A sort-of Christmas-themed fic (well, there’s a Christmas in there, anyway?) starring a very minor Doctor Who character who I always liked.
Fandom: Doctor Who
Summary: After Clara’s death Rigsy has to return her body to the outside world, and mourn his loss.
Notes: I took some inspiration here from the original script of Face the Raven, which contains a little bit of extra stuff about Rigsy and his partner and his life. It seems to have been deleted from the official BBC website but the Internet Wayback Machine caught it!
Read it on AO3, or click below:
All the bystanders saw was a man stumble out of a side-street carrying a woman. If they ever thought about it afterwards, they’d realise they had no idea what street he came out of, or what it looked like. They put that down to information getting lost in the heat of the moment. In fact, and unfortunately, it was a magic street.
“Help me!” screamed the man, and multiple bystanders ran over.
“She just collapsed while we were walking, I need someone to give her CPR! Please.”
“Put her on the floor,” someone yelled, and other people took off their coats to place under her.
“I don’t know CPR,” said the man, whose name was Rigsy. “I should have learned! I should have learned ages ago!”
“I do,” said someone else, and they got started. Rigsy looked away, because he was fairly certain it wouldn’t work. But perhaps there was a tiny chance it would? Magic and time travel and all that stuff always had loopholes.
A crowd was starting to gather. Someone was calling an ambulance, and a few other people were looking uncertainly at that person as if not sure whether they should be doing the same thing.
“I assume drugs were involved here,” someone in the crowd said. Rigsy never saw who it was, which was probably for the best.
“What’s her name?” someone asked him.
“Clara,” Rigsy answered, hearing his own voice coming in from far away. “Clara Oswald.”
There was always a loophole. There had to be a loophole. Clara had died exploiting one, even. To save him!
It was one minute into the CPR. An old man clapped his hand on Rigsy’s shoulder.
“It’s not looking good, son,” he said.
And it wasn’t. Rigsy could hear the ambulance sirens but it was no use. She was definitely, absolutely, no-getting-out-of-this one dead.
Rigsy was spared the agony of having to break the news of Clara’s death to her father. As it turned out, there were people at the hospital who did that. He didn’t even have to see her dead body anymore, he just got to go home.
Jen came to pick him up. Her car, the one she’d bought long before she met him and became the mother of his child, was dark blue. Rigsy wished it was any other colour.
“I should have saved her,” Rigsy said as they drove. He said it very quietly because their daughter was asleep in the back seat.
“No,” said Jen, who had known all about the Doctor and Clara from day one, “if he’s as powerful as you’ve always said, he should have saved her.”
“I don’t even know what happened to him. He might be dead. Dead too, I mean.” He made sure to whisper the word “dead” even more quietly just in case it embedded itself in his daughter’s subconscious.
“You need to get some sleep,” Jen said fiercely, “and then in a few days, whenever you feel up to it, you need to find other people who’ve experienced things like this, and you need to share your story with them.” Jen was a psychotherapist in training, had studied the discipline at university for three years already. But you couldn’t apply earthly methods to something unearthly.
“There aren’t any other people who’ve experienced things like this,” Rigsy said.
Clara’s father turned up unexpectedly in the middle of the day the Sunday after Clara died. Rigsy remembered after a few seconds, he had filled out a form in the hospital that included his address. There had been a lot of forms in fact.
His name was Dave and he seemed to be just barely hanging on.
“They said at the hospital that she had the heart of an eighty-year-old,” he said, after accepting a cup of tea Jen made for him. “It just gave out. There was nothing you could’ve done to save her.”
“I’m so sorry,” Rigsy said, though he could hardly bear to look him in the eye nonetheless.
“Her mother died of cancer when she was still young, did you know that? She’s dead, I never found anyone else who measured up, and now Clara’s dead as well.” He said this without tears but his expression was just a terrifying blank.
Jen had some leaflets for NHS grief therapy and she offered them to him, but Dave just stared down as if he wasn’t reading the words at all.
“Oh, thanks,” he finally said. Then, “Clara’s boyfriend died in a car accident just before she… before she… Before she did. Was that what killed her? Grief? I know people can literally die of a broken heart. And she was so depressed afterwards.”
“Unfortunately I don’t think that question can be fully answered,” Jen said gently.
“She was still the same old Clara the day she died,” Rigsy said, the words just pouring out. “Still adventurous and funny. And she cared about her friends so much, yeah?” He wished so badly he could tell him the truth.
“Yeah,” Dave said sadly.
For a minute Rigsy was literally about to just tell him what had really happened, that Clara had essentially died for him, but then he remembered the stakes he was playing with and kept quiet.
Rigsy was invited to Clara’s funeral, and he sat at the back in a black suit that had once belonged to his father. No-one else there knew him, they were mostly all from Clara’s school. There were also a few fairly young kids there, which depressed him tremendously.
One of them looked him up and down when they were outside the funeral hall, when other people were talking in groups and some of them were crying.
“You’re alone,” she told him bluntly.
“Yeah,” he said, not sure where this was going. He had insisted to Jen that she not come with him, not least because they would never be able to get a babysitter at such short notice and he was absolutely not taking his daughter to a funeral before she had even turned one. The idea felt so wrong.
“You shouldn’t be alone at a funeral,” she told him, and stuck her hand out all businesslike. “I’m Angie Maitland. Clara was my nanny.”
“Oh,” Rigsy said, feeling absolutely out of it, like this was all some weird dream all of a sudden. “I was her friend. Am her friend, I mean. I was with her when she…”
“When she died,” Angie said when he didn’t finish the sentence. “You can say it. My dad says it’s healthy to say it.”
“When she died,” Rigsy offered.
“I’m very sorry for your loss,” she said.
“And I’m sorry for yours,” she said. She turned to go then, but Rigsy made himself say,
“Wait… did you ever meet her best friend? The Doctor?”
Angie looked puzzled and almost annoyed for a second, then she said. “Yes. But you shouldn’t talk about him. Shouldn’t even say his name. It’s too dangerous.”
“Alright,” Rigsy said, figuring the time had probably come for him to leave the funeral.
“Look what happened to Clara. I know it was supposed to be a heart defect but I bet all that… you know… travelling and stuff was what really caused it.” She gave him a very grown-up-seeming nod and then left.
Rigsy meant to leave right afterwards but Clara’s dad Dave insisted on driving him home. He was crying so much Rigsy was almost worried he wouldn’t be able to see the road properly, although he didn’t say so. When they got back to Rigsy’s place Jen tried to offer Dave some consolation and maybe more tea, but he said he was fine even though he clearly wasn’t, and left without even getting out of the car.
The car cast Rigsy’s mind back to another method of transportation that it was hard to get out of.
It wasn’t hard finding the TARDIS. It was right where the Doctor had left it, which Rigsy figured meant he was definitely probably dead too. If he could die. Maybe he couldn’t.
He was annoyed at himself for grieving so much more for Clara than for the Doctor, assuming he was in fact dead. But on the other hand, Clara was human and she’d only had one lifetime while the Doctor had by all accounts lived for thousands of years, and also he couldn’t help but blame him a little bit for Clara dying in the first place. Just a tiny, tiny bit. But it was still there.
Jen watching, bouncing Lucy on her knee, while Rigsy worked on his mural for Clara. When it was done he figured it was the best artwork he’d ever done, and he even took a photo of it on his phone. He felt a bit guilty about doing so, though, it felt like taking a photo of someone’s gravestone without asking permission.
On the other hand, who was he gonna ask permission from?
“It’s really good,” Jen told him, and then she said to the baby, “Hey sweetie, don’t you think Daddy’s artwork is amazing?” Lucy just babbled in response, of course.
Before they left Rigsy tried the TARDIS door, just in case, but it didn’t open.
The Doctor had once said, “The day you lose someone isn’t the worst. At least you’ve got something to do. It’s all the days they stay dead,” and Rigsy hadn’t been around to hear it. But he definitely felt it.
However as the months went past he began to feel other things. Clara had died saving him and so he needed to make the most out of his life to repay her. He began working on his artwork more and more, staying up late into the night while the baby slept, creating as much as he could. Then he decided to create in other ways, and began volunteering as an art teacher for vulnerable kids.
In the middle of all that Jen graduated from university, and then she and Rigsy found out they were going to have baby number two.
When Rigsy met Dave at one of their monthly get-togethers – silent and sad affairs that were very, very slowly getting less silent and sad – he told him the news.
“If it’s a girl we’ll call her Clara,” Rigsy said, “and if it’s a boy we’ll call him Oswald.”
“Oswald is a terrible name for a baby,” Dave said, smiling just a little. “Call him Danny. I think she’d have liked that.”
“Danny was her boyfriend?” Rigsy asked after a moment. He’d never wanted to ask Dave too much about that seeing as how Clara’s life was still so hard for him to talk about.
“More than a boyfriend. I always thought she was gonna marry him.”
“I’m sorry,” Rigsy said.
“That’s a really nice thing for you to do,” Dave said, wiping a tear from his eye. “I can’t even tell you what that means to me. What that would mean to Clara’s mother too, if she was still here.”
The baby was a girl so they did name her Clara. When they introduced Dave to her he cried for a little bit, and then he dried his eyes and got a present out of his bag. It was a book labelled “101 Places To See.”
He handed it to Jen. “For when she gets older.”
“Thank you,” Jen said in awe. “You didn’t have to do that.”
“I got one for Lucy too so she doesn’t feel left out,” Dave said, and handed her the same book, but with a pink cover instead of blue.
“Say thank you, Lucy,” Rigsy prompted.
“Fank you,” she said.
“That’s alright,” Dave said, and bounced Clara on his knee.
One cold winter day, while walking to work, Rigsy saw the TARDIS again. It looked ever so slightly different, but it was the same thing alright. Just standing there blending into the street, ignored by all. Rigsy paused for a long second, then slowly walked towards it, and then tried the door absolutely not expecting it to open.
It opened. “Hello Rigsy! I remember you!” a yellow whirlwind screamed happily. “I haven’t seen you in so long! How are you doing?”
“Oh yeah, sorry, this is the Doctor,” said the Doctor. “I look like this now.”
Rigsy nodded slowly and rather wearily. “Alright.”
The Doctor stood back and looked at him like she was a little-seen aunt at a family party and he the little-seen nephew. “You’ve grown a lot,” she said approvingly.
Rigsy had real aunts for that sort of thing. “You do remember what happened the last time we met, right?” he asked her. “Clara? Clara dying, and me having to carry her dead body away?”
“Yes, I remember,” the Doctor said softly.
People strode past them as they stared at each other. Finally the Doctor said, “Want a free trip in the TARDIS?”
That word free was interesting. Rigsy thought it was a Freudian slip. (Jen had taught him that term one evening while going on a rant about what an awful person Freud was.) There was always a price to be paid for time travel and both of them knew it.
But he went into the TARDIS anyway.
“I wanna see my kids,” he said, before the Doctor could even open her mouth. “I want to go forward in time, see my girls grown up, and then leave. That’s it. Five minutes of your time, or my time, or the universe’s time or whatever.”
“You know, I don’t usually have parents in here,” the Doctor said guiltily.
“Yeah,” Rigsy said, letting his still-very-much-there bitterness spill out all of a sudden, “well, look what happened the last time I was here.”
The Doctor didn’t answer that. She pressed some buttons on her console and then glanced at a screen.
“I’d like to make it up to you,” she said. “It wasn’t fair, what happened.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Rigsy said.
The Doctor checked her screen again. “So… This is a Rigsy family Christmas, 2041. Both your girls are adults now, one of them has kids of her own.”
“Don’t tell me! I want to see for myself!”
The Doctor gestured to the door.
Rigsy and the Doctor sat outside in the dark winter night and watched the people in the house opposite eat their Christmas dinner. There was a baby present and a boy of about five. Rigsy overheard someone call the child “Christopher” which was his own first name.
He realized after a minute or two that Dave was at the table, too. His back was to the window but Rigsy could tell beyond a doubt that it was him.
Lucy was showing people photos on a big smartphone-looking device. Rigsy couldn’t see what they were, but everyone was smiling. Clara was dishing out food onto the other plates, and she looked just like her mother. Jen herself was also there, thank god, her hair greying but still beautiful.
“Where’s…” Rigsy began to say.
“There you are,” said the Doctor.
Rigsy saw himself enter via the front door dressed as Santa and carrying a stack of presents. Little Christopher ran up to him screaming excitingly and stamping his feet, so Clara swept him up in her arms and they went to the dinner table.
“Fuuuuuck,” said Rigsy, completely overcome, and then he caught himself. “Sorry. Shouldn’t swear.”
“You can swear if you want to,” the Doctor said brightly. “Fuck shit bugger arse.”
Rigsy took a deep breath and turned away from the family scene. “Alright. That’s everything I needed to see. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” said the Doctor.
“It’s nice that you named your second daughter Clara,” the Doctor said as she pressed more buttons on the TARDIS console. “I don’t want you to think I don’t remember her, you know. I remember them all. Sooner or later the memories always come back to me.”
“Is Clara – Clara the first I mean – is she the reason you took that form? A white woman with a Northern accent?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
Rigsy found himself asking, “Did you ever see the memorial to Clara that I painted on the side of the TARDIS?”
“No. But the TARDIS remembers everything painted on her so I’ll probably find it in the system one day.”
Both the Doctor and Rigsy pushed the console room door open and Rigsy found himself back in London. The Doctor remained in the doorway, though.
“Here,” she said, and handed him a small card. “One of my friends gave me this to pass along.”
The card read DOCTOR COMPANION SUPPORT GROUP and under that there was an address.
“By the way. Don’t ever feel guilty about Clara dying for you,” the Doctor said. “She wouldn’t have wanted that.”
Rigsy nodded. And then, before he could say anything else, the door closed. It was closed forever now. But that was alright.
Rigsy did go to the address on the card. He went there as soon as he could get a day off work. He had no idea what to expect. But he sat in the circle of chairs and an old man called Graham introduced everyone else in the room. Mel, Jo, Yaz, Ian, Ryan, Dan, Martha, Mickey, Tegan, Ace, Bill.
“My name is Christopher Riggins,” Rigsy said, “But everyone calls me—“
“Rigsy?” came a familiar voice from behind him.
He turned around and Clara was there in the doorway. The first Clara.
She was alive and well and terrifying. She looked just like she’d looked on the day she’d died, except for the eyes. The eyes weren’t right at all.
“Clara,” Rigsy said in a shaky voice. He tried to get up and move towards her but his legs weren’t working. One of the others, Martha he thought, put a hand out to steady him.
“Clara. Jesus.” That was all he could manage.
“You guys know each other?” the woman called Bill asked uncertainly.
Did they know her? “I… she… she’s supposed to be dead. Her own dad thinks she’s dead!” Then he just plain collapsed.
Some of the collapse was probably down to his being up all night looking after the baby, Martha told him politely later on. But the rest of it was shock.
When Rigsy came around it had been less than a minute, but that was enough to have horrified the Companion Support Group. They were all either hovering over him or trying to check his pulse.
“He’s alright,” said one of the older men in evident relief.
“Clara,” said Rigsy. She wasn’t there. “Was that really Clara? Did I imagine her?”
“Most people are unsettled when they first meet her,” Graham said gently, “but gotta admit, you’re the first one to faint.”
Rigsy sat up properly and pressed his hands against the cold floor to make sure he could still feel things.
“I knew her. I was there when she died.” A few people looked quite shocked at this.
“You were there when she was…human?” Mickey finally asked.
Rigsy swallowed. “What is she now?”
No-one seemed overly willing to tell the story, but finally Ace cleared her throat and said, “Well. She started coming to these meetings quite a while ago. She doesn’t come all the time, she just drops in unexpectedly like she did just now. Gradually we put the pieces together. Something that the Doctor did, or something Clara herself did, made her immortal.”
“Her heart doesn’t beat,” Martha said. “She can’t get sick, can’t age.”
“And she’s old,” said Tegan. “Lived a thousand human lifetimes.”
Rigsy stood up.
“She never came back to tell me she hadn’t died,” he said. “She never came back for her own father.”
“That’s because there’s probably not an awful lot left of her,” said Ian, the oldest person in the room. “I’m sorry.”
Everyone looked uncomfortable or sad or both.
“Where is she now?” Rigsy asked.
“Outside in the corridor waiting for you,” Yaz said.
“Listen, though,” Bill spoke up. “I’ve been immortal before. I’m not now, but… Go easy on her, yeah?”
Rigsy nodded and exited the room.
“Hi,” said the person who wasn’t quite Clara.
“You were dead,” Rigsy said flatly. “I mourned for you.”
“There was a loophole,” Clara said. “I’m mostly dead, don’t be fooled by my good looks, and very soon I’ll die for good. But I thought I would take the long way round.”
“Your dad misses you,” Rigsy said, and there was a lot of bite to that. “How could you never tell him you were still alive?”
“You’re not listening! Because I’m not still alive. And I’m not the daughter he knew either. I’m something else now. Something that would’ve been endless and eternal if the Clara in me hadn’t decided otherwise. Do you understand?”
Rigsy let out a breath that turned into a shudder. “So you’re basically… You’re basically the Doctor.”
“No,” said Clara. “I’m going to properly die soon in a way that she never can. I just want to put some things right before I go. Turns out you’re one of them.”
“You only ran into me by coincidence,” Rigsy said, staring at the being before him trying to find any trace of his friend whatsoever.
“There are no coincidences. I’ve been around long enough to realise that. And over the past million years I’ve seen pieces of your life, pieces of my father’s life, pieces of my mother’s life before she became my mother. My timeline is like a… like a tree I guess, and I feel every single falling leaf before it falls.”
Rigsy smiled ruefully. “I miss the real Clara.”
“Your daughter is the real Clara now.”
She turned to go but then she said,
“Before I die for good I do want you to know one thing though. You were a really good father and grandfather. ”
“I know,” Rigsy said.
She smiled and for a second it did look like a real human smile. Then she was gone, forever.