The worst has come to pass—the unthinkable has happened. The Doctor's got about seven seconds to locate the TARDIS self-destruct before a situation that's already gone to hell pulls him down with it. He'd rather a fiery death in the cold grip of space than what's about to descend on him, but he can't remember if the self-destruct is a button or a lever or that weird spinny-whirly bit.
He's running out of time. His search becomes more frantic as the seconds he's been given ticks down. Lever or button or spinny-whirly bit—
He's been found. Abort the mission. Abort. Abort. There's nothing left for it—he turns to face Clara, the knowledge of his impending doom shadowing his face. Still, the Time Lord does his best to put on a smile.
"Yes, Clara?" His voice cracks.
Her wide, knowing smile is a critical hit to his ego. She holds up an article of clothing for him to see, and it's all the Doctor can do not to shield his eyes in absolute shame. He tries to stand tall in the face of his shortcomings but it's like a blade of grass resisting a gale—worthless.
"What's this?" Clara's stringing it out. Enjoying his discomfort. That's so her, somehow, that it puts a wry twist to his mouth.
"I was younger then," he intones darkly, like he's speaking of murder rather than a brightly colored monstrosity of a suit, complete with stripes and polka dots and that dreaded cat pin. "We've moved on now. Let it go."
"You mean you actually wore this?" His ego is as good as demolished now. There'll be no regaining what respect he had with her before this—it was all just thrown onto the wind. All the same, that incredulous 'I'm trying really hard not to laugh but it's not working' tone stabs him where it hurts. The Doctor needs his companions to respect him. How else is he supposed to keep them under control? There'll be no living with her now.
"Yes," he says miserably, shoulders slumping in admission of his defeat. "Go on. Yuk it up." He gives a shallow wave of his hand, like he's giving her permission to rub his nose in it.
There's a beat of silence as Clara examines him, then looks to the blinding suit in her hand, the smile hovering on her lips. "You know what," she finally begins, "I'll make you a deal."
He looks up hopefully.
"I won't ever mention this again," she holds out the suit to demonstrate, "if you show me how on earth you ran around saving worlds in this thing and still managed to have people keep a straight face around you."
The Doctor blanches visibly. "You mean…"
"Yes." Clara's face is gleeful. He's never seen something more evil than in that moment. "I want you to wear it, maybe save a world or two in it."
"No." It's the obvious, knee-jerk reaction. "No. No! Absolutely not!" He shakes his head and his hands, turning back to the console and making himself busy with some knobs and switches that, he's (fairly) sure, do nothing. "That's out of the question. Wearing that again…" He shudders, and his entire body shakes like it's shedding water. "I wouldn't have enough regenerations to live it down," he says in a horrorstruck whisper.
The Doctor's hands stop their fiddling. He turns to regard Clara, eyes narrowed suspiciously. She'd never give up so easily. She's got something else up her sleeve, he knows it. "What is it?" he asks cautiously.
"Nothing, it's just…" She regards the suit casually, not even looking at him as she speaks. "Do you remember that trip to Midnight?"
Twin red spots blossom on his cheeks. The Doctor flusters about for a moment in embarrassment before clearing his throat and asking croakily, "Yes? What of it?"
"I took photos."
It's all the Doctor can do not to collapse into the jump seat then and there. His face reddens further, but he struggles to retain his dignity. He does that a lot around Clara. "You told me you didn't!" he accuses weakly.
"Yeah, so I did. I was going to keep them for my own amusement, but I think they could be put to better use…" Her smile is wicked, but the Doctor can't see it. He's gone into a daze of remembering that particular trip and picturing the ramifications of such photos getting out. Forget the rainbow suit, he'd never be able to show his face again.
He fishes desperately for a way out even though he knows it's useless. "I'll find the photos."
"Good luck with that," Clara hums.
"I'll—I'll burn the suit!" It's something he should have done a long time ago, really.
The TARDIS whistles like a teakettle at that. Clara nods at the console. "You honestly think she'd let you? Plus, I think the TARDIS would like to see you in your old suit. Think how dashing you'll look!" Her voice shakes with laughter. She knows she's got him in a corner.
Both of his girls are ganging up against him. It's like fighting for a grip on a muddy slope—he keeps sliding downwards, and the hope of escape becomes a feeble pinprick of light about to go out. "I just won't go out, then," he says firmly. A last-ditch effort. "I won't ever save another world again, not if I have to wear that while doing it."
Clara falters, and he smiles triumphantly. He's landed a blow—never going on another adventure again? They're the reason Clara leaped onto the TARDIS with him in the first place, and without them it would just be the two of them, together in the TARDIS, with nothing to do—they'd maul each other before the week was out.
But it's only a second before she's in control again. "How long do you think you'll be able to hold to that?" she challenges.
"Longer than you," he counters. He's been walking steadily closer and now they're nearly in each other's faces, both smiling and trying to get the other to back down.
"You want to bet?"
"Much rather bet than wear that."
"Oh, it can't be that bad," scoffs Clara.
"Really? Then why don't you wear it?"
"You really think it would fit me?"
"You're right, you're much too tiny, aren't you?"
She narrows her eyes at him—that's a touchy subject.
"Just wear the bloody thing, Doctor."
Her smile widens. "Midnight," she tells him in a sing-song tone, and he pauses, once again gauging just how serious she is.
They stand there like that, noses almost touching, staring each other down. The Doctor's smile slowly fades as he realizes that she's not going to be the one to back away from this. As his fades, hers grows wider.
And then he shakes his head, huffs out a frustrated laugh, and snatches the suit from her grasp. "Only this once," he grumbles at her unhappily—but the feeling fades slightly at the delight on her face, even if it's at his expense. He marches away down the corridor grumbling something about never doing this again, how it's against the laws of the universe to wear the same clothes on a different regeneration, but it's really just a front to hide the lack of distress he's suddenly feeling about this.
It's not that humiliating, if he thinks about it, and if it gets her to smile like that, well, it'll almost be worth it.
Almost, he thinks ruefully as he eyes the suit.
I'll be honest, this was a lot of fun for me to write. I'm thinking there'll be a second installment. Your thoughts?