Thanks to the lovely Sarah Blackwood for the beta and to everyone else for reading and favouriting and reviewing.
If there was one thing the Doctor couldn't take early in the morning, it was an inquisitive Amy Pond only inches away from his face when he opened his eyes, and scrutinizing him closely.
"You look," she said with the air of one being utterly helpful, "like someone hit you."
He grumbled inarticulately, making a face as he reached up to feel his jaw. Nothing broken. Just, very likely, spectacularly bruised. Amy sat back on her heels, surveying him for a moment before turning her head toward the stairs.
"Rory!" she bellowed, "you're in the kitchen, right? Bring the Doctor a steak!"
"I don't need protein," he protested, struggling to sit up. "Anyway, far better protein sources than just an ordinary steak. Did you know, on Kellar, they have this amazing compound they make of grass? It's a little… stringy. Funny taste, too. If green had a flavour, it'd be that. But it has about five times the protein content…"
His voice faded as Amy rolled her eyes. "I didn't mean," she said, between clenched teeth, "for you to eat it. I meant you should have a steak to take the bruise down."
"Steak is for a black eye," Rory commented as he walked in the console room. "Try this instead. Ice pack."
The Doctor held it to his face, noting as both the Ponds exchanged worried glances between them.
"Quite a bruise," Rory stated, his practical medical side coming out. "Bit of ice will help, even though it would have been better to put it on immediately. But it'll still do you good now."
"So. Doctor." Amy's entire face was worried, a frown creasing her forehead. "Was it…
"Was it River?" she continued, with the very faintest of sighs. "What did you do to our daughter that she hit you again?"
"Wasn't River," the Doctor mumbled, words half lost in the ice pack. "The punch wasn't from that member of the Pond family."
"Well, that's good at least," Rory answered. "Because she's my daughter, and if you hurt her I'd have to…" He flexed his fingers in a menacing fashion; and the Doctor gulped reflexively, moving just the tiniest bit away from Mr Pond and his fists of fury. Considering that the bruise he was now nursing was from him -albeit a much younger Mr Pond from Leadworth, defending his future wife and not his daughter…
"I haven't done anything to River!" the Doctor protested. "I wouldn't."
"You wouldn't mean to," Amy corrected. "But that doesn't mean that you didn't…"
"I didn't!" the Doctor exclaimed. He grumbled, shifting the ice against his jaw. "Honestly, Pond. You think River is the only one to ever hit me?"
"Well…" Amy drawled. "No, I bet she's not the only one who ever wanted to hit you. She's usually the only one who does, though."
He chose not to dignify that with an answer. But he could still hear, as he stalked away from the Ponds -head held high and ice water dripping from his chin- behind him, Amy burst into a loud peal of laughter.
Safe in his room, away from his alternately giggling and menacing companions, the Doctor stretched out on his bed, squirming in the sheets until he found a comfortable spot for his body and the ice pack and River's diary; which he'd hidden in his pocket and spirited out of her room the night before.
And then -being careful not to drip onto the pages and blur any of her words- he sighed and began to read.
Movies can portray bad days so easily. All it takes in a film is a montage of a hand slapping ineffectively at an alarm, toes protruding from socks, stained trousers and bursting backpacks for you to understand that Murphy's Law never sleeps, and is hard at work before you even wake up. But real life is so much more subtle. Some days it's not a series of events that lets you know that nothing is going to end well, but merely a heavy feeling hanging over your head from the second you open your eyes in the morning.
And today… well, today felt like it should be one of those bad days. I woke up with a headache, a deep throbbing in my temples and the base of my scull; and having Amelia barge into my room without even a knock, already talking as though she was continuing a conversation didn't help at all.
"It's Saturday," she announced, flouncing over to fling my curtains open. "Called Rory this morning to ask what he's doing, and he told me that he's working -again, can you believe it!- and that he's not sure about doing anything tonight." She made a small grunt of irritation as she turned to me, still lying down with the duvet pulled over my head in an effort to shut out both light and sound.
"Wake up, lazy! I can't believe you're still in bed!" She tugged the covers off me with a giggle, and I growled at her.
"Isn't 'good morning' the customary greeting to give someone when you barge unannounced into their room?"
"It's not morning anymore; it's almost three in the afternoon, and Janet told me you haven't even woken up for breakfast or anything. If it'll make you feel better though… good morning, Mels!" she chirped. "Did hearing that make you feel better?"
"No," I admitted. "Not at all."
"That makes it a silly thing to say, then. Come on, get up! I came over because I needed help, and you're my best friend! That means that when I need something, you're going to be there; so wake up, already!"
I groaned, wanting nothing more than to pull the duvet back over my head; and simultaneously knowing that if I even tried, Amelia would wrestle it off me again, with far more annoyance than giggling than time around.
It seemed that after Rory's 'manly moment' at the club last week, he'd all but disappeared in a haze of work and school-related activity. One would have thought that he'd press his advantage, maybe even tell Amelia that he'd been pining after her for years… but no, that wasn't his style at all. Apparently, his way was to act awkward whenever she brought up that evening; blushing, stammering, and politely demurring every time she tried to talk to him or spend time with him.
Equally as frustrating was the fact that Amelia seemed to have only the shadiest of memories of that night. It was like a delightful cocoon of amnesia that surrounded her, so that she barely remembered the details of what Rory had done, or why. And without him to talk to, without knowing just why he seemed to be avoiding her; the upshot of that was that she seemed to cling instead to me, every waking second. She was always there, jabbering about anything or nothing, trying on everything in my closet, or spending hours experimenting with different hair and makeup styles on me until I felt like a doll.
Which was… Well. Alright, I loved it; except that occasionally it felt a bit stifling. I can't tolerate anyone hanging on me, no matter how much I care about them. And especially not first thing in the morning.
I always -foolishly, childishly- thought my dreams would go away. Even when time itself proved that they wouldn't, that if anything they seemed to intensify as I grew older. Imperceptibly, my dreams have become more violent and terrifying; and I'm not sure how it has happened, but I've come to realise that there is a bloodbath waiting for me each time I close my eyes at night. Blinking green lights and heavy guns firm beneath my fingertips; and before me is a world blanketed in black smoke and screams with a quiet whisper providing commentary.
"This is what happens, Melody. Look around to see what this world will become, because of the Doctor… and know that this is just one of many across the universe. He will reduce it all to shambles and destruction, thanks to his vanity and selfishness, thinking that he always does the right thing."
"No," I protest helplessly, night after night, "one man can not do this. One man can not ruin the world. I don't believe you, you can't force me…"
Amelia's faith in her Raggedy Doctor must be contagious; because despite myself and everything I have been told about him, I find myself wanting to believe in the man she has told me about for the last ten years. The one who is not a monster at all, the one who is foolish and funny, a clever adventurer sailing through time and space in his magic ship.
"He can't be all bad. Amelia said… she said that he inspires those around him to be better!"
"Then look, little Melody, at what he inspired her to be…"
The memories rush at me, and they accomplish what the sight of a world in destruction and despair can not. I cry in my dreams, remembering my mother back in Florida. Swinging red hair around a pale, frightened face; a gun in her hands that she aims and fires at my head.
"Do you see now, what he made of her? The truest version of Pond inheritance; you are both weapons! She tried to kill her daughter, the only child she will ever have. At least," the voice continues slyly, "when you kill it will be for the greater good. You can save the world, Melody Pond. At you have to do is kill the right person. Kill him. Kill the Doctor."
I squeezed my eyes shut, burrowing down into the safety of my bed. Trying to ignore the remnants of my dreams, to forget… when my covers were whisked away and a blast of cold air hit me. I glared at Amelia; who simply shrugged.
"Ooh, that look on your face!" she mocked. "Come on, Mels, wake up already! I came over because I needed to talk to you, and you're just sleeping and ignoring me!" She poked playfully at my shoulder, grinning in that way that was impossible to ignore, and even more impossible to stay angry at.
"You're my best friend, Mels! Who else could I come to with my biggest problems besides you?"
"Santa. I'm told he grants wishes."
"He does," she agreed with a decisive nod. "But I think this is more girly than he usually handles."
Clearly, a dreamless sleep and ignoring Amelia were both futile gestures, so I sat up, pulling yesterday's jeans back on and a black jumper over the tank top I'd been sleeping in.
"Fine," I grumbled. "Tell me, then. What's so important that you needed to wake your best friend up, and is too girly for Santa for handle?"
"Oh, don't sound like that!" she answered, rolling her eyes. "It's just that I've been thinking…" she paused, her voice sounding rather ominous, "that I should reinvent myself. Amelia Pond sounds like a little girl; but I'm getting all mature and grown-up.
"So maybe," she concluded with a toss of her head, "I need a new look so everyone gets that."
My bad mood lightened as I stared at her, twisting to view herself in from all angles in her mirror; and I couldn't help the tiny smile that came over my face at such an impossible thought. Amelia Pond has always been, and will always be Amelia Pond. My Amelia, my bossy little Mother with the lightening quick smile, ruled by intuition and her ability to put faith in the unconventional.
"You're planning to reinvent yourself?" I asked mildly, trying to finger-comb my hair into some semblance of order. "And how do you plan to accomplish that, exactly?"
"Maybe," she mused, frowning as she bunched her hair up, letting the ends fall to just above her ears, "I should cut my hair. What do you think, Mels? How'd I look with it really short?"
"Like some sort of stretched out pixie," I said bluntly. "Your face doesn't suit that style."
"Okay, fine then. Different makeup?" I watched, bemused as she puckered her lips at herself in the mirror. "Dark red lipstick? Maybe do something with really dramatic cheekbones-" she sucked in her cheeks until she was contorted into an exaggerated fish-face, "or a really heavy dose of foundation to get rid of those stupid freckles…"
"I love your freckles," I finally answered, failing to keep the grin off my face. "And dark red lipstick will make you look like a vampire in the middle of a feeding."
"Oi, shut up! You're grumpy when you wake up, aren't you? If you can't say anything helpful-"
"I'm never helpful, Amelia. I thought you knew that."
"Yeah," she grumbled. "But sometimes your mouth has some sort of filter. That nice person filter that most people are born with."
"I'm Amelia Pond," she declaimed, drawing herself up self-importantly. "I don't need to be nice."
"And I'm Melody…" I paused, biting my lip. It felt like so long since I'd said my name, my real name out loud. "Mels. Mels Zucker. And she isn't so nice either."
"No, you are sometimes. But you know," Amelia turned around, thoughtfully tapping her finger against her lips as she looked at me, "I forgot about that. Mels isn't really your name. It's Melody."
"You," I retorted hotly, remembering the untidy, grass-stained little girl Amelia had been all those years ago, "were the one who thought it didn't suit me. Said I seemed like a Mels to you."
"Well," she tossed back, "you do. Melody is the name of someone who is big-eyed and flowing haired and all…delicate fairy tale princess. And you're not that at all. But it's a pretty name, anyway.
"In fact," she continued, turning to inspect her mascara in the mirror again, "if I ever have a daughter, maybe that's what I'd call her. Melody. After my best friend."
I think my heart stopped for a moment. I distinctly heard the beats skip, and my breath caught in my chest. "You would?" I asked, my voice emerging as a husky whisper. "You'd name her after me?"
"Melody Pond." She laughed, a light bubble of giddiness that made me clench my fingers into hand, nails marking sharp half circles into the skin of my palms at the first time I'd ever heard my name, my real name coming from my Mother's lips. "It's perfect, isn't it? It's like a storybook name!
"But actually…" she said, a grin on her face, "Amelia Pond sounds fairy tale. Melody Pond sounds like… a comic book character. One of those who seems all normal until boom! Her ordinary persona falls away and she's revealed as a superhero!"
"Melody Pond, the secret superhero." I couldn't help the giggle that rose in me at Amelia's flight of fancy. "And I bet she'll have a sparkly pink cape and magic wand?"
"Don't be stupid; no hero has a wand outside of Harry Potter," Amelia scoffed; but then she paused, obviously thinking hard. "Well… maybe they do? My Raggedy Man had a wand… thing. It made a sound and lit up on one end; so if he had that, I guess she could have something too? I don't know about the cape. Maybe she could have some sort of suit with special powers. Can't be a superhero saving the world without the proper clothes, right?"
Unbidden, the thought of a white space suit came into my head; and I shivered as the smile faded right off my face. Nothing funny about Amelia's speculations about her daughter, now. My brain felt like it was boiling, bubbling over with thoughts and memories of the loneliness and fear of a little girl in Florida, a dark room late at night and an insistent, syrupy voice hissing at me.
Kill him. Kill the Doctor. That's what you were born for, Melody Pond. To kill him and save the world.
"Yeah," I mumbled, shaking my head so hard I could feel the bones in my neck snap and grate in protest. "I bet Melody Pond would have all the right clothes and weapons. A superhero has to have all that to change the world."
"Hey!" Amelia exclaimed as I walked past her, out the door and toward the stairs. "Don't you leave; where are you going? I was counting on you to help me figure out how to reinvent myself!"
"I need some air," I called back over my shoulder before I let the door slam behind me. "I'll be back in five."
I didn't mean to lie to her, truly. I just needed the winter air, chill and bracing, to clear my head and blow away the remnants of memory and nightmare cluttering my mind. But the second I was outside, I started to run. Down the steps, my feet flying as I dodged around people on the streets to run and run and run, with one little word resounding through me.
"No." No no no no. A word repeated so much it became a meaningless mantra. Pale grey sky overhead, cold damp pavement beneath my feet; and I tried to escape the thoughts that trailed persistently behind me.
Melody Pond is indeed the name of a superhero. Melody Pond is the name of a girl who was born to slay a monster and bring down a tyrant.
But some days, I wish I could be more than that. Some days, I wish I could run and run and run, until I leave Melody Pond behind and find peace.
It seemed like days later that I stopped, as though there was an audible click in my brain when I finally realised that my legs hurt and I had a persistent stitch in my side, that the only sounds around me were my rasping breath and the shrill, unmusical tone of my mobile ringing relentlessly.
"Mels," Rory snapped down the line, without even waiting for me to say hello, "I don't know what you're doing, or what you're playing about. But Amelia is furious, and she won't stop ringing me."
"I just stepped out for a few minutes, for some air. Lighten up. "
"I'll lighten up when she does. Where are you, anyway? "
I spun around, taking in no recognizable landmarks. Darkness had fallen and I hadn't even noticed, and beneath the light of moon and stars all I could see were winter-dormant fields to right and left, a winding unbroken road before me and Leadworth so far behind in the distance I couldn't even see the spires of the church.
"Oh, around," I lied. "I'll be back soon."
There was a hearty sigh from Rory's end of the phone. "You're lying, Mels. I can always tell."
"You are. Get ready to grovel when you get back. Amelia said you two were just talking and you ran away from her for some reason… so good luck, because she's spitting fire and brimstone."
"Yeah, thanks Rory."
"I aim to please."
He hung up without saying goodbye, and I glanced at my watch. Nine o'clock. It had been six hours since Amelia woke me up, nearly six hours that she had been waiting for me to return… With a muffled swear, I spun around to head home; only to find that running back would be impossible. I hurt everywhere; legs, back, lungs… everywhere. Even my face, exposed to the cold wind seemed to burn until tears came to my eyes; and I stuffed my hands into my pockets, bowed my head down to begin the long trek back to Leadworth.
It was hours later as I kept trudging along in the cold, hours before a car did a sharp U-turn to sidle up beside me; and the window rolled down to reveal Rory still dressed in his nurse's scrubs.
"I had a feeling," was all he said as I scrambled for the car door, flinging myself into the warmth of the car. "I had a feeling you weren't even in Leadworth at all."
"How far away are we?"
"About seven miles. Did you hitch a ride or something to be so far away? Steal a car?"
"I promised you, didn't I? No more cars."
"Yeah," he grumbled, rubbing the end of his nose. "I guess you did.
"Feels like I'm always patching you up when something is wrong," he muttered. "It's usually just bandages and first aid cream. Think this is the first time I've ever had to drive outside Leadworth to find you walking on the side of a road at almost midnight."
"First time for everything," I answered glibly. "Thought you'd be pleased… no blood this time."
His frosty silence filled the car, communicating his displeasure even stronger than words would have.
"Right, sorry. Guess it's too early to joke about this?"
"You guess right, Mels."
"Is Amelia really that mad?" I asked, briskly rubbing my hands together to get blood flowing back to my fingers. "I didn't mean to be gone so long; just woke up in a mood, felt a bit distracted and needed some air…"
"If I were you," Rory answered, pulling the car up neatly in my driveway, "I'd go with the door that says 'Tiger' rather than face down the lady."
I glared at him from the corner of my eye, and he shrugged. "Hey," he said, reaching past me to open the door and clap me comfortingly on the shoulder, "you usually prefer the truth. Don't blame the messenger for being honest."
I could hear the television playing softly in Janet and Jamie's room as I slipped quietly into the house, moving noiselessly up the stairs and into my bedroom to find Amelia, fast asleep on my bed and hugging my teddy bear under her chin. As quiet as I thought I'd been though, I hadn't taken more than two steps into the room before her eyes popped open, and her brows drew together into a deep frown.
"You said five minutes," she accused, sitting up and rubbing her eyes sleepily. "I've been here all day. Told your parents we were doing a school project, and that's why we weren't even coming downstairs for tea. Even called my Mum to tell her I was staying here tonight, so I could cover for you."
"Yeah, got distracted, ended up a little further away than I'd meant to be. Took awhile to get back…"
"Excuses." She crossed her arms, staring at me with narrowed eyes and pressed-together lips. "Lots of excuses from you, Mels. You know what I'm not hearing? An apology."
"Well…" I said, feeling a bit defensive, "you never apologise either! Ever, or for anything! You woke me up today, didn't even ask if I had anything else to do; and then you're mad that I went out for a bit?"
"Well, forgive me! You're my best friend! I didn't know I should have to apologise for wanting to spend time with you!"
"And I didn't know I should have to apologise because I needed some time to myself!"
We glared at each other, arms crossed and faces in -I'm sure- identical, surly expressions… when suddenly the humour in the situation hit me.
In another world, one where Melody was really the daughter of Amelia Pond, I'm sure they would've had a similar fight to the one Amelia and I were having now. Oh, not about the same topic, not at all. It probably would have been about a teenaged Melody staying out past curfew, wearing clothing that was too revealing, or dating some entirely unsuitable boy… but I could suddenly imagine how that would have been, and how it would have ended. Just like this, with mother and daughter facing off against each other in anger.
And to be fair, it would very likely be about something that Melody had done wrong, that her mother was justifiably upset about.
Just like now.
"I'm sorry," I mumbled, trying very hard not to smile. "I shouldn't have left like that."
Amelia's face softened a bit, her shoulders relaxing even though her arms stayed crossed.
"And I shouldn't have told you I'd be back in a few minutes. Even though, I didn't mean to be gone so long. But I'm still sorry."
"Well." Amelia sniffed, tossing her hair back from her face. "I guess you didn't mean to."
"Do you still plan," I couldn't resist asking, "to name your daughter for me? Or are you too mad?"
She broke into a smile at that, rolling her eyes in mock indignation. "Melody Pond is just too good a name to give up… so yeah, guess so. If I ever have a daughter, I guess I'd name her for my best friend. Even if she's a bit selfish sometimes."
Nothing to say to refute that. I'd had a reason for needing the time to myself today; but there was no reason I could give Amelia for it to make sense to her. So I said nothing as I threw myself down on the other side of the bed with a groan, stretching as much as my abused leg muscles would let me and wriggling still fully clothed underneath my duvet.
"You didn't have to stay here," I told Amelia. "It would've been fine if you wanted to go home, or go out with Rory or something." She turned on her side to face me, lower lip thrust out into a slight pout and she made a small grumbling noise in the back of her throat.
"You said you'd be back, so I waited. I didn't think you'd be gone for so long."
"I didn't mean to be."
She made another grumbling noise, and I opened my eyes to look at her; red hair streaming over my pillow, chin tucked firmly on the bear she still held in her arms.
"I'm glad you stayed, though. And I promise you something: even if I do leave sometimes, like today, I'll always come back."
Amelia shut her eyes, turning onto her back and not looking at me. "Seems," she mumbled, "like people always say that."
"All people. Everyone says: I'll be back."
"You're confusing me with Terminator."
She giggled, turning her head toward me. "Alright, fine. You'll always come back. I believe you. You'll always come back, and if I ever need anything-"
"Give a little whistle."
"This isn't a Disney movie, either," she said, snorting with laughter. "How about this? If I ever need anything and if you're not already there; I'll call you, Mels."
I watched her close her eyes, face softening into repose, and I smiled as I reached out to brush a strand of hair off her cheek.
"Melody," I whispered, because I simply couldn't help it. "I'm really your Melody."
"You're really my Mels," she muttered back, apparently not as asleep as I thought she was.
"Alright, fine. Your Mels." A sudden thought hit me, and I poked Amelia in the shoulder, ignoring her grunt of protest.
"How about," I suggested, "if you want to reinvent yourself, you change your name a little? Spell it differently, or something?"
"I don't think there's more than one way to spell Amelia," she grumbled. "I guess I could be called something else completely. My middle name is Jessica; I could try that."
"No, you don't look like a Jessica. What about… is there a short version of Amelia? How about…. Amy?"
'Huh." Amelia's eyes snapped open for a moment, and she stared at my ceiling as she considered it. "I like it. Amy Pond. Does it really seem like me, though? Do I look," she gestured to herself, "like an Amy?"
"More an Amy than a Jessica."
"I don't know if that really suits me either, though. Amy Pond," she intoned soberly, before saying it again and again, with different inflections and tones of voice.
"Amy Pond, here. Hello, I'm… Amy Pond!"
She giggled, snuggling down into her pillow and reaching out to hold my hand before she closed her eyes.
"Maybe," she mumbled sleepily. "I'll think about it. If I'm really an Amy."
The Doctor woke up in his bed on the TARDIS with a golden glimmer around him, a tingling in his jaw, and River's face hovering anxiously over him.
"You're a much nicer Pond to wake up and see," he mumbled sleepily, and she laughed softly in response.
"I'll tell my parents you said that," she teased, climbing onto the bed to sit beside him. "Dad will be particularly upset that his face isn't the first thing you want to see in the morning."
"He'll get over it. Just so long as you don't tell Amy."
"No promises, my love," she laughed, brushing his hair from his face; and he craned his face to nestle his forehead into her palm before his eyes snapped open.
"Nanogenes," River said, answering his unspoken question. "Repairing a few dozen layers of skin as we speak; and wherever did you get that bruise? A lot of force in that punch."
He shifted his jaw left and right, feeling the tingling intensify before the glow faded. "Got in the way of someone's fist. No one important; well, no, I don't mean that. He is important; one of the most important men in the world. Its just not important what I did to be in the way of his fist.
"How did you know, anyway? Were you just stopping by, River?"
"Ah." He snuggled next to her, smiling as he remembered the last pages of her diary that he'd just been reading; and extremely grateful he'd remembered to tuck it back into his pocket before falling asleep.
"And you always come when she calls, do you?"
"Have you met my Mother? Wouldn't you?" He laughed, and River lightly caressed her fingers through his hair.
"Made her a promise about that once. So," she shrugged, "broke out of Stormcage when she rang today and dropped in for a visit.
"Please do something for me, though?" River asked, her fingers stilling in his hair. "Do tell her that I don't always hit you. I'm not certain she believes I'm not responsible."
"Can you blame her?"
There was silence in the room, and he tentatively opened one eye to find his wife giving him a steely glare.
"Ah," he stammered, attempting a smile. "Did I say that out loud; sorry about that. Yes, of course I'll tell her. You'd never hit me. Almost never. Unless it's deserved."
"And you're sailing perilously close to the edge of that, sweetie." But she smiled as she spoke, running her fingers through his hair again, and he relaxed next to her.
"You were having some interesting dreams, when I came in," she murmured softly. "Legs twitching like a rabbit."
"Maybe I was running?" he suggested.
"That's very you, isn't it? Running, even in your sleep."
He laughed, opening his eyes and reaching his hand up to trail his finger over the planes of her face, down that little bump of her nose and around the curves of her lips. "And do you dream?" he whispered. "Do you still dream, like you used to?"
River eyed him carefully, biting the corner of her lip. "The nightmares, you mean? Yes. Sometimes, on occasion. They worked hard with that brainwashing, and for a very long time. But the bits that remain, those tiny bits of my brain that the Silence and Madame Kovarian got hold of… they're remnants, my love. They don't bother me, anymore."
"I still wish that I could fix that. Fix it so that you're not bothered by any of it." He didn't mean to, but his hands clenched into fists; and River smiled, reaching over to smooth her fingertips, soft and cool, over his wrist.
"It doesn't work like that, sweetie. You can't fix everything."
"I'm the Doctor," he answered promptly. "I should be able to fix everything."
"I forgot that about you," River mused. "When you're young-"
"Forgot what?" he interrupted, pouting just a little. "And I'm not that young."
She smirked, drawing her finger down, pushing his lower lip back into alignment . "Young enough.
"I forgot that you always worry so, about me. Trying to fix things and save things all the time, even those that don't need to be done."
"But," he gaped at her, "I thought that you like that! You were the one who told me that I'd always be there to catch you!"
"Did I say that? Well… I haven't yet, but I suppose I might." She winked at him, her eyes sparkling. "You're such hard work, young. I suppose that at some point I'll have to tell you that, just so you know to answer your phone when I call.
"I do like it," River continued, brushing her thumb softly over his knuckles before weaving her fingers through his. "Knowing that you're there to catch me, if I need it. But there are things you can't do anything about; and sometimes that's alright. I think, with my dreams… It's my mind's way of remembering who I was. And reminding me of why I became who I am. Which isn't bad, when you think of it like that.
"I wouldn't say that I enjoy them, exactly. But I appreciate them now for what they are. Just a remnant of who Melody Pond used to be. Before she found some peace."
He sighed, seeing no way to refute the validity of her statement as he looking down from her face -serene, with that tiny flirtatious smile that never really went away- to their entwined fingers on the bed.
What funny things they were, he mused. Hands. More than your face, or hair, or body; sum of who you were could be seen in them. He found himself tracing the calluses of pen and gun trigger on her fingertips, marvelled in the sturdiness of her palms and the set of her thumb. River's hands were those of one whose life was set upon doing… a delightful combination of gentleness and capability, tipped by the elegance of shapely red fingernails. And strength? Yes. Strength enough to deal with everything that fate threw her way.
He squeezed her hand gently, glancing at her out the corner of his eye.
"Not Melody," he answered, tugging her down until she was cradled in his arms and he could burrow his face into her hair. "River Song really does suit you far better than Melody ever did."