Chapter 1: Impossible Beginnings
The Doctor was dead.
Amy saw it, but she could not believe it. No, her mind protested as she stared at the scene before her. No, it can't be true.
He had just been here. Right there. Behind her, sitting on the blanket, talking rubbish like he always did about his adventures and looking, to the untrained eye, normal. But Amy had known better. She had always known better. From the moment she met him in the midst of the rubble that had once been her shed, she knew he was different. She would later come to know how different. More than a mad man in a box; a creature of so many secrets. And today, she knew, he had been keeping another.
But she had not complained. It had been so long since she last saw him that she did not care. She did not care that he seemed sadder than usual lounging on that car or that his interaction with River in the diner seemed forced or that he kept looking about as if waiting for someone. She had not questioned. She had not cared.
Rory, her dear, dear Rory, had noticed. He had questioned. "So, when are we going to 1969?" he had asked while looking skeptically into the glass of Napoleon Bonaparte's wine.
The Doctor's mask had slipped then to reveal a rare thing: vulnerability; he looked into his glass as if the answers were hidden within. Then, with a resigned sigh, he whispered, "When everyone gets here."
Such a strange thing to say. They were all there. Who could he have been waiting for?
A car pulled up over the hill, bringing the arrival of a strange old man in a wool cap. He waved at them. The Doctor stood and waved back.
"Doctor," Amy had finally spoken, her concerns rising. "Who's that?"
Then it happened. The horrible truth began in that moment. From the center of the lake rose the astronaut that would change their destinies forever.
"Whatever happens next, you must not interfere." The Doctor's request was their curse. He asked; they obeyed. It was what they did. It was what they always did.
He walked forward like a warrior facing his fate. And what a fate it would be. The astronaut raised its arm and fired.
And the world turned into a blur.
Flashes of light and shockwaves of energy ripped through the air, the land; through the Doctor's hearts.
Amy had struggled against River and Rory, screaming in denial. It could not be true!
Then the Doctor looked up, a deep sadness in his eyes. He looked at them, his friends. He looked at her, his Amelia Pond. And he said, "I'm sorry."
Then it was done. The final blow. It shook the earth and echoed through the sky; a resounding gong, declaring the end. The Doctor was dead.
He fell back, propelled by the force of the killing wave, into the arms of a stranger.
Time sped up then.
The stranger quickly laid the Doctor on the ground. She was speaking rapidly, taking command, but Amy could not hear her.
Another stranger—a man dressed in a military jacket—ran past them, ignoring the commanding woman, his eyes focused on the lake. The astronaut was slowly sinking back into the water. He threw off his coat as he gave chase, a look of pure fury in his dark eyes.
"No!" River cried, letting go of Amy. "Jack, don't!"
It was a plea that fell on deaf ears. Jack dove into the water and disappeared under the surface.
"You, nurse!" The woman's voice brooked no argument as she forced them to focus. "Come here!" Rory knelt down without resistance, not once questioning how she knew he was a nurse. "Place your hands here." She pointed to the right of the Doctor's chest, explaining, "The Doctor has two hearts. We'll need to coordinate movements to save him. Once I breathe, we push on three, understand?"
"Yes, uh, ma'am." Rory placed his hands over the Doctor's second heart.
Amy sunk to the ground. "He's dead," she sobbed.
The woman's head snapped up. Her cold brown eyes were sharp and focused as they narrowed on her. "Not yet, he's not." She turned back to her task. "There is a small window left. If we act know. Ready, nurse." Rory nodded. "Go!" She pressed her lips to the Doctor's and breathed. "Now. One. Two. Three."
Seconds ticked by in intense silence broken only by the woman's command of "One, two three!" Amy watched with baited breath. "Please, please, please!" she cried.
From the world unknown, Jack returned. River met him at the edge of the lake with his coat in hand. "It's gone," he heaved, answering her unspoken question. "Vanished."
River bowed her head. Of course I did.
"One. Two. Three!" the woman breathed again. "Come on." she grunted, pumping his heart. "Come on! Doctor!"
"He's dead!" River called from the bank.
"Not yet," the woman hissed.
"Rose." Jack walked up to them and placed a firm hand on her shoulder. The woman ignored him. It was not over. It could not be over.
"Rose!" he said again, his voice firm yet gentle. "Stop."
Rose sat back on her heals, exhaling a shaky breath. For a moment, she looked ready to cry. But the moment vanished behind a veil of cold steel. She drew her arm across her forehead. "Date and time," she commanded.
"April 22." Rory said.
"What year," she hissed.
"2011," River supplied. "5:05, April 22, 2011."
Rose took a deep breath and released it in a sigh. "5:05. Calculating CPR." She rolled her head back, thinking, calculating; then, she stood, dusted off her pants, and turned away. "Let it be known across the stars that at exactly 5:02pm Mountain Daylight Time, twelve hour standard, Earth on April 22 of the year 2011, Earth calendar, the Doctor died." She glanced over her shoulder. "Jack, we should—"
The rest of her words were drowned out by Amy's wail. The fiery ginger broke down as the truth sank in. She grasped the Doctor's shirt and wept bitterly, refusing to believe it. "No!" she sobbed.
Rory quickly pulled his wife into the protection of his arms and rocked her as she cried, whispering what comfort he could give.
Rose granted Amy the courtesy of grief. She turned her back and continued her private conference with Jack.
River watched them from the edges, waiting for what would happen next. Time was already moving forward. It was a cruel mistress that gave and took away without stopping to feel. So much like the Doctor.
The old man from before interrupted her thoughts. "Here," he said, placing something at her feet. "He said you'd need this."
It was a gas can. River looked at the Doctor's body, pain pulling her heart. Oh, Doctor.
"You." Rose had noticed the new arrival. She covered the distance between them in short stride, Jack following behind. Her air pulsed with the aura of one used to being in command. And all around her fell easily into place. River stepped back next to Jack as Rose spoke. "You. Who are you."
The old man smiled as if the demands of this powerful woman were not new to him. "You will find out soon enough, Commander Tyler."
If Rose was caught by his knowing her name, she did not show it. "Why are you here."
"Same reason you are, I suspect." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a dark blue envelope. The light of the setting sun reflected off the 6 scrawled on the back. Again, Rose gave no reaction. As one, she, Jack, and River pulled out envelopes of their own. The old man's smile grew. "Always one step ahead of us, that Doctor." He shook his head in wonderment and then nodded to Rose in respect. "Ma'am."
"Wait, where are you going?" Jack asked.
"To my future, Captain," the man answered. "But I will see you in my past. River." He nodded to her. "Give my best to the Ponds." With that, he turned on his heal and returned to his truck, leaving the chosen few to mourn the Doctor.
"Strange," Rose whispered. "What was his purpose?"
"This." River picked up the gas can. "The Doctor wants us to burn his body."
"No!" Amy said. She and Rory had come to see who the stranger was and what he wanted. Amy's eyes, red-rimmed and raw, were stubbornly set. "We can't do that."
"We have to," River replied softly. "Even in death, a Time Lord's body is a miracle. Civilizations will fight wars to get it if we do not obey."
"Look." Rory pointed down the shore. A row boat was breeched, as if waiting for this moment.
Jack and Rory pulled the abandoned craft to them and, together with River, laid the Doctor's body within. Rory stepped back to be with his wife as Jack and River prepared the pier. They worked in silence, none wanting or able to speak. They set the fire, pushed the boat into open water, and then stepped back to watch.
Amy tucked herself safely against Rory, who held her close, his chin on her head.
Jack stood next to River. "You knew my name." It was not a question.
"Have we met before?"
River allowed herself a glance at his face outlined in the night by the distant fires. "Spoilers," she whispered. Then she took his hand; he let her; and they grew quiet, bidding their farewell in their own way.
Rose stood the furthest back, aloof and alone, a statue in the night. She did not think, did not mourn, and did not try to make sense of the moment. She simply watched the reality before her.
The blue envelope was crinkled in her hand.
The Doctor was dead.
And this was only the beginning.