How is it that you can hear a sound you've never heard before, only imagined and realize, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's what you've been waiting for forever. I don't know but that's what happened today.
And here I almost missed it by being dead.
I'm an old man, should I make it, I'll be 81 come next spring of 2027. I've lived a life that has, at times amazed even me and I am grateful and humbled at all this world has offered. My parents taught me that, they were founts of humility and understanding and patience. Nearly 30 years since they passed from this world and I still miss them. But it's been ok, they filled this London house, the second I stepped inside I felt their presence, their warmth, their love and that childlike exuberance that they never lost.
I buried my grandfather today, he was 69. In my mind, still a bit young for a heart to give out but he told me, Tony, he said, I lived a good life. I may have gotten started a bit late in some ways but by God it was good.
And I agreed. When I'd come here to meet him, I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know what Dad had written in the letter, wasn't sure how it would be received but he embraced me as family. That was nice, I needed that. His hug even felt like Dad's. It was a bit strange calling him Granddad so eventually we just settled on Brian. I was older than him by a stretch but we adapted quickly and hit it off right away. I told him everything I knew about Mom and Dad, how they lived, how they loved one another so much. We looked through photo albums, drank tea and most of all I just tried to convey to him how much Dad loved him and missed him and in every way strove to make him proud. He teared up then and so did I. We actually spent a lot of time crying with each other those first few days. He asked me to move in and I obliged. I'd lost my wife some years back and never really had the heart to remarry. My children, and their children were grown with families of their own now and I was a grandfather and great grandfather several times over, they all knew me as a wanderer, so when I sent word that I was staying in London they were none too surprised.
So Brian and I got to know one another and rather than choose to stay at home with our memories and our brittle bones we decided to strike out. That's how I spent nearly the last 10 years travelling this planet with my Granddad. It was exciting and wonderful and freeing. I felt like I was bringing the family back together again. I felt like I was doing something for my Mom and Dad.
Brian started to get sick no more than five months ago. The travelling stopped. He became progressively weaker and weaker. Congestive heart failure they said. He got his diagnosis about a month after I got mine. I never told him, didn't want him to worry.
So, there I was, sitting in the garden, still in the dark suit I'd worn to the gravesite, having a mug of tea when that sound, the sound my Dad had tried to describe to me for ages suddenly caught my ear.
Mom always said he was rubbish with timing because, "Being a Time Lord has nothing to do with accuracy, it's just what they're called."
The wind started to kick up and I got to my feet and shielded my eyes.
And then there it was. That blue police box of my dreams. How many nights had mom told me story after endless, wonderful story of the man in the blue box, the incredible, Raggedy Doctor who had changed all their lives. I had never doubted he was real. I just never thought I'd see him.
He stepped out tentatively and glanced around as if he couldn't quite believe he was here. He was just as my parents had described him and I prayed that my heart would stop thudding and keep pumping at least long enough for me to say hello.
He finally noticed me and quirked his head before coming over.
"Hello. I hope I've landed at the right place. i'm looking for Brian Pond, though he doesn't know his name is Pond, he has the silly notion that it's Williams. Could you just tell him an old friend is here...if he's here that is."
"He isn't here, Doctor. You are the Doctor, right?"
He narrowed his eyes for a moment.
"Yes, I'm the Doctor. Who are you? Where is Brian, is he alright? He likes to be in the garden around this time of day, it's odd not to find him here."
"Would you care to sit down?" I asked him motioning towards the other chair I still had set up for Grandad.
He obliged but with a great deal of irritation. I could tell he was unaccustomed to waiting for information.
"Have a cuppa." I said pushing towards him the extra one I had poured out of sheer habit.
He took the mug in his hands but didn't drink it. He worried it between his palms, seeming to need the warmth of it or maybe he was just summoning courage before he spoke.
"He's dead...isn't he?"
"Yeah." I nodded. "This past Saturday. We buried him this morning."
The Doctor closed his eyes.
"He was a good man, funny. A brave bloke and a friend I'll miss. Were you a friend of his?" he asked me concluding the sentence with a sniffle.
"Yeah, we got to be very good friends these last few years."
The Doctor nodded, took a sip of tea and then turned back to look at me.
"You didn't seem surprised by the arrival of a man in a 1969 Police Box so I must assume he'd mentioned me."
"Every now and then, yes. But I know the most about you from my parents." I said giving him a smile.
"Your parents." he turned to face me and I could see his mind racing as he tried to figure out just who I was. How many people had this fantastic man met over his hundreds upon hundreds of years of travels? Who could I be?
I chuckled softly.
"My vanity made me somehow hope you'd recognize me, even though I know that's silly. My name is Anthony." I said extending my hand. He politely took it for a shake. "Anthony Brian Williams...or Pond if you like."
I watched as it dawned on him, as he did the calculations in his head.
"Amy and Rory were my Mom and Dad and they spoke of you so often Doctor I feel as if I know you as well as they did." I said excitedly.
The Doctor looked positively gobsmacked and he continued shaking my hand no doubt having forgotten he'd even started the action.
"You're their son...but I thought..."
"Yeah, she couldn't, but after the war, well I was one of the orphaned children and they adopted me."
The Doctor finally let go of my hand and broke into a smile.
"Amelia and Rory Pond, they never did stop rescuing people, did they? My heroes."
"Mom told me stories about you for as long as I could remember, Doctor. She and Dad would sit on the edge of my bed and tell me about all the places you'd been, the battles you'd fought, the fun you'd had. Their eyes just sparkled whenever they talked about their Doctor."
"They did?" he asked quietly, incredulously.
"Yeah, she told me you would have that reaction." I affected Mom's familiar brogue before continuing. She told me, 'Now the Doctor is big on guilt and he's going to blame himself for all this. You must tell him, directly from us that none of this was his fault. He didn't do anything wrong. Not one single thing. Rory and I wouldn't trade one day we spent with him. He'll grouse and he'll fiddle with his bow tie and try and deny it and take up the cross. But you tell him all that.' That's when Dad would usually just look up from his paper and say, 'Tell him we love him. That's the sum and total of all he needs to know. Then, now and forever."
I looked over at the Doctor and saw his chin trembling, his hand were, just as mom said flitting nervously around his bow tie. When that old, old man who looked so terribly young started to cry I got up from my seat crouching down on these arthritic knees I took him in my arms and I hugged him. To my surprise he hugged me back, clinging to me almost desperately.
"I lost them. They slipped from me so fast, I tried...and I lost them anyways."
"But you didn't, they found each other and they lived a life you would have been proud of. How long has it been for you, Doctor? Since Manhattan?"
"150 years or so...and you, how long since they...?"
"Nearly thirty. I miss them every day but I had them for a long, long time. I was lucky."
"Never enough though, is it?" he said pulling back from me as he tried to gather himself together.
"No, it never is."
I put my hand on the table to steady myself as I got to my feet. I returned to my chair with a sharp, relieved exhale. I never felt old until I started feeling old.
"Brian, was he alright, was he happy? I came to explain, I wanted to come sooner but I kept putting it off and putting it off. My calculations were woefully off. And now, selfish arse that I am I arrive too late again."
"He was happy, Doctor. Dad sent a letter by me explaining what had happened, I moved in here and go to know my granddad. I'll always treasure these years we had. He didn't blame you either, by the way."
The Doctor nodded and wiped at his eyes again.
"I didn't trust myself, you see. I had these gaps where I didn't see your parents, sometimes months, sometimes years and it wouldn't have hurt the time stream if I just popped in and said hello. But I knew it would tear my hearts open. I'd end up spending the whole visit crying anyways."
"They mentioned something to that effect. I can't say as they forgave you Doctor, because they never really saw it as anything to forgive."
The Doctor leaned back in his chair staring off into the distance.
"I loved them, you know. They were my best mates, my family. I don't know if I'll ever quite..."
"They knew, Doctor. they loved you too."
He looked at me and smiled, a sad smile but a smile nonetheless. It was good to see him smile, for a moment there I felt like I was doing more harm than good.
"Did you ever meet your sister, Anthony?"
"Oh yes, many times." I said recalling the lovely woman with the wild hair who used to bounce
me on her lap when I was little and tell me even more stories. Stories that my parents tended to think were a little too violent for me. I thought it was funny then to see them chastise a woman who appeared to be their elder. I thought it was even funnier when she'd listen and contritely apologize.
"I loved Melody." I said simply. "I miss her."
"As do I." the Doctor said his voice dark and lonesome.
"Would you like to see a picture of them? Mom and Dad I mean?" I asked trying to break the dour mood. "It's 1974, the first time we took my daughters to the beach." I handed the Doctor my phone and I saw his eyes dim with sad wonder. How did my parents look to him, both of them approaching their 80's? No longer the vibrant young people he remembered. My mother's red hair had turned silver, Dad was a dignified gray. It was a moment captured in time. Mom was laughing, holding my oldest daughters hand, both of them barefoot as the tides rushed in and covered their feet. Dad was holding the baby, letting her play with his bow tie.
"The Ponds." he said softly. That was all he said and I let him have his moment with them, his last moment. "Might I have a copy of this?"
"Of course." I said.
"I'll download it in the TARDIS, which reminds me, how would you like to see inside. I don't know if it can compare to the stories your Mum told you, but it might come close." He rose and offered his hand to me.
"I've been waiting my whole life for you to say that."
He grinned broadly, and all the sadness was chased away.
"Come along, Pond."
We walked to that magical blue box and he opened the door with a snap of his fingers, motioning for me to step inside.
It was beautiful. I can't even describe how achingly beautiful it was. All those stories, from Mom and Dad and the things they'd ever told me, suddenly had more scope and vibrancy and reality and life than I could have ever, ever imagined. It was strange, in a small way I felt as though I was home.
The Doctor clapped my back lightly and walked over to the storied console and began downloading the picture from my phone.
"Fancy a tour?" he asked.
I beamed at him like a toddler.
He took me around that wonderful, impossible ship. We got lost a few times. It was just as Dad said, even he doesn't really know his way around.
After about an hour he asked. "Would you like to see your parents room?"
I was surprised.
"It's still here?"
"Still here." he said sadly.
We went through another corridor or so, arrived at a door and he used that screwdriver of his to open it. We both stepped in and by his reaction I could tell he had either not been in here for years or perhaps ever.
It was the strangest feeling I think I've ever had. The room screamed youth and energy. I could nearly smell them both, Mom and Dad. Their clothes, mostly Moms were strewn about. Thee was a pleasant, jumbled, lived in feel to their quarters. Dad's books, Mom's shoes, an unmade bed, a towel on the floor in the bathroom.
"Your parents were messier than I imagined." he said with a grimace but I could see the naked affection on his face. It hurt me how much he missed them and they were my parents.
I looked around a bit more, coming across pictures of them I had never seen, younger than I could have ever imagined and in 90 percent of them the Doctor was there smiling at their side.
"They loved you so much." I said quietly.
"And I them."
"Mom always set a place for you, you know. For as long as I could remember and whenever anyone would ask her about it, she'd say it was for an absent family member."
"Your parents, Anthony, were two of the greatest people I've ever known."
"They always said the same thing about you."
He smiled again and nodded.
"You're free to take anything you like, of course. It all belongs to you now."
"No, sir, I've got memories enough of them to last a lifetime. These are yours. I just wanted to see this, this last puzzle piece of their lives."
We walked silently back to the console room and I could tell he was mulling something over.
"Would you like to come with me, Anthony, see the sights? I believe it would be nice to have a Pond on board again."
"In my younger days, Doctor, I would have leapt at the chance. But I'd only slow you down now.
Not to mention, one quick trip and I don't think I'd ever want to leave."
"Are you certain, most people don't turn down a chance to see all of space and time?"
I could hear the surprise in his voice but mingled with it was admiration.
"I'm sure. Not to mention I heard my parents tales so often that I feel as if I lived them. You made them into wonderful storytellers, Doctor. They'd be so glad you came back to see Brian."
"I wish I'd gotten a chance to say goodbye to him." he said nodding sadly. "May I come back and see you again, Anthony?" he asked.
"Mom told me about your timing, Doctor. Don't know if I'll be around in, what is it, five minutes?" I joked.
The Doctor smiled and I saw a remembrance of my mother pass over his features.
"What if I promise to be more accurate, least I can do for a dear, dear Pond."
"Doctor, I've got the cancer, you see. I'll probably be off on the greatest adventure of all by the time you circle back."
He looked stricken and I extended a hand to comfort him. Goodness he appeared such a young man, so fragile...unless you looked at his eyes.
"I have something for that in the TARDIS. Smells like coriander, just wait here-"
"No, Doctor. I've lived an amazing life. I've raised my children into fine, honorable people. They'll be alright without me and I really got what I wanted, to see Granddad off and now I finally got to meet you. I've lived long and well. I'm content. Plus I miss my wife, I don't exactly want to put off the chance that I might get to see her again."
The Doctor nodded and ushered us to the doorway of the TARDIS. I took one last look at that magnificent ship before stepping back outside.
"I wish I could have known you, Anthony Brian Pond-Williams. Your parents raised a fine, fine man."
"I've known you my whole life, Doctor. It was a pleasure."
We embraced and both of us held the other a bit longer than either anticipated. I felt as though I was saying goodbye to yet another old friend.
I watched as the Doctor took one last look around. I knew he was saying goodbye as well. With Mom, Dad, Brian and finally me gone, this home wouldn't house a Pond anymore. It would be sold and another family would move in and I hope they'll be as happy as we all were.
"Well then, this is goodbye. Oh, wait, your mobile..." he made to go back into the TARDIS to retrieve it.
"Keep it, Doctor, There's a lot more of them on there. Lot's of memory space on that little phone, it was my way of carrying some of the family albums with me wherever I went. They'd want you to have it."
"Thank you. Take care of yourself, Pond. You're a good man."
"You're a better one. Take care of yourself as well, Doctor. Don't travel alone."
"I'll try." he said and with that he stepped in and closed the door.
I stood back as the TARDIS engines roared to life and with a bit of sadness I watched as it pulsed and disappeared. I sat back down and grabbed a blanket against the chill of dusk.
Sipping my tea I let my mind wander to stories of adventure and bravery pirates and space and aliens and a wise old man whose greatest battle might be against himself. I thought about my wife. I thought about Granddad. I thought about my sister. Finally I thought about my parents and if I just closed my eyes I could imagine them, in a time long before me, yet somehow long after them. Sitting in the kitchen, just over my shoulder. Their heads tilting as they heard that familiar sound, their eyes widening sharing that knowing glance. The glance that said an adventure was about to begin. Dropping everything they were doing and rushing out, rushing past me, ghostly vivid, so heartbreakingly young, full tilt to meet their Doctor who would always be waiting with open arms to embrace them.