souffle_girlek: (O Not convinced)
Oswin is not really up for 'socializing'.

And she didn't want to report that she spent her day (sensibly) in her rooms either, because then she has to talk about it, and she doesn't want to talk about it.

Really not.

So she's in the garage, deconstructing a car's engine (mostly with skill, sort of with brute force and mechanical aid). It's active, it's not in her rooms, and she can threaten anyone she feels threatened by with the electric drill.

It's a win-win, really.
souffle_girlek: (O Poor life choices)
She knows it's late, but it's important, and...

Oswin pauses in front of the unfamiliar door, hand raised, and reconsiders.

It's very late. Or rather, very early. She shouldn't be a bother. She turns to go - she'll discuss this tomorrow.

Really.




No, she won't, and really, she ought to just... go talk about it. She turns on her heel again and marches up to the door and knocks on it, sharply.

And again, because she suspects she didn't knock loud enough the first time, that was rather hesitant.

...

And maybe again, it has been a while, maybe she's... out?
souffle_girlek: (D Time to be a little bit badass)
Oswin reminds herself, firmly, that she agreed to this.

She agreed to meet a doctor (not a Doctor) and talk. She agreed to come at a specific time to do this.

And a specific place.

And her pride kept her from saying that really, she'd rather walk over hot coals than go back into the infirmary if at all possible.

So Oswin arrives at Alana Bloom's new office looking more like an inmate facing execution than someone looking for help.

Actually, inmates probably look more relaxed. Any more tightly wound, and she'll fly apart in bits.
souffle_girlek: (D Just makin' souffles)
Early in the morning, before most of the bar is awake, a tiny time traveler visits the kitchen. She would stay at home for a late-night snack, usually, but...

Well.

Ace already knows way too much about the Wells' romantic life, and about one picosecond downstairs at the farm let her know that sticking around would only teach her more. And since Bar was getting a break in the quiet hours of the night, Ace decides to fetch a snack herself. It's really too bad she left her current project on top of the microwave when she left.

=========================================================================

"Well, you see, it's not as easy as going 'yay, souffle'... well, actually, that's pretty much the whole plan, but you have to make it a flavor first, and there's all sorts of flavors." Oswin explain, her nerves translating to babble as she leads them into the kitchen.

Mock-up

Jan. 25th, 2015 12:13 am
souffle_girlek: (D Just makin' souffles)
So here's Oswin, making souffles like the awesome souffle-maker she is.
souffle_girlek: (O I... see)
Oswin has a routine. A routine is good - it keeps her from having to think too much, and right now, thinking too much is a problem.

Right now, in her routine, it's time to make tea.

Involved tea. The most elaborate, time-consuming tea making she can devise.

Bother.
souffle_girlek: (O On Alert)
Clara has decided that at some point she lost any and all ability to control the weird factor in her life. She has also decided that if the kids ever decide to blackmail her again, she'll handle it herself. Handling it herself this time would have meant she wouldn't be leading two sort-of-like-INTERPOL-but-not James Bond types through the door of a pub that shouldn't even exist into a comical castle full of easily-cowed soldiers who were setting up defenses against rather scary child-napping alien robots.

Yet somehow, this is her life right now. At least it isn't chilly out.

"Ma'am!" Annnnd they've been spotted. It's showtime, boys and girls.
souffle_girlek: (O I... see)
Clara Oswald feels that the correct number of times you should wake up in a bed you don't remember getting into, provided there isn't an outrageous party the night before, should be zero.

Tragically, she realizes, as she stares up at the ceiling blearily, she's up to two. Honestly. This is a sign she has a problem.

And then she hears the low hum of voices in the other room, and realizes she may have an even bigger problem than unfamiliar beds. After a quick check of her surroundings (clothes: on, complete lack of jammie dodgers, no kids, no cybermen, planet not blown up, still wearing space Roman jewelry) she decides it's time to sort out the mystery of why she's in bed without explanation this time. At least she won't have to go far to ask.

Perhaps the two SHIELD agents could be polite and pretend she was kinda sneaky as she peers around the doorframe?
souffle_girlek: (O Augh)
She stumbles a little upon entry, the floor just that far enough lower than she was expecting to throw off her balance. By the time she's got her feet underneath her and is no longer at risk of twisting her ankles, the door has closed.

Emphatically.

Clara is equally emphatically not happy about this.

"NO! This is not what he meant by somewhere defensible, let me through, you cow!" She rails as she hauls on the door handle frantically.
souffle_girlek: (VSmirk)
Lydia, feeling horribly run down (she just knows it is because she has been made to fetch her older sisters from their own pursuits for dinner, honestly, she is worked like a slave), is languishing prettily on the couch, idly twirling one of her ribbons.

Oh yes - she's found ribbons, and a rather smart dress, all in her wardrobe - even if she did have to put it on herself, honestly, the serving girls get lazier every year.
souffle_girlek: (Default)
She is being emotionally blackmailed by a pair of teenagers. She is, it is horrible, and what's worse, they are getting away with it. They could at least attempt to not look smug, really, it would be kind to her feelings.

She thought though - she thought, well, he's an impossibly old and intelligent alien (who happens to like having human friends, it's odd). He's impossibly old and impossibly bright (usually) and while she has managed to be blackmailed by a pair of teenaged hooligans surely he will be able to stand his ground.

If anything, he caved faster than she did - sure, he'd made his 'cat in a twee bonnet' face, and he'd made a few minutes of sulky protests, but then he'd produced a ticket from somewhere in his pockets and announced that they were going to go on a spacy zoomba (whatever one of those was), and it was all over after that. Angie and Arty had looked properly smug after that - she's never going to hear the end of this.

She was so disappointed. And she's hoping, desperately, that for once they can have a nice quiet outing.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Well, here we are! Hedgewick's World, the biggest and best amusement park that will ever be, and we've got a golden ticket!" The Doctor cheers, hopping out of his ship onto a planet that looks remarkably like the moon - grey dust and American flag and all. The kids (little brats that they are) notice this, and comment. She stands back and lets them do it, because really, he's the one that brought them along, he should have to put up with their grief even if she can spot a power cable and a huge 'spacey zoomba' sign that evidently they've both missed. But it's good - they're where they're supposed to be, and they can do this spacey zoomba thing, and get the ice cream the ticket promises, and then they can go home, and it will all be fine.

And then life gets weird. She shouldn't be surprised - first by the guy in the top hat asking if they're his ride off-planet, then by the platoon of soldiers that come looking like something out of a bad sci-fi and sounding like something out of historical piece on Romans. She at least isn't surprised when they follow the guy with the top hat even when finding out that the planet has been abandoned on the whole and any sane person would be running as fast as possible.

Perhaps it's a sign how badly her own sanity has been effected that she doesn't run either.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hide, pt 2

Jan. 3rd, 2014 08:05 pm
souffle_girlek: (Default)
She was still thoroughly rattled when they got back to the manor house, back to the worried empath and the determined ex-spy and their muddled love story. Of course, her distraction did not go unnoticed.
"What's wrong?" Emma asked lowly, concern writ large across her face. Clara, usually able to match even the Doctor word for word in volume suddenly found she didn't have the words for this.
"I just saw something I wish I hadn't." What with the ghosts and demons about, that should be vague and off-putting enough, right?
"What did you see?" Evidently, she wasn't quite vague enough. She got the feeling that she wasn't going to be able to just blow Emma off, so she gives at least part of the right answer.
"That everything ends."
"No, not everything." Emma looks past her, to the Major, and her expression turns longing. "Not love. Not always."

Clara was saved from having to come up with an answer to that by the Doctor's excited babble - he was finally ready to share what he had learned.

And what a story it was - first, there was no ghost at all - but there was a girl, a girl from the future who had crash-landed near here, but not near here at all. She was in a pocket universe, whatever that might be, here but not here, and as fractions of seconds went by there, centuries went by here, explaining why the girl never changed in all in any of the photos.

Of course, he had a plan to save her. That's just the way things worked around him.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They had set up... well. To be honest. She's not sure what they have set up here. It seems to involve a lot of cables, and wires, and clocks, and the Doctor going 'no not there, are you mad?' and then him moving said whatever thing a millimeter to the left. But once he was satisfied, he set Emma in the middle of it, and placed the most bizarre looking crown on her head, one with a giant blue stone that glowed with an eerie light it shouldn't have.

Hide

Nov. 18th, 2013 09:33 pm
souffle_girlek: (O Ghost stories)
He said it would be cool. He says a lot of things are cool (and to be honest, usually he's right), but being out in the English countryside in the dead of night during a horrible storm isn't exactly fun, is it?

However, there was a manor up ahead, and the Doctor was rambling (not new) about ghosts (definitely new) and... well. With him, there might actually be ghosts, and she's beginning to regret a bit being so definite in her stated belief that there are no such thing as ghosts.

She hadn't expected him to rush out to prove their existence. He knew of a haunted manor, he said. One that not even birds would fly over, because of the persistence of these hauntings. She'd scoffed, and he'd taken it as a challenge.

Inside the grand manor they find only two people - older man (Major, part of the second World War) and a younger woman (a psychic empath, whatever that is), could look deliciously suspicious if it wasn't for her sober and serious expression and his almost nervous reserve, and Clara will admit that she's a tad bit disappointed that they're in the Seventies and no one has go-go boots. Frankly, she's gotten to the point where she knows to just sit back and watch the Doctor run circles around people, no matter what their objections are.

Though one objection is rather interesting.

"I will not have my work stolen, then be fobbed off with a pat on the back and a letter from the Queen. Never again." He has a nice accent, Clara decides, as they follow the Doctor, hustling down a corridor. "This is my house, Doctor, and it belongs to me."
"This is actually your house?" Clara interjects, before the Doctor can change the subject (again).
"It is." He sounds... almost uncertainly proud of the fact.
"Sorry... you went to the bank and said 'you know that gigantic old haunted house on the moors? The one the dossers are too scared to doss in? The one the birds are too scared to fly over?' And then you said 'I'd like to buy it please, with my money.'?"

Turns out he did, which is both impressive and completely balmy. The story that he tells them now that the Doctor has utterly ignored all their objections is equally balmy - all about a ghost that's been around since there has been people, one that never seems to change, one that there's actual photos of, on that evidently likes psychics and is accompanied by a knocking devil.

She'd be less freaked out if the Doctor didn't seem to believe every word. She has to remind herself - she doesn't believe in ghosts. They can all be as spun-up as they like, she will remain calm.

She nearly jumps out of her skin when he taps the back of her head to catch her attention.
"You coming?" His voice is low, as if he could somehow avoid being overheard in this small space. She found herself answering in the same pitch anyway, because that's kind of what he did to people.
"Where?"
"To find the ghost!"
"... Why would I want to do that?" Even if there was a ghost, which there isn't, because there are no ghosts, this one doesn't exactly sound like Casper.
"Because you want to. Come on." And he turns and goes, taking her following as given.
"Well, I dispute that assertion." She hisses after him, holding her ground.
"Eh? I'm giving you a face. Can you see me? Look at my face." It is certainly a pleading face, and she finds herself following, despite herself. Despite the talk of screaming ghosts that unnerved soldiers and priests, the one that has actually showed up on photographs.
"Dare me." She instructs him, staring out into the dark hallway.
"I dare you." He replies without having to ask the whys of it. "No takesies backsies."
She takes his candelabra instead, and marches out into the dark.

***

They go to the music room (the heart of the house), and everything starts to go a bit... wrong. This is the bit of the horror movies she hates, the creeping around, hairs on the back your neck going all prickly, fear with nothing to focus on. There's cold spots and odd creaks and she finds that suddenly, all of the fun has gone out of the situation - she isn't happy. And then the Doctor runs off, leaving her to trail after like every horror movie heroine ever.

She catches him in the hallway, just as something crashes into something else below, making an ungodly noise. Then her candles flicker out, and frost forms on the windows, and the Doctor fails at being reassuring because he's fluttering around the corridor as if enough frenetic movement will explain the whole situation.
"Oookay, what is that?" She demands, proud of how her voice doesn't shake. Much.
"It's a very loud noise. It's a very loud, very angry noise." He replies with extra flutter to his hand gestures, trying to casually lean against the wall and failing miserably.
"What's making it?"
"I don't know. Are you making it?" He demands, but before she can get properly outraged, the crashing resumes, and he scurries to her side, abandoning his attempt at cool. The grip on her hand is nearly crushing.
"Doctor?"
"Yes?"
"I may be a teeny, tiny bit terrified. But I'm still a grownup." She points out, and seriously, the floor is rattling when that crashing rings out.
"Mainly, yes, and?"
"There's no need to actually hold my hand."
"... Clara."
"Yes?"
"I'm not holding your hand." He holds up both unoccupied hands, and lightening crashes behind them, and there's a something in the corridor behind them, and...
She's not ashamed to admit it, she's the one to break and run first, but she'll just as happily point out that he beat her back to the light and warmth of downstairs by a mile. Not that things are any better down there - there's an actual ghost and writing on the wall and everything, and frankly, she doesn't want to hunt ghosts anymore.

So she's not exactly protesting when the Doctor suddenly announces that he needs to go get something, steals the Major's camera, and hares off into the night. She just makes sure to snag her umbrella on the way out the door, because it's still coming down in buckets outside. Of course, it's a little bit of out of the frying pan, into the fire. She could swear the TARDIS doesn't like her. It's just a feeling, but... of course the Doctor isn't helpful at all. He assures her that she's imagining things, that the ship is like a cat and needs time to warm up, that it's all her fault anyway for letting her umbrella drip on the floor. Doesn't do anything for the creeping unease.

***

It doesn't take her long to find out what his plan is - he plans on taking pictures, of this place, throughout time (does that mean he's an empath? Or the TARDIS is? Or she is?). He doesn't invite her outside for most of the shots - the land outside is too hot or too toxic or too... weird for quite a lot of it, which is odd, she's fairly sure it's odd, because it's also where there's a grand old manor house with two of the most adorably awkward not-lovers she's ever met.

As she watches him get the last shot, the feeling of unease conglomerates into a thought, a cold nasty chilly thought that has her blinking back tears. Of course, because it's her luck, he catches her at it as he comes back inside.
"Oh." He pauses, awkwardly, before charging forward, just as intent on fixing this as everything else. "What's wrong? Did the TARDIS say something to you? Are you being mean?" The last bit is addressed to the ship, as he slaps the control panel with his gloves, lightly.
"No, it's not that. Have we just watched the entire life cycle of Earth, birth to death?" She asks, because telling him that yes, his ship is a bit freaky (again) isn't going to answer her more important question.
"Yes." he's giving her a sidelong look, unsure and awkward.
"And you're okay with that?"
"Yes." He's very clearly confining himself to one-word answers here, which
she's found isn't a good sign.
"How can you be?"
"The TARDIS, she's time. Wibbly vortex and so on." He explains haltingly, with the wrong end of the stick and evidently knowing it, somehow.
"That's not what I mean."
"Okay, some help. Context? Cheat sheet? Something?" There's a sense of little boy and uncomfortable professor all rolled up in one in his expression, something that makes her want to answer. Confounding man.
"I mean, one minute you're in 1974 looking for ghosts, but all you have to do is open your eyes and talk to whoever's standing there. To you, I haven't been born yet, and to you I've been dead one hundred billion years." And the idea of that is just... freaky. "Is my body out there somewhere, in the ground?" He doesn't look at her when he answers. In fact, he starts walking away.
"Yes, I suppose it is."
"But here we are, talking. So I am a ghost. To you, I'm a ghost. We're all ghosts to you. We must be nothing." That makes him turn, staring at her with wide eyes and an expression she doesn't know how to read.
"No. No. You're not that."
"Then what are we? What can we possibly be?"
"You are the only mystery worth solving."
souffle_girlek: (D You must be joking)
Oswin didn't get far once she and Autor returned to the bar - the doctor she'd seen before had spotted her almost before she could properly get into the infirmary. His plaintive grousing about how he'd just set everything to rights, couldn't she stay uninjured for just a little while, just for him is very distracting - the upper registers of her hearing return almost before she can set herself up to be properly worried about the exam.

The concussion, on the other hand, earns her a stay overnight, and no amount of pleading or nerves will get her out of it. He gives her an option - she can have pain medication and can sleep on her own terms in a quiet section of the infirmary, or he can sedate her now and keep her under constant machine surveillance. Either way, unconsciousness and staying in the infirmary are things that are going to happen here.

She chooses option 'a', after asking one of the rats to leave a note with Bar for anyone who might be looking for her.

So now Oswin (having commandeered a fair number of blankets) is making a somewhat half-assed attempt at reading to pass the time. Mostly she's staring at her book (Pride and Prejudice, if there was ever a time for Fitzwilliam Darcy, this is it), and occasionally making it far enough to turn a page.
souffle_girlek: (D Rebuilding the barriers)
She spends the time Clint's dealing with... medical professionals entrenched in one of the comfy chairs by the fire, working on hearing aid schematics. She doesn't even know yet if they'll be needed, but if they are, he should have better ones. And the technical aspects are distracting from thoughts of rescues that are too late and big sharp talons and the noise a body makes when it's dragged behind a car. When he returns, she has a grin ready for his good prognosis, though it's a bit bittersweet - now there's absolutely no reason for her to avoid a checkup of her own.

Drat.

But he suggests a movie night rather than dragging her over to the infirmary, and she seizes her reprieve with both hands. 'Jurassic Park' is vetoed by both parties, as is 'Sharknado', 'Godzilla', and 'Bride of Godzilla'.

"That's a thing?"

"Yeah. Pretty popular, actually."

"... I worry about your time, really."

They finally decide on 'Princess Bride', amongst others (she's a bit dubious about the choice, but is willing to reserve judgement). There's a room going spare, evidently, and they go there with movies and beer and food that goes good with beer, and Oswin can't argue against this plan - she'd never ever say that she's afraid to be alone, but it's going to be a while before normal background noises don't make her jump like a startled hare.

The movies aren't bad (and actually, she rather likes Princess Bride), the food is good, the beer is awesome, and the company keeps her from backing into a corner and turning out all the lights. She's expecting to be the last one standing - sleep has come with difficulty lately. Somehow, though, she is the one waking up in a bed she doesn't remember going to, with the blanket from the couch draped over her, while she can hear the television muttering away to itself in the other room.

-------------------------------------------------------

The next morning, she's thinking up reasons to avoid going anywhere near the doctor as she gets ready, with her music playing in the background.

And that's when she realizes.

She can't hear the high notes of the aria.

They just... disappear, at a certain point, even though she knows there should be music there. She tries turning it up, but it doesn't seem to help. That rattles her down to her bones, and she comes along quietly.

---------------------------------------------------------

She'll admit to being impressed by the medical wing, despite herself. Someone's put effort into making it welcoming (or at least not actively scary). The doctor (not Him, though she imagines that it could be) that Clint has found seems almost modern to her sensibilities, and friendly enough. He greets Clint by name, asking a few follow-up questions about the work done yesterday - not-so-subtly giving her time to relax and acclimate to her surroundings. She isn't sure if Clint said anything about her reluctance to come, but she imagines her discomfort is pretty clear, despite her attempts to seem nonchalant.

The actual exam is a disaster. She manages through the initial questions - the doctor is clearly doing his best to seem non-threatening, and seems to have a preternatural sense of when he's treading too close to topics that she just can't talk about comfortably. Then the actual exam comes. She manages to hold still for about... she'll be generous, and estimate two seconds. Maybe even three. She eyes the doctor with worry (and, let's be honest, panicked fear), but before she can try to explain, he calls Clint back over before starting the exam over again. She feels sort-of bad about tensing every time she can't see what he's doing, but that doesn't stop her from doing it. She's going to be forever grateful to Clint for staying - maybe it seems a bit juvenile, needing someone to hold her hand. But it keeps her from running, and that's what's important. She needs her music back.

But when, at the end, he broaches the idea of perhaps seeing someone, professionally, about what's making her so nervous -- well, there's got to be limits somewhere. Nothing can stop her from making the world's most idiotic excuses and bolting.
souffle_girlek: (Default)
She's chasing him around the control room again. She is beginning to wonder if it is actually possible to keep this man still.

"Anywhere in time, and you want to go to Las Vegas?" He manages to make it sound like she's goading him with a knife when he says that, but she's relentless. He did ask what she wanted.

"You said anything, and I say Frank Sinatra, in Vegas - we're getting a nice supper, and then you're going to teach me to play roulette."

He makes the 'twee bonnet' face again.

"Don't even say you don't know how to gamble, I don't believe it." She declares, crossing her arms defiantly.

They stare at each other for a long moment.

"Well, you're not going like that, wardrobe room is upstairs, two lefts, right, next to the swimming pool."

=================================================================================

He throws the door open with a flourish.
"VIVA LAS VEGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" The Doctor goes tumbling forward, and she goes after him, her balance lost since she had been trying to peer over his shoulder (somewhat unsuccessfully). Instead of a swank casino or hot desert scene, she's falling into ice-cold salty water and alarms and a dimly lit room and male voices calling out in alarm from all sides.
souffle_girlek: (D Eggs Stir Mix Bake)
"Are you really going to eat all of that?" Oswin asks, her chin propped on the heel of her palm as she leans on the bar, her feet neatly tucked into the barstool's rungs. "I did tell you I put entirely too much sugar into the filling."
"I don't think you did." Clint disagrees, mashing together pie and ice cream with his fork, "It tastes fine, honestly. " From Oswin's expression she still clearly feels she is being humored, but is letting him get away with it... for now. It has been entirely too long since she's seen him (says her - it's only been one relatively short mission since he was last in the bar for him), so she evidently doesn't feel much up to quarreling over pie. She just won't have any, thanks very much, one of them has to not suffer a sugar crash later.
It's just a normal afternoon in the bar at the end of the universe - there's a vampire sulking in the corner, a mutant child is attempting to pet the fire fish, three separate wizards from three separate universes are having an argument about who's Merlin was the craziest, there's a potato where one might reasonably expect a fire extinguisher and the bra over the bar is as yellow and polka-dotted as ever. He has a new scar, the trailing edge of which shows under the edge of his sleeve when he moves. She has a new rash from the pavement - she went from driving cars to driving motorcycles at a somewhat alarming pace - he's dreading the day he'll come in and find her pulling wheelies in the main bar. When he found her today, Clint discovered a somewhat despondant Oswin staring balefully at what appeared to be a beautifully baked apple pie, and was treated to a somewhat overly dramatic retelling of 'The Case of the Accidentally Doubled Sugar' which he's pretty sure is inaccurate because if anything, the pie is a little too tart. Not that he's going to tell her that, more ice cream fixes all baking woes.
He suspects, a little, that somehow baking (and baking failures) are tied to whatever happened to her before she came here - when there are true kitchen disasters, she gets as quiet and easily startled as a doe in hunting season. She somehow set off the fire alarms he didn't even know this place had a few months back, and he found her hiding under one of the kitchen counters. Clint isn't sure how he can help (or if he can at all - he suggested, once, something about a doctor and for a moment she'd gotten that deer-in-headlights look again, before muttering something about how that'd gone so well last time and then proceeding to do something horrible to the engine of the car he'd been teaching her how to drive).
He's fishing another slice of pie out of the pan, and she's 'stealing' the crust - it's a good crust to steal, that's something he hasn't seen her destroy yet. She seems to be in better spirits now that he's shown something more than polite interest, and he's musing attempting to find a car that will get her away from the motorcycles for a while, when suddenly the sound system overhead fizzes, spitting out scattered white noise and scraps of songs, accompanied by complaining up and down the bar about the noise. Clint is squinting up at the sound system and wondering what new drama this place is cooking up when the a voice, a harsh electronic voice echos over the system.
The next moment happens almost too fast to recall. There's a silver flash, and his mind registers the angle and quickness of it but his hands are already moving, The tines of the fork barely touch his skin but the intent is there. The gasp from her seems to come too soon - does come too soon, the sharp sob as if she were stabbed comes before her the bones of her wrist comes apart in his hands.
The previously interrupted song resumes, and Oswin is staring blankly at his hands on her wrist, not attempting to pull away, not attempting to attack, not attempting... really anything. She is normally so animated that her current blank stillness is more alarming than the angle of her wrist.
"Oswin?" He makes his voice gentle, "Come on sweetheart, talk to me." The Bar supplies an ACE bandage and sling without prompting, and the awareness he's looking for doesn't filter into her eyes until he's almost finished. It's painfully visible when she becomes cognizant of the world outside of her own head again. As much as he's glad she's back, he can wish for her sake that she hadn't - he's heard that nauseous, choking sound before, and it's never a sign of a good mental state.
souffle_girlek: (O This time and all the other times)
She knows he didn't really just leave. Or rather, he did, but he's come back, where she can't see him, like some sort of tweedy ninja. After all, he had her book, she left it in his... TARDIS (or snog box, hard to say), but it's sitting out on the kitchen counter when she comes down for a late night cuppa. It's a bit strange, and a little unnerving - she didn't even suspect he was around - but still. It's nice, that he gave back her book without prompting. Still a little annoying that he took it without asking, but... it all worked out. The leaf is still there, which is important.

She spends all night trying to work out what she's going to say, and going to do. It's almost one of those too-good-to-be-true situations, where she can have everything she wants without any of the downsides. There has to be a catch, right? Something horrible, to go along with all that good?

If there is, she can't see it. Other than the fact he's a bit of a book thief. A polite one, who lets you know he's done it and returns the books in perfect condition.

She can hear when his ship lands, and she waits on the stairs, like a kid listening for reindeer at Christmas.

And then there's the doorbell ringing like someone's leaning against it, and someone is - an alien in tweed with that silly nervous-teenager grin that goes straight to his eyes the moment he sees her and figures out there's never been any answer other than 'yes'.

=========================================================================================

"So, we're moving through, actual time?" They're flying, flying away in his ship, she can feel the floor vibrating under her feet, and she has come to the realization that she hasn't the foggiest how it's being done. "So what's it made of? Time? I mean, if you can run right through it, it's got to be made of stuff, like jam's made of strawberries, so what's it made of?" The affronted face is back, and the Doctor draws himself up from where he was leaning against the console.

"Well not strawberries, no, nonono, that would be unacceptable." He stalks to the other side of the console - she circles in the other direction to catch him, because there's so many questions, and he never seems to get tired of answering them.

"And we can go anywhere?"

"Within reason. Well, I say reason..." Well, that's promising, isn't it?

"So we could go backwards in time?"

"And space."

"And forwards in time?"

"And space, Totally. So! Where do you want to go, eh? What do you want to see?" His expression is one of utter glee and she's not sure who's having more of a Christmas-morning-and-Santa-Claus-came-and-brought-a-pony moment - her, or him.

"... I.... dunno." Because when faced with the totality of time and space, she can't think of... anything. "Do y'know when someone asks your favorite book and straightaway you forget every single book you've ever read?"

"No, totally not." He looks utterly baffled by this concept, leaving her flat-footed.

"Well. It's a thing. That... happens." Does it not happen to him because he's an alien? Or because he's super-smart and never forgets anything? Or is it a thing that only happens to her? She hopes it's not the last one.

"And? Back to the question?" The glee on his face hasn't worn off, so clearly she gets another crack at this.

"And. So... So. Soooo." She's stalling for time, because she still can't think of a single thing, because this has to be perfect, right? Best thing in the universe, she's finally getting to start on her list and she has to start it with a bang. "So. I'd like to see, I would like to seeeee, what I would like to see is..." She turns and beams at him, finally having the answer in hand. "Something awesome."

And they're off, and it's Christmas.

=======================================================================================

She is standing on an asteroid. An asteroid in an asteroid field circling a dark red sun, an asteroid field with seven planets nearby and a golden pyramid where the locals believe all life began in the universe.

This is definitely awesome.

And then it gets better.

======================================================================================

They land again, and he practically races off the ship, dragging her along helter-skelter into the middle of a marketplace unlike any she's ever seen - everything is alien, the colors, the smells (oh lord, the smells) the sounds, the people. She'd be afraid of being thought an idiot for giggling with excitement but he's just as excited by everything as she is. She'd also worry about seeming like a bit of an idiot for dashing about trying to see everything, except he's doing that too, so really it's just best to dash along in his wake, trying alien fruits and dodging alien... aliens. Though there's some things that are odd (besides Doreen the barking alien) - objects of 'worth' are money here, the Doctor has a granddaughter, there may or may not be hallucinogenic fruit...

And then she turns about, and she's alone. He's gone and wandered off, leaving her in the middle of this market, and lord, she thought she was bad about keeping track of people. She's so busy looking for the tweedy ninja that she runs smack-dab into a small girl, all in red robes, and the poor thing looks utterly terrified.

"Hey..." She tries to look reassuring - though whether that'd be reassuring to the girl, who looks more human than most here but with her luck is probably the farthest from it, is anyone's guess. "You okay?"

The girl gives her one wide-eyed stare and bolts down a passageway as if all the hounds of hell were behind her.

Slightly unsurprisingly, two dour-faced men in similar robes (also bizarrely humanish, and it's saying a lot if she thinks human looks bizarre, here) run into her next.

"Have you seen her?" One demands, clearly used to being in command and obeyed.

"Who?"

"The Queen of Years."

"... Who?" She must look as baffled as she sounds, because the two robed men share a look like she is the most hopelessly simple creature they've ever had the displeasure of encountering, and rush past her. Of course, she does strongly suspect that this Queen of Years just might be a frightened little girl, but she's not about to tell them that.

Well. The Doctor is just going to have to practice his tweed ninja act without an audience. She has a frightened girl to find.

=================================================================================

It doesn't take long to find her - after watching Angie and Artie for a year, she has a fairly good idea what makes a good hiding place for children, and it seems that children are children the universe-over.

What she finds is a remarkably intelligent little girl, who (like Angie for her school play) is nervous about getting a song wrong for a ceremony she's supposed to be part of. Of course, there's some seriously creepy people looking for this girl, and she may have judged Robed Guy One and Robed Guy Two a little harshly - they just looked like officials, these... things look like something out of a nightmare. But evidently TARDISes (even ones that won't let you inside) make good hiding places from frightening things, so they stay there for a while. And it seems to do some good - she tells the girl - Merry Galel - about her own fears when she was little, of getting lost, and when she actually did get lost, and being found again, and a promise her mum made a long time ago. It's a rather more confident little girl that she returns to Robed Guys One and Two (without so much a word of thanks).

That's when her tweedy ninja returns.

"And what have you been doing?" He asks curiously, nibbling on the glowing alien fruit that she thought didn't taste very nice earlier.

"Exploring." She lifts her chin defiantly, because he's not allowed to give her grief for wandering off when he started it. But he just shrugs, and wanders away, leaving her to trail in his wake.

==================================================================================

After a few minutes his wandering turns more into a trot, then into a run, tugging her along in his wake with a firm grip on her hand. They skid into an arena, the stands nearly full of expectant aliens, and in the center, Merry Galel is standing on a raised platform, facing the asteroid opposite, where the pyramid stands in all of its glory. Hastily they take two of the last remaining seats, despite her protests that she's not at all sure they're supposed to be here.

But she's glad they are when Merry looks back for reassurance, and she's there to smile.

And then.

And then the singing starts - Merry's voice high and ethereal, and a voice from across the adjoining space singing counterpoint, the voices twining and perfect, the chorus taken up by all the voices around them. It is completely gorgeous, and completely alien, just the right amount of awesome.

And then awesome turns to horrible - Merry turns, terrified, but before she can do much more than sit up straighter, the girl is actually whisked off her feet by this... ball of light transporter thing, and dragged towards the pyramid, kicking and crying and utterly frightened.

And the Doctor leaves. He leaves and, after a stunned moment, she storms after.

"Why are we walking away? We can't just walk away! This is my fault, I talked her into doing this!" She shouts after his rapidly retreating back and she must have hit some sort of sore spot because he whirls on her, more intent than she's seen him, right up in her face a heartbeat after the last word.

"Listen, there is one thing you need to know about travelling with me; one thing you need to know besides the blue box and the two hearts - we don't walk away." He lectures sternly, before whirling away again at breakneck speed.

And she misjudged him, misjudged him badly, because he's going for the speeder Doreen the barking alien offered earlier. It costs her - he has nothing of value, evidently, and she didn't think to bring any teenaged love letters, so the easiest thing (and still so hard) to part with his her mother's ring, but it's worth it, so worth it because a moment later they are racing after Merry, reaching over the Doctor's shoulder to reach for the poor girl's hand.

===================================================================================

The rescue fails. They were just a moment too late, and Merry is sucked into the pyramid a moment before they crash into the asteroid with a thump that sends her heart up into her throat. She can still hear Merry crying behind the door, and she paces behind the Doctor as he tries to open the heavy door into the pyramid. They have to save Merry, no one else is even trying, and she's the one who convinced Merry to do this in the first place - Merry might still be safe somewhere in the market now if not for her.

Then he's done it, with his.... glowy stick of destiny or whatever it is, he opens the door and she's able to slip inside.

That's when it all goes wrong. The girl won't come, convinced that she has to feed her soul to this 'old god', and frankly it looks like an ancient mummy which isn't terribly frightening at all, and evidently frightened little alien girls can pin you up against the mummy's cage with their brains which is something that she doesn't find fair at all. Then the Doctor manages to get them trapped in with the mummy and the frightened girl and the singing priest fellow who has a teleporter that he uses to disappear before their eyes and that's not terribly fair either.

But the Doctor's voice.

She's noticed it before, he says things and you can't help but listen and believe what he's saying, there's power in that voice that doesn't come along every day, and just with that voice he manages to convince a frightened little girl that everything she's known, all her life, is wrong - she is worth so much more than to just be a meal to some old creature just because everyone says she has to. At least she's set free from the mummy's cage, and they're about to set to work on the door again when the nightmare creatures appear again. Horrible creatures from someone's darkest dreams, who scatter them like ninepins without raising a hand. But she's got a feel for this place now - everything's based on stories and songs and sound and there's even a song for opening hidden doors, releasing them from the pyramid and setting them free. The nightmare creatures disappear, the mummy collapses, and it's over.

That's when it really goes wrong.

========================================================================================

That mummy creature wasn't the old god. It was part of the system to keep the old god from ever waking, and the old god is the star, or something that looks like a star, something that shatters the confidence the Doctor had been projecting, leaving Clara to stare wide-eyed and suddenly frightened. She can see what he's going to do. He's going to make a last stand here, stubbornly stand his ground and fight a god back into it's cage, just so she can get Merry to safety, so she can be safe herself. But he's so determined, and there's that voice, that she's found she's flown herself and Merry back to the arena before she can really think about it.

But that's not the end, not by a long shot, because Merry is a braver little girl than she gives herself credit for, getting back on her stage and singing, the crowd behind them taking up the chorus so that it echos around them like so much defiance and love and fierceness it takes her breath away.

And she can hear the Doctor speaking - too quiet sometimes to really make out words, but there are bits, echoing back to them across the open space.

"Can you hear them? All these people who lived in terror of you and your judgment. All these people whose ancestors devoted themselves — sacrificed themselves — to you. Can you hear them singing?" He sounds so proud of them, and she's so glad he can hear them, that maybe they're helping, just a little bit.

"Oh, you like to think you’re a god. Well, you’re not a god — you’re just a parasite, eaten out with jealously, envy, and longing for the lives of others. You feed on them. On the memory of love, and loss, and birth, and death, and joy, and sorrow." And there's the scorn, the righteous outrage that is the counterpoint to the gleeful joy she'd seen earlier today. But his voice softens to the point of being drowned out by the song, and she strains to hear.

"But I hope you’ve got a big appetite. Because I have lived a long life, and I have seen a few things." His voice is suddenly strained, pained in a way she hasn't heard before that makes her own heart hurt. "I walked away from the last Great Time War. I marked the passing of the Time Lords. I saw the birth of the universe and I watched as time ran out, moment by moment, until nothing remained — no time, no space, just ME! I walked in universes where the laws of physics were devised by the mind of a mad man. And I’ve watched universes freeze, and creation burn — I have seen things you wouldn't believe and I have LOST things you will NEVER understand!" He's shouting now, fire and ice and rage, fiercer than the storm that is the false sun. "And I know things. Secrets that must never be told. Knowledge that must never be spoken. Knowledge that will make parasite gods BLAZE So come oooon then! Take it! Take it all, baby! Have it! You! Have! It! All!"

The impossible happens. He falls silent, but the star collapses in on itself as the last words of the song also echo into silence, and... they've won.

For approximately a second. The beast roars back into full being, and she knows, she just knows - the Doctor's going to die here. Maybe all of them will, but he's definitely going to die. Except she's figured it out. This whole place, with memories and personal value being so important, she knows what would fill a creature like that so it'd choke to death.

So she runs, faster than she's ever run before, back to the TARDIS, back to where she left her book, the book of places she always meant to see. With the book in her arms she races back, dodging terrified aliens and confused priests and a Merry who has lost all of her fierceness once the creature returned but she can't worry about that now. She's figured it out, and she can do this - she can save the Doctor, and all these planets.

When she reaches the Doctor, he looks exhausted, crumpled in the dust and she finds she can't look at him or she'll lose her nerve altogether. So she faces the angry god instead.

"Still hungry? Well. I brought something for you." She opens her book, and picks up her leaf. Dry as dust, still as red as the day it fell, larger than her palm as it balances there, fluttering as she shakes where she stands.

"This. The most important leaf in human history. The most important leaf in human history. It's full of stories, full of history. And full of a future that never got lived. Days that should have been but never were, passed on to me. This leaf isn't just the past, it's a whole future that never happened, There are billions and billions of unlived days for every day we live, an infinity - all the days that never came. And these were all my mum's." He's come up beside her, supporting her as her leaf disappears, dissolving into the parasite god's maw, and it crashes in on itself with a finality that leaves them both breathless and staring.

=======================================================================================

The rest of the day seems a bit of a blur - she knows he pilots back to the marketplace, babbling on about gravity balance points or something, bundling her past the staring throng. Merry is gone, along with the red-robed priests, hopefully safe - she's sorry she didn't get the chance to say goodbye. He gets them into the TARDIS, gets them both a cup of tea, nearly before she can finish it, they are back in London, and she's staring at the house she's lived in for a year.

She's about to leave when she realizes something. Something that had been bothering her since she met him.

"You were there. My mom's grave, you were watching." She stares at him, wide-eyed. "What were you doing there?"

"I dunno, I was just... making sure."

"Of what?" Because that vague stalker-ish feeling is back, and she doesn't like it.

"You remind me of someone." He seems to be struggling over something, though she couldn't say what.

"Who?"

"Someone who died." That voice, and his expression, almost make her want to stop, and leave it there, but she has to make something clear.

"Well, whoever she was, I'm not her. Okay? If you want me to travel with you, that's fine, but as me. I'm not a bargain-basement stand-in for someone else. I'm not competing with a ghost." He shakes his head fervently, and suddenly reaches into his pocket, fumbling to pull out...

Her ring. Her mum's ring, the one she gave up for the scooter to save Merry. Turns out bravery has rewards, and in this case, the reward was a bit of memory she thought she'd have to give up. But they returned it. To her, for her. Not for him, not for them, just for her.

Maybe that's enough to be going on with.
souffle_girlek: (O Hear what you're saying)
She was.... settling. Settling is a good word - after all the lunacy of today, and with the benefit of a couple breaks at a pub that may or may not really exist in this world, settling is about as good as it's going to get. The fact she isn't gibbering madly, she feels, is a massive accomplishment. It should be celebrated.

It's easy to fall back into the routine though, once she gets home - both Angie and Artie are home from school, George is home from work, supper's being haphazardly prepared, 'Britain's Got Talent' is playing on the telly...


And there's a big blue box in the side yard.

She finds herself outside the box (ship? Door to an alternate dimension?) without a clear memory of how she got there, just with a bunch of whirling thoughts about what, exactly, she's going to say.

Thank you doesn't seem like enough.

Giving him grief for abandoning her downtown seems a bit churlish, if absolutely correct.

There's an irritable 'Come in!' at her knock, so... well, here goes nothing. The door creaks when she lets herself in (should spaceships creak?), and he's sitting on the steps opposite the door, reading... her book.

"So. He comes back, does he?" With a lack of decision on what to say, that's what comes out.

"You didn't answer my question." He's gone into his 'old grumpy man' mode, which looks both decidedly odd and perfectly correct on his young face.

"What question?"

"You don't seem like a nanny." Which isn't really a question, it's a statement, but she knows what's behind it, and... well. He saved her life. Twice.

"I was going to travel. I came to stay, for a week, before I left, and... during that week..." She trails off, because the memories there are full of heartbreak and loss and guilt and attempts to make it right that haven't worked yet.

"She died." It should sound terribly blunt and cold, but somehow it doesn't with that expression on his face, with that amount of understanding in his eyes. "So you're returning the favor, then."

How does he know? How could he possibly know that, even if it's true - they were her rock when her mum died, so how could she just swan off when it happened again?

"But a hundred and one places to see - and you haven't been to any of them, have you? That's why you keep the book."

"I keep the book," She retorts, affronted (though she's not sure if it's because he's wrong, or if it's because he's right), "Because I'm still going."

"But you don't run out on the people you care about. Wish I was more like that." The brief regret on his face disappears as he springs to his feet and bounces down to the console beside her. "You know, the thing about a time machine, oh - you can run away all you like and still be home in time for tea, so what'd'y'say? Anywhere. All of time and space right outside those doors." Lord, that's a voice you would do anything for, isn't it? He's so confident she's going to say yes.

She giggles.

"Does this work?" The look on his face, utterly affronted like a cat forced into a twee floral bonnet, makes her laugh again. "Is this actually what you do? Do you just... crook your finger and people just jump in your snog box and fly away?"

"It's not a snog box!"

"I'll be the judge of that."

"Starting when?" He tries to lean on the console casually, and somehow manages to look like an anxious teenager asking a girl out on a date. He's so... eager. And a little bit afraid she'll go away. Which... well, that's a bit addictive, isn't it? Ancient alien who can do all of those things, and he seems nervous she won't come out to play.

"Come back tomorrow. Ask me again." His querulous 'why' almost makes her laugh again, but he has to know she's serious. She has to think about this, not just go barreling off with a mad man in a box. Even if it does sound like a brilliant plan. "Because tomorrow I might say yes. Some time after seven okay for you?"

"It's a time machine," The reply sounds pained, "Any time's okay!" She's almost out the doors before he catches her again with that voice (that dangerous, dangerous voice). "Clara? In your book, there was a leaf. Why?"

Her leaf. The leaf. The most important leaf in human history. It's nice to know that even ancient mad aliens don't have all the answers.

"That wasn't a leaf. That was page one."

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Oswin Oswald

May 2016

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