"Returning acquisition noted. Hallo River."
"Hello CAL. Come here and give us a hug!" River bent and opened her arms wide.
The young girl smiled broadly, a child again for a moment, and dashed the length of the room into River's waiting arms.
"Mmm, I've missed you."
"I've missed you too, River. There's no one here to read me bed time stories when you're gone."
"What? Won't Miss Evangelista read to you anymore?"
CAL looked chagrined for a moment. "I didn't ask."
River cocked an eyebrow at the young girl. "CAL, you should ask her. I can't be here every night to read to you."
River sighed, tilting her head to one side. "Because I just can't."
"You've been staying at Milliways."
"You like it better there than here."
"It's not that, CAL. It's just different. I've been here a very long time and different is a good thing."
CAL didn't even attempt to hide her pout. "You like Captain Ryan better than you do me."
River's brow furrowed in a moment of confusion and a touch of anger. "CAL, that's really beneath you. You know I love you. You know how much you mean to me."
CAL studied the tips of her shoes. "I'm sorry."
"As well you should be. Come here." River hugged the girl tight against her chest, smoothing her hair, and CAL held on just as tightly. "Now you know you have no reason to be jealous."
"He's very handsome, isn't he?"
River leaned back, her hands still holding CAL's arms as she smirked and raised a single eyebrow.
"He is. Very handsome indeed." River's smirk blossomed into a broad grin.
"Have you told the Doctor yet?"
No one in the Universe could sucker punch quite like CAL could, River thought. The words felt like a flat hand strike to her solar plexus. All the wind went out of her. After a moment, she brushed a strand of hair back from CAL's eyes. "You know, I haven't."
Intellectually, River knew that CAL knew the location of every volume, and thus would know the location of her husband's historical records. On the days when the loneliness got to be too much for her to bear, she'd go and talk to him, though it hurt to do so, because it wasn't really him. It was a construct, like every other historical person in the library. But he was still a friend to her, in many ways. She hadn't been to see him since she'd discovered the door to Milliways. It felt too much like saying goodbye, and they'd agreed never to do that.
"Don't be sad, River." CAL hugged River close again.
River sighed, hugging the child back and stroking her hair. "It's all right, CAL. If we were never sad, how would we know how good it was to be happy, hmm?"
"I don't know about that. Better just not to be sad." CAL released her hold on River and danced away, smiling again. "I brought you more books. This time on shape shifters! And wolf pack behaviour and gravitational psychology and folklore and oh I found you one on the best cocktails in the known universe!"
River stood up and laughed, following the girl as she lead her to the huge new stack of books on her library table.
"Are you done with all of these?" CAL pointed to the teetering stack at the far end of the table. Twentieth century military history, mostly.
All grim and hard to read, but necessary, River thought. "Yes, I'm done with those. Oh wait, hold on." River made sure to pull out the one green leather bound book, and hold it back. The faded silver letters on the cover read Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde.
She absentmindely clutched it to her chest and nodded, watching as CAL vanished the volumes back to their place in the virtual library.