AN: Written for the "fresh" prompt for the Summer Mini Challenge 2016. Rated G. Takes place after Series 9, and about during Series 8 too.
One Last Time
Clara hated when Me looked at her like that, but she couldn't help it. Once in a great while, when she didn't feel like going back to Gallifrey (when the time seemed right), she wanted to check up on the Doctor.
And it didn't matter what incarnation she checked on. Sometimes, she favored taking a glimpse of the floppy-haired younger version - amused by him and the way he cared about his companions that came before her - Amy and Rory. It was easier to check on him when he traveled with them rather than chancing an encounter with her younger self.
Mostly, she loved checking up on her grey-haired stick insect version, still avoiding her past self, and following his progress after his erased memories of her. Though, through some deduction, it was obvious that some of his memories of her had come back, even as he had moved on with another companion.
Perhaps the TARDIS had given him his memories back, or maybe, with that complicated Time Lord brain he'd gotten them back on his own. Yet, her she was the one looking for him, and wondering if he'd moved on from finding her.
"You have to stop doing this to yourself," Me said beside her. They were keeping back behind a concrete pillar as the Doctor and his new, fresh-faced companion named Bill, were being led away to some adventure by Osgood and Kate Stewart. Clara missed them too, but it was enough for her to watch.
It pained her somewhat, but she knew it wasn't enough to get her heart beating again. Me's companionship had been a lifesaver for Clara in these last few months, yet even when Me had often loudly protested Clara interfere with the Doctor's life again, Clara felt it was more like healing.
She was happy, at least, that he was doing well and that he'd moved on to another companion to awe and inspire. She also knew, though, no other companion would compare to here for this version - and that had numbed her initial jealousy enough for her to only watch him from a distance.
But some days, that wasn't enough. Me knew it well too. Clara wanted to do one more reckless thing with the Doctor. She talked about it, and Me had always logically dissuaded her.
"You can't," she had told her. They were leaving another visit to stalk the Doctor when Clara proposed her plan again. She added a little refinement.
"After this, I'm done then. I'll go back to Gallifrey. I'll make it right. I just need him, one last time," Clara said, and she was sure she sounded like a junkie.
Me crossed her arms and shook her head. "I can't… I can't be a part of this. It's dangerous. You know it. He'd never forgive you if he found out either." Me pursed her lips, and her tone came out as cruel. "Knowing you, Clara Oswald, you'd turn time and space inside out, just from this one visit."
"I know! But… how is it okay for him to do it but not me?"
Me rolled her eyes. "If you're talking about how he used the Time Lords to "save you" again, I'm telling you to stop using that as an excuse."
"I won't go on an adventure with him. I'll just...I'll pick a time I would be gone with Danny, and if he comes, I'll just… make him tea or something," she said, turning away from Me's exasperation expression and planning out the scenario in her head.
Me sighed loudly. "Goodbye, time and space."
"I know the exact time too," Clara said, and before Me could protest any longer, Clara had already set the coordinates on their TARDIS. She was going to park right in her old apartment, back when the Doctor and her were having a little break and she was going out with Danny - even staying at his place. It was a good thing Me had fixed the chameleon circuit, even though Clara had been fond of the diner. Sometimes they still use that one.
When they landed, Me refused to follow her out of the TARDIS. Clara opened the door, and glimpsed the shape that their ship had taken instead of the diner. It blended in with Clara's wall, and before she closed the door, she had Me send the Doctor an odd beacon to draw out his attention.
Clara looked around her old appointment, finding some nostalgia in it. Her past self was staying with Danny Pink this weekend, somewhere up north at a bed and breakfast. She remembered it clearly, and a small pang of sadness had seeped into her bones at the thought of Danny. But for now, she was here for the Doctor.
She wandered to her bedroom and picked out some clothes. Changing, she put on a comfortable robe and grabbed the book on her nightstand, "The Martian", which she remembered finishing months ago. At this point in time, she was halfway done.
Clara opened the book anyway, anticipating the sound of the old TARDIS and not having to wait long. The Doctor came into her living room looking curious and anxious, and when their eyes met, it took her breath away. Sometimes she didn't feel her heart frozen in her chest, but this time she did.
"Clara -" he said. The last time they had talked, she had yelled and scorned him. His feelings were still bruised, she could tell.
"Doctor, what are you doing here?" she asked, but her tone didn't match her words. She was happy to see him. She wanted to run into his arms. Instead, she stayed sitting on her couch, gripping the book in her hand.
"I thought… I picked up an odd signal from this location. It seemed… alien yet familiar to me," he said.
Clara inwardly celebrated. She knew a signal from her TARDIS would bring him here.
"I have no idea. I haven't seen anything strange," she said, and an awkward silence ballooned between them. He pulled out his screwdriver and was wandering about taking readings while still keeping her in the corner of his eye.
"You could… stay for tea and we can explore the block," she suggested after minutes of his roaming around her place. She just hoped that he didn't stumble onto her TARDIS. She had faith that Me would keep their ship completely concealed.
"Hrmm…" he said. "Probably a good idea." He turned to her. "What's wrong with you? You look… I don't know, tired." The next phrase kind of stung. "Did P.E. finally dump you?" She let it go, even resisted a smile.
"Uh, no, no he's… out with family this weekend," she said. "I am tired. I guess." She put the book aside and rose up from the couch. "Let me make some tea."
He followed her into the kitchen and she could still hear the screwdriver actively scanning her place. Soon, he had shut it off, put it in his pocket and settled down at her kitchen table. She put a steaming mug in front of him and watched him add milk and a conservative portion of sugar. She did the same, staring at him while he sipped his tea. He met her eyes.
"It's been awhile," she said. "I should say… I'm sorry."
"Do you want to say you're sorry?" he asked. "Doesn't seem like it," he added gruffly.
"No, I'm not sure yet. I want to but… I feel like maybe I still need some time. I'm just glad…" she paused and felt his hardened stare on her. "I'm glad to see you again."
"Clara, if you need the time, I understand," he said, and she hated how reasonable he could be, how easily he could give her space and respect her when he was obviously battling his own loneliness.
"I know," she said. "It's just… I have to figure some things out," she said.
"You still look tired. Maybe you shouldn't think so hard," he said, and she laughed.
"Yeah," she said, and she realized how much she missed this. How much she missed him. He had been her addiction, and she was getting a taste of his company again. All the feelings were coming back, and as much as she wanted to immerse herself in them, she knew it was wrong.
"So… have a look around," she said. "I'm not sure you'll find anything," she said.
"Hrmm," he said, and she noticed he didn't take his sonic out again. Instead, he rose to leave. "I'll take a closer look in the TARDIS. Maybe I'll pick up better readings there. Wanna come with?"
Clara waved a hand and shook her head, and she took note of his obvious disappointment. "I should go to bed. Maybe next time." She wished more than anything to go with him, to never come back - to rip time and space apart again and just be with him. She wanted to be selfish.
He picked up on her hesitation and he nodded. She followed him to his TARDIS door, but not too close. She didn't want him to suspect there was something different about her - that she was older, that she wasn't his Clara - that her heart didn't beat.
Thankfully, he said goodbye and promised to come back. Clara nodded, smiling. Wishing only if that were true.
When she heard his TARDIS fade away, she waited a bit until she was sure he was gone. Clara put back things in her past self's apartment so it didn't seem like anything was disturbed. She made her way back to her own TARDIS, and met Me's eyes with a solemn expression. The amount of longing Clara felt in her heart at this moment was almost too much to bear, but Clara was sure of one thing.
"I can't do this anymore," she said, mirroring Me's words. Me nodded.
"To Gallifrey then?"
"No, that, I was lying about," she said, and Clara turned to her friend whom seemed more than pleased. "It was good seeing him, but he's moved on, and this was risky - in more ways than one."
"Where to then?" Me asked, fiddling with the levers on their TARDIS.
"You choose this time. I've done enough for one adventure," Clara said, and Me laughed. "Just one thing though, Me?"
"Change it back to the diner. I love the diner," Clara said. Me pulled the final lever and smiled.
Somewhere in the depth of space a diner was roaming about the universe. And somewhere else, the Doctor was moving on without her, and Clara knew it was how it was all meant to be.