A/N We finally made it to the end. Thank you for reading! Let me know what you think of it.
Chapter 14 - Doctor Who?
The Great Wall of China is a series of stone and earthen fortifications built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire during the rule of successive dynasties. The Great Wall is the world's longest human-made structure, stretching over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles) from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west. It has been estimated that somewhere in the range of 2 to 3 million Chinese died as part of the centuries-long project of building the wall.*
"No wonder you never took me here," Clara said to herself, unconsciously holding the TARDIS key that hung around her neck, "we would have saved the day, rescued all the people and it never would have been built. Unless it's a fixed point." She let go of the key and shook her head as if to dislodge her own sentimentality. "Who knows, maybe it's alien and it's all a big lie." She hugged 101 Places to See to her chest and gazed out over the first place on its list: the Great Wall of China. She secured a smile on her face in the hopes that a real one would soon replace it, and began the climb. It take didn't long for Clara's delight to be genuine. She loved the feeling of the stone beneath her fingers as she ran her hands along the railing and the way she could look out over the wall and see it wind its way up and down mountain peaks in all directions. The cruelty and cunning of human ingenuity. She walked along those ancient stones and for the first time she really believed that she could do it, live the slow path. For didn't the world and all the marvelous people in it offer excitement, mystery, wrongs to set right, work to be done? There was a lifetime of possibilities here and she was off to see the first 101 places and then figure the rest of it out from there. She walked on until she reached a dead end marked with a 'Do Not Enter' sign on a large stone block.
"I thought this went on for miles," a woman next to Clara said in a rather thick American accent.
"4000, but they're still restoring some sections of it, so those areas are closed. Don't think they fancy tourists falling off. Wanna see?"
Clara climbed up on top of the block and offered the other woman her hand. The American looked around nervously before politely declining and walking back the other way. I guess no one ever told her 'Do Not Enter' was more of a suggestion. Clara used her new found height to gaze over at the empty section of the wall. It was in various states of disrepair, some sections were nearly complete while others had gaping holes in them, bypassed by uneven planks of wood. Chinese workplace safety having only come so far in the last two thousand years. No one was working on that section today, although Clara could make out a smattering of tools and equipment left behind. Clara took it all in, her eyes following the meandering path of ancient stone, until something caught her eye. Her hand instinctively went to her necklace. She was seeing things, she had to be. She blinked, shook her head, looked away and looked back. No matter what she did it was still there, a little blue box half a mile or so along the wall.
The path to the police box wasn't nearly as treacherous as it could have been. Clara was on one of the shorter sections of the Wall and at several locations it dipped down to just a few metres above the forest floor. It didn't take much to jump down and hike through the trees until she could climb up an equally short section on the damaged side. From there Clara simply watched her step. It was dangerous to be sure, but after everything she'd seen and done, after all those lives, it was hard to be afraid of stone, wood and heights. Besides, she could be walking on a cloud for all she cared. He was here. He'd come back. She couldn't remember ever being so happy.
When she reached the TARDIS she reached out and ran her hand over the wood. "I've missed you," she said softly, "stupid, wonderful box." She slipped the key off from around her neck and unlocked the door.
What a sight: purple coat and bow tie. Floppy hair and flailing limbs. Those big, sad eyes and that lovable, goofy grin. She could see it all. She could see him so clearly in her mind. All Clara wanted was for him to be standing there, but he wasn't. No one was; the control room was empty. Clara glance at the section below but didn't see a soul there either.
She walked out the door to take a look around and found him there leaning against the TARDIS: the older man from the video. "Took you long enough to get here. Guess it's not surprising that I'd work out your next step before you did, but honestly you apes can be thick sometimes."
Clara just stared at him dumbstruck, her usual witty reply nowhere to be found. The man, the Doctor, closed the distance between them and stared down at her from mere inches away. "Were you always this short? I mean look at you, you barely make it up to the windows. How did I not remember you this short?"
"You came back..." she managed to say at last. Her brain desperately trying to catch up, "Did you come back for me?"
The Doctor scoffed, "For you? You humans have an ego on you, I'll give you that. 400 years after Copernicus and Galileo and you still think the universe revolves around you. I can't tell you what a relief it has been to get away from this tiny little world and its insignificant people. I'm sure it hasn't been too long for you but I've been traveling for ages, and it is such a joy to do it unencumbered," he seemed to dismiss Clara with a wave of his hand and walked back in the TARDIS.
"Then why did you come back?"
The Doctor stopped at her words. He reached out and gripped the door frame, but he did not turn around to face her, "Something's different this time. I'm different. It's like there's a war inside my head and I'm not sure which side I'm suppose to be on. Some times I just can't quite remember..."
He went silent for a moment. Clara wanted to reach out for him, but she kept her hands at her side, uncertain what this Doctor would do. "Remember what?"
"Who I am." He turned around suddenly and bent down so they were at eye level, "But you, you know, don't you?"
"I always know," it was barely more than a whisper.
He stood up again, "Yes well, timelines and all that. Mostly an accident, but you're the only person who's seen all of me, even if in a very limited way. You seemed like a logical person to seek answers from."
Clara nodded, "Answers... I guess it always comes back to the same question: Doctor who?" she smiled at him, a small, weak smile, but it was a start.
"Indeed," in an instant he was inside the TARDIS, fiddling with the console, "Well come on if you're coming. No sense in staying here while we sort it all out."
Clara didn't move. She was waiting for something, although she wasn't quite sure what. Perhaps the Impossible.
"Come along, Clara," came that bright, familiar baritone. "You're letting in a draft." Her Doctor poked his head out the door in a way that made his fringe swing back and forth. He awkwardly tucked it back with long fingers. His body followed his head and there he stood in front of her looking down sympathetically. Those sad, old eyes, so incongruous in his young face. "I promised I'd show you the stars. My Impossible Girl." He placed his hand against her cheek and then he was gone. A phantom, a figment, her mind longing for a goodbye.
"Well, are you coming?" a harder voiced called from inside the TARDIS.
Clara took a look around at the cruelty and cunning of human ingenuity. At the way the landscape had been manufactured and had regrown. Change. The Doctor was change, she understood that better than most, and if he needed her help then she would give it gladly. Don't walk away. Thousands of life times and she never had. She wasn't about to start today. "I'm coming," she said as she closed the TARDIS door behind her.
*Quoted from greatwall-of-china .com
A/N Moffat's said the twelfth Doctor will be colder and harder to like. Thought I'd try my hand at that. Thanks again, all.