Glistening in the cold sweat of guilt
pre-series; river, eleven (dr who)
Now, in this cold and dusty room, the doctor plays.


Glistening in the cold sweat of guilt
I've watched you slowly winding down for years

- Imogen Heap's 'Speeding Cars'


The tardis opens a door and the doctor steps inside, looking about, his eyes falling on the grand piano in the centre of the room. New then, he thinks as he crosses the floor, his shoes a muffled beat against the floor, how terribly ironic of the tardis. His shirt collar smells strongly of starch and he pulls at his bowtie as he sits at the piano stool, resting the silk material on the polished ebony.

How ironic, he thinks again, resting his hands atop the keys, for the tardis to open this door on this day.

He presses his fingers down and the music begins.

-o-

One.

Their first meeting, where he caught a glimpse of his future, with this strange woman who appeared from nowhere and called him 'sweetie.' Her words drip with familiarity, with shared knowledge, but her face is unknown.

Looking back, he wonders how her heart didn't break when he treated her with such contempt.

The doctor closes his eyes.

Then again, he thinks, perhaps it did.

-o-

Two.

The Crash of the Byzantium, where he had willed her away at first, but she had taken his petulance in her stride, moved forward without a second glance.

Given him a cool glare when he had yelled at the top of his lungs, fixing him with clear, green eyes until he felt ashamed.

Where he had felt the first stirrings of jealousy when he'd heard of her engagement to Octavian. And the relief he'd felt when he'd learned this was a lie.

"I lied, I'm always lying."

-o-

Three.

Peklo; the planet of the damned.

River thrives there, pilfering from the rich, selling to the richer, earning herself a tidy profit. He wants to disapprove, but in reality he finds it endearing.

Endearing that she has no qualms about breaking into homes, safes and museums but still sees fit to hurl a book at him when he steps into her room unannounced.

"What if you'd had something I wanted?" he asks, massaging his temple where the corner of the book had hit.

She smirks and leans forward, looking up at him through lowered lashes.

"I always have something you want, doctor."

-o-

He isn't surprised when she makes the first move, pushing him against the shelves of the library of all places.

(The irony is not lost on him.)

Her blood-red nails dig into his shirt and she pulls him close until they are scarce inches apart.

"Like I say, doctor," she purrs, "I always have something you want."

Her breath is hot against his skin and seconds later it is her pinned against the shelves, him tugging at her clothing. Her blouse falls to the ground and he dips his head, pressing his lips against her clavicle.

"Is this a game, River?" he asks, drawing back enough to look her in the eye.

"Isn't it always?" she retorts, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

"It seems I've won."

At this she laughs, the sound resonating around the room, crystal clear.

"Doctor, doctor, doctor; I've been winning all along."

-o-

Four.

"Hello, sweetie."

Hello sweetie, hello sweetie, hellosweetie, sweetiesweetiesweetie...

Her voice, with its unique combination of arrogance and seduction, runs through his mind, like a record whose needle stays resolutely in the groove. He shakes his head, tries to will it, will heraway. Instead, the voice combines until its as if ten Rivers are chanting and he slams his hand down on the console, grudgingly following the co-ordinates she has burned into the ground.

She doesn't bat an eyelid when the tardis materialises before her eyes, rather she gives him an appraising stare and looks pointedly at her watch.

"You're late," she comments, flicking curls over her shoulder.

"Can a Time Lord be late?" he jests, raising an eyebrow.

Her eyes narrow. "Yes."

(Years later, the chords echo her voice, though pale in comparison.)

-o-

Five.

Eyes follow them around the room and the doctor hears whispers, people questioning each other about the couple that arrived late; both in strange dress.

"The woman in particular," one lady says, "she is all that is wrong with young people these days."

If River hears these words, she gives no indication, instead taking the out-stretched hand of a duke (of Westminster, he thinks, though all royalty looks the same to him and it is hard to tell) and allowing him to lead her onto the dance floor.

-o-

They don't dance (he refuses to) but he watches as River's dress flares outward, exposing enough leg to draw sharp intakes of breath from the crowd. Her companion (a Lord if he isn't mistaken) looks taken-aback and lets go of her waist.

River doesn't pause and spins until she is before him and offers her hand.

"Just once, doctor?" she breathes.

He nods and leads her back into the centre of the room.

-o-

Now, in this cold and dusty room, in a new suit with a new haircut, with sweat trickling down the back of his neck, the doctor plays.

The notes clash together; each telling a story, each a pale imitation. (Though to an outsider this melody would be unparalleled.)

Finally, when his fingertips start to bleed, he slows and lets the notes fade.

Finite. Finale. The end.