AN: Many thanks to grumpyjenn and Snowy Ashes for beta-ing, advice, and general invaluable assistance! Enjoy :)
The locals at the market shifted quickly out of River's way as she stormed through the TARDIS doors and took off through the market at a furious pace. She had nowhere to go in particular, but right now she just needed to get away from him and blow off some steam. She dove in between carts and stalls, ducked under archways, and glared at those who got in her way, but still the energy of her anger was undimmed. Spotting a rug-seller who was about to charge an old woman too much for a rug which had moth holes too small for the elder woman's eyes to see, River jumped into action, giving him several pieces of her mind and cowing him into selling the rug for slightly less than it was worth. It felt good, though she noticed that the old woman, while appreciative, was also backing away from her. She scowled.
Diving back into the crowd she unabashedly elbowed her way past several people, grunting as she bumped up against them. The fourth one, a burly man with thick eyebrows, took the bait, turning on her and shouting at her for her rudeness. She shouted back, and he closed the gap between them, pulling up to his full height with the clear intention of intimidating her. Laughing boldly, she grabbed an arm and used her weight to twist him to the ground, pinning his face to the dirt with her knee on his back. He grunted in surprise as his cheek hit the sandy ground and the crowd around her gasped. Pressing her knee sharply into him for emphasis, she heard him moan in pain. At the sound, the energy of her fury drained out of her, and she was left feeling vaguely sick about her actions. Getting up hastily, she took off at a run through the crowd yet again, finally coming to a stop in a small alleyway between two of the few permanent structures in the enormous open marketplace.
Leaning her back against the wall, she cradled her head in her hands as she shook it back and forth. She really shouldn't have let herself get out of hand like that. She could have killed that man – and wouldn't that just have proved his point. Damn him!
No - mustn't rile herself up again. She dropped her arms to her sides again and tilted her head back against the wall.
The truth was, it wasn't just what he'd said that had made her this angry – though why he'd decided to choose today to bring up her taste for violence and his disdain for archaeology, two topics that had never gone over well with her in conversation - but no, no River, mustn't dwell on that again - it was the whole situation – their whole situation. Oh yes, it was just like she always said, she wouldn't change it for a minute, she wouldn't even exchange it for a "normal" synchronized relationship, it was as much a part of who she was as the curly hair she'd sported ever since regenerating into River Song. But that didn't mean it didn't occasionally piss her off.
See, the problem was, when they got into a fairly significant argument, she couldn't just leave him. She couldn't make him sleep on the couch, because the TARDIS was his – well, as much as she was anyone's. He had a room that he had used before they were together in his timeline, but whenever River stayed on the TARDIS for an extended period, they always stayed in their shared bedroom, the room the Doctor and the TARDIS had made for the two of them after the wedding. There wasn't any space on the TARDIS that was just hers and hers alone, not shared. She had her cell of course, and strange though it was, it's concrete walls were comfortingly hers, but even if she went to her cell, it wasn't private – there were always guards – and he could sonic the damn lock whenever he wished.
Even worse, if she used her vortex manipulator to leave, or even got the TARDIS to take her to her cell, there was no guarantee that when she saw him again it would be after the argument. In fact, it was nearly guaranteed that she would see either some version of him from before the argument, or some version who had already met up with an earlier (or later) version of her and been unpleasant but tolerable and who was therefore now over it. Heck, he could be further enough along to have essentially forgotten about it entirely. And then where would that leave her? Having to take it out on a Doctor who either hadn't said yet or wouldn't remember what he'd said to upset her? Having to swallow it? Having to accept an apology given simply because he of course loved her and would of course apologize for whatever it was he had done to hurt her? No, she'd been there and done all of that the first few times they'd argued, and none of it was even vaguely satisfying. Eventually she'd realized that the best thing to do was just stay in the same place as him until they could work it out. However, this resulted in her feeling trapped. Limited. Caged. Stuck. And that was made all the more terrible by the fact that when she was with him was when she normally felt the most free, when she could leave behind all thoughts of her cage, all the broken memories of being raised in that suit. So it was that the terror River felt at feeling trapped in the one situation she counted on feeling the opposite was often enough to produce a rage several times the justifiable anger she felt at the Doctor when they fought.
Well, no matter how much she disliked it, past experience had taught her that this was the least of several evils. Sighing, she moved away from the wall to walk back towards the TARDIS. Perhaps she had blown off enough steam to try talking to him again.
It's just that this whole situation was so inexplicably aggravating! The argument hadn't even made any sense – it had come literally out of nowhere. Their occasional fights tended to be more along the lines of who-knew-better about some historical event (they were both just a bit stubborn, and the TARDIS seemed to dislike them fighting, so she would never bring them to the relevant moment in history to see which one of them was right), or, most often, an argument over which one of them should get to risk their neck to get them out of a given situation. The Doctor always seemed extra adamant about those, and would actually get very angry, so she mostly let him win. (Little did she know that this was an argument he'd been having with her over and over again in his head since that first time, knowing he couldn't make it right, but hoping to just confirm for himself over and over again that if he'd known, he would somehow have managed not to let her do it, not to let her take his place.)
Instead of being one of those types of fights, this had just been him picking on and disparaging the things that meant the most to her.
Everything had been going just as it always did. In fact, it had been going even better than usual – he'd picked her up from her cell, and instead of immediately rushing off to some undoubtedly more-dangerous-than-he'd-realized planet, he'd taken her to a giant shoe store and let her wander around while he fixed some things on the TARDIS. She'd offered to help, but he had been adamant about her finding some shoes to replace those fabulous black pumps she'd lost to the swamp on Elva IX last week (well, last week for him apparently, nearly a year ago for her), so she'd left him to his work and spent hours wandering through a shoe store in utter bliss. They were like guns, but with less risk of danger, and sometimes that just hit the spot. After that they'd had dinner together on the planet which housed the shoe store and spent a lovely evening together on the TARDIS. He'd seemed extraordinarily pleased with himself. She assumed it was because his shoe store plan had been such a hit with her, but one never knew what he was up to.
And then this morning, he'd pulled such a behavioral transformation that she was at first concerned that she had somehow been dropped off by yesterday's Doctor and picked up by some earlier or later one on some sort of insane mood swing. The mark she'd left on his neck last night had confirmed that it was the same him, though, which made it all the more confusing. She'd woken up to find him out of bed already, so she'd spent a bit showering and getting dressed, and then headed out to the console room. As she expected, he was already there, piloting them (badly) to the famous open marketplace on 23rd century Choreolus – they'd realized last night that they were running out of the amazing tea that they had picked up there the last time. As she'd wandered out, about to say good morning to him, he'd glanced down at the plasma blaster she was strapping into its holster. After a brief pause, he'd looked her in the eyes and said - before they had even said good morning – "Really, River, you think you'd be able to go one day without violence. You and your guns – sometimes I think they mean more to you than I do." Hitting some sort of cruel stride, he'd continued, "You're just pathetic, you know that? Can't even go into a marketplace on a peaceful planet without a blaster on your hip. There are other solutions you know – but no, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that so much of your head is filled with archaeological drivel that you can never see them."
As he'd said it, River had stared at him blankly. It was so unbelievable and so out of nowhere. She'd been furious, of course, but she hadn't even felt she needed to defend herself – his statements were so completely ridiculous – and as he'd reached the end of his diatribe, stepping up to place his hand on the offending blaster, the TARDIS (bless her) had landed, and River had simply slapped his hand sharply off of her hip and strode off, her eyes aflame with anger and indignation as she pushed into the surging crowd.
Now as she headed wearily back to the TARDIS, her anger largely spent, she was worried about what could possibly come of this confrontation, and was forced to really consider what he'd said. Sure, he'd always joked about her guns, and she knew he found archaeology to be less than appealing, but this had been vicious, and if this was truly how he'd felt about those things, about her, all along (and at the moment she could only conclude that it was), then she really wasn't sure how they could continue. On the rare occasions when she'd interacted with a much younger Doctor, so far, River had accepted his criticism on these fronts based on the fact that he barely knew her, so of course he would be suspicious. But this...this was disrespectful and showed a real lack of understanding of the things that mattered to her – of her, really.
River's pace slowed further as she tried to process this information. She knew that this Doctor had by now had multiple conversations with her about her guns. Right now she was thinking of one in particular. They had been visiting a beach and he'd joked about her need to bring a gun along with her bikini. In a moment of real vulnerability, she had then explained to him that having them and using them was a way for her to own her past, to own what she had been raised as, what she had been raised for, and to use it as a strength. Then, he'd been so, so receptive, hugging her tightly and promising that he understood, that he was so very proud of who she was, of who she'd become. That Doctor hadn't done Elva IX yet, so she knew that this one had definitely been to that beach with her. In the face of this morning's betrayal, she was forced to accept that he had been lying – and she knew he lied – but oh, that was just too much – to have shown him so much of herself only to be lied to. River's breath caught in her throat, and she froze where she stood in the crowd, teetering as though on a precipice. She was still angry, certainly, but now that she was going over the situation, she realized that he had really hurt her, clearly intentionally, and that she had to face this new reality.
She couldn't go back, couldn't bear the thought of looking into the eyes of the man she had trusted to see contempt staring back at her. She wasn't sure she would ever be able to erase the image of that contempt from her mind, not even if he masked it with his lies again. But how could she leave? She didn't have her vortex manipulator, and she definitely couldn't live out all her days on Choreolus. Thinking it through a bit, she'd definitely met up with Doctors older than this one, so this couldn't be the last time he would see her, at least…and she had yet to encounter him for his first time…which led to the conclusion that she would see him again. But how could she go back to him? At the moment it was unimaginable. Maybe once, a long time ago, she would have lacked the self-respect, the self-value to refuse to tolerate this sort of behavior, this sort of betrayal. She had had more than a few disastrous and semi-abusive relationships as Mels, no surprise there – but she was River Song now, and although he was at least partly responsible for the amount of self-respect she had developed, even he did not have the right to treat her this way, to lie to her about what he thought of her, of the bits of her soul that she had shown him.
So for the moment, she stood frozen in the crowd, letting the mass of people jostle her and push past her, wracking her brain to come up with a functional solution.