(when time from time shall set us free)
The climb up is more arduous than expected.
Gravity is something that is taken for granted, assumed to always be there. But ships aren't meant to be climbed up sideways, and they most definitely are not designed for it. Amy is above River, and River is ahead of him – a precaution River suggests when Amy refuses to believe, refuses to trust either of them and just open her eyes.
"If she's first I can guide her. And if anything happens it's better if we're both below her." To catch her if she falls goes unspoken, and he watches River as she speaks, the slight crinkle of concern between her brows and how tightly she grips Amy's hand. He wonders just how long River has known Amy. How long does he keep Amy Pond with him? How many times will River skip in and out of his life while Amy's there to observe and tease him about Mrs. Doctor from the future.
He brushes Amy's questions and assumptions aside because they echo the questions that circle his own head about River far too closely. "You're right. But Amy, you have to listen to River very carefully. Should I go second actually?" He presents the question and River shakes her head, the tiniest little negative nod.
"Better that you're the last resort." He looks at her sharply and again a million things pass unsaid between them. By the time he needs to catch her, she would be falling faster, and of the two of them, he is stronger. She's right – irritatingly so – and he sighs and nods, wondering why he even bothers to argue in the first place. "Plus she's in a skirt." River points out with a scoffing laugh, and Amy blushes under her curtain of red hair, squeezing River's hand sharply.
"River!" She hisses, and River just laughs, the sound warm and genuinely amused and he envies her that ability. She laughs, and the sound reminds him of her. It crawls under his skin and into his mind, and echoes there, an unwanted constant. It isn't unwelcome though, and it makes his chest feel warmer for just a moment.
"Up you go, Amy." River helps Amy stand on the back of the console they'd clung to not moments ago, and begins carefully describing the approximate distance and reach of what they'll need to grip in order to crawl out of this ship.
It's slow going. Amy slips and misses, and misjudges distance – clearly she is not all that spatially inclined, but then, who would be in circumstances such as these? The higher they climb, the further they have to fall, and Amy's breathing is shallow and erratic, and he would comfort her if he could, but he is too far beneath her, and currently preoccupied with his own predicament.
Cleric uniforms weren't the most flattering of clothing, but he is just below River and honestly, a man would have to be blind not to notice the view above him. Perhaps even a woman, he muses, because she does have a rather spectacular bum. He's desperately grateful that she cannot see him, because he blushed so much in the first three minutes of the climb, chastising himself for his own thoughts.
Forty minutes into it however, he's decided that he can hardly be blamed for enjoying the view, and turns his mind to studying the wriggle of her bum as she crawls, the shape of her hips and thighs and the delightful curve of her bottom. How does she manage to look so good in what should be a completely unflattering outfit? He has a strong suspicion she'd look good in a paper sack. They've only climbed through four rooms in that amount of time. According to River's schematics, which she checks while they rest in each new room - standing on walls at right angles while Amy catches her breath and bemoans her bruises – they still have roughly seven rooms to go.
While they rest, River's communicator beeps irritatingly, and she answers it quickly. "Dr. Song." She pauses, with a frown. "No, only three survivors. The others – didn't make it." She trips over those words and listens to the other end of the conversation. "It wasn't a single Angel, Bishop – it was an entire army. We barely survived." He can read the irritation in her voice clearly, before she sighs and snaps, interrupting the soft crackle of a response. "Can you teleport us?" She listens, and nods curtly, before lowering the communicator and turning to him. "They can lock on to the communicator's signal, but it's a narrow teleportation field – it'd be too risky to try to get all three of us out. I think it should be Amy."
He nods as she speaks, and then nods again, in agreement. "Obviously – we can climb much more quickly with her safe up there. And there'll be less injury. And whinging." The last is spoken in a teasing tone, and Amy sticks her tongue out at him, but it's the wrong direction and River laughs softly.
"Agreed then?" She asks him, studying him carefully and he nods, waving a hand. She turns to Amy, and presses the communicator into her hand. "Hold tight to it, alright? They'll take care of you up there, and we'll be as quick as we can."
"Will you both be alright? The communicator has the plans on it, I mean – how will you find your way?" Amy's voice is worried, and she's frowning as she speaks.
"We'll be fine. How hard can it be? Up." He points out and River runs a soft hand over Amy's hair in reassurance.
"First star to the right and straight on 'til morning." She says softly, and Amy laughs. "Hopefully not that long though. Besides, loads of men in uniform to keep you plenty busy 'til we get up there." River presses the communication button on the device and speaks clearly. "She's ready." She lets go of Amy and Amy looks startled and scared for one moment before she disappears in a cloud of transportation dust.
"Good." He sighs, standing, and River does the same as the both peer up into the darkness ahead of them. "Sonic can map most of it anyway. A torch would be helpful, but we'll get by. Shall we then?" He waves above him and she looks at him with an arched brow.
"You can go first, if you like." She points out, and he shakes his head, far more quickly than he'd like.
"Nah, same rules apply. If you slip, I can catch you." He thinks that sounds reasonable, because really the only reason going through his mind at the moment is he likes the view. He likes her, even though he has tried not to. She is quick, and clever. Absurdly bright really, and she intrigues him. Even Octavian's warning - far below and what feels like a lifetime ago, but has actually been less than two hours - doesn't faze him as it should. Too late to warn him to not trust River Song now, because he already knows he will. Has known from the moment she whispered something no one – no human – should ever be able to know in his ear in the Library. She knows his name. She knows his language. She knows how to fly his ship. Warnings to not trust her are pointless, because he already has according to her, and will do according to him.
"I thought you wouldn't be there to catch me every time I felt like jumping out of a spaceship? Or in a spaceship, in this case." Her brows are raised, she has that knowing look again and not for the first time that day he feels like she can read his mind.
"Jumping and falling are two different things," he shrugs in what he hopes is a nonchalant manner. "And you already said I was so wrong about that."
"Well you have been." She states as she jumps for the nearest light on the wall next to them. "Doesn't mean you will. I only know what has happened. Anything is possible in the moment, so to speak."
He follows her, eyeing her speculatively as she stretches above him. He imagines he can almost see the play of muscles underneath the thin layer of camouflage and skin. He's certainly staring closely enough for it to be true, anyway. "How does that work then, exactly? I just what? Jump in and out of your life at random?"
Her laughter echoes down from above him as she pulls herself up by the locking wheel on a doorframe. "Actually yes, it works exactly like that. There's a pattern – more or less – but generally you just barge in at the oddest times."
"I barge in? I think you're confused. So far it's only ever been you calling me all over space and time, River." She moves on, clambering over a console that is thankfully bolted down – bless these category four Starliners – and he hoists himself up to the doorway she's just vacated.
"Spoilers, sweetie." She laughs over her shoulder, her grin flashing in the dim light above him. "Trust me, it isn't always like that. You do a lot of your own popping in and out. Does that make you happier?" She climbs until she stands on the side of the console and then eyes the distance to one mid-room speculatively. He grabs the console and climbs as she jumps, landing with a thud and a muffled curse.
"Be careful." He stresses, pulling himself up to the side of the console and she eyes the door above her.
"Sonic?" She holds out a hand and he tosses it over to her, watching as she flicks it open with ease and points it at the door above her. There is a click and she reaches up, but she isn't tall enough. She shifts over to the edge of the console she's standing on, leaving enough room for him to jump to her side. He lands with a thud and reaches up, pushing the now unlocked door open with a grunt.
"Come on, I'll have to boost you." He motions her closer and tries to look unaffected as he puts his hands on her waist, lifting her up. She stretches and he is suddenly conscious of the fact that her breasts are quite literally pressed against his face. She wriggles a bit as she reaches for the door frame, twisting her hips in his grip and he lets out a muffled noise that is more of a moan than a grunt but he hopes she doesn't realize that fact. Finally she hoists herself up, and he doesn't let go, resulting in his hands brushing against the very arse he's been staring at for the better part of an hour. She grunts as she pulls herself up, wiggling as she crawls through the door above their heads. She then pops her head back through the frame, leaning down to grasp his forearms and helps pull him up. Once into the next room, they stop for a moment, resting.
"Here," she hands the sonic back to him, but he waves it aside as he slumps next to her, his shoulder brushing hers.
"No, chances are you'll need it if you're in the lead. I assume you know how to scan with it?" He trails off and glances over at her to find her looking at him with disbelief.
"Of course I know how to scan with it. You know, you never said earlier – just how early is this for you?"
His hearts are beating heavy in his chest, and he wonders if it's from the effort of the climb, or just her. He hesitates with his answer, unsure why he feels like he shouldn't tell her the truth. "What pattern? More or less."
She stares at him silently for a beat, and he can see her weighing her thoughts carefully. He resists the urge to brush a hand across her face, or any of her skin really – and just take a peek. What would her mind feel like? Dark and warm? Cold and bright? Glittering surfaces and dancing shadows? "Back to front." She finally hedges, and he looks at her with a frown. "Not always, sometimes you cheat – or maybe I cheat – we both tend to cheat, actually." She speaks with a dry laugh, leaning her head against the floor at their backs. "But more and more – especially lately – it's back to front. I'm backwards, or you're backwards, depending on how you look at it."
"But that would mean I'm just... forgetting you. From your point of view. Is that what it's like for me? At the end? My end I mean, your beginning?" The thought of it all sends a creeping tightness through his chest. She looks at him, brows lifted in disbelief and he sighs. "You won't tell me."
"Not won't, Doctor dear. Can't. Don't blame me they're-"
"My rules. I know, I know. Small comfort that I'm keeping things from myself. There has to be a reason, but why?" He stares up for a moment and she laughs next to him, her voice soft and light. "Well of course, you know." He snaps and she stands, holding out a hand to help him up. He takes it, even though he doesn't really need to. Her hand feels tiny in his, but her grip is strong, just like it was when she held his hand and ran in the Library. He stands, but doesn't let go as he peers into the room above their heads. It looks like a lab of some kind, but it is filled with rowed tables, all bolted down, so it should be fairly easy climbing. She squeezes his hand lightly, and nods.
"Come on, we'll not get out of this god forsaken ship any quicker by standing about and staring it into submission." She jumps up and grabs the legs of the first table, pulling herself up and then using the legs like the rungs of a ladder, climbing swiftly. "You going to stand down there, staring at my arse all day, honey, or are you going to climb?" Her voice is teasing and he scoffs, making a show of waving his arms about even though she isn't even looking.
He climbs after her, and they are relieved to see that the next room is a repeat of this one, so they don't stop to rest, opting to climb on instead. The room after that one though, is completely empty. They stare above their heads in dismay. "The flooring is grated." He points out and she lets out a snort beside him.
"Yes it is. Hang on; I'll need a moment before this one." She turns her back and leans against the flooring in question, and he leans next to her, facing her and studying the way her hair is escaping the ponytail she has it all shoved into, one wispy little curl at a time.
"I wasn't staring, for the record." He feels compelled to lie, and she laughs shortly, giving him a disbelieving stare.
"I happen to know for a fact it's your second favourite part of me, sweetie." Her smile is teasing and his hearts flutter in his chest as she flirts with him, leaning toward him with a smirk. He wants to say something brilliant – something that will wipe the look off her face.
"What's my first favourite?" Is what comes out of his stupidly stupid mouth instead, and he wonders how the hell that happened without his brain's consent.
"My hair." She winks, and he looks up, contemplating it. It's blonde, which is new – but he suspects it is still just as curly as it was when he first met her, though it's been teased and tortured into the soft waves she'd been sporting while flitting about his console room in her bare feet and an evening gown. Of course, it was up in the Library too, and he wonders what it looks like naturally. He suspects it'll be glorious, and he wants to find out. "Oh, don't stare at it now." She slaps his shoulder lightly and he grins. "I must look a fright."
"No," he teases, reaching up and tugging on her ponytail lightly.
"Oh my god, you are like a nine year old." She laughs, slapping his hands away. Her hair was very soft, even with all it's been through, and he knows that when it was naturally curly, it would feel even softer.
"I can see why it'd be my favourite. But I still don't believe you about the second favourite." He glances at her speculatively and she smiles secretively, lifting one shoulder.
"Only because you haven't really seen it, Doctor dear." Her face is calm, and he chokes on the air he's breathing while she laughs at him. "Oh yes." She is clearly taking great delight in making him blush, and he can feel it spread up his neck, an uncomfortable warmth. But of course, her words have made him picture exactly what she is speaking about, and he shifts against the wall, suddenly uncomfortable.
Everything she says to him, how she speaks, how she leans into him, situates her body within his personal space – all of it has been very clear from the very beginning. But body language telling him they will be intimate is far different from her outright saying it. He remembers the press of her body against his when he caught her in the TARDIS, and he shivers slightly. She had felt soft in all the right ways, the curve of her hips fitting into his like they were made to go together.
"Oh darling, I do love this face – so young and innocent." She says it in a way that implies he is actually anything but – which is of course, the truth. But she knows that and it does funny things to his insides as she turns toward him, tracing a nail along his left brace. He finds it more difficult to breathe properly, and she is moving in closer than is proper, but he can't seem to do anything to stop her. He looks down at her face, the arch of her brows, the line of her nose, the roundness of her cheeks. Her full lips. He doesn't think he actually wants to stop her. His hearts beat an unsteady tattoo against his ribcage, and he feels a headiness sing through his veins that he hasn't felt in a long, long time.
She slips that single finger beneath his brace and tugs him forward until he is millimetres apart from her, and he can't even blame her for any of this, because he'd stumbled forward eagerly, willingly. His feet practically tripping over themselves because he wants to know. He wants to know who she is, but more specifically who she is to him. She knows so much about him. Everything, really – and though she's never confirmed that fact, it is there in the shadows of her eyes whenever she looks at him. He can tell she doesn't just look, she sees him. All of him. And for him to share all of that with someone... and he saved her. He lifts a hand, and brushes a finger across the side of her face gently. "I'm really not young, you know that."
"You're really not that old either, sweetie." He laughs because honestly – he's over nine hundred years old, but she still talks to him as if she could appreciate that fact. Identify with it. She can't be more than her mid-forties and while that's a hell of a lot older than the human companions he usually chooses – for a reason, obviously, he enjoys their child-like wonder when they're young – he still finds himself appreciating the bite and wisdom her age gives her.
"Oh River, you know that's not true." He breathes the words out and she glances up at him, tilting her head back until her mouth is less than an inch from his. He can still see the faded outline of her lipstick from earlier, and he licks his lips in anticipation, because he's not so naive that he doesn't know how this conversation will end. Lips and teeth and tongue.
"Age is just a number." She points out with a smile. "You're nine hundred but look about twelve, and when you were two hundred you looked like you were ancient. Faces lie, Doctor. It's all in what's in here." Her hands brush across his temple and push his hair back and he feels more in that simple touch than he should. It is electric, tingling and sparking, rushing through his body like a current.
"You really know all my faces?" Her hand stays in his hair, and her other hand is still wrapped around his brace, trapped between their bodies.
"Every single one." She breathes the words out and he feels everything inside of him tighten, because she says it like she means something else. Like she will be witness to every face he's ever had, even though he knows that's not possible. He would remember her. But she also says it in the way someone discusses something irrelevant and banal. She gives it no weight or importance, and he looks into her eyes and understands what she means by that. He's always the same man. Her hand slides out of his hair, and she trails a finger across his cheeks before stroking it down his nose. She traces the shape of his mouth and his breathing gets quick and shallow, his mouth going dry. He swallows as she slides her fingers under his jaw, her thumb resting on his chin, and he thinks the anticipation may kill him, so he bends forward a fraction, just enough to press his mouth to hers. He feels her smile for a split second; her lips curved against his before she opens her mouth and kisses him back in earnest.
Her hand uncurls from around his brace, and lays flat against his chest, over one of his hearts. She slips the other one along his neck until she can pull him against her, and her fingers tangle in the hair at the back of his neck. He is concentrating on breathing, the soft feel of her lips when her tongue runs across his own, and he waves his hands a bit in surprise as she slips it in his mouth.
She tastes rich. Dark and bittersweet and oh so very rich with flavour. His hands grip her waist, pulling her hips against his as he moans in the back of his throat and she hums in response. One of his hands slides traitorously around her back, slipping down until he is mapping the curve of her bum and making a liar of himself. She rises on her tip toes when he does that, pressing herself impossibly closer as her kiss grows even more aggressive, her teeth scraping along his bottom lip and his hips jerk forward at the sensation. Somehow both of his hands have reached around to grip her arse now, pulling her into him and she pushes his shoulder, turning him into the wrongly angled floor. He can feel the metal grating bite into his back as she presses him against it, but he doesn't mind because her hands are sliding down his sides and her mouth is devouring his own in a delightful manner.
She pulls back to breathe for a moment, but he isn't done with her so her follows her, his mouth sliding down along her jaw until he can flick a tongue against the shell of her ear. She moans then, a panting, breathy, high-pitched whinge that makes everything within him tighten in anticipation. Her mouth is by his ear when she does it, and he has the sudden mental image of her wrapped around him, nothing but glorious honey skin and delicious warmth surrounding him, welcoming him. And that noise repeated in his ear, over and over again. He kisses and nips his way down her throat, and she repeats the noise over and over, driving him mad. One of her hands is pulling at his shirt while the other tangles through his hair, repeatedly. His own hands have travelled up over her ribs, brushing against her breasts as she moans, low and rough in his ear. He is just reaching for the buttons on her uniform, his tongue running back up over her throat as her hand in his hair tightens and she pulls him back up to meet her mouth. This time it is his tongue that strokes against hers, curling around it as she makes that noise again, and it feels even better when he can taste and feel it emitting from her throat.
A sudden clang above them jerks them apart, still pressed together against the floor, but with enough room between them to look up. The door is unlocking, and he has never been more irritated by a rescue attempt in his entire life. He sighs roughly and she laughs as they can hear the echoing voices of their would-be rescuers. They are apparently having an issue with the dead-lock.
"We could just sonic it for them." She points out, her voice lower than it was before, and it sends a shiver down his spine. "Otherwise it may take them a few minutes to figure it out." She moves in closer again to breathe those words into his ear, her lips brushing against it as she speaks and he shivers, his hands sliding down and gripping her hips.
"If we're lucky," he mutters the words but she hears him and her laughter is soft and breathy, tickling his ear. He feels her tongue flick out, and she bites him there gently as his hands slide down, pulling her against him with a guttural moan. "River," he hisses her name out and she presses herself even closer to him.
She whispers his name in his ear, his name, and he turns his head to capture her mouth with his before she even finishes, he feels her tongue finish the word in his mouth and one of his hands slides up her back, pushing her against him as they kiss with a renewed sense of passion and urgency. The clangs are growing louder above them, and time is running out. He feels like it always is, when it comes to her and him. He doesn't stop kissing her, not until they both hear the groan of opening metal do they both step apart, breathing unevenly. His hair is more than likely ridiculous looking, and their clothes are most definitely rumpled. But it is dark and that is forgiving, and they can blame the climb really, as they both look up to see a Cleric dangling from a harness above them.
"Found them!" He shouts above his head, and then looks back down at them. "We've got harnesses coming." He smiles and doesn't notice that they don't really smile back. River is standing beside him, her shoulder brushing against his but that's not enough, so he reaches to lay a hand on her lower back, and she jumps when he deliberately slides it up the curve of her bum first. She bites her lip, trying to hold back a grin as she turns to look at him.
"Told you so," she leans over and mutters it so only he can hear and he shrugs with a smug grin.
"There are worse things to be wrong about." If his hand slips then, to squeeze her bum, well outside of a slight moan no one can hear but him, she doesn't say anything. "And I haven't even really seen it." He whispers the words to her, his head turned to her as she reaches up for the harnesses dangling above them. She grabs both of them, pulling them down and turns to shove his into his unwilling hands with a smile.
"Imagine how you'll feel about it then, my love." He pauses, following her instruction and imagining it even as he feels a faint warmth wash over him at her choice of endearment. That one is new. He likes it, almost as much as he likes 'sweetie'.
"Oh, I am." He grins faintly and she slaps his arm with a laugh.
"Careful sweetie, or you'll be awfully uncomfortable in that harness."
The climb up was quite frankly, nothing compared to the discomfort of their rescue. Arduous, indeed.