Author's Note: So this is the last chapter of this fic, which to be honest is quite a relief for me, I wasn't sure I'd have the time to get it done before The Bells of Saint John premiere. But I did, thank God:) I really tried to included elements so that this will lead in nicely to the prequel and the actual episode, as well as Series 7 in general (since we know River will be in the finale). Just to get you in the right frame of mind, this chapter takes place at night, a few days after the previous one. Enjoy:)
Laughing gaily, the couple strode into the TARDIS library.
With a contented sigh, the man in the bow tie propped himself in one of the comfy chairs, waving his hand for River to do the same. He shot her a knowing grin, and she couldn't help but giggle, despite her want to revert back to seriousness.
The last few days had been interesting, to say that least. Between the whole swimming pool incident, the date to the snowiest planet in the galaxy and some other unmentionable activities, the Doctor and his wife had gotten a bit… distracted.
But now River was trying her best to focus on what the Doctor had come here to do in the first place—research on the mysterious Clara Oswald, the woman twice dead.
"Okay, Sweetie. Seriously, we need to focus…" she put on her sternest face. "Clara's not just going to magically appear, you know."
"Well, that's not necessarily true. I've already bumped into her twice…who's to say it won't happen again?" His wife shot him a look. "Oh, fine. We'll do some more searching; hopefully find something that'll lead me right to her…"
Whipping out her portable computer, River scanned the tiny screen in front of her.
"Hmmm. I took some notes the last time we did this. If I recall, we were—"
"Speculating on the connection between Lee Harvey Oswald and Clara, which then led to a rather odd discussion about 1963 and police boxes and 'St John Ambulance.'" The words flung out of his mouth so naturally that River was surprised.
"Someone's been paying attention." She smirked.
"Yeah, well, it's sort of been on my mind lately."
"I can see why. You could never resist a good mystery. And that is what Clara Oswald seems to be—the impossible girl."
"Quite right, too. That's a rather nice way of putting it. 'The impossible girl,' I reckon I'll use that again." Wringing his hands together, the eccentric man gabbled on.
"Back to the actual research bit."
"Yes, yes, of course." The Doctor spun to face his wife, eyes gleaming with excitement.
A beat of silence.
"So…erm…" He started, waiting for River to chime in at any moment.
Still half-focused on her PDA, the curly haired woman spoke her thoughts aloud.
"Well, I'd say we'd better stay in the library together. But maybe one of us should search for one thing and the other for another. We should use our resources; books, databases, whatever…let's hope we can get past speculation and actually find something useful…"
Content with River's suggestion, the Doctor nodded in agreement.
"Good plan. Why don't you look up some more information on the 'Saint John' connection…anything you can find, places associated with that name, the basic history behind it…all that archaeological rubbi—stuff, I mean, stuff. Meanwhile, I'll try to work out more on the Great Intelligence and the whole 'winter is coming' message…or threat, whatever it is. How does that sound?" His eyes lit up in question.
"Fine. Let's get going shall we?" River declared, rising from her seat to put her PDA on the table beside the computer screen. "I'm transferring my notes to the TARDIS database now …Sweetie?"
But her husband was already clearly entrenched in thought, pacing back and forth as usual.
"The Great Intelligence. Why didn't I remember it before? Why did it only ring a bell?" He continued on and on in this fashion, mumbling incoherent musings to himself.
Having learned over years of marriage to let the Doctor think when he needed to, River decided not to interrupt, intent on gleaning some background on 'Saint John,' after the whole 1963 connection they'd already established.
Her fingers bounced over the holographic keys, typing in the operative words that would give her a few clues on Clara's whereabouts.
Edging down the elegant rows of bookshelves, River couldn't help but marvel at the enormity of it all. She'd always been enthralled with libraries, so many tales and stories and information, available just by the flip of a page.
Her fingertips drifted softly atop the multi-colored, variously-sized spines that repeated and repeated for what seemed like miles, creating a labyrinth of rainbow.
But color wasn't her main focus, rather she scoured the labels on each book, some dotted with English, other human languages, and even Gallifreyan, trying to pinpoint the title she'd found on the TARDIS database.
After a little while of searching, she abruptly stopped, her eyes recognizing the title she'd been searching for.
"Here we are then," a sigh of relief escaped her throat at the find. "Memoirs from the Chapel of St. John and Surrounding Areas,"she voiced quietly as if for confirmation.
Gingerly, she smoothed her hand over the tattered brown cover, silently acknowledging the evident age of this book.
Without delaying any longer, River delved into the ancient object, the musty smell of the paper arousing her senses as she took a cursory look.
From that brief glance, she got the impression that this was some sort of testament of the monks who lived back during the post-Medieval period of England, or possibly even a records index.
"Nothing terribly interesting though," she mused, her finger hovering over the words long enough to assess them properly. "Seems to be nothing major; well, I suppose monks are rather isolated, so why would the Old Girl have brought me to th—Oh!" Her breath caught for a moment and she did a double take, making sure she'd read correctly.
"That's a bit odd. 'A painting of a young woman was delivered to the Chapel of Saint John and placed into the collection of the nearby monastery. For years, little was known about it, until one day a mysterious stranger came along, curious about the woman in the painting. Though dressed in monk attire, he spoke with an odd tongue. He is said to have referred to her as 'the woman twice dead.' But he soon disappeared, thought to be an angel, a messenger from God; he flew away in a mysterious blue box and the sound of bells rippled through the corridors until the vessel was no more. It was as if the stranger had never been there at all.'" River's heart hammered in her chest at the vividness of that description. The identity of the stranger depicted was unmistakable. The Doctor. Her husband.
"The woman twice dead," River repeated to herself, suspecting that this was in fact a reference to Clara. "But what would a monastery be doing with a painting of Clara?" The question soared through her mind, and she pondered it as best she could, until her thoughts filled with a different inquiry. "So this means that the Doctor must have gone there at some point. But when? Certainly not now, he can't have gone there already, otherwise he wouldn't have come to me for help so soon…and how would he have known to go there…unless…" At that moment realization seemed to dawn on her. This book told of where the Doctor would go next. She had found the book; she was the key.
But how much could she tell her husband? The account was from his future and the last time a book had disclosed that sort of information it hadn't gone so well. Take her broken hand and her parents' death, for instance.
Not that this was anything in comparison to that. She was certain that the Doctor would turn up in a monastery dressed as a monk at some point without cause for potential universe implosion.
And more than likely it would happen quite soon. Which could only mean that—
" Have you found anything yet, dear?"
A voice rippled from behind, starling her out of her thoughts.
For a second, River found herself paralyzed, her head suddenly filled with images of the grotesque Doctor from her nightmares.
She jerked, dropping the old book she'd been examining.
"River? Are you alright? Sorry, didn't mean to startle you." River felt a familiar hand touch her shoulder.
Her green-tinged eyes met his briefly, and she tried to hide the trembling that had begun to ravage her body.
"Yes, of course I'm fine." A fake smile formed on her face.
"You sure? You look as if you've seen a ghost."
"No, no, just…just thinking I suppose…"
Gazing at her with that suspicious glint in his eye, the Doctor stared before deciding to let her be. He didn't want a repeat of the incident from a few days ago.
"Oh, and I think you dropped this!" He realized, carefully placing the fallen book in his wife's hands. "What'd you find in there?"
"Hmm. Nothing much. Just some records from the Chapel of Saint John. Rather dull to be honest." Chuckling lightly, River tried to steer clear of the matter.
"You know that the TARDIS probably had that archived on the database; you didn't actually have to look for a hard copy."
"What can I say? I may live in the 51st century but in some ways I'm an old-fashioned sort of girl."
"That you are, Professor Song. Well, besides maybe the high-tech guns…and other aspects…" He glanced at her nervously and she could see the slight blush forming in his cheeks. Coughing, the Doctor attempted to alleviate the awkward tension. "So…have you found anything else of use?" Her husband wondered, fingers scratching his cheek.
"Yes, actually quite a bit. Hang on." Pressing one of the keys on her PDA, River pulled up a long description onto the screen. "Let's see, I have a bit on Saint John; he was a Christian Evangelist who lived during the first century AD. There's plenty more on his life…but what's really interesting are the various buildings and organizations that share his name. Police boxes, well, anything associated with 'St John Ambulance' medical care. That organization originated in 1540 with the Order of Saint John, disbanded by King Henry VIII…"
"Ooh, Henry VIII…quite a ruthless bloke…did I ever tell you that your mother accidently got engaged to him on her anniversary and he came looking for her…we tried to hide under his bed, but I unfortunately sneezed…and…well, let's just say he was none too happy. Your father left his phone charger in Henry's ensuite. That was quite a day…" He trailed off, suddenly bereft at the memory of his best friends, River's parents; it had seemed so ridiculous at the time, but now he would have given anything to run rampant down those corridors hand in hand with the Ponds, fleeing hurriedly as the raging king taunted from behind. His hearts clenched painfully as he saw their daughter, his wife, standing right in front of him. He mentally cursed himself for bringing it up at all; perhaps he'd just got caught up in the moment.
Seeing the pained expression on River's face, the Doctor gulped. Him and his big mouth. He really needed to learn when to stop babbling.
"Sorry…I…I shouldn't have…I…"
But surprisingly enough, River didn't react too adversely; instead she entangled her fingers in his.
Pressing a light kiss to his temple, she whispered ever so softly into his ear. "I know it's hard for us both, Sweetie. You don't have to talk about them if it's too painful. But if you ever feel the need, I don't mind. Really." She squeezed his hand as if to reiterate her point.
"Now let's go back to the computer I was using earlier…I have some other interesting info to share." With that, she began walking, hand still in her husband's, hoping he wouldn't ask about why she'd changed the subject so suddenly.
Thankfully, he didn't, although she could feel him assessing her; he may not have spoken his concerns aloud, but he could definitely get the sense that something was bothering River.
In a matter of minutes they were back at the front of the library, soon seated in chairs beside the holographic screen that River had been using for research.
"What else have we got? Oh yes, back to the whole 'St John Ambulance' bit. I was searching more on St John and I stumbled across this old nursery rhyme, 'Oranges and Lemons'…"
"Say the Bells of St. Clement's" The Doctor finished much to River's surprise.
"What? So you've heard it before?"
"Yes. Well, no. Well…This is the one with the chopper and a candle and all that at the end, right?"
"Indeed." River watched her husband visibly cringe at that. "Bad memories?"
"Yeah. You can imagine hearing that from a possessed and slightly creepy man strapped to a wheelchair in a near-death situation isn't exactly the most memorable of occasions. But that's not important…what about this rhyme stuck out to you?"
"A line about halfway through. 'Pokers and togs say the bells of St. John's.'"
"I'm assuming you understand the significance of that."
"Yes. It's referring to the Chapel of Saint John, which is the oldest church in London. It's located in the White Tower in the Tower of London, which of course was constructed between 1077 and 1097 AD. The 'Pokers and togs' reference is to the instruments of torture that were reputedly used on the Little Princes, Edward V and Richard, whose bodies were discovered there."
"Ugh…rather grim, I suppose."
"Children's rhymes almost always are."
"Well, human ones anyway. And in fairness, others I suppose. But what I really want to know is what does this have to do with anything?"
River couldn't help but glance briefly at the book she still clasped. She pondered telling him about what she'd read, but for various reasons decided against it. So she brought up another potential connection.
"I…I'm not entirely sure, but well, I was thinking that the Chapel of Saint John might have some sort of clues about Clara's whereabouts. Not to mention it's in London. Maybe that's also a hint to where she is now."
"She was in Victorian London so that isn't really a surprise."
"But it narrows it down doesn't it? London; maybe sometime after 1963…late 20th century?" It was a bit of a stretch to put all that together, but given the Doctor's past history it didn't really seem too unlikely.
"I still don't see how a bloody chapel has to do with Clara." Confusion filled his tone and River had to stop herself from telling him something from his future right then and there.
You can't tell him. Not directly anyway. He's going to have to figure out some of this on his own.
Her heart pounded at the thought; she realized that this was an indication that she'd soon have to leave him and go back to her life of stress and teaching and work. And with that always came the possibility that she'd never see this version of her husband again. Perhaps that was why she felt so hesitant to show him the book passage- she knew that if she did, he would have no need for her any longer. But maybe it was time.
"You just…looked a bit distant there…"
"Hmmm. You were saying?"
"I was just wondering what the chapel has to do with finding Clara."
"Well, have you got any better leads, Honey?" She sounded a bit irritated, but really more fatigued than anything else.
Feeling pressured to answer, the Doctor explained as best he could.
"Um…not exactly." He avoided meeting her eyes.
"Then what were you doing while I was researching all that time?"
"I was thinking. Speculating. Hypothesizing." His hands trudged through his hair and he started to move back and forth, an action that told her just how paranoid he was.
"I don't know. I can't stop thinking about what Clara always says to me every time she dies. 'Run you clever boy and remember.' Running isn't too difficult; I've been doing that my whole life. But the 'remember,' that's what really gets me. I don't think she's just talking about herself. Otherwise she'd say 'Remember me.' So what is it that she wants me to remember? Is it something specific or more general? It seems that lately I've been prone to forgetfulness…and that's quite alarming. I mean, the Great Intelligence was only ringing a bell after I'd already fought it, and it took a lot of thought just to recall that I'd met it in my second body. I can't even remember the exact circumstances. I know I could look it up in the TARDIS' records, but that's not the point. I may be old, but I should be able to remember something like that. And the whole universe has forgotten I exist, even the Daleks, and I'm not complaining…but it doesn't it strike you as odd? Wh-Why can't I remember, River? What's happening to me?" his voice trembled towards the end of that statement and his wife saw genuine fear in his tear-filled eyes.
Pulling him into a tight hug, River pressed her face into his shoulder.
"Shhh. It'll be okay, my love. I don't think you should worry about it. We'll cross that road when we come to it, alright? If this is happening to you, I'll be there to help. I can promise that. But maybe it's just that you've been traveling alone for too long. Once you find Clara, everything will improve. She'll reignite your love for adventure and mystery, and you'll see the universe again through her eyes. And you'll remember. I know you will." Her warm breath laced his ear as she whispered words of comfort.
Even then, River knew deep down that her husband's fears were not unjustified; as much as she tried to deny it she'd always suspected that the Silence had not finished with him, after all the First Question had yet to be answered, the Doctor's greatest secret had yet to be revealed, the battle that started the war against him in the first place had not yet happened and she dreaded that day with a burning passion. It was so uncertain, so terrifying; she didn't want to think about it. And neither did the Doctor.
Now was not the time to discuss this. Her husband had suffered enough with the loss of her parents, what he needed right now was not fear but hope.
Hope that would give him the strength to find Clara. Hope that only she could give him.
"But what if I don't, River? What if I spend the rest of my life running about on my own and I never find Clara? What if I—"
Pressing her lips against his, the Doctor's wife kissed her husband curtly, running her fingers through his hair , clinging to him with a desperation, and trying to be his River, to drown out his worries and fears and make him just be. Make him forget it all if only for a fraction of a second.
Glowing warmth spread through her body and when she parted their mouths, she was relieved to see that he was now intently focused on her. Good. She'd prefer that to the alternative.
"I told you not to worry, okay?" River pleaded with him earnestly. "For once can you please just listen to me?"
"I'll try." He muttered truthfully, before leaning back in to kiss his wife. "Thank you."
His eyes stared straight into hers with that love, that intensity, that devotion, and she returned all of it in equal measure.
"Come on, Honey. It's been a long day." Wrapping her fingers loosely in his, she pulled him upward, leading him out of the library and into the silvery, trapezoidal shaped corridors.
And they walked hand in hand, the comforting hum of the TARDIS gracing their ears like a blissful melody.
Hours later, the curly haired woman awoke from her sleep, a feeling of great dread and intensity sweeping over her body. As hard as it was she had to accept the inevitable truth; it was time to leave her husband to search for Clara Oswald on his own. Her being here for even a day longer would be too distracting to him, whether he realized it or not. And she couldn't allow herself to get in the way of what she knew the Doctor needed more than anything.
But for a brief second she felt drawn to the Doctor; she marveled at those features she loved so much, vowing to memorize each one, so that when the day did come that she met a Doctor who didn't know her she could always picture her husband's peaceful face.
After listening to his quiet breathing, the repetitious rise and fall of his chest, she was able to confirm that he was asleep. And she was deeply thankful for that, as he rarely ever got any proper rest. He may have been a Time Lord, but River of all people knew that in reality that didn't mean a thing. Every once in a while the Doctor needed to sleep.
So what better chance to leave than now? Why not save them both the heartache of another painful goodbye and just let the Doctor be on his way to finding Clara?
Without a second thought, River Song got out of bed as quietly as she could, dressed as quickly as possible and set out to gather a few belongings before she left.
Her first trek was back to the library. Propping the door open, she soon wandered inside, returning the exact place she'd put the book she'd found.
He's going to need to find this, but not just yet…Clara is his to find and I can only interfere so much.
Beside the book she saw some TARDIS blue stationary along with an ink pen. Odd, she didn't recall those being there before—oh, of course, this was the Old Girl's doing.
Using the pen, River wrote her husband a note for when he woke up, informing him of her whereabouts and her reasons for leaving when she did. He wasn't going to like that they hadn't said a proper goodbye, but River believed this was best for both of them. The non-confrontational approach.
She'd had a lovely few days with her husband and she wanted to end on a high not an argument.
Gathering the note and book, River tip-toed back into the bedroom.
She placed the tiny slip of blue paper on the bedside table right next to where he slept, planting a delicate kiss on his cheek and muttering a broken 'I love you,' before veering out into the hallway.
Soon enough, River ended up in the control room, and having done so, she propped the ancient book on the revamped console.
Looking at the Gallifreyan-lined circle that loomed from above, the child of the TARDIS spoke to her mother.
"Please, Old Girl, just make sure he gets this when the time is right. When he's so lonely and he's nearly given up, show him this book. Remind him that there is hope. And do whatever you can to help him find Clara." Her fingertips brushed the newly-added telepathic connection panel and she felt a warmth flooding into her body, as the TARDIS hummed in response.
"Thank you." She managed to say as the tears started to form in her eyes despite her efforts to remain strong.
With that, River Song trotted on towards the TARDIS doors, hoping against hope that she would be able to slip out at just the right moment—
"That's it? What's the matter with you?" His softly spoken words echoed what she'd said to him ages ago.
She stopped dead in her tracks, not daring to turn around.
"I cannot believe you were seriously about to leave without giving your husband a proper goodbye. I don't want a note, River. I want you. In the flesh." Every hair on the back of her neck rose as he came closer.
His eyes beckoned her to face him and she had no choice but to oblige.
"Why didn't you tell me you were leaving?" his wavering voice cut right to her heart.
"I…I…I just…thought that I'd be easier this way." She flushed, feeling suddenly ashamed.
"Why now? Did I do something wrong?"
The pain stung a little more at the thought that he would even consider that.
"No, no, my love, of course not. These past few days have been wonderful. I haven't enjoyed myself this much…since…since before…Manhattan."
"Then stay. With me. Please." He was practically begging now, and this was exactly what she feared, she had to resist, she couldn't give in, no matter how much she wanted to.
"You know I can't."
"Why not?" He sounded mouse-like.
"Because I'm not what you need. I'm not a companion, Doctor. I'm your wife. I can't stare in complete awe of the universe the way she will because I'm like you, I've seen so much, endured so much that I've become jaded to it. I can help you and love you all I want. But I can't give you that. I can't re-ignite your passion on my own. What you need is someone who has never seen it all, someone who you can impress, someone who you can change for the better. And that's not me. I've done all I can to help you, and I think we both know we've gotten as far as we can with the search for Clara. Now you need to take ownership of it. You need to find her. And it'll work out. You will find Clara. I know you will." Droplets skidded down her cheeks as she spoke the truth.
"You have such faith in me."
"Because you're my husband. And I love you and I trust you with everything and I would give my life for you. It's called marriage, Honey." A shot of pain swept through her heart as she remembered her mother's final words on the top of that building.
"But…I…I don't want…"
But she quickly shushed him, kissing her husband desperately and hungrily because for all she knew, this could be her last time.
She hoped he wouldn't notice, but, as ever, he did.
"What's wrong? Why are you acting like you'll never see me again?" The Doctor chocked; his voice cracking.
"Because…well…I…I…if this is the last time I see this you, my husband…I want…I…" Her body trembled now and she cursed herself internally, why, why did she have to show him how much this was hurting her?
"Shhh." He pulled her back in, trying to match her fierceness, her passion. "River Song, don't be ridiculous. I'd say spoilers, but I know for a fact that you will see me again, so don't you think for a second that this is your last time with this me. We've still got some more running to do."
Kissing her one more, he tried to show her, to promise her, that this would not be the last.
He pressed his forehead to hers, lingering there for a few seconds, and then whispered those words he struggled so much to say.
"I love you, River." His fingers rubbed atop her palm soothingly.
"I love you, too." She replied, overcome with emotion all of a sudden. "You'll find Clara. And soon, I think."
"Hmm. Who knows? Maybe I'll be lucky. All this searching…maybe I'll just bump into her again…like…like…destiny," both of them knew that there was no such thing but neither had the heart to admit it.
"Maybe. But whatever happens, Doctor, you can't give up. You have to promise me…promise."
"Because you will find her. You do. I know that for a fact, too." Cupping his cheek, she bent into to give him a lingering kiss, which he held for a few moments longer.
"Thank you. For everything."
"You are very, very welcome. It was the least I could do."
"Take care of yourself. Don't work too hard. Make sure you get a good night's rest."
"Will do, husband. You take care of yourself too."
"Will do, wife. Now I'll be seeing you again soon. Don't you worry, River. When I find Clara, I'll make sure she gets a chance to meet the wife… properly anyway."
"I look forward to it." Came her honest answer. She'd do anything to see him happy and lively again.
" 'Til the next one, eh?" He managed a smile.
"Yeah. Whenever and wherever you want." River pressed her lips to his cheek and turned towards the doors.
"I won't be too long, I promise. Love you." Her husband stressed the last two words.
"Love you too. See you next time, Honey." With that, River Song slipped out of the TARDIS and into her apartment, leaving her husband in his blue box.
"Can't wait," was the last thing that left his lips before he went to pilot his ship, hands deftly maneuvering over the various levers and controls as the TARDIS whirred and chirred the way his wife secretly adored (though she'd never admit it), flinging him into the vast and endless sea that was called space.
"Right then, Clara Oswald. Time to find out who you are."
Note: Sorry, I couldn't resist. And yes that line rightfully belongs to Steven Moffat and we will probably be hearing it again. Anyway I hope this ending made sense. I wanted to leave it pretty open, so that it's relatively consistent with canon based on what we know so far.
Only one more day to go until The Bells of Saint John! Hope you all enjoy the episode:)
Please take this time to leave a review.
Have a spectacular day!