Disclaimer: None of the Doctor, the TARDIS, or the show itself, Doctor Who, belong to me. Unfortunately. Everything belongs to the BBC. This is for reading enjoyment only. No copyright infringement intended.
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He's smiling at her and it makes her really want to slap him. If she felt like being fair to him then she might soften slightly because it is a sad smile. But she doesn't feel like being fair to him because she'd realised what day it is for her and he had pranced off about an hour ago, as insensitive and ignorant of her feelings as always his younger self was. If she were to guess then this version of him is older than the version who had left an hour ago. Something about the smile that says he is genuinely happy to see her, that he needed to see her and that he understands a bit better. River stares at him coldly for a moment before turning on her heels and sharply exiting the TARDIS.
The Doctor blanches slightly as the TARDIS door bangs shut behind River. How can he have upset her? He has only just arrived and he'd hardly spoken!
"Ok, what I have I done?", he directs his question at the TARDIS as he stands up and dusts himself down. He is met with cold silence.
"Oh come on. Why do the two of you have to be mad at me at the same time?"
The TARDIS remains stubbornly silent. "River gets that from you, you know", the Doctor huffs out as he paces back and forwards thinking about what he has to do. He has to go out and face her as he's pretty sure he must be the reason she's upset even if he has no idea what he has done. He can't just walk away and leave her like that, the way his younger self would have. He stops pacing and smacks himself on the head as the realisation hits him. His younger self! What has he done this time? He straightens himself up completely, subconsciously fixes his hair and bowtie and strides out to face the music. It won't be pretty.
He stops as he exits the TARDIS and takes in the sight in front of him and he knows instantly how bad it is. She is in her cell with the door shut.
River deliberately has her back to her cell door. She heard the TARDIS door open and she can feel him staring at her, but she does not turn around. She feels so much at once she hardly knows which feeling to deal with first. It's all a jumble in her head. It's not really a feeling she is used to. She learned quickly to be in control and to push aside emotion to a certain extent. But in this moment she is vulnerable because she can't stand having him this close to her when he's further away from her than ever and he doesn't know it. He doesn't know that the first kiss his idiotic, arm flailing younger self just shared with her is her last with him. He doesn't know how shattered she is and she hates him right now. She often told him she hated him when she didn't really, but right now she does.
"Let me in."
His voice is soft and tender though it pierces through the silence that had fallen over them for several moments. He is asking permission. Not for physical entry because he could easily open her door himself, but he is asking for emotional entry.
River does not turn around. Never let him see the damage. That is the rule and she has stuck to it steadfastly. Though she had known this day would come she had not been prepared for it to be today and the temptation to give in is strong.
She shifts slightly on her bed. Had he just said please? She's confused. It's not a nice feeling. It feels like coming full circle back to the days when he knew everything and she was the one grasping for information. It only further enhances the notion her time with him is coming to an end. Where has this Doctor come from? What has happened to make him more aware of her feelings?
She is on her feet and may as well have floated over to the cell door. She doesn't open it. Both of them could, but neither of them do. He appears to be taking his lead from her. He is waiting for her to let him in.
She puts her hand through the bars and reaches for his face. She can see in his eyes that raw pain of loss.
"Who have you lost this time?"
She sees the flinch he tries to hide, understands the emotion he tries not to show and she knows when he has come from. He doesn't want to say it and hurt her even though he must know she already knows the answer to her own question. Her anger at him softens slightly. He has just lost her parents. She rubs his cheek comfortingly.
She is surprised but grateful when his hand comes through the bars to reach for her cheek.
"What have I done?"
"What makes you think it is you?", she can't help trying to deflect.
"Let's face it, honey, it's always me."
"Arrogant as ever", she responds, but a slight smile creeps over her lips.
"You left an hour ago. We kissed."
"Must have been really bad for you to be this mad with me."
"Despite your hopeless arm flailing and general teenage like angst, it wasn't bad."
"Ah. My first kiss with you. Now it…", the Doctor stops short of finishing his sentence. He can't because of what he had learned. His firsts are her lasts. But it can't be that time now. So much that she has known that he didn't that frustrated and irritated his younger self, and yet there has always been one thing he knew that she wouldn't until the moment it happens. From the moment he first met her, he always knew she was going to die. The horrible, terrible secret and burden his younger self struggled with. It wasn't just that he was scared and intimidated by her. It was that he is going to lose her. He is destined to lose her and he didn't want to open his hearts to that. He tried to be horrid and push her way, hoping to save himself from the pain of that knowledge and her from that fate. But she was stubborn and she refused to go even when he had been at his worst. It's nearly time for her to go to the library and he can't bear it. He hasn't…they haven't…the thought makes it hurt to breath and suddenly he is no longer terrified of the woman who waltzes into his life knowing more than him. Suddenly he is no longer terrified of the hold she has on him. The only thing that terrifies him is the thought of not knowing her in the most intimate way he has imagined. How she'd love to know he's thought of it. He sneaks a glance at her. Then again she probably does know that. He's terrified of her not knowing that he loves her. Again, she more than likely does, but the fact is he's never said it and she deserves to hear it. For everything she has been through because of and for him she deserves to hear it.
WEEEEOOOO WEEEEEOOOOO WEEEEEOOOOOO
The Doctor is interrupted by the blaring of the Alarm.
"Oh, come on", the Doctor yells exasperated.
"Sweetie", River tries to get his attention.
"She's in her cell and everything", the Doctor yells, arms outstretched at the approaching guards. But to his surprise and hers, they run right past her cell.
"Something is going on."
"You don't say, Doctor."
"Cheeky", the Doctor says turning back to her. "So, River. Doing anything tonight?", the Doctor asks playfully.
River stretches back on her bed and embraces the change of mood. "Well I thought I might paint my nails or wash my hair." She can feel the smirk creeping over her face.
She hears his huff of indignation. He knows she is teasing. She is as about able to refuse an adventure as he is. His warm hand grabs for hers. She is momentarily surprised to find he has gotten inside without her hearing.
"That was sneaky."
He looks her directly in the eye,"I learnt from the best, River Song."
"The chicken and the egg, Doctor", River responds, smiling.
The Doctor is sure his hearts skip some beats as she smiles at him.
"Well, I suppose I could wash my hair tomorrow night."
The Doctor takes a tight hold of her hand and yanks her off of her bed.
"If only you were that demanding getting me into bed, Doctor."
The Doctor is sure his face turns beetroot, but does not let her put him off his stride. Not this time.
"Come along, Song", he says pulling her out of her cell and towards the TARDIS. "Let's go and see who is causing mischief."