AN ~ Just watched the NEW trailer for season 7 (the one full of Daleks – if you haven't seen it, google 'Doctor Who fall 2012 trailer) - *****SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT***** Amyyyyyyy!

Even though I really (no, seriously, I'm in deep shist) need to do my History essay, I just got so inspired I had to finish this off. Readers of Once, Twice, Three Times – since I won't get to write for ages I'm going to leave off that next chap for another week or so, sorry! It is finished I just want to have SOMETHING to post this term!

Anyway, this is a companion piece to 'Because They Will Be Sad' which I recommend you read first. I also want to write a third, which will probably come along following a certain important incident in the new season.

I don't own Doctor Who, and I promise this story doesn't have any spoilers for season 7, not even the trailers. Enjoy (in a tactful, bittersweet kind of way I hope).

Because You're Still Breathing

Rory had radiated joy in that quiet, slightly clumsy way he had; sheer wonder on his face as he watched the 26th-century-human vendor draw his dessert – honeycomb 'ice cream,' as was the closest 21st-century Earth name for it – from what appeared to be a fairy floss machine, and sprinkle it artfully with dark chocolate, cherries and a specialty biscuit of the area which, Rory had noted to himself after a taste, was a bit like biscotti but not so dry. The Doctor couldn't help but smile as he watched Rory take the first spoonful: the 2000-year-old Roman appeared so unPond most of the time – quiet, shy, insecure – but the gravity of why they were here made the Doctor really take notice of the gangly, unassuming nurse. Oh, Pond. He hadn't expected to miss Rory as much as Amelia, but in his head now, those two were always together. At least he'd managed to keep it that way, he reasoned.

Amy had laughed so much. The Doctor couldn't remember one second when she hadn't been smiling. Lemon, lime & coconut ice, with mango and passionfruit sauce, nuts, and those chunky rainbow chocolate sprinkles just because she could. There was such a child in her, and he loved that. Every movement was a combination of Amy - the strong young woman who had died, who had killed, who had saved the last Star Whale - and Amelia - the little Scottish girl who had packed a bag to run away with her imaginary friend. That little girl had survived all his lies, his enemies and his failures, and he hoped - oh his whole heart hoped - that she would not be another casualty of the Library.

Meanwhile, River had decided to leave him and his demons be for the day. She had sat across from him the whole time, acting completely oblivious, if she had not actually forgotten, and chattering away with her parents as if they were old friends and she was not a convicted criminal. Every now and then, she would nod and hum with sparkling eyes as she sucked the dessert off her spoon and listened to her parents' stories. When at last the Doctor decided to interrupt and defend the scraps of his dignity in a particularly construed story Amy was recounting, River lunged across the table and stuck a loaded spoon in his mouth, making him gag for a moment before he tasted it. Blueberry muffin icecream, fruit salad jubes, caramel sauce, and tiny yellow granules that looked like sand (and was, in fact, on the nearby planet which processed Star 51's signature dessert) but tasted like banana. Frankly, he had been flattered by her selection; he was rubbing off on her.

And of course, she'd been happy to take a spoonful of his concoction in return for her offering. Grinning in that devious way she did, eyes fixed on him like a panther who knew something he didn't, River slowly drew the spoon through through his icecream before returning it to her own lips. She had smiled at him like the Cheshire cat while she tasted it, and he had turned a thousand shades of red, as always, to the great amusement of her parents and everyone who happened to be passing by the open-air booth where the four were seated. A passing Hath gargled a crude comment and the Doctor hurried to retort before realising he still had River's icecream in his mouth.

"Careful, Sweetie," River warned with a smirk as the Doctor gagged once more. Then, on a side note as she chewed one, "Mmm, jelly babies."

Custard icecream with marshmallow fish, lemon sherbet and jelly babies. It was amazing. A little more Earthly than he usually got, but he was feeling especially humany today. He had already gotten the crying part over-with this morning, but he nevertheless savoured the look and the taste and the feel of the dessert: one bright thought that he retained as he farewelled River at her Stormcage cell doors. Mutually, they gave each other a brief kiss, and River laughed as she pulled away.

"Looks like we've finally got that one down! We'll have to go there again."

"Yes, I-" He tried to find a facial expression that didn't betray his agony, but he couldn't quite bring himself to mimic hers, and laughter would have sounded painfully forced. In the end, he settled on a simple smile, a well here we are, and River kissed him again, still laughing as she teased; "Oh, I love you, you nostalgic idiot."

Of course, he'd already taken her there. It made him feel better, strangely: right at this moment, it felt like he'd never be able to look at ice cream again.

"See you soon, sweetie," River farewelled.

"Wear something warm," he suggested. She smiled gently, and that and the icecream allowed him to return it before he slipped back inside the TARDIS.

.o.o.o.

Amy and Rory picked up the Doctor's considerably more sombre mood as he reentered the TARDIS and circled the console with a luck-lustre gait which more resembled pacing than his usual enthusiastic dance. As he walked, he pushed the Sonic through one fist with his spare hand, flipped it over, pushed it through the other fist, flipped it over...Meanwhile, the couple sat on the stairs, a ready audience for if and when the Time Lord chose to voice what was bothering him.

As the TARDIS materialised in the Ponds' tiny front garden, the Doctor stopped pacing and sat on a corner of the console, shoulders hunched. The Ponds shifted closer to the edge of the step on which they sat, and clasped each other's hands.

"I have something to tell you," the Doctor confessed in a low voice. Slowly, he looked up at them. His eyes were darker, sadder, than Rory could remember seeing them, and Amy could only compare them to the look he had given her when he had realised he had arrived too late at Demon's Run.

"I's River, isn' it?" Amy breathed.

"I'm so sorry." The Doctor was beyond choking on the words: he could hardly feel them coming out of his own mouth. They were small, fragile words, spoken only to the space in front of his own lips, but such was the silence between the speaker and his companions that they carried all too easily. Rory wrapped his arms around Amy's shoulders, but couldn't take his eyes off the Doctor.

"She-?" He hoped not, but the Doctor's steady gaze made the words stick in his throat.

"She died," he confirmed. "It happened before I knew her, really – the very first time I met her."

"What?" Amy's voice was full of air, and at least an octave higher than normal. She gave a high-pitched whine, threatening a wail, and covered her mouth with her hands.

"She sent me a message, but it arrived too early. - wrong Doctor, even; the last version of me..."

And he told the whole sorry story, forbidding his voice to break, forbidding himself the slightest sob. This was Amy and Rory's time to grieve, not his.

"...and then I saved her to the hard drive." He attempted a smile at long, breathless last. "It's all fixed, it's good, and with every book ever written, she'll have plenty of adventures and stay safe-"

"Safe?" Rory's voice was a breath – no accusation, just pain. Amy's head was buried in her hands, and she moaned and rocked under Rory's arm, making the Doctor's lungs shrivel and hearts burn, and the furrow between Rory's brows deepen.

"I don't believe this, Doctor," Rory murmured. "I don't believe you left her – that you let her-" He shook his head, lost for words.

"Rory, you know I can't always get everybody out."

Rory lowered his eyes, watching the back of Amy's head as she cried, almost without a sound. The Doctor lowered his eyes too, and they sat in silence for a long while, and the TARDIS purred quietly, trying to comfort them.

"Why tell us?"

It was Amy. She was still doubled over, but she had bent her neck so that she could look straight at him. The Doctor lifted his head, and when he looked into his beloved Pond's eyes, he felt himself tearing her very soul in two.

"Why tell us now? You left us, Doctor – and then you died, for all we knew. You weren't goin' to come back. You weren't going to say anything. An' why should you? What difference does it make? You say River's dead, but we just saw 'er, just now! Couldn't you just leave us like tha'? Happy?"

The Doctor looked between the miserable faces of Amy and Rory, and with his shoulders still hunched, walked as if through tar the few steps between them so that he was sitting beside Amy. Sniffling, she allowed him to hug her to his chest, and her permission made his hearts swell and ache, but warm. He embraced her gently, and confessed in a whisper so low it was almost a breath;

"Because I was a coward, Amy. I should've told you from the start. As soon as I found out who she was. But I couldn't. It was last- last night I sent her off and I'm so sorry but I had to do it while you were still breathing. I just couldn't...I couldn't..." He took a deep breath and swallowed his words to try again, looking over her shoulder now at Rory, addressing them both.

"I don't think I could stand it if your daughter died for me and you never knew. It makes all the difference in the world, because she's your daughter and you love her and to know that she died that way – heroically, in charge of her own fate – is so important."

Amy hugged him tighter as sobs seized her once again. The Doctor rested his cheek against the top of her head and drew gentle circles on her back. Rory stared at the floor between his knees, each piece of information the Doctor had revealed circling in his head.

"Thank you," he decided, looking back at the broken Time Lord, who gave him a nod of acknowledgement and gently passed Amy over into his arms. Feeling the shift, Amy looked up as the Doctor stood up and stepped down to the base of the stairs.

"Oh, Ponds." Covering it as a glance at the console, but deceiving none of them, the Doctor touched a finger to the side of his nose. It came away wet and salty. The Ponds smiled, and the Doctor smiled back. "You've no idea."