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There's No Turning Back

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Branches crack under her feet as River walks barefoot. Everything around her is dark, she can’t see anything. Where am I? Making a step forwards, she feels the soft crisp of dead leaves under her bare feet. She can feel everything buzzing around her, everything seems distant but extremely clear at the same time. It feels like a dream you’re trying to remember but the more your think about it, the more it fades away. She tries to concentrate on her surroundings but they become increasingly fuzzy when she does so. 

 

In all the travels she’s done in time and space, she has never laid eyes on a planet such as this. She doesn’t even have any recollection of how she got here in the first place. Everything she knows is…nothing. She knows nothing about this place or how she ended up here. All she knows is that this place is disintegrating. Whatever this universe is, whatever this alternate reality is, it is disintegrating…

 

But there is something missing, something right under her nose, something important, something…right under her feet

 

She looks down and the only thing she sees is void. There is no branches, no autumn leaves, just…void. But if the reality is disintegrating why does she still remembers the feeling of leaves under her bare feet. It should have faded by now. She didn’t even thought of what was under her feet in the first place, it was just…there. Like a…memory. But if the reality is not really disintegrating it means…it hasn’t been created yet. And she seems to be the creator.

 

River closes her eyes and tries to concentrate on her senses. 

 

One at the time…

 

Sight. She reopens her eyes and look around her. Nothing. It’s just darkness now. And void. But then, one can’t create a whole world with their eyes. 

 

Hearing. She can hear the wind blowing, passing through the…trees? It raises leaves on the ground and make them swirl in the air. She can’t hear the sound of birds, but she hears something else in the distance. She listens attentively, but the moment she does, it’s gone. 

 

She then focuses on the smell. It smells like petrichor, the scent of dirt after rain.

 

Touch. This one is harder. She curls her feet on the ground and the feeling of the leaves comes back. If she concentrates a little more she can feel a soft breeze running between her clothes. River didn't linger on the clothes she was wearing before but now she looks at them and frown. She is in her nightie? Why would she be in her nightie in the middle of a fores-

 

River’s frown deepens as she lifts her eyes to consider the scenery playing before her eyes. She’s in the middle of a forest and the view becomes clearer by the minute. She can actually see the leaves swirling in the air and the ground is covered by a thick layer of fog. 

 

The intriguing thing is that she doesn’t seem to be affected by the apparent cold weather. The wind in her hair makes her curls whirl around her face but she doesn’t feel the cold wind in the back of her neck nor anywhere on her body. Through the fog, she moves the best she can, taking into account the dark sky threatening to pour his tears of rain. 

 

She begins to walk into the trails when suddenly she hears a voice. It makes her stop, she keeps her ears open. She recognises the voice from somewhere but can’t put her finger on it. It’s the same sound she heard earlier.

 

"You never really escaped us…" The voice resonates through the trees.

 

At the sound of the voice, her hearts begin to pound in her chest. She recognises the voice. She can feel her hairs stand on ends. A moment ago the cold surrounding her in the forest wouldn't affect her but now her whole body turns cold. 

 

She heard this voice before, so many times. How could she forget a voice like that? It has haunted her for so many years, still does. She tried to forget this voice so many times, tried to forget the part of her life related to this voice. But how can one forget a voice that haunt their every move, every dream? Every time she closes her eyes, every dream, every nightmare. This voice is constantly behind her, watching her every step. This voice has been eating her from the inside since her first breath, her first heartbeat.

 

River slowly turns around to find—

 

Nothing. 

 

There is nothing behind her. She looks around her but only sees trees and fog. There is no one in the forest apart from her. The voice is just…a voice. Nothing else, she must be imagining it. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Her whole surroundings has been imagined by no one else but her. She just has to concentrate enough to hear the voice again and make it real. But does she want this to be real? With only a thought she can create the human being she hates the most, fears the most.

 

Suddenly she hears it, the voice. It’s the same voice again, of course. She quickly closes her eyes again and concentrates on the voice, shutting down all her other senses. 

 

"You never really escaped us…" At first the voice crackles a bit like if there was interferences but the more she concentrates the clearer it gets. She cannot distinguish the words clearly but some of them make their way quickly into her mind, "Melody…" The voice gets clearer as if it was getting closer. All her senses mingle together, she tries to concentrate on the voice but it seems that another dimension has been added to it. "Pond…" The voice is no longer around her, it’s no longer an echo. It’s like a real voice, as if someone were talking next to her. She can feel it, the voice is behind her. It’s getting closer and closer, as if closing the gap between the two of them. 

 

She can now feel the presence of someone behind her, the voice is no longer a voice. It’s a person, and it’s approaching her. She struggles with the force that is telling her to open her eyes and turn around. She knows she can’t break the link she has while concentrating on the voice. If she opens her eyes, everything will disappear. And, in fact, she’s not sure she wants to know what’s behind her, who is behind her. But the thing is, she already knows who it is, and it’s what scares her. 

 

She can hear the person behind her. Shoes are walking in her direction, the branches crack under the weight of this person. She can feel the wind moving around her as the person walks towards her. " Tick…" It’s a faint whisper but River still hears it. Her blood turns cold and her chest starts pounding again. She knows what’s coming next, she knows the words. The person gets closer. The hair at the back of her neck bristles as she feels the hot breath of the person behind her on it. She keeps her eyes firmly closed and breathes through her nostrils. The person leans in and she feels their face in her hair. It’s when she hears it, the faint whisper of what she knew would follow. "Tock."

 

Her eyes open instantly as she stares straight ahead of her. 

 

In one swift movement, she turns around and intend to push the person away from her, but as she turns around the world changes. Everything around her evaporate and a new scenery is created before her eyes. There is no one beside her. She finds herself in a big place. 

 

River seems to be alone in a room she doesn’t recognise. This room looks like a library. There are books covering every wall and ladders are put in each corner to climb to the first floor where balconies have a view of the ground floor. At the far end of the room, there is a window which must be at least twenty feet high. It’s dark outside, once again the only thing she can see outside is the thick fog covering most of the landscape. And finally, in the center of the room, there is a desk, a very neat desk. A big and fancy chandelier dangles from the ceiling and illuminates the room with a dimmed light. She can’t hear a sound and even if the furnitures scattered around the room are totally regular ones, she can’t help but think that everything here looks scary.

 

"Are you finished yet?" It’s the voice again. But this time it seems to come from the chair at the desk, it’s turned towards the window and River can’t see the figure in it. "I always hate when you ramble about stupid things, such as the view. You can’t shut up, can you? But I’ll have to admit that the view here is quite…extraordinary. I like it when it’s dark, it’s quite mysterious." 

 

River approaches the desk slowly as not to make any noise. She wants to see who is behind this desk. 

 

"I wouldn’t get closer if I were you." She halts in front of the desk and the voice sighs in impatience. "I can hear you walking towards me. Your feet are making the floor cracks under your weight and I can hear the friction of your clothes against your skin as you walk. Are you deliberately making your presence known or have you just forgotten the training I taught you?"

 

River doesn’t respond to her question. She continues to approach the desk gingerly. She knows who is behind this desk but she still moves forwards with caution. There are no weapons, no way out. She’s stuck in this room with her worst nightmare. "Has anybody ever told you it’s disrespectful to have your back turned when you’re talking to someone?" She utters bitterly.

 

The chair slowly turns around to reveal the person River fears the most, her worst enemy, Madame Kovarian. She takes the time to look at her, properly look at her. It’s been a long time since she last saw her. She’s the same, the same black suit and her hair held in a tight updo. Kovarian doesn’t wear an eyepatch anymore and she can see her right eye is white, lifeless. There are red marks all around her eye as if she had been struck by lightning.

 

"It’s your mother’s doing, you know," Kovarian mentions, slowly stroking the sore spot under her eye. "In the alternate universe, inside the pyramid. She put my eyepatch back on my eye and it electrified me, I died that day. It was horrible, my whole core was burning up."

 

"But you’re not dead, you’re right here," River responds with a frown.

 

"You never listen, do you? You never did before anyway." Kovarian stands up from her chair and rounds her desk to stand next to her. River backs away from her. "I told you that I died in an alternate universe, but this universe has been rebooted, recreated. In the end, I did not die at all. I woke up in reality alive, but the damages were done. A thing happened, I can’t explain it but the alternate universe has had considerable repercussions to the reality. I lost my eye…and my power over you."

 

"You never had power over me." She responds bitterly, rounding the desk to stand on the other side.

 

"You really think so? You poor, naive thing. You never had the upper hand, every wicked thing you did in your childhood was planned by none other than me. You know, it’s really easy to loosen up some wires and make a child believe she got out of a spacesuit by herself." River swallows the lump in her throat and tries to keep eye contact with Kovarian. She cannot break down in front of her. "And you know what the funny thing is?" 

 

After a moment, River answers, "No, I don’t." She tries to keep her voice steady. "Care to enlighten me?" She adds scornfully. 

 

"The funny thing is, you could kill me if you wanted. Right here, right now. Because this is not an alternate universe, this is the reality, this is real." River goes to grab Kovarian by the collar of her suit but as soon as she does her hand goes right through her, as if she was a ghost. She looks down at her hand wide eyes. Kovarian throws her head backward and begins to laugh heartily. "But you, dear Melody, are not."

 

"I- I’m not what?" She doesn’t know what to do, what’s happening to her. She feels like a deer in highlights, she’s lost. It’s a trap, she can feel it.

 

"Real…You’re not real, Melody." Kovarian eyes her from her position in front of the desk. "Haven’t you quite figure it out yet?" At River’s bemused expression she continues, "You’re really slow today, it’s embarrassing, you should be ashamed. Look at you, Melody, look at the corner of your eyes."

 

After a moment of hesitation River does as told and is surprised to find…nothing. Everything is blurry and shapeless. "I don’t see anything."

 

"That’s because you don’t look. Everything is blurry at the corner of your eyes, you can’t touch me and, for God’s sake, you’re dressed in your night clothes," Kovarian states, irritated.

 

That’s when it finally dawns on her. She’s not in another universe. She can create her own world, move from one place to another in seconds. It’s not just some weird place. It’s…"It’s a dream…" She whispers to herself before looking up. "But if it’s a dream why can’t I touch you?"

 

"That’s where it gets interesting," Kovarian declares, "You see, the thing is, I may have entered your dream. It’s really easy, this is like a psychic link except you’re not aware of it. I let you begin your dream normally and then I enter it. For me you’re an holographic figure, for you I’m as you remembered me." Kovarian rounds the desk and places herself next to River, she leans in to whispers, "I’m into your mind." She retreats with a wicked grin.

 

"But if you are as I remember, why don’t you wear an eyepatch?" She asked, trying to keep her composure.

 

"Because I don’t need it. There are no Silences in this room, as I wanted."

 

"Why?" River backs away and nearly stumbles on the chair behind her. She suddenly realises that she can actually touch objects, she won’t pass through them. It’s just the person in front of her that is unattainable.

 

"Why, why, why." She imitates River. "Too many questions." She begins to circles around River. "But I’ll answer you that. I’ve played enough with your mind already." She stops circling around River and stays behind her. "I want you to remember this, I want you to be scared and remember the fear you felt at this moment." River can feel her breath behind her and slowly turns around. "You’re trapped, there is no way out. I want you to give a message to the Doctor."

 

"And what would that be?" She glares at Kovarian and moves to place herself near the window, she puts her hands on the back of the chair.

 

"Tell him I’m back, tell the Doctor that Madame Kovarian is back from the dead."

 

"Not for long, I can tell you that," She responds. "One more thing, I believe you haven’t taken care of everything in your silly little plan. I’m not trapped, there is always a way out. You seem to forget that I am dreaming and I can wake up whenever I want."

 

"Don’t be a stupid girl, you can’t wake up from a dream as you wish. There has to be something that triggers your mind as you sleep to wake up. Don’t count on me to be the thing." Kovarian throws her hand in the air in a mocked surrender.

 

"Don’t worry, I never ever thought about you to help me getting out of dangerous situations." With that, she takes to chair and throws it with all her might in the window. At the impact, she shields herself with her arms around her head. The window is smashed into pieces and River looks down at the cliff under her feet. There is only void beneath her because of the fog surrounding the horizons.

 

"If you jump into this, your dear Doctor won’t be there to save you this time."

 

River turns around to see Kovarian wide eyed, "I don’t intend to be saved this time, I’ve had my fair share of impromptu wake up call." She throws a glance in Kovarian’s direction. "I can handle one more." Approaching the edge of the window, River turns around one last time. "Give my love to the Silences." 

 

And with that, she lets herself fall backwards. The wind hits her back throughout her fall. She can feel her hearts beating rapidly in her chest as everything turns to black.

Chapter Text

River woke up with a start. Sitting up abruptly, she kicked the sheet at her feet. Passing her hand through her unruly curls, she closed her eyes, trying to regain her breath as she was still panting. The tremor of her nightmare had left her out of breath, a slim veil of sweat covered the nape of her neck. 

 

Opening her eyes slowly to give them time to adjust to the light, River glanced at the right side of the bed. Rumpled empty sheets met her eyes, the Doctor’s side of the bed was already turning cold. 

 

With a sigh, she flopped back down on the warm bed and rolled on her side to burrow her face in the Doctor’s pillow. It still held his scent and helped to calm her pounding hearts. When she closed her eyes, the darkness behind her lids made the nightmares resurface vividly. She chose to keep her eyes open, keeping the nightmares at bay. 

 

Rolling onto her back, River fought the urge to close her eyes and kept her gaze fixed on the ceiling. Sleep was still running through her veins and called her back into its arms. But she knew that going back to sleep meant going back to this nightmare. She wasn’t ready.

 

The morning sunlight filtered through the curtains and made blurred shapes dance across the ceiling. Rays of sun escaped the protective film of the curtain to lay themselves at the foot of the bed, illuminating the room with an iridescent light. It was a sunny day of March. Something quite exceptional for Leadworth.

 

River was staying at her parents’ house for the time being. After her graduation from Luna University and the events that had followed right after, she had decided to spend more time with her parents. Of course, they had gladly accepted for her to stay, it was still her home. From her graduation to present time nearly a year had passed. She hadn’t seen the time fly but River had been busy with earning her doctorate.

 

She’d learn to appreciate her time in Leadworth. It still held memories from her childhood as Mels, her childhood alongside her parents. Making new memories, from a time of peace and joy, was all that she wanted. 

 

So, here she was, in the guest room, which was more often simply labelled as ‘River’s bedroom’. She was happy to say in the most honest of ways that this house was her home. Plus, as she spent most of her time in here nowadays, the Doctor was always popping in and out for dinner, for the week-end or even sometimes to stay for an indefinite amount of time. It was fun, being the four of them together. She felt like they had finally found their perfect place in this family. 

 

The shapes on the ceiling disappeared as a cloud obscured the sun rays. River sighed and stretched her arms over her head, chasing the sleep out of her bones. She glanced at her alarm clock on the nightstand, 9 am. This was a good time as any to wake up. Plus, she feared going back to sleep wasn’t a possibility anymore. She knew it was only a dream but there was still something bothering her about it. Maybe it was the realism of it or simply the persona inside or it that chilled her bones. It shouldn’t matter, nightmares were called that way because they weren’t real.

 

But still, there was something bothering her and she couldn’t place her finger on it.

 

Going out of bed, she slipped on her cardigan to protect her from the morning chill and made her way downstairs. The voices of Amy and the Doctor could be heard from the kitchen and the smell of toasts and tea put a smile on her face. Even if she still wore the traces of her nightmare on her face, it wasn’t going to spoil her morning.

 

"...and so, the car came up to me and I was like ‘I hope this is not a Zygon’, well guess wha—"

 

"Good morning, sleepyhead," Amy cut the Doctor off in his story, glancing up at River leaning on the threshold. The Doctor turned around in his stool, a smile tugging at his lips when he saw River’s disheveled appearance. "Slept well?" 

 

River pushed away from the door, humming in agreement. "Yes, like a baby." It was a lie. But she didn’t want them to worry for nothing, because it was nothing. She kissed the Doctor’s cheek, missing his frown. Then, she rounded the table to greet her mother equally. "It’s sunny today, quite something for Leadworth."

 

Amy hummed as River made her way to the kettle. She felt the Doctor’s arms circling her waist as she prepared her tea. Looking up at him, she smiled softly and leaned against his chest. He nuzzled her neck before whispering, "What’s wrong?"

 

Withdrawing from his embrace, she glanced at him with a curious frown. "Nothing’s wrong." Few tendrils of hair fell into her eyes and he brushed them away, his eyebrows raised. She internally rolled her eyes because of course he would see right through her, he always did.

 

"River, honey. I can see something has been bothering you the moment you entered the room." She resumed making her tea as the kettle whistled, quite intending to ignore his worries. There was nothing for him to worry about, she just had a nightmare, it happened all the time. Damn this man and damn his ability to see right through her.

 

Glancing back at him, she sighed, "It’s nothing really, I just had a nightmare, that’s all." She lowered her gaze to her brewing tea.

 

"Do you want to talk about it?" He asked in a whisper.

 

She shook her head before looking back up with a smile. "It’s nothing to worry about, sweetie." She leaned on her tiptoe to give him a peck on the lips. When she returned to her feet, she brought her fingers to his hair, absent-mindedly brushing back his unruly hair.

 

He sighed before bending down to steal another kiss from her lips. River smiled softly and broke away from his embrace, returning to the table where Amy was intensely looking into her tea, surely giving them some sort of privacy.

 

It’s right after deposing her tea on the table that she felt it. The numb pain of an oncoming headache. Sighing internally, River sat on a stool and kneaded at her temple, applying pressure on the suddenly harsh pain. A headache in the morning was never a good thing.

 

At the corner of her eye, she saw the Doctor moving his limbs vividly, explaining something to her mother with the vivacity of a five-year-old. The shocking thing wasn’t the fact that he acted so lively before his morning cup of tea. No, what shocked her was how little she could concentrate on what he was saying. 

 

Taking a deep breath, she shook her head slightly and focused her vision on the two people before her. Surprisingly, it was hard for her to focus much on anything. Black dots obscured her vision and shapes in movement appeared blurry. Panic began to rise inside her chest. She blinked once, twice but nothing could remove the dots. 

 

Suddenly, she felt goosebumps covering her whole body but she began to sweat at the same time. Oh no, very bad, very very bad. Grabbing the first thing at her right, she tried to suppress the sensation of everything spinning around her as she held onto the Doctor’s arm. She saw the latter quickly look at her, the worried frown on his face rapidly turning into a grimace of panic.

 

She could see his lips moving but the white noise ringing inside her ear prevented her from hearing a single word. "What?" She uttered the words and they seemed foreign to her own ears. The Doctor’s hands crawled to her cheeks as he tried to maintain eye contact. It’s funny, he looked very close to her now, and his face was unnaturally blurred. Surely his usual face was more sharp and neat. What was happening to her?

 

All of a sudden, holding on to him seemed like a good idea. Her tight grip on his shirt should suppress the dizzy aspect of the room. Or maybe, it wasn’t the room spinning, maybe it was her. Thinking about it, she felt like the floor was coming awfully close to her face, too close for her liking.

 

When her body hit the floor, it surprised her how comfy the floor looked right now. Plus, the collision hadn’t knocked the breath out of her. It was really surprising, she should really put her mind to work as to why she hadn’t collided with this damn fine parquet floor. Because in the laws of physics, such a thing shouldn’t happen, except in the planet of Kale but this was an exce—

 

 

River opens her eyes abruptly. A chandelier is dangling over her head, illuminating a room made of dark oak that makes a chill run through her body. Where is she? More importantly, what happened to her?

 

One moment she was fine at her house, the smell of warm tea enveloping her and warming up her entrails. The company of her mother and husband putting a smile on her face. Then, she remembers the harsh pain at the back of her skull, a drill piercing a hole inside of it, the goosebumps, the dizziness. Did she faint? Surely the action of fainting didn’t alter the space-time continuum, making a human being time travel. Surely she would know, more than anyone.

 

"Wakey wakey."

 

Startled by the voice, River scrambles up from her lying position. Her chest heaves with laboured pants as she looks around her. She’s in the middle of a room. And there’s no need for her analyse its content and aspect. She did mere moments ago. Inside her dream. 

 

Goosebumps reappear onto her body but for a whole different reason. She stands up, her head still hurting making her dizzy for a moment. No, this can’t be right. It absolutely can’t. 

 

She turns on herself, searching for a person in particular. When she finds her, her eyes can do nothing but stare. Madame Kovarian is seated at her desk, arms crossed over her chest and feet on the desk. A wicked smile adorns her face like a fine jewel hanging on a dame’s bosom. 

 

A glance behind Kovarian’s figure makes her hearts drop in her chest. It confirms her suspicion, the window behind her is smashed into millions of pieces, sign of the chair she threw onto it to escape from her dream. 

 

This hadn’t been a dream. This was a nightmare but this hadn’t been a dream.

 

Tearing her eyes away from the window, she eyes Kovarian’s figure, perfectly comfortable in her chair and looking at her with the glimmer of a hunter. Like a cat watching its prey, ready to jump on her.

 

Schooling her expressions, River takes a step forwards, securing her cardigan over her frame. Kovarian scrutinises her, a smirk tugging at the corner of her lips. River needs answers, and she can’t let Kovarian see the pit of her thoughts. She needs to be the one in control, even though she doesn’t grasp the meaning of it, doesn’t understand the whats and hows and whys. 

 

She takes several steps forwards, slowly. Her eyes don’t leave Kovarian’s figure and when she finally arrives at the desk she leans forwards, her face inches away from Kovarian’s smirking one. "How did you get the chair back?"

 

Madame Kovarian is taken aback by this question and her smirk falters for a moment. She blinks once before responding, "I have more than one chair."

 

As Kovarian’s mask waver, Rive take the opportunity to lean further against the desk, her knuckles turning white as she hold on to it in a vice-like grip. "What did you do to me?"

 

She practically wince as the words come out of her mouth like a supplication. The returning smirk on Kovarian’s face tells her she’d detected the tiniest of fear in her voice. "Oh," The glimmer in her eyes changes into something River can’t begin to analyse. The smirk seems to grow as Kovarian removes her feet from the desk, leaning as to place her elbows on it. "You’re conflicted."

 

Setting her jaw tight, River take a step back, pushing away from the desk. She can’t bear the scrutinising eyes on her but holds her gaze anyway. She needs to know what’s happening to her, how this seems possible. Earlier, Kovarian had invaded her dream, how? Or maybe she didn’t, maybe she wasn’t even asleep back then, maybe she was… imagining it. Maybe it was real, but it didn’t feel tangible, it had felt like a dream. Like an invention of her mind.

 

Kovarian’s chuckles break her line of thoughts. Refocusing her vision on her, River stare at the woman, pouring all of her hate and anger in one flicker of a smile. Better play along.

 

She sees Kovarian standing up from her chair, supporting her weight with her palms flat on the desk. A sign that claims superiority. "You don’t know if it was a dream or not. You’re analysing, pondering the thought but you don’t know." Kovarian rounds the desk, walking slowly towards River. She can do nothing but take a step back. "Well, it wasn’t." Kovarian states before frowning. "No, actually it was, but I was there." She corrects with a wicked smile. "You were asleep but your consciousness wasn’t, your brain wasn’t asleep."

 

River walks backwards, rounding the desk to place herself where Kovarian was mere moments ago. It feels like playing cat and mouse, except the roles aren’t specified yet. Kovarian wants to play the clever card on this, she forgets River can play this card as easily. "A brain can never sleep."

 

"Can’t it?" Kovarian smirks. "I’ve trained several people who’ve showed that it can. Though, I have to admit they weren’t of any use afterwards." She approaches the desk and River leans on it, her stare icy. "Dead, you know. It happens, I guess."

 

"You disrupted my dream and interfered with it. I was not longer dreaming as one normally should." River announces, watching Kovarian intently to see if something would get her attention. If she wouldn’t tell her what she’s done with her own words maybe she would with her eyes. "My body was asleep but my mind was fully awake. I was dreaming but I was fully aware of everything surrounding me."

 

But she wasn’t. Her dream had been like any other dream, fuzzy on the edges, centered around herself. She didn’t feel the cold nor the wind as she fell, those factors must have been present if she was awake. It’s just that she didn’t think about it. Nothing was tangible unless she thought about it. Oh. Oh.

 

"Lucid dreams." She whispers to herself and catches Kovarian squinting her eyes for a millisecond. "You used something, whatever, a panel, a device. It triggered something inside me, making me able to have enough lucid thoughts to think by myself." River smiles suddenly, standing straight, a look of mischief glittering in her eyes. "I’m doing it right now." She walks around the chair, her finger dancing across the leather lining its back. "You want me to remember — Oh." Her smile grows even more. "Oh."

 

She feels a certain delight seeing Kovarian’s puzzled face. Feeling confident, she plops down on the chair. There, the roles are specified now. She’s certainly the cat.

 

"Surely you have a little device hidden somewhere." Kovarian doesn’t falter but her eyes drop to her left wrist. When she looks up, River is watching her intently. Her eyes have spoken. "Thanks." She states because, really, it’s as if Kovarian had forgotten who she was talking to. "The device neatly tucked under your left sleeve controls my mind. It triggers a nerve inside of it, like an alarm going off saying it’s time to go to sleep." 

 

That’s why she fainted. The good thing is that she finally knows how this whole thing works, the bad thing is that Kovarian can take the full control of her brain. Not good, very not good. 

 

"Your device forces me to remember what’s happening right now. The Silences are bound to make me forget about it. There’s as opposition between the two because the Silences would cancel the wave that links me to this device. That’s why you don’t want them interfering in this. Your motives must be really important to do such a thing." River smiles after finishing her speech. She smiles because she’s teared down every bit of mystery in Kovarian’s plan. She smiles because Kovarian’s grimace is too beautiful to be left alone.

 

Kovarian says nothing, she simply looks at River, a look of disdain on her face. And suddenly, River feels very proud of herself. She’s not one of Kovarian’s puppet anymore, she thinks by herself, she analyse, she ponders, she makes her voice heard. She is River and she is entitled to no one.

 

"You project my dreamy figure into the room. You can’t touch me, I can’t touch you either. There are two dimensions in the same place. Bad, very bad." River ponders to herself before a smile makes its way onto her face. "Him indoors wouldn’t appreciate much."

 

At Kovarian’s clapping, River raise her head. Kovarian approaches the desk, slowly clapping her hands together and River’s blood runs cold. This doesn’t mean anything good. A smirk tugs at her wicked lips, "Very impressive, Melody." She rests her hands on the desk, "You’ve resolved the whats and the hows, but who cares, you’ve missed the whys."

 

River abruptly stands up, making the chair roll away behind her. In two steps she is nose to nose with Kovarian, their hands supporting their weight on either side of the desk. "Enlighten me then, why? Why did you plan out this whole scenery, what’s the point, what’s your purpose?"

 

"Because, my dear Melody, I’m sending you a message." River’s brows knit together but she keeps staring. "I want the Doctor."

 

"What for?" River cuts her but Kovarian make her stop with a hand.

 

"I want the Doctor. Tell him to come right here, I have to speak to him." River opens her mouth to speak but Kovarian cuts her before she can utter a word. "And if he doesn’t accept my offer, tell him about your little condition. Tell him that if he doesn’t cooperate, I’ll fry your brain."

 

If a glare could kill, Madame Kovarian would already be dead by now. River holds her gaze, her eyes throwing icy daggers, and after a while Kovarian breaks the gazing contest. The latter pushes away from the desk and turns her back to River. She wanders through the room with not a care in the world. 

 

River’s blood runs cold, "Release me." They have played enough now, she knows what’s at stake. Kovarian intends to frighten her with scary words but she can see through the lies.

 

Kovarian turns around casually, looking her up and down. "I see you’ve got your frightening face on. Should I be scared?" 

 

"You should be." She responds, her gaze falls to the desk, searching for something in particular. A plan is forming inside of her head.

 

Kovarian dares smile, "You can’t even touch me, you shouldn’t threaten knowing you can’t act your words afterwards." 

 

When River looks back up at her, a smile is tugging at the corner of her lips. "I never intended to touch you, I don’t need to." She takes a knife resting on the desk. It’s as if it had been waiting to be used. "You know, in my life I’ve learned two important things. No…, make it three."

 

Slowly, she removes the protective case around the sharp knife. The blade reflects the anger in her eyes, at this moment she doesn’t recognise herself. Kovarian has enraged her and touched a nerve, nobody has the right to touch her family, especially not Kovarian, not after all she’s done.

 

River looks up and see an indescribable light in Kovarian’s eyes. "The first one is that every object has a purpose, every object can be a weapon. You’re making it easy on this. This knife’s purpose is already to hurt, to kill."

 

In Kovarian’s eyes, she sees fear. Good.

 

"The second thing," She smiles fondly before resettling her gaze on the woman in front of her. "It’s something the Doctor explained to me some time ago. When, in the middle of two universes, an object is thrown from one universe to another, its physical shape remains in the first universe created. Yours…for example."

 

River weighs the knife in her hand, a glimmer in the eyes as she look at Kovarian. The latter understands where she’s going and her eyes goes wide. The fear apparent on her face makes River’s smile grow stronger.

 

"And thirdly," She says in a low voice. But then, her eyes light up and she points to the wall behind Kovarian. "Oh, see the knife resting on the wall?" Kovarian turns around swiftly but her face falls when she sees the wall clear of any knife. Angered from being fooled at, she turns back in one swift motion. A squeal of panic escapes her throat as the knife flies in her direction, passing millimetres away from her face. The sound of wood splitting behind her proving that the knife has found its resting place. When River catch Kovarian’s fearful gaze, she simply shrugs, "Sorry, Time lady," she waves at herself, "It’s only a matter of time."

 

Suddenly, her playful smile falls and is replaced by a somber grimace. She rounds the desk in one swift motion and walks towards Kovarian, her bare feet padding against the parquet floor.

 

When she arrives at eye level, her voice has found back its low tone. "And thirdly, I was trained to aim perfectly with a knife." She brings her hand up and Kovarian stiffens. Slowly, she takes something resting on Kovarian’s shoulder, bringing it to her face. A lock of hair is pinched between her fingers and a flicker of a smile graces her lips. She blows the hair in Kovarian’s face before speaking up, "Am I scary enough?"

 

Kovarian can only utter a single word, "Yes."

 

With a resigned smile, River steps back and turns around, putting some distance between them, "Release me now." She says in a whisper.

 

Snapping out of the fear enveloping her, Kovarian speaks up, "Don’t think your little trick scared me. You have to deliver a message to the Doctor and if you don’t you can say goodbye to your little clever brain."

 

"So, I gathered." She simply replies. There is no need to dwell on things now. She eyes Kovarian as the latter twiddles with the device attached to her wrist. After all she’s gone through, Kovarian still haunts her, still makes her life a living hell. What are her motives? Why make one person suffer in such a way? 

But she knows that they’ll get through it. They have to. One way or another, they’ll defeat Kovarian, once again. And this time, she’ll make sure this stays permanent. Even if she has to use Kovarian’s own training against herself.

 

When Kovarian looks up from the device, River feels her whole body beginning to tingle as if every cell was being rearranged. Kovarian offers a tiny smile that River doesn’t acknowledge. "I’m proud of what I did to you, Melody."

 

As her body begin to disappear, River throws a last look at Kovarian, the stare full of resentment. "I’m not."

Chapter Text

"It’s nothing to worry about, sweetie." River said and he leaned into her as she pecked his lips. He couldn’t help but worry, River had been having less and less nightmares nowadays but this was still a reminiscence that nothing could ever be forgotten. Every time she had a nightmare a feeling of guilt enveloped him. 

 

Of course, he knew he couldn’t prevent nightmares. But he took solace in knowing that if his wife had one, he would be by her side to soothe her afterwards. That’s the least he could do.

 

He felt River’s fingers brush through his fringe and leaned into her palm. Sometimes he wondered if he wasn’t the one who needed more reassurance after her nightmares. She was strong, stronger than him, and he was guilt-ridden.

 

Sighing, he bent down to steal another kiss from her lips. They were soft against his own and he smiled into her mouth. When River broke away, she smiled softly and made her way to the table. He followed her and took his place on the stool. His tea was still lukewarm and he took a sip of it before looking back at Amy.

 

The latter was looking at him with a raised eyebrow and he cleared his throat, resuming his story. "So, hum, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, the Zygon." 

 

"Oh, so it’s a Zygon now?" Amy asked, a small grin tugging at her lips. "You said it wasn’t a Zygon."

 

"No," He huffed the word out, his fringe falling into his eyes. "I said I hope this is not a Zygon. But it was." He continued, shrugging. "Try to keep up, Pond." The latter threw her hands in the air, admitting her fault. "Anyway, the Zygon came up to me in his car and asked me if I was a policeman. Oh, did you know Zygons were actually very keen on the law. They might be awful to look at and smelling terrible but they are very respectful of those terms. It’s part of their culture I guess."

 

He leaned in his seat, quite proud of having enlightened Amy on a very important aspect of the Zygons. "And?" She asked, a smirk making its way on her lips. His gaze landed back on her, a frown forming on his face. "What happened next?"

 

Rapidly sitting back straight, he continued, "And, well, I told him I wasn’t a policeman. It’s because of the TARDIS, you know, everybody always think it’s a police box but that’s the stupid chameleon circu—"

 

He was cut mid-speech as River placed her hand on his arm, gripping it as if her life depended on it. He threw a quick glance at her and saw that she was looking very, very pale. 

 

His conversation totally forgotten, he turned his full attention on her, "River, are you feeling alright? You look very pale." He saw her frowning in his direction, a look of panic covering her face. "River, honey?"

 

"What?" She uttered weakly. He saw her eyes were fixed on him but her vision wouldn’t settle straight. Quickly standing up from his stool, he brought his hands to her face. The action forced her to squint her eyes at him.

 

"River. Look at me, River." He said, the panic rising in his voice. He patted her cheeks several times, forcing her to stay with them some more time. "River, stay with me."

 

Her grip on his shoulders tightened as she slumped forwards. He caught her by the waist, internally begging her to stay upright on her seat.

 

"Doctor, lay her down." Amy’s voice came to his ears and he didn’t lose a second to do as told.

 

With River’s form slumped against his chest, he stroked her hair and lifted her from her stool. "It’s okay, Riv. You’ll be better down." He whispered against her cheek but he knew it was of no use since she was already limp in his arms.

 

Slowly laying her down on the floor, he ran his hands over her body, searching for anything that would explain what suddenly happened. He found nothing that would clarify her sudden lose of consciousness. He threw a worried look at Amy who had by now gotten up and crouched down by his side. She was biting her fingernails, still quite petrified by what happened.

 

"What’s wrong with her, Doctor?" She asked, her gaze quite unable to leave her daughter’s side. 

 

He shook his head for a moment, clearing his mind of futile things and focusing on the person in his arms. After a few seconds, he heard his voice before registering what he said. "I don’t know."

 

"You’re the Doctor, you should know." Amy exclaimed, the panic in her voice rising. She made it sounds as if it was if fault.

 

"How would I know!" He shouted, his voice quavering, and saw Amy startle at his side. River’s head was placed between his thighs and he could only stare at her. Exhaling a breath, he cleared in throat, "How would I know?" He whispered, "She was perfectly fine a minute ago, I don’t know what happened."

 

"She’s unconscious, Doctor." Amy stated and he nodded, unable to say anything else. "We should move her to the couch."

 

He nodded again before scooping her up in his arms with ease. He brought her to the living room where he deposed her on the couch with as must delicacy he could master in his clumsy limbs. Sitting at her side, he brushed the curls out of her face and worried his lower lip between his teeth.

 

He saw Amy rock on her feet at the corner of his eyes and turned his face to her. She was anxiously gnawing at her nails, her gaze fixed on River’s unconscious form. 

 

"I should call Rory." She exclaimed suddenly and he could only nod as she went out of the room, searching for her phone. Rory would be able to help. He was the nurse after all, that’s about the only person in the family who could actually be useful in moments like these.

 

Glancing back at River, he exhaled a breath and took her hand in his own. She looked so fragile, so pale. But she still looked fierce, she was strong and even unconscious River Song still looked her name. Her rosy cheeks made her look as if she was sleeping, maybe she was. But, for having watched her sleep countless times, he detected a hint of fear behind her closed eyes and in her furrowed brows.

 

Bringing her hand to his mouth, he kissed her knuckles with a silent promise that he’ll make everything right again. He had to. It was his duty as her husband.

 

In the distance, he heard Amy’s voice talking through the phone. She entered the living room, talking vividly to what he hoped was Rory. "—no, no, listen to me. It’s River." Amy stated and the Doctor could hear Rory’s worried voice at the other end of the phone. Amy opened her mouth several times before cutting his tirade, "No, it’s nothing like that. It’s just, she was totally fine this morning and then, not even five minutes ago, she just...fainted."

 

She kept throwing glances at River but he couldn’t pick up on anything she was saying. He tried to give her looks but she wouldn’t explain to him what Rory was saying. It worried him.

 

"Amy give me the phone." He said, letting his hand hang in the air in her direction. When she didn’t do as told, he pressed the matter waving his hand with urgency.

 

"Rory says to check her pulse, can you do that for me, Doctor?" She asked but didn’t have the time to squeak as he stood up and snatched the phone from her hand, leaving her hanging, dumbstruck.

 

The Doctor pressed the phone to his ear and began to talk vividly, "Rory, I’ve already checked her pulse twice, I’ve examined her blood pressure and watched her pulmonary pressure. I may not be a medical doctor but I still know how to detect if a person if not fine. Which is not her case!"

 

"Doctor, I know you’re upset, I can practically feel it emanating from your whole being." Rory stated over the phone. "But please, calm down and help me a little bit, will you?"

 

"Sorry, sorry… It’s just, I...I—" He stuttered, deflating under the weight of it all.

 

"I know, I understand." There was a pause before Rory spoke up again. "Tell me, did she seem off to you this morning or even during the night?"

 

The Doctor pondered the thought for a moment. He shook his head before remembering Rory couldn’t see him. "No, no, she was perfectly fine during the night. Nothing unusual. And, I mean, she woke up maybe twenty, not even, fifteen minutes ago." He rambled. "Alright, she told me that she had had a nightmare this morning but it has nothing to do with it. I… I mean, it happens sometimes but nothing of that sort ever happened afterwards." He confessed and pressed his lips together.

 

He was pacing the living room, throwing glances at River and Amy who had taken his previous place on the sofa. Rory hummed through the phone, "But do you think it has something to do with it?"

 

"No, no, I’m telling you! The nightmares, they…" He searched for words, passing a hand through his hair. "I… I shouldn’t be telling you that, it’s out of context, it’s private…"

 

"Doctor, right now I’m not her father, I’m her doctor."

 

"Right, right," He scratched the back of his head, messing up his tousled hair. "She has nightmares, it happens. They’re much less frequent than they were at Luna but it still happens sometimes. It rarely happens in the house or in the TARDIS, so that first is strange. It’s more in places she doesn’t know, foreign places."

 

"Do you think this could trigger a panic attack of some sort and make her faint?"

 

He shook his head, "I mean, this has never ever happened before. Plus, she told me she was fine this morning. I know it’s River and she would say so even if she wasn’t but I know her, I would know if she was lying."

 

There was a pause on the phone before he heard Rory’s voice once more, "So, we don’t know what triggered her to faint. But at least we know she’s fine and only unconscious. I’m sorry I can’t give you more informations so you’ll have to wait and see until she wakes up."

 

"Alright, alright," He could only say.

 

"If I were you, I would put a wet cloth on her forehead and simply wait. Be there for her when she wakes up, she might not fully understand what happened to her." The Doctor nodded again and agreed before hanging up.

 

He left the phone on the coffee table and came by River’s side, kneeling on the floor and pressing a hand to her forehead.

 

"What did he say?" Amy asked a moment later, eying the Doctor’s form for any informations.

 

"Hum, we can’t do anything." He stated. "Put a wet cloth on her forehead and wait for her to wake up." He absent-mindedly stroked her cheek before standing up, "I’ll fetch that."

 

He disappeared into the hall and the distraction was greatly welcomed. In marrying her, he have vowed, albeit silently, to protect her through everything that would eventually happen. He had a duty of care towards her, and even if she would never accept such protection from his part he still felt entitled to protect her. Not because he felt like it was something he had to do to be forgiven from the trauma of her childhood that he inflicted. But because he couldn’t bear to see her in pain, because of the love he held for her.

 

The Doctor returned to the living room a few minutes later, a wet cloth in hand. Amy stood up to let him sit at River’s side and he threw her a small thanks. He removed the sweat from her brows with the cloth and placed it over her forehead. She was still looking very pale, he didn’t like that. 

 

Taking her hand in his own, he stroked her knuckles absent-mindedly. She was going to be alright, she had to be alright. But he knew she would be alright, she was River and she was strong.

 

A faint groan snapped him out of his daydream, his eyes landed on River. She was beginning to stir and groaned several times, her brows furrowed in a frown. The Doctor quickly grabbed her shoulders, gently shaking her awake, "River, wake up. It’s okay."

 

At his touch, she stopped groaning and her eyes fluttered open, blinking in the light in the room. When her eyes landed on him, she abruptly scrambled up in a sitting position, the cloth falling on her lap.

 

"Whoa, Riv. It’s me, calm down." He gently pushed her shoulders for her to lie down again. "It’s okay, you’re okay." After a few second of gazing at him with a panicked look, she exhaled a breath and flopped back down, placing a hand on her forehead. He watched her with a worried look, stroking her arm for reassurance. "Do you have a headache?"

 

She shook her head and brushed locks of hair out of her eyes. Exhaling an uneven breath, she closed her eyes and he saw her brows furrow. What was she seeing behind those closed lids? His hand travelled down her arm to her hand, he squeezed it, giving his comfort for whatever she was fighting behind the darkness of her eyes.

 

Her eyes fluttered opened and she squeezed back, a sad smile tugging at her lips. She squinted her eyes at the ceiling for an instant, as if her vision wasn’t as neat and clear as one should be. He threw a worried glance at Amy who was seated on a nearby armchair. She shrugged faintly, knowing as much as him on the matter.

 

River stifled a groan as she kneaded fingers to her temple. "River, are you sure you’re alright?" He asked again, feeling like she was hiding some sort of pain away. Why was she hiding her pain? She shouldn’t. And why was she lying? He could see the pain evidently displayed on her face. "Are you sick or… or— I can bring you some—"

 

"I’m fine." She cut him, her tone coming out more harsh than he had expected.

 

He deflated under her blunt reply, dropping his eyes to their entwined hands. He felt like a stray dog who’d been refused a treat. He was only trying to help. She could keep her brave facade in front of anyone she wanted, but not in front of him. They were beyond hiding their emotions. Or were they?

 

He heard River sigh and when he peeked a look at her through his fringe she was already watching him. "I’m sorry." She whispered, so faintly he thought he had imagined it. "Can I have a glass of water, please?"

 

He nodded quickly and stood up but River’s grip tightened on his hand, her eyes going wide when she thought he would let go of her. Sitting back down, he furrowed his brows in confusion. "What’s—"

 

"I’ll go fetch that." It’s Amy who spoke, for the first time since River woke up. The latter started by the sound of her mother’s voice and glanced in her direction. The Doctor saw that Amy held the same worry in her eyes than he knew his own eyes projected.

 

When Amy disappeared into the hall, River sat up straight with his help and snuggled into his side when he did the same. He couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t right. River had placed her head on his shoulder and her hand fisted the material of his shirt. She was holding on to him as if her life depended on it. 

 

Cheek against the crown of her head, he stroked her mane of curls slowly, soothing her from internal demons. "River," He murmured, his voice partially muffled by her hair. Still, he knew she could hear him. "Honey, tell me what happened. From your point of view. I… I mean, you scared us both. One moment you were fine and then you just… fainted. I was barely there to catch you." He waved his hand in the air before dropping it to her waist. "Why didn’t you tell us you weren’t feeling fine?"

 

She raised his head from his shoulder and watched him for a few seconds before speaking, "It happened so fast. I… I don’t even know what happened. I was totally fine at first and, before knowing it, I had this horrible pain in my skull," she explained while massaging her head, "everything became fuzzy, and suddenly everything was black. But then…" She trailed off, pressing her lips together.

 

The Doctor picked up her hesitation with furrowed brows. He sat straighter, "Then? What do you mean then?"

 

"I don’t think I was unconscious. I think it was more like sleeping." Her eyes became glassy, as if she was remembering something.

 

"What do you mean?" His voice held a panicked tone to it and he couldn’t help but notice his heartsbeat increase in his chest. He’d seen this before, a long time ago. Someone taking possession of one’s mind, putting them to sleep and giving them messages, like mantras. It was used as propaganda in several planets. The person receiving the message wouldn’t be able to tell if it was a wild dream of their or an external source. It left the patient incline to fear and confusion.

 

Their gaze met and his hearts dropped in his chest. It was the only confirmation he needed, and seeing by her face, she had realised too what was at stake. His River was clever, she didn’t need his help to understand what was happening to her own body. And mind. 

 

She opened her mouth to speak but no sound came out. He saw her eyes beginning to prickle with tears and he understood that it was much more worse that he had imagined. Someone was playing with her mind, someone was using her mind to transmit a message. 

 

"Who?"

 

River lifted her eyes to him at his question. A smile that looked much more like a grimace graced her beautiful lips. Her lips wobbled as she opened her mouth to speak, "It’s… It’s her."

 

"Who is her? What do you mean?" She was startled by his shouting. He wanted answers, he wanted the bloody world to stop hurting the people he loved. Was that too much to ask? Some peace and calm, some alone time, some sort of tranquility.

 

He straightened up, detaching River’s fists from his shirt and taking her hands in his. They were face to face, seated with their feet under their legs, both in pyjamas. The sight of them could have looked like a totally usual one, except maybe for the tears welling up in River’s eyes and the forever there frown on his face. 

 

He examined her face meticulously, she wouldn’t dare look at him and her gaze was fixed on her hands enveloped by his own. The sight of her frightened him. Something was wrong, very wrong. He’d never seen River like this, bare of all defences like an open book. 

 

Taking her chin in his hand softly, he made her look at him. What he saw was heartbreaking. She had unshed tears at the bottom of her eyes and kept biting her lower lip, stopping herself from bursting out in tears. She looked so small all of a sudden, all the confidence River had was buried by Melody’s fear. A flicker of a smile escaped her, maybe laughing at her own vulnerability, "I don’t know what’s happening to me."

 

In River’s eyes, the Doctor couldn’t see the woman he knew anymore. Flashes of a stray child in the streets of New York sprang to his mind. He could only see the lost little girl, afraid of the dark and afraid of the unknown. Bringing a hand to her cheek, he removed the sole tear that had slowly been running down her cheek. This tear made his blood boil in anger. No one should have the right, nor the opportunity, to make tears smudge River’s beautiful face. This was reserved to the happy tears he indulged, no one else.

 

"River…" They both looked up in a startle in the direction of the voice. Amy was stuck frozen in the doorway, her hand holding a glass of water and her eyes wide as she saw the scenery playing before her.

 

River quickly schooled her expressions, passing the back of her hand over her cheek to hide the moisture that had fallen there. Amy slowly made her way to them and offered the glass to her daughter. The latter gladly accepted it, murmuring a small thanks with a voice that didn’t match her own.

 

After she deposed the glass of the coffee table, Amy came to sit at their feet and put her hand on River’s calf in a soothing caress.

 

River exhaled an uneven breath and the Doctor saw her close her eyes, slightly shaking her head as if she was having an internal fight. Passing a hand in front of her eyes, he saw her knuckles were white as she held her hands in tight fists. The signs were in front of him, she was afraid. River Song was afraid.

 

He took her hands in his own and felt them tremble. He dropped a kiss to her knuckles to make her look up at him. "River, you have to tell me what happened, what is happening right now."

 

"I… I wish I could tell you what is happening, but…" River sighed in exasperation, irritated with herself for not being able to give proper explanations. The Doctor squeezed her hands in comfort, whatever it was, she wasn’t alone. "But, I don’t," She cleared her throat, "I don’t know what’s happening. I don’t understand, this… thing, it’s beyond me, beyond my… comprehension."

 

Of course, she knew what was happening to her, her body and mind had felt it the moment the first symptoms came. But she was afraid, not because she didn’t understand, but because she didn’t understand why. Those notions were so different and he had mistaken her trauma earlier for fear of the unknown. But he should have asked the right questions. Because it wasn’t the process that had scared her, it was the motives. And the person behind it.

 

This was bad. Much worse than he had imagined.

 

"Who’s behind this?" He squeezed her hands, willing her to look at him. "You told me it was her. Who’s her?"

 

"Who else." She whispered and her voice broke. As her voice did, something broke inside of him. No, no, this couldn’t be happening. If there was one thing that linked the Doctor and River together, it was their ability to speak with their eyes. Right now, they didn’t need words to understand who she was talking about. But nonetheless, River pronounced her name, the word like acid on her tongue. "Madame Kovarian."

 

The silence was heavy in the room. No one dared talk. The Doctor kept his gaze fixed on River. She had closed her eyes, her palms were pressed against them and he was ready to interfere when she began to talk.

 

"It’s not done the usual way." She stated and he and Amy could only listen to what she was saying. "She doesn’t use the link solely to send a message, she speaks to me, we talk. When I’m with her, I’m in a real environment. She simply use this method to speak to me. She uses it to different ends." She groaned, dropping her hands to her lap. But her eyes stayed scrunched shut as she continued, "We talk, we argue, but I can’t remember. She triggers me to go to sleep, I’m not unconscious, I’m sleeping. At least until she says I can wake up, or I break out of it with difficulties. But this is still a sleep induced phase and the more time passes, the less I can remember what happened. She uses this as a short time memory, she doesn’t make me forget, I forget on my own, as everybody does!"

 

River opened her eyes abruptly, they were wet because of the tears threatening to fall and she seems dazzled by her own understanding. And he understood too. The encounter she had with Kovarian was held during her sleep. While she was dreaming, it was a living dream. And as everyone, she was forgetting most of it once she was awake.

 

It looked like River had gone through the same line of thoughts. He felt her suddenly reaching for his hand and squeezing hard. Her eyes were screwed back shut in concentration. "I can remember, I still have bribes of my dream. I can remember…" She bit her lower lips and he saw her pupils moving under her closed eyelids. "There’s Kovarian and we’re alone. No Silences. We’re alone in a big place, very big with an enormous chandelier." She stopped suddenly, a puzzled expression adorning her face. "There’s water. No, yes, water… Outside, like falls, waterfalls. And I’m falling, I’m falling but I’m not dy—"

 

Her eyes popped open and landed directly on him. That’s when the tears came. They began to slowly slid onto her cheeks, splashing them with salty water. The Doctor could only watch her, his own tears threatening to fall because he couldn’t bear to watch his River in such a state. The sight of her broke his two hearts.

 

"No," She whispered and she was practically sobbing now. The tears flowed down her cheeks and slid under her chin. "No, no, no, no." She repeated over and over again.

 

She was too deep in her thoughts, he had to stop her, make her come back to them. Quickly, he placed both his hands on her cheeks, forcing her to look at him through the blur of her tears.

 

"River!" He tried, shaking her out of her daydream. "River, look at me." She glanced at him, her gaze finally straight. "River, please. It’s me, the Doctor." He begged her, his voice faint as he saw her hurting.

 

His hands were wet with her tears but he didn’t care, the only thing he cared about was what brought her in such a state. He didn’t recognise his River. What had this nasty woman done to her?

 

Seemingly calming down with the soothing caress of his hands on her, River took a deep breath, trying to repress the hiccups that came after her sobs. Unexpectedly, she engulfed him in a tight embrace, crawling into his lap. The sobs were now gone but he knew tears still slid down her cheeks. She held his shoulders tight, fisting the fabric of his shirt and muffling her hiccups in the crook of his neck.

 

The Doctor instantly tightened his grip on her and ran a hand down her back to soothe her. He cast a worried glance at Amy who was still at the foot of the couch with tears of worry threatening to fall from her eyes. Neither of the two understood what was happening to River, but at this instant they knew. They knew this was something far worse than expected. Something out of their reach.

 

River continued to hiccup on the Doctor’s shoulder and murmured 'I’m sorry' again and again, her voice muffled by his shirt. Pushing her a bit to see her face, he ran a hand over her curls.

 

"River, you have to tell me what’s wrong." He urged her, because surely she remembered something crucial, something of great value, something that would put her in such a state.

 

River nodded and tried to calm down by taking a deep breath. "I don’t remember everything but there’s one thing she told me. One thing I shouldn’t have forgotten. I should have told you earlier, I should have…" She exhaled a shaky breath. "She delivered a message, Madame Kovarian is very much alive and very much angry… And she… she… she wants you dead."

 

The Doctor opened his mouth to reply but no sound came out. At the corner of his eye, he saw Amy was full on crying now and if he wasn’t mistaken there were new tears covering River’s cheek.

 

He stood up slowly, his mind elsewhere, and ignored River’s faint whimper at his lose by her side. He began to pace the living room, "River, she’s one in many that wants my death. I won’t stop roaming the universe knowing she is after me as are the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Sontarans and many more."

 

In the middle of the room, he stopped his pacing and turned around. Fresh tears has made their way onto River’s eyes, she was shaking her head. "You don’t understand."

 

"Tell me then!" He shouted and the tears fell down River’s cheek more than ever. He felt like he was missing something, like he was missing the whole point.

 

"Doctor," She whispered. "Kovarian has taken the control of my mind, she can put me to sleep and that’s the least of things she can do. I had to deliver a message to you from her. And I did. But let me deliver my own message that I regret to tell you." She wiped the tears from her cheek before looking back at him. He’d approached her when she was talking and crouched by her side. "My message is: If we decide to fight, if you don’t come to her as said, if we rebel…, she’ll fry my brain." She smiled sadly and brought her hand to his cheek, stroking his cheekbone faintly, "Kovarian wants you dead and I am your pressure point."

 

Tightening his jaw, he stood up and whispered "No." 

 

He walked to the other side of the room, his shoulders hunched. "Doctor, look at me, please." River's voice, full of tears, made him turn around. She was fighting the tears, "It’s… It’s either you die… or I die."

Chapter Text

The silence was deafening. It’s as if time had stopped moving around her. The birds were singing outside the window, totally unaware of what transpired in this small living space. The ticking of the clock had stopped, at least she couldn’t hear it anymore. As if time itself knew not to disturb this silence. 

 

She exhaled an uneven breath, the only sound breaking this oppressing silence. In In this bubble of time, no one dared speak.

 

The tears were gone now, her cheeks dry of the reminiscence of her dream. Her mother at her side had stopped sniffing. She didn’t know how long they’ve been plunged in this silence, the seconds were ticking by slowly. Maybe they’d been waiting for hours, maybe it was just seconds.

 

River lifted her eyes to the Doctor’s form. He hadn’t moved an inch since she last stole a glance at him. His shoulders were hunched in a defeated gesture, the hands bracing his weight on either side of the bookshelf showed something infinitely deep inside of him. He was thinking. He must have been thinking, with his eyes directed to the floor and his knuckles turning white because of his vice grip. 

 

She simply wished he would say something, anything really. This silence was slowly killing her. And thinking about it, it wasn’t the only thing killing her at the moment.

 

Doing something was what scared her, but it wouldn’t prevent the fact that doing nothing would kill her quicker. She wetted her lips, ready to speak. To fight whatever was at stake, they had to begin somewhere. She opened her mouth, the words on the tip of her tongue—

 

A faint whisper escaping the Doctor’s lips made her stop in her tracks. She closed her mouth abruptly and, sure enough, the Doctor began to speak, louder this time and with a fervour in his voice.

 

"No." He uttered between clenched teeth. Pushing away from the shelf, he turned around and his eyes instantly locked with River’s. He began to shake his head fervently. "No, no, no." Moving in her direction with a decided step, he dropped to his knees at the foot of the couch, his eyes still holding her own with something she couldn’t decipher yet. A flicker of a smile graced his lips, "I won’t let this happen."

 

At his hopeful smile, River felt something die inside of her. She brought a trembling hand to his cheek, trying to hide the dimple that had formed there because of his smile. "Sweetie, I’m afraid it’s already happening."

 

She saw the Doctor’s smile merge into a grimace, his eyes hardening. He began to shake his head slowly, as if to convince himself that it wasn’t the truth. But the truth was in front of his eyes and he couldn’t put a veil on it.

 

River’s hand dropped from his face, she placed it back onto her lap. Her gaze fell to her wrung hands. In the end, all this mess had been her fault. She couldn’t have prevent it, even if she knew what would happen. She simply wasn’t strong enough. "It’s my fault."

 

"No, it’s not." She heard the Doctor say but she shook her head, closing her eyes. 

 

She felt a new wave of tear under her closed lids and internally groaned at her weakness. Reopening her eyes, she directed her gaze to a fixed point behind the Doctor’s shoulder. "I’m sorry, I’m weak." Her vision blurred on the edges and she blinked back the tears that were threatening to fall. "I’m weak and that’s how Kovarian has been able to control me."

 

"River, you are not weak." The Doctor reassured her as she finally met his gaze. 

 

She set her jaw as her eyes bore a hole in his skull. "Why do you keep saying this? I know what I’m feeling and I can guaranty you that, right now, I feel powerless." She lashed the words out harshly. Why couldn’t they understand this? Was it so much of a foreign thing to them?

 

She caught the Doctor’s pained face and felt a feeling of guilt enveloping her. Exhaling a deep breath, she calmed her nerves and tried to explain herself the best she could. "The thing is…" She cleared her throat. "...I’m scared." She frowned to herself before speaking again. "I may be strong for anything but not when it comes to Kovarian herself. Long ago, when I was a child, Kovarian implemented an idea inside my head. This idea was that I was and always would be weak. I’ve overcome this idea, but not when it comes directly to her. I’m weak against her because I am properly afraid of her, I’m afraid of the idea of her."

 

The soft touch of the Doctor’s hand on hers broke her out of her bubble with a startle. She jerked her hand away from his touch before realising what was really in front of her eyes. Madame Kovarian wasn’t there, there was only her mother and the Doctor by her side. The latter held a pained look inside of his eyes, his hands outstretched in her direction, barely hovering over hers in fear maybe of another rejection.

 

A whimper broke the silence in the room and it’s after a few seconds that River realised it was coming from her. Her eyes filled with tears as she locked eyes with the Doctor. "Look at me." She whimpered, her voice full of tears. "Look at what she’s made of me." Kovarian had reduced her to be a little child, crying for her parents and not being able to stop because the fear of loss was too strong to be overcome.

 

"I am looking." She heard the Doctor say in a whisper. Slowly, he took hold of her hands, gently stroking her knuckles. "And all I can see is a strong woman." He tenderly placed a kiss in the palm of her hand. "Please, River…"

 

"No, you’re wrong." She whispered as more tears filled her eyes. "Don’t you see what she’s done to me? I’m always trying to be strong because of her, because she broke me. She makes me lose all the strength I have, she reduces me to being a puppet." A sob escaped her and she brushed the tears that had fallen on her cheeks. "I thought I didn’t have any strings attached anymore, but I was wrong."

 

The tears kept flowing down her cheeks, quite unable to stop. She removed her hands from the Doctor’s grasp and brushed her hair out of her face, passing a hand over her eyes, willing them to stop filling with tears. But River knew it was of no use. Every time she removed the tears new ones appeared.

 

"River, I swear, she doesn’t have any control over you anymore." The Doctor said and she almost sneakered. Couldn’t he see the state she was in, because of Kovarian? This woman rendered her incompetent, powerless, weak. This was all her doing, and River couldn’t break free of that. After all those years, after they had defeated her. She was still present, still choking her with her constant presence in her mind. "She has no power over you."

 

"But she has!" She cried, her tearful gaze meeting the Doctor’s worried one. "I thought it was over after the pyramid, but she’s still there! She’s haunting my dreams. After everything, she will always find a way to hunt me, to hurt me." The last part was uttered between sobs.

 

Suddenly, she felt the Doctor’s arm around her trembling frame. She blinked back the tears to see him sitting on the couch beside her. The fabric of his shirt was rough against her cheek but she didn’t care. He knew that the good way to calm her nerves was to let the tears flow and simply be there if she needed. She felt him stroke her hair like he usually did when she just had a nightmare, in a way she did have had a nightmare. Except maybe, this time, this nightmare was real.

 

Clinging to his clothes, she breathed in his scent. She hiccuped and the tears were still flowing but, at least, she wasn’t sobbing anymore. "I can’t do this anymore." She murmured, her voice muffled by his shirt. The beating of his hearts helped calming her down. "I just can’t."

 

The Doctor kept stroking her hair and the silence returned. The small rumble of his chest made her look up at him, he was humming to her. When their eyes met, he smiled softly at her and River placed her head back in the crook of his neck. Her ears pricked up as he murmured softly against her temple, "I know you’re strong, and I know you have your moments of weakness. Everyone does, even I do have them. But those moments shouldn’t define who you really are. I know who you are and you are a strong woman, River Song." He placed a kiss on the crown of her head and River tightened her grip on his shirt, his voice soothing the pain inside her chest. "But this is what she wants to make you feel, she wants you to be scared. But I know you’re not, I know you shouldn’t. Because you know what? She’s not worthy of any of your concerns."

 

She looked back up at him, pushing away from his chest to gaze into his eyes. He held a fierce and indescribable look in his eyes and when his eyes met hers, any ounce of smile was gone from his face. Her throat was dry and her eyes felt like they couldn’t form tears anymore, she could only look at him and try to decipher this deep look in his eyes.

 

He brought a hand to her cheek, removing the last trails of tears. "The person that has raised you, Madame Kovarian, is not what scares you." River could only shake her head as he continued, "What scares you is the character that she has built of herself, through your eyes. You’re not scared of her, you’re scared of the idea of Kovarian."

 

River dropped her eyes to her lap. He was right, he was always right. And she finally understood what has been hiding in her subconscious for so long. Feeling his fingers under her chin, she raised her head to meet his eyes.

 

"An idea is like a virus," He murmured, slowly and distinctly. As if saying it too loud would make this virus aware of its own existence. "It grows inside the head and clings to the bones, the carrier of the virus not even aware of what’s slowly infecting their body. Years after years, the virus grows and envelops the whole body, making it impossible for the patient to get rid of it." His hand slid from her cheek to her shoulder, his eyes still locked with hers. "There is only one way to stop it from growing…"

 

"How?" She breathed out, still holding his gaze.

 

His eyes left her own to gaze at something over he shoulder, a far off look in them that even she couldn’t decipher. Then, his eyes returned to her and his hand rose up to cover her cheek with his palm, "We annihilate it."

 

At his words, she felt something light inside her chest. She understood the meaning of his words, and weirdly enough, she felt like this was what had awaited them for so long. This was how it was supposed to end. It’s how it had all began. The idea of killing someone has long gone evaporated from her bones, she’s fought against this idea, this principle since she first met the Doctor. But she knew that against her, there wasn’t any other way. It was kill or be killed. And in this situation, in front of her, she’d preferred to be the one with the plan, the one with the weapon, the one to kill.

 

Slowly, she nodded, quite unable to speak her thoughts. Thinking it was something, but speaking it would make it even truer. 

 

The Doctor abruptly stood up and began pacing the living room. "Then we have to work something out together." He turned around in one swift motion, his eyes locking with River’s. "River, you have to cooperate with me on this," She could only nod as he continued, "You have to tell me everything you know, every little detail of where she could be, any hint of what she could be doing. Anything."

 

River kept nodding as he enumerated all the things she could do to help, "I would gladly help you, and I will try my best, but every minute that passes I forget more and more of what happened in my dreams." She passed a hand over her forehead, willing it to remember what she’s seen in her dreams. Looking back at the Doctor, she shook her head slightly, "How can we win this through my dream? They’re getting blurrier and blurrier the more I think of it. We can’t win a war with what we’ve got here. We can’t reach her that way. We just can’t…"

 

She saw the Doctor’s face fall, but as she expected to see a look of defeat on his face she was surprised to see one of pure resignation. A frown made its way on her face as he opened his mouth to speak, weighing every word on his tongue, "River… I know we can’t fight that way." She shook her head slightly, wishing that he’d stop talking. He kept his gaze locked on her, his eyes screaming that he was sorry, "We can’t stay in here and wait for something to happen, waiting for her to play even more with your mind. We have to move forwards, River. We have to go to her and give her what she wants."

 

River abruptly stood up, realising when her head stopped spinning that she stood up on her own in a fit of anger. "But this would be like walking in the lion’s den!" She exclaimed. "This isn’t some sick joke. What you’re suggesting is a matter of life and death!"

 

"What do you suggest then?!" He exclaimed back, walking closer to her. "Waiting here for something to come will only result in the death of someone." He breathed through his nostrils, his gaze locked with hers. He exhaled a breath before uttering his last words, "I don’t want you to die."

 

"I don’t want you to die either." She whispered, her voice holding all the love she had for him. "But going where Kovarian want us to go will only result in you being in danger. You know her," She breathed out, "She won’t hesitate to kill you."

 

"And if we do nothing, she won’t hesitate to kill you." He murmured and the room fell silent. He sighed before dropping his eyes to the floor. 

 

River did the same. She only realised now how close they’ve got to each other, their face nearly pressed against each other. So, that was it then? They were stuck in a dead-end situation. If they did nothing, she was in danger. But if they did anything, he was the one in danger. Whatever the choice they would make, it would be a complex one.

 

"Then fight." A small voice uttered and River turned her head in the direction of her mother. The latter was seated on the floor, her arms around her knees and big eyes observing them. She had totally forgotten that her mother was there, she had been too caught in her own mind. Amy stood up and crossed her arms over her chest. "We can’t stay here and let things be done by themselves."

 

"What do you say we do, then, Mum?" River said, turning on the spot to face her.

 

"Of course, we should fight. That’s what we should always do." Amy explained, uncrossing her arms and walking to them. "But we’re awaited, we won’t come there and knock at the front door as if we were awaited for a reception."

 

River cast a glance to the Doctor, she wanted to see his reaction to this. He met her eyes for an instant before directing them to Amy, "What should we do, Pond?"

 

A small smile began to grace her lips, "We’re going to fight the only way we’ve been taught to. By being clever." River frowned but she didn’t have to speak her mind as Amy began to speak again, "We’re going to go where she is, but not the way she expect us to be. She expects a big arrival, she expects your wrath, Doctor." She said calmly, directing her gaze to him. "We need to be discrete, to cover up out tracks. She can’t know we’re here until she has a knife against her throat. And, you’re not going to like this Doctor, but we need an army."

 

"No," He interrupted, moving forwards to be face to face with Amy. "Don’t you remember the last time we raised an army to defeat Kovarian? It only resulted in tears and blood and loss. I won’t let you, or anyone, go through this ever again. I’m sorry but it’s just not the good way to deal with the matter at stake." He turned his back on her once he finished speaking. River saw him pass a hand through his hair and glanced at her mother. The latter was breathing through her nostrils, glaring at the Doctor’s back.

 

"Doctor," Amy uttered and suddenly he went quiet. "Look at me," He did as told and River could see the look of despair on his face. "The fact that we lost this previous war with Kovarian has nothing to do with the fact that we raised an army. You simply tell yourself this because you don’t want new people to suffer like we did before." He opened his mouth to speak but no sound came out. Discouraged, he closed his mouth as Amy continued to speak. "Right now, this is not about how or where Kovarian is that matters, because Kovarian doesn’t scare me. But you know what does?" River could see fury in her mother’s eyes and she saw the Doctor looking very small in front of her. He shook his head. "It’s the fact that my daughter, here," She began, pointing at River, "is in danger, right now. I’ve already lost her once and, I swear to whatever God there is, I won’t lose her a second time!" Her chest heaved and a silence fell in the room.

 

River raised her eyes from the floor to meet the Doctor’s own. He was looking at her with a far off look and in this instant she could read him like an open book. She already knew what he was going to say, but he simply needed her approval. 

 

In this instant, the decision was for her, and her only, to take. She could decide to go to war, to fight off for the last time Kovarian; or she could let it pass, wait for the things to come by themselves to her. There was no need to make them wait for her response. It had been made the moment the idea struck her mind. 

 

Setting her jaw tight, her eyes locked to her husband, River nodded.

 

The Doctor released a breath, as if he hadn’t know what she would say. He directed his eyes to Amy and nodded, "I’m listening."

 

"Right," Amy said before wetting her lips and clearing her throat. The Doctor turned in the direction of the window but River knew he was listening, more than ever. "We need to be prepared for this, and for this attack to work we need an army. It is not necessary for us to be many but that means we need the best people, the best fighters. We need trained people, we mustn’t be afraid, we have to win." Amy cast a glance at her before settling her gaze on the Doctor’s back. "Doctor, would you know, by any chance, some people that could help us?"

 

A silence fell and River feared he hadn’t heard Amy’s question. She was ready to repeat it when he turned around slowly. His hard gaze fell on her as he uttered his words, straightening his bowtie. "I know exactly who would be willing to help."

Chapter Text

"Best fighter in the universe!" The Doctor ran around the console, putting the TARDIS into flight mode. Buttons were switched on and levers were lowered, the TARDIS sprang into life. "Very hard to tame but very easy to find, when you’re me. Ah!" 

 

He halted in his step, swirled around just for the show and came to a stop, leaning on the console, his arms crossed over his chest and a little smug grin stuck on his face. 

 

A flicker of smile graced River’s lips, seeing how her husband, even in the most serious of times, would always take his time for a little show off. She was leaning against the railing, her hands holding the metal bare on either side of her body to stop her from tumbling over. The Doctor might be showing off but he’d still forgotten the stabilisers. 

 

She knew his little dance and joyful words were only a facade, he was as much terrified by what was to come than she was. But, at least, he succeeded in not showing it, which wasn’t very much her case. Various worried glances were thrown her way. Sometimes it was from her mother and father, who were seated on the pilot chair, whispering to each other in hushed voices. Sometimes it was from the Doctor himself. Either way, it unnerved her.

 

Rory had been the first to be picked up by the Doctor. They came at the hospital, explaining everything they could explain. They hadn’t even needed to ask for his help, and that’s what frightened her. People should not be willing to help, going blind into battle for the only sake that it was to save her or the Doctor. Rory was her father, and a centurion. Even if he wouldn’t have had much choice about this he would still have fought tooth and nail for her. That’s what frightened her, the pure want to help her.

 

The TARDIS was silent around them, slowly drifting into space to a destination unknown to her. She could hear the Doctor mumble to himself, surely planing out whatever he had inside his head. This sure looked like the calm before the storm, with the air crackling with energy, ready to burst at any moment.

 

The Doctor cast a glance at her through his fringe, the permanent frown adorning his brows and his eyes holding an immense worry even she couldn’t sustain. She diverted her eyes to the floor, not able to hold his gaze any longer. She didn’t want anyone’s pity, and surely not the Doctor’s.

 

The silence that followed was heavy, oppressing, and lasted more than a minute. 

 

Suddenly, the Doctor clasped his hands together, making three pair of eyes look at him. "So,…" He cleared his throat, mindful of everyone’s attention on him. "The man we are picking up is one of the finest soldier, I would even say warrior, there is. His name is Jack and he is from the 51st century." He winked at River but the latter began to frown. "For whatever weird reason, this man has decided to establish his base in the 21st century, in Cardiff. As I said, whatever weird reason." He waved it off by rolling his eyes. Leaning on the console, he pointed his finger in the air, "But! There’s a thing you need to know about this man. Trivial information, but this man, Jack, is immortal."

 

River perked up at this. With furrowed brows, she pushed away from the railing, "Wait, are you talking about Jack Harkness, deserted time agent of the most powerful agency there is in the 51st century?"

 

"Yes, yes I am." The Doctor responded, his eyes squinting both in interest and wariness. "Do you know this guy? Because if you do, I would recommend you don’t anymore. He can be quite—"

 

"No!— Yes, yes I know him. And no he can’t be part of our team." She said rather forcefully, taking a step in the Doctor’s direction. "I don’t know him personally but everybody knows his name in the 51st century. He’s a man not to be trusted, you can’t place a matter as important as this in his hands. This would be madness!"

 

"River," The Doctor began, his tone reassuring as he took a step forwards. "Jack is my friend and, I admit he can be quite blunt as everyone is in the 51st century, but he is a man I trust deeply and I know he would always be there to help." He placed his hand on her shoulder, stroking her arm in reassurance. "You mustn’t worry about him, nor anything he does or say."

 

River sighed and dropped her head to the floor. It was certain that they hadn’t formed this army to create friendship between soldiers. But she trusted the Doctor, she knew he would pick up someone he knew wouldn’t come in harm’s way. Raising her eyes to his, she nodded.

 

The TARDIS came to a stop, making them aware that they had reached their destination. Rory jumped out of the pilot chair, "I’ll open the door." He said, making his way to the TARDIS doors, eager to have something to do to break this tense atmosphere. 

 

River advanced towards the door, as did Amy and the Doctor, who stopped next to her. When Rory opened the door, they were met with the noises of the everyday life in Cardiff. The TARDIS was parked in the middle of what looked like a big place devoided of any plants or trees. It was just… concrete ground. There were people walking in various direction, minding their own business and making an interesting point at ignoring the newly arrived spaceship.

 

Far away in the distance, they could see a man running straight towards the TARDIS, and he looked he wasn’t going to stop anytime soon. Rory looked back swiftly at the Doctor, "Uhm, Doctor… There’s a man running straight to us."

 

The Doctor waved it off with the back of his hand, "Oh, don’t worry Rory. It’s the one we’re searching for."

 

Rory turned back and squinted his eyes at the outside world. Hopefully for him, the man, Jack she reminded herself, came to a stop just before colliding with her father. He wore a long coat and a pretty angelic face that promised nothing of that sort. And was that a vortex manipulator on his wrist? Of course it was, the Doctor had told her that this was a man from the 51st century. She wouldn’t be surprised to see a blaster hidden inside this long quaint coat.

 

"Doctor!" Jack shouted at the top of his voice, taking Rory’s face between his palms. A squeak escaped her father’s mouth and she saw him struggling a bit under the man’s grip, giving up on getting free after long seconds of struggle. "My, my, look at you! I didn’t expect you to look like that this go 'round, but my God!"

 

Jack rubbed Rory’s hair before poking him in the nose and testing the bounciness of his cheeks. The latter could simply clench his jaw tight and wait for the torture to be over. In another case, this would have been hilarious for River but in this instant it simply brought a slim smile on her lips.

 

"Look at that nose!" He continued, tracing the outlines of it with his index finger. "And this hair! I’m sure you could finally dye it ginger this go 'round, it’ll hold so much more character." He messed his hair up before placing his hands on either side of his face. "And look at those eyes, so deep, I love it." He began stroking his cheeks and Rory squirmed under his hands. "And look at you Doctor, I can see the surprise in your eyes. I’m sure it’s because you were so eager to see me! Oh Doctor…"

 

And then, he kissed him. Rory’s eyes grew wide whereas Jack closed his own, fully enjoying a good snog with, what he thought was, the Doctor. Rory struggled under his vice grip on his cheeks and placed his hands on the man’s shoulders, intending to push him away. He only succeeded in turning on the spot, his back nearly against the wall and his eyes searching for some help. 

 

River watched the scenery before her eyes with her mouth slightly ajar, feeling like pinching herself to wake up from this weird dream. She cast a glance at the Doctor behind her to see him with a similar expression on his face, his eyes the size of a saucer. Then, her eyes landed on her mother, and oh dear, the latter had her mouth fully open his shock, with a look of pure confusion on her face. River thought she wasn’t even registering that this was her husband whose mouth was against this Jack man.

 

After long seconds, Rory finally managed to push the man away, rather forcefully. When Jack reopened his eyes with a confused look on his face, he gaped at Rory for two seconds before taking a step in his direction.

 

"Doctor…" He said tentatively and Rory took a step backwards, his hands braced in front of him to protect himself and nearly stumbling down. A frown appeared on Jack’s face before merging into one that, River thought, looked a bit like the one one’s make when caught in an awkward situation. His face then became hard, emotionless.

 

Jack searched for something inside of his coat before retrieving a gun, and yes it was a blaster River thought, and pointing it at Rory’s face. The latter abruptly placed his hands above his head in a fit of panic.

 

"I’ve seen straight into your disguise." He began, his voice low and calm. "You are not the Doctor and fooled me into believing that you were." He waved his gun at Rory’s face and the latter squinted his eyes at the gun. "Where is the Doctor? What have you done of him? I swear to God, killing you would be my pleasure, so tell me, where is the Doctor?"

 

With trembling hands, Rory pointed his finger to a spot behind Jack. The latter frowned before turning around slowly, very slowly. River saw the surprise in Jack’s eyes when he saw the Doctor’s figure, leaning on the railing at the top of the stairs and with a raised eyebrow as a welcome.

 

"Jack Harkness," The Doctor said, a smile growing on his lips, "Stop terrorising my companions."

 

Jack’s face broke into a grin as he holstered his gun inside of his coat. "Doctor…" He breathed out before running up the steps but was halted by the Doctor’s hand before he could hug him. The latter patted his back in a totally appropriate way, surely not wanting a repeat of what happened with poor Rory. Jack grimaced before casting a glance at Rory who was currently being soothed by Amy. "Sorry for the companion."

 

"Oh, don’t worry. He’ll get back on his feet in no time." The Doctor said nonchalantly. 

 

Rory perked up at this, "Talk for yourself."

 

River watched the Doctor roll his eyes and she couldn’t help herself but roll her own at the Doctor’s own idiocy. She watched this Jack man examine the Doctor as he has done with Rory. But this time she was ready to detangle him from her husband if necessary. It’s not that she was possessive or anything but two men in a row was even too much for her.

 

Jack looked the Doctor over with a smirk, "I should have guessed it was you, mate. No other guy wears a bowtie nowadays. And tweed?"

 

"Oi!" The Doctor exclaimed, placing a hand over his bowtie as if it had ears and feelings. "I’ll have you know that bowties are very fashionable! Plus, look who’s talking, you wear a long coat. Long coats are not trendy at all."

 

Jack huffed, "You’re the one who wore them first!" River raised an eyebrow at this piece of information and caught the Doctor’s huffing laugh.

 

"That’s because sandshoes was always out of trend. I mean, pinstriped suit with sandshoes and a long coat." He shook his head at the reminiscence of that time, "No wonder I was always hot."

 

"That, you were." Jack said, smirking. "Anyway, how comes you’re here? What’s the honour of this visit?" 

 

River saw the Doctor’s face fall, the joyful atmosphere that Jack had brought was now gone. The Doctor diverted his eyes from Jack's gaze and turned in the direction of the console. He rounded the latter, pushing buttons and tingling with levers. River knew this was his way of avoiding the subject, leaving just a few more minutes before the sentence fell.

 

Jack sensed that something wasn’t right with the TARDIS nor the people inside of it. The tension was too palpable, too present. "You never come just for a visit," He talked to himself, "Whether, the world is in big danger and you came to inform me. Or," He breathed out, expecting some kind of expression on the Doctor’s face. The latter looked at him, his hands braced on either side of the console and his fringe falling into his eyes. "Or, you need my help. Doctor, why do you need my help?"

 

The Doctor sighed before speaking, "I’m recruiting the best soldiers." He raised his eyes to Jack and River saw the worry of rejection in his eyes. "And I ask for your help, as the best soldier, the best fighter I know. I need your help for something only few people could deal with."

 

River watched Jack as he set his jaw before nodding once, "Tell me what’s it about."

 

"There is someone after me, after all of us." He said, casting a glance at her parents before looking at her longingly. She tried a faint smile but the weight of his words and the sword constantly above their head prevented her from doing so. The Doctor looked back at Jack, "They want me dead. They demand me at their base, in order to kill me." He stopped talking and River saw his clenched hands gripping the console, making his knuckles turn white. When he looked back at Jack it was with a look of resignation. "And I have to go."

 

"What?" Jack exclaimed, "This is nonsense, Doctor." He walked up to him, bracing his weight on the console. "I don’t understand why you would do such a reckless thing. This is walking straight into a trap and you know it. I don’t know much about it but I surely know that it’s not the right thing to do."

 

The Doctor shook his head, "It is Jack." He stopped Jack with a hand as the latter was preparing to speak some more. "You haven’t let me finish." He sighed before resuming, "I have to go there because if I don’t…" He directed his gaze to River, every once of worry emanating from his body. "If I don’t, she's the one who’s going to die."

 

River felt struck in place under the Doctor’s gaze. She saw Jack turn around in the direction to where the Doctor’s eyes were pointing at. It’s as if it was the first time he was seeing her since he walked through the TARDIS’ doors. And, after all, she was glad he hadn’t seen her quicker. Because the glare he was giving her right now was chilling her bones. This was the glare of a soldier, a glare that screamed why and revenge.

 

He advanced towards her at an alarmingly slow pace, fury in his eyes. "Shall I ask," He began, an ounce of despise in his voice, "who you might be."

 

He walked towards her until he was nose to nose with her. She set her jaw tight, she knew that beneath those joyful looks there was something much deeper, much darker under Jack Harkness’ facade. And, right in front of her, was the look that gave Jack Harkness all those talks in the 51st century.

 

"Jack," The Doctor spoke behind his back and the latter turned his head to him. "Let me introduce you to my companions." He rounded the console and leaned against it. He pointed to her parents, "This is Amy Pond and Rory Williams, my companions." He directed his eyes at her, a flicker of a smile gracing his lips. "And this, Jack, is River Song. She’s my wife."

 

"Your what?" Jack gaped at him, and looked back and forth at the Doctor then at her.

 

The Doctor walked up to him, the calm in his eyes concealing what was surely not a calm feeling inside his bones. He came up face to face and River found herself watching the two men while being in the middle of the two.

 

"River is my wife." He began, "And if you have anything to say or even if a thought about her passes through your immortal brain, dying will be the first of your worries. And since this idea is not high on your list then you’ll understand that fearing my wrath would be the first of your concern. So you can cooperate with us, or walk out those doors. Understood?"

 

River saw Jack nod once and she met the Doctor’s gaze, a small smile tugging at her lips. This talk was sure doing something to her, she’d never imagine that the Doctor would be so adamant in marking a point in saying that she was of value to him. The Doctor caught her smile and bit back his own as he turned his eyes back to Jack.

 

His previous gentle tone came back as he looked back at Jack, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Now, Jack. I can’t promise you that you’ll be safe nor out of danger. But I need your help for this, you are a soldier, you know how to work through this war. Please, help us…."

 

A smile appeared on Jack’s face and he squeezed the Doctor’s shoulder, "That’s a good thing then that I’m very resilient to death. I sure have to make time passes by occupying myself with dangerous quest. Of course, I will help you, Doctor."

 

The Doctor smiled tightly before clasping his hands together, "Amazing." He ran to the console and placed his hands on both side of it, thinking for a moment. "I was thinking about Unit," He spoke up, raising his eyes to Jack, a mischievous smile appearing on his face. "Do you think some people there would be willing to help?"

 

Jack grinned, coming to the console. "I don’t know about the Unit soldiers, But I know one or two ex-agents of Unit that would do anything just to see you again."

 

The Doctor smirked.

 

 

The air was cold and the sun was only beginning to peak out of the horizon. River stood behind the Doctor at a doorstep she couldn’t recognise. The Doctor always had a thing for arriving at a doorstep at odd times. It was not even dawn in this part of the planet, which looked much like London really. She wondered why the Doctor’s friends always lived in London or simply in England, but this was a question for another time.

 

Right now, she was standing in front of a -closed- door, the morning fog chilling her bones in this month of March, and with the Doctor next to her, mumbling to himself about time and sleep and humans. She didn’t even have the strength to roll her eyes at him.

 

The Doctor rang the door bell one more time and groaned again as nothing happened. He was now stamping his foot and River cast a glance over her shoulder, distracting herself and thinking about how long they would have to stay in here before freezing to death, not that this death was any better than the one that awaited them. She sighed and looked over the TARDIS, her mother and father were in there, discussing whatever they wanted to discuss with Jack.

 

Suddenly, the door opened to reveal a woman with disheveled hair, her body wrapped up in a bathrobe to keep away the cold of the outside world. She eyed the Doctor for a moment before turning her gaze to her, River could only sustain a small smile. This woman didn’t seem to appreciate the early wake up call.

 

"Martha Jones!" The Doctor exclaimed, far too loudly for the still asleep street. The woman directed her attention to him, her eyes squinted interrogatively. "I need your help."

 

"First," Martha began, a frown beginning to crease her brow as she held up a finger to make a point. "Let’s start by telling me who you are and why you come to my doorstep at such an early hour."

 

The Doctor gaped at her, pointing a finger to his face dumbly. "It—It’s me…" He said and River took pity on him, elbowing his side to make him realise that Martha Jones probably never saw this face of his. He looked at River dumbly before realisation dawned upon him and she was forced to roll her eyes at him. "Oh!—Oh… Yes! The face!" He looked back at Martha who was still eyeing him with a suspicious look. Patting his own cheeks, his face broke into a grin, "It’s me, the Doctor! Not any rubbish doctor but, you know,… The Doctor."

 

He waved at his face before swirling around and pointing at the TARDIS that was hiding through the fog, his face all joy and childishness. River threw a compassionate glance at Martha, silently letting her know that of course it was him, who else could be so childish.

 

"Look! I’ve got my TARDIS with me." The Doctor exclaimed, turning back to her. "And I have my partner in crime, River Song." He said, passing an arm over her shoulders and pushing her into him. She simply glared at him.

 

Martha furrowed her brows, crossing her arms over her chest. "I’ve worked for Unit and I don’t joke with this kind of stuff. I’ve arrested thousands of people disguising themselves as others and wouldn’t want you to feel stupid when I discover that it’s a trap." She said, her tone menacing and the smile on the Doctor’s face dropped instantly, replaced by a look of confusion. "So, you’d better prove yourself before I find my gun and make a goo of your brain."

 

"I am the Doctor." He tried but Martha squinted her eyes in a menacing way. "I—Uhm… The first time we met was in a hospital!" He exclaimed, waving his hands in the air in a faint attempt of showing his innocence. "On the moon!"

 

"Everybody that has read my file at Unit would know how I met the Doctor. You’ll have to be more convincing than that." The Doctor stammered for a moment, throwing a glance at River, who couldn’t help him on this point, she’d never met Martha before and the only bribes of information she knew of her were to common to be given as proof of his identity. "If you’re the Doctor, tell me what I was doing in this hospital."

 

The Doctor looked around him, trying to decipher which information would be of any relevance. "Fighting Judoons, running, lots of running, helping people, trying to stay alive." He pointed a finger at her, reciting to himself what happened this day. "But most importantly being brave and trying to become a doctor, you know, the rubbish kind—"

 

"Doctor…" Martha breathed out and the Doctor stopped talking, directing his gaze to her. She had now a grin adorning her face and the Doctor smiled timidly, throwing another glance at River who simply shrugged. "It’s really you…" 

 

"Yeah…—" He was stopped mid-sentence as Martha threw her arms around him, hugging him with all her might. He smiled into her embrace and tightened his grip around her, content to finally have found his friend back. River smiled at him over his shoulder and he smiled back.

 

When Martha retreated back to her feet, she looked him over and a small laugh escaped her mouth. "I should have known it was you, I was nearly sure it was. But, you know, I needed to be perfectly sure." The Doctor nodded without saying a word. "Plus, I should have guessed it with your clothes. No man goes out dressed like that without his name being Doctor." She grinned before whispering, "I mean, the bowtie…"

 

The Doctor groaned out and River couldn’t help but laugh at her remark. His previous companions were giving him a hard time with his fashion sense, not that she would say anything about it.

 

"You still haven’t explained to me why you’re here so early, but eh, I’ll take 'I’m the Doctor' for answer." She chuckled and the Doctor rolled his eyes to her, shaking his head as a smile smile began to grace his lips. Martha continued on her joyful tone, "You said you wanted my help for something, what is it that you need me for?"

 

The Doctor’s face fell and his mouth twitched into a frown. It made Martha’s smile falter, her joyful expression merging into one of concern.

 

"I need your help, yours and Mickey’s" He said flatly.

 

She nodded instantly, "Yes, of course we’ll help, whatever you want." She eyed him with a worried face before turning her eyes to River, she latter bit her lips and threw a glance at the Doctor. Martha redirected her eyes to the Doctor. "What is it? What’s wrong?"

 

The Doctor opened his mouth, silent for a second. he cleared his throat to speak more distinctly. "There is someone after me, they want me dead." Martha listened to him, her mouth a thin line. "And, the only way to defeat them is to go at their base, but that’s also the thing they want me to do. That’s why I’m asking for your and Mickey’s help. I’m forming an army, to win this war a final time." He stepped closer to River, taking her hand in his own and she looked down at their hand. Martha followed her line of sight and frowned before looking back at the Doctor. "And if I don’t go there, it’s my wife, "He emphasised the word when he dropped his eyes to her, "who’s going to die."

 

Martha gaped at them before dropping her gaze to their entwined hands and finally raising her eyes to them. "You're married?" She asked and a small smile began to grace her lips. "You’re really married? The Doctor’s married?" She kept asking and he simply nodded, watching her expressions warily. "That’s amazing! I—" She turned her eyes to River. "I—Wow—How do you manage this?" 

 

Martha pointed at the Doctor and, despite herself, River laughed, the sound muffled by the Doctor’s loud grumbling. She lifted her eyes to him and stroke his arm gently, showing him that they were only joking. 

 

When the Doctor sobered up, his grave expression came back, as did the tense and sinister atmosphere. "Are you willing to help then, Martha? I can’t promise you that it will be easy, I can’t promise you that you will be safe…"

 

Martha nodded, "You know, there was a time when I worked at Unit. Every day was made of a different threat to humanity, everyday was dangerous. Going to work in the morning, we couldn’t know if we would come back at the end of the day. I quit this life for a more peaceful one," The Doctor opened his mouth to speak but she cut him off, "but this doesn’t mean that I don’t like danger, risky missions and the threat of the everyday life. You’re my friend, asking for my help when found in a dangerous phase. You would do the same to me." A flicker of a smile passed through her features, "Of course, we will help you, we would always respond present to your distress call."

 

A tight smile appeared on the Doctor’s face and he nodded softly. "We’ve got our army then…" He looks up at Martha and a more genuine smile replaced the tight one, "You’ll be happy to hear that Jack Harkness is also part of the mission."

 

"Jack?" Martha’s face broke out into a grin. "My, my, I’m sure you didn’t need to beg on one knee for his help."

 

The Doctor laughed, "I surely didn’t."

 

"Alright," Martha said, placing her hands in front her herself and retreating into her house. "Let me wake up my husband and we’ll be down in a mo’." Then, she closed the door behind her and the River and the Doctor were left alone in the doorstep. 

 

River glanced up at the Doctor, he had a far off look in his eyes. She knew what he was thinking about right now. With the army fully formed, they were one step closer to the reality of this battle. It frightened her, but looking in the Doctor’s eyes she saw that it frightened him as much.

 

She squeezed his hand and he looked down at her, a small smile tugging at his lips. This was a facade, of course. And River thought that, in this instant, a facade was what they needed in order to stay sane.

 

 

The TARDIS was filled with chatters. Martha and Mickey had joined the TARDIS not long ago. As they first chatted about the new TARDIS interior -which won a whooping thumbs up from Mickey- and rejoiced at seeing Jack once again, since the last time they saw him must have been a few years back for them and an even longer time for Jack himself; the were now discussing the matter at hand with the Doctor with avid eyes and perked up ears.

 

River watched from afar as the Doctor explained the whole story to his newly formed army. Army, what a horrible word, she thought. All those pompous words and grand notions were too much for her.

 

She couldn’t bear the thought of people fighting for her, risking their lives for her. They didn’t even know her, but still, they were ready to fight tooth and nail simply for the safety of her and the Doctor. But what unnerved her even more was that this army had been created simply because she couldn’t save her own life by herself. She was too weak for this and therefore an army had to be constituted. This army was all her fault, the lives of those kind people were between her hands.

 

She knew the Doctor wasn’t asking help for his own sake but for hers. He feared for her more than she thought he could. In a way, it felt good feeling cared of, but she couldn’t remove the fact that she was a burden to them, she was a frail child to them, needy of help.

 

Shaking herself from her thought, she watched the commotion happening around her. They were preparing an attack plan, or something of that sort anyway, she wasn’t really paying attention.

 

Her gaze lingered on the Doctor for a moment and, as if sensing her eyes on him, he looked up at her, stopping mid-sentence in his speech. Above everything, his looks were what she hated the most. When he looked at her, she could see his expressions through his eyes, being the best at reading them. Through his eyes, she looked like a fragile piece of china. She couldn’t bear the pained eyes and the heavy hearts. Far from being alright seeing one’s pity on her, the Doctor’s pity was what she could bear the less.

 

Not able to take those pained looks anymore, she pushed herself from the railing and went out of the room, conscious of everyone’s eyes on her. She made her way out of the console room and into the long corridors where she knew no one would bother her. 

 

Rounding the corner, she opened the first door on her left and found herself in the kitchen. Stepping inside it, she leaned on one of the countertop, bracing her hands on either side of her body, her head pressed to her chest. She simply needed to be alone for a bit. She needed to stop being reminded that her life was what held those people in the console room readying for a fight.

 

While everyone seemed fine with preparing the battle she appeared to be the one still struggling with her demons, still trying to control her whole body to not shudder when her name was pronounced, still masking her face with an impenetrable facade. The one of a warrior, who she wasn’t.

 

Suddenly, her ear perked up at the sound of footsteps approaching. She abruptly pushed away from the countertop and went to fill a glass of water, appearing totally nonchalant to whoever was going to enter the kitchen any second now. Feeling insecure was something, actually being labelled as it was another thing.

 

As a person knocked softly on the door, she turned her head and internally rolled her eyes. It was Jack, of course it had to be him.

 

"There you are." He stated and she said nothing, only acknowledging him with a nod. "The Doctor asked me to look over you."

 

She huffed at this because, really, she didn’t need to be looked over by anybody, and certainly not by Jack bloody Harkness. "He shouldn’t have, I’m perfectly fine."

 

Jack nodded and a silence fell in the room. She played with the tap for a moment, filling and emptying the glass with water. When she stopped, she heard Jack walking towards her in silence, the sound of his boots squishing on the metallic floor the only clue of his movement. She felt goosebumps covering her whole body without her own accord.

 

"You should be careful with the Doctor," He stated in a hushed voice, low but nonetheless imposing. "Even if you’re his supposed wife."

 

She didn’t say anything, looking at a fixed point on the tile in front of her. So, that’s why he came here, that’s the real reason. To give her a few words of advice on her husband. She set her jaw tight, surely he’d have more to say than that. Her eyes were boring a hole in the tile, intend to not cross Jack’s gaze.

 

"I know the Doctor. One day he’ll grow bored of you and leave you on the side of the road." He said, the words acid on his tongue, "I mean, if you don’t die before that. Humans are so fragile, you’re a toy to the Doctor."

 

She felt her eyes sting but she refused to turn around and let Jack see what the words were doing to her. She held the side of the countertop in a vice-like grip, her knuckles turning white.

 

"You’ll be gone and he’ll be left alone, travelling on his own. He’ll suffer because of you." He lashed out the words in a whisper and it hurt so much more than she’d have expected. She bit her lower lip until she felt blood in her mouth. "Right now, he’s hurting, because of you. This whole mess is your fault and everyone can see the burden you are to his eyes."

 

Jack fell silent and River took this time to recompose herself. Then, she turned around with as much confidence she could muster. Her eyes bore a hole in his skull and held his gaze.

 

"You might have met the Doctor before I did," She began, her voice slightly trembling, "You might be immortal and immune to the Doctor’s pity." Her voice was low and menacing, "But you have no right to degrade the relationship I have with the Doctor. You don’t know anything about me nor need to. And you don’t know, in any way, what the Doctor has become since you last saw him."

 

Jack said nothing, simply watching her with a vile look in his eyes. In a way, she’s glad he wasn’t saying anything, the contrary would have broke her.

 

"It’s not because you came first in the Doctor’s life that you have any right to look down on the people that have been there for him after you left." She breathed through her nostrils, the wave of tears that suddenly felt like coming up. "I don’t think the Doctor would agree on one of his friend looking down on the people he loves."

 

She pushed past him on her way out of the kitchen. On the way back to the console room, her chest heaven because of the adrenaline running through her veins. She didn’t want anything to do with this bloody Jack.

 

When she entered the console room, her nerves under controls and the tears at bay, she made herself very small, coming to the Doctor’s side. He threw her an inquisitive look that she brushed off with a shake of her head. Then his gaze hardened as his eyes were fixed on a spot behind her back, surely Jack was back from the kitchen. Jack could say anything about her relationship with the Doctor but he would never be able to understand the smallest ounce of it.

 

Discretely, she took his hand in her own, squeezing it tight as he stroked her knuckles in reassurance. Maybe it was to prove to Jack that he was definitely wrong about them.

 

Maybe it was so say she was ready, ready for the battle.

Chapter Text

The Doctor clasped his hands together, "Right!"

 

Six pairs of eyes turned to him at his sudden outburst and he deflated for a second, not accustomed to being listened to so quickly and by that many people. Not that it never happen, because it always happened. He just usually needed more than one clasp of his hands to put the attention on him, not that he counted.

 

"Right, hum," He cleared his throat, leaning on the console, "River," He turned to her and grimaced, because what he was going to say wouldn’t really please her, "I need to track your brain activity." River opened her mouth to say something but he hastily explained himself, "I need to track your memories. We need to go at Kovarian’s base and you’re the only one who’ve seen it. You’re the only who can help."

 

His tone was pleading and he looked at his wife with big eyes, convincing her with them that it was the only thing they could do to track Kovarian down. He was aware that River couldn’t remember her dreams, therefore they needed to search them in her subconscious, where they were still fresh. 

 

This operation was tricky and, on normal times, he was the only one who could help her drawing them out of her subconscious, they were the only ones who could form a telepathic bond. But this time, he would need something much more efficient than himself. And he had the perfect thing to perform this operation.

 

At last, River nodded, agreeing to help him the way he needed to simply because she trusted him. "Alright," She said, "Tell me what to do."

 

He pushed himself off the console and clasped his hands together once again, just for good measure. "We need to enhance your telepathic connexion with the TARDIS." River nodded, taking notes and he smiled softly at her before laying a hand in his console, his soft smile merging into a smug one. "Hopefully, I have the perfect room in order to do this." He looked back at her to see a raised eyebrow instead of her calm face. "Follow me."

 

He took her hand and lead her through the long corridors and into the depth of the TARDIS, mindful of everyone following behind him. River laced her fingers through his and he looked down at her, her face was soft and a little interrogative. She could always see right through him, she knew he was anxious of what was to come, they all were really. He shook his head slightly, telling her with the eyes that he was fine, big lie of course. She squeezed his hand and he squeezed back. None of them were fine at the moment, but if hurting together could soothe their hearts just a little bit, then he would hang on to River’s hand for dear life.

 

Every step they made was bringing them closer to Kovarian. They’d recruited an army, they’d constructed the perfect plan, the only thing left to do was to act up this plan. Kovarian has asked for him and they had to play by the rules, by her rules. Though the plan they have built, everyone had a role to play, he’d made very clear to everyone that their main goal was to protect River at any cost. When the time came, protecting River was the only thing that would matter, physically and emotionally.

 

A squeeze of River’s hand broke him out of his own mind. She looked at him with sad eyes, as if she could read his mind. He placed his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer to him. River placed a hand on his chest, between his two hearts and he pressed a kiss to the crown of her head, breathing in the scent of her shampoo and something that smelt like no other, that was indescribably her.

 

How he would miss this scent.

 

He rounded the corner and finally found the door he was searching for, it wasn’t a very impressive door but what was held behind it was one of the most magnificent thing he has ever seen.

 

When he opened the door, his vision was met with a rainbow of colour displayed on the four walls of the room. This room wasn’t particularly big but was empty of any furniture. The walls and the floor were covered by a squishy material that felt bumpy to the touch, like waves of the sea. If one looked closely, they could see little holes between the bumps, large enough to put their fingers in.

 

The Doctor turned around to bemused companions, a melange of awe and confusion in their eyes. "This is the TARDIS telepathic room, the heart of memory lane. Just think of something, a memory, anything, it will lead you to it. Simply with your thoughts." He smiled to himself for a moment and mumbled under his breath with a hint of laughter in his eyes, "I should put this function on a panel of the console the next time I decide to redecorate the TARDIS. Could be very useful sometimes."

 

He threw a glance at River, looking at her to know if she shared his enthusiasm. He was met with a confused look and what he took for apprehension. She frowned slightly at herself before looking back at him, the same look in her eyes than before.

 

He approached her and placed his hands on either side of her face, feeling the small startle she made at he touched her. "You don’t need to be worried about this, it doesn’t hurt a bit. You simply have to put your fingers in the little holes, there," He said, showing her the holes in the walls by her side. "And think about Kovarian and the place you were in. Concentrate as much on this as you can and then your subconscious will kick in to fill the blanks. That’s how you’ll lead us to her."

 

River nodded between instructions and he smiled, placing a smacking kiss on her forehead. He knew she would be able to lead them to Kovarian, she was strong and he trusted her.

 

"It’s almost nearly effective." He said, bopping her nose and taking her grimace for her usual way to respond to it. "But I know that if you concentrate hard enough, you’ll get us right where we want to be."

 

"Sorry, Doctor," He heard the voice of Jack behind him, "Almost?" He interjected, his voice showing his apprehension. "We don’t have time for an almost, we can’t base our hopes on a almost! What if it goes wrong and we’re thrown into the time vortex and end up where we totally don’t want to be?" The Doctor sighed before letting go of River’s face and turning around to face Jack. "She can’t even remember her dreams," He lashed out, pointing a finger at River. "How will she be able to lead us to Kovarian’s base if she doesn’t even know where it it?"

 

In reality, the Doctor understood that this was a dangerous thing to do. But he also understood that Jack had something against her and didn’t trust her in the slightest, which wasn’t his case and this would be his pleasure to tell him off.

 

He stared at Jack for a moment and saw the latter deflate a little bit under his powerful gaze. "I trust River with both my hearts. I know she will be able to lead us to Kovarian, whether you want it or not." He walked closer to him, levelling his glare with Jack’s. "I would recommend you start cooperating with us, this beginning with having a little faith for my wife. I know you’re a very intelligent man, Jack, so I would very much like you to be with us fully into this. This would remove a immense weight from my shoulders." He stared at Jack, waiting for a response but the latter was no longer looking at him, but rather looking over his shoulder. He snapped, "Jack!"

 

"Doctor!" Jack replied, but not with the tone he had expected. He was looking worriedly ahead of him and pointed a finger at his line of sight.

 

Confused but at the same time worried as to what could make Jack blanch in such a way, the Doctor turned around to see River holding her head between her hands, a frown on her face and her eyes scrunched shut.

 

No, not now, he thought.

 

In two step, he was by her side, holding her unsteady form by the waist, internally pleading her to stay with them. "River? River, look at me." She opened her eyes and directed her gaze to him. He saw her eyes already getting glassed over and knew she was already in too much deep. Anytime now she was going to faint. "River, stay with me, honey."

 

He knew he couldn’t do anything to make her stay with them, her weight was already getting heavier in his arms and she was fighting unconsciousness. He was aware of the commotion behind his back, surely everyone was panicking behind him, he was the one that needed to stay sane. Lowering her to the ground with as much grace he could sustain in his body, he took her head between his fingers, watching her breathing.

 

She was stable, this was at least a good thing. He hovered over her for a moment, not really knowing what he could do to help her. He knew she was already with Kovarian inside her dream…

 

Suddenly, an idea flew into his mind. She was already with Kovarian inside her dream. That’s what they needed, they needed a link to make her remember her and she was right in front of Kovarian at this moment. Taking her hand, he plugged her to the telepathic interface, holding her hand to the holes. 

 

But he knew his idea was a vain one, the engine of the TARDIS couldn’t spring into life unless River thought of Kovarian on her own accord. And he also knew for sure that River was not thinking about Kovarian, she was fighting the thought out of her. Of course, she wouldn’t be able to help this way.

 

Still with his hand in her own, plugged to the interface, he looked frantically around him, searching for something to do, something that would help her. Amy was kneeling by her daughter’s side and the Doctor’s gaze fell on her. And, in this instant, he knew there wasn’t any other way. He knew what he had to do.

 

"Amy," He breathed out and she looked up at him, big worried eyes on him. "I need you to make sure our hands stay in the interface. That’s the only thing I’ll ask you to do but that’s the most important one." 

 

Amy nodded frantically, coming to place herself by his side. She covered their hands with her own, holding them in place.

 

The Doctor refocused his attention on River, he placed his hand on her cheek, his fingers finding the right spot at her temple. He could already feel her mind under his fingers, already enveloping him as they’ve done so many times before.

 

Reinforcing the link between them, he pressed his forehead to hers and felt his mind already slipping away, the doors in River’s mind already easily opening to his familiar touch.

 

He concentrated hard on her, strings of light leading him to where he needed to go. When he found the right door, he let himself be thrown into her dream without looking back.

 

 

The Doctor opens his eyes and suddenly finds himself in front of Kovarian. He realises he’s seeing what River is seeing right now, he’s seeing the world through her eyes. And he can feel what River is feeling right now. Time to interact with her, he has instructions to give her.

 

River, he thinks and instantly feels her eyes widen and her heartsbeat quicken. He mentally slaps himself and hastily search for something to say, It’s me, the Doctor. I’m inside your mind through the telepathic link. I’m here, I’m with you… He trails of and feels River instantly relaxes. There’s no need to be scared of her.

 

His vision shifts to Kovarian’s form, seated at her chair, her feet propped up on the desk and an indescribable look in her eyes. She looks different than the last time he’s seen her, she doesn’t wear an eyepatch anymore but she weirdly feels even more scary with this face.

 

Kovarian removes her feet from the desk and leans her elbows on it, a menacing glare in the eyes. River heartsbeat jump inside her chest but she stays rooted on her feet, not moving an inch in her direction. But, I am scared.

 

Her voice is faint in his ears, as if he could hear the tremor in her voice as if she’d spoken. "Why did you made me come back in here?" She speaks up and her voice is strong and clear, ignoring the tremor inside of her. And that’s where the Doctor knows she’s mustn’t be scared. She’s so much stronger than Kovarian, so much stronger that he could ever be. Without knowing it, she fights Kovarian with a confidence that shadows the fear inside her.

 

He sees Kovarian raise an eyebrow at River, "The clock is ticking, Melody. I won’t stop intruding your mind until you give me what I want." A smirk makes its way on the elder woman’s face, a smirk that promises nothing good. "If you don’t give me the Doctor, I won’t stop making you faint. I will increase the pain until you beg me on your knees to stop."

 

River, listen to me. River is tense around him and he knows they have to think fast, work fast, get out of this hell as fast as they can. Don’t listen to her, she’s bluffing. She needs your cooperation and knows that the more she hurt you the less you’ll be willing to. He can’t see around him, can’t think hard enough of the place to make the TARDIS spring to life. He needs River’s cooperation on this, first he needs her to stop holding Kovarian’s glare and look around her.

 

River, look around you, shift your gaze for me. I need to picture the place to bring the TARDIS in there. River sets her jaw and take a long breath. He feels a slight nod of agreement inside her head and knows she understands. Distract her.

 

How? River nearly cries out as she begins to move, slowly as if casually.

 

Resist. He breathed out and drink in the scenery in front of his eyes.

 

"You may have the control over me but I’m not destined to give up." River walks mindlessly in the room. The walls are covered with books, books everywhere, and the Doctor can’t help but think that this place is huge. "If you want to keep me prisoner of this reality, then that’s fine by me." There is a balcony, promising a second floor. "Every time, I will find a way to escape the dream." The Doctor realises that the parquet cracks under her feet, this is certainly an old manor. "Dying over and over again doesn’t scare me." Her gaze shifts to the main door of the room and for a second the Doctor stays silent as he observes it. There is something tingling at the back of his head but he can’t remember it. This coat of arms on the door, he recognises it, it’s—

 

River turns her head in Kovarian’s and he’s left agape, he was nearly there. He’s sure that a second more and he would have remembered what this blazon meant, who’s manor it was from. No.

 

He feels River ignoring his gasp, albeit for the frown that creases her brows. She continues to speak nonetheless, "You can do whatever you want with me. But I will never bring the Doctor to you." River, I need to see the door.

 

He doesn’t have the time to see Kovarian’s face that River turns around, his gaze falls back on the door. On the mahogany wood can be seen two lions facing each other, their sharp teeth drawn out in a growl. He recognises the symbol, a very powerful house, it’s… Oh, no.

 

Get out. River, get out of the dream. He feels his whole body shift unsteadily on his feet and he knows the TARDIS is moving. The TARDIS has found the destination and they’re walking straight to it, right this moment. River, the TARDIS is moving. Get us out of here, honey.

 

River’s hearts beat loudly in her chest as she turns around to see Kovarian looking at her with a smug grin. "Release me." She says, her voice calm. He can practically hear the fear in her voice. It seems Kovarian could hear it too because her smug grin merges into an all knowing smirk.

 

"Didn't you tell me you weren’t afraid of dying?" She says lightly and turns her chair in the direction the broken window, overviewing the scenery outside. "The window is yours, Melody."

 

The Doctor feel the gears turn inside of River’s head as she approaches the window. He knows what she’s going to do, it’s the easiest way out. And they don’t have much time on their hands. Doctor, get out of my head.

 

No, I won’t. He simply responds. Whatever she does, he wants to be there with her. He doesn’t care how reckless he can be, he won’t abandon her at this instant.

 

Kovarian sighs and the gaze is directed to her once again. "If you intend to keep dying, I would recommend you make things a little spicier. It’s ever so boring to see you jump from this window."

 

"I’m not here to play at your fancy." River replies, the words acid on her tongue. He can feel the anger rising inside of her. He can also feel the terror, because, dream or not, this is still dying. Get out of my head. She says again, her voice shaky.

 

No. He says back, his voice grave. He’s not letting go of her.

 

"My dear little girl, you are so wrong." Kovarian chuckles, the devilish laugh chilling her bones and the Doctor wonders if it’s him or River that feels the goosebumps on their body. 

 

"Get out of my head!" River shouts, her voice shaky, and Kovarian stops laughing, the devil smile back on her face. River realises that she’s spoken out loud and presses her lips together, unable to move or say anything.

 

The Doctor can feel every emotion that River is feeling, and at this moment he feels fear. Fear for him. Never. He says, voice low. I will never let go of you.

 

River sets her jaw tight and approaches the window. It’s a long and scary abyss under their feet and the Doctor tries to give her as much strength as he can. He can’t hold her in his arms but he still tries to project this image in her subconscious, she is protected, she’s with him. And as long as he can do so, he will always be by her side.

 

Without throwing a last glance at Kovarian, River jumps down in the void of this abyssal place. The wind hits their face and the Doctor can’t think of anything anymore. 

 

Then, everything turns to black.

Chapter Text

The Doctor woke up abruptly, rolling onto his back and closing his eyes at the sudden light blinding him. He knew people were talking over him at an alarmingly fast pace but he couldn’t hear what they were saying, the rush of blood inside his brain and the beating of his hearts prevented him to hear clearly.

 

He breathed deeply several time before squinting his eyes open and turning his head to River. She was already looking at him and he couldn’t help but see that her face was pale and her eyes half shut.

 

With a trembling hand, he found her own and wove their fingers together. She squeezed his hand and he squeezed back. The dream was still vivid inside his head. Still playing with his nerves. He understood River now, the absolute fear that enveloped him, unconsciously telling him to run. He’s felt what River was feeling in this small passage of time, she has being so strong, in control of herself in front of this living nightmare. It enraged him.

 

He suddenly sat up, stars danced in front of his eyes and he squinted at them for a few seconds. At his side he saw River sitting up, her mother by her side asking her questions that seemed ridiculous to him. This wasn’t the time for the ‘are you alright’ or the ‘don’t rush it’, they had a enemy to defeat and they had to do it quick. The contrary would make River suffer even more and he wasn’t ready for a repeat of what he’s just witnessed.

 

He stood up quickly and the stars came back and the floor moved under his eyes. At his first step, Jack’s hands were on his shoulders as he staggered. "I’m fine." He uttered through clenched teeth. "We’ve got to get going."

 

He knew the TARDIS had landed and they had no time to lose. The walk back to the console was made in silence. He was walking ahead of everyone, a determined look on his face. Behind him, he could hear River talking to her mother in a hushed voice, surely filling her out on what just happened. He could decipher by her voice that she wasn’t fine, but was still looking as if she was in front of her mother.

 

No one should suffer in silence, surely not his wife. It was time to put an end to this mess.

 

When they arrived in the console room, the Doctor went straight to the scanner, running the environment check. The outside world was clear of any mob, they’d arrive in the middle of a corridor and, surprisingly, the TARDIS had decided to land with the blue boringers. Even she knew the importance of this mission.

 

He knew they’d landed in the right place, he’s heard of it but never went ‘round to visit it. This was the baron of Morimor’s manor, a very powerful man, but never seen. The legend said that this man had never been seen alive, even though he had at some point. One could never find a time where this man was alive, even if one acquired a time machine. He was just a forever-dead man, a myth.

 

There was a time where this story had draw the Doctor’s interest to search for more informations, even to search for the manor. His researches had always drawn him farther from the story, there was an invisible man in an invisible manor.

 

But there they were, inside of the manor. Not as secret as it claimed to be.

 

"Prepare yourself," He stated, looking at his friends around him in the console, ready to be given orders. Jack arranged his different guns inside of his coat while Martha and Mickey only opted for a single gun each. River handed a gun to Rory and he hesitated for a moment before taking it with a sigh. She, herself, holstered her usual blaster in its rightful place. 

 

He, on the other hand, had refused to carry whatever weapon he could be offered. His weapon was his words and, even forming an army, a gun didn’t feel somewhat normal in his hands. Amy had followed him in this choice and had decided to not carry a gun. He didn’t even know if she could fire a gun. He really didn’t want that to be the case.

 

Sighing, he set his eyes back to the scanner and, after knowing that nobody was watching him, set a command on the typewriter which revealed the plan of the manor. That way, he would know where they were going. For once, his great memorising capacities were put at use.

 

He clasped his hands together after having turned off the scanner, "Let’s not lose the time we don’t have."

 

He walked to the doors and opened them slowly, peaking out at the outside world, nobody was guarding the corridor nor the whole manor as it seemed. Looking back inside of the TARDIS, he gave his green light for his friends to go out, opening the doors wider.

 

He stayed at the doors as everyone went out, watching them go out, one by one, guns in hands and anxiousness on their face. He closed his eyes a brief second and shook his head slightly. It was either slaughter or victory. He didn’t want to think of which one would be on their side.

 

He reopened his eyes abruptly, "Amy?"

 

The latter stopped on her way down the stairs, a frown creasing her brows as she looked at the Doctor, waiting for his question. Yes, what could he say to her? "What is it Doctor?"

 

"Hum," He thought for a moment and passed a hand in front of his eyes with a sigh. "Could you check the zigzag plotter? I think I left it on and I wouldn’t like the TARDIS to drift into space because of a silly omission." 

 

He threw her a lame smile and she frowned even more, but did as told. She went back the stairs and around the console panel, searching for the zigzag plotter. It was the farthest from the doors, of course it was.

 

The Doctor watched her for a moment, his eyes already apologising for what he was going to do. "I’m sorry." He whispered, the sound of his voice barely audible, and closed the door behind him.

 

The sound of the lock echoed inside of the TARDIS and the Doctor placed his hand on the door, mindful of everyone behind him, either looking at him strangely or muttered something he didn’t bother to listen to. He heard Amy call his name through the doors, she approached them slowly, "Doctor, what are you doing?"

 

"I’m sorry, Amy." He said, "I can’t let you come with us. You’ll be more useful inside of the TARDIS than out with us."

 

There was a pause from the other side of the door before Amy spoke again, her voice small, "Is it because I’m not a soldier? Don’t I have the right to be of the party because I refuse to have a gun, because I understand but you don’t have one either and you—"

 

"That’s not why, Amy, and you know that." He tried to explain but the words were stuck in his throat. "I—You will be more useful in the TARDIS, I sorry if—if that’s not what you wanted. But you’ll be of better use, I—" He sighed, "You’ll understand soon enough."

 

There was silence on the other side and the Doctor felt the guilt envelop him, he knew she understood, she had to understand. Everyone had a role in this, hers was inside of the TARDIS. He was sorry for that but knew he was protecting her that way.

 

"I’m sorry." He whispered and let his hand drop from the wood. He turned around to see everybody looking at him. Why was everyone always looking at him? What was so interesting in him that attracted people’s gaze? 

 

His eyes met Rory’s gaze, the one he gave when he was really not happy with something. "What did you do that for?"

 

"Would you’ve rather seen her in the middle of the battlefield? Without weapon, without anything to defend herself with?" He lashed out. With a sigh, he passed his hand in front of his face. "Protecting her is what I’m doing." He stated, his jaw set tight. "And don’t give me this look, I know you’d have done the same… She would not have taken no for an answer, that’s for her own good that I’m doing this."

 

Rory said nothing, the Doctor knew he understood. But he didn’t know that Amy’s role would be of great value. If something, anything, went wrong, they needed a mother to be the last sane person in the army. A mother that knew that winning a battle came first with soothing the achy bones and heavy hearts.

 

Right this instant, anything could happen.

 

"This way." The Doctor stated, pointing to his right, down the long corridor. 

 

They began to walk, the Doctor leading his friends through a maze of corridors. Every corner they rounded led them to even longer corridors. Every corridor looked the same, the doors they passed by were all closed, locked. Their footsteps echoed through the corridors, that’s about the only sound that could be heard. There was no ticking noise of a clock, there was no voice except of their own. The landscape outside of the windows was silent, there wasn’t any bird, there wasn’t any wind.

 

Silence was the only thing present. A lame joke, knowing that even the Silences had been sent away.

 

The Doctor led them through the corridors, he knew that the way back from this point would be long, that’s to say, if they remembered the way back. The way back to the TARDIS was at least twenty minutes long, it was giving him even more time.

 

If he knew River, she would take approximately fifteen minutes of wandering through the long maze-like corridors before feeling that something was wrong. Like the fact that there was no guards in this wing of the manor. Or the fact that he had been making them walk to the far end of the manor, where nothing had to be guarded since Kovarian was currently on the other side of the manor.

 

The Doctor abruptly stopped and Jack walked right into him, surprised by the sudden halt. "Urgh, please don’t do that, Doc."

 

He ignored Jack’s remark and turned around, facing his companions and friends that were looking at him with puzzled faces. He looked at them for a moment, lost in his thoughts, what could he say to them? He hadn’t thought of what he was going to say.

 

River approached him, and his eyes fixed on her. She frowned, "What is it, Doctor?"

 

He shook his head of dark thoughts and met her worried eyes, he tried a small smile and chuckled at his own idiocy. "I forgot to do something, I don’t know why I didn’t thought of that before." He began to walk back in his tracks, passing everyone on his way back. They all looked at each other, wondering what he was suddenly doing. "Don’t mind me, go ahead, I’ll be right back. I’ll—"

 

He was stopped by River’s hand on his wrist, forcing him to stay there and look at her. He sighed before turning his face to her, locking eyes with her. She had worry in her gaze and that wasn’t the last thing he wanted to see in her eyes. She spoke faintly, "What is it that you need to do?" 

 

He opened his mouth several times, stammering on the words, "Hum, it’s just a small thing that I have to check. Don’t worry about me, eh. I’ll be right back with you, give me twenty minutes."

 

He began to turn back around but she tugged on his arm, forcing him to stay face to face with her. She persisted, "Tell me what it is."

 

He sighed and passed a hand over his face before looking back at her. "I have to check the engine room of this manor to turn off the artron energy detector, which would make us visible to Kovarian and thus the effect of surprise would be spoiled. It works like an intruder alarm, except it’s specifically made for TARDISes. I forgot to check it in the first place and have to be quick if I want to turn it off and make sure we’re safe." He recited and hoped River wouldn’t see false tone in his voice. "I’m sorry I should have tell you right away what it was that I needed to do, but I didn’t think this would be that important."

 

River looked at him, the frown still between her brows and a suspicious twinkle in her eyes. Usually, saying very technical stuff to get out of tricky situations was always working. But it was River in front of him, if she knew he was lying she was going to tell him right away, or she would just play the part. He wondered which one she would take though this time.

 

River opened her mouth, testing the words on her tongue, "Why should I believe you? What if it’s another trick that you play on us like you’ve done for my mother not even twenty minutes ago? I—I don’t know what to think of it."

 

Sensing her doubt, he approached her and took he face in his hands, stroking her cheeks softly. "I didn’t have a choice with Amy and I knew she would be safer inside of the TARDIS." River nodded faintly beneath his hands and a flicker of a smile graced his lips, he would miss this. "I wouldn’t play this trick twice, certainly not with you, dear. I know you’re far too intelligent for me to lie to you. You need to trust me on this, I’ll be back before you know it. Twenty minutes at the most."

 

She looked at him in the eyes and he could see that she understood, that she trusted him and that she believed him. At last, she nodded.

 

He smiled softly and his hands fluttered on her cheeks, ready to let go of her. His hearts broke at the notion that this might be the last time he touched her, the last time he saw her even. And the look she was giving him…

 

He thought that, maybe, deep inside of her, she understood, she really understood. Her eyes were sad to let him go, her anchor in this, she would have to fly with her own wings now, be strong, stronger than she has ever been.

 

He glanced over her shoulder to see everyone watching them, except Rory. Rory was minding his own business, Rory was accustomed to moments like those. Rory was a good man, he chuckled to himself. In the end, he didn’t really care about everyone’s eyes on them, it might even prove a certain point to Jack.

 

His eyes found River’s and he stroked her cheeks a second time. Then, he dipped his face to hers and placed his lips on her own, a small simply kiss, but it held so much more than just a press of their lips. She understood and pressed herself closer to him, his mouth bruising on her soft lips. Among everything, he would miss this the most.

 

When he pulled away a second after, he smiled softly -sadly-, and she did the same. I love you, he mouthed, a silent vow that only them could hear.

 

"I love you, too." She whispered faintly, her eyes glassy for a reason only her subconscious could understand.

 

"Come on, then." He said louder, clearing his throat. "You have to go, I’ll be back before you know it." He pushed her away softly, knowing that she wouldn’t let go of him if he didn’t push her first.

 

Reluctantly, she let got of him, glancing back at him a last time as the party began to move again. He threw her a small smile and caught Rory’s eyes. The latter held his gaze for a second and he nodded, the silent vow between them still holding strong.

 

When everyone was gone and he was left alone in the corridor, he sighed. Apparently, that was the only thing he was able to do these days. He watched the empty corridor a last time before finally turning around, walking back in his tracks.

 

Rounding a corner, he stopped a moment to look at his watch. He had twenty minutes, better make it fast. He began to run in the direction he had memorised in the TARDIS. The corridors were long and cold and dark. The more he approached Kovarian’s base, the more the atmosphere became dark, scary even.

 

He stopped running before rounding the corner where he knew would be what he searched. He was breathless and, in a way, was happy about it. This place was the farthest from where he was before. River was safe, far away.

 

He took a deep breath and walked to the open long corridor, stopping at the end of it. Guards instantly pointed a gun at him and he slowly placed his hands over his head. If he had to play the part, he would. He took a step forwards, then two, then three. His steps were assured as he walked down the long corridor.

 

In front of him stood a large mahogany door with two lions facing each other, their teeth showing the power they held within themselves. He had arrived.

 

 

River checked her watch for the third time this minute. The Doctor had been gone for a little over ten minutes and she was already worried for him. He had said twenty minutes, she shouldn’t worry. But there was still something bothering her in the back of her head, something wasn’t quite right.

 

She trusted him, she really did. But it didn’t mean that she could forget rule one and that he could have very much lied to all of them. He could be quite stubborn sometimes, and lying was the type of things that he would do if something wasn’t quite going the right way. 

 

Sighing, she removed the thought from her head. The Doctor wouldn’t lie to her, she was certain of that.

 

River looked around her, the corridor was only lit by a faint neon light on the ceiling, giving a chilling atmosphere. Every corner she rounded, every new corridor they discovered looked the same. The walls were painted a dark grey and the wooden beams supporting the structure on the ceiling gave back the impression that they were indeed in a manor.

 

The corridors were never ending, it seemed like they were walking in circle. The atmosphere was giving her goosebumps and chilled her bones to the core. This was the only indication that they were approaching Kovarian, the atmosphere was the same than in her dreams. And the mere name of Kovarian gave her goosebumps.

 

They arrived at an intersection. Jack suddenly stopped walking and she nearly collided into him. He sighed and passed a hand over his face, "I’ve had enough of this. This isn’t leading us anywhere and I won't continue on this madness." He cried, throwing his hands to his side.

 

"Jack, we mustn’t be far." Mickey said behind her, his tone showing his annoyance towards his friend. River said nothing but was thinking the same towards this Jack man. Since she met him, he hadn’t stopped either saying nasty things to her face or simply showing it with his face. "Stop being a petulant child and keep going."

 

To her surprise, Jack turned his gaze to her before speaking again, "Do you even know if we’re in the right place? Do you even know where we’re going?" The question was directed to her, pointedly accusing her for the long walk and the never ending corridors.

 

She set her jaw, masking her emotions because, really, he didn’t deserve them. "I know the place and know we are in the right one, I’ve seen it in my dreams and know the atmosphere. I'm certain that this is the right place." 

 

Jack looked at her with a raised eyebrow, not really believing her for the simple reason that he didn’t like her. Disapproving of her was a thing, but he shouldn’t doubt her ability to lead her somewhere.

 

"Plus," She began again, "It’s the Doctor who led us there, he’s the one who was linked to the telepathic link and brought us here. I trust him and I recommend you do the same."

 

Jack said nothing, placing his hands palm up in front of his face, showing that he surrendered and she won. This wasn’t a competition between the Doctor’s friends and that’s what Jack couldn’t begin to understand. He wasn't more or less worthy than anyone in this room, they were all equal and should be treated by one another as well.

 

"We should split up then." She said suddenly, this seemed like the best of ideas. Two groups of people covering the manor would be quicker than one. And River wouldn’t have to carry Jack’s mumblings with her. 

 

Everyone nodded around her, willing to split things up.

 

"Rory and I will go this way," She said, pointing to the corridor at their right. "And Martha, Mickey and Jack, you go this way." She pointed to the corridor at their left.

 

"No, wait!" Martha interjected, her eyes going wide of an instant. "I can’t— I have to…" She trailed off, closing her mouth abruptly and pressing her lips together, as if she wanted to take the words back in.

 

"What’s wrong, Martha?" River asked, confusion written on her face. "If you don't feel fine with that, we can change the constitution of the groups…"

 

"No, no, it’s not that…" She trailed off again, worrying her lower lip between her teeth. She pondered the thought of telling what had crossed her mind. After a second, she shook her head, "Don’t worry about me, I’ll go with Mickey and Jack— Don’t mind me, forget it."

 

River frowned, "No, tell me… Is something bothering you?"

 

Martha opened her mouth, the excuse on the tip of her tongue. After a second, she sighed, dropping her eyes to the floor. When she looked back at River’s face, the latter had worry in her eyes. What could make Martha behave in such a way? "I shouldn’t tell you, I swore that I wouldn’t." At this, River’s frown deepened. "The Doctor told me to always be by your side, always watching over you, protecting you. It was something between me and him, a sort of secret role."

 

River gaped, her mouth slightly open. "But—"

 

"Wait," Mickey interjected, the frown apparent on his face as he turned to his wife. "The Doctor told me the exact same thing. He said it was a secret and I was the only one to have this role. I— I don’t understand."

 

His eyes turned to Jack and the latter sighed, "The Doctor told me the same."

 

Every pair of eyes turned to Rory and the latter stayed silent, speechless. River was dumbstruck by this piece of information, she couldn’t even speak, this was too big for her. Rory cleared his throat and he glanced at him, "Of course, the Doctor said the same thing to me," He said calmly, his voice only a whisper. He looked at River, a longing gaze in his eyes. "I’m her father."

 

Suddenly, all the eyes fell on her and River didn’t know what to say. The Doctor had given to everyone the order to stay by her side, to protect her. Protect her from what? She was perfectly capable of protecting herself.

 

But why would he do that? Surely that wasn’t for the mere thought of protection, there was something behind it. He had given the instruction to everyone to watch over her, to never leave her sight. Everyone was focused on her, nobody on the matter at stake. Everybody was—

 

River opened her mouth in shock, the gears finally turning inside her head and the truth falling on her head. She whispered, her voice low and faint, "The bastard." 

 

She felt tears pricking at the corner of her eyes, realisation finally dawning upon her. While everyone had been focusing on her, the Doctor had made his exit. In the most natural of ways, he let go of them, knowing she would be protected, and went off to fight his own battle, alone.

 

"Fucking artron energy." She swore, her eyes getting bleary. She suddenly felt her father’s hand on her shoulder and lifted her eyes to him. He was asking her with his eyes what was wrong. But everything was wrong, right now nothing was fine. She looked at her watch, twenty minutes had passed, the Doctor wasn’t back.

 

"What is it, River?" Martha asked, approaching her.

 

River passed a hand over her face before turning to the corridor and looking ahead of her for a moment. When she turned back, every set of eyes were on her and she exhale an uneven breath, her eyes feeling wet. "The Doctor tricked us. As he’s done for Amy. And we have been so stupid." She pressed her lips together, "He hasn’t gone to the bloody engine room, he tricked us by leading us in here and went back to find Kovarian, on his own."

 

Rory squeezed her shoulder in reassurance but she could see her father thinking, his mind far away and already plotting out what they needed to do. Martha and Mickey were throwing glances at each other, worried. And Jack, he listened closely to what she was saying, barely believing his ears.

 

River threw her hand in the air, "Look around you, there is no guard, no sound, no alarm to say that we’re here. There is no one in this side of the manor because there is nothing to find. Kovarian is in the other side of the manor, with her guards, with everything." She sighed, dropping her head to her chest, the tears pricked at the corner of her eyes. "And with the Doctor right into it."

Chapter Text

The thud of the closed doors behind his back made the Doctor shudder. He turned his eyes to the doors, they were locked shut, the mahogany wood gave the impression that the doors had been sealed. The atmosphere had suddenly shifted, where he felt confident a moment ago, the Doctor now felt oppressed, not quite sure of himself.

 

What if it was a bad idea? 

 

What if he had jumped right into a trap? Because, surely it was a trap. It has been since the beginning and has always proven itself to be one. He’s walked many times right into traps, dismantling them, tearing them down, demolishing them. He could go on with the synonyms, he proven himself to break every plan, every little suspicious scheme. But what if it was a trap he couldn’t manage? What if, this time, the trap was too big for him?

 

Going into battle, one has to make void of everything around them, any emotion had to be removed, any little distraction. The soldier had to work with his mind blank, blank of emotions. And the Doctor knew that, this time, it hadn’t been the case for him. He’s thought entirely with his emotions, those ones leading him straight here. 

 

He simply hoped he would start thinking with his mind, the soldier inside of him would need to wake up from his slumber. If he wanted to defeat Kovarian, now was the time to wake up.

 

The Doctor shifted his eyes back to Kovarian. The latter was seated comfortably at her desk, a smirk adorning her lips and a raised eyebrow forever stuck on her face. This was the devil watching him, the allegory at least. He’s met the devil before, Kovarian was a mere replica of it. Her mannerism and her posture; a child imitating their parents.

 

She didn’t scare him in the slightest.

 

His arrival had been requested, by none other that her. He might has well take the time to watch the environment before going straight into work, nobody should go head first into something without analysing every aspect of it before.

 

Behind Kovarian stood a window, taking most of the wall and attracting the eye of whoever entered the room for the first time. The window was broken, River’s fault he assumed, a flicker of a smile graced his lips. The scenery outside was remarkable, the fog was slowly coming down to a little wisp of wind and he could now see the hills far in the back, a waterfall pouring out its water like in fairytales. This landscape was outstanding. A far cry to the scenery happening inside of the manor, the contrast a metaphor to the darkness oppressing the man and the nature liberating him. 

 

His gaze flickered back to the room, he had long seen the guard at the door not far from where he stood. This puzzled him for an instant, why would Kovarian need one single guard in her room where at least a dozen guards were standing outside the door? Why so little concern about what could happen in the room?

 

There didn’t seem to be much of an exit, not any way out. Except if one counted the window as an exit, at least this would be a finale one. Surely the bookshelves held a secret entrance, or multiple ones. There was a balcony circling the room, surely another level of bookshelves and uninteresting furnitures. He wondered if there was an actual door on this level. He wouldn’t know, time was of the essence.

 

His eyes met Kovarian’s and he managed a little flicker of a smile -always come with confidence in an unprepared situation-, he opened his arms at his side in a friendly manner, welcoming the sight of her. "You asked for me, here I am."

 

Kovarian raised her eyebrow more than he thought possible and shifted in her seat, placing her elbows on the desk, an interested gaze flickering in her eyes. "What a lovely sight that welcomes me. I never thought I’d see the day where we meet again."

 

The Doctor smiled, the false emotions making his cheeks ache. "I wouldn’t want to be rude, cancelling at the last minutes is not the type of thing I do." As much as he hated the direction this conversation was going, he needed to play the part, constructing a sentiment of trust between her and him. "I came as you asked and, before you say anything, I came alone, the TARDIS parked in one of the corridors, far away from where we stand at this moment."

 

Kovarian’s smile grew and she stood up from her chair, her heels clicking on the wooden floor as she rounded the desk to position herself at its front. "I thought Melody hadn’t fulfilled her job by transmitting my request to you. Apparently, she did."

 

The Doctor’s face froze for a second, before relaxing into a blank face. "River didn’t tell me anything, she’s stubborn, she wouldn’t have. I found out on my own, I knew there was something bothering her so when she fainted I entered her mind through a telepathic bond. And what a surprise was it to find you two here having a little chat together, talking about my death nonetheless, what an honour." He smirked to himself, which was more of an act than anything. "She’s a stupid girl, I only married her because I pitied her. What a fat lot of problems she brings me."

 

Kovarian travelled her long nails into the cracks of her wooden desk, he knew she was listening intently to what he was saying, even if she didn’t look the part. Suddenly, she lifted her eyes to his face, the smile more predominant than ever. "You’re lying through your clenched teeth. Melody would never make the mistake to let her mind open to intruders, especially not someone like you, she was trained to despise you. This leaves marks in the subconscious."

 

The Doctor raised an eyebrow, "Am I lying?" He walked a bit around the room, inspecting the candlestick set to the walls, the candles into them lightened the room in waves because of the wind coming through the window. He wondered if one activated a secret entrance between the bookshelves. "This manor is old, by the lack of electricity I would say. You and your guards have been there less than two days, there are not supplies to last more than a week and the manor is still in a fairly good shape." He glanced back at her, she was intently watching him with her eyebrows finally coming down to a normal place. "I’m not saying you and your...boys can’t keep the place clear, but...hum, yeah actually I am. The lake of electricity and the little amount of time that passed since your arrival makes me guess that there aren’t any cameras in the corridors or anywhere really." He glanced back at the walls, the elaborate patterns on the walls reflecting the wealthiness of this manor. "Therefore, there are no proofs that I’m telling the truth, nor lying."

 

He turned back to her, his eyes set on the matter at stake. Now was the time to enter head first in the problem. The environment has been thoroughly checked and analysed, every little piece of furniture, of ornamentation was known to him. Now was the time for the battle, his own battle.

 

He approached Kovarian, making sure to leave a small distance between them. "Now, leave River out of this. She has nothing to do with this war anymore and won’t be the messenger of any of your threat anymore. You wanted me, you have me now." His eyes were suddenly dark with fury, his internal hate for her was suddenly rising from his depths. "She fulfilled her part of the deal, she transmitted the message. It’s now your time to do the same, disconnect her from the device that you fruitlessly try to hide beneath your sleeve. It’s part of the deal, you have me now."

 

Kovarian chuckled to herself, the laugh low in her throat, chilling his bones. He felt like she was sharing a joke with herself, the matter being so amusing. The thought chilled his bones even more, he didn’t really want to know what she was laughing about.

 

"Do you know anything about this manor?" She asked after her fit of laughter was gone. The question surprised him, she was entirely changing the subject. In a way avoiding what he just said and also showing that, in this conversation, she was calling the shots.

 

But he had to play the part, she had to be the one leading in order to ease up a bit and give him what he wanted. He sighed, "This manor is owned by the baron of Morimor, a very powerful and wealthy man who constructed his business in the textile industry. Not that interesting."

 

"Indeed, it is. Or should I say it was?" She smirked at him and his jaw stayed set tight. "But do tell, I know that you must have heard about the mystery of this manor. The story is quite… sumptuous."

 

"The manor is said to be unreachable, like an invisible entity." He began, not really seeing the point of reciting this story. They were losing time and Kovarian knew that very well, but what was she waiting for? "No one has ever set foot in this manor except for the baron himself, even him is said to be invisible. Many researches has been made to find the manor, every time that someone supposedly set foot in here, they either disappeared or withdrew from the public eye, denying the existence of this manor."

 

The story was quite puzzling, on a daily basis surely, but right now was not the time to play games and make riddles. The time was of the essence for him and Kovarian had well understood this. She was playing with him, and he could only play with her.

 

Kovarian leaned on her desk, a disdainful look in her eyes, "The story loses a bit of its appeal when one discovers the truth behind it. It’s much more of a misunderstanding than a mystery. You see, I arrived there, searching for a place to be, for a base. What was my surprise when I discovered that this was actually the baron of Morimor’s manor." She laughed dryly before continuing, "Did you know that the baron had alzheimer? He doesn’t really, he just thinks he does." 

 

She smirked and the Doctor frowned, this story didn't make any kind of sense. Plus, he didn’t really see the importance of it, right now there was a more important matter at stake. But Kovarian kept smiling devilishly at him and reciting her story.

 

"When we arrived, he was casually drinking a cup of tea and thought we were simple visitors. He offered us a cup of his tea, we refused, obviously." She chuckled to herself, playing with the cracks on her desk -well, the baron of Morimor’s desk, apparently. "We discovered some time later that there was a certain substance in his tea that acted as a memory remover, working like a memory worm in a way. Every time he drank his tea, he lost some hours of his memories, that’s why he thought he had alzheimer. And every passenger, every visitor that came to his door was offered a cup of this same tea, forgetting everything about this manor the moment they set foot outside of it."

 

The Doctor said nothing, simply watching her speak. He walked slowly around the room, observing the walls and the books on them at some point. While she was talking, he was analysing, he was giving himself a head start. That being, if she didn’t already know what he was doing, which she surely did.

 

"The story’s not that interesting now that the mystery is no longer there." Kovarian said nonchalantly, her position showing that she was already bored that he wasn’t commenting on anything she was saying. To say the truth, he really didn’t care. "A shame the baron’s floating into space now, would have made a perfectly boring interlocutor, maybe even better than you Doctor."

 

He turned his head swiftly in her direction, she was giving him a gentle smile, the one so false that it was nearly mocking him. He turned towards her and began to walk in her direction, his steps assured and menacing at the same time. "This is a good story, a very interesting one really, but I’d rather come to the point right now.

 

"Oh," Kovarian feigned a sigh, "And here I thought we would enjoy a little chat before going straight to the interesting part. You’re really no fun, Doctor."

 

She was playing with him, she couldn’t take the matter seriously and if she was it was hidden under a playful smile and mannerisms. "I don’t want to fight you, I have no weapons on myself and I chose to come here to talk to you. As normal people usually do." He approached her as she rounded her desk to place herself where she was before. He placed his hands on the desk as she did the same from the other side. "Disconnect River from the device, she has nothing to do with this. Do whatever you want with me but please, don’t place her between us."

 

A smile grew on her face, "Sorry Doctor, I don’t do talks. You’ll have to do better than this."

 

He pressed his lips together, thinking about how he could make her give up. But inside of him, he knew the answer. She wouldn’t give up, she never had and never would. He had been foolish to think that would give what he wanted just because he talked sense into her. Good sense is not something that she knew, he couldn’t simply implement the idea inside of her head.

 

He broke out of her gaze and looked at his right, his hands bracing his weight on the desk. After a second he looked back at her, his voice softer and more calm, "Why do you have so much hatred towards me? This war between us has been going on, on your part, since River was born and maybe even before that." Kovarian feigned pleading eyes but he ignored her. "What gives you so much hate that you want my death?"

 

"Oh, Doctor," She sighed, the playfulness in her tone still present, "I’m sure the answer would be too terrifying for your ears. A kind man like you, this wouldn’t please you in the slightest."

 

The Doctor straightened up, his eyes fixed to her devilish ones, "There was a time where I was a soldier, long ago. I’ve killed many people, I’ve wiped out entire civilisations with my bare hands. I am not longer this man, and I will always live with the guilt ridden feeling inside of me." He dropped his gaze to the desk, the vision of those times still vivid inside his head, like a film playing again and again, never able to press pause. "I would understand if your war against me was one of revenge."

 

Suddenly, Kovarian began to laugh and he was forced to look back at her, her expression one of pure ecstasy. "I find revenge to be the dumbest reason to explain a crime." She said when she stopped laughing, but the smile that accompanied it was still in place. "It might have been a good explanation at some point during Melody’s training but not anymore. This whole thing is not about revenge. I don’t do revenge."

 

The Doctor frowned at this, "Then why? Is it because I’m the last of the Time Lords? Killing me would mean that you would have eradicated the last of them, many people want my death because of this reason, simply for the prize that comes with it afterwards." Kovarian’s face stayed blank, except for the raised eyebrow. "Are you searching for regeneration energy, in order to become somewhat immortal? Because, let me tell you, I’m in my last regeneration, there is no regeneration left in my body. Not even an ounce to heal a small wound. Killing me would have no sense."

 

"I admit that the reward of killing the last of the Time Lord is tempting and knowing that you can’t heal spice up the things a bit." She pondered to herself and he looked intently at her, searching for the motives that would answer his question. "But those aren’t my motives in this war."

 

The Doctor felt his hopes drop in his chest. Not that he would be happy to know why she wanted to kill him, he simply wanted answers. That way, he would be able to navigate with her, to make her see the truth and prevent her from killing him. This would be a good thing. 

 

"You see, Doctor." She said, her voice full of mischief. "You’ve always searched for noble causes, for grand schemes, for big devilish plans. You think everyone has a motive behind their crime, you think it holds a deeper secret. But sometimes, it simply doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s very simple."

 

The Doctor forced a smile on his face as he pushed away from the desk, walking to the bookshelves. "Oh, no, I don’t believe you." He said casually, throwing a glance behind his shoulder to see her approaching him at a slow pace. "You are an intelligent woman, every little thing has to be planned out in order to work. I know you have your motives and I will find them. Because this whole war wouldn’t be made on a whim." He turned to her, "Certainly not with you."

 

Kovarian smirked and came to a stop, near him as his back was close to the bookshelf. "That’s the thing, Doctor. The answer is too easy for you and that’s why you haven’t tried to search for it. Maybe I just wanted to kill you because it amused me, just for fun." The Doctor said nothing, his mind nearly stuck by this piece of information. He felt his heartsbeat double up in his chest. "Doctor, you’ve made a terrible mistake." She breathed out, the smirk still in place. "You decided to come here, on your own, and you find yourself in front of a psychopath, ready to kill you. For the simple fact that it is fun."

 

He breathed deeply, he was only understanding what he had walked into. There was no grand scheme, just a psychopath with him at her mercy. There was no way out, the only one deadly for him. He was stuck in front of his worst nightmare. 

 

In a way, he knew this would end this way. Him and her, thrown into a fight to the death. He just needed to know who was going to die first, secretly, but not that secretly, hoping that this wouldn’t be him. If his death sentence had been signed, he knew what he had left to do.

 

In two steps, he was in front of her, nearly nose to nose, "Release River, disconnect her from the device." His voice was low and he nearly didn’t recognise it. If this was the last thing he could do, he would try his hardest to have what he came here for in the first place. "I’m here, I am in front of you. You have what you wanted. She has nothing left to do in this game, fulfil your part of the deal and release her."

 

Kovarian laughed at his face, "You won’t have to worry about this in no time. Soon you will be dead and River will come back to me. She will be released of your grasp, she will finally understand who was the real villain." He set his jaw tight as she breathed into his face, the harsh words scaring him. "Together, we’ll form the most powerful of armies, killing just because we want to kill, just because it amuses us. She’ll soon remember that killing is good, killing is surviving. And together, we will be feared by the whole universe."

 

Suddenly, the Doctor felt a flicker of a smile gracing his lips. He was beginning to understand her grand scheme. "You don’t do that because it amuses you. You kill because you want recognition, you want to be feared." He saw her squint her eyes, listening intently to what he was saying. Her smile was gone. "There are so many people that love me, that see me as their model. Killing me would make them fear you more than anyone, you would have defeated the Doctor, the man that doesn’t use weapons, the kind man, the good man." He lashed out and saw Kovarian press her lips together. "They would fear the woman that killed the man that could never be killed."

 

Suddenly, he felt himself being pushed against the bookshelf behind his back, the violence of the hit knocking the breath out of his lungs. His head hit the shelf rather forcefully and he felt his ears beginning to ring. He didn’t have the time to think much about what happen because a big hand circled his throat, rendering him breathless.

 

He was being choked by someone, and judging by the size of the hand, this surely was owned by Kovarian’s guard. The force of the hit had left him dazzled, looking around him and trying to remove the vice grip around his throat, in vain. He struggled under the guards hands and couldn’t breath properly anymore.

 

Still, he saw Kovarian approach him, the devilish grin back on her face. She came as close to being nose to nose with him and he felt something slowly trickling down into his mouth, the strong scent of blood came to his nostrils and he understood that his nose was bleeding.

 

He closed his eyes a moment, wondering why his eyes were suddenly getting bleary. Suddenly, he felt Kovarian’s nails on his face and instantly reopened his eyes. She was looking at him, the smirk still daunting him. She traced a line across his cheek with her long and pointy nail and he forced himself not to move under her.

 

"You’re right, I want to be feared." She said, tracing a pattern over his cheek and jaw, "Killing you would be my pleasure," She took his jaw between her hands, forcing him to look straight at her, "But above all else, I would rejoice in seeing you suffer."

Chapter Text

Amy flopped down on the pilot chair, crossing her arms over her chest. This was exhausting. The wait, the apprehension, the feeling that she couldn’t do anything but simply be there. She didn’t know what the rest of her team was doing right now, she didn’t even know if they were safe. The wait was filled with an exhausting feeling of apprehension, she was anxious, she couldn’t do anything to help.

 

The Doctor told her -well, forced her- to stay in the TARDIS. She obliged, she always did. But the feeling of helplessness was frustrating. She wanted to help, she needed to help, but the Doctor had told her she would be better helping in here. What could she possibly help with in the TARDIS? The battle was happening right outside those doors, her place had to be out there.

 

She eyed the console for a moment, her gaze wary. She’s tried to reason with the TARDIS, she’s tried to persuade her to unlock the doors, even taking her by the sentiments at one time. She knew the TARDIS understood her, she knew what she was going through inside her head, she knew Amy needed to feel helpful into this battle. But the TARDIS was under the Doctor’s orders, and the orders had been to keep Amy out of this, keep her safe inside.

 

"Alright," She sighed, uncrossing her arms and stretching her legs in front of her. She needed to let the TARDIS help her, in whatever way she could find. But before that she needed to reassure the TARDIS that she wouldn’t try to break out of those doors. Her role was inside the TARDIS, whether she wanted it or not, she had to play her part in here. "I understand that I can’t go out. But can you, at least, tell me what I am supposed to do in here?"

 

The TARDIS stayed silent, the soft rumbling under her feet the only sound that could be heard in this deafening silence. Amy sighed, once again. Of course the TARDIS wouldn’t tell her, she was under the Doctor’s orders and he would have told her to stay quiet. Or maybe she simply didn’t know either, maybe she was just equally lost in this. 

 

Amy stood up and walked to the console, she flattened her hands on the panel and closed her eyes. She had to understand, she had to know what was going on. The TARDIS wouldn’t answer most of her direct questions and wouldn’t budge to her quiet pleads. Maybe if she appeared more in control of herself the TARDIS would see that she was capable of going into this battle. 

 

She cleared her throat and opened her eyes, her gaze fell on the console. "Can you open the doors for me?" She asked softly but the TARDIS didn’t budge, the silence much more present than a second ago. Amy dropped her eyes to the panel, a sigh making its way into her features. "Please," She breathed out, but nothing happened.

 

The rumbling of the motor was the only sound that could be heard in the console room. Amy didn’t know if the TARDIS was doing this by choice or because she had been given the order. Either way, she wouldn’t budge. Either way, Amy was stuck inside it.

 

"I know," She said, clearing her throat, "I know you might not be able to tell me why, or maybe you don’t even know why, but I just want to know what’s my purpose here." She looked back at the time rotor, the soft blue light soothing her nerves. Amy knew that the TARDIS wanted to help, even if she couldn’t she still wanted to be there for Amy.

 

The TARDIS had a mind of her own, even under the Doctor’s orders she knew what was right and what was wrong. She could still think by herself and still provide a minimum of help if she felt like it was needed. Either way, she knew when it was time to help, she knew when someone was in need.

 

Amy just had to find how to make her help, in her own way.

 

"There’s my baby out there," Amy began, her tone showing the worry in her voice, "She’s fighting in a battle for her own safety. The ultimate one, I hope. I know she’s protected, I know she’s capable of many great things. But I still worry," She smiled to herself, dropping her eyes to the panel, "I’m her mother, it’s my duty."

 

After a second, she looked back up at the time rotor. She pushed away from the console, inspecting it with something indescribable in her eyes. The TARDIS knew what was a stake, she knew what Amy was asking her to do. Being a four dimensional entity, the TARDIS knew what happened, what was happening and what will happen. She didn’t need the Doctor’s orders to make her own decisions, she worked as she wished. She had all the cards to give the answers, but it didn’t mean she would give them on a plate. Free will was what she desired, the cards were in Amy’s hands.

 

Coming back to the console, Amy had a light in her eyes, something that screamed of hope. "I want to find what’s my duty." Bracing her hands on either side of a panel, Amy looked straight at the time rotor, where she knew was the heart of the TARDIS. "I want to know what’s my duty, I will find it. But please, give me a sign."

 

For a moment, nothing happened and Amy nearly deflated, dropping her head to her chest. She thought she understood right, she thought she’d made the right decision, she thought the TARDIS would grant her at least this. Apparently not.

 

A small beep broke her out of her thoughts. Slowly, she lifted her head to the console, the beep went off again. With a crease between her brows, Amy pushed away from the console and walked around it, searching for the source of the noise.

 

The scanner was lighten up, the soft blue glow illuminating the panel. Amy approached the scanner, throwing glances at the time rotor for any hint of what it could be used for. But she knew the TARDIS wouldn’t give her any more clues, she had to work on her own now. She had to decide for herself.

 

"Show me the plans of the manor," She said, better start with the beginning if she wanted to help in whatever way she could. The plans appeared on the scanner and Amy squinted her eyes at the complicated structure of the manor. It was nearly made of long and maze-like corridors, most of them leading to nowhere. 

 

But at least, she had something to begin with.

 

"Show me all the life forms currently in the manor." She asked, hoping that the position of the guards -if there were any- would give her some kind of clue as to where to begin. She knew Kovarian was always surrounded by guards, soldiers or even Silences. It wouldn’t be difficult to find her.

 

The moment the words were out of her mouth, a multitude of little blue dots appeared on the screen, even obscuring the path of the long corridors. Amy frowned to herself for a second, in opposition to the big mass of dots on one side of the manor there was little less than five dots currently moving to the other side of it. This didn’t seem like a normal thing. This looked very odd. 

 

Amy thought for a moment, she had to break things down. Those dots meant nothing to her if she didn’t know who they were, she needed more informations. Suddenly, a idea came to her mind, she leaned towards the scanner, "Show me any life form with two beating hearts."

 

Slowly, the dots decreased on the screen until there were only two left. On opposite sides of the manor. Amy frowned at the screen, why were the Doctor and River not together? And, a better question to ask, who was the one surrounded by a hundreds of guards? She couldn’t know who was who of the two, maybe it was River who went straight to the lion’s den. This would make the best of sense, she was a fighter, she was a soldier, she could handle an army, but why alone?

 

But maybe it was the Doctor, this would be incredibly stupid, knowing that he went to the battle without any weapon. Amy wasn’t sure if the Doctor could handle that many guards with only his words. Going there alone was a stupid idea, but of the two Amy knew that it was River who could handle the things better. And a little voice inside her head was telling her that this wasn’t River currently confronting Kovarian.

 

This idea set a sensation of dread inside her bones. The Doctor had done everything to set the idea in everyone’s head that the most important matter was River’s protection. It seemed logical, then, that the person on the other side of the manor, accompanied by five other dots was River. He wouldn’t leave her alone for the world. He swore multiple times that he would never leave her unprotected. 

 

But while River was in good hands, he was the one all alone between Kovarian’s hands.

 

Amy gasped, pushing away from the console and walking a few steps back. The notion had finally dawn on her. The Doctor was alone between Kovarian’s hands. He was in danger and alone. He was in danger. He was—

 

A deafening alarm went off and Amy was thrown to the side as the TARDIS shook violently. The lights dimmed to an orange glow that stretched to red, like a red alert going off. The atmosphere was suddenly less welcoming, the lights dimmed and seemingly darker. It’s as if the TARDIS was put under red alert of massive danger. 

 

The Doctor had told Amy once about this procedure. The cloister bell was ringing and everything was turned down or locked to minimal or automatic mode, meaning it was the TARDIS who had the whole control of the ship. This procedure happened when the Doctor or the TARDIS herself was put under great danger. The cloister bell was used in the most serious of emergencies.

 

But the TARDIS was in no serious danger. Which meant the Doctor was.

 

Amy pushed herself off the railing, where she’s been thrown to, and walked to the scanner. Her worried eyes searched the screen for any information but it kept its blank figure, the dark screen not helping her in any way. 

 

"Tell me what’s happening!" Amy cried, throwing glances around her at the flashing lights. "I need to know what’s happening. The Doctor must be in a critical situation."

 

"Voice interface number sixty-three," Amy abruptly turned, startled by the sudden familiar voice. She was met with the Doctor, her Doctor, standing in front of her in his usual clothes, a blank face looking straight at her. She smiled against herself.

 

"Doctor," She breathed out, making a step towards him.

 

"This is not the Doctor, this is the voice interface number sixty-three." Amy nodded mindlessly, of course it wasn’t the Doctor, this was simply an hologram supposed to look like him. Under the screeching noise of the cloister bell she could barely hear what the voice interface was saying. "This voice interface is to be activated in force one of mortal danger to the Time Lord known as the Doctor."

 

Amy gasped, multiple questions on her lips, but the interface continued to speak in a flat tone.

 

"Force one of mortal danger engaged, protocol number sixty-three activated." It said flatly, "Doors are to be locked, console is to be turned off. The TARDIS will be shut down until new orders arrive." The lights around Amy dimmed to a faint blue hue and the controls on the console were turned down. "If the Doctor is to die, the TARDIS is to dematerialise to a unknown place randomly chosen on a list previously made by the Doctor himself. The TARDIS will shut down and stop functioning, unless authorised passenger is to set foot on it."

 

Amy’s ears perked up at this, she took a step forwards, "Authorised passenger you said?" The hologram looked a her blankly and she rounded the console to come face to face with the voice interface. "Interface, can you tell me if someone has been registered as an authorised passenger?"

 

The interface fell silent for a moment, presumably searching in its database the answer to this question. The cloister bell was still ringing around Amy but, even with the screeching sound, she was finally getting used to it. Still, it didn’t make the matter less important or less dangerous, on the contrary. "One."

 

Amy was broken out of her thought by the interface talking. She lifted her eyes to it, "One?" There was one person authorised to ride the TARDIS in case of serious danger on the Doctor’s side, or even his dearth but she’d rather not think about it. "Can you tell me who it is?"

 

The silence came back, the interface searching through all the data in its head, searching for one little information that would make all the difference. The silence stretched and Amy became more anxious as the second passed. Finally, the interface spoke, "River Song."

 

Amy exhaled a breath she didn’t know she was holding and nodded mindlessly. This was at least a good thing, it made sense that the Doctor would have chosen River for a backup pilot if something happened to him. She knew how to fly the TARDIS and he trusted her with his life.

 

The console room was silent once again. Except for the cloister bell still ringing, the atmosphere has drifted to an automatic mode, using as less light as needed, the rumbling of the TARDIS nearly imperceptible under the sound of the bell. It’s as if the TARDIS had lost her souls, the energy leaving her as the Doctor was slowly drifting away.

 

Amy couldn't bear the thought that she was witnessing all this without being able to do anything. She wanted to help, but the TARDIS was shutting down on her. 

 

Suddenly, an idea came to her mind. She lifted her eyes to interface that wore the Doctor’s face, "Can you tell me what’s my purpose in here? What’s my role?"

 

The interface searched for a minute, the question much more complex since there wasn’t any defined answer to this. Amy knew that the Doctor had locked her in for a purpose, he had told her so when he said that she would understand when the time came. But when will the time come for her? When the Doctor was already dead? When it was too late to do anything but cry?

 

"Help."

 

Amy frowned, "What do you mean help?" She didn’t understand. What she wanted to do was help, but help how? "Can you explain to me what you mean by 'help'?"

 

After a small silence, the voice interface spoke, "Help River Song." Amy furrowed her brows even more. She had to help her daughter, alright. But her daughter wasn’t with her this instant, she couldn’t help her this instant. "River Song will come and River Song will need help. If River Song is the one to make the TARDIS turn on, it means the Doctor can’t, because of injury or death."

 

Amy opened her mouth to speak but no words could come out of her mouth. She was finally understanding the whole thing. The Doctor had locked her in because she wasn’t a fighter like the others, she was a fighter in her own sense. When River’s time to come in the TARDIS would arrive, she would need to be there for her daughter, knowing her husband was dying.

 

She needed to be a mother and reassure her daughter for whatever was to come. In a time of battle, she may not be a fighter, she may not be a soldier, but she was a mother and she was there to soothe the hearts after the harsh times of the battle. She was needed for her kindness after the destruction that brought the battle.

 

"Help," The interface repeated, "Soothe. Help her stop the tears when her husband will die."

Chapter Text

Kovarian removed her nails from his face, a wicked smile still in place on her lips. She walked a few steps back and the Doctor squirmed under the guard’s grip. The latter pushed him further against the bookshelf, silently telling him to stay put if he didn’t want anymore violence directed towards him.

 

The Doctor eyed the guard the best he could, small stars still dancing in front of his eyes and his ears still ringing a deafening white noise. The guard was nothing but a brute, he certainly hadn’t been recruited for his intellect. Any suspicious movement from his part would be reprimanded by the latter, he had to be very careful of his acts. If he had to hit, this would have to be well thought and well executed.

 

"Your suffering would be my reward." He lifted his eyes to Kovarian as she spoke, standing a few feet away from him, a mischief in her eyes that promised nothing good for him. "I want to see you suffer in every single kind of pain." The smirk on her face grew, but he stayed blank, not showing anything that was passing through his mind. "You will soon beg for mercy."

 

He wetted his lips, feeling the blood on his lips as it trickled down his nose and splashed his shirt. "I’m very resistant to pain." He said in a low voice, barely recognising the sound of his own voice. It felt distant to him, unknown. "If I must I will fight till the end, you won’t have the pleasure to see my cry for help."

 

"I did say every kind of pain." She smirked even more, the wicked smile seeming permanently stuck to her face. It was daunting him, haunting him. "Through all your travels, all the years you’ve been out there, so many people have gathered at your feet, worshipping you. Many people love you and you love many more of them, it would be a shame to see them die. One by one."

 

He breathed out through his nostrils, his jaw set as tight as he could to suppress the fury that was silently rising inside of him. His eyes stayed fixed on Kovarian, refusing to show what those words were doing to him. He was strong, he had to keep being strong.

 

Kovarian smirked even more, as if she knew what was happening inside his head. "I think I shall begin with your dear Melody, she’s the most resistant to torture. She always has been very resistant to mine when she was only a child." She smiled to herself before bringing her eyes back to him. "I will torture you until there is only one breath left in your body, enough to stay alive. And I will make you watch the exact same torture on your dear Melody, let you see her little hearts stop, one after the other, until the last breath leaves her body. I think you would like that, wouldn’t you?"

 

She gave him an innocent tilt of the head, a soft smile playing at her lips, and he suddenly saw red. His vision centered to her and he wasn’t aware of his surroundings anymore. He struggled out of the guard’s grip, elbowing him in the stomach and stomping his foot with the heel of his shoe, the pain of the impact running through his whole leg for a second. As the guard loosened his grip on him, he surged forwards and Kovarian stepped back, her eyes wide.

 

Suddenly, he was slammed back to the shelf by the throat, the pain of the impact accompanied by the suffocating press of the guard’s hand against his neck. The guard pinned him to the bookshelf, his feet barely touching the floor. He was being choked, feeling the breath leaving his lungs as he struggled with the hands at his throat, trying to remove the biting grip around his neck. He felt his hearts beating in his head, everything feeling suddenly hot around him, like if his head was going to explode.

 

His limbs were getting heavier and he could barely control his hands against the bruising grip around his neck, feeling them losing their own control. But he had to fight, he had to be strong.

 

He heard the distant voice of Kovarian order some command to the guard and he abruptly fell to the floor, his throat finally free of any constriction. He breathed deeply mouthful of air, trying to regain the heavy pants under control. He was faintly aware that he was sprawled on the floor, his limbs barely able to support his weight and the ache in his head slowly receding to a dull pain. Bringing his hand to his throat, he soothed the bruised skin and coughed as his lungs were given back their fair amount of air.

 

Slowly, he lifted his eyes to Kovarian, the dark spots obscuring his vision progressively vanishing. She was looking at him with a mix of pride and devilish joy. That’s how he mustered up the courage to stand up on his feet, slowly rising to shaky legs. He wiped the blood under his nose, red staining his sleeve. 

 

"You better not touch an inch of River’s hair." He said, the words still coming out between pants. He knew Kovarian could hear the anger in his voice, the dark fury that has made him shift into the Oncoming Storm. "Because if you do, there will be an entire army ready to kill you first. And I will be the first you’ll have to kill before you have to chance to touch her."

 

Despite the dark fury that enveloped him, Kovarian ignored his words and began to laugh at his face, "If your so called army looks like you right now, I mustn’t be very scared of what’s to come. I could even manage them one by one with my bare hands. Tell me, do you friends feel protected with you?"

 

The wicked smile she gave him was too much to take, he walked towards her, a firm mask of anger plastered on his face. But before he can as much as touch her, Kovarian waved an order to her guard and he suddenly felt the hard metal of a gun colliding with the back of his head.

 

He fell to the floor limply, barely conscious anymore, his body sprawled out beneath him. His mind wandered to fuzzy placed and the cold touch of the parquet under his cheek was the only thing keeping him sane, and conscious. He wanted to groan, he wanted to scream, to cry. He suddenly felt like a small child, the pure feeling of wanting everything to stop, to be soothed by his mother, telling him that everything was alright, everything was going to be fine.

 

But he was alone, and he had to fight. Because that might well be the only thing that would promise his survival.

 

The scent of blood was everywhere around him, it brought back the memories of Gallifrey, the last days of Gallifrey. When all that remained was blood and corpses, silent soldiers realising what they were holding between their hands and inside their hearts. When everything was ashes and ruins, the scent of blood remained. The Doctor could barely think straight anymore. But if there was one idea that remained in his head, that was the idea of River. What would River do?

 

She would never give up, she would stand up and fight.

 

With a faint groan, he lifted his head from the floor, the pain inside it making it ten times heavier. His eyes met Kovarian’s ones, she had kneeled at his side, the wicked smile still adorning her face. "Look at that, we’ve got a hard headed one." He saw her stand up and walk a few paces away. "I’m sure he’ll be able to cooperate with us now, we’ll be able to continue now. Bring him here."

 

He heard the distant noise of fumbling inside drawers and furnitures being pushed aside. A dark feeling slowly settled down his stomach, fearing what she meant by continuing. Then, he felt the touch of the guard on him and instantly rolled on his back, mustering up all his energy in one kick in the guts. But the guard had quicker reflexes than he did and caught his leg in his hands, maintaining him in place. The pressure he applied on his leg was unbearable and he struggled out of his grip, pressing his leg towards the guard’s face. The latter had other ideas and slammed the leg to the floor with all his might.

 

The Doctor yelled in pain as he heard a crack in his leg, the white hot pain rapidly running up his leg to envelop his whole body. He felt tears prickling at the corner of his eyes, the pain was like no other, he felt like he was ready to regenerate, except he wasn’t going to and that was death that was slowly awaiting him.

 

"Do not hurt my toy before it has even started." Kovarian said from afar, her voice faint to his ears. The guard let go of his leg and the Doctor suppress a cry as he tried to move it, the pain too much to even move an inch of it. Every bit of his body was hurting, every movement made him cry out in pain. "Bring him here, now."

 

The guard was ready to lift the Doctor, none too gently, from the floor but the latter would not surrender that quickly. He mustered up all his remaining forces and delivered a blow to the guard’s jaw. Barely registering the faint hit, the guard let go of him, his eyes dark and a silent fury in his eyes. The punch that is delivered to his cheek render him dizzy, his head bobbing to the side, eyes barely open because of the pain running through one side of his face, blood clogging his nostrils and on his lips.

 

He barely registered his weight being lifted from the ground until he was, not that gracefully, dumped on a hard surface, surely Kovarian’s desk. He couldn’t move an inch, everything hurt. Still, he could feel Kovarian and her guard getting to work around him and moving his achy limbs around. When Kovarian restrained his hands, he lurched them up to see that they were stuck to the desk. He had been strapped to the desk. An uncontrollable fear began to rise inside of him as he struggled out of his ropes. The ropes wore into his skin as he frantically moved his limbs around, the skin at his wrist was red and achy because of his struggling. He couldn’t get out, he was at Kovarian’s mercy.

 

He began to sweat and heard Kovarian send the guard away, he wouldn’t be needed anymore. Why wouldn’t he be needed anymore? The thought scared him more than it normally should, but the fear was slowly settling inside of his body, uncontrollably overtaking every clear thought that remained inside of him. For the first time since he met Kovarian, he was properly scared of her, scared of all the things she could do to him.

 

His eyes squinted at the light produced by the chandelier above his head, he couldn’t see straight and the only thing he could see was visions of Gallifrey or an anticipation of what was to come for him. He wanted to cry, wanted to scream for help. He was a coward, he didn’t want to die, he had so much more things to accomplish yet. And what about River, he wasn’t ready to let go of River. Why wasn’t she with him, rescuing him? Oh yeah, he sent her away, this was for the best. She would never have to feel the things he was feeling right now, she was protected, she was fine. If there was one single thought that could keep him alive it was the thought of River. She needed him as much as he needed her right this instant. He could leave her, he had to fight.

 

All of a sudden, Kovarian’s face was in front of him, the smile of a psychopath still in place. He felt her nail touch his cheek, the point like a dagger being pressed against his sore skin. He bit his tongue, keeping still in fear of what she could do if he didn’t. "Don’t worry, I will take care of you." Her voice was mellow and he wasn’t sure if the notion of taking care was the same for him and her. "You said you were very resistant to torture. Well, it’s your time to shine, we’ll see how you manage that."

 

She traced the shape of his cheek, descending to his jaw before letting of of him. He breathed out in relief silently, the farther she was from him, the better he would feel. She searched for something beside him for a second and he lifted his head the best he could from the desk to see what she was searching for. She retrieved a knife from a drawer and he felt his head drop to the desk, his eyes looking up at the ceiling. Something had dropped inside his chest, she surely hadn’t decided to play with the knife before gently placing it back in its case.

 

"Let’s see," She breathed out, the joy present in her voice. He kept his eyes to the ceiling, the only thing keeping him sane now. He felt her cold finger beginning to remove the buttons of his shirt slowly, without untying the bowtie at his neck. His jaw was set tight and he bit his tongue until he felt blood inside his mouth.

 

When all his buttons were removed and his chest bare of any clothe, Kovarian took back her knife and placed its tip between his hearts, barely touching his skin. He shuddered unintentionally and pressed his lips together to suppress a whimper, his eyes boring a hole on the ceiling. His hearts were beating like mad inside his chest, ready to jump out of it. 

 

"Don’t move," She whispered close to his ear and he shuddered once again. "You wouldn’t want to spoil the canvas." 

 

Then, she travelled the knife down his ribs and towards his belly button, where she stopped. The touch was no more than a tickle and he knew she was only teasing him and that the so called torture would be much more hurtful. 

 

"I wonder which organ could be removed first, without you dying, of course." She pondered out loud, tracing the path of her knife once again along his stomach. "Dying is not part of the deal, remember that I must leave one single breath inside of your body. That close to death, one must feel incredible emotions." She stopped the knife on his lower abdomen, "I was thinking about the kidneys first, you can always stay alive with one sole kidney, can’t you?"

 

The Doctor was no longer thinking about Kovarian, he knew that no matter what, he was going to die. He’d swore to River that he wasn’t going to die, that he had promised her so much more things for the future. But he was just so tired, he just wanted to go to sleep. He only hoped River would forgive him for giving up, he was never the strong one, he was never one to fight like she did. He was so proud of her and hadn’t told her lately, he should have told her, she would have liked that.

 

"The kidneys will be the first to go." Kovarian continued, travelling her fingers on his stomach along the knife. "Then I’ll remove the liver, see how long you can manage without it. This could be fun." She laughed to herself, "And then, if you still feel like fighting back, we’ll see how you feel with only one lung. Do you think it’s a good way to start?"

 

He ignored her, his eyes still fixed on the ceiling, observing the chandelier dangling over his head. The open window was making it sway a little, the candles wavering in their slots. How pretty was the world outside, he simply wanted to be outside. Dying in a dark room had never been something he wanted to feel, he wanted to feel liberated when his time came. Not stuck in a dark room, his hands and feet tied together.

 

"Do you agree?" Kovarian ask, more forcefully, taking his face in her hands to make him look at her. He said nothing, his gaze fixed on her, boring a hole inside her skull. If only he could… "Do. You. Agree?" She repeated, this time lashing the words out distinctly. He’s heard her well the first time, he simply didn’t want to respond to her rhetorical question. He closed his eyes, pressing them firmly shut, he just wanted to forget, to ignore her, to get on with it. 

 

Suddenly, he gasped out, his eyes popping open as a white hot pain entered his stomach, rendering him breathless for a moment. His mouth fell open in a gasp as a horrible pain shot through his body. He couldn’t even scream, groan, cry, the pain was too strong. He twisted his head down to see what had happened and he quickly dropped his head back, closing his eyes hard.

 

She stabbed him.

 

She stabbed him in the stomach.

 

He felt the bile rising inside his mouth and coughed out blood, blood was trickling down his stomach and to his side, coating the desk of a red paint. Kovarian twisted the knife deeper in his guts and he cried out, his eyes popping open. She was looking at him with a pure smile, holding his life in her hand. "Do you agree?" She asked gently and he nodded faintly, agreeing to whatever she wanted if it was to stop this madness. "Good." She said and removed the knife from his insides.

 

He cried out in pain, the fresh air and the wind of the broken window setting his wound on fire. He squirmed before remembering that he couldn’t do anything, settling into a still position, breathing deeply out of his nostrils.

 

He was feeling it, the life slowly draining out of him. It was faint but it was still present, like someone slowly sucking every bit of blood from his being, rendering him nearly numb of any emotion, of any pain. He could feel the regeneration energy trying to muster up some energy to heal, at least a bit, his wound. It was no use, there wasn’t enough left, the energy could maybe give him five more minutes. Fives more minutes of suffering. 

 

"Or maybe," He heard the voice of Kovarian in the distance, "I could simply let the blood slowly drain out of you. Promising a slow and painful death. How would you like that?" She chuckled and he felt tears sliding down his temples, the pain was too much, he couldn’t bear it anymore. He simply wanted it to stop.

 

He heard Kovarian rounding the desk, casually walking around him, observing him, analysing the death of a Time Lord. His eyes were screwed shut, he didn’t want to die with the vision of her inside his mind. He wanted to die with the vision of River, and her parents, and his friends, everyone that loved him. But River, most importantly. 

 

"Oh, surely everyone will cry." Kovarian said, trailing her nails over the desk. "Dear Amelia will cry. Brave Rory will cry surely too. And Melody, oh Melody will sob, she will be devastated because you died." She tutted before coming back to her initial place. "Just think about her hearing the news, gone like a fugitive, died like a coward. Oh, he’s dead."

 

The tears flowed beneath his eyelids, he didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to leave River, she deserved better that this end for them, she deserved his presence by her side, at all times. She deserved to be happy, and he would always fight for her happiness.

 

His eyelids were heavy but he managed to open his eyes, the dark spots obscuring his vision didn’t scare him. Kovarian caught his eyes and her face brightened up, she took the knife back from where she had placed it before, holding it firmly in her hand. "Are you up for the kidney?"

Chapter Text

It was funny, in a way. He really didn’t understand what people meant by ‘And then, everything stopped’. No, that was the harsh truth, nothing stopped. The Earth still orbited around the Sun at a speed of 19 miles a second, the enormous amount of 67,000 miles an hour. The galaxy was still moving, growing, evolving. Babies were still born, people still died. The same rubbish talk show was being broadcast across the United Kingdom.

 

No, nothing stopped.

 

His death would not make tidal waves, it would not stop the universe from doing whatever it needed to do. His death, like every death, wouldn’t change a thing about the universe. Atoms will still be there, planets will still be there, humans will still be there. The universe will surely not miss him. Because the universe didn’t care.

 

Humans had a precise amount of breaths, of heartbeats. Once the quota was outdated, death awaited. No one could do anything about this. Time Lords simply were pompous humans, regenerating this quota through another body, like a reset. But once the last of the bodies was to die, it simply died, nothing more. 

 

Maybe everything would stop for him, surely his hearts would stop beating, his lungs would stop carrying precious air. And maybe, for an instant, everything will stop. The pain, the misery, the wars, maybe all of this will stop to mourn his death. Maybe, just maybe…

 

 

Everything was hurting. 

 

The Doctor’s gaze stayed fixed on the chandelier above his head. The wind was making it swing a little bit from right to left, a movement that seemed soothing in its own way. It was putting him in a dreamy state, induced by hallucinations. His vision was weak. Barely able to open his eyes fully, he was forced to squint them at the bright light illuminating the room. Dark spots were dancing over his eyes, accompanied by a blurry haze. His eyes were tired. 

 

He was tired. Every inch of his body was hurting, every little movement he could make left him biting his tongue to repress a cry of pain. The simple movement of his eyes in his orbits set a fire inside his skull, the headache unbearable. He just wanted everything to stop, he wanted to sleep, do anything really to remove this unbearable pain. 

 

He knew that closing his eyes would mean that he was giving up. But he was so, so tired. His mind was blank of any thought, he couldn’t think straight anymore. Sleep had already overtaken his brain, rendering him numb. At this moment, he didn’t care. He wanted to give up, he wanted everything to stop. This was an act of weakness, but he was weak. He didn’t want to bother himself with any more pride than it was necessary. Being left alone was what he wanted. 

 

But he could still feel Kovarian’s presence by his side. In his sleep induced haze, he’s become more aware of his surrounding, weirdly enough. His vision was not of very much help since he could only discern blurred shapes. His hearing was muffled by the buzzing noise constantly inside his skull, perceiving the voices as if he was in a bubble in time. The sound distant, as if he wasn’t really there. The only thing he could perceive well was the movement by his side, the mere movement made by Kovarian setting him on edge. He was scared, he was terrified of what she could do.

 

A shadow passed over his eyes and he felt his hearts constrict at the mere thought of Kovarian. He didn’t need to open his eyes more to know that this was Kovarian watching over him. Who else, really? He was going to die and the last face that will be printed on his retina would be the one of Kovarian, forever there in his mind and his thoughts. 

 

An icy finger traced the shape of his bruised cheek. He shuddered, the trembling passed through his body like a thunderbolt ran through it. The pain was equal to it, though. 

 

"I like watching you," Her voice came to his ears and it felt like acid running through his veins. "I find it very amusing." Her words chilled his bones, he couldn’t even respond because he was too weak. Words were usually his weapons and he couldn’t use them anymore, he was hopeless. "I like giving a time to my patients between two acts of torture. I like watching them handle the pain, knowing there will be more. Don’t think I’m letting you take your strength back, oh no, I merely do this for my own pleasure." She chuckled to herself, "And let me tell you something, you are a tough one. You’re very resistant to pain, as you said."

 

He felt far from resistant, he was feeling weak. He didn’t even want to feel resistant, not in front of her. He simply wanted everything to stop. Even dying was a much better thing to do than that. 

 

"Since you’re very resistant to physical pain, I choose to change a bit my rules." She said with a wicked grin. "You are a very special patient, Doctor. Special patient needs special treatment." She nearly chuckled, a sound that send chill through his whole body. "Physical torture would be too easy for you, the man that doesn’t use weapons. I think emotional torture would be a much more pleasant experience. What do you think of this?"

 

A silence fell, he couldn’t respond. He didn’t want to respond.

 

All of a sudden, a gunshot echoed from behind the door. The Doctor felt Kovarian’s hand abruptly leave his face as she turned around swiftly, "What was that?" She asked, surely talking to the guard in front of the door. The Doctor heard a faint mumble from the guard’s part, "Go and see then!" She shouted at the guard before the latter could even finish his sentence. 

 

The Doctor heard footsteps walking in the room, surely the guard doing what he was being ask. This was an interlude in his torture, he knew the pain wasn’t over for him, but for an instant he wasn’t the center of attention. Any distraction from his pain was a good distraction. 

 

He heard the guard opening the big mahogany door, the hinges creaking under the heavy weight. Then, there was a silence, he couldn’t see what was happening, his gaze stayed fixed on the ceiling. Then, the low voice of the guard rose by the door, he seemed to be talking to someone, his voice talking vividly out of anger and maybe a little bit of authority. 

 

"What do you mean you don’t know how it happened?" Kovarian’s voice interrupted the dialog. The Doctor could hear in her voice some anxiousness, he wondered what was happening. "How can a bullet just fly out of nowhere and touch one guard, straight in the face?"

 

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

Some unconscious feeling rose inside of him. Maybe he’d felt it in Kovarian’s distressed tone, maybe it was due to the enigmatic bullet flying out of nowhere. Or maybe it was a combination of both that created this feeling. He couldn’t put a name on it, it was unconscious, but it felt sort of relieving. 

 

The guard talked again, but he couldn’t decipher what he was saying. The tone was pressing and even a little bit aggressive. The last words of the guards sounded like orders directed to his colleagues, and then a silence fell. Guards were waiting for an unfamiliar presence to show itself, they were waiting for an invisible man.

 

The sound of another bullet made the Doctor startle, his whole body jerked in surprise and the dull pain came back stronger that before. He closed his eyes as the pain ran through his whole body.

 

It took him a second to realise that the bullet had not been directed towards him. He opened his eyes abruptly, suddenly the world felt like it had stopped. A heavy weight collided with the floor and the silence was even more ponderous that before. It seemed like everything around him, everyone, was struck in place. Nobody dared talk, he didn’t even know where Kovarian was—

 

He suddenly felt a sharp pain in his jaw as someone turned his face to them. His bleary eyes could decipher Kovarian’s face, and here she was. The distress in her eyes was blatant. "You lied to me, Doctor." He didn’t understand, he didn’t know what she was talking about. "Tell me what this is about! You know something, I know you do."

 

Was this about the bullets? He didn’t know anything about the bullets, he wasn’t aware of every guard action, he— Wait. Why was she asking him this? Surely she was aware of her guard’s behaviour. This wasn’t a guard. This was something utterly different. It was something she couldn't control. It was— It was him.

 

It was the rebellion.

 

A flicker of a smile began to grace his lips, he shifted his eyes to the chandelier, refusing to meet her gaze. Of all the last strength he had in his body, he wanted to show her that she wouldn’t win this time. He may surely die, but at least he wouldn’t die knowing she won.

 

Suddenly, the sharp pain in his stomach came back ten times harder as Kovarian pressed her fingers in his gaping wound. He was left breathless and gasping for the little amount of air he could take. His vision blurred even more and he felt tears prickling at the corner of his eyes, he wouldn’t be alive much longer but at least he knew,... they won. "What have you been preparing this whole time?!"

 

In his sleepy haze, he saw the chandelier beginning to swing, more than it normally would. He’d analysed the chandelier with precision, he’d had the time to. He knew something was coming, something big. Something furious. The tension was building up, anytime now. Opening his mouth, the scent of blood came strong to his nostrils, his voice was hoarse and faint. But he managed, "T-tick," A cough of blood stopped him but he continued nonetheless, "To-ck." Kovarian’s fingers were pressing to his wound and the chandelier swung, "Y-you lose."

 

For a second, nothing happened, and the Doctor felt the last of his energy leaving him. The bruising grip of Kovarian’s fingers on his face didn’t regress and he felt himself falling asleep. Forever.

 

A gunshot echoed. Kovarian straightened up. A body fell to the floor. 

 

"Now!"

 

All of a sudden, a multitude of gunshots echoed from the corridor, people shouted, some screamed, some cried. This was the chaos. He saw the blurred shape of people descending from the balcony, weapons in hand. Soldiers. Everything was moving around him, everyone was shouting or firing a gun. He didn’t move, he was in the middle of this madness and he couldn’t move. He was protected in a bubble in time. 

 

And suddenly, a familiar voice reached his ears. "Doctor? Doctor, can you hear me?" A shadow passed over his face and he squinted his eyes open to see the familiar face of Martha Jones. "Oh God, Mickey. He’s conscious." He felt his body being touched but this wasn’t the bruising touch of Kovarian. This one was much more gentle and kind. "Doctor, look at me please." Hands came to his face, brushing the blood and the sweat away. "Stay with me, listen to my voice. Stay focused on my voice." A faint groan came out of his mouth, using the last bit of his energy. "Yes, it’s great. You’re going to be alright."

 

He felt a sharp pain in his abdomen as someone was applying pressure to his wound. Someone, Martha was talking over him, he could really make out the words she was saying. He was feeling someone else liberating him of his ropes and his hand fell to the side, the dead weight of it pulling him close to unconsciousness. 

 

He was finally free of his bonds and abruptly tried to stand up, the panic of being hurt again still present in his mind. The forceful grip of Martha on his shoulders and his weak body prevented him from doing so. "Stay laying down, please. Don’t use your energy on this, focus on me. I’m doing everything possible to help you. It’s Martha, I’m here to help you."

 

His body willingly fell back against the hard desk and his head bobbed to the side. He felt hands maintaining his head straight. "Where’s Rory? I need him, I can’t do that alone." Voices mumbled incoherent things and he felt himself slowly fading away, his eyes drowsy. "No, no, no. Doctor!" Maintaining his eyes open was a struggle and he slowly brought his hand to his stomach. He wanted to know what was happening to him. His skin was all wet and the strong scent of blood was everywhere. Martha removed his hand from his skin before he could touch is wound, but he still saw his hand. It was covered in blood. He was covered in blood. 

 

He suddenly felt very weak, the notion that he wouldn't survive coming back to his mind, again and again. They won, but he wouldn’t live long to celebrate. 

 

All of a sudden, as it had began, the gunshots stopped. Someone new ran to his side and he heard the relieved sigh in Martha’s voice. "Oh my God." It was Rory, and he couldn’t hide the distress in his voice as Martha had been able to. "Doctor, it’s Rory. Please, open your eyes, pleas—"

 

"Noooo!

 

The cry made him open his eyes abruptly, everything was blurry and he felt his heartsbeat dangerously rise to an unhealthy level. He turned his head the best he could in the direction of the scream, letting it bob to the side. His vision and hearing were focusing on one single thing. River.

 

She was screaming and struggling against Jack’s grip. "Let go of me!" She was thrashing around in his arms while he restrained her at the entrance of the room. "Let me go, I need to see him. He needs me!"

 

"River, please don’t approach him." Jack tried to reason with her, holding her at arm’s length. The Doctor groaned faintly and tried to roll to his side, River’s name on his lips, but Martha kept his shoulders secured to the desk. He could hear her tell him to stay still, but his vision was focused on River. She was sobbing, and thrashing around, her eyes locked with his. "You have to go and find some help, take the TARDIS in here. River, do that for him."

 

He couldn’t keep his vision straight and tears prickled at the corner of his eyes, because of the pain it gave him and also because he wanted her at his side. At last. Martha understood well that he wouldn’t let go that easily. She directed her gaze to Jack. "Jack, let her go. She very well know what is needed to do. If it gives us more time with him conscious, please let her go."

 

River broke free of Jack’s grip and ran towards him. In his blurred haze he could still see the tears on her cheeks and blood on her clothes. She came to his side and gently took his face between her hands. He tried a faint smile that must have looked more like a grimace. "What did she do to you?" She cried, removing the dried blood from his nose and mouth.

 

"R-riv," He breathed out, unable to speak. River shook her head and began to cry even more.

 

"No, don’t. Don’t say anything." She stroked his cheeks, careful on the bruises, and made sure that he could see her face even in his dazzled state. "You’re going to be okay, you hear me? You have to be okay."

 

He nodded faintly, though, he didn’t believe much. He could hear his friends talking in faint voices at his side. Blood lose, knife wound, broken leg, signs of strangulation, multiple bruises, concussion. No, he didn’t believe it. 

 

With the last bit of energy he could sustain, he brought his bloodied hand to River’s cheek. With a sad smile, she placed her hand on top of his. He knew she understood, but he also knew she was the only one who could help.

 

Suddenly, he found himself in a white corridor, the light blinding him. He squinted his eyes as he didn’t recognise this place. Everything was white around him, bare of any furniture. Finally adjusting to the light, he looked in front of him. He was standing up and in front of him, a few feet away, was River. Tear tracks graced her cheeks and a sad and worried smile adorned her face.

 

She was sad. Why was she sad? 

 

He made a step forwards to go to her but a sharp pain in his leg made him stop abruptly. The pain ran through his whole body, rendering him numb in certain extremities. River’s face changed to one on of distress, seeing his pain reflecting in her eyes. Slowly, he looked down at himself, for the first time. A big spot of blood was spreading around his abdomen and he suddenly gasped, feeling the immense pain at its sight.

 

Bringing his hands to his wound, he looked up at River, she had tears in her eyes and several on her cheeks. He felt himself falling slowly to his knees and when he hit the floor, he was in River’s arms. 

 

He was in her arms, his head on her knees and she was stroking his fringe out of his eyes. Tears were on her cheeks and his were falling by his temples, he looked at her, she looked at him. Bringing a hand to her cheek, he removed the tears that fell on her perfect face. "You mustn’t worry." He spoke with a fervour that revealed he was only dreaming. "She will not bother you anymore, you won’t see her ever again." River nodded but tears continued to fall. A soft smile began to grace his lips and he closed his eyes, feeling sleep overtook him. "I won."

 

Her sobs made him stay conscious, just a tiny bit. "No, don’t do that." She cried while stroking his face, "Don’t go, don’t go without saying goodbye." She stopped for a second and sniffed. "I can’t- You can’t leave me. You can’t… I need you. I love you." She whimpered, placing her forehead on his own and he could feel her tears falling on his face. " I can’t- bear it. I love- you. I love you, please. Don’t go without saying goodbye."

 

His mind was slipping away into darkness. But he managed to open his eyes, he could see an ocean of tears in her own, this gave him hope. "No. I won’t say goodbye." River broke down and began to sob even more. "We have- so much more to do… But help me." River looked at him with a question in her eyes. "I’m dying, you’re the only one who can help me. I trust you, I will never say goodbye to you, River."

 

Slowly, River nodded. He could already feel her slipping away from his mind, leaving him alone in this white corridor. "I don’t want to let go of you, I can’t—" She pressed her hand to her mouth, repressing a sob. "I’m scared…"

 

His vision blurred, maybe it was the tears, maybe it was because he was falling into unconsciousness. With a last effort, he brought his hand to her neck and pulled her to him. Her soft lips touched his own for a second, he felt the last of his energy leaving him as his hand dropped to the side. River was fading away already and he was left alone in this white corridor. The last thought was of her. "I trust you…"

Chapter Text

She was conscious but she wasn’t conscious. She saw herself taking a step back from the Doctor, her sight reopening to the real world. She was in Kovarian’s room in her manor, everyone was there but she wasn’t anymore. River didn’t know where she was, she had more pressing matters at hand to dwell on this. 

 

Her gaze stayed fixed on the Doctor, and he was watching her with heavy lidded eyes, barely aware of his surroundings anymore. And she was stepping away, slowly, as if breaking his hold on his hand would break something much bigger. Something that would hurt him the most. 

 

But she knew what she had to do. River had to find help, she had to bring the TARDIS in the room, being the only person able to pilot it, right this moment. She knew what her role was right now, but her gaze was fixed on the Doctor, and her eyes were filled with tears, and her cheeks were wet with them, and she was struck into place. Unable to move. 

 

It felt surreal, everything was happening around her. Her friends were putting their last energy in saving her husband, they ran and they yelled, and cried orders, and worked together. She was the only one who could help him, but she wasn’t moving. Struck by shock.

 

The only thing she was aware of was her tears streaming down her cheeks, the only thing that held her unto the real world.

 

She took another step back, and the Doctor’s hand slipped from her own, too weak to hold a strong grip on her. It fell limp at his side, hanging in the air like a simple puppet's arm, bare of all life. 

 

Where a moment ago the Doctor could still hold her gaze, she saw his head bob to the side slowly and his barely open eyes were rapidly closing. All hope and strength were living him, but she was too shocked to even utter his name. Only a silent prayer managed to break through her mind. Unanswered. 

 

"I can’t!" Martha cried out in exhaustion, quickly brushing her brows from the sweat. "We need more hands, Rory." She said, looking in his direction and he nodded fervently, his hands red from the handmade compress he’s placed on the Doctor’s abdomen. "He’s losing too much blood and we can absolutely do nothing in those conditions. We need blood, we need a hospital!"

 

"We can’t move him for the moment," Rory stated, the exhaustion clear in his voice, "We have to give him first aid before attempting anything."

 

"I know, I know." Martha sighed and River saw that her friend didn’t know what to do in this instant. "Doctor, you—" She saw Martha’s eyes drift to the Doctor’s face, the remaining of her sentence stuck between her lips. "Doctor?" She half-asked, the worry in her voice more present than ever. Quickly, she placed her fingers against his throat and River could see her eyes beginning to glisten. Martha pressed her lips together, but her hands were shaking and soon her whole body would be shaking. 

 

River felt a new wave of tears rise inside her throat, she choked on a sob knowing pretty well what was happening. Martha’s worried gaze drifted to her and she saw in River’s eyes what she feared was true. New tears fell unto her cheeks as she saw Martha’s eyes fill with a wetness she couldn’t bare to name. 

 

"Rory…" Martha breathed out. It must have been a desperate sigh because Rory instantly looked at her through blonde sweaty locks. "I—I…" She trailed off and Rory glanced at the Doctor’s face before quickly looking back at her, his eyes holding a question he couldn’t bare to think of. Slowly, River saw Martha remove her hands from the Doctor’s throat, her mouth slightly ajar and eyes drifting in all directions. She was giving up, River knew she was giving up on hope. "I— I think…"

 

Rory shook his head fervently, that made the words stop in her throat. He pressed the compress further against the Doctor’s abdomen. He murmured to himself and his voice gradually became clearer to River’s ears. "No, no, no…" River saw her father’s shoulders tense under an unbearable weight. "Check his pulse," He said frantically, his voice shaking. "It can’t—he can’t…"

 

"I just did, he doesn’t…"

 

"He has two hearts!" He nearly shouted and Martha startled, a small noise leaving her mouth. Taking back the control of his body and mind, he sighed and spoke on a much calmer tone, "Please, check again. He can’t just…"

 

Martha did as told. She pressed two fingers to his pulsing point at his neck and closed her eyes, concentrating on the tiniest of movement. River examined the movement of her eyes beneath her eyelids, she was waiting for the worst. Suddenly, Martha reopened her eyes in shock and looked down at the Doctor, her mouth agape for a second. 

 

"Fuck," She swore abruptly, "Fuck, fuck, fuck." She climbed on the desk and kneeled at the Doctor’s side on all four. All heads turned to her, even Jack who was on the other side of the room taking care of the guards looked at her. River bit her nails, awaiting. "One heart has stopped, the other is in critical situation." She yelled to whoever wanted to hear and a sob escaped River’s throat as new tears began to flow down her cheeks. "Mickey! I need you to hold his head in place." Her husband came running at her side and took the Doctor’s face in his hands, maintaining him straight. "Come on, Doc. Hold on. Please…"

 

She began to do CPR on his left heart, the one that was still beating. Standing on all four on the desk, the inanimate Doctor beneath her, Martha panted as she pulsed the blood through the Doctor’s veins. But he’d lost too much blood, and it simply couldn’t travel to his much needed organs. Plus, a Time Lord with only one heart, a deficient one to say the least, meant that he was on the verge of death. With no regeneration energy to help, this meant death. And death was slowly creeping in. But Martha wouldn’t surrender, she would fight till the end for her friend. 

 

But still, they couldn’t keep on doing that.

 

Martha panted after breathing air into the Doctor’s lungs. "We can’t keep this up," She said between heavy pants, still trying to make his heart work. "We need assistance, we need proper doctors. If this is our last chance to save him, we need help."

 

Rory nodded strongly, "This is madness." He turned his head to River. She knew she was their only chance, but she couldn’t leave him. She could not. "River, please, you’re the only one who can work this out. You have to bring the TARDIS in here, we’ve got to bring him to the hospital. You understand?"

 

River nodded mindlessly, but the words simply didn’t want to enter her ears. She was like in a bubble in time, unable to do anything, unable to answer, unable to move. There was an invisible force telling her to go but at the same time she didn’t want to abandon the Doctor. Even if he wasn’t conscious anymore, he still needed her. She needed him. 

 

"Melody…" Her father cried out and her gaze cleared out on him. She could see Martha doing CPR to the Doctor, Mickey was at her side. Her father was mending the wounds. Everyone was bustling around to help her husband and she was doing nothing. "Please Melody, he’s dying."

 

She needed him. Doing nothing right this instant was pulling him farther and farther from her. Every minute was precious to him and she was still doing nothing. She needed him but he needed her more in this instant. She had to be the strong one in the situation, he wouldn’t have thought twice if the role had been reversed. She had to go.

 

Suddenly, it was like her bubble burst, unveiling the hard reality to her eyes. He was dying, her husband was dying and she was doing nothing. She brought her hand to her mouth, repressing a sob. Everything was clearer now, she knew what she had to do. This sight of her husband frightened her, but she had to move

 

"Melody, go!" Her father yelled and she stumbled to her feet, making a step back, then another and another one after that. She was moving, and she was moving in the right direction. Towards hope. "GO!"

 

Taken by a suddenly feeling of dread, she turned around and ran.

 

 

It was funny, really. Albeit, not at all. Her feet were moving, pulling her in a direction only her subconscious could decipher. She was running, as fast as she could, towards hope but farther away from where her dying husband was. Her legs were numb from the pain and her mind was numb from the ache.

 

It felt like there was no more time, no more space. Everything was blurred around her and she didn’t know if it was because of the tears obscuring her vision or because of her apparent exhaustion. She was exhausted, not physically -even though, she was on the verge of breaking down-, but mentally. In the past hours, she couldn’t even say it had been a day because the events had happened so quickly she lost the notion of time, she has been worn out by Kovarian’s constant tingling with her mind and the emotional trauma that brought the discovery of the Doctor only moments ago. 

 

Time was moving slowly around her, too slowly for her likings. Her senses were mixing together, she couldn’t see straight, the scent of blood was everywhere and it put a sensation of dread knowing this was her husband’s blood on her hands, on her cheek, on her mouth.

 

The way she’s seen him. She would never be able to erase this vision from her mind ever again. Him, covered in blood, struggling to breath, struggling to live. She couldn’t bear it. She wanted to cry but the tears had long dried on her cheeks and there wasn’t any left in her body, she wanted to scream but who would listen to her apart from him, she wanted everything to stop, nothing to have ever happened. She should've never let him go different ways. She should’ve told him she loved him one last time, she should’ve told him everything she was bearing on her hearts before they chose to go into battle, she shou—

 

Her legs gave away and she fell on her knee against the hard concrete floor. At this moment, she didn’t understand how she arrived on the floor, nearly sprawled against the cold flood. She didn’t care about how or why, she really didn’t care. 

 

A sob escaped her mouth and she pressed her hands to the floor, a new wave of tears beginning to blur her vision. Tears began to flow down her cheeks and she felt an immense weight pressing against her chest. She wasn’t strong, she was weak and in pain and exhausted and deeply terrified by what could come. 

 

Another sob escaped her lips and she leaned on her hands, bloodied handprints appearing on the floor. She closed her eyes as her body began to shake violently with every sob that was leaving her body. She pressed her head to her chest and heaved as whimpers stopped her from breathing properly. The blood on the flood was haunting her and reminded her of the matter at stake, still she was stuck in place, remaining a mess, crying and grunting in pain and in sorrow. 

 

Through her sobs, she heard the cloister bell of the TARDIS beginning to ring, the alarming sound making her cry some more. It was indulging her to do something, to stand up, to be strong. She couldn’t.

 

"I—I can’t…" She cried out loud, her voice stuttering through the sobs. She could feel her second mother trying to enter her mind but she was too weak to even let her in. "I’m—m so-o-rry" 

 

Her chest heaved out and she hiccuped, trying to say something but the words stayed stuck inside her throat. A warm feeling enveloped her and she felt herself falling further from reality. My daughter, you must be strong. River shook her head forcefully and closed her eyes as tears burned her retina and a horrible headache accompanied her cries. I know you are strong, I know you can help him.

 

"I can’t…" She breathed out between hiccups. The pain was maintaining her on the floor, against her will.

 

Yes, my daughter, you can. The voice resonated inside her mind as an invisible force was trying to pull her up. The Doctor would never had made it that far without you. You bring the best in him, more than I’ve ever seen of him. He needs you as much as you need him. We all need him. Please, please, save him… 

 

River nodded, she didn’t know if it was because of the unconscious feeling rising inside her chest or the action of the TARDIS but she felt an uprising inside herself. She had to fight for him. She had to stand up and fight. 

 

Brushing the tears with the back of her hand, River stood up slowly on unsteady legs. They weren’t very strong at the moment but she knew they would still lead her where she wanted to go. Breathing out a long sigh, she removed all tears from her body and began to walk in the direction of the TARDIS. Soon before she knew it, she was running. It was the only thing she could do, and she was going to run as fast as she could, because the Doctor’s life was between her hands. 

 

Her feet couldn’t handle her weight anymore when she, at last, saw the welcoming light of the TARDIS at the end of one corridor. She began to run faster towards it, it was their only way to save the Doctor and she was the only one to make it start properly. The two were reunited for one mission, saving the Doctor from death. 

 

River ran full speed towards the TARDIS’ doors. When she finally pushed the door that inhabited the Doctor’s home, she felt an immense weight leaving her body. As if saying, you succeeded. But she hadn’t, not yet. She still needed to fight and continue on this path. Exhaustion made her legs quiver under her weight and she stumbled to the floor, panting hard on hands and knees. But at least, the floor was familiar to her. And a sensation emanated from it, as if saying home.

Chapter Text

River collapsed on the TARDIS’ floor, sprawled on her hands and knees and panting hard as she tried to take her breathings back to normal. She lifted her eyes to the interior of the TARDIS, white spots obscured her vision and small stars danced at the corner of her eyes. But she saw the lights around the room lighting up, one lamp by one lamp the TARDIS was getting back to life.

 

With her presence on the TARDIS, the latter drank back its life, taking back its strength. The cloister bell was still ringing an alarming sound, but the time rotor was beginning to move again and the buttons lighted up and the rumbling came back and the noises and sounds of the life of the TARDIS could be heard, albeit covered by the screeching noise of the cloister bell. 

 

River’s vision cleared out and she saw her mother running towards her and getting on her knees at her side. River wasn’t looking at her, stuck in her own thoughts. She could still decipher that her mother was speaking, shouting more so, at her side. At the corner of her eyes, her mother's lips were moving frantically but the sound of her voice was masked under the bell, rendering her mere utterance to a background noise.

 

Amy was touching her shoulder, barely rubbing her hands against her side, surely to make her look at her, make her consider her. But River was too preoccupied by something else to consider her mother by her side. She was still panting, heaving even, on the verge of tears and on the verge of exhaustion. But her role wasn’t over yet, it had merely began. 

 

She closed her eyes for an instant, passing a hand over her face to make the stars disappear from her vision. When she reopened her eyes, the TARDIS was now fully back to normal, she could fly it. She had to fly it, and now. 

 

River shrugged her mother’s hands off  her and stood up on unsteady legs. She walked to the top of the stairs towards the console with the help of the railing. The floor was moving underneath her feet, she was trembling, but her sight was fixed on the console. Leaning on the console, she rounded the panels until she found the one that stopped the screeching sound of the cloister bell. Suddenly, everything fell silent, even Amy stopped trying to speak. The atmosphere seemed calm, welcoming even, but it was far from what was at stake. 

 

River rounded the console and went to the panel that would make the TARDIS dematerialise. For an instant, her eyes fell to the keyboard that needed coordinates, she didn’t know… She hadn’t took the time, nor thought about taking the time. Worry not, my child. I know. Coordinates appeared on the screen, the TARDIS knew. She always knew everything.

 

River started the process of dematerialisation, running around the console, pushing the right buttons, lowering the right levers. At the corner of her eyes, she saw her mother running to her, her eyes wide with confusion. 

 

"River!" Amy cried as she stopped at the top of the stairs. "What are you doing? We can’t go away." River didn’t respond and continued to pilot the TARDIS, she didn’t even spare a glance at her mother. River didn’t have the time for explanation, she only had time for action. Seeing as her daughter wasn’t replying, Amy walked towards her carefully. "Everyone’s outside! We can’t leave them, we can’t abandon them."

 

River looked up from her work for a second, her eyes were sad but not regretful. Amy closed her mouth her her daughter’s hard gaze. "Get a grip." River mumbled with a rough voice.

 

And then she lifted the brakes off. And the TARDIS sprang into life. Amy tumbled to the side and hanged to the railing. She threw a glare at River, "We can’t abandon them!" She yelled at the top of her voice over the sound of the TARDIS. "What are you doing, Melody?" The TARDIS shifted to the side and River gritted her teeth as she held the lever high in place, trying not to fall to the side. "The Doctor is still in there! Rory is still in there! Melody, please…"

 

River looked at the screen before glancing down at her mother. The latter had tears in her eyes, ready to fall, in confusion more that in knowledge of what happened. River was glad her mother didn’t know what had happened, she wished she hadn’t discovered what had happened herself. 

 

She felt tears beginning to prickle up at the corner of her eyes, but shook them away. Now was not the time to think about what happened , it was time to do something about it. She couldn’t show to her mother what had happened. But Amy will be away of the matter at stake in a moment. River threw a last glance at her mother, "I’m sorry…" She whispered before lowering the the lever with all her might, maintaining it lowered.

 

The TARDIS screeched at the pression, the brakes violently grinding, trying to hold on whatever could be used as a notion of reality. The action was putting the TARDIS under pressure, but this was the only way that it would materialise on top of people.

 

River directed her gaze to the floor near the door, where she knew they would appear. She saw her mother doing the same, unaware of what was to come. The brakes screeched and she saw shapes beginning to appear on the floor, the TARDIS had led her right unto them, not missing a spot. 

 

The shape of the Doctor appeared lying on the floor with the shape of Martha and Rory on either side of him and Mickey near his head. Everyone was on the floor, around the Doctor’s body. When everyone was clear and inside of the TARDIS, Rory threw a glance at River who lifted her eyes to him, a question in her eyes. 

 

Rory opened his mouth to say something but the doors swung open in one swift motion, making every head turn to Jack who just entered the TARDIS by the main door. He fell against the door and threw at glance around him, catching River’s eyes with his own. "Go!"

 

River didn’t miss a bit, she released the lever and the TARDIS shook back to life, dematerialising and going straight to the time vortex. She ran to the other side of the console and pushed the stabilisers. She then ran back to the keyboard and inputted the coordinates to the Sisters, they were the only ones who knew who the Doctor was and what he was. They were the only ones who could help him get through this. 

 

Even with the stabilisers on, the TARDIS was still shaking but this was on a much lower level. When every procedure was engaged, River was finally able to breath properly and she looked down at the Doctor’s shape on the floor. Martha was whispering things close to his ear on a hushed tone. Rory caught her gaze, he saw the frown of worry on her face and decided to tell her something that, he hoped, would reassure her. 

 

"River," He called her and she looked abruptly at him with questioning eyes. "You needn’t worry anymore." He nodded slightly, trying to muster up a smile for her, she simply looked at him with a blank face, looking for answers better than charades. "Martha succeeded in bringing back his left heart to a stable phase. He’s only unconscious now." He stopped and wetted his lips, hesitating on his next words. She furrowed her brows in anxiousness and rory knew he had to tell her the whole truth, even his it hurt. "But his right heart still needs help, it still doesn’t want to restart back."

 

River nodded mindlessly, tingling unconsciously with buttons on the panel. She knew that he was still in a critical situation, he father didn’t need to tell her, she knew enough in medicine to know that this wasn’t looking great. But they were doing their best, and at the moment, their best was this.

 

She nodded again as her father told her not to worry, but she couldn’t help herself, she didn’t know if she ever would be able to stop worrying about him. He was her husband, and he was, most of the time reckless. Yes, of course, she was going to worry for him at all times. Especially when she was feeling like doing stuff like he just did. She was scared, she was worried but she was also angry at him. Angry for what he was putting her through but even more angry for what he was putting himself through. She needed him at her side, she couldn’t go on without him. She needed his presence and he was just ignoring that. He knew it, but he ignored it. For her own sake.

 

Not able to bear the weight of her father’s eyes on her face, she glanced away. She saw Jack at the corner of her eyes, he was talking to her mother. Bless, this was the only person strong enough to update her on what had happened. Her mother was crying silently, all the stress and worry and anxiousness falling down on her in an instant. This wasn’t fair to her, this was fair to no one. Jack seemed to be the one doing the best job at hiding his emotions. It seemed like he had been in a totally different battle since the moment they entered Kovarian’s room, where the Doctor had been. She didn’t know yet what he had been doing, she would find out very soon, but for the moment she had a bigger matter at hand.

 

The noise of the TARDIS materialising in a place brought her out of her thoughts. She looked around her and saw that everyone was preparing to go out. As the TARDIS finished materialising, Jack left Amy’s side and ran to the doors, swinging them open in one swift motion. Outside of the doors, the world was buzzing with cat nurses and doctors, everyone was running around, not having a care in the world for the newly arrived time machine. 

 

But Jack was keen in making everyone know what was happening and how urgent it was. River hears him shout orders to the people outside and soon enough people began to yell orders at each other. Through the hustle and bustle of the outside world, doctors were putting up in place a plan to help them. 

 

The doors of the TARDIS were wide open and, soon enough, cat people arrived with a stretcher. In an act of cohesion, Rory, Martha, Mickey and Jack lifted the unconscious body of the Doctor onto the stretcher, taking every precaution as to not hurt him and keep him stable. 

 

His head bobbed to the side and one of his arm had fallen to the side. River left the console side and ran to his side as people were deposing him on a hospital bed outside of the TARDIS. Blood was already beginning to stain the bed and a dozen of  nurses were already around him, taking care of him. 

 

River just had the time to brush his sweaty fringe out of his eyes, trying to tell herself that everything would be fine, before someone began to roll the bed to an emergency room. She tried to run in his direction but someone stopped her in her tracks, reminding her that she couldn’t go further. Now he was in good hands, but he was getting away from her, from her sight. She didn’t want him to leave her sight, she wanted to stay by his side, he would want that. But she knew she couldn’t, she had to let him go to find him back better. 

 

So, she stopped running in the middle of the corridor, her chest heaving, and she watched him disappear behind white, heavy doors. People were talking around her but she could only fix the white doors at the end of the corridor, hoping that, maybe, it didn’t mean that everything was going to stop. For him. For her. Simply for her world…

Chapter Text

The white, heavy, hospital doors closed in front of River, swinging shut for a few seconds before finally coming to a rest. The only sign that the Doctor has gone through it now gone. Everything was calm again, nobody dared speak. There were no more nurses running around, shouting orders and trying to save the Doctor’s life. The world had stopped for River when the doors stopped swinging. 

 

She looked ahead of her, not really looking at anything. Her vision was blurred and her head was aching and she was sweating. The moment felt very real to her. Where moments ago, she couldn’t decipher what was real and what wasn’t, she was now perfectly aware of her surroundings. It was as if the doors closing up on her had opened the floodgate of emotions. 

 

No more adrenaline was running through her veins. She had fought and she had won her battle. But now it had left her bare of any carapace. She couldn’t hide anymore under the pressure of the moment, under her important duty. Her job was done, and now she had been left raw of any strength to get up on her feet. No more could be done, just to wait.

 

The adrenaline was fading fast, and it was giving place to pain and sorrow. Those which were of the reality.

 

What was really happening now was that the Doctor had been badly wounded. He might die. He was on the verge of dying. And all of that, because of her. Her name was poison on her tongue and in her mind. With all the events happening all at the same time, she didn’t even know what befell of her. She didn’t care.

 

River closed her eyes abruptly, the closed doors in front of her were making the tears resurface. She didn’t want to cry. She already did so much. She wouldn’t cry knowing the cause of her cries were coming from someone she despised. 

 

Scrunching her eyes shut tightly, she sniffed before reopening them. Stars obscured her vision but she didn’t care. Stars were always better than black spots.

 

Hastily brushing the wetness in her eyes, River turned around to face her friends and family. They were all looking at her. Or looking ahead of her, lost in their own thoughts. A quick glance at them showed how ragged they were. Her father and Martha were both covered in blood, his blood. Next to them, Amy was silently whimpering in the crook of her husband's arm and Jack and Mickey were trying to hold everyone up with their stoic features. They were all looking so strong. Even Amy sobered up and brushed the tears on her cheeks as she saw River finally coming back to reality with them. 

 

River saw Amy trying to give her a reassuring smile, which looked more like a grimace with her red-rimmed eyes. River’s lips twinged in a sad smile, that was the only thing she could give for the moment. And she knew that the rest of her friends understood that it was all they were going to get from her for the moment.

 

Slowly, she made her way to them. She didn’t know what to do, what to say. Should she try to liven up the atmosphere? No, she was fooling herself, she wouldn’t even be able to bring a smile on her own face first hand. There was no point fooling around with false emotions, for the sake… for the sake of conservancy. For the moment, they just had to be strong. 

 

She arrived at their level, everyone was looking at her with concerned faces. They really didn’t need to do that. She was strong, she could handle this on her own. Couldn’t she? She came to a stop, stoic, in front of her friends and opened her mouth to say something. No sound came out. 

 

Her gaze fell on the TARDIS behind them, it was hastily parked in the middle of the hall. She just needed a distraction to say something. "I should park it somewhere else." She said with a weak voice that didn’t look like her own, foreign to her ears. "It’s in the middle of the way."

 

She distractingly pointed in the TARDIS direction and her eyes caught the blood on her hands. Hastily lowering her hand, she tried to remove the blood with her other hand. But both her hands were soaked in dry blood, she wouldn’t be able to do anything to remove it. The thought made her sick in the stomach, she had her husband’s blood on her hands and splashed over her clothes. The sight was terrifying. 

 

"And I—I…" She stuttered, wringing her dirty hands together. "I should remove the bl-blood." Tears were rising to her eyes. "To wash it." The words that came out of her mouth didn’t make any kind of sense together. She was distressed and panicking. "I—…" She looked around her, searching for a way out, anything really that would allow her to escape the moment. "Just…"

 

"River…" Suddenly, the vision of Jack surrounded her as he took hold of her cheeks and forced her to look at him. "River, River please, stop…" Her sight cleared out on him and she nodded slowly, holding his gaze with a hint of panic in the back of her mind. "Please, you need to calm down." 

 

"I’m calm." She replied abruptly and saw the worry in Jack’s eyes, he wasn’t believing her. "I—I’m fine, it’s just… I’m just a bit shaken off but nothing to worry about." She was aware that her tone wasn’t very convincing. She wasn’t convinced herself . "You shouldn’t worry about me. I’m going to be fine in no time."

 

Jack made a grimace and stroked her cheeks reassuringly, she knew they weren’t very close but at least he was trying to be strong for her. But couldn’t they see she was trying to be strong for everyone? "River, listen to me." He began and she could only listen. "The Doctor is going to be fine. People are helping him getting back on his feet. You have nothing to worry about, you’re strong, you know that." She nodded tightly and Jack sighed. "Why must you hide your emotions in this situation? I would understand, everyone would understand, that you’re not fine."

 

River felt the tears beginning to sting her eyes but she held her jaw tight. She shook Jack’s hands off her face, her eyes telling him to get away from her. The last thing she needed was to be seen weak in front of everyone. "I am fine." She uttered the words and looked ahead of her in the corridor. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to use the hospital bathroom."

 

She didn’t wait for a response and made her way quickly to a place where she knew no one would disturb her. Her eyes were beginning to sting and she didn’t know if it was because of the emotions or because she hadn’t blinked, holding Jack’s gaze.

 

When she shut the bathroom door behind her, she exhaled a trembling breath and leaned against it. No one else was in the bathroom to disturb her and she feel relieved. Closing her eyes, she pressed her lips together and wondered if locking the door would be a good idea. She decided against it, it would only bring more people to her. Why couldn’t anyone understand that she simply wanted to be alone for a while? She had the right to, didn’t she?

 

Sighing, she reopened her eyes and pushed away from the door. She walked to the sink slowly, almost staggering, and placed her hands on either side of it. She was so, so tired. Mentally and physically. The tears began to prickle at the corner of her eyes and she lifted her eyes to the ceiling. She wouldn’t cry.

 

When she lifted her head, she caught her reflexion on the mirror and stopped for a second. Her gaze was stuck to the mirror, looking at her reflexion as she discovered how the events had worn her out. Her eyes were red-rimmed and hollow. Dark circles had appeared under them. But what had caught her eyes the most was the bloodied handprint on her left cheek. And it was only a reminiscence of his condition. 

 

Suddenly, she was aware of all the blood she wore on her hands and on her clothes. This was the Doctor’s blood all over her. And she couldn’t bear to see it. It was too much for her, and she had the right to break down. She was all alone, nobody would see her. At least, in this place she felt safe. 

 

Her shoulders began to shake and she dropped her head to her chest. The sink was already wet and she saw the dried blood slowly trickling down the bung. She didn’t even know if he was going to survive. He’d lost so much blood and he was so weak. At this moment, nobody could say if he was going to make it or not. But he had to, she wouldn’t be able to get up from her pit if he didn’t. She didn’t know if she even would be able to. 

 

Her vision blurred and she saw a tear splash on the sink, diluting the dried blood. She didn’t want him to die. He couldn’t die. He’d promised her he wouldn’t. A sob escaped her mouth as new tears fell down her nose and into the sink. The possibility of his death made her stomach churn, it made her actually sick to think about such a possibility.

 

A sob broke out of her and she pressed her hand to her mouth. Her hands were trembling and her whole body was shaking with sobs. The world moved around her and she hiccuped through sobs against her hand. She couldn’t calm down, the tears wouldn’t stop. It was too much for her, she just wanted everything to stop, everything to go back to normal. She wanted to be at home with the Doctor by her side, healthy and strong and laughing and normal again

 

Letting go of the sink, she sank to her knees, sliding against the wall into a little ball. Sobs escaped her at an alarming rate, she was stuck hiccuping through long inhales of breath. The world around her didn’t matter anymore, she was stuck in her bubble out of reality. At least, here, she felt safe, she felt protected. 

 

The tears soaked her hands and rolled down her cheeks, to her chin and disappeared underneath her collar. It was wet and freezing on her burning skin, she couldn’t hold on anymore. She tried to control her breathing, her throat was burning dry and every little sob hurt. She inhaled deeply to exhale a long breath afterwards.

 

She didn’t know how long she’s been staying in this position but her knees were beginning to hurt and her back was cold against the wall. She’d stopped sobbing but small whimpers still escaped her now and then. She wasn’t trembling anymore and was beginning to feel the cold around her. Now that everything was calm again, all the emotions inside of her had calmed down, she felt more tired than ever. Silent tears trickled down her face when she thought too much of the Doctor, but she wasn’t crying anymore.

 

Suddenly, River heard the door of the bathroom opening and her name being called. She lifted her head from the crook of her arms and saw her mother kneeling at her side with a worried face. "Oh, River…"

 

River hastily brushed the tears off her cheeks and took a long breath to stop new tears from forming in her eyes. She opened her mouth to say something, anything really, but found that her throat was too sore to even utter a single word. Closing her mouth, she tried to dry the wetness on her cheeks but her mother caught her hand in her own, forcing River to look at her.

 

"Why do you feel the need to hide this from me, River?" Amy asked on a pleading tone. She let go of her hand but River stayed mute, avoiding her gaze. She sniffed and stood up from the wall, leaving her mother kneeling on the floor. Turning her back to her mother, she tried to remove any hint of tears from her face but she knew her mother wasn’t dupe. 

 

Amy sighed and stood up from the floor, she knew what River was doing. She was hiding her emotions. She thought maybe that this was to help the others, dealing with their own pain and sorrow. But River didn’t need to be strong for others in this moment, it was the others who were there for her. She simply had to understand this.

 

As River was continuing to ignore her, Amy took her daughter’s arm and forced her to turn towards her. "River, please look at me." At her grand surprise, River tentatively turned to face her and she could finally see her face. 

 

Her eyes were rimmed red and she looked tired, like if she had cried herself ragged. Amy guessed she did. River still tried to avoid her mother’s gaze, she didn’t why she just felt so weak towards her. She didn’t want to appear like the weak one. It just wasn’t like her to appear like this. 

 

She opened her mouth to say something, to explain herself, but she found the words to be of very little importance. So she chose to redirect the subject somewhere else. "He—" She cleared her throat, finding it raw to the sound. Her mother listened to her attentively. "He had everything planned out."

 

Amy frowned, not expecting this from her daughter’s mouth but she would take everything she had to offer her. "What do you mean?" She asked tenderly and dropped her hand from her arm.

 

River pressed her lips together, grateful that her mother understood she didn’t want to talk about what was in front of them first hand. "The Doctor." She said weakly before continuing, "He had planned everything before we even thought about the tiniest of plan. He knew where we were going and where he was going himself."

 

She sighed and directed her gaze to the floor. She has had the time to think about this. And everything was clear to her now. He’s thought about every single thing before going into battle. Most importantly, he’s thought about everything for her own safety. Of course, she should have known that he was going to make her protection a priority. He was stubborn, and a fucking bastard too.

 

A flicker of a smile graced her lips and it made her want to cry, it might have been the first time she really smiled since this morning when she woke up in her bed at home. Weirdly enough, directing her anger towards him by calling him terrible names was lifting a weight off her shoulders. It meant hope, because it meant she would gladly call him names when he’ll wake up. And he’ll laugh it off, and she’ll laugh too because, then, she’ll knew he’ll be fine.

 

Sighing, she dropped her gaze from the ceiling and to her mother’s face. "He was aware of everything. He’d made sure that everything was in place in order not to worry me." Because he knew River would always worry if something wasn’t in place. "He did everything in order to protect me, when he was going towards Ko-, towards her."

 

The name was acid on her tongue and she hoped it would never again escape her mouth. Before, the name held something terribly evil, but something only her could see as such. Now… now, it held her worst demons. Only this name could make them resurface, but she’d buried them deep. The shell impenetrable. 

 

The Doctor was clever, but there was still a thing she hadn’t understood about his plan. "However," She began, frowning to herself before looking at her mother, "I don’t understand why he chose to keep you locked in the TARDIS. Of course, it wasn’t because he thought of you less as a soldier than anyone else. But… I don’t know why."

 

Amy smiled softly and took her daughter’s face in her hands. "But I do know why." River frowned, her face asking for questions but Amy let go of her face and went to the sink. She took a small hand towel and wetted it by the sink. "It took me some time to understand. But time, locked in the TARDIS, was what I had." She smiled and went back to River’s side. She took her face in her hands and removed the mixture of blood and tears tracks from her cheeks. River let her mother wash her face and listened attentively to what she had to say. "The Doctor needed someone exterior of all of this. As you said, he had everything planned out and knew what was going to happen. He needed someone that wouldn’t be left ragged and exhausted from the trauma. Physically and mentally." Amy smiled tightly, "And even if I am exhausted, it’s on a much smaller level. Having being exterior to everything."

 

"But why?" River breathed out as Amy removed the blood from her hands. 

 

Amy lifted her gaze at her daughter for a second before dropping them to her hands. "Because he knew that if everything went as planned, you, more than anyone else, would need moral support." Amy caught her daughter’s questioning gaze, "I’m your mother, it’s my job to reassure you and protect you when something is not okay." River pressed her lips together and Amy dropped her gaze down, speaking on a much lower voice. "Surely, he didn’t know that this would be a complicated thing to let us reassure you. He doesn’t know that we don’t all have the privilege of seeing you not being okay. We’re not all him."

 

Amy’s tone was faint as she spoke her mind on the subject and River felt a single tears fall on her cheek. She was quick to brush it away as he mother brought her gaze back to her face. "I don’t need reassuring." The lie rolled easily on her tongue, as it has always done. "I’m doing fine on my own."

 

Amy sighed and deposed the cloth on the sink. Then, she took hold of her daughter’s shoulders and turned her towards the mirror. "River, you don’t need to hide from us, from me. I’m your mother and I can see the tears in your eyes. And I can see how your shoulders can barely support the weight of it all right now." She said, squeezing her shoulders. "Please, I know hiding your emotions is your mean of defence but I’m your mother. You shouldn’t feel like you have to hide from me."

 

River lifted her eyes to the ceiling as new tears were threatening to escape them. She knew her mother was right, she was always right. Btu there was just an unknown force telling her to keep being strong. But strong for what? "I am fine." She uttered weakly, more to herself than for her mother’s ears. 

 

Amy took her face in her hands, lowering it to her level. She could see the tears glistening in River’s eyes as River avoided her gaze. "Why won’t you let me in?"

 

River shook her head faintly and pressed her lips together. Amy could see her chin beginning to tremble. She didn’t want to force her into doing something she didn’t want to do, but she simply wanted her daughter to feel safe inside her arms. That’s what every mother would want from their child. River sniffed and whispered faintly, "I don’t know."

 

Slowly, Amy nodded, she knew her daughter was fighting against her own demons to open up to her. "River, you don’t always have to be the strong one, the one hiding their emotions for the sake of everyone else. Today, and any other day, you have the right to let go." River could hear the tears in her mother’s voice, she knew she was right. "Today, the Doctor gave me the chance to be the River to yourself. The strong one, in order to let the other break down, knowing that they would always have something to hold onto if they even see themselves too deep inside their mind. I will always be there for you, you’ll just have to trust me."

 

Tears were falling down River’s cheeks, but at least, she wasn’t brushing them away. Amy knew that this was moving forwards. She smiled softly and brushed the tears herself as she stroked her daughter’s cheeks. River was beginning to open up to her.

 

Amy smiled once again as River cast a glance at her. Even if it was for a second only, River was acknowledging that she could be the one to be reassured too. "The Doctor gave me something very special today," Amy began, and she knew that River was listening, "He gave me the opportunity to be the reassuring mother I’ve never been able to be before. I haven’t been there for a big part of your life and you can’t know how that sets on my heart. But now, I’m here. And, even though I’m not doing a very good job at it," She smiled softly, "I want to be there for you, as a mother, and to reassure you whenever something is not okay. He offered me the opportunity to be a mother today."

 

River lifted her teary eyes to Amy, her gaze suddenly cold. "It’s not true. He’s wrong, he’s so wrong on that part." Amy frowned and River hastily brushed the tears of her eyes. "You’ve always been a mother to me, even if I rarely showed it. You’ve always been there for me when I was Mels, and even before you were always in my head. You were what kept me going." A sob escaped Amy’s mouth and she pressed her lips together to stop the flow of tears. "I’ve always looked up to you, and I will always continue to do so. I’ve always trusted you." She confessed, dropping her gaze to the floor, somewhat shy of her statement. "You’re my mom."

 

River risked a glance at her mother’s face to see tears falling down her cheeks, but her mother was smiling brightly. "Then, let me reassure you and tell you that everything is going to be alright. He is going to be alright." River nodded as tears prickled at her eyes once again. "This is not about me, but about you. And no one else. I only want to soothe you."

 

Tears fell on River’s cheeks and rolled to her chin. She nodded, she was ready to open up her hearts. It was about time. Amy opened her arms for her daughter and River nearly ran into them, placing her head in the crook of her neck. She sniffed into her arms and knew that Amy was also crying. 

 

Even when the Doctor wasn’t here, he was reuniting people. He had thought about everything. But now, he had to care about himself for some time. He had to get back on his feet, be alright again. But River knew he would, because, now, she had hope.

 

 

The waiting room was silent. River was drowsing off on Amy’s shoulder. She didn’t know how long they’ve been waiting here for some news on the Doctor’s side. Maybe it had been hours, maybe it hadn’t. She couldn’t know, really. Everyone was seated around the waiting room, some of them paced down to the end of the corridor and came back a minute later, without any more news. 

 

Everyone had had the time to take a shower or even wash up a bit. And everyone was tired now. They just wanted some news, but it seemed like it would never come. 

 

Jack had gone away, using his vortex manipulator, saying he had things to do. He was being secretive, but she didn’t care. Really, she didn’t care about anything other than the Doctor’s health, and for the moment they didn’t know anything. That worried her, but at least, maybe, if the intervention was long it meant he was fighting. And River knew that if the Doctor fought, it meant hope. She had to hang onto this.

 

All the crying had left her more tired than she thought possible. She wanted to stay awake in case a doctor came by, but her eyes were closing on their own, telling her to go to sleep. She let her eyes close, she knew that if something came up someone would wake her up.

 

Her head was nearly falling off Amy’s shoulder when the latter began to shake her awake. River let out a drowsy grunt but her mother called her name several times. "River, wake up. A doctor is there."

 

River opened her eyes abruptly and quickly stood up, staggering slightly as small stars danced over her eyes. Her father’s grip was quick to steady her as her eyes were slowly getting accustomed to the hospital lights. "Careful there."

 

Everyone gathered around the cat doctor and Rory placed his hands on River’s shoulders, giving her some support. "Hi, my name is Dr. Campbell. I assisted your friend’s operation." Her voice was flat, without any emotion, and wasn’t giving anything away. River just wanted her to get to the point. "I’ll give you some news on how the operation went." She stopped, maybe for dramatic effect and continued a second later. "The life of the Doctor is no longer threatened. We managed to recover both his hearts and have been treating his wounds with great carefulness." 

 

Everyone exhaled a breath they didn’t know they were holding and a small laugh escaped River’s mouth. She pressed her hand to her mouth as her eyes prickled with tears. Her father squeezed her shoulders and she saw smiles on everyone’s face.

 

"But I won’t hide that we’ve been having certain complications." The cat doctor added and everyone fell silent, listening closely to what she had to say. "Due to the great amount of blood lose and the struggle we had in restarting his hearts, we’ve been forced to put him in an induced coma. This is merely to give him time to get his strength back while he’s asleep, you should not worry about it. He’ll surely wake up in 72 hours or so." River nodded slightly and gnawed at her fingernails. "He’s now resting."

 

"Can we see him?" Rory asked as no one dared speak anymore. River cast a glance at him over her shoulder, hopefulness in her gaze. She hadn’t thought about asking. Rory gave her a soft smile and River redirected her gaze to the doctor who was pondering the thought. 

 

"Yes, I’m sure you can. But only family."

 

"We are all family." Mickey spoke up and the doctor gave him a surprised face. It was true, they were all family to him, the Doctor had always been a part of them. The doctor looked at them all, deciding if it was a good thing to do to bring everyone in.

 

"Hum, only immediate family please. Two at the times, no more than that." They understood that it was the rule and Mickey nodded, stepping back.

 

Unconsciously, River took a step forwards, "I will go." She turned to her friends and stammered, "I hope you don’t mind." She trailed off, "It’s just… it’s just that—"

 

"River, go." Her father said, nearly laughing it off. He pushed her in the direction of the cat doctor, giving her a smile that meant everything. "Of course we don’t mind. We totally understand, it’s your husband."

 

She smiled softly and nodded. Then, she turned to her mother and gave Amy her hand to hold with a questioning smile. Her mother looked at her hand for a second and a smile grew on her face as she took hold of it. River knew that the Doctor was as important to her as he was for Amy, and she was proving it to her mother. 

 

"Alright," Said the cat doctor, "Follow me."

 

They began to walk after Dr. Campbell and River threw a last glance at her father, smiling a bit when he gave her a big and hopeful smile. She turned her head back and squeezed her mother’s hand.

 

Soon enough, the cat doctor pointed her finger to a room near the end of the corridor. She told them that this was the room where the Doctor was resting. Amy squeezed River’s hand and the latter threw her a quick smile. 

 

Dr. Campbell came to a stop right before the Doctor’s room and she turned to them before opening the door. "I must tell you that you shouldn’t be alarmed by his appearance. He has many bruises and hematomas over his face and body that we can unfortunately do nothing about. But he’s done very well during his operation, you should be proud of him."

 

"We are." Amy replied and River nodded by her side. Albeit angry at him, River was very proud of what he had done for her, and everyone really. Once again, he saved the day. It only seemed natural, and essential for River really, that they saved him too.

 

The doctor opened the door and stepped aside to let mother and daughter walk into the room. The first thing River saw was the white walls with the window in front of her. It was a throwback to the days she spent there right after her regeneration. When she met the Doctor for the first time. A flicker of a smile graced her lips. 

 

All sorts of monitors were beeping but her hearing instantly zoomed in on one. The heartbeats monitors, two to be precise. They were beating in harmony, strong and fierce. Because he was fine

 

She stepped forwards in the room and her eyes fell on him, sleeping on the bed. He had an oxygen mask on his nose and mouth but that was to be expected. She approached the bed and saw that Dr. Campbell hadn’t lied. He was covered in bruises, a thing she hadn’t seen first hand when he had been covered in blood. Thinking about it, she’d rather see him with bruises than bathing in his own blood. 

 

He had a bruise on his right temple and a cut just underneath, on his cheekbone. The strap of the mask prevented her from seeing his mouth but she was sure his mouth had been cut too, his beautiful mouth. 

 

She pressed her lips together and glanced away for a second to take a chair on the side. She brought it close to him and sat. The bruises were like a map to a traveller. She had good knowledge in bruises, having been the owner of many, and she knew exactly how they were made. It brought tears to her eyes but she sniffed and looked at the ceiling for a second. She would not cry in front of him, not when he was doing much greater. 

 

Her gaze travelled lower and she saw the big purple bruise around his neck, an obvious one. It made her sick to the stomach. Her gaze travelled downwards and she was grateful for the bedsheets that covered him up to his chest. She didn’t want to know how much more bruises he had. 

 

Her gaze stopped for a moment to his chest, it rose with every breath he took and she couldn’t help but smile at that. She’d seen the bruises around his wrist, sign of bondings, and she’d seen the cast on his left leg but for the moment, seeing him breath and hearing his hearts beating was the most marvellous thing of the day.

 

His eyes were closed and his fringe was falling into his eyes. Unconsciously, she brought her hand to his face but stopped at the last moment, hesitating. She cast a glance at the cat doctor who was observing her at the door, Amy between the two, setback. "Can I touch him?"

 

Dr. Campbell nodded slightly, "Yes, but be gentle."

 

River nodded mindlessly and slowly, with delicate hands, brought her fingers to his fringe, brushing it away from his eyes. It revealed more of his bruise but she didn’t care, she could touch him and that’s what she’s been wanting to do for so long.

 

She lowered her hand to his jaw, where the mask wouldn’t get in the way, and stroked the skin there. Feeling him breathing and living beneath her hand made her want to cry. But happy tears. She had cry so much today, she thought it was about time that it’d be for the good reasons. 

 

Amy walked behind her and placed her hands on her shoulders. River lifted her face to her and smiled as she saw the joy on her mother’s face. This was the first true smile she managed to muster since this morning when she woke up, unaware of what was to come. This was already moving forwards.

 

She glanced back at the Doctor. He was peacefully sleeping, recovering, still pale but on the way to be fine. This wasn’t okay yet, but this was going to be. Soon.