Gooseberry

by nostalgia [Reviews - 3]

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  • Teen
  • None
  • Angst, Fluff, Het, Humor, Standalone


Clara woke up in quite a good mood. The TARDIS had finally relented and stopped hiding her room, so she'd had a decent rest for once. Maybe they'd come to some sort of understanding without Clara being aware of it, and if that was the case she was going to make a special effort not to call the blue box an “it” any more.

Yes, life was pretty good these days. Okay so she fancied the Doctor and that was a bit awkward, but she was fairly sure it was mutual to some degree. It could be worse. She smiled at herself in the mirror as she dressed and brushed her hair.

It was going fine until she reached the kitchen and stopped in the doorway.

“River? River Song?” she asked, slightly stunned.

The woman turned towards her. “Oh, hello. I didn't realise there was anyone else on the TARDIS.”

“I'm Clara,” she said, trying not to point out the obvious fact that River was dead and therefore should not be standing in the kitchen wearing the Doctor's shirt and pouring herself a cup of tea. “I sort of... live here. At the moment.”

River smiled. “And you've met me before. How interesting.” She looked down at herself. “If I'd known there was someone else around I'd have worn some more clothes.”

“It's fine,” said Clara, half-lying.

River held up the kettle. “Cup of tea?”

“Okay,” said Clara, because she wasn't really sure what to say. Other than ”Move towards the light” which worked in films but probably not in real life. Besides, she was in a time machine, which meant there was a good chance that River was not in fact dead. She'd been alive in the past, so presumably that's where she was from.

“Well,” said River, “this is an awkward silence.” She passed the tea to Clara and looked at her strangely. “Are you alright?”

“Sorry, I was just... thinking?”

“Do tell,” said River, sitting down at the kitchen table.

“I've met you, but you haven't met me. That's a bit weird. Plus I'm fairly sure you didn't recognise me before... after... you know what I mean.”

“Oh, I'm a very good liar,” said River. “You'd be amazed at some of the people I've pretended not to know.” She frowned. “Now, why didn't the Doctor mention you? That's quite rude of him, isn't it?”

Probably too busy seducing you into his snog-box, thought Clara a little unkindly. She shrugged non-committally.

“And speak of the Devil,” said River.

Clara turned and almost fell over the Doctor, who at least had enough dignity not to be wandering about half-naked.

“Oh,” he said. “You've met.”

“Was that not the plan?” asked River. “Really, Sweetie, you're far too old to be sneaking girls into your room at night.”

“I did not sneak you into anything!” he protested.

“Did you think I'd fall madly in love with her and abandon you?” asked River. She glanced at Clara. “She really is very pretty. I'm sure you'll have noticed.”

“Is she?” he asked, casually. Clara thought very vividly about kneeing him where it would hurt most.

“She's met me, I haven't met her. And if you say 'timey-wimey' ever again I'm afraid I'll have to ask for a divorce.”

The Doctor stepped backwards out of the kitchen. “Clara, a word.”

Clara followed him to the console room, feeling ever-so-slightly miserable. It was just her luck, a dead woman showing up to steal her not-actually-boyfriend-yet.

“Right,” he said when they were alone, “I should probably have mentioned that River might be staying for a bit.”

“She's dead,” Clara pointed out, in case he had somehow forgotten that minor detail.

The Doctor silenced her with a finger on her lips. “Don't tell her. You can't ever tell her about her future. Ever.”

Clara pushed his hand away. “I'm not stupid,” she protested.

“We always met out of sequence,” he said, quietly. “The first time I met her was on the day she... died.”

“Oh.”

“I thought I'd lived all her days, but,” he said, eyes lighting up, “I missed one. A whole extra day of River Song.”

“That's... that's really good,” said Clara. “Really, it is.” She nodded. “Do you want me to go home for a bit?”

“No!” he said quickly. “I don't want you to go anywhere. I think you'll get on, the two of you.”

Clara suddenly wondered if he was going to ask for a threesome. “What if I say something wrong? Like about her being... D-E-A-D?”

“She can spell, Clara,” he told her.

“Sorry.”

“I managed not to mention it almost the entire time we were married, I'm sure you can do it as well.”

“Okay,” she said. “I just thought -” she stopped, realising that she was about to say a bit too much.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

The Doctor smiled at her. “This is going to be wonderful, I can tell! A day with my two favourite people in the whole universe!”



They went to Mars for a picnic in the TARDIS' air-shell. Clara examined her cheese-and-banana sandwich (and she was never letting the Doctor make the snacks ever again) and tried not to feel like a third wheel on a bicycle. It didn't really help that the other two seemed to be making a special effort to include her in their conversation.

“Have you been to Mars before?” asked River in an annoying friendly manner.

“No, but I've met a Martian. He wasn't really all that nice, to be honest.”

“An Ice Warrior?” asked River.

“That's not really the preferred term,” said the Doctor. “Next you'll be talking about 'Sea Devils'.”

“We all know about your Silurian issues, dear,” said River mildly.

“They're not issues!” he complained.

This was turning out to be quite a horrible day, thought Clara, glumly.

The Doctor shrugged. “Anyway, I'm not going to let your outdated terminology spoil the picnic.”

River reached over and snapped his braces against his chest. “Don't be silly.” She poured herself another glass of wine. “So, Clara, why don't you tell me how you two met?”

“It's a bit complicated,” said the Doctor.

“I called a computer helpline,” said Clara.

“Oh, was he moonlighting again? He does have these odd fantasies about normal life. I can't imagine why.”

“I need to go to the loo,” said Clara for want of a better excuse to get out of the way. She stood up and walked into the TARDIS, stopping in the console room to gather her wits.

She looked up at the time-rotor. “I bet you think this is hilarious,” she said to the air. “Fine, message received, I'm not the love of his life. Never thought I was, really.” She folded her arms across her chest. “I think it's cruel, actually, waving her in front of him like this.”

The lights flickered.

“It is,” Clara persisted. “You know that she's -” she glanced round to make sure she was alone “- sort of dead. How do you think he'll feel when it's time for her to leave?”

The background hum stayed steady.

“Oh, fine,” said Clara, “but don't say I didn't warn you.” She turned away and headed back outside.

On the surface of Mars the Doctor was feeding River strawberries like she didn't have hands of her own. Clara sat down as far as she could from the romance and knocked back a glass of wine. There was no way this was going to end well, and it wasn't her fault.

“Well,” said River when the fruit had run out, “I really should be getting back to the university. I'm supposed to be lecturing this afternoon.”

“We've got a time machine,” said the Doctor, not quite managing to look unconcerned.

River patted his knee. “I know, but if I don't go back now I'll forget where I left my notes.” She stood up and stretched. “You can drop by at the weekend, if you like.”

The Doctor stood as well. “Why are you always in such a hurry to leave?” he asked her. “I thought we were having a nice time here.”

“We were, but now it's time to do other things. Really, my love, you're being a bit confrontational today.”

The Doctor opened his mouth to protest and then sighed. “Fine, if that's what you want.”

Clara wished that she didn't have to be here to see this. The Doctor picked up the picnic basket and trudged back into the TARDIS.

River shot an odd look at his back, then closed the door behind him. “Clara,” she said calmly, “I'm going to die.”

Clara stared at her in surprise. “What? No you're not!”

River shrugged. “At some point. Eventually. The point is, I won't always be here for him. I'd like to know that he won't be alone when I'm gone.”

Clara shook her head. “Don't talk like that.”

“I have to.” She took Clara's hand between her own. “Promise me you'll take care of him.”

“Of course I will.”

River nodded. “Good. Now, we'd better get inside before he wonders if we're talking about him.”

Clara followed River into the TARDIS. She looked at the Doctor and faked a yawn. “I'm tired, I think I'll go and have a nap.”

The Doctor met her gaze and nodded. “I'll see you later, then.”

“Bye, River,” said Clara, leaving them alone to say their farewells.

She sat in her room until she felt the TARDIS land and take off again. Then she waited for the Doctor to come and find her, when he needed to. She might not be the first, or the last, but she was here now and maybe that was all that mattered.