"This is starting to get irritating," Rory said calmly. He turned to Mihail. "Wait in the med bay until I come for you. Remember; if Martha dies, so do you. Don't do anything rash."
Mihail nodded hastily and ducked back into the med bay.
Satisfied, Rory ran up to the cockpit and swung into the copilot's seat.
"What do we have?" he asked.
"Two bandits on our five." River was no more perturbed than her father. "Where's the boy?"
"Mihail," Rory corrected. "He's in the med bay. Do we have any guns in this plane?"
"It's a troop transport," River said. "It's meant to have fighters protecting it. Oh look, they're on our six now."
"That's not what I asked."
River turned to stare at her father. "Are you bloody serious?" she demanded.
"You'll get yourself killed."
"And then Martha will probably die too."
The plane jolted as machine guns tore into it. They didn't do much damage. Yet.
"If you're sure," River relented with a sigh.
"There should be guns in the cargo hold. I can buy you two minutes."
"That's all I need," Rory said firmly.
For the next two minutes, River did her best to shake the bandits off her tail, but they were locked on. Luckily, they didn't seem to have missiles. Precisely one hundred and ten seconds after her father had left the cockpit, River dove until the plane was barely clearing the treetops. The enemy planes followed, strafing the plane from above before they too dropped.
River turned on the speaker system and hailed the bandits simultaneously. Then she began the countdown.
She pulled up just a bit, maybe four meters above the tree line.
She slowed carefully, allowing the bandits to get closer. Under any other circumstances it would be suicide.
The bandits also slowed, keeping their distance. Her countdown was unnerving them, she was sure. They had stopped shooting.
She lowered her landing gear. There was nowhere to land. That didn't matter. Landing wasn't the point.
She could practically feel the nervousness transform into fear. Nothing like a countdown to breed anxiety. Her hand hovered over a nondescript grey button.
She pressed the button. The cargo ramp lowered, skimming the treetops and throwing up huge clouds of dust in their wake. Rory opened fire.
River had no idea how he managed to get all five Gatling guns firing simultaneously, but she really didn't feel the need to question it. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, and all that.
She heard the frantic screams of dying men over the radio, begging to live in a language she couldn't understand. She didn't need to know the language; the words were always the same.
Once she was sure the planes had gone down, she switched off the radio, closed the cargo hold, and ascended to a more reasonable altitude.
Her father rejoined her in the cockpit exactly fifty-one seconds later.
"Anyone else?" he asked.
"Nope," River said cheerfully. "We're all clear."
Rory settled down in the copilot's chair, staring pensively over the horizon. They were flying over the Mediterranean Sea while the sun set behind them. The sea was blazing with the light of the setting sun. It looked almost like the magma seas of Koriasi, a planet that, to her knowledge, hadn't even begun to form in this century.
"Something on your mind?" she asked lightly.
Rory sighed and the weight of the world settled on his shoulders. "Do you know any of Edgar Allan Poe's poems?" he asked.
"A few. Why?"
"He wrote a poem called Annabel Lee. It's been on my mind recently. Nothing to worry about."
River had heard the poem. During her brief stint as a Time Agent, she had found out that it was one of Jack's favorites. At the time, she had tried not to think too hard about what that said about him. As far as she was concerned, it was definitely something to worry about.
"Dad," she said softly, "you know this isn't the end of the world, right? Just because Mom's dead, doesn't mean you have to die too."
"Don't lie to me," Rory sighed. "I existed only for Amy for longer than you can imagine."
River started to reply, but Rory cut her off.
"Don't tell me how long," he ordered. "You might know it down to the second, but you only know numbers. You have no idea what those numbers mean. I live only for Amy. Amy is no longer alive; there is no reason for me to be alive either."
"Stop being so bloody selfish," River said angrily. "What about the people who need you?"
"No one needs me," Rory stated calmly.
"I need you!" River shouted. "Did it never occur to you that maybe your own daughter might be upset if you died?" she demanded.
Rory looked at her like he was seeing her for the first time. "No. No it didn't. You've never given me any reason to believe that before."
River stared at him. Then she sighed. "Look. I'm trying to fly a plane here. Let's talk about this later."
"Fine by me," Rory said, sounding relieved.
"I take it you talked to the boy?" River asked, hoping to change the subject.
"His name is Mihail. I've told you that already," Rory said, annoyed but somewhat more...human.
"So, what's his story?"
"Nothing special. Parents killed, baby sister too, blames himself, thought he could survive if he killed Martha."
"That is pretty boring," River noted. "Although, you've get to give him credit for surviving this long. What I want to know is how did he get ahold of that gun?"
"I didn't even think of that," Rory said. "I guess however he got ahold of everything else."
"We just going to keep him around, then?" River asked.
"For the moment. At least until we know if Martha's going to make it."
"Oh, she will," River assured him.
"How do you know?" Rory asked.
"I'm here, aren't I?"
Rory stared at her. "You. Are. Brilliant."
"I know," River said smugly.
"Except for the part where there's already a paradox machine in place," Rory pointed out.
"A paradox machine that's trying to hold together a paradox that affects the entire known universe," River pointed out. "How much more do you think it can take?"
"I guess we'll see. In the meantime, Mihail probably knows a thing or two about the current state of affairs with regards to our Lord and Master," Rory said. "Besides, he has potential. I want to see how much of that potential can be realized."
River glanced at her father. "A random kid who was lucky enough to get ahold of a gun shoots the world's last hope, nearly killing her. You look at that kid and think 'Maybe I should train him'."
"Pretty much," Rory said. "Anyway, it wouldn't hurt for Martha to have a sparring partner who won't accidentally kill her. That rules out both of us."
"So instead of merely training the random kid who shot the world's last hope, you're going to make sure that if he tries again he actually has a chance of killing her," River clarified. "The safest thing for everybody is to leave him. He's too much of a risk."
"Mihail's not a bad kid," Rory argued. "He's a desperate, lonely seventeen year old who's scared to die. He's been through hell, and we can help him out of it. You know as well as I do that if we leave him, he'll die. Tell me, River, why should we leave him to his death because he happened to make a stupid decision?"
"Because his stupid decision put the entire universe at risk."
"Says the woman who broke a fixed point in time."
Father and daughter stared at each other for a few moments, then Rory said, "I'm going to go check on Martha. Let me know when you're ready to take a break. We can switch places every two hours until we reach the Armory, but I'll let you land. Mihail stays. That's final."
The title for this chapter comes from the poem Annabel Lee, by Edgar Allan Poe. I think it describes Rory's outlook in this fic a bit too perfectly.
Bandit, in this context, is a military term for a hostile aircraft in case anyone was wondering.
In canon, River is never stated to be a Time Agent, but the opportunity was too awesome to pass up. As far as I'm concerned, she was a Time Agent for a while, then the Time Agency collapsed so she became an archeologist.
On the one hand, I'm really annoyed that there weren't any real River/Rory father-daughter moments in canon, but on the other hand, I get to write it however I like. Between Rory's recent Death Seeker tendencies and Mels' demonstrated lack of respect for Rory, I think they have a pretty rocky relationship. They do love each other, but they're kinda bad at showing it and not really thinking straight.
Please vote on the poll on my profile page.