Author's Note - Sorry for the long absence. Thank you very much for the reviews.
A pair of large, serious blue eyes stared out of the wooden bassinet, focussed intently on the figure sat in a nearby rocking chair. The Doctor lounged with the ankle of one leg balanced comfortably on the knobbly knee of the other, forming a loose triangle. In his hands he held a green book, battered, with a broken spine and half the pages falling out – it was well-used, well loved. Moxx In Socks… a remnant from his own distant childhood. With a pair of black spectacles balanced on the end of his nose, he occasionally glanced down at the yellowed pages but mostly he gazed back at his son, who was propped up on soft white pillows in the crib that had once belonged to the infantile Doctor, and enraptured him with tales of Moxx and the amazing adventures he had in his special socks. He did not really need the book itself for he had learnt most of Moxx's escapades off by heart but it was nice to feel the rough cover against his palms and to remember his past.
Freddie's gaze was unwavering as he absorbed his father's words, his expressions and his actions. He had not uttered a single sound since the Doctor had begun reading and seemed almost like a charmed snake, entranced by the music of his father's voice. The bow of his pink lips quivered intermittently as if he was almost trying to imitate the shapes that the Doctor's own larger mouth was making. His tiny, chubby fingers twitched every time the Doctor flourished his own hands in order to embellish the story. He was learning, accumulating knowledge.
"….and then Moxx jumped ever so high to grab his socks from the monster on the rock. He jumped higher than a Fluffhopper could hop, higher than a Whirlibird could fly and higher than he had ever jumped in his life. Moxx grabbed his socks and the monster roared and…"
"Doctor, what on earth are you reading to the wee boy?" Amy's soft Scottish lilt sounded from behind the Doctor.
He paused and craned his neck to look at her.
"It's educational," he muttered, flushing a little, and closing the book quickly.
"It's about socks."
"Well…uhum….socks are an important – very important, in fact! – part of dressing yourself. He needs to learn these kinds of things you know, Pond….for the future….about…. dressing…. appropriately."
"Riiight, I see." Amy nodded, her expression highly amused. "Well make sure you tell him never to couple them with sandals and he'll be just fine. And let's just hope that he hasn't inherited your awful fashion sense."
As she spoke she leant over the crib and tickled the baby on the belly. Freddie squeaked in delight and wriggled beneath her touch.
"Aw. Now who is the cutest little munchkin ever, eh?"
"He gets that from me," the Doctor said with a smug grin, tweaking his bow tie. "And I'll have you know my dress sense is sublime."
Amy raised an eyebrow. "The only thing he gets from you, Doctor, is that crazy hair and a lot of messed up Time Lord DNA. Have his eyes stopped flashing golden yet?"
Amy scooped Freddie gently out of his bassinet and cradled him against her chest. He made some funny little noises but seemed quite pleased to be in the warm arms of his mother. He still hadn't quite started smiling properly yet but it wouldn't be too long. He was six weeks old today.
"Er…" The Doctor scratched the back of his head. "About that….you see, well… I don't think they're going to stop flashing golden. They may even stay that colour permanently soon."
"What! Golden eyes aren't that unusual!" the Doctor exclaimed, "Just 'cos you have those boring muddy colours on Earth doesn't mean other planets haven't been more adventurous. I mean on Oodledawn they have eyes that change colour depending on their mood. You know, like those silly little ring things you get in Earth gift shops that never really work?"
"So what other races have golden eyes then, eh?" Amy asked with one hand planted firmly on her hip as she stared intently at the Doctor. He squirmed uncomfortably under her gaze. Freddie watched this interchange between his mother and father with rapt attention.
"Well….erm…. there used to be an ancient dragon race that had golden eyes but they're all gone now….erm…. I'm sure there are more!" he finished in a higher pitch than normal when he saw Amy's face, taking a step backwards. "But really, Amy, you can't complain because if he didn't have those golden eyes then, well, he would probably be dead."
Amy scowled but had to concede a little. "I guess."
"Good. I'm we're agreed." The Doctor clapped his hands and sniffed the air. Suddenly his nose wrinkled and he turned on his heel. "Now, I'm going for a wander. I'll be back soon."
However, Amy had recognised that look and grabbed his elbow before he could escape.
"Oi! I know what you're trying to do and it won't happen again. You have to change his nappy one of these days, Doctor."
"Scuppered," the Doctor sighed and winked at Freddie who chirped in approval. "Alright then, chimp, let's get you cleaned up."
He plucked the baby from Amy's arms and took him over to a side room where there was a changing table. Gently, he laid Freddie down on the star-splattered mat and began to undress his tiny body. His son jiggled and kicked with excitement.
"Hey, come on, don't make this harder, Freds," the Doctor chastised, half-heartedly, because the baby looked so happy with fresh air on his legs that he couldn't be too irritated.
"Gurga," Freddie replied.
"Yup, exactly," the Doctor smiled and then proceeded to clean the baby up. Once he was done he placed his lips on Freddie's silky soft belly and blew a big wet raspberry. Freddie gurgled and kicked happily. "Come on, Freddie, give your dad a smile." He blew again. Freddie squealed.
"Are you torturing him in there?" Amy called from the main nursery where she was picking out some clothes for the infant to wear.
"Nah, I'm just trying to make him….SMILE! He did it! Pond, he jolly well just did it!"
"Pull the other one."
"The other what? I'm not pulling anything…" came the Doctor's perplexed reply. "Ooh! And again! Come in here, Pond, you don't want to miss this."
Amy dropped the array of baby clothes she'd just selected and hurried into the other room. Sure enough, the Doctor was there blowing raspberries on Freddie's skin and the baby was smiling away, his eyes shining a bright gold.
"You like that don't ya, chimp?"
"Aww, he's so cute." Amy melted into a puddle of goo. "He has dimples! Watch out though, Doctor, if you keep pressing on his belly like that then…."
"That might happen," Amy sniggered as a thin jet of yellow liquid splashed the Doctor.
"Thank you for that warning, Pond, thanks a lot. This is why I don't do nappy duty. Tarra."
With that, the Doctor sauntered from the room.
"Good shot, kiddo," Amy said, chucking Freddie under the chin and laughing. He grinned gummily back at her.
"We're going to land somewhere."
"You sure it's safe?"
"'Course! Well, for a good two hours at least…" The Doctor paused, looking thoughtful. "Then we should probably get outta there quick smart."
"You really know how to reassure a girl don't you, Doctor?"
He was barely listening to her now. He was too busy flouncing around the console pressing buttons and cranking levers and whooping whenever the TARDIS made an exciting noise. She watched his antics with a mixture of exasperation and amusement. The Doctor was just a big kid. A big kid with a time machine. From what she had experienced this was both a good thing and a bad thing; sometimes she was exhilarated and sometimes she was scared witless. It just depended on where the Doctor's whim took them next. However, now she had Freddie to consider, she was a bit more unsettled by his impulsive behaviour.
"Are you really, really sure that we'll be safe? That Freddie will be? Maybe we should leave him on the TARDIS?"
The Doctor froze and turned to stare at her, looking scandalized.
"Leave Freddie on the TARDIS? LEAVE him?" He looked like she'd suggested throwing the infant off a cliff and Amy was a bit indignant.
"And what's wrong with that?" she asked, huffily.
"You want to deprive a young, curious, impressionable Time Lord of the wonders of the universe by leaving him behind? His brain is at its most powerful, most receptive, most absorbent right now. What he learns in this very moment could shape him for the rest of his life…"
"Okay, okay! Alright! Keep yer wig on!" Amy replied, "I get that you want to make him pretty much the biggest brain-box in the universe but 'right now' I'm more concerned about his safety than his IQ."
The Doctor considered her for a moment. "He'll be fine, Amelia. I promise." He shot her a trademark grin before adding, "By the way, did you know that a Time Lord IQ is at least seven times higher than that of the average human being? We have our own range as yours is much to low. It's called the…."
"Big-headed, arrogant prick IQ scale?"
"You know what…." The Doctor grinned. "It may have been something along those lines."
"Does that mean Freddie will be a geek like you?"
"Well, if by 'geek' you mean incredibly handsome, intelligent and athletic then probably yes." He added a tilt of his chin and a toss of his hair for emphasis. "Don't you agree?"
Amy quirked an eyebrow. "Pfft, in your dreams," she snorted but felt a small, hot blush work its way up her neck. She turned away in an effort to hide it and she decided she probably got away with it when she saw the Doctor return to working on the TARDIS control panel.
"Et voila!" the Doctor declared, jovially.
"Have we landed in France?"
"Eh?" The Time Lord looked perplexed for a moment. His smooth face contorted into a frown. "Oh…no. Sorry. Just felt like saying that. Actually, we've landed on a planet called Albany."
"Oh, it is. It's beautiful. There are golden beaches, blue mountains, splendidly warm, clear seas and the most terrific rushing rainbow waterfalls. You'll love it."
"And we have two hours to enjoy it?"
"Yes, unfortunately, just the two. We'll have to come back some time because, trust me, you won't want to leave."
"Yeah, in a time when we're not being pursued by angry, vengeful immortal beings," Amy said, sarcastically.
It was truly stunning.
And the Doctor was right. As soon as she stepped onto the warm sandy beach Amelia Pond did not want to leave. Her breath left her lungs as she stared at the expansive ocean where glittery purple dolphins jumped out of the perfectly cresting waves and the beach stretched for miles with not a single soul blemishing the smooth surface. To her right were undulating dunes and lush green forestland as well as the promised navy blue mountains that looked like a giant duvet quilt. Through some of the trees she could see splashes of colour and could hear pounding water and she realised that it must be the waterfalls that the Doctor had spoken of. Her heart thumped with excitement.
"Its magical," she managed to gasp.
"Isn't it just," the Doctor replied in that annoyingly smug 'look how clever and wonderful and right I am' voice. "Hey, do you like it Freddie?"
He was asking the small baby that sat comfortably in his arms, coolly observing the world outside the TARDIS for the first time. His owl-like eyes processed the entire incredible setting for a few moments before, finally, Freddie broke his impassive façade and squawked to be let down. As soon as he found himself in the sand he couldn't stop smiling and gurgling.
"Oh, no, Freddie, don't put that in your mouth. It's bad for you." The Doctor weakly attempted to stop the infant shoveling handfuls of the wonderful soft, slippery stuff in his mouth. Despite his father's warnings, the baby continued on regardless as the Doctor flapped in the background.
"Ha, that's the human side of him for ya," Amy replied with a smirk. "Not that absorbent sponge of a genius you were hoping for, eh?"
The Doctor shot her a filthy look and then tried to distract the baby with a pretty shell which Freddie promptly put in his mouth, drooling all over it.
"Yurrrck," the Time Lord sighed and then resigned himself to the fact that the baby would do what he wanted, when he wanted and that was thanks to the genes of both his mother and his father.
"Hey, Freddie," Amy said, scooping him up, "You wanna go splash in the sea? C'mon!"
The three of them raced down to the water's edge. Amy kicked her shoes off as she ran and the Doctor paused for a few moments, hopping on alternate feet in an effort to remove his cloddish boots, before catching up. They entered the sea together, splashing water everywhere. Amy screeched and Freddie squeaked with glee as both his parents guffawed with unrestrained laughter. They hadn't been this at ease in quite awhile having been cooped up in the TARDIS for a good few months. They had been craving this wonderful freedom.
Taking Freddie from his mother, the Doctor bounced the baby in the water, dipping his toes beneath the surface. He giggled and kicked his legs in joy.
"Yep, this definitely calls for some ooga, ooga-ing! I agree whole-heartedly." The Doctor chuckled and then blew a raspberry on the infant's exposed round belly. Freddie shrieked with happiness and wriggled in his grip so much that the Doctor nearly dropped him. Half his little body ended up in the water and he cried out. "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry chimpy. Truly sorry."
But Freddie was having none of it. He was wet and cold and he cried and cried, bellowing for all he was worth.
"Shh, shh, come now, Daddy's sorry." The Doctor rocked him gently and slowly took him out of the water and up the beach. Amy followed quietly.
They passed the TARDIS and walked through the line of trees. The Doctor led the way, wending through the trunks until they reached a beautiful blue cliff and the most fantastic rainbow waterfall.
"Hey, Freddie, look at that," the Doctor whispered in the baby's tiny shell of an ear. The child, who had been sobbing heavily, caught sight of the falling water and stopped crying immediately. Instead he stared in awe. "Its pretty great, isn't it?" The Doctor stroked the baby's downy hair with his large hand, soothing him.
"It's unbelievably beautiful," Amy breathed from his left.
"Yeah," the Doctor agreed with a small smile, staring over Freddie's head at the gorgeous woman, mother of his child, silhouetted against the rushing water, "It really is."
They returned to the beach and by that time Freddie was fast asleep in the safety of the Doctor's arms. Amy darted back into the TARDIS to fetch a blanket and they placed him on it between the two of them. He barely made a noise as he was transferred. His parents reclined either side of him in tranquil silence, lost in their own thoughts, as they stared out at the expansive ocean.
"Thank you for bringing us here," Amy finally broke the silence in a soft voice. "I really appreciate it."
"You're welcome. I thought you could do with a break," the Doctor replied, shooting a caring smile at her. "We all could. I just wish I could give you longer." His voice was full of regret.
"Hey," Amy said, turning from the sea to look fully at him, "This is enough."
The Doctor's mouth was a thin, worried line. "I just wish I could take you and Freddie away from all this. To take you out of the equation."
"We're part of the equation whether you like it or not Doctor and we are certainly not going anywhere. Besides, there's nowhere I'd rather be than with you. I feel safe with you."
"But I'm dangerous, Amelia," the Doctor admitted, painfully. "And I'm a terrible father to Freddie and a terrible…friend to you for putting you through this. It used to be fun and games – a jolly good laugh - but things are serious now; things have consequences. Big ones. I haven't had this kind of responsibility in a long, long time." He paused, still staring at the rippling ocean. "And last time it didn't end well."
"It's different this time," Amy replied, adamantly, though she was not entirely sure why things should be different; she just felt they were. The Doctor was a different man to who he was in his past and she was certain that he would protect at least Freddie, if not all three of them. And as long as her son was safe, that's what mattered to Amy.
"But I can't let anything happen to you both."
"Doctor," Amy said, catching his chin with her fingers and turning his face towards hers. "I know without a doubt that you will protect Freddie better than anyone ever could. You will never let anything happen to him and that's why I see it is in my son's best interests for us to stay as close as possible to you."
There was a long pause where neither of them uttered a sound. Only the gentle, rhythmic swell of the ocean could be heard.
"But I cannot bear to lose you either, Amelia," the Doctor finally said, earnestly, his blue eyes boring into hers, "You mean too much to me and I just don't know if I'll be able to guarantee your safety."
"I'll be fine."
"You don't know that."
"I can be optimistic, can't I?" Amy said, raising an eyebrow.
The Doctor lifted his own hand and cupped the fingers that were holding onto his chin. "I've almost lost you before, Amelia. I'm not prepared to do it again. I've learnt that much."
His intensity was almost overwhelming. Amy had to concentrate on remembering to draw breath.
"I will not lose you."
And then he drew her face close to his and placed the most tender, heartfelt kiss on her lips. Just as Amy regained her senses and was about to reciprocate, he pulled back.
"I will not," he repeated, vehemently.
Amy had no idea what to say.