Ace sat with her feet dangling in the pool, finally enjoying the coolness of the water. But even that small victory wasn't enough to make her happy. Even if she could forget her mum, how could the Professor say those things?
Emotional cripple! Social misfit! If I didn't have some use for her?
He was only saying those things because of the Fenric.
Couldn't past a chemistry exam and yet created a time storm in her bedroom!
Her Nitro-9 had gotten him out of so many scrapes. How dare he criticize that now?
Ace rubbed her eyes. Maybe it would be a good idea to get some rest now. Running from all those vampires and Nazis had really worn her out.
Rory was polishing the Jaguar, a boy with his toy. He'd offered to let Amy help, but she refused. Even a brand new flat needs a going-over, after all. So far, she'd found a litter box sitting on the bedroom sink, a roll of toilet paper on the couch, and a rare china plate in the linen closet. "Now, the fridge—" Not that. It's so him, but tore her between tears and laughter.
The fridge is filled with ten boxes of fish fingers and ten gallons of custard.
Her stomach pinged with hunger. Maybe it wouldn't taste so bad after all. Amy ripped the boxes open, took a swipe of the custard with a cold nugget and raised it to her mouth. The first time she'd eaten this, she was seven years old, living with an absent aunt.
I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored.
Now she was a grown woman, married with a lost daughter older than herself.
I'm not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box.
"But why now?" Amy swallowed the nugget slowly, letting the taste linger in her mouth.
Because you're still... breathing.
What makes you think you can walk away like that, my raggedy man?
The Ginger One's not on the TARDIS anymore. That makes it harder, but if she could reach the Bad Wolf (but the Bad Wolf had spoken to her, had been her for a time) through a parallel dimension, a simple row of flats should possess no problem.
What had the Bow-Tie One called the Ginger One? Amy? Yes, Amy. Amy was married to the Pretty One. Maybe afterwards she could have a talk with the Pretty One.
Not now. Now she had something to tell Amy.
Amy, listen to me.
Amy, listen to me.
A voice blew through the TARDIS, slipping through cracks and walls into dreams. Ace barely stirred.
Someone was talking to her; not the babbling teacher at the head of the room, but a wind for her ears alone.
Amy, I'm sorry for him. He didn't want to leave you. But this is what happened to his last friend. Ace saw a rough image of a stocky ginger woman, mid-thirties, waving her hands and babbling about a chameleon circuit and superseding the binary, binary, binary—and a skinny chap in a brown-striped suit pressing his hands to her head. "Donna Noble, I am so sorry. But we had the best times."
He had to wipe her memory. She couldn't remember or she'd die. That face was followed by a black woman in a tight red leather jacket. Just as Ace was admiring the woman's style, the voice said Endured the Year that Never Was.
More faces followed. A blond girl, only slightly older than herself, with a black boy peeking over her shoulder: Trapped in a Parallel Dimension.
A man in a 1940s army coat: The Man Who Can Never Die.
A woman in a spacesuit with huge, curly blond hair: They Met in the Wrong Order.
Every one dies. Every one leaves. Every one breaks his heart.
"Who are you?" Ace demanded.
Amy? Wasn't this Amy? Where is the Pretty One? She inspects her telepathic circuits to trace the message. It had ended up –inside her. All of space and time, yes, but inside the parts of her that he called 'Sexy.'
But then the other one...did she mix tenses again?
Ace, I'm sorry.
Amy tightened her grip on Melody. Just because she was a new mother didn't mean she was blind to the looks that woman was giving her. They wanted Melody.
Ace, you know he didn't mean it.
"Didn't mean what?" Amy snapped.
An image flashes in her head—a man in a question-mark sweater and a girl in a leather jacket with many badges. 'Emotional cripple!" the man snaps.
Was this another ganger bleeding? Was she seeing where she really was?
She had gotten it wrong. The TARDIS muttered to herself as she adjusted the telepathic channels. If she just put this relay down this synapsis and moved that neuron relay there, then it should work.
Ace crossed her arms. "If someone's here, show yourself."
In the corner of the room, something fizzled like vinegar and baking soda. Ace reached into her pack, producing a can of Nitro-9. Whatever it was, she'd be ready for it.
The white room shivered, transforming into a dank, musty classroom. Amy pressed Melody close to her chest, glancing around. The room seemed nearly empty, with only a monotone whine from the front desk. "Is someone there?"
A person poked her head over the edge of the desk. "If you're some alien scum, get back where you came from."
"I can't. I'm waiting."
"My husband. And the Doctor."
The girl stood up—it was the same person from Amy's flashback. "The Doctor? Slight Scottish accent, dark hair, wears a sweater with question marks?"
"No. Mine's got messy hair, wears a tweed jacket and a bow tie. Travels around in a time machine that looks like a police box."
Amy grinned. "Must be a different face. I'm Amy Pond."
"Ace." She extended a hand. "And is that your daughter?"
"Melody Pond. You said your name was Ace? I think the TARDIS left me a message for you."
"The TARDIS left you a message? It's just a box."
Amy shook her head. "No, it's a crazy bitey mad lady. Or hasn't that happened yet?"
"Probably not. Right, so what kind of message did you get, and why did you think it was for me?"
"Because I saw you. The question-mark sweater man was yelling about you," Amy glanced away. "Called you an emotional cripple."
Ace clenched her fists. "And the message?"
"You know he didn't mean it," Amy answered. "Just that. You're traveling with the Doctor?"
"I call him Professor. Little joke I started when we first met. We met on a space colony where I was serving as a waitress. Not that I'm from there. Got caught up in a time storm and ended up God-knows-where."
"He tumbled into my backyard and asked for fish fingers and custard. I was just a little girl then, but I waited." Amy adjusted her hold on Melody. "And today…" Her voice trailed off, surprised by something she just remembered. "Today he left me. Didn't want it to end at my grave."
The words sparked Ace's memory. "Maybe that's why I was seeing those pictures."
"I saw people I didn't know, and then a voice told me about them. A ginger woman, older than you. A black woman, a blond girl. Even someone with huge blond curls."
"Huge blond curls? What was she wearing? Did you hear a name?"
"She was wearing an astronaut suit, but I didn't hear a name. Just six words: they met in the wrong order. Do you have any idea what that means?"
Amy closed her eyes for a minute. "What did it say about the others? "
"Something about the year that never was, a man who can never die, trapped in parallel dimensions. The last thing I heard before you showed up was: Every one dies. Every one leaves. Every one breaks his heart." Ace shrugged. "Does it make sense to you?"
"As much as anything with him can." Amy flinched. "Someone touched my shoulder. "
"But there's no one else here."
Time to wake up, girls.
"Did you hear that?"
"Rory, is that you?" Amy called.
"Amy, you fell asleep at the kitchen table. Are you okay?"
Amy blinked at Rory. "What? Right, yes. Just had a strange dream. Must have been the fish fingers and custard."
"Let me guess, the Doctor stocked our fridge." Rory rolled his eyes. "What do you say we take the Jaguar out for a spin? Could pick up some real food on the way."
"It's not that bad," Amy laughed.