"What? What? No, no, I wouldn't---"
"Really, sweetie, all you have to do is say hello."
There's an implication in the way she says hello, and the Doctor has a feeling it is very similar to the implications that hang in the way Jack Harkness says hello. Which the Doctor wouldn't do in this situation, really. Or…any situation, actually!
"No, no," he says. "No, I was just shopping."
"Shopping," she says, unconvinced.
He holds up the small basket he's filled with various items he's picked up around the market.
"Didn't know you liked Venusian caviar," she says, smirking.
He looks into the basket. Venusian caviar, marmite, a strange loaf of bread, and stockings. He really should've paid more attention to what he was picking up. Because, well, yes, he was following her.
River Song. Although she promised him the last time they spoke that she would be part of his future, he hasn't seen her since she sacrificed herself in the Library. He's considered looking up on her, but her credentials at the archeological institute appear to have been forged, and she simply doesn't exist, except to the Doctor on one strange day months prior.
Then, as fate would have it, he saw her here. Shopping for groceries, like some ordinary person instead of a strange enigma plaguing his memory. Curiosity, being what it is, compelled him to follow.
He snatches up a milk carton, which is something he might actually buy. He gives her a Look, as if to say See, I am buying things. I'm not just here for you.
"You're just here for me, Doctor," she says, crossing her arms.
"What? Don't be so---" He stops. "Doctor," he repeats. Right, she knows him. Is there a point on the timeline where she doesn't know him. He'd like to feel on the same level as her at some point. "That's time travel for you. At least I never have to worry about proper introductions where you're concerned."
"So, stop following me around and just say you're sorry," she says.
"Sorry?" he asks, with a confused blink. "For what?"
"Oh, I'm not falling for that again," she snaps, sticking a finger in his face. "You know very well what I'm talking about."
"Honestly, I don't," he says, taking half a step back. This was a bad idea. He shouldn't have started following her, but he was so curious. This place seems so ordinary in comparison to her, and he's only seen her in the middle of disaster. Who is she when she's just shopping?
She sighs. "You're dripping."
He looks down to the carton in his hand. While every other perishable in this small market in 6577 is wrapped in a climate-controlled force field to keep the food fresher and the landfills smaller, milk has always been packed in a paper carton. A paper carton which the Doctor is gripping hard enough to tear. Milk is dripping down the side of his arm, thick and white and sweet-smelling in the eternally stale market.
"Nervous about something?" she asks, amused.
He looks at first embarrassed, and then irritated. He's normally quite good at meeting people. As someone who never stays in one place, it's sort of par for the course. So why is it this one woman manages to terrify him?
"Nervous? I'm not---" He awkwardly shoves the milk back on the shelf. The dripping carton smacks sloppily into the force field-covered eggs and the liquid shorts out the mechanisms holding them together. The eggs, suddenly freed from their confines, begin tumbling to the floor. Hundreds of large, brown Frostro Bird eggs from New New Ohio crash in big, yellow blobs to the ground.
The Doctor leaps back, just avoiding slipping by jumping towards her. She takes a surprised step back and knocks into a display of hair products. The force fields snap off without warning, and a waterfall of shampoo and hair gel pours out from the shelves. The liquid flows down the asile, shutting off shelf after shelf of food and drink. Other, unsuspecting shoppers step into the asile and slip, landing in undignified heaps in disgusting slicks of food and hair product.
The shelf of crisps and frozen chips suddenly fall apart, and a hail of tiny salty potato-pieces tumble down, landing in shoppers' hair and on other mechanisms, quickly adding them to the shorted-out list.
There's a scream on the other end of the market, and the Doctor winces as he watches a display of bottled tea suddenly dissolve into its contents and fall onto a Draconian woman with a loud splash.
The Doctor turns to River, who has caught onto his sleeve in order to keep from losing her balance and falling into a puddle of hairspray. They're the only two still on their feet, he realizes, in a small, clean circle situated in the center of the destruction.
Without warning, she laughs. "Can't take you anywhere, can I?" She reaches up and picks a piece of egg yolk from his hair. "Nowhere normal, anyway."
He shakes his head. "But why would you?"
River opens her mouth to say something, probably something particularly sassy (as, he's discovered, is her way), when she slips a little on some of the milk and sways, about to fall backwards. He reaches out an arm and wraps it around her waist, keeping her balanced. She steadies herself with her hands against his chest and---goodness, when did they end up so close?
He finds himself, not for the first time in her presence, speechless.
She takes in a breath that sounds shaky and (dare he think it?) uncertain. "Doctor, I---"
There's a crash, and the front door of the market slides open to reveal two Zygon pirates, armed to the teeth. Well, armed to the extratubular vents, at least.
"Thissssss is a robbery---" hisses the first as he steps inside. His bony foot steps on a stray Alzarian banana and he slips, falling ungracefully onto the slick market floor. The second Zygon tries to step back and lands face first into a display of pistachio pudding.
River looks over to the fallen robbers, then back to the Doctor with a wide grin.
"Well, you certainly make things interesting."
Muse: The Doctor (Ten)
Fandom: Doctor Who
Word Count: 1,050