rules of acquisition

He is purposely dragging his feet as they walk the short distance from where the Tardis is parked to her cell. If there were things to kick along the way, he thinks he would absolutely kick them.

He still doesn't know what she has done to land herself in this place. Kill a man, yes, but who? At first he thought maybe it was him. But the more he knew of River Song, the less he understood. He couldn't imagine her killing him – not unless he asked her to. And he can't imagine that happening, so instead he ignores it. Stops trying to figure it out, because for all he knew it could be someone they hadn't even met yet. He can't deduce the answers with only a sixteenth of the facts. He is good – not that good.

His hands are shoved in his pockets as she steps into her open cell. He doesn't like the look of her there. She is burning gold and bright against the steel grey backdrop of concrete and iron bars. It doesn't sit well with him. Makes him feel like his hearts have been misplaced, five inches lower and two inches left of where they should be. "Well, home sweet home." She smiles and he steps into the cell with her, glancing around in curiosity.

Honestly she has more to look at than he'd expect. A bookshelf on the back wall holds volumes and volumes, and is littered with knick-knacks. There are vases in the left-hand corner, and pencil drawings on the walls. "I hate to leave you here." His tone is bordering on petulant and she smiles indulgently at him.

"I know, sweetie, but I'll see you soon." She sounds hopeful as she says it – her voice rises at the end and turns it into a question they both know he can't answer. His eyes meet hers for a moment and he nods, just the tiniest bit. He doesn't like the heaviness of it all; her gaze, the moment, the goodbye hovering unsaid all around them. So he swings his body away and peers more intently at her bookshelf. He is reading the titles she has there, marvelling at their similar tastes when he notices the edge of something, tucked in behind the bookshelf.

"What's this?" He reaches to pull whatever it is out from behind and hears her muffle a giggle. An honest to goodness giggle, a sound he has never heard her make before, but hopes to hear again. And perhaps often. He understands the reason when he pulls the item out, glares at her over his shoulder. "Where did you get this?"

She smiles serenely and walks over to stand by his side. "Oh I acquired that, sometime in the seventeenth century. Never finished you know, but then it's not very good is it?"

"Is acquired code for stole? And of course it's good! Excellent piece of historical art!" He gestures and glares at her, but she just keeps smiling calmly, merriment dancing behind her eyes. "You're taking the mickey out of me."

"No, I'm not." She waves a hand over the canvas. "Look at the brush strokes and use of colour – it's actually almost quite juvenile. But then you did always like them young, Doctor." He can feel his face flush at her words and he glares down at her for a moment.

"Well. Not always." He glances down over her as he speaks and she laughs, a deep rich sound that wraps around him warmly and slides straight down his spine.

"Oh bless, you are cheeky today, aren't you?" She grins and he nods, lifting the painting in one hand.

"Says the woman who stole a nearly nude portrait of me." She nods, glancing down at the painting and lifting it from his hand.

"I'm not allowed photos you know." She pointed out mildly, before tucking the painting back behind the shelf. "I have my drawings, but it's not the same is it?" He'd noticed the drawings on the walls, exquisitely detailed pencil sketches of sceneries – some he recognizes, some he doesn't.

"Why only scenery?" He asks with interest, walking over to peer at one and laughing when he can see a tiny Tardis in the London street scene. Looks like it's about 25th century, if he's guessing correctly.

"I do faces too, but those are in my diary. You're too nosy to leave things like that on the wall, Doctor."

"You're very good." He hates that he can hear the surprise in his own voice and her short laugh tells him she hates it too.

"Lots of free time to practice in. Not much else to do in here." And again, his earlier disquiet returns. He doesn't see why she has to come back so soon.

"You could just stay. With us – plenty more adventures to go on, you know." Her laughter is softer this time, tinged with a bit of sadness.

"Oh, Doctor. You're just not quite ready to handle me full time yet." He straightens and steps in closer to her, hating the way the fluorescent lighting makes her hair less golden and more yellow. She still looks gorgeous though, so he sighs, and reaches a hand up to touch the curls gently.

"Does that mean I get to one day?" His question is quiet and she smiles up at him. He fully expects her to answer as she always does, spoilers. Each time she says it though, it's growing less sassy and more sad.

"What do you think?" She puts a hand on his arm, and he sighs.

"I think I'd be crazy not to, River. Everything's always so much more exciting when you're around." She smiles at that and he nods, dropping the hand that was wrapping curls around itself. "So am I allowed to take back my picture?" She pinches him and he jumps in response.

"No! Absolutely not." She glares and he pouts.

"It's technically mine-"

"All you did was stand around naked in front of a girl young enough to be in a nursery, Doctor! I had to go back in time, wait for them to drag you off to the Tower while the little child cried oh so prettily to her Daddy and then sneak in and steal it! Possession, my dear Doctor, is nine-tenths of the law." She smiled smugly and he crossed his arms and glared at her.

"That isn't even remotely true. Thieves say that. Because they're thieves." He pointed at her as he spoke and she just arched a brow at him.

"And what do you call all the artifacts in your gallery?" He stops for a moment, because honestly, she does have him there.

"A collection. I am preserving those things-"

"That you stole." She points out with another infuriating smile. "And don't deny it – I've helped you steal more than a few, Doctor. I'm keeping this. I like it – it's in colour, even if it's in badly done colour – and it's part of my routine now."

"Routine? What sort of routine could it possibly be a part-" She is looking at him knowingly and he stops speaking, feeling himself flush. "Oh! Oh! Oh my god- River!" She laughs at his scandalized tone and leans in closer to him.

"Maybe someday, when you're older – I'll show you." She is grinning, and he cannot take his eyes off of the mischievous light dancing around in hers. She is exquisite, really, and he is still blushing because he finds himself picturing the very thing she is discussing and he's as surprised as anyone to find himself responding to it. She is laughing, because oh, of course, she knows.

"Well- fine then – well then. I suppose I'll let you hold on to it for a while." He attempts to sound unaffected and fails terribly, and she laughs, pulling on his arm until he is closer, so she can press a quick kiss to his cheek. "How much older, exactly?" She winks at him and his hearts are pounding in his chest.

"Old enough."