"Hello Sweetie." The voice was husky, and guttural.

The Doctor turned to see River standing in the doorway of the abandoned ceremonial hall. He grinned. "River!"

"You bastard!" She shot him.

He fell to one knee in shock. Searing pain and nausea roiled through him from the quarter sized hole burned out of his shoulder. She'd unerringly hit the vulnerable hollow above his collarbone. It wasn't fatal, but his eyes were blurring.

His ears were ringing, but he could see the blurry outline of her hoving nearer, like a golden thunderstorm.

"River, what...?"

She kicked him in the other shoulder. He fell backward. He lay there, not bothering to defend himself. He could see her clearly now, standing over him, her gun pointed precisely at his nose.

She was crying, her face stark with fury.

"You left me there!" She shot a hole in the floor by his right ear. "I give up all my remaining lives for you, and you just left me there!"

"Mels?" he asked, his hearts suddenly beating a little harder.

"Don't call me that!" she poked the gun at him. But he made a point of watching her eyes. She was furious, and angry, and still crying. Silent tears gliding down her cheeks that she resolutely ignored.

That stung sharper than his shoulder. She was hurting.

She held her head up proudly. That eagle profile, that proud nose, that lion's mane of hair, that strong, mature body held as erect as a warrior. She glared down at him. "I'm River Song. I'm not some tool to be used and discarded. I'm not some frightened child to be manipulated into doing anyone's bidding.

"I've read up on River Song," her eyes flashed.

"You really shouldn't have done that..." He petered off, seeing that glare that was very much River Song.

"I'll keep the name. But I might just kill you anyway."

The crystal emitter at the end of her gun looked entirely too eager for his tastes.

"What happened?" he asked, keeping his voice soft. He ignored the burning pain in his shoulder and stayed flat. This was more important.

"You left me there!" She yelled again, as if he hadn't heard her the first time. "Thousands of years in the future with no family, no friends, no identity." She flung her hands up and whirled around in irritation. She focused that glare back on him.

"You left me in the middle of one of the most regimented time zones in history with no ID!"

"I arranged for that," he protested. He stopped when she snapped the gun back onto him. He subsided back. "I set up a trust fund, and arranged for identity papers for you."

"You set the Time Agency on me!" Her hair was fairly bristling with indignation.

She was so beautiful. He grimaced and pulled his attention back to the matter at hand.

"I didn't set the Time Agency on you, I pulled a few strings with a friend of mine..."

She gave him a piercing, narrow eyed look. "Tall, good looking, thinks he's more good looking than he is?"

"Yeah, that'd be him."

"And damned hard to kill. I finally had to leave him nursing a busted kneecap, while I stole his manipulator.

"And what did he mean, "You can sure pick them?"" She glared at him.

The Doctor kept his mouth shut very tightly. She started pacing, the gun hanging forgotten in her hand. He risked pushing himself up on his good arm.

She paced twice around the marble hall, she finally stopped and sat down abruptly on the stairs, the gun dangled between her thighs. "Why did you just abandon me?" She asked in a whisper.

"Oh, god, River, No!" He pushed himself up and shuffled over to her on his knees, one arm hanging useless.

He reached out and cupped her cheek, lifting her face. Her cheeks were salty with tears. "No, no," He shook his head, and without even thinking kissed the tears away.

She dropped the gun and grabbed the hair on both sides of his head. She tilted his head and sealed her mouth to his, kissing him desperately. He gave her back measure for measure. She needed this, alone, lonely, desperate, of course she'd come hunting him.

He lifted his aching arm, feeling the tissues already starting to knit together, and itch. He buried his hand in her hair and tilted her head again, gentling the kiss, deepening it, feeling the energy in him swirling and yearning toward its match. His mate.

She whimpered. He knew she could feel it. She didn't understand it yet. But he knew she could feel it. They were connected. She had no idea what she'd done by giving him her regeneration energy, filling him with her essence. Her lives.

Of course she'd come hunting him when she was frightened. Where else would she go but home?

He felt her soften, leaning toward him. He wrapped his arms around her, taking her weight. She all but fell into his arms.

He held her tight. She tucked her face in his neck. Hiding. Ashamed and not sure why. "Don't tell Amy and Rory."

He stroked her hair with one longfingered hand. "Of course not. Some things are just between you and me." He rubbed her cheek with his. She softened even farther against him. Tucking herself into him.

"Why don't I hate you?" she asked, cocooned within his arms, one fist tight around his braces.

He grinned and looked down at her. She peeked one eye up at him, almost shyly. He just shook his head at her. "Probably for the same reason I could never resist you." He tightened his arms around her, holding her fiercely.

They sat like that for a long time.

Finally she stirred and pushed his jacket away from his shoulder, it had a neat black hole through it. So did his shirt. She peeled it away, clinically. "We need to clean this," she said, sounding like her father. "We don't want any fabric left in the wound." She pushed aside his shirt, then blinked and sat up straighter. She stared.

He craned his head down to see. Where there should have been a gaping blazer hole, there was now a pink dome of scar tissue. River ran her fingertips over it gently. She turned confused, aqua green eyes up to him.

"I'd read that you were more resilient than humans, but I didn't think you'd heal this fast," she said.

He shrugged. He wasn't about to admit that normally he didn't. It was the combination of their energies calling out to each other that stimulated the healing. He tamped down a grin. There were certain esoteric healing techniques on Gallifrey that she would no doubt be interested in. But not right now.

He stood up. He regretted losing the warmth and weight of her, but there were things he needed to set right.

He pulled her to her feet. She was so young, he had to tread carefully. "I didn't abandon you there. I swear, that was never my intention. Or Amy and Rory's. But I couldn't risk tangling our timelines any more than they already are."

She stood up, looking so much like the older her that he felt a sob tearing at his throat. "I arranged for an identity for you. And I went back and set up a trust fund that should be large enough to allow you to do anything you want now. Buy a house, start a business, travel, go to school. I just... We just, couldn't stay. We had too much knowledge of your future, we couldn't risk influencing you. You have to be free to make your own choices."

She was watching him with those clear, silvery green and blue eyes that always saw too much. He'd always thought her well named, tempestuous as the sea, but just as deep and calm. At least eventually.

"I woke up and you were gone." Her lip didn't quiver, but he had the distinct impression it wanted to. He wanted it to, if only to make his own heart hurt less.

"When I went to sleep," she said calmly, facing him, vulnerable yet strong, "you were all there. I was safe, and happy. And when I woke up, you were all gone."

The words were softly spoken, but hit like a lash. He didn't flinch. She had the right. "I never meant it that way," he said softly, looking right into her achingly vulnerable eyes. "I thought it would be easier to make a clean break. I can see that was wrong now."

"Damned right." She said it so softly. The older her couldn't have twisted the knife any better.

They stood there like two strangers. Magnetized like the opposite ends of a magnet.

He wrung his hands. It was a filthy habit, but he didn't want to hurt her any more. "What do you want to do now?" he asked. He'd give her anything she wanted. Anything she chose. Anything that was within his power to give.

God help him if she chose a path that would take her away from him.

She just stared at him. She knelt and picked up her gun and put it in her holster.

She looked around the abandoned hall, then looked back at him. "Right now I'm not sure if I want to shag you, or thump you over the head with a chair."

He grinned. He struggled not to. That sounded like his River.

"I would prefer a third option," he opined, folding his hands behind his back and trying not to bounce on his toes.

She gave him a disgusted look, not at all deceived.

She sighed. "I have the feeling I have a lot to learn before I become River."

He opened his mouth. She scowled at him. "Shut up."

He snapped his mouth shut. His hearts feeling lighter every second.

She sighed and thought some more. " A trust fund, eh?"

He nodded.

She thought some more, her eyes casually scorching a trail of appreciation up and down him, apparently unconsciously. It was making his toes sizzle.

"I suppose this friend of yours would be willing to set up my identity for a price?" she asked.

He grinned even wider. "For a kiss, Jack would be happy to declare you're the Queen of Sheba." he affirmed.

She grinned. "Works for me. I always rather liked that ancient Queen of Ethiopia. Keeping all the world's wise men on their toes." She looked down at her pale arms. She grimaced. "Sort of ironic now."

She suddenly stared up at him. "Anything I want?"

He nodded, loving to see her mind working, her confidence returning. "Anything you want."

"You're a hard man to track down, Doctor." She raised a very River eyebrow. "I think I may need a map."

He opened the Tardis door to the pressurized dome that covered Luna City. Arriving shuttle passengers bustled past the end of the deserted side corridor.

"I called Jack, he'll meet you at terminal 3 with all your papers and your bank information," he said, suddenly feeling reluctant to let her go.

She turned and looked at him, obviously eager to go forward, yet puzzled. She studied him, taking in every detail of his face. He tried not to squirm. She always saw too much.

"Why do we do this?" she suddenly asked. He jumped a bit. She studied him some more, those clear aqua eyes burning into him. "I saw the future me. River. The Tessalecta showed me. And you kept calling out for me, like you knew me. Like you trusted me." Her eyes pierced him, not quite River, not quite Mels.

She shook her head. "Why do it all?"

He stood there and looked at her. His past, his future, the sounds of the terminal fading into the background under her puzzled stare.

Suddenly he grinned, all the way up from his heart. "Because we have fun."

She didn't gape at him like a normal person would. She just started to grin. That full beautiful grin that made him love her more every time he saw it. Even when it was driving him up the wall.

She flipped her hair at him, brushing it across his face as she turned. She shot a coy look back over her shoulder. "Well, why didn't you just say so?"

She laughed and jogged off happily. He smiled to watch her go. Young, looking forward to the future.

He cupped his hands around his mouth, "Be sure to give Jack his vortex manipulator back!" he yelled.

She waved her arm at him, the black leather of the manipulator gleaming in the artificial lights. "Of course I will!"

She shot him a smirking glance back over her shoulder. Laughing.


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