A small, silver pendant embossed with stars lay on the table in front of the Doctor. She picked it up, examining it from every angle, running her fingers over the design. She was about to set it down again when she noticed the hinge on the side. She slid her fingernail underneath the seam of the locket and opened it up. Inside was an engraved design of the planet Venus and a space to put a small photo. It was beautiful.
From across the shop next to some fine china, Graham called out to her. “Are you ready to leave, Doctor?”
“Just a mo.” She took the locket to the store owner and, after a little bit of haggling for the sake of appearances, bought it with her unlimited debit card. Graham made no comment as she tucked it into the breast pocket of her coat and took his arm, heading for the tea shop across the square.
The Doctor had spent days searching for her wedding ring, and days more snapping at others when she couldn’t find it. The locket wasn’t a replacement, but it was something. It contained a photo she’d found in the TARDIS of River and her fourth self in a moment she didn’t remember, sharing his scarf and laughing at the camera. She suspected it was a remainder of an aborted timeline, but something about the joy and life in the photo captivated her more than any other she had of her wife.
Graham caught her looking at the locket sometimes. He’d asked her about it, once, and pulled her into a hug when she’d explained quietly about River. In another life, with another companion, she would have burst into tears or refused to talk about it, but he understood. She’d never asked him about his wife, sensing that he didn’t want to talk about it - her psychic empathy in this form was rivalled only by her eighth - but he had volunteered enough information over the months that she knew she could trust him to listen.
When, after five minutes, she’d jumped up and hit the randomiser with a wide grin, he’d made no comment. She’d appreciated that, and made a mental note to make a special effort to take him to the actual place he asked to go next time she let him choose a destination.
Graham looked around the room they’d landed in. “It’s a University lecture hall,” he told the Doctor. “I’m sure of it. My wife was a lecturer. Come to think of it, isn’t one of Ryan’s mothers a linguistics professor?”
She filed the information away in her head, knowing it would be the only piece for a while, and led him out of the empty hall. Looking around the corridor they now found themselves in, she froze. There, on the door to an office, was an unmistakable insignia: the Lunar University. She went to return to the TARDIS when Graham caught her arm.
“What are you doing?” He asked. “A space university? I want to see this.”
She shook her head, opening the door to the lecture hall as high-heeled footsteps approached her location.
“Doctor, what’s wrong?” Graham sounded concerned and more than a little afraid, and for good reason. Even in the most obviously dangerous situations, she never usually retreated so easily. It was one of the things that had earned his respect in the first place. That and the fact that she could deal with his grumpiness.
The footsteps stopped. The Doctor turned around, one heart praying that the woman behind her wasn’t who it could be and the other desperately hoping that it was. Looking at the floor, she saw a pair of high black boots. Standing in those boots was a glamorous woman with amazingly big hair and an equally amazingly long scarf around her neck.
The Doctor took a deep breath, one hand unconsciously reaching to clasp her locket. She smiled at River Song, and spoke.
Her wife stared at her. She started some more, and then silently offered her hand. The Doctor took it in the hand that wasn’t holding her locket. They stood there, hand in hand, for quite some time. Graham, the poor boy, looked on in confusion. Multiple times he opened his mouth to speak, but immediately shut it again.
Suddenly, River spun the Doctor around to face her. She linked her hands behind her back, pulling her closer. After a moment of surprise, the Doctor hooked her arm over her shoulder and leaned in.
The kiss was sweet and soft. They stood there for an eternity, gazing into each other’s eyes as they told each other everything they couldn’t bear to say. It was only when Graham cleared his throat awkwardly, surprising them apart, that they both realised they had activated their respiratory bypass systems. Hand in hand, they walked together to River’s office as he walked behind them, smiling sadly.
Graham was out exploring the university, or so he claimed. River and the Doctor were curled up together in the sofa in the lower level of the console room, talking. River explained, apologetically, how she had rigged up an emergency teleport system during the time on Davidia. She spoke softly about the hints she had picked up here and there, about how the Doctor had met her, and how she’d started to devise a way around the events in the library without causing a paradox or, worse, sacrificing their relationship. Through both their tears, she begged for apology for not telling her of her plans sooner, but knowing that the events at the singing tower had had to happen first.
After forgiveness and more conversation, this time warm reminiscence and relaying of adventures, the Doctor fell asleep on River’s shoulder, wrapping the scarf that River had been given from a timeline she’d destroyed around both their necks. River had opened the sleeping woman’s locket out of curiosity and had gasped at what she’d found inside. The events in which she’d gained and lost so many centuries with her beloved so quickly were still fresh in her memory, but she’d been sure he remembered none of it. He had given her the scarf as a parting gift, knowing he was about to lose her for a millennium. And yet there they were, in a memory that had never been, laughing together after the Sullivan incident. A soft tear fell down her cheek, and she closed the locket.
When Graham found them an hour later, fast asleep on the sofa in each other’s arms, he’d found a pang of jealousy.
The ring was beautiful. It was a simple silver band set with diamonds in the shape of the constellation of Kasterberous, as seen from the mountain of solitude. River wore a more intricate ring, made of loops and whirls of silver and gold that resembled the linear Gallifreyan for “my love”. The earring that the Doctor wore completed the jewellery set. The stud was a moon in copper, similar in colour to the Pazithi Gallifreya, and was linked by a gold chain to a clasp set with two star-shaped crystals - a large, red ruby and a smaller yellow topaz - that represented Gallifrey’s suns. River and the Doctor had commissioned them together to replace the Doctor’s lost wedding ring, and she cherished them like nothing else she owned.
They had formally presented the rings to one another under the light of a full lunar eclipse on Earth. They had danced under the stars, celebrating their future together. The Doctor had refused to replace the picture in the locket, a reminder of what could have been, but placed a photo from that night underneath. The past and the future, the real and the remembered: she felt it appropriate to keep both together, between her hearts.
The Doctor looked into the eyes of the only woman to truly understand her, the woman she loved despite not knowing how, the woman she would give all of her lives for. This woman was woth more than any jewellery, more than any star. She looked into River Song’s eyes, and saw the universe.