A/N: A little Impossible Astronaut/Library fic... because, while I don't believe the Doctor dies stone dead in Utah, it did provide the setting for this. This is actually my first multichaptered Doctor Who ficlet, but it's probably even going to be shorter than some of my one chapter stuff... I might elaborate, maybe, when and if I have time, but for now, it stands as a three-chapter short story. And, also, did anyone wonder WHY the Doctor had a station wagon and not a TARDIS? It seems as if there's only one reasonable solution: he superseeded the fragment links and hotwired the binary, binary, binary...
Spoilers: Impossible Astronaut and Forest of the Dead
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is not mine. I am neither British nor would I want that much power.
Canton unfolded the crinkled paper and handed it to the battered, confused, grieving doctor of archeology. The entire page was covered in print, but one phrase stood out. Circled in three different shades of blue, a hideous tone of lime green, and darked by six or seven various oranges were the words, don't let her see outside the doors! River immediately scanned the whole document before folding it up again and slipping it into a pocket. "I hate him," she complained, so softly that only Canton heard it.
He pressed his hand to her elbow and stepped around her, then proceeded to bend down and help Rory pull Amy away from his body. Loyal, lovely Amelia Pond protested with all the fight in her, but Rory and Canton proved too much for her. Shock slowly startle to settle in as she calmed into a silent state of vacant staring.
River set her jaw and turned from the river bank. She refused to let the overwhelming and annoying cascade of emotions become visible until she was back in her cell. Neither Amy or Rory or Canton – whoever he was – could see. She had a short mission for the Doctor and then: Space, 1969. As River climbed into the driver's side – her mind vaguely registered it as a completely American car, with the wheel on the wrong side and everything – Canton and Rory loaded Amy into the back of his van.
Her heart throbbed painfully when she recognized the wonderful TARDIS: this was the TARDIS she had learned to fly. It cooed at her gentle touch on the consul, and River almost reaching the breaking point. He was dead. Her Doctor was dead. Every bone in her body demanded that she protest and fight and deny everything she had seen in the last few minutes. He had left her a list of things to do. Oh, but was he in trouble the next time she saw him. The younger him. The him that still existed.
A big, hot tear raced down River's cheek as she threw a lever. The disguised TARDIS hopped through the vortex and landed right next to the Doctor's body. River forced herself to walk out the doors and pull the body of her beloved into his space ship. Distantly, she could hear Amy asking what was happening, Rory trying to comfort him, and Canton telling both of the Ponds that he and River would be back shortly. More noticeably, she could hear the TARDIS whirring is disbelief and shock and grief. The rebellious part of River wanted to leave Canton behind and finish all the instructions herself. It should have been her right, this planned burial of his. But no. She was not allowed to see outside the doors of wherever the coordinates he gave her were.
And yet the instructions were so ludicrous, which really was the only thing that made River trust they were from him, that they had come from her Doctor. Canton appeared in the threshold of the TARDIS, a grim expression on his face. "Still okay, Doctor Song?"
She shook her head, brushing aside the hair on her Doctor's forehead. He had started to turn cold. "I'll fulfill his requests," River murmured, "but I won't like it."
She pulled away from the body and limped to the center of the room. She could still hear the TARDIS crying. Nothing could ever sound saddering then a mourning TARDIS. "Three more jumps," River murmured, "than you'll see Terra again. C'mon, dear one." The time machine fluttered and refused, absolutely refused to move. River's heart started the painful process of shattering. She couldn't hold it all together if the darling TARDIS fought her. "Please. For him."
The TARDIS cried, but flung herself to the coordinates River provided. A shimmer of shock ran through the precious space ship, but River couldn't decipher why. Canton opened the doors and pulled the Doctor's body out. River, for once, refused to let her curiosity rule her. He had requested that she not look out the door. She would honor that request. She didn't even try to figure out why he wanted Canton to place his screwdriver in some uplink port and then leave his body outside the TARDIS. It seemed like a poor send off. The archeologist leant against the TARDIS, trying so, so, so hard to keep the emotions under control. It would be impossible to stay calm around Terra, who was so similar to her Doctor.
Canton opened the doors and stepped back into the golden light of the TARDIS. "It is done."
River sagged. "I hate him. I hate him so much." Her husband was dead... her daughter pretty much linear... it felt like her family was falling apart.
"Yes ma'am," Canton said, a smirk plastered across his face.
She turned to the TARDIS, but the time machine responded without any directions and cascaded them into the vortex, twisted them through time, and landed them on the doorstep of the most impossible house that ever existed. Now it was Canton's turn to not look out the doors. River slowly stalked passed him, forcing her face into a calm mask. She stepped into the brilliant sunlight and refreshing wind. Their house was perched on the top of a cliff, overlooking an entire city. River looked at the TARDIS. Phone booth blue again.
"Mum!" Terra's voice rang from inside the house. "Mum!" She barrelled out of the doors and threw herself into her mother's open arms and started sobbing. River barely managed to the guide the two of them back inside their home before she too lost it and started crying. After a good long cry season, Terra pulled back and backhanded away the tears on her face. "When are you?"
"Still in Stormcage," River responded, knowing that her daughter was almost certainly further down the path than she was. Throughout most of the middle of her life with the Doctor, they had judged time on Terra. Has she taken her first steps yet? Lost her first tooth? Started the teenager stage yet? She had been their linear-ness. The Terra who would come and visit her in the Stormcage had been between twelve and sixteen. This Terra was closer to eighteen or nineteen. "I just came from Utah," she murmured, "where he-" her voice cracked.
Terra nodded, "I know. He told me. He was acting really weird around the older you just before you left for this expedition, and then, I don't know. Something just felt so wrong with him."
River placed a gentle kiss on her daughter's forehead. "He wants you to keep the TARDIS."
"No!" Terra jerked backwards, almost tripping over a flat surface. "It should be yours."
"Terra, honey, I still have to finish him meeting me. I can call you or him if I need a ride. Besides, I'm still stuck in prison."
Terra clenched her hands into a fist. "Fine, but I hate him for it."
"I know," River murmured, a smile quirking around the corners of her lips. "I've hated him forever."
The daughter of two time travelers grabbed her mother's hand. "You ready? Dad said I was supposed to take you back to Utah," she stuck her tongue out in a very negative, annoyed gesture. River slapped her on the back of the head. Terra rolled her eyes. "Come on Mom, let's go for a joy ride first."
"No," River said, "I want to get this over with. You can pick me up at the Stormcage later."
Terra shrugged. "Fine." They turned to walk out the window, both woman now in control of their thoughts and emotions. Terra skipped a little as she closed the door behind her. "Hey, Mom, seeing as I get the TARDIS now, does that mean I have to stay around here and be completely boring or can I finally have my own adventures?"
"I don't think I could stop you," River said, unlocking the doors on the blue phone box. Canton looked a little surprised to see River with her arm around a young girl's shoulder, but he shrugged and didn't ask any other questions. River's opinion of him rose a few inches. He had been so calm and helpful. Terra bounded to the TARDIS consul and started chirping like an excited bird. The girl simply loved to fly her father's old ship. She pranced, danced and practically sang. The TARDIS started to cheer up, just a little. Terra simply reeked with enthusiasm.
So much like the Doctor. River let her daughter fly the ship as she bit her lip, struggling not to cry. This next adventure would be like that for most of the time. "Okay Mom," Terra said, "and Sir-Whomever-You-Are, we're back in Utah. Two minutes after you left. Stay safe, Mom, okay?"
River nodded, "You too, Terra. Enjoy the ship." She and Canton existed the ship, joining Rory and Amy where the Doctor had died.
Terra wiped the tears away from her eyes, throwing the TARDIS back into the time vortex. Her Dad had told her much: the Library, Mom's current expedition would kill her. And now he himself was dead. Technically an orphan. The girl threw her hair over her shoulder and landed somewhere on Earth; her namesake planet. It did not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Next stop, everywhere.