Title: Fact
Rating: T
Pairing: River/Eleven
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.

She's living in a time of opposites, and she knows it. She wears a blouse with an armour/corset-like body and a stiff, high neck, and yet the sleeves are flowy, silken. Her makeup is hard and dark and plentiful; her curls are big and soft and frizzy.

She's very nearly late for an appointment with a professor. The lift door slides open and she takes a brisk step out – straight into the Doctor. "Caused a bit of havoc," he says. He's trailing a bit of smoke and flailing a lot. "Need some help."

She backs into the lift again and he follows her, looking decidedly relieved.

"You're writing a dissertation on the Spires of The Empresses of Lodd, yes?" he asks, low, sonics the lift door shut.

In the confined space, the faint acrid smoke crawls up her nose. "What is that smell?"

"That would be hair… and tweed."

"And laser?"

He scowls. "The Empresses? Dissertation? Writing?"

"Yes, I am." She reaches into her bag and takes out the padd on which the work in question is stored. "Just on my way to hand it in for consideration."

"Oh, it will be considered. Will be famous one day, whee!" He throws up his hands. "And on that note, I need you to add something to it. Right now, before anyone else reads it. A footnote will do, a tiny one, could be on the last page."


"One day the descendants of the Empresses' Worlds – or rather, their reanimated selves, though that is a gross simplification – will use that work-" he points at the padd – "in an… impromptu trial. One of several historical documents treated as fact, wouldn't you know it."


"Have I ever told you… when it comes to time, and time-travel, and paradoxes, and me… sometimes truth and white lie need to be interchangeable?"

"Yes. It's rule one."

He clears his throat. "Well, good, that's a good first rule. I'm clever in the future, too. Anyway, when I realised you had written that, I thought… Funny how these things happen. Really… very amusing." He scrunches up his face in a way he means - she's realised by now - to be a little bit flirtatious; it isn't, but she does find it adorable.

"What should the footnote say?" She unlocks the document.

"Something like, 'The Doctor helped build the Greatest Spire. The Empresses liked him. A lot. There was proof of this, but sadly it was destroyed by rampant archaeologists'."

"Did you? And did they?" She forces herself to smirk, not smile.

He glares. "Interchangeable, River."

"Why not go meet the Empresses themselves? Get yourself in legitimately?"

"I have. Long time ago. We did not get along. I'm rather glad I haven't been mentioned legitimately already."

"Ah." She adds a sentence to the new footnote. "You're cheating quite a lot, now. We are."

"Merely adding a fact. Archaeology isn't an exact field of study, unlike maths or physics or chemistry or… everything that's fun." He tries to sneak a look at the text. "Make sure it's near the end. The judge is only halfway through. Slow reader."

"You slunk off in the middle of a trial?"

"It was more of a mad dash, really."

"Why not just leave entirely?"

"Rory and Amy are still there." He clears his throat. "And I just can't stand the thought of being written off by a neo-ancient civilisation – I claimed to have met their ancestors and they didn't believe me. It should help to appear in your work."

"And that's still not the dumbest reason you've faced a judge." River saves the document and hands him the padd. "It's number 238."

He reads the footnote out loud. "'The Doctor, Doctor: harmless madman believed to have first suggested the construction of a spire to Empress Rya M, as he wanted something to scale in order to be able to pluck a star from the sky… as a gift for his lover."

River shrugs one shoulder. "There's your fact."

The Doctor purses his lips and the colour rises in his cheeks. "You didn't have to be quite so imaginative."

"I can illustrate it, too, just to avoid confusion. Some proof that conveniently survived the rampage. Which of the Empresses would you like to snog?"

"No. Don't." He hands her the padd back, fidgets a little. "Won't keep you longer. And… thank you."

"My best to the honeymooners. I do hope you won't get them lasered."

He sonics the lift again and the door slides open. "You know I can create stars," he mumbles, just before he steps out.

River shrugs the other shoulder and watches him hurry down the corridor. She slips the padd into the bag, exits the lift, passes a hand through her hair, and heads for the Professor's office.

Only another pair of opposites; truth and lie. It's all true, except for that one tiny lie. It's all right. She's living in a time of opposites.