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DW Fic: The Bones

Story: The Bones
Author: [personal profile] kaffyr 
Characters: River Song, The Doctor
Rated: PG13
Word Count: 729 per Google Docs
Edited by: the very wise [personal profile] buckaroobob , aka dr_whuh
Summary: River Song understood nothing but weariness. It took a long time for her to learn anything else.
Author's Notes: I originally wrote this as the response to an LJ Whofic community contest prompt but, as isn’t too surprising for me, finished it too late to enter. As I get older, I understand too well that “being tired” can be the disarmingly banal disguise for a great many evils; it seemed as natural as breathing to me that River Song would be its victim. The title probably means little unless you have been engulfed by exhaustion.
Disclaimer: As much as I wish it were otherwise, no Whoniverse characters are mine. They are the sole properties of the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement, and take no coin. I do, however, love them all, and thank the BBC for letting me play in their sandbox.

She could not remember any time when she was anything less than exhausted.

It was just life, she’d thought before now. She had been certain that everyone felt it, the drag and the grasp of fatigue. Even if they pretended not to, they surely must feel the weight; they lied when they laughed or rested or loved with ease. She knew it as surely as she knew how to lie herself.

Even after she was told differently, that love came without hurt, that life could be lived undamaged, she had never really understood.

And no wonder. Long before she knew she was living backward - not linearly, of course, but in the ways that mattered to her - she had lived in fear.

Fear drains you, she learned as a child. And fear was easily fed; on no sleep and scarce nutrition, on ruthless training, on hard shelter and harder teachers. It flourished on bruises and battles, and on hiding every thought and emotion from trainers and taskmasters, all those programmers and punishers who ruled her days.

You can survive operations and drugs and confusion and loss, she learned. You can survive beatings and insults, and even, barely, assaults on body and soul. But you pay for survival with weariness beyond weariness, bitter and bone deep and greedy; sucking the color and air and energy from your every thought and move, poisoning the universe with cynicism and ketones.

She escaped the suit, tearing her skin, breaking her bones and staining her path with blood in payment for her freedom. She wandered the back roads of America in 1969, alone and slowly dying.

She was reborn. But she still had to hide, and she still ran. The pressure of plans and lies, of dissembling and working out all those stories and strategies, still dragged her to earth and crushed her into the dirt.

She learned to make the painful crawl of her days look like a carefree dance to others, but she fell into sleep each night wondering if she would ever wake up - or if she wanted to, for any reason other than the brutal dictate of her own will.

She died again, and was reborn again, still in flames and still in battle.

He wound about her life like rope. Sometimes he pulled her down into darkness that threatened to crush her like fathoms of starless ocean. At other times he pulled her free from entanglements, out from behind bars and away from enemies. He would pull her farther and farther up into the sky until she soared higher with him than she could by herself. She didn’t mind, even if she always fell once she was out of his orbit because he eventually left her alone, too tired to fly.

He changed her.

She fell from hate into conscience, from time into Time Disrupted. She fell from telling the truth in order to kill, to telling lies in order to keep the truth alive. She fell from being alone and running away, to finding family and running toward them. And the weight only grew heavier by virtue of its transmutation from lead to gold. Love was an even more onerous burden than she had feared it would be.

He would whisper to her about freedom, after they made love and before she sank into her always troubled sleep. She would laugh, wiping tears from her eyes as her bones ached.

Then … one more death. This was to have been the final one, the one in which she finally, finally, repaid the debts and the deaths of others, all of her lies and cruelties, everything with which she’d cluttered and lessened her life.

She wondered fleetingly - her head bursting, tears boiling and steaming off her face in the heat and pain of one last starburst - if she would finally be free of gravity’s exhausting pull.

It hurt, more than she thought possible, but before she had a chance to scream for more than a few thousand years, she evaporated, seethed into nothingness …

… and was reborn into light. Splintered refractions, mirroring green sward and impossible sky, coalesced into a picture of her own soul, cleansed, clear as the finest crystal.

And for the first time in her poor widdershinn’d life, the weight of exhaustion was gone, just as he had promised.

She flew.


This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/228096.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 15th, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
This is beautiful. Oh, River.
Jul. 15th, 2012 04:41 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it. Poor River indeed, although I choose to think that she was, at the last, ransomed from all that hurt her.
Jul. 15th, 2012 04:43 am (UTC)
What a beautiful fic great job.
Jul. 15th, 2012 04:46 am (UTC)
Thank you!
Jul. 15th, 2012 04:59 am (UTC)
Beautiful...so perfectly, perfectly RIVER.

Jul. 15th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm glad you got the "Riverness" of the story!

*hugs back*
Jul. 15th, 2012 07:41 am (UTC)
This is a stunning piece. It's incredibly dark, and also very very moving - and i could feel an ache in my chest as i read it. It's a perspective of her life i've never considered, and never read by anyone before, that everything she's been through would make her so exhausted. But it makes perfect sense to me, and your fic captures it beautifully.

The way that you describe things is beautiful, and very very evocative. There are so many bits of the fic that i love, that if i was to point them out i would be quoting the whole thing at you! So instead, i'm just going to point to the whole fic and tell you that i loved it.

And her death at the end - perfectly described, and that moment of grace that the fic ends on is wonderful.
Jul. 15th, 2012 03:29 pm (UTC)
This is a stunning piece. It's incredibly dark, and also very very moving

Thank you so much. It's odd; I didn't think it was a dark piece as I wrote it. I was focusing so strongly on trying to accurately write what I thought one aspect of River's life could be interpreted that I didn't think of how the overall result would appear to readers, or how it would affect them. I asked my First Born, who read it, whether he thought it was dark and he eventually said, "It's you telling her dark story," which made some sense to me. It's just that I tend to focus, once the story's been written, on what was said at the exit point - and so I think of this ultimately as a hopeful story, one that gives her redemption and rest, which she so desperately needed and, ultimately, deserved.
Jul. 15th, 2012 10:26 am (UTC)
I haven't read your story but River Song makes me remember "Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul". I don't know if there was inspiration in Brokedown Palace (the song) for you or not but that is where those two words took me.
Jul. 15th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
River's name is gorgeously evocative, isn't it? I remember Steve's book, Brokedown Palace (whose name I'm now guessing was inspired by the same song), but I don't know the song itself. Do you know if it happens to be on You Tube? Who sings it?
Jul. 15th, 2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
IIRC the song, Brokedown Palace, is on American Beauty by the Grateful Dead. Fred Haskell used to sing a wonderful version of this song (he still may).
Jul. 15th, 2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
Hmmm. I think the one album of the Dead's that I ever spent much time listening to was Workingman Dead, so I'm not familiar with the song. I'll have to cast back in my memory to see if I remember Fred's version.
Jul. 16th, 2012 02:46 am (UTC)
It is on YouTube; here's the link.
Jul. 16th, 2012 03:23 am (UTC)
Jul. 16th, 2012 05:47 am (UTC)
He would sometimes blend it into Ripple.
Jul. 15th, 2012 11:56 am (UTC)
Oh, this is so painful and powerful and so lyrical. It’s a marvellous look at the darker sides of River’s life, and the toil and the tiredness and the ways they relate are perfectly described.

And this view of the Library – an afterlife. I really like that.

+ love that title.
Jul. 15th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
And this view of the Library – an afterlife. I really like that.

Thank you! I really do think of the Library as an afterlife. Since I have an (admittedly disorganized and inchoate) idea that something called "the soul" exists, I firmly believe that it really is River in the Library. (I also think that someday the Doctor will be able to bring her out, or join her in there. But that's a whole 'nother story.)
Jul. 15th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
I firmly believe that it really is River in the Library.
I firmly agree with you.

(I also think that someday the Doctor will be able to bring her out, or join her in there. But that's a whole 'nother story.)
Agree with this, as well, 'nother story or not. ;) It might seem like endgame to Ten, but I don't think it's quite that to Eleven.
Jul. 15th, 2012 06:54 pm (UTC)
I don't think it's quite that to Eleven.

Yes, especially since he has spent so much time with River. He knows she's worth fighting for even more than Ten did - and look what Ten did for her when he'd only met her!
Jul. 15th, 2012 07:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was really beautiful, and sharp, and well-written.
Jul. 15th, 2012 07:09 pm (UTC)
I'm very glad you liked it!
Jul. 16th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
This is </i> beautiful. <\i>
Jul. 16th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC)
Thank you; I love River so very much, and I think she deserves every surcease from sorrow that she gets.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 21st, 2012 07:41 pm (UTC)
Sorry it took so long for me to get back to you - thank you for reading, and I'm especially glad that you liked that portion of the story. It was very important to me, as well.
Aug. 13th, 2012 04:12 am (UTC)
Oh, wow. This is lovely. The end is so hopeful--the concept of heaven or an afterlife has always been really scary to me, in part because I imagine eternity would just be impossibly tiring. But I like this.
Aug. 13th, 2012 12:41 pm (UTC)
I'm so very glad you felt the hope in the ending! A lot of people correctly caught the darkness in the rest of the story, but I like to focus on the fact (at least for me it's a fact) that River was finally granted what she needed so badly.

Thanks for reading!
Aug. 13th, 2012 04:30 pm (UTC)
Are you going to put it up on the Teaspoon at some point?
Aug. 13th, 2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
It's actually up on Teaspoon now.
Aug. 13th, 2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, yay! *runs off to add to favorites*
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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