"You've been on my mind,
I grow fonder every day,
Lose myself in time,
Just thinking of your face,
God only knows why it's taken me so long to let my doubts go,
You're the only one that I want."
"Come on and give me a chance,
to prove I am the one,
who can walk that mile with you,
until the end starts."
He is giddy. River really has to watch out for that, when he's giddy. Bad things happened. Last time he'd gotten them thrown out of a restaurant because he's spotted a rare flower in some aristocrat's hat and while jubilantly explaining it's rarity had knocked over half the things on the table. Right now, he's just being unbelievably loud and now mainly she wants to smack him over the head so hard. The Doctor steadies himself on the console, still smiling from ear to ear. River thinks she hears a giggle. It's been a horribly long day. All she'd wanted to do after leaving Demon's Run was to go check into a hotel somewhere, under a false name obviously, and take a long bath. The Doctor is spinning his arms about and keeps looking over at her and laughing. She rolls her eyes, shaking her head at the Timelord, but the smile she can't keep from her lips softens it.
He still needs to find Melody, though he has an idea of where and when to look. His head still reeling from the massive spoiler River had dropped upon him. He's been unsure about what to do with this new information. All he'd known was that he needed to talk to her about it first. She could tell the moment she arrived where they were in their jumbled timestreams, even though he hadn't breathed a word.
"Doctor, could you just tell me where we're going?"
"What? No! No, no, no. That would spoil all the surprise. This is far too good to give out spoilers River!"
"Plus you'll likely land us somewhere else entirely," she mutters.
"Heard that!" He grins at her and flips a few switches, whirling as he goes.
She groans and puts a hand to her head. "I've got a splitting headache sweetie. Is there any way we could have this talk later?"
She'd gotten the note on the psychic paper almost two years ago, clearly meant for a later River.
River. Need to talk. Right after Demon's Run. Please. Drop them off and meet me.
She'd held onto the note, waiting until the proper time to act upon it. He clearly wanted a particular version of her; she wouldn't ruin things by showing up early. Unlike some people, she thinks bitterly. She knew the story of Demon's Run. How could she not, after all? But he'd always told her she was involved somehow, at the end. Which was a little strange, but when it came to him she just went with it. When she'd received a phone call, telling her to get over there immediately, with the exact time coordinates she knew it was time to finally act on that other note. She drops her parents off afterwards, both of them still in complete shock. Rory had squeezes her shoulder and smiles weakly, though Amy had flinched when he'd done so and scowls at both of them.
"I'm sorry River. This is…tough for her," her father offers.
"Of course it is. I would be surprised if it wasn't," she chuckles.
"How do you do it River?" She raises an eyebrow. "This," he waves an arm around the room.
She smiles sadly and pats him on the arm, "Day by day. It'll get easier every day. Well most days anyways. I promise Da– Rory."
The look in her mother's eyes hurt far more than she'd expected. They were lovely people, her parents. She'd never felt she belonged to them though, not completely. She loved them dearly, but there was utterly nothing resembling a normal childhood to fall back on. Meeting them completely out of order and not living with them until she was practically a teenager hadn't helped. Her ability to compartmentalize helped a great deal upon past interactions, but her own mother's distrust as she glared daggers at her had stung. The happy feeling she'd had while telling the Doctor the truth was fading quickly. It was such a relief to let him know, to see him finally start to believe in her. With this revelation though, her parents would be strangers from this point out. She hadn't expected it to come so soon.
Afterward she drops off Vastra and Jenny in their appropriate time. The Victorian house is huge and ornately decorated.
"These carpets are lovely Vastra." River touches the wood of a nearby chair and starts examining first a painting, and then a clock. The two women look concernedly at one another at her sudden, intense focus on the house. "How long have you had this house? I really like what you've done with it and…"
"Melody," Jenny breaks in suddenly. "Can we get you some tea?"
"It's River," she replies, as her face grows darker. She sighs, "That would be lovely Jenny." They drink their tea in silence, Vastra and Jenny sitting beside one another on a small couch, with River on a nearby chair. The Silurian's eyes flicker back and forth between Jenny and River. River finally breaks the silence. "I'm glad neither of you were hurt during the battle."
"Me too," says Vastra as she gazes back to Jenny, taking hold of her hand. River smiles fondly at the couple. There is more feeling in Vastra's eyes than she's accustomed to seeing before.
"Have you met us before then?" Jenny asks quietly. River nods. "It must be hard, meeting people in the wrong order." River nods again, her throat growing uncomfortably tight. She bites her lip and looks away.
"Especially your parents I'd imagine," adds Vastra. Tears begin to well up in River's eyes and she fights the urge to cry. Jenny stands quickly and puts her arms around her, patting her back, while whispering soothing things. To her surprise, Vastra places cool arms around them both. "You're going to be alright my dear."
Jenny reaches a hand back and clasps Vastra's tightly. "We're all going to be alright." They stand there in wordless comfort until River has stopped weeping and is able to stop shaking enough to activate her Vortex Manipulator and return to Stormcage. She's been sitting in her cell for ten minutes, when she remembers the note. Rubbing her temples wearily, she sighs and pulls on a jacket. This has the makings of a very long night.
There are moments like this one, where River marvels at how someone so ancient and wise one moment, could be bouncing about the TARDIS like a 9-year-old on a sugar high the next. When she tries to plead headache, the Doctor's face falls so completely she feels like a horrible person. For him this had been ended as a happy day, it would be cruel of her to wreck it.
"Oh," he says as his shoulders slump. "Well if you don't feel well we don't have to."
She gives in embarrassingly quickly. It was ridiculous how quickly. "Oh, alright sweetie." She tries for a smile, but can tell from his face that he's not convinced.
"Turn around River."
"What?" She stares at him uncomprehending.
"Just turn around. You are so bloody stubborn!" he grumbles.
"I really hate you."
"No, you don't."
She sighs and turns her back to him, "No, I don't." Suddenly she feels his hands on her shoulders, beginning to massage the knots of muscle that have built up over the course of the week. She gasps as his thumb hits a rather large knot at the base of her neck.
Abruptly he stops. "Sorry, did I hurt you?"
She turns back to face him. "No. Well yes, but it's helping Doctor. Please don't stop." He raises an eyebrow and smirks at the last statement, but moves his hands up her neck, gently rubbing as his fingers climbed higher. She shivers as he sweeps her hair aside, dropping a kiss to the back of her neck. His fingers find her temples and begin making slow circles. She can feel the throbbing pain behind her eyes melting away. He finally stops and spins her back toward him. He's looking down at the ground and scratches absently at his check as he glances her quickly.
She hums with pleasure. "Mmm. So much better. Thank you dear." She places a light kiss on his cheek and watches in amusement as the color rises in his cheeks.
"Well you know, it would spoil the surprise if you were hurting and you're welcome River. And I don't want you to be hurting –not ever – so it wasn't as though I had a choice there, did I? Anyways. Ok. Right then…" River smiles at the rambling admission as the Doctor wrings his hands and runs back to the controls. With a familiar wheezing the TARDIS bumps softly to a landing.
River exhales in relief for the less bumpy wumpy than usual landing. As it was likely the ship's doing in deference to her headache, she strokes a control panel in appreciation. "Thank you darling," she whispers.
"Okay, we are here. River, fetch that basket over there. Oh, and take your shoes off please." She looks at him oddly but slips her boots off and grabs the handle of the rather tiny basket.
The doors open to shades of muted purples and brilliant blues. "Oh Asgard." River breathes softly. "It's lovely Doctor." It's a planet she's only heard of, but never visited. Due to its rotation and orbit the planet hovers in perpetual twilight for 5 months. The sky is a shocking deep blue, with purple clouds from the constantly fading sunlight and the nearby moon is just barely visible. The air is crisp and as she steps out of the doors, her bare feet land on the soft grass of the meadow. All around them birds are singing quietly and River feels herself relax against her will. She moves in closer to his side, waiting to gauge his reaction before pressing a light kiss to his lips. He sets her coat on her shoulders and River leans into him. She isn't completely sure how early this is for them, early for sure, but he's not pushing her away at least. "What now?"
"We are having a picnic," he says as he grabs the basket and a blanket and spreads it out on the ground. He's pulling container after container of food out of the tiny carrier, looking for all the world like a magician, when she places a hand on his arm and he halts.
"Doctor, I think that's enough food for the two of us. Even if you can eat your weight in Jammie Dodgers." He nods and closes the basket and hands her a strawberry. "You wanted to talk though sweetie?"
"Um. Right. I. Well," he stammers out.
"Is it anything to do with who I am?" She looks steadily at him. "Or possibly what I am?"
"Sort of. I just. I have questions though. You can't just drop this on me and expect me not to have all sorts of questions."
"I'll answer what I can Doctor."
"How old are you?" She punches him in the arm, hard, eyes flashing dangerously. "Ow!" He rubs his arm gingerly. "That hurt!"
"Well you deserve it. That's an incredibly rude question to ask someone. You're lucky I didn't slap you," she retorts.
"Hmph. This time at least," he mutters. She glares at him, looking strikingly like her mother in this moment. "I'm sorry. I'm – sorry. I wasn't trying to be rude. I just meant…" He sighs. "I'm just trying to work all this out in my head. You're not totally human and I just. I wanted to know if maybe…you were older than you looked. Not in an insulting sort of way River. I don't exactly look my age, do I? But River, are you?" He laughs nervously.
Understanding is starting to grow in River's eyes as he continues speaking. She gets it then. He was trying to find out, in his own bumbling way, how much she was like him. So much afraid of losing people so quickly, he was trying to figure out how long she could be around. He needed to know how long she could be with him before jumping into something together. Her heart aches for him for how much he'd suffered, at how wary he was of being hurt again and how much this must scare him. "Yes," she breathes, looking him straight in the eyes.
"You're – wait, hold on. Yes, you are older than you look or yes, I don't look my age?" His eyes bug out slightly as he tried to work out what her response meant. "You cannot keep answering that way River!"
She chuckles, "Good to know." She quirks an eyebrow at him. The Doctor groans in frustration and smacks his forehead. "Both of them," she said finally, taking pity on the poor man. A huge smile lit his face and he put his hand on her shoulder.
The Doctor rolls his eyes. "Of course."
"Besides, it's horrible to ask a woman her age," she narrows her eyes.
"What about your… Oh! Do you have – River can I scan you?" He motions in the direction of her chest.
Realizing where he's going with this line of questioning, River smirks. "Oh Sweetie, I can think of a much more interesting way to answer that question."
"What do you mean River?" She grabs his hands and places them on her chest, just above the swells of her breasts. "Oh, that way. I see…"
"See, much more fun dear." She grins cheekily at him.
He's not currently paying attention though, completely focused on the rhythm of her hearts. "You do. You have two of them."
She laughs, "I should certainly hope so Doctor."
"Hearts! Two hearts, River!" He blurts out quickly, coloring slightly. "I still can't believe this River."
"Are you happy about it though? Who I am? What I am?" She looked uncertain for the first time he could recall.
"Happy about…" He grins at her. "River you have no idea how much of a relief this is." She smiles at him like she had earlier over the cot, like she knew him to the core and was so happy to recognize a familiar face. He swallows hard. "I – care about you – and I just didn't know how this could ever work. But I think I'm starting to – I mean I think I could be… That we could be…" He reaches a hand to brush against her curls. "But you're here River – right now and you will be here." He shakes his head in disbelief. "I'm not making any sense right now, am I?"
She grins brightly at him. "I think I got the take home message Sweetie."
His face softens as he looks at her. He sighs, smiling lightly. "You are so beautiful River Song. Thank you." He reaches for her hand and strokes it wonderingly. "Thank you for telling me."
For the second time that day, tears stand in her eyes. She can't speak; she's mentally exhausted and overwhelmed, but hope is rising in her chest. The Doctor wipes away a tear that has tracked down her cheek and taps the end of her nose playfully.
She finally chokes out, "We'll have time Doctor. I promise you that. I can't tell you how much. I don't know how much."
"Is it worth it for you, River?" He looks at her, his face serious now. "How mixed up this is, how mixed up this gets, and the times we don't know each other…" He exhales and bites his lip. "Is it worth it?"
"Always." He cups her face then, kissing her firmly as he runs his fingers through her hair.
"What now Dr. Song?"
"Now Doctor, we walk." She stands, pulling him to his feet, linking their arms together.
"For how long?" He pulls her closer.
"Until the end starts."