She Was Just Like A Ghost To Me
Disclaimer: I do not own Doctor Who. Or the lyrics which form the title of this story which come from the Les Mis song 'Red and Black'.
"A ghost you say... a ghost maybe
She was just like a ghost to me
One minute there, and she was gone"
The Doctor sighed slightly as he walked through the crowded London streets. He was walking nowhere in particular, with no one to see and no event demanding his attention. Some kind of disaster would, inevitably, occur somewhere around him but until that moment he just longed to lose himself in the crowd- to pretend that he was just an average human going about his mundane life and that he was not, in fact, the loneliest being on the planet. That had been the plan. It had been a good plan. Then he'd seen that hair. It was just across the street from him and it was hair that he could never forget, hair that could never be replicated. Hair that he hadn't seen in far too many years and that made his hearts contract painfully at the mere sight of it. Every logical part of his brain was telling him, no, shouting at him, that it couldn't be her, it wouldn't be her and he shouldn't get his hopes up but he resolutely ignored that voice and ran blindly forwards nearly being hit by a London cab in the process. Luckily he was quick and the cabbie was alert and he escaped with nothing more than a string of choice swear-words being thrown in his direction.
"River!" He called as he stumbled forwards, pushing people out of the way desperately in his attempt to reach her. "River!" He called again as he put his hand on her shoulder and she turned slowly to face him. "River it's me, I-"
He stopped suddenly as he saw her face. It wasn't her, wasn't River, and this knowledge felt like a blow to the stomach. He wondered for a second whether he was going to be sick, there and then, on the pretty young girl's feet. But then he looked closer at her face. If he hadn't known better, hadn't known no such person existed, he could have sworn this was her sister. The hair, of course, was identical but she also had the same kind smile and a glint in her eyes that seemed all too familiar. A cruel trick of fate, he decided silently, that's what this must be.
"I'm sorry." He mumbled as he looked away from her, back at his own shoes, and fought the rising nausea once again. "I thought you were-"
"My mum, yeah." The girl smiled. "I get that a lot. It's the hair."
"Your… You…" The Doctor stammered as his eyes snapped back up to her face instantly.
"I am." She grinned broadly. "How's it going, Dad?"
The Doctor felt the world around him spin. He knew, logically, that his feet were still fixed to the ground and his surroundings hadn't disappeared leaving him and his…. Daughter swirling through time and space but that was sure what it felt like.
He looked at her again, really looked at her. He could see River's obvious dominant genes strewn all over the girl. She'd inherited her mother's figure and her looks (thankfully) but something about the way she stood told him she may have inherited his sense of balance. She also seemed taller than River, he legs seeming more like his own gangly ones. He looked closer and he could see, as she wrinkled her nose in amusement, that she'd inherited Amy's laugh and the slightly redder tinge to her hair could also probably be traced back to the young Scottish girl he'd met so long ago. She held in her hand, he noticed, a medical bag and her hands themselves were well worn, nails short and practical. It clearly wasn't just her physical characteristics that she'd inherited. Here she stood, his child, his daughter. A mixture of everything good he'd ever known.
He wanted to find out every single thing he could about her. He wanted to scoop her up and hold her so tight that nothing could ever take her away from him. She was all he'd ever wanted. Someone to belong to, to belong with. To have a family and a place in this universe. She made him whole. She made him and Amy, Rory and River a proper family boded by blood- something that no one could ever take away from him. She was perfect and she was good and she was his and he wasn't going to let her go, not ever. He wasn't going to mess this up again. His chance at redemption.
"So… urm… what's your name?" He beamed as he finally found his voice, finally managed to stop the constant spinning and focus on the girl in front of him. A name. She would have a name and he would be able to call her and…
She shook her head sadly as she stepped back from him slightly.
No name? He bit his lip as he pondered this. Maybe she was like him, unable to speak her name aloud. Or maybe she couldn't tell him because it was a spoiler. He smiled slightly at this. It had been a long time since he'd heard that word, since he'd had a future worth spoiling.
"So if you can't tell me your name then-" He began but she turned quickly and began to walk away from him. "Wait!" He called in desperation as he tried to run after her, to bring her back to him but his feet were stuck to the pavement and his arms felt like they were made of led.
He tried to shout after her but he didn't even know her name. The people swarming past him became faster and faster until they were like a grey blur swirling around him and the only figure he could make out was the girl in the distance as she walked further and further away and he stood there powerlessly, shouting till his throat was horse.
The Doctor sat up suddenly in bed. His breathing was ragged and his cheeks damp from the tears that continued to fall. He looked around for someone, anyone, to comfort him but then it all came flooding back to him. He was alone and only the soft hum of the TARDIS was there to soothe his aching soul. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, trying to regain composure and trying to forget the image of the girl he could never have. But she was etched into his skull now forever. Along with all the others. His family, his planet, his friends, Jenny, the Ponds, River… The list went on and on. He remembered now why he didn't allow himself to sleep often and he vowed that he wouldn't sleep again until he found a way of keeping the dreams at bay. Or else until he found a way of disappearing into them and never waking up.
He sighed as he pushed himself to his feet, his body aching and his brain feeling like it was still rattling, still processing what was real and what was not. She was still there, somewhere in his mind, the nameless girl. The future he wanted so badly but would never have. He felt his hearts pull themselves apart one more time.
"Better a broken heart than no heart at all." He muttered to himself.
His laughter was bitter and hollow.