A sound like manufactured thunder and lightning ripped the air outside the nursing home. Three people appeared and two of them, a ginger woman and a man with light brown hair, doubled over with their hands on their stomachs.
“I’m going to be sick,” Amy complained, her one hand dropping from her daughter’s vortex manipulator.
Rory didn’t feel any better. He looked up at his daughter, still bent over. “Why doesn’t it bother you? Never mind. I already know the answer. When are we?”
“1970 at the Life Care Center nursing home. I'm sorry I had to bring you this way. I went to steal the Tardis. She loved the idea and wanted to come along, but the Doctor figured it out and wouldn’t take the bait to leave. I would have brought him, but he's still not admitting to you that he's alive.” Her brow furrowed with worry. "I really can't believe that some future me told you he was.”
"Hey," Amy called as River started walking away. "We told you that it's okay that you did."
“We needed you to do it,” Rory said. He kept her eyes on his until some of the doubt finally faded and she nodded. She led her mother and father through the nursing home to the right room.
Amy said, “You still haven’t told us why we’re here.”
“I want you to see someone.”
River opened the door. A man sat in a chair by the window; his hair receded from his forehead and his beard was cut close. Doctor Renfrew, former director of Graystark Hall, the Children's Home where Melody Pond had been kept. One of the Children's Homes.
Amy grabbed River’s arm. “What are you doing? The Silence made him crazy by playing with his head. You need to leave him alone, River.”
“Trust me, Mother. Please.”
Their roles reversed from a minute ago when River was the one who questioned if something she had done was right. Amy stared into her eyes for a moment and finally dropped her hand. A sweet breeze drifted through the window bringing the scent of the warm sun and the flowers outside. Renfrew ’s colouring looked so much better than when they had last saw him.
The nurse in Rory swept his eyes around. “The Silence wouldn’t bring him here. Does he have a family?”
“No. Not anymore," River answered. "The children used to be his family.”
“Then who set this up?”
“I did. I went back to rescue him before the Silence could kill him. They think he escaped too. The care here seems to be helping.” River crossed the floor and knelt by the man’s chair. “Doctor Renfrew?”
He opened his eyes from his dozing. The breeze with its Spring renewal wafted through the little hair on the top of his head.
“Do you remember me, Doctor? I visited you the other day. ”
Rory took in the man’s noticeable breath. For the first time, her parents wondered how their young daughter escaped without the same damage to her mind. But, of course, the Silence would keep Melody Pond's mind functioning even with their tampering.
Renfrew squinted at River like eyeglasses would bring back his memory. “Yes,” he said in a sketchy way. “You came to visit me before. I can’t -- think of when. I’m sorry, I don't remember time well.”
She took his hand in hers, one survivor to another. “It’s all right. I can. Doctor, I brought Melody Pond’s parents like I said I would.”
Rory wondered if Renfrew, his mind so destroyed by the Silents -- the memories constantly wiped into forgetting until Renfrew screamed in paint on the walls -- could he actually remember Melody Pond?
Renfrew took one look at Amy and a sudden clear moment brightened his face. “You were in the picture with Melody as a baby.”
Amy’s fingers eagerly dove into the bag River had brought. She took the protective wrapping off the photo’s frame. She held it out, eyes bright and intense. “This one.” River had brought it back from Graystark as a Mother’s Day gift, the first one from Amy’s point of view. She both loved the picture and gave River a hard time at risking herself by returning to the Children's Home to get it.
“That’s it. She loved that picture. She would hold it and even talk to it.”
Rory’s head snapped to his daughter for her reaction. She didn’t cringe or blush from embarrassment. She looked at her mother with love.
“She drew pictures too. Pictures of you. And a Roman soldier for some reason.”
River held her hand up towards her father and he took it.
“She loved Hershey Kisses, did you know that? Bit the points off and put the flat side on the roof of her mouth. Bright girl. So very bright. You should know that. And just -- wonderful. Wonderful little girl.”
He suddenly focused on Amy again and touched the photo still in her hand. “If she didn’t listen, they took away that picture.”
The clarity fell away again and he drifted in the murkiness of Graystark. “Showed her movies of the red head and some man when she behaved. I don’t know the man.” He glanced at Rory and turned full face. “Oh, hello. Didn’t see you there.” Like Rory had just arrived. “Just talking about you. And your home movies. My uncle had a home movie camera. Not as nice as yours. Yours looked like I was there.”
River brought him the glass of water he reached for and put it into his outstretched hand. He took large gulps and she refilled it. He patted her hand and leaned closer like he shared a secret. “It made Melody behave. So she could see those movies.”
“I’m sure she did,” River answered.
A sob whispered from Amy. Rory held her even closer. River -- River listened whether she remembered the particular moment he talked about or not. It was her life. She also never broke the gentle hand clasp with him. She held on like one comrade in arms to another. He held on as if she anchored his sanity.
“She had dolls,” he said, lucid again. “But she liked the stuffed animals more. She kept those on her bed. Just like her favorite toys weren’t put away, but around the room. She built herself a mobile with stars and such. Very clever.” He turned sharply to Rory. "Her first word was Dada. You’ll want to know that. Someone noted it in her records. They recorded everything about her. I saw it.”
Rory swallowed and kissed River’s hand. Amy squeezed his other one and gave a loving, small punch to his shoulder.
“What else?” she asked in a rush.
“She crawled early. Walked early. Wouldn’t stay in one spot. They’d put her down, turn around for a second thinking she’d be sitting there, and find her climbing a bookcase.”
They laughed through their tears. So did River. Rory suddenly turned to Amy. “We should be recording this.”
Amy's hand went for her phone, but their daughter calmly swept a hand around the room. She obviously was filming this from every angle.
“They had records for everything. I caught her in them. She said she was going to find you. I didn’t tell anyone, how could I? You can’t yell at a girl for that. But they caught her. Poor thing. It didn’t stop her though. Kept looking and looking, even with them catching her.” His face scrunched like a child in a nightmare. “I should have taken care of her. But they did. I'd see her and read the records, but I should have taken care of her. Not let them.”
River soothed his brow with gentle fingers. “Thank you, Melody,” he said vaguely.
He suddenly snapped back. “Did she find you?” he asked Amy and Rory.
Amy reached across Rory to where River held his hand. “Yeah, she did.”
“Good. Good.” He licked his lips and faded out. “She certainly liked to draw that Roman soldier. He always had a red cape like he was Superman. And her mother. Loved it. And that photo and the movies. Her mobile. And her bear. She loved that bear.”
He rambled on to his hungry audience. Little anecdotes, unknowing terrors hinted at behind the scenes. The chocolates again and how she ate them methodically, savoring the treat. Favorite books, least favorites of the staff. And then no more stuff except him and the monsters--
“No more of that,” River said firmly and he left it behind like it was nothing.
He talked himself dry and seemed to doze off again. Even so, River whispered to her parents, “I’m going back and getting those records.”
“No, you’re not,” Amy replied firmly.”You’d have to go when the Silence is still there.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“You. Are. Not. Going.” Rory said.
But River was their daughter; she didn’t back down anymore than they did. A really good battle shaped up until someone cut through it.
“Melody!” Renfrew demanded. “You listen to them. They’re your parents. You made that promise to yourself if you ever found them. Remember?”
She looked between her mother and father. “Fine,” she said at last, but they wondered if she’d keep to it.
Renfrew tilted his head. “Your accent changed.” Because Melody in her first body had been American.
“I moved to England. I changed the accent with it.”
“Hmmm.” He drifted away again.
River stood up, ready to let him rest. “May I come back and visit?”
“That’s nice of you,” he replied as he would to any kind stranger. They began to leave. “I saved the drawings,” he said dreamily.
That made them stop and turn back. “Where?” River got out first, but still keeping her voice calm.
“In my things. The ones packed away. Drawings of Romans and red haired ladies.”
“May we have them?” Amy asked. “Please, it would mean so much.”
“Hmm? Oh yes, of course.”
They hurried to get one of the staff to witness his permission, and then he sat back exhausted and his mind drifted away again after that.
He said as they left, “Goodbye, Melody.”
“Goodbye. I’ll see you soon.” She closed the door behind them.
Rory held the drawings in his hand while River looked over his shoulder, smiling at the pictures of her superhero father that she had managed to remember in her dreams. She downloaded the recordings she had made of this meeting to her computer.
Amy kissed the top of her head. “You’re a good girl.”
Melody Pond, known as Mels Zucker now, got a letter. Some unknown government official looking guy slipped it into her hand in the middle of the massed chaos in her school's main hallway. She wondered, for a moment, if this had to do with her parole over the stolen bus, but the envelope had no markings at all. She shrugged and opened it.
“It’s you,” it said immediately. “The next incarnation. I’ll prove it. We had a scar at the base of our left thumb in our first body. It came from cutting our hand on a scrap of metal in an alley in North Carolina, after we escaped Graystark. We're the only ones who ever saw it, since it was after we escaped but before we regenerated. You've calculated your room in Leadworth's Children's Home into centimeters in your head --182.88 x 243.84 -- and then into K'Goixan tuikans just for the hell of it, because we have to do something while everyone else needs to sleep: 22874.4 x 30499.9. ”
“I know the two most important things to you, so listen. You’re free in this regeneration: our life is ours. Not the clerics', not their mission's: ours. Amy and Rory know who you are. They know they’re our parents. They love us, we’re a family. Memorize these words because I'm sorry, but you can't keep this note. You know I wish we could.”
“Now here's why I'm writing to myself. You need to make a copy of your records. Get everything, including the videos they have buried somewhere. Don't look at anything you find. It’s for Mother and Dad. We'll see everything once we can sit down with them. I won’t tell you to be careful, because we don't work that way, but once you have the records, leave them at these coordinates.”
Melody read that second paragraph over and over, until she not only knew the words, but the image of them was there when she closed her eyes. She then carefully destroyed the letter and plotted on circumventing the Clerics at her current Children's Home. She’d do it for her parents. No one in Leadworth would believe it, but she was a good girl.