timeboundpythia: (Doctor Who River Pensive)
[personal profile] timeboundpythia
Title: I (Will) Know You of Old
Author: [livejournal.com profile] timeboundpythia
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Blanket for Series 1, 4, 5 & 6, particularly 'Let's Kill Hitler'.
Summary: On what starts out as an archaeological dig, Melody meets Nine not long after he's seen the end of the time war.
Notes: Dark themes, blood, etc.

She hated beaches. She hadn’t hated beaches half an hour ago, but that was before...

Melody kicked listlessly at the wet sand beneath her feet, unable to summon the energy or feeling to actively hate the sand or the waves that were gradually creeping closer and closer. She would have to turn around sooner or later and face the sight that lay waiting for her, unless she wanted the water to eventually swallow her.

She was glad she’d got rid of the curls now. First week of university, she’d had her hair cut savagely short in some misguided attempt to rid herself of the woman who’d been so delighted with them and just as delighted to get on with her mission and kill. It remained in a state of growing out, kinks and waves pulling short strands every which way, making her look somewhat disorganised on the best of days. Or mad. Maybe she was mad. Would be mad from this day forth, if not. For now, she was merely thankful that there was no blood in her line of vision. She knew it was there. She just couldn’t see it. She’d yanked at her hair with bloodied hands more than once in the past few minutes.

She’d seen worse than what she had just witnessed and been a part of in her younger years. They’d tried to desensitise her and had mostly succeeded, but this body, this... person she’d regenerated into just wouldn’t co-operate as the others had, full of complicated feelings and the idea of caring.

The gun she’d stolen from one of the aliens they’d all thought to be long dead (hence excavating their not-graves up on the cliffs) lay somewhere among the tangle of broken bodies. She’d only survived thanks to the training that she didn’t think terribly charitably of at the moment. Archaeologists – archaeology students; eighteen year old kids, most of them – weren’t taught how to use weapons. Basic hand to hand combat was standard, but everyone assumed that the university didn’t much fancy students telling their parents they’d just been taught how to defend themselves with firearms, for fear of them sending their beloved children to somewhere with, well... Safer fieldtrips?

She had to move. Put one foot in-front of the other and...


The (also pilfered) knife at her belt somehow found its way into her hand as she span to meet the source of the voice.

“Lovely blade. Bit too ornate for my taste and I’d really rather not get a closer look at it, if you don’t mind.”

“And if I do mind?”

“If you did, I think I’d be dead by now, given that you appear to be the sole survivor here.”

“Lucky fluke,” she claimed.

“Says the bloodstained woman with the knife.”

He looked human. Didn’t feel human, but...

He reached out and closed fingers around her wrist, applying pressure until she, not so much against her will as she would have liked, dropped the knife.

“Only ones left are usually the only ones for a reason,” he told her darkly, not giving the weapon a second glance.

“Are you an only one?” Melody demanded, trying to force a bravado she didn’t feel.

His leather jacket creaked as he crouched, claimed the knife and hurled it into the ocean as he straightened. “Yes,” he stated, voice low and one that did not invite questioning on the subject, his gaze gone distant as he looked out across the water. After a long, uneasy silence, he glanced her way and asked, “What’s your name?”

Having shut down the opportunity for questions directed his way, he had opted to ask one of her. She should have seen it a mile off. She was more focused on his being an only one and not feeling human; his appearing from nowhere only just not in time to do anything about the battle. Not quite on time... Not quite... What was it the TARDIS had told her in not so many words as feelings? Errors are not errors; always when and where when needed, not desired. Not spiteful. Not mistakes. Guidance. He doesn’t see... She might see. She might. Have to wait.

Could it be...? It had to be. Who else but the university knew anyone was here? Who else would disarm her so casually and throw the blade away instead of turning it back on her? She was sure she recognised him, that face, from her training, but since she had given up all that would have allowed her to live far longer than she ever should have, some things had become faint and jumbled, as if her memories had slipped away along with it.

“Mellie,” she murmured. She didn’t know what name she went by these days. She had more than any person should have, nicknames and designations and numbers and that other name belonging to the woman she didn’t think she was yet. When she was young, one of her guards had called her Mellie, back when she had been all bitterness and focus and anger. She’d despised the name and consequently he’d been dead by the end of the week, but she felt that same bitterness now and was reluctant to accept it as part of herself, who wasn’t really Mels or Melody or River, but answered to ‘Pond’ and ‘the one attached to that blue diary’ on occasion.

This man hadn’t met any of the women she was yet. He didn’t recognise her and she wasn’t sure she could truly recognise him, an edge there that betrayed more darkness than light. He was the good man she was looking for and yet... not. Not yet? Only one left... Didn’t recognise her; didn’t know that there was her too. Technically. Did her good man still consider himself to be the last of his kind?

She didn’t yet know enough about time or his timeline to know what would happen if she gave either of what anyone with true ties to her believed to be her proper names. Could she rewrite the past by telling him who she was? Not that it would mean anything to him now, but...

He was talking again.

“You don’t have a way to get home, do you? Scanned the place; there’s nothing out there capable of getting you off the planet,” the Doctor told more then asked her, his tone a try at conversational that didn’t get there in any shape or form.

“...The head of the archaeology department will be back to pick us...” only there wasn’t an ‘us’ anymore, “me up in...” Melody glanced down at her watch; had to wipe a sandy palm over it to clear its face of dark, drying blood, “two hours. Give or take a couple of minutes.”

“Could take you back to the...” He paused, then hazarded a guess. “University?”

She nodded, acknowledging his guess as correct.

“University. I don’t think waiting around on a beach post-massacre is really included in a professor’s job description.”

Melody laughed, the sound hollow. “I’m a student, not a professor.”

He shrugged, unperturbed. “My mistake. Though it’s not really part of the student experience, is it?”

“I suppose not,” she agreed, staring down at the sand. “How do you plan on leaving this planet anyway?”

“Got my own transport. Doesn’t look like much, but she’s a brilliant, she is,” the Doctor answered, plastering a bright grin across his face.

“What colour is she?”

“You girls and the colours of things. Bet you’ll be asking what I’ve called her next,” he scoffed. “Blue. Bright, bright blue; the best blue in the universe.”

His people were gone, he’d been too late to stop the bloodbath she’d found herself in, he was all alone and still he managed to sound as if all was right with the universe when speaking about the TARDIS (though if she was wrong, he might be some old nutcase with a banger of a blue shuttle).

So, she pressed, “All right; I’ll bite. What do you call her?”

He beamed. “She’s called a TARDIS.” The moment he uttered it, shadows reclaimed his features. “...Only she’s the TARDIS now. Must be the only one,” he murmured, shoving his hands in his pockets.

That stamped him as him and a past incarnation for sure. The TARDIS would not be the only one now; it would not be new, if this were her Doctor’s future, one where she was long gone and not worth remembering. Her Doctor. She wondered when she had started thinking of him as such. He wasn’t hers in any normal meaning of the word. He had been her target and hers to bring back when nobody else could. The making and amending of a mistake.

“I can’t... just go,” Melody replied, despite wanting (desperately wanting) to. She wanted to wash the blood away and make her body shut down and forget how easily it could remember how to handle weaponry and get itself out of the most awful of situations. “I won’t leave their bodies for the waves or for someone. I couldn’t protect them. The least I can do is make sure their bodies make it home.” Playing dumb, she added, “You’d never make it back to Earth’s moon in two hours, besides. It’s been a two day trip each way. I can explain this. I need to tell the department head what happened. He’s expecting ten healthy people and new artefacts, not-“

“You still standing,” the Doctor finished for her. He waited only a moment more before asking, “So why, only one, are you still standing?”

“Why are you?” she shot back, suddenly wanting to grab and shake him, only she was pretty sure that this him wouldn’t let her get away with it.

“That’s not-“

“You want to help me? You move bodies. Then you get in your TARDIS and go,” Melody snapped. This one was not the one she wanted and the more time she spent with him, the more damage she could be doing.

Yet still something nagged at her. The caring or something like it. In a dark, twisted way. She knew all the standard information about the Doctor; all the details known to those who knew of him and a good many lies besides. Lies she had believed. He was the last of his kind and his planet and people couldn’t be found, so the chances were that there were no graves. No bodies. Her people and the alien race that had slaughtered them were not his people and not his responsibility, but in reburying those she and her team had disturbed, there might be a sort of awful closure that he might not have experienced yet. If he ever would. Did?

He was silent, watching the waves again. It took longer for him to reanimate this time, but he did, with a straightening of his shoulders and a sharp nod. “Right. Let’s get to it.”

She never saw him leave. It must have happened sometime during her initial conversation with her head of department and the lecturers he’d brought along to see the site – not the sight he had been expecting. It was just as well, she decided. The questions she burned with would not be answered by the man she had just met, too full of things that felt like guilt and regret (she knew them well enough), but, given time (she laughed at the thought), he might be able to speak of what happened to him. She would get her answers. Just not now. Maybe tomorrow, for all she knew.

They mostly left her to her silence on the journey back to the university with their awful cargo. The questions for her would come later, when she would have to explain how she came to be the only survivor. Because she was trained to survive, not to protect and had been playing at being an innocent, human student she told herself. A new life did not – could not – mean an entire transformation. She knew that now.

As she sketched the lines of his face onto a clean page of her diary, she swore that she was never, never going to be so unprepared again.

Not for him.

Not for anything.

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February 2016

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