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fan fiction: the only water in the forest is the river chapter twenty-seven pt. 1

Chapter Twenty-Seven

The problem with an afterlife was that it gave one entirely too much time to think.

At first River figured the Library computer was a temporary holding place until the Doctor could figure out how to save her for real. He always came for her; this would be no different.

Finally she realized he wasn’t coming to rescue her, but she thought he’d at least come to say a proper goodbye. She’d delete herself once he did that--eternal imprisonment, no matter how nice the accommodations, really wasn’t her style.

But he never came.

She really ought to just have CAL delete her--free her from this half-existence. But River couldn’t bring herself to give up on the Doctor just yet.

The conference calls with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax helped some.

But the news Vastra brought of the Doctor was distressing. Apparently he had parked himself on a cloud and declared himself retired. He told the Paternoster trio that he had no desire to involve himself with humans again. He'd lost his Amelia, and it was his own fault for continuing to go back for her long after he knew he should stop, and now he would stop.

“So he sits there, wearing reading glasses he doesn’t even need and a ridiculous frock coat, and he just sulks,” Vastra said.

Reading glasses. Amy’s glasses. Tucked into his pocket when he made the decision to stop mourning Amelia. A rather temporary decision, it would seem.

River didn't ask if he mentioned her at all. Vastra's sad, apologetic eyes rendered that question unnecessary.

Yet for some reason Vastra seemed convinced that one day the Doctor would come. She always asked River, and she seemed just as surprised as she was disappointed when River answered no.

River found herself making excuses for the Doctor, for Vastra's sake as much as her own.

She whiled away the hours in the mainframe telling stories to the children. They loved the adventures recorded in her diary.

One day River got the bright idea of trying to piece together the order the Doctor had lived those adventures in.

She really wished she hadn't done that.

Seeing it all from the Doctor's perspective...had he ever even had a choice? Had she unwittingly condemned him to some sort of predestined fate?

It made a horrible, plausible sort of sense, reading the diary from his point of view. He'd met her for the first time, and she'd died in his place—and told him not to change one line of their time together. Not those times. Not one line. Don’t you dare.

She remembered his early days, when he seemed to want to run away from her as far and fast as he could. He’d been so reluctant, so afraid of her and of their future together. That woman is not dragging me into anything! Her mother had told her that he'd said that—Amy found it hilarious. “Like he could resist you even then.”

But maybe it wasn't so funny. Maybe River really had been dragging him along the whole time. It might explain a few things.

Like how his early self never sought her out—only bumped into her by accident.

Like the cold, angry words he'd spat at Area 52. I don't want to marry you. He'd explained it away later, but maybe he'd really meant it. After all, it had been five years later that he'd explained those words. He really couldn't come to her any earlier than that?

And he'd only ever married her in an aborted timeline that now didn’t exist. Hadn't she comforted her mother with those very words? If Amy's murder of Kovarian didn't count, why in the worlds had River ever thought her marriage did?

And yes, he'd given Melody a tender message for River Song in Berlin—but maybe those loving words were the only way he could get her to undo what she’d done. He’d known she could save him--he’d admitted that much when she woke up in the hospital.

He’d also told her that the Doctor lies.

That might just be the truest thing he'd ever said to her. Maybe even the only true thing.

It seemed ridiculous, carrying on such a charade. She couldn't wrap her mind around it. Years of him popping in and out of Stormcage—surely that couldn't just be guilt driving that? And yet, it had taken her years after her pardon to track him down. He didn't seek her out once she left prison—once again their meetings were accidental. Because once she was out of prison, he didn’t owe her anymore? His obligation had ended?

Maybe River had been fooling herself all along. Maybe he’d never loved her at all. Maybe their whole relationship had been guilt and obligation and a desire to avoid paradoxes on his part.

No, she didn't believe that. She wouldn’t. The Doctor been so insistent on repairing their damaged relationship after Manhattan. There was no reason for him to do that. They could have continued just as they'd always done, hiding the damage, pretending everything was fine.

She managed to console herself with that for a while. But the longer she remained in the Library data core, the harder it got.

And now the Doctor was parked on a cloud, mourning her mother. Just her mother.

Vastra had told the Doctor of the conference calls, but he'd politely refused her invitation.

The man had burned up a sun to say goodbye to Rose Tyler. He couldn't even be bothered to join a quick phone call for River.

She really ought to have CAL delete her, but River couldn't give up hope completely just yet. The Doctor still might come through one of these days. Mightn’t he?

Vastra seemed convinced he would. Or maybe she was just placating River. It was hard to tell at this point.

One day the Silurian brought a glimmer of good news. She said a lovely girl named Clara had finally shaken the Doctor out of his grief over Amy. That brought a smile to River's face. Dear Clara.

Then she frowned. That day so long ago, when Clara showed up with the Doctor, she'd already known River. River had assumed she would bump into Clara again sometime. Yet here River was, stuck in a computer post-death. She'd never run into the girl again. So how had Clara known her?

Could it mean that River would somehow see the Doctor sometime? She'd finally get her farewell? She felt the hope flair once more.

Honestly, death was such an emotional roller coaster.

Eventually River made a sort of peace with her circumstances. The Doctor's actions over the years indicated that he at least cared about her. Maybe only as the child of his beloved Amelia Pond, but even that was better than nothing. And really, did it matter if she loved him more than he loved her?

Not so much, she decided.

One day she was summoned to a conference call. Lo and behold, there sat Clara.

Well, then.

River greeted Vastra first. “Madame Vastra.”

Professor,” returned the Silurian. “Help yourself to some tea.”

Why on earth would she want tea? “Why, thank you.” She held up her flute of champagne.

How did you do that?” Jenny asked.

Disgracefully.” River sipped her tea and eyed Clara.

Vastra noticed. “Ah. Perhaps you two haven't met. This is the Doctor's companion.” River and Clara both looked at her, and Vastra tried again. “That is, his current traveling assistant.” Clara didn't seem pleased with the “assistant” bit. Vastra finished with, “Clara Oswald.”

Seeing that Clara had no idea who she was, River introduced herself. “Professor River Song. The Doctor might have mentioned me.” Surely he had mentioned her…

Oh, yeah, of course he has. Professor Song.” Relief flooded River at Clara's response. But only for a moment. “Sorry, it's just I never realized you were a woman.”

She'd never realized she was a woman. River sat frozen. The Doctor had only ever called her “Professor Song.” Never River. Never his wife. Never anyone with whom he had more than a passing connection.

She really had been deluding herself.

Vastra intervened. “Perhaps we should get down to the business at hand.” She touched the air above the center of the table and caused a projection to appear. “Clarence DeMarco,” she said. “Murder, under sentence of death. He offered us this in exchange for his life.” She waved her hand through the image, and it changed.

“Space time coordinates,” River said.

This, Mr. DeMarco claims, is the location of the Doctor's greatest secret,” Vastra said.

Which is?” Clara asked.

We don't know; it's a secret,” Jenny replied.

Vastra sounded haughty. “The Doctor does not discuss his secrets with anyone, my dear. If you're still entertaining the idea that you are an exception to this rule, ask yourself one question. What is his name?”

Clara looked taken aback, and River felt the urge to twist the knife just a bit. “Well, I know it.”

Clara looked at her. “What, you know his name? He told you?”

Eventually, yes. It hadn't been easy. “I made him.”


River sincerely hoped Clara would not employ the same methods she had used. Then again, River was dead, and she did want the Doctor to move on with his life. She'd like for him to at least acknowledge their relationship and grieve a little bit, but then he should be happy.

Maybe he already was happy. Maybe he'd moved on with Clara. No way to know, really. “It took awhile,” was all she said.

So you're a...friend of his, then?” Clara asked.

Had she ever even been that? River wondered. “A little more than a friend, a long time ago.”

And dear Vastra asked yet again. “He's still never contacted you?”

River made her usual excuse. “He doesn't like endings.” She decided to get back to the matter at hand. “So what else did this DeMarco tell you? He didn't buy his life with some coordinates. How did he prove their value?”

One word only,” Vastra said.

Ah, the one word test. “What word?”

“One I'd heard in connection with the Doctor before. Trenzalore.”

Trenzalore. River hadn't spent years being trained by the Silence and years studying the Doctor at Luna for nothing. She knew what Trenzalore was. She didn't understand it entirely, because she'd met the older Doctor who came after her husband. But timelines were always in flux, and in some version of reality her idiot really did die at Trenzalore. Or could die at Trenzalore. Or something. This couldn't be good. “How exactly did he describe what he was giving you?” she asked.

Vastra changed the projection again. They watched as DeMarco said, “The Doctor has a secret, you know. He has one he will take to the grave. And it is discovered.”

Oh, bloody hell. “You misunderstood,” River said.

Jenny interrupted then—something about the doors. Apparently she had forgotten to lock them. Vastra waved her off and pressed River, 'What misunderstanding; tell me?”

Jenny broke in again, more upset. Again Vastra insisted that it wasn't important, but Jenny was now in a panic. “Someone's broken in—someone's with us. I can hear them!”

She finally got through to Vastra. “Jenny, are you all right?”

Sorry, ma'am, so sorry, so sorry...I think I've been murdered.”

Vastra and Strax both tried to rouse Jenny, but the maid started to fade then disappeared completely. “What's happened to her?” Clara asked in alarm.

Time to end this call. “You're under attack You must wake up now. Just wake up. Do it!” River slapped Vastra. The Silurian vanished. “You too, Strax, wake up now!” She tossed her champagne at him.

Now there it was just River and Clara. But not for long. Hideous creatures invaded the dreamscape, chanting, “Tell the Doctor. Tell the Doctor. Tell the Doctor.”

“Tell him what?” Clara asked.

The projection changed to show Dr. Simeon, the host of the Great Intelligence. “His friends are lost forever more unless he goes to Tranzalore.”

No!” River burst out. “You can't say that. He can't go there, you know he can't!” She could tell that Clara would wake up soon. She tried one last time to get through to the girl. “The Doctor can never go to Trenzalore!”

Clara vanished, and the Whisper Men did as well. River contemplated her next move.

She decided not to end the conference call. The Doctor wouldn't be able to see or hear her—she'd tried before and his looking straight through her had nearly killed her all over again—but Clara would. And she could help Clara help him.

Unfortunately, that meant listening in while Clara quizzed the Doctor—about River. “So who was she? The lady with the funny name and the space hair.”

An old...friend of mine,” the Doctor said, staring straight ahead.

Friend. Nice.

Clara seemed to know better by this point. “What, like an ex?”

Yes. An ex.” The Doctor sounded wooden.

Well, now she knew where she stood. No use holding out hope for a goodbye now. The Doctor had moved on, so River supposed she should as well.

She'd delete herself once the Trenzalore situation was resolved.

The Doctor was still talking. “River asked Vastra for the exact words - what were they?”

"The Doctor has a secret he will take to the grave. It is discovered,” Clara quoted. She noted the Doctor’s teary eyes. “Doctor?”

“Sorry.” The Doctor’s voice broke. “And it was Trenzalore? Definitely Trenzalore?”

Never had River wished more strongly that she could go to him, comfort him somehow. She’d gotten him through the loss of her mother, at least for a little while. Surely she could get him through this too.

But he couldn’t even see her. He looks right through me, and it shouldn't kill me, but it does…

The Doctor and Clara headed off to the TARDIS, neither noticing that River came along too.

Continue to Chapter 27 Pt. 2


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