A Matching Set

Chapter 4

They drove in silence for what seemed like hours but couldn't have been more than twenty minutes. River drove around the city as if she had a blindfolded victim in the trunk of the car. The Doctor knew for a fact that he had seen the same street from three different directions.

"Are you lost?"

She snapped her head in his direction and stared him down. He smiled a smile that was unaffected and irresistible, causing her to roll her eyes and return her focus to the road. "I understand how difficult it must be for you to comprehend how to navigate with stealth…or accuracy, for that matter, Mr. I'm-Supposed-to-be-in-Honolulu."

"I don't exactly have control over where I go. The TARDIS either dislikes me or misunderstands me," he reluctantly admitted.

"Well, she must be really angry with me to drop you off here," River growled under her breath as she slowed the vehicle and turned into a driveway.

The Doctor heard her grumbling but didn't acknowledge what was not supposed to be heard. It had become obvious that she was angry with him about something that went far beyond anything that had happened since she forced him into her car earlier in the day. He would get to the bottom of it, but now was neither the place nor the time. She was still irritated about him following her into the warehouse…and she was armed.

The driveway led to a long rectangular building under several trees. It looked a bit out of place but not so much that it would draw undue attention. As they approached, River reached for and pushed another button on the small remote kept under the dash. The door began to slowly rise, and they drove into a dark garage. With another touch of the button, the door closed behind them, and lights flickered on along the ceiling.

"River…" The Doctor sighed, shaking his head.

"What? So, I brought a little of the future to the past," she rationalized as she exited the vehicle.

"A little?" The Doctor stood and stretched his long body, cramped from the ride-that-made-no-sense, and then studied the environment.

In the garage were three roadsters, all different makes, years and body styles, but nothing about them appeared out of the ordinary for the time. Well, except for the one painted TARDIS blue - which was, unapologetically, his immediate favorite. However, what did stand out in the garage were the accessories that were used to make these vehicles unstoppable, none of which were local to 1926. There were shocks and struts that were still more than a century away from popularity among street racers, and the nitrous systems would have been the envy of every enthusiast who had ever taken a wrench to a car.

"I'm not condoning this activity, mind you," he said with a serious point at her, "but it is…amazing." The maleness of him was coursing through body, and the delight was evident in his face.

River had removed her hat and let the hair escape from its containment. Her jacket had also been shed and hung on a nail over the workbench. She stood, hip propped against the blue roadster and arms crossed, watching him take it all in. She nodded and smiled valiantly. "It passes the time…and helps keeps the Marshalls in the dust, of course."

He studied the woman before him. Her untamed hair was longer than he had ever seen it and fell over her shoulders and breastbone. The crossing of her arms had pushed her breasts into the center of attention under the stressed fabric of her shirt. With her hip cocked and the grin on her face, it was all he could do not to rush at her.

She must have sensed his need, as she rocked herself off of the car and sauntered over to him. He took a deep breath and swallowed the nerves that threatened to spew from him. River reached into one pocket for the remote and the lights dimmed, leaving them in total darkness. When she reached him, she took his hand in hers and tucked them both into the other pants pocket.

Leaning in close, she brushed her lips across his, flicking his top lip with her tongue and then whispered in his ear, "Do not let go of my hand, Sweetie."

He slowly opened his eyes and rolled his head from side to side. Books to the right, books to the left. He looked up – books to the ceiling. His body was stiff and achy, and he smelled…like he had been on fire. The Doctor sat up as quickly as his soreness would allow and surveyed himself and his surroundings. There were patches of missing fabric from his trousers and jacket, big holes that were singed and warm. He was missing a shoe and a sleeve from his blazer. His braces were gone, and his shirt had come untucked from his trousers. He scratched his head and ran his hands through his hair. Probably not attractive, but it appeared to still be intact. He'd been witness to wars with fewer tell-tale signs of destruction.

He looked behind him. More books. He was in a library. He hated libraries. He had vowed to never enter another library, so how had he gotten here? He suddenly realized what he was missing and frantically searched the floor around him.

"Looking for this?" River appeared from around one of the stacks, holding his walking stick. She pulled back the ivory handle and the tip of the cane glowed.

"Umm…yes. How did you know to do that?"

"Do you ever wonder how you came upon many of the things you have, Doctor?" She reached out a hand and helped him to his feet. She grinned at his confusion. "I have a knack for tinkering." She dropped his hand and walked to one of the reading tables.

"What happened to me? I'm all…post-apocalyptic," he said as he followed her and took a seat, still a bit disconcerted.

"I warned you not to let go of my hand, Sweetie. Travelling by vortex manipulator can be rather explosive if you don't follow the rules," she explained, not sounding the least bit sorry for his bumpy ride. "But I do have some clothes for you." River nodded towards a nearby chair.

"That's clothes?"

"You're welcome," she replied flatly.

"Really?"

"Well, they are your clothes. Take them or leave them. I'd prefer that you leave them, because sometimes…" Her voice faded, and she looked downward at her feet.

"Because why, River?" He took a step towards her, and she backed up defensively.

"Nothing…really…I'll just let you change and then you can join me downstairs in the kitchen. I know how badly you hate being in a library. Which I've always thought a bit odd when you take into consideration your overall…" She waved her arms up and down the length of his body. "…well, you-ness."

"Hey! What is wrong with my me-ness?" He yelled after her as she turned a corner and began walking down the stairs without replying.

"My me-ness is magnificent," he mumbled to himself. That was twice that she had implied he was somehow less-than what was considered attractive. Of course, in his current condition, he supposed she had a point. But his pants were long enough, and there was no bowtie. No unusual hat. What exactly did she want him to wear? Not that he was going to dress for her liking, but he was curious, and a bit cross, as to why she kept bringing up his –ness. His –ness was cool.

He shed himself of his tattered clothing and reached for what she had left for him. A shirt and underpants. He shook them both out, hoping that trousers would fall out of one. Nothing. He put on what was provided and stood there in his socks, a shirt and a pair of boxers. This was not going to work.

He walked over to the stop of the stairs and yelled, "Where's the rest of it?"

River answered from a room below, but he couldn't understand what she had said. So, he repeated his question.

"That's all I have," came a faint reply.

Surely that's not the case, he thought. He ran a hand through his hair as he contemplated the situation. If they were his clothes, then why weren't there more of them? When did he leave from wherever she was without a shirt and underpants? He was disturbed…and a bit excited at the thought. Does he come back here at some point and have reason to be out of his pants? And what causes him to leave so quickly as to forget his underpants?

He would wager that guns were involved. River chased him out at gunpoint. "That is exactly what happened!" He murmured to himself as he jumped from one conclusion to the next.

But maybe he had misheard her.

"I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I NEED MORE CLOTHES! I'M ALL SORTS OF NAKED…AND COLD…NOT TO MENTION THIS IS A LIBRARY! LIBRARIES ARE NOT COOL!"

There was stomping and mumbling as she made her way up the stairs. He ran over to a chair and sat down, scooting himself under the table. He put his arms out and clasped together his hands, twiddling his thumbs.

River bounded around the corner with the look of a wild woman in her eyes. "I. Said. That. Those. Are. All. The. Only. Clothes. I. Have." She pushed the words out through clenched teeth. She had changed into different clothing, and his breathing had quickened at the sight of her.

Her hair was pulled together loosely with a strip of fabric and a few curls had come loose, framing her enraged face. She was wearing a faded yellow cotton shirt that simply said "Waikiki" and a pair of joggers. Barefoot and badass.

He had two choices. He could beg her forgiveness for whatever was keeping her riled and hope that it would end in a pile of discarded clothing. Or he could get to the bottom of it once-and-for-all, perhaps ask for forgiveness if it was due…and hope that it would end in a pile of discarded clothing.

He chose wrongly.

"You know, you have been cross with me ever since you bullied me into getting into your car. It has not gone unnoticed. Just so you know that know," he said, not realizing how close she was to causing him harm. "All I did was show up in my crisp suit and help you evade the law," he raised an eyebrow, adding with a nod, "You made me a 20th century criminal." He folded his arms across his chest and turned his face from her.

Perhaps if he hadn't closed his eyes to reinforce his smugness, he would have seen the book careening towards him. But he had, and so he didn't. Therefore, when it made contact on the side of his head, he was most surprised. He reached up and rubbed his stinging scalp. Forgetting his near nakedness, he pushed back from the table and stood. "You threw a book at me!"

"I did not." A challenge.

His mouth dropped open, and he stared at her as she stood four tables down the aisle with her arms braced on its top. "You threw a book at my perfectly shaped head!"

"Prove it. What book?"

He bent down to pick up the book, pausing to notice that it was a Farmer's Almanac, and righted himself…just as another sailed across the room, hitting him square in the chest.

"I didn't throw that one, either."

They both stood still, staring at each other, daring the other to respond. Similar standoffs had occurred throughout history and had usually ended with a fatality.

The Doctor looked directly in River's eyes as he ripped the Almanac down the middle. "And I didn't tear it in half." He had been properly provoked, and the day's antagonisms had gotten the better of him. His peacemaking tendencies had failed him miserably, but he couldn't back down now. To show fear would be to die.

Her breathing was akin to the sound a bull made as it prepared to attack. He had seen it multiple times in Spain. He liked to watch the stupid humans run down the street, gambling on not getting skewered by its horns.

He met her stare-for-stare and asked what he realized could be his final words in his current body. "So, what are you going to do about it?"

Before he had time to react, River jumped up on the table and bolted towards him, hurdling the spaces in between each table with ease and determination. With widened eyes and fear in his hearts, he turned and dashed past the length of the remaining tables. He knew that she would catch up to him by the time she reached the last table, and judging by her very-much-not-slowing-down, she was going to jump. He had only one option for survival.

When he rounded the corner of the last table, he stopped and turned to face her, smiling brightly. She was past the point of slowing down or changing course, so she had no choice but to jump directly into the arms he was holding out to her. He caught her, and she immediately began to fight him for release. While keeping a grip around her middle, he allowed her legs to fall to the floor before backing her up against a towering shelf of books.

"If you know what's good for you, you'll let me go," she warned, breathing heavily.

"Not a chance. I'll be regenerating within seconds, and I quite like this body…even with its me-ness." His voice was low and deliberate, and his body had begun to respond to being pressed against hers so forcefully.

She quickly raised a leg to place a knee with enough pressure to ensure her release, but he was quicker than she, grabbing it from under the calf and wrapping it around him. From his perspective, he held all the cards.

And now was the time to play his hand.

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