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counting stars and passing cars on the interstate

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counting stars and passing cars on the interstate

His ship has a perverted sense of time and distance at the best of times, really, so when he straightens his tweed and leaves Amy and Rory in River’s more than capable hands, pausing only to look at her once more (just look at her because suddenly he looks at River the same way he looks at his ship. He’d be hard pressed to choose which is more beautiful, but he has the sense that neither would ever ask him to choose regardless.) and sets off, he probably should have expected a plot twist. He presses his palm to the console and looks at the time rotor, his thoughts on River and his ship humming under his hands.

“I can’t believe – she’s really – but how much?!” he giggles as he talks aloud to his ship, who whirs in reply reassuringly. “Has she regenerated, do you think old girl? Oh god – how glorious, River, regenerating.” His skin shivers at the thought and he cannot seem to wipe the smile off of his face. She could be so old – so old. All this time he’d been so afraid of seeing her again. Because each time was one less time. Closer to the Library for her and further away from it for him. It was perverse in the sense that the further he got from that planet full of books and shadows and ghosts, the more it hurt.

The more he knew River, the more he loved her. It was inevitable really – he’d known from the moment he met her. Of course he hadn’twanted to know then. He’d fought it tooth and nail. More so in his last regeneration than this one, but even now, thinking back on his past actions in light of this new knowledge... “Oh, River, I was such an idiot.”

His ship glows a bit brighter, as if she agrees, and he laughs slightly, his grin returning. “Oh but I know better now, girl, and I will make so very sure that she never doubts me for even a second from here on out.”  The ship grinds her time rotor reassuringly as they land and he spins, clapping his hands and adjusting his bowtie. “I look good right? Course I do – she loves it anyway. And she said amazing – alright Sexy, let’s go get our girl.” He leaps down the stairs with alacrity, an effusive grin on his face and a bounce in his step.

He all but runs out of the doors, his hearts racing and his mind on River. Riverriverriver. He expects Stormcage but as soon as he bursts out onto the soft grass, he frowns.  Definitely not Stormcage then. He inhales deeply, glancing around carefully at the manufactured garden. He bounces, testing a theory and nods when he feels the drag of artificial gravity – never feels quite the same, there’s always more drag to it. “Makes for horrible bed jumping,” he murmurs to himself as he steps onto the path. He can hear the hum of an electric grid and every inhale brings the scent of genetically engineered plant life (all pollen removed – definitely post 31st century), electromagnetic conversion technology (likely from the trees – or treeborgs, he should think. Which means space and at least the 37th century), hormones and books. Ah. “Luna University then, but what are we doing here old girl?” He meanders the winding path, not sure why he’s here, but a quick check of his internal sense tells him when he is – 52nd century, and a thrill races through him. He knows, no matter what – somewhere River is here. He can feel it.

So he looks for her, pushes through throngs of students meandering the paths, walks and walks for about a half hour before he realizes – why on earth (or the moon in this instance) is he still on the paths? His River doesn’t do mundane things like walk paths. He starts wandering through the trees with this thought, not taking his sonic out, but content to simply let his own senses guide him. He steps in whatever direction feels right. Surely at the end of it, she will be there.

Eventually he sees her, curled around a large text, highlighter in her hand, drumming anxiously against the open pages as she reads. Of course. Of course she would be the one student in a 52nd century university, still using paper texts and archaic instruments. “Archaeologist,” he whispers fondly, stopping for a moment to study her. Her hair is untidy, falling in her face and she tucks it behind her ear, over and over again every seventeen point six seven seconds. She chews on her bottom lip as she reads, tongue darting out every time she turns the page. Which is often – she is clearly a very fast reader.  Something about her is different, he thinks. It might be the new knowledge he holds, might be – but he thinks it must be something else. She looks... younger. Which is impossible he knows – they don’t age unless they choose to – well he doesn’t at any rate, he’s not sure about her aging process just yet. Be oh – he hopes.

Because tied up in those hopes is the thought of her being ages old. And his future just suddenly for the first time in a long time looks so bright and endless, stretched before his eyes. So very full of River.

As if she senses his thoughts (far more likely that she finally felt his eyes on her, since he’s been staring for a full fifteen minutes at this point) she looks up and sees him, her jaw dropping as she gapes at him. He grins, clearly she wasn’t expecting him, and he waves enthusiastically. She frowns for a moment, glancing around as if she almost expects someone to be behind her. She closes her book, shoving the highlighter in the spine to mark her place, and stands, walking over to him.

“Hello, River!” he skips toward her, sliding to a halt in front of her as she stares at him, her eyes wide.

“Hello, Doctor,” her voice sounds hesitant and he wonders about it for a brief moment, before his hearts race ahead of his brain, and he bounces on his heels in front of her. “What are – what are you doing here?”

“Oh just in the neighbourhood, thought I’d pop by for a visit!” he lies with ease and she stares at him, her eyes narrowing.

“Did the TARDIS take you here?” she asks seriously and he giggles, clapping and pointing at her. River Song. Melody Pond. Melody Pond.

“Can’t ever fool you can I? Yes she did, so I thought – well must be here for a reason eh? What do you think River? Would you care for a little adventure?” he is beaming down at her and she looks up at him cautiously. She seems hesitant – but why would she be hesitant? It’s just one adventure – he’ll have her right back – oh perhaps she was studying with purpose. A final or project of some sort. “I’ll have you right back. Well, not right back, but as far as everyone here is concerned you’ll barely be gone. What are you waiting for? Come on!” He grabs her hand on impulse, lacing his fingers through hers but he can’t help but think as he tugs her along behind him that the spaces between his own fingers seem made to fit hers. His grin widens as they find the TARDIS quickly – he’d only landed a short distance from her, really. He snaps and the doors spring open and she gasps beside him.

“Doctor, are you sure you want me to go with you? I mean I’m not – I don’t think you’ll – are you sure?” Despite her protests, she is trotting at his side, keeping pace with him as they walk into the console room. The lights pulse and the TARDIS hums warmly as he pulls her up the stairs, only letting go when they reach the console.

“What? Of course I’m sure River. You and me – time and space – we’ve got running to do,” he says joyfully as he turns to face her, reaching for her text and tossing it onto the jump seat behind her. He takes her hands in his and grins, his cheeks aching as he studies her face. She is just so very beautiful. Of course she’s always been beautiful but now he sees every bit of her. He can see that her eyes are the same shape as Amy’s and she has a bit of Rory in her nose, and chin. She doesn’t look exactly like her parents, but he can see it in there and he wonders if she’s regenerated and how much she looked like them at first. Had she had Rory’s eyes? Amy’s face shape? Had she beenginger?

“What?” she frowns, touching a hand to her own face self consciously.  “You’re staring, Doctor.”

“Can you blame me?” his voice softens along with his smile and he runs a fingertip down the bridge of her nose, tapping the end lightly. She blushes, and he is fascinated by the spread of red across the apples of her cheeks. River Song, blushing. Would wonders never cease? “So where to? There is a solar eclipse on Meta Atraxis – which sounds less impressive than it is because there are fifteen suns in that system, and all of them eclipse at once! Only once though – or there’s Bhangia VII – everything on that planet is edible. Everything! Or we can go see-”

“Doctor,” she cuts across him with an unsure smile, “would it be alright if we could – that is – can we stay here? Only I saw so little of her last time, because of everything happening, could we – could we explore her a little bit?” River strokes the console as she speaks and he looks at her sharply.

“River, you – how many times have you seen me?” he asks slowly and she frowns in confusion.

“Once. Well I suppose twice if we count when I was a baby, but I don’t remember that very well, you know. I did Berlin one year ago Doctor. You know, you found me, we crashed in Berlin – I got shot and regenerated, and then I – I am so sorry Doctor. I never got to say that last time, but I didn’t know. I thought what they’d told me had been true and I didn’t know.  I swear, if I’d known-” He reaches up, pressing a finger to her mouth, his stomach dropping and rolling.

She was young. So young. Impossibly young – why would the TARDIS take him here now? But oh she had regenerated, but it was of little matter since apparently the first time she met him she regenerated into this body. His hearts drop down with his stomach and he shakes his head fiercely. He licks his lips, glancing around and realizing that she didn’t even have her diary – how could he not have noticedthat? Did she even have it yet? What – the TARDIS had brought him here for a reason, but what? “River – you can’t – I’ve not done that yet, you understand. We don’t – we’re time travellers. We don’t go in the same order.”

“Oh,” she says softly when he lowers his hand and she blinks. “Oh. Right – you – I knew that. Because you knew me, you see. Not that me but this me – you knew me. River Song. I’m sorry – am I – did I tell you something bad? I probably shouldn’t have mentioned regeneration, that was foolish of me.” Her expression is dismayed and he feels a tug on his hearts as he looks at her.

“Probably not, but I’ll let it go this once. But you must be careful in the future, River,” he smiles gently as he speaks and she smiles slowly in return.  His hearts clench in his chest because she has given so much away with so few words.  He knows now that he won’t find her, and Amy and Rory won’t get their child back. Guilt sweeps over him, but he is surprised that he feels no regrets. He aches for his friends, but she has also just told him just how like him she was. And he cannot regret any of it, because it would be regretting her. And he can only find it in him to be thankful. His hand reaches up, fingers tracing over the crest of her cheekbones as he moves closer, looking down at her in awe. “You’ve regenerated. River – I bet you were magnificent. My River,” his smile is bright and she swallows heavily, looking up at him from under her lashes. She seems so oddly endearing, and he wonders if this sudden shyness is just how she was at this point in her life, or if it’s because she is unfamiliar with him. His hearts ache at the thought but he shoves it aside.

He’ll just have to let her get to know him. And what better way than this? He bounces away from her, tapping in coordinates and setting them off into the Vortex, easing back the lever and scrambling to wibble the zig zag plotter before sliding over to the rotor control. “Do you always fly her like this? All... all helter skelter?” She is watching him with avid interest, her gaze intent and hungry and he stops, turning to stare at her, open mouthed.

“Oi! It is not helter skelter, I am going through a complex sequence of intricate steps. If just one is left out, the fabric of space, time andreality itself could be torn apart, River Song.”

“Oh,” she bites her lip before smiling across the console at him. “Did you know you left the brakes on?”

“It is a brilliant noise, River, and that brake is supposed to be left on. Like – like an emergency brake,” he insists hotly and she nods, but rolls her eyes. He stills, staring at her indignantly before he giggles again, breaking out into a grin.  “Okay, exploring the TARDIS it is, then. Well, that could take some time – she’s got nooks and crannies even I haven’t seen in years and years, River.  Let’s start at the start then, shall we?”

“Where’s the start?” she asks with an unsure frown and he grins, waving his hands around them.

“Right here, of course, the main console room. This is where I fly her and I – wait how did you know I left the brakes on?” he asks suddenly as the thought crosses his mind.

“I – can I tell you or is it not allowed? I flew her last time.”

“No, that’s fine – I know you can fly her, I just didn’t realize I taught you right away,” he frowns and she shakes her head.

“You didn’t teach me. She did.”

“She who? Wait – can you tell me that? No don’t – but who else knows how to fly her but me?” He stares at her in confusion – their timelines are a tangle at the best of times, but with both of them so near their starts he feels like he is walking around, blindfolded.

Her,” River’s hand brushes against the console again and he stares, gaping at her. The TARDIS taught her? His TARDIS?! The ship whirs in response to his internal question and he bites his lip, his mind racing. Of course she’d been conceived in the time vortex and it had altered her DNA, but what if – what if that wasn’t all? The TARDIS vibrated encouragingly, shivering along the back of his mind as his thoughts race ahead of him. 

“What if she helped?” he whispers and stares at River, a thought bursting across his brain like lightening. “Child of the TARDIS – you’re – you’re hers too, in a way.”

“That’s what you said – you told me I could fly her, that I’d know. And she just – just – not spoke to me exactly, but sort of? I can – I canfeel her. Even now. She is beautiful, isn’t she?” River whispers the last part in awe, looking up at the time rotor with such an expression of adoration that he feels torn between pride and jealousy.

“Okay,” he breathes the words out carefully and moves over to where River is standing. He shrugs out of his tweed, throwing it over the railing before he takes her hand once more. He worries about what is and isn’t okay – what if he hasn’t held her hand before this? But he’d done it on their way to the TARDIS, so he assumes it is okay now. He wonders just how close he got to her last time – she’d apologized for something, but he doesn’t know what. She seems comfortable with him now, but he can sense her holding herself back, as if she is afraid. He doesn’t like it – he finds himself longing for the open smug, all knowingness of her older self. But he remembers her frustration with him in the very beginning – dear god you’re hard work young – and he simply tightens his hand around hers. It’s his turn to be patient now. “Let’s start here,” he leads her down the stairs, under the console, pulling her down to kneel with him by the copper casing. It gleams warmly in the low light and he pulls their joined hands over to it, resting them against it. “This is the heart of the TARDIS,” he explains in a soft voice and she draws in a breath, looking from their hands to his face.

“Her heart? Oh – oh I can feel it under there,” she breathes the words out in awe, grinning up at him brightly. “She has – only the one heart?” Her gaze drops to his own chest and he licks his lips, sitting back and nodding.

“Only the one. TARDISes were grown on Gallifrey of course, but they’re not like Timelords in that fashion,” he explains quietly and she nods, before inching closer to him and looking up at him cautiously.

“So all Timelords have two hearts then?” she asks softly and he nods, grinning. She lifts her hands slowly, watching him carefully. “May I?” She reaches for him at his second nod of agreement, her hands flattening over his shirtfront, fingers spread right over his hearts. “Oh,” she breathes the sound out and he smiles. “I’ve never – I always thought I was odd or some sort of – of anomaly growing up,” she explains and his breath catches in his throat.

“You’ve – you’ve got –” he bites his tongue sharply, realizing that he cannot let her know how new everything is to him. He has to lie, has to let her believe that he knows more and is further along than he really is. She needs that thought – that at least one of them knows what they are doing. He lowers his own head down, turning to the side and pressing his own ear against her sternum. His eyes close as he counts the one, two, three, four of her heart beats. He blinks away the sudden stinging in his eyes as a quiet joy steals through his own chest.

“Oh, can I?” she asks, a familiar warmth seeping into her voice that has been absent thus far and he smiles to hear it, sitting up and nodding at her. She does the same, leaning forward until her head is pressed against his chest, her curls tickling his chin and his hands twitch with longing. He wants so badly to hold her, wrap her in his arms and hold her to him tightly. He wants to press himself against her until his heart beats sync with hers. He wants all of her, all at once – he wants to explore her like she wants to explore his ship and he cannot. Not yet. Not this time. But there will be a next time and a time after that and he will find a her soon enough that he can do all of that with. The promise has to be enough, he thinks. And it is really – the scent of her shampoo and her face pressed against him is enough for now. She sits back with a soft smile, her eyes warm and full of restrained joy. She is still holding back, he thinks. And it is up to him to tear down whatever walls she has built between them. He smiles at her brightly and she smiles back, a bit brighter than before.

“Alright. So. You want to see the TARDIS. Where should we start? Fourteen bathrooms – but one’s in a time loop don’t go in there –”

“Why would you put a bathroom in a time loop?” she laughs as she clambers up, pulling him along with her.

“There was a leaky faucet. I had to prevent water wastage,” he sniffs and tugs at his braces and she stares at him incredulously.

“Fix the faucet, then Doctor,” she says in an obvious tone and he rolls his eyes.

“I did. That’s what the time loop is for!”


So they explore. He shows her the swimming pool (newly created) the Zero room (she declares it boring), the Cloister Chamber and the labs. He pulls her along through medical bays and the wardrobe takes a good few hours on its own, most of it involving her begging to ‘just get rid of a few things’ and mocking him for ever wearing them in the first place, and the next room they stumble into is one of the meadow rooms.

“Why do you ever land anywhere?” she looks around in awe with a large smile on her face and he laughs at her question.

“Because I’ve seen everything in here at one point or another, River. And the company is out there. All of this is remarkably lonely for one,” he explains softly as they lie back on the artificial grass, underneath the artificial sunshine.

“Better with two then?” she asks unwittingly and he draws in breath, his chest aching at her familiar words. “What? Did I say something wrong?” She bites her lip, suddenly unsure and he shakes his head, sitting up and staring down at her. The last thing he wants is to lose the progress they’ve made. Irritating as it was to protect all of his hats from her murderous intent, the wardrobe had been the most he’d seen her laugh, and the lightest he’s seen her since he found her.

“No, no of course not River, I just – you look beautiful,” he substitutes, because with her this young, conversations are like walking through fields of landmines. He shudders at the thought – he hasn’t had the best of luck with those in the past. She flushes and sits up as well, lacing her fingers through the grass and looking down.

“It took me a while you know, to get used to this face,” she explains softly and he inches closer to her until his shoulder brushes hers.

“I think it’s a marvellous face, you can’t beat that hair!” he teases, reaching out and tugging on the curls lightly. “Quite possibly my favourite face,” he adds and she laughs, shaking her head.

“You’ve not seen any other on me Doctor, have you? You’re not as excellent a liar as you’d suppose,” she looks at him seriously and he swallows heavily.

“I didn’t mean my favourite of your faces. I meant my favourite of any faces. Ever,” he spoke in a low voice, unsure how to give voice to all the feelings bubbling within him. She is different young, so different, but at the same time she is so very River. Her laugh and her smile and something in the way that she looks at him; he’s more than happy to know that that look is apparently constant. As the thought crosses his mind, guilt drags along behind it, because this meant that he will never go through what she did when he was too young to know her. Mistrust and strangeness. He pushes those thoughts aside and strokes a finger along her nose again, quite unable to help himself from touching her. “I think it’s an amazing face, River.”

“I don’t feel amazing,” her smile is wobbly, quivering at the corners and unstable in the center and he feels his hearts squeeze together in his chest. He wants to wrap his arms around her, pull her in tight until she is so close she can feel how rapidly his hearts beat, how he isn’t quite certain but he thinks that the sound they’re making is remarkably close to her name. He wants to press his mouth to hers, and stabilise that smile, even if his hands sweat at the merest thought of the idea. Has she even done the kissing yet? Not that he’s done a lot of it, mind, but he wants to try some more. He wants – he just wants. He wants to be able to do whatever he wants to without thinking about what she’s done or what he’s done. He wants his ribs to stop aching from the force of his own heart beats.

“River, you’re the most amazing woman I know,” he breathes the words out and she fidgets, frowning down at the grass.

“That’s not me though is it? Not yet. I feel – I feel like Melody in disguise. Like River Song is just a name I put on –playing dress up in ill-fitting costumes,” she tugs at the grass once more, her face so sad that he aches with it. He shakes his head, finally moving so close to her that she is pressed into his side, and he decides that if she kissed him for the first time like they always had done, he could do the same with everything. No need for her to know that he’s never ever hugged her before; he’ll begin as he means them to go on. And he most certainly means for there to be hugging. Lots and lots of hugging. His arms wrap around her and he squeezes her as she lays her head against his shoulder. After a silent moment, he feels her own arms steal around his waist, hugging him back. He smiles at the gesture.

“It is exactly you River. Exactly you – I see you, your laugh, your smile, the way you mock my wardrobe constantly. That’s all you. You’re River Song, but you’re Melody Pond too. You’re everyone you’ve ever been – names don’t define people, River.  Nothing in this universe could ever define you. You’re practically the definition of indefinable even. Wait - that’s a rubbish explanation,” he frowns and she giggles softly, tilting her head back to look up at him.

“I like it, nothing can define me because I can’t be defined,” she smiles and he can see a bit more looseness and warmth within it and it eases the ache within his own chest. “Not even by you,” she speaks softly and he looks down at her, his face close to hers.

“I’d never dare to try,” his voice is low and she stops smiling, blinking up at him as she licks her lips.

“You don’t think I am? Only sometimes I wonder, because so much of me feels tangled up in you,” she confesses this in a soft, hesitant voice and he swallows, moving back a bit and staring down at her. She’s right in a way, he knows.  But she’s also so very wrong.

“River,” he starts carefully, unsure how to say this or even if he should, but he finds that an odd sort of dulled pain steals through him at the thought of her thinking that at all. He cannot bear it; he wants nothing more than that future stretched before him, but not like this. Not if she feels like it is something she is tied into – unable to escape, “there is always a way out. Time can be rewritten, even complicated streams like ours. Nothing is set in stone, you understand? And I know it may seem like I’ve – I’ve had such a large part in creating you. I mean, not like that but in a way – but you don’t understand, and I can’t really tell you – but you’ve been there all along, creating yourself. I can’t – I can’t be specific but there were times River, when all of this could have been unwritten – but for you.”

“Older me you mean? So I helped – helped make sure my life was this way? I can’t – why?” Tears fill her eyes and he exhales softly, wondering if he’s gone and ruined everything. He has no idea what her life was like – from Demon’s Run until now, but clearly it hasn’t been the best of times. Well, she was raised by the Silence – and it scared her enough to run away, run, run and run some more until... until what? He has no idea but he pulls her closer and answers her as honestly as he can under the circumstances.

“I don’t know why River,” his voice is gentle and she shakes her head quickly. “I’ve – I think I know why but I can’t- can’t be sure, you know.”

“Amy told me once,” she confesses quietly and he is startled by her words – she’s only met him once but she knows Amy? How is that possible? “that you choose your friends very carefully, and you only take the best. All the darkness in you, she said – you needed the brightest with you.”

“I told her that once, yes. It’s true – I’m, I’m not a good man River. I’ve done terrible things. Made horrible choices – I’m not infallible.  I like to choose my friends to – to combat that. Be a light and remind me that they’re the best of me,” he confesses in a hushed tone, sighing as his hand starts to circle over her back.

“Doctor, I’m not – I’m not like Amy or Rory. They’re good people. And I’m sure all of your other friends – I’ve been doing research you know, Sarah-Jane and Jo and Barbara and Peri – Rose and Martha, I’m not like them. I’m not good. I’m not some source of light or kindness, I’m selfish and I can be cruel and fierce and-”

“River,” he pulls back, looking down at her, shaking his head. “They were all very good, that’s true. But you – you’re not my friend River. And I shouldn’t – I shouldn’t be saying this, really,” he scratches at his head, pulling at his hair nervously before adjusting his bow tie, stalling for time. But time is one thing they don’t have enough of and he thinks he should never waste it on stalling. When he looks up tears are glistening on her cheeks and she looks so completely shut off from him that he is kicking himself inwardly as he turns to face her, his hands gripping her shoulders tightly. “No, no River – not like – not like that. You’re not the light that chases away my shadows – you’re the one who stands next to me in the darkness. You and I, River, we’re the same.  I could – if you wanted me to, I could give up all of that light, just for the simple feeling of you at my side,” he insists and she blinks, looking up at him.

“You would?” her voice is a dry whisper and he nods frantically. “I would never want you to though,” she shakes her head and he smiles because he can see it – all those walls, coming down.

“I know,” he nods, “I know, dear. It just makes me cherish you all the more.” Their faces are so close he can feel her breathe caress the skin of his cheek, and if he inhales deeply enough, he thinks he can feel her fill his lungs – like some intoxicating smoke. “Have we – have I ever... ever kissed you River?” His voice is a whisper and she smiles up at him.

“No,” she admits and his hearts drop. There’s a first time for everything though, he thinks, inching closer to her. “I have, however, kissedyou.” He laughs at that – not a first, nor a last – for either of them. Just middling, meandering at their very beginning, he thinks, and it’s odd to realise, but it’s true.

“May I?” he breathes the question out and she nods, keeping still as he leans in, brushing his lips against hers softly. He jumps back a bit awkwardly, before leaning in and kissing her again, properly. Her mouth is soft and unsure - they are learning together this time and a thrill shoots through him as he wraps an arm around her, palm against her back as he pulls her against him. Her mouth opens under his and his tongue brushes against hers as he moans, his other hand lifting to stroke at her hair. Her magnificent, marvellous hair.

Her taste blooms across his tongue, human and ageless and the tang of time – how had he not known before? She tastes like everything in his ship, and she hums, wrapping one arm around his shoulders to play with the ends of his hair while the other wraps around one of his braces. When they part they are both out of breath and he grins, kissing her softly once more before pulling back.

“Doctor, can you – when you do do Berlin, can you just remember that I am so, so sorry – I’ve never been sorrier for anything in my life,” her voice is breathless and her eyes are shining and he lifts a hand to cradle her face as he shakes his head. He has a sneaking suspicion that Berlin will answer so many questions, but his hearts ache at the thought of whatever happened there, to cause this stricken look on her face and a tearful apology.

“Shhh, River. I forgive you. Just like you’ll forgive me all of my errors,” he soothes her and she shakes her head.

“But you don’t understand,” she starts and he kisses her once more, cutting her off and swallowing her words with his mouth.

When he pulls back he looks down at her – River Song, Melody Pond, she is a miracle. He smiles sadly, knowing his face shows every inch of his age because she gasps and stares up at him. “I understand River. I understand hurting someone without meaning to, and I understand making the wrong choices. I’d still forgive you anything – because that’s what it takes to make this work, you see. We can’t carry blame and anger with us, it has no place here.”

Her eyes search his face intently, and she must find what she is looking for because she smiles at him, and it is that same smile he is so used to – mad and clever and flirty and warm and his hearts ease at the sight of it.  “Only forgiveness?” she asks and he nods.

“Exactly, River Song,” he slides his fingers along her jaw and she smiles.

“I feel more like her, here, with you – like I can feel her in my hearts.” River nods and he presses a soft kiss to her forehead. She looks up at him with a soft expression, her eyes warm and her nose crinkled. “Hello, sweetie.”

He knows now why his ship brought him here, to this her.  He’s just met her in a way, and it only seems fair that she should meet him too. The TARDIS brought him to say hello, and he feels his chest swell at the thought of it while his ship hums around them.

“Hello, dear.”