Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who, if I did, River wouldn't be stuck in a computer, she'd be out with the Doctor shooting his hats and helping him save the world.
A/N: (Feel free to skip my useless rambling) So this is what I was doing instead of writing Beneath the Script. Apologies. But I watched Big Bang the other day, and the question came to my mind, "Why didn't the Doctor visit River when his time-stream was rewinding?!"... so I wrote a maybe-AU fic in which he does. Have fun with all the Angst, and don't forget to leave a review!
Footprints of the Never-Were
"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same."
No, not this. I don't want to see any of this. Please.
But no matter how much he begged the Universe, he was still sitting here, watching his life literally flash before his eyes. He still had a few more stops to go. Amy and little Amelia had been bad enough. He knew he was going to die. This was the end of the line for him.
He took a deep breath, opening his eyes as he looked around at the last place he wanted to be.
Of all places. Of all the times that the Universe could've dragged through (picnics, that time when he danced with Rose on the TARDIS, when he'd taken Sarah Jane to that lovely planet full of white flowers, for instance), it'd chosen this one.
It'd chosen one of the moments that would haunt him for the rest of his goddamned life, however short it may be.
He didn't want to die seeing this. Why had the Universe brought him here?
River was just handcuffing his Tenth regeneration to the pole. She always did like handcuffs. The Doctor leaned in the doorway, his eyes misting over.
"Hi honey, I'm home," he whispered, looking over at her.
River froze. Her breath hitched in her throat. She turned, her eyes wide. "And what sort of time do you call this?"
It was humorous. It was pained. Strangled from her throat as she faced him. "When are you?"
"I'm dying, River," he replied back.
She swallowed. "When?" she commanded his answer through gritted teeth.
"The Pandorica, Universe is exploding, I'm in the middle of it- the big bang two." He laughed mirthlessly and tossed his screwdriver lightly, staring at the floor.
River took a step forward, placing a hand on his chest and then straightening his bowtie with the other before looking up into his eyes, searching his face, "You're not my Doctor," she whispered.
They stared at each other for a few moments, the countdown beeping in the background. The Doctor took a huge gulp, a small, ridiculous, mad plan forming in his head. He didn't have to stay for the whole replay of his life, did he? Couldn't he just- speed things up a little?
River let go of him, abruptly turning away. Her shoulders were shaking as she tried to rein in her emotions. He hadn't come. Her Doctor. This time, he wouldn't be there to save her. She just had this not-yet Doctor…and he still had so much time left…
"River- let me do this-"
River cut him off with a bitter laugh, "After so many years, you're still trying? You always knew this was how I was going to die…"
Was that what all of those brooding nights had been about? The nightmares that she'd had to chase away by kissing him furiously and promising him she was there. In the back of her mind, she knew he must've already seen her death- sometime- but… the force of it had never scared her quite so much as the moment when she'd realize he didn't know her. She hadn't been thinking about her death. She never did… but now…
River didn't know. She'd always kind of expected he'd always be there. Her Doctor would always fly in with his absurd TARDIS and screwdriver and save the day. But he wasn't here now. Sure there were two of them, but neither was the right one. He may try twice… but she'd be damned if she let him die now.
"You can't." River replied.
"River, I'm dying. Let me do this, please."
"No!" River half-shouted, her voice thick with tears. She whirled to face him again, swallowing hard as she felt an enormous weight crushing her. They were both helpless this time. "You can't."
"Why not?" He half-shouted, "You could go on! You could be with him-with me forever…"
"You'll die! Before any of that even happens!"
"River I am dying. It's already happened!"
"No it hasn't, you big idiot!" River shouted back, glaring up at him.
Oh. Oh. The Doctor fell a step back, mouth opening and closing. "I don't- I'm not-? There's-?" There was more? He still had some life to live? Spoilers to discover? Adventures with the Ponds and the TARDIS? Adventures with River?
She nodded stiffly, "Doctor- you still- you have so much- I'll be damned if I let you ruin that. You're going to figure your way out of this, you will, you'll live- you'll run." She swallowed again, "We'll run."
"I- can't- save you then…" he felt his heart cracking in two all over again as River looked at him, her eyes darkened and devoid of any sort of spark of hope- there was only resignation in them now.
"You can't." She said for a final time, nodding firmly, furiously blinking and trying to swallow the lump in her throat. This was the end to all their running for her. The end. Her death. Alone. She was trying not to be angry. After all… he had come twice.
It was only fair, she supposed. She'd come twice to his death.
"You'll be gone soon- on to the next part of the rewind- the countdowns getting close… I have to go," she was trying to keep her voice steady. It wasn't really working.
His voice was thick as his fingers slid over hers. River's fingers were rested on the armrest of the chair, and he couldn't bear to look away from her eyes, down at them, as he said lowly, "Goodbye, River."
And for once in his life, the Doctor wished that just this one time he didn't have more to go, that he didn't have more running, that there was no one else to save… no one else except River. Because a computer didn't cut it. Not for her. He knew that now. She would be another one down. Another used-up weapon. Another pillow for him in his stupidity to fall against. A tree mangled and swept away in the Oncoming Storm. Another drop in the bucket of his millions of victims.
Because he couldn't save her.
His damned life was in the way.
And he had a wedding to crash.