Right guys, this has taken me two weeks to write and I'm not sure if I'm happy with it or not so please review and tell me what you think. This started off as being quite simple but got very complicated and wibbly-wobbly so I apologise in advance for the confusion. But in the end, it's just a tragic love story – as is every story in which River and the Doctor star. Thanks guys, love you all, hope you enjoy Love from IssyRomana97, x x.
X – X – X
And she'll serve her years in prison without question or complaint, but when she gets out she'll find someone else and she'll get married and have a family. She'll live the life she never could with me. But she won't be River Song, she won't even be Melody Pond, she will be the woman charged with the murder of a man she never knew. But she will still be extraordinary; I have no doubt of that.
She throws the gun, now empty, to the ground and kicks the barrel hard with her right foot, sending it spinning off, trying to kick her guilt away with it. She hesitates for a second and looks back on the enormous reception room of the huge metallic building and she runs down the impossibly long, concreted corridor towards the exit. Her feet are aching and feel like they're literally on fire and her calf muscles are taught and tired as she continues to sprint down the corridor, turning back every five seconds to check if she's being followed. She's not. She can hear her screaming her name over and over and over again and it sends shivers down her spine at what she will inflict upon every being inside this building who is still alive. But it's not her fault; for forty years she was trapped here, a child in the dark, and they hurt her until she succumbed and agreed. They hurt an innocent child, and now she was going to unleash her revenge and hatred upon the people who had destroyed her childhood.
Her rebellious curls flew behind her and then whipped her in the face when she spun around to see if anyone had begun to follow her. No one had. Her left wrist was clamped to her side although it was cracked, most probably broken from the vicious struggle only a few minutes ago. The thin white lace top and cream silk three-quarter-length bottoms she was sporting (her underclothes – she would explain why she was wearing just these when she got out of here) are covered only by a thick black coat she managed to strip from one of the guards when she knocked him out. In her right hand there is a small silver cylinder with an obvious yet sincerely clichéd big red button on the top.
She is nearing the exit, but when she finally reaches the glass door, it is locked, and so she almost cries out in frustration; she was so close. But she has to get out of here because if she doesn't then she knows that she's not going to live for an awful while longer. She desperately racks her brain for a way out, and she realizes with a sickening feeling in her stomach that there is no other way except to smash the glass. The sirens are already blaring and screaming since her escape and shoot-out and so if she breaks the glass it's hardly going to make a difference, but she has nothing to break the door down with. She takes one final look back and although the corridor is more than three hundred metres long, she can see nine guards all coming towards her, machine guns loaded in tow. She's going to die if she doesn't move her ass soon.
She takes a few steps back and then runs along the laminated wooden floorboards and collides full pelt into the glass and smashes every pane to pieces as she falls through the frame and onto the cold concrete outside. But when she crashes violently to the floor, her ankle cracks with a sickening crunch and her thumb slips on the large red button and she accidentally applies too much pressure, causing it to fall and the many old-fashioned barrels of gunpowder and bunches of TNT to detonate. It is almost a picture as the enormous building bursts into rapturous flames, the whole place almost exploding with ferocious red and orange light. She quickly staggers to her feet, but the explosion has sent her flying three metres across the ground and she has battered all of her limbs.
She screams in agony as the sizzling flames burst out with the explosive force of two hundred atomic bombs from the large compound behind her. The flames devour anything in their path as they speed towards her and graze harshly against her back, causing her jacket to catch on fire and the flesh on her back to start burning. The smoke beginning to billow from the building is rancid and has a disgusting acrid smell to it which hits the back of her throat and makes her choke as she falls once more to her knees, wrenching her flaming jacket from her back. Pieces of wood and metal (and probably singed flesh belonging to the maybe three hundred people who had been inside the building) are flying from the structure as the eruption of flames blows all the windows out, sending frame upon frame of glass crashing to the floor.
She rolls the jacket over to put it out and winces as she tries to crawl forwards, escaping from the towering inferno raging behind her. The ground is boiling hot, hot enough to scald her skin, and the concrete is rough and unsteady as she heaves her body across the ground, scraping her pale skin on her knees. Suddenly, another window bursts out from just above her and a cascade of black smoke comes tumbling out. She can hear it, but does not see the glass travelling almost in slow motion towards her, and before she can roll over, the shards of glass embed themselves in her back and legs, piercing her already scalded flesh. She shrieks in pain and tries to scramble again to her feet, but she is too weak to move.
She is just metres away from the fire, building and growing taller with every second that passes and she can smell her own hair burning and her own skin peeling.
She tries to breath but the mountains of black and grey smoke pouring from the building stops her from getting any vital air into her lungs. She whimpers as she barely manages to clamber up onto her knees and she smashes her fist over her left wrist, trying with all of her might to kick-start her vortex manipulator. But it fails and she bites down on her bottom lip when another part of her wrist snaps and hangs weakly. She takes one last heavy breath in and has no time to realize that that was a mistake before her sight goes utterly blurry and she falls, face first, down to the floor, smacking her chin and right jawbone on the harsh and unforgiving concrete. The blood pours from the side of her face and trickles down her cheek, but soon turns pink-ish as her hopeless tears mix fluidly with it. She coughs loudly, the natural human response to this much filthy air causing pain to shoot through her body and she cannot move her broken wrist from its awkward position on the gravel.
She closes her eyes, breathing slowly and lightly, in so much writhing agony it is not even believable, and thinks that death might be quite nice compared to this. But it doesn't come, and she knows it won't – not yet. This is always what happened and she still has all those times with him to come. And that's why she blew everything up – where the hell was he?
She realizes that as the flames begin to run and spark towards her that she will be engulfed by fire and flames and burnt alive if she does not move right now. She hits the vortex manipulator once more, her desperate attempts almost destroying her energy supply, but she just manages to roll and stagger to her knees before the most unreliable way of time travelling in all of existence kicks into action and she disappears from the compound in a brilliant flash of bright white light, leaving behind the screams of the people who dared to hurt her…
She lands, for once, just where she wanted to. The room is cool and calm, the complete abstract and polar opposite of where she had just come from, and the whole place just projects an image of protection. She appears right next to the front door in a swirl of pale violet light and she caved in and crumpled to the floor – half out of sheer relief, half out of severe pain. She rests gently on the floor, her body broken and battered and half dead, and she cannot even climb to her feet again. She's already done it twice; a third would kill her stone dead. The blood seeping from her cheek drips onto the floor and pools around her face, but she just lies on the floor and breathes in and out, finally able to, able to flush the toxins from her organs. She feels like crying and before she can wince, she remembers what she has just done. She killed Kovarian, and she killed every Silent in that goddamned building. She killed over three hundred people…out of revenge. And that wasn't even the thing that bothered and concerned her most; the most terrifying consequence of her quite horrific actions was that she knew that he would hate her for what she had done. He despised murder in any way, shape or form, and would avoid death by any means possible. And she had just killed not just one, but, all in all, three hundred and forty seven people.
Oh God, he wasn't ever going to forgive her for this.
She wept silently, tears sliding down her cut cheeks and bruised and bloodied chin. She cried out in distress, in torturous pain, and she cried out for the fact that the love of her life would never ever want to see her again. All she could feel was an unliveable pain; in her ankle, in her muscles, all over her body, in her wrist, in and on her head, and in her hearts.
The TARDIS comforts her as she continues to travel through the time vortex, and her incredible heart breaks a little when she notices how badly her child is hurt, and how broken she truly is. She knows why her child has come here seeking help, she always comes to him whenever she needs a guide or a protector, and right now she does need a doctor. But maybe her Doctor isn't the right one. She knows how temperamental her Time Lord can get at times, and she knows that right now he is in an almighty tantrum with his wife after she once again "almost committed bloody suicide" by jumping off the Empire State Building and being caught just in the nick of time. He had been so angered (but secretly worried) by that action that he dumped her back at Stormcage without so much as a farewell kiss.
So he was sulking impatiently, and the TARDIS was pretty sure that he wasn't ready to comfort a younger version of his wife who had just intentionally murdered three hundred and forty seven people. She pondered for a few moments as her child began to lose consciousness and she decided that the only course of action was to alert someone (and it didn't matter who) that her daughter was here and only one step away from the beginning phases of death. She called upon the alarm bells which then proceeded to ring loudly and urgently through the mighty spaceship, but silenced the noise for the console room knowing that a headache would not help her child's current condition.
It hurts, now more than ever, that she is not still in her human form. She can only do so much to help her child, especially when her other is being a sulky little man-child. But she wants to comfort her daughter, so obviously in a horrendous amount of pain, and so she hums magnificently, soothing and rocking her powerless and defenceless daughter rhythmically to the ancient tune, and silently pleading, 'Don't give up my child. Help is coming.'
X – X – X
It was Amy who first heard the alarms blaring un-modestly through the corridors as she searched the TARDIS for the video collection. She and Rory were just going to have a quiet night in in their bedroom; watch a few movies etc. seeing as the Doctor was still being overly sulky about the whole River situation last week. He had been getting tetchy for a while, and she knew that a storm was brewing, and it had been River's attempt to grab his attention (in her own special way of course) that had pushed him right over the edge. Gosh, Amy had never seen the Doctor shout like that before. And it had been over something so trivial that even River had been shocked by his flaring temper, and had left without a word, her silence explaining in great detail of how upset she was.
Upon hearing the alarm, Amy genuinely believed it had just been the Doctor breaking something whilst still in his angry-mode and had, at first, ignored it. But as she continued searching the cupboards and hidey holes and art galleries (?) for some videos, the wailing got louder and more exuberant until Amy had to physically clamp her hands over her ears and yell, 'Alright…TARDIS! What's wrong with you?'
The siren ceased, the entity knowing that her urgency was finally being noticed, and just motioned for Amy to follow the corridor back to the console room. How she did that exactly, Amy would never know, but nonetheless she felt pulled towards the room and continued down the chilly corridor until she reached the refreshing console room.
At a first glance, Amy did not see why the TARDIS was so panicked and so she placed a hand on one of the walls and murmured, 'Hey, what's up with you today? What's going on?' If she had been in human form, the TARDIS would've slapped its hand against its forehead in frustration and poignantly pointed to their child, bleeding and burnt, lying so vulnerably on the floor. Instead, she just hissed out (using the kettle on the console as a reciprocal) and shifted the gravity ever so slightly so Amy would have to walk down the steps in order to feel a bit more comfortable. And as Amy walked around, still completely bemused and bedazzled as to why the time machine was acting the way she was, the redheaded Scot, so used to seeing suffering in the world and universe, saw her daughter lying next to the door, in between the coat rack and the stairs, and she almost cried out in disgust.
Amy pelted towards her and she kneeled on the Perspex floor next to her, gently hauled her child's body into her arms and called, 'River! River, what happened? River, come on, wake up!'
River's eyes flickered open, akin to the time when she woke up in the hospital after Berlin, and she almost managed a weak smile at the sight of her mother. But the muscles in her face hurt so instead she grimaced and winced and let her pained expression take hold when she realized how badly her body hurt whilst being held in this position. 'Mother,' she breathed quickly, calming her berated mum into listening, 'Mother, there isn't much time. Please go and find the Doctor. Please get him.'
Amy clutched River Song close to her and hugged her, letting free tears fall down her white cheeks and rest on River's curls but she almost hissed when she heard the request. What would he do? He wouldn't just ignore her would he? Surely he wouldn't be able to hold his grudge when his wife was this damaged? 'River, I can't leave you here by yourself. You could die if I'm not here,' Amy whispered in her ear, choking on the word die, more tears brimming in her hazel eyes. She embraced her daughter lovingly, noticing the blood all down the side of her face and on her chin and she broke internally.
Whether or not River was independent, she was her daughter and Amy had never had the chance to protect her. She hadn't ever been able to love her, raise her, teach her, have good old girly gossips and Friday nights in with her. She had missed her entire life. And now she might see the destruction of her daughter.
'Mum, please. I need him. I can't hold on for much longer,' River said mournfully in a hoarse whisper, her eyelids beginning to close involuntarily and she did not have the strength to try and keep them open. Amy knew what she had to do. 'Okay now Melody Pond, you stay right here and I'm going to go and get him. Now don't you dare do anything, you hear me, you hold on because you can't go, not now, not here.'
'Spoilers mother,' River responded breathlessly and Amy hugged her once more before running off down endless corridors, searching for the man who would heal her daughter. And he didn't have a choice in that matter.
X –X – X
His feet were beginning to tire from the constant pacing he had been participating in for the last few hours. His head was in the main stages of aching from the never ending stream of emotion that he had been considering for the past week. His hearts were in the ending phases of breaking as he considered what his actions beyond this room might consist of.
Yes, he threw River out of the TARDIS because he was mad that she had been so ignorant and foolish as to jump off the edge of the Empire State Building, but that wasn't the only just cause. He had been thinking about this event for so many years now, trying to delay it for as long as possible – universal-stability wise. Every time they had met over the past two hundred years or so, his soul had wept in the back of his mind as to what would ultimately be her end. But that day was over for him, it was the event that would come before it that is worrying him rather a lot.
Next week, just six days, one hundred and forty four hours away, he would have to take her to Darillium, to see those spectacular Singing Towers. Apparently, they were very beautiful. He had just six days of River Song left, before the time when he would see the "proper her" for the last time. And he had been stupid enough to just leave her at Stormcage, wasting all those precious minutes that they had left. He didn't know if he would be able to deal with it; knowing she was going to die. He would see her again (their timelines with each other were so wobbly that it was just a never ending stream), but still, he would know that out there somewhere, his wife would be sacrificing her life to save him and four thousand and twenty two other people. He couldn't help but think what a way to go.
The Doctor gradually slowed his pacing, reducing the chances for what could've been an indentation of his feet in the floorboards to nil, and began rummaging through one of his various cabinet drawers. He was searching for just this silly little photograph he had suddenly thought of, which had been taken when they had gone to the Kellogg Cluster (he actually wanted to hug the person who had named the place) a few years back.
There was so much junk in these cabinets he could barely believe it. At one point, he even pulled out the battered copy of… 'The TARDIS handbook? I threw this out years ago!' he exclaimed, chucking the book instantaneously into the incinerator tube, to which his time machine made a disappointed hum at. He continued to empty drawer after drawer until he finally found what he had been looking for. The photo was maybe a little ripped around the corners, but the picture in itself was absolutely perfect.
One thing you need to know about the Kellogg Cluster is that they have very strict laws on "public affection" and he reflected, with great pride, on how River had reacted to them being for holding hands and hugging (and yes, the occasional snog). But the picture was of solely her, sat beside a tree on a little picnic blanket, her curls tied back from her face in a TARDIS blue ribbon. Gone were the machine guns and leather (which he did quite like to be fair), replaced with just three quarter length jeans and a shirt. On her fourth finger, she was sporting a sparkling sapphire ring which was brand new on that day – the day he proposed to her. You see, it had always been their dream to get married properly. She was just looking the other way, and the light reflected stunningly off her curls.
He caught the image when she hadn't been expecting it, and when he had developed it, she had begged him to get rid of it, but he loved it so dearly that he point-blank refused (a very dangerous thing to say "no" to River Song) and kept it. He didn't mind her glares and the punch he had received had been worth it – she just looked so natural, so content, and so beautiful.
'But our time is running out…' he murmured before being very hastily interrupted.
The door of his room slammed open with such tremendous force that he expected it to simply wobble and fall of its hinges and he nearly jumped out of his skin, dropping the sacred photograph onto the unworthy and dirty floor. He scrambled to pick it up, not wanting any of the precious ink to be smudged or damaged in any way, and gently placed it facing upwards on his bedside cabinet and stroked the image of her face with one finger. He smiled sadly, but then remembered his intruder and jumped up off the bed and clapped his hands together and flexed and clicked his fingers. He readjusted his bowtie before he spun around and faced is surprise visitor.
He almost immediately knew something was up, which must've meant something was very wrong seeing as he was as blind as a bat to human emotion. Amy was hanging off the doorframe, her hazel eyes and pupils completely blurred from mountainous amounts of tears. Her brown mascara was streaked all across her freckled cheeks and her bottom lip was quivering and trembling. Her hair, normally quite sleek and nice…looking, was literally all over the place and it looked like she had been running all the way here from wherever she had come from.
Amy wiped her eyes quickly with her blue sleeve and quickly managed to sob out, 'Doctor, you've got to come with me…quickly. Something's happened and I need you.' She sounded so sincere and passionate and just upset that he ran over to the doorframe and pulled her into a messy hug, stroking the back of her ginger hair and squeezing her lightly like he usually did when she was upset. He shushed her calmly; rocking her from side to side like Amy had done just minutes ago for her daughter. He had never seen her like this, apart from the time when Rory got swallowed up by the crack. Tell me it's going to be okay, Doctor. Make it okay! Oh no, Rory hadn't died again had he?
'Amy what is it? What's happened?' At this point, Amy realized she was wasting precious time and she quickly pulled out of the hug and tugged on his rough tweed sleeve, trying to yank him down the corridor. The Doctor looked supremely confused and anxiously began following her rather slowly until she yelled, 'Doctor, it's River. She's just turned up and…' But her cry was cut off when the Doctor stopped dead in his tracks and muttered, 'That bloody woman.'
He hadn't meant to say it, and of course he didn't even mean it, but Amy stopped as well, turning and twisting around on her booted heel, and faced him, disbelief but also anger patched across her face. 'That "bloody woman" is my daughter. And I don't know what's happened, but she is…hurt Doctor. And not just a little bit, she in the console room; we need to h-hurry u-up.' Her voice cracked with misery on the last word and the Doctor felt so awful for what he had just said that he reached out for Amy's hand and wrapped his fingers around hers. 'I'm sorry Amy, I'm so sorry.'
'Don't be sorry for me, you've got to go and help my daughter!' Amy screamed, her voice again breaking and the Doctor nodded and started to get a sense of urgency, beginning to half-run half-walk down the corridor. 'I'll go and get River, and believe me; I will help her I promise. You go and get Rory.' Amy nodded and went to fetch her husband because whatever crazy stuff the Doctor spewed out on a regular basis, she knew he always kept his promises. He would help her daughter, not only because she was Amy's daughter and he wasn't going to let any other part of her life get screwed up, but because she was River Song, and she knew he loved her.
X – X – X
The worst thing in this situation was not simply the fact that River was hurt, it was that he had no idea how badly, and what had happened to cause it. But he realized soon after Amy left that it must be pretty bad because for one, the Scot had been close to breaking down entirely and sobbing her eyes out, and two, dear old Sexy was being a bit complacent and tipping the TARDIS down so he would fall down the corridors more quickly. He didn't know which River this was either. It could be a young version of her who was still completely innocent of seducing him many a time, or it could be his River Song, the woman he had left last week, the one who had been very successful in her many attempts to seduce him over the past 200 years (and blimey – she looked good for someone with a few centuries behind her).
Call it intuition, call it foresight, call it destiny, he just had that horrible nervous feeling that this wasn't going to end well at all. He can't ever remember River mentioning this kind of event, and so it could be a new experience for both, but that thought didn't really fill him with confidence either. He had preferred the times when it had been River more in the know (apart from all those annoying Spoilers – they did his head in) because it had been less of a responsibility on him, and he wasn't constantly being hit on by a too young version of her.
He smiled as he jogged down a rather long spiralling staircase (where did all this art-deco stuff even come from?) as he remembered the one time he had sprung her out of Stormcage for the first time. She had been so surprised to see him standing outside the bars of her cell, and had tried to send him away – trying to keep her word that she would serve the time for her crime. But when he had offered her all of time and space – the Diamond clusters of Sacred Trinston IX, the moonlit waters of Santiago Beach in 2089 – how could she have possibly said no? He was like a candy man; offer a child a suitcase of sweets and they'll take it.
Sonic in hand, just in case of any intruders (or if this was some joke Amy and River had planned and she was in there with those dreaded handcuffs…), the Doctor reached the end of the staircase and arrived at the doors of the console room. The doors were wide and majestic, and he hadn't seen them before, no one had ever come into the control room through them before. They were made of some fine mahogany or oak, he didn't know, he could never tell the difference between wood. The sonic didn't work on it anyway so there was no point wasting time learning when he could be knitting or saving the universe or something else of the utmost importance…
Taking a deep breath, knowing he would need it, the Doctor pushed one of the double doors open and cautiously entered the room. The first few steps were tentative and nervous, but with every second that passed him by, his confidence grew until he managed to reach the console without chickening out. A heavy weight was beginning to press down and against his stomach and he slowly rotated around the console, moving slowly towards the front door where Amy had mentioned she was, and he braced himself for the horror that he predicted was to come.
He had never once thought of River Song as anything less than beautiful, even when they had first met (for him that was). He always thought she would be beautiful, no matter how damaged she got, and when she was strong and confident it was like staring at the rebirth of his entire race in one spectacular woman, lighting up his universe, showing him that there wasn't just one way of dreaming. She showed him that maybe his old fashioned ways of dealing with creatures wasn't always the greatest way, and she just taught him that although it might be horrific at times, and it might be disgustingly unfair, and looking like everything is just hatred, there is always some good in the universe. Always.
But this was one of the times that the Gods were being horrific and unfair and hateful. Her body was lying, utterly motionless in the little segue in between the front doors and the steps leading up to the console. He could see the light reflecting off the small pool of blood lying next to her head and he could see that her left wrist was shattered by the way it laid so awkwardly on top of her stomach. Her gorgeous honeysuckle curls were splayed hopelessly across the floor, looking flat and deflated for the first time. His hearts caught in his throat and he almost wretched even by standing a few metres away. He wasn't sure if he could cope with this.
Screw it, she needed him. He skipped the steps, leaping over them as if they were nothing but a little bump in the floor, and rushed over to her. As he approached, he could see the extremely unsteady rise and fall of her chest, and he could've cried for joy. But her breathing itself was inaudible and her lips were parted only slightly. Her face was covered in dried blood, and a bruise was forming both around her eye and on her chin. However, the bruise around her eye looked a bit older than the one on her chin, so he would ask her about that later. Moving his gaze down her body, he saw that her neck and face were covered in soot and dust, and the front of her flimsy shirt was blackened. The backs of her arms looked red raw, like they were burnt.
There were cuts and bruises dotted randomly and effortlessly across her entire body, and her blemished skin was pale and her veins and arteries were clearly visible. He gently removed her splintered wrist from its place lying across her bodice, and laid it down by the side of her body. The soles of her feet were scratched to pieces and he caught sight of a bit of blackened material on her bottoms, so the Doctor gently rolled River onto her side and examined her back. And this time, he ran over to the flimsy front doors, wrenched them open and emptied most of his already empty stomach into some foreign galaxy.
Guilt flooded him when he coughed out, cleansing his mouth, and returned to her side, realizing that this was basically his fault. He had been in her life for her whole life, and maybe if he hadn't turned up at the beginning, she wouldn't be in this condition. She wouldn't be broken; she wouldn't be barely breathing.
The majority of her back was bright scarlet red and her skin was peeling a horrendous amount. There were nearly a hundred tiny shards of glass embedded in what remained of her flesh and the material of the back of her top was nearly shrivelled into a crisp. He applied pressure to an area that was particularly scalded and she murmured in pain and he sympathetically rolled her into her original position on her back. She moaned in discomfort and tried to open her eyes but was completely unsuccessful. She leant out a hand, finger trawling across the floor by finger, and kept leaning it out until he took it in his grasp and squeezed it lightly, letting her know that he was here.
'River, it's me. It's the Doctor. Don't worry; you're going to be okay. I've got you,' he said aloud, stroking her hand with his thumb. He leant down and placed a tender kiss to her forehead and waited for a response, but of course she did not have the energy to give him one. Slowly, and with the intention of not damaging her any more than possible, he lifted her up from her position lying down onto his lap, so she was resting across his legs, in his lap like they used to sit in the library in the evenings. He lifted his head so he was looking towards the ceiling, praying to all the Gods that she would be okay like he promised, sniffing back the tears that threatened to destroy his calm presence.
A trail of blood began to slip from her lip, out of her mouth, and roll down her chin and neck onto her chest. The Doctor did not notice this, too busy trying to figure out what had happened and where in their timelines they were, but he noticed that her body was beginning to tremble ever so slightly, like clichéd people do in cartoons when it's cold. Goosebumps were appearing almost as instantly as her bruises up her arms and before he could react to this strange turn of events, the amount of blood seeping from her mouth increased and River's form started shaking and spasming wildly, her limbs going crazy and her back arching against his chest. He shouldn't have moved her - she could get a massive head trauma from all the blood rushing around in her head.
He gripped both of her arms, trying to keep her steady, but she resisted his pulls and fell from his grip onto the floor, where the full picture of her fit came into play. All of her limbs were bending and twisting weirdly and her lifeless curls sprang all over the place. Her eyes flung open and her eyeballs rolled in their sockets, the blue becoming almost invisible, ranging out of sight. He jumped into life and pinned her arms down and, in a frenzied panic, whispered, 'River, it's okay, calm down. I've got you; I'm not going anywhere ever again. Come on, hold on, please.'
It might've been that she did actually hear what he said, or it might've been just hearing that voice, the voice which had both angered and calmed her so much already, that caused River's body to slowly stop quivering uncontrollably and fall back unconsciousness. The blood from her mouth was splashed across her left cheekbone and she looked so weary and pale that he couldn't bear it. Before her eyes closed though, she looked around the room until she caught sight of him and she smiled. 'Hello Sweetie,' she muttered, still managing to sound a little bit sassy. Her sapphire eyes rolled again and she fell into another deep sleep right in front of him.
This was destroying him. He had to help her. He couldn't just sit here and be absolutely bloody useless. Slipping his arms underneath her frail figure, trying not to brush against her sore back, the Doctor meekly pulled River into his arms and stood up. He looked down at her face and let a tear roll from his eye down his nose and drip onto her cheek. 'I've got you River. I've got you.'
X –X – X
The first thing she was aware of when she woke up was the vicious pain in her back. She fluttered her eyelids open and was almost blinded by the bright white of the infirmary or hospital room that she was in. But her arms were too heavy for her to lift up and shield her eyes so she just waited for her pupils to adjust to the light difference. She looked down and saw that the majority of her torso was covered in white bandages all the way up to her chest region. She was wearing a pair of pyjamas that were a bit flimsy to be fair but better than her underclothes (and a lot less embarrassing).
She could vaguely recall landing in the TARDIS, and her mother finding her, but apart from that, her memory was blank. Oh, of course she could remember all that had happened before and during that wicked explosion, and if she had had the choice she may have chosen to forget it, but enough of that. Every single inch of her body ached even when she breathed just simply in and out. But the air in here was pure and lovely and refreshing compared to the density of the smoke earlier, so she just kept breathing despite the pain, hoping that someone might relieve her of some of the physical and emotional agony she had placed herself in.
And then she noticed that someone was bandaging her left wrist. The bone was sticking out of her flesh at a slightly disconcerting angle, but she weakly rolled her head so she was facing the blurry person who was wrapping her wrist up, and delight and joy filled her heart when she saw precisely who it was. 'Hello Sweetie.'
The Doctor finished tying her wrist up and laid it down by the rest of her body and leant down and kissed her temple. 'Hey River, how do you feel?' River groaned and answered, 'Horrible.' He chuckled softly and kissed the back of her hand, 'You're bound to be feeling a little rough.'
They sat in silence for a while as River slowly regained consciousness and learned that she was in the TARDIS medical bay in a nicely sized double bed. But he was obviously worried and getting a little impatient and so it was not long before he asked the question she knew was coming. 'River, what happened to you?'
River didn't really know how to put it. So much had happened today; being kidnapped from the Luna university, being forced into that horrible space-suit, killing the tesselecta version of him, escaping from the Silence and then almost blowing herself up. She could say it had been a day and a half really – so much had happened that she regretted. But she began her tale, recalling all the detail that she could…
The spacesuit had put up a big resistance when the young and terrified archaeologist had tried to muscle her way out. Every time she managed to wrench an arm out, he almost swallowed her back up, and in the end, brute force and a non-squeamish attitude was required. She yanked her right hand free and then before the suit could gobble her back up, she wrenched her left wrist out of the glove as well, somehow managing to splinter and snap the bone. River bit her lips hard to stop herself crying out in pain at that moment, but she kept quiet, whimpering as she managed to rip her body out of the rest of the retro spacesuit. Her skin dragged across the inner material, getting cut on sharp corners and bruising forming at the strength River had to produce to escape. It took almost fifteen minutes until the Time Lady finished forcing her way out of the suit, and on examining her wrist, she let it flop by her side and ran towards the main hall of the compound she had known so well in her youth, where she indeed captured Madame Kovarian, tied her to a chair and began a conversation which would change the dynamic of River's life forever…
'You don't know me at all Kovarian!' River cried gleefully, the young disparity of her youth seeping into her words and reactions. She danced around the woman, chained to the chair, exclaiming cries of joy at Kovarian's imprisonment, teasing and boasting of how she had escaped. Because River Song had escaped her, at last, she had escaped. She was battered, bruised, living a life that was scarred with memories of her horrendous past, but she was still breathing and at last she was free.
But Madame Kovarian just laughed, her thin lips curving into a cruel and twisted grimace, 'Of course I know you; I'm the woman who made you what you are. Melody Pond.' She spoke her name as if it were cursed. 'Born on the planet Demon's Run on the 7th of June 5051. Daughter to Amelia and Rory Pond and the entity known as the TARDIS, average height five foot eight and a half inches…' River, however, bored with the endless stream of words pouring from Kovarian's mouth cut her off with a passionate statement.
'But they're all just facts and statistics. What's my favourite colour? Where did I have my first kiss? How long did it take me to fall in love with the Doctor?' They were questions that no one had ever bothered to ask her. All they ever needed to know about her was her general health and how her "education" was coming along.
'I never needed to k now any of that rubbish…' Madame Kovarian muttered angrily, trying to pull at the cords binding her to the chair. This was just so reminiscent of the events only a few minutes ago in that other world. But Kovarian had died in that reality – she wasn't going to do it again.
'But that's where you went wrong Kovarian! You never bothered to actually see that I was a person, not a killing machine. You never really noticed that I actually have emotions, that I do have dreams. My favourite colour is TARDIS blue. I had my first kiss in Berlin in 1939 with the Doctor. It took me five minutes to realize that I loved him more than anything in the universe. You see, you failed!'
Kovarian smirked, knowing that her comeback would tug at a few heartstrings. It wasn't that she enjoyed being malicious but… no, it was that she enjoyed being malicious. 'But he is dead! Most couples when they argue go for divorce, not murdering each other!' The words stung like a bee piercing the skin, but the argument was actually delicious.
'Don't you dare! Just don't you dare,' River growled, her eyebrows narrowing threateningly.
'River Song, Melody Pond, the woman who killed the Doctor!' Kovarian exclaimed, cackling insanely like one of those crazy evil characters in Disney movies. A large and deep laugh echoed around the hall River and Kovarian held their debate in, and River shivered at the sound. The sound of Silent laughter.
'But you're wrong again! Do you want to know what he whispered in my ear before he kissed me?'
'It hardly matters – he's dead!' And the laugh made a return, the noise reverberating off the metallic walls, sending shivers down the young Time Lady's back. But she continued to stand her ground, not giving in to this disgusting woman.
'But he isn't. It wasn't him! That incredible man, he's not dead,' she yelled joyously, humongously enjoying the expression of bemusement crossing Kovarian's face. River could tell the woman everything; she could spill every last secret concerning the Doctor's "death". Melody Pond had already decided the fate of Madame Kovarian. She was pulling the strings of this conversation; she had the power although Kovarian was still trying to kid herself that it was hers.
'What is this, some foolish dream? The Doctor is dead, you killed him.'
'No I didn't, I killed the tesselecta.'
'No. That's not possible.'
'It's not just that you didn't know me – you didn't know him either. He was ready to die, but he didn't want to and so he didn't!'
'Well we will still succeed. You'll never get out of here alive.'
'Wrong again Kovarian! Around and inside this building there is nearly three tonnes worth of explosive. This button will detonate everything unless you let me go.' And there was the ransom. It was a very handsome agreement that River was hoping to make – she had always known that her escape would have to be something radical ending in death because she always knew that she was top priority for the Silence. They weren't going to let her go without a very large fight. But that didn't stop her from still being a bit scared. Her acting was impeccable, and she knew she was portraying her confidence well, but there was still that basic fear that this would all go so incredibly wrong. It was like treading on eggshells, one step too far and crack – your whole world can splinter.
'Guards, get her!'
Three armoured men came running into the hall, guns raised and cocked, ready to fire. But before they could release the bullets that would strike her down dead, River pulled her pistol from the holster on her thigh and released three shots into the atmosphere, each piercing the skin of a guard, killing them stone dead. The first thing she felt was relief that she hadn't been shot, and then she felt remorse; stone cold remorse.
'Melody! Don't do this!' Kovarian was beginning to beg now, seeing River's small weakness. She could try and make her feel guilt about killing everyone in the building, but the woman in the eye-patch had temporarily forgotten how strong human plus Time Lord emotions could be.
'You destroyed my childhood, and you took my parents away from me. You tried to make me kill the love of my life, my husband. They say forgive and forget – I'm never going to be able to do either. Die in hell bitch.' Her words were so obviously venomous, the profanities spilling from her lips as easily as carbon dioxide escaping her body. Madame Kovarian and the Silence had to pay for what they had done. Wouldn't anybody want revenge? And she was going to get it – just because she could.
The eye-patched woman was beginning to panic now, realizing that when they brainwashed young Melody into thinking that killing was an okay way of expelling hatred, it had worked maybe a little too well. Using the same tactics she had on River's mother, Kovarian hoped that it would have the opposite effect it had done on Amelia Pond. 'You'll save me Melody Pond, because he would, your husband would, the Doctor would. You wouldn't want him to hate you because he's so special.'
'And you know what else he is? Not here.' It was almost ironic, how similar Amy and River were, even though they had never actually spent time as mother and daughter together. The response was exactly the same as the redhead's and Kovarian didn't doubt for a second that River would consider letting her go now.
'Oh God, you're so like your mother,' she muttered under her breath, unsure of whether that was good or bad. Probably bad. River grinned widely, pulling out the destruct button from behind her back. She began edging towards the door, and when River reached the doorway, she turned to Madame Kovarian for the final time and called, 'Best compliment I've ever had. Bye bye Kovarian, burn in hell.'
And as she exited the building, River Song's head was filled with the shrieks of Madame Kovarian, screaming her name over and over, a last ditch attempt to scare that innocent little girl. 'No! Melody POND!'
'But when I was running out, I accidentally pressed the button and got blasted out of the building in the explosion,' River sniffed, concluding her heart-breaking tale, lying painfully on the bed as he brushed the hair from her face and placed occasional kisses to her face.
When her tale was complete, he just sat and looked horrifically shell-shocked at her story. She had been dreading telling him what she had done because she knew he would hate her for it. But his reaction was one that no one would ever have anticipated.
He clambered ungracefully onto the large double bed with her and held her in his arms and hugged her as she cried with the realization of what she had done. 'It's okay River, you're safe here. You're okay,' he whispered in her ear as the tears pouring seamlessly down her face cascaded onto the white bed linen and was absorbed. He held her tighter as the droplets of water continued to flow like a river, and although he had seen her cry before, it had never been anything like this. But she was hurting, worse than ever before, and it was his job to look after her, to love her. 'River Song, calm down, nothing can hurt you here; you're going to be okay, I've got you.'
Gradually, she listened to him and slowed her tears, the occasional hiccup emanating from her lips as she turned in the bed to face him, her back paining her magnificently with the movement. 'I love you,' she whispered honestly, telling him directly for the first time in her life. Oh, she had mentioned that she loved him, told him that she had fallen for him, but she had never distinctly said the three words to him.
But instead of replying like she kind of hoped he would, the Doctor remained silent and kissed her on the forehead before removing himself from the bed, back to kneeling by her body. He held her hand still in a vice grip, but the compassion that he had shown for the last few minutes had disappeared as suddenly as the comfort had from their conversation. She rolled casually onto her side, pretty soon noticing that was a mistake, but she laid there and looked at him.
'Why do you never say it back?' she asked, trying not to let the sadness in her hearts overpower her and turn her into a tearful wreck again. He had been looking away ever since he let go of her body and sprung off the bed, but at her question, he rotated his eyes back so they were focusing on her.
'Because I've loved so many people River. And every one of them I've managed to hurt in some way or another. I never say it because it's like an invitation to the universe saying I really care about this person so do all you can to hurt them and thereby hurt me. And I can't see you get hurt, not any more than you have been today.'
It made sense, and she understood, but it still hurt. Just the way he could simply admit that he had loved other people before her. Of course, she knew that he had, but just hearing it being mentioned so casually by him, it just hurt a little bit. She rolled onto her back and closed her eyes, letting a single tear caress her cheek, but soon enough his hand was enveloping hers, and his smooth voice was echoing in her ears once more.
'But you're different River. You always have been. So confident, and so difficult to impress. Everyone else was just so amazed by me and they just fell in love with the fact that I was so different, but you fell because you actually loved me.' She could hear him beginning to tear up a bit, and so she opened her eyes and looked longingly at him and motioned for him to continue. 'You're so beautiful to me River. You're so special, and even though I'm not proud of what you did today, I understand and I can empathize because I would've done exactly the same. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is…'
But before he could continue, River heaved herself from the bed and stood up unsteadily, pulling him to his feet. She brushed her lips across his, resting the hand that wasn't in plaster on the back of his neck. 'You don't need to say it, my love. I know.'
'What I'm trying to say is that I love you,' he blurted out before she could stop him. And she could think of nothing else to do but just kiss him.
Ten, maybe fifteen minutes later, River and the Doctor sat together on the edge of the bed, his hand on her back, trying to support her injury. She was just slumped against him in exhaustion, but she had this little irreversible smile on her lips. He loved her – he really loved her. He hadn't just married her so she could "kill" him, but because he loved her. But there was still the all too flamboyant memory of what she had done earlier today and it felt like she was being plagued and haunted by the spirits of the half-innocent people she had murdered.
'I just wish I could forget today,' River admitted, resting her head in the crook of his neck, 'I made such a stupid decision. I'm a murderer.' The way she said that last word, he noticed how desperately remorseful she felt, how awful and guilty she would feel for the rest of her days. He now knew why she had never mentioned it – had she not been so badly hurt, not only by the explosion, but today by Madame Kovarian as well, he probably would've blown his lid. He hated killing, it was only to be done when there was no other way of solving the problem, the only way of saving innocent people. And River had done it out of spite – but there was just reason for this murder. She had been tortured and hurt her whole life by those vile, wretched people and they had destroyed what her life could've been.
He wrapped an arm around her broad shoulders and hugged her insanely close to him. 'It's not your fault darling; it's not your fault. But, if you want, I can help you to forget?' he offered, knowing that it was a very dangerous thing to ask. If she accepted his help, he could prevent any of the harm to her from happening, but he couldn't make that decision for her. Or could he? Technically, he had written her entire life – maybe he could re-write it, stop all of the horrors of her past. But no, that would be a paradox or something.
Ignorant of his strange and unyielding thoughts, River looked up at him and asked, 'Could you do that? My love? Could you do that?' The Doctor squeezed her tightly and smiled, 'Yeah, I could.' So foolish – so abysmally foolish; such a silly choice. She nervously tilted her head upwards and kissed him gently, both showing and telling him how much she loved him. He kissed her softly back, the feeling of her pursed and silky lips being altogether too enjoyable upon his own. He wrapped his arms around her waist (a difficult feat for how they were sat together) and held his wife tightly – the way he only did with a more experienced her. But she soon drew away, her oxygen supply having depleted earlier needing to be constantly revamped. 'I love you,' she expressed happily, a smile gracing her casual grin.
'Are you sure you want to forget?' the Doctor asked solemnly, his face an expression of complete sobriety, ignoring her confession of admiration. She hesitated for a brief second, but quickly nodded her head, adding on, 'What has happened today that I would want to remember?' The question was rhetorical, and he understood that, but still murmured out, 'Yeah. I see your point.' He detached his arms from around her slim body and left her on the med-bed, walking over to the medicine cabinet. He scanned the various pills and vials, all filled with life-saving medicines, until he cast his eyes upon the jar labelled Retcon. There were near enough twenty little pills, all shaped like, well, pills, and on the back there was the recommended dosage: One pill for one day – three pills for a lifetime. That was quite a jump wasn't it really?
He thought for a while. Should he, shouldn't he? If he did, he would lose her forever, but she would be safe. If he didn't, he would have all those amazing times with her, but she would die in pain and alone and it would be his fault. It was his fault she was trying to suppress the tears that came with every jolt of her wrist and back. It was his fault that she had killed all those people – no matter what she tried to say, it was his fault. He didn't want her to be a killer, but he had made the choice for her when she was just a baby that that was what she would be like. He had the pencil, her life was the paper; he was the writer, the scribe, the creator. He could write her life, her personality, her character traits, he could write her past and present and future. He could rub it all out with the simple movement of a rubber against the paper. He could change her – take away her pain and misery, even if it meant casting himself into an abysmal state.
He was selfish, he had always known it. He had ruined so many lives, screwed up so many people, but River Song defeated them all. Come off it, how many other people had been raised to kill him, then fallen in love with him only to be kidnapped to kill him again, and then get put in prison for killing his replica? It was pretty impressive, even for him.
With shaking hands, he poured a glass of water from the sterile tap and crushed three pills into powder form and sprinkled them into the glass, stirring it with a teaspoon. He couldn't quite believe he was going to do this. He had changed time before, like with Adelaide Brooks, but this was even bigger. He was recreating someone's whole life, and not just anyone's. 'Here you go,' he said helpfully, passing his wife the water, an encouraging smile on his face. River, not suspecting any trickery or anything, downed the water thirstily having not had anything to drink at all this day.
'The effects will be almost immediate. You'll be asleep in about five minutes and when you wake up, you'll have forgotten,' the Doctor said knowledgably, although he didn't exactly specify how much she would indeed be forgetting.
'Sweetie, how much of that stuff did you give me?' River asked curiously, her head beginning to spin wildly, like she had just been on one of those horrible rollercoaster rides. She noticed how guilty his face looked and when he stared at her in apology, like he was saying sorry for some inconceivably wrong thing he had done, she realized what he had just done. She leapt up from the bed, her body shrieking in pain at the sudden movement, and stared him directly in the eyes. 'You overdosed me didn't you?' she enquired seriously, her voice becoming louder with every syllable, knowing his answer would be both game and life-changing. He fiddled nervously with his bowtie before turning around and nodding his head sadly.
'Don't you dare do this to me! Don't you dare!' she yelled adamantly, her steps becoming more like stumbles and she swayed from side to side, as if drunk, as she tried to walk towards him. He could see her becoming unsteady and she rubbed her eyes absentmindedly, suppressing a yawn. He allowed her to come closer, and she fell into his arms, exhausted and fatigued. 'Please, stop it. Find a way to stop it,' she cried into him, pounding her fists weakly against his chest, her final desperate attempts to make him listen.
'I can't River,' he meekly responded, tears beginning to dribble down his cheeks, resting in her radical curls. She hit him again, although this punch hurt more than her pathetic attempts before. She pulled away from his grip and brushed a hand across his cheek and then placed her index finger on his lips, preventing him from speaking. 'You're killing me. Please don't do this to me,' she hissed distraughtly, her voice cracking in the same way her mother's had previously this day. He leant down and kissed her lips and placed his hands on her cheeks.
'Every time we meet River, I'm killing you. I mean, look at you. This is my fault.' He motioned towards her bandaged wrist, her bandaged torso, the variety of sizes of plasters coating her body, and this proved his point so well that she almost understood what he was saying. But that didn't mean she was going to agree with it – in any way, shape or form. 'It isn't your fault,' she quickly replied, 'I was the one who blew everything up. I was the one who chose to do it. It's my fault I've got all these injuries – it was nothing to do with you!'
He could see her beginning to go a little cross-eyed and she looked so young and so terrified. She stumbled and yawned once again, but ignored it and opened her eyes widely, trying to keep herself awake. 'But it is to do with me. It's my fault you had to escape; I was the one who got you kidnapped. I was the one who couldn't save you. And I can't live with myself knowing that every time I see you, I could get you killed.'
She paused to take in his words, her brain slowing with every second that passed, and she shook her head. 'I'm not going…I'm not going toslee…' she murmured out, her words slurring and joining together. He suddenly lifted her up into his arms and carried her over to the medical bed where she had lain when he had bandaged and patched her up. The feel of his tweed on her skin felt reminiscent and comforting, but when he dropped her meagrely onto the med-bed, she felt her eyes closing helplessly.
'Don't worry, my love. I can't hurt you anymore,' he breathed into her ear, afterwards pressing his lips chastely to her temple. She opened her eyes weakly once more and looked directly into his, and it killed him to see her like that – so chastised and hopeless. 'But what about…everything to come…all those adventures…' she asked, her breathing getting heavier and heavier as she forced herself to stay awake. They're just never going to happen for you River dear, he thought as he could not bring himself to actually say the words. 'Please Doctor. Please…' she begged him once last time, realizing that her fate might be changed immediately. She tugged on his sleeve, tears running and streaming down her cheeks at her impending reality. She couldn't lose him – not now, not ever. She had read so much, and only met him twice. Gosh, she had married him the last time – she loved him so much and she knew he loved her too. She couldn't let him go; he was hers, she was his and they belonged together. They always belonged together.
'Sleep tight River. I love you, I adore you. You won't remember, but know this now: I'm never going to stop loving you. It's always going to be you,' the Doctor uttered, stroking her cheeks, and holding her hand as she began to fall into the last dreamless sleep. Her eyes were now shut tight, no hope of opening until her new life had begun, but she still wept at his words. 'I love you too. Always have, always will. I love you. I never told you how much. I love y…' she murmured almost inaudibly, but before she could finish her final conversation with him, the sleep took hold and River's memories extinguished.
He sat in silence, just holding her hand, letting gallons of tears stream down his stubbly cheeks, until her parents decided to make an entrance, obviously having thought that enough time had passed for them to be allowed in. Amy and Rory walked calmly over to their daughter's bedside, hand in hand, concern all over both of their faces. And upon seeing the Doctor's expression, it didn't really set them at ease.
'Doctor? Is she going to be…okay?' Rory asked, stumbling over his words in worry. The Doctor immediately snapped to his senses, looking up at the couple and smiling briefly. 'Yeah, she's going to be fine, amazing actually,' he said gladly, although, by sheer intuition, the Ponds knew that something more than that was not being mentioned. Amy raised her eyebrows keenly and stared inquisitively at her raggedy mad-man. The Doctor dragged his gaze away from River's blank face and stared up at Amy, noticing her piercing stare, 'She's okay; she's just sleeping.'
Amy nodded and yet she still did not believe that he was saying everything on his mind. She walked around to his side of the bed and knelt down beside him. She had known this man, this wonderful man, for so long albeit not as long as her daughter. But still, she knew him well enough to be able to tell when something was bothering him. The tears were still stained dry on his face and in his eyes there was a look of extreme agony and loss. 'What's happened Doctor?' Her voice was calm and soothing, and her light Scottish accent was helpful in bringing him back down to Earth (metaphorically that was – they were still floating around in space). 'Why are you so…I don't know…distressed?'
He sniffed loudly and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. 'I…I had to give her Retcon,' he admitted, blurting the words out as if they were sin itself. Rory immediately looked worried and questioned, 'What's Retcon? I've never heard of it.' The Doctor let go of River's hand and rose to his feet, trying to put a smile back on his face but only succeeding in sporting an unsuccessful grimace. He strolled aimlessly around, picking up and examining random objects before deciding to give his companions an actual answer.
'Retcon is this sort of drug. It was developed by Jack Harkness, an old friend of mine – works at Torchwood. Last time I stopped off in Cardiff to refuel Sexy, I dropped in and…nicked a few things, just in case,' he explained, sounding a bit like a mischievous school boy when describing his Torchwood escapade. But the mischievous tone and smile disappeared as soon as Rory continued his questioning with, 'But what does Retcon do?'
There was no way out of this. 'It makes you forget. Depending on the dosage, you can make someone forget just a few hours, or…their entire life,' he added, looking back at his wife, sleeping, unknowing of the conversation happening. Amy swallowed and nervously asked, 'How much did you give her? Why?'
'I always end up getting her killed. I mean look at her!' the Doctor shouted in protest, although no one had actually made an accusations yet, 'I had to! I had to!' He made his way quickly across the large white medical room, next to the white-sheeted bed on which the love of his life lay, and slumped into a chair. He slapped his hands against his cheeks and dragged his palms down his face. 'I had to make her forget. Everything, I made her forget everything. I'm sorry. We have to take her back to Stormcage before she wakes up.'
The reaction he had been aiming for was just shell-shocked, but what he got was far worse. Amy and Rory, joining forces, stormed over to him sitting tiredly next to River's bedside, and immediately starting yelling in unison, although their words were quite different from one another's.
'Everything? You mean everything she's ever known?'
'…Our daughter? Will she even remember us?'
'She's injured – we can't just dump her in prison! We need to look after her!'
'Who gave you the right to make that decision?'
'Don't we get a say in what happens to her? She is our daughter! You can't just abandon her!' Amy cried indignantly, the tears that had streamed mercilessly down her cheeks making a slow but steady return. She looked down at her daughter with such admiration and maternal love in her eyes that it really hit him for the first time what he was making her give up. And Rory was standing there as well, albeit rather silently, with an expression of the utmost sadness imprinted upon his lips. The Doctor stared at River's now unconscious form too, but heavily sighed out and replied,
'No you don't get a say. I've known her for longer than you two, and I've loved that woman longer than a lifetime.' He could see Amy beginning to get furious with the points that he was making and he understood her anger, but his reasoning was totally fair, 'I've seen River die, and I couldn't do anything about it. Don't you know what it's like seeing someone you love die and having to keep hold of that memory?' But he hadn't thought before he had asked that – of course they knew. After Utah, they had had to keep his death a secret even though he had sulked and argued and complained. But it just wasn't the same.
It was Rory who then took the chance to speak and before the Doctor could make another point, Rory the Roman rebounded off his previous statements. 'But still Doctor, you can't just make her forget everything. She'll be terrified. She'll serve a prison sentence for something she didn't do and she'll be so, so scared. She won't even know who she is!' That's exactly the point, the Doctor thought sadly – she'll have the chance to decide her own life rather than it being his duty to make all the decisions for her. He didn't want the responsibility of writing her life anymore because he had screwed it up once and he didn't want to do it again. He supposed it was selfish of him; he had lived through every adventure with her with only one left, and she had only just started. She would never have those memories. But they would be torturous to behold so maybe she was getting off lightly.
He delivered the final blow, knowing this choice would tear his companion's hearts out. Because, he realized, he didn't have the right to make it – it was the duty of her parents. 'It's your choice Ponds. You can let her remember, knowing that one day she will die and never come back, or you can let her go, let her lead a normal life, and know that she will live forever.'
'But she won't remember us. Our daughter won't remember us!' Rory yelled back, retorting angrily against the complete lack of compassion the Doctor was expressing. Yeah, they got that he really loved her, but this just wasn't right. He didn't have the authority or the power to make this kind of decision – to alter all of time and someone's life: especially when it was his daughter. Sometimes, and it hadn't been very recently though he hastened to add, he wished he had never met this man. He had almost taken away the love of his life, he had gotten him killed several times, and now he was trying to take his daughter away. He didn't want River to get hurt anymore though. 'This is all your fault! You take people and make them want to impress you and you get them killed!'
The Doctor almost yelled out in frustration, smacking himself on the side of the head with his fist. 'I know it's difficult, but I can't stand by and let her get hurt like this ever again. I love her too much for that. People used to say to me that if you love someone enough, you'll let them go. I could never see it working, but here we are.'
'This isn't fair. It isn't fair.'
X – X – X
The journey to Stormcage, the last of many, was taken in silence, the tension thick enough to be carved open with a butcher's knife. The Doctor could feel his companions despicable glares blaring in his direction and it took all of his energy not to slump down, defeated, onto the viciously cold floor. Even the TARDIS was angry, trying to trip him into the wrong vortex, manipulating and switching all the buttons around so he accidentally pressed the stabilizers instead of the accelerators. Instead of jumping around the console with sheer enthusiasm, he only moved when it was absolutely necessary and spent most of his time checking on River out of the corner of his eye.
She was strapped in, via the seatbelt which he was sure hadn't been there the other day, to the chair by the side of the console. She looked so defeated, and so utterly lifeless, and what he was about to incur upon her was truly outrageous. He was destroying who she was – that strong, flirtatious, impossibly intelligent woman was going to be rewritten and God knows what she was actually now going to become. This is possibly the worst journey he's ever made – worse than the time he did a similar thing like this to Donna, worse than when he travelled to see Rose for the last time. Gosh, these women were breaking his hearts; but none ever so much as River Song.
The TARDIS crashed angrily against the harsh concrete ground of Stormcage, although the landing wasn't as bad as it would have been if River hadn't been injured. She hissed, again using the kettle as a channel, and made a sort of angry hum as the Doctor strode intently past Amy and Rory, trying to keep their cools, and unclipped River from her chair. He lifted her gently into his arms and looked down at her peaceful and serene face. She was so beautiful. He would miss her more than he would miss breathing. A tear fell from his right eye and splashed against her forehead and she muttered something incoherently before wriggling loosely in his arms and then falling back asleep.
Daring to take a look up at her parents, the Doctor was cast in a shadow of his own guilt and then diverted his gaze. Amy was crying silently, and Rory was trying not to but failing miserably. Rory's arm was outstretched across Amy's shoulders, squeezing her encouragingly, although his own heart was breaking of what was going to happen to their daughter. They would never know her again, they would never be able to see her transform into River like the Doctor had done, and they wouldn't really be parents after this day. What was the use of calling yourself a parent if your daughter didn't have a clue that you existed?
The Doctor motioned for Rory to open the door and the centurion did so, shaking his head in a refusal to accept what was happening kind of way. The Doctor stepped out of the time machine, being careful not to let River bump her head and let Rory take his sonic screwdriver out of his pocket and unlock the cell door. Her first night in prison – how different it would be to what had happened the first time around. The alarm bells went off almost immediately when the Doctor carried River, unconscious, into her cell, but the TARDIS took the initiative to silence them, knowing the family would want their time to say goodbye.
The Doctor steadily lowered his wife onto the mattress and removed his arms from underneath her dozing form. He brushed away a miscellaneous strand of magnificent hair from her face and laid it behind her ear. He took a few steps backwards from her body, and told the Ponds to go first.
It was a tragedy to watch. It was Rory who lost it first, slipping to his knees, grabbing River's hand and crying miserably. It wasn't long after that that Amy joined him, curling her face into his chest whilst he wrapped an arm around her shoulders once again. The sobs ricocheted noisily off the quietness of the surrounding halls, and it almost seemed like it was just the four of them in this whole universe: suffering and alone, bogged down, ignoring the splendour, too upset to even contemplate just going off and having another adventure.
In a way, it was like she had died. And it may have been an awful thought to have, but the Doctor supposes that would probably have been easier to cope with. She might have been gone, but she would've still been his wife and his love – what was she now? Was she still his wife even though her whole history was forgotten? Would she go and marry someone else? Was she ever going to fall in love with someone who wasn't him? The answer was yes, of course, and that hurt like hell.
It could've been the end of reality and he would've missed it just to say goodbye. When her parents were too distraught to even be able to mourn her, they moved away after kissing her forehead and whispering of how much they loved her. Holding hands, Amy and Rory moved away, and entered the TARDIS, still angry, but obviously noticing that he wanted to be alone for this.
Each step was one centimetre closer to her destruction. She once told him, a long, long time ago (for him anyway, for her it was yesterday) that if she had to kill him she would suffer more than every living thing in the universe. It had shattered his plan to try and persuade her into the act and it had even annoyed him that she could be so…well, just so…honest. She had the power to be so truthful (well, her younger self anyway), and it was just something that he could never do. He could never admit how he felt about her actually to her.
He suddenly changed direction and went to the other side of the cell and grabbed the small plastic chair sitting limply in the corner. He dragged it across the floor and it shrieked, like chalk against a blackboard, until he stopped and slumped into it, sat only a few millimetres from her side. Like her father had done before, the Doctor grasped River's hand and sat silently holding her. Time could've passed him by. 'You would've been so amazing,' he whispered to her, tears crawling maliciously down his cheeks, 'You were like the woman no one could stop. So brave and fearless, such a rule-breaker. Not that I approved of course.
'We would've gone to Darillium in my time next week. The Singing Towers, you told me, but of course, you never will tell me that. Apparently I get a new haircut and a suit, but there's really no need for that anymore is there darling?
'I love you,' he breathed desperately, leaning down and stroking her delicate skin with his long, gangly hands, trying to take in the feel of her so that he would forever remember it. He smelt her ravishing curls, like coconut juice. 'Oh God River, I love you so much. I wish I wouldn't do this to you but every time we meet, I almost get you killed. I did in the end, and I can't live knowing that it was my fault you died.
'You'll never remember anything about me. You'll wake up tomorrow morning and you won't know who you are. And I'm so sorry for that, but because I was nosy and stupid, I've been in your life since the very beginning; I've had to wipe it all. River, I'm so sorry. You'll never get the chance to be who you would have been, but maybe you'd be better off without me.' He stopped there, his reckless emotions literally getting the better of him as he collapsed into tremendous tears, crying like he had never done before, sobbing how he might've done at Darillium. He would never know – neither would she.
He breathed in and steadily out, wiping his eyes with his sleeve until they were red raw and he leant down and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. Letting another tear glide off his face, he bent down and in her ear he murmured, 'I'm so sorry River Song. I love you; I'll never forget you, ever.'
He shakily stood up and walked out of her new home and back into his beloved time machine. But before he entered the TARDIS, he made mistake 1079: looking back. He quickly turned his head and looked behind his shoulder at River Song, his mind taking mental snapshots of her.
He took the Ponds home, at their request. They left without a word or a hug, but both of them made mistake 1079 as well; their minds forever contaminated and plagued with images of their broken daughter, her husband, and his impeccable time machine.
So he travelled by himself for a while. Yeah, he picked up the odd companion, took them on a few miscellaneous adventures, but then he just dropped them home again, preferring the induced solitary confinement he had sheltered himself in. He never really spoke to any of his "companions", and for the first time, he allowed his emotions to overrule the rest of his existence. He often thought about going to see her, but there was no point. She wouldn't recognize him, and then he would just be more broken than ever before. But he kept an eye out for her, checking the news of distant planets for any robberies or typical River-stuff (which wasn't a phrase anymore as she didn't technically exist), but there was never anything; nothing that could be remotely consecrated to her. And he was just a shell without her. She was so young when he Retconned her, so ignorant to all the incredible things they could've been, and she didn't really know him. But then again, of course she did. She knew absolutely everything about him, but he wouldn't stand by and watch her get hurt anymore. He had already been responsible for her death; he wasn't going to do it again.
But he just couldn't forget her; it was like she had been swallowed up by a crack in time and because he was a time-traveller, he would have to live with the lost memories forever – whether he wanted to or not. Of all the dreadful mistakes he had made, this was the worst. And the most abysmal thing was he knew he could change it. He could easily go back and stop himself from overdosing her on Retcon and he found it increasingly difficult to stop himself nowadays, but he just knew that he couldn't do that. She would have a life now, a life that was normal, a life that didn't include him, a life where she was happy and safe, a life where she was free.
X – X – X
It was carnival week in the tiny little town of Devizes in England in the year 2011, and so the Doctor decided to stop off for a few days and take a look around. It was the Saturday night time when he landed, and so he had a look around. The atmosphere was fantastic, and it was brilliant how even these simple lights lit up the whole town and it just looked so beautiful. He felt like himself once more. He went on many of the rides (including the really fast ones which were so cool!), bought himself and a teenaged redhead some candyfloss, and then sat down with her and chatted for a bit. She reminded him so much of Amy and he reckoned it was probably just that magnificent hair.
She told him few things, although she was a chatty soul. They never got onto the topic of why she was here by herself without any friends, but he actually found himself smiling as she spoke. He felt almost happy once again. 'And my mum adopted me when I was eleven,' the girl finished, looking through the crowds in search of her mother. She finally caught sight of an average height woman and yelled, 'There she is!' and ran towards a woman, boding the Doctor a quick goodbye and a wish to speak to him again soon. 'Hang on a second, what's your name?' the Doctor called after her, realizing he would need something to be able to track her down by if he ever fancied a chat. She turned halfway through her run, and smiled broadly at him. 'I don't have one.' She ran on towards the blonde woman; a blonde with perfectly curly hair.
Confused and a little saddened by the redhead's sudden farewell, the Doctor threw the rest of his candyfloss in a nearby bin and made his way back to the TARDIS. His time machine welcomed him in solitude for she had been unreasonably silent and depressed ever since her child's absence as well. He trawled up the steps, having just abandoned his tweed jacket on the coat rack, trying to wash away images of that woman's hair - just like River's. No, he had to stop doing that – self-restraint, come on, stop thinking about her. Before he had the chance to continue climbing the weary steps to his room, the room that they had once shared every night, the doors of the TARDIS simply burst open and the redhead's mother fell in through the doorway.
She quickly picked herself up off the floor, still managing to retain a small level of dignity. She turned around and then moaned, 'Oh my God. Hasn't this evening been weird enough already?' The woman was dressed for the winter months, a thick but still flattering blue coat wrapped around her bodice. He noted that the blue was TARDIS blue, the exact same shade, and it gave him hope – maybe some tiny insignificant details were slipping through, the smallest thing reigniting her past. Her cheeks were flushed pink and her magnificent curls were springing all over the place. She was wearing jeans and boots, and she weakly smiled at him.
The funniest thing about it was, though, that she still looked exactly the same as she had done the few years ago when he last saw her. Just as beautiful, even more extraordinary (if that was physically possible), and still as radiant as ever. She had even kept her hair blonde and supremely curly; he was happy that it hadn't been dyed (something she would've tried in the future if he hadn't given the Retcon – she had gone ginger. She had looked just weird…she slapped him when he told her that). And the thing that killed him the most was that she looked perfectly happy compared to his image of utter despair. But it was alright for her, she didn't remember the times they once had, whereas he had to live through very day, with every memory that would never happen. You see this is why he hadn't wanted, initially, to fall in love with her; it was just their tragic romance happening on a never ending loop.
'You could say that,' he replied in an extraordinarily high pitched squeak. He gaped at the woman and almost collapsed down onto two knees. Oh hadn't the universe tortured him enough already? Why now? Why here? Oh God, he wasn't ready to face this yet. 'Sorry, can I help you?' the Doctor asked in the same soprano voice and she grinned meekly and then gasped again on another inspection of where she had ended up. 'Hi, sorry about that. My name's Melody: Melody Pond. I was looking for my daughter. I saw you with her earlier.'
The Doctor just stared at her. And then at the TARDIS console. And then it clicked – that ginger girl hadn't been real. That's why she didn't have a name and that's why she had trusted him so instantly (although he was a very trustworthy person). And it had been the time machine that had done this. She had made the girl, just like a hologram or something, to lure River – sorry, Melody – here. Back to him. He shook himself slightly and slapped himself internally before descending the stairs until he was on her level, barely inches away from her, 'Erm, sorry, she's not here.'
'Who's not here?' Melody asked curiously, the effects of the hologram obviously having worn off. She stole another glance around the incredible room, and her face lit up, 'And what is this place? It's spectacular!' He smiled at her, but inside his hearts were shattering. She had no clue who he was, and she couldn't even recognize the TARDIS. 'It's the TARDIS. Stands for time and relative…'
'Dimension in space,' she finished excitedly, like she was reciting the words after having learnt them for hours. She then clapped a hand to her mouth in realization of what had just happened and her eyes widened in surprise, 'How did I know that?'
He gripped her hand very suddenly, scaring her and making her jump, and he looked her directly in the eyes with such love and tenderness in his own that she had never seen before. 'Sometimes when you want to remember, you can. But it's only the smart ones like you River, my dear. Please remember,' he whispered desperately, squeezing her hands tightly, trying to force her into remembering. He could rectify his mistake at last.
But she looks at him blankly, like he is just a stranger, and for one fleeting second she looks at him like she used to, but the expression is wiped off her face when she yanks her hand from his grip, recoiling in anxiety. 'Who's River? And who are you? What do you mean "remember"?' she asked frantically, edging towards the doors, stepping back slowly as if he were a vicious predator, ready to pounce on her and attack. But instead he just frowned at her sadly, and her talent for reading people came into play. He looked like he had just lost the one thin thread of hope in his life and she saw light reflecting off a small tear winding and travelling down his cheek. But she brushes it aside, she has no idea who this guy is, he could be a rapist or a murderer or someone who would want to hurt her. And she wouldn't let it happen again. Again? Where did that come from?
She takes one final look and whispers, 'I'm sorry,' before leaving the incredible bigger-on-the-inside box. She has no idea why she said that either, it just felt right.
The moment she stepped out of those doors, his hearts crushed under the magnitude of his broken hope. After all this time, he still thought she might come back. But she couldn't, he had rewritten her life for her – and given her a new personality. One who wouldn't dare to dream, one who couldn't, one who was just so intensely shy and different to her alter-ego. He had destroyed the very soul of River Song. He didn't know why he even referred to her in that way anymore. She wasn't her anymore, she was just a stranger.
He sunk back into the chair and diverted his gaze to the floor, hearts shattering, brain burning, eyes crying, and whole soul just wishing and praying for his death. She had been so close, close enough to touch, and she still felt exactly the same; soft, light, but strong. He regretted a lot of things in his life, but this was the one thing he had screwed up beyond repair. The love of his life – gone forever. He wouldn't ever get her back and he had been naïve and foolish to believe that it could ever happen.
The door swung open silently, and he didn't hear the creak or notice the breeze because he was already frozen without her touch, without her skin against his. He didn't look up, but what he heard, he honestly thought he was dreaming whilst awake, or his love for her was making him hallucinate wildly.
He instantly snapped his head up and stared longingly at the doors. She was leaning on the doorframe of the time machine, one arm outstretched, a coy yet suggestive smile on her lips. He rose to his feet and took a small step forward and she mirrored his actions. And then they both realized that this was all so real.
They ran, with the same maddening fury towards each other, and met in the middle. Instantly, they crashed lips against each other; mouths, tongues, hearts and souls intertwining and locking sensationally together. Body against body, flesh against flesh, memories against memories; for the first time in so many years. Words and actions could never explain how much he missed her.
'I remember,' she whispered in amazement when they peeled their lips away from one another for a brief moment and she looked into his eyes, 'I'm going to kill you! Don't you dare give me Retcon ever again!' She slapped him on the arm, but he silenced her with another heart-warming and loving kiss and she responded with such enthusiasm that he had to wrap his arms around her coat and hold her close to stop himself from sliding his hands everywhere. His lips curved around hers, moulding perfectly, and the love he had missed so desperately much from her in the past few years is found once again.
'I love you. Oh my God, I love you,' she murmured, sliding her hands across his cheeks, wiping away his falling tears and allowing her own to just litter her face. She's back – she's really, really back. 'Oh River Song, you always did. And I always loved you too, I always will.' He kissed her for the third time, knowing that whatever happened now would be the beginning of their time together, just a little later on in both their timelines than what it had been like before for him. It was just them, no one else. Just you watch them run.