The Legacy of River Song

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Elenatintil's avatar

Literature Text

We all loved Professor Song. She made history come alive for us in a way that no other teacher could. It was like she'd fought the Daleks hand to hand, flown the first mission to our Galaxy, or been best friends with Liz 10.

But though she made history real, there was a part of her that seemed false. She talked about her parents, her husband, but we never saw them. They never came to the banquets, the ceremonies, the unveiling of her wing in the museum. We wondered why, but never dared to ask.

Sometimes she would miss a class. There would never be a warning, but everyone seemed to know that if she wasn't there when you arrived, she wouldn't be coming. She was never, ever, late.  

My second year at university she was assigned as my advisor. Not only did she let me into an upper level class, she also invited me to join her crew on a dig at Albion. It was the best summer of my life. I found a complete fossil that proved it the earliest human colony in the galaxy, and the Professor included a whole page about it in her book.

My third year, we convinced her to come out clubbing with us and it became a regular habit. She could out drink, out dance and out-kiss any lifeform in the city. All the men (and many of the girls) were mad about her, but she never promised anyone anything. Just left them with a smile that they'd remember the rest of their lives.

One day she brought a former Time Agent into the class. His name was Jack Harkness, and he really had been on Old Earth. His stories astounded us, and we wondered how the Professor had found him. But before we could ask, school security broke in and tried to arrest him. Apparently there was a warrant on his head. We were all afraid that Professor Song was going to get suspended or worse, fired over that, but she didn't miss a day.

It was hard to get to class before she did, but sometimes I managed it. I loved the extra few minutes to talk with her, to ask her a question about my paper, or get her advice on my love life. But before she would ever talk to me, before she'd even say 'Good morning, Adura,' she'd take out her blue calendar and write the day's date on the board. It was like her life with us didn't start until she'd signed in to the 51st century.

When my mother died, it was Professor Song who came to my apartment, made me soup, and wrapped me in hugs and love. She let me tell stories of my childhood, my first day away from Mum, the last time I saw her. Then she told me about her own mum. "Hair as red as you can imagine, and a temper to match. But so full of life and laughter and love. She'd brave anything. You never got between her and someone she loved."

"You were lucky," I said.

"Yes," she agreed quietly, a strange look in her eyes. "I was."

My senior year, a business man came to the university and started asking the Professor to lead an archeology team to a planet that hadn't been touched for a hundred years. She couldn't wait to go. All year she was distracted by planning, by buying supplies, choosing her team. I hoped she'd pick me, but didn't dare ask. She didn't.

The day she left I took her to the spaceport. She was so excited. "It's a library planet. Can you imagine? A whole planet full of all the books ever written."

"That's impossible," I said.

She shook her head. "We live in a universe of impossibilities, Adura. No one knows that better than me."

She left me in charge of the summer classes. I tried to give the students the same enthusiasm they would have gotten from her, but it sounded hollow to me. I went through the history files over and over again, trying to breathe life into them the way she had. What was her secret? What did she see that I didn't?

The mission had some danger of course, all of them did, but nothing so severe that I was worried. I just missed her. Summer seemed longer than it ever had before. Fall couldn't come soon enough.

And then it came. And passed. And she was still gone. They told us she'd died heroically, saving everyone else. Saving thousands of people. But all I could understand was that she was gone, and she was never coming back.

They put up a memorial to her and asked me to speak at the unveiling ceremony. I refused. I knew I couldn't get through it without crying. They asked if anyone knew her family. We knew she had once had parents, and a husband, but no one knew where they were now or even their names. We thought they were dead. So the chaplain spoke and his words were a fair tribute to the Professor's life. But not her heart.

I visited the memorial every day for a year. Sometimes I brought flowers. Other times I brought books. She loved books. Not memory disks, but real paper and ink books, bound up in waterproof covers.  They always disappeared shortly after I left them, and I thought someone homeless was stealing them. But I kept on doing it. Professor Song would be glad that I was giving someone a chance to read more.

The year after her death, I packed a picnic and went out to the memorial. The last three books I had brought were still there. I was glad to see it. I spread out a blanket under the statue and lay down, looking at her.

"I miss you," I said. "They gave me your classes, but I'm nothing like you. The students listen better now than they did a year ago, though. Maybe I'm getting better. Or maybe their expectations are getting lower. I wish you were here."

"So do I," said a voice behind me.

I turned and saw a man, tall, thin, with a mess of dark hair. He wore a blue suit and strange red shoes that I'd never seen before. His eyes were just as sad as mine.

"I'm sorry," I said, wondering if he was an older student from before my time. "Have we met?"

"No. Well, not exactly. I don't think," he said.

I raised an eyebrow. "How can you not know?"

"Well, you don't know, do you?"

"I guess we haven't, then."

"Right," he agreed and stuck out his hand. "Hello, I'm the Doctor."

"Doctor… who?" I asked.

He was quiet for a moment. "She never mentioned me, then?"

I looked at him warily. "She talked about a lot of doctors. They all had other names, though."

"Well, she might have called me something else…"

"Like what?"

He sighed. "Her… I'm not sure but… it's complicated."

"Life is complicated. She didn't tell us about any complications though. Barely even talked about her family."

"No, she was full of secrets," he agreed. "But she told me that… ah, well, it doesn't really matter now. How long has it been, since she left here?"

"A year and three months," I told him.

"So close…" he said quietly. "I was so close…"

I frowned. "What do you mean?"

"No, I suppose she couldn't tell you. Restrictions and rules and all that. I'm sorry. I'm very sorry."

"So am I," I said. "I never even got to give her a proper goodbye."

He gave me a sudden smile, which I thought was a strange reaction, but didn't question it. Despite the curve of his mouth, his eyes were full of grief and so terribly, terribly old.  

I realized then that he probably wanted to be alone by the memorial, and there was something so sad in his face that I couldn't resent his intrusion. So I got up and left. I didn't bother to take the picnic basket. Professor Song wouldn't want him being left hungry.

Three weeks later a man appeared in my kitchen. He wore a tweed jacket, a bowtie, and a fez. He promptly knocked over the milk carton on the counter, staining my good tablecloth and making my cat his new best friend.

"No, I can't knock over the tuna as well, I don't think she'd like that very much!" said the man to my cat.

"Excuse me," I said from the doorway, brandishing a short range taser. "Who are you and why are you in my kitchen talking to my cat?"

"Because I speak cat. And I'm here because I have a message for you and I'm the Doctor. Sorry that was backwards, head's still a bit off from restarting the universe."

I stared at him blankly. "You're not The Doctor."

"Yes, I am! New face, dontcha know. And body, clumsy body, sorry about the milk. Your cat likes it, although she prefers tuna – yes I know you like tuna!" This last bit was directed at the cat, who was meowing at him.

"You can't speak cat," I said.

"Yes, I can. And yes I know that look means you don't believe anything I'm saying but I just saw you yesterday. Well hopefully yesterday. My TARDIS has been misbehaving lately and overshooting the mark all over the place. But yesterday or sometime in the last two or three years or thereabouts you left me a picnic at River's memorial. I liked the salami. And the banana. Can't stand bananas now."

"Oh," I said. I had indeed packed salami and bananas that day. And now that I looked into his eyes… they were the same eyes… well, metaphorically speaking.

"Anyhow, message," he said and whipped a letter out from his coat pocket. "Slightly wrinkled, sorry, did manage to save it from a dunking in the coffee pot though."

I took the message. "Who is it from?" I asked.

"Her of course, River. She'd have brought it herself but the whole matter on the Orient Express was a bit more than we bargained for. Two extra murders, nasty business."

"You are a really bizarre man," I said. "She must have liked you."

"Yes, she seems to. Seemed. Seemed to," he agreed.

And then he popped a biscuit out of the jar and left the kitchen with me frowning over his lapse of tenses and the utter absence of the grief etched so vividly on his other face. And then his confusion about the dates… was he utterly mad? Or was he another friend of River's who had gone time traveling, like Captain Harkness?

Realizing what this might mean, I quickly sat down and opened the letter.

Dear Adura,

I'm afraid your next paper is only going to be an A-. I'm sorry, but you missed a critical reference that I can't let slide. You'll understand though. You always do. You are my brightest student.

The Doctor told me that you needed to hear this. He won't tell me why, of course. Spoilers. But he said you needed a final word from me. A goodbye.

I'm not afraid of the future. Whatever adventures lie ahead for me, I will face them as I always have, with joy. And you – you will do what I have only attempted – to really teach others. To make that your whole life. And they will learn from you and love you.

History never stops affecting us, you know this better than any pupil I have ever taught. Don't ever forget it. Don't ever let others forget it.

Next time I see you, I will no doubt look at you differently and you won't know why. But if you've met the Doctor, then you know (or guess, my smart girl) that my life has never been lived in order and that Time has a different meaning for me than for everyone else. I hope you will somehow have my face on that day in your memory when you read this letter, and know that I send it to you now.

I am so proud of you.

River Song

I read the letter three times before I believed it, and another three times before the meaning hit me. Then I rested my head on the table and cried long past dawn.
The next morning I got up, made my coffee, and went to take my place in the classroom. Every student looked at me as I entered, but I didn't say a thing until I'd walked to the board and scrawled the date.

"Good morning, class," I said. "My name is Professor Adura Jones and I'm in love with history."

As I write this now, it has been seventeen years since I took over her teaching position. I'm a professor myself now, and have children of my own and a library that takes up three rooms of our too small house. Every year we visit the memorial. They love that they get to have me all to themselves, no sharing with my students, and I will tell them any stories they wish to hear. And I love to see how their eyes shine as through my words they battle Cybermen, explore the Black Diamond Nebula, or visit the ancient world of Earth. Most of all, they love to hear of the woman who travels through time and space, never growing old, with her doctor of many faces. For my little River, and her twin, Song, history is more than a story. It is an adventure.
We see River always in relation to the Doctor... but she had a whole life apart from him and I wanted to explore that.

River Song, the Doctor, and all things Whovian belong to the BBC. Only Adura is mine.

Thanks to Andy, Paul, Teresa and Amanda for their help as beta-readers!

Want more Doctor Who? Check out my other short story, The Contemplations of Martha Jones [link]
© 2012 - 2021 Elenatintil
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Beatle4-11's avatar
Wow, that was incredible! Woah, I mean, you're an absolutely fantastic writer! I could totally see that happening, The Doctor, the note, all of it! It was beautifully written, great job.  Love 
Elenatintil's avatar
Thank you so much!
takemetoverona's avatar
This is really great- I love your different take on River and her life, and I think you got the mannerisms of each Doctor just right. Well done! :D
Elenatintil's avatar
Thank you very much! I really appreciate hearing that. :)
ChibiHugs's avatar
Oh , what a lovely take on River's life. I never thought of how her students would remember her. This was lovely Heart 
Elenatintil's avatar
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it!
OOOOHHHH! THIS IS TRULY LOVELY! Really, It's a very, very nice story. Thumbs up
Elenatintil's avatar
Thank you so much! I'm glad that you enjoyed it, and I really appreciate that you took the time to comment. :)
if one takes time to wright something nice IT DESERVES to be said so! ;) Keep up the nice wrighting
Elenatintil's avatar
that make me cry...
great story about river
Elenatintil's avatar
Wow, thank you for sharing that. I'm glad it touched you!
kerjen's avatar
This is beautiful! Seeing her through a different POV that equally loves and respects her. And to add Ten stopping there, almost saying "she might call me her husband", but can't say it was a great touch, because I was waiting for Eleven (and was glad when he got there).
Elenatintil's avatar
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts... I love hearing what people loved about my work, and I'm so glad that this story is being enjoyed by other River Song fans. Thank you for reading!

And I had to add Ten, because for us that's where the relationship started, and I felt it was important to include him, and have him share with Adura the grief of loosing her, even if each of them only knew half the story.
ShaylynnAnn's avatar
This is amazing, Elena! I love the idea of exploring River's life outside of the craziness of when she was with the Doctor. Beautiful story. :)

(Love the bit about the Doctor talking to the cat and being all distracted!)
Elenatintil's avatar
Thanks Shay! XD

(That was probably the funnest part to write)
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