The Doctor straightened his bow tie then checked the small box in his coat pocket as he stood next to the TARDIS door. Everything had to be absolutely perfect. This would be their first Christmas together; her first Christmas ever. Or he assumed it was her first, anyway. Madame Kovarian didn't exactly seem to be the jolly old elf type. As he reached for the door, it blew open and a blizzard of white and curls carried by a breeze of slightly spiced warm vanilla swept into the TARDIS.
"Hello sweetie," River said, twirling around the Doctor before coming to a stop in front of him. She wore a silky white dress with subtle silver embroidery that fell gently over her curves like a soft blanket of snow. In her hands she held a small rectangular package wrapped in a vintage paper with a repeating pattern of turtle doves and sprigs of holly.
"River? But how—?"
"It's Christmas eve. I knew you'd come." She smiled, tracing a finger around the outline of his bow tie. "Or maybe I just hoped you would, but you're here and that's the only thing that matters now."
"But…" He peered out of the door at the silent corridor. "You broke out. Shouldn't there be buzzy noisy alarms or blinky flashy lights or very not happy guards or—or something?"
"Ah, they're always a bit slow, bless. But even more so tonight." She hummed thoughtfully, running a finger along the lapel of his jacket. "Someone may have sent them a Christmas cake with a little more than just brandy."
The Doctor raised an eyebrow at River. "Someone?"
River shrugged, tilting her head to one side with her most innocent smile.
"Father Christmas is watching, you know," he chided, tapping her nose with a grin. "Speaking of which! Follow me!"
With a giggle, the Doctor took her hand and led her to the library. It was dim, the only light coming from the fire in the fireplace and the tree casting that unmistakable magical glow that only Christmas lights can produce. He turned to see her reaction but wasn't prepared for the sight that awaited him. River was always beautiful; from the first time he laid eyes on her he knew that. But somehow, the way her curls captured the glimmering lights from the tree, the flickering radiance of the flames dancing across her perfectly smooth porcelain skin, her beauty was magnified to the point of being ethereal. His breath caught in his throat and he coughed, attracting River's attention.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm—yeah, it's just you. You're… stunning."
River bit her lip and smiled up at him as he raked his fingers through his hair. His hand dropped and absently adjusted his coat, the weight in his pocket reminding him of the gift. "Yes! Right! I have something for you, come here!"
The Doctor led her to the rug between the fireplace and the tree and settled himself on it, motioning for her to join him. He reached into his inner coat pocket and produced a small, narrow box wrapped with heavy blue foil paper embossed with a delicate repeating pattern of snowflakes. A silver ribbon, tied in a slightly lopsided bow, bound the package. Its smooth, mirror-like surface reflected the warm glow of the Christmas lights, sparkling and shifting as the Doctor placed it gently in River's hands. On the outside he appeared rather nonchalant, but River could tell from the twinkle in his eyes that he was brimming with anticipation for her to see what the gift contained.
River tugged gently on one end of the ribbon, freeing the package from its binding. She carefully unwrapped the gift, opening it to reveal a soft blue bow tie. "A bow tie?" River asked, lifting it from the box. "I hope this doesn't sound ungrateful, but isn't this more of a, well… you sort of thing?"
"Oh, but it isn't just any bow tie," he said with all the excitement of one about to reveal the secrets of the universe. "It's the bow tie."
"What do you mean, the bo—" The word caught in her throat and her eyes widened as she realized. "You mean," she gasped, her voice quiet and awed, "this is the one… when we…"
The Doctor nodded. "Well, as close as possible anyway. What with all the Teselecta-ing timey-wimey fiery shenanigans that went on. That is the bow tie that the Teselecta's was based on. But, I believe a couple things were left out that night. And I intend to correct that."
He gently took her hand and wrapped the silk around it before wrapping the opposite end around his own. "Doctor River Song, Melody Pond, will you do me the honor of being my wife?"
"Always," she whispered. "Doctor, will you do me the honor of being my husband?"
"Of course, but first," he paused. "I think it's time my wife knew my name."
Leaning towards her, the Doctor swept her curls over her shoulder then allowed his lips to graze her ear as they performed the intricate dance that was his name. He pulled back, his eyes locking hers. "I trust you, River, with everything that I am. There is no greater gift of my love and trust that I can give over the knowledge of my name. But you must never speak it to anyone. Do you understand?"
A deep reverence filled River's eyes as she nodded in understanding. She turned her gaze to the flat parcel resting in her lap. "I—I don't even want to give you your gift now. I'm embarrassed. It seems so trivial, I should've gotten you something better," she sighed, holding up the package.
The Doctor's entire demeanor changed from that of total seriousness to childlike excitement in a blink. "What? No! I want to see! What is it? I bet it's brilliant! Is it a badger? Or—or did you get me a new bow tie, too? I'd like that! We could match! Or, maybe a green one for Christmas! Ooh, better yet, one that plays Christmas carols! With blinky lights! That'd be cool!" He unwound the bow tie from his hand, snatched the package and unceremoniously ripped off the paper. His eyes lit up as he lifted the lid off the box. "It's a hat! A Father Christmas hat! You got me a hat!" He gleefully pulled the conical hat as far down on his head as it would go before he paused, "Wait… you got me a hat?"
"I wanted you to know that I love everything that you are, no matter what," she said, gazing down at her hands folded in her lap, the blue silk tie woven between her fingers. "The good and the not so good. The darkness and the light. Even your questionable fashion choices. I—I know, it's silly compared to yours."
"River, no," he replied, tracing a finger along her jawline then tilting her head up to look into her eyes. "I love it."
"Yes. I really do."
"I was going to say you were only allowed to wear it tonight, but…" She smiled and ran her thumb along the fringe of hair that stuck out from underneath the white fluffy brim. "I suppose you could wear it tomorrow too, if you like."
"I would like that. But I just thought of something," he mused as he drew closer to her.
"I just realized," he said, brushing the tip of his nose against hers. "I haven't kissed my bride."
As their lips met, time seemed to slow. The seconds stretched like clay being rolled out, growing ever longer the more they touched. Her fingers, still entwined with the blue silk, burrowed beneath his hat and pushed it from his head as they found their way into his hair. His hands wandered over the smooth fabric of her dress, making detours to skate along the coarser silver embroidery. They became lost in each other to the point that everything was just sensation and nothing physical existed any longer. They were one, and that was the way it was meant to be. As they parted and the fog cleared gradually he realized his hand was high on her thigh, under her skirt.
"Father Christmas is watching, you naughty boy," River purred teasingly. "You're going to get nothing but coal in your stocking."
"That's perfectly fine," he whispered, nuzzling her hair as he pulled her closer. "I have you. I could never wish for any greater gift."