tasting the air you're breathing in;

Her hearts were pounding in her chest as she ran down the corridor before pushing open a door to the stairwell and running up the concrete stairs with a noisy clatter. They weren't far behind her now, but she paused for a moment to pull off her black heels and start running barefoot, the stairs icy cold beneath her feet. Somehow she managed to run, hold her shoes in one hand and pull out her psychic paper with the other one. A brief pause to glance down the stairwell showed the guard, four floors beneath her.

Good. She had some time. Panting, she pulled a pen out of her tiny purse, scribbling coordinates and a message on the paper before shoving it all back in and running just as shots were fired up the stairwell. They'd seen her.

She burst out onto the roof with a curse – the rocks cut into her feet but she didn't have time to stop, or rest, or even think – they were right behind her. Frankly she was a bit disappointed she wouldn't even have time for a nice parting line to the men chasing her, but then exits couldn't always be well planned out. Sometimes you had to just escape when the opportunity presented itself. She slid to a halt, staring at the blue box on the roof with a glare. Those were not the coordinates she'd given him, but never mind that.

She didn't wait for him to open the door, instead pulling her key out from under her dress and using it to open the door and burst into the control room. She slammed the door shut behind her just as the men poured onto the rooftop behind her. "Go, go – just go!" She leaned against the shut door, panting as the Doctor moved quickly around the controls.

She dropped her shoes, sliding down until she was sitting on the floor with her back against the Tardis doors, still breathing harshly. "Any particular destination, or should we just hang around the Vortex for a while? And what were you doing, River Song?" He'd stepped down the stairs and stood in front of her looking down at her with a small frown.

She took a deep calming breath, willing her lungs to burn less as the oxygen poured into them. When she finally felt a little more under control, she smiled up at him. "Running."

"Well, obviously." He threw his hands up and glared down at her. "From what?"

She laughed and braced her hands against the floor, pushing herself up before grabbing the door handles and pulling herself the rest of the way upright. He fluttered awkwardly just around the edge of her personal space, and she smiled at the sight of it. Not that she would ever ever admit it to him, but she found his awkward indecisiveness rather adorable most times. "Who says it was from anything?" She grinned saucily at him before starting to walk over to the stairs, limping only slightly thanks to the cuts on her feet provided by the rooftop.

"Experience." He spoke dryly, moving up behind her and slipping a hand under her elbow gingerly. "Oh and the blaster burns on the doors of my ship." He was surprisingly gentle, his skin cool against hers as he placed a hand at her waist and helped her up into the pilot's seat. She sank down gratefully and dropped her purse on the floor beside her.

"Oh well, them. Just a spot of unexpected trouble, sweetie. That's what shields are for." She leaned back with a sigh, lifting the tattered hem of her dress so she could inspect the bottom of her feet. It wasn't too bad, actually – a myriad of small cuts here and there.

"What sort of trouble, River? Be specific." He looked at her suspiciously and she grinned.

"Business dinner, honey. I didn't approve what they were proposing. May have said something about it." She stood and moved over to where he stood leaning against the console, arms crossed and his expression disapproving.

"A business dinner. You made me rescue you from a -"

"Give me a lift. Not rescue. I was fine." She glared over at him before sighing. "And thank you."

"Well you're welcome, River." He uncrossed his arms and moved slightly closer to her. She could feel her skin tingle in response to his closeness. "Was that so terribly difficult?"

"Oh, shut up." She smiled and rolled her eyes. "Aren't you going to ask?"

"Ask what?" He frowned in confusion and she sighed gustily. His gaze lowered for a moment to her chest and when he looked up again she smiled knowingly. He flushed and turned around, fiddling with knobs and dials busily.

"Ask what I did. After all disagreements, while unpleasant, don't usually lead to being gunned down on your way out the door. So to speak."

"Well you seem to want to tell me – I've no objection to hearing it." He was still pressing buttons while the Tardis was humming with irritation. River stroked the console gently, reassuring the old girl.

"Slavery. They'd managed to acquire a Vortex Manipulator – they've been going back in time – picking up young girls and bringing them out of time, back here to serve in a sexual slavery operation." Her disgust was evident and a look of horror crossed his face. "No matter though – I managed to steal the key card, sneak into the detention area and take them all back, one at a time. Though I was interrupted - had to give the last girl mine with pre-set coordinates. Hopefully Torchwood will be able to track it down. Or she won't figure out how to use it in the meantime, but desperate times and all that."

"A rescue mission, River?" His tone was sceptical and she glared at him for a steady moment.

"I know you don't know me that well from your point of view, but have I ever given you the impression that I would be okay with abduction and abuse of innocent women?" Her tone was deadly, and he glanced up at her, his face pale.

"No. No! That's not what I meant – I just – I uh, I meant alone is unusual. Not the whole... thing. Just – doing it alone." She tilted her head, taking in his hands, twisting gracelessly through the air between and his face, contrite and concerned.

"I'm a big girl, Doctor. I can take care of myself. And I ask for help when it's needed. I'm not stupid." She spoke softly and he looked over at her, surprise written on his face.

"Oh." He breathed out. "Oh – you – you called me."

"And you showed up." She smiled pleasantly. "Wrong coordinates too, I might add."

"I'm not going to indulge your fetish for skydiving every time, River." His voice was soft and she laughed softly.

"No, I suppose you won't." She pressed a hand to the console and braced her weight against it. The Tardis hummed in sympathy.

"Are you hurt?" His voice was concerned and he moved over to her quickly, his hands running over her quickly. She closed her eyes at the feel of his hands, not clumsy at all now, tracing the contours of her body. She shivered under his hands, waiting patiently for him to finish his inspection. "Is that a bullet hole?" His finger was poking through the fabric of her dress and she could feel it brushing against the skin underneath. She glanced down, checking the area before she shrugged.

"Plasma burn. It was a through and through. I liked this dress though, the bastards." She sighed and shook her head. "I'm fine, Doctor. Just my feet got cut up on the gravel of the roof, is all." He took her by the arm and steered her back toward the chair, pushing her down into it and crouching before her.

"You're bleeding. Where were your shoes?" His hands were gentle on the soles of her feet, but she was terribly ticklish there and she giggled out loud, bringing her hands to cover her mouth. "Sorry – ticklish? I think I have something that should take care of this." He stood and moved over to the storage room under the stairs, and she could hear loud rummaging and his voice muttering to himself as he searched. When he came back he had a tube of cream and she eyed him warily.

"What is that?" She asked nervously, and he stopped to kneel in front of her again.

"Dæmon healing cream – no worries."

"But it's for Dæmons. I'm not a Dæmon." She pointed out in a slow tone. "You don't know that it will work on me. What if I have a reaction?"

"Dæmons, humans – close enough. There are only a few variances in the base genetic code. Wait. You are human, right?" He glanced up, green gel on his fingers and her foot in his other hand. She arched a brow at him and he huffed. "That's not an answer."

"I didn't mean it to be." She grinned and he rolled his eyes before smoothing the gel on one foot and then the other. It was pleasantly cool at first, and she sighed in relief, but it began burning after that and she drew a shocked breath. "Ow!"

"No worries, it's meant to do that. Forcing your skin to enter rapid regrowth – surely you didn't think it would tickle?" She glared at his smug face, lifting her feet off the floor and kicking her legs in a childish manner. The breeze created felt good, but it still burned as her feet healed. The ship hummed and the temperature dropped in the room instantly and she put her feet flat against the now cool glass floor and sighed in relief.

"Oh thank you dear." She murmured under her breath and the Doctor glared up at her from his position by her feet.

"Oi! When I complain about the temperature I get nothing, but you drop it for her?" He was looking over his shoulder at the time rotor. The whole ship seemed to vibrate with irritation and he sighed heavily. "Unfair, I should be the favourite."

"Maybe she likes that I don't leave the brakes on, sweetie. And I don't tend to hit her or kick her when she doesn't do what I want. Also, I use her stabilizers – she appreciates that. Some nights I talk to her you know. Read her stories." She smiled down at him, and wriggled her toes as the burning finally dissipated from her feet. Lifting one foot she inspected it – not fully healed but the cuts were now faint red lines, and when she stood up, it didn't hurt. He stood with her, his hand automatically reaching out for hers. "Right then, shall we do diaries?" She glanced around, looking for her bag. Ah right – she'd put it on the floor. Leaning over she picked it up, pulling out her psychic paper, her PDA, a tube of lipstick, her pen, a few small detonation charges and her gun before digging down and pulling out her diary.

"Is that bag bigger on the inside?" He exclaimed, lifting her purse up and examining it carefully. She smacked his hands, and took it back, shoving everything back in before tossing it on the chair behind her. She opened her diary and glanced over at him.

"Alright – we've done the Byzantium?"

"And the Pandorica, yes." He moved over to her chair, poking at the purse as if it would jump up and bite him. "Did I give this to you?" She smiled at him over the cover of her diary.

"Spoilers. What about bone meadows – have we done that one yet?" He shook his head and she looked at him, taking in his shirt and bow tie colour before nodding and walking up behind him. She reached around him to put the diary back in her purse, deliberately pressing into his back as she did so. He jumped up and stepped off to the left in a rush and she laughed. "Right then, I know when we are. Where's Amy and Rory?"

"Amy hasn't been feeling well – had a pregnancy scare a while back so she and Rory wanted to go home and have an appointment with her Doctor, to be sure." He muttered while dragging a hand through his hair as a worried frown creased his brow.

"Why didn't you just scan her?" She tilted her head and he sighed, shaking his head.

"Wasn't conclusive." He glanced over at the Tardis screen and she looked at him incredulously. This was almost fun. Well, actually there was no almost about it. She smothered a grin and arched a brow at him.

"Wasn't conclusive? She can scan on a molecular level! She could probably detect pregnancy five seconds after it happens." He looked over at her, his frown disappearing into a curious look.

"You seem awfully knowledgeable on the Tardis' scanning capabilities." He spoke slowly, staring down at her with raised brows.

"I'm awfully knowledgeable about Tardis' everything, honey." She pointed out in a calm tone. "So it'll just be you and I then?" She injected a suggestive tone and watched as he flushed slightly. "Wouldn't want you getting lonely."

"Well I – that is – I could just pop ahead and pick them up at any time you know!" He stepped closer to the console, fiddling with the knobs on the monitor as he studiously avoided looking at her. Even though she'd known it was early on for him, her hearts felt the sting of rejection. No matter how she prepared herself, she was never quite prepared enough.

"Okay, if you could just drop me off then. I've got coordinates." She was pulling out her PDA as she spoke, setting it in a dock on the Tardis console and pulling up a string of numbers and symbols as she spoke.

"Well, I didn't say you had to go right away. And you're injured. Not very gentlemanly of me. " They stood shoulder to shoulder underneath the screen, looking up at the display.

"Yes well, I've never accused you of that sweetie. It's fine – I'm mostly healed now anyway. It doesn't hurt." That was partially true. She hurt, but it wasn't any near-death escape induced injury causing it. She raised her brows and he huffed next to her, pouting. She sighed and forced a patient smile onto her face. "What would you like me to do Doctor? Stay or go?"

He looked over at her, clearly pleased she was asking for his input, and not just ordering him about. As if anyone could do that – it only resulted in him doing the exact opposite of what he was told anyway. "Well I mean I wouldn't be terribly upset if you stayed for a bit. Rest, you know. Plus you seem to always attract trouble, and I quite like that about you."

"Oh yes, the trouble is attracted by me. Of course." She shook her head as she spoke dryly and bit her lip. "Could have sworn it followed you around like a faithful companion-"

"No. Clearly you are mistaken; I've been on loads of trips where nothing interesting at all happened. You on the other hand can't seem to step foot in my Tardis without bringing havoc with you. Course those nothing interesting happening trips are always so boring. It's better when we do it together." She smiled, amused by his words and she turned to give him a suggestive look. "Not like that! Though maybe like that. I suppose I'll find out. All that trouble must just pile up and wait to follow you every time you come see me." She elbowed him just slightly in the ribs. "Ow!"

"Do you think when you're not popping in and out of my life I sit around and pine? I do plenty alone, Doctor. And it doesn't always involve trouble, thank you very much."

"What? From your cell?" He laughed at her and she glared up at him.

"I'm not in there now am I? You've no idea really, what that's like. What my life is like without you around." She pointed out with anger, before stalking around the console and checking a few dials and switches uselessly. Really she was becoming as bad as him.

"I didn't mean it like – I'm sorry, River. You're right, I don't have any clue what your life is like when I'm not around. Not that you're forthcoming with the information and tell me – but still. I shouldn't have said it like that." He stood a few feet away from her, his hands shoved into his pockets awkwardly. He had the decency to look terribly guilty and she sighed, her hands stilling on the console.

"No, I'm sorry. I'm just irritable right now, and that's not your fault." She moved back nearer to him and smiled. "It gets frustrating you know. You don't know me, even though I feel like you should, but I've no idea what exactly you've seen of me so far in your own timeline. Back to front, you know. Well mostly. We do cheat a bit every now and again." She laughed at that and he stared at her with a tiny smile tilting the corner of his mouth. She smiled in return, because it was one of her favourite smiles of his.

"It's not much easier from my end. At least you know." He pointed out, turning to face the monitor once more. He traced the coordinates on the screen, to give his hands something to do, she knew.

"I'd rather not know. Be back at the beginning again." She blinked quickly and glanced away from him, cursing the tears that were stinging her eyes. His hand brushed against her back gently and she stiffened, pulling herself upright. "I should go get changed." She pulled away from him abruptly, turning without even looking back in his direction and running up the stairs into the corridors of the Tardis. Her hand stroked the wall as she wandered down to her room and the ship hummed soothingly.

"It's stupid," she whispers to the walls as she wanders, "I should know better. You'd think knowing this time was coming all these years, I'd have done something to prepare myself better. But I just sort of hoped it would never arrive." She finally arrived at her room and stepped into it gratefully. Her things were just as she'd left them, and she found herself wondering at that. The Tardis was able to exist in all of time and space at once, so in this room she always had a home. Her things had been here the first time she'd stayed here in his timeline and in hers. She wondered if he knew that. Knew how much – how many clues were laying about her room, right under his nose?

She stripped her dress off and frowned at the ruined heap sadly before she turned to her closet. She dug through the clothing there fastidiously. She would be fine, she knew. She just needed a moment – just a small moment when no one was looking at her and she didn't need to be anything or anyone to anybody. She pulled out an appropriately sexy outfit – and if it was a slightly tighter than usual, well, it was as far as she could tell the Doctor's first solo trip with her. A certain level of pomp and circumstance was called for.

After she'd finished changing, she sat on the side of her bed and looked around her, not quite willing to go back out there yet. A tentative knock sounded on her door and she sighed, looking up to see him stick his head into the room.

"There you are. How did I not know you had a room?" He looked around, his face an avid depiction of curiosity and she laughed in response, the ache in her chest easing somewhat.

"Have I needed it before now?" She asked, wondering, but he shook his head and stepped into the room fully. The door shut behind him and he moved over to sit next to her on the edge of the bed, his hands awkwardly placed on his knees.

"No, well I suppose so yes, last time. I wasn't here for most of that though. And I shouldn't be telling you any of that should I? Spoilers." He fidgeted, drumming his fingers on his knees as he stared around him, his sharp mind taking in every detail. She wasn't worried – she knew better than to leave important things out in the open, and she knew the Tardis wouldn't let him in here while she was gone, unless it was a time he could be allowed to see it all.

"Oddly enough you aren't nearly so strict with the giving out of spoilers yourself. Only that I have to keep everything from you." She watched him as his gaze scanned over her bookshelves, the closet, her desk and night tables before his gaze finally landed on the bed they were sitting on.

"See, now that drives me mad. Why is it so important that I not know? I mean obviously if I decided I shouldn't know – there must be a reason. But what could be so important?" He spoke to himself more than her, and she was glad of it. For once she didn't have to look at him and refuse him the answers. He was smart enough to know not to ask her in the first place. Honestly, she wasn't sure he would like the answer anyway. Of course she knew why. The circumstances of her birth, her life, her creation – none of that would happen if he knew about it beforehand. She chose to believe that he asked her to keep all these secrets because he didn't want to lose anything that they had together. But sometimes, in the dead of night when she was surrounded by blank walls and prison bars, she wondered if maybe she had just imagined their connection. Maybe he didn't love her. Maybe he was just fulfilling a role he'd agreed to play long before he knew the part. Those thoughts were gripped in her mind, held and worried over until there was nothing but tattered remains she could easily shove into the corners of her consciousness. Just don't look there. "I think I owe you an apology for the last time I saw you River." He finally spoke again, his fingers clutched around his knees as he stared at her with seriousness.

She sighed in response. These were always difficult. "Not me. You haven't done anything to me. I suppose you will do in the future though – I'll be ready for that. Now listen, I'll tell you what I always tell you – though you don't really know that I always do. I forgive you. Even though I have no idea what you've done. I forgive you for it, because you didn't know. Just like you'll forgive me when I don't know."

"I don't know that I deserve that." He pointed out, his voice soft in the hush of the room. She reached over, pulling one hand from his knee and taking it in hers. His fingers laced through hers and she felt a sense of calm from just that small contact.

"I didn't either, at the time. But you told me then that that's what we do. Love each other enough to forgive the future and forget the past." She paused for a moment, her hand tightening around his as she shot an apologetic look over at him. "I mean, I know you're not at that point yet, but luckily it's you apologizing and me forgiving, and I am."

He looked at her silently for a moment, his free hand scratching his neck as he stared at her. She didn't know what he was thinking, but suddenly he leaned forward, pressing his mouth to hers awkwardly. She was still holding his hand, and it was the only place their bodies made contact other than their mouths. But she knew in her hearts – this was a big moment for him. She wondered if it was their first kiss – her last. If it was... her hand moved up to the side of his face, and she could feel his pulse just beneath her fingertips. She waited him out, until his mouth opened slightly under hers and he inched closer to her on the bed. When his tongue ran along her bottom lip, she felt a thrill shoot through her and her mouth opened to him naturally.

His free hand landed on her shoulder, sliding up from there into her hair, and she sighed into his mouth and sank her frame into his a little bit more. He was right next to her now, pressed against her side and she shivered as his fingers buried themselves in her hair. When he pulled back, they were both breathing heavily, and he rested his forehead against hers gently for a moment, his hand still lost in her hair and his other hand still wrapped around hers. "I'm sorry; I should have asked firs-"

She let go of his hand promptly and pulled away from him, before crawling onto his lap as she cut his unwanted apology off with another kiss. He made a surprised sound in the back of his throat, but his hands slid down the expanse of her back until they rested on her hips. Her hands found their way into his ridiculous hair, and she pulled his head back slightly, enjoying his moan as she did so. His hands gripped her hips tightly, jerking her down and against him and she tore her mouth from his to gasp out loud. He smiled smugly for a moment, and she pushed her hips even further forward, sliding along him until the friction hit just the right spot and they both groaned then.

"River..." he spoke her name in a low tone that sent shivers crawling over her skin. It gave her chills and she didn't want to stop, didn't want him to think or protest or remind her how early they were. He had kissed her. She couldn't be held responsible for anything that occurred afterward. She looked down at him, his head tilted back and her hands still tangled in his hair and his gaze heavy with a look she recognized, but hadn't expected to see just yet. His hands slid up over her hips and ribs, slipping under her shirt as he did so and she froze; her hearts beating rapidly as she felt the cool touch of his skin against hers.

She had to stop this. He didn't know who she was yet. And if his hands slid up much higher, he would discover a precious secret. His head lowered and he pressed kisses along her clavicle before dragging his mouth along the skin at the side of her neck. She shivered against him and his fingers tickled over her ribs, brushing against the underwire of her bra before changing direction and sliding around her sides and up onto her back. Her fingers tightened in his hair as his tongue trailed over her pulse and she let out a gasp. She had to stop this – but oh God, she didn't want to. His hands stilled on her shoulder blades and his head lifted; shock evident on his face. Too late.

"River." When he spoke her name this time, it wasn't heavy with lust but light with wonder and awe. She bit her lip and dropped her chin to her chest, cursing her own weakness. He wasn't supposed to know this yet. Or maybe he was – he'd never given her any specific instruction as to the hows and whens of discovering who she was. And he'd said he'd dropped Amy and Rory off for a doctor's appointment – so clearly she was already in progress, so to speak. But this wasn't Demon's Run, and she knew that was when he found out who she was. She'd always assumed that was when he'd discovered what she was as well. "Blimey – oh, River..."

She looked up and watched his face for a moment, watched the complete and utter astonishment dancing across it. His hands moved again, pulling her top up and over her head so he could lay his hands just above her breasts, one for each heart. "How is this even – how are you – you have... that means that you're-" He couldn't even complete sentences and she took his face in her hands, tilting his head back until her eyes met his.

"Use your words, honey." She teased him and he laughed slightly, his hands still cool against her skin as he stared at her like he was meeting her for the first time. They had a lot of those moments, actually. The first time she met him, the first time with every new face – he was terrible at telling it was her, and she'd never given him any sort of spotters guide, because she so loved trying to fool him every time. He always figured it out within moments though.

"Two hearts." He whispered the words, and glanced down at his hands in wonder. Her skin was exposed and she shivered but he looked back up at her, tears in his eyes. Her hearts ached at the sight – but she knew they weren't sad tears. She stroked the side of his face gently, and nodded.


"How did I not realize? Why didn't I notice?" He sounded incredulous, finally moving his hands lower so he could lay his head against her chest. He pressed his ear there, listening intently. "They – that's not right. They beat at the same time."

"I'm not exactly like you, sweetie. Mostly though." She wasn't sure exactly what she could and couldn't say. He pulled back, looking up at her with confusion. She shook her head. "I can't say much – you're not meant to know everything yet."

She could see the frustration cloud his face, but it disappeared when he looked back down at where her hearts lay. "Wait. You're not related to me in any way right?"

"Fine time to be asking me that when you've got me half-naked in your lap with your hands on my breasts, my love. No. Obviously I am not related to you." He glanced down at his hands in shock when she spoke, as if he hadn't even been aware of their location – which in all fairness, he probably hadn't even been aware of where they had moved to. His thumbs brushed over the swell of her breasts and she shivered again.

"Oh good." He breathed the words out before pushing his face closer to hers. He stopped centimetres from her face, his eyes searching her intently. "I'm not the last." He stated in a whisper and she shook her head, her curls brushing against her cheek as she did so. "I... I'm not alone."

"Not as long as I'm around, sweetie." Her voice was low and his gaze darted down to her mouth and back up to meet her eyes. He leaned in, pressing a soft, gentle kiss to her mouth, his hands cupping her breasts gently, squeezing. His head lowered and he pressed a single kiss over each of her hearts.

"How old are you River? Do you – are you – have you changed? Can you?" His hands slid down over her ribs to rest at her hips again and she began to untie his bowtie, her fingers nimbly unbuttoning his shirt and pulling his braces down as she glanced at him with arched brows.

"Rude." She pointed out and he laughed as she scooted closer to him, until they were chest to chest and their hearts were aligned in relative space. His beat one after the other and hers echoed his with their doubled beats. He looked up at her, content, and she smiled. "You always love this." She whispered and he took a deep, sighing breath. Leaning down until her mouth was by his ear, she spoke very softly. "Not as old as you are right now sweetie, but I'm catching up."

When she sat back up he was grinning, a bright smile that lit his whole face. "I thought you were human. A human lifespan and I thought – what's the point? So brief. But now – now you're... you're perfect."

She laughed and shook her head. "Oh not by a long shot, my love. No more than you."

"So you do regenerate then." He frowned, an inexplicable look of sadness crossing his face as he reached up and touched her face gently. "I quite like you like this." His finger slid along the tip of her nose and she smiled softly down at him.

"I know. You have your favourites, so do I." She pressed a quick kiss to his open mouth and his hands buried themselves in her hair, holding her there as he deepened the kiss. She pushed at his shoulders until they both fell back, her laid out on top of him on the bed as his tongue tangled with hers. His arms wrapped around her and he rolled them until she was laid against the bed beneath him. He pulled back, staring down at with an awed expression. She smiled up at him, her arms sliding over his shoulders while her hands played with his hair gently.

"I wasn't expecting this." He confessed as he looked at her and she smiled.

"And that's not even half of it sweetie. Just you wait and see." She teased him gently, but instead of his usual frustration, he grinned instead. He swooped down, kissing her again, over and over until she was breathless and giddy.

"I cannot wait to see what you have in store for me, River Song. All of time and space."