while we drifted we were one
S5; river, eleven, river/doctor (dr who)
across time and space, you watch us run.
When the doctor realises the future, River is dying.
It's death, but unlike any he's ever seen before. River's back arches, as if she is trying to break free of the leads that hold her to the chair. He can only watch, useless, as sparks fly and the smell of scorched flesh fills the air.
Finally, when the download completes, the sparks falter and he sees River's now-dead form slumped in the chair. He wants to cross the room, remove the wires, but the handcuffs hold him firmly in place.
"Why do you even have handcuffs?"
He closes his eyes.
Donna finds him and - showing one of her stranger talents - picks the handcuffs with a hairpin. He takes her out-stretched hand and allows himself to be pulled upright. She stays silent as he walks over to River and removes the leads. She looks peaceful, the same playful smile he's seen when she'd mentioned 'spoilers' tugging at her lips. Gently, he cups her face in his hand, tracing its contours, the faint lines at the corners of her eyes, branding every inch into his memory.
Donna's hand on his elbow brings him back to the present.
"Who is she, doctor?" she asks softly.
He blinks, bites his lips. "I wish I knew, Donna."
This is a lie, and he suspects Donna knows this, but she doesn't say another word.
He finds a way to save her, immortalised in a computer program and it's with a light step that he walks to the tardis. He pauses before he opens the door.
"And he'd just open the tardis with a snap of his fingers."
Remembering River's words, he takes a step back and clicks his fingers, smiling when the tardis' door opens. It's a huge, if quiet, leap forward.
He wonders what else River can teach him.
Donna is gone, Amy is his new companion, when he sees River again. She flies through space, unafraid, barely flinching when she barrels into him, knocking them both to the ground. She is on her feet in an instant, not sparing him a second glance.
"Follow that ship!"
It's an order, one he would never consider disobeying.
The Weeping Angels are his priority, yet the doctor finds his gaze drifting frequently to River as she talks with Father Octavian. The two are close and he is surprised by the jealously that stabs at both his hearts.
"Is River Song your wife?"
Amy won't let the question go and he closes his eyes and hangs his head forward. How can he possibly explain he and River's relationship when he himself only has an inkling as to what it is? Instead, he changes the subject.
"Yes, I am definitely Mr Grumpy face today."
The beach is quiet and the doctor takes a moment before making his way to River who sits alone.
"You, me... handcuffs. Must it always end this way?"
He forces himself to laugh, remembering their last meeting involving handcuffs all-too-well. River appears appears oblivious to his momentary lapse into the past and he shifts closer, enough to hold a whispered conversation, away from Amy's prying eyes.
"You'll see me soon, when the Pandorica opens."
He laughs at this and leans forward to breathe into her ear.
"That's a fairytale."
"Aren't we all?"
Amy is running from Rory, believes she is running from River, and he pushes her away. She's hurt, this he can tell, but he can't respond to her advances, not when he remembers the softness of River's lips, the smile he's so often seen.
It's not fair on either of them.
He decides then to find Rory and sets about putting things back in place.
He has to laugh at River's audaciousness when he sees 'hello sweetie' emblazoned in 50-foot writing, but dutifully follows the co-ordinates River has left behind. He is surprised to find himself referred to as 'Caesar' but has to force himself not to laugh when he sees River dressed as and referred to as 'Cleopatra.'
Nevertheless, he attempts to sound stern.
"You graffitti-ed the oldest cliff-face in the universe."
"You wouldn't answer your phone."
He can't rebut this and instead focuses his attention onto more important matters.
His exploding tardis.
She works everything out before him, of course she does, but then the tardis explodes with her inside and his brief annoyance fades in an instead. Instead, he turns his focus into trying to save her.
Oddly (or perhaps predictably) it is her vortex manipulator that proves to be his saving grace. In a 'bleep' he is inside the tardis, giving what he hopes is a debonair smile, and masks the worry he has felt.
"Hi, honey, I'm home."
River doesn't miss a beat.
"And what sort of time do you call this?"
The plan involves sacrifice, more specifically his, and he tries a faint grin as River approaches.
"No handcuffs this time?" he quips.
River doesn't respond, except to lean forward and brush her lips against his.
"I'll go and get Amy," she says, drawing back.
His brow furrows and he reaches out. "River-"
"You don't really know me yet," she continues, interrupting him.
She is holding back tears and he clears his throat.
It's River's turn to be puzzled. "What?"
"Just be there," he says firmly.
Her eyes light up in understanding and she gives a faint nod. "I'll be there."
"Did you dance? Well, you always dance at weddings, don't you?"
He turns to find River standing in front of an arch, lips curved in amusement. If he were honest, he had expected to see her before now, but River is always full of surprises.
"You tell me," he retorts.
"Spoilers," is her predictable response.
He rolls his eyes as he holds out her diary. "Writing's all back, but I didn't peek."
"Thank you," she says, tucking the blue book beneath her arm.
"Are you married, River?" he asks, despite being 99% sure of the answer.
She gives a half-smile, one that says plainly 'I know something you don't.'
"River, who are you?"
"You'll find out very soon now. And I'm sorry, but that's when everything changes."
With that (and a click of the vortex manipulator) she is gone.
It's a younger River who he sees next, after he follows another set of co-ordinates, leading him to a masquerade ball. He watches as she casually picks a man's pocket then dashes across the dance floor, grabbing him by the arm.
"Quick," she whispers as they weave their way through the crowd.
He lets himself be led away and they are almost at the door when a loud bellow echoes through the room.
He and River run.
"Thanks for coming," she gasps, catching her breath.
He can only nod as he gulps in air, his pulse resounding in his ears. As his breathing slows, he looks up and takes in her full appearance. Blue ball gown, hair flowing freely down her back.
"You should wear red shoes," he says, pointing at her black heels.
River raises a sceptical eyebrow. "And you know this, how?"
He grins. "Just trust me."
"Why am I here, River?" he asks some time later.
She has changed into some of Donna's old clothes – jeans and a blouse – and she looks down, picking at the denim.
"River?" he presses.
He answer she throws him a small package, the one he'd seen her take from the man's pocket, and motions for him to look inside.
"Exactly," she says as he stares at her, aghast.
"He's found the Aesirs?" he manages.
"The man you saw Gabriel Lawson, wants to build an army and take over Britain before moving onto Europe, then the entire world."
The doctor sighs. "What have you got me into, River?"
She offers him a sly grin, though her eyes remain somewhat shrouded. "What I always do: trouble."
He sits in the tardis, head bowed, River next to him. The Aesirs had been appeased, sent into another time-stream to act as they please, Lawson sent to Stormcage on an indefinite sentence. It should have been a celebration, indeed it might have been, had Amy not been a casualty. One minute alive; domineering and unmistakeably Amy; the next dead and broken with a snapped neck. He and River had returned Rory to the 21st century where he had walked away without a second glance and now they floated aimlessly through space, no destination in mind.
He flinches when River places her hand atop his, but doesn't pull away, appreciating the comfort she offers.
They sit like this for some time.
River flies the tardis, leaving him alone in his grief for a time, back to the 51st century. They land with barely a jolt and he is brought back into the present.
"You need time," she says definitively as she strides across the tardis and opens the door.
He can't dispute this and doesn't try and stop her as she steps outside.
A year passes without word and the doctor grows worried. He arrives at her doorstep, just in time to see her walk onto the street and calls her name. She turns and he inwardly kicks himself, cursing the tardis' lack of precision.
"Can I help you?" River asks and he realises this is their (for her at least) first meeting.
He swallows. "Not quite yet."
He turns and bolts back into the tardis.
Please come to the Bough meadows. X
River is waiting, arms folded and legs crossed, and she raises an eyebrow as he approaches.
She looks at him and he feels as if he is being x-rayed.
"How are you?" she queries softly.
He pauses before answering. "Better.
A smile. "Good."
It's the daleks again, stirring up trouble, but he and River neutralise them quickly. However, they (or rather River) don't escape without injury and she winces as the doctor dabs a large gash with anti-septic.
"Sorry," he says, now twisting a bandage around her wrist.
She waves off his apology with her good hand and rises to her feet.
"I'm tired," are her only words as she steps into the hallway, not looking backward.
The doctor nods at the now-empty space.
Later, he leans against the door frame of her bedroom and watches her sleep. He finds it fascinating, given he himself does so so little.
"I know you're there."
So much for being asleep. River sits upright, running a hand through her tangled hair.
"I'm sorry-" he starts.
He falters, brow furrowed.
"I want you to stay."
It's an obvious invitation and he hesitates only briefly before he steps inside, closing the door gently behind him.
A week passes, another threat neutralised, and he takes River to dinner. Paris, 24th century. Afterward, walking back to the tardis, he asks a loaded question and waits with bated breath.
"Travel with me a bit longer?"
River smiles. "I'd love to."
The sentence rhymes with 'I love you', which he knows she will eventually say, but that can come later. The implication of her acceptance is already clear.