You Always Knew
Part 2 of 3
X . x . X.
The Doctor arrived, relatively, inconspicuously. He had used the blue boringers because he was a bit scared of what he would find outside the TARDIS and because there was the chance that baby might be asleep and he didn't want to wake him.
He was pleased to see he had actually, for once, arrived on time. Only five minutes from when he had left. Really, a record for him. He was never on time. Except when the TARDIS wanted him to be, and he supposed now was one of those times.
He must have really screwed things up. But then he remembered it was the blue box's fault anyway, not his. He adjusted his singed bow tie, muttering as he smoothed his soot covered hair back, "Really, dear, you get me in the worst messes. I can't imagine why you'd want to cause this much of a ruckus. It's going to be a very hard clean up job. All I wanted was to take the little one to the park."
The Time Lord made a petulant face, picking up a small, blue elephant toy from the consul and complaining aloud, "And you always fly to wherever River wants you to go. All she has to say is 'oh, I do feel like visiting a 31st century shoe store today' and bam, we arrive. I can't even go to my yoga lessons without arriving in a warzone on Varuno or, worse, Amy's baby shower."
He tucked the blue elephant into his bigger-on-the-inside pockets and darkly commented as he swiftly jumped down the stairs to the door, "You play favorites."
With that he carefully pushed the door open, timidly peaking his head out. He wasn't quite sure what he would find and he was cautious in approaching the disaster he had just created. He expected, if he expected anything at all, a surprised and maybe thrilled River. After all, he had pushed the very best of spoilers into her arms.
The Doctor froze when he saw her, at first only noticing how she cradled the littlest addition to the Pond family. A grin touched his lips, warmth he was well accustomed to feeling spreading through his chest. He caught himself thinking, not for the first time, that River was a natural. Even this young.
River must have always known.
This was just the beginning of them for her and he had already mucked it up. Or the TARDIS had, either way. He never realized she had been cued in so early.
So River had always known she would be a mother.
That explained a lot. It made perfect, perfect sense now, though he hadn't even had an inkling of it beforehand. Such was the way with River Song and her spoilers. It explained why, when they had first found out she was pregnant, she hadn't been truly surprised. Overjoyed, but not astonished and floored as he had been. He had always assumed it was because of some pregnancy-mothery-intuition-thingy, but perhaps not. He had ruined the surprise before their honeymoon! He was an idiot. Of course she knew, of course she had always known.
So many things made sense now, really. How she had known immediately it was a boy. Why she had teased him endlessly about how his child would be a ginger, even when she hardly had a baby bump to show. That cheat! That's why she was so happy and unconcerned when he picked her up their first night, why she had seemed to be positively radiant despite a lengthy prison sentence. She knew all along where they were leading, where she would someday be.
River always got the good spoilers. Why was he always left with the unhappy ones? Unfair. He was glad for her, though. River, out of the two of them, always seemed to have the least to look forward to. She was the one who had to sleep on a prison cot and lie through her teeth, the whole universe blaming her for his supposed murder. It must not have looked like a bright future to the younger River, who didn't know what was going to happen next or when he might show up. She had no way of knowing he would be there, every step of the way, and that despite what the universe may think, she only made him more alive.
It took him much longer than it should have to realize she was crying, especially since once he realized it he could feel palpable waves of sorrow rolling off her. The Doctor was pouting when he first heard her sob and noticed the wetness of her cheeks. He stepped forward out of the TARDIS immediately, then drew back to observe in silent horror. River crying! Why was River crying? Was she unhappy about what she had learned? Did she not want to be a mother yet? He felt the absolute broken sadness that radiated off her, stunned and baffled by her reaction, which was not at all what he expected. He didn't have the faintest idea why she was crying. It didn't make sense.
And he hated it when she cried. And he didn't want their son to wake up and see. And River was in pain. He had to appear now, though she would hate him for catching her in such a state. She didn't like looking weak, even to him, and that was especially true of the younger River. He hurriedly unlocked and disarmed her cell, softly stepping to her. She hadn't heard him approach. Unthinkable, River was always aware, always sharply coherent.
And she didn't even sense him? This was bad, very bad.
"River?" he tried softly, the lightest of touches ghosting over her jaw, his fingers catching the water there. The Doctor felt River stiffen, finally noticing him, but she didn't open her eyes. He peaked at his son, nestled in comfortably in her arms and fast asleep. When he looked up, concerned, he caught wild green eyes.
"Hello sweetie." River murmured, the greeting tinged with a hollow composure. He could tell she was trying to be calm, like she didn't have tear tracks across her skin and like she wasn't swallowing her sadness. She was hiding from him, being strong for him, even when she was breaking. But why was she breaking? It didn't make sense.
"River, River, what's wrong?" he cupped her face, brushing wet tracks away and searching her eyes, his touch telepathy conveying his concern to her. She stepped back, breaking contact, when she felt his conscious brush with hers. Her eyes shifted to the infant and he could see her quiver. He stared, confused and slightly hurt by her pain and her unwillingness to share it.
She didn't say a word. And that didn't sit right with him.
"River, is it about him?" The Doctor asked slowly, dreading an affirmative response, as he motioned to the baby. The most important child in the universe, the dearest thing to his hearts and her own. Hardly four and a half months old.
"He's absolutely wonderful." She whispered, a wisp of a smile touching the corners of her mouth. She drew her fingertips lightly through the soft fluff of red hair with one of the hands that held him, careful to not disrupt his sleep.
"Then why are you crying?" he questioned, stepping closer to place a hand on her waist, "You're right. He's wonderful and brilliant and beautiful and so very, very special. Why are you sad, River Song? Is this too much? I'm sorry, truly, for the spoiler. But it's nothing to be sad over. Quite the opposite, really. I can assure you, future you is very, very, very fond of this little one."
She inhaled a breath, her eyes free of tears but her unhappiness still clear.
"I should be proud to be related to him, I know. And he's got Amy's hair." Her lips trembled, something he had never seen before. This was bad, very bad. Now she was hiding away, retreating and covering her tracks. Pretending she wasn't sad. But she was, he could feel it. Feel it, mixed with some underlying fear. She continued, looking down at the baby with soft eyes and cradling him closer, "Amy and Rory must be very happy."
He didn't confirm this, instead touching his son's sock-covered toes and answering in a whisper, "They are, I suppose? And I'm happy. Very, very happy. Why aren't you happy?"
"I am. I'm happy for them. They didn't get to raise me, but they get him now."
The Doctor was lost and he wasn't following her train of thought at all. Amy and Rory were nice and all, but that was preposterous. He wasn't giving his son up for the world. He would hardly let him out of his sight, he adored him too much to go for more than a day without seeing him. Too afraid to miss a memory, too afraid he would miss out on some important baby development. His little Time Lord was, obviously, meant to be raised in the TARDIS. Not in Leadworth, of all places. Absurd!
"Amy and Rory are not raising him." he declared with a huff, looking at her suspiciously, "Why would they be?"
She seemed genuinely surprised, standing up straighter as her brows knitted together in a frown, "Why not?"
"Surely you don't think we'd just let him go?" He grinned at the absurdity, laughing lightly through the thick tension, "Impossible. He belongs with us. Obviously."
River made a disapproving face he couldn't even begin to make sense of and looked almost angry with him. Her eyes burned, a sharp intensity cutting through the watery sadness. She challenged him vehemently, "He belongs with his parents, Doctor!"
"Well of course he does, River." He replied, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. That was what he was saying, clearly, she had no reason to get upset about it. The infant squirmed, and the Doctor, realizing they were being a bit too loud, lowered his voice as he continued in frustrated confusion, "I don't understand you Pond women."
River looked down at the squirming infant, distracted momentarily, and the Doctor seemed to come to a false realization, "Oh! You were sad because you thought we had to give him up! Oh no, no, no River!"
He cut behind her, carefully wrapping his arms around her tense and trembling body as he leaned his chin on her shoulder. The gesture was meant to reassure her and comfort her, but it seemed to do none of those things. He ignored her lack of response, guaranteeing in a whisper meant to keep from disturbing the baby, "No, I can assure you, dear, we get to keep him."
River didn't let her body relax in his arms as he continued, looking softly down at his child, as he amended, "Sometimes we leave him with Amy and Rory, that's true, but that's only for adventures he isn't quite ready to go on. Are you worried because older you wasn't with me when I dropped him off? I can explain that. I was supposed to be giving you a holiday, Craig says mums need holidays sometimes, and so I made you go off on a little trip. So older you is on a daytrip with Martha to a spa or a mall or something and I probably shouldn't be giving you details, should I? Spoilers?"
His nose bumped her neck and she stepped quickly out of his arms, handing the baby to him without a word. He took him without question, once again surprised by her reaction to what he assumed would be a reassuring parable.
"What are you talking about, you aren't making sense." She cut out tersely, hands shaking. He realized she had given the baby to him because she was shaking too badly and must have feared she would drop him. Silly, silly Song.
The Doctor sighed exaggeratedly and the baby made a sound as he shifted him into one arm. The Doctor looked up at her with exasperation, done with guessing what the hell she was thinking. He walked carefully up to her, whisper yelling, "I'm trying to tell you that you don't have to worry about giving up your son, so you don't have to be sad! Hell, River, what is wrong?"
The change in her was immediate. She seemed to wither, falling down onto the mattress and clutching the sheets. A squeak of a question passed her lips, "My son? What?"
The Doctor suddenly felt uncomfortable and bounced slightly on his heels as he replied timidly, "You know... Ginger, adorable, your general facial structure, Rory's nose, in my arms...?" He used his free hand to point to the boy he held in his other arm.
"He's my son?" She sounded breathless.
The Doctor was starting to get the feeling River really didn't know it was her son. But that didn't make sense. Not to him. Who else's baby would he have with him? He didn't kidnap babies, goodness. Although, that might be a good idea. He rather liked babies. Especially his and River's baby. He smelt nice and his skin was really soft and his heart beats were really nice to hear and he felt really warm and he was adorable and yes. Well. He liked his baby quite a lot. He needed more babies. He would have to talk to River about that. Not this River, of course. She didn't make sense. His old River. No, no, not old. She would kill him for saying that.
He digressed, remembering he was supposed to be frustrated by stating the obvious, "Of course he's your son! Who else would he be?"
The thought vibrated off her. Amy and Rory's.
Oh. Oh. Oops. That was what she was thinking. That was why there was so much confusion. And he was quite ginger. But why was she sad? That, still, made no sense. But, slowly it seemed, he was starting to unravel her thoughts into a perceptible range.
And then the baby Time Lord began to cry. The Doctor jolted into attention, his thoughts quickly jumping to his son as he attentively rocked him, "Shhhhh. Shhh, daddy's here. And mummy, too! Yes, yes, of course it's mummy." He made a face at the now whimpering infant, responding to telepathic baby thoughts, "Well, maybe that's true. She smelt the same to me though."
The baby seemed appeased and cooed once before tranquilly staring up at his father.
He looked up at River with a smile, thinking she would understand it all by now. He only found that she had retreated from the mattress to the very corner of her cell, her arms wrapped around herself. Harsh tears threatened to stream down her face, and he sensed a sudden denial and subtle hate towards him.
"You're lying." She beat out, her voice broken. He stepped closer again, but she held her arm out in a way that was meant to tell him to stay back. She sounded wounded when she anxiously declared, "You're being cruel. This isn't fair, Doctor."
He stared, uncomprehending, with wide eyes. She continued in an almost angry whisper, "You can't say these things to me. You can't. I've lost everything, I've always lost everything. And you can't do this to me, can't throw the one thing that truly, truly hurts to lose – a family – in my face."
"What in the world are you talking about? River Song, you don't make an ounce of sense! I'm not being cruel. I wouldn't be cruel to you." He faltered on the last bit, hurriedly adding, "I would never intentionally be cruel to you."
"Don't lie about that, anything but that." Her voice quickly escalated on the sentence. A small cry came from the baby, who was unhappy to hear her familiar voice raised in an angry way. River seemed to crumble at the sound and her shoulders fell, her face turning downwards with closed eyes. She waited a moment before opening them, not daring to look back at him or the child, "Oh god, Doctor, do you know how much I want that? My own little baby. Our baby."
She looked up, soft eyes on the bundle and then up to him with a barely contained fury, "So don't you dare joke about something like that, don't you dare mock me with wishes that will never come true."
"You think I'm lying? Why would I be lying? He's your son!"
"Rule one, the Doctor lies." She hissed, but then seemed to continue into her own thoughts, "You taught me that. I have no idea how you can be. I've been told so many things, read so much about you. In Berlin, you told me you loved River Song. But that was a lie to, wasn't it? And you were so nice on those trips we took while I was in university, so kind. So I know you're at least fond of me. And you married me. Why'd you do that? What was the purpose behind that? What were you trying to do? I don't know, I don't know."
He was about to break in, to tell her he was more than just fond of her, but she cut him off as she got to the point, "But this, Doctor, is a lie. The cruelest lie. He can't be. He can't be ours. It's impossible."
The Doctor was now slightly frustrated and angry. River was being hardheaded and slightly dim and endlessly, endlessly stubborn. And blind. River was usually so on top of things, so ahead of the game. Having her so uncomprehending was not amusing at all, especially when it had her fervently denying their son was their son and questioning whether he cared about her. He didn't like how she was denying him and how she didn't believe him. He knew this was a younger, unsure River, but this was unprecedented. And it hurt, a bit, that she didn't believe him about something so important. She should really know he would never dream of toying with her that way. It was hard to remind himself that this River didn't know yet.
He let out a frustrated growl and then forced a clipped smile. He waved free fingers at the baby, looking from his son to his wife, as he declared in exasperation, "Of course he is! He has two hearts, my god. Who else could make such a perfect child? And trust me, I was there. For all of it." He almost flushed, and continued quickly, "The, er, making and the finding out and the insane cravings and you breaking my hand when you delivered him. Definitely your child."
He stepped into her personal space before she could object, pressing the baby cradled safely in his arms into her chest, so she had to look at the child. So that she could see the undeniable truth. He leaned his forehead against hers, whispering desperately, "River, I'm not lying. Please, please believe me. I wouldn't lie about this. Surely you know that."
River moved a hand to touch the baby's chest, over a heart, but paused. She looked into the Doctor's eyes, old eyes, and begged quietly, "Prove it."
The Doctor shifted the baby into her arms and she accepted it slowly. He gently pressed his index finger to her forehead, imparting a small image of her cuddling a newborn and laughing. The image was palpably real, unmistakably real. River's breath caught as her eyes darted to the red-headed child, who, as if on cue, smiled cutely up at her.
"Why would I lie, River?" He pressed a kiss to her head, long fingers trailing her jaw line.
He immediately felt her continence tip, her mind doing a swift turn, and he could visibly see the change in her body. She seemed to melt, the tension draining, her eyes changed their character, and the pain etched on her face smoothed over. A slow, budding joy was filling her up, and he caught onto traces of amazed thoughts through the touch telepathy.
She believed him.
The Doctor grinned, a small happy giggle escaping him as a grin split across her face. She looked down on the infant with new eyes, letting out a breathy laugh as she pressed butterfly kisses across his tiny hands and face. The boy clutched onto a curly lock of hair, giving it an experimental tug that she only laughed at.
It was stated, not asked as a question, but the Doctor nodded quickly anyway as he watched her watching their child. "Yes."
She seemed lost in her own awe. He could see them looking at each other with renewed interest and he realized she must be catching snatches of baby thoughts when she suddenly sniffled back happy tears. Another joy-filled laugh bubbled over, filling the cold cell and echoing back, and the tiny baby kicked his feet and cooed at the sound, his own small giggle escaping as his tiny hands grasped for her.
River then looked up at him, eyes filled with love and delight, "And yours."
"I hope." He teased, his own grin mimicking hers as her straightened his bowtie.
She rolled her eyes at him, then admitted curiously, "I didn't think it was possible... We're not biologically compatible; you're a Time Lord. I'm only human-plus. I didn't think Time Lords even reproduced the same way as humans. I thought – "
He cut her off quickly, "Ah, but it is possible. And you do have quite a bit of Time Lord in you, River." He said it proudly, but blushed at her raised eyebrow, and continued in a stammer, "And it's, you know, very much the same. With the reproducing and stuff and all very human-y really, the way babies are made and er, yes. Right. Very much the same, I'd imagine. I think."
She took pity on him, stilling a laugh at his embarrassed rambling, "Oh? That is interesting."
He was glad to see River was back to normal, but also slightly appalled that she had shifted from upset to flirty so quickly. He motioned down to his son as if to remind her they weren't alone, spluttering out, "Oh, look how handsome our baby is! Yes, yes. Very ginger, wouldn't you say? Lucky boy. Got Rory's nose though, seems like. Hopefully that will wear off his next go around... oh, was that rude! No, no, no, love the Roman. But, you know..." he ran his finger down the length of his nose and made a face, "But he's got your eyes and bone structure! And Amy's hair! So that means he'll probably have my taste in hats and accessories and that will be lovely."
She ignored him, letting the tiny baby wrap his fingers over her thumb as she asked without looking at her new husband, "What's his name, Doctor?"
The Doctor opened his mouth to reply, then remembered how long it had taken them to decide on a name. River wasn't supposed to know that one, not just yet. She would have to work that one out with his past self, when the time came. He wouldn't take that away from her. Instead, he supplied with a noncommittal shrug, "Spoilers."
She accepted the term without arguing, beaming at the little smile her son offered her as he attempted to pull her thumb into his mouth. "I love him terribly."
"Me too." The Doctor said proudly, very pleased with this non-crying-and-happy River's reaction to his new favorite. He felt a sense of relief that she was so happy, now that they had sorted out the misunderstanding. He was glad she had wanted this, even early on, and that the idea of being a mother thrilled her. He felt a sense of accomplishment, that through all the bad, they had been able to have this very, very good piece of luck. It made it more okay that they were all back to front, that sometimes she had to sleep on a prison cot and someday – long after their son had grown up – she would have to go back to Stormcage for her days. That someday, maybe, she wouldn't be around. But no, no he would save her. Not to worry.
"Doctor..."She began, continuing in a tone which dripped with timid interest, "Did you want this? A family, again? With me?"
He hesitated, "Some things are so beautiful, River, that you don't even dare to dream of them. I could have never fathomed that this would happen, but if I could have, I would have wanted nothing more. This, our family, you and him; you two are everything. I have never, ever been happier. You have given me so much, River Song. So much more than I had hoped for, and so much more than I felt I deserved."
"And, Doctor..." River faltered, and then looked flustered. He sensed her unease at her next words, how speaking them made her feel weak. But she had to know. The question had been building since Berlin, and now it only burned brighter. She needed to hear it, "Do you love me, Doctor?"
He simply grinned, pressing a kiss to her lips and then mimicking a kiss on both sides of their child's face, "Always and completely."
"And... Two more questions. Doctor, why are you covered in soot? And why in the world do you smell like smoke?"
X . x . X.