Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. Which is fine. Because you don't need to own the Whoniverse, just see it.
A/N: This has been rattling around my brain for so long, and I've tried and tried and tried to ignore it. It was originally an idea for Jack, but then turned into River/Doctor, and it works so much better, I think. The book being read from is "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut. And, while it's not explicitly mentioned, this is supposed to be the Eleventh Doctor. Please, please please read & review! I'd love opinions on how successful or unsuccessful I was capturing the characters; I don't have much practice writing for Eleven or River.
"Reading again, are you?" The Doctor said as he poked his head through the TARDIS' library doors. "We've got all of time and space to choose from, and you're shut up in a library, reading. Don't you ever get bored, just...sitting there?"
River laughed. This version of him was so fidgety. He was always itching to do something. "Libraries are never boring," she replied. "Give me a good book and a good library, and I could die happy." It must have been the wrong thing to say, because his eyes went dark as he considered her words. It only lasted a second, before he smiled again and nodded his goodbyes.
"Oh, no," she thought to herself. "He's not getting away with that." She set her book aside and jogged down the hall after him. She found him in the control room, half buried under the console. She kicked gently at his foot, making him slide out to look at her. "What's wrong?" she asked him.
The Doctor groaned. He had picked River up this time at an unfortunate stage when she was more comfortable with the Doctor than he was with her. He really had to be more careful about synchronizing their timelines. "Nothing's wrong," he said, giving her his best fake smile. "I thought you were reading."
"I stopped," she said bluntly. He waited for her to speak again, but she didn't. She simply stared at him with her arms folded across her chest.
The Doctor sighed and stood up to face River head-on. "Look, it's fine, really. I'm fine."
"Oh, I'll have no truck with that, Doctor," she replied. "I'm not having you go all introverted on me. What. Is. Wrong."
The Doctor hesitated for a moment longer, but then threw his hands up. "Oh, What the hell? I'm going to tell you much darker things than this one day. May as well start here."
River led him by the hand back to the library. He sat in the big leather armchair, and she sat cross-legged on the sofa across from him. Once they were all settled in, River leaned expectantly forward, silently encouraging him to talk. The Doctor unconsciously mimicked her position and said, very seriously. "You're going to die one day." River laughed. This was not the reaction the Doctor was expecting, and he continued, his voice rising in pitch a bit as he tried to emphasize his point, "No, really, you are."
"I was aware of that fact," River said finally. Then, she gave a small "Oh", as if his words were finally sinking in. "You're worried about losing me?" she asked.
The Doctor suddenly found the arm of his chair vitally interesting, and he could not pry his eyes away from it. "So it would seem," he muttered.
River pursed her lips. She knew that the Doctor had lost people so many times. And he was right; some day he would lose her. She didn't know if she could fix that kind of hurt. But that didn't mean she couldn't try. "Well then," she said at last, "You should make the most of the time you have with me. That means not sticking your head under the console every time you feel uncomfortable. That means coming here," she patted the space next to her, "and closing your eyes and letting me read aloud to you for a little while."
The Doctor shifted nervously in his chair.
"Oh for heaven's sake," River cried. "Just trust me for three minutes, will you?"
The Doctor moved to the sofa with River. She picked up the book she had been reading earlier, then settled in, leaning against the arm of the sofa, and letting her legs stretch lazily across his lap. He noticed her flip back a couple of pages from where she had marked her place, and he wondered briefly why she would read something she had just finished reading.
"Billy was working on his second letter when his first letter was published," River began. The Doctor closed his eyes, like she suggested, and let her voice wash over him. "The second letter started out like this."
"The most important thing I learned on Trafalmadore," River read, "was that when a person dies, she only appears to die. She is still very much alive in the past-yes I'm changing the words. Shut up and listen, Doctor," she added, when she noticed he was about to interrupt her. "She is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at her funeral. All moments, past, present, and future always have existed, always will exist."
The Doctor jumped as River snapped the book shut and silence filled the library. The Doctor opened his mouth to say something, but found this was one of those rare moments when he had nothing to say. He settled for a small, but genuine, smile.
"Come on," River said at last. "We've got all of time and space to choose from." She got up, extending her hand for the Doctor. "All moments, past, present, and future. Let's go somewhere."