Characters and Pairings: Canton Everett Delaware III/Original Character, Madame Vastra/Jenny Flint, Strax, Amy Pond/Rory Williams, Anthony Williams, Eleventh Doctor/River Song
Spoilers: through TATM
Beta: with all thanks to elainasaunt
Summary: Canton Everett Delaware III is on a mission from God River to put the band back together.
AN: Written for EleventyFest 2013 for coffeesuperhero.
"You didn't believe me."
Canton did not receive an answer. Instead a distinct, 'You want to get into this now?' expression was glowered his way. Lou took one tentative step after another towards the centre of the TARDIS's control room. Canton remembered his own first vision of the interior of the ship, how awed he'd been, and how it had fallen to Rory to bring him up to speed on the whole bigger-on-the-inside deal.
He waited, less than patiently, for Lou to pop out with the same words. Instead, the occasional love of his life and eternal pain in his neck stretched his hand to one smooth panel, keeping a safe distance above the metal. "Huh."
"Fascinating, isn't it?"
"Very Star Trek," said Lou, with half a smile. He'd as much as accused Canton of falling asleep in front of the television with a beer one too many times, and dreaming of his own adventures with Mr. Spock. "I'm more concerned about why it showed up in our front yard."
"I know." Canton cast a wary look around them. No Doctor. No Amy or Rory. Only a handwritten note on the front in what he thought he recalled to be Doctor Song's scratchy handwriting.
Canton, we need your help.
"Do you know how to fly this thing?" Lou watched him furtively, still not trusting that this situation wasn't some kind of acid trip rigged up by the guys at the Bureau to mess with them. He'd allow for the possibility they were in a time machine that looked on the outside like some fibreglass port-o-john, but he'd rather believe someone was messing with him.
Canton approached the panel beside him. "Not as such, no. I watched." And by 'watched,' he meant, 'stood there while a lot of stuff I didn't understand went on around me, and did I mention the bigger on the inside deal?' Absently, he rested his hand on the panel.
The panel began to glow.
Together, they took a step back, Canton cursing a blue streak for letting himself be so stupid.
To his surprise, a see-through image of Doctor Song appeared in front of them. "Canton, so good of you to come aboard."
"Yeah, hi," he said. Realising he ought to introduce Lou, he said, "This is, ah, Louis. Louis Thompson. Lou." He hadn't told the TARDIS bunch about Lou, and now that he had the chance, his words failed him. From observing the four of them, he suspected referring to Lou as his other half and favourite thorn in his side would be sufficient, but how to be sure?
Doctor Song kept talking, oblivious to his discomfort. "I haven't time to explain. You'll see when you arrive. I've keyed the TARDIS to activate at your handprint, and she should be reaching your destination about now."
Sure enough, he'd noticed the familiar hum and grind of the engines around them. Lou's worried expression went nuclear as the ship trembled. Canton desperately waved a hand in front of Doctor Song's face.
"Doctor Song? Come on, I know I razzed you a little when we were undercover, but please stop kidding around. What's going on?"
With an absent and somewhat worried smile of her own, Doctor Song said only, "Good luck. And hurry!" before she winked out of sight. His retinas burned with her image another half-second, and with the image, the memory of her laser pistol or whatever in her hand. Wherever she was, she was prepared for trouble.
"A hologram," said Lou.
Canton turned. "A what?"
"A three dimensional image of something that isn't there." Lou saw Canton's confusion, and he shrugged self-conciously. "All right, sometimes when you fall asleep in front of The Twilight Zone, I watch for a little while."
A smile cracked over Canton's face. Lou liked to pretend he was the most humourless, by-the-books cop on the force. Canton loved knowing for a fact that he wasn't.
The TARDIS ground to a halt. Canton took one hard look at all the screens and readouts in front of him, and, admitting defeat, he popped open the door and peeked outside. Okay, some good news. The people walking by outside weren't screaming, and they looked human. The Doctor had looked human, though. Canton was willing to call it a win. Lou joined him by the door.
"I think so."
Lou glanced down at their clothes. Canton still wore his suit from work. Lou had changed from his uniform into casual clothing. Neither of them looked anything like the Victorian cavalcade walking by. "I see a problem."
"Actually, for this, I've got a solution." Canton grabbed his hand and slammed the door to the TARDIS shut. He hadn't had much of an opportunity to explore this bonkers excuse for a time machine, but he'd paid close attention when the need arose for a new outfit. As a bonus, the ship seemed to know not only the time period a body needed, but also the measurements, which had meant during those mad days that Canton always found the perfect suit for his own short frame hung right next to a lovely ensemble tailored for Amy's long, lean form.
Ten minutes later, and bedecked in what they both hoped were the latest threads, they strolled out onto the night-time streets of what Canton thought was London. He tapped his top hat and said, "Tut tut. Pish posh, old man."
Lou stared at him, looking fine in his own vest, er, waistcoat and did they call them jodhpurs? Or trousers? Anyway, he looked like a million dollars. Pounds. "Cheery-o," said Canton.
"Cut it out. You sound ridiculous."
"Just trying to fit in. Eh, nabbed meself a bobby, have I?"
Lou stepped away from him. "That's it. I am not going to be seen in public with you."
"I'm just trying to get in the spirit of things. I'll drop the accent, okay?"
Lou appeared to be mollified. Already his attention was distracted by the sights and smells around them. "This place is worse than the alley behind the Brickskeller on a Saturday night. Do you think they've invented soap yet?"
"Don't bet on it."
They made their way through the dark roads. Streetlamps shed their insufficient light on the faces around them, yielding no clues. Where was the Doctor? Or the Ponds? Canton found himself craning his neck to peer at face after face, heart skipping a beat when he thought he spied an overlarge forehead, or curls spiralling out of control, only to be met over and over with disappointment.
"You said he was cute."
As usual, Lou's voice cut into his thoughts. Also his tone. "I never said 'cute.'"
"Sure you did. You said he had a quirky kind of charm you couldn't quite identify."
"Which means you think he's cute."
It was Canton's turn to glare but Lou affected to ignore him. "I don't mind. I mean, you run off for months with a cute spaceman and his friends, and as soon as he whistles, off you go again, but it doesn't bother me."
Canton stopped. A horse-drawn carriage rattled by. Normally, this would have been a really cool thing to witness, but apparently Canton had a big baby to coddle first. "Doctor Song was the one who called. She's not my type."
"She's not the one you said was cute."
"I didn't say he was cute!"
The horse had stopped, and the carriage was executing a weird U-turn manoeuvre. "You there!" shouted the driver.
Canton hadn't taken notice of the driver's strange face before, and suddenly he regretted leaving his revolver back inside the TARDIS. Alien? Worse? Had their spat attracted his attention, or was he about to give them the same hard time people did in 1972?
"Stay back," Canton warned Lou, knowing he wouldn't.
The carriage driver was oblivious to their alarm. "Are you the human known as Canton Delaware?"
Canton nodded. In case the alien didn't know body language, he added, "I am."
"Superb! Madame wants us back at the house as soon as possible. You may get inside." His body tilted. "Your maid may also join us."
Maid? Canton looked around, but the only person near him was Lou, who'd begun a deep frown. "You mean Louis?"
"Yes!" smiled the driver. "Hurry up. You and your maid servant."
As they climbed awkwardly inside the carriage, Lou said, "Oh, I am going to kill someone before tonight is over."
"That's the spirit!" said the talking potato.
The upholstery on the seats had seen better days, but the smell was marginally better. Lou peered out the windows into the night, while Canton sat back. A small door, large enough to pass snacks through, or a bottle, opened out onto the driver's seat. Canton spoke to the odd-looking creature, forcing himself not to crack a joke. "You said 'Madame' was waiting for us. Did you mean Madame Someone or a madame?"
"Madame Vastra," said the driver, as if that answered everything. "And we are late. I may have to submit myself to severe punishment as a result. I am considering shooting off my own hand, however I believe this would make my tasks more difficult in future." He drove for a moment in thought. "Perhaps I can offer to die in battle for the glory of Paternoster Row."
Canton closed the little window. "I am never looking at Sandy Donaldson's toys the same way again."
"You and me both. Where are we going?" asked Lou.
"I don't know."
"And we're being driven there by a crazy alien?"
Despite this, they arrived safely at what he could only pray was their destination. The driver deposited them in front of an elegant house, not much different from those around them to either side. "I will join you shortly," announced the driver, jiggling the reins and heading towards the carriage house. Canton had a brief, awful flash of the alien eating the horse. Then he knocked on the old wooden door.
A maid answered. He'd hoped to be met by Amy or River, or someone he knew, but the plain girl simply ushered them inside. "About time you got here. Take your coats?" Canton handed over the nice wool coat he'd borrowed from the TARDIS's stores. Lou took an extra second, distrust all over his face. But the girl gave him a slightly empty-headed, slightly mad smile, showing no surprise at either of them, and Lou grudgingly gave her his coat as well.
"You don't have to," he muttered, but she was already brushing conscientiously at the fabric and hanging the coats properly on polished brass hooks.
"There," she said, pleased with herself. "Madame's taking visitors in the parlour. Come with me."
With little option, and not a little trepidation that they'd entered a high-class brothel, Canton and Lou followed the maid through a set of French doors into a humid room redolent with green plants and candles. A few oil lamps cast their own flickering shadows, giving the room the weird aspect of some jungle with firelight surrounding them.
"Do come in," said a rich voice, one that promised luxuries or sharp death, and the voice would be the one making that call.
Lou caught his eye, and mouthed, "Prostitute?"
Canton shrugged. The Doctor might be a genius, but he was just as much a space tramp and he'd made a not half-bad Christ. Maybe he did pal around with hookers like the Man Himself. Canton couldn't judge.
"Madame Vastra?" he asked, voice determinedly even.
"You are Canton Delaware?"
"Please sit," said the cloaked figure that came into view in the shadows and the smoke. One elegant arm indicated a single wicker chair. That would never do.
"We'll stand, thanks."
"Jenny can bring us another chair. Jenny, dear." Already the maid was huffing her way into the room with an extra chair, this one wood.
"Here you go," said Jenny the maid, and she seemed so happy with herself that it would be an insult not to accept. Canton took the wooden chair, letting Lou recline in the chair closer to the veiled woman.
"Thank you," he said to the maid, who surprised them both by perching on the arm of Madame's chair.
Madame Vastra said, "River indicated the TARDIS would bring you directly. Did you have difficulty navigating your way here?"
"No," said Canton. "With respect, ma'am, what is this about? I'm not used to finding a time machine in my yard and being whisked into Victorian London. Is the Doctor in trouble?"
"Yes and no."
Lou said, "Don't be so definite, lady. Some people might get worried."
Madame Vastra tilted her head to him. "Is this your servant?"
"No," Lou said, half a second before Canton said, "Absolutely not."
"A friend of the Doctor's, then?"
"Not exactly," said Lou. He indicated Canton. "But I go where he goes."
"Understood. We all have our fellow-travellers." She patted her maid's hand in a manner Canton found more than a little weird. He forgot this immediately as she whisked away her veil.
He shot to his feet, swearing. Lou fell back out of his chair. "Shit, alien."
Madame Vastra held her composure. "I am not. I was born on Earth just as you were. My people lived here long before humans."
Canton really missed his revolver. "Yeah, so did the Silence." Another thought struck him uncomfortably: the Silence were wiped out, more or less, in 1969. But this wasn't 1969 yet. They could be surrounded by dozens of the bastards and not know it. Nervously, he cast his eyes around, hoping he could remember what he'd seen. Only a few fragments of the monsters had stayed in his memory, but then, he watched reruns of the moon landing whenever he could.
"The Silence cannot come into this house," she said with such firmness that he believed her instantly. Perhaps her species was immune to their memory tricks. Perhaps the insane potato carriage driver shot them all. Who knew?
"What are you?" asked Lou, curious at her green, scaly skin. His initial shock gone, he didn't seem frightened, just curious, the same as he would be at some new immigrant washing up on his beat back home.
"Who," said the maid, interjecting with an edge in her voice. "It's polite to ask who someone is. This is Madame Vastra. She could slay you both where you stand, but she's not doing that any longer, is she?" This last bit had a corkscrew in the question, curling back onto the lizard woman. Canton recognised the tone from two hundred instances of, "If you finish the milk, don't put the empty back in the fridge. Dear. Sweetheart. Love of my god-damned life. Agreed?"
Canton glanced between the two women and swallowed his smile.
"Apologies," Canton said. "Madame Vastra, would you please catch us up on what's happened to the Doctor? I haven't seen him in a few years, and knowing him, it's been a lot longer on his end."
"That would be a good guess. Mr. Delaware, how old was Amy Pond when you saw her last?"
Canton thought hard. "Dunno. Twenty-three? Twenty-five?"
"She died at the age of eighty-seven. Her husband died at eighty-two."
His automatic 'I'm sorry to hear that' died on his lips. "What? That's not possible. I saw them three years ago."
"They have since been transported into the past, and they died there. The Doctor is alone."
Canton found his chair and sat heavily. He tried to picture vivacious Amy and adorably nerdy Rory. Eighties? Dead? They'd be grandparents. Great-grandparents. "How?"
"A species you haven't encountered. Enjoy your good fortune."
"What about Doctor Song?"
"Her timeline is complicated. The Doctor told me she died the day they met." A smile touched her green lips. "I have known her since she was an infant. Time is strange for friends of the Doctor."
"Is she dead, then?"
"She was alive to leave you the message. I contacted her when she was a professor. She could pilot the TARDIS. Not many can."
"All right," Canton said, sorting this confusion as best he could. "Everyone's dead, and the Doctor is dying?"
"No, he is alone, and he has come to us because he has no one else to ask."
"No one?" Canton figured the Doctor had friends in every port, or in his case, every decade. But maybe the Ponds showed what happened with those. Maybe he'd sweep into your life, and you'd wind up dead or destroyed. That jived with the little research Canton had dug up later, at least until his boss told him he'd been leaned on by some hush-hush Brit agency, so knock it off. Friends in every decade, sure. Dead friends, or worse.
Madame Vastra read the comprehension on his face. "I owe him a great debt, as do Jenny and Strax, and we care about him, as I believe you do also. He needs our help."
"What do you need me for?" It wasn't a dismissal. Canton had known as soon as the blue box appeared that he'd do whatever he was asked. He hoped Lou would understand.
"Time is malleable. It can be reshaped, but it cannot be broken. His friends will die, as we all must. Yet I believe we can pull them out of time, just for a little while. He can have them back again. His hearts are broken, Mr. Delaware. This will not mend them, but perhaps we can offer a chance at healing."
He thought about this. "How?"
"I need you to travel to a point in Amy and Rory's timeline, and retrieve them."
"In the TARDIS? But I can't fly that thing." She might as well ask him to fly the Saturn V, or a nuclear submarine. Hell, at least those were from Earth.
"River has already programmed the coordinates. The TARDIS will take you where you need to go."
"Then why do you need me? Doctor Song should be able to fetch them herself. Or you." He took another look at Madame Vastra, and amended, "Well, maybe your friend here."
"I can't go," Jenny said with a worried frown. "It's the far future for me, in a distant land. I'd be half-terrified just stepping outside, much less trying to track them down."
Canton settled more easily into his chair. So that was it. He had plenty of respect for the fairer sex, but obviously this was one task that shook the poor girl to the core. "Right. So I'll go to this distant future..."
"We'll go," Lou cut in, and Canton wasn't going to object.
"Right. We'll go, hunt down the Ponds, and take them somewhere?"
"River says she's found a neutral planet where we can all meet without damaging the timelines. To answer your previous question, no, she cannot bring them herself."
Madame Vastra shrugged. "It's possible the universe will collapse if she makes the attempt. She would know better than I. But she could borrow the TARDIS and program it for us. For you."
He stood. "Fine. Let's get this over with. Can you brief me? Where exactly is this far-flung future and distant land?"
Lou took his arm as they made their way back to the TARDIS. "1938. New York."
"Yeah." He guessed it would be a far-flung future to someone from 1892.
"And the only reason they called you is because you're American."
Offended, Canton said, "I don't think that was the only reason."
"Sure it wasn't."
The other three, bundled up in enough cloth to disguise the inhuman appearance of two, bustled behind them, and the moment was lost. Canton thought Lou would let go, but instead he adjusted the position of their arms, linking them like any two gentlemen out for a constitutional on this brisk evening, pip pip and all that rot.
Fine. He'd drop it.
None of the others seemed fazed by the TARDIS interior. Either they'd all been here before, or their own lives were weird enough for this to be just one more point on a Möbius curve. Given the number of swords the women carried, and the huge gun the potato alien lugged with him, Canton was willing to believe the latter. He found himself far more comfortable with his side arm back in its holster, and he couldn't help smiling at Lou's matching sigh of relief as he checked then holstered his own weapon.
Some couples did romantic moonlight dinners and extravagant luxury vacation to exotic locales. He glanced over at Jenny, who wiped a polishing cloth over Vastra's katana blade before handing it back to her mistress. Others preferred a more direct approach to the war of the sexes.
Speaking of war, Strax was circling the control panel and muttering about fire power. Vastra shushed him impatiently. "Mr. Delaware, your hand if you please."
"I did this already," he huffed, but Canton placed his hand on the control panel again.
River Song spectacularly failed to appear in real or holographic form.
Canton picked up his hand experimentally, placing it elsewhere on the panel. No hologram, no grind of TARDIS engines.
"Did you break it?" asked Lou.
"It's an emergency," said Strax, aiming his gun at the control panel. "TARDIS, I demand you take us to our destination at once."
Jenny took three rapid steps away from him as Vastra said, "Strax, do not threaten the most powerful device in the universe."
Miffed, Strax growled, then rested the gun on his shoulder. "I was merely trying to help."
"Start with being nice," suggested Jenny, resting her own hand on the panel.
Doctor Song appeared in a sparkle. "Good. Now that you've assembled the team, I'll direct the TARDIS to the new coordinates. Amy and Rory spend their lives in Brooklyn. However, the TARDIS cannot go near the time, nor their location. You will need to track them down on your own." Levers and lights on the control panel operated on their own volition. "I am setting you down in the year 1949. Location should be relatively near New York. Bring them back here when you've found them. Amy or Rory's hand print will activate the controls. Good luck."
She faded from view again.
Canton wondered if anyone else had noticed they had to finish their mission or else: no hand print, no working time machine. Great.
The TARDIS parked without fanfare. Lou looked down at his own Victorian clothes. "1949 Brooklyn? We'll have to change."
The dressing room offered not only opportunities for appropriate clothing, but also for inappropriate kissing. Call it shock treatment, cut off only when Jenny burst in on them, a bit out of breath. "I'm coming along, in case of trouble."
For a second, Canton thought she meant they were to protect her. Then he caught on. "Uh, thanks, but we'll be fine."
"Nonsense. Now turn your backs."
"We'll just give you some privacy," Lou said, tugging Canton out.
"Thanks, then. Oh, the little alcove right before the control room is perfect for a hit and miss."
And with that nudge, she closed the door.
"A what?" asked Lou.
"You've got me. Come on."
Jenny took no time at all changing from her prim, button-up corseted dress into a seemly periwinkle number that hit her at the knee. She kept her bun, and she'd added a matching blue hat. She stood out against the dark suits they'd chosen. Lou carried his own hat with a grim expression. The fifties hadn't been great Lou's first time through.
Madame Vastra inspected them thoughtfully. "I think you should take Strax as well."
"It's a grab and go," Canton said. "We'll be fine."
'Fine' turned out to be a relative term. The TARDIS had arrived in Philadelphia, no doubt because the archaeologist who'd programmed her liked a historical dig as much as anyone. They had to catch a train to New York, a process made more difficult by having to cool their heels in Philly for four hours.
Philly in 1949 wasn't much different from Philly in 1967, the last time Canton had visited on business. This time, some poor schmoe was getting his butt kicked by three beefy guys, and Lou stepped in before any of them thought to stop him. Not an hour after that, a lady whose purse got snatched across the street from them found it returned ten minutes later. Jenny had kicked the thief in the teeth.
"We should buy our train tickets," Canton said. "And stop beating up people."
Jenny patted her hair back into place. "People ought to behave better in the future, not like barbarians."
"'Far-flung future,' you said?" Lou goaded her. "'Terrified to step outside,' you said?"
Strax fussed with the large scarf he wore. "Are you certain this is appropriate camouflage for my disguise?"
"Oh yeah," Canton said. "With that bowler hat and fake moustache, nobody's gonna recognise you." He was more worried about the scarf slipping, but he couldn't resist the grin every time it did. If these guys were going to drag him out of his house and make him bop through time, only to send their own people to get Amy and Rory anyway, he was going to have a little fun of his own with the disguises.
Lou whispered, "You are going to Hell for this one."
Canton discovered his own part in the plan as they reached the station. Thankfully, he'd brought his wallet and the cashier didn't inspect the ten dollar bills before handing over four round trip tickets. As Canton handed one to Jenny he said, "Am I the only American the Doctor knows?"
Her face coloured for some reason. She said, "You're the one we asked."
They washed up in New York City a few hours later with no place to stay and no idea how to start looking for Rory and Amy Williams. The phone book was no help. "We could go knocking on doors," Jenny suggested, ignoring the patent ludicrousness of asking ten million people if they knew the Ponds.
"We will demand they tell us! With force if necessary!"
Jenny sighed. "Strax, will you please look in the phone book on that corner? And remember, no fighting." He grumbled and crossed the street, startling a cab driver.
Canton scratched his memories. "I think my cousin lived in New York in 1949. I could make up a story and we could stay with her." The addition of Strax to the equation was not helping. There was no way Canton could make cousin Cheryl believe he was just from out of town.
Lou said, "Oh, like how you told your mother for five years that you were seeing someone named Louise?"
"I never said that," Canton said, dropping his voice. He shot a look at Jenny, but she'd been distracted by a shop window display and wasn't listening. "I told her your name was Lou, and she filled in the rest herself."
"And you didn't correct her."
"And I didn't correct her. And your grandmother thinks you're seeing someone named Connie."
"That's different. She's eighty-three. Her heart would stop if she met you."
Jenny was coming back over. Canton said, "Can we do this later?"
"I'm sure we will."
Jenny said, "Let's get them."
"Yeah," said Canton, "but we still don't know where to look."
With an impish grin, Jenny dragged him over to the window and pointed to a book on display. Author: Amelia Williams.
"We can't go."
After the hugs, Amy had assumed a cross-armed (and cross) posture. Her walk-up brownstone had a trim front yard, a door that was painted fire-engine red, and photographs on every wall boasting a smiling little boy. The earliest photo showed Rory holding an infant. The latest looked like it might have been taken last week, what with the tot ramming a toy wooden car into Canton's shoe. He wished he'd stayed outside with Strax, who was guarding the front steps from intruders. In fact, he wished he'd stayed outside instead of Strax, but nobody listened when he pointed out the giant potato would attract more attention than they wanted.
The car rammed into his shoe again.
"Anthony, stop it."
"Okay, Mommy." He set the car aside and busied himself with untying Canton's shoelace. Canton crossed his leg over and hoped the kid would cut it out.
"Rory's at work," she said to them, passing out mismatched teacups. "I've got loads of work to finish, and obviously Anthony can't go."
Lou took his tea gingerly. "Thank you. Why 'obviously'?" He looked from Amy to Canton, and paused on Jenny's suddenly guilty face.
Amy said, "I'm not losing this baby, too."
There had been something about a pregnancy, Canton recalled, but it had all been tied up with the Silence and he couldn't remember much. Jenny seemed to know more, hiding her face in her teacup. Amy narrowed her eyes. "What is it?"
"You've seen Melody, haven't you?"
Jenny nodded slowly. "She sent us to fetch you, not him."
Melody? Canton exchanged a glance with Lou, then took the opportunity to taste the tea. Nasty stuff. Give him some joe any day.
Amy's face contorted. "He didn't ask?"
"Begging your pardon, miss, but he said he couldn't come looking for you. Something about time fracturing and the universe being destroyed, or similar." Jenny's head bobbed up and down as she spoke, as if nodding in agreement with herself. "Doctor Song can't come, neither."
"But you're here. Now. No universe collapse." She glanced through the lace curtains out to the street. "Not yet."
"Well, you know Doctor Song. She likes to play games with the Time Vortex."
Amy sighed. "Only one, and that game is called Silly Buggers."
Lou leaned over. "Is it just me, or did they stop speaking English a few minutes ago?"
"You get used to it." To Amy, he said, "Look, I don't know anything about universe collapse or what, but if the Doctor says he can't come for you, when we just took the train in from Philly, then I'll believe him. And if Doctor Song says we can take you somewhere to meet him without destroying time, space, and apple pie, I'll believe her, too."
Amy took a long drink of her tea. Then she held out her arms until Anthony climbed into her lap, wrapping one chubby arm around her hair and sucking the attached thumb. "He never came looking for us. He said it would destroy time, so no, he never took a train from Philadelphia, or New Jersey. River never used that strap on her arm to come visit, only posted a letter." He could see the years in her face, the lines from sun and smiles and tears, and the silver shooting through the copper of her hair. "I stopped waiting for him a long time ago."
The door opened. Rory Williams came in, out of breath and more or less forcing Strax inside ahead of him. Canton heard him say, "Mr. Lerner is our neighbour. He's an inventor, not an invader."
"Daddy!" said Anthony, slithering off Amy's lap. Rory paused to take in the rest of them with a nod before kneeling down to give Anthony a hug.
"Where's River?" Rory asked, lifting Anthony into his arms. The years were more obvious on his face than Amy's: more grey, more wrinkles. He nodded greeting to Jenny and Canton, finally looking at Amy.
"River's not here."
"She had a note delivered to me at work. She said to get home right now." His eyes rested on Lou. "You didn't regenerate again, did you?"
Lou startled. Even Jenny looked as confused as Canton felt. "What?"
"No, that's not her." Amy slumped back in her armchair. "She sent them here to fetch us."
"We can't go," said Rory, holding Anthony closer.
"That's what I said."
He dug into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper. He walked it over to Amy, placing a kiss on the top of her hair. "This is what she sent me."
Amy scanned the paper, then set it aside. Her eyes went a million miles away. "I wonder." She picked up the paper again, flipped it to the blank side, then held it up to the light. Canton made out white letters, almost like a watermark. A smile crossed Amy's face, the first since she'd hugged Jenny.
"One summer, Mels and I looked up ways to send hidden messages to each other," she explained, getting to her feet and yanking the teacups away. She stacked them on the tray haphazardly and walked them to the kitchen, where the sound of running water suggested they were getting a quick dunk. She wiped her hands on a towel as she joined them again. "Well, what are you waiting for? We'll need to pack him a bag. Get his nice blue jumper, and plenty of underpants." As an aside, she said, "He's toilet-trained, but he still has accidents."
"But, we just said we can't go."
"Now we're going. We'll take the car. We can be back at the TARDIS before dinner." Amy ran upstairs to pack. Rory followed her with their son.
Lou picked up the paper. "Your friends are crazy." He held it up to the light, as Amy had done.
Canton read silently: "Amy, stop moping and bring my brother to see the best fireworks in the universe. Love, Melody."
"Yeah," he said. "They really are."
The control room was getting crowded, and Anthony and Strax were taking up most of it. As soon as they came on board, Strax talked the TARDIS into creating miniature replicas of alien and human soldiers. These were now spread out over both levels and blocking the stairs. Strax made whooshing noises, and tiny "pew pew" sounds as little plastic soldiers shot the advancing foes. Anthony laughed and clapped, occasionally picking up one and turning it into Superman.
Amy bent down, retrieving a little Roman soldier at her feet. She showed it to her husband with a grin.
Canton tried not to step on anything.
Jenny nodded at the mess. "Ma'am, I'm not cleaning up his toys again."
"Nor should you. Strax will have to sweep them up himself."
"Preposterous!" he shouted, sitting awkwardly between two sorties. "These troops will all die in glorious battle together."
Canton wondered if scaly lizard not-aliens had the same exasperated expressions humans did, because Vastra was wearing one. Jenny placed a sympathetic hand on her arm, as Amy and Rory turned their attention to the controls. "We just touch this, then?"
"It's worked for everyone else," said Lou. He'd given up both exasperation and wonder, and had that face on where he was pretty sure he was dreaming. Canton considered pinching him, then thought better of it. For now.
The engines roared to life. A few minutes and four hundred glorious casualties later, they landed.
As the door to the TARDIS swung open, he could hear the Doctor's voice. "It's about time. River, do not ever send my ship off on autopilot again."
"Of course, sweetie, but our picnic guests have finally arrived."
The Doctor said something Canton couldn't make out, but it didn't matter. Amy and Rory were already out the door, Anthony in tow. Vastra and Jenny followed, with their own adopted root vegetable dragged behind them. Canton tiptoed around the last survivors of the third army, then felt a hand on his shoulder holding him back.
"What's out there?"
"Could be. Could be an alien planet with," he bent and snatched up a squid-faced soldier, "evil face-stealing monsters."
Lou's eyebrows raised. "How many alien planets have you visited?"
"None yet," he admitted. "Want to see what this one's like?"
"Yeah, but." Lou was frowning again. "Is the Doctor going to be mad I came along?"
Canton leaned over. From the cracked doorway, he could just make out someone's arms thrown around someone else. "No."
Lou wasn't any happier. "Seriously. Is he going to be upset? About me. About you and me." He didn't ask if the Doctor, or anybody else out there, was going to throw the same fit Canton's mom did when she found out about "Louise." He didn't ask if things were going to be as awkward and unwelcoming as they tended to get when the two of them went out places together.
Canton didn't blame him for wondering. But he was pretty damn sure that, this time, the worry was for nothing. He kissed Lou on the cheek and took his hand.
"Come on. Come meet the rest of my friends."
Apparently, this planet was called Asgard. Apparently, it boasted the best fireworks in the galaxy during the annual celebration of the ruling dynasty's founding. Apparently, Doctor Song had been begging the Doctor for a visit here for ages. Apparently, she was related to the Ponds in some fashion nobody was explaining, and this all tied together with why she was cuddling little Anthony and playing with him as hard and delightedly as Strax was.
Apparently, they finished up their picnic just in time to catch the beginnings of the civil war that would end up reshaping the entire quadrant of the galaxy or whatever.
At least the sandwiches had been good.
"We need to form a strategy," said Madame Vastra. She paced back and forth in the cell, pausing at the walls to touch the stone. "Heaven alone knows what they're doing to the others."
The Doctor sat cross-legged by one wall, playing with a light-up wand. "We don't know that the others have been captured. I'm sure I saw River take Anthony and go."
"What's that?" came Amy's muffled voice from the next cell.
The Doctor shouted, "I'm sure River has Anthony!"
Amy shouted back, "That doesn't make me feel better!"
Canton slumped back against the opposite wall, wondering if he should start tapping out Morse Code. Did Lou know Morse Code? He'd done a tour in the Navy right out of high school, so maybe. Canton did an experimental tap on the stones, and discovered that his knuckles would break before he managed to knock hard enough.
Amy and Rory were having something between a discussion and an argument, which Canton heard only part of. Rory was of the opinion that River was the best possible protector for little Anthony. Amy was of the opinion that River had stolen marijuana and given it to Amy and Rory both? Or something? "And Jeff, too!" she shouted.
"Oh, Jeff!" said the Doctor happily. "I liked him."
Rory shouted through the wall, "He and Mels used to date!"
The Doctor shouted back, "Terrible man, that Jeff! Always something about him I didn't trust!"
Vastra paused her pacing. "We need to get out of here. Is your screwdriver capable of picking the lock?"
"Soon. Don't worry. I'm sure Jenny and Strax are fine."
There was a noise outside. Vastra tried to see out the tiny cracks in their door. From the opposite cell, Lou shouted, "Jenny's in here!"
"Is she all right?" Vastra yelled. All this yelling was getting on Canton's nerves. He rubbed his head, which brought his watch into view. He wondered if he could disassemble his watch and find some little gear inside to pick the lock. Busy work. He removed the watch anyway and popped the back.
Another noise came from outside, this one like a small explosion. Watch forgotten, Canton joined Vastra at the door. The Doctor stayed where he was, tilting his head as if listening. "Get back from the door. Do it now."
Moments later, with a WHOOMP and a cloud of dust, the door fell inside their cell, the hinges blasted away. Doctor Song stood on the other side, with her face a bit dirty and her smile absolutely filthy. "I'll spare you the 'Honey, I'm home' speech. Where are Amy and Rory?"
"Over here!" Rory shouted. "Do you have Anthony?"
"Right." The group of them emerged from the cell. Doctor Song made quick work of the other two cells. "I left Anthony with Strax. You'll probably have to deprogram him when you get home before he tries to invade your neighbours' house, but otherwise he's unharmed."
Vastra went into Jenny's cell. The other woman sat on the floor. Lou was checking her pulse and lifting her eyelids. He backed away as soon as Vastra came close. She knelt beside them. "Jenny, dear? Are you well?" When she didn't respond, the lizard lady turned to Lou. "Did you see what happened?"
"They just threw her in here. Her pupils are dilated. She might be drugged."
Rory was already beside them. "Let me check on her."
"We need to leave now," said Doctor Song. "We can examine her when we're safe."
Vastra looked as though she would object, but instead she propped Jenny onto one arm as Rory took the other side.
Canton wished he had a gun, but Doctor Song was the only one armed. He nodded to Lou, and they fell back to take the tail in case of trouble. They walked past several guards who lay still or moaning on the floor. Those who could move flinched away from Doctor Song.
"Your friends are weird," whispered Lou.
Their luck held until they reached the upper exit to the dungeons. Doctor Song may have incapacitated the guards along the way, but reinforcements met them at the large metal door hanging suspiciously askew.
The guards, wearing the uniforms of the old regime, raised their weapons. Doctor Song raised her own. "Boys, you do not want to dance with me tonight."
As the Doctor stepped between River and the guards, his hands raised in a placating gesture, Canton felt a tug on his elbow. Lou tilted his head, indicating that Rory and the lizard lady had already started back into the dungeon levels, their burden between them. Right. Looking for a back door.
Canton watched as Amy shouted, balling her hands into fists and standing beside the Doctor, and accepted the distraction. The five of them booked down another corridor, and turned a corner.
"Here," said Vastra suddenly, pushing Jenny into his arms with some care. "Guard her."
"Me?" He looked into the young woman's dreamy face. Yeah, probably drugged. Had they questioned her? What answers could she have possibly given them? And why were Vastra and Rory turning with grim expressions back down the hallway to where he could just make out the sounds of Doctor Song's ray gun?
He shuffled Jenny to a better hold.
"What now?" Lou asked, checking out the corridor to either side. No obvious exits appeared, except for the cells themselves, most of which seemed to be empty after the first wave of revolutionaries had come through. Hell of a hiding place, but risky.
Canton had worked on a case once where a guy had hidden from the authorities by locking himself inside his own homemade fallout shelter, thinking they'd never look for him there. Thing was, the guy had built his shelter too well. They hadn't been able to go in after him, no, but neither had any air. Four days passed before they got the damn box open, and by then, it didn't matter.
He didn't have to consider this grisly prospect for long. Amy and the Doctor came dashing down the corridor shouting, Vastra and Rory right on their heels.
"Run," said the Doctor, barrelling past.
"You left her back there?" The others ran past, Vastra pausing long enough to scoop up Jenny from his arms.
He looked down the hallway, where River suddenly appeared, her own laser pistol missing. She waved wildly at him as she ran. Behind her, there was a high-pitched whine.
Canton grabbed Lou's hand and ran for it, catching the others up at the next bend. Doctor Song crashed into them a second later, and pushed the two of them to the ground. "Down!" Amy and Rory each grabbed a handful of tweed, dragging the Doctor to the floor. Vastra covered Jenny with a protective huddle.
Heat and light exploded over their heads from River's overloaded blaster. The building rumbled around them, stonework falling way too close to their heads, smoke choking everything.
Lou peeked up at Canton, tilting his head sideways. He was covered in grey dust. Canton knew he didn't look any better. "Canton?"
"Yeah?" Canton spit out dust.
"The next time you go running off with your weird friends, remind me not to come. You can introduce me later. Much, much later."
"Are you kidding? This is the fun part." He laughed, because they weren't dead and not being dead was great. After a moment, Lou laughed, too.
"Come on," said Doctor Song, climbing back to her feet. She paused a moment to sweep dust out of her curls before she extended a hand to the Doctor.
They headed back down the ruins of the corridor the same way they'd come. The Doctor paused to unlock the only cell door that still had an occupant. Obviously his fancy screwdriver was finally working.
"We don't have the time for this," Doctor Song scolded him.
The Doctor let Rory shoulder open the door, freeing two scared-eyed aliens. "Then we don't have the time for anything." He shooed them on ahead.
Together, they all reached the exit to the dungeons for a second time, minus the platoon of guards and plus one enormous hole in the side of the fortress.
Canton said, "Hey, look. I found the door."
By the time they reached Strax, he'd taught Anthony how to spell "thermonuclear detonator" and "disintegration ray." Doctor Song took responsibility for teaching him the swear words. Neither of them claimed responsibility for giving the fortress access codes to both the rebels and the royalists, but when the walls fell, there was in fact a huge display of accidental fireworks when the weapons cache exploded without being used by either side. Anthony clapped and said "Whee!"
Back aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor and Doctor Song began bickering over where they ought to take the group next, as soon as Rory was finished in the medical suite getting Jenny back on her feet. Space Florida? Diamond waterfalls? Canton had been to Barcelona once, but he had a feeling this would be some bizarre future Barcelona with Mr. Spock on every corner. Lou was starting to look kind of shell-shocked.
"Doctor, if it's not too much trouble, could you drop us off? I don't think we can handle much more relaxation."
He looked disappointed. "Are you sure? I have a friend who spends three centuries owning a pleasure planet in the outer Rim. I'm positive you'd have a good time."
Doctor Song checked a readout on the control panel of the TARDIS. "This wouldn't happen to be the same pleasure planet that gets overrun by the Gilaxian Horde in 7823?"
"Home, please," Canton said, before the Doctor could turn to her and explain he wouldn't put them down at that time, honestly.
"Fine. That was 1969, yes?"
"1972," Lou said, shooting Canton a worried look. The last thing they needed was to get sent back to the wrong time.
"I'll drive," said Doctor Song with a false note of pleasantness. Barely a minute later, the TARDIS set down in what Canton hoped very much was his current front yard. "Coordinates check out, but you'd best be sure."
"Thanks," he said, poking his head out through the door. That looked like their street, and those were Doug Donaldson's ugly plastic flamingos next door. "Looks right."
The Doctor shook his hand. "Thank you for your help." He shook Lou's hand. "Good meeting you." He'd already turned away and had started talking to Doctor Song. "What do you say about ringing up Martha and Mickey for a visit? Martha and Rory would be best mates inside five minutes."
So dismissed, Lou shrugged and disembarked. Canton paused. "Doctor?"
"Yes? What is it?" The bonhomie of his goodbye had been replaced with vague annoyance of the 'Are you still here?' variety.
"Sorry. Still new to this. But I gotta ask, am I going to see you again?" Not cute, Canton told himself firmly. If anything, the Doctor was older than Methuselah and twice as crotchety, but he was a friend.
"Of course," he said, waving away the concern and focusing on the console. He flipped switches that looked like all the other switches.
Canton tried not to show how the indifference hurt. "Can I say goodbye to Amy and Rory?"
"They'd like that," said Doctor Song. "Medical is that way, two turns, and down the corridor. I'll let Lou know you're not heading off with us."
Canton found his way eventually, four turns and five corridors later. He wanted a map for the inside of this place but he had a funny feeling the map would change. Jenny was sitting up when he let himself inside, as Rory and Strax shouted at each other that the other was wrong on God knew what. Vastra ignored them both, speaking in a quiet, relieved voice to Jenny while holding her hand.
"Lou and I are headed out," he said, loudly enough to get everyone's attention. "Just wanted to say, um." Goodbye? To people he didn't know if he'd ever see again? "Where's Amy?"
Rory said, "She's putting Anthony down for a nap." He shook hands with Canton. "Thanks for coming for us."
"Are you staying on?"
Rory looked around, first at the TARDIS, then at the three odd time travellers. "I don't think so, not forever. But I'd like to see my mum and dad again. I want them to meet Anthony and River. We can go home after."
"Good luck," Canton said.
He found Amy in the corridor on his way back, and received a giant hug. "Thank you for this."
"I just did as I was told."
She laughed. "That was your first mistake. Take care. You and him both."
"Hey, we're in Baltimore. If you find yourselves in 1972, look us up. We'll do a barbecue."
"I can't wait."
Amy walked him back to the control room, where the Doctor tried to get her on his side for the choice of their next destination. "We've been to Space Florida," she reminded him. "And you're rubbish at finding Barcelona. Why don't we go somewhere nice?"
"I have just the place," said the Doctor. "Canton, off with you."
"Yeah. Goodbye," he said.
Doctor Song waited outside with Lou, both of them staring up. Canton looked up, worried, but it was just the night sky, or at least the few stars they could see above the city lights. "Take care, Doctor Song."
"You as well."
"Just to warn you, I think Amy's on his side for where you're going next."
"I already know," she said with that maddening smile.
"Oh. Barcelona, then? Or that pleasure planet?"
"Not yet. I was just taking my bearings. I thought this was Maryland." She waved. Before the TARDIS door closed, he heard her say to the Doctor, "2013, January 1st. And you are not to wear that ridiculous top hat again"
With that, the door closed, and the TARDIS engines began to grind.
"Weird," said Lou. "I told you." He took Canton's hand and they watched the blue machine vanish.
Had they really travelled for three days? The television was still playing the same episode of Emergency! they'd been watching before they'd left on the crazy trip. They'd been gone just long enough to miss one commercial break.
Without asking, Lou got out two beers from the fridge. "Think they'll come back?"
"Nah." He really had no idea if he would ever see the Doctor and the rest again. But he set his mental calendar for January of 2013, just in case.
My three favourite words are, "I liked this."