A/N I've been thinking about this story since the Christmas special, but figured I should get started on it before we moved on to the real twelfth Doctor.
And of course, I don't own anything (although Peter Capaldi did say that "everyone made Doctor Who").
Chapter 1 - The Clock Strikes Twelve
"Good morning," the Doctor said pleasantly as Clara entered the console room.
"How's that?" she asked, giving him a good natured grin. The Doctor merely stared at her in confusion. "Well, we're in the time vortex. Technically outside of time. So how can it be morning? I mean, what relevance can the time of the day even have inside a time machine?"
"You just woke up didn't you? Sounds like morning to me."
"But you were up all night."
"I don't need as much sleep as you humans."
"So what you're saying is if I wasn't here, it wouldn't be the morning, would it?"
"And that's precisely why I keep you around, you're little more than a time piece," he was smiling at her affectionately. She returned the smile with unguarded ease.
"Thought so. So where are we headed?"
"You tell me," the Doctor said, indicating to the console, where their next trip was already punched in. Clara studied it with a careful eye. She had been taking a keen interest in the TARDIS controls recently and was always trying to gleam a little more about his strange, blue box. While Clara studied the controls, the Doctor studied her. Several months had past since she fearlessly jumped into his timeline, and he, in turn, had jumped in after her, and since then Clara was a little... different. The most obvious change was of residence. Allowing herself a week at home, she found a new caregiver for the Maitland children, and before he knew it she was back on the ship, toothbrush in one hand, 101 Places to See in the other, and the TARDIS key securely around her neck. With a little help from old friends they had manage to rewrite his tragic and fatal future on Trenzalore, and since then they'd been traveling together full-time, paying no heed to their former day of the week restriction. The Doctor knew it wasn't just the move that seemed to change things aboard the ship. Clara also seemed freer somehow. After experiencing thousands of lives, memories, families, deaths... the Doctor thought she would feel burdened, haunted even, but the opposite seemed to be true. Somehow, his Clara, the one who was always caring for others, was finally ready to take a little bit of time for herself. And him, of course. After saving his life all through space and time, he was still, very much, her responsibility. But then again, she was his. They would look after each other, that was just a given, and maybe that's why everything had become so easy.
The Doctor's train of thought was interrupted by Clara's voice, "We're going to the future, aren't we? Compared to my time, I mean." She looked up at him, a slight hesitation in her voice, still not completely certain if she was reading the controls correctly.
Her initial success gave her a little confidence and what followed was more of a statement than a question, "And the place is somewhere other than Earth."
Clara knew she was only gleaming the most superficial of information from the controls, but she couldn't help but feel a small sense of accomplishment at what she had picked up. Even with her only human (and let's face it, still rather sleepy) brain. She'd already had a shower and drank a cup and a half of coffee, how was it the Doctor could stand there and look so much more awake? "What do you do at night?"
"Night? I thought time of day was irrelevant in the time vortex."
"Well when I'm asleep, what do you do? Go off on other adventures?" She looked a little disappointed at the thought.
"Funny you should mention it. This time I was actually gardening."
"Gardening?" Clara repeated, a smirk settling onto her face.
"What?" the Doctor said defensively, "Gardening is cool."
She laughed, "I knew the TARDIS was bigger on the inside, I just didn't think it was the kind of ship to have a garden."
"Actually, it's got five, but that's not where I was," the Doctor was beaming with pride now, "would you like to see what I've been working on?"
"Is a cyberman silver? Let's go."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows and indicated to a knob directly in front of Clara. She pulled with with a wicked grin and felt solid ground materialize beneath the ship, accompanied by the familiar sound of the TARDIS landing. Clara glanced up at the Doctor, her face aglow with excitement and curiosity, but she knew better than to ask where they were. She'd get more that enough information eventually, but not before she stepped out and took a look around.
The term "garden" may have been a little misleading. What greeted Clara, and flooded her senses, was a jungle, but one unlike any jungle she had ever seen, for everything, the trees, shrubs, and vines, were all covered in the most magnificent flowers. "You couldn't have planted this," she said in wonder. "This is impossible."
"Well so are you, my Impossible Girl, but you don't see me complaining." She flash him a not-amused-look, but failed to prevent a smile from tugging at the corners of her lips. "And I did plant all of this. I just maybe gave it a few hundred years to mature before returning, that's all."
"It's beautiful," she said, running her hands gently over a vibrantly orange blossom. "Where are we?"
"The eighth planet in the Asuksa system. Used to be home to the Tsuri people, a warlike people, who'd managed to kill themselves all off a couple of decades before I arrived last night. You see the Tsuri people were the descendants of trees, not unlike the Forest of Cheem, and their deaths, and the subsequent decomposition, did create beautifully rich soil."
Clara had begun to move through their densely packed surroundings, but was still keen to learn all she could and called back to the Doctor over the trees, "Does anyone live here now?"
"Nope. It's been 254 years since the Tsuri went extinct (237 since I first planted my garden) and the whole system is uninhabited and rather remote. The most you'll find out here is a-" the Doctor stopped abruptly. He couldn't see Clara, but that wasn't what concerned him. What concerned him was that he could hear her heart beating rapidly in her chest. He ran in the direction she had headed, but only got two steps around a particularly larg tree when he saw them. Two figures, both tall and shabby looking. Both of them armed. The slightly shorter one held Clara in his arms, one hand locked over her mouth, the other holding a gun firmly to her head. The taller figure looked straight at the Doctor and his disrupter rifle followed his gaze. Sarmearian pirates, the only ones desperate enough to use this distant rock as a refuge. How could he be so thick to have forgotten that?
"Well lookie, here's the other one," the man holding Clara drawled. "You'd do well to put your hands up nice and slow, wouldn't want anything to happen to this little thing."
"She's pretty," the taller one said to his partner, while never taking his eyes off of the Doctor.
"If you hurt her-"
"Hurt her? Now why would we do that? We heard you talking before. She's not just pretty, she's 'impossible' and impossible always fetches a high price." Clara tried to struggle, but the man's grip was strong. "Well what are you waiting for?" he barked at his partner, "Scan her already."
The taller man did as he was told, all while keeping the rifle closely aimed on the Doctor.
"Just says she's human."
The shorter man was eying her skeptically, "Bit far from home, but nothing really impossible about that."
"You see," the Doctor said, trying to affect a light tone, "not worth very much at all. The impossible part is really just a pet name of sorts. Now if you'd just kindly lower your weapons, we'll be on our way."
The shorter one was eying the Doctor now and a cruel smile seemed to spread across his features, "She might not be special, but a pretty human can still make us a fair bit of coin."
The Doctor's eyes narrowed on the man, and his brain quickly flipped through all the possible escapes. The growing tension between them was broken by the second man, "Brother, brother," he seemed to be holding the scanner up in disbelief, "he's a Time Lord, an actual, living Time Lord. Can you imagine what he's worth?" In his excitement and greed he had also raised his weapon just off the mark.
The Doctor lunged forward in a flash. His hand raised to tear Clara from her captor if necessary. Which, as it turns out, it wasn't. For as soon as it was the Doctor who's life was on the line, Clara acted as she always did, she immediately went into action to save him. She bit her captor's hand and ran towards the Doctor, grabbing his outstretched arm and dragging him off into the jungle. They ran a fast, meandering path back to the TARDIS, weaving in and out of the trees to avoid the disrupter blasts the brothers aimed after them. "Leave it to pirates to ruin a perfectly good day. Did I ever tell you about the time my friends and I were trapped in a pirate ship?" the Doctor asked, as a branch a few inches above his head sustained a direct hit.
"I know you love to do both, but less talking, more running," Clara ordered. They were still hand in hand and were mere feet from the door, when Clara felt the Doctor crumble to the ground. She supported him over her shoulder as best as she could and quickly maneuvered him into the TARDIS. It took a great amount of effort to carefully lay him down beside the central console, and although everything in her was screaming to help him, she knew she had to get them out of danger first. She punched a quick sequence into the controls, the first sequence she had ever learned, and in a moment they had returned to the safety of the time vortex.
With that done Clara fell to her knees and began to examine the Doctor. As she fear, he had sustained a direct hit in the side. The heat of the blast had cauterized the wound, but there was no way for her to tell how deep it went or what the internal damage was. She placed her head on his chest, but pulled away in horror by the sounds that awaited her there. Only his right heart was beating, and the rhythm was as slow and laboured as his breathing. She held his face in her hands, "Doctor, stay with me."
"No where else I'd rather be," he managed to get out, but his eyes remained closed and all of the colour had drained from his face. Clara grabbed hold of his hand, but released it almost immediately because of the flash of heat that had erupted there. She stared down at his hands to confirm what she already suspected: they had begun to glow.
"No. Please, Doctor, don't do this."
"Time for a change. Everything changes," he spluttered, "you know this part better than most."
"But I don't want you to change," she said frantically. "I've seen all of your faces, every one, but you are my Doctor. If you regenerate now you'll be someone else, and this face... it'll be lost to me. I will never be able to see you again."
"I said that to someone once," his voice was far away now, she had to crouch down to hear it, "Can't change what's gonna happen... Geronimo." The golden light was spreading through his body and soon exploded with enough force to launch Clara across the room. She picked herself up as quickly as she could, and although her head was spinning, she worked her way over to where the Doctor was. Nothing could have prepared Clara for what she saw before her. Lying on the TARDIS floor, exactly where she had left the Doctor, was an infant with vibrantly ginger hair.