AN ~ Hello! It's been a while since I posted in this collection, and I actually was going to post this as a separate oneshot but it does fit (though I've split it into 2 parts). Kind-of-sequel to theThis one explores what River may have experienced during the no-man's-land at the end of Big Bang in which Amy & Rory were "where they aught to be" and the Doctor did not exist. Enjoy!
Also, I am taking requests for scenes you'd like to be explored, so fire away!
Where We Aught to Be
Not to you?
He doesn't really know me yet. Now he never will.
River stared into the sky long after the blazing Pandorica had left her vision. Then, at long last, she bit her lip and sucked in a breath and blinked away the tears that were filling her eyes. Beginning to feel the bruises left by the marble column she had all but thrown herself against, she got to her feet.
"Um...what's happening?" Rory asked, stepping back. He swung a pointed finger from River to Amy and back again. "And who are you?"
"Rory-" Amy replied with a frown, stepping forward and pointing at River, though she stared hard at Rory. "It's River. You know; 'hello sweetie', Cleopatra, killed a Dalek?"
"Um." Rory wore a matching frown as he stammered for a slightly polite way of saying that he had no idea what she was talking about, who River was or even... "What's a Dalek?"
All fingers dropped. Amy glanced at River, jaw lax. Suddenly, as if through a crack behind him – and perhaps indeed it was – a blinding white light enclosed Rory.
"What's happening? Amy? What's-"
"RORY!" She sprinted forward, to where he had been standing, and got there just as the light disappeared and took her fiance with it. Amy turned on the spot, looking around desperately, her arms rising and falling at her side, helpless.
"Amy, it's okay." River could hear them both in her head: her Doctor, and the Tardis, reassuring each other, congratulating each other, saying their farewells. She was almost choking on it. But Amy, Amy was here and starting to sob because she'd been through this before.
"I don't wanna forge' him, River. I can't." Amy shook her head in refusal, not caring that River should have had no idea what she was talking about.
Mother, she almost said. "Amy, remember what I said? We'll all wake up where we aught to be, and none of this will have ever happened. Rory hadn't met me before this. Or a Dalek. He's at home, waiting for you. You'll be there too, soon. You'll be with him, like you should be."
The light appeared, and Amy froze in place as if it were a predator that had yet to locate her. Her wide eyes suddenly locked on River's, and she asked,
"Wha' about you?"
But she was gone before River could answer.
River woke up with a throbbing jaw pressed against a floor of cold marble. As she sat up, she flexed it and looked around. The room was fairly small, especially for the height of the roof, and there were stairs just beside her. In the centre of the room – and as it seemed, the only exhibit it contained – there was a round dais, also of marble, but whatever had once rested atop it was now gone without a trace. Well, with only one trace; quite a handy one at that. A single-sheet flyer flickered in the centre of the circle, and crawled towards River with the force of a small wind. When she bent down to pick it up, she read it: she was at the Natural History Museum.
Odd, she thought, looking around again. There should be more exhibits, of course, unless she was in a closed wing, but there should definitely be people.
Tucking the flyer into her jacket, River bent to pick up her scanner. The screen was black. Broken? She frowned. Whatever had hit her had certainly done a number: she had all her senses in full working order, so a drug was unlikely, but she couldn't even remember leaving Stormcage. Slowly and quietly, she began to climb the stairs, resting one hand on her Alpha Meson blaster just in case.
When she came to the top of the stairs, though, she quickly realised she was not in the Natural History Museum at all. Before her stretched an expanse of sand, which was ended only by an expanse of water, framed by a rocky horizon she recognised all too well.
The very thought of it sent a shiver through her, but River stepped out onto the sand anyway. She had a firm grip of her blaster, now out of its holster and lying in wait at her side.
I made you what you are.
The voice crawled over skin like spiders. River squirmed and staggered back and whipped around, weapon raised.
"Who are you?" she demanded. "How do you know who I am?"
She was sure she had asked that before. She didn't remember the answers.
Please, my love, please please just run.
It was her own voice now, taunting her. She had to get out of here. There had to be some way. But They were here, on the beach...those things...She had to get away...get to the water...
Panting, and up to her knees in Lake Silencio, River looked at herself in the water. She was wearing a long, fairly shapeless white robe. It almost seemed to glow. Her belt, her scanner and, she could bet, the flyer had all disappeared.
Doctor. Herself again. She sounded so sad. Her heart started pounding louder and faster in her ears. Please tell me you know who I am.
Her heart rate double instantly, her chest seizing as she tried to get enough oxygen to her spinning head. So much felt wrong with this she wasn't sure where to start, but one thing was clear. Something was playing with her head; her memories, her fears. It was out to get her, or the Doctor, or both – and River Song was not going down quietly. Raising her gun, ready to shoot the next thing she saw, she sprinted back up the beach...
and onto the observation deck of Calderon Beta's most famous tree.
In high heels now, and with such momentum, River careened straight across the deck and into the railings, winding herself before she could stop. Her gun was gone now, as was her robe, which had been replaced by an ankle-length black evening dress and impossibly high red heels. Looking around once more to try to make sense of all this, her eyes had caught the stars and she could not think of anything else for a long moment except how beautiful they were. For a long moment, that is, until she heard a voice behind her. A real, embodied voice.
"Hello Honey, I'm home."
"It's been so long," she breathed, putting a hand over her heart in case it decided to explode. The Doctor stepped out of the shadows in neat black tails, with a white bow tie and a red rose pinned to his lapel.
"No, it hasn't."
"Yes. It has. You haven't said that to me since-"
"About fifteen minutes ago."
River raised an eyebrow. "Spoilers."
"Not if you've already done it."
"What do you mean?"
"It's a long story, and you'll remember it soon, I promise."
"Does it explain why my clothes keep switching?" River gestured to her outfit, which had now returned to the jacket and jodhpurs she had been wearing in the museum. "And what about the scenery? And the voices?"
"Voices?" The Doctor frowned. "Well, I suppose that makes sense. Time is distorted around you. It doesn't know where to put you: where you aught to be."
River reached a hand up, almost to her throat. "Did I- Did I say that?" A slight smile crept onto the Doctor's face as he fossicked around in his jacket pocket for something.
"I'm on the other side of the explosion, I don't exist any more and Amy and Rory never travel with me so you, River, you don't really exist either. But you do, because time vortex or not, you're still a Pond."
River's eyes fell to the slip of paper he was holding out to her. It was cream, and slightly shiny, like a...like a wedding invitation. And it was marked Mels. She had to laugh. They never had asked her for a last name.
And now, she thought with a pang, they'll never know.
"River." The Doctor shook the invite, gesturing her to take it, but his voice was tender. "Trust me. You will remember all this, you will understand and it will all be okay. We're right on track. All you have to do, is give Amy your diary."
River put a hand over the pocket hanging from her belt where she knew the diary was kept. "I can't just give it. She'll see things...she'll know things before she can-"
"Then remove all the writing. I can put it all back by accessing your scanner with the Tardis – once I have the Tardis back, of course. I won't peek. Promise."
River huffed, but removed the diary from its pocket and the scanner too. Running the device over the cover, she waited for it to sort out the layers and store her words.
"Well come on dear," the Doctor said after a moment, glancing at his watch with a little more urgency than she suspected he was aiming for. "We don't have all day. Augustus is just about to start his speech and then we might never get back."
She watched the screen. The word 'Ready' flashed in green, but it was not as reassuring as she usually found it. River gave the device a little extra time, just in case, and then – hoping the Doctor didn't hear the catch in her breath – pressed Delete Source.
"There," she sighed. "I hope you-"
She looked up, and he was gone. Instead, she was halfway down what appeared to be some sort of path or driveway. Waiters and waitresses were clearing up a table of nibbles trays, and by the entrance of the building behind them – which appeared to be a town hall or some such, judging by the iron-cast clock face that shone in the twilight – were bunches of red and white balloons in heart shapes and tied with fancy ribbons. River hurried to straighten and sort out her expression. She was at a wedding. Her parents' wedding.
Sure, she had greater things to worry about – like her prized possession just having been wiped of all its prize, and her almost total lack of memory about any of this – but turning up to a wedding in jodhpurs was rude and not to mention, suspicious. She didn't feel like she was in jodhpurs though. She had heels on, for one thing. River looked down, and with relief saw that her clothing had swapped one more time. She wore a black evening gown, and loops of pearls around her neck matching the pearl-coloured heels she wore. Not her favourites. She wanted those red ones back, actually.
The thought occurred to her then that she'd best get this over with before time decided to swap her again, or show her somewhere else. She jogged up to the door.
"Oh, hello," she said, interrupting a young, blonde waitress, who straightened to look at her with a sparkle in her eye and a friendly smile. River smiled back.
"I can't stay, I'm not really invited, but I'm a friend of a friend who told me to drop this off for the bride. I was wondering if you could perhaps get it to her for me?"
"Certainly," the young woman replied. "I think they're just in the middle of speeches now. I'll go and drop it off for you. Can I have a na-?"
The waitress cut herself off, frowning to empty air.