The Doctor stood outside the bars of River's cell and watched her.
She had her back to him. She closed the book she was reading and slipped it back on her sparse shelf. She had only a small selection of ancient leatherbound books, and a couple of e-readers. He was surprised they allowed her electronics in Stormcage. But then again, knowing her, the books could be equally as dangerous. He grinned.
She turned, looking as elegant and comfortable in her stained prison garb as when she was wearing any of her elaborate gowns. "Hello, Sweetie. Is it visiting hours already?"
He smiled at her. Somehow he could never resist smiling at her.
"I thought I'd pay my wife a visit." His voice was husky. He'd missed her. She approached the bars and tilted her head at him, considering him. She blinked slowly at whatever she saw in his eyes, and smiled softly. She slipped a hand through the bars and cupped his cheek.
"Bad day?" she asked gently, caressing his cheek.
He closed his eyes and turned his face into her hand. He kissed the ball of her thumb. He opened his eyes and smiled. "Not anymore."
"Flatterer. Flattery will get you everywhere." She fluttered her eyelashes at him and he laughed.
"So," he perked up and bounced on his heels. "What have you been up to, Doctor Song?"
"Oh, this and that," she waved airily. She turned. "Oh, and I've something here I think you'll like," she waved him into the cell.
He soniced the lock and slid the gate open. He wasn't worried about alarms going off. He'd set the Tardis to extend a time field around her cell as he usually did when he visited her. None of the prison scans or sensors would work, since no matter how long they visited, it would only last a picosecond to the world outside.
Everything would take place in the space between seconds. Rather like TOMTIT, not that he'd ever utter that name in River's presence.
"They haven't confiscated it yet," River continued. He frowned.
She saw. "Oh, don't worry, Sweetie. I've had access to the evidence rooms forever. Here we go." She pulled out a round mosaic inlaid table. "It's a Byzantine Chess set, I got it from Duke Ferdinand."
The Doctor's eyebrows rose. "Is he aware of that?" he asked.
She smirked and grinned over her shoulder. "Not yet."
He pulled her coffee table out from under her shelf and moved the manuscripts on it to the other end. He sat down. She set up a circular pedestal table, inlaid with polished stone and filigreed metalwork in the shape of a circular chess board, in front of him; the base was a lovely old hand polished wood.
"I'm tempted to challenge you to a game of strip chess," River said, watching him examine the board.
He looked up. "I warn you, I'm very good at chess."
She reached over and stroked a knuckle down his cheek. "Oh Sweetie, that's not a threat." She beamed. He blushed.
"Now," she pulled out a tray and started setting out the chess pieces, each figure was made of interconnected chainmail links; king, queen, knights, bishops, rooks, pawns. The Doctor picked them up and studied the elaborate constructions with fascination.
She laid them out on the board, the pieces running from the center to the edge on each side. Kings and Queens at the center, rooks at the edge, pawns along each side.
"Unlike square chess," she lectured. "Round chess is played by moving around the board rather than across. So opponents can attack from either direction." She looked up at him, expecting him to say he already knew this.
He was sitting quietly, hands in his lap, watching her. He loved listening to her in teacher mode.
She grinned at the schoolboy image he projected.
"The object of the game, as usual," she continued, "is to capture or stalemate the king. However, the most important move, is to capture the queen."
He smiled and leaned forward.
Her face glowed with the satisfaction of teaching, her hair curled around her head in the humidity like a wild halo; the strength of her shoulders, the natural straightness of her back. Her proud nose, the crystal clarity and fierce intelligence of her eyes.
This was why he'd come. His beautiful warrior.
"What?" she asked, unexpectedly flushed by the look on his face.
He grinned, loving that he could fluster her too. He nodded. "It's definitely important to capture the queen," he agreed. She frowned at him, mystified. Wondering what he was up to.
He reached forward and tapped her on the nose. "I've already won."
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