Title: Five Ways the Ninth Doctor Met River
Fandom: Doctor Who
Pairing(s)/Character(s): River Song/Ninth Doctor, Mels, Melody, Jack Harkness, Rose Tyler, Mickey Smith and mentions the Eleventh Doctor.
Author's Note: Written for the River/Doctor ficathon for kitty_ryan, and omg, I should be taken out back and shot for being two weeks late with this! I slightly tweaked and combined two different prompts of yours: Jack: "The 51st Century. Luna University. The Archaeology Professor. Strangest week of my life." and "She knows all his faces. River/Nine." Again, I can only apologize for how late this is, and hope you like what I've done with these awesome prompts!
"Jack, we don't have time for this."
The Doctor knew everything was going south the minute Rose and Mickey had been kidnapped, which unfortunately happened often enough to have a familiar sort of flavor to it; why no one ever listened to him when he told them not to wander off was a thing that would continually confound the Doctor, no matter what regeneration. But really, he wasn't feeling like his day was getting all that better.
Thankfully, there was a manageable ransom Jack had negotiated. Which was surprising because when the Doctor thought about Jack's talents (it went in no particular order, 1.) Flirting 2.) Getting in and out of trouble 3.) ? but the Doctor was fairly sure it was R-rated), diplomacy hadn't been anywhere on the list. Still. The Doctor found himself in the unenviable position of tracking down some rare Blancherille artifact, and Rose and Mickey's lives rested on its delivery.
All in all, a bad day.
"No, I'm telling you," Jack insisted, rushing ahead down the hall. "This girl knows what we need. The 51st Century. Luna University. An archaeology student. I had the strangest week of my life with this woman. There was this whole thing where she invited a group of Sontaran soldiers to the Rustianiana Opera – don't ask. Basically we ended up in a shoot out that got us banned from the Nebulas quadrant of the Galaxy."
"A shoot out?" the Doctor replied, incredulous. "With an archaeology student?"
Jack grinned. "Wait until you meet her. She's… not like most students. Oh, but she's got these fantastic jodhpurs that do wonders for her ar—"
"Let me guess," the Doctor cut in, rolling his eyes, "those jodhpurs ended up crumbled up by your bedside on more than one occasion?"
"Why, Doctor, is that jealousy I detect in your voice?"
He didn't dignify that with a response. They turned the corner and found the Luna Library, large and gothic, built in late 51st century as a tribute to Tiberius Julius Celsus. The Doctor was well familiar with the lore, but this was the first time he'd stepped foot inside the famous university. It was impressive, if you liked archaeology.
Which the Doctor didn't. Hated, in fact.
Bunch of misguided bookworms that misconstrued everything. Their thought-progression usually went from artifact, connection, supposition, theory, which largely resulted in ideas like the tooth-fairy being a deity for the western civilization in the twenty-first century. Honestly, who came up with some of these things? (Though, in fairness, his own progression usually went something like: idea, execution, explosion, damage assessment, rescue or recovery. Then running. Lots and lots of running.)
He followed Jack down the long aisles of the library, crisscrossing between pillars of bookshelves to what looked like a small, reserved alcove of tables. It looked like a place meant for teachers or faculty, but Jack navigated there easily and found a curly-haired woman seated alone, head half hidden by a stack of books piled three feet high.
"River!" Jack exclaimed, joyfully. "Guess who?"
"Not now, Jack," the woman remarked, unruffled, without even looking up. "I'm right in the middle of my dissertation, and I've got only a few days to complete it before I—"
"Don't worry about time," Jack cut in. "I've got a time machine."
"For the last time, calling that bracelet of yours a time-machine is an insult to time-machines. I should know, I'm the child of the—" she looked up, spotting Jack and then the Doctor. Her eyes honed in on the latter, studying for a bit, before widening in surprise. "Oh, bloody hell."
"River Song," Jack introduced, with a flourish. "Meet the Doctor. The Doctor, River Song."
"Lovely name," he remarked, amiably enough because they were here for help, after all; whatever archeological nonsense she had learned from this university was hardly her fault – at least not yet. He held his hand out for a shake, while River continued to stare at him.
"Right," River said, a wide smirk spreading across her lips, the proverbial cat-ate-cannery type. "Hello, sweetie. Nice to meet you."
"Be careful, Doc," Jack said with a wolfish grin. "Did I forget to mention the fact that she's doing her dissertation on you?"
"What?" the Doctor managed, narrowing his eyes at the other woman.
She wasn't as young as he expected for a student, but there was unmistakable youth and exuberance in her eyes, like she was already devising a thousand ways to eat him alive. Fantastic. An archaeological fan. This was already going from a bad day to a worse one.
"This—" River remarked, gleefully, "is definitely going to be interesting."
"Well, this is just sexy."
The Doctor decided then and there that he had no idea what to make of Rose's childhood best friend. Mels didn't have the usual reaction he got to being newly introduced to the TARDIS. The standard shock and awe was definitely present, but he reckoned that was the first time anyone had called the TARDIS sexy – well, aside from himself.
"It's bigger on the inside," Mickey offered, from the side.
"Noticed," Mels replied, with a cheeky grin. Then saddled up towards the console and ran a loving hand over it, like she was caressing some lover. "Oh, babe," she called out to Rose. "This is the best road trip ever."
"Right?" Rose grinned. "Just wait until you see what the Doctor can show you. Planets – alien planets, can you imagine? And time travel and robots and danger and—"
"Oh," Mels cut in. "I might be in love."
The two girls dissolved into giggles, and the Doctor had the sinking feeling those two could get up to all kinds of trouble when they set their minds to it. He traded a look with Mickey, and got confirmation when the other man sighed; any woman that could scare Mickey was probably one worth entertaining for a day or two.
Skittering around the console, the Doctor flipped a lever and watched them from afar. "So," he said, stretching a grin. "Where to?"
Mels came around to his side. "What are my possibilities?"
"Infinite," the Doctor answered, and something in him settled on impressing this woman. Mels already had the look of a girl just starving for adventure, and he remembered how eager Rose had been, like that, at the very beginning, challenging him to do his best. He liked to impress these types of women the most. "Do you want to decide, or shall I?"
She leaned in, smirking. "Surprise me."
"And that, I shall," he declared. "I'm just full of surprises, y'know."
"Oh, sweetie," she said, "so am I."
And when she said it like that, it sounded half-threatening, half-teasing.
Yeah. He definitely had no clue what to make of this woman.
When the Doctor thought of discovering another of his kind, he thought of stuffy old men with ridiculous ornate headgear, he felt the fear in the pit of his stomach (and yet also this strange longing) when he thought of the Master, he thought of a thousand faces, all unique and clever, the brightest minds in the universe. When he thought – and he tried not to – of finding another Timelord or Lady like him, he thought about explaining, apologizing – groveling, though he'd never admit to the impulse beforehand. But when he did stop to think of it, when he gave the faint fantasy a few stray thoughts, it was always too foolishly hopeful of him to think it ended any way but badly. The Doctor knew better than that.
He would not have imagined a scared seven-year old girl, though. It was not the right picture in his head, but here she was – frail, underfed, scared.
The Silence would pay for this.
"What's your name, poppet?" he asked, softly.
"Melody," came the frail answer.
Clever girl, Melody, only a handful of years and already she had devised a way to contact the President of the United States using a tangle of wires and an abandoned building; the Doctor could never have foreseen the turn of events bringing him face to face with another of his kind. Well, sort of. The girl was part-human, part-Timelady. What parts and from whom, he didn't know yet. He planned to find out.
"Well," he said. "You want to see something special?"
"You have to promise to keep it a secret. A big blue secret just for you and me."
"Blue?" she questioned, with childlike-innocence in those frightened eyes.
"Yep," the Doctor answered, managing his carefree smile. "The bluest-blue you'll ever see. It's an old square box – bigger on the inside. I don't let many people inside, just special people. And you know what? It travels, too. All across time and space."
"An old, time-traveling box? How old?"
"As old as anything you can imagine, plus a few millennia," he answered, lightly.
"And," she said, so trusting already that the Doctor's hearts almost bled. "Am I special enough to see it?"
"Why, poppet," the Doctor said, grinning. "You're the specialist one of all!"
The girl was all alone.
The thing of it was, so was the Doctor.
She'd need a lot of looking after. It wasn't just the Silence – it was every scary monster, every species, every enemy the Doctor had ever known that would relish the opportunity to use this poor little Timelady as a weapon. And it wasn't as if she had anyone else to look after her. The pitiable confused caretaker that the Silence had brainwashed into looking after her was now slain, dead by the same hands that had warped his mind all these years; no parents, no siblings, no one to take care of her. Not yet, not until the Doctor unraveled the spool of mystery surrounding her.
Not since the War, since he'd regenerated into this body he could hardly stand to look at, sometimes, had the Doctor seriously considered taking on another companion. He had decided to remain alone, a just punishment for his crimes, but this tiny girl – well, he reckoned she needed someone looking after her, someone to protect her. It had been many years since the Doctor had dared try to take care of anyone; he had spent too long in a wayward pursuit of mindless adventures. And while Melody was probably unsuited to that environment, he couldn't think of any other place where she'd be safe. Maybe, he could protect her. Maybe, he had the obligation to.
She was the only one like him now, and he needed to safeguard that lineage.
At least until, of course, he found her parents.
"What do you say?" he asked. "You want to see my big blue box?"
And he earned her first true smile. "Okay."
"You're not supposed to be here," she told him, blinking.
The Doctor was accustomed to receiving such a greeting, because he was always going to places where he had no right to be, no sense to avoid, and every incentive to trespass. Well, every incentive in his way of thinking – and that was really all that mattered. This time, the person that said the oft-uttered phrase was a woman in a stunning red gown, with blonde curly-hair and curves all around. Also, she had a gun, which should have been a bit more distracting than her other features, granted, but she had already started to lower said weapon towards the floor so that the muzzle wasn't facing anything with a face. Like the Doctor. He appreciated that.
"And who are you to tell me where I can and cannot be?" the Doctor asked.
"Someone who's finding the universe's sense of humor a bit irritating, at the moment," she muttered, under her breath. "Look, sweetie, why don't we nip this in the bud before it gets awkward? You are about to run into your future self any second now. Eleventh regeneration, has a ridiculous thing for hats. Unless you want to cause a cosmic collapse of the universe, because I'm betting the Pauli-exclusion Principal will be getting in a bit of a tizzy over this, you're going to have to scram before he runs into you."
"What?" the Doctor said, blinking. "Look, here, Miss—"
"Song," she answered, smiling a bit wide. "River Song, and it's Mrs."
"Clever name," he remarked, them moved along. "There is no chance I am who you think this other fellow is, because I always remember where I go and when I do it, and if I'm here right now, then I would know never to go back here in the future. Crossing over my own personal timeline, you see – and I never do that. Therefore, this other bloke you're talking about? Isn't me, any version, past or future."
"Right," River remarked, opening her purse to remove some make-up. Looked like lipstick. "Of course, sweetie, my mistake."
"Good, glad we got that cleared up. Now—"
She grabbed him and pulled him into a kiss, lips pressed hard against lips, and the Doctor had a second to react, only a second where he thought, well, hello to you too, sweetie, when she finally pulled back and grinned. "Oh, goody," she beamed. "I'm almost sad you won't remember this, but another version of you down. And you kissed much better than I expected—"
And, then, well – everything went blank as he hit the ground, unconscious.
Here was the thing about being a nine-hundred year old Timelord: he had bloody good memory. He never forgot anything, never blanked on a memory, never had the looming threat of senility setting in because of his old, old, incredibly old age. Every second of his nine-hundred plus years was still preserved perfectly in his mind like a rolodex he could easily flip through at any given moment. Majority of those memories were now bitter more than sweet, but the memories were always there, just waiting for him to recall.
Which was why when some clever woman with nice hair summoned him to the Library and claimed to be someone he knew, and knew very well, apparently, the Doctor was nothing but suspicious.
"Tell me you know who I am?" she asked, more than just a little desperate.
The Doctor stared at her. "Who are you?"
It was strange, then, given he didn't know this woman at all, how he could feel distinctly guilty at the pain that bloomed in her eyes.