“Why would I give you an exam on Brideshead Revisited?”

“As part of the game.”

“What game?”

“Our game.” He taps her nose and grins like a shark. “Eager to know your thoughts.”

Clara just looks back at him, flabbergasted by his inexhaustible weirdness, chalk on her nose, and then stumbles back up to the gallery to finish her pile of marking.

That night in bed, Clara stares at the Doctor’s still unmarked exam on her bedside table. Unable to resist, she turns on the light and starts reading, clutching the paper inches from her face.

The answers make her smile. His writing gets squirrely when writing about Charles and Sebastian’s relationship (the name “Master” comes up, though scribbled out), and at the end, he’s written down a few questions for her—which she answers, of course, pen cap in her mouth and ink staining her hands.

Henceforth, the TARDIS hosts a book club, members being Clara, the Doctor, and any of the authors they pulled out of bed in the middle of the night so as to take one of their sides on what the authors really meant when they wrote what they wrote. Sometimes this happens before they’d even written it. They even inspire Shakespeare to write a comedy with a man and a woman engaged in a “merry war”—though the Bard likes to later joke that they’re really the Macbeths.

 

 

 

She barges into a restaurant, looking as if she’d just rode in on a tornado, sand in hair, clothes in disarray, and absolutely pissed. She sits at the table immediately behind the Doctor’s so that their backs are to each other. They try their best at behaving like they don’t know the other.

“Do you have any idea what I went through to get here?”

The Doctor coolly takes a grain of rice from his plate and studies it through his magnifying glass. “Well, yes,” he says. “It was my idea.”

“I will murder you,” she spits, her hands curling around the cutlery. The entire planet is one enormous sandstorm after another; and to top it off, she thought he was dead for two days. She’d been stopping curmudgeonly strangers all over town if they looked like they might suffer from acute anachronism and a god complex.

The Doctor turns around and looks at the back of her head with his magnifying glass. He plucks out a hair and inspects it.

She's tetchy over having their cover being blown and then glances at the diners around her. “Tell me it’s not the air disturbance again.”

“No,” he replies hesitantly. “It’s just that it’s grey.” Clara turns around, eyes wide with fury, and sees for herself. “I need you to stay calm,” he says, as if talking down a rabid animal.

Which makes her want to disembowel him even more. “You did this to me,” she seethes. “I’m going prematurely grey.”

“It’s hardly premature at your age.”

The next thing he sees is the water from the pitcher on her table flying at his head, followed by a bottle of peri-peri sauce, mixed olives, and a sand-filled shoe. Suffice to say, they are now banned for life from all Nandos chains in the constellation of Fred.

 

 

 

There’s a lawyer bloke taking up time in Clara’s life. He’s well-read, funny, and tips generously. The Doctor hates him. He goes out of his way to call him “Don” when his name is Sean and thinks that he’s too old for her at thirty six. Clara has just turned thirty three.

When she decides to tell her new boyfriend about time travel sooner rather than later, she takes him inside the TARDIS—with the Doctor’s reluctant permission—and Sean promptly faints and breaks up with her.

“It’s moments like this when I miss PE,” the Doctor says after Sean slams the door on his way out.

“Yeah,” Clara says miserably.

They come back home five hours later, having spent much of that time drinking on a boat. Clara is passed out (she's a light-weight, which the Doctor attributes to her advanced age) and flung over the Doctor’s shoulder as he carries her back to her door.

Everything is easier with the TARDIS, but he doesn’t pilot it drunk. A madman with a box he may be, but he’s not irresponsible.

The Doctor finds a repentant Sean standing at Clara’s door, ready to patch things up. The man stutters at the sight of them. “This is—this is basically how it happens, innit?” he asks. “Alien abductions.”

The Doctor doesn’t know whether to be more offended by the accusation that he’d ever need to abduct anyone or that it would happen by getting them drunk on a party boat.

So he does what any gentleman of his years would do and accuses Sean of trying to abduct Clara himself and sell her organs to the tabloids. They squabble for a good five minutes until the Doctor loudly burrs, “Have we firmly established that neither of us are trying to abduct this loudly knackered Blackpudlian!”

As if on cue, Clara snores like a bear over the both of them, and the neighbours threaten to call the police.

 

 

 

Clara and Sean decide that it would never work out in the long term. In a turn of relief and guilt, the Doctor takes Clara to 3000 BC China to sample the very first ice creams.

 

 

 

They’re plotting in a dusty cantina on 73rd century Enceladus, Saturn’s sixth-largest moon. Clara’s already had to duck twice to avoid becoming collateral damage in a drunken brawl between a party of Orgons and Mentors.

The Doctor will soon be off to parley with a space racketeer (for crucial cosmos-saving purposes, naturally), a blue, trigger-happy, statuesque beauty, who goes by the moniker “the Queen of Killers.” Just his type, probably.

It doesn’t bother Clara that the Doctor’s caught the Queen’s eye. It bothers her that he might fancy her back—which is frankly disgusting and unnatural as far as she’s concerned.

But really she’s bothered for being bothered at all.

Be that as it may, she preps him on the art of espionage and seduction, tells him to think like a Bond Girl ("What’s a Bond Girl," he asks), goes on to unbutton the top of his shirt then changes her mind and buttons it back up and then unchanges her mind and unbuttons once more.

He looks at her like she’s gone mad. The barmaid looks concerned as well, which is a feat since the woman wears an eye patch, has more than two arms, and spends her days trying not to be bled on or blown to smithereens.

“All the Rivers and Roses,” Clara says, nearly finished with her drink. “Do you only ever fancy women whose names are nouns? Although, technically, everybody’s name is a noun, proper nouns in fact—”

Will you shut up? she thinks to herself. He knows what you mean.

“—alright, teacher.” He smiles as if consoling a sweet bumbling fool.

She pats his cheek, almost a slap, despondently sends him out the door, and then downs another drink meant for a giant bee-like creature crouched next to her.

“None ov me business, love,” the barmaid says, wiping green goo off the counter with her third arm. “But ya should just tell ‘im ‘ow ya feel.”

 

 

 

She spends an hour on a Sunday afternoon pasting yellow post-its all over her bookshelf with the reasons why the cockney space-octopus barmaid is mistaken and that she really can’t be in love with him because he’s him.

Some of the reasons are as follows:

- 2000-year-old alien
- eats gelato straight out of the carton and puts it back w. marbles inside
- judgmental
- extremely paranoid whenever in Amsterdam and only Amsterdam
- can’t sit still for even a minute
- rude
- crap taste in films
- childhood best friend = mass murdering megalomaniac
- egomaniac needy game player
- said I’M the egomaniac needy game player
- didn’t consult before asking M. Twain to change Huck Finn ending
- almost set flat on fire when asked to reheat takeaway in oven
- 4 wives, ???? children, GRANDCHILDREN
- E. Roosevelt doesn’t like him—same as dad
- really rude!!!
- probably doesn’t know first thing about sex
- (don’t be a sex martyr)

“Definitely not ready to be anybody’s step-gran,” she says, crossing her arms, proud of herself for being so sensible and nipping this silliness in the bud like the grown woman that she is.

But then.

But then there are the magnificent things, fairy tale things, things that make her chest ache. He went to hell for her, and she for him, and there will never be enough post-its in the world.

She scribbles one last thing on a post-it and pastes it as high as she can reach on the spine of The World's Strongest Librarian.

- fuck it.

 

 

 

“Did I ever tell you about my wife, Doctor?” Perkins tinkers with a wire under the console as if diffusing a bomb.

“Considering that last time we were all under siege by an invisible killer mummy, no.”

The Doctor’s pacing back and forth like an expectant father and hits his palm with a rolled up Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, some light reading.

Takeaways are scattered around the control room, The Buzzcocks crackle on the radio, and it’s the closest thing to a boys night either of them have had in a long time. Despite the fact that the Doctor brought him in because the time rotor was sounding phlegmy.

“Tough girl,” Perkins continues. “She could fix anything. Even me. Although she didn’t like being expected to. She said, ‘Darling, I am not here to fix you. I am here to love someone who loves me back, and if things get fixed along the way, then so be it.’ She liked giving speeches like that.”

“You liked hearing them,” the Doctor replies with a hint of disdain.

Perkins finds hosiery tying together some wires underneath the console. He peeks his head out and gives the Doctor a look, who stops in place, fidgets, and says, “Clara’s.” There was an emergency. She had a spare pair in her bag.

But the engineer only gives him an even more pointed look.

“Why are you making a face?”

“Sorry. I was never a good liar.”

“And what are you not lying about?”

“Well, Doctor, I’d like to think a smart man like yourself would already know. But feelings are always a bit labyrinthine, aren’t they?”

The Doctor notices his own hearts thumping hard, like he’s been caught in a lie that he didn’t realize he was telling. He remembers that Perkins had seen him carry her out of the train wreckage, looking over her in the way he only allows himself to when he knows she wouldn’t see.

He shakes his head, evading. “That’s a word you don’t hear every day.”

“Twenty points in Scrabble,” Perkins happily affirms before going back to his work, mercifully dropping the subject. “Now what’s the story behind—is this whisky? And a yo-yo?”

“Previous owner,” the Doctor lies.

 

 

 

They’re at a New Year’s Eve party in 1933. One of the guests is a timid professor who's also a werewolf, and to make matters complicated, in love with the mayor’s beautiful young wife. Clara and the Doctor take it upon themselves to run through the wood trying to stop the rivals from murdering each other or any other jitterbugger.

In the end, the glamour girl chooses the lycanthrope, and their would-be saviours from another time are out of their depth and left to trudge their way back to their timeship.

They move through the tall grass of the parkland as the last of the fireworks go off in the distance. The Doctor is rambling on about the bioluminescence of fireflies, while Clara ignores him to watch the ends of her trousers become muddier with each step. Her look for the night channelled Marlene Dietrich in a slick black tailcoat, top hat, and white tie, an androgynously dapper sight that turned many heads.

Except one, of course.

“Clara,” the Doctor says. “I’m being very interesting, and you’re not listening.”

“I didn’t kiss anyone at midnight,” she tells him, a bit distant. “Just realized. Too busy chasing a werewolf down a hall.”

He wonders what that has to do with anything. “You’re not superstitious, are you? Because if 1934 is going to be a lonely year for you, it’s only because you won’t technically be alive for another 52 years.”

This makes her laugh, because he’s so dense, and odds are if she ever returns to 1934, it’ll be with him, and that’s the entire problem.

“Too bad you’re not the kissing type,” she says slowly, spying on him out the corner of her eye, taking the risk she’s never had the nerve to take.

He stops and looks down, hands shifting in his pockets. She can tell he’s deliberating in that big Doctor head of his on how to let her down easily. Her stomach tightens, and she decides she’ll do it for him.

“No, I don’t think you are,” she says as if it’s nothing, a misread joke. “Right, well,” she turns away from him in order to hide her disappointment and tips her hat over her eyes as a contingency plan for if she does something entirely pathetic like cry a little bit. It’s been a very long night.

“Clara,” he says, his voice hoarse, a hand on her shoulder. He turns her around to face him and gently lifts the hat from her head, dropping it to the ground and exposing her face to the light of daybreak. He looks baffled, perhaps with himself, but eyes her lips intently. “Maybe it would be best to check.”

She smiles brightly. “That would be lovely.”

Clara tugs on the Doctor’s tie and stands on tiptoes, face dithering close to his. He stretches his fingers at his sides in wait, eyes already closed with a look of boyish concentration. She thinks she’s never felt more for anyone than she does for him at that moment.

“Happy 1934, Doctor,” she whispers before pressing her lips to his.

 

 

 

Clara Oswald is many things, a time traveller, vegetarian, Sagittarius, extremely unpredictable, skilled at tae kwon do (debatable), lifelong Spice Girls fan, and a subscriber to a travel and lifestyle quarterly called Cereal. Many, many things.

But as it turns out days later in the creaking stacks and deep and lovely dark shadows of his library, a sex martyr, she is not.

 

 

 

That is until he changes his mind the next day in a fit of time lordly contrition. Inconstant grumpy bastard.

 

 

 

“I’ve made a lot of mistakes, Clara.”

It’s amazing how his voice is her absolute favourite sound but also cause for a substantial amount of aggravation. She’s heard those words before, standing in this very same spot, followed by I’m not your boyfriend, as if everything he is to her could be encapsulated in one dodgy word.

She won’t be having any of it this time. Not after everything.

“Shut up,” she says. “Shut up.” She briefly places her hands on her hip and mouth, her heel grinding against the TARDIS floor, spoiling for a fight. “You know, old you—old you would hate new you.”

He looks down and chews on his lip. “I'm not too fond either. If it’s any consolation.”

She won’t grant him any sympathy. His self-loathing and guilt doesn’t excuse him any less in her eyes—nor will it scare her away.

“It’s not,” she says. “We can be many terrible things, Doctor, but a mistake is not one of them. Even if it were a mistake, I’d keep making it.” She smiles a little, unable to help it, proving her point. “Nothing—nothing else makes me happier.”

He’s looking at her as if he feels sorry for her and himself, as if he’s being asked to succumb to a frailty that someone like him had no right to, and that love—pathological, infectious, and not to be trusted—was something his ancient heart should have been strong enough to withstand.

Her smile disappears. “You wouldn’t be so frightened of it if you didn’t feel the same.” 

The truth is she doesn’t expect to win. Anything more between them would always be a sign of the end. The unspoken rule. She knew this like anyone does before they attempted daft impossible things anyway. She just had this hope.

But never mind. No. Of course not. There have been many extraordinary people before her, his family even, and in the end, they left or were left. How could she expect to be any different?

He firmly yanks the lever down, as if hinting his final say, the end of the argument, of them. The silence absorbs her resolve like a black hole, and he steps toward her.

She looks up at him uncertainly. “So, what happens now? You and me.”

He takes her face in his hands, looking at her as if he’s never been more livid with anyone in his life, and then kisses her hard. She grabs onto his arms and kisses him back with equal determination. The man who’d break every one of his rules (she’d only have to ask), he tells her with lips messily against her mouth, “Whatever you say.”

 

 

 

She wakes up to makeup smeared onto her pillow, a brutal case of bedhead, and the dulcet protopunk of The Velvet Underground. (She does check if they're actually in her bedroom, as it's happened before, but it's only her iPod dock.) He’s on the floor, his back straight against the bed, holding a crumb of chalk in his hand. Her entire bedroom floor is covered in Gallifreyan. She forgets sometimes that he doesn’t sleep, just carries on to the next thing.

“We need rules,” he declares, flicking the chalk away.

“Rules,” she smiles sleepily. “You?”

“It could get complicated.”

“It isn’t already?”

He faces her, kneeling, bracing his elbows on the bed. She cups his face, her thumb fondly tracing the line of his swollen, frowning mouth. He leans into her hand, looking back at her like he does before they’re about to jump off a cliff, and says to her almost apologetically, “There can’t be any children.”

“Yeah.” She's suddenly out of breath. Errant strands of hair fall over her eye as she sits up, making her look even more unkempt but also less invulnerable than she wants to seem. She’d suspected there wouldn’t be children and had been willing to make the sacrifice. It’s just a little bit tragic when it’s finally said out loud.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

Clara laughs lightly. “My wide eyes and your big old alien everything? Better not.”

“It’s just that I shouldn’t be a father.” His voice goes quiet. “Not anymore.”

“No. I know.” She looks away, the face of Orson Pink and family heirlooms briefly flickering in her memory. That’s it then. “What’s rule number two?”

His gaze toughens, a challenge. “You tell me.”

“No more lying. Not to ourselves. Never to each other. Not even for the other’s benefit.”

“Okay.”

“I’m serious.”

“Me too.”

She shakes her head good-naturedly. Maybe he was telling the truth. “Rule number three?”

He sighs, and his hand sways as if delivering a speech. “You’re right.”

“That’s a good rule.” Clara beams. “I like that rule. That should be rule number one.”

“You’re right.” His face draws closer to hers, taking in the faded floral scent of the perfume she wore the day before. “It would be a mistake to try to live without you.”

“Then don’t,” she answers, her voice thick with suggestion. It stirs something. His fingers are undoing her blouse, and she grasps his wrist, urges him onto bed, letting his weight lay her back down.

He thumbs her bottom lip, mapping it, and places a wispy, methodical kiss on her collarbone, the line of her bra, the cotton over her nipple, the turn of her rib, underneath her navel. He runs a finger down her stomach as though it were the binding of an old favourite book before removing her trousers and knickers.

He gently bites, licks and kisses along the inside of her thigh, his hand settling there as she spreads her legs as far as they go. She tightens her fingers in his hair, guiding him when his lips graze her folds. The blade of his tongue is slow and firm against her clit, pushing inside, the wet hum of his mouth, exquisitely careful and sure.

She sighs, heaven-struck, meets his heavy, steely gaze, and palms his hair, every mean thought melting out of existence.

  

 

 

They once go undercover at a 51st century economic summit of the leading planetary states in the galaxy and are greeted at their hotel by three-eyed green aliens like the ones from Toy Story. They even squeak when they walk. Clara finds it absurdly adorable. The Doctor finds it insidious.

Clara makes the introductions. “I’m Earth ambassador Clara Oswald and this is my alien trophy husband Jonathon Oswald.”

The Doctor shrugs. Close enough. Granted, now they’ll have to hypnotize the real Earth ambassador and lock him in a cupboard or something.

Their hosts all exchange tentative glances. Someone sceptically mutters “trophy husband” in the same vein they talk about making exceptions for certain pets.

Eventually, they beam back in unison. “Greetings, Oswalds!”

 

 

 

By the time she enters her late thirties, Clara begins to forget birthdays and holidays and current events. Her mobile, fashion choices, taste in music no longer belonging in the present day. Things begin to expire in her fridge with more frequency. Once important dates and developments seem just boringly redundant and blend into each other. She lives with a creeping guilt about her apathy toward her own time, but it doesn’t stop her from living as she does. It’s as if the Doctor is her real life now, and her flat and Coal Hill and teaching the same old books are the novelty, the hobby.

Sometimes they take on others. Though they never last more than a few trips. A photojournalist from Calcutta. A waitress from Detroit. A painter from Renaissance Italy. Even one of her echoes living in New New York who works in a hospital alongside cat-like nurses.

They once meet one of his previous faces, white-haired like him, who disapproves when he works out the nature of their relationship, the sheer impropriety. (We must be over 2000-years-old now, you old goat!) Of course, he won’t ever remember this—both literally and emotionally.

Sometimes she even travels without him as Doctor Clara. They always reunite, return home, landing in her tiny flat, his turning off the console and her opening the door with a snap of her fingers.

“I’m going to have a wash now,” she says, triumphant from helping bring back daytime to an entire planet.

“Okay,” he replies, fingers dancing on the console panel, mind distant and racing onto the next adventure.

“So are you,” she tells him, awaiting his reaction.

He looks up, when the realization strikes, always slow on the uptake.

“Okay,” he obeys.

She pulls him into her flat and begins to tear off his jacket with a playful chuckle.

 

 

 

She’s supposed to be on a train back from Blackpool, returning from visiting her father. There was a very ominous air about the whole thing on the phone.

He sits at her vanity, stares at three reflections of himself, and languishes. He inspects every object in front of him, pokes at her jewellery, hoping they might grow faces, mundane and humany trinkets—and something new, a little blue cardboard box that lauds its contents for being over 99% accurate, an image of a white stick with a plus and minus sign, accurate as any doctor’s test.

His hearts tumble out of his chest.

 

 

 

Brief Encounter is on telly. The film grates on her nerves, but she still watches it, her head on his stomach and a foot digging into his shin.

He is absorbed in her copy of Summer Falls, occasionally whispering proudly, “Ah, Pond.”

It hasn’t been confirmed. They’re avoiding it, talking about rule number one. They probably won’t—rule break, that is. It’s number one for a reason. The ultrasound scan would have two hearts and one head. Imagine the public outcry.

The timing couldn’t be direr either. Her dad’s sick, and she shakes at the thought, at having to go through with the next few months, her only living parent suffering, fighting a disease, possibly succumbing to one. She curses herself for even daring to imagine the unimaginable, her wretched need to obsessively plan for everything.

Then there’s the guilt, for not paying attention, for not keeping in touch as much as she should have. She wants to go back to Blackpool and be with her dad. She wants to hide too or turn back time, literally just take the TARDIS and—fucking splendid, she thinks, nearly ten years since Danny, and she’s still the same as ever.

“Don’t rip out the last page,” she murmurs over the dialogue, more of a reminder than an admonition. “It’s one of my favourites.”

He only puts a hand to her head and strokes her hair, a habit while reading with her in bed. No comeback or complaint. She feels her eyes burn, the tears seeping onto his jumper, she holds him tighter, and buries her face in his body. He puts the book down, shuts the TV off, and holds her while continuing to stroke her hair, soothing her as she cries.

 

 

 

They sit on a bench in a secluded public garden in the City that is in truth the ruins of a 12th century church destroyed during the Blitz. The benches are placed in a circle around a fountain and cobblestones with heavy foliage creeping around large medieval windows and stone walls. It’s a setting to commune with spirits, have a lunch, and sometimes an important conversation.

They don’t know yet. It’s the day after Blackpool. Her entire sitting room is covered in post-its. He joked about whether she was solving a crime and was glared into silence.

They don’t know yet, but they will.

It could be nothing. Time travelling can mess up cycles. She had a scare when Danny died, perhaps one of the reasons she was so driven to bring him back—the thought of that future time traveller with his exact face and name, the thought of her having to forge ahead to their future alone.

And now here she is with the man who was her best friend, still her best friend, and much of the reason why she was bad at loving the man she thought she’d marry. She feels like Anna Karenina. Well, a much more liberated, spacey, and abstract homage to the ethos of Anna Karenina.

Clara breathes out and silences all the prattle in her head. “A decision needs to be made before we know for sure.”

She doesn’t want to want this baby because she feels obliged. She wants this moment of uncertainty to be an opportunity to reevaluate their stance on the subject. Rule number one, up for a revote.

“Yeah,” he says. “Yeah.” His hands sit on top of his lap, he stares off into nothing, imagining his previous selves forfeiting their pacifist programming and probably taking turns punching him into a stupor. Even the giraffe one. Especially him. “You first.”

“Honestly?” she says. There is a post-it stuck to the Doctor’s shoe telling her that she has excellent taste in children’s literature. “I wouldn’t make a terrible mother.”

She braces herself on the off-chance that wasn’t the right answer, for him to knock some sense into her.

“No, you wouldn’t,” he confirms.

Dammit, he’s too biased to be useful, she thinks.

They’ve been communicating in the last two days in long careful silences, and he waits a moment before he says, “And it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”

“What?”

“I’m saying I know what the end of the world looks like, and this isn’t—it just isn’t—” He watches her a bit helplessly, not because of the situation itself, but over how to express how he feels about it, over not saying the wrong thing.

So much has changed since establishing rule number one, ever since Clara started to grow old with him, ever since they knew they were in it for the long haul.

They don’t lie anymore. Not to each other.

Clara nods and hopes he’s saying what she thinks he’s saying, because she rather not do this alone.

“I have savings," she says, as if checking off a list. "I’m an adult with a secure job. Mostly.” Nothing’s actually secure. Austerity and cuts and shit, who is her MP? She should know. She can get to know these things again. “I can make room on my plate,” she decides out loud.

“I have a time machine,” he adds. The closest he’ll ever get to saying he wouldn’t make a terrible father either. Dad skills were not lost in the last regeneration.

“The one thing every parent wishes they had,” she assures.

“We tolerate each other,” he says.

“Just about.” She grins. “Doctor,” she draws out the syllables in his name. They earnestly stare at each other, exhilarated. Even if the results are negative, it’s still a turning point.

“My eyes and your big old alien everything.”

“Your height and my run,” he answers.

“My brains and your eyebrows.” She breathes, nodding, “Well then.”

“Geronimo,” he says quietly, like a secret, unable to remember the last time he was so galvanised about being so scared. Fear is a superpower, he saw written on one of Clara’s post-its.

The mid-afternoon sun shines through the leaves of the ruins like gems, and for a single moment, she’s forgotten about fearing the phone ringing with bad news, that nothing’s actually become easier. All that’s left to do is finding their blue box and starting anew.

 

 

 

Clara stands alone on a balcony with a view of London’s skyline on New Year’s Eve. She should be forty eight by now but is biologically closer to her mid-fifties after all the time travelling she’s done in the last twenty five years.

It’s cold enough that she can see her breath, along with the Shard and St. Pauls, which evoke both happy and sad memories. She recently paid her respects at the gravesite where Danny sacrificed himself, having wandered out there in a haze with all her Christmas shopping, and she’d ran into Safa at the London Book Fair the month before that, now a family man and an anti-war activist.

They still haven’t found Gallifrey, though not for lack of trying, like the Doctor’s enemies, striving to destroy the Time Lords once and for all.

The chill in the wind gives her goosebumps, and she feels someone draping his coat over her bare shoulders. She doesn’t have to turn around, already knowing. “Hello, friend,” she greets.

They’re attending a New Year’s party just for the hell of it, nothing to solve and no one to save, a new practice. The Doctor is dressed in black tie to match her dress. He looks the same and as striking as ever. She matches him in hair and an older face that continues to turns heads. He stands next to her against the balcony’s railing and considers the revellers underneath.

“I have this vague memory of kissing you for the first time a hundred years ago." A coy smile wavers on his lips, sounding like he wants help solving a riddle.

She smiles too at the memory of the morning in 1934 that changed everything.

“Are you flirting?” she asks. “Thought you didn’t do that sort of thing.”

“That’s true,” he says. “I do, however, make exceptions every one hundred years.”

They look back into the party, a parental habit, and catch a glimpse of a glimmering white frock and short, thick blonde hair. That force of stubborn purpose, of electrical sharpness belongs to them. They named her after a library in ancient Egypt, and at present, she would be eleven—and despite the extra time she’s lived popping in and out of time—she is still biologically eleven.

The Doctor believes that she’ll physically age slower than humans but won’t spend fifty years being a teenager either, which is helpful, considering he's rubbish at discipline. He plots on how to get her out of punishments before Clara has a chance to decide them. She's met versions of her daughter as an adult, once posing as an Empress of Russia who liked dubbing her advisors “pudding brains” (there's even a starship named after her), and another time, instigating an workers' rebellion.

Fittingly, her nanny, although currently an underachieving politics student, is destined to either become the UN Secretary General or host of the Great British Bake Off depending on how things play out.

“There they go counting backwards,” the Doctor says, looking back out at London. “Do they do it because they’re worried they’ll forget how?”

“You’re going to have to shut up now,” Clara instructs.

“And why would I do that?”

“Three…two…one, Happy New Year!”

Another year departs with cheers, fireworks thunderously erupt over the Thames, and she kisses him, the pads of her fingers brushing against his face. They draw out the kiss, soft and indulgent, his champagne-laced mouth warmly familiar.

“I wanted to mark the time,” she half-whispers, her eyes still closed, forehead against his nose. “Happy New Year, Doctor.”

He watches her, pierced by sudden dread at the thought this won’t last forever, worrying this is what she means to remind him. He gently drags his knuckles down her stomach as if to reassure her. “And many more to come,” he promises.

 

 

 

A seven-year-old girl with a whirl of brown hair hides under her bed and protectively clutches a weaponless toy soldier in her fist. A pair of legs appear before her, and she grabs tightly onto an ankle. The Doctor peeks under the bed, frowns, and raises a brow.

“Do I know you?” he asks pointedly.

She creeps out from under the bed and lets the Doctor pick her up. He dangles her in front of himself like a cranky captain of ship interrogating a tiny stowaway.

“Did you get scared, granddad?” she asks, pleased with herself.

“Never.”

“Liar.” She nippily kisses him on the nose and giggles when he feigns horror.

“Not the kissing!” he exclaims, play-acting. Mostly.

He sets her on the bed, waits until she settles herself underneath the covers, and then pulls a ring off of his pinkie.

“It belonged to your gran.” He unfastens her locket, where she keeps a portrait of her parents, and carefully loops the chain into the ring so that she can wear it again.

The girl holds the gift reverently with both hands. “Is it from Earth?”

“Yes, it is. I’m counting on you to keep it safe. Don’t do anything silly like trade it in for a moped.”

“Yes, granddad.”

“Good,” he says, patting the bed definitively. He sees that her feet are tucked in, tweaks a bulb on the fairy lights above her bed, and fiddles with whatever’s nearby to see if everything is in its place. He really wouldn’t know. It’s just an excuse to mess about with toys.

The girl studies the Doctor. “What was gran like?”

“Very, very bossy,” he says, his stare fixed on some flower print on her duvet, hesitant to dwell on someone who’s no longer with him, on something he has yet to accept.

“And?”

“She once locked me out of the TARDIS and threw the keys into a volcano.”

“And?”

“She thought I was an idiot.”

And?

“She saved me,” he finally says, watching his granddaughter, eyes sparkling. “Every bit and every life. Always will. Your incredible, impossible gran.”

The girl takes this answer to heart and contentedly closes her eyes. His hand drifts over her head, as if emotionally preparing himself to dispense affection, before ruffling her hair.

A snap of his finger turns out the lights, but outside her window are a constellation of stars and the radiance of a homeland, red, gold, and made of the most resilient of magic from the best hiding places in all the universes.

A sight the girl has known her entire life.