A/N: Makes a reference to another story of mine, Knitting for Girls.
No one would ever expect him to be early, the Doctor decided as he edged cautiously along the wall. Unexpectedness was crucial for a critical mission such as this. Although, he supposed, it probably would've been just as unexpected for him to be on time. But he had plans. Plans that called for early unexpectedness, not on time unexpectedness. If he were merely on time, it would be difficult to spy on the preparations for his surprise party.
Curtains spilled from the open kitchen window, billowing lightly in the afternoon breeze. Amy's distinctive voice rang clear from inside, filling the back garden. "The Doctor does realize that it isn't a surprise party if he knows about it, yeah?"
"He doesn't just know about it, he planned it. Gave me a list and everything, bless." The voice was smooth and warm, wrapping around him like a comforting blanket. He desperately wanted look in and see those wild golden curls; crawl through the window and wrap his arms around her perfectly curved body. But no, that would come soon enough. Right now he just needed to make sure River hadn't forgotten anything.
"So are you following it?"
"Of course not. He asked for some obscenely inappropriate things on there." The Doctor jerked his head toward the window at River's words, frowning. No, he spent quite a lot of time on that list and there certainly was nothing inappropriate. True, a couple things might be slightly dangerous, but only if they weren't fed properly. He had mentioned that, hadn't he?
The Doctor was yanked from his ruminations by River's sudden laugh. "No, no! Not inappropriate like that."
He frowned again. What did she mean—oh. Inappropriate like that. The heat was already spreading across his cheeks as he shook his head to no one in particular. No, no, he'd never ask for something inappropriate like that. Or at least, if he did, he'd ask for it to be somewhere more private than at Amy and Rory's house. A lot more private. And soft. Soft and private. His mind began to wander, trying to think if there were any uninhabited planets with spongy surfaces when River spoke again.
"Take the cake for example. He wanted it to be something like Tiramisu except with fish fingers and custard."
His stomach rumbled and sunk at the same time. Did that mean she wasn't making it? That had been one of his more brilliant culinary ideas. He went through a lot of trouble to specifically go back and nudge the creation of Tiramisu along so he could have a version with fish fingers and custard. He even had to spend some time in the 1980's!
"He also asked for random things from all over space and time like these silvery balloons that, truthfully, are really quite lovely on their home planet. Almost like globs of mercury floating through the air. But the gravity there is much different and here they'd be rather more like lead balloons. Those were one of his more reasonable requests. And, of course, he wanted hats. Definitely not getting those."
The two laughed, like it was some kind of joke. But he didn't find it funny at all. How could River do this? His requests were really all quite reasonable. Or at very least reasonably reasonable. Although she did have a point about the balloons. Then it occurred to him, he'd simply have to go out and pick up a few of the things she missed. A couple quick stops in the TARDIS and he'd be back in plenty of time to be late to the party. He jumped to his feet and knocked his head so hard on the windowsill, swirling galaxies and brilliant nebulas burst to life in front of his eyes.
Rubbing his head, he sunk back to the ground when Amy asked, "What was that?"
Footsteps moved toward the window and he quickly pressed himself against the exterior of the house, trying to think flat, invisible thoughts. Then River spoke directly above him. "Must've been an animal."
He waited until he was sure she had moved away from the window then scurried back to the TARDIS to run his errands.
Upon his return, the Doctor parked across the street in his reserved spot. Or at least he liked to think it was reserved for him. It was always open when he came. Not that any other big blue phone boxes would park just across from Amy and Rory's, but he liked to pretend all the same. He burst out of the doors, a bag dangling from his arm, and crossed to the little blue house. Humming happily, he pushed open the gate and skipped up the steps before pressing the bell just a bit too long. The lock clicked and the door opened revealing his three favorite Ponds smiling back at him.
Before any of them could say a word, the Doctor threw his hands in the air and shouted, "Surprise!" The grin quickly slid away from his face as they looked at him questioningly. "Ah, wait. I suppose that's your line, yeah? One more time, then!" He leaned forward and pulled the door shut again. He rocked back and forth excitedly for a few moments before knocking again.
The door opened more slowly this time, but Amy still yelled, "Surprise!" as loudly and enthusiastically as anyone could ask for. Rory was just a beat behind her, quite a bit more subtle in his tone, while River simply stared, one eyebrow arched and an amused look on her face.
"Amy! Rory! Oh, you shouldn't have!" The Doctor pulled each into a strong hug before turning his attention to River. "And what a surprise to see you here too, my bad girl." She rolled her eyes at that but he ignored it. "I just so happen to have a present for you! How lucky that I brought it!"
"Yes, how fortunate," River replied dryly.
With a wink, the Doctor rummaged around in his bag and produced a gaudy blue and silver striped conical cardboard hat topped with a glittery pom-pom. He immediately perched it at a slight angle on River's curls before she could even open her mouth to object. "Hats!" he exclaimed. "Hats for everyone!" He handed identical hats to Rory and Amy before placing one on his own head.
"Oh, almost forgot!" He reached into the bag once more and pulled out a colorful object that resembled a creature somewhere between an elephant and a dog. "What's a party without a piñata? Here, Rory," the Doctor said, handing it to him, "take it to the garden. We'll do that later. But be sure to keep your hands away from its mouth, it's probably hungry again. You may want to grab something sugary from the kitchen on the way out. It likes jellies the best, but cake will do." He started to turn but stopped and gave Rory a serious look. "But whatever you do, don't give it chocolate. No, very bad to give it chocolate."
The Doctor nodded as if that explained everything then spun toward the sitting room and spotted the presents on the coffee table. The brightly wrapped gifts drew him to sit on the sofa and inspect them more closely. He was just licking a flat blue package when Amy came in followed shortly by Rory, both without their hats.
"No, but where's River? Where are your hats?"
Rory shrugged. "She said she'd take care of the piñata and to not encourage you by wearing the hats."
"Encourage—what? Have you seen what River does to hats? Of course you have. With the fez, and the Stetson and alright, maybe not the top hat. Still haven't figured that one out. But she kills hats! And you just gave them to her? How—" It was then that River returned, a self-satisfied smile on her face. The Doctor shot her an accusatory look. "River! The hats! What did you do?"
"The what?" River asked, looking mildly confused. "Oh, those. The piñata ate them."
"What? No, River! No, no, no! The hats are paper. He can't have paper! His species' cell structure is very similar to paper. It's practically cannibalism!"
"Oh, dear," River said with a feigned note of concern. "I guess that's why the poor dear looked a bit ill."
"You knew it would make him sick!" the Doctor shot back. "You did it on purpose!"
"It's dangerous, Doctor. Think of how you'd feel if it hurt Amy or Rory. Or what if it escaped?"
"But the hats! They were from Earth, they didn't ever do anything to deserve to get eaten!"
"Maybe not, but just think, sweetie, at least you still have yours. Here, now," she suggested gently, sitting on the sofa next to him and patting his knee. "Why don't you open your gifts? That will cheer you up."
The Doctor mumbled something about poor defenseless hats and misunderstood piñatas as he reached for his first gift. He reached for a large rectangular box wrapped in colorful confetti-print paper. He ripped off the wrappings, lifted the lid and nearly squealed in excitement at the fedora contained within. "A hat! Rory, you got me a hat! Good ol' Rory the Roman! You always were my favorite, you know."
If looks could kill, the stares from River and Amy would've killed Rory twice. "What?" Rory shrugged, "All I could think of was that or a bow tie."
The Doctor was still giggling madly over the hat as he picked up a flat blue gift. His eyes lit up once enough of the paper was torn away to reveal a book on knitting. "River! Oh, I loved the last one and this one is a whole book!" His hand ran over the cover with the gentle reverence that one would use with a priceless masterpiece. When he reached the lower corner, he flexed his fingers before slipping them under the cover to open it.
"Do you really like knitting that much?"
Amy's voice yanked him from and he looked up sharply in surprise. His face went pale before the redness started creeping up his neck. In the few moments it took to rip the paper, he had completely forgotten about Amy and Rory. Why did they have to be there? True, it was their home and he had requested this to take place in their home, but didn't they have somewhere else to be right at that exact moment?
"Well, yes, I do. I like scarves. Did I never show you lot my favorite scarf? It was a great scarf. Very long, very stripy. Stripyness is always a good trait in scarves, I've noticed. See, bow ties are great. They're like mini scarves. But I'd like another scarf. I can knit one now. There are scarves in here." He flipped open the book and his eyes widened. "Yes! Definitely scarves, lots of scarves!" he squeaked, slamming it shut. He put the book on the sofa next to him, glanced at it, slid it under the pillow, then got up and sat on the pillow. "Scarves," he finished with a serious nod.
Amy and Rory glanced at River, the corners of her mouth twitching in an amused smile. She shrugged and said, "What can I say? The man likes a good scarf."
He opened Amy's gift quickly—a new pair of boots for running, she explained—then suggested it was time for cake. He stood carefully, holding the book and pillow to his back and waddled past Amy and Rory to the dining table, ignoring their strange looks. After placing the pillow and the book on one of the chairs, he sat on it carefully and looked expectantly toward the kitchen.
"So how old are you?" Rory asked as he settled himself at the table.
"1009, 1010? Wait, how old did I say I was when I last saw you?"
"He doesn't really know," River said as she brought the cake in from the kitchen. "He hasn't known for centuries."
"Oi, I'll have you know my sense of time is perfect!"
The three looked at each other and burst out laughing. He mumbled to himself and reached for the cake server to cut the cake. As slid the metal through the layers, he held his breath and raised the slice from the cake platter. His face fell as all that was revealed was layers of normal cake. "I'd hoped you were kidding."
"Kidding when?" River asked, an eyebrow dangerously arched.
"Er, kidding when you laughed about me not having a perfect sense of time because you know, really, when have I actually been—" He shrunk under her gaze and quieted.
"I thought I saw a familiar tweed coat disappearing around the corner earlier." She shook her head and disappeared back into the kitchen.
"Do you think she's mad?" He asked leaning across the table to Amy. "She's your daughter, do you?" Amy had just opened her mouth to answer when River returned.
"I really don't think you deserve this," she said as she placed a ramekin in front of him. He poked experimentally at the contents then took a big scoop out revealing layers of fish fingers and custard. He shoved the spoon in his mouth and beamed at River. With a slight smile, she sat next to him and whispered in his ear, "And you definitely don't deserve your other gift."
He glanced up, swallowing thickly before saying, "But River, you already gave me the book. You can't take it back."
"Not that gift, the one I'm giving you later." His eyes widened as the smile on her lips broadened further.
"Happy birthday, sweetie."