The Ways In Which I Love You.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. I sure do wish I did.
Author's Note: This is somewhat a response to the Christmas episode and the ache in my heart that came from River not thinking the Doctor loved her. I haven't written anything for AGES so I'm horribly rusty and apologies if it's all awful…
He told her he loved her often, and without reserve. He told her every day and in every way he could conceive. He never said the actual words, of course, because how could he? How could he put into terms that another being could understand the way it felt to rely so much on another person in order of having any chance at ever being happy? There is no version of 'I love you' that she hadn't read in a book, seen on some soppy TV program or heard from a drunk man in a pub. He couldn't compare her to a summer's day or tell her she was the answer to everything. He didn't have the words or express it and she didn't have the ability to believe he was telling the truth. She'd laugh it off, ignore it or roll her eyes and assume sarcasm was in play. And he couldn't deal with that. So he had to just carry on telling her he loved her in the only way he knew how.
There had been that one time, one of those many times, when they'd been crashing towards imminent death and he'd been shouting at her to get the hell out and pushing her in front of him and possibly accidentally ripping her brand new dress in the process. She'd noticed that- wouldn't let him forget that part. She lectured him for a good ten minutes on the fact she could take care of herself, that they wouldn't have been in this position in the first place if he'd just listened to her and that he was damn well going to pay for a new dress.
She didn't mention, however, although she could hardly have failed to have heard, the mumbled words of prayer to a deity he didn't believe in as they jumped. He'd offered everything, promised things that were never feasible, for the safe delivery of this one human. Just this one. Just save her, he'd pleaded. Don't take her from me.
A different day, at the end of another adventure, they'd been sat in a small restaurant with the Ponds. They'd all been battered, bruised and now felt so tired they wondered how their eyes were still open but they were alive and they were grateful. They ate quietly and laughed often as they recalled how close it had been, and how they'd saved the day. River leaned heavily against the Doctor as she sighed and reached across, taking the last piece of food from his plate and popping it quickly into her mouth.
"Hey!" Amy gasped.
"Hmm?" River mumbled innocently as she chewed.
"That was your last dumpling. They're your favourite and you never, ever let me have one. You said you'd never share them with anyone!" Amy continued in outrage.
"Well, you see, I'm just not anyone." River grinned wickedly and the Doctor shrugged half-heartedly. His eyes met those of his oldest friend and they said more than he ever could. She's everyone, they professed, she's everything. River let out a sigh and closed her eyes- oblivious.
"Why?" River demanded, as she stamped her foot impatiently. "Is the voice interface me, again? I've told you before it freaks me out when it just pops up like that!" She huffed as she pushed a button to alter the image that stood before them. "And my hair does not look like that."
"Oh it must have got stuck." The Doctor mumbled quickly, blushing slightly as he turned away. "One of those stucky loopy things where it reverts to the previous one. Or she might just be doing it to annoy you, have you two been fighting again?"
"We never fight, do we?" River cooed as she stroked the TARDIS affectionately. "She's always pleased to see me, unlike some people I could mention." She shot him a look that would have made him wince if he hadn't still been resolutely refusing to meet her eye. "It's probably just that she misses me and wants to remind you to pick me up from my cell!"
"Ah yes that would probably be it!" The Doctor nodded quickly in agreement. "Seems the only logical conclusion."
As they ran away from the enemy she grabbed his hand and held on tightly as they ran. As the danger passed and the relief washed over them, he held on. As they wandered down empty corridors and regained their breath he kept holding. As they sank into chairs next to each other he ran his thumb over hers, shivers running through him as he did. It was never like this with anyone else. The need for contact usually passed as the danger did but not with her. She had to notice, surely. She had to hear what he was saying.
"So what culinary delights have we got today?" The young girl asked cheerfully as she sat down next to River.
"Ah the usual- chicken and a bit of salad." River replied with a smile as she reached into her bag for her lunchbox.
"Predictable as ever!" Her friend chuckled as she retrieved her own lunch.
"Ah, well, you know: a body like this doesn't come for free!" River laughed. "Also, I'm a terrible cook."
"Well now that I can't argue with- I had to suffer through your lasagna!" She rolled her eyes. "But why are you grinning at it like an idiot?"
"Oh just, nothing." River coughed quickly. "Just a note from the husband telling me to have a nice day."
"Oooh what's he done wrong?"
"Nothing. And everything- I would imagine." River chuckled.
"Ah he must want something then. Looks like you're in for a fun right." Her friend winked.
"Doubtful, but a girl can hope!" River smiled as she took the note, folded it carefully, and placed it in the back of her diary with the others.
He sat on the edge of the bed as she slept, hoping she didn't wake up. He was aware it was a tiny bit creepy but he couldn't help himself. He felt restless with her being in the TARDIS but yet out of reach. Any moment that she was there felt like a moment he should be observing. He usually had to be so fast, so busy, so full of noise. But for her he was willing to sit in the stillness. Time didn't feel so slow when she was there, her hair splayed out around her and her eyelids fluttering. She slept in a shirt he was sure had once been his but looked infinitely better on her. He thought he might lie down, just for a moment, beside her. He was sure she wouldn't mind.
"Is she there, is she back? Doctor Song, I mean." The Doctor snapped down the phone.
"Yes she's fine. Back in her cell and sleeping, Sir. She refused supper but has requested pancakes for breakfast." A young man replied and the Doctor breathed a sigh of relief.
"Did she seem ok? Was she happy do you think?" He asked quietly.
"Same as always, Sir. Would you like me to pass a message on to the prisoner for you?"
"No!" He shouted, quickly closing his eyes in frustration at his own anger. "No. She mustn't know about these phone calls. Not ever, understand?"
"Yes, of course sir." The Doctor heard the voice chirp before he hung up quickly. There was nothing else he needed to hear. She was safe. Everything was okay.
He knew there was a very real possibility he'd never find the right words, never discover the ones she deserved to tell her how needed, loved and wanted she was. But he hoped, with all of his hearts, that if he kept telling her he loved her, in the only way he knew how, that eventually she would hear him.