Disclaimer: Not mine.
"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where ones devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas—a place where history comes to life."
– Norman Cousins
Theirs is a story told out of order.
The Middle (of the Middle)
"Doctor—" Rose calls out desperately as her sweat-slick hand starts to slip from his. He tightens his grip on her, strong arm pulling her along with him as they fight against the tide of the crowd. He does not slow down.
This isn't the first time they've been caught in a riot, and it certainly won't be the last, but knowing that does little to calm her frayed nerves or stop the adrenaline from pumping. Everything around them is chaos, and the Doctor is the only safe thing in sight—the constantly-shifting eye of the storm. A window explodes next to them and he jerks her into a nearby wall, protecting her from flying shards of glass with his body. Pressed against his jumper, she can feel his hearts pounding in his chest.
"We've got to get inside," he says, voice purposefully pitched low and even in an attempt to keep her calm. "Come on. One last sprint." He grabs for her hand again, entwining their fingers, and points at a door half a block away—a back entrance to some building, likely locked, hidden in the shadows of an alley. No one would think they could use it. He counts to three and then they're off, her legs pumping as fast as she can make them, her vision blurred at the edges. A few feet from the door he drops her hand, and she almost stumbles into him from the whiplash as he reaches into his jacket for the sonic. Feet pound the pavement, there's a whir and a click, and then they're inside.
The door slams behind them like a gunshot, and everything is darkness. Rose rests her hands on her knees to catch her breath; the Doctor's face bobs, ghost-like, through the gloom, illuminated by the pale blue light of the sonic. The sound of the crowd outside is muffled to a dull roar, but she doesn't mistake that for safety—she can tell there are still people in this building as well, their shouts and cries echoing through the walls.
"Doctor, where are we?" she asks through frantic gasps for air.
"Hold on, I'm trying to find a light switch."
She hears metallic creaking as he throws on a breaker, and warm light pours in from the walls themselves. The room is much bigger than she thought—some sort of storage space, it looks like, but too beautiful to have a solely utilitarian purpose. They stand at the edge of rows upon rows of scrolls, honeycomb-shaped shelves stacked to the ceiling.
"Go on, then," she goads, wanting to dispel the creeping sense of unease in her gut. "This look familiar?"
He swallows. "We're in the Great Library of Alapmus Delta."
"Alapmus Delta…" she repeats, trying to place it. The name clicks in her head, and her eyes widen. "But Doctor, isn't that…?"
His eyes snap to hers, the blue of his irises standing out against the gold light emanating from the walls. "Yes."
The Middle (of the Beginning)
Since she started traveling with the Doctor, Rose Tyler has done and seen more in a week than most do in a lifetime. She has watched the Earth get swallowed by the sun, fought ghosts with Charles Dickens, and blown up 10 Downing Street.
She has not set foot in the TARDIS library.
She doesn't think the Doctor's noticed, but then again, he can be weirdly observant when he wants to be. It's not something she's proud of, and she doesn't look forward to the day he figures it out—silly human Rose with her silly human fears.
But then, that was before. Before "I could save the world but lose you." Before she packed a bag—her own clothes, a proper goodbye to Mum—and signed up for the long tour.
She jumps at his voice, hand flying involuntarily to her chest. "Blimey, Doctor, you tryin' to give me a heart attack?"
He doesn't acknowledge her exclamation. "Whatcha doin' in here?"
"I live here, Doctor," she snits, feigning ignorance. "Have you forgotten already?"
"I mean in the library. Never seen you in here before." With a cheeky grin, he reaches out to rap gently on her forehead with his knuckle. "Was starting to wonder if you even knew how to read at all, what with being a primitive life form and that."
She snorts. "Primitive. This from the man who flies his time machine with a rubber mallet and a closed fist."
"Oi! I'd like to see you drive her."
"Couldn't be worse than you. Oh, no worries, Rose," she mocks in an exaggeratedly manly voice, struggling to mimic his Northern accent, "we've only been gone 12 hours. Go say hi to your mum. Honestly."
For once, he lets the taunt roll right off of him. "Really, though. Was wondering how long it'd be before you'd wander in here. What took you?"
She opens her mouth to say I was looking for the swimming pool and got turned around, but she sees the curious, open look on his face and what comes out is, "I wanted to see if I could."
"Nothing. Never mind."
She beats a hasty retreat, leaving him blinking.
The Middle (of the End)
"S'weird," she murmurs, holding tight to his arm as they stroll through docile alien streets, "but I can't shake the feeling like we've been here before. Déjà vu. Can't you feel it, Doctor?"
"Time Lord, Rose," he says, puffing out his chest. "I always feel like that. But do you honestly think I'd be boring enough to take you to the same place twice?"
"Well, you've always been a rubbish driver," she replies, tongue poking out from between her teeth.
He gasps. "Nonsense and poppycock. That is slander, Rose Tyler, and I'll have none of it. Allons-y!"
The Beginning (of the Beginning)
"Hush, Rose. Don't touch."
Snapping her jaw shut, Rose quickly pulls her hand away, thoroughly chastened.
This isn't at all like what she'd pictured.
When Mrs. Newgate said that she was taking all of the Year Three modules on a field trip to the British Library to get a tour, Rose had been ecstatic. She was always the one raising her hand to volunteer to read aloud; always asking Mum for just one more story before bed. She'd thought that the library would be… wonderful. Warm and cozy and accepting.
"Honestly, Miss Tyler, could you stop fidgeting for three seconds?"
She doesn't mean to be like this. It's not that she wants to climb the bookcases or swing from the chandeliers… she just wants to look. The brightly polished floors, the pen scratches of studying scholars and students, the severe glares of all the librarians… it's so alien. Beautiful and intimidating and somehow, instinctively, off-limits. But she keeps investigating, keeps asking questions, desperate to understand this place.
"Rose. If you can't keep your hands to yourself, then you and I are going to have to have a time out. I expected better from you. —I'm sorry, Mr. Clifton, she's one of the council estate kids…"
Reality hits her like a knife in the back.
Who did she think she was fooling? She's just a chavvy little nothing from the Powell Estate. She doesn't belong here. She isn't… good enough.
She keeps quiet in school from then on.
The Beginning (of the Middle)
She lost him today.
She didn't almost lose him, or save him at the last minute. She didn't find him again, or fight for him. She just watched as the universe tore itself apart trying to fix her mistake—killing the Doctor to save a man long dead.
Such a pretty story. The lost princess without a father.
Stupid ape, indeed.
She goes to the library because she thinks it would be the last place he'd expect to find her. Even though he says she's forgiven, she doesn't really feel like "just tell me you're sorry" cuts it in this instance.
But of course, he finds her anyway. (She doesn't know why she's still surprised.)
"I know how to read," she says quietly, refusing to turn and look at him.
"Never said you didn't."
"Yeah, you did. Once." He comes around to sit next to her on the couch, and she stares vacantly into the fire. "I shoulda known better."
"I didn't mean to make you feel like…" he trails off, expression unreadable.
She finally meets his gaze, and her hazel eyes are massive, glittering with unshed tears. "D'you remember the day we talked about that? The first time you found me in here."
"Yes," he says simply, not wanting to interrupt whatever revelation may be coming.
"You were right. You're always right. About me; about my dad… I've never liked libraries, because I never thought I was… I dunno, good enough for them. And now I've gone and proved it. Maybe you should just take me home."
She's so young. It's ridiculous, how often he forgets that. She's little more than a child.
"Oh, Rose…" he murmurs, reaching out to touch her. She shies away from his hand. He thinks about a dying Dalek, and a simple girl named Gwyneth. He thinks about a warm hand in his.
He's not always right. But she won't hear it now.
"You know," he says slowly, choosing his words with care, "libraries aren't always all knowledge and pomp and circumstance."
Her mouth twists, but it's self-deprecating and weak. On someone else it might have been a smile; on Rose Tyler, it's heartbreaking. "Yeah, sure."
"No, really. Would I stomach having one on my ship if they were as boring as you say? Concerts, sit-ins, demonstrations. You name it, it's happened. On Alapmus Delta, an entire sexual revolution started in a library."
She blinks at him. "What, really?"
"Yes really. Up until 3390, public displays of affection were severely punished—goes against their religion, y'see. But then two foreigners visited the capitol and ended up… er, embracing, in the middle of the Great Library. The police didn't know what to do, because they weren't sure if outsiders were subject to Alapmish law, and when people saw that they were being lenient, other couples started going at it, and… well."
"Maybe we could go there sometime," she says, finally with the first hint of a smile.
He grins back with relief, glad to be done with this whole maybe you should take me home business. "Could do," he allows, "but where's the fun in that? Now you know how it ends."
The End (of the Beginning)
"Rose, I really don't think we should be doing this here…" he murmurs, his brown eyes wide and young and old and hers. (All this time, and she still makes him nervous.)
She gives his fingers a playful squeeze. "Where's your sense of adventure?" she teases.
He leans in closer.
The End (of the Middle)
"You know, Doctor," she hisses, "when I said you should take me here sometime, I didn't mean in the middle of the bloody revolution."
"It was an accident!" he defends hotly.
There's a loud clatter against the emergency exit they'd used to come in—Rose jumps at the unexpected noise. "Doctor, please. I don't want to be here."
"Well we can't very well go out there. Where's your sense of adventure, Rose? Only way out is through."
He offers his hand and she takes it, and together they make their way across the library, dodging amorous couples and rioting singles at every turn.
"There's the main gallery—just a bit further…"
The crowd parts, and Rose comes to a sudden halt, making him jerk back.
"What're you… oh."
Sitting on a table in the middle of the room, there's a man and a woman locked in a tight embrace—the epicenter of the disaster.
He knows that woman.
He is that man.
(No matter how hard he tries, he always ends up hitting Volcano Day.)
The Beginning (of the End)
"Doctor, is that… but she looks like…" Rose is frozen in place, mouth agape, eyes terrified. "Doctor, is that me?"
She's seen. She's seen, and there's nothing he can do about it.
"We've got to go. Now," he says, grabbing her roughly and running. She struggles to keep up and he doesn't give her the chance to think, sprinting all the way back to the TARDIS.
She'd seen, but she doesn't understand. It's not possible. She can't see timelines as he does; even if she realizes they've looked at her future, there's no way she could know she's seen his, as well.
At some point in their travels together, he will regenerate. He will be young, and pretty, and maybe—just maybe—she'll love him.
But if she knows that now, she never will.
"It's nothing; forget it," he begs, but she's biting her lip and he knows she won't let this go without a fight.
"She looked like me, only it couldn't have been me, because I wouldn't… I'd never…" she cuts herself off, eyes going wide as if she's revealed something terrible.
He stares at her, uncomprehending, and it hits him like a tidal wave.
She loves him now.
(What took you?, he'd asked her.)
He breaks into a wide grin. "Fantastic."
"Don't. That's not fair. Don't make fun—"
He reaches out to her and buries his hands in her hair, and her mouth abruptly snaps shut, eyes fluttering closed. His fingers brush across her scalp; come to rest at her temples. With the greatest of care, he dives into her mind, gently smudging the face of his future incarnation in her memories—he'll have to do the same to himself, later. Time, he knows, will draw them back to this place when the moment is right, as inevitable as the pull of gravity.
But for now
(Past, Present, Future)
he kisses her.