Never had the Doctor felt lower. His best friends were devastated. Their newborn daughter was torn from their loving embrace and taken away to be raised in a very likely militant environment. Already they'd seen her, reaching out, pleading for help while trapped in some space suit. Already he knew he was too late. Too late to save her. Her time line had already begun. He'd failed to protect an innocent baby from the cruelty of these people.

The man who couldn't stand to see children crying, was responsible for the worst pain imaginable for this child. She would be raised without the protection and care of her parents. Alone and unloved, forced to learn only how to be violent and hate, more than likely. No child should ever have to go through such a thing. Coupled with the fact that he was responsible, the Doctor couldn't have felt lower.

Except that River showed up. Finally. He'd turned on her, demanding answers. Instead of getting any, she added to his guilt and self doubt. Already all hope he had was dashed, and now she was taking shots at him as well. She reminded him of how this was all his fault. He'd already been brought down, but she...She was bringing him down to his knees.

Why was she doing this to him?

He wiped a tear from his cheek, his watery eyes on her. How dare she! She hadn't been here when he needed her. She failed him. After all of the times he'd been there to catch her when she fell, this was how she repaid him?

He couldn't let this go. He demanded an answer of her this time. "Who are you?" He demanded quietly, smirking in anger, refusing to let more tears fall. His rage was now focused on her. He may not have been able to save Melody Pond from her fate, or his best friends Amy and Rory from their heartache, but this was one thing he could do. He could finally make River Song tell him who the hell she was. And she would tell him even if he had to force her to.

He readied himself for a fight. His eyes dared her to spit the word 'spoilers' at him now. He had never been more dangerous.

They stared at each other. Suddenly, she was full of life. An actual bounce in her step as he watched her hop backwards quickly. Trying to escape him as far as he could tell. She was trying to distract him. That was never going to work. He dove after her.

"Oh look, your cot! Haven't seen that in a very long while!" His hand firmly caught her wrist as she came to a stop beside the cot. He glared at her. "No. No! You tell me!" He demanded, giving her wrist a rough shake. "Tell me who you are." The gruff demand was flung at her threateningly. But this was River, she couldn't be intimidated. She'd already stood her ground with him time and again. So he was surprised to see a slight bit of what looked like fear, briefly cross her face. Had he actually frightened her? Hurt her? That was new. For reasons he couldn't understand, he didn't like the feeling of her being afraid or hurt because of him. He eased up on his grip, but didn't release his hold on her wrist.

He felt her free hand close in around his and gently tug it free of her wrist. He knew he could destroy her if he wanted to, but he also knew he never would. Enough blood had been shed in his name, as she, herself, had not so subtly pointed out. He watched her intensely. She leaned forward. There was no taunting smirk now, no joyful teasing, not that he could have taken any. Not on this day.

Other days River and her sexy smirk and mysterious teases, had made flirting with her very enjoyable. But today it felt like nothing more than her being cruel.

"I am telling you." She spoke quietly, as if she were handling a delicate child, and not a formidable Time Lord. He calmed enough to look at her expectantly, confusion and doubt clouding his mind. How was she telling him? What was she telling him? He wasn't getting it. He felt her guide his hand to the cool metal of part of the cot and press it to it. His fingers slowly encircled it as she met his gaze once more, challengingly.

"Can't you read?" She chided affectionately. His eyes stayed on hers a moment longer. River Song. What secrets did she have? Not for the first time he wondered if she were someone he needed to consider an enemy. Only in recent months had he started to accept that she was someone he might come to trust as fully as she had always claimed he would. He'd even started to look forward to seeing her. He liked spending time with her, fliritng and fighting enemies together. It felt like they were a good team. She knew him well and he could rely on her intelligence and brave nature to help in the most dangerous of situations. Yet, she kept things from him in ways he couldn't understand. She knew things he knew she shouldn't. She had weapons and used them with such ease!

But until today, he hadn't really been worried about what she could do. Not until she'd not bothered to show up and help him save an innocent baby. Not until she bothered to show up far too late and then taunt him and lecture him and bring him down even further. Now he was seeing her as a potential threat. Already his mind was working out what he could do should she dare become a threat. He would protect Amy first and foremost. Amy and Rory and get them out of here safely. Get them back home and then deal with her. Nobody was going to cause his best friends even more pain. Certainly not River Song.

He focused again. She was telling him. Telling him what, exactly? She'd guided his hand to the cot. Asked if he could read. He blinked at her in confusion. He felt the warmth of her hand as she gave his a gentle, guiding squeeze, directing his attention to the cot. He casually glanced down at the cot. It was just his cot. Nothing new there. Amy had left a couple of baby Melody's things in it. A plain white blanket and a beautifully embroidered leaf with the baby's name on it. Ah, the writing from the language of the people of the Gamma Forests. The girl who he'd just watched die and had excess amounts of guilt about not remembering, had been from there. It didn't take a genius, although he was one, to work out she had made this beautiful leaf for Amy's child.

He eyed the delicate stitching with admiration and sadness. Pond. But no, that wasn't entirely accurate. It certainly didn't say Melody, which he assumed to be written on the opposite side. Pond wasn't a word the people of the Gamma Forests had or knew. They only had a word for water and a word for the body of water that they had. They didn't have oceans or lakes or ponds in any of the Gamma Forests. The only water in the Forest was the river, which was what the word written on the leaf translated into. Although it was a great deal of thought he'd put into this, it had only taken seconds for him to draw the necessarily conclusions.


River. Pond. Melody. Song.

The impact of this discovery was immediate.

Disbelief etched its way across his features as he dared to slowly look up at her. He felt her hand retreat and she moved back a bit now that he was getting it. His eyes widened, his mouth hung open. She watched him watching her. For the first time, the Doctor was seeing River with fresh eyes. He wasn't looking at her as if she were a mysterious stranger or someone to distrust. He was looking at her in awe and amazement.

Of all the people he had considered River Song to possibly be, this had never even reached any part of his thinking. She was giving him something more than her identity though. She was giving him the one thing he'd lost. Hope.

The innocent baby he'd failed to save, was standing before him. And she was safe. She was strong, safe, and not doing anything horrendous like murdering people or attacking him the way that Madame Kovarian woman had obviously wanted her to do. Which meant he did interfere and save little Melody Pond. He may not have been able to save her as an infant, but he could influence her life.

His lips came together nearly silently forming the first R for River, but not quite able to get there. Here she was, smiling widely at him. He could hardly believe it!

His best friends' baby lived and was safe! She was safe and she was...The beautiful, brilliant River Song! It was almost too much for him to take in! So many things to sort out, but he didn't even mind that anymore because now he knew and understood who she was!

Relief washed over him in buckets. He could fix this. He could make it right. It wouldn't be perfect. He couldn't undo the scars that he'd caused. But he could save the little girl of his best friends.

He felt cowed, not an easy emotion for him. He was in a place he'd rarely been before. Totally taken aback and confronted with something utterly unexpected. Never had he felt more affection for her. Certainly he was always the sort who would try to protect others, but rarely had he felt this possessively protective of anyone. Not only for the woman he happened to fancy, but for the little girl she once was, and for who she was. She was Amy Pond's daughter. That immediately placed her into the full on loved and trusted ally category in the Doctor's mind and hearts. That was all he really needed to know.

She hadn't let him down, as he'd been feeling all day. She'd done quite the opposite! He understood now why she couldn't have come earlier. He would have never, ever asked that of her. The paradoxes that could have caused would have been catastrophic. She'd come only when she could. And she'd come when he'd needed her most. To give him hope.

Here he'd been, distrusting beloved Melody Pond. A Pond! How could he distrust a Pond? Never! He'd been distrusting her, and treating her like a potential adversary. He'd even gripped her wrist far too tightly, he realized now with shame. But she didn't mind a bit of it. She smiled at him so radiantly.

A bashful smile slowly spread its way across his face. He clasped his hands together while he worked at swallowing down the lump in his throat. River Song was so much more than he could have ever hoped!

"Hello." He spoke softly, greeting her for the first time, truly, in his mind. Because now he knew her and he knew he would never mistreat her so harshly again.

He watched her with the eyes of someone who was finally seeing. "Hello." She greeted him back, still smiling happily at him.

The Doctor giggled. It was an entirely unmanly thing to do, but he couldn't help himself. The thrill of greeting the true River Song, a Pond, and having her talk back, was all new to him now.

"But..." He giggled again. "But that means..." She was the grown up daughter of his best friends!

"Yes, I'm afraid it does." She laughed back, still smiling. He laughed softly with her. He clapped his hands together, rubbing them lightly together. He glanced back over at Amy and Rory. "Ooh." He blurted out in realization. His best friends were about to find out that their mysterious adventurer friend was their very own daughter!

He looked back at River, another thought quickly colliding with that one. He pointed at her. Truly in awe of her, his voice softer and more tender than he'd ever been with her before. "But you and I, we-we-we, uh..." He puckered his lips and made kissing sounds as he stared at her, his shock dying away and giving in to excitement. Too long had he waited to discover her identity, but it had definitely been worth the wait. She leaned toward him and quietly intoned. "Yes."

He giggled once more, unable to stop himself. He was positively giddy! He hadn't felt this much relief or this much childish delight in so long, he wanted to jump up and down! They had some kind of romance between them. He most definitely fancied her. He'd already felt that connection, but hadn't expected anything to come of it. He normally was against it. It just wasn't good for a Time Lord to get caught up in that sort of thing. Especially not with a human. But River was so much more. She was a human plus. Plus Time Lord. How much of that plus of hers effected her, he couldn't be sure. She was a unique being. Never before her, had life been conceived aboard the TARDIS. He knew if his future self had more kisses with her, he must have felt she was strong enough to handle the difficulties in having any sort of real relationship with him. That she had even a slight bit of Time Lord in her DNA made him even happier, although it complicated things. It made him feel...Slightly less alone in the Universe.

"Ooooh!" He exclaimed again, glancing once more at Rory and Amy. Their child. He fancied their child! Oh, they wouldn't be too happy about that! He looked to River again.

So many revelations in this one simple fact he'd just learned. He'd be reeling for a good long while after this one!

He rubbed his hands together vigorously, taking in a deep breath. As delighted as he was at this discovery, he had things to do. A little girl to rescue. And he really would rather get out of here before Amy and Rory discovered the truth. He knew and could only imagine what it would do to them. They would likely be thrilled to know someone as amazing as River was their child. But it would also leave them with so many questions and worries. And awkwardness considering the whole him and her flirting like mad in front of them stuff. He didn't think that they would like the fact that their baby girl was living a seemingly good portion of her life in a stormcage. They wouldn't likely be very comfortable with dealing with her all grown up when they had yet to raise her. It was all very confusing and emotional and he was eager to get started. And away. Let River handle that mess. He knew he would do whatever it took to see to it that she would become the wonderful woman she was now. She could handle this. She could handle just about anything. He was confident of it.

He had his work cut out for him, but he was thrilled that he had a plan now. He would find Melody Pond and he would earn her trust, whatever it took. He knew he would have to work for it. She would have been trained by people who hated him. People who feared him. He would do anything and everything possible to make sure she was safe and had a good life. Even if he had to die for her, he would protect her. It was a small redemption to pay for causing them all of this pain.

He gathered his senses and stretched his hands out before grasping to straighten his jacket and bowtie. He straightened up and looked back at River expectantly. "How do I look?" It was most important for her to think he looked good. Because it was her, albeit a younger her, that he had to go back and impress.

He watched River's eyes trail over his form and back up to meet his. "Amazing." She announced with genuine affection. She remembered, he knew. She'd seen him like this when she was little Melody. He pointed at her, unable to wipe the grin from his face. "I'd better be!" He said, nearly laughing in joy.

"Yes, you'd better be." She laughed openly. He whirled around. His confidence was back. His joy was back. His hope was back. River was that, wasn't she? His hope.

"Vashta and Jenny, til the next time." He acknowledged them. "Doctor." Vashta nodded at him as she and Jenny prepared to leave.

Suddenly he was himself again. He was in control. "Rory and Amy." He said looking at them without breaking a moment of his speech. "I know where to find your daughter and on my life she will be safe." He whirled back around, pointing at River. "River, get them all home." And she would, he knew. She was a strong woman and she was safe and she could do it because he would see to it she became the woman she is now.

"Doctor!" He heard the panic in Rory's voice, but he didn't bother with it. He hurried toward the TARDIS. "No!" Amy cried out. He couldn't take them. This was something he had to do himself. He couldn't let them see their daughter in the state she would likely be in when he found her. She would be distrusting at best. It would break their hearts all over again. He needed to save her from not only physically wherever she was, but mentally and emotionally where they'd taken her. River would see to Amy and Rory and make sure they understood and got home safely. He trusted her fully now. He knew it was up to him to shape her and he wouldn't let her or her parents down.

"Where are you going? No!" Amy and Rory ran after him as he unlocked the shield around the TARDIS and hurried inside. He knew they would be safe and okay. He would rescue their daughter and bring her back to them. River would explain. There was little more he could do. He couldn't take them with him and he couldn't stay and watch them fall apart. They would have to go through shock, and so many overwhelming emotions, which he really wanted to run away from. Especially now that he had something he could do to ease their pain.

He needed to leave before things got worse. Still, even as he ducked inside, he couldn't help himself. He was drawn to her. He peeked out the door, his eyes searching for her. He needed to see her one more time. To fill him once more with giddy hope. To see what the hard work he was about to dive into, would result in. River. Happy wonder was all over his face as his twinkling eyes landed on her. He grinned widely and pointed at her in sheer delight as he made a happy little sound of admiration before disappearing back inside the TARDIS and closing the door firmly behind him. He danced over to the console.

He pressed buttons and turned dials with more zest than he'd felt in a good, long while. His hearts were once more filled with hope and the wonders this Universe had to offer. Many of them, he realized, started right here in his very own TARDIS.

"Youngest Pond, you hang on." He murmured absently while setting coordinates. "I'm coming. And be ready. Your life will never be the same again. I promise."