Author's Note: This fic was sort of written in response to Asylum of the Daleks. It examines River's feelings about her parents' near divorce. This is a pretty young River, who has only been in Stormcage for a few months. She is also more emotional than usual, but if you want a better visual picture of this, think back to the way she acted on top of that pyramid in tWoRS. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this fic! Remember that reviews are greatly appreciated.
A bright streak of light flashed amid the dark, turbulent storm clouds.
To anyone else, it would have seemed like nothing out of the ordinary, probably no more than a typical lightning bolt or thunder clap per se, but in reality it was nothing of the sort.
Because River Song had never been ordinary—no, not by any stretch of imagination.
And yet there she was, a time-traveling archaeologist- practically the living embodiment of an impossible paradox, walking about the quiet pathway of a quaint English village with a simple purpose in mind: to visit her parents.
She'd finally decided it was about time. It had been weeks, months even since River had last encountered Amy and Rory Pond.
And that was far too long.
Sometimes the long, extensive days in Stormcage just quite simply depressed her. Sure, she received sporadic visits from her husband, but even those were fleeting most of the time. She always had to go back. Not that she ever complained, because she was fiercely determined to keep her promise to protect the Doctor. No matter the cost.
The mastery of escape had been a continual learning process for her, only recently, after being in prison for about two months give or take, had she acquired a Vortex Manipulator. Before that point, her mode of travel had been largely dependent on the whims of a certain man in a bow tie, who, unfortunately happened to be a rather rubbish pilot and often arrived much later than anticipated.
Cheap and nasty way to time travel or not, the tiny, wristband-like device was efficient and very convenient in her case, and for this, River was grateful.
Now, as the curly haired woman continued along the sidewalk, her eyes darted away from her wrist and she refocused her thoughts on the matter at hand.
Glancing at the row of houses, the Doctor's wife skimmed her surroundings, her gaze finally resting on a familiar, unmistakable TARDIS blue door. She'd only been there a couple of times before, mainly in University and always accompanied by the Doctor.
But for the first time in quite a while, River prepared to visit them on her own. To show her commitment to having a decent relationship with her parents, despite the numerous obstacles that had been a hindrance to that aspiration over the years.
Hopefully they're getting on well. Even without the Doctor. I wonder if they know he's alive.
The thought suddenly occurred to her, and she wondered if she could really keep that secret from them. Her life seemed to be incredibly intertwined with the Doctor's, and to pretend he was dead would be decidedly difficult.
Well, I'm sure if they don't already know, he'll tell them when the time is right. I doubt he could stay away from his best friends for long.
River's musings briskly stopped when a loud yelling sound entered her ears.
She froze, still a good distance from the source of the noise—a place all-too-familiar.
The muffled voices raged from above, and even without her ultra-sensitive hearing, River would have recognized them instantly. Her parents. The Last Centurion and the Girl Who Waited. The couple who survived everything. Engaged in a bitter argument.
River's stomach churned.
"Amy!" Rory practically roared.
River jumped slightly, her body beginning to tremble. A harsh, biting fear arose from deep within.
She had never heard her father yell so loudly in her entire life.
"Get out!" an angry Scottish cadence bellowed from behind the door, which was then abruptly thrust open by River's father.
With that, the sandy haired man scampered out of the house, his hands raised in protest. He didn't even look back.
"Rory…wait…" her mother called desperately, her voice filled with emotion.
But Rory Williams continued to go on his way, refusing to acknowledge Amy's raspy pleas.
River watched in horror as the young red head pressed her hand to her forehead in defeat, trying to suppress the sea of tears that flowed without fail.
"I hate this!" Amy tried one last time, screaming as loudly as she possibly could, but with no result.
By that time the Roman was already onto the sidewalk and he appeared to have no intention of going back. He pretended to act indifferent, but even then, River glimpsed his pained expression. Never had she seen such sorrow and sadness in her father's eyes. Completely and utterly crushed. Hopeless, even.
Her heart ached for him.
She turned her attention back to the ginger woman, who was just barely holding it together. Amy's eyes were watery and streaked with an internal pain that even River barely understood.
River's chest heaved. Her body remained motionless, as her mind swirled with confusion. Her bottom lip quivered, but no sound escaped her mouth. She couldn't speak.
One thing was certain: what she had just witnessed had not been some petty disagreement. No, she'd seen that sort of thing before back when was Mels-their best friend.
Whatever triggered this was serious, serious enough to tear apart two people who possessed the strongest love River had ever known. The incredible love that had kept little Melody Pond going day after day, year after year, when everything else in her life was crumbling to ashes. The love that had given her the will to survive. What had become of it?
She could still picture her mother's beautiful face, her comforting words rippling through her mind, providing consolation to her weary soul.
"He's the last of his kind. He looks young, but he's lived for hundreds and hundreds of years. And wherever they take you, Melody, however scared you are, I promise you, you will never be alone. Because this man is your father. He has a name, but the people of our world know him better, as the Last Centurion."
River had clung to that memory ever since, and she remembered a time when she had desperately searched for this legendary hero, her father, and that young woman who had given her the will to live, her mother.
In her mind she had always idolized them, even growing up with Amy and Rory as Mels, River had secretly prayed that the Last Centurion and the Girl Who Waited, the Daddy and Mummy who loved her, who knew who she was, would come to save her. They were the strongest people she knew, inseparable, completely devoted to one another.
Look at them now.
She stiffened, staring blankly in the distance as Rory veered out of sight.
Silently, River wondered what sort of deadly force could have severed the marriage that had endured the fiercest flames imaginable.
Her parents had always been there, united, together, in her mind, telling her to be strong.
How could this have happened?
River's heart thudded loudly as this question reverberated through her mind without mercy. It was as if the sturdy hope in which she had held fast to for so long had been forcefully ripped from her soul, leaving nothing but a bare, lingering emptiness, which had always been hiding beneath the surface.
Because deep inside, Melody Pond was still a child. Broken, scarred and hurt by the horrifying suffering that had shaped the very essence of her life.
Stop it! You're River Song now, you've got to be strong…you're being irrational. It was nothing, probably just a small argument…it happens…
Chiding herself, the curly haired woman tried to muster the courage she needed.
But, why? How could this even happen? They were so strong. Always so strong. Why?
The question kept coming back, tormenting her until it became difficult to breathe.
River inhaled deeply, shivering all the way.
As she stared back into her mother's tearful eyes, her entire body went numb.
Who was she kidding? She knew exactly why.
The bitter truth crept into her heart, forcing her to turn her gaze to the ground.
Her mother's soft whimpering pulsated through her mind, and suddenly River could no longer bear it.
She had to get out of there.
Frantically punching the coordinates into her Vortex Manipulator, the curly haired woman blasted herself to the only place that had ever given her solace, the only place she could think to go.
Racing about the console like a maniac, the man in the bow tie laughed heartily, an enthusiastic grin etched across his face.
"Doctor Who? Doc-tor Who!" he repeated triumphantly, his fingers twirling around various levers in no particular fashion.
A bubbling excitement filled his hearts as he continued bouncing up and down with a childlike glee.
The Oncoming Storm reveled in his recent victory.
Not only had he defeated the Daleks, he'd also managed to not get exterminated and save the Ponds' marriage all in one go.
He rose to straighten his blue bow tie.
And best of all, thanks to the wonderful, brilliant, oh so human, Oswin, his oldest and deadliest enemies hadn't just lost the battle, they'd forgotten him!
Those horrid, grotesque creatures who literally survived on their hatred towards him, couldn't even remember the Predator, the man who had stopped them time and time again. Ha! What irony!
And if the Daleks did start to check him out, they probably wouldn't get very far, especially since practically everybody in the universe thought he was dead or else just some legendary figure.
How much better could it get than that?
The Doctor mused to himself, feeling very carefree and excited.
Wow, he hadn't felt this happy in ages!
"So…Old Girl…where to next? I'm quite in the mood for a thrilling adventure!" his lips curved wryly into a grin.
His hearts beat so incredibly fast and yet they could still barely keep up with the rest of his body.
"How about Gavalon IV, I hear that's quite the sight to see in this part of the universe, and seeing as I haven't been there in years and I hardly remember it, then why not?" he declared joyfully, his hands deftly maneuvering the controls of the TARDIS, gearing his ship to his desired destination.
Upon hearing the familiar whirring-chirring sound of the Old Girl, the Doctor couldn't help but smile.
Too hyper-focused to run environment checks, the man in the bow tie just about bounded to the doors, when suddenly he halted.
A strange noise resounding from one of the TARDIS corridors entered his hearing.
Reality seemed to set in in that moment, reminding him that his bursts of excitement never tended to last very long.
Many questions soared through his mind.
Who else would be here? The TARDIS just landed and before that it was in midflight…so…how did someone get in? I already dropped the Ponds off…
Trudging down the reflective staircase, the Doctor followed the noise.
He furrowed his brow.
"Hello…who's there…it's the Doctor…" his voice came out louder than he anticipated.
As he veered closer to the source, the sound became nearly distinguishable.
"Hello?" he asked again, tilting his head slightly, as he slowly opened the door.
Immediately he recognized the room, and more importantly the woman inside it.
His hearts pounded harder.
"River? Oh, hello, what a surprise! I didn't know you were coming…" The Doctor grinned even more brightly—that was, until he saw her face.
One glimpse was all it took.
Across from him, River Song buried her face in her knees, her curly hair trailing down her back.
Instinctively, the Doctor moved towards her, quickly propping himself on the bed beside her crumpled form.
"Oh, River…what's happened?" he prodded gently, his hand touching her back briefly in a gesture of comfort.
Her husband withdrew, sensing her apprehension but unable to comprehend the reason behind it.
"River…" the Doctor started.
"Leave me alone." She groaned weakly, confirming the fact that she was crying.
Oh, no. This was bad. Very not good. River hardly ever cried.
What am I supposed to do? I can't just go off and leave her like this. I'm her husband; I'm supposed to fix it.
"What happened, River?" he continued, trying his best to be empathetic.
"Sweetie, I already told you to leave me al-"
"Well, tough, because I am most certainly not leaving until you tell me exactly what is going on." The Doctor crossed his arms stubbornly.
His wife released a despondent sigh, knowing her husband had firmly made up his mind.
"You wouldn't understand. It's probably too early for you." River barely managed to say.
"Try me. When are you?" the Doctor inquired softly.
"I've only been in Stormcage for a few months…" she carefully refrained from divulging major spoilers.
"Oh, good. So we're married, then. Egypt happened not too long ago for me, and I've seen you several times since then…" though, admittedly most of those encounters were with an older River. He hadn't seen this River since their wedding night, which, in fairness, wasn't exactly a wedding night since he decided to come about two weeks late give or take.
Stroking her back gently, the Doctor tried to console her. This time, she did not protest.
"D-Doctor, when was the last time you saw my parents?" River stuttered, her question barely audible.
"Oh, good old Ponds, saw them today actually…we sort of got kidnapped by a bunch of frightened Daleks, long story…" He sounded cheery.
"Yes, yes, I'd love to hear about that later, dear, but more importantly, when you saw them, were they…um…alright?" she chose her words very carefully.
A sudden thought occurred to the Doctor. What if River had witnessed their death?
"What do you mean…alright? They're perfectly alive, if that's what you're worried about."
"No, it's not that. I'm talking about their relationship…" River hoped he was old enough to understand the implication behind her inquiry.
"Oh. Well, erm…that was a bit shaky…In fact…"he trailed off, avoiding her gaze. Did River know about her parents' near divorce? Was that what was bothering her? Because if it was, it was no longer a problem since he sorted it out.
"You know then. About them splitting up." Her voice quivered as she spoke.
"They got divorced didn't they?" she asked, secretly fearing his answer.
"How do you even…"
"I went to visit them today. I haven't seen them in months, since the wedding to be precise, and I just wanted to talk to them, you know…well, I recognized the house—a TARDIS blue door is quite difficult to miss. I was about to get closer, when I heard something—shouting, it was all too familiar…and…and…Dad even raised his voice, I've seen him angry and upset but never like…like that…" she struggled to finish, trying to hold herself together without breaking down again.
Sensing her discomfort, the Doctor grasped her hand.
"Riv—" he started to explain.
"Anyway, Mum yelled something like 'get out,' and Dad just stormed out, not saying anything at all. He looked depressed, I've never seen him so down. Mum started crying and screaming again…and…and…I just stood there…watching…they didn't even notice me…I couldn't move…didn't understand…after all they've been through…why?" her face flushed as the droplets pooled in her eyes against her will. She hated crying. "Sorry…I'm being unreasonable…"
"River, it's alright…sometimes we need to cry, letting it out is healthy…"
"They were older, too. Older than I've ever seen them. It had been at least a few years for them since the wedding. I'm sure." She paused for a second, catching her breath. "Even after all that time…they don't have any more children, do they?"
"Um…no…Amy can't…have…children…after…what they did…at Demons Run…" the Doctor admitted quietly, his voice etched with sadness and guilt.
It took River a moment to respond.
"At…at first, I wondered…wondered what could have possibly set them off…they've been through so much…I didn't understand…but then I realized. It's all my fault." She rasped, her gaze drawing away from him.
That was a blow to the Doctor's hearts. How could she think that?
Placing his hand on her cheek, her husband forced River to meet his eyes straight on.
"Listen to me, River, what happened between Amy and Rory is not your fault…" he spoke with a firmness that unnerved her.
"No! Not Rule one, please, Doctor, not today…You said it yourself. Amy can't conceive because of what happened when she was pregnant with me. I ruined their lives. I was a burden to them as Mels and the situation is even worse now. I destroyed their chances of having a proper family. They deserve better. Rory…he always wanted kids…he always talked about it as a child…he had no idea…that I was actually, you know. And now he can't. He may have a daughter, but I'm not really much of that either, am I? They never got to raise me…and now, here, I am, River Song, older than my own parents. I don't even look like them. I'm not even human. I'm the psychopathic criminal who murdered their best friend. Who stole their future from them. Who ripped their marriage apart." The tears streamed down her face, as she spoke the darkest fears of her heart. She was past the point of hiding her feelings.
The Doctor stiffened.
"River, that is the most ridiculous nonsense I've ever heard. Don't you dare go blaming yourself for that. Please. It is not your fault!" He practically begged, beginning to get emotional, himself.
"Yes, it is! Stop trying to make me feel better about this! Amy and Rory would have been happy if it hadn't been for me. They wouldn't be getting a divorce. I wish I could change that, but I can't. They're some of the kindest, most loyal people I know and yet what do they get? A good for nothing daughter who has done horrible things too numerous to count. I'm a mistake. A convenient accident created for the sole purpose to kill. If you just went back and rewrote my existence it would save you all a lot of trouble."
With that, the Doctor suddenly grabbed her wrist, catching her off guard.
His eyes flamed with anger.
"River, I would never do that. Your existence itself is a fixed point in time, and I've learned that the hard way over the years. And even if it wasn't I would never dare. Because you're completely wrong. You're not a mistake at all. You're a miracle. A blessing. The fact that you even exist is practically impossible…but here you are, and you're amazing and wonderful and so many other things. You're the only person in the universe like me…and would have never hoped, never expected…that…that…I would be even capable…of…loving someone the way I love you. You're my wife…and you've given me something I haven't had in so, so long…a family. If it wasn't for you I wouldn't have that. And Amy and Rory, they love you, too, so much. You may have been raised as a psychopath, but that is not who you are. Because you changed. Against all odds, you became River Song. You may have killed me, but I will never, ever hold that against you. You are forgiven, always and completely. By me, by your parents, by the people that matter most to you. We've all made terrible mistakes, and take it from me, you can't let that define your life. I destroyed my whole planet, River, and I've taken so many lives. What you've done is nothing compared to what I've done. And you blame yourself for your own existence when you had no control over that. If anyone should bear the guilt for all of that, it's me. You're a miracle, River, a ridiculously impossible miracle, and I wouldn't have it any other way." The Doctor stifled a sob.
"Sweetie, I…" she didn't finish that sentence, because before she knew it, her husband was kissing her fiercely, his lips pressing against hers in an effort to show her just how truly important she was to him.
Gasping, they both withdrew after a short time, their faces aflame.
It was almost ironic just how similar this was to what had happened between Amy and Rory only a few hours before. They had argued, tooth and nail, revealing their innermost feelings, and bringing everything out in the open.
"So, are we good?" he asked finally, seeing the slight blush in River's cheeks. "If you ever try to say something like that again there's no telling what I might do…" the Doctor tried to lighten the conversation, but he detected the hurt in River's eyes.
"River, seriously, though, please don't ever bash yourself like that. Don't turn yourself into me." He warned her, his eyes filled with concern.
He felt her fingers trembling beneath his grip.
"River, it's alright. There's nothing to worr—"
"Nothing to worry about? How did this change anything? Amy and Rory are still getting divorced, whether it's my fault or not…" her voice quivered.
"Well, then, Doctor Song, in that case, I'm afraid you leave me no choice. I'm going to have to show you the truth…"
The man in the bow tie carefully led his wife out of the TARDIS.
"River, come on, it's going to be fine, I promise. You'll see." He smiled brightly, trying his hardest to reassure her.
"This is a bad idea. First of all, you probably didn't even get us here at the right time…" River started to chastise him.
"Don't even start. I landed precisely five minutes after I left them earlier today. I even took extra special care just to make sure. Now, hurry up!" the Doctor demanded, pretending to sound impatient.
Clutching River's hand even tighter, the man in the bow tie practically dragged her up to the TARDIS blue door.
Although she complied, he still sensed her hesitancy.
"I told you, already, River, it's not as bad as you think. I sorted everything out. I tried to tell you that earlier, but you refused to listen…" Her eyes visibly changed, and the Doctor felt her hand collide with his cheek. "Ow! What was that for? Well, at least you're back to your normal self. Good, old River."
"Are you sure…even if they are back together…I'm still not so…"
Instead of answering her verbally, the Doctor tugged her fingers, pulling her up right in front of the door.
"Go on, then, knock." He prodded, and River obeyed, not wanting to cause a further dispute.
Her husband just grinned, straightening his bow tie proudly, making her want to slap and kiss him at the same time.
"Oi, Stupid face, someone's at the door!" Amy yelped, sounding much more like herself. "We're coming!" she clarified, her voice followed by a few indistinguishable sounds.
Opening the door in a matter of seconds, the red head suddenly stopped, her sandy haired husband standing beside her.
River bravely took a step forward.
"River…?" Her mother and father asked in unison, as if in shock.
What came next was completely unexpected.
Both of her parents rose to hug her at precisely the same time, nearly crushing her in the process, especially after the Doctor joined in as well.
She felt secure in those warm, unwavering arms, as they held her close. Oh, how she had longed for this as a child. They did love her. They really, properly loved her. Just like he said. Emotion regained its grip over her heart and she had to fight the tears. Again.
"We've missed you so much, River." Amy spoke sincerely, Rory nodding in agreement. The Doctor cleared his throat. "I suspect you had something to do with this Raggedy Man." She eyed him playfully.
But the Doctor just grinned, his hand placed in the small of River's back.
"Hold on…are you alright, River? Did something happen?" it was Rory asking this time, and River was once again touched by his kind heart.
"No. I…I guess I just realized something I should have seen a long time ago." River admitted quietly.
"And what's that?" her mother raised a brow.
"You really do love me."
"Well, of course we do, you're our daughter! Our only daughter. Our miracle child. Why would you ever doubt that?" the Roman inquired with a hint of pride in his voice.
"Earlier today, I, well, decided to pop by, but you two were having a nasty argument. And Dad, you stormed off. I suspected you were getting divorced…it was just…difficult for me…after all those years trying to find you, I…" she struggled to choose the right words.
"Don't worry about it. Raggedy Man, here, he tricked us into sorting out our differences .Didn't you Doctor?" Amy Pond quipped.
"Well…yeah." The Doctor smirked, fidgeting once again with his bow tie.
"By the way, that was five months ago…" Amy laughed at the Doctor's suddenly sheepish expression.
River glared at him.
"Funny, as I recall, you specifically insisted very clearly that it was five minutes!" his wife nudged him.
But the man in the bow tie just ignored them both, perfectly content to be in the midst of his miraculous family.
The three Ponds simply stared at him, and the Doctor grinned.
"Well, some things never change."
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