"Amy Pond, you are magnificent," he says, and when he bites her hand, it sounds almost like a kiss.
She keeps those five words in her head afterwards, for days, weeks. When she is crying uncontrollably outside the TARDIS, they are like a verdict stretching over her whole self, keeping her standing.
On a rooftop on Barcelona she shivers enthusiastically, trying to warm her arms with her hands and blinking snowflakes out of her eyes. The Doctor crunches through the snow to her side and proffers her stolen mittens. "I like how you have the gall not to look sheepish," she smirks, snatching them from his hands.
He looks down at his boots so that his hair falls into his eyes and smiles that cozy, closed-mouth smile of his, and suddenly Amy doesn't need her mittens anymore.
"Why is it called the Balistat Memorial?" she asks, leaning back into the Doctor, feeling his arms tighten around her. "Did something horrible happen here, like a battle or something?"
"Almost." The Doctor's warm breath leaves her neck and moves to her temple as he looks up at the evening sky. "There was a sort-of-not-quite-a-war, and half of the planet tried to banish the other half. The fault line was right here. One woman, this Balistat, convinced them not to. She saved the world."
"Good job she did."
"Yup," he murmurs into her hair. "Some stories have happy endings."
When the three suns have sunk like pearls through water, the city below them turns itself on, as though a soft net of glimmering lights were laid over it and pinned into place. Amy sees the opera dome sparkling, sees the white icicles of church spires and the shimmering forest of glass towers in the domestic quarter. Farther out than all of these, past the last boundaries of the capitol, a round platform glows in the dark, and she feels herself give a little gasp as what look like fireflies suddenly rise from it, drifting towards the stars like sparks from a campfire.
The Doctor says, "Pilgrim shuttles," and Amy makes a hmm? noise deep in her throat. "For the religious sightseers," he whispers. "They're taking them back home."
That afternoon they saw the Gilixian Ballet perform, and Amy was sure it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever witnessed. And then the Doctor took her to the opera, in that same frozen billow of silver that she sees shining below her in the city now, and she heard arias sung that could never be sung with a human mouth, and she changed her mind.
Now the Doctor is behind her, one arm curled around her waist, one around her shoulders, holding her against him so gently, as though he can't even bring himself to try to keep her here, and she feels his lips press against her hair, once, twice, and then he rests his head against hers. She knows somehow that he's closed his eyes, and that while she looks out at this brilliant, beautiful place below them, his world in this moment has been reduced to her, to their bodies touching, to her breathing in his arms. And she looks away from the city, down to his familiar hand, motionlessly caressing her skin through her thin shirt, and she changes her mind again.
"Time to go," she hears his voice in her ear.
He lets go of her all in a moment, and she spins around excitedly, taking a deep, cold breath. "Where we goin'?" she asks, skipping after him towards the TARDIS.
The Doctor's walk is tense, and his voice brusque. "You'll see."
Amy gives Barcelona a parting nod over her shoulder before following on the Doctor's heels and closing the TARDIS door behind her. She loves this part. Every single time.
"Well?" she asks, bounding around the console as she always does, staring at screens and readouts and pretending she knows exactly what they mean, flicking a few harmless switches here and there just to annoy the Doctor. "What've we got? We've just done a planet, so technically we're up for a spaceship next, although I wouldn't mind skipping ahead to some good old fashioned ancient history, or rather skipping back, I suppose…"
She stops. The Doctor is bent over the console, covering his eyes with his hands.
"What's the matter?" she asks, coming closer.
He doesn't move, just takes a shuddering breath, and then clears his throat roughly. "You have to go, Amy."
Amy stands still, and her heart pounds once.
He clears his throat again, and his next words are a whisper. "You have to go home."
"What are you talking about." Amy's voice sounds thin and strange in her own ears. "What are you—why—why would you say that."
He doesn't answer.
"Look at me!" she shouts, grabbing his arms and pulling his hands off of his face.
He looks at her, and she is speechless. He looks like he's about to cry.
"Amy, you've been here too long," he says, and she stumbles back. "You can't stay with me anymore. You have to go back—to your own time, your own life. Leadworth."
Amy is holding onto a railing with both hands, she can't seem to catch her breath. "You can't mean that," she says dizzily.
"God, I wish—" He cuts himself short, and strides around to the other side of the console, where she can't see him. His voice comes at her quickly, every word hitting her someplace hard in the gut. "I'm sorry, Amy, I am, I'm so sorry, and I—you know—and there's nothing else I can do, nothing else—I—can—do with you. Oh," he breaks off into what sounds like a sigh.
"But why?" Amy cries, more shrilly than she means to. "What—what happened? Did I do something?"
"No!" he exclaims, coming back around the other side of the console, jamming levers and typing frenetically into keyboards. His rapid hands look for once like the only part of his body with any semblance of life in them. "Amy Pond, you're magnificent. You're just—you're magnificent. No, you didn't do anything."
"Then why?" she demands.
He says nothing. The console beeps and flares under his intense gaze.
"You have to tell me."
He says nothing. He's biting his lip, hands moving faster than she's ever seen them.
"Tell me," she begs, dropping into a chair, and she's ashamed to hear her voice break, tears coming through into her words.
The Doctor stops moving quite suddenly, bracing himself against the console by the heels of his hands, closing his eyes tight. Then he moves abruptly towards the chair where Amy has collapsed, fisting her hands over her mouth, desperate to keep from crying.
"Amy," he says, lowering himself next to her in the chair, taking her hands gently from her face into his own, each of his fingers embracing hers.
She opens her mouth to say something but decides she'd better not risk it.
The Doctor leans close and locks their eyes. "You are going to die," he says firmly, and she can feel his breath, hoarse, against her tight-lipped mouth. "And it's either going to be with me, someday soon, in pain and fear and blood…or it's going to be years from now after a long life, safe in your home with people who love you, with your husband, your kids."
She opens her mouth to protest that there's never going to be a husband but he keeps going. "And Amy, it's got to be the second one. It's got to be. I can't…" He exhales sharply, leaning back. "I can't go anymore knowing I might be the one who kills you. I'm gonna lose you one day, Amy, and it's got to be the second way."
"You don't know I'm gonna die." She tries to laugh a little. "I'm pretty brilliant, I think I can handle—"
"I'm a Time Lord, Amy," he cuts through her words. "I lose everyone. Everyone I love dies."
"But I…" Now that's done it, and she can't speak anymore, her eyes and her throat are swelling with tears and she sobs this horrible, hiccupy sob and she's crying, and she hates it, and she can't stop.
The Doctor squeezes her hands and sadness fills his eyes. "I love you, Amy," he says tragically. "I've signed your death warrant."
She cries for a long time, really embarrassing noises and wet messy tears and unbearable blushing, and the Doctor just sits there holding her hands, having the grace to keep his eyes on her fingers, smoothing his thumbs over her nail polish and her knuckles and the tiny lines running across her palms. She can't even breathe, she's crying so hard, and she wishes he'd just drop her hands and hug her, but he doesn't, or he can't, or he just won't. It's probably won't, she thinks with a twist of pain in her stomach. She knows he wants to, she can feel it in the tenseness of his fingers, in the way he's barely allowing his body to move.
In a few minutes she doesn't know how, but he's stood her up and moved her gently towards the TARDIS doors, without a word, an arm around her back protectively, protecting himself, keeping her from leaning sideways against him, steering her slowly and hopelessly away from everything she loves. It's not that she doesn't understand, she thinks, or thinks she thinks. She can hear her own words from long ago burning sharp through the haze of dull pain that surrounds her mind: You've gotta go. You know you have. I don't want you to die for me, Doctor. You've gotta leave me.
She was an idiot. How could she not have known.
He opens the door, slowly. She can hear every creak and click as it swings inward, and the Doctor has to take a step backwards to let it open all the way, and for a flash of a moment she almost thinks he's changed his mind, thinks he's going to turn them around. But he doesn't. He takes her by the shoulders, and softly, almost tenderly, moves her outside.
It's nighttime, like it was on Barcelona, only it isn't Barcelona, it's England, rubbish England and rubbish Leadworth, with her tiny garden and her old swingset and her wedding dress shining white through the upper window of her bedroom. The Doctor's hands tighten around her shoulders, and she knows he's about to let go.
She whirls around. "Kiss me," she says.
The Doctor's eyes are full of tears. "I can't," he murmurs.
The TARDIS door closes.
She sobs until daylight, standing there in the weeds and the dirt and the fireflies burning through the night air, and when the sun rises she has nothing but snotty hands and stiff legs and a sentence repeating over and over in her head, Amy Pond, you are magnificent. She lets it play like a tape, tries to believe it through her whole body, her tired arms and her aching feet and her cramped, swollen face and her hair where his soft, soft lips kissed her twice on a rooftop on Barcelona. When Rory finds her there, confused and horrified by her tears, she can only answer, "I wish he'd come back. Oh, I wish he'd come back."
Rory says something about wedding day nerves, and asks her if she's getting cold feet, if she's okay, if she can go through with this. He says he doesn't want to come in second place, he doesn't want his wife married to another man. He asks her if she's settling for him.
No, she says. I'm not.
"Where we goin' now?" Amy asks, closing the doors on Tnere'θch and leaning her back against them to grin at the Doctor. He's already programming new coordinates into the TARDIS, and she's pretty sure she can hear him humming as he does so. She bounces on her feet and can't stop smiling. She loves this part. Every single time.
"Well?" she asks, joining him for their mad, strange dance around the center of this time machine, keeping the clamor and the tumult and the flashing between them, meeting each other's eyes every so often through the sparks and thunder to share a conspiratorial grin.
The Doctor clangs a bell and Amy hears the TARDIS dematerializing. Bye-bye, Tnere'θch. She edges closer to the Doctor and turns her face up at him expectantly.
He smiles down at her, and stops what he's doing for a moment. His smile's gotten softer over the past few months, his eyes warmer. "I'm so glad I met you, Amelia Pond," he says.
"Hee," she beams up at him. "Me too."
The Doctor grabs her hand and puts it on the acceleration lever, covering it with his own. "You ready then?"
"No, seriously, where are we going?"
He leans over and kisses the lever through their hands with a loud mwah! sound. "Barcelona."
They heave together, and time accelerates.