A/N This was meant as a sequel to 'Pretending', in which Clara and Eleven spend time in Venice with Casanova, who just happens to look exactly like the Tenth Doctor. If you haven't read that story all you need to know if that the Doctor's regenerations aren't completely random, and are often subconsciously based off of people he has met.
There will be one more chapter after this. I'm just editing it now, so I should have it up by tomorrow.
A wise entity once said that the sound of the TARDIS brings hope wherever it goes. If Clara Oswald had had the benefit of hearing that statement she would have heartily agreed (with perhaps the obvious exception of the Daleks, Cybermen, and the like). Today, however, that familiar wheezing only filled her with annoyance and she actively ignored the blue box's presence in her kitchen as she cleaned off her few breakfast dishes and packed her bag. Ten or so minutes later the Doctor left the TARDIS, having reached the upper limit of his patience. "Why the delay, Oswald?"
"It's half seven," Clara said without looking up from her task.
"I fail to see the relevance of—"
"I leave for work at half seven." The Doctor showed no sign of comprehension. "It's Wednesday, Doctor. I have work today."
He rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated sigh, "We have a time machine! The current date and time, they're irrelevant. We can go away for years and I can have you back not a moment later. Why is it you humans never fully grasp the concept of time travel?"
"Why is it that you Time Lords are so bad at time? Fridays after 4. You assure me you can get me back in the exact moment I wish, and yet you can't even seem to get this simple time right," Clara looked up from her bag and caught the flash of anger on his face.
He gritted his teeth and tried to keep his voice level as he said, "I take it you're not coming then."
"Friday after 4, Doctor," she said as she put on her coat and swung the bag over her shoulder. She began walking towards the door, but stopped at the sound of his voice.
"Don't know if I can make it this Friday. I'm rather busy, whole universe of responsibilities out there. Can't always be at your beck and call."
"There are plenty of Fridays, I'm sure you'll find one that works for you." She walked out of the house before he could reply.
Clara was fuming the whole walk to the tube. She hated fighting with the Doctor, but ever since his regeneration he had developed quite a knack for pushing her buttons. He was just so stubborn. Then again, so was she, which pretty much insured they'd be fighting until the end of time. Clara never fought with the Eleventh Doctor. At worst they bickered. He was too skittish and sweet to fight with her. Besides, she was 'the boss'. Sadly that opinion hasn't made it through the regeneration. Sometimes Clara just wished... No, she thought, that wasn't fair. Just after his regeneration Clara longed for him to change back. There wasn't anything wrong with the latest version, but he wasn't her Doctor. However, by this point they had spent enough time together that Clara really did think of him as the Doctor, and no longer yearned for his past self. Excepted in moments like this, when her ire was up and she missed her docile Doctor who had nothing but kind words for her. Who thought she was perfect and impossible. Clara marveled at the fact that it still hurt to think about his past regeneration, even all this time later. She felt foolish for admitting that. The Doctor wasn't dead, and yet the man he use to be was gone. Lost to her. Thinking about his Eleventh self made her feel strangely homesick.
Clara was so fixated on the Doctor it was as though she had conjured him there on the platform. The tall, thin man in front of her had similar chestnut brown hair and seem to even move with his gait, or so Clara wanted to believe. As the train pulled into the station the man turned to watch its approach and Clara glimpsed his profile. It was the Doctor! She was so certain she called out to him. He didn't reply, simply walked on the train. Clara followed after him, calling his name. When at last she caught up to him she placed a hand on his arm. He turned around at the contact, as she said his name once again. "Do you need a Doctor?" he asked. He looked at her with concern, but no recognition.
She was too early. He didn't know her yet. This was bad. She may not have been crossing her own time line, but she might as well have been. When the Doctor met her was important. A great many things including his life depended on it. Clara glanced around the car, but it was mobbed with commuters, there was no where for her to go. "Sorry," she said, keeping her eyes low, "Must have mistook you for someone else."
The man smiled in amusement, "Oh, you thought I was the doctor?" he laughed at that. "Trust me, you wouldn't want me as a doctor, I didn't even attempt my A levels in Science."
There was something strange about his voice. A twang the Doctor didn't usually have. Clara looked at him more freely. He wore a black suit, skinny tie, and glasses (normal ones, not his much beloved round ones). She stared into his eyes, but barely found a trace of sadness there. His eyes were young. This wasn't the Doctor.
The young man didn't seem to mind the scrutiny of her gaze. He simply smiled at her and then, as if remembering where they were offered her the seat in front of them. Clara took it on instinct, still trying to work out just who this man was. He took the seat beside her and asked, "Have I got something on my face?"
Clara shook her head, "Sorry, I'm being rude. It's just... You remind me of someone, that's all."
"Someone you haven't seen in a while, I'm guessing." Clara raised a hesitant eyebrow. "You just looked overly pleased to see me. I mean not that I mind. It's nice when people are pleased, though I guess it would be better if you were actually looking for me..." he rambled. "I'm Danny by the way," he said, trying to recover slightly. "Danny Foster."
"Clara Oswald," she shook his outstretched hand. It was smoother than the Doctor's had been. Less calloused. "And where are you off to this fine morning, Danny?" Clara asked, trying to steer the conversation away from her and who she thought he looked like.
"Why are you going there?"
"That's where I work. I'm a researcher for Jo Porter."
"I like Jo Porter." He smiled fondly at that. "I really appreciated her Community Outreach Plan. I think it's just what our country needs." Danny looked at her strangely. Clara scan through her memories, trying to place that particular bit of knowledge. The Doctor had over shot and landed them several months in the future recently. Had she heard about the Plan then? "Or was that some thing else? I afraid I've got those sorts of bills all mixed up."
"No, no, you're not wrong, we're working on that right now," he indicated to his satchel, "we just haven't made it public yet." He was still scrutinizing her.
"Lucky guess, I guess," Clara shrugged.
"Either that or you're a mind reader. Or a spy."
"Just a time traveler," she said casually.
Danny seemed to light up, "Wouldn't that be something, time travel! Live through your favorite moments in history. Meet your heroes. I know they say you shouldn't, but there are some..."
"Like who?" She probed, enjoying his very Doctor like enthusiasm. "If you had a time machine who would you meet?"
Danny didn't hesitate, "Mandela. I'd see him twice. Once early on, just after he first joined the ANC and then again towards the end of his life."
"That's a good choice. Mandela's a kind man, and he makes a mean plate of bobotie." That made Danny laugh out loud.
His own witty reply was interrupted by a disembodied voice over the loud speaker, "The next station is Westminster. Change for the Circle Line. Alight here for Westminster Abby and the Houses of Parliament."
"Looks like this is your stop," Clara said, a little sad to see him go.
Danny looked perturbed that their conversation was coming to an end so soon. "Would you like to get a drink sometime?"
"Sure." That wasn't what Clara meant to say. She meant to say 'no'. It wouldn't work, it would just be confusing. But she said yes, and with the train on the move there was no time to take it back.
"Great!" His face was filled with a big, goofy grin. "How about tonight? Gordon's Wine Bar at 8?"
"Perfect," Clara heard herself say, although her rational mind was still trying to figure how it got this far. They had just enough time to exchange numbers before the train pulled into Westminster.
"I'll... I'll see you tonight," Danny said excitedly, nearly knocking a woman over because he was looking back at Clara while trying to exit. He even gave her a quick waved from the platform as the train pulled away.
They had arranged to meet on the bank of the Thames. Clara was a couple of minutes early and much to her surprise Danny arrived exactly at 8 (clearly the Doctor had not copied his punctuality). They exchanged hellos, walked into the bar, and found a small table in the cellar. Clara loved the way the candle light flickered against the low, curved ceiling. She had been there once before, in the 1600s. Her and the Doctor had hidden in the cellar. They were being pursued by Catarans. Strange, mole like aliens with very weak eye sight, but strong hearing and sense of smell. The wine cellar (and perhaps time period itself) had been enough to mask the Doctor and Clara's scent, but they still had to be very quiet. They were even doing a good job of it until the Doctor leaned on an unsupported shelf and sent it, several metal tools, and 4 ceramic jugs crashing to the floor. That's when the two of them began running. Clara had swiped a wine skin on her way out. Back in the TARDIS she pour a glass for the Doctor and herself. She had quite enjoyed the wine, but the Doctor had spit his first sip back into the glass. They hadn't touched the wine skin since. It was probably still somewhere in the TARDIS. Hundreds of years in that body and he never developed a taste for wine. Clara glanced over at Danny. Did he have one?
As if reading her mind (at lease in part) Danny said, "I'm usually more of a beer drinker, but at work functions it's all about the wine, so I've picked up a thing or two. I've had to." He ordered them a bottle and nearly started a fire by placing the menu too close to a candle.
Clearly the Doctor did picked up some of his traits, Clara thought. "So I think I've figured out why you looked so familiar," Clara said as the server departed.
"I thought you said I reminded you of your friend?"
"You do. But your face is also familiar, like maybe I've seen you before." Clara had been thinking about it all day, wondering which of the Doctors had met Danny and why he had chosen Danny's face. She was determined to get an answer. "I think maybe I've seen your picture."
"'S possible. Like if we have a mutual friend or something?"
"Or acquaintance. A number of my friends belong to this sort of club of doctors and at first I thought you might be part of it."
"Hence this morning."
"Exactly. But I was thinking, maybe I just saw you in a picture with one of them."
"Makes sense," Danny said with a nod, "what are their names?"
Clara made a face, "That's what makes it tricky. They just go by 'Doctor'."
Danny laughed, "A group of doctors that just call themselves 'Doctor'?"
"They're an eccentric bunch."
Danny could tell this mattered to Clara, and although he had no idea why it would, he was happy to help her solve it, "So what do they look like, your friends, the Doctors?"
"One of them is very tall and thin, with spiky hair, sideburns, and a long brown coat." Danny shook his head. "Another one has short cropped hair, wears a leather jacket, and has big ears." That description made Danny laugh, but wasn't familiar. Clara wondered just how far back it might have been. That was the trouble with time travel. You could never count on things happening in order. She thought back to Casanova. It was the Doctor's fourth self who had met him. "How about man with very curly hair and a ridiculously long scarf?" Danny raised an eyebrow. "They also share a rather strange sense of fashion."
"Does one of them wear a piece of celery on his lapel?" Clara laughed excitedly, pleased to have found an answer. "Doctor Smith! I met him at a wedding a few years ago. We had both gone alone and got to talking. He's a big cricket fan, isn't he?" Clara nodded. "I liked him a lot. He was a very moral man, very concerned about doing what was right." Danny chuckled as he remembered something else, "He seemed to enjoy my dancing. Said I looked like a drunken giraffe. Actually he said something funny to me, on the dance floor. He said that if he ever felt brokenhearted and terribly old, he wanted to feel like me, carefree and completely mad." Danny's smile fell when he looked over at Clara. "Are you okay?"
In that moment Clara felt desperately sad and she wasn't doing a good job of hiding it. And Danny looking at her kindly, with his young eyes, wasn't helping. Her first instinct was always to help others. To make them feel better. But no matter what she did she couldn't help the Doctor. Not completely. His past was just too tragic, and too big, and all together just too past. It broke her heart to think the face she so treasured was just another coping mechanism. Clara shook her head and tried to smile. She apologized for getting 'lost in her head' and turned the conversation to happier topics.
Fortunately conversation was easy and soon Clara's smile was replaced with a real on. They talked until the bar closed, and as Danny walked with Clara back to the subway he ask, "Can I see you again?"
Clara's instinct was to make some quip about being able to see her right now, but instead she said, "Yes."
Danny looked immensely pleased to hear it. "Tomorrow?" He asked eagerly.
"Sorry, parents night at the school."
Clara was about to say 'no'. She never booked anything on Fridays. That was the Doctor's day. But he was the one who said he 'couldn't make it'. And who knows with him. He might not come back for years, or he might be already at her flat. She didn't always have to make her plans around him. "Sure," she said, almost defiantly. If he was busy, she could be too.
A/N I couldn't resist using another one of Matt Smith's roles for this story. Danny Foster is the character he played on Party Animals.