Just have to get the feels out.

Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock

Seared Forever

In the end, it was his fault. It always was. He shouldn't have gone into the TARDIS first. He should have grabbed their hands—both their hands, all three of their hands if he could manage—and ran for the TARDIS with his usual confident, "Come along, Ponds!" He should be sitting in a pub, nursing a glass of water as they all laughed off the adventure together.

But most of all, he shouldn't have been so selfish.

She'd turned around, but it was him who should have been watching the Angel. Stopping it from moving. Quantum locking it forever. The Doctor could do so many impossible things, surely he could have stared a Weeping Angel in the eye for all eternity if it would have saved her.

And yet he didn't. Because he couldn't keep his eyes from her face. He had to see her, one last time, his little Amelia. Seared forever onto his hearts. Her teary face—the first face—seared forever behind his eyelids. Every time he blinked, from now on, he would curse himself.

He had fallen to his knees, uncaring of the damp ground that soaked his trouser-legs through because he was already trembling from a coldness within. Staring, unblinking now that it did no good, at the Angel's feet.

"Doctor?" River, good as an orphan now, spoke softly, touching a hand- the wrist he'd healed –to his shoulder. "We should go. We shouldn't stay here."

"Shouldn't we?" And the words sounded harsh and bitter to his own ears. He couldn't blame her for flinching and stepping back, he was scared of himself at the moment. Scared to try and peer inside and examine all the emotion that swirled within. Emotions got the better of him, Amy had said. Oh Pond, hadn't it been emotion that got the better of you this time?

"The Angel—" River tried again, but he cut her off.

"Yes, the Angel." His head tilted up and he gazed—caution to the winds—straight into its eyes, daring it to move, to climb inside his head and take control. "Go on then," he egged it on. "Let's see where I end up, eh? River, look away."

"Doctor, you can't!"

"I said, look away!" He shouted over her, and without even checking, he knew she had done it. So he closed his eyes.

And nothing, nothing happened. A full minute passed before he opened them to find the Angel unmoved. If anything, it looked like it had drawn away some.

"Well what's the matter with you?" He snarled, rising to his feet in one jump. "Why aren't you attacking?"

"Maybe it knows what you're trying to do," River suggested, perfectly reasonable.

"Then it would have known what Amy was trying to do," he insisted stubbornly. What Amy did. Amy's choice.

"Yes, but Sweetie," River spoke gently, "The Angels kill you kindly."

He licked his lips, his mouth having gone dry at the word 'kill'. "Then why—" he growled, but his voice fell away. "Why?" He repeated at a whisper. "Why won't it allow me that kindness?"

"Even if he never existed, that wouldn't kill the Doctor." The Ageless God. Ha. Time Lords lived far too long.

"You're right," he said despondently, turning away from the angel at last to look at her—really look at her. An Angel wouldn't take River away from him, but Professor Song was old. So very near the end. And yet he could still see young Melody Pond battling tears, weeping to beat any Angel for her parents. "Oh, River," his voice quivered, and he flung his arms out and around her. He was likely holding her much too tightly, but she clung to his jacket anyway and didn't resist when he buried his face in her curls.

When he finally turned his head to look through bleary eyes, the Angel was long gone.


The TARDIS announced its arrival with the usual grinding noises, but it didn't provide the usual comfort or excitement. He wasn't sure he could really do this. But she always got what she wanted.

Still, he was tentative as he opened the door just a crack and poked his head out. What was the likelihood she would even still be out here—

Yet there she was, straight red hair, coat, hat, and mittens, a cute little grin on her face and hope and life sparkling behind her eyes. And he distinctly remembered putting her to bed.

Rebooted timeline. Oh. He wondered if he could reboot this whole timeline, crash in an empty field somewhere and live out this regeneration as a hermit. Go to the meeting every ten years.

"You're late she informed him cheerfully as he slowly edged out into her backyard, shutting the door right behind him. She'd been awed and struck speechless by the inside of the Old Girl that time long ago when he'd snapped his fingers, and he would make sure she would be.

"Sorry," he said, walking up to her and only when she was right before him did he really take in how small she was. Just a little girl. Amy stood much higher. "Had some…trouble. The engines were- ehm—"

"Phasing," she supplied helpfully. Good old Pond.

"Right! Yes they were, weren't they? That was a scary time. What have you got there?" He asked, suddenly noticing the little suitcase she was using as a seat.

"I packed," she informed him proudly, before poking her head around his legs to look at the TARDIS. "So can we go now?"

"Go?" He said, almost floored by the suggestion. Him and little Amelia Pond travelling the cosmos? And she was staring up at him so hopefully…

When his shoulders slumped, hers did too. He crouched down to get to her level and took both her tiny hands in his.

"I'm sorry, Amelia," he said earnestly. "But I can't. Believe me, I so very much want to." He shook his head sadly, hardly able to meet her disappointed gaze. "But I can't."

"Why not?" Amelia asked stubbornly, her accent coming through thick and strong.

"Well, for starters, you're much too young," he decided to go for an easy answer, one she'd understand better.

"I'm seven." He couldn't help but laugh a little at that. Seven!

"Exactly. But don't you worry Pond, not one bit, because I'm coming back for you," he assured, seeing her face begin to fall. "Before you know it, before you'll even miss me, before- before—" He searched around for something, anything, and once more Amelia helped him.

"Before I can blink?"

His hearts stuttered and stopped for what seemed a lifetime as he stared at her innocent face.

"Yes," he breathed. "You just—" he sniffed, and wondered if it looked like he was batting his eyes at her the way he was struggling to keep from crying in front of her. "Just be patient, Amelia? For me, Ok?"

"Ok," she agreed resignedly, rolling her eyes just a little. He gave something between a breathy laugh and a shaky exhale.

"That's my good girl. Always, always the best. And it'll be worth it, Pond, I promise you." He squeezed the hands he was holding, partly in conviction, yet mostly just to feel them. To know, here in this moment, he was holding her hands. He didn't think he'd ever be able to let go. "There's so much waiting for the Girl Who Waited. So much for you to see, and to do. You've got all that to come." He thought perhaps he had managed a smile, for she perked up in interest just a bit.

"Really? Like what?"

"Oh, come now, Pond, you don't want me to spoil it all for you, eh? That wouldn't be fair. Like- like peeking at the end…of a book, see?" He couldn't keep his shoulders from shaking with suppressed sobs, and she seemed to notice with a slight frown. There wouldn't be any of that—no tears for Amelia Pond today. "Well…how about a preview?" When she settled, pleased and attentive, back on the suitcase, he took a deep breath.

"Well, there's loads of fun, and tons of running—a ridiculous amount of running's involved." And that nearly set of the water-works right there because why did he have to go reminding himself of Donna yet again? And dear Jenny…Oh God—

"And," he continued, trying to hold it back, lock it in a vault somewhere in his mind, just please stop the pain. "there's all the good things you'll do, Amelia. There's artists to inspire, whales in space to save, and even true love." Oh Rory, fantastic, funny, gorgeous Rory who he'd let out of his sight and then gone. He should have never.

"True love?" Amelia, like all little girls, had sat up straighter with interest, eyes shining like the stars.

"The truest I've ever seen," he told her with a fond smile, and that was the absolute truth. "One that will stand the trials and tribulations of time thousand years and back again, Amelia."

"And you'll be there?" She asked, as if just to be sure, her fingers twining through his as though to make sure he wasn't just some Imaginary Friend. She'd been so mistrustful back then, except that faith she'd kept in stupid, stupid him.

"As long as you need me," he promised. She hadn't needed him anymore in the end.

But that wasn't fair—because he needed her.

He broke at last, choking out a sob before wrapping her oh-so-small frame up in his arms, literally lifting her from the suitcase to sit in his lap. He'd fallen onto his backside and was just cradling her, rocking her gently back and forth with his lips pressed tight together to stop any more sounds from escaping. There was nothing he could do about the stream of tears leaking into his hair.

"I'll come back for you, Amelia," he was gasping in her ear. "And the times we'll have- what a story! It's the best," he avowed. "Sometimes- sometimes I'll make mistakes, sometimes you'll probably wonder if it's worth it, and sometimes you'll want to go home, but that's ok. Because I will always come back for you, Amelia. I'm yours. Forever."

"Ok," she agreed quietly, her little voice muffled against his jacket, and he pulled away to see her wide eyes staring up at him.

"Oh, look at me," he murmured, more to himself than her. "Scaring you half to death before you've even started. I'm sorry. And look at you!" He really took her in, then, her long coat on over her nightclothes. Their first true adventure together and she'd worn her nightie. "Let's get you back in bed, eh?"

Before she could even protest, he merely stood with her nestled in his arms, and after some maneuvering, had the fingers of one hand curled around the handle of her suitcase. In that big house with too many rooms, rooms that in this reality were filled with snoring humans, he carried her up into her bedroom and tucked her in like he had all those years before.

"Do I really have to wait?" She asked one more time as he straightened back up.

"I'm afraid you do," he couldn't keep some of the misery from his tone, and reached out a hand to brush back some stray hairs from her forehead. "But it won't be too long. You're going to grow into an amazing person, Amelia, and I just want to say—"

She yawned, and blinked her eyes sleepily. How very like her, the big ginge. So very Scottish. "Well, you need your sleep if you're going to grow at all," he managed a quiet, barely there chuckle, but bent forward to whisper, "Thank you."

"Come back soon," she requested, her tired voice already fading with the oncoming slumber. "See you, yeah?"

"Be seeing you," he lied with a watery smile. She'd see him, that should be enough. That was all there was, now. "Live well, love—" his voice caught in his throat and for the life of him he couldn't say Rory's name aloud. He settled for pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Bye-bye, Ponds," his lips moved, mouth forming the words, but the sound- the sound was so faint as to be not there at all. He hated repeating himself. He hated endings.

Standing slowly, feeling the weight and weariness twelve hundred years brought on, he walked to the door and flipped off the switch.

Who turned out the lights? Who, indeed.

"Sweet dreams, Amelia," his voice, soft and low, seemed to carry to her as she shifted and smiled faintly, her tiny form dimly lit through the sunlight filtering in her bedroom window.

There was so much he could have done, so much he should have done. Perhaps he shouldn't have made this visit at all. By doing so, he'd just sealed Amelia Pond's fate at the tender age of seven. But she'd asked. And who was he to deny his dear Amy?

His footsteps were heavy and halting as each one carried him further and further from her side, back into the TARDIS. The lights were very low, the whole ship seeming to sense his melancholy mood. Or perhaps she missed them just as much.

All the running in the world hadn't done any good. She hadn't flared, she hadn't faded—just blinked right out of his life. Forever.

As he walked around, pulling a lever here, touching a button there—the take-off process, he felt, had never been completed in such a dull, lifeless way—his fingers brushed something left on the console.

Her reading glasses, resting atop the afterward she'd written just for him.

His lips, and his prominent chin right along with them, trembled as he picked each up carefully, almost reverently. He studied each for a long moment, then slowly, silently, placed one in each of his jackets inner pockets. Her glasses in the left, her message in the right.

Right over his hearts.

I think that was the most difficult thing I've ever written. I haven't read anyone else's yet because I didn't want to be influenced by anything, so I'm not sure how original this is, but here it is anyway. Thanks so much for taking the time to read, and I'd really love to hear what you thought. I kind of need a pick-me-up after that episode.