some kind of black magic like a priestess of Voodoo.
He watched Kazran and Abigail wander off together, hands laced together as Abigail stared up at the young man with a dreamy expression. The Doctor smiled to see it – he'd intended on softening Kazran, giving him back the joy and wonder of his youth. Saving that small boy from the bitter tirade of his father. He'd not intended on changing Kazran's whole life, not really.
But now the boy was in love, and perhaps – perhaps it would change everything. Love. It was the most powerful force in the universe. It made people do amazing things, it overcame boundaries, crossed all of space and time. No matter how far the human race perpetuated, they took love with them where ever they went.
"Ah, youth." He murmured to himself before turning to glance back at the glittering party behind him. This was their seventh Christmas adventure together, in a row for the Doctor, and he found himself turning away from the party and wandering into the hedge maze, his hands in his pockets and his stroll aimless.
He wasn't needed with them tonight, and though he knew he had a time machine, his heart was weighted down by the thought of Amy and Rory, plummeting to their deaths on a planet light years away from here. He sighed, kicking at a pebble in the path, wondering how many more Christmases he would have to celebrate with Kazran before his older self would save those people on that ship. Surely – if he could see this young Kazran through to his own father's death – perhaps to his marriage to Abigail, that would put Abigail in that future. And Abigail wouldn't hesitate to help those people. Perhaps the cloud machine wouldn't exist at all.
"Well, this is a surprise." A smooth voice spoke from his left and the Doctor froze, a slow smile spreading over his face before he turned sharply to see her standing there with a hand on her hip and a smirk. "Hello, sweetie."
"River Song, what are you doing here?" He moved toward her, taking in her white dress that skimmed her figure attractively, loose and flowing yet clinging over her hips and breasts.
"Well a girl can't spend every holiday in her cell, Doctor." She smiled up at him, the warm night air pulling and tugging at her curls as a breeze blew through the maze. She reached up, pushing her hair out of her face as she eyed him up and down just as intently as he had her. A fond smile crossed her face and she reached out, her fingers brushing along his black bowtie once he was within arm's reach.
His hearts ached oddly at the thought of her spending any Christmas alone. "Surely I don't let that happen." He observed, a hollow feeling in his chest as he looked down at her. "If we are... everything I suspect, why would you be alone, River?"
"Oh, Doctor." She smiled once more but her eyes were sad and it made his stomach drop, a chill creeping across his skin despite the warmth of the air around them. "This is the first-" She caught herself, shaking her head as she removed her hand. "Time travel my love. Who's to say it's even Christmas for me today? Everyday could be Christmas, hmm?" She looked at him with a knowing expression and his heartbeats sped up.
"Do you know when I am?" He asked her urgently, stepping in closer to her, his hand reaching for her wrist, his fingers gripping it tightly. "Do you know what I'm doing here?"
"It's a nice suit Doctor. I like it." She ignored his question and he huffed in frustration.
"You are infuriating, you know that, right?"
"Oh Doctor, you know I can't tell you the outcome of it all. Foreknowledge is never a good thing. It'll influence your actions, and then what if everything changes?" She whispered the question, her gaze unfocussed and he knew – though she was addressing his current situation, her words applied just as easily to their whole lives. His and hers, interwoven and tangled. He wondered once more – just who was he to her that she would live her life in this backwards fashion? Willingly inflicting pain upon herself, dealing with this version of him who didn't know her. All to preserve her past. His future.
It was a hell of a thought, and he avoided thinking on it as much as possible. Because he knew the depth and breadth of love required to fight to keep their timeline intact. And it frightened him, to be loved so highly above all else, including her own heart.
If he was honest, it also drew him to her.
"Does it frighten you?" He wondered aloud and she glanced up at him sharply. Her skin was cool under his fingers and he frowned, wondering if she was chilled, or if it was her reaction to his touch.
"It's the only thing that frightens me, Doctor." She finally responded after a moment, her red lips twisting into a poor imitation of a smile.
"Even though you have to deal with this, River? A me who doesn't know you? Who looks at you without knowledge or affection-" She flinched at that, tugging her wrist from his grasp and stepping back to turn away from him. She was hiding, he knew, and his hearts thudded at the sight. She was so strong – so full of mocking smiles and teasing words that he never even thought to look for anything deeper. "River." He stepped in closer to her, his hands lifting hesitantly to settle on her shoulders. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have – I shouldn't have said that. It was cruel of me."
Her shoulders shook as she laughed without any trace of humour. "Oh, it's to be expected I suppose, my love." She stepped out from his touch and turned to face him once more. "We both know you're capable."
He felt her words like a sharp blow to the chest – it made his hearts skip a beat and the breath stuttered out of his lungs. "How can you say things like that, River? That I'm capable of such cruelty is unsurprising, yet you still call me..."
"I see all of you Doctor. I always have." She looked at him with ageless eyes and he opened his mouth in shock.
"And I love all you – and one day you'll understand why but today is not that day." She confessed quietly and he stepped in closer, his hands dropping to her hips as he pulled her in closer to him. She stepped into his embrace with a soft sigh, her arms sliding around his waist as she pressed against him tightly. His arms slid up over her back, and he wrapped them around her, pressing his face into her curls. She smelled of something sweet and familiar, with a tinge of electricity and iron.
They stood in complete silence for a moment; he could feel his heartbeats and feel the counterpoint of her own. His four beats melding with hers and he closed his eyes, concentrating on the feeling of complete symphony of the eight beats.
Eight beats. He gasped and jerked back, staring down at her in complete shock. "River! Your heart – your hearts. River!" He looked at her and she sighed softly, sliding a hand along his cheek.
"This is your own fault you know." She pointed out in a resigned voice. "You're not meant to know this yet." She sounded sad and he frowned down at her.
"What? But this is – this means – this is brilliant. River!" He felt his hearts leap and twist and suddenly everything crystallized, and it all made sense. The scent of her – sweet. The feel of her skin against his – cool. She was – "You're-" She reached up, pushing a finger against her lips.
"You can't know yet." She pressed her lips together and looked up at him sadly. "I'm so sorry."
"Sorry for what?" He mumbled against her finger, a giggle escaping him. "This is amazing."
"Sorry for this, my love." She removed her hand and stepped into his arms, tilting her face upward until she pressed her mouth against the corner of his, her aim slightly off. His arms came up around her and he pulled her against him, turning his head until his lips met hers. He kissed her without hesitation, his mouth opening over hers as he pushed his hands into her hair, drawing her closer. She was like him. She was like him and she tasted of ambrosia and time and it was something he'd not tasted in centuries.
She tasted of age, such age, and he felt his head swim a bit with all of the information bursting across his mind in waves. Timelord. She was Timelord and he could taste all of her ages, all of her lives bursting across his tongue as she wrapped her arms around him and moaned into his mouth.
So wrapped up in it all, he tasted the harshness of the chemicals in her lipstick too late, and his hands tightened in her hair as he felt the drugs laced through her lipstick pour into his bloodstream. She was drugging him, and he felt one of his hands drop from her hair even as her tongue wrapped around his and her hands slid over his chest, until she tugged at his bowtie. He fought to hold on to his consciousness, but it was a futile effort and his senses swam for a moment before he pressed his hands back into her hair and began kissing her back in earnest.
She hummed in surprise and when he finally pulled back, they were both out of breath and he stared down at her, eying the blonde hair wrapped around his fingers and the heady lust in her eyes. She was so beautiful – so beautiful he found himself kissing her again, his lips sliding across her cheek until his mouth reached her ear. "I don't normally do this you know."
Her laughter was soft and breathy and it sent a thrill sliding down his spine. "Normally do what, Doctor?"
"Snog strangers in shrubberies at parties." He admitted softly and she pulled back, brushing a hand across his cheek. She trailed her fingers down along his throat and he felt his pulse jump as she slid the button of his collar undone.
"Oh we're strangers now are we?" She breathed the words out, leaning forward to press a soft kiss just to the left of his Adam's apple and he swallowed heavily as she flicked her tongue against his skin there.
"I've only just met you. I don't even know your name." He whispered and she pulled back with a pleased smile.
"I know yours." She pointed out and he nodded in agreement. He felt a bit punch drunk – something heady and warm singing through his veins and she smiled.
"You are so beautiful." He whispered in a rush as he stared down at her, his hands delving deeper into her hair. "Gorgeous."
"Oh, sweetie." She smiled and the endearment tugged at his mind sleepily, but he couldn't quite grasp its meaning or weight. "How much have you had to drink?"
"Nothing? Everything? Do you know, I'm not quite sure. But I don't care. This is the best party I've ever been to." He proclaimed with a grin, and she giggled again.
"You've not even been to the party." She pointed out and her smile was so indulgent that he felt the need to lean down and kiss the tilt of her mouth again, so he did. He pressed his mouth over hers, swallowing all the little pants and moans she was making, as his hands slid out of her glorious hair to glide across the smooth skin of her shoulders, his fingers trailing down her arms. He was breathless when he pulled away with a loopy grin.
"Oh Doctor. Such a sweet boy." She pointed out with a grin.
"Tell me who you are." He insisted softly, his hands gripping her waist as he pulled her into his body. She fit into him in all the right places, her hips notched under his and her breasts moulding against his chest.
"You don't remember? A girl could get insulted Doctor." She teased in a light tone and he frowned, trying to remember but his brain felt heavy, like swimming underwater fully clothed.
"Are you married?" He honestly could not remember a thing but the thought slid across his mind insidiously. He rejected it – he didn't want to even contemplate the thought.
"Are you asking?" She smiled and again he had the strangest feeling that he knew her. She felt so perfectly right in his arms, like she belonged there.
"Yes." He repeated stupidly, and she smiled.
"Yes." She grinned wickedly and he felt her pulling him down for a kiss, and he returned it enthusiastically, his tongue wrapping around hers as he moaned into her mouth, his hands gripping her hips tightly. She was smiling when he pulled back and he blinked in surprise.
"Wait – that wasn't a proposal." He pointed out and she pouted up at him prettily.
"It wasn't?" Her face fell and he suddenly felt awful about being the cause of such sadness.
"I don't even know your name! Hollywood, 1952. Right? I'm saving – and you are... stunning. Really just very – I feel like I know you. I feel like... do you believe in love at first sight?" He asked in a stunned voice and she laughed softly.
"Absolutely, my love." She breathed the words out softly and he grinned, a flush spreading across his skin. "Marilyn."
"My name." She smiled with amusement and he blinked in surprise.
"Not – not – Marilyn. As in Monroe?"
"You've heard of me, then?" She giggled and he blinked in surprise for a moment. He was forgetting something. Something important and it niggled at the back of his mind.
"Of course." He protested and she moved into him once more while he pushed against her shoulders. "Wait, though, wait a minute. I can't get married. I can't get married, I have friends here and there's this thing – well it's not a thing but it might be a thing – or it will be a thing in the future..."
"But it's not a thing now, is it?" Marilyn breathed out as she moved in closer to him and he shook his head.
"No but she has a gun. And I don't think-"
"Is she the jealous type, Doctor? Anyway it's her loss if she hasn't let the almost-thing become an actual thing. A handsome man like you," she stroked a hand along his suit jacket and he stumbled backwards in surprise. He paused, preening for a moment at her words. Handsome. "I love a man who can wear a bowtie, Doctor."
His chest puffed out and he gazed down at her, studying the lines of her face and the affection in her gaze. It made his hearts feel lighter than they had in years. "Bowties are cool." He agreed and she giggled.
"Sexy." She corrected and his hearts seemed to double their beat. She reached up, wrapping the loose ends of his tie around her hand. "I just love it. So what do you say, Doctor. You, me, a chapel? Christmas wedding anniversary – how romantic." She kissed him again and he found himself lost in the taste of her once more. Everything about her was so familiar, from the brush of her curls against his face to the flavour of her on his tongue. Even the way she hummed into his mouth felt like something he'd felt before. He wondered if he'd met her in any of his previous incarnations. It wasn't outside of the realm of possibility that he'd simply forgotten. Nine hundred years was a lot of detail to recall.
He broke away with a gasp, pushing her back and holding up a hand. "I just – I have to go check on my friend. Give us a mo'." He practically sprinted backward in an effort to get away and she smiled as she watched him go.
"Marilyn, get your coat!" He stalked back into the shrubbery in a huff, annoyed that both Kazran and Abigail were ignoring him. What he didn't expect was an armful of woman as soon as he turned the corner of a hedge, a mass of curls and giggles and hot kisses pressed to his neck.
"Took you long enough." She whispered into his skin and he gripped her arms, looking down at her with heavy lidded eyes. "I don't have a coat."
"I don't have a car." He pointed out practically and she laughed with a wink.
"Well that part I can handle." Her hand wrapped around his and she all but dragged him behind her as she exited the maze and headed toward the driveway. His feet seemed to be following quickly enough behind her though, and he felt a strange fondness fill him at the sight of her walking ahead of him, her hips swaying and the hem of her dress fluttering in the breeze she created in her wake. She walked them up to a small blue convertible, opening the door and settling herself with grace behind the wheel.
She reached up to the visor, pulling out the keys and turning the engine over. "You coming, Doctor?"
He swallowed, contemplating his options for a moment. But really – when history handed you Marilyn Monroe, it would be almost criminal to refuse her. He ambled around to the passenger side and jumped in with a grin. "Know any good chapels?" He asked with a grin and she laughed, throwing her head back until her curls brushed her shoulders.
The Chapel of Love didn't look like much of a chapel at all.
He was quite disappointed to be honest. But it did contain an easily bribed man who, with the press of a large wad of bills he found in his bigger-on-the-inside pants pockets, agreed to 'marry' them. The Doctor had even done the air quotes and everything – because frankly while he knew River would more than likely laugh at this story (all her own shenanigans about nestene duplicates, and dating androids, and being 'engaged in a manner of speaking' to clerics) he couldn't be entirely sure she wouldn't shoot something he loved in retaliation.
The man marrying them hadn't even blinked at their names – John Smith and Marilyn Monroe – he'd simply looked at them dead-panned and shrugged.
One simple not a ceremony ceremony later and he and Marilyn were tucked back into the convertible – with him driving this time, because he wanted to give a go. Looked easy enough anyway. And he would have been an excellent driver, he supposed – if Marilyn hadn't been all but crawling into his lap and pressing kisses across his cheeks and neck, biting into his shoulder when he swerved on the empty road and laughing merrily the whole way.
"You are completely disregarding auto safety." He pointed out in a strained tone and she giggled once more, her tongue flicking over his ear.
"Such a good husband. So concerned for my safety already."
She disappeared almost as soon as they arrived back at the party. One minute he'd been kissing her, his hands in her hair and a sigh in her mouth, the next he'd murmured the wrong name against her throat. "River."
It had slipped out and she'd frozen in his arms before pulling back with a shocked expression. "Doctor!"
"No – I didn't mean – Marilyn. Wait. I'm sorry!" Relief had flashed across her face before she'd glared at him, pushing him back and running into the house behind her. He'd followed, but couldn't find her for the life of him – and it didn't matter anyway because Kazran was there suddenly, telling him Abigail was tired and they had to go back.
He'd all but shoved them back toward the TARDIS in relief. An angry woman who thought she was his wife sounded like much less fun than just starting a whole new Christmas adventure. Preferably somewhere off Earth next time. Far far away. And a few centuries ahead.
It hadn't even been a real ceremony anyway.
He entered the TARDIS with a grin, and Rory stood by the console, the phone in his hand. "Apparently she disagrees about the chapel, Doctor. And she won't hang up."
"What? Then you hang up, Rory!" The Doctor whispered, even though Rory had the phone receiver covered with his palm.
"You can't hang up on Marilyn Monroe, Doctor. I just – I can't. She keeps giggling. And you're the one who fake married her, so you hang up on your fake wife." Rory shoved the phone into the Doctor's hands and grabbed Amy's hand before dragging her up the stairs.
"But I want to listen!" Amy insisted with a laugh and Rory leaned over whispering in her ear. Amy flushed and nodded, taking the lead. "Yeah not that much." They were both laughing as the Doctor watched them leave the room with a glare.
"Ponds! You can't – I can't. I wasn't in my right-" They were long gone though and he stared at the phone in his hand and heaved a sigh. "Hello?" He finally put the phone to his ear and a warm chuckle slid down the line.
"Hello, sweetie. About time, I thought I would have to wait forever."
"River?" He frowned in confusion.
"You were expecting someone else? When are we for you, sweetie?"
"The pandorica?" He spoke in a hesitant tone and she sighed happily.
"That's real?" She exclaimed and he chuckled.
"Oh. Spoilers. Sorry – I wouldn't have kept you waiting but I thought you were someone else." He spoke quickly, feeling terrible that he'd kept River waiting for him to answer.
"Marilyn maybe?" She laughed and he froze, suddenly remembering all the very not-good thoughts he'd had about River finding out about the whole thing in the first place.
"I can explain that!" He protested quickly and her laugh was soft in his ear.
"Oh really?" She purred and he felt a strange shiver go through him as he turned around to lean against the console. "Pray, enlighten me then Doctor."
"Wait, why did Rory think you were Marilyn? He knows you – I mean he's met you – wait – spoilers?"
"Well I don't know, Doctor." River spoke again but her voice was higher pitched and breathier and the Doctor's eyes widened.
"Why would you make him think that? Why would you make me think that?"
"Think what, sweetie?" She asked in a normal tone of voice. "That the woman you married in a drunken stupor was calling, demanding to know your whereabouts?"
"It wasn't a real chapel!" He protested. "And how do you even know these things?"
"It was too a real chapel. And I have the paperwork to prove it." Her laughter slid down the line and he felt himself go very still.
"Hmm yes, look at this. John Smith, December 25th, 1952. Oh Doctor. Such an impulsive boy." Her voice was low and rich and he frowned, turning around and typing in coordinates and flicking switches before pulling the lever and sending his beloved ship into the Vortex.
"How did you get that?"
"I paid for it." She responded with a laugh and he spluttered, listening as he could hear the echo of the TARDIS from both ends. "Doctor – is that you or another you? If it's another you, this is about to get very awkward. Oh. Would you like to stay on the line? Sort of an audio preview?" She teased and he choked before dropping the phone and exiting the TARDIS.
She was in her cell, looking down at the phone with a grin. "Same you then. Hello sweetie. You know this takes all the fun out of phone sex, right?"
"River!" He repeated in a scandalized tone. He soniced her cell open and strode inside. "Show me."
"Ooh, Doctor. Really? I do love a man who takes charge-"
"The certificate River." He sighed, and held out a hand. She laughed and dropped a yellowed paper into his palm. His eyes scanned the calligraphy and seal. "John Smith and... River Song." He stared at it, open-mouthed and she giggled. He glanced up at her in shock – it was a sound he didn't normally associate with River but now that he had it tugged at his subconscious. "How did you – how is this even –"
Her mouth twisted into a smirk and she covered it with a hand. "Oops?"
"Oops? Oops? How did you even –" He paused, staring at her mouth suspiciously. "Hallucinogenic lipstick doesn't work on me River, Timelords are not affected by drugs the way humans are."
She arched a brow and leaned against the bars of her cell, the phone still in her hands as she looked at him sceptically. "You sure about that? Sure that I wouldn't have taken all that into consideration when I developed it?"
"When you developed it?"
"I'm a smart girl, Doctor. I know all sorts of things about Timelord physiology." She spoke in a suggestive tone and he shook his head.
"No. No. No! I would have-"
"Felt odd? Known? Suffered side-effects? Of course, you're right. You proposing marriage to a complete stranger seems completely in character, Doctor. After all, you are the marrying type aren't you?" She tossed the questions out and he stared at her in shock.
"Why would you do this?"
"Hey – you kissed me." She pointed out with a shrug. He narrowed his eyes, struggling to find the memories of the party, pre-Marilyn. Everything was a haze though.
"I don't believe that."
"You are a clever boy. I'm lying. I did kiss you first. But to be fair, I didn't think it would affect you, sweetie." She seemed sincere enough about that statement but he continued to eye her suspiciously anyway. "And you weren't objecting, as I recall."
"I don't remember any of it!"
"Well, then you'll have to take my word on it." She shrugged, plucking the paper from his limp hands with a grin.
"But why marry me?"
"You asked. Such a sweet proposal too. How's a girl supposed to resist?" She was grinning and he huffed in irritation.
"It doesn't count. I paid that pastor to not legally marry us." She nodded in agreement; transferring the phone to the same hand she held the paper in before she reached up and adjusted his bowtie with a gentle hand.
"I know. He told me right before I paid him to actually marry us and change my name on the certificate."
"That cannot be legally binding." The Doctor stammered and she laughed, merriment dancing in her eyes.
"Oh, but it's binding in my heart, Doctor." She was having great fun, he could tell and he pulled away from her hands, pointing at her and glowering.
"It did not count, River Song. This is not how we get married – me drugged and thinking you're someone else and you being... well, you." She arched her brow again, standing up straighter and walking toward him as he backed away nervously.
"Oh you've given marrying me thought then, have you?"
"What? No!" He protested, backing up in her wake and walking straight out of her cell. She halted at the bars, with a pout.
"River! This is your fault." He protested. "I'm quite mad I don't remember actually – it's all very fuzzy in my head. Was I a good kisser? New body you know – always looking for feedback."
"What, you can't ask Amy?" There was a sharp edge to her teasing this time and the Doctor leapt away from the bars of her cell as though burned.
"What? No! I didn't – it wasn't – she – did I tell you about that?" He frowned and she laughed.
"I heard about it." She hedged and looked at him expectantly.
"That doesn't count. Not really. She was confused and I was... was... attacked." He mumbled, running a nervous hand through his hair. "You kiss all sorts of people, all the time River! All sorts of not me people."
"True." She nodded and he stepped closer hesitantly.
"So you're not mad at me about that?" She sighed and her face lost its mischievous glow.
"You barely knew me then. Or will barely know me, at any rate. Hasn't happened for me yet. However there are... you'll need to apologize better than this one day."
"What for?" He exclaimed and she shook her head.
"Can't tell you. You'll understand, soon now."
"You always say that and I always end up more confused than I was the time before." He spoke petulantly and River laughed softly.
"Oh sweetie. Soon, I promise. Now run along." She waved a hand at him. "You've absolutely killed my mood for phone sex."
"I wouldn't – we don't – do we? Oh my god, River. Do we?" She winked in response and reached up to adjust his bowtie, before gently pushing him back with a smile.
"You're a very good husband, Doctor." She teased, the light back in her eyes and he shook his head.
"I'm not your husband!"
"Aren't you?" She grinned and he whirled, stalking back toward his TARDIS. He turned back at the doors, to see her watching him with an amused grin.
"I don't remember it!" He exclaimed and she watched him in disbelief.
"I'd believe that more, sweetie, if you hadn't listed the ways and means you went about ensuring it wasn't a real marriage. Seems like your memory is crystal clear when it comes to that. Plus, you lie."
"Our first kiss is not going to be me drugged and you being you, River." He pointed out and she smiled softly over at him as he snapped and stepped into the TARDIS, leaning out of the doors.
"Well, it's a damn sight better than what I thought it was." She pointed out in a soft voice and he frowned.
"What you thought it was?"
"How soon do I see you again?" He found himself reluctant to leave and she blew him a kiss.
"Soon enough, my love. See you soon."
He waved awkwardly before re-entering the TARDIS and all but running up the steps to flick switches and spin dials. Once he was safely back in the Vortex, he lifted a hand to his lips.
She was right of course.
And he remembered every moment of it.