“Where would you like to go today, Clara Oswald?” asked the Doctor in a gravelly voice. His long, dextrous fingers tapped at a ratty keyboard attached to the TARDIS console, his back to his companion.
“Oh, I dunno,” answered Clara cagily as she rounded him to gently sweep her fingers over the console’s edges. “Maybe another interesting historical figure, eh? Mid-1700’s, Italy perhaps? One of my favourite time periods, you know.”
Grey-blue eyes under bushy eyebrows gave Clara an appraising look. The craggy lines in his angular face gave away nothing as he turned ever so slowly away from the console, running thin fingers through a mass of medium length salt-and-pepper hair.
“Why do I get the feeling that I’m not going to like your request, Clara?”
“Oh, come on,” Clara said, bouncing on her heels. “It’s not like I’m gonna ask you to find someone who supposedly doesn’t exist.”
“As if you don’t do that,” countered the Doctor.
“No, no, that’s not fair,” Clara argued with a finger wave. “Robin Hood did exist. You jus’ didn’t want to believe it until you saw him with your own two eyes.”
“Fair enough,” conceded the Doctor as he crossed arms guardedly to face his companion. “So, who is this mystery person from mid-1700’s Italy that I’m not going to like?”
A huge grin broke out over Clara’s roundish face.
“Well, come on,” prodded the Doctor. “Just come out with it, so I can say ‘no’ already.”
Clara took a deep breath and drew herself up to the maximum height of her considerably short stature.
“Casanova,” she blurted out.
The Doctor froze; his eyes grew rounded as his impressive eyebrows threatened to crawl into his hairline.
“No!” he bit out, spinning to walk briskly and stiffly away from the console. He double-backed, clearly flustered, then galloped up the stairs to the second level of the control room.
Clara frowned, stomping her foot in frustration.
“Why not?” she shouted up at him.
“You can’t see him,” the Doctor’s voice drifted down.
Clara peered up the stairs, searching for the source of the voice.
“Why?” she asked doggedly.
“You can’t see him,” snarled the Doctor.
“Don’t tell me that he doesn’t exist. He may be a legend, but he’s real. I want to know what it is about Casanova that launched a thousand skirts.”
The Doctor slowly came back into view at the top stair. He regarded his companion carefully, who was standing in front of the console with arms crossed, a miffed expression across her beautiful face.
“Don’t be silly,” he berated her gently. “It was only 122… skirts. Officially.”
“Ah, so you’ve met him,” she grinned victoriously.
The Doctor dramatically rolled his eyes.
“So, was he pretty?” Clara pressed with a coy smile.
Maintaining a stony silence, the Doctor merely glared stubbornly down the stairway with knitted brows.
“Must have been rather… well endowed, I would think,” she added saucily.
“Oh, wouldn’t you like to know, Clara Oswald,” sneered the Doctor, who was clearly not pleased with the direction of the conversation. Even at a distance, Clara noticed the thin lines forming around his pursed lips.
From past experience, she knew she would get no further answers to her questions. Sauntering over to the console display, she addressed the TARDIS.
“Show me an image of Giacomo Casanova,” Clara directed the TARDIS display.
A sharp gasp at the top of the stairwell caused Clara to glance up. A look of absolute horror had spread over the Doctor’s expressive face as he flew down the stairs.
“NO!! No, no, no, no, no!!!” he howled in anguish.
He reached the console in mere seconds and slapped the side of the display, sending it spinning around the console, but not before Clara had taken a gander at the image on the screen.
She spun on her heels to face the Doctor, mouth agape.
“Oh my God,” she breathed.
“What’s wrong with your eyes,” the Doctor tried to deflect, still in full-blown panic mode.
“That’s you!” Clara declared, pointing at the back of the screen, now at the opposite side of the Time Rotor.
“Your eyes. They’re enormous, Clara! I’ve seen moons smaller than that,” the Doctor yelped.
“Stop tryin’ to change the subject. That’s YOU, Doctor! YOU were Casanova.”
“I should’ve known. You’re lyin’,” snapped Clara accusingly. “I always know when you’re lyin’, ya know. Now, give me the truth.”
“It’s a coincidence. He just sort of looks like me.”
“Doctor, I’ve seen every one of your faces, and that’s your tenth generation,” spat Clara angrily. “Don’t tell me that isn’t you, because I’ve seen that face up close, in the flesh! That’s you, Doctor.”
Caught out, the Doctor spun away from her, gnawing at his fingers in agitation.
“So that’s why you said I couldn’t see him.”
“Yeah,” breathed the Doctor, finally conceding the fact that Clara had it right. His shoulders slumped in defeat, but he lapsed resolutely silent.
Clara took a deep breath. “So what were you thinkin’? What were you doing in mid-1700’s Italy muckin’ around with all those women?”
“It was a scientific study,” he said lamely.
“A study. Right, a study. And scientific, to boot,” Clara responded sarcastically.
He refused to answer, but Clara could see a pink tide of colour rising from beneath the Doctor’s shirt collar.
“Of what?” she pressed on. “Human sexuality?”
The Doctor gave her an abashed glance and shrugged boyishly.
“Why the 18th Century, Doctor? You’d have fared better in the 21st Century, you know.”
The Doctor sighed loudly.
“Seduction is an art form, Clara,” he finally answered. “It’s no good if it comes too easily.”
“How very sexist of you. But why so many women,” she mused. “Why make it a hit and run? If it’s human sexuality you were tryin’ to study, why not find one good woman an’ stick with her?”
“Maybe I had vanity issues. Maybe I had to run after physically disappointing a lot of women,” the Doctor with a sardonic smile, still facing away from Clara.
“Maybe it wasn’t a study, after all,” Clara said knowingly. “Maybe I should ask him. You, that is.”
The Doctor turned around to face Clara, poker face back into place.
“You can’t. You know you can’t.”
“I bet you can make him forget he met me, or at least store the memory until it doesn’t matter,” she said. “You can do that telepathic thing, you know. Use your Dad skills, like, BOOM. Forget you ever met Clara Oswald, yeah?”
The Doctor’s eyes rolled to the ceiling in thought. He scrubbed at his chin, as if an idea was slowly forming.
“Oh, come on, Doctor! It’s probably already happened and you probably even remember it now. It’ll be fun. Let’s go see Doctor Casanova!”
“It’s too dangerous,” the Doctor said, eyes sliding back to meet Clara’s. “I can’t go meeting myself for no good reason. The Timelines could unravel with unexpected consequences.”
“Then stay out of sight!”
“Oh, what’s the matter?” pleaded Clara. “We eat danger for lunch, eh? Or are you afraid som’thin’ will… happen? Like, I’ll fall for his charms or som’thin’?”
“Definitely not,” scowled the Doctor incredulously. “You’re much too old. And stop that thing you do with the eyes. It’s disturbing.”
“Seriously?” snapped Clara, insulted. “I am not too old, thank you. And as for vanity issues, I’ll certainly give you that!”
“Well, at least I’m not a narcissistic control freak who’s hell-bent on blowing up all of Time and Space just to satisfy idle curiosity!” shouted the Doctor angrily.
Clara flinched ever so slightly at the fury in the Doctor’s face. His eyebrows were extraordinarily intimidating this regeneration, compared to her previous Doctor’s. But then she squared her shoulders to lean forward and stare down the fierce Time Lord with an equally steely look.
“Then tell me the truth,” Clara demanded. “Why?”
“Why do you need to know?” he responded in exasperation, throwing his hands into the air. “What is so fascinating about all of this? It was a bootstrap paradox, Clara! He didn’t exist! There was no trace of him; the Timelines were damaged somehow, so I had to fix it. Are you happy?!?”
“He didn’t exist? Casanova didn’t exist?”
“He didn’t exist for some strange reason,” confirmed the Doctor, scrubbing at his face furiously.
“So…you took one for the team and bedded 122 women just to fix the Timelines?”
“More or less,” moaned the Doctor, who had a definite resemblance to a scared rabbit about to bolt.
“More… or less?”
“It might have been 125, maybe. Probably. I don’t properly remember, Clara! It was two regenerations ago. It’s all in the memoirs.” He moved to the metal rails leading down to the heart of the TARDIS and sat down with a thud. Much to his dismay, Clara moved to settle next to him.
“So… it was sort of like… Beethoven, then?” she asked gently.
“Exactly,” nodded the Doctor. “Just think, Clara. What would Rudolph Valentino have done without Casanova? What about all those films and television shows inspired by him? Think of all the people whose entire careers were launched or advanced by Casanova’s influence? It would have been catastrophic!”
Clara stared at him in wonder. “I still can’t believe it,” she said after a pause. “You? You actually… did that? To preserve the Timelines?”
He shrugged again. “Someone had to do it. I was the only one with a time machine, so….”
He drifted into an uncomfortable silence, staring through the metal grid beneath his feet.
“So, Doctor… did you learn anything from that study?”
“Yeah,” laughed the Doctor. “Never, ever, ever… tell that story to a companion!”
Clara smiled and placed a hand on his sleeve.
“But you told me, Doctor,” she said with a crooked grin.
“Only under duress,” he admitted.
Clara grinned. “Tell me a different story, Doctor. One that won’t make your ears turn red like they are right now.”
A huge, almost maniacal grin broke out over the Doctor’s face.
“Oh, Clara Oswald, I thought you’d never ask!” He turned to her.
“Once upon a time…,” he began, swiftly and deftly touching her temples.
“The end,” he finished, catching Clara as she immediately twitched and slumped unconscious into his arms.
“Still got it, Clara Oswald,” he whispered as he lifted her up. He stopped at the hallway leading to the TARDIS interior, bobbling Clara to extract his sonic screwdriver from a pocket. The squeal of the sonic could be heard reverberating through the console room as he deleted all references to Casanova from the TARDIS database. He resumed his trek to Clara’s bedroom.
“Stupid Doctor. Should have done that ages ago,” he said with a shake of his head.
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