A/N: I'm so sorry. This started out as like a dark!Doctor thing when I started writing it like a year ago, and somewhere along the line it turned into something else, and now I don't even know what it is except that it gets angsty and you'll probably hate me for it, so I'm sorry. oneshot. Title from "Nothing Left to Say" by Imagine Dragons
My Age Has Never Made Me Wise
Rory Williams tiredly ran a hand through his short hair and sighed. He looked over at Amy, who was resting against the frame of the archway between the living room and the hall. He couldn't see her face, but he knew it wore the same expression as his own: an empty stare; too emotionally exhausted even to show the grief. He followed her gaze, looking down the hall and out the sliding glass door to their tiny garden, where the Doctor and River sat with their backs to them. Rory's heart ached as he watched the Doctor rock a shaking River, and never had the ancient man looked more his age than when he turned his face to bury a kiss in River's hair, tears streaming silently down his face.
Rory looked away, unable to watch, and when he looked up again he caught Amy's eyes. After a long moment her eyes shifted, and he didn't have to follow them to know where she was looking. He swallowed hard, and turned to look at the ancient blue cot resting on their table.
"Sorry, did I wake you?" The Doctor gave River a nervous smile as he soniced the lock on her cell door and slid the bars aside. She blinked the sleep from her eyes as she sat up in bed, hugging the bulky covers to her chest in defense against the chill.
"It's fine, sweetie." She yawned. "Where are we?"
"Married, for starters," the Doctor told her, whipping out his diary and flipping through it. "Have we done the Gypsum Forests yet?"
"Ages ago," River replied as she slowly climbed out of bed.
"Further along than I thought then," the Doctor murmured to himself as he flipped forward several pages. He squinted at the slightly smeared ink on one entry. "Ehm, Disneyland Clom with the Ponds?"
He frowned at his diary. "Wait, I think I've got something written wrong here. How have you done Gypsum and not Clom? Oh, no, wait, never mind, have we done-" the Doctor looked up at River and froze. His diary hit the floor with a soft 'thud'.
"Sweetie?" River watched the Doctor with concern as he gaped at her. He merely whimpered in reply, a limp hand pointing toward her gently rounded stomach. She looked down and raised her hands to rest on it, a small smile gracing her lips. "Oh, yes," she looked back up at him. "I'll take it we haven't done Altheria yet?" The Doctor shook his head weakly. "Well, that explains why you didn't look surprised when I told you then."
The Doctor tried to say something, but all that came out was a mixture of a whimper and a grunt.
River frowned and took a tentative step forward. "Doctor? Are you alright?"
His mouth moved wordlessly for a moment before he finally managed to choke out, "Where did that come from?!" he gestured wildly at her stomach.
"Yes!" he breathed, staring at her as if she'd sprouted an extra head. (Which, she mused, wasn't terribly far from the truth.) "But-but-but-" he started pacing back and forth in front of her. "But how?" He paused to throw River a dry frown before she could add audio to her amused grin. "Well, I know how, but—how?" He threw his hands in the air. "When?"
River's smile faded and she bit her lip. "Have we done Alabastor yet?"
The Doctor resumed his pacing, running a hand through his hair. "No. Well, yes. Well, yes and no." He leaned against the cell bars with a smug grin on his face. "Third honeymoon. We landed there, spent a week at the resort there, intending to go sightseeing, but we never actually made it out of the…" his grin fell as he trailed off, the realization dawning on him. "…hotel." River watched him with a look of bemused pity. "Oh."
River was starting to feel something akin to worry. She knew, having seen later-him, that he would, eventually, be excited about this, but the time it was taking him to get there was enough to concern her. Especially when his legs gave way.
He sat there, on the floor of her cell, for at least five more minutes, just staring into space with that dazed look on his face, while River sat on her bed and waited for him to rejoin reality.
"We're going to have a baby." River looked up from her diary. His expression hadn't changed, but at least he was speaking again. He chuckled; a stupid, high-pitched giggle. He looked at her, the first hint of a smile on his face. "We're going to have a baby."
The guards of Stormcage had seen Dr. River Song escape numerous times, and afterwards found her back in her cell with everything from a Dalek eyestalk to a kitten to a hot tub, and had given up on ever getting an explanation.
But when she returned from an hour-long disappearance sporting a baby bump, they couldn't help but ask what the hell kind of date she'd been on. She spent about three weeks total in and out of her cell, each time returning a bit bigger. She ignored any and all questions as to the origin of her child and what she planned on doing with it. She couldn't raise it there, obviously, and protocol when an inmate had no living relatives was to put the child up for adoption. However she refused to even look at any and all paperwork they put forward to her about it. Arrangements needed to be made, the warden reminder her, and administration really needed to get to work on that. She simply laughed them off, and they pestered her relentlessly up until the day she broke out right under the eyes of no less than twelve guards.
When she returned twenty minutes later with a flat stomach and empty eyes, not a single one of them dared mention it again.
It didn't surprise her when her office doors burst open and he strode in, looking even more furious than he had at Demon's Run. She didn't even rise from her desk.
"Is this the part where I'm supposed to be frightened?"
"If you were smart, maybe you would be. But you never learn, do you?"
She smirked at him. "Oh Doctor, I know more about you than you think. I know I have no reason to be afraid of you."
He returned her smirk, shaking his head. "Oh Kovarian. It's not me you need to be afraid of. Today," he growled. "I'm good cop."
Madame Kovarian's eyes darted around the room as a distant explosion shook the building. When she looked back at the Doctor, he didn't look the slightest bit put off.
"That's bad cop," he sneered, "Apologies for the missus. She's a bit cross."
Amy knew something was wrong from the moment she heard the whirl of the TARDIS engines. They didn't sound right; the noise was too rushed, as if the TARDIS was strained. She had grabbed Rory and raced into the garden before the ancient blue box had even fully materialized.
She was nowhere near prepared for what came stumbling out of those doors. Both doors burst open, kicked outwards by the Doctor, who was supporting a heavily pregnant River. They had clearly just come from some sort of battle; the hem of River's dress was torn and her boots were muddy, and the Doctor's long green coat was singed in places. River definitely looked the worse for wear; she was panting heavily and one arm was wrapped around her stomach.
"I'll explain later," the Doctor gasped, half-carrying River towards the house. "She needs to lie down, now!"
"There's a guest room next to the den," Rory said, running to River and supporting her other side, as Amy ran ahead to open the doors. They staggered into the spare bedroom and helped River onto the bed, where she collapsed back into the pillows. Rory began checking her pulse while Amy knelt beside her on the bed, stroking her hair. The Doctor was pulling River's scanner from a pocket of his coat and examining her belly.
"What's happened? What's going on? Is she going to be alright?" Amy asked, her voice shaking.
The Doctor's fingers were skating over the small screen, eyes darting quickly over the information. "Kovarian," was his one-word reply.
"Doctor," River croaked. "The baby…"
"Rory, get her some water," Amy commanded, one hand gripping River's while the other stroked her hair.
"Shh, now, hush," the Doctor laid a hand on River's stomach and gave her the closest thing to a comforting smile he could muster. "No sign of major damage, I think he's going to be fine." He breathed a sigh of relief. "You both are. You just need to rest." Rory returned with a glass of water, and after she'd been coaxed into drinking some River finally succumbed to a fitful sleep.
The Doctor and Rory sat together at the Ponds' kitchen table, both staring into full mugs of tea that had long ago gone cold. Amy had remained with River; her maternal instincts having taken over, she currently rested beside her daughter, arms wrapped protectively around her child and unborn grandchild.
"Are they really going to be alright?" Rory asked finally. The Doctor opened his mouth to reply, but Rory interrupted. "And don't you dare lie to me."
The Time Lord met his eyes. "To be honest I'm not sure." He sighed, a line remaining between his eyebrows. "I mean she seems alright, but considering everything that happened, I'm surprised she's okay. Just have to keep an eye on her and hope for the best."
"So…what happened? You mentioned Madame Kovarian."
The Doctor nodded. "She found us. Sort of by accident, actually. Long story short, she tried to blow up the ship we were on. Barely made it into the TARDIS on time." The Doctor's eyes dropped back to his tea. "Couldn't save anyone else," he said, voice low, "Three hundred and fifty eight people. And I couldn't save any of them. River was hurt, and I thought—and there just wasn't the time, and-"
"Hey." He looked up to meet Rory's gaze. "It's not your fault. It's Kovarian's. You had to take care of River. River was the only person you could save, and you saved her. That's what counts. You saved my daughter." He gave the Doctor a small smile. "Again. And," he ran a hand through his short hair and frowned, "you saved my—my grandchild. God, that's a weird thought. I'm going to be granddad." He kept frowning but suddenly burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all. "My daughter, who's older than I am, is having a baby. Your baby!" He pulled a face at that. "God that's even weirder."
"It's no less weird from my perspective," the Doctor chimed in, grinning despite himself, and soon they were both laughing.
"I think we win for strangest family ever," Rory said, and the Doctor nodded in agreement. "So what's it going to be, the baby?"
The Doctor looked down and smiled. "A boy. Haven't settled for certain on a name yet. We're leaning towards Roran, though."
"Well, we thought it'd be confusing if we went with Rory and Roranicus just seemed a bit ridiculous."
There was a moment of silence interrupted by a very loud sniff. The Doctor looked up to see Rory fighting back tears.
"I'm going to have grandson." He swallowed with great difficulty and sniffed again. "Oh my god, I'm going to be a granddad. I'm not ready for this," he said, though his smile said otherwise.
The Doctor found his own smile growing equally watery. "Well, how do you think I feel, mate, I'm going to be a dad!" He blinked furiously and Rory scrunched up his face, fighting his own losing battle against the waterworks. "I never thought I'd be a dad again, and yet here I am. Me, a father."
They both burst into tearful laughter, and Rory grabbed a handful of napkins from the center of the table and handed half of them to the Doctor and buried his own nose in the other half. "We are rubbish at this!" he said, and the Doctor nodded in agreement, too busy blowing his nose to answer. "Absolute rubbish!"
The Doctor wiped at his eyes. "Yes we are!"
After a few minutes they managed to calm down and dry their tears, and Rory sighed and said, "I'm not old enough to be a grandfather."
The Doctor grinned. "Rory the Roman, you're older than me."
"Yeah, but I don't remember it. And not by much, anyway. Only a couple," he cracked a smile, realizing what he was saying, "hundred…years." And then they were laughing again, the youngest oldest men in the universe; who had started off rivals, and now sat at a kitchen table conversing as old friends while the two women who meant the most to them both slept down the hall.
They were halfway through their second cups of tea when they heard the scream. Rory and the Doctor nearly ran each other over in their haste to get to River. She was propped up on the pillows with her arms wrapped around her stomach.
"What's happening, what's going on? River?" She looked up to meet her husband's eyes.
"I think it's starting."
The Doctor felt the blood drain from his face. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," she said through clenched teeth, "I think the baby's coming."
Rory and Amy exchanged worried glances as the Doctor spluttered. "But-but, you're only seven months! It's too soon!"
River winced and shot the Doctor the sort of glare that could pierce a Dalek's armor. "Well, tell him that!"
The Doctor scrambled to find the medical scanner while Amy told River to breathe and Rory panicked silently by the door. "Maybe it's just a false alarm?" Rory asked hopefully. "I mean, the contractions shouldn't be coming this quickly anyway, should they?"
"She's gone into labor." They looked at the Doctor, who was staring at the scanner. He looked at River. "When did it start? Just now?"
"I don't know," she ground out, "I've been feeling strange ever since we got here, I thought it was just…trauma or something."
"Trauma…" the Doctor looked back at the scanner. "When we were escaping the ship, you fell…it's sent you into premature labor."
River cried out again. "No, really?!" she shouted. "I'd never have guessed!"
Rory approached the Doctor and said so only he could hear, "Doctor, we need to get her to a hospital. There are treatments to halt premature labor."
The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "For her biology? Rory, she's not fully human."
Rory frowned but continued, "Doctor, a baby that premature is going to be in all kinds of danger anyway. Please tell me they're going to be okay."
The Doctor faced him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Time Lords are born at around eight months, sometimes as early as seven and a half. He may be alright after all."
"Still, we need to get her to a hospital," Rory replied, loud enough this time to catch Amy and River's attention.
"We can't." The Doctor ran a hand through his hair. "No hospital on Earth would be equipped to handle a part-Time Lord. It would just make things worse. The last time I was taken to a human hospital for medical care they nearly killed me."
"Somewhere else, then?" Amy began, "Surely there's some hospital in the universe-"
"She's in no condition to travel."
"Then what's she supposed to do?" Rory asked, glaring at him, "Have the baby here?"
The Doctor threw up his hands in a flustered shrug.
"Sweetie, come here," River said weakly, and the Doctor rushed to her side. As soon as he was within arm's reach she grabbed his bowtie and pulled him down to her eye level. "I don't care where, I don't care what planet, I don't care if it's here or in a hospital, but sweetie, I am not having this baby without some damn good painkillers." The Doctor nodded dumbly as they pried River's hands off him.
"I've got some things in the TARDIS, you'll be fine. Unless things go terribly, terribly wrong, we should be fine."
"And what do we do if things go terribly wrong?" Amy demanded.
The Doctor was too scared to think that far. "Then we'll, we'll take her to a hospital. Or something. Let's cross that bridge when we get to it, eh?"
"So I'm having the baby here, then?" River gasped. "Who's going to deliver it?"
There was silence for a moment while the Ponds and the Doctor looked back and forth at each other.
"The Doctor," Amy finally said.
The Doctor jumped back and threw his hands in the air, shaking his head. "No, no, no, no, no. I don't know how to deliver a baby."
Amy gave him her most Scottish glare. "But you're a Doctor!"
"And you've been a father before!" River added between panting breaths.
The Doctor spluttered. "That doesn't mean I know how to deliver a baby! I was never allowed to be there before! Rory should do it, he's a nurse!"
Now it was Rory's turn to toss his hands in the air. "That doesn't mean anything! Remember in the dream world, I was rubbish at this too!"
"Rory is not delivering my baby," River ground out.
Rory gave her an appreciative nod. "Thank you." He paused, frowned, and looked back at her. "Wait, why not?"
River gave him an incredulous look. "Because you're my father! Think about where the baby's coming out at!" She gestured vaguely downward, frown on her face. "It'd just be far too weird. Allow me some dignity in all of this, please."
"You know I did change a diaper or two."
"Different body. Moot point."
"Okay," Rory scratched the back of his head nervously. "Amy could do it."
Amy started. "What, why me?"
"At least you know what's going to happen," the Doctor pointed out. "You have done this before."
Amy's eyes widened, her mouth caught somewhere between scoffing and gaping. "You are such men! I had the cheap seat last time! There's a big difference between having a baby and delivering one!"
Exasperated, River let her head fall back onto the mountain of pillows propping her up. "Oh for god's sakes, someone's got to do it!"
The Doctor was suddenly struck with an idea. "That's it!" he exclaimed, making everyone in the room jump. "I know someone who can help. I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Wait!" Amy was grabbing his arm and glaring at him. "You can't leave us, not now!"
The Doctor took Amy's hand in his and looked deeply into her panic-filled eyes. "Amy," he said gently, "I know my track record isn't the best. But I wouldn't screw this up for the universe." Seeing this did little to alleviate her worry, the Doctor squeezed her hand tighter and added, "Amy, if you can't trust me on this, then trust the TARDIS. She knows what's going on and she knows what we need. She loves River; probably more than she does me, even." He pressed his forehead to Amy's and let his eyes bore into hers. "She would not dare let her down." Amy drew back and nodded. He let go of her hand and rushed to give River a swift kiss before bounding out of the room. He was sure he'd knocked over a lamp or two on his way to the TARDIS, but he was fully aware that this time around, if five minutes was anything more than five minutes, no one in that room would ever forgive him.
He just managed to close the doors behind him when he heard the handbrake flip itself and the room lurched as the TARDIS took off by herself. The Doctor was thrown to the floor, but it didn't worry him. He looked up at the console and grinned at the switches and dials adjusting themselves as the time rotor pulsed up and down furiously. He knew he needn't worry.
The TARDIS would always take care of her child.
The sounds of the TARDIS dematerializing had barely faded away when they heard the engine grinding begin again, this time growing steadily louder. The blinds on the window were still closed, but they could hear the Doctor talking loudly, and within seconds he had bounded into the room, breathless. He was followed shortly by a dark-skinned woman who looked around the room in amazement. "I've got to say, out of all the things I've seen with you this has got to be the strangest," but she said it with a smile. "So I'm guessing, Amy, River, Rory?" she pointed to each in turn and the Doctor nodded.
"Yep. Everyone, Dr. Martha Jones. Martha, everyone. She used to travel with me."
Martha gave everyone a little wave and then clapped her hands together, looking slightly nervous. "Okay, so this isn't exactly my area of expertise, but I do know what to do. Working for UNIT you've got to know a little bit of everything. Doctor, you and Rory get whatever medical stuff you've got out of the TARDIS. Amy, you and I need to get River into something more comfortable…"
They'd gotten River settled and somewhat sedated and reached that horrible point where there was nothing to do but wait and worry. The whole thing was progressing much faster than it should, and the Doctor didn't know if that was because of the trauma or the Time Lord biology, or if perhaps River had just been so deeply asleep when she'd been unconscious that she hadn't noticed labor had begun.
It didn't take long once things started to pick up for it to become evident to everyone why the Doctor had not been permitted to be present at the births of his previous children. It took about ten minutes of the Doctor's anxious pacing and flailing and constant insistence that everything was going to be just fine and there was absolutely no need to panic for River to become so agitated by his behavior that she had him unceremoniously thrown out. So now he sat on the couch in the Ponds' living room while the screaming got louder and more frequent.
After a couple of hours that felt more like days the Doctor heard River's scream of "GET OUT!" and was joined in his exile by a white-faced Rory. He stumbled over and collapsed on the couch.
"It is absolutely terrifying in there!" he said, his voice cracking. "Where the hell did all that stuff about 'miracle of childbirth' come from?"
The Doctor couldn't hold back any longer. "How is she?"
Rory swallowed and tried to pull himself together. "Um, I think Martha said it's getting close to time to push." The Doctor wasn't sure if this made him feel better or worse. Still, it was nice to have someone to share the agony with. And it was nice to know what was going on. He'd long since given up trying to ask Amy questions when she exited to get water or towels or things from time to time.
The two men tried to distract themselves as best they could, which turned out not to be very good at all. They played three of the most disastrous and short-lived games of Jenga ever, gave up on a card game since neither one could stay focused long enough to keep track of whose turn it was, and finally decided that pacing was as good as anything.
And then they heard Martha say that it was time to push and both were glued against the bedroom door.
The Doctor stood there for an eternity, eyes shut and hearts pounding, as he focused wholly on the sounds of River's screams and Amy and Martha's encouragements. He couldn't stop the flood of memories: every time he'd done this before, every first cry, smile, step, word. He thought of them. Of everyone and everything he'd lost; all that he thought he'd never have again. And yet here he was. Friends, in-laws, a wife, a baby. He felt warmth blossom in parts of his heart he thought had long since frozen over. Up until this moment he'd wondered if he could do it again. But now he knew what he should have learned with Jenny: no matter what he'd had and what he'd lost, he had a father's hearts, and he would never be unable to love his children.
Then, through the cacophony in the bedroom he heard a new sound; a new voice squalling with fury at this cold, bright new world.
He caught her arm as he passed her going the opposite way. She stilled, closing her eyes and breathing deeply.
"I'm not going to stop you," he said gently, and she opened her eyes to frown at him. "If this is what you really want to do, what you really need to do…" he sighed and licked his lips. "Then I'm not going to stop you, and I won't ever say a word about it." River looked away from him and he lifted a hand to cup her cheek, forcing her to look at him. "But whatever you do, you have to live with it."
River stared at him blankly, and then said in a flat voice, "Madame Kovarian knows you're still alive. She's not going to give up. We know she hasn't told the rest of the Silence that you're alive yet, but we know she will if she gets the chance. She's too dangerous to be left alive."
His eyes searched hers. "And that's your only reason for doing this, is it?"
She gently pulled her arm out of his grasp. "I never said it was." She turned and walked away, back down the hallway towards Kovarian's office.
And he let her go.
He was too weak with relief and joy and amazement to burst in immediately. So he sat there, slumped against the door as they gave the boy a good cleaning and finally the door opened and Amy grinned down at him. He didn't feel in control of his own body as it rose and entered the room.
But there they were. River, looking exhausted but happy, and in her arms was a squashy little pink thing still loudly proclaiming that he did not like it out here, and could they please put him back. The Doctor nearly collapsed on the bed beside them. He reached out a hand to stroke the head of his son. His son—how many centuries had passed since last he had used those words? He beamed at River. "You are magnificent." And kissed her tenderly before turning his full attention on the child in her arms.
"Hush, hush, I know, I know, it's not very fun out here, is it? But you'll get used to it, I promise." The boy stopped his crying and looked up at them with wide brown eyes. No, hazel. Amy's eyes. River's nose, his thin lips, and even, a little bit, his chin. It looked much better on him, though. He was perfect. And tiny. Only a little over five pounds, the Doctor guessed. He looked up at Martha. "Is he alright?"
Martha smiled. "Nothing wrong that I could see. He's awfully small, but I think he's alright. Might be a bit weak, but I wouldn't worry. Breathing fine, heart beating normally."
The grin slowly slid off the Doctor's face. "Heart beating normally?"
Martha's eyebrows knitted in confusion. "Yeah, that's right."
"No," the Doctor said, the look of worry on his face increasing. "Heart beating normally. Singular."
"Yeah, why-" the realization dawned on Martha's face. "Oh." The Doctor was already up and grabbing the stethoscope from around her neck while Amy and Rory gathered on the other side of the bed.
"Maybe he's only got one?" Amy suggested.
River shook her head, drawing the infant closer to her chest. "No, he's got two; we've seen it on the scans." The Doctor pressed the stethoscope to the boy's chest, and he complained loudly at the cold metal.
His face went pale. "His left heart's not working." He shifted to the second heart. "Right one is beating far too fast." He tossed away the stethoscope and grabbed River's med scanner from atop the dresser. He scanned the information quickly, irritation growing on his face. "Not what I need," he muttered and dropped the scanner. He sprinted out of the room and returned a minute later with a small pane of glass, about the size of standard copy paper, with a thin gold frame. He held the edge with one hand and tapped the center of the glass with the other. Immediately, intricate circular patterns appeared on the surface of the glass, each one lit up as if on a screen, and yet the empty portions of the glass remained unilluminated. The Doctor made a few more movements on the glass with his finger and the circles began to move. They moved, changed, danced around each other. They fell apart and pooled back together to form new patterns, always circular but never quite the same arrangement. The Doctor's fingers kept tapping and skating across the glass, apparently controlling the flow of information.
He licked his lips, watching the screen with mounting concern. "The first heart stopped awhile ago. I'd say the damage goes back to when we were escaping the ship. We didn't notice it when we got here because by then it had restarted and was trying to fix itself. But then you went into labor and that halted the process, because normally, that's when the mother's regenerative energy would have taken over to ensure the baby was safe during delivery." He looked up to gauge River's reaction and saw that she was still holding their son close and watching him with concern and desperate hope evident on her face. She was waiting for him to finish before she crumbled or rejoiced. He looked back at the screen. "During labor his damaged heart beat itself out, and the birth plus the difficulty of keeping the whole body running with just one heart sent his system into overdrive trying to keep him alive. His second heart has taken a lot of damage, and it's still fighting to keep him alive on its own."
"What about now that he's out?" Amy asked, her voice thick. "Will he start trying to repair himself again?"
The circles on the glass began moving at such a rate that no one but the Doctor could make them out. "His body's too weak," The Doctor said, trying to steady his voice. "It can't keep the heart pumping enough blood to make up for the stopped heart and repair the hearts at the same time."
"Well what's going to happen, what does that mean?"
"Is he just going to regenerate or something?" He looked at the Ponds, at their frantic faces, then at River, who was staring at him with a blank face. She could read the glass as well as he could, even reversed.
The Doctor looked back at his glass. After another fast twisting of information, the circles nearly stopped, slowed into a leisurely drift around the frame.
The ancient man swallowed with some difficulty and faced his best friends. "I don't know. It's unprecedented. If this happened on Gallifrey we'd have the technology to fix it all. It's not unheard of for a baby to regenerate but something like this…his body's not repairing itself. If he can't heal then maybe he can't regenerate."
"Is he going to be okay?" Everyone looked at River, who hadn't said a word since the Doctor returned with the scanner.
The Doctor swallowed his tears and gave her the honest answer. "I don't know."
Amy, however, was still determined to find a way out of all this. "So what do we do? How do we fix this? Doctor, what do we do?"
"The only thing we can do, Mother," River said gently, stroking her son's head. "Love him while he's here."
"Am I supposed to believe you're going to let her do this?" The building around them shook again, but the woman at her desk didn't look the least bit perturbed. "We both know you're not going to allow it. Just like you wouldn't have let Amy."
Except I did let Amy. He thought, raising an eyebrow at her. He'd known the moment he'd left the room, leaving Amy alone with the woman who'd stolen her child, exactly what was likely to happen. And he'd never said a word. Amy's guilt was the only part of it he ever regretted.
"You sound so sure for a woman who's been murdered once before."
She gave him a cold smile. "And yet here I am." A bit of dust fell from the ceiling onto her desk, but she didn't even blink. "Why should I worry?"
The Doctor sneered. "She's already in prison for murder, Kovarian." He turned around to walk out. "She might as well deserve it."
He didn't have to look back to see that Kovarian's smile had slipped off her face.
He still had nightmares about it, sometimes.
He'd watch as the gold energy poured from his hands and washed over the small body in waves, flowing over him like dust in the wind, before dissipating into the ether.
It wasn't just damage.
He was too small, too new, too not-quite-done.
And perhaps, just perhaps, a little too human.
The Doctor could have bled himself dry and it wouldn't have mattered. The boy's body didn't know what to do with the energy anyway.
When he made it back to the room River still had her gun leveled at Kovarian's head.
"I told you he wouldn't let you do it," she said, sending him a smile over her shoulder. "He's too good of a man."
River's eyes narrowed and her grip on her gun tightened.
"You're still so sure I'm going to stop her," the Doctor said coolly. "For all you know I could be here to watch."
"We all know you aren't though."
"Sweetie." His eyes met River's over Kovarian's shoulder. "Get out of here. You're not going to stop me."
He didn't move. "I'm not here to stop you." He watched her eyes widen in surprise. "You were right. She's too dangerous to be left alive."
Kovarian laughed then, a sharp bark. "That's how you're justifying this to yourself? A pre-emptive strike?"
The Doctor's lip curled. "This is not a pre-emptive strike. This is justice."
Kovarian sighed. "The deaths on that ship were unfortunate but unavoidable. Not the first time your interference has led to collateral damage, Doctor. I'm surprised you're so concerned. I'd think the two of you would be busy off playing happy families. How is the little bastard?"
River took a step forward, her blaster still aimed between Kovarian's eyes. "My son," she spat, "is dead! All because of you!"
There was silence for a moment. "Is he really? That's unfortunate. We had hoped to make use of him."
"For someone so sure she's not going to get killed you are trying awfully hard to provoke her."
Kovarian met his glare, though she didn't dare turn completely around. River's gun was still trained on her, and while she may have doubted imminent death, she seemed somewhat less certain of injury. "I keep telling you, I know she's not going to kill me." She faced River again. "You may have been a star assassin once, Melody, but I can see you're hardly that much now. You've grown a conscience." She folded her hands primly behind her back. "You may tell yourself that you had to kill me, or that it was justice, or that it was for the greater good, or whatever other drivel helps you sleep at night. But you'll always know that it was cold-blooded revenge, and you'll never be able to shake that."
"She might not." Kovarian started to turn again, but River's gun cocked and Kovarian froze. The Doctor watched his wife carefully, face controlled. "She follows my moral code but don't think for a moment she necessarily believes in it. You turned her into a psychopath, Kovarian. You trained her to be a stone-hearted killer and then gave her more reason than she would ever need to hate you. She may have come a long way but she could very well kill you right now and never feel an ounce of guilt." His mask fell away, and his face betrayed such sadness and concern that River frowned in confusion. The Doctor sighed. "And somehow I think that's worse."
Kovarian sighed theatrically. "So one way or another, you're not going to let her kill me. But I have to die, apparently, so it seems we're at a bit of an impasse—oh!"
The gunshot cut off her words.
River watched with wide eyes as Kovarian stared at her, mouth and eye wide, hand gripping the wound in her chest, before she turned to gape at the gun in the Doctor's hand.
"You-" she gasped, "How could, but you-" she collapsed to the ground, gulping in air through her shattered lung.
The Doctor stepped forward and leaned down to whisper in her ear, "I told you. Good men don't need rules." As he tried to stand up Kovarian's hand shot out and grabbed his shirt, yanking him back down to her level.
"You can call this what you will, Doctor," she spat, already starting to cough up blood. "Revenge, justice," she snarled, her hand shaking, "But you know the truth. One way or another my blood is on your hands."
The Doctor watched her, impassive, and nodded. "Yes it will." His forehead creased. "But it won't be on hers."
Kovarian's grip grew weaker and she fell away, gasping. Within seconds she was gone.
River was still staring at him, shell-shocked, when he brought his gaze up to meet hers. Her gun had long since clattered to the floor. He held out a hand, and she took it, her eyes never leaving his as she stepped over Kovarian's body.
Earth always looked so peaceful from afar.
They sat silently, legs dangling out the TARDIS doors; blanket wrapped around their shoulders as they held each other close and looked down on the world below.
"Would you have done it?" he asked after a lifetime. She looked at him; face still too tired for emotion. "Not judging," he clarified, squeezing her a little tighter. "Just curious. Would you have done it if…if I hadn't?"
She looked back outside and sighed. She was quiet for a while, before finally answering in a small voice, "I don't know. I really don't." He didn't reply to that, and after a while they fell silent.
"Thank you for not saying it." He glanced at her.
"Not saying what?"
She blinked at the stars. "What you thought might stop me. I already knew it. I might have hit you if you'd said it."
He turned his face into her hair and squeezed his eyes shut. "And what was that?"
Her head shook lightly with her short bitter laugh. "Something else you're going to use beat yourself up with for killing her?"
"No," The Doctor murmured into her hair. "Because I can't remember what it was. And that scares me."
She pulled her head away and he was forced to look at her. There were already tears growing in her eyes, and he remembered before she even said it. "It wouldn't bring him back."
Amy and Rory were there to meet them when they returned. River nodded briefly to her parents before going straight to bed. The Doctor didn't blame her; grief was exhausting.
"Is-is everything being taken care of?" The Doctor couldn't look at them as he asked. He glanced up to see Rory nod.
"Martha talked to some people at UNIT. Well, she got through to talk directly to Kate. She's going to make sure it's handled with the utmost secrecy." The Doctor nodded.
"Thank you. I couldn't…" he looked down. "I couldn't do it again."
"Are you sure this is what you want to do?" Rory asked, stepping forward and placing a hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "He's so little, and—well surely no one would even know to look for him. Wouldn't you rather bury him? It seems so wrong to…" he trailed off when the Doctor met his gaze.
"It's not what I want to do," he said quietly. "But if someone found him…" he inhaled sharply. "I dread to think."
Rory nodded and gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. "And the ashes, where do you want to…?" The Doctor squeezed his eyes shut and took a carefully controlled breath, and Rory shook his head. "Never mind. Later." With a pat on the back he turned and headed back indoors.
The Doctor looked at Amy. She'd been staring at him with the same worried expression since they'd returned, and he knew she'd been waiting until Rory left to ask him the question playing on her mind.
"Did she do it?"
The Doctor sighed. He felt so empty, and so tired, and so old.
Amy took a deep breath and let it out in a great whoosh of air. She crossed her arms and cast her eyes around the garden, suddenly almost business-like. "I didn't think she would. But that means that woman's still out there, so do we need to worry about-"
Amy froze, her mouth open slightly as she stared at him. "You…?"
His eyebrows knit together, and he reached out towards her, his face pleading. "I had to. I didn't…It'd be like she won. If River did it…it'd be like they finally, truly succeeded. I couldn't let her become the murderer they always wanted her to be. I just couldn't."
Amy stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him. He returned her embrace, nuzzling his face in her hair and choking back a sob. It was all so exhausting. The attack, the birth, his son, his grief, River's grief, Kovarian's death… He was tired. He was so very tired.
"Hey," Amy said gently in his ear. "You're a good man, you know that?"
He laughed bitterly. "Amelia Pond I am anything but."
"You're a good man," she said, more firmly.
"I'm a murderer."
"I know." She pulled back to rest her forehead against his. "So am I."
His eyes widened. He knew. Of course he knew, but they'd never talked about it.
"Amy, what you did…it doesn't matter, it doesn't count-"
"But your wedding to River did?" He fell silent. She raised a hand to stroke his cheek. "We can't pick and choose our truths, Raggedy Man, no matter how much we may want to. I know you're not a hero. But you're not a villain either." She gave him a small smile. "We are more than the sum of our sins."
The Doctor smiled in spite of himself, tears blurring his vision. "Amelia Pond. When did you ever get so wise?" He hugged her again, and held her close as he let himself cry. He cried for his son, for his losses across the centuries; for Amy's baby and Melody's childhood; for all the lives he'd destroyed.
The Doctor was many things. He was a murderer, a savior, a father, a widower, a husband, a man who had traveled far, seen much, and lost more. But in that garden, with his hearts still raw with loss and his conscience heavy with guilt, and the arms of a little Scottish girl around his shoulders, he felt far more the things he was not than the things he was.
He was not unloved.
He was not alone.
A/N: I'M SORRY