Fandom: Doctor Who
Rating: PG (rating will increase)
Word Count: ~1100
Characters and pairings: River/Doctor, River/Octavian, Amy/Rory, various canon characters and originals
Series Warnings: timey-wimeyness, paradoxes, adult themes, young children
Spoilers: alternate universe after season six
Disclaimer: Doctor Who is the intellectual property of the BBC. No infringement on that right is meant by this fan work.
Summary: River can no more escape her future than the Doctor can escape his past. And everyone has spoilers.
It's the screaming that woke her up in the Stormcage.
That very first night after the trial concluded, when she was transferred from the holding pen on the prison ship in orbit around the nearest moon. Trial by holographic relay -- no one let truly dangerous criminals into courts of law these days -- and then unceremoniously dumped into the planet below by some kind of transit beam.
River hunched over in the decontamination shower in a fuchsia jumpsuit and handcuffs, retching into a wide mouthed drain. The nausea bubbled in her throat as she felt her molecules wobbling back into place. It all washed away under the torrent of disinfectants, which came without warning, matting her curls and plastering them against her skull. A blast of hot air followed, which smelled of prison, and starched the thin material of her one piece stiff against her body. Not afforded the modesty of undergarments, she could see at a glance that her private bits were all but on display, her nipples poking through, her arms goosefleshed from the changes in temperature.
A noise threatened to spill from between her lips, some cross between a laugh and a cry, but she quelled it and straightened her shoulders.
She was led toward her cell -- her personal cage -- in some kind of surreal farce of a parade. Young men with guns, pimply faced and nervous, marched in step to form a square around her. She walked firm and on the opposite foot, finding small amusement with throwing one or two off. They were kids, clerics on their first assignment, armed with their sense of righteousness and puzzled about how a murderer could have such nice breasts. She tried to block out the psychic dribble of hormonal minds.
There was a liquid-free cleanliness system in her cell -- the answer in this century, on a planet where water was precious, to a shower and toilet -- but she was allowed twenty minutes of privacy and ten minutes of hot water in a fairly sterile room. A reward for good behaviour, she was told, but judging by the camera following her around the white cubicle, the boys wanted more than just a peek.
She angled her back to the camera and focused on getting clean. The orange soap, slimy and meaty between her fingers, smelled something like rosewater. There was minty shampoo and chalky toothpaste. They'd even provided a men's safety razor, the kind which used a small laser to remove hair, rather than a blade. Mels suggested four ways she could use the razor, the parts from the video camera, and the toothpaste to kill her guards outside the door. Even the toothbrush could be a shiv if she snapped the plastic handle.
"I can't," River said aloud, as though talking to someone else. "They're just children."
"You could," Mels countered, crossing her arms. "We don't belong here."
"But we have to do this." Hot air blasted her dry, this time at the press of a button, once she'd got a comb thoroughly trapped in her hair and given up. Her curls frizzed.
"You didn't kill him. You just cried while the Doctor tried to look like Christ in a teselecta, martyred on the beach." Mels hadn't cared for Sunday School. God had been a part of her childhood training; the Doctor played a starring role as the false god, the dangerous heretic who would someday destroy her parents’ lives. There was no need for Mels to imagine Lucifer with a black beard when the Doctor’s face was drawn in her picture books. But then again, Mels had a thing for bad boys.
"I could have killed him. I would have killed him, had he not been so clever, and that would have been the end of everything."
"You love him." Mels sneered, but it was a little sad. "You love him so much you're going to spend all our days rotting in a box. And I thought I was obsessed."
Her clothes, her own proper clothes, were sitting in a basket by the door. Tank top and boots. River dressed, feeling better than she had in weeks, clean, if not calm. Her hip ached slightly without the weight of a gun, where they had tattooed a barcode. It could be read by security drones through most fabrics, but she had opted for it over the more intrusive microchipping.
"We're going to die here," Mels whispered in her ear as River contemplated the cage from the outside for the first time. "How many human lifetimes do you think we've got, even with no more regenerations? How much of twelve hundred consecutive life sentences will you bear for him?"
The answer was Enough. Probably. The cage door rolled shut and slammed behind her; the final gong of a chiming clock. Sulphuric rain licked at force field outside the window, a thin veneer keeping oxygen inside while providing a rather stupid illusion of fresh air. Lightning hissed and snapped in the atmosphere; the clouds boiled. The planet was inhospitable to carbon based humanoid life forms. The poisonous sky threatened to rip apart at any moment, and only the bravest or stupidest of pilots dared to try to penetrate orbit. The Stormcage had been built as a modular unit offworld and assembled by drones, who carved a place for it in the living rock while mining for valuable minerals. It was little wonder it was considered the most secure prison in the known universe. Even the governor insisted on living on the second nearest moon, where supplies were imported by freight ships and then transmatted planetside.
Dr. River Song lay down on her cot. Some of her personal items at the time of her arrest were in the cell; some jewellery she'd been wearing when she’d received her doctorate, a tube of ordinary lipstick, a compact, and the Blue Book. Her miniature blaster and her antique iPod from university were conspicuously but not unexpectedly absent. She reached for the Book and set it on her chest, feeling the warm tingle of artron energy lap at her hearts.
She hadn't even realised she was falling asleep when she woke with a start, nearly falling from the cot. A little girl is shrieking in her head. "Help me! Help me, Mummy!" A little girl she can't remember, crying out for a mother who doesn't know her.
River didn't sleep again. Although the dream was already lost, the sensation of sweaty-palmed panic lingered.
She worked out how to pick the lock on the cage door with the business end of an earring. The thunder rolled. She counted the seconds between each burst, tallying them in her Book. When the TARDIS wheezed into view, River began to laugh, and put on some lipstick. He was late, but not too late.
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