This story starts three months after Rory and Amy's wedding in my story An Unexpected Family. And almost four years before the last chapter. So if you haven't read that story this one may not make sense.
Much love to my beta lastincurableromantic. Thank you!
General disclaimer: I do not now (and probably never will) own Doctor Who. Although I'm thinking that we should start a petition.
I hope you all enjoy.
A Gathering at Lake Silencio
It had been three months of newly-wedded bliss for Rory and Amy Tyler, or Tyler-Pond as Amy always insisted. Either way, it had been fantastic. Once a week, usually on Saturdays, the Tyler clan met up at Tony and Trisha's house in London. Many times they were joined by members of the extended family: Jack, Sarah-Jane, Mickey and Martha. They traded tales of their lives.
Tony's stories involved his children or an interesting case at work. Trisha limited her tales of the bureaucracy of UNIT, focusing on the kids' antics. The new Uni student, Sabrina, filled them in on her classes, her friends and this new guy she had been seeing. When her two big brothers started interrogating her about the young man's identity she rolled her eyes and told them to stuff it.
There were exciting tales to be told from the four current time travelers as well. Amy was fond of the one from her and Rory's romantic trip to Venice, where they ran into fish-vampires but sadly missed Casanova (not that Rory was upset by that) by a hundred years or so. They had also met Vincent Van Gogh, helped him out a bit and the artist had dedicated one of his paintings to Amy.
Rose and The Doctor also had few thrilling tales. They had run into a group of Silurians who were looking to reawaken from hibernation and take back the Earth. The Doctor had almost negotiated a peace deal, but it soon became clear that humanity was not quite ready to share the planet.
Then Rose had everyone in stitches as she regaled them with an account of the time that the Doctor got trapped outside the TARDIS and was forced to become the lodger of a delightful bloke named Craig. The Doctor had appropriately blushed as she praised his football skills and the matchmaking he had done between Craig and Sophie.
Everyone deserved a shot at the woman they love, the Doctor had declared. Then it was Rose's turn to blush.
Family dinners seemed to be a highlight for those who were currently Earth based and a respite for those who weren't. It was a routine that worked for their unconventional family and no one would know if it was actually two weeks between visits for Amy and Rory because they had managed to find themselves in the middle of a rebellion. They would simply make up for it by jumping ahead and attending two in a row. Or that it had actually been a month for the Doctor and Rose because the Doctor had insisted on piloting the TARDIS himself.
Rory actually kept a close eye on visits home, not wanting to keep Amy away for long periods. The last thing he wanted was for her to begin to age prematurely compared to Tony, Trisha or Sabrina. It was not a problem his mum and the Doctor had to worry about, though, so who knew how long they stayed away between visits. In fact, Rory was constantly teasing his mum about not knowing her real age. Once she had stuck her tongue out at him and reminded her son that he would have that problem too one day.
Still every week, linearly at least, Rose and the Doctor happily arrived for family dinners and came if and when anyone called. In fact, they had been the first to arrive at the hospital a few days ago when Mickey and Martha's son, Gareth, was born. That was probably due more to his mum's driving than anything else.
Currently though everyone was traveling separately. The honeymooners, Rory and Amy, were returning from helping reinstate a small colony of what humans would refer to as fairies from their dying home world to a new planet.
"Home sweet home," Amy said as she and her husband entered their slightly purple, Police Box shaped time and space machine. "As much fun as the adventure is," she said, wrapping her arms around Rory's neck, "there is nothing like alone time." She gently pressed a kiss against his lips and giggled when he picked her up and carried her to one of the jump-seats.
"What's that?" Amy asked, breaking their kiss.
"Probably nothing," Rory muttered before going back in for another snog.
"No really, Rory, there's something on the console." Pushing him off of her, Amy stood and picked up a blue envelope. It was the color of the Doctor's TARDIS and had a number two emblazoned on the front. Her hand was poised to open it when Rory ripped it out of her hands.
"Oi!" the red-head protested. "What did you do that for?"
Bringing the envelope to his nose, Rory sniffed it and said, "Someone managed to get through the TARDIS' defenses to get this here. It could be dangerous." Nothing toxic was registering.
"So you can tell if it's dangerous by sniffing it?" Amy asked as she quirked an eyebrow.
"Time Lord Superpowers," Rory retorted with a smirk and a shrug. "And just be glad I don't lick things like Dad did."
Laughing, Amy said, "How Mum ever kissed that man, I will never know."
Rory gave her a wistful smile. It had been almost a year since Dad had died, and it was nice to talk about him without his memory being tinged with pain.
"So, is it dangerous?" Amy asked, snapping him out of his reverie. For a fraction of a second something about her seemed off, like it wasn't really her. Before he could really register it, whatever it had been was gone.
Turning the envelope over in hands, Rory inspected it. "No I don't think so…" Without warning Amy snatched the envelope back and ripped it open. "What does it say?" Rory asked, peering over her arm.
37º 0º 38ºN 110º 14º 34º W
"Just a date, a time and a place. Looks like we've been invited somewhere, Mr. Tyler-Pond. The question is, who invited us?" Amy tapped the invitation against her chin.
"And how did they get inside the TARDIS to deliver it?" His gaze traveled up to the Time Rotor. "Friend or foe?"
"Of course it's friend. I would never let a foe in here if I had the choice," the TARDIS' voice reverberated through his head.
"Fair enough," Rory said, tilting his head slightly. "Care to elaborate on who the friend was then?"
A tinkling laughter filled his head. "Sorry, my cub, nothing I can say right now. You'll have to follow this path on your own, but I will implore you to head to the destination. Post Haste."
Heaving a sigh, Rory traced a hand across the console. "Do you always have to be so cryptic?"
"Did she say who it was?" Amy asked, pointing at a bit of the console.
"Just that it was a friend and we should go." Rory flicked a few switches. "Ready?"
With a big grin, Amy came over and bumped his shoulder. "Allons-y!"
The door to the TARDIS opened allowing Rory and Amy to step out into the dry, desert heat. The area seemed quiet, nothing around but a lonely stretch of highway containing an old diner and a rundown petrol station.
"Utah," Rory said, turning around in a circle. A flash of light caught his eye and Jack Harkness appeared.
"Hello, you two gorgeous creatures," Uncle Jack said, coming over to hug them. "Are you behind the mysterious invites?" the Captain asked, pulling a blue envelope out of his pocket.
Rory shook his head. "Four, you're number four?"
"Yep, and apparently you weren't the one who invited me to the middle of nowhere," Jack said as he pulled off his long military jacket.
"No, that would be me. Howdy." The familiar voice of the Doctor came from a short distance away.
"Doc!" Jack exclaimed at the same time both Amy and Rory said, "Doctor!" Only Rory noticed the Doctor's slight wince at the sound of his name.
After a round of hugs, Rory had started to ask where his mum was when another highly familiar voice called, "Hello, Sweeties."
Another round of greetings followed River's arrival and then the five of them retreated to the diner. Rory hung back and grabbed the Doctor's arm. "Doctor." The man in question flinched again although this time he tried to hide the reaction. "Where's Mum? And where's the TARDIS? I don't feel either of them near here."
"That's because they're not here," the Doctor said sadly.
"Is everything alright? Is Mum okay?" Rory said in a slight panic. The Doctor hadn't been letting Rory's mum out of his sight as of late. It was to be expected when he thought he'd lost her forever.
"Of course she is. Rose Tyler is more than alright, she's perfect. She just dropped me off here and went to visit your brother and before you ask, everyone else is absolutely fine as well." He waved a hand towards the door. "Let's go inside, shall we?"
River and Amy were already sitting on opposite side of a booth and Jack was at the counter probably flirting with the waitress. The Doctor slid in next to Amy and Rory next to River.
"I ordered us drinks and French fries," Jack said, swinging a chair around to sit at the end of the table.
Cracking open her journal, River asked, "Alright, then. Where are we? Have we done the family vacation on Easter Island?"
Amy was already flicking through the pages of her own red one. "Nope, no Easter Island yet."
Pulling out a small black journal, one that was unmistakably not his, what with a red rose emblazoned on the cover, the Doctor said, "Um... yes! I've got Easter Island.
River laughed. "They worshiped you there. Have you seen the statues?"
"Seen them? Rose gave me a miniature one for a Christmas present," the Doctor said with a laugh.
Leaning forward, Rory studied the man in front of him. There hadn't been a Christmas since the wedding. More to the point, Rory doubted that his mum would have celebrated one without her children, much less her grandchildren. While adjusting Rose's journal in his hands, Rory saw it. A ring with a pair of entwined gold and silver ropes, prominently displayed on the ring finger of the Doctor's left hand. A wedding ring.
Married, the Doctor was married. Did he and his mum just run off and get married and forget to invite him, Rory pondered.
"Jim the Fish," the Doctor exclaimed.
River smiled and said, "Oh! Jim the Fish! How is he?"
"Still building his dam," the Doctor said in jest. The waitress came up to the table and passed the sodas around the table before setting the baskets of fries down.
"Well," Jack said, tossing a few of the fried potatoes into his mouth. "I'm from a few days after the family trip to Crupta. Fantastic water slides, very slippery, and might I say, Dr. Song, you looked exceptionally magnificent in that green swimsuit." He tossed a wink in River's direction.
"I'll have to remember that, Captain." Her voice had suddenly become huskier. The Doctor rolled his eyes but didn't tell Jack to cut out the flirting like he usually did.
Something was wrong here. Something was very, very wrong. Rory's mind reached out to the Doctor's but he was met with heavy shielding. Something was not adding and Rory was determined to get to the bottom of it.
Amy's voice brought him back to reality. "So what's been happening, then? 'Cause you've been up to something." Cutting to the heart of the matter, that's his girl, Rory thought.
Shrugging, the Doctor put the journal back in his pocket. "We've been running. And I've been running my whole life. Now it's time for me to stop. And tonight I'm going to need you all with me."
Jack nodded solemnly as if a secret was passed between them. "We're here for you, Doc. What's up?"
Rubbing his hands together, the Doctor smiled. "A picnic and then a trip, somewhere different, somewhere brand new."
Rory smiled at that and was unable to resist teasing him. "There are places you haven't been yet."
The Doctor seemed to relax a little as he met Rory's eye. "Of course there are places I haven't been yet, far fewer than you, though. It's why we keep traveling. But this time we're going to space. 1969."
A short time later the quintet found themselves on a large picnic blanket not far from the edge of a quiet lake. The Doctor was leisurely lying on his side. River and Jack were shamelessly flirting. Amy was popping grapes into her mouth while Rory was scrutinizing everything.
"So why are we here exactly?" Amy asked in a voice that was obviously trying to sound casual.
Letting out a sigh, the Doctor rolled over and sat up. "Is it so improbable that I wanted to spend some time with a few members of my family?"
"Not at all," Rory said. "It's just odd that certain people aren't here."
Momentarily closing his eyes, the Doctor let out another deep breath and then stared at Rory. "I know that you're suspicious. Everything will be clearer soon. For now, can you please just trust me?"
Blinking at the unexpected mental contact, Rory nodded and tried to relax and enjoy the day. It was difficult. More than anything he wanted to question why the Doctor was obviously out of his timeline. There is no way that the Doctor would be married to anyone other than his mum, and she never would have gotten married without at least telling him. No, this was a future version of the Doctor, one who flinched when Rory or Amy said his name. Apparently they called him something else now.
Amy pointed up a high ridge. "Who's that?"
Following her eye line, Rory looked up but didn't see anything. "Hm? Who's who?"
Her eyes were slightly glazed as they slid back into focus. "Sorry what?" Amy asked, looking confused.
Once again for a moment that was too infinitesimal to measure, Amy didn't look like herself. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. "What did you see? You said you saw something." Rory said, his eyes still scanning the area. He noticed River and Jack looking around suspiciously too.
Laughing, Amy said, "No, I didn't. Are your Time Lord Superpowers causing you to hear things now?"
Before anyone could respond, the Doctor butted into the conversation. "Ah! The moon! Look at it! Of course you lot did a lot more than look, didn't you? Big silvery thing in the sky, you couldn't resist it. Quite right."
"The moon landing was in '69. Is that where we're going?" Rory asked, trying to piece together whatever puzzle the Doctor was laying out for him.
The elder man smiled sadly. "Oh, a lot more happens in '69 than anyone remembers. Human beings. We will never get done saving them."
"Hey Doc," Jack said, pointing over to the lake. The still surface of the water had started rippling and bubbling. "I think there's something out there." A helmet emerged from the water, followed by a torso in a space suit.
The Doctor looked unfazed. Looking away from the lake, he acknowledged an old man standing next to a pickup truck. "You all need to stay back. Whatever happens now, you do not interfere. Clear?"
Rory was astonished. "That's an astronaut. That's an Apollo astronaut in a lake."
"I know," the Doctor said aloud softly. But in his mind he reached out to give some semblance of an explanation. "Rory, look at me."
Stepping forward, the young man looked into his eye and saw the strangest sight he had ever beheld. And for him that was saying something.
Normally when you looked into this Doctor's eye you saw bright green hiding the depths of time. Today, Rory saw what looked to be a long corridor with a miniature Doctor waving at him from inside.
"What's going on?" Rory demanded, knowing that whatever it was, he couldn't ask the question aloud.
"This is not the end, Rory. I promise you that you are brilliant enough to figure out what needs to be done here. Make me come back when your mum is eight months gone and we have just seen me with an old face. And tell Amy this isn't real; make sure she knows before this happens that this isn't real. But you both need to play along. Got it?" the Doctor pleaded with him.
"What's about to happen?" It had to be bad if the Doctor wanted him and Amy to know that it wasn't real. "Doctor!"
The Doctor, or whatever, shook his head and walked away. Amy tried to follow but Rory grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back. Through their bond Rory pushed the Doctor's message to her. "Not real, what is happening isn't really happening. Play along, we'll figure everything out later."
Rory kept the part about his mum being eight months gone to himself. It explained why she wasn't here, though. A suddenly pregnant Rose Tyler would have been hard to explain. And probably would have earned the Doctor a black eye for not only marrying her but getting her up the duff without so much a word to any of her children.
At the edge if the lake, the Doctor held his hands up in surrender. "Hello, my sweet girl. It's okay, I know it's you." The astronaut opened its helmet. "You have no choice. I know that. Never forget that you are loved, my dear."
Rory could barely make out the words that the Doctor was saying, but it was obvious that he not only knew who this was but also knew what was going to happen. The astronaut raised their hand, brandishing a weapon.
This could not be happening again. Letting go of Amy, Rory lunged forward but Jack caught him. "No!" Rory screamed both at the astronaut and Jack. It was too late, though; a blast came from the gun and hit the Doctor (or maybe the fake Doctor) in the chest.
It was palpable as the fixed point locked itself into place. But what was it about this moment that was fixed? The Doctor said it wasn't real but Rory and Amy were supposed to act as if it were. Was this for show?
A golden light began to emit from the (fake) Doctor's hands. "I'm sorry," the man that looked like the Doctor but wasn't said.
Rory had never seen regeneration first hand before but he was certain that this is what the beginning of it looked like. Another blast erupted from the weapon, hitting the Doctor and abruptly stopping the golden glow. The deed was done. Calmly, the astronaut turned back towards the lake, leaving the lifeless Doctor lying on the sand.
River raised her gun and shot at the retreating figure. Even after the clip was empty, she continued to fire. She reached for Jack's sidearm but he stilled her hand and shook his head.
Amy ran forward and fell to the ground next to the Doctor. "He can't be dead. This cannot be happening again." Her small hands felt for a pulse on his neck; none could be found. She laid her head on his chest, placing her ear over each heart in turn. Nothing.
Kneeling down beside him, Rory pulled back an eyelid. The miniature Doctor was no longer around, but on the back of his tongue he could taste the metallic tang that was indicative of a teleport. Clever.
A way around the fixed point, that was what Rory was supposed to figure out. The Doctor apparently needed to appear to be dead but wouldn't be.
River's voice broke him from his thoughts. "Whatever that was, it killed him in the middle of his regeneration cycle. His body was already dead. He didn't make it to the next one. I'm sorry."
"No, no," Amy said, shaking her head. "He can't be! And where the hell is Mum?"
The older gentleman who had been standing by the truck had made his way down to the group. "I can save you some time," he said, his gravely, unfamiliar voice sounding out of place. "That most certainly is the Doctor. And he is most certainly dead. He said you'd need this."
"Gasoline?" Jack asked, a hint of bemusement in his voice.
River held back a sob. "A Time Lord's body is a miracle. Even a dead one. There are whole empires out there who'd rip this world apart just for one cell. We can't leave him here. Or anywhere."
"What do we do, Rory?" Amy asked, now clutching her husband.
"We're his family. We do what the Doctor's family always does, what needs to be done." River said, squaring her shoulders and looking Rory in the eye. Her eyes flicked to another object on the shoreline.
Nodding that he understood, Rory squeezed Amy tightly before realizing her. "There's a boat. If we're going to do this, let's do it properly." He walked off down the beach to drag the boat closer to the Doctor's prone form. No one moved from their positions until Rory was back.
Then River rounded on the new man. "Who are you? Why did you come?"
The man smiled. "Same reason as all of you." He pulled out a blue envelope with the number five on it. "Doctor Song. Amy. Rory. Captain Jack. I'm Canton Everett Delaware the Third. I won't be seeing you again, but you'll be seeing me. And Rory, give your mother my best." With that he turned and left leaving the grieving family.
The sun was just beginning to set as Jack and Rory set the Doctor in the small boat. Rory swallowed back the bile in his throat as Jack doused the body with the accelerant. However when Jack went to strike the match, Rory stopped him.
"No, Uncle Jack, that's my job." If Mum could light Dad's funeral pyre, certainly he could do this, Rory thought. I hope you were right, Doctor, I hope you made it out alive.
Once the fire had taken hold, Jack and Rory pushed the boat into the water. Jack walked back up the beach and wrapped an arm around both Amy and River. He gently pressed a kiss into River's hair.
Rory stood stock still on the shoreline staring over the water, past the burning boat to the opposite shore line. Four people stood there having basically appeared out of thin air, a man and three women. Two of them pregnant women. If he squinted, he could make out who they were.
Fantastic, a circular paradox. Let the fun begin, he thought ruefully.