"Amy!" Rory shouted from the kitchen, raising his voice over the morning radio and the sizzling of bacon in the frying pan. "Eggs?" He hummed along quietly to the music, waiting for an answer. This was the life, he thought to himself. A quiet Saturday morning, cooking breakfast, not running away from aliens or worrying about divorce papers. As much as Rory enjoyed his travels with the Doctor, all of the danger had made him treasure these normal moments; a lie in, interrupted only by the buzz of an alarm clock rather than the blaring of a distress signal.
Rory had worried, after the Asylum, that it was the Doctor, and the life he brought with him, that was keeping he and Amy together. In the few months without him, real life had suddenly hit them, jobs, family, paying the bills. Rory had always seen his life with the Doctor as one big adventure, but it turned out his life alone with his wife had just as many, if not more, twists and turns. His experiences both travelling through time and working as a nurse had exposed him to so much tragedy, but none of that was enough to prepare him for the realisation that he and Amy would never be able to have another child of their own.
Although he would never fully be able to get his head around it, Rory loved Melody, River, as his daughter. However, not even the Doctor could give them back the time the couple had missed out on. It had been some consolation that she had spent their childhood with them, but that was their friend Mels, not their daughter Melody. They had both expected to be able to experience the time they had lost with Melody with another child, so much so that the revelation of Amy's condition had almost ripped them apart. This was, in the most part, due to Amy's selflessness; giving him up so that he didn't have to suffer with her, knowing that given the choice he would stand by her.
The Doctor had, in his own clever way, made them both admit the truth and engineered their reconciliation, but in hindsight Rory was sure they could have gotten back here on their own, eventually. He had seen the Doctor nurture and encourage many people during their journeys, so much so that he'd failed to notice when he was doing it to them. It was only recently in the light of their regular life, that Rory had realised that he and his wife had the potential all along, the Doctor just helped nudge them in the right direction. Amy had spent so much of her life waiting for and looking up to the Doctor, that he sometimes wondered if she felt powerless without him. Since their return from the Asylum, however, that had all changed.
Things were fantastic for the Williams', their lives like so many others, work, shopping, bills, but with the odd TARDIS trip thrown in here and there. Even whilst doing the simplest thing like cooking breakfast Rory always kept half an ear out, listening, waiting for, for the TARDIS arriving to whisk them away on another adventure.
A few moments later, the more docile sound of footsteps snapped him from his thoughts.
"Don't ask stupid questions this early in the morning, Mr Pond." Amy teased as she drifted lazily down the stairs, still in her night dress. "What's a breakfast without eggs?"
Amy tilted her head, and shot her husband a look as she walked in to the kitchen. Rory looked up to his wife, amazed as always by how stunning she looked first thing in the morning.
Rory looked puzzled for a moment, so buried in his thoughts he'd almost forgotten that he'd asked the question. "Fried then." Rory nodded, turning back to the frying pan, and quickly lifting it from the heat, burning his hand in the process, as he saw the blackened bacon starring back at him.
"Maybe we were a bit hasty in letting the Doctor take that Ood home." Amy said thoughtfully, glass of orange juice in hand, peering over Rory's shoulder at the charred remains of their breakfast as he ran his hand under the cold tap.
"You felt guilty!" Rory reminded her. "Not comfortable with him cooking your breakfasts every morning, you said."
"I wasn't." Amy shrugged, looking sympathetically at Rory's burnt finger as he reached one of his many first aid kits from a nearby cupboard. One advantage of living with a nurse, Amy had discovered, was that medical supplies were never that far away.
"Happy to let me cook it instead though? Encourage it, even." Rory replied, with a smile. He hoped Amy knew that he would never really complain, he was just happy things were back to normal. Normal for the Ponds, anyway. Rory quickly dressed his own burn, not paying too much attention. He knew he should really soothe it under water for a bit longer, but right now he was far too hungry.
"That's different." Amy smiled, kissing Rory firmly on the cheek. "You're my husband, it's what you're here for."
"Guess so." Rory shrugged, as Amy ruffled his fresh-out-of-bed-hair affectionately. "Cereal?" He said, lifting two boxes from the kitchen worktop, and presenting them to his wife.
At that moment, the doorbell rang, and the couple looked at each other in unison.
"Dressing gown." Rory stated, gesturing to his state of dress, cereal still in hand.
The door bell rang again.
"Er, hello? Night dress?"
Another ring, this time three times in quick succession.
"Ok." Rory sighed, heading out of the kitchen. "I'm coming."
There was another ring, but this time their impatient visitor seemed to be holding their finger on the doorbell.
"Coming!" Rory shouted, shifting both boxes of cereal on to one arm as he struggled with the door. As he pulled it open the doorbell stopped, and a look of shock spread over Rory's' face. He may have found himself reincarnated as a plastic roman, storming the control ship of a Cyberlegion and standing before a parliament of Daleks, but what he found on his doorstep was far more chilling and unexpected.
It was the Doctor. And he was crying.
"Doctor?" Rory exclaimed.
"Yes, Rory. Well observed." The Doctor snapped back, flustered. He pushed past Rory, who held his arms up to let the Time Lord past.
"No time for breakfast." The Doctor glared, prompting Rory to realise he still had the cereal in his hands. He went to go in to the house, but Rory stopped him.
"Doctor," he said quietly, so Amy couldn't hear him. "What's the matter?" The Time Lord went to walk past him, but Rory blocked him. Since the Doctor had been out of their lives, it was down to Rory to protect his wife. He knew Amy could look after herself, but the thought of anything that could break the Doctor like this terrified him.
"Tell me." Rory demanded, sternly but kindly, the tone he used to make some of his more difficult patients take their medication.
"She's dying, Rory." The Doctor replied sadly, but loudly, shifting uncomfortably on his feet, looking at the ground. "She's dying."
"What?" Amy rushed in from the kitchen, before Rory could respond. "Who's dying? Not River?"
"No, no. No." The Doctor said, trying to be reassuring. "River's fine." He paused. "I think. Maybe. I'm sure she is. Tough old cookie, your daughter." He faked a grin.
"Then what is it, Doctor?" Rory asked impatiently. "You can't come to us for help then not tell us what's going on."
"Help?" The Doctor said indignantly, adjusting his blue bow tie. "What makes you think I've come to you for help?" He paused, almost sneering. "Why do you even think you could help?"
"I'm going to ignore that." Amy shot him a look. "But help's all you seem to come for lately. "Help, I've found some dinosaurs, or help, a robot copy of me is going to die by a lake."
"I'm sorry." The Doctor turned away from them. "I'm sorry if it feels like that, I really am, but I'm not here for your help." He turned back, a new tear in his eye. "I'm here because I need my Ponds."
Amy stepped towards him, and gave him a hug, the Doctor pulling Rory, still clutching the cereal boxes, in too.
For the first time, Rory saw a Doctor who needed someone, needed them. Was this what they looked like to him, he wondered? Vulnerable, needing someone to make everything better. The main difference, Rory thought, was that the Doctor fixed things by running around and being clever. They made it better with a hug.
After a few moments, Amy pulled herself free.
"What's wrong, Doctor?" She asked softly. "Who's dying?"
The Doctor turned away again, as if he couldn't look them in the eye.
"The TARDIS." He replied. "The TARDIS is dying. And it's all my fault."
"So, what happened?" Amy asked, for what felt like the hundredth time. "And where's the TARDIS?"
Once again, the Doctor didn't answer, instead just staring across the kitchen table.
"I couldn't see her outside." Rory added, coming back in to the kitchen, now dressed, still fixing his hair.
The Doctor looked down to the full cup of tea that sat in front of him, before finally speaking.
"Have you ever heard of people seeing their lives flash in front of their eyes?"
"Yes." Rory nodded quickly, taking a seat at the table. "A patient. Old guy, lovely he was. Was on the ward for weeks. One day, we thought that was it, he was dying. By all means that should ahve been it, but he pulled through. Still alive, as far as I know."
"And what did he say?" The Doctor probed, "What did he see?" Amy held her husband's hand. She knew how hard Rory found it to talk about the darker, tragic side of his job. She pulled back as he winced, realising she'd squeezed his burn.
"Sorry!" She mouthed, giving him a wide sympathetic look.
"He said he saw everything, his whole life, all in one moment. Literally flashing through his head."
"It's the brain." The Doctor explained. "Your wonderful human brains." He reached across and ruffled Rory's hair, much to the young man's annoyance. "If it's in a new situation, something it can't think it's way out of, the brain searches for a way to get out of it, looking through its memory to find a solution."
"So?" Amy quipped, impatiently. "What's this got to do with the TARDIS?"
"She did the same." He sighed. "She was dying. Is, dying." He paused. "So she looked for a way to get out of it. I'm guessing there wasn't one, so she searched through hundreds of years of travelling and chose the place she wanted to be. The one place she felt safe."
"And where's that?" Rory said, puzzled. "Here? She wanted to be with us?"
"Erm. No." the Doctor said, a little awkwardly, watching Rory's face drop." I got the bus." He continued quickly, seeing that Amy found him using public transport amusing. "As much as I'm sure she likes it here," he scratched his nose, hoping not to offend, "she went home."
"Where are we?" Amy asked a puzzled Rory, as the Doctor awkwardly stepped off of the bus. The road was quiet, surrounded by tall brick buildings, all relics of a long gone era.
"How quaint." He commented, turning back to watch the bus as it pulled away. "Bit slow though."
"That's traffic." Rory commented. "What all of us without a TARDIS have to put up with."
Amy nudged him in the ribs, to remind her husband that right now, the Doctor no longer had a TARDIS either. She looked to the Doctor, who didn't seem to have been phased. Despite the danger they had been in together, Amy had never worried about the Doctor as much as she had in the past hour or so. It felt almost as if the roles had been reversed; they were the ones looking after him, the pair of them.
And that's the only way Amy would have had it. She was strong, both she and everyone else knew that, but that strength fed on the strength of her boys. When walking blindly through a forest on a spaceship, it was the Doctor's strength that kept her going, but faced with a grieving Time Lord, she needed her Rory.
"Well, if you'll use roads you'll get traffic." The Doctor replied, turning on the spot, analysing his surroundings.
"What would you suggest then Doctor, a flying bus?" Rory shrugged.
"I'd recommend it, yes." The Time Lord answered, pointing to the right before heading to the left. "Now then Ponds, this way!"
He darted round a corner, Amy and Rory following close behind. Although he had been quiet on the journey, the Doctor now seemed to be returning back to his normal self. Or, as normal as Amy had ever seen him.
Across the road from them was a large set of double gates, rusted from years of neglect. The wooden fence either side was falling apart, the paint peeling completely. Amy, however, could make out some old lettering on one side.
76 TOTTERS LANE
"A scrapyard?" Rory shook his head. "Out of all of time and space, the TARDIS has come home, to a scrap yard?"
"Come along Ponds!" The Doctor shouted, as he opened the gate with his Sonic Screwdriver and slipped through.
He continued on through the scrap yard, not waiting for Amy and Rory to catch up. He looked around, the remains of a time gone by surrounding him. It had been a long time, but the Doctor would have sworn it was exactly the same as the last time he had been here. It was as if no one had acknowledged the existence of 76 Totters Lane for a very long time.
Perhaps it was the effect of the TARDIS having been there for so long, and on multiple occasions. It had been known for chameleon circuits to pass on their unique properties to their surroundings. Or maybe, the Doctor thought, the scrapyard's anonymity was the reason he had chosen to settle here in the first place, all that time ago.
He'd been looking for a place to hide back then, somewhere to settle, somewhere safe. He remembered considering taking refuge in the furthest-most distant corner of the galaxy, away from any other life, but of course, it wasn't just himself he had to think about back then. Susan was such a special child, so keen to learn all she could. Perhaps, he wondered, in hindsight, that was why he had found himself drawn to similar travelling companions ever since.
His reminiscing ended when he reached the TARDIS, looking perfect from the outside, bar the lack of lights, but the Doctor knew what was waiting on the other side of those police box doors. He opened the door with a deep sigh and stepped in, leaving them open for Amy and Rory to follow.
"What do you think's going on?" Rory asked, as the pair saw the Doctor disappear in to the TARDIS ahead of them. "He's acting.."
"Odd." Amy finished his sentence, nodding. "Or odder than normal anyway."
"He was more or less silent the whole way here." Rory bit his bottom lip. "And I don't like it. You know he can't plan anything and be silent at the same time, it all comes flowing out, like verbal.."
"I know." His wife interrupted. "If he's not planning anything," She paused. "He's given up."
Rory took Amy's hand and squeezed tightly.
"I'm sure he hasn't. He'll have a plan."
"I hope so." Amy replied, forcing a smile. She'd never seen that look on the Doctor's face before. Through everything she had seen, Daleks, pirates, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, she'd always known every was ok as long as the Doctor had a plan. If he'd given up hope, then what chance was there for them?
"Doctor!" Amy called, as they stepped in to the police box, the lights down low. The central column was groaning, struggling to move. As Amy looked around the console room for the Doctor, Rory knelt down to the console, placing his ear on it, trying to listen over the sound of the echoing cloister bell.
"It's weak." He said sadly. "Normally, you'd hear, well, not a heartbeat exactly, but something. There's hardly anything now."
"Where's he gone?" Amy said, concerned. "I don't fancy wandering down those corridors in the dark." She shuddered, thinking back. "Again."
"He's feeling guilty." Rory mused. "You heard him, the Doctor said it was his fault." He stood up, looking to the struggling central column. "He's already seen her die once." He glanced over to the spot of floor by the steps, where he had held Idris' body all that time ago. "That's hard enough, I imagine he wouldn't want to see it again."
Amy was about to respond, when the Doctor's voice echoed around them.
"Ponds, I have something to show you!" He bellowed. "Up the stairs, first right, fourth left, second right, seventh on the left. Come on! On your way!"
"The Space-Time Visualiser!" The Doctor beamed, as Amy and Rory appeared at the doorway, not even giving them a chance to take in the room. Behind him was a large round device, with what appeared to be a screen in the middle. "She might be on her way out, but the old girl still has plenty of reserve energy supplies knocking about."
"Hold on, Doctor." Amy said, gesturing for him to slow down. "What's that thing, and what's it got to do with what's going on?"
"Pay attention Pond!" The Doctor exclaimed. "It's the Space-Time Visualiser! Space and Time TV! Anywhere and anywhen, all on this screen here!" He gestured behind him.
"But," Rory started, "You can go anywhere and anywhen, why would you want to watch it? Particularly when the TARDIS is dying? Shouldn't we be doing something?"
"We can't go anywhere." The Doctor said, exasperated. "She's dying, hardly in the mood for a few quick trips. I know how she feels, but I always seem to get thrown in to something. Just once, I'd like to die in peace." He murmured, trailing off.
"You've still not told us what happened!" Amy interrupted. "We know it's bad, so why are you pretending? It's us, Doctor." She stepped towards him. "It's Amy and Rory. The Ponds." She looked apologetically to Rory. "You don't have to pretend everything's ok with us."
"I'm not pretending, Amy." The Doctor said firmly. "It's bad. Very bad"
"Then tell us what happened."
"I'm trying to." He replied calmly.
"Looks like the opposite from here." Rory added.
"Well, it's a little, embarrassing." The Doctor said sheepishly. "So I'm trying to show you." He pointed back to the Space-Time Visualiser, visibly frustrated.
"So you can watch any event, from any time on that thing?" Rory gave the machine a good look, before glancing to Amy. "Maybe we could get one?"
"Monthly fees might be a bit steep." The Time Lord pondered. "I wouldn't know, never had a bill. Not that I know of, anyway. This is the closest I've had to a fixed address."
"Stop stalling Doctor." Amy looked at him accusingly. "You were going to show us what happened."
He sighed, and turned to the machine, turning some of the knobs on the front, before stopping suddenly and spinning back around to face them.
"Well, I could show you how we got here." A large grin appeared on his face, "But you know how it ends. And that story's a bit depressing. Rory opening the door with cereal. Rubbish ground buses." He span on the spot, wiggling his fingers in the air. "No, if you were dying, you wouldn't want people telling sad stories about you, would you?" The Doctor didn't give them a chance to respond. "There's plenty of time for that," he looked down to the floor, guiltily. "But why don't I show you something a bit more exciting first?" He fiddled with a dial on the visualiser and punched a button, prompting the screen to burst in to life. He turned back to Amy and Rory, beaming. "Let's see some of her best bits!"