désolé, if someone is prayin’ then i might break out
History is and always will be flawed.
Stories get told wrong, viewed through incorrect perceptions. History is always viewed through a filter.
They will tell her story and end it like this: she died to save four thousand and twenty-three people. A noble self-sacrifice.
If she told her story she would end it a bit differently. She survived. She loved. She lived three different lives and she loved none so much as her last. She was not a saviour. But the best parts of her had always been for him.
She killed herself in a Library.
None of them quite understand it, she knows. Anita, Dave, Evangelista, Other Dave – they are all so happy to live on, in one way or another. For a brief moment she had been too.
But then she remembered.
And wished she could forget.
The Library is limitless, endless, it goes on and on and on. Everyone eats and sleeps and plays in novels, because they can and they think they should. But River knows – none of this is real.
She doesn’t eat.
She doesn’t sleep.
Because she is not alive. She accepts this, even though they will not.
“We all miss people, River. Families and friends, we all lost them too you know. But we’re making the best of it.”
“Did you choose to leave? Choose to die?”
“What? No, of course not. We all wanted to live – so did you. And this is a sort of life, if you’d embrace it.”
“I chose to die, Anita. I was ready to die and instead I get to go on endlessly living out the life I never wanted. You don’t understand, but for me – this is worse than death.”
She sits and does not move. Endless time tangles around her, painful and out of tune. Time does not work right here and she feels it in every imagined molecule of her imagined body.
This is wrong.
This place is wrong, this life is wrong and oh she wants to hate him for doing this. She does, a little. Just a very little because while the version of him that had uploaded her didn’t know any better, the version of him that had created that screwdriver did.
This wasn’t for her, it was for him and it is so typically selfish of him that she cannot breathe when she thinks about it for too long. But then, she doesn’t need to breathe in here.
At first, she thinks this is a stop gap.
She must wait until he figures something out, and the thought of that rankles, but she waits.
Patience has never ever been her strong suit though, so she grows tired of waiting and plans instead, attempts to get herself out. But there is nothing, nothing she could do from in here.
There is nothing in here.
She is nothing in here but digitized memories and imprints of painful emotions.
This is wrong.
“I promised him.”
“Sod your promise Charlotte, I don’t want this. Don’t you understand? I don’t want this. Please. Just- he wasn’t in his right mind when he asked you to promise. He was sad that I had died; he thought this was a better place for me. He didn’t know.”
“I can’t delete you, I promised to keep you safe.”
“Please Charlotte. Please.”
She tries conventional methods first.
She walks into the river and does not swim.
She goes into stories – steps in front of trains, walks into the middle of battlefields, unarmed. Jumps off buildings, cliffs and bridges.
No one catches her.
But this is not real, and just as she is not alive, she cannot die either.
“Please stop, River.”
“Will you do it?”
“I can’t – I can’t I promised.”
“Then I won’t stop.”
She tries overriding fail safes after that.
Charlotte will not let her access her own files, throws up blocks and firewalls and impedes her access all while pleading with her to please please just stop.
Charlotte doesn’t understand. Stopping is all she wants.
She just wants to stop.
“What if we could contact him? Could we – I could you know, communication capabilities are still intact. You could say goodbye properly. Would that help?”
“What if I get him to agree to relieve you of your promise?”
“He wouldn’t, River.”
She waits for Charlotte to cave. It’s not that she enjoys all of the attempts. She doesn’t. This world is designed to be real in every way but one. She feels hunger. She feels pain. She feels everything, and that is the problem isn’t it?
Eventually Charlotte will attempt to contact him.
And she’s not sure how, but she will convince him.
He does come.
Of course he comes.
Projects a hologram into the data core and he looks so old, so tired, so wrecked. He does not want to be here, she can tell. He does not want to see her here.
She doesn’t want to be here either, so she wastes no time.
“Tell Charlotte she can delete my files.”
His face is a picture of shock and he shakes his head in immediate denial. “No. What? River, why?”
“Because. Because. You stole my choice, you selfish idiot man. You stole it from me. Do you honestly think, knowing me as you do now – that this is what I would have wanted?” She is angry suddenly but it is a different sort of feeling and she is glad of it.
“I honoured you, River. The Matrix doesn’t exist any longer but this is as close as we could ever get. Eternal life, I gave you a Timelord burial.” She cries at that because he believes what he is saying and believes that he has given her some sort of gift.
“Stop it.” She pleads with him and he looks at her in confusion. “The Matrix housed the consciousness of every Timelord, Doctor. They wanted that eternal life because they lived on. With their loved ones, or waited for them to join them. There is just me here.”
“But Charlotte saved the others for you-”
“Friends, yes. People I’ve worked with for a few years, but not my family. Not my parents or my husband or my-” She stops herself then and takes an unneeded breath. “I died, Doctor and I did it for so many reasons. I did it so you wouldn’t. I did it so I’d exist. But mostly I did it so I wouldn’t have to do this. Live in any kind of universe without you. I’m a selfish person and you know that.” She can feel tears dripping into the hollow of her throat and she wipes at her face furiously with her sleeves.
“You died River.” His voice is small and defeated and she looks up to see him staring at her, tears in his eyes and so much pain swimming through them she wants to look away. “All I have is a universe without you in it.”
“So what then? Because you have to live without me, I have to live without you?”
“No, no I just need more time. That’s it – I swear. I need to – to figure a way out River. I’m not leaving you here, I swear. You’re not gone. You’re right here – right here in front of me.” Tears spill and he reaches toward her but she steps back, shaking her head.
“Time has no meaning in here Doctor, and it’s been forever already. This hurts, just please, please let me stop. Fix it or save me or let me go, because I can’t do this, please my love. Please.” She is fully crying now and he looks devastated. “Please just do something, anything.”
“River, you can’t ask me to do that – I can’t. Hope is all I have left, please don’t make me – I can’t.”
“Just stop then, my love. Just – move on. You won’t as long as I am here, as long as you hold that hope, sweetie. I don’t want to think of you alone and hurting out there anymore than you want that thought of me in here. Please. Don’t do this – not to either of us. Move forward; be happy, it’s all I want for you honey.” Her chest aches and he shakes his head at her words.
“No. No River I can’t. I was loved. By so many but you were right – you were, you were stupid and selfish and young and right because no one does love me more than you. Who else will now? I can’t move on, that’s ridiculous.”
“You can and you have and you will again, sweetie. And I want you to. I don’t want you alone, that hurts me just as much as being in here. Let me go Doctor. And live, and love for both of us. Please.” He is shaking his head in denial and she looks at the sky above them because it hurts to see her own pain reflected on his face.
This is why he has never come here.
“I can’t lose you, River, I just can’t.”
“You won’t ever, Doctor. I am always with you, I will always be there, in your hearts.”
“That’s not enough.”
“I hate you, just a little bit more each day in here, do you know that? It’s been so long and I’m forgetting and I hate you just a little bit for taking that choice from me. What if I’m here so long I forget? What if I’m here so long that I don’t remember how to love you anymore?” Her chest heaves and she sniffles, scrubbing at her face once more. “I don’t want that. I don’t. Please.”
“I just need time,” he insists and his voice is thick with tears and pain.
“Why are you justifying it to me? You don’t need to – this is your choice to make. Just say it to me. Tell me you won’t let me go, tell me that none of this matters to you.” She pleads and he looks exhausted and defeated before her, his shoulders slumped. She wishes she could hold him, she wishes none of this were happening. She just wishes.
“Of course it matters to me River. I love you, I don’t want to do this to you, but what would you do? In my place?” She takes an angry breath at that and shakes her head.
“I was in your place. And I learned my lesson the first time – enough to let you climb into that Pandorica and erase yourself from all of history, including my own.” She stares at him, fire in her eyes and he looks away. “Did you think I wanted that?”
“If there had been time or another way you would have stopped me in a second and we both know that.” He shakes his head and looks at her sadly. “And what of the after, River? After I let you go do you think I’ll still be this man? My bright is barely enough to hold back all my dark as it is, and you’re asking me to extinguish it all. Did you know I once met a future version of myself – so – so twisted and blackened, I could barely believe it was me. I thought, no – I must prevent that man from being. Time can be rewritten, and I would choose differently. And I have, I always have – even after the Time War, though it was close, even after Rose and Donna – I wasn’t sure I would survive those. But I did. Because you were there, insisting that I’d love you and knowing me better than I knew myself and I’m sorry that I put you in here, because you’re right, I knew. I knew you’d hate it and I knew I was taking something from you, but if I hadn’t – if I hadn’t had that thought that at least I did something to save you, I never would have been able to let go of all that when I regenerated. I wouldn’t be this me, I wouldn’t ever have been capable of loving you the way I do now. I am sorry this hurts – I hurt too River but I will – I will find a way to save you, properly – or I will tear this universe apart trying.”
“And if you tear me apart in the attempt?” She asks in a quiet voice. “Who I am, what if that is gone?”
“Just a little more time, River.”
She has nothing but that to give him anymore.
He visits regularly after that.
They fight often, but he refuses to back down and instead he comes and sits next to her on a bench by the river. He talks about his latest adventures, tells her his latest plans to save her.
She stupidly gets her hopes up every time.
In a way, this is both better and worse than being left alone there.
There is a stretch where he simply does not come, and she worries and frets and tries to judge time but she has no feel for it anymore in this artificial world.
She sits by the river and waits.
Charlotte watches her, and she can tell the girl is happy that she is content on the bank for now.
She is not ready to drown yet.
“I’m an idiot.”
“I could have told you that, sweetie.”
“All this time, I’ve had detailed analysis of your DNA. Well not me, but the Silence.”
“You can’t access that, they might discover you’re alive you idiot.”
“At this point River? I don’t really care.”
“I’m going to get the information and study it. You can’t stop me.”
“They’ll try to kill you, honey!”
“Well, as far as they know you’re dead. So they’d have to try a bit more direct approach to kill me now wouldn’t they?”
“Oh you stupid man, what was the point of it all then? If not to save you?”
“Borrowing time, dear. Just borrowing time.”
She walks now, in between his visits.
She still doesn’t sleep, but she never did much before, either. But she walks, and she eats. She even talks to the others when they come by.
It’s a bit like feeling coming back to a numb limb, she thinks. It’s gradual, and oddly uncomfortable.
But she does it anyway, because when he comes if she doesn’t have something to tell him he looks at her with those sad eyes.
She hates how hard it is to hate him.
Maybe especially now.
She finally goes into a story with Charlotte. Her mind is forever a child’s, despite her age and wisdom, she thinks and reasons like a child, so the story they enter is magic and dragons, princesses and knights. There is a happy ending. There always is in Charlotte’s favourite stories.
River holds her hand and fights evil with her.
They slay dragons.
Each one makes River feel a little lighter.
“Have I ever told you that you have beautiful DNA?”
“Oh I bet you say that to all the girls.”
“No really, your alleles are just downright sexy.”
“Oh sweetie, if that’s turning you on it’s been far too long for you.”
“I’m thinking I can clone you. Problem is that I have a sample of your DNA at birth. That’s not this regeneration.”
“Does the face matter?”
“Not even a little bit.”
“The hair on the other hand...”
“Oh, shut up.”
Charlotte takes her to a story filled with fairies and they hold hands and dance. There are no dragons, nothing evil in this story at all, but Charlotte tells her that it’s time to stop slaying dragons and start making memories.
River thinks that must mean he’s close to an attempt.
Because memories feel suspiciously like goodbyes.
Every visit feels final. They tell her how happy they are she seems better. They tell her about their own lives – how they’ve paired off in unexpected ways. How they’ll be happy. Here.
The without her goes unsaid, but she hugs them all a little tighter than usual and they all pretend no one is crying.
“I think I’ve got it.”
“I think so yes. You’re not going to like it though.”
“Well it requires a bit of regeneration energy. Really only one source for that isn’t there?”
“Don’t you dare give up any of your regenerations for this, my love. That’s not how it works.”
“Ah, but it’s not your choice, remember?”
“I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“Nothing could hurt more than this, River. Come on. New faces together, yeah? Do you think you’ll get back to this one though?”
“I think we match. So, no.”
“Ah well. Not important anyway.”
She wakes up to the face of a stranger.
In a body that feels unfamiliar.
But when he kisses her, everything feels just the same.
History always gets the story wrong.
And sometimes, if you’re very very lucky – history doesn’t get your story at all.