A groan escapes him as soon as he wakes, an intense pain shooting through his left shoulder. Rolling over, the Doctor opens his eyes blearily and sees River leaning against the door frame, worrying her bottom lip.

"Hey," she says quietly, moving to sit beside him on the bed.

He smiles, "Hey."

River runs her hand soothingly through his hair, her brow knitted in concern, "How are you feeling?"

"Bloody awful. What happened?"

"Well you got shot, passed out, and left me to take out the guards and haul your useless arse outside before everything went up. Only just made it, too." When she glares at him, he smiles, "You know you were worried. Don't even try to deny it."

"I think I like you better unconscious."

"Oi. Is that any way to treat your partner after he's been shot?" The Doctor asks, pulling himself into sitting position as he pouts at her.

Rolling her eyes, she stands up, coming to the conclusion that he's fine, "You're so dramatic. It was only a flesh wound. I stitched you up, so you'll be as good as new in a few weeks."

"You stitched me up? Oh god, I'm going to die," he says, feigning horror.

"I hate you."

Before she has the chance to walk away, he grabs her hand in his and pulls her to sit back down beside him. "You can't just leave your patient in a time of need, Doctor Song." This earns him another eye roll as she looks pointedly away from him, trying to hide her smile.

The Doctor looks down at their hands as he intertwines their fingers, brushing his thumb lightly across her wrist. "Thank you," he says quietly, and when he looks up, she's watching him with that soft look that he's decided is his most favorite expression of hers.

Reaching up with his free hand, he hooks a few of her curls behind her ear, and before he can move his hand back, her lips are on his. Her hand rests on the side of his face as she leans into him and he pushes his fingers into her curls, pulling her closer as he deepens the kiss. Warmth spreads through him and builds until it feels as if there is a fire rolling beneath his bones, threatening to consume him, and oh, it is so much better than he ever imagined. She opens her mouth as his tongue brushes across her lips, and the moment their tongues touch he feels her moan into him. It's a low sound that sends vibrations tingling through him as his heart pounds against his chest and his mind races with pure want. Her lips are soft and she tastes amazing, and he thinks that he would be more than happy with kissing her for the rest of forever.

All too soon for his liking, the overwhelming need to breathe forces them apart. He rests her forehead against hers as he catches his breath, closing his eyes as her nails scratch lightly at the nape of his neck.

"You need to rest," River says quietly. The Doctor pulls back, prepared to argue when she cuts him off with a swift kiss, "Don't argue with me Doctor, you-"

"John," the Doctor interrupts.

When she looks at him in confusion, he continues, "John. My name is John." He's never cared for his name, so he's always stuck with the Doctor, never telling anyone his real name, but he just feels that River is different and he just needs her to know.

Her eyes light up like he's just told her an enormous secret and she represses a smile, "Well, John," here his heart skips a beat and he decides he loves how his name rolls off her tongue, briefly wondering why he had waited this long to tell her, "you do need rest." River gives him another quick kiss and stands before continuing, "I'll wake you in a few hours to change your bandage, okay?" And with that she's gone into the other room, leaving him with a ridiculous grin on his face that just can't seem to go away as he settles down into the pillows.

XxX

The Doctor startles awake, his eyes flying open as he bolts into sitting position. His heart rate slowly returns to normal as he briefly replays the nightmare that had caused him to wake- River had left, off to take down the Silence's main headquarters. Alone. And she hadn't made it out.

Shaking away thoughts of the dream, his eyes adjust to the darkness of the room as he glances to the corner where he can just make out the large chair that sits there, and he frowns when he sees it empty. For the past week he's been waking every morning to find River curled in the chair and still asleep. He doesn't ask her why, though once he did wake her up with a very loud 'Rise and shine, Song' which had earned him a pen thrown at his head and a glare because she is not a morning person.

Thinking that maybe she's decided to sleep in her own room tonight, he stumbles out of bed and quietly opens her door. When he sees her bed is empty, his grip tightens on the door handle and his dream flashes through his mind.

"River?" The Doctor calls hoarsely, looking around her room briefly to make sure she really isn't there before barging into the bathroom, panic beginning to form a knot in his chest.

But there she is, sitting in the bath with her hair piled on top of her head and very, very naked, but covered by bubbles, her red-painted toes poking out at the end of the tub.

"Doctor?" River asks in surprise, only very rarely using his real name.

He immediately slaps his hand over his eyes and begins to back up as he sputters, "Sorry- I was just- I thought you had- But obviously not because you're here and very naked and I'll just be, um, going." Planning to leave, he spins around, but runs into the doorframe and stumbles back before tripping on the bathmat that sends him to the floor, whacking his head on the sink counter as he goes.

Groaning, he rolls onto his back and puts his hand to his now throbbing forehead. When he opens his eyes, he sees River looking at him with a mixture of concern and amusement, resting her chin on her arms that are now folded on the side of the tub.

"You okay?" From her tone and small smirk, he concludes that she's definitely more amused than anything else.

"I'm fine," the Doctor answers, removing his hand and glowering at her. River frowns slightly and she reaches out to lightly run her thumb over his brow.

"You're cut," she says softly, "Get me a towel?"

The Doctor stands and pointedly avoids looking at her as he pulls a towel from the rack. Closing his eyes, he turns toward her and holds the towel out, stretching it widthwise between his hands. It takes all of his resolve not to look when he hears the water move as she stands up and steps out of the tub.

His breath catches as he feels her step into him, pressing into the towel and against his chest. Without his consent, his arms slip around her waist as if it's the most natural thing to do, wrapping the towel around her body as her wet hands slide slowly up the sides of his face and into his hair to pull his face level to hers.

When he feels her lips brush over the barely-there cut on his forehead, his eyes flutter open. River presses a soft kiss to his brow and slides her hands from his hair to his bare chest, scratching softly at the light dusting of hair there.

"There. All better?" She asks, smiling softly at him. Her eyes are warm and he thinks they're the greenest he's ever seen them as he locks his eyes with hers and answers, "Not nearly," before hauling her into a kiss.

The pace of the kiss begins slowly, but soon turns to one of clashing teeth and battling tongues as her arms slip over his shoulders and his hands move to her hair, allowing the towel to fall open at the sides and expose her back. His fingers pull at the elastic band in her hair until it comes free, her curls tumbling down to frame her face and just begging to be touched. Delving hands into her hair, he kisses her until his lungs burn and he is forced to pull back for air.

The Doctor rests his forehead against hers and whispers, "I love you."

He hadn't really meant to say it, it just sort of slipped out, caught up in the moment. But it is true, he does love her- he has ever since that elevator door opened and he saw her writing on his board, and despite his best efforts to stop it at the beginning, it's a love the grows stronger with every passing day.

River tenses and suddenly he just feels so bloody stupid, realizing that he may have just ruined everything.

"I shouldn't have-" he begins, but is cut off by her harsh kiss.

"Shut up. I love you, too, you daft man."

River smiles warmly, running her fingers through his hair at the nape of his neck and he beams at her. The kisses that follow are comprised of soft pecks and gentle nips at lips. The aching need to just touch her anywhere and everwhere he can reach her builds within him as he brushes his lips along her jaw and down her neck. As he licks and nips at the skin of her throat, River gasps and presses further into him. One hand roams down her back, his fingertips running over the bumps of her spine as his other hand grips around the fabric of the towel and pulls it from between them, leaving her as nothing but glorious skin against him.

His gaze darkens as it travels over the curves of her body and he marvels at how his hands fit perfectly into the dip of her tiny waist, as if they were made just for that purpose.

"You're beautiful, River," he breathes out as his fingers skim up her sides, thumbs brushing outward under her breasts and across her ribs. When his gaze meets hers, he sees the lust that is burning through his bones reflected in her eyes.

"And you are wearing far too much clothing, my love," she says, her fingers dancing around the elastic band of the night shorts he's wearing. His heart trips at her new term of endearment, and just as he's about to say something back, she slides her hand beneath the waistband, her fingers wrapping around his length, and his words catch in his throat as a groan escapes him.

The Doctor captures her lips with his and kisses her sloppily, her fingers cool against his hot skin, and when her thumb swipes gently across the tip, he bucks his hips involuntarily forward and groans into her mouth.

"River," he growls out, his voice low with want as she pumps his length. He grabs her wrist to stop her, just needing more, and taking the hint she pulls her hand out and shoves down his shorts.

Watching her, he steps out of them and notices as her gaze sweeps over him, her eyes darkening a shade, and then their lips are locked again in a frantic kiss as flesh is pressed against flesh and hands roam everywhere they can possibly reach. The Doctor pulls his lips from hers to lift her onto the counter. His tongue travels under one of her breasts and up to her nipple, swirling it around the dusky peak before biting it gently and earning a gasp. He smirks against her skin and does the same to the other before littering brief kisses down the middle of her chest and to her stomach.

Her muscles quiver slightly under her skin at every kiss and he smiles, finding that he wants to spend every waking moment mapping her with his fingertips and tracing her with his lips until he has every inch of her committed to memory.

The Doctor runs his hands up the insides of her thighs and spreads her legs. Her musky scent invades his nostrils as he leans down, and it takes all of his willpower not to take her right that second. The soft skin of her inner thigh calls to him and he obliges, biting down harder than necessary. River's small whimper sends heat straight to his groin as he salves the spot with gentle licks.

"I swear, if you don't stop teasing me…" River breathes out.

The Doctor chuckles against her skin and smiles at the red mark he's left on her thigh, "Patience is a virtue, River."

"I hate you."

"You don't," he says as he presses a kiss to the skin of her lower abdomen and she whines. A mischievous smile plays across his lips as he looks up at her, and she narrows her eyes at him when she realizes what he wants.

"No," she refuses.

Shrugging, he pushes her legs further apart and runs his tongue painfully slow along the crease of her thigh, so close, but so very far away from the place she wants it most.

"Oh, I hate you," she repeats with a gasp, before giving in to what he wants. "Please," River pants, locking eyes with him, "Please."

The Doctor smirks up at her and hums in approval before spreading her folds with his fingers, flattening his tongue against her center and licking slowly upward, delighting in her sharp, electric taste that bursts across his tongue.

"You smug bas-" River starts, but the last word is lost halfway through as she moans, throwing her head back against the mirror and burying her fingers into his hair as he sucks at her clit.

"Yes," she gasps out, lifting her hips upward and tugging on his hair. To keep her from moving, he presses down on her abdomen with his forearm, moving his tongue to tease at her entrance, only penetrating enough to make her want more.

"Need you now," River says, and she pulls him up by his hair and kisses him with a heated passion as she slides off the countertop, moaning as she tastes herself on his tongue. Placing her hands on his chest, she backs him into his room and he falls back onto the bed once his knees hit the edge.

The Doctor backs up on the mattress and he can't help but stare as she slinks up after him, her fingers lightly running up the tops of his thighs and across his chest. With her knees at either side of his hips, he pulls her down to kiss her fiercely, releasing a strangled groan as she begins to grind against him, her slick heat sliding over his erection. Dragging his bottom lip between her teeth, River breaks the kiss and moves to hover above him. Anticipation buzzes under his skin as she lines him to her entrance, and he hisses as she sinks down and suddenly he's sheathed within her. The silky heat of her is almost too much and as she stills he thinks that he wants to imprint the image of her straddled atop him, golden skin flushed, red lips swollen and hair wilder than he's ever seen it, into his mind forever.

Her small hands brace firmly over his chest and then she's moving and oh.

"You are so bloody gorgeous," the Doctor rasps out as she rises and lowers rhythmically over him, her breasts bouncing with each movement.

River only moans in response as his hands grip her hips so hard that he's positive there will be bruises there in the morning, and he briefly thinks that he would like that- how possessive.

Gripping her even tighter, he rolls them so he's on top, pressing River into the mattress, and he smiles at how his hips slot perfectly between hers. Her moans build in volume as he pounds without rhythm into her, the sound of skin meeting skin filling the room as she meets him thrust for thrust.

Changing angles, he pulls one of her legs around his waist and she cries out, her moans turning into nothing short of shrieks as he plunges deeper into her. Her hands fly to grip the bars of the headboard behind her as she squeezes her eyes shut, and he swears as her walls begin to pulse around him. There's a tightening in his groin and he can feel he's close as he leans in closer, resting his elbows on either side of her head and shifting his weight there.

"Look at me," he demands softly, "You're going to be glorious, and I want to see it." Her eyes fly open to meet his and he presses a harsh kiss to her lips before sliding a hand between their sweat-slicked bodies and rubbing at her clit in time with his thrusts.

That's all it takes to send her over the edge. River cries out his name and her body arches into his as she shudders, her hands moving to rake her fingernails down his back, leaving a delicious stinging pain that feels like a slow trickle of fire. The edges of his vision darkens as his own orgasm washes over him, and her name is torn from his throat as blinding lights burst across his vision.

As their breathing returns to normal, the Doctor frames her face with his hands and kisses her softly before pulling out and moving to lie beside her. River curls into him, tucking her head under his chin and resting a hand on his chest. With sweat cooling on their still over-heated skin, he wraps his arms around her and together they fall asleep without a word.

XxX

"Can I look now?" River asks, reaching for her blindfold as the Doctor swings open the passenger door.

"No. Stop," he says, batting her hands from the blindfold before she has a chance to pull it down.

"At least just tell me where we are," she huffs and he only laughs, taking her hands and helping her out of the car.

"Please?" She tries and he rolls his eyes, "You'll find out soon enough." With his arm around her waist, he leads her up the stairs and into the building. They're greeted with the smell of food, the clinking of silverware and the low hum people talking. It's nothing blindfold-worthy, really, but he's wanted to surprise her with their first official date, so of course the blindfold is necessary. Not to mention he is positive it will be fun to have around for later.

River smiles, turning her head as if she can actually see, "A restaurant? Good. I'm starving."

"River. Stop guessing. You're ruining everything." Looking in his general direction, her smile widens, "I didn't guess, sweetie. You had 'Restaurant reservation: 7:00' written down beside the bed."

"River! That is cheating! It was supposed to be a surprise," he pouts.

"It's the thought that counts, my love. Can I take off this ridiculous blindfold, now?" She asks, once again reaching for it.

"Nope," the Doctor replies, again taking her hands and leading her through the restaurant as the maitre d' shows them to their table. He's reserved a table on the patio, and as they step outside into the warm evening air, he smiles. The setting is perfect. Lights are strung above them and candles are set on the tables to provide a perfect glow as the colors of the sky settle in between the bold orange of sunset and the soft purple of dusk.

"Now you can look," the Doctor says quietly, stepping behind her and untying the blindfold.

"Oh," River breathes as she looks up at the sky, "It's beautiful out here."

He beams proudly, "Happy first-date, River."

Her eyes soften as she looks at him, and then she's grabbing the lapels of his jacket and is pulling him into a kiss.

"I love you," she says when she pulls back, lightly brushing her thumb over the corner of his mouth where her lipstick smudged. Running his fingers lightly down her sides to rest on her hips, he leans in and presses a kiss to her forehead, "I love you, too, River."

The evening passes in a blur, neither giving a thought to the daunting task that awaits them in the morning, and in no time at all night descends and the sky is inked black. In the distance, thunder rumbles and lighting flashes, and he's fairly sure River makes some comment about how they should leave before the storm arrives, but he's only half listening as he pushes back his chair and stands.

Grinning, the Doctor bows and holds out his hand, "May I have this dance?"

Her eyebrow arches and she glances at the people around them before looking at him as if he's gone mad, "There's no music," she points out.

He shrugs, "Don't need music."

"You're ridiculous," River mutters as she sets down her glass of wine and places her hand in his. Pulling her to her feet, he sweeps her to the middle of the patio just as a gentle rain begins. His face turns into her curls as she rests her head on his shoulder, and he thinks that he'd like this night to last forever.

"Nothing lasts forever, my love, "River says quietly and he frowns as he realizes he must have said it out loud. The thought makes his heart ache because some things are worth lasting forever. He wants them to last forever.

The rain gradually begins to fall faster and there's a moment of silence before he whispers, "Marry me."

River stares up at him, "What?"

"Marry me. Let me show you that some things can last forever." This wasn't something he had planned at all, but the more he thinks about it, the more he wants it. He wants to slide a gold band onto her finger and claim her as his. He wants to wake her every morning only to earn a pen thrown at his head, and go to sleep every night with her in his arms. And as ridiculous as it might sound, he just wants to be with her forever.

The rain beats down harder, drenching them as River places her hands on either side of his face and kisses him soundly. His hands bury into her hair and her wet curls immediately tangle around his fingers as he kisses her back with all he has. Everything about the moment just seems so cliché, but as he pulls her closer, his clothes sticking to his skin from the rain, he thinks he wouldn't want it any other way.

River pulls back and he rests his forehead against hers as she finally whispers her answer, "Yes."

The Doctor laughs happily, knowing that he must be all but glowing, "Well I rather figured that."

Her smile is every bit as bright as his as she retorts, "Shut up," before kissing him once more, wrapping her arms over his shoulders and pressing into him as his arms tighten around her waist, both forgetting about anything but each other as they completely lose themselves in the moment.

XxX

"Pumpkin? Love muffin? Honey bear?"

"I hate you so much right now," River says and he grins, ignoring the shiver that is sent through him at the feel of the cold metal from the gun as he straps it to his back.

"Well you have a nickname for me, River. It's not fair if I don't have one for you," the Doctor argues as River bends to lace the straps of her boots.

"Oh wait, I know just the one," he says, grabbing his duffle bag packed with white bricks of C4 before turning to her and exclaiming dramatically, "Mi amore!"

Glaring at him, River shoves him out of the way and grabs her own bag, "If you ever call me any of those, I swear you will sleep on the couch for a month."

The Doctor chuckles and raises his hands in surrender, "Okay, okay. Point taken."

They turn to face the headquarters and he doesn't miss the deep sadness that casts a shadow over her face. This isn't about revenge for her anymore, it's about stopping a linchpin that has the potential to throw the entire country into destruction.

The Doctor takes her hand in his and squeezes reassuringly. "It's about the lives that will be saved, dear," he says softly, sensing the heavy weight that is beginning to settle on her shoulders at the thought of all the deaths that will be caused by them if everything goes to plan.

She nods and smiles slightly at the term of endearment he's given her, "I like that one."

"Thought you might," he says, and he leans in to give her a kiss before they separate and enter the main headquarters. They've allotted themselves a mere forty-five minutes to get in, do their job, and get out. The map of the base is seared into his memory and he quickly goes over it before swiping his access the card and entering, nodding at the two guards who stand watch at the door.

They call it Demon's Run, and for good reason, the Doctor thinks as he makes his way through a long, dank corridor and into the first underground level. Everything is silent and the further he goes, setting the C4 where planned and clicking on the timers, the more on edge he gets. Apart from the two guards he passed at the entrance, there is no one else around.

The Doctor enters the third, and final level and freezes in his spot. Oh. That's why he hasn't seen anyone else. They were all crowded here, in what looks to be an underground air hangar, and facing a stage where a tall man with broad shoulders and a patch signifying his status as Colonel sewn to his uniform is addressing them.

"This country's government is weak- its people even more so. But we're sure as hell going to fix that." His voice is strong and reaches out to everyone, pulling them in as if they're being hypnotized. The Doctor moves to blend in with crowd, his eyes locked on the woman standing beside the talking man. Her stance is rigid and a small smirk tugs at the corner of her thin lips as she surveys the crowd with one eye, the other covered with a strangely shaped eye patch.

"Beginning tomorrow, this country will fall. Then it will rise, born again under a new rule. We will-" Whatever he says next is drowned out by the blaring alarm that the Doctor recognizes even before the words "Intruder Alert" ring out.

"River," the Doctor growls under his breath, just barely managing to resist from rolling his eyes. Couldn't she stay out of trouble for just one second?

He's just deciding to stay put, figuring that River is only sending a few guards on a wild chase, when suddenly the alarm stops. His heart immediately drops and he watches as a wicked smile plays over the eye patch woman's face. She excuses herself from the stage as the man continues talking and exits through a side door as the Doctor backs out of the crowd and leaves through the door he entered, pausing only long enough to set his last brick of C4.

Knowing River will be somewhere on one of the upper floors, he sprints up the stairs and runs down seemingly endless hallways until he turns a corner and sees light spilling out from one of the rooms that line the corridor. He slowly walks down the dimly lit hall and stands right outside the door, listening.

"River Song. We meet at last. You just love causing all sorts of trouble for me, don't you?" The Doctor peeks around the frame of the door to see the backs of the eye patch woman and a guard facing him, and River secured to a chair in the center of the blindingly white room.

"Any trouble you have is only brought on by yourself, Kovarian," River all but spits.

"That's Madame Kovarian. Not that it really matters; you'll be dead in a few short minutes. By the explosives you set. And I, along with everyone else here, with be long gone. You should feel very accomplished." Kovarian chuckles and continues, "But until then, I'd like to show you something." She holds out her hand and the guard places a small syringe filled with a clear liquid into her palm. Holding it in front of River's face, she asks, "Do you know what this is?"

River looks pointedly away, her jaw set, and Kovarian chuckles again, "Oh give me a break from this whole self-righteous act. Humor me. Impress me with everything you know. Now I'll ask again. Do you know what this is?"

"Amnesia," River answers after a moment.

"That's right. And what does it do?"

"Wipes the mind completely clean, just as the name suggests."

"Very good. Now take a moment to think over what this is going to do to you. After you're given this, you'll forget everything in just a few short moments. You won't have a clue where you are, or why you're restrained. Panic will rise and pure fear will take over. And that will be the last thing you feel before you die. I'm actually quite disappointed I won't be around to watch," Kovarian finishes casually.

Placing the syringe back in the guard's hand, she demands, "Take care of it." The Doctor quickly backs into the shadows as the guard salutes her and she exits the room. Once she's out of sight, the Doctor rushes in to find the guard just about to insert the needle of the syringe into River's arm as she struggles the best she can.

Without thinking, the Doctor pulls the gun from his back and whacks the guard in the back of the head with the end of it, sending him straight to the ground.

"John," River breathes and he smiles at her. "Have I earned the title of Knight in Shining Armor?" She rolls her eyes, "Just get me out of here."

Smashing the syringe under his boot, the Doctor picks up a piece of the glass and begins working on the lock that holds her binds together. "How much longer do we have?"

The lock clicks open and she answers, "About ten minutes," rubbing at her wrists. He grabs her hand and pulls her out the door, but she digs her heels into the floor and pulls them to a stop.

"We can't just leave, Doctor. We have to stop her- them," River says and he looks at her as if she's gone mad as she continues, "I called Amy and Rory for back up before we came. Just in case. They should be here by now; they can help."

"River we only have ten minutes."

"That's more than enough time, my love. I'll go ahead and start looking for Kovarian, and you go get Amy and Rory. And no matter what happens, we all meet outside in eight minutes, okay?"

Going against what his head is screaming for him to do, he nods and pulls her into a quick kiss. "I love you, River."

"I love you, too, sweetie." And with that, she's gone, sprinting down the corridor in the same direction Kovarian went just minutes ago.

Wasting no time, he runs in the opposite direction and descends the stairs before bursting outside. In the distance he can make out Rory's tall frame, accompanied by Amy's flaming red hair. By the time he reaches them, the muscles in his legs are burning from running and his lungs are begging for air.

"What's going on?" Amy immediately asks and he waves away the question as he briefly catches his breath. "I'll explain on the way. Come on."

Just as he turns around, there is a disturbance in the air, a shift in everything around them, and a wave of energy has them flying to the ground as the headquarters seemingly implodes from the inside out. His ears ring and his vision is blurred as he looks up and sees the building aflame as it crashes to the ground, casting the night sky into an orange glow and filling the air with smoke.

For a moment he is still as he stares in disbelief, then he's on his feet and rushing toward the building as he yells River's name. Rory catches up to him and holds him back as Amy yells something along the lines of "It's too late."

The Doctor slumps to ground, suddenly feeling numb and unable to do much more than stare as the fire roars and the smell of burned flesh and death fills the air around them.

XxX

It takes Amy two weeks to convince him to return to work. She told him that it would be good for him, told him that it would make the perfect distraction from thinking about the one thing, the one person, that his mind can't seem to get off of. At first he hadn't wanted a distraction, afraid that not thinking about her would cause him to forget, that the memories would fade and he would be left with only the heart-wrenching tug of bitter loss. But it wasn't long before he realized that the thoughts only deepened the unmendable crack in what was left of his broken heart.

The elevator ride to his floor in the precinct seems much longer than normal as he watches the numbers slowly click higher, his fingers tightly gripping the two cups of coffee in his hands. The Doctor looks sadly at the second cup, unable to explain why he bought it and only knowing that ordering just one cup would've added to the ever-present aching throb in his chest.

Once help had arrived, they had gotten the fire under control and out as fast as they could, and once it was safe enough to walk through the rubble, he spent hours searching through ash and under the remains of the building- he couldn't imagine just leaving her body there, but once the first light of dawn began to paint its way across the sky, Amy and Rory insisted that it was an impossible mission, that there probably wasn't a body to find, and convinced him to return home. But home doesn't feel like home anymore. A riot of golden curls and intense green eyes greets him in his sleep, but he wakes to a cold, empty side of the bed and he feels like all of it is sending him spiraling into a hole that, after a while, he will not be able to climb out of. So here he is on a Monday morning, stepping off the elevator and onto his floor, taking Amy's advice and hoping that maybe the pain will lessen with each passing day.

The Doctor avoids eye-contact as he makes his way to his desk, having no desire to see the looks of sympathy, or worse, pity that he will undoubtedly get from his coworkers. His heart falls further in his chest at the sight of the clean whiteboard, no jacket hanging over the back of his chair and no heels kicked off under the desk. As he places one cup of coffee where River would normally sit, he suddenly thinks that returning to work may only make things worse.

"Two coffees?" Amy asks as she approaches him with a file in her hand, "You must be really tired."

"The second one isn't for me," the Doctor states with a blank face as he leans against the edge of his desk.

"Oh?" Amy questions, raising her eyebrows, "Well then whose is it?"

He looks away, ignoring her question, knowing that she'd think him ridiculous if he told her the truth.

Amy's shoulders droop in realization, "Doctor, you can't do this to yourself. You have to let her go. River wouldn't want-" He cuts her off, stiffening at her words, "Don't. Don't tell me to let her go, to just forget about her as if she was some girl I barely knew." His tone is harsh and he knows it, but he continues anyway, using unnecessary anger as an outlet for his pain, "And don't tell me what River would or wouldn't want. It doesn't matter anymore. She's not here. She's gone." The Doctor slumps back against the desk, staring at nothing and lost in thought before whispering, "I was going to marry her."

Amy regards him with silence and that look of pity that he was trying so hard to avoid, then pulls him into an embrace that is supposed to be comforting but instead breaks another string inside of him that is meant for keeping him together. Tears blur his vision as he accepts her hug and he barely registers her telling him that it's going be okay. The Doctor closes his eyes, wondering how she can say that anything will be okay ever again.

Amy pulls away and places the file gently in his hand, "Your next case."

As she walks away, he sits down and skims over the file before looking at River's empty chair and asking, "So, dear, where should we start?"

XxX

The rain beats relentlessly against the window as the Doctor moves around his kitchen table, setting out four plates and the respective silverware. Three weeks later and it's his turn to host their routine dinner. He smiles sadly as he runs his finger around the edge of the fourth plate. It had been a collective decision to set a plate for River as if she were actually there and it makes him think of the first time she ever attended one of their dinners. Flashes of thin blue cotton, a bright smile and the memory of the special warmth that fills the soul when around loved ones flicks through his memory.

The pain that has been permanently residing in his chest has lost its sharp edge and he wonders if it will ever completely go away- if he'll ever be able to look at a pair of red heels, a paper coffee cup or his own car keys without being overwhelmed with a flood of unwanted emotion. Lately his sadness has transformed into an unexplainable anger that builds within him when he's alone. It wasn't fair. There's that saying that it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, but he thinks that whoever came up with that must have never really known what real love is.

Before River walked into his life and rearranged everything, he had thought that he had everything he wanted. He had a good house, an excellent job and the best friends one could ever ask for. But something had been missing, and now that it's gone, now that she's gone, he's not sure if he'll ever be able to get back to where he once was.

Pulling himself from his thoughts, he moves into the living room to flick mindlessly through channels on the television while he waits on Amy and Rory. His heart gets caught in his throat as he changes the channel and is suddenly staring into the face of the eye patch woman. The screen is split in two, the news anchor on one side and Kovarian's picture taking up the other. The Doctor doesn't take in what the anchor is saying, his heart pounding in his ears as he reads the caption scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

Before it had been assumed that she had died with everyone else when the main headquarters went up, but now she's been found dead near the country's border. The Doctor stares at the television screen as he processes the information- Kovarian had made it out of the building alive. She had been running away from something or someone when she was murdered. That someone could be River. River could be alive.

River could be alive.

Time seems to slow as his mind reels, but he's jerked from his thoughts by a knock at the door. Suddenly remembering that he's expecting Amy and Rory, he hoists himself off the couch and swings open the door.

He's greeted with the chill of late fall, the sound of pounding rain and the back of a woman with wet curly hair. She turns around to face him and he has to grip the doorframe to stay standing.

"Hello sweetie," River whispers, and he's only able to stare at her, wondering if he's finally lost it and she's just a hallucination, a figment of his imagination.

The Doctor breathes out her name, his voice heavy with pain and confusion as she gently cups the side of his face with her cold hand and whispers an apology. Reaching up, he covers her hand with his own, his fingers curling around hers as tears obscure his vision.

"Are you really here?" He asks quietly, his free hand reaching up to sweep a wet curl behind her ear. River smiles softly, and oh how he's missed that smile, and nods. The shine of tears in her eyes matches his own, and she's half way through another apology before he envelops her in his arms and pulls her flush against him. Her wet clothes soak into his but he doesn't care, barely able to believe that he has her in his arms.

"I thought you were dead," the Doctor whispers, turning his face into her curls.

"I'm so sorry, my love. I couldn't-" He cuts her off with a harsh kiss, his hands moving to cup her face. The kiss is deliberately slow, their lips moving together with a certain passion that makes it feel as if they have all the time in the world. Her arms wrap tightly around his neck and he thinks that if they were to get any closer they'd be crawling under skin to settle beneath bones- and even that may not be close enough. The Doctor can taste the salt of their tears mingling together as he kisses her, but beneath that is the indescribable taste of pure love.

The need to breathe overwhelms him and forces them apart. His hands roam up her arms, over her shoulders, across her back and justanywhere he can reach, wishing he could touch her everywhere at once just to reassure himself that she's there, that she's alive, as he rests her forehead against hers.

"I love you," River whispers and he smiles softly.

"I love you, too, dear," the Doctor answers and she gives a watery laugh before kissing him again. Without parting their lips, the Doctor pulls her inside and closes the door after them. In a few short moments Amy and Rory will arrive, the fourth seat at the dinner table will be filled and his small family, their small family, will be complete once again- this time forever.


Thank you so much for reading, and you've stuck with me to the end of this just let me love you okay. Feedback is forever appreciated and keeps me smiling like an idiot all day.