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heaven help a fool who falls in love

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The hot springs on Darillium really are a sight to behold. Shrouded in starlight, and surrounded by trees that cast a purple glow, the heat coming off the water and reflections of tiny crystals on the surrounding rocks make it one of the planet’s most coveted resort destinations. River had found it in a brochure, and done little more than bat her eyelashes and say, Oh, can we, darling? before he was packing a bag and grumbling to himself about tourist season.

Thankfully, the resort is fairly empty this time of year, and he’d begun to relax a little as they took tea on the balcony of their suite and dinner in the half-empty restaurant on the ground floor, with views of the springs out the window.

The staff are attentive, to the point that the Doctor winds up shooing them away more often than not, and River basks in the attention, flirting outrageously with their waiter. The Doctor groans, and rolls his eyes when the woman brings River a desert, “on the house,” with a wink.

“Must you?” he grouses, stabbing at the remainder of his fish.

River merely wraps her tongue around the straw in her drink and looks up at him through her eyelashes, laughter behind her eyes.

“I must,” she says, and he sighs, glaring down at the cake between them, until River cuts a piece with her fork and holds it out for him.

“It’s lemon,” she offers, his favorite, and he glares at it a moment before grudgingly taking a bite.

It’s delicious, of course, as all the food has been, and River cuts herself a small piece, moaning obscenely. A couple at the next table look over, and the Doctor rolls his eyes. River winks.

After dinner, River drags him into the hot springs, despite the fact that there are other people there, all of whom eye his wife with interest when she steps daintily into the water. The only saving grace is that the resort requires swimming costumes, and River took pity on him with his swim trunks—plain grey with pockets. “They’ll match your hair, darling,” she’d said, and kissed him on the cheek, and he’d had a difficult time being sore about it after all.

River, on the other hand, has taken no prisoners, in a black bikini that shows off her waist and breasts in ways that make the Doctor’s mouth go dry, and he very quickly submerges himself under the water, just in case.

He’s barely had a chance to settle when a man moves closer to River and starts a conversation, and River, damn her, flirts back, tossing her hair over her shoulder and smiling at him and the Doctor has to admit, he isn’t an idiot this time, and he’s funny, and handsome, and the more he watches the grumpier he becomes, moving to a corner of the spring to glare.

He’s aware he probably looks ridiculous, heat from the water making his hair frizz and there are beads of sweat on his neck and forehead, but he can’t stop hating the fact that there’s another man flirting with his wife and she’s letting him and if he wants to pout in the corner about it he damn well will.

He’s so busy glaring he almost misses when the man leans closer to River to whisper something in her ear, but he doesn’t miss the way she stiffens slightly and leans back, away from him, even as her smile stays in place. He’s about to move closer when the man backs away with a smile, confident and self-assured, and climbs out of the water.

He’s the last to go, leaving just the two of them, and River looks back at the Doctor, and she’s so beautiful it makes his hearts jump. Her hair is virtually unmanageable, piled on her head and full of frizz, and there’s beads of sweat on her temples and she’s looking at him so fondly, so softly, he forgets for a moment that he’s bitter and jealous and grumpy.

Then she blinks and smirks and she knows and he settles his eyebrows back into their permanent frown as River makes her way over towards him.

“Having a good time?”

“No,” he grumbles.

“Oh? Why’s that?” she asks, settling herself on his lap. His hands move instinctively to her waist, holding her gently, closely.

“You know why,” he grumbles.

River grins, and holds up a key card between her fingers. “I’ve got an invitation.”

The Doctor scowls, tightening his hands on her waist. “For what, mahjong?”

River laughs. “Something a bit more acrobatic than that, I would think,” she says, even as she wraps her arms around his neck, playing with the ends of his hair.

“59th century mahjong is played in zero gravity.”

“Unless he’s got an anti-grav in his room, I doubt that’s the intention.” She tilts her head, suddenly interested. “On the other hand—”

“Down, girl,” he mutters, and River smiles, all teasing and light and he feels himself relax despite his annoyance.

“Think we should take him up on it?”

“We?”

She brushes her fingers through his hair. “I’d never go anywhere without you, darling,” she says, and it’s light but he can hear that she means it, the truth of it, and swallows, pulls her that much closer and nuzzles into her neck, peppering kisses along her shoulder.

“Good. ‘Cause the only place we’re going is back to our room.”

“Why go that far?” she asks, moving against him under the water, and he has to grasp her hips to still her.

“Windows,” he says.

“Hasn’t bothered you before.”

He snorts. “I’m not nearly as much of an exhibitionist as you think.”

“We can work on that.”

The Doctor rolls his eyes, but lets her draw him into a kiss, long and sweet and soft and he runs his fingers up and down her spine, feels her shiver, her skin soft and warm.

When they break away they’re both a bit breathless, but River catches his gaze, says quietly, “You know it means nothing, don’t you?”

There’s a hint of uncertainty there, and he flattens his palm against her back, brushing his thumb soothingly over her skin.

“You do it to make me jealous,” he agrees, and she hums, brushing her nose against his cheek.

“You get all handsy,” she says, with a shudder, and the Doctor laughs softly. River pulls back slightly to look at him, lifts a hand to his cheek. “I love that sound,” she admits, so quiet. “Your laugh.”

His hearts catch, and he looks at her, his wife, his own miracle. He doesn’t know what to say to that, how to tell her that he loves her laugh, too—loves her voice, when she’s moaning in his ear or yelling at him to do the washing up. That he loves her quiet sighs when it’s early in the morning, and she hasn’t quite woken up yet, or her snuffling in her sleep, or her sigh of exasperation when he tries to fix something in their house and only makes it—temporarily—worse.

He doesn’t know what to say, so he kisses her, and hopes she can feel it—how besotted he is, how utterly, hopelessly in love. River clings to him, opens her mouth under his and he tightens his arms around her, hauls her closer, kisses her and keeps kissing her until neither of them can breathe, and then he lets a hand drift down to grab her bum, and she yelps, and laughs, and he grins shamelessly.

“See? Handsy,” she says, delighted, and the Doctor stands abruptly, pulling her with him.

“I’ll show you handsy,” he says, looping his hands under her thighs and hoisting her up, carrying her across the pool.

River laughs, arms tight around his neck.