Coffee, Clara had said, I need coffee if I'm going to sort out you being … you now, instead of you, and I know that sounds confusing, but you know what I mean.
"I'll be right back," he'd said, but neither Costa nor Caffè Nero, much less Starbucks, had had what he considered a proper cup of coffee, and nothing less than the best would do, under the circumstances. So, off to Belkapta Nine it was, third continent on the left, or maybe the fourth – not that it mattered, because at this particular latitude, both produced the finest coffee in the galaxy. And here, in Tenora, the coffee capital of the canton of Tendorah in the country of Malpetrah on the continent of … oh, never mind, was the finest coffee on the planet producing the finest coffee in the galaxy. Probably.
He chose the nearest café to the TARDIS. The café had cheerfully wedge-striped orange and yellow umbrellas emblazoned with its name, which, pronounced in the local Malpetran dialect, sounded much like a traditional Gallifreyan insult involving looms and a very inappropriate relationship with a foreign-born woman. Come to think of it, he'd heard it a lot before.
He walked in anyway.
"Miss? Miss? Excuse me, I need two cups of coffee," the Doctor said.
The barista spun on one heel, hair whirling in a curly cascade behind her.
"Oh," River said, "you're the one who isn't supposed to exist. The gift from the Time Lords."
"How do you – you were – no, forget it, you probably can't tell me anyway. But if you're wondering what size coffee I need … medium? I don't know, who can tell what size a 'kwadj' is, anyway? So medium, whatever that is."
"Lovely to see you again, too, sweetie."
"Well, I thought I'd save us both some time. Any complaints?"
"Only that you're still wearing clothes."
"Is Tenora clothing-optional now? Give me a minute, I'll fetch a loincloth."
"Are you going to make me my coffee, or just flirt with me? Not that I object, but I would like to place an order."
River unknotted her apron and handed it to her colleague: blue, four-armed, and judging by her blinking pattern, very confused. "I'm taking a break. Forever."
"Does that mean I don't get my coffee?" the Doctor said.
* * *
His hand twitched, uncertain. But he offered River his arm, and she took it.
"So," he said, "what's a homicidal girl like you doing on a caffeine-soaked world like this?"
"Dissertation research. Apparently in 2,385 apple-sub-beta, a man known only as 'the Oncoming Storm' arrived in Tenora and made quite a lot of trouble for the local authorities."
"Really? How remarkable. I wonder who that might have been."
"And my little flat won't pay for itself, so here I am, barista-at-large in 2,385 apple-sub-beta. How much foam would you like on your latté, sir? I can make them extra foamy. So foamy. You won't believe how foamy I can get it."
"Are you still talking about beverages?"
"Perhaps." River leaned closer. "So, where are you in this timeline? Travelling with anyone new? Anyone I should know about? Whoever she is, I assume she's young. Pretty. They always are."
"Probably? I hadn't really noticed. She's got the usual number of arms and legs and eyes and feet and things for a human, I think."
"Oh. Those things."
"What did you think I meant? Never mind, you'll only offer to show me."
"How well you know me, sweetie."
"Yes, well, it's fair to say that after all this time I do have a little experience with you, yes. Which is not a spoiler, and no, I'm not going to define what 'experience' means in this circumstance."
"Don't worry; I've got plenty of ideas." She paused, squinted, hand to her forehead, shading her eyes from the low late-afternoon sun. "Is that …? I think it is. It's Senia. I know that girl, Doctor; half-caf flat white every morning at 9:25 on the dot." She pointed across the town square, where two camouflage-clad soldiers were arguing with a young woman, all four of her arms gesturing wildly. As one, the soldiers grabbed her arms and shoved her to her knees. One drew a truncheon.
River had the man on the ground before the truncheon was halfway through its arc.
* * *
"They're on the run now," she said. "A couple more nights of this, and then the history books say it's all over. You know, not a single one mentioned me. They gave you all the credit even though I was the one who struck the first blow."
"You get used to it. Imagine being me, and all the things I've done, not even half of them in the history books. Besides," he added, "you've never liked spoilers."
"Still, it'd have been nice to have a little warning. I'd have packed my laser pistol in with my lingerie."
"You did fine without a gun. Punching guards, wiring up explosives, tossing incendiaries … you're a regular pro at this sort of thing." He paused. "Which I suppose you actually are."
"Assassin, sweetie. I was trained for subtlety, not mass mayhem."
"That worked out. I met Mels the ASBO Queen, remember?"
"I didn't say that part of the training took." River's shoulder brushed against his, and she leaned in close, her face a bare hand's breadth from his, a backdrop of explosions glinting through her curls. "Anyway, blowing you up from a distance wouldn't have been nearly so fun."
"I don't recall what actually happened being all that much fun, but I was the one being poisoned to death, so I might be a bit biased."
River's fingers brushed his cheek. The city smelled of gunpowder and over-roasted coffee, acrid and harsh, and its people were in for two more nights of fire and chaos, and he was the cause of it (again), but the only thoughts that lingered in his head were how light River's touch was, and how much more he wanted.
Her lips beside her finger now, hovering over his skin, a promise. "So much to do, we haven't even compared diaries. I know you're old, and I'm young, and I know where things stand for me, but where" – and he could hear the barely suppressed chuckle in her voice – "where do things stand for you?"
In a minute, he wouldn't be able to stand, period. "River," he said. "Where things stand …"
Across the plaza, there was a distinct lack of explosions. "The armoury." He scrambled to his feet. "The armoury bomb failed. We have to fix that. Tonight. Now."
She sighed and swung her legs back onto the rooftop. "A woman's work is never done."
* * *
"Spoilsport," River said. "I had such a lovely view, and now I've got a Christmas tree in the face."
"Look, I didn't need a view directly through your skull, and neither did you."
"They would never have found us. All those people in the streets –"
"And us the only ones who'll set off their trace explosives detector. Thanks, I'll take my chances in the foliage. Let them run their wild goose chase instead."
"It's just a tight squeeze. Normally, I wouldn't complain, but did I mention the Christmas tree in my face?"
"I'm ever so sorry. Next time we're about to be killed by a random spray of bullets, I'll hire a quantity surveyor to make sure all the bolt-holes meet regulation."
River squirmed again, rearranging herself on the planter. "Much better. No more branches up my nose."
Her hand was at the Doctor's waist, one finger tracing the line where his shirt met his trousers. A very interesting line, said that fingernail gently prying at the fabric. A very dangerous line, said part of the Doctor's body.
"How long are we going to be stuck here?" River asked.
The Doctor's shirt was marginally looser now. Other clothing elements were not.
"A few more minutes. Hush, I'm listening for the soldiers." Which might have been far easier were River's squishier bits not pressed to his chest, her smelling of smoke and sweat and salt, and all he'd have to do is lean in, just a few inches, to lick that point where jawline jutted from the soft skin of her neck –
Cries of over here, this way, stop right there, and the crackle of gunfire – fading, or not? Regardless, not the time to think about how, with River silent, the part of him not focussed on their pursuers was currently focussed on the pace of River's breath against his skin, the springy blonde curls tickling his chin, the flutter of her eyelashes when she blinked. How brashly she played seductress, when there was every possibility she'd never done anything with him beyond those two kisses in Berlin.
How he'd kissed her goodbye centuries ago, because even her ghost could stab at his hearts, and how here, barely concealed by a tree wedged in a brick crescent in a city on a planet that should have been a five-minute coffee run, the thud of her heart against his pierced him as keenly as if he'd last seen her only the day before.
River, hands at the Doctor's lapels, and maybe he could convince himself that she'd be the one to pull him down for a kiss, instead of him leaning into it. Her lips halfway to his already.
"I think they've gone," she said. "Do you want to …?"
She was right: no more soldiers, though he could still hear firefighters calling to each other, and the hiss of water spray, and the thumping of his hearts echoing inside his head.
"Do I want to what?"
"You don't really need me to finish that sentence." Her lips half a moment away now.
"No," he said, "I don't."
* * *
The bed, however, was made up in a cheerful jewel-toned teal, which the Doctor only noticed because it was most definitely not grey, and also because it was the bed, which seemed vitally important, not in the least because it was a vastly more comfortable place to stumble and fall than the floor.
"Sometimes, I can hardly believe you exist," River said, drawing her thumb across the Doctor's lower lip. "You really are an oncoming storm, you know. You sweep in, you're nothing but trouble, and all I want is to be right in the middle of it." She drew the thumb back to her mouth, tasted it. "Maybe 'sex storm' is more appropriate."
"'Sex storm,' River Song? I am a sex whirlwind. A category five sex hurricane. The Oncoming Sex Storm, if you will."
"Now you're talking." She rolled away from him to slip off her jumper and toss it in a grey corner, then sat up to unlace her boots and remove the rest of her clothing. "Well, then, Mr. Storm. Let's see if you can blow me away."
* * *
She sighed and tugged at his hair. More time along the kneecap, then, every so often moving outwards, a little higher up River's inner thigh, a hint of what she'd get if she could manage a moment of patience, and was that her hand slipping down between her legs? He hadn't authorised that, not at all.
"No starting without me," he said, grasping River's wrist firmly and holding it to her side.
"I was promised a storm. A 'sex hurricane,' I believe. This is at best a light breeze."
The Doctor paused an inch and a half north of River's kneecap; turned his head, blew softly over River's groin, watched her tremble as the cool air drifted over her skin.
"That," he said, "is a light breeze. But if you're going to insist on a gale-force wind to start with" – and he moved his mouth to hover over her cunt, felt the pulse in her wrist quicken – "that can be arranged."
When he licked her, she gasped and bucked and gripped his hair tight enough to tug on his scalp.
He paused, looked up at her. "That all right, then?"
"You complete arse–"
Another lick, another moan and shudder, and this time, he kept going, but slowly, slowly, the same leisurely way he'd drawn his lips from anklebone to apex, with the same delightful frustration on River's part. Tracing the edges of her clit with his tongue, just the tip, short flicks at the centre; his index finger sliding inside her, back out again, pressing deeper. For a minute, balanced ridiculously on that alcove planter, he'd wished it were an alley instead, somewhere dark and private enough that he and River could have dealt with their desires right then and there. Holding her firmly to a dingy brick wall, her jeans round her ankles, his tongue hard at work between her legs; looking up to watch River, who'd be biting her lower lip to keep quiet so the soldiers couldn't hear.
Save that for the next rebellion, definitely, and his cock hardened rapidly between the fantasy and reality of River's thighs gripping his head, the scent of her surrounding him, the cries she made with every sweep of his tongue. He ground against the bed, wishing for more friction with River's sheets, or her mouth, or the cunt he was so busy exploring, and if he kept up this line of thinking, any of those future options would be an utterly moot point, because he'd have spent himself before he even got there.
Slow things down again, then, for his own sake; River gasping for breath as he made her wait a full second between licks, then two, and by the time he got to three she had caught herself enough to pant out, "If you stop, old man, I am going to come down there and literally twist off your head with my thighs."
A chuckle, then, and his lips vibrating on River's clit – and the whimper when he did that was enough for him to finally take pity on her, speeding up until she was howling and shuddering against his mouth, pulsing on his tongue.
He lay with his head across her thigh, watching her breasts heave as she caught her breath. He slowly removed his finger from inside her, slipped it down his own body, wrapping his hand round his cock.
"No," River said, still panting. "You don't get to start without me, either."
She struggled up, pushed him onto his back, threw one knee over his waist and settled upon him. His eyes fluttered shut as the final, faint aftershocks of River's climax gently squeezed his cock. This, this might actually be the first time he'd fucked her like this, at least from her perspective; at her age, there were so few times they'd met, and even fewer when she hadn't been trying to kill him. Once? Twice, at most? Oh, they really should have compared diaries first, but unless some future self of his had turned up previously to rumble in the sheets with her, this was him now, all him, using what he knew against her, wondering if she liked that rotating thrust of his hips because she'd always liked it, or because he was the one who did it.
But she liked it, she really did, adding her own rocking motions in time with his as she guided his hands to her breasts, and the moans she made matched his own. His toes literally gripping the sheets the closer she drove him to coming; his knees bent for leverage as he thrust again and again, one hand now curled in her hair, pulling her as close as he could.
He came like a shot, pushing hard into River, his eyes squeezed shut and his breath escaping him in a rush. His brain trembled, drifted, stilled.
His senses restarted slowly: the weight of River at his pelvis, the rise and fall of her chest and his, the gentle throbbing of his cock inside her until she carefully shifted herself to lie beside him on the bed. Gunpowder and charred coffee beans sneaking through the cracked and draughty windows. Hooting and catcalling from the rebels, and the distant firecracker pops of gunfire.
"We never did compare diaries," River finally said.
"If you'd wanted me to stop in the middle to look for it, you could have said something. But here I am, silly old Doctor, thinking you were preoccupied with something else."
"Mmm. I was."
"Sex. Hurricane." He punctuated each word with his finger.
"I admit it had some storm-like qualities."
"Darned right it did."
She reached for his hand, tracing skin flushed pink. Two thousand years, and he still needed humans, or near enough, to hold his hand.
"The last time I saw you," she said, "I'd just earned my first degree, and you still had that bow tie. We were going to celebrate in that old classroom with the wooden desks, remember that? You kept complaining about how uncomfortable the seats were, while I was the one on my knees –"
"Right where I thought we'd left off, then. Interrupted by a nasty swarm of time-flies."
"Little buggers ruined my whole afternoon, you taking off to let them loose in the vortex."
"I couldn't kill them; they're endangered. Besides," he added, "I knew I'd find a way to make it up to you."
A half-smile. "Eventually."
"River," he said, "there's still one thing I need you to do."
"Give me a few minutes to limber up, and we can work on that."
"No, no." He turned on his side to face her, stroked her cheek. "Before I go, can you make me a couple of coffees? See, I promised Clara –"
The first pillow didn't hit nearly as hard as expected, although he couldn't say the same for the two that followed.
But much, much later, on her way out of the TARDIS and back to university, River handed him two lattés. Extra foamy.