Fandom Doctor Who 2005
Character(s)/Pairing(s) Doctor, River, Rory; pre-Doctor/River
Genre Alternate Reality/Death/Drama/Friendship (sort of)/Future fic/Romance (sort of)
Word Count 3843
Disclaimer Doctor Who c. Newman, Webber, Wilson, Davies, Moffat
Summary The Doctor knew the day would come where he would find River covered in blood and in shock from what she had done.
Warning(s) possible spoilers up through series six episode seven, character death
Notes I've been wanting to write this for a while now but I couldn't really get it to gel properly in my head until recently. I figured I should do it before episode seven airs. The spoilers for episode seven comes from official clips circulating on YouTube, so if you've watched those, you should be good. I decided to mark this as Alternate Universe because it will probably be after episode seven.
School was lonely. Children and teachers barely noticed the girl with a mass of blonde curls and curious eyes. Yet, the teenager was not completely lonely nor did she grow up devoid of happiness because when she went home, the whole situation changed. Her father was a nurse who strove to have hours off when she was home from school with the exception of Sundays to keep his job. All that changed just an hour ago. She still did not know what to do as she sat on the front steps of their house. She studied a picture she kept in her wallet of her mother, exhausted and relieved holding a baby tight. Like all the pictures in the house, her father was not in this one. It was the only picture of the teenager's past he had not taken himself.
She took a deep breath that rattled her whole body. She could still smell the blood. Her memory kept playing what she did in slow motion repeatedly. She still had not called the police, but she knew they would find her in time.
Across time and space, a male humanoid traveled. The Doctor was between companions and let the TARDIS plot he current course. He just dropped off his latest companion off in Lothian in the eighteenth century where there was some semblance of true love and commitment between the companion and a youth. Losing his latest companion in such a somewhat positive manner brought the Doctor's thoughts back to his first companions in this incarnation and how disastrously that ended. Once the Doctor and Rory liberated Amy and her baby from their kidnappers, Amy quickly began to deteriorate in the TARDIS. There was nothing either of them or any of their war allies could do to stop it. Rory claimed the baby as his own without argument or proof he was the baby's father. The last time the Doctor saw Rory was Amy's funeral. Rory held the baby tight as she cried, absorbing the sorrow of everyone around them.
The Doctor's mind quickly drifted from there. It was five trips ago that he last saw River Song, who was studying to be an archeologist while trapped in the Stormcage Containment Facility. The meeting still weighed on him. When he arrived at the prison, she hugged him tighter than he ever felt her hug him. "It's not your fault," she said. "No matter what happens, I did this."
The Doctor had an inkling what awaited him the next time he saw River. He also did not know when he would meet her next exactly, but again, he had strong feelings the next time he met her, she would not remember him. It was odd, this dance over time between them. He met her on the day she died and watched her grow from a guarded, pained woman into a hopeful, loving teenager. He could remember telling her "There's always a first time" the first time he kissed her and then finding a handful of visits ago that there was also always a last time with such things as well. The closer he approached their first meeting, the more he lost from River. However, he did not lose everything. He enjoyed the excitement and confidence in her eyes. Now she did not have to question him because she knew that he knew her and cared about her. However, now he could understand the position she was in during his earliest meetings with her, a guilty pain arose if he thought too long on it.
The TARDIS shuddered and came to a stop. The Doctor stepped over to the door and walked out of it, confident that the TARDIS sent him to exactly where he needed to be.
The girl still sitting on the front steps looked up when a whirring noise caught her attention. A blue police box appeared and her eyes widened. She did not think the police would come so soon for her, but here they were already. Shakily, she tried to get to her feet, but her legs did not respond. She stayed rooted to her seat, her hands still covered in blood.
The door opened and the Doctor appeared. He swaggered out, full of confidence in the TARDIS' ability to pick a location but soon his face morphed into concern. Before the girl could react, he pulled her up from where she sat and gathered her into his arms, hugging her tight. The Doctor had not anticipated the TARDIS would bring him to this day, but he knew someday it would come. He did not know the details, but over their many journeys, he knew the day would come when he found her covered in blood and in shock from what she had done.
"Who…?" River stiffened at first, yet somewhere back in the deep recesses of her mind, the Doctor smelled familiar and instinctively safe.
"An old friend," the Doctor answered, "very old." He let her go. He reached out and ran his finger along her cheek, wiping away a tear track. "I'm the Doctor and you're River Song."
"That's a penname," River said quietly. "One I haven't told anyone. I was going to write down Dad's wonderful stories and…" her voice grew thin. She looked back at the front door and then to the Doctor. "You're here to help me turn myself in, aren't you?"
"Why don't you tell me what happened," the Doctor suggested. "If you're up for it."
River was not certain she was up for it, but she had to try. She had to tell someone. Shakily she grabbed his hand tightly so she would not fall over while trying to walk. It had been an hour since the incident and her brain had yet to come fully to terms with it.
They walked through the doorway and through the house towards the kitchen. River paused. Cabinets with small counters lined the walls of the kitchen and in the center of everything was an island with a stove and a large counter space. There were two other entrances to the kitchen other than the doorway River and the Doctor stood in, one behind the island leading to another room and a door that led outside. There was bread and jam out on one of the small counter spaces nearby. Bloodied footprints grew bloodier the nearer the footprints were to something hiding behind the island.
"It was an accident," River managed after a time. She kept tight hold of the Doctor's hand. "I was making a sandwich, it was late. I saw something out of the corner of my eye and something possessed me to throw my knife. I can't remember what it was. I try but I just can't."
The Doctor squeezed her hand. "The Silence," he said. When she looked at him, he elaborated, "The Silence are an alien species. You can only remember them if you're looking right at them. Look away and you forget whatever you saw."
"But my knife…" River could remember how it felt as though she had used a knife in such a manner before, only without the disaster that followed.
"The Silence manipulate through suggestion," the Doctor said and swallowed, "but for a while now, humanity has been programmed to hunt them, to kill them on sight. Everyone's killed them, nobody remembers."
"Well, if that's the case," River took a deep breath, "this time I missed." She seemed skeptical of invisible aliens. Her eyes roamed the kitchen but nothing shocking and unknown appeared from her vantage point. She turned her back to the island and looked at the Doctor. "Before I show you, you need to understand. This person, this man, is the most important man I've ever known. He is the best man I've ever known. He's my dad. He gets cross sometimes, but he's always there."
"I know," the Doctor answered.
"Right. An old friend." River eyed him. "How old?"
"About a thousand years," the Doctor answered, "give or take."
"If you're here to play jokes, I'll turn myself in on my own," River said.
"It's not a joke." The Doctor reached out and ran his fingers along her face, an intimate gesture that did not expect sexual favors in return. "I'm here to help. I am a time traveler and I have seen you many, many times in realities you don't know yet. That's why I came to help you. I know who you are, River, and I know who it is on the other side of that island. I want to help."
River searched his eyes. This Doctor was interested in her well-being. He was interested in helping her cope with her actions and whatever consequences came from them. It was so rare, so compelling. His gaze made something deep inside of her gut thump unlike any man or boy she ever met. It seemed so genuine and sincere. River bowed her head and then nodded. "Alright. I'll let you help."
"I'll check on him. You can stay here or come with me," the Doctor offered.
River slowly released his hand. "I need a moment. You can look though." She leaned against one of the smaller counter tops.
The Doctor nodded and headed towards the island. He peered over it a moment and then stepped around to assess the damage properly. "Oh Rory…" he murmured at the sight. Carefully the Doctor knelt down and grasped Rory's sweater, using it to pull the butter knife from his chest without leaving his own fingerprints on the knife. The knife was covered in blood up to the hilt and betrayed the frequency River must have encountered the Silence over her life thus far. Someone already lowered Rory's eyelids. Rory was much older than last time the Doctor encountered him, yet his face in death was so similar to all the times the Doctor saw it previously. Only this time, the death was permanent.
"I should turn myself in," River said. "I did this."
The Doctor blinked and then let the knife slip along the creases of Rory's sweater before standing up. "You said yourself it was an accident." He considered what to do. "I do have a time machine. While we can't go back and undo things, you can go away and clear your head before you decide what you want to do."
"Isn't that cheating?" River looked at the Doctor.
"Not if we come back where we left off," the Doctor offered. "I can take you wherever you want to go, see whatever you want to see. If you want, we can have one adventure and then you can decide what to do."
River considered her options. "My dad always told me this story about the fifty-first century. Maybe if I go there, I can figure things out." It was a wonderful story where a heroic man dressed as a Roman pulled adversaries together to save a strong flight attendant trapped by an evil eye patch woman.
The Doctor's face became unreadable as he considered the request. "Alright. Fifty-first century it is."
"And we'll come back here, right?" River asked.
"There about," the Doctor said, "if we come back exactly when we leave, the TARDIS could touch the other TARDIS and that would get very bad very fast."
River nodded, assuming he meant like a car crash. She followed him into the police box and then stopped. "Did we just…?"
"Bigger on the inside than the outside," the Doctor answered. "It's a Time Lord thing."
"'Time Lord?'" River followed him up to the control panel. "Explains the age." She studied the Doctor, watching him set in the coordinates into the control panel.
The Doctor slowed his movements so she could take in what the Doctor was doing to control the TARDIS. "Interested?"
"Going to tell me how to strand you somewhere?" River tried to relax. "Do you have a sink?" Every time she looked at her hands, she could not think straight enough to make any decision.
"It's down that hallway," the Doctor said, "green door." He watched her leave and looked at the plunger moving back and forth in the center of the console.
A while later the TARDIS landed where planned. The Doctor poked his head out the door and sniffed the air. "End of the fifty-first century." He led them out of the TARDIS.
"I told you, no jokes," River followed. Her hands were clean now and she wore some clothes borrowed from the TARDIS' wardrobe. "You can't just figure it out with smell, can you?"
"Not a joke," the Doctor said, "and I can prove it." He began to lead them down through the futuristic streets. He eventually came to a large booth and pressed his thumb in a slot. A small disc ejected from the machine. He held it in his palm.
"What is that?" River peered at the contraption.
"A newspaper," he paused, "of sorts. Not a paper, but lots of news." He looked at the disc and then spoke, "What is today's date?"
"15 January 5098," the device answered. "Would you like to hear headlines? Sports? Parade routes?"
"Parade routes?" River questioned and the news device beeped, thinking she was selecting that option.
"The Reluctant Roman Parade routes," the news device recited, "the Orange Parade begins at nine this morning and proceeds until noon. The Green Parade starts at eleven this morning and proceeds until three. The Blue Parade begins at three this afternoon and proceeds until five this evening. All parade routes are marked with ribbons. The Grand Parade begins at eight this evening and continues until midnight. Centurion helmets mark The Grand Parade route.
"Would you like to hear headlines? Sports? Arts and entertainment?"
"No thank you," the Doctor said.
"'The Reluctant Roman Parade…' What's it about?" River asked. "It sounds like the story Dad told me." She swallowed and hid a shiver. She began to feel the gravity of her accident and tried to ignore it. Her body shivered as the initial shock of events continued to wear down.
"Well, decades ago, there was a man who came to this place dressed as a Roman centurion," the Doctor answered. He pocketed the news device and began to lead them down the street, out of the way of the vending device. "He came to collect a debt. The locals were in too much trouble to help him. So, he helped them become free of a machine oppressing them. In his honor, they sent their best warriors and ever since, they turned the event into a holiday. Now it's more of a festival."
River wrapped her arms around herself. "Who was this man?" She always thought it was just a fictional story.
"A friend," the Doctor said, "someone very loyal."
"A good man," River said. "At least that's what I thought, listening about him."
"Yes." The Doctor looked down the street. "It's about five now. The Blue Parade should be finishing. Let's grab something to eat and stick around for the Grand Parade."
"Alright," River agreed. She did not quite feel like eating, but it was probably a good idea. The Doctor found a vendor returning from the Blue Parade and bought them both a bag of something from the cart. The food came shaped like clouds and was a weird blue color almost as though the food should be called Smurf puffs. She sniffed the bag curiously and then tried it after watching the Doctor eat one.
They walked along until they came to a bench out of the way. The Doctor ate his Smurf puffs at a slow interval while River poked about hers, not eating many. The Smurf puffs were delicious, not too sweet or salty with the puff of marshmallow but no sticky regret. River set her bag at the edge of the bench near her side. "I knew he might not be my dad."
The Doctor set his bag down and looked at her.
"There was this package that came two birthdays ago when I was thirteen," River said. "I opened it and I thought it was a touch pad, but when I touched it, it took my blood and…" her voice trailed. She closed her eyes. It was a secret she had told no one, not even her father. "A letter appeared on the screen. It addressed me by a case number and said all these things that sounded like bad science fiction. But, I wonder."
"Where did you put it?" the Doctor asked after a moment of silence.
"After I read the letter, it beeped and disintegrated," River answered. "I threw the box over a fence in an alley. It made it sound like I was an experiment, like I was that baby in the stories, but in the stories, the flight attendant locked away always survives, and…"
"…Your mother didn't," the Doctor finished when River lapsed into silence again. She offered a nod. The more she talked, the more the loss of her father began to sting. The Doctor reached out and put an arm around her at just the right moment, drawing her close. River buried her face into his shoulder and wrapped her arms around his waist tightly.
"What have I done?" she whispered.
The Doctor did not know how to answer. He let her lean on him as long as she needed. He ran a hand through her hair, knowing just how to do it to allow her to cry without embarrassment. People who passed them on the street did not spare them odd glanced. As the twilight turned into night, people dressed as centurions passed them on their way to the Grand Parade. River had long since stopped crying and was dozing against his shoulder. He looked at her and then at the centurions walking past.
"You told me you did this," he whispered, "that it's not my fault." Yet, here they were. So far, everything was low-key, but that could only last only so long. She had picked this place and he granted her wish. He could have said no, he could have programmed the TARDIS for another place or time, but that would be cheating. Some things were just meant to happen, and this was slowly turning into one of those things.
"Hnnn…?" River's head lifted and then she sat up properly. "Oh. Sorry." She rubbed her eyes and then looked at him. "You're such a sweetie. You spoil me." She gave him a small smile. "If what you said is true, I look forward to our adventures."
The Doctor's face became almost unreadable and then he nodded and stood up. "The Grand Parade is about to start. We should go before all the good views are taken."
"I could use a parade," River commented. She noticed their food bags had started to turn green. Wrinkling her nose, she picked them both up and looked around. A woman nearby pressed a button on a cylinder and placed a dog waste bag into it. River walked over, pressed the button, and then tossed the trash away. "All right. Parade?" Before River could finish her statement, the trashcan began to glow red and flash.
River headed back to the Doctor in time for a police craft to park nearby and two officers exist. They looked at River and the Doctor.
"We need your identifications," one of the officers commanded.
River reached into her pocket and pulled out her school ID. At he same time, a blue light passed over the Doctor before passing over River.
"Hello, Doctor," one of the officers greeted him, and then his face faltered. He looked at River, took her school ID, and studied it. His gaze shifted to his partner, the two having a conversation without words. "There's an outstanding warrant," the officer announced.
River looked at the Doctor curiously.
"For you, miss," the officer clarified. "Issued back in," he let out a low whistle, "2026. You know they tack a decade or three onto any sentence if you try to escape with time travel." He looked at the Doctor. "You should know this, Doctor. You've been here before."
"Only on holiday," the Doctor said. He assessed the area around them, considering all of his options.
"I could turn myself in," River offered. "I was going to when I got back." She supposed she would not go back to her home again now. It bothered her a little, but there was no one left back in 2026 for her. She hoped she picked a time when prison was not hell on Earth.
River turned to the Doctor. "Thank you." She held his gaze. "You tried to help me, and it worked. Even here I can't run away from responsibilities." She hugged him tightly. The officers allowed this, keeping an eye on both of them carefully. The Doctor hugged her back until she pulled away and submitted herself to the officers, leaving with them in their police craft. As the craft sped away, the Doctor watched River watching him from the back window until the craft long disappeared.
Months later found River deep into studying archaeology in her jail cell. She was lying on the floor with a textbook listening to the rain outside her window. It never seemed to stop raining at the prison. So far, she found it relaxing, but she was uncertain if she would feel similarly during her sentence. A whirr caught her attention but she did not realize what she heard. Yet, by the fourth whirr, River was at the bars of her cell, watching the TARDIS appear.
"You came back!" she blurted when the Doctor appeared. With a few quick movements, she was out of her cell and hurrying towards him.
"I always come back," the Doctor answered as though this had never been an issue between them previously.
"After that time, I thought maybe I made you up." She shook her head and then hugged him tight. "But you have to know, Doctor, it's not your fault. No matter what happens, I did this." She could still remember his face when she left with the officers. He looked so guilty, so alone. That loneliness spoke to her, something that she could understand.
The Doctor was quiet a long moment, considering what she said, and then he said, "River, I think we need some rules."
River let him go. The Doctor did not look that much older than her, but he definitely seemed to talk like an old man. "Like what?"
"Well, there's something you have to understand," he said. "Our pasts and futures are reversed. Whatever you and I just did together, I haven't done. The last thing I did with you, you haven't done." He wondered if it made sense.
"You did say you were a time traveler," River considered. "So you're going backwards while I'm going forwards?"
"Either way," he said, "we need rules to keep from destroying time and space." He found her gaze and held it. "Okay?"
"Okay." River nodded.