For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand
Once upon a time—
No. She hates stories that start that way. They always end in the same boring fashion, cut and fade to black and happily ever afters. None of that is real.
And nobody knows that better than she does.
there was a girl –
She remembers the first time she ever saw him. Not met him, but saw him – and she doesn't even realize it all until one evening when they are curled around each other in bed, her diary laid out between them and photos and miniatures and pencil sketches scattered around the bed like confetti. She is bent over her diary, studiously copying each picture while he picks each one up, laughing with remembrance and telling her story after story that she files away for future reference – she'll write those down later.
Her fingers are smudged with the graphite from her pencil and she only throws a few disparaging remarks at him every now and again.
"Celery? Are you serious?"
"Well that scarf probably came in handy whenever you needed a rope."
"I like this one."
"Leather – an improvement at least."
"Bowties – honestly sweetie, have you ever regenerated with good fashion sense?" He tackles her then, his hands reaching for her sides as he tickles her mercilessly and she laughs with delight, trying to push him off.
"Believe it or not, but I always quite thought he was your favourite." His voice is laced with laughter and she takes his face in her hands.
"Not possible." But this is the only face she's known, and when he kisses her, she flashes back to a moment in her childhood – during the war - the one time the city's shielding had failed. She'd been caught out during an attack, scrambling across the streets that were slick with rain and trying to make her way back to the home, fear and deep lungfuls of smoke the only things spurring her small legs on. There'd been a man – all the way down the street, running frantically, his hair flopping about around him as he waved something with a light on the end in a circle. He'd pulled wires out of a panel, sparks had flown and suddenly silence had reigned, replaced by the gentle hum of the shields. He'd looked at her – just once, but he hadn't seen her, not really –she was one of a hundred people scrambling through the streets that day. He'd had a bowtie.
She doesn't say any of this to him, because she doubts he remembers her, doubts he knows that he saved her life before he'd even met her. Or perhaps after he'd met her – she wonders about that. Had he known her then? He pulls away with a smile, his hands at her waist and he grins ruefully down at her. "You just don't know any better yet, River. You will."
"Not today." She insists fiercely, and he smiles more happily and agrees.
"No, not today."
who lived alone. Sad and alone, she longed for adventure.
Three in the morning sometime, she is standing in a box that's bigger on the inside, staring around her with an incredulous expression. It's unbelievable. Not the box, and not the fact that it is a time-travelling spaceship – but there's a man who is watching her react and she can read love in every nuance of his expression. That's the unbelievable part.
Who would ever be stupid enough to love her?
"You don't know me." She insists and his face is saddened by her vehemence, though he shakes his head in disagreement.
"No, you don't know me." He walks closer to her and she skitters away from him in fear, but her heart beats valiantly against her rib cage and she thinks the ache resulting from its exercise is something close to longing. "I know you, River Song."
"Me in the future – maybe, yes. But you don't know me now. People change, Doctor. You've no idea how much I've changed from now until then." Her words are desperate and frantic and he pauses to stare at her with such a sad expression and such love behind his ancient eyes. "I'm not who you're looking for." She whispers the words, because she isn't. She isn't – she can't be. Because if he knew her, knew who she was, knew the type of person she was –
He wouldn't be able to look at her like that.
"You're just who I'm looking for. You always have been, even way back when I didn't know I was looking for you. River. River Song. You have a lot to look forward to. You and me. Time and space." He looks at her with utter conviction. And she takes a deep breath in an effort to calm her heart. She isn't sure what scares her more – the conviction or the love.
And one day she met an impossible man –
"You are the most insufferable, pig-headed, stupid man-" She is glaring at him and his only response is to fiddle with his coat lapels and grin back at her.
"Oh stop it. All these endearments, you might make me think you love me." She stares at him for a beat, from his ridiculous hair to his ridiculous smile and she feels her anger splinter, shattered into a million tiny pieces and she hates him, she does – because he is so very easy to love. It took no time at all. And all the time in the universe.
"I hate you." She breathes the words out easily and he steps in closer to her with a knowing smile.
"No, you don't." He shakes his head and she sighs again, her body softening and relaxing into his the instant his arms come around her. Her hands curl round his coat and the tweed itches her palms.
"You could have died." She finally points out softly and his arms tighten around her.
"Don't be ridiculous; this isn't the first time you've met me, now is it? So obviously I live. Honestly, River." He presses a kiss to the side of her head and she melts into him, her body flush against his as she turns her head to breathe him in.
"Time can be rewritten." She parrots his own words back to him, and he pulls back, one hand coming up to cradle her face gently.
"Not you and I. Not those times. Not one line. I promise." She knows that this is more than likely a promise he can't keep – he does excel so spectacularly at those ones. But she takes his words and buries them deep within her heart anyway. Not one line.
who took her to see the stars. She navigated them with him –
"Okay, one more time." He glares at her sternly – like a schoolteacher – and she giggles before groaning.
"Not again, sweetie. Come on. Why do I even need to know this anyway? Can't you drive? Fly? Whatever." She waves her hands toward the console in exasperation and he looks frustrated with her. She can't blame him really, but honestly it is a lot to take in. It's not as if the Tardis is the most straightforward thing in the world to fly. In fact, it's probably the most crooked method of transportation ever invented. Or born, as the case may be.
"You need to learn. It's important." He stresses again, and moves to stand behind her, his hands settling at her waist. "Now if we were to go to Vicilia Seven in let's say... June of 5436. Come on, River." He coaxes her and she sighs, reaching for the monitor and pulling it toward her.
"Yes but why is it important? It's not as if I'll ever be flying her without you." She glances over her shoulder as she types coordinates in and he bites his lip nervously. "Wait. I fly her without you? Why?"
He sighs softly, and his breath tickles the skin of her bare neck, exposed today by her hasty ponytail. "Just know that it's really important." She pulls the lever and takes the breaks off and soon they are rematerializing smoothly. The Tardis seems to hum in delight and she strokes the console lightly with a smile. "Have we landed?"
She nods and types commands, pulling up environment checks on the screen above their heads. "Mmmmhmmm. And don't give me that look. You can leave the parking brake on all you'd like – but to me it's a bit like driving a car with the emergency brake on. Do you know what that does to an engine?" The Tardis vibrates in what River assumes is agreement and River nods before pulling the aforementioned brake on. She turns in his arms, and arches a brow at him. "There. Vicilia Seven, June 24th, 5436. Happy? And how important is really important? You've been testing me for hours now. I'm bored. Let's actually go outside here, yeah? Liveable atmosphere – I've even landed us in a pretty sort of field – there are church ruins nearby. Come on, sweetie. Please?" She is pouting up at him and he sighs, looking above her and checking the readout on the screen.
"I just want you to be able to fly her properly, River. I think we should do one more run." He muses and she glares up at him, and actually stamps her foot. This would be much more effective if she weren't currently barefoot, but he glances down at her in amusement anyway.
"No. No. No. I refuse. You've been making me fly her here and there all damn day and I want to go outside, and breathe fresh air and look at old churches and stop feeling like you're giving me my driving test!" She crosses her arm under her chest and his eyes drift lower than her face and she smirks at her success. "After we've looked, honey – I'll come back and fly her wherever you want, I promise."
"It's not a driving test." He explains softly, but his body is swaying toward hers and she can read his capitulation in the curve of his spine. "I just need to be sure-"
"Yes, yes – the fate of the entire universe depends on whether I can fly her or not, I know." Her sarcasm misses the mark and an expression of surprise mixed with sadness flits across the planes of his face. "Oh my God, are you serious? The fate of the universe-"
"Spoilers." He whispers before uncrossing her arms gently and taking her hands in his. He leans down and presses a soft kiss to her mouth before he pulls her away from the console. "Come on then, River. You'll need shoes, yeah? And you are flying us home."
She laughs, stopping by the door and pulling her boots on while he watches. "Home? Do we have one of those?"
He smiles and pulls her closer, pressing a kiss to the side of her neck before he whispers in her ear. "All of time, and you and I in the Tardis. Only home I'll ever need, River." She lifts her hands to his face, reaching up to brush his hair out of his eyes before she leans forward and kisses him deeply, pouring all of her feelings into him the only way she really can.
He's right, actually – it's the only home she'll ever need too. Any other place she stays is just accommodations.
and they held hands, running through the whole universe.
"Doctor!" Taking his hand is automatic, instinctual, like a response she doesn't even think about.
He doesn't even know her yet, and here in the Library amidst carnivorous shadows, with lives at stake – that one thought – that one thought is the one that is weighing her heart down in her chest. Near as she can figure it's somewhere around her knees, getting knocked about with every running stride they take.
She's feared this day, for so long, and it is more than fear for her life that causes her heart to pound in painful beats. In some ways, she is glad of how dangerous this all is. Because – because the thought slithers around the edge of her mind, barely acknowledged and she doesn't even really want to look at it too closely, but it is there none the less. In the corner of her mind. She may not make it out of here alive.
And she hates that it almost seems preferable to living the rest of her life, with no Doctor. No impossible voyages, no improbable journeys, no impractical love. It's not that he's the only thing in her life. He's not. She has friends, her career, a multitude of goals she wants to accomplish. But he's always been there. For so long now, and the thought of seeing a world without him in it any longer seems so very, very wrong.
She is running, and breathing hard, and panicking. But she isn't running from the monsters in the shadows. She's running from the ones that lurk in her mind. In her heart. It wasn't supposed to be this soon. She'd just wanted an extra lifetime or two.
Was that selfish of her?
He doesn't even know her yet, but his grip on her hand is sure and familiar even as they run.
They are a never ending circle – infinity on high, higher than all the stars.
In the middle, when she loves him equally as much as he loves her, she stays with him for a while. Because the feeling is addictive, and unknown to her. It has always been him loving her much more than he can even show, and she's not looking forward to her turn at that particular part.
So she stays, and travels with him, and ignores everything else around them. There are adventures on planets and star ships and base stations; there are wars to be won and negotiations to handle and threats to dispel. There is always a hat shop or two to visit – and whenever she's upset him, she pilots the Tardis to his favourite haberdasheries in the galaxy and traipses after him promising not to kill his latest hat. She keeps her promise, but only if it's not a crime against fashion. Which they sadly are, more often than not.
There are visits to old friends, and sometimes they make new friends, but while she's on board, he never invites anyone else along. Sometimes they'll get help on their adventures – someone will join them to get from A to B and over to Y before looping back to L again and finishing off with A once more. But they're never asked on another adventure, and he doesn't seem to mind.
He takes her to places no one should be able to see. Event horizons and births and deaths of stars – planets forming, planets dying and she sits next to him, feet dangling out of the open Tardis doors and tells him that her favourite things are really the vast vacuums in space – inky darkness and far off nebulas their only source of scenery. She can be calm, and listen to the rhythm of his hearts and feel the rise and fall of his breathing and she loves those moments. They are calm. And quiet. And feel like they might last forever.
Sometimes she just enjoys the inside of the Tardis best of all. Sitting in the kitchen with a cup of tea, watching him 'improve' the toaster and laughing when the thing explodes in a shower of sparks. Laying in the library with her head in his lap while he reads to her in his language – Gallifreyian stories that he translates and makes her read back to him, correcting her pronunciation. Any time they spend in their bedroom is always a precious moment of unity, but she especially loves when he sleeps with her, his chest to her back and his arms wrapped around her while the blankets cocoon around both of them.
She writes everything down – in explicit detail. Because one day soon, she will have to leave and he will start to forget.
All she'll have is the carbon copy of her memories.
They are a love story for the ages. A romance. A comedy. A tragedy.
He looks at her with a saddened expression, and it makes her feel uncomfortable. No, actually, not uncomfortable, but like she isn't the one he wants to be here, even though she is the one he wants to be here. Obviously. He'd picked her up not two hours ago. She sighs shortly and crosses her arms on a huff. "Stop it." She finally snaps at him and he looks at her with confusion, his brow furrows and his eyes light up with concern.
"I'm sorry, stop what, exactly?" He frowns and she looks at him significantly, but he doesn't seem to clue into anything.
"You're doing it again – looking at me like you wished she were here." She fumbles with the words and he shakes his head in confusion.
"She, me. Future me – whoever I turn out to be. I'm not an imbecile Doctor – you said we're all back to front so it doesn't take a genius to figure out that whoever you fell in love with – well it isn't me, is it? It's her. And I can't be her, nothing can cure that but time. And in the meantime, I'd greatly appreciate it if you wouldn't look at me like I'm some shoddy facsimile of the woman you loved." It comes pouring out of her in a torrent, raging and twisted and her hands gesticulate wildly until he takes them in his own.
"No, River – I'm sorry. I am so, so sorry." She stills at his words and he steps closer to her, her hands still enfolded in his. He sighs, and removes one of his hands to run it through his hair in agitation. "It's not like that – not really. You don't understand yet, but you will, one day. Yes you're not quite the you I fell in love with, but you're you and I can't not love you, River. It's just all so backwards, and I never realized until I got to this end how difficult it must have been for you then – will be for you, at your end." He shakes his head in frustration and exhales harshly. "I'm not saying this properly."
"You can't miss me when I'm already here. I don't think I'd do the same to you. Have done the same to you. Have I?" She is trying to wrap her mind around their relationship – always, always it makes her head ache from the effort of it. Back to front, but not always, his lasts are firsts – but not always. Timey-wimey. Such a ridiculous expression he'd told her upon his first explanation, but she feels it is the most apt one.
"I'll do better." His pledge is soft and his hand moves from his own hair into hers, his fingers clench around the strands there like he could trap the moment, or time itself, in his fist with the golden strands. "I'll do better." He repeats, and his hand doesn't loosen. It pulls at the skin of her scalp, but it is a welcome pain.
She has a feeling all the pain he'll ever deal her will be welcome.
They don't live happily ever after.
Even now, handcuffing him to a metal pipe and pressing a quick kiss to the top of his ridiculously spiky hair, she is shaking. She lingers too long – minutes on the countdown and she has precious seconds to spare indulging in sentimental goodbyes to a man who doesn't even know her. Finally she pulls away, pulls out a pen and scribbles one last messy line in her diary before setting it and his sonic and her sonic on the floor, just out of his reach.
He'll hate that, she knows. Hate all of this – even though he doesn't know her. Because she's told him enough for him to know that she is someone special, to him. Will be someone special to him. He's been the most important person in her life. She is taking the choice away from him right now, and part of her wonders – if this isn't a bit perfect. Dark and selfish, only she could plan to die in the most selfish and selfless manner possible. He'd always said she was a walking paradox.
How could I resist?
Her hands shake as she adjusts the wiring, pulling cables over to where they are needed. She can barely see through the tears in her eyes but she is shaking from the pressing urgency of the time-limit, not any fear of dying.
She's lived a good life. The best life. It wasn't a fairytale, and sometimes it had been the saddest story she'd ever lived, but it was their story.
When he comes to, she is calm, and he is not. He is impotent with rage, she knows. But she repeats all the most important things, tells him one last story, and instructs him to not change anything.
Not those times. Not one line. Don't you dare.
She can smile because she knows that even as she is closing her book, he is opening his. They are a never-ending story, and it's sometimes a happy story, sometimes a sad story, sometimes the most painful story, but forever and always it will be her favourite story.
She's written the book of their lives, and she knows without a doubt that it's his favourite too.
But they lived.