A/N - River Song, noted archaeologist.
And finally, the end. Thanks so much to everyone for all the comments and encouragement, it means so much to me. I love you all.
As far as the universe was concerned, River had become a recluse. Living in Jack's mansion in New New York, only emerging on the days she needed to sign the probation register. After a while the number of reporters stationed outside the gates dwindled, and the salacious stories in the media gave way to the next big scandal. The day finally came for her final signature, and Jack was freed from his voluntary bond to live whatever life he chose.
River decided that a life of academia would be a suitable counterpoint to her former life of crime. She courted a few fifty-first century universities and was taken on as a fellow at Oxford on New Earth. Her published articles in Archaeological journals were highly thought of, as well as earning the dubious honour of being most plagiarised.
The long period of time she took to herself to spend with her family served her well. Her normal suffix shifted from 'convicted murderer' to 'noted archaeologist'.
By the time the offer of the residential professorship came through, her child was an adult with a life of her own, and River felt like it was time for a new adventure. She was given her own office with a view out over the city rooftops. There was a certain comfort in the ancient stone buildings, each of them an archaeological gem in its own right; perfectly preserved and carefully transported by the Trust from Earth to New Earth post evacuation. And now she was adding her story to the countless others witnessed by these walls.
Life in Oxford was steady and quiet, the perfect contrast to life with the Doctor. She had never spent so much continuous time with him as she had after her release, and if she were being honest, it could be very tiring—she felt she could never be truly alone aboard the TARDIS. She had grown accustomed to her own company during her confinement, and there was something about it she missed.
She found a modest residence outside of town and used her salary to pay for it, in spite of offers from a well-meaning husband in the habit of gifting buildings to those he loved. She wanted it to be hers—her walls, her roof, her door. She had never owned anything much more permanent than her diary in her entire life, and it felt like no mean feat to do something so normal as own a house.
The Doctor would call most nights, as he had in the past. And her daughter would whisk her away from time to time, normally on less perilous adventures than those her father favoured. The opening of the Louvre perhaps, or tea with the Dali Llama. It was after a trip to London, for the opening night of The Mousetrap on the West End, that River kissed her daughter goodbye and dropped in to her office to collect some assignments she had intended on marking. She was momentarily startled to find the Doctor sitting in the dark, fiddling with a paperweight, waiting for her. "You scared the life out of me!" she said, clutching her hand to her chest.
"Sorry I didn't turn on the light. I was just admiring your view here." He leaned to look again out of the window. The starlight shimmered on the rain-slicked black slates.
"It is quite beautiful, isn't it? I'm never normally here after dark. In fact I'm only here tonight because I needed to collect a few things. I'm just home from the West End in 1952 after seeing The Mousetrap with—" River stopped. There was something not quite right about the way the Doctor was peering at her. There was something guarded about his manner that made her pause. She found the switch next to the door and flooded the room with light. There he sat—startlingly young.
"Oh, em, you wouldn't know them." River said, slightly shocked, slightly awed at seeing someone so familiar seeming so unfamiliar once more.
The Doctor cocked an eyebrow at that. "I met Agatha Christie once, wonderful woman, throws terrifying parties."
River moved to her desk and fumbled for a small key dangling from a chain around her neck. She unlocked a concealed drawer and slid her blue diary out. "Where are we for you?" The words felt like cotton in her mouth, such was the length of time since they have been spoken. She heard the spine crack slightly as she opened the book she had once never left off her person. She flicked through a few of his earlier adventures with her and he wouldn't give her a straight answer. She shut the book again. "So what brings you here, Doctor?"
"Dunno," he said, finally losing control of his hands and dropping the paperweight. He picked it up and put it back roughly where he had found it. "Thought I'd look you up."
River smiled, he really never changed. "That's cheating, Doctor!"
"Don't worry, Professor Song. I didn't stray out of the 51st Century academic registers. I know what a stickler you are for your rules."
"I refuse to abide by any rule I haven't set yet."
River chuckled fondly. "Oh Doctor, what ever will I do with you?"
There was the faintest smirk on his lips; he turned his face away to conceal it and cleared his throat. He wasn't much younger than the first time she had met him. That day was such a muddle in her memories, but it was clear to her now that she didn't stand a chance. He was a devastating, life destroying, magnificent enigma of a man. And he loved her even now, although he barely knew her.
"Are you on your own these days?" River asked.
"No, no. I have someone. She's asleep. Scottish, ginger—I think you'd like her."
River grinned. "So Doctor, if you're not lonely, why exactly are you here?"
"Can't one old friend drop in on another for no reason?" He got to his feet and moved towards her, stopping just outside or her personal space.
"So we're friends now are we?"
His face betrayed a hint of panic. "Aren't we?"
"Of course we are," she said. "Always."
River never told her Doctor whom she had found in her office, he'd only fret. He knew as well as she did that encounters with his younger self were not arbitrary. She tried not to worry unduly; after all she still had her family this turn about. Even if she did know that something was coming, it could be years, and worrying was a futile exercise.
A year or so later, she called him to Asgaard with the intention of seducing him, and he turned up with an entirely different younger face. One she had only ever seen in a photograph. She had to come up with a quick change of plan, and they ended up picnicking, of all the daft endeavours. Of course they had a perfectly pleasant, perfectly chaste, afternoon, but the thought was at the back of her mind scratching to get in. Something was coming.
It wasn't until he finally made good on his promise to bring her to Darillium did she finally allow herself to worry. He cried as he held her when the towers sang, and then tried to fudge together some explanation for the tears about the frequency of the sound resonating with the emotional centre of his brain. "Ever the romantic, Sweetie," she had said. His reply floored her: "I love you, River."
After he had gone, River was restless. She went to her writing desk and rifled through a drawer until she produced the blue box of cards her daughter had given her on her release. There was just one remaining unused. She took it out and looked at it. She had been saving it for when she really needed it, and she didn't know whether that time was now or not, but she was going to use it either way.
She materialised in her parents' kitchen in Leadworth, it was night time and Rory was standing at the countertop reading the local newspaper. He looked up and smiled, warming her hearts. "Hello, Dad," she said, and with that, burst into tears. Rory rushed to take her in his arms. They stayed like that for a while until River broke away. "Sorry about that, I don't know what got into me."
"River," Rory ducked to look into her eyes. "You told me once that you were going to meet a version of the Doctor some day that wouldn't know who you were. Has that happened?"
River shook her head and dried the last of her tears with her sleeve. "No, nothing like that. I'm just being daft."
Rory stroked the back of her head and planted a kiss on her forehead. "How long can you stay this time?"
"I'll call work and take a few days off."
"You don't have to do that."
"I want to. Besides, we could all do with a break."
River spent the following days with her parents, playing board games, shopping with Amy, cooking with Rory. When it was time to leave she felt infinitely better. She hugged them one final goodbye and told them they'd see her soon. She knew it was the very last time she would see them, but she didn't feel sad, she felt grateful.
She always thought that it would kill her, to look into the Doctor's eyes and see nothing reflected back. But it had just happened and she was still living and breathing and hurting. It had to start somewhere for him, she supposed.
Where the Doctor went, mortal danger followed. If she was honest, she thought it amazing that she hadn't been killed long ago as she sat wiring herself into the core of the Library mainframe. She couldn't let him die, too many people were depending on him to be saved, or inspired, or born. And she was waiting for him, somewhere in his future, completely unaware of how her life was about to be forever altered.
She thought about the twelve years she had spent grieving him, and it occurred to her that he had been grieving her since the day he met her. And he still let it all happen between them. He allowed himself to look past the ghost and love the woman. She didn't know if she could have done the same had the roles been reversed.
She loved him—always and completely—and joined the cables.