For all her years in the still, the TARDIS had grown darker. Externally, the box looked somewhat weather worn and inside the lights were on a permanent dim. The Doctor had always taken great pride in her box, had always kept the old girl in good nick. But with battered hearts, and lack of pride in much aside from her choice to become a recluse, even her beloved ship had been neglected. What was once a warm and inviting interior had now become a cold and clinically neat place.
The Time Lady shrugged off her shawl and propped her umbrella on the coat rack. She unclipped the side of her long skirt to remove it, a personal customisation, the thing was far too heavy and thick, she only wore for the sake of not making a scene on the streets below. Beneath it were a pair of, far more practical, fitted black jeans.
Her book was still left on the side and so she opted to sit back in her soft red armchair and continue from where she’d left off, a hand reaching for the sound system remote to play some opera (she’d always had a thing for opera, namely Carmen).
The Doctor also took great comfort in books, both reading and keeping them in check, she had several shelves in the upper layer of the console room, in the off-chance that she didn’t want to travel to her library. As she sat back in her chair, the TARDIS hummed beneath her feet.
It was the first sound she’d heard from her ship (that didn’t sound like a grumble) in some time.
"What are you doing?” She asked, wincing as the console lights seemed to raise a few notches, the music lowering ever so slightly in volume. The Doctor hadn’t noticed that the door had also been gently propped open by a ship that was far too eager to invite curious minds inside.
There was a small platform at the top of the ladder and a metal staircase leading ever upwards. John paused, looking out across the park a good ten feet below. The people wandering past should be able to see him but even when they glanced his way nothing seemed to catch their eye.
Like the stairs and anyone on them were invisible. That was odd. He didn’t feel invisible.
He smiled to himself.
“That’s because you’re used to feeling invisible John” he joked to himself before starting up the stairs.
They spiralled endlessly onwards, a good couple of hundred of them. He wasn’t sure exactly how high they went but certainly high enough to feel the cold as he tightened his thin, worn jacket around himself. On and on until the mist of the cloud layer finally obscured his view above and he had to take another step into the unknown.
It was made without hesitation.
On the other side the sky was true midnight blue, sprinkled with countless stars. A truly beautiful sight which was all but ignored because there was an equally blue box sitting on the cloud.
He could be forgiven for being distracted.
Naturally John went to take a step towards it, to investigate, but he paused in mid pace. Surely he couldn’t stand on a cloud? He’d fall right through it! On the other hand, if it was supporting the box then…
He took a more tentative step forward, holding on to the railing still just in case, and when he didn’t tumble to his death he let go and hurried nimbly across. A closer, eager look told him that the box itself was unremarkable. Made of wood, slightly battered looking with ‘POLICE BOX’ written on the top. He didn’t know what a police box was but somehow he doubted the Doctor was associated with the constabulary. Hardly the most incredible thing about this though.
Darting around the exterior only made it all the more bizarre. She couldn’t have gone inside here, surely? It was too small, barely wider than his arm span. But on one of the sides was a door slightly ajar, cool light drifting out and the sound of….Was that Carmen?
He peered inside (as any normal person would).
Unable to believe his eyes he quickly jumped back again, plastering himself against the closed door as his heart thudded in wildly. A bit of shock, a bit of excitement.
“It’s bigger on the inside,” he mumbled to himself, eyes wide. It didn’t sound any more real when he said it out loud but it was, it really, really was.
Either that or John was having the best possible dream.
there is someone i always wanted to meet
❝ My normal ? ❞
She gives it some thought. The peace and lack of adrenaline
allows her this pause that she normally does not quite get to have
with him. It is usually running for your life scenarios and words too
quickly thought ( and not quite through ) that were spoken.
Yet an aficionado of the English language she remains and
she knows the depth and weight certain words held and often, in
times of peace, she treats them with their deserved respect. So
she lets out a ‘hmm' and allows herself to ponder. The time for
introspection isn’t usually granted to her and the façade is not
quite easily cracked. It is difficult to decide which version of
herself to play when asked to tell the truth when in truth——
❝ I don’t know, ❞ she replies.
❝ My sort of normal’s a bit boring.
I like the quiet as much as I like the running.
Read at the library when I can. Watch a bit
of telly on a put your feet up sort of day.
Maybe take a walk, go to a car boot sale,
go shopping. Y’know —— boring, not quite
life threatening stuff.❞
A kind of giggle is her response to the story of the flowers and
it is then that the light decides to gleam from red to green. She
takes the first step of the two of them, effectively leading the way
and brown eyes dart from left to right ( just to be certain of
oncoming traffic ) and she walks briskly, making him walk just as
quick. What a break from the running this is turning out to be.
The Doctor’s eyes light up like a struck match as she speaks, that delighted look of imminent new discovery on his face. It brings a joy that he isn’t even quite aware he’s capable of any more.
“A car boot sale? I’ve never been to a car boot sale. We could find stuff. And things!”
Like a treasure hunt. Only with more old cutlery.
His beaming grin widens as she giggles. Like he’s done something good and he’s ever so pleased with himself.
They reach a quaint little cafe in no time, the Doctor holding the door open for her - like a gentleman on a date? No, shut up! - choosing a cosy looking sofa near the back simply because they seem to gravitate towards it. The worn leather creaks as he sits next to her. It reminds him of one of the battered ones in the TARDIS library only more people have sat on here. All those ordinary people, spending a moment of their lives in just this spot and then going off in such diverse directions. It’s a big thought even for him but a comforting one too - you could go anywhere from here. So many possibilities.
“Is there cake?” he asks, peering down the little hand written menu that Clara picks up.
Clara Oswald ~ Robot of Sherwood
She stood there, watching him, in two minds. Silence, as she tried to align her own wildly out of control emotions. So unsteady now, so confused? Maybe, but also maybe not.
Her lips pressed uncertainly.
The situation set her in some small state of panic, fists squeezing tighter in on themselves. Clara was a control freak, not because she got a rush out of the power, but because there was once a time when nothing had been within her control.
To be so helpless at the hands of loss and grief only made her terrified of letting control slide away again.
And she knew how she felt, had done for a while even if it wasn’t something she’d ever have admitted to. It was why she hadn’t yet insisted on leaving, despite the implication that she might have wanted to.
For reasons beside insult, lack of control: loving somebody could do that to you. It could make you want nothing else but to hold them, when instead you ought to be furious. It made you understand more than you wanted and care first.
Now, she wasn’t so angry. Just smaller than she’d ever wanted to feel.
Clara crossed her arms in a protective fashion across her chest, her brow furrowed as she considered her next words. No matter what she felt for the Doctor, she wasn’t going to stay if she was some sort of burden.
"I want to go home,” she said finally, eyes wide and open, glistening slightly with what threatened to be tears, “—but you have to clarify where exactly I might find it.”
“And if you can’t or— you don’t want to, my flat is fine.”
She was all crossed arms and defensive stares, all barriers that he dare not test.
But then, when he looked closer, she was glistening, frightened eyes - hope too fragile to be more than a glimmer - and he wanted to hold her because his Clara was upset and it wounded him.
Could he do this? He didn’t know. But that was a startling change in itself.
The answer was no longer a resounding ‘no’.
He pursed his lips tight together, as he considered the ‘right’ answer. There were no absolutes here but a moral responsibility that he took very seriously - he had to be fair to Clara. He was afraid, hearts already beating harder at the thought of a loss that might be hundreds of years away if they were lucky. A loss that he wasn’t certain he had it in him to cope with. He’d already seen her die twice.
Should he risk this if he couldn’t promise her that fear wouldn’t get to him? What if he did this all wrong? What if she grew to hate him?
‘A life lived in fear was a life half lived’.
But it was safe.
He winced at his own confusion.
“You know how I feel,” he spoke quietly. “You know how…special you are to me. But would you really want all this? All this mess?”
And he was a mess. A very cleverly crafted one but a mess all the same. Broken pieces never put properly back together again.
He smiled wanly.
“I don’t think I’m happily ever after material. What if I make you sad?”
it was a very simple sentiment coming from someone so old but it was the heart of the matter all the same.
❝ Normal —— ? ❞ she almost scoffs.
Her laugh is anything but cruel but it does come forth
as a tease more than anything. The brush of his thumb
against her skin is met with a tighter grip and she
thinks nothing of it for she knows he doesn’t. In tandem,
holding hands, they swing.
❝ You wouldn’t know normal ❞
❝ if it hit you over the head, ❞
❝ wearing a neon sign saying NORMAL. ❞
Stop at the set of traffic lights they do and at sighting
the couple that mirrors them, she tucks in her lips and
looks away from both him and them. She has a curled in
finger that she taps against her tucked in lips. Heeled,
leather clad feet shuffle where she stands. And yet she
still doesn’t quite let go. After all, he doesn’t either.
❝ So, flower conflict, yeah —— ? ❞
❝ People run out of things to fight over ? ❞
“I do know normal!” he protests with an undeniably cheerful air. He likes her teasing. It’s familiar. It makes him feel…something he won’t admit.
Loved. “I know lots of normal in fact. It’s quite normal for the tribesmen of PacYal to braid their chest hair; one person’s normal is another’s interesting or faintly gross. I want to get to know your normal though. It’s like when you go somewhere and immerse yourself in the culture. You don’t just want to visit the theme parks and browse the tourist shops with those creepy cut out masks of local royals.”
He’s rambling, of course, but essentially what he’s saying is ‘Clara Oswald I want to get to know you’.
She seems vaguely uncomfortable in the face of the couple but she doesn’t let go so neither does he. At least he assumes they’re a couple - he doesn’t ask them of course. It makes him wonder; is that what people think when they see them? ‘Couple’? He glances around but there’s no one else in the area whose reaction he can judge.
“Oh they never run out of things to fight over. But flowers became very economically important in the mid 22nd century and the Netherlands were so insistent that tulips were their area. Very messy. Pollen everywhere.”
❝ It’s not so much a hobby as it is a physical state. ❞
❝ If she were to stop smiling, England might as well fall. ❞
Her fingers are soft blades too used to handling precious pages and
rubber handlebars of her motorbike and they find a home in the spaces
between his. Alien he is, yes, and foreign in nearly every aspect but for
this, they remained familiar. Just a boy and girl — friends held hands all
the time, yeah ?
It’s nothing, surely. The culture from where he hails might treat
thing as something completely informal and normal in the first place.
It isn’t right to think anything of it and though she will never voice it out
loud, she quite likes having a hand to hold.
❝ ‘Course I do. ❞
❝ We could go to the beach and do, y’know—— normal stuff. ❞
She’s warm. Small and warm and comforting. Home for a man who doesn’t really have one. Stability in a nomad lifestyle. He relies on her too much. He likes her far too much.
He’s going to get those old battered hearts broken all over again he knows it but without her he’s just lonely and that hurts all the more.
His thumb brushes the back of her hand as he fears one day having to let go.
“Oh yes! Normal stuff. I like normal stuff. It’s so interesting. And I do make a very good sandcastle. Well, a sand Roman bathhouse. They’re more structurally interesting than castles.”
They stop at a set of traffic lights, waiting for the signal to cross. Another couple stands on the opposite path, holding hands just the same, the same adoring, easy smiles as they look at each other. The perfect mirror.
The Doctor blushes slightly.