"This is never going to work!" Rory whispered.

"It will if you'll quit dawdling. Come on, River is keeping him distracted." Amy crept silently past the lower door to the console room, hunched over and tiptoeing like the burglar in some old comic strip.

He looked up to the console. Yes, River was keeping him distracted. She was kissing him, quite enthusiastically. And if the location of his hands were any indication, he was enjoying it.

He squashed down his fatherly instincts, knowing neither of the older people above him would care what he thought, and not willing to be the recipient of further superior smirks. He followed Amy down the lower level corridor.

They ducked into the downstairs common room, a sort of generic tea room where there was a food machine, a more conventional college fridge, and a hotplate for making tea. The room was hung with streamers and bunting, helium balloons floated at the ceiling, and on the table was a heap of presents and a large orange cake with orange icing.

"Why did we have to go find this again?" Rory asked, placing the plastic shopping bag he'd tucked under his arm on the table. It had taken them ages to find it in the clutter of the Tardis.

"River insisted," Amy said, gleefully putting the last touches on the cake. Four large thick chocolate candles that spelled out "1104."

"She said it was special, she made it herself." Amy stepped back and surveyed the spread. A bowl of punch, the sickeningly sweet cake, an array of gaudily wrapped presents, and four pointy, tinfoil party hats.

"Excellent!" she clapped her hands and started ladling out punch into the crystal cups. "You better go get them."

Rory sighed wearily and slogged back to the console room. He knew what was coming. Why did they always do this to him? It's not like they didn't know his preferences.

He trudged up the steps to the glass floor. They were still at it. "Huh-um!" he cleared his throat pointedly.

River was leaning back against the console, bent backwards with her hands buried in the Doctor's hair, he was bent over her, one hand behind her waist, the other braced on the telephone. They didn't look like they'd even come up for air.

"Uhm. Excuse me?" Rory tried again.

River loosed one hand from the Doctor's hair and made flicking, "Go away," motions at him.

He rolled his eyes. Some fatherly authority he had. He raised his voice. "If you two Time Lords would like to come up for some air for a moment, Amy would like to show you something."

River unsealed her mouth from the Doctor's with an almost audible pop. She looked over his shoulder, the Doctor seemed dazed. "Father," she said, very distinctly, "I love you, but we're busy. Go away."

She went back to kissing the Doctor. The Doctor didn't seem to have noticed the brief interruption.

"Really," Rory muttered under his breath. "What does it take? A pail of water?"

"Oi! What's the holdup?" Amy whispered hoarsely from down the hall.

She joined him and he waved helplessly at the exhibition going on at the Tardis console.

Amy clapped her hands sharply. "You two!" she yelled. "Break it up! Snog on your own time."

River let the Doctor go and rolled her eyes. The Doctor leaned against the console weakly, he looked up blearily.

Amy scowled. "Were you using your lipstick on him?" she demanded of River.

"Oh, mummy, I don't have to use my lipstick on him," River smiled, and sashayed down the stairs past them. The Doctor's eyes tracked her like a magnet.

Amy waved her hand in front of his face. "Hello? Anyone home?"

His eyes focused and he blinked at her. He straightened his jacket and his bowtie. He tried to put on a serious face. "Of course I am. What can I do for you, Amelia?"

She grabbed his hand and grinned, she tugged. "Come on, Raggedy Man. We've got a surprise for you!"

"A surprise? I love surprises!"

He turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs and jumped when River pinched him on the bum.

"I know, Sweetie," she smirked from her hiding place.


She and Amy laughed gaily and each took an arm, dragging him down the hallway.

Rory followed along, shaking his head.

The cake was a great success, and the candles left a rim of chocolate all around the Doctor's mouth that both Amy and River felt the need to smooch.

The Doctor kept eyeing the presents until Amy finally gave in and let him unwrap them. Paper flew everywhere. Amy's gift of a set of colorful sidewalk chalks met with unexpected success, and led to the Doctor speculating what planets had the biggest sidewalks for him to deface.

Amy had to laughingly haul him back into the room to finish unwrapping his other presents. Generic gifts of bunny slippers, a luridly red checkered bath robe, and apparently an attachment for his sonic screwdriver that blew bubbles (that one from River) met with equal success.

Rory nervously drew out a plain brown grocery bag from behind a cabinet door. He tensely handed it to the Doctor. The Doctor peered at him in confusion and opened up the bag. He looked inside, and froze.

"Oh, Rory." He looked up with tears in his eyes and reverently drew the gift out. It was a bust, of River. It was only as big as his fist, but each feature had been carefully carved and smoothed down, each curl meticulously whittled into the curling grain of the wood. It even had the little bump on River's nose.

The Doctor blinked. His eyes were suspiciously bright. "You carved this?" he asked, in a choked, quiet voice.

Rory shrugged. "I used to have a lot of time for whittling."

The Doctor gripped the statue tightly and gave Rory a powerful hug. "Thank you," he whispered so low that the women couldn't hear. Rory patted him awkwardly on the back.

The Doctor pulled back and jammed the statue deep in his pocket. "So!" He said brightly, turning with a beaming, glittery smile on his face. "What's this last one?" He pulled the plastic shopping bag toward him.

"That's from River," Rory said.

The Doctor turned to her.

She stood with her arms crossed, a smirk on her face. "I'll have you know, that took me months to make. Boring months and months, while I waited for them to finish installing the newest security system." She shrugged. "It's not one of my more appreciated skills."

He frowned in fascinated confusion. He looked down at the bag as if it might contain anything from a cyborg snake, to a jar of homemade pickles. He untied the knot carefully, never quite sure if something from her would explode or not.

He opened it up and peeked inside.

"RIVER!" He gave her an unbelievably brilliant smile. He pulled it out. And out, and out, and out. Hand over hand, looping it around his neck in vast multicolored coils.

It was a scarf. The longest, most ragged, most endless scarf in the universe. It was red and white and brown and blue and tan and purple. And had tassels.

He threw a loop of it around River and dragged her in and gave her a smacking kiss. "You, are wonderful!" She grinned at him, both of them wrapped in its coils like it was a boa constrictor. She patted the soft woolen loops on his chest.

"Enjoy it while you can, Sweetie. It self-destructs in 24 hours."

Click on the next chapter for the Epilogue

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