I opened the door of the TARDIS and slipped out onto the street. It was late, most houses were completely dark except for one. Amy and Rory were still awake, waiting for River to phone probably; she'd told me that she always phoned when she was away on expeditions, just to say she was safe. I stood there; I knew she wouldn't be calling tonight. Or ever. Only a few hours before I'd seen her, happy and excited for her new job at the Library, I wonder if she noticed my lack of enthusiasm? No, she was too busy making sure she had everything packed to notice my sullen mood.
So here I was, at the door of my best friends- my family- to tell them that their daughter- my wife- was dead. One thing was certain; I was not going to survive this trip.
I always thought life; real life that is, would be boring compared to adventures on the TARDIS. I was wrong though, sure I missed the running and the amazing places we went to and, I missed the Doctor. My raggedy Doctor, my imaginary friend, my son-in-law ugh, never getting used to that. I cuddled closer to Rory, laying my head on his chest as we watched the tele.
"River said she'd call tonight," I looked at the clock. Just gone half past eight, normally she called at eight, even if she was busy.
"Don't worry, she's probably got loads of work, she was really excited about this trip."
I rolled my eyes, like I didn't notice Rory glancing at the clock every five minutes. He really couldn't hide much from me. "Maybe we should call her," I picked up the phone and dialled River's number. It went straight to answer-phone which was a little odd I'll admit but I left a message anyway, "River it's me, uh, call us back when you get a chance. Love you," god I hate leaving messages, you always sound fake and it's really awkward.
This was pretty close to perfect for me, just me and Amy, no aliens trying to kill us and no waking up in the middle of the night because the Doctor was bored. The Doctor, I did miss him-mostly- except when he starts flirting with River when I'm standing right there. Not like I can say anything, they are married and really, as her Dad isn't that supposed to make me happy? And it does, don't get me wrong. I'm happy for them both and I know he'll keep River safe and bring her home for visits.
Speaking of River, she's late. Amy's worrying, always looking at the phone or her mobile just in case. I'm less worried, River can look after herself, well, most of the time she can anyway. One late phone call doesn't bother me.
"Amy, you don't need to worry. River's fine."
She shook her head, "I don't know Rory. Can't you feel it?"
"Feel what?" All I could feel was the warmth from the fire.
"Something's wrong, I think it's something to do with River."
"Well, she is our daughter," I joked, trying to calm my wife down, "has anything ever been normal for us?"
She slapped my shoulder and I frowned, Amy was really worried about this.
"Hey, why don't I phone the Doctor? Would that help? He knows where River is."
"Yeah." Amy nodded weakly and handed me the phone. I was just about to dial when there was a knock on our door, Amy went to get up but I stopped her, "I'll go, might just be a neighbour."
As I approached the door I shivered. Now I felt it. Something was terribly wrong and I had a feeling our visitor wouldn't be bringing good news.
I could see a silhouette through the glass, Rory. I fought the urge to run away, they deserved the truth, deserved to know what happened, what always happened, to the people I love.
"Doctor?" Rory smiled and ushered me in, "I was just about to phone you." I couldn't even muster up a smile and he frowned, "are you alright?"
"Oh Rory," I rested my hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eye, "I have something to tell you and Amy." I saw him go through several emotions, mostly confusion then anger and finally fear.
"Doctor, is this about River? Where is she? Is she ok?"
"In the living room but, Doctor what's going on?" he held me back with his arm, pleading with me to answer him but I couldn't.
"Rory, let's go and sit down with Amy. I'll tell you everything when we're all together."
He frowned, fear still in his eyes but I held his gaze until he gave up and we walked into the cozy living room. Amy was on the long sofa and she looked up as Rory and I entered,
"Doctor!" she smiled and got up to hug me, I half-heartedly hugged her back, I just couldn't pretend like nothing was wrong, not now when it felt like my hearts were being snapped in half by my guilt.
"Doctor, what's wrong?" Oh Amy, Amelia Pond. I could never really hide my emotions from you.
"Sit down Amy, you too Rory."
They sat together on the sofa and I sat opposite them in one of the armchairs. They both looked scared now, maybe my odd behaviour had clued them in to what I was about to reveal. I took a deep breath and looked at them, I couldn't break eye contact, now wasn't the time for hiding.
"Amy, Rory," I began, "River went to the Library. It's a planet, and it's been closed for a long time. River's team went there to find out why and they did. But there was something else there, and River called for my help but got a younger me, a me that didn't know who she was. The only way to save the people that were trapped was to use a living mind as a link so that the computer could download them all safely." I paused, letting what I had told them so far sink in. "I was going to plug myself in, I knew I wouldn't survive but it was the only way. But River had her own ideas, she knocked me out cold and when I came round again she'd handcuffed me to a pipe and plugged herself in. Her mind was burnt up, there was nothing I could do." My voice broke on the last sentence but I held back the tears that threatened to spill down my cheeks. Amy and Rory were silent. For a few minutes the only sound was our breathing, and then Amy got up. I watched as she waked towards me calmly, letting no hint of emotion pass across her face. Her eyes, blank and cold, stared into mine but I didn't move, whatever she was going to do I deserved for putting her through this.
The crack of her hand against my cheek was so loud in the quiet room that it left my ears ringing and I watched as she walked outside without even bothering to say a word. I finally dropped my gaze to the floor and let the tears flow, not even caring what Rory thought of me as I sat there. I'd broken their hearts, ruined their family and now all I could do was cry.
I leant over the sink, my hair falling to shield me from any unwanted visitors. She was dead then. River, my daughter, my baby who was stolen from me, was gone and I could never see her again. And he just thought he could sit there and talk like he always did, like it didn't even affect him. Except it did, he was heartbroken and I knew it but I didn't care, still don't. What's the point in feeling anything right now? I hardly ever saw River; she was too busy flying around with him, not a thought for me and Rory back here. I felt tears run down my face and drip into the sink, silent tears. The type of tears you cry when you can't help it.
I couldn't go back into that room, not while he was still there. I knew that if I went back then the Doctor wouldn't be alive, he didn't save her, wouldn't save her so why the hell should I just accept that? What did he expect me to do? Comfort him? Say that it wasn't his fault? No. It was his fault, all of it. This isn't just any person he condemned to death. This is my daughter and he knows how much it hurts that I never really raised her. I could never protect her from the bad things in the world as she grew up, could never do all the mother-daughter activities I'd read about. No. All I could do was wait. Wait for the days when River decided on a whim to visit, only for her to leave again a few hours later.
"This isn't fair," I clenched my fist against the cool steel of the sink, "my baby." I sobbed, wishing for it all to be undone, for River to appear in the doorway like she always did, but she wouldn't. Not this time. Not ever again.
I couldn't look at him. Couldn't look at the man who had just announced my daughter's death and now sat sobbing opposite me. I felt tears burn my own eyes but I held them back, I don't know why I didn't just let go, let go of all the pain I felt at his words. The door in my mind that concealed all my knowledge of two thousand years of being the Lone Centurion looked very inviting. I knew that the instructions on how to hack someone to pieces were hidden behind it but I also knew that I wasn't thinking rationally. Killing the Doctor wouldn't bring River back, no matter how much I wanted to at that moment. Just seeing visions of his blood staining my sword, the carpet, soaking into the material even as the life drained from his eyes. I shook the thoughts away and finally looked at him.
He was staring at the floor, shaking with silent tears that dripped steadily onto the carpet. He looked as though it was all over. And it was. Though Amy and I never raised River, she was still our daughter. Though the Doctor never met River in the right order, she was still his wife. River was so important to all of us and now that she was gone we were all at a loss. I got up and walked towards the Doctor. He didn't seem to notice my approach until I stood in front of him.
"Rory," he didn't look up at me but I heard his voice catch on my name.
"Doctor, can't you save her?" my own voice was hoarse and I choked back the tears that still threatened to spill. He shook his head,
"Promised who?" I tried to keep my anger in check but it was hard. I could easily snap his neck and he wouldn't fight me, not in the mood he was in.
"River. I promised her, she made me promise, not to re-write the timeline." He stumbled over his explanation and I felt my shoulders sag. Of course, who else would he honour a promise to?
"Why?" I knew he didn't know but I still had to ask.
"I don't," he broke off as a new wave of sobs hit him. I stood awkwardly, not knowing what to do in this sort of situation. He wiped his eyes hastily,
"I don't know why."
I sighed, "Can you take us to see her? There in the Library. We need to see her and say goodbye."
He nodded glumly, "yes, I can take you to see her and Rory?" I turned back to face him, "I'm sorry, for everything." His eyes were still wet from the tears and I nodded once. I couldn't answer him. What good was 'sorry' when my daughter was dead?
"Amy, he's going to take us to say goodbye."
I stood in the living room, waiting for Amy and Rory to follow me back to the TARDIS so that I could take them to say goodbye. I could hear them talking quietly, Amy was resisting of course, Rory was trying his best to hold it together but I could hear the hurt in his voice. He wanted closure; Amy just didn't want to believe it.
"Alright, take us there." Direct, to the point. I nodded and started walking back, very aware of the tense, awkward silence between us. It seemed to take hours to get there, even though it was only a few minutes in reality, Amy and Rory hadn't spoken since we left the house and I didn't dare say a word to either of them.
In the TARDIS the only sound was the faint hum of the engines; I'd taken the breaks off, in respect of River's piloting and so that we could land with minimal fuss from my previous self. Amy and Rory stayed by the door, putting as much distance between me and them as they could. It hurt, I knew why they did it but I couldn't deny how alone I felt at that moment. I missed the sound of us all talking and laughing, days when River would team up with Amy to annoy me. I felt tears prick my eyes again and blinked them away before I broke down again. I needed to be strong.
"We're here. River is, she's outside." I didn't look at them, didn't even look up from the console until I heard the door open and close again as they left. I'd give them time to say their goodbyes before saying mine.
She looked so peaceful, as if she was sleeping. I walked up to her and undid the bun so that her hair fell back into its naturally curly mess before gently cradling her cheek.
"River," I choked, holding back the tears, "it's me. I know you can't hear me but I just want you to know how much I love you." I stopped, her eyes flickered open slightly and she groaned,
"Mother? What are you doing here?"
"You're alive?" The Doctor lied to us, again!
"Not for much longer I'm afraid," River smirked weakly, still trying to act as though nothing was wrong even though she was dying.
"River, why did you do this?" I couldn't help the tears now. I was holding my daughter as she lay dying in my arms. Was this really what my life had become?
"I had to, mother, if he died here then he would never have met you and I wouldn't have been born. I had to do it, to preserve the time lines."
"Damn the time lines!" I frowned, "I don't care about that, I care about you."
She smiled, "Mother, I'm glad you're here and that I got a chance to say goodbye."
"No," I whispered, "no please River, don't die."
"I'm afraid I can't stop that now." She reached up to take the contraption that was strapped to her head off but I stopped her,
"Let me," I gently lifted it before flinging it onto the floor. This was not meant to happen. I couldn't watch my little girl die.
I stood just outside the TARDIS, letting Amy have her moment with River before I went over.
"Father dear," River called, her voice weak. I walked over and stood next to Amy, seeing River lying there was breaking my resolve and all the tears I'd held back started to flow.
"River," I knelt next to her so that I could look her in the eye. "You are the most wonderful daughter I could ever imagine, and I'm assuming there's a good reason for you doing this?" I tried to smile but failed. River laughed a little,
"I'm making sure I'm born," she rolled her eyes, "again," she added.
"Well I don't approve," I said. I didn't, not when it meant her death.
"I knew you wouldn't," she winced and Amy and I rushed forward, both supporting her as she held back the pain.
"Where is he?" she asked us.
"In there," I nodded towards the TARDIS, "he didn't even look up when we came out here."
"Idiot," she said fondly, "can you call him for me?" I didn't move and she smiled, "please, Dad?"
I sighed and nodded before getting up and walking to the door.
"Doctor? River wants to talk to you." I shouted, not that I wanted him out here. It was his fault that this was happening and I couldn't help the hate I felt for him at that moment. He appeared at the door, looking scared and hopeful all at once. I motioned for Amy to come and stand next to me, give the man some privacy while he said his own goodbyes.
I stood in front of River, she looked beautiful, always did no matter what. She watched me with her trademark smirk but her eyes were dimmer than usual and I knew there wasn't much time left.
"Sweetie," she smiled at me and I gave a weak smile back, "why do you have to be so damn stubborn." She shook her head. "Thank you my love, for letting me say goodbye. And I want you to know something." I didn't trust my voice so I nodded for her to continue. "I love you, and none of this is your fault." I was about to argue but she held up a hand. "My love, you can't change this, can't you feel it? This has to happen, it's a fixed point."
"God dammit River I don't care!" I finally found my voice, "there's a way to save you, there has to be."
"Oh Doctor, don't you remember what happened last time we decided to break the rules?"
"Of course I remember River! That was our wedding day."
"Then you know why you have to let this happen. Unless of course you want to spend the rest of our lives unable to touch each other," I didn't smile at her joke, "Sweetie, I've had a wonderful life with you but we both know that everything ends. This is my time."
I sighed and she reached for my hand. "Mum, Dad. Come here." I felt Amy and Rory come to stand beside me and River looked at us all,
"I have had the best family anyone could ever imagine. I've got the best parents and the most wonderful husband, and I can't change any of it. I wouldn't want to even if I could. Mum, Dad, it isn't his fault, it's my choice so don't blame him. Sweetie, do you understand that? Don't blame yourself for this, it isn't your fault." She smiled at us, "I love you all, so very much." And then she was gone.
The three of them stood there, around River's body.
"We need to bury her Doctor," Rory said, holding onto Amy's hand tightly as she cried. The Doctor didn't say a word, he just lifted River into his arms and they walked back into the TARDIS. The funeral was short, just the three of them, and afterwards the Doctor dropped Amy and Rory back home for the last time.
"Goodbye Doctor. Be careful." The Doctor shook Rory's hand and hugged Amy one last time before leaving.
It was the last time either of them ever saw him again.