After doing a couple of loops around London just for the hell of it, Christina finally finds somewhere discreet to park her brand new flying double-decker bus. That thought is going to take a bit of getting used to. She disembarks and makes a beeline for a nearby safehouse, in need of a quick shower and a change of clothes before she heads back out into the unseasonably warm London night. It's as though a little bit of that desert planet's heat has followed her back home, and she doesn't want to stay cooped up indoors, not when she knows a place the police won't come looking for her.
The Lily and Carriage is an out of the way kind of bar for the kind of people who like to pay a lot of money for peace and quiet. Christina likes it for the pretty bar staff, the excellent vodka, and the secret exit out the back. She's never had occasion to make use of that last to date, but it's good to know it's there.
Julia waves at her from behind the bar as she walks in. "The usual?"
"Please." Christina slides onto a bar stool and glances around. It's particularly quiet tonight -- some couples in dark corners, an old woman sipping wine and reading a book. No one she recognises.
She nods to the other woman sat at the bar, who's watching her with casual interest.
"Make that two," the woman says to Julia.
Julia winks at Christina as she fetches down another glass.
The woman sidles over so that she's sitting closer to Christina. "Dr. River Song." She sticks her hand out, smiling.
Christina shakes her hand, tilting her head appreciatively at the firm grip. "Christina de Souza," she replies.
"Lady Christina, if I'm not mistaken?"
Christina nods. "Very good. What can I do for you, Dr. Song?" She smiles at Julia and takes her vodka tonic. A sip confirms that it's mixed to perfection, as always.
"I passed something funny on my way here. A bus, parked on a side street and abandoned. Like someone didn't want it to be found." River watches Christina closely as she speaks.
Christina shrugs. "And?"
"And, well. That's no ordinary bus." River's voice lowers as she reaches into her bag and pulled out a bit of tech that Christina doesn't recognise. It's definitely not police issue. She switches it on and the screen glows blue.
"In fact, that bus has had some very interesting modifications. Tritovorian technology including anti-grav, very nice."
"What are you talking about?" Christina keeps her face bland and disinterested and her voice arch and cool.
"Space travel leaves traces," River says. "Energy that can be detected if you know how." She slides her scanner along the bar towards Christina. "This is the bus, these waveforms here. And this --" she presses a button, making the screen split in two and display a second waveform, "-- is you."
The patterns are the same. Christina stares at River, finding it increasingly difficult to keep the excitement and interest from her face.
"Looks like you had a pretty exciting day." River grins at her and leans in closer, her voice lowering even more. Their knees brush, the fabric of River's trousers rough against Christina's bare legs.
Christina makes her mind up. "Julia? We'll take the bottle."
River lights up when they head back to the bus and she starts poking around in the driver's seat, looking at the modifications that the Doctor made. "Oh, I haven't seen this technology for a long time - it's really very elegant, uses naturally-occurring minerals from some of the Tritovorian moons that can produce tremendous amounts of energy when you refine them. May I?"
Christina waves a magnanimous hand. "Be my guest."
River shrugs off her jacket and strips down to a form-fitting purple tank top. Christina lounges back in her seat, admiring the firm curve of River's biceps as she picks away at the alien technology. The quick, sly glance that River fires over her shoulder implies that she is completely aware of the effect that she's having. That's promising.
"Dr. River Song," Christina says, rolling the name around in her mouth. "Who are you, exactly?"
"I'm an archaeologist."
"An archaeologist who just happens to know a lot about alien technology and where to find it."
"The field's really had to adapt to survive, these last few years."
River's bent over the steering wheel, examining something, but Christina hears the smirk in her voice.
"I assume this is the Doctor's handiwork, by the way," River says after a while, straightening up and running one hand through her hair. "It's got that 'banged together in thirty seconds with a tin can and some scissors' feel to it."
"You know the Doctor?" Christina isn't really surprised, given the way her day's gone so far.
"Indeed I do." River smiles. "I wasn't lying, before. I really am an archaeologist."
"But not just an archaeologist."
Christina's eyes are glinting. "I was on another planet today. It was unbelievable, completely exhilarating. I want to see more, explore, have amazing adventures. The way you do, I'm guessing."
River looks around the bus thoughtfully. "You know, seeing as we already have an engine that has the kind of power needed for space flight, it might not be too difficult to get this spaceworthy. It'd take a while and we'd need some materials that would be tricky to get hold of in this time period, but it could be done."
"I'll get you whatever you need. Really, that won't be a problem."
"I was hoping you'd say that." River claps her hands together. "Let's build ourselves a spaceship."
The list of materials that River produces is eclectic to say the least. Some of it seems reasonable - sheets of metal, welding tools - but other things are baffling. Christina feels extremely dubious about the idea that strawberry jam has any application in interstellar travel, but River insists that it will help boost the performance of the engine.
They make their base in Christina's safehouse. It's small but River somehow finds room to turn part of the living room into a workshop, a mass of wires and tools overflowing from every surface. When Christina's not out liberating supplies, she likes to sit and watch River work. Sometimes she'll interject with questions, which River is usually happy to answer even if the explanations sometimes fly over Christina's head. But she's always had an appreciation for watching competence in motion, and River is exactly that.
Christina's been on the lookout for a real partner for a long time - the people she's joined up with in the past for heists have rarely been more than fall guys, and sometimes they've been more trouble than they're worth. River's something special, though, and Christina's known it from the moment they met. She has invaluable knowledge and skills, she's frighteningly intelligent, and perhaps most importantly she's a lot of fun.
They've barely known each other a week and Christina is already trying to figure out how to broach the question, 'say, want to embark on a life of adventure and dubious legality with me?'. It sounds ludicrous in her head, but then, she is helping River turn a London bus into a spaceship, so maybe she needs to shift her parameters on that front.
Then there's the fact that River is frankly one of the most outrageously attractive people Christina's ever had the good fortune to meet. She certainly intends to make her move on that last part very soon.
Christina comes back to the bus one afternoon, backpack full of wires and tubing. River's standing outside waiting for her, a smudge of engine grease on her cheek. Christina reaches out to wipe the smudge away and River catches her wrist, pulling her closer. Christina goes gladly, moving in until their foreheads almost touch.
"Well?" she asks.
"Took you long enough," River answers, and kisses her.
In this, as in all other things, River is talented and creative. She spins them around, pressing Christina up against the bus and sliding one warm hand underneath her shirt to rest against the small of her back. Christina murmurs appreciatively and kisses River back.
In a moment of fancy, she thinks that River tastes like stardust.
She wakes up slowly the next morning, blearily throwing an arm across her face as bright sunlight attacks her through the open window. She turns her head, and grins as she sees the imprint in the pillow beside her.
She wanders downstairs to find River sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by coffee and toast and blueprints. When she sees Christina, her whole face lights up in a delighted smirk.
"Good morning, sleepyhead. Or is that afternoon?"
Christina raises an eyebrow. "Someone kept me up all night."
"Really? How unfortunate. Lucky for you, there's still coffee in the pot."
Christina makes a happy noise and pours herself a cup before letting herself lean against the counter and simply watch River at work. She feels as though she can almost see the impossible equations forming in River's mind, lightning-fast calculations that Christina can't hope to comprehend. She's pretty sure this isn't the kind of material you cover in your standard archaeology degree.
After a few minutes River looks up and lets out a breath. She nods. "We'll be finished by the end of the day."
Christina's eyes widen. "It'll really be ready for space?"
"Oh, you bet she will." River sits back in her chair. "The question is, where do you want to go?"
Christina sits down across from her, leaning in eagerly. "Anywhere," she breathes. "I feel ready for anything."
"You are definitely ready." River's voice is honey-sweet, her tone warm and inviting, and oh, Christina has it bad. She's surprisingly fine with that.
"Light years away from here, there's a moon that orbits a long-deserted planet. The moon was believed to be deserted too, but it wasn't. Beneath the surface, where the air is hot and dry, there's a secret base, protected by some of the best security in the sector."
Christina's ears prick up. "Sounds like a challenge. What's in the base?"
"Stolen artefacts. Thousands of them, taken from civilisations throughout time and space. It's the universe's greatest loot collection. I've been hired to retrieve some of it."
"So, when you came and found me in the bar that night --?" Christina asks.
"I didn't just want you for your flying bus, no. I was hoping you might be able to help me. Lady Christina de Souza, the greatest thief of her generation. I couldn't resist."
Christina can't help but preen a little at the praise.
"So," River continues. "Want to help me liberate some priceless treasures?"
Christina reaches out and wraps her hand over River's, lightly tangling their fingers together. "I do. I really do."
She packs light - who knows what she'll need on this great space adventure anyway? Half a dozen black t-shirts, her usual heist gear, and a few bits and pieces she suspects River might be interested in.
The bus still looks like a normal London bus. More or less. The windows have gone, and when Christina steps inside the door shuts behind her with a rather solid-sounding whoosh.
River is sitting in the driver's seat, fiddling with some of the many additional levers and dials she's installed.
"Reach up and twist the green knob three times," she tells Christina, who looks above her to see a whole new control panel fitted into the ceiling.
"Ready?" River asks.
River's answering smile is as bright as the stars, and she turns the engine on. Christina grabs hold of the nearest pole as the bus shudders, but they're moving onwards and upwards, heading straight for the sky.
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