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Something Blue

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River is on the command ship by the time she comes around. There are bars in the place where a wall should be and for a moment she thinks she might be back in Stormcage when she remembers she hasn’t been a prisoner there for decades. The room is quite similar, however; empty and cold save for the lumpy mattress she’s laying on.

She tries to sit up only to grimace at the ache that courses through her body. It’s an ache of newness and lack of use, like shoes that resist the divots of the wearer’s feet. Her muscles don’t seem to remember how to sit on her bones the way they used to.

She forces herself to sit up anyways. The scratchy blanket falls off her torso revealing a greyish cloak haphazardly thrown over her. She suspects her captures weren’t expecting to be required to dress her and acquired the first piece of cloth available to cover her. Apparently, they couldn’t be bothered with cleaning her since browning blood stains still smear her thighs, redder and fresher closer to her center.

Somewhere beside her, she hears shifting of chain on chain. Three, no four other women sit wordlessly in the cell with her. They’re all dressed in off-white, thin robes. Some of them have drying stains on their clothes matching the ones on River’s legs.

The woman closest to her shifts and gives River the smallest of nods. She starts to slowly pull something from the folds of her skirts but a noise from the hall startles her into concealing it further.

Outside the gated wall, a man stands to attention, staring at River like she might try to escape at any moment. (Smart, since she would if she could move more than a few inches.) He’s dressed in what she can only assume is a uniform with all the armor plating. It takes her a moment to realize the reason he’s standing so straight isn’t because of her, but because someone is coming down the hall. The Stormcage guards used to do this as well when the warden came around.

The newcomer comes into view and looks a little more impressive than a warden; a circular, golden headpiece adorns his shoulders like some sort of halo, though River doesn’t credit any divinity to him.

“To what do I owe the pleasure, Lord President?” Her voice comes weak from her throat, though she’s impressed that she was able to speak at all.  River frowns as she says the words—It feels like she’s said them before. Yes, she must have, but her memory is a bit too foggy at the moment to remember when.

“You are an abomination,” says Rassilon calmly, like he’s telling her the time of day.

“Thank you,” River hums.

“You are an atrocity.”

“I do try.”

“You are not one of us,” he continues on a sigh like he’s tutting at bad weather. “You are beneath our race and you are beneath me.”

“Well, only if you buy me dinner first.”

Rassilon falters at that but only just. “Retrieving you from the datacore was a mistake and a waste of resources.”

This time it’s River who finds her words stuttering to a stop in her mouth. “The what?”

He waves his hand dismissively and regardless of the enormous amount of exhaustion within her, River finds it relatively easy to find the energy to be annoyed.

“It’s rude,” she starts slow and icily, “to keep your guests in suspense, you know.”

“Suspense?” Rassilon sounds genuinely confused for a moment until something clicks behind his eyes. “You really don’t remember do you? Of course, you wouldn’t, your brain is still hybrid ,” he hisses the last word like a swear.

River’s frown only deepens. “And the rest of me?”

“Do you really think we’d bother to make your new body as disgusting as your last?”

“My last?” she echoes her own confusion pressing down like a weight. There’s something she should be remembering. Something she should know just beyond the fog of inaccessible memories.

The noise that comes out of Rassilon’s mouth is something between a scoff and grunt, but just as patronizing as the wave of his hand. “I don’t have the time to explain this to you, Professor Song, and it’s not my obligation to. You’ll be in the matrix soon and it won’t matter anyway.”

“The matrix ?”

Flashes of history pass through her memory; books with strange circular patterns, libraries that smell of ancient dust, and a story of a tradition long lost. Someone had told her, hadn't they?

River can almost remember a voice and almost remember words—moonlight, the color blue, and song on wind floating gently over the hushed whispers of a pair curled up in bed. “ A storehouse of knowledge made of living… well, dying Timelord minds,” he’d said. Who had said that?

Rassilon makes the patronizing noise again and says nothing more to River. Instead, he looks at the guard, who straightens up a little more for it, and drones, “Bring them to the med-suite when we land. I want all traces of her analyzed and cataloged before she’s uploaded. The child will be found.”

“The child… My…?” River starts, hands drifting down to her belly where the soreness is concentrated. The soft bump has long since gotten smaller—not exactly to how she used to look, but certainly lacking the distinct protrusion of pregnancy.

Her hands start to wander in search as if the familiar movement of growing life might reappear if she just adjusted her hands. She looks over to the women who, in turn, watch her silently.

The woman closest to her, River can remember her face just barely. A face smeared with dust from running. Yes, they’d been running, hadn’t they? River and all of the women in the cell with her—they’d been helping her. Yes, she’d found them. Or maybe they had found her?

River closes her eyes, trying to chase the memory as far as it will take her.  She’d been screaming, hadn’t she? Alone as contractions came one right after the other—  she’d been hiding in that barn for at least two days. And on that second night when the labor pains were so strong she was sure she would die before sunrise, they’d come like a blessing to help.

And River had cried when the woman finally held up the wailing, pink infant to the humid air. She’d told herself she wouldn’t cry and had managed to keep dry eyes until that moment. Why had she wept?

There are the obvious reasons, but River dismisses them as the memory turns her gaze to the small leather device that sat next to her on the floor of the barn. She’d shakily picked it up and handed it to the woman who held the baby. “Take it to Him. Please.”

There had been no questioning and only a second of hesitation before the woman silently wrapped the device around her wrist and disappeared with her child.

It gets blurry after that.

Rassilon has left by the time River opens her eyes, and if they’re a little wet no one comments.

The woman closest to her starts to pull the item out of her skirt, revealing the old leather device. River takes in shakily, fitting the familiar thing around her wrists.

“...What about the rest of you?”

“We’ve done our part,” says the woman. “The rest relies on you.”

“But-But he’ll kill you.”

“Perhaps. We have faith, Night Song.”

River pauses at the name, unsure of why she’s calling her that. Before she can ponder much, the guard bangs a hand on the cell door. “Hey! What is that! What have you got!”

Panicking, River slams the vortex manipulator and disappears.

She lands on stone, scrapping her knees and hands as she does. Where ever she is, it’s freezing and wet from a light rain. The blanket, luckily, had made the trip with her. River starts tearing it, making a few makeshift holes for her head and arms, then puts it on like a poncho. At least she wasn’t completely naked now.

It’s dark.

Looking around proves nearly another useful. She can hear waves and wind in the distance. Shivering, she catches a glimpse of a lit window in the distance. It’s better than nothing.

Standing is quite a challenge. She’s not sure how long it’s been since she’s had food or water, but judging from the weakness in her bones, probably at least a few days.

She can barely stay on her feet, but she moves forwards anyways in a half walk half crawl when she stumbles. She ignores the pain in her body, keeping focus on the potential sanctuary ahead. It’s all she can do to keep from curling up on the ground and letting herself pass out.

Her mind swims with all that’s happened. Words from Rassilon echo in her head; Matrix, datacore, baby, hybrid… she knows those words from somewhere, doesn’t she? She knows him, she thinks. He has power and the bad kind and he’s from… a planet. An important planet but she can’t remember the name. She can barely remember having a baby—the evidence of her worn body is the main reminder of that. Why had she run? From who and to where?

It’s all too much to think about, but she knows she has to keep it in her mind or she’ll forget again. She needs to write this down. Her hand reaches instinctively for a pocket, but the blanket doesn’t have pockets. What was she reaching for? Blue, paper, blue… something blue. That’s all she can remember

Chapter Text

It was complicated. It always was with her, isn’t it? From what she could tell from the books and the stories, it was supposed to be simple: boy meets girl, girl dies, boy goes back in time and gives her a happily ever after before she dies. A few details here and there with adventures and lots of running, of course.

That was what ‘simple’ looked like for River on a normal day.

And it was simple. For a while, at least, that was how it went. She’d played her part and died where she was supposed to die. She became a story, just like he had. But the thing about stories is that they lived among other stories, and one way or another, they were all connected.

That’s where it got complicated.

She’d thought it was Him. It was an easy mistake, mind you, this body was new and the eyes weren’t working right. Nothing was, actually. The lungs failed to take in air, the brain failed to think. The skin didn’t even feel like it was there. Every place her body was in contact with anything stung like hell.

And the man above her, well, it looked like a man anyways, said: “Is it alive?”

Another voice answer with a yes, though if she could talk she’d beg to differ.

“Then why is she still burnt? It’s disgusting.”

“The healing process must reverse the death,” another voice explained. At least her ears were working. “If her death was by fire, then she must be reborn by fire.”

Well, that would explain why it felt like her skin was being torn off. The only reason she didn’t scream was because her vocal cords didn’t work yet.

“Hurry it up. This ship can only go so fast.”

Ship?

River couldn’t turn her head. She couldn’t move besides slight eye twitches of her eyes which was mostly involuntary.

“Yes, Lord President. We’ll be reaching our destination in two hours.”

“Two hours? We are lords of time for heaven's sake!”

“The ship cannot use its temporal motors while the energy is being used to heal the subject, my lord. You did say that you wanted her whole before we arrived…?” The voice sounded hesitant like it might get a slap on the wrist for daring to ask.

There was a sort of harrumphing from the first voice and a general mumbling of ‘very well’.

Thing got fuzzy after that. The pain started to ease away and she was hoping that release might finally come until another shadow of a person passed over her. Suddenly something was being shoved down her throat, scraping delicate tissues. She could taste the blood on the back of her tongue and felt oxygen being forced into her lungs, straining her chest to inhale. The pain from the rest of her body came flooding back with her senses.

“Be still,” one of the voices said. “Don’t struggle, now.”

It wasn’t something she could help. She couldn’t feel what her body was doing, only that it felt like she was burning alive. Something pricked her neck just then and the pain started to fade once more.

-x-

River wakes in a bed. It’s a soft one with proper blankets and pillows and no straw poking through the sheets which are already an improvement from that last few days. She tests slowly to see if her body is working yet, flexing her hands and feet experimentally. She’s still sore but no sharp pains bother her anymore.

Opening her eyes she finally looks around at the room. Light from a window near the bed allows yellow light to blanket the room. It’s a bedroom and a fairly nice one at that. It looks well kept but mostly plain aside from a single flower in a tall glass on the nightstand by the bed.

River sits up and regrets it quickly as nausea rushes over her and she has to lean back against the bed frame to take a moment to breathe.

In her moment of disarray, there comes a soft knock on the door.

River squints in the direction of the door as it opens and a tall woman in a dark, heavy dress invites herself in. In her hands in a tray of breakfast and River can see most notably that the hands that hold it are scaly and green.

The woman doesn’t notice River is awake until she places the food on the nightstand. “Oh!” She perks up. “You’re up.”

River takes a second to see if her voice works. “How… How long...?”

“Four days,” the woman says. Her accent is British, River can tell, but that doesn’t discount extraterrestrial.

“A woman… sh-shows up at your door near death and you… and you decide to let her stay?” River finds herself struggling, needing to pause for breath every few words.

“Well, would you expect me to leave you out in the cold?”

“Could have… could have called a hospital or something.”

“You hate hospitals, River,” the woman huffs. “That’s a lesson I’ll never forget. And a bill you still owe me for the collateral.”

River stares. She doesn’t recall giving the woman her name or having any sort of ID on her. “Do I know you?”

The woman stops short, caught in surprise at the question. “Should I have reason to worry that you don’t?”

River stares harder at the face of her host, willing her eyes to focus on the reptilian skin that covers her whole body. The woman stands on two feet, but the rest of her screams amphibian. She’s got no hair, but instead ridged skin that rises out of the back of her head. Her nose and eyes are like slits in her hide, though her mouth has surprisingly human-looking teeth.

“Silurian,” River murmurs, exhausted from trying to figure it out.

“Says the Hybrid,” the Silurian responds snarkily. “An easy observation if you know your species.”

“I… I know you…” It’s almost a question and she can feel herself slipping back into sleep.

“Yes, you do,” the Silurian says more softly this time. She reached for River’s hand. “My name is Vastra. And we go very far back.”

“I can’t… rem…” River can’t finish, her body slacking.

Vastra sighs, “Oh dear, what have they done to you?”

Chapter Text

“So you had a little one with the halfbreed, did you?” Missy hasn’t moved from her place on the piano bench for minutes, only now stretching herself out like a cat as she processes everything he’s told her. “This is what I was trying to tell you. You spend too much time with the humans and you start acting like one.”

“This is serious, Missy,” the Doctor hisses, pacing the length of the Vault. “The council is after her.”

“The trollop?”

“The baby .”

Missy sighs. “Well, I don’t know what you think I can do about it locked up in here.”

He stops moving and stares at the floor with all the intensity of a man glaring down an offending newspaper article.

“Oh,” she straightens up, rising to her feet. She presses a few of the piano keys and produces a horrendous noise worthy of auditory torture. “You want to let me out.”

“No.” The word lands on the floor with no bounce; Scots have a talent for taking the elasticity out of any phrase.

“You need to let me out,” she corrects. “You have to if you want my help. And you do want my help.”

He finally lifts his gaze, but only enough to look somewhere around her feet. “River doesn’t know that I know.”

“That’s not a very healthy marriage practice.”

“Missy—”

“Yes, yes, I know. You want me to promise not to stab you in the back, is that it? Oh, and you want me to limit my casualties as well. Don’t tell me you don’t want me to kill anyone, now, Doctor.”

He stops again, frowning in what she can only assume is an annoyance for her saying it before him. “...Yes. No killing.”

She goes silent again like a predator in the mists of hunting. He holds his breath, sure she’s about to refuse when she finally says, “One condition.”

“I don’t have time for conditions.”

“Then make time for them.”

His teeth grind audibly as he squares his jaw. Missy doesn’t speak for a long time, waiting for him to meet her eyes so she can be sure he’ll agree. He does so after a few minutes with as much resistance as someone might give to the prospect of beheading—and Missy knows seven times over exactly how much squirming that causes.

“I want to read the book.”

“No," he says immediately and this time the word does bounce, right off Missy in fact.

“No book, no help. Those are my rules.”

“My family is in danger, don’t you get that?” he snaps.

Missy doesn’t flinch, holding his gaze with a level calmness that speaks volumes. I was your family once.

They keep a locked gaze for a few moments until he realizes exactly how much she really does understand.

“The first half," he tries.

“All of it. Cover to cover,” she chides patiently.

“The first half and I’ll get you new books.”

Missy sighs and sits back down at the piano, her back to him once more. She starts playing something he can recognize as French but is too distracted to pin down further.

“Fine,” he grits out.

“Fine what?” she prompts without stopping the music.

“Fine… cover to cover.”

She holds out her hand, the other still on the ivories.

The Doctor stares. “ Now ?”

“Well, I don’t trust you to give it to me after. What if I die without even getting to hold it? I promise not to read it until all is well and done, dear. You’re going to have to have a little trust in me now. ”

She can practically hear his teeth grinding. He reaches into his pocket and keeps his hand there for a long moment before pulling the diary out. He holds the book, gripping it with white knuckles but offering it in her direction.

Missy steps down from the platform with the piano and pucks the book from his hands, pocketing it. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Do you expect me to?” he bites.

“No. But you thrive on the unexpected, so here’s a whopper for you.” She takes his hand and pulls it to her body, placing his palm flat on her chest above her hearts. “I… promise. I promise not to read it until we’re done.”

He says nothing.

Chapter Text

“Tell me about the shadows, River.”

“They were in suits.”

“How can shadows be in suits?”

“Spacesuits. They ate the hosts and borrowed their bones.”

“What did they want with you?”

“Nothing in particular. We were in their home.”

“We?”

“My crew. It was a mission with the Lux Foundation.”

“What was the mission.”

“He didn’t tell me because I didn’t sign the paper.”

“Did you find out anyway?”

“Yes. There was a girl trapped in a computer.”

“Why?”

“Because she was dying?”

“And what was so important about her?”

“She saved 4022 people.”

“How.”

“By uploading them.”

“Saved them from what?”

“The shadows.”

“Did you save them?”

“I think so…”

“Then how did you leave?”

“I don’t think I did.”

“Why not?”

“I was uploaded.”

“Why?”

“Because I was dead.”

-x-

It’s embarrassing.

Breakfast is cold again. It’s not her fault that she can’t eat it fast enough while it’s still warm. Vastra never comments but offers to reheat it for the first few days. River refuses each time.

It’s not that River minds cold food— it’s nothing she’s not used to, but now it represents the slowness of her own body to heal rather than the cold hand of superiors.

“Take your time,” Vastra always says when River slams down her utensil in frustration. “Eating slowly is better than not eating at all. You need it to heal.” It’s almost maternal and River feels she ought to be patronized but finds herself appreciative of how the woman cares, even though she’s essentially a stranger.

 

The story comes out slowly. At first, the assumption is that it’s hard for River to talk about, but Vastra realizes she’s just having trouble remembering it all.

“I had a baby,” River said on the first day when she woke up.

“I know,” Vastra replied. “You’ve been passing clots all week.”

“I think it was a girl.”

“Was she healthy?”

“I don’t know. She was crying. They took her away.”

“Who took her away?”

“The… um… those women.” That’s where it got fuzzy. Vastra didn’t comment at the series of frowns River made as she strained her mind. “I asked them to. They were going to hurt her.”

“The women?”

“Rassilon.”

“You were on Gallifrey?”

“I think so.”

“How did you end up there?”

“They brought me there.”

“The women?”

“Rassilon.”

“From where?”

“The… the um… there was a ship. And it hurt. I think they were, um, building me?”

“Building you?”

“New body.”

“What happened to your old one?”

“Shadows.”

“Shadows?”

“I… I don’t know.”

For just waking up after a healing coma, Vastra was impressed that River remembered anything. She started an investigation board that day with keynotes: baby, Rassilon, and shadows.

 

It’s only fair, as the days passed, that Vastra returned the favor and gave River the information she needed.

“You’re a Silurian,” River said the second day when she tried to see if she could walk.

“And you are not,” said Vastra as she helped River.

“What are you doing in the countryside? This isn’t your house.”

“You remember my house?”

“A bit? I think… London… old London.”

“We’re on vacation.”

“We?”

“Jenny and I.”

“Your… wife. Short. Human. That maid who keeps bringing me tea?”

“That’s right.”

“How do I know you?”

“We’ve been friends for decades, River. Even I can’t remember where we started. Probably through the Doctor.”

“The Doctor? Do I know them too?”

“Very well,” Vastra hummed and River couldn’t stop her hearts from fluttering at the implications.

“How well?”

“Based on your letters, I’d say better than any two people in the universe might know each other.”

“Letters?”

“From your time on Darillium.”

“Darillium…”

“I was under the impression that that is where you two were staying for the past 20 years or so.”

“24 years…” River said quietly.

 

And breakfast is cold this morning. Vastra is off looking for the letters. There are dozens according to her, but River finds herself staring at her meal like it might bite her. These letters had her life in them, didn't they? At least the last couple of decades of it. Would it be something she didn’t want to remember or something she needed as much as air?

One thing she can remember is that she hates waiting. The anxiety of it isn’t worth the result most of the time. There are no distractions here, only breakfast and the gray morning sky outside the window.

It’s not a bad place for a vacation if one is always in a crowded city, River admits to herself. There are stretches of grass here that go for miles and enough trees for an orchard. She thinks there must be water nearby. She’s been hearing it for days but hasn’t the strength to look for it.

The fork she threw across the table lies dully reflecting light on the opposite chair. A green hand picks it up and places it next to River’s plate. “You don’t have to be so hard on yourself,” Vastra murmurs.

“I used to be capable of so much,” River huffs, “You should have seen me.”

“I have seen you. And I’ll see it again. You’ll get there, River.”

River sighs, hoping to change the subject. Vastra picks this up and places a tall bundle of paper on the table. River stares.

“Darillium,” Vastra states, “is a planet a bit bigger than Earth. There are towers where you stayed. They sang when the wind blew through them—” she pauses as River starts humming. It’s a tune Vasta has seen written down and she pulls out the letter where the notes are written down.

River takes the letter, staring at her own handwriting. This is what the towers sound like when the sky is clear and the moons are full is written right above a few bars of music. I’ll send you an audio later. I like the feel of a pen in my hand now that I’m not teaching full time—

River stops humming. “Was I a teacher?”

“A professor of archaeology.”

“Why archaeology?”

“You said something about loving an old ruin, I believe.”

River grabs the next letter from the top of the pile, laying the other one aside. He brings me flowers on Tuesdays. We don’t have Tuesdays, but when ever he thinks it’s Tuesday peonies appear all over the house. The cat likes to try to eat them.

“He was grey wasn’t he?” River breathes.

“Who?”

“The cat. This says I had a cat.”

“Oh, Valorie. Yes, she was a Russian blue, very handsome. There’s a picture somewhere, I think.” Vastra starts moving letters aside, looking for the photo.

River picks up another letter. The Doctor got sun lamps for the kitchen. He says it’s for Val but I think he’s worried about me. I tell him we travel enough that I get plenty of sun but you know him. Sentimental man always.

-The Doctor bought a new chair and Val won’t let him sit on it without her.

-The Doctor got seeds and says he wants to start a garden.

-The Doctor killed all the plants in the garden.

-I bought flowers that thrive without sunlight. I seem to have a bit of a green thumb.

-Val ate my potato stalks, need to replant them with fencing.

-The Doctor adds fertilizer to the plants when he thinks I don’t notice.

Vastra hands River a photograph. The cat is in it, sitting on River’s lap. Next to her is a man with grey hair and a warm smile. His arm is around her shoulders and she seems relaxed to his touch.

The picture shakes as a drop of water hits it. River reaches to touch her cheeks and finds them wet. She turns slowly and meets Vastra’s eye. “Where is my husband?”

Chapter Text

Chapter Text

“I told you you’re getting old,” Missy chides.

“I am not,” the Doctor gruffs. 

“Your memory is as good as a knife in a gunfight.”

“So I’m sharp?”

“You’re as dull as they come, darling.”

The Doctor grumbles some more inaudible things and winces as Missy adjusts one of the neural connections currently adhered to his temple. 

They’re under the control deck— all Missy’s idea really. She had deducted that if the child was left along his timestream, he ought to be able to remember where and have it all taken care of in a jiffy. The only problem is that he can’t remember a thing. They’ve tried mind to mind, hand to telepathic circuits, and even a good slap, but nothing so far has sparked a memory. Missy’s most recent idea happens to be the most painful one, and has the Doctor in some mess of wires equivalent to a torture device. He’s starting to wonder if it is one, though they haven't got passed the setup yet.

“Is this going to hurt?” He asks.

“Do you want to find the twat or not?”

“That’s not an answer,” he sighs though he knows very well that it will.

“Not my fault your brain is rotting.”

“Watch it.”

“Hold still,” she orders, grabbing his chin. He doesn’t meet her eyes lest she see through his Scottish scorn. They both know it never fooled her in the first place. “If this doesn’t work we’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way.” 

“Hitting me over the head with a brick?”

“The TARDIS, you twit. Good old time travel.”

“You realize that could take— “ He’s cut off before he can say anymore as Missy activates her wire creation. Where MIssy was hoping for a good shout, the Doctor goes straight to passing out.

***

There was a knock on the door. By all circumstances, there shouldn’t have been a knock. He was parked on an unnamed asteroid in a cluster galaxies away from any civilization. 

The knock on the TARDIS door came again. 

The Doctor straightened himself up, taking a cautious step away from the console. He was alone though he wasn’t sure why. It was too fuzzy when he tried to remember where Liv and Helen were. 

The knock on the TARDIS door came again. 

“Hello?”

Whose voice was that? Oh, just his. Not the one of the baby face, certainly. No, no that hadn’t happened yet. Had it? There was another voice. A crying sort of whine and this one was coming from the outside of the door. 

***

“Your TARDIS was hideous,” Missy mutters, flipping through a newspaper from 1957. Where did she get that? 

  The Doctor doesn’t answer, trying to catch up with himself. There is a pillow behind his head and blankets on his body. Oh, a bedroom. His bedroom.

Missy sits in a chair he’s never seen before reading. She’s still going on about him being old. 

“I’d like you to give that a go,” he groans, “and then tell me I’m old.”

“I’m not the one with mental blocks three planets thick sitting in my head.”

“More like on not in. My head is killing me. Did you get anything?”

“Besides an ugly console room, the names: Liv and Helen.”

“Liv and Helen?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it.”

“They were my friends.”

“One of your disposable sets, yes I gathered that on my own, Doctor. But which face .”

“Missy… it was from before the war.”

“She had to pick an easy one, didn’t she?”

The Doctor tries to sit up and falls back again. He tried again, this time managing a small bit of success. “Elaborate,” he says breathlessly. 

“Well,” Missy sits up a little straighter. “We’ve got a time, but no place. No coordinates. We’ve narrowed down your very, very long life to a lovely span of, oh, 300 years or so?” 

“What’s your point?”

“My point is, do you really want to continue?”

“What? Of course I do! What kind of question is that?”

“It’s not a question, it’s sparing you, Doctor.” She raises a hand before he can interrupt again. “It’s in your past. So maybe we figure out where the baby is. Maybe she’s fine. But maybe she isn’t. Because you can’t remember for the lives of you what happens next. Here’s a simple question for you, if you already had her, then where is she now? And why did you put so much work into blocking those memories?” 

He doesn’t answer.

Chapter Text

She comes to in a room of blinding white so she keeps her eyes closed. Voices around her offer no hints, only that whatever language they’re speaking isn’t one that River she understands. Wait no, she does. A few words come to her out of the mess of syllables around her; Download, bio-print, something about carbon bonding and… did she just hear the word ‘hybrid’? 

Gravity is shifting around her, pulling at her feet, then her back, then her head. At first, River attributes this to vertigo, but as her senses slowly return she can feel she’s lying on a table that is being tilted back into a Trendelenburg. 

“It’s not right. It doesn’t add up!”

The words are said with urgency and River still can’t understand what language is being spoken, only that she seems to understand it. She opens her mouth but no sound comes out.

“You told me the math was flawless,” hissed a second voice that was more familiar but still out of reach. “The Council hand-checked every single equation. Every single one! Do not tell me there is something wrong unless you can fix it immediately.” 

“The situation is, um, slightly more complicated than that, Lord President.”

River’s eyes shoot open at the title as memories come flooding back to her. Is it alive? Why is it still burnt? 

Faces stare at her, halting the conversation. Around her stand about eight people dressed in plain white clothes. Most of them appear, for lack of facial recognition, frightened. The only one who doesn’t is the man in red who glowers at her.

River remembers the pain of fire, the pain of rebirth and trying to breathe with shredded lungs. She remembers the face who stood above her regarding her as nothing more than a troublesome errand. 

She opens her mouth and this time from somewhere inside her comes a guttural scream of “You!” Whether this comes from anger or some other emotion entirely is unclear to her, but she notes that the room stays silent

There is an unsettling weight of blood pumping through her. It has been a long time since that has been true; since she’d had a pulse in her neck and air in her chest. It doesn’t hurt so much as it did the first time. 

She realizes there are straps holding her down to the table and she starts struggling against them while she still has feeling in her limbs. Who knows how long that will last. The straps, it seems, we made for someone who was unconscious, and to her pleasant surprise she rips her arms free is ease. 

Hands grab her shoulders but she pushes back, swinging her arms like clubs as hard as she can at her surroundings. Elbows collide with ribs and knuckles collide with faces. There is no plan here but fight. 

River rips her legs free and throws herself off the table. Two or three bodies follow her, trying to pin her to the floor.  

“What is she doing?” Rassilon demands. “How is she doing that?”

“Her vitals are nearly restored, sir,” someone answered. “You requested she is replicated exactly and this… um, well, this is how strong she was before.”

“We’ll take the strength level down, you idiot. You are not bioengineers so you can create the perfect escapee. I want a subject, not a wild animal!”

“We’re still trying to integrate the new issue into the formula, sir.”

The Lord President growled, looking away from the now six orderlies who were trying to restrain the halfbreed. “What could possibly have gone wrong?!”

“There is, er, extra mass, sir.”

“Extra mass? So she’s fat? That’s what’s throwing this off?”

“No, sir, we calculated her weight perfectly sir. When she was downloaded is seems something was downloaded with her, sir.”

“A virus?”

“We’re not sure sir. We’re trying to figure it out.”

“Figure it out faster, damn it!”

“We—”

The two were interrupted as a scream ripped through the room. The dogpile of restrainers on River stilled and slowly got off her one by one. River lay still, face down on the ground with several needles stuck in her thigh. 

Rassilon sighed. “How long will that keep her out for?”

“Um,” there was a pause as someone counted the number of tranquilizers. 

“Perhaps, 36 hours, sir. Maybe longer.”

“Figure out the problem before then. And someone get better restraints. If there is a repeat of this situation, you will regret it.” 

-x-

“Do you know how long you were unconscious for?” Vastra sipped her tea pointedly.

“No,” River replies flatly. “There must have been a good few hours from taking me off the ship to waking up for the first time. Maybe even a few days, but I would have no way of telling until later.”

“What was later?”

“The ‘virus’.”

“And what was the virus exactly?”

“The baby, I think. I must have been pregnant when I took the mission with Lux and the others. I didn’t know, honestly, I didn’t.” River ran a hand through her hair and took a breath. Her eyes settled on the window as she picked nervously at her fingers. “I… I had a thought that I might be. Before I left Darillium. But I took a test and it was negative.”

“There wasn’t a chance of the baby happening… after?”

“No. That was the last time, so it must have been wrong, I suppose.”

Vastra nodded slowly. “So they downloaded you somehow and accidentally downloaded the pregnancy as well?”

“Yes…? I don’t know how they did it. I don’t know how it all transferred from physicality to data then back again. It doesn’t make sense, but they’re Timelords . They had the tools I’m sure. And apparently the desperation to get ahold of me.”

“Why did they need you back?”

“I don’t know. I’d understand why they would want their hands on the baby but they didn’t know, which means they wanted me.”

“Right,” Vastra thumbed at her teacup with equal unease. None of this was a comfortable subject, but River’s memory seemed to be holding, so they made the most of it. “Right.”

“When I woke up again I was pregnant. Very pregnant.”

“They kept you for months, then?”

“Complicated answer.”

Someone had opened the door. Pale yellow light from the hall hit River, despite the intensity, she was sure to keep absolutely still lest they thought her to be conscious. 

“It’s not time, Lord President!” Someone was saying. The river had become a bit familiar with some of the voices and recognized this orderly as the head engineer of her case. “There’s still a few more weeks in the chronochamber.”

The voice she knew painfully as Rassilon was just as impatient as ever. “I told you yesterday that the timeframe has been moved. There are parties at the north gate shouting politics and I will not let them interrupt.”

“Yes, sir, you said, sir. But, em, recall if you will, sir, that this is the highest setting her biology will allow for. Any more will cause damage.”

“How much damage?” It sounded like a challenge. 

“Well, um sir, there is a mortality risk for both of them.”

“How. Much.”

The orderly coughed,”7% for the fetus, sir. And 61 for the mother.”

“Can you mitigate the risk for the fetus?”

“Well, yes, but—”

“I didn’t ask for but, just do it! And do it now,” he demanded. “There are rumors spreading and if they get far enough you know we’ll have to deal with Him.”

“Sir, the mother—”

“I don’t care! She’s nothing but a host and her use is spent. If I don’t see the child in the flesh tonight, I’ll cut it out myself. Do what you will with the body after.“

There was a slam of a door.

The orderly sighed deeply, alone in the room with River. “Just do your job,” they said to themselves. “Do your job.”