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Turkish Delight on a Moonlit Night

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Turkish delight on a moonlit night

“Okay, this might be a tricky one Ponds.” The Doctor whirled about the console with a delighted grin, flipping switches and pressing buttons. “Amelia, you might want to change.”

Amy glanced down at her wedding dress with a grin. “And what about you two?”

“No! Look at me Pond, I look cool. Besides, going to see a Sultan, we may as well be dressed for the occasion!” The Doctor exclaimed in excitement, pausing for a moment to beam over at them. “The Ponds. On the TARDIS. I like it.”

“I’m sorry did you say the Orient Express. In space?” Rory held a hand in the air as he questioned the Doctor.

“Of course!  Twenty-ninth century, the earth was destroyed by solar flares. Everyone packed up and – wait, have I said this before?” He paused, mid-stride and Rory shook his head. “Right, right, you missed that one. You know sometimes Rory, I forget that you weren’t just always with us. Anyway – earth boom, everyone moved onto spaceships. Starships. Giant countries floating through space.”

“Starship UK. And the starwhale,” Amy added helpfully, elbowing her husband gently. “Remember? I told you-”

“Oh yeah! But – so all the countries had their own starships?” Rory frowned and the Doctor nodded.

“Yes! Well, no. Well, more or less.”

“But you said the Orient Express. That hasn’t run for – what, it’s last run was in 2007, wasn’t it? There was a whole big thing about it on the telly.” The Doctor nodded at Rory’s words, inputting coordinates and wobbling the wibbly levers before he slid left with a grin, popping his head around the monitor to see Rory’s frown and Amy’s expectant face.

“Doctor, explain. What Sultan? And what goddess?” Amy crossed her arms and stared at him, waiting.

“Well see the Ottoman Empire reformed in the twenty seventh century. So much war, centuries upon centuries of it and what do they do? Bam! Right back to the monarchy. Ottoman Empire built their own starship, and the Orient Express runs from Starship France to the Starship Ottoman – just like it did in its glory days back on Earth. Makes a few other stops too, but that’s the general line.” He pulled the monitor round and turned the dials, studying the screen in front of him. Best to land in the royal cabins then, he supposed.

“And the goddess?”  Rory asked, leaning against the railing.

“Egyptian. Can’t be really – not possible, actually. She was sealed in the Seventh Obelisk. Goddesses – so moody you know? And let me tell you, moving the pyramids onto a starship was no mean feat, but then you have to deal with all sorts popping up. Pharaohs and their wives, gods who should never have been moved – it was a mess let me tell you.” The TARDIS wheezed gently, and the Doctor paused, flicking off the monitor and clapping. “And here we are! And I guess now you have no time to change, Pond. You’re going to look odd inthat, I must say.”

Amy pulled her veil off her head, dropping it into the jump seat as she glared at him. “Says the man who travels everywhere in tweed and bowties.”

“Bowties are cool, Pond. How many times must I tell you this?” He flung open the doors of the TARDIS and stepped out into the royal cabins of the Orient Express. Rich red brocade draped the walls, and thick gold carpeting spread beneath their feet. There were several windows, and the vast expanse of space was just beyond them, millions of stars in a velvet backdrop.  The Doctor glanced around the empty compartment and Amy and Rory followed him.

“Wow.” Rory spoke in a hushed voice, moving over to the windows and looking out at the space beyond.  “Wow.”

“Clear aluminum – clever, eh? Can’t have glass windows, you know. Ah trains. I love a good train. Especially space ones. Well – unless they happen to get stranded. Bad things, very not good things then. But on the whole, I do love a good train ride.” Rory glanced at the Doctor and tapped his knuckles against what he’d assumed was glass. A metallic sound greeted him and he looked startled. Amy joined him at the window, looking left.

“Oh, look!  It even looks like an old steam train doesn’t it? How weird is that?”

“Told you. Humans. So nostalgic.” The Doctor inspected the room, pulling out his sonic and waving it about as he walked the room from one end to the other.

“Not bad for a honeymoon, eh?” Amy nudged Rory and raised her eyebrows suggestively. “Orient Express in space.”

“Yes. Minor problem with the vengeful Egyptian goddess on the loose, but who’s counting?” Rory mumbled to himself. “Quite nice windows though. No glare, since its metal. Lets you really see everything.”

“Quite right, Roranicus. Now, what is wrong here?” The Doctor muttered to himself as his eyes swept the room. “Where is everyone? Royal cabins, you’d think that there would be some people floating about. Sultans. Guards. Concubines. Something.”

“Maybe they’re gone somewhere.” Amy spoke up. “Dinner or drinks, or...”

“With a goddess on the loose? And the Sultan doesn’t go have drinks in the dinner car, Amy. Thirty-first century but class warfare is stillvery much in effect. You lot. Can’t seem to get over who makes what and who owns what.” The Doctor moved over to the long red sofa, collapsing onto it in thought. “No there has to be a reason why no one is around. And listen – can you hear that?”

“I don’t hear anything Doctor.” Rory spoke up, turning from the view finally with a frown.

“Exactly. Silence. It’s a train, full of passengers, we should be hearing something. Hundreds of people on board –” The Doctor leaned forward, his elbows pressing into his knees as he stared off in thought.

“Maybe royals get soundproofing. You know, what with their concubines and all, Doctor.” Amy spoke in a teasing voice and Rory nodded in agreement.

“That’s weird though.” He pointed at the Doctor and the Doctor glanced up at him with a frown. “No, not you, Doctor. Though, well – anyway I meant the frame behind you. It’s empty.”

The Doctor turned to look at the large ornate frame, gold filigree overlaid on heavy dark wood. In the corner, he could see the jagged little bit of glass remaining. “Not empty, shattered.”  He got up for a closer look, moving around the couch and tripping over a bit of the rug, all pulled up. He glanced down and came to a halt. Not rug – not rug at all, it was a foot. A foot attached to a man – one of the Sultans guards judging by his uniform. “Oh no.”  He leaned down, pressing a hand to the man’s neck, but there was no pulse to be found.

“Oh my God!” Amy exclaimed, coming round to see the man lying on the floor amidst shards of glass, his face pale and wearing an expression of twisted rage. “Oh god!” She turned into Rory’s arms, and he hugged her tightly to him.

“Is he-”

“Dead. Can’t tell how though. No marks, no blood.” The Doctor pressed his hand to his mouth and glanced around. “All this glass – bits of mirror.  But he didn’t cut himself on any of it.” He scanned the body quickly before standing and reading the results. “Nothing. His heart just... stopped.”

“Hearts don’t just stop Doctor.” Rory pointed out in an obvious tone.

“Obviously not, Rory. Something caused his heart to stop beating, but what?”

“What’s that, on the corner of his mouth?” Rory pointed with a shaking hand, and the Doctor stepped around the body delicately, before leaning down and rubbing a thumb over the faintest of red marks.

He glanced back at Rory with worry. “Lipstick.”

“So he was what? Killed with a kiss?” Amy scoffed from her position with her husband’s arms and the Doctor shook his head.

“Nah, this was old – and it’s...” he hesitated for a moment a shiver spreading through his limbs at the thought of it. “Hallucinogenic.” He whispered, an icy finger of dread sliding along his spine. “That’s worrying.”

“Is it River? Doctor, surely she wouldn’t be responsible for something like this!” Amy waved her arm and the Doctor stood, whirling around.

“No, no, of course not.” He snapped, even though Octavian’s words echoed in his head. River had killed, and they all knew it. Well, he knew it. But not this – not – it was one man, and the Doctor had his own suspicions as to who that one man was.  “But this means she’s on board. Somewhere. And something is killing people without even touching them. We have to hurry. Come along Ponds!”

He strode across the room to the door there, sonicing the lock open and moving in to what must have been the bedroom.  There was an overly large bed, covered in opulent red and gold silk, and laid on top of it – just like the guard outside was the Sultan. “Oh no.” The Doctor breathed out, glancing around and taking note of the shattered hand mirror on the floor.

Amy and Rory had followed him in, Amy hovering by the door and Rory moving into the room fully.  He walked over to the only other door, opening it to reveal a young woman, in a silk robe, surrounded by the shattered remains of the vanity. “There’s another one here. What is happening to them?”

“I don’t know,” the Doctor admitted softly. “It’s all exactly the same,” he spoke as he scanned the Sultan and then moved past Rory to scan the young woman laid in the washroom. “What is happening to you all?” He wondered aloud. “So young.” He whispered, reaching down and closing her eyes.

“Doctor, look – she’s cut. Not like the others.” Rory was lifting one of her hands gently, pointing out the criss-crossing lacerations on the back of her hand. “Do you – do you think she broke the mirror? Why would she do that?”

“Why indeed.” The Doctor studied the shards lying about the room and the still corpses on the floor. “We have to go. We have to find River, if she’s here – and whatever you do – avoid the mirrors.”

“Why?” Amy exclaimed with worry, following him out of the room and back into the sitting room where the TARDIS was landed. “What’s wrong with the mirrors?” She picked up her dress as she ran after him, Rory close behind.

“I don’t know but three people are dead and three mirrors are broken, so I’d say just avoiding them in general seems like a plan, wouldn’t you?” He paused by the door, sonicing it and opening it cautiously.

The hall beyond was completely devoid of life. The mahogany walls stretched out before them, lined with the soft glow of yellow sconces. Their feet barely made a whisper against the red carpeting as they crept out into the hall.

“Now. We could go cabin to cabin, likely finding more people like that – but there would be an awful lot of mirrors to contend with. If there was a crisis on a train, where would everyone gather?” The Doctor mused aloud as they peered down the hall quietly.

“I don’t know – the dinner car is always at the center of the train, right? Maybe there?” Rory suggested and the Doctor clapped him on the shoulder once.

“Good a place as any to start, eh Rory? Let’s go then, shall we?” He started moving down the hall, passing  door after door with only the hushed sound of their footfalls accompanying them. They were just moving past a door with a brass plate declaring it cabin 27 when they heard a cry, followed by what sounded like a plasma burst.

The Doctor and Rory moved over to the door quickly and Rory pounded on the wood, before the Doctor shoved him out of the way, sonicing his way inside the cabin. It was a sleeper cabin; two tiny beds lined the walls and there was a small window between them. Despite its size, the Doctor knew it was a luxury cabin, the beds, though small, had marvellous linens on them, and the fact that it had a window at all spoke volumes. It was empty though, and the Doctor observed all of this while running over to the bathroom door, flinging it open.

What he saw almost made his hearts stop all together. Shattered remains of the mirror lay across the vanity and floor – a still smoking scorch mark on the wall behind the mirror a testament to the fact that they had indeed heard a plasma burst. Crumpled on the floor, in an ivory dress, lay a woman, one hand flung out to her side, still gripping her weapon. None of this was what caused his hearts to jump up into his throat in a desperate effort to get free, though. It was the mass of golden curls surrounding the back of her head. His hearts thundered as he shoved his way into the tiny room, heedless of the broken glass everywhere. “No, no, no,no,no – River?”

He fell to his knees, gripping the woman’s shoulders and turning her over until the curls fell away from her face. “Oh no, no – River.” He breathed her name out, his throat suddenly thick. His hands gripped the bare skin of her arms tightly, hauling her up into his chest until he could slip an arm under her.  “No. No. This isn’t – you can’t die here. You don’t die here.” He whispered the words into her hair, his face pressed there tightly as his mind flew back years and years – to a planet that was a library, filled with nothing but carnivorous shadows and a million million books. “Wake up, River. Please. Please wake up.”

He shook her gently and her head lolled back and forth. Rory and Amy stood in the doorway, both wearing identical looks of shock. “Come on River, come on. Wake up!” He shouted the last bit, swallowing heavily as he buried a hand in her hair and closed his eyes, which suddenly felt too hot and too dry and painful to keep open. “This isn’t how it goes.”

“Doctor!” Rory’s startled voice caused the Doctor’s eyes to fly open, and he looked down to see the faintest flutter of her eyelids. “She’s not dead Doctor, she’s not dead! Bring her out here.” Rory demanded, and the Doctor felt his hearts freeze and start hammering against his chest. Adrenaline surged through his body and he slipped one of his arms under her legs, standing quickly and manoeuvring his way out into the tiny cabin. He laid her on the bed gently, brushing a hand over her hair before he got pushed aside by Rory, who leaned over River, pushing her hair back gently before pressing his fingers against her throat. He checked his watch for a moment, and then dropped his hand, pressing the back of it against her forehead while her eyes continued to flutter beneath her lids.

“Her pulse is good. Bit weak and thready but it’s good, but she’s cold. Almost clammy, and her colour is- well.” He paused because it was obvious to everyone in the room that she looked terrible. There was a sheen to her brow and her skin was so pale it almost had a greenish tinge to it.

“May I?” The Doctor waved a hand and Rory stepped back quickly.

“Of course, sorry. There’s not much I can do anyway.” Rory waved his hands and the Doctor slid past him, settling on the edge of the bed, near her hip. He picked up her hand gently in his own, and he stroked it lightly. “She needs blankets. And I could really use my bag – Doctor, do you think it’s safe enough for me to go back to the TARDIS?”

“Yeah – I can change. “ Amy whispered from beside him, her face pale as she stared down at River. “Should we get anything else?”

“Here, you’ll need the key to get in. Be quick about it – and whatever you do, whatever you hear – do not go in any rooms. Down the hall, in the TARDIS, and back, do you understand me?” The Doctor pulled his key out of his pocket, handing it over to Amy who nodded solemnly.

“We promise, Doctor. No wandering off. Hall, TARDIS, back here.” Amy stepped over closer to him, squeezing his shoulder gently. “I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s River – she has to be fine.” The Doctor raised his hand, covering Amy’s and squeezing as he sighed.

“Run along Ponds.  And hurry.” He stressed once more, and Amy and Rory nodded, before hurrying out of the room. Once they’d gone the Doctor turned his attention to River once more. She looked so pale, and drawn. He leaned down, his face close to hers; close enough that he could feel the puff of her quick breaths against the skin of his cheek. He moved down further, his head pressing against her chest as he listened to her heartbeat. It was sluggish, but reassuringly seemed to be strengthening as he listened.

Suddenly tension flooded her frame and she let out an almighty gasp, her body straightening before she flew into a sitting position, her breathing erratic. She looked around wildly and he sat up, holding his hands out. “River – River you’re fine, you’re okay.” She fastened her gaze onto him, and shockingly her entire face just crumpled before his eyes.

“Doctor?” She sounded hesitant, unsure and he nodded once, suddenly finding himself holding an armful of River Song, her face pressed into his collar and her frame shaking like a leaf in the wind. He sat awkwardly for a moment, before he brought his arms around her, patting her back gently.

“Shhh, it’s okay. You’re okay.” Her hands clutched at his back and he could feel her tears, hot against his neck. He swallowed, his arms wrapping around her more securely as he pressed his palms against her back. “River – I thought you were-” His voice hitched and he cleared his throat, and noticed that she seemed to be shaking less now. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”

She pulled back, her hands balling into fists she used to scrub at her face. “I’m sorry – I shouldn’t have – oh my God, you’re actually here. I’m sorry – I should have – hello sweetie.” She spoke in a rush and he frowned at her usual greeting, tacked onto the end of her babbling.

Not for the first time, he wondered at her constant and consistent use of the phrase. Spoilers he understood – it was a scapegoat of an answer in order to adhere to the rules of their timey-wimey whatever it was they had going on. His hearts knew though – this was a relationship, in progress. And he knew – suspected so strongly from her smug yes in Amy’s garden not even two hours ago, she was married. And she was also in love with him. It didn’t take a genius to work the rest out.

But ‘hello sweetie’ she said like it was more than a greeting, it was a message, and he didn’t understand what that message was, at all. He furrowed his brow, gripping her shoulders tightly. “Of course I’m here. Course I am. How are you feeling? I don’t know what happened but Rory said your heart took a shock. He’s run back to the TARDIS with Amy to fetch some things.”

River’s hand flew to her chest, mid-point and she laid it here, her face a study of concentration. She looked up at him fearfully, her hand moving over to the right and rubbing her chest absent-mindedly. “The mirrors!” She gasped suddenly. “You have to tell them – warn them. Stay away from the mirrors.”

“I know, I mean – we figured at least that much out. They’ll be fine. You’ve met them before then, yeah?” He glanced at her face, still quite close to his and her eyes widened before she closed them and swallowed.

“I’m doing everything wrong tonight, aren’t I? What have we done for you?” She asked in a low voice with her hand still pressed to her chest.

“Just did the Pandorica.” He explained, and she nodded.

“Okay – I’ve done that one too. When did you do it?” She opened her eyes, and he found himself studying her face. Her grey eyes were clouded with pain and her other hand was still wrapped around his lapel.

“Three, maybe four hours ago?”

“Oh god, no – longer for me.” She spoke in a whisper and he frowned in confusion. Their timelines were a bit of a tangle.

“Byzantium, have you done that yet?” She stiffened in his arms and shook her head, her curls bouncing across her shoulders.

“No, not yet – I-” She flattened the hand gripping his lapel, and smoothed it down before she scooted backwards a bit. “You don’t know who I am yet. Still. This isn’t-”

“Okay, I’ve got my bag, Doctor, how’s she- oh River! You’re awake. Hello.” Rory came into the room without knocking, with Amy right behind him and they slide to a halt as Rory waved awkwardly.

“Rory, Amy. I’m so glad you’re both okay.” River spoke softly and Amy hurried over to the bed with an armful of blankets that she proceeded to shake out and lay over River’s legs on the bed. Once she finished, Amy pushed past the Doctor, giving River a tight hug.

“River – you gave us quite the scare you know.” River looked startled, her arms coming up automatically as she returned Amy’s hug, and the Doctor saw the most inexplicable look of sadness cross her face. Amy stepped back, sitting herself on the empty bed and Rory moved in behind her, already opening his medical bag and pulling out various things.

“You’re lucky you know – don’t know how you survived that – everyone else we found is dead.” He explained gently as he strapped a cuff around her arm and went about measuring her blood pressure.

“I don’t know...” River spoke weakly, her skin growing paler and Rory shushed her with a frown.

“Pressure’s low. And your heart rate is better but still not as good as I’d like it to be.” He shoved his things back in his bag and joined Amy on the other bed with a frown.  “You need to rest.”

River shook her head, her hand still rubbing over her sternum like she was nursing an old wound. “We can’t – we have to – there’s over four hundred people aboard this train.” She explained.

“Yes. And why are you one of them? Found a guard dead when we first got here, he’d clearly met you. Hallucinogenic lipstick – rather a favourite of yours isn’t it?” The Doctor stared at her intently and she shifted uncomfortably before tossing her hair over her shoulder and attempting a smile.

“Jealous, sweetie?” She questioned, but her tone was weaker than it should have been and he felt suddenly reminded of the facts at hand. She’d almost died.

“Always.” He shot back and she managed a genuine smile, albeit a small one, at that. The Doctor adjusted his lapels unnecessarily, feeling inordinately proud of himself. “Now stop avoiding the question.”

“I needed a ride.” She shrugged delicately and he looked at her with disbelief. “What? I did!”

“You couldn’t call me?” He spoke incredulously. “Spaceship that is also a time machine River, come on!”

“Orient Express in space, Doctor. I can’t just be calling you every time I need to get somewhere – I’d miss all the fun.” She mumbled, glancing down at her hands, which were twisting nervously in her lap. She looked up with a toss of her magnificent hair. “Besides, I’m on a sanctioned outing. Let a girl enjoy herself, hmm?”

“Wait sanctioned outing? Sanctioned by whom?” Rory broke in and River and the Doctor turned their heads toward him, acknowledging the Ponds presence with surprise.

“The clerics. My – they’ve explained to you that I’m serving a prison sentence yes? Occasionally the clerics will give me missions – earn time for my pardon. Of course sometimes it just adds time to my sentence – depending on the outcome. I’m rather hoping this one will go well.” She shot an inquisitive glance at the Doctor who shrugged mutely.

“So, judging by your outfit – my you do like to play dress-up don’t you, Dr. Song? Naughty girl. – I’m assuming there is no goddess loose on this train?” The Doctor addressed River, who looked over at him with a saucy grin – so much like her usual one that he felt the pressure in his chest ease slightly. Her colour seemed to be coming back too.

“You have no idea, Doctor.” She teased him gently. “Spoilers.” This was followed by a wink and he flushed, shifting on the bed, suddenly uncomfortable. “And you’re one to talk – look at you. Sitting there in a tuxedo with tails. All that’s missing is the top hat and cane.” She smirked and shifted forward with a deep breath. Her movements were still laborious however, and the Doctor knew – she was using words to distract them all from her pain.

“Left my hat on the TARDIS. A cane though – might like a cane. Could do properly with a cane – I should get one.” He mused and she rolled her eyes with a reluctant smile curling around the corner of her mouth.

“Regardless, no – there is no goddess on board. Well,” she hedged, sitting straighter and her chest pushing outward, which forced her breasts up and against her remarkably low neckline, which in turn caused the Doctor’s heart rates to double as he flushed and looked to his right. Amy looked back at him, arms crossed over her chest and one eyebrow arched in such a way that let him know she had seenexactly where he’d been looking. “Not an Egyptian one, at any rate.” River continued, seemingly not noticing anything amiss.

“You couldn’t purchase a ticket like a normal person, could you?” The Doctor looked back over at River who stared at him with a small smile and shrugged.

“Normal’s boring. And besides, I get so little fun as it is.”

“So, uh kissing loads of people until they believe you’re a goddess-” Rory began and River looked over at him with a bright smile. “-that’sfun?”

“Well depends on the person I’m kissing.” River hedged and the Doctor shot a glare in her direction. “Oh stop it, sweetie, I’m only teasing. It’s just business. And it’s fun because how often do I get to playact like this? Be Isis.”

“Oh excellent choice you know – one of my favourites!” The Doctor exclaimed and River nodded in agreement. “So many of them were vengeful and no fun at all at a party, let me tell you. Isis though – fantastic. Completely devoted of course,”

“To her husband.” River finished softly for him, and he met her gaze for a still moment. “She’s always been my favourite, too.” River admitted and he swallowed heavily.

“Right so – as important as flirting is, you two – shouldn’t we maybe figure out what the hell is happening on this train before everybody dies?” Amy spoke dryly and the Doctor tore his gaze from River with a startled glance in Amelia’s direction.

“Quite right – sorry, sorry. River, can you tell us what happened?”

“I honestly don’t know. We were about a day out from Starship France-”

“Oh space Paris! One of my favourites, we should go sometime!” He exclaimed to the Ponds who glared at him. “Right, right – sorry. Go on.”

He glanced back at River who wasn't glaring at him; in fact she was looking at him with a soft, indulgent smile. It made him feel all wobbly on the inside, and he shifted on the bed again, his hand brushing against her hip by accident. He flushed and snatched his hand back, and River stared at him for a moment before continuing her story.

“Bodies kept getting discovered. Always the same – no marks, no cause of death – just a person who looked liked they’d dropped dead and a shattered mirror.” She paused, biting her lip as she glanced around the room. “They blamed me, naturally. I tried to warn them – obviously there was a link between the mirrors and the murders, but they refused to listen. I was confined to quarters two days ago.”

“Wait but my phone call said she was – you were, sorry – loose. Two days?!” The Doctor exclaimed and River arched a brow at him.

“Late again, dear?”  Her tone was serious though and he glanced down at the floor in shame. River reached a hand out, stroking the sleeve of his coat gently. “You’re here now – that’s what matters, my love.”

“So wait – if you knew the mirrors were dangerous, why were you in there in the first place?” Rory asked in a confused tone and River sighed, dropping her hand. The Doctor glanced down, missing the weight of it.

“I covered the mirror when I first was confined to quarters. And normally I’d have broken back out in a second, but there were three guards posted at my door – all with orders to shoot to kill. It was... strange. Like the more time that passed, the more I felt the urge to just go... look. It was like a whisper in my mind, and I resisted it for as long as I could...” she shrugged delicately and the Doctor frowned.

“Psychic attack maybe?” He pondered aloud. “What happened when you looked?”

River’s whole face just shut down, all warmth seeping out of it as her eyes grew haunted. “I saw myself.” She whispered, and the Doctor was shocked to see a film of tears in her eyes. He felt a sudden urge to comfort her, and he inched closer to her on the bed, his hand reaching for hers. He squeezed gently and she looked up at him with a sad smile.

“Just you?”

“Just me.” She nodded. “But it wasn’t me. I – I mean it – was standing there with my face and it said-” She broke off suddenly, pain crossing her face and her hand held his even tighter. “It said horrible things. Things that I’ve only ever – it shouldn’t have known the things it said. But it did.”

“What exactly did it say, River? I know it’s painful but perhaps there’s some clue in there. Some sort of hint as to why you lived and all the others died.” Her hand pulled from his but he held fast, refusing to allow her to let go.

“I can’t tell you. I can’t.  Please don’t make me – it wasn’t anything important in that way. And besides which, spoilers Doctor dear. It – what it did was prey on every weak thought I’ve ever had. It – it made me hate myself.” Her voice thickened and she stopped for a moment, taking a deep breath. 

“I don’t know how long I stood there, listening. But I couldn’t tear myself away because it was all the truth. All of it. Every terrible thing imaginable – everything I’ve ever done, or thought or – I wanted to die.” She had to stop then, her voice too thick and the Doctor moved closer, pulling her into a hug. Hugs with River were – well, normally things he’d avoided before now. She was a big scary, unknown thing in his life. And somehow the concept of hugs, or any type of contact at all with River seemed like more. More dangerous, more intimate, just more.  But he’d thought she was dead earlier – time could be re-written and no one knew that better than he did – and now hugs didn’t seem like a scary thing, but something he needed to do. Touch her. Reassure himself that she was fine.

He’d not even realized how much he cared about the woman before him until faced with the thought of her disappearing. Somehow she’d just crept in without him even realizing it. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell us.” He shushed her, and she leaned into his embrace, turning an embarrassed face into his shoulder. He knew it was probably killing her to show this much vulnerability now, with everyone here. He couldn’t help but wonder though – what had she seen?

“Definitely psychic then – that narrows it down.”  He muttered into her hair and glanced over at the Ponds who were watching, Amy with a look of sympathy and Rory just looking uncomfortable.

“And the mirrors – Doctor you know what this means.” River spoke softly and he heaved a sigh.

“Yeah, I do.” He admitted in a whisper.  “Aynaiblis.” His voice was serious and River nodded in agreement. “And we’re all in a very lot of trouble.”