Standing Waves

by ChristinaK [Reviews - 14]

  • All Ages
  • Swearing
  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Angst, Character Study, Romance

Author's Notes:
Warnings: Timey-wimey-ness enough to make you seasick, but otherwise, same level of violence as in an episode. Spoilers through DW 6.13, “The Wedding of River Song.” 6994 words.
Disclaimers: Not mine, all belong to Doctor Who and their writers; and about ⅕ of the dialogue is directly taken from episode 6.13, “The Wedding of River Song”, so bows to Steven Moffat.
Thanks to: Natmerc and Airawyn on livejournal, for edits and beta-duties, and Neonhummingbird for an especially careful (and dizzying) line-edit. Champagne’s on me, ladies. All mistakes are my own.

Williams was recruited into the Service because he could remember things that hadn’t happened yet, and things that were never going to happen. That was the test, really; if you ever noticed things around you were off, or had that moment of dislocation when the past snapped into place for you, after you’d just met someone you’d known your whole life. Williams still remembers, vividly, the moment he met his Mum. He was ten, and walking home from school in Leadworth. And she walked out of the store, staring at him blankly, this strange lady who he’d never seen before.

Then the world slipped sideways, and he suddenly had ten years of jam toast and oranges from Florida and hugs before school in his mind, and he knew she was his Mum.

For her, it was like he’d always been her son. But he remembered not knowing her, remembered the way time worked before that, remembered not knowing his parents. His mum was still waiting, without knowing she was waiting, for his dad to find them. Williams was never going to explain how it worked to her.

Agent Pond had explained it to him on the first day - that was every day and never - that he’d been recruited.

“Time’s stopped moving forward. But the scientists say it hasn’t stopped moving.” Her eyes had drilled into his with the intensity of pay-attention-now-boyo, your-life-depends-on-it. Her Scottish burr put the rough edge of a razor on her words. “We’re circling a whirlpool. You meet someone, and your memories go backward and forward from when you meet them. You make a decision, and you know how it could’ve gone-- did go--for a split second. Layer on layer, all happening at once. Most people don’t notice, can’t keep it straight in their heads that Winston Churchill shouldn’t be ruling at the same time as Zhū Yuánzhāng. You know this. That’s why you’ve been recruited. Welcome to Area 52, Captain Williams.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” Amy. He swallowed the name down. Kept his face blank with lethal concentration. Amy Amy Amy. “It’s a privilege to be here.”

Command of the security for Area 52 could only be given to someone who could keep straight what had been done and hadn’t been done, and didn’t get distracted by things like the Boer Wars interfering with the objectives of the Persians as they blazed a trail through Australia, but could still account for troop movements in securing the enemy, the real enemy, as routes changed and twisted without warning. The Silence is everywhere, and capturing them and their human servants was the priority. It’s an overwhelming job, hundreds of details to keep in place, people to keep track of who disappear and re-appear after being assigned different places. Time bleeds in and out and erases the past of coworkers who were there before, flowing in with alternate versions to replace them the next time you look. Sometimes they don’t know they weren’t there earlier, sometimes they do, but they remember the mission, remember their skills, and that’s what matters. Not whether they were Liz or John an eyeblink before.

Agent Pond, Amy Pond, is always, always there. She’s the eye of the storm that everyone circles around and looks toward, the flame of her hair a beacon. People who don’t remember who they are for a second, who aren’t sure of what time it is... they look at her and remember their duty. And that’s the way it should be.

Williams doesn’t look at her more than he has to. He keeps his job at the forefront of his mind, focuses fiercely on making hers easier by doing his perfectly, making sure his men do theirs to the best of their ability. He comes up with alternate escape routes, back-up plans, logistics and tactics that can be deployed in any eventuality, earthquakes or elephants or Tyrannosaurus Rex. He gets the Long Range Desert Group to lend a hand when they’re tracking down the Silence in the desert, and argues with the lost Roman legion in their own language so they’ll keep a lookout and send news by telegraph. He makes sure the new recruits are checked out on every weapon, stunners to boomerangs, gets them briefed on protocol, and always does their first orientation regarding the prisoners. If he doesn’t have a free moment to pine, to wish, to miss someone who he’s never known, then that’s all to the good. He doesn’t understand how it works, but he doesn’t need to. He just has to do his job.

Every day -- or rather, every so often, at a certain fixed point in time, after a certain subjective time-frame has elapsed, even though they’re all stuck on the same second-- he meets with Agent Pond in her office. He tries not to enjoy it too much. She has no idea how she affects him. She probably affects most men on the project, and many of the women, this way. Probably there are others convinced that in some other world where cause follows effect, they were special to her. She is too intense, too real, for it to be just him. He knows that.

He remembers her in such tiny fragmented places in his dreams, enough to know better than to believe that all of them happened. He knew her first name before anyone told him, knew that it used to be Amelia. Knew she’d bitten several therapists growing up. Knew how she’d look in a policewoman’s uniform. That’s it. Maybe he went to school with her, maybe he grew up next door to her, maybe he got coffee with her, maybe he met her the day she saved his life; maybe she arrested him, maybe he nursed a hopeless, stupid, fantasy crush on her in some other life too.

It doesn’t matter. She hasn’t ever shown the slightest sign of remembrance when she looks at him, and he would die a little more inside to know that it wasn’t Time’s fault that she doesn’t remember him. That he’d simply been unmemorable.

Besides. Everyone on the project knows about the Doctor.

“The Doctor.” Agent Pond is tapping a finger on one of the drawings she has done of the man; he’s wearing a bow-tie and a fez, and there is something ridiculous yet sinister about him. Williams studies the face intently, in all the variations Agent Pond has drawn. White tie and tails, cowboy hat, melting into a puddle. He fights the urge to resent the Doctor, sight unseen. That’s not why he’s here.

“He’s the key to all this. Dr. Song has researched him extensively, and my memories confirm it. He’s the most implacable enemy the Silence has ever had.” She sighs. “In that other world, I remember he did something so the threat was neutralized. But now that time is out of joint, that safety’s been removed. We can’t even remember we saw them, two seconds later.”

In one picture, Agent Pond stands next to the Doctor and a man with red hair like Vincent Van Gogh. Upon a closer look, Williams realizes it is meant to be Van Gogh; he’d been lucky enough to catch his latest retrospective in New York the last time he was stationed there. It explains the redhead in that one painting that always reminded him of Agent Pond, the moment he saw it. Or was it the other way around? Cause and effect transposed.

He blinks, shakes his head, and adjusts his mental perspective. Ignore the irrelevant. Soldier forward. “So we need to secure the Doctor, so we can eradicate the Silence, and re-establish a timeline that will be stable and cease collapsing under the weight of entropy.” He pauses, considering that. “It’s an odd name.”

“Well, it’s probably not his real name.” Agent Pond’s smile is fond and secretive. Later, he will let it twist his breath in his chest that it’s so beautiful (and not for him). Captain Williams makes a distant note that his boss is pleased, and this is a good thing. A happy superior is one who projects confidence, keeps everyone going, and that’s one half of their organization’s success. The other half is simple: Agent Pond is brilliant. “His real name would be something in his own people’s language. He’s an alien. And my best friend.” She pats the picture. “He’ll save us.”

“Well, that’s good to know.”

Agent Pond raises an amused eyebrow at him, and Captain Williams coughs to cover the sardonic tone that escaped. “I’m not doubting you, ma’am. But I’d like more details, to know what to prepare for.”

“Specifically, he’s what’s known as a Time Lord. The last of his kind.” Her face has sobered now, and she leans against her memory wall, ankles crossed in their heeled boots. “He’s fought for Earth all throughout history; he’s incredibly long-lived. That’s part of how-- we think-- he can effect the changes we want.”

She blows out a frustrated breath. “We also know he was part of the fixed moment: 5:02 PM, April 22, 2011. But we don’t know why. There’s two different versions of events. He may be the only one who knows what’s true. I’ve known this since I was a kid, it’s how we founded the Service. He’s why I remember, that and a crack in time.” Her dark green eyes fix on Williams with iron certainty. “If we have him, we can win. Trust me on this.”

Right, then. New objective: secure the Doctor. Keep him safe from the Silence. Bring him back to Agent Pond.

A shift occurs. And now, with this decision to protect the man, with this moment of recognizing what he means to Agent Pond, he knows all the research that has been compiled about the Doctor. Williams has accumulated two more years in his personal past working with the project in this moment. He’ll remember it both ways for another ten seconds, maybe. It won’t matter (or maybe it will?) that he joined the project earlier now.

Except now it feels like he’s loved Amy for two long years more, as well as in half-remembered dreams all his life. It’s easier to breathe, easier to hide what he’s feeling, easier to do his job. If she ever suspects, she’ll have him transferred for his own good, when he knows no one else could protect her as well as he can.

Yes. Got it. Follow Agent Pond. Decide to be on her side. Everything works better when he does that.

It was on the mission to Edo that Williams’s belief in Agent Pond was validated down to the ground. It’s not just that she sent in reinforcements when he and the men were pinned down by a dozen of the Silence in a tea garden belonging to the last Shogun. That’s just what you would expect of an incredibly competent secret agent with a steel spine and hotline to time.

What she did next confirmed everything he’d always known about her.

One of the Silence’s servants was there, holding them off-- an older woman with dark hair, one dark eye and the eye-patch that may not have been just an eye-patch (they’d started suspecting the truth there). She had the precise diction of a sadistic schoolteacher, and a gun at the back and a taser to the neck of one of his men. Jones was young, but he was one of the best techs they had, and he was tough; he wasn’t going to beg, or whimper, even though the woman had already tasered him into convulsions. He was being held in front of the Silence operative, so Williams didn’t have a clear shot. He couldn’t take her out from where he was without killing Jones, and the bodies of the Silents keep flickering in and out of his memory and sight.

“You won’t risk one of your few operatives to get to me. And that’s why you’ll always lose--”

Jones jerked as a bullet ripped through his right shoulder, and the woman cried out in shock as the bullet went through him to hit her, falling to the floor. Jones fell with a muffled groan, and Williams rushed forward with the med tech to stabilize him and secure the prisoner. It was a through-and-through, not bad at all. But even as quickly as he's reacting, he doesn't get to the prisoner first.

Agent Pond was right next to them, saying, “I’m sorry, Jones, sorry, but you won’t die; I promise. And you’re going to love your medical specialist.” More future, or past memories-- Williams didn’t have time to wonder, because then Pond was hauling the woman to her feet, and pressing a bandage to her bleeding arm. Her smile was vicious. “Hello, Madame Kovarian.”

“Amy. Pond.” The woman was laughing. She was furious, but laughing like she’d never been more amused. “I might have known. And you don’t even know who I--”

“Oh. Yes. I. Do.”

The woman stopped laughing abruptly. Agent Pond’s face was a porcelain mask, and Captain Williams got to his feet, his gun aimed at the prisoner, waiting.

“You’re the woman who stole my baby,” Agent Pond said. Her voice was tight, even though her face was still blank and beautiful as a doll’s. The words had no meaning for a moment: and then, horribly, they did. He understood. Williams couldn’t breathe.

“I’m the woman you need to keep alive,” Kovarian hissed. “I’m the woman who can lead you to the Silence.”

“You’d never help us. Not willingly.” His superior’s smile grew. “No one would question it if I killed you now, do you know that?”

He certainly wouldn’t. He wouldn’t stop her at all. Shot while trying to escape: the woman was a collaborator, and probably bore some responsibility for the breakdown of time. Why would he stop her from doing exactly what she wanted? He couldn’t even if he wanted to. And he didn’t.

This woman stole a baby. Amy’s baby. He was going to have nightmares about that, he knew it. Kovarian was frozen in place, eye burning. Williams raised his gun for a kill-shot.

“...but not just yet,” Agent Pond said. “We need to know more. And we’re not going to torture you, and we’re not going to be monsters. But as long as we’ve got all this time, you’re going to spend it with us.”

Madame Kovarian slumped, and closed her eye. “If your daughter had done what she was supposed to--”

“Not another word.”

Williams still wanted to shoot Kovarian. But he didn’t have the right while Agent Pond-- while Amy has decided the woman would live. For the good of the world, and the project, the Doctor and Time. It was her call. She had the best reason he could imagine to want the woman dead, and she decided Kovarian would live.

He loves her for that. For putting the needs of the world ahead of her own. In that moment, it was like the first moment of helpless bludgeoning recognition. This was the moment that first moment was always going toward.

Dr. Song is an enigma, a curly-haired cypher who pulls rabbits out of hats and backwards-engineers the Eye-drive for common use in a very short period of (subjective) time. Now that they can reliably see the Silents, and remember them, the fight is much more even. Madame Kovarian loathes her, and Dr. Song cheerfully returns the feeling, emphasis on cheerful. Captain Williams immediately likes her, although he has no idea where she came from, or how long she’s been there.

“The problem is that he’s been in the hands of so many people over time, under so many names: the Soothsayer, the Voice of Doom, the Oncoming Storm.” It’s late, and he is going over security camera logs late at night, while Dr. Song waits for the latest results on the time-measuring devices that track how time itself loops around and around in tiny increments within one second, and talks about the Doctor. She is tapping a pen on an old, old scroll, her voice pleasantly lulling, and Williams wonders, vaguely, how things can age in any direction when time is not progressing. “We were chasing down who we thought he was in Brazil a while ago, but it turns out it was just Rasputin again. Jack was ever so disappointed.”

Captain Harkness is an excellent agent and an irreplaceable asset. And the way he flirts with Agent Pond would drive Williams straight up a wall, if he didn’t do it to everyone, including Williams. Nevertheless, he’s very happy the man is in Berlin just now.

“Doesn’t it ever get confusing for you?” Williams asks, leaning back in his chair to give his eyes a break. “All the causes and effects. I know I’m not remembering them all, or even a fraction of them. You and Agent Pond, you’re keeping all of them in your minds all the time.”

“Mmm. All of them, maybe. But not all the time. Writing it down helps. Drawing it, as Amy does, that helps her recall it all.” Dr. Song’s expression is considering as she looks at him, and her voice is light.. “And I’m one end of the fixed event. For me, it’s much clearer. I remember growing up with my two best friends. I remember missing their wedding. I remember meeting the man I love more than anything, the first time. Studying archaeology... How do you keep it straight?” she asks, putting her pen down.

He doesn’t say: I don’t. Not always. I just look for Amy. I remember what I have to do when I see her.

“Military discipline, ma’am.” Williams flexes his fingers, flicks the cameras through their rotation, checking on the Silents in their tanks, Kovarian in her pen. “And a great many Post-it notes.”

The technical specs of the device Dr. Song is making are beyond him, but he understands the basics: it’s a distress beacon, calling to those outside their time-bubble, outside the universe, for help. For the Doctor. Apparently, he’s going to need saving before he can save them. Madame Kovarian is scathingly amused at their efforts, and Williams takes great satisfaction in moving her detention space to the center of the pyramid, where she can be seen at all times, with the label DO NOT INTERFERE WITH THE PRISONER on a placard at her feet.

“You’re certainly enjoying this,” she observes, voice cool. “You can’t win, you know. It’s too late. As soon as the Silence finds the Doctor, you won’t even remember this travesty. Time will be put right.”

He fastens her handcuffs behind her as Dr. Sato joins them, checking the time displacement around Kovarian. “Your definition of right.”

“Look around you! The universe is chaos, madness, because River Song disrupted the time streams! Because Amy Pond let her! This is their doing, not--”

“You set it up,” Williams interrupts. “Didn’t you.” It isn’t a question; he’s had time to pick up and remember bits and pieces of how things work by now, from things Dr. Song has said, and Agent Pond’s briefings. “You messed with the Doctor, his time stream, and set up a fixed point. And then it went wrong.”

“We were doing it for the greater good.” Kovarian’s contempt doesn’t disguise that she seems to believe that. “You don’t know what will happen if the Doctor doesn’t die when he’s supposed to.”

“But I don’t suppose you knew this would happen, did you?”

Kovarian’s look could scorch metal.

“Didn’t think so.” He steps back and addresses the room. “Attention! Madame Kovarian is not to be addressed or questioned without myself, Dr. Song or Agent Pond present. If she attempts to engage you, you are authorized to gag her. If she refuses to be helpful, you can gag her then as well.” He gives her a small smile. “Please. Do continue.”

She opens her lips, then seals them tight. Whatever else she has to say to him, it can wait. He has the Borgias to brief on the latest mess in Istanbul.

Their contact at the Tower is a redheaded woman with a suburban English accent, looking nervously over her shoulder as she meets with Agent Pond in a cafe in Alexandria. He and the men are circling the area on stand-by, in case the Silence gets too close. Both dark copper heads are leaning close over a newspaper, laughing at something, as the Vikings stomp by, sending angry glares at the Mongols lounging in doorways. A helmeted Goth trips, the Mongols laugh, and then it’s a chaos of street-fighting, with a skull-like head escaping into the crush.

He can’t see Agent Pond. And she’s not responding to comms. For a second, he has a flash of panic -- Amy -- but then professionalism kicks in again. “Alpha two, north. Alpha three, east. Alphas four and five, where are you?”

“The cross-street near the riverbank, sir. Agent Pond and Ms. Noble are handling their end.”

Handling it well, Williams sees when he arrives. Pond is efficiently shooting a raider with an axe between the eyes, and Ms. Noble is clubbing a clansman with whatever she’s carrying in her purse; he goes down like a sack of grain. He orders the men to clear out the others, then shoots across the street at a Mongol reaching for Agent Pond’s neck from behind.

She whirls, visible eye wide, then smiles at him in pleased acknowledgment as he jogs up to join them. “Nicely done, Captain.”

“Think nothing of it, ma’am. Behind you.” She turns again and has already brought down her next attacker before he is in position, scanning streets and rooftops. He finally spots their real quarry, the one who started this with an invisible kick in the crowd. He sights through the Eye-drive and shoots the Silent in the neck with his tranquilizer gun; it falls back on the roof, and he directs his men to retrieve it. Good. They won’t know that the Service has learned the Doctor’s newest location.

“Who’s this, then?” Ms. Noble asks, a little breathless, and examining Williams with keen interest. “Know where I can get one of these, Pond?”

Agent Pond laughs, and he’s probably imagining that it’s fond. “I’m afraid they only made the one, Ms. Noble. And he’s all ours. Captain Williams, Donna Noble. She’s gotten us the access information we need to penetrate Buckingham Senate. She’ll need an escort to Tangiers now. Detail some of the men for it, will you?”

“Right away, ma’am.” He steps away to direct them, and overhears Ms. Noble asking, “He’s yours, then?”

“‘Course he’s mine.” If only, he thinks. “Can’t do this job without the best back-up possible, can I?”

“Ah. So you won’t mind if I--”

“Captain Williams has far too many duties,” Agent Pond says firmly. “But I’m sure your escorts will be lovely.”

He does have too many duties. He doesn’t wonder what it would be like to have someone who wasn’t a duty in his life, because no one he knows in the Service has that. It’s not just that they’re constantly fighting, hiding, planning; it’s knowing that someone who you love today could disappear into the aether tomorrow. Or you could. Maybe that’s another reason why he loves Amy; her total persistence. Whereas she might not even miss him if he was replaced with some other captain tomorrow.

No, she would miss him. She just wouldn’t... miss him.

It’s early or late again, tonight; he can’t tell. Sometimes he remembers that this is what it’s like to live in a dream, with a constant feeling of deja’ vu and no segues between moments. They both have coffee, because tea is embargoed until the pirates in the bay of China give up their blockade.

“This one’s new.” His finger lands on a picture of a bloke on her wall. A bloke who isn’t the Doctor. His features are in shadow; the hair’s a disaster. He might be smiling, but it’s hard to say. Agent Pond’s drawing skills are sometimes rather... post-Impressionist.

“Ah!” She lifts his hand away, then looks carefully to be sure he hasn’t smudged the picture. “That’s-- personal.” Her hair falls in front of her face, but he could swear her cheeks are reddening. “Nothing important.”

“Important to you.” It’s a guess, but the care she takes putting the picture at the bottom of a pile gives it away. For once, he’s not yearning for the impossible. Just the improbable. He wants to be her friend right now, someone she could tell about the man in the picture. He wants to support Amy if she needs it, outside of superior-in-charge/serving-army-man, agent/soldier. Like he’s wanted to ask about her daughter a hundred times, but knows he never will finish articulating the words aloud.

She doesn’t look at him, or say anything, but picks up her coffee cup and sips from it. This kind of reaction, this drawing away, curling inward, this is why he never crossed that line with her before, into more than just soldiers-at-arms. Williams drinks from his mug, feeling that the distance of only a few feet has grown by stadia lengths, and hoping his blush isn’t visible in the low light of the moving carriage. He finishes his drink, and puts it down next to the coffee maker, turning to go.

“Do you have someone, Captain?” Agent Pond’s voice is very soft. “Someone special to you. Outside all... this.”

He stops, his hand on the doorway, and closes his eyes a moment. Then turns back, hoping that his face isn’t blank, or so impervious that it would seem cold. “Outside all this? No.” He swallows, looking at her. He can only say what he says next because she is still looking at the bottom of her coffee mug. “Dreams, sometimes. Memories that never happened. Yet.”

“Like that. Yes.” She looks up, and that half-smile, sad and rueful, that’s his. For him. “He’s my everything. But I don’t know how to find him. I don’t know his last name. I look for him, and ...” She shakes her head.

He’d thought that she and the Doctor were... and he’d thought believing that hurt. This hurts worse. But it’s hurting for her, like he did over her child. He doesn’t know what to say. This is the other reason not to step outside those roles: what he’d like to do is hug her. But that isn’t something she’d accept from him, he’s sure. He’s better with actions than words, and he never has them for her. Just the script of Duty, that keeps him on-target and on the job without hurting himself or causing problems for her.

“Well then. I’ll keep a look-out.” It’s meant to be light, but it’s strange to realize he means it. If he sees anyone who looks like that bloke, looks like someone real enough to be Amy’s, anyone he remembers with her... he’ll do the right thing.

Another shift. And suddenly there are other nights like this, talking about Leadworth (they never ran into each other, but the way time doesn’t work, that’s not a surprise), about their favorite music, about rubbish like ‘if you could date any royal in the world...’ Just a few minutes at a time. Not more than that. Here and there. But it’s a gift, dropped into the ocean of his memory, and he clings to it like a rock in a storm.

It really is inevitable, the layers and waves of time that keep burying him under feelings for her. He’s given up trying to believe it will change. He just marvels that he can still hide it, every time.

“Good night, Captain.” The expression in Agent Pond’s visible eye is a little warmer now, and his own answering smile is more easily found.

“Good night, ma’am. Pleasant dreams.”

When he finally meets the Doctor, it’s almost anti-climactic. They extract him from Buckingham with no trouble, and he’d (of course) recognized Agent Pond. Scruffy didn’t begin to cover it, but then, the man had been in the tower off and on for subjective years. He’d gone down easily, shocked and surprised, then been whisked away to Agent Pond’s office as they headed back to Cairo.

Cleaned up now and in his silly bow-tie, he matches Agent Pond’s drawings more closely, and the realness of him, the vivid presence, is the same thing he’s recognized in her. In Dr. Song. In Jack Harkness, a few others on the project. He finds himself leaning toward it again-- then pulls back into himself, unsettled, and delivers the reminder about the Eye-drive.

The Doctor seems to recognize him, or perhaps he’s fooling himself. But the man’s smile seems expectant, the same kind of smile Williams hasn’t given anyone since he stopped himself from giving it to Amy. The smile of oh it’s lovely to see you again, isn’t this amazing?

“Hello, sir. Pleased to meet you.” The Doctor doesn’t seem put out that Williams isn’t as pleased to see him, but it’s a bit too much to fake. Professionally, he’s relieved and glad the man is here. Emotionally... Agent Pond is lit up, thrilled. He’s happy about that. He’s wretched. He’d like to think he’s been the closest thing she had to a friend, aside from Dr. Song, who is everyone’s best friend. The Doctor has displaced him just by existing.

“Captain Williams, best of the best. Couldn’t live without him.” Agent Pond’s smile is warmly approving, and it bites into him, even as it eases him that she hasn’t forgotten him when he’s standing in front of her.

The Doctor’s laughter is disbelieving as he leaves, although about what, Williams can’t tell. He hears him say “No,” in answer to some earlier question, possibly.

“What is wrong?” he hears Agent Pond ask, sounding exasperated. He almost turns back to hear the answer, then decides he doesn’t want to know. Doesn’t want to intrude on their perfectly re-found friendship.

It occurs to him that the Doctor must know the full name of the man Amy has been trying to remember. It’s even harder to swallow as he takes them on the tour through the prisoner’s compound. The atypical behavior of the captured Silents makes it easier; they are far too active in what has been a very passive group of prisoners so far.

The tanks are solid-- at least they appear to be. He’s examining the seal when the Doctor accosts him.

“Loyal soldier, waiting to be noticed. Always the pattern. Why is that?”

“Sorry, sir?” He can’t imagine what the Doctor’s on about, phrased that way.

The Doctor is trying for nonchalant, and missing by a mile. “Your boss, you should just ask her out. She likes you. She said so.”

Well that’s... disorienting. And bizarre. Williams stares, wondering what he did to deserve this bit of mockery. The resulting blither from the Doctor is nothing he could have foreseen from someone who’s meant to be centuries old and a millennium wise, and for a moment, he has the horrible idea that they got the wrong Doctor. Perhaps this one is mad. Or just terribly thick. Except for how he seems to have picked up on what no one else has, and that’s chilling.

But then he looks in the man’s eye, and sees he truly believes in what he’s saying. Obviously he’s lying. But he thinks it’s a good idea for Williams and Amy-- Agent Pond to go out for... scones. The Doctor’s doing this because he cares about her. Out of concern. Trying to make Agent Pond happy. Willliams can understand that, if nothing else. Although why the Doctor picked Williams to take her out, he can’t imagine. Possibly just because he’s here?

“You really haven't done this before, have you?” Williams finally asks.

“No, I haven't.” The Doctor seems to be just slightly aware of how ridiculous the situation is, because he takes Williams’ suggestion to rejoin Agent Pond with sheepish resignation and heads back up to the main control room, leaving Williams staring at the Silent in the tank.

Scones. Ask her out for--

The Silent is staring back. That’s just great. They’re active, they’re over-active, and they’ve just heard that bit of insanity. Right. Moving on.

There’s fluid seeping down the stairs, from the ceiling, cracks appearing in the tank glass--

“Oh bloody Hell-- we’ve been played--” All the way along. They were waiting for the Doctor, and Williams didn’t see it. He's failed.

No. Not yet. Still a little time. Suddenly he has the oddest memory of holding a Roman sword, standing with his back against something infinitely precious.

He rushes to the Control Room, bars the door.

“They’re out! All of them!”

They have the Silents outnumbered and this shouldn’t be a disaster. But then the Eye-drives start firing, and they’re all compromised (something else he missed), he loses four men in five seconds, and Madame Kovarian is gloating....

The pain. Is. Excruciating. No time for scones, then. No time for anything much, it seems. Okay. Everything is simpler, now, with only a few minutes left: he can almost see his future, dead in five minutes. But they’ll count.

The stars are going out in his mind. But what matters is that the people who are really important get away.

The Doctor, Dr. Song and Agent Pond are arguing and he’s barely paying attention. They’re going to the receptor room. He clenches one hand to the point of agony; it distracts him from his eye, so he can focus enough to face the door.

“I'll wait down here, ma'am. Buy you as much time as I can.”

Agent Pond stops, and her face betrays concern. It’s a nice sight, for his last glimpse of her. He can’t turn back again, needs to keep his eyes on the door. “You have to take your Eye-drive off.”

“Can't do that, ma'am. Can't forget what's coming.”

“But it could activate any second.”

“It has activated, ma'am. But I'm of no use to you if I can't remember.” Hell, now she knows. He didn’t want her to think he would suffer... well. Too late.

“You need to go now. Ma’am.” Amy Amy Amy. Good-bye, Amy. Another memory, from some other world: Agent Pond crying on the shores of a lake, inconsolable. Not being able to comfort her. Don’t let that one come true, stand fast....

“Yes. Yes.” Her voice catches. She understands this is the end. That’s... good. Or something. No lies. Omissions, but no lies. “Thank you, Captain Williams.”

I love you. And she’s gone.

One blow. Two. He’s counting seconds that she’s gone, counting how much time they have.

He’s on his knees as soon as they break the door, and it’s hell, electricity through every nerve ending, and he has to take off the Eye-drive, wants to-- but he can’t, he can’t let her down, even a few seconds might make a difference, he’s got to at least stand in their way, even if he can’t fire the damn gun--

They’re through, descending the steps... “Rory Williams.”

They know his name. The Silents are hovering, shooting electricity, narrowing in on him, vultures over a dead man. Wait. How do they know--

“The man who dies and dies again.”

More memories at those words. A crack swallowed him. The world exploded. There was water in his lungs. This isn’t the first time. He’s not scared, he’s just in so much pain, and he’s failing the mission and that is unacceptable, but no, he hasn’t dropped the gun yet, if he even takes one of them with him it’ll be worth it--

“Die one last time, and know she will never come back for you.”

Bastards. That’s almost enough to get him on his feet. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t come back, it was never about if she’d love him back, it was about defeating them, and keeping her safe. He’s going to do that. Any second now....

The burst of automatic gunfire from behind him is completely unexpected, so unforeseen that he’s not sure it’s real, or if it’s another memory or dream bleeding through. But then all the Silents are dead at his feet. Real. Amazing. Amy.

“C’mon you, up you get.” Agent Pond has pulled him to his feet, and he’s still in pain, and then she’s ripped the Eye-drive off him. He always said she was brilliant. She came back for him, even though he has no idea why. That was stupid of her. He still loves her for it, so he must be even stupider. “You all right?”

He nods, and he’s gasping for breath as they’re heading for the door, when Madame Kovarian whines.

“Amy. Help me.”

Christ, she’s stopping--

Agent Pond turns back, takes three slow steps. Her face is expressionless. The same lack-of-expression she’d had when they’d captured the woman the first time.

“You took my baby from me and hurt her. And now she's all grown up and she's fine. But I'll never see my baby again.”

He doesn’t understand all that except that there’s no time, Madame Kovarian’s going to kill her with her talk.

The woman whimpers, then smiles. “But you'll still save me though.” Kovarian’s probably right. He wants to shoot her for it. “Because he would. And you'd never do anything to disappoint your pr-precious Doctor.”

“Ma'am, we have to go. Now.” Leave her to her masters, leave her, Ma’am, don’t die because you came back for a friend and stopped to give mercy--

“The Doctor is very precious to me, you're right. But do you know what else he is, Madame Kovarian?” He doesn’t recognize Agent Pond’s voice there. Not until she leans down and stares into Madame Kovarian’s face. “Not here.”

He’s horrified. He’s relieved.

Amy snaps the Eye-drive back in place, and her accent takes on that razor-cadence he knows so well. We’re going to save the world. “River Song didn't get it all from you. Sweetie.”

Kovarian is screaming as they walk away, arm in arm. Too many shocks in too short a time, so he’s just following her lead. Always the best thing to do.

Agent Pond seems oddly calm, as Kovarian’s shrieks crescendo and then begin to die out. “So, you and me. We should get a drink sometime.”

“Okay.” What?

“And get married.”

“Fine.” Wait. What? “Someone ought to ask, first,” he manages, not believing she’s doing anything but joking. Gallows humor. He can match that.


Amy opens the last door, and then slams it shut behind them, and they scramble to put as many blocks and crates and rubbish at hand as they can in front of it. A little more time. Another few minutes bought. Then they’re running for the stairs.

“What are you waiting for?” She stops on the first step on the last stairwell, looking at him.

Like she sees him. Like she recognizes him. Like-- Oh God.

There’s no time. And then there’s a memory, of a younger Amy, eyes wide, staring at him in disbelief, and another girl’s laughter in his ears.

“You’re asking me to propose?”

“Only if you want to.”

She’s smiling at him. Happy. Expectant. That smile is for him. Agent Amy Pond, tough as kevlar, sharp as knives, strong as time, is smiling like sunshine and champagne and it knocks every question out of his head. They have maybe five minutes before the Silence catches up. Nothing more to wait for, is there? There’s no words. There’s no script for this. No memories, no dreams, no plan.

He kisses her. Pulls her down and just presses his mouth to hers because if she kills him for it it’ll be worth it--

And it is. It completely and utterly is, warm and soft and deep, and he can’t make it last long enough, the subjective clock ticking but for one moment it’s perfect, it’s familiar and wonderful and she’s kissing him back like they have all the time in the world.

He breaks off the kiss, and she’s chuckling low in her throat, pressed against his jaw. “I thought your nose looked familiar.” Her tone is playful, oh, this is such a terrific dream. “I just wasn’t close enough to recognize it. Rory.”

“I … didn’t think you knew my first name.” She moves away, but not too far. Tugs at his hand, and then they're climbing again, hand in hand, and he’s trying to keep up, just like always.

“Always knew it. Just thought you’d have a heart attack if I used it.” She flashes him another brilliant smile, and he’s dazzled. Breathless from more than running. “Always fancied you a bit. But now I know you. More than a bit. Better late than never, I s’pose.”

Amy. “Much, much better.”

Her hand tightens on his. Three minutes until the end of the world, and she loves him.

They’re giving away their daughter (River Song is Melody Pond is their daughter, that’s a new one) to marry the Doctor (who needs to die) to end this time, to fix the real one, and none of it makes any sense.

What does make sense is this: these last few moments have been about saying good-bye. It’s the Doctor’s moment of sacrifice, and River’s choice. They haven’t been herded into this by the Silence and Kovarian, facing a terrible ending and being forced against their will. It’s not about thwarting the inevitable: it’s about how you face it.

He gets that.

And then one last memory or dream pops into his mind: Amy, in a wedding dress. In his arms. Laughing.

Maybe that new time will be as good as this one.