Word Count: 625
Characters: Eleventh Doctor, Clara
Summary: Clara finds herself somewhere (un)familiar. Ficlet, set midway through series 7b.
Spoilers: Indirect ones for Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
It had been a good half-hour since the console room, and Clara was coming round to the idea that she was lost. After all, even a place the size of the TARDIS would struggle to find a use for five identical helter-skelters in quick succession.
Not so long ago the situation would have had her frantic inside of two minutes. Now fear had mostly ceded to irritation, though she reached for a wall to steady herself nevertheless, feeling the alien pulse throb beneath her own.
“Come on. Help a girl out, would you?”
One more about-turn and the corridor broadened quite abruptly into a great high-vaulted room, flanked from floor to ceiling with bookcases. A ghost recollection hovered somewhere beyond her reach, like a dream after the awakening. Then she blinked, and it was gone.
The Doctor was semi-reclined against three stacked dictionaries in the middle of the open floor space, a vast stoppered bottle propped beside each ear. It looked absurdly uncomfortable, but his face still broke into an easy smile as she came nearer, one hand raised in greeting. “Hello. What are you doing here?”
“Kitchen’s gone walkabout.” Clara drew to a halt beside his left elbow. “Don’t suppose you’ve seen it anywhere, have you? Only, I think I missed lunch.”
For answer he scrambled to his feet and crossed to the nearest shelf, thumbing his way along until he reached a drawer at the far end. “Uh- here we are. Cheese and pickle, will that do?”
Sheer bafflement overcame the urge to laugh for the time being. “You keep sandwiches in with the non-fiction?”
He studied the wrapper critically a moment, and nodded in the general direction of the ceiling. “…no. Must be her idea. See, told you you’d get on sooner or later. No crumbs on the books though, or there’ll be hell to pay.”
Despite a faint smell of binding glue the bread tasted quite fresh, and Clara was too hungry to be particular. Ignoring the expanse available he had shuffled over to make room for her at the dead centre, the two flasks aligned carefully to the right. “Okay if we keep going? I can ask them to be quieter if you like.”
“No. I mean, I don‘t mind.” By peering over him she could just glimpse the nearest label: T– Histo – Gallif – “What are they saying?”
“Oh- nothing new. Not much history to be written now.” His fingers moved in an idle trail over the glass necks. “But they get lonely if no-one listens.”
Clara had the sudden, inescapable feeling that she had wandered into something that was off-limits, even if nothing in his voice suggested it. She finished the last few mouthfuls as quickly as she could without betraying her disquiet, and nodded, though he had turned away onto his side. “Right then. I. Am going to find a kettle. I may be some time.” When no answer was forthcoming, she reached to tap him on the shoulder. “One of these days, mister, I expect you to suffer my cooking.”
It had been thrown out as a joke, but almost at once she wished to repeal it. He jolted upright with the alacrity of someone who had been stung, and one arm made a dart in her direction, only to pause before their hands met. For a second his mouth worked noiselessly until the crisis passed, and then he was smiling again, just a fraction paler than before. “Yes. I hope so.”
She left him there, assailed by stories that whispered to be heard, and the next morning they met by the console like lovers following some foolish quarrel, each determined to forgive the other in silence.
Afterwards she found the kitchen on first go, every time.