A/N: Thanks so much to Quirkellect on tumblr for reading and editing this for me. I hope you enjoy this story! ~writergirl8
Her finger rests lightly on the trigger, waiting to snap at any moment. A glance over at him shows that he's puttering around like an excited youth, mouth moving enthusiastically over words that she's not paying attention to. And it isn't that they're not fascinating or brilliant or intelligent words, it's that no matter what he's experienced, there's a childlike positivity about him that she certainly does not possess. He trusts until there is no reason to trust anymore, but with her, trust must be earned. So while he fiddles with his surroundings and tries to figure out exactly where they are, her arm lies patiently behind the smooth fabric of her dress, finger tense against the cool metal of her gun.
The Doctor doesn't like guns. River Song doesn't like them either, but she'd rather have him alive than dead. After all, he's a much better lover that way.
It's probably her fault that they're in this situation, in any case. She knows what getting aboard the TARDIS will mean for her. She is fully aware of the fact that Doctor-induced euphoria is partly danger-induced euphoria. She loves that feeling, the way she soars when she's fighting battles with him, when they're saving lives and they're doing it together. Most of all she loves that it's a mutual situation. She scratches his back and he scratches hers.
She's a certified genius, she's got a doctorate in archeology, and she's the daughter of the Lost Centurion and the Girl Who Waited. There is nothing that she lacks in intelligence or skills, yet one thought of a rendezvous with the Doctor and she throws all of her values and beliefs completely out the window. Being with him is all that matters in the world, whether she's with him or without him. River is fully aware of the fact their time together is limited, and she's not liable to waste it by employing common sense. When he calls, she will answer, and then some.
The way she latches on to the idea of him, the beauty of him, becomes her most prized possession. She is gluttonous in her need of him- it has to be enough, but it is never enough. She puts him in danger time and time again because she can't imagine a time when the running stops for her. And one day, it's going to happen. One day, they'll be running and she'll stumble and that will be the end.
Here she is, once more having been granted respite from her cage without having to ask. The Doctor doesn't need to be asked. He knows that she will always be there, and the fact that she is at his beck and call isn't something that bothers River. With any other man, it would shame her, but this is the Doctor. She was manufactured to fall in love with him, and she was born of two people who care for him deeply. This combination will always lead to inevitability, if nothing else more tangible.
She does use him for the danger, and River is fully aware that this is true, but falling in love with him is not simply falling in love with the danger. It is falling in love with every single part of him: his hair, his eyes, his smell. And the danger is like the Doctor's scent; so attractive and delicious and satisfying. It is a piece of him, along with the saving-the-world piece. She loves each and every fragment of the Doctor, so to not love the adventure would, frankly, be unfair.
Maybe she abuses it too much. Maybe the quickening of her heartbeat when the familiar noise of the TARDIS hits her ears should only be due to the fact that she's about to see her husband. But when she thinks of the running and the flushed cheeks and the quick breathing and the fact that he will save the world and he will save her, she can't help but want something more than just a quick snog. She wants to save him.
She wants to save him as many times as he will save her, and she wants to match him blow to blow, and she wants him to desire her as much as she desires him. When he says something witty, she wants to be able to effortlessly match that. In short, she wants to prove herself worthy. And in order to do that, she needs to be with him. She needs the late nights when the blue of the TARDIS obscures everything else from view, and those moments before she gets into the ship during which he can't look at anything but her.
While she is fully aware of how selfish it all is, River craves the times that he will seek her out in the evening when her parents are asleep in their bunk beds, and it's just the two of them. Well, sometimes it's not just the two of them. Sometimes Lewis and Clark join, and sometimes Captain Jack pops in as well. But in those moments, she is his companion and he is her Doctor. In those moments, the future doesn't exist and neither does the past. He's never been anyone else's Doctor and he never will be. He is willing to be hers and she is willing to compromise.
"Did you hear that?" the Doctor says suddenly, turning around to face her with wild eyes. River squints, trying to see into the distance, and before her eyes materialize the unwelcome sight of marching Cybermen, all in perfect time with each other. "River, do you have-?"
She raises a cocky eyebrow at him and gives him one of her most famous half smiles. The familiarity of this moment is like breathing- it's what she selflessly seeks.
"What do you think, Sweetie?"
And as she pulls out her already waiting gun, she blows him a kiss before twitching her finger and firing into the night.
Sometimes, the Doctor can feel the darkness seeping into his skin. It invades so slowly, creeps so tentatively, as though perhaps the unbroken rhythm will prevent him from noticing it's there.
He probably had patience when he was younger, but now bitterness has wormed its way into his soul. He thinks of all of the people who he has loved, and pictures them all piled into a mountain of bodies, people whose lives have been forever altered because he selfishly wiggled his way into them. These people had chased adventure and quested for wonders, but in the end, he was never enough to save them. The Doctor thinks of the people who left him, and then he thinks of the people who were forced to leave him, and when he truly, deeply considers how unfair it all is, the anger within him stands so tall that it's all he can do to stifle it.
So yes, his tolerance for the evil in the universe has decided to run thinner. The sunniness of his disposition sinks low into the sky much faster these days. Monsters claw their way through his composure, each one signifying a person he has loved and lost. Sometimes he wonders if he should stop doing this, if being alone would be easier than anything. Because he was right when he said that good men don't need to have rules; if he was a good man, he would have left River Song alone long ago.
The Daleks have her tied to a long metal table. From his hiding place, he can see her chest heaving, the only outward sign of her fear. His heart fills with pride because he has never met a woman quite as fearless as River Song, and sometimes it takes his breath away. In all of their time together, he's never caught her in an expression of fear, much less heard her scream in terror. After all, he's just spent the last ten minutes sitting here quietly forming a plan, and during that time he has seen his wife flirt with the Daleks in order to piss them off. It's one of the most idiotic and sexiest things he has ever seen her do.
Her end is something that he cannot stop, just as his end is something that she has no control over. But the Doctor almost feels that he has an obligation to make her time with him as remarkable as it can be, as he is solely responsible for her death. Being tortured for information by the Daleks is not something that the Doctor is willing to let River keep experiencing. In all her unique glory, she does not deserve pain.
Nobody deserves pain really, but at the moment his attention is on the beautiful woman before him.
River's chest is moving more quickly now, the pain beginning to seep into her. He knows that the Daleks will soon pursue it further, wanting to get their way as quickly as possible. And suddenly, an unimaginable rage boils over. This woman is smiling through her pain, flirting through the agony, hoping through the disaster. How dare they hurt something so magnificent?
How dare they.
Guns have always been something that the Doctor totally and completely opposes, and he is certain that this will never change. But in this moment, he is undeniably glad that he does not cart a gun around with him. He can practically picture himself reaching for it, pulling it out, and once more giving the Daleks what they deserve. No matter how he does it, or how many times he does it, he always receives the most intense satisfaction to see them crushed. But a gun is never the way to go about things. The Doctor will use every instrument that he has available to himself- wit, intelligence, charm, his friends, his sonic screwdriver- but he will never willingly pick up a gun and shoot it. No matter how much wrath courses through his veins, he has principals. He has ideals. And he's not going to live in a world in which guns are the answer to everything.
This doesn't change the fact that his indignation has hit a raging intensity.
If it had been years ago, when he had first climbed aboard the TARDIS and in succession fallen into the most significant relationship of his lifetime, the Doctor may have been able to forgive this oversight. If he had never faced the Daleks before, perhaps he would have been able to compartmentalize his emotions and master his anger. If he hadn't seen so many people suffer at the hand of their cruelty, maybe the blackness would have slid into the background, guilty in its dark nature. But everyone is brave, and he can't save everyone. He can save her.
"Oi!" he says, stepping out of the shadows and emerging into the harsh light of the large room.
The Daleks spin around to look at him, croaking out the arrival of the Doctor in their crackly voices. From her spot on the table, River beams at him, the sweat slipping down her face and disappearing into her hair. She doesn't notice the fact that his hands are shaking with fury as he uses his sonic screwdriver to release her from her bonds. She merely raises her own hands to massage the imprints that her bindings have left on her skin and says,
"No problem, darling," he says swiftly before turning back to the Daleks.
"Got a plan?" River inquires, stepping closer to him.
His anger rears as he sees a few tear tracks dried on her cheeks. He reaches out to stroke the skin there lightly, and she doesn't close her eyes at the touch- merely stares at him as though he is something special. The Doctor composes himself for a moment, then turns to the Daleks and narrows his eyes.
"Hey, you lot! Stay the hell away from my wife."
There's something empty about watching them all walk away. Her mother on the right, hair swishing behind her as her heels hit the floor with purpose. Her father is on the left, his step slightly bouncy as he walks. He doesn't realize that he does this, but she's spent so much of her time being silent about Rory Williams that she's soaked up all of the little things about him, just to have something. And the Doctor in the middle, at the center, just like he's balancing the force of the universe. There's something very poetic about all of it.
Except River is not a poet, she is an archeologist, and they are walking away. They are leaving her trailing behind in the dust, coughing and spluttering and wishing that things could be different. She wants her childhood back. Sometimes, she looks at children on the street and she feels herself fill with envy at how carefree they are. River is desperate to know what it is like to have a mother that loves her- to have an Amy who has already gone through life and could be there to give her lessons. Sure, going through time with her mother was thrilling in itself, but she wants more than that. River Song wants a mum, not a friend, and the fact that she will never have this breaks her.
But mostly, the envy in her heart comes from the fact that her parents have the Doctor and he has them. As for River? River has neither. When they walk away from her, hop into their TARDIS, and fly off into the sunset, she's not going to be there with them. Rory and Amy will go back to their bedroom and snuggle in their bunk beds, and the Doctor will stay in the console room with the only woman he will ever truly madly love, and River will be sitting in a cold empty cell waiting with bated breath for them to amble back into her life.
Sometimes she thinks that they don't quite understand how insane it drives her. Sometimes she wonders if they realize that when they take their time, they are slowly driving her into a madness that she's not entirely sure she's ever going to be able to fully recover from. She can pretend to be okay all she wants, but when it comes down to it, when all the bravado is gone, she is left as a small little girl who drowns herself in what ifs.
It's uncomfortable to think of what she would be like had everything in her life gone differently. Of what would have happened had she been raised on the TARDIS along with her parents. Certainly she would be equally as smart, but what about the rest of her? What about the pieces of her demeanor that set her apart from all of the other companions? What about her relationship with the Doctor? It's doubtful that it would be one of a sexual nature; he would probably be more like a second father in that event. But maybe her parents wouldn't have brought her onto the TARDIS with them. It's entirely plausible that they would have grabbed her hand and dragged her kicking and screaming off of the TARDIS when she was very young, deciding that life with the Doctor was far too dangerous for her to deal with.
What she's really envious of, River decides, is the child that will never be. She is envious of the girl who got to grow up running around the universe in a vivid blue box that she called her home. She is jealous of whom that girl grows up to be and what that girl comes to know in her time. She is covets the childhood that does not exist, but she wants it so badly that it makes every bone in her body ache. There are times when she sits in her cell at night and writes stories in her head, tracing the plot lines over and over again. After all, every girl deserves a happy ending. Just because she's half Time Lord, why should she be any different?
To River, it feels like she is living two separate lives. In one life, her greatest pleasure is the blanket that she pulls up to her chin at night. It's a plain gray thing, but the only soft item that she has in her possession. While the rest of this life is stone and cold, this single artifact reminds her of what she once had and what she will probably never have again. Yet there's this other life, one full of dresses and dancing and running and vibrancy, and in it she gets her mother and her father and a man, all things that are the holes in her life. Occasionally, for fatefully fleeting fractions of time, she gets all of them. Sparingly, she gallivants around the world with her mother and father, or saves a planet with the man that she loves.
It's so hard to live the former life when she knows she has the latter to fall back on. It's so hard to leave the latter life knowing that she will have to return to the former. Worst of all, she never knows when they're going to come back to her after they turn their backs. It's the most inconsistent of inconveniences, never knowing what nights she should fall asleep and what nights she should mentally prepare herself to lie to her parents or, later in life, put on a brave face for her husband. The mental and emotional toll of lying all the time is masked under a flirtatious "spoilers!" that breaks her heart a little every single time that she says it because she doesn't want her past to be his future. She wants to walk onto the TARDIS after a long day and flop onto a chair and watch him fly it, uninhibited in her words and her choices. She's envious of people who can just speak to their significant others and not make sure that they watch every word that pours out.
There is one thing that River is grateful for, which is that she understands exactly what not to be jealous about. It could be that she has sorted her priorities, or it could be that there are so many other issues in her life that this seems completely secondary, or it could be that she understands how irrevocable the situation is. But River understands, fully and completely, that she can never be the only person that the Doctor is in love with. Never mind the fact that the TARDIS is the most important thing in his universe, there's also the many people that he meets and falls in love with every day. His ardent love for humanity is one of his most beautiful and endearing qualities, so there's no situation in her life in which she trades for a Doctor that isn't the Doctor, and without that, he isn't the Doctor. So he can love whomever he wants to love, so long as he keeps on loving her.
There are so many things to be broken about, but being in love with a man who is in love with humanity is not one of them.
She inspires him to be idle, and this is the most precious thing of all.
When one spends his entire existence dashing around time and space, much energy is expelled in his travels. Whether this loss of energy is due to protecting the world from disaster, calamity, or havoc, he is happy to spend it on doing what he does. After all, there is nothing more satisfying than being the Doctor. There is nothing that fulfills him more than fixing things and saving people and savoring the times when humanity shines through at its absolute best. Theoretically, he could go back in time and change his life; turn it into something else. Realistically, even if he could, he never would.
But even the Doctor gets tired. Every now and then, even he needs to lie down on a bed and take an extremely long nap. The exhaustion isn't something he notices until he suddenly can't seem to function anymore because one moment he's bouncing around and the next he can't fathom being upright for any more stretch of time. Still, when one spends his entire existence dashing around time and space, other responsibilities tend to get neglected. For example, he never would remember to brush his teeth had he not purchased the bright red toothbrush that starts playing music at a offensively loud volume at the same time every night, so that if he's on the TARDIS, he can always hear the ghastly sound of music so loud that it vibrates through one's soul and makes one's teeth chatter.
When Amy and Rory had been travelling with him, they had never been overly fond of the noise. Now that he spends so much more of his time with River, she doesn't seem to mind it that much. She winks at him and tells him that the toothbrush reminds her of bedtime, and then she inquires as to whether it is an electric toothbrush, causing him to grin wordlessly at her for at least ten seconds, soaking in the quiet brilliance of the way that she presents herself.
Actually, more like the not-so-quiet brilliance.
Neglect of responsibility is obviously an issue to be dealt with, and River being around doesn't really help that. She's the kind of woman that encourages skipping meals in favor of getting drunk on vodka at the beach with a member of the Beatles before going off to save a past deity from exposure to alien illness. And really, who has time to eat dinner when they're doing all that? Who has time for anything but the joy that comes with life and its experiences and having those experiences with the people that they love? He knows that she has limited time with him- sometimes, he even has nightmares about her demise, as if to remind him that the time that he is living in is merely borrowed. That every entry that she writes in her blue book is a stamp on a library card, telling her when the overdue date is going to be. He gives her whatever she wants, he gives her everything. There's no other option.
As magnificently irresponsible as River is, there's also a part of her that is indisputably healthy for him. When he had asked her to travel with him, he had meant it wholly and completely. Her ability to think fast, her brilliance, and her playfulness are all things that make him adore her, but it's more than that. It's more than her ability to handle herself when they are out together, or her ability to run quickly, or her knowledge of the universe. It's the way she is when it's just the two of them. It's the way she saunters onto the TARDIS after Rory and Amy have gone to bed and makes him feel at ease in the first moment of her presence. It's the way she's dependably there for him whenever he's feeling lonely and her parents are sleeping and he needs somebody to chase away the hollowness that comes with an empty night.
He can also depend on her to sense when he's so exhausted he needs a break. Something about her encourages him to want to sit down in a cozy chair and not get up for several hours. Something about the way she reminds him that saving himself is equally as important as saving other people makes him temporarily believe that it is true. Scarily enough, the Doctor finds himself wondering far too often whether River understands more about him than he understands about himself. The Doctor has always regarded being lazy as equivalent to being selfish. There is so much that he knows he can be doing for the world, and after so many years of doing it, there's no way that he can deny that this is what he does. He doesn't walk from anything. When trouble finds him, he kicks it in the teeth. This, he owes. He's too good at it. He can't walk away from it.
River likes to remind him that trouble will always be there when he gets out of bed in the morning, but he's more useful when he's rested. She can convince him to spend an entire evening in bed, or even the entire day. They talk and they sleep and they act so gloriously lazy that he doesn't even feel the need to put on a bow tie. He can be without a bow tie around her- he doesn't need it to be with River.
He likes it when she's in the more personal parts of the TARDIS. For some reason, he wants to share things with her. Perhaps it's because he feels more connected to her than he has anybody in his recent history, due to the fact that she is part Time Lord and therefore connected to him in ways that nobody has been for such a long time. He doesn't have a problem with showing her his bedroom, or letting her do whatever she wants in the kitchen, or letting her take showers in his personal bathroom. He has no issue with giving her free reign of the library or joining her in the indoor swimming pool, watching the water droplets slip down her body in an alluring manner.
Every time he regenerates, his heart falls in love with something different, but for him, River Song is it. River is the thing that he needs most in so many aspects of his existence, and he loves her for it. It's true that he hasn't been this intimate with a person in an immeasurably long amount of time, but he can say things to her that he can't say to anybody else, and in that, he can be someone with her that he can't be around anybody else.
He doesn't need to be guarded around her. He can say anything, be anything. He can even be lazy.
The golden sunlight leaks into the library through the large window, its heat circling possessively around the room. River loves the way she feels when she is bathing in its warmth, which is one of the reasons why the library has always been one of her favorite rooms on the TARDIS. In here, she truly feels like she is at home. She's never really had a home before, but she imagines that this familiarity and comfort is exactly what home would feel like. For River, home is mainly people. More specifically, her mother, her father, and her husband. But often, that home environment has been disrupted by too much foreknowledge and lies. Even when she is with the people that she considers her home, she cannot fully be content within her carefully crafted existence. Here, though, bent over a wooden table with her hair falling in her eyes and her fingers trailing over thick pages… this place is peace.
Professor River Song has spent her entire life searching for peace. Finding it is like being able to breathe properly for the first time in her life, like putting on glasses after being blind for years. Sure, she's a psychopath, but even born and bred psychopaths need a place to have calm every once in a while. The feeling of the sun dusting over her skin in the perpetually warm library brings that delightful sanctity to River.
But, of course, no sanctuary is harmonious forever. At some point, a distraction will come and bowl a wrecking ball through the soothing atmosphere. For River and her library, that wrecking ball comes in the form of a man wearing a bow tie. He enters the room humming some tune that she's never heard before, and she strongly suspects that he's making it up as he goes. She hears him first, and then she smells him, and then his hands are on her waist and his chin is on her shoulder. It's less of an intimate gesture and more that he's trying to see what she's doing and her body is impeding his progress.
"What are you looking at?" he asks futilely, as his eyes have already latched onto the page and are scanning it impatiently.
"Wouldn't you like to know," she replies, swiveling her head around so that she can bring her lips to his. While he's distracted, she closes the book and slides it down the table so that it is among the masses of heavy books that are cluttering the table.
He opens his eyes as she pulls away, grinning, and his eyes casually shift downward to wear the book had been. Instantly, his face turns to indignant.
"Do I fall for that every time you do that?"
"Spoilers," she grins cheekily.
Sometimes it feels like she never stops laughing when he's around. Right now it's at the petulant look he is giving her, the false anger too much for her not to smile at. He knows that there are things that she can't tell him. He knows that there are things that he simply cannot know, just like there are things that she cannot know.
"Am I ever going to-?" he begins, but she places her finger on his lips to stop him from talking.
"We're having a moment, dear," she informs him seriously. "Don't ruin it by talking."
His words die in his throat, leaving him to just stare at her, eyes still slightly hacked off. River brings her fingers up to trace her fingers over the fabric of his bow tie. She loves bow ties more than she should admit, courtesy of her Doctor, yet the sight of them will always throb with ghosts of him. The mirth vanishes from his eyes as she removes her hand from his chest to reach up and touch his cheek. He leans into her hand, brushing his cheek against the soft inner side of her hand. The Doctor's hand finds her waist and he pulls her closer to him, bringing her closer to his body. For a few moments, she rests her head on his chest and he buries his nose within her hair and breathes her in. It is rare to find moments as peaceful as this, especially during the day.
It's different during daytime.
At night, he turns into a completely different person. As soon as he puts on his tails and gets her into a fancy dress, he's ready for absolutely anything. There was the birthday with two Doctors, and there was the time that they couldn't keep their hands off of each other at a certain monarch's coronation ball and ended up spending most of the ball in a far off broom closet. In the evening, he is so much more than the man that runs around with her mother and father. He loves the joy that surrounds the world at night, with the parties and the dressing up and the music. He loves the charged atmosphere and the way that it affects the both of them. In the daytime, the Doctor act like a child, but at night, he's a teenager. Randy, crazy, and lustful towards life. Confidence makes him brazen, and when an evening is going particularly well, he can never stop touching her. Best of all, he doesn't want to stop touching her. Half of the fun of being with the Doctor is getting him to admit that he wants her just as badly as she wants him, but River has the most immaculate torture methods that always get her what she wants.
And he gets what he wants if he concedes.
She doesn't know exactly how much time they have, but he does, and she can tell that he doesn't want to waste any of it. Instead of dwelling on this, River takes advantage the fact that it makes him looser. Honestly, the Doctor is easy. She will never stop teasing him, and he will never stop loving being teased by her. They will always have the back and forth, they will always have the differences that slide up against each other and create a tantalizing friction. She will always be able to seduce him with her breasts and he will always be able to turn her on just by staring into her eyes.
At night, by the time they quietly sneak back into the TARDIS and tiptoe past her parents' bedroom, the passion has spun into something of frenzy. The events that have transpired in the past several hours have served for the both of them as foreplay; the look-don't-touch rule has always been something of a turn on for both of them. She's Amy and Rory's daughter, she's half Time Lord, and she can fly his TARDIS. In many ways, that just makes her sexier to him. And as for the Doctor, River understands the inner workings of his mind so well that every single inch of his body and soul is outlandishly exquisite to her. There is so much elegance in every aspect of this man, and she knows because she was trained to think with the exact same grace.
During the day, there's nobody to sneak past. Her mother is modeling, her father is working, and the two of them are alone on board a giant ship that can bring them anywhere in space and time, which is a turn on in itself. But in the moment, standing in the library with her limbs entangled with the limbs of the Doctor, the only place River wants to be is in his arms.
There's a part of her that's always going to be unable to comprehend the fact that this godlike man wants to be with her. She is so fascinated by every single part of him, and she is so refined in understanding him, that he never ceases to amaze her.
At night, maybe it's all about the lust. At night, it's all about bodies and physicality and clenching a low burn that River isn't sure will ever be completely assuaged. During the day, it's so much more than that. It's the fact that they are both unique and are both remarkable and have both found each other.
It's him finding her in the library and pulling her close and letting his lips drift from her hair to her neck, patiently waiting for her to tilt it back so that he can taste more of her skin.
At night, she fucks him. During the day, he's just her love.
When the Doctor had selected his name, he had always enjoyed the connotation that came with it. A Doctor is a healer. They put themselves aside in order to aid others who are in far direr a circumstance. Somewhere in the word Doctor is a connotation that raises the expectation that he is a selfless being. For the most part, the Doctor does his best to live up to this expectation. There's nothing more important to him than upholding the name that he has placed upon himself. When he tells people to call him Doctor, it means something. It's not an errant nickname that he had come up with for fun, it is something that is supposed to communicate who he is to other people and hopefully make him easier to trust.
Sometimes he feels like he doesn't deserve the name.
Mostly he feels that way when he's watching River partake in being alive. Sometimes it feels like he's laughing at the jokes of a ghost, or running his tongue along the skin of a ghost, or grabbing the hand of a ghost as they sprint down a long, winding hallway together. She might be a ghost, but when she's around, she never makes him feel like he's alone. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact.
There's a hole in his heart left by the absence of Time Lords, a hole that's never genuinely going to be filled. There's always going to be a piece of the Doctor that died with the rest of them. And he's forever going to be mourning those who he had lost in order to win. But she's part Time Lord. She's got their DNA inside of her, just as he has Time Lord DNA inside of himself. When she's around, he's not the only Time Lord in the room anymore. He's not floating out in the middle of the ocean by himself; he's got someone to hold onto, someone as different as he is. They're both one of a kind, now. There's nobody exactly like the Doctor anymore, and there's nobody like River, either.
When she's with him, he can pretend that things are different.
Logical man that he is, the Doctor understands the possibility that there is a chance that River's fate might change if he would leave her alone. As small as this chance is, he's seen time altered too many times to truly believe that everything has to be fixed. But he's not willing to change any aspect of his relationship with River. He's not willing to leave her alone, not when she can keep up with him so well. She's one of the only people in the universe that he doesn't have to explain everything to, and while he loves being the only genius in the room, sometimes he wants other people to be a genius with him. Sometimes he wants to be able to just look at a person and have her seen the entire plan as it blooms in his eyes. Sometimes he wants somebody to just know when it's time to run instead of to shouting it at them. Is that so much to ask?
With River, it isn't.
He's greedy when it comes to her. He knows that he should simply leave her alone and let her enjoy her peaceful stay in prison, but he simply can't leave her alone. He loves the adventure that she brings into his life- he knows that she thinks that he brings it to her, but the truth is that she makes his evenings better. Sometimes he waits with bated breath for Rory and Amy to go to bed so that he can fly off to River Song and take her off into the world and see what sort of trouble she stirs for him. She drives him to do things that he's never done before, and he will never fully understand how she can make him feel like a teenage boy while still having the experience of a man who has lived more than his share of lifetimes.
He is in love with so many aspects of her. The way she makes him feel, and the way she acts around him, and the way she loves living as much as he does. He loves the way she seems to be utterly carefree, yet on the inside she cares more than more than most people. She has an innate understanding of humanity and of the world and of science that is absolutely fascinating.
In short, he finds her to be captivating.
There must be some sort of price that River is paying for living in two lives, but the Doctor finds himself eschewing all normal rules in order to keep it going. He cannot stand the idea of someone so spunky having her spirit stomped on by prison. He doesn't want her dauntlessness to shift into anything else, so instead he pretends that if he rescues her from her boredom as much as he possibly can, the experience will not change her. He has yet to see whether his theory will be coming through for him.
Most of the time, he forgets that she can hurt. He forgets that she can be touched. She is so irrefutably alive that the idea of her being damaged in any manner is preposterous to him. He likes her the way that she is, likes the fact that every time she walks onto his TARDIS he has to fight the urge to bellow yowza as loud as he can because she is a Geronimo type of woman. The value of this type of vigor in a woman has always been underestimated, but the Doctor never fails to love watching it come through in her personality. It reminds him of Amy, but it is something more than that. It is the liveliness of a girl who spent her childhood trapped in an astronaut suit and is now making up for her early years by living life one adventure at a time.
He drinks her in whenever he's with her because he doesn't know how long he has with her. But he wants more than that. He wants endless time in the bubble of their nights together. He doesn't want it to all end when Rory and Amy come yawning into the console room, still sporting their pajamas and asking if they can go to Germany for breakfast. He is insatiable in regards to her presence, something that he desperately wishes he could tell her.
Mostly, he wishes that he could tell her. He wishes that he could communicate to her that he does love her, that he's so grateful for her. He's greedy for a life in which he's able to come out with it and just say it to her- that he hasn't felt this way with anybody he's met in this regeneration. She's so accepting of him loving other people, but he doesn't know how to tell her that the way he loves her is different from how he loves anybody else. He's the Doctor. He doesn't do that. Maybe if he were human, he'd be able to do it. The problem is that the people in his life are so fleeting that they inevitably break his hearts. There is no normalcy to be achieved, so why try?
As ravenous as he is for that kind of life, he thinks that she'll probably die without ever hearing from his mouth that he loves her.
She gets flashbacks as she punches him in the face. She pictures him on top of her, beaming down at her as she unfastens his bow tie with expert hands. She pictures the way his hair flops into his eyes and the way those eyes sparkle with excitement. She pictures domesticity, like the time that she sat on the kitchen counter and watched as he made her an entire three-course meal with expert hands. She pictures him swimming in the pool and splashing water on her, inviting her to come in and experience things with him. And she pictures him running, endlessly running, grinning mischievously at her as they chase each other through the darkness.
Mainly, she thinks about how she will never have those times again.
It's an easy choice, his life or hers. It's so easy, in fact, that she doesn't allow him to make it. The world without the Doctor is a world in which nobody would be able to live. The world without River Song remains the same as it was before. There would be nothing toxic about her death, but his… his would be a nail in the coffin of every planet that needs to be rescued. His death would be the death of so much beauty and love and humanity. There's no reason that any of this should need to vanish, no need for the world to die. As long as his candle burns, everything is going to be fine.
Her hands shake as she cuffs him to the wall.
No breach to the universe would come from her demise, true, but she wonders if there would be a rift to the Doctor. She wonders who will love him the way that she loved him now that she's gone, and who will understand exactly what he's saying just by looking into his eyes. She wonders if her absence will break his heart just as hers was broken when she realized that this Doctor was a Doctor that had never met her. And yet even then, she hadn't comprehended that this meant that it was time for her to end.
To be fair, River hadn't really thought about it at all. She hadn't wanted to. His timeline and hers always met up in odd orders, so why would this have to be her last time meeting him? She had a vertex manipulator, after all. She could go see him anytime she wanted to. He had become as consistent in her life as a proper husband would. And he is her husband. He is her life partner. He is her love.
She has never imagined the end like this. Actually, she has never imagined the end at all. In her mind, there was no reason why she shouldn't get to grow old in the presence of the Doctor, so long as she could still run. There had always been a piece of her that had forbidden herself from thinking about tomorrow because she must have known, on some subconscious level, that it had to end this way. It simply had to. There was no other reason why she would ever leave the man that she loves.
Till death do us part is probably too much foreshadowing, when it comes down to it.
It's understandable that her hands shake madly as she sets up her demise. It's understandable that she is afraid of the fact that her entire life is going to end. That soon she is not going to be speaking or laughing or having any conscious thoughts at all. In fact, River reasons that it is quite normal to be scared shitless when one is about to completely lose consciousness. Death is scary. Death is a trip into the unknown, it is the only place that the Doctor has never gone, and will never save her from. At least she'll know something more than he does. She's seen too much of the world to believe in an afterlife, yet she's seen too much of the world to not believe in an afterlife.
When he gets there, she's going to taunt him because she knew first.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the Doctor waking up is that he isn't inwardly dying as she dies. When one has experienced a lifetime worth of love with someone who is dying, they often die as the other person dies. But when she dies like that, she doesn't get that reward. She doesn't get to see him smash into a million pieces- although she supposes that the last time she ever saw him was a piece of that. Knowing what she was happily walking into. Hearing her talk about it excitedly, even passionately, and knowing that it would end with her giving up her life for him.
And not being able to change it because she would never let him change any of the time that they had together.
The man she sees as she sacrifices herself still looks wrenched. She can tell that he knows that she's his wife, can tell that he is completely lost and confused because what is so special about this woman that I would marry her? He had been so wary of her when he had met her that second time, the time with the angels, and now she knows why. His last image of her is a woman sitting in a chair with tears spilling errantly down her face as she wishes for him- the real him- to be there so that he could hold her. No wonder he is unsettled by her presence. This loss is the beginning of a mystery for him and the end of a love story for her.
River is so proud of him. She is prideful of the way that she influenced him. She is proud of the man that he is and the man that he will always be. She is proud of the way he guards himself and guards other people, and the fact that even when he abandons himself, he will never abandon anybody else. She is proud of his ability to love and trust and flirt and laugh. She is proud of him for letting her call him sweetie.
Tasting the word sweetie for the last time is so gut wrenching that she almost wants to jump up, get out of the chair, and scream. She wants more time to cry, more time to prepare, more time to throw things at walls and violently kiss her Doctor goodbye. She wants to kiss her husband goodbye. Whichever he is, she loves him so very much. Thinking of all of the times she called him sweetie and whispered the world spoilers and gave him a bravado filled smirk nearly causes her to untangle herself from this disaster, but as she watches the countdown go down, she is hit with something so powerful that she is struck motionless.
Time slows as a fierce pride hits her being. She is not going to back down from this. She is not doing this for anybody but herself, so that she knows that she had one small contribution in the Doctor's life. She saved him time and time again, just as he has saved her so many times before. He is still saving her, even as she dies. She has done so much and she is proud of every single accomplishment that she has achieved. She is proud of all of the pretending and the smirking and the lying. She is proud of when she was natural, too, lying tangled in sheets and stroking his chest and wearing no makeup. She is proud of the things she has told him and the things she has done and the lives she has saved and the life that she has bettered. She is proud that she was able to make him fall in love with her after she had fallen for him so dramatically. As the burning pride hits her, she stills in the chair.
Because mostly, she is proud that she never stumbled.