AN: Originally a one-shot that got a bit long, so I've broken it up into a few chapters. Title from Florence & the Machine's Shake it Out.
Disclaimer: They aren't mine, I'm just taking them out for a test drive.
Covered in sweat, River jolted upright in bed as she awoke, just barely stifling a scream.
Taking gasping breaths, she wrapped her arms around herself and looked around her cell. Instead of slowing, her breathing only picked up in pace as she took in the fact that she was alone in a cell in Stormcage.
Fighting back the rising tide of panic, she reached out blindly with her left hand, grasping at the wall next to her bed. Her fingers curled around the soft strip of silk there, and her breathing started to return to normal.
When they'd redone the ceremony in the current, non-aborted timeline (just to be safe, he'd said), he hadn't asked why she wanted to keep the bow tie in Stormcage rather than in their room in the TARDIS, and if he'd subsequently noticed that she'd hung it next to her bed he'd kept quiet about it – everyone was allowed their idiosyncrasies, and seeing as he had more than most, it was the least he could do.
She'd been thankful he hadn't asked because, in truth, she hadn't trusted herself to lie to him. When the newest guard had made a joke yesterday about the fact that she treated it like her only tie to sanity she knew she had laughed a little too brightly. If only he knew how right he was. Her bow tie to sanity, how rich.
When the dream came, as it had every night since Lake Silencio, it was the only proof she had that he was alive.
It had been so much worse before they had redone the ceremony and she'd been able to keep the bow tie. On those first two mornings - she fisted the bow tie in her hand as she recalled them - the guards had just managed to get into her cell and restrain her fast enough to prevent her from bashing her own head in against the wall, because all she had known was that she deserved to die, and die painfully.
She had killed him, you see, or at least that's what she believed in her dreams. Every night after she closed her eyes she ran from them, and every night they caught her in a new way and no matter what she did she was back in the suit, back in the Lake, and then he was there.
He was there, and somehow he knew about the aborted timeline, knew what she would do for him, so he begged her to kill him, and this was no Teselecta, it was her flesh and blood love. And she did it, she killed him, just as they'd always meant her to, just as everyone believed. And the last thing she saw in her dreams each night was the pain etched on his face as she shot him.
So when she awoke from the nightmare to her cell in Stormcage where she was imprisoned for his murder, the dream always seemed to be absolutely, terrifyingly confirmed. The touch of that silk on the wall was the only thing that could calm her fast enough (getting to her diary just took too long - she was a fast weapon, even more so when turned against herself). It assured her that he lived, that yet again the dream was just a dream.
Now taking deep, calming breaths as she stroked the bow tie hanging from the wall, she assessed the situation.
All-in-all, it seemed like she'd done pretty well. Her sheets and her clothes were all intact, and from the utter lack of attention from the guards, it seemed she'd managed to stay quiet as well. Of course, this wasn't how it had been when she'd first gotten the bow tie, oh no. Certainly she'd stopped trying to kill herself, but at first she had screamed in her sleep and awoken crying hysterically.
Oh how the guards had taunted her over it, the irony of her screaming in her sleep that she wouldn't kill him, she didn't care if he wanted her to, because, to them, that was exactly what she'd done. After the first week, she'd accepted that the dream wasn't going away, so her only mission had become to weather it as silently as possible.
Better they think her a remorseless, cold-hearted bitch than see how the thought of killing him pierced her heart. She'd improved with time, and it seemed that goal was now well in hand.
Now that she was awake, she really ought to get dressed though, because he was bound to show up fairly soon. As she chose an outfit for her next adventure, brightening steadily as she thought ahead to the likely adrenaline rush of running-hand-in-hand with him away from some danger or another, she reflected yet again on how grateful he was that he unquestioningly accepted her explanation of why she wanted to always sleep in her cell.
The Doctor lies, yes, but so does River Song.
She had quite simply told him that, since she had to serve her sentence, she'd prefer to spend her waking hours with him and her sleeping hours in jail. And if it was a bit strange that she was quite so fanatic about it, well, he could chalk it up to her being "young," he seemed to think that accounted for a fair amount of her behavior, evidently.
When they engaged in activities that would normally lead to a husband and wife staying in their bed together for the night, which they often did – the adrenaline of running with him wasn't the only rush she looked forward to during their adventures – she her expressed her strong desire not to waste a single sleeping hour when it could be working off her semi-endless sentence, and he roused himself enough to give her a warm, if slightly forlorn, kiss goodbye and drop her off at her cell for the night.
It pained her to leave him, and never more than in those moments, when she would much rather have spent the night sleeping in her husband's embrace. But not as much as it would pain her to have him know that she woke up screaming in a cold sweat every night after dreaming of really, truly killing him.
Not even the sadness of falling asleep alone in her cell after their first night on Calderon Beta, craving nothing so much as his arms around her, was as painful as the thought of him knowing what she dreamt.
She could see it in his old, old eyes about once a day, the sting of guilt and remorse over what her life was because of him, and he deserved to see her happy with him and not have any more reason for regret. She never wanted him to regret any of what they had, because she certainly didn't.
Little did she know that he could never regret what they had together, but that he rather regretted all the moments when he'd been so young and insensitive to who she was and what they were, all the times he couldn't and hadn't comforted her and let her know that she was loved, and none of those times did he regret more than that first.
But she was, in fact, young, so as she saw it this was how it would have to stay.
Nodding firmly to herself, she slung her bag over her shoulder and headed towards the door of her cell and her favorite blue box materializing outside of it.
Reviews are easily as cool as bow ties.