They were running. Well he was running, she was running and shooting with a rather deadly accuracy. He didn't know how many she had felled in the console room, pushing him ahead of her and whirling around in a haze of red plasma bursts, but she had spun and danced like some sort of deadly ballerina, dropping Aynaiblis everywhere and not missing once.
Not even once.
"Where on earth did you learn to shoot?" He exclaimed as she pushed him around a corner, firing shots behind her even as she slid around the edge and joined him.
"Not on earth." She spoke tersely, her breathing ragged as they ran once more. "There's too many!" The TARDIS wheezed in protest, followed by a high-pitched whir and River cocked her head, shoving him into a corner where they stilled, pressed against one another, their breathing deep and gasping. "Hang on – we can. She's got a room. The hall of mirrors?"
"Oh yes! Forgot about that one. Eighth incarnation – he was a bit... well." She rolled her eyes and tilted her head as if listening to something once more.
"Alright – I know where it is. We need to get there." She poked her head round the corner, firing another volley of shots before pushing him ahead with her hip. "Come on!"
"Wait, what? Why are we leading a pack of mirror demons into a room full of mirrors?" He shouted over his shoulder, but she was too busy shooting to answer him.
"Go left." She shouted instead, practically shoving at his back and he tripped in the direction she'd indicated, turning down yet another corridor. The TARDIS was truly like a maze. Soon enough they slid to a halt in front of a door and River pressed her back to it, her guns held in front of her. "Open it."
"This is a stupid plan – in fact it's not a plan at all! Are you – are they – have they gotten to you River?"
"Oh you idiot. We can draw them all in there- roomful of mirrors; they'll be in here as fast as they can. Once they are, we escape and she deletes the room!" River spoke quickly and she shot a quick glance at him. "We have to stay until they're all there though."
"Surrounded by mirrors. Telling us to break them so they can kill us." He repeated stupidly. "That's so stupid it might just work." He waved his sonic over the door, causing it to slide open behind them and they moved into the room – a long opulent hall with marble floors and velvet draperies and almost every inch of it covered in ornate mirrors.
She raised a brow and looked at him incredulously. "Do I ever meet your eighth incarnation?"
"Not that I remember." He pointed out and she sighed in relief.
"Thank god." They both watched the doorway as the demons flew through. They were still difficult to see, really. The alterations River had made rather amounted to equipping themselves with sonar. They couldn't see them but they could see the sound and light waves bouncing off the general shape of them. They were small creatures that crawled up the walls and over the ceilings and generally seemed to move in a rather insect-like manner. "Doctor." River had pressed her back against his, both of them facing a set of mirrors. A thousand reflections stared back at them. "Tell me. The next time I see you. Is it the last?"
"No. No it isn't River." He blurted the words out, spoiling her carelessly, but she straightened her shoulders at the news and he could she her reflections reflected back into the mirrors on his wall, and she was smiling. His own reflection smiled at him mockingly and the Doctor pressed further into her back as he watched them, a thousand versions of himself whispering insidiously to him.
You'll kill them all you know.
Just as you've killed them all one way or another from the very beginning.
Donna. Martha. Rose. Sarah-Jane. Jo. Jack. Fitz – look at what you've left behind Doctor. And her – do you think she's any different?
He swallowed against the bile that rose in his throat and he was dimly aware of River's voice, telling him it was almost time.
You know why she survived. We stop the heart – but that's just barely survivable if you happen to have two.
He shook his head in denial and he felt River turn behind him, a faint echo of her guns clattering to the floor as she pressed herself against his back, her hands gripping his tightly.
Timelord. You're both the same and you know it – even if it's the last thing you want to admit. Because we all know what you do to Timelords, don't we Doctor? You kill them.
And look. You already have killed her. Let her die for you without even knowing she's the only being like you in the entire universe.
"No." He spoke in a whisper, shaking his head. "No!" But his reflections just laughed at him, even as River's hands gripped his arms even tighter.
"Doctor!" She was pulling on him and he was resisting, screaming at his own reflection.
"I saved her. I saved her and I can – I can figure it out. None of this is true. It's all lies. She's not – she's not." River grabbed his arms, hauling him back with a strength he would have found shocking if he'd been in his right mind.
We know Doctor. You know. And you can lie to yourself all you want, but deep down you already have all the answers. You know just what circumstances you could give her your name – you've known since the very beginning. You've suspected. All those lives – all that love. You didn't have to be alone, but you killed her as surely as if you'd raised a weapon-
The Doctor felt himself being flung into the hall, hitting the wall with a giant thud as River soniced the door shut and the TARDIS hall seemed to overheat, waves of pressure rolling through as River threw herself on top of him, away from the door. A gust of wind blew from nowhere and the Doctor felt his arms go around River as her hair whipped around them.
Suddenly it died down and the hall was silent once more. They lifted their heads cautiously and looked to where the door had been. The TARDIS seemed to vibrate happily all around them and the Doctor dropped his head back with a laugh.
River stood gingerly, frowning at the space where the door used to be. She turned to him and helped him up and they stood there, holding hands and grinning at the blank wall before them. The Doctor looked down at her and she grinned back up at him, her eyes sparkling with the joy of a win. "We have to get the others. Get Amy and Rory – tell them we're okay."
"Absolutely." River agreed with a grin and she glanced down at her once-white dress with a frown. "I'm changing first though." She brushed dirt from his shoulders gently and laughed. "You should too."
"Ah yes. You know, I like the tux for a wedding, but I just don't feel quite right doing this sort of thing in it. Not very Doctor-y at all." She laughed at his words, and they began walking down the hall, eyeing the semi-invisible corpses that lined them. "But first, clean-up."
"Oh, my favourite part." She spoke dryly. "I vote I should get a shower while you clean up, after all, you weren't much help in the actual fight." She pointed out with a teasing smile and he gripped her hand tighter.
"Hey! I was – I was- no actually you're right. Don't know what I would have done without you. Not a feeling I'm used to you know, but I'm growing accustomed. The more you're around." He pointed out with a shy smile and she grinned up at him.
"Oh, honey, just you wait and see."
The Doctor adjusted his tweed lapels, as he slid around the console with a bright grin. He pulled the brakes on, listening to his beloved ship's harsh scraping noise – so comforting – and it had barely stopped when Amy and Rory burst in the doors.
"If you ever – and I mean ever leave us behind again while you go off to face a hundred demons again, I will make that fight look like a picnic, do you understand me?" Amy's face was lit with rage and Rory was attempting to hold her back, shooting the Doctor disappointed glares as he did so. "We didn't have a single one – they all went with you and you could have died." She shook a finger in his direction, her other hand gripping Rory's arm that was wrapped around her waist.
"Oh." The Doctor spoke in a low voice. "Really?"
"Yeah." Rory answered shortly. "Really."
"Where's River? Is she okay?" Amy glanced around the room frantically and the Doctor nodded and smiled.
"Oh she's far more than okay Pond. She is magnificent. Honestly, you should have seen it – I really shouldn't find it all as – I shouldn't like it as much as I do. But oh my once you see that woman in action." He grinned and Amy stared at him doubtfully before she grinned. Rory seemed to realize he could release her now and he stepped back, allowing Amy to step closer to the Doctor with an indulgent grin, tweaking his bowtie and straightening his coat once more.
"Well. Look who's got a crush then." She teased him gently and he spluttered in response.
"I do not have a crush Pond. It isn't at all like that – it's just – I just – she just-"
"Yeah. Bout what I thought. Where is she, I want to check on her." Amy grinned and the Doctor waved a hand up over the stairs.
"She said she wanted to change."
"Oh has a room here does she? Keeps some things here, does she? Yup. Absolutely not like a crush at all." Amy's voice floated over her shoulder as she skipped up the steps and the Doctor turned to glare at her.
"It is because the TARDIS exists in all of time and space Amelia Pond!" Amy's laughter was the only response he got to that.
"Yeah I don't think claiming that River will need clothes here in our future really disputes much of anything, Doctor." Rory spoke finally. "They're waiting out there. I mean – you materialized right in the middle of the dining car. Subtle, by the way." He nodded towards the doors and the Doctor waved a hand.
"Well, I am a god right? Gods make entrances, don't they?" He strode past Rory and exited the TARDIS to see Raif standing by the door, looking up in awe. "Oh, hello!" The Doctor stepped out and the crowd stared at him in silent shock. "Just thought I'd let you know... you know. All clear. They won't be back – I'm terribly sorry I got here so late though." He glanced over to the wall lined with bodies, his face darkened with regret.
"Osiris – you have saved us all." The man spoke gravely and the crowd seemed to murmur their assent. "I don't know how we can ever thank you."
"Yes well, you know. Just live well." He clapped Raif on the shoulder and shook his hand. "Be kind to each other."
"As Isis taught us, of course, sire." Raif bowed then and the Doctor shifted uncomfortably. "She is well?"
"She is – yes. Absolutely amazing and fine. She's just... resting." The Doctor stepped back. "And we really must be off now. People to save, souls to guide-" He glanced left again and then faced Raif. "I hope you prosper, my friend." He smiled before turning back to his doors and entering them. He jumped up to the console with a grin. "Now then, all of time and space. Where to next?"
"Is there a planet of eternal sunshine and beaches where we do nothing but nap and drink cocktails all day? I could go for that." Rory spoke quickly, and the Doctor laughed in delight.
"Do you know there actually is? Several in fact. But I was thinking perhaps that I owe you and Pond a bit of a honeymoon. Maybe a luxury liner – does nothing but drift through space and offer great honeymoon suites. I could drop you off – two, maybe three weeks? After all you're both young. And married now, my Ponds!" The Doctor spoke with delight and Rory sat up with interest.
"I whole-heartedly approve." Amy spoke from above them. "Course we'd need to pack. And Rory needs to sleep for about three days first before he's anywhere near fit enough to handle me. Honestly, I can't believe you stayed up all night at your stag."
"Well it's not as if I had a choice." Rory protested.
"And I could use a lift first, if you don't mind, my love." River spoke from behind Amy, and when she moved past her down the stairs the Doctor's breath caught. She was in her gown – the black evening gown from the Byzantium and he knew where she'd need to be taken before she even started to speak.
"The Byzantium. Of course." He spoke aloud and Rory looked on in confusion. "Original Greek name for Istanbul – one of the few stops the Orient Express makes."
River's mouth twisted into a smile and she brushed a hand over her tamed hair. "Yup." The Doctor looked her up and down – she looked exactly the same, the dress, the make-up, the red lipstick. He glanced all the way down and gasped.
"Wrong shoes!" He pointed at the silver heels she was wearing and she frowned at him in surprise.
"You don't honestly think I'll be taking any fashion tips from you sweetie, now do you?" She spoke in a sceptical tone and Amy snorted behind her hand, hopping down the stairs to stand next to her husband, her arms wrapped around his waist.
"Yes! Or you will once I – where did I put those? Hmmm." He raced down the stairs into an alcove off the console room, digging around and flinging several items out of his way. Poncho blankets and vials of unknown substances until finally he saw them, gleaming almost ruby in the low light. He pulled them out triumphantly. "Ah ha! Knew they were in here somewhere." He ran back up the stairs, the shoes in his hands and he walked back over to River. "You need to wear these."
She lifted her brows in surprise and he chuckled with delight. "Where on earth did you get these?"
"Spoilers." He grinned joyfully and she rolled her eyes. "Though I am rather reluctant to part with them. Fond memories and all. You'll have to leave those ones with me." River slipped off her silver shoes and handed them over, before she stepped into the red high heels and looked down at her feet in satisfaction.
"I'm rather impressed, sweetie." She spoke with a laugh and he grinned, her silver shoes dangling from his fingertips.
"So was I." He chuckled and she looked up at him, her eyes meeting his. "Hell in high heels."
"Absolutely." She agreed with a softer smile, her hip cocked toward him and Amy and Rory doing their level best to not get noticed as they sat on the stairs. Amy was laughing behind her hand and the Doctor shot a glare at her. He looked back to River as she input the coordinates needed, and pulled the levers with a smile. The time rotor rose and fell above them, absolutely silent.
Once they'd landed safely, Amy and Rory both came to stand next to River. Amy gave her a tight hug, followed by Rory and they both stepped back with a grin. "You be careful, yeah?" Amy shook a finger at River who simply laughed.
"Don't you already know I will be?" River asked with a laugh and Amy stepped forward hugging her just once more.
"Don't you listen to him, you hear me? He was Mr. Grumpy Face that day but you and me – we were magnificent." Amy grinned and River laughed warmly. "See you River."
"See you, Amy." River's smile softened as she glanced behind Amy to Rory. "Rory."
"Later, River." Rory waved a hand and Amy grabbed his arm, dragging him up the stairs.
"Come on you numpty, we need to go." She was scolding him as they entered the hall and River smiled after them brightly.
"So," The Doctor spoke suddenly, looking down at her. "I rather don't want you to go." He stood closer to her, her silver shoes still hanging from his fingertips.
"Pouting doesn't work on me, my love. You know that. Well – you know that now at any rate." She smoothed a hand over his lapel and he stared down at her.
"And, for the record, I like you hair far better the usual way." He nodded as he spoke and she smiled up at him, winking.
"Oh I know my love." Her voice was a whisper and he swallowed heavily, reluctant to let her leave, but knowing she had to go.
"Call me if you need me." He pointed out the obvious and she laughed softly, putting a hand on his arm gently.
"I always do, sweetie. And you always come." She affirmed and he ducked his head, nodding in confirmation. "Now, I really should go." She gripped her tiny red purse in her hand and started to move past him, but he reached out with his free hand, wrapping it around her wrist. His hand slid down until he laced his fingers through hers and moved with her.
"I'll walk you out." He murmured and she giggled at his words.
"How charming." She smiled and he laughed, leading her to the door. Once there she reached forward and pulled the doors open to reveal a non-descript hall aboard the Byzantium. "Well I suppose this is goodbye for now, my love." She turned toward him, stroking a hand along his bowtie and smiling affectionately up at him. "Not for long though?"
"Not for long, though." He repeated, leaning down and pressing a soft kiss to her cheek. Her hand tightened around his bowtie and she looked up at him. "Be safe, River. I'll see you soon." She stepped back with a sigh, nodding before she stepped out of the doors and into the hall.
"Yes, you will."She blew him a kiss before turning around and starting down the hall, her stride in those red shoes purposeful.
"I don't suppose you got these from me as well?" He held up the silver shoes and hung his head out of the door as she walked away with a smirk. She shot a look over her shoulder and shrugged, putting a single finger to her lips.