Title: The Party Don't Start
Rating: T (for mentions of alcohol, etc.)
Characters/Pairing: Eleven, River, Amy (Eleven/River)
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who.
The Doctor strode into the great room as if he actually had any business there, Amy at his heels.
"What's with all the parties we've crashed lately, Mr. Smith?" she asked. "Bored of monsters?"
"They deserve a break from me."
Amy almost rolled her eyes but not quite. "I'm not complaining. And this looks a lot nicer than that boar roast in the 15th century."
That was true. The room was practically sparkling with finery; it was a sea of nicely dressed people, champagne glasses and hors d'oeuvres. "It does have more of an air of civility to it," the Doctor admitted.
"Where are we?"
The Doctor shrugged. "63rd century. One of Earth's colonies. Some city. A townhouse. The ground floor. The giant, windowless ground floor. It's not like glass hasn't been invented yet, and any number of adequate plastics for that matter, and would it be hard to put up a nice drywall with a door every here and there, so that I wouldn't have to take everything in at once…"
Amy's eyes came back into focus as he trailed off into silence. "I meant, whose party is it?"
"Oh, Pond… How could I possibly know that?"
Amy was still in the dress she'd worn to all the parties they'd been to; it was short, TARDIS-blue and simple enough to fit in anywhere (and despite this being party number… something, it still looked nice; it was merely a bit creased, subtly stained, and smelled faintly of smoke).
The Doctor wore his blue shirt-bowtie-bracers combo. He had considered a tux when all this partying started, but decided against it at the last possible moment (he couldn't find a tie he really liked to go with it) and Amy had glared him out of a top hat.
"Sir…" A flustered waiter hurried after them and tried to glean some attention from the Doctor — which was not happening. Finally the man resorted to brandishing his empty drinks' tray about three inches from the Doctor's face. "Sir, the dress code!"
The Doctor finally caught on and gingerly pushed the tray away. "Yes, I know. No top hats — a scandal!" He moved on, leaving the waiter quite bewildered.
Amy was on his heels instantly, slipping past and twirling around other guests just as well as he did. "I think he might have meant your clothes, you know, not fitting the dress code," she said.
"That's ridiculous! Bowties always fit."
Amy gave him a once-over, out of the corner of an eye. "Could've been the tweed, or the boots, or the braces…"
"That's quite enough, Amelia," he said, and smoothed various parts of his attire reflexively.
Amy stopped and craned her neck, peering over the milling crowd. "So… We don't actually have anything important to do here?"
The Doctor raised his brows. "Do we ever?"
"Then I'm having champagne and a look around. We'll meet up later, behave yourself!" She headed off, deftly sliding between an elderly woman inspecting her many rings and a gentleman drinking from two glasses at once.
"Water, Amelia, water!" the Doctor shouted after her (not discreetly). They had taken to splitting up during their party-crashing, for some reason the Doctor could not quite remember anymore, but he was certain it had been his idea, if not of course it had been Amy's.
Someone tapped the Doctor on the shoulder and he whirled to face whoever it was. "Bowties are cool!" he said, defensively.
The waiter who had accosted them earlier looked taken aback (and a little bit worried). At least he'd put the tray away. "Sir, it is customary to… to pay respect to the host. Especially when one is not on the guest list."
The Doctor smiled. "Then take me to the host, there's a good man."
The waiter looked a bit surprised, but turned and began navigating through the throng of people, heading for a far corner of the enormous room. The Doctor followed him at his leisure.
The waiter stopped before a small group all having their backs turned to the rest of the room, doubtlessly doting on the host. e cleared his throat and the people parted to admit them, and revealed — River Song.
She wore an evening gown and held a glass of champagne by its dainty stem. She also stared at them — no, at him, the Doctor — with the most surprised expression he had seen on her face so far — it was different having him show up when she hadn't summoned him, he thought.
The Doctor was a bit surprised to see her too, of course.
He was dealing with it much better, though, really. It wasn't like he gawked at her like that, and if he felt a bit odd, it was just the gas exchange in his lungs that had taken a little dip in efficiency suddenly. It was all quite within normal parameters…
River visibly snapped out of her surprise and held out her free hand to him, the back of it up, which was a weird angle for a shake even in the 63rd century.
The Doctor couldn't quite process the gesture. He stared at her hand hesitantly.
She made a face that said, Come now, you know this.
Then he understood all at once, and he took her hand in his and brushed it bemusedly (and quite perfectly modestly humanly and only a little clumsily) with his lips. River smiled sweetly. The Doctor let go of her hand, spread his arms and grinned.
"Madame Song..." the waiter, now considerably flustered, started. "This man isn't on the guest list."
"It's all right," said River, apparently having great problems not smiling, "He's an old acquaintance." She sent the waiter away with a nod of her head (he seemed quite relieved to be going).
The rest of the crowd dissipated; perhaps bored, perhaps sensing they had been pushed out of the limelight. Or maybe it was because some kind of buffet table had been revealed in another corner and it was quite a long stretch of floor to pass to get there.
"Acquaintance?" the Doctor asked delicately. This was infuriating — he could never be certain when they were. Maybe they were just acquaintances. Maybe these were early days.
"Well," she said. "That's what you'd call it."
Put a little on ease by this, he changed the subject. "Is hand-kissing back again? Or has it not been in yet? I can't seem to keep up."
River shrugged. "I like it."
The Doctor raked a hand through his hair and surveyed the room with a sort of idly bored appraisal. "Why are you hosting this party?"
"Why are you crashing this party?"
"The TARDIS suggested it."
River muttered, "I'll have to have a word with her."
"So… You just decided you'd rent a huge house and throw a somewhat fancy bash?"
"Oh, stop it. It's just a party. Fake, of course."
"Of course. Best fake party I've ever been to."
She raised a brow. "Is it?"
"Well, in this century." He frowned. "This decade, let's say. And you have real live waitpeople. And champagne. And a smorgasbord."
"I like the classics." She touched the string of pearls around her neck absent-mindedly.
They moved a bit — well, the Doctor moved, and River matched him stride for stride.
"You've rented a locale with no windows."
The Doctor scoffed. "Feels like a prison, doesn't it?" He eyed her discreetly.
River barely reacted at all. She kept walking, sombrely slowly. The hem of her dark grey dress trailed on the floor. "This is going to be very boring, I'm afraid," she said, indicating the room in general. "So boring, in fact, that maybe you should pop to tomorrow and help me cure my inevitable hangover instead of loitering about here."
"If that's what you think… I'm definitely staying." He carefully selected a glass of champagne from a full tray a waitress offered him, sipped it, promptly spat it out again (most of it back in the glass) and then, quite calmly, placed the glass on the floor and walked on.
"What's this fake party really about?" the Doctor asked, after stopping quite suddenly and facing River. He probably wasn't going to like it, so naturally he had to know.
River rubbed at a temple with her free hand, and seemed to visibly give up, or in. "Some people are paying me to find someone." She spoke so low he had to strain to hear.
"Oom Oom Lamb."
"Oh, him. Hasn't got a body yet, has he?"
"Nope. Just the brain."
"Right. Just brains are rarely nice. Not even the ones with skin. Who want him?"
River shrugged. "People."
"Nice people, River?"
"Who's here with you?"
"You keep looking around. Who's wandered off now?"
"Amy." The Doctor was a bit preoccupied with Amy's whereabouts. She was absolutely nowhere to be seen, and it wasn't like she'd be hard to miss — she'd be the most colourful person of all, in this storm cloud grey and eggshell white crowd. The room was entirely too big. "You've met her before?"
"I have." River bent her head in acknowledgement; she looked quite pleased.
"Why a fake party? Why not just knock on Oom's door and say, 'hey, you're an evil brain, come with me'?"
"I have my own way of doing things." River gave a little sigh. "Help me find him, now that you're here."
"What are you talking about?"
"There's something else… In your manner, in your thoughts…" He held up a finger and smiled triumphantly. "This fake party has several reasons."
River took a sip of champagne. "If it does, it hardly concerns you."
The Doctor twisted his lip. "Yet."
"Yet." She offered him her arm. "Come on, let's find that brain. And for what I hope is the last time — don't scan my thoughts, however briefly."
"How hard can it be to find a brain among people who have the decency to keep theirs out of sight? There has to be a container, and various unsavoury fluids, and some sort of propelling mechanism…"
River practically dragged him by the arm, and yet she still had time to sip her champagne and smile graciously and hostess-like at pretty much everyone they passed. "Stop rambling," she said. "It's disturbing my concentration."
"Why is the room so big?" the Doctor whined.
"How old was it you claimed to be again?"
The Doctor stiffened and untangled his elbow somewhat incredibly clumsily from River's, and then he shot off across the floor.
He had not seen a renegade brain, but something else that irked him (and ironically also involved unsavoury fluids). Amy. Holding a glass of champagne.
"There you are-" she began, but she stopped herself and raised an exasperated eyebrow higher and higher the closer he came (he had trouble controlling his expressions every now and then).
He snatched the glass from her and shook it; the golden liquid sloshed about madly. "Remember what happened in the 20th century! I'm not holding your hair again!"
Honestly, Doctor, sometimes-" she looked over his shoulder, and her manner changed from petulant to astonished in the space of a heartbeat. "River!"
Amy and River hugged in a rather less refined way than two women in eveningwear and (one of them) holding champagne ought to.
The Doctor cleared his throat. "Yeah, we crashed River's party."
Amy grinned. "So that's why all the waiters are so cute." She prodded River with an elbow.
"Of course," said River. "And, Sweetie, don't you dare put that glass on the floor."
"Amy!" said the Doctor, in his best disapproving voice. "River."
Amy rolled her eyes. "I'm allowed to think the waiters are cute! I'm single and fancy-free. And oh so tipsy because of the two sips of champagne I had."
The Doctor winced, clutching Amy's glass awkwardly. Single, indeed. And it was his fault, wasn't it?
"Oh, and I shut a brain in a jar in a room in the cellar. I didn't like the way it gurgled at me."
The Doctor and River exchanged a mutually wide-eyed look.
Amy pursed her lips and weighed air in the palms of her hands. "Good or not so good?"
River thrust her glass into the Doctor's free hand and threw her arms properly around Amy. "Very good!"