Okay, this story was basically inspired by another DW fanfic on this website, so I'mma talk about that before anything else. It's called 'Domesticity' and it's by sunflowerb. It is absolutely delightful and a very fun piece to read, so go ahead and read it, naow! Don't worry about plot -you don't have to read that one to understand this one, but it would be nice if you read both anyway!
Other than that, all I have to say is please and thank you for the reviews!
Disclaimer: Doctor Who, BBC, all that jazz. Not me, not mine.
A Conjugal Visit
Lightning flashed. Rain poured in torrents. Inside the high-security prison cell in Stormcage, River Song was sitting comfortably on her bunk in her cosiest sweats, and wrote feverishly in a book bound in blue leather. The scratching of her pen's nib on the paper was the only sound heard other than the pouring rain outside. A guard passed by her cell, his footsteps fading into and out of existence rather quickly. She disregarded him completely.
Then a new sound was added to the mix –a strange groaning, wheezing sound that was music to River Song's ears. Looking up with a surprised smile, she saw a blue police box materialising just outside the bars of her cell. Grinning, she kept the book aside, uncoiled herself from her bunk, and sauntered over to the bars, timing herself to the moment she knew he would leap out of the box with his usual flourish.
Ten seconds passed, but the doors of the Tardis remained shut. River frowned. Was something wrong?
She was about to call out when the doors swung open, slowly, hesitantly. The Doctor stood in the doorway, as still as a statue, half concealed within his spaceship, making no move to step outside.
"Doctor?" –she asked slowly, unable to keep the worry out of her voice.
He stirred. "River," he muttered, somewhat cautiously.
Her frown deepened. "What's wrong?"
He stirred even more and leaned forward, bringing his face into the light. He looked tired but unhurt in any other way. "Nothing, nothing."
"Aren't you going to step outside?" –she asked him.
"What? Yes, yes. I suppose I must." He took a deep breath –she could see his tweed coat move –and stepped outside. She gave him another instant once-over. Yes, he was definitely tired. Hadn't slept in a very long time, probably. And his hair –his hair was longer than she had ever seen it, even longer than it had been on top of a pyramid in an alternate world, where they had stood with a bowtie wrapped around their hands.
He, for his part, was also scrutinising her and her cell with some care, his hands twisting nervously, his face an inexplicable mask.
She leaned forward, pressing as much of her face as she could through the bars. "What's wrong, Doctor? You can tell me."
He blinked. "What? No –no, no, nothing's wrong. Not really. Not at all. I just-" he paused, ran his hand through his distractingly long hair –"I just need… that's to say, I –I require your assistance. In some matter."
River placed one hand on her hip and raised her eyebrow. "Of course," she said matter-of-factly. "Must you even ask, sweetie?"
He squirmed. "No, of course –I know. It's just –it's not a normal kind of task. Actually I suppose it is, in a way. But not really. Not to me."
River stared at him. "You're not making sense again, dear." Then, smiling slightly at his flustered face, she continued, "Let me help you. How about we do diaries first, hmm? When was the last time you saw me?"
The Doctor tugged at his collar, looking more uncomfortable than ever. "Um… Berlin."
River, who had been reaching back for her own diary, froze. "Really? Well, it's been a long time since Berlin for me… What about the time before that?"
He sighed, his hands sifting through his hair once more. River found that she just couldn't move her eyes away when he did that. Stars above, the man certainly was hot.
"Er, Demon's Run," he finally mumbled.
Oh, thank goodness. At least he knew who she was.
Wait. Did he really?
"Have we done the pyramid yet?"
"Which one? Giza? Machu Pichu? Clom?"
River sighed. "If we had, you'd know which one, sweetie." A young Doctor, then. Not so young that he didn't know who she was, but young enough to not be married to her. She felt a familiar thrill rush down her spine. Not-husband-yet-but-soon-to-be-Doctor was always so much fun.
"Ah," he said and spoke no more, his eyes still darting around, taking in their surroundings.
River sighed. "Well?"
River frowned. "Aren't you going to let me out?"
His eyes widened. "Won't you be in trouble?"
River snorted incredulously. "Of course I will! How-" Then she stopped abruptly, a sudden realisation hitting her. "Doctor," she said slowly, "is this your first time here?"
He drew himself up. "Of course not! I've been to Stormcage before!"
She cocked an eyebrow. "To visit me?"
His shoulders slumped. "…No."
"Well, that explains a lot," she commented, somewhat relieved. She could now make sense of his hesitation and his cautiousness. Not his tiredness, though. Nor the strange, fixed mask-like stiffness that took over his features every now and then, like he was trying to keep something hidden.
Nor his hair, for that matter, through which his fingers were dancing again. Damn.
"So –so do I let you out often?"
She grinned. "Ooh, spoilers."
He clicked his tongue impatiently. "I'm not asking for an exact count, River."
She smirked. "If you're looking for permission from your future self, then you only have to decide to give it to yourself."
The Doctor grumbled something about 'permission, as if' but he whipped out his sonic screwdriver and unlocked her cell without further ado.
River swept out of her cell and into the Tardis the moment her cell door swung open, leaving the Doctor staring at her back bemusedly.
"Come on!" –she waved him in, biting her lip to hide the chuckle that rose when she saw his expression. He jumped as though electrocuted and strode in obediently, his features set stiff.
She watched him carefully as he twiddled the usual knobs, levers and buttons on the console. His nervousness had not left him. In fact, he looked more nervous than before.
"So," she said after a while, in an effort to dispel his agitated mood, "what was that thing you needed help with?"
He stood suddenly still and unmoving at the console, his back toward her. River had the strongest urge to turn him around to face her, and give him a soothing kiss or two. She actually stepped toward him, but stopped when he whipped around to face her again, his face a now-familiar mask. "Well. We know where I stand, but what about you? When did you last meet me?"
River grinned. "Oh, about ten minutes ago." Seeing his expression change, she couldn't help but laugh. "You'd just dropped me after two weeks of travelling. An older you, of course. I was in the process of filling my diary, in case you didn't notice."
"I did, actually," the Doctor muttered, throwing her a look that said 'what kind of unobservant fool do you take me for?'
He began to twist his hands together again. "Where –um, where did we go?"
"You should know better than to ask," she tutted. "Spoilers, sweetie."
He let out an angry huff. "No –just… argh!" He threw up his hands in frustration and rattled several levers in an effort to dispel his anger.
"Careful, my love. We don't want to blow a hole the size of Belgium in the time vortex, now do we?" –she said in a sing-song voice.
"Don't –just don't, River. Not now."
That emotion that he was trying to keep hidden for so long broke through. He looked… sad. A sort of defiant, determined sad. Her heart twisted at his forlorn look. All her teasing vanished. "Doctor. What's wrong?"
He stopped twiddling with the controls abruptly. "I need to know, first. I need to know how far –how much you know."
"Have you finished NASA?"
Her heart skipped a beat, as it forever did when she remembered the events of that adventure. Events she had lived through not once, not twice, but three times –once, admittedly, as a barely developed foetus.
"With Canton? Yes."
He let out a sigh of relief. "Good."
He hesitated again, and couldn't seem to be able to meet her eyes. "You haven't asked me where your parents are."
She frowned. "I assumed they're asleep as usual… why? Where are they?" Despite being careful, some worry slipped out in her words.
The Doctor let out a sharp breath. "They're gone."
"I took them home."
"Oh." She was speechless.
He glanced at her and burst into explanation. "I had to –I had to! They were in so much danger, so much trouble… all because of me." His voice lowered, his tone became more anguished. "Amy nearly… all because she trusted me too much. She had so much faith in me –that I'd always come back, that I'd always save her… as if I were some god." He spat the last word out with an expression of deepest disgust on his face. "I couldn't do that. I couldn't bear letting her down, and making her and Rory pay the price." He gazed at her, his meaning clear. "They've suffered enough."
River couldn't take it. She strode right up to him, took his flailing hands in hers, and stood on her toes to kiss his forehead. "Hey," she whispered. "It's alright. They're fine." She squeezed his hands. "I'm fine."
"So you say," he mumbled, bowing his head.
"So it is," she said firmly. "Doctor, look at me." He obeyed; all his years, all the ancient anguish and tiredness were plain in his green eyes. She leaned forward and pressed her forehead to his. "You haven't done anything wrong. Whatever has happened to me or my parents isn't your fault. We weren't forced to travel with you, none of us were. And now you've willingly let them go… that was incredibly kind, incredibly selfless of you. In fact –thank you. Thank you so very much, my love, for always keeping my parents safe." He closed his eyes and sighed, but squeezed her hands back gratefully. A small smile curved her lips.
"Now," she said crisply, trying to dispel his melancholy mood. "What did you need me for?"
He opened his eyes and looked at her. He didn't look as dismal as before, she noted with relief, but now he looked more… sheepish. She knew that look. That look always promised exasperation. Or amusement. Or both.
"What?" –she asked drily.
He chuckled nervously and extracted one of his hands to run it through his hair again –and again River's eyes were fixed on that hand. "I, um…"
"Out with it, Doctor."
"I…" A pause, a deep breath. "Ineeyucutmahay."
"What was that?"
The Doctor sighed. "I need you… tocuhmahay."
River clicked her tongue. "Sweetie, if you will keep mumbling-"
"I need you to cut my hair!"
Silence descended upon them after the Doctor's frustrated yell. Then-
"What?" –River said incredulously.
"My hair! I need you to cut my hair for me –look at it!" He pulled at the smooth long locks bunched on his shoulder. "You know back then –when I was captured by the FBI –you knew then. Amy always cut my hair for me. Now Amy's…" His voice petered away, then strengthened abruptly, before she could interject. "Anyhow. I thought of going to a barber's but I don't trust that lot. Could be a Carrionite in disguise for all I know, and before I know it I'm being controlled by a DNA replication module with my hair stuck onto it." He paused again, slightly embarrassed this time. "You cut my hair last time, and you did a –that's to say you didn't do it half-bad, so…" His voice trailed away again, and he stared at her hopefully.
She bit her lip to keep from smiling at his ancient, childish face.
"That's why you came to pick me up. So that I could cut your hair for you."
He squirmed and toyed with his bowtie. "Yes," he mumbled.
She'd been right. She was exasperated and amused. "So the first time you ever come to visit me in my cell is for a haircut."
The Doctor licked his lips and nodded slowly, watching her with bated breath, it seemed.
She didn't make him wait too long. She burst into laughter. "Right. Lead me to the scissors, then."
His frown disappeared, and his face was now creased with a small but genuine smile. Oh, how she loved that smile! And how she loved that she was the one who had put it there!
"Excellent!" The Doctor rubbed his hands together. "Right this way, Doctor Song!" He was bounding up the stairs, when River called out, "Oh Doctor?"
He halted so suddenly he swayed on the stair for a moment, trying to regain his balance. "Yes?" –he asked, turning around much more carefully.
She smiled her sweetest smile at him. The Doctor suddenly looked defensive. "What?"
She sauntered over to him, slowly and purposefully. "What may I expect in return?"
He looked confused. "What?"
"You need my expert coiffing services. What may I expect in return for those services?" Her smile was still sweet, her voice dripping honey.
To her intense delight he grinned. "Dunno. What is your preferred mode of payment?" Ah, good old flirting. It never failed to perk up their day.
She had reached the step below his, her eyes level with his chest. "Oh, I have several," she murmured, then stepped up right in front of him, her hands on the lapels of his coat and her lips mere inches from his. "For instance…" She leaned in closer, but at the last possible moment, his finger appeared on her lips and stopped her.
"Sorry. Payment in full only after completion of the job." His smirk was maddening. "You can't expect me to pay before –what if I'm not satisfied with your services?"
She quirked an eyebrow. "Careful, my love. You're bargaining with the woman holding the scissors."
"Careful, bah! Tried it once, didn't like it." He wiggled his eyebrows at her. She couldn't help it. She giggled.
"Come on, you overgrown baby. Let's get you a shiny new haircut, and if you behave I'll give you a lolly when I'm done."
The Doctor, who was letting himself be pushed up the stairs, dug his heels in, looking ridiculously delighted. "Wait, really? Can I have a Jammie Dodger instead?"
River sighed. "I only have lollies at the moment, sweetie."
The Doctor frowned and scrutinized her from head to toe, taking in her simple and shabby pocket-less prison sweats. "Where are you keeping them?"
She smirked and leaned in. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
The Doctor only had time to let out a nervous chuckle before being swept out of the console room.
A/N: So, if you haven't read Domesticity by sunflowerb yet, GO READ IT. If you have read it, and didn't get the prompt, it's the whole haircut scenario. River mentions Amy cutting the Doctor's hair for him... and there I got my brainwave for this little thing.
Also, if it's not clear, neither River nor the Doctor has experienced Manhattan yet. So this takes place some time after The God Complex and they don't know yet that Amy and Rory will be lost to them in a more permanent manner later on. *laughs hysterically*