a/n: written for the Snogging Meme on LJ for leiascully - river/doctor, new year's, any planet you choose
Keeping With Tradition
"The New Year's Planet! All New Year's, all the time! Every festival imaginable! Earth traditions, Silurian, Appalapachian - love the Appalapachians, they're just like us - two hearts! The more the merrier I always say. Actually I don't, that's an awful saying, just the wrong about of alliteration, not enough M's if you ask me, but you didn't and probably won't, so, right!
"Planet of the New Year's! Centauri, Ood, Racnoss - not my favorite, personally, but every dog has its day, eh? Well, spider. Well, half-spider. Half-human, half-spider, flesh-eating..." he trails off, throwing her a sheepish glance. "Anyway. Point is!" he declares instead, spinning around the console with a grin. "A million cultures from a million worlds all celebrating their own New Year at the same time all the time! It's like the Disneyland of fireworks and paper lanterns and big, strikey clock-like thingies! Except there're no rides or cotton candy or big, fuffy dresses and people dressed up like mice - what is it about that mouse? Really, I never understood it, personally, and seriously, if you ever decide to pop in on Walt just be sure you're...well, um..."
The Doctor looks her up and down, taking in her rather 'little' Little Black Dress, then scratches the back of his neck and turns away. "Okay! No visiting Walt, bad plan, bit of a control freak, not your type. Not anyone's type, really, including his wife, poor dear. So, actually, it's not really like Disneyland at all, forget the Disneyland, now where were we? - New Year's Planet, here we come!"
He throws a lever and the ship jolts and River grabs onto the railing for balance. "Do you ever fly her properly?"
"I always fly her properly!"
As if in retaliation, the TARDIS jerks especially hard and tosses the Doctor to the floor. River arches an eyebrow.
"Ah, well, yes, sometimes a bit less than proper-properly, but really it's all a matter of interpretation!" His voice goes up an octave as the ship twirls again, and he scrambles for his footing.
River laughs and shakes her head. "I think she disagrees."
The Doctor rolls his eyes and stands up, straightening his bow tie. "You're both wrong. I'm a brilliant driver, always have been."
Reaching over, River presses a green button on the console and the ship stabilises, easing out of the Vortex gracefully. "What did you do that for?" The Doctor moans, "It's so boring, it's a green button of boringness almost as boring as the blue boringers and now you've gone and made everything, well...boring."
"At least you're standing now?" River offers with a smirk, pulling another lever without looking. The TARDIS lands softly and gives a low hum of approval that runs through River's veins. Despite himself - and his tiny, itty bitty, minuscule amount of jealousy at River's innate connection with his TARIDS - the Doctor smiles; she never looks quite so at peace as when she's in the TARDIS, and he's relieved that after everything he can at least give her that.
She catches his stare and frowns, still young and self-conscious, and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear as she looks away. It's so endearing he has to remind himself that while she probably wouldn't protest, jumping her in the middle of the control room is hardly his plan for a romantic evening. Not that he has a plan. Or plans. Or anything close to or resembling a plan-like idea involving kissing and touching and maybe other things that don't involve quite so many clothes - though he does like her clothes, especially this dress, it's knee-length and flowy and makes her look all soft and curvy and-
He blinks and clears his throat loudly. "Right! Yes! Planet! Big, cool, clocky planet!"
He grabs her hand and pulls her down the stairs toward the door. "Any New Year's, any culture, any time, your pick! They've even got an index in the lobby." He winks, swings open the door, and pushes her outside before she can respond or protest. "Welcome to the-oh."
Despite the cheers and shouts, the lights and the firecrackers, it feels to him that time has gone deathly still. River doesn't move, her spine painfully straight, her eyes locked on the iconic scene before her.
"Did you do this on purpose?" she asks, so quietly he has to strain to her hear. Stepping up along side her, he studies her profile in the flickering lights.
"No," he murmurs. "No, River, I wouldn't have-"
She turns abruptly and walks away, setting a brisk pace from the start. "River! River, wait, don't - River!" The Doctor fumbles with the door on the TARDIS, trying to keep it closed, then hurries to locate her in the crowd. "River!" He jumps a few times, peering over the tops of peoples' heads, catching sight of her a good ways down the street, away from the Brandenburg Gate. "River, stop!"
She keeps walking, nearly running by the time he catches up to her, spinning on his toe to slide in front of her, stopping her motion. "River." He grabs her arms as she tries to manoeuvre around him.
"Let me go."
"River, listen to me. This was an accident, I didn't mean for us to come here."
"Oh, so she just did it herself then?"
"No, really, she does that, I've tried to talk her out of it but you know how stubborn she can be! I was aiming for another planet in another Galaxy and really, my driving isn't that bad so she must have wanted us to come here - though I don't see why, it's not particularly grand or anything, it's just Earth - and it's probably nothing to do with you; just a glitch or a loose spring or a-"
River swallows tightly and shakes her head, pulling away from him. "River."
"Who are we fooling, Doctor? Who am I-" She stops abruptly, wrapping her arms around her waist protectively. "I tried to kill you here. Right over there!" She laughs humorlessly, gesturing wildly in the direction of the Reich Chancellery. "I tried to kill you twice."
"You saved me twice," he reminds her gently.
"And that makes everything better, does it?"
"Why wouldn't it?"
"I-" She inhales sharply. "We never talk about it," she says. "All these adventures and nights together and then I go back to prison and spend the whole day just thinking about it and worrying what could happen and then with you it's like it never happened at all. Like I never poisoned you or shot you or-"
The Doctor steps forward and places his hands on her shoulders, peering down to catch her gaze. "River, the reason we never talk about it is because it isn't worth mentioning. You had no control over how you were brought up, and if we're going to blame someone for that it should be me."
"You stopped time, River. You gave up your lives, your remaining regenerations...for me. To prove to me that you...you..." He takes a deep breath. "...loved me."
"I do," she whispers.
"I know. And River...you don't need to prove anything else, ever again. Not to me."
Her eyes are wet and glossy but she doesn't cry, and that simple denial breaks his hearts more than it has the right to. Catching her hand, he turns her towards the Gate, towards the crowds and the music and the celebration. "Do you know what year this is, River?"
She shakes her head, clutching his hand, her fingers cold against his.
"1989. Just after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Less than a year before the reunification of East and West Germany. A whole world stitching itself back together."
Her voice wavers just slightly. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because it's a new city. Just because we've got a time machine, doesn't mean that the past still isn't the past." He gives her a knowing look. "It's not the Berlin you remember, and it never will be again. And this!" he says, spinning her suddenly, grinning as he tugs her back and tries to duck under her arm at the same time. "This is my favourite Berlin. This amazing, beautiful, brilliant Berlin!" She laughs despite herself as he spins her out again, then pulls her back and holds her close. "I love spending time here. Might even, you know. Love...it," he finishes finally.
River smiles, so bright and so full of tenderness that he forgets to breathe for a long, dizzying moment, waiting for her to speak. But she says nothing; instead, she tightens her arms around his waist and presses her face into his neck. The Doctor freezes for a moment, terrified he's said something wrong or silly or stupid, until the clock starts striking and he feels her smile tingling against his neck.
"Almost midnight," he says. The crowd begins to count down. River nods and pulls back slowly. Unable to help himself, he brushes a strand of hair away from her face. "We should probably stick to tradition, eh? Don't want to get thrown out of yet another city for yet another cultural mishap."
"Thrown out of Berlin," she repeats flatly.
He waves an arm haphazardly. "It could happen!"
"I think that's an excuse."
"Oh, it's definitely an excuse."
"It's a pretty poor one."
"I'll work on it," he promises. Then: "River."
He swallows tightly. "I wasn't really talking about the city, you know," he says finally, breathlessly.
The clock strikes twelve and the countdown ends and her lips meet his. "I know.