The Irresistible Future

by nostalgia [Reviews - 3]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, Het

It takes him a moment — two moments, three — to place the sounds she whispers in his ear. It's not a string of syllables he's heard recently, surely he can be forgiven for not recognising his own name?

But it is his name, which implies a number of possibilities and none of them can be dealt with here and now. So he just stares at her, utterly lost, stripped momentarily of the shield of Doctor, the hero he invented to save himself as much as anyone else.

River knows his name. River Song, from his personal future, knows his name.

Time to run.

She catches up with him a week later, when he finally gives in to sleep. He tosses and turns but no matter how he moves he can't get away from her. There she is, smiling at him across a crowded room. There she is, running right beside him. There she is, dying over and over again.

He wakes with sweat on his skin and his hearts beating like drums, thump thump thump-thump.

He spends the rest of the day trying not to think about her, which he almost manages aside from a few quiet moments when Donna isn't there to distract him. By the end of the day he's brushed aside the nightmare as just a variation on the familiar theme of loss. It's nothing to worry about, the dreams do not define him.

Even so, he doesn't sleep again for a fortnight.

A very long time ago, when he still went by that whispered name, he studied the consequences of paradox. He learned about Fixed Points, and about the risks of changing pasts you had already lived. It all boiled down, quite simply, to this: never know your own future. Other people's futures could be manipulated, but your own could become destiny even as you tried to avoid it.

He'd been doing pretty well, all things considered, only occasionally glimpsing events that he might not be able to avoid. Even with time in pieces after the war, the one remaining TARDIS did her best to keep him safe.

And then...

And then he met River Song.

He has almost succeeded in pushing the future to the back of his mind when River shows up again. He spots her in his peripheral vision and changes direction without missing a step, tugging Donna towards a street-market that he pretends is unmissable. Maybe it is, maybe he's not lying.

He thinks he's managed to avoid the woman entirely when Donna nudges his arm. “Is that..?”

He follows her gaze to the blonde in tight jeans and a loose t-shirt. “I don't think so.”

“It is,” Donna insists. She looks at him carefully. “Don't you want to talk to her?”

“What would I say? 'Hello, I saw you die a few weeks ago, can I buy you a drink?'”

“Of course not. But you have to talk to her at some point if you know her in the future, yeah?”

River disappears into the crowd and he doesn't let himself look for her.

He's sitting on the crash-seat, staring into space, not thinking about River Song at all when Donna says “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. Yes. What?” He looks up at her.

Donna shrugs. “I know, since when have you ever wanted to talk about your feelings? I just thought it might be an idea, that's all.” She sits down next to him. “In the future you meet someone and you really like her and maybe you marry her. It might be nice.”

“Donna, I appreciate that you're concerned, but I'm fine and there's nothing to talk about.”

“You're the worst liar ever,” she says.

“I thought we had agreed never to talk about this.”


“When we weren't talking about it. I thought that was because we had an agreement.”

“Doctor...” Her expression is a mix of pity and frustration. “Okay, have it your way.”

River Song catches up with him on Mars a month after Donna... leaves. He's minding his own business at the bar in a Venusian theme pub when he looks up to find her sitting beside him, just like that.

“You'll need alcohol for that,” she says.


“You can't drown your sorrows with lemonade,” she says, taking the glass from his hand. “If that's what you're trying to do?”

“I'm not trying to drown anything,” he lies.

“How many have you had?” She leans towards him and — rather theatrically — sniffs the air. “Five? Six?” She shakes her head. “I hope you're not planning on driving any time soon.”

“As you pointed out, it's non-alcoholic.”

She opens her handbag and pulls out that bloody diary. “Where are we up to?” she asks.

“Does it matter?” he asks, irritably.

River isn't put off. “Early for you, I take it. I'll be good. No spoilers.”

“If it's all the same, I'd rather be alone.” He gestures to the barman to bring another (his seventh) glass of lemonade.

“No, you wouldn't,” she says easily. “Stop being so Scottish.”

“I'm not Scottish,” he says, somewhat confused.

“Not all the time. And yet.”

“Sorry, am I supposed to be able to follow this conversation or not?” He realises that he's relaxing in her presence, and that can't possibly be good.

“You haven't even offered to buy me a drink. Honestly. Rude and not ginger, that's how I'll remember this version of you.” She tuts but he's sure she doesn't mean it.

With a sigh he checks his pockets for more of the local currency.

She walks him back to the TARDIS, and they have quite a pleasant conversation under the stars of the night sky.

“Thank you,” he says, when they reach the ship. “That was... not the worst evening of my life.”

River smiles and says, “Aren't you going to invite me in?”

“In?” He pauses, trying to arrange his thoughts. “River, I'm not... I don't...”

“Oh, but you are and you do.” She moves into his personal space, pinning him against the doors without touching him. He thinks she's going to kiss him, but then she sighs and steps back. “Another time, perhaps,” she says.

Without much more than a nod and a wave he unlocks the door and slips through to safety.

The next time they meet she slaps him across the face before he can utter a hello.

“Sorry,” she says, after taking a calming breath.

He rubs his stinging cheek. “Okay,” he says. “What did I do?”

“Nothing. Yet. But you will, and then you'll agree that you deserved that.” She looks at him, seems to see him for the first time. “Does it hurt?”

“A bit,” he says, understating.

“Good,” she says. She sits down on a nearby bench and studies her hands. “Good,” she repeats.

“Can I ask what I did?”


“Oh, of course.”

River doesn't answer, and after a bit of hesitation he sits down beside her and waits.

“It's just very...” she begins. “You're so...” She blinks rapidly and wipes the back of her hand across her eyes.

His second instinct is to run away. Much more worryingly his first is to find whoever hurt her and yell at himself. “Whatever I did, I'm sure I didn't mean to hurt you.”

“Then why do you do it?” she asks bitterly.

“Because I'm afraid that you'll hurt me.” And there, he has said it and it's true. Put so simply it seems like nothing, but it's all he knows.

After a long silence she says “You're an idiot, do you know that?”

“I really am sorry.”

“I'm not.”

“Didn't think you would be,” he says. He waits for another slap but instead, for some reason, she laughs.

River Song knows his name, and he's pretty sure he knows why. One day, eventually, he will fall and she will catch him.

He doesn't know what happens in the end, but at least he understands how it starts.