Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who or its respective characters. All rights to the materials, plotlines, and characters go to BBC, I'm merely playing other writers' toys.
Beauty From Pain
It was a few nights after they had gotten married. The TARDIS was humming away pleasantly and the Doctor was laying side-by-side with River, his River. He had taken her out of Stormcage, promising it to be for only just this night. She had chastised him, reminding him that she didn't want to be stuck in Stormcage forever. He had allowed himself to be scolded, but inwardly was looking forward to an evening alone with her. Rory and Amy were enjoying similar time at home, and, well… the Doctor couldn't help wanting the same kind of downtime with River. He had been so sure he had lost her, he had come close to the brink of death, and she had brought him out of that madness. His clever, brilliant, fantastic, wibbly-wobbly, hat-shooting River had saved him.
Her beautiful features tonight were the calmest and gentlest he'd ever seen them. As they exchanged thoughts and opinions on recent events, sometimes she'd have to bring him back to reality as he often lost himself in the deepness of her blue eyes, he found them positively fascinating. As they talked, River played with the fabric they'd gotten married in. He'd said she should keep it, and she had reluctantly taken the memoir. It wasn't that she didn't want it, River had simply argued that he needed it more than she did.
If River was honest with herself, however, she knew that that was a lie. While the Doctor had Amy and Rory with him on his adventures (or misadventures), she was alone in Stormcage. She was far from confined, but the nights separated from him were difficult. She'd curl in her bed in her cell, wishing he was somehow here to kiss her forehead and hold her until she fell asleep, to hear the sound of his voice and the comforting beating of his twin hearts against hers. Stormcage wasn't exactly a nice place, the guards were a little less than polite, and she was never able to make friends very easily. The Doctor was her love and her guardian… more than she wanted or was able to admit. She loved him. Whether or not she realized it… she needed him too. She was happy here, in the TARDIS with him. It felt so right, and she wanted to stay here forever… but she couldn't. Time and Stormcage would always be in the way.
For a few moments they were both quiet, something that was quite a feat when in each other's presence. The bickering and flirting ceased. All that could be heard was the gentle thrum of the TARDIS beneath them and the sound of their own breathing. Each was lost in contemplating the other, and it could be said that perhaps for this moment River and the Doctor were no longer in opposite time-streams… for this moment at least, they were one. They had had many moments like this, and many more were to come. These blurred the lines between the two time-streams. They brought River and the Doctor together, binding them tightly and rendering them breathless. Neither one knew why their hearts beat faster, or why they suddenly grabbed the other's hands and held them tightly. It just seemed right.
The Doctor put a hand the small of River's back, drawing her closer to him. As she looked up into his eyes, her fingers went with a mind of their own and delicately traced the scar on his forehead. He blushed slightly, remembering why it was there. She smiled up at him with that foxy look of hers, a question written in her features.
"I banged it pretty hard once." He explained, uncharacteristically shortly.
River raised her eyebrow, "And you have no obnoxiously long and complicated story about it?"
He laughed, reaching over to fondly tuck a strand of constantly-unruly hair behind River's ear, "Let's just say I wasn't looking where I was going."
River giggled and shook her head. She snuggled into the crook of his arm, leaning her head on his chest and resting one hand there, taking comfort in his security. The Doctor drew his wife a wee bit closer, putting an arm around her, enjoying the feel of her against him. He looked down at her, lacing his fingers through that wonderful, wild hair of hers, a smile playing on his lips as he took in her features for the umpteenth time this night. He wanted to remember every bit of her. He wanted to burn in his mind the image of her like this, safe with him, happy. He wanted to know every single curl of hair on her head, and the way her nose crinkled up when she laughed. Oh, her laugh! He must remember how beautiful her laugh was! If at any time he was unable to recall every bit of that sound in his mind, he'd never forgive himself. He knew that one day, he'd have to see her go knowing it was the last time he'd ever see her face, or listen to her giggle, or bicker about who flew the TARDIS better. When that day came, he wanted to look back and be able to remember all of their times together, even the one when she slapped him, and the time when she tried to kill him, and especially the time when she said "I hate you!", because without those memories his River wouldn't be his River.
Unconsciously, in a sudden need to remind himself River was real, he kissed her. River was surprised, but pleasantly so. Then, his fingers took on their own ideas and the hand that held her close to him crept up her back under her blouse. River gave a little squeak and broke the kiss, drawing back from his touch. The Doctor took his hand back, shocked at her reaction. She'd always been so eager to initiate contact between the two, why suddenly stop now? What had he done wrong? Was she hurt?
River sat up, scooting to the edge of the couch. Her breathing was becoming ragged, and her head was drooped down. The Doctor quickly got up after her, sitting next to her. He'd ruined it! Stupid, stupid Doctor! Here they were, having a lovely time, and he had to go and spoil everything by hurting her. He looked over at River's face, seeing her grey-greeny-blue eyes swimming and her shaking with the effort of trying to force back her emotions. He could swear her heard both his hearts break.
"River, love, I'm sorry." He said softly, desperately wanting to reach over and comfort her, but afraid of what that might bring.
A lone tear broke free from River's defenses and she shook her head, "No, it's not you."
The Doctor visibly looked relieved and then tentatively put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it gently with only a fraction of the intimacy they'd shared but a few moments before. "What's wrong?"
River's hand joined his own, squeezing it, he felt her tense a little and she quickly wiped away the tears forming in her eyes and looked at him, a smile on her face. "Nothing, it's just hormones."
The way she was so quick to recover sent warning bells off in the Doctor's head, his eyes narrowed and he pressed a finger to her chin, "River…"
She shook him off and then stood, sashaying her way towards their room, "Sweetie, really, I'm fine. Now come on to bed before we both fall asleep."
The Doctor sighed heavily. Clearly, she was not in the mood to discuss whatever was bothering her. Sometimes he just wished River could learn to trust him enough to be a little vulnerable. Granted, he knew more about her right now than she knew about him, but his wibbly-wobbly River was still a puzzle, and she wasn't being much help in solving it.
He followed her to their room, crawling into bed a few moments after her. She made an attempt to signal that all was well between them as she snuggled up deeply to his chest. River was stiffer though, he could tell, she didn't lay quite right and he still wasn't sure about putting his arms around her for fear of setting her off again. It made for a bit of an awkward sleeping position for both of them, but he drew the covers up around River and then kissed her forehead softly before she drifted off to sleep. He was too worried to think about resting. He'd done something horribly wrong, something had made River flinch away from him, and he needed to find out why. Sure, they hadn't had sex yet. But if River wasn't ready she would have told him. He knew her too well for that. He hadn't been heading there anyway! She hadn't been either, so what was wrong? He peered down at her, making sure she was fast asleep. Then, slowly, he looked over her shoulder and tentatively pushed the shirt up her back a hair, just to see if she was hurt.
Scars. River was scarred. The Doctor felt his Time-Lord blood begin to boil as he ran his fingers deftly over them. There were hundreds upon hundreds, all were white with age, but nonetheless painfully obvious. They were little nicks, gashes through her skin, as if someone had taken a knife and cut his River. He realized with a little bit of relief that they were in an unreachable spot, so at least they weren't self-inflicted. But that meant torture. Painful, continuous torture. He drew his arms protectively around her, promising himself he was going to find out who had hurt River, his River, and he was going to make their lives hell.
Being a light sleeper, River awoke from the sudden, tight contact. She looked up into his unreadable features, her eyes searching his face in worry, "What's wrong, my love?"
Normally the Doctor would dance around a delicate subject, but this was River. Nobody hurt River, not if he had something to say about it. "Who gave you those scars, River?"
River was caught off-balance. It was the last question she'd expected, and the last one she ever wanted to hear. Unsure of how to answer, she was also slightly hurt that he hadn't trusted her enough to let the matter be. Her face changed from confusion, to shock, to a hard glare, "What?"
"Who gave you the scars you have on your back?" The Doctor repeated quietly.
River shook herself from his hold, sitting up in bed, "Why did you look?"
He sat up as well, "Because like it or not, River, I care about you."
What he didn't expect was how she'd react to his statement. He hadn't expected his remark to make it all better, that would have been stupid. But maybe it would have calmed her a bit, or at least made her angry… both were emotions he could deal with coming from River. This, this was something he had no idea how to handle. River was crying.
"No, you don't." It came out barely audible, but steady. River hated herself for how quiet it was, for how weak it sounded. She hated herself for crying, for making him worried and fretful. She didn't deserve what he gave her, he was so good. It wasn't fair to him. It wasn't fair that after all that he had done for her all he got in return was a woman that couldn't give back, that couldn't let him in, that couldn't trust. Truth be told, she was broken, and she knew it. "You pity me." It came out more loudly this time, growing a little in bitter indignation with a hint of anger. That was why she never wanted him to see her scars, her pain. She never wanted to let him in because it would hurt him too much. If she showed him how truly weak she was… he'd never be able to do anything more than pity her… and River thought that might kill her.
"No, River." His arms wrapped around her gently, pulling her close into his lap like she was the most precious thing in the world, "I love you more for your scars. I love you because you are an incredibly strong, beautiful, foxy woman. You, River Song, are one of the few things left in this Universe that still amazes and puzzles me. You with your guns and your spoilers and that crinkly thing you do with your nose when you laugh – yes, especially that - Even with everything you've been through, everything that's hurt you, you don't let that hurt define you… because you're stronger than that. River, you know my name, you were there with me at the end of time, and you brought us out. I will never, ever, be able to pity you." He put a finger under her chin, tilting her face upward. Gently, he wiped away a tear from her cheek and smiled at her, the deep love of her impossible madman burning in his eyes, "I will always be here for you. Let me in, wibbly-wobbly River."
When another tear spilled past River's barriers, she could no longer keep her emotions in check. The Doctor simply cradled her in his lap while she sobbed, neither one knew for how long. He would have waited an eternity if it meant River would learn to trust him.
A/N: Well I apologize for any over-cheesyness that may have resulted, but I did honestly love writing this fic. The image of River crying grabbed me one night and wouldn't let me go, so I felt the need to let her explain herself…. sortof, anyway. I hope you enjoyed, reviews are always nice :)