SUMMARY: It's time for tea and The Doctor takes Clara to see the largest tea shop in the universe! Only, is it just them but do these tea connoisseurs seem to like their cuppa more than the usual?
CHARACTERS INVOLVED: The Doctor (Eleventh Incarnation) & Clara Oswald
TWO FOR TEA
X X X
She came up from behind him. He was busy wiping the surfaces of the TARDIS console, trying to soothe her. The old girl was feeling a bit down again – he could always tell. Even her lights seemed dimmer.
"Doctor?" she repeated, her voice still a bit groggy from sleep.
Clara rubbed her eyes and looked up at him – there really was no other way to look at him but up. She stifled a yawn and covered mouth. Even her usually tidy hair was a bit astray, obviously just having woken up from a nap. In over a thousand years of travelling, The Doctor had never stopped to see what the Sun looked like when it was peeking up for a new day. Some humans swore by it to be the most beautiful thing they've ever seen – the soft diffused rays of light, creeping up to touch them and bid them good morning. He's seen hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands of days go by but never its start and never its end.
Seeing Clara like this – fresh from such a simple thing such as a nap – he could finally understand what it's like to watch the Sun rise.
"Had a bit of a nap then, ey?" He said with a big toothy grin. She smiled back, turned around, and rested her elbows on the console. She threw her head back and took a breath, like she was stretching. She peeked at him from one eye and saw that he was staring at her. Again. He seemed to rub his hands together and perked up as if an idea had occurred to him. He did the twirl he liked to do and started flipping switches on the console. Clara followed him.
"Don't you ever sleep, Doctor?"
"Oh, sleep? Hardly. Sleep is for wimps who can't travel in time and space!"
Clara slapped his arm playfully to which The Doctor let out a typical "Yow!" and went to polishing the TARDIS again.
"What time is it, then?"
"It's a time machine, Clara. Any time's all the time and at no time at all."
"So how long was I asleep?"
Four hours and three minutes. "Dunno!" He clapped his hands once and rubbed them, he raised his eyebrows at her, his eyes wide, and donned a smile just about as goofy as his chin. "So! All of time and space, Ms. Oswald, what do you want to see next?"
This was his favourite part to watch – the moment her pupils dilate and she stands up a little straighter. He could practically hear her mind – a hundred mini-Claras just running around with paperwork and phone calls to other mini-Claras, trying to decide what it was they wanted to see and where she wanted to go, in the whole wide universe and in all of time that ever was and ever will be. She bit her lip and he counted the heartbeats it took for her answer.
But this was something new – her eyes looked down and her shoulders curved in. She turned away from him and looked at the console, the mechanism going up and down as it usually did. She swallowed before she spoke and when she spoke, it was in a small voice.
"Could you take me back to see my mum?"
He clapped his hands excitedly, his pointer finger rose to point at the ceiling. His mouth was already poised to say "GERONIMO!" but his finger knelt back into his hand and his smile vanished. "Oh."
She let out the breath she was holding and rubbed at her eye, catching the threatening tears before they even came. "Thought as much."
She smiled a little sad smile at him and he didn't quite know what to say to that. He wanted to make her happy and show her everything she wanted to see – but sometimes the universe doesn't work that way and sometimes there are places he can't go to and times he can't go back on, no matter how much he wished his could. If he could do everything that he wanted, the universe would be dead.
Your girlfriend isn't more important than the whole universe, he remembered saying to a lone Roman centurion once. Never did he think he would have to say it to himself. Not that he thought Clara was his girlfriend or anything. No, that would be silly. Unheard of. Preposterous. And yet…
"Sorry," she continued. "Couldn't help but ask. It's okay, though. I understand. Paradoxes and all that science-y stuff, right?"
"Yeah," he said. His head was bowed, still rubbing his hands together. "It's all very science-y."
"My mum always a made me cup'a tea after I woke up from a nap when I was a kid." Clara's lips twitched to a sad smile as she gazed at the console with downcast eyes. "She would pair it up with a pastry of some sort. Macarons, jammie dodgers, shortbread, crunchy honeycomb, homemade jaffa cakes!" Clara even turned and pointed at the Doctor in delight. She looked so happy and so sad all at once, so excited and yet so close to crying but she wouldn't.
"If it was a really bad day, she'd make soufflés." Clara closed her eyes dreamily then. "Mmm. I love soufflés."
The Doctor cupped her cheek with his hand at that moment, his thumb lightly brushing at her skin. She looked him in the eye, his flaring excitement contagious, and she let out a giggle. "Tea, jammie dodgers, and soufflés? I know exactly where to go!"
He danced around the TARDIS console, turned and toggled and switched on some switches. He pulled some levers and pressed some buttons and the same, glorious sound filled the air as the floor beneath Clara shuddered. She hung on and looked up at the light, preparing for what she knew was another day with the Doctor.
X X X
It was a space station - a special space station that specialised in tea.
There were aliens and humans and humanoids and cyborgs all about, talking peculiarly with various British accents and Clara grinned and giggled at all of it. She didn't think she'd ever get tired of it – the travelling, the new worlds, the never ending time jumping. The Doctor stepped out of the TARDIS, hands in his pockets, a smug smile on his stupid face. He whispered in her ear, "D'you like it?"
"Look at you, swaggering about like you own the place," she teased.
"I do! Well… I will. We- I mean, I did. I'm-" His face puffed up and his mouth all scrunched up in a bizarre "o". Clara laughed and poked both his cheeks, to which he made a sound like balloons deflating.
"So… where are we?"
"We're in Space Station Four. This," he said, gesturing wildly as he was wont to do. "My dear Clara, is the largest tea shop in the universe. Three hundred and… Fifty? Sixty? … floors, all dedicated to tea. They've got teacups and strainers and blends and teapots that sing and check your temperature! They've got brews and blends from the beginning of time of every planet in every galaxy in the known universe. It is the year 2502, just in the middle of the First Great and Bountiful Human Empire. Otherwise known as the Earth Empire. Humans have already begun to branch into the universe, exploring things just because they're there, exporting goods like bananas and tennis shoes and candle wax and tea, exchanging technology and history with life they didn't even believe in a few thousand years back. Humans - all getting and taking and receiving and growing and living and breathing and loving and never, ever stopping – I love ya."
He was looking at her when he said that and she quirked up her eyebrows at him. He blushed and straightened his bowtie. "Shut up!"
"And you said this space station specialised in tea? Why tea?"
He looked at her like the answer was obvious. "Everyone deserves tea, Clara," he stated simply. "Everyone in the universe."
He booped her nose, took her hand, and led her away. He led her to the main tea room on the floor. The room was lit brightly – a dazzlingly beautiful chandelier hung up on the ceiling, made of different coloured crystals that bounced different shades of colours all around the room. Still, the room retained a mixed tinge of yellows and oranges but the ceiling looked like a dozen rainbows with soft hues exploding all at once. It felt like a land made of Summer with a sky made of Spring.
There were people huddled all around them, quiet as ever. No one looked away from their respective cups and pots and everyone seemed to only want more and drink more and have more of their own blends. No one looked away from the piping hot drinks, which The Doctor chose to ignore for the moment, but it was quite odd. The place was so colourful and bright and yet the people who were there seemed blank and dreary. Perhaps it was of no import. Perhaps they were like people of the Victorian age, whose temperament was dictated by the temperature. Otherwise, it seemed harmless enough.
There was a long bar at the very middle of the throng, with a bar keep who was sprucing up teacups instead of shot glasses. The Doctor immediately ran to the stools and spun on the spot.
"Ooooh, spinny stools! Woo! I love spinny stools! I should have a spinny stool in the TARDIS! I mean, I probably do… somewhere. Spinny stools, man. Spinny stools are cool."
"Really?" Clara teased. She got on the stool next to him with just a little bit of difficulty – being rather petite did have its disadvantages. To her defence, the stool was rather high. Still, she couldn't help but twist and turn once she was finally seated. Her feet barely grazed the round steel railing at the bottom of the stool. The Doctor grinned and twisted and turned ever so slightly with her. Clara laughed and bumped her shoulder at him.
The bar keep was not impressed, however. "Are you quite done?"
The Doctor didn't miss a beat, his grin still plastered on his face, unfazed. "Ah, yes, hello! I'm The Doctor and this is Clara and we're from Health and Safety." The Doctor whipped out his psychic paper and flashed the credentials to the man's face long enough for him to just barely skim at the supposed credentials. "Routine checks, we'll be having whatever delights us, thank you!"
They were both given a rather thick booklet each – the menu of just the first fifty floors within range – and The Doctor gave Clara a smirk, but she wasn't looking. She was already poring into the menu and what was available to them.
"Look at that – Writers' Block," she pointed out. "Blends and suggested pastries fashioned after famous writers of the Earth, that's awesome!"
He only smiled at her apparently delight, looking over her shoulder to see what she was reading and the blends that made her smile. "The Agatha Christie – authentic oriental flavours with just a hint of pepper. The Rowling Specials – Butterbeer and firewhiskey tea with lemon drops and pumpkin pasties. The American Gaiman with vegetarian haggis… Does Britain take over the whole universe?"
"In a matter of speaking, I suppose," he said, picking up a saltshaker and shaking the contents to his hand. He licks his palm and shakes his head in disgust, tongue out and all. "Not salt."
"Oh, look! They have an Amelia Williams Special!"
The Doctor froze and turned to Clara. "What did you say?"
"A special blend inspired by Amelia Williams. The writer? I loved her books. Only the bluest blueberries are used, apparently. Best paired with the writer's own choice… fish fingers… and custard? That's a bit weird."
"Oi, don't knock it 'til you've tried it!" Oh, Amelia. Mad, impossible Amelia Pond. I miss you. He was smiling at the special blend inspired by her and before he knew it, he felt those same humany wumany tears from a few Christmases ago. The last Christmas with the Ponds.
"Doctor?" Clara came back into his vision. She snapped her fingers at his face to knock him away from his thoughts. Her voice wasn't of reproach, though. It was gentle. "You okay?"
"What? Oh, yes. Fine. Marvellous. Refulgent!" He said, smiling his sadness away.
"Why would you say that?"
"I don't know – I say stuff."
"It sounds familiar.
"It would," he said, kissing his fingers then patting the top of her head. He concentrated on the menu just then – or looked like it. Clara gave him that look-over he'd known so well. Sometimes, she'd push and push at his buttons until he gave in and gave her what she wanted but sometimes, she'd know when to stop pushing. And he loved her for that.
"Are there are bunch of alien teas here, then?"
"Oh yes, blimey! There's the Tears of Cheem – a special blend made out of very special trees in the Forest of Cheem. Living, sentient, talking trees and when the tears of the Mother Trees are put into blend… oh, bliss! Well… there's the tinge of sadness that goes with it but's a lovely brew."
"What will you have then, sir? Ma'am?"
The perpetually unhappy bar keep had returned, his tired eyes focused on Clara. She looked to The Doctor and to the menu and to the bar keep, confused and just a teeny bit excited. She pointed to The Doctor.
"Two special blends of the day, then, my good man with an order of twelve jammie dodgers, fish fingers and custard, and… a strawberry soufflé. And a red Stetson… and a fez."
"A fez?" Clara asked when the bar keep had left.
"What? Fezzes are cool."
"Yeah, about as cool as your bowtie," she replied, sarcasm dripping in her tone. But The Doctor must have missed the sarcasm and he gave her a big, open-mouthed smile.
"Yes! Finally, someone of taste!"
Clara chortled and shook her head, leaving The Doctor positively beaming while twisting on his spinny stool.
"How'd you know I liked strawberry soufflés?" she piped up suddenly. "I never said."
"Well, it was obvious enough! Your favourite colour's red, you thought time was made of strawberries."
"I didn't say time was made of strawberries!"
"All the same. It was a guess, I guess. A good guess, I'm guessing?" Clara giggled.
"Yeah, it was. My mum baked all sorts of things. She taught me how, actually. But soufflés? She always made those for me because I could never get them right. I'd burn them or they'd deflate too quickly or I'd forget to put in the eggs. Mum always said they were just too beautiful to live."
The Doctor took her hand, put it to his lips, and kissed it. He patted the top of her hand then and looked into those big brown eyes of hers.
"Some things are." Not you, though. Never you, he added in his mind. Clara smiled and she was so close to him. They were so close and they were being pulled ever closer, bit-by-bit, and for a man who has lived and has run for over a thousand years, little seconds like these seemed infinitely longer than they should have.
But a ruckus sparked at the corner of The Doctor's eyes, and a man was being held back. His mouth was being covered and there were guards who were dragging the man away. The man was struggling vehemently and before he was unceremoniously shoved into the lift – the man was able to shout one thing: "JUST ONE MORE CUP!"
The Doctor straightened his back and got up from the stool. Clara was about to do the same but he beckoned for her to stay still on the stool.
"Doctor, what's wrong?"
"Clara, stay right there. Stay right where you are, where I can see you."
He whipped out his sonic screwdriver from his coat pocket and pointed it at the direction where the man had been dragged. The readings on his sonic didn't say much when he held it close to his face. The Doctor approached one of the nearer guards. The guard had an oddly striking resemblance to the two guards who had taken the poor man.
"Where is that man going? Where are they taking him? Why are they taking him?"
"Causing a fracas at Space Station Four is punishable by expulsion, sir. That man was causing a fracas."
"But he just wanted more tea! Did he run out of credits? Answer me!"
"You will cease from causing a fracas or you will be expelled from Space Station Four, sir." The Doctor was very close to the guard now but the guard did not flinch. His eyes seemed blank and the colour of his pupils was very nearly black. But he smelled very nice, The Doctor had to admit that. A little minty, perhaps.
"Then, we'll just have a little poke around then. Come along, Clara."
The Doctor turned around to see that Clara was no longer on the spinny stool, the spinny stool just spinning by itself. Also on the bar top, were two hot cups of tea, some jammie dodgers, fish fingers and custard and a deflated strawberry soufflé.
X X X
A/N: Well, if I want to write for the BBC when I grow up, I might as well take a shot at writing some Doctor Who fanfiction for practise! This is the first time I've even tried DW fanfiction so please be nice. Whouffle just makes me want to write it. I would like to thank geekalogian on Tumblr for the prompt of "largest tea shop in the universe". I hope you like it!
If you'd like to leave me more prompts for future fics, just send a message at ohmyoswinstars on Tumblr and we'll see, yeah? I'll try and update this quite soon as I don't plan for it to be very long. I hope you enjoyed it!
Reviews are cool. The bowtie-and-fez kind of cool. :-)