Author's Note: Thanks to begging, bribery and outright threats from gidget89 and penguinspy82, this is the second part of a 3-part Christmas trilogy.
"Christmas Day with the Ponds"
*pop* *pop* *pop*
The two figures under the tree stirred. Even Time Lords (partial and full) can wear themselves out when copious amounts of sex are involved.
*pop* *pop* pop*
"What's that?" River was instantly on guard, reaching for the nearest weapon at hand ... a lump of hardened clay that had fallen from the tree during one particularly enthusiastic round of Christmas tree christening. "That sounds like something popping balloons?"
"Oh?" The Doctor sleepily nuzzled into her neck, not really paying attention at first. He was still pleasantly lethargic, and really he wasn't in that state enough. It was just nice to lie there and enjoy not having to run for one's life for a change. Then, he tore away from her, eyes wide and frightened - like a cornered kitten about to be set upon by a pack of wild dogs. "Oh!"
"Sweetie? What is it?"
"Rory! Or Amy. But … yes, that's a gladius popping those balloons. Definitely Rory.
Granted, River Song had more 51st century morales in her than 21st century. She certainly wasn't prudish. But even she didn't want to be caught naked by her parents. With Amy, it would have been hilarious and would result in the two of them mocking the Doctor more than being embarrassed. But Rory … "Get dressed!"
"In what? We threw our clothes out the window at 3 a.m.!"
"Youthrew our clothes out the window at 3 a.m. because I was trying to get redressed so we could go sleep in a proper bed!"
"That's because there were doxies in them!"
"Doxies are Harry Potter! Not real!"
"They are too real!"
"How many balloons did you put up?"
"How many orgasms did you have?"
"Ten? Oh, my love, if you gave me ten of those, neither of us would be standing right now."
"It's my goal to do that if Rory doesn't kill us first."
"You're really that afraid of my father?"
"He has a sword! He's older than I am! I've learned to fear things that are older than I am."
"Where's the TARDIS?"
"In the garden."
"Then run!" River grabbed the Doctor's hand, he grabbed his favorite sofa cushion to hold over certain parts, and they sprinted out into the back garden just as Rory stepped off the landing in his pajamas and holding his gladius.
"Well, all things considered, it's not that bad," Amy said to a somewhat subdued breakfast crew as she served up eggs. "We're missing one sofa cushion and got to see what type of underwear my daughter buys. Really, lace knickers are a much better tree ornament than the clay dog. Oh, Rory, stop pouting, the dog really was rubbish." She held a platter out to River. "Sausage?"
"Thanks." River speared a sausage link, catching the Doctor's eye as he reached for the orange juice, and grinned.
He narrowed his eyes at her.
She slowly sucked one end of the sausage link into her mouth, pulled it out, sucked it in again and winked. He promptly spilled the orange juice all over Rory's plate.
"Well, I really wasn't hungry anyhow." Rory pushed his plate away. "Fancy a walk, River?"
"You're on dish duty." Amy hauled the Doctor out of his chair.
Bemused, River followed Rory to the front hall, where they bundled into coats and made a concentrated effort to avoid glancing at the Christmas tree, presents still neatly wrapped. Only one of them had been crushed in the previous night's activities.
She kept quiet as they meandered down the sidewalk, past kids out with their new toys and screaming the excited shrieks of the young. New bikes, skateboards and scooters mingled with the latest electronic toys, and River began counting how many would be stolen or destroyed by the holiday's end. Then, she realized what she was doing and found herself kicking at a rock. No, that was Mels, she thought. Mels would be doing that. Not River. Really, she should know better by now. It'd been roughly five years of linear time for her since her regeneration.
"You know," Rory suddenly said, "I'm not quite sure how to handle this."
River Song normally wasn't sorry about much. But now she found herself shrinking into her coat, genuinely sorry for causing distress for one of her oldest - only - friends. "We could have planned that better," she admitted.
"It's not the sex." Rory waved his hand about, blushing a bit. "It's just all … all this. You know, I had about five minutes to process the fact that Amy was pregnant? Then, the Doctor and I were blasting all over the universe raising an army to rescue Amy, and we did, but you didn't come with us. I'll admit, I was confused, but the Doctor …" his voice trailed off a bit. "Suppose it's spoilers."
"Yes," River said in a rush, her hearts aching already for something that hadn't happened yet for her. She wasn't looking forward to that day, whenever it was. "Very much so."
"Well, let's just say we found out you were you. Then we found out you were Mels. I got to hold you for just a few minutes as a baby. I cried all the way back to Amy's side. I was going to be the cool dad."
"From what I've seen, you're definitely a cool dad."
"But, I never raised you." They were outside the park now, where the abandoned swings swayed in the winter wind. Rory stopped, faced River. "I never got to see you take your first step, hear your first word. I didn't get a chance to push you on the swings or threaten your husband if he ever hurts you. The closest I even got to walking you down the aisle was watching you get handfasted in an aborted timeline. One minute you're a baby, and the next you're an adult. You'e been brainwashed, hurt, and things I don't even want to think about, and I couldn't do a thing to save you except muck about on bloody pirate ships and with dolls and creepy hotels. You and Amy get on the same as you always have, but you and me … How do I ever be a father to you?"
River couldn't think of a thing to say. There wasn't anything she could say, and she'd never been good at finding the empty "there, there" words. Oh, she could comfort … but who could ever comfort someone about this? She stared at the sidewalk, then noticed the swings. She wandered over to fixture, selecting the swing with the widest seat and gingerly sat. When she was quite sure it would hold her weight, she swayed back and forth a bit, offering Rory a small smile. "You can start by pushing me on the swings."
Rory shoved his hands in his pockets. Aren't you a little old for that?"
River smiled, wrapping her hands around the chains. "If there's one thing any of us have learned from the Doctor, it's that we're never too old to do anything."
Rory chuckled and moved behind her. River pumped her legs a bit, then let Rory take over as the swing gained momentum. He was still strong and outweighed her, so he quickly had he swinging as high as the swings would allow. She let out a whoop of laughter as the wind blew her curls every whichway, and for the first time in years, she actually felt as carefree as a child. After about five minute, River braced and leaped from the swing as it crested. She flew across the playground, landing on her feet several feet away.
"That's dangerous!" Rory scolded.
"It was fun!" River scooped her hair out of her eyes and they laughed. Hand in hand, they walked to the corner store to buy ingredients for eggnog, then headed home as they talked about a little bit of everything and a whole lot of nothing.
It was a start.
When they arrived at home, Amy and the Doctor were in the hallway waiting for them, both bouncing up and down like they consumed just a little too much sugar. They spoken over each other as they both grabbed at Rory and River's coats.
"Can we open presents now?"
"We cleaned up under the tree."
"Really, there was nothing mentally scarring under there."
"Thank God, I didn't want Christmas ruined forever."
"I wouldn't ruin Christmas for you, Amelia Pond."
"No, but I'd need copious amounts of brain bleach. At any rate, can we just open presents now …"
"Please?" They said this together, eyes large and begging.
"All right." Rory lifted River's hand that he was still holding and placed it on the Doctor's hand, stilling it from wildly gesticulating. He pinned the Time Lord with the fiercest look he had in him. "If you ever hurt my daughter, you will find yourself running through all of your regenerations very rapidly thanks to some very inventive knowledge I picked up while I was waiting for Amy. Got it?" He patted their joined hands and went to pour out the eggnog.
"What was that about?" Amy asked.
"That," the Doctor said, impressed and with a bit of fear, "was a father moment."
"I believe," River said, amused, "that my father just gave me away and threatened my husband at the same time."
Gifts were an assorted mishmash of items ranging from fruitcake ("Really, Doctor?" "They're traditional!") to Amy passing River an envelope containing a gift certificate to a high-end boutique both had daydreamed about shopping at when they'd been younger and decisively poorer.
"I'm not about to buy you something from there now," Amy whispered to River as the Doctor played with an antique wooden top Rory found on Ebay. "But, you know, I couldn't think of anything else. Not unless you want me to bake a file into a cake and send it to Stormcage somehow."
"Thank you, but I imagine it'd never get there if you sent it via the Doctor." River tucked the gift away and hugged Amy.
Rory had given River a fountain pen for her diary, which the Doctor quickly tinkered with to make it self-inking. "See?" he challenged River, waving the pen in front of her. "Harry Potter." River rolled her eyes and accepted the pen.
The Doctor rocked back on his heels, eyes sparkling. "So, where's my gift?"
"Who says you're getting anything?"
"It's Christmas, and I am your beloved husband."
She laughed and winked at him. "You only play that "beloved husband" card when you want something. Besides, you've been a very naughty boy this year, my love."
"Not as naughty as you, Dr. Song," he purred.
"Naughty boys and girls get switches in their stockings. I could find a use for a couple switches."
"Oh, I bet you could."
Amy and Rory exchanged a look over their tidy pile of gifts. "Clearly that's foreplay," Amy proclaimed. "Maybe I should have gotten River a gift certificate to the adult shop."
Rory sighed. "Amy ..."
"I'm going to go spike the egg nog." She rose to her feet.
"Already did that."
"Then come with me to get a cup, and please you two, try to get the hormones under control, yeah?" Amy headed for the kitchen with Rory at her heels.
Once they were gone, the Doctor and River broke into peals of laughter, laughing until their sides ached and they had to lean against the sofa for support. "We really should stop doing this to them," River choked out after a moment. "But, it's too much fun!" She leaned over, plucked an envelope off the tree and handed it to the Doctor. "This is your gift, sweetie."
The Doctor tore into it with glee, nearly ripping apart the piece of paper inside. He took a moment to decipher River's neat cursive, then his eyes met hers. "Really?" he asked in an awed voice. "Any of them?"
"One. A single one and on a single day."
"What's that?" Amy walked back in with two cups of eggnog and handed one to River.
"A hat pass! Look, Pond!" The Doctor waved the paper in front of Amy. "A free hat day! Any hat I want, and River won't shoot it!"
"One use only, my love."
"I'm using it right now!" The Doctor raced out of the room, nearly knocking Rory into the wall.
"We're going to regret this, aren't we?" Amy asked.
"Probably," River acknowledged. "Please tell me this is the spiked one."
"Cheers." The women clinked glasses, toasting to their collective sanity just as the Doctor came back in the room wearing a Stetson.
Amy carefully lowered her glass, swallowing hard before managing to ask, "That Stetson. Isn't that from …"
"Yes! Aborted timeline!" The Doctor cut her off before she could utter the word "Utah." "Wore it in the Teselecta! Couldn't shoot this one off me!" He waggled his eyebrows at River and pushed the Stetson back on his head. "How do I look?"
Emotion filled her, memories both sweet and painful causing her throat to close like a vice and tears to spring to her eyes. River thought she could never feel so much. But now, with the Doctor, Amy and Rory … She managed a brilliant smile, the same way she'd managed to find when he told her they were married. "Amazing," she whispered. "All the hats in the universe, and you chose this one."
"Well, I didn't want you accidentally shooting this. Again. Spoilers." He tapped her nose. "And since you gave me a gift, it's my turn."
"You don't have to …"
"Spoilers," the Doctor proclaimed.
"If you're giving her a gift, it's no longer a spoiler."
"Hush, Pond, this is between me and your daughter. You know djinns, genies and the like?"
"Of course I have, my love."
"Well, I'm your personal genie. Which they based the one in Aladdin on, let me tell you. Really didn't do justice to me. Except being voiced by Robin Williams. That was pretty cool. In any case." The Doctor held up three fingers. "Three spoilers. Anything that doesn't cause a major disruption of time, you can ask. Good for any time."
"Oooh, ask him for the winning lottery numbers for …"
"I'm just teasing." Amy nudged the Doctor.
"All right," River spoke up, her gaze steady on the Doctor. "Then, I want one now. The other two I'll hold in reserve." She closed her eyes and ran through all the possibilities. She had a time sense, but it was nowhere near as well-honed as the Doctor's. Her gaze fell on Rory. "I want to know what happened to Rory. He's made some references, so have you both. Enough for me to know something happened to him. What?"
The Doctor cast a sidelong look at Rory, who nodded to him. "He spent about 2,000 years as an Auton. Roman soldier to be precise. His job was to protect Amy while she was sealed away to heal. Things turned out for the best, wouldn't you say? You'll know the entire story in the future."
"You didn't want to know anything else?" Rory stared at River as if he'd never seen her before. "Not about Demon's Run, when we've met you in the past, any of that?"
"You said you wanted to be a father to me." River reached for his hand and squeezed it. "I want to be a daughter to you."
Rory sniffed, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and hugged his daughter as hard as he could.
River returned to the Stormcage with a huge box of cookies for the guards, packages tucked into the bigger-on-the-inside handbag she'd snagged from the TARDIS and a very reluctant husband.
"You know," the Doctor said, following River out into her cell, "you don't have to go back yet. Christmas isn't really over. We could go celebrate it on Pxia 3. Everything's covered in chartreuse glitter. I love chartreuse glitter. And they have this tradition of balancing a bucket on your head and whoever you spill it on is your spouse for the evening. I mean, I'd do my best to spill it on you, but if I missed, try not to shoot them?"
"Oh, my love." River cupped his face in her hands, the shadows from his Stetson falling across her face. "You can come pick me up tomorrow night. You've got worlds to save, and I've got guards who are going to be convinced these cookies are poisonous. It'll be ever so fun seeing them run about like chickens with their heads cut off."
He pouted and shifted from foot to foot before his hands found their way into her curls. "I really find I'm having a harder time letting you go every time we do this," he admitted.
"If it was easy, we'd be doing something wrong." She drew him into a kiss, and when they finally parted for air about three minutes and a respiratory bypass later, his Stetson was on her head. "Until tonight, my love. And, I'm keeping the hat." She whispered in his ear, "Be sure to bring the switches."
He was grinning as he headed back to the TARDIS.