"Could you do it?" Kazran asked. His heart was ripping itself to shreds in his voice, but he didn't seem to notice. Everything he had was focused on the golden light spilling across her face. "Could you do this? Think about it, Doctor: one last day with your beloved. Which day would you choose?" He turned to look at him, reproach in his voice.
The Doctor closed his eyes. He could not bear to face Kazran's pain in the wake of his own preeminent future.
Those last days always came, somehow, someway.
Goodbye Susan. And I suppose, since this is the last I'm going to be able to say it: Rose Tyler— Don't look like that; I'll be seeing you again mister. I don't want to go! Don't make me go! Look at that. I win. The Face of Boe, they called me. (You are not alone.) The Towers sang . . . and you cried.
The Towers sang.
And you cried.
"Hello, sweetie." And there they are. Those two words.
Her first words to him, ever.
They're like a—like a song, or a benediction. Or a verdict. Because those two words. They speak of familiarity. Coupled with that smile?
"Get out." He does not need this. Not now, not when it just became apparent that the shadows liked to eat people. He already had Donna to deal with.
He does not need six more people in a room full of shadows.
And he especially doesn't need that smile. The way she smiles as if she knows him.
Quite frankly it scares him to death.
". . . but you need to be less emotional right now—"
"Less emotional? I'm not emotional—"
"There are five people in this room still alive! Focus on that! Dear God, you're hard work young!"
"Youn—Yeah, who are you?"
She opens her mouth to reply, grey eyes flashing with anger in the red lighting. Probably something about spoilers. Well, let her try—he'd have her head off, he would, and—
"Oh for heaven's sake!" Lux glares at the both of them. "Look at the pair of you: we're all gonna die right here and you're just squabbling like an old married couple!"
Then the Doctor looks at River.
And River looks at the Doctor.
Because for once River is looking at him, and she isn't lying with her eyes mouth body.
And then suddenly everything made absolutely no sense whatsoever because it made the most sense in the world. An old married couple. Of course.
And he is straining straining straining towards the screwdriver because he can still fix this. She is looking at him, and oh, how she loves him, it's written all over her face, and he was wrong, he was wrong because it wasn't I hate you sometimes, I know, it was I hate you sometimes no you don't and out of everything he's learned today it is that River loves the Doctor. He's not sure why, but she does, and he is going to fix this because she loves him.
"Let me do this!" Because he should be—should be the one who—
"If you die here it'll mean I've never met you!"
"Time can be rewritten!" And he isn't quite sure how he'd be able to rewrite himself back from his own death, but anything was possible, eh? Especially with this woman in front of him: he doesn't think that she'd be able to give him up quite as easily as all that.
"Not those times, not one line. Don't you dare!" And then, unexpectedly, she is breaking down in front of him, crumbling like those candies on your tongue dissolving in the heat of your mouth and all he can think is four thousand and twenty-two people. Four thousand and twenty-two people.
It has been far, far too long since anyone, ever, knew his name.
(he had never even considered giving rose his name)
"It's okay. It's okay." (Even as she is dying she is still trying to save the crumbling bits of his hearts. Why is that?) "It's not over for you. You'll see me again. You've got all of that to come. You and me. Time and space."
Fierce, now, so fierce. A fierce kind of love, intense and prickly and messy and complicated all in a tangled snarl. "You watch us run!"
"River." He never breaks eye contact. Never looks away. He looks into her soul and what he sees there is as beautiful as it is mysterious, and he doesn't love her, but he knows her inexplicably, and that is just as important.
River. "You know my name. You whispered my name in my ear. There's only one way I would ever tell anyone my name. There's only one time I could." And when would I ever trust you with the fragile bits inside of my hearts?
He doesn't understand.
And the Doctor hates not understanding.
"Hush now." She whispers it, the way a mother would. "Spoilers."
She smiles for him as she dies.
Stay with me. C'mon! You and me, one last run!
One last run.
And oh how he prays she can hear him. Because in that moment he is not the faded photograph from years before she knew him. He is her doctor, swaggering off to his TARDIS, opening the doors with a snap of his fingers.
With a snap of his fingers.
And he cannot help but smile as the TARDIS doors open at the simple sound. (even as his hearts have broken)
River is laughing at him. He really shouldn't have been surprised, with the implied wibbliness of their timelines, that he was meeting her again. He just hadn't expected it to be so soon.
He really hadn't expected her to be laughing.
"You. Me. Handcuffs."She holds them up for his inspection. "Must it always end this way?" And he can't help but think yes.
But he doesn't say anything, though. Not about that. And besides: he thinks she is flirting with him, now that the crisis is over, and the smallest bit of him can't help but thrill at the thought. "What now?" he asks her.
"The prison ship's in orbit," she replies. "They'll beam me up any second. I might have done enough to earn a pardon this time. We'll see."
Earn a pardon this time. He braces himself, shakes the image of the dying cleric from his mind –I think you knew me at my best—and he hates himself for asking, because he knows that she won't tell him, but still, he has to ask: "Octavian says you killed a man."
Her smile fades, and she looks at him with such sadness. He cannot puzzle it out. "Yes, I did," she says, which surprises him. He hadn't expected her to answer other than with her customary spoilers.
"A good man," he adds. They don't break eye contact.
"A very good man. The best man I've ever known."
And now he really hates himself for asking. "Who?"
She laughs at him again. "It's a long story Doctor. Can't be told. Has to be lived. No sneak previews. Well . . . except for this one." He can't help it; he starts grinning. Because River Song is the single most stupid, blind, contrary woman he's ever met. He kind of likes it. "You'll be seeing me again very soon," she continues, "when the Pandorica opens."
"The Pandorica," he laughs. "Ha!" And then he leans oh so very close to whisper in her ear (pausing just a moment to breathe in the scent of her hair), "That's a fairytale."
The corners of her eyes crinkle when she laughs. "Oh Doctor! Aren't we all?" Her voice drops a bit, and inexplicably he thinks of salsa dancing. Any kind of dancing, really. Dancing with River. "I'll see you there," she flirts.
Yes, flirting. They're definitely flirting. Well, he's a bit rusty at it, but surely he knows how to flirt. "I look forward to it," he says, dipping his head in a little mock-bow.
"I remember it well." She smirks at him. Now it's his turn to laugh. It was stimulating, sparring with someone who was on the same intellectual level as he was, who knew (or who seemed to know) the intricate balance of time as well as he did. He'd noticed it before, of course, in the library. It had infuriated him then.
Now it made him laugh.
Pond comes up to them, that white shock blanket wrapped around her shoulders. "Bye River," she says.
River grins at her. "See you Amy." The ways she says it . . . she knows Pond. Is familiar with her. He'd never considered it before, that River would be a part of his very immediate future. It gives him a sick feeling in his stomach. Like butterflies dive-bombing into his gastric juices, where they then proceed to explode.
(But they're still butterflies.)
River's transporter starts beeping, and she looks down at it. "Oh, that's my ride."
All this time his eyes haven't left her face. (He doesn't want them to.) "Can I trust you River Song?" he asks her now.
"If you like," she laughs. "But where's the fun in that?" And then in a whirl of dust and trans-mat energy she is gone.
He turns away from the spot where she'd been standing, and he hates hates hates that he feels a bit bereft. He can feel more than see Pond looking at him. He doesn't really feel like talking.
"What are you thinking?" she asks him.
He's thinking: Octavian told me to never trust that woman.
He's thinking: She can fly the TARDIS better than I can.
He's thinking: Four thousand and twenty-two people.
Four thousand and twenty-two.
But the Doctor says none of those things. Instead he looks at Pond and smiles and says, "Time can be rewritten."
Could you do it? Could you go to that day? Could you choose which day to allow your love to die?
Yes. Yes, he really could.
Because, according to River Song, he already had. Will have had.
Amy (pond.) is looking at him. "Are you—are you okay?"
"Of course. You?"
"Of course." She pauses, as if she isn't quite sure how to say this next bit. "Kazran and Abigail: this'll be their last day together, won't it?"
His hearts break a bit for them. That couple ravaged by time. He can't quite look Amy in the eye as he says, "Everything's got to end sometime. Otherwise nothing would ever get started." He could feel his face crumpling inward at the thought, and it's a good thing Rory came popping out with the phone in his hands asking about Marilyn.
Because if Rory hadn't the Doctor would have started to think about the Library.
He tries his best to never, ever think of it.
Funny thing is, this means you've always known how I was going to die. All the time we've been together you knew I was coming here. The last time I saw you—the real you, the future you, I mean—you turned up on my doorstep with a new haircut and a suit. You took me to Darillium, to see the Singing Towers. Oh, what a night that was. The towers sang, and you cried. You wouldn't tell me why but I suppose you knew it was time. My time. Time to come to the Library.
(Time to die.)
They're married now, so he doesn't feel bad about just popping in and whisking her off. It is their wedding night, after all.
He doesn't know what to say about that, so he doesn't say anything at all. But of course with that comment about clothing—doesn't she want to go see stars? He'd like to go see stars, and maybe to a nice restaurant after, and then after after maybe some walking. Walking was nice. Walking was good. Walking was . . . cool. Yes, that's it. Walking was cool.
But then she had to go talking about clothes. Or more so the lack of clothing.
He's never understood them. Stars, on the other hand, are absolutely lovely.
Then it's all three Rivers, all from different points in time, and one collapsing in his arms and holding her breath to try and get him to kiss her, and then the other so young—so is it a diary now?—and then the last, the oldest, is wearing that dress.
The green one.
The satiny one.
Yes. That dress. And it's all he can do to tell her to go look at the bulb on the outside, because it is his River standing there, the one he fell in love with. The future River wearing the dress. The River he'd asked to marry him after the Pandorica Incident (accidentally, of course, but everything with them was just one long, long accident).
His River. And did he mention she was wearing the dress? Looking absolutely stunning in it, by the way.
But the fact remains that she's not the one who he's trying to woo now. The one he's trying to get to know now. He'd meant what he'd said, inside of that pyramid. I don't want to marry you. He hadn't fallen in love with this young River, but she's what he had, and he was going to make it work, even if it ended up being the death of him.
Hence the wooing.
A great word, wooing. It should be used more often.
He manages to get rid of Middle River by popping her back to Stormcage via vortex manipulator, and the River Now is still changing in the dressing room, and the River Future is looking at him in that green dress and all of it, the weight of her gaze and the satiny sheen of her dress, is making his insides go all jelly-like.
Jelly is not much different from the sensation of exploding butterflies, you know.
He is entirely unable to handle getting rid of this River. His River. But then it turns out he doesn't have to, because Future Me comes along to save the day—no dear, wrong TARDIS, we're parked along the back—and he's taking her to Darillium, has been promising for ages to take her to Darillium, and it's funny that he'd never managed to get around to it until now.
Then for a moment it's just him and him, alone, and he says The Library and he says Spoilers and it's a funny look future me has on his face. But not ha-ha funny.
Not that kind of funny at all.
Later, he buries his hands in her hair and watches as they become completely entangled. He doesn't ever want to let go of this.
(The stars had been wonderful too, by the way.)
She sleeps beside him now, and the bare curve of her shoulder is the loveliest thing he has ever seen. His throat grows tight and shaky at the sight of it, and his eyes wet, and to cover it up he seals a kiss against the envelope of her cheekbone.
Tonight nobody will be crying, and he has to think that that counts for something.
But somewhere, somewhen, on their anniversary night far off in the distant future, someone is most definitely crying.
(But everything's got to end sometime. Otherwise nothing would ever get started.)
And somewhere, somewhen, the Doctor and River Song, archaeologist, are running down a library corridor, hand in hand.
But that's okay. Because somewhere, somewhen, he is
her tenderly, passionately, the way lovers might do.