The Doctor isn't going to cry. He refuses to cry. A Lord of Time is stronger than any tears.
The cuff chafes his skin. He hopes that someone comes along and lets him out soon. Both of the sonic screwdrivers, the squareness gun, and that infernal diary are all sitting there oh so just out of reach. Especially that diary. It would have been nice to have something to while away the time with.
Mainly he just doesn't want to look at her, but there is nowhere else to look. Just the floor and the walls and the chair and her.
He studies the way her eyes are closed, and the way her mouth sags just a bit. She could almost be sleeping. That bright woman had been like a spark of neuron energy, blazing fast and hot across all his synapses. Now she is sleeping.
She is sleeping.
She is sleeping.
His head sags against his hand. The metal from the support column makes his shoulder cold, and his legs cramp under him awkwardly. This hardly matters.
The transfer had not been painless. Four thousand and twenty-two people, exploding white hot against your brain? No.
It hadn't been painless.
But she hadn't screamed, hadn't even cried. She'd just closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and held it as the white light from the download engulfed the whole room.
She hadn't taken another breath. She never will again.
He isn't sure how he feels about that.
An invisible door opens and a man steps out of the air. He doesn't look at the Doctor. He walks over to her. His eyes are wet. His breath hitches in his throat.
The Doctor can see his hands shaking, as he undoes the harness that holds her to the chair. Without its support she sags forward in the chair. It could almost have been a throne. The man catches her by the shoulders. Her head is pillowed by his breast. Reverently he lifts the transfer system from her brow. It could have almost been a crown. Some of the wires catch in the curls of her hair, and he has to stop and gently free them.
It is some strange parody of a reverse coronation.
"Oh River," the man whispers. "Oh you dear, brave, foolish girl." His voice catches again, and he has to stop to breathe past the tears. The man takes out her hair from its ponytail. It sproings free, and it is wild and untamable, just as she had been. Even in the short time the Doctor had known her he had been able to see that.
Oh, who is he kidding?
The Doctor knows who this man is. This man who buries his face in River's hair. This man who breathes in her scent, this man who cries, silently, noiselessly, his only betrayal the heaving curls of his shoulders.
The Doctor knows. He feels so far removed from this event, watching him cradle this woman in his arms. He shouldn't even be here. He is an intruder, a trespasser.
The Doctor wishes he were anywhere else but here. Wishes it twice over.
Finally the man straightens, sniffs, rubs at his eyes. They can both hear Donna calling for him. Her voice is getting closer.
The man still hasn't looked at him. The Doctor doubts he ever will.
He gently picks her up. She is not a tiny woman, but in his arms she looks small and fragile. The curls of her hair spill over his arms as secrets often do.
When he reaches the open half of the invisible door he pauses. The light from the interior of the TARDIS lights up his features brighter than any Christmas tree.
"Anita, sweetheart, would you open the other door, too? I can't fit through otherwise." The other invisible half of the door opens, too, revealing a woman with long brown hair. Her gaze, too, is fixed on the woman in his arms. The man squeezes past her, into the interior.
And then, for a moment, it's just her and the Doctor sitting on the floor, and she looks at him and she smiles, just barely, a brief awkward tilt at the corners of her mouth.
Her mind sings of time. Like him. She is like him. He thinks: There is a story here. She closes both of the doors, and there is a rush of wind as they take off, but no noise. He likes that noise, and he has to wonder why the TARDIS doesn't use it now in the future.
Then Donna is there. She sets him free.
Later, when Mr. Lux has a moment, he pulls the Doctor aside. He listens, face grave, as the Doctor relates of her sacrifice. He doesn't tell Mr. Lux about the man or Anita. About him and Anita.
When Mr. Lux asks after the body, the Doctor lies and says that the data transfer fried it to particles.
He's always been good at lying.
And he has a feeling he's going to hate libraries.
Written while listening to "All My Mistakes" by the Avett Brothers. ~madis