Haha, so remember this? I have no excuses, guys, aside from a paralyzing fear that this second part would not live up to the previous chapter, which resulted in me putting it off and putting it off to the point of ridiculousness. So yes, I am ok, nothing to worry about with me. Terribly sorry to everyone who has been waiting, because I most certainly appreciated all the reviews for the last installment. So I'm getting my act together and writing this now, hoping for the best, and asking that above all you enjoy it despite the lateness. Thanks!
Dobby's Polka-Dotted Sock
Jack, naturally, was the first to recover. Over the course of his already long life he'd seen and done things unbelievable—but this? "What?" It was a fair bit higher pitched than he normally spoke, and said on something of an incredulous laugh.
"I'm assuming that's an 'I heard you but simply cannot accept it' what," the Doctor guessed correctly. He then grimaced in some distaste to Jack's right, where Mickey was once more gaping like a fish. The other man took no notice of this, and so it was a still shell-shocked Martha who reached over numbly and forced her husband's jaw shut.
River Song watched all this with a clearly amused interest. "You really weren't joking," she directed over her shoulder at the man she was using as a chair—and it was a testament to how serious Jack had thought the situation was that he was only now paying attention to how hot that was.
"Yes, well I don't tend to embellish that sort of thing. Usually," the Time Lord amended under the skeptical stares of both her and Amy and Rory. That pair had been blissfully unsurprised by all this, though as the supposed parents of the woman at the center of this controversy, they had likely known all of this already. The alien's put-upon sigh brought Jack back to present, however, as his friend stated, "I'm waiting for the questions I'm almost certain you have, you know."
"But- but," Martha finally choked out, "you don't- I mean, you wouldn't—marriage?"
The Doctor blinked, but it was Rory who said, "I'm not even sure there was a question in there."
"Right, cause you're the judge of what a good question is, Mr. What Color," Amy smirked, nudging the nurse with an arm when he squirmed in embarrassment and looked down.
The Time Lord was also grinning in remembrance of some past adventure, but favored Martha with a gentler smile as he prompted, "What exactly makes me and marriage irreconcilable, Dr. Jones?"
Mickey, however, snorted and replied, "Domesticity?"
"Well we've found it difficult to obtain any level of domesticity when one of us lives in prison and the other lives in a transdimensional time machine. If you're talking about domestics, though, we have those in spades," River informed them happily, adding smugly, "And I'm almost always right."
Their friend gave an exaggerated stretch of the arms, removing one from where it had perched on her hip—and how had Jack not picked up on that until this moment?—while commenting, "Ah, gee, I think my legs need a nap."
Dr. Song yelped in a startled manner when he suddenly straightened the aforementioned limbs, causing her to slip down a couple inches toward the floor until she locked her arms around his neck and pulled herself up flush against him. "Oh, don't you dare," she warned.
To Jack's astonishment, the Doctor merely afforded her a rakish grin. "Why, what're you going to do about it?"
"Ok, I know we talked about this, but can you please tone it down a bit?" Rory complained wearily, pointedly not looking at the rather suggestively positioned pair.
"For Mandy's sake, at least," Amy added wryly, despite the fact that the little girl was completely oblivious, intent as she was upon coloring in, over, and around the lines.
The Doctor and his wife—ok, that was still too weird—obliged, though, and the woman at last got up, instead settling on the arm of the chair. It left Jack feeling a bit disappointed; this was shaping up to be very interesting indeed.
"I'm going on good faith that the 'talk' we had was the fun one I remember from the time before last I visited," River addressed this to her father, who merely shrugged.
"We haven't seen you since then, actually," Amy noted absently. "Spoilers."
"Sorry?" Martha interjected, looking perplexed by this back and forth. Jack was only doing a little better, because it almost sounded like—
"River and I—and her parents, as a consequence—meet out of order. Mostly because of the Silence muddling up the timelines," the Doctor explained. "Spoilers basically means something one of us isn't supposed to know yet. Or that you just mucked things up, so I presume we'll be expecting you, dear," he turned to the curly-haired woman for the latter half of the sentence.
"Now that you mention it," was all she stated with an enigmatic smile.
"But how do you keep track of it? I mean, how do you even talk to each other?" Mickey inquired.
"We do diaries," River replied, retrieving a slightly worn, TARDIS blue not to mention shaped book, and began flipping through pages. She held it aloft to avoid a certain Time Lord's prying eyes.
"Please tell me he has one of those," Jack at last spoke up once more. He'd been letting the Smith-Joneses ask most of the questions, because the way to look impressive and charming was not to seem confused or nosy. Now that he'd gathered enough intel by listening in, and by avidly watching the exchanges between the full and part Time Lords, he felt confident enough that he knew how this worked.
River glanced up with a smirk while the Doctor rolled his eyes at the barely suppressed fiendish glee in Jack's voice, "I did use the plural, did I not, Captain? Now then, last I saw you," this was stated with a look down at the alien, "was Easter Island."
"Hm, yes the statues," the Time Lord affirmed, bringing a hand up to rub at his chin. "Not sure if they got my good side."
"Wait, Boss, those are you?" Mickey demanded in shock. Martha merely shook her head with a grin, not really thrown by their friend's usual impacts to history. That sort of thing they were all used to.
"Nothing quite like a grateful native tribe, I always say," was all the Doctor said in response.
"Don't you just," River remarked as she stuck her diary back in its place. It resided in a pouch on her belt, right next to where her gun—which had yet to be returned, along with Jack's—was usually holstered.
"You know, I can't help noticing, Dr. Song," Jack began, causing her to lift those mysterious eyes to his face again. "That you're rather open about being armed. Is that the cause of many a domestic?"
"Only if I'm being particularly lethal," she gave a noncommittal shrug.
"But Doctor, you hate guns," Martha pointed out.
The Time Lord leaned forward, steepling his hands together and considering the statement for a moment. "They're not my ideal first option, true, and I certainly don't use them, least not for the usual purpose. But it's not my job to forbid others from doing so, so long as they're not doing it for the express purpose of causing unnecessary pain." It was clear he'd reflected on the subject before now, possibly many times, and Jack was rather proud of his friend for the compromise.
It didn't stop him from teasing, "Right, I'll remember that the next time I draw a banana, then."
River was the one who perked up in interest first, however, and said, "Really, he did that to you, too?" She scoffed, settling back with her arms crossed. "Here I thought I was special."
"Oh sure, next time I have seconds to surreptitiously turn a fruit bowl I'll make sure the apple is facing out since, you know, it's so gun-shaped," the Doctor huffed in equal parts amusement and exasperation.
"We'll hold you to it," Rory deadpanned, making Amy snicker and the Doctor shoot him a good-natured scowl.
"I can't believe it," Jack finally admitted, making everyone aside from Mandy look at him in bewilderment. "Clearly this has been the most interesting three-hundred years of your life—and I completely missed it! How is that even possible, or fair even?" He demanded of the Time Lord. He'd have demanded it of some higher authority, too, if he really believed in that sort of thing.
"Not sure what to tell you, Jack. Terribly sorry," his friend replied with an apologetic frown. He didn't buy it for one second.
"No you're not. This has all been some elaborate scheme to keep me from meeting your wife. Justifiable, seeing as you're an incredibly lovely woman, River," he inclined his head in her direction.
"Thank you, Captain," she replied with a wink.
"And the scheme comes crashing down," Mickey muttered ominously with a smirk. Martha elbowed him in the ribs but did nothing to hide her own grin.
"You 51st century types just love doing this to me, don't you?" The alien grumbled, folding his arms and shifting slightly away from their exchange. It wasn't an outright 'stop it', though, and Jack had to marvel at the work River must have put in to bring an end to the Campaign Against Flirting. His friend even engaged in it himself again now, so it seemed, and to Jack that was like finding water in the desert.
River was unrepentant in the face of her husband's grousing. "Never mind us, you love it." The lack of reply was more telling than any reply would have been.
"Right, fun as this mini-interrogation has been, I'm calling it to an end," Amy announced, standing up. "Rory, you and the Doctor can go get some take-away. Got a feeling this lot'll be sticking around, and there's barely anything in the fridge."
Rory started from where he'd been watching Jack and River with a noticeable frown. "But—"
"They're flirty, so what? Let them get it out of their systems while you're gone and then you don't have to worry about it," his wife advised, pulling the nurse up from his chair and pushing him in the direction of the Doctor. "I'll keep an eye on it."
"I don't think—" Rory protested, but snapped his mouth shut at the glare Amy shot him. "Right, ok, great," the man nodded simply, tugging on the Time Lord's arm to get him moving. "We'll be going."
"It's too late, nothing to be done. I'm so sorry, Rory," the alien muttered under his breath, only half-joking. Rory didn't seem to find it funny at all, even as his friend led him out the door.
"Oh, wait, Mickey have you got your wallet? We should pitch in," Martha suggested. The other man nodded and went to catch the two before they left. "Thanks for having us, Amy," the woman added.
"No problem," the Scottish woman waved a hand, dropping back into her chair. River followed suit, lounging once more in the chair that was now sans-Doctor.
"What exactly was I interrupting anyway?" Dr. Song asked, though seeming rather unconcerned about it.
"The Olympics. Tell you what, I'll put it back on and grab us a bottle." Amy pressed a button on the remote and then went out of the room.
Jack was immediately up and crossing to River's chair, bracing an arm against the back and leaning over it. "So," he began, and saw Martha roll her eyes in his periphery. "Sorry about the frosty welcome. I'm hoping that doesn't make things awkward between us."
River titled her head back to look at him. "Not at all, Captain. Rather gratifying to know you'd remember hearing of me even after a century. I must be doing my job right."
"Great," he replied with a wide grin. He waited for her to direct her gaze back to the television before stooping slightly to speak closer to her ear. "Cause I was a bit curious. As you may have noticed from our various amazed reactions, none of us really saw the Doc as the permanent relationship type."
"Your question?" She didn't turn to face him but he saw the smirk stretch over her lips.
"How is he as a husband?"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Her eyes were shining with mischief when she glanced his way, and her smile was wide.
"That's why I'm asking," he shamelessly admitted.
"And what makes you think I'm telling?" It was a clear challenge. Lucky he knew the answer.
"Because even if we weren't both such extroverted, sharing individuals, you're still married to the Doctor. That'd make anybody want to brag."
There was a beat of silence as she considered. "Have a seat, Jack," she patted an arm of the chair. "Have we got things to discuss."
Amy was only mildly surprised when, as she picked through their wine cabinet for something she thought they might all like, Martha slipped into the kitchen with Mandy. "Mind if we sit in here? Got a feeling they're just getting warmed up," the female doctor jerked a thumb in the direction of the sitting room.
"Yeah, that's fine," she agreed with a knowing smile. "I'm sure it'd make even me uncomfortable."
"Because she's your daughter?" Martha guessed, and clearly picked up on the slight strain to her smile now. "You all seem to be coping fine, but I'm so sorry, Amy. I couldn't imagine—"
"You don't have to," she said, a bit tersely, for the other woman simply looked down, busying herself with lifting Mandy up and into a chair at the kitchen table. Amy took a deep breath. "Sorry. I meant- nobody should have to. It's hard. But you're right, we've all made it work. And anyway, Rory and I are used to River being like that," she continued in a lighter tone, but then pursed her lips. "It's really just that she's talking about the Doctor that gets to me sometimes. He's my best friend. It's still kind of weird."
"I can sympathize with that," Martha remarked with a slight laugh, clearly glad she hadn't offended. "He really can be quite different, even if he's still the Doctor. The last him never would've—not that I think he wasn't capable of that sort of relationship. I mean I used to wish—" She blushed, looking down at the table, and Amy made the prudent choice not to comment, instead moving to retrieve some glasses. "Anyway, ancient history," Martha recovered, "for him literally, I guess. I just never thought Rose would be."
"Sorry?" Amy turned back to look at her with a raised eyebrow.
She shrugged, looking regretful that she'd even brought the topic up. "I mean, he seems to have moved on pretty well. That's good, though, he should—"
"He hasn't," Amy cut across simply. "He's just better at hiding it."
Martha looked shocked. "But then River- he's married and- Amy, I'm so sorry, but Rose was—"
"Someone he misses terribly and wishes he had never lost," she stated firmly to the distressed woman, whose daughter was tugging on the hem of her shirt in clear confusion and discomfort at seeing her mother upset. Martha gave Mandy a weak smile and squeezed her hand briefly, but then looked back up at Amy with questioning eyes. She took a seat across the table from them. "I'm not going to pretend I know everything that happened or how it was to be you or Mickey or Jack at the time. But I know the Doctor, and I know that he's sad. He's sad about a lot of things, not just Rose. And he would be just as dreadfully sad if something like what happened to Rose had happened to you, Martha."
The other woman gave a rueful half-smile and didn't quite meet her eyes. "Not so sure about that, to tell you the truth. Rose was special. He was lost before her—the Time War and everything, you know?"
She nodded. "Yeah, I don't envy her that job, getting him on his feet again. But who was there to help him when she was gone? You, Martha. Just like me and Rory, and Donna, and Sarah Jane, and who knows how many people. We help him, we keep him going, and he knows that. And I reckon that makes us all a little special at least," she finished with a little smile, which Martha actually returned.
"Wish I could've realized that back when I was traveling with him. It's nicer thinking I'm part of a group, rather than competing with somebody's ghost," Martha sighed. "But that's the thing, I got over him, in part, because of Rose. I thought nobody could ever match up. But he's gone and married someone completely different!" She chuckled lightly, and Amy shrugged. "I really thought he loved her."
"Rose, you mean?" The other woman nodded, and Amy pursed her lips again for a time. "Maybe, but then you'd have to agree he loves all of us. We're his friends, and family now, and we all love the Doctor. River's the one that gets to love him, though. Think she might be the only one who can, knowing everything he's been and done, everything about him."
It was a staggering concept, and clearly Martha thought so too for she blew a breath out in a rush and said, "Well I don't envy her that job." They shared a light laugh at that and it was a moment before the other woman added, "Anyway, I guess we must be doing alright if he's able to be so cheerful these days."
"Don't think he'll be so cheerful when he gets back," Mickey said in the archway, hurrying in with his shoulders hunched. "There are things being said in that sitting room I never wanted to know."
"Well don't tell us," Martha responded with a pointed glance at Mandy.
"Would I do that to my girls?" The man dropped kisses to both his wife and his daughter's heads, producing nearly identical smiles. "Er, I won't tell you either, Amy, cause I know—"
"Yeah, she's my daughter, it's weird, I'm mostly over it," she waved a hand dismissively at the already covered topic, making Martha chuckle a bit at Mickey's awkward expression.
"Oh. Well, guess that's alright. Funny that the Boss got married, though. I mean I always thought—but good on him," he nodded decisively.
Amy frowned and pinched the bridge of her nose for a moment, weighing her options. She didn't think it right to just go telling them everything her friend had said to her and Rory in confidence, but clearly the Time Lord's former companions needed some kind of closure. "I don't know how much you two know about what happened to Rose. I'm guessing it's more than me, cause Rory and I only just heard about it. But what really gets to him, the Doctor I mean, what really upsets him is what almost happened to her. He said she was almost trapped in the Void?" It ended in a question, mostly because she was testing out the vaguely familiar word. Amy knew she'd heard it before all of this, but it must have been some time ago, for she was having trouble recalling.
"Guessing that's worse than a parallel world," Martha remarked.
Mickey snorted. "You could say that. The Boss, he called it the never-space and a bunch of other stuff. Said it was Hell."
"Oh my God," Martha breathed softly, eyes wide. "No wonder he was upset. Just thinking of anyone having to be trapped there…"
No, the Doctor didn't like anyone to be trapped, most especially himself. That much was clear by his usual style of living, the four days he'd spent in their lounge the last time he'd tried staying with them, and even his aversion to the ankle brace he'd been made to wear for the neighbors' benefit, which he'd taken much glee in tossing out with the rubbish.
But then it suddenly clicked in Amy's head, where she'd heard of the Void before. The brace—feeling trapped—the Pandorica—Rose and River—River's voice, still mysterious to her then, uttering the words "never-space"—and what Mickey had just described.
She reached out suddenly and gripped the man's arm, making him jump in surprise. "He said that about the Void?"
"Er, yeah. I mean, that's all I remember. It's this sort of place between all the worlds or something, I think. I just remember he called it Hell."
Amy let him go and closed her eyes, trying to keep them from watering. "Oh, Raggedy Man." After a time she was able to open them in order to view Martha and Mickey's bewildered looks. She swallowed around the lump in her throat and said, "Sorry, it's just—he's been there. In the Void."
"What?" They both exclaimed, making Mandy look up at them in confusion for the outburst.
"It was a long time ago," she tried to explain, "and I- I got him out." How had she never thought to ask after her wedding? She could remember so sharply now the tremble and stress to his voice as he'd urged her to remember before he'd gone. And then he'd shown up in a top hat and tails and everything had seemed fine. But how long had he been there, stuck in a place he'd give the name Hell?
She recalled the haunted look to his eyes as he'd described to her and Rory what he'd almost let happen to Rose Tyler. Having experienced the fate that had nearly befallen her for himself, no wonder he felt himself a monster when he thought of her.
But then the front door opened and she heard Rory call, "We're back! Got pizza."
This was followed by some footsteps down the hall and then a panicked yelp of, "River, what are you telling him?" from the Doctor.
Martha and Mickey shared worried looks before turning back to her. "Should we say anything?" The dark-haired woman asked.
"No, no, Rory and I'll- we've got it," she decided quickly, standing and grabbing the wine bottle and a handful of glasses. "Not now."
"Yeah, well, good luck," Mickey offered under his breath as he straightened up, taking the remaining glasses for her. "Don't know how you two do it."
"It's a talent we've honed over ten years, and we still don't get it right all the time," she admitted, causing the other two to look somewhat amazed.
"Ten years?" She thought she heard Martha echo in a stunned voice, but Amy was already out in the hall, just catching her husband before he entered the sitting room.
"Hey, thanks," she gave Rory a peck on the cheek. "Think we can just set up around the coffee table."
"Yeah, sure," he agreed, but a bit of concern entered his expression briefly. "You ok? Your eyes are a bit red."
"Later," she promised in an undertone, knowing better than to try and hide from him. He frowned slightly but nodded.
"Pond, you're a terrible minder," the Doctor greeted when she and Rory came into the sitting room proper, the Smith-Joneses with Mandy following behind. "I can already tell from the evil looks being sent my way that Captain Jack's got untold amounts of blackmail now."
Jack, who was happily perched on the arm of River's chair, interjected, "It's not like that at all, Doc. River was just giving me pointers."
"Pointers?" The Time Lord repeated with a blank look on his face. Then he seemed to get it. "Pointers? River!" Amy's daughter merely tipped her head back and laughed.
"Food's hot," Rory pointed out lamely, clearly in an attempt to divert the current conversation. "Let's eat."
"Sounds good to me," Mickey replied agreeably enough, opening one of the boxes and grabbing a slice.
After that it was much shuffling about the room as everyone took plates and got some pizza. Amy ended up smushed in close to Rory on the sofa again, his arm wound comfortably around her waist. Mandy was tucked in between her parents on the couch as Martha cut up a slice of pizza into easily manageable bites. River had both her and the Doctor's glasses of wine after the alien spit his customary first mouthful into a potted plant next to his chair.
"Hey," Rory reprimanded.
"For all you care about that, they are incredibly dry," the Time Lord countered, making the nurse shift in his seat at being called out. "Probably the first bit of water they've seen since they were bought."
"Brian waters them when he house-sits," Amy informed him with a superior shake of the head. "And anyway, Doctor, that was hardly water."
"Lost your taste for drink?" Jack guessed from his resumed post on the arm of River's chair. The Time Lord's earlier attempt to replace the immortal man had failed when the curly-haired woman had merely pulled him down and settled herself curled into his side. "Too bad I can't do the same, I hate being the designated driver."
"Too bad, Cheesecake, you volunteered your car," Mickey spoke up, making both Martha and the Doctor snicker.
"Mickey Mouse, for the last time, it's Beefcake," the Captain returned with an exasperated tone.
"Clearly," River remarked with a smirk.
"Oi," the Doctor poked her in the side, to which she reflexively squirmed at.
Once she recovered, she patted his shoulder in a placating way, "Not to worry, Sweetie."
It was Jack's turn to spit out his own drink of water, which he thankfully also aimed into the flowerpot, while Mickey seemed to be trying to cough up a bite of pizza that had gone down the wrong pipe. "Sweetie?" Both men demanded at nearly the same time.
"Oh bloody Hell," the Time Lord muttered, slapping a hand to his forehead and trying to shrink in closer to River or at least away from Jack. His wife seemed unconcerned at the embarrassment she had caused as she simply shifted to make room and took a calm sip of her wine.
"No way- no way. Boss, she really calls you that?" Mickey seemed equal parts incredulous and vindictively overjoyed.
"If ever there was any lingering doubt in my mind she was your wife, that's just dispelled it," Jack remarked with a grin.
Martha was trying valiantly to stay kind and fight off her own smile. "Come off it, you two. It's, er, it's cute."
"Oh, no, no, Martha," Jack cautioned loudly with an arm held out. "Not cute. The Doc's not cute, he was very adamant about that when I met up with this him."
"Just laugh already, put me out of my misery," the alien groaned from somewhere behind River's hair.
"If you say so, Boss," Mickey agreed readily enough. But it was Mandy who began giggling first as she watched the adults, apparently finding their antics amusing. This in turn set everybody else off, including the Doctor from what she could see of his shaking shoulders. Amy was grateful for the good humor; the Time Lord's earlier grumbling had made her flinch at the unintentional reminder of the conversation in the kitchen about the Void. Rory had noticed but let it pass, simply touching her hand briefly.
It was dark outside by the time the dishes were stacked up on the counter beside the sink and they were all cramming into the hallway to exchange goodbyes near the door. Mandy was yawning in her mother's arms and Amy bent to coo a farewell to the sleepy child. Next to her, Rory smiled and waved.
"Got to say, this was one of the strangest days I've had in a while," Martha confessed on a slight laugh. "Fun, though."
"We'll just have to do it again sometime," Amy quipped, sharing a grin with the other woman.
"Yeah well, I don't think anything you could tell us now would surprise me," the female doctor stated confidently, and then turned toward River. "It was really great meeting you. I just- I still have so many questions!"
"I'm sure Jack can give you the details," the archeologist replied with a wicked smile.
Mickey, who had been remarking to a proud Rory about the model of his car, made a face. "Yeah, I think we'll leave that alone. Still, nice to know even the Boss can get dragged to the altar."
"You have no idea," the Doctor said under his breath with a wink at Amy, who thought of handcuffs and a pyramid and so smirked right back. At a normal volume the Time Lord afforded Mickey and Jack both firm handshakes and told them, "Good to see you as always. And I hope it wasn't you, Martha, dragging this one. He ought to have put in a bit more effort than that." This he said to the woman in question while giving her something of a one-armed hug.
"You bet he did, Mister," Martha affirmed with a nod.
"Wonderful. Now then, we should really let you head home and get this little one to bed," he indicated Mandy by stroking the bridge of her nose and gently tapping the end. The girl simply snuggled in closer to her mother, already mostly asleep.
"Yeah. Thanks again," Mickey said again to Amy and Rory.
"Anytime," the nurse responded, to which Amy nodded.
The Smith-Joneses smiled and turned to the door, but Jack placed a hand over the knob, keeping it firmly shut. "Jack, what—"
"Just a second," the Captain held up a hand to ward off any protests. "I'm not saying I still don't believe it, cause I do, and that's great and all. But—Doc, River, you got to give us a kiss. C'mon, at least one."
The Time Lord scratched at his cheek as he glanced first at River and then uncertainly at her parents. Amy shrugged. Rory threw up his hands and turned in the opposite direction. "Just keep it decent."
"Well doesn't that just leave a lot of leeway," their daughter remarked.
"Ah, River—" the Doctor began in a cautionary tone, but whatever he would have said was never to be known, as the woman placed a hand on either side of his face and brought him down to meet her lips. There wasn't much resistance on his part and he managed to contain the flailing to one arm, though its fellow buried fingers in her curly hair. By this point one of River's hands had gone to the back of his head to hold it in place as she tilted her own slightly to the side and at last his fidgety arm wound around her waist.
"Ok, I said kiss, but if you want to snog I'll take it!" Jack teased with a delighted laugh, seeming to remind the Time Lord at least of the audience, as he jumped back from his wife and hit the wall.
"Ah, um, well," the alien stammered, a bit pink in the cheeks as his eyes darted in just about every direction except to where his friends stood with a range of surprised smiles. "Sorry, Rory."
The nurse shrugged. "Expected." Amy rewarded his acceptance with a peck on the cheek. After all, they'd had their fair share of semi-public snog sessions.
"And that is all you get to see, Captain. Goodnight," River smoothly closed the conversation, not a hair out of place and her lips only slightly fuller than before. Their daughter was the picture of composure most times.
"Yeah, yeah, alright," the immortal man agreed. "Good enough for me. Have a wonderful evening, all," he winked before finally turning the doorknob and pulling it open.
"You're a good sport, Boss," Mickey clapped the Time Lord on the shoulder before stepping out after his friend.
"Take care," Martha added, giving another one-armed hug to the Doctor. She locked eyes with Amy over his shoulder for a moment, and she nodded to the other woman once. The female doctor then went out to the car and it drove away down the street and out of sight.
"Well, they're certainly a fun bunch," River stated brightly, shutting the door and turning to face them. "Serious discussions in the kitchen aside, mother." Amy found herself unsurprised that she somehow knew.
"Yeah, what exactly happened while we were gone?" Rory had clearly had enough of holding his curiosity in.
The Doctor, however, looked around at them all with some bewilderment. "Sorry, not following. What discussion?"
"I got to talking with Martha and Mickey when you and Rory were getting take away," she explained, and he nodded to show he understood at least that much. "About a lot of things, but one of them was the Void." Both Rory and the Doctor tensed at this, obviously recalling the talk in their sitting room a few short days ago. Amy didn't concern herself with that, however, instead turning to her daughter. "River, have you done the Pandorica yet?"
"I have, yes. Why?"
"Cause you told me that when the Doctor threw himself into the explosion he'd be trapped in the Void, the never-space, that sort of thing." River nodded in remembrance, and now Amy turned her gaze on the Time Lord, who seemed even more wary than before. "Mickey said you called it that once. But the name for it he remembered best was Hell." The alien winced, and so she pressed, "They're the same, yeah? The Void you trapped yourself in and the one you told Mickey about?"
His gaze was solemn now and it weighed on her as he said softly, "Yes, they are."
It was a confirmation she had hardly needed, but her voice still trembled as she continued, "And you'd remember it. I may be a time traveler, Doctor, but you're the time traveler. How long was it for you before my wedding?"
"There's no time in the Void, Amy," he answered somewhat evasively, likely to spare her or something equally ridiculous. Under her unyielding stare, however, he grimaced and said, "It felt like a second, it felt like eternity. Forever and never. But it was years ago, Pond," he stressed.
"And we didn't know enough to ask then," Rory spoke up, always her support. "If you knew it'd be like that, why'd you do it?"
"It had to be done, you know that, Ponds." Neither Amy nor Rory were impressed.
"Sweetie, you know my parents never care for what has to be done," River shook her head with a smile playing at her lips.
His mouth quirked upward slightly. "Too true." The Doctor then took Amy's hand in one of his. "Well I did tell you, Amy, all those years ago. Why I was doing it." His other hand reached out for Rory's, who completed the circle by taking her other hand with no prompting. "So you could have your family instead of your imaginary friend. But you're so special the universe let you keep both. Lucky me, eh?"
She couldn't help sharing in his smile, but still argued, "You couldn't have been sure I'd be able to bring you back, though."
"Ah, but you always see me home, Amelia," he countered. "And certainly it was a well-deserved trip—"
"Don't even start," Rory interrupted, and the Time Lord's mouth snapped shut. "You really should have said something back then. Suppose there isn't much we can do to help now."
"You do quite a lot every day," their friend replied. "And we've all had our own troubles since then, I should think."
"Yeah, well you always make us tell you about ours, so you can do the same," Amy said in a slightly commanding tone. The Smith-Joneses had seemed amazed at her pronouncement of having traveled with the Doctor for ten years. If that was unusual, he had to be coming back for them for a reason, which in turn meant they must be doing something right. She hoped that this was it. "Don't wait for us to figure it out centuries later, ok?"
He did at least give her a half-smile. "How can I say no to that? Amy Pond, always finding ways to chastise the oldest and wisest of us."
"Sometimes it's necessary if they're not being so old and wise," River pointed out, laying one hand lightly on his shoulder and one on Amy's. "But I think, perhaps, it's enough to settle for that. He can't expect you to tell him about every scraped knee or bruise mum, dad. And why focus on just the hurts? I've got at least another full day before the guards start to panic, so what say we turn in early and make a fresh start of tomorrow?"
"Sounds good to me," Rory agreed with a considering tilt of the head.
Amy nodded and dropped the Time Lord's hand, choosing instead to start tugging her husband up the stairs. "Alright. Not sure what all there is to do around here, but knowing us we'll find something."
"Or it'll find us," the nurse muttered, to which she smirked but said nothing to.
Instead, she glanced back down at her daughter to ask, "Need to borrow something to sleep in?" She'd leant the curly-haired woman nightclothes last time when she'd already been asleep.
Now, River shook her head. "I'll just pop out to the TARDIS for something. Don't wait up, honey," she called to the Doctor, who had moved down the hall and been about to duck into the kitchen.
"Sorry, I thought I'd just take care of the dishes—hang on, wait up for what? Oh!" His eyes widened in realization when she just winked and headed past him out to the back lawn. The Doctor's eyes then flickered up to them.
"We've talked about this," Rory offered as neutrally as possible. "Just don't- you know—"
"Right, yes," the alien cut across in a clear attempt to forestall discussion of that sort. Her boys, so skittish.
Amy waited for Rory to continue the rest of the way to their bedroom, and for the audible click of the door shutting. Then, with a hand on her hip, she looked down from her vantage point on the stairs at the Time Lord who still hovered just within the kitchen archway. "Dishes can wait till morning Raggedy Man," she recommended. "Take the night off for once."
"Perhaps," he consented, passing a hand through his hair. He looked up at her with big eyes, and she steeled herself for whatever appeal he was about to make. "You know I lie and omit things, Amelia, not because I like to. It's because I don't like to worry you—any of you—any more than I have to."
"Yeah, I know," she agreed softly with a nod. "Doesn't mean we don't still worry about you."
He smiled ruefully and shook his head. "Mad, impossible Pond. Alright, enough of this impasse for one evening. Go on," he waved a hand vaguely at the upper level of the house.
"You too," she shot back, then descended a couple steps and leaned forward. He came to the bottom in clear interest, and so with a conspiratorial smirk she murmured, "Rory does wear earplugs."
"Somehow, knowing River, I doubt it would make a difference," he quipped, before seeming to remember just who he was making that joke to. "Ehm, that is—"
But Amy just laughed. Her best friend was a convoluted mass of contradictions, many of which she probably didn't even know. That comment Jack had made about 'missing' all of this, though, had stuck with her. She couldn't help feeling badly for the Captain, and Martha and Mickey. Certainly they were great friends with the Time Lord and had been through their own adventures, triumphs and failures, and experiences she could never hope to fully understand. Call it a bias, but she felt privileged to know this version of the alien, who did keep many things from her but still held her so close in his confidence and high in his esteem. It had been a trouble-filled ten years, and yes she may have lost her imaginary friend, but she'd gained a family—this family—to more than make up for it.
"Perhaps we can just keep that to ourselves, hey Pond?" The Doctor suggested with a hopeful tone.
"We can," she decided, coming fully down the steps and turning to loop an arm through his. "Now, come on." They may or may not have engaged in some playful nudging that turned into a shoving match up the stairs.
"Can we please not break anything?" Rory's voice came muffled both through the door and around what had to be a toothbrush in his mouth.
"Sorry!" They acknowledged with matching grins. The Doctor gave her one last push toward her door before ducking under her outstretched arm and down the hall to his own.
He swiveled on his heel to face her one more time and made an elaborate bow. "Goodnight, and sweet dreams."
Amy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, whatever." She slipped into her room to find Rory just sliding under the covers, so she went to take her turn in the bathroom. The click of heels on the steps as she reemerged in nightclothes with her teeth brushed signaled River's return, and the guestroom door opened and shut as she joined Rory in their bed.
With all the Ponds settled in for the night, Amy smiled and flicked off the light, rolling over and falling to sleep.
So there we have the second part at last. I hope it was a good mixture of things. As to the whole Pandorica/Void talk, that was in part to answer requests for more references to possible traumas/consequences of that incident, and also a specific review from somewhere though possibly a completely different story to have Amy and Rory learn about the Void being like Hell from Mickey. I remember somebody requesting I do that and it seemed appropriate to place it here, but I cannot find the original review and I feel terrible about that. If you are reading this, let me know so I can credit you next chapter. As for this chapter, specific shout-outs go to BlueHummingbird101 who wanted more flirty Jack, superlc529 who wanted some discussion especially for Martha about Rose, and a Guest reviewer who wanted a Doctor/River kiss. Thanks so much for all the encouragements and suggestions so far guys, I hope you had fun reading, and please review!