Author's Note: So, here's my follow-up fic to TATM. I've been working on this for weeks, but didn't get around to finishing it until today. I really hope you enjoy it:) Remember that reviews are greatly appreciated.
Sucking in a deep breath, the curly haired woman trudged up the luminescent stairs of the TARDIS, her hands clenching at her sides as she tried her very hardest to focus.
River felt her chest heave, the weight of the day beginning to cast its toll upon her body.
Whether she was willing to admit it or not, the stoic façade was crumbling, the mask that concealed the damage beginning to fall apart, reducing her to the broken woman that she never wanted her husband to see.
She pressed her fingers against her forehead, vainly hoping to direct her attention to the task at hand, momentarily disassociating herself from the aching pain that sought to devour her from the inside out.
Focus! You've got to write this book. Don't think about anything else right now. You can't let yourself break down. You have to stay strong. He needs you, now more than ever. You have to look after him. No matter the cost.
Her thoughts swirled in her head, raging with the force of a mighty whirlwind, but lacking the power to rid her mind of the images she so desperately wished to forget.
His tear-streaked face hovered above all else, taking precedence over every broken memory, every demented nightmare that corroded her soul.
She could still feel the warmth of his fingers breathing life back into her broken wrist, could still hear his frenzied screams as they both watched in horror as her parents hurtled themselves off that building, could still see his contorted face, shriveled up in the sorrow of standing over the grave of his dearest friends, the heartbreaking end of a friendship that, for him, had spanned nearly three centuries.
But the Doctor wasn't alone in his suffering.
Because in her heart River was screaming too, her stomach twisting at the sight of the last tangible image of her mother—the woman she had longed for all those years ago, the woman who had given her the will to live, telling her the tale of her protector—her father—the Last Centurion.
Rory Arthur Williams. The ever-logical, ever-loving, ever-loyal Rory. Gone, in a single fleeting moment, in a blink of an eye, with nothing but a menacing stone angel and the shadow of his own gravestone to mark the place he had stood only mere moments before.
She hadn't even had the chance to say goodbye.
Perhaps that was the most difficult thing of all.
After everything, the emotional trauma, the loss of her parents, the immediate separation, there was still no closure, no solitude, no second chances.
And to think she'd said it didn't matter.
How far from the truth could she get?
Rule One. She was getting as bad as him.
It always came back to him, didn't it?
So there he was again, in her mind's eye- the man in the bow tie, the oncoming storm, the Doctor, her husband—reduced to something beyond pitiful, wallowing away in the sorrow that she understood all too well.
River's own pain was brutal enough, but the prospect of taking on his as well, keeping them both from falling apart, hiding the damage—was nearly unbearable.
How could she even begin to help the Doctor when she could barely manage herself?
But no matter how she tried to rationalize this in her mind, the same words repeated again and again unceasingly.
'Melody…You look after him! And you be a good girl! And you look after him!'
Her heart clenched, her chest becoming heavy as she silently vowed to heed her mother's final instructions, no matter how trying, no matter how difficult. No matter how much she felt like dying every time he broke her heart, every time she saw a Doctor who didn't love her, who hardly knew her. No matter how strong she'd have to be, how much she'd have to hide, how much she'd have to give up, she would honor Amy's last words.
'You look after him.'
And River very nearly turned around; only stopping once she heard the faint sound of her husband scampering out of the TARDIS.
She didn't even have to ask what he was doing.
She knew. Oh, gosh, she knew that man better than he knew himself.
He was going back out there, back into the middle of Central Park, the center of Manhattan, the city she'd been staying in for months.
'You look after him.'
Her mother's voice prompted again, but River couldn't bear it. She couldn't go out there. She couldn't follow him. Not when she could barely hold herself together.
It was just too much.
He needed time to grieve. They both did.
She wasn't about to get in the way of that.
But that didn't mean she would abandon him. How could she? He was her husband, after all.
Melody Pond was going to look after her Doctor.
But first, before she could gather the strength, the patience, the courage necessary to even begin to do anything of that sort, River Song needed to do one simple thing.
She needed to look after herself.
Not for selfish reasons, not for her own sake, but for his.
Now, glancing down at her wrist, River shuddered, watching in horror at the way her fingers trembled, beginning to realize just how hard she was taking her parents' deaths.
Her eyes snapped shut.
She breathed in deeply before slowly exhaling, as if to regain some kind of control over herself.
Forcing her feet to move forward, the curly haired woman fought the agony with all her might, despite knowing that her efforts would never be enough.
River finally halted, coming to a familiar doorway.
With that, she entered the library, the musty smell of books immediately filling her senses, drawing her to the small desk in the corner.
A white gown dangled from the back of the chair, and River released a weary sigh. She'd never been too fond of that color, but in all honestly, she couldn't have cared less at that moment. All she wanted to do was to get out of this bloody blue, skin-tight dress. It made her feel unclean, raw, vulnerable—a painful reminder of her weakness, of the traumatic experience she'd been through, of the parents she'd probably never see again.
Walking over to the small closet, she changed as quickly as possible, removing her soiled outfit and dawning on a new one.
River then pulled her hair down, leaving her loose curls to bounce freely upon her shoulders.
"Ah, that's better." She declared suddenly, feeling somewhat liberated, though truly far from relieved.
Perching herself in the old-fashioned, wooden seat, River leaned closer; her fingers reaching the 1930s-era keyboard with greater difficultly than she would have liked.
In her mind, she recounted her detective experiences from the last few months, using this as fuel for thought, typing the words as they flooded into her mind, continually reminding herself how important it was to get this done.
And it worked for a while, that was, until a tiny picture frame, nestled on the side of the desk, entered her view, penetrating her focus until she had no choice but to face the very fear that she so dreaded to come to terms with.
Slowly but surely, her gaze shifted to the little photograph, her eyes falling upon the smiling faces of a certain feisty red head, a sandy haired man, herself, and of course, the Doctor, wearing one of his ridiculous hats. It had been her birthday, the first one she'd ever truly shared with her parents.
Her parents. Amy and Rory Williams.
It suddenly hit her full force, the sea of emotions sweeping her heart and threatening to overpower her body.
She tried to get back to writing; her fingers furiously hit the keys in an effort to prevent herself from breaking down. She didn't notice the blood trickling from her fingertips, didn't feel the pricking on her skin, didn't care about anything besides the fact that she had to remain strong.
But it was no use, because before she knew it, everything was blurring together, the shapes of color, the outlines of the letters, blending into one convoluted mess.
And no matter how hard she tried to fight back, how much she wished to deny it, the truth was inevitable:
River Song was crying.
The Doctor practically zoomed back into the TARDIS, Amelia Williams' precious afterward clutched close to his hearts like a lifeline.
A shadow of a smile crept onto his face, and he tried ever so hard to rejoice in this special opportunity he had to see his Pond one last time.
But even then, he couldn't help but steal one final glance out the TARDIS doors, watching as the lingering afterimage of the breathtaking Manhattan skyline graced his eyes—a sight he probably wouldn't see again for many years, if ever.
It was difficult to believe that only hours before he had sat just mere feet away from this very spot, chuckling happily and reading aloud in that slightly-annoying-yet-endearing way, secretly reveling in the simple chance to spend time with his best friends.
He could still practically feel the warmth of Amy Pond seeping into his body as she leaned against him, laughing heartily in a very Pond-like fashion, watching carelessly as her husband began his noble-trek to get coffees for the three of them, never knowing that in minutes the very foundation of her heart would be forever shaken.
It was moments like that that the Doctor tried to cling to, fond memories of the happy times they had shared, the brief encounters that he had taken for granted without even knowing it—well, until now, that was.
Now, the man in the bow tie quietly closed the TARDIS door, willing himself to grasp those still-poignant memories, before they too slipped away, becoming nothing but a fragment of the past in the midst of the vast sea of darkness that swirled in his mind.
But despite his desperate efforts, the Doctor couldn't expunge those tear-lined, green-tinged eyes from his mind, couldn't drown out the piercing sound of Amelia's voice as she gave her final farewell.
And for a second, a fleeting blip in time, she was still physically present, tangible, alive, breathing, his Amelia, standing right in front of him—only to be ripped out of his life in an instant, a blink of an eye.
Deep down, he'd always known that they would fade from him. It had been inevitable. But that hadn't stopped him from trying to defy the impossible.
A heartfelt conversation that he'd had oh so long ago suddenly filled his thoughts.
The Doctor had shrugged his shoulders, avoiding Amy's gaze as he perched himself on Rory's brand-new car.
Amelia had known what was coming. And she hadn't been very happy about it.
'Even so, it can't happen like this. After everything we've been through, Doctor. Everything. You can't just drop me off at my house and say goodbye like we shared a cab.' Her voice was tinged with sadness, though it truly only echoed a fraction of the pain the Doctor would have to endure.
'And what's the alternative? Me standing over your grave? Over your broken body. Over Rory's body?'
Those words taunted him, even now, forcing another gut-wrenching image into his mind.
Amy and Rory's gravestone.
The Ponds. Dead. Buried.
The very tragedy he had been so keen to avoid.
And it was all his fault.
Pressing his hand against his forehead, the Doctor stifled another sob. His hearts ached terribly, filling with intense sorrow as he relived his most dreaded nightmare, seeing the names firmly etched in the surface of his mind.
'In Loving Memory, Rory Arthur Williams. Aged 82. And his Loving Wife, Amelia Williams. Aged 87.'
"Stop it! Don't think about that!" he scolded himself, completely indifferent to the fact that he was speaking out loud.
His ancient eyes drifted back down to the last page in an effort to restore his own sanity, to force himself to do what had to be done.
He skimmed the afterward again, pausing as he came to Amelia's words of comfort.
'By the time you read these words, Rory and I will be long gone. But know that we lived well, and we're very happy.'
Amelia had said it herself.
But could they have been, really? After all the agony he had caused them, the torment they would have to endure in an unfamiliar era, devoid of the twenty-first century quirks to which they were so accustomed?
They had every right to hate him.
And yet, he could practically hear Amy Pond's voice pounding through his ears as he continued reading her final goodbye.
'And know, above all else, that we will love you, always.'
Always. Despite the broken promises, the loss of their child, the pain of separation, the damage of traveling with him, the leading of two lives, the fear of uncertainty, the massive failure on his part—everything, Amelia and Rory Williams still loved him.
His chest hurt just thinking about it, and he groaned, rising to wipe another tear that had made its way down his cheek.
After rubbing his eyes, the Doctor then began to glance around the console room, looking desperately for a distraction, trying to ignore the fact that his body was trembling like mad.
A long, tan jacket dangling from the hanger in the corner caught his attention. For a moment his mind was so consumed, so swollen with grief, he could hardly even process the image.
And then he remembered.
It belonged to his wife.
River, she'd placed it there, right after the paradox, they'd woken up together, here, holding hands, and then…well, it'd all gone downhill from there.
His mind wandered.
She was hurting too, more than she would ever admit. Her husband had seen it underneath that veiled, carefree expression—subtle, nearly undetectable hints of pain—the emptiness in her eyes, the clench of her jaw, the way she carried herself—oh, she was broken, so, so broken.
And here he'd been, selfishly wallowing in his own sorrow, too focused on himself to consider her feelings, her struggle.
Some husband he turned out to be.
"River?" the Doctor called out, meekly, his voice practically rising an octave.
There was no response, nothing to be heard but the whirring-chirring sound of his beloved ship.
Half of him wanted to go to his wife, but the other half was too grief-stricken to even consider it. Besides, there was one thing he needed to do first.
Sighing deeply, the man in the bow tie halted, watching the way his fingers stroked the soft material of River's coat. Wait—was he…how long had he been doing that?
It was then that another article of clothing caught his eye, hanging behind her jacket, a familiar outfit that he'd never thought he'd see again:
A light blue dress shirt, tattered, pinstriped pants, complete with a raggedy tie and all.
The first thing he'd ever worn in this face. Wow, that had been quite a while ago. About three hundred years, in fact.
Odd, he could have sworn that hadn't been there a second ago…oh, of course. The TARDIS. She'd just known, hadn't she? His Old Girl, leading the way.
Amelia's words circled through his mind once more, begging him to heed her final wish.
'Oh, and do one more thing for me Doctor. There's a little girl, waiting in a garden. She's going to wait a long time and she's going to need a lot of hope. Go to her. Tell her a story… '
As the words continued, pulsing, swirling, through his head, the Doctor, despite his sadness, trekked over to the TARDIS console instinctively, a glimmer of hope bursting in his hearts.
He quickly placed the afterward on the nearby chair before going onward toward the control center of his ship, his hands beginning to fumble over various asymmetric levers, moving them back and forth solely because it was the most natural thing in the world.
For a moment, he found himself smiling just a little, transfixed on nothing but that the fact that he was going to get to see his precious Amelia one last time.
Feeling the TARDIS vibrate beneath his feet, the Doctor bounced up and down, briefly checking the scanner for confirmation, knowing without a doubt that he'd landed in the right place. Leadworth, England. 1996.
It was going to be difficult, he knew, but he tried to push the doubts to the back of his mind, to suppress the pain for just a bit more time, long enough that he could do this one last thing his best friend had requested.
With that, he tore the raggedy clothing off the hanger, changing as hastily as possible, past the point of caring what anyone might have thought of him.
Normally he would have scoffed at the idea of wearing anything besides a bowtie, but this was a special occasion, he rationalized, and besides, he was sure Amy Pond hadn't ever seen him in one until that day he'd saved the world, so he couldn't well go and rip a whole in the universe for something so trivial. He'd done his fair share of that today already.
He was nearly about to charge out of the TARDIS, until an important thought suddenly occurred to him.
Grabbing his discarded tweed jacket, the Doctor quickly rummaged through his pockets, stopping as soon as he found what he'd been looking for.
"Aha!" he declared, his hands clasping a pad of TARDIS-blue sticky notes and a ballpoint pen.
The Doctor scribbled a brief message for his wife, before placing it gently beside the place where he'd left the afterward.
Not wanting to keep Amelia waiting any longer, the raggedy man opened the door of his ship, trudging out of the blue box and into the familiar confines of a little girl's garden.
He sucked in a breath, plastering a believable grin to his face, willing himself to stay strong as he watched the younger version of his best friend steadily approach.
"You came back!" she cried happily, running straight into his arms, even though she'd met him only hours before.
Pulling her into a warm embrace, the Doctor tried to savor this moment, pushing the recent memory of hugging her in the graveyard out of his mind.
"Of course I came back! I always come back!" the man reassured, planting a small kiss on her forehead, attempting to veil the quiver in his voice.
The two drew back and Amelia pointed to the TARDIS.
"Your box, you fixed it! But, why does it look all grey at the bottom?" her voice filled with confusion.
"Well, um…it's hard to explain…I sort of got a bit off track…and that's…erm…why I took so long…" the Doctor hesitated, not wanting to divulge major spoilers. He needed a distraction.
Amelia Pond rubbed her eyes sleepily.
"But look at you, Amelia Pond, the girl who waited, for me, eh? You must be exhausted! Why don't you sit down?" he gestured to the red-striped suitcase, and the little Scottish girl obliged.
Her blue-green eyes scanned him intently, staring straight through his happy façade.
Thankfully, even if she did notice the sorrow in his eyes, she didn't say anything about it.
Bending down on his knees, as if to get down to her level, the Doctor remained quiet for a second longer.
He drank in the sight of her, those sparkling eyes, that wonderful ginger hair, that gorgeous smile—oh; he was really going to miss that smile.
She yawned softly, her small hand pressing beneath her chin as she leaned forward ready to listen.
It was only a matter of time before she'd be asleep, and the Doctor wanted to use this opportunity as best he could.
"So, Amelia Pond, how would you like to hear a bedtime story?"
Her excited laugh was the only answer he needed.
And as he glanced at that precious face, he saw someone else—Amelia Williams—the woman she would one day become, staring back at him, telling him how much he was loved, how much this little girl needed the hope only he could give.
Drawing upon his fond memories, the Doctor, sucking in a breath, began to relay his tale.
"Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Amelia Pond…"
After managing to regain her composure, at least for the time being, River Song slowly entered the console room.
She'd heard the TARDIS land, and she'd had no choice but to check up on her husband. Given his fragile emotional state and his propensity to blame himself, she wouldn't put it past him to do something rash, especially when there was no one there to deter him.
"Doctor?" she asked weakly, her head tilting a bit as she searched the room for a certain man in a bow tie.
A startling fear arose in the bottom of her heart, a sea of possibilities swirling in her mind.
What if he'd landed in some dangerous place—or worse, what if he was so driven by guilt and sadness that he intended to take his own life?
Her heart thudded in her chest as she considered this, and River Song mentally scolded herself for leaving him on his own for too long.
"You bloody idiot, if you're dead out there, I swear I'll never forgive myself," her voice shook despite her efforts to remain calm. Tears threatened to prick her cheeks again, but she managed to hold them back.
As she prepared to check the scanner, she halted suddenly, a tiny blue sticky note and a book page catching her eye.
Immediately recognizing her husband's handwriting, River began to breathe easy.
I'm going to say goodbye to your mother one last time. Don't worry, I'm not out there committing suicide or ripping a whole in the universe or anything. Just read the afterward and you'll understand.
Your Husband X'
Picking up the last page of a book she'd only just started to write, the curly haired woman sat back on the console chair and began to read it in silence.
Her heart throbbed; River could practically hear her mother's final words to the Doctor.
A tiny droplet slipped down her cheek as she finished, and she released a soft sigh.
"Of course." She muttered, rising to wipe her eyes, remembering the many stories an adamant young Amelia Pond had told her best friend. Tales of star whales and pirates and romans—things she had not yet experienced.
"Oh, that man, that impossible man." River smiled despite herself, knowing that right now, her husband was out there giving a little girl the hope she needed to get through the next fourteen years of life.
But this hope wasn't limited to Amelia Pond alone.
For in time, that special little girl would meet a new friend, a child, abused and broken. And she would tell her the incredible stories, the miraculous tales of the Doctor, the man Melody Pond had been trained to hate, the man who had stolen her childhood from her, the man her mother had loved with all her heart.
Without even knowing it, Amy Pond would give her daughter the most precious gift—hope.
The very hope that had gotten Melody through the pretending, the secrets, the lies, the pain.
Hope found in one impossible man.
The Raggedy Doctor.
Her husband-the man, who, at this very moment, was touching the life of not only Amelia Pond, but also her best friends—Mels Zucker and Rory Williams, the three people who would one day become part of the Doctor's innermost circle, his family.
And this was only the beginning.
But for the Last of the Time Lords, the man who had survived everything- the destruction of his own people, the loss of everyone dearest to him—this was the end of an era.
Although she had pain of her own, Melody Pond empathized deeply with her husband. She could feel his brokenness, his sadness, and she took it all upon herself. She shared his burden.
Because River Song was the Doctor's wife.
'It's called marriage, honey.'
How right she'd been, even then, before everything, the torment, the loss, the heartbreak.
With this newfound strength, the woman thrust herself upwards, calmly approaching the exit.
Ever so quietly, River pushed the TARDIS door open about half-way, taking careful precautions to ensure the Doctor and Amelia didn't hear.
She peered out into that beautiful, oh so familiar garden—the safe haven of her childhood, the only place she'd ever had the chance to be a child—to laugh, to joke, to play—alongside her best friends, her parents.
And there her mother sat, mid-center, the girl who waited—Amelia Pond, perched on her beloved suitcase, chuckling happily as the Doctor, dressed in his raggedy clothes, gestured wildly with those daft hands, telling her the stories that she would treasure forever.
For a second, River could hardly breathe, so transfixed, her eyes glued to the young girl's face—the very face Melody Pond had been overjoyed to find after so many years of searching, the face River Song would likely not see for a long while, if ever again.
River's eyes grew wet against her will.
And in her heart, she knew that somewhere out there, a little sandy haired boy was moving into his new home, having seen a shooting star this very night, never knowing that it was actually a blue box crash- landing in a little girl's back yard—and that very little girl would one day become his wife.
Melody Pond, the childlike part of her, cried out from deep within, missing her beloved parents desperately.
Trying to control her emotions, River geared her attention elsewhere.
She watched her husband, totally enthralled as he said one last goodbye to his best friend, beginning a legacy that would span for hundreds of years. His eyes were bright, but even then his wife could sense the sorrow in them, the intense pain.
It was too much to take in, and suddenly River lost control, she couldn't bottle it up anymore, the burden thrust upon her became too heavy to bear.
So there she stood, River Song, clad in white, weeping silently, mourning her parents with all the pent up grief stored inside her battered heart.
Watching as Amelia's little lashes fluttered drowsily, the Doctor felt as if a weight were pressed on his chest, for he battled the uncanny knowledge that in minutes she would be asleep, and he would never see her again.
This realization nearly crushed his spirit, but he tried his hardest to focus, to pour his energy into telling the story of the girl who had been seared onto his hearts forever.
He paused to catch his breath, just about finished, when Amelia Pond suddenly spoke.
"Where is she, Raggedy Man? Why is she so sad?" her voice pierced him straight to the soul.
At first, the Doctor was admittedly confused. "Who? Amelia? Well, she's…erm…"
"No, not her. The angel. That crying angel."
What? What was she talking about? 'Crying angel,' as in Weeping Angel? How—how could she have known?
The Doctor shuddered, genuinely afraid.
"A statue?" he offered.
"No, not a statue. A woman. An angel. With curly hair and a pretty white dress. She was looking out of your box. Now she's gone." Amelia stated, matter-of-factly, wondering why her new friend didn't seem to understand.
For a second, the Doctor was momentarily at a loss, completely flabbergasted.
Then it hit him. Swiftly, at full force.
River. His wife. Amelia's daughter.
"Raggedy Man, what's the matter? Are you alright?" the little girl asked, obviously concerned.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine." He tried to suppress a smile.
Amelia took this as a signal to continue.
"The angel. Why was she crying? Why is she so sad?"
But the Doctor didn't answer, his thoughts now focused on his hurting wife.
Oh River…I'm sorry…I'm so, so sorry…
"I…" he tried to speak, but only a rough, husky sound escaped his throat.
He stiffened, feeling the wetness pooling in his eyes.
"Don't cry, Doctor. It's okay." Amelia comforted and stood up, walking over to him despite her own fatigue.
Her tiny fingers pressed against his cheeks, soaking in his salty tears.
"I get sad sometimes, too. But today you made me feel very happy. Thank you." She stated firmly, before circling her little arms around his quivering body.
And the Doctor returned the embrace, his hearts pounding all the more.
He rubbed a hand over her back, trying to show her just how much this meant to him, rocking her back and forth as a father would.
"Gotcha." The broken man whispered, too quietly for her to hear, wanting to savor this moment forever, knowing that it would only last for so long.
Time passed, seconds drifting into minutes, and the tired little girl fell asleep in the arms of her new friend, the only person in her life who had ever cared, who had ever listened to her.
Noticing the subtle change in her breathing, the Doctor drew back ever so carefully, his hearts breaking at the sight of her now- sleeping face.
He cradled her tiny body in his arms, gently propping her head on that well-worn suitcase.
Bending down, the Raggedy Doctor pressed a light kiss to her forehead, his tears trickling onto her face.
"Remember me, Amelia Pond. Dream of this. Be patient. Never stop hoping. Never give up. Believe me, there is so much to look forward to. And remember. Five minutes." He told her, certain that this encounter would seem like nothing more than a dream, knowing that in a matter of hours his younger self would come to tuck her into her bed before disappearing behind the crack.
"And know, above all else, that you are loved. Always and completely." His throat closed as he gazed upon that precious child for the very last time.
"Goodbye my sweet, little Amelia."
The Doctor sniffled, weeping quietly as he forced himself to his feet, moving dejectedly to the TARDIS.
"Goodbye, Pond." His husky whisper radiated through the silent air as he stole one final glance—her still, sleeping form, forever imprinted on his mind, seared onto his hearts—before shutting the door behind him.
The woman flinched, startled as her husband made his way into the console room.
Her back was turned away from him, her expression remaining stoic in an effort to hide the damage—for both their sakes.
"River—" she could tell from the quiver in his voice that he was crying, and that just made everything all-the-more unbearable.
Clenching her jaw, River refused to answer, struggling to keep a straight face when she was practically dying on the inside.
A shaky hand slipped around her waist as her husband perched himself beside her.
She couldn't bear to meet his eyes, instead intent on staring at the ground.
"Honey, look at me." he begged, taking her shivering hand in his.
His fingers massaged the palm of her hand—the very hand that he'd healed only hours before.
River felt the Doctor halt, suddenly, his hand trembling even more fiercely.
"River, your fingertips—they're all bloody!" his voice waivered.
"Hadn't even noticed." His wife finally spoke, her tone giving away the extent of her sorrow.
"River, what happened, how did you—"
"It's nothing. I'm fine. I suppose I was just typing a bit fast, is all." She swallowed, hoping that explanation would satisfy him.
Apparently it didn't.
His warm fingers caressed hers, and she drew back, fearing he would repeat his recent action.
"No, Doctor, don't you dare try that again!" She turned her face even further from him.
"River!" he tried to grab her hand again, but she refused to submit.
"Why did you even do it? What would possess you to do something so stupid?" River spat, anger and sadness pouring out of her heart.
"Because you're my bloody wife, River Song! What else was I supposed to do? You were in pain, you were hurting, because of me. And I couldn't bear that; I had to fix it. There was no decision to be made, really."
"How can you say that? How many years of your life did you give up?" she demanded angrily of her husband.
"I dunno. Ten? Twenty, maybe? Does it matter? You gave up your remaining regenerations for me, so you of all people should understa-"
He was forcefully cut off.
"No, that was different and you know it!"
"Different? How was that diff—" his own anger seeped into his voice.
"Because your life actually matters! The universe needs you and now you have ten to twenty years less to live, all because you stupidly wasted your regeneration energy on a worthless person like me!"
"River, look at me!" he shouted very sternly, sounding deeply hurt.
"I can't…" she admitted, her entire body trembling.
"Yes you can. Come here." His fingers grasped her chin, and he pulled her face toward him. "You are not worthless. Do you hear me? Don't you ever say that again! What would they think, hmm? What would Amy and Rory think of their daughter calling herself 'worthless'?"
"Stop it! Don't bring them into this! You've done enough already." River muttered brokenly, tearing her gaze away from him once again.
"Look, I—I'm sorry if I've been selfish about dealing with this. But you've got to understand, River, they were my best friends! And if I have acted like a rubbish idiot than it's because after all the pain I've pent up over the years, I can only hold it in for so long without breaking. And this, this was just too much. I—I'm never going to see them again. Do you have any idea how hard it was back there to hold myself together—especially after Amelia asked me why you were crying. Yeah, she saw you looking out of the TARDIS. And, ha, ironically enough, do you know what she thought? She thought you were an angel." Towards the end of that sentence, the Doctor had quieted down, still clasping River's hand in his.
Tears pricked River's cheeks at her husband's words.
"You're crying." His voice was quiet, mouse-like.
"Shut up. I'm fine, really." She was lying through her teeth and they both knew it.
"Don't lie, not again. Why did you say it didn't matter?" her husband inquired softly, referring to their earlier conversation.
"Because it matters more than anything. And that's another burden I don't want you to have to bear. But I suppose I've failed, haven't I? Look at me, I'm a wreck, and I was supposed to be strong for you. And you know what, Doctor; I understand exactly how you feel. Do you think that it didn't kill me to tell my mother to go back? To hold her hand one last time, giving her the strength as you selfishly pleaded for her to stay?" Fighting the tears, River tried to keep her voice steady.
"B-But you could've—you didn't have to—why did you do it?" came his weak response.
"I had to do what was best. Because I know what it's like to be separated from the man I love, and trust me, there is no way in the universe I would ever force my own mother to go through the same hell I go through every day." River trembled beneath the Doctor's grip, afraid to meet his gaze straight on.
"I—I am so, so sorry. River. This. Is. All. My. Fau—"
"I haven't even seen this you in months. It's been so long, so long, Doctor. And every single time, you get younger and younger, or else you don't change at all. But me? I'm aging, growing more hideous every day. And…and it's only a matter of time…before…" she didn't finish, too overcome to speak.
His hand cupped her face. He shook his head.
"No. You're wrong, Melody Pond. You're more beautiful to me than ever before. Just look at you, the way you tried to stay strong for me, the way you put everyone else above yourself, and yowzah, that wonderful hair, that lovely face, that gorgeous dress—you're absolutely, dazzling, River! Don't think I don't suffer from the separation too. I miss you so much when we're apart. Why do you think I asked you to stay? Because you're my wife and I love you and I love spending time with you, and now, you're all I have left." The Doctor confessed, running his fingers through her wild curls, clinging to her with every ounce of strength he had as the tears poured from his blue-green eyes.
Melting at the sensation of this intimate touch, River, finally gathering enough courage to face him, slowly bent down until their lips were just millimeters apart. Her husband closed the gap, pressing his mouth against hers with a passion that thrived off his pent up sadness, hurt, desperation, and love.
He loved her, so deeply, so profoundly, and he wanted to tell her in the only way he thought possible. He wanted to make up for all those times she would feel despised, loathed, hated by the younger versions of himself who didn't know her, who foolishly sought to rewrite their time together, never knowing how precious it truly was.
Their tears mingled together, the pain and anguish cascading out of their bodies in one swift motion.
River softly broke off the kiss, content to bury her face in her husband's shoulder, her hand gently rubbing his back.
"I'm sorry." He whispered softly, planting a little kiss to her forehead.
"You're forgiven, my love. Always and completely. I'm sorry, too." She answered back, her words echoing something he'd said to her at one of the most difficult points of her life.
For the first time that day, the Doctor felt a river of peace sweep into his body, flowing even to the darkest crevices of his soul.
"So, what do you say, Professor Song? Do you think you could spare a few weeks to spend with your husband?" River could feel him smiling into the curve of her neck.
And her lips were on his again in seconds, kissing him fervently once more.
When she withdrew, a grin was etched across her face.
"What do you think my love?" she drew him into another embrace, hugging him in an effort to show how much she valued this time.
They sat there, clinging to one another, neither speaking a word.
He'd lost his best friends, she'd lost her parents and that was still a massive blow for both of them, but in time, the pain would alleviate. The healing would come, in the only way it could.
Together, or not at all.
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