This kind of ignores some parts of the Night shorts. It seems heartbreaking to think that the first time the Doctor sees her after Berlin is when he picks her up from Stormcage. Since she's Doctor Song by that point, that's a LONG time. And I refuse to believe that he didn't go visit her even once.
So. Yes. And, naturally, SPOILERS!
Seriously though. There are lines in here that aren't mine and I don't own them. If you recognize them, one, good on you, two, you know they don't belong to me.
Her Love is a Neverending Circle
The first time she meets him, she doesn't even know she loves him.
She's his killer. That's all. Yeah, he flips the whole thing on its head when he refuses to bloody die, but she doesn't even have an inkling of what she'll mean to him. It's just all death and sass and confusion and eventually waking up, first with her parents and him, and later with only a TARDIS blue book as her companion.
. . . . .
She meets him again at Luna, long before Lake Silencio. He's arrogant and slips up within the first five minutes of meeting her, slapping a palm to his head before he goes digging for his diary. She pulls her blue book out too, confused because she doesn't understand why he keeps a diary, but he seems utterly unfazed that she keeps one of her own.
"I haven't seen you since Berlin."
She sees a million emotions across his face and then none at all and her entire world flips. She feels sick and lightheaded and on the verge of tears all at once. He doesn't forgive her. Of course he doesn't forgive her. She tried to kill him and-
His voice is soft enough to startle her, that and the fact that she really hadn't realized she'd been speaking aloud. Her mouth claps shut – she can actually hear her teeth click together – and she doesn't know what to do. She's so very confused and she actually starts when he reaches out to cup her cheek. It takes everything in her to keep from lashing out based on her conditioning alone.
"You're so young."
She wants to tell him that's absurd, but his eyes look so old that she doesn't actually say anything. She's drowning because his hand in there, on her cheek, and there's so much trust in his eyes. She doesn't get it. The warmth, the beauty the knowledge that he is standing right in front of her, trusting her completely when the last time she saw him, she'd tried to kill him.
"There's nothing to forgive, River. Melody. There's never anything to forgive."
. . . . .
She catches on quickly to their backwards-forwards timey-wimey relationship. She's always been a quick study and she was already keeping the diary. She sits in Stormcage now, with her diary and the rain storming outside. She hates that the name of the place describes the weather so well.
She almost jumps at the sound of the TARDIS. Her heart is in her throat because as much as she wanted – hoped – that he would come for her, that he would never abandon her, that she was forgiven before she'd even killed him, she's had too tumultuous of a life to really believe it. So yeah, there had been a part of her that had been almost positive she would never see him again.
But he's here, the TARDIS is here, and he's wearing a suit and everything. A very nice suit, actually, and though she hides it – well, considering his lack of reaction – she feels grimy. Stupid Stormcage. Stupid Silence. Stupid Mad Man.
She was still so young on that beach. The astronaut suit had hurt, the same way it had when she was just a little girl. Everything hurt in that suit, but nothing more than having to kill him. She'd figured a way out too, really she had. Draining her weapons systems, and then it would all-
Go to hell.
She'd known. Of course she'd known. She was a time-traveling archeologist. Of course she knew what would happen if she spoiled a fixed point. But how was she supposed to do it? She'd just started falling for him, just realized, standing in front of him, in that suit, how much he already meant to her. It didn't matter that time was disintegrating around them, so long as he was standing in front of her. And then he'd shot it all to hell and made her dreams come true at exactly the same time. She remembers cackling, a bit hysterically, when time started again.
The trial had been a long arduous affair. She'd hoped to see him, of course, but he hadn't showed. In hindsight, it would have probably been a little rude. A lot scandalous definitely, but she can't lie and say it wasn't difficult, sitting there, by herself, knowing there's nothing she could do.
She's never had that much faith in anyone before.
She does, however, have the rules and she knows, right away that she's going to have to do some serious lying tonight. They dance around the TARDIS as he asks about Stormcage, and she parries back about their destination. When they're together like this, he always takes her to the most amazing places, the most beautiful and romantic of places. It's when they run into each other by accident that things go to hell.
Then it's all flirting and wardrobe before he asks, "Did you bring the diary?"
She's well through her diary by this point, already archiving the things he's done with her, their adventures while she was a student at Luna. She wishes she could tell him that she's had it for ages, but her gut tells her different. She's seen so many different 'hims' at this point, some of them so very old and the odd younger but still very much hers. This is the first time he doesn't seem to know, that he's carrying more amazement and less pain.
"It's a diary?" she somehow says instead, holding it up for his inspection.
"It is now," he tells her, "Because, River, from now on, there are rules."
She's written them all down. Every single one and sometimes, it's the rules that get her through the day-to-day. She loves him, so very, very much. Sometimes the rules – Rule One, especially – are the only things that keep her floating when she realizes everything he doesn't.
So instead, she falls back on her favourite coping mechanism: flirting.
"Oh you've gone all strict, not that I mind."
So she plays with him, preening when he tells her that Stormcage can't hold her. It's a bit of a spoiler because she's tried to find ways out and as of yet has been unsuccessful, but it feels good to know that she won't be spending all her time in that bloody cell.
Maybe she'll make a game out of it.
. . . . .
He takes her around the universe after that. She's never quite sure what she's going to get – and every time they open the diaries she values them just a little bit more – but she always has fun. There's laughter, kisses, more than kisses and she finds it so utterly beautiful. Between that, they have adventures. She meets two different companions for his eleventh regeneration before she'd sidelined by her father, the father who is looking for her mother and her heart breaks.
Her father doesn't know her. But it's a beautiful moment for her, on the way back from skating on the Thames with her husband. She hates that she has to turn him down, that she has to tell him things she's never wanted to have to say. She hates that she can't go, she hates that she knows she'll be there anyway, that he'll yell at her, that she'll find some deep well of calm to explain to him just what's going on.
It hurt, she remembers. It hurts both of them in different ways. She hurts him because he'd once told her that she needed to go, that she needed to tell him all those things. She hurts him because she knows. She knows him and she knows herself and she knows what she'd been through as a child, as a freshly regenerated toddler in New York. She remembers the training, the blanks in her memory, the time lapses that never made sense. All in fear of him. All of that pain and anger in carefully worded phrases that she sees shatter him further than he'd already been.
But she knows it was the same day she gives him the most amazing gift. She remembers seeing it in his face, that moment where it all came together, where he realized who she was, what she was, and what it means for him. She pulls off her muff with a sigh, her gloves going next as she strips down. The Stormcage guards frown on her in anything other than her prison uniform and with how often she escapes, she figures she can give in to this tiny little thing. It's not like the uniform is particularly uncomfortable and nothing as unflattering as those jumpsuit she's seen on Earth.
She's startled by the sound of the TARDIS. She's managed to get down to her underclothes, corset still in tact but undone. She arches her eyebrow as he pops out of that beautiful blue box and takes her in. He's grinning, absolutely giddy, and she finds herself smiling despite herself. The childish glee is written all over his face and he looks so proud.
"You just dropped me off, my love. To what do I owe the honour?"
He sonics into her cell like the lock isn't there, a saunter in his step that makes one of her eyebrows rise. He leans in close and she finds herself holding tightly to her corset. She doesn't know where he is and considering she sent her father away five minutes ago, she doesn't want to risk changing this absolute giddiness. It had absolutely nothing to do with what his proximity does to her.
Her emotions yo-yo dangerously. She doesn't know what that means. She knows what happened and she knows how terrible she'd felt, how much it had bothered her, how long it had bothered her, but he looks so happy, so unabashedly joyful that she's not sure what she's supposed to think.
"You are amazing."
She smirks, because she can, because her other option is to break down crying. "Oh, don't I know."
"You're a Timelord."
She bites her cheek. Hard. There's still so much he has yet to live. "I have Timelord DNA."
He giggles. She loves that sound. Always has. "That is perfectly evasive."
"Of course it is, my love." She steps back with an air of nonchalance. She's still not sure what he's here for and it's easy to slip back into her own ways. She needs to get out of her undergarments. She feels shockingly and surprisingly naked between his new revelation and the fact that she is, for all intents and purposes, in her underwear.
She's a phenomenal actor and she has so very little shame, but sometimes, it just becomes too much.
She shivers and jumps when his hands settle on his hips. It shouldn't surprise her because he's touched her so many times before. Something about this just feels special, more intimate than she's used to. Or maybe it's him.
"All of time and space. You said that to me once. You and me, all of time and space, because- River."
He sounds reverent and she drops her chin to her chest. It's so much, too much, but she doesn't resist when he pulls her back, when he wraps his arms around her waist. He buries his face in her hair and she finds herself taking a surprisingly shuddering breath.
"I'm not alone."
Her corset falls as she spins in his embrace and she's the one that trips over it as she launches herself into his arms. He catches her with surprising grace, considering all those limbs.
"You are never alone."
. . . . .
"But trust you? Seriously?"
Her entire being revolts viciously. She knows the pain only lasts a split second – because she really is that good – and then he's turning to Amy. This has been a long time coming, she knows. She'd been so excited when they'd been linear, when they'd compared diaries and they'd done so much, but that's not him in front of her. He's missing two whole centuries and doesn't trust her.
She takes her opportunity when he's distracted with Amy, slipping down under the TARDIS console. She can feel her, the heart of this beautiful machine, the living consciousness and she places her hands on that center column. She needs a moment to remind herself, convince herself that everything's okay.
She barely gets that before Amy's storming down the stairs, and a few minutes later, Rory. She hates that she has to be the one to be strong and stoic, that they don't even know how very much she does want to slap him. They know pieces, she's sure. She's younger, but there's more awareness in Amy's gaze, more knowledge in Rory's. She wishes, just briefly, she could ask them what they've been through, just to get her bearings.
And she knows. She's lying through her bloody teeth to her own damn parents because she knows who that astronaut is. She remembers enough – though snippets because of the silence and the suit – to know that she'd just watched herself kill the love of her life. She tells them what she can, that they can't change the timeline, that she's not afraid of the Doctor's death.
Because she's been there.
As if that isn't enough, Rory asks her, when they're underground. He asks her what she meant, what is worse to her than the Doctor's death. It's an easy answer. There's nothing worse than the day he doesn't know who she is. In some ways, that day is now, because he doesn't trust her. He doesn't look at her like he does mid-timeline, when they don't even have to speak.
And to top it off, as if her day – is that what it is? She's lost count, she's sure – isn't bad enough, yanking him in for a kiss in Stormcage is the stupidest thing she's done in a while. She should have remembered, but he'd been flirting with her again, swiping a finger down her nose, complementing her cleverness and she'd forgotten. A moment of terrible weakness and it leaves her shattered in Stormcage, not on the TARDIS like she sure as hell wishes she was.
. . . . .
The last time she sees him, she couldn't love him more.
It all makes sense now. Darillium for one; his pain when he sees her in his early days. It lingers, just in the back of his eyes, but she knows him. Too well. Now she understands why.
The last time she sees him, she sacrifices herself, because he still has so much to live. He still has their whole lives, their entire relationship and she can't let him kill himself. She can't let him ruin it. Because he is the most beautiful thing in her life. Had been, and will be.
And it's all just starting for him.
This works on the assumption that River doesn't know Twelve. Purely because I'm lazy. And I'm sorry.
Also, I'm pretty sure this is just a purging of River/Doctor emotions. I've been struggling with a lot of pieces of their timeline, most especially the bit where River is totally so young when they're standing on top of that pyramid. He's facing a River that doesn't know any better, that only knows she loves him and that just seems so beautiful to me.
But I'm not sure this truly counts as fic. Maybe, like usual, I'm just being obscenely hard on myself, but it's really more for my own good and I'd love to hear thoughts on it. I can't seem to write it out in essay format (I think it's PTSD in academic form), so it came out like this. I'm not totally sure I did it justice.
Also? There's that whole back to front thing. Because it's like they live in their own weird time loop. Kind of. Depending on where you see Series 7 in all of this. Every time she kills him, she embarks on their relationship. Every time she dies in that library, he does. It's so poetic to me and beautiful and complicated and it makes writing this and dealing with all of this so heartbreakingly challenging. So many feels.
Thanks for reading, if you chose to do so.