bethbethbeth: Turtle with 4 elephants on its back - and on their back is Pratchett's Discworld (Discworld Disc (perkele pixeljoint))
[personal profile] bethbethbeth posting in [community profile] disc_fest
Author: glinda
Title: Shadows in the Library
Characters and/or Pairing(s): The Librarian, River Song
Rating: PG
Word Count (if applicable): 1559
Possible warnings and/or enticements - highlight to view (may contain spoilers): *”None”*
Summary: The Vashta Nerada fear very few creatures; the Librarian is one of them.
Author's Notes: This was supposed to be a light-hearted romp where the Librarian and River Song keep bumping into each other and helping each other out of the kind of jams where you have to sidetrack via L-Space. It became something else instead.





The first time River enters L-Space, she's working late on her dissertation in her university library.

It's 4am and she can hear voices where there should be none, so she does what any self-respecting student does when faced with that situation. She grabs a large book that can double as a weapon and an alibi and sets off to investigate.

What she finds, is an unlikely world that is both completely flat and where magic is real. The particular part of it that she finds herself in, is additionally under attack by some marauding creatures with a surfeit of heads and tentacles. Oddly the wizards, whose library she's found herself in, are almost more upset about a woman appearing in their midst than they are about the creatures. Fortunately the Librarian – who is inexplicably an Orangutang – is a good deal more practical and trades her a sword for her oversized book and joins her on a quick and devastating campaign against the invaders while the rest of wizards are busy arguing. River doesn't know much about Demon Dimensions, but when it comes to saving planets from aggressive alien invasions, she's uniquely qualified.

The wizards blame quantum and one of the attending Watch officers hails from the Ramtops and argues that it's circle time, but they agree on one point. If she sticks around much longer she'll get stuck, so reluctantly she retraces her steps and finds herself back in the library of the university she actually attends, with a burning desire to learn Orangutang. The Librarian had clearly been the only sane mind amongst them.

When she returns to the library the next day, there's no sign of the stacks she'd wandered - or indication of any portals to other places - to be found. She even tries staying up all night at the same table, ears pricked for any weird sounds or carrying voices, in case it's a regular temporal effect. All to no avail. Most other students would have just shaken their heads and presumed they'd been dreaming, but River is not most other students. She lives with a far scarier piece of knowledge: the universe is weirder than we know.

On the plus side the extra-credit paper she wrote on her research into L-Space won her a small but lucrative prize from the quantum mechanics department, which went a long way to funding her next archaeological field trip.

***

The last time River Song enters L-Space it is entirely on purpose. She's running for her life through a library so large, so comprehensive, that it is known simply as 'The Library'. She's been in some dangerous and deadly spots over her long life (lives, she supposes), has run through thousands of mazes and even a few libraries that she suspected of actively trying to kill her.

Behind River, the lights start to go out and she breaks into a run.

There's a knack to getting into L-Space and its different for each and every visitor, River's pretty certain that she and the Doctor are the only people in this universe that can do it at a run. There's a turn and a twist and then suddenly she's somewhere else. She's still in the stacks but they're different stacks, she pauses only long enough to catch her breath and establish her bearings before she's off again. She's had a lifetime to learn to trust the Doctor implicitly and totally – and also to learn exactly when not to trust him – but there's only one person she's met in the entire multiverse who could banish an infestation of Vashta Nerada from an entire universe. He owes her, he'll be listening, so she calls his name.

“OOOOOK!!!!!” The echoes are strange here but they give her a bearing and with a grim smile she heads in a new direction.

***

The librarian pads carefully through his stacks, it wasn't her shout that woke him – he's learned to sleep through students screaming, having learned long ago that by the time a wizarding student screams for help its already too late to help them – but rather the distressed and disquieted rustling of the books. They are restless tonight, fearful, as though they can sense that something bad is happening out there.

He walks through the stacks, searching for the source of their disquiet, running long gentle fingers over their spines, reassuring them as he passes. He has taken care of them for a long time, fought off many invaders and attackers in that time, so most of them quiet, assured that he is awake and on the case. Still, there is an underlying edge of tension among the stacks.

He turns a corner to find a young-looking woman walking towards him and remembers with some regret that often the worst threats come wearing the face of a friend.

River starts towards him but he raises a hand.

“Oook.”

She stops as instructed and turns to look behind her. He can't see her expression, but he does see the resigned fall of her shoulders when she sees what he does. She has two shadows.

Most wizards aren't afraid of the dark, it's part of being a wizard, knowing that you're the scariest thing you're likely to meet in the dark. The Librarian isn't afraid of the dark either, he respects the dark, walks through it with care, carefully researches every last thing that might be lurking in the dark and learns how to fight it.

The creatures that had arrived preying on River's shadow were among the few species he was still scared of, and it was small comfort that he was fairly certain that he was one of the few creatures the Vashta Nerada feared in return.

“Please,” she says quietly.

Some wizards will tell you about the importance of wands and staff, dribbly candles, occult chanting and amulets, but when push comes to shove, none of those are necessary when you need to save your own skin. The Librarian flexed his fingers, said Ook in a way that was both very quiet and controlled, and at the same time so forceful it had strange echoes, causing small vivid red sparks to shoot out of his fingers. It didn't look like much but River's second shadow glowed fizzing red, convulsed and disappeared. He'll need to do a full and thorough sweep of the Library before morning to make sure no more of their kin have sneaked through, but for now there are more important things to attend to. The Librarian grins widely and opens his arms, and in turn River bounces forward to share a hug with her old friend.

She doesn't ask for his help and he doesn't remind her about the rules he cannot break, but they both hear the unspoken exchange nonetheless.

***

Time is relative. Time when travelling via L-Space is even more relative than normal, but River can't escape the feeling that she's somewhat against the clock here. If she had her own way she'd be running at full tilt, but this is the Librarian's territory so his rules go. So they walk steadily out beyond the stacks we know into the unknown, she'd be hopelessly lost within five minutes but he moves with a confidence that suggests he knows exactly where he's going. She has feeling of ceilings getting higher, of shelves becoming more ornate. River's quite certain she's never been here before but it feels strangely familiar, but then given how much her memory has been interfered with over the years she keeps an open mind.

They stop in front of the biography section. The Librarian climbs high above her to retrieve a certain book. On the cover there is a symbol that the Librarian recognises even though he cannot read a word of this world's writing system. It is the name of one of the few creatures that the Librarian still fears. Who would never forgive him if he knew that the Librarian had lied to him about being able to access this particular library. The wrath of a deadly enemy is nothing to that of a friend who feels betrayed. He hands the book over to River and hopes that he's correct in thinking she'll keep his secret once she figures it out.

“Hello sweetie,” River says sadly, paging through it. The Librarian pats her apologetically on the head.

“Ook.” It's time to go, River needs to get back before its too late for the book to do any good.

Above them the stars are going out.

***

He accompanies her back to her own Library. It's something of legend among the Librarians of Time and Space in its own right, and given what he now knows about the place this will likely be his only chance. This infestation cannot be banished; this is where it belongs. River doesn't understand that, but she will soon he's sure.

“Oook, Oook,” says River, gratitude and regret warring in her voice.

“Ook, Oook,” responds the Librarian regretfully as he watches her slot the book into a shelf where the Vashta Nerada will find it easier. He can't interfere with the nature of causality, but he can give it small nudge when no-one's looking.

Real names exchanged they part for the last time.

Date: 2012-08-03 12:24 am (UTC)
backspace: (Default)
From: [personal profile] backspace
There's a turn and a twist and then suddenly she's somewhere else. She's still in the stacks but they're different stacks. . .
This is actually... a great crossover idea. *charmed* River and the Librarian are totally bros! And I wish there were legit Doctor Who footage of River crying for the Librarian.

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