The Last Centurion
River was Rory's daughter too.
The Doctor was off somewhere now, solving the problem as he always did. It wouldn't take him long to work it out, but River stayed where she was, swaying slightly in the circle of light. That much worse day she had been waiting for had finally come, the day that frightened her more than anyone's death. The Doctor looked at her just as he looked at everyone else in her party—suspiciously. He didn't know her. Not yet. Not anymore. And not ever again, not for her. She remembered the Centurion, after the time crack erased his existence and Amy looked right through him, and she understood.
Rory looked at Amy, his beautiful, impossible Amy, and she looked right through him. Surely she remembered him—she must remember him. He had come back from a place further than death, a place so far away that it couldn't be comprehended or explained—because even if she was still waiting for the Doctor, he would always come back for her. But she looked at him without any trace of recognition, caught up with the alien lights in the skies and the Cyberman and the bloody Romans, and Rory felt his plastic heart shatter in his chest.
The visor of her space suit slid open. Even here, even now, she couldn't help a smile at his familiar face, his familiar, ridiculous bow tie. "Hello, sweetie," she said, voice breaking. She couldn't remember the last time she had cried, but she couldn't help it now. Here she was, trapped in a space suit, forced against her will to kill the man she loved. Why did they even bother with all that indoctrination, really? She hadn't killed the Doctor the first time around, and she wouldn't kill him now. But even as she said that to herself, she knew this time was different. The suit pressed at her mind as well as her body, calling back flashes of long white fingers and an orphanage with bloody writing on the walls, tearing apart her focus, and in the end she couldn't stop the bolt of green light from hitting the Doctor in the chest.
Amy remembered. Rory felt loose and warm; everything was right with the world again. The aliens could open up the underground box and loose all the demons of hell for all he cared—he had his Amy back.
But no, something was wrong. It was all going wrong now. The plastic people were activating, and he felt his body moving as it was ordered to. Clenching his jaw, he forced himself to stay where he was, against everything within him that was screaming at him to do as he was told. Amy was too close, and the commands were too strong, and Amy had never listened to him anyway. She didn't listen now. He felt his machinery contract, and he felt the bullet hit Amy dead in the chest. Her face was printed on the inside of his eyelids, the muffled, shocked noise she made burned into his memory. She was dying in his arms. This was all wrong. Whatever else happened, Amy always survived. She had the Doctor to save her and Rory to die for her.
But not this time. This time, Rory had been left behind.
River liked some things about this young Doctor. He hadn't crushed the dreams of his best friends and lost their newborn daughter yet, for one thing. He hadn't faced and faked his own death. And she rather liked being the bossy one, the one who knew it all and said very little. But this wasn't the way it was honestly supposed to go—she didn't want to be constantly older than the Doctor, constantly learning more about him while he forgot about her. In a way, she was his almost-Time-Lord, his only friend who could come close to understanding something about him, and they should be equal. Of course she wanted him wherever he was, whenever he was—her love was too deep to be put off by time. But she was still too old for this Doctor. She knew too much about his world, and he knew too little about hers.
Rory had told the Doctor that he could keep all of his memories on the other side of a door in his head, and that wasn't a lie, exactly. Usually he could stay in the present, live his life as just Rory Williams, incidentally and occasionally a Roman. But he didn't always hold the key to the door, and sometimes the memories got out.
The Doctor told him two thousand years of waiting would drive him mad. It hadn't. It just made him tired. He was older than the Doctor now, and sometimes those one thousand eight hundred and ninety-four years overwhelmed him. He wasn't meant to hold all those years inside his head. He wasn't a Time Lord, he was just Rory, Rory from Leadworth, once upon a time. Now he was Rory the Roman, head stuffed too full with the history of the world. Head stuffed full with every second of two thousand, eight hundred, and ninety-four years. The Last bloody Centurion. The ancient plastic man who had kept her safe, whatever it took. And still, with all those memories, all those years that bore him down like iron weights, he couldn't bring himself to regret it, because it had saved her. And if it had taught him anything, it was that dying was a hell of a lot easier than living, but it was worth it all the same.
"The loyal soldier, waiting to be noticed. Why is that always the pattern?" River heard what he said, and winced, but there wasn't time for his all-too-accurate musings. The Silence had gotten out, and that was that. Still, even as she ran up and up and up the stairs in this cannibalized pyramid, a part of her was back on the lakeshore, the murderer who would trust the Doctor with her life. The woman who would go farther than anyone should go for one man. The woman who had torn time itself apart to save his life.
In the language of the Gamma Forests, Doctor means "great warrior." And she had always been his most loyal soldier.
"The loyal soldier, waiting to be noticed. Why is that always the pattern?"
Because sometimes, Rory told the Doctor in his mind, There are things worth waiting for. Because sometimes, Time Lord, the best thing you can do is quietly exist, a solid, dependable presence, and not expect anything else. Because sometimes waiting is the greatest gift you can give.
Every bit of common sense said that it was impossible. Of course it was impossible that any woman could be what she was to the Doctor. Few believed her, and fewer still trusted her.
But River was the patron saint of impossible things.
Conceived in the TARDIS, born from a Centurion and a girl with a time crack in her wall, raised by the Silence, raised again by her own parents as they themselves grew up, murderer and saviour of the Doctor, the woman who destroyed the universe and put it back together again. The woman who married the Doctor. The woman who killed him.
And the woman who loved him.
So many impossible things.
They always said it was impossible, the snide little voices in his head. Sure, Amy had dressed him up as her Raggedy Doctor when they were kids, but that didn't mean anything. Just that she was infatuated with her imaginary friend and okay with a cheap substitute. Rory always bumbled along behind her, trapped orbiting this most beautiful of stars. As she got older, nothing changed: he was still boring Rory, her solid childhood friend.
Until the impossible happened. Amelia Pond had found out his deepest secret, and she didn't seem to mind. In fact, he would almost have said that she was pleased, but it was so hard to tell with her. Down that impossible road they went: the first kiss (and God, was she a good kisser), the dates, the steadily deepening trust, and the final, stuttering proposal. And she said yes.
And then her Raggedy Doctor came back, and it was impossible again.
She left him on the night before their wedding, and kissed a man she hardly knew, and who knows what else she did that night. The Doctor took them to Venice, where Rory made a thorough fool of himself, left behind again. Amy was too taken up with her Raggedy Man to look after Rory.
But then the impossible happened again. Trapped in a cycle of dreams, she killed herself rather than face life without him. She couldn't live without him. Not even for the Doctor.
He knew then that not even death, not even the end of the universe itself could stand in their way.
And, as it happened, it couldn't.