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Chapter 7

The Doctor slowly opened his eyes to the glowing sunrise and sounds of the waves. He was still lying on the shores of Melody Island. Everything was perfect here, from the sun, to the sand, to River beside him. Now he smiled to himself as he reached out to pull her closer to him. However, all he felt was sand.

His eyes snapped open, and he was immediately on his feet, wide awake. "River?" he called. No reply. The TARDIS was still there, so she was still on the island somewhere. He walked over to the little blue box and opened the door. "River, are you in there?" Once again, there was no reply.

But he wasn't going to worry yet. The Doctor closed his eyes, forcing himself to calm down. After all, he had inspected this island before. There was absolutely nothing dangerous about it. He scanned the ocean, hoping that she may have just gone for a little swim, but he was only trying to persuade himself. By now he knew that there was only one place she could be. Turning to the jungle behind him, he set off.

This wasn't exactly a very big island, so she couldn't have gotten very far. At this point, he was still able to remain calm by telling himself that she just wanted to explore, that's all. Then it hit him. There hadn't been any footprints. They were barefoot in the sand; if she had gone anywhere, there would have been footprints, but there weren't.

Now he gave up all attempts at staying calm. He found himself running as fast as he possibly could through the jungle without running into trees. After only a few seconds, he saw her. She was lying in a heap on the jungle floor. He paused only for a moment out of pure shock, then he was running towards her.

On inspection, the Doctor found that she was still breathing, and her hearts were beating normally. All of the signs said that she was completely normal, as if nothing had happened.

Carefully, he shook her awake. At first, she looked straight at the Doctor, a look of pure happiness on her face. However, as she began to take in her surroundings, that happiness turned to confusion. "How did we get here?" she asked sleepily.

The Doctor was still a little worried, but he wasn't going to show it. "You must have sleep-walked. It took me a while to find you." As he explained this to her, he was trying to convince himself at the same time.

River was still confused. As far as she knew, she'd never sleep-walked before. The Doctor's story didn't exactly make sense, but she could see the sliver of doubt and worry hidden behind his eyes, so she didn't press the matter. "Well this has been fun, but I think I'm ready for another life-threatening adventure now," she smiled.

The Doctor was relieved that she seemed to be just fine, so he helped her up and led her back to the TARDIS. Once they were inside, he bounded up to the controls. "So where to now? Anywhere in particular?"

"Let's do something fun like a war zone or a crashing ship," she said enthusiastically.

The Doctor smirked. "One mutinous crashing ship coming right up." He pulled the lever and sent them whooshing through the vortex.

River sat down on the captain's chair and began to fiddle with her gun. He took this opportunity to scan her the same way he used to scan Amy when she was pregnant. After looking at River lovingly, he turned his attention to the monitor.

At first, he thought the machine was broken. Being the mechanical genius he was, he tried to fix it by banging on the side. Strangely, that didn't seem to help. Now, he began to run more complex and in-depth scans, which all came up with the same result—a result that was all too familiar. The monitor was showing the same readings it had when he had scanned Amy.

After his suspicions were confirmed, the Doctor became absolutely pale. Inside, he was positively screaming, but on the outside he forced himself to wear a brave face for River's sake. However, he should have known that she could see right through him.

She looked up from polishing her gun to see a strange expression on his face. "Sweetie, is something the matter?"

He couldn't just tell her flat out; she would be terrified. "Er . . . no, nothing at all. Everything is fine."

Of course, when he said this, River knew he was absolutely not fine. "Just tell me. You know I'll find out sooner or later anyway."

The Doctor sighed. She was absolutely right. "Okay, just first promise me that no matter what, you know I'll save you," he began hesitantly.

River's expression now turned to worried confusion. "What do you mean?"

"I mean I need you to know that no matter how long it takes or how far I have to travel or how many planets I have to go through, I will always, always come for you. Please tell me you believe that." His voice was pleading, desperate. He was finding it hard to restrain the note of worry in his tone.

This same note was causing River to panic slightly. "Yes, yes, I know. Now tell me what this is all about."

"Don't panic."

"How can you expect me not to panic when you say things like this?" She was now practically yelling.

The Doctor took her hand and pulled her into a long, loving kiss that she returned gratefully. But then he pulled back. "River, you didn't sleep walk. Someone took you."

"What do you mean? I'm right here. How could someone have taken me?" She was definitely panicking.

"I'm sorry, but this is just your consciousness. Your body is somewhere else, and that means—"

"So is our baby," she finished, her eyes growing wider.

The Doctor kissed her again before stepping back to move away from her. "I'm so sorry for this, but it has to be done. Remember, I will find you. I always find you." The worry had now turned to tears that he couldn't keep back.

The worst part was seeing the terrified look on River's face as she closed her eyes and prepared to be disintegrated. Even though he knew she was only flesh right now, he couldn't help but hesitate before pressing the button on his screwdriver. As soon as he did, though, the flesh fell to the ground in its natural form.

The Doctor sank to his knees, tears now freely flowing down his cheeks. This had all been a little too real for him. At least now he knew what River must have been feeling as the suit forced her to shoot him at Lake Silencio.

He had never felt so small or helpless before. He didn't know where to go or even where to begin. All he knew was that River was gone, and he had promised to find her. He was willing to die before breaking that promise.

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