He manages to hold on until the world is safe and Clara and Artie and Angie are securely tucked away back on Earth. Then he does the only thing he can, he goes to his wife.
He's been saving these last few meetings - too late in their timelines now - but he stumbles over the coordinates to Stormcage anyway. He can hear the banging in his head getting ever louder and the door is not going to hold forever and he can't - he can't think.
He needs to get away from the TARDIS. Lock it up against himself. And there's only one person who can possibly hope to keep him out of it.
"River-" he manages, stumbling out of the TARDIS and to the bars of Stormcage, setting the emergency HADS and sending her back off into the vortex where he can't retrieve her. Later - no, he can't think about that. Better that he doesn't have a plan.
"Sweetie? What's wrong? Doctor?" River's voice is low and calm, but there's a note of panic spreading through as he falls against the bars. His sonic lolling loosely out of his grip and rolling away as he crumples into himself.
His head. The pounding in his head.
River curses under her breath and then the bars of her cell are opening from the inside and River is hauling him up and in after her. The last thing he sees is her face, peering down at him with thinly veiled concern. Then there's a crack in his mind, the sealed door shattering into millions of fragmented shards, and the Doctor feels his eyes slide closed against his will. "River - I can't - stop him."
When he forces his eyes open, the Doctor is back inside his mind, and the pendulum has swung in the other direction.
River drags the Doctor's lanky frame to her cot, thankful that despite the awkwardness of his height, he's always been easy enough for her to lift. Her hearts pound at his dead weight, even as she locks down the security for her wing, ensuring the guards will be kept out, and runs her scanner over the Doctor's body meticulously.
Something is terribly wrong. It's not the first time the Doctor has stumbled out of the TARDIS to collapse at her feet, but it's certainly the first time he's sent the TARDIS away without any clear enemy pursuing him. There's nothing obviously wrong with him, but his hearts are beating at an odd pace, and his breathing is off.
By the time the Doctor opens his eyes, River already has her suspicions. This is not a Flesh copy. No traces of hallucinogens or pollens or a million other drugs and poisons she can think to test him for. It's not the Tesselecta. But something is wrong.
And when his eyes open, River realizes the wrong thing is the Doctor himself. She keeps him neatly pinned. "Hello, sweetie."
"Well, hello." And the voice is the Doctor's and not the Doctor's at all. Eyeing her with something that is very much lust and not at all recognition.
Something else is looking out of the Doctor's eyes.
"And who might you be?" River inquires conversationally, adjusting the pressure of her grip with clear intent and assessing her options. "You're not the Doctor."
"Clever. That's clever. I'm clever too. Mr. Clever, in fact." He cackles, just on this edge of hysteria. "Isn't that fantastic?"
It - he - Mr. Clever, glances around with a childlike wonder. Taking in her cell; taking in her. River waits, accustomed to the Doctor's habitual excitement and waiting for Mr. Clever to show his hand.
Mr. Clever's attention narrows to her at that, full of a curiosity and intensity that is actually rather sinister on such a beloved face. "River Song." He licks his lips. "There's files on you. I can't quite - access them. Still getting the hang of the place."
River lets that pass, making a note, and feigns interest. "Oh? And how did you happen to find yourself in there, Mr. Clever?"
He scowls. "I lost at chess."
"Mmm." Then he brightens, subtly testing her grip on his wrists, her weight straddling him. "No matter. The Doctor cheats."
River laughs, low and amused. "That he does." She quirks an eyebrow at him, "It's your own fault for trying him at chess. He invented the game, you know."
"And yet," he's smirking up at her, "I'm still here. Already uploaded."
Mr. Clever twists abruptly against her hold, but River just tightens her grip and shifts her weight. She's had plenty of cause to pin the Doctor down - usually in more enjoyable circumstances - and while his Time Lord strength can overcome most bonds, she isn't one of them. Besides, whatever Mr. Clever is, he still has all of the Doctor's tells, and she can predict the way he's going to try to escape before he even decides on the attempt. "Uploaded or integrated?"
"Does it matter?" He cocks his head to the side, confused.
"Well," River begins conversationally, leaning over him to look directly into those slightly-wrong eyes, "that depends. If the Doctor is still in there, I might let you live."
He doesn't seem concerned. "The Doctor couldn’t kill me. Just locked me away and assumed I wouldn't escape. Weak."
"You're underestimating him. And me. The Doctor was giving you a chance. I won't."
A slow grin spreads across Mr. Clever's face. "He's still in here, somewhere. I think he's watching. Likes to watch, our Doctor, doesn't he?"
River fights back a wave of relief. The real Doctor is still there then. Probably already discretely recapturing his own mind. She just needs to keep the imposter distracted. Focused on her. "You have access to his... files... you really think you could keep up?"
"I'm an upgrade. Everything is improved."
She eyes him slowly, deliberately. "I don't see any upgraded bits."
"Technology got a bit... fried. But, no matter. We really just wanted his mind anyway. Plenty of time for hardware upgrades later."
And now she has an awful suspicion over what exactly is staring out of the Doctor's eyes. "No compatible parts?"
Mr. Clever eyes her with a slow smile. He knows that she knows. "Everything is compatible."
Cybermen. Inside the Doctor's head. River suppresses a shiver and starts calculating backup plans. If she can reach out, she could probably nudge the robot (always with the robots) away. But she needs to get its guard down. "Everything?" she queries pointedly, shifting her hold on him.
Mr. Clever's eyes glint with a wicked light that could never be the Doctor, and his voice is low and dangerous. "Are we going to play chess then?"
"You could never mate me," River matches him, tone and smirk and innuendo, while her mind races.
This is the Doctor and not at the same time: the way his fingers trace along her hands casually despite her grip, the excitement and banter. The ridiculous self-importance. It's something the Cybermen have cooked up and shoved into his head somehow, but it's far more the Doctor than anything robotic. All emotion and responsiveness, where the robot would be clinical and plotting. He is plotting, of course, and there is a cold glare to his eyes that her Doctor would never wear so proudly.
Oh, her beautiful, ridiculous Doctor. Who has somehow corrupted cyber-tech into his own, slightly distorted image. Well, it's hardly the first time they've caught one another at less than themselves.
But Mr. Clever is tilting his head again, eyes narrowed and voice edging back toward a darker hysteria. "River Song. Sacrifice the queen. He won't, you know. Give me your files."
"Then perhaps we should play show instead of tell?" River shifts forward, and oh, the Doctor's body still responds to her, no matter who happens to be driving it at the moment.
Mr. Clever licks his lips, body arching up to meet hers. His wrists strain against her grip. "You - you are something else entirely. What I wouldn't give to get inside of your mind. Have you ever been told that you'd make a fantastic Cyber-Controller?"
"Many times," River smirks and tightens her grip again until she can see the irritated flash of pain he rushes to hide. "Now, what would you give to get inside of me?"
Mr. Clever cocks his head at her, huffing slightly as he flops back against her bunk in submission. "You want this body back." He's calculating, trying to play games against her already, but he's operating under the Doctor's mind and she knows that mind better than she knows her own. She can read right through him. "Do you have a better offer?"
River grins - he's taking the bait. And she can't deny that she's intrigued by any form her sweetie takes. "Mmm, if you can manage it, you get me instead. Leave the Doctor intact and alone. His mind doesn't need any more squatters littering its halls. But if you can't convert me, I get to crush you instead. And you, my clever friend, will be just a malfunctioning synapse quickly sorted to rights."
He ponders her proposal, sly. "I'd need another Cybermite."
River counters with her most unimpressed look - the one that always makes the Doctor determined to show off. "You're going to let that stop you? I thought you were clever - walking through the Doctor's mind like you own the place. The Doctor could manage - poor little thing, can you not?"
It works just as well on Mr. Clever. "There is nothing I cannot manage now. The computing power here - infinite. If your mind is half as useful as his, you could lead the next Cyber revolution."
"Oh, I'm easily worth two of him. Not nearly as cluttered up in here. But you'll have to come see for yourself." River sits up, releasing his hands and placing one of hers firmly between his hearts to stop him from rising after her. Her tone is brisk now, businesslike, "Right, then. Some rules. You have no chance of escaping this cell or this prison without me - the Doctor's ship is gone, we're far too isolated for your troops to ever receive your signal, let alone find you, and the security here, I assure you, is excellent. If you damage me or the Doctor in any way, I promise that your reign here will be an achingly brief one."
"Is that it?" he sounds petulant and bored, but he watches her with the Doctor's curious eyes.
"Just one more," River slips her free hand under her mattress and returns triumphant. "Handcuffs."
She has him cuffed to the utilitarian bars of her headboard before he can blink. He flails and attempts to buck her off, sneering, but River rolls with his motions easily.
Once he realizes the handcuffs will hold, Mr. Clever seems to look around properly for the first time - his attention has been almost solely focused on her until now. "This is a prison cell. Has the Doctor locked you up in here the way he locked me up in his head?"
He's trying to goad a response out of her - get her guard down. River smirks. "Not hardly. I'm banged up here for murder."
He's the one who responds, eyes lighting up with the Doctor's curiosity and intrigue mixed with an entirely alien glee. "Murder? Now that does make you more interesting."
River rolls her hips against his and grins - all teeth - at the hiss that escapes him, his body arching against hers just as the Doctor's always does. "Oh, you have no idea," she promises, voice low and silky.
Mr. Clever's shocked look of bliss quickly hardens, and the expression that curls his lip is entirely too crude to be her Doctor. "This body responds to you. He wants you - has the kinds of fantasies locked up in here that can't be spoken aloud. The things he'd do to you, our Doctor. But he's guilty - there's this dark secret that he's buried under here - something that-"
"Spoilers," she does the only thing she can - the only way she's ever found to shut the Doctor up - she leans forward and cuts him off with a kiss.
His mouth is greedy against hers, demanding in a way that doesn't feel like the Doctor - or maybe it's all the Doctors all at once. But his body responds to hers the same - bucking up against her - and River rolls her hips into the hard evidence of his arousal as she takes control of the kiss.
They kiss with a passion that is beyond programming - a passion that no simplistic coding could ever hope to comprehend. She knows from experience. When she was younger, it was the Doctor chasing away vestiges of her programming with firm, searching kisses that drew her out from the numbers and mist. She wonders now if this is the moment where the idea occurs to him.
Mr. Clever makes a strangled noise against her mouth and presses his hips sharply into hers - he's testing her weight as much as he's seeking her friction. River bites his lip and grinds down against him, her hearts and mind racing as arousal sparks between them.
He yelps characteristically at her bite, and River pulls back long enough to laugh tauntingly at him. "Out of your depth already?"
Mr. Clever's gaze sweeps over her, but he licks his lips and there's curiosity behind the cold cunning. The Doctor always wants her, and Mr. Clever is still very much a part of the Doctor. Even if his hands are still struggling to escape her handcuffs. "If you let me loose, I could certainly show you new depths."
"Did you need your hands for that?" River clucks her tongue in mock sympathy. "What a pity."
"I am very clever with my fingers," he smirks up at her lazily, not at all surprised that his ploy didn't work.
River slides her hands down his chest, and scoots back, careful to keep her thighs tight around his legs and her balance stable. "What a coincidence," her fingertips ghost across his abdomen and over the tented fabric of his trousers as she relishes his shiver, "so am I."
Her fingers quickly undo familiar buttons and slip under the band of his pants. Mr. Clever inhales through his teeth at the first stroke of her fingers, a sharp, strangled sound that reminds her of the first time she touched the Doctor like this. The sensation must be overwhelming for the machine. River withdraws her hand, fingers stroking teasingly across his hipbone. "Too much? Do you concede?"
"Hardly," he bites out, eyes flashing with suspicion and intrigue - trying to get the measure of her without nearly all the necessary information.
"Good," River tugs off her vest and sports bra in one smooth, practiced motion, stepping off him to drop her trousers and knickers while his gaze is still fixed to her breasts. She straddles him again the second she's naked - she won't give him any opportunity to tangle her up and escape.
Mr. Clever licks his lips again, slow and predatory as his eyes sear across her. "Can't say I blame the Doctor for some of those fantasies. I'd like to get my hands on you too. And oh, you wrap around them so well, don't you, River Song? You bad, bad girl."
His voice is low and husky, but there's still that hard glinting edge that brings the words out wrong. And he must be working fast if he's got some access to some of the Doctor's memories of her, even if they're limited to explicit visuals at the moment. She doesn't need him getting to the rest. River runs her hands down her own body and watches Mr. Clever's eyes follow her, already heavy lidded. "Too busy looking at pictures to try your hand at the real thing?"
"Oh, but where to start," he muses, deceptively casual, "I do appear to be a bit tied up at the moment."
"I'm happy to offer suggestions if you're feeling at a loss," River volunteers, rolling her hips against his again, this time only the thin fabric of his pants between them, as she leans forward and lets her breasts sway tantalizingly near his mouth.
It's her breath that catches when he leans up and wraps his tongue around her nipple just as his hips press into hers.
His tongue is aggressive and his teeth sharp and River suppresses a shiver as her body floods further with heat. She enjoys it when the Doctor is a little rougher with her - it's hardly the first time one of them has tied the other up at the whim of their capricious mercy. River keeps her eyes open as Mr. Clever's mouth moves over her sternum then up to her collarbone. This is not the Doctor, even if it's wearing his - so familiar - body, and she cannot let her guard down for this robot that is not quite her husband. Nobody has gotten past her walls since the Silence, and she is not about to make any exceptions.
A hard pinch drives the point home. River hisses, yanking her body back from his bite and slapping him, hard enough that Mr. Clever juts out his chin and flexes his jaw - though his eyes narrow instead of widening the way the Doctor's would have. "No damage," she reminds him firmly.
Still flexing his jaw, Mr. Clever queries pointedly, "And what happens to our little agreement if it's you who does the damage?" He's reassessing her strength - testing her limits.
"It will still be your fault, so I will still hold it against you," River raises one eyebrow, daring him to deny it. Her voice is firm.
Mr. Clever nods once and then grins at her, mind hopping between ideas with the Doctor's speed but less experience. "So long as you hold you against me."
Well, it's hardly the first time she's trained some version of the Doctor up. "Now that won't be a problem."
River settles back over him, her hands planted over his chest as she rolls her hips over his in a slow, teasing rhythm that makes him wiggle impatiently under her and against his restraints. He is hard and throbbing and familiar between her legs, and the thin fabric of his pants is quickly soaked between them.
It is a barrier of little consequence, and River shifts to her knees as she reaches between them to draw him out of his pants, shoving them down his thighs with his trousers and keeping his legs tangled up. He's still mostly dressed though, so River goes about rectifying that oversight, undoing his waistcoat and shirt buttons until she at last has his torso bare. She trails her fingers across his ribs, pleased when he jumps. "Oh, does that tickle?"
Mr. Clever scowls at her, and River laughs and repeats the motion with her tongue until he squirms delightfully. River shifts forward until she's sitting on his abdomen, just above where he undoubtedly wants her, resting her elbows innocently on his chest. He looks dazed already, confused by how well she can play the Doctor's body. "Oh, look at you, all tied up and at the mercy of a psychopath. Whatever shall I do with you?"
"Psychopath," Mr. Clever tests out the word curiously and then smirks at her. "Nice try, but I command Cyber Legions."
"Not yet, you don't," River muses, fisting his hair in her hand and tugging sharply. "You have to make it past me first."
His chin juts out stubbornly, even though he winces when she tugs again. "You're really very good, dear, but you've already said you won't damage this body. Not while your precious Doctor is locked in here with me."
River releases him with a shrug, arching into a full bodied stretch and cracking her neck in a way that she knows makes her look especially dangerous, naked or not. She offers him her best predatory grin, the one that makes even the Doctor shake in his boots. He's really working very hard at getting into her files, and she's not about to have that. "The Doctor may be locked in there with you. But you're locked in here with me. You do not have permission to damage the Doctor. I, however, very much do."
He matches her gaze in the way only two psychopaths truly can - sizing one another up with absolutely no remorse at all. She sees the exact moment that he realizes that. She can see the way he reclassifies her as a threat; the way his eyes light up with a new level of intrigue and excitement. "Well, go on, then. Ruin me."
River laughs, low and dangerous in a way that makes his body instantly respond to her. "Oh, I intend to." River slides her hands down her own body, settling back against his erection with a smirk. "Lucky you."
His eyes track her every movement as she runs her hands along her own body. She can see his hands clenching against the handcuffs, desperate to reach for her. Her and the Doctor have always got off on a little danger, and now is no exception. Her body responds eagerly as she palms her breasts and rolls her nipples between her fingers until her breath is shallow and the heat curling between her legs is tight and demanding.
When her fingers slide down to her clit, Mr. Clever's breath catches with hers. River smirks at his intent expression. "I promised you a show, didn't I?"
She shifts to a better angle, his cock brushing against her arse and the muscles of his abdomen jumping when she drags her fingers through the wetness that has gathered there and slips two inside herself easily, her thumb circling over her clit.
"If you need a second set of hands," he volunteers, voice low and thick.
River rocks her hips against her hand, grinning wickedly at him. "I'll manage. Although," she is careful with her balance, bringing her other hand back to stroke teasingly across his balls, "I might have use for some parts of you."
Mr. Clever licks his lips, his eyes dark. "Feel free to use me in whatever way you like."
"Well, since I have permission..."
River drags her fingers away from her sex and lifts herself back until she is hovering over him. She sinks down on the Doctor's cock in one motion that leaves them both gasping. But she doesn't give them any chance to recover; River rolls her hips against his in a hard, deep rhythm that she knows will leave her screaming.
He meets her eagerly, his hips driving up against hers as he shifts to plant his feet against the cot. The Doctor can never shut up during sex and Mr. Clever is no exception - a litany of praise and demands and cursing that would make the Doctor turn beet red. It is certainly different, but no less thrilling.
River braces her hands over his chest and leans forward, using the change in angle to grind her clit against him and drive him deeper still. She's close, but she wants him over the edge with her, so she rocks her hips faster against his, squeezing him with her internal muscles in a way that makes him gasp and sputter, his diatribe cutting off sharply. His hips stutter against hers and she knows that he's right on the edge with her.
It's a bit difficult not to lose her rhythm as she slides further forward until she is pressed flush over the Doctor's body and can take his face in her hands and kiss him. It is messy and desperate, tongues twining and teeth scraping as the pleasure washes over them. River brushes her fingers over his temples and breaks to gasp in needed air just as they fall off the edge together, pleasure sparking across her skin at every point where they are joined.
River struggles to catch her breath in the aftermath, still slumped over the Doctor's prone body. She's trying to work up the energy to sit up and deal with Mr. Clever when she notices that he's stopped struggling against the handcuffs.
"Welcome back, dear," the Doctor strains forward to press a soft kiss to her forehead.
River snorts. "I should be saying the same to you. When did you overpower our clever little friend?"
The Doctor's eyes are sparkling mischievously when she drags her head up, but it's full of a soft fondness that Mr. Clever was missing. "Oh, now that would be telling."
Stretching to undo the handcuffs, River traces her thumbs over his wrists and arches one eyebrow. "Always such a voyeur."
Their skin is still hot and sweaty as the Doctor brings his arms down to wrap around River more securely. River's eyes are already sinking closed again as he muses, "It's terribly distracting trying to sneak back my mind when you're having your way with me."
River cracks open one eye. "That was rather the idea. Hardly my fault that you and Mr. Clever were equally susceptible."
The Doctor seems equally exhausted, despite the easy flirting. Not as easy a coup as he'd like her to believe then. "You certainly provided a motivational visual."
River smirks. "Honestly, there are easier ways to get me naked, sweetie."
Letting out a soft huff of breath, the Doctor accuses, "You liked it - him - me," and it's low and filled with promise.
"I always like you, Doctor," River acknowledges, but it feels too honest after everything, so she teases, "besides, what girl could resist torturing two versions of you all at the same time?"
Shifting one hand so that he can bop her nose, the Doctor offers her a smug grin. "Well now, I know what to get you for your birthday."
"Spoilers," River chastises, but there's a warm feeling of contentment uncurling in her chest. This is her Doctor again, safe in her arms.
They shift around on her stiff cot until they're slightly more comfortable, though the Doctor does not bother to finish undressing before River tugs the blanket over them. The guards will keep.