He found her slumped over in a corner, hands over her head, knees up and back to the wall of her flat. He immediately ran to her, putting an arm on her shoulder. She shoved it off. So she was alive at least.
What," she said from behind her arms, "am I supposed to do with my life?"
"Err…what?" the Doctor replied, thrown off by her question.
"What am I supposed to do with my life?"
She put down her arms, and the Doctor's eyes met red eyes, puffy from crying. "I can't wait my whole life for you, Doctor, but that's what I've been doing since you picked me up! All of my time not spent with you I've spent thinking about our adventures, and waiting for the next one. I do nothing. I haven't been on a date in over a year, my parents think I'm dead for all the time I talk to them, and I have no friends anymore!
"I-my parents act like its okay, like they know what it feels like, but they don't and I can't stand them not knowing about you! It's like you're this imaginary friend that I'm keeping secret. Why should I keep you a secret? It's not as though we're doing anything I should be ashamed of, so why not?" She looked up at him angrily, already opening her mouth again to rant further.
"Maybe you should."
"I-what?" River asked, her confusion clouding her anger.
"Maybe…you should tell them. I think they'll understand more than you know." The Doctor grinned despite himself, and River narrowed her eyes.
"What's that supposed to mean?" She asked, crossing her arms.
He slid down next to her. "It's supposed to mean that they're your parents, and they'll understand. Then you won't have to hide it any longer." Well, it is the truth. River didn't need to know the complete truth. Not yet.
"Yeah, but I still need something else in my life besides you!"
"Umm, River, what's really bothering?"
There was a moments hesitation before she said, "Doctor, we won't know each other our whole lives. You certainly don't know me all of yours."
"And I don't know you all of mine, because you're ageless, and I know that you will get tired of me after I'm old and gray."
"River," he began, staring at her with a kind smile, "that's not-"
"It is true! Because you told me that you've traveled with many, many people, and there's no way that you let them live out their lives on your ship. I'm sure they didn't want to live their lives on your ship."
"What's that supposed to-"
"This is a fairy tale, Doctor. And, at some point, you have to stop running. We humans know that because we get older, and our bodies scream at us that we have to stop. We have to be normal, stupid humans who wear matching jogging suits and sit in rockers. But you, you of eternal youth, will not know that for a long time. And I think it scares you to see us older. Because you know, even if its thousands of years down your timeline, that you'll grow old too. You'll grow too tired to carry on in this mess of a world. We all do. Your body won't tell you, but you'll grow tired. And that scares you, and so you won't keep us forever, because you can't stand knowing that someday it'll all end."
"I don't just view my life as one big adventure, River, its-"
"But you do!" She said forcefully, sitting up and taking his hand. "You get sad, impossibly sad, in a way I'll never have to experience, but you also are so, so happy! You run around like a five year old half the time! You love every minute of it, even the horrible bits, because without those you'd never have amazing bits. And you don't want your adventure to end. You don't even want to regenerate. You don't like change, for all you bring it about in other peoples' lives."
"I…" for once, the Doctor was loss for words.
"And so, you'll leave me, and then what? Or, am I supposed to sit around for forty years waiting for the doctor that'll never come? Knowing you, you'll drop me off from an adventure, say you'll be right back and show up when I'm fifty, and it's too late to do anything. So I have to make plans. Because you aren't always there for me Doctor," she told him solemnly, a slight tremor in her voice. "You've failed me before, and you'll fail me again, because you have a whole universe to look after, not just me. And no matter what we feel for each other, it'll have to end sometime."
The Doctor put his hand to River's cheek, tears running down his face. "When did you begin to think so old, River? Just last week you were laughing over the jelly planet, and I-"
"I became old because you are," River replied, a tear also streaking down her face. "This is going to end, Doctor, because all things must. You'll be gone and I'll be alone. And some day, you won't come back. You won't take me on adventures me. And I'll be left with nothing."
The Doctor kissed her on the forehead. "River, I won't fail you. I promise, I won't."
"I forgot," River said, laughing humorlessly. "You've already seen my death. How can you go through this Doctor? How can you put me through all this, put yourself through this, just to know that it's going to end. You know the ending; you know there will be an ending. You've seen it; I can see it in your eyes." The Doctor looked down, running his hand under his eyes. "It's okay Doctor," she said, her voice breaking. "It's okay Doctor, because if you've seen my death, that means-" She put her hand on his cheek, tears blurring her vision as she stared into his eyes. "That means that I'll be traveling with you my entire life. And that's all I've ever wanted." She said, her voice trembling as the sobs enveloped her.
The Doctor pulled her into her arms roughly, letting her head rest against his shoulder as he rocked her back and forth, kissing her forehead. "River, River." He said her name over and over, rocking her back and forth until she stopped crying. "You're right, I am getting old. I should stop denying it. And River, I-I won't always be there for you. And you should have a life outside of me. You should have friends, even if it's hard to keep them. And you should stay in touch with your parents."
"But Doctor," she said, her voice still a little unsteady. "All I've ever wanted is you. I want to keep traveling with you. I love my parents, and I don't want to lose them, but… you're the most important thing to me." She shook her head, looking away. "I sound like a horrible person, picking you over them."
"No River," the Doctor replied, shaking his head. "River, I- I'm going to change. Someday, I'm not going to have this face, and someday, I might love another person. I have loved others. It's part of the curse. It's a big adventure until you have to leave behind those you love."
River sat up, staring at him. "Those you love?"
The Doctor nodded, smiling. "I love you River."
She grinned. "I love you too, Doctor."
Then, almost to himself he added, "I won't make the same mistake twice. I won't stop myself from saying it because I think it'll hurt you less. Because it hurts more, doesn't it. It hurts more not to hear me say it."
River nodded. "If you'd never said it to me, it would have hurt a lot more to lose you."
"But you haven't lost me yet," the Doctor said, holding her tight. "You've still got me for a little while more. And you'll have so, so much fun River. I swear it."
"I know," she said with a smile. "But Doctor, as much as I love you, there's going to have to be a life outside of you. I need to do something else. I've been thinking of going to University on Mars. I think I might study archeology. It'll be slow going, obviously, since it'll be punctuated with adventures with you. But still, I want to do it. I need a career as well as a bit of adventure. "
The Doctor laughed then, a true laugh, but one tinged with sorrow for memories long gone. "A bit of adventure?" He grinned, but then turned more serious. "You should River," he told her with a sad smile. He took her hand. "I bet you'll be brilliant."
She leaned her head against his, staring at the Tardis blue of her walls. They stayed like that for a few moments, clasped hands and heads together.
"I'm sorry I couldn't always protect you, River. Be there for you. I've got a lot of regrets, but that's, that's always been a big one."
This time, she kissed him on the forehead. "It's alright Doctor, I forgive you. The universe is more important than little old me."
He smiled and kissed her on the lips this time, short and sweet. "I don't think so, River. I've never thought so. But I have to save them too."
"I know," she told him, her tone reassuring. "I know Doctor. It's one of the things that I love most about you. Because above all, you're just kind."
"This story won't have a happy ending you know," he told her. They locked eyes. "You can stop now, if you want. Time can be changed."
"I wouldn't change it for anything Doctor," she told him, kissing him again. "I may cry and whine a bit more about it, but know this: I wouldn't give this up for anything."
"Neither would I."
A/n: So we all know what a fan I am of the nice, settling endings (I'd call it dramatic, but that's not exactly what they are. They're just really peaceful, and I'm not sure... I'm usually good at finding a word for these types of things but oh well) :D But I'm not sure if I like this chapter. It's a bit...scattered. But that's how normal conversations go, so it's okay that its like that. I don't know. Any thoughts?
Also, I am in need of a beta for this fic/ any Doctor Who fics I do in the future. Preferably you have experience in beta-ing/ writing fics. It's mainly for continuity checks, but also for grammar, because I'm sure there have been many stupid spelling errors that I missed. So yeah, PM me if you're interested. I'm not going to guarantee that if you ask you'll be it, but I will consider anyone I get.
So yes, as usual, review, because I know I have a lot more readers that reviewers, but I have no idea what you think of the story, so please, tell me! You can PM me about it if you don't want other people to see your review, although I don't know why you wouldn't. So yes, review. I hate asking, but I do want feedback!
Sorry for the incredibly boring/ lengthy author's note :D Enjoy your week everyone!