Buckingham Palace was nothing but dimly-lit corridors, faceless red uniforms, and dizzying amounts of bowing and curtsying, and the Doctor had had quite enough of it, thank you. Checking his coat pockets one last time to make sure the Shodani circuit was secure, he set about obtaining the information he needed to make his escape.
The Doctor grabbed the nearest uniform by the sash, spinning him around to face him.
"Have you seen my friend?" he demanded of the startled man. "Short, brown hair, sticky-up nose. Probably wearing a skirt."
Wild-eyed, the servant finally mustered a "Wot?"
"Short," the Doctor repeated insistently, miming somewhere around his stomach for emphasis, before a figure running in the distance caught his attention. "No, shut up, never mind."
He dropped him on the red carpet (why was there so much red?) and took off down the hall. Within half a minute, the Doctor had caught up with the diminutive figure. It was definitely her, but she'd done something different with her hair. Maybe she was wearing a hat? She'd also, mysteriously, acquired a dog.
"Gotcha," he said, grabbing Clara's hand and pulling her in the opposite direction, past a series of famous paintings. Endless corridors, this place, easy to get lost in. But at least they were well-decorated corridors. Much nicer than the places they usually ended up. Softer landings, too.
Clara seemed oddly disgruntled. "Unhand me, sir!"
"Okay, yeah, we're done with the undercover stuff now," said the Doctor, hurrying her along. "I found the Thing - long story - and we need to leave, now. I'd thought we'd landed in the Edwardian period, but we're actually a few years early, so I'm persona non grata at the moment - another long story, tell you later."
But Clara was not following him as well as she usually did. Her long skirt kept getting in the way. She was also trying to pull her hand away from him.
"UNDERCOVER?" she bleated. Oh, she sounded angry. He should have expected this.
"Look, I know you thought it would be fun, but there's no need for subterfuge anymore," the Doctor said patiently. "We can go be spies another day, okay? Maybe somewhere I'm not an enemy of the state."
The dog's annoying yips finally registered as he realized it had been following them the entire time. He spared the black and white spaniel a withering glare, and it abruptly sat in place, chastened. "Honestly, why the dog? I thought you were more of a cat person?"
Clara looked imploringly at the spaniel. "Dash!" she said.
"Wonderful idea," said the Doctor.
So they ran, down the corridor, round the corner, past some overdressed courtiers, and straight into the TARDIS as the Doctor snapped his fingers to open its doors. There was a shout of panic as they vanished into the box, and another shout as the TARDIS promptly dematerialized from view, but he paid those no mind. They'd probably just attribute it to bad madeira, anyway.
By the time they'd spun back into the vortex, the Doctor became aware that Clara had not followed him to the console like she usually did. Instead, she was standing by the door, clinging to the railing, and she did not look happy. He squinted at her. No, she wasn't wearing a hat, she'd just let her hair down. He hadn't realized she had quite so much of it. And her eyes had gone all pale and funny.
He tried out a smile. "Well, that's done!" he said. "Next stop, home, I guess. Don't you have marking to do? Detentions to distribute?"
Clara said nothing. He dropped the smile, raised his hands in exasperation.
"Come on! We got what we came for. No need to be sour about it."
And then Clara surprised him. Voice quivering with anger, she said, "We will reserve the right to be as sour as we like. We demand that you take us back at once, by order of your sovereign!"
The Doctor took a deep breath. He hadn't thought it would come to this.
"Really, Clara," he said reproachfully. "We've got to talk about your egomania. It's out of control."
(Clara, meanwhile, had found her egomania served her quite well in pretending to be the Queen and was enjoying herself tremendously, although she was starting to wonder what was keeping the Doctor. He'd left her largely to her own devices while he tracked down some alien tech that had - thanks to a poorly-timed incident involving a time capsule, a basket, and Cardiff - inadvertently ended up in Buckingham Palace's past. She'd soon found herself being asked to sample cakes before being whisked away and put into fancy dress. Impersonating royalty probably wasn't what he'd had in mind when he'd told her to blend in, but it had been an honest mistake.
A polite cough interrupted her thoughts. She looked up towards the easel.
The artist was positively glaring at her, his head just barely visible around the enormous canvas. "Please, ma'am, if you would kindly sit up straight."
Clara straightened her back, feeling the weight of the crown on her head and the heavy mantle pressing down her shoulders, and looked sternly ahead for her royal portrait. If only the Doctor could see her now.
Oh, someday, they would laugh about this.)
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