"You lied to me?" she asked, wounded. The Doctor grasped her hand and gave an apologetic smile. Sometimes it was necessary to lie to people to make things work out. "Well…can I still come along? Even though I was daft and didn't realize you were lying? Were you testing me? Is everywhere we travel going to be like this? How far does your ship go? Does it need petrol, like cars? How much money do you spend on petrol every year? Can you—?"
"One at a time!" laughed the Doctor, not in any sort of hurry to get out now that the danger had passed. In fact, he went right back down to the market and started poking around as citizens of the city began emerging from their hiding places, drawn out by the figure of the heroic girl who had been on their television screens only minutes ago on the news' continuous loop.
They reached out their hands and gently caressed the face and hands of the anxious girl who hadn't known any love at all for three years. The Doctor watched as she slowly came to life among them, smiling and shaking hands; the lonely girl, the one who wanted so badly to be accepted that she faked an American accent, just as Amelia Pond had kept her Scottish accent to stand out. The Bad Wolf, the blessed saint Martha, the temp from Chiswick, the girl who didn't make sense, the man who waited…it only made sense that the girl who didn't fit would come next in line.
But she wouldn't be next. She was surrounded on all sides by people who so suddenly adored her, who would want their sons to marry her, who could offer her any job defending the earth, could give her a real home with windows were wide and that opened and with a big blue front door, and she could have the life she wanted. The Doctor slipped away, out of the thick of it where he didn't belong; he was meant to do his duty and go on to the next adventure. Never straying, never stopping. Always, in the end, alone.
He went back to the TARDIS with his hands deep in his pockets. He could buy a new tweed jacket and bow-tie.
Klára looked fleetingly over her shoulder just as the Doctor rounded a corner, vanishing from sight, and the beaming smile slid from her face. He was leaving without her, even after saying she could still come along. Only he didn't really say it, did he? He said 'one at a time!' she thought with a sinking feeling in her gut. This couldn't be true; he had promised to tell her stories if she behaved!
Without a thought she wrestled her way out of the crowd of people begging her to tell the story of how she'd saved the city once more, and ran with weary aching legs to where she and the Doctor had leaned against the TARDIS' wall.
"Doctor! You promised!"
The tweedy man without the tweed spun on his heel and smiled fondly, the TARDIS key dangling from his right hand. He shrugged. "You caught me. I thought you might want to stay here, where everyone loved you."
"Live a long life in a city where, in only a few weeks, I'll be forgotten again in the house they give me…" Klára considered with her hands held out like trays on a scale, "live a short life filled with adventure and running from breathtakingly scary monsters in a blue box with all the universe at my fingertips."
The second hand was heavier. Much heavier. They beamed unrestrainedly at one another, and he welcomed her onto his spaceship.
"These are cute," commented Klára lightly, looking around the console as the Doctor revved up the engines. She was gently toying with the yarn-hair of a puppet, the puppet of a little red-headed girl she had picked up from the console. "Where'd you get them? The last planet you saved?"
Trying not to be harsh, the Doctor pulled the poppet from Klára and replaced it on the console. "They belong to an old friend. I'm holding them for her." His hands lingered too long on the fiery orange yarn, perhaps, because Klára decidedly didn't ask who the friend was. He smiled faintly at the heart of the TARDIS, garnished with decorations of his past that would soon be stored away for efficiency's sake. But for now, at least, the old and new could mingle together just the way that the TARDIS was both old and new.
Everyone became nothing more than a story, and all stories must end, but the story of Klára Frost and the Mad Man in the Box was just beginning.