“Travel with me then,” he says to her. His hearts are breaking. She’s hurting for him, trying to be distracted by the controls on the TARDIS.
“Whenever, wherever you want,” she says but adds, “But not all the time…”
She makes a joke, trying to ease his suffering, trying to make him smile. It doesn’t work. She mentions the book. He’s even more afraid to read the ending now, knowing he’ll be completely shattered by the words of his lost Amelia Pond.
River’s company is a balm to a deep wound, but sometimes he feels it only eases the pain at the surface. Darkness lingers inside his brain, and he feels like he needs to stop resisting the misery. Maybe it’s his turn to stop running, to turn heel and charge forward.
Maybe he’ll let the pain engulf him and drag him down. He’s lost Amy and Rory, and though River is by his side, their loss is only a reminder of what a fool he is, and how many he’s loved and lost before.
How many he keeps losing.
She’s sighing underneath him, and he buries his face in her golden curls. That night they’ve come back from another adventure, and he’s laughing and enjoying the happy moments with her. She’s soothing him again, that wonderful woman, the daughter of his Ponds.
When they’ve run back to the TARDIS, he grabs her, turns her around against the console and kisses her. Passion erupts from beyond his gloom, and he tries to cut out his grief with a sensual knife - a distraction - desperate to bury himself inside her before time can make him think again. And remember.
River lets him.
The Doctor gives in. He’s run away from his misery long enough. It starts to seep into his bones like black ink and whispers warnings in his head. Maybe he won’t ever travel with anyone again.
Or, he’ll pick someone unimportant so it’ll hurt less when he inevitably loses them.
He drops River off at her prison cell, and most of the trip back has been silent. The loudest screams have been in his head. His own demons, warning him to never love anyone again.
River stares at him, her eyes filled with worry. He’ll see her again, but not as much. Her time is coming close too, and like the ending of stories, he’d rather avoid the conclusion.
“Remember what I said. Don’t travel alone,” she says.
He nods automatically but hears the defiant laughter of his own demons drawing him down into the dark. He turns away, back into the TARDIS, leaving River to watch sadly as he departs.
The TARDIS hums, and he feels that familiar sense of loneliness. He closes his eyes and lets his misery seduce him. His grief over the Ponds still feels fresh and red.
The TARDIS de-materializes and The Doctor sighs. Then, he welcomes the embrace of his sorrow - of his own self-torture - and allows the anguish to fully consume him.
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