“Will you marry me?” he asks one night, post-coital.
“No,” says River.
It takes him a full five minutes to stop spluttering.
“Don't take it so personally,” says River over breakfast in the kitchen by the library.
“How can I not take it personally?” he asks. “You rejected me.”
“Only in a very specific context.”
He sulks at his cornflakes. “I wouldn't have asked you if I'd thought you'd say no.”
“Making assumptions, were you?”
“I was extrapolating from various hints and possibilities.”
River smiles. “So you were making assumptions.”
“Good ones,” he insists, “they were good assumptions.”
“Do I really look like the marrying kind?”
He looks at her carefully for a few moments and says “Yes.”
He takes her to Paris. He's convinced other people to marry him there, not always on purpose. It's supposed to be romantic and who doesn't like romance?
He stops her outside a jewellers and says “I'll buy you that ring if you say yes.” He points at something shiny and expensive, a gold setting for a sparkling lump of carbon.
She laughs. “You don't have any money.”
“Then I'll steal it for you.”
“I don't want it,” she says.
“Why won't you marry me?” he asks, engagement rings only half-forgotten.
“You're not a very good prospect.”
“You don't have a job, you have no fixed address, you flirt without prejudice and every so often you literally stop being the man I fell in love with.”
“How very old-fashioned.”
“Come on,” she says, “last one to the top of the tower has to buy the croissants.” And then she's off, somehow running in those red heels of hers.
In Venice he says “It's not like I'm asking you to die for me.” With a wicked smile he adds, quite accidentally, “Except in a euphemistic sense.”
River shakes her head, again. “I'm not one for monogamy.”
“Who said anything about monogamy?”
“Most of the ceremonies do mention that you aren't allowed to sleep with anyone else.”
“Then we'll get one of the good ones. This is a big universe, you know. Spectacularly big. There are whole galaxies I still haven't got round to having a good look at.”
River takes a sip of chocolate milkshake through a straw. “So what's the point in marrying you if none of the usual rules apply?”
“You can have half of my possessions,” he says, generously.
“So that's half a TARDIS and some old socks.”
“No, thank you.”
He takes his straw from his own glass and chews on it thoughtfully, looking at her. After a while he says “I'll give you my hearts.”
“Not literally, I hope.” She smiles, pokes at his foot under the table. “And don't I already have those?”
“You can have them legally. Legally is better. It's ten tenths of the law.”
River sighs, finally frustrated. “Why are you so keen on this idea anyway?”
“Because...” Because he thinks it's inevitable? Because he wants to be the one to make the decision? “Because I like you.”
“You like lots of people.”
“And I've married a few of them.”
“No,” she says again.
“I'll only rescue you if you agree to be my wife,” he says, sonic screwdriver in hand and alarms already ringing in his ears.
River tugs at her chains. “Don't be so ridiculous.”
He frees her anyway, with a great show of being annoyed. “We wouldn't be in this situation if we were married.”
“Oh, how dull our lives would be then.”
They hold hands while they run, and she still says no.
“I'm not having sex with you outside wedlock,” he tries.
That attempt lasts about two minutes.
Leonardo sketches her in 1503 and says, “A woman like you deserves a good husband.”
“Oh, not you as well,” she half-snaps.
“I didn't say anything,” says the Doctor from the chair by the door.
“You must have.”
“I hear he has a large estate,” says Leonardo, “all the stars and all the worlds beyond our own.”
“The only thing that's large is his ego.”
“But not undeservedly so,” says the painter.
“Doctor,” says River, “is there anyone you know who isn't now trying to marry us off to each other?”
“No,” he says, rather smugly.
The song in the cafe informs him that if he liked it then he should have put a ring on it.
“Oh, I tried,” he tells the radio.
“If we were married...” River starts.
He sits up eagerly. “Yes?”
“I'd expect my dinner on the table when I got home.”
“Not a problem.”
“And you'd have to do all the housework.”
“I'll probably just agree to anything you ask, at this point.”
“Then it's still no,” she tells him.
“I hate you sometimes.”
“No you don't.”
He tries proposing while ice-skating on Ganymede. “We don't even have to live together. Or do any of that other married stuff.”
She spins rather clumsily. “So what would be the point?”
“Now you're just being silly.”
“I'm running out of reasons,” he admitted.
“Then perhaps you're just not ready for commitment.”
“I'm very ready. I'm so ready that it hurts. My stomach's all achey.”
“That's all that cake you ate earlier.”
“Hmph,” he says, and skates off towards Jupiter-rise.
“I don't care,” he says, giving up. “Even if we're not married I still love you.”
River turns to face him. “Pardon?”
“I said I love you,” he offers, surprising himself.
“Yes,” she says, finally.