When she was young (and anything but innocent) the woman she knew only by sight and not by name directed her eyes skyward and said, "Look at the stars. Somewhere out there, my dear, is the man you were born to kill."
"The Doctor," she said, looking up at the stars and imagining she could feel the world spinning underneath her (or was it imagination? She was never quite sure).
"Yes," said the woman. "That's right. Can you tell me why?"
"Because he needs to die," she said, by rote. The woman nodded, and did not smile.
"That's right," said the woman. "Clever girl. Smart girl."
"I want to see your other faces," she said once, and for a moment he looked pained, and then it was gone and he was shaking his head.
"Can't really manage that, can I? Crossing my own timeline – messy, very messy. You don't really want to, anyway. Awfully silly, most of them."
"You say that as though things have changed," she said, unable to keep a smile off her face, and he smiled back at her, a little ridiculous, a little sad, very him.
"Haven't they, though? I'm cool," he said, and she raised an eyebrow at him, and he raised it right back at her, and as they hovered just above the surface of the fourth moon of the planet Galdahari, she forgot, as always, that there was a cell waiting for her at the end of the night.
When she woke up she felt much older and much stranger. It was all so clear in her mind, but at the same time just a bit blurry, edges slightly dulled. Sitting on the table beside her was a little blue journal, and she recognized it at once for what it symbolized. The note pinned to it said simply, this is yours. You'll want it later.
She was River Song, and she was a (clever girl, smart girl) child of the Time Vortex, and all her regenerations were gone-
But it seemed nonetheless that the universe opened wide before her.
She turned the little blue journal over and over in her hands, and did not open it.
She had known for some time that there would come a day that she would be a stranger. Known it intellectually, that there would be a meeting where the Doctor wouldn't know her, because when she'd first met him he'd known her then already.
It still didn't make her ready for it when it came.
He was all angles and limbs, his eyes sharp like glass and bright like stars. So different from how she knew him, and still the same. Still the Doctor.
But he didn't know her. Watched her with a combination of wariness and curiosity. Do I want to know you? His eyes asked, and River's heart broke just a little for him, because even with all the bitterness he carried like a cloak, his eyes were still so young.
It would have been so easy.
Rory came to her, and it would have been so easy to follow him, to go to the Doctor and tell him everything and damn the consequences. It would have been so easy to reach out and stop everything. Make it so none of this (her life) ever happened, and she was raised a normal child in a normal life.
Was that what she wanted?
She could probably still follow him now. Still find her way to Demon's Run and change things. Spare the Doctor. Spare…
She sat very still and waited. In time. In time.
The funny thing about it all, River realized as she arranged the wires and watched the Doctor unconscious and handcuffed to a railing, was what this meant for the two of them. That by the time she'd first met him, he'd already watched her die. That by the time she was trying to kill him he already knew how it would end. That when they married he knew exactly when they would part.
I'm sorry, she thought. Then stopped. Not really.
She could die. He had to go on. He had to meet her, and be who he would eventually become, and have all that time that she'd already had.
"I got to see one other face of yours," she said, finishing the last touches as he stirred. "It's not so silly after all."
"What's that little blue book you bring with you everywhere?" Katalina asked. River glanced at the little journal under her elbow (still empty, still waiting) and shook her head slightly.
"It's the list of people I'm going to kill."
Katalina made a face at her. River smiled slightly.
"It's just a book," she said. "It's empty. You can look, if you like."
"Why don't you put lists in it? Or something," Katalina objected, not reaching for it. "What good's an empty notebook?"
It's a promise, she thought. Or at least I think so. "I'm saving it for something special," she said.
She never made the decision to save him. Not really. It just happened, and she didn't regret it. Didn't regret giving up all those lives she'd never had for this strange man she'd been told she had to kill. She'd never regretted anything less.
She'd never understood anything more clearly.
She was never really told who the Doctor was, or why he had to die. It was just the way things were. Fact; like the way the stars moved or that plants grew or that everything died. Not hers to question, only hers to act.
"And why me?" she asked, just once, only once.
She wondered, sometimes, in her own mind only, about the Doctor. What sort of a person he was. What it would be like to kill him, forever and ever. How it would feel. How she would feel.
Mostly, she thought, nothing at all.
He had eyes like wells, like stars, like trees, like skies. And handsome. Pointing a gun at him seemed strange, but only for a few moments. His TARDIS stood behind him, blue and bright, and he didn't seem particularly great or terrible at all.
This should be easy, she thought. Almost a waste of time. "You've got a time machine," she said, "And I've got a gun. What the hell – let's kill Hitler."
She didn't send out any invitations to her graduation, because she had no idea how to get in touch with the one person she really wanted to be there. She wanted him to come, so very badly – after working so hard for so long, she wanted him to see what she had done.
For just a moment, she thought she saw him in the audience. For just a moment. Then it was some other man, and she was Doctor River Song with no one there, not really, her parents so very far away. But she was still proud.
Then it all came down. There was a woman, and something strange about her memories, and a suit, and the dark closing in.
"Clever girl," said the woman. "Smart girl."