The Doctor dropped off Clara on the outskirts of Chiswick and made sure the Tardis was invisible. There was a silence as he walked her to her front door, over a bridge and finally through a far off dirt path with lovely green patches. They passed a few homes every few kilometers as with each step they inched closer to the more populated areas of the town.
He could have easily parked the Tardis directly at her front door, but he felt like the walk and Clara knew he needed it.
Clara finally broke the silence. "So, now what?"
"Travel a bit." He looked at her and then straight ahead. "Some time alone. Just a bit."
"You did a good thing," she assured him. "Amy and Rory got to have their daughter back. You saved everyone. The Ponds, The Williams… The Universe."
"Comes with the territory, I suppose." But he didn't seem too proud of himself.
"I know it must hurt." She waited briefly for an answer from him, but continued on. "Losing River, Daphne - your chance at finding Gallifrey. "
"Yes, well…" He nodded his head. "It had to be done; I'm sure there will be more chances. It's out there - I'll find it. If it takes all of my lifetimes." He put his hands in his pockets. He looked at Clara. "Still interested in finding out your future? I could take you, if you really want?" It sounded like a sincere question, but it felt more like a test.
"No." She gave an off center smile. "I've decided I'm happy with my future... in the future where it belongs."
"Good-girl." They continued to walk for a stay of time..
"So you think Kovarian was working with all the other ships, if not The Silence?"
"Noooo. Her presence was merely a red herring. No one was working together; they all just had the same goal. Stopping me from finding Gallifrey – and I suppose, in a way, they have."
Then an idea came to Clara. "Now… wait? How did you know… or rather, how are you still even here?" She looked him up and down. "I mean, from what I know about the library River stopped you from saving all those people. The first time. She died in your place. How did time re-write itself? Who replaced River for you? Who died in your place?"
The Doctor's eyes had a light in them again and he gazed at Clara. "You did."
"Me?" She was shocked and it caused her to stop walking.
The Doctor stopped walking as well and faced her. "I may not always remember when and where you crossed my time stream, but I know from every history archive, from every search I rendered, where you were and when. And you were at that library. And like so many times before, you sacrificed yourself for me. You saved all those people." He put his hands on her shoulders. "And me." He paused. "Again."
"You couldn't have known that would happen, for sure?"
"I didn't." He walked for a bit leaving Clara with the knowledge that he was fully aware that rebooting River's time stream and saving the Universe could have cost him his life. He then changed his tone to deep sincerity. "I need to appreciate you more than I have, Clara. I'm sorry for that." He looked at her. "I don't know what came over me."
"No worries. You were under a lot of stress." She gave him an off-center semi-understanding smile.
The Doctor took a key out of his pocket and handed it to Clara. "It's time you had this."
Clara looked at him sideways. "Eh, we've tried this before... She won't let me in without you. She doesn't fancy me."
"I think after what you did – for River and her family. For me. She won't be freezing you out ever again."
Clara grinned huge and took the key with pleasure. They started to walk again and Clara tried to hold in her excitement and appreciation for it wasn't the time, still the Doctor could see it all over her face. They walked without speaking again as Clara ran her fingers over the key with affection.
Suddenly, Clara got a look on face like she was trying to remember something. "Why is it I can remember some of my lives and bits of others and some none at all? Yet you seem to remember everything just fine and perfect?"
"Too much information. Your human brain – no offense -"'
"-Can't hold that much information in it – if would literally explode."
"Eugh." Clara got a disgusted look on her face at that prospect, but it then changed to confusion. "But how can I remember any of it, then? Or how Rory said he could remember Amy killing red lipstick lady in an alternate universe in an..."
"Curse of the time traveler. It's both the same principle - two folds - you're aware of the process and so the brain remembers. Mixed in with being exposed to the Time Vortex. Instant memory cocktail. The more you time travel, the more you're exposed to the Time Vortex, whether you're in different souls in my timeline, or like Amy traveling ten years with me in the Tardis, the more one can remember. The good, the bad. The somewhat terrible. For others? The unaware. Those not exposed to the time vortex, well… ever have a dream, so real, so vivid, so real, so tangible you can touch it?" He gestured with his fingers.
"Yeah..." She looked at him now getting it. "Alternate time line?" She loved what she was hearing, but mostly she knew that getting The Doctor to talk about the science of it, letting him act all brilliant, was the best way to cheer him up.
"A half-eaten plate of food on the table, a suitcase you can't remember packing. My brain on the other hand remembers them all. Every change in my time stream. Years and years of my people being exposed to the vortex. Over time. Over generations. I can always remember. Always will. While yours may fade, mine will… linger." The Doctor started to get emotional, but he held it in as much as he could. This caused him to pause on the trail for a moment. "Always." The Doctor started to walk again, leaving Clara with a devastated look on her face, as he strolled ahead of her.
Clara caught up with the Doctor and took hold of his arm, turning him look at her. She was about to burst with tears for him at any moment. The Doctor appreciated her concern, but he would not let her see all that was happening inside of him.
"I know you loved her. " She paused and took hold of his hand. "River."
"I did." He lowered his head and then straightened up. "I always will." He said it like a good soldier talking about a lost comrade.
"And River knew it too. Even if it all happened in an alternate universe far, far away. '
"Sounds like most of my relationships," he tried to joke, but it didn't come out as funny.
He let go of Clara's hand and started to walk again, Clara followed. "And who knows…." He tried to be upbeat. "What other adventures will just float on by…" He gestured forward with his hand.
Just then The Doctor was knocked over by a bicycle. Clara watched him go down like a lead balloon.
The Doctor was mixed in a heap with the person on the bike and what seemed like a wicker basket.
"I'm so sorry," she said and lifted her head to look at the person she had sideswiped to the ground.
"River?!" The Doctor exclaimed, as the woman who faced him was the spitting image of his former alternate universe wife - it was her, her third face in fact, but how?
"Are you alright?" she said, in an English accent with tinges of American in it, as she lifted her bike up from off the stranger. "I lost control over a rock there for a moment, my hair got in my face." She laughed. "Happens more than you would think."
"River?" he spouted again.
Clara was in so much shock she couldn't speak.
Melody Pond Williams dusted herself off, set her bike upright and then noticed a rip in her flowered dress. "Blimey! And I just bought this." She tossed her ginger hair off her eyes and looked at The Doctor "Did you just call me… River? Goodness… my father use to call me that. Did you know my father?" She looked at him oddly, "No, I suppose you're too young for that. Sorry about the knock about." She put her hand out to The Doctor to help him up. Still in shock the Doctor took Melody's arm and she helped lift him to his feet. "Melody Williams, " she introduced herself." You're new around here? Do you know my family, perhaps?"
Clara and The Doctor both looked at River with eyes as big as saucers. Melody was more than perplexed by them in the silence.
Finally, Clara spoke up. "Your…. your accent…"
"Oh, yes…" She nodded her head from side to side. "I grew up in America, spent my first twenty years there, actually. My accent can be a bit hazy. Sometimes. Lived here for the last thirty years. Just moved to Cheswick two months ago." She looked at The Doctor strangely. "So, you don't know my family? You do seem familiar, are you sure we haven't met before?" She put her hand on her hip and smiled inquisitively.
"Eh, no… perhaps... in another life," The Doctor retorted with bug eyes.
"Yes, well…" She caught his eyes and The Doctor could tell she felt something, lost in his eyes for a moment, but she quickly shrugged it off. "I best be off. My daughter is waiting for me at home."
"Your daughter?" The Doctor's mouth looked like a cod fish gasping for air.
"Yes..." She looked at Clara. "Oh, yes, I do know you. I mean I've seen you before, but we haven't had the pleasure of meeting. You teach at Coal Hill Road. I teach history over at the Lark School For Girls one town over. We just moved into a new house up on Bath. I interviewed at your school last month." She looked at the Doctor who she now noticed was staring at her even more oddly than before. " Yes... well… okay, then. I best be off…you didn't hit your head did you?" She looked at Clara. "If he hit his head, do tell me." She smiled. And then Melody got back on her blue bike and off she went.
The Doctor and Clara watched Melody ride off with astonished faces.
Then it dawned on Clara. "Daughter ?" She questioned with delight.
"You don't think?" The Doctor smiled at Clara who grinned back.
"Daphne?!" Clara's eyes were wide and bright.
"No, it couldn't be?" The Doctor was agog.
The Doctor and Clara watched from behind a tree as Melody walked up to her house and set her bike against the side of the two story family home. They then saw Brian Williams appear around a corner with a smiling face and a rake in his hand. He hugged Melody and they shared a laugh. Then finally, out the front door, a young girl, the spitting image of Daphne sprinted out and wrapped her arms around Melody's waist followed by the three of them going into the house.
"I mean it makes sense," The Doctor remarked. "Earth genetics are really an amazing thing; Time Lord genetics even more so. Some things skip a generation, some stay."
"Time rewriting itself," Clara commented. "She looks happy; they all look happy," Clara made sure to say in The Doctor's direction. "River said most paradoxes work themselves out. Its knowing which ones, that's the trouble."
"Yes…" he whispered with a smile and a tinge of melancholy. "And now is the time I leave the Ponds alone for good. Best that way."
"Okay..." Clara said with a bit of a question, but she trusted The Doctor and knew he was going through a lot – none of his decisions in the last twenty-four hours were made lightly.
"More misadventures, Miss Oswald?" he asked with gravitas in his voice and a twinkle in his eye.
Clara nodded her head and she and The Doctor walked away together, two mates being there for each other in time of need. And Clara tried to find the best way to tell The Doctor she now lived In London.
When they were almost out of sight, Melody opened her door and lounged in the doorway, looking off at the two people in the distance. She took a bite of an apple in her hand and shifted her head a bit - the skin of her leg jetting out through the rip in her dress.
"So, that's him? That's eleven?" she said with a bit of sass and curiosity. "Not really what I imagined. He's cute; seems too young for me."
"Well, not technically," said a male Scottish voice.
"Still, I thought you'd pick a less boyish face." She smiled and the Twelfth Doctor appeared next to her, as his former self and Clara disappeared into the distance.
"I was going through a wee bit of a phase." He looked at her with a spirited look in his eye. "I thought you remembered most things now?"
"Sometimes… but I can't always remember your faces." She straighten his collar and sent her hand over where eleven had previously had a bow tie and then pulled down 12's lapel. "You have had so many of them." She rested her hand on his chest.
The 12th Doctor took Melody's hand and whisked her around in a circle, as if they were doing a jig, making Melody scream and plead for him to stop. "You see, that man. Me. You just met, thinks he's on his way to his own death. That the next game will be… game over, sorry, thank you for playing." He dipped her. "He has no idea that the stroke of twelve is coming." He pulled her back up to a standing position.
"Every new ending is another new beginning." Melody looked off in the distance, but there was no sight of Clara and 11 anymore. "No idea, eh? He thinks… I mean you think…"
"Not the foggiest."
"That's so sad." She took a moment and then was back in the present with the twelfth Doctor. She faced him. "You won't be gone long this time, will you, Sweetie?" Melody handed him a packed lunch in a brown paper sack and then took another bite of the apple in her other hand.
"Is that my apple? Did you eat my apple again?" He was not pleased.
"Oh, sorry…" River gulped down the bite full, dabbed her fingers at the corners of her mouth, and then put the apple in the brown paper sack Twelve was holding, all with the look of a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
"Well, I don't want it now, do I?" he said with a great deal of anger. He looked inside the bag. ""Oh, not peanut butter and jelly again. "
"It's good for you and you'll eat it. If you had your say you'd eat nothing but bacon and pancakes." She kissed him on the cheek. "The girls and I will miss you as usual..
"Don't stay up…" The Doctor smirked. He then snapped his fingers and the Tardis appeared by the same tree Eleven and Clara had been previously hiding behind.
"Susan!" Melody bellowed. "Come say goodbye to your father."
And then Susan appeared, looking the same as she had in the last picture the Doctor had shown River in the now alternate 1969 – only much younger - with a mass of curly red hair like her mother.
"The bulb needs changing," Melody scolded, looking off at the top of the Tardis.
"I've been busy," he said, as if she had told him that many times before.
"Safe, trip," Susan said lovingly and kissed her father's cheek.
The Twelve Doctor shined with fatherly pride. He then raised his large eyebrows at Melody, grabbed her, kissed her hard and then ran off with a devilish look in his eye. "Time and space waits for no one…" He jumped into the Tardis now open door. "Except, well... for me!" The Doctor grumbled and put his hand in his face, quite cross with himself and out of River's ear shot. "Oh, bugger-me-dead, that's a proper terrible catch phrase if I ever heard one." And the doors closed.
"Hummm… that man, " she bemused and nodded her head with a look of love. She hugged the archway of the door and watched as the Tardis sounded and disappear.
"I wish I looked at a man the way you look at, Da," Susan remarked.
"Hummmm..." Melody sighed, "Something has to be done about that noise, he's doing it wrong." She stopped for a second and got a confused look on her face. "Where did that come from?" She looked at Susan. "Go find that daughter of yours, she has piano at a quarter past."
"Or…" Susan got a look on her face that could only match her mother's when she wanted something from others. "You could go and get her and I could stay here."
"Or… maybe, when your father gets home, I go back in time and tell my past self not to let you move into my house for free room and board."
"You would never kick out your granddaughter."
Melody leaned in. "I didn't say anything about her, did I?"
"Oi!" Susan yelled out and made around the house into the backyard.
"Daphne, get your arse together!"
"Oh, that girl is trouble." Melody sighed "She must get it from me," she smirked
And then Melody disappeared back into her new house past an old black and white picture of herself with Amy and Rory at her high school graduation, in what looked like the 1980s.
"And some days… everybody wins. Some days, nobody dies at all…. Now and then, every once in a very long while, every day in a million days, when the wind stands fair and the Doctor comes to call, everybody lives..." ~ River Song
THE END (or is it?)
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