Author's Note: So this is sort of my response to the dark Doctor in The Great Detective, Children in Need Minisode. If you haven't see it, then watch it. Now. Anyway, this takes place after that minisode, and before or possibly during the Christmas Special. And don't worry, this isn't about River stealing the new companion's thunder or role in helping the Doctor, this is about a woman and her love for her husband as she deals with what his grief has turned him into. It's very intense in some places, just as a fair warning. I hope you enjoy it! Remember that reviews are greatly appreciated:)
*Note*- In light of the fact that the Doctor is post-Towers in TNOTD, I can only assume that he lost River prior to the events of The Snowmen, thus making this fic slightly AU.
In the darkest reaches of the night, on the shortest day of the year, a mysterious feminine silhouette emerged from the shadows, an unfamiliar woman with icy blue eyes—cold, penetrating, cutting straight to the soul.
For all intents and purposes, she might have blended right in with the various other females of the Victorian Era, clad in an ultramarine colored gown, one that conformed easily to the fashion of that time.
But there was something visibly distinct about her—the way she carried herself, strong and confident, as if a living testament of the fact that she had survived the most painful and excruciating experiences imaginable.
And her face, such a strange sight, stoic and weathered, yet somehow a magnificent masterpiece, marked with an odd mixture of insatiable ferocity, fierce determination, intangible sadness, and unfathomable love.
Of course, these traits were not visible to everyone, nor easily defined, but nevertheless, she carried about her an aura of enigma and intrigue, one that even the person of the simplest state of mind could detect.
So there she was, a woman, seemingly inconspicuous yet strikingly out of place, traveling about the peculiar English town, a tattered blue book rustling at her thigh as she traversed across the cobbled streets.
Slipping into a tiny street-side shop, the curly haired lady halted, tilting her elegant hat upwards, so that she was at eye level with the wiry old man who stood behind the counter.
"C-Can I h-help ya ma'am?" he stuttered, fidgeting nervously, glancing around the nearly empty shelves of his store, eyes anywhere but the woman's face.
The room was momentarily shrouded by a deafening silence, which only caused the miser to tremble all the more.
Leaning closer to the man, the woman cautiously spoke, a low, yet firm whisper escaping her lips.
"Tell me, sir, what do you know…of the Great Detective?" she questioned, a coolness to her tone as she watched the shop-owner's eyes widen.
He looked hesitant to answer at first, a terrified expression etched across his face.
"W-Well, ma'am, I…ah…I'm not so sure… I should…" The man stuttered, never meeting the woman's gaze straight on.
"That wasn't an answer, sir." Her voice chilled him to the bone, and she reached down to her hip, as if to draw something out of her belt.
But after seeing the fear in his eyes, she decided against it, knowing that she need not threaten him anymore.
"Well, she…um…she lives in the city, ma'am…"
A resentful smile formed on the woman's mouth.
"Now, really, do you think I'd come all the way here without knowing that already?"
"I…I s'pose not ma'am…"
"Then you be a dear and tell me exactly where I can find this woman." It wasn't a suggestion; it was a demand.
And River Song did not accept refusal.
"She…um…she lives…on Paternoster Row…with…with her maid and a sort of deformed fellow…they…they're a sort of g…"
"The Paternoster Gang. Yes, so I've heard." Rolling her eyes, the woman began tapping her fingers.
"B-But, if you already knew that…then why bother…"
"Because I need to know specifically where. The exact address." Flipping her diary onto the counter, River Song opened it to a specific page. "Now, let's make this easy. Just tell me the address, and I'll be out of your way."
Seeming to take kindly to the latter suggestion, the man nervously parted his lips, clearly terrified to withhold the truth any longer.
Needless to say, River Song received the information she needed.
Ringing the doorbell of the specified residency, the curly haired woman quietly stood outside the house, waiting.
Inside a clatter arose, muffled sounds resonating from behind the door.
"Comin'! Just a moment!"
River immediately recognized this to be the voice of Jenny Flint, the Victorian maid she'd met after revealing her identity to the Doctor at Demons Run. She'd even dropped Jenny and Madame Vastra, or the Great Detective, as she was now called, in this very town, though she'd only traversed as far as the town square, having been in a rush to get her parents home.
It was then that the young woman appeared, her mouth gaping at the sight of a familiar face.
"Riv—I mean, Doctor Song?"
"Professor Song. But River is fine." She quickly corrected, brushing off any further concerns. "It's nice to see you again, Jenny. Though I must confess it's been quite a while."
"Oh dear, where are my manners? Come in." Jenny gestured for River to enter the house, hastily shutting the door behind her. "You must be freezin'."
"No, actually I'm quite alright. Part Time Lord, you know. More resilient to the cold than humans."
A short, stout man suddenly burst into the corridor.
"Part Time Lord you say? How do I know you're not…"
For a second River merely laughed, amused at the ridiculousness of the situation. A Sontaran trying to reprimand her. Really?
"Do be quiet Strax! How many times do I have to tell ya? Besides, I know this woman. River Song. Also called Melody Pond." She explained, casting River a weary glance.
"Melody Pond…of course, the great warrior. What an honor to meet someone who is spoken so highly of on the planet of Sontar!" thrusting out his hand, Strax beckoned her to shake it.
A voice resounded from the top of the stairs.
"Enough of that, Strax! Obviously Professor Song didn't come all the way here to receive your adoration." Out of seemingly nowhere, the lizard woman emerged, steadily approaching her guest.
"Madame Vastra. A pleasure."
"I could say the same, Professor, though I suspect you have more important reasons for being here."
Nodding, River Song relayed her plea.
"Yes, I need to speak with you. I'm afraid the matter's quite urgent." Glancing around, the curly haired woman was slightly uneasy for the first time that night.
Almost immediately, Vastra's expression grew serious, her face registering with understanding.
"Jenny. Strax. Leave us."
Without another word, the maid and the henchman swiftly exited the area, sensing the direness of the situation.
"Tea, Professor Song?" motioning for her guest to enter the tea room, Vastra procured a kettle and two porcelain cups.
"Yes, thank you." River stated sincerely.
"I suspect your journey went well?" While pouring the steaming brown liquid, the lizard woman began a casual conversation.
"Indeed." She unveiled her Vortex Manipulator. "Quite a lovely meteor shower in the southwest, wasn't it?" River managed a smile.
"Oh, that was you? Alien intervention, after all." Chuckling lightly, Madame Vastra handed River a cup of tea. "Now, I know you didn't come here to chat. And I certainly wouldn't want to waste your time."
"Quite right. Sorry, I should've just come out with it sooner. I'm here to ask you something. It's about the Doctor." There was a flash of uncertainty in her eyes as she spoke; her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
"So I suspected. You're his wife, am I right?" Vastra's tone was empathetic.
"Yes. I…well, ever since he lost my parents, I've been terribly worried. My mother told me to look after him, and I want to do that…but…well, it just hasn't been as easy as I hoped. Apparently even with 51st century technology it's a tough bind trying to find a man who doesn't want to be found. A man who's deleted himself from every database in the universe. Imagine my surprise when I came across various files on the mysterious fourth member of the Paternoster Gang. Let's just say I know my husband anywhere." River's body shook slightly.
"It's alright, Professor. You have questions, yes?"
"Right. So, how is he, exactly?" she momentarily shut her eyes, afraid to hear the answer.
"The short version?"
"Not well. We've been trying to draw him out of the shadows, to get him to investigate some cases with us, but he won't have any of it. Tells us there's no point. Apparently, he's retired."
Heart pounding, the Doctor's wife sucked in a breath, trying to keep herself calm.
"You're kidding." She stifled a laugh, still sort of in a state of shock.
"If only I were, Professor. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid your husband is quite troubled by the deaths of Amy and Rory. He's so broken, River." The lizard woman sounded weary.
For a moment, the room was completely silent, as River Song took a second to process her friend's sorrowful words.
Her stomach crunched, an awful, unsettling feeling radiating from deep within.
"Th-This is worse than I thought. It's all my fault…I should've been there for him…how could I have been stupid enough to leave him on his own? I told him not to travel alone…but I supposed he hasn't listened." Pressing her hand against her forehead, the curly haired woman tried to conceal the quiver in her voice.
"River, don't blame yourself. I don't think it would have mattered whether you'd been with him longer or not. He would've had to cope with the loss either way." Vastra wanted to soothe her, but her efforts met little success.
"I need to talk to him. That's why I came here in the first place. Where is he? Has he already left in the TARDIS?"
"Well, from what I've seen, he's been going in and out. But as of right now, I believe he's still in town. Sometimes he can't bear to even set foot in the TARDIS. I'd assume he's somewhere nearby though. As of right now, he's parked himself on a cloud up above the city. If you jump up in the middle of the park you can take a ladder to the top."
"Thank you." Managing a faint smile, River rose to her feet, clinging to her TARDIS-blue diary harder than ever before. "I'd better find him, if that's alright with you." Her eyes motioned towards the front entrance to the house.
"My fondest regards, to you, Professor. I only hope you can do some good. Merry Christmas, by the way."
"Same to you."
Half a block away, River hurried along the road, scanning the general vicinity for the TARDIS and a certain man in a bow tie (at least, she hoped he still wore a bow tie).
A peculiar set of footprints left in the blanket of snow caught her attention, and she furrowed her brow, analyzing them in her head.
Unfortunately, by doing this, the woman lost sight of the area in front of her, causing herself to become a prime collision target.
Feeling someone crash into her unexpectedly, River Song clenched her jaw, mentally cursing herself for losing focus on the task at hand.
She looked up, surprised to recognize the young woman before her.
"Oh, I am so, so sorry, miss! I dunno what I was thinking…" the brunette apologized profusely, her hands wavering mid-air.
"Clara?" River spoke aloud, only realizing her mistake when the girl shot her a look of confusion.
"Yeah, how'd you know?" she eyed the older woman suspiciously.
"Lucky guess, I suppose?" lying through her teeth, River hoped this explanation would satisfy the Doctor's future companion.
"Right." Her brows rose, showing she wasn't too keen on believing that. However, Clara sensed the woman's apprehension, and decided not to press the subject. "Sorry, again. What's your name?"
"Melody." River quickly answered, not wanting to divulge any major spoilers.
"Nice name. Uncommon, especially for this time period. Ah well, anyway, I'm off to find this man, he's…well, he's called the Doctor, have you seen him by chance?" her expression grew hopeful.
"Sorry, Clara. I haven't. I'm…looking for my husband." The Doctor's wife admitted, careful to keep her diary out of Clara's sight.
"Oh. Well, I hope you find him! I'm off to fetch the Doctor!" turning away, Clara began to trod off, her body bursting with boundless energy. No wonder she was so perfectly suited for the Doctor.
"Yeah?" her head snapped back with lightning speed.
"Just…don't give up, alright. No matter what happens." Imploring Clara with her bluest eyes, River Song begged the young woman to stay strong. Her husband would need that more than anything.
"Okay…thanks, Melody. So, I'll see you again sometime, yeah? Happy Christmas, to you!" with that, the brunette swiftly departed, continuing the search for the very man who the other woman was looking for.
River didn't bother to inform her that she was going the completely wrong way.
She figured Clara was smart, intelligent, clever, well, in fact, she knew she was. She'd met her, in the future, several times, actually.
It would only be best to let her find the Doctor on her own time.
Besides, River Song felt obligated to speak to her husband before Clara got to him, knowing the Doctor was highly unpredictable, and otherwise he might insult this determined young woman and make a horrible first impression.
And that was the last thing his wife wanted.
Exhausted from the ordeals of the day, River Song was both relieved and terrified when a certain blue box finally entered her line of vision as she reached the top of the ladder.
"Thank God." She muttered quietly, to no one but herself.
Racing over the TARDIS, the curly haired woman sighed, smoothing her hand against the surfaces of the pull-to-open doors.
Instantly, she felt warmth radiating through her fingertips, her connection with the ship that had essentially ensured her existence, having always been very strong.
"Doctor?!"River's husky voice reverberated through the interior of the console room, but to no avail. "He sure has redecorated."
It was incredibly dark and dingy, the Doctor's absence impossible to forgo.
In her heart, River could sense the TARDIS' internal sadness-she missed her thief desperately.
"Don't worry, Old Girl. I'll find him. I promise. And he's going to meet a special new friend very soon." Stepping back out into the frigid Christmas air, the Child of the TARDIS wrapped her arms around herself, diary still perched in one hand.
Now, where on earth would he be? Surely not too far from the TARDIS.
River rationalized, keeping a keen eye out for her husband.
Swerving through a series of buildings to the right of the time machine, she suddenly halted, watching as a dim alleyway came into view.
Her heart stopped; her throat closing.
There, sitting less than fifty feet away in a tiny corner was a man she barely recognized. Had she not been searching so intently, she might have overlooked his dark form, altogether.
His shoulders slumped, his body clearly shaking from the cold. A rather creepy-looking hat that sort of resembled that of the mad hatter rested on his shabby brown frock of hair. For the first time in her life, River actually missed the fez.
Paralyzed by the horrific sight before her, the Doctor's wife continued to scan her husband's disturbing apparel. The long coat seemed vaguely familiar, but what struck River utterly speechless was the fact that her husband wasn't even wearing a bow tie. Instead, a brown tie, tucked into a dark waistcoat took its place. She'd seen her husband without the tweed…but this…this was just wrong.
Can someone please tell me what's happened to my husband?
His face, veiled in shadow, was etched with a dour expression. His eyes lacked any energy or livelihood, instead replaced by a biting emptiness.
Quite frankly, the Doctor looked depressed, hopeless even.
Galled by the realization of the Doctor's state of being, River couldn't help but turn away for a brief second, hoping to regain control of the rabid trembling that began to cast its hold over her body.
I'm sorry, my love. I'm so, so sorry.
Staring at the distinct outlines of the small alley, the broken man released a miserable sigh.
The pain of his recent loss crushed his hearts; it was still poignant, so real. He felt the agony in every bone in his entire body, weighing him down to the point that it was difficult to breathe.
Not that he cared. What was life to him, anyway? A beautiful gift to be loved and cherished for a brief time, only to be snuffed out in the blink of an eye? Or an eternal curse; thrust upon the last of his kind, the man who had survived everything, forcing him to endure pain, loss, and death, a never ending cycle of torture?
He wanted to stop.
Oh, how he would have loved to bash his head against this impenetrable wall or drown himself in that river, never to see the haunting light of day ever again. To meet the same inevitable fate as his beloved family, the people he had held dearest to his hearts for so long.
But, alas, no matter how hard he tried, how much he couldn't take it anymore, he had to keep going. Trying to snuff out his life would be a completely meaningless pursuit, as his ageless soul would live on, trapped in the horrid flesh of another man's body.
Against his will, a tiny tear trickled down his cheek, evidence that he no longer possessed the capabilities to maintain any sort of control over his emotions.
In the corner of his eye, he watched the miniscule white specks flutter down to the ground, a hasty reminder of the season.
Christmas. It was supposed to be a joyous time, of love and peace and hope and rebirth, but the only tangible force that entered the Doctor's mind was death.
Death, death, and more death. Unchanging, never-ceasing. Would it ever stop? Was there any cure?
For a while, he'd blocked it out of his mind, it had been so distant, so far away. His wonderful best friends, his parents-in-law, had been alive, so beautifully alive, the light of their eyes still vibrant, even as they aged.
Amy and Rory Williams. The Girl and Boy Who Waited.
Sometimes he was delusional, convincing himself that they were still physically present. This was all just a dream, a horrid, excruciating nightmare, and one day he would simply wake up, on his TARDIS, and his Amelia Pond would wrap her arms around him, squeezing him tightly, promising that she and Rory were safe—forever.
And then he would see their names and ages etched on that gravestone, a gut-wrenching reminder of the dreadful, irreversible truth.
They were dead. They weren't ever coming back. Ever.
All because of him; his weakness, his stupidity.
How could Vastra and Jenny and Strax and the other millions of voices in his head expect him to go on, after he'd ruined so many lives, killed so many innocents through his shortsightedness.
He didn't want to do it anymore.
It hurt too much. The guilt made it unbearable to live.
So when the Doctor heard the soft pitter-patter of footsteps halting at his side and glimpsed the woman's Victorian era dress, he assumed it was his ever-persistent friends, yet again.
The anger, the sadness, the bitterness swelled in his hearts, and he felt rage boil in his body.
Just bloody well leave me alone, why can't you?
"How many times, how many times to I have to tell you that I don't. Do. This. ANYMORE! I'VE RETIRED!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, his chest heaving as he did so.
He didn't even bother to look up, so enraged, so depressed by everything.
What happened next came as an unexpected shock.
"Now is that any way to treat your wife, who came across the whole bloody universe just to find you?"
The Doctor could've recognized that voice faster than the drop of a pin.
And he did in fact.
River Song. His wife.
For a second he literally stopped breathing altogether, having been caught completely off his guard.
Covering his face, he snapped his eyes shut, refusing to meet her gaze until the urge to look at her became overpowering.
Her face was lined, constricted, etched with a pain that reflected his own. Normally he would have dropped dead at the sight of that gorgeous curly hair, stunning gown, and heart-throbbing eyes. But today, he didn't see her, at all. He saw a woman in a white suit connecting the plug, ushering her own death, he saw a red head's fierce determination, changing the inevitable future, he saw a Roman's loyalty, spanning for two millennia.
No, this isn't real! It's just a dream! I'm going mad! They're all dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. DEAD!
"Get out!" the Doctor spat, his eyes blazing with white, hot rage.
"Doctor, I…" she whimpered weakly, sounding very unlike the River Song he knew.
It's a delusion, a lie, a trick. She's not really here.
"I. Told. You. To. Get. Out! RIVER!" The Doctor demanded.
"See…this… is what happens when you travel alone!"
"Alone? You're blaming me for this? All I ask is for you to travel with me and you just leave! You're the one to blame for this!" his voice pounded in her ears.
"I can't! It would never work and you know it! We're too much alike."
Pinning her against the wall, the man dug his fingernails into her wrist, paying no heed to the fact that her skin began to bleed as a result.
River moaned; her stoic expression crumbling as her entire body began to shake ravenously beneath his grip. Droplets skidded down her face without fail. She was physically unable to hide the damage.
"Please…Honey…think…about…what…you're…doing…" she begged through the tears, her voice scratchy, barely audible.
"No! This isn't real! Just get away from me! Leave me alone!" he insisted, refusing to release his grip on her arm.
She isn't real. She isn't real. She isn't real.
This time she could hardly manage to speak, her body so shaken by involuntary trembling.
"Who…are…you?" came her piercing words, stabbing him right in the gut.
Her deep blue eyes fluttered open and closed, staring directly into the depths of his soul. There was something he had never seen in them before.
Not just fear of anyone.
Fear of him.
And suddenly that was enough to draw him out of this bout of madness, to appease his anger, if only for a little while, to show him an intolerable image of himself, reflected in those glistening irises.
For the first time that night, the Doctor fully realized exactly what he had just done. He saw his hands, shaking like mad, his fingernails scraping his wife's skin, leaving marks of blood, his merciless torture of the woman who loved him with all her heart.
Horrified, the man quickly withdrew, still in somewhat of a trancelike state, watching as River cowered under his intense stare.
Glancing down at the fresh drops of blood that stained his quivering hands, the Doctor processed the reality of his actions.
"Wh-What…am…I?" he mumbled, his body suddenly erupting into uncontrollable sobs as he glanced at his wife's teary face yet again.
"I…I…hurt…you…" it flooded out of his lips, realization striking at full force. "Wh-what have I done? Look at me, I'm a monster!" backing away from River, the Doctor threw his top hat to the ground, his fingers tugging at his hair, pulling with every ounce of strength he had.
He pressed his hands to his face, unable to look at her, curling into a tiny ball, rocking himself back and forth.
"Pl-please…River…just…leave…me…I d-don't want to hurt you again. I'm sorry. I'm so, so, so, so, so, so, so sorry." His fingers soaked in his tears as he relayed his pitiful plea.
For a second, River almost listened to him, so affected, so horrified by what her own husband had done to her. But then she saw him, as vulnerable as a child, broken, guilt-ridden, and alone, so incredibly alone.
He needed her.
"No." she declared with certainty, managing to regain a sense of firmness, if only for a fleeting moment. "You're my husband. And I am not leaving you. When I stood on top of that pyramid all those years ago, with your bow-tie wrapped around my hand, I may not have said any vows aloud. But I made the promise in my heart. For better or for worse. Insickness and in health. It's called marriage, honey," despite the stinging at her wrists, the pain in her body, River Song embraced her husband.
She pulled his trembling body against hers, smoothing her hands through his hair.
"I love you. Always. No matter what. And I forgive you, my love." The Doctor's wife whispered these words of comfort to her husband, strengthening her hold on him, as he shook all the more.
"I…d-don't…deserve…this…" he admitted, drawing back and gazing at those watery blue eyes of hers.
"If love were based purely on feelings and circumstances and the past, we'd all be lost, wouldn't we?" her fingers wiped the tears beneath his eyes. "You taught me that. Remember? I killed you in Berlin, and you loved me despite it all."
"B-But…that was d-different…I know better…"
"Yes, you do. But you've also been through so much, Sweetie, and I understand that. I lost them too, Doctor. You're not in this alone." Her voice was soothing, encouraging.
"I…I...can't…do it anymore, River…"
"I know. I know, Honey. But look at me. It will get better, I promise."
"But, I'm tired, so, so tired. I don't want to go on. I don't want to help people because I can't risk damaging their lives in the process." He stuttered, burying his face in her shoulder.
Bending down, River Song planted a gentle kiss on her husband's lips, her hand cupping the bottom of his jaw.
"I know." She hugged him again, rubbing his back with her fingers, intertwining one hand with his. "But it will get better, I promise. Don't give up hope. There are great things ahead for you."
His head perked up at that, but the darkness in his eyes told her he didn't fully believe it.
"Merry Christmas, Honey."
"Merry Christmas, River."
River knew it was only a matter of time before she'd have to leave again, before he'd harden himself again, before he'd wallow away in the sorrow again, before he'd finally return to his former way of life again, as he always did.
And for now, holding him close to her heart, she relaxed, comforted by the knowledge that soon, very soon, regardless of the Doctor's depression or demeanor, Clara would come along, bringing joy back into his life, breaking down the barriers he put up with in himself unknowingly.
But that was an entirely different adventure in itself.
Today, River Song could just let her husband cling to her, let him cry into her hair, let him know how much she loved him, and maybe, just maybe, by some ridiculous miracle, his hearts might begin to soften, a mere shadow of the harvest yet to come.
Note: I hope you got something out of this. Feel free to read any of my other stories (posted on my profile). Please take this time to leave a review.
Have an awesome day!