A Matching Set

Chapter 6




"No. Pay attention." They continued to lie in pretty much the same positions in which they fell – the Doctor on his back and River spread across him. They had taken to playing a word game – the Doctor spelling out the words on her back with his finger, and she guessing incorrectly nearly every time.


"You are terrible at this game."

"One more time."

He drew the letters very slowly and waited.


"ALLONS-Y!" He yelled a little too loudly, having had enough.


The word felt strange on his tongue, like it didn't fit. "Allons-y?" He repeated it…same awkwardness.

She propped herself onto his chest and looked up at him. "Seriously? French? You were writing French? You don't speak French."

The Doctor raised an eyebrow and corrected her. "Well, I can."

"Well, you shouldn't."

"Just didn't have the same ring to it," he said disappointedly. "Owww….." Her elbows were digging into him further with every little movement.

"Oh, calm down." River sat up and scooted back to lean against the wall. She checked the clock hanging above them. Still a few hours yet.

The Doctor rolled onto his side and curled into a ball. "I'm naked in a library. There's books, and I have no clothes."

"Your clothes are right here, honey. Stop pouting." River crawled to the places where the shirt and pants had been tossed and retrieved them, dropping them on the Doctor's head. "Put them on. I have the wrong end of naked staring back at me."

"Turn your head," he asked, with only a slight tease.

"Really? I just had your…"

"ALLONS-Y!" He shouted over her as he slid the pants up his legs and over his naughty bits and sat up beside her.

She laughed and slapped a hand over his mouth. "Stop it. It's less cute than it sounds in your head."

"Actually, it does rattle a bit ridiculous in these ears." She looked at him curiously, and he simply waved away the remark. He shifted his weight and pulled a book out from under his going-away end. "The Painted Veil. Hmm…nice little classic."

"Not so much," she answered, pointing to the sign over the shelves in front of them. New Arrivals.

"Yeah? Hey, new classics are cool. What else do we have here?" He crawled on all fours around the scattered books from the broken shelf and read aloud. "Mrs. DallowayThe Trial…Ooh, The Great Gatsby…"

"Who proudly sponsored your attire for the evening…"

The Doctor ignored her and continued his investigation. River reached for her clothes and redressed as he mumbled aloud. He was facing away from her, and she giggled to herself at the sight of him crawling around on the floor in just his underpants with his arse in the air. She crept over to him on hands and knees and began tickling him with playful kissing along his side.

He swatted at her gently. "Stop that! I'm being intelligent…The Keeper of the Bees – hey, mystery solved, he knows where the bees are…Betwixt – great word, betwixt…The Professor's House…" He turned his head sharply in her direction when she began biting him. "You are impeding the free flow of brilliance here," he teased, scrambling quickly over to a lone book. "And here's the one that toppled us…let's see…oh…"

She crawled up behind him and bit him on the back of the leg. "What is it?"

"It didn't just topple us," he twisted his legs around and sat still with the book resting in his lap. "It toppled nations." His voice had turned somber and sadness crept into his face.

River read the book title upside-down and felt sick for completely different reasons. "Oh."

"Yes, 'oh' pretty much sums it up, yeah?"

She stood and began placing the books on a nearby table. "I should probably be getting you back to the TARDIS. Think you can survive one more vortex trip? Maybe hold on this time?"

"How is this even here? The translation is still a few years away...You know, I think I have visited every habitable planet and met nearly all the species this universe has to offer. I have chased werewolves with queens and aliens with painters. And I have changed the destiny of worlds and people, even without the intention…" He paused, breathing out a heavy sigh. "But I have never allowed myself to be put in the position to have to make this choice…it's not as simple as it would appear to be…Have you ever been here?"

River stopped busying herself with the books and stared down at the tabletop, looking for the right words. "Ummm…I was there once. Had very little to do with the context though. I'm not even sure of the timeline, really." She took a deep breath and spun around. "Now, you…"

River walked over and stood in front of him, hands on her hips. "It's time we get you to where you need to be. I have a business to run, and it's not your cup of tea, Sweetie." She held a hand out to him.

He traced the title's lettering. "Yeah, I hate libraries. Nasty business….lye-brare-eees…Hey, who goes to a book house in the middle of the night, Dr. Song?" He took her hand and was pulled to his feet.

"Not for reading, Doctor. This library serves a whole other purpose," River explained as she walked towards the stairs.

He chuckled as he caught up to her, wrapping his free arm around her waist and pulling her to him for a nuzzled kiss on her neck. "It certainly did tonight."

A laugh escaped her, and she pulled him along as he awkwardly stepped behind her. "Not exactly what I meant, honey. See those stairs there…they may lead further into the belly of the Earth…"

The Doctor stopped walking and started fidgeting. "Underground? Never good…the under of things. Tennessee isn't on the back of tortured animal, is it? Perhaps a giant mysterious box of some sort down there?"

"What in the hell are you going on about? I run a speakeasy in the basement," she said as she began to descend the stairs. "…and drop that book on the table. Didn't you read property of the City of Johnson City, Tennesee?"

"Wait, you sell it too? You leg it AND you sell it?" He threw the book onto the nearest table, and it slid off into a chair underneath. He turned back to put it where it belonged but stopped short. It was where it belonged. Underneath. Where the bad things go.

He hurried his lanky legs down the stairs, calling after her. "You can't expect me to transport in just my underpants. There's a lot less between my…bits and pieces…and the impending singe. Not in need of being singed…Hey, was that boyfriend of yours Al Capone…"

River returned the Doctor to his TARDIS without too much trauma. He was satisfied having lost only his eyebrows. She even returned him to his bed chamber, so as to avoid the judgmental gazes of his companions when he appeared on the arm of a woman in just his underpants.

It had been a most unusual day, but success and pleasantry were definitely had. She climbed the stairs to the reading room to tidy for the following day's guests and placed the fallen books on the fixed shelf. She noticed the missing book and found it in the chair where he had left it.

When she had removed it from the box, it had sent a terror through her like nothing else could. Both for what it represented in the world's future and also for what it represented in her past. She hesitated even putting it on the shelf. But the Doctor always made it perfectly clear that decisions to change the past or future had to be made carefully and that they could not deny the people the opportunity to create that future to which they were ultimately destined. So, even knowing what she knew, she had put it with the others and hoped that her visitors made the right choice.

She returned the infamous book to the shelf once more. It would become a classic in its own right, written by a soulless man in a prison between two World Wars, one of which he would lead and during which she would have her darkest hour.

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