I loved Clara and the War Doctor's interactions in the anniversary special, so couldn't resist writing this, when I had the chance.
All of time stretched out before her. From the earliest moments, to the end of everything; he'd stepped in almost every era, and so each was within her reach.
I don't know where I am.
She was everywhere. Everywhen. Falling or flying, she couldn't tell. Sometimes his timestream was like the sky or sea, something immersive, something that surrounded her; other times it was no more than a string. Thin, leading her along one unchanging, unavoidable path.
She saw faces, many faces. Some more real than others; all the time-shattering events he'd been in, it wasn't hard to believe some possibilities had been eclipsed.
For what past for moments in that not-quite-place, she fell and flew, through a chaos of whirling images and sounds. People, sights, cries. And she kept-
Something was in her way. The sensation was so unexpected that Clara exhaled, brought sharply back to reality, shockwaves rippling through her body. Blink, gasp-
And she was sitting on a crude wooden stool, in a desert beneath a crimson sky. Opposite her, sitting on a cube, was a blonde woman. Clara blinked.
She could still remember. That was unexpected; and she could remember not remembering, she could remembering being shattered, divided into countless echoes, fragments. This was different though: she was aware. She knew who she was. Clara Oswald.
"Hope you don't mind, Humpty," the other woman said. "Don't see much point in talking to part of a person."
"I-" Clara hesitated, before tilting her head. "Who are you?"
"Loaded question," the blonde smiled. "Why does it have to be a 'who'?"
"Good point," Clara conceded, then frowned. "I think. What are you, then?"
"Nah, 'who' is a better fit," the blonde said. "You're talking in a language designed to shout 'get your own mammoth', it's a wonder you can say as much as you do, really. Let me bring someone else forward."
And just like that she wasn't Clara any more. Or at least, not quite. She was the Oswin, Time Lady and museum worker who, on her last day, had aided a white haired would-be thief in running off with a Type 40 TARDIS.
"Well?" the Oswin said, using her native tongue of High Gallifreyan, "Who are you?"
Though the word she used wasn't 'who', not quite. It was somewhere between 'what' and 'who', speaking to an 'it' with personhood, something that bridged the gap between machine and being. Normally she used it to speak of more advanced TARDISes, and similar technology.
"Better," the woman smiled. "At the moment, I think I'm… Bad Wolf."
"At the moment?"
"You've got it," 'Bad Wolf' said, eyes briefly flashing golden. "Right now, you're the Oswin, right now I'm this. I could be anyone, you could be- not quite anyone, but there are a lot of you."
In Gallifreyan, her words were much more complex. She used the non-temporal word for 'now', the abstract, non-definite 'I', the non-conditional 'could'…
"And normally?" the Oswin spoke, "Who are you then?"
"The Moment," the other woman said, casually.
It was a name she knew. Every Time Lady and Lord knew of it, knew the stories. The weapon with a conscience.
"Would asking 'why' achieve anything?" the Oswin said.
"Why what?" the Moment said. "Why am I Bad Wolf? Why am I talking to you? Why this place? Why is the sky orange? Why is a blackboard?"
"The… second. For starters."
A pause. The Moment looked away, for a few seconds, up at the red sky that the Oswin easily recognized as the sky of her home, Gallifrey.
And in that time, everything changed. When once she'd been a Time lady, some idle action on the part of 'Bad Wolf' had changed her. Once more, she was Clara, the impossible girl who'd jumped into the Doctor's timestream, whose countless fragments had been stitched together effortlessly by the Moment, apparently for the purpose of this conversation.
"I've been activated," the Moment spoke, more sombre than before. "No, sorry. I haven't been activated. I won't be activated. Conditional tense: I may be activated, just may, if he changes his mind. No one else would be desperate enough, and still restrained enough to do the right thing."
Clara frowned, and the woman opposite shook her head. When that gesture was finished, once more Clara no longer sat there, and Time Lady the Oswin listened.
"I'll be activated, if he can change his mind," the Moment said again.
To ears that understood Gallifreyan, the sentence held much more depth. By the tense of 'will' used, the firm conditional, the Oswin could tell the statement required an alteration to time to be true.
"You want that?" the Oswin said, confused. "I've heard of you, you know? The most powerful weapon in the universe, galaxy eater, etc. But you were sentient; well, obviously. They said you were moral too: everyone was too scared to use you, out of fear you'd judge them. I didn't think you'd want to be used."
"I don't," the Moment said, eyes flashing gold. "You wouldn't know how it feels. Even not active, I'm aware: I'm alive, I can't just be switched off. I can feel the war around me, what's coming and what's passed. I know and I feel every possible event that could result from if it kept on raging. In each, the universe burns."
Instinctively, the Oswin flinched. It was hard not to, when a superweapon spoke with bitterness in her voice.
"When you jumped into his timestream," the Moment spoke again, "You hit the time lock. You could just slide past, continue scattering yourself to the winds. Or, if you want, I could bring you in. It would only take a promise from you: that you'd talk to him. Convince him to end this."
"You didn't answer me," the Oswin said. "Why would you want him to?"
"There are three ways this could go," the Moment said. "Depending on how you act, I see three essential possibilities. Only you have the freedom to effect any change, from your exposure to his timestream. In the first, you fail, and the war goes on. In the second, he ends it, swallows both the Daleks and Time Lords with me: and even that is better than letting the whole universe die. In the third, the best, I convince him to find a better way."
When the Moment had finished that speech, Clara was once more the listener. It was almost dizzying, the speed at which she alternated between an echo, and herself. Apparently the Moment preferred to have her listen, even if only a Time Lady could fully understand the nuances of what she was saying.
Clara supposed it was because she'd have to be the one to talk to the Doctor. No echo would do, not to persuade him.
"Hasn't the war already ended?" Clara said, slowly. "I've met the Doctor, he says… or is this more timey-wimey stuff?"
"I'm reaching into one possible future to make said future take place," the Moment said, "A paradox, but I can sustain it."
Clara was surprised to remain herself, rather than changed, again, to the Oswin. The Time Lady would no doubt be better equipped to understand the technicalities. Presumably those didn't matter, though.
Sensing uncertainty, indecision borne of surprise and a lack of understanding, the Moment spoke again.
"Shall I tell you what will come to pass, if things go unchanged?" she said. "I could show you, but I'm not that cruel. The Time Lords will build a weapon based on my blueprint, stolen from their distant past. The paradox resulting from their desperation will devastate their home world, but they will not care. They'll use this second Moment, far more powerful, far less conscientious, to wipe away time."
She met Clara's eyes, and in them Clara could almost make out the reflections of the war described. Almost hear the screams.
"In an effort to stop them, the Doctor will turn against his people," she continued. "He will delay them. Then, with no other option, he will sabotage the sky-trenches and allow a Dalek fleet access to the place where the new Moment was to be built. Though the end of the universe will be prevented, the Doctor will be again alienated from his people, branded a traitor and declared their enemy, as he is to the Daleks. With two sides against him, he only barely pulls through."
Her voice was almost hypnotic. Clara couldn't tear her eyes away, couldn't speak.
"When he reaches his final regeneration," the Moment said, "Fully half of the universe will be consumed in warfare. Some ally themselves with the Time Lords, some serve the Daleks in an attempt to be spared, others fight any who come near. With technology that can't compare, they fall in hours. A Time Lady called Alpha constructs a weapon that uses galaxies as a power source and as ammunition: singlehandedly, she turns the tide of the war, at the cost of the other half of the universe. In an attempt to stop her, the Doctor will die."
A twinkle in the Moment's eye; the spiral light of a galaxy drawing inwards, and winking out to fuel some unthinkable weapon. What damage could that do?
"When the Daleks die," she continued, "That will not be the end. In the war, the Time Lords made more enemies. Civilizations they laid waste to rising for revenge, with technology stolen from the Daleks, or salvaged from Time Lord battlefields. A new war will rise and, before a victor is declared, the universe will sigh in pain and weariness, and die a death hastened by all the weapons fired that toyed with its fundamentals."
Silence. Clara regained her breath, uncertain how she'd lost it, too engaged in the awful story she'd been told.
"Help me prevent that," the Moment said, reaching across; lightly touching Clara's hand.
When she was allowed access to the time lock, Clara found herself standing in the same desert, in which she'd spoken with the Moment. Now, though, it was ruined.
Golden sand had been scorched and blackened. Metal husks littered it, many of the remaining shards far taller than she was. Nervously, Clara walked through it, slipping past half-Daleks, and the tattered robes of Time Lord warriors who'd sought to regenerate only to find they had no energy left.
Past a larger shell, she heard grating cries, sounds she dimly recognized from the experiences of her fragments. She'd been one of them, once. No, twice: once converted to be a part of their kind, once as one of their race before mutation took hold.
Stepping around the metal shell, she saw perhaps a dozen Daleks, all blackened, all alive. Exterminate. Time Lord soldiers fell, until just one remained: one climbing out of cover, onto the remains of a ship.
"Catch!" a shout that was somehow, bizarrely, playful: and he threw what looked like a bronze ball at the Daleks.
Clara watched its flight, guessing it was more than a toy. As it neared the closest Dalek, sparks ran across it: and it projected, ahead of it, a black circle into the air, little larger than the orb itself. An instant later, and an identical orb shot out from the circle, knocking the first aside, and each falling to the ground.
Clara could only watched as the world around it seemed to ripple: and from behind that ripple, a black monstrosity came into being, larger than the Daleks. It swooped down, ravenous, to consume. Dalek shots did nothing to it. And when the Daleks were dealt with, it faded.
If the Oswin's memory and knowledge served, it was a Reaper: beings that appeared at the site of a paradox, to eradicate anything near to it. No doubt the orb had somehow been behind summoning it: to think, the Time Lords had resorted to weaponizing whole races.
"Doctor!" Clara called, satisfied the battlefield was empty. There was no one else that man could be.
He turned. Older than most Doctors she'd seen, unshaven, dressed in old, old remains of what might be a warrior's uniform.
"Well, hello," he said, smiling despite the bloodshed he'd just caused. "You'll have to forgive me, I've a terrible memory for faces. Especially my own. Unless you've changed yours recently?"
His manner reminded her of her Doctor. Almost child-like in humour, smiling. Yet the fact he'd just killed multiple life forms directly, giving every indication of having done it before and being utterly unaffected by it… That wasn't her Doctor.
"Not… exactly," Clara said, slowly.
What could she say? Hi, I'm your friend from the future. Just jumped into your grave, thought I'd pop by for a chat. Also, a galaxy eater who, come to think of it, looks a fair bit like your girlfriend (also from the future) wants you to use a weapon that pretty much everyone on or near this planet is scared out of their wits by. Nice weather we're having, isn't it?
"It doesn't matter," Clara said, deciding to settle for that. "Point is, I'm here to help you. With all this, I mean."
"Help me?" the War Doctor echoed. She nodded. "And how would you do that?"
"Just talk," she said. "I was wondering, do you actually have a plan? I mean I know you normally don't bother, but at least usually you have an idea what you're aiming for. Do you have that now?"
"Survive," he said simply. "Make sure as many people as I can do as well. Nothing more."
It wasn't much of a reason to be killing so easily. Too vague, badly-defined.
"Is that it?" Clara said, disappointed.
"What would you suggest?" the Doctor said. That time, his voice was pained and, for precious seconds, he was her Doctor again.
"I don't know," Clara shrugged. "Just, the Doctor I know- knew, he didn't take a life. Or, if he did, it wasn't easy, it was the only option, and he had a good reason. He always had to have a reason."
"You can't have met me for a while, then," he said. "I still don't know your face."
"You wouldn't," Clara said, "We haven't met. Not yet." Or at least, not since he'd first flown off in the TARDIS. She'd only been in the background since then.
"From my future?" the Doctor said, as if entertained. "Well then. Can't have been easy for you to get here."
He didn't believe her. Even if he wasn't her Doctor, she knew enough to recognize that in his manner. A sigh.
"It doesn't matter," Clara said. "All that does, I know you care. Or you should care, that's what you do. Don't you want to end this?"
"I did," he looked down, more serious, "Back when this started. Fool that I was. I wanted to keep out of the War, or bring it to an end. I did neither. So I became this."
"Not Doctor," he said. "Not now. Doctor no more."
"No more," Clara echoed. "I like the sound of that. Can't tell me you don't."
He frowned at her. She shrugged, trying to make light. If she gave this Doctor, this war the respect and fear it deserved, she wouldn't be able to do a thing.
"No more," Clara said again. "I've seen Time Lords, I've seen Gallifrey. You can't tell me they don't have any way to stop this war. There has to be something."
She didn't know how much it was worth saying. Maybe the Moment would take care of their memories, or something; she didn't think the Doctor knew her from this point in time, when they'd met. Something must have made him forget.
Even if that was the case, she knew instinctively that she had to change his mind with more than just facts. Something one of her many lives had learnt; erasing memories erased facts, it didn't erase the resultant feelings and desires. She had to make him want to use the Moment, on an emotional rather than logical level.
It wasn't worth the risk of bringing it up by name. If the Doctor was to forget this conversation, then he'd forget her saying it; she needed to make him think of it by himself, make him want it.
Or at least, something like that. It had made sense in that life.
"If there was, it'd have been used," the Doctor said. "You think you're the only one who wants an end? We all did, when this started. Now we just want to live."
"Maybe there are consequences," Clara said. "It's a way to end it, at some cost. Who knows. Is any cost going to be too much though? Just because no one else wants to end it, doesn't mean it can't be ended."
"The Omega Arsenal," the Doctor chuckled. "Is that what you're getting at? Doomsday weapons comprise the weakest sealed within. All of them have been used, damn the cost. It's not enough."
"All of them?" Clara said. The Oswin knew better.
"All," the Doctor said. "Well, except for-"
He cut himself off. Clara stared at him, a slight smile on her face.
She recognized that look in his eyes. Even if everything else had changed, that look was familiar; he was fitting the pieces together. When it looked like the day was lost, she sought that glimmer of hope, of intelligence in his eyes, and she knew things were better than they seemed.
"Well?" she tilted her head.
"The Moment," he said, softly. Hoarse. "They say it exacts a price."
"What price is too high?" Clara said. "If you can end this, isn't it worth it?"
A pause. The Doctor pulled a ball from the strap around his body, similar to the one that had called the Reaper and vanquished the Daleks. For a few seconds, he peered at it, thoughtful.
Then, idly, he dropped it. Inactive, it rolled along the scorched ground.
"Doctors euthanize," he murmured, briefly closing his eyes.
He took a step forward, through the ruins. In the distance, there was some flare of light: in the sky, some burst of energy. It seemed somehow muted, now.
"No more," he said, again. More subdued, he looked back at Clara. "Who are you, anyway?"
"Long story," she smiled. Very long. "`Sides, you sure you should be asking that? From your future, and all, don't think it's really something you ought to know just yet."
"Your name, then," he said. "That's safe enough."
"Clara Oswald," she smiled.
"Well then, Clara Oswald," he turned, bowed his head briefly to her. "I thank you. Hope we meet again."
"We will," she lifted a hand, to wave a small goodbye. A nod of his head later, and he'd turned. He was walking, when the Moment reclaimed her, reaching through time.
Maybe neither of them would remember. At least, they wouldn't remember immediately; not until any possible paradoxes had sorted themselves out. Even forgotten, that meeting had achieved its purpose.
And so when Clara fell all the way through the Doctor's timestream, to the wasteland at its core, she felt only the faintest flicker of recognition when she saw him there.