Oh, For The Old Days
He is sitting in the library, book perched between thumb and forefinger, when he suddenly remembers, with startling clarity, the way she used to read.
Remembers the way she used to look when she was reading. Remembers the way she used to defend her choice of novel when he pointed out to her that there were a million other books she could be reading, instead of the same one over and over and over.
Oh, he's never forgotten all this, not really. He doesn't think there's a moment he's spent with her that he can't, in his mind, remember, fast forward, rewind, replay,
(but never stop)
It's just, sitting here now, watching them together; it jars him out of his thoughts about Agatha's triumph with the one murder mystery he never worked out, and into the – well, it has to be said – exceedingly more significant thoughts of the one that got away.
He's never seen them sit here in the library before, and their unexpected, silent movements as they walk in and sit down on the comfy sofa attracts his attention.
They're married now, and he's never seen them act this affectionate with each other before, and it makes him smile. And he hopes and prays to every god he doesn't believe in that their story will work out well. He so wants them to have a happy ever after together. He really, truly does.
Rassilon knows he needs to feel like he's got some friends who won't be scarred from their travels with him.
He watches, from his armchair across the room, as she settles into Mr Pond's side with a magazine in her hands and her feet propped up to rest against his thigh; his arm wrapping around her as he strokes her shoulder absently with his thumb, whilst opening a Dan Brown in his lap with his free hand, his brow slightly furrowing as he reads. And still they are silent.
And it takes the Doctor back, way back. To the good old days when it was him holding the woman he loves on that sofa, stroking her skin and settling down for a cosy evening of reading one of his favourite books. And she'd fit herself into his arms, somehow perfect, with legs splayed across the end of the sofa as she lay across his lap. And she'd reach under the sofa to pick up her dog-eared copy of Pride and Prejudice for the fiftieth time, and he'd laugh and tell her she had an unhealthy obsession with Mr Darcy. And she'd insist upon Austen's genius, upon the romance of it, how beautiful it is that these two people who initially would have had no hope or rhyme or reason to be together come passed the impossibilities and differences and prejudices and first impressions, and fall in love against the odds of all the stars.
He'd listen to her explanation then sigh dramatically and declare, nah, I don't believe it. You just fancy Colin Firth.
And he'd be listening to her giggle into his chest as he'd press a soft, imperceptible kiss to the top of her head, and he'd think that Elizabeth is to Darcy how Rose is to him
impossible, but lovely; headstrong and witty; clever and beautiful; and of course, love, so eternal –
for those fictional characters, their tale will go on forever, be published over and over again more times than even Rose could read. And himself and Rose – well, there are stories of them all across the universe
stuff of legend as they are
so it never really ends for them. Especially as technically, they are still together.
Also, technically, they are not. But let's not dwell on that – he is satisfied that she will be happy with, er, the other him, and all he's ever wanted is for her to be happy, so he can't exactly complain. Much.
Of course, time is, by its very nature, rather timey-wimey, and so he is, quite frequently, with her at all moments he possibly can be
'cos he's cheating the rules, and logic, and rational thinking, and getting more time with her than he can possibly be allowed or be deserved, and he's in some ways conning his younger self by stealing moments from their past, and he
Doesn't – Even – Care
'cos blimey, he misses her when he doesn't see her smile every day.
And another thing: she's constantly imprinted on his hearts, mind, soul, so he'll never be rid of her. She is eternally his, to think of, at least, and oh, that is wonderful. He's stuck with her. Ha! Thank everything for Rose Tyler.
He comes out of his reverie when Amy suddenly asks him a question.
"Doctor? You alright?"
"Huh," he ponders, clearing his throat. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm alright."
Rory looks up from his book, concern in his eyes. "Are you sure? You don't look it," he observes.
"Nonsense! I'm absolutely fine," insists the Doctor smilingly, nodding his head decisively. He picks up The Murder of Roger Ackroyd once more, from where it had fallen from his hands and into his lap, and pretends to continue reading.
He can tell Rory and Amy exchange worried glances. He sighs and looks over his book to tell them, "Seriously, stop worrying about me. Get back to your reading."
Amy seems to signal something with her eyes, and her husband shrugs, evidently answering her unspoken inquiry
oh for the days when we would look at each other and know exactly what we were thinking, just like the Ponds, able to communicate without words.
She lets out a huff then, and stands up. "Doctor..." she says slowly, walking towards him.
"What?" he snaps impatiently, but not unkindly. Impossible to read now; he throws the book over his shoulder and almost smiles when he hears it land perfectly on the table behind him.
She swallows audibly, and he considers this is the first time she's looked nervous when asking him a question. Usually she just dives straight in, confident and brazen and not at all intimidated by him.
"What's the matter, Amy Pond?" he asks, folding his arms and leaning back into his chair.
"You...you look sad," she murmurs. "What's wrong? Please tell us, we're worried about you."
He shakes his head. "I'm not sad, I'm fine." And he is. Sort of.
"You're lying," she accuses, pointing a finger at him. "Right, tell you what – Rory, go and put the kettle on, yeah?" she calls to him. He nods his head and exits the room. "We can have a nice cup of coffee and you can tell us what's going on inside that head of yours."
His lips quirk. "Well, firstly: tea is infinitely better than coffee, so we'll be having that, thank you." Amy rolls her eyes good-naturedly. "And secondly: please stop trying to figure me out. I'm fine, dandy, happy, marvellous. So don't worry. Anyway, if I told you what was going on in my head, you'd never believe me, or understand it." He jogs his leg restlessly, eager to get away from this conversation.
"Try me," she challenges defiantly.
"Were you thinking about your past or something?" she presses.
He closes his eyes and exhales roughly
don't say she's the past. Don't. I want her always.
Amy sits on the arm of his chair and looks down at him, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder. "You can tell me, you know."
He opens his eyes, but doesn't meet hers. He stares at the sofa again. "Oh, no, no. I can't."
She looks cross, he thinks, when he looks back at her.
"All this time," she says. "All this time Rory and me have known you and you never open up to us. You never speak of anything but the present. Why?"
He smiles at her then, in reassurance. "The present is what's important," he tells her, the words almost getting stuck in his throat. "The past...it's...it's...it's..."
He tries to say over. He tries to say irrelevant. He tries to say painful. But he can't get any more words out, so he looks to his hands for a moment.
"It's what?" she asks quietly.
"It's her," he whispers softly; admits, really. And then, before she can even register what he's said, he gets up and leaves the library, rushing past Rory as he does so.
Rory walks in with a confused expression on his face, tray of mugs in his hands, and finds Amy sitting there open-mouthed.
"Amy?" he says.
"What did he mean by that?" she wonders aloud.
"He said...well, listen, right; I asked him why he never tells us anything about his past, and he says that the present is what's important, and that the past is...her."
"Her? Who's 'her?'" he says, setting the tray on the table behind the chair, unconsciously knocking the Agatha Christie off as he does so.
"Exactly," breathes out Amy. "I mean...has he ever mentioned anything to you about a 'her' before?"
"Nope," he shakes his head. "You?"
"No, never," she answers. "Who do you think she was?"
"Well, obviously someone incredibly important to him. A friend who used to travel with him. A friend he used to love? I don't know. He's so mysterious, anything's possible."
Amy's brows draw together. "Why does he have to be so mysterious? He could just...say what he means once in a while."
Rory pulls her into a hug. "He's been hurt, probably. That's why. He has to keep all the barriers up so that it doesn't happen again?"
She nods, pulling back. "Yeah, suppose that makes sense. I just wish he felt like he could confide in us, you know?"
"Plus, you're really nosy," Rory adds.
Amy whacks his arm playfully for his cheek. "Do you think we should go after him?"
"Nah, let's leave him be," he answers.
She looks troubled by this for a brief moment, before nodding. "Yeah, you're right."
"Really? That's a first," he laughs. "You're not usually one to admit that – "
She kisses him to shut him up.
After leaving Amy with that bombshell, the Doctor heads towards the console room. Then he realises he needs something that he's forgotten, left in the library. With a frustrated sigh, he turns around and goes back the way he came.
He watches from the doorway as the scene unfolds, Rory and Amy discussing his meaning behind his answer. He waits until they've started kissing before he creeps back in, wondering if he can get there without them noticing. He reaches the sofa quickly and quietly, and kneels, feeling around beneath it, before locating with a brush of his thumb what he is looking for.
Pulling it out, he stares down at the cover, swallowing thickly, fingers gently stroking the edges of the well-read book. He remembers the way she used to tap against the spine as she read, her tongue between her teeth as she smiled at the funny bits, her forehead creasing at a moment of great idiocy on the characters' parts
why couldn't they just see how in love they were? How meant to be?
It's not until he hears the stunned silence of the Ponds that he realises he's crying.