To Make the Season Bright
When the Doctor had said he'd come up with an extraordinarily non-boring way for her to begin properly exploring the TARDIS, River should have been more than a little suspicious of his massive grin and the manner in which he'd bounced incessantly on the balls of his feet like a five-year-old on Christmas morning. Granted, Christmas was the next day (by Earth reckoning, anyway), and he was a bit of a five-year-old (as she was discovering rather quickly each night he returned to her cell in Stormcage for an adventure), so this behaviour didn't quite arouse the suspicion it probably should have warranted.
Regardless, she mused, she really should not have been all too surprised when she awoke late on the day of Christmas Eve to find his side of the bed unusually empty, with a TARDIS blue sticky note posted to her bedside table and a traditional red and white candy cane resting invitingly atop it. She picked up the cane and removed the note, glancing over it swiftly and finding herself genuinely surprised at how neat his handwriting was. On the note in dark red (almost purple) ink was written a short poem: This is post-it number one, and now the fun has just begun! She groaned at his terrible rhyming, but couldn't contain the smile that grew as she continued reading. The room with post-it number two is that in which clothes accrue. She rolled her eyes with a contented chuckle as she rose from the bed, replacing the note and the candy cane in their previous spots. She quickly changed into warm trousers and a slightly hideous blue and white jumper he'd left hanging in closet (it was that or a green with red teddy bears monstrosity, which she'd never be caught dead wearing, Christmas or not), and—grabbing the candy cane and sticky note—she made her way to the wardrobe, thinking this couldn't possibly take too long.
- X -
She couldn't have been more wrong. Five hours and seventy-one additional sticky notes later, River found herself in the TARDIS library with a near-to-overflowing bouquet of multi-coloured candy canes under one arm and a blue stack of seventy-two used sticky notes in the other hand. She stalked the shelves looking for one book in particular and, when she finally came across his copy of "A Christmas Carol," she triumphantly pulled the seventy-third note and candy cane from the inside cover with her less-occupied hand. This is post-it number seventy-three (she sighed and shook her head with an amused grin; every single note had started the same exact way). I'm in the control room. Come join me.
The journey from the library to the control room passed fairly quickly considering how she'd been walking silently with her head down, contemplating her first Christmas with the Doctor and the potential shenanigans they could get up to (he'd said he liked that word; she replied she liked it, too, provided that the shenanigans in question involved a relatively comfortable surface and an overall lack of clothing). She smiled widely at that thought, mostly because it gave her an excellent excuse to rid herself of her ugly jumper and—much better—the even uglier one he would undoubtedly be wearing. When she stepped onto the landing above the main console, she almost had to do a double take as all her previous thoughts were pushed from her mind. Bright lights of every colour were strung along the railings, and he'd somehow managed to hang them in a sparkling canopy from every inch of available ceiling. Lush wreaths with deep blue bows decorated the flatter portions of the walls, and golden tinsel was wrapped around the time rotor, shining brightly in the orange light of the TARDIS. Most impressive, however, was the large tree standing on the far side of the glass floor. Baubles glinted and even more tinsel shone, but it was the glowing star at its peak that caught her eye.
River walked down the stairs in awe, her delight evident in the lovely expression in her eyes, and the Doctor beamed from his position leaning against the console (in a blue jumper with a big, cartoonish reindeer face; most definitely uglier than River's).
"You sent me on a wild goose chase just so you could decorate?" She hid her complete astonishment behind a smirk.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," replied the Doctor, his smile never faltering.
She hesitated, suddenly and irritatingly unsure. She placed the mass of candy canes and sticky notes on the jump seat, and turned slowly back to face him, mentally kicking herself. "All this for me?"
"All this for you, River," he repeated, trying his best to tell her without words how very much he loved her. He pulled her gently into his arms and dropped kisses on her brow, his voice warm and low. "Always only for you."
She returned his embrace wholeheartedly, wrapping her own arms tightly around his neck, the tips of her fingers flirting with his hairline. As they held one another close in the twinkling light, her head settling into the crook of his neck and his chin resting on her wild curls, she thought with a grin that the shenanigans could wait, and maybe—just maybe—she could tolerate the jumpers for a couple hours more.
- X -
A few hundred years later (for River, at least), she sat in her cold Stormcage cell, absentmindedly flipping through her well-worn diary. Countless Christmases had come and gone, and this year's was looking to be one of the few she spent with neither her husband nor her parents. All she had for company was the constant rolling of thunder accompanied every so often by the footfalls of the prison guards, and thus she found herself relying on her memories for some warmth and holiday cheer.
Pulling her grey blanket tighter around her, she turned to one specific page. She smiled as twenty-eight TARDIS blue sticky notes (she'd lost or damaged the others over the years, but she could still remember where she'd found each one; room fourteen was the swimming pool, room thirty-one the kitchen, room sixty-seven squash court five, and so on) fluttered from the diary and onto her cot. She gathered them up one by one and placed them back in a semblance of order, her smile widening as the memories of that first Christmas came rushing back to her. Her thoughts were soon interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps, and she tucked her diary beneath her pillow as a guard came into view.
"This week's mail, Doctor Song."
The guard passed the small bundle of letters to her through the bars, and she thanked him as he began to walk away slowly, her earlier smile morphing into an expectant line. Tucked between an invitation to an alumni fundraiser (they really needed to stop sending her those; apparently her location of Stormcage Containment Facility wasn't enough of a hint) and a reminder for her next hair appointment (she was still working on her escape plan), she found a small white envelope, unmarked save for her address typed in black across the front. She opened it carefully and, at first glance, there was nothing inside. After shaking the envelope over her lap for a moment, however, a single sticky note fell from its place, and she picked it up with shaky fingers. This is post-it number seventy-four, she read, her smile returning with full force. When the guard is gone, I'll open the door.
Her laughter resounded in the dank prison, absolute joy written across her face. As soon as the guard was out of sight, her Doctor, true to his word, threw open the doors of his invisible TARDIS, soniced her cell open, and practically yanked River to her feet. Before she could even utter her usual greeting, his lips were upon hers, and, as they stumbled their way to the open TARDIS doors, she smiled against his mouth.
It seemed as though she'd be having a Christmas after all.