Rory grimaced and limped into the diner, one arm around Amy’s shoulder as she guided him to a seat. With a grateful moan, he sank onto a stool at the bar. He grabbed Amy’s arm as she planted a quick kiss on his cheek and turned to go. “Just give me a minute,” he told her, “and I’ll come with you.”
“Don’t be stupid,” she said. “You could barely make it up a couple of steps on that foot. I’m not going to drag you all over the city when you’ll be perfectly fine right here.”
“All right,” he conceded. He was secretly glad she had turned his offer down–he wouldn’t have admitted it to her, but his foot was absolutely killing him. “Just…be careful out there.”
She smiled. “No need to worry about me. That’s London out there, not the planet of man-eating goats.”
“And here I thought we were never going to mention that place again,” Rory sighed, giving her a mock-stern glare. “It’s just that around the Doctor, even normal things tend to get a bit dangerous.”
“I’ll be fine,” she assured him. “Look, I’ll just go and fetch the Doctor from where we were supposed to meet him, then we’ll come back and get you. I’ll be back before you miss me.” She kissed him on the cheek again, and ran out the door.
Rory sighed and lowered his head to the bar with a desolate clunk. “Ow,” he finally allowed himself to moan, pain shooting up his leg. Broken. That foot was definitely broken. Maybe there was some sort of bone-mending machine on the TARDIS. He highly doubted life with the Doctor would allow him the necessary six to eight weeks of restful recovery. He grimaced at the thought of trying to run for his life on crutches. Suddenly he felt a gentle tap on his shoulder.
Looking up, he saw that the man from a few seats over had moved to sit next to him. He looked as if he were about Rory’s age, maybe a few years older. He had light red hair, a friendly sort of face, and he was wearing a crisp white shirt with some sort of military marking on the shoulders. Navy, maybe? That’s what the hat in front of him on the bar would seem to suggest. At the moment, he was smiling at Rory apologetically. “Sorry to interrupt, mate. I can see you’re a bit occupied.” He gestured down at Rory’s foot, which he had no doubt seen him limping in on moments earlier.
“It’s no problem,” Rory assured him. “It’s going to hurt whether I talk to you or not.”
The man smiled. “Fair enough. My name’s Ben, by the way. Ben Jackson.”
“Rory Williams,” Rory replied, reaching out to shake Ben’s hand.
“Well, Rory, reason I came over is, I was just wondering…your friend said something about going to meet the Doctor. Would that be a doctor for your foot there, or, you know…THE Doctor?”
Rory’s eyes narrowed as he studied Ben appraisingly. “If, by ‘THE Doctor’, you mean a slightly mad man with a blue box, then yes. That’s the one.”
Ben’s eyebrows shot up into his hair. “Blimey! He’s really here? Never thought I’d see him again. Oh, Polly’s going have a fit if she misses this!”
“So you’ve met him, then?”
“Oh yes! Must be, what? Five years now since we left. We used to travel with him, Polly and I.”
“Sorry, who’s Polly?”
“She’s my wife.”
Rory sat up a little straighter. “You travelled on the TARDIS with your wife?”
“Well, not exactly,” Ben amended. “We were just mates when it started. Got married not long after we got back.”
Rory nodded. “That girl who was just in here–Amy–she’s my wife.” He looked thoughtfully down at the bar for a moment, then back up at Ben. “Do you mind if I ask you something? I know we’ve only just met, but, well, you’ve been around with the Doctor and all…”
“Fire away,” Ben told him.
“Well, Amy’s known the Doctor since she was a little girl. I only met him after Amy and I had already gotten engaged, and she went running around the galaxy with him for a bit before I joined them. It’s not that I doubt Amy or anything–it’s not that at all! It’s just, well, you know how the Doctor is. He tends to kind of sweep you off your feet. I guess what I’m asking is, one man to another, do you have any advice about traveling with the woman you love and the Doctor?”
“Hmm,” Ben mused, repositioning himself thoughtfully on his stool. “Well, I know what you mean about the Doctor. The old man certainly has a way about him, doesn’t he? Still, I never felt he was after Polly or anything. Are you thinking he’s got his eye on Amy?”
“Oh, no!” Rory said quickly. “I don’t think for a moment he would try to do a thing like that.”
“Good,” Ben said with a small smile. “If that was the case, it certainly wouldn’t be the Doctor I remember. To give you a proper answer though, I think you just have to make yourself noticed sometimes. There’s space and time and all that, and then the Doctor, and we regular blokes tend to get overshadowed a bit, you know?”
“Only too well,” Rory said.
“And I think that’s the trick,” Ben continued. “Volunteer to do a few things you might otherwise be afraid to, speak up, just make yourself heard every now and then.” He stopped and chuckled. “ ‘Course, I imagine it’s a little easier for you, mate. You’ve already got the girl. Imagine me, trying to compete with the wonders of the universe for Polly’s attention.”
Rory couldn’t help but laugh along with him. “You make a fair point. I wouldn’t fancy fighting that battle.”
“No, indeed,” Ben said, shaking his head. “The universe, the whole of history, the TARDIS and a good-looking Highlander. It’s a wonder she ever gave me a second look.”
“Sorry, what was that about a Highlander?”
“Oh, that’d be Jamie. Is he not with the Doctor any more then?”
Rory shook his head.
“Shame,” Ben said. “I think you would have liked him. He’s one of the best mates I’ve got in the world. To be honest, as far as Polly went, I was more worried about Jamie than I was the Doctor. Jamie’s intentions were nothing short of honourable, of course, but you know how girls are about those exotic, foreign types. He had the accent and the kilt and everything.”
“Sorry,” Rory said, shaking his head. “I must have misheard. Did you say he wore a kilt?”
“Yeah. Well, we found him in 1746. I never could get him to go in for jeans.”
Rory laughed. “To each their own, I guess. Well, listen, thanks for the advice.”
“Don’t mention it,” Ben said. “And let me tell you one more thing. Don’t worry either. At the end of the day, a girl from Earth doesn’t want some alien traveler; no matter what spectacular things he does or shows her. In the middle of all that, she just wants someone to bring her life back to something normal–a normal bloke, from a normal street in a normal town right here on Earth.”
Rory considered this, and found to his surprise, that he knew that already. Having someone who had lived through it all before finally made it click into place. “Thanks.” Ben nodded at him. “So,” Rory went on. “When do I get to meet this Polly of yours?”
“She’s supposed to be meeting me here any time,” Ben told him.
“Well, while we’re waiting, what say I buy you a drink?”
“Wouldn’t say no to that,” Ben said with a grin. A moment later they held up their glasses in a toast. “To, life, love and the universe.”
“To the boy from Earth getting the girl,” Rory added.
“Hear, hear!” Ben agreed.
“So, let me ask you this, then,” Rory began. “When you were on the TARDIS, what sort of accommodations did you have?”
“Fairly normal, I suppose,” Ben replied, puzzled. “Why?”
“Well, since Amy and I got married, we’ve moved into one room on the TARDIS.”
“Well, I should hope so,” Ben interrupted with a cheeky smile.
“Thing is, the Doctor seems insistent that we keep sleeping on bunk beds.”
Ben laughed so hard he spat some of his drink back into his cup. “Bunk beds?”
Rory nodded, having trouble keeping a smile from creeping onto his own face as well. “He thinks they’re cool.”
“He never runs out of surprises, does he?” Ben asked, still chuckling merrily. “Bunk beds, I ask you…In my day, he liked to play the recorder. And not very well, I might add. The nights I would lie awake in bed listening to that thing shrilling down the corridors…I take it he still doesn’t sleep much?”
“Haven’t seen him at it yet, no,” Rory said. “At least he’s quiet at night though. Although, I think there was one night where he managed to blow up the toaster with his sonic screwdriver. That made a fair bit of noise. I can’t imagine the racket he’d make with a recorder.”
“Well, whatever you do, don’t bring it up to him. If he’s forgotten about it, you’re in for a lot more peace on the TARDIS.” Rory raised a sceptical eyebrow, and Ben amended, “well, as peaceful as it’s gonna get on the TARDIS anyway.”
“Sounds more like the Doctor I know,” Rory smirked. “I take it there wasn’t much down time in your day either then?”
“Are you kidding?” Ben laughed, taking another drink. “Couldn’t even go on a proper holiday with that man without getting hypnotized by giant crabs or some rubbish like that.” This time it was Rory’s turn to choke on his drink. “You laugh, but I swear it’s true.”
Rory waved a hand apologetically. “No, sorry. I’m laughing because you just said ‘hypnotized by giant crabs’, and I found that thought far less bizarre than I should have done.”
“You get used to some weird stuff out there,” Ben conceded with a grin.
“Tell me about it,” Rory agreed. “We once ran across some fish from space that were in Italy pretending to be vampires. How weird is that? I mean, what’s the point of pretending to be vampires? It’s not like that’s gonna help you blend in!”
Ben laughed again, clapping Rory on the shoulder. “Speaking of fish, mate, we found these fish people down in Atlantis one time, right...”
Amy gave in and sat herself down on a bench on a street corner. No sign of the Doctor, but then, had she really expected him to be on time? She started to tap her foot impatiently as yet another bus drove by, thinking of Rory’s foot, and hoping that it wasn’t hurt as badly as the look on his face had suggested. Suddenly, she heard a disappointed sigh behind her. “Oh no,” moaned a woman’s voice.
Amy looked up to see a blonde girl approaching the bench. She seemed to be only a few years older than Amy. She was very pretty, and also, Amy noticed, very pregnant. Right now, she was staring at the road where the bus had just passed with a look of resignation on her face. Amy quickly moved over to make room for her on the bench, and the girl gave her a tired, but genuine smile. “Thanks very much. Just not my day,” she said with a sigh.
“I’m sure another one will be along in a minute,” Amy assured her.
“Oh, I’m not in a hurry,” the girl said with a wave of her hand. “To be honest, I don’t mind missing the bus. Glad for a chance to get off my feet for a bit. The trouble is, now I’m running late, and Ben does worry so.” She paused, then added, “My name’s Polly, by the way. Polly Jackson.”
“Nice to meet you, Amy. Which bus are you waiting for?”
“Oh, I’m actually waiting for a friend of mine. Who also seems to be running late.” Under her breath she added, “For all that he goes on about being a Time Lord, he could sure do with actually showing up on time once in a while.”
“Sorry,” Polly said, sitting up a little straighter. “But did you just say ‘Time Lord’?”
“Maybe,” Amy said carefully.
“It’s just, I used to know a man who called himself a Time Lord. His name was the Doctor.”
Amy’s eyes widened in surprise. “As in, blue box that’s bigger on the inside, mad man who saves the world and wears a ridiculous bow tie, the Doctor?”
“Well, I’m not sure about the last bit with the bow tie, but yes, that’s the Doctor!” Polly said, a smile of disbelief creeping onto her face. “Are you traveling with him now?”
“My husband and I are, yeah,” Amy told her. “I guess you’re a friend of his?”
“Oh yes, though I haven’t seen him in ages. My husband, Ben, and I used to travel with him too, but it’s been about five years now since we came back to Earth.”
“Oh,” Amy said thoughtfully. “I thought he had said we were the first married couple to live on the TARDIS.”
“Oh, well, I wouldn’t doubt you’re right. Ben and I weren’t married at the time, although he did ask me to marry him on this little moon called Poosh not long before we came home. Well, technically, I think it was thousands of years ago, but then it’s all a bit relative in the TARDIS.”
“So you got engaged in space? Sounds very romantic.”
“Oh it was,” Polly agreed. “So many stars, and this great purple nebula off in the sky. It was quite lovely. It was the Doctor’s idea, I believe. Not that Ben and I should get married, I mean,” she added with a quick laugh. “But once Ben told him he wanted to do it, apparently the Doctor became obsessed with finding the perfect location. He’s quite the old softie, isn’t he?”
“You wouldn’t think it, but he really is, isn’t he? Rory’s first trip in the TARDIS, the Doctor took us to Venice so we could have a date. Of course, that all went horribly wrong...”
“Doesn’t it always?” Polly asked with a fond smile.
“But the Doctor is always trying to find somewhere peaceful and romantic to send me and Rory off to. Of course, if he really was the great facilitator of romance that he pretends to be, then he would get rid of the bunk beds in our room on the TARDIS.”
Polly laughed. “Oh, bless that wonderful old man. Did you say he was coming here? I would love to see him again.”
“Well, he should have been here already,” Amy admitted. “Did he ever manage to keep time in your day?”
“Hardly,” Polly said with a fond smile. “In fact, it was something of a miracle that Ben and I ever made it back to our own time. To tell you the truth, I don’t think either of us were quite ready to leave, but if we hadn’t gone then, we might never have made it back.”
“Couldn’t you just ask him to drop you off home?”
“No. The TARDIS always just sort of went where it wanted. I always felt the Doctor had very little control over the matter.”
“Oh,” Amy said thoughtfully. “Well, he’s gotten much better at it now, then. Or maybe the TARDIS has loosened up a bit.” She smiled. “Either way, eight, maybe nine times out of ten he lands where he means to.”
“That must make things a little more predictable.”
“Well, as much as it they can be in the TARDIS, I suppose.” Polly tilted her head in consent, and Amy paused. “Can I ask you something?”
“I know you said you weren’t married to Ben when you were traveling with the Doctor, but, well, you must have known he fancied you, yeah?”
“Oh yes,” Polly said smiling fondly. “Took him long enough to say it, but yes, I knew.”
“Well, did you ever feel that he and the Doctor were…I don’t know, competing with each other? I get that feeling with him and Rory all the time. It’s not that they don’t like each other, it’s just…”
“I know what you mean,” Polly assured her. “And, at least in Ben’s case, I think he wanted to prove himself to me somehow. To show me that he was just as good as the Doctor. I don’t think it occurred to him that I wasn’t comparing.”
“You know, I feel like that’s it with Rory as well. You would think, seeing as I married him and all, he would stop worrying about it, but it always seems to come back round to that.”
“I don’t know that they can help it, really,” Polly said. “I mean, you’ve travelled with the Doctor, you know what he’s like. He is, for all the madness and absurdity about him, simply magnificent. And any normal person is going to feel intimidated by that. Add to that trying to impress your girl and, well…it’s no wonder our boys tend to feel a bit insecure.”
Amy nodded. “How did you handle that?”
“Well, with Ben, I found it did wonders for his feelings when I just reminded him that I needed him.”
“Rory already knows that.”
“I’m sure he does. But it never hurts to be reminded of it every now and again,” Polly told her sagely. “I’m sure that for you to have married him, Rory must be quite impressive in his own right?”
Amy smiled affectionately. “Oh he is. Best man in the world.”
“Just let him know that you know that from time to time. When you’re marveling at all the wonders of the universe, don’t forget him too. You may know in your own heart how wonderful he is, but he needs to hear it as well.” She paused, considering. “That said, the competition never really goes away, but you would be amazed at how much of a kinder tone it can take. After that, they’re just boys being boys, and there’s not much to be done for it,” she finished with a smile.
Amy nodded thoughtfully. “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” Polly said kindly. “We TARDIS girls have got to stick together, haven’t we? Always outnumbered by the boys, we are.”
“Oh, I know! It’s impossible trying to get any sort of fair treatment on movie night. And forget about keeping the bathroom clean.”
“You should have tried living with three men! Hair all over the place, dirty kilts, jeans and cloaks in a pile around the hamper…One night I found toothpaste on the ceiling. I think the TARDIS took pity on me after that and the next morning I found a little bathroom had popped up attached to my room.”
“I shudder to think what that bathroom looked like after you gave up on it,” Amy said.
“I’ve always rather imagined the TARDIS would have had to burn it when they were done with it,” Polly answered thoughtfully. “Of course, it is nice having the boys around. I can’t imagine having done all that without Ben. So many wonderful things we saw together…And the times he pulled me out of trouble! Cybermen, Macra…Once there was this lizard space pirate sort of thing, and Ben knocked it out with a spanner to keep me from getting thrown out an airlock!”
“The Doctor’s saved my life several times, but Rory’s done it just as many,” Amy agreed. “I forget sometimes your average Earth girl doesn’t get her life saved by her husband on a regular basis. There was once he saved me from a Cyberman by killing it with a sword. And one time, he nearly got himself killed fighting off a vampire with a candlestick. A candlestick! It was…well, it was a bit stupid really, but it was one of the bravest, sweetest things I’d ever seen. Not exactly a story anyone’s going to believe when you’re chatting with the girls, though.”
“It is a different sort of life we lead in the TARDIS, isn’t it?” Polly asked. “You get used to the queerest things. These slime creatures had caught us once, back in France in 1098, and after they’d thrown us into some castle dungeon, I was trying to pick the lock and broke the hairpin I was using. At the time, I was immensely pleased with myself for managing to pick the lock, but terribly annoyed that the hairpin had broken, because it was one of my good ones. It wasn’t until later that I realized that for a normal Earth girl, breaking a hairpin would be well on the bottom of the list of concerns in that situation.”
“Life with the Doctor does rather change your perspective,” Amy agreed. “The first time I ever did laundry on the TARDIS–it was after weeks, mind you, I’d run out of clothes–all I could manage to think was how after being soaked in star-whale vomit, my favourite nightie would never get back to its proper colour. Never mind that I’d been down the gut of a star-whale in the first place, no, I was upset about my pyjamas.”
“You know, anyone walking by right now would think we sound absolutely mad,” Polly giggled. “May I add, though, that after an incident with a very large Venusian frog with a weak stomach, I found that peanut butter will go a long way towards removing alien stains.”
“Peanut butter? Really?” Amy mused. “Sort of like with gum in your hair, I guess.”
“Pretty much,” Polly agreed. “Although the peanut butter is a bit tricky to get out afterwards.”
Amy chuckled. “Oh, the things that are a problem travelling in space and time.”
Just then, another bus pulled up to the stop. “Oh dear,” said Polly. “That’s mine. I really hate to go, but I don’t like to worry Ben any more. He’s always been a bit overly protective–a by-product I suppose of our TARDIS days. Even I still find myself a bit jumpy when things seem out of the ordinary. To tell you the truth, I find it very sweet, him being so concerned, but now that the baby is on the way–he’s our first, you see–the smallest thing will get him all worked up.”
“I’ll just come along with you, shall I?” Amy asked. “The Doctor’s taking his time in coming, and this bus is headed back towards Tamsin’s Diner, which is where I need to go. I left Rory there with what will probably turn out to be a broken foot.”
Polly’s smile widened as she moved towards the bus. “Tamsin’s Diner? Fancy that. That’s where I’m meeting Ben...”
Ben was just finishing a story about a planet he’d once visited with psychic trees, and Rory was laughing when he heard a familiar voice behind him. “We should have known, Polly.” Turning, he saw Amy standing next to a very pregnant blonde girl. Both were smiling.
“Polly!” Ben said, standing and throwing his arms around her. “Where’ve you been? I was getting worried.”
Polly gave Amy a look as if to say ‘I told you so’, but to Ben she said, “Have you really? I can’t be more than twenty minutes late.”
“And he’s been checking his watch for each and every one of those twenty,” Rory said from the bar as Amy walked over and put a hand on his shoulder.
Polly smiled and kissed Ben on the cheek. “I only missed the bus is all,” she assured him. “Not as quick on my feet as I used to be. But look who I’ve met! I was going to say you’ll never believe it, but I get the feeling you will.”
There was a quick round of introductions as Amy met Ben and Polly met Rory, then they all shifted from the bar into a booth. “How’s the foot?” Amy asked Rory as she helped him hobble to his new seat.
“Definitely broken, but Ben here’s been good enough to keep my mind off it.”
“We’ll get it all set right in the TARDIS,” Amy assured him, sliding into the booth next to him.
Rory kissed her cheek as she settled in next to him and wondered, “Speaking of the TARDIS, weren’t you supposed to be bringing the Doctor back with you?”
“Yes, well, the Lord of Time is running late, so we thought we may as well come back here.”
“Can’t say that surprises me,” Ben said with a grin. Putting his arm around Polly, he turned to her and asked, “How was the last day of work, Duchess?”
“Perfectly dreadful,” Polly said calmly, taking a sip of the water the waitress had just brought her. “But, the important thing is it was the last day. If I ever go back to work, promise me you’ll never let me go in as a secretary again.”
“I promise, love,” he said sincerely, fixing her with a warm smile. The waitress returned just then with the menus, and after they had ordered, they settled in to wait for their food and the Doctor. As they waited, there seemed really only one natural way for their conversation to go.
“…And the old man just walks back into the TARDIS, but then Duchess here gives me this cheeky little smile and says ‘Well, we’ve got the key.’…”
“…I was lying on the floor freezing to death, thinking to myself that we were all going to die looking like we were in a Peruvian folk band…”
“…The Cybermen were coming closer this whole time, and he asks me to go and make coffee…”
“…So there I am, made of plastic and still dressed like a Roman…”
“…At this point the only thing standing in the way of the Daleks is the Doctor with a Jammy Dodger…”
“…This giant Macra is bearing down on us, and poor Ben is managing simultaneously to save me from it and deny that it’s even there…”
“…And this 16th Century Venetian bloke is standing there, wearing my shirt and rowing along in a gondola…”
“…Now I’m locked up in this tiny little Scottish dungeon, and the Doctor’s upstairs larking about dressed like an old woman…”
“Amelia Pond!” a voice interrupted from the doorway.
“Ooh, full name! You’re in trouble,” Rory said with a grin, poking Amy in the shoulder.
The Doctor strode over to the table, crossing his arms and looking down in disapproval. “This does not look like the corner of Fifth and Kensington to me.”
Amy looked up, meeting his displeasure with perfect calm. “It’s not. But then, I seem to remember five o’ clock coming and going without you showing up.” He opened his mouth to respond, then closed it again, apparently at a loss for words. “Don’t look so grumpy,” she continued. “I sent you a text. Besides, we saved you some food.” He continued attempting to look upset, and she grabbed a basket from the end of the table. “I got you some fish fingers,” she chimed, and he sat down quickly, every trace of discontent gone.
“Will wonders never cease?” Polly asked with some amazement. “It really is him.”
“Changed again, I see,” Ben said, shaking his head with a smile. “You went well younger this time, didn’t you?”
The Doctor looked up from the bowl of custard he had just snatched from Rory, noticing Ben and Polly for the first time. He stared at them for a long moment, then leapt to his feet in astonishment as the flash of recognition hit, spreading his hands wide in delight. “Ben Jackson! And Polly Wright! Is that really you?”
After being released from the colossal hug he enveloped the two of them in, Polly smiled and said, “Yes, Doctor, it’s us. Although it’s Polly Jackson.”
“No, no, I distinctly remember, your name was Polly Wright,” he declared, sitting down again. “Don’t think I don’t remember the people I travel with.”
“Well, it was Polly Wright,” Polly said, her smile growing larger. “But not any more.” She held up the hand with her wedding ring on it.
The Doctor stared at her hand, then up at her, over at Ben, and back at her hand again. “That’s right! The lost moon of Poosh!” he announced, somewhat cryptically, although Ben and Polly both smiled and nodded. Suddenly he was out of his chair, smothering them in a hug again. “But that’s wonderful! When did you get married?”
“Five years ago last month,” Ben said proudly.
The Doctor raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Really? Took your time about it didn’t you?”
“No,” Ben answered, confused. “It was hardly a month after we got back.”
“A month? But that can’t be right.” The Doctor cocked his head thoughtfully as he sat back down. “Wait, what year is this?”
“Is it?” the Doctor asked in surprise. Ben and Polly both nodded. “Hmm. Well, that’s one alien invasion stopped well in advance, then.”
“He thought it was nineteen eighty-three,” Rory smirked.
The Doctor turned back to Rory and Amy with a start. “Oh yes! I see you’ve met the Ponds!”
“It’s the Williams, Doctor,” Rory said resignedly, but was completely ignored.
“Yep. Polly was catching a bus where I was waiting for you, and Ben was waiting for her here, where I left Rory,” Amy said.
“Oh, that is just brilliant. Just look at how that all worked out!” the Doctor said, grinning from ear to ear. “So, what were we all talking about?”
“Well,” started Rory. “Ben was in the middle of quite an interesting story that involved you dressing up like an old lady…”
“I’m sorry dears,” said the waitress with very tired eyes. “But I really need you to go now. It’s well past time for me to close up.”
With rushed apologies and much laughter, the group made their way out onto the street. Polly shivered, and Ben hastily took off his coat and slipped it around her shoulders. She squeezed his hand in gratitude, turning her eyes up to look at the sky. “Oh!” she murmured. “It’s beautiful!” The others turned to follow her gaze with small gasps of wonder. Stars were stretched out across the sky, so many twinkling so brightly that they could see each other clearly in the light.
For a long moment no one said anything, then the Doctor brought his gaze back down from the heavens and rested it on Ben and Polly. “You could see them all again, if you like,” he said tentatively. All eyes were suddenly back on the Doctor.
Ben and Polly looked at each other for a moment, then back at the Doctor. “Are you asking us to come with you?” Ben asked.
“Well, you know, if you want to,” he confirmed. “I’m sure the Ponds don’t mind. I know I’d certainly like it.”
“It’s not as if we’d be crowded,” Rory said. His eyes conferred with Amy’s, shifting his weight as he leaned on her shoulder, then he turned back with a smile. “We’d love to have you along.” Amy nodded.
“You do make a tempting offer, Doctor,” Polly said. “And I think if you’d come along earlier, we might have taken you up on it.”
“I won’t pretend I don’t miss it sometimes,” Ben added. “But we’re settled now. And, given the circumstances, some stability might be best for the time being.”
Amy and Rory nodded in understanding, but the Doctor’s brow wrinkled in confusion. “What circumstances?”
Polly and Ben looked at each other and smiled, Polly placing a careful hand over her stomach. Amy rolled her eyes as the Doctor continued to stare uncomprehendingly. “They’re having a baby, genius!”
The Doctor stared at Polly for a moment, then his eyes widened. “You’re pregnant!”
Rory lowered his face to his palm in embarrassment, and Amy shook her head. “How is it you can see the tiniest speck of hallucinogenic space pollen on the TARDIS console, and yet, you miss that?”
Polly, however, laughed merrily and leaned forward to kiss the Doctor on the cheek. “Yes, I am.”
Ben was still chuckling in amusement as he slipped his arm back around Polly. “See why we’ve got to stay then, have you?” He smiled. “We’re hoping for somewhere a bit less dangerous for little Jamie to grow up.”
The Doctor beamed, and hugged the both of them tightly. “Quite right to,” he said, a light twinkling deep in his eyes. “Go on, then. Something tells me you three will be absolutely magnificent.”
The two of them hugged the Doctor back, breaking free to make their goodbyes to Rory and Amy.
“Thanks for the words of wisdom,” Rory told Ben, standing a little awkwardly on one foot as Amy moved off to speak to Polly. “And good luck with the baby. Anyone who can manage what you have is going to be a great dad.”
“Thanks, mate,” Ben said warmly. “And don’t you worry. Take it from someone who’s been there–you’re doing just fine.”
A short distance away, Polly was pulling out of a hug with Amy. “Have fun out there! And if you ever need to talk, well, the TARDIS seems much more accurate now, and you know where to find me.”
“Thanks,” Amy said. “And thanks for the advice. I feel much better equipped to tackle the…unique marital issues that come from life in the TARDIS.”
Polly smiled, then turned back to the Doctor, reaching out for Ben’s hand as she did so. “Goodbye, Doctor. It’s been wonderful seeing you again.”
“Yeah,” Ben agreed. “Come back and see us sometime, if you’re ever in the neighbourhood.”
“Goodbye, my dear,” the Doctor said, hugging her as Polly kissed him on the cheek in farewell. He took Ben’s hand and shook it heartily. “Goodbye, Ben. You two look after each other.”
“We will,” Ben said. “Take care of yourself as well, hey?”
“You know, for all you’ve changed on the outside, you haven’t changed at all,” Polly said, taking his hand fondly. “And I hope you never do.” With that, she let go of his hand, turning to walk away, arm in arm, with Ben.
The Doctor sighed fondly, then spun on his heel and turned back to Amy and Rory. “Come along, Ponds! Back to the TARDIS! By the way, Rory, what in the world has happened to your foot?”
“He tripped over a cat and broke it,” Amy said.
“It was not a cat!” Rory declared indignantly. “It was one of those scanner robot things that you sent us out to try to catch! It came flying out of nowhere as I was at the top of the stairs.”
“Looked like a cat to me.”
“I am not so clumsy that I cannot avoid a cat,” Rory huffed.
“I know you’re not,” Amy assured him. She kissed his cheek and ruffled his hair good-naturedly, trying her very best not to laugh at the affronted look on his face. “I was just kidding. Seriously, Doctor, this, admittedly cat-shaped, robot de-cloaked right in front of him and he fell down about three flights of stairs.”
“Exactly,” said Rory, placated.
“Well, I think I’ve got something in the infirmary that should knit those bones right back together. Just the thing for someone who tripped over a cat,” the Doctor finished, a mischievous sparkle in his eye.
Amy grinned, turning and managing to hide it in the darkness, and slipped her arm under Rory’s as he limped along behind the Doctor, his protests ringing in the night.
A short while later, in a flat several streets over, Ben was wakened from an almost-sleep by a familiar noise. A harsh grating sound and a rushing wind echoed through the night air, and he smiled to himself as Polly snuggled closer against his shoulder as she slept. Kissing her forehead, he gently stroked her hair as he drifted back to sleep. The Doctor was among the stars and keeping the world safe, and Polly was in his arms. All was right with the world.