This is the first time River meets the Doctor. She's waiting in line to be processed for student housing, and the taste of impending freedom lies unbearably sweet on her tongue. The Church doesn't trust universities, but doesn't police them, either. Nothing like home, where her parents even ran the household on a seven day week, the way God intended.
There's a clatter of footsteps behind her, and she turns to watch a man and a girl running pell-mell across the walkway. The man has wild hair and a mad smile; the girl is pale, cheeks flushed, and holding a flamethrower. It's a brilliant sight, as welcome as the six armed alien transfer student who greeted her at Orientation. It's the first day of her new life, after all - she's burned her old journal and scattered the ashes. It's only right that anything could happen, today.
As they dash past the collection of students, the man's eyes catch on hers for just a second. And then he's skidding to a stop, arms flailing behind him.
"Wait," he says, tripping momentarily over his trainers. He moves closer to her, stops abruptly, and then jumps too far into her personal space. "Wait, wait, wait. *River*? Is that you?"
She freezes at the question, because *yes*, it is. Or at least she really, really wants it to be. River is the name of the woman who looks back at her when she asks the mirror to show her what she'd look like with longer hair, curls dropping past her shoulders. When she arranges her dressing gown around her like an evening gown, slit up one side showing off her hip, cleavage temporized out of socks and crumpled geometry homework. When she bites messily into a strawberry, juices staining her mouth, and leans forward until she feels the cool press of glass against her lips.
This stranger knows her name - her real, *true* name - but that's an impossible thing. She hasn't told anyone, yet. There's been no one to tell.
River's often wished that the people around her could simply look through the young man she presents as and see her for who she really is. It's more terrifying than her fantasies had suggested, like the seconds between jumping off the Mountain and waiting for the wind to catch against her wingsuit.
The man laughs at himself. "Listen to me, of *course* it's you. Oh, and look at you - " River winces under the scrutiny, but he's too busy talking too notice " - you're so young! You have so much ahead of you, the whole universe waiting. And your eyes... you always had the most beautiful eyes."
River tears her gaze away. The man's running companion is waving the flamethrower impatiently. "Doctor, we haven't the time!"
"Right! I know that! I'm coming!" he calls back to the girl.
"Haven't the time for what?" River demands.
"This," he tells her. He gives her a smile like a sigh. "There's a thing. Or... potentially a thing. A big potentially a thing with big potentially teeth." He mimes one hand snapping at the other. "We'll catch up later." It's not a promise. It's as solid as the narration in a history vid, listing events that have already happened.
There's a moment where he leans close, like maybe he's going to kiss her, and River thinks that maybe she would let him if he tried. But then he peels himself away from her and bounds off.
"Wait!" she calls after him. "Doctor! How do you know me?"
He spins, running backwards for his answer so she can see the mad grin, back in place. "Better than anyone!" he shouts back. "Anyone in all the worlds that ever were!"
The students around River move forward, unbothered by the excitement. River reminds herself that every decision she makes, starting today, is a decision about the person she wants to be. She clutches her satchel, holding her ID and her datapad and the stick of strawberry coloured lipstick she bought, bold as anything, that morning, and runs after.