Jenny was born knowing how to fight. Weapons and strategy and self-sacrifice in the name of war woven into the fabric of her DNA. But she’s cornered now by nearly five dozen daleks, and for once her knowledge and skills aren’t enough to to get her out of this. So she resigns herself to death, the other certainty bred into her from the beginning.
She raises her gun, intent on going down fighting, when the daleks disappear and are replaced with with some sort of ship. There are gold walls and brightly colored levers and a woman with wild hair and a gun holstered on her hip and a smile spread across her cheeks.
“Hello dear,” the woman says. “It looks like we got to you just in time.”
“We?” Jenny asks, her hand clasping her weapon more tightly in case the woman reaches for her gun.
“The TARDIS and I.” The woman reaches out a hand. “River Song. Pleasure to meet you.”
“But who are you? Why did you save me?”
“Spoilers,” River replies.
“Do you know me?”
“Ive never met you before actually. It’s rather a nice surprise meeting someone when they meet me. The old girl knows you of course.”
“But why did you save me?”
“I can’t resist a damsel in distress,” River teases. “Now come on, we have daleks waiting and a whole world to save. Those daleks will be no match for the two of us.”
“You’re amazing!” Jenny says, when they return to the TARDIS barely an hour later, world destruction easily averted. “Where did you learn to fight like that?”
“From a religious order intent on creating a weapon.”
Jenny’s interest is suddenly piqued further in this mysterious woman.
“You were a weapon?”
“For a long time yes. I born and bred to fight someone else’s battle.”
“So was I,” Jenny whispers.
“And now it seems that we are free agents,” River replies happily. “We will have lots to talk about. Would you like a cup of tea?” River asks, “Or a glass of champagne? We did just save a planet. We deserve a little celebration I should think.”
“I don’t understand,” Jenny says cautiously. “Why did you come for me?”
“We have a lot in common Jenny, and I’ve been wanting to meet you for a very long time. Hard to do that if those daleks had killed you back there. You can trust me if you like,” River says with an easy smile that Jenny finds that she does trust this woman. “I won’t hurt you.”
Jenny considers this for a moment. Around her the air in this strange ship seems to buzz with warmth and peace. “I know.”
“Good, now how about that champagne?”
Jenny spends months traveling with River, because even if she never does explain why she saved Jenny, Jenny can’t help but trust this woman. They run and save planets and have adventures. It’s everything that Jenny had done on her own, only better, because for the first time in her life Jenny isn’t alone.
“You get the hell away from her,” River growls, blaster aimed at the Sontarans’ head.
They back away from Jenny immediately and run, and Jenny wonders if one day she too could have Sontarans run from her with a simple threat.
“Are you all right?” River asks instantly at Jenny’s side.
“Yeah,” Jenny grunts. “Just banged up is all.” She pulls herself to her feet, but finds that her knee gives out. River rushes to her side, catching her before she can hit the ground.
“Woah, woah. I got you,” River says, picking Jenny up and carrying her to the TARDIS.
“I’m fine,” Jenny insists when River lays her down on the table in the med-bay.
“Hush,” River says. “Let the TARDIS make certain everything is all right.”
“River, I’m fine. This isn’t necessary.”
River rolls her eyes, biting her tongue to stop herself from comparing Jenny to her equally stubborn father.
Scanning complete, the TARDIS announces.
“See I told you,” Jenny says, crossing her arms as she looks up at the scanner’s declaration of a clean bill of health.
“You still took quite a bump on the head back there. I’d say that calls for a night in with tea and biscuits in front of the telly.”
“But I want to go with you to Khaler.”
“There will be all the time in the world for that. That’s the beauty of a time machine.”
“You mean, you aren’t going to go either?” Jenny asks, sliding off the exam table.
River’s arm wraps around Jenny to steady her. “What fun would that be without my favorite partner in crime?” River can feel Jenny relax against her, body going limp and resistance fading now. “You can even decide what to watch, how’s that?”
“Ok,” Jenny whispers, her head resting heavily on River’s shoulder as they walk.
River thinks of everything she wanted from Amy, everything that she never had because they were so timey-wimey that more often than not River was the one taking care of her mother. She presses her lips softly to Jenny’s hair. “You’ll be all right dear.”
Jenny wonders how without even ever being lost, she can suddenly feel so very found.
River begins cooking breakfast for Jenny and insisting that she drink her milk and get enough sleep. River takes Jenny to an amusement park planet and a world where all the trees are made of licorice and gum drops because those are Jenny’s favorite candies. Jenny doesn’t quite understand it all, why this woman has shown up and taken an interest in her and insisted on giving her the things that Jenny thinks she remembers reading of in books about children.
“What do you say to 20th century Earth today?” River asks when Jenny stumbles sleepily from her bedroom in the TARDIS still wearing her blue pajamas. “Not the most adventurous trip we’ve ever taken, but there is this wonderful little ice cream parlor in Leadworth that I loved when I was a kid.”
“Are you trying to spoil me?” Jenny asks with genuine confusion.
“You never got to be a kid. I thought you might like to do some of the things you missed out on. We don’t have to if you’d rather not.”
“No,” Jenny says quickly. “I love it. I just…you must have things you’d rather do. Don’t you have a life to get back to?”
“I’m rather enjoying spending time with you.”
Jenny is stunned into silence for a minute. “Yeah, me too. It’s almost like…”
“Oh, it’s silly.”
“It’s nothing,” Jenny replies, but River sees the longing in the other woman’s eyes.
River reaches forward and presses a kiss to Jenny’s hair. “All right my love. Shall we get some ice cream?”
Even after traveling on the TARDIS for six months, Jenny still gets lost in the ever changing corridors. She’s alone one day in the ship, parked in a valley in New New China where River is conducting an excavation, when she stumbles on a new room. In retrospect Jenny will wonder whether the ship had brought her here to find the truth, whether the TARDIS knew that it was time.
In the moment though Jenny can feel nothing besides lied to when she walks into River’s bedroom and sees the photographs. Wedding photo after wedding photo. Different weddings. Different faces. And though neither of the faces Jenny sees on the groom is the face she met, she researched her father sufficiently to know that she’s staring at his eleventh and twelfth regenerations.
“Jenny, where are you? I thought you were joining the dig. Jenny,” River stops dead at the sight of Jenny holding a photograph of the Doctor and River at their 32nd wedding.
“This is why you saved me? Because you’re his wife?”
River sits down on her her bed beside Jenny. “I searched for you because you’re the Doctor’s daughter yes. And then I found you, and I discovered that you became an amazing young woman even without parents to guide you.”
“What if I don’t want to see him?” Jenny asks defiantly.
“I would never make you do anything you don’t want to do.”
“But you’re his wife.”
“If you hadn’t guessed, I have a life of my own,” River says taking Jenny’s hand. “You and I can still travel together and save civilizations and drink tea and tell stories. I’m still going to take care of you even if you decide that you don’t want to see your father. Listen Jenny, I’m sorry I lied to you, but -“
“No,” Jenny says crossing her arms over her chest. “I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”
“Of course you don’t need someone to take care of you, but you deserve to have it. And I want to Jenny, so will you stop being stubborn and let me do that? I’ve been known to stop time when people won’t let me love them how they deserve.”
“You love me?” Jenny asks, and her expression of slack jawed surprise reminds River so much of her husband. It only makes River’s hearts more full of love for the young woman in front of her.
“Of course I do sweetie.”
“Because I’m the Doctor’s daughter?”
“That’s part of it, but I’ve gotten to know you these last months and you are an amazing woman. I know how hard it is to figure out who you can be when you’ve been taught nothing but how to fight, but you’re doing that beautifully.”
“I’m trying,” Jenny says with a shrug of her shoulders. Her hands fall loosely in her lap again.
“I know you are, and I want to help you if you’ll allow me to. You’re an adult Jenny, but I know better than anyone what it feels like to want parents desperately even though you’re a grown woman capable of destroying and saving universes.”
Parents. The word echoes in Jenny’s mind.
“I don’t know that I’d be a very good daughter.”
“Oh Jenny. You already are,” River whispers, her throat choked with emotion. She isn’t certain when she began to think of Jenny as her daughter, but now sitting here with the young woman, River knows that she could never turn away from this relationship. “I love you very much sweetie.”
Jenny feels her eyes fill with tears. She’s grown to love and admire River so much. River had been a weapon once too, and now she’s the woman offering Jenny a family.
“This isn’t something that you need to earn,” River says, thinking back to the difficult years following Berlin and the words she had always longed to hear. “This is just something that you should have had from the beginning.”
“My beginning was different from most people’s. I was made with one purpose only: to fight. I didn’t need a mother for that. Just a gun.”
“I know,” River says sadly. “And you know that I understand what that’s like. But it’s the past now. It doesn’t have to be your future.”
Jenny wipes at the tears that have fallen down her cheeks.
“It’s your choice. Always. But if you want a mother, I would be so honored to be yours.”
Jenny can’t find the words to reply, can’t seem to process what she’s discovered and what she’s being offered. River seems to understand that Jenny needs space, and so River lets her leave the TARDIS with a quick hug. Jenny wonders if River notices that she pocketed her vortex manipulator on the way out.
“Hello my love,” River says with a warm smile when she looks up from chopping vegetables for dinner.
It stuns Jenny silent for a moment to see River a hundred years in the future still know her, still expect her to walk in and sit down at the dinner table.
River smiles knowingly. “When are you?”
“Oh um, who said anything about -“
“You are as bad of a liar as your father dear.”
“I’m sorry River. I shouldn’t have.” There’s a surprised expression on River’s face, and Jenny understands with so much fear and hope what River was expecting to be called. “Mum, I meant mum,” Jenny corrects, half a question.
River goes to Jenny and wraps her arm around Jenny’s shoulders, rubbing soothingly. “Let me guess. You just left me in New New China.”
“How did you know?”
“I’m your mother. I always know these things.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here. I just wanted to see -“
“Stay for dinner,” River offers before Jenny can continue babbling further.
“I don’t know.”
“Stay. You came to see what the future could be, didn’t you?” Jenny gives an apprehensive nod. “So stay and see. Your sister is taking a nap right now, but she’ll be excited to see you too.”
“You have a daughter.”
“Two,” River says, eyes full of warmth and acceptance, and Jenny has no doubt to whom River is referring.
“I mean, she’s yours? Yours and the Doctor’s?”
“Yes. Her name is Emma. She’s five years old, and she will be so thrilled to see her big sister.”
“I’m happy for you,” Jenny says, quietly.
And again, River says the words that Jenny needs, and Jenny wonders if it’s a result of time travel or whether River simply knows Jenny well enough to know exactly what she needs to hear. “You’re mine too Jenny. Every bit as much as your sister is. You’ve been mine over a century now.”
“Isn’t that spoilers.”
“No it’s not, because even if you don’t go back to New New China, you will still be my daughter. I will always be waiting for you to come home. And anywhere and any time that you find me, you will be home.”
“But I do go back? Because you know me now.”
“Time can be rewritten. It’s still your choice. But Jenny,” River says grabbing Jenny’s hands. “You are my daughter, and I cherish every instant with you, as does your father and your sister. Should you choose to rewrite time, a part of our family will always be missing.” Jenny offers a small nod. “Good, now come help me finish dinner. I’m making your favorite. Or your soon to be favorite.”
Jenny stays for dinner and plays with her sister and marvels at how easily the word Mum falls from her lips by the end of the evening. It’s with a warm hug and an encouraging shove out the door from River, that Jenny finds her way back to New New China. River is sitting on a blanket under the stars when the vortex manipulator delivers Jenny outside the doors of the TARDIS.
“How’s future me then?” River asks.
“How did you know?”
“I always know. You’ll get used to it,” River says with a wink.
“No need to apologize. Come sit.” River pats the space on the blanket beside her. “The stars are lovely tonight aren’t they,” she muses once Jenny settles on the ground.
“Yeah they are.”
“Did you find what you were looking for in the future?”
Jenny nods silently, still staring up at the sky.
“Thank you for coming home,” River whispers and Jenny turns to her with shock.
“You told me that in the future. You told me that whenever I found you I would be home.”
“I told you earlier Jenny, I will do anything for the people I love. I didn’t always have a family, and for better or worse I hold onto my family very tightly now.”
“And I’m your family?” Jenny asks.
“You are, and I’m afraid that means you’re stuck with me.” Jenny’s hearts beat heavily in her chest, and River gives her an infuriatingly knowing smile. “I wasn’t lying when I said that I want to be your mother regardless of what you decide about seeing your father.”
Jenny is quiet for a long moment, staring up at the brightly shining stars. “I’m not sure that he’ll want to see me.”
“Of course he will.”
“When I met him he told me there was no reason to kill. That there is always a choice.”
“The Doctor is a very good man, and he tries his hardest to live up to his own ideals. Believe me Jenny, any anger the Doctor had then was at himself and not about you. The Doctor loves you so much and he wishes so much that he had had more time with you.”
“He thinks I’m dead?”
Jenny finally turns to face River, eyes searching for reassurance that she could go back to her father and be accepted.
“I can tell you about him if you’d like,” River offers and Jenny nods. “I told you that I was born to be a weapon, but what I didn’t tell you was that the purpose of manipulating my DNA and training me was to kill your father. And I did kill him. The first time I met him I murdered him. His reaction was simply to tell me that he would always love me and forgive me.” River spies the shocked expression on Jenny’s face. “Don’t worry, I saved him in the end. He’s just fine.”
“I don’t understand.”
“If you were trained to kill him why did you save him?”
“He was the first person who ever loved me. Even when I killed him, he loved me without question or reservation. It was selfish really. I couldn’t live knowing that I could kill a man like that. I wanted to be the woman he loved; I wanted to deserve to be loved by someone like that.”
“He’s a good man?”
“The best man I’ve ever known.”
“And you really think he would want to see me again?”
“I know he would. He will be so happy Jenny.”
“Can I think about it for a few days?”
“Of course, dear. As long as you need.” River looks over at Jenny with such fondness and love. “My little girl,” River whispers reaching forward to kiss Jenny’s forehead.
“I love you Mum.”
River laughs and brushes at the tears that fall down her face. “I love you too Jenny.” River’s hearts have never felt fuller.
River finds her Doctor sitting on the porch of a little cottage on Luna. His gray hair shines in the moonlight, and though she loves each and every one of his faces, his twelfth face is the one that fills her with the serenity and peace of a husband who always knows her and always, always loves her.
“Hello dear,” the Doctor says, standing to wrap her in his arms and press a kiss to her lips.
“I brought someone with me,” River tells her husband when she pulls back from him slightly.
“You’re going to need to be calm Doctor, because she’s rather petrified right now.”
“She? Is it a puppy? Or a baby?” he jokes, but then his face blanches because this is his River and her damn spoilers. “River, do we have a child?”
River grins widely and thinks she will never tire of calling Jenny hers. “Yes.”
“How is this not spoilers?”
“You know her.”
“That’s ridiculous. I think I would remember if I had met our daughter.” the Doctor whispers so quietly she can barely hear.
“It’s complicated. She is ours. Mine more recently than yours though.”
River reaches out and takes the Doctor’s hand.
There’s a name on his lips, desperate to be whispered, but oh he hasn’t seen her in so long, two lifetimes now, and he hardly dares to hope.
The Doctor watches as the TARDIS’ doors open and there in all her fiery confidence, despite her nerves, stands Jenny. “Hello Dad.”
“Jenny, you’re alive. How?” The Doctor sputters shocked.
“I don’t know exactly the first time,” Jenny says, trying not to let her fear show. “The second time Mum saved me.”
The Doctor turns to River, mouthing the word Mum with awe. River nods in Jenny’s direction and the Doctor takes the cue and walks towards his daughter. “Don’t just stand there. Come give your old man a hug.”
River looks up from her book when the Doctor practically runs into their bedroom after saying good night to Jenny, a smile plastered on his face.
“You mad amazing woman!”
He leaps onto the bed, grabbing River and making her squeal with delight.
“I am simply bringing our daughter home sweetie.”
“Our daughter,” he repeats, testing out the words.
“Yes, our daughter. She needs us, and we are going to be proper parents to her.”
“ ‘Course we are,” the Doctor says sprawling his body on top of his wife’s and nipping playfully at her neck. “We are going to spoil her rotten. We can take her to see the volcanos on Tigus and the pink oceans on Therka and we can take her to Barcelona - the planet. But the city is lovely too. Why not visit both? Oh River, the three of us together! Just think of it.”
“I am sweetie. And it will be amazing.”
He pulls her to him and kisses her fiercely.