Author's Note: Light mention of the events in AGMGTW, with a slight revision done post-series 6 to bring it canon compliant to then. This was actually the first Eleven/River fic I'd ever written (way back in June), because I wanted to explore how River would see Rose. I don't see River being jealous of Rose. I was also reconciling how I saw Ten/Rose and Eleven/River at the same time, and this is the result.
"The only flower by the river is the rose"
When you love someone, you want to share the universe with them. You want to laugh with that person under trees that drip with crystallized red fruit on a planet whose ground was covered in springy rubber foam. You want to comfort that person as you lay on a picnic blanket on New Earth, and he tells you what the universe has taken away from you.
And as the Doctor - floppy hair, tweed jacket and bow tie - told River Song of Rose Tyler, her heart broke in two for him. There were many things in his long life that he regretted, he told her as he filled in the gaps of her knowledge and tried to erase the last of the childhood brainwashing from her mind.
There was the loss of his granddaughter. Adric's death. Forcing Jamie and Zoe to lose their memories of traveling with him. The Master. The Time War. Wiping Donna Noble's memories. Losing Rose Tyler, barely saved from a cursed hell in the Void by her father from a parallel Earth. After some amount of prodding, he took her to the Powell Estates circa 2043. The buildings were abandoned, windows broken out and taken over by the homeless, but they sneaked into the block of flats where Jackie and Rose lived.
As the Doctor stood in the doorway, silently reliving the past, River found photograph sticking out of the torn carpet. Only a corner of the Polaroid peeked out, and she nearly missed it. She pulled out gloves and handled it like a precious relic from one of her digs. She studied the washed-out image of a girl with blonde hair giving a dazzling smile, her arms looped around the waist of a familiar-looking skinny man with dark brown hair wearing a suit. Both wore party hats and glasses that said '2007' with the zeroes serving as the lenses.
"Doctor?" she turned to find that he was poking through the cabinets.
"Look at this, River," he exclaimed and held up a dust-covered package.
"Don't tell me you found an ancient box of Jammie Dodgers."
"Oh, no! Peeps circa ... 2010. A very good year for Peeps." The Doctor blew the dust off the package to reveal the contents - chicks still bright and yellow after 30-some-odd years.
"They look fresh," River observed.
"I think we should test these."
"I think that you're out of your mind, and don't you dare try to eat them." She followed him back onto the TARDIS. "And, I am never letting you talk me into eating one of those again."
"Oh! So, this artifact is too common for the great Doctor Song, is that it? Did you know that on the planet Hyyyydrg that they have an entire city made out of this?"
"Thank you, sweetie, I was looking to cut corn syrup-made candy out of my diet. Do the same thing with chocolate, and I will eviscerate you."
"Ah, evisceration. Must be a Tuesday."
River rolled her eyes.
The Doctor moved to the console and pulled the monitor down to check coordinates. His gaze flickered to her and the photograph she held. "What's that?"
"Found it in the carpet." She handed him the photo and saw the shock in his dark eyes. "Is it her?" she asked quietly.
"It is," he acknowledged and handed the photo back. They stood together for a moment, both of their hands on the photo, thumbs covering the two people who had been so happy a very long time ago. Then he let go and bounded to the console. "Come along, River," he chirped, and she knew the discussion was finished for now.
River Song had became an archaeologist as she searched for the truth behind the man that had been interwoven in her childhood, but she discovered a true love for the study of the bygone centuries when humans first moved among the stars and how the culture of the 20th and 21st centuries - her parents' world - had shaped space exploration. She began specializing in the cultural evolution of alien worlds. Her research led her to begin writing books and become a respected author when she wasn't on someone's hit list.
She sat at the computer in the small library the TARDIS provided for her, something that never failed to touch her. Several artifacts sat on the desk in front of her and the cursor blinked away on the screen, mocking her because she hadn't written anything for more than an hour. She'd tried working, she honestly had. She tried typing, dictation, even using an old-fashioned fountain pen with ink. Nothing could entice her to finish the work she was contractually obligated to finish because her thoughts kept drifting to the aged Polaroid propped against the desk lamp.
Well, so much for working, River thought, finally giving up and reaching for the picture of her younger Doctor and Rose Tyler. It'd been a month in linear time since their visit to the Powell Estates, and she found that she couldn't get the young woman off her mind. She wanted to know what happened to her.
But, there was only so much that she could get out of the Doctor. The TARDIS showed her Rose's room once, when she'd gotten lost on the third corridor in subsection B after crawling through a one-way hall filled with spiderwebs. It was the perfect microcosm of how someone in their late teens lived in the early 21st century.
River wasn't jealous of Rose. How could she be? Rose never knew her Doctor, and he'd never known her. The pain had receded, he admitted one night. It wasn't debilitating, the way it had been for his previous incarnation. But, he admitted to River what he couldn't admit to Rose all those years ago - he had loved Rose Tyler. Really and truly loved her. She'd been what he needed after the Time War, and he didn't think he'd been able to move on in part if not for her friendship and love.
That's what tore at River's heart the most. Out of his many, many long lives, he'd only given his heart completely to very few. There had been a woman on Gallifrey, the mother of his children. She knew of Susan, his granddaughter and Romana, the Time Lady that had gone on to become president of Gallifrey. There was Rose Tyler. Then, there was herself.
Thanks to a cruel twist of fate, Rose had never heard her Doctor tell her the things that the current Doctor whispered to River.
"Look, I'll only be a few minutes," River spoke into the communicator as she strode down the main road that cut through the crowded bazaar. "Yes, yes, I know exactly what you're looking for, sweetie. No, I'm not being patronizing." She spotted the booth she wanted and weaved her way around a silver-skinned alien with three tentacles protruding from its head to reach the table. "You want the one with six arms ... no, you want six. I know you say the part has five arms, but you want six. Which one of us has actually read the manual? Yes, sweetie, you need to read the manual. Using it as an intergalactic doorstop does not count." With a huff, she snapped the communicator off and let out an exasperated sigh of frustration. "I hate him," she muttered under her breath, knowing full well she really didn't.
"Trouble with your bloke?" A friendly voice spoke off to her right.
"Would you believe this is a normal conversation for us?" River perused the gears and trinkets spread over the table and noticed quite a few useful parts beyond the Doctor's requirements. "He believes that he's absolutely right, no matter how wrong he is."
The voice laughed. "Tell me about it. My friend has the worst sense of time and location. He's suppose to take me to Barcelona, you know, the planet? Instead, we wind up here and he's off looking for machine parts like a kid in a candy shop."
River slowly raised her head as the accent registered with her. British ... no, not just British. London. Early 21st century. She slowly turned her head and found herself staring into the brown eyes of a young woman with bottle-blonde hair, tongue caught between her teeth as she grinned at River - one that she had seen just once before, in a faded Polaroid in an abandoned flat.
She swallowed and thanked every celestial being she knew of that she had a damn good poker face. "But, that's why we love our blokes, right?" she said, surprised her voice sounded as casual as it did.
"Yeah," the girl replied, and her smile grew brighter. She rocked back on her heels, shoving her hands in her jeans pockets. "I'm hoping we can go visit my mum when he's done. We haven't seen her in quite a bit, and she gets worried. I can usually pacify her with some sort of trinket."
"Ah. Why not this?" River grabbed an oblong piece made out of a metal with swirling colors. "It's Bazulium. She'd like it. It's a weather divinator. Turns hot when it's going to be sunny and cold when it's going to rain."
"Really?" The girl took the piece and turned it in her hands. "Mum would love this. Hates going out in the rain. Ruins her hair."
River laughed and tossed her curls. "I can sympathize." She held out her hand. "I'm River."
"Rose Tyler," the girl confirmed and River's heart rolled in her chest. Rose flicked a glance over her shoulder at another booth, that dazzling smile growing a bit wider before turning her attention back to River. "Where're you originally from?"
"Oh, here and there," River dismissed it with a wave. "I'm an archaeologist." She quickly scooped up the correct TARDIS part and the others she deemed useful and paid the shopkeeper in the small green currency this particular asteroid belt used. "Just getting parts for my friend's ship as well."
Rose studied the part in River's hand and she saw the girl grow a bit thoughtful. "I think I've seen something like that before," she murmured.
"They're a very common ship part," River lied. "Do you do much traveling?"
"Quite a bit, yeah. But, it's nice to go home every so often."
There was so much she wanted to say to her, River realized, but she knew she couldn't voice any of it. She wanted to know what part of the timeline she was in, to ask what her Doctor was like. Was she with his ninth reincarnation or his tenth? What were his habits? Did he drive her spare with his rambling, or did she embrace it? Did he eat Jammie Dodgers in bed or have a thing for strange hats like her Doctor did?
River spotted the younger Doctor before Rose did, and he only had eyes for the young blonde. Her heart ached, just a bit, then she knew she had to get out of there. She couldn't let that version of the Doctor see her. "Is that your friend over there?"
"Oh!" Rose turned and waved at the Doctor. "Yeah, that's him. I best get going. Nice to meet you, River!"
"Likewise." River watched as Rose started to push her way through the crowd. She suddenly swallowed and her self control deserted her. "Rose!"
Rose looked over her shoulder. "Yeah?"
There was so much River wanted to tell her.
Tell him how you feel. Go snog him senseless. A shag up against one of the TARDIS struts is really quite nice. Don't go to Canary Wharf.
Go snog him senseless.
A shag up against one of the TARDIS struts is really quite nice.
Don't go to Canary Wharf.
"Have a nice visit with your mum." The words automatically came out. Rose returned the gesture with a brilliant smile and a wave before running to her Doctor. She slipped his hand in his and began talking animatedly, waving over her shoulder at River. River hastily turned, ducking out of sight just as the younger Doctor turned to look at her. She held the parts to her chest, waiting for them to leave, praying that Rose wouldn't drag him back over to the table …
"Oh, there you are! Do you prefer the blue, the purple, or the green?"
River startled and swung around to see her Doctor with a green fez perched at a jaunty angle on his head. He held a blue and purple fez in each hand.
"I ..." She hesitated.
"Oh, come now, River. Since when have you ever been speechless? Or not shooting my hats at that?" The Doctor discarded the fezzes absently, his focus on a fixed point over her shoulder. River recognized the wistfulness in his eyes. "I remember now," he murmured. "She said that day she'd met an archaeologist. Tried pointing her out, but she wasn't there."
"I'm sorry. I didn't realize ..." Because it was him, she confessed. "I wanted to tell her something. Anything. Snog you at least. But, I couldn't."
"Then, you did the absolute right thing."
"She was happy," River continued, not fully listening to him. "She was happy and she loved him ,,, you ... so much. She could be standing in a room with a hundred Daleks and all she would be able to see is you."
"Are you jealous?" His eyebrows knitted together with a bit of worry.
She laughed and punched his arm. "My love, if I got jealous of every woman who ever fell in love with you, I would be in a state of perpetual aggravation and in jail for far more than just murdering you." She frowned and sighed a bit. "No. I'm just sad. She's nice. I liked her. I showed her a weather divinator to buy her mum."
"Ah. That's where she found that thing." The Doctor rocked back on his heels much like Rose had done earlier. "Then, I can tell you where they're going."
"Canary Wharf?" she asked softly.
"Canary Wharf," he confirmed. "So! Did you get the part?"
"Of course, and I got the right part at that." River shoved the bag into the Doctor's chest.
He peeked in the bag. "Oi! I told you the five-armed one! And what's with all these other parts? Oooh, that one looks interesting."
"Well, you're getting the six-armed one, and they don't take returns. Besides, it's the right one. Now, come on. I'm hungry." River pushed her way past him toward the TARDIS while he was distracted with the parts.
"River!" The Doctor grabbed the purple fez, threw money at the shopkeep and followed her. He caught up quickly with her and perched the fez on her head. She wrinkled her nose and started to pull it off, and he batted her hands away. "Fezzes are cool!"
"Not on me!"
"River." She was halfway in the TARDIS when he repeated her name. She peered back out the door, silly fez threatening to topple off her curls. He had his hands in his jacket pocket, looking very much like a child that was afraid of being scolded.
"She was happy. Believe me that she found happiness. And, she found me again. Well, not me me since you're with me, and I'm really fond of having you with me. But another me. The meta-crisis me."
"Exactly. She is his everything." And he reached out to her with his hand, and she automatically slipped her hand in his. "And Donna told them how to grow another TARDIS in the alternate universe. Pete's World. Isn't that a nice name for a world? Rose Tyler and the Doctor in the TARDIS. They're running together, just as we are here. They run there. We run here. Has a nice ring, doesn't it?"
River smiled. "Absolutely, my love." And she kissed him, despite the fact she was wearing a silly fez. She could always shoot it later.