Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.

A/N: This jumps about in time a lot, and was intended to be like a puzzle. It was written nearly exactly a year ago, but I don't think it's been jossed yet.

Isn't preventing temporal paradoxes a great excuse for something that means nothing and everything?


She felled the guard with a foot behind the knee and a quick shove; it was all that was needed. The man stared up at the ceiling, giggling uncontrollably, the mark of her hallucinogenic lipstick vibrantly red in the artificial light.

The Doctor, at her side, shot her a disapproving look – if entirely unsurprised.

"He's better off like that," she said. "Better than this place."


She pressed a fingertip to her lips, touched it to the grim line of his. "I'm sure. It's high quality."


She's holding all the cards meeting him young and somehow it always always feels like he's sitting on the trump. Sometimes she catches him looking at her with an expression he often wears when they argue; the one that says he'll let her drone on, let her rage, let her tire herself out because he knows the last word will be his, if he's just patient. He looks so certain, and so tired. It chills her to the bone. So she ignores it.


On the way out, she wiped the lipstick off on the sleeve of her blouse and took his hand. Behind them, a museum burned. Someone was hurt. Their plan had been foiled and they had lost and it was her fault. She was running for her life, again. Her skin tingled. Adrenaline. Madness.

He pulled his hand away, hurried ahead, slammed the front door open with none of the discretion a man hunted ought to practise. He did things like that, when he was angry with her, when she hadn't followed his directions or warnings or moral compass. She didn't mind. He had the right to. She used to do the same.


(She always writes the reasons for his anger down; whether to avoid them or go out of her way to repeat them, she's never certain.)


Each exhalation billowed from her mouth like steam. She watched the sunset with his jacket over her shoulders and his hand at the small of her back.

"This isn't the reason you called me," he said, with blasé certainty. "A sunset, River… Really?"

She was tempted to prove him wrong, but she couldn't delay any longer, for the sake of keeping her word, for the sake of staying alive. She shrugged; the fabric of his jacket rustled. "I have to steal a diamond the size of your head."


Sometimes, late at night or early in the morning, in bed or in the bath or somewhere else entirely, she reads her diary as if it's a book of fairytales, reads it objectively. It always, always ends the same way – the illusion shatters and she can't deny she's reading her own words and she either laughs or cries.


Oh, she's so good at hinting. It's all she has. She loves it when it bothers him.

"You've tried it?" He smiled that serene/challenging smile he reserved for her, against her finger.

"Of course." She grinned. "Sometimes I even let you wear it."

She wished she knew if that was true.

the end.