A/N: (feel free to skip my useless rambling) And now we come to the end. It has been such an incredible journey for me writing this story. I can't tell you how attached I've grown to writing it and being with the characters and with you guys every week. I would've liked to kept it going, perhaps, I think every author does to some degree, however all things must eventually come to the end. I can say that my writing has improved so much since the first chapter. It's actually quite amusing to go back and read it. I feel like there's going to be a peculiar hole in my writing routine now that I this one is finished. Thank you all for being such amazing readers and sticking it out (I know it's stupidly long and I'm not always reliable on my updating), I hope it was worth it. [Shameless self-promoting alert] It was to me. Don't worry, though, I have a new story in the works. It'll be a crossover between Doctor Who and Stargate SG-1, with elements of Alice and Wonderland. For all of my lovely Doctor Who readers, don't feel intimidated. You don't need knowledge of the other show to really understand it. [Shameless self-promotion has ended]. Well, anyway, I hope you all have enjoyed this insane ride as much as I have. Have a cookie, any cookie, and some tea, and get down to reading! Don't forget to give me a review and maybe a hug (if you want) on the way out. I'll see you all soon with my next story. :)
At length, River's tears stopped and the Doctor had slumped, exhausted, nearly asleep on the floor. Rory chewed on his lip and then stood, helping the Doctor up and glancing around the room. He then looked at his daughter and gave her a sad smile.
"C'mon, let's do this properly."
River slowly managed to ease herself up off the floor, Brooke's body still cradled to her chest. She couldn't help the guilt that was tearing her heart apart as they stepped into the TARDIS. She glanced around the control room. The TARDIS had gone quiet. That reassuring thrum was completely deadened and River wondered for half a moment if she was like this, for this moment, for all of time and space. After all, Brooke was a little bit hers as well. Rory glanced at River and reached over to squeeze her hand. River gave him a shaky smile and then nodded to the Doctor. "Take him to the medical room, have him rest. He should be back up to speed soon if he hasn't lost too much blood. I'm... going to go get her ready," she nodded toward the body in her arms.
Rory was looking at her with such fatherly affection that it almost hurt. "Are you sure you want to do that alone?"
She swallowed and nodded. "I want to be alone."
Understanding crossed his face and he turned and half-helped, half-carried the Doctor back to the medbay. He laid him down and the TARDIS supplied him with a blanket and a rather comfortable pillow. The Doctor had a dark look in his eyes as his fingers wrung at the edge of the blanket. He obviously wasn't going to sleep.
Rory hovered uncertainly. "Do you... need a transfusion?"
"No," the Doctor shook his head listlessly, "No, I'm alright."
Rory pulled up a chair. "Is 'alright' Time Lord for 'really not alright'?"
He looked up at him with an unfathomable look in his old eyes, and a short, low, mirthless chuckle emitted from him. "You know, someone else asked me that a very, very long time ago." His fingers tapped on the edge of the bed. "Why? Are you alright too?"
Rory shook his head. "No, I'm not."
Good old Rory, always honest, always telling it how it was.
Hours passed and slowly the Doctor felt his strength returning. He knew he'd have to move on somehow from this, to put it behind him. It seemed completely impossible. Brooke was- had been- would be- his daughter, just like River was his wife. He'd seen them both to their deaths. He wasn't sure how he was going to handle the second time around when he was so, so much older.
He was just managing to get back on his feet again when River came in with a small box. On it, Gallifreyan symbols were etched. He recognized them and walked over with some difficulty, his fingers tracing them.
"That's her name."
"Yes it is." River glanced down at the container. "I decided it was only right that she have a Gallifreyan funeral."
His fingers tentatively lifted the lid, and a broken quirk of a smile spread across his face when he saw the candle set in the ashes, not lit. Yet.
"The TARDIS made it," River supplied quietly. She looked up at him and brushed his cheek. "She lived a good life, Doctor, I promise you that. She was nearly a hundred."
He shook his head and took her hand. "You should go."
River's brow furrowed. "What?"
"You should go, it's quite obvious I'm not your Doctor, love," he whispered. "Go find yours and have the funeral."
"You should have closure too," River whispered.
He laughed shortly. "I will when you find me." He fumbled for his sonic and took her Vortex manipulator from her pocket, wrapping it around her wrist. "Besides, Brooke told you to go find me. I think you ought to honor her last wish." His throat suddenly grew thick and he blinked back tears.
"She didn't specify when."
"I get the feeling it was urgent," he replied, taking the box so she could enter in the coordinates. River bit her lip and then put a finger under his chin and kissed him gently. It wasn't any of their normal, heated, passionate kisses, just one that was chaste and laced with grief.
She pulled back and then went to give Rory a tight hug. Tears sprung to River's eyes for the umpteenth time that day. "It was really, really good to see you again, Dad," she whispered.
Rory nodded into her hair and hugged her back. "You're sure you don't want to come home and see Amy?"
River shook her head, wiping at a rogue tear. "No, I shouldn't." She stepped back from them and then put the coordinates into the wristband, then gave the two a brave smile, and she was gone.
Rory clapped a hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "Let's get you some tea, hm?"
They spent the rest of the day, sitting on the edge of the TARDIS doors, hovering in deep space and drinking tea in complete silence.
River landed quietly in the control room of the TARDIS. She held the box one hand and listened. The ship welcomed her home with a happy, comforting thrum, and she walked over with a small smile, her fingers running lovingly over the controls. "I'm back," she whispered.
"River?" was the surprised call from down the hall.
She turned to see the Doctor standing in the entry to one of the halls, holding a cup of tea and looking at her like he's seen a ghost. Which, she supposed, he just had.
She gave him a wan smile. "Hello, Sweetie."
The Doctor gaped like a fish for her for a few moments and then managed to ask. "When are you?"
"Post-library," she said, not being able to bite back the chuckle at his shocked expression.
"Post?" he breathed.
She walked up to him and took one of his hands in her own and kissed him. "Well, not entirely. I am Post-Library... but Brooke's dead." He was staring at her with such confusion that she had to elaborate. "Doctor, you remember how I told you when Brooke was dying that she'd given me all her regenerations?"
It took a few seconds but then he stepped back and let out a short sigh, eyes wide. "Oh."
River nodded miserably. "Yes."
This was her Doctor. The one that had sent her off not a week ago from Darillium with tears in his eyes. She hadn't understood why he was crying. She wasn't used to not knowing every little thing about him, his reasons for why he did things and why he acted the way he did. Now, again, she had the upper hand.
Understanding, worry, and hot tears filled the Doctor's eyes and he closed the space between them, his arms wrapped around her and cradling the back of her head in one large hand. "River, it wasn't your fault she died."
River shook her head, looking away from him. "If she hadn't given me her regenerations-"
The Doctor pressed a finger to her lips and hushed her. "That was her choice, just like it was yours to give me your regenerations at Berlin. She did it for you, for me, and for Sarah-Jane. Give her that, love."
She sniffled and buried her face in his chest, allowing herself to be held for a few moments. The Doctor rubbed her back and stroked her hair, murmuring comforting nonsense in her ear until finally, she felt like she had her emotions back under control and reached for the container she'd left on the console.
"I suppose we'd better have the funeral."
The Doctor looked at it, recognition in his eyes as his fingers once again traced Brooke's name. "I suppose we'd better."
They walked to the TARDIS doors and the Doctor opened them. Immediately, the ship provided a bubble so they could sit on the edge safely and overlook the brilliant blues and greens and purples of the nebula that they were sitting just outside of.
The ritual was performed in silence. The Doctor procured a match and struck it on the side of the doorframe. The flame hissed to life, and River opened the top of the box and he lit the candle.
She closed it, watching as the circles were backlit, flickering like the light of regeneration. The Doctor looked up at her with an unspoken command for her to do the honors, and she snuffed out the first flame. He allowed her to relight it, and then he snuffed it out a second time. A third time this was repeated, but the last flame was allowed to endure. Then, together they pushed the container out and watched it float out to join the stars.
He pressed a kiss to the side of her head, arm encircling her shoulders. They sat there until River nodded off, understandably emotionally and physically exhausted. He stood and gathered her up, carrying her back to their bedroom. The TARDIS shut the doors behind them.
He laid her down on the crimson bed, pulling back the covers and tucking her in. The Doctor sat on the edge of a bed, thanking whatever god was out there that he hadn't lost her. He didn't think that he could ever manage with River.
He stood and swallowed thickly, walking to the wooden cot in the corner where golden stars hung above a little person. He crouched, rocking it a little before picking up the baby, minding her head, and pressing a kiss to it. He looked down at the blue-eyed baby in his arms, his thumb whispering over the soft skin of her perfect arm.
"I haven't told you about your big sister yet, have I, Sarah-Jane?" He smiled and sat with her on the edge of the bed. "I haven't told you about Brooklyn Amelia Pond." He paused, acidic tears blurring his vision before he wiped them away with his sleeve as Sarah-Jane tried to get her Dad's bowtie into her mouth so she could explore the taste. "She was, you know," he whispered, a fond glint in his eyes, "A Pond. And she was nothing short of amazing."