Title: How you play the hand
Rating: T
Characters: River, the Doctor, Madame Kovarian (River/Doctor)
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.
Summary: River Song is a weapon.
A/N: Contains dark themes. Spoilers for 6x07.

For the current spoiler_song ficathon at LJ, and the prompt: River, She's messed up. Really, really messed up. Raised as a weapon, falls for the man she's supposed to kill, her relationships are all backwards and stupid, and she can make a Dalek beg for mercy. Extrapolate however you wish.

She's a little girl.

"I'm bored."

"Dear, what have I told you? You have to understand your enemy. You will." The white light was reflected especially harshly off Madame's metal eyepatch, and River looked straight at that spot until her eyes watered, and then Madame turned her head.

River folded her arms and slumped in her hard seat. "He's boring."

Madame fisted her hands. "He has destroyed dozens of planets. He killed his own species. Twice. What do you call that?"

"It's bad."

"Yes, Melody. It is bad. And afterwards, he just runs away. He doesn't care."

"What about the Daleks? I looked them up. And the Cybermen. And the… the Time Lords. They were bad, too."

Madame crouched in front of River's chair, and the look in her eye was almost sympathetic. "Remember what happened to your parents." It was not a question.

River closed her eyes.

She's almost grown, though it took her a long time.

Madame Kovarian pursed her purple lips and proclaimed, with worn passion, like she had done so many times before, "The Doctor is not a devil. He's not a god. He's not a goblin, he's not a phantom, and he's not a trickster. He's a living, breathing man."

River mouthed along to the last part.

Today, it turned out, Madame had added a few lines to the script: "He's had eleven faces and he's lived for hundreds, if not thousands, of years." She paused. "And so can you."

"Have eleven faces or live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years?"


River shrugged; like she hadn't understood that so very long ago. "That's nice."

The Doctor doesn't make sense, at first glance. If ever.

River was convinced he must be broken, somehow. It was a very private conviction, of course.

"Hate him," said Kovarian.

"Don't tell me how to feel."

"Oh, but I can tell. You do. As you should."

She's been given her own gun, which seems like hyperbole.

She knew his strengths and his weaknesses. She knew everything he had ever succeeded with, and every mistake he had ever made. She had memorised every alias he'd ever used, and the names of all the people that had ever accompanied him. She knew as much as she was ever going to about the time machine. "My life won't revolve around him," she said.

Kovarian didn't take her eyes off the gun strapped to River's hip. "It only will for as long as you let it."

"That's not what I mean."

"No mercy, do you understand?"

It's not Madame Kovarian who makes her what she is, in the end.

River simply left, one day, and she chose to believe it was because she outsmarted the other woman.

Years and years, stuck. River made it up to herself. (Ships/trams/trains/museums/sparkly drinks/beauty sleep/warm baths/archaeology/making friends.)

Relationships, she discovered, were excellent in terms of endorphins and adrenaline and oxytocin.

Still, she was human plus, and she met people for the first time when they had just broken up with her.

She also met people she'd never seen before and who, in turn, had no idea who she was. Those meetings could only last a night. They almost felt normal.

When she was neither asleep nor fully awake, she could see the moment, and the seconds preceding it and those coming after, as clearly as she could see herself in the mirror in the mornings.

She wasn't really a whole anything, which was unique on a good day, unsettlingon an average day, and on a bad day…

There's a first time for everything.

She met a man, and it was not John Smith or Jean Forgeron or Troy Handsome. He called himself something else, something new, something clever. He was a living, breathing man.

And a slippery slope.

Madame Kovarian had been right about him – about everything.

The thing was – River had been right, as well.

That said, she knew he was a manipulative bastard with a silly face and a sillier hat, but it was so easy to forget. And, in turn, she did her best to hide what she was really like; let's not be entirely obvious, she told herself.

He was a manipulative time-travelling bastard, and of course he already knew.

River went back for Madame Kovarian.

Madame was surprised, of all things.

River supposed she should have mentioned that she understood the Doctor, just like Madame had wanted. But the old woman wasn't stupid, and an irony connoisseur, so River let her figure it out on her own.

Tricky tricky timelines.

"Well, I'm not dead. I don't think," he said. "How about you?"

She stretched. "Not quite." She prodded his arm in search of a softer part to lean her head on. "They do say 'keep your enemies close'."

He laughed. "Kill me with kindness?"

"You're the last of the Time Lords," she stated. "And then there's me."

"Then there's you," he said, and the skin around his eyes crinkled.

"How do you keep it all straight?"

"What? The auxiliary repositioning controls?"

"Time. Why doesn't it bother you? And if you bring up your age I will slap you."

He grimaced. "What do you think?"

"Don't tell me you live in the moment?"

He bopped her on the nose. "That's the one."

"You resent me, though." His spine was straighter than usual, and he smiled.

"You make it look so easy."

He twisted his upper lip. "That's the trick. Like an onion… with the layers…" He mimicked peeling. "You know, that, not the smelling. Or the crying. Definitely not like the Minor Onion Problem of trhns Prime Beta, though maybe a bit like the Major."

"The Time War. Tell me about it."

He made his eyes round and blank. "The TARDIS has all the information you-"

"No. Tell me."

He squirmed a little. "Telepathy? Please?"

"Oh, no."

"Big, proper mind meld? All wooo and aahhh? I'd recommend it, you bad-"


"But… I'll have to start with the Daleks. No, I'll have to start with the Time Lords. No, I'll have to start with Gallifrey. Do you have any idea how long that will take? How many words I'll have to use? How little wooo-ing there will actually be?"

"We've got time."

He told her about the Daleks, and at one point his voice sort of trembled, and two or three times he fisted his hands. He told her about the Time Lords and Gallifrey, and it was much too perfect and sweet and she didn't believe a word. He told her about the Last Great Time War, and his voice was far too clinical, too flat.

He told her he could have ended the Daleks long ago. She said she would have. He said he ought to have.

She loved the running. But it was not the most important part.

"Let me help you," she said. "My love."

Rumour has it, a broken bone heals stronger.

The handcuffs were mercilessly tight, and made out of some ridiculously tough alloy. She sat down on a cold, hard chair, looked up, and said, "I'm not a devil. I'm not a god, nor am I a goblin, a phantom, or a trickster. I'm River Song, and this is completely unnecessary. I already know where you're sending me."

Good men don't need rules.

"You're not a weapon," he said, and his eyes were so very sad, and so very angry, and so very old.

She didn't have the heart to correct him.

Like a puzzle with the picture facing the tabletop.

A diary was good for this sort of thing. A point from which all the threads of her existence originated, and to which they would all, eventually, loop back. Without it, they would continue on into the multiverse, stretching, like sentences without a full stop.

She kept track of every single thread, no matter if that full stop was ink or a treacherous tear or the excess of her newest shade of lipstick.

It's not the destination, it's the journey.

"I've lost my parents."

He looked down, and a muscle near his eye twitched. "No, you haven't."

"I'll see them again? Thanks to you, undoubtedly."

"Is that bad?"

"It's amazing."

Full circle.


"And again."

"Who are you?" he asked.

"I'm so sorry," she answered. What else could she say?

"You have to," she told him, closed herself off from the anguish in his eyes.

"But why?"

She shrugged. "That's what I would have done."

"Time can be rewritten." He scratched at his cheek. "I always say that, don't I?"

"Yes, darling, you do. I'll allow it, this time."

And all this, my love… in fear of you.