Here it is! The last chapter!
Disclaimer: Not mine!
The Doctor had been too surprised by River's flight to even follow after her. He trusted that the TARDIS would help him find her when she needed to be found, but more than that he just couldn't figure out what was going on. Dumbfounded, he sat on the bed trying to figure it out, having dropped his arms to his sides, but still clenching his hands as though around the shoulders of the now-vanished River. Well, from her response when she woke up, he could tell that she had still fully believed the dream. The reaching out of her left hand suddenly clicked with something he had long found curious about the décor of her cell – ahhh, the bow tie on the wall next to the bed.
Wait, that bow tie had been there for every time he had seen her during her first month in Stormcage…How long had she been having this dream? Did it happen every night? Why had she never told him? Well, that he could figure out later, right now he needed to know what had gone wrong in the moment. Surely when she saw him, it should have been an even better reassurance that he was alive than simply touching his bow tie…what had made her run? He had seen her face when she saw him - first happiness, which made sense given that she had just previously believed him to be actually dead at her own hands, but then fear. That was what frightened him the most about the situation, making his breath catch in his throat almost as much as when he'd seen her drop to the floor in the regent's tea room. River should never have reason to fear him, and raw fear had been written all over her face as she fled.
The Doctor stood up and started to pace at the bottom of the bed, drawing his hands through his hair over and over again. Pacing always helped.
Alright, so River had been dreaming of having to actually kill him, and from the bow tie, it seemed reasonable to conclude that she'd been having the dream since being imprisoned. He hadn't seen it before because she wanted to sleep in Stormcage to work off her…OH. Oh of course. She'd been lying to him. Of course. Clever River, she must not have wanted him to know.
But why? Surely she would know that he would just want to help her. Did she not want help? No, that couldn't be it…something else must be going on. He sometimes forgot how young she was in terms of their relationship, this soon after the wedding. The flirting and banter and even the sex were hardly different at all, but then she went and did something like this, lying to him and hiding non-Spoiler-y things from him. He loved her just the same of course, but she had so many insecurities about him and his love for her, and he always feared that if he did the wrong thing she would never become the confident woman who trusts in his love for her, even when he's so young he doesn't know it himself.
In any case, he should find her, shouldn't he? But he didn't want her to do anything to hurt herself – or him (he checked the table and was pleased to find that she hadn't taken her gun, but still) when he found her, and without knowing what her reasons were for not wanting him to see her, he just couldn't predict her reaction. Poking his head out into the hall as he tried to formulate a plan of action, he heard sound coming from the corridor around the corner.
Oh, his clever, clever Sexy, she'd figured it all out for him, hadn't she – brought River right back to where he could find her, and maybe even learn what was going on in her head before he approached. He gave the wall a fond and gracious pat and walked gingerly down the hallway towards the sound, trying to make as little noise as possible. Just before the corner, he started to be able to make out what she was saying.
Oh, River, no, how could she think that, he thought to himself, he would never leave her, not for anything, and certainly not for this. It didn't make her damaged. So much the opposite in fact, it made her whole. She had been through a traumatic experience, he'd yelled at her for trying to save him, for God's sake, of course the experience would affect her! And worst of all, to him, was her statement, repeated amidst various others, that he would run from her because he wouldn't want to face what he'd done to her. It was the worst to him because he knew the belief wasn't entirely unfounded. Sometimes he ran; he ran because it hurt. But never from River, he could only ever run with River or towards River, never away, and oh, how she needed to know that right now.
He approached her like one approaches a frightened, cornered animal. He walked up to her slowly, with his hands out and open, asking "River, can you hear me? You need to listen to me River. Breathe River, take deep breathes and listen to me, please? Please listen to me my love, can you hear me? Hmm?" As he lowered himself to her level, squatting next to her, she stopped speaking and nodded her head nearly imperceptibly, but he could tell she was still a ball of fear.
River could hear something over the sound of the blood pounding in her head and her own speech. As the sound got closer she could make out the Doctor's voice. Why was he here? Why had he come to find her? What could he possibly have to say to her? Was he going to tell her why they couldn't see each other anymore? She didn't want to hear it, but she didn't have the strength to resist anymore, so when he came down next to her she nodded, hoping to at least get it over with quickly. She couldn't look at him, but she stopped speaking so she could hear what he had to say – she was afraid he would keep trying to explain to her if she didn't seem to be listening. He hated when she didn't listen.
Careful not to touch her yet or scare her off, the Doctor began to speak slowly and softly, struggling to keep his thoughts from racing ahead and his words from coming out all at once. He knew she loved it when he rambled, but he really wanted to be utterly clear this one time and not stray from his mark.
"River Song, Child of the TARDIS, my wife, you are by far the best thing in my life. I know you are very, very afraid, but I need you to listen closely to me. I will never leave you, River. I will never run from you. No matter what you do, no matter how hurt I am or how hurt you are, I will never, ever leave you. In my life, I have hurt many people and yes, sometimes I have run away from those people, from what I did to them, but that isn't who I am anymore River, don't you see? Don't you see what your love has taught me? You have taught me that love means being willing to get hurt and to be hurt, and never, ever running away. You need to trust me, and I know I could say that someday you will, but I need you to trust me right here, right now, to trust that I love you, to trust that I can handle everything about you, and most of all to trust that your love has made me stronger, strong enough to stay. Always."
"Please look at me, River?"
She turned her head slowly towards him, though her eyes were still focused slightly past him.
"You are not damaged, you are beautiful, and I know the dream is scary, hmm? And you're right, it does hurt me to know what you go through, but it hurts me because I love you, and that love is never going to go away, so leaving you right now would only leave me hurting and with a gaping hole in my life where your fire and spark and guns and heels used to be. We can get through this, together, if you will believe me and let me in. I wish I could make you, River my love, but I can't. I know you are afraid, but I also know you are strong, so very, very, incredibly strong. And it's ok if you can't do it right now, I can wait. Your mother taught me about that, you know, your mother and your father taught me about waiting, so I can wait for you if you need it. I'll be right here."
With that, he swallowed, afraid that if he cried he would scare her off with the intensity of his feelings. He sat down next to her so that he would be more comfortable while he waited. He really was prepared to wait as long as she needed.
River had heard him. She had heard him and understood him, and she believed that he meant what he said, but that didn't mean it wasn't incredibly difficult to reach out to him. She had given her regenerations for him and then nearly destroyed the universe to make sure he knew he was loved, but trust was a very different thing than sacrifice. Sacrifice was noble and it hurt in the moment, but trusting was risky and carried with it the potential for enormous hurt if that trust was ever betrayed. If River was ever going to really trust though, she knew it had to be him, and it had to be now. This choice wouldn't come again. Somehow though, she thought he really understood her, even now. He was letting her make her own decision, in her own time. She really hoped he could deal with the outcome of the choice she was about to make.
Suddenly, the Doctor felt River moving. Her left arm slowly uncurled itself from around her knees and, without looking, she brought it up to touch his bow tie. His hearts nearly burst out of his chest. He was so touched and so proud of her. She was saying yes, yes to him, and really, yes to herself, to the part of her that needed to believe, to trust, and to be loved. Following her example, he didn't turn to look at her, but slowly moved his own left hand up across his chest to rest on top of her fingers as they ran over and over the red silk. They sat there that way for ten minutes before River broke the silence to say it aloud. "Yes," she said softly, "yes."
The Doctor looked over to find her facing him, her chin set in determination, but with the remnants of fear in her eyes. She still wasn't looking at him, keeping her eyes downcast instead. He brought his left hand up to touch her chin lightly, and the contact startled her into properly looking at him. Once he had her complete attention, he nodded, saying only, "Thank You." Her eyes locked to his, she nodded back, more firmly this time. Not breaking eye contact, he allowed his eyes to well with tears and watched as hers did the same. As her tears began to spill over onto her cheeks one by one, he pulled her into his chest. Surrounded by the arms of the man she loved, but more importantly, the man she trusted with all her heart – and what a terrifying but amazing thought that was – River cried. She cried because she had believed she had lost him forever, she cried because her dreams frightened her, and she cried because she dared to believe that it would be alright, that she would be alright, and that they would be alright. Together.
As his wife's tears spilled onto his shirt, the Doctor sighed with relief at having successfully gotten to the hugging part. He heard and felt her sob into him as he shifted her in his arms. He swept his left arm under her legs, wrapping his other arm around her back and scooting her onto his lap, not entirely unlike how he had held her as she slept on the flight back to the TARDIS. Once he had repositioned her, he released her legs and used his left arm to press her into him tightly, freeing his right arm to run through her hair. Sobbing quietly but forcefully into him over and over again, she fisted her right hand in the material of his shirt and buried her face in his chest. For the next hour they stayed in the same position. He rocked her gently as she cried herself out, muttering sweet nothings into her hair in between the kisses he was repeatedly pressing to the top of her head. Eventually she stopped crying and sniffled loudly, muttering an apology about the current state of his shirt. When he still didn't stop kissing her head, she laughed and turned her face up to his. "My lips are down here, sweetie, you really ought to have figured that out by now." Surprising himself with a laugh of his own, he met her challenge and kissed her lips firmly. Kissing him back, she untangled herself from his lap and they stood up together. Once standing, they hugged properly, him telling her how proud of her he was, and her thanking him for saying just what she needed to hear and for letting her make the choice.
River stayed on the TARDIS for a full week and a half, letting the Doctor comfort her each night as she admitted how much she feared falling asleep, learning in exchange about many of the things that he had learned to fear in his long, long life. Each night she fell asleep clutching his hand, and each night he woke her at the first sign of the nightmare. By the end of the week, she had started to have other dreams, and before he reluctantly dropped her off at Stormcage for at least one night – she did sincerely insist on spending some time in her cell – she slept for two nights in a row without any sign of the dream returning.
Years and years from the day she made the decision to trust him fully, after her trust in him had saved her goodness knows how many times, it was thinking back to that moment and to that conversation that allowed her to get through meeting up with him when he was so young that he didn't trust her. Ironically, she could still trust him when he was that young, and thinking back on it, she realized it had been the same for him. When he met her as Melody, he had trusted her, trusted in the hearts he knew she had, though she had been so very, very far from trusting him. And though it always stung a bit, seeing him that young and knowing he didn't trust her yet, she remembered how much she had appreciated him giving her the space to make that choice herself, so she gave him the same opportunity. Even in their timey-wimey relationship, it seemed only fair.
AN: Welllll, that was decidedly longer than I intended. A bit past one-shot status, wouldn't you say? Anyway, if you enjoyed this or have been following since I started it, I would absolutely appreciate a review if you have a second :)