“Looking fit, sweetie,” River Song calls from the TARDIS door, her voice ringing loudly through the console room. “I can see that new bow tie you’re wearing all the way from here. It suits you.”
“Ah, River!” the Doctor says, stumbling over his own feet. “Looks like you’re coming with us, this next trip.”
River is smiling, because of, course, the Doctor seems to have acquired the habit of tripping over things whenever she appears. She blows the Doctor a kiss, and bless him, he twitches. River uses this time to stride over to the console and decide to take over the steering this time, thank god. The Doctor meekly steps aside and lets her take over, their hands brushing as she reaches for a lever.
“Forgot about us?” Amy says from the hallway, eyebrows raised, and Rory pokes out from behind her.
They both find a place to sit, Amy claiming the chair with the cushion and Rory the one without. (He scowls at her; she touches his shoulder placatingly, but doesn’t get up.)
“Of course not,” the Doctor replies. His fingers are wriggling up and down, Amy notices. “So. Where to next?”
River speaks up from her driver’s spot. “I know a place.”
“You do?” the Doctor says, like it’s a challenge.
Amy groans from behind her hand. Rory, she sees, is rolling his eyes.
“Definitely,” River says, cheerfully. “Sightseeing, nifty food, and entertainment. Everything a girl could want.”
The Doctor tilts his head at her skeptically. “And this entertainment includes--?”
This is the moment when Amy processes that River Song -- also known as Melody Pond, one of her closest friends -- is her bloody daughter, and she’s attempting to despoil the innocent-ish Doctor. Or something like that. Not like the Doctor needs despoiling or anything, but she did try it before and it didn’t really work.
No, hold on for a second.
...she had tried to sleep with her daughter’s future boyfriend. She had tried to shag her future daughter’s future boyfriend just before she married her father, and oh my god why is this revelation just realising itself now, timelines are so weird.
“You have no idea how much second-hand embarrassment I’m experiencing presently,” Amy says mournfully to her husband. She stands up, craning her head to see if River actually expanded on that smug smile, but to her relief, she’s just discussing directions.
“If it has to do with the Doctor’s sex life,” Rory replies, sliding into Amy’s (former) chair, settling back against the softness with a sigh, “I don’t want to hear it.”
She frowns, and sinks into Rory’s former hard-backed chair. She opens her mouth to speak, but Rory says more firmly, “I don’t want to hear it.”
Amy crosses her arms and alternately sulks and flushes before the TARDIS finally materialises at their destination.
Entertainment actually meant a future planet modeled on Hollywood, which is as good as one might expect. It’s the major centre of the film industry, and Amy can’t help but poke the holographic palm trees and shake her head sadly at the HOLLYWOOD II letters rising out from a faux hill.
(Okay, and maybe a booming pornography industry, but Amy’s not talking about it. At all. Especially ever since she saw River drag the Doctor into Nu Hotel California’s personal movie theater, flashing the sonic screwdriver at the door. Ah, young love, yeah?)
She and Rory decide to settle down in their own room’s movie theater, and watch a rom-com, thank you very much.
Movies (which are called holo vids now) really doesn’t seem to have evolved. Chick flicks are chick flicks, and Amy munches contentedly on too salty popcorn as a tentacled alien gets into wacky hijinks with a green-skinned woman. There’s a lot of tentacle jokes, and romantic tension, and then kissing, so no changes there.
Rory doesn’t seem to mind the movie -- it’s thoughtless drivel; a nice return to normality -- but he still winces every few minutes as he takes a sip of a chokingly carbonated Shirley Temple. “Who makes this food?” he complains.
“Replicators,” Amy tells him, as the main character spies hopefully on his love interest, hiding inside an huge glass aquarium of octopuses and squid-like penguins and other similar wonders.
The tentacled bloke starts to run out of air, his arms waving up and down underwater. Bubbles frantically sputter from his mouth.
“Machines,” Amy explains, remembering what the Doctor told her after a rather unfortunate ice cream break. She picks a kernel from between her teeth. “You program it with the food you want, and it’ll make it for you. But it’s definitely not on par with real food. Just artificial, and all that.”
Picture a microwave, the Doctor had said. No, wait, not really like a microwave. But they both got buttons, though! How about a coffee machine -- At this point in the conversation, River had shoved a soggy ice cream sandwich into his mouth, so Amy couldn’t catch the end of his speech.
Rory considers the new information. “No one wants to bother re-creating this stuff? From, like, scratch or anything? Have they actually heard of that?”
“I don’t think so,” says Amy. “I saw a load of replicators in the hotel’s buffet area.”
The green woman finally begins to notice the muffled screaming, pivoting around in confusion. Tentacle Bloke takes the moment to faint, and is currently sliding down the side of the glass. Looks like he wasn’t an aquatic creature, despite his joints.
“So this is what River defined as ‘nifty food’?” Rory bemoans, finally putting down his drink.
Amy nabs the umbrella protruding the top, spinning the pink paper thing in between her fingertips. Rory gives her a wilting look -- he’s always liked toying with little stuff like this since they were kids, even collecting -- but, well, it’s in revenge for the chair business earlier.
River bursts into the room, the Doctor nowhere in sight, which may or may not be a good thing. “So, Ponds!” she calls. “We’re going out to dinner soon. I made a reservation. You, Rory--” River points, “--you go dress up, and look a bit fancy. You, Amy--” another finger, “--come with me. I’ll help you get ready.”
“Who’s supposed to help me?” Rory asks.
“You’ll manage,” says River, wryly. “Do you want to talk about fashion with the Doctor?”
“No,” Rory says, immediately shutting his mouth. Amy watches the exchange, amused.
“It’s a costume place,” River continues. “Look in the wardrobe. There’s a replicator in there you can use.”
“It does clothes, too?”
“Mm. As long as it’s programmed in -- in fact, I actually entered in my choice outfit for you already. Now, get along, then.” River gestures at the door. “Amy and I have to make sure that we’ll both look fabulous.”
“Excellent,” Amy says, as Rory exits. “What do you got in mind?”
“Spoilers,” River says with a wide smile on her face. “You’ll see when we’re done.”
When River’s done with the flat iron, warmth trilling down the length of her red hair, Amy examines her brand new curls in the full length mirror. “You’re good at this,” she marvels, admiring the delicate shape of the strands, coiled like springs.
“Naturally,” River says, proudly observing her handiwork and comparing it with her own hair.
“So...is there a reason it has to be in curls, though?” Amy says. She spins around in a circle, watching the curls bounce on her shoulders, on her back.
River says simply, “History”, and she ducks into the bathroom side closet, where there’s another replicator located inside. She comes out carrying a long piece of white fabric and a blue garment, triumphantly holding it front of her.
“It’s a toga,” Amy says, surprised.
“Stola,” River corrects, ever the archaeologist. “I saw some statues. And this blue one here is a chiton.”
She moves to help Amy drape the stola over her body, winding the different parts through her arms and hips. “There’s a cloak you can wear over this. The palla. You can put it over your head, too. I can get it, if you like.”
“Nah, it’s all right,” Amy dismisses. “Faux Hollywood, remember? The weather here can be sweltering. Bloody futuristic temperature control.”
When River’s finished, she announces, “Look at you, Amy. A proper Roman.”
Amy takes in her appearance: a curly haired woman wearing a flowing white tunic, light blue peeking under it, and looking gloriously historic. Her face has light makeup applied to it -- shining clear lip gloss, a dash of sky blue on her eyelids. Not exactly period -- but this is Hollywood. The Doctor had a fit after watching 300, anyways.
“Perfect,” Amy smiles, and River fastens golden bracelets on her arms, shimmering snakes wrapping around her wrists. “Now,” she says. “Your turn.”
They decide on a black-and-white affair for River’s outfit. The first part -- from chest to waist -- is simple: a white strapless top, a large black ribbon on her hip. (Amy notices River tuck her sonic blaster behind the ribbon, but she doesn’t comment.) The bottom part -- from waist, all the way down covering feet -- is alternating strips of black and white material, and it looks like feathers. River wears two black elbow-length gloves and black high heels, her hair in a sort of up-do.
“Let’s see what the Doctor has to say about this,” Amy says gleefully, as River stripes dark red lipstick across her mouth. “Oh, and don’t forget this one.”
Amy leans over and secures into place a silver masquerade mask, her own personal choice. “I think this’ll make a nice touch.”
River touches the mask, fingers running over the soft curves of fabric. “Thank you, Amy. Brilliant idea.”
“And thank you, River,” Amy says, the corners of her mouth quirked into a smile. “For the Roman thing.” River tilts her head to the side in reply.
“Now,” Amy says, hooking her arm through River’s, “let’s go dazzle our boys, shall we?”
Apparently River programmed the replicator for the Doctor to be Phantom of the Opera themed, because he makes a damn fine looking Erik. “You locked the replicator onto this outfit!” he accuses her, all white bowtie and black suit and half-white mask. “And you stole my sonic screwdriver!”
“Of course I did, sweetie,” she says. “We’re supposed to match.”
“But you’re not really Christine--” the Doctor starts, and then gets a good look at her dress. “Oh. Well. You look--you look good, River.”
“Thank you,” she says. “You, too, Doctor.” Her eyes trail up and down his body, examining his costume in satisfaction, and perhaps other things that aren’t exactly his costume.
And the Doctor’s cheeks actually colour a faint red. He says, embarrassed and ridiculously boyish, “Thanks. You can hold on to my sonic for now, I suppose.”
River unhooks her arm from Amy’s and offers hers to the Doctor. “Let’s?”
“Let’s,” the Doctor says, recovering himself, and Amy rolls her eyes. “Where’s Rory the Roman, Amy Augusta?” He links his arm with River’s.
“That means empress,” River says. “Are you just trying to flatter Amy, or are you aiming for alliteration?”
Amy snaps her fingers at the Doctor. “Ooh, nice one.”
“Trying to be clever now, are we, River?”
“Always, sweetie. Always.”
“I’m here,” Rory says, finally appearing. And, of course he’s in a toga; River’s not going to limit herself to locking only one replicator. “Oh. Wow, Amy, you look nice.”
“They’re creative, aren’t they?” River says good-naturedly.
“Extremely,” Amy agrees, and she loops her arms through Rory’s. “We’ve better be off. I’m starving.”
Loads of things happen after this. It’s just...Amy really doesn’t want to talk about it, thanks.
‘Cos getting kidnapped is a pain in the arse, and WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THE COMPANIONS. Technically, it’s Amy and River who get snatched.
Long story short:
The aliens are called Shaderlies. They’re grey. They want to rule the planet(s?). They have a weapon that can be explained away by technobabble. And Amy and River get kidnapped because of just another one of those tedious reasons.
Amy tunes out on the leader’s monologue and grumbles unintelligible curses as they get dragged into an Alien Super Secret Headquarters (TM).
“Okay,” River says, as they huddle together, ropes chafing at their arms. “Let’s do an inventory. I’ve got one sonic blaster, one sonic screwdriver, and sharp high heels that’ll do a wonderful trick to any male’s equipment. You?”
“A sonic screwdriver can kill anybody if it’s on the right setting,” says River. “Made of basically the identical stuff as my blaster. But it’s not practical. I’ll lower my blaster to the stun setting. You?”
“My bracelets,” Amy starts, turning her wrists to reveal the sharp edges of the snake-shaped jewelry. “Just unbend it backwards, and it has a pretty mean edge. And I have--” she rolls her shoulders backwards, and the glinting edge of a jagged blade peeks out of the white material, “--this. Tied it around the stola’s layers right when I saw it. Knew we were going to get in trouble soon. Think you could help me get to it?”
River grins; she looks proud. “Good thinking, Amy. I don’t think the bracelets will help much, unfortunately -- it’s replicated material and rather susceptible to flimsiness. Those aliens seem to have slightly tougher skin than us. But the knife will do just fine.”
River twists her waist sideways, and the sonic blaster skids right out onto her lap. She manoeuvres her knees to jerk upwards, sending the weapon flying up in the air, and she catches the handle with her teeth. Then she bites on the trigger: a green beam dissolves the ropes around Amy; a second green beam takes out her own bindings.
“...Do you do this often?” Amy says faintly, pulling herself out of the chair.
“Not as much as I’d like,” River answers.
“Just another day in the life.” Amy tugs out her knife, firmly closing her fingers around the handle. “Right. So, I’ll press the red button on their ray gun. You go knock them out.”
“That’s a figure of speech, mind,” River says. “The red button seems like it’ll make it explode. Do the easy way and cut the wires.”
“The red one?”
“All of them,” River says -- she hands Amy her gloves, perhaps as an electrical precaution. “That never seems to fail, whenever I do it. The movies got it all wrong.”
“This is Hollywood, after all,” Amy says, and then River shoots down the door, and chaos pours in.
Green light ricochets off the dark walls, and Amy sets off in a hurtling run, ducking and scrambling through grey alien limbs this way and that. All the Shaderlies are currently concentrating on dodging River’s rapid-fire blasts -- down two go, down four go, down six go.
The Shaderly guiding the weekly Weapon of Mass Destruction (TM) has been shot down. Amy passes his prone body without pause, climbing up the steps winding around the laser-gun-thing. She searches for a panel, a docket, an electrical cord -- anything.
“It’s over there!” River cries out, noticing her evident confusion.
River crouches, and sweeps a wide kick at a Shaderly attempting to sneak up on her. She dispatches it quickly with a pulse of her blaster. “Above the spiral square lever!”
Amy’s eyes frantically scan the WOMD until she finally finds a panel, which almost blends into the silver metal surface. She yanks the thing open, relieved that it isn’t locked, and she begins hacking at the messy tangle of wires protruding outwards. The knife easily slices through the wires, which crackle and spark at the action.
The WOMD emits a whirring sound, almost like a whine, and the yellow light at the top flickers off. Amy lets out a triumphant whoop.
“Amy! Behind you!”
Amy spins around and finds herself face-to-face with a Shaderly. She says shakily, “It’s over. I killed your machine.”
He rasps at her, harsh and guttural. For the first time in ages, Amy can’t tell what he’s saying. Where’s the TARDIS translator when you need it? Then she does the mental equivalent of slapping her forehead -- of course the TARDIS didn’t translate it; it never really does let swearing carry across the language barrier. The Doctor and his Victorian sensibilities and all that.
It seems as if the Shaderly’s toned down the cursing, now. “Pathetic human,” he spits, and advances towards her.
Amy takes a step backward, and the stair railing catches her. Okay. So running’s not an option.
“Look, there’s no point in this,” she starts to say, but she sees the Shaderly reaching for his belt. A black baton, looking like it’ll release electric shock or the like, slides into his grey hands.
She’s pretty sure that thing’s not a taser. So. Let’s look at the odds here, yeah?
Amy’s hand is still on the curved knife, blade sleek and shiny. She takes the only possible course of action her mind can come up with:
She stabs, fast and sudden and quick.
The knife meets the Shaderly’s shoulder, and she hopes that it’s not a major vital point or artery for his species. It’s a shallow cut, but it’s enough to incapacitate him for the moment. She withdraws her hand away, and the knife clatters down the stairs with a hollow clink-clank.
“Sorry,” she says. “I--sorry.”
He sinks down with a screech, grunting incoherently, and Amy kicks away his fallen baton. She feels her feet uncertainty hovering to move closer towards the Shaderly -- at least to help him somehow.
“Amy, think you can give me a hand here?” River says.
She blinks away her thoughts. “Sure. Of course.” Her sandals click against the staircase as she follows the spiral down towards River, who is sitting uncomfortably on the floor. All the Shaderlies are lying paralysed, not even twitching.
“Are you hurt?” Amy bends down, grasping River’s arm. “Did they shock you?”
“I can’t stand up.” River grimaces, shifting her leg, struggling to toe off her heels. “I really should have taken off these shoes. But did you see me kick that bloke back there? I could hear the heels make contact with him!”
“Useful,” Amy comments. She takes off River’s shoes. “You must’ve injured your leg or something, moving like that.”
“I don’t think it’s that bad.” River looks it over, up and down, from thigh to pinky toe. “Help me up, will you? I think I can try to walk.”
Amy assists River back up on her feet. River is limping, heavily relying on Amy to provide support; Amy decides that River shouldn’t walk by herself or it’ll get worse.
“Right,” Amy says, a plan formulating in her mind. “Let me wrap that up for you. Then we’ll find a payphone or nick a mobile (or comm; whatever they call it these days) and we can ring the police. Someone needs to clean up this mess for us.”
River grins, flashing white teeth out at Amy. “That was fun, wasn’t it? The boys missed out on a lot.”
They find their way back to the TARDIS, eventually. It involves hitchhiking, maps derived from the real Hollywood not to scale or to date with Hollywood II, and Amy receiving a brief static-like shock after shaking hands with a jellyfish alien.
“We weren’t kidnapped,” Amy scowls, throwing her red hair behind her like they’re flames. “We were using our resources. You know, spying on the enemy.”
She knows she looks exhausted: her stola has been ripped into shreds, and her hair is probably an absolute mess. But the adrenaline courses through her as she wraps the piece of her stola around River’s ankle, who’s looking rather cheery for an injured person. Not a broken bone, then. A sprain, at the worst.
Rory hurries over to help Amy -- there you go, her work is done. Amy presses an absent-minded thank you kiss on Rory’s cheek, because she knows little things like this always increase productivity. She’s a kissogram. She should know.
“I don’t think you were,” the Doctor says, nodding towards River’s sonic blaster. “Amy, you nicked one of the buffet utensils, didn’t you?”
“It wasn’t a utensil,” Amy says. “It was a knife. I thought it was some sort of fancy chopstick-thing to eat the dessert. But it’s actually used in a cultural ceremony to slice the plate in half. An jellyfish bloke told me about it when River and I drove back,” she explains.
“Did you use it?” the Doctor asks, and his eyes are utterly serious.
“What do you take me for, Doctor?” she finally snaps, advancing towards the Time Lord and jabbing a finger against his chest. “Do you think you’re the only one who should be allowed to hurt people? Do you think you’re the only one who should defend yourself? River fell down on the fucking ground after she shot down the lot of them, and I wasn’t going to let the last one finish her off.”
The Doctor looks startled -- and she was right; he can be such a child sometimes. “A knife can kill, Amelia Pond,” he says, but now it seems more half-hearted.
“A sonic screwdriver can kill anybody if it’s on the right setting,” Amy recites back at him, River’s words reeling through her head. She spins backward on her heels, and heads for the door. She’s tired, and exhausted, and she doesn’t want to hear the Doctor playing at moral guardian.
Who is he to talk?
“You did brilliant,” Rory whispers before she leaves, squeezing her hand gently. “I bet you did. Should’ve seen you in action, yeah? You did what you could.”
“S’all right, Mr. Pond.” Amy smiles, and flutters her fingers in his grasp. “I was very Julius Caesar, our English teacher might say.”
“More like Brutus,” jokes Rory, but the humour falls all sour and flat on his tongue, and Amy can only grimace.
“The Doctor can be a bloody idiot sometimes, I swear,” River says, wiping a mop of curls out of Amy’s eyes and meeting her gaze without pause. “He’ll get over it. Don’t worry. Nice knife work, by the way.” And the last part is meant to be a jab against the Doctor, whose weird alien hearing can probably detect their conversation, but he’s just pretending not to listen.
“If it makes you feel better,” Amy calls back loudly at the Doctor, still standing there, fists clenched and obviously brooding. “I didn’t kill the git. He’s just going to be in the hospital for a while.”
River’s safely tucked away in one of the spare bedrooms, ankle bandaged up neatly, and collapsed against the bed sheets in pure exhaustion. Finally:
“Oh. You’re up.” Amy turns her stool to face River. “How’re you feeling?”
River passes a hand against her forehead, beads of sweat clinging to her fingers, and she experimentally wiggles her leg. “My ankle’s well off, for the most part,” she says. “I can move it a little. Was I sick?”
“Rory said that you should wait about two days until you can take the bandages off,” Amy confirms. “And yeah, you spiked a slight fever.”
“Yeah. Looks like they were able to tase you with the baton after all. Apparently it works differently on species different than the Shaderlies.”
That’s the sum of it, at least. The Doctor had swept in and run a quick diagnostic check, babbling pseud-medical terms (Rory kept on frowning whenever the Doctor opened his mouth) and studiously avoiding Amy’s eyes.
He was quite worried, though. Amy spots Rory peeking through the door -- he’d been checking every few hours, easing into his nurse’s role again -- and she signals him to go tell the Doctor that River’s awake. He hadn’t come back in the room after scanning River; Amy’s perfectly fine with that, but she thinks he ought to have some reassurance about River.
River furrows her brow. “A Shaderly did brush a baton across my head, so perhaps that’s it. But I didn’t feel anything.”
The door creaks open, and the Doctor shuffles in. He’s changed out of his Hollywood Two dress-up, and again in his familiar green jacket and bowtie get-up. “My turn for visiting hours, Pond?”
Amy acquiesces reluctantly. “I’ll go get something for you to eat or drink,” she says to River.
“Ta. If you have that jam from Arwix X, I’ll be glad to take some.”
“Rory ate it all,” Amy says, and hides a giggle behind her hand as she hears an instant Oi! from the hallway.
“Tea and biscuits will be fine, then,” River says, shooting a very pointed look at Amy’s Awkward Husband is Awkward Situation.
Before Amy leaves the room, the Doctor reaches over to squeeze her shoulder gently, and Amy knows that’s an apology. Fine. He owes her a trip to that beach resort planet.
Amy returns a few minutes later, laden with a tray of butter biscuits and Early Grey tea.
“Cheers,” River says, helping herself to a biscuit. “Doctor, mind going to the kitchen for sugar?”
“‘Course,” he says. He’s the one who takes at least five sugar cubes in his tea. He’s also a champion in sugar cube castles, when it comes to building useless things.
“So,” Amy says, after the Doctor’s gone, “he’s not being unnecessarily grumpy to you, is he?”
“I think he feels guilty,” River says. “Thinks that it’s his fault in putting you in dangerous situations, so you’re making dangerous choices. Tainting your innocence and all that.”
“Ridiculous man,” Amy snorts. “I never plan to hurt anybody, you know that. I just...had to, that one time. Not everybody has the option of a stun setting.”
She is sorry. She just doesn’t want to think about it.
“I know.” River tactfully changes the subject. “Idiocy aside, I’ve got a date with the Doctor tomorrow night.” A small smile turns on the edge of her mouth, and she looks wonderfully young. “After that, I’m going to an archeology expedition in the morning.”
“Sound fun,” Amy says around a mouthful of biscuit. “You’re going to do research where?”
“The Library. It’s a planet-sized library.”
“A library? Any good books?”
“If I see anything, I’ll bring something back for you,” River replies. “I’ve already planned on ransacking it for certain rare books.” She grins mischievously. “Well, after I catalogue them.”
Amy grins back. God, River so got her sense of humour from her. No way did she get it from Rory. It’s almost like bantering with Mels again.
When River leaves -- in a much healthier state, although she admits to Rory that she’ll take the bandage off before the prescribed two days, since it gets in the way and she heals faster than most people -- Amy lingers by the TARDIS door, peeking out the tall windows on tiptoes.
She wonders what that pinched, choked look on the Doctor’s face means.
Amy shakes her head slowly in puzzlement. She walks away from the console room and wanders into one of the TARDIS’s many bathrooms. The sink spigot flows cold water onto her fingers, and she washes traces of crumbs away.
She catches a sideways image of herself in the full-length looking glass, russet curls and a dash of lipstick still on her mouth, water dripping through her hands.
She turns, and finds her daughter in her eyes.