i - Starbucks
It's Monday, and it's late, and she knows she should be going straight to work, but the thought of seeing her rowdy group of bottom-stream Year 9s and trying to develop in them some enthusiasm for the poetry of Christina Rossetti first thing with no coffee fills her with a deep despair.
She's been travelling all weekend with the Doctor and he's dropped her off at home without actually giving her any time to sleep, despite having a time machine. He doesn't often consider practical things, like that Clara might need a few hours to recover from seeing and running from actual homicidal ghosts , or that he should at least leave her enough time to grab a double-shot latte before she has to go and tame the lions that are the boys in her first period class.
She waits for her coffee impatiently, her eyes on the clock as she watches in tick closer and closer to 8:50. She will probably have just enough to time to grab her coffee, run to the loo, dash to school and slide in behind her desk just as the second bell finishes ringing, assuming nothing goes wrong.
Something goes wrong.
She knows as soon as she enters the toilet that it's not right. It should be a simple, rectangular room just big enough for one person to answer the call of nature, wash their hands and leave.
Instead it's...well, it's bigger on the inside. She frowns as she looks around. "Doctor?" she calls. "Have you redecorated since this morning, or-"
She stops and her eyes widen as she realises where she actually is. This TARDIS control room is currently in the form of a pleasantly decorated Edwardian-era drawing room, complete with chaise-longue, ornate fireplace and baby-grand piano. There is a table set for afternoon tea in the centre of the room. There are delicate finger sandwiches of smoked salmon and cucumber, scones with jam and cream, madeleines dusted with a light layer of icing sugar, and a pot of what smells like Darjeeling next to two blue and white china teacups with matching saucers.
Missy reaches forward and pours the tea. It pools smoothly in the cup, its amber colour slowly darkening to deep brown as more liquid is added. "Hello, puppy," the Time Lady says, grinning like a shark.
Clara turns and makes for the doors but she's too late; Missy snaps her fingers and they're locked.
"Now, now," her captor says evenly, rising from her seat and crossing smoothly to stand in front of Clara, whose breath is heaving in what feels close to panic. "Awfully rude to leave before you've eaten."
"What do you want?" Clara snaps, her heart thrumming in her chest like a freight train.
Missy gestures magnanimously. "I want you to sit down and have some tea, poppet. Try to keep up."
Clara's head shakes almost of its own accord. "You're going to kill me, aren't you?" She is a little ashamed of the tremor in her voice.
Missy cocks her head and seems to consider it. "Not today, I don't think," she eventually decides. Clara releases a breath, considers that the woman before her is completely insane and that she lies as easily as breathing, then considers that she has no way of getting out of here without Missy's consent and that making her angry is probably not how she's going to extricate herself from this situation.
"Uhm...right, okay," she breathes at last. "This is weird and...you know, terrifying, but...okay." She steps across the control room and takes a seat on the proffered chair. Missy does likewise, delicately descending onto the seat opposite.
"One lump or two?" she asks, grasping a rough white sugar cube with some fine silver tongs.
Clara doesn't take sugar in her tea, but thinks that some fast glucose will probably be helpful if she has to run, so she indicates two lumps and watches the grains slowly break up and dissolve in the brown liquid. Missy holds up the milk jug, a question on her face.
"Uhm, yeah," Clara replies, then adds, "I think in this era polite ladies would, uhm, put the milk in first."
"Well, that's stupid, how do you know you're not putting in too much?" Missy says. "And anyway, I'm a Time Lady, anachronisms are my forte." She raises one eyebrow archly. "Besides, since when was I polite?"
Clara coughs and takes a sip of her tea. It's sickly sweet, but she welcomes the moment of respite it gives her. "Well, when you tied me up, back on Skaro..." She pauses and flushes furiously, then carries on, "uhm, you made sure my skirt wouldn't fall over my face, so that was...you know, polite-ish."
Missy smiles, her eyes flashing. "Well, I think a girl deserves her dignity maintained in a bondage situation," she says, grinning wider as she sees Clara squirm. "At least on the first date."
Clara takes another sip of tea to calm herself. "What do you want?"
"Oh no, no, no Clara," Missy exclaims, replacing her own teacup in its saucer. "You were doing so well: now you want to jump into the main event and skip the foreplay?" She tuts.
Clara swallows hard, clutching her teacup with white-knuckle force. "Missy-"
"Oh fine!" The Time Lady relents, and picks up her teacup again. "I suppose we're both," she pauses and glances at her own tea and Clara's, "sufficiently moistened." Her shark-like grin reappears as she hears Clara squeak a little, involuntarily. "The truth is Clara, you interest me."
"I-" Clara croaks, then clears her throat and tries again. "I interest you? I thought you said I was dull."
"Well," Missy says magnanimously, "I'm very changeable, don't you know; it's a feature of being absolutely bananas."
Clara surprises herself by choking out a small but genuine laugh. "Right," she says. "And when you change again, that's when you kill me, right?"
Missy purses her lips, throwing her razor cheekbones into even sharper relief. Clara stamps on the traitorous thought that it's a good look for her. "Hmm," Missy says, seeming to give the point some serious consideration. "Possibly," she allows. "But I've been travelling been up and down your timestream for the last week and a half and I'm not bored yet. That's some sort of a record, for a human."
Clara's eyes bulge. "You've been in my past?"
"Oh, all over it," Missy breezes. "Blackpool 1986, Glasgow 1990, Bradford 1995, London 2011, and points in between." She shrugs. "Even saw Bowtie once, chatting to little you on the swings." She cocks her head. "Didn't say hello though. Didn't want to ruin the surprise."
Clara shakes her head. "Why?"
"You think I'd deprive myself of the look on old Eyebrows' face that day at St Paul's?"
"No, I mean, uhm...why are you interested in me?" She grips her teacup a little tighter.
Missy focuses pale eyes on her and takes another sip of tea. "Because you're boring."
Clara blinks. "Right," she says. "Right, uhm...yeah. It's just that, uh, that's the complete opposite of what you just said."
Missy laughs. "Bananas, remember?" She places her cup back in its saucer. "That's what's interesting. That you're a boring, ordinary human, as far as I can tell. And yet…"
Clara takes a deep breath and cautiously holds it. "And yet?"
There is a long pause, then Missy looks away. "Finished your tea?"
Clara looks down into the cup. "Oh, uhm…" She downs the last mouthful. "Yes." Then, after a moment, she adds, "thanks."
Missy rises and makes her way to the baby-grand piano sitting a little way from their table. "I'll drop you at work, shall I?" she asks absently, then sits at the piano and begins to play a tune. After a second, Clara recognises it as Pop Goes the Weasel.
"Are you...are you controlling your TARDIS with a nursery rhyme?"
Missy grins and laughs. "Why not? It's mostly telepathic: him indoors just enjoys all that running around and fiddling with knobs a bit too much. It's all a bit Freudian." She finishes the song with a little flourish. "We're here."
Clara blinks. "But it didn't make the noise."
Missy rolls her eyes. "We don't all fly with the handbrake on," she says. "Anyway, hop it puppy. I've got places to see, people to maim."
Clara doesn't think it wise to turn her back on Missy, so she backs herself towards the door, never taking her eyes from the Time Lady, the way she'd watch a wasp flying round her classroom. Missy gazes at her steadily with those pale, ageless eyes. Clara feels a shudder run through her. "Okay, well, this has been…" She decides against finishing that thought and fumbles for the door handle. She somehow manages to open it without taking her eyes off Missy, but she has to turn round to actually leave. The first thing she looks for is the clock sculpture the PTA installed near the main entrance last year, at the cost of ten grand that she and the other teachers were righteously outraged had not been spent on things that would actually improve their pupils' education. She's already mentally preparing her excuses for being so late when she sees the time. She turns back to Missy.
"It's eight thirty," she says.
Missy's face is blank. "Yes," she says, managing to drawl the word out into at least six syllables.
Clara turns back to the clock. "I thought I'd be late," she says."
Missy's face crumples in derision. "Why would I bring you back late?" she says. "It's a time machine."
Clara turns, opens her mouth, closes it again. Then laughs. "Thanks," she says, then walks out of the TARDIS.
Missy watches her go, taking in the bounce in her step and the swing of her hips. "See you soon, puppy," she mutters, then turns back to her piano. She cracks her knuckles absently, then begins to play.