Title, Song Bird
Summary, The Doctor discovers a strange little girl in a world not fit for strange little girls. (AU, sort of.)
Author's Note, A longer chapter! Hooray! With camping! And more River! And he actually talks to her! And more Wren! YAY! I hope you enjoy this chapter! Please don't forget to review!
Disclaimer, I do not own Doctor Who.
After Rory and River set up the tents (while Amy and the Doctor sat on the open back of the jeep, useless), Wren begged Rory off to go down to the lake. River went with and the Doctor felt a little weight lift from his chest when it was just him and Amy, sitting in the back of the jeep, watching them all down in the sunshine. Their legs swung in a shaky rhythm, their shoulders brushing just slightly. The warm summer air clung to the curve of their throats, were sweat was beginning to gather in the dip of their collar bones.
"Can't believe you planned all this," Amy said after a few long moments of silence, stretching her arms out in front of her and popping the bones in her fingers and wrists. She proceeded to jerk her chin to either side sharply, cracking her neck. The Doctor winced and hunched his shoulders. "Just so she could play in the sun," his former companion went on, her lips twisting upwards. Her smile was secretive. Her shoulder nudge his. "And she called you Dad."
"Emotional oversight," the Doctor commented. Amy snorted and he didn't really blame her.
"She's eight," she said, raising one eye brow at him. "She doesn't have emotional oversights. I don't even think she says what she doesn't mean."
"That's from spending too much time with you," he said, shaking one long finger towards her nose. All Amy did was laugh at him, her thick Scottish laugh that had all the boys chasing after her. His smile felt almost foreign on his own lips- as if it was disastrous for him to be here, in such a human place doing such human activities like camping. As if he were allowing the whole of the universe to crumble just to see the smile dart back across Wren's face.
It wasn't altogether untrue.
"You really are settling down," Amy goaded. "Lookit you. Here we are, having a nice family camping trip." She paused, her expression seeming to draw in on itself. "It means a lot you invited River along. To me and Rory. And to River."
The Doctor lifted his gaze from his companion back down towards the lake where Wren was almost glowing in the sunlight. Her green was even greener in the natural lighting. It looked almost translucent, as if she weren't exactly real. "She's been in Stormcage since Christmas," he said by way of dismissal.
Amy hummed and he hummed back.
"I had a daughter, once," he said, suddenly. It came out, completely without his consent or knowledge. His tongue pressed to the roof of his mouth as Amy turned to look at him, brows raised. "Her name was..." He paused, breath catching. The word in English would butcher the beauty of her Gallifreyan name. He twisted his lips the way Wren would sometimes while she was chewing over a thought. His hands flexed against his thighs. "Anyway," her breathed. "She died. Along with her mother. They all did." Amy's eyes were trained on him, unmoving, wide, unblinking. Her flush in her cheeks and the way her pulse moved in her throat told him more than he needed to know. He drew one hand to his face, drawing his thumb across his lower lip.
"Then there was Jenny," he said. Her name came out like a puff of dust after shaking off a piece of fabric that sat up too long in some long forgotten attic. "Not really my daughter- genetically, I suppose, yeah. Grown out of a cell on my hand." He waved his upturned palm. The scar had melted away with his old body. "That was a life-time ago. She was a soldier. I was going to take her with me. Show her new worlds. My friend, Donna, she..." He rubbed his hand along his face. Once talking, the words came unbidden. "I thought that the hole left where my family had once been was never going to heal. Never going to close."
He paused, rubbing his hands together as his elbows rested on his thighs. "Donna, she said, you're wrong. And I looked at Jenny and I thought, maybe I am." His teeth captured his lower lip, chewing anxiously. "Jenny's gone, now. And I wasn't wrong."
"And Wren?" Amy asked quietly. Her little palm came to rest on his arm, fingers clutching the fabric of his jacket.
"I've never hoped to be wrong so hard in my life." His lips twitched at the sound of Amy's laughter. She pressed in closer, looping her arm around his neck and dragging him into a head-lock-hug.
"Statistically, I think you're about due," she said.
Wren was soaking wet by the time the Doctor relieved River and Rory of watching her. She was wading in the lake, close to the shore, attempting to catch the fish that swam around her legs and nibbled at her toes. Rory headed back up to sit with Amy. River hung back, hesitating, watching him in a way that he couldn't ignore. The intensity of her gaze was startling, if not off-putting.
"Okay, I'll bite," he said lightly, glancing her way. "What is it?"
Her smile was tense. "The last time we were at a lake-"
"Stop right there," he chirped. "Whenever that was, I haven't gotten there yet. Try not to spoil it for me."
Her smile was tense.
Their time lines, working backwards, sidewards, inwards, outwards- anyway but forwards -was almost an exhausting, daunting task to keep up with. Her lips became looser. He had to remind her, gently and certainly, of the rules set for each time they met. She was younger, now- her diary was barely even dented. It was still held in the pristine condition of the unused. Her wild blond curls were pinned out of her face, her soft skin exposed in short clothing from the summer heat. He watched her quietly before flickering his eyes back to Wren.
She was climbing out of the shallows of the lake, soaked to the bone and grinning delightedly. She held something in her cupped palms, water dripping from between her fingers. "Look," she insisted, leaning up on her toes, holding her hands up to him. Her hands moved and he could see a small fish flopping helplessly in the cup of her palms. He took in a breath and fit on an unnerved smile.
"Shouldn't you put him back?" He suggested. "He can't breath without water, kiddo."
"How do you breath water?" Wren asked, tilting her head, drawing the fish close to her chest. It flopped about, probably gasping for breath.
"Fish are different," the Doctor said, touching her shoulder and angling her back towards the water. "Put him back."
She brought the fish to her lips and for one harrowed second, he thought she was going to bite right into it, as feral and uncivilized as when he had brought her into the TARDIS. Instead (as his twin hearts hammered), she kissed the scales and dipped her palms back into the water. The fish wriggled and squirmed and then darted away into the murky depths of the lake. The Doctor wasn't even going to start on how unsanitary that was and how gross his daught- his... on how gross.. Wren was.
"Come on," she said excitedly after it was over and done with. She grabbed of his hand. She was taller, now. Her palm slid expertly into his own and his fingers tightened around her little palm. The Doctor glanced briefly at River and opened his mouth to- to what? To offer his not-so sincere apology at loving an excuse to flutter out of her company? She shook her head and waved him off and he followed Wren, being lead by the hand by a pretty younger woman- as it was always meant to be.
He chuckled softly to himself at that thought, allowing Wren to pull him along around the outer rim of the lake. "Where are we going?" He asked, good natured.
"I wanna explore," she said. When they were a bit away from the camp, she changed direction, marching directly for the trees.
The Doctor followed, brows raising. There was a strange catch to her voice. The hard sound of hope. It confused him. He followed nonetheless, sticking by Wren's side. She let go of his hand once they slipped into the shade of the trees; sunbeams burst through the top canopies and lit warm patches along the ground. Wren looked like a forest sprite, all twitchy and green as she was, her dress soaked at the hems, barefoot and wild. He rather liked the look of her in a natural environment, surrounded by shafts of sunlight.
"What are you looking for?" He asked when it became clear she was searching very hard for something. Her little hands grasped at the trunks of trees, peering in between over grown roots. Her hair swung around her shoulders, hiding her face. Her imagined a mischievous smile on her face.
Instead, when she looked up, there was devastation. "I'm looking for the note we left for Mama," she said. "Ain't that why we're here? Ain't this where you found me?"
He would worry about where she was picking up such crass Earth English later.
He saw it all in her little mind- how every upturned leaf was a reminder, how every cog in her head was something that could be linked back to what they didn't talk about, anymore. Not since he had found her crying silently in her bedroom. He saw the beginning of the trip through her eyes- an excited wake- up call, an out of the ordinary trip planned. A long drive, a long way from home- and the trees! How could she have possibly thought anything else? She had thought he was taking her back to her mother- that she had called and he wanted to surprise her. It was all clear in his mind, now- and he was exactly what he had been called several times before:
A great. Big. Outer space. Dunce.
He sucked in a sharp breath, his hand traveling to the back of his neck, brushing his fingers anxiously against his skin. Wren stared at him, standing still, hand pressed to a tree trunk. Her eyes searched his face and they stood their, facing one another. She was unblinking.
He knelt down in front of her so that they were eye-level. He touched one arm, gently, cradling her elbow in his palm. "Do you want me to say it?" He asked.
Wren sucked in a sharp, shaky breath. After several agonizing moments, she nodded.
"Alright," the Doctor whispered. Fast, he thought. Like a Band-Aid. "Your mother is-"
"Okay," Wren said quickly, holding her hands up to stop him. Her breath caught in her back of her throat. Slowly, she nodded her head. "Okay."
His eyes searched her face, ping-ponging back and forth. Her lips twisted slightly, as if chewing on a thought. Then, like a gift from every deity in very religion, she rocked forward and wrapped her arms around his neck tightly, squeezing him in desperate hug.
Desperate for them both.
"Hey there, Daddio."
River's voice trilled behind him and he glanced over his shoulder. She stood a bit further back from the fire, illuminated orange. He hunkered on the log that they had dragged over earlier in the evening. The small fire was crackling and popping, having died down from the earlier marshmallow roasting. Wren was tucked safely away in the tent, sleeping away the events of the evening. After his revealing her mother's death, Wren had seemed to take her time to mourn, sitting down by the river in the sunlight until twilight came and she was forced back into adult supervision. She'd said very little all evening and he hoped the vacation wasn't ruined because of it. He could only hope that she allowed herself to feel a little more, tomorrow.
River came to sit beside him on the log. The warmth of the day had seeped away; she sat with a small blanket tucked around her shoulders. The light of the fire flickered their shapes and manipulated their shadows. They sat in companionable silence. Her shoulder pressed firmly to his. There was no fear about her. No anxiety, no wonder. She knew, somehow, what she was to him, even while he was still struggling to wrap his head around the concept. There was an air of confidence that leaked out of her- unashamedly and unreservedly.
"I told her," he said, stretching his arms out in front of him. "About her mother."
River nodded softly. "I figured something happened."
"I'm too old for this," he grumbled, hunching his shoulders and clasping his hands together between his knees.
River laughed and shook her head. Her wild curls danced around her cheeks. There would have been something rather metaphorical about her untamed hair and her untamed spirit, if it weren't such a cliche. The Doctor smirked and shook his own head, drawing one hand to rub across his face. "I am," he insisted. "I'm old and thick."
Their silence stretched. They had little to say to one another- little that they could say, truly say. They were bound by their time-lines and what they could and couldn't know. He wondered if it would be better to simply take her with him in the TARDIS- to end their uncertainty. To discover her. He would like that, he thought- he would like to know her. He didn't dislike her has he had thought he would, back when. Though, younger now, she'd lost some of her fight. Some of her zeal. Or at least, she had yet to grow into herself.
He would rather like to watch that happen.
But when he opened his mouth to suggest she come with him- him, and Wren -the words wouldn't form. They caught in his throat and he snapped his mouth shut.
"What is it?" River asked, voice quiet.
"Nothing," he replied, filing his thoughts away along with his heart.