When I Get Lost in the Mess of Your Hair

by bendingwind

She's sprawled across her bed, hair and hands and long pale arms tangled together, and he leans against the doorframe to watch her as she sleeps. Eyelashes, pale without makeup, brush against skin, and both are imperfect in the best possible of ways. He lifts a hand as if to run it through the fabulous curling strands of her hair, but she is too far away, and slowly he lowers it.

She danced on Asii Kolorus, scarlet dress whirling around her as her scarlet lips whispered words that were secondary to the look in her eyes, and she was so beautiful that words failed him for the first time he could remember.

[And she was everything he ever wanted]

His eyes follow the line of her leg over the curve of her hip, to the soft rise of her breasts. This River is still young and her hair is still long and impractical and absurdly mesmerizing. An improbably perfect curl falls to rest on her shoulder and trails down to coil beside her on the blankets of her bed. He clenches his fingers with the desire to touch her hair, her skin—her lips, the only perfect thing about her, for which he is grateful. She is stunning in her imperfection.

She stood on the piling and he blinked up at her, silhouetted against the white sun of Larserlian, and she grinned down at him. She leaned so that one hip jutted out and patted the gun strapped there.

"Told you it'd come in handy."

"River," he sighed wearily, but she didn't let him begin the age-old argument.

"You don't kill anyone else if you can help it, fine," she said, and the gentleness in her voice belied the harsh words, "I'll kill for you."

[And she was everything he could need]

Her eyelids twitch and her lips curl up a little in a shadow of her familiar smirk, and he hopes her dreams are happy, or at least interesting. The thin white scar on her left calf and the rippling burn scar by her left elbow and the tiny crisscrossing tattoo that plays across her righthand ribs are her medals; proof that she will see all of time and space and live to tell the tale. She is more proud of those beautiful imperfections than any of the things that might make her conventionally attractive, and just the thought makes him smile, because she will be just as proud of the scars she receives in the future.

It was his greatest fear was that someday she would look at her scars and do the one thing worse than leaving him—she would regret having come with him in the first place. And how could she not as she died before his eyes, how could she have smiled at him and given him permission to enjoy her, live his future with her as she had lived her past? How could she not regret it then?

[And he loves the woman she was/is/will be more than words can say]

He sees the strands of time that loop around her calves and curl about her waist and brush against her ankles, silver and gold and white. They flow through him, touching at points and straying at others, in no reasonable order. They twist madly like her hair, through her hair, tangled up in her and him and them. This River sleeps peacefully on, not yet sure what they were/are/will be, and his smile matches the one that graces her in sleep.

Her eyes were young and haunted when they first met, as she gripped a jaggedly-broken pipe in one hand and crouched, ready to spring at him.

"River," he breathed, staring at her in dismay. She didn't relax.

"If you… if you're here to kill me too, I won't die without a fight!" she bravely exclaimed, though she was young and had never done harder work than hauling textbooks across a university campus.

"Of course not," he said, as he pulled the trembling young woman into her arms, "I'm here to offer you an escape."

[And he's lost as the galaxy melts in her eyes and runs down her cheeks and drips to the floor, years after they meet and the first time she's laid eyes on him]