Characters/pairing: River, Eight (River/Doctor, River/Eight)
Rating/Wordcount: PG, ~700
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.
Summary: The Doctor is dead. On Karn, of all places. River always knows and she's always there.
A/N: This is a missing scene from Night of the Doctor, so you kind of really have to have seen that. (Put River in all the episodes!) For flowsoffire, who is always brilliant. ♥
Note on warnings: Not really sure what to warn for, so I'm choosing not to, but -- Eight is technically dead, fic is somewhat shippy.
The Doctor is dead.
No one challenges her, speaks to her, looks twice at her. So easy, always was, Melody Pond Mels Malone River Song steals some robes and rubs some tangles into her hair and smudges her eyeliner and joins the back of the crowd.
The whole thing would have been terribly boring if she wasn’t quite taken; it was mostly a relief at this point, invisibility.
They’re not on Trenzalore or by Lake Silencio and it isn’t in battle nor by her hand, like the stories used to go, but on Karn, of all places. Crashed spaceship. The impact. No time to regenerate. He’s not surrounded by family or friends or even fans, but the Sisterhood of Karn. This has always happened, though, before the game she was made for was ever invented. It had taken him, her Doctor, a very long time to tell her, but now she knows she has to see it. She knows what’s going to happen, too (she always knows), but it’s living history; she’s an archeaologist, it’s what she does.
They’re taking him from the wreckage of the ship, four women carrying the stretcher, everyone else wielding torches. (Not River, though; she’d engage in every bit of non-conformity she could to please him, even when he was dead.)
The walk is an utterly quiet one and sombre as a funeral march, discounting the tinge of elation in the others’ body language. His head’s lolling from side to side as they climb closer to the crest of the hill, to the temple, and she’s too far away to do anything. She's very possibly limping in response, favouring him like a sprained ankle, even now before he was broken.
They’re not very careful, dumping him on the ground like a bag of bones; a restoration project; half on the stretcher and half on the floor. He gets only one torch for company, a fragrant one keeping lonely vigil and sucking at the oxygen. He was a corpse, after all, and logic prevailed: the Sisterhood, too, were Gallifreyan at their core. River almost wants to be found out, if only to see if they would be fooled by the beats of her double hearts.
Karn isn’t time locked. Karn isn’t burnt or frozen or lost. This isn’t a fixed point, either, but important so important.
While the Sisters rush off to brew their science, she kneels by his side. The Doctor is dying, please, please help.
He’s extinct in her time, this Doctor. The Eighth and last of the ones who ran for no reason, just because they could. Oh, he’s the same, of course, the very same, but he’s not regretting, not burying, not overthinking, not hating.
This man does not yet need a weapon to stop him. He’s not the War Doctor for fourteen whole minutes.
She’s not-quite touching the sweat and engine oil coating his temple, not quite wiping it off with a piece of her robes. (Who’s done this, he’d think, the Sisterhood were never big on small favours and don’t mention big ones, and so she leaves it be, to cool and curl his hair.)
She touches his arm instead, brushes the wear and tear of a thousand small defeats and a thousand smaller victories; there’s not a reaction from one single cell, not a single mitochondrial tremble. Not even her Doctor would have been able to fake it that well, especially not under her touch.
When he has just over seven minutes of life left, and River knows they’ll come for him very soon, to revive him and let him make his choice, she kisses him. It’s painfully familiar; him still and sprawling, her bowing her head. Her kiss of life is of no use this time; she has nothing left to pour into him, nothing except a gnawing realisation of the true depletion of her regeneration energy. His lips are cold, his cheek stubbled, and his mind is silent. I’m sorry my love, she thinks, and straightens his neckwear, just a fraction – it’s the principle of the thing.
She could steal him, steal away with him into the vortex, every dead hair on his head intact, but without this ending, this new beginning, she’d never have her Doctor. (Hers gets younger all the time, fuller of face and brighter of wardrobe and easier to enthuse, but sadder. It must mean she’s getting older.)
This dead man was going to be older, too, very soon and very quickly. At least he’ll tell himself that; that’s what he told her. The Doctor no more.
She’ll stay, of course, to see him choose. She’s killed him and revived him; she’ll see him reborn.
This entry was originally posted at http://honeynoir.dreamwidth.org/178903.h