She stands before me, a lone tear rolling down her cheek.
The Soufflé chef.
The Impossible Girl.
“Any moment now, he’s coming,” I explain, running my fingertips across the maze of intricate controls that stand proudly at the centre of the TARDIS. I trace the silhouette of levers and buttons, cherishing the feel of the cool materials against my skin.
“Who’s coming?” she asks, her eyes darting behind me as if she expects to see a man with a black cloak and machete lurking behind one of the countless staircases surrounding us.
I sigh, preparing myself for what I have to admit. The right thing to say, although it feels so wrong. “The Doctor,” I breathe, saying the name as if it hasn't been my name for the past generation.
“You. You are the Doctor.” The words tumble from her mouth and linger, like ghosts, between us.
“And I always will be.” I reassure her. “But time has changed, and so must I. I will not forget one night. One day. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.”
Slowly sliding off my bow tie, I watch it float onto the floor of my beloved TARDIS. It swirls and twists its way through the air, as if bowing to the majestic walls of the police box that's forever bigger on the inside. But all too soon its journey ends, and it lies limp and lifeless on the ground.
But still, she refuses to let go. The gentle glowing of the tube, that stands in the centre of the control panel, reflects upon her glistening brown eyes, betraying her emotions. I’ve learnt to read Clara like a book, but now I wish I can’t. I wish I can’t see it, pure and clear and real.
“No! No!” She cries, dashing forward whilst reaching for me with an outstretched arm, fingers desperately attempting to clutch my disintegrating flesh.
I sense her hopeless desperation as she utters the three words that seem to repeat throughout my history:
“Please, don’t change.”
If only I had a choice.
Her words are like shards of glass, slicing at my heart. Destined to wound me, although they were created to heal. Yet breaking the heart of a Time Lord is different to that of a human: I have two hearts. Two times the pain.
“Doctor!” Clara shrieks, pressing her temples as if willing herself to wake from a nightmare. “If you must go, at least tell me: what’s your real name? You’ve always said that it’s simply ‘the Doctor’…”
Alas, I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of dread at her initially harmless question. The question that must never, ever, be answered. The oldest question in the universe. The question I’ve been running from all my life. The question hidden in plain sight: