Tegan was sure that she was getting closer now. Whatever that noise was, it couldn’t be more than a few corridors away at most. All she had wanted was one good night’s sleep, and this noise was definitely not helping her insomnia.
It had taken some time before she was happy walking through the TARDIS alone, and even now she felt afraid whenever she was forced to go into unfamiliar territory. The feelings of hopelessness and panic that she had experienced when she had first become lost in them would resurface, merely an echo of their former sharpness, but they were there just the same.
She turned another corner to be confronted with the untidiest corridor she had ever encountered in the TARDIS. Dozens of books were piled up against the walls, some almost up to the ceilings, while others had collapsed, and still more tottered precariously, undecided over whether they were going to fall or not. She peered down at them, recognizing a handful of titles, but most were a mystery to her.
There was an open door to her right, and at that moment the Doctor appeared, carrying yet another pile of books. He paused in the doorway as he spotted Tegan.
“Ah, hello,” he said, giving a weak smile.
“Doctor, what on Earth are you doing!” she demanded. “Have you any idea what time it is?”
“You know, Tegan, time is relative, especially in the TARDIS,” he said, dumping the pile of books onto the floor. “Oh dear,” he muttered, watching it slide over and hit another pile. Both collapsed, and books skittered across the smooth surface of the TARDIS corridors.
“Well?” asked Tegan.
He gestured to the books surrounding him. “Just tidying up a little.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. Tidying. The TARDIS.” She stared at him, her eyes wide in disbelief, and then she laughed, as she thought of the dozens of rooms she had seen that were covered with inches of dust.
“Yes, well, I’m moving my library.”
“But the library’s . . .” She gestured vaguely, not entirely sure in which direction the TARDIS library lay, but certain that it wasn’t anywhere near here.
“Not the TARDIS library,” he said. “My library. Just a few books I like to read. The vastness of the TARDIS library tends to be somewhat overwhelming at times. I prefer somewhere more intimate to read.”
She was about to snap back, but found herself agreeing with him: she found the TARDIS library intimidating at the best of times, and it was never during the best of times that she found herself there.
At home, libraries had meant peace and quiet: sanctuaries from the outside world. In an odd way, they reminded her of the TARDIS: here they were in a universe of their own, cut off from everything else; libraries, she had found, could contain as many universes as books, each one safe and secure from outside interference.
But Tegan had found the TARDIS library to be something quite different. It wasn’t its vastness, and distant greyness that eventually resolved into the far wall if she walked far enough, or the dizzily overwhelming number of books that it contained, though she found these things vaguely unsettling. No, what she had found when hoping for a break had been a stark reminder of her limitations.
Adric had frequently sulked in his room, but had spent almost as much time in the library, studying. At first Tegan had barely acknowledged him while she searched the books, until she had noticed him peering over the top of a ridiculously thick volume and watching her.
“Yes?” she had asked, and he had shrugged and returned to reading. A few minutes later, she had spotted him watching her again.
“What is it?” she had demanded, hands on hips, and he had smiled in an irritatingly smug way and she had decided that if he was going to shrug again, she’d wipe that smirk off his face with more then a sharp barb.
But instead he’d said, “Nothing. I mean you can hardly expect a human to read anything terribly advanced,” as he’d shot a glance at the shelf she was looking at.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You come from a primitive planet, Tegan. It’s not your fault.” And she had seen that smile get just a little bit wider, before he’d turned the page and read on.
It wasn’t quite the same with Nyssa. She’d ask questions about what Tegan was reading, about Earth’s literature and languages, and offered to help her find the few Traken texts that the library contained.
But when she saw her friend curled up on one of the plush armchairs, and reading about telebiogenesis for fun, she’d felt horribly inadequate, and she’s remember that she was cut off from her own world, her own people and that everyone on board the TARDIS was an alien.
Adric hadn’t made it any easier when, despite his lack of social skills, he’d picked up on her feelings. It was subtle, more so than she’d believed him capable of, but he’d slip in a comment whenever he could, something almost innocuous that would escape Nyssa’s notice.
But the Doctor would notice, he always did. She’d see him frowning at Adric, a flicker of annoyance in his eyes, words said just a shade too sharply, and she’d smiled.
Yet even that didn’t help when they were in the console room making repairs to the TARDIS, or Nyssa was discussing one of her experiments or Adric was showing off his newfound knowledge of whatever obscure mathematics he had been reading about.
She felt like a stranger to their worlds of science.
But they were both gone now, just memories, and Turlough, she suspected, was no scientist.
“So,” she asked, staring at the piles of books. “What are you reading?”
“Ah, dozens of things,” replied the Doctor. “I really must find some bookmarks, it makes things a lot less confusing.” He ducked back into the room and returned almost instantly with another pile of books. “This may take a while,” he said with an apologetic smile.
“I can see that,” she muttered, as he knelt on the floor, stacking up books that had fallen. “Why are you moving them?”
“Just keeping things fresh, airing out an old room...besides that particular room was getting a little small,” he replied, steadying one of the piles.
He looked up, his face expressionless. “What are you reading?” he asked.
She shrugged, she hadn’t been to the library for months, knowing that she’d lost the inclination to read.
“Won’t be a moment,” he said, and went back into his library. This time he was gone for a few minutes, and Tegan was about to go in and see what he was doing when he reappeared holding a small leather-bound volume.
“Try this,” he said, handing her the book.
“What is it?”
“My favourite book,” he said, almost shyly.
She raised an eyebrow and rubbed a thumb over the cover. “No title,” she commented.
“It’s a very old book, Tegan. It was a gift, a long time ago.”
He nodded towards the second doorway, towards his new library. “You could read it in there, if you like,” he said, smiling.
And inside the Doctor’s new library, Tegan sank into one of the plush chairs by the fireplace, surrounded by mahogany and shelves, and turned to the first page.