It's six days since her wedding, five since she got the note. Though prison bars hold her, hallucinogenic lipstick gets her favours and she chooses with care. Gold lace over cream silk, off the shoulder, down to the ankle. The bodice clings, pushing her generous bosom up, while the skirt flares over her hips and sways at each step. She pairs the dress with gold high heels, leaves her hair down.
The whine brings a smile to her face. Nerves flutter. Six days for her. Who knows how long for him. He could have gone from one end of time to the other, could be older or younger, or wear a different face altogether. Blue breaks the grey monotony of the Storm Cage and then golden light floods out.
“Hello, honey.” He's wearing a tuxedo, a bow tie and a fez. He grins at her. “I would say I'm home, but that's only right as long as I stay in here, and where's the fun in that?”
River laughs. “Nowhere, Sweetie.”
“Thought not.” The Doctor – her Doctor – steps out of the TARDIS and digs his sonic out of a pocket. He gives the bars a filthy glance, then casually zaps the lock. “I presume you're available this evening?”
“I'm always available for my husband,” she replies, tone suggestive.
He pauses, a slightly startled expression chasing across his face. In that moment, he seems so very young, but she knows better. Those wide eyes are old.
The Doctor tugs the white scarf from around his neck. Hands it to her. River swallows and takes it. Wraps it around her hand and then offers him the free end. He holds her gaze as he winds his own hand in silk.
“There's no one to give me away,” she murmurs.
“I already have permission. What I don't have is your consent.”
“I said yes,” she says. “After my parents' wedding. Or had you forgotten?”
“No. So you were saying yes, then?” He looks bemused. “Well, obviously.”
“Yes,” she breathes.
River tilts her head. “Would you take me as your wife, then?”
He looks at her, this man who knows how she will die. He didn't know her then, but now he does and she wonders what he sees. Amy's daughter. Melody Pond. His assassin, grown by the Silence. A prisoner of the Storm Cage.
“Yes,” he says.
His simple declaration doesn't stop the stars or extinguish suns. Her heart is another matter. She realises just how unsure she was, and how much it mattered. He is everything to her. More than the universe. She froze time itself for him and would do it again.
She steps closer. He smiles slightly, then meets her halfway. Though the kiss is restrained, there's a hint of something less so. Passion. Desire. Love. She grins against his lips and loops her arms around his neck, quite prepared to get serious.
She's not prepared for him to break away or the devilish look in his eyes and definitely isn't prepared for being swept up in his arms. An undignified squeak escapes her. The Doctor gives her a rakish grin and then takes long-legged strides to the still open TARDIS door.
It's only then she understands and she has to hide her face in the smooth fabric of his jacket. I would say I'm home, but that's only right as long as I stay in here. The TARDIS is his home, and he's carried her over the threshold.
Straight into a room that's dominated by a bed. Pain shafts. He thinks this is their first time. It is, for him. For her, it'll be the last. They're moving ever further away and right now, that's more than she can handle.
The Doctor lowers her feet to the floor. She stays close. Spoilers, and if he sees her face right now, he'd know. She's killed him once. She won't do it again.
“River,” he says, and it's soft as a caress. “Trust me.”
“I do,” she answers, truthfully. “With all my heart.”
His hand cups her chin, lifts it. She finds herself under a steady regard that seems to see beyond the hastily-thrown up façade, deep and deeper, down to the very molecules that make her. “I know,” he replies, and kisses her again.
In the moments here, she forgets the rest of it, and they are the times she lives for. For a moment, their lives merge and time stops its relentless pull. She tugs the bow tie loose and drops it to the floor. The TARDIS shivers as he does. At her heart, a beat pulses and she slips into the time stream, everywhere and nowhere all at once.
His fingers trace the length of her spine, notch after notch, a metallic click ticking off his progress. Gravity drags her wedding dress down, the silk sliding from her. He never stops moving, that man of hers – those hands that wave and flutter now stroke and caress – and she comes undone. Her surrender is absolute.
He lays her on the bed and simply worships her. She reaches and her hands find smooth skin, warm and vital, and she can't remember him taking his clothes off. He must have done, though, surely? She's forgotten again and it's just easier that way.
Easier not to think. He's doing a damn good job of distracting her from it. Better than he should be. And yes, he's old and experienced and it's not like he's never, but not her. A thumb rubs over a nipple and the thought is lost on a gasp.
His smile is all male confidence, the light in his eyes a glitter of mischief. She giggles and pulls him down. He opens to her demand. She pours everything she is into the kiss.
He breaks after the longest time, shuddering in a breath.
“Yes, my love?”
She frowns. “For what?”
His lips trail her collar bone, then, “Spoilers.”
“Oh. Yes, of course. Whatever it is, I do.”
He stares into her eyes, then grins, wild and untamed, and she wonders what she's unleashed. He gives her no time to think, though, and she arches on a moan. Not the first time, but it's been some time and oh God she has forgotten.
Her name tumbles from his lips, over and over. She can't think, can barely breath, never mind manage to utter his. Her responses are down to soft whimpers as he drives her higher and higher. She clings, eyes closed, skin damp and burning.
No. Her eyes fly open. The light in the room is fractured; white and gold and glittering. It lights her from within, burning through her veins, shimmers across her skin. And his, she realises. His eyes are no longer brown but bright suns. She tries to pull away, but his arms hold her. His lips shift again, thrusting deep inside and her panic splinters on a wave of eroticism.
He's so hot. She's so hot. The light that shines from her mingles with his and she gasps at the sheer power.
A word comes, ancient and forever, and she whispers it into the blinding white.
His name. His true name.
“River,” he answers.
She breaks apart, shattering into stars, and time stops. There's nothing but it's not dark. It's bright and glorious and her and him forever and ever. She feels him, not just in her body, but in her mind and heart and soul. A joining that claims her utterly, as he gives himself without holding back.
Her Doctor. Her love.
Her eyes open to dimming light. She's panting hard, shivering with the aftershocks of something beyond a simple climax. His weight is a reality, his sharp breaths warm and damp at her neck. He shivers and her automatic response is to wrap her arms around him, to shelter him. She doesn't know from what, and she should. She ought to remember.
There are memories of her and him, but they're slipping away like dreams, and no amount of chasing brings them back. There was... there was a lake. And she was there twice. And she did... something.
And then she was here.
No. There's more. She's sure there was more.
“What have you done?”
The Doctor pushes onto his elbows. “What I had to. You're my wife.”
As if that explains it all. Perhaps it does. She remembers marrying him and now they've consummated that. But if it's true, then why does she feel the oddest sense of deja vu.
“You'll forget,” he tells her then. “But I won't and I swear – I swear, River – that I will give you every memory back. But in the right order.”
She gasps, because now she knows. “It's a fixed point in time. You can't.”
“I did.” He disengages. His expression is determined and he's always relentless in this mood. “And you forgave me.”
“But...” Her body aches in protest when she moves. She's a little sore, but that's not so surprising, is it? She might flirt, but there's only one man she'd ever give herself to. “Doctor!”
He gives her a look that threatens to break her heart. “I couldn't, I... can't. That first time I kissed you, the last time for you, do you think I didn't feel it? The pain? There is not a thing I wouldn't do to stop you from hurting, my love.”
“My death is a fixed point.” She clings to the only truth that remains. “You know that. You know how I die.”
“Exactly!” He stands up and paces, frantic. “Slipping ever further from me and I can't let that happen.”
“Everyone dies, Sweetie.”
He stops. “Perhaps. That doesn't mean they have to die unknown.”
Had that been her fate? Of course. His life is backwards from hers. Or it had been. “You can't rewrite time.”
“I'm a Time Lord. It's what we do.” He shrugs. Golden light flickers across his skin, the remnant of the abilities he's expended on her behalf. “Anyway, it's more unwriting time.”
Of course he's cavalier about it. He thinks he's so unstoppable. “Then you'll see my death again.”
“I know.” The Doctor returns to the bed, sits down and then cups her cheek. “And it'll kill me all over, but that's the cost I'm willing to pay. More than willing, River. As willing as you were to let the universe suspend in a moment of time.”
“You were angry at me for that.”
“No, I was angry that you would do that when all I did to save you was...” He shakes his head. “It doesn't matter. It isn't going to happen. All I needed was one fixed point. The right fixed point.”
And he's unhinged the universe, unhinged time itself and turned it around. Now her future stretches alongside his. River leans in, her outrage fading as her past does.
In the control room of the TARDIS, the pages of a blue book flutter at the breath of a machine, its blank pages crisp and waiting to be written on anew.
In the Storm Cage, a scarf lies on the floor of an open cell. No one is quite sure where it's come from, or why the system thinks there's a prisoner missing when everyone is accounted for. A guard picks it up, reads the ink staining one white side.
“Watch us run. Geronimo?”