This was it. He could feel it in his bones.
The deep, ominous voice echoed around the room. Straining against invisible bonds, the Doctor couldn't even lift his head enough to tell where it originated from. It looked painful for him to even move, the weight of the question bearing down on his shoulders, he sat on his knees on the ground, struggling to remain sitting up and not collapse. The floor was cold and black under his fingertips. His shoes disheveled and trousers torn. Blood leaked from a gash on his leg, his jacket was ripped from his back and his sonic was strewn across the floor, much too far away for him to reach with the crushing weight of gravity at his back. Tears stung behind his eyes as he looked at the floor, cold. Dark. Depraved of any beauty that had ever been.
He had visited this planet once before, he remembered, a day of celebration. He was here in this very spot with his first family- his wife and his parents had been there, her mother had been there as well. The fields were a deep green, and swayed in the breeze, making it feel as if they were walking on an emerald sea, littered with small flowers that resembled the earth crocus. He picked one as they were walking and placed it behind his wife's ear before the family settled down on the soft, checkered picnic blanket… The same one he would use centuries in the future with his other family. They had come to toast the news of his wife's unborn child; the news that he was to be a father for the first time. In the vast green fields under the twin suns of Trenzalore, they celebrated life. She was beautiful; already glowing from the pregnancy and his hearts swelled with emotion. He took his wife's hand in his and twisted his fingers through hers, so to never be unbound.
The Doctor felt the ghost of her fingers slipping from his grasp as another wave of agonizing weight ripped the memory away and sent him crumpling to the ground. Crying out in pain, he could hardly hear the voice persisting in the background. It was getting harder to breathe as he struggled to pull himself upright once more. The fields had been torn up, replaced with this cold, dead floor. The sky that burned a pale blue with the twin suns, covered by a factory ceiling. Weak lights hung down, emitting a sickly green glow; even they were cold and unforgiving. Nothing in this moment could save him, no matter how clever he was.
The intakes of his breath were slow and with each exhale, he felt more and more hollow. The voice boomed again, and he hung his head in momentary defeat before a spark inside him gave him to will to lift it slightly, look through his ragged hair, and spitting out a furious cry. He would not answer. He would die here or he would reveal his most kept secret. He would rather die.
Guards walked in, dragging her effortlessly. He only prayed that she wasn't in as much pain as he was at that moment; that she couldn't feel the agony of the question upon her as he did. He couldn't bear to look as they dropped her heavy arms, and her head hit the ground with a sickening crack that echoed in the dark room. She didn't even make a sound. The guards didn't even look twice as she fell and walked over to his own body, fighting against the weight of the question. They sneered down at him, a broken figure, as if tethered to the floor, unable to rise or to fight. The gravity had increased with every question that he could not, would not answer. They kicked out his arms from under him and he fell to the ground with a thud, landing on his forearms, narrowly missing hitting his own head on the cold black floor. His eyes filled with rage as he lifted his head and called out at them, but ducked again when one guard turned back towards the crumpled figure and spit at him, leaving her body several feet away.
"stop" he growled, his teeth clenched together in pain… "stop!" his fury bubbling to the surface. "Stop bringing them INTO THIS. If you want me, then take MEEEEE!" The dark shadow crossed his face, the true oncoming storm emerging, giving him the brief strength to sit up. On his knees, raising his shaking fists to his chest, "So many of them," he spoke evenly with an intensity just beyond it, "have gone. Have left me. Or died." He paused in his own grief then, looking towards the floor, before raising his head and shouting to the sky "SO MANY!"
"Haven't I suffered enoug-"
"THE NAME" the voice echoed through the room again. The bonds of the question pulled him down until his palms slapped the floor again, and giving up, he buried his head in his arms. Sweat dripping off his forehead, eyes glossed over from the tears that were oh-so-human. Something began to stir inside him. A warmth, a heat, that was not unknown to the Doctor. He began to weep for this body.
A moan escaped his wife's half-conscious lips. Whipping his head around and forgetting what was being asked of him, the Doctor, struggling, crawled over to her. His River. It was an agonizing trip, but as always, she was the center for his strength. The woman who had shown so much of it to him; who could do so much damage and yet hid it all from his not-so-innocent eyes. How did he get her mixed up in another life threatening scheme? Hadn't he asked enough of her throughout her lifetime?
His River. She put up with so much to be with him. So strong, so, so strong. Heavily, he put his hands under her bruised arms and heaved her into his lap so that her head was resting in the crook of his arm. Tears slipped from his eyes, he watched her breathe. The Doctor dipped his head, resting his nose at her hairline before pressing a lingering kiss there.
He knew this was the end for him, and if he were honest with himself, he was really relived that River was here in his arms. The perfect person to sum up this body… For the first time in so many years, he spent this face surrounded by family, Amy, the girl who waited, his best friend. Rory, the last centurion. River, their daughter and his own wife. Even Clara, he was beginning to think might be connected somehow to this family. He relaxed a little having her here, she's always been there when he needed her.
The warmth at the pit of his stomach was growing, moving out towards his limbs as he tried desperately to hold off for just a little longer. There was no escaping the question, even in regeneration. He had to wait for the perfect moment to answer; answer and then be free of these bonds in regeneration. As soon as the gravity was gone and he had the extra regeneration energy, he could save them both. It was the only way, but it meant giving up this face he adored and the life he had lived in this body. It left him shattered, losing his name and his body at the same time.
The Doctor started shaking again, but this time he couldn't tell if it was from anger, sadness or regeneration.
"It's okay sweetie" Her voice called to him. The doctor looked down to meet his wife's face; eyes still closed, he thought maybe he had imagined her voice.
"It's okay-" she whispered, gasping for air, eyes fluttering open, slowly regaining consciousness.
He gave her a broken laugh… Not even completely awake, and already very aware of the situation. The Doctor was sure she already knew what was about to happen. He looked at her with teary eyes and a hallow-mad smile.
"Sweetie… let go" she said to him, eyes never leaving his face.
"Tell me River, tell me it's going to be alright." The Doctor shook his head and smiled sadly, his whole life shone in his eyes. River knew what he was feeling, she knew the mixture of pain and hopelessness he was feeling. Before he could stop them, tears began to spill over and run down his long nose. He vaguely wondered what kind of nose he would have in his next body. If his arms were going to be muscular or thin and long. Maybe he wouldn't blush as often, or maybe he would be even younger. Would he and River still get to do… things? Could she even stand his next body?
She raised a hand and caressed his cheek- surely memorizing the lines and contours of this face at its last moments. Her eyes darted back to his and she gave him a very River-esque smile, "Would I let anything bad happen to you?"
The Doctor leaned into her hand and closed his eyes, savoring how she felt in this body. Images filled his eyelids- all of the times that River was the one to save him. At the Library, in Berlin, with the silence… He took his free hand and placed it on the one River held on his cheek, gripping it as he bent down to kiss her on the lips. Not a kiss of passion, but a kiss of gratitude. For everything she's ever done, will do, for being here with him.
"Trust me," she whispered as his lips left hers and he struggled again to sit up, "let go" her eyes fluttered closed again, lacking the strength to stay awake any longer.
"THE NAME, Doctor. WHAT IS YOUR TRUE GALIFREYAN NAME?"
"River Song," he kissed her forehead again, "my wife..." ignoring that voice again, "fun fact," momentarily putting on his childish face for the last time, "our bonds are never really sealed until I tell you my name," and with that he leaned down, kissed her lips, and laid her on the floor. The Doctor pushed her hair away from her ears and whispered something that only she could hear.
"This name now, River, is very powerful. I just have to answer; they never said anything about to who I answer. After I tell you, I am going to regenerate, and I'm sorry. But I promise. I promise to get us out of here. Trust me."
He whispered the name to her and everything happened at once. The weight and gravity of the question had been lifted and he was allowed to move freely once more. The voice screeched at him that he could not have cheated Trenzalore, but it was too late, his plan was going to succeed.
But it was too late. He would no longer wear this face; there had been far too much damage.
The Doctor took his last breath in this body before being engulfed in a burning heat that consumed him.