I was born to save the Doctor. But the Doctor is safe now. I’m the impossible girl and my story is done.
She was tired. She was so so tired.
The lives were spinning in her head on a never ending loop, the thousands of people she had been. Who was she? She remembered being a governess moonlighting as a barmaid. She remembered Gallifrey and its blood orange skies. She remembered the Starship Alaska and her favorite fur-lined jacket that her boyfriend had given her as a farewell present. And she remembered the Doctor.
Clara wasn’t sure which part of herself found him in the mist, collapsing under the sheer weight of so many lives. In Gallifrey, she had been sentenced to death for allowing the theft of precious technology. The Starship Alaska crashed and the Daleks took her brain for their own but she managed to pull the plug just as he escaped. She had burned among the most insane of the insane Dalek race. And she had fallen to her death with his face still in her field of vision in Victorian London.
There was more, there was so much more. But she felt like she was on fire. It burned behind her eyes and in her ears and made her skin sting and prickle like she was melting. All at once she was everything and simultaneously she was nothing. She had been lost. So many copies and the time stream had discarded the original. Her head fell against his chest and the only real thing she could feel was tears on her cheeks and his tweed vast scratching her arm. He was repeating her name, chanting it. Like the so many lives she had lived, the more it repeated and duplicated the less it sounded like her name. It became a mantra, a hymn that he whispered in her ear in desperation. She had known him so many times, she knew what he was doing.
He was trying to make her remember who she was. Or who she had been, anyway.
The Doctor took her away from the man in the field and never let go.
He was pushing her hair off her face, cupping her cheek, rubbing her back as his arm wrapped around her waist. He was walking but she couldn’t open her eyes to see where he was or where they were going. If he had just left her back in that field he could be long gone by now. Safe. She had kept him safe and he was ruining everything.
“Clara? Clara, can you hear me?”
She had chased him. Far and wide, she had run. Every second she was born and lived and died. Every time she saw his face, she knew. She was running to him, a fleck of iron pulled into orbit by the everlasting radiation of the universe’s deepest cut. What was the word the man in the top hat had said? Wound. They had infected the wound. And she had took a running leap and jumped inside, sterilizing it like no medicine could ever have done. She had loved, infinitely and often without reason. She had sacrificed.
His hand was on her cheek.
But it wasn’t a wound at all, was it? Time was the wound, but he had been the suture. The bandage. The stitches, threading all of time together and holding it like steadfast and unwavering. He had held all of them in his hand. In the Library, she had stood among the saved as they reunited with their families. She saw him in his trench coat and his blue suit and his hair that needed a comb. Or her own fingers, like she had dreamed of a million times over.
He was holding them all together all at once and every time she had dreamed of him, in every life on every Earth. She dreamed of his hands on her so many times she couldn’t remember if it had been real in the first place. She heard him scream her name in her sleep and she had woken up a thousand upon a thousand times in tears.
Where was he? Where was she?
He broke apart with her and she felt it every single time.
“Clara, please… please look at me, please…”
The Doctor’s hand was clutching hers. Take stock of what was here. She had two legs and two arms and two hands. She had a head and a face. This was hers. This was real. Hold onto it.
“Open your eyes and look at me. Please!” She could feel the force of him and the desperation and his voice broke. He was shaking her frantically, his hands not knowing whether to hold her cheek or her waist or…
He kissed her. She could feel his lips, hot like hers. All around her was cold. But he was kissing her and he was warm and real and holding her. It felt like thousands and thousands of years she had waited. With everything she could gather inside herself, with the nonexistent strength she had left, Clara kissed him back.
They were on the floor of the TARDIS. She could feel the cold metal floor beneath her as he cupped her face and she could smell the familiar wet dust and copper. This was real. She was empty now but this was real. Like all the other times she had seen him, touched him, called out to him, this felt like it could rip apart at any moment.
“I can feel you, Clara…” He was holding her face and looking into her eyes now. Her hands grabbed his wrists, desperately wanting to finally and blissfully blow away. They had done this before, in this same room. And he had changed history. “I felt you there, in every moment. You were there.”
“I’m so tired…” Her voice cracked, her throat dry and hollow. “So tired…” Her soul slipped inside her, just an inch, and she fell back. Everything was blue. Blue forever. Like her dreams of the TARDIS.
“Please stay with me, Clara.” His forehead was pressed against hers. “Remember saving the Rings of Akhaten with just that one leaf. Remember Scaldak in the submarine and how you sang and saved the world. You’re right here with me.” The Doctor’s voice cracked again and she could feel he was crying. Struggling, she opened her eyes, looking up at him with all the energy she had. He looked into her eyes. “I know it’s heavy. I know it’s heavy, but you can do this. You can feel them all, all those lives tightening around your heart. That’s what I feel, I feel it every second.” His lips pressed to her forehead and then her cheek. “This is you. Remember your mum and your dad? Remember Angie and Artie? Remember… remember me? That day I showed up on your doorstep dressed as a monk, the first time you saw me. Remember me, remember me Clara.”
Their fingers intertwined. He kissed her knuckles.
“Yes, I’m real! It’s me, you’re in the TARDIS. You’re home.”
Home. Clara blinked, feeling a little more solid as the word gathered her atoms together in solidarity. “Home?”
The Doctor leaned in, his lips covering her face slowly. He kissed each inch as if he was assuring her she was there with him. Or maybe he was assuring himself. “Clara—“ He swallowed and she was grabbing onto his arms. This was her Doctor. “Don’t do this, don’t let yourself slip away…”
He was crying and suddenly she was jolted with the image of him crying, sitting on the Maitland’s couch as she held two cups of tea. Trenzalore? His voice had cracked then too. That had been real and that had been her. She knew. Like the leaf, she held on.
“Do you remember--“ Her voice sounded very old and very far away. The Doctor looked into her eyes, craving every word she could give him. She didn’t have many left that she hadn’t already given to him. “Do you remember me?”
His hands pushed her hair out of her face and he was smiling, wet and full of tears. Blue as the ocean and the TARDIS and the galaxy around them. “I remember you. You were with me always.”
“I’m so hot… I’m so hot, Doctor.” She was on fire, every particle and memory burning at the coexistence of so many lives. The Doctor grabbed at her shoes, pulling them off quickly.
“It’s the memories, your brain doesn’t know how to organize so many simultaneous generations of yourself.” He clutched her hand, his other hand hesitantly grazing the hem of her dress. “Clara—“
“Help… help me, Doctor.” She looked up at him pleadingly, trying to pull off her tights with exhausted fingers. “You said you would save me… just this once.”
It was as if she pulled the trigger. The Doctor tugged off her tights quickly and found the zip of her dress, tugging it down to help get the cool air of the TARDIS to her bare skin. Clara closed her eyes tightly, pressing the heels of her hands into her eyes. “It hurts.”
“Clara, look at me… just look at me.” He was laying his hands on her, on her arms then her clavicles. He grabbed at her hands and pulled them away from her face, holding them to his own chest. She could feel his heartbeat, that off-kilter waltz. Clara opened her eyes, trying to find her center within his. “You can do this. Breathe.”
“How can you stand it?” The question stilled him and he took her cheek once again.
“I’ve lived for over a thousand years, Clara.” He bent down over her and kissed her forehead once again and it felt familiar. “You just lived a thousand years in a matter of seconds.”
He had spread her across the stars like butter and she had melted into his life.
“I’m here, I’m right here…”
She was holding his hand over his chest, taking deep breaths and trying to remember herself before the time stream, before the lives and the deaths. “All those years… every life… I always knew you the moment I saw you that you were what I was running towards.” He was nodding, his hand in her hair, lifting her up so she could breathe easier. Clara coughed and he pulled her closer. “I wanted you for so long.”
In Victorian London, her body shut down as he placed the key in her palm. And she cried without knowing why because she had waited so long, so patiently, in those infinite moments where she was everywhere at once. How could she not cry at the simple thought that maybe, just maybe, it was all over? But then, in the next moment, she was gone again.
“Clara…” He stopped. The world stopped. She could feel him, clutching her and breathing into her hair.
He did. She felt those memories tuck within themselves, within and within, like nesting dolls. She had felt like the TARDIS in Trenzalore, leaking out and getting bigger and bigger, unable to contain itself. Now he mended her with his nonsense science of a people who were long dead. She would be bigger on the inside. She could do it.
She thought of radiation and isotopes and flowers singed by the blast and his tongue was slipping between her lips.
On the floor of the TARDIS, her dress was pushing up. He was unbuttoning his suit pants and pushing them down. It wasn’t perfect but it was what they needed.
He sighed her name when he entered her and they were moving together. All his faces she had known and all the words she had screamed and all the dreams she had had, they were never going to be as real as this moment with him and the endless moments that unrolled before them. Clara hitched her knees up by his sides and their lips met again. The TARDIS she had shown him twelve hundred years ago on that now dead planet purred around him. She had saved her Doctor.
It was getting rougher now, the motions, but it didn’t feel like she was lost adrift on an endless sea anymore. She wasn’t clinging to scraps of wood and floating for him. He was here. Clara took his face in her hands and he looked into her eyes. She could feel his desperation dripping on him and it engulfed her like a tidal wave. In his eyes, she could see how he was struggling to comprehend what she had done, who she had been. For the first time, Clara watched him finally understand her. He kissed her and they came together, tumbling forever as they left behind the time stream and the field and the face Clara had never seen. Always she had been running and always she had found him. And now always they would be.
He kissed her face in the silence of their panting breaths. “My Clara.”
Her head rolled to the side and she felt herself again. Clara, who had grown up at 7 Plum Lane, who had a mum and a dad who loved each other and her, who had met a funny man after kicking him in the face with a ball when she was six, Who had run away every Wednesday since he asked.
Who never corrected anyone who called him her boyfriend.
Her words washed over him and he wrapped her up, completely breaking down as he held her on the cold metal floor. They were safe and whole. It was only then that she realized this was always supposed to happen. He wouldn’t never have left her in the dirt. He would’ve scooped her up a million times and carried her away from all of it, again and again until it was enough. Just as she had done for him.
When he said it, it felt like her heart spilling out of his mouth. “I love you.”