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The Doctor had an inkling that no matter which of his choices he dived into, something very bad was about to occur. As long as he was the only one it happened to, he was okay with that.
He twisted around to swiftly place himself distinctly between River's aim and Jessica's body. He was now fully facing Jessica. River could shoot him all she liked, it wouldn't matter to him at this point. He was almost most definitely kind of positive she wouldn't do that, but there was no saying for sure when it came to his wife.
Jessica shifted her gun slowly to follow the Doctor's movements. He gave her a once over to evaluate her current possible state of mind. Her eyes were dull. The light of intelligent thought that ought to shine brightly in them was missing. Some sort of outside control or brainwashing was going on here.
He moved towards her. "Give me the gun." He said anxiously, reaching out toward the little girl with a hand as he slowly stepped closer to her.
"Doctor, get away from her!" River demanded worriedly. She, too, stepped forward, but her sole intentions were to protect the Doctor.
The Doctor glanced back. He kept trying to keep himself between River and Jessica, which River wasn't making very easy. He would have to do something before she shot her own child. Their child.
A loud explosive sound ricocheted off the side of the TARDIS as Jessica's gun went off in the Doctor's direction and missed him by quite a bit this time. He jerked, and River attempted to hurry around him, eager to dispose of anyone who was trying to kill the Doctor.
"River, no!" The Doctor lunged forward and snapped the gun from the child's hand, shoving her quickly behind himself protectively as he kept pushing River away lightly. He held the gun out, dangling it, and glanced back at Jessica. "Good thing you're not as good a shot as..." Your mum. He laughed, then remembered River was still there and his smile slipped. He looked up just in time to see her edging around him.
"Doctor, move out of the way...Let me do this." River said shakily. The Doctor pushed her lightly with a hand, shaking his head as he emptied the gun of it's bullets and dropped it for now.
The little girl appeared uninfluenced by the Doctor's actions. She ignored his attempts at protecting her, seemingly blind to whatever River and he were doing. She started digging in a pocket of her little yellow jacket and tugged something small and black out.
"River, you don't understand, she's-"
"Got a grenade." River supplied, eyes narrowing as the Doctor pushed her lightly back each time she attempted to get around to the girl, and kept moving to keep himself in front of her gun.
His eyes grew large. "A-A what?" He sputtered with genuine surprise. He looked back and saw the grenade. It still had a pin in place. He caught a flash of metal from the corner of his eye. River was lifting her gun. She was a good shot and was not likely to miss at all. She was obviously still quite young on her own timeline and not thinking things like this through very well.
He had little choice. He needed to protect their child. He also needed to protect River from doing something she could never forgive herself for. He knew she wouldn't stop trying to kill Jessica and he wouldn't have time to work out what was wrong with their daughter if he had to spend his time protecting her from her own mother. That wouldn't do at all.
In the overwhelming state of things, he hadn't time to think what else to do. River was too good with her gun and the child too vulnerable for him to take the time to find the least damaging way to handle things for all involved. He couldn't let her know who she was too soon. His mind latched onto what he knew without a doubt would end River's actions.
He allowed his darkest thoughts to overtake him. A thing he would not ordinarily do and certainly didn't ever do voluntarily. Except now. Being the last of his kind with one precious seed of hope to hold onto was more than enough motivation for the Time Lord.
A Time Lord who had brought down entire civilizations. To say that he never enjoyed it would be a lie. While he mourned those lost, he also reveled in the power of having control over the fate of so many. It was a feeling he didn't care to admit to. He was kind enough to be ashamed of it. But he knew well enough how to use and abuse such a power.
His eyes darkened as they landed on River's. As a man who had done whatever it took to win the most fearsome of wars in the universe's history, he knew exactly what it would take to bring River Song down.
He reached out rather suddenly and grabbed her forcefully by her lower arms. She gasped as he yanked her to him, causing her to stumble and her gun to fly from her fingers. It clattered to the floor and slid a short distance away.
Their faces were almost touching as she stared at him with wide eyes. It wasn't often that the Doctor got the better of River. "You're no longer welcome on board my TARDIS." He told River with such a cool, uncaring tone that were Amy present, she would have gladly slapped him for it. River might very well have slapped him herself were he to release his tight grip on her arms. His fingers were digging into her skin, hurting her.
"I want you to leave now." His voice was dangerously quiet now. A tone River knew well.
She didn't know what had brought on this sudden rage in him, but she wasn't about to let this alone stop her from saving him. "Doctor, if you think I'm leaving you alone to be killed, again, you've-"
"River Song!" He interrupted and began to brutally drag her toward the doors. He could feel her tugging to break free and knew she would do what it took to do so if it meant saving his life. He had to act now, or it would be too late.
He pulled River close and whispered into her ear. The words were so vicious, so violently startling to the woman, she visibly twitched. It took her half a second to compose herself enough to voice anything. "You...You can't mean that, Doctor." Rule one, she reminded herself.
"Look into my eyes." He demanded. She complied. River's eyes were sparkling with tears. There it was. His words right there in truths displayed for her to see. The absolute revulsion in his eyes was waiting right there for her. Still, she couldn't accept it. She refused to believe what she was seeing and what he was saying.
"You can't feel that way about me." She insisted tearfully, but firmly.
The Doctor saw little Jessica's hand come away from the grenade with the pin. Time was becoming a bigger problem. There just wasn't any. He focused on the woman he cared so deeply for. Every ounce of darkness in him was summoned up for her and her alone.
He shook her arms. His mouth set in a grim smirk. "But I do. I'm obligated to you because I'm best friends with your parents. But you've forced yourself into my life. What ever made you think I would want anything to do with you otherwise?"
Those unshed tears of hers started to fall. "But you whispered into my ear when you were dying! You said-"
"I lied." He re-enforced his words with another tug at her arms before releasing his hold on her. He had her backing away from him now. "I said what I had to, to get you to be a good girl and use up your regenerative energy to save me. Saving my life and saving me lifetimes of dealing with you. Killing two birds with one stone as they say. You're a chore, a burden, River. Nothing more." He threw the words at her, cutting into her heart as deeply as any knife ever could.
At the word burden, River turned and rushed to the door, trying clumsily to open it while hiding her tears. She didn't want to wait to use her vortex manipulator. She could do so as soon as she was clear of the TARDIS and the Doctor. Then she could have time to cry her heart out and come to terms with what this meant for her. She wouldn't dare let him see her a sobbing mess. She was out the door as the grenade landed at the Doctor's feet.
Giving no thought to anything but keeping Jessica safe from the grenade, the Doctor was in the air as soon as it hit the floor. He dove at Jessica who stood off to the side. She stared at the wall. The Doctor collided with her small form and knocked her to the stairs leading under the console the instant the TARDIS was rattled with the explosion.
The Doctor felt a sharp burning pain hit his back. Debris rained down upon him. He knew the TARDIS could repair herself though it might take some time, but it still stung to see her being damaged like this. He didn't take the time to cover his own head. He started crawling amidst the fire and smoke, toward the stairs. He'd seen Jessica's little form disappear down there and he wanted to make sure she was okay. Before he could get there, an acute pain created a spattering of stars before his eyes and then everything went black.
Before he could see, the Doctor was aware. His mind was working. He was thinking back to baby Jessica and the implosion at Amy and Rory's house. He came to several conclusions about what had happened, and why this was happening now.
He slowly opened his eyes to the floor. Jessica was not underneath it from what he could see through the smear of red and glass. He winced in pain. His head lay in a pool of blood. Off to the side lay the piece of railing that had slammed into the back of his head. He slowly turned over onto his back, only to find the pain in his back very uncomfortable. The heat from the explosion had seared the back of his shirt and jacket and skin.
"Jessica?" He coughed, taking note that he had no deadly injuries. He slowly shifted to his side to relieve the pain from his back. As he did so, the child appeared. She was climbing up the stairs. So he must not have blacked out for too long. "Jessica." It came out a bit breathlessly.
She had that same blank expression. Her knee and elbow were scraped up from her fall down the stairs, but unlike a normal child, even a part Time Lord child, who would be crying, she held no expression at all. It was disturbing. She approached him slowly.
"Jessica..." The Doctor pushed himself into a sitting position, which was no small feat. He reached out when she was in arm''s length distance and gently took her by the shoulders. He pulled her closer to him to stare into her eyes. "They've gotten into your head..." He murmured angrily.
His hands moved up to clasp her head. One of her hands moved from inside her pockets. It pulled out her mother's gun she'd scooped up while her parents were talking. He didn't take his eyes off of hers. "Oh, Jessica, have you not figured out yet, you're a terrible shot, and your old dad is far too hard to kill. Just ask your lovely mum." He winced, thinking of River. He reached down and plucked the gun from Jessica's fingers. He disarmed it, frowning at it as the sharp reminder of what he'd just done to River flashed through his mind and burned through his hearts. He tucked the gun away.
"Now, let's see what you're hiding in pocket number two. I see you take after me. You like roomy pockets, too. Bigger on the inside, are they?" He asked lightly as he reached for the hand she still had hidden away in her other pocket. He carefully took hold of her hand and pulled it free of her pocket. Clasped in her little hand was a strange silver disk. The Doctor took hold of it and blinked at it. "Interesting. Wonder what that's about, aye?" A bright light emitted from the disk and flashed directly into his eyes. He stiffened and screamed in sudden agony.
He dropped it and clutched at his head, reeling in severe pain. The disk had sent a toxin directly into his blood stream through a series of electric impulses coded directly to infuse with his own DNA alone. He had to cure it, but before he could, his child was lifting up a smaller piece of the broken railing and throwing it against his skull again. The Doctor could do nothing to prevent the sudden loss of consciousness that overtook him once more.
The pain was excruciating. The Doctor groaned weakly. His head throbbed. His body's systems were ringing every alarm bell. He was dying. Again. He felt a sharp pain as the broken railing hit against his side. His hand moved up and caught it mid-air before it could hit him yet again. He grabbed it and yanked it roughly from her tight little grasp. He flung it away and slowly opened his eyes. "You really should stop trying to kill me. You're not very good at it, Jessica." He laughed, coughing and sputtering as he rolled over and forced himself to his knees.
His vision swam before his eyes. He didn't have much time at all. He could feel the toxic substance. It had already infected one heart, effectively stopping it, and the other wasn't far off.
Before death took him, he would have very much liked to have saved his daughter, apologized to his wife, and said goodbye to his best friends. He didn't think he would have time for all of those things, so he focused on the first.
He shuffled forward and gently took his daughter's head in his hands. He forced his way into her mind, through the veil that had taken over it. His telepathic abilities were moderate at best, but he had to try. He saw that she'd been blocked from being able to control her own actions. She was being fed a series of thoughts forced into her and compelling her to actions. Those actions all centered on ending his life and nothing more. Like a puppet on a string, she had no choice but to act.
He severed the link that was feeding her by blocking it with his own mind. They hadn't expected that, apparently. Jessica was a child and not one who knew her own talents, so she had no way to fight back, but he did. He blocked them from her mind and secured her vulnerable brain from further abuses from outer influences such as those creatures that didn't wish to be remembered, as best he could manage. He gently eased her back into control of her own mind.
Jessica's awareness had always been there on some level. She was terribly aware of what she'd done. She blinked at the pale faced man before her. "Daddy?" She backed away from him. He let his hands drop away from her.
"It's okay, Jessica. You're okay now." He smiled at her.
Horrified, Jessica could only stare.
The Doctor looked around. The TARDIS was a mess. She would need a great deal of time to repair herself. It was doubtful she would be able to go anywhere any time soon. Much less any place where he might be able to find a cure. He coughed hard. He used his hands to push himself up to his feet and staggered into the console. Jessica flinched. "Daddy!" She ran to his side to try to help him. Her little arms moved to try to help lift his side up. He smiled down at her, refusing to give in to the pain. It really had been a long time since anyone had called him that.
He lifted a hand and patted her hair. "Don't look so worried. I've been worse." He clutched at the console and covered his mouth with a hand. He didn't dare let her see that he'd just coughed up blood. Not especially now that he saw the silent tears running down the child's face. Silent crying was a very bad sign in one as young as her.
The Doctor bent to place a kiss to the top of her head while he wiped his hand out of sight on a pants' leg. "You be a good girl and go wait outside the TARDIS for your mum." He told her softly.
"You're hurt, dad-Doctor." She corrected herself. She always forgot even when she'd been raised to call him Doctor. In moments of extreme emotion is just slipped out. Dad and daddy tended to come out naturally. She saw that the TARDIS was hurt too. She'd done that. She hurt her daddy and his ship. She didn't understand why she'd done that. She loved them so very much.
"Oh, I'll be alright. Go on now. I'm sure your mum, or your grandmother and grandfather will be along soon." He advised. He pushed gently on her shoulder, trying to usher her towards the door even though he could barely keep his own self upright.
Jessica felt herself being turned toward the door. She looked up over her shoulder at the smiling face of her father. His warm eyes were full of nothing but love, yet she was sure he had to be in lots of pain. She didn't want to leave him.
He knew she was scared, sad, and upset. He also knew he was hardly in a position to comfort the child. He feared her being stranded alone in the healing TARDIS with him dead. She didn't need to see that. He forced his feet forward, using her shoulders to lean on a bit as he kept pushing her toward the door.
"If I'm good, can I stay?" Jessica asked. "Want me to call mum? Gran? Grandpa?" She asked, reaching in a pocket to search for her mobile. She was too young to yet know the right words to say.
"No need." The Doctor shook off the suggestion. "Unless they don't come for you soon. Then yes, by all means." They got to the door. He was sure he'd stopped on Earth, near her time, but knew little else than that about their current location. "Go on then." He opened the door and could just see a neighborhood laid out before them. "Go home if we're near there. Or call for them to come get you." He grabbed at the wall to lean against it and forced another smile for her when she turned back to him.
Her tears were still falling. "I'm sorry I'm bad." She said with such earnest that the Doctor would have shed a few tears himself for her were he not in such bad shape. He was breathing a bit heavily now. He dropped to his knees. It was surprisingly easy to let himself fall like that. He pulled the small girl into a big hug. He patted her back and kissed the side of her head. "You're not bad." He said quietly as he cradled her head. "Jessica Song, you remember this. You're a good girl. You're always a good girl." He assured her.
He let her go after running an affectionate hand through her hair. "Go on. Go home." He told her cheerfully.
Jessica knew her father was hurt. She didn't know he was dying. He needed help. But she nodded like a good girl. "Okay. Bye-bye!" She gave him her best smile and waved before stepping out the door and closing it behind herself. She looked around. She knew this place. It was her street, but it looked different. It was probably a wrong time so she would have to phone mum. She wanted to call her anyway and ask her to help her dad. The Doctor was hurt and she had to get him help. Rule One. Mum and Dad lie. He might have lied about being okay. He didn't look okay, so he probably wasn't. He needed help. She didn't care that he said not to. She was going to tell her mother anyway.
Inside the TARDIS, the Doctor had collapsed next to the TARDIS doors, his body convulsing.
Florida. Sometime in the 1960s.
Bright flashes went off in the darkened room. Amy blinked and stared at her husband. They looked to one another in confusion. "Rory?" She stepped over and touched his hair uncertainly. "What's going on?"
Rory looked Amy over. Something was different. What was it? He shook his head. "Memories and pictures." He reminded her, trying to cling to whatever it was they were attempting to do. They were alone in a child's room. It was an unfamiliar place even though they'd been there a good long while now. The Silence were consistently erasing their minds just enough to confuse the couple.
They heard giggles and looked down to a small child of no more than five playing with some old fashioned looking doll on the floor. Her plain brown hair hung loosely around her face. She looked up at the couple. Amy looked back at her baffled.
Rory gestured toward the girl. "Amy, get down by her so I can take pictures." He told his wife. The only thing he was sure of, was he needed to keep taking pictures for Amy. He had promised her memories of time with their child. He knew somehow that was related to this child. He was pretty sure it was Melody, but things kept changing. He had brief memories of an infant being cradled in his wife's arms, and then a toddler, and now this older girl. It was all very confusing.
Amy wasn't any less confused than Rory. In between being blinded by camera flashes, she had a blur of images she couldn't place or understand. Despite this, she trusted Rory and he seemed to have a plan, so she did as he requested. She knelt down next to the little girl who stiffened up at her presence beside her.
"Smile for the camera." Amy told the little girl. Melody looked uncomfortable and uncertain when Amy placed an arm around her shoulders. Rory gave the pair a reassuring smile. Melody slowly smiled for them. It was quite confusing really. Her life was this. Flashes. Brief moments, most of which made little to no connection in her mind. She knew these people were her parents. They'd told her so even though they kept forgetting that themselves. They felt like strangers to her even though they seemed ever present sometimes, and nowhere other times. Weren't kids with parents allowed to live with them full time? Why did she have to stay in a dark old orphanage all alone all the time even for their visits? Didn't they want to take her home with them?
She thought about asking them such things, but dared not for fear it would scare them off and they'd never come back. As much as she didn't trust them, she'd become familiar with their presence at the very least and didn't want to lose that.
"Got it." Rory nodded. He'd snapped several photos. "Why don't we have dinner?" He suggested, reaching an arm down to help Amy to her feet. She nodded with a quick smile. "Yeah. As a family." She remembered just as quickly as she kept forgetting. The Silence were slowly damaging the Ponds' minds. She held a hand down for Melody. "We'll go down and make a big Scottish meal together."
Melody looked at the offered hand. She got to her feet, but didn't take Amy's hand. She may have known these people were her parents as they claimed, but she didn't feel quite that cozy with them. "Okay." She tried to imagine what it would be like, cooking a meal with her parents like a normal family. It was something she desperately wanted. She had other memories of her parents promising such things, but they never did them.
Just as they went out the door, two of the Silence appeared in the hall, stopping the three Ponds in their tracks.
"My god, what are they?!" Rory exclaimed, looking at the two creatures as he clutched his wife's hand. He turned to look at her and she, at him. They smiled calmly at one another after blinking. The little girl behind them looked up at them and blinked as well. She watched them turn and walk down the hallway, seemingly forgetting their promise to her again.
Just as they often seemed to do, they would probably roam around for a while before they wandered back into her room and remembered her again. She'd seen similar signs in Mr. Renfro who ran the orphanage. He was the sweetest man, but he forgot things so very easily. Maybe whatever sickness that poor man suffered, these two suffered from too.
Amy and Rory were confused, but trusted the Doctor. Rory knew he had to get memories for Amy and that he had to take lots and lots of pictures. He couldn't always quite keep a grasp on just why anymore. They'd been here too long now. His hair had grown long. His clothes had been changed and he couldn't remember changing them. Amy's too. He was sure the Doctor had only just dropped them off moments ago. So how had they changed clothes? The clothes were old fashioned. Amy in a dark green long dress and Rory in gray slacks with a polka dotted blue shirt. He couldn't remember where they'd gotten such clothes. Neither could Amy.
They were in a kitchen, but both felt they were forgetting something important. They couldn't quite remember what that something was. A flash of lightning from outside got their attention. It hadn't been been storming, they thought.
"Hello mum and dad." Rory, standing in front of the sink, turned around to face the doorway where the figure stood. Amy, who was standing over the stove, turned to look as well. A very grown up River stood looking at them with a broad smile.
"No time for a chat, Dad." She told them brightly. "Just came by to give you something." She held up a gun and pointed it directly at Rory's chest.
Don't you hate it when I do that? Please let me know what you thought of this chapter. As for the next one, you'll just have to wait and see. No sneak previews this time around.