Cardboard Boxes

by nostalgia [Reviews - 1]

  • All Ages
  • None
  • Angst, Het

It takes River an entire three seconds to recognise the man dozing in the armchair by the fireplace. Three seconds to place a man she has never seen before in her life, and she knows he'd be disappointed in her for taking so long.

To know where to find her he has to be later, a Doctor beyond the one she has come to think of as her own. His presence in her house makes her a widow.

He looks older, though nothing like as old as he really is. His hair is grey, his body more angular, he might be a few years older than she herself appears to be. And...

“You're not really asleep,” she accuses.

“Yes I am,” he replies without opening his eyes.

“I'm not an idiot,” she says, hands moving to her hips.

He opens his eyes. “I never said you were.” He glances at the clock on the mantelpiece. “I've been waiting here for five hours,” he complains.

“You could have woken me.”

“I didn't want to enter your boudoir without permission.”

“You always have permission,” she says without hesitation.

“You might have been in a state of undress.”

“I was,” she lies, to see how he'll react.

“In this weather? Are you insane?” He shrugs and nods towards a cardboard box on the coffee table. “I was doing a spot of cleaning. I put some things you might want into that box.”

“That's very thoughtful.”

“It was you or the waste disposal.”

She doesn't move to open the box. “Is this your way of saying goodbye?” she asks quietly.

“I hate endings.”

“Don't I know it.”

He waves a hand. “Anyway, it's yours now.”

River sits down on the sofa and pulls the box towards herself. “Thank you,” she says lightly.

The Doctor stands. “Do you want to be alone?”

“Does anyone?”

He hesitates. “I meant at this exact moment.” He turns to look at the clock again. “If I've got the dates right I'll be taking you out to dinner this evening. You'll have the chicken korma, it's very good.”

River opens the box and stares at the contents.

“Don't cry,” he says, sounding worried.

She blinks the mist from her eyes. “I'm not.” She pulls a long strip of fabric from the box. “I take it bow ties aren't cool any more?”

“That's the one from Egypt. It seemed like something you should have. I mean it about not crying,” he adds.

“You can't just tell people what that can and can't feel,” she snaps. She fists her hands, fingernails digging into her skin.

“This was a bad idea,” says the Doctor. He reaches for the box and River pulls it away from him.

“I never thought it would last forever,” she tells him. “I knew this had to happen eventually.”

“I still... I mean, it's not that I've stopped caring.” He rubs the back of his neck. “It's hard to explain.”

“People move on,” says River.

“I never did work out what I did to deserve you,” he says. “You shouldn't have to put up with me.” For a moment he seems about to continue, but then he lapses into silence.

“Well,” says River.

“I'll see myself out,” he says. “You've got a date this evening, you probably have all sorts of things to do before then.”

“Yes.” She picks up the box and stands. “It was kind of you to drop round. You didn't have to.”

“I suppose I didn't.”

They stare at each other in silence until finally River speaks. “You're not going to say it, are you?”

“Are you?”

She shakes her head. “Nothing ever really ends, not for us.”

“Well, if neither of us is going to say then I suppose I might as well be off. See you later. Sort of.”

River nods and manages a smile. “I'll hold you to that.”