River’s wardrobe was just as maddening as the woman, full of spoilers and mysterious items that only begged questions, curiosities, raised eyebrows and a bit of a perverse mixture of fascination and alarm. The first time he stumbled upon it, actually, he wasn’t even aware of what it was. He’d just regenerated into his eleventh face, and the TARDIS was in brand new form, clean and new and shiny and a wondrous mixture of new surprises everyday. He’d gotten Amy settled into a room down the hall from his, just off to the side from the library that was no longer in the pool. The majority of the day had been spent tangled up in wires and circuits at the base of the console, the glass floor above his head and the hum of the TARDIS surrounding him. He’d spent hours and hours there, much to Amy’s boredom. He’d finally relented with a promise of an alien planet.
He’d meant to find a washroom to clean up. Instead, he stumbled upon what was a second, cavernous wardrobe. The TARDIS had always equipped him with anything and everything he could possibly need, and more than enough of things he didn’t – but this was different. This wardrobe was as large as any room he could imagine, rows and rows and endless rows – and all of it was women’s clothing. He’d poked his head in, stumbling in on gangly legs that he still hadn’t quite gotten the hang of (he never would), and frowned.
The first dozen rows were filled with nothing but shoes. High heels, the majority of them. Red, blue, black, strappy things and boots and all one size. He quickly dropped the search in boredom. He figured it was a room for one of his companions - future, past or present. He wondered what Amy’s shoe size was.
“Doctor!” Amy called, “You promised me an alien planet!”
Yes, it was probably Amy’s.
(In retrospect, he should have known better. This was, after all, the very same day that River reappeared, flinging herself through time and space and into his open arms.)
Months later, it was 1969.
He had a beard, and River had a drenched dress. Outside the TARDIS it was a bright and clear day in Houston, and everybody was gearing up for the next stage in preparation. He’d finally figured out a game plan against the Silence, a way to defeat them – and he always liked the poetry of turning an enemy’s defenses against themselves. Feeling exceptionally pleased with himself, he’d allotted a few minutes to fix a large plate of fish fingers and custard as reward.
He wandered out of the kitchen just in time to spy River disappearing into the adjoining corridor. With a narrow of his eyes, he noticed she navigated these twisting hallways with the same ease and familiarity that she’d flown the TARDIS, and without even meaning to, he ended up following her – stalking her, some might even say, though he wasn’t inclined to because this was his TARDIS and she was a guest and you can’t stalk your own guests, can you? You probably could, but the Doctor didn’t think this qualified. He kept his distance, just in case a freaky sixth sense was part of River’s arsenal of maddening and increasingly lengthy lists of skills. She turned the next left, and entered that same cavernous wardrobe that he’d discovered some time ago.
A lightbulb went off, the same one that kept going off again and again whenever River demonstrated in yet another offhand way that she had a place in his life, in his future, a stake on his TARDIS that he couldn’t define or acknowledge – because if he did, that way led madness. He remembered, only with half-clarity, the length and numbers of rows upon rows of clothing and accessories in that room. Such a wardrobe denoted that River shared more than just the occasional adventure with him. (He knew that already, or had hazarded a guess, but the added weight just tipped the scales a bit more lopsidedly.)
Unable to stop himself, he tiptoed down the corridor and peeked through the crevice in the door.
His vague memory of the room was confirmed when he found seemingly endless rows of clothes. She grabbed a deep blue dress with a matching jacket, something appropriate for the sixties, and held it up to the light. It was the same color as the TARDIS, and he had a brief stab of approval before he spied River reach for the zipper at her side, unzipping the length of her soaked dress to reveal not much underneath.
He squeaked, yanked the door shut and straightened.
(He swore he heard River’s laughter from the other side of the door.)
Two weeks after Demon’s Run, the Doctor had run himself ragged.
He’d tried everything. Well, not everything. But his best guesses were bone dry. The search for little Melody Pond, soon to one day be Doctor River Song, had been a search in vain. Every time he thought he had a brilliant idea or an unexplored avenue to track her down, he hit a brick wall. It was obvious that she’d be raised on Earth. He tried the sixties all through the nineties – he’d tried the States, and London, all along Wales, a bit of exploration in Scotland – it led to nothing and nowhere. Worse, the TARDIS was refusing to help. Not a hint, not a suggestion, not one bloody thing. Melody was proving as confounding as River. He probably should have expected that. That woman remained the only thing in the vast known universe that kept tripping him up. He shouldn’t have liked that. (He sorta did.)
Finally, he thought of the obvious.
The wardrobe was a bit intimidating, but not as scary as it once was. Well, not scary as in “Oh, my god, there’s a three-headed arachnoid-tentacle monster in the closet,” because he knew how to handle those. (They liked cotton candy.) No, with the revelation that River Song was a human with Timelord DNA came a number of other assertions. He no longer feared the next visit from this mysterious woman from his future – in fact, he looked forward to it. The closest thing to a Timelady and one meant solely for him – and he knew it now, had always known, but the sheer giddiness with which he wanted the next adventure to begin made him impatient.
He stepped in as if he were an intruder, peeking around the door and eyes flittering this way and that. He didn’t know what he expected, but the coast was clear. He quickly strode down the first half a dozen rows of shoes before he finally made it to something interesting. Dresses – every color, every length, some with a brazen cut and others that were modest. Finding a clue on where in the universe to look for her was hopeless, though. There were period dresses for every century and decade, appropriate for Earth to the outer rim galaxies, and some that came from societies that he didn’t think were yet recognizable – that thrilled him a little, that he’d go places with her that hadn’t been yet.
He made a left turn, picked up material here and there, sniffed it, held it up to the light, and then dropped it into another pile before quickly moving on. Until he wasn’t. Until he stopped, abruptly.
The row ahead of him had… unmentionable things. Undergarment things. Eyes widening, he straightened his bowtie, swallowed a thick gulp, and then took a hesitant step in. He remarked to himself that a clue might – possibly – be in here somewhere. About a few steps in, he came upon a red little number, bra and knickers and matching suspenders; on a body, it would leave little to the imagination but suddenly the Doctor’s imagination was working overtime when he pictured it on River. He contained a nervous giggle.
If he looked down the hall, the entire row was filled with lingerie, and who knew how many rows after that? Some of the items looked… scandalous, which he supposed, was the intent.
He abruptly turned on his heels and scrambled out into the hallway.
(Some spoilers weren’t worth ruining.)
After Berlin, he wandered into the wardrobe, curious again – and then quickly regretted the decision when he stumbled upon the aisle with weaponry. Large guns, small guns, swords, knives, nunchucks (he hit himself in the face with that), and even a cannonball. Rubbing his bruised forehead, he grumbled as he made his way to the next aisle, watching as the armory turned into a different type of storage area altogether. Collars, leashes, riding crops, whips--
(And he’d thought the idea of handcuffs had implied enough.)
“No, River, absolutely not! I have no idea how you even acquired the thing, but I am not wearing it!”
“Oh, but look at it. It’s so big, and you should really have more sentiment for such a—”
“River!” he admonished. “I don’t care if it is Gallifreyan! I am not wearing that headdress!”
The item in question sat upon the polystone display, mocking him. Made from cast metal of white and gold, it was elaborate and garish and one of the few things he did not miss at allabout his home planet. Scowling, he made his way out of the aisle – he had no idea how they’d even ended up in the Gallifrey section in her wardrobe – or why there even was a Gallifrey section in her wardrobe – except there had been an odd game of hide-and-seek mixed in with strip poker and a scavenger hunt, and all of it had clearly gotten out of hand. As things usually did, when his wife was involved.
“Sweetie, c’mon!” River challenged from behind, giggling, as he strode away. “You model this, and I promise to model something for you. Anything you like!”
He stopped, abruptly. “Anything?” he queried.
“Anything,” she purred.
He made her wear the matching headdress for women, which was twice as large and ten times as ridiculous, given the state of her hair.
(That’ll teach her to laugh.)
And the one thing he hasn't found...
River escaped, but just barely. Out of breath and winded, she threw a glance behind her to make sure no one was following. The Doctor would be on her heels soon, demanding what she could not give. With a quick exhale, she finally slipped inside her wardrobe and rushed down the aisles toward the very back. The TARDIS had always kept her secrets, and now she had something else to add to it. In the last aisle, back in the corner, there was a room that only River was allowed to access. She kept various things there that she wanted no one else to find, and this particular object in her possession was something that she hoped the Doctor never would.
She finally reached her destination and opened the door to find her treasure trove, her secret collection. There were dozens of them, nearly a hundred, lined up against the wall. From the tallest down the to very smallest. River glanced down at the item in her hands, and frowned. Then she stepped forward and gingerly placed it in the appropriate spot, based upon its size. The TARDIS had even left a spot vacant for it.
Stepping back, River drew out a sigh of relief. There. It was done. Safe and sound and far from the Doctor where it could so much harm.
“River!” she heard him calling from a distance, agitated. “I know you have it! Give it back.”
She quickly turned, exited the small room and shut the door behind her. The TARDIS swallowed up the door as if it never existed, just as the Doctor rounded the corner and found her.
“Where is it?” he demanded. “You can’t keep doing this!”
“Doing what, my love?” River tried, going for coy. She failed miserably, as always. “I was just changing.”
“No, you weren’t! You were stealing, you big stealer. Don’t think I buy that innocent act for a second. It always happens, it gets destroyed or it disappears, the same way every time. Well, enough is enough, River! Where did you put it? Give it back!”
“Give what back, sweetie?”
“My hat,” he declared in an adorable roar. “You took it again! That’s the third one this month. Where do you keep stashing them?!”
She brushed by him with a smile. “Honestly, Doctor, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”