Ok, so after an egregiously long hiatus, I am finally updating. I'm so, so sorry, guys. It's been a rough month, schedule-wise. Hopefully this chapter will make up for my slowness. Thanks once again for the overwhelmingly amazing support, and enjoy!

Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock

Chapter Fourteen

Amy decided to risk poking her head into the sitting room for a minute. Sometimes, when the Doctor was playing Wii tennis, it was honestly too entertaining to stop watching. The Time Lord got more into it than anyone she knew.

But when she did pass by the room and take a peek, the sight she was met with wasn't what she expected. Instead of her friend clutching the remote in his hand, perched on the balls of his feet, and looking ridiculously disheveled for a video game, he was sitting calmly on the couch, watching what appeared to be the news.

"Doctor?"

He twisted a bit in his seat to look back at her. "Yes, Amy?"

"Er, what are you doing?" If he wasn't engaged in his newfound addiction, the Doctor rarely touched their television.

"Oh, well, I was going to play a couple rounds," he told her, and she had to grin a little. Perhaps a couple hundred would have been more accurate. "But then I saw this man being interviewed on the telly—says he's been studying the cubes. A self-proclaimed expert." The disdain with which he spoke the words indicated to Amy how little the mad scientist believed that. Still, she walked around the couch and plopped down next to him, giving much more attention to the television screen than before.

"Really? What's he saying about it, then?"

"Hardly anything," the Time Lord grumbled. "Apparently he's planning some sort of demonstration or lecture in London tomorrow."

"He is?" Well that certainly sounded interesting. But for once it was her who was more enthusiastic than him.

"Oh, I doubt anything will happen, Pond. Nothing affects these cubes, and definitely nothing you could find on Earth- you heard Kate."

"Yeah," she had to agree, "but it might be worth checking out, you know? We'll get a laugh out of it, at least."

"That's true," he seemed to be mulling it over, and so Amy sat there as patiently as she could. "Well why not? No harm in having a look for ourselves. Er, that is, if you want to—"

"Of course I'm going with you," she interrupted, knowing just what he was going to ask. "I suggested it. It'll be fun."

"Well then, you and me in London tomorrow, Amy Pond." She grinned back at him and rose, feeling immensely satisfied and proud of herself when her friend finally turned on the video game she knew he'd been craving. He could puzzle about the cubes the next day.

That evening she was taking the dishes out to the sink for Rory to wash. Her husband turned to her as she set the last glasses on the counter and said, "So you're going to that thing in London? Why?"

"Well, it is about the cubes," she pointed out, but knew that wasn't really what he was asking. She sighed, lowering her voice as she continued, "I'm just worried, Rory. I mean, he's been here for a while; he's got to be getting bored."

"I guess so," he agreed.

"So, hopefully this'll keep him interested. And I'm interested in it, too."

"Alright, well let me know what this expert has to say about them," he requested.

"Of course," she replied, leaning in and kissing him on the cheek. She then headed off to allow him to complete his chore and her to find the Doctor. She'd learned by now he had an incorrigible habit of eavesdropping and wanted to start on damage control if he had been listening in. But she found him lying on top of the covers of his bed, arms folded behind his head. She smiled, leaning on the doorframe, almost unable to break the calm, quiet atmosphere. "Hey, so we're still going to this thing tomorrow?"

"Hm?" He blinked and raised his head off the pillow to look at her. "Oh, yes, yes. Would you prefer travelling by TARDIS or the normal means?"

"Maybe normal would be better, Doctor," she suggested. "Not sure we want that sciencey guy on the news to find a time machine."

"That is a very good point. Well then, I suggest you turn in early so that we may embark in the morning." He nodded once and let his head drop back.

"Ok. Goodnight, Doctor."

"Goodnight, Amy."

It still took her a couple hours to get to sleep, starting to feel that long-buried adrenaline kicking in again. Just what might they learn from this presentation? Was it just a joke or something more?

OoO

After a somewhat stressful bus ride—they spent most of the trip bickering over who was reading the directions to the pavilion right—they joined the queue lining up to be seated for the outdoor lecture. Amy wasn't impressed with the crowd overall; they all seemed to fall under the category of slightly nerdy enthusiast. Although, she had to wonder what sort of social category someone would classify her and Rory as. They weren't the most normal of people themselves. She didn't worry about the Doctor- there simply wasn't a social category out there to define him.

When she began to stride down an aisle between the seats, however, the Time Lord grabbed her arm and tugged her back. "What? You don't want a good seat? There's a couple up front there."

He shook his head as she pointed them out. "We're really only here as observers, Pond, no sense in making someone else sit in the back."

"But Doctor, this is my time period. We don't have to worry about 'interfering'. Not like we ever do," she grinned at the last part, but he still was set on sitting in the back.

"Yes, it's your time period, Amy. That doesn't make the Rules any less important. Whatever actions you take will affect the rest of your life here. Besides," he added as they sat down, "it's not exactly my time period, is it? I have to worry wherever I go. I should worry."

"Hey, don't get down on yourself," she chided, poking him in the side. That was not the purpose of coming here today. "People can't expect you to just watch- they don't even want you to. But we don't have to do anything right now, just listen." He smiled down at her and nodded once before returning his attention to the front. She did so as well, and the murmur of voices began to die down.

A man who she recognized from the news footage yesterday shuffled up the stairs to the podium on the little stage. He had deep brown hair that seemed to have proved stubborn in efforts to comb it, more than a bit of stubble, and appeared rather uncomfortable in a suit and tie.

He cleared his throat more than a few times, loosened the tie, swallowed, and tapped the microphone once. "Um, hi. My name is Rod Hayden. Thank you all for coming today…"

She realized it probably spoke to just how simple and unfocused she could be, but Amy tuned out almost completely after that. In her defense, it wasn't as if their speaker was the most riveting. Honestly, even if it was his own work, his own research, couldn't he have found someone else to present it?

By the slight frown to the Doctor's lips, she could tell she wasn't really missing much, anyway. The alien even rolled his eyes once or twice, which showed he hardly agreed with a word that was being said. Yet he did not speak or object to the nonsense that was being fed to them.

That was fine, because someone else did. Hayden had just paused for breath in the middle of a sentence when a hand shot up in the front row of the audience. "Excuse me, Mr. Hayden?"

The presenter blinked in sheer bewilderment for a moment, mouth hanging open before he shook his head and collected himself. "Er, yes?"

The woman—for it was a woman's voice who had called out—stood so as to be better seen and heard. From the back, Amy could see she had brown hair that hung loose to about her shoulders, was dressed smartly in shirtsleeves, vest, and trousers, and held a pen and pad of paper in her hands. "All this theory is well and good, sir," she began politely, though by her tone Amy doubted the sincerity. "But what exactly is your proof? What tests have you conducted on the cubes to back up your ideas with facts? I'm sure we all would be interested to hear about that."

What Amy was more interested in, however, was the way in which the Doctor had tensed up and ducked his head down as the woman had turned to sweep a hand over the people seated behind her. She got a glimpse of a kind-looking, older face, eyes bright and sharp.

"Uh, my- my proof, ma'am?"

"Yes. And it's Sarah Jane Smith, investigative journalist."

The rest of the audience were all beginning to murmur, most sounding disgruntled or disapproving towards the clearly fumbling man on the stage. Amy felt the Doctor's hand slip into hers.

"I think it's time to go, Pond."

"Not yet," she disagreed, wanting to watch more of this confrontation. Ms. Smith carried herself with confidence, and though she was the one standing on the ground, it somehow still seemed like Hayden was inferior. Some people had in fact started to leave, while others were standing only to add their own demands for evidence of some kind. The amateur scientist, or theorist really, looked increasingly panicked until simply fleeing around down the sidesteps and around the back wall.

The majority of the people gave frustrated and outraged exclamations, turning to go in an angry huff. "Ah, well, see what I mean, Pond? Now we really should be leaving before the crowds get too bad."

"Oh come on, that man just ran off! Shouldn't we see what he was really up to?" She pointed out. He continued to usher her out of their row.

"I'm sure Sarah Jane has that well in hand—"

"Bit early to be on first name basis there, Raggedy Man," she pointed out with just the slightest hint of suspicion. What about this woman was making the Doctor so eager to leave? He was struggling to come up with a response, so she took the opportunity to turn into the aisle in the opposite direction that he wanted to go. "It'll only take a couple minutes!" She darted in between a few people, heading to the back wall, knowing he would give chase.

"Amy!"

What she found almost made her laugh. The investigative journalist had Hayden pinned to the wall with her gaze alone, practically conducting an interrogation. "What was your real purpose giving this lecture? It's obviously some kind of ploy. Are you connected to the cubes somehow and is this the trap?"

"N-no!" The man stammered. "Listen, I'm an unemployed University grad who just needed a little money. Those people will pay to hear all kinds of crazy stuff! I didn't mean anything by it, honest!"

The woman sighed, suddenly looking much less overbearing and much more sympathetic. "Oh, well. It's a rather dishonest way of earning money- but no harm came from it. Off with you, then." Hayden slumped against the wall with relief before taking off. "And don't let me catch you doing this again!" Ms. Smith called after his retreating form, shaking her head with a light chuckle.

Amy couldn't help letting a little giggle escape herself, and the older woman's eyes landed on her. They held each other's gaze for a moment before both laughed.

"Can you believe the nerve of some people?" The investigator asked.

"I don't know, I've seen crazier things," she shrugged, still grinning. A smile stretched Ms. Smith's face as well and those bright eyes sparkled.

"So have I. What are you doing at this farce of a presentation?"

"Right now? Um, sort of playing hide-and-seek," she answered truthfully, and the brunette raised an eyebrow. Thankfully, she didn't have to elaborate.

Right on cue, her friend's voice called out, "Amelia Pond, if you're going to be so impossible, then I—" She turned just in time to see him run around the back wall and skid to a halt. "Oh!"

She glanced back over her shoulder at the woman he was staring at, whose smile had somehow widened, yet taken on a sort of softer quality to it. "Hello again, Doctor."

A little quirk of the lips completely transformed his face from surprised to happy as he replied, "Hello again, Sarah Jane."

Amy had the odd sense of being an outside observer totally removed from the situation, like she wasn't even there and they were looking right through her at each other. That was, until Ms. Smith indicated her with a nod of the head and asked, "So is this one of the famous 'Ponds' I've heard about?"

"The original," he informed her, a sort of pride coloring his voice, and yet there was a tenseness about him that she noticed, as if he was waiting for something.

"So, how do you know the Doctor?" She decided to ask, to break the silence if anything, though she certainly was curious. So far, they'd met the immortal Jack Harkness and Rory had gotten to meet Dr. Martha Jones, both more recent friends of the Time Lord. Not that she was trying to make assumptions, but Amy had a feeling by her age that Sarah Jane Smith had to be an older friend.

"Oh my, well that is a story too long for one afternoon," the other woman laughed. "But suffice to say he's my oldest friend."

"In more ways than one, I bet," Amy joked, sending them both into giggles again. She glanced back at the alien in question, who seemed put out that he was the one they were making fun of—though she felt he ought to expect that from her by now—yet also strangely relieved as his eyes darted back and forth between them. She and Sarah Jane exchanged a glance before they turned together to face him, hands on their hips.

"Something on your mind, Doctor?" She inquired.

"You don't usually hesitate to say it," Sarah Jane added. He jumped, tugging at his bowtie as he took in their twin expressions.

"Oh, well, not really, no- I mean, I suppose I'm just happy, is all. That this is…going well." He waved a hand in their direction at the end, and Amy raised an eyebrow.

"What, you mean us talking?"

"Exactly."

"Did you not think it would go well?" She couldn't help questioning next. Was he implying she couldn't talk to people properly or something?

"No! Well- yes. Sort of?" He cringed at the glare she leveled him with. "It's just, the last time I introduced someone to Sarah Jane it didn't. Go well, I mean."

The journalist actually turned a little pink, glancing away and muttering, "Well, I'll admit it was a bit silly." She raised her face and appeared to gather herself. "But you've got to realize I've learned since then."

"Of course you have," he hastened to reassure.

"Then there shouldn't be a problem!"

The Time Lord opened his mouth, paused, seemed to recognize he had nothing to reply with, and shut it. "I suppose not," he mumbled after a moment.

Amy had to wonder just what occasion her friend was recalling that had made him so determined to avoid a woman who was clearly dear to him. "Hang on," she realized suddenly, "is this why you wanted to sit in the back? So I wouldn't meet her?"

"Er…"

"You were hiding from me?" Somehow the older woman came across as both offended and yet not surprised at all. "Of all the childish things, Doctor."

"Why'd you agree to coming to this if you thought she'd be here?" She demanded.

"I didn't think she'd be here!" He burst out, seeking to defend himself against them both. "Not for something so obviously a waste of time, even if it did have something to do with the cubes—" He gaped, as though coming to a great conclusion. Pointing an almost accusing finger at the woman, he exclaimed, "You knew! You knew I'd be here, you had to!"

"I only thought that you might show up, since it was about the cubes," she hedged. At the frown he wore, she amended, "Martha might have called."

"Of course she did," the alien groaned, slapping a hand to his forehead.

"And she was quite put out when she found out I'd seen this you already," the brunette reprimanded, and he had the grace to duck his head this time. "And is it wrong of me—of any of us—to want to see my friend? You seem to think we are all on call for when you need us, Doctor, but a friendship requires work and maintenance from both sides."

Amy truly wanted to be selfish and stay, but she recognized that this was the kind of conversation the two needed to have together and privately. Sure, this was her Raggedy Doctor, but by the abject guilt and shame written across his face, she could plainly tell her had been Sarah Jane's Doctor first. It would be wrong of her not to respect that, and would only prove him right about revisiting old friends with new ones.

"I think I'm just going to take a walk around the place, let you two catch up a bit," she announced brightly, trying to make it less awkward than it really was.

Sarah Jane offered a polite smile and nod, and as she turned the corner the Doctor managed a, "Don't wander off too far, Pond." It was half-hearted at best and she had to force herself to keep walking. How did a twelve-hundred year old alien make it sound like she was abandoning a child?

But he was such a child when it came to these things. Emotions. Friendships. That they kept running into old friends of his was a surprise and a miracle, one she was increasingly thankful for as she became ever more aware just how much he needed people.

OoO

He risked a look up through the fringe of his floppy hair at the woman he'd known for so long. She was observing him coolly, but not unkindly and he took heart from that.

"Amy, uh, has a habit of wandering off," he attempted to break the ice that had frozen over this encounter. "You all do," he chuckled weakly, and her lips twitched up into a smile.

"Yes." She sighed and added, "But when you wander off, we don't ever find you again. Unless we're lucky."

"I'm sorry," he breathed, truly feeling remorse. Sarah Jane, this beautifully kind woman- how could he keep disappointing her like this? Disappointing them all like this. For that was her point, he could see that. Even though he'd had his reasons, just as he'd explained to Jack, that didn't make it right.

"I know you are," she was saying softly. "You always are." Here she was, forgiving him. He could let it drop right now, he knew she would, and they could move on to some other topic. The painful ones could be left for some other say, left to catch up and find him when he least expected.

But the Doctor was done running away. He'd decided that this summer, this one single summer on Earth that he was choosing to settle in.

"It doesn't change things, Sarah." She met his gaze with wide eyes, but he made himself continue. "It doesn't change what's happened. What I've done and not done. I always mean to come back. One day."

"It must be hard choosing that day," she spoke, taking his hand and he held hers gladly. "I understand that it's hard to come back, Doctor. I do."

"I never answered your question." She blinked and so he elaborated, "When we met again in that school. You hadn't seen me since Aberdeen and you asked why I couldn't have come back for you. I never said."

She smiled softly in remembrance. "I figured it out on my own. The temptation's too great, for you and me. If you had come back a year, two years, ten years later, even- I would have gone with you. You were my life. And I never would have had one of my own, not like I do now."

He squeezed her hand. "And what a life, eh? Saving the world all on your own with a great group of kids—I hope Clyde's not sore about the whole transported-to-a-wasteland thing." She giggled a bit at this and so he decided that the teenager likely was not. "I hope I've said it before now, Sarah Jane Smith, but you are amazing. And I am so proud."

She was almost beaming, though he could tell she was trying her hardest to remain modest about it. "Thank you," she indulged in his praise for a moment.

"I am trying it, you know," he said abruptly, wanting her praise, wanting her to know how much he was trying for all their sakes. "They don't always travel with me, Amy and Rory. I pick them up on occasion, when I miss them. And I'm staying with them right now, in their home, for a bit." He knew now she wouldn't feel jealous, knew that it had simply been the sudden shock and overwhelming rush of emotions that had caused her to clash initially with Rose.

"That's quite the change for you," she remarked, seemingly impressed. "What convinced you?"

"Mostly that you're right. You, Rose, Martha, everyone—it was always one or the other. You couldn't travel in the TARDIS and live normal lives on Earth. It's impossible, I know that. I could never bring myself to let any of you go unless it was completely, and none of you could bring yourselves to leave until you absolutely had to. But the Ponds…somehow they've managed it. They're not like any people I've ever met before."

"I must admit, Amy struck me as different," Sarah Jane nodded. "She's not as in awe of you as others I've seen. As I was."

"That's why," he stated, so pleased that the investigator had nailed it completely. "That's why I can do it. I feel safe, trying this, with the Ponds."

Amy was making a giant loop around them it seemed, for they caught sight of her red hair across the open field that spread out on this side of the pavilion. She was strolling along, turning her head this way and that to take everything in, just as she might on a brand new planet in an entirely different time. It made him smile to watch, and he glanced down to find Sarah Jane watching him.

"Why is it safe?" She prompted gently, and his smile turned to one ever so slightly of sadness.

"I'm not her world. Not anymore."

And his wonderful Sarah Jane Smith—she understood. Before he knew it, he was wrapped in her warm embrace, one he was so thankful for. Perhaps Amy had been waiting for a moment like this to signal that all was well between them, for he heard a Scottish voice not long after.

"So, everything worked out then?" He pulled back, taking care to blink rapidly a few times before letting either woman see his face. Sarah Jane still patted him lightly on the arm a few times. Reassuring him that even if he didn't want her to know, she did.

"Yes, yes, all is well, Pond," he responded, returning to his usual confidence and cheer. The redhead seemed satisfied.

"That's good. He can be a bit rubbish at the human stuff, but we can't hold it against him too much, yeah?" She directed the question at the journalist, who grinned back.

"No, we can't. It was wonderful meeting you, Amy, but I've really got to be on my way home." She was checking her watch as she said so, and he glanced at his as well.

"Oh, is it really that time? Rory's expecting us back for lunch, isn't he?" He turned quizzically to Amy, but it was Sarah Jane who replied.

"Then you'd best be heading back, too. And I'm sorry I wasn't able to meet your husband, Amy." She had finished gathering her things, like the bag she had placed on the ground earlier, presumably when talking to Hayden or Amy.

The red-haired woman waved a dismissive hand. "Don't apologize. We'll just have to get together some other time; Rory can meet you and I can meet Martha."

"That's a lovely idea!" The brunette commended, and he found himself agreeing. Suddenly the thought of seeing old friends again was not as scary or dreaded as before.

"We'll be in touch, then," he decided, moving aside so that Amy could shake hands with the investigator, then stepping forward once more to give her a final hug. "Till next time, my Sarah Jane," he murmured in her ear.

"It's not goodbye," she returned just as quietly, and he smiled into her hair. Releasing her, he walked backwards until he was side by side with Amy. Giving one final wave, Sarah Jane turned and left for her car and 13 Bannerman Road.

"I'd like to get to know her better, next time," his friend remarked, "But for now, let's go home." He nodded and followed her to the bus stop.

Home…it was strange, how comfortable he was with that. And yet, he had to wonder; he felt like he was taking a step in the right direction, staying with these two unbelievable humans. But had his old fears really been unfounded all these years.

The Doctor wasn't Amy's world, or Rory's world. But the Ponds were his.

At last! I have finished the chapter! I am so incredibly happy, you have no idea. But I also feel indescribably guilty for the long wait. So I made this one extra long, just to try and make up for it. At any rate, yay Sarah Jane! I refuse to accept that she's gone—until they acknowledge it on the show, it isn't cannon in my world! I feel awful requesting feedback after taking forever on this, but if you could, let me know what you think. Thanks for reading, and please review!