Author's Notes: This is an AU set roughly in 1931. The Doctor's been a bit anachronistic by using the word 'cool' as slang since that didn't start until around 1933, but when would the Doctor ever adhere to normal standards anyhow? Throughout the story, I refer to the Doctor carrying a brownie camera, which did come in some foldable sizes. This fic came about inspired by gidget89's AU stories she's been doing to fulfill a Tumblr meme and a discussion I was having Saturday with penguinspy42. I thought of having the Doctor and River be reporter/editor or reporter/reporter. Jenn suggested photographer/reporter, and the idea was set.
She strode into the darkroom, anger simmering beneath her skin, and committed the ultimate sin.
She hit the lights.
"What? No!No, no, no, no, what're you doing?" He jerked his head away from the enlarger and sprinted toward the trays where photographs lay in various stages of development. He jerked off his tweed coat and dropped it over the trays before whirling on her, his eyes lit with the fury of an oncoming storm.
She leaned against the doorway, a face framed with a riot of blonde curls and ruby red lips curved into a mischievous smile. "Hello, sweetie."
"No one gets to call me sweetie. Who are you?" he said in a dark voice meant to intimidate.
She held out a hand. "The name's River Song. And you've stood me up."
"How have I stood you up? I don't even know who you are! Now, get out of my darkroom!" He batted away her hand, doing his best to try to push her out the door, but she remain steady on the 3-inch pumps she wore that matched the color of her lipstick. She merely plucked a translucent piece of paper from the bulletin board where it had been hastily tacked and shoved it in his face.
"See this? It's called a photo assignment. An assignment for one of my stories. You didn't show up."
He snatched it. "I only work with Amelia Pond."
"Amy's out on maternity. You're working with me now, sweetie."
He shoved the paper back in her face. "Well, you can keep your assignment. And I'm not anyone's sweetie." He nudged River back two paces, then slammed the door in her face.
River cooly looked at the assignment and tossed it in the waste bin. Turning, she fluffed her curls and smiled just a bit evilly. "I suppose then you've no interest in tracking down the Silence."
The door immediately popped open. "We can negotiate."
"The Silence. No one's ever seen them, no photographs are known to exist. Half the desk thinks they're a story, the other thinks it's a cult, and you've made it your life's work to track them down."
The Doctor paused in gathering three cameras, a folding brownie, a tripod, and a fez. "How'd you know all this?"
"I'm a reporter, sweetie. It's my job to know these things." River took the fez. "Oh, no, you're not wearing this on assignment."
"I'm not your sweetie, and fezzes are cool," he spat back, snatching the fez. "If you call me anything, call me the Doctor."
"Really? And here I thought the name outside your lab says John Smith."
"Trust me, I'm the Doctor." He dipped into a refrigerator, pulling out several rolls of film.
"Doctor of what?"
"Doctor of this." He snatched a file folder off a shelf, all but tossed it in River's face. She caught it and opened to see a series of photographs. Brilliant, color photographs.
"Color photography? How in the world did the editor sign off on this? It's extremely rare, not to mention expensive as hell."
"He didn't." The Doctor promptly shoved everything in a bag. He grinned for the first time since she'd come into the room and tapped her nose. "There, you've got that 'he's quite impressive' look on your face.'"
River shoved the folder back at him. "That's my normal face."
"Then, you must always be impressed."
She rolled her eyes and privately admitted that she was indeed a bit impressed.
River wasn't the only one who could be impressed.
"Take a look at that," she said, nodding to an envelope as the Doctor shoved equipment in the back of the car, "while I drive."
He thought of protesting, because really he didn't care for anyone's driving other than his own, when he picked up the envelope and felt the familiar heft of a negative plate. He grabbed gloves from his inside jacket pocket and slipped them on before carefully pulling out the glass plate and studying the image of a bulbous-shaped figure with large, dark, alien eyes.
He nearly dropped it in shock. "This is one of Victor Hess's plates."
"Very good, sweetie."
"Doctor," he reminded her.
He grit his teeth.
"This is one of the ones he took from a balloon. Some have dismissed it as a cloud, or some sort of anomaly, but I don't think so." River navigated them into traffic. "Professor Candy at Harvard slipped this to me. He thinks it's connected with the Silence. Theory is they've been the key forces behind Prohibition and speakeasies, a very lucrative business when you come to think about it."
"Prohibition happened in 1918. This had to be taken earlier than that."
"Around 1912. They say he's going to win the Nobel Prize for that work."
The Doctor scoffed.
"You watch." River smiled. "I'm always right, my love."
She would be right.
The stakeout was long, but it wasn't as boring as some of the ones River had gone on in the past. Oh, it was always easy to slip into a speakeasy. A flirty smile, a discreet showing of the gun she kept strapped to her thigh, and copious amounts of cash was usually all that was needed to get inside and get the story. Her editors didn't care where she got her sources, just that she got them in the first place. Her work was gold, and readership skyrocketed.
This time, she had quite the accessory.
"Why are they staring at me like that?" The Doctor whispered to her, still pouting over the fact that she'd only allowed him to bring in the brownie camera and had tossed his fez in an open manhole.
"Because, you're with me." Her breath ghosted over his ear, and he found himself shivering a bit. "And they all think I probably bought you for the night."
"Bought me for what?" he asked a bit blankly.
River's eyes narrowed.
"Sweetie, I think you've spent far too much time around darkroom chemicals and not enough time dancing."
"I dance!" The Doctor replied, offended.
She sidled closer to him, and her breath ghosted over his ear again, causing a shiver at the base of his spine. Her hand slid over his thigh, dangerously near several particular body parts that were starting to remind him did indeed exist. "No, Doctor. Dancing."
He swallowed hard and didn't ask again.
The resulting story netted in a bust on the speakeasy, recognition for the paper's top investigative journalist and photographer, and a bonus in their next paychecks.
It also resulted in a bounty on their heads.
"A bounty! How exciting!" River said with no small amount of glee as the Doctor gaped at just how much the mob was willing to pay to kill them. "They're even sending the Weeping Angels after us, oh we've really pissed them off."
"Not me! You! You pissed them off, River Song, with that gun and that," he gesticulated frantically, "thing you do."
"Oh?" An eyebrow winged up. "What thing?"
"You know. Kiss, kiss, bang, bang. Waving that gun about, and I saw you shoot that one man in the arm after you flirted all over him. You even kissed him! You're not a reporter, you're … something."
"Oh, I am something all right, sweetie."
"It didn't stop you from taking all those pictures." River tapped the 5-column shot of the mayhem inside the speakeasy that the Doctor had taken despite being restricted to the brownie.
It also didn't stop them from digging further into the seediest areas of the city, unearthing the Silence's operations one by one. Exposing them to the light, the Doctor thought after they'd witnessed one series of arrests. It was almost a personal vendetta for River, he realized as their unusual partnership turned from temporary to permanent. She knew about the Silence, far more than he'd ever managed to find. However she'd managed to come by her information, she impressed him with the breadth of it.
Not even the return of Amelia Pond from her maternity leave kept him from making sure he was attached to all of River's assignments, from mundane ribbon cuttings to going undercover as factory workers to investigate working conditions for the poor.
"I couldn't believe it when Rory told me," Amy said, referring to her copy editor husband. "You, working with River Song. River never works with anyone."
"She works with me now, Pond. We're a team. A rather cool team. I keep coming up with a team name, but she hates them all."
"That's because they're rubbish, Doctor."
He straightened, squinting at her in the low light of the darkroom. "My team names are cool!"
"No, they're not. You kept wanting to call me and Rory your Team TARDIS."
"Which was a really cool name!"
"You realize you've turned in more work in the past three months than you have in the past year? And look at this! You took photographs of a Kress ribbon cutting. Last time someone tried to assign you to one of those, you sent it back all sticky and covered with crumbs like you used it for a napkin."
"I needed one! Sandwiches are quite messy."
Amy gave him a knowing look. "You fancy her."
"What? I do not fancy her. Motherhood has obviously warped your brain, Amelia Pond."
"No, it hasn't. All you've talked about since I walked in today was 'River this' and 'River that,' and you went to a ribbon-cutting. Face it, my raggedy photographer, you're in love."
"I am not," he vehemently denied, even though he was quite sure Amy could hear his suddenly racing heart. He stilled, angled his head at her. "What do you know about her?"
"Not much. She's friendly, but says nothing. Only person I know of who's convinced the Silence are real. Other than us, of course." Amy grew thoughtful. "I think it's something of a personal vendetta for her. Editors don't care as long as she turns in the copy. Which, speaking of that, if I don't file, they'll be looking for an excuse to shuffle me off to features." She wrinkled her nose.
The photo happened by accident.
It was another experiment in the Doctor's color photography after he spent weeks begging River to book an assignment tailored specifically to allowing him to use the film to its best advantage. Even she had been impressed by the process and stayed with him in the darkroom as he carefully processed the frames.
At first, when the images of the park swam into focus in the chemical bath, the Doctor thought it was some sort of camera malfunction. Then he recognized the shape of the face, the size of the eyes. Pushing his protective goggles out of the way, there was just enough light in the room to see the hint of recognition and the steely look in River's eyes. She'd seen it, too.
"It matches the plate," he said with half awe, half glee, and half fear because instead of looking impressed or excited, River looked angry.
"It matches the plate," she said softly.
"You're not happy? We've done it." He grabbed her arms, pulling her away from the developing photo. "River, we can prove that the Silence are real!"
"Oh, my love," River said sadly, her eyes suddenly shimmering. She slowly took a breath, then pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth, her hand sliding down to gently entwine her fingers with his. She pulled back before he could think to turn it into a proper kiss. "I've always known they were real. How do you think I've known so much about them all this time?"
He stared at her in shock, understanding what had probably been under his nose all along. But, he was in far too deep to ever let her go.