He thought he’d pretty much seen everything while he’d been working his way up the ranks, establishing his credibility as an agent when most just saw a man too young, too juvenile. He’d proven them wrong, of course – with his cleverness and gadgets, his penchant for averting international disasters through a means that oftentimes proved too whimsical for standard British intelligence protocol. They called him “The Doctor,” a codename that had stuck with him from his very first assignment. Arms deals, black market trades, assassinations, plots to take over the world, a few nuclear disasters (averted) and one time he even managed to save the Queen herself.
So he’d thought he’d seen pretty much everything in just the few relatively short years he’d been doing this job.
River Song, then, shouldn’t have taken him by surprise. “Are you sure about this?” her Warden asked him, frowning. The Doctor glanced at the picture from her file, walking side-by-side down the long empty halls of Stormcage, the single highest security facility prison in all of England. “She’s dangerous as they come,” he warned, “Use her, then discard her. Don’t let her pull you into her games.”
But the Doctor rather liked games, actually.
He’d seen plenty of women as beautiful as her; seen them con and beguile and flirt their way into a dozen situations that would require most men to use force or violence – it was why he always liked working with women, actually. They had so much more finesse, more style, more intelligence and common sense than the next three men over combined. There were silly rumors that he’d gone through half a dozen female partners in the last few years because he just couldn’t settle on which woman he liked most, but that was a lie. He wasn’t a playboy; the women – he was only friends with them, and they always left him, not the other way around.
“Don’t let her suck you in,” the Warden continued, keys jangling in his pockets. “She claims she did nothing, but they all claim that. River Song is serving a life sentence for Murder One, and that’s too short as far as I’m concerned. Are you sure you want to deal with her? She’s locked up in solitary confinement for a reason. To work with her could be a mistake—”
“What’s life without a few of those, eh?” he tossed back, smiling.
“This is serious,” the Warden scowled.
“Oh, yes, all very serious business here. You won’t see a smile on this face, only frowns. But while I appreciate your advice, Warden, the very unfunny thing is that Her Majesty likes having her royal crown jewels in her own possession; pesky thing, the relationship between women and their jewelry. River Song knows better than anyone who could’ve stolen them.”
It was a task beneath him, to be honest, to retrieve these jewels, even if they were royalty’s – but one simply did not turn down a personal request from the Queen, and she’d taken such a shining to him ever since he’d saved her that one time.
The Warden frowned. “Honestly, if she wasn’t locked up tight in her cell, I would tell you that she should be your prime suspect.”
Before the Doctor could further alleviate or aggravate the other man’s sour mood, depending on how much patience he wanted to exert in the task, a random guard unlocked the last gate to her ward and all three men stopped short. The Doctor was the first one to step inside, treading further down the long empty hallway.
In her lonesome cell, through the heavy metal door left ajar, there was a scribbled drawing of a woman with wavy hair. “Hello, sweetie,” it simply said. “Better luck next time?”
“Oh my god,” the Warden declared. “She’s escaped! Again!”
That put a lasting stamp on his impressions of River Song.
He tracked her down to Rio, attending a rather posh charity dinner, of all things. The party was hosted at a multi-million dollar beach house, and the guests were all perfectly suited for the black-and-white-only affair with expensive gowns and suits – even himself, in a neatly pressed black tux and matching top-hat that he broke out for special occasions. He loved this hat, particularly.
River Song, however, bucked the trend. She stuck out amongst the crowd and not just because of the hair; in a deep red gown that fell all the way to the floor, hugging around her curves in all the right ways, and with killer heels to match, she looked… she looked far better than a woman convicted with a life-sentence should, in any case. He watched her from afar at first, mingle with the other men, smile and laugh, and even once, even though he knew she hadn’t the faintest clue who he was, she spared him a single rather significant look across the crowded room, smiling brazenly at him. He’d felt something slam into his chest and stick, then, and he smiled back, tipping his top-hat to her.
He approached her after the third dance, and she smiled graciously. “Of course, sweetie, I’d love to dance. But I should warn you, you better know what you’re doing before you decide to tango with me.”
“I think I can handle myself,” he replied, easily.
“Oh, handle yourself all you like, but a girl is rather more interested in how you handle her.”
He grinned. Oh, he already liked her. Shame he was going to have to throw her back in prison. They spun around the dance floor for a while, and despite her taunt, there was no Tango to be had, not that they didn’t enjoy themselves.
“So, how did you manage to find me, Doctor?” she said, and he looked to her, shocked. “Oh, don’t give me that look. You think I don’t know about you? That I don’t know everything there is to know about you? You’re the Doctor, the man sent to bring me down. I’d take exception to the development, but I am rather flattered by all the attention.”
“Stealing crown jewels will get you a lot more than attention,” he returned. “Give them back, River. You don’t mind if I call you River, do you?”
Her smile went wide, flirtatious. “Call me whatever you like, sweetie.”
Two could play at that game. He leaned far more into her personal space than she leaned into his, whispering right into her ear. “Give them back, River.”
“Or you’ll do what? I’m already sentenced to life in prison. What are you going to do?” She pulled back and winked. “Spank me?”
“Oh, I love a bad girl, me, but I don’t think you’re grasping the seriousness of what’s happened. The crown jewels. Men have hanged for far less.”
“Bless. You still think this is about jewels. This is about more than that, Doctor. You’re being used, and you don’t even know it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Tell me, what do you know about the Silence?”
He straightened, staring at her with a quiet look of surprise. The Silence was one of the oldest ultra-fascist regimes out of Europe; it had slowly been amassing a great wealth of influence and money over the last few decades and, if their dictatorial leader Madame Kovorian was anything to judge by, their plans for England weren’t particularly benevolent.
“What do the Silence have to do with any of this?”
She leaned in and whispered, “Spoilers,” before pressing a quick kiss to his lips, and he returned it, unthinkingly, like it was the most natural response in the world – and that, clearly, was a mistake. Because the next thing he knew, everything faded to darkness and he blacked out.
He awoke groggily in the passenger seat of his own car – a deep blue Aston Martin that he nicknamed Sexy, equipped with more gadgets and weaponry than most submarines. He’d designed it himself, and never let anyone else drive it. And here she was, one Miss River Song, driving his car on a high-speed chase down the coastline.
“What?” he began with a yell, disoriented.
“Hello, sweetie,” she returned. “I’d find something to hang on to, if I were you.”
“What are you doing driving my car?” he demanded, and someone fired at them from the front car. “And who's shooting at us?!”
“Look,” River said. “The way I see it, we’re both after the same thing. What you’ve been told about me has been a lie. I am not your enemy, Doctor. In fact, if I were a betting woman, I’d say I may be your greatest ally.”
“Why the bloody hell should I listen to anything you have to say?” he asked, then swiped angrily at his lips. “And was your lipstick poisoned?”
“Don’t be so overdramatic!” she chided. “There was just a sedative in it, not a poison.”
“Oh, well, just.” He scowled. “Pull the car over right now, and—”
“Can’t,” she said, and took the next left turn hard, so hard, in fact, that he slammed right into her. “Hands, Doctor!” she teased with a laugh. “You’ll have to do more than swing me around the dance floor once before you can get a more intimate feel of me. But I do love that you tried.”
He flushed, then scowled again, adjusting the lapels of his jacket. “Who are we chasing?”
“Three guesses, and the first two don’t count,” she returned airily, then fired her gun at the vehicle in front of them, another sports car going dangerously high-speed through all the twists and turns of the road; thankfully, River seemed adept at handling his baby, and she was managing not only to keep up, but she was firing off a few rounds with expert marksmanship. Whoever River Song was, she was more than just some bloody thief, that was for sure. “Look,” she said, “Give me twenty-four hours to track down a lead. Just twenty-four hours. Tag along if you like. If I don’t prove to you by then that this game is rigged against me, that I’m a patsy, then I’ll go quietly back to prison. You can even cuff me, yourself.” She smiled. “It might even be fun.”
“Is that so?” he returned, distrustfully, then looked to the road. “Tree, tree! River, look out for the tree!”
She swerved away easily. “You’re too good of an agent to be sent on a mission to recover some crown jewels, and you know it. There is something bigger at play. If you don’t trust me, then trust your instincts. What are they telling you right now?”
“That you’re insane!” he snapped at her.
“Well, rumor has it you’re a mad man, so we’re well matched, don’t you think?”
He looked to her, and she met his glowering gaze, very collected, her own eyes crystal clear, and from one moment to the next, something changed. He couldn’t have named it, beyond a collection of gestures: one eyebrow rising in a narrow elegant arch, the wind rushing through the wild locks of her hair, an upward tilt to the corner of her mouth; inconsequential details that meant nothing, changed nothing. Of course nothing changed. He blamed the adrenaline or the concussion – surely he had a concussion – but the air between them suddenly went electric. He was leaning towards her before he realized it.
“Twenty-four hours,” he told her. “And if this is some sort of trap or ruse, River Song, you’ll greatly rue the day the you ever decided to play games with me.”
“Oh, sweetie,” she returned with a laugh. “You won’t regret this. Game on.”