By Laura Schiller
Based on: Doctor Who
"Can I help you?" Rory asked warily, squinting with sleepy eyes through a crack in the door of his apartment.
The strangers stared back. They were a tall, middle-aged man in a navy blue suit and a woman in a lace-collared blouse and miniskirt, so small she only came up to his shoulder. She was smiling nervously. Under Rory's gaze, the smile vanished.
"Rory, it's me," said the man, in a rough Scotch accent unnervingly like Amy's. "But of course. You don't recognize me, do you?"
"Sorry, no." Rory pulled the door a little closer. "And I've got to say, I don't appreciate strangers at my flat after midnight. Especially strangers who call me by my first name."
"Oh, sorry," said the young woman, her brown eyes anxious as she glanced from her companion to him. "We didn't realize it was so late. Time travel does that."
"Wait. Time travel?" Rory asked flatly. "Anyone care to explain what's going on?"
"I see you haven't changed … " The stranger smirked. "Mr. Pond."
That's when it hit him like a dash of cold water to the face. Only one man he knew had ever called him that.
"Amy!" he yelled over his shoulder. "Amy, get over here, you're not gonna believe this!"
He heard his wife before he saw her, stomping down the hall and muttering darkly about what she did to people who woke her at this unholy hour. Wrestling on a bathrobe, red hair twisting in all directions like a bonfire, scowling at them all with a face flushed with sleep, she was still unutterably lovely. Judging by the manic grin that spread across the man's face, and the wide-eyed awe on the woman's, they felt the same way.
"Amy," said Rory, sweeping his arms in the visitors' direction, "It's the Doctor. The Doctor's come back."
Amy grabbed a nearby doorframe for support, her hazel eyes enormous. Her face flashed through such a kaleidoscope of emotions that only Rory could have kept up with them: Surprise. Joy. Confusion. Despair. Ecstasy. Finally, she settled on suspicion, her eyebrows drawing together with an almost audible click as she looked the strangers up and down.
"Prove it," she snapped.
"Uh, he did call me Mr. Pond," Rory muttered in her ear.
The old man whipped a sonic screwdriver (thinner and sleeker than his old design, and with a blue light at the top) out of his pocket and pointed it at the weak hallway lamp, making it glow a dazzling gold that made all five of their faces glow like movie stars'. Amy folded her bathrobe closer around her, holding in the twitch of a smile.
"Not good enough. For all I know, you could've stolen it. Tell me something only the Doctor knows."
"All right," said the faux Scot, with quiet intensity. "The first time we met, I was in mid-regeneration. I crashed my TARDIS into your back yard, tasted my way through half the contents of your fridge, threw everything out except for fish fingers and custard, and promised to fix the interdimensional crack in your wall. I said I'd be back in five minutes, and even though my timing was rather badly off, I kept my promise in the end."
There was a deep well of love in his unfamiliar blue eyes that Rory had seen countless times in a pair of green ones. That, if nothing else, would have been enough to convince him.
"I made another promise to Brian, and it was to bring the two of you home safely. I know I'm a little late, Ponds, but give me a break," cracking a smile for the first time and holding out his thin, aged hands. "You know what New York traffic can be like."
Amy shrieked with joy and pounced on the Doctor for a hug. Rory, without the shriek but with a face-splitting grin, did the same.
"I knew it was you!" Amy squealed. "I knew it! Just messing with you, Raggedy Man!"
"You're incorrigible, Pond."
"Oh yeah? Well, you're gray! And Scottish – how can you be Scottish?"
"Don't even ask. It's a lottery."
"No, no, it's perfect! You sound – oh, Doctor, after all these years as part of my family, you finally sound like it."
They swayed together in the hallway, laughing and crying, slapping each other's backs, over and over again – until a dainty little throat-clearing noise behind them made them step apart with giddy embarrassment.
"You see, I followed your orders," said the Doctor, twitching his fingers to call the brunette in the lace collar to come closer. "I don't travel alone. Ponds, meet Clara. Clara Oswald. You may remember her as Oswin the Soufflé Girl."
Rory chuckled to himself at the memory of the rapid, high-pitched voice guiding him through the Dalek Asylum, flirting with him all the way. Trust the Doctor to track her down again, even after the whole planet exploded around her.
"Oswin?" Amy breathed. "Oh, so you saved her after all!"
"Yes. No. Sort of. Long story." Oswin, or rather Clara, blushed and ducked her head. "But – you're Amelia Williams? The Amelia Williams? Summer Falls has been my favorite book since I was little. I can't believe I finally get to meet you!"
She seized Amy's hand with both her smaller ones when they shook. Her brown eyes shone.
"I like you already," Amy joked, making all four of them laugh. "Now c'mon, I think we'd better get inside before these two old men catch cold."
"Oi!" said Rory and the Doctor in unison. Clara giggled.