Suspended in space, the TARDIS was just as silent as the mad man who sat inside. There were reasons for it being so quiet, reasons he'd rather ignore. Nothing about this moment was okay with him. Nothing at this moment would dull his pain. There was nothing he could do to change this, not one single thing. She was lost to him, lost forever. His heart ached and burned at the thought, the thought of her leaving the TARDIS just moments ago, knowing where she was going, knowing exactly what was going to happen to her, and knowing that he couldn't save her now, just like he couldn't save her then. River Song had stepped out of those doors for the last time, having no idea how shattered this would leave him and his hearts. How could she know what he knew? She couldn't. He hadn't told her…he couldn't…paradoxes, big timey wimey mess if he'd tried.
But he would remember this day, not for it's ending, not for his having to say goodbye, and not for his losing River, but simply because it was the most wonderful date that they had ever had…and this was a memory he would cling onto until his fingers were so tightly around this moment that no one dare take it from him. It had been a secret, even River hadn't known where they were going, and he rather liked it that way. The element of surprise was always important to him on their dates…despite River always figuring out where they were going before they'd even landed. That was just one of the reasons he loved that funny, wonderful, infuriating woman.
However, despite his protests, he began to recall his last night with River Song…Melody Pond…his wife, who he loved. He didn't want to, but he couldn't help it. Before he knew it…
The TARDIS came to a stop and his hearts sank. He'd finally come to terms with Darillium and he was going to take her, but oh how he wished he didn't have to…but paradoxes, fixed point in time…nothing. There was nothing he could do but…let it happen. He felt a tightness in his chest, a tightness he was usually able to control, "the towers sang and you cried," River had said that all those years ago at the Library. When he could not hold it in anymore he would cry, and he would cry a lot. She wouldn't know why, and he couldn't tell her. But this was set in stone, and it would have to play out…he would have to let it play out…the mere thought infused a feeling of being strangled, this would be a tough thing to swallow.
River was the light in his life, especially after her parents had left, and even that light was about to go out. "Better to go down in a blaze of glory." The Doctor was talking to himself. "Of course if River knew this was going to be our final meeting, what would she say?" He was pacing around the console, "would she look me in the eyes and cry or would she be the same as always, never letting me know if she was in pain? Melody Pond, or River Song?"
The doors to the TARDIS flew open and River waltzed in with a big grin on her face, "Hello Sweetie."
The Doctor took a deep breath and flew down from the console over to his wife. "Hello River, I trust you're staying out of trouble?"
"I'm an archeologist Sweetie," she put her hands on her hips, "I'm River Song. I don't have to look for trouble, trouble finds me."
He simply smiled back, "it always does River, and I don't see that changing at all…ever." That last word his him harder than he thought, he knew her "ever" was very short. He knew there wasn't much "ever" left for her to have.
Something about him felt off to River, she couldn't put a finger on it, but she knew it must be something. With a shrug she decided to worry about that later, she hadn't seen him in nearly a fortnight and was thrilled to be with him now, she couldn't – wouldn't – argue the fact, or push the matter. If he wanted to talk about it – she was all ears.
"So where are we off to tonight, Doctor?"
He simply smiled at her and spoke three words, "fulfilling my promise."
Her face lit up, "oh Doctor! Are we going to see the singing towers?" She was happy, he'd been promising for ages, and she daren't go without him. What made tonight so special though? Why had he decided to do it now? It wasn't their anniversary and there was no holiday in any known universe to her that celebrated him on this day.
"Yes River we are." He smiled briefly before it faltered. He hid it well, for River never noticed a change in his expression. Turning behind him he pulled a dress off the hanger, and turned to face her. "River—"
"Is that for me?" River touched her chest. "Doctor, you haven't bought me a dress in a good long while…what's so special?"
"Can't a man treat his wife to a night out?"
River's eyes narrowed as she ascended the staircase, "yes a man can, but seeing as you are not a man, one would think you should have a reason."
"River—" he was getting flustered.
"Hush now," she cooed and took the dress in her hand and as she began to walk through the TARDIS she heard The Doctor mumble a word.
As River turned her back he finished it for her, "spoilers."
It took River far longer than seemed acceptable to put the dress on, but upon returning she noticed The Doctor had already plugged in their destination and was flipping switches and pulling levers and doing what was necessary to fly the TARDIS.
"I'm not flying tonight?" River looked at him questioningly.
"No," he pushed himself back from the controls as the TARDIS began to move. He sauntered over to River and pulled her into his arms and kissed her. Deeply. Passionately. And then he pulled away, leaving River off balance, "because I am flying tonight. You are just going to relax."
Once she regained her footing River walked over to the chair and sat. It had been a good long time since he had kissed her like that. Oh, they kissed a lot and did plenty other things that a Time Lord never mentions, but she couldn't remember ever having been kissed like that…it was as if he knew something that she didn't, and in that moment she wasn't sure if she dare ask him what was going on.
"So how's life Professor Song? What trouble have you gotten yourself into lately?" He crossed his arms and furrowed his brow at her.
"Well…as of this moment nothing."
"I find that hard to believe," he teased.
"Well, it just so happens that my archeology team is going on a trip very soon, in the next few days in fact," she smiled. She liked everything about the sound of this site, this mission. "Keep your physic paper handy Doctor."
He gulped, "where to River?"
"Oh, nothing too extraordinary, just some Library planet or other, should be an easy dig. Over and done with in a jiffy. Then I'll be back and we can go blow something up. Nothing too risky, just the average date."
He said nothing and did not take his eyes from her and then his smile faded. It was true, this was the Darillium trip. He would soon be walking into the other TARDIS to tell his younger self, "spoilers," about the nights events. This truly was his last night with River, and he'd be damned if he didn't make the best of it. So as he shook the ache in his hearts away temporarily he picked up River's hands in his own and gently kissed the tops of them.
"What is this all about?" River was confused; he was treating her like she was a fragile china doll. Something had to be wrong. No, I'm not going to ask now. If he's being so nice then I shouldn't be complaining, I should be happy. But something is wrong. Something is bothering him. That something was hurting her, because whatever it was, it was hurting him…and she was in no way okay with that.
"Just doting on my wife," he kissed the tops of her hands briefly again before gently setting them back onto her legs. Kissing her forehead he walked back over to the controls. "Honestly, River, I can't believe you haven't figured it out yet." He shook his head, "you're too calm, dammit, River Song don't you care where we're going?"
River shook her head, "of course I do darling, but I decided to let you take the wheel tonight. Lord knows you deserve to every once in awhile."
"Yes, but River…" he was lost in a whirl of emotions again. She wasn't acting so much like herself either, was something going on with her? Dare he ask? Would she even tell him if he did ask? He wasn't sure and resigned to the fact that he probably would never know, though it was uncommon that she let him fly the TARDIS, so what made today so special that she let him have the control?
"Oh Sweetie, don't worry," she smiled, "nothings wrong."
"Okay, but River—"
River shook her head, stood up and walked over to her husband, "but if it makes you more comfortable," she reached for the scanner, "I can take over from here."
He swatted her hand, "go sit down River."
"As you wish," she smiled and sat back down.
"River…was that…" he stared at her perplexed.
"A reference to that human movie," she nodded, "yes."
"Well what ever happened to 'I hate you'?"
"You don't," she smiled at him encouragingly.
"Well, of course I don't hate you," he shook his head, "River. Why would I hate you?"
"Oh, I'm sure you have plenty of reasons."
"Oh River, not the point." He shook his head emphatically. She was determined to make light of the entire evening…or so it was looking to him. How was he going to make it through this night in one piec—oh that's right…he wouldn't. He would cry in front of her, and he wouldn't be able to tell her why. Big timey wimey mess if I do, he insisted to himself…bloody awful mess. He would both give anything for this night to be over, and give anything to hang onto it for the rest of his life. He didn't like goodbyes, and he didn't like endings…and here he knew it was coming, she didn't, but he did. He knew this would be the last time he saw her—before the Library. In the matter of a few short days, his past self would be watching her die right in front of him…and, no. He wouldn't think about that. He couldn't think about that.
He'd never been one for using the l-word and he still wasn't sure he could, but if he ever were able to get himself to say it again, he'd wish it would be said to River. He really could not imagine his life without her. She'd blown into his life, caused so much pain and strife…and made him fall head over heels, at least I think that's what the human term is, in utter and complete love with her…but he wouldn't say it. He couldn't say it. How could he do that to her, how could he allow himself to do it. The idea alone was too much for him. There was no way he could say it without insisting that he go along with her and then create the biggest paradox in the universe, to keep her and himself alive. Nope, he couldn't do it. Fixed point in time, River would have to die. Why? Why did she have to die? Hadn't she "killed" him already and then he'd been alive? When he was in the Tessalector. Maybe the same thing could happen now? No, River had to die.
"Doctor?" River's voice penetrated the silence.
It wasn't until she spoke that he felt a single tear drop from his eye. Not yet dammit, he scolded himself, not bloody yet.
"Are you alright?" she took a few steps toward him.
He nonchalantly brushed the tear away and smiled at her—however half-hearted it was, it was a smile—and spun 360* until he was facing her again.
"Of course I'm alright—" he hesitated.
"The 'King of Alright'?"
"Oooh, no River." He shook his head frantically, "rubbish title. I told your mother that was a rubbish title," his voice lowered as he thought about Amelia Pond—Amelia Williams, "and I still think it's a rubbish title."
He couldn't believe it. He'd had a family again. He had a home. He had people in his life who loved him, despite all his flaws…and he had—was going to—lose all of them. He still wasn't over the loss of the Ponds…and here, the last Pond—his wife—in his life, was spending her last night with him…and he couldn't tell her. Sometimes he really hated being a Time Lord…and he always hated lying to her…"spoilers" was both a blessing and a curse to him. Blessing, whenever he used it on her, which was not very often at all. And a curse whenever she used it on him, which was quite often.
Pull yourself together man! He scolded himself.
The TARDIS made its usual sound.
"Doctor—" River scolded.
"Yes, brakes, on, I know, River."
"Okay, you really should learn how to take them off until we've landed Sweetie."
"Yes, I do suppose that would be a good thing—since you seem so hell-bent on reminding me every time I get to fly her!" He realized he'd shouted and gulped, "sorry River."
"Where are you today?" She tilted her head, "you're physically here, but…Sweetie, is something wrong?"
"Not in the least bit River. Not in the least." He smiled and rushed past her opening the TARDIS door. "After you…" The Doctor looked out the doors, "oh wait! Nope, wrong place, wrong time…ooh, River we are going to be late I'm afraid."
"Well I don't see how that should bother me Sweetie," she smiled knowingly at him, "that's why you're driving tonight."
The Doctor gave her a little bit of a sneer before slamming the doors shut and rushing back over to the console. Within moments the TARDIS was flying once again, and River relaxed herself back into the seat she had previously been sitting on.
"So where shall we go for dinner, dear?" He peered over the console at her, she shrugged. "No help River. You are no help at all tonight."
"Oh Sweetie, what's the point in letting you fly the TARDIS, if I don't also let you pick the restaurant?" Her smile was beautiful and serene.
"I don't know." He huffed over to the keyboard and hastily typed something in. Shortly the TARDIS stopped and The Doctor darted towards the door, glancing over his should at River, "you stay here. I'll be right back."
"Alright Sweetie," River smiled after him as he shut the door. Looking up to the ceiling of the TARDIS River spoke aloud, "whatever is going on with him today? Does he seem a bit funny to you too?" The TARDIS groaned. "That's what I thought."
Just then the doors burst open and The Doctor rushed back in with bags of food in his arms.
"Chinese?" River questioned him as he handed her the bags.
"You can never go wrong with Chinese food River," he pointed at her and nodded, "no matter what it is always delicious, and rice. Oh River it's genius."
"Sweetie," she interrupted.
"Yes, dear?" he looked up at her.
"I lived on earth darling, I know what rice and Chinese food it." She smiled sweetly with a hint of sarcasm.
"Right, well it is brilliant."
"Everything is brilliant to you," River shook her head.
"No," he shook his head, "not everything." He stepped around the console as River muttered, here we go again to the TARDIS. "You see, River." He came to stand near her, "there are very brilliant things out there, like rubber duckies and bowties," he straightened his own, "and fezzes, those are brilliant. But then there are un – non – brilliant things, and well, you could say cars, and houses that don't move, those are not brilliant."
"Doctor," River shook her head, "you got my parents a house…"
"Yes," he pointed at her as he turned back to the console, "and you saw just how long that lasted them didn't you. Not long. Not terribly long at all. They were supposed to grow old there River. Grow old together, because that's what people do – particularly married," he was waving his hand between them in the air, "they grow old together. But some are not so fortunate."
"They did, grow old together." River hesitated. "Mum said as much in her epilogue."
"You mean they were supposed to grow old, with you, don't you?" the question was more rhetorical than even she would admit. She'd have loved that. As it were, most of the time she had spent with her parents was time she was lying to their faces. They didn't know who she was, and she couldn't tell them. But now they knew, there was no secret identity to conceal, but that time was already gone, and there was nothing she could do about that now…but it didn't mean that she didn't miss them as much as, or more than he did. There was an enormous gap in their lives from where Amy and Rory used to stand, and they were scarcely brave enough to admit that to themselves, let alone to each other. No, this was one of the many things they suffered through silently together. And they knew each other well enough to know when their thoughts had drifted to that place, and so the whole atmosphere around them would shift. Nothing had been quite the same since her parents had left, and she knew she wasn't the only one who felt that way.
The TARDIS came to a stop. "Alright River!" He rushed out of the room and came back soon thereafter with a blanket. "Let's go eat!" He rushed to the door and ran out of it. River had no other choice than to follow him out.
Upon stepping outside River was dumbfounded by the brilliancy and beauty of all that surrounded them. Trees and flowers she never knew existed were all around her. She no more knew what to say than what to do. She was afraid to even walk for fear that she might crush a flower and incur some unknown gods rather…it wouldn't be the first time.
As she sat down on the blanket The Doctor had specifically laid out, he jumped up, startling River.
"I forgot chopsticks!" He was gone in a flash.
"Alright…" River spoke to herself as she pulled the fortune cookie out of the side baggy. "He's not here, so I'm going to open this anyways. He can't do anything, or object, if he's not here." She smiled and pulled apart the cookie that revealed the fortune. "Now, let's see if you're accurate at all you silly food item that thinks it know the future, pah! I'm part Time Lord and I married the Time Lord, you cannot fool me!" Looking down River read the fortune, the more you love, the more you lose when it's gone. "Okay…" River tilted her head, "foreshadowing?" She doubted it. Soon The Doctor came waltzing around a couple little huts, brandishing his prize.
The dinner was wonderful, brilliant.
The Doctor looked down at his watch, "AH!" He exclaimed getting to his feet as he started tugging at the blanket, "we are going to be even more late than the already late lateness we were experiencing. Quick River, go to the TARDIS."
River got up and did as she was told.
Just then it donned on him and his head shot up.
"She's going to the other TARDIS." He dropped everything and rushed after her. Sure enough she had entered the wrong TARDIS. Seeing her glance at the light and then walk back into the TARDIS he followed in after her.
"The lights fine, I don't know what you're talking about." River spoke to The Doctor inside the TARDIS.
"No! River!" He hurried in after her, "wrong TARDIS, I'm parked around back." River gasped as The Doctor in white by the console pointed at The Doctor in the penguin suit beside her. "Younger version."
"Two of you," River stepped forward, "the mind races does it not?"
"Come on, we'll be late."
"He's," she began to speak over her shoulder as she made her way to the door, "taking me to the Singing Towers of Darillium. He's been promising for ages." River exited the TARDIS and made her way back to the one she had arrived in.
The Doctors remained in the TARDIS looking at one another, this was it. This was the very moment, the very night that he asked what his younger version was about to ask him, she he knew he couldn't tell him any more than the older version of him…told him.
"The first time we met her," the Doctor in white spoke, "at the Library when she—"
"Died," he finished it for him, "yes."
"She said the last time she saw us was at Darillium, is that now?"
Oh how he wanted to say no, oh how he wished he could say no, but he knew it was true. He knew that it was tonight, just like the younger version he was talking to knew it was tonight, though not as confidently as he.
"Spoilers," it cut at his throat, his hearts and his chest. "Good luck tonight."
"You too," the younger replied.
"Yeah," he turned to leave, he only faintly heard the younger River say what his current version of River had just said.
"Two of you? The mind races does it not?"
He shut the door. Forcing himself onward. Forcing himself to do what needed to be done. To do what he'd promised and take her to Darillium.
Once aboard his TARDIS he made his way over to the console.
"Now what on earth was the younger you, doing here?" River wondered aloud. "What night was this for us?"
"Stars of Abbedon."
"Oh, that was a wonderful day." Then she realized, "that's when you," she gestured to him, "were leaving when I came back."
"Yes River, that was indeed me."
"The mind races at the thought."
"No," he looked at her and shook his head, "we've already done a two Doctors date, and I swear on my life, that will never happen again."
He shook his head as he mouthed and mocked what she had just said.
"Are we headed to the arena now?" she walked over to him before placing her arms around his waist, and leaning her head and all her curls upon his back.
She was not making this easy, though she did not know why it was hard, or quite possibly that it was hard, but she would know soon enough. He patted her hands with his free hand before he turned slightly kissed her forehead and pulled her arms from around his middle. Then grabbing her hand he pulled her toward the door.
They stepped out of the TARDIS and onto a balcony of what looked like the Coliseum that was in Rome, except they weren't in Rome at all.
"Doctor!" The man in the top hat a few feet from them hollered.
"Charlie," he pulled River behind him over to where the man was standing, "are we late?"
"Naw," Charlie shook his head, "they're waitin' for you Doctor."
"Ah," The Doctor nodded, "yes that would make sense."
"Anything else we can do for you Doctor?"
"Nothing that I can think of—"
"You be sure to let us know if you think of something," he nodded, "alright Doctor?"
"Of course Charlie," he directed River to a spot just ahead of them, "thank you so much. And thank the Towers for waiting, would you?"
"Anything for you Doctor." Charlie bowed and then left through the door partially covered by the TARDIS.
"Now, whatever did you do that the Towers felt obligated to wait for you?" River's hands were on her hips and she was staring at him.
"Nothing…life threatening…" he said hesitantly.
"Doctor—" River crossed her arms over her chest.
"Why must you always assume it's something bad River?" He threw his arms up, "why must you always—" he sighed, "'cause it always is…I know." He puffed up, "but nothing so life threatening as what you seem to do daily. River you almost died last time! What were you thinking provoking those dormant Daleks? Of course they were going to figure out it was me!"
"Can't delete yourself from everything Sweetie…" River insisted.
"Yes, River. Of course you're right."
"Thank you, Sweetie." She smiled from ear to ear. She loved nothing better than to have him start an argument and end it with her as the winner in the same space of time, and without her having to say much of anything. She especially liked the being right part.
"River," he gestured to the bench before them, "after you."
"Thank you, Sweetie." River took her seat and The Doctor plopped himself down next to her, stretched awkwardly, and placed his hand on her other shoulder. "Sweetie…" River looked over at him, the love she had for this man, was all over her face, no one could doubt how genuinely and deeply she loved him; it scared him from time to time. "Married." She shook her head, "we're married."
"Meaning?" he asked as music slowly began to play.
"You should be comfortable with this," she laughed throwing her head back, "Lord knows we've done quite a good deal more than this." The Doctor blushed. River noticing his cheeks turn a soft shade of pink, reached up with the arm that she had placed on his thigh to stroke his cheek.
He wouldn't let her know why he was so hesitant. He was afraid to touch her. Afraid to let go and show her just how serially he cared about her…yet, at the same time, he was afraid he wouldn't be able to touch her enough. Not necessarily in a—naughty—way, but the way a man touches a woman, the way a husband loves his wife. He was not ready for the end…he was not ready to say goodbye.
River leaned more into him and burrowed into her head into his chest, she hadn't done this in awhile. It wasn't everyday that she got The Doctor who knew they were married…in fact, the last time that she'd seen him had been at the Byzantium. She'd gone to see her mother and father after that, she would never admit it, then or now…just how much his yelling at her had hurt. But he was young, he didn't know their story…he hadn't even lived most of it yet. She had been absolutely delighted to let her parents in on their little secret. Very few people were privy to that information, and that was how they had wanted it. For anyone to discover that little intimate detail of The Doctor's life, was to put River's—and Rory and Amy's—lives in danger, and he couldn't bare the thought of anything happening to them. River had never seen him so protective in all her life…something that made her own intimate, personal, secret so hard to bare—to withhold from him…but she had to, well she had at least convinced herself that she had to keep it from him…though if she was honest with herself…she never would have kept this from him in the first place.
The music continued, both rising and dropping in sound, in beauty, in perfection. The Towers were everything River hoped they would be and more. This was the best date they had ever been on…well Stevie Wonder singing on her birthday was still at the top of the list, but this is what she wanted, this is what she had begged and begged him for constantly, year after year, and he'd finally agreed. Just then she noticed that his breathing had become heavier, almost like he was sighing…continuously. Something was terribly wrong.
River turning to face her husband, only to see tears streaming profusely down his face. Something was not good. Something was very not good, and she knew that she needed to get to the bottom of it, but she would wait because it was possible—however unlikely—that the music is what caused this change. Though for the rest of the performance as his cries became more hysteric she couldn't wait any longer and leaned forward and trying to turn to him he grabbed her by the shoulder and clung to her tighter…she imagined this was how he would have held her mother and father, if he'd known what was going to happen in that graveyard…which was not comforting to her at all. But if what he wanted right now was to hold onto her this tightly, she would not, did not object.
The next hour seemed to drag on to River knowing that something was wrong and he wasn't telling her about it, whereas for The Doctor, every moment that passed was more excruciatingly painful than the one before it, and he knew why…of course he knew why. The answer could hardly be avoided, or played off as nothing. This was his last night with River, their last date, their last cuddle…their last kiss which they hadn't even had yet, but his emotions had already gotten the better of him, and there was nothing he could do that would suppress them long enough that he could regain control over his emotions. He was a wreck and he knew it, and he would admit it to anyone—but River—right now…though River was smart enough, and knew him better than anyone. He could already sense that she had noticed him crying, therein noticing that something was wrong, and no matter how long he'd wanted to put the crying bit off—as it was more confirmation of her fate—he could not help himself. River had snuggled into him so much that words themselves escaped from his mind…while the pain of the inevitable consumed it. He could think of nothing else. The music was beautiful, but the implications of the night caused him so much distress he could hardly breathe…not like he needed it in the way that humans relied upon breathing, but it effected it enough that he was finding it difficult to breathe normally…whatever normally was at this time in his life.
Nine hundred, plus, years alive; traveling through space and time and he'd never met anyone like River and he was undeniably confident that he never would again. River was so unique and so much her own person, that he hardly thought there was a person alive that could replace her in anyone's lives, let alone in his. River was always there, to humble him…to make him see reason when he was so blinded by revenge, and was beyond all reason. She rebuked him in a way that no one else could. Oh yes, River was irreplaceable. He'd deny that fact outright if she wasn't currently lying against his body, proving unresolvedly that she was his one true love…the one woman he could not imagine his life without, now that she was in it.
When he remembered their first meeting, it is not with fondness, but with misery. Looking back what he sees…the only thing he can see…is the end of her life. He hardly knew her, and she knew everything about him…she knew his deepest, darkest, unlit secret. He trusted her—he did trust her—so much that he hadn't (and wouldn't) question her, he wouldn't doubt her, and he wouldn't dare go against anything she would say. Even all those years ago, when he had been the one in the Library, and he had met her for the first time…she had been so special to him. Losing River then had been nearly unbearable…he was depriving his future self of this woman, that he so ardently loved…and it had been so difficult to bare it then…but now. Now being the time that he sends her off on her merry way to her death…and he will lose her yet again.
The music was coming to its stopping point and The Doctor sighed heavily, wiped the tears from his eyes, and patted his pocket. There it was…River's infamous sonic screwdriver. The screwdriver he had used all those years ago to save her, and here it was, modified, complete—red setting and all. He felt like he was preparing for a funeral, and he supposed in a way he was. No! Stop it now! His hearts were aching and new tears formed in his eyes.
River gave up letting him suffer through and spinning onto her knees in front of him, she pleaded with her eyes to know what was going on, to know what was causing the man she loved so much pain. He was in anguish, and it was only now that she realized whatever it was, was more serious and more severe than even her secret. What scared her most was the look in his eyes. There was such a fierce intensity there. It was the same look she always expressed before telling him "spoilers," though this face was much more devastated, much more distraught…and that frightened her. She had to know what was going on, she had to know why he was hurting so…though she knew he undoubtedly could not tell her, and that was what was causing her heartache. She could not help ease this burden, or soften his ache, because whatever it was, she was not privy to the information…and that cut her to her very core. It tore at her hearts, and she swore one of them stopped beating altogether.
"Doctor," River began as her voice cracked, "what is wrong darling?"
"It's nothing River."
That was a lie, and they both knew it.
"Sweetie," she hesitated, "you can tell me."
"No honey," he sighed heavily and more tears dropped from his face onto his tweed jacket, "I can't."
"Spoilers?" she questioned.
He nodded before confirming, "spoilers."
The connotation of the word was different. They both knew he was not okay, and only he knew the reasons why. Only he knew why his hearts ached, why tears seemed to come ceaselessly. Why River could not—under any circumstances—be told. She would have to be alone in this, just as he was, and he hated doing that to her. He hated to cause her pain, and he was unequivocally doing so to her right this moment.
Not long after the music had come to a conclusion and The Doctor had gotten a bit better control over his emotions, he resolved that now was the time to give River the sonic. He definitely did not want to do it, and everything inside him was screaming at him to not do it, but he didn't dare tempt fate. This was their destiny, and this had to happen. With a sigh he turned to her and held onto her shoulders.
"River," he cleared his throat, "I have something for you."
"What is it?" she perked up, hoping that the worst was over.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out the modified screwdriver.
"Is that a—?" she couldn't believe it. Was he really going to give her a sonic screwdriver. "Doctor?" She was confused, bewildered. Why would he want to give her this?
"This if for you. You're very own sonic screwdriver."
"But," she shook her head as she took it from his hand and examined it, "you don't give you're screwdriver to anyone…" she was unable to think of anything else to say.
"You're not anyone River," he pulled her close, "you're so, so much more than that."
"But Sweetie," she tried to force the sonic back into his hand, "I can't take this…regardless of who you thing – or say, I am."
"Oh River, just take it!" He was having a hard enough time releasing it to begin with, the last thing he wanted was for her to give it back. He knew she would need it – he knew he would need it. To him there was no other option, River was taking the sonic whether he had to force it on her or not…and he was almost counting on the former. River Song would never willingly take anything from him – well, that wasn't entirely true, but he had expected this. He expected her to hand it back.
"I can't, Doctor…" she shook her head, "there's a reason I don't have one."
"Which is what? Why can't you have one?"
"Why can I?" She was flustered. Her thoughts were completely scattered. Why would he give her a sonic? It was clear that it was not the same one that he used. It bared a similar resemblance to the one illustrated in her diary. His Tenth regeneration, if she was correct. Azgard. The very first time that she saw that particular sonic screwdriver. The one he was – attempting – to give her now. But she wouldn't take it, she couldn't take it. The sonic was something that the universe – herself included – associated with The Doctor. It was his, she shouldn't have it. She wasn't him. But why then, she wondered, had he offered.
"Because, River," he wasn't sure how to explain it to her, "it's the right thing to do. I know it is."
"Sweetie," she shook her head and forced it back into his hand.
He grabbed it reluctantly, she was going to leave the TARDIS with this sonic, and he'd be damned if he let her outside without it. He saw her shiver. "Are you cold?"
"Only a little," she shrugged it off.
"Well, that just won't do." He ran hurriedly from the room and returned a moment later with her trench coat, the very same one she wore in Manhattan, how it had been left here was another thing entirely. "Now River," he shook the coat at her, "on. Put this on now."
"Doctor," she placed her hands on her hips. "I don't need a coat," she pointed and wagged her finger at him, "though I've been wondering where that bloody coat had gone to. I suppose I should have guessed that it would be on the TARDIS."
"Where else could it be?"
"Oh Sweetie, so many places." She smiled at him mockingly.
He shook his head, he was flustered. "Now is not the time River."
"Darling, we're in a time machine we have all the time in the universe. Time and space. Tell the universe to watch us run," a smile spread across her face.
Oh how he wished that were true. Oh how he wished they had more time. Oh how he hated what she just said.
"We're here now River," The Doctor noted as the TARDIS landed, brakes on and all.
"Oh just like that?" She walked over to him. "Oh, but that is boring."
Without hesitation he stepped forward, drew River into his arms and kissed her.
The universe around them faded away. There was nothing now but the two of them. There was no one they loved more than each other. This was how he wanted to end it, with her in his arms and her lips on his lips. The one thing he didn't want, the one thing he didn't love was, having to let her go. But this moment, he would always have this moment, and no one could take it from him. In one swift movement he placed the sonic into her pocket. She was supposed to have it, and have it she did.
He pulled away from her and she staggered. Words and thoughts escaped her, and that didn't happen often. This was a night she would remember always, for the rest of her days. The advantage of being part Time Lady, she didn't age like full humans did, and that meant more adventures, more love, and more time. They had more time than this, and she couldn't wait to be in his arms again.
River gave him one more brief kiss before going to the door. Opening one of the doors she looked over her shoulder.
"Until next time?"
River smiled, "goodbye Sweetie." She blew him a kiss and stepped out of the TARDIS.
The night had come to a close, and time was his enemy now. The time had come when he had to say goodbye to her for the last time. When she walked out of the TARDIS, she wouldn't be coming back. This was it for them; this was the end of their story. He would have to let her go, but he didn't have to say goodbye, because while this regeneration wouldn't see her again, a past one would. And he would live through losing a woman who he'd loved then, in spite of himself, and who he loved now, despite what he'd seen.
There would never be another like River Song. No one would ever replace her. Sitting silently in the TARDIS he stood and keyed in a destination. On his darkest days he would go back to watch River, Amy and Rory as children. The one place that always made him smile. He had no idea how it would make him feel this time, because he had finally lost them all.
After a few moments he emerged from the TARDIS, ready to look on his family one last time. He had lost them all, and his heart burned inside him.
"Come on Rory!" a young Amy hollered.
"Yes Amy…" he shook hi head and followed obediently.
"Amy!" River – Melody – Mels – hollered rushing after her friend, her mother, and The Doctor finally saw what it was like to be a young River, to grow up with her parents as friends, and he envied them. He didn't get to grow up with her, and he didn't get to grow old with her…but what he did get was the love of a lifetime.
"This means that you always knew how I was going to die. All that time we'd been together. You knew it was my time. Time to come to the Library."
"Time can be rewritten!" at this thought a tear slid down his face.
"Not those times. Not one line. Don't you dare."
And he didn't. Not one line. He wouldn't dare.