of shoes- and ships- and sealing wax

He was late.

Also in trouble. But most definitely late. He'd promised – well he always promised but it was a bit difficult to keep track of time when you popped out for the tea your wife particularly likes and ended up embroiled in the middle of an inter-planetary conflict of the alien invading variety.

He was running toward the TARDIS. Not being chased – not by anything other than the mental image of his irate wife and their equally put out daughter. He slammed the doors behind him, sprinting down the hall in a rush. As he drew closer he could hear the muffled giggles emitting from Amelia's room. He paused by the door, to catch his breath – no need to make it obvious – and if he happened to overhear, well...

"'If seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year. Do you suppose,' the Walrus said,
'That they could get it clear?'" River was reading Amelia's favourite story aloud, complete with hand gestures and different voices. The Doctor peered around the frame and watched intently.

Amelia was tucked into her blue blankets, her walls drenched in stars and watching her mother intently, her hands laced together as she gasped and giggled and clapped at the story. He felt his hearts swell in his chest as he watched – the source of such joy surely couldn't be contained in one small tiny girl who would be a Timelord one day. "You're late Daddy." Amelia's voice cut across his musing and he felt a grin stretch across his face as he popped his head further into the doorframe.

"Am I? Are you sure, Amelia Song? Because I am a lord of time and I'm fairly certain that I am certainly, most definitely..." He grinned as he spoke and River glanced over her shoulder with an arched brow and a slow smile. Amelia simply crossed her arms and glared at him. Sometimes she was eerily like her namesake. "Alright, alright- a smidgen, teensy, weensy bit late. I have a good excuse!" He sauntered into the room, and flopped onto the foot of Amelia's bed, causing her to giggle and River to look down at his head pillowed on her lap as he shot her an unrepentant wink and a smile. "What's this rubbish you're reading? Not this book again." He snatched the book from where it lay open on the bed for Amelia to follow along with.

It'd been a gift from Amy and Rory – proper human books so Amelia would know all of her history. And read them to her yeah? Don't just be putting her to bed with your ridiculous robot king stories, Raggedy Man. Amy'd brought books upon books upon books into the TARDIS for her little granddaughter. It also happened to be Amelia's favourite book at the moment – and they'd read it so many times that neither he nor River needed the book to read from anymore, so now Amelia would follow along with them.

"Daddy!" Amelia protested with a shriek, reaching for the book in his hands that he held away from her.

"What about a proper story? The Emperor Dalek's New Clothes? You love that one. Or Daddy could tell you a story." Amelia stopped reaching for the book at that and she clapped, her face wreathed in smiles once more. River's hand moved into his hair, as she leaned close enough to him that he could feel her breath on his cheek.

"You spoil her." She admonished him softly and he grinned up at her.

"And you don't?" He countered, reaching up to tap her nose gently before he sat up quickly, clapping his hands in delight. "Alright Miss Amelia. What story would you like? Oh how about the one with-"

"The aliens!" Amelia and River both responded in the same sing-song voice and he pouted at them.

"Well I could tell the one about the time I-"

"Saved the universe." They both finished for him and he let out his breath in a huff, folding his arms across his chest and glaring at his family.

"Fine then. You pick."

"How did you meet Mummy, Daddy?" Amelia settled back into her blankets and patted the space beside her. Both he and River automatically shifted into position – each of them on either side of their daughter, their hands meeting over her small waist – River's finger laced tight with his. The Doctor swallowed sharply, feeling the memory claw at the back of his throat like an allergic reaction. He fought for control for a moment before carefully answering his little girl.

"I can't tell that story." He kept his gaze fixed on Amelia, because he didn't want to see River's face for this. "Mummy hasn't gotten there yet." His gaze slipped over to hers inevitably though – he was drawn to her. Always had been. Always would be. She stared at him with a sympathetic gaze, her hand tightening in his.

"Oh. Well how about when Mummy met you?" Amelia responded practically, her hands folded over her stomach as she snuggled into her bed further.

"Amelia that's –" River started to speak but he shook his head, talking over her.

"An excellent story to tell. Do you know, when your Mummy first met me, I didn't know it was her? It was like a surprise, Amelia." He spoke to his daughter, but River's grip on his hand was so tight he feared it might never work properly anymore.

"Doctor..." River spoke in a warning tone and he met her eyes, staring at her for a moment.

"Why was she a surprise? Did she look different? A new her?" Though Amelia didn't grasp all of the mechanics of regeneration just yet – she was only four after all – she was aware that her Daddy and Mummy hadn't always looked like this.

"She did. Daddy didn't have a clue. But then she changed-"

"Why?" Amelia asked impertinently.

"Because she had to, poppet. So Daddy would know who she was. And your Mummy – she was magnificent. Her hair bounced out, Amelia. And she was so beautiful; Daddy could hardly look at her." River snorted at this and he shot her a glare that she bore with one elegantly arched eyebrow.

"What happened then Daddy? Did you tell her you loved her? Did you take her on adventures?" Amelia bounced a little at this and he laughed, shaking his head.

"Not just then. You see poppet, an evil one-eyed witch had hurt Daddy, very badly. She's gone now – but then she didn't like Daddy very much and she wanted to hurt him." His voice got lower as he spoke, and Amelia looked at him with alarm.

"What, why? Daddy you're the bestest." She spoke seriously, as if unable to comprehend the idea and he felt his chest puff out in pride.

"Well... yeah."

"Oh look at you all chuffed." River teased him gently. "Bestest or not Amelia, sometimes Daddy upsets bad people."

"But what happened? Were you really hurt Daddy?" Amelia looked back to him and he scoffed, releasing River's hand to wave his own about.

"What? No. Course not. Takes more than an evil witch to hurt your old Dad. She tried though. But your Mummy saved me." He grinned over at River who smiled gently back and Amelia curled into his side, her face pressed against his shoulder.

"How did Mummy save you?"

"Magic, Amelia Song. Like a fairytale – Mummy kissed me and made it all better." He kissed her cheek as he spoke and she giggled slightly, looking over at her shoulder at her mother before turning back to him seriously.

"Mummy is the bestest at kissing boo-boo's better Daddy. I hurt my knee today and she kissed it and it don't even hurt no more." She nodded to him and he nodded sagely back.

"Exactly. Your Mum does give the best kisses. Well, maybe she'd be tied with you." He tickled her ribs lightly and she squealed, squirming out of his grasp and back into her mother's arms. He finally relented and she laughed, staring at him like he was a bit thick.

"No. Mummy gives kisses best." She insisted stubbornly and he grinned at her, holding his hand up in surrender.

"All right, you win." He finally conceded defeat. "Any and all future boo-boos, I'll take them to Mum, shall I?"

"Was it really like a fairy tale Daddy?" Amelia scootched closer to the middle of the bed, and River reached up, smoothing a hand over Amelia's riotous curls. The Doctor smiled to see it – both his girls – same magnificent curly hair. He was so very blessed.

"What do you mean poppet?" He answered her absent-mindedly, still watching River's face as she stared at their daughter – their miracle.

"Did Mummy save you with true love? I have a book about a princess who slept and slept and slept and nothing would wake her but true love kisses." She nodded sagely before reaching under her pillow and pulling out her sock monkey. She snuggled into her blankets, waiting for his response.

"Well, I-"

"Absolutely sweetie." River's reassured her daughter, sweeping her palm over her small back in a soothing, rhythmic motion. "Mummy realized that Daddy was really hurt, and even though she didn't know him, she knew that she had to save him. Mummy knew – when she did – that she would love Daddy for the rest of her life. And even beyond that." Amelia sighed happily, snuggling her face into her monkey as her eyes blinked drowsily as she gave over to the relaxing motion of River's hand, smoothing across her back.

"I love you both." She spoke in a voice that was heavy with sleep, she was almost out – but the Doctor repeated their ritual anyway.

"How much?" He demanded in a whispered voice and Amelia giggled softly, half-asleep.

"This much." Her arms twitched but stayed wrapped around her monkey and the Doctor wrapped his arms around her and pretended to cry in her shoulder.

"Only that much?"

"Big as the whole wide world, Daddy." She mumbled and he pressed a kiss to her forehead.

"Which world?"

"Big as the whole universe." Amelia sighed out, just before falling asleep and they both lay there with her, watching the even rise and fall of her small chest, their hands joining once again.

"Quite the bedtime story, my love. A witch?"

"Well she cackled and had that crazy eye." He brushed it off and River laughed softly. "Escape?" She nodded, and they released their hands, both of them creeping slowly off their respective edges until they were standing at her bedside. River leaned down and kissed the top of their daughter's head and they both eased out into the corridor quietly. As soon as the door had shut though, the Doctor turned to find himself subject to one of River's finest glares. "Oh."

"Yes, oh. You're late. And normally I wouldn't mind, but you have a plasma burn in the back of your jacket and I'm fairly certain you've lost some hair-"

"Oh really?" He put a hand through his hair, pulling the strands to his face as he tried to inspect them.

"Stop avoiding, Doctor. What happened?"

"Well," he hedged and she stared at him, her face impassive and unimpressed so he sighed gustily instead. "There may have been a slight invasion. All fine now, I swear!"

"I sent you out for tea, Doctor! 'Oh I'll just pop us over during the 43rd century, River. Nothing bad happens then, cross my hearts.'" She glared at him and he winced at her tone.

"It wasn't my fault..." He pointed out uselessly and she sighed in frustration before she stepped in closer to him.

"It's never your fault, sweetie. You're not hurt are you?" She ran her hands over his shoulders and ribs, as if she could feel any sources of pain for herself.

"No, River. I promise I'm not." He looked down at her, wondering once more just how he had gotten so incredibly lucky. Never had he ever thought that this would be where he ended up. River was inspecting him carefully, her hands smoothing along the cotton of his shirt, her nails clicking against his buttons as she double-checked as if reassure herself that he was okay. "Although..." He started in a flirtatious tone and she looked up at him, an arched brow and a sparkle in her eyes.

"Yes?" She prompted, her hands sliding along his braces until they rested on his hips, and he shivered, leaning into the touch.

"I do have some rather minor boo-boos. And I have it on the highest authority that this is your area of expertise..."

"You need me to kiss it and make it better, Doctor?" She pressed her body into his and smiled up at him as her hands gripped him tighter.

"Well, you are the best." He whispered, his mouth hovering just over hers, and he could feel her hair tickling his face and neck gently.

She grinned, and slid one hand up his chest before wrapping it around the back of his neck as she pulled him toward her. "I really am."

"Yeah, you are."