As people who have read my other fic might have noticed, I'm using a bit of a different style for this one: I'm trying to be a bit more streamlined and dialogue-based, with fewer lengthy descriptive passages. I'm partly doing it because I like this story to be focused more on the domestic and less on the fantastic, because I love that element of the show, and I'm partly doing it to see if I can. ^_^ But it is a bit of a new style for me, and this story is sadly unbeta'd, so I apologize for when it gets clunky or awkward. I hope you can enjoy it anyway.
Thanks for reading!
"And that," Amy concludes, "is why we're going on a trip this Christmas. Well – that, and the living fireworks he set off the year you were born. And the 'star' he tried to ignite last year."
Arthur stares at her, his eyes wide. "Did Uncle Doctor die?"
"'Course he didn't die, you've met 'im," Amy says. "Although - I see your point. Well, no, he didn't die, he just needed some help breathing. Daddy got him all sorted in no time."
"Did he get arrested? Did you get arrested?"
"Nearly," says Amy. "We held off the coppers with the psychic paper until River could get there. I'm sure she'll tell you the story if you ask nicely."
"What's psychic paper?"
"It's a sort of card that shows you what you're thinking. It's kind of complicated - Uncle Doctor will show you when he gets here," Amy says. She ruffles Arthur's mouse-brown hair (not ginger - the Doctor's moaned about how it's a tragedy that he isn't ginger, Amy's son should be ginger, and she's sure that if she'd let him go on he would have offered to give her some kind of alien hair tonic to make him ginger). She raises her voice to be heard over the clattering coming from the kitchen. "Oi, Rory! Are you ready yet? He said it would be just one trip, you don't need to pack the whole house!"
"Yeah, but it's the Doctor," Rory says, appearing in the doorway with a duffel bag in one hand and a towel slung over his shoulder. His hair is actually sticking up in little spikes, he's been mussing and worrying at it so much. Amy hasn't seen him so tense since the day Arthur was born, when he'd spent three hours inspecting the hospital windows to make sure they would be impregnable to Headless Monks. "Who knows what one trip could turn into?" he goes on. "And it's Arthur's first time-travel trip, he's only five - what if we get attacked by aliens? Or robots? Or what if the TARDIS goes all wonky and he hits his head, or falls in the swimming pool, or - "
"Rory, he'll be fine. He's a Pond, he's a natural time-traveler. Aren't you?"
"Williams," Rory says automatically, but he heads back into the kitchen rather than stay and argue about it. "I just want to be sure we're prepared for everything."
"Too late!" Amy cries, as the whooshing, squealing, rasping, beautiful noise of the TARDIS engines rattles the windows.
"The closet!" Arthur shouts. He scrambles off the couch and dashes down the hall with his mother close behind. The closet door opens onto a wall of solid wood, the bluest blue ever, and a pair of white windows spilling light. Then those doors open, and the Doctor's head pops out, his expression solemn.
"Ah, Arthur, just the man I was looking for," he says gravely. "Have you been good this year?"
"Yes, Uncle Doctor!"
"Ooh, Uncle Doctor, I like that, always wanted to be an uncle," the Doctor says. He grins at Amy, his eyes sparkling, then clears his throat puts his serious face back on. "Ahem. Have you been listening to your mum and dad?" he asks Arthur. "They're brilliant, you know, your mum and dad. Always to be listened to, except about bedtime. I find that grownups are always unreasonable about bedtime, don't you think?"
Arthur hesitates. He glances up at Amy, then back at the Doctor, and a shy smile spreads over his face. "Yes, Uncle Doctor."
"Ah, good," the Doctor says. "Stay right there, Arthur, Amy, there's someone I'd like you to meet."
He ducks back inside the TARDIS, letting the door swing shut behind him. There's a thump from the end of the hall and Rory appears, lugging a duffel bag and a small suitcase. "Where is he, have I missed anything?" he asks. "Has he locked us out again, is that it?"
"Will you stop worrying?" Amy says. She takes the duffel from his hand and tosses it against the side of the TARDIS, then grabs his collar and pulls him in for a brief kiss. "We're waiting to meet someone," she tells him.
"Oh, good," Rory says, just as the TARDIS doors swing open again.
The Doctor is standing there, holding the hand of a golden-haired little girl who looks to be about seven or eight. "Amy, Arthur, Rory," he says slowly, "This is Cobalt-perennials-wandering-under-horizons. Or you can call her Digamma. She's...my daughter."
"Our daughter," River says as she joins the Doctor and the little girl in the doorway. "Sorry to surprise you like this. We'll come to tell you as soon as we find out about her, which will be...oh, I'd say about six months, your time."
Silence. The Doctor smiles nervously, but the smile fades as the color drains from Rory's face and he starts looking a bit unsteady on his feet. "Oh," he says hoarsely, after an awkward minute. "That means - " He shakes his head, pulling himself together, and crouches down to shake his granddaughter's small hand. His voice trembles, but his hand is steady. "Hello, Digamma. It's very, very nice to meet you." He turns back to his son. "Say hello, Arthur."
"Hi," Arthur says shyly. He waves and leans into Amy's legs, unsure whether to move forward or try and hide.
"Significant cultural greetings, Earth-family," Digamma says, just as shyly, in a clear sweet voice. She looks ready to say something else, then pauses, scowling. "No! Wait, I've got it - Christmas! Happy Christmas!" She looks anxiously up at River. "Is that right? That's what it said in the human-culture matrix..."
"That's perfect, sweetie," River says. "Now why don't you and Arthur go and play? You should have enough time to show him the new waterfall in the vortex garden before we get to Emplic."
Digamma leans out of the TARDIS doors and holds out a hand. Amy gently nudges Arthur forward, and then the two of them are gone, scampered off into the depths of the TARDIS. "Well! That's all sorted," the Doctor says brightly, clapping his hands together. "Come along Ponds, there'll be plenty of time for everyone to get acquainted on Emplic - well, it's me, there'll always be plenty of time. Comes standard with a time machine." He pats the side of the TARDIS fondly, then pauses. "Do try not to fall over, Rory, there's a good nurse. Now if you'll just collect your baggage, we'll be off-"
"Shut up, you idiot," River says with fond exasperation. "They've just found out they've got a grandchild, try and give them one minute to adjust. Go recalibrate the thermotemporal rotor clamps, they've been shuddering lately. And make sure the children haven't activated the vortex generator!" she calls after the Doctor as he vanishes into the TARDIS.
Rory makes a strained noise halfway between a question and a plea. "Don't worry, they'll be fine," River assures him hastily. "They can't do any damage from the vortex garden." A resounding crack booms out from the interior of the ship. River winces. "Well, no real damage, anyway. The Doctor's right, though, we'd best be going soon. Our scanner picked up a rather excessive police presence around the house, though goodness knows what they're waiting for. Is this yours, this suitcase?"
"There's another one," Rory says, still a bit dazed. "A big blue one. I left it in the kitchen..."
"I'll get it," Amy says quickly. Rory, already burdened with the suitcase and duffel bag, gives her a grateful look. "Two minutes," she promises as River ushers Rory into the ship.
Amy slips down the hall and around the corner and closes the kitchen door behind her. She presses her forehead to the smooth wood, closing her eyes, breathing deep for a long minute. Her granddaughter - an eight-year-old granddaughter appearing out of the Vortex. For a moment everything goes cold; it's the same numbed disbelief that had gripped her in the hangar of Demon's Run so long ago, when a grown and mysterious woman she'd barely known had turned out to be her daughter.
But it isn't the same. Six months from now, when the soft summer sun is glowing white on the tiles, River's going to land the TARDIS in the back garden and come into that kitchen, younger and more nervous than she is now, and she'll tell Amy everything. This golden-haired little girl will have her first birthday party in Leadworth (before her parents take her to celebrate at the birth of some distant sun). It'll be all right. Amy takes another deep breath, and is surprised to realize that she's shaking. Still, she smiles, as the joy of having a new gorgeous granddaughter begins to rise over the shock of time travel.
"Hello, Amy," says the Doctor.
Amy whirls around. The Doctor is sitting at her kitchen table, his hands out in front of him cupping nothing, his eyes all but hidden under the fringe of his hair. He doesn't say anything for a moment, just waits, and as Amy's heart slows down from a frantic stutter she starts to see what he wants her to see; the scorch mark on one elbow, the faintest white tracery of a scar over his left eye, the sallow cheeks and nervous fingers. She turns her head a fraction, enough to see the TARDIS - a TARDIS - in her living room, crowding between the couch and the front window. "Doctor," she breathes. "It's you, yeah? But not the same you that's with the others." She slides into a chair across from him, copying the way he holds his hands, meeting his flooded eyes. "You're from the future."
"I'm sorry," the Doctor says softly, and his voice is strange and flooded too. "Everything's a bit fuzzy right now, I'm not...thinking clearly. Meant to come to a year I haven't done yet."
"What's the matter? Have you come to warn us about something?" He doesn't answer, just shifts a little in his chair and lowers his eyes again. Amy knows that she's staring, trying to see through his chalk-white skin to the whorls and spirals of the path that will lead the Doctor in her hall closet to the future Doctor, and lead this future Doctor back to her. "Tell me," she commands. "Are you okay?"
He smiles at her, a ghastly little smile like the expanding edge of a dying star. "I don't think I am, actually, Amy. Amelia Pond." His left hand moves, inching across the surface of the table to grasp her right. She grabs his other hand, not wanting to wait for him to muster up the strength to move again.
"Tell me what's going on," she says, suddenly furious. "Something terrible's going to happen, and you've got to tell me what it is, Doctor. Right now. Explain."
"It's all right," the Doctor says softly, and suddenly she's at the center of a collapsing universe, looking into the tangled nest of wires in the heart of Pandorica, and in the middle of it her Doctor, bleeding and broken and determined to burn. "It's all right, Amy, it's already happened for you, but I wanted to see you again - before it happens for me. I'm just a silly old man, getting caught up in subjective timelines. Comes of spending too much time with you humans." He chuckles, despite the faint glistening tears Amy can see on his cheeks. "You know better than I do how all right it's going to be."
And suddenly, horribly, Amy understands. "You're going there, aren't you," she says, managing to choke the words out around the sudden lump in her throat. "You're going to that beach, with the astronaut - River -"
"Hush," the Doctor says, stroking his thumb across the back of her hand. "Spoilers."
"Don't go, you don't have to go there. It can't happen if you aren't there, just go somewhere else. Please, Doctor,I'm begging you - run. Just run!"
"Oh, Amy," he says. "I've been running so long now. And I think the running's over. But it's been a good run, eh?"
Even going to his death, he can smile at her in a way that warms her to her toes.
"Yeah, pretty good," she says. There's a clatter from the hallway, and the faint sounds of Rory shouting for Amy to hurry. The Doctor wiggles his eyebrows, the way that he always did when he wanted her to call him an idiot, and while Amy struggles with laughing or smiling or slapping him, he gets to his feet.
"Well, I think that's about done it for me," he says."You'd best get back there, your Roman's calling. And the rest of your life. Make it a brilliant one, won't you, Pond?"
"Yeah," Amy says quietly. "I will."
The Doctor turns to go. Amy doesn't move for a few seconds, just stares at the door to the garden, watching the Doctor's slow, careful steps out of the corner of her eye. Outside the window is the flat black slab of night, strobed with the occasional distant flash of red and blue from the police cars parked discreetly out front of the neighbor's house. Unthinking, she follows the reflected glint of the siren as it catches the curve of something stashed on top of the refrigerator.
"Doctor, wait!" she calls. He stops with his hand on the handle of the TARDIS door and turns around to see Amy rummaging around the top of the fridge between stacks of unused cookbooks. She finally pulls down a greenish-looking bottle, dusty and unopened. "Take this," she says, coming around the table to hold it out to him. "Rory and I were saving it for something, I forget what, but you'll need it where you're going."
The Doctor takes it from her and examines it from every angle, including upside-down. "Really, Amy, wine? I don't even know if I drink wine."
"You're eleven hundred years old, right? Got to try it sometime."
The Doctor watches her carefully, then nods. "Suppose you're right. How many times are you eleven hundred, after all? Don't answer that," he adds hurriedly.
There's another series of thumps from the hallway, and Rory's voice again, getting nearer. The Doctor pushes the TARDIS door open, but before he can vanish inside Amy blurts out "Wait -" again, and this time when he turns around she puts both hands on his shoulders and leans over on the tips of her toes to kiss him on the forehead, just for a second. When she pulls back, the Doctor gives her a look so fierce and full of gratitude, it makes her think her heart might burst.
Then the floorboards outside the kitchen door are creaking and the Doctor is in the TARDIS and gone. Rory comes in at last to find his wife leaning against the living room wall, staring desperately at nothing, her hair still fluttering in the wind between the worlds. He comes up quietly and puts a hand on her shoulder, then opens his arms as she leans into him like he's the only solid thing on a hysterically spinning planet that's threatening to throw her off. He doesn't ask if she's all right, doesn't ask what happened, because he can tell from her expression that it's something to do with the Doctor, and with the Doctor there are never really answers to questions like that.
When River comes looking for them both a few minutes later, Amy has regained her composure and is trying to convince Rory to leave the final suitcase. River interrupts them mid-bickering to herd them back to the TARDIS, and at a few minutes to midnight the Pond-Williamses vanish into the Void, hurtling towards Emplic and its winged talking trees and singing snows.
Their house stands brightly lit and perfectly still all night, but at 1:30 in the morning the police are called away to the other side of the village, where someone's tampered with a fire hydrant in the square. When they arrive, a crowd has already gathered around the hydrant, which is shooting out jets of water that turn into flocks of purple, stalk-eyed birds and fly away. The police captain just shakes his head and has one of the lads film it with his dashboard cam so he can send the footage to his brother, a DI in London who's been saying he's mad for three years.
No one notices the tweed-clad stranger slipping around the corner into a blue box bluer than any sky.
Of course no one in London would understand. Leadworth is no stranger to Christmas miracles these days.
Next (and last) chapter will be up eventually. As always, reviews are greatly appreciated, and I love you all. ^_^