This is an AU story of an alternate meeting between the Doctor and River. Their timelines are less back to front and more linear, but only a tad. I have a few ideas for this story that I've had floating in my head for quite awhile now. So that should be exciting! I'll explain more at the bottom so I don't have to worry about spoilers for this!
So this is my fair warning of my being American. I think I did alright with terminology, but feel free to correct me! No harm, no foul, I'll just pop back into this doc and edit it to fit. You folk call vacations 'holidays' right? I hope so because that's what I used here. Like five times.
DISCLAIMER: If you hadn't guessed, this is a work of fiction, with characters and stuffs that I don't own. Which sucks. If I owned them, a certain Pond couple probably would still be on the show. But since I don't own them, and Steven Moffat ruins our lives, they're gone. So that's a thing. Respect the Thing.
The Size of the Universe
The Doctor frowned to himself a bit as snow managed to find its way down the collar of his long coat and to the top of his spine. It seemed to not only chill his back but his whole body, making his rough afternoon seem even more unpleasant than before. Normally he'd love the idea of a good London snowfall as they happened so rarely, at least naturally, but it was a Thursday afternoon and he hated Thursday afternoons; especially those that followed a minor skirmish with a Sontaran.
2019 hadn't even seen his skirmish and neither had Earth for that matter. Couple galaxies over to the right on the moon of Toruun was the site of the separated Sontaran legion attempting to take over the town for the good of the Sontaran Force, but that was neither here nor there, especially here. The event itself was only pertinent in that it soured his morning which soured his already annoying afternoon.
The Doctor let a shiver run through his body and glanced up through the flurries to a corner coffee shop. Any luck and they'd have a nice mug of tea with his metaphorical name on it. It always seemed an odd expression to him that something would have his name on it. Loads of things had his name on it. Everything from television dramas to medical practices to those of higher education sported his chosen moniker. But why should a total stranger embellish their goods with his name for his sake? It made no sense and yet every human he'd pointed this out to merely looked at him with an odd eye, as if he were odd for questioning something as trite as that. He wouldn't be who he was if he hadn't logically questioned cultures though.
The bell jangled over the doorway as he popped into the shop but no one even glanced up at the sound. The place was nearly filled to the top with Londoners wrapped in long coats and scarves. A low din filled the room from all of the patrons' conversations and the smell of expresso and warm cinnamon filled the air. It was nearly intoxicating and he was grateful the TARDIS had given him a few extra pounds to spend as the display of cookies was nearly singing for his purchase. He thanked the Barista as she passed over his mug of tea (a chai spice touted as their specialty) and let out a small moan of appreciation as the warmth seeped into his palms.
His eyes began to dart around worriedly as he came to the realization that he hadn't considered the number of patrons sitting in the shop before staying to place an order. All the tables seemed to be full, as were the couches. The tables were all small to begin with and it seemed nearly all had two occupants already. Just as he was beginning to contemplate having to sit outside, the line shifted just slightly and he could see through it to a table that had an open chair.
He grinned and made to move through the crowded shop, careful not to jostle his warm drink. As he neared the seat, however, he realized the table was in fact occupied. He didn't turn though and he let his jaw fall just slightly at the sight of the occupant. She was maybe in her mid-thirties by the look of it but humans aged so oddly sometimes so he wasn't positive. Golden hair curled in almost a halo around her head, so big and wild that he just wanted to play with it to see what it was capable of. Her gaze was out the window and on the shoppers fairing the icy weather, a mindless hand stirring at her drink. Steam rose from it so she'd only recently sat down, meaning she likely wouldn't leave if he popped over and asked to join.
He realized then that he wanted to join her. In fact, he wanted to know her. At the very least get to know her and it shook him because he hadn't truly wanted to know a human in so long, at the very least since Rose Tyler in 2005, nearly 300 years for him. And he'd made a rubbish effort at anything with her because of how tightly he'd held himself in check. No, this woman… She screamed adventure to him. Maybe it was the hair, he couldn't tell for sure. But she was absolutely beautiful, he wanted to know her.
His feet began working once more and he made his way across the shop to her. She never turned her gaze from the shoppers but he had a feeling she knew he was there, and that she probably always knew more than she let on.
"Hello," he greeted with what he hoped was a confident grin. He tended to show his nerves in some of his confident grins sometimes. It never seemed to be noticed by any of the more malevolent creatures he ran into but Amy always had a way of cutting through his words to find the truth.
The woman turned her gaze with a crooked smirk, her blue-green eyes both easy and intent at the same time. Her lips were painted a dark red but the color suited her perfectly and only emphasized their round shape.
"I noticed you were sitting here alone and I was wondering if I might join you if it isn't a bother," he said and while her eyes never left his, he could feel himself relaxing a bit as he spoke. "Also, there appears to be a slight shortage on chairs and space within this shop and I was hoping you'd spare me your free one. A tad selfish I suppose but who isn't from time to time?"
She let out a small bit of laughter and replied in a confident and easy tone, "Sure, as long as you promise conversation."
"Well, I do like talking," he nodded and took the seat, carefully setting his drink in front of him. "Thank you."
"Of course," she returned, her smile still prominent. Her eyes crinkled just slightly on the edges and her cheek bones were even more emphasized the bigger her smile grew. The Doctor realized that she had an almost cat that ate the canary type expression on, and while that probably should have alarmed him, he found it almost curious. She was confident and proud… and so was he. But he never seemed to find anyone of his level that wasn't completely arrogant. Oh his ego could fill a room, Donna had always seemed to prove that to him by cutting straight to the heart of his shows, but he tried not to hold it too high over anyone's head.
"I'm the Doctor," he announced and she quirked an eyebrow.
"Of anything in particular?" she questioned and he shook his head.
"No, just the Doctor."
"Well, Just the Doctor, I'm a Doctor too," she returned and lifted her drink to her lips for a sip.
"Oh? Medical?" he asked curiously.
"Archaeology," she replied and watched with a touch of humor as his smile fell and his brow furrowed. "Problem?"
"What? No, course not," he shook his head and straightened his bowtie nervously. "I remembered something, uh, unpleasant. That's all."
"You're lying," she called proudly and his eyes narrowed slightly in annoyance. Most people just pestered him or ignored him, she however just called a spade a spade.
"Yes I am, congratulations," he muttered. "Now you know rule one. The Doctor lies."
"Oh, do I get a prize?" she teased excitedly.
"Yes, a high five, here," he raised his hand in the air and she merely looked at it amusedly. "C'mon, high fives are cool. You know you want one."
"I'll manage," she shrugged indifferently and looked back out the window. "So, Doctor, what brings you to this little old shop?"
"I was cold, fancied some tea," he tossed out and stared at her a beat before asking, "why are you here?"
"I was cold and fancied some tea," she matched and took a sip of her drink, never letting her eyes wander from his as they stared over the wall of the drink.
"Is that all… I'm sorry, what was your name?"
"River," she said with a grin. "River Song."
"You said it wrong," he grinned. "You should have started with Song, and then moved to River Song. Much cooler sounding."
"Why? Because a British Spy that's over thirty years old phrases it that way?"
"Yeah, so?" he asked. "James Bond is cool. He's awesome and can do everything."
"Is that the only reason he's cool or have you found some connection to his character?" she questioned and he flushed slightly and looked out the window to avoid her gaze. She let out a laugh and tilted her head back with it. He peeked at her from the corner of his eye and marveled at how the curls shook with every jostle of her shoulders. "I knew it. So you can do everything, can you?"
"Well not everything, don't be ridiculous," he admonished with a roll of his eyes. "I have to stay within the laws of reason."
"Who's reason?" she tilted her head in question. "Because many people reason different morals and live by them. Tell me, Doctor, what are your morals?"
He watched as she leaned forwards on the table towards him, her hair falling forwards and sending the air his way. The smell nearly threw him off guard. It was the perfect smell, nothing he could describe but everything he'd ever needed, and mixed with the spicy air of their combined drinks… it was intoxicating.
"I, uh," he scratched at his cheek nervously. "Well, you always have to give them a choice."
"A choice of what?"
"To stop what they're doing," he said and wondered how long he could go before letting loose that he wasn't strictly human. Or human at all… or that he spent the any good portion of his time on Earth. In one time. "I… negotiate for a living."
"Oh, a negotiator," she echoed but it sounded immensely more flirty and seductive from his spot across the table. "How exciting. Now, do tell about this negotiation."
She shifted her arms forwards a little more and subtly pushed up her cleavage just a tad. Though that caught his attention, her wrist poked out slightly from under her jacket and his eyes latched on to what lay strapped to his wrist. Without thinking, he reached out and snatched her arm off the table, nearly making her loose her balance in the sudden shift of weight. He held it up, twisting her arm slightly and he could see her move her face into a grimace in response.
"A Vortex Manipulator," he breathed, eyes scanning up and down. His hand found the inside of his coat and pulled out his Sonic and with a practiced hand had it scanning the cuff in no time. He flicked his wrist and read the small screen tucked along the band curiously. "Last shift from the fifty-second century." His eyes moved to hers and he looked down his face at her, studying her for whatever he could.
"Impressive," she grinned. "Very impressive indeed. Only took you seven and a half minutes to figure it out. And I like the negotiator bit, very clever."
"I am clever," his voice had hardened and she picked up the change immediately.
"And a hypocrite too I'd say," she teased. "Rule Number One is only allowed to apply to you, isn't it, Doctor?"
"I typically don't enjoy when Time Agents are around, let alone when they lie."
"I said nothing of being a Time Agent. There are other ways to get a hold of a Vortex Manipulator you know."
"Murder of one comes to mind," he hummed and she laughed out loud. His grip tightened slightly on her wrist and she gave him a pressed smile before continuing.
"Too messy," she admitted. "No, have you met Dorium Maldovar yet?" He didn't reply. "Well, that's a moot point. He's a black market dealer. He'll get his head chopped off one day if he's not careful who he deals with but for now he's quite useful. I only paid the price of a Callipso Pulse for this beauty here. I'd put down more but his aid brought the cuff in still on the hand. Nasty business time is."
"So I hear," he breathed carefully to control his growing anger. "If you're not a Time Agent what are you River Song?"
"I'm an archaeologist, Sweetie," she grinned. "I want to tour the universe and it's ever so expensive and limiting to do it through public transport. So I acquired a Vortex Manipulator and I'm hitting up my favorite moments in history. Maybe one day I'll jump forward enough and do some more studying and explore my future. Until then, the past is where I'm at."
"You're on holiday, that's your big mystery?" he loosened his grip on her and let her arm fall.
"You make me seem ever so one dimensioned," she rolled her eyes and took up her drink again. "But yes, I'm forever on Holiday. Isn't that what you are?"
"And a mystery," she shrugged. "History talks all about you as I'm sure you know but hardly a whisper of your people. Gives me two conclusions: You have decided to break tradition and travel the universe instead of remaining what I can only assume are guards of time or your people are gone and you're one of the last—If not the last. Feel free not to answer, It's all right to keep it by yourself, though if I'm intruding in my defense you sat here first. But I've learned a thing or two while I've traveled and that it's not safe to travel alone. You lose your sight on things, especially humanity."
He stared at her in near shock. She had hit the nail on the head about him and even concluded with something he'd heard Amy tout to him a time or two. River Song was no ordinary character in the galaxy, that was for sure. And this very unordinary character was sitting in a shop staring out a window. His gaze turned to his right and he peered through the glass across the street.
"River, what are you doing here today? Right now, in this shop?" The words were low, and by the look of her smile she knew he was piecing things together at this point.
"I'm drinking a cup of tea on a cold day."
"You were staring out the window, lost in thought. You hardly turned your head when you saw me coming towards you, what were you staring at?" he questioned as his mind raced and his mouth threatened to fall behind. "You were looking for something, what were you looking for?"
"I wasn't supposed to run into you, Doctor," she smiled. "I saw you as soon as you entered the room. I suppose logically it was near impossible for us both to meet here right now in a very unordinary shop but at the same time it makes perfect sense. Think Doctor, why are you here today? Hmm? You're travelling alone, aren't you?"
"Yes," he nodded and was wondering what she meant. Amy was just taking a few months break, maybe more with Rory. They hadn't left him, they hadn't died, they were on a holiday away from their holiday.
"Now, since you haven't really thought about it too much yet, I don't think you know," she smiled sympathetically. Her gaze looked back out the window and the Doctor followed. The snow was still falling at a steady pace and shoppers still walked along from shop to shop but the Doctor immediately spotted the bright red hair tucked under a purple knit hat.
"Amy," he breathed and watched her walk along. She came to a stop on the walk and held her phone to her ear before glancing up the street. She ducked her head around to see through the shoppers before grinning and holding up a hand. The Doctor looked down the block a bit to see a small girl take off running and launch herself into Amy's outstretched arms. A second later, Rory reached her and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "She has a family… She and Rory have a family."
"Yes, they do," she whispered and the Doctor turned to look at River. Her eyes were trained on the scene in front of them as the oblivious family turned and headed into the department store.
"Why are you watching for the Ponds?" he asked hesitantly. Too many things weren't adding up all at once and the Doctor was suddenly very apprehensive. River turned her bright eyes on his and gave a sad smile to him.
"Remember that it's 2019, Doctor. Not 2011," she said and before he could question how she knew what time he'd left Amy and Rory in she continued on. "Now, they have a family now and a little eight year old girl. Not then. Just remember that. That little girl grew up on stories of you, wonderful stories and adventures that filled her thoughts day and night. She never saw you, but that was because you couldn't see her."
"Established chain of events?" he summed and she nodded. "That would mean that whatever you are about to tell me keeps me from being there to watch her grow."
"I'm sorry, Doctor but it has to be this way," she spoke quietly. "You'll see Amy and Rory again a few more times but after their daughter is born you will leave. You won't be returning until she's about to go to university."
"That's my future," he clenched his fists tightly in frustration. "Do you know the damage you can cause if you tell me this? Do you really, River Song?"
"Yes," she answered simply. "Because Doctor you don't know the damage it can cause if I don't tell you this and you don't go through with these events. It's a paradox, I'm sorry, but you'll have to continue it. That little girl, the one you just watched, her name is Melody Pond. Amy will name her that on her own, don't worry. But Melody will grow up to become something much greater than the simple child of two companions of the Doctor because there is nothing simple about that girl."
"What are you saying?" he asked, and his skin tingled with the anticipation of what she was about to reveal.
"That girl, Doctor, is not simply Human," River said slowly, looking him dead in the eye as she spoke. "That girl is Human Plus. Human Plus Timelord."
"Timelord," he breathed and twisted his head to look back to the spot Amy and Rory had stood with Melody only moments ago. "How? Amy and I never…"
"No, you didn't," River smirked. "But how did the Timelords become Timelords, Doctor? Exposure to the Time Vortex."
"Over millions of years!" he amended as his head struggled to process through everything.
"An impossible child, Doctor, but not nearly impossible enough because she is there," River said, her voice almost urging him to understand. "She was conceived in the Time Vortex itself, a straight shot of time energy to boost her DNA. She skipped the years of evolution itself and jumped straight to a finished product."
"What you're saying makes sense but how would you even know she's actually part Timelord?" he asked her. "What signs does she show? We age as children, we don't have two hearts until second regeneration, and any mutation to her DNA would be so small that it wouldn't even be registered in a DNA scan in the 21st century because no one would know to look for it! So how are you even so sure? Hmm, River? Tell me how you know everything here when you've only just popped from the future because I can assure you that I will do everything in my power to make sure the child in 2011 is kept a secret from ALL history books because those are the Ponds and I will protect them until the end of the universe."
"I know," River replied and stretched her hand without the Vortex Manipulator out to him across the table. "Doctor, take my hand."
"Why?" he asked gruffly, still worked up from his speech.
"Please, Sweetie, just take it," she urged and to her relief the Doctor cautiously grasped her hand. She spun her arm in his grip to leave her wrist up and exposed to his eyes. "Feel my pulse, Doctor."
"You can hardly tell truth from fiction with a—" he cut himself off as he felt the beating under his fingers. "That can't be." His eyes shifted to the window again as if he hoped to see the Ponds across the street before meeting her eyes once again. "Your heart."
"Hearts, Doctor," she smiled. "Binary Vascular System I'm afraid. Just like a Timelord."
"You're…Melody," he breathed in surprise. "You've regenerated."
"I have, and no, I won't tell you," she smirked. "Spoilers."
"Spoilers," he repeated with a nod of his head though disbelief clouded his tone. "I'm not the last one."
"Technically, you are, I'm afraid," she corrected with a grimace. "I'm still mostly human. I have many Timelord attributes but the finer details are a bit fuzzy. I have a grasp on how time works but not it's flow. I can't see the timestreams you can in my mind. That's partly why I went into Archaeology so I would know where to go and when. I can sense disruptions in time like fixed points and still points, but the turn of the planet is barely a hum in my mind, apparently nothing close to that of a Timelord. My senses are only just above those of a human as well. Human Plus," she finished with a grin, her hands open faced and her shoulders giving a proud shrug. He stared at her in a moment of awe. She was… so different. He'd known that of course from the first moment he'd met her but that had been simple and surprised infatuation, but she, River Song… she was an enigma. Something so different that it nearly hurt his head to try and understand her.
"What comes next?" he breathed out in question and searched her eyes for some sort of sign as to what to do.
"I don't know and even if I did you know I couldn't tell you, Doctor," she said with a sad smile. "I'd say go back to 2011, see Amy and Rory, see my parents and let them tell you, be there for them and then return when I'm older."
"Before you head off to University," he stated rather than question.
"Yes, Amy and Rory will have filled my head of their travels and I'll want to see the universe," River smirked. "Mid-51st Century, Doctor, Luna University."
"Right," he nodded and pushed his chair back to stand. "River, I'm… I'm sorry for accusing you of having murdered a Time Agent."
"No apology needed, Doctor," she assured him, the warm smile back upon her face. He couldn't help but return her smile and gave her a nod.
"I hope to see you again, River, not just Melody but you," he told her honestly.
"I'm sure you will, Doctor," she said. "The Universe is hardly big enough for that to not be a possibility."
"You'd be surprised, Ms. Song," he chuckled, adjusting his bowtie with his hand. "You'd be surprised."
She tilted her head back and let out a laugh and the Doctor spun on his heel with a bit of flair and left the shop with a slight kick to his step.
The cold London air hit his face and he hardly minded, a bit too enthused to care. He glanced to the window at the end of the shop and saw River looking back at him with a smile. He gave her a small salute and headed back down the sidewalk towards his TARDIS. He'd parked her down a few blocks and in an alley, just a quick walk from the café. He pushed open the doors with a grin and jumped up to the console, flicking switches and levers before pulling back the crank and setting her into flight with a laugh.
I suppose I'm not very good at keeping A/N to a minimum. I doubt that'll change too much. For now, though, you pretty much just need to know that my updates may be a tad... scattered. That might not change. I'm in my last year of high school and while I'm more of a lax student (I'm sure my mother is so proud) I'm a master procrastinator, even about things I like doing. Like writing out my own stories and OTP nonsense.
I'm thinking there will be different parts to this story, dealing with different meetings and occurrences between River and the Doctor. Some will focus on her, some on him. While I'm open to suggestions, my story is not going to be driven by them so don't feel obligated.
Also, anytime I screw up terminology, give me a heads up. I've got the biscuits and chips and braces and torches thing down but you never know what I'll falter on. I'm American. There's a whole section of us that values guns over free speech. We're odd that way.
OH! One more thing, feel free to correct my Who Canon. 49 years of a show and I've seen 7 of them. I'll let you guess which 7 too. I'll use the Wikia site for reference but it's nowhere near as complete as say Wookiepedia for Star Wars. Whovians may be a tad nutty but Star Wars fans have given the back story to every character that passes by onscreen. It's a tad ridiculous.