The Doctor slumped to one side, nearly collapsing on his cane. "...just a quick left leg power nap, forgot I had one scheduled..."
Melody turned to flee, but the Teselecta was not so easily distracted by babble. Red mist came down and she heard no more. Through the field, she could vaguely see him gesturing to Amy-the Teselecta, she had to remind herself. If this was the cost of killing a monster, it was worth it.
"The only survivor of a dual genocide, he wanders the galaxies searching for another of his kind. In his desperation, he kidnaps human beings and attempts to turn them into his own race." The woman lowers her voice. "One he made into a terrifying, unknown entity capable of infecting time."
The voice softens, syrup-sweet. "The power burned a hole in the dimensions and the experiment fell through, never to return. When another gained the abilities of his race, but had not the wisdom to use it well, he burned her memory, leaving her a gibbering idiot."
Melody burrows under the covers.
"Finally, he kidnapped a couple and forced them to conceive a child, one with all the abilities of his people. We tried to rescue the woman and save her child, but the warrior was furious. He came upon us with an army of monsters; hideous reptiles, savage pirates, mighty spacecraft. I barely escaped with my life. There was nothing we could do for the couple-he had so broken their wills that they fought by his side. But we were able to save the child." She taps the covers. "You."
The girl pokes her head out. "And that's why I'm going to kill him someday. Because he hurt my parents: Amy and Rory."
Off. The agony flickered off, as suddenly as it had begun. She stumbled forward, nearly collapsing on the table.
"Please. Now we have to save your parents."
Of all the things he could have said... The Doctor is evil, the Doctor causes pain, just as fire burns and water purifies. But it didn't fit. Amy and Rory were his experiments, his toys. Okay, pets. He seemed fond of them.
"Now I know you're scared. But never run when you're scared: rule seven. Please."
No. She's never been scared. Never allowed to run away.
"Doctor, can you help us? Help us." The Teselecta's flat drone emptied the words of any urgency. "Doctor, help! Please."
He pushed himself to his feet, staggering a few feet before collapsing. The toes of his shoes slid against the floor.
"Look at you. You still care." It didn't fit. Why didn't it fit? Everything always fit somewhere. "It's impressive, I'll give you that."
"Again? Who is this River?" she demanded. This is an important piece, something she must know. If he dies now-when he dies-she doesn't want any loose ends. "She's got to be a woman. Am I right?"
"Help me. Save Amy and Rory." Is he asking for two things or one? Help me."
"Tell me about her. Go on."
"AGGHHH! Just...help me."
When she stepped in the front door, it closed behind her of its own accord. Someone was already inside: Amy. But she was young, eight at most.
"What are you doing here?"
"I am a voice interface, as requested by the Doctor."
"Listen, I need to save Amy and Rory-my parents. They're inside that Teselecta thing."
"Where is the Doctor?" The voice, empty as the Teselecta's, seemed even stranger coming from a child's lips.
"Outside. I think he's dying."
"Confirmed." The hologram stared at her. "I waited for you." The last words were spoken in a softer tone.
"I waited for you, Melody Pond."
What happened next, she could never describe, no matter how many languages she learned or pages she wrote; images and allegories failed. It took her outside the universe and into its heart. She saw colors unknown and heard music unimaginable. It was nothing like regeneration and it made her anew.
"He did it. He did it," Amy—the real Amy's- words snapped the spell.
She poked her head around the console. "I seem to be able to fly her. She showed me how...she taught me." Later, she'll realize the irony in that statement. "The Doctor says I'm the child of the TARDIS. What does he mean?" Her world has buckled at the seams.
She won't remember landing either, or stumbling out, still not entirely present in her mind. Berlin, 1938 seems a shadow, a theatre set compared to what she witnessed.
He motioned her over. "Find her. Find River Song, and give her a message from me." His four words were their own compact language, full of memories and old jokes.
"Well, I'm sure she knows."
He closed his eyes, too weak to answer.
She turned to her parents. "Who's River Song?"
Amy and Rory exchanged a look, an entire conversation in the title of the head, the angle of the eyebrow and the set of the lip. He nodded, and she approached the Teselecta. "Are you still working because I'm still a relative? Access files River Song."
"Records available." They had the Doctor in their files-of course they'd have his associates as well.
"Show me her. Show me River." The tiles slowly flipped. Ginger strands of hair curled and gilded, thin lips blossomed, cheekbones shifted. But-it couldn't be-it was her face looking back, her hair curling like a frame around a decisive jawline. River Song. All his references to this women marched through her mind.
Only River Song gets to call me that.
An old friend of mine.
What have you done? River...
Find her. Find River Song, and tell her something from me.
She's been told all her life he can't be trusted, but she's also been trained to see through emotions to reality, and there's no deceit in his words. A man only speaks like that of a woman he trusts, a woman he depends on, a woman he...loves.
Find her. Find River Song.
But she is River Song, was River from his perspective. This woman he fought for and trusted-she understood his flirting now. She had thought he was belittling her, refusing to take her seriously as a threat. Instead, he trusted her enough to play along. He never actually thought she'd hurt him.
"Melody, what did he say? The Doctor gave you a message, River, for Song, what did he say?"
I love you, always. He'd stressed the always, with a peculiar insistence. The words swelled like a helium balloon, dancing, pulling her higher. Her hands gleamed with golden light.
"What's happening? River?" Amy asked. "What are you doing?"
"Just tell me: the Doctor; is he worth it?" All those stories Amy used to tell-maybe there was some truth to them after all.
"Yes! Yes, he is!"
River knelt on the steps.
"River," he breathed. Maybe he thinks she's the sun, come down on a cloudy day. "No. What are you doing?"
"Hello, sweetie." The words are peppermint and licorice, autumn squash and the heady rush of fleeing Nazis on a motorbike. She presses her lips against his. He tastes of breaded fish and cigarette-smoked tweed, with starlight icing.
The afternoon light turns gold, brightening to white.
"Hey." Amy and Rory's faces, backlight by the sun, filled her vision.
"Where am I?"
"You're safe now. Apparently you used all your remaining regenerations in one go. You shouldn't have done that." She was teasing again, the same old "Mum tone" that Mels used to hate—mostly.
"Mother." She'd waited so long to say that word. "I had to try."
"He said no one could save him. But he must have known I could." He lies, yes, she knows that he always lies. But this time, he had nothing to gain. He trusted her to work it out, to freely choose…
"Rule One. The Doctor lies." The words, soft as her blanket, sounded like an apology.
"She just needs to rest. She'll be absolutely fine."
River glanced at the speaker: a cat-headed nun. Yes, she needed to rest.
"No. She won't." She heard him set something on the table. "She will be amazing."
Amazing…she let the word roll around her head as she drifted off to sleep.
"Doctor?" she murmured.
"No, I'm just a nurse. But you seem to be on the mend."
"Not a doctor, the Doctor. Brought me here, big blue box..."
"He left while you were asleep." The nurse paused. "The other two left with him."
He left me. They left me? Her chest ached, cold without half a century's burning revenge. And without Amy, without Rory-they were her friends, even when they weren't her parents. And they left her, goddammit. Thirty centuries in the future, where she didn't know a single soul. Is she that much of a monster, the Minotaur to Amy's Pasiphaë?
"He left you something." The cat-nurse nods to the side table. "Just let me check your vitals and I'll leave you be." Her paw curls around her wrist, counting to sixty aloud.
"I have two hearts, it will be fast—"
"He told us."
"What else did he tell you?"
"That's confidential. I'll tell you this, though—ten years I've worked here, and I've never seen anyone more worried than he was when he brought you in. And the couple with him…such dears. "
This comforted her, in a way. He could've just dropped her off, told them to post the bill.
"Still a touch fast, but you're mending well." The nurse patted her wrist. "Let us know if there's anything you need."
She didn't pick up it up right away. It was a notebook, simple cream pages under a blue cover—not just any blue, but TARDIS blue. Well-made, by all appearances, but still, a cheap present; maybe not in this time, but she didn't even know when he's stranded her yet. Holding it, stroking the cover and smelling the spine—it's all she has of them now.
Finally, she opened it. The first page had a note, written in a scrawling, childish hand she recognized as his immediately. River, this book is so important to us that it's funny this is the only time I'll ever see inside. I can't come back for you—not yet, anyway. I will, but not always in the right order. Oh, sometimes I'll make a proper hash of it.
Amy keeps frowning at me. She wanted to leave you a note, but it would have been too dangerous. Too much foreknowledge. Besides, this book is for us. You and me. The times we'll have (something heavily crossed out, scoring the page underneath). You're awake now… And further down, as an afterthought thank you, River.
In the corner of the page, she saw three small words in a handwriting she'd seen on so many papers and quizzes: yes, he's hot.
A small piece of paper slipped out of the pages, landing amidst the folds of her blanket. She reached down and picked it up. "Professor Summers, Head of Archeology, Luna University."