Author's Note: This takes place immediately after the Doctor returns to the Tardis, after his last goodbye to Amelia.
She was wearing her mother's robe. The Doctor's throat closed up. She was coming out of the bathroom, halfway down the hallway. Her hair had that extra bounciness it got just after she'd washed it, when it wasn't quite dry yet. And she was moving like an old woman, as if her very bones hurt.
He ran down the hall and scooped her up in a huge hug. She squeaked in surprise. His hearts were suddenly hurting, but not for the Ponds. For River. How could she think he'd care how old she got? Why would she think she needed to hide any injury or imperfection from him.
Didn't she understand how much he loved her?
"River." He hid his face in her curls, cool against his cheeks. He squeezed her as tightly as he could. She squeezed him back, probably thinking he needed reassurance about Amy and Rory.
But Amy and Rory were gone. He'd grieve about that later. But River was here right now. Thank God. He tightened his arms around her even tighter. His River.
He leaned back and looked in her face. She was scrubbed all fresh and pink, and she was giving him that loving, understanding look. He could feel her hands gripping in the back of his jacket. And he leaned forward and kissed each of her red rimmed eyes.
He scooped her up in his arms, one arm beneath those perfectly adorable dimpled knees of hers. The robe dropped to the side, he bent down and kissed one of those knees.
He strode off purposely down the corridor. His footsteps thumping with grim determination.
"Sweetie?" River asked. She had an unusual look on her face. Not sure what he was doing.
"You need a lesson Professor Song," he said firmly.
One eyebrow shot up. "Not that I'm averse, Sweetie, but is now the time?" she asked.
He sent her a grim, pinched-lipped look.
Her eyebrow came down and her brows drew together with concern. "Doctor?"
He kicked open the library door, turned and kicked it shut behind them, as if there was anyone left to interrupt them.
He carried her over to the sofa, sat down, and turned to swing his feet up onto the cushions. She was still sitting in his lap, clothed in the ratty bathrobe.
He leaned back and pressed her head down on his chest, wrapping his arms around her as tightly as he could. He bent his knees to support her bottom and curled her up around his side.
He held her so tight she felt like she was in a cocoon. She squirmed slightly. And he held her even harder.
He wasn't trying to constrain her, he just couldn't seem to get close enough.
"River Song, you are my bloody wife!" he proclaimed. He tried to loosen his arms around her. But they weren't having any of it.
She was warm and heavy, and poking him indignantly with an elbow, and he didn't care.
"Why would you hide your wrist from me? Why would you think I wouldn't want to know you were hurt? And what does my face have to do with anything?" He was so agitated his hearts were hammering like a drum.
"Well, if you'd just let me breathe, Sweetie..." River said with a muffled voice.
His arms loosened around her. Her head came up and he bent his legs more, shifting her higher but not letting her go. His hands wrapped tight around her hips and back.
She leaned up and looked down at him. She studied his eyes, as if deciding what to tell him.
"Does my apparent age really bother you, River?" he asked softly, not waiting for her to decide on what soothing lie to tell him. His brows beetled, looking up at her, her red-rimmed eyes, her pinkened nose. Her face puffy with grief and shed tears.
"Good grief!" He sat up a little straighter. "Does your apparent age bother you?"
Her eyes flickered, just barely, but he caught it.
"River!" he said in exasperation.
"Don't you 'River' me!" she said, not quite looking at him. " A girl has a right to be concerned about her appearance."
He threw back his head and laughed. She bounced on his chest with the force of it. His neck curved back over the sofa arm, his throat working with the sound, close enough to her lips that she could have kissed it, or torn out his jugular vein.
It was a shame, it was a nice neck.
He turned bright, extremely intense eyes up to her. They blazed green. Her breath caught. His hearts blazed out of those eyes.
His eyes roamed over her face, his hands came up to tenderly cup it. His long thumbs brushed at the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. "Have I really given you that impression, Melody?"
Her heart caught at his use of her real name. Her eyes welled with tears, but she tried to force them down, keep him from seeing.
He reached up and kissed each eye. Taking the tears on his lips. He pulled back. "I think at this point you've still known me longer than I've known you." He pressed his forehead to hers. "I'm sorry I haven't been a better husband."
She jerked back. Her face outraged. "Who said...!"
"You did," he reminded her, her face still held in his hands. "When you felt you had to hide your injury from me." His eyes searched hers. "I'm here to help. Isn't that what marriage is about? A helpmeet?"
She glared at him. "You still shouldn't have..."
"River. You don't have to be perfect."
Her eyes flashed back to his. He smiled wryly. He brushed the hair back away from her face. "Do you really think I'm unaware that you're closer to our end than I am? Professor Song?"
His eyes melted over her face. She could practically feel them. She flinched as they drifted over every wrinkle, every unadorned bit of skin.
He grinned hugely. He brushed her hair off her forehead again, his thumbs softly tracing the creases beside her eyes. One long finger traced softly down her nose. "I must say, you look better for your years than I did in my first body."
She gasped aloud. She poked a long-tipped finger into his sternum. "I've seen pictures of you in that body, I'll have you know!"
His face went serious. "Yes. So why does this face bother you so?" His eyes were clear, and so green. "I didn't choose it. It's completely an accident that it looks the way it does. And there's not much advantage in looking like a tweenie. We can change it if you like," he offered.
"NO!" Her eyebrows shot up in horror. "You leave it alone. I love this face." She leaned forward and kissed his lips, she peppered his whole face with kisses, her robe falling open as she squirmed over him.
He grabbed her hips and pushed her back slightly. "Then what makes you think I don't love this face?" He cupped her face with his hands again. He stroked his fingertips over her eyebrows. Rubbed a thumb over her bottom lip. His eyes darkened. Her eyes closed.
"River, you are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen," he said in a choked, husky voice. Her eyes popped open.
The look he was giving her left her in no doubt. He pressed her head to his shoulder again, and wrapped his arms around her. Snug and tight. Curled close. He buried his nose in her curls and breathed her in.
She buried her nose in his neck and did the same. He always smelled so wonderful.
He stroked one of those long, bony, gentle, powerful hands up and down her back. Old/young hands. Gnarled knuckles and sweet fingertips.
She brought his other hand up to her lips, kissing each finger in turn. She pressed it to her chest, over her hearts. He turned it so that the backs of his knuckles brushed her breast. She grinned, hiding it against his collarbone.
"I felt that Professor Song," he chided, his own voice sounding lighter.
"Felt what?" she asked innocently.
He whispered in her ear, cool breath and tingly lips. "My wife, being naughty."
She looked up at him, pure innocence. "When was I ever naughty?"
He stared up at her, his eyes drifting slowly over her face. His voice came out deep and dark, "You know, I can't think of a single time. You've always been very, very good..."
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