Auntie Donna and the Library
"So!" River Song smiled as she stood before her best friend in the Universe, LJ 'J' Smith, wearing a stark white spacesuit, her helmet tucked under her arm, "Give it to me."
LJ laughed, looking at a clipboard in his hand, "Suit?"
She laughed too, gesturing at her outfit, "Check."
She held up a small scanner/comm., "Check."
"Got that lunch I packed you?"
She rolled her eyes, "Yes dad. Bit of chicken and some salad all packed away."
"Check," she smiled a bit, tugging up the strap on her bag, letting him know the diary she kept on her person at all times was in there, "You really think they'll come to help? I mean it's just a Library with no power. Hardly interesting."
"You sent them a call, when have they ever not come?"
"True," she nodded, "What's next?"
"Um..." he looked back at the list, "Sonic blaster?"
"Check," she picked it up off a side table and moved to clip it to her holster.
She frowned, "I haven't got a sonic since you burned out my last one trying to make it work on wood," she looked up, not hearing a response, to see him holding out an old sonic, adapted through the years, a light blue light on the end of it. Her eyes widened as she recognized the device, Evy's sonic, the sonic she never ever let out of her sight, the one she'd had, she knew, ever since the Doctor had learned she was a Time Lady centuries ago!
"Mum asked me to give it to you," he said, shrugging, "For good luck."
"Why would I need luck?" she asked, shaking her head but taking the sonic, "They'll be there and you'll be waiting for me when this is over," she nudged him, he'd rather irritated Mr. Lux, their sponsor, so badly that the man flat out refused to let him join them on the expedition, "That's all the luck I need."
He gave her a sad smile, before stepping closer and hugging her tightly, startling her a moment, it was...different than his normal hugs, more...final? Desperate? It was like he didn't want to let go. Now that she thought about it, this was the first trip of hers that he wasn't enthusiastic about. He hadn't warned her against it, but he hadn't been thrilled with it either.
It was almost like he was dreading it.
"I love you Riv," he whispered in her ear, closing his eyes tightly as he felt tears within them, "You're my best friend in the entire Universe. I just want you to know that Timegirl."
"J..." she pulled back, only to see him smiling at her, though the sadness in his eyes gave away the break she'd heard in his voice, "Of course I know that Spaceman. What?" she laughed, nudging him, "You think I'm gonna replace you with one of the Daves? Or Evangelista?" she grimaced, "Sorry but no," she laughed, "You've destroyed my ability to handle stupid people."
He laughed at that before just looking at her, "Oh!" he jumped, pulling a small device out of his pocket, "Anita!" he called to one of her teammates as the woman in question packed her own lunch, "Could you?" he held up the image capture device.
"Sure," Anita smiled, stepping back to snap a photo of LJ and River, standing side by side, their arms around each other, grinning widely, before snapping another of them giving each other 'bunny ears.' She knew it was a tradition between the two. She'd been on an excavation or two with Professor Song before, LJ always tagging along, making things interesting.
"Right," River nodded, calling out to the other members of the team, "We ready?"
There was a chorus of 'yeah's and 'yes's followed by Mr. Lux grunting 'about bloody time,' the impatient ponce.
River rolled her eyes and pressed a device on her wrist, opening the door to the shuttle that would take them to the Library, a planet that was literally filled with books with the largest hard drive in the Universe as its core. She turned to LJ once more as her crew filed into the shuttle, "Well," she smiled, "If your parents don't show up, at least I'll know it'll be a QUIET excavation for once," she hugged him, laughing, "That'll be a first."
He nodded as he pulled away, "Good luck Riv," he waved at her as she moved into the shuttle, the door shutting as he let his hand fall, "And that was the last," he breathed, knowing that was the last time he'd see her, hug her, just hear her speaking...at least this version of her. He knew he'd run into a past version of her once or twice but...THIS was his River.
And now she was gone.
LJ sat on a seat, the soft hum of the ship's engines around him as he waited for River to call him on her comm. once the shuttle had detatched from the ship and touched down on the Library.
'J?' he heard over the speakers, though a bit distorted.
He frowned, hopping up and running over, opening the link fully, "Riv? Can you hear me?"
'Just about,' she called, 'The comms. went down, too much interference from that signal we picked up.'
He nodded, realizing what she'd done, she'd used the sonic to tap her neural relay into the comm. link, basically projecting her thoughts right to his speakers. It shouldn't have been possible, but, well, River didn't know about the extra surprise in her sonic that had boosted the power of the simple relays.
"Gotcha," he nodded, though she couldn't see him, "You get there alright?"
'Just fine. We're making our way to one of the rooms, we're picking up three life signs from there.'
He smiled, boy would she be in for a surprise when she came face-to-face with, not just his parents' earlier incarnations, but the ginger travelling with them as well...
And then his mind drifted to what would happen after...
"Good luck," he called softly, swallowing hard, he should have just used the excuse that the comms. wouldn't work and to not even bother trying to contact the ship as it orbited the planet...he didn't want to sit there, listening to it all happen, and not be able to do anything to stop it...but he wouldn't take that comfort of her knowing she wouldn't be alone from her.
No matter how much he hated endings.
"Be careful," he added, "Let me know if you find anything interesting."
River Song shook her head as she leaned against a desk, watching the Doctor and the woman she now knew to be Evy sonicing the edge of the circle of light they'd set up, scanning the shadows. She glanced at the ginger woman beside her, their latest companion, she guessed, and eyed her a moment, "You travel with them, don't you? The Doctor and Evy, you travel with them."
"What of it?" the ginger demanded, sending her a small glare.
Oh she was a firecracker, just what the Time Lords needed she knew. She also knew where the ginger's mind had gone. Spending so long with LJ had left her a far flirtier person than she ought to have been. Half the time it seemed like she was flirting with others when that was just how she naturally talked to LJ. The woman clearly thought she had been flirting with the Doctor earlier and seemed to be irritated with that.
Probably because Evy had told her who she was to the Doctor. She figured it out that the Perception Filter the girl was wearing had nothing to do with Mars or being cross with the Doctor. LJ had told her about this point in their relationship, before they were Linked, what Evy had done to prevent it from happening. For the ginger to be so defensive, Evy must have told her.
Of course, any friend wouldn't be happy with another woman supposedly flirting with their friend's intended.
She glanced over, watching them shoo Proper Dave to the other end of the circle and couldn't help but shake her head. They were SO different that if she hadn't been expecting them or known what to look for, she probably wouldn't have recognized them as the Doctor and Evy, she almost hadn't when it came to Evy.
"You know them, don't you?" the ginger continued when she didn't answer, "The both of them?"
"Oh, God, do I know them," she laughed, smiling warmly in thought, "We go way back, those two and me."
"Then how come you didn't recognize Evy?" the woman half-glared.
"The Doctor tends to stick to suits and his specs are classic…but Evy," she shook her head, "That girl changes with the times, always different, always throwing me for a loop. Never know what to expect with her."
"So…you know them based on their clothes? Well, how come they don't know you?"
"We don't go this far back," she shrugged.
She was going to KILL LJ for this, not warning her that it was a previous incarnation of his parents that she'd meet, ones who didn't know her. She NEVER would have said half the things she had, let so much slip, if she'd known first. And she KNEW he knew, he knew lots of things that happened from stories from his parents and even his own dual points of view, as a baby and an adult, but he was SO tight-lipped about it all. This wouldn't have been a bad thing for her to know!
"I'm sorry, what?"
"They haven't met me yet. I sent them a message but it went wrong, it arrived too early. This is the Doctor and Evy in the days before they knew me. And they look at me…" she frowned, truly saddened and hurt but the fact, "He looks right through me and she doesn't trust me and it shouldn't kill me, but it does."
"What are you talking about?" the woman cried, exasperated, "Are you just talking rubbish? Do you know them or don't you?!"
"Donna!" the Doctor shouted, "Quiet! I'm working."
And then there was a smack.
"Ow!" the Doctor cried, rubbing his head, "What was that for?"
"You were being rude to Donna!" Evy shot back.
The Doctor glared at her before going back to his work, mumbling about violent women.
River bit her lip, torn between laughing at them, at the look on the Doctor's face, or breathing a sigh of relief at how SOMETHING was still the same when it came to the most infamous duo.
But then she blinked, their words registering, and she turned a wide eyed gaze on the ginger beside her, "Donna? You're Donna? Donna Noble?"
"Yeah," Donna nodded, "Why?"
River's mouth dropped open as she stared at the woman, this woman…THIS was LJ's Auntie Donna! In the flesh! The legend herself! The most important woman in the Universe! One third of the Eve of the Doctor Donna! Vaguely psychically connected to Evy! The creator of the Spaceman title! And there she was, standing right in front of her…and she couldn't even say anything because none of them had any idea LJ existed or who she was.
Oh she was going to KILL him!
"I do know the Doctor and Evy," she told Donna, still stunned at this meeting, "But in the future. Their personal future."
Donna's eyes widened as the words registered with her as well, "So why don't you know me? Where am I in the future?"
"Ok, we've got a live one!" the Doctor called, pulling Donna's attention away, preventing River from letting it slip in her shock that, the reason she didn't 'know' Donna, was the fact that her psuedo-nephew had only shown her a few pictures of his family over the MANY years they'd known each other and she hadn't met the woman before now so, of course, she wouldn't recognize her.
River subtly reached up and touched her neural relay…
'You stupid bas...' came River's screech, causing terrible feedback that cut out the rest of her rant.
"Whoa!" LJ had to smile, "Riv, watch the language!"
'It's them BEFORE they met me!' she called, grumbling, 'They have NO idea who I am!'
'Which means I can't even bring you up because they don't know you either!'
"Riv, I know."
'And Donna! Donna Noble! She's here, right now! The lot of us surrounded by Vashta Nerada!'
"I know," he chuckled, "I did promise you'd meet her."
'And your parents J...they're not Linked are they?'
"No," he sighed, "They're not. Remember that story dad told you during our picnic..."
'Yeah...' she began slowly and he could practically picture the wheels turning in her mind as she thought on that 'remarkable woman' his father had mentioned that had given him the swift kick he'd needed to gather the courage to start to let Evy in.
"Hasn't happened yet," he added, swallowing hard, both dreading and excited for that moment.
That was truly the start of his parents' relationship, the start of his father accepting his mother into his hearts, and that was a beautiful moment...but it also meant that River's end was coming nearer. His parents had told him all about the Library as a baby after they'd taken River to Calderon Beta, he wouldn't let go of the subject till they told him every last detail. He knew River would get through to the Doctor only in her final moments.
And he was dreading that.
He really didn't like endings.
'J...am I that remarkable woman?'
He smiled softly, "Spoilers."
"No you don't."
She laughed, before trailing off.
He frowned, "What is it?"
'Donna...' River chuckled, 'She's the one who always calls the Doctor Spaceman.'
"Where do you think I got the idea from Timegirl?"
LJ sat in silence, waiting, just…waiting. River hadn't contacted him much after his parents had sent his Auntie Donna away, tried to teleport her into the TARDIS. He understood. He remembered that story. That was when things went crazy, they started getting chased by the swarm of Vasta Nerada in spacesuits, blasting down walls, lots of running, chaos…River needed to focus, she couldn't risk getting distracted and losing her crew…
Not that it would help, he knew.
The only one of her team who would survive was Mr. Lux.
He looked up, hearing the comm. click to life.
'Autodestruct in three minutes,' he could hear a computer announce in the distance.
His hearts stopped.
And then River called out softly, 'Why didn't you tell me?'
He closed his eyes tightly, feeling the tears in them, hearing the tears in her own words, knowing she had worked it out, that he knew, all along, what would happen, from the moment they met, from before that really, he knew how it would end, "I'm sorry Riv."
'J...just tell me why.'
"I didn't want to create the future," he murmured, "I have to be more careful than my parents Riv. I've had to keep so many things a secret for the sake of the timelines. I...I didn't want to admit that I couldn't save you from doing this. I didn't want you to know that you were going to die one day."
'We're all going to die one day J. It would have been nice to know, all those times I faced dangers, that I WOULDN'T die because it wasn't the Library.'
"But you never would have felt as alive as you did when you realized you'd survived. And I know you Riv, knowing you weren't meant to die on a certain adventure would have made you reckless. It might have led to your death earlier."
River was quiet a long while, considering that, the truth in it, she truly was as impulsive as her mother and being around LJ had just made it worse.
'Autodestruct in two minutes,' the computer went off again, making him wince.
'I don't mind J,' River said quietly.
"That I lied to you?"
'Dying,' she corrected, 'I don't mind dying. You know I'd give my life for you or your parents in a heartbeat.'
'I'm saving them J. I'm saving them right now, so that they can have you in the future. If they die here, right now, I will never have known YOU. And that is one thing I DO mind. You're my best friend J, my Spaceman, and I love you. I can do this, for you.'
"I don't want you to," he murmured, "I tried Riv," he sniffled, "I tried so hard to think of a way to save you..."
'You DID save me J,' he could hear the soft smile in her voice, 'Every day of my life since I met you, you've saved me. Now...it's my turn.'
'Autodestruct in one minute,' the computer stated.
He nodded, swallowing hard, "All those adventures Riv."
'All that danger.'
"All the fun we had."
'I wouldn't trade it for the world,' River laughed, 'This moment...this will set that future in motion. Because of this, your parents will live, they'll love, they'll have you. And you'll find me. We'll meet again in that future and be the best of friends as we should be. You watch us run Spaceman.'
"You and me always, Timegirl."
'Autodestruct in ten seconds...nine...eight...'
'Goodbye J,' River breathed softly.
There was a blip, just a tiny, little blip...and, just like that, River was gone.
The Library was silent, the last of the humans sent back home, teleported out thanks to the Doctor and Evy and River. Not a human in sight except the Node of a little girl hidden away in the middle of the planet, living an immortal half-life.
So any scans run on the mainframe would be true in that there were no humans left in the Library.
Especially since the only other living being currently wandering through its halls wasn't technically human.
A man strolled down the aisles of giant bookshelves, right to a gravity platform that took him straight down to the core of the planet without need of commands, as though expecting him.
And, of course, he was expected...River Song was tucked away in a dream world, basically connected to the main computer, and her mind was very familiar with the sort of man LJ was.
He stepped off the platform, paying to nod at CAL, who smiled knowingly, before he walked right over to a computer, looking at a small…particular…neural relay slotted into it, blinking, and gently ran his finger across it.
He was older than he appeared to be, centuries older. He'd spent his entire life knowing the fate of his best friend. He'd had CENTURIES to think of some way, some impossible stretch that could get around the rules, to save her.
He really truly did hate endings.
A/N: Awww... :'( Poor LJ, poor River. SUCH a sad episode once you find out more about who River is and then watch it again and see the difference in the Doctors. I was originally going to only follow LJ, in terms of what he was doing behind the scenes, but this still had to be about Donna and River meeting officially (not counting LJ's birth). I was always curious as to why River was SO stunned to see Donna in this episode, so I sort of explored one theory here, it's because it's Auntie Donna! Lol :)
As for the ending...well, I'll leave that up to you to decide whether LJ figured out a way to save River or not. I mean, his parents saved her mind with the relay...perhaps their son will do them one better? You never know :) I probably won't write that out unless we either A. Get an episode where we see, officially, if anything happened for River after the Library. Or B. When/If the show ends officially (forever) with no resolution to this episode. THEN I'll come back and add a sort of epilogue chapter to this one about it. I just don't want to contradict the show, so we'll have to wait on that :)
On another note...we're going to be starting another sequence :) This will be what LJ was doing 'behind the scenes' during River's adventures with the Doctor, moving in order of the show, so the Weeping Angels will be next :)