Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. (I also don't own the quote about the rollercoaster full of geniuses; that was blatantly swiped from a deleted scene in "The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who". Credit for that goes to Moffat.)
A/N: This is my first foray into the Doctor Who fanfiction world, so I'm a bit nervous about posting this. Okay, super nervous about posting this since this isn't the sort of thing I write much of (I always feel super awkward writing anything about love and FEELINGS) but Doctor and River demanded it because they're so gosh darned flirty and I've become a huge shipper (until proven otherwise, I'm convinced they will be/were/are married). Honestly, I'm not usually a shipper but these two. THESE TWO. I will go down with this ship. Their timey-wimey relationship has ALL THE FEELINGS.
They are aware of everything: the ebb and flow of time; a far off star exploding and altering the course of history for an entire race; the mindboggling speed at which they are speeding through the Time Vortex; the contented hum of the TARDIS; four hearts beating quietly in rhythm. They feel everything, time and space and all that is, was, or could be, but for this brief instant it is all blocked out. Here the darkness is a blanket, their black sanctuary; this time is theirs and theirs alone. They have to borrow or make or sometimes steal time to have these moments together, delicate islands suspended in the midst of separate hectic lives, adventures and running and uncertain meetings. Some times are for talking, others for the meeting of skin, but this time is reserved for a meeting of the minds.
Their minds touch for a brief, scintillating moment, as foreheads press together and mouths brush. His lips travel across her cheek, light as a feather, and rest near her ear, their cheeks and temples pressing against each other. He whispers a couple of words so quietly they are barely a breath, and incomprehensible unless one understands High Gallifreyan. She laughs and repeats them. Hello, sweetie.
Their minds brush again and probe curiously, tentatively, poking at walls and doors containing secrets and spoilers. It is her first time experiencing this openness, this joining of the minds, and she is thrilled and almost overwhelmed. It is a strange sensation, to be inside somebody else's mind, and even stranger to have somebody else inside hers. His mind is vast and active, thoughts constantly whizzing about with dizzying speed. It is extraordinarily cluttered, and organized according to some system incomprehensible to anyone but himself (if it is even organized at all). It's no wonder you're always chattering on and forgetting things, she thinks, fondly.
It's like a rollercoaster packed full of geniuses all going 'wheeee!' isn't it?
Not quite, sweetie.
You're very organized and methodical, but you shouldn't shove all the bad things into the corners, dear, they pile up and make it awfully cluttered, he thinks at her, and she grins into his shoulder.
Memories are involuntarily awakened and shared, from childhood and long ago (is that what Gallifrey looked like? How beautiful), memories of people (I'm so sorry, my love) and places (oh, we should go there sometime), facts and figures (sweetie, why would you ever need to know the exact number of legs a Habarin Schlum has?), shared meetings, memories of- well, you don't need to know that. She delves deeper and deeper into his mind and finds things that are heartbreaking or sad, or beautiful: boundless love and childlike wonder, guilt and pain and loss, infinite curiosity.
He is a lesson in contradictions.
She finally discovers hidden in the very deepest recesses, an impenetrable door, with an aura of despair and secrecy. Her wordless query startles him from where he was perusing the very few, select bits of her childhood she had chosen to reveal, and she can feel his surprise, sadness and conflict as if it were her own. His body goes still and silent for a moment- she listens and wonders if he's even breathing. Honey, what is it? He says nothing, instead absently reaching out to finger her hair, twisting and uncurling it around his fingers. After a pause, during which she expects him to say something but is met with silence, she gently pulls away from him. Their dark sanctuary is half-broken as the room lightens, just enough so she can see his face (the TARDIS always knows what she needs, bless).
He stares at her with those ancient eyes and that expression she hates, the stubborn one that says he is thinking very hard about a crucial decision but won't accept any help. He shakes his head once and rolls over, facing away from her.
Please don't close me off like this, my love.
A few long, silent minutes pass before she reaches out and gently trails a finger over the skin of his back, grinning when he jumps slightly, and traces words in Gallifreyan across his shoulders, down his back.
Time Lord. Madman. Sweetie.
After a moment he rolls over slowly, traces 'Human' in English over one of her hearts, and 'Plus' in Gallifreyan over the other, then wraps his arms around her and presses his mouth to hers, draws back when she attempts to deepen the kiss. He writes something on her back with his fingers in that ancient language, circular and looping; the word is unfamiliar to her.
"You've asked me about my name before," he whispers somberly, still trailing circles across her back. "And I told you that you didn't want to know, that I couldn't tell you yet."
"That's what's behind the door?" she asks, and he nods. She wonders what could be so terrible about his name that he would hide it away so deeply; the thought makes her shiver with a sense of foreboding, but still she is curious. "So you have to tell me now because I found it?"
He laughs quietly; she feels it vibrate in his chest. "Anyone who probes around in my mind long enough could find that door, but nobody gets in. I don't have to tell you anything at all."
The words hang in the air, tensely, and she is about to make a biting remark when he continues, "I will, though." I was already going to tell you.
But you had to think about it.
It's like Pandora's Box and opening it will not be pleasant for me either.
Nobody wants to be alone with their secrets, especially unpleasant ones. Sometimes you have to tell somebody else, even if it hurts. Trust me.
"I already trust you. Completely," he breathes, and she thinks those are the most beautiful words he's ever said to her. One of his hands knots in her hair, and she hears close to her ear, "I'm sorry, River. I'm really, really sorry."
I can take it, dear. (She is strong and she is not an innocent or a stranger to darkness.)
He murmurs the few short syllables of his name slowly, as though he hasn't spoken them in ages, and he more than tells her his name; he unlocks it from the deepest recesses of his mind and shows her.
Though she had braced herself for something awful, still she involuntarily clutches him and her breath catches. It is more than just a name or a secret. He shows her not only what it meant to whoever had given it to him, but what it means to him, and in that, he exposes everything: his very best and his darkness, the reason he has rules (the terrible things he's done are nothing compared to what he's capable of) and a horrible secret (it will haunt her for the rest of her life, but it doesn't affect the way she feels about him in the slightest; in fact, she has never loved him more). She understands the terror and beauty, the burden and responsibility of knowing another person so intimately.
Part of her, the part that she has perfected over the years, the part that draws a veil over her emotions, clamps them down, binds them tight and pushes them away for examination at a later date tells her that she must not get upset must not lose it now. Yet some bit of her wants to push away from him and run (but she can't do that, can never do that, now they are bound inextricably), another to fall apart and sob. How could he stand it, bearing that burden all the time, every second of every day? No wonder he kept it bound and buried in the deepest recesses of his mind and never told anybody, it would break his hearts every time someone called his name.
She realizes that her face is pressed in the crook of his neck and there is dampness on her cheeks- silent tears she hadn't even been aware of shedding. She presses a kiss to his shoulder, slowly works her way up to his lips (his cheeks are damp as well), and she kisses him hard and deep. When he returns it, she touches her mind to his, feels his doubt and turmoil, fear of rejection, and wordlessly shows him all her love, fear, acceptance and appreciation.
"I love you," she murmurs against his mouth reassuringly. "I still love you." Did you think anything could change that, you beautiful idiot?
He traced words on her back with his fingers, his name, then hers, then theirs together, in that ancient language of circles, intertwining and forming a whole.
I love you, too.
She kisses him as though she can erase his self-loathing with passion alone.
No regrets, my love.