A/N: I usually write Eleven/River fics, but this one wrote itself and turned out to be more about the made-family (Nakama) than about just the two of them. Thanks as always to Snowy Ashes and beverlymaldoran for their invaluable beta-ing and encouragement.
The Doctor was furious with his wife. Not the Sexy Thing wife (although really, they were both pretty sexy after all), but the mostly-human wife, the younger one.
The one he was furious with most often.
Because the blue box wife, although she was capricious and went her own way and often dragged him across the universe willy-nilly to where he was needed, she almost never put herself in danger. Certainly not just for the thrill of it as his other wife was wont to do. His other wife - oh all right, River - put herself in danger on a regular basis. She seemed to find it exciting and fun - and while a little part of him enjoyed the chase and the running, and a bigger part of him really enjoyed the flirting with River in the face of danger - she was (probably) in danger, so he was furious with her.
Because she had gone into danger deliberately. Without him to back her up. He hated when she did that. And she did it a lot.
So here he and his other wife - the non-biped one - were, charging to River's rescue. Again. Not that she usually needed rescuing as such, but she seemed to appreciate it when he came along to open locked doors and make long and dramatic speeches and work out how to get the Bad Guys to kill themselves rather than having to shoot them. Except when she preferred to shoot them herself, as she sometimes did, but then she liked having him along for the flirting. So why didn't she just call him before she went into one of these situations, so he could be there for the beginnings as well as the ends? Yes, yes, spoilers, but if they were all that spoilery, would the Old Girl bring him to her in those times and places, since she took him where he needed to be or where he was needed? No, scratch that, that's rubbish, of course she would - to her time was all of a piece and so there were no spoilers. Or are. Or would be. Or something.
He sighed, fingers on the controls, flipping them around with a little snap of irritation that was unusual for him. He felt his blue-box-wife grumbling in the back of his mind and he forced himself to relax. It wasn't her fault that River sent for them in this peremptory way, after ignoring their existence when they wanted to go with her. Just send a note by psychic paper, a note saying effectively oops, in over my head honey, please rescue. Not like she could oh, say, ask him to come along in the first place, oh no, that would be polite. The Old Girl grumbled in the back of his mind again, and he got the impression she wanted him to re-read the note. Oh, fine.
I'm sorry, my love, but I'm stuck. That was all the note said, plus the coordinates, but suddenly it struck him that "I'm stuck." was awfully terse and succinct and... and not-flirty for River.
Now he was not only angry, he was fretting. What in the universe had she gotten herself into now? When the TARDIS materialised and opened her doors, then shut them again before he could leave, his hearts sank. What did Sexy Thing want him to do? He looked around the console room and saw... oh no, a big human-issue first-aid kit, circa World War II. Very not good. Oh my River, he thought despairingly, what's happened? Sexy Thing knew things - he assumed because she saw the future and the past as one thing - and if she went to the trouble of providing him with a first aid kit, then River - or someone, ideally anyone but River, except Amy or Rory or, oh never mind that, that's rubbish - needed help.
The Doctor took the kit, and the TARDIS opened the doors again. To a strange planet; he'd never been here before. He edged through the door, holding the first-aid kit before him like a shield, and hopped experimentally. Oooh... heavy gravity here, he thought, maybe half-again as much as Earth-normal. Good air, though, plenty of oxygen... must be very small to have such pull with the same kind of atmosph... wait. Strike that, not important at the moment. Think, Time Lord, focus! He took a deep breath and thought fleetingly that yes, the air here really was quite... there he went again. Find River, he scolded himself, that's the important thing. He began to scan the area.
It really was remarkably Earth-like aside from the gravity; that showed in how heavy he felt and how short and spread-out the trees were. The TARDIS had parked herself at the foot of a hill - like a short mountain, really, and there appeared to be... was it a cave entrance? He poked his head back inside the TARDIS. "In the cave, Old Girl?" he shouted, and felt a wash of agreement in the back of his mind. "All right, Sexy Thing," he called, "Be right back, hopefully with River." He turned on his sonic, aiming it like a torch, and headed into the cave mouth.
He had to duck his head to enter (although not by much; River would have been able to get in easily, and she wasn't that much shorter than he, in fact when they kissed and she was wearing those heels she liked so much they were exactly the same height, they fit together so well, but he just looked taller because he was so thin. Not as thin as his Tenth Regeneration had been, but thin enough, and his legs and especially his arms were so long that they made him look taller than he was, and... FOCUS!), but it opened up as soon as he was past the entrance, giving him comfortable headroom. It was in fact very dark, and he was grateful for the sonic screwdriver, no matter how much his friends mocked it. He shone it forward as he turned a corner... and stopped in his tracks, transfixed by the scene before him.
It was a dark, roughly circular room, cut into the rock, about twelve metres across. And the floor was positively littered with them, the Silents, all dead. There were a few bodies of the Church Clerics in full battle gear interspersed among the dead aliens. In the middle of the floor was a pit four or so metres in diameter, and the Doctor approached it cautiously, prodding a few Silents with his toe to make sure they weren't just shamming. They weren't. As he got close to the centre, he heard a faint noise, as of someone breathing harshly, and he leapt over the remaining bodies to shine the sonic into the pit.
It was River, half-sitting, half-lying in the bottom of the pit. Another Silent - this one dead too - lay near her. The pit wasn't all that deep, really, perhaps three metres or so, but too deep for her to get herself out under high gravity, especially if she was hurt. He looked closer. She was hurt. Her clothes were torn or... were those burn marks? A slow rage began to build in him as he realized what the Silents had done to her. They'd used their electrical discharge, not all at once to kill her and have done with it, no... they had been playing with her, like cats with a mouse, torturing her as they had when she was a child. There was a red haze over everything in the room and the part of him that was still able to form coherent thought noted that he'd never actually seen red before. He had to shake his head several times and clear his throat before he could trust himself to speak. "River?"
She looked up at him from her position down in the pit, relief and pain in equal measure on her face. "Hello, Sweetie," she whispered.
And fainted dead away.
Oh no, oh no, oh no, he thought frantically, How can I help her? Oh, right, first aid kit, must be something for burns in there, or Sexy wouldn't have had me take it. Sexy! Old Girl, I need your help, how can I... he realised dimly with one part of his mind that he was running out of the cave, while the other part of his mind gibbered at him to go back, go back to River. Shut up! he told the gibbering part of his mind, we have to send Sexy Thing for help!
The Doctor reached the entrance to the cave, leaned out, saw that the TARDIS' doors were still open, and shouted, "River's hurt! Get help! And... rope. And a hurt-person-lifting... thingy. What are you waiting for, Sexy? Hurry!" And he dashed back into the depths of the cave as he heard the welcome vroop vroop sound of the TARDIS dematerialising. He vaulted over the last of the bodies on the floor and stopped at the edge of the hole where he had dropped the first aid kit, shining the sonic torch onto River's pale and unconscious face. Green is not her color, thought that dispassionate part of his mind, and he eased himself and the kit over the edge, carefully so as not to land on her in the confined space.
He knelt carefully by her prone form and opened the first aid kit. Ah, he thought, a not-green torch. He snapped it on and noticed with relief that she didn't look quite so battered under yellow-white light as she did under green. He patted the sonic apologetically and tucked it into his pocket. Right, he thought, first aid now, worry about everything else later. He lifted her eyelids gently and looked into her eyes by torchlight. Responsive pupils, good, but then why is she unconscious? He shone the torch down her limbs and her torso, checking for extensive bleeding. None he could see, but he didn't want to move her to check; he knew enough about (mostly) human physiology to know he could hurt her worse that way. The torchlight traveled down her body and her left leg and then he saw it. The leg was bent unnaturally between knee and ankle. He winced; in his experience broken bones hurt. A lot. He used the medical shears in the kit to carefully cut her trouser leg away from the injury and shuddered sympathetically. Not only was it broken, but it was already knitting itself back together. Probably the Time Lord DNA, thought that irritatingly calm bit of his mind, we'll have to set it now, before it heals all wrong.
The Doctor closed his eyes for a moment, bracing himself for what he had to do. He gently laid his forehead against River's and thought as well as whispered, "I'm so sorry, my River, so so sorry. There isn't another way. Please forgive me." And he moved his hands down and set the broken bone.
When she screamed, the tears started pouring down his face, but his hands remained steady as he splinted and wrapped the injured leg. He didn't dare touch her burns, and they were all over her body, so he couldn't do what he longed to - comfort her by gathering her into his arms. He could touch her face, though, and he did just that, taking it between his hands, babbling apologies and explanations - "I'm so sorry, River, I had to do it, I had to, the bones were knitting and I had to set them so they wouldn't heal crookedly. I didn't wantto hurt you, please forgive me, please, and oh River, I am so sorry, I never meant to hurt you, I-" He broke off as she put one hand shakily to his lips and he leaned closer to hear her whisper.
"It hurts. I... help me, please." Her hand dropped weakly from his mouth; the effort had exhausted her. But she didn't pass out again.
"Right, yes, let's see what we have in the kit..." he muttered as he rummaged in it. "Can you tell me what drugs you can have that might help? That are safe for you?" She managed a nod. "Aspirin?" She shook her head. "Right, right, bleeding... River! Are you bleeding?" She shook her head again, gestured weakly at a burn. "Oh. Okay." Remain calm, Time Lord, he told himself, If you go all hazy-red-fury on her, it'll scare her. She doesn't need that just now. "Right, morphine?" She nodded, a bit doubtfully. "You're not sure?"
"Very little," she croaked, "Need to function. Penicillin too." Her voice was getting stronger now that the sudden agony of her leg being set had subsided to an almost-bearable level. "Burns infect... easily, even for me. Any... burn ointment?" He nodded and retrieved all the necessary items, tears still in his eyes but no longer falling. He was keeping his anger tightly controlled and if she had been more alert she would have seen the muscle jumping in his jaw as he clenched his teeth. But she didn't and at this point he was grateful, because he did not want her to see him like this. If she hadn't already killed them all with the help of the Clerics, he'd have been up there murdering each and every one of them, with his bare hands if necessary, and he would have gloried in the slaughter. Killing the Clerics he could understand, it was a them-or-us thing, even killing River... though he was not at all sure he could even recover from such a thing - he shuddered at the very thought - but at least it would have been comprehensible. But hurting her, torturing her... that was unacceptable. Hurting River Song, just for the sick pleasure it gave them... that was intolerable.
So he would not tolerate it.
But first he needed to get her stable, and get her safe, and then he would worry about hunting down every last Silent left in the universe and killing it. Slowly. So he shoved the red haze back until he could smile encouragingly at River as he dressed the burns and gave her the pills and supported her head while she took them. Dressing the burns was painful for her - and for him - and she was crying weakly by the time he was done, and he stroked her hair out of her face and crooned apologies to her, over and over, until the painkillers hit her system and she relaxed.
They were sitting there like that - him smoothing her hair back and murmuring to her, her head in his lap, the body of the Silent at her feet - when he heard the faint vroop vroop of the TARDIS materialising outside the cave. He considered getting up to lead the rescuers to them, but having just gotten River comfortable, he chose to stay where he was. They'd follow the path of dead Silents to the pit. He wondered briefly who the Old Girl had gotten to come, but then his question was answered by the voice of one Rory Williams, his friend, sometimes his humany conscience, and by some weird and timey wimey concatenation of events his father-in-law.
"What in the hell happened here?"