Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who. That privilege belongs to BBC.
Some would call him a heartbreaker, a man who toyed with women. Use them as long as he needed them and then throw them away.
But the Doctor didn't see it like that.
When he had met Rose, he had been a broken Time Lord. In his whole nine hundred years of existence, his mind had never been so quiet, so empty. He'd always felt the presence of other Time Lords, no matter where they were, and hadn't even realized how much comfort he derived from knowing that others of his kind still lived somewhere out there. Not until they were all gone.
And he'd been alone. For the first time in his whole life, he'd been truly alone.
Humans couldn't possibly understand that kind of loss, that connection with an entire species that went deeper than anything they could comprehend. It had torn him apart from the inside-out and he'd been falling to pieces.
Rose saved him that time. She was the first friend he'd taken onto the TARDIS since the Time War and having her there filled a little hole in his heart. Sure, his mind was a great chasm of emptiness but at least his body stood next to another's. At least for a while.
He'd needed her at the time. Her compassion, her awe at the brilliance of the universe and her rolling laughter that made him feel like he could be happy again. Like he could try and forgive himself for committing mass genocide. For becoming a murderer.
He had regenerated for her—given up another life, just so she could keep being fantastic—and it had been so worth it. Their adventures continued and the Doctor found himself falling for her. Falling in love.
He hadn't been in love like that in such a long time. He'd married, back on Gallifrey, and those bonds had stayed in his heart even after he'd stolen the TARDIS and run off to the stars. Sure, some of his friends had had romantic feelings for him. He'd even cared for some of them, in that way. But he'd kept up his vows to his family, all that time. Until the Last Time War. Until they were all gone.
When he was suddenly alone, so alone, love with a human didn't seem so bad. Susan fell in love with a human and stayed on Earth. She'd been happy. And the Doctor didn't want to look at an eternal life without love again. Without something to hold on to.
But his love with Rose was just as fleeting as everything else in his life. They were separated by the barrier of parallel worlds and he would never see her again. His hearts ached for her, cried for her. And he'd mourned for her.
He'd mourned for two 'years', three counting the Year That Never Was. Martha and Donna, his two wonderful friends, helped him too.
The Doctor had felt awful that Martha had fallen for him. He'd had companions in the past who'd done so, but none felt so raw as the unrequited love she had for him. It was too soon to fall in love again, for Time Lords don't fall in and out of love as quickly as humans. It wasn't so easy.
But she and Donna had been his friends and that had been enough to keep him going. He'd actually started moving on by the time she'd come into his life. River Song.
River Song was an enigma, a challenge—something he hadn't had in such a long time. It frustrated him to no end that she kept dropping all those tantalizing hints and innuendos when he had no idea what they meant. How she would imply things about them, about their relationship, when he had no idea who she was. It was frustrating in a way he'd never felt before, in a way that almost felt fun. New. Exciting. Not something that a nine hundred year old Time Lord experienced at any frequency any more.
Of course, the seriousness of the situation had him being more snappish and rude than he should have been. Really, if only they had listened to him and just left the Library. The Doctor had seen the pain in her eyes when he asked her who she was. It was an all-to-familiar pain that he didn't want to remember or empathize with. He didn't want to bring it back. So he was cold to her and she returned the favor to mask her own hurt. They bickered. They quarreled. They disagreed.
And then she told him his name. In that moment, the Doctor's world shifted, stopped and fell apart.
His name. He knew what it meant, that she knew his name. His name was dangerous, it was destructive. If she knew his name and the universe hadn't fallen apart, then she must be… she must be his wife.
It wasn't right. Rose had only been gone two or three years and he still had feelings for her. He still whispered her name at night and dreamt of seeing her again, telling her how he felt about her, loving her.
And here was this other woman, this River Song, who knew him so completely and utterly, who he apparently loved so much that he'd told her his name. He hadn't even been close to sharing that with Rose.
Humans have a saying for a life changing event. A paradigm shift. Well that certainly described the Doctor's life at that very moment.
In the chaos of that day, he hadn't had a moment to process it all. He wasn't able to put all the pieces together—although it would have saved him a lot of aggravation if he had. With losing Anita and then River to the Vashta Narada and the Library. With bringing Donna back and then saving River to CAL… he never put it all together.
Even though he'd only known her for a few hours, the Doctor mourned River. Mourned her loss for his future self, let a tear spill, knowing that she would one day be the woman he would trust before anyone else in the universe.
And then life had continued. Rose had come back, ever so briefly, and he had been able to say goodbye. Properly, this time. It had always stung that he'd just left her on a beach, just like that, but this time he could at least leave some part of himself with her.
His feelings had been confusing. Rose had been something he'd needed back then, back when he was angry and hurt and so, so broken. But he'd been fixed and he'd moved on. Sure, he wasn't completely healed nor was he out of love with Rose either. But his other self, the human Doctor, had needed her more.
The Doctor had fell in love with Rose because he had needed her and she had helped him when he thought that he was the last of the Time Lords. When his only solace would be to be with the humans. But since her, he'd found others. The Master. Jenny. Even Donna had become part-Time Lord for a time. And even though they were all gone in some way, it had give him hope that there could still be Time Lords left in this universe. Somewhere, in some squirreled away hole or crevice, he could find someone and he wouldn't be alone anymore.
Meeting River Song had also proven a lot. He had a life in the future, a happy one, and one where he had obviously loved and trusted someone. He wasn't alone in the future.
It was all this, and the wrongness of a human-Time Lord, that led him to leave his other self in Rose's universe. To leave her. It had hurt—those feelings for her didn't just go away because he knew that some possible future had a wife in store for him—but it had also let him move on.
That year was a struggle. Moving from place to place, trying to find another friend to travel with but always ending up with an empty TARDIS. He'd seen River Song a few more times—their meetings usually ended up in some sort of trouble, one way or another. Although, their picnic on Asgard had been remarkably pleasant and peaceful. Hardly any running that time.
He'd even invited her to travel with him but she'd declined every time. At first she said that she had classes to teach, but eventually started talking about some promise that she'd made in the future. Spoilers, he'd come to love and hate that word.
And then he'd seen the Time Lords and the Master again. He'd saved Wilf from dying, only to be forced into another regeneration. Five years had to be one of his shortest lives ever and he hadn't wanted to go. But go he did.
In a way, the regeneration had been a good thing. He still felt deeply for his old friends and missed them, but he found new friends in Rory and Amy. The Doctor had found a connection with humans that he hadn't had for a long time, something that had been lost when he'd lost Gallifrey.
When he had become the last Time Lord, the humans started worshipping him. All the salutes and the 'Sir's and that reverence that the Doctor could do no wrong. Rory didn't have any of that. Amy did at first but that was because he'd met her when she was young and impressionable.
She was feisty and his conscience, like Donna had been. He'd needed Amy, especially after letting so many of his friends move on from him. She had stopped him from making quick judgments and accusations. From lobotomizing that poor Star Whale.
The Doctor would have traveled with her for ages, if she'd wanted to. But after the Weeping Angels, she wanted to go home. And then she'd tried to 'relieve stress' by shagging him. In a way, he had been relieved that Amy hadn't wanted anything more than sex. No strings, no love, just physicality. He wasn't ready to fall in love with yet another human, let alone such a young and immature one who was a little girl five minutes ago. That just made him into a dirty, old pedophile.
No, no. And thankfully it hadn't been too late to retrieve Rory. He'd seen what had happened to Rose and Mickey, not that his Ninth regeneration had cared about Mickey's feelings at all, and remembered what Sarah Jane had said about his 'being a tough act to follow.' The Doctor didn't want that to happen to Amy, not ever.
It had worked well, bringing Rory along. Despite a bout with psychic pollen that brought about his deepest worries and doubts, Amy and Rory had come out stronger and more connected than ever before. At least until Rory didn't exist. But then he did but he was plastic. And then the universe rebooted and they both existed and the Doctor didn't. And then, thanks to Amy and River, he did again.
Timey wimey, it was.
And then came the year of River Song and Melody Pond. That impossible woman who killed him and brought him back to life so many times. That year, puzzle pieces fell into place and every time he met her, he knew her more. He became the Doctor she had told him about. And every time, he loved her just a little bit more.
This was a different love than his love for Rose or his love for his family on Gallifrey. It was a hot, passionate love that was exciting and confusing and more fulfilling than anything had been in years. After traveling the universe for seven hundred years, things had gotten so boring that he couldn't see the magic anymore. But with River, every second was magic. The innuendos, the hints and mysterious answers to questions he hadn't even asked yet… it was all so wonderful.
Before Demon's Run, he hadn't been completely sure that he could trust her yet. Not really. There was always that doubt in his mind, the one that flinched every time someone took a pot-shot at him or told him that he was a murderer. The one that said that there couldn't possibly be anyone he would be able to trust completely because no one could love a man like him.
So he was cruel, tactless and just plain mean. He knew faintly that she was his wife in the future but it didn't particular matter to him in those moments. She was the only one who would take his barbs and not run away. River wouldn't leave, no matter how many of those he threw at her. That made it hurt all the more.
The Doctor knew that he probably should have put the pieces together sooner. She was his future wife. She was strong enough to knock him out with one punch, had enough brain space to take his place as a giant memory storage for a supercomputer, knew how to pilot the TARDIS, could write Old High Gallifreyan and could figure out his plans before he could say a word. She couldn't possibly be any ordinary human.
Maybe he had known, deep down, that she was a Time Lord but just didn't want to believe it. There were things that were missing after all. The lack of telepathic connection. Her use of a name and not a title. Little things. They were enough to distract him.
When he found out that Melody Pond was a Time Lord, he had been so distracted that he hadn't put the last piece together. That it was unlikely for two new Time Lords to show up so randomly in his time stream at the same time. But it had been a trying day and therefore River had to spell it out for him. And then it clicked. It fit and he knew. He understood.
She was made for him and she was his future. His wife. His River Song. His Time Lord.
Everything after that just fit together. Being killed by her and brought back to life. Marrying her in an aborted timeline so she could kill him and end up in prison. Coming full circle to spend his evenings picking her up from Stormcage for adventures, just to return her there in the morning.
Their relationship was not conventional. It certainly wasn't anything he would have chosen with any other woman. But with River, it just made sense. It was logical and it was completely them. He had finally found somewhere he belonged and it was with her.
A/N: I hope y'all enjoyed this! It is a oneshot I wanted to do about the Doctor and his romantic development over the course of the 2005-2011 Doctor Who seasons. Please read and review!