Sometimes, when she’s this young, he feels more like her father than her husband, always with a scolding finger and an authoritative, “Now River…” or a “Put that back!” or “Don’t you dare push that flashy red button, River Song!” on the tip of his tongue. But then she’ll put a hand on the positively sinful curve of her hip and flash him a smile so wicked it could only belong to his hell in high heels and well, he stops feeling like her father very quickly.
Still, it isn’t difficult to summon up a stern face when she’s standing in the middle of the street outside her parents’ home in the dark of night, attempting to steal her father’s red convertible. He stands by her side, acting her as reluctant lookout as she kneels by the door and jimmies the lock. “River, if this is one of your strange urges to use normal transport,” he spits out the word ‘normal’ like wine, “we could take the bus!”
“I don’t take the bus.” She gives a triumphant hum and stands fluidly, taking a step back and opening the door. “Unless I’m stealing it.”
He watches her climb into the car and set to work putting the top down, a rising panic in his throat. “Great idea! Let’s steal a bus, you and me, Song.”
The top down, she slides into the driver’s seat with an appreciative purr. “You’d rather steal a bus than take my father’s car?”
“Yes!” He stamps his foot and refuses to feel silly about it, despite her raised eyebrow. “Because at least then we’ll just get arrested!”
River watches him for a long moment before an amused smirk curves her distracting mouth. “You’re scared of my dad.”
“He has a sword, River!”
He scowls and though he really hates talking to his wife like he’s her bloody minder, she is not his wife right now and he has to put his foot down. “We are not stealing Rory’s car. This is insane.”
Unsurprisingly undeterred, she pouts, running her hands over the steering wheel enticingly, a bit like he imagines the serpent would have caressed the apple. “You said we could do whatever I wanted for my birthday!”
“And you want to commit grand theft auto?!” His voice does not squeak at the end of that sentence and if River Song says otherwise, she is a lying liar who lies. He’d had plans for this evening – lovely, romantic plans that would have made an older River swoon. But no, he’d ended up with a River still in university – a River who, quite frankly, scares the hell out of him. “River, this car is your father’s baby!”
Her eyes gleam. “Exactly.”
He taps his fingers against the side mirror with a triumphant, “You don’t have the keys.”
She laughs throatily. “When has that ever stopped me?” And just to prove it, she bends her head and begins to fiddle with some wires. In moments, the engine is purring quietly. River lifts her head, smiling brightly. “You were saying, sweetie?”
Without a better argument, the Doctor falls back on the one that continues to strike terror into his hearts. “He has a sword! A very pointy sword that he knows how to use!”
“Well, we’ll just have to get the car back before he wakes up and finds it missing, won’t we?” River shrugs carelessly, as if his impending doom is of no consequence to her.
“This is stupid,” he snaps. “Stupid and reckless.”
She beams up at him. “Good.” Patting the seat next to her, she revs the engine as loud as she dares. “Now, are you getting in or what, Time Lord? I haven’t got all night.”
Muttering about time machines and meeting wives when they’re much, much too young, the Doctor rounds the car and hops into the passenger seat, crossing his arms over his chest and looking rather like a petulant toddler refusing to enjoy a carousel ride. With a satisfied smirk, River puts the car into drive and steps on the gas, maneuvering them onto the street and away from the Pond residence.
Of course, the first thing she does is get into a street race with a teenage boy. They’re stopped at a traffic light, the Doctor fiddling with the radio and trying to find something suitably romantic for their nighttime jaunt while River taps her fingers impatiently against the steering wheel.
“Did we steal your father’s most prized possession to go anywhere in particular?”
“Oh, I’m supposed to have a plan?”
“Are you suggesting you don’t need a plan because I never have a plan?” He reaches out and taps her nose. “Because if you are, that is entirely beside the point, River Song.”
She rolls her eyes. “I thought we might go dancing.”
“Ah, excellent choice.” He beams. “But why didn’t you say you wanted to go dancing when we were in the TARDIS? I could have taken you to New York in the twenties! I’m brilliant at the Charleston.”
She eyes him fondly. “Not exactly the sort of dancing I’m hoping for tonight, honey.”
While he’s contemplating what that means, he finds exactly the right kind of song – their song. Well, it probably isn’t their song yet, but it’s going to be. He turns it up and looks at her, hoping to be rewarded with a smile but the music is drowned out by River revving the engine loudly, her grip tightening around the steering wheel. Confused by her glare, he follows her line of sight and finds she’s staring down a young man in a Mini Cooper.
“River, what -”
The light changes and she steps on the gas, sending the Doctor sprawling back into his seat with a yelp. They shoot down the street in a squeal of tires and a trail of smoke, and though the young man keeps up admirably for a while, River ultimately leaves him in the dust, laughing in delight as she zooms past him and out of sight.
The sound of sirens not far behind drowns out the closing bars of their song, giving the Doctor visions of a very grumpy Amy and Rory coming to bail them out of jail and pick up their stolen car, but River is an expert in evading law enforcement by now. To her amusement, the young man in the Mini Cooper isn’t so lucky.
He still hasn’t forgiven her when they reach Ministry of Sound, sipping his fruity drink with an umbrella at the bar and trying to hear River over the sound of the music pounding in his ears. He can only make out a few words – he was challenging me, sweetie! What was I supposed to do, back down?! – but he’s pretty sure what he isn’t hearing is an apology. Their song was playing and everything.
Finally, she sighs and leans against the bar, still dressed in the short, clingy dress she’d been wearing when he picked her up – he’d stumbled into a frat party and found River in the middle of a group of salivating young men, but she’d tossed them all aside the minute she noticed him in the doorway. “Are you going to sulk all night or are you going to dance with me?”
Pausing, he listens to the thumping bass pounding through the floor of the darkened nightclub and wrinkles his nose. Around the room, sweaty bodies have melded from individual people into one writhing, gyrating mass. It is not the kind of dancing he’s familiar with and in his top hat and tails, it certainly isn’t the kind of dancing he’s dressed for. “Actually, I think I’ll just -”
“Please, sweetie?” River bites her bottom lip, plump and red and – he gulps. “It’s my birthday.”
Even this young, she knows exactly how to wrap him around her finger. Perhaps the music will slow eventually and he’ll be able to pull her into his arms and feel her pressed against him. It’s his favorite part of dancing with River. With that hope in mind, he lets her take his hand and pull him onto the dance floor. He hasn’t had nearly enough to drink to lower his inhibitions and as a result, he doesn’t do much but blush and flail as River grinds against him.
Even without the alcohol, it doesn’t take long to get lost in the mesmerizing sway of her hips and as she runs her hands over his chest, he decides he could get used to this sort of dancing, if River is the one he’s dancing with. Just as he’s starting to feel comfortable enough to slide his hands over her waist, caught up in the music thumping in his ears, River twists in his arms, grabbing his hands and placing them on her hips as she dips, her short dress riding up her thighs while she grinds up against his groin.
The Doctor chokes and flushes, struggling not to react even as his hands tighten on her hips. “River,” he hisses.
Her returning smirk is obscene. There is something feral and wild in her this young, something restless and raw. As much as his hearts ache for her to find the peace she seeks, as happy as he is that she finds it in the future, he cannot help but be drawn to the warning in her eyes. Being around River when she’s in university always gives him the distinct feeling he’s a terrified lion tamer, wielding a chair and trying desperately to fend off his lioness before she devours him.
What happens next, he blames entirely on the square footage of this place. In the tight press of bodies, there isn’t a lot of room for personal space and honestly, he’s sure the young lady behind him hadn’t meant to grab a handful of his bum like that but he yelps in surprise, stumbles into River, and well, she isn’t quite so understanding. In fact, she’s downright territorial for a woman he’d found in the midst of a sea of frat boys earlier. He shouldn’t find it a tiny bit sexy, but he really sort of does.
Apologizing profusely for the girl’s black eye, the Doctor drags his wife from the club and back out to the car, determined to have a much quieter evening now. Perhaps a nice alien invasion. He wraps his arm around her waist and presses her into his side, ignoring the frisson of delight that steals up his spine as he kisses her bruised knuckles.
It’s two in the morning but he’s determined that River have some sort of birthday dinner that isn’t an olive in her martini. With the help of his psychic paper, he manages to get them a table at the Ritz despite the dining room being well past closed. Finally, he feels like he’s dressed for the occasion. This is what he’s been waiting for all night – the chance to show her the romantic man she’s going to marry. And nothing is more romantic than a candlelit dinner at one of her favorite earth restaurants.
River looks absolutely resplendent in her short little number, her curls spilling over her shoulders and her cheeks still flushed with dancing and adrenaline. He’s lucky the only thing she asked for tonight was a joyride in her father’s car because looking at her now, he can’t think of anything in the universe he’d have the power to deny her.
The Doctor dips his fish in his specially requested custard and River watches with a wrinkled nose from the other side of the table, champagne glass in hand and a side of lamb on her plate. She plays footsy with him under the table and dips her fingers in the custard, distracting him from his dinner by licking the dessert away with shameless sucking noises, until he’s flushed and squirming, his trousers tight. River this young will be the death of him.
They share a slice of chocolate cake after dinner and she leans over the table to kiss the icing from his mouth, her smile against his lips almost as sweet as the cake they’d shared. It’s perfect – exactly the sort of evening he’d been hoping for. Of course, he ruins it all when it’s time to pay for their meal and leave.
Patting his pockets, he says, “Erm… River?”
She glances up from reapplying her lipstick in the reflection of a spoon. “Yes, sweetie?”
“I seem to have forgotten money.”
“Well don’t look at me! I didn’t realize I would have to pay for my own birthday dinner!”
“Right.” He clears his throat uneasily, gazing slowly around the room and checking their exits. “How do you feel about washing dishes?”
At her unimpressed face, he stands quickly and grabs her hand. As they sprint back to the car, River’s laughter is delighted music to his ears and it’s only after they’re driving away that he realizes he should perhaps be guiding her a bit more.
“That was wrong,” he says, nervously eyeing the speedometer as it climbs. “We’ll go back later and pay for everything.”
Reaching over, River pats his thigh soothingly and murmurs, “Yes, honey.”
They make a brief stop at an ATM, where he sonics out a bit of cash – all the while telling River that it’s very wrong and she should never try this without him, with River nodding and smiling and rolling her eyes next to him – before she drags him into a tattoo parlor. It’s exactly the kind of place he pictures when he thinks of a tattoo parlor and he supposes that’s a good thing – living up to his seedy expectations and all. Well done, tattoo parlor.
River flips through a book of designs on the counter, humming thoughtfully, and the Doctor hovers behind her. “River, what are we doing here?”
“Buying bananas, sweetie.”
“Oh, I love a good banana. Always good for a party. Are we going to a party, River?” At her dubious look, he deflates. “No?”
“No.” She turns to flip through the book again. “I want a tattoo.”
“Wait. What?” He snatches the book from her hands and clutches it to his chest despite her protests. “Absolutely not!”
Hands on her hips and chin raised, River’s glare is a thing of beauty. “Excuse me?”
“You can’t get a tattoo.” He has explored River’s body very thoroughly in the future – in fact, he considers himself the very highest authority when it comes to every bit of smooth, soft skin – and he knows for a fact that in the future, River does not have a tattoo.
“Want to bet?” River moves with lightening fast reflexes, stealing the book of designs back and tossing her hair triumphantly over her shoulder. “Who are you anyway, my father?”
He squeaks. “I certainly hope not.”
“Then don’t tell me what to do, sweetie.” Her face brightens. “Oh, I know. You could get one too!”
“What? No!” He backs away slowly, tugging anxiously at his bowtie. “I- I don’t think that would be a very good idea. Tattoos and Time Lords – not a great combination. Unless you happen to be the Corsair, now there was a cool bloke -”
“Are you saying you’re not cool enough for a tattoo?” River arches an eyebrow at him.
“Oi! I am plenty cool enough!”
She shoves the book at his chest with a smile. “Then pick out a design, sweetie.”
Eventually, he talks River into foregoing the formidable looking design she’d decided on and get a matching design with him – he even sketches out the circular Gallifreyan for the tattoo artist. He’s almost looking forward to it, having a matching tattoo with his wife. It’s romantic and exactly what he’s been striving toward and failing at all night. Matching tattoos in an ancient, long-dead language – those silly frat boys have nothing on him.
He decides to go first and River nearly bounces with excitement next to him. The tattoo artist lays out his tools in preparation and the Doctor glances down in curiosity to inspect them. The next thing he knows, he’s lying on the ground with River kneeling over him, petting his hair and cooing at him.
“River? Why am I on the floor?”
“You fainted when you saw the needle, poor thing.” She presses her lips to his forehead while he flushes and waves goodbye to another failed attempt to romance his future wife.
Not to be deterred, she nicks a ballpoint pen from the tattoo artist and they sit outside in the car, drawing Gallifreyan on each other. It isn’t quite the sweeping, sentimental gesture he’d been hoping for, but River smiles at him just as brightly as ever, and it’s almost enough.
Smudged ink staining her arms and legs; River drives them to Hampstead Heath and turns off the car in the middle of a field. She climbs out and he follows her lead but they don’t go far, hopping onto the bonnet and leaning back against the windscreen to stare up at the stars.
Used to going to the stars rather than looking at them from afar, the Doctor fidgets restlessly but doesn’t complain, trying to enjoy the warm press of River’s arm against his as she lounges next to him. This is worryingly subdued compared to her other schemes for the night and he can’t help but wonder what she’s planning. If it was his River, she’d want to climb into his lap and utterly defile her father’s car but he can never predict what she’s going to do this young.
Finally, she turns her head to look at him and says, “There was a park like this in Leadworth – smaller, of course. All the couples used to go and park there at night.”
“Like Amy and Rory?”
River wrinkles her nose and he laughs. “I try not to think about it, honestly.”
“What about you then? Did you go parking with a special someone?” He is not jealous. That would be silly.
She shakes her head. “Never had a steady boyfriend to go with. Mels wasn’t the relationship type – she liked quick fucks in dark rooms at parties.”
River drops her eyes. “She’s not like me, is she? Your River.”
“She is you.”
“Not yet I’m not.” She draws whorls and patterns with the tip of her finger over the red bonnet beneath her, studiously avoiding his gaze. “I see it every time you look at me. Like I’m only half finished.”
It’s exactly the way she used to make him feel, when he was younger and clueless and had absolutely no idea how very precious their time together was. He never meant to make River feel the same way and he doubts River ever meant to make him feel like that either but it’s an odd thing, looking at the one you love and finding pieces of them missing.
With a pained sigh, he reaches for her hand. “Come here, River.”
She hesitates but when he tugs on her hand, she scoots a little closer and he wraps his arm around her, keeping her pressed against his side. She settles there quite comfortably, slipping a leg between his, as if she’s already used to invading his personal space, and the thought makes him smile.
He brushes her hair from her shoulder and rubs his thumb over the bare skin of her arm, speaking softly and carefully, hoping she’ll understand. “You are different this young, of course you are. So was I. But that doesn’t mean you’re not my River yet – every you is my River.” He doesn’t mean for his voice to come out quite so growly and possessive, but River shudders in his arms, looking up at him with dark eyes, and he decides it was a very wise mistake on his part.
Without a word, she takes his face in her hands and kisses him. He melts right into her, always a sucker for River’s kisses – time, place, and age make no difference when it’s something as simple as kissing his wife. She tastes of champagne and chocolate, the definition of debauchery, and it’s so very River he can’t help but moan helplessly into her mouth. Her tongue slides hotly against his and she shifts, crawling onto his lap and straddling him.
He makes a soft noise of approval and buries his hands in her hair. It’s so easy to lose track of time when he’s kissing River – all those little things that make linear time drag vanish when he is lost in the warm slickness of her mouth and her soft, breathy sighs. He scrapes his teeth over her bottom lip to listen to her whimper and she presses closer, the fullness of her breasts against his chest and the delicious heat of her core finding the hardness of his arousal through her knickers.
She breaks away from his mouth with a laugh, glancing down at his lap. “Hello there, darling,” she purrs, and cups him in her hand. “Long time since Berlin.”
He flushes as he remembers her rather enthusiastic wriggle on his lap and his totally involuntary and instantaneous response, biting back a whimper as she reaches for the zipper on his trousers. “River, no, we can’t -” The words stick in his throat because oh god, he wants.
She pauses, an adorably hurt look on her face. “Why? If I’m always your River -”
“You are,” he promises, cupping her cheek tenderly. “But I’ve already done your first time with me – and this isn’t it.”
“Oh.” Her face falls and she drops her gaze to her hands.
Absolutely nothing about this birthday has gone the way he’d hoped. He always wants River’s birthday to be special – a gift to her for the gift she has always been to him – but right now, he can’t even make love to her properly. This won’t do at all. He can’t have a rubbish birthday celebration on his record before she’s even married him. Rubbing his thumb over her cheekbone to get her attention, he confides in a whisper, “We’re going to cheat a bit.” Her face lights up. “Our little secret, Song.”
She nods, her smile luminous.
Turning with her still in his arms, he spreads her out on the bonnet of the car and settles next to her, inching his hand under the hem of her magnificently scandalous dress. River parts her thighs for him, curling her hand into the lapel of his jacket and blinking up at him, eyes burning. He strokes her inner thighs teasingly, feeling the heat radiating from her core. The scent of her in the night air around him is enough to make his mouth water and he tells her so, licking his lips.
River shifts impatiently, biting her lip, and he rewards her silence by cupping her through her knickers, rubbing his fingers over ruined lace and rumbling softly, “So very wet, my River.”
Her hips buck into his hand as she nods hurriedly, a silent yes I know, clever clogs, so get on with it. He smiles fondly, dropping a kiss to the spot on the side of her throat that always makes her putty in his hands as he slips his fingers past the elastic of her knickers to slide them tantalizing between her folds. River moans softly, hand moving from his shoulder to thread tightly in his hair. “God, sweetie,” she chokes, and he circles his fingers over her clit. “Please.”
“Patience is a virtue, sweetheart,” he murmurs, and lazily continues his unhurried movements while she gasps and jerks beneath him. She curses him under her breath in ten different languages – he didn’t even know she knew ancient north Arabian – as he strokes over her entrance, briefly presses his fingers inside her before darting back out again, drawing out her wetness and slicking his fingers with her arousal. It’s only when River glares up at him and demands he fuck her because it’s her birthday and orgasm denial had not been on her wish list that he finally stops toying with her. He slips two fingers inside the tight heat of her and when she throws her head back against the windscreen with an exultant cry, he studies the graceful line of her throat and the elegant spill of her curls over her shoulders.
She is always absolutely breathtaking like his, a livewire under his hands, sparking and sputtering at the slightest touch. Her thin dress is hitched around her hips, leaving her creamy thighs bare to the moonlight and he runs his free hand over them, bending awkwardly just to kiss her pretty knees, still covered in inked Gallifreyan. Her eyes never leave his face, hooded and dark, but entirely focused on him, on his expression as he pleasures her. He doesn’t shy away, his gaze open and honest, letting her see the love and adoration he’s been trying to show her all night and feeling her grow wetter the longer she looks.
She moans and whimpers beneath him, her hips rocking as she struggles to get him deeper, harder, anything that will get her off. “So gorgeous like this,” he breathes, watching her eyes flutter with every thrust and twist of his fingers inside her. “Let me see you, my River. Let me see you fall apart. Oh, there you are…”
Her hand tightens in his hair and she yanks him down to her for a hungry kiss, and the Doctor groans, sinking his fingers deep inside her. He presses his thumb against her clit and when she comes, his mouth muffles her cries. She shatters around him and he swallows every sound she makes greedily, holding her in his arms until she stops shaking.
When she has her breath back, she reaches for him. “Do you want me to -”
He pushes her hands away from his waistband with a gentle shake of his head and all the self-restraint in the universe, smoothing her dress back down over her thighs and pressing feverish kisses to her forehead. “That was just for you, my birthday girl.”
River curls her arms around his neck and tilts her face up for a kiss, looking about as tame and harmless as it’s possible for a lioness to ever look. “I like it,” she whispers.
He kisses the corner of her mouth and curls his hand around her hip. “What?”
His hearts swell in his chest and he hides a grin in her hair, squeezing her hip tenderly. “I thought you might mean despoiling your father’s precious car.”
With a mortified snort, River begins to giggle, and he drops his head to her shoulder, helpless but to join her. When their laughter has subsided and they’re laying on their backs once more, their hands linked between them, he sighs up at the stars and says, “I’m sorry your first birthday with me was so rubbish, dear. I’ll be better next time, if it’s any consolation.”
River turns her head and stares at him, lips parted. “What are you talking about?”
He gestures with a flippant hand. “We didn’t do anything amazing – stayed on earth, drove around London. Couldn’t even pay for dinner – not exactly my best year.”
Still looking at him like he’s mad, River shakes her head and sits up on her elbows to look down at him. “Sweetie, this was amazing.”
“Do you have any idea what my birthdays were like before you?”
“You had Amy and Rory -”
River shakes her head, curls bouncing. “I never told them when my birthday was – barely even remembered I had one until you came along. Never had a cake or a present, certainly never had anyone who cared if it was amazing.” She smiles shakily at him and he reaches out to grasp her hand tightly in his. “Best birthday I’ve ever had, sweetie.”
“It’s the only birthday you’ve ever had,” he sulks to hide the pain in his hearts for little Melody Pond, pulling her close once more and burying his face in her hair. “You have nothing to compare it to.”
“I’ll start with this one.” She rakes her nails gently over his back. “Doctor?”
“Hmm?” He breathes in the scent of her shampoo and hums happily; quite content to just lay here with her forever, or at least until sunrise.
“Rory gets up for work at four.”
“That’s nice.” Such soft hair…
“It’s three forty-five.”
He yelps, scrambling to sit up and falling off the bonnet in the process, landing flat on his face. River laughs at him the entire drive back while he frets in the passenger seat, muttering darkly to himself about swords and the punishment for stealing and defiling a car with another man’s daughter.
With River breaking every traffic law known to man and somehow not getting caught – he’s silently impressed but doesn’t let her know because that would only encourage her – they pull up outside of the Pond residence with two minutes to spare. They use the time responsibly, putting the top back up and laughing giddily over getting away with their little adventure.
Adrenaline pumping through her veins, River pulls the Doctor into an enthusiastic snog against the car and that’s where Rory finds them when he steps outside to pick up the morning paper in his bathrobe, still yawning. “Oi, not on the car!”
The Doctor hurriedly disentangles himself from River and takes three giant steps back, flushing as he salutes. “Centurion.”
Rory nods once. “Here for breakfast?”
The Doctor exchanges a nervous glance with River, who smiles brightly and nods. “Of course.”
“Come on then,” he yawns again, waving them inside. “Oh, and Melody?”
River gasps and the Doctor giggles at her outraged face. “Oh shut up,” she snaps, and shoves at his chest before hurrying after Rory into the house. From the street and over the sound of his own laughter, the Doctor hears her whinging, “But dad, the Doctor said I could do it!”
Squeaking in alarm, he stumbles after her, calling, “River, no! Remember the sword!”