I own none of the characters in this story- written for fun, not for profit.
This is the story of River's earlier days with the Doctor.
When I was 17 I ran away from home.
Ok, 16 ½. But still.
Amy and Rory wouldn't have the Doctor around. They wouldn't speak about him, or at least Rory wouldn't, and if Amy had a slip she gave him that… look. That look like the world would burn if she ever said his name again.
He used to come and play with me on the playground when I was little. The sitter I had would come to the park and be asleep on a bench in minutes, and I would just kind of sit there on the swing. I was always the weirdo, the odd one out. The little girl who talked about stars and planets, not princesses and castles; the little girl who didn't want a prince, just a Doctor. When I first saw him there I was surprised- I remembered him when he found me that day, a year and a half after I escaped the Silence- lost, frozen, alone in a New York alleyway. I'd already regenerated once, and my hair was the mess of tangled curly locks it still is today. It must have been how he knew who I was.
He smiled and sat down next to me, but I almost didn't believe he was really there until he picked me up in his strong arms and carried me into the TARDIS. I was so weak and tired that I didn't have the strength to protest, and I don't think the full impact of "bigger on the inside" ever really hit me. He kissed my forehead and put me on a soft bed in a room that had a ceiling like the stars. No- they were the stars. It changed with their location in the sky, I would find, and they sparkled like nothing but real stars could.
"Everything's going to be alright now, my little River Song." He said. I didn't know what my name was until then. I'd called myself Hope in my mind, because that's all I had left, but I never had a real name before that moment. My name was never Melody Pond- it was always River Song.
"Who are you?" I asked. He didn't seem very surprised.
"I'm the Doctor- I came to help you. Alright, now, let's see about those scrapes, hm?" So that was that. The Doctor mended my scrapes and bruises, let me shower and wash my hair, and gave me something clean to wear and something good to read. Grimm's Fairy Tales- the first thing besides my name I ever called my own.
"Why are you being so nice to me?" I asked him when he started to walk off. "Nobody's nice to me." Why should they have been? I was a young street urchin, nothing less than a thief that ran from social services every time they tried to take me in. For a moment he looked like he was about to cry, but he smiled sadly and sat beside me.
"Because you're you. I've know you for a very long time, even though you don't know me yet. I know how you hate it when people stare at your hair, but you don't mind me touching it. I know how you love strawberries in the summer, but you hate bananas and anything off season because you're used to eating things that are other people's scraps. I know how you think my bow tie's goofy and you hate my fez beyond belief, and I know how much I love you, River Song." He smiled, and not in a romantic way at all. Just a sweet, sad smile with tears in his eyes. I think I probably fell in love with him right then and there, though then he only seemed like a best friend to me, nothing romantic. Nobody had ever told me they loved me before, and clearly he did know me somehow.
He told me he was an alien then. I wasn't sure if I believed him, even after he let me feel his heart beating on both sides of his chest.
"Mine does that, too." I said. "See?" I took his stethoscope and placed it on each side of my rib cage in turn. He nodded.
"You're like me." He said. And then he told me the story about how I was born, about who I was, about how our timelines were different, though he didn't tell any details about future me. "How long?" He asked.
"How long since what?"
"Since you changed. Only Time Lords can do that, you know." I could barely remember. It seemed like weeks or months, but I knew it was only about five or six days.
"I see. Not long."
He sat on the bed with me and told me to pick a star, and he talked me to sleep with stories about that star- about time traveling, about him and things he's done… And I woke up the next morning tucked under a warm blanket feeling better than I ever had. The Doctor brought me home, my second home, really. The first would always be the TARDIS. I remember that when he started to walk off, to disappear without a trace, I ran up and hugged him. My arms barely circled his waist and I only reached up to his chest, but I held on.
"You can't go." I whispered. I think somehow I knew even then that he was the one person in the universe who could ever be exactly what I needed. He kneeled down to he was eye-to-eye with me.
"I'll be back. I promise. You'll never be rid of me." He said. I smiled at him and he sauntered away into his box and… well, he really did disappear.
When I was 12 I stopped going to the playgrounds. I think somehow Amy and Rory knew- they had sort of raised me to call them both 'mum and dad' and 'Amy and Rory'- but that didn't stop the Doctor. He would walk me home the short distance from school some days, and sometimes when I had nightmares I would wake up to find myself wrapped in a warm hug from him. He was my comforter, not my parents. He was my teacher, my playmate, my very best friend… and then one day it all just stopped.
One day there were no more times walking me home. There were no more hugs for nightmares. I even went to the playground some days, but no. It was cold and barren. The Doctor was gone for almost six years. Before he left he would always tell me, "I love you very much, my River Song," (though I never responded with the phrase's counterpart) and promise to come back, but I was beginning to doubt him.