Not so much a fic to focus on a romance with the Doctor (I flat out LOVE River/Doctor so I couldn't bring myself to write a proper Doctor/OC) but more to explore how hard it would be for someone to fall for him and then to lose that version of him and have to move on. OC is anonymous because this piece is more emotionally based rather than character based. Ignores other companions. No spoilers.

The OC is supposed to sort of reflect on my feelings (most likely all our feelings) each time the Doctor regenerates. You become so attached, and he becomes so important and you swear you'll never love the next Doctor as much as you loved the one before but each time he wins you over. He sucks you in and eventually he's 'the Doctor' for you again, but part of you will always love and miss the one before him. So this is me just trying to imagine how hard that would be to do in reality if were with him each time he changed.

Written to Life Without You by Stanfour on repeat.

This is life without you

I'm learning how to miss you

They never stay. He told her that once. He never gets to keep them. And if he ever did, they'd leave once he regenerated. He became someone else, someone so different. Most of them couldn't handle the change, the new face. And he doesn't blame them, after all, he becomes a total stranger (even he doesn't know who he is) and he expects them to trust him instantly – blindly, just as they did before the regeneration. He's still in there, he still cares about them just as much as he ever did, and he knows that they'll always still love him in return but… he's different. He's not their Doctor anymore. And so they leave him.

She thinks perhaps that's why she stayed the first time it happened; why she held on a little longer than others might have. She couldn't bring herself to leave this stranger who called himself 'the Doctor' because all she could think of was how it would have hurt her Doctor if she had just given up. How lonely he would have been. So she'd smiled at the stranger, taken his hand and together they'd run. Until that moment – that one important moment – when he'd done something that was so small and seemingly insignificant and so very, very him, that had opened her eyes and she'd felt relief and happiness and bittersweet sadness wash over her, realising he was still there. He was still him.

She studies him now as he buzzes around the Tardis, chatting excitedly about taking her to the planet Westrion, where at this time of year it looks as if it's raining stars. As his enthusiasm builds, his pace quickens and he speaks faster and faster until finally she stops trying to keep up. He's not really talking to her any longer anyway, he's caught up in his own excitement. She smiles. She loves it when he does this, this is a new quirk of his, this childish exhilaration. The last one didn't have this. He was too cocky, too adult. He didn't have the innocence he seems to have now – and he would certainly have never worn a bow tie. She misses him. The thought of him and his 3D glasses makes her heart grow heavy.

Thinking back to the others is hard. She tries to avoid it as much as possible, there's too much pain there. She tries not to miss them. She tries not to think about the way her first Doctor had held her close while she'd slept, tucked up safe against his chest. He'd even told her he loved her – he'd said the words. The ones after him hadn't done that – couldn't do that. He'd been so damaged after the Time War. He'd spent much of the next life span trying to find a way to cope and rebuild himself, all the while pretending that he was ok, hiding his sadness from her and so there'd been distance.

He'd still been brilliant though, it had still broken her when she'd lost him and faced a stranger, and in turn fallen in love with him.

Each time she loses him and her heart shatters, he's back instantly with a brand new face and a totally different personality. He immediately speaks to her as if they've known each other a lifetime – because they have – and she really thinks he might ignore the fact that each time he becomes a total stranger to her because it's just easier. So she follows his lead, pretending she already understands the new him and how he works. She pretends she isn't near crippled by the loss she's just experienced. She only lets the tears fall when she knows he's not looking.

Because like it or not she does miss them – the Doctors before him. They do die, and she does feel the loss. Every single time.

Sometimes, when he's asleep, she talks to them. She'll run her fingers over this brand new face and she'll finally allow her tears to come. She's always cautious to be quiet, she'd never forgive herself if he woke to find her yearning for what he couldn't be for her anymore. But still she does it, she allows herself those few moments of mourning. Moments when she can talk to her Doctor, her first Doctor.

"I miss you." She'll whisper, fighting back a sob. "I miss you so much. I miss the way you would take hold of my hand and smile at me… you don't do that anymore… you haven't for a long time. You're still so wonderful though, I promise you. I think you'd like who you are now. I think that if you knew you'd become this Doctor, you'd be okay with it. You'd smile... I want you to know that. I want you to know that I'm still here and you're still wonderful and I'm still so happy and I love you… but I'll always miss you. I'll always wish that I could see you just one more time."

She kisses his head and leaves it at that, curling up next to the new Doctor – her new Doctor – and lets sleep claim her.

Her first Doctor – the Eighth, he had told her – he'd been so passionate, so alive, so happy. He'd never lost that, his ability to exist solely the moment, reminding her how glorious it was to be alive. He still avoids looking back, he still doesn't want to face the pain. And his only concern with the future is that 'it's there'. He still runs, endlessly through all of time and space. And he still cares… so much, about everything and everyone. He's still the Doctor.

It frustrates her in all honesty, the fact that he can be so similar and so different all at once. Changing completely and yet not at all. Just enough left of him to stop her from moving on. Just enough left to make it impossible for her to forget. But not enough to keep her from understanding that he's gone forever, replaced forever. She sees hints and glances of the one before – and the ones before him – every single day. It hurts. It's almost unbearable.

Every time he changes, he is so much more and so much less. He's wonderful and terrible. Every time – without fail – he makes her fall in love all over again. Every time he makes her feel stupid for thinking maybe this time – this him – will leave her behind.

She is shaken from her thoughts when she realises just how quiet he has become. He has stopped racing around the Tardis, he's stopped chattering away about their next adventure. He's still. Quiet. Watching her. They exchange gentle smiles and he moves towards her slowly because he knows.

"It's okay." He tells her gently, cupping her cheek in his palm. He presses her forehead and holds her for just a moment because he knows why she's suddenly so still, he knows she's thinking of them. He always seems to know just when she needs him to do that… just when she's miss them. And he lets her feel what she needs to, without any guilt or embarrassment because he understands. It's different for him each time too. He always loves her – that much will never change – but each time it's different, because he's different. And in truth, so is she.

But he forgives her for it and lets her miss them because she stayed. The first time was the hardest – for both of them. He changed more that first time than any other that would follow. Her first of his regenerations and his burden of all that had been done to win the Time War… He'd needed her that time, more than he ever would again and there she'd been, right by his side though her Doctor was dead, replaced by a total stranger. He'd never be able to thank her enough for that.

She smiles up at him.

"Where are we going?" she asks finally.

He grins and leads her to the Tardis' console and starts twisting knobs and flicking switches, racing from one side to the other, his incessant chatter echoing through the console room once again. She follows his hurried movements, laughing along as she allows his contagious excitement to infect her.

He turns to her, smiling. "Geronimo!"

Once he would have said "Allons-y."

Once he would have said "Fantastic."

One day he'll say something else entirely.

She smiles and takes hold of the control panel of the Tardis, bracing herself. Living for the here and now. Living for him.

Because one day she'll lose him too. He'll be erased. Gone. And she won't mourn him. At least not openly. How do you cry, how to you let your heart break over losing someone who is standing right beside you, holding your hand?

It would be cruel, for her to let him see her pain. She'll never let him know how much it breaks her to lose him over and over. So she'll hide it. She'll just keep smiling and running across all of time and space with a complete stranger who she would die for in a heartbeat. Until finally he'll do something, something so amazing, something so him, that convinces her it isn't over. He's not gone. He's just different. Her Doctor.

Well, what did you think? I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it worked actually, it was sort of experimental. So any feedback you have would be greatly appreciated! I'd love to know your thoughts.