Somewhere ages and ages hence:
She doesn't believe in fate.
She doesn't believe in destiny. There is no omnipotent being out there predefining the course of everyone's lives across the galaxy. There may be one man who likes to imagine himself omnipotent – but he would never choose for anyone, not when his own choices have left him so very alone.
So no, she doesn't believe that her life would be the same, no matter what her thought or input. But she believes in him. And she believes that the only thing predestined about her life is the fact that her heart can love no one but him.
There's always a way out. Always an option that no one else can see – always a fork in the path, always a choice. Left or right? Forward or back? Up or down? She wonders if in some alternate universe – had she ever chosen the path that didn't lead to him?
She finds herself inexplicably sadden for that version of her. That River. Or perhaps that Melody? She couldn't possibly know what she had done to herself. Deprived herself of. Memories never made. Lives never lived. Choices she missed.
She knows that there is always a choice. And she remembers every one she ever made. It is a blessing and a curse of her genetic make-up that she remembers everything so well. Things she's done. Things she hasn't done. Alternate timelines that no longer exist. Choices that were no choice at all.
She wakes suddenly, with a deep gasp and a sense of shock. Something is wrong. So very very wrong, and the weight of that one thought wraps around her like a boa constrictor, pervasive and squeezing until she can hardly breathe.
The book is next to her – just like always. It's well worn cover soft with use and age, its blue still faded. Her fingers trace the pattern there, nimble and dancing across the symmetrical lines from memory. The sense of wrongness sinks further into her soul, deeper and deeper and deeper until it reaches her heart and curls up within it, a burning that is eating her apart from within.
She knows what she will see when she opens the book.
Blank pages where a life, a love, three hearts used to be, scrawled in faded blues and grey graphites and once, in red lipstick that smudged across the page. She'd had nothing else to write with that day.
Tears burn and the emptiness inside of her expands as she flips frantically throughout the pages. Page after page after page – page 27 when she kissed him for the first (last) time, page 179 when he promised her the entire universe and all their lives to run in it, page 503 when they made love for the last (first) time. All blank.
But she remembers. She remembers the brush of his hair and the tilt of his smile. She remembers the rough feel of tweed under her palms, fingers tangled in bowties. She remembers his voice, soft in her ear. She remembers holding his hand and running. She remembers his laugh, his smile, his absolute love for her written across every inch of their very long lives.
Her hands clench around the journal and she remembers something else. Him, standing in a hallway explaining to her that the box held a memory and all he needed was a spark. The box held a memory. Amy's memory.
And suddenly her hands relax. Because she knows – she knows and oh he is a brilliant man. Amy Pond. The girl with a universe in her mind, and she could remember this part of it too. One more gift from her mother.
He's gambled a lot with this one. Banked on her knowing him well enough to choose this life all over again. Hell, he didn't even know her well enough to know exactly what he was asking her to choose. A life in captivity. A life that she hated, right up until the moment when she met him and realized. She was born for him, made for him. Always, only him. But he knew enough to be so absolutely sure that she would choose him over and over again.
As usual, he's not wrong.
He's seen far too much and lived far too long to believe that life is anything less than the sum of your choices. Good men, bad men, all are a direct result of the choices they've made.
He wonders, from the time that he meets her until the time he truly knows who she is – he wonders if that choice is just an illusion. Does he love her because she loved him first? Did she love him because he loved her absolutely? Are they caught in a never ending circle of choices made because the other one chose first?
It is when he is standing there, looking at her name embroidered in gold fabric, that he realizes.
It is a choice. His choice. Her choice. And over and over they continue to choose each other. He has options – a way out. He could rescue her – right now – give her back to her parents, and ensure that she is raised with love, surrounded by it.
He is selfish. He knows this – because what he chooses right now isn't just a choice that benefits him – it is a choice that benefits him at the cost of his best friend. And her husband. But if he gives her to them, she won't be River. She'll be Melody Pond, and that isn't what is meant to happen. It isn't how she introduced herself to him in the dim shadows of a planet full of books, years and years ago. Melody didn't love him. River did.
Some choices are terrible. And he knows that she understands that. Knows that she would choose the same as him, if it were her choice to make. She would grip his hand, and urge him to run. Run with her, to her. She already had, really. Not those times. Not one line. Don't you dare. She'd warned him before he'd even begun.
Some choices have a cost. And as he looks at her one last time, filled with glee over her very existence, her very being, filled with such joy that it is easy to ignore Amy and Rory's faces staring at him, wide-eyed with pain, he knows. This choice may cost him dearly. It may cost him his best friend. It may cost him both the Ponds.
It's a gamble. He doubts they will understand. How can he explain that he promised River? Before he'd even met Amy, before he'd even known – he'd promised River as she burned out of existence. Not one line.
And now – now the possibilities swam in front of him, dancing and twirling around him in giddy excitement. Timelord DNA. Could she regenerate? Could she? Just how long did he have with her? He's been dreading and yearning for her this whole time, because he knew they were marching toward the end. He'd assumed she was only human after all –such brief lives, so little time.
Now. They could have lifetimes. Ages upon ages, years upon years, lives upon lives. I have pictures of all your faces. He'd always known that to her – the face never mattered. She'd looked at him with just as much love the first time he met her as she had the first time he'd met her in this body. She knew, because she understood. He was the same man. Always, underneath the faces, underneath the attitude, the clothes, the quirks that came and went. He was always the same man under it all.
And she would be the same woman. River Song. Melody Pond. An equal, a women whose life he'd had a hand in creating, by choice. Choosing to take Rory and Amy with him. Choosing now to leave Melody where she was. A kidnapping that was a direct result of all the choices he's ever made.
A culmination of a lifetime of choices.
He couldn't bring himself to regret a single one.