Thank you for your patience with this fic. Can't believe it has been almost a year.
Hope you like it :3
Amy looked into the hall they finally reached. It had been such a long walk from when they first spotted it, that more than once she started doubting in her head if this is a hallucation. why would there be a perfectly smooth and rectangular hall in the middle of a desert that streches, as far as they know, over to the horizon in every direction no matter how far they trekked? And weirdly, even though she should really be too thirsty to swallow right now, she's. ... not.
'It feels like we haven't hiked at all.' River said beside her. Her scanner in hand.
'Are we in a ... time loop or something?' Amy thought out loud.
'Hopefully not.' River frowned slightly at her scanner and proceeded to hit it hard on the side.
Amy smiled a bit. While she likes to flirt with a machine to get it working (shut up, it totally works), her daughter is more with the Doctor's way of insulting and shouting at uncooperative objects.
She leaned closer to look at the screen.
She didn't really understand all the datas and figures. But she had been around long enough to know the look of a machine when it couldn't make up its mind.
"Is it because of the two timelines?" She asked River.
"I'm afraid it's far worse than that." River said. And she looked around warily.
Amy couldn't see anything. And the air feels perfectly still and - she knows what the Doctor would say if he's here - it's too still.
"I was right. This place is filled with different timelines. All pressed together in one space." River said. And she didn't sound happy to be right at all.
The weirdest thing travling with the Doctor does to you is that, when you hear a bad news you don't feel panic or nervous. You feel...blank. As if your mind knows somehow as along as you tag along things are going to turn out fine. And it couldn't be bothered to be on high alert anymore. And Amy reckons the same thing happens to the Doctor himself. That explains his usual rather suicidal behaviour a lot. But River's different. It must have come from all the years of being on her own, of having to get everything from scratch, of being the one who has to come up with something and being the rock for herself.
And since she knew, every time River joined them for an adventure, she felt heartbroken. But she never showed it to anyone, not even Rory. Because Pond girls are superheros.
“Something here must have been attracting time, like a strong magnetic field.” River said. “The density of timelines are much stronger here. Whatever the power source is, we are going the right direction.”
“Shall we go in then?” Amy said. A big powersource that could bend timelines, you’d want to remember where you put it. And from the looks of it, the hall’s the only tourist attraction within a very large expense of land.
Amy had no idea if she stepped into the hall or something stepped on the tightly compressed jar of time at that exact moment. For it happened so suddenly. Even if she did move her foot it was just a fraction of an inch.
She doesn't know where she is. For two long seconds this is the only coherent thought she has in her mind. After that came the sensation of a lack of gravity. Amy had only experienced that once, before the Doctor pulled at her ankle and she she felt safe again. it's not a feeling she will forget soon. It's a sensation of your brain feeling it should panic, because there is no one force supporting your body - but it's also hesitant about panicking because everything is fine, she's not freefalling or being hurled into space, just a bit... unstable.
But that hesitance also lasted only for no more than two seconds. What comes next is such sharp contrast she's feeling.
The buzzing and the vibrating feeling on her skin came before the noises.
A confusion of noises.
Noises coming from all directions, near and distant, everywhere.
'River!' She shouted. She couldn not hear her own voice. She was not even sure if she shouted at all.
'RIVER!' She could not even feel her vocal cord vibrating, not with all the soundwaves bouncing off her.
All the while, in front of her eyes she did not know what she was looking at.
Lines and colours, patterns moving so fast it's barely a block of colour.
She was sure her feet is on solid ground, but she was feeling dizzy anyway. And she feared she was going to fall.
And then a hand, a slightly weathered hand, but soft as if it had belonged with her before neither of them knew each other, clutched hers firmly.
River pulled at her mum and things spinned, slower, slower, and stopped.
'Where are we?' Amy asked. They were in what looked like the inside of a dusty shard. Sunlight leaked in from outside between the creeks. Stuff clustered by the wall, but it was hard to make out what they were.
'In one of the timelines, hopefully.' said River. 'I tried to home us in on the strongest field.'
Laughter came from outside the shard. It sounded like there were people laughing and running towards them. Amy and River looked at each other and silently slipped into the shadows, hoping that this is one of those occasions they could not been heard or seen.
The shard door opened and two boys almost crashed inside in a tangle of laughter, and panting from both laughing and running.
River's hand tightened around Amy's briefly, on the border line of startled or indicating something. Amy squinted and inwardly gasped, pressing herself more into the shadows.
One of the boys glanced at where they were, but his eyes swept past them and his attention was on his friend again.
'What was that, Theta?' the slight distraction didn't escape his friend's eyes, though, and the other boy asked. He had already made himself comfortable on one of the furnitures. From his familarity with the place, this must be their secret base or something.
'Thought I see something swish in the shadows.' The Do...no, the name doesn't feel right... Theta said.
Amy's heart clenched in her throat as his friend immediately jumped from his seat and dashed to their direction.
Luckily Theta grabbed his friend's wrist and pulled him back. 'Don't go near suspicious shadows.' He said, with a slight frown but a smile also, 'You never know.' He said it in a special blend of telling off and care and joking... Amy remembered what the Doctor had told him about this childhood friend of his. And she felt a mixture of emotions rushing from her heart towards the boy now pulling his friend to sit on the floor with him.
'What? You think the Vashta Naradas would come here?' The other boy laughed. Theta chuckled and didn't hit back.
It's impossible to imagine these two boys would one day burn supernovas between them to prove their points...
'You are doing that laugh again.' The boy that will grow up to be the Master scolded.
'What laugh?' Theta looked genuinely innocent.
'The laugh that says you are wrong but you are my friend so I'm not going to argue with you.'
'Is that a bad thing?'
'Kind of. Sometimes it makes me feel you are not listening to me, that you are not hearing me at all.'
'Oh that's nonsense.' Theta grabbed his friend's hands in his and looked at him with a smile full of affection that made Amy thought of the version of the boy that she knew so well-
'I always hear you. And I always listen.'
An emotion filled Amy's heart, she looked at River, who looked back and her, and in a glance they shared the feeling they were both having-a feeling that belongs uniquely to a time traveller- the sorrow of knowing what's to come, and the heart-wrench of being helpless towards someone you care about and want to protect so much.
For a moment the Pond girls thought of the Doctor-their Doctor- and wondered where he was, and wondered where Rory was, and if they were safe, if they had figured out a way out of here, when ( not if, oh that is not even an option, or a question, for traveling with the Doctor gives you faith that things will always always always work out) they are going to meet again. They always turn up in the end, their respective husbands. Or, they will always find them, somehow, however much trouble they go through.
A loud crash shook the space and for a second Amy thought she saw many trees, or maybe it was just bunches and bunches of branches. Among the sound of crashing, the girls heard, in a mixture of delight and No Wait Not Now What Are You Doing Idiots - a very excited WHEEEEEE and an incoherent yelping of complain and for help.
The Doctor's face turned dark before he even properly landed. Together, Amy and River swiftly leaned out from their hiding place and pulled Rory into the shadows (with a hand clasped onto his mouth to stop him from making any dramatic alarmed-then-delighted noise in one well-practiced motion on Amy's part). There was a desperate but relieved tangle of limbs and crashing of mouths followed by a loud shush. The shadows were still again.
Not that any of the other people in the shard were paying attention to it. The Doctor stared at his younger-self, whose hand were still holding tight to his friend's, and they stared back at him.
"Hello?" Theta asked the man in a tweed and bowtie who just apparently fell from the top of an invisible forest. The way he said the word felt as if he was poking the man with a stick.
With their eyes all on him, the Ponds saw, clear from their hiding place, the boy who would become the Master took advantage of his friend's attention being elsewhere and silently slipped his hand out of the tangle.
The Doctor must had noticed it too, for his stiffened ever so slightly, a change only those who knew him really well could tell.
And the three such people in the room could hear the Doctor's brain wheeze the way a car gear simply refuses to shift.
"Um..." The Doctor stuttered, his arms flailed to make a gesture that only Rory could understand... because he was there.
It was when the Doctor finally spoke that the Ponds realized, aside from the shock of suddenly landing in his childhood, the Doctor was trying to switch back to speaking Time Lord.
How many years had he been going around, used to being among people who wouldn't understand a word he said if he didn't make up a lie or use a metaphor of some sort?
Enough of years for the last of the Time Lords to forget what being a Time Lord is properly like.
If thoughts had arms, the Doctor would find three pairs of arms hugging him tight right now.
"Sorry, TARDIS thought it'd be funny to land a tree in the center of a forest. One hell of a fall! Must have miscalculated when we did the space jump. Aftermath of shock, it happens." The Doctor said, his arms a bit shaky and his body shifted as he spoke.
He's nervous. The Doctor's nervous. He's nervous if he would pass by as a Time Lord.
"Where's the rest of your crew?" His younger-self asked.
Everyone could see the Doctor relaxed a little. "Must be somewhere around here..." he said, looking at all directions. "Got into a bit of trouble with a time loop... we were separated."
"Oh! We saw some shuffle in the shadow over there a while ago, didn't we Theta?" The young Master said excitedly. Reminding everyone that he was still a boy, and still had a long way to go to become the Time Lord they knew. "What did I say? Told you it couldn't be Vashda Neradas." He turned to his friend and said with a smug smile not unlike the one the Doctor so often wears.
"Alright, you win!" Theta said, throwing his arms into the air, laughing.
The Doctor was quick, before the two boys could get up and rush to where Amy, Rory and River were to have an exploration, he did a big delighted squee and pulled the three of them out and into a group hug.
"Don't let me touch me." He whispered to the huddle.
"Where's the other two?" He directed the question to River after releasing them.
“I was going to ask you." River said, alarmed. Determination across her face, she headed straight to the door while saying "We need to go back to the forest and track the signal."
The two boys automatically parted ways for her to pass, with the rest of the gang following closely.
"Erm... Nice to meet you boys. Sorry about this." Rory squeezed in a goodbye before being pulled hard on the arm by Amy. She too, stole a glance back at them with so much words in her eyes, though.
"Good luck!" They could hear the boys shouting after them. Before the Doctor, now leading the way, made them turn a complicated corner and, even though they didn't pass anything that would block their view, the shard was out of sight.
The Doctor continued to walk, though, his face dark and dangerous again. So for a moment nobody said anything, and followed closely.They trekked on through what felt like a vast desert, giving Amy and River deja vus. After a long while River felt safe enough to ask, "Where are we going Doctor?"
The Doctor stopped abruptly in his tracks and turned on his heels.
"How did you get here?" He asked back, his voice quite cross, but River understood he's not cross at her, but at something else.
River retold hers and Amy's part of the story. "And how did you?"
The Doctor didn't answer so Rory stepped in.
"And then we jumped from the tree top... Doctor didn't say why though..." Rory hastily avoided his wife's and daughter's joint death stare and looked at the Doctor for help.
To everyone's surprise, the Doctor, who was all Oncoming Storm mode two seconds ago, turned pink.
"I thought if we jump, it would cause a distress, and the TARDIS could home in on that and..." He looked at River.
"And I can catch you." River finished the sentence for him.
"I could catch myself! A Timey Wimey solution. See? Clever? Ha!"
These words could have been convincing if the Doctor wasn't blushing furiously.
"Of course you would." said River smoothly. And Amy had to bite back a chuckle.
"But how did we end up here together?" Amy asked, changing the subject. Well, someone had to.
"More importantly, why here of all places?" The Doctor looked around. He still looked adorable, but he was back to serious-business mode.
"River how did you home in on this timeline?"
"This was the strongest force I could feel, so I just focused on it." River said, "It was really the only thing I could do at that moment."
"Of course it was." The Doctor said quietly to himself.
"Doctor, what's wrong?" Amy asked, but Rory pulled at her arm and shook his head slightly at her.
"I was dreaming." The Doctor said, after a long broody moment, to his three friends. And he swallowed, choosing the next word. Even to River, Amy and Rory, his pride was too much for his to admit that he had been feeling particularly lonely recently, with the family of Ponds buzzing in the TARDIS. Most of the times it gave him joy and much needed warmth, but other times it reminded him of things he once had, and would never have again.
So sometimes, not frequently but... verging on the edge of often, he would stay in the console when everyone's resting, just him and the TARDIS, and he would think about the golden days of his life. He would put his mind back to that time, really feel himself there, laughing and carefree, heart full of love and trust - with the TARDIS indulging him.
But a Time Lord's mind was powerful. And the powers of a TARDIS needed to be used very carefully.
"Sorry." The Doctor recovered from his brief spell and gave everyone a huge apolegetic grin, "I passed out while working under the TARDIS console. I was dreaming, must have dreamed too loud and caused this."
The Ponds shared a "Do you believe this cause I don't" look. But they didn't say anything. For now. When they are out of here and back in the TARDIS, that's the time for a family Emergency-is-the-Doctor-alright meeting.
"Okay that's good to know." Rory said, "Next question, how do we get back to the TARDIS?"
"Haven't you noticed?" The Doctor said.
"We are not on Gallifrey."
They noticed, but no one pointed it out. They had all heard from the Doctor about the beautiful red-orange sky of his home planet, and this desert is nothing like that. What they can see apart from sand is grey and boring.
"But that was you back in the shard." said River, stating a fact.
"Yes it was." The Doctor agreed. But after we stepped out of their we were not. We walked away from that timeline.
"But I heard you... the other you, shout good luck."
"They saw us fading away. Dismaterialised. It's not unusual on Gallifrey."
"So where are we now?" asked Amy.
"The inbetween place, the place where you can go to all the timelines. It's where we landed." The Doctor took out the sonic and indicated everyone to grab his hand.
"What our mind focuses on can pull us to a point in time and place related to us. That's how this place works, really haven't you figured it out by now?" The Doctor's eyes swept around the three people gathered around him with a Why-are-you-so-slow-I-can't-even look, and received eye-rolls and glares in return.
“Focus on the TARDIS. The old girl always listens for us. Always." He pretended he didn't see any of their responses and went on to say, pulling them here and their as his hands uncontrollably made gesture to punctuate, his eyes shining.