DISCLAIMER: Doctor Who is the property of the BBC. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Second Person POV (Clara), Present Tense.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To limegreenbeez[at]gmail.com

Poppet: A Delicate Strand of Vignettes
By DiNovia



You watch the rain, the endless rain slide down the window of your classroom again. It's been raining for forever, it seems. Your students left hours ago. You know you should, too, but you can't seem to get your legs to work. So you stare out the window with your arms wrapped around yourself, watching the rain. Hoping it will wash away the memories, wash away the deadness inside.

You still feel her body pressed up against you.

It's been over a month since you and Missy took on the Daleks with a pointy stick and your combined wills, but you can still feel her against you whenever you close your eyes. You still smell her scent—something dangerous laced with lavender—and you still hear her voice.

When you open your eyes, you remember the betrayal. While you were trapped and impotent inside a Dalek pepper pot—which felt altogether weird and a bit too familiar for your liking—Missy put a dismembered Dalek gun in the Doctor's hand and told him to shoot you.

You don't wonder if she would have let him do it; of course she would have.

You don't wonder if you could have killed him before he fired; of course you couldn't have.

You don't wonder if the Doctor would have pulled the trigger if Missy had been just a little more convincing because the Doctor hates guns and always has.

You do wonder why Missy's betrayal still hurts and while you're wondering that, a sound—like a thousand soap bubbles popping all at once—happens by your left ear and you whirl toward it, searching your classroom for the TARDIS first and then for anything out of place.

It takes time but you finally see something on your desk—something that wasn't there a moment ago. You hurry to it, snatching it off yesterday's Jack London essays to get a better look at it. It doesn't help your confusion.

It's a red ribbon, five centimeters wide and 50 centimeters long. You wind it around your hand as your confusion grows. None of your students would wear such a thing. They're much too old for something so childish and, besides, you haven't seen anything like it since….

Since you were six-years-old and going through your Matilda phase. You'd seen the movie on telly and the red ribbon Matilda wore became a symbol of power to you, something you had precious little of at that age, being smaller than most of your classmates and bookish, too. You took to wearing a red ribbon in your hair every day after that. Until….

You have a vague memory of holding your mother's hand in the street during the fireworks on Guy Fawkes' that year, of feeling a tug on the ribbon and watching it disappear into the crowd behind you, the echo of feminine laughter disappearing with it.

This ribbon, you think, knowing (without knowing how) it's the same one.

You never wore a ribbon again.

Feeling suddenly vulnerable, you stuff the red silk into the pocket of your motorcycle jacket and try to forget it.


A week later, the TARDIS materializes in the park across from your flat in the middle of the first clear night in forever and you run out to meet it, squelching across flooded sod in your wellies. You've forgotten all about the red ribbon in your jacket pocket.

You've also forgotten how Missy felt pressed up against your body, or so you tell yourself. You know you're lying.

The Doctor claims to be taking you to a planet inhabited only by sentient wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum.

"I can't tell you the name because it's all in electromagnetic, most of it out of the Human visual spectrum. The most you'd see if I told it to you is a kind of watery brown color. But—but! There's a war on! All the shades of blue and indigo have declared war on the rest of the wavelengths," he tells you, his excitement palpable as he twists dials and flips levers on the TARDIS console.

"Hang on--we're going to a war?" you ask, incredulous.

"Well, yes. Technically. But, as long as the Gamma rays stay neutral, it should be the most beautiful war you've ever seen. If the Gamma rays get involved, well, then it will be a really short war. Short and painful." He shrugs then grins maniacally to show you everything will be all right and the TARDIS takes off.

"Won't we be taking sides—when we get there, I mean?" you ask, innocent and contemplative. Now that your mind has something else to think about, you can concentrate again.

"How do you mean?" asks the Doctor, fiddling with his monitors and dials.

"Well, the TARDIS," you say, gesturing at it, thinking you're being totally obvious. When he looks at you with that quizzical frown, you realize he doesn't do obvious. "It's blue," you add.

You can tell he hadn't thought of that by the expression of blank horror he gives you. He doesn't answer.

Except, by the time you get to planet Watery Brown Color, the color of the TARDIS is immaterial. The war is over—or has never started in the first place. The atmosphere is clear and untroubled and the Doctor is mightily disappointed until movement catches the TARDIS' eye and she relays the message to the monitor.

"That's odd," he says, his massive eyebrows diving low over his eyes.

"What?" you ask, coming around the console to see for yourself. And there, on the monitor, are two heart shapes, demarcated in gently undulating shades of blue and indigo. They melt away in an instant, reabsorbed into the peaceful, ever-changing eddies of electromagnetism.

The Doctor shrugs it off, explaining it away as a coincidence or a psychological phenomenon—the equivalent of seeing shapes in clouds.

You're not so sure.


You run from it—the vague feeling like something's behind you, nipping at your heels—and push the Doctor to take you on more adventures, each more exciting and dangerous than the last. After spending a week with long-necked aliens celebrating their new year for the last two centuries, the TARDIS dumps you at the bottom of the ocean in a nuclear research facility haunted by ghosts.

It's harrowing and creepy and exciting and devastating all at once and it takes every synapse in your brain to keep up with the Doctor on this one. Lives are at stake and people have already died. For their sakes, you put everything else on hold.

You're disappointed when the Doctor finally does his thing, saving everyone he can and solving the mystery. He drops you back at home and now you'll have to go back to school and your life, the memories of Skaro rising up in that mundanity like weeds in a garden. You throw your motorcycle jacket over the back of your sofa and strip out of your clothes, heading to your tiny shower in your tiny bathroom. You'd prefer a long, hot soak in a tub but you don't have one, so a long, hot shower will have to do.

Half way through it, though, when you have your face turned up to the spray, the water turns viscous and the usual rumble of your aging water pipes becomes a scream of downright agony. The scent of treacle fills the air and you open your eyes in surprise only to find your showerhead dispensing golden syrup instead of water.

You scream and reach for the faucet, trying to twist off the flow. When you finally manage it, you are mad as a wet hen, sticky, and naked. You call the Doctor on his cell and he materializes in the middle of your flat. You confront him—hair plastered to your face, body dripping with golden syrup even though you're now demurely wrapped in a towel—but as soon as you do, you know it wasn't him.

And he knows you know it wasn't him. He sees it in your eyes. And you see it in his.

You run before he sees the rest.


The first time it happens, you think it's an innocent mistake.

One of your students bounds through the classroom door and stops dead in her tracks when she sees you, her eyes round as saucers. She claims she saw you outside standing next to your motorcycle just now. She was coming to crow about how late you were to the rest of the class.

"It must have been someone else," you say, telling her to take her seat.

"No, miss, it was you! You had on the same jumper an' everything!"

The jumper you're wearing was knitted by your gran. You tell the class you'll be right back and you go to the doors closest to the car park. You see someone standing next to your motorcycle through the doors' leaded glass but she disappears just as you open them. You go back to your classroom and begin the day's lesson. You do not discuss what you saw.

After the third incident, you call in to school asking for a personal day and you head to UNIT. You don't want to involve the Doctor in this. You know who it is. You think you may have worked out the why, too. And you don't know how you feel about anything anymore.

Kate Lethbridge-Stewart looks out the window of UNIT's main lobby with you and you both watch yourself half-dance, half-stroll around your motorcycle. The other you is sporting a mischievous smirk and seems to be humming to unheard music.

"How long has this been going on?" asks Kate, her eyes troubled and her voice low.

"Four days," you answer, watching yourself twirl in the slight breeze.

"You realize it's some sort of trap," says Kate and you close your eyes, wishing she hadn't.

"I know traps. Traps are my flirting. This is a trap."

Yes, you know it's a trap, thank you very much. You also know who set it and all that's left now is for you to decide whether or not to be caught.

The bitterness of the betrayal sticks in your throat and stings your eyes. But you still feel her body pressed against yours and you still feel the buzzing electricity under your skin whenever you think about her. She is danger incarnate, yes, but she is also adventure and hissing intelligence and uncompromising confidence and utter, unapologetic honesty. All that in one body is a Siren's call to your blood and you don't know if you can ignore it. You don't know if you want to.

"It's Missy," you tell Kate and Kate looks at you as if you're mad.

"Missy? Why do you think that? Has there been more? What are you not telling me, Clara?"

So you tell her about the red ribbon which is still in your jacket pocket and you tell her about the blue hearts on planet Watery Brown Color and you tell her about the treacle in your shower and you tell her that's when you put it all together. You don't tell Kate about Skaro because Skaro is private. Whatever happens, Skaro will always be private.

When Kate doesn't answer—because what can she say—you go on.

"I think…I think it's a Valentine…."

Kate goggles at you. "A Valentine?"

You nod. Your voice is curiously flat when you offer your proof. "It's a nursery rhyme. Possibly based on a much older piece by Spenser but no one knows. Most people only know the first couplet but there are three. At least in Gammer Gurton's Garland there are…."

You clear your throat and recite the lines from memory.

 "The rose is red, the violet's blue,
The honey's sweet, and so are you.
Thou are my love and I am thine;
I drew thee to my Valentine:
The lot was cast and then I drew,
And Fortune said it shou'd be you."

There's a long pause as you both consider the words.

Finally, Kate breaks the silence.

"Does the Doctor know about this?"

You don't know. It's possible he suspects something. It's possible he knows everything. He is a Time Lord after all. He could know the whole of it—from beginning to whatever end there is. You don't answer her question.

She counters with another. "What are you going to do?"

There is so much fear, so much worry in those six simple words. You hear them—Kate's calculations running down all the possibilities, getting stuck on the one that features a murderously insane Time Lady stalking you through the streets of London—and you almost laugh.

What would Missy do if she was unrequited?

It's just a lark, really—that thought. A mental exercise. A silly what-if.

Because you know there's no way of knowing what she would do and you know she isn't unrequited.

You know she knows it, too.

You turn to Kate. "Listen, Kate. Listen! I have to go. When he comes looking for me, tell him it was my choice. I know what I'm getting into, okay? I know how it might end. Tell him…." You look outside and Missy is standing there in her plum and violet Victorian gown with the dark-star alloy brooch at her throat and her long hair swept up just as you remember it. She's grinning at you, beckoning to you, all serpentine and sex-on-wheels and your blood begins to boil inside your veins. "Tell him I'll see him around."

You run out of the building before Kate can stop you and Missy reaches out one gloved hand. You take it and before you know it, you're on the back of your own motorcycle holding onto her for dear life. She's driving now and you know it will be a long time before she'll let you drive again, if she ever does.

You don't care.

Ahead of you, you hear Missy cry, "Whee!"

The End

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