It begins as a coping mechanism, really. Her previous body had gazed at the diary, had held it, had cried over it-- but had never opened it. Intrude on River’s privacy, on her personal thoughts? That was a line he wasn’t willing to cross.
She feels differently about it now.
Yes, of course she still respects River; she still understands that the diary is private. But truth be told, she is beginning to forget. It’s a side effect of regeneration, and she knows that, should have been expecting it, truthfully. But still, it frightens her when she wakes up one morning and can’t remember how River took her tea. Two sugars or three? She isn’t quite sure.
That night, still grasping desperately for the answer, to no avail, the Doctor reaches for the little blue journal. If her hands are shaking, it certainly isn’t from the cold inside the TARDIS. Everything has seemed colder since she regenerated.
The first page of the book details River’s first adventure with Bowtie, how he had taken her to Calderon Beta to see every star in the universe. She remembers that well, at least, smiling slightly at the memory. (If they returned more often than the Shadow Proclamation probably would have allowed had they known about it, well, the space-time continuum hadn’t collapsed, had it?)
Then River describes their trips to Jakku, Brantisvogan, and Chicago, respectively (though the Doctor isn’t quite sure they actually happened in that order, at least for her). Those had been lovely, all three, except when they were attacked by a slightly carnivorous ball of yarn. The Doctor supposes that it was worth it, however, because they both got some very nice matching sweaters out of the encounter. She wonders if hers would still fit.
She’s eight pages into the diary, sobbing unabashedly, when she notices a small note scrawled hastily into the margins.
In a sticky situation. Need to jump off a twelve-story building. Come ASAP.
Below that are a set of space-time coordinates. The Doctor quickly dries her tears and raises her eyebrows at the journal, as though it’s going to come to life and explain what she’s reading. She reads the note again. Then again.
Was River really expecting some version of her spouse to be reading this in the future and just come to her beck and call? Honestly, how many times had she told her wife to stop jumping off buildings already?
The Doctor frowns. Rolls her eyes. Cries for a little longer. Picks at a scab. Sighs dramatically.
Then, she enters the coordinates into the console and flicks open the doors to the swimming pool.
When River finally surfaces, spluttering out salt water and gasping for breath, there is a short blonde woman standing at the edge of the TARDIS’s pool, holding out a towel and having some kind of emotional breakdown, if the red-rimmed eyes are any indication. River eyes her appraisingly. Not bad at all.
“Having a rough day?” she calls, shaking water out of her curls and flashing the other woman a flirtatious smile. No harm in trying to seduce her husband’s companions once in a while. Especially if they’re this gorgeous. “You should hear about mine.”
“I’d rather not,” she replies, inhaling in an apparent attempt to hide her (rather obvious) emotional state. “Brought you some clothes. Although,” and the short woman shoots a glance down at River, “Not sure they’ll fit. Bit rubbish at sizing.”
“Oh, I don’t mind,” purrs River, climbing out of the pool. “I can just wear nothing, if you’d like.”
The other woman flushes. “Yes… wait, no. No, actually. Not supposed to do that this time.”
River gratefully accepts the towel, smirking, and wraps it around her shoulders, taking a moment to survey her surroundings. She finds that the pool room has changed considerably since she was last here, and now, instead of being lined with bookshelves, has a bar on one side and a sushi buffet on the other.
Well. She knew already that her husband has poor taste, but she had hoped it would improve over time. It seems that’s not the case.
Speaking of the Doctor, where is he, anyway?
“So. Is my husband around?” River asks the woman hopefully.
“Yeah, uh,” she replies, tugging at her lip in a manner that is clearly intended as a stalling technique, “So. He’s actually out right now. Doing super, very awesome things. Very fun things. Having lots of fun. I mean, not without you,” she hastily corrects, and River raises an eyebrow. “Nope, he’s really sad without you. Really misses you. Also, he told me to tell you to stop jumping off buildings. Honestly, River, you’re going to get hurt one of these days, and then I’ll-- I mean,
have to take you to the Intergalactic Gamma Hospital, which is being overrun with cybermen, and… anyway. Also, he misses you.”
It seems this incarnation of the Doctor is just as rubbish at keeping secrets as the one she’s familiar with.
“Hello, sweetie,” says River, rolling her eyes, and the Doctor slaps herself in the head.
“How did you know?” she asks, crossing her arms. “River-- River! Stop smirking like that, you insufferable woman! You’re not supposed to find out about this me!”
Grinning, River crosses the room and plants a jubilant kiss on her wife’s (rather magnificent) mouth. “Honestly, sweetie, it took me three minutes. We need to work on your lying skills this go round.”
The Doctor’s lips linger on her wife’s for a bit longer than River had expected, but she isn’t exactly complaining. When finally she pulls away, keeping a tight grip on her damp curls, she whispers sadly, “You have to forget this, dear, or you’ll screw up both of our timelines.”
“No,” responds River, frowning. “I like this you. Besides, you’re a much better kisser than your past incarnation. Better style, too, though I note with some dismay that you’ve kept the braces.”
“Hey, braces are brilliant,” the Doctor huffs. “Better than the bowtie, at any rate. But really, River,” and she sighs reluctantly, “You can’t know about this regeneration. You really can’t.”
Really , River thinks, her spouse worries far too much about timeline changes. For Rassilon’s sake, he had managed to un-erase himself from history . Besides, she’s willing to risk a few discrepancies and alternate timelines if this gorgeous woman in front of her is the reward. In fact, she’s finding it rather exciting to meet another version of her husband. She hopes that this is a trend that will continue in the future. Or, you know, past, depending on how one views the timelines. And… wait, is the Doctor crying?
“Sweetie,” she whispers, voice softening. “What are you so upset about?
The Doctor stiffens, wiping away a stray tear. “Nope, sorry, I’m not crying. Just, um. Allergies. I’m allergic to… chlorine.”
River is tempted to comment that the pool is saltwater and therefore doesn’t contain any chlorine, but she thinks better of herself and instead takes her wife into her arms. After a few moments, the Doctor tells her with a hint of excitement that she has a really brilliant idea, which under most circumstances would be concerning, but somehow the way she says it makes River believe that perhaps it is brilliant.
Smiling slightly, the Doctor begins speak rapidly. “Alright, you absolutely must tell no one about this incarnation of me, ever. Period. Don’t write about me in your diary. I’ll have to put in a temporary memory block for a while-- let’s see, right before Hydroflax, I should think-- but I’ll take it out as soon as possible after that. Deal?”
“Yes,” breathes River happily, hoping that this means that she’ll be able to keep her memories (well, for the most part.) “And you’ll come visit me? This you, I mean?”
The Doctor frowns slightly, working out some mental calculations. “As often as I can without disrupting the timelines. That would have to be a rather large memory block, of course, but-- we can manage. Also, you’re getting me all wet,” she adds arbitrarily, glancing down at River’s soaked dress. “You should really change before you catch a cold.”
“Only if you help,” responds her wife with a grin.
Of course, River is absolutely insufferable after that, because, well, she’s River. It’s a few weeks later for the Doctor, and she has been continuing her perusal of the diary-- on and off, because she has a real-life River to sustain her (she isn’t quite sure when she’ll see her next, and wonders if she should maybe just go and see her without an invitation, which of course would run the risk of stumbling on a visit from her past self.)
This time, she notices another note addressed to her, and she squints at it, wondering if River needs rescuing again (and really, when will that woman stop putting herself in life-threatening situations for fun. Honestly.)
But no, that’s rather not the case this time. The note reads:
I could really use a foot massage and a glass of champagne right about now. Stop by. Coordinates below.
Hold on. What? Now River’s using her diary as a personal concierge service?
No no no. She absolutely refuses. She’s not her wife’s personal servant, right? River can’t just do that. She refuses.
(She brings the peppermint oil along with her, because it’s River’s favorite.)
Have a wicked hangover. Bring pancakes and coffee?
I’m bored, and there’s a Jimmy Hendrix concert I’ve been meaning to see. Date night?
Drop by. Wear something sexy.
In custody at the Tran-X 89 justice center on Yatrillia. Come bail me out.
Star Wars marathon at Stormcage in 10 minutes. Excluding the prequels, so don’t worry. Extra kisses if you bring by hot chocolate.
The Doctor is pretty sure that River is abusing her privileges as the wife of a time traveler at this point, but then again, she can’t exactly bring herself to be annoyed by this, especially since River is so soft and lovely and oh, it’s so good to have her back.
She has to put in the memory block a while later, and River collapses, unconscious, in her apartment on Luna. She won’t remember this incarnation of her spouse, at least not until the Doctor reverses the block.
She does so one day while Eyebrows is out in the garden. River is reading The Time Traveler’s Wife on the sofa inside of their cottage on Darillium, as she is wont to do when bored. The TARDIS materializes and River looks up, startled, as this unfamiliar blonde lady saunters in. As soon as the Doctor has released the mental barriers, however, River grins and kisses her, long and hard.
It feels like home, and she really doesn’t ever want it to end.
Yeah, timelines be damned, she’s definitely going back for her wife at that Library.
River is at a fair with the bowtie-sporting incarnation of her husband, who is chattering blissfully about Xandraxan history, gracing her with occasional bites of his pistachio ice cream. She’s practically drowning in stuffed animals at this point (and it’s not exactly fair competition, she’ll admit, when one uses a sonic screwdriver to win them, but she doesn’t really give a damn), and giggling at something particularly adorable he’s just said.
Then she spots her wife across the way, waving to her behind a large swath of cotton candy. River grins, whispers an excuse to Bowtie, shoving her twelve or so teddy bears at him, and saunters off to say hello.
“You know, you really shouldn’t cross your own timeline like that,” she tells the Doctor, whose eyes dance in mirth.
“And this coming from Melody Pond, convicted felon, blacklisted by the Shadow Proclamation?” she responds cheekily, pressing a quick kiss to River’s lips. She tastes like cotton candy. Marvellous.
“Doctor?” comes a voice from behind them, and River turns to see a tall, slender figure approaching them, two lemonade cups in hand. Ah. Another companion. Not that she minds her wife having friends, but… well, she was hoping they would get some uninterrupted time together. She gives the unfamiliar woman a once-over. Gorgeous. She’d kill for that beautiful, rich dark skin.
“And who are you?” River asks, raising an eyebrow.
The unfamiliar woman winks and takes the Doctor’s hand. “Ah. I’m afraid that’s spoilers.”
Well, alright, River thinks. Perhaps the whole ‘bad at keeping secrets’ thing was a bit hypocritical.