This is the story of how River and the Doctor finally get their happy ending. It is recommended that you read "The Rain and the River" and "Raindrops on Roses" first, but it's not necessary. It just might clear up a couple of non-plot-essential "Huh?" moments.
Nothing ever happens.
Not in the library.
Not in that blasted computer core with nothing but peace in the big mansion and grounds that seemed to stretch forever, though she really knew every inch of them and knew where the digital boundaries were- you took a step and ended up on the other side of the grounds, like you'd gone too far and had been reset from the other side. She had to get out of here, back to the Doctor. Back to her Doctor. Back to her Raina, her child. Back to her life.
Some nights she would cry, others she wouldn't at first, but upon waking her face would be wet with the tears of forgotten dreams, like acid on her skin, like salt rubbed in an open wound. Donna had been here, she'd gotten out. Why? What was the difference between her and River?
She had a body, and River did not. Donna had a physical self to return to; if River was exported out she would be nothing more than a data stream, a consciousness with nowhere to go. According to Charlotte, the little girl who in a sense was the computer, said that any physical body would be able to accept her consciousness, but that would be like jamming two brains inside their head, and River wasn't about to do that to anyone.
Then one day, she had a thought.
Just a spark, just a very, very tiny idea, but maybe it would be enough. What if it wasn't her brain jammed into someone else's mind- what if it was her own? She remembered an adventure a very, very long time ago- one with Jack Harkness. They knew each other well by then, and he'd asked for a DNA sample, which she gave. She never found out why. A plan was beginning to form in the back of her mind.
"Charlotte?" She called into the hallway of the huge house, "Are you here?" The girl stepped out from one of the rooms.
"Yes?" River came up to her.
"Is there any way you can send a message to someone outside?" She asked. Charlotte nodded.
"The Doctor?" River shook her head.
"No. Another old friend." The girl led her into a room that was kept locked to the rest of the computer core's residents. Inside was a giant computer, nearly a mirror image of the one in the physical library.
"Tell me who, but first tell me why." She said. River took a deep breath.
"A long time ago, a very good friend of mine took a DNA sample from me, and I think I know what it's for now." Charlotte's usually calm and passive face changed almost imperceptibly, a movement indicating confusion.
"A body?" River nodded, not daring to hope- to dream- that she was right.
"If I remember he was working on technology called the Flesh. Very advanced, a way of creating a replica of life, an exact copy of an original. Only, they're Flesh, not human."
"Or Time Lady." Charlotte said. River nodded; she'd told Charlotte most of her story.
"Or Time Lady. But, if he used that DNA sample and made a copy of me as I was, then brought her here…"
"Then it wouldn't be two brains in one head. It would be yours and the extra copies of the memories would be deleted."
"Exactly." Charlotte seemed to think it might work, and called Jack Harkness on videophone for River.
"River Song?" Jack asked, incredibly confused. "Is it…?" River nodded.
"That DNA sample you took all those years ago? Time to put it to work." Jack saluted.
"What are my coordinates?" He asked. River had to give him a time and a date to bring herself to so that the Shadows wouldn't still be attacking, and she did so very accurately. They never came to the computer core, they were too afraid of the immense light that shone from it which tended to burn the creatures alive.
"Just… one thing, Jack." He raised his eyebrows. "Make sure it's her- my- choice. We'll be sharing all our memories- basically the ones I have now plus whatever happens between the time she's… erm… created and the time she comes here." He nodded.
"What if she says no?" Jack asked, a little concerned.
"Let's try not to think about that, shall we?"
"River." Jack needed an answer- for all their sakes. River sighed.
"Then I would rather die than live like this." It was true. She couldn't stand it. This bloody boring computer core and this blasted not-quite-life where nothing ever changed. The rest of the crew were content not to die, but she had seen so much more… she wanted to see so much more. Jack left and the video link shut off.
Walking down the hall in a very future Torchwood, their top time operative flashed a badge and walked through the doors to a lab. The blood sample he carried was only a few minutes old for him, but it had been years for the woman he took it from.
"What do you want, Jack?" Asked the scientist seated at the table.
"I'm cashing in on an old favor." He said, dangling a blood sample in front of his face.
"You're serious?" The man said.
"As the plague."
"Jack, you act as though you're trying to raise the dead-" Jack shook his head.
"Not raise the dead- more like liberate the not-quite-alive." The scientist had no clue what he was talking about, but he did owe Jack his life and his job, so he grudgingly obliged. He fitted the sample into a machine and it started to do its work. Torchwood had perfected its work with the Flesh this far in the future, and it was very stable now. After two or three minutes the man announced that River's double was stable, though asleep. It was safe to wake her up and take her out.
"Oh, and take this." He handed jack a long button up lab coat.
"It was from a blood sample- she won't be wearing anything." The scientist said. Jack went over to the room where the chambers were for the Flesh people. One of them had a green light shining, which meant its occupant was ready, willing, and able to be taken out. Well, maybe not ready and willing, but at least able. He opened the door and let her out, trying not to stare.
"Where am I?" River's double asked, slipping into the labcoat. "What's happened?" She began to grow a little frantic.
"Don't worry." Jack said. "This is something we've had planned for a while. Sit down." They sat at a table drinking tea and he told her about everything that had happened. About the computer core and the library- everything her future self had told him when she instructed him to take that sample. That was how he knew she would do it; she told him after she'd gotten out.
"So, if I go with you I get all the memories I should have like I never died in the Library?" She asked. Jack nodded.
"Yes. You'll be… you. Just as you were before you died, with a few extra memories from what we're doing now, of course."
"But… I'll be Flesh." She said. "The Doctor could disintegrate me with a zap of the sonic!" Jack hadn't thought of that, but then he remembered her catch 22: she could regenerate.
"What if you regenerated?" He asked. "The archive for regeneration in your brain changes every atom in your body- it's set to Time Lady, not Flesh."
"I haven't got any left, Jack." She said, sighing. For a fraction of a second she regretted not having them, and then mentally slapped herself for thinking so.
"Then I guess it's leave as Flesh or-"
"Stay here forever." River weighted her options for a moment. It seemed as though this was her only way out, but it involved changing herself again. It wasn't something she wanted to go through with, but from the way Jack described things in the data core… "Alright. I'll do it." She said. Jack smiled and held out his vortex manipulator, and a second later they were standing in the Library's computer core, bathed in a bright white light. "What now?" She asked. They stood in silence, waiting.
Inside the data core, River hugged Charlotte goodbye.
"Thank you so much. For everything. I'll miss you." Said River. "Be good, live well." Charlotte smiled her goodbye and pressed the teleport button.
River was atoms.
Just for a very brief second she was atoms floating in the air, threatening to die off, but wait! There it is, the bright, conscious, willing mind, just waiting and ready to accept her.
"River? Are you alright?" Jack asked, a hand on her shoulder as she shuddered and gasped. She looked around with new eyes.
"Yes… I'll be fine in a second." She said, looking around at the library's core. Looking at the chair where she died, and the handcuffs still linked to the post. The memories of her Flesh self flooded into her head, and she was suddenly aware that she was just a tiny bit more than the River she was before she came here. Still not quite… not quite something. Not quite… whole. Her body wasn't the one from the library, it was younger, the one he'd taken the blood from.
"We need to leave. Now." Jack said, looking around at the darkness that was increasing, and he grabbed her arm, teleporting them both out. River still looked dazed, but she was coming around, becoming more and more aware of the physical world every second.
"Thank you, Jack!" She said, hugging him, then she slapped him.
"Ow! What was that for?" He asked, indignant.
"For staring, you dirty old time agent!" She said. Suddenly River gasped, feeling a familiar pain in her chest. "Jack… ah!" River fell to her knees, clutching her chest, her hands beginning to glow.
"River? What's going on?" Jack asked, concerned. They both knew- she was regenerating.
"I don't-" She let out another cry of pain. "Know! Get back!" Something was wrong. She shouldn't be regenerating- she had none left. Though she didn't have time to think about it, because suddenly she was in flames, Jack stepping back from the immense heat filling the room and setting off the sprinklers. In a moment or two she collapsed onto the floor in a heap, and Jack ran to her. Her chest heaved up and down, breathing forcefully in and out, like someone who had just run a marathon.
She was the same. Well, not quite the same- she was the River he'd seen in the Library's computer core. Her hair was darker, more tame, and when she opened her eyes, they looked older. River gazed at her body- the new body was the old body. The new body that she shouldn't even have in the first place.
"How does that work?" She asked. Jack shrugged.
"You're the Time Lady, you tell me." River thought for a moment before responding.
"I think that… I think that when the minds merged something happened. The cells must have registered two minds as meaning one current and one potential, so another regeneration pending."
"And it just… happened? You were fine before." Jack said, helping her stand.
"It could just be the mind coping with merging. It could be from a Time Lord brain in a Flesh body. I really don't know… but I think when I regenerated everything reverted to the me from the Library."
"Why would you say that?" He asked.
"Because I can't remember any of what happened to her between when you first saw her and when my mind came in. Just my memories, all the way. It may have even given me an extra regeneration, judging by the whole 'same body' thing." She said. Jack made an unconscious note that it was probably a good thing, and he had a different theory.
"It could have just been the mind coping with the stress of regeneration- throw out everything that isn't hardwired in." River nodded.
"Maybe so. But right now, I vote we get me some proper clothes and find the Doctor." She said. Jack nodded his agreement and they walked down the hall to the wardrobe.
After she was properly dressed, she asked if Jack would take her to a very specific place, one that she knew for a fact was probably the last time the Doctor would ever see her in his timeline… or so he thought.
It was after he brought her home from the Singing Towers. That was the out-of-order point for both of them, the moment she shouldn't have had before her death, but he came to give to her. Love makes you do some things you wouldn't normally do, including risking paradoxes.
When he left her house she was waiting outside for him. Jack had dropped her off and she was just standing there beside the TARDIS, waiting. When he saw her he was shocked. Happy, but shocked.
"River?" He cleared his throat and rubbed his eyes. "Sorry… where- where are we?" He asked. She tried to contain it- all the love she had that was welling up inside her- but it spilled over and ran down her cheeks, even though she forced herself to stay still.
"I've- I've just come from the Library." She choked out.
"You're lying." He said. "I know you are. You…" But she knew he couldn't say it.
"I died. I know, yes. But you saved me- quite literally, actually." He walked up to her, but he didn't touch her, not yet.
"How? How can it be you?" He asked, not believing her but wanting to more than anything in the world. So she told him. She stood there crying and blubbering like an idiot, spilling out the entire story- about the flesh, about regeneration, about everything. And he looked at her like she was completely insane. The Doctor pulled out the sonic and scanned her up and down, then looked at it in his peculiar way, like he was checking some invisible reading.
"You're full Time Lady now. The same as before- it recognizes your DNA. And your age matches up to your story." He still didn't want to believe it. He was too positive this was a trick and she'd be ripped out of his hands and hearts yet again. "Tell me something. Prove to me you're really her, that you're not lying to me. Tell me something only my River Song would know." He said, his green eyes piercing into her very heart. She leaned forward and softly whispered a single word into his ear, then stepped back to look in his eyes. His face was a mask for a moment, but then he suddenly pulled her close and kissed her. Their tears mingled as their faces touched, and she shook from her crying, but somehow they made it inside the TARDIS.
"Doctor?" She began. He stroked her face gently, wondering if it was a dream. "Does… does this mean I can stay?" He looked at her a moment, and then they both had the same thought. The Doctor laughed and spun her around.
"Can you stay? What sort of a stupid question is that?" He said. "Of course you can stay!" She held him close, her Doctor that she hadn't seen in so long.
"You don't know how long I've wanted to hear you say that." She whispered.
"But there's a condition." He said seriously. She raised an eyebrow. "From now on, we're linear. No more 'I do this, you do that' nonsense, we're staying straight." River nodded. That sounded like something from a fairy tale book, but she was sure that it couldn't be any worse than the last time she saw him.
"We've already done everything non-linear, so I don't see why there would be a problem with us having a straight timeline from now on." River said. Suddenly the TARDIS gave a lurch and went into flight of her own accord. They simply held on this time, not really caring where they were taken. The Doctor smiled and River rushed to open the doors, but found them locked. She had just enough time to wonder what the TARDIS was doing before the Doctor came over.
"River, do you realize what this means?" He asked. She smiled, waiting for him to continue. "We're linear!" The Doctor said, incredibly excited and overjoyed that he would finally have a life with his wife- a real life, a life that was in order. He pinned her against the door and kissed her, not that the door was really necessary. His hands tangled in her hair and she covered his face and neck with kisses, as you can imagine the joy of two lovers reunited after far too long.
However, they were interrupted by a clicking sound and the door opening behind River, causing them both to topple onto the ground outside, the Doctor lying on top of her. They found themselves looking up at Amy and Rory as River remembered them from before she left- older, but they still didn't look old. Must be the effects of time traveling, she decided a long time ago. Amy had unlocked the door with her key.
"Are we interrupting something?" She said, laughing. The Doctor stood and helped River up.
"I think we've got some explaining to do." He said.
To be continued…