Apologies this should have been posted yesterday but I had company for the afternoon and got a little behind…
If you need to catch up you can find the first two instalments by following the links..
The Doctor watched as River picked at the last remaining morsels on her plate, he had merely pushed his food around his plate absent mindedly as he tried to work out what he was going to do. He could appreciate Rivers suggestion had merit but how was he supposed to just whisk Astrid out of here without explaining anything or changing what had already happened. Damn River, he hated it when she was right, he couldn’t change his past, her future, other lives were too tightly entangled to make that possible.
River looked across at him, it hurt her to see him like this but she knew that she would not change him for a single moment, every meeting was too precious to her. She smiled at him, and watched as he attempted to feebly respond, he felt everything so deeply, she wondered at times how long he could carry on before that beautiful fractured spirit within him turned upon itself and plunged him into darkness. Not in my lifetime but she knew one day she would not be there and it broke her heart to know one day she would break his. She fought back the rising tears and turned to the jukebox, using the chrome as a mirror she smiled once more as she applied her lipstick.
“River! What are you doing?”
“Shhh Sweetie, I am just going to give our compliments to the chef, especially as once he sees all the food on your plate he is likely to be offended.”
She rose and headed towards the kitchen, the Doctor was about to follow her when Astrid blocked his view of where River had gone.
“Was everything okay?” She sounded nervous as her eye flitted over the Doctors still laden plate.
“Yes, lovely, wasn’t really hungry but she doesn’t like to eat alone.”
“I understand, she is lucky to have someone who cares about her more than money, none of the guys I’ve ever dated would have paid for food they weren’t going to eat just to make me feel better, in fact most of them would insist on me paying for them or at least eating where I work so they got a discount.”
The Doctor laughed “I can just imagine trying that with Riv…er…” He was distracted by the sight of a large flustered looking man in a greasy apron heading towards them, Astrid appeared to visibly shrink as the man loomed over them.
“Astrid, here is your wage plus a bonus, have a safe trip, you can finish now plenty of time to enjoy yourself before you board ship,” the man looked towards the Doctor “your meal is on the house please call again.”
The Doctor could not take his eyes off the crimson smear adorning the man’s lips, River, he glanced round and saw her moving towards the door a glint in her eye, reaching back he grabbed an astonished Astrids arm.
Dragging her along with him he made for the door which River was now holding open, Astrid protested as she was hauled along. As they reached the door the Doctor glanced back to see the owner shaking the effects of the lipstick off, River blew a kiss before closing the door and following the Doctor and Astrid back to the Tardis.
“I thought you were staying there for dessert?” The Doctor could not resist letting a smile play across his lips as he teased her.
“Nothing I liked the look of, besides if we want to make sure Astrid gets back for her new job I thought it would help having someone on board who can actually get us back on the right day.”
Astrid stood looking confused by the exchange, a mixture of excitement and fear raced through her veins.
“Erm excuse me but who are you and what do you mean get me back?”
“Sorry how rude of us, my name is River and this is… Mr Smith. I just thought as you are starting a new job and as you gave us such excellent service, well we thought you deserved a treat so we want to take you out for dessert, and as you have finished work now there’s no reason not, is there?”
” I suppose not, but you want me to go in there? Don’t you think it will be a little cramped.”
” I love this bit,” the Doctor opened the door and stood back gesturing, “ladies first!”
He stood smiling watching as Astrid went in then with wide eyes retreated to walk round the outside before once more entering. River was at the console setting co-ordinates, he closed the door and stood watching as Astrid took in her surroundings the wonder shining in her eyes.
“It’s… it’s bigger, inside, bigger…”
“Yes it is, do you like it?”
“It’s magical, it’s amazing.”
The Doctor smiled this time his face lighting up, he never tired of watching the effect the TARDIS had on people for the first time, the only person who he missed experiencing it for the first time was River, but then she had just tried to kill him at the time, succeeded more like and then saved me again, the smile remained in place but the sparkle in his eyes flickered out. The TARDIS was now in flight and River was taking Astrid by the arm suggesting they go find something for her to change into to enjoy their adventure. Astrid was beaming as the two women disappeared down the steps to the wardrobe room. The Doctor closed his eyes fighting back the images threatening to engulf him, Astrid falling and River giving him that final smile before disappearing in a blinding flash. It was not lost on him the parallels between them, both he had first met on the final day of their lives, both died saving him. Knowing River was right and he could not change anything did not make it any easier, he noticed River had left her diary on the console, it would be so easy to just pick it up and see how many more meetings were left to them. He knew the time was coming for that final date when he would look into her eyes knowing that he was saying goodbye for the final time, a single tear rolled down his cheek, before he reached up and wiped it away. He needed to pull himself together he owed it to both of them to make this night as magical as possible, he looked at the co-ordinates River had set and smiled before altering the course.
He had just stepped away from the console when the two women reappeared, both looking resplendent in figure hugging evening gowns, River in a deep claret and Astrid in midnight blue.
“Now I need to get changed.”
He skipped past them and raced down the corridor, a few minutes later he reappeared wearing his top hat and tails.
“Well at least your not wearing the fez.”
Before the Doctor could reply the TARDIS made the wheezing noise signalling she had landed.
“You changed the destination!”
“Me? No! What makes you think that?”
“As if I would! Now ladies would you like to accompany me to the theatre?”
The Doctor opened the door and held it for them as they passed out onto the mystery planet.
“It’s going to be okay Sweetie.”
Straightening his bow tie he closed the door and the three of them walked away from the TARDIS together.