A/N: I watched Vincent and the Doctor last night, then this happened. Hope you enjoy it, let me know what you think. =]
At Eternity's Gate.
"He's not, his brother is with him... in the end." The Doctor rubbed the side of his face frustratedly, and it was with this gesture that he realised Amy would most certainly get her way.
"He'd want to see us." A small tear trickled down her cheek, her eyes pink at the edges and shining, as though they were made of glass. "I know he would."
"I can't save him. If I take you to him, I can't save him, you know that, don't you?"
She nodded, another tear falling, and the Doctor wasn't convinced that she did know it. He had been in this position before, long ago with Rose...but van Gogh had shot himself in the chest...she wouldn't be able to just put a plaster on it.
"Amy, you must understand."
"Time can be rewritten. You said it could."
He hated those words. Hated them so fiercely. And more than that, he hated the look that always accompanied them. The look of disappointment, betrayal, and a sadness that penetrated so deep that he could feel it reverberate in his own hearts.
"Time would repeat itself," the Doctor said, leaning heavily against the console.
"What, like a time loop?" her tears had stopped, though he could still see the tracks they had left on her face, the faint stain of mascara that gradually faded, he could still hear it in the way she breathed, in that steadying determined way that would prove itself to not be nearly as steady as she wished it had been.
"No, nothing like that," he replied quietly. "He's very ill, Amy. And his illness will always lead him to that eventuality. Vincent van Gogh was never destined to die of old age..."
"So you could stop it, but you won't, because it'll happen again?"
"Let him rest, Amy."
"Let him live!"
"The last time somebody kept someone alive who shouldn't have been, I was eaten by a reaper and the world nearly ended. It's not as simple as letting him live!"
"What's a reaper?"
"Something with very big teeth...and awful breath."
She didn't laugh.
"Final word Amy, absolutely not. I cannot save him, and I can't trust you enough to be with him in his last hours." The Doctor slammed a lever on the control panel harder than he ought to, in what he hoped Amy would interpret as a very definite end to the conversation.
"Remember everything I have said. Do not try to change time, do not try to save him, okay? We are here only as comfort."
Amy nodded, and The Doctor pushed open the door of the Ravoux Inn, but blocked Amy's path with his arm.
"One more thing," he added, his face close to hers, voice low. "Shot in the chest...messy business, he'll be in a bad way...prepare yourself, all right? Hold it together, for him."
She nodded again, though this time it was much less certain, and much less Amy-like.
"We can go back, remember him as he was, remember laying on the grass and looking at the stars, remember watching him paint - no, don't remember that, it'll take far too long for you to go through all that again."
"That would be selfish," Amy said, and pushed his arm out of her way. She approached the counter, the Doctor following quietly behind.
"Where's Vincent?" she asked, and the barmaid looked up to the ceiling.
They climbed the rickety wooden staircase, and with each step they took, the louder they could hear him; his laboured breathing, weak groans, and the gentle, hushing voices of those around.
He was proud of her. He knew what it was like to watch someone die, knew how easy it was to run off into the Tardis and pretend it hadn't happened yet, because when you're in the time vortex, nothing or everything might have happened and it is the singularly greatest way to console yourself. The singularly greatest way to avoid reality, and consequence, and all those other horrible things that people with normal lives had to deal with. He was the expert...he'd been doing it for nine hundred years.
Amy pushed open the door and it creaked, drawing the attention of a man at Vincent's bedside, who the Doctor guessed to be Vincent's brother, Theo.
Before the Doctor had blinked, Amy was by Vincent's bedside, gripping his hand in her own, stroking back his unruly ginger hair. He opened his eyes, even in the mess he was in they were still as blue as the most perfect sky on the most perfect day.
"Amy..." his voice was weak, his chest rising and falling slowly. The bandages wrapped around his chest were stained with blood, and there was a visible dip where his breast bone ought to have been that forced the Doctor to look away.
"And you too, Doctor."
The Doctor looked up and saw Vincent's eyes resting on him, piercing him even at a distance.
"Good to see you," the Doctor replied. "Not so good like this," he gestured to Vincent's laid up state, and was granted a smile.
"Who are these people?" Theo asked, leaning against the window sill.
"The Doctor and the beautiful Miss Amy Pond," Vincent said.
Amy laughed softly, involuntarily, but her tears had started again. Silent tears, tears because she couldn't possibly contain them. Vincent lifted a shaky hand to cup her face and the Doctor focused his attention on the floorboards, not knowing what to do with himself.
"If only you had come two days sooner," Vincent said, looking towards the Doctor now, his thumb stroking the back of Amy's hand gently. "I would not be in this sorry mess."
Amy turned to look at him, her green eyes bright and shining.
His mistake was meeting her gaze.
"Where are you going?" Vincent called after them as they raced down the stairs.
"I'll see you two days ago!" Amy called back, and the Doctor searched hurriedly in his pocket for his Tardis key.
Amy shut the Tardis door with a snap and bounded towards the Doctor, a broad smile on her face.
"You know it will be so worth it," she said. "You know it will. Think of the paintings!"
"Yes, I'm thinking of one now," he said, "A nice big gruesome painting of me being eaten. A nice big disastrous painting of the world ending. That's the price, if this goes wrong, you understand?"
"Time can be rewritten."
He grinned, and got to work on the controls.
They stepped out into a field, the grass as high as their waists. The Doctor could see him, in the distance, head tilted backwards, taking one last look at the stars.
And then he raised the gun.
The Doctor broke into a sprint, trusting that Amy had shut the Tardis door behind her. The gun lowered slightly, and the silhouetted head turned to look at him.
Hearts pounding in his chest, the Doctor reached, him moments later, forcing the barrel of the gun downwards, so the only thing in imminent danger was the soil.
"You're about to kill yourself," he said breathlessly, "Only it's not going to work out. You're not going to die straight away, you're going to die a very slow, very long and very painful death."
"There is nothing more slow, long and painful than this life!" Vincent yelled towards the sky. "It's easy for you with your box, Doctor, you can run away somewhere else, but I? I have to live. And I detest it."
Amy had caught up with them now, and her hand reached out, delicately removing Vincent's fingers from around the gun.
Amy passed the gun to the Doctor and wrapped her arms around Vincent, holding him tightly. The Doctor took the gun, and placed it on the ground several feet away.
"I cannot continue like this," Vincent said, his arms still firmly locked around Amy.
"It'll pass," Amy whispered soothingly. "You just have to hang on."
"A very good friend of mine," the Doctor said softly, "a great friend actually, and if you stick around long enough you might end up hearing about him. Anyway, he once said something wonderful, something I think of every single day of my entire life."
"What was it?" Vincent asked.
"If you're going through hell," the Doctor paused, then finished in a whisper, "Keep going!"
"To what end?" Vincent demanded.
"It will end. Just as it ended the day you painted the church, remember? Now I know," the Doctor moved forward, grabbing Vincent's shoulder firmly, looking him straight in the eye. Amy slipped out from between them, watching with her arms folded. "I know, that your life is not an easy one. But you are not mad. There are others like you, and there will always be others like you. Great people suffer in the same way that you do, but it doesn't stop them. You heard Professor Black, you saw your paintings in the Musée d'Orsay. You saw all those people who have travelled from all over the world to see your paintings! There are books and documentaries and, Vincent! Don McLean wrote a song about you!"
"Yes!" the Doctor said, grinning widely. "A lovely song! 'Starry Starry Night' he called it. Beautiful, brilliant!"
"And there are books, you say?" Vincent asked.
"Yes!" The Doctor felt his muscles relax now. The Ravoux Inn would not be graced with Vincent's presence tonight. "Do us a favour," the Doctor added. "Make 'em work hard, give 'em plenty to write about."
"As soon as you leave I will be as dreadfully unhappy as I ever was."
"Then we'll stay," Amy piped up.
"Yes!" the Doctor said. "France, July, lovely! It'll be like a little holiday!"
"I never sit still," the Doctor replied in a precise tone. "I don't do sitting still. I do running down corridors and jumping away from explosions. I don't sit still."
"Oh for heaven's sake!"
A sharp pain shot through the back of the Doctor's head, and he turned to see that Amy's hand, complete with painted fingernails, was the culprit.
"What d'you do that for?" he whined.
"Sit still, or there'll be plenty more where that one came from."
The Doctor huffed and straightened his bow tie. "Okay Vincent, do your worst."
Vincent picked up his paintbrush once more, his eyes meeting Amy's just for a moment, before he concentrated solely on the Doctor and his canvas.
"Mine's better than yours," Amy said standing back and admiring her portrait.
The Doctor gave her one of his looks, the one that he had spent nine hundred years perfecting. The one that said 'close your mouth now or face the wrath of the Oncoming Storm'.
The one that was usually laughed away by his companions.
"It is!" Amy gestured between the two paintings, one of herself, and one of the Doctor.
"Yes, but only because he's painted you much prettier than you are in reality. It's what artists do when they want a girl."
"Nonsense, Doctor!" Vincent got up from his chair. "The painting, I am ashamed to say, does Amy no justice at all. Her beauty will last longer than the Earth itself."
"Five billion years? She's bound to have a few wrinkles by then, in fact, let's go and see, shall we? Let's go and see what exactly the wonderful, magnificent, beautiful, Amy Pond turns into, shall we?" He was well aware that he said all this with a hint of bitterness. Why, he was not sure. He didn't want Vincent to do a pretty painting of him. It was a fantastic souvenir, no question, but he didn't need it to be pretty like Amy did.
No. What it boiled down to was the fact that he had been so easily swayed by her. That his final word had been so very unfinal, and so very disregarded. Vincent van Gogh was alive and well, and though he would not begrudge the man himself, he couldn't help but begrudge the girl who had persuaded him to rewrite time.
"Yeah!" Amy said. "Let's go and see! I wanna know what I look like when I'm old."
The Doctor thought of Rory, and how he had simply vanished from the other side of that field.
"No. Bad idea. No sneak previews, they always put a downer on things..." he raised a finger to drill the point home, and felt, rather than saw, Amy roll her eyes.
"Best get going," the Doctor said softly, his gaze flicking from Amy to Vincent. "You'll be all right?"
"I shall keep going," Vincent replied, shaking the Doctor's hand firmly. "Thank you once again sir. Here, take your portrait."
The Doctor grinned and took the canvas from Vincent. He'd never really stopped to look at himself before. It was as though from the second he had regenerated he had just kept on running. Now however, he could see just how very cool he looked in his bow tie, how the shade of his jacket matched his irises perfectly, the excessive jaw and even more excessive hair, though both of them, although rather odd looking, seemed to balance each other out.
"Will I see you again, Amy?"
The Doctor's attention switched from the painting to Amy in less than an instant. She was looking right back at him. Testing the water.
"Oh...I reckon so..."
Vincent pulled her into a hug, then handed her portrait to her.
Amy shook her head. "No," she said. "You keep it. Put it on your wall. I'll get the postcard."
The Doctor bit back a childish remark as to why he would even want her on his wall, and watched, his eyes darting from one to the other as though an invisible tennis match was going on in the space between them while they were silent.
"Yes," Vincent said at last. "I think that's rather a good idea."
"Look after yourself," she said. "Promise me you will, all right?"
They hugged again, and the Doctor wondered how much hugging two people could do in five minutes.
They left, and as soon as they got back into the Tardis, the Doctor knew where she wanted to go.
It was a bad day. It was worse than a bad day. It was worse than all his days put together. He had screamed for hours, cried into his pillow, curled into a ball in an attempt to hide from the demons in his head.
He couldn't hide. He couldn't even run. They were a part of him, a part he could not separate himself from.
He went to the kitchen drawer and pulled it open. At the sight of the revolver, his mind quieted. Perhaps it was because it was finally getting what it wanted, or perhaps because his relief at the nearing end was more powerful than any madness that could ever have infested his head.
He took the gun, and turned towards the door. If he was going to die, he wanted to die outside, in the fields he had loved to paint, while looking up at the stars.
Her portrait was hanging by the door, the sparkle in her eyes visible even in a painting. The soft, knowing curve of her lips made his heart feel less heavy, and the blackness that coursed through his veins felt like it was now a soft grey instead.
He would never know how long he stood there for, just looking at her, but eventually, he placed the gun carefully back in the drawer and slid it shut.
"Not today, Vincent," he said to himself. "Not today."
"Amy..." he didn't know how to broach the subject, but starting with her name seemed like a good way to go.
"Yeah?" she asked brightly, pulling on her coat. "Is it cold out? Will I need my scarf?"
"Never mind the scarf for now," he walked slowly around the console and placed his hands on her shoulders, turning her to face him. "Look," he said, if only to buy himself some time. "While we may have averted that incident, there was always a very likely chance that there would be others, all right?"
Amy's smile dropped and she nodded. "I know," she said. "But I just..."
"Let's go and see, shall we? If he makes it to thirty eight then consider it a job well done, but we can't go back again. His life is not a life I would choose to live, so perhaps it was better for him, in the end. His episodes were getting more and more frequent the older he got..."
"It's better that he kills himself?" Amy asked, her eyes wide with disbelief.
"Better that he sleeps," the Doctor sighed, pulling her into a hug and placing a kiss on her hair.
They walked slowly up the steps of the Musée d'Orsay, her hand held loosely in his. He could tell by her expression that she was trying not to get her hopes up, just as he was, but also that she, again like him, was dreading what they would find in the area dedicated to Vincent.
"This is, perhaps, van Gogh's most famous painting," Professor Black was telling a group of mildly interested tourists. He was wearing a bottle green bow tie this time, and the Doctor made a mental note to ask him where he had got it. The mental note shot out of his head however, when a young couple moved aside, and he saw the painting that Black was referring to.
"Nobody knows who she was," Professor Black continued. "All we know is that her name was Amy, and Vincent dedicated his Sunflower series to her. He wrote of her in his suicide note, and though his friends said he spoke of her often, none of them had ever seen her. It is thought, perhaps, though I am not one who endorses this opinion, but it is thought that she was a product of Vincent's own imagination. A self made guardian angel, if you will."
"But you don't think so?" asked a young girl, who was yet to take her eyes off of the painting.
"No," Professor Black said. "Look at the eyes, and the mouth, the hair. This was a girl who sat while her portrait was painted, and this was a girl who he knew. The imagination cannot create something as life like as this. I feel, or perhaps I would like to think, that this Amy, whoever she was, was some sort of comfort to Vincent in his darker days."
"She's ginger though," a bratty child said. "Why didn't he paint her blonde?"
"Oi!" Amy called, her brow set in that 'if you think you're getting away with that, you've got another think coming' look that the Doctor had learned to almost completely avoid by now. "Nothing wrong with being ginger! Vincent was ginger!"
"Perhaps best to keep a low profile," the Doctor said quietly.
Professor Black's eyes widened, and he approached, while the crowd moved on to the next painting.
"Professor Black, Amy Pond," the Doctor gestured between the two of them. "Time travel, very hush hush," he tapped the side of his nose and winked at the Professor, who stared dumbfounded between the two of them.
"It was found in his house," Professor Black said weakly, removing his glasses and polishing the lenses with the edge of his jacket. "After he died."
"And when exactly did he die?" the Doctor asked. At Professor Black's frown, he added, "Time travel, messy business."
"1916," Professor Black sighed, replacing his glasses once more. "Far too soon, if you ask me."
"1916," Amy whispered. "So he was what...sixty?"
"Sixty-three," Professor Black said.
"Sixty-three!" the Doctor said excitedly. "Sixty-three!" He hugged Amy and spun her around.
Amy pulled his arms away from her and turned back to Professor Black. "You said suicide note...that means he..."
The Doctor's jubilation vanished in an instant. As long as it was a less messy end than a gunshot wound to the chest, he would be fine, as long as they hadn't caused Vincent to suffer even more than he had first time around, he would be able to sleep easily.
"On April the third, 1916," Professor Black said solemnly, though with a tone that suggested he had said this to thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of tourists, "Vincent van Gogh wrote a suicide letter, and went to bed with a bottle of sleeping pills. He never woke up."
"Where is the suicide note? What did it say?"
Professor Black pointed to a glass case in the centre of the room, and within seconds, the Doctor and Amy had barged through the crowds to get a look.
My dearest Amy,
I have lasted these past years, living solely off the thought of you and you alone. Now, my memories of you are fading, as are the oils on my canvas, and I cannot hope to keep going for much longer. On the Doctor's advice I shall not use the revolver, but by the time you read this I will be long gone. Though I am aware this matters little to someone of your good fortune, I enjoy the idea that you are reading it in that great cavernous room where my work hangs on the walls. I think, perhaps I shall see you again, and that is my only comfort as I lay down my head.
Live well, and may my love for you always stay in your heart,
The Doctor put his arm around her, and she leant her head against his shoulder.
"Sixty-three," he said in a soft voice. "Not a bad old run."
"There are loads more paintings," she whispered, looking around the room.
"Tell you what, back to the Tardis, and then we'll come back later and get Professor Black to give us a guided tour, how about that?"
"Back to the Tardis?"
"I can't deny the wish of a dying man, Amy. That letter, it was addressed to you, but there's a message for me, too."
It was perhaps, the most beautiful place he had ever been. Vincent it seemed, had stopped painting over his own canvases, and now they were stacked in every corner, every chair piled high with them, every surface covered with magnificent works of art. So much beauty that the Doctor wondered how the tiny little house could hold it all.
"Through here," Amy said, and she looked up at him from the kitchen table, where she was reading the suicide note, ink still fresh and wet. She walked towards Vincent's bedroom and opened the door.
The Doctor followed.
Vincent was slipping in and out of consciousness, but his hand held firmly onto Amy's. His hair and beard were now a very pale shade of orange, almost blonde. The skin around his eyes was creased, and thin looking. He was pale, his breathing becoming deeper and more infrequent.
"You saw my letter?" he whispered.
Amy nodded. "And so many more beautiful paintings."
"You are too kind."
Amy kissed his hand, and the Doctor could sense imminent tears, like clouds gathering in the sky.
"I have let you down," Vincent told her, reaching out a hand to stroke her face.
"No," Amy replied, shaking her head fervently, and the first drop rolled from the corner of her eye, dripping onto Vincent's bed. "Never."
"I felt it was time, so I wrote the letter for you. You are here, and I am content." His eyes flicked towards the Doctor, who was leaning against the door jamb, watching quietly. "Thank you," he said.
The Doctor bowed his head but said nothing.
"The darkness is coming," Vincent said, his voice so quiet that even the Doctor had to strain to listen. "It won't be long now."
They were silent for a few minutes, Vincent's eyelids dropping often and opening less frequently.
"Your beauty will last forever."
Vincent let go of his last breath, and his last glimpse of Amy Pond.
"Interesting last words," the Doctor said, as they laid a wreath on his grave.
Amy said nothing.
"Do you know what Vincent van Gogh's original last words were? In the Ravoux Inn in 1890?"
"What?" Amy asked, her voice thick as they turned away from the headstone.
"'The sadness will last forever.' We made a bigger difference than the world will ever know."
Amy hugged him, and they stood there in the little graveyard on the outskirts of Paris, caught in the unstable ground between grief and happiness.