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Word count: 1,115

038. Touch

"In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time."

I love you.

The three little words the Doctor will never say to her. Not ever. And it should bother her, but it doesn't. Not really. Because he shows her in other ways; ways that don't need the words or promises he knows he can't keep. He loves her in his own special way. She catches glimpses in of it his eyes or in the way his gaze lingers on her for a second too long. The way he distractedly threads his fingers through her curls while he babbles on about this and that. It's in the way he touches her—in those light touches, short and fleeting.

Because the Doctor does love her, she's sure of it.

But exactly how much, she may never know.

Still, his touches are not reserved for her—not just yet.

No, he loves Amy as well. It's a sort of quiet, fond love. A friend's love—but sometimes, River fears, something more. Because he gets that same look in his eye: the way he used to look at her. Proud and delighted and loving. He praises her, shouts at her brilliance and kisses her on the forehead. A simple gesture and, if you did not know the Doctor, a seemingly insignificant one.

But nothing is ever simple with him.

That is Amy Pond's special kiss.

Not hers. Never hers.

He never has, nor will he ever, kiss her on the forehead as he did—does—for Amelia Pond.

And, River finds, she is alright with that.

She's never been the jealous type, after all. The fact that there were others before her was never something the Doctor hid from her. She always knew and, in some ways, she thinks he told her to chase her off. He almost succeeded a couple of times too, but she could never really leave him. Not when he smiles at her and the happiness doesn't quite reach his eyes. She catches him sometimes, staring off into space with this lonely look to his eyes. However, when he sees that she's caught him, he smiles and starts off on a tangent about something or other that isn't important at all.

The Doctor never wants to show her his pain.

He never wants to show anyone.

So she touches him, in little ways, as he did for a younger her. Sometimes it's just a hand on his shoulder or pat on the back. Nothing especially spectacular or ground-breaking. Her touches are ordinary and frequent. Still, every time she touches him he tenses up for a fraction of a second before softening beneath her touch. Almost as if some of his stress is being alleviated.

It makes her feel as if she is helping, even if only in such a small way.

The day he leaves Amy, she can see it in his face, in his eyes and mannerism. He stumbles out of the TARDIS, drunk off some sort of alien wine, babbling away about grand adventure ("Won't you come away with me, River Song? You and me! Time and Space!") and defeating the bad guys ("Nasty, nasty creatures out there, there are. Always up to no good. We should stop them. Me and you. You and me. Us. We should put a stop to them.")

It breaks her heart.

She sees the loneliness in his eyes, the heartbreak of leaving Amy. She sees all the love he had for her; all of it. And he's here because he wants to escape. He doesn't want to deal with the fact he's had to leave someone again. That he has just seen his friend for maybe the last and final time. And she wants to indulge him; really, she does. But she knows she can't. ("Not today, sweetie. You should rest.") So she takes him back to her place—her little apartment with no decorations and the advanced technology of the fifty-second century.

He passes out on her couch. His cheeks are wet with the tears he wouldn't allow himself to shed sober. It's a sad sight, her Doctor stretched out across her spotless white couch, his face a picture of misery. She leans down beside him, strokes his hair, places a kiss on his cheek and wipes away the remnants of his tears. After a long while of sitting with him, stroking his arm, touching him and wishing she could ease his pain, she falls asleep.

When she wakes, a dozen purple tryqueins sit on her table. They're beautiful, but not her favourite. Though, she supposes, this young Doctor wouldn't know her favourite flower is far simpler—an orchid. Next to the vase, there's an index card. She picks it up and reads what the Doctor has scribbled in his awful handwriting.


He's sorry, even though there's nothing to even be sorry for. What a silly, silly man.

River's life goes on, but she thinks of him every day.

She always thinks of him.

The next time she sees him, he hops out of his TARDIS and kisses her on the cheek. He's worked up about something and is excited beyond words. He drags her into the TARDIS where the Ponds stand, their hands intertwined. She smiles and greets them as usual but she notices what the Doctor does not. Rory and Amy—they're different now and so in love. She can see it in their eyes and she just knows they will be leaving the Doctor. And he will turn up on her doorstep heartbroken and drunk. Still, she tries to ignore the memory and keep the Doctor happy for a little while longer.

They visit a planet called Yunifzan and the people there have been struck by this horrible man-spider who turns out to have just been stranded on the planet, starved and alone. The Doctor helps him, takes him home and the day has a happy ending for once. While he is preoccupied, she buys a bottle of wine and sets it on the dresser in his room. She knows he only ever ventures there when he feels wretched.

You know where to find me, sweetie.

She attaches her message to the bottle and leaves the room, heavy hearted. On her way out, she snags the Doctor by his arm and pulls him aside. She smiles and touches his cheek fondly. "It'll be alright," she tells him.

He frowns at her. "What are you going on about River?"

She smiles sadly. "Spoilers," she murmurs, reaches up towards him, and kisses him lightly on his cheek. She taps him gently on his shoulder and turns to go, leaving behind a red faced and confused Doctor.

He will be seeing her soon.


Notes: Beta'd by MuslimBarbie, as always.