« Aimer, c'est réussir à donner à l'autre confiance en lui.»
- Martin Gray
After the Byzantium, the Doctor sulks. He's perfectly aware that he's sulking; he doesn't wish to stop. While Amy sleeps, he wanders the endless halls of the TARDIS, trailing his fingertips along the walls. The TARDIS hums, the noise of her workings an old familiar tune he whistles along with.
He thinks of River Song.
The TARDIS' purr takes on a warmer note. The lights shimmer.
"Oi," he mutters, "not you as well."
Here is what he knows about River Song: first, he will know her much, much better later. Second, she's going to give her life for him. Third, she's a confessed murderer. Fourth, she's an archaeologist. Fifth, she's a professional engima, which seems to cover all the rest of it.
He finds himself in the library. There's no whiff of her in the Gallifreyan Encyclopedia when he uncorks the bottles to waft the scent of time gone by and time yet to pass toward his face. There's no hint of her in the histories. No trickster woman with an all-too-knowing smile in the legends. No halo of curly hair on the carefully illustrated heroines in any story that ends happily ever after - but then he knows the ending of that story, has relived it a thousand times in the privacy of his memory, and it isn't as happy as he'd like. River Song, if that's even her name (a name out of a fairytale, his own voice whispers in his head) is no one. She's nowhere. And yet, the breath of her follows him everywhere; even here, the silence is like the pause before she speaks.
River. He feels he knows her well enough now to address her by first name in the privacy of his thoughts. He certainly knows her better now that he's had her asprawl on top of him; she knows him better too, he's certain, their bodies taking the measure of each other. It was a new experience for him, with her, but he suspects she could sculpt him with her eyes closed. The way she shifted against him spoke volumes; he could fill a bookshelf with the depth and breadth of her knowledge of him, taken down in cramped handwriting. Meanwhile what he knows of her (aside from the soft curve of her belly and the strength of her thighs against his and the warmth of her bosom and the scent of her perfume and the little gasp she made as her body catapulted into his, which keeps replaying in his ears until he wants to shiver) wouldn't fill a pamphlet.
He throws himself into a chair. Leather creaks under his weight.
He asked if he could trust her as they stood on the beach, handcuffs around her pale wrists. She laughed in his face, a sound more delighted than derisive. There was mischief in her eyes, and mirth, and more than a soupçon of smug pity. He wanted to gaze into her eyes until she revealed every mystery to him. He wanted to lose himself in her laugh until he discovered the handcuffs around his own wrists, and the smirk on her face even wider.
He wants to trust her and it makes him mistrust himself. He yearns to trust her, despite all her slippery answers, and to have faith in a future that includes her. To spend a span of his years with River Song - now that would be a boon granted by a benevolent universe, and he's seen too much of the dark between stars and between hearts to treasure that hope. River makes him better. River makes him sharper, quicker: it's as if he's got two minds to go along with his two hearts, because her thoughts jostle along with his own, striking sparks until the flame catches.
"I could bloody kiss you," he hears himself say, and sees again her appraising look. Not quite yet, said her eyes, and a pity. He blushed at the time, Mister Grumpy Face again - he's more than a little vexed with himself by how much he wanted her to want him to kiss her, especially as she's his future (or so he suspects). He isn't used to being the one who's rough at the edges. He isn't used to being the one who doesn't know what the future holds. And River Song looked at him and found him wanting: not ready, not finished, not the Doctor she knows. Not a man worth kissing yet, which stung more than he would have thought. But then there was the way she looked at him on the beach. Her eyes were clear and steady then, not triumphant with relief, and her voice was serious, and he wanted her to say Yes, Doctor, of course you can trust me, but no, of course, that's never what River Song would say. Despite the brevity of their acquaintance, he knows her. She will always be a mystery and a miracle. She will always be a challenge and a call to arms.
River Song, all mischief and merriment with ice in her heart and a bruise blooming there too like a rose, her heart clenching a little as she looked at him in his unfinished state. He could hear it in her voice. And he remembered the tenderness of her in the Library, the fierceness of her, the sense of love enough to melt them both that's there, hidden in her heart under the showy shell of coolness and the slick, sharp words of banter.
(And the man she killed, the good man, the best man she ever knew - it has to be him, doesn't it? He can't conceive of any other outcome, not with the way she spoke to him in the Library. But he sees in her eyes and in her gentle deflection that he isn't that man yet. He isn't certain if that should comfort him, that he's not good enough for River Song to murder. Certainly something to strive for.)
He wonders if he wandered through enough of the corridors if he would find her room. He wonders if he would know right away it was hers. He wonders what he would find there (and blushes, and thinks, and blushes again). The chair squeaks as he shifts. Surely she has a place somewhere. The TARDIS adores her. The TARDIS would make a space for her.
Suddenly he wants badly to find River's room. He wants to stretch himself out in her bed and sweep his hand under the pillow to find one of his own loose hairs. He wants to see her clothes thrown carelessly into drawers, her scribbled archaeology notes strewn about the room. He wants to find soap with the print of her fingers on it. He wants to see her shoes in the bottom of the wardrobe, set carefully together. He wants her to startle him by coming into the room as if she's always lived there, as if she's always traveled with him, stripping off her gloves with a "Hello, sweetie" and a knowing warmth in her eyes. He wants her to know that he's thinking of her.
He shouldn't trust her. She's still an unknown quantity, a force for chaos in an already unraveling universe. She has literally bowled him over. She turns him inside out and ties him in knots. She makes him uncomfortable, gazing at him through her lashes as if she knows every single thought that goes through his mind, and she has some very special thoughts of her own that involve him. It's unsettling, to say the least; he prickles and frets and chafes under the pressure of her expectations. But River looks at him as if he's magnificent, and he feels magnificent standing next to her. With River at his side, he's more than a lonely, clever old man creating his own diversions and doing penance for his multitude of sins. They're a force to be reckoned with, Doctor Song and the Doctor: standing firm against an unjust universe.
For all his doubts and uneasiness, he does trust her, making guilty excuses to himself for his gullibility. But she understood, about the statues. She gave him all the tools he needed to save them. Her faith in him made him confident and that got them through. She got the teleporter working and saved Amy when he couldn't. River Song is a name from a fairytale and oh, he wants to believe in magic. It has been so long since he knew anyone like her, who could stand toe to toe with him. He looks at River and thinks of Gallifrey, and that old sweet ache begins again, just behind his hearts.
She would have made a hell of a Time Lady, crusading through the universe. He has never been the best of his species, but he looks at River and thinks he could be better. Perhaps she should have fallen in love with the Corsair instead - their temperaments would have been suited. But even the thought of that brings back the swell of jealousy he felt when Octavian told him that River was engaged. No, he might not deserve River, but he won't give her up. She has chosen him, and he chose her, from the minute he first snapped his fingers to open the TARDIS and the light poured out onto the floor of the Library. She spoke. He believed. The world changed.
He trusts in the stories that fill the pages of her diary, perhaps the only book in the universe that could contain her. He remembers the weight of it in his hand, the worn covers and the pages warped from trying to contain her weighty narrative. He trusts in the way she looks at him when she forgets he isn't finished cooking yet, as though at some point in their timeline they will know each other as deeply and intimately as if they are sharing each breath. He trusts in her past, and maybe he shouldn't, but somewhere in the Maze of the Dead, somewhere in the oxygen factory forest of treeborgs, somewhere in that dark desperation of running from the end of the universe, he surrendered to his future.
He shifts again in the chair, remembering the yielding pressure of her body. There are worse futures to look forward to. It has been a long time since he enjoyed that sort of relationship, but then again he's an old man, companioned by people centuries younger than he is, their lives so brief and their souls so unburdened by the weight of years. It wouldn't have seemed right. But River, now - River is marked by history of her own, though she bears the scars with more grace than he does. River has blood on her hands and quiet hurt in her eyes. River would understand.
On the beach, she promised him the Pandorica, a fairy tale if there ever was one. He closes his eyes and hears her laughter, wondering how much time he'll have to stumble through until he reaches her again. She's a mystery he wants to plunge himself into. He wants to read her over and over like an old story. She isn't in his books, but he can sense her, etched between the lines, waiting for him to find her.
The Doctor gets up. He can't read a history of River Song (he'll have to write it, the two of them together, because he's got to have his own diary now), but he can read about the Pandorica. He can be ready, the next time she caroms into his life (and very possibly into his arms, but he's determined not to think about that now - Amy will be up shortly).
"And what do you think, eh, you sexy thing?" he says to the air. "Should we trust her? River Song? My future, your sometimes?"
The TARDIS makes the lights flash, one emphatic burst.
"That's all right then," the Doctor murmurs, pulling a thick book of fairy tales off the shelf and taking it back to his chair. "We could invite her along next time, you know."
The TARDIS purrs. The Doctor smiles to himself and shivers with a chill of anticipation. Wherever they go today, he'll buy a diary. He'll tuck it into the pocket of his jacket, across from his screwdriver, close to his hearts. He'll keep the history of River Song, and he'll never forget. And one day, he'll look into her eyes and he'll know that he is finished at long last.