There is nothing wrong with an ordinary life. There is nothing wrong with being practical.
Normal changes definition year by year. He has been a nurse, a soldier, a traveller and a husband. These are his moments: marching through the mud in full Roman armour, putting on a fresh pot of coffee in the hospital lounge, making love to his wife as they sail through time and space in an impossible ship —
He has more history than any other human alive, but he maintains the guise of average. He knows that he must stay grounded, because no one else will.
Earth supports her. Air helps her burn. Red hair in a tumble she has always been caught between two worlds. It started with cracks that weren't cracks, a policeman who wasn't a policeman, and a shy boy at school who was willing to listen when everyone else thought she was mad.
Amelia-Amy-Pond-Williams. She is aware that she is a mess of contradictions and that her life doesn't make any sense. She can be wildfire or a warm glow in the hearth. She is unpredictable. Her loved ones are ragged assembly, but she would die to keep them safe.
Far away, on a fairy tale mountain, a pond births a stream. Cradled by the earth, the stream flows gently for the most fragile of moments before being snatched from its parents by gravity. The stream spills off a cliff. It mists into air and rainbows and myths. When it finds form again at the base of the waterfall, the stream has changed.
River does not regret the events which created her. She regrets the toll those events have taken on those she loves, but stories must go on, regardless of their beginnings.
Where she goes next is a spoiler.
He sails through time and space in a whirl of blue. His friends are scattered across the universe:
shop girls and soldiers, scientists and supermodels -
He loves them all.
It can be lonely floating above the world and watching their lives go by. To be extraordinary means making sacrifices, and sometimes he longs for the life he left behind so long ago. Other days, he runs headlong into danger, holding the hand of his latest companion, and knowing without doubt that he made the right choice.
They will fade, but for now —
It is good to have a family again.
Amy stood over the sink scrubbing out the roast pan and wondering why she'd volunteered to do the washing up. Rory would've done it — had stood up to do it — but he'd been talking with River and holding Anthony. Amy had rolled her eyes at him and forced him to sit down.
The holiday had gone off... fine. Amy and Rory had never bothered with the American tradition, but with Anthony's arrival it had seemed like the right time to give thanks. River had shown up on her vortex manipulator and there had been more than enough laughter and slightly-too-crisp turkey to go around.
Of course, the Doctor hadn't come. River had said he wouldn't; her manipulator could steer around the paradox but the TARDIS would smack it head on and explode.
"He could take a bus," Amy said.
"He's got enough paradox in his time stream that his presence alone might be enough to set off a chain reaction, even without the TARDIS," River responded. She sounded wistful.
"Have you seen him?" Amy asked.
"Yes," River replied, "but not for a very long time."
There had been a long pause in the conversation after that, broken only when Anthony threw his mashed potatoes on the floor and started giggling about it. Talk had moved on to different subjects: River's travels, Amy's writing, Rory's time in the forces, Anthony's first words -
The Doctor faded away, but every so often someone would glance at the empty place setting.
Everyone finished eating. Everything was cleared away. Amy stood over the sink washing up and getting frustrated at the burnt bits.
Her life was good. She had some regrets about what had happened, but, given the opportunity, she knew she would make the same decision. That didn't stop her stomach from twisting.
River was good at disguising her emotions, but Amy was her mother. When she'd said that it had been a long time since she'd seen the Doctor, River's eyes had darkened. And after, River had been too keen on avoiding the subject. They all had.
This was a day of thanksgiving, and Amy was thankful, but River didn't need to voice the facts for Amy to read between the lines and hear the unspoken words.
The Doctor hadn't visited New York.
River hadn't seen him for a long time.
Amy and Rory hadn't found a new reference to him in ages.
It seemed impossible, and without proof Amy was going to continue dismissing it as impossible, but it still niggled at the edges of her conscience and wouldn't leave. The reason he hadn't visited, or sent a note, or anything was because he was —
The doorbell rang.
"I'll get it!" Rory yelled, and Amy heard Anthony making a bubbly ga-ga-ga sound as he was handed over to his older sister.
Amy dropped the roasting pan back into the sink with a splash and dried her hands on her skirt. It needed to soak longer anyway.
"Who is it?" she shouted towards the door, shivering at the draft that came down the hall as it opened.
"Not sure yet!" Rory called back. Amy overheard him saying, "I think you've got the wrong address."
"I'm looking for Ponds," said a man in a menacing Scottish accent.
"Amy? River?" Rory shouted. Amy heard her husband's voice drop to ice. "If you're looking for the Doctor, he isn't here, and I am prepared to defend my family. If you want to bring a fight to our door, then I suggest you turn around and walk away. It will go better for you."
"Do people often bring fights to your door?" the man asked.
"It's been known to happen," said Rory.
Amy and River had arrived by then. Amy could see the Scottish man. He was tall and gaunt with salt-and-pepper hair. His mouth seemed etched into a frown and his eyes shifted mercurially from Rory, to Amy, to River, to Anthony who was still cradled in River's arms. There was a dark haired young woman standing beside him. She was short and had a sarcastic expression on. She also had an outfit that had anchronistic written all over it. Amy liked the skirt.
"How would you defend yourself?" the man asked. His voice was monotone with an edge of threat.
In one swift movement, River passed Anthony to Amy, pulled a gun out, and trained it on the man's head. Rory reached for a non-existent sword before pulling out a gun of his own.
"You go armed around the house?" the man said. His eyebrows quirked upwards.
"As my husband said," said Amy, "things have been known to happen."
The man looked angry at that. Amy held Anthony tighter against her chest. Rory and River's fingers tightened.
The young woman beside the man blew air out of her mouth and rolled her eyes.
"Doctor, can you stop playing games or do you want to get shot? Because I don't want to get shot. Bullet wounds have a way of ruining my day. I'm strange like that."
The two guns were slowly lowered. The assembled Ponds stared.
"Clara," the Scottish man said petulantly, "you've ruined the surprise."
"And a good thing too," Clara muttered.
"Doctor?" Amy asked.
"The genuine article," he confirmed.
River looked like she was going to say something. She said it more succinctly with a slap followed by a very long, very intense kiss.
"Anyone else find this awkward," Clara asked, "Just me then, okay. Aren't you supposed to be her parents?"
"You changed," Amy said when the kiss finally finished.
"And I got your voice," said the Doctor, slightly red and out of breath. He looked at Rory, "and your nose, you Ponds imprinted on me." He turned back to River. "Could we do some more imprinting?"
Clara cleared her throat. There were introductions then, followed by hugs, and then —
"There's still leftovers," said Rory.
"There's going to be leftovers for weeks," Amy said at the exact same time. "And we set a place for you. The turkey is dry, but everything else turned out fine."
"The gravy is excellent," River said, sounding seductive.
The Doctor looked hesitant, but Clara pulled on his arm.
"Well come on then, you said that you broke half a dozen rules of time to be here, so you might as well go in. But if we're going to be eating I'd appreciate it if the next snog happened out in the hall or something. Honestly."
"I might as well..." the Doctor said, sounding a bit lost, then he grinned, "I've got new taste buds, Ponds, time to give them a run in."
He liked the dry turkey and nothing else. The Ponds took the opportunity to give him all of the leftovers. They tried not to seem too eager about it. Clara grimaced.
"Will we see you again?" Amy asked, before he left. They were outside, in front of the TARDIS. Everyone had said goodbye, but then Amy had run after him because —
Because there was too much still left unsaid, and she didn't know how to say any of it.
"I don't know," the Doctor told her. "You're happy here?"
"And the trouble you've been having...?"
"Is nothing we can't handle."
"I'll do my best to take care of it."
He started to step into the TARDIS.
"Thank you, Doctor," Amy blurted.
"What for, Amelia?"
"For coming, for this -" she gestured vaguely at the house. "It's all because of you."
He put his hands on her shoulders and leaned his forehead against hers, that familiar gesture with a new face. The knot in her stomach returned. This was the Doctor, but for him to be here meant that her Doctor was —
"Did it hurt?" Amy asked, broaching the subject that they'd all so carefully avoided.
"Yes," he said, honestly.
Amy bit her lip. "Were you alone?"
"No." He smiled at Amy, kissed her chastely on the cheek and squeezed her shoulder. She shivered. There was snow on the ground and she'd run out without a coat. He didn't seem to feel the temperature at all, but then, he never had. "I took your advice. It was good advice."
"Of course it was, you stupid face with your stupid new face."
He smiled at that. Then he took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders.
"Today is about being thankful, correct?"
"That's what we've been told. I think, mostly, it's about turkey."
"And it was delicious."
Amy punched him lightly. "No, it wasn't."
The little lines beside his eyes crinkled. "No, it wasn't."
Amy burst out laughing. He'd looked so sharp and frightening when he'd first turned up in the doorway, but it was all a front. The Doctor still lied. He lied with his posture, his sharp tongue, and his new face, but under it he was still her Doctor to the bone; clutzy, dorky, ridiculous. He'd spoke in gurgles to Anthony. He'd flirted with River. He'd bantered with his new companion, Clara, and made sure that she never seemed like the awkward one out at another family's holiday dinner. He was relaxed. Happy.
It was like he'd been turned inside out. The sad, scary old man he used to keep hidden now sat on top guarding his true self: the happy-go-lucky mad man with a box. The happy mad man.
Amy didn't know what had changed. If it was Clara or something else the Doctor hadn't mentioned, but all of the tight sorrow that used to catch awkwardly at the edge of his jokes had vanished. He was at peace. It was good.
"You're crying, Amelia."
"I'm leaving now."
"I know. It's fine. We keep saying goodbye, Doctor, but it never sticks."
"So why say it at all?"
This universe is full of darkness.
Some corners have bred the most terrible things. The brave among us stand up against those things.
The brave come in many shapes: immortal time travellers, impossible girls, wanted criminals, seemingly ordinary families eating turkey —
The Doctor holds tight to the TARDIS console. He clings to his companions and doesn't let go. His family is scattered like stars across the darkness and they will always be there for him, never fading in his memory.
They stop him from becoming part of the darkness. They are his reason for living.
They are why he fights.