The pavement was old and cracked, and the sky the same shade of smoky gray as the clouds above his mother's funeral. Anthony stopped to ponder the event for a moment, and also to take a seat on a questionable bench. His knees were simply not what they used to be.
She had been there. River had come to his mother's funeral with the Doctor on her arm. He'd known that just being there was dangerous and had done his best not to speak to them. He had some stupid idea that if he didn't acknowledge them, the universe wouldn't either. If Anthony had harbored any ill feelings toward the Doctor after River's visit, they evaporated after the funeral. He had never seen a man so broken over anything.
It was a few years ago today that Amy was buried next to her husband. And so it had only seemed right to honor it somehow. And what better way than to visit the small town where she was still alive with his father and sister? He would not visit her. He understood that. At his best guess she was around seven years old – and that was no time to meet your future child.
Anthony was considering finding a coffee shop when a young voice with a Scottish accent chirped in front of him, "You look sad."
The man's head snapped up to meet the slightly worried face of Amelia Pond. Her hair was like fire and her freckles prominent. Even in miniature, she had a presence. No wonder the Doctor could not ignore her.
"Do I?" asked Anthony faintly, running his hand through his hair.
"And you talk funny," she added, hopping up onto the bench beside him.
"You're one to talk," Anthony laughed. "I didn't know we were in Scotland."
She eyed him very carefully before saying in a rush, "Listen, I know we've just met, but can I borrow three quid?"
"Borrow?" Anthony asked dubiously. "Do you plan on giving it back?"
"If you stick around long enough," Amelia replied confidently. Anthony marveled at his mother's brazenness.
"Why do you need three quid?" he finally settled on asking.
Rolling her eyes, Amelia launched into an explanation. "Well, last night my... friend... came over and ate all our custard. And I need to buy more 'cuz he promised to stay and have some with me. But Aunt Sharon isn't home and she's moved the money sock again and I really need three quid to buy custard," she finished in a rush.
Anthony was frozen. A friend has visited her? Surely he had not stumbled upon his mother the day after she met the Doctor? And even worse – hadn't she said that he had come back to speak with her the next day? To tell her to be patient?
And now his seven year old mother was trying to coax him out of three quid in order to feed the Timelord in her kitchen. A headache had begun to blossom somewhere behind his left temple.
"Your friend, why doesn't he buy it himself?" Anthony asked. Why was the Doctor letting her hit up strangers for money instead of buying the damn stuff himself?
"He's... not normal," his mother said evasively. Then, after a moment, "Can I trust you?"
Remembering the words of River Song from one of his mother's stories, he responded, "If you like."
Amelia leaned in, as if telling him a secret. "He's magic. He's got a police box that's a time machine. He's going to take me to save whales in space and fight pirates – if I'm patient," she added.
"Sounds like a man worth three quid," Anthony said with a smile. "Listen, I'll give you the money – if I can meet your friend."
Her face took on a look of wonder. "You believe me?"
"Of course. You don't have any reason to lie to me. Consider it a bet – of three quid – that I think you're telling the truth."
Her smile shined. "Deal!"
Anthony Williams acknowledged some time ago that his life was not going to be easy after losing his parents. He would be forced to watch them grow up, happy and unaware of their fate. From Amy's modeling career to her articles, he would be happy that they were happy. That had been the plan.
But walking back to Amy's house, with a plastic sack containing custard for an alien in her kitchen, Anthony realized how difficult this plan was going to be. Every moment he spent with her was both a gift and a stab in the heart. Already, she had formed the habit of brushing her hair from her face that he had always associated with his mother. She was loud and feisty and fearless. In short, she was everything he had lost when she died.
Her voice threaded in and out of his thoughts. "I think you'll like him. He's funny. At first he was all raggedy, but when he came back he looked a lot better. Kinda sad, though. Like you."
That's because we're both missing the same thing, thought Anthony helplessly. Of all the heart-wrenching things he had experienced today, the worst was what he had discovered; his mother had died on the anniversary of the day she met the Doctor. Somehow, that pained him above all else.
Everything was happening too quickly. All at once they were in front of her house, then through the gate, then unlocking the front door. Amy skipped ahead of him, darting down the hall, calling, "Doctor! I got the custard!" As she turned into the doorway to the kitchen, Anthony hesitantly followed. It was only when he heard the crash that he broke into a sprint.
Anthony exploded through the door only to find nothing wrong.
Except there was.
Amelia Pond stood a few feet ahead of him, facing an empty kitchen. The plastic bag had slipped from her grasp and fallen to the ground, where custard was slowly spilling over the tiles. "Doctor?" she asked softly.
Turning around, she pushed past Anthony and sprinted up the stairs. He could hear doors slamming as she checked each room. Moments later, she stormed past him again, making for the garden. This time, Anthony followed. He walked out into a breeze where there had been none before.
Amelia stood, her hair flying, her coat snapping in the sudden wind. "No!" she screamed hoarsely over a sound Anthony had only heard once before. "You promised!"
But the outline of the TARDIS was already gone.
Distraught, she faced Anthony with tears streaming down her face. "He promised."
There was a lump in his throat that no words could get past. It was all he could do to allow her to wrap her arms around his waist and let her sob into his jacket. Because of all the memories River had given him all those years ago, only one came to mind at the moment.
Rule one: the Doctor lies.