She pauses, sure that if she turns, an illusion will be broken – an illusion more pleasant than reality. An illusion that she doesn't yet want to break.
But she's not under her own control.
Her hand reaches up as though attached to the body of a stranger to feel at the place where her eye should be.
And it finds something much more terrible instead.
A strangled, startled cry. A scream. She can't place it.
'You created yourself, Melody. You created yourself. Can't you see that?' And it's her voice, nothervoice, but her voice – her own. It's coming from her own throat, and she screams again (it's her, she's the one screaming), turning towards the mirror and –
No, no, oh, God, no.
She stares back.
Kavorian stares back.
They are the same.
'Can't you see it?'
"Woah, hey-" She struggles against words that shouldn't exist, a voice of impossibility. Something that feels like a moan escapes her throat, and she feels it. Why is that wrong? "River? River, calm down. You're having a nightmare."
The hand on her shoulder seems to come from nowhere, and it startles her. Her eyes fly open, emerging into darkness and Amy's worried face.
"Breathe, yeah? You're gasping."
Lights came up, slowly, most definitely the TARDIS' doing. River realizes she is, indeed, gasping. Waves of curly hair stick to her sweat covered neck.
"I was just passing by," Amy's explaining herself. "And you screamed. I didn't think Time Lords dream." As Amy speaks, she perches on the edge of the bed, hand still on River's shoulder.
"They don't," River offers, trying to control her breathing. Words and fragmented images float around her head like flies, left over from the nightmare. "But I'm not all Time Lord, Amy."
"So you dream."
"Yes." River tugs her hair away from her neck. "And I hate that one."
The words slip from her mouth without prior thought. She's usually so careful not to say things – especially in front of Amy, because she worries about Amy, maybe more than she worries about the others. Nothing's ever been easy for her, and it's made her tough (something the mother and daughter share), but River still worries. There's only so much one person can handle. River feels that the past few days just may tip the scales.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Amy asks, shifting self consciously, folding and unfolding her hands before letting them lie on her lap.
She does, of course, despite the years of holding back. Maybe she's wanted nothing more than to be able to share one thing, just one thing, with her mother. It didn't have to be big, it didn't have to mean anything, but it had beenso very long since she'd been able to connect with the woman who'd given birth to her.
But she doesn't, because she can't. It's still all too close. Her mother hardly knows how to be a mother yet, and River can't imagine bringing up the woman who made that a fact.
"I've had it before," She says instead, as though the factor of its recurrence makes a difference. "But really, Amy, you should go back to bed, you're-"
"You know, I really don't like being treated like a doll. I've seen living dolls. They're not fun."
"I lost Melody," Amy asserts, and River tries not to flinch at the disassociation. "And now I'm going to find her, and you can't tell me if I will. You know what? I don't want to know. Because I will find her."
River's hearts are pounding. It's all she can do to nod, because her mother has had too many disappointments in her life. River is more than half of them. The pure hope in her mother's eyes after everything makes River want to be sick.
It's more than a surprise when Amy's hand comes to rest on River's shoulder.
"So you can tell me about your nightmare, because I'm your mother." There's a small laugh at the end, a laugh of disbelief. "As odd as that might be to say."
River takes a breath. It's as though she can see the paths she could take, all the different lies she could say to make this easier. But it's not a lie that she says, when she opens her mouth and prays that it goes alright.
Years, so many years, and her name still makes her shudder. For a moment, River sees that same fear reflected in her mother's eyes, and then it's gone, replaced instead by a concern she hasn't seen in ages. Amy's hand rubs gently at River's shoulders.
"I'm sorry. Is it from when-"The unspoken words 'you were little' hover. Amy can't say them yet, and River understands that. "You probably can't tell me much."
"No, I can." It should be a comfort but there's still ice down her spine. She folds her legs underneath her, feeling like a child. "And it's stupid, so very stupid. I'm an adult, I shouldn't be having that nightmare anymore."
Amy pulls back, brow furrowed. "Why not? I don't think age dictates what we fear. Not when you travel with the Doctor. Do you know, there are actually things in the dark?" She gives a short laugh.
"Of course there are. There always are." It's a simple answer, but truth. There are always things in the dark. There's always something around the corner, or hiding in the closet. The difference is, when you're with the Doctor, you know about it, and you can do something about it.
But when you're young, and the fear is real and holding a gun, there's nothing you can do about it. There's no fighting back, only the fighting that you're told to do. River likes to make her own decisions these days.
River likes to fight back.
Amy squeezes her shoulder. "I don't think I'll ever forget her face, as long as I live." Her voice has grown somber. "She's not someone you forget."
"Do you have nightmares, Amy?" River guesses from the hanging end of the sentence.
"Sometimes, it's like I'm remembering." Amy starts quietly, chin resting on her fist. River hardly dares to breathe. "Those nine months I wasn't here, I think I remember them."Her voice pauses, and she's not meeting River's eyes anymore. She can only guess why. "I always thought it would be nice. We'd spend months picking out names, painting a room, picking out things and toys. And I thought he'd be there, for the birth. But no one was there. Just her. I was so alone. I was scared, properly scared. Out of all the things I've done while traveling with the Doctor, giving birth was by far the most frightening. I can't bear to tell Rory. He'll blame himself, and I don't want him to do that."
There's anger in River's stomach, a violent, swirling storm of anger. None of this had to happen, none of it – it did and there's no changing that, but it's at moments like this, with her mother, that River wishes for a moment that she could.
River wraps an arm around her mother, rubbing a hand down her arm and pulling her against her side. "I'm so sorry, Amy." It's as though she's the maternal figure when Amy rests her head against River's shoulder.
"You know it's not your fault. None of it, and I wouldn't change having Mel-" Amy cuts off, abruptly. "I'm sorry, River. I wouldn't change having you for the world. You are my daughter, River."
It's the first time she's said it out loud without question. River can't help but hug her a bit tighter.
"I did keep my name, for a very long time. I loved that name. I can't tell you why I changed it, not yet, but you chose a great name." She means that, she does – Melody Pond is and will always be a part of her. Melody is her, despite all.
But Melody Pond is a weapon, and that's not something she can tell Amy.
"It's still not your fault." Amy says, still resting her head on River's shoulder. "You can't choose the circumstances you're born in."
"No, we can't." She rests her chin on the top of her mother's hair. "And I've come to terms with that. But god, I hate that woman."
Amy chuckles. "You and me both, kid."
The word brings a smile to River's lips.
"You never told me what your dream was about," Amy says after a pause. "Kavorian, I know, but…"
"It's difficult to explain."
"I've got time."
And that was true. For now, in the TARDIS, they did. As long as she stayed with them, things would stay linear for a little while. "It's as though I was her."
The way she finally says it is blunt, quick. She's afraid that if she doesn't say it then, she won't at all.
"You're not." It's not a question.
"No. But there was a voice, her voice." (She'll never forget the voice.) "She said things." You created yourself, Melody. You created yourself. Can't you see that? "Things I can't tell you, not yet."
"Okay." Amy sounds as though she's waiting for more, for the explanation that River is realizing she can't fully give.
"The dream made it my fault. All of it."
"Oh, River, it's not. It's really not."
"I know." Not that, that's not it, but the words are enough to reassure her for the time being, despite the feeling of a serrated edge sitting in her stomach. It's the settling words a mother should be able to tell her child, a feeling that River rarely ever got to experience. But it doesn't change the nightmare, the haunting chill of seeing herself reflected back.
A comfortable silence rests between them. River doesn't know how long it's lasted, only that she thinks Amy might have fallen asleep there. She's ready to let her stay (she can't possibly conceive of moving her), when Amy speaks drowsy, half-sleeping words.
"I think you hide the vortex in your hair."
River nearly snorts, pressing a hand to her own mouth in an attempt to hide her grin."I think you should go to bed. You're insane."
"I knew it!"
"It's hair!" River tries to assert, and the laughing feels good, as good of a laugh as she's had in a long time. "It doesn't hold… time."
"I told him you'd have a time head."
River wonders if her mother is actually sleep talking.
"A time head."
"And you've got all that hair. I don't know where it comes from, honestly."
"It doesn't come from the vortex. I promise." River nudges her mother's shoulder with her hand. "You really should go back to bed. I'll be alright." She hesitates for a second before adding, "Will you?"
"Of course, time head." Amy's already starting to stand. River watches her take a step back, pause, and then step forward before suddenly pressing a kiss to the very hair she'd been teasing moments before.
For the second time that night, River Song holds her breath.
"I love you." It doesn't sound forced, but it sounds forceful, like she needs River to understand it as much as herself. "Time head or not."
The corner of River's mouth turns up. "I love you, too. Mum."