A Softer Landing
Of course, the Doctor wouldn't stop her, not if it was what she wanted, if she really couldn't handle this anymore. Amy was giving up much more than he was and if she did end up leaving, well... Then that small part of him that lost the battle could tell him "I told you so." So, when she came out with two steaming mugs in her hands, asking what the Doctor was looking at, he didn't resist telling Amy the truth. "It's River," he answered, feeling her pull up alongside him and hand him his mug. The Doctor could feel the mood switch from pleasant to nervous, watching Amy's body tense in his peripherals as she stared up at the screen.
"Oh," she blurted out, the only thing the redhead could think of at that point.
The Time Lord waited for her to say more, but when nothing escaped her mouth, he said, carefully, "Yes... Oh."
For a few moments, neither said anything, which was odd seeing as both loved to talk. The Doctor and Amy were trying to think though. They knew that under normal circumstances, they'd be there in a heartbeat, that River would already be in the TARDIS. But things were different since the last time they saw her. Neither were mad about the Melody thing anymore, not really. Of course, there was still that regret and confusion on how she could do such a thing, but they were no better. River had ruined Melody's life by leaving her and betraying her. Wasn't that exactly what they were doing? The Doctor and Amy had stopped looking for Melody, knowing that they'd find her when they least expected it. That was what Rory had told them. And now they were together, the ultimate act of betrayal.
When Amy couldn't stand to hear her dark thoughts anymore, she finally spoke up, making the decision they both knew they had to make. "Well?" she asked, taking a large gulp of green tea, ignoring the slight burn in her mouth, "Are you going to put this show on the road, or are you finally going to let me take a crack at it?"
"You are never driving the TARDIS," the Doctor said, his tone just as serious as the worried glance he cast down at his companion. He patted the console affectionately, as if trying to reassure the time machine that he would keep her safe from the incapable hands of Amy Pond.
But once Amy was challenged, once she wanted to do something... There was nothing anyone could do but stand back and let her. The Doctor didn't stand a chance.
"No!" the Doctor bellowed, his surroundings shaking as the TARDIS convulsed in confusion, "You weren't supposed to press that! That was the time immemorial fibulator!"
"The what?" Amy cried, holding onto one of the levers with all her might. She didn't want to think how many bruises she'd get from being tossed if she let go.
"The TARDIS' location history! It's a list of all the places I've been since my last regeneration!"
"Really?" she asked, her tone less panicked and slightly more interested, "How long have you had that?"
"I don't know!" he replied, sounding just as fascinated as Amy, "I just found out I had it, too!"
The two hung on to whatever they could as the time machine spun through the time vortex, going somewhere random that the Doctor had been to since regenerating last. It was intentionally meant to keep track of his travels because the Doctor didn't usually like to visit a planet numerous times in one regeneration. There were exceptions of course, like going to Cwmtaff in 2020 or New Earth during his tenth. Still, the TARDIS had thought she was being considerate, but the feature, like many others, were going unnoticed by her pilot.
A few minutes later, the sound of the brakes echoed throughout the blue box, Amy and the Doctor falling to the clear, glass floor as everything came to stand-still. That was, well, until there was a banging on the front door. "Doctor?" a familiar voice called out, "Doctor! What is it this time? What's wrong? Is the grocery store harboring green aliens in the back?"
The Doctor's head shot up, a clear grin on his face as he realized who was on the other side of the door. "Craig?" He ran to where the voice was coming from and threw the blue doors open, revealing a heavy-set man with blonde hair and blue eyes, stubble across his chin and looking up at the tall man with excitement, worry, and friendliness. It really was Craig Owens. "Craig!"
"Doctor!" the man laughed, enveloping the Time Lord in a big hug. The two hadn't seen each other since Craig had almost turned into a Cyberman, when the Doctor was on his goodbye tour, off to die. That was, of course, until he decided to do something about it. "Hold on. Let me get Sophie! She's with Alfie inside. You'll stay this time, won't you?"
"I don't know," the Doctor replied with uncertainty, "I was in the middle of something, actually."
"Doctor? Who's that?" The men turned around to see Amy stagger towards them, forgotten by the bromance ensuing.
"Oh my God. That's Amy Pond," Craig gasped, obviously knowing her. He knew everything about the Doctor, having experienced telepathic transferal when the Doctor needed to save the world from whatever had been hiding above Craig's flat and had no time to explain. "That's Amy Pond, the Girl Who Waited! She-"
"Explain to me how he knows me!" the redhead interrupted, one hand pressed against her temple and the other resting on her hip. She'd never met Craig before. The first time he'd met the Doctor was when Amy was trapped in the TARDIS and unable to land near him because of interference coming from the flat. The second time was when the Doctor had already left Amy to live her life with Rory, one where she was a model and her face was posted up on ads all around the stores.
"This is Craig, Amy," the Doctor smiled, gesturing towards his friend, "You remember him, don't you?"
Amy didn't respond for a second, trying to remember. When she suddenly realized the identity of the man before her, she gasped, "Oh right! Yeah! Sorry about that!"
"It's fine," Craig said, holding out a hand that Amy quickly shook, "Nice to finally meet you. In person, I mean, and not through his head." He flashed the Doctor a look, something the Time Lord didn't quite understand.
"Like I was saying before," the Doctor went on, returning Craig's glance with a confused look of his own, "We were sort of in the middle of something before Amy tried driving the TARDIS. We should really get going." Upon hearing her name, as if almost in reply, the TARDIS let out a whine that let the Doctor know something was wrong with her and that she wasn't going anywhere until she was fixed. "Oh my Rassilon," he murmured, getting louder as he walked back into the blue phone box and saw the smoke rising around the console. His fingers flailed nervously, moving over the buttons and levers, trying to diagnose the problem. "Amy! What did you do to my TARDIS?"
Some hours later...
"I knew I shouldn't have let you drive her," the Doctor moaned, which was exactly what he had been doing for the past half hour, "She is advanced technology at its best and you're just-"
"I'm just what?" Amy challenged, raising an eyebrow.
"Human!" he finished, leaning over the kitchen table to glare at his companion, who was returning it with her own narrowed eyes. They were inside the Owens' kitchen, the same home that the Doctor had last seen when he visited. Amy sat across the table from her fellow time traveler, Craig and Sophie leaning against the counter by the sink, eyeing the two carefully as if they had stepped into a battle zone. Alfie gurgled happily from the high chair where he was eating some sort of orange-y mush, the scent making Amy, who was sitting right next to him, slightly sick. What was that junk? "And Alfie, she's too old for you," the Doctor added, nodding his head towards the toddler, who had aged around 3 months since he'd last seen him.
"What?" Amy and Sophie asked, looking at the baby curiously. Craig just shook his head and smiled. He couldn't wait until Alfie could talk to him. The things the Doctor translated were usually funny though slightly worrying. His son was definitely going to have a personality.
"He talks to babies," Craig explained, "Look, how long do you think it's going to take for you to fix the TARDIS? You're free to stay here."
The Doctor did his best to conceal the expression of displeasure that was itching at his face. It wasn't Sophie or Alfie or Craig that he minded. It was just... Staying. Sure, with Craig it had been a blast, but that was only for a couple days and minus the baby. Plus, Amy was there and could leave to go back home if she really wanted to. She was back on Earth at relatively the same time he'd dropped Rory off. What with the whole "River reminder," she could still be remembering the choice she had made and maybe regretting it. "I don't know," the Doctor said reluctantly, "I think I could maybe get it if I just trie-"
"You were working down there for twenty minutes," Amy interrupted, "Yeah, not so long if you think about it. But that's the TARDIS and you're the Doctor.Twenty minutes down there and you couldn't even diagnose the problem? Sounds like a tricky one."
"Why do you always have to come up with brilliant ideas when you're arguing with me?" he sighed, tightening his jaw. He looked at the faces of his surrounding friends, the hope on Craig and Sophie, the irritation and impatience written on Amy's, and, well... The dumbfounded look on Alfie's face as it fixated on Amy's red hair. But that had nothing to do with the choice he was making. "Fine. We can stay! But it really shouldn't take more than a day. Promise."
It ended up taking more than a day. Actually, it would take three.