Evening had fallen and the campfire flames threw ghostly light on the hulking, ruined skyscraper buildings that ringed the area that was once a busy traffic hub. Now, what was left of the ruins of a technologically superior race stood silent sentinel to the hardy band of survivors who gathered in the light of the fires.

This was the one time of their daily lives that they took a break from the ordeal of surviving on the land to relax and be entertained. The few elderly people who could remember the old days spoke of fabulous things; whole worlds inside viewers that transported the wearer to far off lands and wonders. People didn't have to wonder what was going on outside of their own world; there were devices that informed one instantly. Sometimes one even watched it as it happened.

All of that was gone now. Soon even the few left who could recall such a time would be gone as well. No one was quite sure what happened but the elderly just passed away and everyone moved on, shaking their heads in bafflement at the cause. Everybody, it seemed, was from somewhere else. Knowledge was lost and soon everyone gave up on repairing the abandoned ruins of yesterday.

However, there was an air of anticipation on this chilly night. The storyteller was Lady Prydonian, one of the very best of a small number remaining. While others of a certain age disappeared or died, she still remained. After three cycles of the twin moons, the ancient Lady would appear at the outskirts of the dwelling and celebrations would commence. The Festival of the Fall Harvest was eagerly awaited by all. It was the one time people stopped worrying about survival and celebrated eking out another cycle of life in the forbidding world.

Chatter ceased immediately when the Lady, escorted by the two leaders of the community, entered the circle. Her chair was set up and blankets heaped nearby but the diminutive lady never seemed to feel the cold. Her audience raised their glasses in salute and then settled in silence to hear another thrilling tale of the ancient days.

"Tonight," the Lady's voice, clear and still youthful sounding despite her long grey hair and wrinkled face, "I will speak of a love story between two beings that should never have happened. They were so diverse, yet so alike." She paused. "It all happened a very long time ago in another world, far away from here.

"She was an instructor of children. Knowledge had not yet been lost in her world and she was happy to share the wisdom of the ages before with the young. He was an alien to her world. One of a powerful race known as the Time Lords of Gallifrey. They had many magical powers. They could travel through the stars. They could travel through time. Actually go back in time so you could see your mother, go forward in time to see unborn grandchildren grow old. Her name was Clara, his name was The Doctor. When they first met, the Doctor was a wild young man, babbling something about protecting Clara. At first he overwhelmed her, and then she began to like him. She went on adventures with him, saving people and righting wrongs. But one day, the Doctor got involved in a war that lasted his entire long lifetime. Clara, who had been sent home for her protection, was brought back to him one last time before he died. Seeing how old he had become broke her heart. But it was nothing compared to what happened next."

"You see, the Time Lords had another extraordinary gift; they could change themselves before they died." She waited for the gasps to subside. "They became brand new people, with a new lifespan and a new face. And while Clara stood there watching, her Doctor turned back into the young man she'd known before and then…. He changed again. Right in front of her eyes."

Her audience could hardly contain themselves. This was thrilling stuff!

The old lady continued. "This new man who called himself the Doctor was a fierce looking man, much older than the young Doctor but much younger than the Doctor who dying of old age." She suppressed a smile as she watched her audience try to figure that one out. "This new man, the new Doctor, was rude and abrupt and, as it turned out, frightened. He had the Doctor's knowledge and goodness but he was also a warrior with intense passions. He could hate if he needed to and this scared him. He was cold and insulting. Clara at first did not know what to make of him. In some ways he frightened her; he was not safe, not like her previous Doctor. It was hard to remember that they were supposed to be the same man. In the important ways though, he was. He fought injustice and tyranny. His coldness, as it turned out, concealed the fact that he cared far too much and he was frightened of the direction of his own intense emotions. And Clara came to realize that he did indeed need her, relied on her perhaps more than he did previously. And the fact that he had even asked if he was a good man proved to her that the good heart of her friend was still intact."

"The Doctor's world was so different from Clara's. He was from beyond the night; where the sun glowed hot throughout time. Where knowledge had been accumulated and treasured for time immeasurable. Clara loved seeing the universe with him. Where all was different from what she'd known before. She loved seeing alien races. But it was not always smooth. Sometimes this new Doctor and Clara fought bitterly; however they could unite again instantly for the right cause. Almost without their realizing it, they became bonded to each other. But, after a tragedy with a special friend of Clara's, she and the Doctor parted. They lied to each other, each believing the other would be better off alone. However, it soon became clear they were bitterly unhappy and could no longer stand to be separated. The Doctor came back for Clara," the old woman's face creased into an impish grin, 'because he was useless without her advice, guidance – and love. Immediately after his return, they both nearly died from a horrible alien creature that covers one's face and slowly squeezes one's brain to death." The old woman drew out a horrible looking mask and placed it briefly over her face before returning it to her lap. Her audience was disgusted by the sight. "But the Doctor, with some help from a strange, legendary ally of the planet Earth, which is yet another tale, recovered in time to save them both. He was brave and clever and Clara loved him even more than before. After that, the Doctor and Clara declared they would no longer be parted and they traveled the universe, fighting evil and restoring justice. They were so happy together."

The Lady's face hardened. "But the Time Lords were a treacherous lot. They thought the Doctor knew of some Gallifreyan legend of long ago, telling of a creature that would come and destroy Gallifrey because its heart had been broken by loss. The almighty Time Lords were frightened by this ancient legend. So much so they set a trap to capture the Doctor but Clara, trying to help, got caught in the trap as well. To the Doctor's immense sorrow, Clara was killed and the Doctor was transported far away to an unknown destination."

The Lady waited for the gasps of shock and dismay. Several wiped their eyes. The Lady seemed outwardly untouched by any emotion. Her eyes were cold.

"The Time Lords sent the Doctor to a far off land, where he was imprisoned and tortured for so long the stars themselves burned out. But he would not give in. He had a plan to save his friend Clara. He suffered mightily until he broke free from the prison in which he was held and escaped. When the Doctor walked into the sunlight again, it was on his home planet of Gallifrey."

"The other Time Lords and their allies were aghast; they had given up on him. They thought, or rather, hoped, he was dead. They made excuses for their behavior; saying he only had to tell them what he knew of this ancient prophecy of doom and he would have been set free. But the Doctor was angry; he rejected their excuses and exiled the leaders. One renegade Time lord and they all feared him. They still thought he might be the mythical hybrid, the legend they had worried so much about for so long. The creature that would destroy Gallifrey. So the Doctor conceived of a plan; given the use of Time Lords' fabulous technology, he would bring his friend Clara back to life."

There was more sensation from the audience. The Lady however, betrayed no emotion.

"Using the mighty power of the Time Lords, the Doctor went back through the many years and centuries of the past to retrieve Clara, mere moments before her death. He succeeded and brought her back to Gallifrey, and back to life. But the Time Lords were angry; this was against their laws. They resolved to stop the Doctor and make him return Clara to the state of death."

"Clara herself did not want her soul mate to be hurt, more than he already had been. He was much changed from the intense but peaceful warrior she had known from before. He was nervous, distracted. And, to Clara's profound shock, he was now violent. He shot a man right in front of her eyes. It seemed she could no longer reach him the way she used to. But she still loved the Doctor, more than her own life. She pleaded with him to return her to death but he would not. So, they stole a moving vehicle of the stars called a Tardis, and left the Time Lords behind stewing in futile anger."

"All was not well though. The Doctor had suffered so much during his imprisonment that Clara worried he would not recover. He was so weary; yet burned with impatience. Clara herself was only partially returned to life; she was alive but she could not age. She was frozen in time. The Doctor, very upset, tried frantically to reverse this condition. He became angry. Clara got angry as well and they argued. In the end, the Doctor sadly decided they would be better parted. The Doctor feared the Time Lords would find Clara if she stayed with him and force her back to her death. The Doctor had so much power at his command, but he felt he was a danger to the galaxy because his love for Clara caused him to lash out and to punish people. He was willing to burn the universe to keep his Clara safe. Clara would do the same for him as well but she was more level headed about it," the old woman added tartly. "She begged the Doctor to let her stay but he was exhausted and frightened. He couldn't think straight. Finally, he took a magic elixir and it made him forget all about his Clara. She was erased from his memory. All to keep her safe from the Time Lords and to keep the universe safe from the Doctor."

Several sobs broke from the women in the audience. The men shook their heads and promised each other that in the Doctor's boots they would wreak vengeance on the Time Lords. Children cried noisily.

"In the end, the Doctor and Clara did see each other one last time. She arranged for them to meet at her ship, the Tardis he had stolen. He did not know who she was as they talked but he promised he would look for Clara for the rest of his life. Her heart was breaking but Clara let him go without telling him, knowing that this was what he wanted. He thought he was doing what was best. She didn't agree but fighting him would only cause him more pain. So Clara took him back to his own Tardis and they parted, never to see each other again."

Someone blew their nose and there was a nervous, but sad laughter.

The Lady spoke again. "There are still legends about Clara and the Doctor. The fierce looking Doctor with whom she had fought with so angrily was in fact the face she loved best. Most importantly though, that Doctor is still out there, fighting evil, restoring justice and maybe, if he has the same face, still looking for his Clara."


The Lady had slipped off into the night, accepting the thanks and food from the tribe that sheltered amongst the tall, dead buildings. She had no need of the food of course, but to refuse it would raise suspicion. It was hard enough to slip away without being followed; each time there would be a handful determined to see where the old woman had gone and how she traveled. But the people were too frightened to venture out very far in the night; strange beasts and roving bands of displaced and desperate brigands haunted the shadows. So, as always, her entourage had gradually disappeared. She herself never felt fear. In fact, she thought sadly, it had been so long since she had felt anything at all.

Stepping out of the large lobby of a former trading company building, Clara Oswald finger combed her hair and dumped the old gray wig into her travel bag. She had scrubbed away the makeup that made her look aged and wrinkled. If she had been completely alive, she would have been exhausted. As it was, only a lingering depression and mental fatigue dogged her steps. On days like these, being frozen in between heartbeats had all the disadvantages of both worlds.

She should stop telling that story. The first thousand times or so it was a comfort; a way to combat the loneliness. When she told the story, the Doctor was still with her, at least in spirit. He might not like the editorial changes she made in the story from time to time; she amused herself by imagining his reaction when she told the version that she had rescued him from the confession dial, restored him to health and sent the Time Lords packing, all by herself. Clara stifled a grin; the eyebrows would flare and a pained, irritated look would grace his face. Then he would ask what pudding brain had made that up.

Even after all this time, she could see him as clearly as she did in the diner that last day; an exhausted, haunted man who played a song dedicated to her on his guitar. Did he truly forget her? Or was he lying, yet again? Clara knew him well enough not to take everything at face value with her rogue Time Lord. But, of all the people she missed in her strange, long life, she missed him most of all. His boyish grin, the fierce looking eyebrows, the swagger, the guitar and the sonic shades. She loved every bit of him and the passage of time had not dimmed it, not one iota.

Clara kept walking, heading back to her Tardis, which was now as dark and dead as the landscape on this forgotten planet. On the day she landed here, the power suddenly went off inexplicably and nothing she could do would ever get it to work again. She became as marooned as Ashildr trudging through the years. If she could have, Clara Oswald would go straight back to Gallifrey, then to Trap Street and face the raven again. At least it would be an end to it. Instead, she wandered this planet in her guise as an old woman storyteller. It was an acceptable pastime for quite a while. At first it was amusing, changing the story to fit her mood that day. But it the feeling hadn't lasted nearly long as she had been stuck here.

Oh well. The food she would give to the next village. For now, back to her Tardis for a few days' rest. It would give her time to scour the internal systems again and try to figure out why it had failed. And wonder yet again if this is how the Doctor had felt in his perpetual prison of the clockwork castle. A hopeless journey without end. So much like hers.


Even though she really had no need for sleep, every once in a while Clara slept in and, surprisingly, slept soundly. Perhaps it was mental rest she craved more than physical but whatever the reason, she had slept. It was a blessed relief. Hours had passed without her being awake to count them.

Going out to the diner part of her Tardis, she was astounded to see it was already early evening. Clara couldn't recall the last time she'd slept so long. Ashildr had still been with her, that much was certain.

Sitting down on a stool, she placed the food she'd brought back last night on the counter. She needed to repackage it for the next trip. As usual, the biggest problem was one that never left her these days. What to do next? How to fill in the endless hours? Clara always refused to leave for the next village immediately. It would arouse suspicion that she had arrived so quickly. (Walking all night and through the day erased this problem and it was no hardship for her.) Also, she needed a break from the stories of the past. Sometimes they got to be too much, even for the former impossible girl. But every time she tried to think up something new, it all paled in comparison to what she had done with the Doctor. It was… boring.

Suddenly there was a loud crash outside somewhere in the distance. Clara jumped up, feeling the old adrenalin of investigating the unknown kick in as she moved toward the door looking outside into the fading light of evening. She heard far off shouting and some screaming but nothing could be seen.

And then, she saw it.

No one who had ever seen the golden fire of artron energy would ever forget it. Now Clara Oswald saw the golden flames shooting toward the dark sky. She rushed to the door, uncertain what to think. Should she be worried? A Time Lord who had found her before whatever had happened to him/her/them? Elated? What if it was Missy? She felt the old anger and distrust of the renegade Time Lady. Unbidden, she felt a sharp stab of fear thinking that Missy might have tracked down the Doctor once again. But then an icy fear clutched her frozen heart; what if was him?

It was a sight she'd never wanted to see again. That golden light, achingly bright, heralding a Time Lord regeneration.

The light pierced the darkness of the sky and Clara could hear the nearby villagers screaming in terror or yelling defiance. She knew without looking that most would be running away.

She hit the door running. Toward the light of course.


The golden energy was still pulsating through the darkness when Clara reached the clearing of what used to be a small park. She could hardly see the figure immersed in the golden glow. Standing back, actively fighting the impulse to get closer, Clara waited impatiently.

At last the glow receded enough for her to tell it was a man. Tears burned her eyes. As if the universe had not been cruel enough to them already. If you've brought him back to me so I can see him die again, I'll…. In reality, what could she do?

Advancing closer, Clara's heart lurched; it was him! The Doctor; her Doctor! But wait; what if this was like before; he was himself for a few minutes more and then regenerated into someone new. The Doctor was awkwardly lying on the ground, eyes closed, unmoving. Clara started praying to a deity she thought she had long outgrown as she approached.

The Doctor's skin still looked tingly but, dropping to her knees, Clara felt an intense happiness seize her soul, merely seeing him again. Her voice cracking, she said, "Oh, Doctor. Silly old git. How I've missed you!" She ran her hand along his cheek. The skin was very warm, almost hot for him, but it didn't hurt her. Clara studied his face like a woman dying of thirst and finding an oasis. Bending over, Clara did something she'd dreamed of doing since that last day in her Tardis; she brushed her lips against his, tenderly. "Please, please don't change," she pleaded, invoking memories of long ago when she'd implored his younger self to stay the same. Heedless of any danger, she laid her head on his chest, her arms around him.

And quickly made a chilling discovery. His hearts weren't beating. Nor was he breathing.

Sitting back up, Clara felt her soul explode in rage and sadness. How dare the universe use them this way! Haven't the fates done enough to them? Hadn't she and the Doctor paid enough for whatever sin it was they were supposed to have committed? To see her Doctor one last time but never to hear his voice again? Never hear him play the guitar again? Or to have some other Doctor step forward, one that would toss aside the guitar, the shades, the seven layers of clothing. No, no, NO!

Suddenly overwrought, Clara collapsed on him in anger, fists flailing, and tears streaming down her face. "Why?" She sobbed. "Why us? We only tried to do good. We weren't evil. Why?"

The strength of her sobs would have choked her had she been breathing. Clara struck the Doctor on the chest a couple of times, just to see if his hearts would start. They did not. Finally, she fell back on top of the Doctor, clutching him and feeling the fury recede into a dull acceptance that her endless life would go on for forever without him. Or without 'this' him at least.

Hearing some noise behind her, Clara raised her head to see three of the nearby villagers standing there, staring at her. She sniffed and lay her head back down on the Doctor's chest. Go away.

"Um, we saw some light over this way? Was that your doing?" The woman who asked was tall and holding a knife at the ready.

Clara ignored her. She clutched the Doctor's body tighter.

Because she didn't have on her storyteller costume, no one recognized her. "Look, are you in some kind of trouble?" An older man with a kindly face asked. "Do you need some help?"

A younger man stepped forward. Clara recognized him from the story session from before. He had sat right in the front with the kids and didn't feel bad about it. "Lady, you might be in danger here. If your, um, mate, is dead, then you should come back with us. It isn't safe."

Clara finally raised her head. "There is no danger here for me. I've already lost everything," she said dully.

The woman's face softened; everyone here had known loss and grief first hand. "Can we help in any way? What are your customs? You know, what do you want to do with the… body?"

Clara reluctantly stood up. Studying the Doctor's face closely she noticed he had been grimacing; probably from when the regeneration energy started. Only a matter of time now before he became somebody else. Or, God forbid, stayed dead. But she would not leave him here, alone. Turning, she said, "I have a home over there, in the trees. Could you help me carry him back to my place? I have my own rituals to attend to and I'll need to be alone for that."

The three readily agreed, although the younger man was still suspicious over the disappearing golden fire. But they each took an arm and a leg and carried the Doctor back to the simple Tardis he had stolen so long ago while escaping from the Cloisters.


After the hardy little band had departed, Clara sat down and unashamedly wept again. Loud sobs wracked her small body. She gripped the Doctor's cold hand in both of hers, tears streaming down her face. There was no more energy left to rail at the fates; no more passion remained to wail at the unforgiving merciless universe. There was only her left at this dead end planet, her and the man she loved. Was he truly dead this time? Or would he still regenerate? He would be the same man in some ways; but oh so different in the ways that counted. She sighed, still sniffling. On one hand, she would not be alone here in this desolation. After a time, she had adjusted to this Doctor's new face. But it was hard back then and it would be even harder now. She and this grumpy Scottish Doctor had shared so much together. Where one left off, the other started. Clara Oswald felt more alone than ever. Could she go through it again? Did she even want to go through it again?

Or maybe this time, the Doctor really was dead. Clara couldn't even comprehend that thought. A universe without the Doctor. Clara without this doctor. She swallowed. Utter desolation on all counts.

Irrationally, they had covered the Doctor's face before her helpers had left. Putting two of the long diner tables together had made a makeshift resting place for him. She dared not let them see the console room of the Tardis; the three were curious enough about a young woman living out here in the wilds by herself. They would be back again someday, Clara knew, just to see if she was still here and to look around her curious establishment even more. At this time though, they were so unimportant.

So, she had uncovered the Doctor's face and sat down to grieve and to study him. His hair was so long! He looked gorgeous. He had on a ragged black version of the velvety coat she had admired with the red lining. It was still striking even torn and stained. A white long sleeved shirt with loose cuffs, dark vest and pants. His clothing looked like he had been in a battle. Leaning closer though, Clara noticed fine lines of exhaustion, pain and tension. It was clear his life of late had been a stressful one. Almost unbidden, she wondered if he had been traveling alone. She hoped not; it was always worse when he was alone. He needed someone after all, Clara told herself roughly. This is what she had wanted him to do, get on with his life and find a new companion if it couldn't be her. But, if there was a new one in her place, whoever it was hadn't taken care of him properly and that fanned a flame of anger inside her. Almost immediately, she dully realized she was being totally unfair. Clara Oswald knew first hand just how domineering the Doctor could be when he didn't want attention or people prying. But still…. I would have noticed.I would have done something.

She sat on a dining room chair next to the joined tables for hours, clutching his hand and awaiting signs of life or that he would be changing. Last time it was so quick, she barely had time to notice until a fierce looking blue eyed older man stood in place of her young bow tie beau, looking just as shocked as she was. Clara sighed. So many lifetimes ago. But the longer this went on, the more apprehensive and depressed she felt. It was dragging on for forever. Maybe this was really the end.


Night had turned to morning. Clara had collapsed; her head on the table next to the Doctor's body. During the long dark hours of studying him minutely, even she had succumbed to rest. Emotional turmoil will do that for you, she remembered as she opened her bleary eyes, wondering what exactly had awoken her in the fuzzy aftermath of a deep sleep.

Then, she felt it. The hand clutched in her hand had moved. And it moved slightly once again as she felt his ring move in her palm.

Clara bolted upright, completely and achingly awake now. Was this it? Time for one last look at him to imprint on her memory forever?

Leaning forward, she studied the Doctor's face. It had changed, the grimace was gone but not the weariness and the pain. Then, naturally when she was leaning in very close, his eyes opened.

Shocked, Clara almost fell back until she saw something else that broke her already still heart. The blue eyes she knew so well were covered with a milky white film. Something had happened, something very bad. The Doctor shifted, tried to raise a hand but it was ensnared in the blanket tucked in around him. He immediately began to fight it.

Clara moved quickly. "Wait, it's all right. It's okay now. I've got you."

The Doctor stilled; his head cocked toward her voice. She could see his eyes moving behind the white veil that covered them and his expression looked somewhat panicked. "Who," he cleared his throat, his voice raspy, "is there?"

Swallowing nervously, uncertain of his reaction, she replied, "It's me, Doctor. Clara."

"Clara?" His voice sounded so lost and rough. His eyes gave another nervous flutter under the white.

Her heart broke. After all this time, he still couldn't remember her?

The Doctor stirred, fighting to free himself from the blanket. "Are you still there?"

"Yes." Clara said in a small voice.

Finally managing to sit up, the Doctor passed a hand over his eyes. "I regenerate and I'm back to being blind!" Angrily, he tried to throw the blanket away and nearly hit Clara instead.

"Hey, take it easy," Clara soothed, trying to get him to calm down. "It's all right; you haven't regenerated. You are still you but, I ,um, don't know for how long." Her voice broke at the end; she hoped he wouldn't notice.

He did. The Doctor turned his head toward her again, clearly trying to gauge where she was. When he spoke, his voice was deep and soft. "Are your eyes still doing that bulging out thing again, Clara Oswald?"

Clara gave an inarticulate yell before reaching out to embrace him. "Oh my God! You do remember me!"

The Doctor tried to look disdainful but his slight smile disarmed the effect. Spitting out a mouthful of Clara hair, he mumbled, "Human compatible memory block. Massive headache only. Nothing to do with me." Then his expression turned serious. "What do you mean I haven't changed?"

Reluctantly, Clara pulled back, to stare into those disconcertingly white eyes. "You were glowing with artron energy when you arrived here. I thought you were dead. Hey, wait! You didn't have heartbeats yesterday?" She pressed both hands on his chest; her expression grew even more confused. "But…"

"I still don't have heartbeats," the Doctor finished for her. He sighed. "Oh, Clara, I would have done anything to spare you this." His expression was bleak.

"What? Spare me what? What are you talking about?" Clara hadn't felt so panicked in decades.

The Doctor stared unseeing in the distance. "We take forever to die," he said softly. His face was devastated.

Clara sat back, her spirit crashing as fast as it had rose into the sky. "Who are 'we'? Wait, are you saying Time Lords take forever to die? Is that what you're doing now, dying?"

The Doctor shrugged. "I must be. I wanted to."

"Why? Why did you want to die?" Clara asked, worry coloring her voice. "What happened?"

The Doctor shrugged, trying to be nonchalant but the effort wasn't convincing. "Lots of things. Too many things. Too many losses. For far too long." He freed his hands and rubbed his face. "Something has gone wrong. Otherwise I would have regenerated and been able to see." He turned to where he thought she was. "Clara, leave me. I've put you through enough already. Just take me somewhere and …. Are we in your Tardis?" He asked abruptly, almost sniffing the air.

"We are. And I'm not taking you anywhere. You are staying with me and you don't get a say in that." Her voice was firm and Clara clutched his shoulders, driving home the point.

"Bossy as ever," the Doctor tried to smile but she could see it had been too much for him. His eyes rolled back and Clara caught his head as he fell back onto the table, unconscious once more.