She knocked briskly on the door.
"Just a moment!" yelled a gruff, congenial voice from beyond the muffling wood. There was the sound of a shuffle, and some sharp, high pitched barks. "Back, Tipsy!" the voice ordered, not very authoritatively.
The door opened to reveal a balding, heavyset older man, her height, with merry brown eyes and comical flyaway eyebrows.
A tiny brown Chihuahua charged out of the door beside him and began bouncing excitedly around her feet.
"Tipsy! Down!" the man said in a harassed voice, bending over, trying to catch the excited little dog.
"It's all right," she said, smiling at the comical scene, as the pudgy man fruitlessly snatched at the bouncing dog. He gave it up and stood.
"Sorry about that, she doesn't bite," he assured her, a bit red faced, both from the bending and the embarrassment.
She looked down at the little dog that was now sitting at her feet, furiously wagging its tail, staring up at her with an adoring doggy grin.
She bent down and patted the small canine head. The dog licked her hand, yipped happily, and trotted into the house beside the man's pantleg.
"Well, I'll be..." he said, watching the dog walk away.
"Are Amy and Rory Williams here?" she asked.
The man's attention went back to her. "Huh? Oh, no. They went to the cinema with Tabitha, some movie they were all dying to see. I wasn't interested."
"Oh," she deflated a bit. She'd really wanted to spend the day with family. They hadn't been home, so she'd tracked them down here. She sighed. "Well, thank you. I suppose I can come back later," except she only had enough charge in her vortex manipulator for the journey back. It would be days before it was charged up enough for another trip.
"Who shall I tell them came calling?" he asked politely.
She shrugged, "Just say River..."
His meaty hand snatched out and grabbed hers in a strong grip. Her first instinct was to reach for the gun under her dress.
"River?" he said in a shocked voice. "You're River?" His fingers were gripping hers so tightly they stung. She didn't register it.
"They told you about me?"
"Of course, they told us about you. Oh, my dear girl!" He enveloped her in a bear hug. She squeaked slightly in surprise. "My, that's a lot of hair you've got there," he said as he stood back, brushing her hair out of his face. He didn't let go her hand. "You didn't get that from me," he said self-mockingly, running a thick-fingered hand over his shiny pate.
"Come in, come in..." He dragged her inside, without giving her a chance to refuse. She entered the homey, cluttered house with a feeling of deja vu. She'd run here tame as a kid. Always keeping an eye on Amy and Rory, lying in wait for the Doctor to return.
But she'd always avoided the Ponds.
"What exactly did Amy and Rory tell you about me?" she asked, uneasily. She hadn't been the most biddable child. A hellion in fact. She'd always suspected they didn't approve of her. Not that she'd cared at the time.
"That you're my granddaughter. What else did I need to know? Come, sit down." He led her over to the floral sofa and sat her down. She was amused. He was making sure he had her right where he wanted her.
He sat down on the ottoman across from her and just stared. He had an awed, befuddled look on his face, making him look like an old clown without makeup.
"I must say, this is very strange. I never expected to have a granddaughter older than my daughter," he said tactlessly. She saw where Amy got it. "But then, I never expected my daughter's imaginary friend to be real, either.
"So, tell me all about yourself." He clapped his hands and leaned forward eagerly.
Oh, I really don't think so, she thought. She studied the man across from her. He only looked about 10-15 years older than her. And he was short. She suddenly smiled. He's where she'd got it from.
It had always annoyed her that both her parents were nearly six feet tall, while she was short.
Tipsy hopped up onto the sofa and climbed into her lap. The little dog curled up and dropped a small jingle ball in her skirts. She'd deliberately dressed in a casual, nondescript day dress. Something that said, "I'm just visiting relatives, don't mind me."
She absently petted the little dog, which gazed at her adoringly. She recognized the jingle ball. It was old and faded and much abused, but still jingled. She'd given it to the little dog eons ago. In another life.
"Tipsy likes you. That's strange, she doesn't like most people," he observed.
"I should go." River started to get up, she couldn't answer his questions. She didn't know how much Amy and Rory had told them about her. And this was starting to hurt.
"Oh no." He put his short-fingered meaty hands on her shoulders and held her on the sofa. "I know you can't tell me anything. Amelia explained. But..." his eyes darted around the living room, "We could..." his eyes lighted on the unused chess table by the window. "We could play a game!"
River's eyebrows shot up. Play a game? When was the last time she'd played a game? A non-lethal one anyway.
"You don't have to tell me anything about yourself. We can just play a game and get to know each other. You can wait here for Amelia and Rory to get back and we'll play draughts. Every grandfather plays draughts with his granddaughter, don't they?" he asked uncertainly, eagerly bringing the small square inlaid table over to her, his eyes pleading and hopeful.
He set it down and started pulling out the draughts. "What color do you want? Red or black?"
Amy and Rory walked in to find River and Augustus laughing over the draughts table.
"You cheated!" River proclaimed, pointing a red-tipped fingernail at the older man. He stared back at her with a look of outraged innocence, his flyaway eyebrows wiggling in mock indignation.
"I did not! How can you say such a thing to your poor old granfer?"
River threw back her head and laughed, her golden curls catching the sunlight from the window behind her, luminous with joy.
"Augustus?" Tabitha demanded, coming into her living room to find her husband disheveled, his fringe of hair sticking out at all angles, sleeves rolled up over his forearms, entertaining a gorgeous seductress only a few years younger than herself.
"What is going on here?" she demanded, her hands going to her hips, fire pouring out of her eyes.
"Mum," Amy said quietly, putting a restraining hand on her mother's arm. "This is River."
Tabitha's hands immediately dropped to her sides. Her eyes widened, then immediately returned to normal. She looked over her husband's guest from top to toe. Tipsy was sitting beside the woman, leaning against her thigh which was clad in a lightweight summer dress, the little dog comfortably chewing on a black leather glove.
River's pale gray-green eyes surveyed the woman back calmly. The corner of her lips tipped up slightly as Augustus spilled draughts out of his rolled up shirtsleeves onto the draughts table.
Tabitha was an older, paler, more pixieish version of Amy. Clad in a sharp suit, and a no-nonsense attitude. River met the woman's stare head on.
"You never said she was pretty," Tabitha said.
"MUM!" Amy protested, staring, horrified.
"Well, you didn't," Tabitha protested. "You said she was gorgeous. You never said she was pretty."
River grinned as her father sputtered.
She was going to like her grandparents.
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