Author's Notes:
Finally got around to typing up chapter two. I'll hopefully get around to typing up the last chapter soon too. (Also, changed the title and added a cover)

Durlinga was a place they’d never been before. Oh, they’d certainly been to places like it, trying out new and interesting things; all in the name of science, of course. He was practically itching to find out what’s so different here that she thought to call him; she does know how he loves a fresh take on, well, anything in the universe.

Novelty is an excellent distraction. Who wants to sit and dwell, when something new awaits.

She’s coy about it, of course – no spoilers – as they ride the elevator. Doesn’t stop her from making quips about him being overdressed and, well, he hates losing and she’s very good at the innuendo game, though he’s improved quite a lot in the years he’s known her. He’s so caught up in trading lewd insinuations that he barely notices when they leave the lift and enter a room. It takes barely a moment after they’ve set foot inside for the sheer pinkness of the room to register – that’s not really the colour of debauchery now, is it?

Turning to glean some idea of what’s to come from the surroundings, his voice trails off halfway through asking whether River has even bothered with knickers this time.

She is there, curled up the riotously pink bed – hair rumpled, pillow squished to her half-obscured face. A little noise escapes her and she snuggles deeper into her pillow. The familiarity is so overwhelming he’s lost for a moment. It’s as though a day from long ago has suddenly stepped into the present - when he was a man he didn’t despise, and the light of a sunny little human used to chase away the darkness of the universe.

An out-of-place noise - a door clicking shut - snaps him back to reality; he is no longer that man. With all of time and space at his disposal, for all his knowledge and skills, even he can’t go back. No matter how much he wants to.

This is cruel even for River.

It’s one thing for her to mess about in his timeline, for her to cavort in his ship, and dig into the past of his long life. It’s another matter entirely for her to take what she’s learned and use it like - this. No one does this to him. No one does this to her. He’ll - “Doctor?” He can’t fight the tidal wave of nostalgia and longing that hits at the sound of her voice.

The sudden flurry of fuzzy jimjams, blond bed head, warm hands on his cheeks brushing away moisture, and soft worried words invade the stupor he wasn’t even aware of falling into. He doesn’t much care that he somehow ended up on his knees, it’s very convenient for pulling her into his lap.

Drawing her into his arms had never been difficult, stopping on the other hand had always been the hard part. So finding himself once again with a lap full of pink and yellow human, he can’t help but murmur into her hair that everything is alright, perfect even.

When her arms wind around him, he sinks further into the warmth of the embrace. Oh, how he missed this.

With a soft breath against his neck she asks if he’s certain he’s alright and he whispers assurances, pressing a kiss to her hair. Pulling back, his lips find her brow and cheek, before lifting her, both hands in his, and brushing a kiss across her knuckles.

The look of exasperation tinged with affection and topped off with a raised eyebrow has him bursting out laughing as he pulls her to her feet and into another embrace. She smiles at him then, properly and shaking her head at his antics. Then she’s stripping off and digging into her wardrobe while he’s pointedly looking away and thinking about anything other than the last time he’d seen her naked.

Really, the Denogeans need to come up with a new name for their favourite pastime - inviting off-worlders to come over for vivisection is a rather a bad way to start off a first contact situation; you’ll never catch him introducing an alien species to Milton Bradley’s Operation again – no matter how bored he is. The sheer number of near incidents he’s had to avert over the last while is starting to get ridicu-.

A hand on his shoulder pulls him back from his digression. She’s dressed in a zipper sweater and jeans, wondering where they’re off to today and all the places he wants to take her are crowding his tongue demanding to be the first out of his mouth. Then a rather vehement realization hits him – he can't take her anywhere.

She frowning then, a little wrinkle in her forehead that always tells him something’s wrong, and it dawns on him that his disappointment is showing. So he slips on a smile, pulling out a battered old book from his pocket, and tells her he’d rather stay in.

Even as she snuggles into his side in the wide arm recliner next to her bed, she takes the time to tease about his excuses to cuddle with her. He just hums, tucking her head into the crook of his neck, an arm wrapped around her, and brushing their tangled fingers across her cheek. He does frown a little over needing to use his other hand to hold the book, but needs must. His disappointment vanishes as she snakes her unoccupied hand behind him, idly playing with his waistband and suspenders as he reads.

It’s a while before she falls asleep and he’s barely enough time to notice the measured rhythm of her breathing before the door clicks open and he knows his time is up. He manages in the time it takes to tuck her back into the bed to gather back the pieces of himself that she has shaken free, and places one last kiss to her temple before making his exit.

He tries his damnedest to not look back; he doubts he’d be strong enough to leave, if he did.

Thankfully, River isn’t on the other side of the door. It’s for the best as far he’s concerned, he certainly can’t thank her for this. He knows she likely thought it would be some kind of a release for him, but he could never do that; could never use those memories as a means to an end.

It is an unequivocal truth that he is a liar. He’s lied to protect, to deceive, to save, to hurt, to help, and to destroy. He has lied to friends, to enemies, to family, and to strangers. He’s had millennia to learn the best tricks to hide behind, to tamp down the unpleasant truths of the universe, and wall up the dark depths that have had far too much time to accumulate. So he’s really very good at lying to himself and doesn’t need River to do it for him. No matter how beautiful of a lie she's trying to give him.