River finished fastening the handcuffs around his wrist–she had planned to put those to more recreational use–and sat back on her heels. The countdown clock was running, but she gave herself the luxury of a moment. To touch his face. To run her fingers through his hair. To say goodbye.
As he had done.
He had shown up on her doorstep, with a new haircut and a suit, and she’d wondered about the flash of sadness in his eyes before his smile dazzled it all away. They’d walked through the market and taken a picnic into the hills surrounding the city; made love under the stars and listened to the melancholy song of the wind playing through the towers.
He had known.
She touched his cheek. Her Doctor after all. Not quite as many lines around the eyes, none of the touches of gray that were beginning to creep into his hair the last time she saw him, but–
He’d always been her Doctor. Before she even knew.
She smiled, remembering how he’d babbled on about acoustics and wind calibrations as they walked along the path beneath the towers, their song resonating deep in her chest. How he’d wept as they lay in the dark, when he thought she wouldn’t see. And then he’d rested his chin on her head and named the stars until she fell asleep wrapped in the sound of his voice and the double beat of his hearts.
She bent and kissed his mouth and lingered there for a moment, breathing in the scent of him, sharp and clean with a hint of applegrass, of soil and metal and sky and a thousand suns, of everywhere he had ever taken her.
A moment only.
“I love you,” she whispered, and, lowering his head gently to the floor, turned to the task at hand.