The man looked up at Clara and smiled. “Hello.”
“Do you mind telling me what you’re doing here?”
The TARDIS glowed softly around the two of them, and hummed sweetly, the echo of a song threading through the vibrations.
Clara had heard the ambient melody change while she was in her room, marking papers. She’d already been bored with the task, so leaving homework to track down the source of the song’s alteration was a welcome diversion, and one of a sort that particularly intrigued her these days; learning more about the TARDIS.
Although she had gradually lost her distrust of the Doctor’s blue traveling companion, Clara was the first to admit she had absolutely no idea what it was actually all about. Clara hated not knowing things, and so she had started paying closer attention to the ship; how it — no, She, that’s what the Doctor said, like an old-fashioned Earth ship on the ocean — how She reacted when the Doctor spoke, how She moved under his fingers’ commands, what She sounded like when he was happy, or bemused, or cranky.
Clara had long since stopped thinking of the TARDIS as a cow, although she wouldn’t admit it aloud, or actually apologize. Nor would she admit that she might actually care about how the old ship thought of her, might actually want the TARDIS to stop disliking her.
When she first realized she was hearing a subtle transition, Clara had thought it might be because the Doctor was working on the ship; she knew he and the TARDIS seemed to communicate as he worked on Her; sometimes the ship’s song modulated during whatever it was that they shared.
But when she didn’t find the Doctor in the console room, when he didn’t respond to her call, she’d been piqued into searching through the ship for him, and for a reason why the TARDIS’ susurration was brighter, more lively.
That she would investigate the change was a foregone conclusion. That she’d find a strange man in a light grey suit kneeling in the hall, one ear pressed hard against the wall, wasn’t.
She wondered if this sandy-haired intruder was, perhaps, someone the Doctor and the TARDIS knew, but the man’s next words disabused her of that notion.
“Well now, I’m not actually sure.”
He stood up, brushing some invisible dust off the lapels of his immaculate suit jacket. “I was checking the walls to see if I could understand how I got here and where, exactly, ‘here’ is — one minute I’m heading off to an Assignment, and the next, I turn the corner into a lovely blue hall — but there’s just too much time interference for me to get a good reading.”
He frowned a little as he said that. “ I do think someone’s made a mistake, though. I’m pretty certain this is nowhere near where I was actually supposed to meet my colleagues. Mind you, it is quite fascinating …”
He trailed off, and put his hand to the wall. For a moment he was very still, and Clara thought he looked happy. Then he shook his head slightly and opened his eyes again. “Actually, I’m grateful to you for happening along just now. Otherwise, I might have listened to the walls for far too long.”
“Mmhmm.” The stranger’s attention kept sliding off her, onto the TARDIS. “To Time. It’s such a rare pleasure to hear it when it’s not being disruptive or destructive.”
He shrugged. “I should like to have learned more about the bright side of Time, but technicians don’t often get the chance to take advanced classes—”
Now it was Clara’s turn to shake her head. She’d thought the Doctor was hard to follow. “Sorry, don’t mean to be rude but — really; who are you?”
Clara’s question didn’t seem to bother him. To the contrary, he nodded approvingly. “Introductions! Yes, that’s a good idea. Well, then, I’m Silver. And you are?”
“Clara Oswald.” She wondered if that was the man’s given name, or a title. Maybe a bit of both.
“Do you belong here? In this time?”
That was a Doctor sort of question. “Well, erhm … when I’m in here I don’t think about time. It’s sort of a timeless place,” she began, only to be interrupted by his soft laugh.
“Not really, no. This place is far from timeless. But do you belong?”
“Yeah, I do. I do. At least ... I think so. Yeah, I think I belong.” Really, this wasn’t even a Doctor kind of weird conversation, she thought. It was getting into dreamtime logic, and she was not at all sure she wanted to deal with dreamtime. It had rarely treated her well.
“And what is the name of this place?”
She startled slightly, brought back to the here and now by Silver’s somewhat clinical tone.
“The TARDIS. You’re in the Doctor’s TARDIS.” Clara turned her head slightly, trying to keep an eye on Silver even as she looked back down the corridor. Surely the Doctor would know there was a stranger in his home?
“Ah, well, that’s very nice,” the man said, nodding in acceptance of the information. “TARDIS. Seems I’ve heard of something like — well, no matter. I’m sorry that I can’t stay and chat with Her, but I do have a schedule to keep.” He tilted his head. “On the other hand, I may not be the only person who turned an unexpected corner. You say this is a ship?”
She hadn’t actually said any such thing, but she let that slide. “Yes.”
“Is it moving now?”
“Well, we’re supposed to be heading for the 23rd century, to a nightclub in Greater New Camden Town. That’s where the Doctor wants to go, at any rate. So, yeah, we’re traveling.”
“Camden, you say.” It wasn’t a question. The man, Silver, pursed his lips, and put a finger to them in thought. “That might explain it. Although we were Assigned to 20th century Camden … Yes, that would do it. The cross-wash must have swept me into this hall, instead of to the coordinates Steel gave me.”
Then his lips twisted further. “As I said, the vibrations mightn’t have affected just me. The other two …” Silver stopped, look at her and smiled again, completely charming. “I don’t suppose you’ve seen anyone else that you don’t know wandering around here? A gentleman? A lady in blue?”
Clara arched an eyebrow; she’d learned enough with the Doctor, both of them, to be wary of charm. But she didn’t want to show it. Instead, she said, “Blue? Well, I haven’t seen anyone but you, and I don’t know about any other gentleman, but if your lady friend’s in blue, she’s probably welcome around here.”
“She’s welcome anywhere she goes,” Silver replied, adding opaquely, “although she rarely brings good news.”
“That’s hardly the way to speak about me, Silver.”
Clara’s squeak of surprise probably didn’t make her seem too undignified, she thought, smoothing her skirt as she turned to see possibly the most beautiful woman she’d ever met standing in a doorway she was certain hadn’t been there before. The TARDIS sang a little more clearly around all three of them.
“Sapphire, my dear!” Silver clapped his hands, and his smile was suddenly very genuine. “How good to see you here! Is Steel about?”
“No, he’s where we should be. And impatient.” The woman smiled indulgently, and Silver laughed again.
“Of course he is. Did he send you to get me?”
“Not exactly.” Sapphire’s lips quirked. “Someone else did.” She turned to Clara for the first time and dipped her head in a regal acknowledgement. “An older man, quite … brusque.”
“And what did Steel make of this brusque man? Human?” Silver turned and looked at Clara speculatively.
“Oh, no. I shouldn’t think so,” Sapphire responded. Clara could have sworn her eyes actually glowed blue. “He certainly seemed unfazed by the two of us, and I’m not certain where he came from originally, but he was quite irritated with Steel, and Steel with him. The two of them were rather entertaining, really.” Her laugh was musical, and it echoed the melody line of the TARDIS. “It seems as if someone had been flirting with the man’s companion, and walking through one of his wives’ corridors.” She stopped. “Although those weren’t the words he used.”
Both Silver and Sapphire turned to look at Clara, who was abruptly certain she would never in her life be as elegant or assured as they were.
She wasn’t going to let them know that, though. “I’m not sure whether you’re talking about me or the TARDIS. Should I ask?”
“Probably best not to,” Sapphire said. “ I do apologize for Silver, if he’s been bothering you.”
“I’d never bother a lady,” Silver protested.
“He didn’t bother me,” Clara agreed. “But then, I’m not much of a lady.”
“Clara? Clara!” The Doctor’s voice echoed down the hall. “Where are you? Are you alright?”
When Silver and Sapphire looked at each other and sighed, Clara thought she heard, or felt, a third sigh. The sound seemed friendly, and Clara knew neither of the strangers had any intention of causing her or the TARDIS any harm, and that the TARDIS was equally aware of that fact.
The Doctor was certainly taking his time getting to her, she thought, wondering if that was a function of the man and woman standing with her.
“Silver?” The blonde woman looked at him and then, pointedly, inclined her head down the corridor in the opposite direction from the Doctor’s voice.
“Indeed. It’s time,” he said.
“I suppose you’ll be going, then?” Clara was a little disappointed, but not surprised.
They nodded. Silver gave an airy little salute. “It was a pleasure. She’s a lovely lady. As are you.”
Clara knew blather when she heard it, but he was charming. “You, too. The both of you.”
“What a nice thing to say,” Sapphire murmured, almost to herself.
With that, she put her hand on Silver’s forearm. He brought his other hand up to cover hers, and they turned from Clara and walked to where the corridor intersected with another hall. They turned the corner and disappeared from her sight.
She felt the TARDIS sigh again. “Yeah, I know,” she said. “We don’t get lovely visitors like that very often, do we?”
“Clara, there you are! Where are they? Did they hurt you?” The Doctor’s eyes looked past her, up the hall, then back to her face. She was touched at the worry, but a little bemused as well. Why would he think those two were a danger?
As if he’d read her mind, he said, “They wouldn’t mean to hurt you but they’re … not safe to be around.”
“They didn’t do a thing, Doctor. Except make the TARDIS happy.”
The TARDIS hummed in agreement.
The look on the Doctor’s face was priceless.
“Happy? Happy? Why would alien elements who flow in and out of Time, doing things even Time Lords couldn’t figure out, and believe me they tried to figure it out because Time Lords hated not figuring things out, want to make a Gallifreyan TARDIS happy?”
“Dunno. You’d have to ask them. Or Her. But Silver said—”
“Silver?” Clara hadn’t realized one word could hold that much outrage. She wondered if the Doctor had met Silver before.
“Yes indeed. Silver called it a rare pleasure to meet Her. He called her the bright side of Time.”
“Oh.” The Doctor looked conflicted. Anyone who appreciated his beautiful ship was obviously someone to appreciate in turn, but that was apparently difficult to reconcile with his attitude towards alien elements who flowed in and out of Time. “Well, then. That’s all right. You’re all right, too. Everything’s alright, I suppose.”
“I suppose.” Clara smiled at him, and felt a warmth in the back of her mind. She liked it; liked agreeing on something with the TARDIS. “So. Greater New Camden Town. Is the nightclub really that good? Or would you like to stay in and guard against intruders?”
“Hush. Don’t you have papers to grade?”
Clara laughed all the way back to her room.