I hunt for you with bloodied feet
pre-series; doctor, river, doctor/river (dr who)
"I would do anything for you." / "I know."
Their first encounter is one he'd rather forget. Not because he regrets meeting River (nothing could be further from the truth) but because of the way his stomach twists and bile rises in his throat as he remembers her broken body in the middle of the street, the scarlet blood pooling around her head a mocking tribute to an angel's halo. He remembers the Leviathans as they circled ever closer, forked tongues flickering in and out, mad with blood lust.
(Less clearly, he remembers the roar of anger that burst from his throat, how he had rushed forward, heedless of his own safety and dragged her unmoving body into the tardis.)
She is bed-ridden for several days (or perhaps weeks – River is the only person able to destabilise his complex relationship with time) and he does not leave her bedside, ignoring Amy and Rory as they whisper of an 'unhealthy obsession' that he doesn't bother to deny. River lies, unmoving, the arc of her body an ivory blade, her soft screams piercing his hearts.
He leans forward and brushes a strand of River's hair, matted with dry blood, away from her forehead. She stirs and opens her eyes and he freezes, unsure whether or not to pull away. River reaches out but her body is weak and her hand falls back onto the mattress; long, slim fingers curling into a loose fist as her eyes close.
The doctor exhales a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding.
Amy and Rory find it difficult to reconcile this River with the one they have already met. Their River's laughter can light up a room. This River's laughter can burn out candles, drop a room's temperature.
Still, they make an effort.
Then Rory comes one step too close and is rewarded with River's nails raking along his cheek, leaving deep scratches in their wake. Amy understands (she always was a bright girl) but she still asks the doctor to return them to their own time-stream, away from this incarnation of a woman she thought she knew.
River merely shrugs when they walk out the tardis door.
River hides her emotions well, and it is only because of a ringing warning from the tardis that he realises her intentions.
"She told you, didn't she?" River says from where she leans against the console, arms folded.
The doctor raises an eyebrow; his eyes narrowing as they fall on this woman (or girl – she can't be more than 17) who has become the most important person in his life. Moreso than any other companion.
"About your murderous intentions?" he says drily, pushing a red button that sounds a loud 'trill' through the air, startling him.
River, on the other hand, doesn't flinch.
"Yes," she says plainly, eyes locked with his.
"It won't change a thing."
She smiles; it sends chills down his spine.
"But it will make me feel better."
She's been with him three months without leaving the confines of the tardis. At first, he thinks it is because the tardis is somewhere new, somewhere to explore. It's only when he finds her in the oxygen factory, curled in a ball and shivering, that he realises it is fear that prevents her from stepping out of the blue door.
"Just leave me for a moment."
It's the first request that he denies.
He sits down (giving her space – he hasn't forgotten her reaction to Rory) and after what seems like an age (perhaps it is) she shifts closer, enough that their shoulders brush. Carefully, mindful of his every moment, he wraps one arm around her and stiffens slightly when she leans into him and rests her cheek against his chest.
She begins to shake and tears she should have shed long ago finally begin to fall, soaking through his shirt.
He kisses the top of her hair.
She cries harder.
Her tears prove a catalyst and he finds himself typing co-ordinates to send him back to the Leviathans. River is asleep when he leaves (though he makes sure to lock the door behind him – he does not want her seeing this.) In his pocket is a chain, one he made specifically for the act of murder he is about to commit.
Long, thin, silver with a curse written in Old High Gallifrean enscribed on its every link.
It goes against his principles, his assertion that all life-forms matter, but then he remembers River's tears.
He doesn't so much as blink when he throws the chain around the Leviathan queen, condemning her and her off-spring to certain death.
If he were honest with himself, he rather enjoys it.
River wakes when he enters her room and he watches her green eyes change shade as she realises what he has done. Slowly, she rises to her feet and crosses the room. She is a good half-foot shorter than him in this particular incarnation and has to stretch onto tips of her toes when she reaches out to cup his cheek.
"Thank you," she whispers, her thumb moving in small circles.
It is then he realises she is wiping away blood.
"I would do anything for you, River."
She nods as she pulls him close and lets him rest his forehead against her shoulder.
Author's notes: the title is taken from 'Howl' by Florence and the Machine.