Rating: More like K+, but T to be safe. Rating probably will go up in later chapters.
Summary: Ana's glasses are at least two inches thick. It makes her dark eyes seem protuberant most of the time, and piercing whenever they fall down to the end of her button-nose, scrutinizing Mels over a textbook.
Author's Note: With the confirmation of River's bisexuality coming from the Moff himself, I wanted to write something about it. Sort of. It's going to be multiple parts, detailing River's various romantic exploits and indiscretions, and probably discussion of the Doctor's as well. It's ultimately River/Eleven, but if reading either of them with another person is unappealing to you, you need not apply.
Ana's glasses are at least two inches thick. It makes her dark eyes seem protuberant most of the time, and piercing whenever they fall down to the end of her button-nose, scrutinizing Mels over a textbook. When the headmaster first suggests that Mels get a tutor, she of course laughs in his face and outright refuses. There are many reasons, not the least of is that she had a well-known issue with authority figures (or perhaps that she can't have anybody to her house, can't trust anybody at all and any close relationship is a weakness). Mels isn't stupid—quite the contrary, she's rather brilliant—but she doesn't turn in her work, doesn't offer anything useful in class, and skips half the days of the week besides. It's easy to maintain that she's unremarkable if her teachers simply have no idea what her work would even be like like—simply because she never turns it in—but to have to act for a tutor, well, the thought is simply exhausting.
But Ana follows her down the hallway, and even when Mels ignores Ana calling her name and continues to trudge ahead, veering toward the outskirts of Leadworth in an attempt to make Ana leave her alone, she continues on, a couple paces behind, books clutched to her chest, glasses crooked on her nose, her dark hair flaring out around her face.
"Haven't you gotten bored yet?" Mels calls over her shoulder as she turns into the woods, hugging her arms close to her body to keep her leather jacket from snagging. She isn't allowed many luxury items, and this is one she wants to keep.
Ana doesn't answer, but Mels hears her footsteps pressing clumsily into the underbrush. Mels's tread is silent, practiced, and even as they began up a steep hill her breathing is even. She hears Ana panting lightly behind her, but she doesn't let up. The sun fades in the sky and Mels is sure Ana will give up soon—though she guesses she would have given up hours ago. (The easiest course of action is to simply go home, but Mels can't let anybody see where she lives.)
"Haven't you gotten tired yet?" Mels shouts, halting abruptly at the top of a hill, her hands firmly on her hips, her eyes narrow as she regards the tall, thin girl, her hair askew, chest heaving, her hands shaking slightly where she grips her books.
"Exhausted," Ana responds, "but I was told to do whatever it takes to get through to you."
"How unfortunate for you," Mels says, without much sympathy. "Shoo."
"Just one hour, once a week."
"Not a chance in hell," Mels says with a laugh. She turns on her heels and starts to walk away.
"We don't even have to study," Ana shouts, "one hour a week."
Mels doesn't respond, just continues on her way.
"My house after school tomorrow."
"Busy!" Mels chimes.
"Booked!" she shouts.
"Robbing a bank."
"Nursing my drug addiction."
"Prostitution. How else can I pay for my heroin on Saturday?" She screams across the field and that point, her words punctuated by a bright laugh as she waves goodbye to Ana, assuming that's the end of it.
"Just get your ass to my house, okay? No one's that fucking busy."
Mels stops dead in her tracks, letting out a whoop of laughter as she turns and watches Ana stalk back into the woods angrily.
Ana is the sort of girl who sits in the front row of every class in rapt attention, but never volunteers any answers. She's the sort of girl whose hands fidget constantly, whose toe is always tapping against the ground, who jumps every time someone taps her on the shoulder and flinches whenever someone calls her name. On Wednesday, Mels knocks on Ana's door.
She never could resist a contradiction.
At first Ana doesn't even mention school. She lets Mels into her small, ill-kept house and busies herself pouring them both a glass of soda and emptying a bag of chips into a bowl before sitting down at the table. They eat in silence, and Mels takes stock of the house—one story, conjoined living room, kitchen, and dining room. Small hallway that probably has a bathroom and two bedrooms. Front door, back door, huge living room window that was neither latched nor screened—easy exit, if necessary. The dishes are piled in the sink and there's a drying rack in the hallway with clothes she guesses to be Ana's, and a set of black men's trousers. Work boots by the back door. Ana and her father, then.
"So," Mels says, munching loudly on a chip. "What are you going to teach me?"
"Not much," Ana answers, circling her finger around the lip of her glass. "You're not so interested in learning."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Probably my homework. I know you don't do yours. But I just need to tell the headmaster that you were here. For an hour."
Mels shrugs her shoulders, leaning back in her chair and putting her feet irreverently on the table. (She acts like it's a pain in the ass, but the alternative is going home, and she never, ever wants that.) Ana sighs, getting up to retrieve her schoolbooks from an end table by the door, and settling in to work.
"Try not to blow anything up."
Mels snorts. And behaves.
Mels shows up every Wednesday for a little over a month. She and Ana don't talk much, but Mels is getting to know her. Ana is very reserved, but she isn't shy. She's insecure, but she's very smart. Her father works until five or six, and if ever he comes home early Ana hurries her out the door, careful never to let the two intersect. Their arrangement works out well—Mels shows up, stays for an hour, and Ana tells the headmaster that she'd tutored her.
"You're not stupid," Ana says one day, bent over a math assignment. Mels shifts her weight.
"What makes you say that?"
"You're not," Ana says simply. Then, "so do you just hate yourself or something?"
Mels laughs (even she knows that her laugh is mirthless. Even she can feel the rust in her smile.) "What are you talking about?"
"You're never going to go anywhere without University, you know."
"Oh, shut it," Mels groans, standing up to get more soda.
"I know we have this arrangement," Ana continues, turning around to face her as Mels leans against the doorway between the kitchen and the rest of the room, "but I could help you. I really could. If you just tried—"
Mels rolls her eyes, moving quickly to stand behind Ana, placing one hand on the back of her chair and leaning over her shoulder to point to her yet unsolved math problems, moving down the page one by one as she rattles off the answers mechanically, listing through at least twenty without error before Ana stops her.
"Do you have the answer sheet or something?"
Mels shruggs. "I'm not stupid."
Ana stares at her dumbly for a moment as Mels settles back into her chair, peering at her nails and hoping the conversation will end there.
"No," Ana says, "I rather think you are."
"All I can see is that you're trying to fail. Sabotaging yourself. It's stupid. You're stupid." Ana looks angry, and Mels raises her brows, staring Ana down as she huffs an irritated sigh, straightening her glasses, and going back to her work. Mels looks at the clock.
"I'm going to go."
"Not doing you much good here, am I?" Ana retorts.
"I don't think I'm coming back next week."
Mels stands up and walks out.
She returns the next day after school, and the day after that, and the day after that, because if there is one thing Mels notices about Ana during their not-quite-study-sessions, it's that Ana is lonely (and so is Mels).
Ana has faith in her, and that's something Mels isn't used to. Amy and Rory chide her and beg her to stop behaving so badly, to stop shoplifting or speaking back in class—stupid things, parental things, which she knows was appropriate (even if they don't), but it's still grating. Besides, they want her to straighten her life out—she isn't sure that they think she can. Sometimes Mels lets Ana read their history book out loud to her. Sometimes she helps Ana with her matsh homework. Mostly she just sits and watches Ana work. It's only after weeks of spending time with Ana every day after school that she notices how Ana never rolls her sleeves up. She notices that, no matter the weather, Ana always wears opaque tights. Her dark hair is always down, covering her neck. Mels notices that Ana fastidiously hides any skin at all.
Mels notices because she'ss brilliant, because she's bored, but mostly because she's done the same thing after particularly brutal nights of training, until she realized that she'd be healed by the time she got to school anyway. It's probably something she should leave alone, but she can't quite quell the urge to poke and prod anything that doesn't seem quite right (she cringes in retrospect, realizing how alike they were, even then.)
Mels goes with a hunch. "Think I could stay for dinner?"
"My father will be home," Ana says, without looking up from her work.
"I'm sure we'll get along great," Mels pressed with a blinding smile, leaning across the table until she was nose to nose with Ana, who blanched.
"He doesn't like company," she said quietly.
"He'll like me," Mels continued, "I can be quite charming when I want to be."
Ana scoffs. "I don't think so."
"Are you saying I'm not charming?" Mels asked with a laugh, batting her eyelashes.
"Because I thought I've been—"
"No, okay, Mels? Just leave it." Ana shouted abruptly, slamming her pencil onto the table and storming off down the hall.
Mels leaves the topic alone, and instead starts asking Ana about other things. She finds out Ana's favorite food, her favorite color, her favorite football team. She grudgingly talks about literature and film and sometimes she even finds herself forgetting about what's waiting for her at home, and she could love Ana for that alone. But Ana is brilliant and kind and sarcastic and horribly dirty when Mels catches her in the right mood. She is determined to go to University on scholarship and become a history Professor. She reads biographies for fun. Mels doesn't give up much about herself (she never does, and couldn't even if she wanted to) but she gets to know Ana. Comes to care for Ana. She knows it's a mistake—she knows that she'll regret it—but that thought comes belatedly, chases the smile from Ana's lips after Mels leans in and kisses her one day and sours the pretty moment with bitter promise.
Mels ignores it, because at home she has nothing—she has darkness and a squeaky cot and five AM training exercises and lessons about the Doctor that she only half-remembers and discipline and assignments that force her to steal buses or rob stores, assignments that make Amy and Rory worry and get her into trouble—and so she wants Ana; she will have Ana. Bespectacled, too-thin, knobbly-kneed, skittish, brilliant, passionate, snarky Ana is hers, if only for a little while.
They lay beneath the stars and Mels relishes the press of Ana's lean body to hers, smiles at the feeling of Ana's warm fingers against the bare skin of her stomach. Ana never lets Mels undress her, but she slips her fingers beneath Ana's skirt as Ana's hands follow the same path; their eyes are locked, mouths open in mutual bliss, muscles clenching, and starlight glittering in their eyes.
Happiness, to Mels, has always meant a loaded gun and a quicker draw than the other guy—but this is different and more and everything—and Mels clings to Ana like a lifeline, perhaps belying how lonely she is far more clearly than she ever intended.
"She sounds lovely," the Doctor says, his hand in hers as they stroll through Leadworth, escaping the Pond household for a little privacy during their holiday stint with family.
"She was," River says with a nod and a smile, leaning down to pluck a daisy from the side of the path, and pulling the Doctor to the left.
"I'm sorry I couldn't—" he cuts himself off, shaking his head, and River can already tell what he's going to say by the loathing already creeping its way into his tone. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to be there for you, then. I'm sorry you had to go through all that."
"I am too, sometimes," River says, squeezing his hand as she leads him. He clumsily bumps into her as they turn again, and she rolls her eyes affectionately. "But I wouldn't have met Ana otherwise. She wouldn't have met me. I did many terrible things as Mels—had to, didn't I?—but I like to think that I helped her. That I made her happy."
"I'm sure you did, dear," the Doctor agrees as they come to a halt in a sea of granite and concrete, tombstones like half-moons in the evening light. They stand in silence, until the sunset loses its riotous colors, and evening sheaths them, somber and shadowed and quiet. The Doctor releases her hand to drape and arm around her shoulder, pressing his lips softly to the juncture of her shoulder and neck. He rests his head on her shoulder, tilting so that his eyes fall onto the gravemarker at her feet, and he sighs.
"It was her father, wasn't it?" he asks quietly.
"Her mother died when she was younger," River answered, "I read the file in the police station, once while I was waiting for my mother to come pick me up—I couldn't just sit there—and it was decided that she fell down the porch stairs. There were contusions unaccounted for, though. Broken ribs in the coroner's report that had long since healed crooked. Her father was an officer. He just closed the case. One day, the headmaster called me down to his office. Said the tutoring was over—Ana was in the hospital. There'd been an accident. Massive internal bleeding."
"I'm so sorry."
"So was her father," River said with a small shrug, leaning down to place the flower on the grave. She trailed her hand alone the stone, carving out Ana's name once before standing up, and folding herself into the Doctor's side. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and he held her close as they headed back toward Amy and Rory's house. He kissed her head, and never asked River about the fate of Ana's father, because there were some things it was just better he didn't know.