. . .
There's No Forgetting
. . .
"And what's your name?"
The child swept around, her back to the building fires and sparkling electricity and grey dust. Green eyes contemplated him, brows drawn together questioningly. Her face was smeared with soot, ashes woven into her blonde curls. The small child smiled shyly at him, deciding he looked much too nice to be a threat, tilting her head at the funny man in the bowtie who approached her. His suit, impeccably clean in a wasteland forever burning.
She'd never seen a man like him before, not on Eron 5. She'd never seen anything so clean before, not that she remembered. Nobody escaped those dirty streets, the fire's ashes in the wind, the smoke that filled every decrepit building. And yet here was this man. Red bowtie, clean shirt, shiny boots, green jacket. And sad, sad eyes. Those fit in, those she recognized. But he still seemed unbelievable, some anomaly whose appearance she couldn't comprehend.
Another alarm bell, another angry explosion, and her fear, buried under the layers of grime, told her to trust him because he was so clean, because he might save her.
"Amelia." She said.
He broke into a grin, an unfamiliar action to her, and clapped his hands together once. The man squatted down in front of her, "Amelia! Lovely name, wonderful name. The very best. The stuff of fairytales! I knew an Amelia once."
She smiled shyly, a small giggle escaping her lips at his speech. He talked funny, not like the adults she knew. She felt a sense of companionship with him, his cheery silliness standing out among the bleak, stoic speech she was used to and making her decide she liked this man. She forgot she was scared of the metal men and forgot the sirens and her greatest concern - that her teddy bear, her only possession and friend, was in that crumbling structure, enveloped in embers.
The Doctor looked over her shoulder at the singed building behind her, smoking still, and frowned as electricity snapped at the rubble. He needed to get her out of here, out of this world set to burn, that had to burn, that was burning, that would continue to burn forevermore. He smiled despite himself, to reassure her, and lightly tapped her on the nose, "Amelia what?"
She shuffled her feet, shoes brushing glass and rubble and cinders, as the silly man smiled kindly at her, "Just Amelia."
"No last name, eh?"
Her eyes gave her away. Oh, she was alone. He realized that now, the reason why she wasn't crying or looking for another person. Why she had just stood there, watching the world burn, a look of sadness rather than despair. No real home, no sense of belonging, no mother to look for. Not in this ruined, dying world. He knew that look, knew it well. He knew what it was like to be all alone in the world. He wondered just how long the tiny thing, no more than five, had been alone. Maybe not long, she trusted him too much. But he knew an orphan, a lost soul, when he saw one.
Amelia puckered her lips, "No."
"Well, last names are rubbish anyway. I've only got one name, too, you see. Just 'Doctor'."
The sound of a loud blast vibrated across the ground, ringing in their ears. A chilling, mechanical voice echoed throughout, alarms shrieking, and then abruptly cut off. Down the road, the sound of shuddering metal alerted them to an incoming threat. Screams everywhere as another building burst into flame and dust. Amelia looked at him, her delicate features cast in a frightened shadow. Even with her face drawn in fear, he thought she was awfully brave for such a little thing.
Her mouth formed into a silent scream as a blast hit the wall beside them, a robot wheeling and wheezing towards them, shooting out blue light. He pulled out his sonic and extended a hand out to the child. She took it, unquestioningly, her tiny hand warm in his. Another Amelia.
And then they ran.
. . .
Little Amelia had filled up the empty spaces in his hearts after he had lost all the water in the forest. The Doctor had taken a new companion, a remarkable child whose wonder never ceased to amaze him. She looked nothing like the other Amelia, and the five year old often mimicked his complaints about not being ginger. But he rather liked how curly and golden her hair was. She was just as remarkable as Amelia Pond and every bit as special.
Amelia was a remarkable child. Adventuresome, kind, quick-witted, creative, capricious, and brave. She was everything a little girl should be and so much more. She always seemed much older than her age, and in that way they were alike. A pair of travelers that had seen so much, in deceivingly young bodies. And yet she was so terribly young. He forgot sometimes, often rambled nonsense that would make no sense to her. There was only so much a five year old could comprehend of the world, and Amelia had trained herself to forget about all the bad in that existed.
She may not have been the first Amelia to travel with him, but she was the first true child. He rather liked it, seeing the universe from her eyes was a completely new thing all together. Being around her made him feel young, made him feel happy again. The TARDIS seemed like a happier place with her in it. Seeing a pair of tiny shoes next to his, finding well-worn crayons in every nook and cranny of the control room, the smell of soap and peanut butter in her hair, the stories of his forgotten world whispered as he tucked her in at night – the small things that made life magical again.
Amelia, just Amelia, the stuff of fairytales. So very smart and so very, very brave.
He knew the TARDIS had chosen Amelia for him. And he thanked her for it, every single day. He had been so very, very lonely for so very long. He couldn't bear to have another companion, couldn't tear apart any more lives. He wouldn't let himself. And then one day he landed in the 51st century, a burning orphanage, on a planet already on the precipice of complete devastation. Little Amelia had been there, just as soon as he'd opened the door, standing out among the burning rubble. A bit of a showdown with a few extraterrestrial robot-y things bent on kidnapping children for an energy source, and the day had ended. All throughout Amelia had been there, too smart and too brave for a five year old.
He was rather selfish for taking her with him, he could have easily found her a nice family, somewhere and some when across time. She would have been happy. But when she'd entered the TARDIS for the first time, he realized where she belonged.
. . .
Amelia stumbled into the TARDIS, coughing and laughing, the fresh memory of the Doctor scaring off the metal men with just words capturing her in awe of him. And then she had looked up, and the warm light of the box had knocked her breathless. The blue box bigger on the inside and she had never seen so many colors before, never seen so much light.
So much beauty.
"So what do you think, little Amelia?" He wondered what a child to saw when she saw the bigger-on-the-inside blue box. Children still believed in impossible things, yet they always viewed the world in wonder. Not too many children had been in the TARDIS, so he was amusedly interested to see her reaction. Looking down at her, he was struck dumb by the look on her face.
Oh, by far it was the best look he'd ever seen. No one, no one had ever had such a look on their face. No reaction to the TARDIS had ever been quite so magnificent. Seeing her little face, break out into a look of utter amazement and joy, was like nothing else.
He had never met someone who saw the TARDIS the exact same way he did before.
She looked at him, green eyes wide and edging on tears, before breaking into a grin and hurrying up the steps. She'd laid a tiny hand on the console, closing her watery eyes and then opening them to beam from him to the console. And the she said the sweetest sentence he'd ever heard, the sentence that made his hearts decide that little Amelia was going to be his Amelia.
"It feels like home."
. . .
He had loved her ever since.
And so had the TARDIS. He knew that much. She had never responded to a companion like she did to Amelia. Except for one, one she had taught to fly. But he didn't like to think about that. Little Amelia could open the blue box with the snap of her fingers, could find rooms no one else could see, could create her own little playroom palaces. The TARDIS would produce books for her, a whole other wardrobe full of frilly dresses, a multitude of crazy stockings, and little shoes with little bows. Sometimes Amelia would sing to her, tracing her little fingers across the console, and he could swear he heard the TARDIS singing back. Sometimes he thought the TARDIS spoke to her, bled images of colorful galaxies into her very dreams.
He became her father, the TARDIS her mother.
The Doctor taught her how to play piano and read dead languages and trace maps of the very stars and dance. But she taught him so much more. She taught him how to feel again, when he had stopped feeling long ago. She taught him how to live again, made him relearn how to breathe in and let the universe out. She stole the burden off his shoulders, made him see the universe all over again. Made his hearts beat once again with, and not against, the world.
He had been alone for centuries. Since the towers sang and he cried. Two hundred and fifty-seven years alone. He had been in this body too long, really. Never had he kept one so long. He'd often wondered how long it would take to move on. He felt like he'd only ever had this face, like he would only ever have this face. He had never had happier times then the ones he had with his companions of this face. Never loved as hard. And he had never quite felt so alone. Not even the Time War had left him so torn, so alone. That had been a necessity, and he'd locked that pain away and buried it. But this pain was different, or maybe intensified by the fact that the family he'd forged in this life, which had given him so much of what he'd lost, was another set of individuals he was doomed to lose. Because he never could keep them, could he?
Losing them, it hurt like the Time War. The magnificent Ponds. He hadn't come back for them, not after losing their daughter. Not after the Singing Towers. He could not tell them about the Library, could not project that pain onto them. And he knew she had seen her parents grow old, that she had dropped in all across their lives. The Ponds did not have to know about the Library, did not need the pain that he felt. And he could not see them, because he would only see her.
He knew when he would die. Silence would fall when the question was asked. There was a worse day coming for him. He knew that on the Fields of Trenzalor, at the fall of the eleventh, he would die. And he would be visited by a ghost, and his body would not be the only thing that would die that day. He feared seeing her, feared what else it would break in him. Because that would be the last time he saw her, he knew that much.
Most of the time he dreaded the day, the last day. Other times, he longed for it. A release from this body, which had kept him so long, hundreds of years too long. And seeing her face again. Feeling her lips on his. Seeing the color of her eyes, her smile. Her voice. Her voice, he was sure, would break him. And he would have to let her go again, because she would only be at the beginning of their time together. He had never told his wife his name, yet the hers he had come across had almost always known it. She must not have known that day was the end of them, she could not have. She would never have seen his twelfth face. And his twelfth face would never see her.
He'd lived with that knowledge for two hundred and fifty-seven years, waiting for his death.
But Amelia. Little Amelia, she came when he had long felt numb to the universe. And she had made everything better. The memories he had lived with every day were able to be locked away when she came along. She forced his sadness out of him, made him abandon the memories that drove him mad. He stayed in the present for her, so that she would not be burdened by his past. He showed her all the good in the universe and found it all again for himself. She healed him, made him realize that he could live again. Even after losing everything, he could live again. Amelia was special. He loved her when he didn't feel like he could love anymore, when memories made him all but dead. He didn't feel so alone anymore, because of that little girl. He felt like he had something again, something he had lost in a library long before he realized he had something to lose.
He wished Amelia could have known her.
. . .
Amelia stuck her head under the glass floor, looking at him in his funny goggles as he played with the wires and cords under the console. She hummed cheerily and popped up from the glass, racing down the staircase to him. She looked up at the wires and things she didn't know the purpose of, then over at him as he fiddled with a spherical part. "Doctor! Whatcha doin'?"
"Fixing the TARDIS! Right Old Girl?" He got zapped as he touched a wire, and he hissed before pushing the goggles away from his eyes. Amelia giggled at the outline left by the goggles on his face and tilted her head. She was quiet for a moment, and then resumed her humming as she skipped back over to the stairs.
"She says she doesn't need to be fixed." She sung out, grinning at him toothily. He stared at her, amused by the smudge of something orange on her freckled cheeks, before shaking his head.
"What! No. Of course she does! The, er, timey-wimey thingies need to be tweaked! Anyhow, how do you know what she wants? You're five!"
"She tells me." Amelia said simply, giving him a cryptic smile before bursting into melodic, childlike laughter and racing away up the stairs, into unknown halls.
He pouted slightly at the spot where the petite girl had stood, feeling a mixture of jealousy and awe. Why did Sexy only talk to the children of the TARDIS?
. . .
He'd lost so many. He'd lost the most important person in the universe and he had been dying a little ever since, until she came into his life. And little Amelia hadn't been tainted by the sort of horrors he had seen, though she knew loneliness. She cleared the smoke from his eyes and helped him wash the horrors off his hands. Her innocence and goodness and old eyes that still had so much hope. She'd given some of that to him, given him back hope. With her around, he could push away all the stale memories of a life he had loved, a woman he had loved. He could pretend to forget about the water, the silence, and the forest.
Sometimes he would tell Amelia fairytales about her, weaving the words without realizing what he was doing. Stories about an impossible woman, who chose love over hate. The daughter of a girl and a boy who waited, who saved the life of a wizard and a goblin, twice. Amelia liked the stories about her, the impossible woman, but at the time they had only seemed like stories. She didn't know yet that every story, no matter how profound, had truth to it.
The green0eyed child was quirky. She refused to wear anything but dresses and always wore colorful stockings, decorated with hearts or frogs or stars. A golden heart locket was worn with every outfit, at all times – even to sleep or to swim in the pool. It had been her mother's, she had told him. The mother she never got to keep.
Sometimes she wore a tiara on her head, sometimes she did her little blonde ringlets up into pigtails. A bow, though, always rested in her hair. Even if it clashed terribly with her outfit, because it always matched the color of his bowties. He encouraged this behavior, of course. The Doctor rather liked the way little Amelia dressed.
They were a pair, those two.
He showed her the universe. He showed her all the beauty in the world. And the TARDIS never put them in danger anymore. He did not have to save worlds or run. It felt like retirement, for once. He finally got to see all the places in the world that he always had to appreciate while running, in the midst of danger. Things with Amelia were easy. They explored and played and discovered and watched the universe run around them. Amelia didn't have to worry about Daleks or Cybermen or all the bad guys of the galaxy. And he thanked the TARDIS for that, for keeping her safe. He couldn't bear to lose a child again, couldn't ever forgive himself for more blood on his hands. Especially this child, who had been branded onto his soul, who had complete control of any shred of happiness he had left.
It was around the time she turned eight that things started happening. Strange things. And Amelia knew it was the TARDIS trying to speak to her in more than just the hazy dreams and empathetic way they were attuned.
The TARDIS wanted her to make him remember. The TARDIS wanted her to know.
. . .
"Right! Well, first things first. I need my sonic!" he reached into his pocket and with a flourish pulled out what was meant to be his sonic screwdriver. However, he held out a tube of lipstick instead. He looked down at it, confused. He had definitely not put that in there.
"That's not my sonic."
Amelia raised an eyebrow and eyed the golden cylinder. Amused, she asked, "Why do you have a thing of lipstick, Doctor?"
"I haven't the faintest idea, Amelia." He turned it over in his hands, fingers tracing the metal. He realized suddenly what it was, his movements freezing. He felt cold spread throughout his tensing body as recognition and brilliant memories, painfully tragic and striking, burst in his conscience.
Hallucinogenic lipstick. A lump formed in his throat. It had been so long. He lightly traced the golden initials on the bottom. Amelia observed his sudden change in demeanor with a sense of dread. She could practically feel the pain dripping off her Doctor.
She stood on the tips of her toes to better view the seemingly common object and to possibly snatch it away from him. She wasn't used to seeing him like this, her Doctor was cheerful and silly. He could be serious and she knew that he got lonely, but she never saw him so visibly hurt. And by an object? She felt the urge to steal it from him, the object which had caused raw hurt to cross across her Doctor's face, and throw it into a supernova.
But first, a better look.
"R.S." She read out the initials engraved on the tube quietly, "What's that?"
She paused and, seeing no change in his posture and the sharp look of loss so clear on his face, attempted bleakly to cheer him up. Tugging at his tweed sleeve, she asked in voice which hinted at a childlike naivety she no longer fully possessed, "That isn't yours, is it?"
He slowly looked away from it at her, his brows drawn together, "No, Amelia." The Doctor smiled a smile which was so wide and so obviously faked, it hurt her heart. "It belonged to a friend. An old friend."
"Why do you have your friend's lipstick? Did she give it to you?"
He closed his eyes tightly, tapping the tube to his forehead before carefully tucking it back into his pocket. There was that smile again, that heartbreaking grin, and then a cleared throat, "It's just a memory, Amelia."
She grabbed his hand, silent for a long while. Amelia felt at loss, unsure on how to deal with this new side of her guardian. It unsettled her, made her feel like she needed to be grown up. Made her nervous, because she no longer had the faintest idea how to handle pain. Loneliness she could heal with laughter, scrapes and bruises with Jammie Dodgers. But this was new. And she hated to see the man she looked up to, who she loved so dearly, so sad. After a minute she asked softly, "Who was she, Doctor?"
He took awhile to respond and when he did, his honesty surprised her, "My wife."
Amelia's eyes grew wide, stunned. She'd never imagined her Doctor as married. For a moment a hope sprung in her heart, the thought of another person in the TARDIS to tuck her in at night and read her bedtime stories. Someone else to comfort her when she was sad, someone to look up to, someone to play hide and seek with. Another mother, besides the one she never knew and the one that hummed to her in her sleep. Someone to make the Doctor happy, when she couldn't. Another person to love him as much as she did.
She realized then, suddenly, what that way he slumped over in his seat meant. She realized why he never used that one pink cup on the top shelf in the kitchen or the blue stabilizers. She realized that though he hid it, he always had something in him that was so very, very sad. She realized that she must be gone. He'd lost someone important, too.
And she grieved for him and all he'd lost, and for the mother she could have had. For the woman who the Doctor had loved, who she could have loved too.
. . .
Amelia thought about her a lot, after that. She could not imagine a woman equal to the Doctor. She couldn't picture him with anyone, really. He was like, as he had said once to her, a space Gandalf. Too old, too wise, too incredible for something so domestic. And he did scorn the domestic, very often.
She couldn't imagine the wife of a man who ate fish fingers and custard for breakfast.
But she knew she existed. She began to have dreams about her, though she could never remember them when she woke up. Suddenly, she would find things that weren't hers in her room. A green book with 'To River Song' written in it, in the Doctor's handwriting. A golden bracelet. A half-filled perfume bottle. A pen chewed up on one end.
Around that time she realized the stories he told her about the impossible woman weren't really stories, but memories of his life with her. She found a picture of her, not in the rooms but in her head. She figured the TARDIS had imparted it on her, but she didn't know when she started to see the woman in full color. She admired her curly locks, curlier than hers even, and golden skin. And Amelia knew, or perhaps the TARDIS had told her, that she had been amazing.
She kept all the things she found a secret, afraid of seeing that sad, sad Doctor again. The eight year old tucked them all away in a wooden blue box and when she couldn't sleep at night she would take them out and imagine what she must have been like. Amelia began to feel like she was living with a ghost. She supposed it was the TARDIS' way of making her understand the Doctor.
She wished she had known River Song and she wished the Doctor could have her back. She wished for it on every shooting star, every dazzling supernova, every swirling galaxy, ever flourishing planet.
But wishes don't always come true.
. . .
"Doctor." Amelia sat at the breakfast table, her hands in her lap. She bit nervously at her lower lip and he stared quizzically at her frayed expression. He grabbed a bit of toast, smearing ketchup on the top of it and taking a messy bite as he plopped down in front of her.
"Amelia, is something the matter?"
"I have a question to ask, but I'm afraid you'll be angry."
"I could never be angry with you," he stated fondly, pressing a kiss to her forehead. She laughed, making a face at him as she hastily swiped away the kiss. Then it was back to business and she was serious once more.
She sat up straighter, then leaned forward towards him, whispering reverently, "You pinky promise you won't be angry? And that you'll tell the truth?"
"Pinky promise!" He quickly agreed, then hesitated. 'Rule one, the Doctor lies' he thought. But Amelia didn't know that, he'd never told her.
"You pinky promised, remember." She looked down, and asked quietly, "What happened to River?"
"What!" He choked, too shocked to really feel the jolt of pain her name brought. His hearts beat fast in his chest and he felt like he'd been caught in some grand lie. In a way, he had. For keeping such a large part of himself secret from her. But how did she know, how did she know a thing about River Song? His River Song. He had told her once he was married, but never had he given a name. "Amelia, how do you know about River Song?"
"The TARDIS sings of her, in my sleep, and leaves her things in my room sometimes. I think she wants me to get to know her." She paused, then mused sadly, "But I'm never going to meet River, am I?"
She suddenly stood up, knocking over her chair. Tears sprung up, "And you're never going to see her either! And that's so sad, Doctor!"
She wiped hot tears from her face, clutching the heart necklace on her neck tightly in her tiny hand, "And so what good is time travel if you can't spend forever with the people you love! What good is time travel if I can't have my mummy or any mummy and you can't have your wife and I'm going to get old and die because I'm human and you'll be all alone again! And I don't want that, Doctor! Daddy. I want forever, for you."
"Oh, Amelia. My Amelia. Nothing lasts forever. Even time itself."
"Then what's the point. It's so sad."
"Amelia, there is always a point. There will always be a point. You just have to look for it. Sometimes you lose your way, because you don't get the forever you want. But then you find new things, good things, and there will always, always be good things in this universe, Amelia. You have to understand that. There will always be good things, even when some things end and bad things are bad. Even when forever ends, there will be something good left. Do you understand?"
He pushed her hair from her face and she saw her own tears reflected in his ancient eyes, "Amelia, you are my good things. When the bad things are bad, you are my good thing. You and the TARDIS. And I love you both very, very much."
"And what about River?"
"I loved her, too." He closed his eyes, leaning his forehead against hers as he cradled her face, "But Amelia, you must understand this now. All things have to end, so that things can begin."
Amelia didn't understand. She couldn't. But she felt bad for asking now, felt horrible for reminding him and making him sad. In a broken whisper she told him, "I'm sorry, Doctor, I'm so sorry."
"I'm sorry too, Amelia. So very, very sorry."