Thank you for sticking around for the final chapter. Hope you enjoy it. Many thanks for the reviews and favorites.
The Doctor sat stretched out on a couch before a small artificial fire in the fireplace of the new library. Finally, safely away from the planet's gravity and at the far edge of the hold of the magnetic fields, he had been able to step away from the console with some peace of mind.
The Doc Martens lay off to the side; he had just taken a long shower and his hair was still in the fluffy just washed stage. The Tardis had finally taken to manufacturing some clothes for him and he wore some plaid flannel trousers with a soft, collarless black flannel shirt. In a word, he was relaxed, more than he'd been in a very long time.
The Doctor had started reconfiguring rooms in Clara's Tardis a couple of days ago. Clara was undecided yet as to whether she would keep the diner motif so he had done nothing about that. The Doctor himself had communicated directly with her Tardis, who indicated either way was fine. But he had to remind himself several times this was not his Tardis and there were definite boundaries.
Thinking about this Tardis brought up painfully sharp memories of his own. He wondered if she was all right. Did she like the new Doctor? Better than him? Did the Tardis really send him as he was dying to Clara? His brain scoffed but his heart was beginning to believe. Clara had absolutely no doubts; she had made that crystal clear. He could not bring himself to wonder what the next Doctor was doing now though; it was too painful. Good luck in changing the police box exterior, he thought with bitter amusement. Losing his Tardis was like a major part of him had been cut away and the painful wound still bled.
However, he was back with his Impossible Girl again. Life was indeed a perpetual trade off, it seemed.
Right on cue, a smiling Clara, wearing a soft pink robe and fluffy slippers, entered the room bearing a tray with two mugs of steaming cocoa, some cookies and, of all things, a tiny plastic Christmas tree.
The Doctor raised his eyebrows.
"I figured it out; I think it's only a few weeks or so after Christmas back on earth. We never got to celebrate so I thought we would tonight. Now, scoot over," she ordered briskly.
With a put upon sigh, the Doctor sat up and wearily rubbed his face. "I'm against Christmas carols," he protested automatically.
"Shut up," Clara said benignly and set the tray down on the small table in front of the couch. "I love how the Tardis is working again. Food magically appears." She sat down beside him and put her arm around his shoulders, withdrawing a bit when he flinched. "Still sore? And tired?"
"Yes, it takes forever to heal these days. One little graze from a blaster and it is still sore days later," the Doctor replied with a familiar grumpy frown. "And I don't know how you humans live with only one heart. I tried to work on the time accelerator for a while yesterday, barely got started and then I was forced to stop!" he added with a side long glare.
Clara gave his arm a light smack. "You were at it for fourteen hours. You were so exhausted you didn't even know I was there until I stepped on your foot!"
"Yeah and then I bumped my head on the console," the Doctor retorted. "Thanks so much for that, by the way."
"Welcome," Clara said smugly. "Besides, I thought you were never coming to bed. I couldn't sleep, knowing you were out in the console room alone and without my supervision." The artificial firelight danced off her hair and her shining eyes radiated happiness. The Doctor couldn't help but smile at her teasing tone. Then, reaching over, he grabbed three cookies off the tray with an impish grin.
"Oi! Leave some for me!" Clara laughed. "Honestly, you eat all the time now."
"So do-" The Doctor broke off the 'you' when he noticed Clara's suddenly stormy expression. Oh. Evidently those three pounds she suddenly gained were still an issue. "I'm always hungry," he mumbled. "Change of metabolism."
"But you still don't gain any weight," Clara complained. She had started eating again for the first time in many years and then she had human weight gain back first thing. So unfair. Grabbing a cookie – one – for herself and nibbling, she asked, "But you are feeling all right though, correct?"
The Doctor looked aggrieved. "I'm a Time Lord Clara. Or I used to be. I'm used to having two hearts, never sleeping and rarely eating. Now I feel sluggish and tired after the simplest jobs."
To his annoyance, Clara laughed. "Your sluggish is still more than any human can do, so quit complaining." Her tone turned thoughtful. "Do you think it was Jekab's machine that gave us our heartbeats back, Doctor? And erased my chronolock?"
The Doctor stretched his legs out once again, this time to the small table where the tray rested. Being careful not to touch it, he continued, "Part of it, yes. I think he had stored some regeneration energy, enough to perhaps start our hearts. But to do what he wanted to, reanimate a dead person or even extend his life, no, there wasn't enough for that and never would be even if I had died. I don't have enough left for that; I probably won't regenerate again at any rate. This shoulder certainly hasn't healed, except in a slow, plodding way."
Clara gave him a concerned look. "Do you think we should-"
Waving his hand, the Doctor interrupted, "Don't worry; I'm not. I have had enough of regeneration, to be honest. I really didn't want to regenerate this time; I'm tired of it. I'm exhausted at relearning everything all the time. Tired of being somebody else. I'm ready to live out one lifetime. That's enough." He thought about taking the last cookie but decided to restrain himself and sipped the cocoa instead. "As for your chronolock, I'm not sure where we are yet but I had my doubts that the Raven could find you in this galaxy anyway. But its gone and I'm glad we don't have to put that theory to the test."
"So why were you so sick on the planet?" Clara asked. "Those fields, whatever Jekab was nattering about?"
"Had to be those strong magnetic fields, the ones that killed the energy in every single thing on that planet. It was much stronger on Jekab's side of the planet than where we were before." He swallowed and looked moodily into the fire. "I can barely feel time here, Clara. The time winds aren't here – or they aren't familiar, I'm not certain which. It raises havoc with my time sense." He added gloomily, "We might be through with time travel, unless between the Tardis and myself, we can figure it out. Living life in a linear line would be new," he said thoughtfully.
Clara shrugged. "That's okay. As long as you feel all right, that's all that matters to me. Besides, maybe when we finally are completely clear of these fields, it will come back to you." She eyed the cookie plate with longing. "Still no idea where we are then?"
"No. Not the universe we know though. Some place completely different than what I've seen before. I wonder how you found it in the first place?" The Doctor asked with interest.
Clara tried to think back. "Um, I really don't know. I wasn't going anywhere in particular; just drifting in the Space Time Vortex, like we are now, and suddenly I -" She came to attention. "Wait, I hit an ion storm, a really big one. Even tossed the Tardis around. I must have hit my head or something. When I woke up, the Tardis was dead on that planet and then I realized I couldn't go anywhere. And I sat there for years after that," she added, her voice choked.
The Doctor said nothing but his arm around her shoulders. It upset him badly to think of Clara, alone and stranded for so long. Naturally she had landed on her feet; that storyteller entity was such a Clara thing to do. But it still bothered him she had suffered for so long.
Clara caved in to another cookie; there was only one anyway left thanks to the Doctor. "So, can we go back? If we want to, that is."
The Doctor was silent for a moment. A variety of emotions passed through on his face. Finally he said slowly, "I suspect if I went back, it might be fatal. I'm not supposed to be there."
"You've met your past selves before, you know," Clara reminded him. "Remember Sandshoes?" She laughed.
The Doctor groaned. "Don't remind me." He turned and asked, "Do you want to go back, Clara?"
"You know, I really don't think I do. Certainly not without you, no." Clara briskly brushed cookie crumbs from her lap. "Lots of planets to explore here, right? Well, if we can land, that is," she said doubtfully.
"After we're well clear of that magnetic field, we should be able to. That thing is huge; never seen anything like it." The Doctor became excited over something so different from the usual. Clara smiled beside him, watching him light up once again. "This universe might have possibilities after all. "But I don't want to get trapped in that field again. The thing is like the Grimpen Mire," he added, pleased that he thought that up.
"Thank you, Sherlock Holmes." Clara said dryly and stood up. "Stay here; I've got something for you."
The Doctor watched her go, idly wondering what she was up to now. When Clara came back into the room however, his eyes went wide. "Clara!"
"Merry Christmas, Doctor." A grinning Clara held up an old fashioned acoustic guitar. "I know you left Sharona's guitar back there in the wreckage but I've had this one for a long time. Tried to learn how to play it but there was no one to teach me. Or maybe I just wasn't motivated. Whatever. It's yours now."
The Doctor jumped up and gently took it from her. A range of emotions crossed his expressive face and he held the guitar reverently. He strummed a chord, grimaced and then started tuning it. "I couldn't take Sharona's; that was the one thing I did understand about Jekab. It seemed like stealing from the grave to take it." Finally, he added, "Thank you."
Clara was well pleased with his reaction. His face seemed so peaceful these days. There was serenity around him she'd never seen before. "You're welcome. Maybe you'll give lessons?"
The Doctor smiled. "Maybe." Looking a trifle upset, he added, "I'm afraid I don't have anything for you."
"You git. Your Tardis gave me the very best gift of all; you. That's all I ever wanted."
The Doctor looked at her with shiny eyes. He leaned in to kiss her forehead but she grabbed his head and kissed him on the lips. To Clara's happiness, he neither pulled away nor flailed around. He leaned in and kissed her back, soundly.
Not surprisingly though, the Doctor broke it off first. "I would say I don't know what got into me but I don't think you'd believe me," he said contritely. "But the idea of this moment was one of the things that kept me going in the confession dial."
Clara froze. It was so unlike him to volunteer any information, at any time, when it came to emotions. "Did you really forget me? After Gallifrey I mean. Did you not know who I was in the diner out in the desert?" She decided to gently take advantage of this rare moment of candor from her mysterious friend. He'd brushed off the memory block before; would he tell her the truth this time?
The Doctor shifted uncomfortably and, for a moment, she feared she might have pushed too far and he would return to hide behind his walls and defenses. But then he replied, "I had an idea it was you but my memories were so muddled, I couldn't be sure. When I got back to my Tardis, thanks for that by the way, I saw Rigsy's work on the outside and I knew your face. But I couldn't remember much of anything of what we'd done together. Or how you talked. Or what you said. Even when you mentioned the cloisters. All of it was gone. But Bill, or I should say, the Testimony's glass construct of Bill, gave me a gift before I died. All my memories of you came back. And I saw you there on that last battlefield; you told me not to forget you again because you found that offensive."
Clara chuckled. "At least I was in character. And I'm glad, really glad, that I was there in some way. But I am even happier that you are here." Glancing down, she noticed something was gone. "What happened to your ring, Doctor?"
He seemed surprised to note it was missing. "I dunno. Maybe it is back on the Tardis. Maybe it burned up." He shook his head and his eyes looked a bit sad. "I guess I lost it."
Clara was dying to ask more but tonight it didn't seem right to keep prying. He had already volunteered more than she had ever known him to before. She knew he was still tired and off balance. Frankly, Clara didn't want to see him sad again either. So, she kissed his cheek and laid her head on his arm, listening to him return to strumming his new guitar. Besides, she would get him a new ring one of these days. Maybe herself one as well but she would make him help pick it out.
It was a contented silence for both of them, punctuated only by the Doctor's soft guitar playing.
Clara knew the Doctor had a period of adjustment ahead of him, most especially concerning his Tardis. He was being so careful about not taking over hers but he needn't be. As far as she was concerned, it was theirs. She also wanted to hear about what he had been doing in the years since they were parted. Clara was particularly interested in hearing about him teaching physics at a university. Privately, she could never see him ever having the patience for that. But it was obvious time and hardship had changed him in some ways. But, even after just a few days, she had seen more signs of him coming back to life than she had in their previous weeks of being together. He was slowly relaxing and returning to the man she loved. This time though, the earlier scathing cynicism of their first year together was gone, as was the manic adventure junkie she had raced through time with before the Trap Street tragedy. Clara would figure out the changes as they went along, and, being Clara Oswald of course, she would decide if they were healthy of not. For tonight though, it was just them and the stars. Really, all she would ever need.
The Doctor sneaked a quick glance down; leaning against his good shoulder, Clara was nearly asleep. This was so familiar, yet in such strange, new surroundings. When he allowed himself to think about what all had happened to him lately, even he became a little overwhelmed. He thought he had let the Doctor go but instead, it had not let go of him. But he supposed he'd get used to it soon enough. After all, he had Clara, they had a Tardis and they had a brand new universe before them.
Same old, same old, just the Doctor and Clara Oswald in the Tardis.