The Doctor thought that River Song was the closest thing to a hurricane that any person could be. She was loud, and rambunctious, and full of energy. Despite the rain, her hair still stuck up at all angles, and her voice was loud enough to wake the dead. Sure, she was beautiful, she had been beautiful when he met her, and she was still beautiful to that very day, but like a hurricane, she was something he preferred to admire from a distance.
Especially after what had happened between them.
Of course, the Pond's—bless their drunken hearts—had not been thinking of his version of the facts, the Pond's had been viewing the whole situation through their own spectacles (so to speak). The Doctor loved his friends, he really did. However, at that particular moment in time, lying in a puddle of River Song's perfume, and stapled to the ground by her body, The Doctor was rather…
That didn't seem like the right word but, he felt as though his brain had been knocked loose by the fall.
He'd come back to that thought. Maybe.
"Why, I was invited, darling!" said River, finally releasing him somewhat by sitting upright, her legs daintily arranged on either side of his thighs. "Happy Christmas, pity about the weather!" she leaned down and pressed a lipstick smudged kiss to his cheek, before she got to her feet and stepped away from him.
The Doctor continued lying motionless on the floor, as both Amy and Rory got to their feet, grinning at their long lost friend. They exchanged some sort of heightened greeting, filled with drunken giggles and stumbling, but The Doctor couldn't process any of it. He was too busy questioning, well, everything.
Especially the last time he had laid eyes on the ambitious, brave hearted River Song.
And that had been a bit of a miniature hurricane in itself.
They had been in the middle of an almost cinematic "rather romantic" (his words, not hers) evening.
Candle-lit. Expensive cloth napkins. Heavy, wide-rimmed glasses full of deep, velvety red wine. Overly expensive dishes designed by a chef that had some sort of raspberry sauce drizzled on top of everything. The works. He had saved up for it, taken his time and placed money aside so he could take her to some fancy-shmancy restaurant that only played classical music, so he could ask her if she wanted to move in with him, and furthermore marry him. (She spent enough time at his apartment anyways, it wasn't like everything was going to change suddenly. There would only be a weight on her finger, one he was sure she would not feel.)
And then she had said, nonchalantly: "I'm leaving."
At first he had laughed, his head leaning back, a strand of hair dancing across his forehead. It was a loud piercing sound, an undignified sound, and he was sure the people sitting in the table next to theirs were giving him quite a stink eye.
"Headed to the moon?" he had said, making a reference to an elaborate space joke she had made earlier in the evening.
"No, John," she had said, and she had taken his hands in her own across the table, her tone deathly serious, even using his first name for emphasis. "I mean it. I'm really leaving. I got offered a very intriguing archeology gig, and they want me to lead it." She leaned across the table and took his hand. "I believe it's best for us to stop this, all of this, I mean."
"Oh," he said, because there was nothing else he could say.
"I thought I'd let you know, so you didn't think I just vanished into thin air!" She laughed, shrilly and over the top, "That certainly would've left you in more heartbreak than us just ending this now."
"Right," he said. His brain was at a loss, incapable of coming up with anything intelligent to say.
"Well, this is the end of an era, I suppose? The era of Smith and Song? Or, should it be Song and Smith! It's a good thing, I think," she smiled, and played with her food aimlessly as though the thought didn't bother her in the slightest, "Time to move on with our lives!"
"Time to move on with our lives," he had echoed.
And so, he had tried to move on with his life.
He hadn't told Amy and Rory about the fiasco and how much it had broken him, as much as he adored the both of them. He hadn't told either of them about the ring he had had in his pocket, and then had had to return with tearful eyes. He hadn't wanted them to feel sorry for him, to come over in the late hours of the evening with a pint of ice-cream, and a sappy American movie, content to watch—and cry—until he felt better. No, they were living their own life, they had (as River had so eloquently put it) "moved on with their lives".
Instead, he got busy. He had buried his nose in his work, writing whenever he got a chance, tinkering whenever he got a moment, traveling around the country whenever the mood hit him, when he needed inspiration. He backpacked across Europe—only impressively getting robbed twice. He told stories to children, to adults, to anyone who would listen, selling little trinkets from his stories to all ages. He explored everywhere he could, the sunny beaches in Monaco, to the cold winters in Greenland. Against everything he had stood for and done when he was with River; he started saving money. He published books, and carefully built his life back up from scratch. He felt more responsible, less uncomfortable about going to expensive restaurants in the middle of Italy, or Greece, or Peru, when the moment presented itself. He made a safe amount of money. Enough money to purchase apartments and rent them out, enough money to be safe as he could be. Yet, he continued to save save every penny, no matter how much he got.
"It's for the big one," he would say, when he spent time in his rickety old apartment, on the lovely occasion when Amy Pond would pop over to sit on his kitchen counter and scowl at him, "a trip to every country in the whole world".
Of course, now that he didn't have River, he didn't have anybody co-pilot his excessively expensive trip. He wasn't about to ask Amelia Pond (with her incredibly long legs) and Rory Pond (with his angular nose) to come with him. Not that there was anything wrong with Amy's legs, or Rory's nose, they were just too happy. He didn't want to change that. He also did not want to be a third wheel.
Although, the fact that River was in his apartment revealed one thing in particular. He really should have amped up his emotional pain after losing River. Perhaps then the Pond's would have gotten the hint.
"I'm rather behind aren't I," River stated, jumping up and heading in the direction of the kitchen, "might as well try to catch up with you drunken teenagers!"
He watched as she disappeared into the kitchen, making excited statements about how not very much had changed in the kitchen, and that the careful paint was chipping on the walls, and she just had to repaint it all. Amy and Rory followed her into the kitchen, intent on getting more drinks. It was practically Christmas, and all of their rules were out the window.
The Doctor sighed, and placed a hand over his forehead.
"Doctor, we can't keep meeting like this, you know," said Clara, soundlessly appearing at his side, "is this going to be a regular thing? Me, finding you sprawled out on the ground?"
He pulled his hands away from his face and smiled up at her.
"I believe I'll do it one more time and then I'll officially be finished," he replied, "third time's the charm, isn't it?"
Clara laughed quietly and offered him a hand to stand up, which he did so unsteadily. She tucked a strand of her hair back behind her ear and smiled up at him. She was a little pink around her nose and cheeks area from the slight intoxication she was experiencing, but her eyes seemed to sparkle and glow. She broke his look, and turned towards the kitchen, where sounds of glasses and shouting emanated out of.
"This River lady," Clara said, trying to look nonchalant but, instead appearing slightly standoffish, "she's your girlfriend, I assume?"
"It's a long story, a long complicated story. Perhaps not one for you drunken ears, Miss Oswald. I could leave a bad impression, and that's the last thing I want. We're neighbors for goodness sake!"
The Doctor swallowed, his cheeks flushing slightly pink before he added:
"However, I believe it's important for you to know that she not my girlfriend. Not anymore."
A quiet sigh of relief echoed around the room, and Clara's shoulders relaxed, and she walked back over to the couch. It wasn't as though she was jealous, was it? It wasn't as though she was interested in him, was it? Perhaps she was just uncomfortable with the situation, and the fact that he had a pink smudge of lipstick on his face from a woman that she had never seen before. That could make anyone uncomfortable, couldn't it? He joined her, spreading out the slight lumps before he sat down. (Even with his rather large amounts of money, there were certain pieces of his furniture, pieces of his life, that he couldn't get rid of. Even if they were slightly lumpy and uncomfortable. It was his apartment, after all, and he could do whatever he wanted to do to it. Within good reason, that was.)
"I believe they're going to take a bit of time in the kitchen drinking all of your alcohol, Doctor," Clara said, turning her body so she was facing him, her legs tucked under herself in an inelegant way, as though she was home, "why don't you tell me the River story?"
The Doctor smiled at her. It felt alright to let the emotions out of his system, especially in front of her. Despite their short time spent in each other's presences, he felt as though he could trust her. If that was the help of an alcoholic beverage or two, or just the fact that he had finally come to the conclusion that he wasn't in love with River Song, he couldn't say but, he knew one thing for sure, he wanted to tell her. He wanted her to know.
"You've convinced me, Clara. I met her when I was eighteen, just starting university..."
By the time that River Song and the Pond's returned from their kitchen adventure, The Doctor was finishing up his story. His thigh was pressed against Clara's knee, and he had his arm leaning against the back of the couch nearly wrapping around Clara in her entirety, completing the story—including the engagement ring part.
"John!" River's voice cracked brightly, and she scrambled over to him, seating herself on the floor between Clara and The Doctor. "We should do one of these things in your apartment annually, have a big get together and force everyone to keep in touch with each other," River pondered her comment for a moment before adding, "wasn't I the one who suggested this to begin with?"
"Not exactly," said The Doctor, "I came up with it on my own when I was traveling in Moscow," he glanced over at Clara for a moment before adding, "a home isn't a place, it's the people who are your support system, and who will always be by your side no matter what. Christmas is about home and holidays and family, and the Pond's are my family, so it doesn't matter where we are."
Rory tried to high-five Amy on the family element but, she wasn't paying attention, so he deflated back down to his normal self.
The Doctor looked over at Clara, a kind smile on his face. "And Miss Oswald is a part of my family too."
Clara froze for a moment, looking surprised as she met his eyes.
It was as though River hadn't seen Clara up until this point. Her wide eyes glanced over at the brunette and she grinned brightly. Her hair seemed to puff a little further as she happily raised herself a little higher and hugged Clara tightly.
"Miss Oswald," she stated as sincerely as she could, "thank you for taking care of my John. Who knows what he would've done without you. Now, if you'll all excuse me," she untangled herself from Clara's limbs, and stood to her full height, "I must speak to John in private."
Without waiting for a moment of recollection to cross his face, or even a word from Clara, River promptly pulled The Doctor up by his hand, and dragged him to the bathroom.
As soon as she pulled him inside the room, she slammed it loudly and pushed him back against the door. It was as though she had turned into a completely different person. There was a look in her eye, one that he used to be so familiar with. A seductive look, one filled with passion, lust, and so many other things that he would have been into when he had carried a little box with a ring inside it.
He tried to speak, to squirm out of her grasp but, she pressed her lips against his, pushing him even further against the bathroom door. He wriggled his hands and arms in an attempt to stop her from continuing but, it was to no avail. Her hands snuck up the front of his shirt, ice cold skin against his warm chest. He could only hiss in return, his vocal chords struck at a loss. She pressed kisses against his face, leaving a trail of bright pink across his face, making her way down to his neck.
She broke away for a moment to mumble, "I've been waiting for this for so long, John. Oh, how I've missed this."
She ripped the front of his shirt open, popping some of the buttons on his button-down shirt. He placed his hands against her shoulders and tried to move her away so he could get at least a little bit of leverage in the situation, and a chance to speak but, she had him pinned completely. She placed her hands on his chest, her nails slowly raking down his chest. He shivered.
"River," he said, slightly out of breath.
He looked down at her, his face flushed, and smudged with lipstick. A fairly voluptuous amount of her cleavage could be seen from his perspective, something that he was intentionally not focusing on. Her pupils were wide, and she was smiling brightly, hungrily almost. He swallowed and looked away from her for a moment, trying to find his words.
"What's the matter, John? Cat got your tongue?" She paused for only a second longer, grinning mischievously, before going back at his neck again.
"River, please," he said, slightly out of breath, "listen to me."
"Fun first, Doctor," she whispered against his neck, sending a shiver down his spine, "conversations later."
It was then and only then that he snapped. He grabbed hold of River's hands, prying them off his body, and held her a safe distance away from him. He paused, almost unsure if he truly wanted to say what he was planning on saying. She looked up at him, blinking daintily with curiously.
"I can't do this with you anymore. You have to stop."
River stopped fighting him and just looked up at him, her demeanor shifting as though a bucket of ice water had been dunked over her head. He looked past her, at an attempt to find his words. He looked at his reflection in the mirror. River had done a number on his hair, his shirt, his face, and part of his neck was already turning a light pink—capillaries broken from passion.
"What?" she asked.
"You've been gone. You've been gone for a very long period of time," he started, feeling all his emotions about her bubble up to the surface, "I wanted to wait for you, I wanted us to be together forever, and I did, I waited for a very long time but, I didn't get postcards, letters, emails even, I didn't get anything. I didn't know if you were still working or, if you had found someone else, and you really meant what you had said back in that restaurant, and I was just alone."
He paused for a moment before, with a crack in his voice, he added:
"I was going to propose to you. That night, in the restaurant. I had never felt more in love, more alive, more happy. And then it was all over, because it was inconvenient for you. Because I didn't fit into your grand scheme of things."
The curly haired archeologist stepped backwards, away from his hands, and leaned against the sink. She looked down at her outfit, her shoes, her fingernails, as though she could tell he was not done. Her hair was oddly silhouetted against the florescent lights by his sink, and if anything it made her look even more beautiful than before. Sobered up in a matter of seconds by his confession, she looked smaller, and she knew just saying that she was sorry was not going to cut it. They had known each other for too long.
"I loved you but, moved on, River," he met her eyes again, "You should too. I'm sorry that I wasn't convenient enough, or just someone you could drag around from place to place. Perhaps, if we were different this all could have worked out for us but, that's not the case this time. Life isn't about to freeze when you want it to."
River looked as though she wanted to say something. Pausing for only a moment, taking him in one last time as they stood so close together in reality but, still remained so desperately far away.
"I know," she stated, "I loved you too, John. I think there will always be a part of me that loves you but, that time is over and done now. I just didn't want to believe it was the end yet. I guess I just thought subconsciously that you'd be waiting here for me when I came back."
The Doctor had thought that exact thought for quite some time. However, they weren't meant to be. It hung in the air between them like a dense fog. The realization of it.
River cleared her throat, and stepped towards him, gently placing a hand on either of his arms, gently running them up and down. She got up on her toes and kissed his cheek. It wasn't a passionate, lustful kiss, but a light one, pressed against his cheek with such elegance and grace, he could have sworn it was coming from an entirely different person.
"Thank you, Doctor," said River, "for everything."
"No," he responded, "thank you, River. For everything."
With that, he promptly began to button the buttons that were still intact on his shirt. He turned to exit the bathroom, paused, and looked back at River. She met his eyes for a moment, his dark brown meeting her light green-grey for one last time. She had told him it was the end of an era what seemed like forever ago, and he hadn't accepted it. He hadn't truly gotten over her, no amount of traveling could do that. It seemed that she hadn't gotten over him either, at least until he had shoved the notion into the spotlight for both of them to see. Only looking her in the eyes, he was finally allowing himself to accept it all. He offered her a kind, polite smile. A goodbye. She gave him one back.
They both knew what they had was over for good.
He exited the bathroom carefully, closing the door quietly behind him. He stood in the hallway for a beat, leaning against the bathroom door and letting the moment set in, before walking back into the living room.
Amy and Rory were sprawled and tangled on the couch, laughing at something obscure and ridiculous. Tears streamed down Amy's cheeks as laughed so hard no sound came out. Clara was on Rory's other side, with an almost finished glass of wine in her hand, she was giggling like a schoolgirl towards whatever it was that the trio were looking at.
He watched them both for a moment, before clearing his throat loudly.
Rory glanced up and let out a huge raspberry of a snort, slapping part of the couch in utter hilarity. Amy squeaked loudly, beaming from ear to ear, before she let out a cat-call type whistle. However, Clara looked at him with muffled shock. Her lips filed out into a careful line, her jaw hardened, and she promptly looked away from him. He felt a pang of guilt. He probably looked like he had just had passionate sex in his bathroom, something that stabbed at his heart, perhaps even more than it had at hers.
Not sensing any discomfort in the situation, Amy asked: "Is this your new look, Doctor, because I can't say that I like it very much."
"Too hippy, wouldn't you say?" replied Rory, holding back laughter.
"Much too hippy, much too disheveled. Somewhat like someone had a good time recently?"
The Doctor looked over at Clara, addressing her instead of his Pond's: "Nothing happened in there, I promise."
He heard the Pond's make cooing noises, but he paid no attention to them. They were too out of their minds to truly be able to help in the situation. He could only look at Clara, only look at the nearly unreadable expression on her face. It was as though the alcohol had evaporated itself out of his system, and everything hurt in his heart. He felt terribly awake, terribly conscious about his surroundings, terribly focused on the near expressionless face Clara Oswald was putting on. It was one of bravery, putting up a hard cold front against anyone that could hurt her. However, it was also one of hurt surprise. They had just been getting to know each other, and he had ruined it all by getting dragged off by River Song into his very own bathroom.
So much for fresh starts and meeting beautiful, interesting, new people in creative ways.
He would just be stuck third wheeling the Pond's until the end of time.
Clara Oswald opened her mouth as if to say something, but then closed it again. She daintily put down her wine glass, choosing instead to clasp her hands tightly in her lap until her knuckles turned white. He watched her carefully, his shoulders slumping forward, feet pointed inwards at each other, his bowtie loose around his neck, buttons missing from his shirt. She looked at him earnestly, she looked at him for only a moment, but it was as though he could hear her brain whirring and ticking, trying to figure out what to do next.
And then the moment was over, and Clara Oswald got to her feet. She smiled politely at the Pond's—squeezing Amy's shoulder, and ruffling Rory's hair—and stepped over the two of them with a surprising amount of elegance. She walked over to his front door, and put on her shoes, slipping the dainty heels over her feet. He followed her to the door, and stood in front of it, not letting her leave.
"Clara," he started.
"Save it, Doctor," she replied, her voice slightly snappy, not bothering to look up and meet his eyes, "I'm going to cut this all short. I thought one thing was happening and it wasn't. It's my fault. I don't want to argue with you, I don't want to fight with someone I legitimately just met, so I am going to leave now. If you'd please move."
"Clara, I promise you," he started again.
"Doctor, or John, or whatever your name is," she looked up at him for only a moment, and he could see her eyes were slowly filling with tears, "I hope you have a happy Christmas."
Something lodged in his throat, and he couldn't get another word out. He wanted to tell her that she should stay, that everything wasn't what it looked like, that he really, really, really did like her. More than was normal to like someone that he had just met. That he felt as though she was already part of his makeshift family. That he wanted to cook breakfast for her, and bring it down to her apartment in the mornings, and borrow her favorite books late at night to see how her brain ticked, and see the differences in how she decorated her apartment, versus how he decorated his own. But, alas he could only step aside and let her pass into the dreary, rainy darkness of their shared staircase, and eventual street. He could only let her pass as the sobering guilt and dread washed over him at the idea that he may never get a chance to redeem himself. He could only let her pass, and watch from the glowing staircase as she walked further and further away until she was swallowed up into the darkness of that Christmas night.