On a cool English spring evening, standing in a phone box, he finds Amelia Pond.
She's wide-eyed and round-faced and curious and full of a light that he clings to, despite that voice in the recesses of his mind that tells him he shouldn't. He finds a new life in her, a new reason to keep going. That bright young thing lets him know that it's okay to try again.
But then he loses her.
And then, once again, he finds her, and although she is still wide-eyed and round-faced and curious, the light she possesses burns brighter than it did before, changing into a fire that matches the gentle waves that tumble down her back. He always returns to her, no matter how difficult it is for him, like a moth to a flame.
The most remarkable thing about flames, he finds, is that no matter how brightly they can burn, no matter how they might light up everything around them or how they might soar in blazing streaks across the dark night sky, they always flicker and die.
And she was no exception.
In dreams, he nearly finds her again and again in absolutely every place he looks – she is the flash of red hair passing by in a crowd, the brisk, blurred movement in the corner of his eye, the familiar face in the back of an aged, forgotten photograph, the laugh that he's sure he hears from far away when everything else is silent. Each and every time, she manages to evade him. That's probably the worst of it, he always thinks – the fact that even though she's long gone, there's always a small part of her there with him, and because he is a greedy, lonely man, it's never enough. It can never be enough. She slipped away a long time ago.
And so, he tries not to dream.
He holds off on sleep for as long as he can, waiting until he cannot physically bear the exhaustion any longer before he slips into dormancy. He has grown tired, both physically and emotionally, of trying to follow the ghost of the girl he loves, trying to hold on to her when she has gone somewhere he cannot follow. But then again, despite the fact that his one constant has changed, he hasn't – he remains greedy and lonely, and so very, very tired – and so every once in a while, he tricks himself into believing he can try something radical to get to her again.
Just once more, he reasons with himself. Just one more time.
He cannot truly go back and find her, he knows that. Her new front door is merely a few presses of buttons and the flip of a lever away, but he has pushed the buttons of fate one too many times. He is always subtly afraid that, maybe on this one final attempt, he will snap the delicate strings of time and space should he find her again. But he always thinks that there's so much he could do to inadvertently reach her. He could take a train to New York and chase that red flame in the crowd. He could land and simply wait for her, biding some time by asking strangers on the street if they've seen the face of the girl in the back of the photograph. His saner side always chases his fantasies away and he returns to the way he was, tired and alone and after centuries, still running.
On one occasion, something else quickly occurs to him, something so unprecedented but so brilliant flashes in his mind and joy fills every inch of him when he realises it could work.
He travels to several years after he figures she has ended up, to 1940, when a new war is circling the planet, one that will remain for half of a decade. He searches for one thing in particular; one insignificant dot in the grand scheme of the chaos of everything else on Earth at that time, but one that now means absolutely everything to him. He travels from city to city, doing everything he can to not end up in New York until one day, he finds it.
A telephone directory.
He flips through it with haste as he hurries from America and lands again in London. He will take every precaution necessary if, just this one time, the vast and complicated universe will let him have a miracle.
And there it is. Her name – of course it would be hers – printed in thin, inky print on a filmy newsprint page of a telephone directory, so unassuming that it baffles him. Amelia Williams, followed by several numbers – there they sit in the sea of thousands of other names and other numbers, and it all seems too ordinary for her, but he mentally revels in the fact that she is anything but.
He runs until he sees a telephone box in an empty side street. He dials quickly, fingers dancing over the numbers as though full of some pent-up emotion that he's kept buried inside for far too long now.
But then he catches himself and hesitates for a moment, his finger an inch from the final number as he wonders if he really, truly should. She has a new life, one that he imagines is like the one she is never going back to, one full of mortgages and bills and appointments that he doesn't interrupt any more. She could be happy without him. Perhaps she can finally settle for once. Besides, there has to be some sort of rule about this. He can't just go on using loopholes forever and expect there to not be any consequences.
He closes his eyes and sighs, feeling the glasses perched on his nose slide slightly downwards. Her glasses.
But then again, if she taught him anything, it's that some rules are made to be broken.
And after all, he is still that same greedy, lonely man, and he needs a miracle.
He opens his eyes once again. With the weight of a thousand things he could say bearing down on him, he closes the distance between his finger and the cool metal of the telephone.
The telephone rings. It's a shrill, grating noise and she comes bounding along from the next room to answer it, cutting off the unpleasant sound before it can continue. She rests one hand on the doorframe, leaning her weight against the wall as she picks up the receiver. She tucks it gently under locks of gradually-dulling red hair that fall over her ear and answers.
There is a brief pause – and it feels strangely loaded to her, for reasons she cannot quite fathom in that moment – before a quiet, familiar voice replies to her. It's a voice that fills her mind completely and drops into her stomach like a heavy stone. It's a voice she often hears in the faraway corners of her mind, a voice that slips its way into her dreams from time to time when she least expects it to. It's a voice that, despite how long it's been, she's never forgotten, not even for a moment.
"Hello, old friend."
They stand in silence for what feels like decades, but with the time that has really passed between them, it feels absolutely inconsequential. He hears a miniscule exhale from the other end of the line, followed by an even less audible sniff, and then, stirring something deep inside his hearts, a relieved laugh. His own breath fails him, his throat feels tight with emotion and unspoken words and he feels hot tears prick at the corners of his eyes.
And on that cool English spring evening, standing in the security of a phone box, he finds Amelia Pond.
A/N: To those wondering where the idea for this came from, it's based off of a gifset that cropped up on Tumblr a few weeks ago (there's a link to it in my post for this fic). To those that are still waiting for a new chapter of OE&OE - don't worry, I'm getting there! x