Title: River Song, Companion Plus
Pairings: River/Doctor (Ten&Eleven), minor Amy/Rory, hints of past River/Other
Spoilers: Time of Angels/Flesh & Stone, The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang
Summary: He never imagined that she'd mean so much. Before he was in love, he just loved her.
Author's Notes: I've recently found myself curious as to the kind of relationship the Doctor's tenth regeneration and River could have had given enough time. This was started way back before A Good Man Goes to War, so it's been totally Jossed, but I thought I'd share anyway.
Disclaimer: I don't own any characters recognizable as being from Doctor Who. They are the property of their actors, producers, writers, and studios, not me. No copyright infringement was intended and no money was made in the writing or distribution of this story. It was good, clean fun.
She may be the maddest woman the Doctor's met that he didn't make that way. She isn't Sarah Jane Smith or Donna Noble, but she is brilliant. She saves his life on Tuio Mau with her smile—no, she quite literally saves his life by dazzling the native warriors with a naughty grin until they all propose marriage. The Tuionese evolved without any of the muscles necessary to compose humanoid expressions of joy. They're champion scowlers, but smiles are out of their league. River is a goddess in their eyes. He sees why.
She's got a dozen ritual offerings draped across her body when she returns to the TARDIS hours after him. They're all tokens of affection from potential suitors. She is sniffing a wreath of flowers when she passes him, petting a cord of shells that dangles, wrapped twice, about her waist. Someone has entangled the local ivy in her hair and there's florescent dust glittering from cheek to cheek, drawn across the bridge of her nose. She is still smiling when she disappears from the console room into the ship's depths. He is smiling in her wake.
There are endless moments like this stretched behind him and he fast finds himself fascinated by all the ways she isn't the woman he expects. He expects her to flirt familiarly, to flaunt the interest of others in the hopes of inspiring a display of jealousy he admits he's beginning to feel. He expects too much touching and sweetie and spoilers, but there isn't any of that when she's around.
There's duck and he is a bit handsome, isn't it he and that hair and that gun, her secret smiles with all their secret meanings. There is this complex woman who wraps him up in knots and saves his life and risks her own right beside him, who laughs in the face of danger the way he laughs in the face of archaeologists. She's very bad and very good, and she's his companion.
Right now today, he doesn't think he could have a better one.
He isn't sure how to respond when he meets her first husband. First, he thinks and he's embarrassed at the placating tone the word takes in his mind. He knows he'll trust her completely one day, enough to tell her his name, enough to give her the screwdriver which never leaves his side. He assumes this means they'll marry, that he'll fall hearts over head for her and they'll marry. On their wedding night, he'll tell her his name. Now, he can't help wondering if she'll be comparing him to the first, even then.
The husband is an unplanned trip to the past and by the time they've left, the Doctor knows how he dies and when. He sits beside her as they float in the vastness of space and watches a star come to life, pretending all the while that she isn't mourning a love she still feels.
She stays in her room for days after and he doesn't mind much letting time go by while she grieves. There isn't anything in the universe he wants to see, not without her.
She comes out eventually, in a bright green sweater, work pants, and boots. She says, "Let's save someone," and the feeling it evokes is so familiar his hands begin their work before his brain catches on.
He does a fair job of acting on par with his usual self. "Anywhere particular in mind?" He hopes she doesn't say the husband, he'd be disappointed if she did. She doesn't disappoint, merely drops into the jump seat and waits for his nod to pull the final lever.
They save a world of orphans that day. Although it's a touch cliché, he doesn't mind because she smiles again after. He leaves a bunch of bananas on her pillow as a symbol of his gratitude. It isn't a flower in her hair, but he thinks someday she'll understand.
Her mind catches fire during their fourth year together.
They meet a telepathic race that feeds on psychic oddity: extraordinary minds, that is. A Time Lord is a luxury, a fine delicacy made all the finer by its rarity. River makes the eccentrics of the bunch pant—the eccentrics of the eccentrics, he thinks but doesn't spare breath to say. The flurry of psychic activity that builds around her makes him wince, overwhelmed by her plight combined with his own.
She screams without words and it's the first time he's been aware of anything that happens within her mind. Her brain has always been a steel trap keeping him out. Now all it's done is shut her in. He predicts her death by fifteen seconds. He doesn't predict the glow of regenerative energy that floats heavenward from her mouth instead.
River goes out in a blaze of glory while he begins to lose his patience with their hosts. He's never cared for psychic warfare, but when needs must he'll do what's hard. In the aftermath of a Time Lord-strong psychic burst, they are another people lost, and it becomes something else to regret. But it saves them and he finds he regrets that slightly less.
Resurrected, River reaches the TARDIS before he does, and then collapses inside. They return to the vortex and she sleeps for a week. He wants to but can't look away from her for fear she might disappear. He doesn't know how she managed to hide for so long; now that he knows he isn't alone, he never plans to let her hide again.
Though her psychic shields are compromised, he stays clear of the dreams she dreams. She'll let him in when she's ready and he's grown the patience of a saint. Seven days she sleeps while he hardly blinks.
Someday, this woman's going to know his name. The thought doesn't frighten him so much anymore.
He expects it will take time, he doesn't expect years. A linear decade falls in the face of River's unwillingness to discuss her regeneration. She is still curls and green eyes, still elegant and vibrant and brilliantly lethal, but she's cracked. The fissures show where her demons seep and they become his night terrors as well. It's a gift that he hardly sleeps.
She has a talent for piloting the TARDIS, or perhaps his ship simply adores her and makes easier the task. He gets that sense because she beams when River arrives and dims a touch when she departs. He doesn't know what they say to each other, but it's a rare occasion that he and River argue and the TARDIS takes his side. He wouldn't need a full complement of fingers to count them.
River is a child of time, though she never confesses how. Her origins are her secret, stored behind the demons that have come to torment them both. Oddly enough, he's grown fond of her mystery. All these years and she hasn't bored him yet. There's too much still to learn.
He knows River Song for twelve linear years before he realizes she's begun to love him. By then, he's already loved her for seven. She is far from the baby-faced student she was when she ambled up to him at Second Baliol on New Jupiter and asked his name. She's a doctor of archaeology and none too afraid to pop him good should he decide to mock her chosen profession. He's had a dozen new companions since then, but none of them hold a candle to her. There are days when he doesn't hold a candle to her, either.
He tells her he loves her on the relative anniversary of the first fall of Gallifrey. It's been a very long time.
She tells him to sleep on his broken hearts and see her in the morning. The words cut, but she kisses him before he goes and he knows she means well.
The morning brings tea and banana bread and her. She's waiting in the kitchen, patiently stirring her cuppa while he situates himself across the table.
He says, "Good morning."
She says, "I love you, too."
He drinks his tea as she cuts the bread. They hold hands quietly during breakfast.
They make love furiously through lunch.
They hold hands tightly during dinner. He's mortified of what might happen if he lets her go. She's blissfully ignorant of the end.
He reads a page of her diary at year twenty:
Not every child of Gallifrey burned.
He doesn't get farther than that before she sees. As it is, they fight about it for ages. They don't live in linear time, or anything so clear as back-to-front. He doesn't speak to a version of her who knows what he's done for so long that he wonders if he ever will again. For those whose lives span centuries, domestic spats can, and often do, span decades.
She kisses him hello again on a cruise barge in the Kasterborous constellation. Its path takes them past the place of Gallifrey's rest. The enormity of what was lost is only eclipsed by the emptiness left behind. He forces himself to face the void, because someone has to and he's the only one left who can. The only one other than her.
Her hand finds his on the edge of the tourist crowd. He'd know her blind from her touch alone. They watch the sum of their history disappear in the distance as the ship engages its faster-than-light engines and carries them away. They're so accustomed to its absence that they don't bother to say goodbye.
He plans to propose when they return to the TARDIS, but she asks him first. They've been everything except married for dozens of years, including those they've spent apart. Waiting any longer would feel like tempting fate, so he says yes. She says yes to the question he didn't get to ask.
There is no ceremony and there are no guests. No one to officiate and no temple to hold them, yet they're married just the same. With this ring, he bio-damps and promises and loves. With hers, she does the same. He will love her every face as she already loves each of his.
Never mind that the face she wears now is her last. He'll squeeze every bit of hope he can out of this life. He finds it unlikely he'll be able to feel any hope at all in the next one.
Then, something snaps in Time as something always does.
It wakes him from an unlikely sleep beside his wife of ninety-six years, or rather three years and forty-six days, properly. Not that he bothers counting. She has been his wife since she first uttered his name in that damnable Library; she will be his wife until she utters it there again, and after.
He rolls to his feet, clumsy with disorientation. Everything is a bit off-kilter, a bit lop-sided in his view. The timelines in his mind are tangling, straining for sense; the corridors of the TARDIS aren't much more for coherence. He can barely crawl in a straight line, much less walk. She's at his side before he makes up his mind to call her, her surer steps guiding him where he needs to be.
The console room is in a temporal uproar, warping forth and back between one era of its existence and the next. It's white and clinical, dark and brooding, coral and fantastic all at once. If he didn't know this was cause to worry, he'd think it was a cause to party heartily. He likes anomalies, nothing boring about an anomaly.
There's something about Weeping Angels and cracks in the universe and very, very bad that he has to take care of. But her secrets get in the way before he can set the controls. River goes utterly pale, his ship goes utterly still, and he doesn't believe in coincidences today any more than he did as a young, old fool.
"I'm really, very sorry," she says, and it's only linear cycles later that he understands why.
He's left with a jammed fob watch, an empty space where his ring never was, and an army of confused clerics waking up from a stupor. River is nowhere to be found, like Gallifrey, like his mind. No, she was never there at all. He sometimes forgets that he isn't the only one mad enough to rewrite time.
He'll never forget again.