It was all dreadfully familiar.
The fear. The running. The confusion and trust in his companion’s eyes. The cold metal of the fob watch clutched between his fingers.
“I won’t really know who I am. Not the real me. I’ll know whatever the TARDIS invents for us.”
He hesitates at that.
“I should know you. I may not.”
Amy nods, silently.
“We have to be fast. I’m sorry.”
Amy nods again, clear green eyes locked on his dark brown ones. There is more he knows he should say, but he can’t. If he thinks too long about it, about what happened the last time, he’ll never be able to do it again.
The Chameleon Arch descends from above.
The TARDIS always chooses academia.
This time 1952, Harvard University. Perhaps she was bored with England.
He is a physics professor, and Amelia is his secretary. She can no longer wear short skirts, but they can still be tight.
He lectures about theoretical mathematics and atomic energy and the theory of relativity. Sometimes he feels like there is more he knows, beyond Einstein’s theories and the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Something beneath his surface knowledge, some very simple answer to the problems Einstein couldn’t solve, about time and space. But they elude him, as if trapped beneath a dense fog.
“I swear, Amelia, if I could just…” His voice trails off, and the tip of the chalk between his fingers crumbles as he writes one last constant on the blackboard.
She looks up at him, her green eyes sad somehow. He thinks this is odd, but he has never understood women, least of all his secretary. At least he feels like he has never understood her.
“There is something here,” he mumbles, tossing the chalk to land in the wooden tray and wiping his hands against his wool trousers, leaving streaks of white against the brown houndstooth. “If only I could just see it.”
“You’ll get it one day, Dr. Smith,” Amy says, quietly. He thinks maybe she is upset, but about what he can’t imagine. She’s been overly emotional lately, quailing at the slightest noise and paranoid about strangers. But it the communist threat is everywhere, and everyone is afraid. She’s foolish, but she isn’t alone and he can’t blame her.
“Come now,” he says to her, not unkindly. “You’re always so somber. Let’s celebrate my mediocrity with some tea and biscuits, yes? Or better yet, custard!”
She chokes out a laugh and nods. “Custard it is,” she says.
One night, late, something happens.
They have been in Cambridge one month, working very hard on the theory that he is almost sure might win him a place behind Einstein. A theory that could prove the real possibility of time travel, at least theoretically. He is so excited about it he can’t sleep, and so his secretary doesn’t either. They work late every night, heads bent together over books and papers and the bloody chalkboard that never seems to be large enough for his scribbling.
This night, he paces in front of the board, completely lost in thought. Long fingers, caked with chalk dust, pull through his teak brown hair, leaving pale white streaks and standing it on end.
Amelia is sitting at the desk, tapping her foot impatiently. She was fresh and pulled together hours ago, but now her gauzy blouse and brown pencil skirt are wrinkled and she snuck away to pull off her awful nylons and heels long ago. Now her bare toes rest on the cool ground under the desk, and tendrils of her brilliant red hair have broken free from the prim bun she’s been obliged to twist at the back of her neck every morning for weeks. They fall away from her face, curling softly against her pale skin.
There is a heavy silver chain looped around her neck and an impossible weight right above her heart.
She watches him pace back and forth, and it is as if she could scream out loud. But for what feels like the hundredth time, she quells the urge.
Instead she jumps up and walks around the desk, stopping him in his tracks, halfway between one side of the board and the other. She doesn’t even know what she is doing, but she has to do something, anything, to stop the infernal pacing and worrying.
She grabs both of his hands, forgetting for a moment, one amazing second, who she is for now and who he is for now.
“Stop,” she says, almost desperately. His chocolate eyes meet hers, half obscured behind the fringe of hair that sweeps over his high forehead.
They stare at each other for a moment, and she can’t help but will him silently to understand her. Please, she thinks, please stop. Stop pacing, stop thinking about time travel, stop pretending to be a physicist, a professor, a human being.
It is clear he can’t understand her, and the moment passes.
“I’m sorry,” she says, letting his hands drop.
“No, no,” he says, closing his eyes for a few moments. “It’s okay. You’re right. We should sleep.”
She nods, and turns to leave the room. She doesn’t see him watch her longingly as she goes.
Two days later, he cracks it.
“Amelia!” he says, so jubilantly she can do nothing but smile excitedly back. “I’ve done it! I’ve really done it! Time travel! Can you imagine? All of time, even space, open to humanity!”
She nods, but there is a stone in the pit of her stomach, and she can’t breathe.
Still, she hugs him when he reaches for her and she is too weak not to revel in it — how solid and warm he is in her arms, how her heart aches when he pulls away.
“We’re going to be famous,” he says to her. His face is pure joy.
When he turns away, it is all she can do not to collapse. She knows this can’t happen, but she also doesn’t know how she can possibly be the one to shatter his dream.
She makes every effort to make it look like a theft.
A broken window. The office destroyed. Paperwork strewn everywhere… her own scribbled handwriting, the notes she had meticulously taken for endless hours, ground beneath the heel of her boot. She even smashed the bloody chalkboard with a rock, the shards of slate littering the floor.
“My work,” he sobs. “All of it Amelia, everything I’ve worked for.”
She holds him close, swallowing the bile that rises in her throat.
“I know,” she says. “Shhh, I know.”
Later, she flings the fob watch against the wall in a fit of anger and then immediately regrets it, racing to where it has fallen on the floor to ensure there hasn’t been any damage. The damn thing looks as good as new.
He is determined to start from the beginning. If there was one bitter success it was this — she had left him nothing to go on. All the proofs, the computations, the pages and pages of work it had taken a month to compile, were all gone.
They go back to working long hours after she has cleaned up their office, has swept up the million shards of slate and gathered together the endless sheets of paper. They aquire a new chalkboard, this one a dark green instead of the familiar black. But he has lost it. He knows it, and she knows it. But there is no joy in it for her.
“Maybe,” he says, his tired eyes meeting hers across the desk, “maybe who ever stole it will publish it.”
She swallows and looks away.
“I… I just want to know that it works,” he continued, and the pain in his voice is too much. It is all she can do not to run from the room screaming. “I just want to see it again, to be sure I was right and that someone will follow through. It is too amazing not to share.”
She won’t let her eyes meet his.
“There are very few things I’ve succeeded at, Amelia,” he says. “No family, few friends. All I have is my head, my work, and now the best of that is gone. I suppose I’m a failure.”
This time, she can’t hide her tears from him.
“Don’t say that,” she says fiercely.
“Amelia! Don’t cry for me, dear,” he says, reaching forward to cup her face in his warm hand. “Don’t cry for me. I’m just a madman with a theory.”
She laughs once, harshly and quickly through her tears.
“My madman,” she says, leaning in to his hand. “My brilliant, amazing madman. Madman with a theory…”
Their eyes meet, and she can’t stop herself. “I’m so sorry, Doctor,” she chokes, “I’m so very, very sorry.”
“No, no, no,” he mumbles, pressing his forehead and then his lips against her hairline. “You are the madwoman, Miss Pond, apologizing like that. There is nothing to be sorry for. My brilliant, mad, impossible Amelia Pond.”
She pulls away from him, just slightly, so her questioning green eyes can meet his warm brown ones. They are so close, he can smell her perfume and see the freckles that dot her delicate cheeks. She reaches forward, dragging her fingers through his thick hair.
“You’ve gotten more chalk in your hair,” she says, leaving her hand tangled against his scalp.
“Yes,” he breathes, leaning forward and closing the small distance between them. Before she can stop him, he is brushing his lips against hers. Her breath catches in her throat, and she freezes.
He pulls away quickly and they both gape at each other.
“Now, I am the one who is sorry,” he says, flustered, looking away from her.
She waits only a second before grabbing his face and pulling him towards her with all of her might. Their mouths crash against one another, and this time they both respond. All at once, all of her grief and joy and frustration pour out of her in to the kiss, and he accepts all of it without understanding anything. All he knows is that having Amelia Pond in his arms feels terribly right.
“My beautiful, impossible Amelia Pond,” he mumbles against her skin before claiming her mouth with his own yet again.
It is raining outside the window.
Inside, there is a fire and a soft bed. Amelia’s long legs tangle in the sheets, her creamy skin too inviting for him to ignore.
“Oh, Amelia,” he sighs, “how did this dotty professor end up with an amazing specimen like you in his bed?”
She laughs softly and sits up, not bothering to ensure that the modest sheet follows her. It falls away from her body, and he can’t help but groan out loud.
“God help me, woman,” he moans, devouring her one inch of skin at a time. She just laughs again and smoothes his hair under her hands and uses long fingers to pick apart the bow tie at his neck.
Later, he snores softly against her chest, and his hair tickles her chin.
She doesn’t want to sleep. She remembers him moving above her, strong arms braced on either side of her head, the warm, impossible feeling of him moving inside her. How her name sounded, escaping from his lips as they both came together, so desperate and so loving at the same time… She blushes at the memory, something she never thought she’d do.
She still wears the chain around her neck, the precious fob watch dangling heavily at the end of it, resting right against her heart.
It has been three months since she plucked it from the Chameleon Arch, surprised that it was hot, and it almost burned her hands. She didn’t have time to think about it then, only time to stuff it in her pocket and run to where the Doctor had collapsed on the floor, a thin film of sweat across his brow.
Now he smiled at her across a desk piled high with books and math and papers.
“What is it, Amelia, my darling?” he asks standing and walking around to her side of the desk, leaning against it so calmly, the concern in his eyes genuine.
“Nothing,” she says, smiling. “Nothing at all. I was only thinking that it has been three months since we arrived here. It seems like a lifetime.”
“Ah, yes,” he says, cupping her face in his hands. She never thought she’d find the smell of chalk so alluring. “The happiest months of my life.”
“Even with the loss of your work?” she asks cautiously.
“Yes,” he says, without hesitation and pulls her up out of her chair to stand between his long legs. “You make me so happy Amelia, I can’t ever remember being sad.”
She laughs at the mad absurdity of it all. But he couldn’t possibly understand, not like this.
“I’m serious!” he claims, pulling her closer and burying his nose into the side of her neck. “I don’t even care about time travel anymore. Why would I want to travel away from you?”
She can’t help but grin with pure happiness later, while she scrubs the long white chalk marks out of the backside of her wool skirt.
Soft moonlight plays across the bed. It glances dully off the fob watch, which sways gently between Amy’s breasts as she moves above him.
“What is this,” he says lazily, grasping the watch in the palm of his hand.
“Just a trinket,” she says, slightly out of breath.
“It is very interesting,” he says, moving to snap open the clasp. She stops suddenly and snatches it out of his hands.
“Hey!” he exclaims, laughing at her.
She whips the watch off from around her neck and throws it to the floor where it lands with a soft thud. Before he can say anything at all she grinds her hips against him and he moans in pleasure, everything else forgotten except her warm body wrapped around his. Grasping her waist, he starts rocking her against him once again, stoking the warmth that is growing deep inside her. She laughs for just a moment before he captures one breast in his mouth and she runs out of breath entirely.
He told her to wait four months.
The alien threat would be long gone by then, he said. It would be safe to snap open the watch and restore him.
Her long fingers toy with the chain around her neck, then trail toward the watch that hangs from the end.
It is warm, and she’s not sure if it is from her body heat, or the life that burns inside it.
It has been eight months. She feels more selfish than she has ever felt in her life. But she is so selfish that she doesn’t care.
She is running ahead of him, through the green grass in Boston Common, shoes dangling from the end of her long fingertips. She casts him a quick glance over her shoulder, her long copper hair trailing down her back. She is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.
They sit on the grass eating sandwiches and drinking lemonade Amelia made that morning. When he lays back she curls against him, the weight of her head warm against his chest.
From nowhere he has a sharp feeling that takes him completely unaware. He was feeling so content, so purely happy, and then he felt nothing but panic. As if something wasn’t right, as if the happiness he swore he held firmly in the palm of his hand suddenly slipped from his grasp and he lost it entirely.
It was nonsense.
“Marry me,” he hears himself say.
“You have tried very hard to distract me,” he says, coming up behind her and twining his long arms
around her waist. He presses a warm kiss against her temple. “But science has prevailed my dear, despite your best efforts.”
She spins around in his arms, staring at him disbelievingly. “You figured it out again?” she asks.
“Indeed, I have, mad scientist that I am. Your doctor is a madman, but he is also determined and brilliant.”
He pulls her against him, squeezing her tightly. “Not that I haven’t enjoyed your distractions,” he murmurs against her ear. There is nothing she can do but laugh coyly, although inside she is seized with panic.
He plants a trail of warm kisses down the side of her neck, and like always she shivers though she knows she shouldn’t. He pulls her close again.
“Amelia, I’ll do it yet! Time travel. I’ll take you to see the stars, show you whatever you please. I’ll give you the whole of time and space, I promise you.”
She buries her face in his shoulder and chokes back a desperate sob. She tries to remember the days when that was all she ever wanted.
The fob watch sits in the middle of the table exactly between them. The light from the only lit lamp in the room glints off the metal. It might as well be a bomb, the way they both avoid it warily.
“You have lost your mind, Amelia,” he says to her, his eyes cold and dark.
She had ceased trying to stop crying a while ago. Half dried tear tracks run down her cheeks.
“I know it sounds impossible,” she says, trying to steady her voice. “I wish… God, I wish more than
anything it was impossible. But it isn’t, I swear to you it isn’t.”
He slams his fist down on the table and she starts but doesn’t move away from him. There are several moments of terrible silence.
“You expect me to believe that an entire lifetime — multiple lifetimes, almost a century — are bottled up in that small watch? That I am some creature from another planet? A… what? Time Lord?”
“Yes,” she says quietly.
“And that I’m the last of my kind, that I travel through time and space, saving the universe. And that to escape some other alien threat I put my life into this bit of metal and disguised myself as a physics professor?”
This time she can only nod.
“And now, because I’ve figured out how to travel through time, you have to restore me?”
“I can’t…” she pauses for a moment, collecting herself. “I can’t let you share your work. You expressly told me not to let you change the course of history.”
“Well, now I’m telling you to let me!” he says, desperately.
She shakes her head, “It can’t work like that. It isn’t how it is supposed to go. I already waited too long.”
She laughs dryly with absolutely no humor. “You’re going to be very angry with me when you come back.”
It is as if he doesn’t hear her. “Then… then I won’t publish it! I’ll put it away and never touch it again. I swear. I’ll do something more mundane, just be a boring physics professor with a beautiful wife and tenure. I could do that!”
It is as if she can feel her heart tear in two. “It isn’t you.”
“Well, then who am I?” he shouts, slamming his fist against the table again. His eyes flash in anger, but Amy is surprised to find herself calm.
“You are the Doctor,” she says simply. “And I can’t wish you to be anything but.”
“You are a madwoman, Amelia Pond,” he growls quietly, and stands to pace in front of the fireplace.
“I know,” she says.
He is quiet for a while, the only sound the crackling of the fire and his soft footsteps tapping a rhythm as he paces across the floor.
“So I am just supposed to go back to this insane life, being in danger all the time,” he pauses. “Being alone?”
She doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t have anything to say.
He leans forward, gripping the edge of the mantelpiece, almost as if he could physically hold on to this life if he just didn’t let go. “Answer me, Amelia. What happens to us?”
The question hangs in the air between them. From far away, she watches her own hand pick up the watch, her thumb grazing the clasp. It is as if she is another person entirely, watching Amelia Pond from above.
“I’m sorry,” she says softly. “I’m so sorry.”
At this, he spins around. “Wait!”
She looks at him, and then almost has to look away.
“Amelia, please,” he begs. “We were going to be married. We were going to be happy.”
She nods, and a fresh stream of tears pour down her face. “I know.”
“We still could!” he exclaims, dropping to his knees in front of her. “Don’t. Don’t do it. I don’t want it.”
She reaches out and places her hand along the side of his face.
“Amelia, I love you,” he begs.
“I love you, too, Doctor.”
She closes her eyes and flips the latch.