And I must follow on the road that lies ahead
And I won’t let my heart control my head
But you are my only…
And we don’t say goodbye
And I know what I’ve got to be,
I make my journey through eternity
I keep the memory of you and me, inside.
– Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb.
The night was young and the familiar sound of something blue materializing into the atmosphere caught her attention. A warm smile formed on her face. She needn’t look out of her cell to know he was here. Her Doctor.
“Hi honey, I’m home.” he called – his tall skinny form blocking the door way.
River didn’t turn. “And what sort of time do you call this?”
“I don’t know but judging by the way you’re all dressed up, I presume you don’t really mind.”
She did turn this time, only to find him in his best suit… and his bow tie (which he straightened consciously). Bow ties are cool, according to him. “I presumed correctly,” she clarified. “We are going out tonight.”
The Doctor grinned and stepped aside dramatically, giving way for her to enter the TARDIS. He shut the door behind him.
“I see you’ve made yourself comfortable,’ he noted dryly.
River looked up from her position seated on the console. “The old girl doesn’t seem to mind,” she said as she rummaged through the satchel she carried along with her.
“Now let’s see…” she began, her light fingers flipping through the pages of her worn blue diary. One identical to his own.
The Doctor sighed and stared hatefully at the object in her hands – obscuring half of her face but not managing to cover her mane of golden curls.
“River, can we not do this, this time,” he said reluctantly. And almost immediately, he was shot by one of her skeptical glares. He gulped. If looks could kill.
“And why not? We always do this. We have to.”
The Doctor leaned in his seat opposite her – masterfully changing the subject. “Why River! Haven’t you learnt the art of enjoying the moment?”
“Says the man who doesn’t do it himself.”
“What do you think I’m doing now?”
“You’re worrying. Doctor, your face is like an open window. Whatever’s on your mind practically screams through it.”
The Doctor fought the urge to scowl at his wife. How in the name of Gallifrey, can she do that? He sighed as he watched her flip through those irritating pieces of paper. Oh, how he hated that book. Oh, how he hated himself for giving it to her.
River’s voice droned in the background. “Hmmm. Have we done Jim the Fish yet? How ’bout our outing by the Thames? Are we even married yet?”
“Of course, we are!” exclaimed the Doctor, not needing to check his diary for that. Oh, the sorrowful disadvantages of time travel. River and him, constantly being at the opposite ends of the spectrum only worsened their already complicated conditions. Hence, the crucial role of their diaries, in order to determine where each of them were in their time streams.
He stared at the woman in front of him – building as many walls as he could to hide the tears behind his guarded eyes.
Little did River know, that this was going to be her last entry.
“So where to now?” she said as she shut her book. “Huh?” came the Doctor’s vague reply. His distracted mind slowly drifting away piece by piece. At that moment, River’s sudden interruption was the equivalent of sharp ice slicing through his already mushy brain.
“I said, WHERE ARE WE GOING TO THIS TIME? Doctor, are you alright?”
The Doctor blinked. “What – Where? No! I’m fine. I’m perfect,” he loosened his collar. Why was it getting warmer? “As for our next location, that’s a surprise.”
A smile grew on his lips as he saw her mouth gape open. He never got tired of that face. Her face.
“A surprise?” Her eyes lit up. “Am I a one for those! Although, it better not involve those irritating Daleks or the rest of the universe who plans on having you for breakfast. In other words, don’t bring work with you, sweetie because I didn’t bring my gun with me this time. Come to think of it, I’m tired of saving your sorry -”
The Doctor cut her off. His mind somewhat realizing that the more he heard the sound of her voice, the more he’ll end up missing it when it’s gone.
“Nope. It’s just you and me this time…” he looked at her fondly, noticing the way her eyebrows had a way of twisting themselves when she was confused. He wondered what other little things about her he had missed. The little things about her, that he will begin to miss.
“You and me,” he repeated. “Hasn’t it always been?”
The weather was cold in Darilium – but not as cold as the sinking feeling in the Doctor’s stomach. He found River’s hand and squeezed it. A small part of him relishing in the warmth she was emitting, the other wishing this night would never end. River, on the other hand was too distracted by the marvelous sight before her. And he felt her hand slip away just as quickly as it slipped in.
“Sweetie! Look at those things! What are they?” she said as she pointed at the gigantic crystallite forms in front of her.
The Doctor marveled at her happiness. With his hands behind his back, he replied, “They’re towers.”
“And they sing!”
“Yeah, they do. They sing whatever you feel like.”
She let out a contented sigh and dropped on to the grass below her. “This is very nice. Thank you, Doctor.”
The raggedy man stopped in his tracks. A huge part of him wanting to hold her and apologize and apologize and apologize some more for what was about to come. The sound of the towers reduced to a low hum. River turned,
“Please don’t tell me you’re sad. Doctor, don’t make this your song. Then it will be forever known that the ‘Doctor’ Song is a sad one.”
The Doctor couldn’t help but smirk. “The Doctor Song? Now, why does that ring a lot of bells?”
River rolled her eyes. “Shut up. I know you mean me.”
The Doctor’s grin widened and River’s scowl deepened, if possible. He plopped on the ground beside her. “That’s right. You’re Doctor Song. My wife and,” he said the next part in sincere disgust, “an archeologist!”
River’s hands flew to her hips. A golden eyebrow raised. “And what’s wrong with being an archeologist?”
The Doctor feigned hurt – a hands clutching his heart and his head lolled to side – knocking against hers. “I’m a time traveller. I point and laugh at archeologists.”
River threw her head back and laughed and the Doctor felt something break inside him. He thinks it was his heart. The towers begin to sing again. Without averting her eyes from them, she asked softly, “What do you think a River Song is?”
The Doctor stared fondly from the towers to his wife. And in a sagely voice, he began, “Incredible. Intolerable. Irresistible. Inspirational. Intellectual. Incomparable. Indescribable !”
And all of a sudden, a fit of giggles irrupted from within River. The Doctor didn’t even know River could giggle.
“Unless you have any more adjectives that begin with an ‘I’, I’ll say I’m completely satisfied with the outcome,” he concluded happily.
River wiped the tears from her eyes and the word escaped her lips before she could stop it.
The word struck a chord. The Doctor bristled. His fists clenched involuntarily. The towers noticed this and so did River. “Doctor, is something wrong?”
This was not a topic he was prepared to discuss at the moment. “It’s peculiar isn’t it? What happens after we die?”
River stared at her husband with unbelieving eyes. “Well, that’s a rather morbid topic, sweetie…”
“Just answer the question. Please.”
She glared. “Well, since you’re so determined. You don’t have to worry don’t you? You could just regenerate when your time is up. Sure, you’ll be different, yes. But still alive.”
“But you can’t. Not anymore.”
“No, not anymore,” she agreed sadly. “Well, I guess that strikes off immortality from the list, then?”
The Doctor was silent. River sighed. “Doctor,” she said as she placed a hand on his chin, forcing his eyes to meet hers. She was surprised to find tears in those pools of green. “Whatever that’s happened… or is about to happen has to be worth it. Every decision we make. It will be worth it. I sacrificed, no, I gave my remaining regenerations to you because I could not bear the thought of you being dead forever. You are worth everything to me. And if it were to happen again, I would do it. I would do it, all over again.”
She felt the weight of his head on her shoulder. It was heavy and wet from his tears. She heard his muffled voice clearly. “The next time it happens, you won’t be alive again.”
River swallowed. “Will there be a next time?”
The Doctor’s jaw clenched and he cursed himself for being so careless. His past was her future. He knew what was going to happen to her, but she didn’t, not yet. If he told her now, it would disrupt the whole space time continuum. He cleared his throat and lifted his head, only to find River smiling. Although, it wasn’t the type of smiles you get when you stick your head in a pile of sugar. “It’s all very timey- wimey isn’t it?”
“It’s always been. For us.” River didn’t miss the sad undertone of his voice. She focused her attention on the towers once more. She let out a long yawn as she stretched. Quoting her husband’s previous words,
“Why Doctor! Haven’t you learnt the art of enjoying the moment?”
And somehow, they seemed to lift the tremendous amount of weight he didn’t know existed on his shoulders. The long lost twinkle in his eyes returned. He smiled and kissed her on the cheek. “Hypocrite.”
“Drama queen,” River shot back lovingly as she settled in his arms.
After several moments of companionable silence in the midst of a chorus of singing towers, the Doctor, being the Doctor, had to ruin it.
“River, do you think, time can be rewritten?”
The woman shook her massive hair and groaned. “Seriously, will you drop it?”
“No, I’m not. And just to answer my own question, yes it can. I learnt from experience, thank you very much.”
River’s blue pupils made a 360 degree turn. The Doctor, however, purposely ignored it. “Which reminds me, I have something for you,” he said thoughtfully.
River watched expectantly as he reached into his pocket. “A gift? Whatever for?”
He handed her the newest edition of his sonic screwdriver. “For the next time we meet.”
River accepted it and his excuse gratefully without asking anymore questions. Instead, “You make it seem as though the next time we meet, I’ll be different,” she said as looked at her husband. Her eyebrows knitted in confusion. “I promise I won’t change.”
The Doctor stood as he made a move to go. He offered her a hand. “You never will.”
“So, I’ll be fine then?” she said as she gave one final look at the singing towers behind her.
“No,” he reached for her hand, so they were pulling the lever home together, one last time, and with the sound of the swirling traveling TARDIS, the Doctor shouted, “You will be amazing!”
River’s lips split into a smile that could have lit the universe from its darkness. She kissed him affectionately, for what seemed to be the last time. He notices her cheeks are wet. He thinks she knows. He knows she does when she stopped him from apologizing. And just when the Doctor felt like he had a million things to say to her at once before she left, she was already leaving. He forgot to say goodbye.
“Oh, Doctor. You will be the death of me,” she calls behind her back, where his TARDIS and him stood.
He said nothing until she was fully out of sight.
* * *
River’s Diary Entry 890
Location: the Library
You said the next time we meet, I’ll never change. You never said how much you will.
Its quiet in here, like the Silence will never leave. I met him and now I understand what he meant. He looks different now but his eyes remain the same. Those, old beautiful eyes. Although, there’s one thing that’s not how it used to be. The way he looks at me, the way he says my name, it feels unfamiliar to him. Like he’s never met me before.
It shouldn’t hurt me, but it does. The harsh truth that we’ve both been trying to escape our whole lives. His past, is my future. The funny thing is, he knew this was going to happen all along. Maybe that’s why he cried at the towers…
The next time we meet, the memory of River Song will cease to exist in the Doctor’s mind. I’ll be seeing the younger version of him. A version who’s never met me in his entire life. And he knew that.
Oh, Doctor, I understand now. This is first time you’re meeting me. This is also means it’s my last time meeting you. The funny thing is, you knew this was going to happen all along, didn’t you? I’m going to die soon, aren’t I?
It’s okay… It’s always okay. It’s going to be for you. And you have nothing to be sorry about. You’re worth it. No matter, where or when, you, the Doctor will mean nothing less to me.
I see you now, so oblivious, so cautious with me around. It’s like you don’t trust me yet. Maybe it’s because I know so much about you and you know so little about me. Your name, for instance. You’re scared. We both are, but unlike you I don’t show it.
Your face is like and open window. And whatever that’s on your mind practically screams through it!
I guess, some things never change. Me, dying wouldn’t mean much to you now. It may mean a lot in your future, where you’ll meet me once again at the Singing Towers to spend our last night together. It would be like reliving a pleasant dream.
My dear Doctor, don’t cry. Although, you may never read this for I know I will never let you, please know that I love you.
You’ll have the rest of your life to know me. It’s just, my time knowing you has come to an end. It’s a shame you’re here to say goodbye.
Because, I’m not. I’m here to say hello.