Amy finds the dress in the wardrobe, between a redcoat military uniform that smells of gun powder and a purple garment she is pretty sure is not for a human body. (Too many arm holes. Or were they neck holes?)
She can’t help but reach out and run her fingers over the bodice, then in to the layers of the skirt. It is a soft shade of cream, and delicate. She can’t figure out what the fabric is, but it is at once light and structured, flowing and stiff. The fabric is gathered in the skirt, tucking and twisting in to a cascade of ruffles that almost glow in the light from the Tardis. The bodice is fitted, covered in the finest lace she’s ever seen, dotted with small beads that look like pearls, but somehow aren’t. She can’t stop touching it.
She looks around the wardrobe and absentmindedly bites her lower lip, considering.
The little yellow button that plays classical hits from the 1700s has stopped working, so the Doctor goes down to the lower level of the console to attempt some rewiring. He finds a frayed green wire, touches it to a black one, and then wonders why Van Morrison starts pouring out of the speakers. He finds a blue wire to try, but before he can, there is a soft padding noise above his head. He looks up, and all he can see are bare feet and lots of ruffles. But it is enough.
He glances at her as he comes up the stairs, heading back to the problem yellow button.
She smiles at him, swishes the skirts and waggles her eyebrows.
“Just, no, Pond.”
“Come on, Doctor,” she says, a breath away from whining. “We never go anywhere fancy.”
“That dress is not for fancy,” he says, still not looking at her.
“Well, its certainly not for business casual.” She can’t help playing with the ruffles under her fingers. “Can’t we go somewhere this would be appropriate?”
He looks at her. “No. We will absolutely not go anywhere that dress is appropriate. Now,” he puts his hands on her bare shoulders and pushes her back, away from the console by a few steps. The dress makes a very soft rustling noise.
“Now,” he starts again, “I have a button to fix. A very important button!”
He turns back to the console, and a few seconds later Gregorian chanting is echoing around the room. “That,” he mutters, “That is bizzare. I can’t stand monks.”
He turns and retreats back down beneath the glass decking.
Amy knows this game, and she hasn’t come unprepared, she hasn’t acquiesced. She turns and sits in the jump seat, tucks her legs under her and reaches for a book she’d left nearby. She reads while the Tardis cycles through Elvis, Saint-Saens, Kylie then Enya.
“Enya!” the Doctor exclaims. He runs his hand along a row of buttons, lovingly. “Sometimes I just don’t understand you.”
It is the only conversation for at least a half an hour. Amy continues to read. Eventually, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 begins to waft through the speakers and the Doctor emerges from beneath the decking, smiling manically.
“Ha! Excellent,” he runs his hands along the edge of the console. “Lovely, just lovely. Red one - I’ll have to remember that.”
He spins around to face Amy, arms spread wide. “Amy! It was the red one.”
“Excellent!” she says, looking up from her book.
“That’s what I said! Anyway, we’ll be landing in Darjeen City shortly. You should get ready.”
“Oh, I am ready,” she says sweetly, returning to her book.
“Amy,” he says and there is warning in his voice. “I told you, you can’t wear that dress.”
She stares at him, and puckers her mouth. “I’m sorry, I didn’t remember you saying you were also a Wardrobe Lord. If you can wander around in a bowtie, then I can wear this.”
“It is absolutely, not in any way, the same thing,” he says, absentmindedly fingering the bowtie at his neck.
“Why not?” she asks, defiantly.
“Because it isn’t,” he says, even more defiantly.
They eye each other, at a crossroads.
He takes a breath. “Amy, that dress is only appropriate for one occasion, and one occasion only.”
“What occasion?” She can’t let it drop now, a matter of pride.
“The coronation of the Queen of the Hariit. Which doesn’t happen any more.”
She stares at him.
“The coronation doesn’t happen anymore, there was a thing, and I don’t want to talk about it,” he says, waving his hand at her. “You literally cannot wear that dress outside of this ship. It is locked in time here, in a sort of stasis. If you wear it outside, it will become unlocked and it will start to work again.”
“Work?” she asks, hesitation and the smallest bit of fear in her voice.
“Yes. Work. It was designed to ensure that no one unrelated, genetically, to the Hariit could ever steal the throne. Anyone not descended from the Hariit who wears that dress is instantly disintegrated.”
Her eyes widen.
“Don’t worry,” he says softly, kneeling in front of her. He pats her knee, through the tufts and ruffles. “You’re fine in here. But as I’ve been saying, you can’t wear that dress out of the Tardis. Unless you’re the great-great-great-great grandaughter of the Hariit. You’re not are you?” He’s genuine, not sarcastic, and it makes her smile.
“No,” she breathes, relieved. “Okay, no dress.”
They both stand, and Amy turns to go back to the wardrobe, then pauses. “Wait, if you have this dress, then how do the Hariit get a new queen?”
“They don’t,” he says, eyes narrowing slightly.
“Yeah,” she says, turning back to the wardrobe. “Not talking about it.”
A few moments later, she returns, looking like Amy, short skirt and dark tights. She’s smiling.
“What now?” he asks.
“I found something for you. In the wardrobe.” She pulls one arm out from behind her back and offers him a pair of very colorful, very stripe-y socks.
He grins. “Those are tempting, Pond.”
“Thought so! But it gets better.” She steps closer to him, her eyes shining.
“Is it a fez?” he asks, hopefully.
She snorts. “No, it is absolutely not a fez.” Amy pulls her other hand out from behind her back, and dangling from her thin fingers is a very colorful, very stripe-y bow tie.
“Oh, Pond! I love it. Absolutely amazing.” He grabs it from her, grinning madly. “You have excellent taste.”
She laughs. “I really, really don’t.”
Darjeen City is magnificent. It is like a constant carnival, plus the largest outdoor flea market Amy has ever seen. It spreads for miles, and they wander through, trying food Amy has never heard of (could never conceive of) and haggling with the shop keepers over things they don’t want. There is some unfortunate business with a gang of street thieves who had gotten creative with the local robot technology. But Amy saves the Doctor using a rubber band she found in her pocket, and he sonics the rest of the problem away. Before they leave, Amy finds a pair of blue shoes that remind her of the dress, so the Doctor buys them for her, to say thank you.