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Study of Running
Who Fic: Integration in Reverse 
Friday, August 15, 2008 at 19:38:00
data ghost
Title: Integration in Reverse
Characters/Pairing: River Song, Miss Evangelista, Other Dave, a couple whose names could be considered spoilers, a tiny bit of River/Ten
Rating: PG
Spoilers: both Library episodes
Disclaimer: The rights to Doctor Who belong to the BBC, not myself. I am making no money off of this.
Summary: River's life after the Doctor, from end to beginning.
Wordcount: 2614
Notes: runningondreams is awesome for giving me lots of encouragement and input and pointing out things I should fix.



Integration in Reverse



River is dreaming of a blue diary, in which is written the only story she'll ever tell.

Hers is only half a life of course, but it's forever.

--------

Why? Why put me here? You know I'd never choose this life, you know it. You know me.

Except, no he doesn't. Not this Doctor, the one that left her here.

(We all get left behind in the end, don't we?)

This Doctor is a stranger to her -- afraid of her, even.

So, a stranger dies in front of the Doctor. What does he do? Give whoever killed her a harder look when he finally meets them. Well that doesn't even apply. In this lifetime? Find the people who knew her and tell them, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Also not helpful. Silently wish them happiness in whatever afterlife they believed in on Gallifrey and then jump back into the action before he has time to think anymore about it.

Whatever afterlife they believed in on Gallifrey.

If she tries hard enough (she did put it in her diary), she can remember the Doctor telling her once. They'd been sitting next to each other, hand in hand, leaning against the base of a statue on a moon they'd just saved from imploding, watching the suns set. After all she'd seen that day, all the people that hadn't made it out alive and all the sadness in the Doctor's face, she had to ask.

"What did your people believe about death?"

She instantly regretted it. That was it, she thought, she'd ruined a rare moment of calm by asking one too many questions. Now he'd rattle off some non-answer and pull her across the plaza, into the TARDIS, and off to their next adventure, all to distract her from asking him again. But after sitting still for a long moment of silence, he told her. He told her about Time, Pain, and Death, about Rassilon's Tomb and the curse of immortality, and about the Matrix, where the memories of dead time lords were uploaded and stored.

"So the Gallifreyan version of Heaven is a computer," she said laughingly. Of course it is, she thought at the time and thinks again now, that's so you.

--------

She's just a data ghost. There is no more of her left alive than there was left of Proper Dave when his suit chased her through the Library asking, "Hey, who turned out the lights?" For her, there is no life outside the Library.

There is no life at all.

--------

Doctor Moon, when not otherwise occupied with keeping people integrated, maintains CAL's file structure. On this occasion, he finds two files mistakenly deleted, and attempts to restore them. One is a success, but one is already too corrupted to be of any use.

--------

The children exist because Anita believes in them.

--------

She's just a data ghost. There is no more of her left alive than there was left of Proper Dave when his suit chased her through the Library asking, "Hey, who turned out the lights?" For her, there is no life outside the Library.

There is no life at all. She sacrificed that for 4022 people who've been saved, for her Doctor, for every memory on every page of her diary.

Miss Evangelista asks her, "You are sure this is what you want?"

"Yes," River replies. "I was sure in the Library and I'm sure now."

"We're here because Charlotte is lonely. We are her family. She will only let us go if we stop being her family. We must go back to the house and confront her," says Miss Evangelista.

The stone and metal walls of the room they've been standing in are replaced with the beige ones of their home. The weight of her flashlight is gone from her hand, its light more than replaced by the sun pouring in through the large windows.

"You said 'go back to the house' and now we're here," she says, and this is the final proof she needs that the world is wrong. She can feel memories of getting from there to here being created for her, of discovering lost artifacts and making careful notes and returning home and taking a relaxing bath. She pushes them away. It's only been seconds since she and Miss Evangelista stood speaking in a dusty chamber with their comms switched off, and she has to hold onto that belief.

Across the room, Charlotte is coloring a picture on the coffee table while Josh and Ella sit next to her watching a cartoon. They're not mine, River tells herself. Maternal instincts that she knows she's never had before this moment rise up inside her and condemn her for the thought. She fights with all her might to hang onto her real memories of abrupt cuts in reality, but she watches these children play--her children--and she is full of such love for them that those true memories slip away.

She discovered an intact Sothunian transmat key. She entered her first impressions of the mural at the site in her field journal, not even knowing that one day it would be widely published. The trip home was long and uneventful. She used rose-scented bath oils.

Then she looks at the children's father, Other Dave, and she is full of the same love for him as for them, but it feels wrong. It feels like she's losing someone she would do anything to save. It feels like she's betraying the one person that would never betray her.

(Wouldn't he?)

And why would she call her own husband "Other Dave"?

She looks Other Dave straight in the eyes and tells him, "We've only known each other for a week. I didn't even want to bring you; you were a last minute replacement."

Other Dave looks back at her in disbelief, which is ironic, really.

Two of their children disappear.

Charlotte screams.

All at once, everyone begins yelling. Other Dave keeps asking where Josh and Ella are with increasing panic, while Proper Dave and Anita appeal to him and River to tell them what's going on. River, ignoring them all, states every fact she can remember from her life before the library. Where she grew up, how she me the Doctor. When she stumbles, Miss Evangelista encourages her by telling her what university she's a professor at, and then she starts telling each member of her expedition where they met. Charlotte screams, "Stop it! You're ruining it! You're ruining my family," while reaching for her remote control.

"Be quiet, all of you!" Doctor Moon silences them and steps into the middle of the group. Then he asks Charlotte in his usual, softer voice, "please, put the remote down." She doesn't.

River addresses Doctor Moon. "I had a home, and it wasn't like this at all. It was small and there were stacks of books everywhere, including the one I was just in. I had no family to--"

"Stop it!" Charlotte yells at her.

"...No family to speak of, save the man who left me here. I worked with these people, that's all."

"Yes, you did, and then you forgot."

River is hit with a wave of confusion, and finds herself startled to be looking right at Doctor Moon.

"You remember your home and your books," says Miss Evangelista.

"Stop it!"

"Yes, I..." begins River, though she is unsure.

"You remember who you are? You remember how you got here?"

"Stop it!"

"You remember how you died?"

"I remember. Oh, do I ever remember."

"NO!" Charlotte points her remote at Miss Evangelista and mashes the buttons. For a split second, she becomes beautiful again, her veil falling away and her clothes changing from black to white, and then she is simply gone. Charlotte points the remote at River. River bends to pick up the veil.

"Let me go," she asks calmly. Nothing happens. "Let me go!" she demands.

Charlotte presses the button, and River vanishes.

--------

The children exist because River believes in them.

--------

As much as she loves to be at home with her children, River longs to be out in the field. She misses the thrill of discovering lost secrets, misses the sense of awe she feels knowing that she is the first person in thousands of years to set foot on a planet. The comfort of holding her children is important to her, but so is the comfort of reading the messages of the long dead and thinking that in some future millennium, her own messages will be rediscovered by someone like her.

Charlotte was reluctant to let her leave, but eventually agreed under the conditions that she come back soon, tell all about it at bedtime, and not take everyone with her. Her crew on this expedition are Other Dave and Miss Evangelista.

They are in the entrance hall of a large complex in the Deserts of Sothun. Nothing can land on or cross the sands of the Deserts. Simply getting here was an impressive feat (though oddly, River finds herself straining to remember doing it). Nobody understands how the original inhabitants got in and out so long before teleportation or ships like the expedition's were available. River is sure she will find out. She is sure she will be a hero of archaeology for it. She might even publish her journal.

Her crew set up lights. It takes them a moment too long because they have a superstition against letting their shadows cross, but the view is worth the wait. Great statues line the walls, mostly intact, no less elegant for the thick layer of sand and dust coating them. Curved staircases and oval doors lead to other parts of the complex. Next to them, intricately carved pillars guide her eyes up to a mural on the ceiling, faded and even worn away in parts but still beautiful.

Other Dave runs up one of the staircases. "Wonder where it leads," he says, as he shines his torch through the doorway at the top.

To the storerooms, and it'll take you the better part of an hour to realize they're empty, she thinks, and then immediately forgets.

She grins and tells him, "Go find out. I've got to teach Miss Evangelista to use the holocams." He grins back at her and goes.

As she sets up a tripod she begins to explain about taking a thorough, methodical survey of the room. In what seems like the blink of an eye, she is done and holograms are being made. Other Dave's voice comes over their comms.

"That was the longest hallway I've seen in my life. Anyway, it looks like I'm in a storeroom. Most of it's on the other side of a locked gate, though."

Huh.

Miss Evangelista adjusts one of the lights so she can make holograms of a new area, and it illuminates a door that suddenly seems more important than the rest. Because she feels she must, River goes to it.

The door is unlocked and opens easily despite its age. Opening it shakes dust loose from the top of the door frame. River waves her hand in front of her face to clear it away, then abruptly stops when she sees where she is. The room beyond the door is so familiar it's eerie.

She's about to turn back to get one of the lights from the entrance hall when she remembers that she's going to walk through the door on the other side of the room, look behind the pedestal with the ancient, broken electronics on top, and find one of the transmat keys used by the original inhabitants to access the complex.

She's about to walk through that second door when she remembers that knowing in advance how an expedition unfolds doesn't make any sense. Every step she's taken in that room has made her feel heroic somehow, and she is a pretty heroic person, and she knows it, but this just feels wrong. Less like confidence and more like she's admiring herself. Like her own actions inspire her to take them. Like the reason she remembers this is that it's part of a story that's already--

"Professor Song? I'm sorry, it's just that I was doing like you said, and then I heard this click, and then I think the holocam..."

"...the holocam broke," River says with her, her voice flat and dazed. "They won't even believe us about the second mural until they send another expedition."

A story that's already happened. A story she read a hundred times as an adolescent. A story that inspired her to become an archaeologist and discover her own lost secrets of the past.

"Are...are you alright?"

Discover her own lost secrets, not relive knowledge that's already in every sixth year history book on her entire home planet.

"No," she answers, "none of us are."

Other Dave's voice comes over their comms again, "Well listen to this!"

River pushes the button for her own comm. "It's okay, it doesn't matter. The transmat key's what we really came here for."

After a confused silence, he asks, "What transmat key? Don't you even want to hear what I found?"

"No, sorry, go ahead," she says, and then switches her comm off completely and asks Miss Evangelista to do the same. It earns her another puzzled look.

"What's going on? Professor Song?"

"I remember." Her voice is so quiet now it's nearly a whisper.

"Remember what?"

"Everything. Reading about the Deserts of Sothun. The Library. The University. My crew, my real crew and how they died. Your face with too much makeup and your hair pulled to the side."

Miss Evangelista is stunned for a moment, then with the tone of someone needing to know something but at the same time trying not to, she says, "I don't get it. I'm sorry, I don't understand. What about my face?"

"It's alright. You never were that clever. Don't worry about it."

There is another stunned, conflicted silence. River watches Miss Evangelista struggle with her own mind. She blinks, and instead of an archaeologist she is now looking at a woman covered head to toe in black with a veiled face. If it makes any sense, though nothing on this expedition does anyway, River is too shocked to be shocked. The transformation barely fazes her.

"I remember," says a calmer, more intelligent version of the same person.

"We're trapped," River says.

"We are. The only other option was to let us die. In reality, we are only copies of ourselves anyway, and as you can see, I am not even a very good one."

"Copies. I'm a copy." She tries to take this in. She remembers dying. The feeling of knowing it was all over. Knowing that at least she'd done the right thing, released everyone, stopped the Doctor from undoing their time together--

The Doctor.

And now she's trapped in a computer full of other people's stories. Does he think she'd want to live like this after all he taught her about being truly alive?

"I want out," River says simply.

"As do I. At any cost?"

"At any cost."

--------

River is integrated. She is dreaming of a normal life, and lovely children, and every book ever written. At bedtime, she reads to them from her diary. She tells them fantastic tales of a woman who knew a man who could stare down armies, and refused to accept that his friends could die.

--------

"Oh for Heaven's sake. He just can't do it, can he? That man, that impossible man. He just can't give in."


Comments 
Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 05:17:40 (UTC)
So I've read this... six times now? And I still enjoy it. :D Nicely written my dear!
(also, I just realized that we're both writing present-tense fics. Do you usually write this way? 'Cause I usually write third-person-past, but I'm enjoying experimenting.)
Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 18:39:39 (UTC)
Aww! :D
(I don't know. I think I tend towards present tense when I'm being serious and past tense when I'm not. It's weird. I don't do it on purpose. I think present tense happens when I'm more involved in what I'm writing.

I'm way scared of first person, but have an unusually high tolerance for second and have even slipped into writing it once or twice. (That one got deleted fast...) I feel that third person is safest.)
Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 05:29:09 (UTC)
This is very good. Very well done. I like it rather a lot!
Saturday, August 16, 2008 at 18:36:23 (UTC)
Thanks a bunch!
Thursday, August 21, 2008 at 22:01:43 (UTC)
That was lovely! Just beautiful. I can really see that being what happened next. And the connection you made between River's fate and the Matrix totally changed my perspective on that scene. I never even thought of that.
Friday, August 22, 2008 at 03:40:21 (UTC)
Thank you! It means a lot that I managed to change how someone sees the canon itself. I'll just be over here, with a big, goofy grin on my face.
Monday, May 2, 2011 at 01:03:51 (UTC)
Oh, yes, this is fascinating and disturbing.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 23:08:04 (UTC)
Success! Also thanks. Really late thanks.
Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 20:17:06 (UTC)
this is brilliant. very strange and clever. i really like the confrontation between doctor moon and miss evangelista, but really it's all good. sad too, obviously. but in a good way.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 23:11:14 (UTC)
Very late thanks!

(Wow, aralias likes my fic!)
Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 09:21:41 (UTC)
i loved it! and late thanks are good. mine's a... *checks* yes, very late comment, so it's only right.
Monday, May 9, 2011 at 16:50:44 (UTC)
Came to this from such_heights remix. Love the original, the remember and forgetting and back and forth, love that it's an archeological dig that really brings it back and love seeing more Miss Evangelista! Love the inclusion of how River would not not have really wanted this fate. Wonderful story.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011 at 23:09:59 (UTC)
Thank you!

Also, this comment is how I managed to actually find my remix. So that was helpful.
Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 12:41:07 (UTC)
Glad to be of assistance!
and now there is nothing to hide our real world behind