“I don’t understand,” stated Amy honestly. “What do you mean, you hope it works? If you’re changing the past, you must already know. I mean, it’s the past.”
“We’re sort of breaking all the rules with this,” admitted River. “That’s why I had to take such a roundabout route to get here.”
Temporarily lost in the masses of information being fired at her, Amy looked a little nonplussed.
“The knickers, darling. The knickers,” provided River helpfully.
“Oh, yeah.” Guiltily, Amy felt her eyes once more dart the articles in question, before quickly flying back up again. “Hey!” she suddenly cried indignantly. “You’re doing that thing again; where you don’t answer any of the obvious questions. What’s in my head?”
“We don’t…exactly…know,” murmured River, sounding almost unsure of herself. Almost. “Like I said, we’re really breaking all the rules.”
Amy folded her arms coolly.
“Well,” she declared, feeling some of her own natural cockiness return, “I guess that explains why we sent you.”
River’s eyes lit up at her words, crinkling as she let out a loud, delighted laugh. It sounded to Amy like red wine – rich and deep and intoxicating.
“Believe it or not, Amy,” she gasped, “That was exactly your reasoning.”
And in the face of a reaction like that, Amy couldn’t stay indignant for long. Could she?
The Doctor blew an errant lock of hair from his eyes almost absentmindedly, never once taking his concentration off River’s wrist and the teleportation device she wore there.
“Start off in the Torchwood vaults,” he instructed. “They should have a Timeline Piece there – you’re looking for a fob watch with a Terrathean glass case. You can take a bit of Amy’s hair or something to program it. Next –”
“Doctor,” she interrupted. “I don’t tell you how to keep the rules. Please don’t tell me how to break them. If I have to cross half the Universe, I’ll get what we need. Trust me.”
Seeing that the Doctor had finished with his repairs, she gave him an affectionate peck on the cheek, before turning to Amy.
“Good luck,” said Amy, her voice suddenly hoarse. “Be careful.”
River sighed and opened her arms, allowing Amy fling herself a little inelegantly into them.
“Don’t get yourself killed,” she instructed firmly, burying her nose in River’s curls.
“I’m not planning on it,” River assured her. “Now are you going to kiss me goodbye or not?”
Amy smiled sadly and pulled back to let her lips crash enthusiastically into River’s. As kisses went, it lacked refinement, but then they’d had hundreds and hundreds more of them previously, so perhaps they were allowed to let silly things like technique slide on an occasion like this. After all, it wasn’t even their first ‘goodbye, please don’t die’ kiss. Such were the side-effects of a love affair conducted through time and space.
Planting a final butterfly kiss to the corner of River’s mouth, Amy separated herself from her lover’s arms and obediently held out a section of her hair, clamping her eyes shut with a slight whimper as she heard the sound of River’s pocketknife tearing through the cinnamon locks.
“I’ve only taken a little bit,” she felt River whisper comfortingly into her ear.
She opened her eyes to see the older woman carefully tucking the hair down her shirt.
“Well,” she announced, once the hair was safely in place. “I suppose I’d better be off.”
Amy wanted to kiss her again, but she knew that if she started now, she wouldn’t stop.
“Be gentle with me,” she joked. “Remember that this particular me and Rory haven’t had the whole…”
“The whole ‘I love you but let’s try again when you’re a little bit older and little bit less into mysterious time travellers’ discussion?” provided River helpfully.
“Yeah,” chuckled Amy. “That one. Back then, you just make me feel about seventeen again.”
“Seventeen?” mused River with a smirk. “Oh, my.” Suddenly, she reached down to her wrist and fiddled with the controls. “See you in a couple of seconds then,” she quipped abruptly.
“I love you!” yelled Amy hurriedly.
But she’d already gone.
Amy slipped through the door of her parents’ room worriedly, twisting the hem of her nightgown in her fingers. How on earth was she going to explain this one?
Probably best to go down the direct route.
Mr. and Mrs. Pond looked up from ‘Fishing Weekly’ and ‘A Forbidden Love’ respectively, expressions of mild confusion on each of their faces.
“You know I love you, right?” began Amy cryptically.
“Of course we do, Amy,” replied Mr. Pond. “But, ah, why do you ask?
“Well…” continued Amy, “It’s just that I’m about to disappear into the night with a strange woman who’s just appeared in my bedroom smelling suspiciously of gunfire. And I wanted to be sure that you know I love you, because then you’d realise that I’d obviously never be telling you this unless I was convinced that I was going to be completely and utterly safe. Well, reasonably safe.”
She squeezed her eyes shut, awaiting the inevitable barrage of her concern and reproach.
To her amazement, it never came.
“Oh come on, dear,” said her mother, smiling gently as Amy reopened her eyes. “We may love you, but we also know you. You just wouldn’t be our Amelia if you didn’t get caught up in the odd middle-of-the-night scrape. And as for strange women – well, we’re more than used to that.
Amy’s mouth hung open in disbelief.
“You mean you’re not going to try and stop me?”
“Of course not!” answered Mrs. Pond, as though it were obvious.
“But,” added her father, with a serious expression on his face. “Do put a coat on, won’t you? It’s really quite cold out tonight.” He smiled at her.
Amy nodded dumbly and exited the room, nearly bumping straight into River who was waiting in the hallway.
“Are they alright with it?” asked the archaeologist, an amused expression on her face.
Amy looked up at her, still slightly dazed.
“I really do have the best parents ever!” she murmured by way of a reply.
“I know. We’ve met.”
Amy felt the Doctor’s arms wrap protectively around her shoulders.
“She’ll be fine,” he assured her, deftly pre-empting her doubts. “After all, she’s River.”
Amy simply nodded, hoping he was right.
“So,” recapped Amy, pulling her shoes on with hands that were trembling with excitement, “You’re plan – as it stands – is…break into this Pharos Institute place.”
“Something like that,” replied River cheerily, passing her a jacket.
“That’s it?!” clarified Amy.
“So far,” admitted River. “Look, sweetie, have you not realised yet that I simply don’t do the whole perfectly constructed plan thing yet? I charm my way through the Universe. I don’t plan.”
“Not yet. No,” replied Amy, placing the lightest emphasis on the second word, as she found her mind suddenly racing through all the various ways she could get to know River Song considerably better.
River raised her eyebrows at her tone.
“Stop acting like a seventeen-year-old,” she reproached teasingly, prompting Amy to gasp, amazed.
“I swear you’re a mind reader,” she announced ruefully, deftly buttoning the jacket over her night things and winding a scarf around her neck.
“Not a mind reader,” corrected River. “Just magic.”
She made to wrap her arms around Amy’s shoulders in preparation for their teleportation, but quick as a flash, Amy pulled away, pressing herself against the wall behind her.
“Answer me a question first, River Song,” she ordered, several somethings inside her slowly beginning to click into place. “How are you always so relaxed about these things? I’ve met you twice now, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look more than…what? ‘Mildly alarmed’ would you put it? Do you never get scared?”
At her words, River smiled. Really, properly smiled. It was not an expression that Amy was sure that she had ever seen on the other woman’s face before, and – though she didn’t know it now – it wasn’t one she would see very often in the years following this one either. River Song guarded her smile carefully.
“I get scared,” admitted River. “But only when it’s rational. And as far as I can see, it isn’t remotely rational to get scared when it’s you and me against the world. After all, we haven’t lost yet.”
And suddenly, Amy realised. Realised that River didn’t make her feel uncertain. Not in the slightest. Rather, River Song was the first person in her life who actually made her feel certain. Completely and utterly, right-down-to-her-bones certain.
She wasn’t scared any more, either.
“We do this a lot, don’t we?” It was only half a question.
River’s smile took on an edge of humour, all at once becoming the expression that Amy already recognised so well.
“Me and you, saving the world before…well, bedtime?” She smirked. “All the time, sweetie.”
They regarded one another warmly for a moment; embers rebuilding, with each passing moment, into fire. This was about when Amy Pond realised something else rather life-changing.
“I,” she announced, her eyes darkening, “Am going to kiss you, Doctor River Song.”
“It’s ‘Professor’ actually,” began River, but Amy had already cut her off.
She poured everything she had learned in her short, but varied career as a professional kissogram into the embrace, determined to hear River moan. She was not disappointed.
“Now then,” she sighed triumphantly, pulling away a little too early. Always leave them wanting more, after all, “We’ve got two hours to reboot my brain. What are you doing standing about kissing me?”
Three years in the future, and one-hundred-and-thirteen years in the past, Amy Pond suddenly doubled over, her entire body wracked with the pain of having memories rewritten within her head.
“I kissed her!” she gasped.
The Doctor ignored what she said, focussing only on holding her upright so that she would not crumple to the ground. He knew that, for the moment, her mind was working on autopilot, carefully accommodating for three years of subtly different events.
As Amy mumbled nonsense words to herself, the Doctor looked up just in time to see River reappear before them. She looked very changed. The business-like ensemble she had previously sported had been replaced with battered combat trousers and a fitted white tank-top and her resplendent curls had been tamed into a tight bun behind her head, from which only a few singed tendrils had escaped. Just one look over with his heightened time-sense was enough to tell him that she had been gone for about three days of her own timeline, though it had only been a minute or so for himself and Amy.
“I did it,” she murmured unnecessarily, hurriedly dropping to her knees so that she could take Amy’s face in her hands.
“Evidently so,” replied the Doctor, a hint of nearly begrudging pride in his voice.
Meanwhile, Amy’s eyes were searching River’s face frantically, wide and confused and she gasped and whimpered.
“It’s all different!” she breathed in amazement, her pale skin flushing with the effort.
“I know,” replied River softly, tenderly stroking her cheeks. “But it’s the same story really,” she assured her. “Me and you, doing what we do best.”
They looked at one another and a cog in Amy’s mind slid back to where it should be.
“Saving the world before bed-time,” she whispered reverently, remembering the words from all those years ago.
River pressed her forehead against Amy’s, gently kissing the tip of her nose.
“Only you could somehow squeeze two first kisses with me out of the Universe,” she sighed lovingly.
And through the pain, Amy chuckled.
She wasn’t scared any more.