Melody ran as fast as she could. She didn’t know why, she just knew she had to, and that was enough. Right through the church, out into the graveyard, over the fence and into the forest beyond. There were eyes on her, she could feel it. It all felt strangely familiar, but she couldn’t place her finger on it.
Forked lightning zipped past her, singeing the tips of her hair and the tree in front of her. She skidded to a halt and looked around desperately. She couldn’t see anything, but she could still feel their presence. Her eyes landed on a clearing that led to a road. A clearing, but also an escape route. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her, foolishly allowing hope to fill her until she was teeming with it. The thought of freedom was breathtaking.
Melody rounded the corner, and came face to face with a garish creature with a bulbous head dressed in a simple black suit. Memories flooded back to her, and screamed in fear. She turned to flee again, but found that path blocked by a Silent as well.
The creature hissed at her in a guttural voice. “Melody Pond has been acquired.”
“You remember our first chat, don’t you? I remember it very well. More specifically, I remember meeting your little runts for the first time. Oh, the fear in their eyes, Miss Smith, it was radiant.”
Zoe, Beth and Dan cowered under the scrutinising stares of the creatures. Their beady, hollow eyes bore into them, instilling fear. Zoe, who usually always had a comeback up her sleeve, was speechless. The ship was cold and metallic. Tapestries hung off the wall and liquid tubes were visible in corners of the room.
They had been kept hostage for a long time now, or at least it felt like a long time. None of them were sure exactly how much time had elapsed. It could have been minutes, it could have been hours. What they did know was that the time was passing by excruciatingly slowly.
Then, the doors slid open, and a woman walked in with two scientists by her side. The woman was dressed in a simple black suit, and her hair was wrapped meticulously in a tight bun. Her eyes flicked over the three children with disinterest.
“What’s this?” the woman groused, her eyes glimmering with malicious intent. “Oh, this is just perfect. I’ve been needing expendable test subjects for a while now.”
“W-Who are you?” Zoe stammered.
“Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for questions later,” the woman stated dismissively, turning to her two scientists. After a wordless exchange, the scientists nodded and approached the teenagers with syringes. The trio attempted to resist, shoving and pushing and clawing their way to freedom, but the combined strength of the creatures and the scientists was enough to hold them in place as the procedure began.
The woman, Kovarian, smirked menacingly as she watched the event play out. A small chuckle escaped her lips. Everything was falling into place.
“You experimented on them?” Sarah Jane cried out in horror. “Used them as test subjects? They’re children!”
“You spoil them,” Kovarian stated, her lips curling distastefully. “They are going to grow up into naive adults one day, Miss Smith. They’ll be doing anything they can to scrape money into a little cluster to get them by the month. Why deny us our testing? They’re not in pain, and they don’t remember it.”
“And you just let them go?” Sarah Jane asked dubiously, her stomach twisting into knots. The tale and Kovarian’s blasé attitude was quite unsettling, and it unnerved her greatly. “Straight after? Just like that?”
“Oh, I can assure you they would never have escaped alive if I had known of their association with you,” Kovarian responded calmly. “Your little litter were lucky that day, Miss Smith. I found it pointless to butcher the only test subjects that had responded positively to my tests.”
“And what exactly were your...tests?” Sarah Jane asked, a distasteful expression etched onto her face.
Kovarian smiled, an omniscient expression lighting her features. “I suppose I can tell you. It doesn’t matter either way, they’re too far gone.”
Sarah Jane’s head shot up, her eyes widening in horror. “What does that mean?”
“Oh, you know exactly what it means, Sarah Jane Smith. My experiment is currently being conducted as we speak. Your friends are revolutionising our research, but...oh there’s a silly little catch. You see, our preliminary reports outlined a five percent survival rate.”
“I do.” Kovarian confirmed with a delighted smile. “Your little friends are most likely dead.”
The first thing he heard when he woke up was a strange wheezing sound.
Words hovered in the air like wisps of smoke. Most of it eluded him. They were almost uncatchable, but he was able to capture little snippets of dialogue. He didn’t know what to make of it without the proper context. It sounded like a conversation. The world filtered in and out before his very eyes. It was surreal.
He was tired. So tired.
There was a strange feeling buried in the side of his temple, like he’d eaten too much ice cream and got brain freeze, but it was quickly fading.
Maybe if he just slept, it would be okay.
“Yeah, his pulse is fine, everything’s…”
“what...two girls? Are they okay?”
Zoe and Beth.
Dan’s eyes snapped open and he jumped to his feet as quickly as possible. Bad move. A wave of nausea and dizziness surged over him, causing the boy to stumble. A man leaped forward and helped to steady him. A short few minutes passed by, and Dan was fully adjusted and stable enough to stand on his own two feet.
“Thanks,” he slurred, still a little groggy. The man, who had sea blue eyes and a funny looking nose, nodded curtly and moved back a little to stand next to a pretty looking woman with vibrant ginger hair and chocolate brown eyes. He surveyed the surrounding area, and bit his lip. They were in a sterilised metallic room. The air was artificially cool- air conditioning, he supposed, and multiple bodies lay on the floor. “What..?”
“It’s okay, they’re still alive,” the woman explained, her Scottish accent doing wonders in calming him down. Upon closer inspection, he realised she was right. The gentle rising and falling of the unconscious people’s chests was almost imperceptible, but it was present.
“What happened to them?”
“Knockout gas,” the woman replied, pointing at the empty canister beside her feet.
“Right.” Dan nodded, unsure as how to process this new morsel of information.
The woman looked at him with a concerned expression. “You’re okay though, yeah?”
“Yeah,” Dan nodded, though his mind was wandering. “Sorry, do I know you from somewhere? You look really familiar.”
“Yeah, I don’t think now is the time for introductions,” the man piped up at last. Dan shifted to see that he was on the ground, staring at Zoe and Beth. The pair were both wired up to a pulsing, metal grey machine, which Dan quickly realised had tangled wires ripped out and sparks flying off it, with helmets attached to their heads that obscured their eyes. Zoe was motionless, but Beth-
Beth was fidgeting wildly. The man reached over instinctively, to try and calm her, but an electric spark forced his hand back. The woman cursed under her breath at the scene, running a hand through her hair. Dan rubbed his arm anxiously, trying to ease the pain that had formed because of the syringe implant.
Suddenly, there was a scream.
Beth woke up with a hair in her eyes and a sore back. Pushing her long hair, which was becoming a hindrance every passing day, from her face, she pulled herself off the rough gravel beneath her and realised she was in an empty street. There wasn’t another person in sight, other than the ones driving past in cars, but they were few and far between. The windows and doors were all shut, concealing whatever flurry of activity that was occurring inside hidden from the outside world. Dark, ominous storm clouds crackled overhead and the first few drops of rain pattered to the ground as a warning to those foolish enough to remain outside.
“Hello?” Beth called out gingerly. No response.
“Oh, bleedin’ hell, I’m going to be late!” a new voice cried out loudly, making Beth jump. A frail, skinny man ran straight through her, hurriedly making his way towards the road with a small bundle in his arms. “Don’t worry, Beth, we’ll be home soon enough!”
It couldn’t be.
It was her mind playing tricks on her. It always did that. This was all a dream, a hallucination, something. It wasn’t real. He wasn’t actually her dad. He wasn’t carrying her. He wasn’t actually oblivious to the car that was speeding down the road to God knows where. She squeezed her eyes shut.
It was all a lie. It was all a lie. A lie. She just hadn’t taken her medication, that was all. This was a lie. It was a lie. It was a-
The sound of a crash.
The cry of an infant.
Beth eyes flew open, and she screamed, a horrible, gut-wrenching, bloodcurdling cry that shattered the illusion that shrouded her from the world. She shut her eyes again, and continued screaming.
The first thing Zoe registered was the smell of grass. The next thing she registered was the feeling of grass blades tickling her nose and face. When she opened her eyes, she found herself with a face full of grass.
She spluttered and pulled herself off the ground quickly, taking the time to examine her surroundings while she brushed herself off. She was in a large expansive meadow, or a garden, she wasn’t sure. The grass swayed in an unfelt gentle breeze, which was quite disconcerting when all things were considered. Even after knocking about with Sarah Jane for months, there was always something new and alien to surprise them and keep them on their toes.
Before Zoe could explore further, two children ran past- no, through- her, giggling in delight. A little boy and girl, both with brown hair, ran towards a climbing wall which stood proudly next to a small building. It was at that moment Zoe realised she wasn’t in a meadow at all. She was in the small London park near her cousin Amethyst’s house.
The two children ran past the swing set and the slide, hobbling up to the wall. It took Zoe a second to realise that she was the little girl, and the boy was Finn. They both stared at the towering climbing wall as safety instructors approached them with the safety equipment.
A male instructor scooped down so he was eye level with the two young children. “Are you here to climb the wall?”
“Yeah!” Finn nodded eagerly. Zoe watched as her younger self stared at the wall for a second before nodding gingerly. She remembered how towering and daunting she found the wall. A time before her confidence.
The male instructor frowned. “Is there anyone with you today? Your parents or…?”
“Yes, I’m here, sorry!” a voice cried out. It was female, and painfully familiar. Zoe automatically froze. She could turn around and look at her again, after two whole years of bereavement, but her body refused what her mind screamed at her. The woman eventually entered her line of sight and Zoe noticed everything she had kept stored away in her brain. Glowing chestnut brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. She was younger than Zoe remembered her to be, but that was to be expected. “I turn my back for two minutes to buy crisps and ice cream- they kept insisting on Salt and Vinegar, you know- and when I turn back, they’re halfway across the park!”
“Mum, he said we could climb the wall!” Finn exclaimed eagerly. Any other day, Zoe would have laughed at the squeakiness of his voice, but she was too fixated on her mother.
Calypso ruffled her son’s unruly hair, beaming gratefully at the instructor. The memory lurched forward suddenly, and Zoe watched as her younger self was being comforted by her mother, tears dribbling down her chin. She recalled falling off the climbing rock and scraping her arm. Back then she had an irrational intolerance of pain. You loser, Zoe thought to herself with a self-deprecating chuckle.
“It hurts!” her younger self cried. She sounded so little. “I can’t do it!”
“Oh, Zoe, don’t be silly,” Calypso giggled, rubbing the little girl’s back soothingly. “You can’t just give up because you failed the first time!”
“It’s too hard!” the younger Zoe wailed hopelessly. It was pitiful, but Zoe supposed every young child had that moment of self-doubt, when the naivety and bravado is stripped away to reveal the vulnerability buried inside.
“Oh, Zoe, everything in life is hard,” Calypso replied gently, smiling up at Finn as he continued climbing. “If we just rush in all the time like you did on that climbing frame, I think we’d all get hurt. But we can grow from that, sweetie, you’ll see. If you learn to be a little more patient and less impulsive, and work really hard, you can make your dream come true.”
Zoe’s lip wobbled, her eyes brimming with tears as she watched her mother comfort her younger self. She missed it, a lot. She wanted her mother back. She always knew what to say. The right words and a good book, that’s all she needed to cheer Zoe up when she was sad.
The scene shifted again, and this time Zoe was in her kitchen with her mother, father and Uncle Eric. Her mum was shrieking in delight and dancing around the kitchen, passing straight through her. She felt like a ghost.
“Cal, you need to calm down!” Gavin said with a chuckle.
“No way!” Calypso exclaimed, shaking her head rigorously, and hopping right up to her husband. She was like a little kid, so happy and full of energy. Zoe loved it. “We’re having another baby! Celebrate!”
“I just think we should celebrate a little less...wildly.” Gavin answered.
Calypso huffed, playfully punching his chest. “Aw, you’re no fun. Eric agrees with me, don’t you, Eric?”
Eric smiled weakly at her exuberance. “Yeah...yeah.”
“Spoilsport.” Gavin muttered.
“See?” Calypso exclaimed triumphantly. “Your brother’s funner than you!”
“Oh, yeah?” Gavin raised an eyebrow, pulling Calypso into his arms and lifting her bridal style. “I’ll show you! By the way, nobody says funner.”
“You’re just backing up my point, sweetie.”
“When do we tell Finn and Zoe?”
“What, really? They probably already heard from your shouting.”
“Well, let’s confirm it for them! Zoe, Finn! Come in here please!”
“What about baby names?” Eric asked as two children lumbered into the room. Zoe watched with teary eyes at the way the children's’ faces lit up with understanding and excitement.
“A baby?” the young girl - Zoe - asked with excitement.
“That’s right!” Calypso replied with enthusiasm. “We haven’t even thought up a name yet! Maybe you can help us?”
“What about Ariel?” Finn asked excitedly. They had been watching The Little Mermaid, Finn’s guilty pleasure. Zoe recalled it quite vividly as she watched her younger counterpart nod vigorously. She had liked the name.
Calypso grinned. “I don’t see why not!”
“HOORAY!” they exclaimed.
Tears streamed down Zoe’s face as she watched the exchange. She didn’t understand why she had to witness her mother smile and be content with the world mere months before she passed away. It wasn’t fair, watching them celebrating and being happy, oblivious to the fate that would befall them. She had been in a car accident, two years ago during that meteor shower the press had pegged down to a 3D game advertisement. They couldn’t save her, she was too far gone. They couldn’t even save the baby, her little sister.
She wanted to scream, as loud and unsettling as the scream she could hear in the distance-
The scream was getting louder. It was getting closer. Zoe rubbed the tears from her eyes and looked around viciously, trying to locate the source. The world around her began to crumble apart, as easily as sand. Distortions and cracks splintered the reality she was in, leaving nothing behind but darkness and floating pixels, and Zoe realised that, wherever she was, it wasn’t her reality. A giant wall of ghostly white light shrouded her.
It was a female voice. Zoe expected it to be cold, but strangely enough, it was warm.
“You are never without me, sweetie. And I'm proud that you're following your dreams. Look after your old man and brother for me, won't you?”
It made her happy, just for a second. Maybe, if she didn’t have her commitments back home, Zoe would have allowed herself to let go, just for once, but she didhave responsibilities and she wasn’t ready to give them up, so this brief moment of tranquility would have to do for now.
“You see, the Silence are looking for alternate methods of operating. Despite our modus operandi, which has been radicalised by your own stringent perceptions, Miss Smith, we are also priests and scientists. As we speak, your three friends are the first ever subjects of the Dream Machine, a prototype that harnesses the energy and properties of the Kantrofarri species.”
“The what?” Sarah Jane inquired.
“In simpler terms, they are simply known as the Dream Crabs. Our research shows that we can further weaponise their mechanisms for our own gain. Show our targets all they want to see as we extract the information from them. The formula is diluted, of course, we couldn’t tap into the full potential of the Dream Crabs. They escaped before we could.”
“Weaponise? Is that all you think about?”
“The Silence have been on Earth for millennia, Miss Smith. They are one of the oldest races on this planet. We want to keep it that way.”
“By experimenting on children? Conditioning and manipulating people into becoming your slaves? It’s despicable!”
“Conditioning is such a crude term,” Kovarian wrinkled her nose. “I prefer to see it as...influencing a person’s perspective.”
“Regardless, how are my methods different to your methods? To the Doctor’s methods?” Kovarian challenged. “Imprinting your viewpoints and opinions on impressionable young people, moulding and shaping their perspectives to fit your own image, that sounds very familiar, don’t you think?”
“That’s not how it-”
“Oh, that’s exactly how it is and you know it. We both run the thin line of hypocrisy, Sarah Jane.”
“But I don’t force them into it, they come into my lives, they choose it. You don’t give them that satisfaction; just look at Kaagh!” She looked at Kovarian pleadingly. “Why are you going to such extremes? Do you honestly hate the Doctor that much?”
“Yes,” Kovarian stated firmly, her eyes ablaze. “Yes, I do. Look at you, blinded by your sentimentality. You refuse to look deeper into the Doctor’s psyche because he’s your friend. It’s sickening. You turn a blind eye to a killer, a murderer for an intimate connection.”
“But your sense of justice- it’s perverse! You manufacture mass weapons, you work for those things and you use Melody to carry out your own desires! You’re dwelling on the past, Kovarian, and it’s clearly doing you no good.”
“Words, Sarah Jane, that’s all you use. You wield them like a weapon because you’re too soft, too much of a pacifist. But tell me, what can a pacifist do to combat an electric burst?”
“What?” Sarah Jane gasped, scraping her chair backwards in a desperate flurry to escape the advancing Silents. They raised their hands, pointing their long digits at her as the lights flickered sporadically. Electricity was already forming on the tips of their fingertips and Sarah Jane froze. Either she stood still and got disintegrated, or she ran and got disintegrated, but Sarah Jane Smith was a woman who defied the options given to her. As soon as the electricity shot from their fingertips, she ducked under the table, a temporary solace as the electric beams narrowly missed her. Before she could stand and run as they recharged, a bright flash of light temporarily impaired her vision, and the only thing she could hear was the sound of bodies slumping to the floor and a chair clattering to the ground.
Clambering out of her spot, Sarah Jane came face to face with a man in an outfit so ridiculous it could only belong to him. Brown tweed jacket and black boots. It helped that the face was a familiar one too. Long chin and a quiff, his most pertaining features. He held out a hand for her, and gently helped her to her feet, his eyes and smile warm.
“Hello, Sarah Jane,” he whispered sombrely, brushing dust off her leather jacket. “You look well.”
“Doctor…” Sarah Jane gasped. “What are you doing here?”
"It's a long story and there isn't much time,” he whispered urgently. “But the answer is here."
"What answer? What's here?"
"Not what. Whom. Her." The Doctor turned to Kovarian with a wry smile, his eyes harsher. “Hello, Madame Kovarian.”
“Well, isn’t this a surprise?” Kovarian groused, circling around the table in tandem with the Doctor, skulking and skirting as slowly as two predators ready to lunge at each other. Except, Sarah Jane noticed, Kovarian was more keen to keep her distance. “You're two months late. I expected you to show up the moment she found out who I was.”
“Here to kidnap her daughter as well?”
“Unfortunately, she’s too preoccupied being dead,” Kovarian bit, noticing the way the Doctor’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “How did you find us?”
“Oh, just luck, I suppose. The TARDIS was piloted off course and we found the grounds of your little experiment.”
“This building has a high level perception filter shrouding it, and it’s guarded by the Silence.”
The Doctor splayed his hands dramatically. “You forget the AI Sentinel. He guided me here and helped me neutralise your defences.”
Kovarian scowled at his display. “And because you were successful in worming your way into this board room, you’re stuck in your delusions of grandeur, as usual.”
“Tell me how to switch off the machine, Kovarian.”
“What’s this?” Kovarian sneered at the Doctor as they continued to circle each other. “The so-called god and his stewards don’t know how to shut down technology developed by mere humans?”
Sarah Jane fidgeted awkwardly, watching as the pair stared at each other unflinchingly. Clearly, the sonic screwdriver was useless against the Kovarian Chapter’s “Dream Machine”. The Doctor pursed his lips and slowly nodded, deciding to take a new course of action. He pushed away from the table and moved towards a window.
“Your machine’s damaged. A soldier missed his target and shot it instead.”
Kovarian frowned. “A pity. But we can just make a new one.”
“You’re allowing children to die.”
“This world is overpopulated as it is, I’m simply helping by trimming the fat.”
“That’s murder!” Sarah Jane exclaimed.
Kovarian turned to look at her. “You’re starting to sound like a broken record. Do you see what you do to them, Doctor? You manipulate them. You fill their head with sickening hope and courage until they start to believe that hope can stop anything. You condition them and send them on their way to their murder just because you’re lonely.”
“No, I don’t,” the Doctor stated firmly. “Do you know why?”
“Because they’ve always been the best of me. If it were up to me, you wouldn’t be standing here. I would have found you and crushed you as soon as you kidnapped Melody. I could kill your soldiers right now.”
“Soldiers are expendable.”
The Doctor chuckled darkly. “And you still find ways to disgust me, Kovarian. Where have you taken Melody?”
“Doctor, Melody’s here.” Sarah Jane spoke up, slightly regretting it when two pair of eyes landed on her.
“What?” the Doctor whispered.
Sarah Jane smiled and nodded. “She’s at my house. She’s safe.”
“Oh, Melody was never safefrom us, Miss Smith.” Kovarian chuckled. It chilled Sarah Jane to the bones. “You were just a very minor setback.”
“What have you done to her?”
“Taken her back to where she belongs,” Kovarian smirked. “She’s been taken back to our ship.”
“Give her back!”
“Oh, it’s not as easy as that.” Kovarian chuckled. “It’s fitting, isn’t it? Last year, you lost your family. Now you’re losing them again.”
When Zoe woke up, she didn't recognise her surroundings. She shook her head to clear the dizziness, and was annoyed to find that she was still groggy. When her vision cleared, she still didn't know where she was, but the hand on her left shoulder and the soft cursing emanating from her right side indicated she wasn't alone.
“You okay?” Dan asked softly as an unfamiliar man prised a helmet from her head.
“This feels strangely familiar,” Zoe grumbled. “Now with added helmets!”
Dan laughed and turned to the strange man, who was holding up a finger that Beth’s eyes followed. “She's fine.”
“That's good,” the man replied as he lowered his finger and smiled at Beth encouragingly. “You're going to be fine.”
Zoe looked at the man and furrowed her eyebrows. “Do I know you? You sound familiar.”
“Ah! You heard me!” he exclaimed in surprise. “I was not expecting that!”
Suddenly, it clicked.
“You're the man!” Zoe exclaimed. “What was it...Rory?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Rory confirmed. “Hello.”
A woman burst through the door, slipping a phone into her pocket. She had vibrant red hair and Zoe recognised her immediately.
“Oh my god!” she gasped, gripping Dan’s arm a bit too tightly. “It’s her! It’s her!”
“What are you on about?” Beth asked as she pushed herself to her feet, but Zoe ignored her. The woman paused and looked at the girl in surprise.
“You’re Amy Pond! The super model! I’m a hugefan. I love your perfume!”
“She loves it a little too much,” Beth snarked, raising her hands defensively when Zoe fixed a glare on her. “Besides, is now really the time to be idolising?”
A loud explosion shook the room, sending small destructive ripples through the room and throwing the group off balance. They wobbled but eventually regained their balance. The sounds of screaming and shouting and the acrid smell of burning filled their sense.
“No, probably not.” Zoe murmured.
“Come on, let’s go see what’s going on,” Amy said, taking charge.
“She’s even a natural born leader.”
“Oh god, I think she’s swooning,” Dan whispered to Beth as Rory pushed the door open and poked his head out.
The Silence were the only force that was preventing Melody from escaping. They skulked by her side, their empty eyes trained on her. She gritted her teeth, biding her time.
They had taken her to an old warehouse by Cottage Row, where a spaceship lay cloaked beyond it. The walls were metallic and the temperature was so cool she could see her breath in front of her eyes. Unlike the trek to the spaceship, their walk to the destination inside was a brisker trip. They had taken her into a room filled with scattered machinery scientists were fiddling with. Tapestries hung on the walls, showcasing bloody battles and ghostly cracks. Melody noted how paper thin and flammable they looked.
Normally, Melody wouldn't have such violent thoughts, but she was desperate, and Sarah Jane wasn't around. Taking a deep breath and recalling what Zoe taught her, Melody raised her arm and jabbed a Silent in the rib with her elbow, feeling it connect with some kind of bone. The Silent recoiled in pain, and Melody grunted as she flipped another one over her head.
Without pause, she pushed past a flabbergasted scientist and pulled out a mesh of wires connected to a generator. The wires sparked as she did, and electricity crackled at her fingertips, but Melody didn't feel pain, she felt exhilarated. She directed the sparking wires at the Silents, and watched as the electricity crackled through their skin, making them glow. It clearly wasn't Earth-based electricity. The Silents dropped dead and the scientists ran around in a frenzy. Melody realised the conduit behind her was growing so warm she could feel the heat on her skin. Alarms started blaring, and the girl shot straight out of the door before anybody could grab her.
She didn't stop for anything. Not for the loud explosion, not for the screaming, not even for the strange man who poked his head out a wooden door. She vaulted out of the spaceship, through the warehouse and ran as fast as she could. She didn't know where, her legs moved for her.
Kovarian averted her gaze from Sarah Jane and tapped the communications device located on her left ear, quietly listening to the transmission. The Doctor and Sarah Jane watched her silently, trying to discern what was being relayed to her. They noticed the way her lips curled downwards and her eyebrows furrowed. She seemed...annoyed.
Finally, Kovarian switched off her device and turned to address them.
“It seems we will have to postpone our gathering,” the woman stated. “Little Melody’s created quite the ruckus, as was to be expected. She'll be in position soon.”
“You're not going anywhere,” the Doctor growled, blocking her path. “Try and I’ll block your teleportation device in a heartbeat.”
Kovarian directed her single, unobscured eye at him, raising a single eyebrow. A short lapse of silence followed before Kovarian laughed in his face, a maniacal little cackle that indicated she knew more than she was letting on.
She sobered, but a sneer remained etched on her face. “Oh, Doctor, I almost pity you. You're so predictably stupid.” She took a step back and hummed, “You're at an impasse, I'm afraid. Your little friends are in mortal danger as we speak. Who will you pick, Doctor, Sarah Jane? Them or Melody?”
The question was left hanging in the air as Kovarian exploded into a puddle of milky white goo that splattered the wall and the ground, the two cups of tea following in her stead. Sarah Jane’s eyes widened in confusion.
Realisation dawned on the Doctor. “She was a Flesh Avatar! Amy, Rory!” he spun around and grabbed Sarah Jane’s hand, pulling her out the door. “Come along, Smith!”
“Who was that?” Rory asked in confusion as a little girl ran straight past him without pause. Amy joined him.
“Who's who?” she asked, looking around. “I don't see anyone.”
“There was a little girl,” Rory explained. “I saw her. She looked terrified.”
“A little girl?” Zoe spoke up. “Long blonde-ish hair?”
“Yeah,” Rory nodded. “Do you know her?”
“It must be Melody,” Dan murmured, turning to Zoe gravely. Neither of them noticed Amy and Rory’s rigid stances. “Who else would they take?”
Zoe nodded, showing him that she agreed with him.
“Sorry, did you say Melody?” Amy spoke up, looking surprisingly anxious. “Melody who?”
“We don't actually know her surname,” Zoe admitted. Amy walked up to them, looking desperate.
“Please tell me. Try and think, yeah? You must know. You should know.”
“Amy-” Rory tried.
“No. I need to know.” Amy interrupted forcefully. Zoe and Dan stood a step back in shock.
“I don’t remember anything about a surname,” Zoe said. “I’m sorry.”
“Okay, okay,” Amy took a step back, her mind racing. Rory moved forward and tried to place a comforting hand on her shoulder, but Amy shrugged it off quickly once she noticed something. “Rory, your arm…”
Rory looked at his arm in confusion and his eyes widened. A single black tally mark was scrawled on the back of his hand.
“We have to get out of here,” he whispered, looking around frantically. Amy had already grabbed a gun and started shepherding the children out of the room, ignoring their protests for answers to alleviate their confusion. They turned left to try and escape the surrounding area, and came face to face with a Silent.
“Oh my god,” Amy whispered as Rory pulled the teenagers behind him, staring at the creature for the first time in years, horrible memories dredging to the surface. She started shaking. “It’s you.”
“You are Amelia,” the creature stated, raising his long digit as the group stumbled backwards. There was nothing they could use to defend themselves. The lights started to flicker sporadically and electricity formed on the tips of its fingertips.
“Sorry, but not today,” Amy growled, pulling the gun from her pocket and shooting the Silent before it could release its energy discharge, watching as it crumpled to the floor and pressed a hand against its wound.
Rory took charge, turning to the group of teenagers, he yelled, “Run!”
Zoe, Dan and Beth, with Amy and Rory in tow, immediately turned to the opposite direction and ran. They ran and ran, and didn’t stop running until they found a large opening that led to freedom, running through the door-shaped hole. Once outside, they stopped to catch their breaths and evaluate the situation.
“Why were we running?” Zoe asked between her panting.
“The Silence,” Beth replied softly.
“How do you know?”
“I suppose that gives it away,” Dan said, pointing at the monstrous figure clad in a black suit boring its eyes into them.
“Get back!” Amy yelled as the creature advanced on them, cursing herself for dropping the gun inside the warehouse. She turned to try and retrieve it, but was forced back by another Silent who had appeared in the doorway.
“The stewards of pacifists who know only to run,” the Silence hissed as its mouth opened and electricity crackled at its fingertips. “Die knowing that running was the last thing you did. Starting with you, Zoe Smith.”
Zoe stepped back as the creature directed its attention to her, trembling slightly. The creature released its energy discharge and Zoe expected to feel a searing pain course through her veins, but she felt nothing. All she could hear was a strange whirring- wheezing? Groaning? She didn’t really know how to describe the sound with a mere adjective, it just felt like so much more.
“Zoe, open your eyes!” Dan urged. Zoe obliged- although she hadn’t realised she had closed them in the first place- and found a translucent forcefield shimmer in front of her eyes.
“Hello, Zoe!” Sentinel chirped. “Honestly, what would you do without me?”
“Sentinel!” Zoe sighed with relief. The bubble of energy dissipated and she felt herself being pulled back by Dan and Beth. A familiar woman approached them. “Sarah Jane!”
“Are you alright?” she asked worriedly.
“I’m fine, but what do we do about them?”
“Oh, we’re not going to do anything,” a strange man responded. He had the strangest dress sense Zoe had ever seen a person have. He stepped in front of them and partially obscured her view of the Silent. She looked back, and noticed a blue box was stood where the other Silent was, a three fingered hand sticking out from underneath it. She winced, and turned back.
“The Silence,” the man said. He sounded bitter. “You sure do get around.”
“Doctor,” the Silent hissed. Zoe shared a surprised look with Beth and Dan, but wasn’t given enough time to react. “The scourge of the galaxy.”
“You can’t impress everybody,” the Doctor quipped. “I’m surprised you’d dare to step foot on Earth again. Didn’t you learn from last time?”
“We are the rulers of this planet, we are their guiding light. They cannot betray us.”
“Is that a valid claim?” the Doctor sneered. “I seem to recall a fair number of casualties from last time.”
“It is valid enough,” the Silence hissed. Without warning, a barrier of blue energy shrouded the creature and, it was probably Sarah Jane’s imagination, it looked like it was smiling. “And we will rise against you. Silence will fall.”
The Doctor said nothing as the creature teleported away. A moment later, the sound of an engine roared in the distance, and a ship hovered in the air for a few seconds, before blasting out of orbit and their line of sight.
“They're leaving?” Dan asked in surprise, breaking the silence that had stagnated between the group of seven. “Just like that?”
“I don't think it's as easy as that, Dan,” Sarah Jane murmured, shaking her head sadly. “She gave us an ultimatum, of sorts. You or Melody. I think they've got what they wanted.”
“You mean they…” Beth tried.
“I'm afraid so,” Sarah Jane whispered forlornly. “They have Melody.”
Melody was getting tired. Normally, she would be able to travel long distances without slowing, but today was different. Her movements were sluggish, and her feet were moving on her own accord, even when she wanted to stop and rest. She was walking down an old, beaten path through the woods. She had never been down this path before. The undergrowth was thicker and the forest was denser. There wasn’t the sound of any animals, but there was a low hum, like a generator. It was persistent and seemed unnatural for such a natural habitat. She should have turned back, but her curiosity was getting the better of her.
Melody turned the corner and found herself standing in front of another ship. It was bigger and sleeker than the other one, and it explained where the hum was originating from. She felt dread fill her bones and expected to turn the other way and run to safety, but she didn’t. It was different this time. Her mind was operating as a separate entity to her body. She screamed at herself to run away even she took slow steps forward, and then forward still, and she kept walking until she was up the ramp and in the darkness inside.
Kovarian stood there with a Silent and two scientists, looking decidedly pleased with herself. The Silent hissed and the spell was broken. Melody turned to run but the scientist had already grabbed and sedated her.
“No…” she murmured.
“Oh, Melody Pond, you didn’t actually think you were safe, did you? This was just a test run.” she turned to her scientist as Melody’s vision blurred. “Even now, she resists the sedative. Take her for conditioning - make sure to discipline her, we’ll be arriving at Greystark Orphanage shortly. In the meantime, send the schematics of the machine to Agathon, and establish communications with Sarah Jane Smith.”
That was the last thing Melody heard before everything went black.
“Sarah Jane, I have an incoming transmission feed specified for you.” Sentinel said, occupying Sarah Jane’s phone.
“Patch it through, Sentinel,” Sarah Jane commanded. “Let's hear it.”
“Miss Smith,” Kovarian sneered as the transmission feed crackled onto her phone screen. “It seems we will have to postpone our little chats indefinitely. I would call it a tragedy, but I have what I needed, and you have played your role.”
“What do you mean? Did you plan for Melody to show up on my doorstep?”
“Oh, don’t flatter yourself, Melody escaping was an unfortunate accident, but we could have taken her away then and there. No, you proved to be a surprisingly valuable asset to our mission than we expected.”
“Asset?” Sarah Jane repeated.
“Yes. You have taught Melody human etiquette. All those disgustingly trivial norms and traditions that will help her to blend into whatever safe house we take her to. You see, we have been slowly conditioning her over the four months she has been staying with you. A temporary solution to ensure she was in the right place at the right time. I kept you and your little friends occupied in the meantime with other matters.”
“Why are you telling me this?” Sarah Jane asked sadly. The Doctor was quietly standing to the side, listening intently. Zoe, Beth and Dan stood by Amy and Rory a little further away from them, just within hearing distance.
A sinister smile graced Kovarian’s lips. “Because I wanted to see the look of pure agony on your face as you realise the futility of your methods of protecting her. She is in our hands now, and you’ll never see her again. How does it make you feel, Sarah Jane? Angry, I’d hope.” there was a beep. “And that’s our time up. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt her. Much. Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith.”
The transmission fizzled out and Sarah Jane stood there, unmoving. Tears filled her eyes and her legs wobbled and she felt like she was going to fall, but the Doctor wrapped an arm around her and gently guided her into the TARDIS as the tears slid down her face.
“This can’t be happening,” Zoe whispered mournfully. She shook her head in denial. “Not like this. This wasn’t meant to happen.”
“She’s gone,” Dan said dubiously. “She can’t be...she was just here.”
Beth remained silent. If she opened her mouth now, she would scream and shout and she would never, ever stop. Unshed tears filled her eyes. Amy shuddered, feeling the chill of the winter air finally hit her now that the adrenaline wore off. The shudder didn’t stop, and soon she was crying as well. Rory wrapped an arm around her.
“Amy, you know it isn’t over.” he whispered softly.
“I know, I know,” she said through her tears. “But it still hurts. She was right here, Rory. She was right here and she never got to see her parents and now she’s stuck with Kovarian again.” “It’s okay,” Rory cooed, feeling the sting of tears leak down his face. He shuddered, and took a deep breath. He had to be strong. Not just for his wife, but for the three children that had just had their best friend cruelly snatched away from them. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
He helped his wife inside the open doors of the TARDIS, but the trio lingered behind. They looked at the arm of the Silent that still hung out. Left for dead. Kovarian really was ruthless.
“We step through those doors, we forget those creatures, we forget the specifics. We’ll be left wondering how Melody was taken.” Zoe murmured.
“We can’t do anything about it,” Dan reminded her. “I know it hurts, Zoe, and I know it’s been a long day, but these guys are time travellers, right? We can go see her in the future. See how she turned out?”
“A crazed lunatic working for a cult?” Zoe replied incredulously. Before Dan could reply, the siren of a police vehicle blared in the distance. Zoe sighed, “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
The three squeezed through the door of the TARDIS and froze, their depressions momentarily forgotten.
“What the-” Dan tried. No other words would leave his mouth, whereas Zoe and Beth’s jaws practically dropped to the floor, the orange glow highlighting their shocked features. They were in an expansive room of some sort. The walls were dotted with round and hexagonal shapes, and there was a set of small staircases that led up to a large console area. Zoe immediately ran up, eyeing the console eagerly. It was crammed with all sorts of different bits and bobs. Her eyes were drawn to a typewriter and she tried to reach over and touch it, but the Doctor swatted her hand, giving her a knowing look.
Dan explored the underbelly of the ship, noticing the swing chair and wiring that was left hanging out. He picked up a discarded pair of round goggles and tried them on, only to find they were too big. He laughed nonetheless.
“This is brilliant!” Dan shouted at the top of his lungs, wondering if it would carry over. Beth, seemingly the only one who remembered the events prior to entering the ship, gave the spaceship a look of mild curiosity and moved to sit next to Sarah Jane, who was hurriedly wiping away her tears.
“Isn’t it just?” the Doctor laughed, glad to alleviate the sadness that had stagnated in the teenagers for a short while. “And it’s mine! Is there anything else you noticed when you stepped in? Anything about its...size, perhaps?”
“Oh, that’s enough out of you!” Sarah Jane said warningly, knowing exactly where he was trying to take the conversation. “Kovarian mentioned something about a narcotic in their system. Could you flush it out somehow?”
“Of course,” the Doctor nodded, clapping his hands and shouting loudly, “Come on, you three, you’re lucky enough to see my lab!”
Dan ran up the staircase to join them, forgetting to put down the goggles. Beth glumly joined them and, after pushing a lever, the Doctor herded the three teenagers down the corridor.
Sarah Jane leaned back in the captain’s chair, embracing the silence for a few seconds. Her house would be so quiet without Melody around, but at least Zoe, Dan and Beth could be excited teenagers for a few more precious minutes. The TARDIS hummed gently. It was almost motherly. She felt the seat dip with added weight, and turned to see the ginger haired woman sitting next to her. It was a vibrant shade, more so than Donna Noble’s.
“Are you alright?” the woman asked her, and Sarah Jane winced when she realised she didn’t know the woman’s name. She was Scottish though, Dan must have been delighted.
“I-” Sarah Jane paused, regaining her composure. She smiled. “I’m fine.”
The redhead gazed at her for a few seconds, her eyes narrowing. “I don’t believe you.”
“Well, I was never the best liar,” Sarah Jane admitted. “I’m Sarah Jane.”
“Amy,” the woman - Amy- introduced herself. “And the other man’s my husband, Rory.”
Sarah Jane gasped in realisation. “Mr and Mrs Pond!”
"Well, strictly speaking, it's Mr and Mrs Williams, but I was never one for formality," Amy replied breezily. She looked surprised. “You’ve heard of us?”
Sarah Jane nodded. “When I last saw the Doctor, he mentioned you two. He said you were on your honeymoon.”
Amy smiled fondly, as if she was recalling a distant memory. “He mentioned you too,” she replied. “The great Sarah Jane Smith. How could he not?”
Sarah Jane’s smile faded. “I'm not that great.” She waved the praise away dismissively. “I couldn't even save your daughter.”
“How did you-”
“It's not that hard to connect,” Sarah Jane smiled sheepishly. “An old...friend of mine, she told me Melody’s legal surname was Williams. Kovarian told me Melody was important to the Doctor somehow, and she shares your surname. I connected the dots.”
“That easy, huh?” Amy mused. She rested a hand on the older woman’s arm and gave it a comforting squeeze. “Look, you don't have to feel guilty on our behalf, you're not obligated to.”
“But she was in my care and I let you all down!” Sarah Jane looked down. “I let her down. And now she's stuck with that vile woman.”
“It's okay, Sarah Jane,” Amy said sadly. “We know what happens to Melody and she turns out better than I could have ever hoped for.”
“How?” Sarah Jane blurted out before the answer hit her. She smiled wryly. “Time travel.”
“Yup,” Amy confirmed, popping the p. “She's a good girl, and important to the Doctor, like you said.”
“But how did she escape Kovarian?”
“Oh, it was mainly her,” Amy said proudly. “But we helped out a bit. I haven't seen her for a while. Before today, I thought I had moved on, that I'd finally left all the bad stuff that happened behind me. But then I heard Kovarian’s voice and it just sort of...flooded back.”
“Oh, it's not your fault,” Amy assured her, wiping her tears away with a sniff. “And it's like I said, everything worked out in the end.”
“What is that?” Zoe asked curiously, pointing at the liquid in the dish while the Doctor smeared some kind of cream on her puncture mark. Zoe had forgotten all about it. It had been a long day.
“I'm not entirely sure,” the Doctor admitted. “But from the properties, I can assume it was some sort of lobotomization drug.”
“What do you mean?” Dan piped up.
The Doctor frowned. “During our first encounter with the Silence, we had manipulated the human race into killing them on sight through post-hypnotic suggestion. They fed you this drug to make sure you didn't lash out at them violently as they carried out their plans.”
“And my brother?” Zoe asked. “He wasn't acting like himself today. He was...angrier, more suspicious.”
“Hypnotic suggestion, designed to isolate you so Kovarian could capture you,” the Doctor deduced.
“What about Sarah Jane?” Dan asked. “She didn't get injected.”
“Oh, Sarah’s an old hand at hypnotism. They would have no effect on her,” the Doctor stated proudly. He frowned and decided to broach an alternate subject. “Rory mentioned a machine? Do you remember anything from it?”
“Not much, I woke up as soon as we got caught up in that data wipe.” Dan shrugged. Beth looked down and shook her head.
Zoe’s face dropped. “I saw...my mum. Memories of her, anyway. I can't really explain.”
“I didn't see any memories,” Dan frowned.
“Well, you may not have had any worthwhile memories to cling to, but you do, Zoe,” the Doctor suggested. There was a glint in his eye that wasn't particularly comforting. It made Zoe feel more like a lab rat than a person. “Fascinating.”
“If you say so,” Zoe said, shifting uncomfortably. "What happened to it?"
"UNIT will clear it all up, I'm guessing."
Zoe accepted the answer. “Can we go back to Sarah Jane now?”
“Of course,” the Doctor nodded, gesturing towards the door. “Come on.”
The three teenagers didn't waste time in creating distance between themselves and the man. The Doctor watched them go, a curious expression on his face. He got up and joined them.
Sarah Jane watched as the Doctor stepped back into the console room with the teenagers in tow. The day was starting to weigh on them, she could tell. Their shoulders were drooped and their movements slow. Amy stood up and moved closer to Rory to make space for them, and the girls collapsed in the vacant space.
“Are you three okay?” Sarah Jane asked them. They were just children, they shouldn't have to endure grief as potent as this.
“No,” Zoe sighed. She looked around the console room and laughed. “I was so excited about this a second ago. Now I don't really see it. Is that bad?”
“No, Zoe,” Sarah Jane assured her. She turned to Dan, who was perched on the console opposite them. He shrugged, looking a little lost. She turned to the last of her entourage. “Beth? Are you okay?”
“Yeah, you taken up a sponsored silence or something?” Dan teased half-heartedly. Beth, who seemed far more interested with her hair, silently shook her head, which disheartened Sarah Jane, but she didn't pry. Beth would come to her when she was ready.
“Are you okay, Sarah Jane?” Dan asked her.
“Of course I am!” Sarah Jane tried to sound convincing, mustering up a smile that fell flat.
“You're rubbish at lying,” Zoe said bluntly.
“Yeah, that was kind of lame,” Dan agreed. “The Doctor said Melody’s gonna grow up fine and that we shouldn't worry. Should we believe him?”
“Why shouldn't you?” Sarah Jane asked in surprise.
“He's sketchy.” Beth replied bluntly, speaking for the first time in half an hour. Her own voice sounded alien to her. She hated it.
“I know the Doctor can be a bit...eccentric,” Sarah Jane decided on, noticing how the man in question was slumped by the TARDIS doors, gazing out at something. “And yes, he lies at times. But I don't think he would tell you that just to make you feel better.”
“If you say so…” Dan trailed off uncertainly, shifting on his perch uncomfortably. Sarah Jane stood up and offered him the seat. Dan gratefully crashed into the seat, adjusting his position slightly until he was comfortable. After a quick check to make sure the kids were all content, Sarah Jane moved towards the Doctor, who continued to stand vigil by the TARDIS doors. As she got closer, she noticed he was looking at the space around Earth. Sarah Jane took a moment to appreciate the vast vacuum and the bright, burning stars that were dotted across it. Each star had its own story. Some of them formed to create a constellation, some twinkled alone, taking solace in the fact that they were a part of the universe.
“I made a promise, Sarah,” the Doctor said so softly Sarah Jane almost missed it. “Not to change anything, not even a single line. But that promise cost them a daughter,” he looked at her with sad eyes. “I've seen what happens to Melody and I still allowed myself to get duped by Kovarian, giving her time to escape. I'm sorry.”
“Everybody is bound by a certain set of rules, Doctor. Ones that we choose to live and abide by,” Sarah Jane said. She was tired, and she didn't wish for anymore conflict. “Is Melody happy in the end? Is this worth everything she will have to endure until she reaches that point?”
“Yes,” the Doctor replied without hesitation.
“Then I forgive you,” Sarah Jane stated resolutely. “But I'll miss her.”
“I see you're coping,” the Doctor observed. “After Bannerman Road. I'm sorry I wasn't there. I thought everything would stay the same after I reset the universe, but...evidently not.”
“You can't be there all the time,” Sarah Jane countered, focusing on the sight in front of her. For the briefest of seconds, she could've sworn she saw Sky’s face sculpted in the stars, shining brightly, but it vanished in the blink of an eye. “We were all as happy as we could be in the end. Reset the universe?"
"And a wedding! Not mine, theirs. It's a long story." the Doctor explained.
Sarah Jane nodded. "I approve of Amy and Rory, by the way.”
“Ah, it's always good to have the approval of Sarah Jane Smith!” the Doctor beamed, his eyes crinkling around the edges. It was the first time since the whole ordeal that Sarah Jane examined him properly. He looked older than the last time they had met, like the weight on his shoulders was heavier. “They're amazing, aren't they? I don't know what I'd do without them," he turned to look at his two companions fondly as they regaled the children with a story of one of their adventures. "Mr and Mrs Pond...if we're talking about approvals, I like those kids of yours. They're brill.” He made an 'o' gesture with his thumb and forefinger, whistling in approval.
“Yeah, well, they should never have had to lose Melody like this. I just...It's so frustrating, Doctor. She had been toying with me for months now. She instilled a false sense of hope and tore it away from us so easily. I couldn’t even stop her. It's terrifying.”
“You did what you could,”
She turned to the Doctor. “She always said Melody would be used to kill you.”
“Oh, she always says that.”
“And did she?”
No response. Sarah Jane turned to look at him.
“No,” he finally said, but he didn't sound very convincing. His eyes were still fixed on the space. Sarah Jane followed his gaze, and finally saw what he was looking at: the rising sun. The giant flaming ball of gas that demanded a person’s full attention but was so destructive that it could only be admired from afar. In many ways, the sun was like the Doctor; they both fought to keep the human race alive for as long as they could while fighting their own internal wars. Even though they were a safe distance apart, she could still feel the warmth seep into her bones.
There was the sound of movement, and suddenly Zoe, Beth and Dan were by her side staring out of the ship in awe.
“It's better than looking at it through an Atlas or a globe,” Zoe whispered, and Sarah Jane realised they were all captivated by the Earth, their hovering spherical home planet in all its glory, illuminated by the morning sun. Even the glum Beth was slightly breathless at the sight.
“It's beautiful,” Dan gasped.
“Looking at it from up here, you'd never have guessed that there's wars and pollution on there,” said Rory.
“But it reminds you of the good that's there as well,” Sarah Jane countered. “And that it's our job to protect it.”
“Couldn't agree more.” Amy whispered. "I wish Melody was here to see this. I always wondered what she would be like a child...was she a good girl?"
"The best," Sarah Jane assured her. Amy nodded gratefully, leaning to rest her head on Rory's shoulder. The man leaned forward to kiss her forehead gently, both coming to terms with the fact they practically left their daughter to suffer the fate they tried to forget she was condemned to.
“I should probably drop you off home,” said the Doctor, already moving to dial the coordinates, but Zoe stopped him.
“Could we just stay for a little bit?” she asked hopefully. “I don't want to go just yet.”
“Me neither,” Dan and Beth agreed. The Doctor turned to Sarah Jane for her consent, and the woman nodded.
He smiled. “Of course.”
“But can you get us home on the same day?” Zoe asked. The Doctor laughed and ruffled her hair.
“Oh, ye of little faith!”
“Can you change back time so my brother doesn't get angry?" Zoe asked. The Doctor simply smiled and retreated to do something or other. Zoe sighed at the unspoken answer and resignedly turned to Dan, nudging him. “It's later, what were you going to tell me?”
Dan took a deep breath. “Where to start?”
“One hour after you left! Told you I could do it!”
Dan stood outside the door to his house, wondering if he should go inside. He replayed Sarah Jane’s advice. Talk to them, let them hear your point of view. Don't take no for an answer. Easier said than done. Taking a deep breath, and expecting the worse, Dan pushed the door open.
“Hello?” he called out gingerly. Chris was at the foot of the staircase, looking suitably chastised. The kitchen door slammed open quite dramatically, and his mother, Clarissa, stormed out.
“Daniel Orange, don't you ever scare me like that ever again,” she practically shrieked as she wrapped her arms around him. “And don't run off before I can tell you off for assuming the worst!”
Dan blinked dumbly. “Er...what?”
Dan peered over his mother’s shoulder to see his father staring at him. His face fell as he noticed the stoic expression on his face. He inwardly cringed as his father walked towards him. His mother moved away and was replaced by his father, Andrew, who kneeled down until he was eye level with the boy. He placed both hands on each of Dan’s shoulders and sighed, the facade slipping away to reveal the sadness beneath.
“Why did you think you couldn’t tell us this?” he asked quietly.
“Oh.” Dan hadn’t expected this. He desperately attempted to articulate his words into comprehensible terms, but it all came out in a jumble. Andrew held up a hand to calm the boy, and told him to start over. “Um…it’s just that- well, you and mum always talk about how you want grandchildren and I just...well, I thought I was...letting you down, in a way.”
Tears started to fill his eyes, and he looked down at the ground in shame, expecting to be reprimanded, but Andrew gently tilted his head upwards and smiled at him softly.
“Dan, you should never have to hide yourself because you’re worried about upsetting us,” he whispered softly. “It is a parent’s job to help their child on their path and protect them, but it is a child’s obligation to live their own life, however they see fit. You can and should embrace every facet of yourself.”
“You...you’re not…” Dan tried. Andrew simply shook his head and hugged him. Dan finally allowed the tears to flow down his cheeks.
“What, you’re just going to say that and be done with it?” Chris protested.
“Oi, that’s enough out of you!” Clarissa said warningly. “Go to your room!”
“I’m not a kid,” Chris grumbled as he stomped upstairs. Clarissa tutted at his behaviour before turning to Dan with a smile and wrapping her arms around him in an embrace. Dan just stood there, and accepted the gesture, happy to feel accept by his friends and family.
Beth sat alone in her room, looking at herself through the mirror. Her mother Chrystal was home, a rare occurrence in itself, and Laurel was out with her friends. Neither of them were talking. They had both left Beth to her own devices. The sculpture of the creature she had crafted in school lay at her feet, destroyed. She couldn’t even remember its name.
She stroked her hair. It was long. Once upon a time, Beth didn’t really care, but now she couldn’t stand it. It obscured her vision, it took forever to wash in the shower and weird aliens or deranged scientists kept pulling on it. She kicked her feet aimlessly in the air. Melody had loved her long hair, but Melody was gone now. She didn’t need it anymore. Her mother always said her father loved it when she had her hair cut when she was a baby. She had been mulling over it all day, and Beth decided to go for it.
It was probably the most cliche anime norm for fresh starts, but it was still a norm.
“I’m sorry,” Finn blurted out as soon as Zoe entered the house. He scratched the back of his head sheepishly. “I really am, I don’t know what came over me.”
Zoe wanted to be annoyed at him so badly. He had basically accused her of trying to replace her mother but she couldn’t. She felt inclined to forgive him, and move on. Something had changed.
“It’s okay,” Zoe said in assurance. “I forgive you.”
Finn paused, unsure of himself. “You sure? You’re not gonna punch me in the face?”
Zoe laughed and fiddled with her necklace. “No. But you were right, maybe I was trying to forget about mum for a little while, but I’ve learned I don’t need to do that. I can honour her memory by following my dream. That’s all I really need.”
“You’re surprisingly sentimental today,” Finn noted suspiciously. “What did you get up to?”
Zoe grinned devilishly, linking her arm with her brother's. “Right, don’t tell May, but I may have met Amy Pond.”
One week later - December 25th 2012
“Mum, are you sure you’re okay?”
“Yes, Luke, I’m fine. But Kate needs some help with this Jack Frost impersonator, so I’m afraid I can’t come up for Christmas.”
“I’m sorry I can’t be home this year.” Luke said regretfully.
“Oh, it’s not your fault, your car broke down,”
“How are you doing, after Melo-”
“Bye, Luke, I love you.” Sarah Jane said, hurriedly switching off the phone. She sighed, embracing the silence for a few seconds before sliding out of her chair and grabbing her leather jacket. The house was so empty without Melody around. The kids were off with their families and Gita had gone up to see Clyde and Rani in Scotland last minute. What was the house like before Melody? She couldn’t remember, but she probably felt as lonely as she did now.
Snapping herself out of her thoughts, Sarah Jane opened the front door and came face to face with a woman.
The woman wasn’t a familiar one. She was dressed oddly for a chilly Christmas, clad in a loose grey blouse and jeans.
“Yes?” Sarah Jane inquired. “Can I help you?”
The woman smiled timidly and shook her head. “I have something for you.” she pulled her hands from behind her back and revealed a bouquet of roses and a piece of cake wrapped in foil. “They’re not Earth flowers. They’re from the Sky Bouquet in Gardenia,” she explained. “And the foil is edible.”
Sarah Jane blinked as the woman practically shoved the gifts into her hands. “I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but what are these for?”
The strange woman's ruby red lips parted into a pained smile. “It’s to thank you, for everything. But I must be off, I have an expedition on the planet Dellora. And then I’ve got a date with a robot. Well, he’s not a robot. And it’s more of a wedding. To the diamond. Busy day. Anyways, Merry Christmas, Sarah Jane.”
Sarah Jane watched as the woman stalked out of her drive, disappearing in a puff of smoke and electricity . She blinked, realising she hadn’t asked for the woman’s name. One thing that stuck out to her was the wild mane of curly blonde hair.
She looked down at her gifts and, for the first time in a week, she smiled.