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Oct. 29th, 2012

Liars and Cowards

Someone You'd Admire

Part II: Liars and Cowards

You've got at least 30 kg on her and a blaster in your hand. She's got knowledge she shouldn't and an obvious death wish. It's a bit of a draw, really.



"There's three reasons why you won't shoot me." She holds up a hand lazily and begins counting off on her fingers. "One, I'm unarmed. You may be a lot of things, but you'd never shoot someone unarmed point-blank. You're not nearly as much of a cold-hearted killer as you'd like to me to think you are. Two, you don't want the sound of the blast tipping anyone off. And for good reason, they are under orders to take you alive or dead, which I'm sure you already knew."

Then she leans forward slightly and holds out a third finger. Her suddenly intense gaze captures your attention in a way that reminds you of something you can't quite remember. Try as you might, you can't make anything of it beyond the obvious fact that she wants you to listen.

"Thirdly, and certainly most importantly, there's something inside you telling you not to. You don't know what it is, just that there's this nagging little feeling inside your brain, whispering 'I know her, I KNOW her.' It's impossible, but there it is." She takes a step back and puts her hand down, breaking the spell.

You're inclined to think this is complete rubbish. She knows this, and with a lazy grin she drawls, "You're one of the very few people who could sense that, River, dear."

Somehow or another your blaster is aimed at her head, finger tense on the trigger. Her grin doesn't fade, but you can see her left hand sneak over to the end of her braid. Good. She notices you noticing, and quickly stops.

"They're on their way up, by the way," she continues. "And before you ask, no, I have nothing to do with them. Obviously." She gestures to her bright orange wool coat. "Do I look like the U.S. military? Can't even do the accent properly."

You quickly size her up. She's small, too small, and the twinkle in her eyes is far too unruly to ever belong to someone with military training. They way she's acting with a gun in her face, though. That gives you pause.

The girl correctly interprets your brief pause. "No, seriously. I'm not with them. I just want a little chat. We've got time. They do know you're up here, but luckily for both of us you chose to lead the chase into an unfinished building. The lift's not working yet, and they're on the stairs. Sixty flights of stairs. Can you imagine it?"

You can imagine it. You've just done it in heels.

"Oh, and don't worry about them. Everything I'm going to tell you they already know, and anyway, what they know hardly matters at this point." She's talking about the Silence. Who the hell is this girl?

"Who the hell are you?"

"Doesn't matter. I want something."

"What?"

"You were just at a funeral of sorts. A friend died. You told them to burn the body, which was quite correct of you, but before that happened, you took something off the body."

She takes a steadying breath and continues in a brisk, salesman-like tone, "You're going to meet up with your friend very soon, and I think, and as I'm sure you'll agree, that having two versions of the same sonic screwdriver in one place is inherently temporally unstable. It's also not the type of thing he's likely to miss, seeing as you've got it in your back pocket," she says, with a wicked grin and a crooked eyebrow, again reminding you of something you don't quite remember.

"And you want me to give it to you?" You shake your blaster slightly, reminding the girl that she's not exactly in the state to be making requests. You've taken your finger off the trigger, though.

"Ideally, yes." The tone of your voice doesn't seem to have fazed her. Then again, neither does the blaster.

"No. No, I'm not giving it to you," you say, scoffing at her. That's patently ridiculous.

"River," she says with a slight sigh, as if she knew that it wasn't going to be simple but is thoroughly annoyed nonetheless, "please just give me the screwdriver."

It sounds as though it pains her to say the word 'please'. You take a slight joy in that.

"I really don't want to have to take it from you." She pauses. "But I will."

You give her an incredulous look and she raises an eyebrow in challenge. Then you see it. She's standing in a relaxed stance, and the coat covered most of it up, but underneath that every line of her wiry little body is tensed. You were wrong. She's a soldier through and through.

Every instinct, human or otherwise, is telling you to stop and analyze the situation. You've got at least 30 kg on her. You've also got the blaster. Can't forget the blaster. She's got knowledge she shouldn't, a hell of a poker face, and an obvious death wish. It's a bit of a draw, really.

Something rustles the plastic sheeting behind you. You whirl around, ready to fire.

Nothing.

It was nothing.

The girl's face is white, and she's leaning against the half-finished door frame. She looks away from the middle distance behind your head and straightens up, a defiant look in her eye. It's like she's daring you to chastise her weakness. Which, of course, you do.

"Everything all right?" you ask her brusquely. Her eyes dart to meet yours, and you see something familiar in them. You're not quite willing to think about who it is she reminds you of.

"Fine," she says, and her hand creeps up again to play with the end of her braid. It's a rather obvious little nervous habit, and you wonder why she seems to be unable to control it. Unless she doesn't want to. Of course, it could be a ruse, an affectation designed to throw you off, designed to make you underestimate her. Everything you know about this girl so far suggests that's well within her abilities. You're not quite sure about that, though. She's still getting over the worst of her shock. Her face still has that deathly pallor, and while she doesn't look any physically weaker than she was a few seconds ago, she's shaking. You have no idea what could have scared her that badly.

She notices you watching her and scowls. "Problem?"

Her scowl reminds you a bit of yourself. That affects you more than you'd like. She was right. All these years, and somehow you're not a killer anymore. Doesn't mean you're going to take her home and give her a cup of tea.

"Sure you still want a fight?" It's not even like you have a home to take her to. You wouldn't do it anyway. You're not cut out to be a mother, and the only person you'd ever want to do it with is...yeah. It's been three months of running, and you still haven't stopped to think about what happened in Utah. This is why you don't think about your life.

The scared little girl is mostly gone, but you can still see vestiges of it in her eyes when she asks you with an impatient grumble, "How'd you mean?"

"I mean you don't look like you're quite able to hurt anyone at the moment." Or at all, really, but you'd be an idiot to trust appearances. She's far too good at the posturing to be simply a scared little girl. Your senses are screaming at you to stop provoking her into attack, but you're not sure who you're trying to protect.

"I wouldn't. Hurt you, that is." The words, although honest, have a bit of bitterness laced through them.

"We're really running out of time here," she says. The girl holds out her hand. Just like that, the tense standoff resumes itself, you with your blaster in hand, her with her deceptively calm stance and lazy grin. "River. Give me the screwdriver."

"Who are you?" You're not giving her the screwdriver, but you're firmly resolved to get answers out of this girl.

"Give me the screwdriver." She's getting impatient. Then again, so are you.

"Who are you?"

"For the love of god, River, just GIVE ME MY SCREWDRIVER!" The girl roars.

All the observations you've been making this whole time fly out of your head, replaced with a sudden jerking sensation, like on a wildly rocking boat. Everything that had been bothering you about this girl drifts slowly away as you view it in context. Of course. That makes sense. Who else could it be? Still, you've never met this version before, and that simultaneously excites you and scares you.

The girl(could she be him?) is watching you with a Cheshire-cat grin. The slip was calculated, you realize. That doesn't make it any more or less legitimate in your eyes. That's exactly the sort of thing he'd do. For a mysterious time traveling alien with no name, he always did like shrouding himself in mystery.

She smiles tensely at your scrutiny. Slowly you lower your blaster, eyes fixed on her, daring her to say something, to prove it isn't true. As if to prove her point, her small tense smile remains fixed on her face as she looks into your eyes with the same intense gaze you've seen a million times before. You've dreamed about that look. It's not filled with the love you'd want, but it's the one you've seen, the one you're familiar with. It's his.

You continue staring into her eyes, unable to look away, even as your blaster moves to its holster and your hand moves to your back pocket. When that happens, you wait for her reaction. There's no widening of the eyes, no grin of triumph, which is what you'd expect if she wasn't who she says she is. All that happens is that she keeps her eyes locked onto yours, almost as if she's begging you to understand something. You understand completely. Gingerly, you hold out the screwdriver.

Her eyes snap down to the screwdriver, and her fringe covers her eyes just so. You were hoping for a glimpse into what she might be thinking. In retrospect, though, that's ridiculous. When have you ever been able to tell what's on his mind? Her hand reaches for it slowly, and you unclasp your fist so she can take it from your hand.

"You really are him?" You ask, as she gazes at the screwdriver resting in both her hands like a sacred relic.

She slowly lifts her head to look up at you. You've always thought of yourself as the one who's seen him at his worst, seen him at his best. Never have you seen him look so broken, so lost. This is different. This is bad.

With unshed tears in her wild eyes, she says to you, "For all intents and purposes."

"Where are you going?"

"On," she says simply.

"Can I come?" That comes out sounding a lot more vulnerable than you intended.

"Answer me this. Have you ever seen me before?" You both know the answer. There's no need to say it aloud. "Then no."

"Back to front," you say softly. You've heard it many times before, and you'll say it many times in the future. That doesn't stop you from cursing it.

"Yes. Back to front," she repeats. You may not know what's in your future, but you know you've given him your forever. Why is it he can't, or won't? For the first time in a long time, you're angry at something larger than the two of you.

You can hear the sound of feet on the stairs. They're moving fast. You've got less than seconds left.

"I'm leaving now," she states.

"Wait." You can't let him leave like this.

Before she can turn to go, you say your last. "I'm sorry!"

"Yeah." It's a breath, a tired and resigned affirmation. She looks up at you, and you see everything that neither of you have ever said, all the 'sorrys' and the 'I forgive yous' and the 'I love yous'. It's a different 'sorry' this time, a different 'I forgive you', a different 'I love you', but it's really all right. It makes sense in a way. Both of you are tired of apologizing.

She's gone. Again. But he'll be back soon. He's always lying.

The door opens, and you get ready to jump.