Spoilers: "The Wedding of River Song"
Disclaimer: I don't claim to represent the creators of Doctor Who. I'm am not making money off this story.
Story Notes: Yes, another bloody Library fix it... I promise I'll get it out of my system with this one. I did try to make it fit into the cannon of First Night/Last Night - and it sort of does - if you take the view that the Doctor took River on those dates before he died at Lake Silencio. You may have to squint a bit.
She always came when he called. Well, except for that one time. But he never knew which her he was going to get. It made it all rather a bit exciting. This time, though, he called her to give her a screwdriver. It was only fitting that since he was heading towards his death, she should be sent to hers.
Once inside, she leaned against the blue TARDIS doors and flipped through the pages of her diary with a cracked spine and brittle pages, some of which had been taped together. That book was so old. Her hair was exactly the way he liked it, which was unconfined and left free to be a mess of curls, but she wasn't wearing the dress as she'd promised. He frowned. He'd even put on a brand new suit for her.
"So, when is it for you? Have you done the Library? How about Area 52?" She squinted a little as she looked at his face. "No, I shouldn't think so. Close, but not yet."
"Wait, did you say the Library?"
Her eyes grew wide. "What? No. I said Library Falls. You know, constant flow of books over massive jade cliffs on the planet of Tash. You tried to get it shut down. Oh, wait, that's a spoiler. Well, you didn't hear it from me."
"No, River. You're lying. You said the Library. Just the Library. There's only one Library and you shouldn't know about it." He rustled in his coat pocket and pulled out a matching Diary. "Did you peek?"
"Of course not. I would never." She threw him an offended look, swishing her curls about her head in indignant fashion.
The Doctor began to advance on her. "How do you know? What did you do?"
River took a step back. "You're clever. Figure it out."
He stalked around her, looking at her from all angles. Yes, he was clever. Quite possibly the cleverest man in the universe. His synapses fired a thousand times faster than any human brain. He had access to a perfect log of memories including any and all data gathered from sight, touch, smell, hearing and taste, and the all important sixth sense. In his mind, there was a an entire wing dedicated to the woman called River Song. Each meeting, everything she'd ever said, all the times she had lied - and there were many, but he'd let it pass knowing that she was only protecting his future. Well, he didn't have a future now, and neither did she.
"There's something about you. You look amazing, by the way. Even though you didn't wear the dress. Again."
She smiled. "Why, thank you."
"Not that you don't always, but I remember what you said in Berlin. You were going to take the age down just a touch - to mess with people. You've been getting younger each time we meet. More or less."
"Yes. I did say that, didn't I?" Her eyes sparkled.
"In fact, I'd say you've never looked younger. Yet, you're old." The Doctor leaned in to her and sniffed her hair. "How old are you, River?"
"A gentleman should never ask a lady her age."
He smirked. "Well, you're no lady, are you?"
"Then what am I?"
He pulled back to take her all in. She was dressed all in black, except for her shoes, which were red. He'd seen those shoes before. The first time she'd worn them he'd almost had twin heart attacks. She had curves in all the right places, ones that his hands itched to cup and stroke. He knew instinctively that his hands were the perfect size for just such an endeavour and that he would have no difficulty conforming her curvy shape to his lanky frame. But it was the way she looked at him that made him forget to breathe.
The way her eyes conveyed such warmth and love and the hint of the staggering intelligence behind them. The way the tilt of her jaw and the curve of her lips was a challenge, the arch of her brows a mystery.
"River," he said. "There is no word in any language yet invented that can describe what you are. Who you are. And what you mean to me."
She cupped his face. "Oh Sweetie, you do know how to make a girl blush, don't you?" She pulled her hand away, looking at her fingers in wonder. "Your face is wet."
"I think you should tell me. About the Library."
River shook her head and looked away. "You know I can't. Your rules."
"They're my rules. That means I can break them." He grabbed her wrist and twisted her back towards him. "Damn the bloody rules, River."
"They're my rules, too. It's meant to be lived. I can't risk it. I can't risk that something will change."
"Yes, not one line. Those were your words. In the Library."
"Don't," she said, her voice a warning.
He wrenched her diary out of her hand and shook it at her. "Do you want to know where I am? Do you? Well, I'll tell you. I'm about to die. For good. My time has effectively run out." He heard her gasp. "Don't pretend you don't know. You saw it happen, after all."
This time he was prepared for her slap, but he did nothing to avoid it. The burn on his cheek felt good. It made him feel like he was still alive. He rubbed his jaw, but kept his eyes on her. Her mouth was a thin line, but the tremble in her cheek gave her away.
"If you're so bloody clever," she said. "Why don't you work it out."
He held up the diary. "Or I could just look it up in here."
This time she smiled and it was one full of knowing. "You never would. That would be too easy for the Doctor."
"You really are going to make me do it the hard way, aren't you?" When she nodded, he sighed and handed her diary back to her waiting hand. "River, I don't want to die."
"Neither do I, Sweetie."
"But everybody dies. Eventually. Even Time Lords and their Human Time Lordish-" he waved his hand at her "-whatever you are. It has to happen at some point. The final death comes for us all. It just so happens that mine is a fixed point. And yours..." his breath hitched and his throat felt raw.
She kissed him. She was always kissing him. After that first time when he was just starting to put together the puzzle of them, it seemed that whenever she got him alone she'd reach out and kiss him. Sometimes it was just a quick peck and others were full on snogs that made made his toes curl in his shoes and left him reeling and slightly panicky. This one pulled at him until he felt hollow inside.
When she let him go, he reached into his jacket with a shaking hand and pulled out the sonic. Her sonic, the one specially designed for River Song.
She shook her head as he held it up. "That is not for me."
"You have to take it." He tried to press it into her hand but she stepped back.
"I can't." Her eyes begged him to understand.
"Why can't you? Young River, yet old, too. Your whole life is a paradox. Timey Whimey River." He cocked his head. "The Library, you said. You would never have asked because you would never have known and if you had somehow ferreted it out, you would have known that it was the very first time I met you, so you would never need to ask."
"Isn't that spoilers?" Her voice low and a little breathless.
"You said 'The Library' because it's in your past. And that wasn't a slip. Not at all. You need me to know. River, did you survive the Library?"
She stared at him for a moment, her eyes wide, then she turned and ran up the steps to the TARDIS console. "So, where shall we go this time? What was it you needed me for? Are we plotting revolution or preventing one? Or was this just for fun? You know, I've always wanted to see the end of the universe." She began to flip switches turn knobs and type out coordinates on the typewriter.
"Been there, done that. Not worth it. Really not." He reached her in a matter of seconds and turned the switches and knobs back to their resting positions. "If you did survive the Library, and in the flesh, then how? Did I do it? I know I went through every single possible variation, River. I even ran the permutations through the TARDIS. She came up with exactly the same thing that I did. There was no way to physically save you. So how is it that you're standing here in front of me?"
"You know I can't answer you."
He was close to shaking her. Instead he pulled out his own sonic and aimed it at her. He ran several scans, checking and double checking each one while she stood there, hands on hips, and glared at him.
"All done?" she said when he finally pocketed his sonic.
"Well, you're you. Most definitely you. You're not a ganger, tesselecta or Nestine duplicate. Not even a clone."
"I could have told you that. You didn't need to wave that thing in my face so rudely."
"And I was right, you are older."
"Well, you're old as dirt."
His slow smile turned into a wide grin as something that had been clenched so tightly inside him ever since that first fateful meeting was released. The hollow feeling in his stomach was replaced with a strange fluttery feeling. "River. Oh River."
She yelped as he caught her and lifted her into a hug which turned into swinging her around while she demanded that he put her down.
"Never. I'm never putting you down again." He did when she clawed her nails into his back. "Ouch. I mean metaphorically. Now are you going to tell me how?"
"Can't," she said with a wink. "Has to be lived."
"Now look here-" He started to say but she cut him off with a laugh.
"I'm sorry, my love. But I'll give you a hint. We had a date, if you remember. I'm waiting for you to take me to the Singing Towers at the same place you took us on our first date. I'm also wearing the dress." She winked and grinned. "And I'm going to need that sonic you made for me. I think if you set me down at my parents house, I'll wait for you there."
River ignored his protests and set the TARDIS into motion. All he could do was hold on tightly as they entered the Vortex.
"It's impossible," he yelled over the shaking of the ship. "You shouldn't be here. Your hearts were burned out instantly, and even if you had any regenerations left, you would never have been able to use them. So that's all moot. You could not have survived. There was nothing left of you."
"Isn't it odd that there were no remains whatsoever?" Her tone was disinterested and light as she continued to pilot the TARDIS.
"Odd? Why odd?" He frowned, chewed on his lip, turned in a circle, then frowned some more. Then he spun to look at her. "Of course it was odd. It would have burned out your hearts, and your brain, and most of your internal organs, but there should have been something left. Something. A husk, maybe. A shell. Something. But there was nothing. Why was there nothing left?"
"There was something," River supplied.
"Yes!" He clapped his hands together. "Of course there was. Perhaps if I had been paying attention and not been so absorbed in the words of your prophecy I would have seen it. But I remember..."
The scene played over in his mind as it had a thousand, thousand times. He slowed it down and watched her die in front of him as she saved the four thousand souls trapped in the Library computer - and him - once again. He snapped his fingers. "There! Right there. One moment you were dying and the next you were gone. Vanished. But there, for a fraction of a second, was this blue light. Teleport. You were teleported out of there right in front me."
She turned and winked at him but said nothing.
"How did I miss that? I must have done it. But how did I do it? You were dead, no doubt about it, I preserved your mind in the Library computer but the rest of you was dead. No more regenerations. No way of regenerating. River, not even I can bring someone back to life."
This time she faced him and her smile was blinding. "Oh, but you are so wrong."
A gnat kept buzzing in her ear and River shooed it away. She looked up from her writing desk and out the window. It was stuffy in her room, but a breeze stirred the curtains which framed the starlit night sky. Of course they weren't really stars, she knew that, but they were beautiful nonetheless. It hurt to look at them, though, knowing what they were not. She shook her head and returned to her writing.
The gnat was insistent. It buzzed around her head and evaded her attempts at smacking it away.
"Come now. I'm trying to concentrate." She frowned. "Where did you come from anyway? And why are you so annoying?"
The buzz turned into a whine that became more and more shrill. River covered her ears. Her head was pounding, the pain becoming steadily worse. "Stop it. Stop it."
Staggering up from her chair, she reached for the first heavy object she could find. It was a book, her diary. She swung wildly at the gnat while trying to partially cover her ears with one hand. She kept missing the blasted thing but the pain and the noise became too much. Eventually she sank to her knees, unable to push it away. Everything went black.
River woke up to swirling light and a man's mouth on hers. The kiss was solid but chaste. River decided she was having none of that. She leaned up and returned the kiss with as much vigour as she could muster. The light flowed between them and through them and left her tingling from the soles of her feet to the top of her head. She knew what this kiss tasted of. It was the taste of time and stars and arton energy. She remembered the first time she'd shared a kiss like this. This time, she was on the receiving end.
The kiss deepened and she reached up to pull him to her. Her Doctor was breathing life into her just as she had breathed life into him. She could feel her hearts pounding, her lungs expanding and her synapses firing. She was all there, all intact - physical form and mental signature. River Song had returned to the universe.
"Not too much, love," she whispered after a needed gasp for air. "Where am I? How long has it been?"
"The TARDIS, in the vortex. For you, a few hours. I had to wait until Donna and I were gone before I could retrieve your mind. For me... much, much too long." The Doctor gave her a smile that spoke of the weight of worlds. Then it changed into a genuine grin. He bussed her on the lips again and ran his fingers through her hair.
"Hello, Sweetie." She beamed at him.
"You're alive, you gorgeous woman. It worked. It actually worked."
"Do you mean you weren't completely sure you could bring me back?"
"There was a chance, of course. But I had some proof that success was the most likely outcome. Timey whimey... Besides, I was sure you'd rather take the odds at leaving than being stuck in the Library computer for eternity."
River shuddered. "It wasn't hours for me, either, my love. Time didn't work properly there. There was nothing to mark it. Moments were hours and hours were centuries. It felt like forever already."
The Doctor hugged her quickly. He held her tightly to him and she realised she was crying into his shoulder. "I guess we're even, then," he said.
The energy was still swirling and twisting around them in a pattern that vibrated back and forth. Over his shoulder River could see one of her guns lying discarded to the side. "Yeah, we are. You really shot yourself for me?"
He chuckled into her hair. "Only in the one heart. I needed to get the regeneration process started so that I could transfer the energy into your body. I've done it before when I didn't want to change - used a spare hand of mine that time."
"Once you transferred the energy to me it restored me..."
"Grew a whole new River Song. Your sonic had the template for your mind, just in case, but I'd say it all went according to plan, don't you think?"
"For once." She grinned at him. "Now kiss me again, so I can be sure."
He did. A long, lingering kiss that tugged at her from somewhere deep. When he lifted his head from hers, he said, "How about double sure? Or triple?"
River didn't need further encouragement.
"You need to pay a visit to my younger self," he said as he lay stretched out on River's magnificent bed in the TARDIS. She was tracing Gallifreyan symbols across his chest, ones that spoke of love and need. How easily she managed to overcome all his barriers and reduce him to his elements. He gently pushed her hands away. "We could end up rewriting this if you don't."
She looked up at him and raised her eyebrow. "Ah. Now I understand - I was your 'proof' of success. Are you sure this isn't cheating?"
He turned to look at her, his lips twitching into a smile. "I cheat all the time, in case you haven't noticed."
"You cheat death," she said.
He went still, completely, except for the thump of his hearts. When he spoke, his voice was low, "River... are you one step ahead of me again?"
"Always, my love."
"That's not fair." He sagged back into the bed and let out a sigh. "Are you going to give me any hints this time?"
"I don't need to. You'll figure it out, you always do. Just remember, though, that I was very young. I hadn't yet learned how to trust you..."
"And you do now?"
"Do you remember what I told Mr. Lux in the Library? I trust this man with my life. I was right to, wasn't I?"
"And what about my life?"
River leaned over him, her hair tickling at his chest. "You certainly made a hash of it. Perhaps it's time you sorted it all out, don't you think?" Before he could answer, she kissed the hollow just beneath his rib cage and he sucked in his breath. She kissed a trail down his stomach, then raised her eyes to his. "Now, before you take me to where I'm supposed to go, let me get you sorted. Time can wait just a little bit longer."