"How could you let the Krafayis escape?" The Doctor bellowed upon his return to the console room.
"Couldn't exactly see it, could I?" Clara replied.
"No, but you could have, possibly, shut the door to the rest of the TARDIS."
Clara looked a little sheepish, "Okay, well… sorry. I am sorry."
"Yes, yes, fine." The Doctor, heavily strapped into the species matcher, made his way towards the door the Krafayis had just slipped out of. "Wait here. It may be a young one, but it will still lash out if it feels threatened. And I don't suppose you'll want to show up at school missing an eye or anything. Don't imagine PE would approve."
"His name's Danny," Clara said with irritation.
"Right, Dan the Soldier Man, how could I forget?"
"You didn't, you're just trying to seem indifferent."
The Doctor shrugged, "Who you date is your business."
"Yeah, it is." Clara sighed and tried to keep her temper in check, "Now go find your invisible, baby monster."
"Whatever you say, boss. Hope you don't have anywhere pressing to be. Can't risk the Krafayis getting out, so we can't land the TARDIS until she's caught, which could be a matter of minutes or weeks depending on how many doors you've left open."
Clara glared at him without malice, "Run along then. Make your aunt proud," she added, pointing to the species matcher.
"I'll be sure to close the door behind me, shall I? And try to get along, you two."
Clara looked confused for a moment and then glanced over at the console, "We always get along. At least recently." She directed her statement more towards the TARDIS, since the Doctor had already gone. Long after she heard the door close Clara continued to look at the time rotor. There was something she'd been meaning to say for weeks now, but she's never found the right moment. This was it, and yet still she hesitated. The Doctor spoke to the TARDIS all the time. Clara had too, back when they were at odds, but she'd never attempted a civil conversation with it, much less a... "Thank you. For before. For not showing the Doctor where we'd been."
The TARDIS made a couple of beeps. Clara wondered if it was just her imagination that made them sound entirely dismissive, as if the TARDIS had said, "Well obviously".
"Did you... did you delete the information or just prevent him from seeing it?"
In response the TARDIS locked the doors to the console room and projected its view of the barn onto the screen in front of Clara.
"Can you play it for me, show me what happened there?" The video began. Clara watched herself leave the TARDIS, look around, and then climb up a ladder towards the Doctor's bed, "Was there anyone else there? Someone hiding in the dark?" A Gallifreyan version of Oswald Oswin, ready to scare the young Doctor in the night? The TARDIS made no response, simply let the video play. After a moment voices could heard approaching the barn.
"Why does he have to sleep out here?"
"He doesn't want the others to hear him crying."
"Why does he have to cry all the time."
"You know why."
The two adults moved into view and the image froze. I had a teacher like you once, the Doctor's words rang out in her head. Even in profile the Gallifreyan woman was unmistakably Clara. A good thirty years older, fuller figured, with strands of grey in her hair, and crows feet lining her eyes, but Clara through and through. Clara had never seen herself older before. In any other context that would have given her pause, but viewing the scene only one thought came to mind, I have always been there, right from the very beginning. The words sounded familiar, but she wasn't sure why. Millions of lives all jumbled in her head, strings of memories getting misplace. The barn. She knew it was the same one, and she had been right, but she wasn't remembering it from the final day of Gallifrey, she must have been remembering from that time, that place, when it was part of her everyday life. When the Doctor as a child was part of her life as well.
The Doctor's voice called her back from the memories, "Oh, so before you couldn't even be bothered to close the door, but now that I have a baby warrior on a leash you've gone so far as to lock it."
In that instant the screen went black and several clicks were heard as the TARDIS unlocked all of the doors to the console room.
"Did you find it, Doctor?" Clara asked, trying to affect an even tone.
"What does it look like?" he said triumphantly, holding up a seemingly empty catch pole, an object that would seem more appropriately place in the hands of a park ranger, than those of a Time Lord.
Clara laugh, it didn't look like much of anything, but she was willing to humour him, "Like you've ensnared a fierce and invisible beast."
The Doctor looked very pleased with himself. His smile fell when he looked up at Clara, "What's wrong with your face?"
"Nothing," she responded too quickly.
"But you're eyes are all shiny and faraway looking. I thought I told the two of you to play nice?"
"We were on our best behaviour," Clara said, trying to lighten the mood.
"Then what's that look for?"
"That's the look you get when I'm about to do this," Clara threw her arms around him.
"You know I am still carrying a young Krafayis." Clara didn't budge. "And I'm still not a hugging person."
"Still don't get a vote."
Danny Pink woke up alone in the middle of the night. He raised his head slightly and saw Clara sitting at her vanity, staring out of the window. Looking at the moon, Danny gathered. Clara had not spoken to the Doctor in several months, and when Danny asked her about it her answer was always 'good riddance'. And yet, more often then not, he found her staring at the moon when she thought he wasn't watching. At least he hoped that's what she was looking at. He'd rather believe it was that then that she was looking for the TARDIS. He watched her for a long moment, taking in the the rigid way she held her body and the anxious look in her eyes, so different from her usual cheerful demeanour. He wished she would talk to him, trust him with her feelings, whatever they might be. But then, wasn't he partially to blame? She knew he wasn't exactly a fan of the Doctor. And besides, hadn't he noticed her sitting there many nights and never said a word? He wasn't going to make the same mistake this time. "What's wrong?" Clara looked over at him with genuine surprise, she hadn't expected him to be awake and it made her hesitate before responding. "And don't say 'nothing'."
Clara shrugged, "Couldn't sleep."
Clara opened her mouth and then closed it again. She glanced back out the window.
"I know it's about the Doctor. Do you miss him?"
"No." Danny's look demanded the truth, "Yes. Doesn't mean I regret my choice."
"Then why can't you sleep?"
"I'm worried about him."
Danny laughed bitterly, "He's a 2000 year old alien who clearly thinks he's some kind of god. I think he can probably take care of himself."
"He shouldn't be alone. He doesn't do well on his own, especially not this version of him. He needs somebody—."
"To take care of him?"
I'm his carer. "At least be there to care so he doesn't have to."
"Then he can find someone else." Clara grimaced at the idea. These were the moments when Danny questioned whether she really was done with the Doctor, when she couldn't bare to think about being replaced. Danny tried his best not to be jealous. "What I mean is, there are always people out there who will help him. Even I've helped him, and I don't even like him. It doesn't always have to be your job."
"More like a hobby, really," she said with a little chuckle, before the sadness crept back into her face, and her eyes once again sought out the moon.
"Clara," Danny waited for her to look at him before he continued, "you haven't let him down or abandoned him, or whatever it is that you're afraid of."
"I know," Clara said, as if she almost believed it.
"Then come back to bed." Clara took one last look at the moon, drew the blinds, and curled up in Danny's arms. "He's going to be alright."
"I know. It's just that... I've always looked out for him."
Clara wrapped her arms around him and Danny pressed a light kiss to her forehead, "Maybe it's someone else's turn."
"Excuse me, pardon me. Only being chased by a killer robot. Suppose you lot would be running for your lives if you could see it too. Damn cloaking technology," the Doctor muttered as he made his way through the Flying Scotsman—he really should know better than to board a space replica of a historical train, no matter how appealing the name was. The robot's pace was slow enough, but between the people, obstructions, and different compartments the Doctor was only managing to keep a few paces in front of it. The Doctor had run nearly half the length of the train when at last he came to an ornate wooden door. He turned the knob, but found it locked. He then tried his sonic screwdriver, but to no avail.
"I always knew it would end like this," he said bitterly to his screwdriver. The Doctor pressed all of this weight into the door, but still it would not budge. "Wood, it had to be wood. Who has wooden doors on a space train?"
The robot was mere inches from him when suddenly he was falling through the doorway. "Think they were going for a sort of vintage, authentic feel."
"Clara?!" The Doctor stared at her in wonder as she closed the heavy door on the machine and secured the lock.
She reached out a hand and helped the Doctor to his feet, "Do I know you?"
The Doctor looked her over. She wore a collar shirt, high waisted pants, several leather belts, and a couple of holsters containing sonic weapons. She looked like a space cowboy, and seemed completely at home with her surrounding. This wasn't his Clara. "No, but I know you."
"My reputation proceeds me?" she said, with a cocky smile.
"You have no idea. Now was it Clara Oswald or Oswin?"
"Oswin. And you are?"
He held out his hand, "I'm the Doctor. It is very good to meet you. And thank you for saving my life, again."
Clara Oswin raised an eyebrow, "Have I saved you before?"
"I imagine so. Or perhaps you will in the future."
"Are you really that jeopardy friendly?"
"Probably shouldn't ask this then, but Doctor, now that I've saved your life (at least once), want to help me stop an invisible robot from killing everyone on this train?"
"Whatever you say, boss."
The Doctor had arranged his blackboards in a circle around the console room. He moved between them in a flurry of motion, a complex web connecting his chaotic collection of drawings, symbols, and words. His life was a hard one to track. Then again, that wasn't really what he was doing. He wasn't looking for himself, he was looking for Clara; all of her. His boards were filled with the ones he had found so far. Oswin Oswald, who'd saved him in the Dalek Asylum. Clara Oswin Oswald who gotten him off of his cloud and had helped him saved the world. Oswald Oswin, the silly boy in the blanket, who the Doctor now knew saved his sixth self from drowning. And Clara Oswin, the vigilante from the train, who he would have been tempted to remain in the company of, if not for the damage it might do to his timeline. In truth, he would have gladly saved her and all the others from the consequences of saving his life. Unfortunately, doing so would make the bravery and sacrifice of Clara and all of her other selves pointless, not to mention result in a few universe ending paradoxes. So instead he researched, and formed connections, and remembered. That last bit was new for him. Up until now he had done his best not to remember the other Clara's. She must have died saving his life thousands if not millions of times. The Doctor hated the idea, but since he was powerless to stop it, he had tried to simply put it behind him. Not now. The Doctor was not sure what had changed, but he was ready now. Ready to take stock and learn about all of these echoes who had saved him. Ready to remember. And not just all of the Clara's, but Gallifrey too. Now that he knew it was out there somewhere, that there was a chance it could be restored, the memory of it didn't haunt him like it used to. And if his goal was to learn about all of the Clara's who had helped him, then he would have to think about Gallifrey. He had lived there for hundreds of years before he stole the TARDIS, which meant that Clara had too. There was the young Time Lady who had told him which TARDIS to steal and of course his teacher, Oswaldoswin, who expected nothing but his best when it came to his studies, but was kind and patient with him in every other aspect of his life. And so many others. Not just on Gallifrey, but throughout the entirety of space and time. The Doctor had been to every corner of the universe, which meant that there was bound to be a Clara Oswald just about everywhere, and starting now the Doctor was going to see them. He was going to pay attention. He was going to listen. Listen. He had been hearing that lately in his dreams. Listen. It was an old dream, one he had had since childhood. The dream when you wake up in the night and something grabs your leg. Only that time the monster spoke to him.
Listen. This is just a dream, but very clever people can hear dreams so please just listen…
It had told him that it was okay to be afraid, that fear was a super power. It told him what he would one day tell little Rupert Pink, before making the child believe it had all been a dream. But what of the Doctor? What of that lonely little boy? Had his mind told him that to comfort him or had it been someone else? Lately when he'd had the dreams he had heard it in Clara's voice. That could be a trick of the mind, or maybe he really was starting to remember. Maybe it wasn't a dream at all. Maybe Oswaldoswin had comforted him that night, as she so often did, and her words had gotten mixed up in a dream. I'm going to leave you something, just so you'll always remember. What had been left? The Doctor could almost remember. He ran out of the console room and weaved through the corridors until he found the forgotten room, the room full of objects that were too painful to see, but too important to be parted with: Melody's cradle, Amelia's childhood drawings, Clara's umbrella, and almost all of his Gallifreyan possessions, still sealed away in a time vault. The Doctor wasn't even sure what he was looking for. Perhaps it had only been a dream, perhaps there had been nothing left for him at all. He almost believed it, until his hands closed around a small figurine. He pulled it out of the container and held it at eye level. As if on cue, all the old memories came flooding back.
"I thought you didn't want to be a soldier."
"Then why are you playing with one?"
"He's not a soldier."
"'Course he is, he's just missing a gun. He's a broken soldier."
"He doesn't need a gun. Because he's not afraid of anything. Or well, he is afraid, but that's okay, because that doesn't have to make him cruel or cowardly. Sometimes being afraid can just make you kind."
"That's stupid. And besides, he's wearing a uniform. Who else could he be?"
"He's a… a doctor."
The Doctor stared at the small toy, amazed at how a simple object could illuminate his childhood after all of this time. The more he looked at it though, the more it called to him from a far more recent memory. "Dan the Soldier Man." How had he never realized this before. It wasn't a Gallifreyan toy, it was a human toy, one of Rupert's toy soldiers. The Boss one. In that moment everything from that night became clear. It was Gallifrey that Clara would not let him see. Gallifrey that the TARDIS would never have allowed him to go if he had not turned off the navigation safe guards. And the monster under the bed, wasn't a monster, or an echo, it was Clara, his Clara. His constant companion; his silent passenger. She was always there. Or she had been.
She changed the future on Trenzalore. Changed it a few times, but one thing was clear, the Doctor was suppose to die there that day in Christmas. His last self should have been the final version of him and as such he was the last Doctor the Great Intelligence infiltrated. The last version who would have Clara's coming to his aid. Clara had only seen eleven Doctors, them and the warrior. All those millions of Clara's, and none of them were out there to save him. Not from the Great Intelligence anyway. Clara Oswin had already shown they couldn't help themselves when it came to looking after him. He should be glad. No more Clara's giving their lives for him, that was better, and yet it made him feel so alone. She had always been there for him. Had shaped every part of his life, from his TARDIS, to saving Gallifrey, even his name and the promise behind it: Never cruel or cowardly. Never give up, never give in. So he wouldn't give up on her. He had done as she asked, he had cleared off, and if she was really finished with him… well she had the right, she'd certainly done her fair share of caring for him, but he still had to try, had to at least say he was sorry. He couldn't let two thousand years of friendship and support end with one thoughtless act. And if she still wanted him to leave… well maybe it was time for him to care for her. All of those Clara's, all of those echoes… He couldn't interfere with their lives before they met him, whichever version of him they were destined to save, but he could help them afterwards, tend to wounds, save lives in the nick of time. In sort, be a Doctor.