This hopped uninvited into my head while I was re-watching "A Good Man Goes to War". Enjoy. Or sob uncontrollably, as my editor did. She's started refusing to read my stuff, ever since I told her that "Lacrimosa" by Alayne Stone had a happy ending. Which I highly recommend, but it is very sad.
"Doctor, do you have children?" Amy asks, curious and eager. The Doctor knows it is innocent curiosity, that she means no harm by it, but he can't help but feel the faintest twinge of anger. How dare she bring them up. How dare she bring them up now.
"No." The lie rolls easily off his tongue. A sign that he's repeated it too often, or that he's been lying for too long? He didn't use to have to lie. He didn't have to lie to them.
"My boys," he whispers, running his palm over the smooth, aged wood of the cot, and his voice is so soft that he can barely hear himself over the ambient clanking and the sparking of cut wires. The lights flicker again, and in the darkness he can see their young faces, shining with the smiles that made the whole universe feel like a brighter place.
But even they never knew it all. That had been the beginning of the lies, and the Doctor didn't ever know why exactly he hadn't told the truth. Was it because he was trying to save them the pain, or because he wanted so fiercely to believe it himself? He knew without asking that it was the latter. The latter, because for those glorious years he wasn't the Savior, or the miracle worker. He wasn't the Oncoming Storm, he wasn't even "Doctor." All he was, all they needed him to be, was Dad.
Amy and Rory are still watching him, and the Doctor recognizes the stubborn Scottish fire in Amy's eyes. She's not going to let him go without something. The Doctor drops his eyes to baby Melody, who watches him intently, seeming to understand much more than her parents in that moment. She blinks once, and in that blink, the Doctor sees not Amy and Rory's newborn daughter, but a different child, a little boy with grey-green eyes who stares and stares and never cries. Just watches and waits. Waits for too long.
"Who slept in here?" Amy sounds almost impatient now, just the way he sounded when he could tell the Doctor wasn't telling him everything. He could always tell. Little Sammy.
But how can he explain it to the Ponds? How can he explain the vast emptiness gnawing at him still, in this moment when their family, torn apart for so long, is finally complete? How could he explain that practice makes perfect, because Melody wasn't the first child he'd tried to save. She was just the first success. The only success.
He knows he can't explain about the two little boys huddled alone on the dead, dry grass, watching their home and their parents burn. He can't explain the reason why he parked the TARDIS right there on a neighborhood street in Lawrence, Kansas in the midst of a crowd of horrified and curious onlookers, and carried those two little boys inside. He couldn't explain any of it, not even to himself.
"His name was Sam," the Doctor mutters, and he's surprised to hear the name aloud. He hasn't permitted himself to say it in so long. It feels good in his mouth, and far more right than anything he's said lately has felt.
Amy blinks, and the Doctor realizes that, although she was prepared to fight for an answer, she hadn't really expected one. Well, if she wanted to know, who was he to stop her?
"Baby Sammy slept in here," the Doctor continues louder. "His brother stood right where you are now. I saved them." He nods, more to himself than to the Ponds, as though he must reassure himself. "I saved them."
"When?" Amy asks. She still looks surprised, but she's recognized this as a once in a lifetime occurrence, and she's going to find out what she can.
"1983," says the Doctor. It feels like a lifetime ago. And for two little boys from Kansas, it is.
"But that's…" Amy begins, "I mean, that's when I was born."
The Doctor doesn't reply. He looks down at the cot, but he doesn't see it. He only sees his boys. Sees every moment of their lives, and he wishes more than anything that he could reach out and grasp them, hug them once more, hold them for eternity. But they're gone. Just like all the rest, they're gone. Because angels can't stop fighting, can't stop manipulating. They were there first, it was their planet, they can do what they like, well of course they can. They can use whoever they bloody well want, and damned if it's their fault some people get killed. There was a graveyard in Kansas, so close to where it all began. He saw it years before the boys. He landed accidentally with Rose once. They saw it all. Rose wanted to stop it, but the Doctor explained in his old Northern accent that angels had heads harder than rocks and there was nothing they could do. They watched two nameless, faceless boys die. Rose cried afterward, and the Doctor comforted her with that old, detached way of his. Because that was before he knew who the boys were. That was before saved them, watched them grow. Recognized their faces. That was when he ran.
"Excuse me, Ponds," says the Doctor, straightening up and beginning to stride towards the TARDIS, "I have a small matter of business that needs attending to. Back in a moment."
"What, now?" Amy calls after him as he swings the TARDIS doors shut. "Couldn't it wait a bit?"
"I'm far too late already," the Doctor says to himself, sending the TARDIS controls into action.
The Doctor pushes through the doors before the TARDIS is even fully materialized. He steps out into crisp, dry air that tastes like caramel, air one month younger than the air that would whip around Sam as he plummeted to an eternity in a place worse than hell. He doesn't even have a chance look all the way around when he hears two voices shout, "Dad!"