The Risk You Run

Chapter 8

"You are killing me," he exclaimed as the TARDIS door closed behind him. "For once…just once…I would like to say, 'I want to go here' and have here be where I end up."

The Doctor walked over to the console and paused for a moment. He needed to see River, his River. Perhaps he could break her out of the stormcage for a good old-fashioned date, of sorts. What he needed right now was to be lovingly belittled and humored. He didn't even much care whether or not there were any physical shenanigans. He simply needed to be near his River. And he was almost afraid to ask or input any coordinates. Maybe he would tidy himself up a bit, first. Put on some shoes, for starters.

As he took the steps down from the platform, the TARDIS jerked into motion and sent him sailing across the floor and into the wall. "WHAT THE BLOODY HELL!" he yelled, lying crumpled in a jumbled mess. He pulled all his gangliness together and tried to stand up.

"I…have…had...just…about…enough….." was as far as he got before the ship came to an abrupt halt, once again knocking him to the floor. With almost superpower strength, he propelled himself to his feet and stood rigid, arms extended towards the floor with white knuckles glowing on clenched fists.

His voice was slow and low and saturated with hatefulness. "You have been tossing me around my past and future seemingly at your whim, and it ends now. When the universe is on the edge of disaster, please, by all means, drop me off where I'm needed…"

The Doctor walked angrily toward the console and shouted as he seemed to fly up the stairs, "BUT THIS IS HER LIFE!"

He braced his arms on the console and dropped his head. "This is my life," he added faintly. "It could all fall apart, and even if I do it all exactly right, it may still fall apart." The Doctor looked up at the scanner and was, once again, face-to-face with Date of Death.

The TARDIS suddenly powered down, leaving him in a nearly pitch black box. The only lights were runners leading towards the door. The Doctor felt his way to the steps and sat down, propping his elbows on his knees. He rested his forehead on clasped hands and debated his next move.

He had no idea where he was. He had not even taken the time to suggest a time and place to the ship. He knew where he wanted to be. He wanted to be on a picnic with River at the Fairy Fields or watching fireflies together during a spring evening on Earth. He wanted her to push him out of the way when it was time to fire up the TARDIS or roll her eyes when he asked, "What about this bowtie with this hat?"

He just wanted something that was easy, for a change. A day that didn't involve saving, solving and protecting, whether it be a people, a planet or River herself. He had seen it done for hundreds of years. A man shows up with a flower or two, a chaste kiss for his lady friend and off they go. Rarely did a date start with a spaceflight into the TARDIS or with the waving of a gun. Those beginnings certainly held their appeal; however, sometimes an unloaded "Hello, Sweetie" would be just as exciting.

But nothing about his version of a date seemed at all like River. Even in their tender moments, she never quite let go of her edge. She was always protective and comforting with Amy and Rory, usually taking on a role reversal. And he could sometimes see her eyes soften when a look passed between them. The passion and determination that erupted from her like a gas under pressure excited and motivated him, and most of the time, that's the River he wanted. That's the River who met him undressed at the end of a long battle. But seeing the vulnerable side of her in her early days led him to believe that there had been major event to mold River into...well, River.

How did River become the woman she would be from the girl she was? How did her mind transform from a reckless girl-assassin into a strong-willed self-assured woman without any reference point? Her own mother couldn't teach her how to be a woman – she was barely an adult herself. He couldn't imagine that her peers had been much help to her. It was no wonder that the River he had just left seemed to be drowning in her new self. And he didn't seem to be much help. Oh, you're very nearly perfect when you've grown up. Hang in there…someday we'll even like you…here's a kiss. Idiot.

The Doctor shook his head in disgust with himself. It felt right at the time, but maybe it wasn't enough. At the same time, he could go back a hundred times and say a hundred different things and still never be sure which choice made the difference. And that scared "young" woman fought against her fate to become his River. His amazing River. Something surely goes right for the newborn River somewhere, he was sure.

The running lights began to blink, as if to hurry him along. When he considered his options, he couldn't imagine that being wherever she'd brought him to be much worse than sitting in a darkened TARIDS feeling sorry for himself. So, he drug his long awkward legs behind him like weights and clumsily made his way to the door…suddenly indifferent to the TARDIS' games.

He stepped out of his ship and into a garden. He smiled. River's garden. Well, he supposed "garden" would be stretching it. It was more like a patch of earth where the more attractive weeds had decided to congregate. Or, as River called it, a garden.

When he looked down, he remembered that he was still barefoot…and rather half put-together. And he didn't care one way or another. Inside was his River. This he knew.

He walked across the lawn to the back door and knocked. Nothing. He walked around to the front door and knocked…without success. He could hear music playing clearly, so he reasoned that his knocking couldn't be heard over the music. The Doctor made his way back to the back door and slipped quietly in, a much needed peace settling in a soul that felt like it had been kicked around for days.

Somewhere inside this house was his River.

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