Summary: Amy learns a little about about the Doctor's past during a visit to the largest library in the Universe. And everyone else learns a little something about the books that Rory used to read as a child.
Author's note: A short, one shot that I couldn't get out of my head. This was beta'd by the wonderful JennMel (who has a very nice little Doctor Who story very much worth a read). The mistakes that are left are mine. Now to the familiar part of the Author's note. Firstly please let me know what you think of this story - any kind of review is wonderful. Secondly, I do not own Doctor Who. Nor, in this case, do I own any other literary works that are mentioned here.
It was the biggest library in the universe, the Doctor said. The whole planet was covered in thousands of miles of shelves and acres of desks. Every human book ever written was filed neatly according to the Dewey decimal system and could be read by anyone who wished. There were continents for science fiction and religious writings, and even one for cookery. Wildlife and historical commentary were held in great underwater chambers along with the pop-up book section and audiovisual equipment manuals. At the core of the planet was a massive hard drive storing billions of words by other species across the universe.
They parked the Tardis is a large room lined with sophisticated wood panelling. It looked just like Amy imagined a library should. As she poked her head out the door, she could hear the murmur of people and laughter. That was good. She never liked when a library was too silent.
The Doctor lead the way past a pale statue that turned to face them. It said, "Welcome to the library today. Reader information can be provided by these interface devices available throughout the facility. Do you require a list of current activities?"
He ignored it and strode towards a set of double doors. It only took a gentle push for them to swing outwards to a balcony overlooking the planet. It was beautiful, Amy thought. The sun shone in the bright blue sky, but it was not alone. The moon was as impressive as any she had ever seen; full and heavy just above the horizon. But it was the never-ending walkways and buildings that made her whistle. Everything sparkled as if it were newly made.
Rory caught them up. "Was that a face on that statue?" he asked. "A real human face?"
"Yes," the Doctor said irritably. "Get over it."
The crossness of his reply was so uncharacteristic that Amy and Rory shared a glance. The Doctor had been distracted and irritable since he had announced that they would be coming here. Actually, Amy thought, make that extremely distracted and irritable. More than she had ever seen him before. Now there was a faraway look in his eyes that she did not recognise. And he had still not told them why he wanted to visit a library.
"So," she asked when there was still no explanation. "What are we doing here?"
"It's the biggest library in the universe, Amelia Pond. Isn't that enough?"
"It's big, yes. But I'm not sure why we have to be here. There's a library in Leadworth..."
"Actually it's a little blue van," Rory said. He seemed to have recovered from the shock of the face on the statue.
"A library that visits Leadworth..."
"Every fortnight on a Tuesday afternoon."
She hit him. "My point is that I've done libraries. Big ones, small ones, they're places with books. And I like books, Doctor, I really do, but why are we taking a Time Machine to one? Wouldn't it be better to go and see places rather than just read about them? We could go see Hannibal cross the Alps or Alexander fight the Persians. Why would we want to read about stuff when we could be there watching them?"
The reply was thoughtful, "Sometimes things happen in libraries too. Important things."
"There doesn't seem to be anything important happening now. Just people reading books, and carrying books, and studying books and writing in books. I could have seen that in the Leadworth van."
"Actually, you couldn't," said Rory. "There wasn't enough room. The driver used to chuck us out onto the kerb, but he must have weighed thirty stone and took up most of the space with his beer belly."
Amy hit him again. "My point, Rory, is that it's a library. There is an essential library-ness about it. And that's no different with big libraries or little libraries."
Despite these valid points, the Doctor seemed to ignore her. He was gazing into the distance with that same faraway look.
Now it was Rory's turn to hit her. "Perhaps we could go for a walk Amy. To have a look around."
"It's just a library..." she started again.
"No, really, I think we should go for a look around. Come on."
He took her hand and pulled hard. Amy resisted.
Rory appealed to the Doctor. "I think we should just go somewhere else. You look like you're busy concentrating on something important and we could..."
The Doctor spun around so quickly that they both stepped back. He stared at them as though he had never seen them before. But what really sent a shiver down Amy's spine was his expression. It was hard to describe, but she thought he looked disappointed to see them, like he had expected someone else to be standing beside him.
That was enough to send Amy scarpering after Rory.
"What was wrong?" She demanded as he lead her down a corridor that was labelled 'Interpretation of Early Prehistory Graphical Writing'.
"Didn't you see the look on his face? It reminded me of how Mrs Angelo used to look when she talked about what Mr Angelo was like before he died. Or the man in the corner shop when he did the sweeping after the cleaner's funeral. I think the Doctor was remembering something. Maybe this place reminds him of someone he used to know?"
Amy hmphed. "Great, so he brought us to a library so he can reminisce. Couldn't he have picked somewhere exciting?"
"That's hard, Amy."
She relented, and said sadly, "Or at least he could have told us about them. Then maybe we could help."
"Maybe he doesn't want our help. Maybe he'd rather be on his own for a bit."
She knew Rory had a point, but there was something more. That expression on the Doctor's face had shaken her. Despite her curiosity, she tried to put it out of her mind.
They found the little shop and browsed the selection of bookmarks and authentic reproductions until Amy's boredom became too much to bear. Rory would have been happy to stay for longer, but he was the one who frequented the Leadworth library van. Amy got coffee from a vendor and said thank you to one of those statue things. She hoped it was a computer generated face.
"Do you ever get the feeling that he doesn't deal with his past very well?" Rory said as they perched on a window ledge looking out onto the rooftops.
"What do you mean?"
"The Doctor. He never talks about what he used to do. Don't you ever wonder who he knew before? I mean, he says he's really old, but he never talks about old friends and girlfriends or boyfriends. And he takes you to all these places, and always jumps out saying 'Isn't this exciting' then, 'I've never been here before.' What about the places he has seen before?"
"Maybe he likes a bit of variety?"
"But still..." Rory did not sound convinced. "Nine hundred years is a long time to not repeat yourself occasionally."
"I guess he doesn't like remembering."
"That's what I mean. I bet a psychologist would call it denial."
"So what's different today? Why are we here?"
"Maybe something happened that made him want to remember what happened here. Like River Song, or the Pandorica?"
"It's a library. I find it hard to believe that anything ever happens here."
Rory shrugged. "I have no idea. I'm probably wrong."
Although Amy was loathe to admit it, she did not think Rory was wrong. Two thousand years as a plastic Centurion seemed to have given him some interesting insights into people.
There were hints of the Doctor's history that were easy to miss in the excitement. Had he really badgered Michelangelo about painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Then, there were rarer incidents that reminded her that the Doctor had lived for nine hundred years before he crashed in her garden. Incidents like this one and meeting the Daleks for the first time. She had once asked where his old friends were and he had blown her off with a flurry of planning their next adventure. She had not pushed the subject.
"Do you know what it's like?" Rory said eventually. "Peter Pan."
"I'm not sure I follow you."
"Well, don't you see? 'All children but one grow up.' He spends his time showing Wendy and the Lost Boys all these marvellous things, but in the end they all leave him. They grow up, and Peter stays a little boy. It's sort of sad, but inevitable. Do you remember at the end he comes to Wendy's window when she's grown up and there's another girl in the bed? And he hardly even notices because he gets to show off again to someone new."
"Are you trying to insinuate that I'm... we're... some kind of replacement."
"I'm not sure what I mean. It's just that we don't know him very well, do we? Not that it's a problem really..." he added hastily.
"Nope, that's not a problem. The only problem is that you think too much."
He flushed with embarrassment. "It was something I thought about years ago, but it sounds a bit stupid out loud. I should probably just shut up."
"I think you're right though. You've just had too long to think about things. Definitely Peter Pan. Which makes me Wendy, and you... what were the boys called?"
"John and Michael."
"Well, John or Michael. You can be either. And that's where your analogy fails. I am no fuddy-duddy mother-substitute. I could be Tinkerbell?"
"No. She was nasty vindictive bitch. Don't believe the Disney version."
Amy gave him a quick peck on the cheek and they sat in silence watching the sunset. Finally, Rory said, "So, what are we supposed to do now? It's getting kind of late. Should we go back?"
Amy did not want to see that look on her Doctor's face again so soon. "No. Let's leave him just now. We'd just get in the way of him reminiscing. Perhaps we should find the cafe and have some dinner. I'm starving. Or maybe we could find the Restricted Section and see if there really are books that have to be tied down?"
"Dinner sounds better."
They followed the arrows towards a cafe and settled down with some kind of squishy white gunk that did not taste too bad.
"So," Amy said when she had finished eating, "What about Harry Potter?"
"What about him?"
"Instead of Peter Pan."
After a moment's consideration, Rory said, "Nope, can't see it."
"Magical powers. Adventures that are mostly just by accident. Saving the world. A tortured soul?" She ticked the list off on her fingers.
"Still not seeing it."
"I was mostly thinking about the hair that refuses to be tidied up despite everyone's best efforts. Doesn't that remind you of anyone?"
"Okay, now that I get."
Amy giggled. She was about to comment further, when a familiar untidy head poked around the corner of the cafe's door. Amy laughed harder. The Doctor had a wizard's hat squashed down on his mop of hair. He grinned widely.
Whatever had caused the problem earlier seemed to have been forgotten. He looked just as manic as usual and delighted to see them. He waved a stuffed monkey as he said, "Amy and Rory. You found the cafe."
The wizard's hat on his head was decorated in sequins. It read 'WIZZARD'.
"See, I told you," Amy managed to choke out between laughs. "Harry Potter."
The Doctor looked offended. "Harry Potter? This isn't Harry Potter! I found the Terry Pratchett section. They're having a dress up day. There was a librarian." He waved the monkey at them, although it might have been an orang-utan. Amy did not understand the reference, but Rory did. He grinned wider.
"And the hat?" Amy asked.
"Oh, Amy, how can you be so ignorant?" Rory said.
"It's a Wizzard hat. The librarian let me take it. Come on, back to the Tardis. There's still awfully big adventures to be had, and danger to run away from and he who must not be named to be vanquished. Except, well, never mind the last bit."
Amy winked at Rory as the Doctor led them back to the Tardis. "Harry Potter," she said.
Rory nodded and grinned back.
But there was still a sadness in the Doctor's eyes that Amy did not remember seeing so clearly before. Perhaps it was a trick of the moonlight and shadows in the library? So, as they passed the shop again, Amy said, "Rory, could you get me a souvenir?"
"A souvenir. From the shop. That shop." She pointed. "Over there."
"What kind of souvenir?"
"It doesn't really matter. Just go to the shop over there and pick one. Now."
For someone who was normally quite quick to get the hint, he could still be remarkably dense at times. Realisation dawned. "Oh, right. Shop," he said. "I'll just go to the shop now. To have a look around. In the shop. Out of earshot, I expect."
Once Rory was pretending to be interested in some snowglobes with piles of books inside, Amy held the Doctor's arm. "Do you want to stay? I know it's a library and all, but it's okay if you want to hang around a bit."
For a moment his grin faltered and he said sadly, "No. There's no point. There's nothing here now. I probably shouldn't have come. Looking backwards gives you a crick in the neck."
"Did you know someone here? Before you met me?"
"A friend. Two friends really. I left one here, and another one was... was here with me. She's gone too."
He clapped her on the shoulder. "History. And here, today, it hasn't happened. The library is too full of life for that yet, Amy Pond. Come on. Places to go. People to see. Rory to rescue from the perils of souvenir shopping."
He left the orang-utan on a shelf, but seemed to loathe to give up the hat.
Back in the Tardis, he volunteered to make tea, leaving Amy and Rory sitting on the stools in the console room watching the machinery. Normally Amy would have trotted along to bring back the mugs, but she decided that she would leave him in peace to wallow a little longer if that was what he needed.
"You know," Rory said finally. "Going back to what we were saying, Rincewind isn't too far away. He was very fond of running and he had the lugguage. It was a box full of another dimension too. Only it had legs and teeth."
"Rory, I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."
"Never mind," he said.
"But I was thinking about it too." She leaned forward on her knees so that she was staring him in the eye. "I like Harry Potter best. If the Doctor gets to be Harry, that makes me Hermione and you can be Ron."
"All right," said Rory uncertainly.
"And you know what the best bit is?"
She grinned and slipped off her stool. Rory was perched on the other, so she threw her leg over his lap to sit astride him with her feet balanced on the foot rests. She kissed him.
"The best bit, Rory, is what happens in the end. Hermione has her boys. But she doesn't go home with Harry Potter. She chooses someone much more ordinary and brilliant. And I've got to agree. I think I always liked Ron best too."
And she kissed him again until the Doctor brought them tea.