Sorry for the wait, guys. I was out of town the past few days, so I didn't have access to my computer. At any rate, you guys are amazing! Over a hundred reviews? I never thought this story would be near that popular. So, as a big thank-you for all the feedback, the favorites, and the follows, this chapter is something that loads of you guys have been asking for, and it'd probably take me forever to name every one of you, so instead I'll just say I hope you enjoy it.
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
The Ponds were still tucked away in their bed, no doubt recovering from the previous emotional day. The Doctor was sure that Amy had told her husband about the visit from Angela and Patricia, and that the two of them needed rest. They also needed cheering up.
So, in order to do that, the Time Lord was of course going to do the one thing Amy Pond had specifically told him not to: use the kitchen. He felt it made complete sense.
For one thing, he resented the implication that the Scottish woman believed he couldn't cook. He realized he didn't seem the domestic type- and he most certainly wasn't –but even a mad man grew tired of processed food from a futuristic- to the Ponds' –machine after a few hundred years. That and cooking was just another tactic that the Doctor employed to relieve the boredom, fill the silence when he was alone, so he didn't have to think so much.
And he wanted to do something for them, too. They'd already done so much for him, letting him into their home and doing their best to make him comfortable in this environment he was so very unaccustomed to. The least he could do was try to make himself seem worth the effort.
It was easy enough to go through the motions of finding a skillet, taking different foods out of the refrigerator, and setting up a tray ready to carry breakfast to their room, so much so that he was honestly on auto-pilot. Perhaps because he'd been checking a burner he didn't see the tell-tale flash of electricity. It could have been since he was humming a little under his breath as he stirred eggs that he didn't hear the stiletto heels on the linoleum. And maybe the smell of sizzling bacon had distracted his nose from the familiar perfume.
But he definitely felt the slender, yet strong, arms that wrapped around him from behind, and the wisps of curly hair that tickled the back of his neck as a chin rested on his shoulder. The Doctor did his best not to jump in surprise. She laughed anyway.
"River!" He tried his best to keep his voice down, remembering that the Ponds—his in-laws—were still sound asleep. He wasn't even sure what he was trying to convey with that one word; a greeting, a protest, it hardly mattered for he was already starting to relax in her hold.
"Well, well, I drop by to visit my parents and I find breakfast. Hello, Sweetie." He could practically feel her smirk as his whole face flushed, but was determined not to rise to that flirtation. He was above such things, especially in her parents' house. He was.
"Are you hungry?" The Doctor asked instead, completely civilized, and knew without looking that she was pouting in disappointment. "How would you like your eggs?"
"Hard-boiled." Oh, she was wicked.
"River," he warned.
She laughed again. "You cannot tell me you didn't see that coming, Doctor."
"I didn't," he countered testily.
"You didn't even consider it?" She was still teasing him, and so he retorted irritably,
"It's not as if I had to consider such things before you, River Song." He regretted his quick words almost instantly, for she loosened her arms and lifted her chin off him.
"Has it not been that long since me?" She'd nearly drawn completely from him and her voice had just the slightest tremor of uncertainty, insecurity, in it. He switched the burner off, and hurriedly whirled around to face her properly. The Ponds' breakfast was done, so now he needed to fix his latest mistake.
"I didn't mean- I've known you—argh, spoilers," he grumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose at the obstacle the word presented to his reassuring of the woman. The woman who, when he glanced down at her, was looking increasingly apprehensive and closed off, likely scolding herself on the inside for not checking properly first. In fact, he saw her reaching for a pocket in the bag slung over her shoulder that he knew contained her diary.
Well perhaps it was stupid, but for once the Doctor wanted to do something normally. He was tired of spoilers and having to edge around each other carefully with their guard up until could be sure of each other. She shouldn't have to feel defensive toward him, here in her parent's house.
He sighed. "Oh, River. River Song—" he seized her by the shoulders, kissing her soundly, and she responded almost immediately. "My wife," he finished with a smile, which she returned shakily, so he wound his arms around her more securely, tucking her head under his chin and stroking her hair. "I'm sorry."
"There's no need to apologize, my love," she said softly, her arms draped loosely around his neck, and she played with the hairs at the base of it. He sighed again, though this one was of a different kind than the last, and River hummed a little in response, clearly satisfied that they'd recovered some semblance of peace. But still just as restless as he, she inquired, "And what brings you here, Doctor? Surely not just culinary practice."
"Bit of holiday, actually," he replied.
"Well, there are these sort of cube-things hanging about at the moment," he admitted, his eyes briefly straying to one of the little black blocks, but they returned just as quickly to her as she chuckled, the vibrations it caused shooting from her body to his at lightning speed due to their proximity. Kissing the top of her head lightly in response, he used that as an excuse to breath in her scent, something that always brought him comfort. He truly had missed her.
And yet, the times between their meeting were often so far apart, at least for him. After all, Dr. Song saw him most every night at Stormcage, whether from his visits or her own machinations. He could tally the nights up in his head, all twelve-thousand life sentences, and tick off the ones he had already experienced. That he had used up.
Because after that, he truly didn't know what would happen anymore. She would earn her pardon at some point, he knew, and become a professor, but he had no way of knowing just how long she would have that position. How long between then and the Library. How long between then and Darillium.
He was just like Kazran, hoarding the time they had, her time. Only the Doctor didn't have to choose his one last day with his beloved. It had already been picked for him, by her. He didn't know if that was better or worse.
It was easy now to understand that night in California, 1952, how those two young lovebirds hadn't even paid him any mind. Why would they want to? He didn't think he could break away from this woman in his arms right now if he tried. Not for anything.
"Are my earplugs still in? Because I don't hear any music."
Except her father. The Doctor really did leap back in surprise, and fear for his life, knocking his head on a cabinet to see Rory standing in the archway, still pajama-clad and sleepy-eyed. He realized belatedly that he had been swaying slightly on the spot as if to some inaudible beat, likely giving the appearance that they had been slow-dancing to the Roman. Whose sword, if he recalled correctly, was still in the TARDIS.
"Good morning, dad," River said with a smile, approaching him and pressing a kiss to his cheek. Rory grinned and hugged her, and the Doctor relaxed. It seemed the nurse was focusing more on his daughter being home than on the somewhat compromising position he'd found them in. Because he was fairly certain his wife's lips had been on his double-pulse point, if the strange sort of tingling feeling that lingered was any indication.
"Morning," Rory was replying, so the Doctor stopped scratching at his neck and attempted to actually concentrate. "When did you get in? You know you never have to wait for us to get up, we want to see you." He felt himself smiling at the other man's words, having been on the receiving end himself a time or two. Ponds, never worrying about themselves and always there for family.
"Oh, don't worry, I only just arrived," she dismissed. "And I kept myself entertained." River threw a mischievous grin and a wink over her shoulder at him, and Rory's gaze fell on him as well. It was times like these that he had to wonder if she was still trying to get him killed.
"Good morning, Rory," he greeted brightly, his voice 'like that' as Craig had so eloquently put it once. In a slightly lower, normal register, he continued. "You must be hungry. Have some breakfast."
It was probably a good thing his friend had gone without dinner the night before, for his hunger was likely what compelled him to turn to the stove. Rory blinked. "Oh, um, thanks. Did you make this?" When the Doctor nodded, he added, "You do realize Amy will kill you."
Before any of them could comment further, the matriarch's slippered footsteps could be heard approaching. "Who am I going to kill?" The redhead asked as she entered the kitchen.
"Hopefully no one, I think it'd spoil my visit," River remarked, and he saw the surprise and joy spark in her mother's eyes as she took in the sight of her daughter.
"River!" Amy rushed forward happily to embrace the other woman, which the archeologist readily returned.
"Hello, mum." But Amy turned around when Rory started serving himself eggs and bacon.
"How exactly did that get there, Mr. Pond?" Rory paused, shooting him an apologetic look before answering.
"Uh, the Doctor made breakfast." Now the Scottish woman moved to face him, staring at him sternly.
"Yes, Amy?" He did his best to keep his voice level and calm.
"What have I said about using the kitchen?"
"…not to do that?"
"Yeah. So what did you do?" She was leading him through it like he had the IQ of a houseplant, but he thought it best to just go along to try and not increase her wrath.
"I used it."
"Doctor!" She barked sharply, bringing a hand up to rub at her temples in frustration.
"I'm sorry, Amy, but I- I wanted to do something for you. I mean, after yesterday—" he broke off, seeing her frown turn to a sad one. Why was he so terrible at explaining himself?
"It tastes fine," Rory offered from his place at the table, and they saw that he'd made up a plate for his wife as well. Amy sat across from him, hesitantly picking up her fork and taking a bite of eggs. She looked up, seemingly stunned.
"It does," she agreed after a moment. "It tastes normal. Like food."
"Normal? Fine?" He repeated. "What, so it's just mediocre?"
"Well, no," she amended almost grudgingly. "It- it tastes good." She still appeared to be having trouble grasping that.
"Were you expecting something different?" River inquired in confusion, and he turned to see her dividing what was left in the skillet between two plates. Carrying them over to the table, she set them down and pointed out, "Eggs and bacon in the TARDIS aren't different than eggs and bacon in your kitchen."
The Ponds froze in their seats as that sunk in. "Wait, so the breakfast we would eat on the TARDIS—" Rory started.
"Was made by the Doctor," River cut him off with a smile. "He really is a sweetie, isn't he?" He was busy adding sugar, cream, or milk to four teacups in the way that they each preferred and seeing as he was facing away from them he allowed his chest to puff out a bit in pride. Joining them at the table at last, he placed each cup down before taking his seat.
"Thank you, dear," he acknowledged her praise and she smiled back at him.
"You're welcome, honey," the blonde returned and then took a delicate sip of tea. Amy still appeared perplexed and so her daughter raised an eyebrow. "Where did you think it came from, mother?"
"I don't- I hadn't really thought about- I guess I just figured it was there, you know?" The redhead said at last, and he furrowed his brow.
"What, it just showed up? The TARDIS is my ship, Pond, not my housekeeper. She keeps the kitchen stocked but the actual meals have to be made." Honestly, humans saw something they couldn't ever fully grasp and just assumed suddenly it was like magic.
"I suppose that explains why we'd always have to make our own lunch or anything else," Rory spoke, nodding a bit as he ate. "But, how did you always have it ready just in time, yet we never actually saw you?"
He shrugged. "I'd hear you start moving around, and it takes Amy about an hour to get ready in the morning after that, and you always wait for her," he explained, and the other man nodded in understanding. Amy was staring at him, her brow still creased in a frown and he was beginning to worry it might get stuck like that. "What?"
"Why didn't you just say so in the first place?"
He let out a disbelieving laugh. "You never let me! Pond, sometimes I wonder just what you think I do when you're not around, or how you think I manage."
"Who says you manage even when we're around?" She retorted with a teasing lilt to her tone.
"Touché," he nodded before raising his own cup to his lips. He caught River's eye across the table, expecting to see her sharing a laugh at his expense, but the smile she wore seemed strained for some reason, and she changed the subject with forced cheerfulness.
"So, how's the hospital, dad?" Rory chewed and swallowed the food in his mouth before responding.
"Oh, the same. I've been picking up more regular shifts recently, so that's sort of nice. My coworkers are easy to get along with, too."
"Most of them," he felt the need to correct the nurse, and Rory grimaced.
"Well, yeah. If it makes you feel any better, Frank was put on probation." He was indeed quite pleased to hear that news, even if it did seem vindictive of him.
"Oh? Who's Frank?" River arched a brow.
"An orderly at the hospital," Rory clarified. "He, er, sort of punched the Doctor and broke his nose."
River tilted her head, giving him a considering look. "Yes, I was wondering about that."
"What do you mean, wondering?" He repeated suspiciously, a hand coming up to his nose. "Are you saying it looks off? River?" When she started to laugh, he realized she'd just been pulling his leg, and felt a little foolish as Amy joined in.
"It was too good an opportunity, my love," she apologized, not sounding at all sorry. "But trust me, if it had been the case, I would have asked about it first thing." He took some small measure of comfort from that, and returned to his breakfast as she gave her mother her attention. "Well, mum, what about you? How's modeling?"
"Sorry, River, I've stopped doing that," Amy shook her head. "I write for a travel magazine now. Oh- is that spoilers?" She bit her lip and her eyes darted from her daughter to him nervously.
River took her hand and gave it a squeeze. "No, mum. I just have trouble keeping track. So you're writing. How's that?"
Amy said something in response, but it sounded far away to him. He was more interested in observing his wife's face. Not because he was distracted by her beauty or something equally ridiculous, but because of the expression she had made just for a split second, when Amy had stated her current profession. She'd hid it well, but her eyes had widened, her breath had caught sharply, her skin had paled ever so slightly, and her lips had pulled down into a frown. In fact, he likely would have missed it if he wasn't so well acquainted with such a countenance.
It was the exact look he got whenever she introduced herself as Professor Song. Because he knew what that implied. And he didn't want to even consider it.
"…think somebody's daydreaming," Amy's accented voice finally filtered through his thoughts, and he returned to reality just in time to find the family of three all watching him with a range of amused expressions. But he thought River's looked a tad uneasy, as if she knew. She knew he suspected something was wrong.
But for the Ponds' sake he did his best to act the flustered, scatterbrained madman. "Who, me? No, I was merely contemplating the science behind how the Old Girl supplies the kitchen. You've made me curious, Pond."
She rolled her eyes indulgently and Rory just shook his head. "Well, think about that some other day, Raggedy Man. Right now, you can wash the dishes you used."
He grinned wryly. "Trust you to use your new knowledge to your advantage." She swatted at his arm lightly as he stood. "Alright, but somebody else can dry."
"I think I can handle that," River got up as well, coming around the table to the sink and retrieving a towel.
"Do you cook, River?" Rory asked, obviously curious about his daughter's skills.
The archeologist threw her head back and laughed. "Oh father, why do you think I married him?"
"Just for my cooking?" He felt the need to inquire with a pout as Amy and Rory got up, likely to go finish getting dressed.
She pressed a kiss to his cheek before ushering him over to the dirty dishes on the counter. "Not just," she admitted. "But that's for you to know, Doctor, and them to never find out."
He certainly felt the flustered, scatterbrained madman now.
It was well into the evening before she stood up at last, bidding them farewell. Amy and Rory each held her for a long time, talking softly, and he had to turn away feeling the familiar pang of guilt. River stepped outside into the back garden as was her habit when about to use her vortex manipulator, but the Doctor found himself slipping out quietly after her.
She smiled as he slid the glass door shut silently behind him and met her on the patio. "I suppose you want a real goodbye?"
He accepted it readily, greedy as he was for her touch, her lips, and it was some time before they parted. Though they didn't truly separate, his arms around her waist keeping her pulled in close to him and her tight grip on his lapels keeping him leaned forward slightly, in easy reach. But he couldn't get too carried away.
"River," he breathed quietly, and could already feel her heartbeats quicken. "Why is it bad that Amy's a journalist? What does that mean for them, their time streams?" But she was shaking her head and already tugging him down for another kiss, to shut him up just as much as to soothe. He faltered in his resolve, lost in the sensation and not desiring to push her away.
At last her lips trailed over to his ear. "Doctor, you know I can't. Spoilers."
"I thought we'd be done with those, with the important ones, once we were married," he complained somewhat petulantly, even though it was entirely unfair of him. He was sitting on the biggest spoiler there was, yet he said not a word.
"I'm sorry, my love, but there's always more. There's always more out there, to see and do," she stressed like it was the most vital thing there was. He pulled back, eyeing her peculiarly.
"I know," he told her, and she smiled sadly.
"Yes, you do. But I fear you might forget."
"Can't you tell me, River?" He begged, unable to stop himself. "Just this once, I need to know—"
"Hush," she interrupted and his mouth snapped shut. "Please don't ask again." She'd shut her eyes against him and he felt wretched for doing this to her. When she opened them again, her gaze was calm and collected, but her eyes spoke of pain and grief. Pain and grief that was to be his future. "Besides, I think you already know. Why are you here, Doctor?"
He couldn't bare it, so he hugged her tightly again. She allowed him to hold her, not making any sign or indication that he had to let her go. "What do I do?" He whispered at last into her curls.
Her face was turned so her cheek rested against his chest, so he heard her clearly as she murmured, "The same thing you always do. Keep going."
"It seems like that's the only thing I ever do."
"It's the only thing there is," she countered, and he noted to himself that this time it was her rocking them from side to side slowly. Tinged as this moment was with sadness and hints of tragedy, he'd much rather end up crying into her hair or her shoulder than the Ponds' guest bedroom's bed sheets.
"You don't have to leave just now, do you? Couldn't you stay, River- please. At least the night." He heard her sigh against him and so he hurried on. "It's just that we're all here for once and—"
"And you'd have ample opportunity to persuade me to tell you everything," she cut him off, chuckling with little humor at the end. "I know all your tricks, Doctor." The idea had crossed his mind, but really he simply did not want her to go. Still, he reluctantly released her so that she could step out of the circle of his arms and plug in the coordinates for her trip.
"So that's it then. Nothing to be done, no saving them?" He gave one last ditch effort, trying to ignore the guilt at playing with her feelings.
But she just shook her head. "I never said they would need saving, my love." He opened his mouth to reply to that, but she'd stood up on her toes and covered his lips with hers. "Don't look back, don't try and look ahead, just focus on what is now." River stepped back once more before he could properly get his arms around her. "Goodnight," she said simply, pressing the button that activated her manipulator, and she disappeared.
"Goodnight," the Doctor breathed to the dark, turning after some time and reentering the house. He'd intended on heading straight to his room, but Amy caught sight of him as he passed by the sitting room. She and Rory appeared to be watching television.
"That took a while," she called in a teasing voice. He paused, swallowed once, and forced a smile on his face, sticking his head back through the archway.
"Did it? I hadn't noticed."
She snorted. "Of course you didn't."
He waved a dismissive hand. "Well, what are you two up to, then?"
"Watching the telly. There's not much on, but you can give it a go," Rory offered, patting the available space next to him on the couch.
The Doctor hesitated, not wanting to spoil their evening with his foreboding thoughts and mood. "I'm not sure I'm one for watching television," he hedged.
"That's what you said about the Wii," the nurse pointed out, and he felt quite stumped by that bit of logic.
"Yeah, and what else is there to do?" Amy added. He realized they were quite right, all three of them. What was the use of wasting whatever time was left worrying? If there was nothing he could do, so be it, but he wanted to look back on them with fond memories.
"Alright," he said aloud, plopping down next to Rory. "What's this show about?"
The bed sheets would still be there for his tears in the early hours of the morning, just something else to do to take his mind off things while the humans slept.
Ok, so kind of angsty at the end. Lots of hints at The Angels Take Manhattan, too. Thanks again for continuing to read, and please review!