Fandom: Doctor Who
Characters: River Song
Summary: How River learned to let the sun pour down.
Author's note: This was started for a who_contest challenge, but, as is my wont, I was utterly unable to complete it on time. Other authors have explored River's state of mind after "Let's Kill Hitler" and, frankly, done it better than I could do, but the brief look we saw of her hospital room, and my own affinity for sunlight combined to spark this. One note: the line River murmurs is from Leonard Cohen's transcendentally beautiful "Suzanne." Again, others have seen a conceptual connection between that song and River.
Edited By: my beloved dr_whuh, aka buckaroobob and by the fantastic a_phoenixdragon
Disclaimer: Much as I wish it were otherwise, nothing in the Whoniverse, save the occasional original character, is mine. All others belong to the BBC and their respective creators. I intend no copyright infringement and take no coin. I do, however, love them, and thank the BBC for letting me play in its sandbox.
The sun freed her.
The sisters had learned to leave River alone in the afternoons. Approaching night always blackened her already unpredictable but generally dangerous mood, and in these last weeks of her recuperation they had no interest in exposing themselves to that. They were fairly certain of its origin, and they sympathized with her pain, but there was a limit to what they would put up with. So she sat in her darkening room and mourned, even though she didn’t know what she was mourning.
The loss of her regenerations didn’t bother her largely because, for her, they had meant nothing but confusion, pain, and rage. She suspected, too, that perhaps she had a far friendlier relationship with death than other people had. If she died at the end of this life, she was sure adventures lay beyond whatever door she opened in her last moments.
River certainly didn’t mourn the loss of her captors. She ruthlessly put down the sneaking thought that they would someday find her again. Sufficient unto that day was the evil thereof, she decided with the bravado of the very young.
She was almost used to the sucking absence in her head, or possibly her heart, where her mission imperative had once crouched, snarling and terrorizing her every moment. Waking without that beast in her bloodstream was as close to real joy as she’d felt in a long time.
But much of her time in hospital was still hell, in no small part because she was afraid that she would feel that imperative again. And, oh, how she feared that.
Being without it felt as if she could breathe for the first time in her life; that she could finally see, after having been blinkered, could run after having been hobbled. So naturally, like all newly freed prisoners, she discovered how hard it was to escape the fear of recapture. She worked at it, with the same unyielding discipline they’d beaten and terrorized into her, but it left her weary.
River was also fighting a danger she’d never consciously expected to encounter.
In the breathless moment in which she lost the internal command to kill the Doctor, she had seen him clearly. She hadn’t seen the Timelord Victorious or The Oncoming Storm; had seen neither the Renegade, nor the Predator, nor yet Ka Faraq Gatri. She had simply seen a man, the last man of Gallifrey.
She had looked into his frightened and frightening eyes, and had seen herself in them — not as the loathsome psychopath she’d been raised to think of herself, but as a human being. More bewildering than the unbelievable portrait of herself was River’s shocked realization that she could, perhaps,come to love the Doctor just as ferociously as she loved Amy and Rory. That terrified her more than Kovarian ever had.
The sun drenched mornings and early afternoons in the hospital gave her plenty of time to become human, which hurt more than any punishment she’d received under The Silence. How much simpler it was to be a weapon, than to become … whatever it was she was becoming. The sucking absence left by the mission imperative was being filled by something far more confusing, far more precious.
Perhaps that was what she was mourning, she thought; her old loveless self.
She despised herself for thinking so, but she couldn’t help circling around to the idea with hatefully monotonous regularity, always as the shadows reclaimed her room and she felt the beast trying to claw its way back into her bloodstream.
In the dark, she hated everything. So she accepted the sleeping draughts the nuns offered, and fell into sleep as quickly as she could each night.
She was the most free from self loathing — and the certainty that she should remain a weapon rather than risk more hurt — in the early morning hours.
When she awakened, the first few breaths she took were always tentative; she would wait for the weight, for the hate and venom to flood her, to sink her. Once she was certain the weight would not come, she would open her eyes and see the sun shining through the shimmering lace curtains at the full-length windows of her room. When she saw the sun, she was comforted. Its warmth gave her enough succor to continue.
In the first days of her recuperation, she’d had no strength to leave her bed, so she would simply watch the sun move slowly across her floor, watching as it brightened corners, turned the wall into a puzzle of shadows and marked the passage of the hours. She drank in the brightness as if, by consuming it, she could nourish herself.
The weeks went by, and she became stronger. She knew that she could get out of bed, that she should, in fact, rise up and leave. But she couldn’t do it.
What reason did she have to arise? She had no mission anymore. She wasn’t brave enough to shoulder a new mission; to follow him, to discover if she really cared for him. She could not face her parents after what she had done, what she had hidden from them, how she had lied. They would never want to see her again she thought, especially as the afternoon lengthened.
Here was safe. Here, she could sleep, and wake to the sun through floor length lace windows, and drink it in, watch its stately pavane across the floor. It didn’t matter if the darkness crept back in the evening, she reasoned. The sun would return in the morning, and she could, - just - get through the night’s terrors because she knew the dawn would rescue her.
“ … and the sun pours down like honey, on our lady of the harbour ….” Her sleepy murmur made no sense to the young nun assigned to watch over her while she was unconscious, nor did her throaty chuckle as she laughed at herself before drifting back into slumber.
She was in safe harbor, and here she would stay.
Until that was no longer an option.
The day came — inevitably, she realized as she grew older and looked back on it — when River’s own true and restless nature trumped the damage that The Silence had done to her. It was no longer enough to watch the brilliance through lace curtains, nor was it enough to soak in the warmth from her comfortable bed and wait, trembling, for the darkness to reclaim her room, and the night to assail her.
The day finally dawned when she could no longer stay in the harbor. She breathed once, twice, then threw the counterpane back, put her feet on the floor; rose up and went to the windows, parted the lace curtains and let the sun fall directly on her upturned face. In its deep and gentle heat she could finally decide that it was time to learn whether she could love the man she had tried to kill.
There it was, and River finally believed she understood it.
The best way to avoid the night, she thought as she stood motionless in that pool of bright heat, as she gathered her things, as she put the diary next to her heart, as she took her leave of the room, and the sisters, and headed out to the universe beyond the curtains without looking back, was to follow the sun.
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