This can't be real. This can't be real.
He's screaming out for her to hear his voice, to hold on to it, begging for her to stay with him. It's in vain, of course, because he knows what's coming and that there's no stopping it now. But he has to try. She's all he has left.
He first sees her hours after it happens.
He remembers that he walked, hardly even conscious, into the TARDIS and up to the console. He remembers nothing of what happened afterwards, but he imagines that he fell asleep, too exhausted to carry on. He wakes up in his bed, still dressed, from a nap that seemed to go on forever. Strangely, he still feels tired.
It's the only way he can describe it. Tired. Tired of flying around and seeing the universe. What's the point anymore? He's tired of bringing friends along with him. Tired of losing everyone and everything. Tired of trying.
Everything is dark. All he wants is to curl back under his sheets and never leave them. It would be peaceful to simply lie there, unmoving, uncaring and blissfully ignorant.
But then, she's there. It's barely there for a second, but it's her.
It's a flash of red hair in his doorway, and down the corridor. Everything in him screams in protest as he wrenches the sheets away and runs after her. What is he running for? What is he expecting to find?
He makes it to the console room and she's there, leaning against it as she would have on any other day. He says nothing and tries to keep a distance between them, in fear that she'll leave if he interacts with her. His feet have other plans, however, and the next thing he knows, he's moving towards her, hand outstretched to touch her.
"You seem surprised," she tells him. Her voice is so solid, so lifelike.
But it's not.
"You aren't real," he tells her. His voice is barely a whisper, but if he can hear it, she definitely can.
She just smiles warmly at him. Just like she used to.
"You're not real. You're not real. You're in my head."
"You can tell yourself that all you like. I'm in your head, you know. I'll still be here."
"Because you need me to be."
And he does.
She's whimpering now, her throat making a horrible gurgling noise as her life begins to slip away from her. Her eyes are frantic and begin to cloud with tears as she watches his face carefully. He will be the last thing she sees.
One hand grabs at his shirt and the other at her side, where the stain on her jumper is darkening at a terrifying pace. It's all wrong, so horribly wrong, and suddenly she ceases her shaking, her hands falling limp and hitting the floor with two dull thuds. Her bright eyes, so vibrant and alive, darken and lose their light as they roll back in her head. A tiny sigh escapes her throat and she is gone, nothing more than a pale, lifeless body in his arms.
Almost nightly, he is brought back to that moment, to that godforsaken place where he lost her.
It is then that he faces his demons. They come at him in his nightmares: people that he let die. People that died by his own hand. Accusing faces of people he's lost, screaming for explanations. Then, among the horrors, there's her, simply lying in a pool of blood, as she did the last time he laid eyes on her. The real her.
Every time, he jolts out of his sleep with a yell, finding himself back in the reality of a dark bedroom. Sometimes she is there waiting for him. She will coax him back to sleep, tell him everything is fine, that they are all safe, and that she's there. Sometimes she lies beside him, and he doesn't feel so alone.
But when he wakes up alone, he stays awake. He realises that nothing is fine, and they aren't all safe. She hasn't been here for a long time. Not really.
After a while, doesn't know if it's better to be awake or asleep. If he dreams, he can remember what's true. What's real. He remembers what happened and what everything is supposed to truly be. If he wakes, he can delude himself. He can be with her. He can try to be blissfully ignorant, just as he wanted.
Either way, he knows he's truly alone.
Someone nearby is screaming, a hoarse yell of someone destroyed beyond repair. He's almost angry at whomever it is, because how dare they invade on this, the last moments he has with the girl who waited for him. It's ruined. Everything is ruined.
Over the next few weeks, he memorises Amelia Pond.
He learns the contours of her face better than he ever had before, and each part of it feels brand-new. The way her eyes move when she laughs, the way they sparkle with life when she smiles. The pale tone of her skin and the faint freckles that adorn it. The movement of her lips, delicate and fascinating. He faintly remembers the taste of them, and he smiles.
He loves the little things he learns about her. The way she lightly drums her fingers as she waits. The way her hair falls in perfect waves as she shakes her head. The way her eyes and nose scrunch up the more she smiles. She way her eyes seem to truly sparkle when she's amazed.
He watches her carefully as she exhibits her newfound grace, now seeming to glide on her feet as she moves. She is completely soundless, only uttering a noise when she speaks or laughs. But he does not need to hear her to know when she is around. He needs only to stop and to concentrate. To feel.
He's almost grateful that he has another chance to learn all there is to know about Amy Pond. He was never this careful, this precise, when he first had the chance. Part of him regrets that now.
He clutches at the back of her jacket, holding her against him in his desperation to save what has already been lost. Her head goes limp and tips back, and he sees the tears that had been in her eyes as one slowly drips down into her hair.
He realises that he's crying too as he feels his tears, strikingly warm against his now ice-cold skin. As he comes back to reality, he is aware that the horrible screams he heard were coming from him.
It's a strange state of being, the one he's caught in.
The girl that visits him is dead, buried in the small little graveyard at the church near her childhood home. The air there smells of dewy grass and the fresh flowers that are brought there each morning. It's peaceful, haunting and strangely beautiful, much like her. He knows all of this for sure, there is not a doubt in his mind. She lies in the earth, and he is the reason she's there. The long-legged girl with the ginger hair in front of him is a figment of his imagination.
She's not there. But she is. But she isn't.
He's selfish, so selfish, and he tries to forget. He smiles at the girl that's there when he wakes up and there when he falls asleep. He brushes stray locks of red from her face, and feels nothing. But when he remembers how it felt before, it does feel real. So do the kisses he plants on her forehead, the grabs of her hand, the warmth of her as he hugs her. He ignores the idea that nobody else has this luxury. Not anymore.
People are crowding around them now, trying to coax him away from her. He shakes off the gentle grasps at his arms and the hands that try to pull him away. He promised, so many years before, that he'd never let her go. He can't go back on his word. Never.
All the time she's with him, he takes them to places with no danger whatsoever. For the first time, the TARDIS doesn't lead him astray, and they are free to travel where they like. He takes her to the most beautiful sunsets, the most luscious of gardens, and the most stunning sights in the universe. Every star, every planet. Just as he always promised her he would.
One day, they sit in the doorframe, looking out into the stars. That view never grows old for either of them, no matter how many times they see it. It's an endless expanse of darkness, with pinpoints of brilliant light intertwined with the most fascinating colours. Out there, everything exists in perfect harmony, something they were never able to do.
He always asks her the same thing.
"Will you stay with me?"
And she always answers back in the same way.
"I'll be here as long as you need me to be."
For the first time since they've begun their routine banter, he thinks about that.
"What if I'll always need you?"
A pause. She looks at him as though he already knows the answer to his question. He thinks he does.
"Then I'll never leave you."
He'll never let her go.