New York, 1970
Nightfall found her in an alleyway, wrapped in a man's jacket, inside a box. She was clutching a heat device which hadn't been invented yet, and reading in the orange glow.
A man in a long grey coat was crouched down next to her.
"How are you surviving, out here?" he said. He wasn't the sort of man to be awed, but he was awed at her. "It's so dangerous for a little girl."
"I'm okay," said the child. "I got enough money to buy food. People give me quite a lot, they feel sorry for me."
"But not sorry enough to take you in," the man said.
"I don't want to be taken in. I'd be worse off. People don't like my skin colour," she said calmly, "and I know how bad orphanages are."
"How old are you?"
The man whistled. "But you're a bit Timelord. Did you make that?" He pointed to the device in her hand.
"You're good. You're very good. And your name is Melody Pond, right?"
"Yeah." She suddenly dropped her book, and turned to him, eyes glowing intensely. "Are you...are you my dad?"
The man laughed sadly. "No. No. I'm not anyone's dad anymore. My name is Jack. But I know where your parents are. And I know you want to meet them. If you come with me, I can take you to them. And you can stay with them, for as long as you like."
"I can't be raised by my parents. I never can be. This...woman I know, she told me. I cried," she added matter-of-factly.
"There's a way around everything," Jack said. "I can take you back to when they were children. Just a little older than you. You can grow up there, in their home town, safe and happy. Like...like you were their sister. Or something."
Melody stared up at him. "Why would you do that?"
"Because I've been hanging around here for some time," Jack said, "and I don't like seeing a little girl grow up alone."
"You're not the Doctor?" she demanded. "You sound like he would sound."
"Who's the Doctor?"
Melody narrowed her eyes at him, but Jack's face seemed honest. She picked her book back up and turned to the back cover, and withdrew a blue envelope.
"My parents are in Britain," she said. "I always knew they were from Britain. I tried to find out as much as I could. I spent so long reading newspapers..."
"Let's go to Britain, then," Jack said, and he held out his arm. Melody carefully placed the envelope in her pocket and then turned to a battered carrier bag in the corner. Inside she put a muddy yellow dress, two unlabelled cans of food, and her book.
"Whatcha reading?" Jack asked.
"The Chronicles of Narnia."
Jack laughed. "Just wait til you discover Harry Potter."
Melody took his arm. They vanished in a crackle of light.
Leadworth, spring, 1996
"That was time travel," Melody said to Jack in an authoritive tone. "Cheap and nasty time travel."
"You're a right little madam, you are."
Melody let go of his arm and looked around. It was night, and the streetlights were on. To her left was a school, and to her right, a sign reading Welcome to Leadworth, surrounded by flowers.
"I know the name Leadworth," she said. "I dunno where from. But I know it." She reached out towards the flowers, and stared at a sunflower as if she'd never seen one before. Jack realised she probably hadn't.
"This is where your parents grew up," he said. "Nice, right?"
"Yeah," Melody said. "Yeah, it's nice. It smells good."
"Good! Melody, d'ya know your parent's names?"
Melody closed her eyes. She was thinking hard, but to Jack it just looked like she was immeasureably sad. "Amelia Pond," she said. "And Rory Williams is my dad. I remember. I remember being a baby and Mum was talking. She was very beautiful and very clever. And my dad was a...a soldier. Or a healer. Or both." She looked right through Jack. "Not everyone remembers being a baby, do they? I'm the only one."
"It's cos you're part Timelord."
Melody reached into her pocket and took the envelope out. She took out a photograph of a woman and a baby. "This was in the orphanage when I was growing up. That's her. That's my mum, and that's me."
"She is very hot...pretty," Jack said approvingly.
They walked down the road. Melody reached for Jack's hand, but he withdrew it. He started pressing buttons on a device on his wrist.
"Amelia Pond lives in that house," he said, and pointed to a house at the end of the road. It was huge, with a tree and a swing and a broken shed. Melody walked, as if in a trance, towards the swing.
"Don't make too much noise," Jack warned. "Amy and her parents are asleep."
"A-my," breathed Melody, barely aware she was stopped by the swing, pushed it, and it moved without making a sound. She sat down. "Jack, push me."
"If you haven't noticed, Mels, I'm not great with kids."
Melody scowled at him and started to swing herself, pushing her feet against the ground, scraping the mud off her boots. Gradually she gained height. "You called me Mels," she said. "I like it. It makes me sound like there's more than one of me."
"Uh-huh," Jack said, watching her glumly. "We haven't got all night, y'know."
"If you don't like kids, why are you doing this for me?"
"Because," Jack said in exasperation, "once I saw you in New York, and knew you were half Timelord, I knew I had to help you. What if someone had caught you...doing Timelordy things? They'd think you were a Soviet weapon or something."
Melody looked like she was about to say something, but then a light went on in the house, and she dived from the swing and rolled behind a bush. Jack stayed where he was.
"S'alright," he whispered. "Just someone getting a drink or something."
Melody stared intently at the window. The figure of a little girl could just be made out, a tiny creature bundled in a dressing gown, holding a teddy-
Melody moved out from behind the bush, and at the same time, little Amelia went to the window. Jack stepped behind a tree, but Melody remained where she was. Standing so still in the darkness, she could barely be seen, and Amelia didn't notice her. For a long moment, Melody stared up at her mother.
And then Amelia turned away; the lights went out, and Melody continued to stare and then suddenly swiped at her face. It didn't work, the tears kept coming, and finally she sank to the ground, crying. Jack stood by her side, and awkwardly patted her shoulder.
"C'mon, Mels. It's okay."
"That's the first time I've seen her since..." She trailed off. "For so long!"
"I know, I know. But now you'll see her every day. Wanna see your dad?"
"Come along, then, Mels." He helped her up and even took her hand as they walked away.
"Why is Mum's- Amy's shed broken?" Melody asked as they left.
"No idea, Mels."
They walked down a long, dusty road. The sun was coming up, and they could see a sign pointing the way to Grainger Hill Farm.
"Dad lives on a farm?" Melody asked.
"He does now, yeah."
Melody ran on ahead a little.
"Don't make an entrance," Jack called. "They'll be awake now. Feeding chickens and whatnot. Mels!"
But she was running, and she reached the fence at the end of the road. Up a small hill was a farmhouse, and dotted around were sheep, pigs and cows.
"I've never seen a farm before," Melody said in amazement, as Jack caught up to her. "There's so much stuff!"
Jack nodded. Melody was about to speak again, when a shout echoed through the air. It was something incredibly rude, and although Melody jumped, she didn't flinch at the language.
"What was that?" she asked.
A man stormed out of a nearby barn, dressed in paint-splattered trousers and t-shirt. Another shout, this one from a woman and equally rude, echoed through the air. Jack covered Melody's ears, but she shook him off. The man stormed around the side of the barn and was gone.
"Who was that?" Melody demanded. "And why are people fighting, here? It's beautiful here!"
Jack didn't answer the last question. "I think, ur, that was your grandad." A small boy suddenly emerged from another door, running quite fast as if away from something, and stopped dead when he saw them.
"And that's your dad," Jack whispered.
Melody swallowed. She stepped forward. Rory Williams stepped towards her too.
"Hi," he said. He blinked very fast. "Are you...are you here to see the cows?"
Melody shook her head. She took one more step towards her father, and then her nerve failed her. She turned and ran, but Jack ran after her. Rory called "Hey, wait!" after them, but Melody didn't turn back, and Jack caught up with her in a cornfield.
"Mels! Don't run off, I don't wanna lose you!"
Melody sniffed a little and looked at up him. She opened her mouth to say something, and then closed it again. Then finally she said, "I wanna..." She trailed off and tried again. "I wanna...sleep. I should sleep. I want a proper bed. I want a house."
"There's the children's home," Jack said gently.
Melody glared. "That's another word for 'orphanage'."
"I know, but times have changed. You'll have your own room, and there's other kids, and grown-ups who'll look after you."
"I just want my parents," Melody said quietly.
"I know," Jack said. "You'll have them."
"I'll be like their sister," Melody whispered, staring at the ground.
"It's not so bad," Jack said. "I met a girl once, raised her son as her brother...it turned out okay. Mostly. I think. Was a long time ago." He shook his head. Melody ran her fingers through the plants surrounding her and looked up at him.
"I'm not like normal three-year-olds," she said.
"I won't be normal."
"Who is?" Jack knelt down to face her. "Yeah. Mels. You may have to...act a little. You look human and for all intents and purposes you are human. But your parents, at the age they are now..."
"Couldn't handle knowing the truth," Melody finished.
They moved out of the field and stood there in the light.
"Okay," Jack said. "Okay. Mels, I'm gonna go now. There's a children's home in Leadworth, and if you don't find it, someone will probably find you and take you there. By tonight, you'll be sleeping in a proper bed."
Melody looked at at him. "Thank you, Jack."
"I hope you get over your fear of children."
Jack gave her a vague smile. "We'll probably meet again," he said, and he reached for his wrist. "Good luck." He pressed a button and vanished.
Melody stood alone. She took in the smell of the fields and the freshness of the air, and started walking.