A/N: This came out of a few too many re-watches of Season 6 during the long hiatus. With the exception of the last story, these are chronological from River's point of view. I started out wanting to explore the theme of fear (particularly interesting, I think, in a character largely played as fearless) but wound up delving into the question of choice as well. Hope you enjoy!
The first thing she realizes when she wakes is that she is desperate for a drink of water. Her mouth has never been so dry, and it isn't until she tries to reach for the tumbler next to her bedside that she realizes a second thing—she had no idea where she is. The room is white and warm, and she is buried up to her shoulders under a soft, thick coverlet.
She struggles weakly to sit upright, and memories of the previous day (how long have I been here? she wonders) start to trickle back into her conscious mind.
Leadworth. A field of half-ripened wheat. Amy and Rory. A cherry-red sportscar. A gun. The Doctor.
She looks around her, suddenly aware that she is dressed in nothing more than a thin hospital gown. She is unarmed, and more than the lack of clothing, she knows the naked feeling she is experiencing is due to the fact that she doesn't have a weapon. There is nothing recognizably hers in this bland room, and nothing immediately useful either. She considers the water (break the glass) and an abstract metal tree hanging on the wall above her bed (sharpen the edges) before memory overtakes her again.
Hitler. Terrible shot. Golden light exploding from every inch of her skin. New Melody.
She looks at her hands as if she is seeing them for the first time. It's a whole new coloring to work with, she thinks, and Amy's face flashes unbidden through her mind. Then the floodgates open, and she gasps as the memories overwhelm her.
The Doctor. Bananas that should have been guns. Killing with a kiss. Berlin on the eve of war. Victory. Red pain shooting from the mouth of a robot that somehow looks like her mother. The Doctor begging for her life. Begging for Amy and Rory's lives. The blue box. Light and warmth and an overwhelming sense of home as she opened its doors. Her doors. Her mind full of new ideas, new facts, and an overwhelming sense that the Doctor was right. Whispered words in her ear for a woman named River Song. For her. Understanding. Sacrifices. Resurrection with a kiss.
Her fists are balled up against her eyes, pressing hard as if to block the images in her mind. She feels as if she will split in two if they don't stop.
Half of her is Melody—the Doctor's killer, the psychopath, the woman who has waited and bided her time, living through two childhoods just to place herself in his path. Just to kill him.
The other half is River Song. Someone created the moment she set foot in the blue box. She has no idea who this woman is, and only a vague notion of why she exists, but she is fighting Melody with every ounce of strength she has.
Calm. Peace. Love.
Warmth. Light. Wisdom.
Home. Comfort. Hush.
Gasping, desperate for an escape from her own mind, Melody (River? Who am I?) throws back the blankets still covering her legs. She makes it to the door of her room before collapsing into the arms of a woman dressed in white.
"What are you doing out of bed, dear?" the woman asks, lifting her back to her feet and supporting her back into the room. "Your friends stepped out for a moment—I'll let them know you were looking for them. Rest now. You've been through quite an ordeal."
"You…have no idea," she responds, breathless from the exertion.
Before she loses consciousness again, she feels the two halves of herself—Melody and River—resume their battle for her identity. I want to be River she thinks weakly, and as everything fades to black she wonders if she even has a choice in the matter.
River's lungs are burning as she runs through the rocky terrain. It's not just the exertion—the atmosphere of Noros VII itself contains a number of caustic and toxic agents. No matter, she plans to be far away from here long before any actual damage can be done to her lungs.
Blaster fire to her left forces her to dodge behind a large boulder on the right, which is when she realizes that she's been running the wrong direction. She had entered the research facility on the north side, and clearly did not exit the same way. If she had, she'd be looking at her ship just ahead, not an absolutely enormous chasm that made the Grand Canyon look like a gentle depression in the Arizona landscape.
"Shit," she mutters under her breath, pulling her own blaster from its holster and firing off several shots of her own.
She quickly calculates how much longer she can stay out in this stuff before hurting herself. Yes, should be enough time to get back to the facility and re-orient herself if she can take care of the bothersome group of Frojian security guards who are still shooting at her within the next minute or so.
Pressing herself against the boulder, River edges around one side and takes aim at the guards. There are suddenly a lot more of them than she'd thought—at least fifty. The compound she'd stolen is clearly just as valuable to them as it is to her. "Shit," she mutters again, more emphatically this time. Even if she had enough ammunition to take them all down (and she has no doubt that she could) there's no time.
Think, think, think. There's always a way out. Think, River! She tells herself. Then, Oh.
She fumbles for a moment, the satchel containing her precious vial getting in the way of her hand, before she retrieves a slightly grubby looking piece of white paper and a pen from her utility belt pocket.
"I'll always be there to catch you," he'd said once, many years ago when she was still at university and still a bit wary of this…whatever it was between them. You'd better have meant that literally, she thinks, scribbling a set of coordinates on the psychic paper.
Heart pounding and more than half convinced that she's about to die, River tucks the paper back in its place, grips her blaster with both hands, and takes a running leap off the canyon rim.
The next thing she knows, she's plunged into the TARDIS swimming pool, and a familiar voice is calling out from somewhere above her. "Towels in the third cupboard from the stairs, dear!"
"Doctor? Doctor? Say something!" River slapped his cheek, trying to get some kind of response.
Nothing. He lay motionless, collapsed in front of the statue they had been arguing about (she maintained that it was fourth century Trillarian, he claimed to have been present in the second century when it was carved, and had added a particularly irritating comment about how he'd saved the thing from destruction during the third century's civil war) just moments earlier. One second he'd been talking, the next he'd collapsed at her feet.
She heard, rather than felt, the second dart—the one that was intended for her.
Absurdly thanking Madame Kovarian in the back of her mind for the years of truly excellent training she'd provided, River reflexively dodged before pulling her blaster (set to stun) and whipping around, already firing even before she'd seen who was shooting at them.
She didn't even bother to identify the unconscious body of their attacker before she heaved the Doctor's alarmingly limp arm over her shoulders. One advantage to a time machine: she'd be back in a moment to interrogate him, no matter how long it took her to get the Doctor conscious again. For now, she had bigger problems, namely lugging a certain Time Lord back to the TARDIS as quickly as possible. For all his angularity, he wasn't exactly a light load.
"Right, not working," she told him after a few steps, laying his head gently back to the tile. "Be right back, sweetie." Then she took off for the far end of the gallery at a dead run.
Very few substances could have incapacitated him that rapidly. She knew them all—her earliest education had included a full listing. She mentally flipped through the list, considering the relative toxicity and antidote possibilities of each. The TARDIS's med bay should have most—the old girl had a way of providing just what was needed.
River skidded to a halt in front of the blue box, and didn't blink twice when the doors swung open at her touch. She had never needed a key when the TARDIS knew the Doctor was in danger. She dashed up the ramp, and within moments was rematerializing around his still-unconscious form.
Without stopping to check his pulse (she wouldn't even entertain the notion that he didn't have one) River dashed up the stairs. "Thank you," she breathed aloud as she stepped right into the med bay, which had been much further down the corridor this morning. She gathered up the portable scanner and a half-dozen syringes the TARDIS had thoughtfully placed within arm's reach of the door before running back to the control room.
His skin was cold and clammy, and she could tell without even looking at the scanner's readouts that whatever had been in that dart was doing very, very bad things to his system. The scanner beeped, and River could have sworn it sounded triumphant as the readout declared that the poison, though a nasty one, was curable. He would likely have found the grin on her face more than a little disconcerting as she plunged the rather nasty-looking needle of the correct syringe into his thigh.
It wasn't until hours later, when he had regained consciousness and was weakly making jokes from the comfort of a settee in the library (he had stubbornly refused to stay in bed—insufferable man) that River allowed herself to consider the possibility that she could have lost him. She had told Amy and Rory once that the Doctor's death didn't frighten her, but that had, of course, been a lie. It certainly wasn't the thing she feared most, nor was it something she chose to spend much time thinking about, and when considered in the abstract it was clearly ridiculous to waste energy fearing something inevitable. The day she had almost killed him—the day she had regenerated into this body—she had felt fear at the end when she realized both who the Doctor really was and how close he was to death. She'd felt that same fear today (though attached to significantly less guilt).
Yes, the Doctor's death frightened her. Today, thankfully, had not been the day to realize that fear.
It had been a perfect birthday.
Not that her birthdays were typically anything other than brilliant. From the moment she had regenerated for the second time (her 39th year, if one counted by linear years) River's birthdays had been characterized by two things: the Doctor and joy.
That first year he had shown up on her doorstep for the first time since she'd nearly killed him in Berlin. That year they had gone to the forests of Adumar and he'd had just enough time to give her a tooled leather utility belt ("I happen to know you'll need this someday…spoilers!") before they'd had to run for their lives from the villagers who apparently had a thing about the color blue. Who would have ever guessed that the paint job on the TARDIS would start a riot? That had been the first time he'd taken her hand in his and just run. She'd never wanted that mad dash to end, and in a way, it hadn't.
The fifth year he'd arrived two days early. That had been an exceptional year. She had never been able to figure out exactly which her he'd left immediately prior to that particular birthday, but from her perspective it had been the first time he'd ever kissed her with that much passion, and (she later realized) that much heartache. They hadn't even left the TARDIS for a week that time, and she still had to fight the temptation to blush when she remembered those heady days.
The ninth birthday had been her first at Stormcage. It was far from the first time she'd seen him since she had been incarcerated for his murder, and she knew it wasn't his first time breaking her out of her cell. Still, the occasion had felt like an initiation of sorts. That time she had flown the TARDIS, and they'd let Sexy pick their destination. They'd saved a planet from annihilation that year, and then he'd taken her to a little diner just outside of Baltimore in 1954 for banana splits. He'd eaten his and most of hers, and insisted on singing "Happy Birthday" while she blew out the drippy candle he'd inserted into the melting mound of strawberry ice cream.
This year it had been the last frost fair, ice skating on the Thames, and a brilliantly anachronistic musical performance by her favorite singer. No lives had been at stake, and for the first year in many River had been able to simply enjoy the moment with the Doctor. Perfection didn't come any more perfect than this. Well, minus the alarm klaxon that was well on its way to giving her a headache.
"Oh turn it off, I'm breaking in not out. This is River Song back in her cell. Oh, and I'll take breakfast at the usual time. Thank you!"
He had dropped her off, oddly enough, at the far end of the corridor rather than immediately across from her cell as usual. Still riding high from the exhilaration of the day, River found herself waltzing and humming to herself when she saw the centurion step out of the shadows. Later, she blamed the Doctor and his infernal ability to make her forget absolutely everything for her lapse in perception.
"My, are you boys dressing up as Romans now? I thought nobody read my memos," she purred as she approached the shadowed figure. Another birthday surprise? Frankly, after Stevie she wasn't putting anything past the Doctor. Then he stepped into the light and she realized this wasn't the kind of final birthday treat she'd had in mind.
"Doctor Song? It's—Rory. I'm sorry, have we met yet? Timestreams. I'm not quite sure where we are." Her father nervously searched her face for signs of recognition, and suddenly River's heart, which had been floating on a cloud somewhere in the Delvian system, crashed back down. This was wrong. This was all wrong.
"Yes. We've met. Hello, Rory," she breathed. It was very difficult to breathe all of a sudden.
River had known this day and others like it were coming for a very long time. Still, it was one thing to comprehend the idea that at some point your own parents and husband wouldn't have a clue who you were, and another thing entirely to live it. From her perspective, her father had always known exactly who she was. He'd occasionally struggled with the notion that she was his daughter—more so in recent years—but he'd always known. Now he didn't, and suddenly River found herself having to fight to keep the smile on her face.
Starting today she was going to have to lie to him (and to Amy and the Doctor, but it was less painful to consider this new reality if she only focused on Rory) like her life depended on it. In a way, it did.
In retrospect, she really shouldn't have been surprised.
Two weeks ago she'd see him with this face for the first time. She'd just learned that she had received tenure at Luna University and felt that she was owed a celebration. She knew before she sent the note that the version of him she was likely to get would keep her at arm's length, but she'd had enough time to get used to that already. No matter how little he knew her, she still tried her hardest to focus on the simple truth that the Doctor was the Doctor, and she loved him even when he looked at her like she was some sort of predator who might turn on him at any moment.
And, in truth, he wasn't altogether wrong in that assessment. Time and love and free will had dulled the blade of her childhood indoctrination, but it was still there, buried deep beneath the surface of River Song,
So she left a coy note on the back of the Shadow Proclamation; packed a hamper with good wine (for her, of course, there was a thermos of tea for him), fresh bread, and some truly excellent cheeses; and arrived at Aasgard at a quarter past one in the afternoon prepared to have a remarkable day.
She hoped, rather than expected, that Time would recognize the significance of the occasion and gift her one of an increasingly rare number of visits from a Doctor who knew who she really was; a Doctor she could actually celebrate with—could talk to and touch—without constantly being on her guard about spoilers and early-him's puritanical personal boundaries.
River's wishes rarely came true.
Still, it had been a pleasant afternoon, once she got over the shock of his new/old face (the hair—her spotter's guide hadn't really done it justice, and she was going to tease future him mercilessly about it the next time she saw him) and once he had allowed himself to relax a bit and tried to enjoy himself as well. He hadn't been traveling with anyone for awhile, he revealed, and she recalled her Doctor once telling her that he'd been unfit for company for quite awhile after he'd been forced to give up Donna Noble. In a perverse way, she realized that this Doctor needed the comfort of a friendly, loving face far more than she did today—he was hurting, she was merely in need of good company.
There had been something in his eyes, though, that had troubled her. Something haunted, something frightened when he looked at her. She'd never seen that look from him before, though at the time she had chalked it up to the fact that this was a different version of the Doctor. Different bodies, different rules as he had once said.
Two days after Aasgard she had heard the TARDIS engines outside her cell, and before she'd even had time to pluck her diary from the shelf he had soniced open her door and had her pressed up against the cell wall receiving one of the most thorough kisses of her life.
To say that she'd been pleased to see him, particularly after the troubling look in his former self's eyes, would have been the understatement of the millennium.
Rather than spending a night in as she'd expected after his unusually enthusiastic greeting, however, he had pushed a familiar dress into her arms (he had refused to hear any of her protests about it—she would spend tonight in this dress if he had to put it on her himself. She had insisted on just that and they'd nearly not made it out the door) and swept her off to Alfalfa Metraxis for old time's sake before arriving at their final destination—the Singing Towers of Darillium.
The less said about that trip the better. River still hadn't recorded it in her diary—it had been a rare and perfect night, and taking pen to paper would mean that it was over. In her fantasies, that night was still happening.
All of which was to say that while she really shouldn't have been surprised at the blank look on his face when she had cleared the visor on her helmet to deliver a "Hello, Sweetie." Shouldn't, but she had been. Still, she'd been certain that his refusal to acknowledge any kind of relationship between them (at a minimum she'd always been treated as a friendly acquaintance) and the frankly rude "Get out" response to her greeting had been merely an act. She'd even played along—called him "pretty boy" and made a mental note to also tease future him about this the next time she saw him.
And then, it became crystal clear that it wasn't an act at all. The haunted look he had worn at Aasgard was gone, and when she had begged him to tell her that he knew who she was, he'd merely replied, "Should I?"
One of the few constants of River Song's life was the fact that she lied by necessity to absolutely everyone she cared about. Once, long ago, she had told her parents that she had no fear of the Doctor's death or of her own. It had been a ridiculous lie that no reasonable person should have believed, but at the time they hadn't really known her at all, so they had taken it at face value. Shortly thereafter Rory had pushed her further on the subject, and she'd confessed that the one day she truly feared was the one when he didn't know her at all. It was a rare moment of truth for her at that point in his timestream.
This was that day.
And of course they were right in the middle of a life-or-death situation, and of course she had assured her team that they would have help once they reached the Library, and of course they had to keep asking her why this "help" (whom she had thankfully refused to identify in terms of his relationship with her) didn't seem to trust her in any way, and of course he was going off half-cocked and emotional when they both knew he made mistakes when he was emotional.
She hadn't wanted to do it. Hadn't intended to ever do it. Their bizarre timelines were more precious to her than anything else in the universe (a fact she had nearly ended said universe once in an effort to prove to him), and she was so very scared that what she was going to do now was going to destroy all of it. That it was going to destroy her entire life. There wasn't anything else she could do in the time they had, though, to force him to trust her the way he needed to if they were going to make it out of here alive.
Just before she leaned in to his ear to whisper his name—the word that would come to define so many of their adventures in the years he had ahead of him—she realized that the thing she feared most in the world hadn't, as she'd always assumed, been the day he wouldn't know her. It would be the day she was forced to jeopardize every other day when he had.
And One That Didn't
Sometimes, when River is studying or eating or about to fall asleep, a tiny voice in the back of her head (she is half convinced the voice is the part of her that is still Melody, though admitting it would also force her to admit that there are at least two separate people inside her head, and she'd really rather not) tells her that on a fundamental level the Doctor is no different from Kovarian. Both have interfered with her life from the very beginning, both have done terrible things to her parents, both have tried to shape and define who she is.
River has to admit, Melody does have a point.
The Doctor, she thinks, might be aware of these similarities. She wonders if this is why he hasn't come to see her in a very long time. She saw him once, shortly after she was accepted at university. "Just popping in," he'd said, without further preamble, "to make sure you're settling in all right." She had nodded, too startled by his sudden appearance to come up with something witty to say about flatmates or the food, and he'd simply wrung his hands and looked flustered before hopping back in his box and leaving.
Her parents would be horrified if they knew she was equating their best and oldest (if least predictable) friend to the woman who had kidnapped her mother, kidnapped her, and stolen away any chance that they would get to parent their first child. She's sure Amy wouldn't speak to her for a week if she knew. Then again, Amy had always been a bit blind when it came to the Doctor's faults. She understood him well enough to know that he wasn't perfect, but she always, always overlooked the darkness in him. River didn't have that luxury.
Kovarian, based on what little River remembers about her, would likely acknowledge the similarities between herself and her sworn enemy with an ironic twist of her lips. She wouldn't deny it, nor would she see it is a flaw or fault in her own character. Instead, she would likely use this knowledge as further evidence to support her assertions that the Doctor's death needed to come at Melody's hands.
All her life, River has been manipulated and molded by other people. She was the girl in the Apollo spacesuit; bait for the Doctor and his companions. A test to see how he would respond to certain stimuli. She was Mels; wild and unpredictable, best friend of Amy Pond, trained relentlessly right under her nose to become the perfect weapon to destroy the Raggedy Doctor. Then she was Melody; merciless and willing to destroy anyone and anything who got in her way. Melody, who thought nothing of killing the Doctor with a kiss. And then she stepped into the Doctor's blue box and River was born.
In so many ways, River is just as artificial a persona as Mels ever was.
Even now, several years after she made the fateful choice to save his life, River is ambivalent about the events of that day. Oh, she doesn't regret saving him. The thought of a millennia worth of lifetimes had never appealed to her much (wouldn't one get bored with the universe eventually?) and she loves him. Of that, she has no doubt. But why does she love him? Is it something that actually comes from her (whoever she is) or is it merely another bit of programming, downloaded into her by the TARDIS along with flying lessons and a bit of the Gallifreyan language?
The TARDIS called River her child, and from what River has been able to piece together about why she is the way she is, the ship's interference in her conception seems nothing short of deliberate. The TARDIS loved the Doctor, and had seen him so lonely for so long that she'd decided to make him a friend. Possibly someone who would be more than a friend. Someone whose very existence would be a puzzle for him to solve; whose every appearance would keep him from getting comfortable—from getting bored. She was created to be the perfect counterpart to him in every way.
Yes, River is quite sure that the TARDIS made her on purpose.
So, in a way, perhaps it isn't only the Doctor who's like Kovarian. Perhaps the woman who masterminded her childhood has far more in common with a blue box than she ever thought possible.
And yet, the Doctor is still there, an immovable presence in her future. The TARDIS may have created her, but the Doctor is the man inside the box who will play an active role in whoever she is becoming. From his perspective, he's already played that part. Some days she is certain that her future has already been written, and that she's merely going through the motions of a free and independent life when everyone around her knows she has no such thing.
It's an intimidating thing, to realize that you have a destiny.
It's also vaguely insulting.
Some women would likely fear a future they thought they couldn't control. River is not "some women." If anything, thinking about her future makes her angry at times. She feels supremely irritated when, out on a perfectly lovely date with a perfectly lovely (if inevitably somewhat dull) person, a thought of the Doctor crosses her mind. She feels absurdly like she is being unfaithful to someone she's barely met and has certainly never been intimate with physically or emotionally. Well, unless you count a kiss that sacrificed ten of her lifetimes to bring him back to life as "intimacy." River chooses not to.
The morning after one of those dates (she'd been planning to bring the boy home, but had backed out literally on her doorstep when he'd asked her about the blue diary she always carried) River bangs around her kitchen, frustrated with herself, with her life, with her future. She completely misses the sound of the TARDIS's arrival and is expecting that the knock on the door will be a package she has been waiting weeks for, only to be greeted by the very face she had been cursing only moments earlier.
"Uh, bad time I take it?" he asks, having experience with the particular expression on her face as she decides how to greet him.
"You could say that. What do you want?" She has no time for him today, particularly when her stomach erupts in butterflies at the sight of his face.
"May I come in?" he asks, making a superfluous gesture toward the sitting room.
"I suppose," she agrees, resolving to let him have a piece of her mind about this whole my-future-is-your-past nonsense. At a minimum, yelling at him will spare her crockery from further abuse.
He settles awkwardly on the sofa and seems slightly surprised when she chooses to stay standing. "Don't you want to…" he trails off as she shakes her head. "Okay, then. Can I assume that I've done something to upset you?"
"You first," she says. He clearly came here for a reason, and as she plans to kick him out the moment she gets done yelling at him for ruining her life, she might as well hear what he has to say first.
"Actually," he scratches his cheek, not meeting her eye, "I wasn't here for anything in particular. The TARDIS, you see, she doesn't always take me where I tell her. If she thinks I need to be somewhere else…"
"So where were you trying to go?" This bit of information is interesting, and she files it away for later. Apparently she's not the only one the blue box likes to order about.
"Alpha Centuri, about twelve hundred years ago, actually. There's a fascinating pyramid over two miles high there, and I've always wanted to see how they built it." He grins, like a child who's just unwrapped a new toy, and once again River has to force herself to ignore the flipping sensation in her midsection. This whole scene would be a lot easier if she didn't have all of these feelings for him.
"No pyramids here," she says, finding herself smiling at him.
"No pyramids," he agrees. "So I can only assume that I found myself at your doorstep because you needed me."
"I…" she stops, realizing that the anger has mostly gone out of her. It will return, she knows, which is why she presses on. This is a conversation they need to have. "I'm angry with you."
"Angry?" he looks genuinely puzzled. "Okay, angry. Why?"
And then the floodgates let loose. "Why? Really? Oh, I don't know, how about because I don't have a life of my own? How about because every time I see you I'm reminded again and again that my future is already written? That you've already lived it. That everything I'll ever become has been shaped and molded by your hands—yours and that box's—and that there are days when I wonder if there will ever come a time when I can make a single decision for myself, or if other people will always be pulling my strings like I'm some kind of damned puppet. I'm angry that I don't get to decide anything, okay?"
The Doctor, for once, is speechless. He looks as if she's physically slapped him with her words, and if her arms weren't folded so tightly across her chest she might wonder if she had.
"Okay," he finally says, standing up and pacing towards the far end of the room. Every other time she's seen him she's noticed that he has to be moving when he talks, and he has to talk in order to think. She's likely in for quite a long speech.
"Okay. Let me make sure I'm understanding this, because it's quite important that I do. Bad things, misunderstandings. You're saying that you're angry with me because you think your future is out of your hands? That because we're back-to-front there's nothing you can do differently than the way I've already lived it?" He thrusts his hands in his pockets and looks her in the eye again.
"Basically, yes," she says.
"Oh River," he reaches out for her, then seems to think twice about it. His hands go back into his pockets. "I…I do understand. Really, I do. The thing you must never forget—never—is that things can be rewritten. The past, the future—they're fluid. At any point you can choose differently and change everything. Well, not any point, actually, but most points. Almost all of them. A handful must happen, yes, but those are outliers. The point is, my story doesn't have to be yours. The choice is always going to be your own."
This is entirely unexpected.
"My choice?" she asks. "So, hypothetically, if I decided I never wanted to see you again…"
"Uh…spoilers," she glares at him. "I'm sorry, River, but I really can't explain it. Yes, you will see me again, but not in the way you're thinking. Well, the way I assume you're thinking. Aside from a few things, the rest remains true. You can choose anything you like. Your future does not have to be my past."
"Well…okay then." She can't think of anything else to say in response. All of the anger has suddenly drained out of her, replaced by a different emotion she is struggling to name. Hope?
"Okay? Truly?" He reaches out again for her, and this time she lets him touch her arm. He is gentle, and she moves closer to him, allowing him to embrace her. She would be lying if she said that the feel of his arms around her didn't feel absolutely and completely right.
"Truly," she says, hugging him back briefly before stepping away again. She has a lot to think about.
"Well then," he says, moving toward the door. "I suppose I had better be going, then."
"I suppose so," she says softly. Suddenly she doesn't want him to leave.
He opens the door, and she can see the TARDIS parked right outside. "Well, goodbye River. Call me if…well, if you decide you want to see me sometime." He smiles sadly, and she finds herself reaching out for him again. His eyes widen in alarm momentarily before he relaxes into her touch. She brushes her lips softly against his cheek.
It isn't a promise. It isn't a life sentence. It's just a kiss, and for the first time in a very long time (perhaps her whole life) River Song feels completely in control. She has a feeling that she's going to exercise every opportunity she can go feel this way again.