Title: TIME WAS
Feedback address: email@example.com
Date in Calendar: 19 June 2011
Fandom: Dr. Who
Pairing: River Song/LizX
Rating: Rating: Mature.
Word Count: 3260
Spoilers: All televised episodes, particularly any River episodes.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC:DD11
Author's Disclaimer: Dr Who belongs to the BBC, River Song belongs to Stephen Moffatt and the wonderful Alex Kingston. I’m just… imagining stuff and writing it down.
Author's Notes: Written for the Dog Days of Summer 2011.
With the Doctor it was handcuffs, with Liz it was guns. From the feel of the barrel pressed against her ribs it was an old fashioned pistol. Well, she was providing the treason and plot, it was only right that Liz brought the gunpowder. River kept her hands raised. She thought she had timed it right, but the vortex manipulator did have an annoying drift sometimes. “I know, I know. I’m in the Royal Collection and you’re the bloody queen.” The queen’s next comment answered her question.
“I thought you were only here for one painting.” Her stance changed, though the pressure against River’s ribcage did not ease up. “The Doctor?”
“He’s fine, really. At least he was the last time I saw him – he’d just saved all of time and space again so he was feeling pretty good. Actually… this has nothing to do with him. I’m er… freelance this time.” River said turning to bestow a smile on her majesty whilst taking the liberty of lowering her arms. The Queen quirked a grin of her own and slid the pistol back into its holster on her shapely hip. River had noticed the curves on her last visit but had been on the clock that time.
“So, to what do I owe the pleasure on this occasion?” Liz asked. “How can the British crown be of assistance to Dr River Song at this time?” She held out her hand. River knew her etiquette, up to a point. She bent her head, kissed the royal fingers. It didn’t entirely surprise her when those fingers caressed her cheek. She had also noticed the queen noticing her own curves on their last meeting.
“I need to borrow something – an item from the Crown Jewels,” River said. “A diamond…”
Her Majesty was well schooled in her history. “The diamond.”
River nodded. “I don’t need to tell you your own family history. The creature it destroyed last time is rising again. In all the time since no one has come up with a better weapon against it.”
“The hour of the wolf has come again, after all this time.” Liz stared at her speculatively then seemed to come to a decision. “You had better come with me then.”
“We have a file on you you know. Well, I don’t but my secret service does. My man Hawthorne sees to things like that although apparently he did find you a bit of a challenge to track down. Terrible trouble getting events in the right order. Anyway, after your last visit I made sure that I was briefed on you. You’re a bad girl, River Song, one of the worst. But you’re in with the Doctor so there must be something redeemable about you.”
“He seems to think so,” River said. “And whatever I did – or will do – I usually have a very good reason for it. Like today…”
Their boots left clear prints in the dust on the floor. No one had been in this area of the space ship for quite some time. Liz’s orange tawny cloak which swept the floor with every step should be thick with dust but something about it seemed to repel the dirt. A handy attribute if you were chronically short of cleaning staff, River thought.
They passed through a second security door and then a third. River spoke seventeen languages but ‘Restricted Access’ for some reason never translated with her. She blinked as her skin prickled… some sort of molecular scanner. They must be close now.
The lighting was low here, the shadows impressive. River had never been afraid of the dark, afraid of the shadows before but something about this place was getting to her. She drew her sonic screwdriver out of her pocket switched to passive scan and studied it for a moment. It was registering subthreshold audiowaves. Obviously, another security device, designed to sow fear and paranoia in the mind of any would-be thief. Now she knew what it was she could ignore it.
The room seemed to be completely empty, even of dust. There was no other exit, the grey metal bulkheads devoid of any apparent cupboards, drawers, seams, switches, anything. River had experienced her fair share of prison cells recently. Maybe she should have been paranoid after all.
“Be patient, girl,” Liz walked towards the far wall and putting her face only inches away, breathed gently on the surface. The metal seemed to sublime away revealing the shape of a face, as if a mask had somehow been embedded in the wall. It was the queen’s face and it was not. River was reminded of one of the most ancient of Earth antiquities, the bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, rumoured to be one of the most beautiful women who ever lived. River had always meant to go check that out for herself one day.
Liz brought her face level with the mask and keeping her eyes open kissed it softly on the lips. The mask came to life, the eyes blinked languorously, the lips curved in a slow sensual smile. “It has been too long, your majesty.”
Liz caressed the cheek lovingly. “You have been a good and faithful servant.” She beckoned River forward. “Your turn.”
River stood in front of the mask. It regarded her with glowing black eyes. She felt a prickle of something about an inch behind her own eyes. It was scanning her brain. This could be interesting.
“Your full profile is not in my system. However I extrapolate a 98.6% probability that you are Professor River Song, archaeologist, time traveler,” the AI said with a familiar broad smile. “It’s about time we were properly introduced.”
“Kiss her,” the queen instructed.
“I’m not usually so forward on a first date,” River lied as she did as the queen instructed. She was usually more careful with her DNA imprint but she trusted the queen.
“River Song is added to the registry, your majesty,” the VI said. “What are your orders regarding her disposition?”
“She is to be allowed access but only if in my company,” the queen said. “Otherwise, all appropriate measures are to be taken for her capture and detention, up to but not including internment.” Obviously, the trust did not work both ways, but River had expected nothing less.
“Understood. It will be as you order,” the VI said. “Do you require access to the vault at this time?”
“We do,” Liz said crisply. “We will be visiting the Crown Jewels.”
“The viewing chamber is prepared. You may enter,” the VI said. “A pleasure to finally meet you Ms Song.”
“And you,” River replied.
A section of the wall in front of them disappeared revealing a room filled with cabinets of light. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls, silver, gold, platinum glittered and shone all around them. The archaeologist in River could feel the weight of history pressing down upon her. “Magnificent!” she breathed.
The queen shrugged. “It amazes me that with everything else we lost or sold or left behind we still managed to keep all this intact. Sometimes I wonder why. What good will it do us?”
“Continuity with the past, I suppose,” River said. “They say that nothing is ever truly forgotten. And, like today, you never know when it will come in useful.”
“Imagine if the wolf had got its way… the Victorian Age accelerated… starships and missiles fueled by coal and driven by steam, leaving history devastated in its wake… the British Empire in all its glory painted across the stars.”
The Koh-I-Noor diamond, liberated from the Crown that had been its resting place for centuries, nestled in the palm of her hand. “They say it was worth the wages of the entire planet for a whole week.”
“They said a lot of things. Most of it complete rubbish. All that business about the Curse. It won’t do you any good. The weapon it powered was dismantled and lost long ago,” Liz said.
“We’re both women – the curse won’t work on us anyway,” River smiled. “And I am very good at being an archaeologist, you know. And the ability to travel in time gives me an added advantage. Who do you think dismantled and conveniently ‘lost’ the weapon all those centuries ago? Lady Isobel was glad to see the back of it. Too many bad memories. Sweetie, you’re far from being the first ruler of England I’ve helped out of a spot of difficulty. And I doubt you’ll be the last.” She tilted her head. “You know, there were rumours that the infection lingered in the Royal Family bloodline, passed down the generations.”
Liz smiled toothily. “Unfounded, I assure you.”
River took the stone from her and secured it somewhere about her person. “If it is possible, I will bring it back to you,” she said.
“If… don’t you know?”
“Not yet – for me – for both of us, it’s the future. At the moment its linear. That doesn’t always work for me.”
“How do you keep track?”
“I just do,” River shrugged. “I always have. It’s just the way I am, the way I was born.”
“What is it between the two of you? I’ve heard stories – that you’re his wife, his mother, his lover, his daughter, his murderer, his saviour, his inspiration, his nemesis, his future self, even the incarnated spirit of that ridiculous blue box of his. Which is true?”
“All and none of them,” she smiled. “Sometimes I know and sometimes he knows and sometimes the secrets are written in the stars themselves or in the company of others who know when to keep silent and when to speak.” She remembers Father Octavian who did not survive the fall of the Byzantium and even though she does not believe sends up a silent prayer for the repose of his immortal soul anyway.
“I’m fighting the urge to put you in chains again,” Liz growled.
The wide smile of the eternal predator graces her features, the cat anticipating the cream. “Oh don’t fight on my account,” River purred. “In the right setting…” Then suddenly she’s serious again. “The only thing you need to know about my relationship with the doctor is that I would die for him and I would certainly kill for him.” There was more, of course, a universe of reasons. A relationship based on universal truths and many many lies. Lies of omission – secrets, lies of choice – spoilers. It has nothing to do with love, or trust though there is both in abundance. She has no idea how and when it will end between them but sometimes something in his gaze when he looks at her makes her think that the Doctor does know. All that she does know is that she would die for him, without a moment’s hesitation. She has written as much in her magical blue book, her bible, her guide to all that is and ever will be the Doctor. Sometimes some of the pages are blank, sometimes they are written in in her own hand or another hand she does not quite recognize. There are blood stains and tear stains, coffee stains and chocolate stains and other stains to puzzle over.
Many of the stories about her are pure fiction: she knows because she wrote them herself or told her tales to wordsmiths and bards who wrote them down in their turn or set them in remembrance, the figure of a laughing woman in a niche in a wall in a memory garden. Some of the more personal tales are recorded in her blue book, a figment of her own imagination. Even as a small child (she is fairly certain she was one once upon a time) she told herself stories of her place in the universe, about who she is and what she’s done or what she’d like to do. She’d be the first to admit that the lines between what’s real and what’s not sometimes blur just a little and she knows she has memories of impossible things. But then that goes with the territory: here be dragons.
For all they’ve been through, she knows that she is still a puzzle to him. He could be downright nasty to her about it sometimes; he didn’t like it when other people knew more than he did. Yet for all his bluster, he knows she will never give him the easy answers and she suspects that he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The last time. A man shouldn't know it was the last time to see a friend. A man shouldn't have to know that.
This is the first time she’s made it as far as the royal bedchambers, she’s certain of that. They must have been impressive in their day but were quite shabby and ramshackle in a slightly endearing way. River got the impression that not many people at all made it this far. She expected to be the one to make the running but again, the queen surprised her. For once she was the prey, not the predator to the great tawny eyed cat that crouched over her, far more feline than the wolf that supposedly stalked the royal line though no less dangerous. River lets her get away with it because she can and because its been a while. Sooner than she thought possible she’s naked on the burgundy satin sheets smiling up at her majesty who is still fully dressed. The queen lets her velvet cloak drop away from her, then her white silk shirt and butter soft second-skin black leather trousers are gone and River can’t wait any longer, burying her face in the dark softness of her breasts, taking in the scent of her, the queen’s long lean body covering her own, dark against light. For a long time there are no words. They take their time. After all, one is the ruler of all she surveys, the other a time travelling archaeologist: who can gainstay them?
Within minutes River is pleading for her life. Her Majesty is not without mercy. Teeth and tongue, lips and nose, fingers, nails, skin and hair all play their part in reducing her to a sobbing, quivering mass of unfulfilled need. She feels a dark smile against the skin of her abdomen. “You beg so prettily.” Liz presses her fingers to River’s lips and River opens her mouth to take them inside, laving the long slender digits with her saliva. Then they are gone and seconds later River gasps as she feels two then three fingers press deep inside her, angled to catch her just… as a strong slightly calloused thumb rubs over her clit. Liz kisses her spread thighs, the curve of her belly as her fingers curl and twist inside. The tide of feeling crests inside her, pushing River over the edge into freefall.
Unusually, there is cuddling in the afterglow. The queen’s lanky frame is spooned around her. Soft kisses press against her shoulder blade, the nape of her neck. She could grow to like this.
“Is it true that you know his real name?” Liz asked.
River considered this for a long moment. “For his safety and mine I can’t confirm or deny that. For his people true names are a powerful thing.” The truth is sometimes she does, sometimes she does not. She is used to the dichotomy. Sometimes she remembers things twice or thrice but not quite the same, a turn left instead of right, a different phrase, a kiss on the lips or a slap on the cheek. There is the truth, there is the legend and there is the lie. Sometimes they can all exist at the same time. She is the proof of that. Her own true name for example, mutable but unchanging.
“You’ve known him a long time.”
“Yes,” River said. For most people that would be enough but the queen deserves more. “When I first met the doctor a long long time ago he knew all about me – think about that – an impressionable young girl suddenly this man just drops out of the sky and he’s clever and mad and wonderful and he knows every last thing about her. Imagine what that does to a girl. Trouble is it’s all back to front, my past is his future. We’re travelling in opposite directions. Every time we meet I know him more he knows me less. His firsts are my lasts. I live for the days when I see him. But I know that every time I do he’s one step further away. The day is coming when I look into that man’s eye – my Doctor – and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am… and I think it’s going to kill me.”
“I wish…” Liz pressed her lips to River’s shoulder for a moment. “Never mind.”
“Go on,” River urged her softly. “Tell me.”
“I know I was born to this life of privilege, even in our straitened circumstances, but I want more… different… Sometimes I wish…”
“The pirate queen,” River drifted long deft fingers through the dark ringlets. “Cape swirling and guns cocked. Swashbuckling her way across the universe.”
“With you at my side,” Liz smiled. “It’s a dream I have occasionally.”
“Not a bad one, as dreams go,” River said. She had stayed too long. The queen had her path and she had hers. She wriggled out from the other woman’s grasp and started the hunt for her clothes. “It’s time for me to go. I have an appointment with a wolf.”
“Stay… you’re a time traveler… does it matter?”
“It does to me,” River said gently. “This…” she indicated the bedroom and their mutual state of undress, “wasn’t’ supposed to happen. I didn’t mean to hang around – I never do. All of this… so much history. I decided I could not pass up the opportunity to see it live, so to speak.”
“Is that all I am to you – a living history lesson?” Liz asked, already knowing the answer.
River did not reply. But her storm blue eyes said everything and nothing. Liz said nothing more, turning her back on River and hastily dressing. The silence quickly became uncomfortable. River wished she could think of something to say to allay the queen’s suspicion that she was just another tick mark in River Song’s little blue book.
Checking the diamond was safe in its pouch, River turned to find herself face to face with Liz. “I am the Queen of England,” Liz snarled, her dark eyes flashing. “I could just have you arrested, you know. My prison cells may not be quite as impressive as the Stormcage but they should suffice to hold you to await my displeasure.”
“But you won’t,” River smiled. She reaches out, cups Liz’s cheek with her palm, drawing her close. Their lips touch just long enough for Liz to crave more. It does not prevent her from being acutely aware of the weight and position of her gun in her holster under her cape. It would only take a second… Whatever passed between them this woman was still a very real threat to the security of her nation.
“I could order you…” Liz didn’t bother to finish the sentence in the face of River’s impossibly wide smile, the nonchalant confidence that shone from her. River Song didn’t do orders.
“I will see you again, won’t I?” Few had or would ever hear their queen sound so needy.
She smiled, enigmatic, her eyes heavy lidded. “Spoilers,” she whispered.