Amy still wasn’t necessarily used to what passed for night on the Tardis. Within her first few “days” of traveling with the Doctor, she learned to do her best to approximate a regular schedule — she didn’t want to end up face down in a bowl of Venusian stew again. Partially, she knew it was unhealthy to end up that tired, but mostly she just didn’t want the Doctor laughing at her that hard ever again.
So she developed a system, and thankfully the Doctor accommodated her, usually with very little grumbling about human sleep cycles. Unless they were having a particularly exciting adventure, every sixteen hours or so, Amy went to her room, turned off the lights, and slept.
Some nights the system worked better than others. Within her first few tries, she found that the Doctor had good reason to get grouchy about sleep cycles — he didn’t appear to have one himself. The third time he woke her up to exclaim about some new button in the Tardis or some point in time he “just remembered,” she learned to lock her door and to deal with the sulking that ensued.
But some nights, her difficulty sleeping had nothing to do with the Doctor, at least not directly. Tonight was one of those times. They had just returned from Darjeen City, and while she knew she should be exhausted, her mind didn’t seem to want to turn off. In the low light of her room, she could make out the silhouette of the coronation gown she had taken from the wardrobe earlier that day.
She knew she should be afraid of it — disintegration was not something to be taken lightly, of course. But after traveling with the Doctor, she found that danger wasn’t something she feared much anymore. And the Doctor did say that she was fine as long as she was in the Tardis.
As she thought about it, she realized it was that she still loved the idea of the dress. It was beautiful, definitely, but it was more than that. All the time they spent running through mud and dungeons and flailing about in whale sick — she did miss the finer things sometimes. Not that she was used to a lot of finer things, but when she agreed to take off with the Doctor she imagined it would be fantastic and wonderful. And of course it was. But it was also often quite dirty, and not really in a good way.
She sighed. She was beginning to suspect that no matter how hard she tried, she wasn’t going to sleep during her artificial night. So she pulled her robe on and padded down the hallway out to the main console room.
The Doctor was sitting cross-legged on the floor, near the console, dozens of wires draped around his neck and across his lap. He was aiming the sonic at the largest knot of wires, and concentrating very hard.
She wordlessly flopped down in to the jump seat and pouted at him, bright red hair splayed over her shoulders, long legs tucked under her.
“Hello Pond,” he says, clicking off the sonic. “It isn’t morning is it? It’s only been…” he pauses, considering. “One hour, forty-six minutes.”
She scowls. “That is freakish.”
“That,” he says, waving the sonic at her, “is Time Lordy-ish. Very impressive.”
There is more whirring as he aims at a few more wires, and Amy watches him silently for a few moments before speaking again.
“I can’t sleep, Doctor.”
He looks up at her and grins. “You sleep too much anyway.”
“Oi! I do not. You don’t sleep enough.”
“Nonsense. Too much to do! Whole universe to see, and you snoozing away. Why, right now you’re missing the Aurora Nebula’s last flare... Oh, and the festival of Maxiplasus on Plasus Nine! They have two hundred different flavors of custard. It’s amazing,” he waves the sonic around some more. “And you’re sleeping.”
She sticks her tongue out at him. “You’re full of it, you are. We can go to those things any time. You just don’t like sitting still.”
He laughs at that, still concentrating on the knot of wires in his hands. “Why would I sit still?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Take a break from running for your life? It can be nice to just take some time to relax,” her voice trails off, and she slumps further in to the chair. She can tell he has stopped paying attention, and the whirring of the sonic is the only noise for a few moments.
She breaks the silence again: “Doctor, why don’t we ever go anywhere fancy?”
He doesn’t look up, but his face screws up in an expression of distaste. “Fancy is boring,” he says, then pauses to think about it. “Usually. And when it isn’t boring, then you’re just running around in a tuxedo instead of comfy shoes, and ruining perfectly good dress pants.” More dismissive waving of the sonic, followed by more whirring.
Amy sighs, but gives up for now and tries to let the noise of the sonic lull her to sleep. A few quiet moments later, the humming stops abruptly. Amy is startled when the Doctor jumps up and dumps the wires in to a corner of the Tardis, struggling to get them up and over his head, fumbling with the last few that cling around his neck. “Enough of this,” he mutters and then turns to her. “If you’re not going to sleep, I could go for some good custard right about now. Want to check out Maxiplasus?”
He has mussed up his hair in the process and it sticks out wildly in multiple directions. He is looking at her so earnestly, she can’t help but giggle at him. “Let’s go!”
“Brilliant!” He claps his hands and spins in place to begin the process of punching buttons and wrenching levers. She turns to go back to her room to get dressed, and as she is walking away he calls after her.
“Make sure to wear trainers and pants — Plasus can be quite muddy!”
The custard is quite good, but Amy finds that her exhaustion has crept up on her, and barely avoids a repeat performance of the Venusian stew incident. After much begging and whining, the Doctor brings her back to the Tardis and she gratefully crawls back in to bed.
When she wakes up several hours later, she feels rested but disoriented, unsure of how long she has been asleep. She blinks at the darkness and fumbles for the light. Hanging up in the corner, she sees the dress again. But there is something different.
She rubs her eyes and stumbles over to the small piece of yellow paper that has been pinned to the bodice. On it, written in red ink, she reads:
Completely safe now. Meet me in the library. Fancy dress required.
She grins, then laughs. Then she digs out the blue shoes the Doctor bought her in Darjeen City, places them next to the dress, and heads for the shower.
He is waiting for her in the library, like he said, and she has to choke back her laughter when she sees him. He is in a tuxedo, but it is unlike any tux she has ever seen, at least in person. It is tails and white tie — at least it should be white tie, but he has decided to wear the striped bow tie she found for him in the wardrobe instead. When she comes in to the library, he slowly closes the book he was reading.
“Amy Pond, you look absolutely amazing.”
She blushes, despite herself, but she has never been one to be shy so she plays it off and says, “You look very dashing yourself. Very fancy. Nice bow tie.”
“I,” he says, standing up, “take the idea of fancy very seriously. Call me Mr. Fancy. No wait,” he starts, but she’s already laughing at him.
“Anyway,” he continues, offering her his arm, “I have wonderful news. I have found the swimming pool!”
“Oh really?” she says, looping her arm through his. “I wouldn’t say that we’re really dressed for swimming, Mr. Fancy.”
He ignores her. “We are dressed,” he says, “for the dining room. Come along, Pond.”
He leads her to the other end of the library and opens a door she hadn’t noticed before. On the other side she can see waves of light dancing on the walls, reflected off the water of the pool, which sparkles in the middle of the room. The pool is a perfect circle, and filled with very pale blue water — it isn’t the bright chlorine blue Amy expects. Around the edges of the pool delicate plants are growing, with small white blossoms that dip their petals in to the water.
The room around the pool is oblong, leaving extra space on one side for a raised section of flooring with a table, set for two, in the middle. The elegantly paneled wall curves around this space, dotted with sconces that gently light the room. Directly in the center is a fireplace, and above the table is a domed skylight, through which Amy can see the stars. It isn’t a big room and despite the glowing pale blue jewel of water in the center, it is very cozy. Somehow, the pool fits.
For a second, Amy is speechless.
The Doctor skips up the steps to the table and pulls out a chair for her. She skirts the edge of the pool, careful to keep the dress from dragging through the flowers and sits, thanking him.
“The Tardis does out do herself sometimes,” he says, flipping out the tails of his coat and sitting down himself. He leans back in the chair and she thinks about how he is both awkward and at ease in almost every situation. The tux, if ridiculous, somehow fits him, much like the pool in the dining room. It is insane and wonderful and somehow it all fits.
“So, Pond,” he says, “How is this for fancy?”
“It is very fancy,” she admits, smiling at him. “You are truly Mr. Fancy.”
He groans. “The day I learn to keep my mouth shut will be a good one.”
“You wouldn’t be my Doctor if you kept your mouth shut,” Amy says without thinking, then stops breathing for a second. “The Doctor, I mean. You wouldn’t be the Doctor.”
“Anyway,” she says, picking up a fork, moving on. “Does this fancy evening include food?”
“Yes!” he exclaims, instantly bright again. If he noticed her slip up, or cared, he makes no sign of it. He stands up from the table, spinning around to one of the panels on the wall. He waves his hand in front of it, and it slides open. Instantly, the room is filled with the most wonderful smell. He turns back to the table with two plates in hand and puts one down in front of her.
“Beef Bourguignon,” he says with a flourish of his hands.
“Wow,” she says, “You just keep bringing the fancy, don’t you?”
“You said fancy, Pond, and I take fancy very seriously. Miss Julia Child herself taught me this, and it is quite complicated and a lot of work, so you had best enjoy it.”
She laughs, a short quick laugh and says, “Yes sir.”
Then she takes a bite, and she decides that she will be nice to him forever and never tease him again if it means she can coax him in to cooking for her.
They talk about Julia Child and France and the Five Bells Galaxy, and he promises her a trip to Bell Four in the sixty-fifth century, where cooking is taught in the schools as if it was science or math, and some of the best restaurants in the universe serve people from any planet lucky enough to find and reach them. The Doctor serves lemon torte for dessert and Amy pours herself a third glass of wine.
After dinner, Amy grins and asks the Doctor if he’s tested the water in the pool yet. Before he can answer, she takes her wine glass and gets up from the table, her dress making a soft rustling noise as she steps down the stairs. She places the wine glass by the edge of the pool, then looks back at him, still sitting at the table. She smiles and doesn’t break eye contact as she gathers up her skirt, sits and dangles her legs in the water.
“Come on in, the water’s fine!” she exclaims raising her glass to him.
He follows her, rolling up his pant legs and kicking off his shoes. He settles down next to her, and she leans in to him, resting her head on his shoulder.
“Thank you Doctor,” she says softly.
“Was it fancy enough?” he asks, looking down at her.
“Most definitely. Fancier than I could’ve imagined.”
“Excellent,” he says. “I always aim to exceed expectations.”
She nods, and they sit quietly for a few moments, watching the reflection of the water dance on the walls.
“Amy,” he says, breaking the silence. He sounds hesitant, unsure. “I’m glad you’re here. I mean, in the Tardis. Traveling with me.”
She stays perfectly still next to him, sensing something about this moment that she doesn’t want to break by moving, by speaking, by even breathing.
He swallows, “I’m not very… Well, I mean, I don’t often say it, and I know I can be cross and grumpy and well… Sometimes unpleasant.”
At this, she can’t help but let out her breath in a short laugh.
“Anyway,” he says annoyed, but then checks himself and starts again. “My life is fast and unique and dangerous and not for everyone and I know that. I know… I know what it means for the people who travel with me. I see it… the cost. I know it seems I don’t, but I do.”
She opens her mouth, and then shuts it. She doesn’t know what to say. So she just finds his hand and holds it and they both watch the water for a long time.