Title: See You in Casablanca
Fandom/Pairing: Doctor Who/Indiana Jones (River Song/Indiana Jones)
Summary: River Song meets a fellow adventurer-archaeologist, Indiana Jones, in the 1930s.
A/N: This kind of just sprang forth, fully formed from my subconscious, based on a thread over at starwhales.
"Dr. River Song! I would have thought you'd have headed back to Oxford by now," comes an entirely unfamiliar American voice from behind her as she sits drinking incredibly strong, gritty coffee from a tiny cup in the outdoor cafe in Casablanca. Bugger, she thinks, and turns, all practiced smile and coy dimples to see a man in a leather jacket and fedora.
"I was delayed," she tells the American. "Some sort of labor dispute, by the sound of it, so I'll be waiting a few hours until that's settled." It's a safe bet. Whatever the time or place in the whole of the cosmos, somebody was bound to be unhappy with how much they were getting paid. "But I may have to leave at any time," she adds, giving herself an out from whatever conversation may ensue. It's an inconvenience, living like this, living all out of order with anyone who knows her, but why lie: she loves it. Flying on wings of adrenaline and bullshitting her way through meetings with friends and enemies she's never seen before.
When she was a child she had wanted to be a spy. This was much more interesting.
But the American man is nodding in sympathy at her plight, and drops easily into the seat across from her. He looks around for a waiter; the only likely suspect is around the corner and down the alley, squatting with another man and sharing a short black cigarette. "I didn't need coffee anyway," the American decides. He turns his attention back to River, a rakish grin on his face. He is tanned, but with pink undertones; this is a new tan, and he hasn't been in this blisteringly hot region until recently. He has indentations on his nose where glasses have rested, but he has none on now. No wedding ring. River glances at his hands, seeing that there are new blisters on top of old callouses; he does rough work often, but irregularly, and the rest of the time he is... what? Some sort of librarian, shipped to Africa as some part of the War effort? (Wait, has the War started yet? What decade did she aim for?)
"Well, Dr. Song, care to make a wager which of us will have our findings on the Kush excavation published first?"
So he's an archaeologist. And perhaps a professor of anthropology. And definitely a treasure hunter. She sort of likes him. "You know me," she says, "I love high stakes."
"Unless last night makes you concede, finally, that we'd make a good partnership. Drs. Jones and Song on the byline, explosive revelations about human sacrifices in Nubia, grants for digs next season at Meroë. You know it's meant to be, surrender to fate," he tells her, not bothering to restrain a lingering glance that tells her he loves her for more than just her mind.
She checks her watch, stands up, and grabs her bag. "I have to go now," she says. "A hundred pounds says my article comes out first."
"You're on," says Dr. Jones, rising suddenly as she takes a step to leave him. He kisses her, briefly but not gently, just the way she happens to prefer. And why shouldn't he? She's an attractive woman and she knows it. She just doesn't know him. She pulls away and smiles, turning back to him for a moment before plunging into the crowd on the Moroccan street.
"I never surrender to fate, Dr. Jones. Fate always surrenders to me."
The next time they meet is the first time for him, thank all the gods and loa and whatever else might be thanked. (Not that she believes in gods; too often they turn out to be ridiculously mutated stories about the Doctor who is clearly anything but a god, and besides, River makes her own way through the universe. She's seen enough times and places to know that if you aren't confident enough to keep moving and shape the universe around you, it will squeeze you into a pulpy mess and drop you through a wormhole. Even the Doctor doesn't tell her where to go.)
"Dr. Jones, do you have even the slightest clue of the significance of this excavation? And, furthermore and much more importantly, do you know what sort of irreversible damage you are doing by affixing climbing hooks to the temple wall?" River demands, in a tone that would be defined as 'shouting' by those not actually afraid to lose their ability to procreate, courtesy of the stiletto heels of her boots. (Best invention of the twenty-second century: retractable high heels. She doesn't know how she'd do cliff-face excavations without them.)
"I'm sorry, have we met?" he responds in turn, whipping around. Unspoken is the distinct implication that he is not particularly sorry that they haven't met, and indeed wishes that such a state of affairs might have continued. River is furiously binding her hair back with a probably-time-period-compliant elastic, and several frizzy curls spring loose.
"Clearly we haven't, because if we had, you would have known better than to jam pieces of metal into what is functionally a superconductor on the highest point of land around." She sticks out a hand. "Professor River Song, from Oxford," she introduces herself, after taking a second to remember what Jones had said last time they met. For all she knows, she may even be affiliated with Oxford at some point. (Oxford University, she was almost certain, given the twentieth century location; Oxford the research planet wasn't founded until the twenty-fourth century.)
"What kind of name is River Song?" he asks, still clearly hung up on her criticism.
"And what kind of name is Indiana Jones?" she counters. She'd looked him up after their last encounter; one of the only pieces of advice her mother had dispensed to River had been Always get the young man's name and address, and River hadn't had cause to disregard it yet. "Now, if we're done marking our territory, I'd like it if you could get those climbing hooks down so we can get to work. Without disrupting the original purpose of this structure."
"Yeah, and what's that? You hop in your time machine and find out what they were doing here two thousand years ago?"
"It was built as a fully automated control tower for landing spacecraft; yes, I did; and it wasn't two thousand years, it was three thousand, five hundred and seventy years ago."
Indiana Jones gapes at her for a second, then turns and heads back to his tent, muttering darkly. Some things there really were no response for.
That night River steals the flight records and some navigation equipment from the temple's mainframe. When the newspapers report two weeks later that a strange aircraft had crashed into an archeology site in Sudan and it was possibly evidence of the Nazis gathering forces, River is on a ship crossing the Atlantic.
"I hate snakes," Indy says, through gritted teeth. River adjusts her grip on the rope. "I really hate snakes."
"Jones, there's only a few of them. Maybe forty."
"Lady, I don't know what kind of math you use if you think forty is 'a few'," he replies incredulously.
River ignores him. "Maybe sixty. If we shift our weight together, I think we can swing over to that platform over there."
"Which is also covered in snakes."
"But not in several centuries' worth of sewage, which is what we will be covered in if we continue to slide down this rope. On my count, one... two..."
They get their swing coordinated somewhere around six. This doesn't keep them from being soaked to their knees in whatever unspeakable semi-liquid has flooded the extensive substructure below Jerusalem. The Romans had built all sorts of aqueducts and plumbing, the British had taken potshots at whatever had survived the millennia, and all of it, River suspects, leads to this chamber.
"Why do I seem to spend an awful lot of time crawling around sewers when you're around?" Indy asks her, lighting a torch for her first. River hopes the amount of methane that is probably floating around doesn't blow the entire city sky-high.
"Why do I seem to have a lot of skeletons falling out of things and trying to grab me when you're around?" River responds. "Wait, no, that happens all the time when I'm not with you, too. Never mind. There's a current of air coming from up ahead, and by my calculations, we should be under the—"
A boom shakes the ground. Dust filters alarmingly from the ceiling. "Run?" Indiana Jones suggests, the grin on his face not matching the danger of their situation.
River takes his hand and they start running. "You know, you remind me a bit of another friend of mine, sometimes."
A boulder falls from the ceiling and Indiana pulls her into a crevice in the wall. "Does your friend do this?" And he kisses her, for what River thinks may be the first time. Few people in the universe, River sometimes suspects, have as many first kisses as she does.
"Not with your enthusiasm," she says, and a cobwebbed skeleton falls out of the depths of the crevice in which they're hiding, taking Indy's hat in its surrender to gravity and halting any further discussion.
After the incident in the sewers of Palestine (in which they escaped with their lives, if not their Crusade-era artifacts, their dignity, or most of their olfactory capabilities), River goes back to a few months before the first time Indiana Jones meets her, and gets hired as a professor at the University of Oxford. She doesn't know why it means so much to her that he believes her, but it does.
Then she finds a doctoral student to teach her classes and only shows up at the university sporadically, with research results and ancient treasures in hand, to check that her name is still on her office door. It's what most of the other professors do, so she fits right in.
"Duck!" Indy shouts, pushing her down so he can punch the man with a knife running up behind River in the face. River usually doesn't care for being shoved around in that way, but this gives her the ideal opportunity to punch the crotch of the man about to put a gun to Indy's head.
She is back up and pushing her way through the crowd before their attackers have doubled over. "Dammit, Song!" she can hear behind her, but she doesn't slow down. Her rucksack clatters against her spine as she sprints, the soft gold artifacts -an amulet, some neckband, a cup- inside probably getting dented beyond all recognition, but she doesn't care. Their shape isn't what's important, it's the message encoded in their designs, which can only be decoded by using the chemical composition of the gold as a cipher key.
It occurs to her that she should feel bad about the probable destruction of priceless relics of human history. And about blowing up Indiana Jones' excavation site. To be fair, she hadn't thought he was there when she set off the charges.
River hazards a glance back. She can't see him pursuing her, but then she also knows firsthand he's not above taking a side alley and leaping on someone from an upstairs window. It's while she's scanning windows and balconies for flying archaeologists that the giant man with the knife grabs her.
"Goddammit, not again," she groans as he spins her around and pulls her tight, resting a knife that would be a short sword, to anyone smaller carrying it. The contents of the rucksack dig into River's back, and she throws her weight backwards against her captor, as well as one of her elbows.
It has about as much effect as a piece of space junk hitting the moon. The man laughs, and the crowded marketplace clears around them: nobody wants to be too close. "Mister Jones!" her captor calls out, almost sing-song, "Mister Jones, I believe I have what you're looking for..."
Oh, so now the blasted man resorts to thuggery? River struggles furiously; she'll be damned if she lets herself be handed around like a sack of pilfered relics. It's too much like all those times in prison. Jones knows the unspoken arrangement: professional rivalry punctuated by bouts of really great sex. Hiring someone to haul her around so he can get his treasure back? That's cheating.
Indiana Jones comes skidding into the cleared corner of the marketplace. "Jones you are an utter utter bastard-" River starts, before a meaty and spectacularly filthy hand is clamped over her mouth.
"Let her go!" is what echoes around the market, though, and not at all the smug I win that she had expected. He's moving slowly, carefully, and she sees the loops of his whip drop to the ground. "I'll give you one chance to let her go." River's captor drops his hand from her mouth and angles her head upwards to better display the knife's possible trajectory.
River takes advantage of this position to posit aloud that perhaps negotiations, rather than threats, were the optimal method of action, but her proposal is ignored by both parties. She is still adjusting to the fact that she's a hostage. And on a day she decided not to wear her special instep-grinding heels, too. She's helpless and being held hostage against Jones, who she's pretty sure doesn't even like her that much. Of course, she might be letting the stolen artifacts cloud her judgement, but it's still annoying.
Indiana, who has been adjusting his grip on the handle of his whip, swings it once around his head and sends it cracking towards the leg of River's captor. It wraps around, and he pulls. That accomplishes nothing. The man holding River laughs, and kicks his leg out, yanking the whip from Indiana's hands. He's already reaching for his gun, but River can see from where she stands that it's not in its holster. Some skinny boy at the edge of the crowd is holding it and smoking a stub of a cigarette.
"Mister Jones, I have something you want, you have something I want. There's no reason we can't be gentlemen." Her captor's English is accented but practiced.
"Says the man with the sword," Indy points out, yet fails to comment on the likelihood of a man in a disgusting robe, a distressing smell, and fleas that River is sure she can feel migrating onto her, being a gentleman.
"Says the man with the sword," the man with the sword agrees, and continues, "and if you give me the amulet you stole from the Temple of Mekhit, maybe you'll get the woman you love back. Without her throat cut."
The amulet. The one jabbing so hard into her back she thinks it may be well on its way to puncturing a lung and dangling there like an earring. If her captor knows he has both a hostage and the amulet, the only efficient course of action is to get rid of the one that's going to put up the most fuss. River and Indiana's eyes meet. "How do you know I have the amulet?" he says, not breaking their gaze.
"How do you know I'm the woman he loves?" River adds. "That's really not the first conclusion I'd leap to."
An expression of annoyance passes over Indy's face. "I told you I loved you in Ankara, Song, I would have told you if that changed. And believe me, you've given me plenty of opportunities!"
River has never been to Ankara. Well, this is embarrassing. "About that," she starts, then reconsiders. There are times to tell your lover that you throw yourself at linear time and bounce, that you are to him as a skipped stone is to a lake, going the distance with him but without any depth. There are times to ask him if he's kissed you in Casablanca yet. But of all the hostage situations in all the world, she has to be standing in this one, where every word she says brings her throat closer to a blade so worn and sharp the edge is just a sliver of metal. "It was a ploy to convince him I'm worthless as a hostage," River chooses to say instead, "but go ahead, Jones, I'm sure you've got a better plan."
"Fine, I'll give you the amulet. But we trade at the same time," Indiana says loudly. He pulls something from a pocket; it glitters in the sun as any proper ancient gold amulet should. The crowd, pressing forward to see while still standing back, looks suitably impressed. This is quality street theater. "I'll throw it. You let her go."
"Certainly." River feels the knife pulled away from her neck. Indy nods, and tosses whatever trinket he's passing off as the amulet into the air. River's captor loosens his grip on her arm, and she dives forward, his dirty fingernails scratching his arm as he tries to grab her back now that the trinket is flying through the air. But she's already tumbling to the ground, leaving her captor without a shield, and that's when Indy pulls another gun, hidden in the waistband of his trousers, and shoots. By the time River looks up from the dusty street, there's a man dead at her feet and Indiana's aiming at the kid who stole his first gun.
"Did you think I didn't have a spare?" he announces to the world at large. The kid hands the gun back with a cheeky grin, before darting back into the crowd.
"And here I thought you were just happy to see me," River mutters, pushing herself up onto her hands before standing. She picks up the thing that Indy had tossed; it's not even ancient, just a gold locket. He walks up and snatches it from her before she can examine it any closer.
"Alright?" he asks gruffly.
This time she is the one to lean forward and kiss him. The crowd cheers and laughs. This is truly excellent street theater.
"Got some artifacts to give back to me, Song?" he murmurs, his lips still close to hers.
"Absolutely not, my darling," she murmurs back, kisses him briskly on the cheek, spins, and sprints off again, disappearing into the crowd.
A locket catches her eye the next time she's Oxford Street (the one on Starship UK, not Earth) and she likes the infinity pattern it has on the front. She buys it, and admires how it looks around her neck.
Then she runs into the Doctor on her next stop and then she ends up in jail for a whole two weeks before breaking out and forgets all about the locket.
"I think I love you too," responds River, dangling her feet off the wall of the Ankara Citadel. She likes the view and the height. It's a beautiful night, and the light pollution is not so bad in this decade that it blocks out the stars. They had been there since the call to the Maghrib prayer had sounded, just after sunset, nearly an hour before. River glances sideways; Indiana is looking up into the night sky. She makes a decision. "Let's go back to the dig. I want to show you something," she says.
"It's dark," he complains, sounding unsure of why she would answer his admission of love in such a way.
"I want to show you something," she repeats. So they return to the site.
River prays to whatever in the universe will hear her that she gets this right.
The site is a forgotten corner of Ottoman development, and under that, Anatolian potsherds. A hell of a lot of potsherds, and not a whole lot of sparkly things. (River has sometimes wondered if Jones thinks he might be a bad archaeologist, like she does, for not really liking the potsherds-discovering part of archaeology.) She stares at the Ottoman wall, trying to determine which brick might have stayed stable ever since it was built, and pulls her knife from her belt.
Removing the locket from her neck, she uses the tip of the knife to scratch initials into the back. It takes a minute, but she manages to etch it with IJ + RS. "Hold this," she tells Jones, who has been looking at her with some distrust. He takes the locket, and looks at their initials as she starts chipping and scraping at the mortar in the wall with her knife. Gradually the brick she was working on is free; before removing it, she performs a quick measurement from the corner of the wall, and counts how many layers of bricks from the bottom. Once the brick is gone, she reaches into the dark crevice, hoping she's right, and also hoping there aren't any spiders.
Her hand closes around a familiar shape. She smiles. "How long since this wall was built?" she asks Indiana. "Since the last time anything on this section was altered. How long?"
"We estimated early Ottoman period, fourteenth century," he says.
River pulls out her hand. "This has been in the wall ever since it was built. Six hundred years." She hands him her discovery, a dusty gold locket.
He turns it over in his hands. "This isn't even the style for that century..." His voice trails off as he sees the initials on the back, the scratchings filled with grit and dust. "It's just like yours."
"It is mine," she said, taking back the one that belongs to her. "Want to go bury it in a wall?"
She grabs him by the arm, and smacks her vortex manipulator. Somehow showing and not telling just seems the thing to do.
"Damn," he says to the fourteenth century, "who needs to dig in the dirt when you have one of those?"
She tugs at his arm, drawing his attention away from the world around them. "I love you too, Jones," she says, "but I'll never stay with you."
They add a few layers to the wall that's been started there and hide the locket, but leave before the bricks are stacked too high for them to look over.
River returns Indiana to Ankara, 1934.
"See you in Casablanca, my darling," she tells him, and leaves him alone on the citadel wall as the last call to prayer begins.