AN ~ SO TIRED! Worked til 1am, couldn't sleep because of all the EPICNESS – for those of you who have been living under a rock and/or missed the last Hermits Anonymous meeting, David Tennant & BILLIE PIPER THAT'S RIGHT have been confirmed to return for the 50th! Plus, of course, I just got the new episode. Like, just then. Oh my God. I was so pumped I just had to write something even though I can barely read my computer screen...this is sort of a prequel based on a) the monk thing and b) the "lady in the shop" who gave Clara the number. If you don't know what I'm talking about you probably shouldn't read this.

*note: I have used River and Melody alternately here on purpose: it's early River so she's still not quite River yet. I've tried to use it based on how River-y versus Melody-y she's feeling/acting

The Lady in the Shop

Melody liked Earth libraries. They smelt better than most of the ones at the Luna University, who had long since digitalised most of their records - at least, the ones she was interested in, such as for her current assignment into the technological developments of 18th-22nd century Earth. They didn't like to do it, but books just were not made to last three thousand years. On top of that, thought she didn't like to admit it, she was far less out of place here than she was at Luna: there, the libraries were full of old Professors and young First Years, but there was hardly a place for her. She was a reputed criminal after all.

Never mind, she thought as she took out her PDA – just a little too advanced for contemporary Earth – and set about scanning one of the articles in the book. She was on her way to a doctorate now. She was going to be Doctor Pond. No, hang on. Song. Doctor River Song. Doctor and Mr Doctor Song. She rather liked the sound of that.

Suddenly, she heard the ting! of something, maybe a button, hitting one of the metal discard trolleys at the end of the isle, and then the hollow thud of a book dropping to the carpet. She looked up slightly, senses tingling, fingers still hovering over the screen should she need to change it. From the corner of her eye, she tried to see who it was, but this new hair was getting in the way.

Fortunately, he soon announced himself.

"River Song!"

She turned towards him, and instantly, without conscious thought, a smile spread across her face.

"I need your help. Again." He flipped his wrist up and peered at his watch. "How long's it been for you?"

"Six months eleven days since I got out of the Schism," she replied, beckoning him over. She had chosen a fairly deserted corner but he was making no effort to keep his voice down.

"Excellent," he declared, dropping into the chair opposite her and for a moment seeming unable to place his hands or his eyes. His face passed through several expressions, almost at once, before he slung one knee over the other and looked at her with dark eyes from under his dark hair. River could see so much age in those eyes. For a moment, she was startled. But then she was given her task. "I need you to help me find someone. Her name is Clara Oswin Oswald."

He pushed a page across the table, and River picked it up. It was a crude charcoal sketch, likely by his own hand, of a beautiful young woman in a Victorian dress. In the top right corner, diagonally, he had scrawled; Run you clever boy, and remember.

"What does it mean?" River asked, putting the picture back on the table.

"I don't know."

"When is she? Specific Victorian records are fairly scarce, you know – the Tardis would have a better chance of finding her than I-"

"She's not in Victorian England."

River raised a skeptic eyebrow and turned the image to face the Doctor. "So you just designed this dress yourself then? Not bad, I have to say."

"No! That's not what I-" He paused, and sighed, and Melody got the sense he had been hoping for a version of herself that was more accustomed to his speed, to his thought and speech patterns. "I've been to Victorian England. I searched. I found her, and she died."

"So she's...back..."

"Basically. I think so. I mean I hope so. I need to find her."

"Does this have anything to do with Jack Harkness?"

The Doctor blanched, eyes widening in horror, and his gangly legs uncrossed as he all but threw himself across the table. Melody leaned back. "You know Jack? Already?" He shook his head. "Look. Never mind. I think her message is a warning and I have to figure out. In the meantime, I need somebody else to figure out who, where and when she is. Please, River."

That age was back, that startling age. Even moreso than when he had begged for her help, dragging himself up the stairs in Berlin. As though it was not mere death he faced this time, but a chasm of isolation and despair. A chasm Melody Pond had looked into herself, too many times.

"Sure," she said, nodding and already reaching for her PDA. "Of course."

The Doctor was already getting up. Surprisingly single-tracked today, and in a rush. River rushed to gather her things, to attempt to chase him. But he had anticipated this, and turned back to face her; purple coat hanging to his knees, floppy fringe slicked together with something, and dark eyes glistening with mischief, he grinned at her. With an armful of books and papers, Melody stopped, realising he was not going to let her come this time.

"I think your search might be a little faster with internet."

She frowned. "Where are you going?"

"Me?" He tugged on the lapels of his jacket. "I need some time to think. I'm going to become a monk."

"What?"

The air before her crackled, and the Doctor was gone.

.o.o.o.

Early 21st, Melody had scribbled at the top of her clipboard. Internet widespread. Easy access to portable technology eg basic PDAs, smartphones. See Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Google.

She couldn't help smiling to herself and wondering if this wasn't cheating slightly. She had after all, grown up in this era. But the university didn't know that. And as she mulled around her fifth tech shop for the day, she was kind of enjoying the spectatorial aspect of it all. She resisted the outwardly spontaneous grin as another patron stepped into her isle, chatting to one of the staff members about a computer. Before she drifted (fairly quickly) into the next isle, Melody passed an almost-instinctive glance over the new presence in her vicinity: the girl had sculpted dark hair, neat and symmetrical features, and big dark eyes that struck her as familiar somehow.

Scanning her memory, Melody returned her eyes to her page and jotted a note on the prevalence of cables for an increasingly Wifi-reliant society. Suddenly she remembered.

River flipped her note pages over, and her eyes fell on the sketch. It had been nearly two months, and she had narrowed it down to this area, but she hadn't expected to be this close.

"That's great, thanks – Wendy, was it?" the girl was saying. "I'm a bit clueless with tech stuff." She laughed awkwardly as her arms wrapped around the foreign object that was soon to be hers; a slim silver laptop. Melody frowned. This girl couldn't even use a computer. How could she be so cryptic and mysterious to the Doctor and yet so...mundane?

She had come back from the dead. Let's not forget that. There must be more to her. There was something the Doctor was not telling her, something that this River was missing that his River probably would not and she was determined not to let him get away with it – but for now, she had to carry out her promise.

"Excuse me," she called, jogging a few steps to catch the girl as she turned away from the counter. "I couldn't help but overhear you might need help with your computer. If you do, try this number. It's a...helpline. The best helpline out there. The best in the universe. I promise."

She flashed the girl a winning smile, and Clara, blinking off her surprise at the stranger's forwardness, took the card that River offered and offered a smile in return.

"Thank you. God knows I'll need it." She laughed again and readjusted the plastic bag bearing her new technology as she continued on her way out the door. River mimicked her laugh and turned back towards the counter, only to catch the shocked and slightly angry expressions of crew and a manager who had just caught a freelance salesperson in their precious store, potentially poaching their customers.

River flashed them another winning smile, and got right out of there.