The Risk You Run

Chapter 2

The TARDIS landed with an unusual thump, and the Doctor glared at the console with suspicion. It wasn't like her to get angry or jealous about River. He had always been under the impression that the TARDIS enjoyed River's company and understood (though he would never admit as much) that she definitely preferred to be flown by River. So, this sudden unpleasantness was off-putting. But he had more pressing matters to which to attend, so he grabbed his jacket and headed out of the door.

And into a broom closet. This was certainly not outside, nor inside, of her house. He spun around to walk back to the console for a location check when the TARDIS tipped itself on its side and dumped him out. The Doctor tumbled out into a heap and stared up at his ship as the door slammed and disappeared from view. Off to sulk, yeah? Well, then…fine, he reckoned. He could do this on his own, he thought as he surveyed his surroundings.

On closer inspection, though there was a broom, it appeared he had landed in some sort of storeroom…of liquor. Three of the four walls were stacked high with bottles of various colour, shape and size. Maybe he was at the university. This could very well be a dorm closet from what he had learned from River's college-life stories. He felt a little more at ease with this realization. It absolutely sounded like a party on the other side of the door.

Until he remembered that he didn't remember this from their last meeting. Which had actually been at her house. Her very not-loud cozy home that didn't also serve as a pub. Where in the hell was he?

The Doctor stood, straightened his jacket and bowtie and opened the door just enough to peek outside. There was a wall. Wood paneled with a brass railing. And an antiquated pay phone, complete with a dingy and tattered hanging phone book. And a haze of smoke.

Either the TARDIS had emptied him into a burning building to finally be rid of him, or he was in a bar. The unmistakable sound of clashing resin balls and the overwhelming smell of cigarette smoke confirmed that he was in a bar, so he slipped out of the liquor closet and hoped to make a quick exit without being noticed. The TARDIS must surely hate him to leave him vulnerable in the American 20th century in a pub. In tweed and a bowtie. No good could possibly come from this.

He watched the pub's patrons for a while to form an efficient and inconspicuous exit strategy. Having decided there was no sure way to go unnoticed, he rounded the corner leading from the dark hall and casually made his way along the walls towards the exit. He looked downward and walked quickly, not realizing that he had caught the eye of several snickering drinkers along the bar. With his hands stuffed deep into his pants pockets, he followed the walls until he came to an abrupt and awkward corner. As he carefully lifted his eyes to assess his progress, he noticed a familiar face at a table tucked away in the far corner.

A familiar face and an unfamiliar face. In fact, an unfamiliar face hidden under a cap. A very manly baseball cap. That was quite close to the very familiar face of one River Song.

So the TARDIS had known what she was doing all along…as usual. Bollocks. He hated to be wrong.

As he glanced around the dark and smoky dungeon, he became acutely aware that many were amusingly aware of him. He awkwardly leaned against the wall as if it was his intention all along to make it to that particular place in the bar. The only problem was that he had found himself embarrassingly close to a rather large woman….well, he thought it was a woman…with a girth as much around as he was tall. On the brighter side, it was a perfect hiding place as long as she didn't turn around. Otherwise, it might be a permanent resting place. Although, he supposed it might appear as if he were trying to snuggle with the woman creature if he remained there much longer.

He needed to be closer to River and that interloping sex thing across the room. But how to get over there without being noticed seemed to be an impossibility. See, now if he had that Stetson, it might be a different story.

The Doctor saw an empty table a few feet from where he was standing and crept towards it as sneakily as possible. He sat there for what seemed like hours as he watched River and The Man. There didn't seem to be anything wildly inappropriate going on. Just a little laughter and some erratic hand gesturing. The man was slight and tall, though he was difficult to size-up while sitting down. His cap seemed to be concealing a rather large head, which caused the Doctor some pleasure until he considered maybe that's what River preferred. Maybe his head was too small. He discretely rubbed his head with both hands. It didn't seem to be noticeably smaller than what was normal for a humanoid head. He would be properly pissed if River left him for this large headed, lanky Earth person wearing an American long-haul transportation cap. There was absolutely nothing cool about this man. This was a man that cool had quite overlooked.

The Doctor inhaled sharply as River reached for one of the man's hands and entwined her fingers with his. He drew a couple of stares from nearby patrons and decided to move a bit closer. He rose from the table and crouched low so as to stay below the depressing lighting throughout the pub. Just as he began to sit at a vacant table, a young couple beat him to the seats. He apologized quietly and quickly sat in the nearest chair. Pleased that he was still unnoticed by River, he spun slowly in his chair, propped his elbows on the table and dropped his chin into his hands…staring directly into the eyes of a woman who could have been his actual age. He looked slightly left at her gentleman friend who appeared even older. "Hello…."

The couple looked at him, the woman rather intrigued and flirtatiously, the man irritatingly. "Son, you're barging in on a first date here," the man growled.

A first date? At their ages? He looked at them inquisitively. First at one, then at the other. "How many more do you think you have left?"

The woman rose suddenly, "Well, I never….." she said as she started for the door. "Thanks, pal," the man replied as his threw a couple of bills on the table. "May you never get laid again!" He hobbled out of the door after his dated date.

Now, under a scrutiny of glares, he smiled weakly and gave a small wave to his onlookers. He returned his attentions to River and the bulbous-headed Earth thing, only to find that they had disappeared. His hearts began to race, and he frantically searched the room for them, unsuccessful.

He turned to the couple behind him. "Did you happen to notice where the couple went that was sitting in that corner there? She was gorgeous, and he had this enormously unflattering head?" Both the man and the woman shook their heads and returned to their conversation.

"Hey, guy?" came a call from the bar. The Doctor looked up to locate the source of the voice in a large leather-faced worn-out looking man. "You talkin' about those two fillies that were in that far corner?"

Though not surprised and rather validated to hear the man refer to River's date as a horse, he was a little irritated that River was also included in the comparison. Maybe it was the mane of hair…"Uh, yeah. Yes, sir," he added, not wanting to question and discourage any information the other man was willing to offer.

"Well, they left while you were insulting those two senior citizens. Walked out holding hands," he answered with a gleam in his eye. "Looked like they were in quite a hurry, if you get my drift." He winked and laughed along with a few other men at the bar.

"Which way did they go?" The Doctor answered, trying to hide his disgust at the patrons' merriment.

"Well, Jack lives just down the block…to the left….If you leave now, you might be able to join them."

Join them? For what? Dinner? Cards? Certainly not….the alternative. The Doctor ran out the door and caught a glimpse of the pair as they rounded a corner, holding hands. He hurried after them, though he had no idea what to do if he caught them. He'd make it up as he went along, he guessed. That had worked out in his favor often….well, sometimes.

Jack, huh? He knew a Jack, which motivated him to run even faster. When he turned the corner, they were nowhere to be found. He turned around, thinking maybe he'd run pass them as he thought on this massive-headed Jack person. They were neither in front of nor behind him.

The Doctor walked a few more feet when a flash of light caught his eye across the street...in an alley. He walked briskly to the other side and snuck up to the alley slowly. He heard soft giggles and muffled talking. He recognized that giggle. He could feel anger and panic begin spread throughout his body before he even slipped around the corner, hidden in the darkness.

"Jack" had River backed up to the wall and was leaving small trails of kisses from her ears down her neck into her cleavage. River let out a low groan and reached up to remove the cap to allow for her own access.

And out of the cap tumbled long, shockingly blond hair that swung down the back of "Jack." River gave a tug to the hair, causing her partner's head to follow backwards. She leaned in and bit her way down "Jack's" neck, eliciting a moan from the…..woman?

The Doctor stood in the shadows, watching the scene unfold, scratching his head and blinking his eyes in rapid succession.

A woman…?

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