Night at the Blue Moon

by Kass

Written for the Performance Anxiety challenge at Fan Flashworks. Many thanks to Kouredios for beta, and to Sihaya Black for the brit-picking!

There are butterflies in his stomach when the TARDIS lands in Stormcage. He resists the urge to take one last look in the mirror; he's already confirmed that his tie is neatly affixed and that his hair isn't doing anything any more ridiculous than usual.

"Off I go," he says to the TARDIS, and she opens the door to let him through.

When he reaches her cell, River is sitting on her bunk, flipping pages of her journal. A fresh cup of tea steams on her bedside table. She is wearing a burnished bronze dress with a long skirt and a low neckline. Her hair is in loose ringlets tumbling down to her shoulders. When she sees him, she brightens and puts the journal down. "Hello, sweetie."

The Doctor aims his sonic screwdriver at her door and it glides obligingly open. He offers her the crook of his arm. "Shall we?"

She grins at him. "I thought you'd never ask."

The Blue Moon is renowned across several planets as a classy place for a date. There are all sorts of cultural happenings unfolding all the time; just before sundown the sky is a luscious shade of red which reminds him just the slightest bit of home; and no one will look at them twice. Even if he does markedly resemble one of the incarnations of a man known across time and space to be dead. Even if she does seem to all outward appearances to be the woman known as his killer.

"We have choices," the Doctor says. His whole body is aware of River's proximity, but he thinks he's doing a reasonable job of sounding like his usual self instead of letting on how affecting this is. How affecting she is. "Theatre! There's a world premiere of something avant-garde in the small theatre, though who's to say really whether what's avant-garde to the Tuosendi would seem that way to us; and, believe it or not, there's a loose adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Shell. Shakespeare, never stops being entertaining. Or music! I'm told some of the clubs here have the most spectacular Tilurian jazz --"

"We're in the suite on the top floor?" River asks, and for a moment he's flustered: how can she know that, he hasn't mentioned it, surely? But this is the way with River; she knows things.

"We are," he confirms.

"I'd like to go there." Her voice is just the slightest bit husky.

"As you wish," he acquiesces, and gives a little bow, and manages not to stumble as he leads her toward the lift.

"Mini-bars, always exorbitantly expensive no matter where in the galaxy you are, but -- " He brandishes his sonic screwdriver with a flourish. "I've got just the thing."

He aims it at the small refrigeration unit. But instead of opening, it whirrs and clicks and remains shut.

"Hang on," he says, and tries a different setting. This time a wisp of smoke emerges from the hinges, and the little light on the front flashes three times and then goes out.

River's laugh is warm, generous, intoxicating. "Bit nervous, are we?"

"Absolutely not!" The Doctor manages to sound affronted, turning away to fiddle with the thermostat settings on the wall. "I'm never nervous, you should know that, nine hundred and fifty-seven years old and I'm--"

He turns around, sees her leaning against the wall and watching him with that knowing smile, and his voice falters to a stop. He takes a breath. "Terrified, actually."

"You beautiful man."

It is not the response he expected. He quirks an eyebrow.

She smiles. "You've no idea how endearing that is, do you?"

"Frustrating, more like." He bites the words off. He doesn't want to be nervous. He doesn't want to be endearing. He wants to be dashing, to sweep her off her feet. And instead he can't make his own sonic screwdriver function. That doesn't bode well, does it?

River chuckles. "The frustration is temporary."

And that is nothing if not a come-on. Her eyes say ready to alleviate some frustration, sweetie? and he wants to say yes but that seems insufficient somehow. His body knows what it wants, but he is curiously tongue-tied. Like being in his first century all over again, breaking out in a cold sweat every time an attractive boy or girl gives him the time of day.

"Point of information," River offers as she walks toward him, now close enough to touch. "I know every inch of this suite."

"Do you." His hearts are pounding.

"I know what kind of blankets they bring up during the wintertime. I know which setting on the shower gets the kinks out of your back. I know the carpet in here gives me rug burns."

" this place, then." The Doctor swallows hard.

"Very much," River murmurs. Her voice is almost a purr.

"Seems a bit unfair," he manages. "That you know all these things and I don't."

"You don't yet," she corrects him, and in that moment his anxieties fall away. The only possible response is to kiss her. He leans in, threads his hands into her riot of curls, and she opens her mouth to him.

It is so much better than their last kiss. Because the world isn't about to end. Because he isn't about to be plunged into another timeline, into the teselecta, all sensation at a vast remove.

By the time they break for air (River needs to breathe more frequently than he does, but he's feeling more than a little bit light-headed, himself -- which might have as much to do with River as with the lack of air, if he's honest) she is beginning to look gloriously disheveled. It suits her. He resolves on the spot to make her even more so as soon as he possibly can.

Which, given that she is reaching behind herself for the zip on her dress, seems likely to be now.

The exquisite thing about it being their first time -- for him, at least -- is that there is so much for him to discover.

The yearning in River's eyes when she reaches to unfasten his tie. (He can't help remembering how his tie bound their hands together. Is that what she's thinking of, too? Or is she remembering some other moment?)

How it feels when she pushes him back onto the bed -- which is still made; they haven't even pulled back the coverlet -- and climbs over him.

How long they can rock together, him sitting up with River's legs wrapped around his waist, moving in the tiniest increments, before the urgency builds too far for anything so delicate and slow.

What it feels like to spill inside her, his face pressed against her neck. Her scent. Her choked-off moan.

The precious hour they spend curled around each other, not speaking, not letting go.

The TARDIS obliges: they're back at Stormcage only minutes after they departed. Her cup of tea, while no longer steaming, is still warm to the touch.

"Home sweet home," she quips.

"I hate that we have to--" he begins.

River places a finger on his lips. "I don't mind."

"Don't you?"

"It isn't so bad. Uninterrupted time to read," she says lightly, then sobers. "It's worth it."

"I hope so," he murmurs just before their mouths meet one more time.

"You'd best get moving," River says when they part. "Next shift comes on duty in ten."

"If I must," the Doctor agrees, and steps back. "You'll be all right?"

"Good as gold," River promises.

"Until next time."

"Next time, sweetie." It sounds like a promise.

It is.

The End