Word Count: 3,354 (chapter)
Characters: Doctor/River, original characters
Notes: Certain dialogue at the end is transcribed from the prequel to "Let's Kill Hitler."
Summary: Oh, but it all made sense now. River Song was Melody Pond, and Melody Pond was River Song. And River couldn’t tell them that she was Melody because with one single misstep, she could have easily wiped herself out of existence. That, the Doctor knew, would be a very bad thing - a story of the three months between "A Good Man Goes to War" and "Let's Kill Hitler."
Prologue | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3
It really was, in the Doctor’s mind, the strangest day he’d ever had. And he’d had some very strange days.
It had started with a march toward war, as he and Rory combed the galaxy to find Amy and baby Melody. Now, hours and hours and millennia and miles and all other sorts of distance in time and space later, he was in an underwater nightclub singing very bad karaoke and being heckled by a group of fish people. Really, it was quite rude. Actually, it was a lot of fun. Not that he would tell River that. She was too busy sitting at the bar and smirking, having managed to deflect any attempts to get up to make a fool out of herself..
“Look, honey, try to keep it in your register,” River critiqued when he stumbled back to the bar after a failed attempt at “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a glass of something he couldn’t identify in front of her. She’d had two of them and coaxed him into having one himself sometime between the third and fourth song. To his surprise, and the pleasant buzz surrounding his senses, it wasn’t that hideous and was actually somewhat friendly to Time Lord metabolism. “You should do Sinatra. I have it on good authority that you’ll do a lovely duet with Frank one day.” Her gaze slowly raked him from head to foot, and he squirmed. He blamed the alcohol. “Be sure when the time comes to wear the suit and fedora.”
“You wouldn’t shoot it?” He picked up his glass and squinted at the remainder of his drink.
Her breath ghosted against his ear, and he shivered. “Not that hat,” she murmured, and he swallowed. “Besides, sweetie, it was your idea to do a karaoke contest with Jim in exchange for the information. You wouldn’t let me use my gun.”
“Dr. Song, your shooting is better than his singing will ever be,” Jim spoke up. He was one of the Hydropi that had mottled skin with an array of rainbow-colored gills all over his body. He showed them off to great success by wearing as little as possible. He wore oversized sunglasses despite any need for them and an atrociously styled Elvis wig. He took great pride in his appearance, and River had managed to at least partially win him over when she explained his precious glitter ball had been a fake.
Jim gestured to his glass, and the Doctor and River quickly picked theirs up. It was some sort of toast he did that involved banging the glass on the table and splashing it everywhere. It most likely had its origins from where in medieval times, they would smash goblets together in case the wine was poisoned. The poisoned wine would then be shared. It meant that Jim didn’t trust them still, the Doctor thought, and he didn’t blame him. Not after River’s little wake-up call.
“Right. I’ll sing a song for the pair of you, then we’ll go have a chat. About that replacing that glitter ball, Dr. Song …”
“I’ll take it under consideration,” she finally relented.
“River, you are not stealing a glitter ball from … from anywhere,” the Doctor hissed as Jim worked his way to the stage.
“Who says I’m going to steal it, honey? I am perfectly capable of paying for things myself. Just like you, Mr. Sonic-and-a-Cashpoint.” She finished her drink and scanned the bar. “Some initiates from the Brotherhood of Maldovar over there.” She indicated a table in the darkened corner. “Karaoke’s banned in their cloisters.”
They were robed figures that reminded the Doctor far too much of the Church for comfort. But they didn’t seem to be a threat, nor did they seem to bother River. On stage, Jim was trying his best to channel Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton at the same time, but really he was doing far worse than the Doctor.
“I love this song,” River murmured, her voice low and cheeks flushed. For a moment, the Doctor thought it was because of the alcohol, but then began to wonder if it was something else. He studied her over the rim of his empty glass. Yes, definitely something else given the way she suddenly pinned those green eyes on him, and it felt like they were the only two in the room.
He blushed and suddenly found the glass very interesting. “Why?”
She didn’t answer for a few seconds, long enough for him to focus on Jim singing. “Sail away with me to another world, and we rely on each other, uh-uh.” He punctuated that with an Elvis hip sway.
“I’m a much better singer than that,” the Doctor boasted, but when River didn’t answer, he gave her another sideways glance. Her eyes were closed, her face relaxed. She looked at peace, and she clearly wasn’t listening to the atrocious sounds Jim was masquerading as music. She was lost in her memories, and whatever it was had turned her cheeks pink and humming a bit under her breath. His gut twisted, and he wondered whatever she was remembering that he was involved somehow. He really hoped so. If he was going to be jealous, he might as well be jealous of himself.
The Doctor leaned into her, fully intent on prying whatever it was out of her. Well, as much as he could before running into the spoiler wall. He was about to whisper in her ear when she suddenly turned her head, brushing her lips across his. “Don’t be cross, honey,” she whispered, stood and shot the chandelier.
“My chandelier!” The bartender wailed as the room went pitch black. But, it was enough time for the Doctor to see the robed figures had moved and were heading toward them with weapons brandished.
The Doctor yanked out his sonic and waved it around, thin green beam providing a little bit of light for them. River grabbed his hand, and they swam furiously across the room as plasma bursts cut through their path. They focused on the flashes of light from the monks’ guns that lit their way until they were close enough to the door to see a little. Suddenly, River pivoted and took the first monk down with a shot to the shoulder, the second by blowing his kneecap to pieces.
The Doctor pulled away from her, grabbed a chair and smashed it across something solid. It gave a shriek, then landed at his feet.
“That was the bartender, sweetie.”
“Right. Well.” He used the piece of chair he still held to trip up a monk. “Can’t see, dear.”
River tugged him back to her by his braces, and he felt the cool press of her lips against his. “Geronimo,” she murmured against his mouth and pulled him to the ground. It rumbled as something exploded, and debris shot through the water. The Doctor lifted his head to see there was now a hole in one of the side walls with the watery light from the surface illuminating the room.
“You had a grenade,” he managed. “Where were you hiding a grenade in that dress?”
“I keep telling you, you ask questions like that and you’ll have to do a physical inspection.” She squinted through the dust. “That’s the last of them.”
He could see a pile of arms and legs under the rubble and hoped there weren’t any casualties. “What do they want?”
“Considering it’s the Brotherhood, anything from simple information to illegal gadgets. Jim’s known in these areas for fencing vortex manipulators and other time-manipulation devices.” River frowned as she picked her way to the debris to where the blast also had gotten Jim. She tapped his cheek. “Out cold. He’ll be fine.”
But there was something off about it, the Doctor thought as River went to check on the bartender. The monks had been heading for him and River, not for Jim. Granted, they would have had to bypass them to get to Jim. They could have gone for Jim at any time, so why now? Nothing was pure coincidence. He’d have to mull it over later.
An hour later, they had all the Brotherhood initiates sequestered in a coral reef that passed for a jail, and Jim had roused from the untimely nap that River had caused -- though she’d breezily informed him that it’d been a byproduct of subduing the monks. The Doctor rolled his eyes throughout.
Jim whispered a set of coordinates in River’s ear before giving her a very throughout kiss.
“For saving my life. Though the way your fella is glaring at me, I better not do that too often,” Jim said.
“I am not glaring!” The Doctor protested. Well, he wasn’t. Much. Not really. He wasn’t glaring. River could kiss whoever she wanted. So there.
“He’s adorable when he’s pouting. Bless.” River laced her fingers with his once more and waved to Jim. “We’ll see you later, Jim!”
“You bring me that glitter ball!” Jim said with a waggled of his beringed finger.
“My chandelier. My club,” the bartender wept. “The chandelier was from a 17th century ballroom. Never be another like it. So, so much money lost.”
“Also fake,” River whispered to the Doctor as they swam out of the nightclub. “Whichever Time Agent he has in his pocket is making very good money off him.” She absently kicked her legs behind her.
“And the club itself?”
River merely smiled. “Oh, I’m sure with a little persuasion, we’ll have the Brotherhood picking up the tab.”
The Doctor narrowed his eyes at her. “You did more damage than they did.”
River ignored that fact with a little cough. “I need my tablet. I’m not sure where this is at, and my tablet’s on the TARDIS. Regardless, the water source is above ground, and we won’t need to go back under. These pills are probably going to wear off soon.” She rubbed the back of her arm, and scales floated into the water.
The pill wore off just as they got back to the TARDIS. They worked in tandem, River keying in coordinates while the Doctor drove them to a spot far enough back from the spring that there wouldn’t be a risk in contaminating the source. He popped his head out the door while River hunted down a glass jar and sterilized it. It was a miniscule patch of land that had a spring in the middle. Water burbled out of spring and cascaded to a small pool that lapped against black, glittering sand.
“Alright, I’m ready. Stay here, honey, we don’t want to risk contaminating the water.”
“We’re not going to …,” his voice trailed off as he turned to see River standing in the middle of the console room naked, and the glass jar in her hands. He swallowed. Hard. “Um … you seem to have lost your clothes. Did that washing machine on the third floor, east wing, attack again? I thought I had subdued it, but maybe I should go fiddle with it. And some wires. And build a cabinet. And not look below your chest. Oh, I said that one out loud, didn’t I?
River smirked. “Bless,” was all she said as she strode to the door. “I looked up the history of how water was retrieved from the spring for various rituals, and no clothes were worn. Possible contamination from fiber and dirt. He noticed her hair was tied back and coiled into a bun and, sadly, the nail polish had been stripped from her toenails. He liked that polish.
“You can paint my toenails again when I’m done,” River said with a flirty grin, and the Doctor snapped his gaze back to a safe spot. The ceiling. Maybe it was time to clean it. All ceilings could do with a nice scrubbing every once in awhile.
He heard slight shuffling, then couldn’t help but look as she walked across the sand to the spring. Wisps of hair escaped the bun and shone in the fading sunlight. It made an arresting picture as she stepped careful across the pristine sand and knelt next to the spring and held the jar out so the stream of water could pour into it. This was a sacred place, he firmly reminded himself, and this was a sacred ritual. His thoughts didn’t need to stray beyond that. But, it was a thing of beauty in its own way. A human/Time Lord hybrid doing a ritual as old as the planet itself. All of these twists and turns and species winding their way through the vast universe, and they still took the time to do these rituals. It was breathtaking. She was breathtaking, he silently added as his eyes rebelled and strayed below her chest. Time shifted and whirled, and oh, he could suddenly see, and it terrified and excited him at the same time.
There was nothing to cover her except his torn tweed, so he wrapped it around her shoulders as she walked in the TARDIS. “You’re um … getting cold,” he flubbed as he all but sprinted to the console and started to smack buttons and hoped beyond hope that she wasn’t noticed he was trembling or other physical signs of naughty eye-straying. He punched in the first sequence, then hesitated. He looked over the console to where she stood at the door, staring at the spring. His jacket hit midway down her thigh “The song. The one Jim sang. You said liked it.”
“I do, yes.” She closed the door behind her.
“It’s part of a very sacred memory for me. One from a long time ago.”
The way her eyes shimmered slightly, from tears and memory, was as clear as a bell. Yes, he was involved in it. He swallowed and absently twirled a dial on the console. “You and I … we …,” he made a kissing noise. “But, we also um …” he laced his hands together back and forth very fast, hoping River would understand what he was getting at. “You know. That.”
“Oh, honey. Never, ever play charades.” River tugged the coat around her and gently deposited the jar on the console. “Yes. Yes, we do. I happen to have it on good authority that you enjoy that quite a bit.”
“Well … yes. Of course. That um … it should be enjoyable. That. Shouldn’t be doing that unless it’s enjoyable.” His foot twitched, and he thought about bolting up the stairs and out of sight. But he’d seen the timeline flaring as River had retrieved the water. That one bright string of time that had wrapped itself around this moment, this location, this discussion. He and River were always coming here. No matter what decisions he’d made, what choices she’d made, they would always be standing here having this discussion. “I’m not good at this. Rubbish, actually. Just ask Rose. Or Romana. Or anyone else. It didn’t feel like for a long time that I had any choice in this.”
“Oh, honey. Did you ever think that I might have done the same?” River stepped to him, running her fingertips along the loops of his bow tie. “You’ll understand one day. When I was younger, I didn’t want this either. I tried running away for so hard, so long.”
She smiled. “Rory told me once that when two people were meant to be together, fate and the universe would conspire to do so, no matter what happened. He was talking about himself and Amy, of course, or so I thought. There’s been so much that’s happened to my parents, Doctor, some of it you haven’t seen yet. Yet, no matter what, there will always be Amy Pond and Rory Williams. Together, as they should be.”
The Doctor swallowed. “Was it worth it?”
“Every last second,” she said, and stood on her toes to kiss him. He closed his eyes and returned it, allowing them to just exist for that single, shining moment of time. Her hands snaked into his hair, and his crept under his tweed and around her waist so his fingertips lightly rested just above her bum. The kiss on Ityicha had been passionate and needy, with punches of heat that threatened to sear both of them. This one was sweeter, more intimate. It felt like they’d been doing this dance for years and years. He supposed in a way they had been.
“I’m not going to find Melody Pond, am I?” The Doctor skimmed his thumbs over the small of River’s back and pressed his lips to her forehead.
“I’m going to be fine, sweetie. I’m happy.”
“If … If I don’t find you … Amy and Rory won’t have their baby.”
“Yes, they will. They’re going to miss out on a lot, but they’re still going to have their daughter. They’re still going to love her and cherish her, and she’s going to love them so very much.”
“What should I do, River?” He stepped away from her, pushing his hands through his hair.
“I can’t make that decision for you, honey.” She rested a hand against the edge of the console. “It’s your choice. I mean it when I say I’ll stop you from finding baby Melody, no matter what it costs. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned about you, Doctor, you’ll figure out a way to find Melody.” She gave him a sad smile. “I’m going to get dressed.”
He watched her go. And as she disappeared into the wardrobe room, the phone began to ring. Slowly, he turned back to it as the answerphone kicked in … then Amy’s voice filled the console room.
“Doctor? Doctor, can you hear me? Are you ever going to hear me? Do you even know you’ve got an answerphone?” She gave a little half-laugh and half-sob. “How can you be clever and so completely stupid at the same time?” She didn’t say anything for a moment. “If you can hear this, just please pick up the phone.”
His hand automatically reached for the phone, an “Amelia Pond!” on his lips.
“Don’t get confused. I’m not invisible or trapped in a space ball, I’m just talking on the answerphone. Just, please pick up the phone. You said you’d find my baby. You said you’d find Melody. Have you found her?”
His gaze flitted to the stairs, and he let his hand drop from the phone.
“Because you promised,” Amy scolded him. “I know that she’s going to be OK, I know that she’s going to grow up to be River. But, that’s not the point.” She dragged in a deep breath. “I don’t want to miss all those years. You know, I can’t stand it. Can’t.”
Tears pricked at the corner of his eyes, and damn it, all he could think of was the feel of River’s lips on his and her warning that she would stop him from finding baby Melody. No matter the cost to him or her.
“Please, Doctor, please.” Amy fell silent once more. “OK. Phone me back when you know something. Please, Doctor, at least do that. As soon as you know, OK? Alright. Bye.”
The phone clicked off, and he dragged in a deep breath, willing away the tears. Amelia. Oh, his Amelia Pond. So brave and so broken, and it was his fault. He rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes and allowed himself to sink to the floor.
He had to choose, and no matter what, in the end he would hurt someone he loved.