The Doctor's never been so determined to be sad before. With the Ponds, he allowed Vastra and Jenny and Strax to try to cheer him up every so often, and Martha and Donna and all the others he met as his rude and pedantic and pretty self filled the hole Rose Tyler left—not perfectly, but enough that he wasn't dwelling on the moment he lost her every second.
Right now, sitting in the TARDIS on some world he doesn't know and doesn't care about and really wishes would just implode now, he's determined to be sad about losing Clara. His tiny Clara. He's not letting himself think about it, losing her—oh, now he's thinking about that final moment—and the TARDIS decides that it's Christmas.
Tinsel and lights and decorations materialize around the inside of his supposedly sophisticated time machine and he glares at the console, letting his oh-so Scottish eyebrows speak for him. There's a noise like she's shrinking back—these eyebrows are truly incredible—and the lights disappear, the tinsel's shine dimming. He sits back into his chair and glares at everything and nothing.
Then there's a knock at the door. He can't help but stand and go to see who it is, and as he strides to the door, prepared to criticize as the sign on the TARDIS's door says, he feels something appear on his head.
It's a tiny man with no hair and less eyebrows, and he has to ask what's on his head, and then go yell at the Old Girl for putting antlers of all things on his head—she's supposed to be a dignified, sophisticated time and space machine and she put antlers on his head in a futile attempt to cheer him up when he clearly doesn't want to be cheered up.
So he follows the tiny bald man on the condition that there will be no singing and with the intriguing notion that someone needs a surgeon and really is it that hard to remember "Doctor" instead of "surgeon"—there's far fewer different letters and it's easier to spell and pronounce and he has to wonder what the impact of going 'round the universe being known as the Surgeon would do for him and the bald man is talking about something but it doesn't matter and then—oh.
Flying saucer. Person walking down ramp. Person insulting him. Person taking off her hood—
Memories wash over him, the memories he'd tried to bury in his thousand years on the cloud that had reappeared when he saw her materialize next to Clara and it's his River and he can't help grinning and interrupting her and she must be Professor Song and he hates that, he always has, he's always known what Professor meant and River doesn't know who he is.
It's not that hard, he's only had thirteen faces, that's not that many—admittedly, it's twelve more than the average human and ten more than River herself and oh, he does love sassing River—he's never really done that before and—River's married.
To him, of course. They were married on a pyramid at a moment when there was no time and all time, all at once. But apparently River's married to someone else now and he's never hated something so much as he hates that idea—except maybe the Daleks. Fine, the Daleks, he hates them more. But it's awfully close.
And her husband is dying and it's not him and really once he understands everything he wants to drive a hammer through this King Hydroflax's head and destroy him. And apparently that's exactly what River wants him to do. Kill the king and retrieve the diamond—yeah, it's a really nice diamond, teardrop-shaped and all that, a nice little rock—but he hardly recognizes his wife. This is the psychopath she always said she was, this is what River's like when he's not there, and he bloody loves his tiny psychopath.
He hasn't seen her since they said goodbye in the remains of his TARDIS on Trenzalore, which was so very long ago, he doesn't know how long, but he remembers River, knows her, as well as anyone could know the beautiful and sexy and why is she saying sexy so much and he's a Time Lord, River, he can think as much as he likes without it being weird.
And then River calls someone named Ramone and they're teleported away and then they're lying on the snow and he's laughing because they're being threatened by a head in a bag and he's never, in all their years of being together and being married, seen River laugh this much. The part of him that still thinks like his old self is so jealous, wondering why she never laughed like that for him. She doesn't know who he is—either she's still lying or she really doesn't know and to be honest to himself that really hurts. That his bloody wife doesn't know who he is.
Then Ramone appears and if he just hates King Hydroflax he sodding well despises Ramone. He's having to lie on the ground watching his wife snog another man and sure, he's seen her kiss other guys before, but that was purely manipulation, just to get the hallucinogenic lipstick in their systems, and right now she's kissing another man probably because she wants to, and has she bloody married everyone else on this planet?
So then he's holding the bag with the head in it and trotting after Ramone and River—their names are even alliterative, not fair—and she kisses him goodbye at the door of the TARDIS, saying something about swimwear, and that's really too much information, and then she informs him that apparently she's been stealing the TARDIS for ages, bringing the Old Girl back before he noticed, and that really annoys him, that he hasn't noticed all this time, but of course that would explain the perfume he definitely remembers smelling before in the TARDIS when he knew very well there'd been no woman in there but still that he wouldn't notice that his wife had been there—
And he gets to pretend to not understand the TARDIS, bigger on the inside and all that, doing it properly instead of all the other companions who had never gone on about it properly enough, although Donna and Clara had come close, running all 'round the outside in confusion, but then Clara had said smaller on the outside and that's just not right. So then River's flying the TARDIS, or trying to, ha, and all he can do is stand there and wish she'd been there for years and years and years and forever and then the door won't close and he has to be brilliant, as always, and River asks what medical school he went to because she's impressed. It's hard to impress River Song, he knows that, and he's really happy about this whole thing.
And then there's a large red robot in his TARDIS with the idiot Ramone as its head and River mourns for him and the robot's choking his wife, and that's not okay, and then finally it drops her and they run out of the TARDIS and leave it in a storage room and where are they, really, River, and they lock the TARDIS into the room.
Of course they're on a luxury ship making its way through the Andromeda galaxy, and of course River's here because no one's going to look twice at anything, because everyone's a murderer of possibly thousands and he can't help thinking that he belongs here, really, he's never purposefully killed thousands—he only thought he was destroying Gallifrey, he never actually did it—but he has done it and he's no better than anyone else here.
Then River uses that spritz stuff Vastra gave her that time and she's even more beautiful than before and he thinks he's probably gaping open-mouthed and that's really not proper even though she is his wife and the lizard man is incredibly rude and thankfully River isn't so psychopathic that she actually have him cooked for dinner, there's always one good thing in a big bloody mess, he has to think. The lizard man takes them to their table and she's reading her diary.
He can't help asking if it's sad, he knows very well that it's sad, as far as he can tell this River has been to Manhattan, but he wants to see what she'll say. She denies its sad qualities, of course, but he knows her eyes. And he can't help the tiny little bit of joy at seeing that she is sad, not good for a husband to think, of course, but she was always so into hiding the pain from him that he was never—really—sure if she could feel anything at all. The River-bot.
So then the buyer comes and his face is unbelievably gross, he never thought he could be so grossed out by a simple ripping of the face in half, but he is, and the buyer pulls the money ball out of his head and hands it to River, who's grabbed a napkin just in time that she doesn't have to feel slimy brains on her hand and his wife is amazing and then of course the whole room hails King Hydroflax. He hates his life.
They try to get out of the sticky situation, he and River thinking as one as they sometimes did in the old days, he can't help wondering if the psychic link is back up, but right now he has to worry about getting him and his beloved out of the situation and so of course he does a Clever Thing with the head and of course the robot's free from the deadlock—he really hates that lizard man.
He's standing next to River being interrogated and they want to find his head for the robot and they're plotting about using River as bait and the lizard man is reading parts from River's diary—Asgard, the Byzantium, Manhattan—and she's panicking and still trying to protect him and his hearts are breaking. He's felt like they were breaking before, so many times, but he thinks this time they're actually breaking, in half and everything.
River's comparing him to a sunset, saying that she could never expect him to love her back, that he never loved her, her words trying to say that she was okay with that, but her tone just breaking like it was never okay, and it should never have been okay, and it was never okay, and he hates his previous self for even letting her think that. When she insists that he'd never, ever, ever come for her, no matter what, he can't help but try to interrupt her, and finally she stops talking and turns to look at him—
He can't help the fact that he still loves her with all his hearts.
So when he whispers those two words, those two words that have always been hers for him, she gasps and he sees the tears in her eyes and he wants to pull her to him and kiss her but it's really not the time so they plan how to get out of their situation and he can't take her eyes off her—his River Song is beautiful. Even more beautiful when informing everyone about the meteor storm and lizard man's bones.
They fall through the floor and she's finally flirting with him and she catches the diamond in her dress and he can't stop himself from staring for a few moments and then they do some Clever Things and the robot's happily gone or something, he's not really sure, River's the most important thing, and they're trying to save the ship.
And why can she never see that she's the most important thing to him, she always has been, his idiot of a previous self could never figure out how to show it or tell it but nothing has changed and he loves her so bloody much and he would let everything go to try to save her but—he can't.
Finally they're trying to get away in the TARDIS and really big explosion—
He wakes up and she's lying on the ground, not moving, and he can't help that hearts attack that he always gets when River's done something reckless and he rests his hand on her neck and she's fine, she's always amazing, she will never stop being amazing.
So he leaves her on the floor of the TARDIS and walks out onto Darillium. He's never avoided a planet as carefully as he has this one, he's canceled their date here thirteen times, but now—he can't stop himself from handing off the diamond to the nice-looking chap to build the restaurant she's been dreaming of for decades—
And he skips a few hundred years in the history of Darillium until the restaurant is perfect. He's had her sonic screwdriver perfect for so long, hoping that if he never saw her again he could never give her the screwdriver and then she could never have to go to the Library. But now's the time, he supposes.
He waits for her on the balcony, in his new haircut and his suit. Naturally he finds her flirting with the robot, and he gives her the screwdriver, and she kisses him on the cheeks, and he leads her to the table, and they watch the towers.
They're beautiful, and the music is beautiful, he's always known it would be from the moment she told him in the Library. But he doesn't really see them or hear them, he sees the face of River, her enchanted smile as she listens, and he hears her gasp and her happy sighs.
And she notices that he's crying, and she asks about the diary again, says that it's running out of pages, doesn't ask if that means they're running out of time, but that's exactly what she means and he can't say that he knows this is the last time they have, they have no more time, they have this night on Darillium, and that's it for the Doctor and River Song.
She stops looking at the towers because a monolith, no matter how beautiful, can't love you back. He is not a sunset, or a monolith, or the stars, he never has been. He's always been hers, from that first moment in the Library.
So he pulls her close at last, and they have twenty-four years together, and it's not long enough, it will never be long enough.
But they will cherish these days, this last night, because they're the Doctor and River Song.
And this is their happily ever after.