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Challenge response: Doctor Who

Title: Powerless
Author: shaviva
Warnings: None
Spoilers: Major, for The Angels Take Manhattan
Characters: Eleventh Doctor, River Song
Word count: 2,237
Author's Note: Written for the prompt 'Scream' on who_contest
Summary: When you're powerless, sometimes the only thing you can do is scream.  A tag of sorts for The Angels Take Manhattan, taking place after the Doctor goes to see young Amelia.  If you haven't seen the episode this won't make much sense.



"You realise it’s screaming. The others can hear.”

River had been talking about the captive Angel but she could just as well have been talking about herself. Sometimes it seemed all she could hear inside was the sound of her own screams. For what had been done to her, for what she’d been made to do to others. To him. For the life she’d chosen that gave so much but at so high a cost. Only for her, there was no one to hear … not really. Just the diary he’d given her but could never read.


She looked up to see him standing in the doorway of her room in the TARDIS. The Doctor. Her Doctor.

“Did you find it?” She’d known, even as she’d suggested that Amy could write him an afterword, that he would have already torn out that page. He didn’t like endings.

“Yes.” It was a simple word full of so much emotion.

“And?” she asked.

“And nothing,” he returned, that grumpy, hard-done-by edge to his voice.

“Don’t do that. Don’t lie to me,” she added before he could try to act innocent. “Not today. Not about this.”

“I wasn’t,” he protested.

“Oh, you so were,” River shot back impatiently. It had been a difficult day for all of them, and despite her mother’s plea that River look after the Doctor, there was only so much she could take. “Just like you lied to Amy when you said if she went to Rory you’d never be able to see her again.”

“It’s written in stone River,” he spat out her name in that way she really hated. "We both saw it!"

“No. They died. That’s written in stone, but sweetie, it’s hardly a newsflash for you that Amy and Rory die. It makes no difference whether it happens in 2058 or 1938. Everybody dies.”

He winced, turning away from her but not before she saw it, that look she’d witnessed before. He’d be watching her and a bleakness would take the light from his eyes. The few times she’d caught it and questioned him, he’d given their standard reply. Spoilers.

“I don’t like endings,” he muttered now, so much the little boy protesting bedtime.

“And yet you can’t avoid them my love, no matter how much you try to bury your head in the sand,” she said gently. Moving closer, she put a hand to his cheek, drawing his eyes to hers. “Not Amy and Rory’s ending.” She took a steadying breath and then finished. “Not mine.”

“Don’t,” the heat of anger lit his eyes and he tried to pull away but she wouldn’t let him. “Spoilers,” he said resentfully, reminding her once again just how screwed up their lives were.

“It’s hardly a spoiler acknowledging my death,” River returned. “I’ve known for a long time my love.”

“Known what?” he asked reluctantly.

“That you already know how our particular story ends,” she said simply. "You've already lived it."

“No!” He growled it but the pain was there, more even than she’s heard when he’d protested Amy’s intentions. “We’re not talking about that now River. We can’t.”

“Oh hush, you stubborn man.” River sighed, eying him for a moment of uncharacteristic silence. “I don’t mind,” she finally said. She didn’t – because she loved him so much it would be unbearable to be the one left behind. She already knew that, first hand. It was so very much his turn to be their last one standing – she couldn’t bear for it to be any other way.

“Well I do,” he shot back, his hands suddenly at her shoulders as he moved her a step away from him. “I mind River.”

“I’m sorry,” she said sadly, hardly knowing what exactly she was apologising for.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, the words almost cruel given she’d said the same thing when he’d commented that Amy and Rory were her parents. They both knew it mattered … too much.

She took a shuddering breath as she looked away, shifting in an effort to break his hold. She’d been on the edge for hours, since she’d urged her mother to take the risk for the only chance to be with Rory. Now it was all she could do not to cry. “Never let him see the damage,” she whispered her own words in an effort to regain control.

“River,” he sighed out her name, his anger abruptly disappearing. “This wasn’t supposed to be about me. Surely you know you don’t have to hide your grief from me.”

Rather than speak, she shook her head. It was touching that he wanted to be there for her but she couldn’t allow it. If she let go she might never be able to rein it back in and who knew what else she’d reveal if she let go of her control.

“And you call me stubborn, wife,” he murmured, pulling her closer until he could lean down, resting his forehead against hers.

With a sigh she shifted closer too, drawing strength from the warmth being that close to him always generated. They stood together, the Doctor rocking them both so subtly it hardly counted as movement. Into the silence River managed to find a measure of peace, enough to say what had to be said.

“You could go and see them. We both could,” she said into the silence.  She didn't have to add that they would have to go back as close as they could get to Amy and Rory's arrival in the past to ensure they'd have the kind of life they deserved.  The Doctor wouldn't be able to live with himself if he didn't look after his friends - that was a given.

“I can’t,” he denied.

“Don’t be silly,” she admonished. “It’s no different that visiting Vincent or any of the other people you’ve met when you were fully aware of their histories.”

“It is different,” his voice was so low she had to shift closer to hear him. “I didn’t know those other people. I didn’t -,” he stopped, unable to say it.

“You didn’t love them,” she finished for him.

“It would hurt too much,” he admitted. “I don’t want to be just Amy and Rory’s visitor when we used to be so much more.” He glanced at her then, that bleakness in his expression again. “Do you know why I hate endings River?”

“The mystery is gone,” she murmured.

“No! Well yes, but no, that’s not why,” he protested impatiently.

“Because every ending is a loss,” she gave him what he wanted, what she’d always understood about him. “You can’t stop yourself from becoming a part of the lives of those around you but you don’t like being reminded of what makes you so different from everyone else. You don’t like being reminded that you’re the last of your kind, but every loss is just that, a reminder that we can live with you for a time but we can’t be like you. We don’t endure. We grow old and we die and we leave you alone, powerless to do anything to change the outcome.” It was as blunt and as open as she’d ever been with him about the fundamental truth of their existence.

“Powerless,” he repeated and all at once she understood just how different she must be to him. Sure, he’d married her – kind of – and then insisted that she was his wife regardless of whether that aborted timeline existed or not. He’d let her get closer than anyone else, as far as she knew, and since she’d made it her life’s work for a time to research and learn everything she could about The Doctor, River was sure of her facts there. She was sure too that he loved her although he’d never really come out and said as much.  The Doctor didn't do declarations.

She had all that but still hadn’t realised until now. He knew how they ended and yet he still turned up – for her. He was powerless to change their ending but he hadn’t run away from being with her.  What did that mean?

“You make me powerless River, because you won’t stay with me,” he continued, unaware of where her thoughts had gone.

“You know why I can’t stay,” she reminded him, using everything she had inside to hide her pain.  She'd seen his disappointment when she'd flippantly commented that one psychopath was enough per TARDIS.

“No I don’t,” he returned. “You always say that River but I never know.”

“Because if I stay you’ll see,” she pointed it out impatiently because really, it should be obvious.

“See what?”

“The damage.”

They stared at each other wordlessly and it took longer than usual for River to realise that he was angry … because he was angry with her. “The damage,” he repeated tonelessly. “You’ve kept us apart all this time because of vanity?”

“No! God no,” River protested. “It’s been years since Berlin! Look at me sweetie. For once, really look at me!”

He did, his eyes running over her features so closely he couldn’t fail to see the lines around her eyes, the grey hair she couldn’t fully hide, the other changes time had stamped on her features.

“I’m getting old,” she said when he remained silent. “It won’t stop and every day the gap between us grows, because you haven’t changed since the day you regenerated into this face.”

“The face of a twelve year old,” he muttered, shaking his head. “You know it’s not by choice how we appear River. Is the surface really that important?”

“In and of itself, no,” she replied. “I just assumed you wouldn’t want to see me age because it would remind you that our time is finite.”

“You said it yourself, wife,” he was suddenly deadly serious. “I already know how it ends for us. What I don’t know is how much time you'll let me have with you before we get to that day. If closing the gap is the only way to keep you here then so be it.”

She was unprepared for the way he grabbed hold of her, wrapping her in his arms and holding her so tightly she was the one powerless to do anything but feel him.

The tingling was familiar – she’d felt it only hours before in the wrist he’d healed.

“No!” she protested. “Stop!  Don’t you dare!”

He said nothing, the yellow glow of regeneration energy swirling around them for untold moments before it faded away.

"What have you done?" she demanded weakly.

“Come with me,” he took her hand and urged her to follow him across the room until they stood in front of her mirror. “Now we’re the same age,” he announced solemnly.

She looked at them both in the mirror, their images blurring as tears filled her eyes. He hadn’t taken away time’s damage from her – she was as she’d been that morning and the relief was immense. Time was still their constant companion and it would have been wrong for him to pretend otherwise. No, she was the same. What he had done was alter his own appearance. He was still himself but with touches of grey at the temples, lines of character on his face just where they should be. And when she looked into his eyes she saw what she’d always seen. The eyes of an old soul – older than she would ever be.

“Oh Doctor,” she whispered, the tears falling down her cheeks.

“You’re not going to hit me again, are you?” he eyed her warily.

“No. but I should,” she shot back, swiping impatiently across her cheeks.  Crying - when she'd accused him of being sentimental! “I didn’t give you all my regeneration energy so you could squander it.”

“I’d give that and more to keep you with me,” he said, unrepentant.  “Travel with me River … all the time.”

“Arg!” she growled, turning to glare at him.  He was just so … exasperating and stubborn and so very, very dear.  “Sometimes you make me so frustrated I just want to scream,” she told him grimly.

“Then scream,” he returned, "because I’m not letting you go River, not this time.”

She surprised them both by doing exactly that.  It felt so good to fill her room with the sound of years of pent up frustration and stress – for what they were and for what she’d always wished they could be.  When she was done she met his eyes in the mirror, surprised to see him watching her with a loving smile.

“Okay, I’ll stay with you,” she said abruptly. “Just promise me you won’t waste any more regeneration energy on me.”

“I promise,” he agreed sadly.

That’s when she knew … he wouldn’t need to age himself again because old age wasn’t going to find her. The end he’d already seen was much closer than that.

“Promise me something else,” she added urgently.  “When the time comes, don’t travel alone.”

He sighed.  Pulling her close he buried his face against her neck and nodded.  "I love you River," he murmured.

She smiled, understanding everything that existed in those four words.  The Doctor had rules - things he didn't do, like endings and love and intimacy.  Except with her, because she was different.  She was his exception and that made all the rest of it so much easier to bear.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 6th, 2012 01:21 pm (UTC)
Ohhh, honey, that was gorgeous and hurty and...

*Swallows hard*

So perfect RIVER and HER Doctor. Thank you for this...I - thank you.

Oct. 15th, 2012 02:25 pm (UTC)
Aww - thanks for the lovely comment. I'm happy that you liked it ... even though it was sad

Edited at 2012-10-15 02:25 pm (UTC)
Oct. 6th, 2012 01:51 pm (UTC)
This was an awesome tag for the episode and you had River's voice just so perfect in this. Even though most of it was sad, it still had a layer of happiness settled in it. I do hope that the Doctor visits Amy and Rory :D
Oct. 15th, 2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks Bay! Always happy to hear I have the people sounding as they should. It was such a powerful episode I'm sure there are already tonnes of tags out there. I too hope the Doctor visits the Ponds ... maybe we'll never know and we get to decide that yes, he did!! Thanks for reading and commenting :)
Oct. 7th, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
Whyyyy can't things like this be canon? I'm sure Clara/Oswin is great and all, but what I really want just now is a show where the Doctor and River run around saving the universe and being awesome together. (Torchwood already deprived me of that particular scenario with Jack/Ianto, so I feel like the Whoniverse owes me this one.)
Oct. 15th, 2012 02:28 pm (UTC)
I sooooo want that show too! Lots of River and Eleven getting into and out of trouble and romancing up the entire universe in their own special way! *happy sigh* What a nice thing to imagine! Thanks for reading and commenting :)
Oct. 7th, 2012 08:45 pm (UTC)
This was a lovely read ... the kindness between them that they were too hurt to show during the episode, the love between them... Thank you for sharing
Oct. 15th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading and commenting! It was a sad and I thought 'alone' kind of ending for them both - I really needed some togetherness for them to feel better myself! Glad you enjoyed it.

PS> I really like your icon - the TARDIS with Sydney in the background! Cool! Now the Doctor just needs to come to Australia - that would be awesome!!

Edited at 2012-10-15 02:48 pm (UTC)
Oct. 8th, 2012 12:55 am (UTC)
Oh, oh, I loved this. I love that the Doctor lied. I love that it's the knowledge of the endings that makes him run. I described his life as an infinite library of books crammed into a single moment, and all of them are open to a different page, and as many as he can manage are missing the last page. And this story, this story tells that story too, beautifully.

I love the coda here, how he ages himself so that he and River can be on equal footing.

I love all of this. Thanks for sharing it!
Oct. 15th, 2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
Ooh - what a great description for the Doctor's life ... and it sits very well with Angels and with Silence in the Library too. I have no idea if the Doctor really can age himself like that but I liked the idea of him holding River and tuning in on her and then making that adjustment so they're equals. Ah, the beauty of fanfiction where you can make all sorts of things happen! Glad you enjoyed the story - thanks for reading and commenting.

Edited at 2012-10-15 02:47 pm (UTC)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )