"I'm bored! Let's go somewhere fun. Do you want to see the Thames frozen over? Oh, the great frost fairs!"
He moved fast. Before Clara could intervene and let him know that Danny had boarded the TARDIS with her after all, the Doctor had set the TARDIS into motion. “Ta,” he said as Danny shimmered back into view. The Doctor glared at him. “Not that you deserved to go anywhere. But I've a point to make. Oh, and don't try light shield auras around me. I'm a Time Lord, I can see right through them if you're close enough.”
"Oh, Time Lord, is it?" Danny shot back, but Clara cut him off. “Doctor, where are you taking us?” she demanded.
Derailed, Danny frowned at the time rotor. “Is he really taking us off somewhere?”
“No.” Squeezing Danny’s hand briefly as she passed by, Clara moved around him to slap her hands on the console. “Because you’re taking us home right now.”
“In a minute.” The time rotor shuddered to a stop, and the Doctor pushed back. He pulled the monitor down, double-checked the coordinates, then reached across the console to press a button. “There. Just as I promised.”
Clara exchanged a wary look with Danny. “Promised what?”
“Frost Fairs. Last of them, actually. Oh, there's quite a few we could have gone to. There's 24 to 26 in all depending on the counting, but this one's pretty spectacular. 1814. Frozen-over Thames. Elephants.” The Doctor shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. “Go have a look.”
For a moment, the excitement of discovering some place new swept Clara’s worries aside. She grabbed Danny’s hand once more. “Come on!”
“Wait. Did he really take us to 1814?” Danny allowed himself to be pulled to the door.
“Knowing him, he's showing off.” Clara smiled as the Doctor snorted behind her. “We’ll just have to see, won’t we?”
Danny reached for the door instinctively, then stopped. He stepped back, gestured to Clara. “It’s your show.”
Clara gave a small curtsey. “Why, thank you, Mr. Pink.”
Clara opened the door and peered out into a winter wonderland. The Thames was crowded with people wearing ice skates. Some were holding races while couple took lazy turns arm-in-arm. In the distance, another crowd was escorting what did look to be an elephant under one of the bridges.
Over her shoulder, Danny peered out and raised an eyebrow. “Not much of a wonder here, if you ask me. Looks like the Thames, but with less smog and different clothes.”
“It’s magical! Let’s go ice-skating! Oh, I’ll show you the wardrobe. Makes anything we have at home look minuscule in comparison.” Clara started to pull back when she noticed her hand wrapped around the door frame of the TARDIS. Where she’d expected to see wood, she saw nothing. She danced her fingers along the frame, feeling the wood beneath her hand. “Doctor, did you turn the TARDIS invisible? You’re really laying it on thick with the showing off, and Danny does have that watch on.”
Before she could get an answer, she spotted it just a few feet away. Another blue box. No, she realized. Not another. The same. The TARDIS.
“You’re horrible at this!” An amused voice carried over the ice, and something about it shocked Clara to the bone.
“I’ll have you know I won an Olympic gold medal in ice skating in 2488. Or would had, if the Terraphiles hadn’t invaded.”
“Yes, sweetie, I was there.”
Ignoring Danny, Clara rushed out of the TARDIS and into the snow. Carefully, she crept up the hill and found herself overlooking one of the bridges spanning the Thames. A man and a woman danced around the ice, arms wrapped around at each other. Her eyes narrowed. Was that Stevie Wonder sitting at a piano?
The couple turned, and Clara’s heart leaped into her throat. There he was, the bowtie, floppy-haired Doctor she originally traveled with. In his arms was the woman with the space hair. River Song, his wife. The Doctor stumbled a bit on purpose, and River laughed as he regained his footing. Clara snorted.
“Putting on an act still,” she muttered, wrapping her arms around herself as Danny trudged up the hill to join her.
“Who’s that?” he asked.
“But, he’s back on the ship.”
“No, the other one. The one that looks a bit like Adrian. This is the Doctor before he was the Scottish caretaker. That's his wife, River Song. I told you about her last night.”
Danny squinted at the couple. “Yeah, he does sort of look like Adrian. And she looks like someone off that Moll Flanders miniseries you showed to your class.”
“Yeah.” Clara’s heart ached as the Doctor and River spun a bit closer. Not close enough to run for cover, but just enough to see the besotted look on the Doctor’s face. Only once had she seen such naked emotion on his face, the day he sat in the Maitlands’ lounge and cried for his long-lost wife. But here they were, alive and in love and why the hell did the Doctor bring them there?
River tugged the Doctor to her for a kiss, and he flailed about before remembering where to place his hands. They dove into her hair, legs wobbling as he fought to maintain both his balance and the kiss. Seconds passed, or maybe it was a minute. Clara wasn’t entirely sure. But when they parted, he ran a thumb over River’s cheek before lifting her hand to kiss the back, then trail his lips over her gloves as he turned it upward to kiss her palm.
“We probably should get going,” Danny murmured, shaking Clara out of her thoughts. “If those aren’t sex looks the two are exchanging, I’m handing in my teacher’s certificate.”
Clara flushed. No way, no how, did she want to see the Doctor getting it on. She followed Danny back to the TARDIS, where the Doctor sat in his chair, scribbling away in his journal.
“Right, well, if you’ve had enough of the Frost Fair-” The Doctor scowled as Clara snatched the notebook out of his hand. “I was using that!”
“Why’d you take us there?”
“I thought it was apparent. Prove to your boyfriend this wasn’t made up.”
“You could have taken us anywhere. Why here? Why now?”
“Does it really matter?” The Doctor shoved out of his chair.
Clara cut the Doctor off before he could reach the console. “Yes, it does! Why did you take us to see you with River?”
“Because,” Danny said softly, “he wanted to prove that he didn’t love you in a sexual way. Because he’s still in love with his wife.”
The Doctor scowled at the sympathetic look in Danny’s eyes. “I’m not having any of that from you. It was just a trip. Now, back home to your maths and your PE and your Graham Norton and your Worcester Sauce crisps.” He reached for the lever to send them into the vortex.
“Do you want to see her?” Clara asked.
The Doctor’s hand froze over the lever, and he closed his eyes. Different face, Clara thought, but the same man. Same pain. Suddenly, it was Trenzalore all over again, and she could see the lonely god grieving for his wife. He talked about her every so often now, calling her by name instead of the distant Professor Song he’d used before Trenzalore. He had referred to her in the present in the teacher’s lounge, gesturing to the empty space beside him as if River was still there.
“We’re going home,” he replied.
“Do you want to see her,” Clara repeated, enunciating each word slowly.
His hand flexed over the control. “If you were me, and it was him, what would you choose?”
Clara placed her hand over the Doctor’s. “I’d want to see him. Every time, no matter how much it hurt. That’s what love is.” She tugged him to the door, back out into the snow. Together, they climbed the hill to watch his previous incarnation on the ice with his wife. There wasn’t much dancing now. More snogging than anything, and Clara was grateful that their clothes were still on. Soft, murmuring voices and gentle laughter floated up the hill to them as the younger Doctor tugged River over to where a picnic blanket was spread out.
“We should get back,” the Doctor said after a moment, and Clara risked a glance at him. He was smiling now. A fond smile full of memories and a bit of regret as he stared longingly at them. “I know where this is going, and I don’t think you want to be seeing that.”
“Ugh, please don’t.” But they lingered a moment longer. “Can you still see her? I mean, when I’m not on the TARDIS.”
“She’s always here with me, every moment. Haven’t you noticed that by now? Human brains, bah.”
“I kind of guessed that.” Clara ran a thumb over the ring he wore on the hand she held. “In person.”
He didn't say anything for a moment. “Last time I saw her, she told me ‘spoilers.’ I thought … I had hoped … but I haven’t seen her again. We’ve done our farewells … we did Darillium … we’re never going to that place.”
“I’m not even going to ask.” Or ask what he meant by that. Clara paled. “Right, there goes the clothes. I’m really going back to the TARDIS now. I’ve no desire to see you naked ever again.”
The three were subdued on their way back to the school. The Doctor took care of the alien problem, whisking Courtney away to escort the lost soldier home while Clara and Danny dealt with the aftermath. As they snuggled on his sofa, her world safely re-ordered for the moment, Clara’s thoughts drifted back to the longing on the Doctor’s face as he watched his younger self with River.
“What’re you thinking?” Danny asked.
“About the Frost Fair. I just wish …” Clara bolted upright. “Oh. Oh! I’m so thick!”
“No, you’re not.”
“But I am! Really! About this!” Clara lunged for her purse, her mobile tucked in an inner pocket.
“What’re you doing?”
“Possibly getting in over my head, but that’s nothing new these days.” She punched in a number. “Hello? Kate Stewart? This is Clara Oswald. Yes, I’m still traveling with the Doctor. Look, you guys know of River Song, right? Is there any way you can get a message to her?”
Richard III buried in a parking lot. With a great deal of glee, the Doctor thought a moment about picking up Clara and bringing her along. See, he’d been at Richard III’s death, and he had passed on about 100 miles away. Someone had moved the bones, and it was clearly a mystery. He was eager to solve it. Oh, it was probably a bit of human interfering rubbish, but someone had left the newspaper article taped to the time rotor, and he wanted a break from going under deep cover. She was probably with that boyfriend of hers, and he was Danny Pinked out at the moment.
Of course, he’d have to deal with archaeologists, and they were still rubbish. Still got it all wrong. He brandished the psychic paper and prepared to pass himself off as an expert. Which he was, clearly. More of an expert than any of him.
“Hello!” He intercepted the first archaeologist-looking person he came across and shook hands. “John Smith, known as the Doctor. Who’s in charge around here?”
“She’s right in there,” the student said, gesturing absently at a tent set up next to the excavation area.
The Doctor strode to the tent, gave a couple raps before lifting the flap. “I’m looking for the …” His voice failed him as the boss turned around and gave him a brilliant smile.
“Hello, sweetie,” River Song said.
The Doctor’s hearts rolled over in his chest, and he grinned.