Characters/Pairings: Eleven/River, OCs
Summary: River is what the Doctor makes of her.
A/N: Written for bendingwind at LJ for the spoiler_song holiday fic exchange.
Write a story inspired by this drabble. I'd like the Doctor to play with River's hair at some point. 3
"What are you doing?" he asks, leaning over her shoulder. A curl brushes his cheek.
"Solving electric circuit diagrams," she replies, moving her hand to reveal a complicated set of lines and squiggles and symbols.
"I thought you were an archaeologist."
She tries to hide the smile on her perfect lips as she scolds, "Shhh. Spoilers."
He leans closer to whisper in her ear. "River, who are you?"
"I am whatever you make of me."
And somehow, when she says it, the words are not a submission but a triumph. She has always chosen exactly who she wants to be.
"Have you found it yet?"
"Just a moment."
The Doctor turned just in time to see River pick something up from a pedestal. "What are you doing? That's not what we're here for!"
River shone her torch on the dirty little pot, then offered him a satisfied smile. "No harm in stocking up."
"What? You're not taking that. Put it back!" The Doctor waved his hands, and by extension his torch, about.
"I'll make good use of it in the past."
"I don't care. Put it back!"
"You will care."
"Put it back!"
"Put it back now," came a voice from the left, "or I'll shoot you."
River glanced in that direction, raised a brow, and put the pot back on its pedestal.
"Raise your hands," continued the voice.
The Doctor and River complied.
The lights came on, harshly and all at once, illuminating the exhibit hall.
Two guards entered; a man and a woman, both clad in dark trousers and shirts… and grey bowties, the Doctor couldn't help but notice. They were in one of the Black Museums, after all. Their founder had been very fond of bowties.
The man walked up to River and put a restraining hand on her shoulder. She folded her arms and rolled her eyes.
There went their chance to get their hands on the Globe they sorely needed to barter for the freedom of Amy and Rory.
The woman came up to him. "You can put your hands down," she said, revealing herself to be the source of the disembodied voice.
"Take them down."
River stared at him, tried to convey something by widening her eyes in a much too subtle way and glancing between him and the woman.
"Why?" Oh. Oh. Oh! The bowtie!The Doctor frowned, in a suitably disapproving manner. "You're arresting my co-worker but not me?"
"Your co-worker?" said the woman, making no attempt to mask her scepticism.
"Yes. My co-worker."
She stared at his bowtie. "If she works here, why did you tell her to put that piece down?"
"Simple. She wasn't wearing gloves."
"I think she does."
The Doctor glanced as River's hands and their black gloves. "White gloves. She should have been wearing whitegloves. The black ones haven't got the proper antistatic coating."
The woman raised a brow. "Where's her bowtie?"
Fortunately, River was wearing a shirt with a collar. Unfortunately, it, too, was black. As were her trousers and her boots. Her hair was wild, at least. He cleared his throat. "She's forgotten it. Left it with her white gloves, probably."
"What does it look like?"
"Her bowtie? Exactly like mine."
She looked him over, then turned to her partner. "We'll move."
They left the hall and proceeded through a painfully bright and very boring corridor; River and the man first, his hand still on her shoulder.
The Doctor and the woman followed.
"I'm Doctor Smith," the Doctor told her, and tried to look as if though he walked through this corridor each and every day.
The woman nodded, once. "I'm Chief Guard Cee. That's Jay, he's a junior."
"I see. Is this really necessary?" He motioned to River and the guard, who both moved equally stiffly. "Let us go now and I won't tell the boss you arrested us."
"Oh, I won't let you go just yet."
"It's in the middle of the night, you were working in the dark, and she's dressed like a burglar."
"Late shift, conserving energy slash studying the items in a different light, it's what she likes to wear. Why would I lie?"
"Yes, why would you? Doesn't it itch?"
"That ridiculous jacket. Doesn't it itch? I'm so glad I don't have to wear one."
"It's surprisingly comfortable." He waited a beat. "I like your bowtie. It's very… even."
"It's a clip-on. Who'd wear one outside of this place? I 'forget' mine, too, whenever I can."
The Doctor opened his mouth.
In front of them, River cleared her throat.
Their destination turned out to be a small office. It contained a shelf, a wall-mounted computer, and two cheerless chairs on opposite sides of a little desk. Unlike the hall, this room had a window. Something bright and outside – probably the exhibit ad – shone into the room, making the frost on the pane cast a stylised shadow over the floor and desk. It looked quite cosy. If only the circumstances had been different.
Jay led River to the chair behind the desk and let her sit down. He had only a tiny bowtie; it was barely more than a ribbon.
"How unexciting," said River, looking around the room.
"Sorry, ma'am," said Jay. He unhooked a fat datareader from his hip and scanned her face, then retreated into a corner and stared at its screen.
"Put your hands on the desk and keep them there," Cee ordered River.
River sedately placed her gloved hands on the tabletop, laced her fingers together. "Am I allowed to speak?"
"Not just yet." Cee sat down in the other chair, stared at River across the desk. She kept a hand on her holster. "Who are you?"
The Doctor, hovering in the background, froze. Oh, it would be so easy, he could just turn away and strain his ears…
"I'm Doctor River Song. That's all I'll tell you."
"Doctor Smith!" called Cee. "How long has she been working here? Is she a temp? Did she replace someone who unexpectedly won the lottery?"
He startled only a little, and approached the desk. How did he find himself standing next to the Chief Guard's seat, staring down at River? "Oh, she's worked here years," he said. "Been around always."
"No match on her face," reported Jay from his corner.
"Try the name," said Cee.
"Of course, she doesn't work here, not really," said the Doctor. "She's visiting, from… Rooga. We're exchanging geniuses. It's all very ingenious."
Cee motioned to Jay to go ahead and check anyway. "What are her fields of expertise?"
"I-" River started.
"No." Cee looked up at the Doctor. "You tell me."
He glanced at River, who offered a small smile and spread her hands. He was becoming vaguely worried, knowing she kept a gun hidden somewhere, wondering why she hadn't used it yet. "I'll tell you what I know… She's a multi-talent."
"Hands, Song! Specify, please, Doctor Smith."
"Is that necessary? Oh, yes, it is, of course. There's archaeology, obviously."
River cocked her head. Too early. Definitely too early for this sort of thing. This is usually when you have a really good plan, her expression said.
"And… she's a teacher, and a historian, a mechanic, an engineer, a programmer, a linguist…" He put his hands on his back, faltered.
Logically, if yes yes yes meant something besides being rather annoying, then she might know – he might have taught her – some of his favourite subjects. He caught River's gaze. "She's also very knowledgeable in thermodynamics, nanotechnology, particle physics, chemistry and mathematics."
Her gaze didn't dispute any of that. It was rather blank, actually.
"Really?" said Cee. "All of those? Many of them aren't exactly fields a person would associate with museums, are they?"
"They most certainly are! How else would we repair the little trains when they break? Or fix the little lights in the sculptures' eyes? Or understand the mechanism powering that giant doll by the entrance? Or make our own glue when we break something?"
"Before me sits an engineer that can repair a given object, program a nano-computer in a foreign language, tell me which year a specific something happened, identify a particle, solve an equation and make glue according to the laws of thermodynamics… and teach me all of it to boot. Correct?"
"You forgot archaeologist."
"Oh, add that somewhere. She'll be able to prove it, of course."
River very nearly smirked.
"Let me download some tests." Cee unhooked her reader from her belt.
"I've left school, but I guess I'll have to do it." River gave the Doctor a look. Her expression, delicately translated, said This is not your best idea.
"Identify this!" Cee turned her reader around and held it up to River.
The Doctor straightened.
"A photon," said River.
Cee tapped side of the reader. "And this?"
"A spherical fullerene. Buckminster, undoubtedly."
"What's the first law of thermodynamics?"
"Energy can be transformed, but not created or destroyed." River shrugged, as if to say, Too easy. The Doctor was inclined to agree.
Cee consulted her reader, and evidently came to the conclusion that the answers were correct. "Impressive. Solve this equation." She printed out a tiny square paper, handed it to River along with a pen.
River accepted them with a smirk. "Can't you just admit you're waiting for the mindprobe to get here?"
"You're stalling. You're not sure what to make of us and the mindprobe is the quickest way to find out, but you're a museum guard, you don't have anything like it on premises. You can't have. Even if you had one you wouldn't know how to use it. You're stalling."
Cee pursed her lips. "As it so happens, I'm going to assess whether we need the probe or not. You know a lot about the law, as well, apparently."
"Have you found anything yet?" Cee asked her partner.
"Not yet, but the scan says a part of her hair shows damage from an energy weapon"
"Really?" said Cee, turning back to River.
"Have you seen what happens when two competing teams of archaeologists reach the same destination at about the same time… it's not pretty. I've solved this."
Cee took the paper and the pen back and scanned River's solution. "It's correct. Why couldn't a ship pass the Inverted Seahorse Nebula until the 26th century?"
"It's in a state of constant flux and the technology hadn't advanced enough until then".
"I have a great one," said the Doctor. "Watch her solve this!" He snatched Cee's reader out of her hands, then swiftly accessed the building info and printed the relevant part. "Here's the circuit diagram for this room. She can identify the main switch in no time."
Cee snatched the reader back, glaring at the Doctor. "She'll identify everything." She tore the paper loose and placed it and the pen on the desk.
"A free trip to Saturn if she fails?" mumbled River. But she got started.
"While you do that…" Cee frowned at her reader. "Do you know what an… Auton is?"
The Doctor leaned forward slightly. "Is there any chance you could ask if she knows what Racnoss are instead?"
"That would have been more interesting, but suit yourself."
River looked up, pursed her lips. "Simplified, one is a plastic entity and the other a giant spider". She didn't seem entirely pleased. "I know you like it when I show off, Doctor, but don't disturb the guard."
"Excuse me," said the Doctor. "I thought it would be a more challenging question."
River rolled her eyes and turned back to the diagram.
Jay cleared his throat. "I can't find anything on the name, either."
Cee sighed. "Then find me Doctor Smith."
He scanned the Doctor's face, looking just a little flustered.
As Jay initiated the search, the Doctor slipped a hand into a pocket and covertly activated the sonic.
"Oh, my reader just died!" Jay hitched a hip onto the desk and set to work trying to reboot it.
"I'm done," said River, sliding the paper and pen across the desk.
Cee scanned the diagram. Spent a long time fiddling with the reader. "Jay, are you good with circuits?"
He looked up, annoyance etched into his face. "Sorry, Chief, no."
"Is there a problem?" asked the Doctor.
"The system isn't sure how to translate her handwriting and apply it to the symbols. It can't even make out what language it's written in!"
"I can do it," said the Doctor.
"I think not." Cee hooked her reader onto her belt, turned and headed for the shelf. It was full of various objects, all obviously intended to eventually go out into the exhibit halls and display cases.
The Doctor caught River's gaze and raised his brows.
River snatched the circuit diagram back and held it up. She'd circled the main switch furiously.
What? mouthed the Doctor.
River shook the paper, frowning a little, glaring a lot. Jay looked up, and transferred his unwavering attention to her. River put the paper down and smiled at him.
Cee returned, carrying a jar. She tore the colourful label attached to its underside off and placed the jar in the Doctor's hands. "Identify this!"
It was a bulbous plastic thing, of a type that never had been popular anywhere. He rubbed his thumb against it, licked that. "Earth, 20th century."
"Label says 21st."
"It's definitely 20th."
"Could be very early 21st century," the Doctor said, unwillingly.
Cee stared at him, took the jar back and placed it on the desk. "Give up, Jay. I'll scan him."
The Doctor graciously subjected himself to a second scam. He could have soniced her reader, too, of course, but that would have looked suspicious. At least the search would take a while.
"Does it bother you, waiting for the probe?" Cee asked River, sitting down again. "I'm patient, I can wait all night."
River leaned back in her seat. "It doesn't, and I'm patient, too. Let me give you some free advice – don't wait, do something else instead. It's more fun."
"Fine. Let's do something else."
"Look at that," said the Doctor, "You gave her a cue!"
They both ignored him. "So," said Cee, "What can you tell me about him?"
"You have to interrogate him to find out."
"All right… Let's do it that way. You know, you could be at home, sleeping."
"I signed up for this." River used a fingertip to trace a pattern on the desk.
The Doctor noticed it immediately. It was High Gallifreyan for 'trip'. He slipped a hand into his pocket again, programmed the sonic.
The two guards both noticed River's moving finger, but quickly and unanimously apparently decided it wasn't anything to bother with. They both returned their attention to their readers.
"How's it going?" the Doctor asked Jay.
"I've got it soon, I think."
"I can help," said River.
Jay glared at her.
Cee's reader beeped.
The Doctor readied himself: the scan wouldn't have found him either.
It turned out that wasn't what the beep meant. "The keeper's here," said Cee. "Along with the probe. I think we'll need it."
"No!" said the Doctor, with finality, and Cee startled.
She looked him over. "On you too."
River laughed. "All those questions and you still know nothing of relevance about me or him."
"You-" Cee started, but she was cut off as the door opened and two tired-looking people entered; the keeper of the museum - a woman in a silken jacket and a very large bowtie - and a man dressed in all black, carrying a large box.
The guards rose and squared their shoulders. "It's under control," said Cee. "I think we should probe them just in case, if not… What do you think, ma'am? Can you vouch for them?"
The woman looked absolutely confused. "I've never seen any of them before in my life!"
The Doctor tightened his grip on the sonic screwdriver.
"We won't stay here any longer, and you can't stop us." River rose, and raised her gun. "Doctor?"
The guards reached for their weapons, but the Doctor was faster; he tripped the right circuit, and the darkness was immediate and compact.
There were some muffled cries, some random gunfire and several criss-crossing torch beams; the Doctor ran to the door and opened it quietly. River's hand fell on his back and urged him on.
Once they were out in the corridor he shut and soniced the door. That'd keep the others busy for a while. He and River ran back down the corridor and into the exhibit hall, pulling out their torches. "Find the globe!" he shouted.
Who could possibly enjoy visiting a museum where there were a hundred showcases and pedestals and little tables placed haphazardly and all over?
River headed for the place they'd been when they were caught. "It should be here somewhere!"
"Find it, find it, find it!"
"It should be in a case, a small – Wait, I've found it!"
The Doctor bathed her in light. "You've found it? Just like that?"
It – a glass ball the size of a passion fruit – sat under a protective case between two boring sculptures.
River knocked the case to the side and snatched the globe, passing it into a pocket. "Let's move!" An alarm rang out, redundantly. On her way out, River grabbed the dirty pot, too.
They exited the floor by way of a spiral staircase the Doctor had conveniently spotted on the blueprints while looking for the circuit diagram. The TARDIS was nestled in a cupboard in the cellar, and they reached it without problem.
The viewscreen let them know that the guards, the keeper and the mindprobe man had got out, if much too late.
The Doctor programmed the TARDIS with Amy and Rory's location, while River placed the pot on the console and peeled off her gloves. When they materialised, she immediately headed for the door.
"Wait!" the Doctor called. "It's too early, they're not expecting us just yet."
River returned, rolling her eyes at the settings he had made.
"Why didn't your gun show up on their scan?" the Doctor asked. He leaned against the railing surrounding the console.
"51st century tech trumps 39th.
"Really? I'm glad you didn't use it earlier."
"I was waiting for you to come up with something brilliant."
"You did not!"
"You seem to have forgotten the important part - the bowtie to the rescue!"
River followed his example and rested her arms on the railing. "You could have let her interrogate me. You could have listened."
"You would have lied," the Doctor said, perhaps a bit too quickly.
She looked pretty tired, and tension had dug out tiny wrinkles by the corners of her mouth; but her eyes sparkled. "Did it help you figure out who I am?"
"No. It struck me that a future me could have taught you all that. The answers to those specific questions."
River smiled. "Did it now?"
"Did I teach you?"
"Maybe you did. Maybe you didn't. Maybe you haven't breathed a syllable about it and I'll be very cross with the next future you I meet."
"You knew all the answers? You didn't guess?"
"I guessed the nebula one, if you must know."
"Have you got an eidetic memory?"
"Would I need the diary if I had?"
The Doctor pondered that. "Yes. For my benefit."
"Oh, you are clever today, aren't you?" She reached out and pinched his chin.
He glanced at her hair. Leaned toward her, just a little bit.
He found what he looked for: a particularly coiled lock. The very ends of the strands it consisted of were molten together, a tiny slick lump of red and gold. "Two months ago, a raygun set fire to approximately two inches of this curl."
"Lucky it wasn't a disintegrator."
He ran a hand through another section of hair. "A fortnight ago, at the most, a rather blunt knife took off an inch or so from this strand here." He tugged slightly at it.
"I left that hairdresser quickly."
"River…" He unfurled a curl, then painstakingly shaped a lemniscate with it. Let go and watched it recoil. He looked for more inconsistencies, fluffed a chunk of hair up.
River angled her head towards him, offered all of her hair for inspection.
He was suddenly very aware of that, and removed his hand sedately. "What if Cee had asked you to do something you couldn't? What would you have done then?"
"Something clever and unexpected. Come on, Doctor! Stop pretending the interrogation bothered you so."
"You love that kind of game."
He raised a brow. "I do?"
"It would have been more fun had you been older… But you did well."
"I did well?"
"I think we should leave now. I'm sure you'll come up with a great excuse for being early." She headed for the door again.
"You could have told me you considered it a game."
River turned, her hand on the door. She laughed. "Oh, Doctor… I'm going to make something out of you."