the abyss also gazes into you.

She pulled at the black jacket, fidgeted in the too tight pencil skirt, her ankles rolling above the heels of her shoes. She didn't like what she saw in the mirror. Waves upon waves of memory crashed over her as she stood, frozen in front of the glass and tried not to look as she uncapped the tube of lipstick and applied it with a hand that shook.

She had to move slowly, deliberately. Only having one eye available for depth perception was bad enough, her nerves and rolling stomach and seeing that face staring back at her – it was almost an impossible task. She breathed evenly, in through her nose and out through her mouth as she felt her skin grow hot and then cold, all over.

She wondered if they knew what they were asking of her. Amy and Rory – definitely not. Of course not, because if they had any clue they'd have demanded a different plan. But the Doctor...

She pulled at her jacket again, and continued to breathe, hoping to calm the nerves that were going haywire within her. Monsters she could face. She could shoot a Dalek straight in the eyestalk without blinking, take down Sontarans, clear the room of Judoon. Any monster – give her any monster but this one.

Because this monster was hers. It was the one that she had cowered from as a small girl, the one she had hid under beds and in closets from, down halls and anywhere she could fit and some places she couldn't nearly. Madam Kovarian. With her sharp eye and her slow deliberate way of speaking, pale white skin and dark red lipstick caked across too thin lips – the only colour about the woman and it was blood red, as dark and twisted as the expression she strode around with.

"River?" His voice was soft behind her, but she didn't lift her head, because some irrational part of her didn't want him to look at her and see this. She shook her head, and attempted to say something but the sound couldn't make it past the tightness in her throat. She felt his hand on her shoulder, large and reassuring. "River, oh – you don't have to do this."

He pulled until she faced him, head still down and her hair curtaining her face as she refused to meet his eyes. "There's no other way."

"This is hurting you though, isn't it?" His hands smoothed her hair back and she flinched as he pulled her face up. His eyes were warm and gentle. Full of understanding even though he didn't really know anything at all. "River," his voice was soothing as he moved in closer to her, his hands slid around her until he was hugging her against him, "talk to me."

She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his shoulder; she felt the tears sting her eyes and blinked them back furiously. "I'm fine, really." It was a lie, and he could plainly hear that because his arms tightened around her and he laughed.

"You're a better liar than that, River Song." He pulled back, brushing her hair back again and looking down at her with concern. "I wish you didn't need to do this."

"I'm the only who could get in, Doctor. They've seen you and Rory and Amy. Besides, I do look like her, a bit-"

"You look nothing like her, River. She is a cold, empty, cruel woman. You are the exact opposite of all of those things, I promise you." She shrugged in his arms and looked away, knowing that she had spent so much time with that woman as a child – who was to say she wasn't a little bit like her? That she hadn't learned from her – what child wouldn't?

"You don't know me." She pointed out in a soft voice, with a sad smile. "Not really, Doctor. Not yet."

"I don't need to. You came from them River. Amy and Rory. And even long before I knew that, long before I knew who Amy Pond was, I saw the capacity of your heart. And it was amazing. You were amazing." He leaned in a brushed a kiss against her cheek, his lips sliding over her cheekbone until he pressed a tiny kiss to the tip of her nose. The action brought an inadvertent smile to her face.

"Hush, my love." She whispered the words as he stared down at her, "Spoilers." She straightened in circle of his embrace, the set of her jaw was determined as she threw her shoulders back. "We should get this over with."

He brought his hands up to cradle her face gently, and she looked at him with her one good eye. "You are not her. Remember that. You are Doctor River Song, and you are bloody brilliant." She arched a brow at him delicately.

"Such language, Doctor." She felt something ease within her at his words though and he pressed a kiss to her forehead.

"I wish I could kiss you." He breathed the words like a secret into her skin and she smiled.

"The lipstick works on you too, you know, my love." She laughed slightly at that, other, fonder memories filling her mind and shoving the last of Madame Kovarian out. "Bad enough you're about to get very jealous about the fact that I have to go kiss a bunch of minions for information. Can't have you jealous and out of your mind on drugs." He grinned at her, his mouth tilting higher on the left as he pulled her closer until their mouths were only a few centimetres apart.

"I don't know, Doctor Song. Might be worth it."

"Oh it'd definitely be worth it, honey." She smirked up at him, smoothing her hands down over the lapels of his coat. "But my parents might have an opinion on the matter. Rory especially." His gaze clouded and he leaned back a bit, clearing his throat.

"Right... Rory." He sighed heavily and pressed his forehead against hers. "Remember, get in, get all the information you can and get out. Don't take stupid risks. And be careful."

"You say that like I'm not always careful." She said softly and he laughed.

"Because you're never careful. Always running off, right into danger, regardless of the circumstances." His hands tightened in her hair and she giggled, an unexpectedly girlish noise that he grinned at sound of.

"Sound familiar?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Just," he paused, lifting his head to press another kiss to her forehead, letting go of her face and wrapping his arms around her tightly, "hurry back, alright?"

She swallowed heavily, her arms around his waist as she whispered into his chest, "I promise. I'll be back before you know it and then I can get out of these clothes and we can throw the whole outfit into the nearest available supernova."

"Why does everything sound a bit naughty when you say it?" His arms tightened around her and she leaned her head back, blowing a kiss up at him and winking with the only available eye. The tips of his ears were getting more and more red and she grinned and leaned forward, putting her mouth by his ear.

"Find an excuse to leave my parents somewhere and it will be naughty. I'll let you watch. Maybe even participate, if you're a very good boy." When she pulled back, the red had spread across his cheekbones and he swallowed heavily.

"Right well, let's get this part over with, shall we? That next part sounds far more fun."

"That it does, sweetie. That is does."