"This probably won't work," said the Doctor.
"You said you'd try." Rory's voice was dull and almost as broken as their hearts.
"I'm going to. I just don't want you to get your hopes up." The Doctor lit a candle and took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves. Rory turned the lights off at the switch.
"You know what to do if this goes wrong?" asked the Doctor.
"Emergency Programme One, the green button next to the air-conditioning."
The Doctor nodded and sank to the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of the candle. "If I don't see you again, you're a good man and don't forget it."
Rory didn't say anything to that, so the Doctor closed his eyes and thought. He thought about the blood running through his veins and the oxygen flowing in and out of his lungs. He concentrated on his left heart and - never very good at this sort of thing - slowed it to a stop. The single heartbeat almost frightened him away from all this, but he remembered Amy and kept going. The right heart, thump-thump, thump, thump, silence. He wondered how long it would take.
She appeared in the open doorway just as he was starting to think She'd stood him up. Almost-River, with a light where Her eyes should be and feet that never quite touched the ground. She flowed through Rory, arranged Herself on the floor on the other side of the candle.
She said "No."
"I haven't even asked yet," said the Doctor silently.
"It's the only thing you ever ask."
"I've got years left in me, it'd be a good deal."
"And when no one is around to remember Me, then what?"
"You... meet yourself?"
Death tilted her head. "It's tempting to find out. All I have left is one agnostic who never bothers to talk to Me unless he wants something."
"Men, eh?" said the Doctor.
Death folded her hands neatly together. "One human has never been worth one Time Lord. I don't know why you keep trying to make this bargain."
"People keep dying," he told her.
"Everything has its time and everything ends."
"I'm not a child, Lady."
"And I'm not a fool." She blinked the light of her eyes and smiled. "Who am I this time? What happened to her?"
"She's... someone I lost. Someone I found again."
"Sleeping with the dead?" He didn't answer and Death reached for his hand, chilling his cooling skin. "Ask my Sister."
The Doctor woke up crying.
"Time owes me," he told Rory as they rearranged the insides of the console. "I should have asked her first, but Death's... territorial."
"You told me none of them are real," said Rory. "Where does the blue wire go?"
"Attach it to the green socket. And they're not. But they are. It's complicated. Have you ever read Small Gods?"
"What about Look To Windward?"
"I'm not much of a reader."
"The Time Lords - the really old ones - made their gods real. Not sure why, probably so they could look down on other species. Time, Death, and Pain. The three things even a Time Lord can't prevent."
"You do your best, though."
"I do," the Doctor agreed. "I probably shouldn't, but force of habit and all that." The TARDIS hissed and he patted her floor. "Won't be long, dear."
"Don't lie to her," said Time.
The Doctor scrambled out from under the console and stood up, brushing imaginary dust from his knees. "Lady."
"Your Sister said -"
"Your friend died."
The Doctor stilled. "Yes. Yes, she did."
"How much of My domain would you like me to alter?"
"A day. Less than a day. Half a day. What's half a day out of billions of years?"
He stared at Her. "After all I've done for you, you won't even give me half a day?"
"You've been rewriting history without My permission. You knew I wouldn't like that and you did it anyway."
"The year that never happened?"
"And the rest." She laid a hand on the time-rotor and closed Her eyes. "And My child here is tired. You've asked so much of her these past few years."
Time fixed him with Her empty stare. "Don't lie to me, Doctor."
"Ask my other Sister."
"What? She'd never do anything to help me. She hates me."
"She loves you."
"Same thing, in the end."
Time smiled. "Because we have a bet."
He went alone to the room with the pictures. It was a secret, this room, no matter what happened. He stood in the centre and remembered. Remembered everything. She, of course, waited for the first tears. The bitch.
"Don't call Me that, dearest one."
The Doctor closed his eyes. "Don't be her. Please don't be her."
Pain touched his arm. "The first pain is always the brightest. The one that lives longest." She stroked his cheek. "My darling boy."
He opened his eyes and glared at the woman who wasn't his mother. "You're sick, has anyone ever told You that?"
He sighed. "Is there any point even asking?"
Pain smiled Her cruelly beautful smile. "I have something for you." She reached up, closed Her hand around thin air and pulled something down. "Here. A gift."
The Doctor took the little ball of light and frowned at it. "What's this?"
"She's been waiting so long to be born. I promised you'd take care of her." She reached out again and brushed nothingness from his sleeve. "She's my twin."
The Doctor shook his head. "No, there are three of You. There are only ever three of You."
"Help her and you can have Amy back," said Pain, fading into time.
He took Her outside, releasing her on a desolate planet to be on the safe side. Pain's twin didn't sound like something that should be allowed near people. She was -
"Hello, Doctor." She smiled at him, Her eyes sparkling. "You really do have an eye for the pretty ones."
"What are you?" he asked, trying for calm.
"Oh, don't be silly!" She stepped towards him and he managed not to back away. "Look at Me. What do you feel? Tell me. Tell me My name."
The Doctor looked at Amy Pond and said, "Love."
The price was low, and far too high. Amy would never love him, simple as that. Well, that was fine, she had Rory. She could love Rory forever and he'd always love her back. The Gods of Gallifrey would see to that. Trust Pain to find a way to keep him to herself. One heart for each twin, that was what the new God wanted and he couldn't exactly say no.
When Amy woke up and smiled at him he could already see what was missing. He'd love her forever and she'd always turn away.
"How did you get me back?" she asked.
"Love," he said, and she laughed like it was nothing.
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