"Don't mean to rush you, sweetie," River said, "but do you think you could hurry up?"
If anything, this caused the Doctor to slow down, as he took the time to give River an arch look. He changed the setting on his sonic screwdriver, again, and returned to the handcuffs linking his left wrist to River's right.
"I'm trying the best I can," he replied, "but there's something wrong with them. It's encoded on a strange frequency and has a new design I've never seen before." The Doctor looked at her suspiciously. "Why? What aren't you telling me?"
River looked back from glancing down the hallway for the tenth time in the last minute. She tried on a smile that didn't quite reach the pinched look around her eyes.
"Hmm?" she asked. "Oh, nothing! Nothing. Have you tried the Auto-settings?"
"Auto-settings? What sort of name is that? Auto-settings. I've never done anything auto in my life!"
"That's what I said! But you insisted." She glanced down the hallway again while he buzzed away at the metal links. "What are you doing?" she asked when the sound changed. "That setting will never work. It's for garage doors!"
"Yes, I know! It seemed worth a try. Stop talking. I'm working."
River only raised one slender eyebrow at that.
"Sorry," he muttered.
"Oh, now you're just guessing!" River said as he changed the setting again.
"No! I'm not guessing! I've set it on random," he corrected, pointing the sonic at her momentarily before returning to their handcuffs. "Random lets the sonic guess. There's a small but significant difference."
"You mean, like auto."
"Oi! Don't get cheeky."
"I really think we should move now." She glanced down the hallway yet again.
"Why do you keep doing that?"
She did it again.
"That!" he said. "There! That! Why do you keep doing that? This area of the building has been evacuated. Nobody is following us. So why do you keep looking?"
River smiled in a cookie-cutter way. "No reason. Just..."
"I love it when you get all forceful," she said, suddenly angling the curves of her body into his space in a way that made the Doctor gulp and his voice go high.
"River, who do you expect to be following us?" A thought hit him like a bullet. "It's not me, is it?" He turned to look down the hallway, pulling River in his wake. Then he turned back, causing her to almost run into his chest. "Has that happened before? Two of me, I mean. You do seem to . . . attract me. Sort of." He cleared his throat. "Not like that." He caught the look she was giving him. "Oh, you know what I mean!"
"No, Doctor," River replied with a slight roll of her eyes. "You and I took precautions against that ages ago. Or will."
"Ah, of course we would - will." He grinned, already proud of something he had yet to do. River looked pointedly at their cuffed wrists. "Oh! Right. Still handcuffed. Let's see. How about this?" The Doctor zapped the handcuffs once more, then made a growling sound in the back of his throat when it didn't work. "No. Let's try this."
"Doctor," River said, checking her watch.
He ignored her.
"All right. Didn't expect that'd work really. Could always hope though. Why would I need a setting to un-seed grapes anyway? Well, we all get bored. Oh, I know! This one, this one will definitely - No!" He raised their wrists until the handcuffs were at eye-level, causing River to huff. "Why aren't you opening? There's no reason you shouldn't be opening. You. Need. To. Open!" He tried one last setting. Nothing happened. "Oh, now you're just being contrary."
"Doctor, we need to move," River said, yanking both their hands down.
"Why?" he asked, turning his full frustration with the situation on her.
"Because I said so."
"Are you my mother now?"
"Oh, shut up," River replied, twisting her hand inside the cuffs to clasp his hand. She began to jog down the hall -opposite the way she'd been looking, he noticed- and he had really no choice but to follow her. It took him a few moments, but eventually he remembered that he was technically stronger than River. He dug his heels in and their movement ground to a halt. The glare she turned on him was venomous. "We have to keep moving!"
"I don't think so," he said, knowing his tone was taunting but unable to help himself. "I think I want to see what you so obviously don't want me to see. Bound to be interesting. I wonder who it is. Someone from your past? My future, maybe? Will I recognize them? Oooh, let's wait and see!"
"Believe me, sweetie, you do not want to stay here to find out," she told him. There was a desperation in her voice that made him ease up on his resolve just enough that she was able to start pulling him down the hallway again.
"Why?" he asked. He was pretty sure he never asked as many questions in his life as he did when he was with River Song. Probably because she never seemed to answer them. It was infuriating. It was also a little bit exhilarating.
"Because there might be a little, tiny, sort of mild explosion about to happen." She threw a grin over her shoulder. Her eyes widened at the look on his face and her speed picked up.
"You set up a bomb?"
"You say that like it's a bad thing," she replied.
"I know you want these people out of business as much as I do. I believe in you, sweetie. I really do, but words are not going to cut it. I thought a little shake might help."
"I did not approve of any bombs," he told her. She nodded her head in an exaggerated fashion and pulled them through an emergency exit. The door opened out to a wide rocky plane. "How did you even - No, doesn't matter! I did not give you permission to set up a bomb!"
"Yeah . . . but I did it anyway," River said. She glanced at her watch. "We have about forty seconds to get as far from the building as possible."
"Right. How big is a tiny, little, sort of mild explosion? In River's world, I mean."
"Um," River worried her lip. She glanced back at the building, down at their handcuffs, and then back at the Doctor. "Run?"
Knowing River Song as well as he did, which was still not nearly as well as she knew him, the Doctor understood how to take a hint. Cuffed hands clasped together, the two took off at a run as far and fast from the building as possible. Unfortunately, it seemed that wasn't either far or fast enough to get them completely out of range before the building behind them exploded in a huge ball of fire and sound. The ground trembled and the energy wave threw them flat to their stomachs. Over the cracking of steel and the popping of embers in the air, the Doctor could hear River Song laughing.
"What are you laughing about? That wasn't funny! Know what else that wasn't? That was certainly not tiny or little or any sort of mild," he rebuked. Despite the fact that her face was full of hair, her wrist was bleeding from where the handcuff had dug in during the fall, and the ground around them was littered with burning debris, River Song smiled like an angel.
"Oops," she said.
For a second, the Doctor could only stare at her. "Oops? What sort of answer is oops? You didn't know it would be that big? Please tell me you weren't playing with explosives without knowing what you were doing."
"Oh no, I got everything right." River scrunched up her nose while reconsidering that thought. "Except for the timing. I didn't think it'd be that soon. I had to make do with an unreliable starter. Stockings really aren't meant for that sort of thing. Still, I could only use what I had on hand."
"You said mild. I distinctly remember the word mild." The Doctor gestured back behind them where things were still tossing up fire and metal into the air. "That. That is not mild."
"It would have been, if we were further away," she said. "And I'd like to point out, that we would have been further away if you hadn't taken time fiddling with your sonic screwdriver."
"Don't bring the sonic into this."
"You're just cranky 'cause it's the truth."
The Doctor scoffed and she frowned. "That's rich," he said, nodding his head. "Especially coming from the woman who lied about an explosion in the building we were just inside. Mild? Honestly?"
"I was almost honest," she defended herself.
He tried to keep a stern face, but the absurdity of the situation chose that moment to occur to him. Here he was, his suit covered in dirt and grime, handcuffed to a woman who was both a stranger and the only person in the universe who knew his name, his favorite tie looped around her neck for what seemed to be a very logical reason a half hour ago but now seemed sort of silly. She was wearing a shimmery, backless cocktail dress in the middle of a quarry strewn with burning metal like some war-zone. He had come for her because she said she needed a date. That's all. A date. What harm could that cause? And perhaps he owed it to her since last time he saw her, she died for him. The date turned out to be with a vicious drug cartel that she had turned on a while back. He ended up being knocked out, locked up, and nearly exploded within an hour. And she still hadn't told him why. Some part of him didn't expect she'd ever tell him. Yet, he still did it. He'd probably do it again. She was just too interesting to not get pulled back in. That was scary, since it felt a lot like destiny. It was also brilliant, because it felt a little bit like freedom.
He laughed and she laughed and the building burned at their backs.
"Ohh," he sighed, trying to catch his breath. "That was fun. I haven't done anything fun like that in a while. Everything's just been sort of -Oh, never-mind."
"Mmm," River replied, resting her cheek on her free hand, as if they were just lazing about for the sake of it.
The way she smiled at him. He couldn't look at it too long. He cleared his throat and began climbing to his feet, pulling River up with him. "Could've done without the explosion though."
"I know. Sorry."
"No, you're not. You're just saying that."
"Yeah, I am."
The Doctor grinned, despite himself, and opened his mouth to say something - maybe about how brilliant she was or how genius they were or maybe just to say she had dirt on her face. Either way, none of them would know, because that's when he heard the barks. Not just ordinary barks, but huge, reverberating barks, like some rottweiler with a megaphone.
"What is that?!" he asked.
River smiled and batted her eyelashes at him. "Did I forget to mention the Yerlidious War Hounds?"
River grasped his hand and grinned in his face like a devil. "Run."
He had little choice but to follow her.