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Shakespearean Cupids (10/13)

Title: Shakespearean Cupids

Rating: T for emotional angst, innuendo, and Jack-style machinations

Summary: When two people are reminiscent of a Shakespearean couple, friends and family are liable to borrow from the Bard himself to bring them together.

Disclaimer: I don't have the money to go see the awesomeness of David Tennant and Catherine Tate in a Much Ado About Nothing production – let alone own anything related to Who aside from a Disappearing TARDIS mug.

Note: Last chapter with just references to Ten and Donna. Next one is the start of what you've all been waiting for. Please send my muse good energy; she and I are arguing over the details of the next chapter, and it's important that I get it right...

Lengthy Author's Note: One reviewer on FFN commented that changing River's time-line was extremely cruel – especially in light of her parents' history. I don't deny that Jenny is... lashing out, and not caring about hurting River's feelings. You have to remember that she IS only a few weeks old. A young woman who has a lot of growing up to do, and – although she probably would've denied how much before this adventure – still very dependent on her parents. She, as she's formed in my mind from writing her in another fic, is also fiercely protective of those she loves.

There was simply no way she'd react well to River. Especially when she's invested so much into getting Donna and the Doctor together. Only they – or other extended family – could've kept her in check, but she was all alone. Nothing to guide her except the instincts and teaching she'd received thus far. And to top it off, she had the guilt of thinking that she might've killed her parents. How many of us would have the strength to handle – with any civility whatsoever – a person who's a total mystery and seems to represent the end of everything we'd hoped for in the face of all of that? She had to fill her father's shoes, and it's taking a toll on her in every way. It was all too easy for her to seek a scapegoat, and one could say that River was in the wrong place at the wrong time in this ficverse...

I freely admit that I have a lot of problems with River as a character, and that some stem from her representing the beginning of the end for Donna's time with the Doctor. Part of why I followed my muse's ideas and wrote the story onto this path was to try to develop some sympathy and empathy for a character that – to be honest – I don't really like. And it worked.

Kat Shadow, thank you for reminding me of something that I should've remembered to write about from the start. Please bear in mind that I've deliberately avoided hearing too many spoilers about Series 6 (some I could've really done without hearing...), although I did use some in writing these chapters. As well as Series 5 spoilers. I hope you find that this chapter begins to redeem Jenny, for she's going to be on one lengthy road to self-forgiveness; she has Ten's hyper-developed sense of guilt... and she's about to face that inheritance head-on...


From Chapter Nine:

As River and Mr Lux fled, Jenny dug into her pockets, pulling out her father's Sonic and a collection of small ball-shaped objects – also ignoring the TARDIS screaming in her mind, Don't do it, Jenny, don't do it! – to work on. Good luck getting through Mum to do that... But why would you care about my fate? And wouldn't killing my Dad defeat the purpose?

Anita voiced the concern that no one else had. “What about the Vashta Nerada?”

Frantically meddling with the balls with a few settings, Jenny sighed – and swallowed to keep her emotions from seeping into her voice. “I'm gonna seal Charlotte inside her little world, take everybody else away. The shadows can swarm to their hearts' content in their forests – assuming they're smart.” Oh, God, I really don't know if I've caused irreparable harm to history...

“So you think they're just gonna let us go?” Curiosity mixed with fear.

“Best offer they were ever gonna get.” She kept meddling. “Even my dad wouldn't have given them more than that.” Oh, Dad... What would you have to say about my actions...? If only you'd found a way to safely grant me that time-sensing abilities that you've developed...

“You're gonna make 'em an offer?” Disbelief added to the mix.

Jenny heard the steps come a bit closer, and frowned. “I'm afraid I'm not inclined to make any kind of offer at all. You know what...” She looked up with another harsh glare, knowing what had happened – even though she'd kept quiet, to keep River and Mr. Lux from panicking – but not stopping her meddling. “I really liked Anita. She was brave, even when she was crying, and she never gave in. And you ate her.” She aimed the sonic, revealing the skull she knew was inside the helmet. “My father would have let that pass, though... as long as you let them pass.” Mum would be horrified at how I'm talking, she sadly thought, but what else can I do? I can't trust them to keep their word, and I won't let them near my parents again...

The Vashta Nerada inside the suit paused a moment. “How long have you known?”

Jenny resumed her meddling. “I counted the shadows. You only have one now.” She eyed the blinking neural relay. “She's nearly gone. Be kind,” she ordered – knowing it was futile, but at least she could say she warned them...

“These are our forests,” Skeleton Anita said. “We are not kind.”

Forcing herself to draw upon everything she felt her parents would've done, Jenny was able to voice what she knew her Dad would've. “This is the only offer you'll get: I'm willing to let you have your forests,” she said, finishing meddling with the balls and lowering her hands to her sides, “but you are giving me them. You are letting them go. You have five seconds to let Anita go, and accept.”

She wasn't surprised to see shadows stretch from Skeleton Anita. “These are our forests. They are our meat.”

Feeling colder than she'd ever thought possible, Jenny aimed the Sonic, blasting the shadows with the bright light. Skeleton Anita froze, the shadows vaporized, and Jenny could sense a flash of pain from the Vashta Nerada – which she ignored. Her whisper was lethal. “Don't play games with me! You just killed someone I liked, and that is not a safe place to stand. Not with someone who has nothing to lose. I'm the Daughter of the Doctor, and you're in the biggest library in the universe. Look him up, and know this: I don't share all of his scruples.”

Skeleton Anita didn't answer immediately. So Jenny continued, “These balls I'm holding? They'll fill the Library with the same light if they sense even the slightest hint of you approaching a living person. That very light that's causing you pain, and I now know it will kill you with direct exposure. You saw what happened to those shadows that came from you. I'm releasing them into the Library.” She threw them into the air near Skeleton Anita and they flew off on their own, separating into tinier versions along the way. “They'll multiply from the solar energy, covering the whole planet, and making it useable again to people one day. Now... Time's past up.” She aimed the light higher, and Skeleton Anita promptly collapsed. Jenny lowered the Sonic and went to the terminal.

River rushed forward. She'd stopped when the blinding light was active, and now nothing could stop her. “Anita!” No!

“I'm sorry,” Jenny snapped, hurrying to start the set-up, “she's been dead a while now. What are you doing back here?! I don't have time to snap at you if you've come to rub my mistakes in my face!”

Watching the despair playing across the Time Lady's face, River knew her next actions were right, and was grimly determined to succeed. “Lux can manage without me,” she said, ignoring the last line for the moment. “But you can't.” She approached, Sonic in hand.

Jenny backed away. “What do you think you're doing, Professor?! I'm trying to repair whatever I did-”

I'm going to make the sacrifice, Jenny,” River announced, no trace of hesitation in her voice, “because I will not face your father and tell him that his precious girl killed herself because two of his potential, personal time-lines happened to converge on someone other than Donna Noble for a change!”

That froze Jenny from the inside out. “What?!”

River stepped up to her. I'd try knocking her out, but I know her reflexes are better than mine. Even when mine are unencumbered. “My journal's words are clear again, and so are my memories. But there's a second set that's more vivid than what I originally remember. I now remember you traveling with your father during my adventures with him, and Donna, too. I think in my original time-line, you died on Messaline because you weren't quick enough to stop General Cobb from firing his weapon at your parents, and instead you took a bullet for them.”

Jenny sucked in a breath, seeing how easily that could've happened.

“But you lived,” River continued, frantically trying to get it out, “and your traveling with your father has been slowly changing the course of history. Especially mine. I'm no threat to you, or your mother. Now, can we set this up?” She went to the strange chair next to the computer, and began messing with the wires.

The Time-Lady thought she'd pass out. But her hands flew across the terminal without her thinking about it... Her mind struggled to process what was now happening...

A few minutes later, Jenny was squatting in front of several wires, adjusting their settings. River still sat in the strange chair next to the computer, fiddling with another set of wires.

“Autodestruct in five minutes,” the computer voice announced again.

“I'm getting really sick of things being repeated,” Jenny muttered.

River quirked a tiny smile as she continued working. “Me, too, kid. You know as well as I do that no one had a chance to survive this.” She waved at herself and the chair.

Jenny nodded grimly, and sighed, finishing some more work. “Okay, once we finish this fiddling, all that will be left.. is to lower that weird head-covering, and connect those plugs...” She motioned to the ones in River's lap that were still being adjusted.

River nodded. “I'm timing it for the end of the countdown, there'll be a blip in the command flow. That way it should improve our chances of a clean download.”

The Time Lady squirmed, feeling the influence of her Mum, Nan, and Great-Gramps float into her mind. None of them would be proud of my behavior today. “I guess I was a bit harsh on you, wasn't I?”

“Autodestruct in four minutes,” the computer interjected.

River had to take a deep breath. This was a conversation she'd been trying to figure out how to have, and now the young Time Lady seemed in the right mindset to hear it. “You should know that I know the consequences of messing with the time-lines.” Her voice was tight, controlled so she could complete the task – although she slowed down so she could focus on getting the words slowly out. “My parents...were separated by a crack in time itself.”

Jenny's eyes widened, trying to figure out how that was possible.

“My father forgot who he was... My mother forgot that he'd ever existed... although there were clues that something was missing from her life...” River shivered, remembering her mother's behavior from that unnerving time before everything went to hell. “How I continued to exist is still a mystery to me... but eventually the Doctor fixed things. Everything was back in its proper place... Time reset – although they remembered that time that never was.”

Jenny shuddered, trying to imagine her mother losing all her memories of the Doctor... Of always knowing that she was somehow less than she should be... and at a complete loss about what happened...

River's eyes went a bit absent as she recalled more about the past. “I should be furious with you over what's happened.”

Swallowing, Jenny whispered, “So why aren't you...?”

“Autodestruct in three minutes.”

Sighing through her nose, River explained, “I didn't realize until my memories reformed that you made more than one good point up there. I kept forgetting that every adventure, I worried that it would be the end. I should've realized that I was relying on the idea that things would turn out fine, that I was taking risks that maybe I didn't need to take. But the moment that created the cracks... the moment that made my parents' separation happen... I might have had an unknowing hand in causing it.”

Jenny gasped. “Oh, my God...!”

“I can imagine the guilt you were feeling when you saw their faces on that Node,” River continued, quietly. “You wanted to protect your parents from someone you felt was a threat. A mystery. It's natural to do that for those you love. So if I'd been in your shoes,” River finished with a knowing smile, “I might have reacted just as violently. If not worse.” She motioned with her chin toward the Doctor's Sonic. “You finished?”

Jenny blinked, having forgotten what she was doing. “Oh!” She made one final adjustment, and put down the wires and the Sonic. “Now I am.”

River sighed. “You know...” She let herself be lost for a moment in memories. “Funny thing is, this means – even in the other time-line, the one I remembered when I first came here – the Doctor has always known how I was going to die. All the time we'd been together, he knew I was coming here. And now you and Donna will always know it.”

Jenny's hearts felt like they'd turned into the heaviest element known to Gallifreyan science, a name that didn't cleanly translate to English. “Quite the burden to carry,” she whispered.

River felt a need to share a split memory, to try to lessen the younger woman's guilt. “Don't you worry about having to adjust to a new Doctor. The new time-line has the man you know as the Doctor in it.”

Jenny gasped. That's a huge change to history!

“Just promise me...” River tried hard to let the images from the past that now had not happened go. “That the three of you will one day take me and my parents to Darillium to see the singing towers. Oh, what a night that was!” Tears formed in River's eyes over the memories. “The towers sang, and you in particular cried.”

“Because we knew,” Jenny whispered, “from this moment right here, that it was your time to come to the Library. Oh, my God...” I can't imagine what that'll be like...

“Autodestuct in two minutes,” the voice announced.

River nodded. “You wouldn't tell me or them why, but I suppose you knew – probably because of me telling you right now – it was my time. You even gave me a screwdriver that you'd been building for a while - that should've been a clue. It should've been one in the previous time-line when he did it.” She tossed her Sonic to Jenny. Don't need it anymore...

Jenny starred at the two Screwdrivers, and at River's journal – resting off to the side. Her earlier instincts returned, and she had to say, “It's not too late-”

“There's nothing you can do,” River sharply reminded Jenny. She can't be thinking those thoughts, not now!

“But I promised Dad that I wouldn't cause anyone's death,” Jenny slowly said, “and – God and my parents forgive me – I had thoughts of pushing you into the shadows or forcing you to do this...”

River closed her eyes at the voiced proof of the anger from earlier. “If you'd die here, there's no telling how time might be rewritten again.” I might ever have been born, for one... “That moment you and Donna asked about? She would've lost her memories of you and your father.”

Jenny cried out incoherently, a hand covering her mouth.

“Yes,” River acknowledged, “but you rewrote that. But not any more. Not one more line! Don't you dare!” She paused a moment, and whispered, “It's not necessary anymore. Things will work for the better, I do know that. I accept that the loss of what had been is an acceptable price to pay for saving Donna Noble, the Most Important Woman in all of Creation.”

What?! Jenny's eyes lifted and couldn't move from River's face. She felt tears forming, building...

“It's OK,” River consoled, deliberately misreading the stunned look, “it's not over for you. Your parents will soon have the means to protect her from a fate that I wouldn't wish on anyone, and I'm glad that she'll be spared from it.” She grinned, not wanting to add anything else. “You've got all of that to come. You and your parents, time and space. Oh, how you'll love the running!” She shed a few tears, letting herself momentarily grieve for what was lost to her.

“River,” Jenny whispered, feeling a sudden need – which had to come from her dad – to know just what she'd done to this woman, to feel guilty over every possible thing, “did you know my dad's name?”

“Autodestruct in one minute,” the computer intoned.

I know this knowledge will hurt, Jenny thought, but I just feel that I need to be in emotional pain, to pay a price for hurting someone else... “Because you acted like you knew so much about him...”

River thought a moment, but slowly nodded. “That was the first knowledge to vanish.”

Jenny's eyes widened further, and her hearts forgot a few beats.

Even then, when I was able to be such an important person to him,” River continued, forcing the words out from her constricted throat, “I always knew that there was someone else occupying his hearts. Someone he'd lost and never recovered from the pain... Now I know it was Donna. But he will always have her with him now, and you as well. Take heart, Jenny.” You'll make it up to me, she knew. I'd better leave the details to her...

That unleashed something inside Jenny, a need for knowledge. “River,” she blurted, the words tumbling out like a waterfall, “if you've seen the new future for my Mum and Dad... What becomes of them? My friends and family tried to get them together, even tricked them into realizing their own feelings.”

That, River thought, explains the awkwardness I saw... She saw the countdown getting close and drew the headpiece down.

Autodestruct in ten seconds...”

Should we have done it?” Jenny begged for the answer.

...nine, eight, seven...” River picked up the cables as the count-down drew nearer...

“Please, River-!”

Hush, now!” She has to wait... “Spoilers, kid...” She smiled tenderly at the girl who had to grow up far too fast...

“...three, two, one...”

At the last moment possible, River plugged together those two cables. Blinding white light hid her from Jenny's eyes, and the girl had to cover her face.

Moments later, she was still there, and the light was gone. Jenny pulled her hands away, and gasped. A skeleton rested inside the suit. She scrambled back against a pillar (the one that, in the other time-line, her father had been handcuffed to), overwhelmed – yet unable to look away. “Oh, my God... River...”

Moments later, she felt the TARDIS doing her own version of screaming with joyful relief. A different faint sensation – created by the cause of the Old Girl's reaction – in her head made her draw her knees in so she could rest her heavy head on them. “Mum... Dad... They're back in the Library. They're safe...” Her words were the barest whisper, coming out on gasping, sobbing breaths.

Some long moments later, Jenny got her crying under enough control to voice her thoughts – in the barest whisper. “So... We did it. We saved 4,024 people. But what about the cost...? What I did to River...?”

Would she have done it if she didn't accept it?”

Jenny sucked in a breath, and looked to the Node, where the words came from. She slowly stood – because her mother and grandmother had taught her manners – to properly greet the face openly looking at her. She quickly wiped her tears, and cleared her throat. “Charlotte Abigail Lux, I presume?”

CAL smiled at her. “You're called Jenny, daughter of the Doctor and adopted daughter of Donna Noble. What's the rest of your name?”

Such a lovely girl... So sad she was dying... “On Earth, to anyone outside our immediate circle, I'm Jennifer Celeste Noble."

CAL contemplated that a moment, and then her smile widened in clear gratitude. “You've made the Library safe again, Jenny Noble. Those lights will keep the darkness at bay. One day, the darkness will be gone forever and the Library will be safe for everyone to use.”

That'll be in the distant future,” Jenny demurred. “Who knows how long it'll take the Vashta Nerada to actually die if they keep trying to evade the lights?”

CAL frowned a bit. “Perhaps, but I'll be safe. Safe with my new friends.”

Jenny frowned. “What new friends?”

CAL looked a bit smug. “I saved the four taken by the darkness. They're in my dreams now, and can be happy again.”

It took a moment for that to sink in. “You were able to save them... Oh, my God! But...” Jenny thought about living within a computer. “But living your life in a set point, always in one stage of life and never moving forward...”

CAL's whole face went sad, but she seemed convinced she was right. “You can study anything you want to, be anywhere in the Library at a moment's notice, and you're always learning.”

I'll give her that... In a way, it's better than the alternative...

Besides,” CAL continued, “we'll have all these books to enjoy. We can come up with so much while we're waiting for others to be able to visit again. Which I hope you'll do someday.”

Jenny sighed, shoulders sagging as some tension flowed off her being. “Miss Evangelista... Proper Dave... Other Dave... Anita... Tell them I'm sorry I couldn't keep them from the pain.”

CAL looked like she would nod if she could, and just smiled softly. “They know you did your best. They forgive you.”

But I need to be able to forgive myself... She glanced at River's remains. “But you couldn't save her; you were all but dying.”

A strange flicker crossed the girl's face. Regret, Jenny translated. “I wish I could've,” Charlotte whispered. “I would've liked to hear her stories.”

Then Jenny's eyes drifted back to the other Sonic. The one that was practically dead now. “Why?” She picked it up and scanned it with the other. “Why would we give her a screwdriver? Why would any of us do that? That alternate future version of Dad had years to think about it, all those years to think of a way to save her, and what he did was give her a screwdriver! Why, if she was so special to him, would he do that?!” The scan made her frown harder. “Wait, there was something in here before!” She pulled off a side of River's Sonic, and it showed an empty space. “What was in here? What could fit in-”

She cut herself off as her eyes drifted back up to River's remains. And they immediately went to the side of River's suit. She reached for the place that River had reached for on Miss Evangelista, and found a still glowing neural relay. “Oh, my God... He literally saved her.”

“I'll keep her company,” CAL promised, as if sensing the hesitation. “She and the others won't ever be lonely. I'm a clever girl, after all.”

Jenny found a tiny smile. “One last adventure, River.” She pulled off the relay, quickly inserted it into the dying Sonic, closed the cover, and put it up against a circuit. “One that'll last forever,” she whispered, using the other Sonic to boost the signal, and watched as electrical signals flew up the visible circuits.

CAL smiled. “River Song has been saved.”

And it's the first kind thing I ever did for her: giving her a retirement surrounding by every book she could possibly want for all eternity... Jenny felt the weight of the burden she would carry into the future. I don't know if I can let my parents know about all this... but how can I keep it from them...?

Needing a distraction, she picked up River's journal. “I know I probably shouldn't,” she said to CAL, “but I need just a little look at the end. I can't help but wonder what's the last thing she wrote in here.” She opened it to the last page, and flipped back one page, finding the beginning of the paragraph she saw, and she softly read aloud what she found:

“When you run with the Doctor, it feels like it will never end. But however hard you try, you can't run for ever. Everybody knows that everybody dies, and nobody knows it like the Doctor. But I do think that all the skies of all the worlds might just turn dark, if he ever, for one moment accepts it. Everybody knows that everybody dies. But not every day. Not today. Some days are special. Some days are so, so blessed. Some days, nobody dies at all. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair, and the Doctor and Donna and Jenny come to call... everybody lives.”

Jenny felt herself crying, and closed the book. She hugged it to her body, just for a moment. “Thank you, River. I'll try to be nicer next time. To be worthy of that trust and faith...” And she put the book and River's Sonic down together, resting by River's feet. “I'll leave these where no one can get them. Where her secrets will be safe from falling into the wrong hands. I can't keep them. I don't need any more spoilers in my life if I can help it...” She sighed, needing to move – feeling the restlessness that her father's current incarnation had bestowed upon her. “I'd better go find my parents,” Jenny decided aloud, knowing that she had to leave CAL to her lonely world – virtual friends or no.

“Oh, Jenny?” Hearing CAL softly call her when she'd been sure the conversation was just about over, Jenny looked up and saw a guilty expression on the Node. “Please forgive me. I filled your parents' minds with a false history while they were inside my dreams. I didn't even know I'd done it...”

The Time-Lady's face widened. False memories... “There's nothing to forgive,” Jenny whispered back, seeing the harsh truth. That's how none of them realized what was happening... “None of the people you saved could know where they really were. It'd be too much. I... I can't blame you for doing the same to my parents.”

CAL's whole face drew graver. “But I... might have made them experience something they weren't ready for. I manipulated their memories into something else. I had no conscious control over it...” Tears were audible, although they couldn't fall from her computerized, statue face. “But they were so sweet together,” she whispered, almost absently. “So happy...”

Wait a minute...! Jenny's eyes widened as her emotionally-overwhelmed brain tried to follow those thoughts. “What do you mean?!”

“You do need to go help them,” CAL suddenly said, and Jenny – with just enough experience with her father – could tell that the girl was closing herself off. “And make sure everyone gets out safely. Please apologize to your Mum and Dad for me, Jenny.”

It had to be Donna's influence that enabled Jenny to see that to press for more details would be cruel to this young girl mind. She doubted her Dad would've had quite the awareness without first making things a lot worse for CAL. She reached out to caress the face, regardless of whether Charlotte Abigail Lux could feel it now. “Have safe dreams, Charlotte,” she wished from the bottom of her hearts.

She got the sweetest smile she'd ever seen in return.

Once Jenny was up in the Library proper again, sealing the gravity platform forever with the Doctor's Sonic, did she feel comfortable enough to spare a thought to what CAL said. “They were so sweet together,” she repeated under her breath as she walked away, moving through some of the Returned. “What would a little girl mean by that? Was she watching their so-called lives on her television?”

She pondered that, strolling away. It distracted her from the storm of tears that wanted to be unleashed. “If saving people within her dreams allowed CAL – or at least her inner workings – to know about their lives,” she reflected on a whisper, needing to hear herself think out loud and yet not wanting anyone to overhear, “and then her databanks created realities based on the memories of the people, what did she mean by saying she manipulated Mum and Dad's memories?”

Her feet suddenly stopped, as she had a huge moment of clarity. “So sweet together,” she whispered again, “so happy.” It could only mean that, in the computer, they'd been... together together...

Despite everything – especially what had passed between her and River, Jenny found a sudden lightness in her hearts. It drove her into a sprint toward the main areas, to go find out what happened – once she found her parents among the over four thousand revived visitors, of course... What barriers she couldn't just vault over, she used a gymnast's flip to overcome; running around them was too slow!

Her mind couldn't think about how this might have helped or hurt their efforts, however. Her hearts and her soul were desperately longing for a hug... The kind a scared little girl would get from Mummy and Daddy after a very bad dream...

Chapter 11: My Kindness Shall Incite Thee...


Dec. 28th, 2015 05:54 pm (UTC)
As forced as other things were. Darn RTD and SM... It wasn't the cougarish aspects as much as the maturity and honesty aspects. She encouraged him to lie, when he needs his companions to trust him more.

Thank you. :D

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