Author's Notes: Any recognizable dialogue comes from "Forest of the Dead," and is not penned by me. No warnings, but the Doctor and River do their best to try to have some fun toward the end, but that's quickly squashed. Other than that, you're good to go! Takes place during "Forest of the Dead" for River and Ten and post-Singing Towers for Eleven.
"If you're lost, you can look, and you will find me - time after time"
"Anita, if he dies, I'll kill him!"
River, silently fuming and cursing under her breath in six different languages, followed Mr. Lux out of the room, leaving the younger Doctor behind to fuss with the computer terminal. Anita was gone, both of them knew that. One look at the disappearing shadows, quick glance of understanding between them, and she had left him to try to negotiate with the Vashta Nerada in a last, desperate attempt to save them all. It wouldn't work, but bless him, the Doctor would try. Meanwhile, she would do what needed to be done. First was to send Mr. Lux off, and she hoped that maybe separating him from herself and the Doctor would be enough time to get everything done. They had a little more than 10 minutes.
"Keep going to the main Library," River ordered Mr. Lux.
"But, the Doctor …"
"I remain in charge of this expedition, not the Doctor. Proceed to the main Library, and I will join you there." River's gaze bore into the other man. "We'll be along shortly, there's something I need to tell him."
Mr. Lux quickly shuffled off, leaving River to contemplate what to do next.
"I could use a bloody pair of handcuffs," she muttered and spun on her heel, managing it gracefully despite the clunky suit.
The hair on the back of her neck rose, and her instincts kicked in just as she felt the ray's impact on her back. Pivoting, she aimed her sonic, hoping to get a blast off before she went down. It was Mr. Lux. He was converted or possessed. It had to be. But, she'd go down fighting.
River activated her sonic, but before the ray could blast her attacker, someone grabbed her wrist and yanked up, redirecting the rays toward the ceiling. She immediately began to knee her attacker when she found herself staring into a familiar pair of dark eyes, floppy hair, and a grinning face of a man who looked like he'd won at the universe.
"Hi, honey!" her Doctor said, proudly.
For the first time since their wedding at Area 52 - the first, not the 37.5 times they did it after in order to have another excuse to have a wedding night - River Song was speechless.
It was her Doctor all right. He'd changed from the suit he'd worn to the Singing Towers back into his tweed and braces and was straightening his new bowtie on the back of the stainless steel chair.
"How do I look?" he asked, angling the tie so the looped part of the bow was parallel to his collar. "Purple suits me, don't you think? Come along, River. They're waiting for us."
River kept up with him as best she could in the infernal spacesuit. She'd always hated them, and considering what happened to her in the past, she felt it was completely justified. "Just what are you doing? Do you realize when you are?"
The Doctor saluted a man passing them as they walked down a long corridor, and the uniform he wore looked familiar to River. She frowned, puzzling it out. It hit her just as he waved a keycard in front of a reader and a pair of double doors quietly swooshed open to reveal an elaborate command deck.
"Doctor, we're on a Teselecta!" Setting her helmet down, she grabbed at his arm. "Why are we here?"
"Isn't it obvious, River? We're saving your life." He waved to the captain. "Carter!"
"We've undergone the changes as you asked," Carter said and extended his hand to River. "Pleasure to officially meet you Dr. Song, or I should say, Professor. My apologies for our conduct toward you in the past. As we have found out through our subsequent investigation of the Silence, you have been re-categorized as a victim in our internal classified documents and are no longer perceived as a threat in this matter."
"Seeing as I'm still legally dead," the Doctor cut in, "it can't be changed in the official files. Doesn't change things all that much except you don't have Justice Department robots going after you now."
Everything began to click for River. She whirled on him, jabbing a finger in his chest. "You knew. You knew when you took me to Darillium that I was coming here to die. I just figured it out myself. You wouldn't tell me what was wrong. I'm not stupid, Doctor."
"The last thing anyone can ever accuse you of is being stupid," he said softly.
River looked over the Doctor's shoulder at Carter. "Do you have a room we can talk?"
He nodded toward one of the walls. "You two can take my office," he said. Moving to his chair, he pressed a button on an arm and a side door swooshed opened. She all but pulled the Doctor after her, making sure to block the exit when the door closed behind them. "Talk, and make it fast. We have 10 minutes before everything goes to hell."
"It's a brilliant plan. Well, it is," he insisted when she gave him a disbelieving look. "A little risky, but only slightly." He grasped her shoulders. "In order to transfer the memory space, Charlotte needs one of us. Of course, I was happy to do it, but you pitched a rather spectacular fit-"
"I was saving your life," she hissed. "Not that you had enough sense to see that."
He tapped her nose. "Don't interrupt me while I'm being brilliant."
River rolled her eyes, looking unimpressed with him. Remembering the time, she let him keep going.
"This model of Teselecta is an older one, about to be decommissioned, actually. Because it can do all of the functions that you and I can, it can serve as the hard drive space needed so Charlotte can reboot. Now, here's the risky part." His voice sobered a bit. "We have to stay to the absolute end. As soon as the countdown finishes and the wires are connected, it starts burning your body from the inside. The ship has good defenses, but this will even overcome that. We'll have approximately 10 seconds to get out of here."
"That's not a lot of time."
"Oh, it's plenty of time!" The Doctor grinned. "Connect the wires, Carter hits the teleport and boom, off we go into their mothership. You're saved, everyone in the Library is saved, and everybody lives!"
"Then what about that sonic you gave me?" River asked.
"Oh, that. Well, younger me will figure it out quick enough. I'll tell you when you're older." The Doctor hit the switch and started to leave the office.
She grabbed his arm, pulling him around until he could see her furious glare. "If this doesn't work, not only do we die, but so does the younger you and all those people in the Library, including Donna," she snapped. "You make the decision for so many other people, my love, but you're not going to make this one for me. I'm never letting anyone control my fate again, especially you."
She was so angry, yet she staggered him. Tendrils of hair had escaped her ponytail, her cheeks are flushed and he was quite sure if looks could kill that he'd be ash by now. The Doctor grinned with an almost manic joy. River was alive. She was beautiful and alive, and he was going to keep it that way.
He ran his thumb over her cheek, wiping away the tear that had leaked from the corner of her eyes. "It's your choice. I won't stop you. Armies of Daleks can't stop you, River Song." His hand ghosted over her neck, shoulder, then down her arm to squeeze her gloved hand. "You walk out those doors, and you'll die. There's no coming back for you, we both know that. If this doesn't work, you might still die. But, if this works, it'll be just like Lake Silencio. The younger me won't know the difference. Time remains the same for him right up until I picked this up an hour ago."
He pulled her journal out of his jacket and pressed it into her hands, and it opened to the spot so well-worn from constant re-reading that the book always opened to that page first. In there was her description of their wedding and how he evaded the Silence using the Teselecta.
She couldn't bring herself to look at the entry. "If I choose to leave …"
"Time won't be rewritten. Everything that happens to us will still happen."
"It's not like on Area 52," she insisted. "The universe needs you, and it still does. I don't want you dying in here trying to save me."
His eyes softened, and he cupped her face. "You are such a Pond," he said affectionately. The universe needs you, River Song. I can't let you die without knowing that you're loved by so many, and no one needs you, or loves you, more than I do.."
The corners of her mouth turned up in a half-smile as her heart melted. "You're using my own words against me."
"They're working," he said arrogantly.
She was older now. So much older. It was her time. She'd made peace with herself, and what was about to happen. But … She pulled off a glove and pressed her fingers to the Doctor's temple and concentrated. A memory floated into her mind, of him standing alone in the Library with her journal. His heartache was so acute that she nearly wept. If she died, it would be the most selfish thing she could do, because he would hurt so very badly.
She couldn't do it.
River took a shaky breath and wiped the tear that had escaped down his cheek away. "All right, my love. We'll try."
He held up a pair of handcuffs. "You'll need these. Be sure to leave your sonic and journal with mine."
Her grin stretched from ear to ear, and she pulled him into a desperate kiss, nearly dropping the journal. There was so much that needed to be said, so many things they hadn't done together. If this was the only time they had left … "Well, Doctor," she said when they broke apart for air, before she gave into the urge to sweep Carter's desk clean and shove him onto it, "show me how to use this thing."
"Anita!" River rushed into the room to find her collapsed, her worst fears realized.
"I'm sorry, she's been dead awhile now." The younger Doctor turned his attention to her, annoyance flashing in his eyes.
"Lux can manage without me. You can't." With that, River knocked him out, then handcuffed him to the pillar, ignoring the smirk from her own Doctor behind her.
Inside the ship, River worked furiously, clumsy at first using the Teselecta, but quickly getting the hang of it. She had stripped off the spacesuit and stood in front of the crew in yoga pants, sports bra and a tank, the lack of bulky suit making the job much easier. She couldn't afford to make a mistake, not while so many in the Library, and now the ones on the Teselecta, trusted her to get them out of this mess.
Eight minutes ticked by, and the younger Doctor's eyes snapped open. "Oh, no, no, no, no, come on, what are you doing? That's my job!" he said hysterically.
River merely grinned, and the rest came easily … especially the tears. As she completed the last of the movements and prepared to connect the last two cables together, she hesitated a moment as the computer finished the countdown. She tore her gaze away from the screen that looked into the Library and into the eyes of her own Doctor. He nodded and covered his hand with his.
They pushed the button together, and the Teselecta snapped the last two wires into place.
Then, nothing remained except a flash of white light.
Her eyes snapped open.
Her vision was blurry, but River could make out familiar shapes surrounding where she lay. Brown and tweed, that was the Doctor. Darker brown and a bit taller. That was … Rory? Why was he there? As she blinked and her vision cleared, she nearly laughed as she saw her mother holding the Doctor at sonic screwdriver-point, probably the first weapon she'd grabbed.
"I don't know what you were doing to my daughter, Doctor, but you bring her out of it now."
"It's all right, Mum," River murmured and started to sit up.
"Easy," Rory crooned and slipped an arm behind River's shoulders. "You were pretty dehydrated from spending so long in that suit and then from whatever happened." Rory's eyes darkened as Amy continued to poke the sonic in the Doctor's chest.
"It's all right, Dad," River comforted him. She managed a wan smile. "The Doctor saved me. I mean, really saved me." It was probably prudent not to tell either of them exactly how close she'd been to death, but somehow she figured they knew. They were no strangers at time travel, either of them. She took in her surroundings and noticed that she was in the medical bay of the TARDIS. The ship gave a welcoming hum.
"Are you sure?" Rory brushed an errant curl out of her eyes from where it had worked free from her ponytail. "You've gone redhead?"
"More of a brown." River held the curl out. "Mum's idea. We did it together while you were at work right before I left for my trip. You know, to hide the grey for her."
"I heard that, Melody Pond, and if you don't think I'll won't use this on you next, young lady …"
Rory and River laughed. "Shall I save the Doctor from your mother?" Rory asked.
"Please. I want to talk to him alone."
Rory managed to coax Amy to hand over the sonic, but he didn't give it back to the Doctor. He slipped it in his own jacket pocket, gave his son-in-law a warning look and escorted Amy out of the medical bay leaving them alone.
River checked her own vital signs and wished she hadn't have to leave her sonic at the library. She would need to build another one. The only sound in the room was the humming of various machines, and it unnerved her.
She'd been ready to die. She had time to accept it, when she looked into the face of a Doctor that truly had no idea who she was. Oh, she'd been around earlier incarnations of the Doctor before, but she'd had some forewarning and knew enough to know that any Doctor before his tenth reincarnation wouldn't know her. That combined with the Singing Towers … it was her time. She'd lived a long, hard life, but she was satisfied with what she had achieved despite her auspicious beginnings. But now …
She looked up at him. He rocked back on his heels. "Hello," he said softly.
"Hello," she replied, equally as soft. "Are they all right? The Teselecta crew?"
"Oh, yeah." The Doctor snapped out of whatever reverie he'd been in and immediately began to fuss with machines. "Everything worked like a charm. Beamed back up into the spaceship just as planned, all of us, then transferred you to the TARDIS. Since the ship was connected to you, you a bit of a hit from that final connection and passed out. Stopped by to pick up Amy and Rory. You know," he tugged on his ear, "thought you'd want to see them. There can never be too many Ponds on the TARDIS."
He tinkered with the cuff checking her blood pressure, and she stilled his hand with hers. He swallowed and looked at her like a chastised child. "Are you OK?"
"I'm fine, my love. Tired. Bewildered. Trying to figure out what to do now. I'm officially dead, you know."
"I know. Have a bit of experience with that one."
They shared a smile.
"The stuff from that house you insisted on getting is on the TARDIS. So's the cat." The Doctor jabbed a finger at her. "The same cat that scratched me. And threw up on my side of the bed."
"He's just protective, my love," River protested, ridiculously pleased that he thought to get her things, especially the cat.
"He hates me!"
"No, he … well, yes, actually, he does." Because after the Doctor had brought River back from the Singing Towers, she had cried herself to sleep while the cat licked away her tears and nuzzled her.
"You haven't looked like that in awhile." He frowned and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Unsettled." He tugged on the same curl that Rory had brushed back earlier. "Since after Berlin."
"I suppose it's much the same thing then. I didn't know who River Song was. I was just starting to find out. It's true now. It's one thing to be prepared to die, then suddenly have everything change." She unhooked the blood pressure cuff and took the monitoring nodes off her temples. "Going to be hell to forge new credentials, and don't tell me to just use psychic paper. Need to find another university that needs an archaeology professor. You know, I've always wanted to work with Bernice Summerfield." She flashed a grin at the Doctor, who paled a bit. "You do have a thing for sleeping with archaeologists, don't you, my love?"
"It was just one time!" he insisted.
She gained her feet and took down the ponytail. "I'm sure it was, sweetie."
The moment she had her hair down, he was kissing her. His fingers dove into her curls, and she pulled on his lapels before slipping her hands beneath his jacket to push at his braces. The kiss was hot, greedy, and filled with all the worry, love and passion they held for each other. She backed up, tugging him with her until the back of her knees hit the bed and they tumbled onto it horizontally, nearly falling off the other side of the narrow space. They laughed as their heads and feet both hung off the bed. She got his jacket off and it hit the floor as she flicked the buttons on his shirt open while his busy, busy hands dove beneath her sweat-soaked tank.
"I don't think the TARDIS meant this bed for having sex, my love," River laughed as he nibbled her neck, whimpering when he laved his tongue over the strongly beating pulse beneath his mouth. The laughter turned into a moan as he pushed up the tank and bra.
From across the room, Rory coughed.
"You know, Rory, another minute and I'd have plenty of blackmail material for years to come." Amy sighed and stopped the recording on her smartphone. She tucked it away and pushed a lock of hair behind her ears. She raised an eyebrow and tapped her foot as the Doctor and River sheepishly got off the bed after fixing River's clothes. "Well? What's going on?"
"Come along, Ponds!" The Doctor breezed into the console room, not bothering to pick up his jacket or re-button his shirt. "I'm taking you to the Library!"
"Doctor …" River followed, holding his jacket. She draped it over the railing.
"Not then," he assured her. "Later. Much, much later. The Vashta Nerada starved to death and died out. We're going a thousand years beyond that, just to play it safe. I need to tell you what happened with your screwdriver and … well, I figured your parents wouldn't mind seeing this. Now, come on. I'll let you help."
"You mean I'll keep you from not flinging us to the ends of the universe, my love." River gave the Doctor's rear a playful swat.
He yelped and danced away, nearly toppling over the railing. "I will not fling us to the end of the universe, and not in front of your parents!"
Amused, Amy rolled her eyes and elbowed Rory's ribs while the Doctor and River playfully bickered. "Been around them for what … 20 years now? I'll never understand them."
He slipped an arm around his wife's waist and squeezed. "I don't think we're meant to, Amy."