Word Count: 11087 (total)
Summary: River is freed from Stormcage and becomes a professor. With some giant spiders in-between.
Author’s note: Thanks to Charina for the beta :)
The smell of freedom is surprisingly similar to the smell of electrical storms – which was, in fact, also the smell of imprisonment.
River wonders if that bodes well for the future.
She stands just under cover next to the huge edifice of Stormcage’s outer wall, watching the rain and waiting for the prison transport to come and transport her… away.
She’s finally free.
Of course it’s not like she didn’t have a rather large degree of freedom before, or even like prison life was that terrible when she was there. It had certain things going for it – regular meals, hot showers, free healthcare. The kind of thing one can easily take for granted.
But not any more, River tells herself. Because now, her degree of freedom is endless.
There are so many things she could do, and if only she could make herself admit it, she doesn’t have a clue where to start.
So getting off the planet seems like as good an idea as any.
The transport finally lands and the guard at her side nods briefly.
“Thanks, Gavin. Try not to miss me,” she says with a wink, hauling her bag over her shoulder before breaking into a grin and a run at the same time.
A couple of raindrops splat on her face and shoulders before she reaches the hatch and climbs aboard, throwing her bag down beside her as she takes a seat. The view from the window as they ascend is magnificent, and one she’s only seen once before; many, many years ago. She’s left the planet countless times since then, of course, but never like this. It seems fitting to leave the same way she came, now that she’ll never have to return again.
She wonders if she’ll miss it.
“Excuse me Miss, is this seat taken?” says a familiar voice, the owner of which promptly sits next to her without waiting for a reply.
“Miss?” she ribs. “Come on, Doctor, you can’t be that young, or you wouldn’t even know to be here.”
“Mrs,” he corrects himself, leaning in to say the word smugly in her ear.
“I think you’ll find that Doctor is my correct title, actually.”
“Can’t be, that’s too confusing. One of us will have to change.”
“Well, I’ve always thought you should just go by sweetie, sweetie.”
“And I’ve always disagreed,” he replies happily, leaning back in his chair. “Any plans then, Doctor Song?”
“Oh, sweetie.” River grins, turning back to the window. “You know I never make plans.”
The Doctor has made some plans, if vague ones – they mainly involve their bed, though they miss it by a good few metres the first time.
It doesn’t matter though, because the second and third times they hit it just fine.
“Are you enjoying the taste of freedom then, dear?” the Doctor asks lazily somewhat later, sprawled across the covers and looking like a loose assembly of limbs with the torso added as an afterthought.
River doesn’t tell him how adorable he looks; instead she kisses him again with a grin, licking the inside of his mouth before she pulls away.
“Mmm,” she sighs, closing her eyes. “Strangely, it tastes like you.”
“That is not strange at all,” he declares. “I am the personification of freedom.”
“Nope,” she protests. “Sorry, sweetie, but right now… that’s me.”
“Hmm. I suppose there may be a possibility that you could be right.” The Doctor smiles. “And you are glorious, my River.”
She smiles back. “I do love it when you say that, my love.”
Mostly because when he says it, it even sounds like it’s true.
Eventually she has him drop her off on New Mars in the 51st century – travelling with him in the TARDIS is all very well, but River finds that her independent streak won’t let her stay there for too long without going off to wreak some havoc all her own.
Besides which, the Doctor quite often doesn’t approve of her kind of havoc, so she finds it better to indulge in it while he’s not looking.
Not that havoc is her main objective, right now, but it tends to happen in her wake. She never has worked out why.
There’s an archaeological team just unpacking their gear in the dusty ruins of one of the planet’s great metallic monuments. It’s a tomb, if you want to get technical; but so much more than just a tomb. More elaborate even than the pyramids of Ancient Egypt, the things buried with these people range from keepsakes to weapons to blueprints for goodness knows what obscure technology.
It is, in fact, an archaeologist’s wet dream.
Another reason not to have the Doctor along, of course; he does tend to point and laugh.
River checks her pocket for her psychic paper and strides towards them across the empty red desert.
There are only three of them; an older man who looks like he’s in charge – for the moment – and a young man and woman, probably students and/or skivvies. The woman notices her first, raising her hand to shade her eyes and squinting in confusion.
River gives her a friendly wave and a wink, by which time the other two have looked up as well to present a uniform picture of bewilderment. It’s really quite sweet.
“Hello there,” River calls as she approaches. “How’s it going? I’m Doctor Song.”
She extends a hand as she comes to a stop and the man takes it automatically. One look at his expression tells River that this will be a doodle.
“Professor Rawlings,” he tells her, still staring, and she smiles winningly.
“Such a pleasure to meet you, Professor – I adore your work on the intricacies of New Martian architecture.”
“Well thank you, Doctor…?”
“Song,” she repeats. “River Song, Luna University. I’m to work with you on this dig – last minute approval, but I’ve got all the paperwork…” She flashes her psychic paper offhandedly, surveying the other two team members. “Hello.”
“Oh!” says the Professor, tearing his gaze away from the lengthy document the paper is pretending to be and straightening with a little cough. “Doctor—Doctor Song. May I present my post-grads, David Fisher and Anita Dubach.”
“Pleased to meet you both,” River declares, beginning another brief round of hand-shaking. “So,” she says then, turning towards the glorious monstrosity before them and inhaling the slight metallic tint it gives the air around it. “Tell me your plans.”
Monstrosity is definitely an accurate word – the ancient structure they are exploring is a sprawling mess resembling nothing so much as a spider, with legs curving out from a central suspended sphere. Interestingly, the sphere is not where the corpses themselves are entombed, but rather hovers over the spot where they have been buried deep beneath the sand.
The space between the ground and the bottom of the sphere is just high enough for someone to stand upright, which is why River decides to do so. Under her feet is a raised circular platform with an equally circular indentation in the middle, and what looks like a hatch off to one side presumably leading down to the chamber underneath. But what holds her interest is the contraption above her head.
There is a funnel protruding from the underside of the sphere, widening into a circle about a foot across and containing four sharp prongs, all pointing downwards. River makes some calculations in her head and realises that, if the slight inconsistencies are the result of centuries of exposure to the elements, they all point to the exact centre of the large circle under her feet.
Not being stupid, River steps aside before she makes her notes and goes to rejoin the others.
They’ve set up camp at the foot of the spider-structure’s longest limb, which houses one of the only entrances not completely blocked up by sand.
No, this one is only mostly blocked up.
Dave – not David, never David, please not David, he’d insisted as soon as they were out of the professor’s earshot – is sitting outside, drumming a brush on his knee and looking idly out at the landscape. He stops and squints up at her when she approaches, and she’s not sure if he’s trying to smile or if the grimace is a result of the glaring sun.
“You on guard duty then?” she enquires lightly, studying the narrow gap the others must have scrambled through between the surface of the sand and the top of the entrance.
“Yeah,” he says, looking down and resuming his drumming. “Not sure why. There’s no one else here.”
“Never been on a dig with weather, have you then?” she says kindly. “I think the idea is to keep an eye out for sandstorms.”
“Oh.” Dave’s brow furrows. “Oh, okay. Yeah, that makes sense.”
“There you go.” River crouches on top of the sand and peers into the narrow corridor, noting the scuff marks from the others’ entrance. “See you then,” she tells Dave, and crawls forward.
It’s not a corridor made for anyone remotely claustrophobic, so River is glad she’s managed to kick that particular fear. Well – spacesuits still make her skin crawl, but she can deal with other confined spaces now, if she concentrates.
It’s slow going at first, and the sand has the unfortunate tendency to give way under her feet and make her slip backwards, but as the corridor begins to lean upwards the ceiling also grows higher, leaving most of the sand near the bottom and making more space to move around. Eventually the floor even becomes visible, and soon thereafter she is standing on firm ground.
She follows the sandy footprints to the corridor’s highest point, where Anita and Rawlings are painstakingly trying to remove the sand from the lock of the big, wide door which leads to the chamber nestled there.
“Any particular reason you’re starting here?” River asks brightly, startling the professor enough to make him drop his tools. Anita, she notices, grins.
“It makes sense to proceed calmly and methodically,” Rawlings says, trying and failing to appear unruffled. “This is the first door we come across, therefore this is the first door we open.”
“Or,” River suggests, “we could start with the most interesting door.”
“And which would that be?” he asks haughtily.
“Ooh, take a wild guess.” She winks at Anita.
“Just because it’s the centre chamber does not necessarily make it more interesting, Doctor Song.”
“It does to me.” River steps neatly past him and continues along the corridor. “Coming?” she says over her shoulder.
Anita cannot jump to her feet fast enough.
“Is he always such a stick-in-the-mud?” River asks twenty minutes later, squinting as she tries to pick the lock on the central chamber.
“Yup.” Anita grins. “Dave calls him Doctor Yawnings. He’s not so bad though – plus he gets all the best research grants. I could have been stuck on Clom if he hadn’t picked me for his team, so I’m in his debt really.”
“Oh, there’s more to Clom than meets the eye.”
“Twice. The first time was dull. The second time we accidentally brought down the government and were almost executed. That was a fun day. We had sushi in 19th-century Japan afterwards.”
Anita laughs disbelievingly. “Who’s ‘we’?”
“Myself, my husband and his ship. She didn’t partake in the sushi, of course.”
“Only about the first time being dull.” River grins. “First times are rarely dull.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. My first dig was on Volantis, and I was designated tea-maker, poultry-plucker, and water-fetcher. The only time I even got to see the site was walking past it on my way to the stream.”
“Well, I can promise you this one will be more exciting than that,” River assures her, pressing her ear up against the door. The locking mechanism finally clicks, and with Anita’s help she prises the door open to reveal the interior of the huge spherical cavern, crammed on all sides with almost perfectly preserved technology.
River smiles widely.
“Much, much more exciting,” she promises with glee.
Dragging all their equipment in there takes some time and effort, so that by the time the sun sets on the planet’s 31-hour day they haven’t done any actual work yet and, being rather exhausted, decide to put it off until morning.
River pulls a tent from her bag while no one is looking – no need to let on that it’s bigger on the inside if she doesn’t have to – and pitches it next to the slightly more modest tents belonging to Dave and Anita. Professor Rawlings has his own, larger tent a short way away and has already disappeared into it for the night.
That being the case, nothing speaks against inviting the other two over for supper and Silurian schnapps – made by Silurians, not from them, River hastens to clarify.
Of course she wouldn’t have to clarify if she hadn’t implied the latter in the first place, but she really couldn’t resist. Their faces were a picture, bless them.
Supper is a simple affair – even with a bigger-on-the-inside bag River prefers to pack food that will keep, especially as she can drop by any shop or restaurant anywhere if she really feels the need – but the schnapps more than makes up for it. Soon Anita and Dave are pleasantly sozzled and River is starting to feel a bit flushed herself, and they start to tell her all kinds of fun stories.
She retaliates with her own, of course.
“Where is your husband now, then?” Anita enquires once River has finished telling them about their adventures at the Leisure Hive of Argolis. Well, the edited version at least.
“Oh, he’s nearly everywhere, really. You just have to be there at the right time. For example, I know he’s at the top of the Eiffel Tower in 1889 waiting to celebrate our wedding anniversary. He’s battling some Cybermen on Europa, which I should probably go back and help him with eventually – had to take a break to fix my hair, you know how it is. He’s off witnessing the beginning of the universe and the end; but I’ve been there already, so I can’t meet him there again without some serious timey-wimey wriggling.” She shrugs. “Still, I might, if I get bored.”
Dave leans back, shaking his head. “Bored? With a life like that I can’t imagine anyone ever being bored.”
River smiles. “You wouldn’t think so, would you?”
“So you’re both time travellers,” Anita surmises. River is sure she means to sound shrewd, but the way her words are starting to slur rather ruins the effect. “Is he a time agent or something? That where you got your manipulator thing?”
“Or something,” River confirms. “Not that there’s anything wrong with time agents, especially a certain one I know.” She smirks. “Unless you count immortality as being wrong, like some people.”
Dave begins to laugh hysterically. “Doctor Song, you are drunk.”
River grins. “Am I, now?”
Professor Rawlings is not pleased the next morning when neither Anita nor Dave turn up to start work on time.
“They did tell me they were supposed to be up early,” River tells him, “but I’m afraid I didn’t believe them. Who would want to start work at eight if they didn’t have to?”
“I would,” Rawlings replies, scowling. “I put great value on punctuality.”
“As do I,” River assures him. “When it’s important,” she adds after a moment.
He turns on her then, and she wonders if he knows just how much he’s amusing her when he seethes, “And how exactly would you define ‘important’, Doctor Song?”
“Oh, you know. Fate of the universe in the balance, that sort of thing. Say, what do you think that coating is for?” she says suddenly, walking the few steps to the nearest wall of the monument and running a finger over its shiny black exterior. It’s so hot it almost burns her, and the sun has only just risen. “It was rather cool inside yesterday, if I recall correctly. What happens to all the heat this building must absorb?”
“Ah,” Rawlings says, instantly in professor mode again, and River hides her grin even as she listens to his answer. “Well, there are several theories. One is simply that the goal is indeed to keep the interior cool, perhaps to help preserve the remains of the entombed, and that the energy is simply siphoned off somewhere underground – unfortunately these structures extend so far beneath the surface, with no obvious access, that no one has fully mapped the extent of their subterranean appendages. Others think that the colour is simply symbolic and that the paint involves some simple chemical trick we are not aware of yet. Personally, however, I feel that the heat accumulation must be intentional – not a side effect of the coating, you understand, but the goal of it. But then of course the question remains to what end one would pursue such a goal.”
River presses her palm against the wall, ignoring the heat. If she concentrates, she fancies she can feel it buzzing. “Do you know,” she says, “I think you may be right.” She looks up and around, taking in the whole of the thing as she removes her hand. “Even the structure would seem to support that. All these arms, channelling energy into the central sphere.”
“Yes!” Rawlings is practically doing a little dance now, and River makes note of how easily he can forget his misgivings when she agrees with him. “Yes, precisely!”
“But again,” she says, repeating his own question back at him. “To what purpose?”
“To what purpose what?” Anita says groggily behind River, finally emerging from her tent. She squints at the glare from the morning sun, but doesn’t seem to be enduring too torturous a hangover.
“To what purpose were the three of you up drinking until the early hours of the morning?!” Rawlings blurts, and just like that he is back in grumpy mode. “Honestly, Doctor Song, I might have expected this from the students, but for someone like you to have encouraged it…!”
“What do you mean, someone like me?” River prods.
“Well.” He looks down, hesitating now. “That is to say, someone of your… maturity, your stature…”
“My maturity?” She’s really enjoying this now. “Professor, just how old do you think I am?”
“I. Um. Well, obviously I didn’t mean to–… Perhaps…”
She leans closer until he is forced to look her in the eye, and then winks. “Not even close.”
Anita bursts out laughing then, though she turns her back and does her best to hide it. The professor, clearly flustered, excuses himself to check on some equipment in his tent.
“You are evil,” says Anita, once he is sequestered away.
“He shouldn’t be so uptight. It’s a shame, really. He could have so much fun if he only let himself.” She grins. “So I’ll just have to have fun with him instead.”
“My point stands.”
“I never said it didn’t.” River gestures at the spider-tomb. “Shall we?”
The central chamber is so full of glistening technological oddities that it’s difficult to know where to start.
“Just don’t touch anything that looks like a self-destruct button,” River tells Anita, who has yet to touch anything.
“What does a self-destruct button look like?”
“Oh, big, red. Or big and green. Or, occasionally, small and black. Or of course it could be a lever.”
“Thanks, that’s very reassuring.”
“Ooh.” River stops in front of a large array of concave buttons. “I wonder what this does.”
“Could it be a self-destructor?”
River shrugs. “Could be.” She presses a button at random. “Could be something else. Whatever it is, it looks like it does something impressive.”
A low rumbling begins overhead.
“I guess we’re about to find out,” Anita murmurs uneasily.
“Yep.” River slaps a hand on her shoulder. “Isn’t this fun.”
They both look up expectantly as the sound continues, echoing through the walls around and beneath them.
After a minute or two or waiting, River sighs and gets out her scanner. “How disappointing,” she says, setting up a scan of the console. It’s definitely connected to something big, possibly even to the whole structure, but she’s damned if she can work out why.
“Aren’t you going to turn it off?” Anita asks.
“Not yet. Could just be warming up.” She moves over to a monitor and successfully finds the ON switch. The screen flickers into life, showing black text on a purple background.
“I left my translation things back in the tent,” Anita says. “Want me to fetch them?”
“No,” River says distractedly. “No, I can read it.”
“No,” River repeats, frowning. “I can read it – it just doesn’t make any sense.” She fiddles with the controls, trying to find a second part to the message, but there is none.
“Why, what does it say?”
“It says River, pay attention, this is important. But what is important?” River shakes her head. “That’s just typical, isn’t it, you cryptic bastard,” she mutters.
“Okay,” Anita is saying. “It doesn’t make sense, we agree there. But can we go back to the part where there’s a message addressed to you in an ancient tomb?”
“Oh, that happens. Time travel. That’s not the part that doesn’t make sense.” She exhales in frustration. “He always does this. Leaves me messages that just amount to ‘hello dear, there’s going to be trouble, have fun’.” She pauses. “Of course I do it to him too, so I suppose it’s fair.”
“What kind of trouble?” says Anita warily.
They both look back up at the ceiling. The rumbling noise hasn’t stopped.
“Usually the life-threatening kind,” River concedes.
“Now can we turn it off?”
River turns back to the console and presses the button that caught her eye before. Nothing happens, so she tries the other buttons.
“Apparently not,” she says, quirking an eyebrow.
“Okay.” Anita takes a deep breath. “No offence, Doctor Song, but I’m getting out of here.”
“Yes, go,” River says distractedly. Something is nagging at her from the corner of her mind, and she needs to find out what it is.
When Anita opens the door it lets in a welcome breeze, and River realises that the air in here has been heating up over the last few minutes. The humming is growing gradually louder now, and she wonders if the point of this concentration of energy actually is to incinerate the monument’s central sphere.
That’ll teach me to joke about self-destructors…
River scans the room around her, looking for anything that might be a clue as to what is going on, or at least how to stop it. There are screens and control panels everywhere; even on the ceiling, where handholds protrude from the wall for access. The only real breaks in the ocean of technology are the doors; one for each arm of the structure.
No, River realises. One for each arm, plus one.
Mapping out the monument in her head, she determines which door is the extra one and walks towards it, hoping whatever lies beyond will tell her something useful. She gets out her lock-picking tools and manages to open this door without too much trouble; it’s just like the other one, only now she knows how it works.
She pushes it open and almost falls to her death.
It leads straight outside, opening on a sheer drop. Once River has caught her breath she realises that there are handholds on the outside wall, much like those on the ceiling; but she’s not really interested in leaving just yet.
Until she notices the flashes, that is.
It’s only faint in the bright sunshine, but intermittent flashes of blue light are reflecting off the sand beneath her.
It’s enough to send her clambering down the wall to see more.
And that, she realises as it comes into view, is what was nagging at her.
Blue forks of electricity are crackling and fizzing down onto the circular platform where she was standing yesterday, all focussing, as she predicted, on a single central point.
And something is growing there.
River jumps the last few feet onto the ground, watching.
Whatever it is is getting taller and wider at a steady pace, still outlined in electric blue. It’s like a slightly flattened sphere, resolving eventually into a huge multi-legged shape not unlike the structure it is standing beneath.
Only this one is alive.
The electricity fizzles out, leaving a huge, scaly black arachnid standing on the platform.
River blinks, impressed.
It stretches its legs one after the other as if testing them out, and then begins to slowly turn in a circle, taking in its surroundings. Halfway through its circuit, it notices River.
“Who,” it demands, hissing, “are you? And what have you done with my minions?”
River raises an eyebrow. “I’m River Song. I’m afraid I haven’t seen any minions. I’ve seen no one, in fact, except for my colleagues.”
The creature leans in, hissing more insistently. “What have you done?” it demands again.
“I’ve done nothing. I’ve just been exploring your beautiful… home,” she tells it.
Apparently that is the wrong answer. “You defile my temple?! How dare you, puny biped? You drive my minions away and lay claim to my treasures?” It bares its fangs at her, which are impressive. “You must die.”
That, on the other hand, is not so impressive. River pulls her gun out of its holster instinctively, but the spider bats it away and it goes flying into the sand several tens of metres away.
She clutches her stinging hand, purses her lips, and runs straight underneath the thing’s legs and out the other side.
The time it takes for it to turn around is just enough for her to prise open the large trapdoor at the side of the platform. It sticks for a moment half-way up, but she gives it a good kick and it lets her pull it up the rest of the way relatively smoothly.
Unfortunately it must have been built with the spider-thing’s size in mind, because River is certain it will be able to follow her if it gets the chance. She seizes the handle on the bottom of the trapdoor and launches herself into the chamber beyond, dangling from it and hoping her momentum will be enough to pull it shut.
Predictably, it isn’t, and the trapdoor gets stuck again when it’s half closed. The spider has finished turning now and is skittering towards her, so she braces her feet against the side of the opening and pulls with all her might.
The door moves a couple of inches, and then sticks again.
The spider has reached the trapdoor now and tries to spear her with one of its very pointy legs. She twists aside and manages to avoid the worst of the blow, but it cuts a long gash just above her hip – she only hopes its talons aren’t laced with poison as well as being razor-sharp. River aims a kick at what she hopes is a vulnerable spot and watches with relief as the thing recoils, hissing angrily. Redoubling her efforts, she at last manages to get the damned trapdoor shut.
She dangles from the handle for a moment, trying and failing to see anything in the gloom, before deciding that letting go is inevitable and that she may as well do it while she can still feel her fingers.
The drop is a bit farther than she anticipates and she can’t help but cry out as she lands and rolls, the shock of the impact reverberating through her bones and badly jolting the wound in her side. She curses, gasping, and allows herself to lie there for a moment to catch her breath.
Then she finds her psychic paper and sends her coordinates with a message to the Doctor.
Giant spider trying to eat me. Care to join?
“I’m already here, actually,” says the Doctor’s voice in the darkness the moment she puts away the paper.
River grins. “Hello, sweetie.”
“Hello, dear.” His voice is accompanied by some shuffling, and then his sonic screwdriver lights up the room. “What sort of trouble are we in now, then?”
She climbs to her feet, wincing. “Aren’t you going to explain what you’re doing here?”
“You sent me a message. I couldn’t park in here, this metal,” – he bangs his fist against a large console – “interfered with the TARDIS’ materialisation, so I hopped back in time a bit, parked behind a sand dune, and came down here to wait for you. Watch out for that trapdoor, it sticks.”
“I noticed.” She limps towards him.
“Are you hurt?” he says, concerned.
“I’ll live.” She grabs the screwdriver, turning slowly to take in the whole room.
“River, that’s not what I asked.”
“Sweetie, I’m fine. A couple of minutes of not running and I’ll be right as rain.”
There’s some kind of pedestal in the middle of the room, on which stands a small, sealed container hooked up to a set of thick wires that climb to the ceiling. As River looks up, a loud clank echoes down from the trapdoor and it begins to creak open; sunlight spills into the room and, silhouetted against it, a large number of legs come into view.
Well of course it can open the trapdoor.
“I’m not sure ‘not running’ is going to be an option, dear,” the Doctor says, reaching for her hand, and he tugs her towards the nearest door.
“Why am I not surprised?” River says, crouching to sonic the lock.
“You know you love it.”
“I do.” She kicks the door open and pulls him through. “Come on.”
They burst into a wide, dark corridor and hurriedly push the door closed behind them. The corridor branches into three after a dozen metres, and of course all three routes look identical.
“Any preferences?” the Doctor asks. They both look back at the door as a loud clattering noise sounds from its other side.
“Left,” River says firmly, and breaks into a run.
The corridors branch and branch again; they pick directions at random but somehow the giant spider thing always knows which way they’ve gone. It’s gaining on them now – no wonder, with all those legs, and River’s injury slowing her down more than she would like.
“In here,” the Doctor says suddenly, pulling her into a dark room with a thick metal door. It also has no other exit, as they discover when they’ve sealed themselves inside, but that is secondary compared to the chance it offers them for a respite from running.
River leans against the door and sinks slowly to the floor while the Doctor takes his screwdriver back and plays around with the lock; he manages to unlock it by accident and River has to brace against it to help him push it shut again before the spider can get in. She tugs him down to her side once he has rectified this unfortunate mistake and shakes her head.
“Relax, sweetie,” she tells him firmly, leaning against him with a sigh.
“Relax,” he says, flexing his fingers. “Right.” His foot begins to tap an erratic rhythm on the dusty stone floor. “There’s a giant spider right on the other side of this door, no way out, but we’re relaxing. Fine. That’s just fine. I can do that.” He clenches his jaw, shakes his head, and then jumps to his feet. “Nope, sorry, I was wrong. I can’t do that. Need to get out.” He begins a circuit of the room, using his screwdriver as a light as he opens cupboards and fiddles with their contents – more of the little containers that were hooked up to the wires in the other room.
“What for?” River queries, pulling at her shirt to examine the cut in her side. It’s stopped bleeding, which is good.
“So that we can get you some stitches, for one thing,” the Doctor says, instantly at her side again. “River, River, why can’t you be more careful?”
“Careful is boring. It’s just a scratch.”
The spider chooses this moment to charge the door, causing a loud thump which reverberates through River’s body and makes her wince.
“Just a scratch, eh?”
“Fine.” She sighs. “You’re right. Maybe I’m dying.”
His response is a little more serious than she was expecting. “You’re not going to die. I’ve seen your future.”
“Time can be rewritten,” she sing-songs. “And you just told me a spoiler, honey.”
“Want to hear another one?”
“Is this a test? How old are you, anyway? We should do diaries.” She pulls hers out of its pouch on her utility belt and flips to the last page. “Have you done the taste of freedom?”
The Doctor grins. “Yes. So that’s where you are. Interesting times.”
The spider launches itself at the door again then, the thump punctuating the Doctor’s words. River resists the urge to wince again and raises an eyebrow. “Indeed.”
“So, Doctor Song.” He sits back against the door, steepling his fingers and looking at her with a familiar glint in his eyes. “Have you got a cunning plan to get us out of here and save the day?”
“Not yet.” She grins, stashing her diary back in her belt and swinging a leg over his, settling herself comfortably onto his lap. “But perhaps with some inspiration I could come up with something,” she declares, raising a hand to his face with a shrug.
He is looking at her intently now, his hands automatically coming to rest on her thighs, and his thumbs trace circles over the fabric of her trousers. “And how might I inspire you?” he enquires softly, tilting his head to lean into her touch.
Another thump sounds behind him and River leans in to kiss him hungrily, pushing her hips against his. “This will do just fine,” she says breathlessly when she breaks away, standing to rid herself of her trousers and underwear. “You just sit there and be clever.”
“I can do that,” he says, breaking into a grin, which only grows wider when she bends to unzip his trousers.
“Oh, I know.” River tugs on the waistbands of his trousers and pants, and the Doctor shifts for just long enough to let her pull them to his knees before he settles back against the door and takes her hands to pull her back down on top of him.
Their fingers intertwine as he kisses her, another thump at the door sending a muffled jolt through both of them, and they both moan in response to the sudden adrenaline boost as they’re reminded that they are in mortal peril.
It makes everything so much headier, when you’re about to die.
“How long until it breaks through?” River says breathlessly, pulling away to let him speak while she presses kisses along his jaw instead. She can feel his growing erection nudging against the inside of her thigh, but he’s still a good way from incoherence.
“Six minutes and forty-two seconds, give or take,” is his response. His hands roam self-assuredly along her thighs, bypassing the cut at her waist and continuing up and down her back before coming to rest on her buttocks. She does appreciate it when he’s old enough not to flail too much. Their back-to-front phase seems to have finally come to an end, having lasted just long enough to remind her how precious any time, with any him, really is. “Are you sure we should be doing this?” He asks a tad breathlessly, running a finger gently over her hipbone under the cut.
“Oh, we should always be doing this. You think you can come up with a plan in six minutes and thirty-eight seconds?” she asks, reaching between them to take him in hand.
His eyes close for a moment, but his voice is still steady. “I thought you were making the plan?” He pinches her buttock, as if to make a point.
“I got distracted.”
Another thump from the door and she sinks down over him, grinning when a gasp escapes his lips and he pulls her closer, thrusting upwards to bury himself deeper inside her.
“Yes,” she purrs in his ear, nipping at it with a throaty chuckle as she begins to move.
“That doesn’t bode well for our survival,” he says; and his breathing is less even now, she notes smugly.
“I trust you to save the day, sweetie. You always do.”
The Doctor shakes his head with a sigh. “Not always.”
“Hush, now” she says softly, slowing her movements and resting her forehead against his. “When you don’t, sweetie, it’s because you’re not supposed to.”
The Doctor looks away, then; clearly he doesn’t quite know how to respond to that. Another thump sends him back into action, though, pushing both hands into her hair and pulling her mouth back to his, and he kisses her just a bit more desperately than before.
River has never been one to complain about that.
“Of course,” she continues when she comes up for breath, pressing a hand against the cool metal of the door to prop herself up, “sometimes it’s me who saves you.”
“River Song,” he growls, slipping his hands underneath the fabric of her shirt and bra and pushing them up and out of his way. “I hope you never get done saving me.”
“Never ever,” she promises. “Count on it.”
He leans in then to take her nipple between his teeth, grabbing roughly at her breast to bring it up to his mouth just as another thump sounds like it’s part of a countdown, and River falls forward and slams her other hand against the door for support, echoing the sound.
She can feel her muscles beginning to tighten as she moves faster, glorious tension building up and spreading along her limbs to where her shins are pressed against the stone floor and her hands against the cold metal of the door, and the plan starts to come into focus.
It’s a stupid plan, but those are the best kind.
The Doctor releases her nipple with a flick of his tongue and immediately moves to bring his teeth down around the other one, and the plan in all its wonderful stupidity takes a back seat for just a moment as River’s orgasm rushes over her, flooding warmth all the way to her feet and her fingertips before leaving them cold and tingling when she shudders with the aftershocks.
“How long now?” she asks as soon as she can form the syllables.
“Not long,” the Doctor gasps, and River grins and increases the pace again, revelling in watching him lose control underneath her.
He pulls down on her thighs to stop her when he’s spent, and looks up at her with a slow grin.
“Fifty-eight seconds,” he says, punctuated by another thump, and River presses a quick kiss to his lips before she climbs off of him.
“That should do nicely,” she declares, tugging her shirt back into place and bending down to pick up her trousers. “What do you think?” she says. “About thirty seconds between each leap against the door?”
“Twenty-seven,” the Doctor replies absently, fiddling with the front of his trousers.
“You need to get up then, sweetie.” She grabs his wrist and pulls him to his feet, to only mild protest. “How long now? Count down for me, honey.” She pilfers the screwdriver from his pocket and pushes him away from the door.”
“Eight,” he begins, “Seven, six, five…”
River aims at the metal and sonics the lock.
Clang, comes the sound as the spider creature throws itself at the door – and ploughs straight into the room while River pulls the Doctor through the open doorway and slams the door shut behind them, using the screwdriver to lock it tight once more.
The Doctor is staring at her incredulously even as she grabs his hand and races down the corridor. “That was your plan?” he says, looking behind them as they scarper. “That’s what you came up with?”
“It worked, didn’t it?” River says with a grin.
“Well yes, but I was expecting something a bit more… extravagant.”
“I told you,” she says breathlessly, stopping momentarily at an intersection before choosing a direction at random, “I got distracted.”
“Do you have any idea where we’re going?” he demands next.
“Away from the giant spider, sweetie.”
“And more specifically?”
“Okay then.” River finds herself being jerked abruptly to a halt and hisses angrily when pain shoots through the cut in her side. “Let’s take a look in here,” the Doctor continues, oblivious, and River decides to bite her tongue and follow.