“Do you think about it?”
Her focus broken, the knife Me was holding slipped from her hands and – completely missing the intended vegetables - clanged noisily against the tabletop.
There was a silence for a moment, and Me stood there, blinking at the forsaken utensil.
Life in the TARDIS was…. Draining. It was fantastic, of course. The things they had seen could truly only be described as magical.
Nevertheless, running back and forth between cities, planets, realities…
“Damn.” Raking a hand through her hair, she winced as the action was met with resistance through far too many knots than what could be considered hygienic. She really needed a shower.
It was common for Clara and her to spend their down time in the lobby of the diner rather than the oftentimes unnervingly sterile control room. Indeed, before Clara and her figured out how to access the bed and bathrooms, they had spent almost a week sleeping in the lobby, sprawled out on top of the various booth chairs, and on one particular night - after getting almost no sleep in the previous 48 hours - was spent curled up behind the receptionist’s counter.
Her mind was slowing down, and she was beginning to crash after the adrenaline rush of today’s adventure, but she realised that Clara hadn’t spoken again since she dropped the knife. She must be waiting for a response… What did she say again?
“…What?” The silence emanating from the diner did not falter, but almost seemed to grow stronger.
Sluggishly, she turned, and the scene before her was so unlike everything she was used to, that she had to rub her eyes to confirm she wasn’t hallucinating. Clara was sat dead still at the booth positioned almost directly across from where Me had been cooking, and her eyes were… she couldn’t place the emotion. Was it anger? Fear?
Her hands were splayed out, tensed, on either side of the propped up pamphlet, and she seemed to be… Crying?
As she watched, the woman’s expression slowly transformed, from something so raw and exposed that Me almost felt like she was violating something just by standing there – all too suddenly into a blank slate.
Suddenly the girl straightened up, and swivelled around. “Ashildr.” Her shoulder was pressed against the back of the booth seat, and her legs were now dangling freely over the side.
It was if someone had slapped her in the face. “You know that’s not my name.”
Clara’s face was blank, and if Me didn’t know better she would say that this was a complete stranger to the Clara she was used to.
“You have a time machine.” She stated. “You have to have thought about it.”
Me was silent for another few moments, before sighing. “Clara, I know it’s been a long day, but you’re not making any sense.”
Clara’s gaze hardened, and Me’s eyes were drawn to the girl’s right hand, still laying out on the table. It was balled tightly into a fist, and she could see the girl’s knuckles almost breaking through skin.
“How long have you been alive, Me?”
“I’ve told you before, I don’t remember.”
Clara was stubbornly avoiding eye contact, staring down at what must have been one of the bar stools. “So, really old, yeah? Like, old enough?”
Me’s mouth twitched. “Old enough, y-“
“Old enough for enemies? For regrets?”
It was like the mood in the room was suddenly electrified. Me could feel her heart begin to race, and couldn’t help but feel guilty as the instinctive need to escape started to weigh down on her. She couldn’t be scared of Clara… Right?
Seeing that Me wasn’t going to respond, Clara pressed on, raising her eyes as if trying to search the girl’s expression for something.
“How can you stand it? Knowing that the power to change your life, maybe even others is right there?” Clara paused for a moment, and Me could finally place a name to the emotion that spread across her face. Desperation. “How have you not gone back?”
“…This is ridiculous.” Me finally murmured, turning away so she was facing the back of the diner, grasping the counter-top edge with her hands.
“What’s keeping you here? What’s stopping you from going back?” The pleading in Clara’s voice was growing stronger, and angrily incessant.
Me was silent.
“You can’t tell me you don’t have anything you want to change?” It was a last ditch push, but it was enough.
Me whipped around. “Avoiding eye contact.”
Clara jumped slightly, and Me could only marvel at how pathetic the girl’s attempt at composure was. “Excuse me!?”
“Closed in posture.” Me pointed to Clara’s left arm, which during the conversation had been inching it’s way closer and closer towards the girl’s chest, and was currently frozen a little ways away from Clara’s heart.
Me turned on her heel and started for the gate separating the server’s counter from the rest of the diner, still rattling off the apparently arbitrary actions.
“An unclear point or stance, wavering tone of voice, signs of aggression and or confusion…”
Clara’s eye twitched, though whether from annoyance or confusion was unclear.
Me arrived in front of the girl, sighed, and placed her hands on her hips. “Honestly Clara, you could not be further from telling the truth.”
Clara seemed to freeze up, staring at Me with wide doe-like eyes.
“And you couldn’t be closer to looking like a deer in the headlights.” Me sighed, collapsing down in the seat directly across from Clara, who remained staring blankly outwards.
Me leaned back against the cool felt, and waited.
It was like watching a computer load a request. A computer with intimidatingly dark bags under her eyes and a wobbling bottom lip…
How long had it taken Clara to start this conversation?
“See, before I was just worried about him, but now I’m just worried that you figured that out so quickly.” It was a weak joke, but Me smiled as Clara raised her hand to wipe her eyes, scooting around to face the girl again.
“If it’s any consolation, I doubt I could lie about the person I loved.”
Clara tiredly rolled her eyes, leaving Me snickering quietly to herself.
“It’s just... We spent all this time, telling everyone about rules and paradoxes, and then he just went and broke them. All of them, really. I mean, I can’t even imagine-“ Clara’s voice was trembling now, so Me decided to cut the girl some slack.
“But you thought another immortal could.” Me finished, slowly nodding as the previous events began to click into place.
“And you didn’t just ask me this… why?” It could’ve been construed as some sort of angry retort, but Me didn’t hold any animosity towards Clara, nor did she imagine she ever would. Their relationship was above that, and the two regularly acknowledged that if it hadn’t been, they would probably have killed each other eons ago.
“I thought you - well I assumed – that you would take offence.”
“I may not be about to spill my life story to you Clara, but not all immortals keep their cards as close to their chest as the Doctor.” Me replied with a wry smile, which grew as Clara sheepishly returned the gesture.
“To answer your question…” Me’s eyes flitted unseeingly about the room, her brow knitting together in thought.
“Death… Is a difficult concept for immortals, especially for Time Lords.” She slowly began.
“It’s undoubtedly a privilege, as it’s often what keeps humans so closely tied to reality. But when you go through millennia after millennia of loved ones, it begins to appear as an evolutionary weakness.” Her eyes shifted back to Clara, who was now leaning forwards, intently listening.
“Your death…” Me paused, wondering if in her currently unstable state Clara would react badly, but relaxed as the woman smiled softly and gestured for her to continue.
“Your death was really just the straw that broke the camel’s back. In fact it’s unlikely that this is the first time that he has lashed out in such a way.”
“But why would he do all that? Even if he-“ She flushed slightly under Me’s knowing stare, and awkwardly waved her hands for a moment. “That still doesn’t justify four billion years, and then to kill a man?”
Me hummed softly, tapping the table gently with her index finger. “The Doctor is… To do him quite an injustice, emotionally stupid. He gets stuck between logic and emotions far too regularly, which is where people like you come in to help, and guide him along the middle road.”
“Saving you was as close as he could ever truly get to being emotionally smart. He broke very few rules, if you look at the grand scheme of things, and was actually able to conjure up a reason to why saving you was so necessary.”
“But that doesn’t change the fact that he still attempted to change a fixed event.” Clara frowned.
Me tilted her head to the side thoughtfully, conceding the point.
“When you live like The Doctor, you begin to view the universe very particularly. It becomes a give or take situation. In his case, ‘I will refrain from telling the Time Lords about The Hybrid, and that means I am entitled to save Clara Oswald’.”
Clara seemed oddly struck by this, but before she could say anything, Me leaned forward and struck Clara with a fierce stare.
“But that’s where he goes wrong. What the Universe ‘gives’ to us, is life. It gives us the choice to exist, and no matter what happens to us we were alive. The Universe has to care. Otherwise life itself would not exist.” Clara was staring at her, unblinkingly, and Me pressed on, determined to help the other woman understand.
“Living on Earth, I used to see it as a chore. The futility of everyday existence bored me to death, and when people began to die, I saw it as my curse, that I was doomed to watch everyone crumble to the ground while I stood in their remains. But that’s not it at all. Humanity isn’t boring. It’s magical.”
“For a tiny speck to look into the depths of the universe and see how insignificant it all is, and then proclaim that they are going to be happy? It’s beautiful.”
“The fact that it ends is what makes it so important. Life without death is life without meaning, a dull blur that makes it easy to forget simple things like happiness.”
“The Doctor finds it hard to recognise this. It’s an ongoing problem with his type, really, that view themselves as so all encompassing. It’s difficult for them to comprehend that humans can be happy with what seems so unfair to them. You were happy with your life, and he couldn’t understand that someone who died so young could ever be satisfied.”
Me smiled wistfully. “It’s the same thing he did for me, really.” She glanced down at the table for a moment, and looked back up at Clara, taking in her blotchy cheeks and red eyes.
“And you, Clara Oswald, managed to change him.”
At this, Clara started, shooting backwards so her back was parallel to the seat back. “Hold on, what?”
Me couldn’t help it, she grinned. “You two meant so much to each other. You rightfully should have never been separated. But you were… And, despite what you may think, most people wouldn’t let go of a chance like that. And you two were fighting about how to let go of each other!”
“And yes, his plan was fundamentally wrong. But you managed to fix it for the both of you, and he knows that now, even if he remembers nothing else. That’s amazing, Clara.”
Clara silently sunk back into the chair, and Me silently watched as the girl seemed to retreat inwards. Her eyes were darting around, but it was as if she was no longer in the room with Me, but somewhere far away that perhaps only she knew about…
Me was happy to let the girl take a break from what must’ve been a highly emotionally taxing topic, but after a minute had passed with barely a sound made, she gently continued.
“I don’t want to rewrite anything, Clara, because I can’t imagine a second of anyone’s life that I would want to change, and The Doctor loved you so much, that you could convince him of the same thing.”
The silence stretched out some more, and Me was beginning to wonder if she would have to resuscitate the poor girl, when finally Clara opened her mouth.
“Are…” The girl seemed to come out of a trance, blinking rapidly and staring up at Me.
“Are you still making that?” She nodded in the direction of the chopping board.
Me laughed. She couldn’t help it. Of all the responses…
“Nah, I think at least one of us deserves a nice meal out.” She winked, standing up and striding out into the open.
She paused for a moment, making a show of pushing her hair behind her ears, waiting…
There was a slight whoomph, followed by the soft tapping of shoes, and Me grinned, bolting for the control room.
Clara would be okay.