The TARDIS whirs and wheezes to life in the middle of the near-empty dining hall. Half-emptied plates and overturned chairs create an almost lively backdrop for that singular sound. Jack can feel River Song shift and hold her breath in his grasp near a still-standing table. Despite her being in handcuffs. Despite his own breaths catching. The doors shivers, and the Doctor -this time an older gentleman, spindly and grey-haired- slips out quietly. Eyes of grey-blue wine slide in an easy figure eight over the room, following everything without the need for speech. Then, those eyes find River again, part in a line and close, his mouth playing his signature small grin- the part for the piccolo in Peter and the Wolf.
River Song breathes deep, readying a springy response.
"Why do you always have to play the spoiled brat? Six billion years on and you've still not developed a taste for directness."
One of his long thin hands dances toward a pocket, and the perky little flute is now a stalking oboe.
"Your hair is a golden tree of coins- every time you shake it, a secret falls out. But let's play Twenty Questions. The right question gets a step forward, the wrong one a step back. Agreed?"
River puffs herself up, an angry bluebird. She grabs her wrist as she stands up from the table, twists, and breaks. The bones crack. She slips the ruined hand out of the cuffs Jack placed her in and humphs, holding it out like a prize. Nothing.
Not a wince from this new Doctor, she thinks; that's new. The old one would have lingered.
"Well now," he breathes, sidestepping the invitation and adding one of his own, "which of us is the twelve-year-old, again? Enlighten me."
River scowls as he takes one step toward her.
"That's an easy one," she groans, taking a step toward him, "the ancient god I'm married to. Who happens to be you. Why do you always do this? And why do you always have to be so cryptic? It's not like these people aren't your friends!"
"That's two questions; you forfeit one. Try this: What has one leg in the morning, two legs in the evening, and three at night?"
River steps back, then scowls again and scratches her broken wrist, itching to slap him.
"Man. And speaking of men, if you don't come over here and heal this, I'm going to slap you."
The Doctor just sighs and glares; they've been through this. The psychopath in her… the psychopath in him… a candlelit nightmare.
"Is it dark out today," he asks, making a pointedly lame attempt to stay within the bounds of his own rules, "or is that psychopath inside you playing about again?"
River takes a deep breath that disturbs her ample bosom, then turns away from him and grabs a fistful of her hair, tugging sharply.
"That's two; you forfeit one," she murmurs casting her eyes over Jack's face as she adds, "Now I think it's time for a tally. Captain?"
Her eyes bat, and Jack finds himself humming the theme from Twin Peaks, looking back and forth between them.
"Don't look at me," Jack pleads, hiding a cautious grin behind a raised hand, "this is above my pay grade."
The Doctor sighs and cracks his neck, breaking the streak with a pointed question, "It's always difficult for the kids when the parents are fighting, isn't it, Sweetie? And River, you involved an outside party. Forfeit one question. Next? Take a timeout, Jack. Mummy and Daddy are busy."
River scoffs and takes a step back, falling into her chair as Jack slips out of his and leans against the wall to watch, his blue eyes sparkling.
"Not a chance Doc; it's a shame I didn't bring popcorn!"
"Yes. Always. You should forfeit one, my love," says River, ignoring Jack, "for speaking to Jack. And a second for that next. I have a new question. What goes around the world but stays in a corner?"
The Doctor takes a step as he answers, scratching his nose, "A stamp. Was the read-letter forest on Verbatim IV I took you to for that universe-wide Easter egg hunt not good enough?"
River pinches her nose with a finger and sighs as she takes a step, this time nearing the middle of the room, "No. It was soaked through because of a Judoon rain-scoop, and you caught a nasty cold. Do you remember that castle planet you took me to, with that one made of dirty clothes?"
The Doctor takes a deep breath and takes another step, now only five feet away from her, "Yes. Avalaundry. Unfortunate, that one. Wish we 'd skipped it. Ah, Have I taken you to Suplima yet? They have lovely sugar sculptures. We can watch some infant Danrovians try to get tooth decay. Jack you want to come?"
River moves forward slightly, shivering at the memory of Avalaundry and those gigantic towers of… thousand-year-old unwashed socks, and stares at her toes as she answers. "Haha, Danrovians! With their long… and those spiky little… that ought to be a trick. You forfeit one my love, speaking to Jack again. Of course, we could go to Peraluus instead, for the squirming croissants. And why haven't you had sex with him yet?"
The Doctor blinks, looks at Jack, then at River again and holds out his hand; they're close now. Idly he counts the notes in her perfume.
"Well, we could do both. You win the game. And a kiss." He leans in and grabs her gently by the hair. "Jack, you want to play too? Her rules."
Jack rubs his arms, shuts his mouth, then opens it again. "I thought you'd never ask. Where to?"