A/N: So this fic is entirely me just having fun. Part of my brain has always entertained thoughts about what would happen if Rose met River (mostly because Rose was a bit jealous and River's more accepting). This fic was pretty much just stream-of-consciousness, so I'm not sure if I really addressed as much as I could have because the characters went elsewhere, but I really, really enjoyed writing it.
As for it being canon, it can be if it's set between Fear Her and Army of Ghosts. Since I figure Rose wouldn't have said what she did at the end of Fear Her if she had already experienced the events of this fic. And for River and the Doctor, it can basically be set anywhere between the series six finale and The Angels Take Manhattan.
POST-POST EDIT (heh): I love that writing Doctor Who has allowed me to easily use Humor and Tragedy as the two genres of a single fic.
It had been nearly fifteen minutes since the Doctor had handed Rose a small, furry rock and told her to wait there, then darted after a small man in a purple jacket. She wasn't entirely sure why he had done this, but she had wanted to get a closer look at the nearby shrine and so hadn't followed him. Hopefully he hadn't run into trouble.
She still hadn't gotten very close to the shrine. The crowd of people around it had yet to part, so she just stood there and passed the furry rock from hand to hand, waiting for her chance.
"I'm telling you, River, there's something not right about these rocks."
Rose looked over to where the voice had come from, and saw two people standing slightly ahead and to the right of her. They were the only other ones standing back as she was, rather than pressing into the shrine's mob.
"There's nothing wrong with the rocks, sweetie. They've just grown a protective mineral layer."
Rose looked down at the rock in her hand. So it wasn't fur?
"They're furry. Rocks aren't supposed to be furry."
It was fur?
"It's not fur. It's made out of the same stuff the rocks are."
Okay, not fur then. The woman sounded a bit more like she knew what she was talking about.
"Just let me sonic one of them."
Rose frowned. Sonic?
The woman sighed. "I should have known that this was all about the sonic. You don't really think there's anything wrong with those rocks at all."
"Yes I do! They could be mini-bombs or… something."
"They're normal rocks, and I'm not giving you back your screwdriver."
"Oh, come on, River!"
Rose was becoming increasingly suspicious about the couple in front of her. She had only ever heard one person so much as mention a sonic screwdriver. If her theory was right, though, that meant that…
This could get complicated, she thought. Should I leave?
Maybe she should, but she was far too curious. Was she right? If she was, past or future? Would he know her? If he did, why wasn't she with him? Who was this River person?
Too many questions.
"Why should I? You haven't even apologized."
"For what? If it's about the TARDIS moving the bathroom, you know that wasn't my fault."
"It's not about the bathroom."
"Oh, for…" Another sigh. "I told Amy this was a bad idea, but she insisted. 'Dates are normal,' she said. 'It'll be fun,' she said. I think she and Rory just wanted the TARDIS to themselves for a while."
"Why would they want the TARDIS to themselves?"
"I'm sure you'll figure it out eventually."
There was a rather long pause, in which Rose tried desperately to process all of the new information she was getting. Then… "Hang on, this is a date?"
"I don't know. Is it?"
"Was I supposed to wear something more interesting?"
"Considering your definition of 'interesting', I think it's better that you didn't."
At this point, Rose had become entirely unsure of what to do. There had been no actual confirmation that the man nearby was in fact the Doctor, but she had very little doubt about it. The conversation seemed like it would be fairly difficult to misinterpret, and besides, the Doctor had a feeling about him, no matter his body. Having decided that this must be a past version of him ("must" being a placeholder for "she refused to believe that it wasn't"), she wondered if she could step up and say hello without completely screwing up their timeline.
There was also the matter of the very sour feeling that had taken ahold of her at the talk of dates. She didn't like to think that she was a jealous person, but…
"Oh, you sneaky little Pond! You were trying to distract me, weren't you?"
"Believe me, sweetie, I have far better ways of distracting you."
He gave what could only be described as a small chortle. "I know you do. River Song, master of—" Pause. "Oi! Stop it!"
"Stop what, my love?"
"Being… distract-y. You have my screwdriver."
"Yes, I do."
Rose's stomach had turned over so many times that she thought it must have decided to practice its cartwheels. The Doctor was flirting. The Doctor didn't flirt!
Or… he didn't flirt with her.
The sour feeling verged into actual nausea, and she gripped the rock so tightly that the fur — or whatever the hell it was — actually stabbed into her hand.
"Okay, fine. I'll just have to go back and have the TARDIS make me a new one. I've done it before. I think. Must have done at some point."
And he turned around.
He turned around, and he noticed her, and he looked at her, and he knew her, and oh God, it was like all of her air was suddenly gone.
This wasn't a past Doctor. This was a future Doctor.
"Rose Tyler," he said quietly, shock evident in his tone and his expression.
"The Rose Tyler?" River asked, and turned around as well. "Oh. Oh my."
"How…?" Confusion had replaced the shock, and now he looked like he was trying very hard to make the situation make sense. "It must be the same day. I didn't mean to…" He looked at her. "Did I just run off after a rather small person in a purple coat?"
Rose nodded mutely.
His expression cleared. "Ah. Good. That all makes sense now. I remember… I came back and you looked so sad, and I asked—" He stopped. "Well, never mind. Spoilers, and all that."
She just stared at him.
He shifted awkwardly, glanced sideways at River, then looked back at her. "Uhh… So, new face. But you figured that out already, right? You seem to have… um…"
River rolled her eyes and stepped forward. "It's lovely to meet you, Rose," she said earnestly. "I've heard so much about you."
"Can't say I've heard anything about you," Rose said bitterly.
"Well, no," River said, "you wouldn't have. Your Doctor doesn't know me yet."
Rose couldn't help but think vindictively that if she was able to have her way, he would never know River. She regretted the thought almost immediately, but the fact remained that River was proof that Rose's time with the Doctor was limited, and she didn't like that one bit.
"You travel with him, then?" she asked, going for small talk. Her voice still came out far less than friendly, but she was trying.
River looked over at the Doctor, who was fiddling nervously with his watch. "In a way, I suppose I do. It's rather complicated."
"Her parents travel with me, actually," the Doctor said, dropping his arm back to his side. "It's all very timey-wimey."
Rose frowned, only thinking about that for a moment before deciding she'd really rather not know. "Then how come it's just you two?"
"Oh, well… um…" The Doctor had an air of alarm about him, which Rose had never known to be a good thing. "That's… also complicated. There was that time in America, and then she just… And then the whole wedding thing…"
Rose stared at him in confusion. This version of the Doctor was much less articulate than hers.
"My parents wanted some time alone," River said, clearly realizing that someone coherent should be speaking.
"Oh!" the Doctor exclaimed. "Time alone. I get it!" Then he grimaced. "Can't they take a break once in a while?"
River just smiled.
"Hang on, was that why Amy said something about a proper honeymoon?"
"No, sweetie, I believe she was prompting us with that."
Rose choked a little. She had assumed his mention of a wedding was in reference to someone else's. "You two are…?"
River realized this was not something Rose wanted to hear. She could understand jealousy, but Rose must know that the Doctor was going to move on at some point. No one could stay with him forever.
Perhaps Rose had thought she could.
"Married, yes," River said. She felt bad that Rose was encountering such a world-breaking concept, but she wasn't going to lie to the girl. "Trust me, it's more trouble than it's worth."
"River!" the Doctor exclaimed, his expression aghast.
"Oh, fine," she said good-naturedly. "It's nearly more trouble than it's worth."
He seemed as though he couldn't decide if that was better or not, but Rose's opinion was expressed clearly on her face. She was greener than the grass beneath their feet.
The Doctor looked over at Rose, realizing that River's attention was aimed in that direction, and must have come to the conclusion that it was not the time for them to showcase just how functional of a dysfunctional couple they could be. He let her comment slide and — showing some tact, for once — returned his focus to the situation before him.
"You can't tell me about any of this," he told Rose. "Your me, I mean. Past me. I don't have any memories of you telling me that you'd met my future self and wife, so if you did that would be bad. Well, maybe not bad. Different. Different in a way that could change the proper progression of time and would definitely change my timeline. And River's. And the Ponds'. Anyway, it's just better not to chance it."
Rose nodded. "Time can be rewritten, but that doesn't mean it should. I learned my lesson with that one."
The Doctor smiled sadly. "I know. I remember. And I have no doubts that you'll be brilliant. You always are."
Rose smiled a little.
As glad as she was that he had moved past feeling awkward, River knew that Rose wasn't going to get all of what she needed from the Doctor. Realizing that it was up to her, River said, "Sweetie, could you leave us girls to chat for a moment?"
He looked at her warily. "You're going to talk about me, aren't you?"
"Yes," she replied.
He stood there for a moment, then took the two steps necessary to reach Rose and hugged her.
"Be amazing," he told her, then added in River's direction, "And you, be nice."
River smiled innocently. "Oh, my love, when am I not?"
He made a very skeptical face at her, but left without further comment and wandered toward the temple.
Rose watched him go, then said, "You probably don't like me, do you?"
"Of course I do," River said, surprised. "How could I love him and not at least be grateful to you for all that you did?"
Rose frowned. "What have I done?"
"It's simple, really," River said. "You brought him back. He was in a very dark place after the Time War, and you gave him a reason to live properly again. Loving you broke open the shell that he had built around himself." She could see that Rose was about to protest, and she knew exactly what about. "You may not be sure of it yet, but he did love you, I promise."
Rose's face fell. "Did. As in… doesn't."
"Rose, there's something you need to understand — he has lived for hundreds of years, and he's lost more than anyone should ever have to. If he carried it all with him all the time, he would never get up in the morning. When he regenerates, he does more than change his face. He changes most of who he is. It's the only way that he can keep going. That doesn't mean that he doesn't still think about you and remember how much he loved you, it just means that he put that part of himself away, somewhere that it wouldn't hurt him. Someday he'll do that with me. We will always be with him, but when we can no longer be there physically, he needs to be open to find someone who can."
Rose was silent for a long moment, clearly absorbing this new perspective. "How do I do it?" she asked finally, her voice small and pained.
"You treasure every minute," River said. "You make sure that there's enough good to make the bad worth it. You hold on to the fact that he loves you now, and don't let it overwhelm the knowledge that someday he won't even know who you are." She stopped, realizing that she had moved beyond the generic with her last sentence.
Rose picked up on that. "Why won't he know who you are, River?"
River smiled, a sad smile full of all of the things that she never let the Doctor see. "We're going in the wrong order. When I met him, he already knew me. At some point he's going to have to meet me, and I don't know that I'll ever be ready for that."
"Oh." Rose looked like she had no idea how to react to that. "Why don't you just travel with him properly then?"
"There are things that have to happen," River said. "Established events that one or the other of us has already experienced. If I traveled with him, that would be disrupted, and our entire timeline could be rewritten. Neither of us want that. Besides," she added with a small laugh, "spending that much time together would probably drive us both mad."
"I can't imagine not wanting to be with him," Rose said sincerely.
"Your Doctor must be nicer than mine, then," River said. "The number of times I've slapped that man…"
Rose's eyes widened, and River couldn't help but laugh again. Rose's view of the Doctor was drastically different than her own, and she had to admit that she was having a little bit of fun with the contrast.
"River!" The Doctor's shout preceded him toward them, and River frowned.
"What has he done now?" she muttered. She turned back to Rose. "We may be dashing off now, but I want you to remember everything I told you. Don't waste the time you have left."
Rose nodded. "Thanks, River."
The Doctor skidded to a halt next to his wife, looking flustered. "River, I need my sonic. The fur on those rocks turned out to be a whole bunch of mini-conductors and I may have kind of broken the shrine's cooling system when I threw a rock at the wall, and now the caretakers are putting in a request to the government to get permission to lynch me. I have to fix it before the paperwork goes through."
"Why would you throw a rock at the wall?" River asked exasperatedly, not bothering to remind him that it had never actually been fur.
He scratched at his cheek. "I thought it would, um… bounce, actually. The shrines of Huron Metaphex are generally made of a form of rubber."
"Well," she said, "had we actually been on Huron Metaphex, perhaps that would have been less of a bad idea."
He frowned. "What? Where are we?"
"Huron Metatax," she replied. "Next door, so to speak."
"Right," he said, wringing his hands together and glancing over his shoulder, "that explains the ceremonial spears."
River looked upward for a small moment, gathering her patience. Spears. Of course.
"Should I leave?" Rose asked.
"That might be a good idea," River said. "Just don't get lost. He doesn't like it when he can't find someone."
"I remember finding you over there," the Doctor said, pointing away from the shrine. "You were under that really big tree. There's a bench and everything. I love benches. Such a clever idea, giving people a place to sit when they're outside. Not that I sit very much, but it's nice for people who do. Although the benches on the home planets of the Minorians are programmed to poke people when they sit down, so it's best to avoid those."
"Er… I'll remember that," Rose said bemusedly. She paused awkwardly. "Well, bye, I guess. It was, uh… interesting meeting you."
River and the Doctor both nodded.
"It was good to see you again, Rose," the Doctor said. "What was it I said that one time? 'You were fantastic'…"
"…'and you know what, so was I'," Rose finished with a grin. "Yeah. Good line."
"I know," he said, responding to her grin with his own somewhat self-satisfied smile. He adjusted his bow tie. "I'm cool that way."
"You're not that cool, sweetie," River told him, patting his arm.
He scowled. "You sound like your mother."
"Well, we do our parts to keep your ego in check."
"Wasn't there some kind of emergency?" Rose reminded them.
The Doctor clapped his hands. "Yes, yes there was. River, my screwdriver?"
"You know," she said as she reached into the top of her dress and pulled the device out, "you could have gotten it any time, if you had really tried."
He looked toward where she had just had her hand, then quickly relocated his gaze. "There are lines, River!"
"There really aren't," she replied, pressing the sonic into his outstretched hand.
He took it, then glanced over toward Rose. Or… where Rose had been. "Oh."
They watched as the blonde walked toward the tree that the Doctor had indicated.
"I suppose she didn't feel the need to stick around," River said. "That's probably my fault."
After a slight pause, he asked, "What did you two talk about?"
She looked up at him, the corners of her mouth lifting upward. "Spoilers. Let's go prevent the caretakers lynching you, shall we?"
He grumbled slightly, but didn't pursue the matter as they headed back to fix the shrine.
Strangely, the main thought running through Rose's mind as she made her way over to the bench was, How did River fit that screwdriver in there? Perhaps she was just trying to avoid thoughts about anything else, but she was very curious.
Maybe her dress is bigger on the inside, she thought, and had to hold back a snort of laughter.
But as she sat under the tree, waiting for her Doctor to show back up, her mind wandered through the conversation that she'd just had.
It had messed up her world, that was for sure, but part of her was glad. River's calm outlook on loving the Doctor hadn't necessarily made any of it easier, but it had at least shown her that she wasn't alone, and if River could do it, so could she.
She couldn't help but wonder how long she had left. Would there still be years before something separated them, or was her time with him almost up?
"You found a bench!"
Rose looked up at the familiar voice and couldn't stop the smile that spread over her face. Her Doctor was standing a few feet away, his hands tucked into his pockets. "Yeah. It's a nice bench."
"Looks it." He closed the distance and sat down next to her. "Sorry about running off like that. He stole my sonic."
Oh, the irony. There must have been something about Huron Metatax that inspired people to steal the Doctor's screwdriver.
"It's fine," Rose told him.
He looked at her curiously. "Are you alright? I didn't mean to abandon you. Promise."
She laughed. "It's not that."
"What is it, then?"
She shook her head, remembering how adamant the other Doctor had been about his past self knowing nothing of their encounter. "Nothing. I'm fine."
"Are you sure?" he asked skeptically.
"Yeah," she replied. She smiled and added, "Promise."
She knew he didn't entirely believe her, but there wasn't exactly anything she could do about that. Thankfully, he seemed to accept that she was okay and that nothing dreadful had happened, because he let the subject drop.
"Did you get to see the shrine?" he asked, leaning back against the planks of the bench.
"Nope," she replied. "It's fine, though. Probably better that I didn't get too close." She thought about where River and her Doctor would be at that moment, and added, "You know, I think we should stay away from the shrine. There's other stuff to see, right?"
"I suppose." He seemed rather baffled by her behavior, and she couldn't blame him. She also couldn't help him. "There's a really neat waterfall on the other side of the planet."
She grinned. "Sounds great."
"Brilliant," he said, grinning back. "Let's go."
He stood and pulled her up behind him. Hand in hand, they headed for the TARDIS.
Treasure every minute, River had said, and Rose intended to.
A/N: So... I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. And if you did, I would really appreciate a review. It's lovely when people favorite my stories, but a review really makes me feel like my work was appreciated. Even tiny, simple reviews.