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This Awful Twist of Fate

By starjargon

Romance / Drama

How Could I Hurt You?

She shimmies into her dress, the tight material hugging all the right curves. Her hair is wild and free tonight, as magnificent and majestic as the first day of her regeneration. She reaches for a deep crimson necklace, pausing as she lifts it to her collar.

"Why, Sweetie," she gasped as he placed it around her neck, pausing to lay a kiss on her shoulder before meeting her eyes in the mirror, "you sure know how to spoil a girl."

"Only the best, Mrs. Doctor. After all, today is our anniversary."

"Honey, when we got married time was standing still. Every day is our anniversary."

"Hence why every day is special and why my beautiful wife should have these Lakadian jewels."

She couldn't even find it in herself to roll her eyes at him, fondly shaking her head as she matched her sentimental husband's grin in the mirror.

She shakes her head, clearing it of old memories, the jewels still midway to her neck. She debates for a second more, only her own, weary eyes staring back at her this time. She swallows, determination setting in, before huffing and clasping it together at last. Then she stands up, gives her reflection one more confident nod of approval, grabs her bag, and makes her way to the teleport. She has a party to attend.

"Rory and Jack are throwing me an outrageous party for my 35th, River. Of course, everyone else thinks it's 26th or 27th, so they may be a bit confused as to your dad's extravagance. Anyway, please say you'll come. Have come. Will have been there."

She laughed, kissing her mother on the forehead before smiling at her.

"Mother. Have I ever missed a birthday?"

"Well, there were those first 6 or so. And the one after you died," Amy commented dryly.

"Sorry, dear. Bit busy that year, what with becoming a completely new person and all," River chuckled, rolling her eyes at her best friend. Then she sobered up rather quickly, wondering how to phrase her next, more awkward question. "And... is everyone getting this invitation?"

Amy eyed her wistfully, then shook her head in sorrow. "The Doctor will be there, yes. Well, he says he will, anyway."

River nodded, looking away from her mother's troubled glare. She swallowed heavily.

"Right. Course he will be. Why wouldn't he?" She smiled sadly as she felt Amy's hand tenderly caressing her face, nuzzling into it for comfort like the child she never got to be.

"What happened between you two, River?" She just gave her mother a mournful look, shaking her head silently as her face broke into a heartbroken, pained grimace.

"Dad!" she exclaims as she makes her way across the room to her father, the large ballroom in the inn where the party was being held filled with Amy's friends and their newlywed spouses and even a few children (who would be Melody's own age, were they a normal family). Rory smiles at her, rushing to her side as he engulfs her in a hug.

"River," he breathes, beaming as he looks down at her. "So, what d'you think?" he asks, indicating the roomful of people.

"I think... it's the most extravagant 27th birthday party I've ever seen," she says with a knowing smirk and a wink. Rory laughs at that, rubbing the back of his head nervously. His face lights up when he spots his wife in the crowd, basking in the limelight as always.

"Think Amy likes it?" he asks, his eyes still on the glowing ginger across the room.

"I think you've made her very happy," replies River, wrapping her arm tightly around his waist in reassurance. "One night when everyone is focused entirely on her? Amelia heaven."

They share a laugh at that before Rory's eyes widen suddenly.

"Oh! River... there's something I should mention before everyone sits down. Something you need to know. About- about the Doctor."

Suddenly, her expression turns grave, carefully-constructed walls coming up to hide her emotions from anyone but perhaps the man beside her. Well, her father and maybe one other man, depending on timelines.

"What about him?" she asks, proud she'd managed to keep the uneasiness from her voice. Mostly.

"Well, you know Jack and parties. Always wanting to go all out, proper seating and invitations and everything. Even asked for an RSVP from the Doctor, even though we didn't really expect an answer."

"Dad, Amy already told me he'd be here," she says, plastering a nearly-convincing smile on her face. "And it's fine. Really. I'm fine. He's your friend as well, and I'm an adult."

Rory winces at her attempt at nonchalance, sad to be the bearer of bad news.

"Yes, well... that's not- he did respond River. Even after everything that did or didn't happen between you two, and I don't need to know if you don't want to talk about it, but... the Doctor... well, he's bringing a date. Plus one," he amends quickly.

Suddenly, the large banquet room is too small, too suffocating, and the familiarly terrifying image of the inside of a spacesuit fills her vision, water slowly rising around her until she knows she will drown beneath it.

"Oh," she manages, trying her best to remember to exhale. Or inhale. Lungs, her brain supplies as name to those thing that had stopped functioning, along with her heart. "Is he." It wasn't really a question.

Every instinct screams at her to run, but she can't remember what body part is in charge of movement. She simply floats to the seat Rory's firm grip guides her to, sinking into it as she looks down into her hands, wondering idly at how easily they can switch from tools to hurt or to heal with nothing more than a slight shift of intention.

Then, she finally breathes in deeply, using all the strength she doesn't really feel to at least put on a façade. One night. She just has to forget her broken heart, tear-stained eyes, and the ever-present gut-wrenching Doctor-filled longing for one night. For Amy, she reminds herself.

"Well," she finally looks at her father, "that's... good for him."

Rory gazes down at her in pity, wishing he had some magical remedy to heal his daughter and best friend's obvious wounds.

"River, I-" he begins.

"I think I could do with some air," she interrupts him, standing abruptly as she turns to make her way out of the hall. Rory looks at her, pain for his daughter reflected in his eyes before he nods toward the quieter courtyard.

"Sweetie, just tell me what happened."

"It's my fault, River! I should have known- should have done something!"

"Okay, it's fine, Doctor. Whatever it is, we can fix it. Undo it if that's what it takes."

A look of horror passed his features, unannounced tears trailing down his face as he shook his head fiercely in denial, turning toward the console and plugging in coordinates.

"NO, no no! Not undo; never undo! I need to- I just need to make it right," he screeched, breaths coming quickly as he began muttering to himself, pulling levers more harshly than necessary in his frenzy.

"Doctor!" River stood in front of him. "What happened?! Please, talk to me."

He looked down at her, cupping her face as his eyes found hers, and she got the distinct impression he was anchoring himself. Without warning, he surged forward, his lips bruising as he kissed her, before he pulled away abruptly.

"I'm sorry, River. I'm so sorry."

She feels the weight easing off her chest as the night washes over her, taking deep breaths as she makes her way through the well-lit courtyard, breathing in the various fresh scents and cleansing her mind of all the pain and anger and heartache that has plagued her constantly every day since she last saw her Doctor.

Using this brief respite to wallow before she has to face him again, she almost misses the small girl sat on a bench, knees pulled up to her chest as she stares up at the stars.

"Hello," utters River, offering the girl a small smile. "Do you mind if I sit with you a bit? It's a little too crowded in there."

The little girl looks up and returns her smile with a shy one of her own, scooting over and indicating the other half of the bench.

River mutters a thank you before sitting and looking up at the stars, losing herself in the serenity of the universe. Then, realizing the girl is quite young to be out here alone when there are plenty of other children to play with inside, she decides to gently prod her.

"It's a nice party in there."

The child looks up at her, eyes lighting up as she smiles, huffing a stray wisp of hair away from her face.

"It's quiet out here," she says simply, putting her chin back on top of her knees as she continues looking up into the night sky. "Sometimes it's nice to be quiet. But parties are nice, too," she amends quickly.

"Hmm. I agree. Sometimes I like to just get away, alone with my thoughts."

"Is that why you're running away from everyone now?" the girl asks matter-of-factly.

River glances down at her in surprise.

"I'm not-" she huffs, shaking her head at the child's simple intuition, "I just needed a minute. There's an old... well, someone I once loved very much is going to be here and I'm not quite sure if I'm ready to face them yet."

"Is it your mummy?"

River chuckles at that. "No, though my mummy is here, but I rather love being around her. It's an old friend of mine. He and I... well, I just needed a moment."

"Oh," the girl whispers.

Then she stares at River, her gaze piercing and oddly perceptive for one so young. Suddenly a look of sadness passes over her, eyes rising toward the sky once more.

"My mummy's up there now," she confides in a quiet voice, filled with so much pain River knows it has to be fairly recent for her.

"Is she?"

The little head nodding breaks River's heart, distracting her from own pain as she silently mourns for the child next to her.

"Daddy says when people go away like Mummy did, they float off into the stars so they can watch over us wherever we go. Do you think that's true?"

River nods, keeping her gaze heaven bound as well, now partially to keep the tears from falling down her face as her heart twists for the lost girl.

"I do," she offers what little comfort she can, "I think, whenever we love someone very much, a part of them stays with us no matter what happens. And when they go away, we still always carry that part with us forever."

The girl nods, her voice fighting not to crack as she whispers, almost fearfully, "Do you think my mummy still has her part of me with her?"

River gazes down at the small child beside her: tentative smile, pain beyond her years, abundant blonde hair and large, enchanting blue eyes. She can't help but see a reflection of a young orphan in Florida, hoping someone would rescue her from the spaceman. Ironically, she thinks, she'd ended up falling in love and spending most of her life utterly infatuated with a different Spaceman, but she can see same the aching hunger in the girl's eyes she'd spent years trying to forget.

This was a child who wants desperately to feel loved and protected against the pain she can't quite understand yet.

"I think that nothing in the universe could ever stop your mummy from loving you just as much as you love her- forever and ever. No matter how far apart you are."

The girl smiles hopefully, her eyes lighting up in excitement as she turns toward the stars in wonder. Then she looks back at River.

"Do you and your friend still love each other, too?"

"I can't do this anymore, Doctor. Please, just... tell me what's happened."

"This has nothing to do with you, River. I just need you to be patient."

"Nothing to do with me? I'm your wife, Sweetie. You have to do with me!"

"River, please. I'm just... trying to figure things out right now. I don't need you in the way."

"Oh, I'm in the way now, am I?"

"That's not what I meant, River. I-"

"You know what, Sweetie, maybe you and I need to stop being in each other's way for awhile. Or at all."

"River, you don't mean that-"

"Oh, I mean every word, Doctor."

"If you just let me explain-"

"Explain what? Why you've been barely coming around lately? Why when you are with me, your wife, all you can do is anxiously wait until you've somehow served your time, and then you can leave guilt-free again? Well, I'm sick of it. I'm nobody's consolation prize, Doctor. I'll not be treated as one."

"River, please- it's not what you think."

"Then tell me what it is."

"River, I can'-"

"Go, Doctor. Please. If you have any respect for me at all, you won't come back until you're through with... whatever it is that's been keeping my husband from me. Or, just let me move on."

He hadn't come back.

When she did see him, he was too young to have had that last row, breezing in and out of her life carefree and dismissive for two years. Finally, when the pain of waiting for him- proper, no-longer distracted him became too much, she began to go out of her way to avoid him. She'd succeeded. For three years.

"Oh, I think we will always love each other, in a way. We go way back, him and me. Shared quite a life together," she responds at last, fresh pain slicing her heart again as she realizes that he had indeed done exactly what he'd challenged him to do, and moved on from her. From them. River Song and the Doctor. Now just River Song. And, the Doctor. She doesn't realize tears are sliding down her face until she feels a tiny hand softly rubbing them away.

The little girl is looking up at her in concern, a tentative, brave smile making its way onto her face.

"Well, that's nice then, that you'll get to see him again tonight. So you won't have to miss him anymore," she adds, almost as though sharing a sacred secret.

River's own wet face breaks into a smile at the child's simple innocence and reasoning. She brushes back the remaining tears from her eyes as she nods her agreement.

"I suppose you're right about that. I guess I am a very lucky woman."

The little girl beams, happy to have obviously helped the sad lady in the courtyard. River shakes her head fondly, patting her gently on the head.

"Sometimes," the little girl confesses softly, looking down as she confides to River, "I wish I could see her again."

River sighs, wishing she could offer this child some sort of solace other than empty promises about time and healing that she knows do little to actually ease suffering.

"You know, it's okay to still miss your mummy. To always miss her a little."

"That's what Daddy says," she groan miserably. "But I don't like to tell him that I still miss her because I don't want him to think I don't like being with him, too. Because I do! And I try to smile all the time because he keeps trying his very best hardest to make me not sad anymore. I just... am sometimes."

River can't help herself and finds herself reaching out a comforting arm, pulling the child into a tight hug.

"Oh, honey- I'm sure he doesn't think that. In fact, I'm positive he knows how much you love him. And I think trying to stay cheerful is his way of showing you just how much he loves you, too."


"Really, really. In fact, I'll bet, if you told him when you just feel sad, he'd be sad with you. And he wouldn't think you loved him any less, either."

"Are you sure?" she asks nervously.

River smiles down at her, giving her a sneaky grin even as she keeps her arms loosely around her shoulders.

"Can you keep a secret?"

The little girl's eyes widen in excitement, her tiny head nodding vigorously.

"Grownups get just as sad and excited and angry and happy and scared as kids."

"You do?" she asks, her tone full of incredulity.

"Mm-hm. But we just have a little more practice at hiding it." River grins, seeing the calm that is slowly settling over the girl as she processes this profound information.

Her blue eyes turn downward as she contemplates all River has told her, before the doors open and they hear the lively sounds of music and the party inside. They both share large smiles before the little girl hugs River fiercely, before jumping off the bench and bouncing excitedly on her toes.

"I'm gonna go dance with Daddy, since he brought me here to cheer me up. Ha! I should tell him the nice lady on the bench made me feel all better!" She lunges forward, surprising River once more with a firm hug, then bounds off to join the party again, before turning abruptly at the door.

"Maybe you and your friend can get along better if you stopped hiding it so well," she suggests, quite profoundly, before bouncing inside, leaving River alone with her thoughts again.

"Never let me see the damage, isn't that right, River?"

"You weren't ready, Sweetie. You're still not ready. You can't handle my pain, as well as your own!"

"And you don't give me enough credit. You don't trust me, River!"

"I trust you with my life, Doctor!"

"Yes, to keep you safe! Not to hurt with you, River. Not to smile or laugh or cry with you. How can I- how am I able to compete with that?!"

"It's not a competition!"

"And yet, you always run to Amy when things go wrong!"

"Oh, and you don't?! You'd be fine without me, as long as you still have your precious "little Amelia" with you!"

"River, you know that's not true! I need you in my life! I want you in my life! Always. You're not just another companion!"

"No, because I'm not just a blonde young human who bows at your greatness! Oh, wonderful Doctor who can do no wrong, please, astound my tiny brain with your brilliance! Perhaps if I'm really good, you could show me how to become a weapon as well!"

"Well, you could certainly give me lessons on that front, couldn't you, Melody Pond?!"

His eyes widened as he felt the words leave his mouth, her own growing steely as she shut down.

They faced each other, squaring off, before his shoulders slumped, regret filling his eyes as he shook his head.

After a long moment, he sighed deeply.

"I am rather fond of your hair, you know," he muttered quietly, looking down in humble regret. "Whether red or blonde or brown- poets always should weep at the sight." He sidled up to her, not meeting her eyes as he tentatively reached out a hand to delicately grasp a curl. When he chanced a quick glimpse at her face, he saw her watching him out of the corner of her eye, warily letting her guard down, bit by tiny bit. He turned his focus back to making amends.

"And young- no. Each new wrinkle around your beautiful eyes, each decade that passes only makes me want more, and the prospect that I get that- with you- it's incredible, River Song. Oh, no human can compare to the thought that I get the magnificent woman who married me for... ages. We'll see so many worlds grow old. So many things pass before us. Planets. People. Empires. But you and me, Wife, we'll always have each other."

He was whispering reverently, his head bent toward hers, her eyes closed as she felt all her anger to melt at his words, his body so close to hers and his breath hot against her ear. "And that will be enough. You and me, Honey. Running together," he kissed her shoulder, "laughing together," her neck, "bickering together," her cheek, "but most of all, my River," he whispered, before pressing his lips firmly against hers, his arms sliding to her waist as he pulled her close against him, "dancing together." With that he twirled her, catching her off guard as a laugh escaped her throat, before she pulled him back tightly to her, kissing all memories of their argument away.

Hiding the damage. Perhaps that little girl had been correct. Maybe things could have been so much different if she would have just let him in a little more often. She'd secretly always believed there would be another chance. That they really would spend the rest of their lives together, one way or another. That they would always come back to each other, her always his choice and him always hers. Another chance for them would constantly present itself, however miraculous.

Just like it had been with her parents, running into them long before they'd gone to Manhattan.

Rory and Amy.

She sighs, standing and walking slowly back toward her mother's party and the confrontation she's spent far too long dreading. Perhaps it was time for her to finally learn to let go.

"So, where to this time, my love?"

"It's a surprise, River!" he exclaimed, turning a knob with a flourish. "Now, remember- be highly impressed with your husband's romantic gestures. I expect you to proudly gloat about my greatness and astound all those tiny human brains with my brilliance." He smiled cheekily, walking a delicate line bringing up last night's argument. She decided to humour him.

"Ooh, Doctor," she cooed in a false-breathy voice, her arms wrapped around his neck as she threw her head back dramatically "can you please show me the universe? I'll take anywhere in time or space you want to go, since you just know everything always and are so very clever." He preened at her mocking praise, accepting her teasing with a smirk.

"Don't pretend to be immune, Professor Song," he said, voice lowering as he tapped her nose with a single finger. "You think I'm quite hot when I'm clever."

"Oh, that's where you're wrong, Sweetie." She allowed his ego to deflate a bit, leaning into him and staring at his bowtie in fond memory. A sly grin slid across her face. "I think you're hot no matter what." At that she nipped at his chin, making him yelp before she chuckled, pleased at winning their little game before she turned around, grabbing his hand as they ran out the doors.

"Paris, 22nd Century: City of Lo-" he began grandly, before taking in their actual surroundings as his romantic gesture was interrupted by a loud chuckling from a highly-amused archaeologist.

"Well, at least it's still France, dear," she said, eyes still bright with laughter as they walked forward into the large garden. "Beginning of the... 18th century, I believe?" she teased, looking around them as she continued onto the grand party that was obviously in full swing.

She turned to see her slightly-immobile husband gaping at the large palace toward which they were heading. "Middle of, more like. River, we should go. I can't be here."

"Oh, Doctor- they probably don't even know who you are yet," River tried. The Doctor opened his mouth to protest, before River cut him off with a smile, "and even if anyone does know you, it's was a different face, Sweetie. She wouldn't even recognize you." She placed a comforting kiss to the side of his mouth, looking up into his eyes with complete understanding. "Tell me you really want to leave and we will."

The Doctor looked up once more, before meeting River's understanding gaze. Then he breathed out a small laugh.

"Oh, don't try to get out of it now, Mrs. Song. I promised my wife dancing and dancing she shall get."

They stayed long into the night, enjoying the rich elegance and over-abundance for which the French court had once been famed. River was so caught up in a small crowd of admirers as she told "outrageous" stories about her husband that it took the Doctor's low growl in her ear to tear her away from them.

"Let's go, River. Now."

She turned with a wide grin, ready to tease him a bit, before she caught a glimpse of his face, pain and aggravation and... something unmistakeable in his eyes as he silently pleaded with her to leave with him. She simply nodded, tearing herself away from Giacamo with a flirtatious wink and a sly comment.

They hurried back to the TARDIS, the Doctor nearly dragging River inside as she gripped his hand, squeezing it in reassurance periodically as his behaviour began to unnerve her. He raced up to the console the moment the door closed behind them, silent and brooding and obviously very upset over... something that had gone wrong. She joined him on the other side, helping him to take off, even as she tried to find out what had so distressed him.

"Sweetie, just tell me what happened."

"It's my fault, River! I should have known- should have done something!"

She makes her way through the crowd, offering small talk to her mother's friends and hugs to those who know her. She is just beginning to breathe easier as she finds an open seat, certain the Doctor has failed to show up, when a familiar voice sounds behind her.

"Now, I know you weren't planning on not sitting with me, surely, Miss Song. Could really hurt a guy's feelings that way."

"Well, we wouldn't want that, would we, Captain?" she responds, turning and giving Jack a wink and a smile.

"Oh, I'm certain you'd find it hard to live with yourself afterward. I'm only sparing you pain ahead of time." She laughs, arms coming around him as they embrace enthusiastically. "Thank you for doing this, Jack. Amy looks so happy," she murmurs into his ear.

"Ah, you know me- any excuse for a party!" he says, trying to brush off her praise. Then she pulls back, looking into his eyes seriously.

"No, Jack. Really. Thank you."

He gazes at her, nodding his head as a mutual understanding passes between them.

"My pleasure," he responds in all sincerity. Then he grins. "Now, we'll just make sure this is the cool table, and then we can get this party going properly!"

She snorts at that, taking a seat next to him and grabbing a flute of champagne from a passing waiter.

"Doctor!" her friend shouts just as she's taken a swallow, trying not to choke as she unwittingly looks toward... him. And yes, they'd truly parted (too) long ago, and yes, she is aware he has moved on and yes, she has avoided any situations that would cause her to run into him whether accidently or not for three long years, but when she sees him, and she recognizes it's him him, she can do nothing to stop the absolute ache that her entire body starting from her crushed heart feels for him. And suddenly, it's all she can do to not turn around, find Amy, and bawl her eyes out. Perhaps she'll settle for simply slapping him for getting over her when she's not over him. Or kiss him, because how could she ever resist such an urge? Maybe she'll do both.

"Jack," he says, lip twitching in an attempt at a smile, even though his eyes barely leave River.

"Sit here, sit here, there's plenty of room. Don't know where you two are on timelines- you met River yet?" the glee in his eyes at all his favourite people in the same room blinding Jack to the tension so thick it was nearly tangible.

"Yes," says the Doctor uneasily, staring at the woman he once called wife. "Hello, River."

Her breath catches in her chest, and she's nearly certain her voice has forgotten how to work. You're River Song, she tells herself, before finally nodding noncommittally. "Doctor."

She sees his eyes flicker down to her neck, and suddenly the Lakadian jewels adorning her seem like the worst accessory in the history of ever.

"I saw your lovely date earlier, Doc. I swear, you seem to have all the luck."

They're both pulled out of their reverie, River's heart breaking again as the Doctor finally focuses on his friend.

"Seems that way," he manages to breath out in agreement.

"But, seriously- young, blonde, absolutely adores you. Believes you make the universe go round. I'm starting to think you have a type, Doctor."

River does take some solace in the Doctor's wince, knowing the same conversation was passing through his brain as hers.

Before the Doctor's able to respond, however, Jack looks over his shoulder, a smile wide on his face.

"What's her name again?"

The Doctor's gaze has travelled back to River, his hands completely still, as though his normally fidgety body and brain are somehow disconnected, she can't help but notice.

"Sophie." It's barely a whisper. He clears his throat as he tilts his head in acknowledgement. "Her name's Sophie."

Jack laughs. "Oh, yeah- now I remember. You don't mind if I-" he nods toward the dance floor, apparently indicating this Sophie of the Doctor's. Like she was once his River. She's tempted to look at her competition (her replacement, she thinks bitterly), but she refuses to give the Doctor the satisfaction. For his part, he simply nods, waving a gleeful Jack away as he maintains her gaze.

"Don't worry, Doctor- I'm sure her heart will always be yours," Jack calls back, reassuring the Time Lord as he went off to charm his date.

There's a beat of even more painfully awkward silence, both of them staring at each other, before the Doctor pulls out a chair and sits down across from her, rather uncomfortably. Then he leans forward, licking his lips as he offers her a pained expression.

"River, I owe you an expl-"

"Raggedy Man!" shouts Amy, dragging Rory up with her and cutting off any speech he'd been about to make. They hug tightly, Rory taking the seat next to River and quietly whispering to her.

"Say the word, and one of us will be by your side at all times."

She looks up in surprise at that, realizing the timing of her parents' arrival had coincided exactly when she would have been left alone with the man who'd broken her heart, even though neither had any idea how he'd done so. And, she could barely remember a time when she loved them more.

"Thanks, Dad," she breathed, offering him a small, wry smile. "But, I think it's time I fight this particular battle on my own."

He returned her smile, giving her an ever-so-tiny nod of his head, before turning and greeting the Doctor as well.

Amy sat down in his place, squeezing River in comfort (and delight- she really was enjoying her party), as she looked behind the Doctor.

"Is Sophie with you?" she asks in confusion.

"Of course, Pond," the Doctor scoffs at her. "Really. I told you I was coming with a plus one. She's my plus one."

"Wait a minute- first of all, how do you understand the concept of plus one, Doctor?" Rory begins, then turns to Amy. "And second of all, you've met this... Sophie?"

Amy rolls her eyes, as though what'd he'd just said was incredibly daft.

"Of course. She's absolutely wonderful. Most gorgeous girl here." She looks toward the Doctor, who smiles brightly in agreement.

River feels her treacherous eyes begin to water. She could, and had, dealt with quite a bit in her life. But she honestly didn't think she could handle her mother's betrayal of her. Not Amy's. Rory saw the hurt in her eyes and decided the best way to handle it was to allow her to handle it.

"Come on, Amy. We promised your dad he could make an embarrassing speech to you in front of all his friends."

"What about these two?" she asks, a pout on her lips.

"Our best friend and daughter? They've never done anything to us, Amy. Why put them through that?" With this, he drags her away, each of them sending surreptitious nods in River's direction, reassuring her of their support.

"Doctor, I-"

"River, I-"

They both pause, before the Doctor holds up a hand, stopping her from any further comment.

"Wait. River, let me go first. Please." He looks so sincere and even if he's hurt her time and again he's still... her Doctor. Plus, she think she deserves an explanation, if he does in fact intend to give her one.

"I want to... apologize... for however long it's been."

"Five years," she manages, her gaze unyielding as she refuses absolve him. He flinches at that.

"I'm sorry," he repeats, eyes downcast before he decides she deserves to look into his eyes as he explains things to her. "I- it's only been, well, a few weeks for me."

This does bring tears to her eyes at the realization that he'd moved on so quickly, while she's been pining away like a besotted fool.

"I just- there was so much to deal with. And, I was going to go back, really. But then Sophie-"

"Doctor, don't," she pleads, suddenly not interested in an explanation anymore, now or ever.

"No, River this is important."

She stands up, shaking her head and backing away from him.

He stands with her, hands reaching toward her just as she sees the young girl from earlier running her way, a smile wide on her face when she spots River.

River tries to remain composed for the little girl's sake, about to simply shove past the Time Lord to approach her new little friend, when the child comes to an abrupt halt instead, reaching out and grabbing the Doctor's hand.

"Daddy! You met my friend! This is the bench lady I told you about," she says excitedly, stopping all cohesive thought River has, along with any powers of speech or comprehension.

"It is?" he questions in fascination, now trying to split his attention between the two girls.

"Yes. She was sad and I was sad and then we talked and we were both happy again. Ask her to dance with us, Daddy!"

"First, young lady, did you even introduce yourself when you talked to her?" the Doctor asks, the unfamiliar paternal mode he'd just adopted surprising River even more, sending a shocking, somehow pleasant jolt to her heart.

"Oh. No." She leans back against the Doctor's legs, grabbing both of his arms to wrap around herself before she looks up into his face. "Can you do it for me, Daddy? Please."

He gazes down at her, obviously amused and wholly enamoured, before he gestures toward his still-shocked wife, though his eyes remain on the small girl.

"This is Professor River Song." Then he looks up, eyes silently begging her for understanding.

"River Song, this lovely little lady is my daughter, Sophie Poisson."

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