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Title: A New Swan Song

Series: Riverlets Through Time

Rating: T (River Snog is involved. Are you surprised? And no, that wasn't a typo.)

Author: tkel_paris

Summary: When the Doctor returns to the Library, River Song discovers the consequences of her final actions – her efforts to change the Doctor's life for the better. Twelfth and final story in the “Riverlets Through Time” series.

Dedication: nini_cuddles. At last, the conclusion!

Disclaimer: River would've let the Doctor go had I been at all responsible for Doctor Who. Donna would've at least gotten Handy as a consolation prize if she had to be parted badly from the Doctor! Heck, I doubt River would exist if I'd had anything to do with the show, so this series wouldn't exist period. (sighs)

Author's Note: Wow. Here I am, having concluded another series. I know that writing this series without dialogue and as twelve distinct parts – each with a distinct POV and containing a fair bit of infodumping – hurt the storytelling a lot, but I wasn't eager to write this series in the first place. If not for tardis_mole, bas_math_girl, and cassikat, this would never have seen the light of day. So... I will take the lessons of this series for my future series, and I have more practice at making River more palatable to me. Always worth the challenge to write a character you don't like in a way that makes them more likable. And keeping it consistent with canon, if at all possible... (grins)


Bridal Fears
Diverging Truths
Truth Shines Through
Flowers of Time
Handy('s) Story
A Mother's Awakening
Soldierly Ramblings
The Girl Who Created Nicknames
The Most Patient Nurse in History
Tough Little Guy
A Girl's Changed Tune




When River opened her eyes and found herself inside the computer, she was stunned to still be aware in any way. The Doctor really didn't give up on anyone, even if they puzzled the living daylights out of him. He clearly didn't forget if you helped him save the day. Even if he didn't know you yet.

Being around all the books she could possibly want for eternity? River found considerable solace in reading to Charlotte, and to her created friends, Joshua and Ella. She always wondered where they came from, but Charlotte wouldn't tell her. Kept saying it was a secret.

River decided to not press for an answer. She did have four friends to share the journey through the books with, and she found she rather enjoyed reading to Charlotte, who enjoyed her stories about traveling with the Doctor.

But River constantly wondered what had happened once she'd died. What had the Doctor done with her warnings? And what had that headache she'd started feeling, when she told him that Donna would one day know his name, meant? She knew that some of her memories felt a bit hazy after that, but she'd been too focused on making sure that the Doctor survived the day to care.

In fact, it probably cost the lives of Other Dave and Anita. The realization made her cringe. How many lives had she considered superfluous in the name of protecting the Doctor? Was it her method of overcompensating for having killed him? She knew the brainwashing had been none of her fault now, but that didn't take away the pain of knowing that she killed the best man she ever knew, and barely revived him.

No wonder he'd felt trapped. Now that she was inside the computer and able to reflect without worrying about any deadlines, she could see it plain as day. She'd been handed a broken Doctor, who'd craved a different woman's love. It had made her struggle for answers for Donna Noble's questions, but what could she have said?

It'd been when she saw how broken the Tenth Doctor was over thinking he'd lost Donna forever that she realized she couldn't say his name. She couldn't add to his agony by making him feel he had no choice where she, River, was concerned; she knew he had enough destiny to deal with already, enough guilt to last more than one Time Lord's entire lifetime. She wasn't going to add to it.

So she had spoken words meant to give him hope, and then, in the end, words meant to give him a chance to make his life better. There was no reason the Tenth Doctor should have to give his life to save Wilfred Mott. There was no reason the Duplicate Doctor had to be exiled into Rose Tyler's hands. There was no reason Donna Noble had to be forced back into the shallow person she once was, and to die when she saw what had happened to her baby. There was no reason the unborn baby shouldn't live. There was no reason Jenny had to be on her own.

When faced with all of that, River's own wishes and desired altered. She wanted the Doctor to be happy. If that meant causing a paradox, so be it. She prayed it wouldn't, but perhaps this was her way of making amends – at long last – for all the pain and aggravation she'd caused the man she loved.

The lack of knowing what happened bothered her. Not even her friends and the books could distract her enough from it. Sure, she spent a lot of time getting to know the four people who had lost their physical lives to the Vashta Nerada, and they were wonderful people. She was grateful that they got second chances. But she needed to know what happened to the Doctor because of her actions. Would she ever find out?

She didn't know how much time passed inside the computer. Reality had a way of seeming like a dream in how events flowed. And Charlotte wouldn't tell her. Nor would Dr. Moon. It was very frustrating, even though River could understand in a way why they would keep so much from them. Her friends adjusted to it better than she did; their families were explorers, and understood the hazards. Although River did hope that Mr. Lux let Miss Evangelista's family know that she had done well. The girl had gained intelligence from being uploaded into the computer, and it hadn't harmed her psyche.

River wished the latter could be applied to herself. The worrying and not knowing was enough to drive a person mad.

Then...one day she was reading a book on archeology when she overheard Charlotte get excited. Visitors were coming back to The Library. The danger was over, Charlotte explained, because the Vashta Nerada had died out! River was relieved. Now there was a chance at communicating with the outside world, and perhaps sending a message to the Doctor!

Assuming it reached him when it was supposed to. River now figured that the Doctor she knew had sent her message on to his earlier self. Partly because it was how history was supposed to go, but also because – she feared – he couldn't deal with her anymore.

It seemed like an age while she waited for Charlotte to indicate that such a message could be sent. River waited impatiently, trying to think of what she would ask. What could she say since she now had no clue what had happened because of her actions?

Eventually, Charlotte waved her and the others over to watch The Library on her television. The six of them, with Dr. Moon watching with them on occasion, observed the people coming and going. Books went in and out, all safely scanned and zapped to prevent more of the Shadows from coming back. It was interesting to see what The Library was like, who used it. It seemed more somber than she recalled hearing it being, but it was spreading knowledge again.

One day during this new ritual, Charlotte sensed something and changed the channel. River watched in shock as the familiar blue box appeared in the Main Reception Area. He was back! Who would come out of there? Her Doctor? The one who uploaded her into the computer? Or another one altogether?

The doors opened, and the Doctor who witnessed her death emerged. This time in a brown suit, but still with that coat! He looked carefully around, scanning with his Sonic. After a long moment, broken only by the comments of River's friends, he waved to someone inside. River overheard him saying that it was safe to come out.

River's eyes widened as Jenny walked out, eying her surroundings with suspicion. Then came a younger man in a blue suit who was the splitting image of this Doctor. The Duplicate! The Doctor had heeded some of her words!

Then...Donna Noble, clearly pregnant. The sight made River freeze. She barely noted the pre-teen boy who also looked like the Doctor come out, along with several other children whose parentage was plain as day. The Doctor had a few ginger children, and a couple with his own hair colour – but with ginger highlights. (That impossible man, she figured, had to be beyond thrilled about that!) She saw the youngest of the girls (all very much gingers, she noticed) tug away from her second biggest brother to have her daddy pick her up. Which he instantly did with a big smile.

But any further observations were silenced in River's mind when she saw the five people who came out right behind all of them. Her parents, two ginger boys, and...

Oh, God! It was herself! Melody!

River's mind flooded then with a barrage of images. Memories that were previously unavailable to her. She remembered the horror of being tortured inside the machine, being rescued, and the nightmares. She remembered games of hide-and-seek, of learning to write in Gallifreyan, and playing on alien worlds, in various market-places. The upset of becoming a big sister, the friends she had in the Doctor's children, and...growing up with her parents' love.

River sank against the couch, marveling at the sight on the screen even as her mind raced with more images. She recalled going to university, studying medicine to be like her father. She remembered meeting a nice man as she became a physician and marrying him. She even had a family!

And that hadn't stopped her from traveling every so often with her TARDIS cousins. Over the years, she accumulated the memories of a slew of adventures. She watched the two marriages she considered ideal while growing up: her parents, and Uncle Doctor and Aunt Donna. They inspired her, and she saw the Doctor's family grow and grow. It seemed that he was determined to make Aunt Donna pregnant as many times as she'd let him. Living in a time machine had some benefit for that!

Melody Williams was there to see Donna Noble pass, peacefully, in the Doctor's arms of old age. The Ginger had attained her wish of traveling with him for her forever, and given him pieces of her – in their children – to stay with him for all the rest of his years. Melody had wept for the alien she called Uncle her whole life, and for his family. She watched him carry certain things of Donna's with him at all times, and wished that something could be done to relieve the pain in his eyes.

Of course, Melody had to watch her own parents die. Her siblings, conceived and developed on Earth (as her parents had not been willing to chance another quantum pregnancy), shared in the burden of helping show the people who were left from her parents' childhood how they ought to be remembered. At least her mother had died respected by those who had once mocked her for her hair and opinions.

After Melody's own husband was lost to a heart attack, she retired to travel again with the Doctor and his children. Her brothers stayed on Earth with their own families, not as keen on continuing the adventures as she was. Besides, she wanted to help her friends help their father.

That drive to help injured her horribly one time, and she was certain that she would die. They all were sure of it. But...she got up from her injuries, and felt a growing heat inside her, which soon made her glow a bit. No one was more shocked than the Doctor that she could regenerate, but it told him – to his relief – that Ben and Tommy (the only children with one heart each) would each be able to.

With her new body, Melody began calling herself Mels. (The Doctor had groaned unhappily over the reminder of a companion accidentally responsible for his Sixth self's death, but it was what she wanted to use.) She was a young woman again, and decided to go back to university. As much as she wanted to help the TARDIS family, she felt a calling to study something new. She toyed with a number of things, but settled on astrophysics and astrobiology at Oxford – a few centuries beyond her parents' time. She ended up helping develop new technologies that would eventually help Humans on their journey through the stars. Her cousins and uncle were definitely proud of her and for her, which she treasured as now her blood family was a few generations down the line.

And yes, she married again. A technologies expert this time, whereas her first had been a physician. She even had a few children, and only traveled with her adopted family on occasion.

It was one of those occasions when the Tenth Doctor finally lost his life. He'd gone on far longer than any of his family had expected him to, but he was ready to let that particular self's life pass into eternity. The Tenth Doctor had belonged to Donna, and he was ready to become someone else. (Well, as ready as anyone could be.) Mels couldn't stick around to watch it actually happen, as much as she wanted to support her cousins; this was the man who'd carried her and swung her around at her request as a child. It was too much for her to watch him pass and change into a new man. She would just accept it the next time she saw him.

She felt so sorry for her cousins when she next saw them. Regeneration might be fact of life for the Time Lords, but it didn't mean that a distinct person hadn't died. They were grieving him almost as much as they were still grieving their mother.

The Eleventh Doctor was...so very different. He could be equally silly, but it was in his own way. He still babbled and talked in circles. That didn't change. But the clothing! Mels hated the bow-tie and the fez fascination. Of course, Jenny, Ben, and Tommy (oh, he mostly went by Tom by that point, but habits were hard to break) hated them the most. Jenny sometimes muttered that she wished she still had one of the Messaline guns so she could make that bloody fez – Jenny's words, not Mels' – vanish.

That stuck in Mels' mind. She didn't know why.

One ugly alien incursion cost her second husband his life, and triggered a new regeneration cycle in Mels. She wondered as she felt the pain what she would become. When it ended, she checked herself in a mirror and noted her new blonde ringlets. She liked her new voice, and immediately had her new name. It was a twist on her birth name, created from one place's variation on her name: River Song.

But why had the Doctor, Jenny, Ben, and Tommy blanched when they saw her new body? It made no sense at the time, or why they – and the TARDIS – had quickly suppressed their thoughts from her.

Now it did. River flinched, knowing that the poor Time Family must've been horribly confused about what this could mean. Especially for the Doctor. Surely he'd wondered who she was to him after his experience in The Library.

The wanderlust hit River harder than it had Melody or Mels. She went around finding ways of traveling on her own through time and space. She was aware of how the Doctor kept stopping Jack Harkness from doing it, but she hoped that his fondness of her would give her leeway. Just as her mother's ginger hair had allowed her the right to make up all sorts of nicknames.

She also had much more...powerful urges, and dated widely. When she was at Darillium with the Time Family, she'd fielded more than a few questions about it, incurred more than a few half-joking comparisons with Jack Harkness. (She wasn't going to tell them that she had slipped back in time to get the week's ticket she wanted on that ride. It turned into a few months, to mutual delight.) But they were still fond of her, or at least of the people she had been. There had been tears in the Doctor's eyes when he handed her the Sonic that he had been using, without saying why. Just that she would need it soon.

River felt tears building. Now she knew why, as she went backwards compared with the Doctor's family's time-line, she wasn't trusted. They didn't know anymore who she was to them. They thought she was someone who knew the Doctor...far too well for his comfort.

They didn't have to worry. Having grown up thinking of him as her uncle, there was no way there could've been anything more between her and the Doctor. He was a man she struggled to protect, even giving up her remaining Time Lord energy to prevent a universe-destroying paradox by saving his life. She did have the sense that she was heading somewhere important, that she did something critical that allowed the Doctor to trust her just enough over the years.

Although she earned a bit more of Jenny's respect one time when the Doctor's fez fascination was too annoying. River told Jenny to grab it and toss it in the air, and she proceeded to shoot it with her squareness gun. Jenny had beamed, her siblings laughed, and the Doctor was extremely put out. Not that anyone cared; that fez was only liked by himself.

Now she knew what it was that allowed the Doctor and his family to trust her as River Song. Now she carried two sets of memories: one of what had been her past, and one of what was now her past. And she would be the only person to remember the former. Just as well; she wouldn't wish the alternate past on anyone. Especially not the Doctor.

Well, or on Jenny or Ben. They had suffered horribly, so it was a relief that they looked happy now.

She watched the Time Family and her own explore The Library, and then the younger ones settle for story-time. Tommy always did love spinning tales and making funny voices. Much more than Ben ever did. Must've been the influence of spending sixteen months inside his mother's body.

River suddenly had the need to talk with the Doctor. She wanted to ask him a few questions – although she would be careful what she said. This him had no idea that she was also sitting in that reading room, listening to a tale about the Dancing Princesses. To quote this Doctor, wibbly wobbly timey whimy.

Charlotte summoned the Doctor and Donna to a computer terminal, putting the paling couple at ease with her own excitement over visitors in The Library again. Once she felt they were at ease, she summoned River into view. River winced at how the Doctor and Donna flinched, their respective freckles standing out all the more. Jenny and Ben came into view, and they, too, lost a fair bit of colour.

At least neither Jenny nor Ben remembered that past where they sought to make River see the truth of the Doctor's feelings, where they were filled with anger and resentment. Their feelings towards her were instead the same as what their parents felt, particularly their father.

River held up a hand to silence any questions. She could see that the Doctor was thinking about dragging his whole family back into the TARDIS. She couldn't blame him; she must still seem like such an unknown quantity to him.

Yet what could she ask that wouldn't potentially change the future again? She hesitated a long moment, before finally she commented that he'd listened to her final words. The Doctor was plainly baffled, but gave an honest answer: he didn't believe her at first, but he did once Donna became his wife.

River felt a pang in her heart, but it was so much less than what she'd expected to feel. Definitely because she now had the memories of loving others, and being loved freely in return. She found she had only one more question for the Doctor: was he happy?

He looked at her like it was the daftest question in the universe. That would've been enough of an answer, even if he hadn't said an emphatic yes. It was all the proof River needed to know that it was truly worth it. For once, she'd managed to save lives other than the Doctor's!

She opened her mouth to speak when there was movement by Jenny's side. Words choked when Melody came into view, saying hello and asking who all those other people on the screen were. River quickly recovered her voice to do the introductions. She ignored the frowns from the Time Family, focusing on her younger self and not letting any of them know who she really was. It was why she'd avoided Melody in the past.

Fortunately, even bright children got bored. Melody shrugged and said she was going back to the story. She smiled at River and said see ya, and skipped off. No clue that her future had looked right at her.

River quickly said a goodbye and changed Charlotte's channel, ending the message before her tears could start flowing. It was time to leave the past in the past, she told the occupants of the virtual room. They'd done their part for history. The rest was up to the Doctor and his family. They reluctantly accepted it, each going off to do something else.

Asking to be alone, River sat there a while. Her tears were a release of feelings; she had exchanged a life she'd thought was brilliant for one even better. But that paled with knowing that she had made the Doctor's greatest wish come true: he had a family again – this time with a woman he truly loved. That was River Song's secret (and most important) legacy to the universe.

THE END

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
bas_math_girl
Mar. 16th, 2012 08:51 pm (UTC)
Bravo!! A perfect ending. :D
tkel_paris
Mar. 16th, 2012 09:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks, sweetie! :)

Now... there'd better be a not unhappy ending to your current story... I'm watching you! ;)
bas_math_girl
Mar. 16th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
Who me?! *is watched* I'll er... I'll try not to, honest!!
tkel_paris
Mar. 16th, 2012 09:44 pm (UTC)
Good. Because there's plenty of dark in having to pick up the pieces of your and your spouse's life with what you have already. And punishing the evil-doers and the Idiot could show plenty of the Doctor's darkness. Just saying.
serenityslady
Mar. 16th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
Lovely. Just lovely. It almost makes me like River. I said *almost*. :)
tkel_paris
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC)
I know the feeling. :) Thanks. :D
nini_cuddles
Mar. 17th, 2012 12:54 am (UTC)
I CRIED with River getting her new memories. honestly cried. beautiful ending for a beautiful series. I can't believe it's over.
BRILLIANT, seriously. and Melody talking with her was a gorgeous touch, I hadn't expected this, that the last chapter was from River's POV, brilliant. BRILLIANT.
tkel_paris
Mar. 17th, 2012 03:11 am (UTC)
Thank you. Without your story, it wouldn't exist.

It seemed fitting to bring it full circle. And using Melody there allowed me to kinda borrow from "The End of Time" in a way that I like. Without any annoying people being in the picture. ;) Again, thank you!
alimoseby
Mar. 17th, 2012 09:37 am (UTC)
Lovely. And not sad. =) Okay, there was a tear or two (or forty) when River got her new memories, but they were happy tears. So a happy sad kind of thing. If that exists...

I am sad that it's over, but it was a great ending. Brought it all the way around, beautifully done.

~Ali♥
tkel_paris
Mar. 17th, 2012 06:14 pm (UTC)
I'm hoping anyone who cries over this cries happy tears. Yeah, I think a happy yet sad kind of ending seems fitting within Doctor Who.

Thank you. I'm proud of myself for concluding this one. :)
doctorsgirl26
Mar. 17th, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
Brilliant ending! This series was amazing! I can just see the Doctor with a little ginger girl. I have to admit I teared up when Melody got her new memories. I'm glad that River had Joshua and Ella in the computer world with her.
tkel_paris
Mar. 17th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
And he got at least three ginger girls. :D And the younger boys have ginger in their hair. Poor Ben and Tommy! ;) Anyway, thanks!
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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