"Of all the times for Ianto to get the flu," Jack grumbled, mixing himself a cup of instant coffee the next morning. He hadn't slept well, having given River his bed and sprawled out on the floor with a blanket instead. She was still curled into a catlike ball he couldn't but feel protective of.

Owen was already there and working, which wasn't a big surprise, seeing as he didn't sleep at all these days. "At least we're not dealing with an invasion. Can't imagine how that'd go with just three Torchwood employees."

"You should have seen the time it was just me," Jack replied, grinning.

Tosh arrived ten minutes later with a grocery bag full of apples, strawberries, bananas, and peaches. Jack left a voicemail asking her for them – on the agency tab, naturally. "What do you want the fruit for, Jack?"

Jack took the heavy load from her and set it on a table. "Thanks. River asked if we could go shopping for them, but we were accosted by some Weevils on the way."

"Was she hurt?" Owen asked, putting down his pen.

"Well…" Jack coughed. "She snapped the neck of the first one, tore out the trachea of the second, and battered the third to death with a garbage can. All before I had time to get the anti-Weevil spray out. We thought it would be best if we came back and washed the blood off."

Owen broke into laughter, but Tosh looked concerned. "Could she be a danger to us?"

"Thing is, Tosh, as I told Owen, when she's about ten years older she's going to save the life of my younger self. Wayyy younger self. I remember she said I was kind to her once. I didn't put the face and the memory together when she first showed up, but now I know."

They heard a giggle, and the three of them looked at the ceiling. River Tam was hanging there like a scraggly-haired Spider-Girl. She dropped to the floor with unearthly grace and scooped up the food with little visible effort. "Thank you very much. Arigatou gozimasta."

"Oh, you speak Japanese?" Tosh asked, hiding her discomfiture.

River smiled. "Not really. But you radiate it. I'm sorry about Tommy."

"How did you…" Owen began, but was cut off by the look of great sorrow River directed towards him.

"It wasn't for nothing. And there are stars out in the black."

Then a familiar (to Jack) sound of thrum-wheezing came from the monitors, along with the sight of a police box materializing on the pavement above them. "The Doctor!" Jack cried, pulling on his coat.

"No, no," River said softly, standing on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "The Lonely God is crossing his timeline. You haven't met this him yet. You mustn't. He's bending the rules to get me. Owen and Tosh may look, though, as long as they promise not to tell."

Jack ached like anything to see the Doctor again, but he knew the possible consequences as well as anyone. "Right then, sweetheart."

"Looking forward to seeing you for your first time."


The story will be continued in the upcoming Firefly/Doctor Who crossover: Of The Doctor, Doctors, and Doctoring.