Music swelled from the Great Hall. Music to dance by, regardless of the age or era. The Doctor smoothed his tux and straightened his black tie, and then flashed the psychic paper at the nattily dressed attendants and entered the ballroom.
Tonight was an enormous bash celebrating the occasion of New New Oxford University's 1450th anniversary. Human academics, like those of every other species the Doctor had ever met, were dreadfully stuffy and boring yet somehow managed to throw really good parties. Unfortunately, tonight was also the night that the 6th Adavari Invasion Fleet was going to arrive in the system and try to destroy the University as part of their nefarious plan to rid the 52nd century of all institutes of education and higher learning.
The Doctor had decided he might have something to say about that, and had set a course for the University. But when the TARDIS landed in the main quadrangle, there was no invasion fleet overhead, no terrified students running for their lives, no smoking crater in the ground where the Classics Building used to be.
It seemed that for once in his lives he was actually early.
Clearly there was nothing for it but to join the festivities – suitably attired, of course – and bide his time until the real fun began.
He milled around the edges of the packed dance floor for a while, and was just calculating the quickest route to the canapé table when a young woman in a long blue dress sliced through the crowd and materialized at his elbow. He caught a flash of flyaway blonde hair, then felt a sharp tug as she grabbed his hand and pulled him out into the throngs of dancers.
Well, this was certainly different, the Doctor thought as a slender arm snaked around his waist and drew him into a waltz. Sure, he was good, but usually people asked first.
The Doctor gazed bemusedly down at his impromptu dance partner and a sudden feeling of familiarity engulfed him. Cascades of corkscrew curls bounding a high forehead, grey eyes that blazed with sharp intelligence, cherry red lips framing a full, wide mouth. He knew her at once.
She looked so young – years, decades younger than he'd ever seen her before. She was twenty, twenty two at a guess, youthful and fiery and full of promise. Not even a doctor yet, he gauged, still a few years away from receiving her Ph.D. And she was here in his arms. Dancing with him. But apparently completely ignorant of who he was. There had been no sly, impish smile of welcome, no teasing banter, not the slightest hint of recognition in her eyes.
And although they were dancing close together on the crowded floor, she wasn't even looking at him. Instead, she was frowning fixedly at something just beyond his right shoulder.
He followed her eye line and saw a portly fiftyish gentleman staring intently at them from the edge of the dance floor. His expression was sour and his eyes hard. "Jealous lover?" the Doctor asked, trying to hide his amusement.
She grimaced. "Lecherous professor. Won't take no for an answer." She swung them around so her back was to the man.
Ah. He'd been around Amy Pond for long enough now to get the gist of the situation. "So you're inventing a boyfriend."
"Yes." She flashed him a smile full of sass. "You mind?"
The Doctor shook his head and then stared down at their feet, his steps slowing. It took another tug on his hand from the young River to reclaim his attention.
He looked up to see her glaring at him. "You're not helping. Please don't stop."
His eyebrows rose pointedly. "You're leading."
She huffed impatiently, a very River-esque sound. "Fine. You lead."
So – this was the first time that they met. Or rather, the first time that she met him. Of course he had already met her, several times…but the memory of his first encounter with her still burned in his soul, far too painful to ever want to revisit. Instead the Doctor concentrated on matching their steps to the music as they glided around the enormous marble floor.
As the Doctor swung them about again, River's gaze slid to a point beyond his shoulder. As sharp footsteps sounded behind him she swore under her breath and came to a halt, her dress swirling around her legs. The shift threw the Doctor slightly off balance, and before he could recover he felt a pair of soft lips descend on his.
The kiss was long and slow and deep. Lips on lips became mouth on mouth and then tongue on tongue. After what seemed like an eternity – a sweet, blissful eternity – they broke apart and the Doctor tried to remember how to breathe.
She drew back and once again threw a glance behind him. After an instant she relaxed, a triumphant smile playing over her lips. "Good. That's got rid of him at last."
The Doctor swayed slightly, blinking at River. Marveling at her lung capacity. And her – other things. When had she learned to kiss like that? He tried to focus. "Good. Well. Glad to be of help."
She reached up with one hand and gently patted his cheek. "You're sweet."
The Doctor smiled. "You have no idea, River Song."
Her hand fell and she stared at him, sudden sparks of curiosity and alarm warring in her eyes. "How do you know my name?"
He grinned, relishing this moment and intending to take full advantage of it. Then he leaned forward and gently tapped her on the nose. "Spoilers."
"What the hell does that mean?" she growled, frustration with his evasiveness evident in her face.
Ah, turn about was fun. The Doctor's grin widened, but before he could speak again he caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye. A movement, just up there. He looked up at the glittering chandelier overhead. It was swaying slightly, although the air in the room was still.
The Doctor's hearts rate began to accelerate in anticipation. The Adavari were here at last, and the pyrotechnics were about to begin.
He reached out and caught River's hand in his, his eyes dancing with excitement. "River Song, when I say run – run!"