This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die
“Please, please – I don’t know – please.”
“I told you to run.” His voice is low and he looks at the man cowering before him without pity, his face is calm, smooth, like stone.
(I think it quite looks like you my love. Don’t you see the likeness?
A giant face with a gianter nose and you are hurting my feelings River Song.
Well, sweetie. Some of them have fezzes.)
He flinches at the memory, and the man on his hands and knees before him begging thinks it is a sign of hope. The Doctor’s eyes are empty though, because the memory of her is the very antithesis of hope for this man. This man who wears a uniform and prays to a God that blessed their war. “I’m just a Father, sir, please, I don’t know where she is or where-”
The Doctor crouches before the man, his eyes cold and his face expressionless. “Do you think it matters to me, Father?” His voice is hard, and there is no jovial expression on his face. There hasn’t been for a long, long time. “There are only so many bases Kovarian can hide in. And I will burn them one by one until I have the pleasure of seeing that woman die, begging for mercy. And then I can finish.”
The Cleric’s eyes widen with fear, whiter and whiter as he looks up at the Doctor. “Finish what sir?”
“Living.” He stands, leaves and doesn’t look back as the counter ticks down behind the injured soldier, who is screaming after him to not leave him, not leave him there to die. The Doctor doesn’t look back as he exits the building, explosions ripping through it in a succession as he steps into his TARDIS and moves with purpose over to the console.
There will be nothing left of this base when the fires die and the smoke clears. It will be a hole in the ground where four hundred men served.
His mouth tilts upward ever so slightly as he pilots his ship away. He thinks it is only fair.
After all, they left him the same way.
“This isn’t how it happens!” He struggles against the restraints his mind rushing and rushing and rushing in a panic. This wasn’t how she died. He knew – he saw.
Kovarian laughs, the sound short and dark and utterly unaffected. “Time can be rewritten, Doctor. You know that best of all don’t you?”
The Silents have River in their grip and she is looking at him with panic in her eyes. Kovarian simply laughs and leans in toward her, her back to the Doctor as he pulls and pulls at the metal binding him to the wall. Sinew is torn from bone itself, he is sure, but none of it gets him any closer, any more able to save her. “Don’t you touch her!”
“Little Melody Pond. Oh you thought you could fool us, go to prison, pretend to kill him.” She makes a disappointed sound in the back of her throat as soldiers come up and inject River with something. “We made you Melody. Made you who and what you are. And when the things we make get broken, we destroy them.”
“No! River!” He is pulling and pulling and pulling – but nothing gets him anywhere.
“Oh that’s right. I forgot, it’s true love.” Kovarian’s voice is mocking as she looks back at the Doctor and River gasps, collapsing until the grip of the large, monstrous creatures behind her are the only things holding her up.
“Doctor, don’t – don’t you – you have to run.” River’s voice is weak, and her eyes are filled with tears as she looks at him. “You have to run, don’t let her-I’m sorry, my love.”
“Poison of the Judas tree Doctor. Recognize its effects? One of her hearts is stopping right now, as we speak. She’ll suffer for thirty-two minutes. Well, thirty now.” Kovarian looks at her watch and laughs. “And you get to watch. How droll.”
River sinks into the chair beneath her and they handcuff her to that as well. He can see the pain rippling across her face. Heart, kidneys, motor control cortex, lungs and then finally the last heart goes. He remembers it well enough, and his eyes fill with tears as he watches the Silents creep out of the room. “The best thing Doctor,” Kovarian kneels before him, just out of reach and grinning like mad with one Silent still stood behind her. “Is that you won’t even remember how you got here. Or what we gave her. So even if you do escape, you won’t know how to save her.”
He lunges for her, shoulders straining and muscle tearing as he looks at her. “I will remember this. I will remember you and if she dies, Kovarian, no corner of this galaxy will be deep or dark enough for you to hide in. I will find you. And I will kill you.”
She laughs in delight, shrugging her shoulders. “You’re certainly welcome to try. Now I’m off to upload this-” She holds up the tiny piece of technology with its green flashing lights and he stares at it in horror. “Into our flesh technology. It’s come a long way since you studied it Doctor. And timelines must remain intact, mustn’t they? After all, you have to meet her for the very first time. Isn’t that rich , Doctor? You get to watch her die twice. And I get to fool you three times with the same trick. Oh I do love it, don’t you?”
“Arghh!” He cannot speak as he lunges forward once more, the metal chain snapping him back into place. “You will find out how very much of a good man I am not.”
“You may have won a battle or two Doctor, but never forget, I won the war.” Kovarian stands and walks to the door, the Silent moving behind her. She stops and looks back. “Oh, except – you will forget won’t you? Pity.”
She exits and he feels woozy for a moment, his vision swimming as the pain rushes over him anew. He’s – he’s – where is he? He’s surely dislocated a shoulder from the feel of it, and he is chained to a wall. He looks up, the breath seizing in his lungs.
He visits four more bases.
None of them have Kovarian, and secretly, he is glad. Because he doesn’t want one shred of this institution left to live on. He wants these to be the last days of the Clerics. He wants history, the universe to know why they died out.
Because one man refused to let them murder in the name of their God.
Because one woman, one beautiful, perfect woman, was stolen from him before her time.
His hand presses against the console and his ship vibrates against his palm, and tickles at his mind, in an attempt to soothe. But her pain is a visceral as his, and he can feel it pulsating at the back of his mind. They have both lost her.
“Show me the plans.” His voice is no longer hard; it is low and throbbing with pain as he speaks to his beloved ship. His fingers stroke against the console as he looks up at the screen. A perfect digital copy, minus just a few memories. It somehow seems only fair, he thinks. The data ghost he uploaded at the Library didn’t remember her death at the hands of Kovarian, so his couldn’t either. He didn’t want these memories to go with him there anyway. “You’ll rest there, Sexy.” His hands trail along the console. “One last trip once I’m finished. But not until then, eh? We have some work to finish first.”
His jaw clenches and his fingers fly over the keyboard as he pulls the name of the next base up. St. Robert’s Air Base. 4,700 clerics stationed there. His face smoothes and he pushes the pain to the back of his mind.
Just another place to burn.
He has to get to her.
Something’s wrong, and every sickening thud of his hearts tells him, warns him, something is very very wrong.
He just cannot remember what though. He licks his lips as he searches for, and finds his sonic, just about five feet out of range. He tries pulling, yanking, jerking, and biting at the chain, but nothing works, and despite Amy’s claims, he sadly does not have space teeth.
He wishes this once he really really did.
The entire time, he is listening to her breathing, it grows rapid and shallower with each passing minute and several times it seizes and his hearts nearly stop as he waits endless seconds for it to kick back in. The third time this happens, it takes nearly twenty seconds for her to start breathing again and he feels a manic energy overtake him.
He chews his lips and stares down at his hands, calculating the pull and angle he’ll need. If he’s careful he will just dislocate it, and not break it.
Her breathing stops again.
He bites his lip and prays he can be careful before taking his right thumb in his left hand. She’s still and silent, her skin is pale. He stares at her, only her as he pulls, hard, and pain washes over him.
Saint Robert’s is filled with soldiers who follow orders.
None of them, of course, follow his orders though, and he engages the security lockdown and has fourteen explosives rigged before he gets to the base Bishop’s office. The man is overweight, sweating profusely, and has pictures all along his desk. Children – nieces and nephews, the Doctor would guess by the genetic similarity. Right now though, he is looking up at the Doctor fearfully from where he is tied to his office chair as the Doctor sonics his hard drive, extracting information.
“You’re just proving we were right. Right to try to stop you – you are a monster Doctor.”
The Doctor ignores him, checking his sonic for the extracted info and smiling before turning to face the man before him. “Funny how time works though isn’t it? You all spent so long trying to bring me down, trying to prevent this very thing from happening. I am a monster. But you all made me this way. You could have just left me alone. Left us alone, but no – you had to steal a small child, manipulate her, train her, raise her as a weapon. And that wasn’t enough was it? You had to murder her.”
“Do you believe in the Church, Bishop?” The Doctor cut across him casually. “Do you support it in all it does?”
“I – I – I didn’t-”
“You did. And now you all protect her. Protect Kovarian even though you know – if you just give me her, I will stop.”
“You’re lying. You always lie. You’d kill her, and just finish the rest of us off.” The Bishop glares at him darkly and the Doctor shrugs.
“Maybe. But maybe I wouldn’t. You’ll never find out, and I will burn through you all, until I find her. St. Robert’s – did you know he was canonized in 1930? I was there, actually.” The Doctor laughs, but the sound is hollow and flat. “He was the Church Doctor.” He stands, and flips his screwdriver in the air casually, catching it in one hand. “Always liked irony.”
He leaves the office quickly, heading back to the TARDIS, passing locked rooms and incapacitated soldiers along the way. He steps over them stoically, never looking back.
When he gets to the TARDIS he uploads the information and cross references it. He checks and checks – but there are only two bases left now. Heavily fortified headquarters, each of them. He knows instinctively which one she will be at. So he’ll go to the other first, he decides.
He sets coordinates, and presses the remote detonator for the bombs before flying away.
She is cold, colder than she should be as he carries her to his ship. He doesn’t think about the ache in his shoulder or the throbbing of his right hand. He only runs and runs with her in his arms as he counts her breaths.
They are too slow. Too much time passes in between them and the thudding of his hearts is sickening. Finally he reaches his ship, and she knows, because the doors spring open before he even gets there. He is laying her on the floor by the console, dimly aware that the ship is moving, taking them away.
“River. River, wake up, please, please, wake up, wake up, wake up. “ His voice is thick with the tears he is already shedding and his left hand hovers over her face, gently brushing at her hair and stroking the cold, pale skin there. “River, River, please.” He doesn’t know what to do. “Scans! Scans, please old girl, scans.” The monitor swings toward them and he reads it frantically.
One heart has stopped. Kidneys failing. Toxin scan in progress.
“River!” His one good hand grips her shoulder and he shakes her, hard. His head drops to her chest and the wrongness of a single heartbeat echoes through his ears and he presses a kiss there, crying.
“Doctor.” Her voice is weak, and he looks up in shock. Her eyes are open, but barely, and she is looking at him, her eyes filled with pain. “Doctor.”
“River! River, I’m here, I’m – I’m right here, River. You have to stay awake. I need to figure out what they poisoned you with. I need to – River. River, look at me.” He is leaning over her now, inches from her face and her eyelids flutter open again.
“I love you.” Her voice is breathy and she smiles slightly, pain still etched all over her face. “So much. Was worth it.”
“What was worth it? River?” He speaks quickly, unmindful of the tears on his face and she smiles.
“All of it.”
“River.” His voice breaks over her name and she meets his eyes, her vision clearing.
He leans in closer, pressing his cheek to hers, trying to think of something, anything. “River please don’t – I don’t want you to – please. I love you; I can’t do this without you.” He turns his face toward hers and presses his lips to her cheek, to her mouth, her hair. “River, please, please, I love you, please don’t- don’t-”
Her chest stops rising, and she says his name as she exhales one last time before seizing up and going still. He grips her to him the whole time, repeating her name over and over again, but she does not start breathing again.
Minutes, hours, days pass – he is not sure, but he feels empty and raw, like every inch of his soul has been scraped out. He sits up, pulling her into his arms as he looks up at the screen.
Toxin identified. Poison of the Judas Tree.
His grip on her tightens as he stares at the monitor, a deep, dark rage swelling within him. He feels it burn through his veins, his hearts, his lungs.
He has torn whole worlds apart to find her. He has become the monster she proclaimed him to be, and so much of it comes rushing back as he sees her Silents again.
The data ghost.
The ganger. There was no body at the Library. No body at all, he remembers, and at the time he’d been too torn up with grief, so thick. How had he not noticed?
He remembers Kovarian laughing at him, taunting him, and he manages to move through the halls teeming with Silents.
He hates guns.
But he grips his dead wife’s plasma blaster in his hands and thinks that sometimes, exceptions can be made.
The electricity sizzles across his bones, arcing and popping. He isn’t inexperienced with a gun like this, but he lacks River’s training and deadly grace. They have managed to get a shot or two in; they haven’t all gone down easy.
But they have all gone down.
One by one.
When he reaches her, she looks as terrified as he’s ever truly seen her, and he smiles for it. “D-Doctor.”
He aims the gun at her with surprising ease. He somehow had thought that maybe he would feel regret or remorse, but as he looks at her face all he can see is his wife dying. “I warned you.”
“Please, you can’t.” She whispers the words weakly, all smugness erased from her expression, her face paper thin and pale. She seems to sag in defeat, as if she knows even as she speaks them that her words will never be enough. Nothing will ever be enough.
“You didn’t even let her beg.” He states softly as he looks at her with a pitiless gaze. She flinches, and he steps forward until the barrel of River’s gun is pressed against her eye patch. “You destroyed her life, all in the name of preventing this. Instead you caused this.” He can feel the burn of energy under his skin, his body is bursting, is begging to regenerate but he pushes it back. “Tell me Kovarian, where is your God now?”
Her eye widens and she shakes her head and he leans in closer, his finger exerting pressure on the trigger.
“Say goodbye, sweetie.”
There is blood on his hands this time.
He stumbles into the TARDIS and collapses onto the floor as his beloved ship sends them off. She knows what time it is. “I’m sorry, old girl.” He whispers to the time rotor as she eases them into the Vortex. He can still feel the energy, sizzling under his skin, making him glow in pulses as he fights the urge to regenerate.
“You’ll be safe though. No one will bother you, just a daft old box in the middle of the biggest Library in the world, right?” The ship hums in return, a sad sound and he smiles, struggling to his feet as he strokes the console. “You can join us you know. Upload yourself too. I think she’d love to see you.” The glow under his skin recedes and he presses a hand against the etched glass. The engines scrape and wheeze as they land and he watches her link with the hard drive and start the program. His own data ghost, uploaded to the Library data core. She hums and he leans over, pressing a soft kiss to the time rotor. “Go on, meet us there, old girl.”
The ship sings one last time, before there is a data surge and the lights go out.
He smiles at the thought of it and stumbles out of the doors, locking them behind him.
Just a daft old box in the biggest Library in the universe. An oddity. An unsolved mystery. He strokes the wooden doors, but the hum is gone. Leaning forward, he kisses them one last time before turning to face the hall.
He is smiling as he steps into the shadows.