Disclaimer; I make no profit from this writing, which is simply intended as a work of fanfiction. The only payment I accept from this might be a few reviews and some constructive criticisms. The show it's characters all belong to the BBC.
A/N; It seems this evolved into another story that in part wrote itself. Certainly much longer in the end than I planned on, and only roughly following the basic plot I had planned on, but I decided that was okay. Actually it seemed logical to publish what I planned as a stand alone chapter as a two chapter story instead. Chapter two should be up in the next couple of days. Contains possible spoilers for season six, so be warned.
The Doctor's heartbeats pounded in his chest with such force that he could hear the noise in his ears. He could feel his entire body trembling with shock and he was only vaguely aware of his mind becoming blank as any sense of logical reason rapidly left him.
Think, he ordered himself sharply. Senseless panic won't help anyone. With a much needed jolt back into reality, he carefully deposited River onto the bed he was standing in front of. She'd been completely limp in his arms and she was in just the same sort of state now. Calmly as he could force himself to stay, he visually assessed the obvious damage. Aside from being still soaking wet with muddy water, which was not a serious problem in itself, her body was just so broken and bloody that he knew he had a serious situation on his hands.
He began to move frantically around his small but efficient medical bay on board his ship. Basic protocols came to mind. He reviewed them quickly. Remain detached he reminded himself, for detachment was the only way he could hope to fix anything quickly.
For all his best and stubbornly furious attempts to force detachment into his mind though, he coudln't help but feel a sense of amazement and relief that even in her state of serious injury, she had been conscious enough at the time, to not try to breath while her head was underwater. She amazed him yet again. She so often did, but this time was different. He'd certainly never taught her to find her way to the top of a body of water by taking note of which way the bubbles moved. He'd never taught her the real importance of not panicking if she should ever find herself submerged, injured, and confused. He had never taught her because he'd never expected that such a thing would ever come up. Finding a traveling companion and friend in the cold, dark and dirty water at night, would have been a worst case scenario at any time. To add serious injury to it was not something he'd ever dared to think about.
He quickly walked back across the room when he heard her awaken with an audible groan. Her eyes were open immediately. Detachment, he reminded himself again, but he knew it would be so much harder to remain detached now. When someone was unconscious it was easy, but when they were awake it was always harder, if not impossible.
Her left hand had been crushed by falling bricks and crumbled masonry, but her right hand promptly clung to the sleave of his jacket as soon as he came over. She couldn't really move all that much, and she certainly couldn't sit or anything like that - she didn't even attempt to try - but she lay where she was, crying with pain and confusion and fright, trembling and holding the Doctor's sleeve and a near death grip. She could barely breathe to begin with and of course her panic and pain made that even worse.
"Doctor, what happened?" She pleaded for understanding, as he as gently as he could forced her to release him from her grip. He reached for a portable scanner and placed it on her arm. This didn't hurt her worse, but in her confusion it certainly did scare her. She cried harder, but he forced himself to hold onto his state of emotional detachment.
"The footbridge collapsed," he answered her question as simply as he could.
She looked at him with wide open eyes and forced herself to stop crying. Her next simple question was asked in a helpless mumble, half drowned by a new stream of tears. "Why?"
"It just did," the Doctor said simply. Perhaps a little too simply, he quickly realized. She was far from simple minded, and even in her state it would be impossible for her miss the fact that a bridge could not just fall without any reason for doing so.
"Things happen sometimes," he said, speaking now with far more concern and compassion in his voice. All ideas of emotional detachment were fast going right out the window, but he understood then that it was impossible anyway. How was he possibly supposed to remain so detached emotionally when trying to deal with some innocent person that was crying and terrified and confused. It seemed it was so much harder when that person was also the one person he'd come to know best of anyone in his long years of traveling.
River was only twenty as of the past summer, but already she was the one companion and friend that had traveled with him the longest. He'd told her so many of the things he would never have told any other living soul. He'd come to trust her with so many parts of his life that he'd never have entrusted to anyone else. She'd learned his language several years before; not all of it of course - to learn such a thing would take many years - but certainly enough that they could use it to talk to each other when their words needed to remain untranslated. She could still barely speak the language with any sort of success, but she could read and write. They so often wrote notes to each other that way. Countless intelligent races on countless worlds had faced the endless frustration of later finding those useless notes that had so obviously been their written plans of escape from some bind or another. She was smart and quick to learn, and willing to do anything and try again and again until she managed to do it.
He cared for her so much by then that he could not imagine what it would be like to lose her forever. He reminded himself with determination and a sad shuddering breath, that he knew already how it all ended. Then and there was most certainly not it. The thought however continued to invade his awareness, that time could be rewritten. He knew with not a hint of doubt that what he now feared most of all, was certainly the worst possible way he could think of to rewrite it.
The portable scanner, which was remotely wired to the main display monitor on the far wall of the room, sounded with a loud, high pitched, and very sudden series of beeps. Dreading what he knew he might find, he turned to the monitor and read everything with rapid speed and full comprehension. The scan results caused him to cry a little with relief, and he quickly wiped the tears from his eyes, before she saw and got a very wrong understanding of it all. There definitely seemed to be a lot of blood, and the scan had detected a couple of broken bones, but overall there was nothing serious enough to be all to concerned over. She was certainly nowhere near being fatally injured in the least.
The Doctor had so often heard the people of so many worlds describe injuries as looking so much worse than they turned out to be in the end. He understood now exactly what that meant. She was still crying and trembling so badly, but then he had to realize that she had so often been prone to crying easily. She may have been a young woman but still it was far from uncommon for her to cry as suddenly and with as much urgency and passion as a child would have done. Strange he thought then, to think that she was that way at all.
He remembered years before, the days of knowing her as she was to become, her future self. She had been, or would become, someone that he was hard pressed to imagine ever crying at all over anything. Yet here she was in her young days, during a time in which their time-lines finally matched each other's, so much weaker and far more innocent than that. Quickly he pulled himself away from his thoughts of past and future and the complexities of time and emotions, and focused intently on the task at hand.
He gently lifted her injured hand from where it lay lifeless at her side. She whimpered and moaned with pain as he carefully worked at cleaning the blood from her hand and fingers so that he could assess exactly how badly the bones were broken, yet her eyes remained fixed on him and full of trust. Even after her whimpering had turned to outright horrible sobbing and her vision was obscured by her tears of shock and pain and disbelief, she tried to hold her focus on his eyes.
"It's alright," he said, trying for all it was worth to hide the shaking of his voice. "Just try to stay calm. I need you to hold still, okay."
The situation was bad. That much was obvious. She may not have been hurt nearly as badly as it had seemed at first, but it was still bad enough to cause concern with good reason. The Doctor knew that while pain was not the only reason for her tears, in part she was crying and shaking from the chill that still lingered, from the shock and terror of landing in the icy water without warning, and even from the embarrassment of getting into such an accident in the first place. He remembered how she'd burst into sudden tears only a week before after finding that she'd left a tray of muffins to burn in the oven, after getting so busy reading that she had forgotten all about them . It had been a stressful several days in which nightmares had kept her awake, and she was by that time sleep deprived and at breaking point. Still though her tears had come so quickly as usual. It was obvious in any case that now, for all the other little reasons to be considered, pain was the most obvious factor. He brushed back a few more tears of his own when he realized he would have to hurt her much worse yet in order to ultimately help her.
"Hey," he said softly, his voice breaking through her scattered thoughts and her helplessness and pain. She dragged herself back to full consciousness, and realized only then that she had been so far gone from reality. The Doctor had stopped whatever it was he had been trying to do at first and now stood looking down at her, with one hand on her uninjured one rubbing it gently and obviously trying hard to get her to take notice of him. "Can you hear me? Come on, say something."
"...Hurts so much..." River managed to mumble an only half coherent response. Her tears had eased by then, and she lay sill and already so exhausted from her unexpected mishap, that she knew she would have little strength to resist at all whenever he decided to go on.
"I know," the Doctor said as quietly and calmly as he could. All hopes of detachment were completely gone by this time. He was fully emotionally involved in yet another situation that he'd tried to stay distant from. Of course he knew that he could neve have it any other way. Nor would he really and truly have wanted to. "I know, and I'm really sorry. It will all be so much better soon."
He put one hand under her head and slowly and carefully helped her to sit up a bit. She leaned against him unable to hold herself up at all, but she wasn't overly bothered by the change in position.
"You're going to go sleep for a while," he said, still holding her as tightly as he could without hurting her worse, making sure she couldn't fall over. "I have a lot of work to do in order to fix all this, and it would be much easier for you if you were right out for most of it."
Her eyes opened wide in fright and as the shock and realization of just how serious everything was, came over her. She just stayed perfectly still for several long seconds, staring at him helplessly. She couldn't even cry anymore. She only trembled and shook harder, and finally looked around a bit in wide eyed terror.
River was more than a little aware that the Doctor was looking at her with both concern and complete confusion over the horrible panic that was arising within her. But she couldn't bring herself to care too much about that right then. She only wanted the day to be over with. She only wanted to wake up and find that it had never happened at all. She'd faced strange, so often confusing nightmares for many years on end, that faded almost entirely from memory when she was startled awake. She closed her eyes tightly for a second and hoped that this was simply another one.
Finally, after several long seconds of just looking around in utter terror and shock, she knew she owed it to the Doctor to at least say something. With her voice shaking so badly that she barely recognized it herself, she whimpered, "no, please don't."
"What's the matter," the Doctor asked. His voice was completely serious and his great concern for her showed through so clearly. He'd gone through such things with her before, so many times in the last several years.
She'd been close to nine years old when he'd found her, more than old enough to have stored a wealth of early childhood memories and experiences within her head. But her entire childhood up to nearly that point had been a mystery. He knew only what he'd learned by piecing together as much as he could before he went off to find her in the first place, and she couldn't even tell him herself where she had come from. She'd so quickly begun to aquire life experiences that she could remember, but still the earlier years were for all intents and purposes nonexistent.
It was only in the last few years, that the sudden strange and often horrible flashes of long forgotten had begun to return. They were always in tiny pieces, but vivid and shocking. Something of other, some event, or a place, or even a series of words, spoken innocently enough would trigger such a recollection, and she would only stop dead in the middle of anything she'd been doing and stare blankly in confused horror, trying to understand.
"River, what happened?" the Doctor asked gently, trying patiently to help her to retrieve and come to understand a long forgotten memory, as he'd learned to over the years. Something had obviously set off her memory function again and he reasoned based simply on logic and timing that this time it had something to do with a fear of going to sleep.
She tried to take hold of his jacket sleeve again, but the positions of their bodies made that impossibly difficult to do. Her hand, the one that was completely unharmed, reached up then to grab firmly onto the front his clothing and of course he allowed it. She would so often hold tightly to either his hands or his clothes when long forgotten memories began to surface once again.
She thought intently as she could about her feelings of terror toward being forced into sleep. She didn't want to remember. She never wanted to remember such things, but it seemed she never did have much choice in the matter. Once triggered, however unintentionally, random bits of her forgotten early childhood years would continue to pour forward through her mind until it stopped on it's own accord once again. The Doctor had told her two years before, during a time they had talked honestly, shortly after a particularly bad memory flashback incident, that he had decided it was probably a good thing. He'd calmly explained to her that although it nearly always frightened her to the point of trembling and tears, they were her memories and she needed to recall them sometime or other. He felt that it would stop for good one day, and he told her that, but that confidant prediction never helped her much in the moment.
With one hand clinging to her friend for dear life, and still distressingly aware of her physical state of pain, River let the by now all too familiar feeling of slowly leaving her current reality begin to overwhelm her. No point in struggling against it. She'd come to understand that early on. Still though the need to try to anyway, nevertheless came up. An image came to mind and she gasped with shock as that same image become more and more real until she was herself back in that long ago but still vague second in time.
She was a small child, still so tiny that the door across the room looked so much bigger than her mind now told her it should have looked. She was laying motionless on a cold surface in a very white and far too bright room, looking in terror the bight lights that hung suspended from the ceiling high above. The mind of her child-self didn't like the place at all. She yelled for a mother she knew must be out there somewhere in a world she had never seen. There was someone behind her. She could feel their eyes staring her but she couldn't see anything but a brightness that made her eyes hurt. More images came forward in quick succession and she could barely make sense of any of it. She was held roughly by someone that was both obviously not at all human and not the least bit compassionate. Rough and brutal hands on the front of her small head, forcing her shriek of agonized horror. Blankness, a feeling of spinning and more blackness. In her memories she awoke in screaming pain and the feeling carried over so perfectly into her current reality. Both were just as real, past and present. That much she understood with a passing thought. The flashback had been triggered as much by the pain as by the mention going to sleep.
Snapping fully back into real-time consciousness, she found herself looking up into the Doctor's now horrified eyes. His ability to multi-task under the worst kind of circumstance came to light as she became aware that he was carefully cleaning blood off her face with a soft wet cloth while still holding her tightly against him and staring at her in understanding. It was only then that she knew much to her embarrassment that she'd been mumbling her experiences out loud again. At least half the time she did end up speaking aloud in real time, telling him everything as she saw it. During these times he'd simply hold her and stand by quietly waiting and comprehending and gaining a new bit of understanding himself so that he could later help her to understand it all. Other times though she would remain nearly silent, and it was after those incidents that he would always leave her to tell him more about it when and if she ever wanted to.
Eventually she would always tell him everything and of course she felt less alone then. But she'd come to hate the times she'd find herself speaking to him out loud as she saw everything unfolding in almost real-time. She always felt like she was dragging him right into it with her and though he'd told her it didn't bother him, still she didn't like to.
"I'd never hurt you like that," the Doctor said, new understanding giving a whole new level of compassion to his words. "You know that, right?"
"I...I know," River said, her voice quiet and still trembling badly, She maintained her hold on the front of his jacket as a simple attempt to move a little and sit up a bit more caused her lower leg, which she hadn't even known was injured, to send waves of pain throughout her body.
"Doctor, please help me," she mumbled in misery and fright. For the first time, she noticed the blood that covered her left arm and hand, and the bedding it was resting on. She payed closer attention and took notice of the blood that covered both knees and one foot.
"I'm trying to help you," the Doctor said. Whether he was relieved or completely filled with dread over her having gained a greater level of consciousness and reason, he was still not certain of at all himself. "I'll make this as easy for you as I can, but you have to sleep now."
Finally, tired of the struggle and the fear and the pain, River managed to give a slight nod of her head, before she started crying again. The Doctor held a small cup of some kind of blue substance to her mouth and she willingly drank it's contents after a second's hesitation and a moment of threatening panic. He gently moved her again so she was once again laying down and when she reached up with her eyes half closed, searching for a hand to hold, he took hers and held it tightly.
"It's alright," he said quietly, trying his hardest to keep the frightened young lady from panicking. "You just go off to sleep now. I'd never hurt you, but of course you must already know that. Yeah, that's right, keep your eyes closed now."
She very quickly became perfectly silent and unmoving. Her eyes were closed and she was completely asleep within only minutes, as the fast acting sedatives took full effect. The Doctor gently wiped away the tears that had nearly but not quite fallen from her eyes. He pulled himself together fast, before his own fell too, and spent a very brief moment leaning against the edge of the bed forcing his way back into his needed state of detachment. This was much simpler of course, with her asleep and not crying in pain. He backed up a couple of steps before he turned and quickly began to gather more needed supplies from a cupboard nearby.
He found himself alone with his own thoughts while he worked efficiently and as quickly as he could. He thought back to the amount of crying that River had done since she had awakened in the medbay only an hour before. She was always so prone to crying, and he knew that. It didn't bother him really. It was more or less just a case of her being her. It seemed though that at that time she had cried ever harder than she normally did over anything else. He went back to a line of thought that had gone through his head earlier on He remembered meeting River's future self several times many years before that day. The memories of her from that time should have quite logically told him that she would be alright now, and to a great extent they did tell him just that. But the River Song he had met years ago, the one of a time he had not yet lived at all was so very different from the one he had now, the one who existed in a time that matched up to his own. This one, still early into adulthood, loved to laugh at silly things and she so often grinned with joy at simple things like watching wild animals in trees. When she started laughing at much of anything, she could not easily stop herself, and much the same thing applied to crying. She knew so much of time and space, yet still like anyone at her age had so much difficulty in seeing life in a realistic way when it came to imaging her own future. Today was meant to be lived, and tomorrow was just some obscure concept that she could barely see the relevance of when it came to herself.
On the other hand though the one he had known first, due to the impossible complexities of time travel, was so much stronger and so in control of herself all the time. She knew exactly what it was she wanted, and would never have listened or doubted a thing had anyone questioned her. She thought everything over so carefully, and though she was certainly impulsive, she was never truly careless about anything. He reminded himself that that one was older and far more experienced at life in general, but still he knew it was more than that. At some point yet to happen, she had grown into someone perhaps a little too confidant, a little too strong. He had come to know her in those times just well enough to see, in hindsight that her emotional shields were built up so high and so powerfully that she must have built them up to much for fear of breaking entirely.
His young River practiced so often with weapons of so many types and from so many different eras in time. It seemed so strange a thing for an innocent and emotional girl like herself to be interested in, but somehow the use of firearms was fast becoming one of her most obvious talents. There was a serious difference however between harmless target practice on firing ranges and cold blooded killing. The young lady he knew so well would never have thought of pointing anything short of a perfectly harmless, electronic visual training gun at someone. But her future self, as he had come to see more than once, though little of shooting an enemy dead if she had to. It seemed for her, that it might have even been at times simply a means to an end.
The Doctor continued to work as quickly as he could, determined to finish completely and put her comfortably into her own bed in her room before she begun to awaken again. Her right leg was cut so badly in several places. It had been scraped against razor sharp rock-bed she must have somehow crashed against in the water. He found himself wiping away tiny fragments of the fragile rock that it seemed must have begun to shatter into bits from her impact with it under the water. Had she been awake he knew he would have caused her a horrible amount of terrible pain, and though he had to admit to having questioned himself at first about fully knocking her right out, now he was glad as ever that he had decided to do so. His instinct was to worry and protect her from anything he possibly could. For a moment he worried that even without much, if any, awareness of much of anything, she might still be in pain. Unable to shake the concern, he looked at the monitor's view screen again, but saw with relief that the monitor was not picking up any sign of distress at all. She was only sleeping very soundly.
Perhaps River's emotional sensitivity was rubbing off on him it seemed, because no sooner had be felt the relief of finding that she was still okay than he burst into a fit of tears so bad that for a moment he could only lean forward over the bed railing, which he'd earlier put up a bit in fear for her safety, and cry without even truly knowing why.
There had been a time, not all so long ago given the length of time that Time Lords could live, that he knew he would have never been able to imagine her as anything but the far to strong and much too blunt and confidant person he had once known. He could certainly never have dreamed of seeing her as a crying and shaking girl holding tightly to the front of his jacket and begging him to protect her from her own mind and her own pain. He would never have believed she could ever have asked innocently why there had to be wars and hunger, or why people had to die, or why children had to suffer for the actions of their parents, and just assume he might actually have the answers to such impossible to explain things.
He could never have imagined her that way at all, and he knew that even if he had tried to picture it, he'd have thought he certainly wouldn't be very fond of her that way all. Strangely and most surprisingly though he had come to like her so much as she was. He cried harder, trying to make his best guess at what exactly, aside from simply growing older and changing as all people tended to do over the years, it might have been that had forced her to become the person he knew she was to later become.
Lost in a million thoughts and trying so hard to keep his concentration on the very important task of caring for his companion, the Doctor worked quickly for the next couple of hours. She slept soundly that whole time and the monitor showed that she remained perfectly stable. It was only after he'd found a warm blanket to wrap around her and very carefully lifted her into his arms to carry her back to her own bedroom, that she showed signs of awakening.
"Doctor... what're ya... doin'" she mumbled sleepily and with only just enough coherence that he could barely make out what she was saying. She didn't even open her eyes for a second. She mumbled some half senseless nonsense about cold water and how silence would fall, but still her eyes were closed and her body limp and relaxed. It stood to reason that she likely couldn't feel anything at all, let alone remember much of the past hours. He hurried through the hallways, pulled open her door and very carefully lay her down on her bed.
"You go back to sleep for a while," he said quietly and with a slight but affectionate laugh over her mumbling at him. River was, as could be expected, right back to sleep again within only a few short seconds and the Doctor knew that it would be several hours before she would be able to really be able to hold onto any real wakefulness.
He looked curiously around her room, searching for something to give her to hug if she should wake up again. He simply thought that she might like to hold something soft, but much to his dismay the few odd stuffed animals that had for so long sat nearby on top of a shelf of books, had been packed away somewhere. Her room, he noticed for the first time, really did seem to contain far more in th e way of personally belongings and day to day clutter than that of any other companion he had ever known. She had been with him long enough to accumulate so much. He room still looked so much like a teenager's room, and noticing that fact he remembered that she had asked him several times in the past months alone if he could please reprogram it to something less childish. Noticing the absence of the stuffed toys and several other items he noticed gone as he looked around once more, he promised himself he would do just that when she was better again.
He backed out of the room quickly, off in a rush to go and gather things she might like once she woke up. As he worked at searching his ship for supplies, he reviewed ideas in his mind of what River's new room might look like. He didn't want to do it in a way, for he knew that deleting her still somewhat childlike room of the last seven years would somehow signal the end of her childhood and the start of what could only be something far more complicated. Yet all the same he could only think of making her as happy as he could.
More notes; Yes, it certainly does seem that River cries a lot in this one and gets scared so easily, and of course I know that's very far from her character as we know it. But she was so much younger here as well this is actually how I imagine she might once have been. Obviously her mind is a little bit unstable here to, and again I can see that as happening. Sort of some of the after effects of years of possible exposure to the Silents. Anyways, all that said... constructive criticism and reviews are as always most welcome and helpful.