It took a couple hundred years before either of them could begin to discuss Lake Silencio with anything other than extreme guilt, dour looks, and River excusing herself to vent her emotions on a gun range. It was in both of their natures to handle the hardships of their lives with levity, but even Lake Silencio seemed to be crossing a line.
Or until the TARDIS decided to change things.
The Doctor had suggested going to the beach, and River agreed and expressed a desire to see the coral sands of Nepxo 2. They debated whether or not to arrive before or after the public nudity bans were enacted (River was all for the nudity laws while the Doctor insisted on the latter), but she let him win that one. She donned a bikini that left as little as possible to the imagination, he found a red-and-white-striped swimsuit from the 1870s that was perfectly hideous in River's terms, but the Doctor loved it.
He landed the TARDIS, and she stepped toward the doors with a blanket, umbrella, and a book while he went in search of a beach ball, bucket, and shovel. He found his favorite sand bucket beneath the console just as River stormed back into the TARDIS and tossed down her gear. "Is this some kind of sick joke?" she demanded.
The Doctor poked his head above the stairs, bucket dangling in one hand. River stood by the open door, her entire body vibrating with fury. He was quite sure she was doing her very best to send him into his next regeneration with her gaze alone, and he privately admitted she was quite stunning when she was angry. Even her curls seemed to shimmer from the force of her emotions.
"Oh, we landed in the wrong era, didn't we? Don't worry, I'll have us straightened out in a mo'." He leaped up the stairs. "Where's my beach ball?"
She strode to the console and slammed her hands over the knobs before he could do anything. "Do you not realize where you landed us?"
He barely blinked. He was used to his Pond women. "Nexpo 2. Coral beaches. Maybe a year or two away from where I planned, but you'll just have to put more clothes on, dear."
The anger drained out of her, and she suddenly looked very weary. She passed a hand over her eyes before shaking her head. She indicated the still-open door. "You might to want to verify that for yourself."
Intrigued, the Doctor forgot about the beach ball and stuck his head out the door -- not to find the coral sands of Nepxo 2 but the still shores of Lake Silencio.
He recoiled, hands gripping the door frame tightly. "I didn't bring us here." He backed away and nearly ran over River in the process. He spun and found himself staring into her eyes. "River, I didn't do this. I swear, I didn't bring us here."
River took one shuddering breath and passed her hand over the TARDIS wall closest to her. "Then she did. I'm going to change."
The Doctor placed a hand to his collar to adjust a bow tie that wasn't there. He coughed. "Yes. Well. Right, good idea."
They changed in a heavy silence that was abnormal for them both. He dressed in his tweed and bow tie, but she reached for the Western-style gear she'd worn during her second trip to Lake Silencio. Not quite the same outfit, he mused, but close enough. It was handy for the guns she was securing to herself. Two at her waist, one at the small of her back, a knife in her boot. It was on the tip of the tongue to quip that she was carrying enough weapons for a small army, but the look on her face kept him silent. They palmed Sharpies and headed for the door.
She drew her gun and slipped in front of him as they walked down the shore, and he watched her back carefully. When they reached the water's edge, she took her scanner out and slowly turned in a circle as she scanned the area. "Nothing," she said after a tense couple of minutes and holstered her gun. "We're the only people here."
Disgruntled, the Doctor strode back up the shore and plopped on the sand. He glared at the water as she joined him. Before she sat, he shrugged out of his coat and spread it on the sand. The corners of her lips turned at the gesture, and she settled herself on his tweed.
"What's the year?" he asked.
"2012. Late August. A little more than 16 and a half months after."
If it was any other time or any other place, it would have been a wonderful spot to relax. They'd probably play about in the water, read a few books, break the public nudity laws. Instead, he kept seeing Amy's face -- magnified through the eyes of the Tesselecta -- as she screamed and pleaded with him. He remembered the older River securing the body in the boat as Rory led a sobbing Amy away, only leaning over to whisper that he was safe now. His shoulders hunched at the memory of the younger River trapped in the astronaut suit, a picture-perfect mirror of her mother's as she cried and pleaded for him to flee before she broke time.
"You tried to shoot yourself," he observed as River stared over the clear, blue water.
He nudged her side. "You never miss."
There it was again. That half-smile. "Thank you, sweetie."
"Did you want to miss?" he asked softly.
River didn't say anything. She closed her eyes and took several measured breaths. "If it was you, and you were shooting at yourself, would you have wanted to miss?"
He took her hand in his, tracing the long, blue veins in the back of her hand before weaving his fingers through hers and squeezing it gently. He knew what she was trying to tell him. "Not one line," he murmured. "Remember that. We wouldn't change a thing of our time together, yeah?"
She relaxed and laid her head on his shoulder. "Well, maybe a few things."
"Such as?" It was a loaded question, and all he could see was the tears in her eyes as she prepared to sacrifice herself for him in the Library.
He scoffed. "That hat was cool. And it belonged to a good friend."
"Then the wine. Really, sweetie, that was a horrible year for that particular vintage."
"Are you questioning my ability to put together a picnic, River Song?"
He scowled. "I want to know where you got the convertible."
"You asked that when we were having sex on the hood before my parents arrived."
"You didn't answer then."
"And, I'm not answering now. A girl must have her secrets."
He slipped an arm around her waist, and suddenly the lake didn't seem like such a terrible place. They had survived, him and her. It hadn't been so bad for him, but her it was the place of nightmares. He'd seen her stare down her ghosts again and again. Somehow, this seemed to be another one that needed to be eradicated.
It suddenly came back to him, a much older River telling him at Amy and Rory's wedding that everything would change once he found out who she was. "It changed here."
River lifted her head. "Sorry?"
"Everything changed. I didn't know who you were for sure, at least not the younger me that met you in the cafe. But, it was here that everything changed. When you think of Lake Silencio, you consider it an ending. But, the thing about endings is that something always begins. You were beginning, because Amy was pregnant with you. And we were beginning, because we married on the pyramid -- give or take the questionable legality." He waved his hand at that. "I had to die here so we could begin to live, so we could defeat the Silence."
"That's one way to look at it."
"It's about the only way I could live with myself after the Time War," he admitted. "I ended Gallifrey, locked it away, so everyone could have countless beginnings." It was also why she had given her own life in the Library, he realized. He wouldn't be sitting with her now if River hadn't made that sacrifice so they could have a beginning. He could see it in her eyes as she pieced his words together, forming the beliefs that would give her the strength to make the ultimate sacrifice in her distant future. He wondered if River had remembered this conversation, and a lump formed in his throat. One more step toward the Library. One tiny, tiny step with this, and he hated himself for it. He was healing her and sending her toward her doom at the same time.
With forced joviality, he tapped her nose. "Everything good?"
Now she gave him a geninue smile. "Everything's good."
"All right! Well, off to Nepxo 2!" The Doctor leaped to his feet and helped River to hers. He brushed the sand off his jacket and slung it over one shoulder, already shoving the Library back into a corner of his mind. "Well, first, let's visit the planet of the tacky gift shops."
"There is such a thing?"
"Of course!" He lifted her hand and kissed the back of it. "I need a new beach ball, dear."
While they were there, River disappeared into a different shop while the Doctor debated the merits of various beach balls with a vendor. She returned with a paper-wrapped parcel and a mischievous gleam in her eye. She made a grand show of gifting it to him on the beaches of Nepxo 2 a short time later, insisting he would get sunburn if he didn't wear something over his swimsuit.
He undid the wrapping, and his eyes grew wide at the shirt River had custom-made for him. He gaped at her. She winked. He pulled it on, linked his arm through her hers, and marched toward the boardwalk to buy ice cream. They ignored the stares, double-takes and people crashing into light poles when they got a good look at his shirt: "I died at Lake Silencio and all my wife got me was this lousy T-shirt."