A/N Re-uploaded, new and improved. A lot has been changed and added here, so definitely worth a read. ALSO: IMPORTANT NOTE: this fits into canon quite nicely now. Obviously, the Doctor goes to and returns from Trenzalore alone. Maybe you can work out happened there now, and without Clara it's very different to the solution in the canon episode...
Happy New Year, and thank you so much for your reviews!
Sorry about the last few pages.
There was...a mistake.
Hopefully the water hasn't soaked through to any of the other pages...but who am I kidding? You're a goddamn /genius/, however much those childlike quirks attempt to hide it. You know that's not water. You probably licked the paper, or something. Pondered the taste for a minute before frowning, and muttering, human tears?
Ignore the words that happen to be legible, won't you? Ignore the stains on the pages. Ignore the frantic pen marks made in my panic to erase the lines. Ignore the tears and cracks in paper, the ones I wracked like wounds and cuts in skin, the ones that bleed ink instead of blood.
Don't try to read it, please. I let myself go for a second there. I let myself write some things I shouldn't have.
You might be wondering what those things might possibly be, seeing as I have already said so much. So much that probably should not have been said, so much that you never would have expected me to say. Good. Keep wondering.
I should tear the pages out, but I can't bear to. It would be like ripping my own ribs from my chest. They need to stay there, even if never read. For protection. But more than that, for a reminder.
I'd apologise for the riddles, but to be honest I'm not especially sorry. This is my book, this is my letter, and this is all me. For you, but not adapted for you, not abridged for you, not dictated by you.
Mostly because you'll never read it anyway.
But also—the lesser reason—because I can't bring myself to care whether or not you do, anymore.
There are many lasts, in life.
In fact, there are infinite lasts. Just as there are infinite firsts. Everything has a first, everything eventually has its last.
That's a rather depressing thought, isn't it? That every single simple and complicated thing will one day end. That even any sense of anxiety or trouble caused by this realisation will end. That even the idea of lasts itself will end. Perhaps more than 'rather depressing'.
Something I've found is that I have a habit of seeing, cataloguing, and hiding away lasts.
Take my mother, for example. Every time I think about her, there are are three particular thoughts that shoulder their way to the forefront of my mind.
1. The last kiss. This one wasn't even a very long kiss, or even on the lips, or even to me at all. But I still remember it. So much so that the memory's probably warped now, well-worn and smoothed out by many fond (or, initially, angry) recollections. Afternoon sun through a rain-stained window, homework on the kitchen table, my dad frowning at the newspaper. Clock ticking the hours until evening, a shopping list hastily scribbled on the back of a receipt, a woman's call of "going to the shops, be back in thirty!". And then a quick peck on my father's check, and that frown quirked and shone into a smile, just as it always did. And, then, that was it.
2. The last word. A simple one. An easy one. "Bye". Probably wasn't her last ever word to be spoken, but it was the last I heard. Flung casually back through a half-open door, sharp edges whisked away by a gathering wind, leaving only the core of what should have been a farewell like any other. Except it wasn't, and that was another of the lasts.
3. The last breath. This one's imagined, of course. Not with any fantasy or eagerness, definitely not. More like a ragged image while alone in the quiet, the torn threads of a nightmare lingering in a half-awake mind, a shard of darkness and shadow and the morbidity of the human mind. Not so much a physical scene or story, more a feeling. An emotion. An end to the path that one wishes did not exist, but is trod around again and again until footprints mark out boundaries that were once only hearsay. A memory I have conjured for my own agony. The last breath. The last of the lasts.
And those aren't even the least of it. Sometimes there seems like more lasts than firsts, sometimes there are lasts alone, and nothing else.
I have a lot of lasts for you.
The first one, chronologically, is the last time I ever opened the TARDIS doors. In the snow and wind and rain, where your box stood alone and seemingly empty.
It was a shock, to say the least, when I finally pulled open the door. It was a definite shock. After all, you did fall right on top of me.
For a moment there I was pondering a certain remark along the lines of "one kiss and you think you can go around jumping on top of me!" or the like. But all thoughts of words or movement stilled when I realised that the wetness soaking through your coat was not melted snow or the rain of an alien storm.
Hot, sticky, burnt crimson blood.
The words I might have snapped at you recoiled in my throat, obscuring my windpipe and rising in my chest.
I couldn't breathe for a second there.
It would have taken a miracle to get me moving again, so it is lucky that a miracle is exactly what happened. A small miracle, but also a huge one.
You said, you whispered, a word shorn by harsh breaths, "Clara."
That word felt like a stab of ice to my chest, which was exactly what I needed. Even though the whole situation was exactly what I didn't. I moved quickly but carefully, shuffling out from under your limp frame and shifting you so your back lay on the snow.
There was too much noise, too much sound, and not the least of it was the screeching wind.
Your eyes were closed, scrunched tightly shut as if to block out any sight of the blood. And there was just so much of it.
I needed to get you into the TARDIS, that was all I could think. In the TARDIS, to some sort of hospital room. You had to have something like that, right? I needed to get you into the TARDIS. Into the TARDIS. Into the TARDIS.
I'm sure you've noticed that I'm at least a foot shorter than you and generally only a little more than half your size.
Into the TARDIS into the TARDIS.
I'm sorry about the next bit. I bet it hurt. A lot. I'm sorry.
I'm sorry for a lot of things.
I hope I didn't dislocate your shoulders either, dragging your unresponsive body over the threshold. Or bruise your spine too much. Or tear open those wounds any further.
What is it about that word? I feel like I shouldn't be writing it. It...repulses me, that's the best—and worst—way to describe it. If anyone, you should be saying sorry. But even if you did, I can't guarantee that I'd believe it. In fact, I know that I wouldn't.
I tried to pretend I didn't want to retch at the sight of the tracks of glistening blood that you left behind on the snow and the TARDIS floor. I tried to pretend my hands weren't trembling when I loosened your bow-tie and tore your waistcoat apart because the buttons were too slippery to battle with. I tried to pretend that the sweaty white of your skin and uneven convulsing of your chest didn't frighten me almost to the point of paralysis.
It seems that Christmas is a night for pretending.
Eventually, I resolved to simply ripping the mutilated fabric from your torso, as blood pumped ever faster through it and my fingers—which had been freezing just a few minutes before, but were now sickly hot and dripping with thick blood. Your blood.
And when I finally managed to expose the wound to air, the flow only came quicker. I didn't want to think too much about the severity of the situation, as if that would somehow make it more real, more imminent. So I didn't. I didn't think about the blood, or the cuts, or the bruises on your skin. I didn't think about how death already seemed to be lurking at my back. I didn't think about the word carved, so perfectly grotesque, in the skin of your chest.
Or, I tried. I tried so very hard.
And failed, as it seemed I would at many things that day.
The cloying saccharine stench of arterial blood draped over every movement, a morbid metallic backdrop for a scene that would brand itself forever in my mind. And I stared down at you, at my cardigan balled in my fists and soaked with blood in a last gasp attempt at clotting the flow, at the wounds that I could not ever heal.
The word was carved deep into muscle and skin and perhaps organ too, a beautiful cursive that swept and curved in long flourishes that leaked more blood by the second. A taunt, an insult; a careful, graceful script in the blood of the universe's only constant saviour.
Cut perfectly into the skin of a god, the word...
It was your name.
I knew what it meant, immediately, without even thinking for a minute. I wasn't sure how I knew it, or what the connection was, but I knew. I'd seen it before, in a book, in a library, in a time that I should have forgotten.
I knew that this was a word never to be spoken, never to be written, never to be thought but by the man who stood under it.
They were letters, yes, but every curve and flourish screeched with meaning, screamed of all that is ancient and powerful and unmovable. It's a strange thing, but I felt almost unworthy to look upon it, this name that was so old and great, this name that dug deep into your very heart, this name that was your roots and your beginnings and your birth.
This name that was you, and not you, because it wasn't the Doctor.
Perhaps that was how you died, how you were finally killed. And maybe it's just the silly fantasy-fiction-lover in me, but...names have power. Not just in my worlds of paper and printed type.
Do you know of Ursula Le Guinn? Stupid question, I bet you've done shots with her or something, inspired a character or two. We studied her A Wizard of Earthsea in year 8 English last year.
"Who knows a man's name, holds that man's life in his keeping."
And, just like that, in the most gruesome, horrific, humiliating way, your name was reduced to the fruit of a blade. And not just that, not just your name, but the Doctor was killed by the very thing he ran from, the very thing he hid from.
And in that moment, I knew without doubt that the man lying before me was, either now or very soon, a dead one.
I doubt you knew what it said, what lines the blood traced across your mutilated chest. Your mind was probably too shattered with agony to comprehend anything but my desperate fingers dancing from wound to wound. But then it wasn't just those cuts that killed you. There was so much more.
Dozens of purple fingerprints, wrapped around your limbs and scraped along your skin. Burnouts blackening the bottoms of your shoes. Red rings circling mottled patches of dead skin on your sides. There was so much, too much.
Now, months later, I can make better sense of it all. Though it is still...still /much too much/. I can put faces to the injuries, names to the hands that tore your eleventh body apart. Weeping angel, Silent, Dalek, Cyberman, a myriad of others. Your long and lasting enemies. So evil, so horrific they must have been formed by the dirty blood that drips through the very wounds in the fabric of this world.
Or, I like to think so, for what they did to you.
There's not a day that I don't wonder, that I don't stare up at the empty sky as if some answer might be written there, not a night when I don't lie awake and ask—over and over—Where? How? When? Why?
What hellish planet, what deadened plain spread under your faltering feet, what alien ground tasted the bitter drink of your blood?
What morning, evening, afternoon, what year, what time, what simple moment saw your final dying stand, saw your every adversary claw and tear and strike at you in gleeful degradation and triumph?
How did it come to that, how had you not a last trick up your trick-stuffed sleeves, how could you leave your loves alone, what terrible reason did you have to brave a final death?
And, most of all, why did you tell them your name?
I don't know.
I just don't know.
That wasn't just murder, for them. That wasn't just a calculated killing to rid the universe of its saviour. That was a humiliation, a torture session. Whereby every one of your most hated foes could degrade, disgrace and ultimately destroy not just your body but your very image, your very name.
They didn't just want to kill you.
They wanted to make sure that you weren't the man you wanted, pretended, tried to be. The man you almost always succeeded at being.
Never cruel or cowardly.
Never give up. Never give in.
They wanted to make your death not the Doctor's, but the death of a man who had lived too long and would meet the end he never, ever deserved.
But, of course, that wasn't the end of it.
I am in control. I am in control.
I repeat it again.
I am in control.
I am not in control.
There is nothing about this situation that even vaguely resembles the definition of 'controlled'.
I am in control.
And yet I repeat the lie.
I let it gasp from my lips, even, let it be torn apart by the frantic air before my ears can hear it. Even if they could, I don't think I would comprehend it. I am too busy clinging to the sound of the Doctor's ragged the breaths, the way each one is ripped from his throat with a shudder, the way each one thins out into a inhaled whisper.
The chill reaches my skin before I even realise what has happened, that the distinctive wheeze of the TARDIS' brakes has not been registered in my mind, that the doors have inched open of their own accord, and that a snowstorm howls for me outside them.
It is the same snowstorm. It is the same night.
I let my hands lie flat across your forehead, your cheeks, the sunken skin of your neck. They come back stained with heat and sweat, heat and sweat and blood. My skin is dripping with it, too, almost as much as you are.
For a moment, it feels like I'm the one who's dying. But that is absurd.
Because you are not dying.
I grip the slippery ends of your shoes, clench my already aching muscles and inch you along the floor again. I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know why I'm doing it, I don't think I can help you at all...
I am in control.
But you need proper doctors for this, you need metres of bandages and compression tape and foil blankets and morphine and surgery and stitches and casts and anaesthetic and god knows what else...and even then, even then, even then...
I am in control.
And what do I have? What do I have? I can't even lift you out of the fucking TARDIS! I can't even fly the damn thing to a decent hospital! What help am I, the woman who saves the Doctor, time and time again, if I can't even suppress the urge to vomit up screams and sobs simply at the sight of your blood?
Who am I, if I can't do that?
Who am I, if I can't save you?
I am in control.
Out in the snow, the cold, the real and physical world, my hands fly all across your skin, not knowing exactly where to linger, how to help, how to heal. I'm not a nurse, not a doctor, and I don't think I could do much if I were.
I place a hand on your cheek. You're still hot, too hot. And just like that
I lower my shoulder down to the snow—it burns cold against my skin, blood has turned it a deep brown-red—not moving my hand from your jaw. My face is next to yours, your still face, no longer contorted in animal pain, no longer snatching at flimsy breaths.
My fingers inch down to your neck, I don't tell them to. I don't want them to. I don't want to know. I don't want to ever know.
Two fingers under the jawbone.
No seconds pass. Or maybe I just aren't there to feel them tick by.
I could freeze it right here, I could stay in this exact position—curled against your side, close enough to leech some of your fading heat—and never move. The sun could rise, the snow could melt, the trees could grow and be slashed away. And I could stay. Right here. Still.
Because in this single second, there is still hope.
Because in this single second, you could still be alive.
I keep my fingers pressed there as time does not pass. As it can not pass.
Because I haven't felt your heartbeat yet.
I don't move.
Not one millimetre.
I stare at the dead murmur on your lips. Remembering the last word they shaped.
I think that, perhaps, my eyes close. Or perhaps Death closes them for me, because when I wake, He's taken you with him. When I wake, I'm paralysed by cold, by shock, by sticky dried blood. My hand lies out on the snow before me, clutching at nothing. My every thought is a physical pain in my chest, a thumping weight of fear, of dread, of horror, of excruciating sorrow. An emotion so potent, so agonisingly heavy in every limb, every shorn-off memory, that any names are unfit to be assigned to it.
I don't have thoughts. I don't have words.
I have only the empty space—like missing a step on the stairs, like that half-second of terror amplified to an unimaginable scale—the blank place in the air, the vacant spot in my clutching arms.
I have only the ghost, and where you used to be.