She only came around every Wednesday at half past 1 in the afternoon.
Sometimes, she ordered tea. Sometimes, she ordered a very complicated coffee order that the baristas would always need her to repeat it at least thrice over. And she always, always ordered a drink with a mini soufflé to pair it with. He had started calling her "Soufflé Girl" in his head. She had been frequenting this particular coffee shop every single Wednesday – and only on a Wednesday – for the past four months.
She didn't have a usual spot like he did – the far corner booth for two with a perfect view of the door and the cash register yet still fairly hidden – she just took wherever was available and she would flip open travel books and magazines while she sipped at her drink and ate her coffee. She would stay at varying hours – just reading and looking at pictures and maps. And he would find himself watching her without really meaning to.
He found himself doing a lot of things just by staring at her.
He found himself grinning when she laughed at something she just read. He almost got up to help her that one time she spilled her frappuchino on herself but someone had beat him to it. He found his eyes followed her – all the way out of the coffee shop. He almost followed her – he hated to admit that he wanted to – but even that was going a bit far. Even for him.
He had wanted to talk to her lots of times before but he never bucked up the nerve to do so. What would he say? He had rehearsed it in his head, scripted it even, but how would he even start to say anything without it sounding like he wasn't some kind of creep from another planet? Funny, that observation was – given his name.
Every single Wednesday, he would tell himself that this was it. This was going to be the day that he would say hello and they would have a conversation and he would finally meet her. He wasn't scared of doing it, honestly. He was just a bit… rattled on how to actually go about it. He would spend hours trying to figure out how he would say hello or why he would even say hello. Time would pass and she would leave and he would have missed her. Again. And again. And again. And again.
After around two months of missing the moment, he thought he had missed his chance and it would be a trifle improper to just barge in on her and say he's been noticing her since the first day she went into that coffee shop and he hasn't stopped noticing since.
Things would probably have been easier if Amy had been there with him, like she always used to at that time. They were best mates and she majored in Literature while he was in Art History that time around. Then Rory went off to take his Masters for Nursing in New York after Amy had graduated and he had the whole business of asking Amy to move in with him. Of course, he was happy for them. But he couldn't help but stay in that same coffee shop, at the same hour of the days they used to have, always ordering an extra plate of jammie dodgers, as if his favourite Scottish ginger was going to strut in any second and order him about like she always did.
Amy would have noticed him noticing Soufflé Girl. Amy would have slapped some sense into him – literally, probably – and dragged him to the girl and she would have dragged him screaming. He could even hear her in his head.
"Hello, there!" Amy would say. "This is my friend and he's been kind of checking you out for weeks now but he's too much of a bloody idiot to say anything to you without overthinking everything, so could you do me a favour and talk to him so he can learn how to breathe again?"
Honestly, he would have been grateful to Amelia Pond for it. But she wasn't there with him anymore, not physically anyway. And he was stuck there, watching and waiting. Any second now, she was going to come in.
And at half past one in the afternoon, a girl with a bright red coat with her matching satchel came in. Soufflé Girl entered the coffee shop.
X X X
He was there again.
Clara oughtn't be surprised – he was there all the time. Sometimes, she would pass by the coffee shop on Tuesdays or Fridays and he was always there. From one in the afternoon, 'til who knows when – he would be there. And when he thought she wasn't looking, she could see him. Him and his obsessive love for jammie dodgers and tea (or so it would seem), always wearing braces and a bowtie with his polo shirt folded in to his elbows. Him and his hair that was shaped like a tidal wave in a hurricane that was suspended in time. Him and that big chin and that sneaky smile and how he would laugh boisterously whenever he was reading an old edition of Beano.
She started noticing him on her second month into the shop. It was the nearest coffee shop near her university and it was the only place she could relax and be with her own thoughts. Every other day, she would spend her free time at the Maitlands and take care of the kids. This was her weekday-off.
It was nice to have a constant little shop around so she could be by herself. It was often where she could just flip a magazine and look at all the places she was going to go to after she graduated. Only a few more months and she was free. The Maitlands would get a new nanny and she could be off to see the world.
There were the white sandy shores of Boracay in the Philippines at South East Asia. There was the Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There was the underground river in Palawan. There was backpacking across all fifty states of America. There was going around New Zealand and doing the whole Lord of the Rings pilgrimage. There was learning Swahili in East Africa. There was the Harry Potter theme park.
And a coffee shop, she found, was an ideal place to dream.
She ordered a frappuchino that day – her usual. It was a Crème Vanilla frappuchino with two pumps of raspberry, two pumps of hazelnut, a pump of mocha, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg, with dark caramel drizzle on top of the whipped cream. And, of course, her regular weekly soufflé - she never could get her mum's soufflé just right and it would always end up burnt out anyway. The shop's soufflé wasn't as good but it was good enough.
The barista rung up her order. She reached into her bag and felt for her wallet. She felt around but couldn't find it.
"Oh, you are kidding me," she murmured. She smiled at the barista for a second, a finger raised. "Just a tick. I know it's in here somewhere."
The barista was not amused. Not that he was entirely unpleasant but she knew the feeling. Clara was starting to panic, looking around for her wallet and even tried to coo at it, as if it were a puppy that would just go to her when she called. She was entirely too invested in looking for her wallet, convinced that she was secretly Mary Poppins or Hermione Granger or a Time Lord or something and that her satchel had become magically bigger on the inside and that she would find it eventually if she dug deep enough, when a stranger bounced in next to her.
No, literally. Bounced.
"Is there a problem, Canton?" It was the guy. Chin Boy.
"Sorry, am I holding you up?" she said, looking up at him for a moment, and then back to her satchel. "Just trying to find my wallet. I know it's in here somewhere…"
"Well, rather than hold up the line here-" he gestured to the lack of line behind him "- how does me offering to pay for your order sound? I'm famished and I'd like to eat."
Clara straightened her back and gave him a look. Then, she bent over a bit to peek at his table. Chin Boy stepped back to block her view. She even stood on her tiptoes, seeing as he was a good foot taller than she was. But even blocked from view, she could see just a bit of it. Chin Boy still had a good plate of jammie dodgers still at his table.
"Seems to me like you've got enough on you already."
"Seems to me like you haven't."
He was smirking, the nerve of him. All the while, Canton the barista was looking less and less amused as the banter went on. The order was placed in front of them by another barista.
"Are either of you two going to pay or not?" Canton was a bit cross then. "I'm off in five minutes, I've got a date with my boyfriend, and if neither of you are paying for this in ten seconds, I'm chucking it out the bin."
"Put it on my tab then, Canton," said Chin Boy, grinning proudly.
"Oi! No, you're not," she retorted as she pushed him away. "Hold on. You've got a tab?" Clara turned to the barista and pointed at him. "He's got a tab? How can he get a tab? You can get a tab in a coffee shop? Can I get a tab?"
Without her seeing it, Chin Boy gave Canton a face and a wink and Canton just punched in the numbers.
"Yeah, sure. You do now."
Clara raised a smirk to Chin Boy and held her head up proudly. "Thanks. I'll pay it back next week."
Canton simply rolled his eyes, printed out the receipt, and handed it to her. He looked at Chin Boy and raised his eyebrows. "And you, sir?"
"No, nothing for me, thanks. I'm all sorted."
"You just said you were famished," she replied, picking up her tray.
He grinned down at her and she just noticed the colour of his eyes. Green. Oh, this was too good. Dark brown hair and green eyes? She could appreciate this. The bow tie, the braces, and the chin? She could get used to that, she thought. Not that she was thinking of anything further from the conversation. No. Obviously not. She just noticed as she eyed him from head to toe.
"Sit with me?" he asked. The cheek of him, honestly. She would have slapped him if her hands weren't full.
"Why should I?"
"Curiosity?" he shrugged. He still had on that smug little smile of his, like he knew she was going to say yes. She raised an eyebrow at him and hated him for being right. So she lightly pushed the tray to him.
"Alright then. But you can carry that."
X X X
She sat on his chair, the feisty little minx.
He handled the tray with care and as he set her drink and soufflé down, he supposed he must have looked like a waiter of some sort. He'd never been a waiter before. He thought he might try that some day. It might even be fun.
Soufflé Girl had her arms crossed and was still trying to read him. She had a cute little retroussé nose and dimples on her cheeks, he could tell. He'd never really seen her this close before. It was new. And he loved new things.
He went back to the cash register and just as Canton was about to sign off, he gave him the empty tray. Canton rolled his eyes, took the tray, and sulked off to the sink. He was going to make it up to his favourite sassy barista some day, he promised himself. But for now, he walked back to his table, where Soufflé Girl was still sitting.
He sat down on the chair opposite her and smiled. Her lips were pouting.
"So," she started. "What's your name then?"
Oh, this was his favourite part. "Doctor."
"Doctor?" Soufflé Girl looked confused for a moment but then she tucked in her lips as if she was trying to hold in a laugh. "Doctor who?"
He grinned and chuckled a bit. "Exactly."
"I'm sorry – what?" She was smiling.
"That's my name."
"'Doctor Who' is your name?"
"First name: Doctor. Last name: Who?"
"Eeeyep," he said, ruffling his hair a bit. It fell back the same way as if he had never touched it at all.
"Now if you're taking the mick out of me, I can just leave."
"No, really. That's my name. Doctor Peter Smith-Hu, if you'd like." He was still smiling. He hasn't done this in ages and seeing the look on her face made it all the more rewarding.
"Explain," she said, obviously amused. "Doctor," she added as she took a sip of her drink.
"My father is half Irish and Canadian, and half-Filipino and Chinese. His name's Junjie Hu but his English name is Sydney. He moved and lived in Cardiff when he was ten. My mum is partly Egyptian, Spanish, Russian, and Estonian but for the most part, she's English. Her name's Verity Smith. Both of them grew up with the show and started with the fifth one – Peter Davison. They met, fell in love, got married – it was basically meant to be."
"You don't look very…" Soufflé Girl started. "Worldly."
Doctor's smile faltered a little but he still replied. "Mum and Dad then found out they couldn't have kids. So they adopted the best little baby in the nursery and there you go."
"Oh. Sorry." She looked abashed and sipped some more of her drink. Doctor took his drink and sipped a little of it as well. "Well… my name's Clara? Just Clara, though. Oswald. Clara Oswald."
"That's a brilliant name," he said, perking up again. "Clara. You should definitely keep it."
"Maybe I will."
Somewhere, he knew, Amy would be smiling for him.
X X X
Two things. One, Doctor could talk. Two, she was liking this. It was different – this flirting. She hadn't done so in ages and with this man, it was kind of fun. Still, though.
"So. With a heritage like yours, d'you travel a lot, then?" This was good. Find common ground was a good step, right?
"Fairly enough, I suppose," he answered, taking a bite of a jammie dodger from his plate. "How about you? All those travel magazines of yours – it's either you have and you miss it or you haven't and you want to."
"So you've been looking?"
"So have you."
Stalemate, then. He was good. They both drank their drinks simultaneously again. Their eyes were locked to each other's and each had their own knowing smile on their lips. Clara poked at her soufflé.
"Yeah, I do want to travel," she admitted. "Some day. I graduate from university soon so I might just do that. Maybe see something other than the Lake District or Hyde Park. How about you? You still studying?"
"I'm always studying."
"Really? What're you majoring in, then?"
"Art History," he said simply.
"Didn't really peg you for the type."
"I took up Mechanical Engineering, finished when I was thirteen. Double majored in Biology and Chemistry right after that, finished that when I was seventeen. Fancied Aeronautics so I finished that when I was twenty. Then I figured I'd get into Medicine, finished at twenty-two, but I never took the exams because come on. Dr. Doctor Hu would just sound silly. And right now, I'm twenty-five, finishing up Art History. Figured I didn't have an art degree yet and I'd like to be well rounded."
Clara made a face at him and raised both her eyebrows. Her lips were stuck to the straw of her drink but she wasn't drinking anything. She was just looking at him with wide, confused (but amused) bright brown eyes.
"Did I forget to mention the genius thing?" His question was genuine. Sometimes, he thought so quickly that he often forgot if whether or not his sentence had made it into his speech.
"Is that supposed to be impressive?"
"I'm not, I promise!" he said. He crisscrossed at both sides of his chest. "Cross my hearts." Clara almost spit out her drink as she laughed at him. "I take it you watch the show?"
"I used to. When it was still on, yeah. My mum used to have Dalek bubble bath."
"They ended it well with Tennant, though. Ten was absolutely brilliant." Doctor tried to get another jammie dodger from the plate but when he reached down, it was empty. He didn't even know he was eating them. He frowned a bit, realising he had just eaten Amelia's jammie dodgers, but then Clara pushed her soufflé toward him.
"You could share mine, if you'd like."
Doctor beamed and took a spoonful of it into his mouth. Oh, bliss. He should have soufflés more often. "You're welcome," he said.
"It's my soufflé, Doctor. You're welcome," she asserted.
"Right. Of course," he said, nodding seriously before taking in another spoonful. "Totally right."
A pregnant pause came between them as Clara's eyes narrowed. And when she got it, she rolled her eyes and sighed.
"They don't have tabs here, do they?"
"You paid for my food, didn't you?"
Doctor raised a finger to the air, his lips puckering while he tried to answer. "Well, technically, no."
"I own the place," he replied. And at least he had the nerve to look somewhat bashful.
"You own this shop?"
He only smiled and sipped his tea. Clara rolled her eyes, sat back, and smiled as she shook her head. "I'm paying you back," she said, pointing her finger at him.
"There's no need!" he said, almost dribbling his tea on his shirt.
"I am paying you back, Doctor." It wasn't a question and for such a little thing, Clara was quite gutsy and he said nothing. He only finished his tea and shrugged his shoulders, as if in defeat.
"You can pay me back. Not going to say I'll take the payment but you can pay me back." Clara was about to retort again but he cut her off. "So. What about you – almost graduating university, then? What are you taking?"
Clara looked him up and down again, crossing her arms. He practically finished off her soufflé. She was glaring at him and he shouldn't think it was endearing – but it was.
"Masters. Early Childhood Education. This is my only break on the weekdays, actually. I've got to play nanny to a friend's kids every other weekday. Nearest little coffee shop around and I've got to be in class by-"
Clara looked to her watch and her eyes widened. She sipped the rest of her drink and gulped it down in a heartbeat. "Sorry. Got to go. Class and things."
"Oh. Really?" he said, his expression dropping just a bit, like a slightly kicked puppy. "Okay then," he continued, getting up too. She was putting her satchel around her when he said, "See you next Wednesday?"
She looked up at him and beamed. He looked somewhat embarrassed by his request, as if just realising that he had just confirmed that he knew she came by that little coffee shop at that time, all the time. Well, not all the time. Just every Wednesday. "Down, boy. There's such a thing as too keen," she replied.
She took a few steps and was at his side. She looked up at him and he looked down at her. Her playful eyes soon reached her lips as she smiled one more time. "See you next Wednesday."
Doctor smiled a big gapped smile as he watched Clara go.
Until Wednesday, then.
X X X
A/N: Slice of life set in a country that isn't mine is very difficult.
I set up this coffee shop from the design of my favourite local Starbucks branch. The blend that Clara orders is my personal Whoufflé frappuchino – it has all the fruity sweetness of a jammie dodger and then the nuts and the mocha kick in that soufflé spirit and it is refulgent and lovely. Yes, we have a Whoufflé frappuchino. We also have a Whoufflé tea by Ronnie of geekalogian on Tumblr.
This is, technically, a Baked Soufflé for whoufflelibrary because The Librarian is the actual sweetest ever and I just wanted to dedicate this fic to you. You gave me the prompt, technically. Even if it wasn't a Soufflé Sunday prompt. I hope you liked it!
And to all of you lovely people who made it to the end – thank you! It's very hard to write AU fics, I now understand, of The Doctor and Clara but I hope I made him eccentric enough to make sense. In this headcanon, Doctor Who ran on until Series 4 and ended with the Tenth Doctor dying and not regenerating somehow on The End of Time Part 2. So yeah. The show is real in this show and let's not joke. We know we're going to be Verity and Sydney when we grow up – actual geek parents.
Reviews would absolutely make my Sunday, especially since this is the first Whoufflé-less week in this six month hiatus. I'll be writing tons of fanfiction in that time, to maintain some semblance of sanity. Reviews – especially long ones that are constructive and/or filled with feelings – are my favourite and encourage me to write more things. I'm giving you a face right now. Leave a review. Do it. No takesy backsies.
Wow, my author notes just get longer, don't they? I think I've rambled long enough. Thank you so much for reading this, you lovely people! I hope you have an absolutely fantastic day!