He took a sip, made a face, and spat it out.
He looked mournfully down into his glass. "Elderberry wine. I thought for sure I'd like elderberry!" he wailed, pulling a huge frowny face like a child denied cookies.
River laughed at him and handed him a baguette. "It's not the end of the world, Sweetie."
"But I used to love wine!" he whined. He tore a chunk off the loaf and chewed vengefully, using it to get the taste out of his mouth. He swallowed and waved the rest of the loaf at her. They were dining at a little outdoor cafe in 1860's Paris. People bustled past on their own business, some of them in bustles.
"Maybe your taste buds have changed," River said, delicately spooning up a lovely consommé. A small jaunty hat was perched on her head.
The Doctor drew his attention from the delightful picture she made and frowned again. "But they've settled down now," he protested. "When I first regenerated I couldn't stand apples, now I love them again. So why not wine?" He gestured wildly with the baguette and nearly hit the waiter. River smiled winsomely at the young man and he blushed back.
The Doctor ignored the byplay and pouted at his wine glass. River patted her lips and stood up, she laid some coins on the table and took his hand. "Come along, Sweetie," she said with a wide grin. "I think we have the beginnings of a quest here, and the perfect place to pursue it!"
She waved at the skyline of Paris. It was still too early for the Eiffel Tower, but the gabled rooftops still made it wonderfully recognizable as the home of the Arc de Triomphe and the looming Cathedral of Notre Dame.
They didn't find the solution on that trip, although they had a lot of fun trying, and it made River a bit tipsy, and a bit flirty, and by the time they woke up in the Tardis they both considered it a successful trip all around.
But it became something of a challenge for River over the years. Every time they went out to eat, or had a picnic, she'd try some new wine on him.
"From grapes grown in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?" the Doctor said, looking mournfully down at the pottery jar in his hand. He grimaced, scraping his tongue against the roof of his mouth.
River took it back, "Well, it was worth a try, no point in wasting it." She drank right from the jar. The Doctor watched jealously. It didn't help that she hummed in appreciation, or that a thin red drop trickled from the side of her mouth, down her neck, to disappear, hypnotically, in her cleavage.
His mouth watered.
"Romulan ale? You're kidding me!" He held up the green nacreous bottle to the light. The pale green liquid inside sparkled.
River grinned. "Not kidding. It's from the actual planet Romulus in the year 3018. It's a Draconian colony."
He unstopped the bottle and sniffed. He cocked his head in a "Not bad, why not?" gesture and took a big swig. He spat it out so fast he startled the birds out of a nearby bush. He gagged. His eyes watered. "Never trust the Romulans!" he declared loudly to the deserted hillside.
"Maybe it's the alcohol content," River suggested, as they ate sandwiches at a little German deli on Statornan. The Doctor was crumpling bits of his sandwich up and dribbling them into the water of the canal beside them, watching in fascination as the rainbow colored carp fought for the scraps.
"Can't be, we tried non-alcoholic types too," he said. He sat back and sucked on a dill pickle slice. River stared at him for a second.
"Wait here." She got up and jogged off around the corner. The city dome flashed overhead in the last of the summer storm that was flowing by outside. He sprinkled pepper on his pickle while he waited. And stole some of her chips.
She jogged back around the corner, wine bottle in hand.
"Oh, no," he groaned. "What now?"
She wrestled the plastic stopper out of the red bottle and poured some into a paper cup. "Trust me. Try it."
"Do I have to?" He raised his sparse eyebrows at her.
She looked down at her plate, then gave him a wry glance. "Think of it as payment for the chips."
He looked down into the cup at the purplish, faintly greenish liquid. "What's it made of?"
She sat back down and picked up her sandwich. "A local berry. We've tried everything sweet, I thought we'd try something sour instead."
"A sour wine?"
"Piquante," she said primly, dropping a piece of pepperoni into the canal for the fish. "It's supposed to be very refreshing."
He shrugged, and took a swig.
The fish didn't appreciate being barfed on.
They were sitting on her bunk in Stormcage, playing cards. The usual thunderstorm crashed and howled outside, a dribble of water flowed down the inside of her window, and the air smelled of heady rain.
"Hah! Go Fish!" he said triumphantly, laying down his cards.
She grinned. "You win, Sweetie." She leaned forward and gave him a smooch. He wiggled happily and started shuffling the deck. It helped that they were using the mixed cards from four different cultures.
She leaned sideways and pulled something out from under the bunk. A wine bottle. Clear pink.
He looked up and groaned. "Can't we just forget it?" he asked. "Obviously, I'm not intended to drink wine in this incarnation."
"Trust me, Sweetie. This is the one. I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner." She leaned sideways again and brought out two crystal flutes from under the bed.
He leaned sideways and looked under the bunk. He knew they hadn't been there when he arrived. But he couldn't see where she'd gotten them from.
He sat up. She grinned and lifted her eyebrows at him. She popped the cork. She poured the wine into the two glasses.
It was pale pink, clear, with only a trace of bubbles. "A blush wine then?" he asked, accepting the glass from her and holding it up to the light. It was a pretty color, it seemed like a happy wine.
"What's it made of?" He sniffed, it had a sweet, crisp scent, not like apples or grapes, but somehow familiar.
"Take a sip, then I'll tell you," River said.
He lifted his nose from the glass and gave her a gimlet look, remembering all the other strange wines she'd tried on him over the years. "It's nothing gross is it?" He frowned. He knew you couldn't tell the taste from the smell. All the wines he'd tried had smelled lovely. His stomach cramped remembering.
"Trust me, Sweetie. This is the perfect wine for you." She gave him a soft, encouraging smile, her eyes sparkled, but it was the "happy, excited" sparkle, not the sneaky "I'm gonna get you," sparkle.
"This is the last one," she said, raising her glass to him. "If you don't like this one, we won't try any more. But I guarantee, you'll love it."
He looked from her happy face down into his glass. It did smell lovely. And it was pretty. And it seemed a light sort of wine. All clear and sparkly.
He tapped his flute to hers, it chimed sweetly, he took that as a good sign. He forced down his bile. "Here goes."
He took a small sip.
He didn't throw up.
He didn't spit it out.
His eyes opened wide and he stared down into his glass.
He took another longer drink, drinking it to the dregs. He tilted the wine glass up and patted it on the bottom to get the last glittery drops.
He set the glass down and just stared at her. His eyes were wide and beaming, he was grinning like a madman.
He reached for the wine bottle, fumbling in his haste. She laughingly gave it to him. He turned the bottle over and read the label. His mouth dropped open.
He stared at her, his eyes as bright as diamonds.
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