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Caught between madness and gladness of flight

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Really, Amy reasoned, if River didn't want anyone to read her super-secret diary of timey-wimey travelogue, then she shouldn't have left it where anyone could find it, in that room she usually used, in the cabinet that Amy and Rory discovered by mistake during a particularly raucous round of Centurion and Kiss-O-Gram. They certainly hadn't meant to hit the wall so hard. Anyway, if you wanted those things to stay secret, you put them under isometric lock or on a nanorecorder in a place few people would touch or in an ancient temple on a long-dead planet. Not in the TARDIS itself, surely.

"Amy, you shouldn't read that," Rory told her, looking adorably nervous.

"Rory, Rory, Rory," Amy sighed. "Let's assume for a minute I'm going to read it despite or possibly because I shouldn't and skip the scolding, yeah? Anyway, are you afraid of River Song?"

"Yes," Rory said too quickly. "Yes. You saw what she did to the Silence. And those shape-shifting acid blob things that one time. I don't even have a carapace to protect me."

Amy clucked her tongue at him. "After all you've been through with her, you'd think she'd waste her time destroying you? You're not a threat. You're barely tough enough to be a sidekick." She kissed him to soften her words.

He kissed her back but still looked cross and worried. "Amy, put it back."

She sat down on a chair and crossed one knee over the other and picked up the battered blue book. "Now let's see. What shall we find out today about the mysterious archaeology doctor River Song?"

Rory gave in. "I'll stand guard, shall I? Plenty of practice and all."

"Your stupid face is really quite clever sometimes," Amy told him, and she blew him another kiss. He rolled his eyes and she flipped open the TARDIS-blue cover of the diary. The thing was clearly well-traveled, the paper worn and soft and some of the ink smudged. Even in the fifty-first century, they couldn't invent a proper pen, or maybe it was just that River had carried it through hell and high water. The thing was bound to get a bit banged up.

Met a strange man today, read the first entry. Amy traced the words with one fingertip. The writing was loopy and a bit juvenile. Calls himself the Doctor with a capital D, says he's a Time Lord. Never seen a ship like that before - disguised as an ancient Earth artifact. It sticks out like a sore thumb, but it gets around. He flies it like a carnival ride, so it's all bells and whistles and hey ho here we go. Still, I hope he comes back. Spent the most interesting day together brokering peace on a planet I didn't even know existed with two species I'd barely heard of. Quite a mad energy about him, but he's charming all the same.

"Are you done satisfying your curiosity?" Rory asked, peering anxiously around the corner.

"Not even close," Amy said. She turned the page.

The next few entries were detailed narratives of adventuring through time and space: new foods River and the Doctor had tried, new planets they'd visited, odd things the Doctor had said, how he seemed to know all about her already and anticipated all her questions. He looks at me funny when he thinks I'm not paying attention, young River had written, though her handwriting already looked older and wiser. It's almost as if he misses me even though I'm standing right there in the room. Every time he leaves he promises I'll see him again, but he doesn't remember when I ask him about things we've already done. He says our timelines are back to front, so I should know when we meet to ask him what we've done. He wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, he says, some kind of Time Lord not-interfering-with-the-future rule. I wonder.

After that, River had changed over to a system of shorthand notes, cryptic messages to herself in a combination of a professional sort of lingo with dates and times and results and amused commentary. "So that's an Atraxian. No wonder" followed by a string of numbers and "Fish that swim in the clouds - what's next?" and a sketch of a fish with the scale noted underneath and a few chemical formulae. There were quite a few sketches, actually, all with little notations. River was doing her archaelogy work.

Amy grinned at that. "What next indeed."

"What?" Rory asked.

"Nothing," Amy told him. "Just keep watching."

About a third of the way in, Amy found a sketch, half-finished, of the Doctor - this Doctor, her Doctor, River's Doctor - asleep, his arms thrown around a pillow and his hair more skew-whiff than normal. He was clearly wearing nothing but the duvet. "Oh, stupid, stupid, happy River" said the caption underneath, in what Amy thought of as River's real handwriting. And under that, in tiny letters, "Oh, lord, what have I done?"

"Found something?" Rory asked. Wordlessly, Amy held up the diary. Rory's jaw dropped. "Put it back, Amy, there's still time to escape with our lives."

"After that?" Amy made her face as scandalized as she could. "We find proof that the Doctor has sex - with River, no less - and you want me to leave off? This is the opportunity of a lifetime, Rory. Two lifetimes."

"Yeah, yours and mine," Rory groused. "You could just ask her."

Amy pulled a face. "Spoilers," she and Rory chorused in unison, and she rolled her eyes. "Don't you want to know for sure?"

"Yes. No!" Rory burst out. "I want to live. It's none of our business."

"Come onnnn," Amy said. "Get him back one for spoiling your stag night, eh?"

Rory grumbled. "Five more minutes. Then promise you'll put it away. As if she won't know anyway - she's got special powers or something."

"Yeah, yeah," Amy said, turning the page.

Spent the morning at the Louvre, said the next entry. The Doctor counting coup, of course. From the number of artifacts he crowed over, you'd think he built the whole bloody museum himself. After lunch, it was the Musée d'Orsay. He spent an hour staring at one Van Gogh. Then we walked around Paris like two fools in love - Paris does that, no matter who you're with. As long as we're together, our timelines seem to sync. Didn't talk about last night, but he seems to be sticking closer than usual. Funny, though: he acted as if it were a regular thing and not the first time. He certainly knew how to handle me. Surprising, that man. There's something he won't tell me. I asked if he was all right after and he said he'd never been better or worse, then launched into a long bit about quantum mechanics and the peculiar way time folds in on itself. Not sure if I'll ever really understand him.

There was a long break and a few sketches: the Eiffel Tower, a rough of a flower, a crowd looking at the Mona Lisa. Then the writing began again, smaller and more cramped than River's usual writing, as if she were thinking hard and wrestling with what she wrote, not wanting it on the page. I think I love him. This could be very, very bad. Or the most splendid thing there is, possibly. He seemed so serious about it all, but then how could anything work between us when we only meet at intervals? From the look in his eyes, I'd think he wanted to marry me, but then he went all manic again. He hasn't left, though, or talked about dropping me home. Perhaps he never will, or perhaps in five minutes he'll leave me at my doorstep. Perhaps I'll stay here in the TARDIS forever. Otherwise, I don't see how he means to carry on.

Every time, it stings more and more to see him go. Go he must, and come running back again. I've got living of my own to do. And it's all part of the act, isn't it, really, to leave them wanting more and then pop in to sweep them off their feet. Can't sweep me, Doctor dear, not with my toes already among the stars and my life upended.

"Oh, shit," Rory said, and flattened himself against the inner wall. "We are dead, we are dead, we are beyond deceased."

"Don't be dramatic, Rory darling," River said, appearing at the hatch. "My old fella really would be cross if I killed the Ponds. I might have to discipline you rather severely, though." Her grin was fierce. "About finished with my personal diary, Amy?"

Amy closed it, swallowing hard, and handed it over to River. "Sorry. Just curious."

"Insatiably curious," wittered Rory. "Always has been, even as a girl. Insatiable. And curious. And insatiable...other things. Um. I like those though." Amy smacked his arm.

"Had to know, did you?" River asked, fingering the pages of her diary. "The Doctor and River, what's that all about, eh? I hope you didn't expect to find easy answers. There isn't one." She tapped the diary thoughtfully against her palm and a photo slipped out. Amy reached for it, but River picked it up and then showed it to them absently, just for a moment. It was a bright day in the photo, the grass brilliant green and the roses glowing pink against River's red dress and the Doctor's blue suit, but nothing shone like their smiles, radiant as twin suns. River was licking her fingers and laughing and the Doctor had cake on his face. They gazed at each other with an unearthly intensity and joy.

"You look so young," Amy offered.

River looked at the photo and sighed. "I was young. Much younger than I thought I was. Practically a girl still." She stared off into space for a moment.

"What was he like?" Amy asked quietly. "What was, I mean, will it be like?"

River sighed and her eyes focused on Rory. "Rory the Roman. We have something in common, you and I."

Rory gulped. "We do?"

"Don't look so frightened, boy," she said, a glint of humor in her voice. "We both came back to someone who didn't remember we even existed, much less that we loved them and they loved us. Much less that we were the world to each other and more." Her gaze got dreamy again. "We both waited longer than we thought possible for them to come back to us and then there they were in front of us, whole and hale and within reach, and somehow it was worse than ever before, and it broke our hearts. Because we were forgotten, when we thought we were the polestars of their lives and they of ours. And then they remembered and it was as if the light came back, but every day we thought we'd lose them again. But we could never give them up, not even to save our lives. Because that was it. They were it. So it felt like dying every day, and being reborn in glory, and dying again." She took a deep breath and let it out very slowly. "That's what we share, Rory, and it's an awful thing to carry around."

"Uh," Rory said. "Oh."

"Is that how it felt?" Amy said in a small voice.

"Oh, you know," Rory said uncomfortably. "For a while." He slipped his arm around her.

"How long?" Amy insisted.

"Ooh, well, er," Rory mulled it over, counting to himself and tipping his head back to look at the ceiling. He blew out a breath that puffed his cheeks. "Two thousand years and change. That sounds about right."

River stroked the cover of her diary. "The details don't really matter, Amy. What matters are the feelings. God, I never thought I'd say that in my life. And this time-travel stuff - it's complicated. There's only so much I can tell him without risking changing things. And as frustrating as it's been, the day that big blue box appeared was the start of the best time of my life. I won't have it rewritten." She smiled to herself. "And I do like the cross little face he makes when he knows he can't know something. Besides all of that, the next time I saw him, I wouldn't have told him yet. I can't go explaining everything all the time."

Amy leaned against Rory. "D'you think Canton ever got married?"

Rory stroked her hair. "Where'd that come from?"

"One out of the lot of us ought to have some kind of peace," she said.

River chuckled to herself. "Peace is in short supply around this place," she said, patting the wall of the TARDIS fondly.

"What's in short supply? My ship's got everything," said the Doctor indignantly, coming up behind her and standing rather closer than he had to. Amy grinned at River. "Well, speak up, you lot, or are you plotting against me?"

"Definitely plotting against you," River said, bumping his chest gently with her shoulder. "Against you, beside you, under you. All around, really."

"You are a scandal," he told her. "A veritable tempest in a teapot in a TARDIS. I won't have all of this secretive whispering. Come on, out with it."

"River was just saying that she was absolutely dying for a k-" Amy began.

"Some Jammy Dodgers," Rory cut in. "Amy ate the last ones."

"A K-Jammy Dodger?" the Doctor asked, putting his hands on his hips in suspicion. "Is that a new kind?"

Amy put her hand over Rory's mouth. "A kiss. You should give River a kiss."

"Well, those aren't in short supply." The Doctor put his hands in his pockets. "You two are always manufacturing more. In fact, the supply seems neverending."

"Amelia Pond, you are incorrigible," River said softly.

"Just a little kiss," Amy pressed. "We're still newlyweds. We want to see everyone happy."

"Mmmph mph mpph!" Rory tried to say without much success.

River stood very still, her expression somewhere between fury, amusement, misery, and hope. The Doctor looked over at her. "I suppose I could try, if it'll make you happy, Ponds."

"It will," Amy said firmly. She took her hand away from Rory's mouth long enough for him to say a weak "Yeah".

"All right, River?" the Doctor asked. "If this is some mad match-making scheme of Amy's, I don't have to kiss you."

"I'm all right," she said back in a husky voice, tipping her face slightly toward his. "I'll take my chances."

The Doctor leaned even closer to River and brushed her hair away from her face with his fingertips. Something changed between them, sparked and grew. He caressed her cheekbone lightly, as if he were hypnotized. She looked at him almost out of the corners of her eyes. He gazed at her, eyes searching her face as if he'd forgotten what she looked like and was trying to memorize the contours of her jaw and forehead. He eased closer and closer still, until his lips were just a breath away from her skin, and then there was nothing at all between them. His mouth brushed her cheek and River closed her eyes, her hands clenching. For a long moment they stayed just there, the Doctor's lips ghosting over her skin in a light dry kiss that seemed to contain a thousand kisses. Then he tipped his forehead against her temple and rested there for a half-second, the two of them a portrait of solace. When the Doctor stepped back, his fingers were tangled in River's hair. She reached up to help him extract them and their hands twined together, another caress that held the charge of all its counterparts through time.

Amy sighed in delight and squeezed Rory's hand. He squeezed back.

"Kissing is definitely interesting," said the Doctor thoughtfully. "Such a simple gesture, but such a loaded one."

"Any time you'd like to explore it, give me a ring," River said with a wistful tone.

"I think I liked it better without an audience," he told her. "Cheek doesn't seem to have the same effect. Nice, though."

"Wait wait wait," Amy said. "Without an audience? Doctor? River!"

River put one finger to her lips and winked. "You know why."

Amy groaned. "Spoilers," she said together with River.

"No, hang on, at that point, it's just gossip," Rory said.

"Look at you!" Amy crowed. "I knew you had an interest."

"I just meant that perhaps the Doctor wanted to keep his love life private," River teased. "I'm sure otherwise he would have told you."

"Hang on, I have a love life?" the Doctor demanded.

"Now that's a spoiler," Amy said with satisfaction. "River?"

"Yes, River," the Doctor said, wheeling around on her with interest. "Tell me my future. Read my tea leaves and whatnot. You can't keep everything from me when everything's getting so interesting."

"I can't keep anything from you," she said, her hand coming up to rest on his chest. "Not for long. Not for any longer. Not this."

"This is so exciting!" Amy stage-whispered to Rory, who looked as if he agreed but didn't want to.

"Ponds, out!" commanded River, her eyes on the Doctor's. "The Doctor and I have some talking to do."

"Couldn't we have left a transmitter in there?" Amy fretted as Rory hustled her out.

"No, no, and no," he said, punctuating each word with a kiss on the tip of her nose. "Now come on. Let's go do some 'talking' of our own."

"Fortunately for you, I'm insatiable," she said, taking his hand and towing him down the corridor.