The Chochir Quon'sog Of Pellatrix Theta threw a wonderful festival. Any spouse would be thrilled that their partner brought them here to celebrate the sheer fact they were together. The evening was beautiful with the clear starlight covering the pockets of happy party goers, as if the sky was another of the glorious decorations. Criss-crossing vines of colored lights slung in a network overheard, bonfires shot glittering crystals into the air, and the pastel flowers shone to perfection with illumination that seemed to glow from the center of the fauna itself.
River had more reason to be happy than the others here, because her spouse was so very special. He flung himself into the celebration as if native born, making the Chochir Quon’sog very much love the Doctor. Despite being among other aliens present, and not the only ones classified as humanoids...
“Gallifreyanoids,” the Doctor had corrected immediately. “We came first, you know.”
“Making up words like that only confuses them, Sweetie,” River had chided. “But he’s right about being on the scene first.”
... no one else here embraced the Chochir natural movements as well as the long limbed, flailing Doctor. His arms waved like electrically charged tentacles that blended in wonderfully with the native dance. Thus he was in high demand among each pocket of festival celebrants.
The Chochirs’ long primary upper limbs would drag on the ground if they ever let them touch the earth, but the network of natural and manufactured vines weaving everywhere was used to swing from place to place, causing the Doctor’s Tarzan cry. They wiggled their tube bodies and their slightly shorter, secondary upper limbs in every direction while their slim stick legs glided slightly over the ground. River had said they reminded her of the advertising air dancers she saw in her Mels incarnation, but without the corporate logos and not landlocked to a fan.
The Doctor danced through the Chochir like their bodies were dangling columns. The lights from everywhere played along his tuxedo as he called out to his wife, “River, like this! Just flow along like you have no skeletal structure because they don’t. Not in the upper body anyway. No, too much skeletal structure, River!”
She laughed and spun with her head flung back in absolute joy as she moved with him around the Chochir. Her loose flowered skirt whirled around her mimicking his tuxedo tails and the light green blouse brought out her eyes. She had kicked her heels off somewhere and danced on bare feet. “Don’t criticize my dancing, Sweetie! The Tardis dances the same way through the Vortex and you wouldn’t want her to hear you complained!”
He stopped to smile at her. “Child of the Tardis,” and he glowed with so much soft tenderness before he leaned in close to her dazzling face. “But still too much skeletal structure.” Then he was away, arms flailing above his head. “I told your mother the same thing at her wedding to the Roman! Got to stay loose!”
The Chochir Quon’sog welcomed them back with cheers that sounded like giant moles hurrahing with their mouths shut. “And I should know, River,” the Doctor had explained. “I’ve been to Cajrhx Three and heard the giant moles doing just that.”
Their hosts watched in fascination as the Doctor flailed like a native with the added exoticness of joints in his lower body, because while the Chochir had no skeleton in the upper half, they were nothing but unbending bone in the bottom torso and legs. They watched the Doctor use hips, knees, and ankles to give their dance his own flair.
He swung around her again, only a breath away from her own body. “Pellatrix Theta, River.” He grinned way too much over his own joke. “Do you get it? I picked a Theta planet. And my Academy nickname was Theta--”
“I get it, Sweetie. Honestly. You don’t have to hit me with a brick.” She rolled her eyes. “And hasn’t anyone ever told you that if you explain a joke, you make it unfunny."
He disagreed with a big Ha! and did a weird jig with his legs from side to side like an overstimulated football player. He was such a combination of worldly traveler and goofball, and he was all hers.
In a break of the music, River flopped down at a table and seats built into the rock. She reached above her head to the table’s surface for her drink and then signaled someone for a second beverage for the Doctor as he fell back into what passed for a chair across from her.
“Can you reach?” he asked and started to stand. But she nodded that she was fine and he fell back again into the groove in the rock. The Chochir couldn’t bend to sit in a chair like she and the Doctor used. Instead they had inclines that they leaned into and took the weight off their feet.
“Although I’m not sure what they put out to eat up there,” she remarked, even though she really didn’t care. She was enjoying just looking at him all dressed up in his finest. And for her. He didn’t always change clothes. Usually, he wore some variation of his standard outfit, even when their time together would be exploring somewhere, which usually turned into running from something before someone blew up something -- or the Doctor needed to blow something up. And during those times when they curled into each other in the Tardis doors looking at the beauty of the universe.
Then there were these nights when he dressed up for her, for his wife... well, it was a whole other thing.
Amy had pulled her aside one day and told her that the Doctor dressed differently for a situation if it called for it, but for a person? “He only does that for you, River. So you appreciate that or you’re not my daughter.”
Oh, but River was.
At the moment though, her husband was fussing, curious over what the table above their heads could possibly hold. Even with his extra height and on his toes, he couldn’t see over the edge. It made him grin like a boy scheming to get at the biscuit jar on the high shelf. “It’s probably something to eat. They have the most marvelous treats for the festival, River, you need to try them. I’m sure I can--” He stretched every limb as he felt around blindly at what was the normal table height for the vine dangling Chochir. “-- wait, this feels like cak-- Ew!”
She giggled as he looked at his sticky fingers, still the little boy not sure if he found a treat or something disgusting like medicine. “I thought it was a cake, but my hand sank right into it.” He brought his fingers closer and paused before he darted the tip of his tongue out to taste it. He kept his tongue out like a testing probe and how could she not laugh even more?
His face lit up, but he forgot to pull his tongue back in his mouth. “Ih gooh, Hiver! Ike helly!”
That tongue was giving her wicked thoughts. Actually, it was giving her more wicked thoughts because her mind was already spinning delightful fantasies involving removing that tuxedo and all the wonderful ways she could creatively do it. Now he held out fingers like candy coated sinful treats in complete innocence. If the Temptation in the Garden was anything like this, River thought, no wonder Eve dove in.
He bit his tongue then and cried out “Ow!” as he touched the injury with his other hand. River took the one sticky with jelly and slipped her tongue around a fingertip, removing the dessert filling in a languish stroke. He swallowed as he watched her play and she caught his held breath as his Adam’s apple traveled down his long throat. She looked up from the top of her eyes and saw the play of emotions across his face.
A drop of jellied custard fell from one of his other fingers down into the V-neck of her blouse. Spell broken, she anxiously glanced down hoping it hadn’t stained. She had loved the way the Doctor had looked at her when she came out of the wardrobe, and had especially loved his commenting on the colour matching her eyes.
She reached down and swiped the custard off her skin with no more thought than being glad her blouse hadn’t been damaged. But the Doctor made a little noise somewhere deep in his chest and her eyes shot up to his again; he watched that exposed skin revealed by her deep neckline and her finger drawing across it. She slowed the motion now that she knew he was watching with no more sign of boyishness anywhere in his expression. Her husband lifted his eyes to hers even as he was well aware of the sensual path her fingertip made to her lips to be kissed clean.
Plenty of delightful wicked thoughts to go around then. And his were all for her.
She would have to compliment their hosts on a truly perfect festival, but much later. Much much later if her plans became true, but she changed her mind when one of the Chochir Quon’sog swung in from somewhere above. He or she (only they themselves knew) dangled a few limbs around the Doctor’s head as more indicated something on the table.
The Doctor swung to look at the circle drawing around the bonfire. “Oh! Thank you for the reminder. I nearly missed out!”
With a sigh for her now on-hold fantasies, River moved to go with him, but he stopped her. “Oh no, River. I brought you here, so you watch while I join them. It’s part of the tradition.”
“What tradition, Sweetie?”
He was already crossing the ground to join the circle when he raced back to her. He shoved his tuxedo coat with its long tails into her hands. He nodded, indicating the bonfire. “Can’t have a repeat of Gaulos. Wait, have you been there?”
“When you set fire to your coattails from a candle and it spread through their entire harvest? Yes, Sweetie, I’ve been there.”
“Oh, good! No spoilers then! Now remember, you have to really watch, River!” He darted back to the circle before he turned around making sure he lined up with her. He pointed to her and gave a happy giggle.
The rhythmic music began and he became all knees, elbows, and stomping feet as he moved in a circle around the fire. Chochir swung by him, but he always moved to the outside so River could see him. His hosts were all fluid grace and so was he, if a puppet tangled in its own strings could be called graceful. She started to laugh but saw how serious his expression was and just smiled instead.
The music built to its finish and the Doctor danced towards her as others in the circle did with their partners. He reached their table and pulled down a glass and plate which he presented to her. His hair flopped down and she moved to push it back, but he pulled his head away. She saw out of the corner of her eye how the others took the drink and food from their partner. The archaeologist leapt awake and smacked her into realization: her next move must be either acceptance or rejection for what he offered to show if she accepted him.
So she chose him. Again.
He beamed and put his hands on his hips in that preening way as if showing off the long lines of his body. He reached up once more to the table and the jellied dessert came flying down in a glop.
“River! My bowtie!”
Thus endeth the party.
“Just a quick stop, River, and then we’re back to our special night. Promise. After that, I really need to check on the Ponds, see if anything is happening with that whole situation.”
“What situation? What is happening with my mother and father? Doctor!”
Honestly, a department store in 1970s London: why? His bowties took up a whole lot of room to themselves in the wardrobe, as much as his Fourth regeneration’s scarves and his Seventh’s jumpers. So they certainly didn’t need to stop everything for him to get a replacement, especially when the Tardis was sure to get the stain out.
Worse, she had lost him. The lift doors had opened on the toy floor and he’d shot out to see the Wendy house. Before she could push past the ignorant lumps blocking her way, he was out of sight. She had made her way down here in the Gentlemen’s Department, but still had no sight of the Doctor’s lanky form. Her temper rose and she colourfully thought of ways to punish this interruption in their night together. And what was this about her parents?
Her eyes passed over the man at the counter who reminded her a lot of her grandfather Augustus. He was saying something about, “Well then, what’s a proper bowtie?”
She stopped looking for the Doctor and focused on the counter, hoping the word ‘bowtie’ would draw her husband from his hiding place. The two male sales clerks were working the customer over pretty well, one blonde and slight, and the other a brunette who clearly thought himself Jack the lad as the saying of the time went. They lured him in with “That’s if the man can afford a proper one like this. Handmade watered silk.”
River smirked when the poor man took the bait. “Of course I can afford it! Have my own building firm, don’t I?”
Despite her hopes, the Doctor was nowhere in sight. She tried shutting out the conversation at the counter as she worked on where her giant infant of a husband could be found. But as the men went back and forth on, “How do you tie this?” and “I don’t know, sir. I wear one that’s pre-tied with the elastic around my neck, ” she decided she could do something useful with her time.
“May I?” she asked, causing the three men to snap around. The self-appointed ladies man looked her over, but then dismissed her, most likely because of her apparent age. But the other two: the blonde gave her a bright smile that was all devilment and fun that made her twinkle back; the customer’s eyes went wide and his mouth parted in surprise. She indicated the unraveled tie in his hands and he handed it over in a stupor.
She slipped the silk through her fingers, thinking of another one like this and the top of a pyramid. She gave the man a smile. “I’ve tied a lot of these. Have a friend who prefers them. Even had them around our hands.”
She had the ladies man’s attention now but didn’t care, and winked instead at the blonde’s laugh that revealed a gap between his front teeth. The man in front of her almost choked at what she said, but that gave way rapidly to appreciation and wanting to try it himself. Too bad; Gallifreyan bondings were one on one, and he really did remind her of her grandfather.
“Did I hear you say you’re going to your Regiment Reunion?” she asked, giving him a friendly -- but only friendly -- smile. He nodded in her hands as she straightened his collar and placed the tie’s length properly. “Well, have to have you looking good for the lads, don’t we?”
It took only seconds to do and he clearly wished it had taken longer. She smoothed down his lapels. “There now. You have a suit to go with this? Then you’ll look right proper. In fact...” She selected a cane with a brass handle and a silk handkerchief. “Let’s add this, shall we? Give it a bit of posh.”
The small man gave an honest grin and struck a jaunty pose. “How’s this? Am I John Steed?”
“Absolutely,” she said, recognizing the famous character’s name. “Mrs. Peel is sure to answer your call first.”
He laughed and tossed the cane on the counter. “Wrap it all up, boys, and thank the lady for your commission.”
She would have made a saucy reply to that, but her body became very aware of someone approaching behind her.
“Excuse me,” his voice said.
Her mouth pulled up at one corner as she turned around. The Doctor’s bowtie was undone as were the top buttons of his shirt. He still didn’t wear his coat and he still posed for her with his hands in his pockets, but his arms away from his sides to let her see him in full lines.
“Did I overhear you say you’re an expert with a bowtie?” he asked, all playful innocence. Emphasis on the innocence being faked.
The blonde salesman laughed. “Tell him the thing about the hands.”
The Doctor never took his eyes away from hers. “I could use some help here, if it wouldn’t be a bother.”
“My pleasure.” She took the white fabric, matching him gaze for heated gaze. “You’ll find I don’t even need to watch what I’m doing.” That expense of skin laid bare by his open shirt buttons called for her to do something far more pleasant than covering it. She slipped one finger along his collar to oh so pleasurably brush against his skin as she fixed the bowtie in place, then grazed her thumbs back along his neck and knew from the tingling that it electrified both of them. The sensual feeling of his skin begged for her to not stop and she pictured stripping him of the tie and shirt to satisfy the ache that wanted free reign. His eyes darkened in response and her hands came to rest at his throat, brushing back and forth along his collar, unwilling to break contact.
“Is it me or is it getting hot in here?” the blonde salesman asked, pretending to fan himself. “The dressing rooms are free. You two seem to need immediate privacy.”
“I can provide better than that.” The Doctor grinned down at her. “I have a Police Box outside.”
She smiled. “How can a girl resist such an offer?”
He offered her his arm which she took gracefully. “Thank you, gents,” the Doctor called in goodbye to the men at the counter.
“A Police Box?” she heard Jack the Lad exclaim. “Who would have thought that would work on a bird like her?”
The police box definitely worked on her. She was pinned between his body and the console at her back. Pinned wasn’t quite the right word, since it suggested she didn’t want to be there and it denied the fact she had put herself in this spot. Not that either of them minded. “I just need to hear that this isn’t Rule One, my love. Are my parents all right?”
He bopped the end of her nose with his. “Yes, yes, and yes. The first yes is for all the times you asked before this and didn’t believe me when I answered you. The second yes is for this time, and the last one is for all the times you will still ask me. Amy and Rory are fine, River. Sitting in their normal house in normal lives with laundry and jobs and very normal like normalcy.”
“And you visited, tried to put a puzzle together, got bored and left. And this situation you referred to is how angry my mother will be because you are most likely late.”
“It’s only supposed to be three yeses, River, but I’ll give you another. Yes. ”
“You realize I have no idea what you’re talking about, Sweetie.”
He gave her that look that meant he was thinking about something they had done in his past and her future. The way his eyes sparkled meant he had enjoyed it. “You will. You’ll have great fun with it, I promise.”
“All right then. Let’s start over.” She slipped her arms around his neck and tugged him closer. He went willingly, settling against her. “Are we going back Pellatrix Theta? If not, I have some interrupted thoughts on how we can spend the rest of this date. Of course, we can put those thoughts into action even if we do go back to the Chochir.”
“River Song.” He reached behind her, working on some controls even as he used the movement to draw flush against her. “You are the reason wives need to be celebrated.”
She reached behind her without looking and reset a few of the controls. “As long as you feel that way, my love."
“ River.” He gave a happily frustrated little huff. “Leave the controls alone.”
“She prefers the flying be done properly, Sweetie.”
He worked that ample jaw in the face of her smirk. “You two. Banes of my existence.”
She loved the depth of warmth in everything about him right now. He was happy and she made him feel this way. That filled the little spot in her hearts that weren’t already full from everything he made her feel. Love, passion, devotion, a ferocious need to protect him even from his own guilt and sadness. Standing here with him, her lover, her husband; the Tardis a constant loving presence; and her parents who loved her. She was whole. It made her want to take him to the top of another pyramid, it made her want to do a mating dance around a bonfire and then present him with the substance of life so he could show he chose her all over again.
Judging by how he looked at her now, he would. He would ask her to wrap one end of that bowtie around her hand again, he would make the Chochir symbol of saying Yes, you are mine.
While the warmth of them together brought these images to her mind, she found they brought something very similar in meaning to his. “River, I have a question for you.” He paused. “If you were on Gallifrey--”
He put his hands on her arms. “No, River. I’m serious.”
His eyes were so ardent and yet held -- worry? “I’m sorry, my love. Go on. If I were on Gallifrey.”
“When I took the Tardis.” His hands couldn’t stay still and constantly worked in small motions over hers. He brought them folded in his against his chest where she felt the only other double heartbeat she’d ever known besides hers. “Would you--?”
She waited until it finally occurred to her that this was the question. “Would I have gone with you? Is that what you’re asking?”
He stilled and she could see he actually prepared himself to hear ‘no’. Her poor love with his bruised hearts.
“It would depend,” she finally said.
He asked so carefully, “On what?”
She worked her hands up into his hair at the back of his neck. “On whether I didn't steal the both of you first.”
She kissed him then and his lips were still as her answer sank in. Then his hands were on either side of her face and he deepened the touch of his mouth on hers. They sank into each other, never breaking contact. The obvious things didn’t need to be said; River Song, as she existed, could never be on Gallifrey, and he had a wife back then whom he had adored. This was about their understanding one another. About no one else being quite like them except each other.
When he let her go, he whispered: “I only borrowed the Tardis.”
She grinned. “You borrowed, she stole.”
He shook his head, eyes alight. Then he dashed around the console making her blink at the spot where he had just been and where she swore he was going to stay. “And now, a treat! The next stop on our date night. Nights.” He looked into the air. “How long have we been out?”
“Oh, Sweetie, let’s just stay in.”
“Treat first! And maybe more dancing. I know just the place, one of your favourites. Or it will be one of your favourites.”
She pulled over the monitor and checked his coordinates. “Brooklyn, New York? 2014. Oh! Desserts by Michael Allen!”
“Exactly. You could start with that soup you like.”
“Sweetie, if we’re going to Michael’s, I’m going to make a shopping list. The Tardis will need to extend the pantry.”
“All of them.”
They exchanged grins as he pulled the lever for the doors. “And remember, no flirting with the family, River.”
“I won’t if you won’t.”
They dashed out together into the clear early evening, warm with still plenty of daylight. The Doctor did his usual take-a-look around pause as River took in the sights and sounds of bustling human life. Nothing unusual except for odd little boxes all over the place.
She heard the Doctor make a strangled noise and hurriedly searched around them for whatever threat had made him do it.
He stared at a young woman with long blonde hair pulled back, outfitted with a soldier’s uniform pants and dark t-shirt. She spun around at the sound of her name and frowned at the Doctor. Until she saw the Tardis behind them.
“Wait -- Dad? But you--”
He grabbed her in his arms and swung her around. “I thought I lost you. I thought you died.”
Oh yes, Jenny. Dad. Of course.
He finally released her, tears in his eyes that he didn’t care about and maybe didn’t even notice. She was rattling on at a speed that clearly marked her as his daughter.
“I’ve been trying to find you ever since I woke up from being shot and I always just miss wherever you were! So I heard how often you come to Earth and picked a situation that I knew you couldn’t leave alone, because, Dad, these cubes are everywhere! All over the planet! They have to mean something and what if that something is a threat?”
“Wait!” River cried out. “Is this the puzzle you left behind? You said my parents were safe! You left these things surrounding my family! Doctor!”
He gave a truly happy giggle and switched from one woman to the next. “Wife.” He gestured at River and then at Jenny with both hands. “Daughter. Daughter, Wife.” He smiled and then smiled bigger like he was going to laugh. He rubbed his hands together like he had when he found out she was Melody Pond, although River of course didn’t know that, when he suddenly calmed a bit, shoving hands in his pockets, and glowed with happiness. “Wife, Daughter. Brilliant.” He suddenly lunged forward to grab them both, one arm around each of them, and hugged them tight against him. “I have you both,” he whispered.
River put all her questions away for now with a sigh, knowing enough about him that she wouldn’t get answers for awhile. He needed this moment and, being Melody Pond, she understood that. She looked across his chest to where Jenny was held under his other arm, staring back, and smiled. “Hello.”