Written for the likes/dislikes meme. cidercupcakes requested The Doctor and River Tam.
Title: Now Selfless Power
Fandoms: Doctor Who/Firefly
Characters: The Doctor & River Tam
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: On I drove under the curse or blessing of no love.
Notes: Set post-Serenity
The Doctor met River in a backwater bar on New Hall, one of those fancy watering holes where everybody pretended they were standing on marble instead of dirt.
He'd meant to have a simple drink, a descendant of cactus juice that evolved in the opposite direction of tequila, and instead he found a young woman scratching equations on the back wall of the room. She used a glass shard, remnants of a bottle she had, as far as the Doctor could tell, recently broken over the head of a ruffian wearing altogether too many coats.
He stood behind her, out of an easy arm's reach, and frowned. "Sigma twelve doesn't make any sense."
Her glance barely flickered over him before she returned to her writing. "You're coming from the wrong side," she said. "Wait a minute and you'll see."
It only took him forty seconds, but otherwise, she was right.
He followed her out the back door, because she was a bright human female, and the universe was, in his experience, rather harsh on bright human females. Besides, he had finished his drink, and theoretical mathematics made better conversation than a flailing fist to the chin.
"They do that sometimes," she explained as she walked. "My brother says it's blowing off steam, but he's wrong."
"They do seem rather aggressive," the Doctor mused. "I take it your brother is one of the brawlers?"
She cast a wry glance at him. "No. He's on the ship."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "What, you mean up there?" He pointed to the sky, where shuttles had been tracking across at intervals, red and orange streaking quick.
"On Serenity," she clarified. "Epsilon Indi isn't habitable yet."
He blinked, then followed the line of his gesture to the very star she had named. "Oh. No, it isn't. Not for a few centuries."
She moved ahead. "It's only a matter of time."
Ahead of them, shards of light spilled across the shadows, and music thrummed just below a human being's capability to hear. As he watched, she bent her knees and leapt, coming to earth again when the beat finally became audible.
Dancers stumbled out of the building. It wasn't anything like a drunken discotheque, but instead, an overflow of energy. He watched the mass of people shift, until they resolved into patterns, ribbons of movement weaving like laughter into the night.
In the midst of them, River twirled, like a hydrogen atom, attaching herself to dyads and triads, spinning round and transforming them before she split away.
A woman clutched at his wrist, and her partner slung an arm around the Doctor's hips. He grinned at them, shook his head. He kept following River, and kept his eyes on the ground, tracking rubber soles and leather soles and spiked soles.
Her feet were bare, and behind his eyes, the possibilities of torn flesh, shattered phalanges shuffled past.
"It doesn't help to worry," she announced.
He didn't startle--he never startled, anymore--but he turned more quickly than he intended.
"You can't stop it from happening," she said. "It will happen whether you're here or not."
He shifted his feet, his jacket feeling tight against his shoulders. "What will?"
"The inevitable." She reached out, touched his hand as if it were sugar spun into glass. "Sometimes it happens because you're there, but you can't disappear."
He drew back. "What use is there in considering it, then?"
"No use. It's what people do." She paused, and her brow furrowed for a single moment. "However you define people."
The Doctor walked around her, five steps, six and seven. "How do you do that?" he wondered aloud. He wished he could see inside her. "What's ticking in there?"
"Tick. Tick. Tick." Her laugh, when it came, was all imitation. "Boom."
His laugh wasn't any truer than hers. "That's a bit morbid, isn't it?"
She tilted her head at him, warm humanity draining from her face like blood. "Everyone dies, someday."
He stared at her, and his teeth clenched behind his lips.
"Someday." She leaned toward him, as if she had a secret to share. "Even you."
A/N: Title and summary adapted from En Route by James Merrill. Link courtesy of breathe_poetry.
And, in the order presented: Her mathematical prowess, her knowledge of the universe, her grace, her bare feet, her perception, and her mortality.