Chapter 8: Some days I can't even trust myself
The longest chapter yet! Enjoy! (*slightly evil laugh*) ~ Bev

When River woke up once more, it was to the sensation of the Doctor's soft breathing against the back of her neck. It was a feeling she knew as well as the whisper of his hands against her skin or the sound of his voice when she surprised him - that beautiful, beautiful sound of pleasure and slight exasperation he breathed out along with her name when he found her somewhere he wasn't expecting to. River.

She snuggled back into him further, and his arms instinctively closed tighter around her. Her eyes fluttered closed and she had nearly drifted back to sleep when her thoughts brushed against the lurking shadow that was Sam's dormant consciousness. Suddenly the memories of yesterday's ordeal came rushing back to her - that room, blood everywhere, her hand around a knife, his cold laughter. Her entire body tensed and she bit her lip to keep from crying out. She couldn't let the Doctor know, but she had to get him out of here before Sam accumulated enough strength to overcome her again. Breathing deeply once, and then twice, she tried to slow the beating of her hearts down enough so that her words wouldn't come out in a rush. She needed to appear in control, or he would never go for it.

River rolled over to face the Doctor and called his name softly. His eyes opened and he sat up quickly, immediately reaching out to touch her shoulder and ask if she was ok. She nodded, and then jumped right in - who knew how much time she had to get him to leave?

"Doctor, I really think you should go back to ask the general more about who that device had been used on." Before he could complete his objection to the idea of leaving her alone, she continued, "I'll not leave the bed, and you needn't worry. I'll know where you've gone, and I'll be just fine. I'm feeling much better than I did yesterday - I think the whole experience was just getting to me," she lied, "but I'd like to see if we could figure out together how to get rid of whatever it is that is left up here. I like it much better when it's just the two of us," she was trying to flirt with him, which was usually her main mode of persuading the Doctor, but Sam's taunting had left her just too disturbed in that respect and she had to suppress a shudder, so she went back to straight logic. "Listen, he's the only source of information we have on this, and I don't think I can stand to go back to that room -"

He interrupted her, "No. No, I wouldn't let you." He shook his head at the situation and sighed as she stared at him. River was right, of course, this was the only way he could get anymore information to help them remove the last presence, and without any more knowledge as to the nature of the particular presence, he was stumped at the moment. He ran a hand through her hair, and though she didn't lean into it, she did close her eyes briefly before meeting his again. He was trying to will himself not to be so worried about leaving her behind. Of course he couldn't bring her back there with him, but after yesterday he couldn't shake the idea that something else had happened to her, something she wasn't telling him about. But River never held anything back from him anymore (aside from Spoilers, of course), he reminded himself. For some reason that didn't comfort him. Well, there was nothing to be done for it - no matter how much he would worry he knew this needed to be done. "Alright. I'll bring the TARDIS back there, and then I'll be out and back in a flash. Promise you'll be fine?" he asked as he stood and shrugged on his tweed.

"Promise," she said quickly, and neither of them believed her.

As soon as she heard the sound of the TARDIS landing (and it was a sign of her remaining panic that she didn't spare a thought to the fact that he'd left the brakes on again), River got out of bed and gathered up all of the restraints she could find in the medical bay. She was going to have to get Sam out herself, and until then she couldn't trust herself at all - he could control her completely, it seemed, and that was not something River was about to risk. She took stock of the pile of chains, cords, and cuffs before her and picked out several sturdy chains with keyed locks. Finding the corresponding hooks in the wall across from the bed, she used her extensive knowledge of restraints to maneuver herself into the chains, throwing the keys far across the room as she locked each set. She'd never been so happy to be tied up in her life. Finally, she could calm down slightly - at least when he took her this time there would be no risk to the Doctor, and with that worry removed, perhaps she could somehow overpower him. She hoped. Struggling against the chains, she was thoroughly satisfied by how secure they were, and she braced herself against them as she waited.

River didn't need to wait long. As she felt him stir inside her mind only a few seconds later, she gasped at how close she'd come to leaving herself unrestrained when he took over. She could feel him awake again, but he hadn't "said" anything to her yet or made any move to control her. She waited, trying to build up some sort of mental defense.

Back in the part of River's mind he'd shielded from her awareness, Sam was busy revising his plan. He had to give her credit, he hadn't anticipated that she'd manage to send the Doctor off and tie herself up while he was dormant this time. He soon realized, however, that this new situation in which he couldn't actually move River to kill the Doctor might provide him an even better opportunity to accomplish his goals of killing him off and taking over River permanently. He went over the details of his new plan, perfecting them before setting them into motion. If he carried them out properly, and of course he would, he would eliminate the problem of his still-growing strength and how it forced him into periodic dormancy. No - and now he laughed so that she could sense it - after this River would do his work for him, whether or not he was in control. And with any luck she'd go insane in the process, leaving him free reign of her body.

River heard his laugh, and it sounded frightfully triumphant as it seemed to echo all around her, and then her vision swam again. When it cleared this time, what she saw had not changed. The brief blackout must simply have been caused by Sam's awakening, because she was still in the medical bay, chained to the wall. As she began to move, she knew he had bested her yet again, seemingly without trying, since her body was no longer in her control. In what truly should have been an impossible feat, she watched as Sam somehow maneuvered her body out of the chains. She was so panicked to have lost control again - and to be somehow escaping of all things - that she simply couldn't focus enough to pay attention to the fine details of her escape. If she had, she would have seen that the chains were altered slightly from how she'd secured them. That information, in turn, could have tipped her off to what Sam was doing to her, what he was making her believe as he created a false reality for her while leaving her actual body precisely where it was. Unfortunately for River, she missed her one opportunity to see through his ruse.

The tide of panic turned to a sea of sinking dread as Sam marched her out of the room and down the hall to the bedroom she shared with the Doctor. She could feel him drawing on her mental map of the TARDIS to navigate. He went through her drawers and passed over blaster after blaster, finally settling River's hand on which her memory told him would be perfectly sufficient on the Doctor. River was frightened beyond reason. If this had been some nightmare she would certainly have woken herself up in a cold sweat by now, but as it was that was not the case. She couldn't snap out of it or even look away. Sam continued to shape the vision River believed to be reality and walked River into the console room, choosing to have the Doctor open the door to come back inside as they arrived.

The part of her brain which had gone into complete denial about the scene that was transpiring dispassionately remarked that he must have set an interrogation record to have gotten his information and come back so soon. For some reason, that struck her as the most tragic bit of all - he was rushing to his death because he was afraid for her. Not afraid of her. Had her body been hers to control, she would have wept.

As the Doctor walked in he saw River, a question about her well-being already forming in his eyes (or so Sam made it seem - he needed this to be incredibly accurate for it to work). River looked down at her right arm as Sam raised it to point her gun at the Doctor.

Two shots and it was over.

He had barely made it through the TARDIS doors, and the force of the shots to both his hearts flug him backwards out the door, his dying cry muffled as in the vision Sam closed the doors of the TARDIS behind him.

Sam thought it was a nice touch, and so, clearly did River. Even though he knew this to be only a vision, River didn't, so it seemed a waste to miss out on her suffering by keeping control over her in the vision as well. He dropped his control over her "body," and she crumpled to the ground, deathly white and silently screaming as her whole body contorted in pain, turning on itself. She was on fire with the pain of losing the Doctor - it surged along her nerve endings and left her more raw than anything she'd ever believed possible. Finally she found her voice, and an endless howl wound its way out of her body around the pain. She found herself wishing that her very life was draining out of her with that cry, but alas, it wasn't. She tried to starve herself of oxygen to make it all go away - at least she'd given him all her regenerations - but her body stubbornly gasped for air. From his protected corner of her mind, Sam watched her writhing on the floor in his created reality and put his final card into play. Her mind was ripping itself to shreds with agony right now, and he knew she would believe anything because of that, so he took his chance.

Suddenly a figure began to form beside River, and from where she lay with her eyes barely open through a field of tears, it seemed as though the figure's substance was curling out from her own head, coalescing next to her into what was quickly coming to resemble a person. She tried to clear her eyes so that she could see better, and screamed at what she saw, scrambling backwards across the console room floor. Standing in front of her in the middle of the TARDIS console room was Sam, just as she'd seen him when she was inside his body in his memory. Looking down at how she backed away from him, the figure laughed and it was Sam's voice as she was used to hearing it inside her head. She whimpered at the sound, and as she heard the pathetic, frightened sound coming from her own mouth, some part of her woke up from whatever losing the Doctor had done to it. River should not be whimpering in the presence of this monster, she should be killing him. But as she began to stand, the figure changed. His face thinned, his hair lengthened, and a bow tie appeared at his throat. Sam had morphed himself into the Doctor. She knew it was Sam, and she knew she needed to kill him, but she couldn't even stand to look at him. The horror of seeing her beloved Doctor killed and then replaced by that evil being was too much. An angry shout died in her throat and she turned to run. She only got a few steps before his hand closed around her arm, and at the feel of the Doctor's hands on her skin once more she cried out. She struggled but it was no use. As the Doctor, Sam seemed to have far greater strength than the Doctor himself. Without speaking, he dragged her back to the medical bay and locked her up in the chains again. River tried desperately to keep her head turned away from him as he maneuvered her, but it was impossible to avoid seeing him completely, and each time she glimpsed his face rage, terror and unfathomable sadness warred within her. Finally trapped against the wall, River turned her head away, pressing it into her shoulder, and then fought him as hard as she could as he put his hand against her cheek and turned her head to face him. She snarled as she was forced to look at him.

Still inside her head, the real Sam rejoiced at the opportunity before him. What an unexpected perk of this plan. He made his Sam-turned-Doctor creation lean in towards River in the vision.

He was coming towards her, and then he was kissing her. River fought him with everything she had, with every memory of the real Doctor and every bit of strength she'd gathered in years opposing Kovarian and the Silence. She bit down on his lip, but he wouldn't relent. Then her eyes darkened as she heard him somehow still inside her head, despite also being in front of her. His voice sounded incredibly pleased.

Oh River, don't stop River, it's so much better when you fight.

Hearing this, she redirected her strength to force herself to stop struggling and give into his touch. Obviously he did not enjoy this nearly as much, because he pulled away almost immediately and slapped her hard on the cheek. Her eyes went black for an instant, she assumed from the strength of his hand.

Goodbye for now, River, Sam thought as he felt his power draining away yet again, but he made sure she couldn't hear him. As he was forced to let the vision drop he had one brief instant to marvel at the perfection of what was about to occur to the real River where she was hanging limply in the chains, just about to be freed from his control.

The Doctor had returned from Stormcage to find River chained to the wall of the medical bay, presumably by her own hand, and seemingly in some sort of stupor. She wasn't exactly unconscious, as she moved occasionally, but as much as he talked, then shouted, and then even shook her she wouldn't respond to him. Armed with knowledge about the machine and the presence he had no choice to assume was now lodged inside her, he needed to wake her. He stepped back slightly and brought his hand up, shaking his head at what he was being forced to do.

He slapped River hard across the cheek and she woke up with a start. He was shocked to find her eyes full of more pain and hatred than he had ever known her to feel before.

River's vision had just barely cleared from the first slap when the Doctor slapped her again, and as she looked up, both cheeks stinging, all she saw was the face of Sam-turned-Doctor, looking at her with some sort of false concern in his horrible eyes.

Sam's plan could not have gone better if he had been controlling the real Doctor himself.