A/N: This was inspired by preview pages of the IDW Comics that were featured official Doctor Who Tumblr page. If you haven't seen them, they involve a two page conversation between Amy and Rory. It takes place on one of their anniversaries, but Amy is sad and when Rory asks why, she says she misses Melody. Rory says, "You mean River." But Amy insists that she means Melody, the baby who was stolen from her and Rory. Near the end Rory says, "Maybe there's another world out there where we did get to raise her, you know? Maybe you're bouncing baby Melody on your knee right now, in a universe next door?"
A Universe Next Door
"This is the way the daddy rides, the daddy rides, this is the way the daddy rides, so early in the morning!" The pace of her voice accelerated in time with the bouncing of her knee. "This is the way the mummy rides, the mummy rides, the mummy rides, this is the way the mummy rides, so early in the morning!" Her voice climbed another notch, this time punctuated by shrieks of excited one-year-old giggles as her leg began to thump and jostle like never before. "This is the way Melody rides, Melody rides, Melody rides! This is the way Melody rides, so early in the morning!"
"Again, Mummy! Again!"
Melody's thumb hit the pause button on the remote, freezing the image of her toddler self planted on her mother's knee dead center on the screen. The long strands of flames stretching out around Amy's head made her look like some kind of mythical goddess in Melody's mind.
"I like the way she sings that one," John said. "We've got a different version from where I come from."
"Yeah, well, my mum was always a little different from most mums." Melody lifted her hand to her eye and wiped a clear streak across her cheek. It glistened in the lamp light of the living room. "I miss her so much, John."
John nodded sympathetically. "It's hard to lose people. I know, Mels. I went for so long losing people. Family…the dearest of friends…even lovers."
Melody pushed from her couch cushion onto John's until they were both wedged on about half of the cushion in question. She snuggled the left side of her face in the right crook of his neck and didn't bother to pull back the blanket of pale red-orange hair when it fell across her face. "Someday, maybe you'll tell me about that. I'm not asking you to, but I'm just saying…if you ever wanted to tell me, you know I'll always listen."
"I know." John dipped his finger between the silken threads of her hair, opening a small hole to reveal the edge of her earlobe. He worked at widening the hole and once he could see all of her ear he stroke his fingernail across the outer edge, slowly working it into a massage.
Melody mewled in response. She squinted through her hair and located his free hand, still in his lap. She grabbed his wrist and brought it upwards, underneath her curtain of hair, and kissed the back of it. Then she kissed the tips of each one of his fingers. Each touch of her lips was so light, so airy, like the brush of a kitten's whiskers.
"I had unconventional parents," John said. "There was one woman – I'm not sure if I should really call her my 'mother' – that, without her DNA, I wouldn't be here today. Your mother reminds me a bit of her…all that fire and conviction. And the hair! Oh, that ginger hair." He chuckled softly, sadly; it could have even been a whimper. "But then there is the woman who raised me. The woman I remember raising me. Tall and dignified. Short, dark hair. And she always loved wearing white. Didn't matter what she looked like, she always had a penchant for white."
"You were adopted then?"
John stopped stroking her ear. "It's a bit more complicated than that."
Melody turned his hand over to reveal his palm and kissed the deep lines at its dead center. "Don't stop," she urged. "I won't interrupt again if you keep talking."
John resumed rubbing her right lobe between his thumb and index finger. "I lost both of them." The admission was so quiet, like a whisper on the winds. "One to time…and the other to her own mind."
John shook his head. "You know how they say that the mind can always imagine something more horrific than it actually is?"
"I think mine does that for Donna. I wasn't actually there when she forgot everything, but I knew what that crisis would do to her all the same; I knew what would happen. One little human brain can't handle the mind of a Ti–" his fingers paused on the rim of her ear "–I don't think all the secrets of the universe are meant for anyone," he said after a while. "And maybe that's why those who sought them out were cursed with such long lives?"
The things he was saying didn't make much sense to her, but she knew better than to press for information. Like her, John only opened up when he was ready, and anything more could only drive him further into himself. So instead of asking for clarification, she chose to press her palm to the back of his hand and glide her fingers in and out of the slots between his fingers. "Do you have any pictures of them?" she asked. "Your mothers?"
"Only in my memory."
Melody nodded. "Well – well what if we drew them?"
John moved his hand from her ear to her hair, sweeping back the tender sheet enveloping her face. "What are you scheming at, Miss Williams?"
She lifted her head from his shoulder, rolled over, and planted her head securely in his lap so that she was now staring up at his bemused face. "I was just thinking…maybe we could set up a table at the wedding. You know, a memorial table, with pictures – or drawings – of our mums. Then they could still be with us…somehow."
"I'm not much of an artist."
Melody shrugged. "My mum used to draw all the time when she was a little girl…so my dad says. I know that she used to draw with me growing up. I think my dad has a portfolio tucked away somewhere. She was very creative, my mum."
"Your dad is always saying that you're a lot like her."
"Which is precisely my point, Mr. Smith. If – if that's agreeable to you."
"Would that make you happy?"
Melody closed her eyes. "Not as happy as actually having her here."
"Do you trust me?"
"What kind of rubbish question is that?"
John chuckled. "Well then just take this to heart." His voice lingered on the last word, almost as if it wasn't finished. But then he laid his hand against her chest and the moment passed. "Maybe there's another world out there where she did attend our wedding, you know? Maybe you're sharing a glass of wine with her right now, in a universe next door?"
Melody crawled her hand up his chest and wrapped it around the end of the long, dark blue tie he was wearing. She gave it a yank, prompting John to bend over, meeting his mouth to hers. Ounce his head was within reach she wound her arms around it, holding him there in a potentially uncomfortable position for his back, but a mighty pleasurable one for his lips. "I love you."
"I love you, too." John wormed his hands under her armpits and gave her a tickle. He steeled himself as she shrieked against his lips, loosening her grasp around his neck. Once free, he squared his palms against her hips and moved her back and up until she was sitting on his lap.
Melody wriggled around, planting a knee on either side of John's lap, and then pressed the palms of her hands to the edge of the couch behind her fiancé. She leaned her weight in until John was lying backwards, with his head pressed against the powder blue wall. "I'd like to see another universe," she said, pressing the tip of her nose to his. "So how about a deal, Mr. Smith? I'll show you my universe, if you show me yours."
"For that, Miss Williams, I'll give you all the time you want."