It’s funny. His trip to the Viking village with Clara had them in chains, but the journey back to the TARDIS seems so much longer than that one, despite the fact that it still took two days, same as before.
He knows it’s because he’s brooding. Clara’s going to accuse him of that any minute. And she’d be correct. But he has a right to it, by now, he thinks. Losses and mistakes pile up in his head and his formidable brain just keeps analyzing them from every possible angle again and again.
They never make sense though. Nothing usually does until he talks it out. That’s half the reason he keeps a companion with him. So he doesn’t look as insane as he knows he is when he starts talking to himself.
“I’m being clever up here and there’s no one to stand around looking impressed. What’s the point of having you all?”
The thing is, he knows he’s been in this position before. Both of them actually. The first - making a tidal wave when he could have left well enough alone. When he should have been content with a ripple.
“Okay, it's official,” Clara pipes up. Didn’t take her long after they parted ways with the last of their Viking friends. “Silence is even worse in a Scottish accent. Are you going to tell me what you're brooding about?”
He might as well tell her. She’ll just keep pestering him if he doesn’t. And he wants to. Somehow, he knows she’ll try to convince him it was okay. And that will help, at least for a while.
“You want to be forgiven.”
He shakes off Amy’s voice in his head and forces the words out. “It won't stop, the repair kit I put inside Ashildr, not ever. It'll just keep fixing her.”
She doesn’t get it. Doesn’t get what he’s done to the girl. “I'm not sure,” he tells Clara, “but it's entirely possible she has lost the ability to die.”
“Oh, dying is an ability, believe me. Barring accidents, she may now be functionally immortal.”
“I bring life.”
Rose’s words flicker through his head. All of time at her fingertips, and she wanted to bring Jack back to life. The parallel wasn’t lost on him. Only Rose was a human, with all that power for only a few short moments. The damage she had done had been mitigated. But the Doctor, oh, he could do what she’d done then, what he’d done today with Ashildr, over and over again. Only rules, those pesky laws of time, prevented him from doing so.
“I can do anything. There's nothing I can't do. Nothing. But I'm not supposed to. Ripples, tidal waves, rules. I'm not supposed to.”
“I'm the Doctor, and I save people. And if anyone happens to be listening, and you've got any kind of a problem with that, to hell with you!”
“There are laws of time. Once upon a time there were people in charge of those laws, but they died. They all died. Do you know who that leaves? Me! It's taken me all these years to realize the laws of time are mine, and they will obey me!”
What Donna had said in Pompeii, what he had remembered, yes, he could save people. He saved that family, and it didn’t put much of a dent in the timelines. It did mean everything to them.
But Adelaide’s death, and Ashildr’s long life, those were events that could rip timelines to shreds. And he hadn’t cared, not until after he’d come down from his adrenaline high, and he could look at it from a distance.
He was as dangerously close to the edge now as he was then. Time Lord Victorious. And why?
“If the repair kit never stops working, then why did you give her two?” Clara’s question breaks through his musings. Oh, but doesn’t that just sum it up nicely. Because this is the other position he’s been in before.
He opens the TARDIS, but faces his companion before stepping inside all the way. “Immortality isn't living forever. That's not what it feels like. Immortality is everybody else dying. She might meet someone she can't bear to lose.” He pauses, because he has to tamp down the emotion. “That happens, I believe.”
He disappears into his blue box, and she follows him. Just as she always has, but not as she always will.
“Look at you, with your eyes, and your never giving up, and your anger, and your kindness. One day, the memory of that will hurt so much that I won't be able to breathe, and I'll do what I always do. I'll get in my box and I'll run and I'll run, in case all the pain ever catches up. And every place I go, it will be there.”
It already is.
“I’m left traveling on my own cause there’s no one left.” “There’s me.”
“How long are you gonna stay with me?” “Forever.”
“Am I ever gonna see you again?” “You can’t.”
“That's my car! That is like destiny. And I've been ready for this. I packed ages ago, just in case. Because I thought, hot weather, cold weather, no weather. He goes anywhere. I've gotta be prepared.”
“I was going to be with you forever. The rest of my life, travelling in the TARDIS. The Doctor Donna.”
“Why do you keep coming back for us?” “Because you were the first. The first face this face saw. And you're seared onto my hearts, Amelia Pond. You always will be. I'm running to you, and Rory, before you fade from me.”
“Come along Pond, please.” “Raggedy man, goodbye!”
“You and me, time and space, you watch us run.”
“It's hard to leave when you haven't said goodbye.” “Then tell me, because I don't know. How do I say it?”
It never gets easier to cope. It does get easier to run.
“The Doctor. The man who keeps running, never looking back because he dare not, out of shame.”
Davros was right about that. He was right about something else, too.
“The man who abhors violence, never carrying a gun. But this is the truth, Doctor. You take ordinary people. And you fashion them into weapons.”
“Turning them into fighters? That's not like you.” “Yeah. I used to believe that too.” “What happened?” “You. Oh, Clara Oswald what have I made of you?”
He gave Ashildr the second repair kit, hoping that would help her fare better than he. Part of him wished he had done something similar for himself. Part of him couldn’t stand the thought, because which of his precious companions, his friends, his family, would he choose?
No, he knew.
“Here you are, living a life day after day. The one adventure I could never have.”
And yet, he knew he would never have stopped with just her.
“You're my daughter, and we've only just got started. You're going to be great. You're going to be more than great. You're going to be amazing. You hear me? Jenny?”
No, best not go there. Best keep moving forwards. Clara, she was his bright spot these days, even if she is becoming too much like him. Too reckless. Rose would have stopped him. Clara was on the same high he was.
Fortunately, his currant companion rubs off on him too, and her compassion and wonder and determination keep him steady most days. Not today. Still, he’ll enjoy what he has now, with Clara, while it lasts. He’ll run faster than ever when it’s over.