Word Count: 4014
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be.
Ships: Eleven/River, Eleven/Amy (friendshippy or romantic).
Note: Written after "A Good Man Goes To War" aired. Not really LKH compliant.
Every now and then, he sends her something. It's never anything large or glorious. Never anything too conspicuous. No, never. Usually it's small and simple and fits into his jacket pocket. And he never means to. How can he help it if he's off, minding his own business, when something strikes his attention? Really, he's never been one to turn down something attention-striking.
He's with River the first time it does.
(And he probably shouldn't be remembering her mother while she's with him, but he doesn't particularly pay that bit of information any real attention. It isn't awkward unless he makes it awkward, after all. Isn't strange unless he lets it be. It isn't inappropriate if he ignores it, and if there's one thing all his years have taught him it's how to ignore something… and how to make a brilliant omelette, but that's another story altogether.)
They're wandering through the bazaars on Cok-Sicak IV. It's a rather warm planet that's a bit like a desert. Well, except for all the sand. But he's always found sand to be a bit rubbish. It's small and annoying and gets absolutely everywhere. Can't get rid of it once you've got a hold of it. Awful thing it is, sand. Who needs it?
River's off looking at some archaeology rubbish or something boring like that when he spots the little corner booth. Lined up across the table are loads and loads of nail polish. There's every colour from bubblegum pink to stardust silver. And every colour, the shop keeper guarantees, has its own distinct scent that lasts two weeks.
He scratches his cheek.
Amy always did love a good polish. Obsessed over it, really. Her nails were never the same colour for long. After every trip, every adventure, she always insisted on repainting them. She'd sit on the edge of the counsel and do them while he worked on the TARDIS controls. He never understood her odd obsession, but, then again, she always was a sort of mystery to him. Amelia Pond, the-girl-who-never-made-sense.
He shakes his head. It's foolish to think of her now. Awful, really. Doesn't know why he bothers. She's gone after all. Left. Back in Leadworth. Off with Rory, doing whatever it is married people do now. So he really shouldn't do this. It's not a good idea. A very not good idea. Really, it's a bad idea. Wretched, actually. He never looks back–can't look back–for a reason. It's breaking all of the rules. His rules. One of his many, many rules.
But, he thinks toying with a TARDIS blue bottle, it's not as if he's ever been the type to follow the rules. Especially when it came to his Amy.
He's already paid for the polish and stuffed it away in his pocket by the time River finds him. She gives him an amused grin. "Nail polish? I didn't realise you were into that sort of thing, sweetie."
"Yes, well, there's a lot you don't know about me, Dr Song," he grins and taps her on the nose before he turns and leads them away.
Later, after he's dropped River back off at Stormcage, he lands the TARDIS outside a post in the twenty-first century.
On the planet Doviga he and finds a pair of large bee-like creatures. Yonhes. Lovely creatures, they are. Remarkable, really. Able to produce enough honey to supply colonies. Usually fairly peaceful though. They don't normally wander to this hemisphere of the universe. And they usually don't terrorize innocent inhabitants and fly around, knocking over every building they can. How strange.
How absolutely fascinating.
In the end, it turns out that they're domestic Yonhes, raised to be a part of a space circus. Only they escaped somehow and were left stranded, alone, and frightened on Doviga. He uses the TARDIS to help transport them to the planet where said space circus is. Melody doesn't understand why he does it; she gets cross with him and tells him she wishes he would have let them be free.
She doesn't understand that not everything is like them. Not everyone is meant to be let loose to travel and discover. Some things, some people–no matter how beautiful and wild and magnificent they are–aren't meant to always be free. They can go out and have their fun, but they aren't meant to live that life forever. They're raised domesticated; they wouldn't know how to live in freedom forever. The wild is a scary place and some people, he explains to Melody, are always meant to return to the domestic in the end.
She stares at him for a moment and shakes her head, her curls bouncing around her. "That's rubbish."
He smiles a bit sadly. Sometimes he forgets how young Melody still is. So very, very young. And innocent. Which is good. It means he hasn't damaged her yet. Hasn't ruined her yet. Because one day she will grow up and become River and meet her mum and she'll understand everything. But not yet. No. No, no, not yet. Not now. For now she's still Melody and she's still innocent and young.
So young, in fact, that she forgets her diary at Doviga.
"I still don't understand why you make me carry that thing. It's such a hassle."
He grins and taps her nose. "Spoilers."
She frowns and wrinkles her nose. "You know I hate it when you say that."
"And one day it will be your favourite word," he explains, spinning on his heel and turning to the TARDIS controls. "A catchphrase even."
"Good. Maybe you'll understand how maddening it is then," she mumbles.
There's a gigantic celebration when the TARDIS lands back on Doviga. He tries to tell them that that they don't want it. That, really, they have places to go, people to save, universes to save. But the people of Doviga don't listen, refuse to listen. And it doesn't help that Melody seems to think it's brilliant and the next thing he knows, he's being dragged into the celebration. And well, if they insist, who is he to resist?
Doviga, as it turns out, specialises in chocolate. And not just any sort of chocolate–every sort: big chocolate, small chocolate; bitter chocolate, sweet chocolate; white chocolate, brown chocolate, blue chocolate, red chocolate; salty chocolate, fruity chocolate. And, he realises a bite too late, apple chocolate.
He spits it out immediately.
Apples are rubbish. Awful, really. Absolutely foul. An insult to actual food. He hates apples. He never eats them. Avoids them at all possibilities. Hasn't even gone near one since that night in Amelia's kitchen all those years ago. Though the same can't be said for her. She always made sure they were on the TARDIS. Made sure he saw her eat one every day. Not that it ever surprised him. No, of course not. She never could make things easy for him. Not her. Not his wild Amy Pond. Amelia Pond, the-girl-who-drove-him-mad.
Oh, his Pond.
It's a horrible idea. Terrible, really. No good. Very not good, actually. He really shouldn't make this a habit. He's not supposed to interfere in her life anymore. He's already messed it up more than he should have. Lingered there longer than he was meant to. But…
It isn't as if he's actually interfering. Not really. He's just leaving her a present. She won't even see him. He won't see her. There will be absolutely no interfering at all. None what so ever. Not technically. So he isn't actually breaking the rules. Not at all.
He asks the Dovigan to pack him a box of his finest apple chocolates.
The first time he ever saw Amy's red scarf was years and years ago when she first started travelling with him. Back before Melodys and Rivers and Rorys and Romans and Eyepatch People and Silents and Angels. Back when his Pond was still a mystery to him and she still didn't completely trust her Doctor. Back before he ever took her to a planet and she ever told him the truth about her pre-wedding cold feet. Back when things were still absolutely strange and completed and a gigantic mess, but not nearly as much.
He had barely landed the TARDIS on the Yildiz star when she came running down the stairs, her eyes bright and her smile full. But what caught his attention the most had been the bright red scarf wrapped around her neck. It was just a regular, run of the mill scarf. Except it wasn't. It was anything but.
"Where did you find that?"
"This?" she asked, lifting up the ends of the scarf. "I found it in the TARDIS wardrobe." A soft frown tugged at her lips as she fingered the material. "It's a bit strange. I had one just like it at home. I've had it for years–I got it for my eighteenth birthday, you know. It never faded or anything; still looks as brand new as the first day."
"Who gave it to you?"
"I dunno. It just showed up on my front door. Why? What's wrong with it?"
"Hm? Oh, nothing. Just wondering, that's all, Pond."
Her eyes narrowed at him. "Doctor."
He clapped his hands together and grinned at her. "I haven't told you where we are, have I?" He spun on his heel and dashed to the TARDIS door.
He ignored her and swung the doors open. "Amy Pond, welcome to the Yildiz star!"
She stared at him for a moment and for a moment he actually thought it wouldn't work. That even the bright, fantastic crystal star wouldn't be enough to catch her attention. But after a minute, she shook her head and a bright grin spread across her lips. He grinned and laughed and took her hand and led them out the TARDIS and onto the star.
It isn't a memory that particularly sticks out in his mind. Not really. He spent so much time with his Amy that there were a million others that took priority over that one. It was only a scarf, after all. And it wasn't as if he didn't already have enough about Amy that didn't make sense at the time. So the memory buried itself in the depths of his memory.
Except he never actually forgets. Not really. No, of course not. He doesn't forget things. He temporarily pushes them to the back of his mind when they're not needed, but he never ever forgets. He always remembers when he needs to. Especially when it comes to his Amy. His wild, impossible, clever Amy Pond. Amelia Pond, the-girl-who-will-never-be-forgotten.
The memory resurfaces when he lands himself on a planet particularly well known for their psychic cloth. Cloth that, once worn by the owner, forms a psychic link and appears whenever desired. He's searching through some (very cool) bowties when a familiar laugh rings in his ear and a flash of red dances in the corner of his eye. And he spins on his heel so quick that he almost knocks himself over.
Only to not be met with an Amy.
Which is understandable. Expected, really. Because she's on Earth. In the twenty-first century. Which is not here. Far from it, actually. It's very not here. Because here is far across the universe, thousands of years into her future. Here is the very last place Amy Pond should be. But he's old and thick and for a moment, he actually believed that it was her. Stupid Doctor.
Stupid, stupid Doctor.
Except it isn't a total mistake, because he knows that scarf. He knows that he knows it. Amy loved that scarf. She always wore it. So no, he could never forget that scarf. Not even if he wanted to (which he doesn't). A smile tugs at his lips as his fingers brush against the material, because suddenly he knows exactly what he's meant to do.
"It just showed up on my front door."
And it isn't interfering if he's already done it, right?
"Wrap it up," he tells the shop keeper. "It's a birthday present for a friend of mine."
And if this–sending her all these presents–is suddenly becoming a very bad habit of his, he ignores it. He's the Doctor, after all, and he's very good at ignoring things.
He can always tell the difference between River Song and Melody Pond. At the start, he couldn't. They're the same person, after all. Melody and River; River and Melody. They're one and the same. Except they aren't always. Because there's a difference. It isn't the most obvious one or the most blatant one, but it's there. Because Melody Pond is the little girl and River Song is the woman. Except he doesn't mean that in literal terms. No, it's far more than that. It's far simpler than that. No, because sometimes she's young, but so obviously River. Other times, she's older but so very clearly Melody.
That day, it's Melody in River's body that finds him.
He's just about to leave Yildiz, the weight from his latest purchase in his jacket pocket, when she appears in front of him. There's a vortex manipulator on her wrist, but that isn't what gives her away. No, not at all. Because there's this look in his eyes. It's soft and gentle and innocent and childlike, and he knows exactly what she's going to tell him before the words even fall out of her lips.
"I saw my parents."
It stops him in his tracks, because they never really discuss her parents. At least River doesn't. She's gone through too much to do that. She knows better than to mention them, because she knows that he lost his friends when she found her parents. But Melody always asks about them, always mentions them. Which is normal, of course. Perfectly natural. Completely understandable. They're her parents, after all.
"Yes. In 2020. I went for Mother's Day," she explains. "They're doing well," she tells him before he can ask. (Before he's even sure he's going to ask.)
"That's good." He opens the door to the TARDIS and steps through. He doesn't shut it, though. He knows she'll follow him. She isn't done talking, after all. She's a Pond right now; who knows when she'll stop talking now.
"Dad's head nurse now. He was promoted a few years ago. So was Mum, actually."
"She's a cop now. It's the most excitement she can find in Leadworth. Plus she's always been handy with a pair of handcuffs. Though I suppose that runs in the family, don't you think so, sweetie?"
"Melody!" he snaps, because there's more to it than this. There has to be more. There's absolutely no reason why she would need to tell him all of this if there wasn't. None what so ever. But she's holding it back. She's hiding it. He's dealt with more than enough of her secrets to know that and he's more than done with her secrets. "What aren't you telling me?"
A sad smile tugs at her lips and she stares at him for a minute. But that isn't what he notices. No, not at all, because what he notices the most is her eyes. Because she has a look filled with so much pity, so much sorrow, and it's almost more than he thinks he can take. Because she hasn't looked at him like in a long time. A very, very long time. It's the same look she gave him every time he used to ask her who she was. A look that clearly says that she's about to tell him something he doesn't want to know.
After a heartbeat or two, River reaches into her pocket and pulls out her diary. She flips through a page or two and tells him, "Mum says thank you for the presents." She turns to a page where a folded sheet of paper sits. "And she wanted me to give you this." She holds it out.
He stares at the paper for a moment before he takes it from her. But the moment he touches it, he realises that it isn't just a piece of paper. No, the feel of it is far too wrong for that. It's much more than that. Something completely different altogether. Because it isn't just a piece of paper. It's a photograph. But of what, he's not entirely sure he wants to know. Because he's not entirely sure he wants to see what her life is like without him. How happy she is. How she's moved on.
He considers stuffing it in his pocket and looking at it later. But a glance at River clearly tells him that she isn't planning on leaving until he looks at it. And not a moment sooner. Because she's a Pond right now and she is far too stubborn to not have her way. Pond women. They always have to have their way, don't they? Mad, impossible, stubborn Ponds.
He waits a moment or two before he unfolds it. And he was right, because it's a photo of Amy. Except it isn't only Amy. No, no, it's far more than that. Because there's a little girl with bright ginger hair and slightly large nose. And he knows exactly who she is. He doesn't need River to confirm it for him.
Her and Rory's little girl.
And it shouldn't surprise him. Shouldn't bother him. Because it isn't even their first child. He's known Melody since she was a month old. He's technically known River longer. He sees her all the time. They travel through time and space together. So it shouldn't bother him. It shouldn't mean anything that Amy has another child. She's married after all. Married and domestic now. Off in Leadworth, doing domestic things married people do. Like having babies. (Human babies.) Raising children. (Human children.) Which is normal. Expected. And because it's so normal–so expected–it doesn't bother him. No. Not at all. Not even in the slightest. Really. He means it. It doesn't bother him what-so-ever.
(And even if it did, he would ignore it. He does that a lot, after all, ignore things.)
"Her name is Liz," River explains after a moment. "Elizabeth Pond. Technically, she's five years younger than me."
"I see." And he does. Really, he does. He doesn't particularly want to (he's selfish after all; so very, very selfish), but he does. Couldn't un-see it if he tried. Especially considering he can't seem to stop looking at the picture. At the little girl with her mother's hair and her father's nose. The little girl who is so very clearly human and Pond.
He breaks his gaze and looks up at her and he's all smiles. "Was that all? Because I really do need to get going. I have things to do. People to save. You understand."
River stares at him for another moment before she nods. "I do."
That day for the first time in a very long time, River does not kiss the Doctor goodbye.
And then, when he's alone, he stands and stares at the TARDIS controls for a very long time. The small gift in his jacket pocket suddenly feels heavy. So very, very heavy. And the more he thinks, the heavier it seems to get. And he isn't daft. No, of course he isn't. He knows he can't do it. Shouldn't do it. Not now. Not anymore. Not ever again.
He pulls the present out from his pocket, but he doesn't put it down. He stares at it for a moment, his mind debating. Eventually, a smile tugs at his lips and he puts it back in his pocket. Because he knows exactly what he needs to do now.
He sets the coordinates to Leadworth.
He knows it's her the moment he steps out of the TARDIS. He doesn't need the out-dated photo. He doesn't even need the bright ginger hair or the slightly large nose. No, no. He can tell exactly which little girl is Elizabeth Pond without any of that. He knows who she is, because, while all the other children stare at him in shock, she marches across the playground and walks straight up to him.
"Are you the Doctor?" she asks.
"Yes I am. And you're Liz? Brilliant name that. Elizabeth Pond."
She ignores his babbling and crosses her arms over her chest. She looks up at him with a very serious expression. "You're late."
"Yes. Melody was six years old when you met her; Mummy was seven. I'm eight years, four months, and thirteen days old. You're late."
He stares at her for a moment, but she continues to look up at him with her crossed arms and serious expression and he knows she means it. She's been ready all these years, waiting for him. And he can't help it. Really, he can't. He just starts laughing, because this little girl–this Elizabeth, this little Liz Pond–is so amazingly Pond. She's absolutely brilliant, really. Fantastically wonderful.
"I'm sorry," he grins, crouching down to her height. "But I brought you a present." He reaches into his jacket and pulls out a little golden chain with a small, glistening crystal dangling at the end.
"What is it?"
"A star. Well, part of a star. Couldn't take the whole star, obviously. That would have been rude," he explains, slipping the necklace over her neck. "It's from the Yildiz star."
Liz's her eyes bright and filled with wonder. She holds the crystal between her fingers and he realises that her nails are painted red. Fez red, to be exact. Amy's doing, no doubt.
After a moment she lets the crystal go and it dangles from her neck. She looks up at him with a childish grin. "Okay," she tells him, "I forgive you."
His grin grows. "Good. I'm glad." It's about time he started on the right footing with a Pond.
It doesn't last long, of course. No, of course not. She's a Pond, after all, and it's not as if they can just make things that easy for him. Not at all. But where would be the fun in that? "You're going to leave now, aren't you?" she asks suddenly, her smile fading. "You always leave. You leave Melody and you left Mummy."
"Did they tell you that?"
"No," she shakes her head and he can see a few tears threatening to fall, "but I know."
"Hey there," he cups her face in his hands, "I always come back though. Just ask them. I'm not that easy to get rid of. Trust me," he reassures her, "I'm the Doctor." He brushes his lips against her ginger hair.
She stares at him and he can see all of the hope in her eyes. "So you'll come back then? I'll see you again?"
It's a bad idea. A very, very bad idea. He shouldn't do it. Shouldn't promise her. He absolutely, positively shouldn't say it. Shouldn't do that to her. Not this time. Not to this one. Not again. He won't do it. Can't do. He refuses to do it.
"Doctor?" She looks up at him with bright green eyes and fez red nails. And that hair. That same magnificently ginger hair.
Funny thing though, because he's never been able to resist his Amy. Doesn't think he can. She always had some sort of madding hold over him. Had him wrapped around her little finger. Evil woman, she was. Sneaky, conniving, evil woman, that one. She'll be the end of him, he's sure, because she has complete control over him. He's never been able to resist her. Even now. Even when she's not really her.
It's not a good idea. Worse than a not good idea, actually. It's a very not good idea. Still…
"Of course. I told you: I always come back."
But that's alright. More than alright, really. It's excellent. Exciting. Magnificent. After all, where's the fun in a good idea?