You in the dark
You in the pain
You on the run
Living a hell
Living your ghost

-Letting the Cables Sleep (Bush)

Amy pushed open the door to River's bedroom without asking to be let in. After all, asking for permission didn't guarantee a yes. She met resistance against something solid and heard a muffled curse. Upon trying again, she saw the other woman sitting on the floor, quite near the door, obviously said resistance. River was wiping at her eyes hurriedly with one hand and rubbing her head with the other.

"Oops. Sorry River," said Amy looking down in dismay at the heap the other woman made on the floor. This current version of River was much closer to her age than previous ones they'd met. She didn't have the confidence that the older River carried almost automatically. Amy felt this made it her duty to try and fix this mess, in the name of sisterhood and all that.

"It's fine Amy, can you please just leave me alone," River said, barely loud enough to be heard.

"Nope. Sorry, not leaving. You're going to talk about this," said Amy. She sat and joined River on the floor. River stared blankly off at the wall. "Look, he's being a prat. And he knows that, but you can't just leave."

River sighed. "I'm not leaving forever. I just..." She trailed off, eyes welling up. "I just need some space right now. I can't be around him when he's like this right now. It hurts too much."

"River, you know he didn't mean any of that. He was just taking his mood out on you." Amy put a hand on the other woman's shoulder.

"I know. I do know. I just don't know how he did all this," she said shaking her head.

"Did what?"

"Did this the other way 'round. When I didn't feel anything for him, but he'd been with me for years. Maybe he's used to it or maybe it's some bloody Time Lord thing, but to me sometimes it's like losing the person you love over and over again." River rubbed at her eyes angrily. "I can't do this right now. I can't be here right now. Will you help me pack?"

Amy stood and reached out a hand to help River to her feet. "Sure. Girls have to stick together, right?"

River grinned at that and pulled out her duffel bag from beneath the bed. When she leaned over to pick up a jacket from the floor Amy caught sight of the ring hanging down from her shirt. "Oh, that's lovely River. Why don't you wear it?"

"Why do you think Amy?" River rolled her eyes.

"Ooh, is it your wedding ring? Or is it just little present from the Doctor?" Amy's eyes sparkled with amusement.

River opened her mouth, starting to speak, then closed it again. She looked at the redhead seriously. "Will you tell him?"

Amy shook her head vehemently. "Of course not. I promise."

"It's not quite a wedding ring. More of a binding ring, saying that our lives are intertwined."

"Oh, like an engagement ring?"

"It's sort of like an engagement ring you could say. We're not getting married though, don't see the point." She slipped the ring off the chain. It was silver with tiny scripted symbols sparkling around the length of it.

"So you can't wear it because he hasn't given it to you yet? Couldn't you just wear it on another finger instead?"

River smirked. "It'd be a bit obvious even if I did that." Amy looked at her in confusion, so she slipped the ring on her finger. After a few moments, the shimmery words became brighter, then began to travel down River's hand. The words split in opposite directions, wrapping around her wrist to join together in glittering silvery text. After a few minutes the sparkling became more muted, but was still visible to the naked eye. "See. Not exactly well hidden," River said.

Amy's mouth hung open. "Wow. What is that?"

"Semi-permanent temporal electromagnetic tattoo, it's tied into the ring. Only visible when I wear it. We decided that was a smarter plan, given the situation,"River sighed bitterly.

"Is it in that Gallifreyan language? What does it mean?"

River traced one side of her hand. "That's my name." She traced the longer word. "That's his name."

Amy pointed at the words written on the ring. "What about that?"

River's face dropped. "It says, 'My heart.'" Her voice cracked and she moved to take off the ring. Her hand trembled as she slipped the ring back onto its' chain.

"Oh River I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you more upset," Amy reached out and hugged her. River was stiff, then relaxed slightly. She rested her head on Amy's shoulder.

River sniffled, but stopped herself from crying again. "I just miss him," she whispered. They stood there, not moving for awhile, Amy patting River's curls until the other woman stopped shaking.

"Do you want me to go check if the TARDIS is fixed yet?"

River nodded, sitting back down on the bed. "Thank you Amy. It's alright, I'm fine now." Amy rolled her eyes, but left the blonde alone. River moved over to the drawer and began shoving things into the bag haphazardly. She was nearly done when she heard a knock at the door. She groaned. It had to be him. Amy wouldn't knock and though there was the possibility it was Rory, the odds were against her as always.

"Come in Doctor," she said wearily. He stood in the doorway looking so much like a child waiting to be chastised. He didn't speak, glancing everywhere in the room, but at her.

"Please stay. You don't have to leave River."

"Oh I really do Doctor," she said. "Besides, do you really want me to stay or do you feel guilty?" His lack of response told her more than words could. Her hand clenched shut involuntarily, anger at him rising in her chest. The Doctor, clearly paying no attention to the look on her face, stepped closer.

"I sorry for yelling. I shouldn't have said that. You know I didn't mean it." He couldn't quite hold her gaze and looked away unhappily.

"You don't know what you mean yet Doctor," River replied dejectedly. He was so sincere, this one. He so utterly meant to make it all better, with a word or two. This time though, in his haste to make amends she was certain he'd misinterpreted her anger. Yes she was wounded by what he'd said about their relationship not being set in stone. That wasn't what had hurt so much. What if something had already changed? She'd been beginning to fear that he'd wanted to be with her because of his knowledge of their future, not out of choice. This was not a man given to long-term relationships, though theirs was unconventional. Fine, he might grow to love her, but she wasn't going to hold him to their future if he didn't want to be. This pathetic attempt to convince her to stay was only making that worse.

"Just stay River," he said placing a hand on her arm.

She recoiled, couldn't stand to have him touching her right there and then, not like this. The fear and the anger and the wrenching pain rushed through her and she knocked his arm away, striking out blindly. Why couldn't he just leave her alone? Her arm hit him in the face and she heard a grunt of pain. When she looked up there was blood streaming from his lip. The edge of her watch must have caught his mouth. The look on his face was truly shocked. He'd always had an air of disbelief that he could be injured, or at least ignored it in favor of other things that needed to be done. River felt sick at the sight of the blood that was now dripping onto the floor. She'd been angry with him, surely. She never meant to hurt him though.

"Doctor," she choked out. "I didn't mean..." Her voice died out, eyes wide and panicked.

"It's fine. Don't worry about it," he said indistinctly, as his lip began to swell.

River tore into her bag, grabbing out a yellow handkerchief and holding it to his gushing lip. "Hold that there Doctor." He stood, looking dazed, holding it to his mouth. She dragged him to the bed. "Sit. Now." Looking unsure, River sat on the bed, giving him some space. She hadn't a clue what to say to him, and was resisting the urge to flee the room. "It was an accident Doctor. Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't... I never should have..." She buried her head in her hands, fighting for the control that had never been hard to find before meeting him.

"I know. It's alright River. I'm fine." He looked off into the distance. "Why does this have to be so difficult for us?" He asked quietly.

She didn't respond at first. "Spoilers," she breathed weakly. Annoyance flashed across his face and hers fell. "It doesn't have to be difficult. But then this doesn't have to be anything Doctor. That's up to you. I won't stay where I'm not wanted," she added, face impassive.

"I don't know...what I want. I just feel like this is going so fast sometimes."

"I haven't got a map for this Doctor. I won't push you into anything though."

"Can we be friends for now?"

"Alright," she said softly. "Friends then," she held out her hand. They sat there, side by side, the silence more companionable now. "You make me nervous when you're like this," she said at last. "When you barely know me, it's terrifying. I overcompensate I suppose. I know it annoys you." She shook her head.

"No, it doesn't typically. It's entertaining," he smirked. Then turning more serious he added, "You're brilliant River. You're completely mad sometimes, but brilliant." The fleeting blush that colored her cheeks as she ducked her head caught his eye then. It was the loveliest she'd looked to him. She was definite trouble. He was in trouble. He knew it, couldn't avoid it and wasn't sure if he wanted to. At the very least he couldn't keep pushing her away with one hand and reaching out for her with the other. It wasn't fair to her. Being friends would be good for now. At some point, however, he had to manage the courage to make a decision about River Song. He left her alone to finish packing and went off to fiddle with the TARDIS controls some more.

The Doctor apologized several more times in a heartfelt enough manner before she left. She'd accepted the apology this time, said she forgave him. River did not. She couldn't completely yet, but it seemed cruel not to say it. After all, they'd come to better terms in his future and he was so very sorry. Besides, his swollen lip made her heart hurt whenever she looked at him. She owed him the forgiveness for that at least.

There were times though when the future already written before her made decisions easier to make, but more difficult to stomach. She accepted the apology because they might not be where they were had she not. The Doctor clasped her hand tightly when saying goodbye, but couldn't quite keep up the eye contact. Both Amy and Rory gave her a hug, which surprised her. She waved as the TARDIS disappeared and turned toward her tiny house.

A flash of blue in the distance made her heart race. Her pace quickened, approaching a run as she neared the house. When she was steps from the door it swung open and there stood her Doctor. She froze, just drinking in the sight of him. He quickly closed the distance between them and grabbed her hand tightly, kissing her palm, her hand, up her arm, her neck, every inch of her that he could reach. He cupped her face firmly, bringing it to his and kissing her fiercely. She responded in kind before pulling back again to look at him. River raised a hand to lightly trace his features as though memorizing him with her touch. The iciness around her heart and tightness in her throat was slipping away. She couldn't doubt him, couldn't doubt them. If the most meaningful relationship of her life wasn't what she thought it was, there was nothing left. She had to trust him. A tear ran down her cheek and he wiped it away gently.

"I've missed you Sweetie," she breathed.

"I missed you too River," he pulled her closer, wrapping her in a tight hug. "I've just been being a complete bastard haven't I?"

She laughed into his shoulder, the sound muffled by his jacket. "A bit."

"Sweetheart, I'm so sorry. I wish I'd had a reason. I was cranky, I was scared about what everything meant. I am so so sorry," he pushed a lock of hair out of her eye, stroking her cheek as he did.

"Can you..." She looked up at him, eyes pleading. "Is this going to get any easier? No spoilers, but just don't lie. Please, I just need to know something."

"Not easier no, but you'll get better at it. I did at least," the Doctor paused. "And I'll get nicer at any rate," he smirked.

She smiled, it not quite reaching her eyes. "Okay. Okay then. That's good enough. Thank you for not sugarcoating it." River kissed him gently.

"I wish..." He looked at her sadly. "I'm sorry it isn't easier love."

"I know you are. I wouldn't trade it though," River said, brightening slightly.

"I could always go and yell at myself!" The Doctor grinned at her.

"I would pay to see that dear."

He gestured at the TARDIS, calling her bluff. "Well, shall we then?"

"It's all in the past Sweetie," smiling widely then. "Besides, I know how you can make it up to me. Much more fun than arguing with yourself." River winked, then grabbed a chuckling Doctor's arm and dragged him at full speed into the house. The friendly blue police box stayed parked out front for a week, the house door not opening once.