Henry is 28, Clare is 20
"Why do we have to go back now? Can't it wait? I thought we were going to visit the Singing Towers."
"Let's save that for a special occasion, right? Clare said we were wearing the same thing. If we go now, we can make sure the timeline stays on track." The Doctor pulled a lever.
River laughed. "With all your talk about time being rewritten, you care about proper timelines."
"That's exactly why I care," He looked past her for a moment. "I can use the sonic to trace the Henry we met back to his own time using the autron energy left on your coat."
Clare wouldn't have noticed the blue police box outside Henry's apartment, except for the fact that a ginger-haired black man was jumping up and down shouting her name. "Clare! Clare!"
A woman with curly blond hair stepped from the box. "Doctor, you're scaring her."
"It's worked before," He retorted.
"Only because that planet had not passed the second stage of verbal exchanges. In this time and place, you're more likely to get locked up for insanity."
"I've been locked up before. There was that 19th century Cardiff dungeon, not to mention the times on Gallifrey…"
Any normal person would have slipped away before the bickering couple turned their attention back to Clare, but the words "19th century dungeon" caught her attention. Was the man a time traveler like Henry? She took a second glance at him. The plaid shirt, neon pants, and plastic shoes seemed like a ragbag assortment—but they fit him too.
"Excuse me, Clare Abshire, but would you come over here and explain to the Doctor that shouting a girl's name is not the right way to attract her attention."
"I can't say. I haven't exactly had a normal romantic history—or future, from what Henry's said."
"Life with a time traveler certainly can be complicated, can't it?"
The woman's words hold Clare like a snare. "What did you say?"
"I know you heard me," the woman stepped closer. "Like reading a foreign language, where it's read right to left, back to front. And sometimes the apologies come before the wrongdoing."
Clare stared at her. "Who are you?"
"River Song, and this is the Doctor."
"Why don't you come into the TARDIS?" The Doctor gestured to the blue box. "It's much warmer in there."
"It looks a bit of a tight fit."
"You think?" He grinned. "You can go in first."
Curious now, Clare crossed the street and opened the front door. "I still don't see—oo! But that's impossible! Bigger on the inside—it's like, like…"
"Time travel?" River followed Clare inside. "It does that too."
"And you keep your clothes when you do that?"
"Most of the time. There was this one incident once—" The Doctor was cut off by River's elbow jabbing his chest. "Right, you don't need to explain about Henry. We already know."
Clare ran her fingers along the wall. "It's beautiful in here. Can you control where you're going?"
"Most of the time. The TARDIS does have a mind of her own on occasion. "
"And the psychic paper doesn't always time my messages to him correctly," River added. "It's all very complicated. "
"You're both time travelers?" Clare blinked.
"Yes. " River looked over just in time to see a tear slip from Clare's eyes.
"Sometimes I feel like a sailor's girl from the old days. He sails off, and I never know when he's coming back, or what he'll look like when he returns. And there's no way to find him. Before tonight, I hadn't seen him in two years. But you—" Clare returned River's gaze with something akin to envy. "You can sail out and find him."
"That's what you think," The Doctor said softly. "It's not that easy. Imagine an iPod—"
"What's an iPod?" Clare interrupted.
"Wait a few years, they're really cool," he exclaimed. "But anyway—"
"Let me try," River told him. "Every person is a playlist of songs. Most people, ordinary, time-bound people, play them in order, like a record. Once in a while, his needle skips and he goes back to one you've already heard. But the Doctor and me- both of our lists play randomly, with no set order. Think of ten thousand songs, but only ten in common, and the times when we met are those rare occasions when the music synchronizes. He may be on track fifty when I'm on five, or vice versa."
Envy no longer edged Clare's words. "I'm sorry. Life with a time traveler—it's never easy, never straightforward."
"Never boring, either." The Doctor added.
Clare and River chuckled. "Just hang in there, Claire." The Doctor added. "We'll see you again."
"From your point of view," River said. "From ours, we already have."