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 “Why are you looking for a doctor? Are you sick?” Ryan asks as her two newest humans follow dutifully behind.

 

The police woman, Yas, is more skeptical, a hint of worry in her tone as she mutters under her breath. “Well she did just say she was Scottish a moment ago...”

 

“I was Scottish,” this new voice quips. “That’s why my clothes don’t fit. What am I now?”

 

She spins back around, blonde hair whipping at her cheeks. The couple beside her merely stares, eyes wide and mouths agape as Ryan stutters out, “You mean.. you don’t know where you’re from?”

 

“Course I do,” a decidedly English voice blurts out. “Probably. Just not my accent.” A frown creases her forehead as she continues on her way through the train car. “Am I northern? Been a while since I was northern.”

 

“You may be concussed,” Yas protests as they come to a stop in front of a jammed door.

 

An emergency exit lever sits off to the side, and slender fingers wrap around it, giving a hard tug as she groans out, “No, no. I’m fine. Fit as a fiddle. ”

 

The lever has no interest in budging and it takes an ungraceful yank or two before the stubborn mechanism finally gives way. The sudden jolt sends her reeling, and these legs, shorter than the ones she's used to, fail to compensate, sending her stumbling back into the couple. Yas grunts as they collide, but this body is on its feet again before the other woman has time to question or complain. This new body is spry. Short but spry. Excellent. She can work with that. She turns back to the two, giving an awkward but accomplished laugh as the door beside them slides open.

 

“Sorry, brand new body. Still breaking it in.” A bright, beaming smile spreads across her lips, and this face must be more charming than the last because the pair offers no protests as they stare back at her in blank disbelief.

 

A loud crack of thunder ripples through the train, shattering the silence as it echoes off metal walls. The train doesn’t rock, but the air is disturbed, the atoms buzzing around newly-compacted space. Goosebumps born of electrical current make the hairs on her neck stand on end, and the look on Ryan's face makes her stomach drop even before he says-

 

"Who is that?" the man asks in awe. Following his gaze, she turns, these brand new eyes settling on the last thing she ever expected to find.

 

There's a woman standing by the conductor's seat, her back to them as she inspects the control panel. An unnatural smoke clings like an aura around her skin. A mass of reddish hair is piled atop her head, crackles of electricity dancing on the ends of her curls. As the mist around her seems to dissipate into nowhere, it takes the smell of static with it. She's dressed in the most brilliant shade of blue, a glittering ballgown that's daring and tight and entirely out of place. Perfectly-manicured fingers cradle a small device, the hum it emits mingling with the click of her deadly heels as she paces across the metal floor.

 

“Dunno," this new voice sighs in fascination. "Let’s ask.”

 

She takes an ungraceful step forward, nearly tripping on her oversized shoes. Her new friends don't follow her, choosing to stand their ground and bicker instead. She doesn't bother eavesdropping, because it appears this new body has a one-track mind, her eyes unable to tear away from their rather stunning intruder.

 

 “Miss?” she asks, lumbering into the next train car. She's hardly made it over the threshold when the curious woman turns, her profile coming to life in the dim light. She has high cheekbones and a bump in her nose and the chest beneath these oversized clothes tightens and flutters for reasons she can't quite place. For a moment, the world around her is distant and murky, and she feels how her eyes go wide and her clumsy tongue goes limp in her mouth as she exhales the words, “Do I know you?”

 

“If you’re lucky,” the woman quips without sparing a backwards glance. “Or if you’re really unlucky. Now, hold this.”

 

The next thing she knows, she's shaken from her stupor by one of those manicured hands shoving a torch against her sternum. Without thinking, her slender new hands paw at the object, nearly dropping it as she clicks it on and points it toward the panel in which the mysterious woman has taken interest.

 

"What are you looking for?" her northern drawl queries, wide eyed and curious.

 

The other woman never takes her focus off the scanner as she plucks and examines the inner workings of the train. "A coincidence."

 

"Why?" she asks, her eyes held hostage by the curl of red lips.

 

"Because you should never, ever trust them." The woman before her smiles, and the crease in this brand new brow softens in a way that's almost familiar, which is odd, considering she's still breaking it in. The sound of her new friends' voices float to her ears. They're bickering about what to do. The girl, Yas, is considering calling for backup, and somehow, that seems familiar, too.

 

“I think I knew a police woman once," she breathes aloud, more to her muddled memories than anyone else. But it doesn't stop her new accomplice from answering.

 

“Good for you,” the woman in blue mutters under her breath, focused on her task. And there's something about the way she bites her painted lips, about how synthetic light dances over her skin as she studies the wires and inner workings of the machine.

 

“Who are you?” she asks, and the cadence of it is so much softer than her gruff, Scottish accent used to be.

 

“Santa Clause.” The mysterious woman smirks, barely a pause as she instructs, “A little to the left, please.”

 

The newly northern woman does as she’s told, eyes scanning the small train car.  “Don’t see any chimneys. How did you get down here?” Her scrutinizing gaze settles on the woman beside her, her answer found the moment her vision stills on the leather wrapped around a slender, bronzed wrist. “Oh, cheap time travel.”

 

The woman in blue stills, muscles suddenly tense as she looks up from her task. Her eyes are as green as they are suspicious, and they pierce right into the hearts of this new body as red lips wrap around the words, “How do you know that?”

 

“Dunno. Just a thing in my head. It’s all kind of jumbly right now.”

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

“Woke up in a junk yard. Things progressed.” A sudden idea bursts to life beneath her blonde head. “You know, I think I might be a mechanic.”

 

The woman’s elegant brow arches. “You don’t dress like a mechanic.”

 

“You’re not dressed like Santa," she counters, a barely-there hint of the sass she used to wear so well. The woman in blue smirks, cheeks twitching against their better judgment as she extends her palm.

 

“Doctor Song,” she coos, green eyes alight with mischief. “And if you don’t annoy me too much, I might even save your life.”

 

She accepts the woman's outstretched hand, shaking it with a numb sense of familiarity. The hand in hers is soft, but the tips of Doctor Song's fingers catch against sensitive skin; they're calloused, she realizes, and she has but a moment to wonder why before the woman in blue releases her grip. A grin is just spreading across the other woman’s features when she turns on a dime, and maybe it's the need to see it, see how bright her eyes are when she properly smiles that demands this new body to follow in her wake, chasing after this mysterious woman as she splutters, “Did you say doctor? I’m looking for a doctor, though I can’t for the life of me remember why.”

 

Doctor Song hums, muttering something that sounds like that makes two of us, when the doors on the train car slam shut behind them. Her body snaps to attention, spinning back to face the couple she left behind. She's to them in a moment, abandoning the torch she'd been holding to bang on the small glass window separating them.

 

“What did you do?” she hisses, her an accusatory tone directed toward her enigmatic acquaintance .

 

“This wasn’t me. It’s the train,” Doctor Song snaps back, a hint of hysteria on the fringes of her explanation. “Something else is controlling it.”

 

In the other car, Yas and Ryan yank desperately on a lever that won't budge, and it isn't until Yas' voice floats to her through the glass that it occurs to her they're not the ones in need of saving.

 

"Don't worry. We'll get you ou-," Yas consoles, her words drowned out by the grinding of metal.

 

The front car heaves forward, rocking her into the sealed door. The floor beneath her shakes, and three sets of eyes drop downward to watch as the two train cars disconnect. With another lurch, her car begins to move, leaving the couple behind, and she's helpless but to watch as her new friends shrink into the distance.

 

"We’ve got to get them back," she demands, whipping around to find Doctor Song already seated and tapping away at buttons and controls.

 

The cab is small and even these short new legs cross the distance in one quick stride. She never thought a lanky torso would be something she’d miss, but as she leans over the seat to assist Doctor Song, she finds her fingers barely reach the dash. Her lack of assistance goes unnoticed, as the woman before her dances practiced fingers over the keys. Despite her apparent expertise, the machine remains unresponsive and they both watch helplessly as the engine whines and powers down. Another jolt follows as the wheels continue to turn, pulled down the tracks by an unseen force.

 

“I wouldn’t worry about them," the woman in blue offers hesitantly, concern etched into the creases of her brow.  "The whole system's been shut down, oxygen included. Between the two of us, in this small space, in twenty minutes this air won’t be safe to breathe for humans.”

 

“I’m not human," she says dismissively, pushing a stray lock of blonde hair from her face.

 

“No?” Doctor Song turns, raking inquisitive and impressed green eyes over her before giving a shrug of indifference.

 

She can’t help the way her eyes drop to the woman seated before her. An air of nonchalance hangs around her like a suit of armor, her intentions as difficult to decipher as one's reflection through frosted glass. It’s only then that it occurs to her that she hasn’t seen it yet, hasn’t had a spare moment to examine this new face.

 

Curious eyes seek out the windscreen in front of them, searching the darkened glass. What she finds is a stranger in familiar clothes, a young face in an old, tattered coat. She lifts a now smaller hand upward, pushing at her cheeks and the firm skin around her eyes. It isn’t a bad face, all things considered. Bit shorter than she’s used to and the hair might need a bit of upkeep, but her eyes are kind and in them she sees the echo of all the things that currently sit just beyond her grasp.

 

A flicker of red steals her attention and her gaze abandons her reflection in order to seek out the source of the intrusive light. Mounted in the corner of the room, her eyes still on a softly-glowing dot, and, well, now that’s curious-  “Why are the security cameras still on if the power is off?”

 

Oh.” The woman in blue’s eyes light up as quick and practiced fingers begin typing in her scanner once again.

 

“What are you doing?”

 

“Hacking into the system. Well, sort of.”

 

“Sort of?”

 

“I’m looking for footprints, because I’m willing to bet… there.” Doctor Song turns the screen towards her. “Something’s already hacked it.”

 

She’s out of her seat and headed for the device mounted on the wall before these new eyes can even discern what they’re reading. In her defense, the woman in blue makes for quite a distraction, hiking up her elegant gown to climb atop the console. Doctor Song is halfway through disabling the camera before this rattled new brain remembers to focus, skim reading the data on the scanner before her eyes fly wide as she realizes- “Someone has been taking a blue print of every passenger on the train. Why?”

 

“Public transport is a pretty broad sample of the human race,” Doctor Song surmises, grunting slightly as she yanks the device out of the wall and drops back to the ground, a smug twitch to her lips as she blows a stray curl from her eyes and explains, “business-types and homeless. Everyone rides the train.”

 

“But there’s no passengers,” her northern tongue observes, thinking aloud. “So they don’t want the people. Just the thoughts.” 

 

Doctor Song follows the trail of her thoughts, catching the breadcrumbs before they ever hit the ground. “Sounds like someone’s been gathering some research.”

 

“But why?” she stresses, stepping closer to her finely-dressed accomplice as if she’s hiding the answers to all life’s riddles somewhere beneath her sparkling gown.

 

Doctor Song takes in a long, slow breath, the swell of her chest testing the integrity of her low scooping dress. Green eyes shift to the windshield before them and the dark track beyond. When she releases her breath, it slips out of her lungs in an ominous hum. “I suppose we’re going to find out.”

 

The minutes slip by like hours wrapped in eons, a lead weight dragging through wet sand. It should feel heavy, the silence around them. It should be awkward, the space between them in the small room. It should make her nervous or wary, confined with a stranger as they roll toward their possible doom. Instead, all she feels is content, a hint of excitement itching just beneath her skin. She chalks it up to adventure and the ever-impending chance of danger. She remembers that much, her love of running. She blames the enclosed space and the lack of a view for why her eyes keep straying to the woman beside her. Whoever she is, her mind is lost in thought, her eyes distant and far away as they gaze out the darkened window. It almost feels like she’s waiting for something, or someone, bigger and grander than whatever waits for them at the end of these tracks.

 

The soft light of passing street lamps flicker across the other woman’s face every few moments. It suits her, having her skin awash in a faintly yellow glow. It takes these new eyes longer than it ought to, to notice the goosebumps speckling Doctor Song’s chest and arms. She’s cold, this new body notices with horror, and before her slender new limbs have registered what they’re doing, she’s shedding her oversized coat and passing it to the woman before her.

 

“Here,” her decidedly soft voice offers, and Doctor Song’s eyes land on her as if she’s been awoken from a dream. She’s quick to shake away her glazed-over expression, flashing an almost bashful smile as she takes the offering.

 

“Thank you,” she breathes, and for reasons she can’t explain, the sincerity in the other woman’s voice makes these new insides shiver.

 

She watches in silence as Doctor Song slips the coat over her narrow shoulders, shifting and settling into the material as if it were hers all along. And even though they’ve just met, she has the funniest feeling that Doctor Song is the type of woman that owns everything she touches and leaves only the best kind of trouble in her wake.

 

“Why don’t your clothes fit?” Doctor Song asks, and it’s only then she realizes her newest associate has been scrutinizing her in return.

 

Out of instinct, her gaze shifts back to the window, back to this new reflection swallowed by a dead man’s clothes. Shapely legs are hidden beneath trousers two sizes too big. New arms are tucked into an old shirt, and she busies her now rather delicate fingers by rolling up the sleeves of her too-long button up. Her gaze drifts back to the woman now wearing her coat, these new lips curling into a tight smile as she shrugs. “Woke up in them. Haven’t had time to change.”

 

“Sounds like a good night,” Doctor Song chuckles, tucking away an unruly strand of hair that dared escape its confines. A smudge of dirt graces her perfectly-contoured cheeks, and whoever she is, she looks rather breathtaking wrapped up in the torn fabric. Chaos and war zones and recklessness look lovely draped over satin and pearls. 

 

“Why are you in a ball gown?” The question rushes out of curious lips before it can be stopped, but Doctor Song merely shrugs.

 

“I was at a gala when I received a distress signal.”

 

“Is that why you’re here? I know it’s not to stop this.”

 

The mysterious woman before her takes in a deep breath, debating how much of the truth to spill before her chosen words slip out on the fringes of a tired sigh. “I’m looking for my husband.”

 

“He make a habit of getting lost?” Her question bubbles out in a fond hum, and the woman in blue smiles, offering eyes that are soft and sad and smitten all at once.

 

“More often than you’d think,” Doctor Song sighs out a laugh that’s warm and longing, and there it is again, that shiver beneath her brand new body. “I found his ship, but he was long gone by the time I arrived. Could be anywhere by now.”

 

“And the first place you thought to check was a broken down train?”

 

“He has a tendency toward trouble.” The words flow out to the cadence of amusement. But there’s something else buried behind her faux smile. It almost sounds like-

 

“Are you worried about him?”

 

Doctor Song’s gaze finds the window again, as if shielding her eyes from another being will banish the sadness within them. “He once used the moon landing to eradicate a group of hostile zealots because he was cross.”

 

“So you’re not worried?” she asks, brow pinched, and Doctor Song sighs, a fragile smile weighing down her cheeks as their gaze locks once again.

 

“I’m terrified.”

 

The happiness doesn’t reach her eyes, her smile flickering like a light that’s been burning for far too long. The sight of it makes this new body shift beneath her over-sized clothes. Her trousers refuse to sit properly on rounded hips, and barely a heartbeat has passed them when Doctor Song covers the small lapse of vulnerability with friendly quip.

 

“You should try braces,” she advises, green eyes flashing to the ill-fitting trousers. “They’d suit you.”

 

The urge to say sorry or thank you, burn with equal ferocity in the back of her throat. A desire to protect this woman at all costs battles an indescribable need to crack her open and learn every secret hidden behind those bewitching eyes. These barely-used lips part, uncertain which urge will overcome the other even as her tongue prepares to speak. The moment is shattered by a subtle jolt, whatever words she may have formed swallowed by the sound of shrieking metal. Their slowing pace brings the imminent threat of peril ever closer, and their eyes meet as they stand in unison, taking defensive positions.

 

Her body moves toward the doorway, toward trouble, in a way she can only assume is habit. Doctor Song is close behind, adjusting the fabric of her dress. She pays the other woman little mind, willing herself to develop night vision as she stares out into what appears to be a poorly-lit train yard. Another sound of metal against metal catches her attention. It’s softer this time, a barely there click that sounds an awful lot like-

 

“No, no! Absolutely not!” she splutters in protest as she turns to find a weapon cradled in Doctor Song’s hands.  “None of those… things. Those, uh, um…”

 

“Guns,” Doctor Song deadpans.

 

“Yes!” An overly energetic smile plasters across her face. “That’s the word. Guns. I don’t like them… I think.”

 

“Well-” her newest associate shrugs. “-I’ll be sure to inform the possibly carnivorous aliens of your objections when they try and eat you.”

 

It’s a very distinct possibility, actually, and she should probably be a fraction more concerned about what waits for them beyond this door. And yet, as her eyes drag over sparkling, skin-tight fabric, she can’t help but blurt out, “Where were you keeping it?”

 

The woman before her brandishes that sinful smile again, sending a prickly feeling all the way down to the toes in her oversized shoes. Finger resting comfortably on the trigger of said blaster, the woman’s green eyes rake over her body like hot coals. “Try not to die and I might show you.”

 

The devious curl of crimson lips makes this body’s throat tighten, swallowing hard as the train whines to a stop. They still for a moment, breath trapped in their lungs as they listen for the sound of feet crunching against gravel. But there’s nothing, only silence and still train cars and cloudy London skies.

 

There’s no emergency lever on this side of the door, so she does her best to pry it open with her new found nails, tugging and yanking in vain until she hears Doctor Song coo, “you’ll never get it open like that.”

 

Her northern voice scoffs, “What do you recommend? Asking it nicely.”

 

Only slightly out of breath, she turns back to face her fellow traveler. Beside her, Doctor Song has parted the split in her dress, displaying a rather generous amount of thigh. This new body stares, rather hopelessly, jaw slack for longer than she’d like to admit as she watches well-manicured fingers flick through the pouches of what can only be described as a utility garter.

 

“I’ve always found a little finesse goes a long way,” Doctor Song purrs, voice nothing short of an invitation as she withdraws a small bottle of what appears to be nail polish. Careful, steady hands unscrew the cap and paint a strip of polish around the lock on the door.

 

Thin brows furrow, and she’s about to ask what she’s playing at when the sharp smell of acid drifts toward her nose. The cracking and sizzling of metal follows suit as the lock begins to melt off its hinges and collect in a small pile on the floor. She blinks at the other woman’s handiwork, and if it takes her a moment to remember how to speak, she blames it on the creative use of accessories rather than the unexpected reveal of smooth, golden skin.

 

“Are you sure I don’t know you?” she asks when her tongue finally remembers how to function.

 

The woman before her is a picture of smug satisfaction as she tucks the bottle away, a smirk on her lips as she slides the door open with one finger. “That depends. What century and star system are you from?”

 

“Why does that matter?”

 

“Because,” she says, eyes sparkling, “depending on your location and date of origin, you may know me from a lecture or a wanted poster.”

 

Doctor Song doesn’t wait for a response, stepping out the of train car and onto rocky terrain. Her dress swishes and sparkles in the pale light, the sway of her curly hair a hypnotic pendulum that demands this body to stumble after. The ground crunches under her boots as she leaps off the steps, and Doctor Song shoots her a reproachful glare. Sorry, silent lips mouth an apology and there must be something funny about her new Bambi legs or her disheveled clothes, because Doctor Song cracks the faintest hint of a smile before turning away. The sight of quirked lips makes this body go fuzzy and warm, and she hopes this isn’t a trend, swooning over smiles from enigmatic strangers.

 

Clumsy feet pick up their pace, telling herself it’s merely a drive for adventure that makes her yearn to walk shoulder-to-shoulder with the other woman. They carry on in relative silence, their strides in sync in a way that’s almost familiar, the click of stilettos a cadence she could keep time to, a memory she can almost taste locked within rhythmic steps. It’s a curious feeling, seeing as none of her previous forms have had much experience with heels, but Doctor Song makes it look easy, never once faltering as she navigates the uneven surface. Her chin is held high, eyes alert, but not afraid, and it comes as no surprise that Doctor Song is accustomed to things such as this. She doles out faux smiles and hoards secrets and waltzes into danger armed with acidic nail varnish.

 

Maybe it’s the need to compensate or impress that wills these feet to pick up their pace, skipping a few steps ahead as she leads them down a path between two abandoned rail cars.

 

“Do you know where you’re going?” Doctor Song asks, amusement laced teasingly within her words.

 

“Nope,” she chirps back. “But this way seems the most shadowy and menacing. You’re not afraid of the dark are you?”

 

“No,” Doctor Song chuckles, but it rattles around a hollow smile. “What’s in it on the other hand...”

 

The implication sends a chill crawling up her spine, the image of a space suit flashing like lightning behind her eyes and she tries fruitlessly to grab the memory before it fades back into the corners of her mind. But it slips away like mist, and she shakes away her clouded thoughts in time to say, “You don’t strike me as the type to be afraid of the boogeyman.”

 

“Only one man's ever frightened me,” Doctor Song gives a self deprecating chuckle. “And he doesn’t even know I’m alive.”

 

“Who would that be? A nemesis or something?”

 

“Or something.” Another empty laugh bubbles from between red lips as she adds, “it’s complicated. You’d need a flow chart.”

 

Like a match in a dark room, recognition sparks deep in her chest. But the flame is extinguished as quickly as it came as a gurgling sound that might be a gas pipe or a sewer or some form of bubbling water floats from around the corner. The two women freeze, their hands reaching for one another as their backs press against the side of a train car. The metal is cold, but the hand in hers is warm and her mind twinges again as studious eyes drift along her darkened surroundings. Something isn’t as it seems and she searches for clues in the train cars littered among the tracks when-

 

“They’ve only collected the engine cars,” she announces.

 

"That’s the only bit they’d need,” Doctor Song whispers back, as if she’d been privy to that information all along. “Hack the main computer of each train car, and you can access all the cameras synced to it that day.”

 

Another gargling noise fills the air, deeper than the first because it isn’t water at all; it’s a language. Her eyes blow wide as she turns toward Doctor Song to hiss, “Fanacians!”

 

With their bodies this close, she catches every micro expression that flitters across the other woman’s face, pupils dilating within green eyes as the woman beside her flashes that impressed look again, surprise and delight sparkling in amber hues. The bump in the other woman’s nose is even more noticeable at this distance, and if her hand wasn’t already tangled up in the other woman’s fingers, she wouldn’t be able to resist bopping the tip of it.

 

“What are they doing here?” Doctor Song whispers, reviving her from her daydream, and suddenly it all makes sense because-

 

“They’re story harvesters, stealing memories and turning them into plots for mass production. Relatively harmless, but still. Exploiting people’s personal lives, a bit of a grey area on the copyright scale. Imagine if the BBC found out. You know how lock and key they can be-“ Her babbling is interrupted when she notices Doctor Song adjusting the settings on her blaster. “What are you going to do?”

 

“Stop them, obviously.”

 

“Why? They’re not hurting anyon-“

 

“Because we were on that train,” Doctor Song snaps, an edge to her voice that hadn’t been there before. “Which means they scanned me, and you, and your friends back there. Because memories are important. They’re our secrets to keep or tell and these scavengers can’t just have them. It isn’t right.”

 

Doctor Song clicks her weapon and the muscles beneath this new skin bristle even as her hearts twist with sympathy. “I can’t let you kill them.”

 

“Don’t be dramatic,” the curly-headed woman snorts, flipping the slit in her dress back once more and holstering her weapon. “I’m going to erase their data and scramble their memories so they think Earth is boring and don’t come back. No point in pirating something if the content's no good.”

 

From another small holster, Doctor Song withdraws a different, slightly larger, bottle from her utility garter, leaving this newly-English tongue to gape and stutter in disbelief. “What else are you keeping in there?”

 

“Nothing legal, I assure you.” The impossible woman steps closer, almost pressing against her as she inches her way toward the corner, her impish smirk only growing as she adds, “You might want to hold your breath.”

 

A dainty hand slaps reflexively over her mouth and nose as she watches Doctor Song toss the small vile around the corner. She’d like to say she turned to watch, that she saw how the glass splintered and scattered across unforgiving ground, that she smirked at the sight of the Fanacian’s puzzled glances before seeing them collapse into a heap on the floor. But she doesn’t move; she barely breathes, holding deathly still as her eyes remain locked on the woman pressed against her. Doctor Song’s breath is even, her expression more expectant than worried, and maybe she’s the type of woman that’s always waiting for something. Be it a man or a monster or her own schemes to unfold, maybe she’s looking for something that doesn’t know how to be found.

 

Twin thuds reverberate from around the corner, signaling Doctor Song’s success. The confirmation makes a smirk curl those perfectly-blushed cheeks, rendering these new lips helpless but to sigh out, “Who are you, and how did you do that?”

 

There’s no small amount of awe reflected in her tone, and the green-eyed woman shrugs, causing the oversized coat she’s still wearing to slip off her left shoulder. “Mild hallucinogen. Mostly harmless,” she offers, only answering half the question. “Side effects include short-term memory loss, unconsciousness. And a helluva headache.”

 

The subtle smell of violets fills her nose and she blinks past a chemically-induced wave of euphoria as she observes, “It smells great.”

 

“Well, yes. It’s also a perfume.”

 

“Why do you have memory-scrambling perfume?” her brow pinches in perplexed delight, and Doctor Song strokes a careful finger under her bottom lip, tidying her lipstick as if she’s only just remembered she’s wearing any.

 

“For when you don’t want to kiss someone, obviously.” The words have barely left her crimson mouth, her breath still ghosting over brand new cheeks when Doctor Song pulls away and begins marching fearlessly toward the unconscious aliens. Clumsy feet follow close behind, rounding the corner in time to see the last remnants of a lilac mist dissipating at an unnatural speed.

 

A miniature circuit board waits at the center of the room, a plethora of wires and cords leading out and away, connecting to control panels of the surrounding trains. A relatively simple information cyphering hive and she finds herself far more intrigued by Doctor Song than she is these amateur memory pirates. Eyes fixed on the woman before her, her new tongue does it’s best not to tangle itself in knots as she follows her drug happy friend. “Are you good with memory tampering, then?”

 

“I’ve certainly had some practice erasing them,” Doctor Song admits, a quirk in her brow that’s equal parts mirth and pride as she scoops up the small drive and sets to work tampering with the machine. “Why?”

 

Brand new hands wring together, nervous and unfamiliar in her own skin. “I seem to have misplaced mine.”

 

The woman in blue stills, face falling and a frown creasing her forehead even as a sympathetic half smile plucks her lips. “My hallucinogen doesn’t work both ways, I’m afraid.”

 

This new face must wear its emotions with the same level of grace it does these ill fitting clothes because the other woman’s eyes have softened, abandoning her task to study the body beneath this oversized shirt.

 

“You said you were looking for a Doctor,” she begins tentatively, a velvet voice made tender and sweet. “Is that why?”

 

“I think so, yes,” she nods in return, strings of blonde hair tickling her cheeks as she suppresses the sudden and overwhelming urge to pull the woman before her into a tight hug.

 

“Nothing’s ever really lost,” Doctor Song adds, but there’s an echo of something more in her words. A reddish curl falls in front of green eyes and suddenly the phantom smell of sunflowers replaces that of sweet violets permeating the air. 

 

Maybe it’s Doctor Song’s searching gaze or anger at the ever-present feeling that she’s missing something so important right in front of her, but whatever the cause, she finds herself exhaling a heavy breath as she turns away from her new friend and toward the circuit board. Anxious fingers ready to busy themselves on the mindless task of erasing the data only to find it’s already been purged. Doctor Song is one step ahead again, and when she whirls back around, she finds the other woman is no longer beside her. In a tattered coat and sparkling blue gown, Doctor Song is knelt down next to one of the Fanacians, attaching a small black object to its person.

 

“What are you doing with them?” her northern voice asks, and she’s growing rather tired of being the one asking all the questions.

 

“These are their transports,” Doctor Song explains, ignoring or oblivious to the bitter inflection in her question. “It’ll send them back home, I suspect.”

 

She nods in response, tucking the alien technology into her trouser pocket. Nervous feet shuffle her oversized shoes against the gravel, unsure what to do. Everything’s still a bit fuzzy and she hasn’t had this body long, but she’s sure feeling like a spare part isn’t par for course. Maybe she’s lost her touch with whatever it was she used to be. Then again, having a partner had been quite nice. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, following in someone’s footsteps, especially when those steps came with a smile like that. 

 

With the flip of a switch, the bodies of the unconscious memory collectors vanish. These new lungs sigh out a regretful, self-deprecating laugh as she confesses, “I don’t suppose I was very much help today, was I?”

 

“Nonsense,” Doctor Song smiles, flashing a devious grin. “A bit of eye candy never goes amiss.”

 

The woman winks and she feels these cheeks go pink for the very first time. The flushed feeling sparks another memory buried somewhere deep in her mind, something about stars you could read a book by in ten minutes, and, no, that isn’t quite right.

 

 “Come on,” Doctor Song says, sticking out her arm and offering up her leather bound wrist. “I’ll give you lift.”

 

In the back of her mind she knows she should ask where, but this new body must be agreeable indeed because her tongue is helplessly silent as her fingers wrap around the cool leather strap. Their eyes lock and the air between them stills, a heartbeat passing before the other woman’s smile is swallowed by a tear in space time. Abandoned railways and shadows are replaced by pavement and the first kiss of morning on the horizon. A quiet voice in the corner of her brain whispers a reminder about the couple from the train. It tells her that Yas and Ryan could be worried or searching for her. But the perplexing vixen before her has already started walking, heels clicking against pavement as she makes her way down the deserted street. These new feet are helpless but to follow. Besides, the couple will be fine. They were never in any real danger anyway. 

 

Doctor Song’s gown is even more radiant in the early morning sun, but the fabric has nothing on the woman beneath it. She practically glows in the gentle dawn light. It shouldn’t make her sad, and yet the sight of it has caused her hearts swell and sink, plummeting to her stomach and settling like a stone. Cliché though it may be, she’s drawn to this woman by forces more powerful than magnets or gravity. It’s heavier, somehow, like fate or time or the ebbing and flowing fabric of the universe. 

 

“Where are you going?” she asks, though the answers seems trivial when these feet seem determined to skip along beside this curly-haired enigma wherever she goes.

 

“Back to my ship.” Doctor Song flicks her piercing gaze back to her, thick lashes fluttering in a way that makes anticipation crawl up this brand new spine. “You can come if you like.” 

 

She isn’t used to being all tingly, and she briefly wonders if this body has developed a fault. She pushes the thought aside, jutting a curious chin upward and trying to suppress the warming of her insides as she counters, “You always invite strangers on your ship?”

 

Doctor Song tsks, looking positively sinful as she says, “Strangers are the best kind to invite.”

 

“Aren’t you looking for your husband?”

 

“Yes. He hates it when I bring dates.”

 

“Then why invite me?” she can’t help but ask, and green eyes cut to her, all mystery and mischief.

 

“Because he hates it when I bring dates,” Doctor Song answers simply, her grin splitting, lips parting to make way for a rich, delighted, laugh.

 

It’s rather musical, the sound of her laugh, like the wind. Does the wind make music?

 

 “It’s River, by the way,” the smiling woman adds. “My name.”

 

“Brilliant name,” this new tongue blurts out around a beaming grin.

 

“And yours?”

 

“Can’t remember it. I think... It might be... Sweetie. Is that a name?”

 

River pales a little, green eyes flicking to her and then quickly away, hope and fear and revelation coming to life in the shadows that darken her expression. Doctor Song swallows hard and it seems as though the lump in her throat is born of more than excess adrenaline. “I suppose it could be. To some.”

 

It doesn’t escape her that River’s mood has shifted, manicured fingers tugging on the lapels of the torn coat as if the warmth of it will keep her inner demons at bay. She pulls the ragged material up around her chin, inhaling deep. Whatever she finds there makes her face light up, color returning to her disheartened cheeks as the faintest hint of a smile curls her crimson lips. Green eyes cast downward, almost bashful as they attempt to subdue whatever spell has overcome her. 

 

She can’t say what it is that makes her new eyes break away from such a devastatingly beautiful sight, but when she glances toward the end of the road, she spots- ”My TARDIS!”

 

Her clumsy feet break out into a sprint before her legs realize it’s time to run. That doesn’t stop her though, a slight stumble in her step as she approaches bright blue walls. River isn’t far behind, the beginnings of a gasp or a sob or quite possibly a throaty laugh bubbling from that enchanting mouth.

 

These new lungs heave, panting as she comes to a stop, smoothing loving hands across wooden walls. “Old Girl tipped me out. I shouldn’t have regenerated in her, I know. But it’s not my fault I was Scottish. They’re very stubborn you know, and-“

 

The rest of her sentence is banished from her mind as soft, strong hands press her against the walls of her ship. Insistent lips find hers, swallowing her words with a desperate kiss, and, oh, that’s a nice feeling. This body likes kissing. River’s fingers tangle and tug at blonde hair, and it’s all too natural, the way these dainty new hands settle on the other woman’s hips. It’s practiced, as habitual as breathing, the press of satin-clothed curves against her lean frame as familiar as one's favorite daydream.

 

The other woman’s heels make her the taller of the two and River dips her head, calloused fingers cradling this new, thin neck until she finds her jaw tilted up, eager for the feel of soft lips against her own. Her hearts stutter in her chest as River pulls away only to come back for more, their mouths joining like gentle waves on a shore. She puts her new lips to use, sucking River’s bottom lip into her mouth in a demand to make her stay. River arches against her with a pleased hum, and it sounds like she’s been given an answer to a question she knew not how to ask. 

 

The faintest hint of cherry and vortex spark across her tongue, making this new mouth moan. It’s a needy sound, higher in pitch than she’s used to, and River answers her with a low and wicked chuckle. The sound of it is warm and welcome and a memory flickers, dancing just out of reach. She chases it with her tongue, slipping past the woman’s lips like all life’s answers are hidden behind her teeth. River opens her mouth to her as if she' some kind of benevolent goddess here to grant her every wish.

 

Flashes of crashing space ships and graveyards of bone and sunsets and nights full of stars burst behind her eyes. The curly-headed woman hums like she tastes it, too, the almost tangible thoughts. River drags her teeth across this plump new bottom lip like she’s pulling the past back to the surface by sheer force of will. And suddenly she’s on a pyramid and an asteroid and a lakeside and the very edges of the universe and back. It hits her like a freight train, the heady rush of old memories cascading over this brand new body in golden waves.

 

I bet I like you.

 

Oh, eight for you honey.

 

Totally married her.

 

Say it like you’re going to come back.

 

Twenty four years.

 

They break apart on a gasp, a dry throat choking on the only word she seems to know, the only word that matters.

 

“River,” she breathes. It sounds different on this new tongue, but it still tastes just the same, just as wild and sweet as it always has.

 

Green eyes shine back at her, glossy and hopeful despite the way her pupils have blown wide. Their panting breath mingles, River’s voice like velvet as she sighs out, “Hello, sweetie.”

 

The Doctor’s lips part on the brink of a smile when another, more recent, memory sparks to life in her subconscious. Cheerful eyes widen, voice nearly on the fringes of panic because- “What do you mean I don’t know you’re alive?”

 

River sucks her bottom lips between her teeth, eyes as mischievous as they are guilty as she smirks around the promise of, “Spoilers.”

 

The Doctor gapes, awestruck by the amount of secrets still between them, delighted by the mystery that seems to cling to her wife no matter where she is in her timeline, and so, so pleased to discover that some things never change. The Doctor can’t help but laugh as she brushes her fingertips over the apple of River’s cheeks. “At least I was right about one thing,” she says with a grin, giving an affectionate tap to the tip of River’s nose. “Sweetie is my name.”