Anything that can be remembered can be brought back.
He tries always to remember her, he clings to that.
He keeps her things where she left them in the TARDIS. They weren't lost when time was rewritten without her, as the TARDIS exists in all timelines at once. The old girl remembers her, too, because she wants to. River Song gave her life to seal the cracks in the universe, but he doesn't think that's the way their story is supposed to end.
He's an idiot in her absence and reckless as an Earth day is short. It's losing Rose again, losing Donna; forsaking poor Martha and saying goodbye—one last time—to his Sarah Jane. He expected to have centuries with River; he didn't get even one.
Within a year, he dies without her and becomes someone new. The fire still burns but is tempered by the psychic block that separates one regeneration from another. He misses her desperately in moments of silence and inactivity; he survives through distraction and wonder. The man he is now makes friends and takes on companions—Amelia Pond, miraculous and impossible as she is, and the man who adores her—whom he grows to love. They are his friends, his new best mates and he guards them with his life while showing them the universe. He has nearly managed to forget when it happens, the next terrible thing: Rory Williams is wiped from existence.
It shouldn't have happened; the cracks should have been gone. His lady Time was lost to the cause and the Doctor rages at the idea that her loss was in vain. Amy doesn't know why she cries, though her Doctor does. He rages at a universe that would be so cruel as to give them all they had and take it away. But Amy doesn't remember, so he rages quietly.
The TARDIS is of a mind to do what she likes while he broods and finds them materializing hush soft within the gallery of Liz X's Royal Collection. Grief would keep him inside despite his fondness for mischief, yet she pushes him out, pulsing forcefully until his graceless feet go. He wanders into the darkness, heedful of his ship's telepathic prodding. There's something she believes he needs to see, he can only obey.
He feels the pull of the painting separate from his TARDIS' demand. He's met the man, the legend, the painter Vincent Van Gogh and would know his work anywhere regardless. It is his ship depicted, what remains of her in the moment of her decimation and it is his wife, waiting at her open doors, serene in the knowledge that all life ends, even hers. There are symbols beneath Vincent's signature, coordinates that ring blindingly familiar despite their anonymity. He doesn't take the painting—he and the Queen have not been on the best of terms for some time, he shan't risk it—but he does note the location. Things that can be remembered can be retrieved and he doesn't think it too much to hope.
They make their way to Britain in the Roman Age, safe under the banner of Civus Romanus sum. It is the only thing that keeps them safe in their oddity of dress and behaviour. They are Romans, they must be, for they are here; thus, they will be safe. Cleopatra is impressed by the Doctor's intellect but seems to find his conversation wanting. After all, he is no Marcus Antonius. Amy is distracted by the Centurions and the Doctor keeps a careful eye on her to ensure she doesn't become some adventuresome young Roman's war prize. It's not long since Boudica's era and Titian beauty remains both coveted and feared. He doesn't doubt that with her temper she could easily be taken for a direct descendant of the warrior queen herself.
In his pursuit of the oddity which has dragged him to this time, he nearly forgets why he came. It is only the earnest expression on a face forgotten by the universe that wakes him. He is tired and old and lost, and for once the Doctor doesn't mean himself. Rory Williams stands before him in the armour of a Centurion with scars and sword to match. He is an old friend, he is a new man, he is hope, and the Doctor hugs him tightly, his old companion, because he never forgot.
He nearly asks how but knows that the even the admirably well-read nurse from Leadworth wouldn't have the faintest clue what to say. The Doctor is the most intelligent being in the universe and he hasn't the faintest, either. Their reunion is marred only by Amelia's exasperated sigh and Rory's fear. She doesn't remember him and he doesn't know how to go un-remembered.
"Protect her," the Doctor advises. "If she can remember anything, she can remember how that feels." Amy wanders out, oblivious. Sometimes, it seems that without Rory she has forgotten half her senses. The Roman wanders out behinds her, as devoted in nonexistence as he was as part of her existence.
The Doctor rubs his ancient, new face, strangled by the recollection of that love. Nearly one hundred years of his own makes the sight of young lovers burn. He wears new skin and functions at the behest of fresh hearts, but his devotion remains the same. He wants her back.
He is following a trail his sonic picks up towards the mountains when he hears what can only be called a war cry. It is high yet guttural, undeniably the yell of a female of the species enraged. The Doctor knows too much of the work of the Romans to stand idly by. There are atrocities he cannot view for want of interference, but there are certain things he can do. Feet that were clumsy become certain and nimble. He follows the shouting, ignoring the soldiers that follow him, too. They can be dealt with but a life once ended cannot be saved.
The soldier he sees is half-clothed and kneeling on the ground outside a rough hut that the Doctor little doubts acts as a gaol. A woman stands above him with a gladius raised high above his head. She is dirty and panting, faded ginger hair hanging in limp curls down her back. She is nearly naked, surely bleeding, and furious. The shouting comes next and while the Doctor understands, he nearly doesn't believe.
"You will not lay with my daughters again. If you attempt it, your life will be forfeit at my hand."
The words he believes to be sure, history bears them out, but the voice…It matters not the language, nor the content, he would recognize River Song in an entirely new body, never mind an old century with an ancient, glorious name.
"You would challenge me, woman," the fallen Centurion sneers with all the disdain due a prisoner of war. She brings the hilt of the sword down hard on his disdainful pate and he slumps insensible into the dirt. Her sneer is superior.
"I am Boudica, queen of the noble Iceni. Of course I challenge you."
This is the woman he reveres.
Around him the Romans make reluctant gestures toward their swords. The Doctor realizes with dawning amusement that they're afraid. This woman stands before them in wait, her weapon of opportunity easy in hand and her expression promising ten-fold revenge for whatever they deal her. There is no question that she's good for it. None of them are eager to be the first to rush toward certain death; the Doctor can only agree. He raises his hands carefully and moves to separate himself from the potentially hostile forces. This would be the worst possible moment for misunderstanding.
"Hello," he starts, finding himself unsure what to say now that his prayers have been answered. She follows him with her senses though not with her eyes; those remain with the majority, skewering them with a constant gaze of rebellion and daring. They will not come; it's only a matter of their admitting as much and retreating in defeat.
They do so silently, dipping their heads in grudging respect as they go. Finally, it is merely the two of them and the unconscious man who neither chooses to concern themselves with overmuch. If he acts foolishly upon waking, he will die: the Doctor has no doubt that his breaths are numbered.
"Hello," he says again more softly, coaching himself to remain patient while she begins to regard him carefully. She is not a stoic woman, her curiosity and, dare he say, hope written in her eyes plain for him to see.
"I…We…I." She scowls in frustration, clears her throat, and tries again, "We was—were, home?" The words won't come and she kicks the supine man in futility. She's begging him to understand the way he always had. He strides toward her, intent on taking her into his arms, but she backs away, eyes wide in fear. He stops, hurt.
She moves protectively in front of the entrance to the hut. "Don't. Please." The plea is hard-won and hard-felt. She thinks I would…but I would never…He knows the indignities visited upon her daughters and tries not to feel wounded to be numbered among those prospective offenders.
"I won't hurt them. I won't go near them, I promise."
"Me, then." It isn't a question. When she goes to undress herself of what rags still cling to her, he flushes more from anger than from any interest. She is more than half-starved, it breaks his hearts.
"No!" he shouts, then moderates himself as she startles, tightening her fist around the hilt of her sword. "No. No, please, I don't want…this. Not like this. Don't you remember me?"
A brief shake of the head is her response. He rakes his fingers through his ridiculous hair wondering how she could have forgotten him so quickly. Rory still remembers Amy; it is obviously possible to remember one's life after being launched into a crack in the universe. How could she have forgotten?
His mind is racing when he notices her approaching slowly out of the corner of his eye. She comes on silent, bare feet. The sword has found a home tucked into back of the worn tunic that barely covers her chest. He can see the scars and Iceni tribal markings inked deep into her flesh mingling across the planes of her underfed stomach and sinewy hips. A glyph of tangential circles orbits her navel, the Gallifreyan word for 'Joy.' That hadn't existed in their time together.
"You remember our language but not me?"
He cautiously extends his hand toward the mark to indicate his meaning. She sucks in a breath as his fingers begin to trace the tattoo.
"Joy. Something made you happy and you wanted to commemorate that with this mark." He drops to his knees to look up at her. He doesn't see any fear there, only what he feels inside. Curling his fingers about her waist, he adorns the glyph with a reverent kiss. "Joy. You came back to me and you've brought me joy."
She strokes a single finger down his cheek. "Joy," she says. He turns absently toward the touch that is lightning to his deprived skin. Somehow, he's forgotten what a caress from her can do. Somehow, he's forgotten much. But he remembers now. Keeping his eyes trained on hers, lest he rouse her fear anew, he reaches into his coat pocket for the trinket he is never without. The fob watch is battered and bruised the way she is; yet, just the same, it thrums with life.
"This is yours." He offers it to her, feeling shy as the day she proposed.
Gaze flickering between his eyes, she lifts her head in curiosity and takes hold of the heavy, vibrating timepiece. "Mine?" Her old tongue comes easier now that her memories are close at hand. He finds he has all the patience for it, now that he, too, understands.
"Yours." He guides her thumb over the clasp, exerting only enough to pressure to tell her what to do. She is the most apt of pupils.
He throws himself backward to avoid her fire. She has always, will always burn more brightly than any sun. When the heat recedes, he peers from behind his shielding hands to find her the woman she was before, but fear has gone completely; the love, however, is there for all of time to see.
She smiles, "Doctor," as though there could never be anyone else. For him, there could never be.
She knows this face now, this face that she didn't recognize at first sight. I've become someone else since I lost you, please love me anyway. "Your Doctor," he assures her, crawling on hands and knees to touch her again.
She curls seeking fingers into his hair, leaning toward him until they're all but nose to nose. "Always?"
"Always," he vows and kisses his wife for the first time in far too long.
Her daughters become his daughters the moment they meet. Isola and Siora are young women with their mother's once-vivid tresses and are brilliant though quiet. He has gained a warrior queen and two warrior princesses in addition to his borrowed Centurion and impossible girl. The idea that he ought to leave them behind is never voiced, for to leave them would be to forfeit the woman he loves and he is not that strong today.
The mystery of the enigmatic artefact that summoned them draws in the entirety of their hodgepodge family and they're off to the races. There is something waiting for them in the mountain, it calls to them all in similar fashion. It has risen. The Pandorica is no longer mere fairytale, she is very much a reality. And she is waking up.