The Doctor was underneath the glass floor of the TARDIS, fixing some wiring and generally monkeying around where he shouldn't be, when he heard a creak. A creak? The TARDIS doesn't creak. She sort of groans from time to time, but she never creaks- not unless there's someone else there leaning on the wood. He decided to disregard it and look into it later. Amy and Rory were off on a second, non-life-threatening honeymoon, and he was… well, frankly he was pretty bored. There's really not much a Time Lord can do all on his own. It's just not fun. Little did he know that he was about to discover who had made the creak.
"Hello, sweetie!" River's face appeared out of absolutely nowhere, leaning over him and very close.
"AAAA!" The Doctor jumped and fell out of the swing under the console, taking River down with him in a tangle of braces and swing ropes. River, who was now on top of him on the floor, laughed, and he could feel her chest shaking with the sound. "Don't do that! You know I hate being surprised like that!"
"Yes, love, but it's just so much fun. I can't resist." The Doctor rolled his eyes and she smiled even brighter as they pulled themselves up. "Come here, you." She grabbed his jacket lapels and pulled him in for a kiss, which he returned gratefully.
"How long?" He asked after pulling away.
"Three months." She said, a bit sadly. "And you?"
"Too long." That was always his answer. She was still earlier in her timeline than he'd seen in a while, and she'd come to hate 'spoilers' so much that he hardly used it. Later on he would actually give her times, but shush, she doesn't know yet.
"Well, then. What have you been up to?" She asked.
"Oh, this and that. Running around-"
"Causing more trouble and near paradoxes, no doubt!" River said, smiling.
"Always!" The Doctor chuckled and leaned against the stair railing. Suddenly there was a knock- no, a pounding on the door.
"Who on-" River began, but was cut off by a muffled cry from outside.
"Doctor open this da-"
"No need for profanity, I'm coming!" The Doctor called, rushing to swing open the door. Captain Jack Harkness tumbled inside, slamming the door behind him and collapsing to the floor.
"Go! Doesn't matter where, just get us out of here!" He said, panting. The Doctor didn't hesitate to put the TARDIS in flight, but River simply stared, a speechless, motionless, horrified statue.
"Jack." She said under her breath. About that time Jack looked up, hand clapped to a bloody gash across his cheek.
"River Song? What are you doing here?"
"Me? What are you doing here, you sick bastard?" She said angrily. "I thought you were dead!" He shrugged.
"Yeah… about that… I may or may not have survived. And went into hiding…"
"For three years?"
"Look, what else was I supposed to do? Not all of us can pick up our vortex manipulator and fly off to wherever we want!"
"Not all of us are serving 12,000 life sentences in prison for a crime they didn't commit." River said harshly, her blue eyes flashing. Jack suddenly became quiet. Twelve thousand life sentences in prison was a harsh reality to Jack- he was probably the only man alive who would be able to live through them all. Well, except the Doctor, but why would he be put in prison?
"Well, then," The Doctor cut in, clearing his throat, "I think River and I are going to go make some tea. Jack, you know where your room is. Why don't you go clean up?"
The Captain nodded, suddenly remembering the cut on his cheek, and went off to tend to it, casting a backwards glance at River that spoke of something the Doctor would have preferred not to name…
"How do you know him?" The Doctor whispered in River's ear. She seemed to visibly stiffen at the question.
"Tea?" River asked, walking hastily towards the kitchen.
"Hm." The Doctor followed, not buying her trying to switch the subject, but before they got much farther a bleeping from the console stopped them.
"What's that?" River asked, eager both to find out what it was and to divert the conversation away from how she knew Jack Harkness.
"It's a distress signal!" The Doctor said, flipping switches all around the console. "I'm locking in on the coordinates now!"
"What's wrong?" Jack came running in from the back, the bleeding staunched and back to his old self.
"Distress signal! Coming from somewhere remote- it's weak, but it's enough to trace!" River said over the noise of the console. She checked the scanner and flipped a few switches to smooth the flight.
"Good. We've landed- parked us in a corner somewhere, hopefully discreetly." The Doctor said, straightening his bow tie thoughtfully. "Now, the real work begins outside those doors." He smiled and River ran down the steps and outside the TARDIS.
"Halt!" A man stood directly outside the TARDIS doors, backed by a small group of people. He was older, with a head of hair and a beard that were both snowy white. He was also pointing a very menacing-looking gun right at River's chest. The trio put their hands above their head in a surrender and the Doctor spoke.
"Now, now, let's not do anything hasty! I got your distress call; I'm here to help."
"We sent that call months ago!" The man said. "Why should we trust you?"
"Because I'm the Doctor, and if you sent that call months ago I'm going to guess we're the only chance you've got." The Doctor said. He still looked suspiscious.
"Who are they?"
"Captain Jack and River Song- best of the best." The gun didn't move from River.
"What's that box?"
"It's not a box, it's transport!" The Doctor said, slightly offended. The man slowly lowered his gun and extended his hand.
"Alright. I'm Dr. Alexander. This is my pod."
"Your pod?" Asked Jack, eyeing the group of five or six behind Alexander.
"My group of survivors. We all have pods here."
"Survivors…?" The Doctor said, looking around. For the first time he noticed where they were. Stone walls rose high above their heads, but from where they stood the roof had crumbled and decayed. The sky told him that they were on an alien planet, one of the first colonized by humans… one of the failed colonization attempts.
"You said you came to answer a distress call. I assumed you planned to land yourself in the middle of a war zone."
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