Not One For The Diary
Memory One-Hundred-And-Twenty-Six: Love And Stardust Settle On Us
Disclaimer: Not mine, not even a teeny tiny bit mine.
Author's Note: Hello! Remember me? I have been attempting to write this part for weeks now but things keep getting in my way and I apologise for that. This part was inspired by listening to far too much Train. Far, far more than people should. And it's a mid-time River with a late late Doctor, post-series 7 finale but before regeneration if you get me. Enjoy…
"So this is… it." The Doctor swayed slightly, unnoticed, as he pushed the door open. Clara had been nagging, constantly, unstoppingly, for months to know about… about... her, about River. And he could barely bring himself to mutter her name without feeling the need to bite his lip in order to stop all the emotions he possessed swimming up from his toes (where he tried to contain them) and over-taking every atom of his being so he thought maybe he could bring her here and it would explain itself. That had been the plan. That she would step through the doors and just know, as he knew, all the things that had happened within these four walls.
It was strange the way memory worked. He could easily forget where he'd put something, a specific day from long ago could drop from his mind when he tried to recall it, entire years could become nothing but a non-specific cloud of colour and emotion if he didn't refresh them enough and people he once knew so well became confused with others who shared hair colour, sense of humour or taste in music. But this place was forever. He closed his eyes and he was here. River's house. Their house- the house in which they had been happy. But he never allowed himself to think of it in those terms. It was River's house, belonging to River. And it was gone. Like River. Only it wasn't gone (as she wasn't gone) because he had bought it as soon as she'd… When she wasn't there anymore.
He'd bought this house, this place, so that no one could ever disrupt what was there. No one else could cook in the kitchen where River made him porridge and toast in the apron he'd got her one year for a joke because of her appalling cooking skills. No one could move the sofa where they'd watched bad TV and she'd fallen asleep, repeatedly, and spilled her wine across the once-cream sofa only to wake and curse him for letting her get in the predicament in the first place. No one would lie where she had laid- her eyes flickering open in the early morning light and her hair spread across the pillow. No one would dig up the flowers they planted together or sit in the tattered chairs where they had drank tea in the mornings. The ghost of her laugh still echoed around corners. The smell of her perfume lingered in unexpected places. It couldn't become part of the past if he refused to let go of it.
"So, this is it?" Clara repeated as she squeezed his hand gently and the Doctor started. He was so consumed with what had been he'd forgotten what was. That this was now and that was then and he was somehow a stranger in his own house. Not that it was his. River's. Hers. Not theirs. "I expected it to be more… neglected." Clara said gently as she peered around. "Do you come here often?"
"No… I…" The Doctor stammered in confusion as he looked around. She was right. He hadn't been here since… Hadn't been able to bring himself to… And yet it looked lived-in still. There was no air of neglect, no layer of dust (well, no more than there usually was when River was in charge of the cleaning) or any sign that it had laid empty for years.
"Oh, sweetie." A voice called from around the corner and the Doctor gasped. "You're home. What a surprise." River walked into view, smiling as she dried her hands on a tea towel. The Doctor inadvertently gripped Clara's hand far harder than was allowed until she yelped in pain and he realised where he was.
"River… But you… You can't be… You're…" The Doctor stammered momentarily as he stared at her. Really there. Definitely really there. He looked to Clara for conformation that his dead wife was really truly here and that he hadn't evolved to a whole new level of delusional.
"You're not supposed to be here, is what he means." Clara jumped in quickly. "He thought you were away and so we came around to make a surprise for urm... Valentine's Day."
"That was last month." River said coolly as she looked at the woman standing next to her husband.
"Yes but you know what he's like." Clara laughed, slightly hysterically. "Always getting his timings wrong. Aren't you." She finished through gritted teeth as she elbowed the doctor not-so-subtlety in his side.
"Yes. Yes. You know me. Always late. Or early. Or in the wrong universe." He gabbled quickly as he swung his arms. He wanted to run to River, to embrace her and never let her go but his feet were stuck to the floor and his hearts were going too fast and the room was possibly spinning and breathing was hard.
"And who exactly is your… friend?" River asked quietly as her eyes flitted to Clara. It wasn't jealousy that was shown there, or even mistrust, but an emotion mush harder to define. An emotion that lives within a person who has been systematically, and literally, abandoned by everyone who had ever been close to her. A feeling that you are not worthy and that, soon enough, someone better will come along.
"Oh. Oh, of course." The Doctor found his feet and fell clumsily towards his wife. "This is Clara Oswald, a friend of mine. Been taking her for a few trips. And this, of course, is River Song- my dear wife." River snorted and rolled her eyes as the Doctor puffed out his chest with pride.
"Lovely to meet you, I've heard so much about you." Clara smiled and there was a sadness in her eyes River didn't want to dwell on. When you lived a life that made little sense and when you travelled backwards to everyone you loved you learned quickly, and painfully, that many things you don't ask, many things you let go and pretend not to notice. You don't show the damage and you don't see the damage, either.
"You too." River smiled genuinely at the small woman who had suddenly appeared in her life.
"And now I sense I should give you two some space." Clara backed away quickly, glancing between the two.
"No there's no need." River said at the same time as the Doctor was nodding and saying "that would be great."
"Okay then." Clara laughed. "So I'll meet you back here in…?"
"Two hours?" The Doctor suggested.
"Two hours, really?" River grinned. "And what exactly are we going to do for the other one hour and forty-five minutes?" She winked and Clara laughed.
"Oh, I like her!" Clara beamed across at the woman who was making the Doctor blush like a school-girl.
"Shut up." The Doctor scowled at the two of them.
"Yeah? Make me." River purred at him.
"Okay. Definitely going now." Clara coughed pointedly as she made her way quickly out of the front door.
As the door closed the Doctor smiled. He let himself breathe and believe that this was really happening. A moment that he had never expected, never allowed himself to contemplate- this was a moment outside of what was allowed, what was written. In this place where the world outside ceased to matter- with the woman who was the most important person in the universe. This was the place he was at peace, these were the times he would always remember, this was the woman he loved, and this was the place that made the loneliest wanderer feel at home. They were here, they were safe, they were home. Nothing else mattered.
Please review if you have a moment.