"Mr. Pond!" Amy called delightedly into the house. "Guess who's coming for dinner?"
The Doctor released her from their hug just as Rory came around the corner, a look of surprise on his face. He pulled his jumper closer against the cold of the open doorway.
"Not dead then?"
"We've done that bit already," Amy said, impatient.
"We're about to have Christmas dinner," Amy said. "Joining us." It was not a question, it was a statement.
"If it's no trouble," the Doctor demurred.
"There's a place set for you."
The Doctor frowned, the comment throwing him off-kilter.
"You didn't know I was coming," he said, confused. "Why did you set me a place?"
Rory smiled, a little sadly, the Doctor thought. But Amy merely waggled her eyebrows at him.
"Oh, because we always do," she waved her plastic gun at him. "It's Christmas, you moron." She turned, brushing past Rory as she went into the house.
Rory shrugged, then jerked his shoulder in the direction of the house's warm, sweet-smelling interior.
"She insisted. She always does. Come on then, I'm starving and it's getting cold." he said, and turned to follow his wife.
The Doctor rocked back on his heels, stunned. They always set a place for him? Two years later, and they still set a place for him, even when they had thought he was dead? Why would they do that? What kind of people would do that?
The answer was obvious. Family. Family were the kind of people who would do that. He may have lost his entire race, but he was no longer alone in this world.
He became aware of a dampness on his cheek. Had it started raining? He reached up a surprised hand to brush it away. It was a tear. He had been crying. Crying with joy was such a human thing. Or maybe, it was such a happy thing. He brushed the tear away from his eye, and stepped through the doorway, gently closing the door against the cold of a Ledworth December.
There was the sound of talking in the kitchen, and then a surprised laugh, one he would recognize anywhere. He had only a moment to brace himself before a hurricane of red reindeer jumper and blond curls assaulted him.
"You're here!" River shrieked. "You finally came! I told Mother you would come."
The Doctor blinked.
"River Song. What in the blue stars of Vega are you doing here?"
"I'm spending Christmas with my parents, now that they know who I am," she said, smiling.
"So you told them I was coming," the Doctor nodded. It made sense now.
River shook her head, her sandy curls bouncing with the movement.
"Oh no. I had no idea. Although it is a nice surprise."
"But… Amy said there was a place for me," the Doctor sputtered.
River's smile was sad, and the Doctor reflected that she had inherited that exact expression from her father.
"No, dearest. They always do that. Every Christmas, every birthday. Even Sunday dinners. Mother insists on it."
The Doctor swallowed a lump that had formed in his throat.
"Why?" he managed.
River was smiling at him again, that same sad, sweet smile.
"Haven't you figured it out yet?" she asked softly. "When you're family, you're expected. It's Christmas. Everyone stays with their family at Christmas." She smiled at him. "Even you, my love."
He rubbed his chin uncomfortably, sure that she could see the trace of the tear that had so recently escaped his eye.
River just smiled, her green eyes warm and bright and inviting, and wrapped a comforting arm around his waist.
"Welcome home, my love," she whispered into his ear.