Disclaimer: Not mine. Never Was. Never Will Be.
Spoilers: Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, mostly, anyways
A/N: I have no idea how old River is. So I made up the numbers.
It was a complicated mess, most of the time.
During her ending years and his beginning years, and his ending years and her beginning years, on first sight one could never tell when they had come from. Two timelines, melded together in a complicated jumble of wiggly-wobbly timey-whimey stuff.
The middle-aged woman opened her journal to a blank page and started writing. The TARDIS herself had crafted the diary, out of a piece of her skin. The TARDIS herself had connected the first page of the diary with the Doctor's physic paper. The TARDIS herself had arranged the book so that when River wrote, the pages would automatically rearranged in the Doctor's timeline. That's what caused the pages to look all uneven and not the least organized.
Both of them preferred it like that.
The woman took out an ordinary pen. Well, she was a trained Time Agent, qualified professor of archeology and a prime assassin and criminal and you expect her to have ordinary gadgets? She pressed the button on the top of the pen-the one that actually made the stick of ink appear instead of the one that could blow up whoever touched it. Just to be clear, the woman hardly ever let someone use her pen.
Nor any of the other gadgets she had. Most of them were off limits to only River and Jack, a fact that irked the Doctor a lot more than it should have.
She started writing.
He met Anita and Dave today. I was rather curious about his response to my newest 'students'. My last team, Stuart and Lillian, never got along with the Doctor very well. They were too much like pure archeologists who didn't understand the sheer wonder of time travel. But Anita and Dave-they've met him before, twice now, if you count this time-and they seem to like him well enough. Anita talked about it over a nightcap and yes, I got her severely drunk (serves her right, I only offered the first shot) to get her opinion of him.
Apparently, the best student I've had in years thinks my husband is hot, gorgeously hot, but that's nothing new, and that she doesn't understand him at all. But then no one understands the Doctor, I just pretend to most of the time. Dave, on the other hand, I haven't managed to get him drunk yet, at all. He holds his liquor very well, the only reason I like him better than Jack.
But what was curious about the Doctor's reaction to Anita and Dave was he just looked at them, getting all nostalgic. I feared the worse. He was going to use our hated "word" again. But he didn't. He shook himself and appeared interested in talking to Anita and Dave. But sometimes, he look at me with a haunted expression in his face, and it hurt. But he never said our word.
Not once. Usually, he gloats over it, knowing something that I don't. But this is driving me mad. He's only been gone about half a day and I'm already obsessing over seeing him again. I hope he pops up before Lux acquires an acceptable ship. If there is one person I hate worse than Jack-
Anyway. IF Lux gets his ship, we'll leave in about a week, for the Library. It's been a dead planet for near a century now. Any archeologists' dream planet. If the Doctor doesn't show up between now and then, I'll probably get him to come along from some point in time in his time stream. And even if he does come... well, it would be just another excuse to see him, right?
Oh. Wow. I'm turning into a sentimental old lady. Jack would gloat so hard if he could read this? Why can't he just die? And not a word about the immortality business!
So this time that the Doctor came around, Anita, Dave and he were just talking while I cooked. Contrary to the Doctor's beliefs, I can cook. Just because I didn't learn in Paris... Then I got a call from one of my contacts on "that" side of my life. The side that the Doctor isn't really a fan of, and has tried to get me to give up for ages. I had given the killing up, years ago, and then I killed to protect him and let myself slip back into old habits.
But that's old news.
Anyway, Anita perked up almost immediately when I said I got a job. She'll make a top assassin one day, once she could hold her drink. Dave just looked bored. He is more of pilot than anything. And the Doctor basically had no reaction, besides for the few lines that formed around his mouthed and the frown I could read in his eyes.
I shuddered then. That was why I hated getting jobs while the Doctor was around.
I took Anita with me and had the job done by eleven pm local time. When we got back, Dave and the Doctor were chatting like they had known each other their entire lives. Dave was telling the Doctor something deep because my husband went, "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." And he had a haunted look in his eyes again.
Dave got up to go back to his flat after that, and Anita went into the guest rooms because she's sharing my house until she moves into her new apartment after the trip to the library.
So that left the Doctor and I in the living room.
"How'd it go?" He asked, breaking the slightly uncomfortable silence.
"Just peachy," I said, shortly.
"I hate that term," he said.
"I know. That's why I use it."
"River," he said, smirking.
"Life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I'm going to bed." I got up and headed to my rooms. We never argued over the killing thing anymore. It was just a fact of both our lives. He followed me and, you, Tara, I know are smart enough to fill in the blanks.
So, from this visit, my main questions are WHY does he feel so haunted around Dave and Anita, and why on earth, when we woke up, was he staring at the ceiling, muttering Derillium?
Tara. The Doctor is impossible, you know that, right?
Oh, and this is probably not really important, but have you ever noticed that he never tells me that he's sorry? Not with that phrase at least, not the "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Sure, he apologizes, but actually that exact phrase? He says it everyone but me. I wonder if there's a reason.
Professor River Song capped the pen, careful again, not to blow herself up and closed the diary-Tara-before tucking the book away in her travel sack. Even the Doctor didn't know that she had named the journal. He wasn't exactly big on naming things unless the names ended up being rather strange acronyms.
Sure, so he didn't name the TARDIS, but Time And Relative Dimensions In Space still counted as a very strange acronym.
The woman stood and went down into her living room to find Anita going over some of the job notes. "Apparently Lux managed to get his hands on a ship that fit your ratings. Lower end of the spectrum though. The escape pods are right near the bathrooms."
River snorted, "They'll be well marked."
"Oh, and you know I've mentioned Dave? Well... the other Dave. The guy who was a few years below me in school. If he's free-"
"Sure," River said, "just as long as he can handle himself. And he signs Lux's contracts."
"But Ma'am, you didn't sign your contract." Anita pointed out.
"Firstly, my name is River. And second, that buffoon needs me. You guys are expendable."
"Gee, thanks," Anita muttered.
"Any day," River shot back, grinning at the younger woman.
It was the day before Lux's library expedition and the team was off in various places doing various things. Anita, Dave and Dave were off at a pub, having one last drink. And River honestly didn't care what Lux or Miss Evengelista, the last member of their party, were doing.
In truth, all River wanted to do was see the Doctor. For the past week, it had almost been agony, wondering what he had meant by it all. But as she stood in her living room, looking around at the emptiness, it felt unnerving.
River admitted it. She was scared. The Doctor always told her everything but those "spoiler" situations, which had stopped happening for awhile now. She thought she had met all of his earlier faces; at least, from Eleven onward. Actually meeting the First Doctor, why, that would be STRANGE! Or the Second. Or the Third. Or on and on and on.
She pulled out Tara and had just started to reach for her pen when the trilling, whirling sound of the TARDIS filled her living room. Even as the blue phone box materialized in the living room, River barely moved.
When she heard the door opening, she said, "What have I told you about parking in the house?"
"River?" His voice sounded different, but River didn't bother to look.
"Park outside please."
"I hate being punished for what I don't remember doing wrong."
"You should be used to it," River stated.
The TARDIS door closed, and the sound filled the room again. About five minutes later, the doorbell rang and River went to her front door and pulled it open.
The Doctor stood there, obviously the Doctor, with a rather poorly tailored brown suit, a three corner's hat at a jaunty angle, but he had a new face, a new voice. A new look, actually. River cast an approving eye up and down him before letting him inside.
"Hey," he muttered, handing her a bouquet of exotic flowers.
River took them from him, grinning, "Now why do I get the feeling your apologizing for something you haven't done yet?"
He smirked, "Up for a trip?"
"Where to?" River asked. "But I've got to be back here tonight. Normal time frame too, not three days later or whatever. I've got a mission." She saw a carefully masked wince in the Doctor's eyes. Even with his new face, he couldn't hide much from her.
"The Singing Towers of Derillium?" He suggested.
River's jaw practically hit the floor. "Okay, here's something I don't understand. I have been BEGGING you to take me there for YEARS. And you always say, 'not yet.' Why now?"
He looked distinctly nervous, uncomfortable, and sad. "Spoilers."
Her jaw widened just a bit. "I though we were past all of those. What do you mean?" Pain filled eyes met surprised and confused eyes. They stared at each other for almost eternity before River looked at her shoes in silent consent. She wouldn't ask anymore.
The Doctor reached out and grabbed her hand, pulling her-barefoot-out of the door and towards the spot on the front lawn where he had parked the TARDIS. River let him pull her across the yard, grateful for the chance just be with him. Alone. For once in awhile.
The two of them pushed open the TARDIS door and climbed up to the consul. The Doctor kept his hand closed around River's fingers, and while she felt it strange that he didn't let go, she accepted it and let him pull her this way and that. River relaxed and let someone else take the reigns. She was the leader too much. They'd survive the night without her jumping in with some smart comment every ten seconds.
"Derillium!" The Doctor cried, pressing a few buttons but still not letting go of River's hand. She let out a smallish shriek as he yanked her first left than right. But it was fun. She could intentionally get in his way to illicit a glare. Beneath her bare feet, River could feel the half metal, half plastic like material of the TARDIS flooring.
"The 32nd century. When the Singing Tower's were at their height!" He gushed.
They landed without a noise and River curled her toes around one of the floor rungs. "You didn't complain."
"The brakes!" River cried, rolling her eyes. He always complained if the breaks were off.
"Right, that," the Doctor smirked. He fiddled with the blue buttons. "There. Now they're on."
"Oh Doctor." River said, smiling up at him.
He bent his head a little and kissed her gently. The first-but not the last-of the night. The Doctor pulled back and smiled. "Now. The Singing Towers?"
"Do I need shoes?" River asked, as he finally let go of her hand and half sprinted for the door.
"I doubt it. C'mon." He looked like an excited puppy. River grinned and bounded after them. The two of them stepped into the orange-red glow of the Singing Towers of Derillium and gasped.
The sight can only be compared-in Earth terms-to an aurora. Dozens of colors shifting in and out of sight. Blues. Greens. Purples. Reds. Yellows. Oranges. Browns. Pinks. Grays. Whites. Blacks. THOUSANDS of colors. Some colors not even named yet. It was a folk dance of light.
But besides for the sight there was the smell. It was a peaceful, comforting sense. River couldn't pin the exact smell, but it was fresh. Very fresh. Even the taste was fresh. She drew in a breath just to taste the rejuvenating air.
The Doctor's arm snaked around her waist, pulling her close. Behind them, the TARDIS door closed. "Like it?" The Doctor whispered.
River had not even begun to process the sound and she loved it already. "Oh yes."
Her husband grinned widely.
The sound. Oh the sound! It was heavenly. Pure heavenly. The only thing it can be related to were the songs of the fabled animals known as phoenixes. No man, humanoid, or machine could ever make such a divine sound.
River smiled, "This is beautiful."
Green grass ran from beneath their feet to the edge of a cliff, and over the cliff where the lit up towers. They raced to the sky, as far up as the eye could see. It was a sight to behold.
"Not as beautiful as you," The Doctor said, kissing her cheek lightly.
"That is such a lie."
"Stretch of the truth, maybe." He admitted. River nodded, satisfied and still enraptured by the song and the sight. "But only by a little." The Doctor added, as an afterthought.
River turned and gazed up at him. "You're worse than Jack."
"I take offense to that!" The Doctor called.
She kissed him, and then pulled away. "Maybe. But you're It." She tapped him on the arm and dashed off, grinning like a maniac. The cliff top was entirely empty besides for the two of them. The Doctor chased after her, but never getting within two paces of his speedy wife. After about five minutes, she stopped and allowed him to tag her.
"You watch us run," the Doctor muttered.
"Hm?" River asked, tucking a strand of russet hair behind her ears.
He didn't answer.
"Huh? What? Sorry. Zoned out. What?" He jumped, looking exactly like he had just awoken. River bit her lip to hide a smile. He was adorable. Just plain adorable.
"The thing is," River said, chewing on her lip, like she had something important to say. "I've waited at least ten seconds and you still haven't moved." She reached out and tagged him before dashing off.
The Doctor laughed and raced after her. This time, he tackled her, bringing both of them to the ground. His fingers tensed and started to tickle. River laughed, she couldn't help herself. Her attempts to fight off the tickles were really only halfhearted. The laughing was so much better.
The Singing Towers of Derillium watched the frolicking couple happily. Usually, when peole came to stare at the Towers, they were still and tense, in awe. But these two were different. These two were amazing people.
But the Towers could sense the pain in both. In one, was grief. In the other, was the little seed that she wasn't trusted as much as she thought. Had the Towers been human, they would have cried. The poor couple.
With River pinned under him, no longer struggling, the Doctor just smirked.
"Oh come on," River said, "get up already."
"I'm quite comfortable," the Doctor protested, dropping a kiss on her nose.
"You've going to have to do better than that." River said, smirking.
He kissed her on the lips, and then trailed down to her throat, and, dear reader, if you're anything like Tara the Journal, you know what happened next.
Later that evening, the Doctor and River sat on the grass outside the TARDIS, eating fried chicken and massed potatoes.
"This is what I love about the TARDIS," the Doctor said.
River rolled her eyes, guessing what was coming next.
"It does excellent fast food."
She snorted into her soda. She just couldn't help herself. He was just so adorable when he talked like that. "You know, I love the TARDIS because it's yours." River leaned her head on his shoulders, watching the colors of the tower become brighter as the sky darkened. The sound remained, heavenly, amazing, awesome. Just beyond amazing.
"I love the TARDIS because it officiated our wedding," he said, smiling.
River laughed. Oh, she remembered that one. How many people actually have weddings when they get the heart of a alien spaceship dumped into their brains-and through joint effort-both managed to survive it with out regenerating? River could name one wedding in the history of the universe that impressive. And it was hers. "I love the TARDIS because she puts up with you even when you leaves the breaks on."
"Hey!" He said.
His wife shifted so she was more in his lap instead of beside of him, but he didn't complain. With one hand, he stroked the precious curls on her head, wrapping them around one finger and then unwinding them, just glad to have this night with her before it all chanced.
One more night before the Library.
River felt his whole body tense up at one thought, and she looked up into his eyes. There was a mask of happiness in place, but behind the mask his whole face was filled with exhausted, fear, and overwhelming grief. The woman had never sensed so much emotion in his face before. But it was masked. No ordinary person would have caught it. But, River wasn't ordinary. She was a trained Time Agent, a qualified professor of archeology, and a deadly assassin. She also happened to be the Doctor's wife, and how he acted worried her.
"Okay. Out with it," River said. "What's got you so tense?"
Something flickered behind his stormy eyes. "River-"
"Don't," I ordered. "Please. Don't shut me out. Don't do this too me." River stared at him, the new features and the new suit not bugging her in the slightest. He was still the Doctor and he was still hers. Looks didn't matter. She ran a hand up his arm. "Please don't shut me out."
Recognizing that his wife was near tears for some reason, the Doctor pulled the rest of the way into her lap and wrapped both his arms around. In her ear, he spoke in Ancient Gallifreyan.
Her tears followed freely now. Fingernails digging into the back of his coat jacket, River cried onto his shoulder, unsure why she had been reduced to tears like this. Rubbing her back comfortingly, the Doctor continued to speak in Gallifreyan. He even sang a lullaby that matched with the melody coming from the Singing Towers. With gasping breaths, River got her tears under control.
River buried her face in his neck. "I'm sorry."
His only answer was a firmer squeeze. "River. I'm sorry. I'm so, so, sorry."
She took a shuddering breath, "Doctor. You've never-"
"I know," He released his hold on her slightly, holding far enough away that they could stare into each others' eyes. "I never apologize to you like I do to other people."
"Why?" River muttered.
"It hurts," The Doctor said. His eyes were clouded with pain. "Because you're you. River. River Song. MY River. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I let you land that punch."
Her tears were dry now, replaced with confusion. "What are you talking about?"
He tried to answer, but his voice was choked with pent up tears.
River whispered his real name.
That broke the floodgates. The Doctor cried. No. That was too a weak a word. The Doctor wept. River held him and he held on to her, like a child hanging to his mother. It shock River. She had never seen him this weak, this vulnerable.
She whispered his name again, holding him close. Never, ever would she let go of him. Not when he needed her most. The Singing Towers of Derillium watched them, and they cried. The song switched to tragic, and the colors became more muted. But the couple didn't notice. They just clutched each other, drawing whatever comfort they could from each other.
Again, River said his real name, and then she asked, "What's going to happen at the Library?"
Their eyes met and River could see the answer shining in his eyes. It was clear as day, clouded with the pain, the suffering, the grief. River was stunned to see the depth of the Doctor's feelings for her. Normally... it wasn't this intense.
She was going to die on her next assignment. The pieces of the puzzle flew together. One version of the Doctor, a younger one, for sure, was going to appear at the Library when she summoned. And then River would die. Someway or another. She wouldn't be coming back from this trip alive.
"Doctor," River said. She kissed some of his tears away, and then rested her head on his chest. "Oh my Doctor."
"I can't go through it again," he whispered.
And River had no reply.
The next morning, both River and the Doctor where bleary-eyed from lack of sleep.
"You don't have to go," the Doctor said.
They were standing inside the TARDIS, still not ready to go back into River's house. "We both know that that's not true," River said. She twisted the ring on her left ring finger. "But what I do I do? This is why... the spoilers rule..."
"Any advice I give you would just complicate the matter."
She rested her head on his shoulder and he slipped an arm around her waist. "Oh." After a pause, she whispered, "We had the best of times, didn't we Doc?"
"Absolutely," He muttered into her hair. Goodbyes were awful.
From somewhere outside, they heard Anita cry, "PROFESSOR SONG! RIVER! WHERE ARE YOU?"
"I'd be-" Her voice cracked.
The Doctor whispered a name in her ear. "I love you, River Song," his voice was low and course, raw from tears.
"I love you," River said his real name after it, keeping to the pattern.
In his hand, he bounced the all-purpose, all-but-wood-encompassing sonic screwdriver in his hand. "Take it."
Her hand closed on the screwdriver and River slipped it in my pocket. "Thank you." She slipped the ring off her finger and handed it to the Doctor. "Your earlier self can't see it?"
The Doctor shook his head.
River sighed, "We're a paradox, aren't we?"
He took her hands and raised them to his lips, kissing each knuckle before saying, "The best of paradoxes."
Both of them ignored Anita's rather distraught calls, instead, they kissed each other goodbye. It was their last kiss. And they both knew it. So Anita or no Anita, trip or no trip, they were going to make it a good one.
And it was a long while before they surfaced for air.
"I'd better go," River stated, knowing that she'd never get out of the TARDIS if she didn't. "Goodbye, oh my Doctor."
He caressed her hair gentle, but went no farther than that. In Gallifreyan, he said 'Goodbye, love of my heart.'
River felt tears welling in her eyes. She raced to the door of the TARDIS and flung it open. Once on the outside, she panted, trying to calm her racing nerves.
She was going to her death.
Taking a deep breath, she walked to the back door of her house and opened it. Pausing in the threshold, she looked back at the blue box and heard a mangled sob from within.
It took all her willpower to step over the threshold. But she did.
And so it was that Professor River Song, wife of the last Time Lord in existence, went to her doom.
Life is a complicated mess.
But no mess was not without some kind of order.
From the time when they separated that morning, each individual time line started to run it's own course. River boarded a starship and had to put up with a two long days of both baiting and ignoring Lux. She was in the year 5063. The Doctor barricaded himself in the TARDIS library, trying to deal with her death yet again: when she actually meant something do him. He was in the year 5018.
River Song was 57.
The Doctor had lost count of his age. 900-something.
They had been married almost 35 years.
And time was a complicated thing.
At the exact moment that River Song punched the Tenth Doctor, knocking him out, the current Doctor landed the TARDIS on some planet which he didn't bother to check.
At the exact moment that River Song began wiring herself into the system, the current Doctor stepped outside into the sunlight and winced at how bright and cheery it was. He had to face how much the sun reminded him of her.
At the exact moment that River Song and the Tenth Doctor argued about handcuffs, the Doctor reached inside his pockets and pulled out the handcuffs. They had come in handy, over the years. But now they were just a memory of what used to be.
At the exact moment that the self-destruct count down hit zero, the Doctor turned and closed the door to his TARDIS, only half ready to try and start a new life.
Some thirty minutes later, in both time streams, the footprint of River Song was jammed into the hard drive of the computer and downloaded to safely while the Doctor was run over by a sprightly girl of about twelve, who had a massive head of fizzy blond curls coming down only to her shoulders but sticking out at least three inches from her head.
"Oh, sorry," the girl said. "Can I help you up?"
The Doctor stood up and gazed sorrowfully at the miniature version of River Song. Figures that their first meeting would be around the same time as their last meeting. In both cases. "I'm fine. Thanks."
"I'm sorry sir, really," little River said, anxiously.
The Doctor dug into his pockets and tossed her a couple credits. "It's no big deal. Go have some fun."
"Thank you Sir! My mom says I'm not supposed to talk to strangers, but no one likes my mom." The blond haired girl beamed.
The Doctor's hearts thudded. She looked so much like River. Okay. So yes. She was River. "Are you going to see the matinee this afternoon?" The Doctor gestured the the posters plastered up everywhere.
"I dunno," she admitted, "I've already seen it."
"Well then don't tell me about it. Spoilers." He winked at her and walked off towards his TARDIS, coat tails billowing. He grinned to himself. So that had been why fifteen year old River Song thought he was weird. Like, weirder than normal. He had met her twelve year old self and didn't even know. Ah well. Time travel. He opened the door to his space ship and climbed inside.
Planets to save. People to met. A Universe to keep in order. And memories to honor.
He pressed a few buttons, and in just a few moments, the TARDIS had landed on the top of the Singing Towers of Derillium.
The Towers were quiet, the colors mute.
A tear rolled his cheek as he pulled a ring from his left ring finger. River's ring, he pulled from the depths of one of his pockets. Placing the two next too each other, he muttered a few words in the Ancient Language and the two rings melded together in the sign for infinity.
"Live forever," The Doctor muttered, before casting the joined rings over the edge of the cliff.
The Singing Towers of Derillium caught the infinity sign before it fell into the never ending chasm.
And from then on, visitors to the Singing Towers would see two silver bands occasionally join the dance of life. No one ever saw one of the bands without the other. The Legend of the Silver Bands blazed across the skies and while no one knew who the rings had belonged to, the Legend made sure of one thing:
The Doctor and River Song were never forgotten.