Characters/Pairings: Melody Pond/River Song, the Eleventh Doctor, OCs. Amy makes a brief appearance.
Word Count: 10,963.
Summary: Melody Pond was born and raised to take the Doctor's life, and now she's saved it -- not only saved it but reversed death with her own regenerations. She can't go back to where she was, but she's not sure that she can go forward. Behind her is Melody and the Silence who have made her into the perfect weapon and are now chasing after her, and in front of her is the mad, impossible Doctor who knows a woman with her face named River Song.
Author's Notes: This has been a journeystory Big Bang production! Well. It is by the far the longest thing I've ever written by myself (fiction-wise) and I quite like it. I hope you do too. This takes place after "Let's Kill Hitler" for River, and "Closing Time" for the Doctor.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything having to do with Doctor Who. If I did I would stop killing Rory.
Special Announcement: As part of the challenge, elvira_was_here did some awesome digital art for the story. I encourage you to go tell her how awesome it is either at this link here or by clicking on either the banner or the art piece. Because they really are beautiful.
Who is River Song?
That question had plagued Melody for days as she laid in the hospital. It would probably plague her for many more.
She was River Song, and she wasn't. Mostly wasn't. The Teselecta had shown her the same woman she'd seen in the mirror after being shot by Hitler. That would probably be a fun story to tell, but she realized she wasn't sure who to tell it to. That's what Amy and Rory had been for.
Of course there was the using them to get to the Doctor thing. That had definitely been the point to being there, the years of school and things her guardians weren't terribly concerned that she learn, but no matter how good Melody was at compartmentalizing, the fact that she had to compartmentalize at all was still there. Amy and Rory were there to be used, but Melody Pond also genuinely liked her parents. That part couldn't interfere with the other ninety-nine percent of her brain that was taken up by Kill the Doctor, but it was there. Tucked away in its own neat little container like a toy box.
In the ward there was a common room with large panel windows that overlooked the lush courtyard. It was beautiful, sure, but so what? Did it do anything useful? When she'd asked the nurse, she'd given Melody an 'aren't you precious' smile and said, "It relaxes patients. Fresh air is good for recovering bodies -- well." A fish with an overbite was wheeled by in a large tank with oxygen monitors attached. "Some of them."
Melody shifted in her chair again. Maybe you had to be out in the garden for it to work.
Except outside never relaxed her. It put her on high alert and made her want to run, and run like hell was on her tail and not stop until she collapsed. So it was really best that she stay indoors. Out of danger.
It sounded so boring when she thought of it like that.
She wasn't sure what to do with her ample free time until she was released (which she hoped was soon). The matron had assured her that the hospital had a number of things to occupy her, such as a library, and if she wanted she may borrow it, but that wasn't really what she'd been thinking of. Besides, leaving a record of the knowledge you'd acquired just was asking for trouble. When someone knew what you knew, they could counterattack. (Incidentally, Mels had never done well on written exams, either.)
But she did have this notebook. It was the perfect shade of TARDIS blue, and the cover was the very picture of the doors as she remembered them. Perhaps like the ship itself, it was bigger on the inside, for it was quite light for a hard-bound book of this many pages, but there would be no way to say for sure until the pages started being filled. At the moment they were all the same crisp color of an eggshell. What she was meant to fill them with, she wasn't sure.
Then again, why should she? This was a gift from the Doctor, her enemy, and if she had any sense at all she would have chucked it in the bin the second the Doctor and her parents flew away.
But Melody Pond didn't run on good common sense like most people. She ran on danger.
On the very inside cover, she fell into an old habit of doodling instead of accomplishing something. She'd written 'Who is River Song?' in a blocky print (whether new handwriting was a function of regeneration or her weakened state was yet to be determined) and had started by outlining, shading, and eventually drawing flourishes that were vaguely floral but mostly nonsense. It was a damn work of art, but she was no closer to answering the question.
Melody clicked the pen again, and wrote:
My name is Melody Pond. I am Melody after myself and Pond because my mother didn't care for Williams and my father has yet to discover how to tell her no.
Well. It was a start.
Even if the sisters are the best and this hospital is the best in the universe, I still can't wait to get out of this place -- even if I don't know where I'm going.
They drew blood again, even though I'm wary of leaving any trace that I was ever here… they're people-cats, the lot of them, it's easier to just let them have it than argue. She was nice, and chattered… a lot. She noticed I hadn't had visitors since I'd come to. More to get her to shush than anything else, I said, apropos of nothing, "My dad's a nurse."
She seemed kind of surprised I'd said anything. "Oh? Are you close with him?"
I didn't really know what to say to that.
Melody had always been quick to heal, and this was no exception. She was only in her room at the hospital to sleep, and that was usually with one eye open. She was alone, didn't have a plan, and for once was filled with doubt. Sleep was someone scarce.
One night she was returning to her room from a long, leisurely walk (as it turned out, the garden's beauty did have a kind of restorative power) and was at the far end of the corridor when she saw two people -- clerics, in uniform. She could see from the second one enter her room. Her blood turned to ice as all of her defenses automatically went up and she felt her heart begin to pound. She carefully went closer, and ducked into another room when they reemerged.
"The Bishop said she was here," the first said in a rough voice.
"Just because she wasn't in there doesn't mean she isn't in the hospital," came the answer, a calm smooth voice that put Melody on the edge -- so much so that she got reckless and peeked around the corner.
"Of course," she murmured. When you were trying to round up your assassin, sending the person who knew all their tricks was a smart thing to do. If there was someone who knew her tricks, it was Father Patrek.
They went to look for her, and she breathed again when she was sure they were gone. She had to leave, and now. For the moment, she had the upper hand. She'd regenerated, and they didn't know that yet. Except subtlety had never been Melody's strong point. To hell with Melody Pond, she thought. What would River Song do?
She looked around the room. A woman laid in the bed, comatose with monitors beeping slowly but steadily. A chest along the opposite wall was filled with medical supplies -- medications of all kinds, needles, bandages. That could be useful. She checked the side table and the wardrobe. The only thing in there was a long dress and a rather expensive looking fur coat.
A plan began to take shape. Or, at least, it resembled a plan.
In thirty seconds, she'd shed her hospital gown and the loose-fitting trousers patients wore and slid into the dress -- it was a little long, but that would hide the hospital slippers, and in a pinch she would be able to kick those off and run. In an effort to look like she was just visiting, she tied her hair back and pinched her cheeks to give them color. After considering it for a moment, she took the fur coat and placed it around her shoulders. "Sorry darling," she told the woman laying unconscious in the bed. "… Only not really."
Tucking the journal into the inner pocket of the coat, she held herself tall and took long, confident strides towards the lift. She'd almost made it when she was forced to stop short rather than run into the clerics. "Whoa. 'Scuse us," the first said, but Melody wasn't listening. All she had was a moment of horror that seemed to stretch into eternity. Even though she knew that she was different outside -- the hair, the skin, she even felt a little taller -- she was the same Melody inside, and he was going to see that.
She made herself look at Father Patrek, and maintain the eye contact. He looked the same, dark, thick hair graying and, if she were honest, otherwise as though the environment was wearing on him. She remembered him on Earth; he said England had suited him quite well, with the damp. His people were humanoid -- very close, easily passing for those who didn't look closely -- but they took moisture from the air to regulate their body temperature. In the dry, sterile hospital, he was flushing red.
He looked at her, and there was no recognition there. He touched the bill of his uniform cap and stepped aside. "Miss," he said cordially.
"My thanks," she said, and resisted clearing her throat. Instead she strode past them at a steady pace, took the lift to the ground floor, and walked out of the front doors of the hospital.
I haven't felt like this in years. In New York I knew that I had to stay hidden from the Silence -- they could find me, take me back, make me do whatever they wanted -- and there were human authorities to deal with as well. I ate what I could find, ran when there was danger, and hid. I was smart -- I am smart -- but still young and I was scared.
It was okay until winter started to arrive. Things got cold.
I held off as long as I could, but I had to regenerate. I fought it, but after six months of being hungry and edging on sick, I could no longer control it. My body overrode my will, and saved itself. By the time I woke up, I was back in the hands of the Silence.
The Hunter became the Hunted, if I may be cliché about it. It was frustrating as hell. And I think I was scared, too.
Her first step was find some cover. For that, she needed money, and that was easy enough. She literally sold the fur coat off her back. Fashion was her one indulgence and she knew she took that street vendor for a ride, selling it for that much. Money couldn't buy you happiness but it could buy you a room with a discreet landlord while you figured out what to do next, which was the next best thing for Melody.
She got some clothing that was a bit more practical for the day to day (but still fabulous), bartered for a plasma blast gun, and kept herself fed. She kept her gun at her hip, the journal in her pocket, and was always ready to run. Not to something, like usual, but away. She knew that they were coming for her -- even if she'd failed to kill the Doctor once, she was an investment they'd sunk a lot of time and effort into.
That thought chilled her. Melody Pond was a thing.
They were relentless. They would never stop. And for the first time, Melody wondered if they were wrong.
Since she was young, she'd been told that worrying about justice was not her vocation. She was not passing judgment on the Doctor; judgment had already been made, she was the means by which it was to be carried out. She was the swing of the executioner's ax, a trigger being pulled. Nothing more.
But he wasn't all what they'd said he was. Her guardians had painted the Doctor as an evil trickster, a devil with details, and all for his own glory. He'll smile as he stabs you in the back. He'll make you enjoy it, and you'll offer your breast as well and ask for more. He has run unchecked, and he destroys on a whim. He plays God. It's worse than dangerous, it's blasphemous. And -- all right, he was annoying. She could see the arrogance, even in that short time. But he was clearly able to back it up with real intelligence -- lots of people Melody knew couldn't really say the same thing.
There'd been something else in there as well, that she hadn't expected, and that was a compassion that passed understanding. She saw it when she'd been shot and could feel herself dying. Perhaps even more bafflingly, she saw it shine brighter than ever as he was dying and the Teselecta came to torture her. She'd murdered him with a kiss and he'd spent his dying minutes concerned with her. Or River Song. Maybe it was selfishness on his part.
He was just as mad and wonderful as Amy had made him out to be all these years, and then some. It scared Melody a little, and for the first time in her life, she didn't want to kill him even though every part of her rebelled at the thought.
It left her more than a little confused. So she made no move to go either forward or backward, for once staying as she was.
She made a habit of writing in the journal, about anything that occurred to her. Not usually things in the present -- she knew what her present looked like, it was understanding her past that was becoming more difficult. She wrote in short spurts, though she soon ran out of affirming statements and even before that, memories. Particularly those that she would consider happy. If she had had a happy childhood, it was incidental.
Melody continued to write anyway, and was realizing for the first time how disconnected she was from nearly everything, and how that was all by someone else's design.
It took the better part of the week for them to catch up with her. In retrospect, she wondered if that was what she wanted to happen. Being caught off her guard and taken back by force would be a way to avoid the responsibility of the decision.
On the other hand, people had been making her decisions for her whole life.
She saw them on the street from one window in the world, Patrek and the other cleric, and her fight or flight instinct kicked in. Before now, fight had always won out and now, she told herself, Flight. Go.
Gun in its holster, diary in her pocket, and her remaining money sewn into the lining of the jacket, she took her best escape route through the other window. The room's door burst inward and she looked. This time she saw the recognition in Father Patrek's face; he searched her with his eyes for the girl he'd known in the new woman in front of him. "Melody," he started slowly, in a calming tone that had no effect on her.
Melody jumped, launching herself from the window and across the narrow alley onto the neighbor's rooftop. She managed to grab on to the parapet, and pull herself up. Don't look back. First rule, you should never know what's behind you, only in front.
Like a champion hurdler, Melody ran and jumped from one roof to the next, shimmying down the drain pipe when she reached the end of the row. Nothing to do but keep running, so she took off at a dead sprint. She stopped only when she nearly ran over a man who appeared in front of her. "Stop!"
Her fighting instincts took over, and she twisted to get out of his spindly grasp and used the momentum to throw him against the nearest building. Her forearm pressed across his throat before she could do the practical thing and keep running. But the bewildered look on the smug face topped with floppy dark hair stopped her cold. "You?"
"You rang?" he said in a cheery tone that clashed with her panicked state of mind.
The Doctor was the last person she had expected to see while running away. Maybe that was her mistake. "How are you here?"
"May I?" She took away her arm, and he sighed happily. "Ah! Oxygen. I do adore it, I've grown attached these nine hundred plus years -- " He then showed her a yellow sticky note, with her handwriting -- the same handwriting she'd been putting down in the diary all week -- coordinates and a time. Here and now. "Next time maybe not a sticky note in the universe's largest stationery museum? Brings 'needle in a haystack' to a whole new dimension -- maybe you could try a needle in a haystack next time, I would be less likely to miss it -- "
"Shut up!" she interrupted. "I need -- "
"Melody!" Father Patrek called. She looked over her shoulder; he was coming with the other cleric. When she turned back, she saw her panicked look reflected on his face. Without another word, he took her by the hand and pulled her into the alley.
It was a long, narrow alley heaped with rubbish, but at the end sat the TARDIS, like the most glorious finish line in the history of races. The door snapped shut behind her, and before she even had the chance to breathe a sigh of relief, the Doctor had taken the steps up to the console two or more at a time and was preparing for take off.
The sound of a bang bang bang as they pounded on the outside of the door. "I charge you in the name of the Church, open this door!"
Next, a calmer, "Melody… Melody Pond, it's me. Think about what you're doing, love."
It was enough to give her pause. Because that was the same tone that had been her regulator her whole life. Told her wild but true stories from his world, as well as the histories and terrible fates of the people who had met with the Doctor's displeasure. Taken care of the practical matters of living in a world where they didn't belong in order to take her closer to her life's purpose -- killing the very man who stood behind her, preparing to take her away. When had things turned this far upside down?
Back at the console, the Doctor threw a switch which made the TARDIS shudder and emit a noise that made Melody wince, like nails against a chalkboard. A child of the TARDIS. She still didn't know what that meant.
They were gone now, hurtling through time and space. She turned away from the door slowly and rested her back against it. She looked up to see the doctor at the top of the steps, a diary of his own in hand. "Now, let's see," he said, "where are we?"
Father Patrek, so far as clerics went, wasn't so bad. He was kind but stern, rather firm, but I wouldn't hesitate to call him fair -- whatever that means. There are certain things that are not up for debate with Patrek, and that's fine. I only had one purpose as far as the Silence were (are) concerned, and as long as I became the assassin they wanted they didn't care about much else.
On my first day of junior school I got in trouble at recess for breaking Trina Cole's finger, because she told me I couldn't jump rope. Then I told her she'd let me play or I was going to strangle her with it. "MISS! TEACHER! DID YOU HEAR MELODY ZUCKER?" she screeched from our corner of the playground, with her finger pointing at me. Told her if she didn't stop waving that thing in my face I'd break it. She didn't. So I did.
As we sat in the head teacher's and listened to him go on about how violence was not acceptable, blah blah blah, I wasn't too worried. The school couldn't do anything to me, not really, and I'd done it so cleanly, Patrek would have to be impressed. I was sent home for the day, and was to return the next with a letter of apology to Trina. Again. I wasn't worried.
But we started walking home, and he said nothing, his mouth simply set in a hard line as we walked down the lane. "She was being a whinging brat, she really was," I said.
"You have to learn restraint, Melody," he said without looking at me. It was almost worse than if he had; it was like he couldn't even lower himself to do that much. "We haven't trained you so that you can decimate the playground at Leadworth Junior School. You are more important than that. Compared to the Doctor, that girl is a speck in this magnificent universe. He can do more damage with a word than she will manage in her whole life. Picking your fights is just as important as winning them. Did that bring you any closer to completing our mission?"
"No," I answered glumly. Somehow I knew better than to add "But she started it," even if she did.
"From now on, before you overpower someone, I want you to assess the situation more closely and keep in mind our goal: a universe free of the Doctor. Can you do that, Mels?"
He was so reasonable. It was how a father asks a daughter correct her behavior. "Yeah," I said. "Do I -- "
"You still have to write the letter," he affirmed, and I suppose that made sense. Making more waves than necessary would blow our cover in a big way, but that sure was going to be dull.
On the upside, none of the other girls told me I couldn't play with them ever again.
Two synchronized timelines and one argument later ("No, you have to leave me the exact same note. It's a causality loop. I know I said -- I meant… never mind. Spoilers."), they landed on an unsettled planet in the Pegasus quadrant. The beach looked like any on Earth, save for water the color of fire. "It's the seaweed and algae," he said."The water's like any other water."
"I don't suppose that explains the blue sand," she said.
"No, that's the blue chalcedony. Millions of years ago, this was all volcanoes," he explained with an expansive gesture. "Wears down over time."
"I took earth sciences, I know how sand happens," she said. "I slept through a lot of it, but I did take it."
He laughed softly, and she smiled too. This was nice. Quiet. No clerics. "So. Friends of yours?"
"Should've known you weren't going to stay shut up," she said, watching the water.
"Melody Pond, going rogue?" he guessed, and it hit at some place very close to her heart. "Well if that's what you're up to it's very exciting, and you've done a very good job. Soliciting the man you're supposed to kill for help and dashing off with him."
Was he making fun of her? A quick glance told her maybe. He was wearing a boyish grin, willing her to smile along. She looked away again, but it was too late and her mouth had begun to twitch upward. "Stop it," she said.
"The things great stories are made of!" he continued.
"Are we a great story, then?" she said.
"A complicated one, no doubt," he agreed and added, "Spoilers."
"Spoilers," he replied by way of confirmation. "I know things about your future. If I tell, you could change them and they may never happen -- at least, not the same way."
"Nothing about those things you'd change? Well," she said. "I must become very dull and well-behaved."
His smile told her that he wasn't going to say anymore either way. "I only wish you weren't trying to kill me," he said.
"Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly," she replied dryly. If he hadn't said anything she could have continued to silence the voice in her head that told her to get rid of him, and exactly the best way to do it.
On the other hand, it seemed sort of anticlimactic for the Doctor to end here on a beach of an uninhabited planet, with no one to see it. If the Doctor dies and no one is around to see it, is he still dead?
On a third hand, who cared? They never said she needed an audience to get rid of him. Her arm trembled, wanting the blaster in her hand and her finger on the trigger.
"You're not a bird and you're not a fish, Melody," he said in a calm tone that put her even more on edge. "If anything, you're more like a wolf who has been trained to hunt only one kind of prey, and doesn't know it can eat squirrels and rabbits and… whatever else it is that wolves eat."
"Hungry like the wolf. I like it," she said, a bit flirtatious. "You know that analogy makes you the squirrel and still being eaten, right?"
"I didn't say it was a perfect analogy," he excused airily. "My point still stands. Everyone has choices, and you are no different. You made a choice when you walked out of the hospital -- you gave the poor sisters a collective heart attack, you know, it's a good thing they're all medical professionals; you made another one just now by coming with me, and if the movement in your hand is any indication, you are currently making the conscious choice to not shoot me where I stand." He paused. "Thank you, by the way."
"How did you know about the hospital?" was the only reaction she had for that.
"Please. As though I wasn't going to keep tabs on my favorite psychopath," he said fondly. "I know about the hospital and I know that you must know one if not both of those clerics, because that look -- " His hand raised and it stopped, as though he were going to touch her face and thought better of it. She almost wished he had (while a small bit of her said go ahead, try it, I'll break it off). "Is the look of someone who was caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Not someone who's called her friends for a lift."
Her mouth was so dry she felt as though someone had stuck a wad of cotton in there. "Father Patrek was my parent in Leadworth. I mean. The adult, who dealt with the school, and things, and made me… inconspicuous," she said. "My father, I guess."
"Rory is your father," the Doctor said, still quiet but in his way, threaded with a fierce, steely loyalty for his friend.
"I used to put crickets down his shirt to make him scream. I watched him eat paste once on a dare. I know who he is but believe it or not it's hard to reconcile the two."
"… That's fair," he conceded.
"Patrek didn't… I mean…" Emotions were complicated on the best of days, and when they were somewhat new and so big, all the more so. "First time I regenerated was in New York. I'd gotten away from them, and… it's fuzzy, but when I can start remembering things… he was there. And I don't remember much, but everything I remember about him is…" What was the word? Not good. Or it shouldn't be. But not bad. A kind of good that was distanced and she knew that she maybe shouldn't feel good about her memories of Father Patrek.
"Why don't you remember?" he asked. He was really asking, this was not an exercise in thinking out loud.
Her mouth went dry and she tried to swallow, but found it to be more effort than the escape she'd just pulled off. "I just don't."
"Is that code for 'I don't want to talk about it' or a not code for 'I don't know'?"
"It's fuzzy," she repeated. He was now pacing up and down the shoreline, with the water lapping at the sides of his boots. "If I try -- "
"You regenerated in New York, what before then?" Now it was all him, talking to himself. "You were small still, clever and more important a mature intelligence, like a Time Lord, but still young. You escaped the Silence, and…" His hands waved in the air, as though to pick the words and ideas he needed right out of the air. "You'd been at the orphanage, and escaped. Their perfect little weapon -- of course."
He stopped in his tracks, a few feet in front of her, a gawky silhouette with long limbs, and that stupid hair and goddamned bowtie. "You made your choice to run away. What do you do with people you need to control and use when they disobey you? Reeducate them."
It was the answer she knew had been coming, because it was a given. Reeducation, that was a very tame term for brainwashing by any means necessary. "I know that happened. But I don't know how."
"It doesn't matter if you remember, your body remembers," he said. "Your body remembers, but your mind has closed off that memory, probably for your own safety." She hated the look on his face at that moment. It was guilt, and shame, and anger all tied together with the same combative love that had made him beg her to help him save her parents.
Then suddenly, there was the feeling that she was pitching forward and the stinging taste of bile rising in her throat. She fought the nausea as long as she could, and retched before finally vomiting. Puny things like illness didn't happen to Melody Pond. Weakness of the body started as a weakness of the mind. Or maybe it was the other way around. It was hard to know or care when you were on your knees in the sand like a cat in its box.
Melody spat one last time before she determined that she was done, and his hand fell to her shoulder. "Better out than in. And at least we weren't in the TARDIS. I'm not sure how well that floor would take sick," he added thoughtfully.
He may have been kidding, but she was about to rip his arm off and beat him to death with it just because it would be fun. "Off me," she said simply, and he carefully backed away a respectful distance. The sigh of relief when he did so was audible. She crawled the short distance across the sand to sit in the shade cast by the TARDIS, her back against the sturdy exterior.
Apparently satisfied that she wouldn't be able to kill him in such a weakened state, he sat down beside her, his long legs sprawled out in front of him. "Let's forget it for a bit," he said. "You and me. Let's find something to do that isn't homicide."
"Or at least where I can make it look like an accident." Silence. "Kidding." Kind of.
"I'll take my chances," he replied, and picked up her hand to pull her to stand. "Come on! Stroll down the beach, girls like that kind of thing, right? This planet also has some spectacular caves."
Contemplating what would come next had served her almost as well as dwelling on the past. Maybe simply existing in the present would be enough for the moment. "Then show me," she said, and they took off down the beach at a run.
When I was twelve I had a bout of rebellion -- not towards the school, that had never really stopped. My rebellion was against Patrek, the Silence, and their mission.
At this age I could join an after school football team. Amy and Rory were both keen to do it -- well, Amy wanted to, which meant that Rory wanted to. I wanted to, too. More time with my parents, my friends, and I thought Patrek would allow it -- after all, physical activity kept me strong, and it may teach me discipline. I knew that was bollocks but it sounded like the kind of argument he would buy. The day the permission slips were handed out, I marched right home, and put the brightly colored paper in front of him. "Sign," I said.
"Sign what?" he asked without looking up from his tablet.
"… Sign please?"
"No, I mean what is it," he clarified patiently, this time sparing a glance for the slip. "Football?"
"The game depends on mental and physical agility and speed as well as stamina, and being on a team would -- "
Any other child would be disappointed but I felt heat creeping up my neck. "Why not?" I demanded hotly.
"You already surpass any of those children in those areas and you know it," he replied. "It wouldn't be a fair match."
"You're not concerned about a fair match," I accused him. "You just don't want me to have fun. I do everything you want me to -- what about what I want to do?"
"What about what any of us want to do?" he returned. I hated it when he did that, turned the question back on you. "Your existence holds a higher purpose and that means sacrifices. You are going to be the savior of a hundred worlds or more by getting rid of the Doctor, and you want to spend afternoons and every other Saturday playing football?"
"Yes," I retorted frostily.
"Well, I won't allow it. My task is to guide you and while you may not take it seriously, I do. You'll thank me later."
"Want to bet on that?" I muttered darkly.
He gave me a sharp look for that. "Now take that away. I don't want to see it again."
I snatched up the permission slip and took it away. And he didn't see it again, because I forged a signature and handed it in to the teacher the next day. A week later, on the first day of practice, our P.E. teacher began leading us in some drills in kicking, passing, all the things you work on when you're playing football. We weren't that great -- but it was so much fun. It was perfect.
When the practice was over, Amy's dad was waiting for her, and Rory's mum was there for him -- and Patrek was waiting for me. He was not amused, to say the least. The walk home took forever, and I just kept waiting for him to say something, anything. Even as we reached our front door, he hadn't said anything. The suspense was unbearable.
I can't tell you why, but to this day the very mention of football makes me break out into a cold sweat.
"That was mental!" the Doctor cheered as the TARDIS door shut behind him. "Totally brilliant all the same, but still -- " His feet in his boot squelched with every step up to the console, leaving a trail of seawater behind him. He somehow managed not to slip and crack his head open. Melody followed him up, also dripping with a soft pat pat pat. Suddenly, he stopped and turned. "Sorry! Towel. There should be one… over in the Stuff."
She looked where he motioned, a pile of folded blankets, cold weather gear, and other miscellanea. "Or hanging over the rail," she said, upon looking back. Two white, fluffy towels which had not been there before offered a sort of domestic cheer to the console room.
The Doctor spun to look, and scoffed. "There's the old girl, showing off again, aren't you dear?" His tone is scolding but affectionate, and he pats the console fondly. "Oh she likes you, she usually makes me get my own towel."
Melody picked one up and began to wring out her hair into it. "Are you often in need of a towel on spur of the moment?" she asked.
"More often than you would think," he replied. He began to towel dry his own hair, although apparently grew bored with it rather quickly as it wasn't dry when he stopped, more like they'd taken a toaster oven with them when they jumped into the ocean. "I swear she'll hide them all just to watch me wander from room to room. Sometimes I've dried out completely before I even manage to find one.
She laughed, but weirdly, she also felt the TARDIS laugh. If a ship could laugh. It was in the air, and in her mind, and it made Melody stop for a moment. The real kick came from the smile on the Doctor's face, though. It was his usual boyish smile, but imbued with something indescribable -- temporary relief from something so intensely painful that even she was immediately sympathetic. "You can hear her too," he said.
"Seems like." The telepathic connection was calming, like holding hands. "You called me child of the TARDIS," she said after a moment. "That was why I could fly her."
"That's why she told you how to fly her," he said. "Maybe could tell you, I'm not sure. But you, since you were literally made in the TARDIS, that's where the psychic connection began, and those are strongest, you know," he finished, tapping her forehead smartly. For a moment she thought he might say something else, but instead he squeaked his way to the other side of the console and began throwing levers.
"Child of the TARDIS," she murmured to herself, twisting the damp towel in her hands. "Is that why…"
"Why your genetic material spontaneously modified itself into a Time Lord's? One can only guess. But my guess is yes, that is why it happened." He busied himself on the other side, where he was not quite glancing over at her and getting ready to throw them back into the vortex, flicking a last, yellow-handled lever down before he moved away.
Don't let him throw the yellow one. It isn't needed, just gums things up and it plays the most awful electronica music in forty-two percent of my rooms.
Melody immediately acted, putting the lever back up with a sproing. The Doctor leaned around the column to give her a Look. "She says you don't need it and it plays electronic in almost half your rooms."
"Does it? Why don't you ask her if it's so awful why she keeps downloading more?"
"She thought it was the new Beatles album," she said as soon as the answer was made to her. Pause. "But they broke up in -- "
"She exists in all parts of Space and Time at once. The last Beatles album will come out yesterday, today, tomorrow, and ten years from now for her," he said, and pressed a button, which made the ship lurch as the engines gave a sudden start. They were flying into the vortex. Melody watched on the monitors as planets and stars and everything and everyone on them seemed to melt and fall away as they moved beyond that. "Back to reality now?" he checked lightly.
'Reality' was such a relative term these days, she didn't know how to answer that for a moment. "Well. You did promise me caves," she said.
"It's not my fault we landed a million and a half years before the chalcedony caves even started formation!" he argued. "Fine. You want caves? I can do caves. Hold on!"
When we were in secondary, there was a day trip to the British Museum in London. I was excited to go. I know it may seem a little out of character, but something enthralled me about museums -- as someone who had more lives than others and your average housecat and much fewer attachments, I was fascinated with how humans held on to the old.
We had barely started; we were in the Parthenon frieze room, and I was already gone, examining every inch of that marble décor. "Doesn't it freak you out to think that anyone who ever worked on this is dead and has been for thousands of years?" I asked Amy.
"Um, not really." Amy looked only slightly more interested than the rest of the children in the class.
"Well think of the things you do, where will they be in a thousand years?" I pressed. "Every one of these people had a life, like you and me, and wives and kids and the whole lot. We don't even know anything about them. All we know is that these nameless, faceless people made the marble frieze that went around the top of the Parthenon."
"Seriously, Mels -- "
"Oh shut it," I said, and turned back to the marble frieze. "I wonder if the Doctor's been there."
"Probably tons," Amy said, a little more interested in the conversation now. "If you could go anytime and anywhere, why wouldn't you go to Greece?"
"… Unless you wanted to go to Egypt and make a mummy," I said. "Come on! Let's find Rory and go sneak in to that exhibition."
I break away, and she marches after me. "Just so we're clear, you were joking about stealing one, right? Mels?"
For awhile, Melody was laughing too hard to say anything. "You -- your -- your face!"
Even though she was laughing, the Doctor was rather put out. "I didn't say anything! But that tour guide was being rather rude!"
"You were interrupting him, Sweetie."
"But he was wrong!"
"Why did you even say anything? Why did you join a tour group?"
"They seemed charming," he said defensively.
"You liked the lady's hat," she replied.
"I was paying her a simple compliment," he said. "I didn't know her other head was jealous and was going to cause a kerfuffle."
"You're probably a better tour guide anyway," she said. The caves were dim -- some kind of plant life that grew on the roof of the cavern cast a blue light, leeching water and nutrients from the soil above. She must have been getting sentimental in her old age, because otherwise she wouldn't be thinking seriously about taking him by the front of his jacket and snogging him without some kind of endgame.
"Well. I have been here before. I think," he conceded. "'Course, that was a visit to the surface -- "
"Then you have to show me." She pulled on his arms, and pressed herself close.
"I -- River -- "
He hadn't called her that since she found out that she was River, and she liked it. "Come on. Or I'll just have to go exploring by myself, and you wouldn't want that…" she sing songed as she drew back and crept towards the fork in the natural corridor the tour group had not continued down.
"Are you making a threat?" He sounded amused.
"Oh, Doctor, we both know I don't make threats."
"No, I suppose in your case it would be more like 'fair warning'," he replied dryly, but he did follow her.
She'd been right -- the Doctor's tour was better, even if he tended to paraphrase what appeared in the cave paintings. "Well this is… clearly a celebration honoring…"
"You don't know, do you," she said.
"No, I do! Look. They've -- they've put that bloke in the highest place."
"Right above a fire." She pointed to the flames, where the orange paint was flaking.
"Ah. Yes." He scratched his head, and she laughed again. "Well. Who's to say the highest honor isn't being burned? It's a little… arcane, but their culture all the same."
"I do love the way you analyze ancient civilization." For a cool, underground cave she was quite warm, and she gripped the front of his jacket to pull him to her and kiss him roughly. He didn't resist and this only encouraged her. She backed him into the wall, and she rested her hands on either side of him. The only sensations worth anything to her in the moment were his lips on hers and the cool rock beneath her hands.
Moreover, he kissed back. "Are you trying to kill me again?" he breathed.
She could. In the second after he said that, three or four different ways to do it came to mind, and she pushed them all back, her fingers digging into the wall. "Not on purpose," she promised.
"You would say so," he said, and kissed her again, this time his fingers digging into her hips as he held her tightly.
She remained wonderfully lost in the kiss until she heard the distinct click of a gun ready to fire. "All right, Melody. That's enough."
No. What was Patrek doing here? There was an awful moment just after pulling away where the look on the Doctor's face was one of naked betrayal. Of course he thought that, she was supposed to be his death. But then his face changed; her thoughts must have been showing.
"And keep your hand off your gun until I can be sure you're going to use it on the right man," Patrek continued.
This time she looked and squinted as her eyes adjusted to the harsh light of his torch -- and then drew her gun anyway. "You can't shoot either of us, Patrek," she said.
"You know just as well as I do that shooting isn't the same as killing," he retorted steadily.
"Okay, right. I don't see why there's a need for guns at all," the Doctor interrupted.
"This is not a kill mission, Doctor, it is recovery," Patrek said coldly without looking at him. "Although if I got rid of you I suppose that they wouldn't punish me too severely for disobeying orders."
"Ah yes, recovery," the Doctor spat out, becoming contemptuous. "Of your prized weapon, no doubt."
"Melody Pond was born to restore peace," Patrek said, with almost no inflection.
"Melody Pond was born for no such thing!" the Doctor exploded. Melody had never heard so much fury come out of one person. "Melody Pond was born to be with her parents, to wake them up at six sharp on Saturdays and Christmas morning, for her mother to teach how to ride bikes and -- and girl things, and cry on her father's shoulder when she was hurt. She was born for them to love and you stole her!"
"You're lucky I have orders, Doctor," Patrek said in a low tone that scraped down Melody's back like an icicle.
"You're lucky I don't believe in killing people on sight," he shot back.
"You may yet have your day to do that, but today Melody is coming with me," he said.
"No. I'm not," she said, finding her voice. The Doctor was suddenly back at her side, close. The silent show of trust bolstered her confidence, and she steadied her arm as she kept her weapon leveled at Patrek.
"Melody. No one is angry about what happened." It was the calm, soothing voice, the one that had given the occasional soft touch when it was needed. "Mistakes happen."
"Not to me. I'm the perfect weapon, remember?" Was that shame creeping in? Shame for saving the Doctor's life, when she'd been so grateful she'd done it only minutes ago.
"River, listen," the Doctor murmured to her. "You have the power here. He won't hurt you, and they can't hurt you as long you keep making the decision to remain in control."
"Well, he's right about one thing, Mels," Patrek broke in. "I'm not supposed to hurt you, but they never said I couldn't shoot him." He aimed for the Doctor.
"Again, with the shooting!" the Doctor cried.
"Oh please, you'll regenerate. You'll get over it," he snapped.
"Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt."
"Forget it, Patrek," Melody said, breaking in. "I won't do it, I'm not coming. I'm not going to kill the Doctor."
She wasn't sure why she was shocked when Patrek laughed -- until she realized she'd never heard him laugh before, at least not like this. A polite chuckle in short conversation with the Pond or Williams parents, but never like he'd actually heard something that was funny. It was a kind of cruel laugh. "You can't cheat fate so easily, girl."
"Time can be rewritten," the Doctor said immediately.
"Not this one, Time Lord, and you know that." He began advancing, closing the ten or so feet between them. "and she can't shoot me now -- not when she's trying so hard to impress you, Doctor."
"Watch me," she snapped, blushing. She could shoot Patrek if she had to. Right? "Stop!"
"I suppose despite our best efforts, he cuts a rather dashing figure, doesn't he?" Patrek asked rhetorically. "Your mother thought so, certainly. She had some very romantic thoughts in her head -- "
"Don't you dare speak about Amy to her -- " Melody froze -- a first, she couldn't remember a time when she hadn't been able to function. The Doctor picked up the slack, unexpectedly cutting between her and Patrek.
More quickly than a flash of lightning, Patrek hit the Doctor across the face with his gun -- hard enough to knock him out and put him on the ground, and had Melody pinned against the wall of the cave. He bent her wrist back until she lost her grip on her gun, and it clattered away. "I am not kidding around here, Melody," he growled. "Now you can come with me, or I can take you back. It's your call."
"No," she gasped, struggling only briefly. Melody was strong but Patrek was stronger, and had as much give as the wall behind her. Reassess, Melody. Discipline. Her panic calmed long enough to do just that, and then she put herself into action. "I -- I'm sorry."
He relaxed his hold, only slightly. Not enough for her to move. "We know what happened in Berlin, Melody." It was the calming tone again, but she heard it differently this time. More like a thin layer of oil, to keep her from squeaking.
"I'm sorry," she repeated. "It was just… with Amy and Rory there, and the regeneration… I didn't think…"
"No, you didn't," he said, irritatingly reassuring. Condescending, even. Like she was still a child. "But now you've seen how dangerous he is -- he nearly separated you from your purpose! You!"
"I know." She did her best to sound defeated. Contrite. "I'm sorry, can we -- go now? Before he wakes up?" He was so close to giving her enough space to maneuver.
"Do you one better." He backed away, and held his gun out to her. She took it wordlessly, the metal warm in her hand. "Go on."
The Doctor was still motionless on the floor of the cave. It would be the easiest thing in the world to empty the clip into him, ending his life before he had the chance to regenerate. Her finger tightened on the trigger, and her stomach clenched involuntarily as well.
"Sorry," she said, and shot Patrek instead -- once in the stomach and once in each knee. The look on his face would have been comical, betrayal mingled with surprise, except she didn't feel much like laughing. He wasn't going anywhere without some serious help.
"You're a selfish, stupid girl, Melody Pond," he swore through gritted teeth.
"Maybe," she agreed. Her hand was steady, but her voice shook with the effort it had taken her to resist the programming. "But you did at least one thing right. Because I don't feel anything, looking at you right now."
"You can still fix this," he said. "If I have to die here then so be it, but you think the Doctor -- "
"The Doctor didn't seem too keen on you. I don't think he'll be sorry to hear about your death," she replied.
"You're right about that. A man of war who pretends to love peace rarely has something nice to say about a cleric. Or a live wire like you."
He's in your head, Melody. Don't listen. "The Doctor knows what I am. He doesn't care."
"Is that what you think?" He laughed roughly. "Hypocrisy and lies are his coin, Melody. But then, so are yours. Maybe we fashioned him the perfect mate rather than the perfect weapon to destroy him."
"Watch your mouth of I'll let you bleed out instead of putting a bullet in your brain," Melody said in a tone as hard as diamonds; if the words could have cut her mouth coming out, they would have.
"Oh, mercy, yes. The Doctor will be pleased with that," Patrek snarled. He propped himself up on his hands with enough speed that she raised the gun again. "Go on! Do it! Do you think it will end here, with me? You can kill me, but there are hundreds more. Thousands, who know the Doctor's true measure, and yours. They won't stop, they will tread right past me to find you and bring you back. I am insignificant."
"Shut up, Patrek," Melody snapped. "The Doctor may not be perfect, but he has given me a chance -- a choice. Every time." She crouched close, and held on to the lapel of his uniform jacket. She could see the blood staining his teeth as he bared them in a part snarl, part grimace. "I'm a person. Not a weapon."
He leaned up again, toward her, the best that he could. The pain must be becoming almost unbearable. "You keep telling yourself that. But no matter what happens, Melody, between you and him or in the rest of the universe, there will be a day when you are forced to kill him." He'd gone incredibly pale. "And what then, Melody? What do you think the Silence will do with you?"
The pronouncement, so certain, like a prophecy of doom, chilled her blood and gave her that hollow feeling in her throat that came just before vomiting. "I guess you never will find out." She put the muzzle of the gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.
Patrek went immediately slack, falling back on the ground and going still before the echo of the gunshot had died away. There was then an eerie silence that seemed to extend for ages. But Melody was relieved.
"River?" The soft, questioning tone of her name -- one of her names -- made her jump. She turned back to look; the doctor was sitting up, a bit dazed and his bowtie askew, but the angry bruise where Patrek had hit him was already fading to yellow.
She couldn't look at him any longer than those few seconds. "I don't think River is here at the moment," she managed tightly, certainly not about to cry.
"River -- don't -- " He moved slowly, coming closer, probably as near as he dared.
"I killed him." She felt removed from the situation. Like she should feel badly, and living up to higher moral standards than she'd ever had before. Instead, Patrek's words about the Silence engineering the Doctor's perfect mate crossed her mind again. She pushed it away; how would he have known, anyway? "We should go back to the TARDIS and get out of here. We're not so deep in that someone won't have heard that."
The Doctor didn't answer immediately. After a moment he assented with a nod, and said, "All right."
Kill him. Do it now. All it had taken for that instinct to kick back in was one kill. Maybe that was all she could do and all she was good for. Maybe it was all she knew how to do: destroy, kill, and be grossly efficient about it.
She ignored it. They left Patrek in the cave, as though by leaving him there she could leave the voice in her head with him. Instead, all that had changed was that the voice now sounded like him and had some new things to taunt her with.
I was always, a thousand percent sure that if I ever met the Doctor, I'd like him. I'd still have to kill him, but it wouldn't be anything personal. I thought maybe it would be exciting to come face to face with him, the Oncoming Storm, Destroyer of Worlds, Great Warrior. I'd had the opportunity to know both sides.
Amy showed me a Doctor that was silly, gawky and unproportional in all her drawings. For a long time I imagined the day I finally met him, he would be the perfect image of her crayon drawings -- and I have to admit, she did him justice. Perhaps he was such an odd-looking person that he couldn't help but be drawn truthfully by a small child. Her Doctor was kind, helpful, and understanding. Fun.
The Doctor I knew from Patrek was a cruel man. Clever, and sly. He seemed affable and unthreatening, but his wrath was awful and unpredictable. And he always preferred a slow torture to a death. He could change history and Time with almost little more than a snap of his fingers, and he did. He was mad, bad, and had a dangerous streak a mile wide.
I couldn't help, at times, think about how much I wished I knew someone else who had that kind of darkness. Like mine.
The Doctor gave her space back on the TARDIS. Since he not only let her back on board but was being so hospitable, she tried not to harbor the awful homicidal thoughts anymore and instead worked to be a blank slate.
She took a long, hot shower in the most insanely luxurious bathroom she'd ever seen, and after scrubbing herself pink, she wrapped herself in a dressing gown made of the softest material she'd ever felt. The next logical step was to fall into the large bed in the adjoining bedroom. It was adorned with a voluminous duvet and more pillows than she had ever seen in one place. "Thank you," she murmured to the TARDIS. The only response was an all-encompassing feeling of well-being, like a hug from someone you love very much.
She didn't know how long she'd been asleep when she finally woke up, but she was for once wholly relaxed and felt the blissful sort of nothing that comes just as you wake up and don't have to think about getting out of bed.
Once she rolled over, she wished she hadn't -- there on the other side of the bed laid the Doctor, still fully clothed, jacket and all. "Oh, good. You're awake."
She didn't know how to respond to that. "… Yeah," she finally agreed. "Now you can drop me off."
"And keep my friends closer than my enemies?" he quipped. She pulled a face, and he responded, "Sorry, sorry. The old girl told me you wouldn't like that one. All I mean is you were asleep a long time."
"Microwave popcorn takes a long time for you, darling," she said, and while she can't keep from being fond there's also a little bit of scathing truth.
"Only the kind that cooks over the stove. Although that's not microwave, so I suppose your point still stands," he rambled. He grew serious. "I need to know you're okay before I just drop you somewhere to cause trouble."
"I'm fine." It was half a lie; she felt better physically, but everything else inside was still a jumbled mess. "And there won't be trouble."
"Say what you like, only don't lie. Your middle name should be trouble," he said dryly. Silence settled over them, until he added, "Just as well. If you hadn't killed him I don't know that I would have been able to resist."
"And make him right?" she said. "You hate it when someone else is right."
"No, I'm quite fine with someone else being right. Being wrong myself would be a more accurate assessment. The Silence has already declared war on me, why not return the gesture? Besides," he said, "I can think of nothing worse than a universe where people who kidnap a child and raise it like a thing get anything less than what they deserve."
His eyes went dark with anger, and his tone shook with suppressed rage. Melody reached for his hand quite suddenly, and though he seemed surprised at first, he held on in return. "People are not weapons," he continued, "least of all children. Their lives were all forfeit the second they took you from your mother's arms."
Suddenly, she saw the danger in the Doctor, the Oncoming Storm. "It's over," she said suddenly. "It's just -- over. They won't know me fully like this. And none of them will look twice at River Song. After all, she's got to be respectable right? She sounds it. A far cry from Melody Pond."
"Let me tell you something about River Song," he started in a tone that made her shut up and listen."I don't know what kind of image it is that you've been having, but River has a reason for what she does. She makes her own choices, whether that is to kill or show mercy. She makes her own choices. Not because of the Silence, or me, or anyone else." Then, he leaned over and kissed her, for once making the first move, and for an exhilarating moment she would have sworn that her heart stopped.
He broke away much too soon, apparently flustered and surprised at himself. "And. That's all," he concluded.
"Well that's more like it," she said, fairly sure the tingling in her lips was not poison. "Anything else?"
"Oh stop and get over here," he said, kissing her again. Soon, the dressing gown and bowtie were discarded to the floor in favor of less restrictive and more fun states of dress.
I would sometimes get confused when Amy started telling me about a dream she had. What was that?
"You know," she said, her accent elongating the vowels. "The things in your head while you sleep. Like… stories, or pictures or whatever."
"No," I said. I had never had a dream. I went to sleep with nothing in my head, slept with nothing, and awoke with nothing. There were none of these mysterious stories and pictures for me as I slept.
Confusion came even more when I got old enough to be asked what my hopes and dreams were. Why did the teacher care about what went through my head at night while I slept? "No, not those sorts of dreams, dear," she replied patiently. "What do you want to be when you grow up? Best case scenario, what would you like to happen?"
That left me startled as well. I had a purpose, a directive, ordained by some universal almighty in His (or Her) infinite wisdom, which I had been told time and again was bigger than myself, bigger than Father Patrek, bigger than anything else. I didn't feel anything at that moment, but I've started to feel cheated as of late. I have never wanted anything for myself. I've only known following orders.
Maybe it's time to fix that.
It was another day by her estimation before she prepared to leave the TARDIS again. Rigoroid Five was as good a planet as any -- by the 52nd century, it was quite literally a planet made of one giant city. More people lived there than just about anywhere else per square foot.
"Yes, but the -- the pollution," the Doctor said. "Worse smog since humans left earth. Are you sure?"
"It's the perfect place to get lost," she said. "And besides, if I stay now, that's hardly any fun."
"Oh, who says," he said in a bad temper, looking like a sulking child.
She stepped up to him and smirked. "You've never heard of the thrill of the chase?" she asked innocently.
"Oh, there's River Song all right," he said.
She continued to smile and gave him a peck on the lips. "Keep an eye out for me, my love. I expect we'll see each other soon enough?"
He smiled a bit grimly; there was more he wanted to say, but when he uttered, "Spoilers," she knew he could not. That would be that, then.
"You stay out of trouble," she wished him cheerily, descending to the door of the TARDIS.
"You stay out of trouble," he returned. "And be careful."
She turned to look back at him. "Oh, Sweetie," she said in a saccharine tone. "Again… where is the fun in that?"
He shook his head. "Now go."
She blew him a kiss, and stepped out of the TARDIS doors to the busy street. It was one of the nicer business districts of Rigoroid Five. She managed to fit right in with most of the women walking, the main difference being her long coat, which held everything she needed. As she walked away, her shoes clicked against the pavement and she heard the TARDIS noise as it disappeared to the Doctor's next adventure.
After a short walk, she found the building she was looking for. She gracefully climbed the stairs to the front door, and smiled at the doorman when he opened the large glass door for her. He blushed, a hand on the brim of his cap, and she kept walking.
She stopped at the front desk, where a young woman gave her a bright smile and said, "Welcome to the Corean Hotel and Casino! Can I help you with something today?"
"I'm sure you can, dear," she answered, returning the smile with a demure little smirk as she glanced over the top of her sunglasses. "River Song, checking in."