All characters © BBC
Summary: They had the universe at their disposal, anywhere in time and space, but sometimes all it took was a cup of chamomile, some French piano music, and a little rain. Fluffy h/c, and for once it's not the Doctor.
Takes place in season six, sometime between Day of the Moon and A Good Man Goes to War.
Sunshine After Rain
Professor River Song was having a bad hair day in the sense of everything but her actual hair.
Parole rejection was never a pretty thing. She had seen men break down and sob. Some fell into depression or attempted jailbreaks of spectacular stupidity. Of course, River had her dignity (which wasn't the only thing separating her from the rest of the lot here), but she felt frustrated nonetheless.
Here, nobody was given actual amnesty; Stormcage was reserved for the more serious perpetrators of the universe. The containment facility was home to those who were deemed a threat to civilized life unless under supervision or extreme limitation. Heck, they had made a whole planet just to contain the prison and had put humans—the most amoral species according to fifty-second century mores—as guards.
River was accredited with being Stormcage's most devious escapee. That in and of itself tended to be the primary source of scant humor among the guards and general prison staff, since she always checked herself back in after a night or two. There were running gags about her different escape methods, which included various forms of seduction, crying wolf, Houdini acts, and of course, the hallucinogenic lipstick.
Due to the gravity of her "crime," River already had twelve thousand consecutive life sentences. She had served a little over seven years in Stormcage already, which covered about .0008 percent of her total sentence. However, due to her 4,632 recorded escapes, the Containment board had deemed her unrepentant and had just decided to extend her sentence by another two thousand lives.
Now it didn't seem so funny.
"I'd appreciate it if you just call me when you need something," the Doctor grumbled, wiping some soot from his jacket and sneezing a few times subsequently. "At least you didn't defile a historic landmark this time."
"I always go for a real eye-catcher," River replied, flashing a set of white teeth through a face smeared with dusty ash. The likes of it clung to the rogue curls of her hair, turning them gray.
"What is it this time?" the Doctor asked, dusting his hands off. "Have the Sontarans invaded Bangladesh? Did Columbus land wrong again? Because I gave him the right—"
River shook her head, cutting him off mid-rant. More soot fell onto the glass floor below her. "Every time I drop by doesn't mark a disaster in time and the universe as we know it," she said. "Can't I say hello, sweetie?"
"But who erupts a volcano?" No sooner were the words out of his mouth the Doctor wrinkled his nose and seemed to consider something in his memory. "Oh wait, I did. Once."
"Fingalaptra was set to explode in a few weeks anyway," River replied. "Trust me sweetie, the Geerkings will be thanking me. I just turned their entire forest into fertile soil."
"You..." the Doctor waved a hand and shooed her off exasperatedly. "Oh go...have a shower now, or something. We can talk later; you're getting ash on the console."
She is named after the water. More often than not she would enter the TARDIS via the swimming pool in lieu of the front door. She often remembered the time on Quontalaf, where she and the Doctor had gone swimming in the pools of Senibbol: clear lakes miles wide and miles deep with giant stone statues of lions at the bottom. She had protested they go skinny dipping, until the Doctor had procured matching swimsuits of blue Quontalafrian silk. It had been magical, to say the least.
River generally liked water. And she honestly thought she'd been okay once she arrived at the Doctor's...until she got in the shower.
The TARDIS had about thirty bathrooms cataloged, if you knew where to find them. River's favorite was the one that looked like an odd cross between a Roman bathhouse and a Victorian dressing room. The tub was all stone and granite, with draw curtains instead of doors, but the floor was made of black and white York tiles with a Melville border. Or what the TARDIS assumed was a Melville border.
River scrubbed the soot from her face, her belly, her arms. It was sometime after that that she realized she was having trouble swallowing. She let out something like a whimper and took a deep breath. A lump formed in her throat. What was wrong with her?
Stormcage was built on a man-made planet that was equipped with man-made vegetation and an artificial atmosphere. The land was sculpted to endure perpetual rain without the fear of flooding. And the perpetual rain—a product of synthesized clouds, of course—was instilled to promote feelings of depression and gloom among the inmates of the facility. Every night you fell asleep to the sound of pouring rain outside your window, and you woke up in the morning to the sound of pouring rain outside your window.
Most of the long-term inmates couldn't stand to shower. The guards would often have to sedate them and hold them under the water until they were cleaned by the orderlies. It was something River had never understood before.
Now, under the hot running water of the TARDIS's most luxurious shower, River got it. It hit her suddenly, and she let loose another sob.
The Doctor was slowly twisting a double-ended screw into the asteroid tram when the TARDIS lights sputtered. He blinked, pushing his black goggles up over his forehead and craning his neck to stare at the console above him. The lights flickered again, almost like a blink of their own.
The Doctor swung from his hammock and ascended the steps to the main platform. "What is it, old girl?" he muttered. "Is something wrong with your electrical circuit...?"
The TARDIS lights dimmed of their own accord, all save the hallway light. That light blinked on and off. Curious, the Doctor walked into the hallway, where the light continued to flicker sporadically. He walked down the corridor, making turns left and right where the overhead bulbs seemed to be blinking the most. The TARDIS had her own ways of communicating with him, and if she was making the effort to tell him something it must be important. Whatever or wherever it was.
The Doctor stopped in front of a door on the second floor of rooms, where he could hear running water. He rolled his eyes at the ceiling. What was he supposed to do now?
A long, drawn-out sob answered his question. The Doctor froze in place, eyes coming down to narrow at the door. The sobbing continued, audible even under the run of the shower, and the Doctor closed his eyes. He had never heard River cry before. Sure, he had seen her shed a few tears here and there, but nothing like this. Even when she was about to die (but the Doctor didn't like to think about that).
A small, cowardly part of him felt afraid, wary; he wasn't sure he wanted to face whatever could prompt River Song to make such a noise. But it was River. Audacious, catty, untamed River, as unstoppable as a waterfall and with the current of a riptide. Another cry echoed off the bathroom walls. That did it.
"River?" the Doctor called, knocking sharply.
From inside the shower River's head jerked up. In all honesty she wasn't surprised that he had found her. "It's alright, Doctor," she called, grimacing at how her voice warbled. She heard a click and the unmistakable sound of his footsteps as he let himself in.
"Now we all know that's a lie," the Doctor said with a tone that River knew all too well. River could just picture one of those You-Can't-Fool-Me-Because-I'm-A-Few-Centuries-Older-Than-You smiles on his face. "You can talk to me, River."
"Not about everything. It's too early for you," she whispered, hoping he wouldn't pick up that last bit under the run of the shower.
He heard her anyway. "Now, either there's a rabid Raxacoricofallapatorian in my shower or something so unspeakably evil that it's managed to take the sunshine off your face," the Doctor announced, clapping his hands together. "Whatever it is, I'd like to speak to it."
River let out something like a laugh, tasting salt mixing with her showerwater. "Another time, Doctor," she said, closing her eyes.
For a moment everything was silent, and for an even briefer moment she assumed he'd left. By her standards, he wasn't "her" Doctor yet; he wasn't done. He hadn't even been to Demon's Run, although River knew that would be happening in the near future. He was almost there, but not quite. Like under-cooked pasta that was still hard around the edges or bananas that had a tint of green.
River's eyes snapped open at the small sound of metal clinking, amplified by the acoustics of the bathroom. A buckle. Suspender clips, most likely. Then came the whisper of fabric (the tweed jacket donned) and two loud thunks of shoes being thrown into a corner somewhere.
"Doctor?" she asked.
"You're making me take off my bow tie for this, River, so it had better be good."
It finally dawned on her what he was planning. "I'm naked," she protested, somewhat lamely. Really? Was that the best she could do?
"Now I know something's wrong," the Doctor exclaimed lightly. His voice became quieter. "That wouldn't normally stop you." And suddenly the draw curtains were pulled back, revealing a Doctor clad in nothing but his trunks.
It was really such a Doctor thing to do, River thought as she watched him step into the shower. He was thin and gangly and as white as a fish's belly, but oh, he was beautiful. And River knew that she could talk to him, time-lines be damned.
He blinked the water out of his eyes, smoothed back his hair, and reached out to tilt her chin up. "Now. What's got you so sad, hm?"
River met his eye. "There's a story I remember reading sometime when I was little, about a girl who went to school on a planet that always rained," she told him. "The sun would come out for a few minutes once every seven years, and it was a big event. One year the little girl predicted that the sun would come out a day early, but nobody in her class believed her. They laughed at her and locked her in the closet, and the sun came out. She missed it and had to wait another seven years."
The Doctor said nothing for a moment, but his brow furrowed. Water dripped down between his eyes. It would only take him a matter of seconds to figure it out.
River was not disappointed. "How long have you been in Stormcage?" the Doctor asked quietly, searching her face with his eyes.
"Just over seven years," River answered, looking down at the water swirling into the drain by her feet. "The falling rain...sometimes it gets to me. It's too much like a cold shower. All the time." Her eyes squeezed shut and her face scrunched up, trying to dam the flow of tears. "I guess I was just a little overwhelmed," she choked out. Because, after all, I didn't do anything.
With her eyes still closed she could hear the Doctor sighing as he brushed back her hair. The springy corkscrew curls, now wet, hung limply over her shoulders. The Doctor embraced her, bare skin sliding smoothly over her back. River held his upper arms gently, feeling the muscles under pale skin rippled with beads of water. She rested her head in the crook of the Doctor's neck and smiled. If he felt her breasts pushing against his rib cage he said nothing; just held her. It didn't matter that they were caught in the rain anymore. They were together.
"River, River," he whispered some immeasurable amount of time later. "So much like the water, but loathe to the storm. Why don't we get dry?"
They turned off the water with a squeak of the faucets and the Doctor wrapped an impossibly fuzzy mauve towel over River's shoulders. "Come meet me by the console after you've changed into something more comfortable," the Doctor said. This time he didn't have to remind her that "comfortable" was not a synonym for "scantly clad" or "busty satin nightie." And somehow, the fact that he didn't need to marked an occasion for them. This was a more vulnerable side to River that the Doctor—where he currently was in his time-line—had not been privy to see before.
Usually River was the one looking out for him, since her backwards progression of time made her mentally older. However, now, the Doctor realized that he was comforting her, and he found something so ineffably precious about this fact that he wanted to do it right.
"There," the Doctor remarked, satisfied with himself, "nothing a little chamomile, some French piano music, and a pair of fleece slippers won't do!" He eyed River over the rim of his own steaming mug. "Sometimes that's all it takes."
River sat with a quilt on one of the cushioned chairs stationed around the main console. The tea was good, even if the Doctor put all kinds of best unmentioned things in it (for flavor, he claimed). She smiled at the TARDIS's record player fondly.
"Maurice Ravel's Pavane pour une infante défunte," the Doctor exclaimed, giving the needle an extra spin for good measure (it was just for show, anyway; the record was meta electron-powered). "I listened to the 1902 premiere. Somehow I knew you'd like this one."
"It's beautiful, sweetie." River threw a glance at the far corridor. "And Amy and Rory?"
"They seemed rather excited to be off to bed earlier than usual this evening," the Doctor replied with a cough, looking elsewhere.
"But they can take care of themselves. Most of the time. No, River," the Doctor came around the console and leaned against one of its glass facets, facing her, "I want to know about you. Are you alright?"
River took another sip of her tea. Her hair was beginning to dry, scrunching into curls which would later fan out around her head like a golden frame. "Quite, sweetie."
The Doctor smiled. The "sweetie" was always a good sign. In all honesty he preferred River's spunky old self, even if he did complain about her...frivolities to no end. It was better than the alternative.
The Doctor didn't want to ruin the moment, but he had to ask. "You know I'm going to have to drop you off at Stormcage again."
River set down her tea and smiled. "I know," she said. "But it's quite alright now. I'll look forward to the times I can escape to a place without rain."
"You still haven't told me who you killed, River. And I know you're going to say 'spoilers' again because you always do so you can just shut up." He tossed her a wink that said that he'd long ago accepted the fact that he would have to find the answer all on his own.
"You'll find out the truth soon enough, like I've told you," River said. "We've so much to come, Doctor. Still so many places to run."
"So how about it?" the Doctor reached for one of the TARDIS's levers behind him. "One last trip before you go back? Amy and Rory won't even notice. I can take you to the summer cottage of Lunaku. Due to the compression of gravity it actually floats in midair..."
"No, sweetie," River shook her head. "Let's just sit for a while. Here. I'd like that."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "I'm not much for sitting around, tell you the truth..."
At this River had to laugh. If he had been older, perhaps, River would have interpreted that little eyebrow lift as a come-on. "You're not much for a lot," she grinned, "but you're capable of so much more." With that, she invitingly patted the cushion next to her and met his eye.
The Doctor took about a hundredth of a second to consider. "Oh, what the hell," he shrugged, and plopped down beside her. River smiled, because sure, he wasn't quite her Doctor yet, but he was still the Doctor.
And that made all the difference in the universe.
My God would give a sunshine after rain.
Op. 71 The Shower by Edward Elgar (1914)