She arrives at Mos Eisley with the intention of deviling a handsome space pirate of a mutual acquaintance, but as she was distracted by evading prison guards while entering coordinates into her vortex manipulator, she arrives fifty years before she meant to. She's in the process of changing coordinates when she notices the surprising but familiar figure of Loki slumped over one end of the bar, armor tarnished, hair matted, skin paler than she's ever seen it.
Time travel. Full of surprises, really, though the uninitiated would no doubt expect it to be different, more predictable. But as she has often been told, time can be rewritten, and the past is often just as shocking as the future. All she knows now is that some day, if all goes as it already has, his future holds a series of terrible decisions followed by a lengthy stay in prison.
In short: she sympathizes.
Melody Pond understands a good deal more of Loki Laufeyson than she might be entirely comfortable with, if she's honest, which she isn't. The Doctor lies, after all, and no one knows that like Doctor River Song, who is a scourge of the academic universe and ruler of several terrified, overawed graduate students, just as much as she is River Song, professional troublemaker, and one of these days, though the twisted, broken man in front of her doesn't know it yet, she will be River Song, not-exactly-a-time-lady, traveling the universe with the god of mischief as her companion.
Essentially, the universe is doomed.
Well, it isn't, not really, but it'll feel like it is. In retrospect, she really oughtn't have let him get away with the Y2K panic, though she stands behind her decision to interfere with the construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. That they happened to save the world from an alien invasion while they were doing it is, of course, entirely coincidental; she told him a long time ago that Rule 741 was never knowingly use your powers for good, just for a laugh.
Still, rules aside, one of these days they're going to cause an awful lot of trouble, and accidentally do each other an awful lot of good. Might as well get to it.
She saunters up to the bar, planting herself half a metre away from where he's clearly engaged in a rather epic fit of sulking. The smile will not chase itself from her lips, and the gruff, unkempt bartender gives her a skeptical eye when he asks what she'll be having.
"I'll have a Frost Giant," she says, "shaken, not stirred."
Loki doesn't move, but she knows him well enough to know that she has his full attention; she carries on as though she hasn't a care in the world, which, to be fair, she doesn't, presently.
The bartender narrows his eyes at her. "What the Hutt's in that?
She gives him a bright smile as she rattles off a list of ingredients which she presumes will make a suitable beverage. "Two parts Corellian rum, one part Gralish liqueur, Blue Tonic, and a splash of Twi'lek liquor. Delicious."
"Never heard of it," says the bartender, shaking his head. "What's it supposed to look like?"
"Very blue," she says, drawing the word out like she's drawing a circle around it with her voice. "And cold. I don't recommend having more than one. They're awfully sneaky."
There, that's done it: she can see Loki's shoulders stiffen. The bartender looks between the two of them, obviously calculating how much damage they can cause to his establishment; after a moment, he shakes his head and shuffles away, pushing a full cup of something alcoholic at River and naming a price.
She sips at her drink for a moment, nose curling up at the strength of it, before she bothers to turn her attention back to her future friend. "Oh, I didn't mean you, sweetie. Not yet, anyway. Though you do look a bit shaken," she says, pursing her lips as she brings her cup up for another taste, peering at him over the rim of the cup with amused eyes. "Doctor River Song, at your-- well, never at your service, not really, but you'll figure all of that out eventually. Time travel! Always meeting people in the wrong order."
"Excuse me," he growls. "You seem to have mistaken me for someone who would care to associate with mortals."
She only laughs, because she knows it will really get right under his skin, every bit as much as feeling like someone knows something he doesn't. In his recent memory, she supposes, that's been something of a trial, so she tries to appear slightly more sympathetic while she looks him over. "Early days for you, is it?"
Her question meets with no response whatsoever, but she knows a precursor to a fight when she sees one, and the way his fingers are curled up into his palm, she's estimating that she has about ten seconds before she'll be owing the bartender a new wall.
She turns to face him, the bar nestled against her side. Her gun rests comfortably against her hip, the barrel tapping against the bar when she shifts her weight, and when his hand flattens against the bar, she knows her message has been received.
"You do keep your secrets, that's certain," she says, reaching for her drink with a forced casualness that she doesn't care if he notices. He raises an eyebrow. "You didn't mention we'd met, years from now."
"I can't imagine what else I'm keeping from you," he says, and she has to give him some credit, it does sound properly menacing.
She really should take the hint; she's fully aware what he's capable of, and what he'll have done by the time they run into each other again, many long years from now. But running from danger has hardly ever been her preferred course of action, so she settles comfortably against the bar.
"Goodness, it is early days for you," she murmurs. "Where have you come from? Surely you haven't just come from Asgard."
"Who are you," he hisses.
"I would have thought that was obvious, dear," she says calmly. "I'm from your future. Believe it or not, there will come a day when you will trust me completely."
She doesn't get to see him speechless very often; he does usually live up to his name. It's amusing to watch him try to find something suitably cutting to say while his head is spinning with all the unknowns she represents.
"You should leave the lying to those of us who are more skilled at it," he says finally. "What would I ever want to do with you?"
"A little mischief, a little mayhem," she says, waving her hand. "You'd be surprised. Pleasantly. This isn't the sort of surprise where you discover you've been borrowed from your family's greatest enemy."
The dense material of her cup suddenly begins to melt in her hand, merging with the alcohols remaining inside; she has to let it drop to the dingy bar floor to avoid being burned.
"For that, you owe me a drink," she says.
"I owe you nothing," he snaps. "And you do not know me, nor do you have any idea what it is to be--"
"Kidnapped for the purpose of being raised as a political tool? No, of course, I'm sure that I wouldn't know anything about that at all," River says flatly. "They love you, which ought to mean something."
"Oh, it ought to," he says bitterly. On the floor, the remains of her cup are smoking.
She rolls her eyes. "Heavens above, I hope I wasn't this sulky, when it was me. I like to think I pulled off psychopathic megalomania with a bit more panache, but I suppose we all made mistakes, in our youth."
"You're not as charming as you try to be," he growls.
"You're not as intimidating as you try to be," she parries. She pushes up her sleeve, activating the vortex manipulator. "Well, I won't say this has been entirely pleasant."
"Am I supposed to ask you where you're going, as though I care? Away from me is perfectly suitable."
"You needn't, but if you're curious: the thirty-second century, I think," she says, cheerfully zipping up her jacket. "Come along, if you like."
He looks at her with an incredulous condescension that she imagines he has heretofore reserved for his brother. "Why would I do that?"
"Because," she says, leaning forward, a gravity to her voice that she rarely allows, "time can be rewritten."
She waits and watches, knowing even as she does how this will play out. The briefest moment of indecision crosses his face, and she hopes, but it passes in an instant, and she shakes her head and sighs.
"What else were you going to do, anyway, run off and make some sort of nefarious deal with one of the universe's many evil masterminds?" River cheats her eyes across the bar to a pair of Chitauri, Thanos's sycophants, if she remembers correctly, and then looks back at Loki, an old heavy sadness in her smile that she can feel weighing on her lips. "Though you have to do what you think is best, I suppose."
"I don't need your assistance," he snaps.
"Oh, you really do," she sighs. "But I'm willing to wait until you're ready to admit it."
"I imagine you'll run out of time before that happens," he says, lifting his own glass in a mock toast, "so please, by all means, wear out your pathetic days with waiting."
"Rule 408," she says, clearing her throat.
"Time is not the boss of you," she elaborates. "Rule 408."
He narrows his eyes at her. "408? Bit out of order, don't you think?"
"That's me all over, dear," she says, tapping at the screen of the vortex manipulator. "Order is so dreadfully boring."
"You have, at minimum, four-hundred and eight personal rules," he scoffs. "Forgive me if I think that might sound suspiciously like someone who values order."
She finishes punching in numbers and looks up at him, the curve of her smile slowly drawing out like the curve of a scimitar, smooth and sharp, she is pleased to note that he leans back, albeit only a few microns. "That would sound like wisdom, darling, but there's one small problem: good men don't need rules," she says, stepping back and flipping some credits onto the counter. "When you decide you'd like to find out why I have so many, I'll be around. Look me up in a few centuries."
In a flash, she's gone; the fifty-fourth century appears around her, the familiar walls of her office at Luna a comforting balm.
She had never intended to go to the thirty-second, of course. She may not run from danger, but she knows better than to invite it to her doorstep. A stack of papers awaits her, along with a pile of research projects from her graduate assistants; she's halfway through a careful accounting of the complicated matrimonial practises of the citizens of Alfava Metraxi when there's a knock at the door.
"There you are," says a familiar voice, and she looks up to find that this Loki, at least, is not the bitter fool she left. "There was a commotion of sorts in staff meeting. You missed a very entertaining afternoon."
"I'm sure you can repeat the experiment as well as the commotion," she says, raising a knowing eyebrow. "Who did you blame for this one?"
"I can hardly help it if trouble tends to follow Miles Vorkosigan," Loki says, studying his hands as though he hasn't a care in the worlds, and she laughs out of relief as much as anything else.
Time hardly heals all wounds, and no one knows that like a time traveller. Still, there's rather a lot to be said for time, especially in his case.
"You look much more yourself than you did when I saw you last," she drawls, and he does not apologise, not that she expected him to.
"I see," he says, a hint of a smile on his lips. "And do I owe you a drink, Doctor Song?"
"You certainly do," she says.
It is, predictably, blue and frozen, with two parts Corellian rum, one part Gralish liqueur, Blue Tonic, and a splash of Twi'lek liquor. This one, fortunately, does not melt.