Title: Almost Expected
Rating: T (for innuendo and mentions of guns)
Summary: Jack. River. A ventilation duct.
Disclaimer: I don't own Doctor Who. Not Torchwood, either.
A/N: For bendingwind at LJ, who wanted 'Jack-River interaction'.


The Universe is a strange, vast place, full of impossible things. Jack Harkness and River Song ending up in the same ventilation duct at the same time is not one of those impossible things.

It was to be expected, actually.

It happened thusly:

Jack had crawled through approximately half a mile of ducts, across little solderings nipping at his palms through leather gloves and at his knees through durable trousers; pushing against air tugging at his hair and parching his mouth. He had done it in a warm greatcoat that had got stuck absolutely everywhere it could get stuck, while holding (much too awkwardly) a gun in his right hand and a torch/highly-illegal-anywhere navigation device in his left (he accidentally banged them against the metal duct routinely and noisily, but he needed them close).

The duct system had only one maintenance hatch leading into the house. He'd made good time and had, if his information was correct, only to coerce one measly little lock and then jump (well, fall) ten feet or so before he could, you know, stand up straight, walk on a floor, do what he came for.

Then he had rounded what was, according to the highly-illegal navigation device, the last corner separating him from the maintenance hatch and the measly lock and the next step of the mission – and found that someone was already there.

River Song crouched next to the hatch. Next to the openhatch. There was a tiny cube next to her, pulsing with blue light. Hit by the beam from Jack's torch, she offered a lazy salute. "Captain. You should see your face... it's so adorable I hardly know what to do with myself."

Jack raised his gun and made sure he had a good grip on it before giving River a once-over. Curls, decidedly serviceable suit (very snug, niceneckline), utility belt with a powerful weapon, gloves. "I thought I was smart avoiding the line at the front door," he said, quietly, smirking just a little. "I didn't know there was one here as well."

"I'm always first, Jack."

"Aren't you afraid I'm gonna shoot you?"

She almost purred. "You wouldn't. Besides," she pointed to the cube, "this little beauty will divert any shot. And by divert, I mean send it back to you."

He raised a brow. "Is that a space-bending defence cube? I thought those were banned... instantly."

"I have connections."

"Anyone I know?"

"You can speak louder if you want. The cube has shielded us off, completely."

"Why should I believe that?"

"Oh. Just listen to your... heart."

Jack eyed the completely innocuous-looking cube. He lowered his gun and raised his voice. "Stalemate."

River laughed, curtly. "Checkmate."

"No idea what you mean, but I like it."

"You'd better come here." She reached out and tapped at the cube. The pulsing stopped; the light turned white, verged on painfully bright.

Jack shut off his torch, holstered his gun and crawled toward her, in the most fetching way he could manage. Pressing his back to the wall, he positioned himself in a fairly comfortable crouch across from River, on the other side of the open hatch. "Cosy," he remarked, surveying the illuminated duct.

"I know. It was getting lonely, though."

"Well, I'm gonna correct that."

"You'd better."

The space between them was a dark, obvious hole; a break in the gleaming metal. He peered down. Just darkness. If he hadn't known there was an enormous room down there, the feeling of seclusion would have been powerful. "So, what's a nice lady like you doing in a place like this?"

River pursed her red lips. "What's an immortal like you doing using a line like that?"

"I like the classics."

She leaned forward slightly, too close to the hatch for comfort. "Try something new."

The steady airflow tickled Jack's cheeks; it did nice things to her curls, as well. He grinned. "We've got all night for something new... Right now, I want to know why you're here."

"The same as everyone else – I came for the dancing. I just couldn't stand waiting at the front door. The party isn't far from here."

"Funny. I came for an old friend – someone you know. Besides, I thought this was a fancy kind of party. Shouldn't you be wearing a ball gown?"

"It's not what you wear, Jack; it's how you wear it."

"Oh," he said, repeating the once-over as slowly as he dared. "Well, I approve."

River smirked, let her gaze linger on various parts of his attire. "You look smart, though a bit more colour wouldn't hurt."

Jack decided it was time to move on, unfortunately. There was a deadline, and his calves had begun to ache. "You're here for John."

Her eyes turned decidedly cold.

"I'll take that as a 'yes'," he said. "Best coincidence of the day."

"How so?"

"We both want to... help him. I scratch your back, you scratch mine?"

"I've always wanted to do that." She flashed red-varnished nails. "All right. It would be stupid to ignore a handsome advantage."

He drew a sobering breath. "So... deal with the guards, get John?"

River sniffed. "I could do that myself. Let's not be so... obvious. Now we have the opportunity; let's use each other."

"Ah, the classy approach. What do you have in mind?"

"We should favour our strong suits, so... Roleplay? Couple?"

"Lost on the way to the coatroom if anyone asks?"

"Plain, but it'll do." She nodded to his torch/device. "That doesn't happen to be capable of some kind of scanning? I'd rather not jump unaware and my scanner's shorted out... again. It hasn't been the same since someone decided it would make a smashing part of a warship console."

Jack hefted the device, entered the necessary commands. "Sure can scan! It just needs to recalibrate."

River put on a fresh coating of lipstick, pushed her curls behind her ears, straightened her top, and then said, "I haven't got all night! Are you using tech from this century? Come on! Faster!"

He smirked, but entered a few more instructions, if mostly for show. There were only so many shortcuts the thing would accept. "What's with the haste all of a sudden?"

"Maybe you're finally doing something of use to me?"

"You tell me..."

She shut off the cube, slipped it into a pouch hanging from the belt, and whispered, "We'll need this later."

The device finished calibrating, gave him a low-quality scan of the room below; it was empty, the coast was clear. He gave River a nod, mouthed: "Showtime!"

She winked, approached the hatch on hands and knees, peered into the darkness.

The rest of the evening passed exactly as expected.