At The End Of All Our Exploring
'We can't,' he gasps, losing control of his eyebrows.
She smirks at him, walks her fingers closer to where they want to be. 'Says who?'
'I say!' His voice has soared, and he clears his throat. He might be blushing, or it might just be the bright red paint of the car reflecting in the sunlight. She's not quite sure. 'I say, River!'
'Oh, very well,' she says, giving in gracefully. 'Budge over, then.'
He eyes her warily, as if he suspects her of having further designs on his braces, and edges over slightly. She smiles, adjusts her gunbelt, and swings up beside him, stretching out on the long red nose of the car.
'Beautiful sky we're having,' she says, tipping her head back. 'Big and blue, my favourite.'
He's stiff next to her, his limbs tense. 'River. What are you doing?'
She leans her head over to rest it on his shoulder. 'Nothing, apparently, love. Sky-watching.'
'You attacked me.' His voice is injured, but a little intrigued nonetheless.
'You're 1103,' she says, matching him fact for fact.
He shifts, but doesn't move away. 'What does that have to do with you attacking me?'
She turns her face so he can see her smile, crooked and promising. 'I've been meeting 900-year-old versions of you recently. Meeting a version of you that remembers me – that remembers us – well, I just couldn't resist.' She reaches down and laces their fingers together, rubbing gently with her thumb.
'Ah,' he says intelligently, his eyes fluttering shut. A lifetime of loving this man has, among other things, taught her his erogenous zones. His hands are unbelievably sensitive.
'Don't worry about it,' she says, letting her voice slip lower, take on a teasing lilt. 'I'm perfectly content to sit out here with you and watch the sky.' Add a thoughtful tone. 'I do, after all, have a vibration setting on my torch.'
The finger massage must have been even more effective than usual, because he doesn't get it for a minute. When he does, he tenses, and his fingers tighten. 'River!'
'What? It's true,' she says. 'Want me to show you?'
She starts to sit up, to pull away from him, to go for the torch in her gunbelt, but he catches her wrist. 'River,' he says again, like he can't not say it, his eyes hooded and intense as they look up at her.
She kisses him. She has to, with a look like that. Leans down and kisses him, hard and fast and sure, staking her claim and reaffirming her commitment. The sun is warm on her back, and his lips dry against hers, and these are the moments she remembers, small and precious, when his mouth opens under hers.
When she pulls away, his eyes are dazed, but he still has hold of her wrist. 'Amy and Rory will be here soon,' he manages to get out, but his voice is already a little hoarse, and she knows she has him.
She swings a leg over his, watches his eyes widen and his tongue dart out to wet his lips. 'Then we'd better hurry.'
His eyes drift shut as she leans down to steal another kiss, warm and slow. He's tentative at first, and this time she takes it slowly, pressing her lips chastely to his, revelling in the feeling of being close to him again. All the lonely days in Stormcage melt away, here with him, under the New Mexico sky.
A hand in her curls, and she hums appreciatively against his mouth, arching into it like a cat.
That does it, that has him, and she feels a surer hand on her hip, pulling her in close. She grins, and nips his lower lip, deepening the kiss when he opens his mouth. There's nothing like it, nothing like coming home in her lover's arms, however few and far apart those meetings are.
After a few moments, it's him who pulls away this time, breathing a little harder than usual. She did that, she thinks victoriously, and moves her hips just so.
'River,' he says, a little strangled. She opens her eyes and looks at him, flushed under the warm sun, laid out for her on top of a bright red automobile. Sometimes the universe loves her.
'Yes, love?' she asks, dropping a hand to his bowtie.
He clears his throat. 'This…this is the TARDIS.'
She takes a reappraising look at it. 'And as lovely as ever. You finally got that chameleon circuit fixed, then?'
'What? Yes,' he says, looking distracted. She takes the opportunity to free his bowtie and sling it over the side of the car. They can find it again later. 'The point is, she's the TARDIS.'
'Yes,' she says, raising an eyebrow.
He looks faintly scandalised. 'She's the TARDIS!'
She raises the other eyebrow. 'I see we haven't gotten to that bit in the console room yet. But that was after the bit with the Wirrn, and…ah. You've been fiddling with your age again, haven't you?'
A guilty twitch. 'A little.'
'You know you shouldn't do that,' she says, but she's not angry. It does make it harder to keep track of him, when he goes about fudging his age, but if she was as old as him, she'd have stayed 900 for a few centuries too. There's just something so daunting about that millennium mark.
He's still not meeting her eyes, so she drops a hand to his chest and lightly runs the backs of her fingers down it. 'Well, if you're 1103 now, it can't be long. My point was that, as you'll find out when we get to that bit, the TARDIS likes to watch.'
That gets his attention. She watches his throat bob, feels his hand tighten on her waist. 'Spoilers?' It comes out weakly, almost a whisper.
She laughs. 'A little one, perhaps. But I haven't told you how she helps, have I?'
He shakes his head, minutely, his eyes gone wide, and she kisses him again, still laughing, because it's either that or explode. The hand in her hair drops, becomes an arm around her back, with the other still on her hip, pulling her in. She tugs his shirt out of his trousers, desperate to get her hand on skin; when she does, slipping a hand up and under and onto warm, smooth planes, he gasps and arches up against her.
It's not enough, not enough, and she pulls away, watching the long sweep of his eyelashes, the hectic blush on his cheeks. His eyes blink open, and she looks into them, caught, teetering on the edge between affection and lust. One of his thumbs slips under the hem of her shirt, traces a circle on her stomach, and her eyes drop shut as she hears herself moan.
'What do you want, River?' he asks, and the rumble of his voice against her chest makes her thrill.
'You,' she says, simply; and somehow that is the key, that is what makes him growl, somewhere low, and pull her against him.
'Off the car,' he says in her ear. No hesitation now.
As soon as they're standing in the dirt next to the car, she drops to her knees. The gravel and grass next to this stretch of deserted interstate highway is going to destroy her trousers, but she doesn't care. She needs him, needs this, with all the burning of the desert sun.
She hears him suck in breath, somewhere above her, but he backs up obediently when she pushes him against the car, rests a hand on her hair as she frees his braces and pops his trouser button. 'Say yes, sweetie,' she says, unable to keep the smile off her face, her fingers caught in his waistband.
He has to swallow first, she can hear it. 'Yes. Yes, River.'
Down go the trousers, and down go the pants, and then there he is, and she leans in to lick, savouring the little sound of shock he makes, the way his hands flutter helplessly about, before coming to rest on her shoulders. No matter how many times they do this, he always acts as if it's the greatest gift in the universe. She quite likes it.
'River,' he says in an entirely different voice, one of wonder and desire and joy, and she hums around him, rests her fingers on his hipbones, breathes in the warmth and the sand and the taste of her lover, under the bright New Mexican sky.
He reaches down and takes her hand, pulls her to her feet and into his arms. She rests her head on his chest, hears the irregular hammering of his hearts, gradually slowing into their usual rhythm. His arms wrap around her, sure and firm, and she closes her eyes and breathes him in. Vanilla, amber, and a touch of the sea, somewhere, salty waves and sandy shores.
They stand there for a few minutes, content. She rests her hand on his naked back, under that pristine shirt of his – not so pristine now; she gradually realises she's tracing her name in the language of their people, swirls and caresses and the laying of claims, and that he's letting her. They breathe together, and she feels the sun beat down on them, and thinks of adventures in hot deserts, in cool forests, in wet swamps and barren wastelands, before shutting out all memories and concentrating on the here and now, the bright and the warm.
'Well,' he says finally, his voice rumbling in his chest, still a little ragged – no matter how many times she does that, she still feels a bit smug – 'turn and turn about.'
She smiles, curve of her mouth brushing his shirt. 'I thought Amy and Rory were going to be here any moment?'
'If the school bus is on schedule, they'll be another thirty minutes,' he says, dismissively. His fingers are softly stroking her back, over her shirt, chaste; minute movements lighting up her nerves like a slow-burning log. 'And we'll be able to see them coming. Benefits of being in a desert. Nothing grows, and you can see for miles.'
'I see,' she says, and her voice seems to have gone a bit husky. 'That old Gallifreyan body of yours up for another round, then?'
He chuckles. 'That wasn't what I had in mind.'
'What did you have in mind?'
He pushes off from the car in one smooth movement and lets go of her. Wrapping her arms around her in the sudden chill, she watches as he shrugs off his jacket and lays it on the car's nose. He arranges it just to his satisfaction, and she looks at him in his shirtsleeves and imagines getting him properly naked for once, all long limbs and warm skin. Perhaps later, after this particular madcap adventure is over, whatever it is, perhaps after all the running is over, and the planet saved once again, she'll pull him along to his room and close the door...
He's looking at her, eyebrow raised, as if he has some idea of what she's thinking. She smiles at him, and he holds a hand out to her, as courteous as a eighteenth-century gentleman.
She eyes the jacket. 'You want me to sit on it? Won't I get it dirty?'
He swallows, clears his throat, those images probably playing out before his eyes. 'No, no sitting. But,' and he takes her hand and spins her, presses her up against the car and the jacket, her throat going dry and her stomach plummeting, 'I thought it might be too hot to lean up against without some protection.'
She leans back on her elbows, looks up at him. 'And what do you plan on doing to me, Doctor?'
He doesn't answer at first, busy unbuckling her gunbelt, nose wrinkled as if he smells something off. For a moment, she thinks he might sling it into the underbrush, but he settles for depositing it gingerly in the gravel next to his ridiculous hat. The bowtie is nowhere to be seen.
Hands at her button now, and she links her arms around his neck and asks again, 'What do you have in mind, love?'
He looks at her then, eyes heavy and intent, and slides the button free. 'This,' he says, and slides to his knees.
He'll wreck his trousers in this gravel, she thinks semi-coherently, and then he's easing her own trousers past her hips, and she spreads her legs for him, open and wanton against the red of the TARDIS and the blue of the wide open sky. He smiles against her – she feels the curve of his lips against the inside of her thigh – and breathes, and she shudders, and he hasn't even started yet.
He says something, mumbled, and she chokes out, 'What?', her legs already trembling, his arm around her hip holding her steady.
He looks up, and she looks down - a Time Lord at her feet, long and purposeful, eyes dancing. 'I said, it's like riding a bicycle.'
'What?' she says again, but he's moved, and his mouth is there, and she stops caring about cryptic Terran sayings, throwing back her head and shouting her joy to the skies.
After, they sit on the gravel next to the TARDIS for a few minutes. She nestles into his side, plays with his hand, those long talented fingers. She feels languid, warm, content; nothing can be wrong with the world, when she's shattered beneath a New Mexican sky, and then kissed her taste off her lover's lips.
'We should get dressed,' she says, because someone needs to say it. Amy and Rory may not know she's their daughter yet, but finding the Doctor in a post-coital cuddle would still probably blow their human minds. Also she quite likes the Doctor sometimes, and she'd hate for her father to kill him, once Demon's Run happens and he starts thinking back to all the times he's met her before. Best to keep her sex life out of her parents' faces.
'Mmm.' She'll get no coherence out of the Gallifreyan next to her, it appears.
She smacks him, lightly. 'Your bowtie seems to have walked off. Not that it's not an improvement,' – he mumbles something that might have been Bowties are cool, but she ignores it – 'but the Ponds will definitely notice.'
'Well, you slung it somewhere,' he says, and there's the teasing lilt she knows so well.
She grins at him, too happy to play it cool. 'I did indeed.'
He cranes his head to peer around the tire, and she looks at him, laid out on the gravel next to her, and bites back a smile. Trouser knees a sight, shirt untucked and gloriously wrinkled, trouser button still undone and hanging open, jacket still flung haphazardly over the nose of the car, bowtie mysteriously vanished, collar undone, a bright red spot peeking out from underneath it – she's really done a number on him this time. Beautiful.
'Found it,' he says, triumphant, holding it up in his hand, and she tackles him, pressing kisses into the side of his neck, as he laughs, startled and warm, arms going around her.
If they take longer than strictly necessary to smarten themselves up again, no one except the TARDIS ever knows. And she keeps her counsel.
By the time the school bus rolls in, River's a safe distance away, biding her time before making a reappearance. The Ponds emerge, looking lovely and young and excited, and she smiles. She can never quite keep track of these things, but she thinks Amy just might be pregnant with her now, although she's certainly not showing. Early days, then.
He jumps down from the TARDIS, ball of energy as ever, and if they don't seem to notice the trouser knees, or the wrinkled shirt. Luckily the hair is hidden by the Stetson – running her fingers through it had only gone so far toward making it presentable.
Looking at the Stetson gives her an idea.
Never let it be said that River Song doesn't know how to make an entrance.
'No,' she says, disbelief leaching into her voice. 'No.'
'Yes,' he says, grinning.
'No,' she says again. 'You were 1103. You said.'
'Everybody lies,' he says. 'Particularly when there are complicated plans involving Ganger doubles, Flesh avatars, and the fate of the universe – again. Would you have trusted a mysterious, enchanting woman who knew far too much about you already?'
'You're impossible,' she says, kicking his ankle under the sheets.
He hasn't stopped grinning, laughter dancing in his eyes. 'And you love me for it.'
'Perhaps,' she says, and tackles him into the pillows.
Never let it be said that River Song doesn't know how to make an entrance.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"