A single candle flickered in the center of the kitchen table, and he could see where plates had been cleared. Glasses, cutlery and napkins lay in two heaps in front of chairs that were pushed back from the table. His stomach growled, reminding him that it had been too long since his last meal…at this same table. The Doctor crossed the kitchen and peeked in the pots and pans on the stove, looked good and smelled familiar. He passed by the refrigerator and stopped to look at a picture of the four of them taken on the beach the summer before. The magnet was strategically placed over his face. The picture that was displayed before this one had been altered to include Amy, Rory, River and a tall, gingered- haired giraffe-looking creature. Oh yeah, this was his River.
That's when he noticed the vase of flowers on the counter. Tulips. Her favorite.
And in her house!
The TARDIS hated him. That was still the only explanation. WHEN THE HELL WAS HE?
He looked around the kitchen as if trying to find someone with the answer, running his hands through his hair. But there was no one. It was just him, dishes in the sink, pots on the stove and fresh flowers gloating in a shiny vase, as if to say, "I am the tool of options." And options were squirming around somewhere in this house on a sweaty River Song as sexy music snaked around their naked sexy noises…after eating a warm and sexy meal shared in flickering sexy candlelight.
If he were human, he would have collapsed from panic and sensory overload.
Instead, he frantically looked around the kitchen for clues. What kind of former pseudo-Time Lordy archaeologist had no calendar available for immediate reference? A lousy one, that's what kind. He looked around the corner in the mud room and saw nothing but…well, mud. And a straw hat. Hmmm….straw. Never tried that one before. He fought the urge to pick it up.
He didn't remember seeing any other method of transportation outside other than River's "penile compensation" vehicle, as Amy called it. Which always disturbed him since River's parts were most definitely innies. And because Amy kept saying a "penis" derived word. Apparently, he didn't have near enough rules on the TARDIS.
He spun on one foot to return to the kitchen, and that's when he saw it. In the chair…where he had left it…as he was thrown out onto his ass.
He knew exactly when he was.
"….I just need to make one more stop and I'll be there quick as I can. I want to send you back with some flowers for Amy…" The words came to him as easily as if he'd said them himself. She'd been late returning home from classes, and he was whining, like only he could – charmingly. "River! I'm hungry…..waaaaaaaa!" is quite how it sounded in his head, retrospectively.
The Doctor had positioned himself in front of her television and played the video games she kept there to occupy him while she worked on her dissertation. He eventually heard her stumble through the door and swear over the sound of grocery bags hitting the floor. He waited for the explosion to subside before shouting insincere offers to help, which she declined, of course. There were random clangings and clinkings of kitchenware for quite some time before she emerged covered red goo. He had laughed and made some joke about slaughtering their dinner. And in true River-fashion, she rolled her eyes, threw her kitchen towel at him and disappeared into her bedroom for over an hour.
He was so absorbed in the game that he caught only the smell of her when she reappeared. A flash of the palest blue drew his attention away from the television as she walked down the hall and into the kitchen. She had changed into a flimsy sleeveless dress that was appropriate for the hot and humid summer days of her newest home. Her hair was tied loosely, and she was barefoot.
He took inventory of himself. Same old tweed jacket, trousers, braces and bowtie. He looked like some old history professor who had been found in a closet and dusted off for museum display. He scratched his head and tried to figure out a way to fix it, but there was really nothing that could be done. Suddenly, bowties were the anti-cool.
"Well, come on then," she demanded from around the corner. "If you are counting on me bringing it to you, you'll starve." As she turned away, he heard her mumble, "…and deservedly so…I hope you burn your tongue…"
He decided to let it pass. She had been known to try and kill him a time or two. He was not feeling that luck would look favorably on him again. The kitchen was lit only by a single candle – she could easily stab him with a serving spoon before he knew what was happening.
"I've already made your plate and poured your Kool-Aid. Grab the napkins, will you?" River sounded as if she were feeding a child.
"This smells fantastic, River," he whispered as he bent down to spread the napkin in her lap. He gently pushed her hair aside and left a kiss on her neck, feeling her shiver as the very tip of his tongue grazed her skin.
He walked around the table to sit, rather pleased with himself, and saw something under a red bow in his chair. He looked at River with a wide-eyed look of an anxious child, giggled and pointed to the gift. "That's for me, isn't it? It's in my chair. Nobody wants a gift that has been where I put my walking-away end."
River couldn't help but laugh at the man who was all but jumping up and down in front of her. "Actually, it's for my Wednesday man-friend, but I got my days mixed up," she teased as she sipped from her glass of wine.
"How irresponsible of you, Dr. Long-Time-Ago," He reached quickly for the gift as if it were in danger of being snatched from under the table. "Finder's keepers." He opened the lid of the box slowly, as should any gift from River be opened.
It was a royal blue jockey cap shouting "TEAM TARDIS" in the brightest white lettering he'd ever seen. He chuckled excitedly and promptly put the cap on his head. "Yeah? It's hot, right?"
"I was wrong. Perhaps you don't have a head for hats," she said with a wink. "My mistake."
"This head was grown specifically to wear hats. Just you wait…" He placed his napkin in his lap and began eating his salad. He hated eating someone's garden, but he was afraid not to eat an acceptable amount before diving into the pasta. "I need a bright blue tweed jacket, yeah? I'd look right smart, I think." Two bites.
"Please take that hat off. I half-expect an actual horse jockey to jump out from under it and scurry under the table," she answered. "It's not for wearing, Sweetie. It's a novelty."
"I can rock this hat."
"Take off the hat."
He reluctantly removed it and placed it in a nearby chair. "Now, how's the awfully long, boring and indulging writey thing going?" Three bites.
"My doctorate dissertation? That indulgence?" She asked with raised eyebrows. "Put the salad away. It's painful to watch."
The Doctor gave her a look of gratitude and rubbed his hands together in appreciation of the delicious-smelling plate of red food in front of him. "Yes, that thing. Are you finished with that yet?" He looked up at her with a mouth full of pasta, chewing as much as was possible without choking.
"Sometimes I wonder how mealtime must look on the TARDIS if none of your companions have bothered to teach you table manners." She watched him chew, bewildered.
"What?" He managed to find a place for a bite of bread.
"So, are you done yet? Can you come with us to the Singing Towers?"
"Please stop talking," she pleaded and made circular motions with her finger in direction of his mouth. "Let's just enjoy our dinner, honey."
He picked up his glass and chased the volume-defying bite down with his favorite Earth invention. "Yay…" he smiled sweetly, adding, "…cherry. If I take socially acceptable bites, can I speak without fear of retribution?" he asked, only half-jokingly.
She looked up at him and giggled at his unintentional Kool-Aid mustache, nodding. They played timestream catch-up. She briefly explained her progress on her anthropology work, and he spun tales of adventures he'd run up on since Amy and Rory left to begin their family plans. From the outside looking in, one would have assumed them to be any other couple having dinner. It would be fantastical to learn that he was a time traveler in possession of hundreds of years and that she was the weapon raised to destroy him.
They sat around the table long after they had finished eating, engrossed in random conversations. There was always so much time to bridge when they saw each other. The Doctor still felt it was important for River to establish a life independent from him, so he stayed away as long as his he could bear it…which was shorter and shorter lately. And the nights were getting longer and longer.
The light from the candle cast a beautiful glow on River's face. "You are absolutely exquisite, River Song," he said before leaving his chair and walking over to her.
She blushed and responded as only she could, "And that look continues to work for you."
The Doctor extended his hand to her, pulled her from her chair and led her out of the kitchen. He spun her and walked her backwards into the sitting room with his hands on her hips. When they reached the back of the couch, he pinned her against it lightly and ran the backs of his fingers up and down her bare arms. "You should always live in warmer climates, Ms. Song," he said softly as he placed a kiss at the base of her throat.
A small moan escaped from River, and she tangled her hands in his hair. She rolled her hips into him as he trailed kisses up her neck and behind her ear. He reached behind her, released her gathered hair and pulled gently at a few curls. River slid his jacket down his arms and loosened his bowtie, never taking her eyes off his face. The Doctor cupped her face and brushed her lips with his thumbs. They parted slightly and River let the tip her tongue glide over the pad of the fingers. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth as she turned her head and kissed the palm of one of his hands. His other hand slid behind her neck and brought her lips to his. He teased her, running his tongue along her top, then her bottom lip. He caught her bottom lip between his teeth and pulled it through with just enough pressure to make her whimper. When their mouths met, it was with perfect movements. He felt her knees buckle slightly when their tongues began to dance.
She suddenly broke the kiss. "It's tonight…"
He slid a strap of her dress over her shoulder and traced swirls on her skin with his tongue. "What's tonight?"
"We have to see this through, Doctor." She stood a little taller and began kissing his neck. "No more waiting…"
He stopped his teasing and searched her face for the answer he wasn't prepared to hear.
"We haven't…" His voice trembled, and he backed up from her a bit.
She looked knowingly and compassionately into his face and shook her head.
"This will be our first night together, Doctor," she whispered.
She caught him just as his knees buckled.