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Four times River destroyed the universe with her hands (and one time she decided to save it)

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1. Change the future

Getting her hand out of the angel's grip isn't actually all that complicated. To be honest she'd mostly left it there because she'd thought (correctly) that it would lead to flirting. Her husband's still young, although he's ageless, he doesn't know quite how to be a husband yet so she tries to make it easier for him when she can. So when he asks her to get her hand out it takes her all of ten minutes, a quick roundhouse kick to the angel's wrist, a side hand strike to detach it, and a quick gunshot to get the detached wrist off her hand. A little tricky to do without taking her eyes off the angel's stone face, but well within her abilities, even before she'd learned the archeologist's trick of getting out of the way of statues.

There's a sudden jolt when the universe starts to unravel. It's a feeling she knows, things coming apart around her, walls becoming fragments and stones becoming air, the room around her both present and absent, breath and stillness in the same instant moment, the feeling of the universe being destroyed. She looks at the angel and blinks very very quickly and time snaps back around her, she's ten minutes earlier when things are still happening one after the other in order and the universe is still going on.

The Doctor had told her that he needed to break her hand because Amy had read it in a book - a book that, presumably, she would write. He had also told her to change the future. But she can't change the future that way, not without the universe being destroyed.

She breaks her own hand with the side of her gun. It only takes one blow, she's good at breaking things, and it hurts but it's only pain. The universe shakes a little, only a little bit destroyed. It's only a little change. And it's only a little thing that she can give the Doctor, but at least she can give him this: that he doesn't have to be the one to break her hand.

The pain is easy, but getting the book and the map and her other gadgets all into one hand proves to be more difficult. She can do it, though. When the Doctor sees her he bounces around the room like a pinball with legs and he's just so happy, and she knows she's saved him from something that matters, her hand's still broken, but he didn't have to do it and she let him believe that anything is possible. Maybe it is. She feels time shimmer around her, she knows what it feels like when it breaks, and it's breaking now but only a little, it's not more broken than she is.

"You asked," she says. "I did. Problem?"

2. Mother

When River sees Amy she throws herself into her arms. It's not the first time she's seen her, there have been other times, but it's been so long and she needs her mother and she grabs on to Amy just a little longer than makes sense to anyone but her. And she isn't thinking, Amy's not stupid, Amy sees something, feels something, and suddenly she knows.

This time the universe goes dark. Things are happening out of order again, she's made that happen in the way she grabbed on to her mother, with what she's let Amy see. In the moment she almost doesn't care, but she does, it's her responsibility, so she quickly - quickly - pulls back to the moment before it happens and plants a bland, vague expression on her face. "Hello Amy," she says. And the Doctor has no idea, he doesn't see what just happened, how in a tiny moment the universe was destroyed. He doesn't even notice anything wrong on River's face, not even later when he asks her to hug Amy because he's busy.

And damn, how dare he, he has no idea, he doesn't know who she is and he doesn't know what Amy is to her and he doesn't know what it's like to live a whole lifetime without being held in your mother's arms like a child. To live without your past, without where you come from, though it's burned into every fibre of who you are and you can't breathe without knowing it, but you can't ever go back there and can't ever let your mother hold you, not ever again.

Except that he does know. Of all the people in the universe he might be the one who does. She remembers his tears on her face and the word: Gallifrey. In a different time that hasn't happened yet they will sit on a grassy space on a hill above a city and laugh about their marriage, and he will tell her that his mother could never give him in marriage to her because his parents and the world he came from are locked out of time. There's a sense in which they never existed at all. They'll have been laughing a moment before but then she won't laugh, she'll take his hand and know how much he's trusted her.

River hugs Amy quickly, and lets her go just as fast. She thinks about the universe just destroyed and about how many universes she'd have once been willing to destroy to be even for a moment just as close to her mother as she's standing now.

3. Stormcage

Time goes by in prison and the Doctor doesn't visit. He never promised he would, their marriage isn't about that, and she wouldn't think to expect it. She sometimes leaves on her own, kisses guards, steals helicopters and spaceships, digs up old things just to keep herself in practice, but she always comes back to prison because that is where she is supposed to be. She doesn't know why. The universe depends on her being here, like it depends on the Doctor being dead, even though she walks in and walks out and knows by the memory of his touch on her body that he is absolutely, utterly, completely alive.

She puts her hands on the concrete wall of her cell. She is able to crumble stone with her hands. She knows this about herself. She feels the slight shift in the walls, and feels the universe tear. She knows how to make it happen. She knows how to make it stop.

4. First kiss

After she drains the energy from her gun and the world shifts around her time collapses into one instant. Everything that ever has happened or will happen is happening at once. Time doesn't move, it pulses, circling around her, and she's at the centre and she feels it all. It's the first time she's destroyed the universe with her hands and this time she won't stop, the universe is ending but there's something else that is complete, something else that matters, and she's not going to let it go.

The Doctor is with her always and never and she feels at the one compressed instant every time he'll make love to her, gentle, fierce, tender, kind, angry, his mouth and body everywhere around and inside and all his kisses from the first to the last, while he laughs and whispers and weeps in her arms and also lies dead at her feet, and through it all a length of cloth is binding her hand, binding it to his, so she can't destroy anything unless they destroy it together. She yearns for time to begin again so that she can kiss him, then lie him down, then embrace him, but she knows if it does he will be dead in that same moment and it's not worth it. So she clenches her hands behind her back and grips them tightly together to keep them from reaching, as if by their own will, out to touch him.

5. The only water in the forest is a river

The first time the girl falls in love it's with the world. She's just past her first regeneration, she knows the sensation of almost but not quite not being alive and the world just seems so beautiful when she looks at it. She dances in a park by a stream and feels the rain and the wind.

Her teacher is strict but kind, she trains the girl in how to move her limbs with energy and intention. It's not easy but her teacher is patient, and the girl loves the feel of her body slicing through air and touching trees and ground, trained to stop just before impact or to land one blow with the side of her hand that can cut through bone and metal and skin. One day there will be a man she'll have to kill, her teacher tells her, he needs to die for the universe to live. It's inevitable that she'll come to love him, she understands, although she also knows that she is young to understand this. Her body learns to move in response to his. It will help her be able to kill him.

The girl likes to go outside at night, to watch the stars and to sing to them. The universe is made of light and is full of beauty. It matters far more than the life of one man.