then grudge me not my fond endeavor;
It was hardly his fault really. He hadn't invited her along – hadn't even known she'd been on board after he left his last stop until he was wandering down the corridor toward the library, contemplating how very much he hated travelling alone, when he literally walked straight into her. Not to say that he minded exactly, there were far worse things to walk into. Less soft, less pretty, less pleasantly shaped. He'd been so happy to see her – it was the first time they'd been truly on their own, and he enjoyed her quick wit, her bright mind and well, he enjoyed just seeing her everywhere.
He wished for nothing more than to get mental snapshots of her in every room in his TARDIS, though that would take longer than forever, maybe.
Perhaps that was the point of the wish.
But he was getting off-track. The point being that this wasn't his fault. She left that damn diary laying about everywhere, on the jump seat, tucked into an armchair in the library, on a lounge chair by the recently re-appeared swimming pool. Even left on a side table in the wardrobe room once – and he felt like she was honestly doing it on purpose at that point. She must know how he was gripped by a curiosity so intense he could feel the urge crawl across his skin every time he looked at the infuriating thing.
Surely there were no more secrets that needed to be kept – not like the secret of who and what she was. He understood completely her reasons for keeping that from him now. And of course, perhaps there were a few things left he shouldn't see – after all she was still a mystery in so many ways – but the temptation to look seemed to have grown exponentially since discovering who she was.
So when he was making tea in the kitchen and accidentally knocked the diary off the counter – accidentally, he swore - and it fell to the floor, opening naturally to a mid-point in the weathered pages and something skittered across the floor, how was he supposed to not look? He only had so much restraint – and really it would be rude to not pick up whatever had slid under the table. Honestly. And he was not rude – not this version of him, anyway.
He ducked under the table first, picking the small item up – a photograph, thick paper and bent corners. He turned it over without thought, without debate, without the slightest hesitance. It was faded from handling, but he could recognize River instantly. Her hair was... magnificent. Teased and fuller than he'd ever seen it before, she was looking over her shoulder coyly, hands laced behind her back and out of focus in the corner of the frame was a man's hand, reaching toward her. Several things struck him as odd about the photo – the first being that River was in a blue dress. Not that he'd never seen her in dresses before- he had, several times. But something about this dress caught his eye. The flow of the fabric over her hips, the line of the dress itself, he wasn't sure. She was holding a single flower in her hands behind her back and when he peered more closely at the photo trying to determine what type of flower it was (some kind of lily and he suspected it was alien in origin, but couldn't be sure since the photo only showed pale blue petals) he noticed the ring. The wedding ring, a ring she clearly did not wear now.
He remembered the night of Amy's wedding, standing in the garden with her, giving her this diary and asking if she were married. He'd of course, been fishing. He had wanted to know if she would answer him, and she had, but in the most ambiguous manner possible. He glanced at the man's hand, but it was the right hand, and no clues could be ascertained. He held up his own right hand, glancing from the photo to his own hand, trying to see if they were the same. It was too out of focus to tell though, and he huffed in frustration before crawling out from under the table backwards and walking over to pick the diary up from the floor.
He was surprised by how many drawings were packed on the two pages, shoved in amongst cramped, tiny writing that was nearly illegible. Sketches of lilies and a beach vista with what looked like two suns or two moons in the sky beyond the water. Everything was done in pencil, and he wished she had colours at her disposal. He was peering at the writing, trying to decipher her, frankly, awful penmanship – picking out words here and there, when she walked into the kitchen and gasped.
"Doctor!" She took the diary from his hands quickly, snapping it shut and glaring at him. He still held the photograph in his hands as he stared at her apologetically.
"This is not what it looks like! Well, unless it looks like I was trying to read it, in which case I suppose it's exactly what it looks like – but there were extenuating circumstances! It fell, see, and this fell out-" he waved the photograph in his hand and she glanced down at it. Her face softened slightly as she took it from him gently, she smoothed the creases and stroked the surface with a finger, just once. He watched her looking down at it, her whole face transformed into something – someone he'd never seen before. And he very much wanted to know that River. "I'm sorry." He finally apologized softly and she looked back up at him with a sad smile.
"I shouldn't be so careless with it. I just forget that you're so young, still." She lifted one shoulder slightly and he stepped in closer to her.
"It's a lovely picture." He whispered the words, and her smile grew more genuine. "Something about it just seems very... you look different. Calmer. Content. Still very much so you though, River Song." He glanced down again and realized what it was that struck him so very oddly. This photo was well worn, and clearly old. But she looked to be about the same age as she was now. "How old is it?"
She laughed sharply, her shoulders shaking as she shook her head. "Always so clever Doctor." She sighed softly and looked back down at the photo in her hands. "I don't have many pictures you know, Doctor. This was – it's special."
"Why are you wearing a ring?" He reached for her left hand, stroking her bare fingers gently. She bit her lip and huffed a bit as she met his curious gaze. "Why aren't you now?"
"You're clever enough, Doctor, why don't you tell me?" She pulled her hand back and crossed her arms over her chest as she arched a brow at him. He straightened and adjusted his bowtie nervously, trying to make sense of the eager suppositions spilling across his inquisitive mind.
"You're married, but supposing that your marriage itself is a spoiler – I'd guess that wearing your ring wouldn't be allowed, would it?" He rocked back on his heels when she laughed shortly, shaking her head.
"Always breaking rules, Doctor. Even your own." She uncrossed her arms and glanced down at the photo once more. Her fingers worried the bent edge, folding and unfolding the corner as she sighed again.
"I'm right though, aren't I?" He wasn't sure why it was so important to keep asking her this, to keep turning the question over in his mind. It had been enough of a near constant thought before he knew who she was. But now that he knew... the concept of her as his wife seemed to cling to the edge of his mind, growing and spreading like ivy. If he were honest with himself, it was because he wanted it to be true.
"What am I supposed to say to that Doctor?" She questioned him seriously. "If I tell you anything it could change everything. You know that, my love – so why do you persist in questioning me? Do you need to be right about this so badly that you'd risk it happening at all?" Her face was serious and he deflated a bit at her chastising. Because of course she was right. She usually was – a fact that both irritated him and turned him on beyond belief. He understood the basis for their spoiler rules. Grasped the concept, understood its use and necessity even. He glanced down at the photo between them – aged and worn but she looked exactly the same. Hadn't aged one bit – and he knew what that meant.
Regeneration. They aged until that first one, and then you regenerated and were as old as that version of you was until you changed again. He wished he'd thought to figure out the age of the photo itself before she'd entered the room, but his hearts danced in giddy delight regardless, because he could sense the age in a vague manner, could smell and feel it. It was a long time. Long enough – but he didn't want to wait that long. "I just..." he started weakly and she looked at him, waiting for him to finish. He reached up and pushed her hair back with a hand that shook slightly, and he hoped she didn't notice that bit. "I want it to be true." He whispered the last words like a confession and her face softened as she stepped in closer to him until she was pressed against him, all warmth and soft bits that felt nice all squashed against him.
She hadn't really pressed him on the physical intimacy issue, but he found himself reaching for her more and more the longer she was around. He kissed her more often, felt the urge to lay his hands on her almost always. He liked the feel of her, liked the taste of her, liked the sounds she made when he did all of those things to her. It was a slow build-up though, and he liked that too. The chance to grow used to a level of intimacy he hadn't had to employ in what felt like forever. "Then make it true." Her words were breathy and light in his ear and his hands landed on her hips, gripping tight and tighter as she spoke. He pulled his head back in shock and stared down at her, flabbergasted.
"I – You – but – what?"
"Even if we aren't married, we could be. And if we are, well there's no law against doing it twice. Or three or four or five or a million times." She pointed out calmly, tilting her hips forward into his and sliding her arms up around his neck. He could feel her fingers playing with the ends of his hair and he grinned down at her, his hearts hammering against his chest. Would she – could he – was he even...
To all of it. He paused for a moment, looking down at her thoughtfully, thinking on how best to say it. How best to ask, even though she'd all but done all the answering already. Twice. Ah – he finally landed on the words, not his words, but the right words none the less. "Ha! Though you know it anyhow, listen to me darling, now – proving what I need not prove, how I know I love you, love." She laughed, her head tilting back before she stood on tip toe and pressed her mouth to his. She kissed him until they were both breathless, and his hearts were pounding, his blood singing through his veins. Appropriate, he thought fuzzily. She was his song.
"Tell me you weren't about to recite the whole poem." Her smile was bright when they finally parted and he glanced down at her sheepishly.
"Oh, you were." Her eyes were bright with amusement, lit with secrets that he could see hidden within their depths and he smiled in return.
"Did you at least let me recite it all the first time?" He teased her gently, not really expecting an answer but she surprised him again.
"Actually you started at the end then – oh, I suppose this is why. 'Then grudge me not my fond endeavor to keep you in my sight forever; let none, not even you disparage, such a valid reason for marriage.'"She quoted back at him, leaning back and smacking his shoulder lightly. "Oh that was cheeky of you, sweetie."
He winced, laughing and shaking his head. "Well you clearly deserved it – not letting me do it properly this time, and you're still not letting me do it properly, you know." He pointed out with a show of irritation, but he was unable to keep the smile off his face, so it quite ruined the effect he'd been going for.
"Well?" She arched a brow at him, and looked at him expectantly. "Get on with it, then, or do I have to do everything myself?"
He leaned down, pressing his face into her hair, the curls tickling his cheeks and nose and eyes, until his mouth was close enough to her ear that his lips brushed it gently when he finally spoke in a low voice. "Marry me?" She drew in a breath, her chest brushing against his as she did so. "Again?" He couldn't resist adding and she shoved him away with a stern look and a laugh.
She grabbed him by the braces, photo crumpled in her fist as she hauled him forward once more, kissing him senseless, her mouth opening under his as she kissed him with so much passion he wasn't quite sure where he ended and she began. There was no mid-point anymore, just bits of her and him scattered all around, spread out equally. Her hearts next to his. When she pulled back to speak, he followed her, kissing her just once more, because he needed to. How had he managed all those times before – before he knew the taste of her and the feel of her within his very mind?
"Always." She spoke in a high-pitched, breathy voice that made his insides tighten in anticipation. How he loved this mad, impossible woman with all of her secrets and mysteries and hidden corners and undiscovered nooks. He doubted he would ever tire of figuring her out, piece by piece. Her smile tilted up into just this side of smug, and he pressed a kiss to the corner of her lips, because he actually quite loved that smile. "Again."