an: title from florence + the machine's no light, no light; au for the wedding of river song, based on the premise that the doctor had no way out, and truly did die at lake silencio.
in your place there were a thousand other faces
She takes a breath and the world collapses and everything is bright and still.
Then she fires.
It takes five guards to hold her down long enough for the doctor to administer the sedative. It calms her, but barely; a strip of cloth on a gaping wound, and she sits in the corner and rocks. Her lips move but there isn't a sound, and they lock the heavy door and stand on the other side with equal parts wariness and apathy.
She rocks, back and forth, her hands over her temples as if to decompress the noise. But Time is dying, the shreds of it tangling in her mind - one life, two, three, four, variation upon variation of things that never happened, did happen, will happen, can'thappen, and beneath it all the hum that pleases and destroys her:
The Doctor is dead.
Nothing happened in Berlin.
She never went to Berlin.
There is no such place as Berlin.
(There has always been a Berlin.)
The Doctor has never heard of the Teselecta.
The stars vanish and the sun goes out and the universe collapses because a painting isn't delivered. She can see it in her mind, feel it beneath her fingertips. There's a place she's supposed to go, lines she's supposed to say, but it's muddled and fragile like an insect trapped within a foggy crystal - perfectly preserved and unreachable. Bitter around the edges.
There's a painting of blue and gold, and a mother's lullaby, and for some reason she's sorry, she's so, so sorry, but she doesn't understand what for.
She lies still for the scans, the holographic displays of her brain hovering above her, bright little lines and dark little spaces. The doctor thinks she's going mad, that the great warrior has finally broken; that she deserves the madness, for what she's done, and they put her back in the cage with a thin bandage around her temple from where she tore so hard her hair broke off at the skin.
The Angels praise the light of the universe and fall into nothing, but before they do they conquer whole worlds and burn out suns and there's a man who carries the weight around his shoulders like it's the dead themselves, hunched over his back, lifeless but clinging to his form.
She knows this man, remembers him, feels his horror so acutely sometimes that she screams, but she doesn't knowhim.
She laughs at his suffering - a harsh, guttural moan that causes her infantry to stand straighter and press their heels into the floor. She laughs, because she succeeded, she won, the Time Lord Victorious has fallen now and was punished then, and this is what she was built for; this tangible horror.
At the same time, her hearts clench and her breathing thins and she holds his pain like she would a child, hoping against hope that it's a comfort to him, wherever he is, however far, however little or much he remembers her.
Melody Pond has long black hair and dark skin and she trains in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere for a task she shouldn't fulfill, because Melody Pond has golden hair and pale white skin and reads book after book in a room full of books in a tower in the ground beneath the surface of the Moon; Melody Pond is an archeologist is a student is a liar is a thief is a murderer is a lover; she is white and black and short and tall and here and there and somewhere, she watches with her fingers wrapped around a gun as her so-called friends step into a big blue box; somewhere else, she laughs and strokes the console and the box whispers in her ear that she loves her.
There is a wedding, but she doesn't attend. There's something old and something new, but nothing borrowed and nothing blue and there's a woman who remembers but not enough, and all the guests arrive on time.
A team of five go on a search for a little girl in a library.
4,027 people never come home.
Sometimes, when she dreams, she sees the open sky. A little back-lit crystal and short walls made out of sand. She feels in those dreams, feels something she can't recall, something that maybe should have been.
She feels forgiven, and the word is as hopeless to her as it is precious.
The stories dissolve:
In the past, a family on Tri'ak lose their home. The Walls of Emsor are crumbled and a viscous man is made king. She has never been to Asgard or The Gamma Forests or Losa or Derillium. She has never heard the Towers sing. Never seen space through the blue open doors. Never held an orphaned child to her breast and promised with all her love and might that she would find him a home.
She never kills Kovarian, but that's the only one that makes sense while it doesn't. Why would she kill her teacher?
Why would she ever care for a child at all?
Melody Pond has always been Melody Pond and there is no such person in all of the universe as River Song.
River Song: the unborn child of the TARDIS, the Doctor's love, his protector, his home, his wife.
Melody Pond: his murderer.
She doesn't know which one she'd rather be.
Everything is grey in her prison. Grey and white and flickering blue. There are no bars in this cell - it is a box of walls, high and thick, with a little window barely big enough for her hand to press against. The guards peer in through the little window and serve her food through the little slot and let her out only when she is shackled and blindfolded.
But still, she can hear everything.
The Doctor dies alone on a white beach. His friends aren't there; he is too tired to invite them. The one he really needs doesn't exist at all, and the others wouldn't come regardless.
Amy Pond lost her child by the Doctor's hand. He never found or saved her. Amy Pond hates the Doctor, just under the surface of her skin, and takes her husband and leaves the TARDIS and settles back down in Leadworth with scars that never heal.
Melody Pond isn't Melody Pond to anyone but herself; she's just another soldier, the greatest soldier, and she means the Doctor's death.
"At least we meet."
"We've met before."
But Melody doesn't care.
There's a song that she doesn't understand:
Tick-tock goes the clock
He cradled and he rocked her
Tick-tock goes the clock
Til river kills the Doctor.
She's never been cradled or rocked, or hugged or held, and she killed the Doctor by a lake, not a river. She asks Kovarian once, but her teacher (torturer) doesn't know.
"It's a fairy tale," she says.
But sometimes, Kovarian stares at her from the corner of her eye, and she looks so very, very afraid.
She is married in a field of bellflowers.
Shimmering purple in the moonlight, they whisper with the wind the sacraments, and she places her hand over his. A tall, thin man in a long, red coat wraps their hands in a strip of silk. The words he speaks aren't Gallifreyan, but they're a rough translation.
"He'll do any ceremony, any time, any where. He's licenced on over four thousand planets by six thousand species, and he speaks almost every language," her husband says, with a spin on his heels and a smile on his face. "This," he whispers, "What we're about to do, is the closest you can get nowadays. The closest you can have to a real, Time Lord wedding. And you, River Song, deserve every moment of it."
In a field, on a planet, under the stars, she marries a man with a blue bow tie and seals her promise with a kiss, but it isn't her life and she isn't a river. As hard as she clings, it floats away, deep in her head, locked up and buried and forgotten, except on those days, those brilliant days, when she remembers.
For twenty six years, Melody Pond lives in her head in a eight by eight room with a little window the size of her palm and carefully untangles the strands: this reality there, that one here, labeling them blue and silver and gold: things that happened, things that never happened, things that can change.
She lays her lives out in parallel strips and assesses each one until she understands, until it all makes sense, until she can write it down on loose leafs of paper they slip under her door and binds them together with the thread from her brown prison suit.
Twenty six years, and she finally understands, accepts what his forgiveness - a bright shadow in a darkened room - truly means:
Time can be rewritten.