What Child Is This

Chapter 16

"You are really rather excellent at this," the Doctor praised as he marveled at Samantha's handling of the truck.

The girl beamed at the compliment. "Well, as the oldest, I help Mimi out with the errands quite a bit, especially when Gus isn't feeling well. Somebody always needs to be somewhere."

They hadn't driven more than two miles when it became apparent that the Doctor could not, in fact, drive the truck. Shifting the gears while pushing the clutch required a certain amount of hand-foot coordination, and coordination was not in his wheelhouse of strengths. It was a good day when putting one foot in front of another didn't end in embarrassment.

"It's very impressive. Now, if there were knobs and levers and dials that required no bilateral usage, I'd have been all over it. These legs are too long for information to travel from my brain to my feet in time to do what is required," he added in defense of his inability to perform a task as simple as driving.

"Of course. It goes without saying, Doctor," she answered with a smile.

"Yeah…I don't believe it either," he admitted reluctantly. "But I must be given points in rationale creativity."

Samantha giggled and nodded. "Oh, you're definitely creative. No argument there, good Doctor."

He smiled proudly and returned his attention to the landscape as it rushed by. No matter where he had traveled since arriving, he was basically looking at either water or cornfields. A bridge had to be crossed to get anywhere that was somewhere, and there was sure to be cornfields both before and after crossing the bridge. As far as the scenery went, he couldn't think of a more tiresome place to be spending Christmas.

But then again, chances of being killed in Forty Five Minutes from Somewhere were slim to none during the never ending Battle of Christmas.

"Samantha, do you kids already know where you are going when they move you?" In light of his personal dramas, the Doctor had not had time to question River about the scattering of the children. Now that he had become acquainted with most and friends with some of them, he was curious how they felt about the move.

"The kids who are leaving have had a couple of home visits, so they are a bit more comfortable. But no one wants to leave Mimi, of course. Most of us have never had other placements. I've been with her for almost five years." Samantha occasionally glanced and smiled at the Doctor while she spoke. With long fiery red hair and bright green eyes, she reminded him of Amy.

"Will you all be nearby?"

"Most of them will. I think the twins are being moved to Baltimore. They have family there. Hey, it looks like Mimi made it back earlier than planned," Samantha said as she turned the truck into the driveway.

"What about you?"

"Oh, I'm staying here. I'm an adult now…at least, by law. But Mimi said that I can stay with her as long as I am in school. I graduate this year, and I've been accepted to UDel. So, it works out, I guess." The truck rolled quietly into the backyard, and she parked it in its regular spot. The girls riding in the back leapt to the ground and ran inside to escape the cold.

"She did mention that a couple of you will be staying behind," he said as he gathered his souvenirs from their day of Christmas fun times.

Samantha reached for a handmade ornament that had rolled under the seat and handed it to him. "Just Gus and I. Everyone else will be gone by the 27th. Here's your ornament. Thanks for tagging along…we just couldn't spend all day cooped up in that house," she said, hugging him and sliding from the seat.

"Hey! Wait!" The Doctor stepped out of the truck and caught her attention before she made it into the house. "Why Gus? And what about Melody? Where is she going?"

A puzzled look ran across the girl's face. "Gus has been with her since he was born, so I guess they just thought it best to leave him put. And Melody…you know, I don't really know. I always forget about her. I don't think she's been on any visits. She has a story that doesn't make much sense, though. You'll have to ask Mimi." Having answered his question, she climbed the porch steps and disappeared inside.

The Doctor closed the door behind them and climbed the stairs towards the attic. As they had approached the house, he noticed that only two lights, Gus' and River's, shone through the many windows in the front, and the back was eerily dark, as well. He thought it best to wait and check on Gus until after he had spoken to River, and he wanted to shower and change before seeing her.

Yet he couldn't put a finger on why he felt it necessary to be freshly clean. He wasn't covered in goo or sick. There wasn't any blood or mud or slime that would dirty up the house. The day's activities had basically consisted of walking about the fort and keeping an eye on the hormonal girls. Though even that had been stressful and dirty work in itself. After what he had witnessed, the Doctor thoroughly believed that there should have existed a planet on which to grow teenage girls and a different one to hold teenage boys. And only until they had control of themselves should they be allowed to coexist on Earth. Someone needed to make that happen. Timey wimey consequences be damned.

The hot water sprayed over him and warmed up the chilled bits and pieces of his body. He hadn't realized how cold he had been until the heat of the water felt like nails raining upon his feet. The water pressure was weak, which meant that River was showering as well, since the other kids on that side of the house were still on their overnight trip.

The thought of River showering made his body shiver and flush simultaneously. It was all he could do to focus on…

They were both in the shower. Both of them were naked and wet at the same time. On the same planet. In the same house. Soapy and wet and naked.

Nude.

"Naked." Spoken aloud, the word was even more powerful. Suddenly, the Doctor was painfully and uncomfortably human. The thoughts and stirrings that ravaged his body and mind at that moment would have earned him a place on that planet of holding cells for teenage boys.

The Doctor tried to think of the unsexiest or most terrifying things - to hopefully cure his present condition. Weeping angels…rather frightening at every turn…River in red high heels crashing into him from space…. He shook his head free of the angels. The Silence were beastly creatures, stealing the memories from mankind…certainly unnerving…kissing and friendly fondling. The Doctor squinched his eyes shut tighter and pounded a fist against the shower wall. Bloody hell, why were his fears now equated with sex? How had this horrible thing happened?

He was barely resisting the temptation to do what needed to be done…to give in to the physical solution to the problem since he was, apparently, mentally incapacitated. One more try…

What had been scary? When had he been more afraid than what was customary for a normal day-in-the-life? Surely, there was a terrifying moment…

Midnight. Train. Being thrown out into the unknown of the sapphire waterfalls…waterfalls…water falling…shower…naked…River…

It was no use. He was going have to do the vile thing. With children in the house.

And that was his saving grace.

The Doctor collapsed onto the floor of the tub and let the water fall around him. Now that his body was clean, how could he flip open his skull and wash out his brain? Because, even though the painful torture had eased from his body, in his brilliant and powerful mind lurked thoughts that could easily control his every function.

He was exhausted…from showering. Water falling upon him had drained him of his will to move. Just reaching forward to turn off the water made him want to weep and call out for help. Getting on his knees, he rotated the knobs to their off positions and bent over the side of the tub for his towel. He had already begun to get cold without the warmth of the water, so he wrapped the towel around himself and laid back in the tub to rest. From the debilitation of bathing himself…which should not have brought a grown man to his knees.

He just needed a moment to rest; he reasoned as his curled into himself and rested his head against the back of the tub, pulling the towel over his shivering body.

River heard the shower fall silent and hurriedly finished changing her clothes. She thought it best to remove as much temptation as possible considering their circumstances. Even though she had made it clear to him, sometimes River thought he still hadn't wrapped his brain around it…which saddened and frustrated her. There were only so many ways to tell him – without actually telling him – that she loved someone else in a way that she had never and could never love him.

The door to her bedroom opened just as she pulled the pajama top over her head, and Amos stepped out, still damp with a towel wrapped around his waist. "Thanks for letting me shower here. That damn hospital smell just clings to you, doesn't it?"

She tried averting her eyes from the glistening skin of the man who had shared her bed for quite some time, but despite her best efforts, her body responded to him. River had loved him…still loved him. They shared a child together, and that would never change. But there was no power in her universe greater than the love she had for the Doctor, and she knew in her heart that she couldn't keep Amos on a leash, no matter how unintentional.

And even though she belonged heart and soul to the Doctor, her body could still come unglued at the sight of Amos. Didn't mean she loved the Doctor any less, just meant her body ached to be touched.

By the Doctor…oddly enough.

River smiled and turned her head while Amos dressed in a fresh set of fatigues. She shivered a bit to think that she would have a semi-private night with the gangly man once he returned from his outing with the girls. The last couple of days had been a bit strained between them. As terribly naïve as he was, the Doctor was no stranger to a riddle. The smile on his face was only covering up the amount of work that his brain was doing to expose the lies that would only break his hearts to know. What the smile represented for him was equal to the snappy retorts she used to conceal the truth she was hiding. Between the smiling and the snapping, they had been co-existing within a web of half-truths and unspokens.

She felt arms encircle her waist, and she was brought back to the reality of her current predicament. River didn't want to pull away quickly and hurt him, yet to allow the affectionate embrace to continue would just be leading him on, she feared. She had to acknowledge that, if the Doctor had been spinning about in space, she would most likely have given into the temptation of the comforting arms of the man behind her. It had happened on more than one occasion since she had ended their romantic relationship two years before.

Taking one of his hands in hers, she broke the free of his hug and turned to face him. She placed a soft kiss to the back of his fingers and smiled up at him. "Amos, thank you for staying with Gus last night. We're both very lucky to have you in our lives."

Amos brushed his thumb back and forth across the palm of her hand. "I wouldn't have been anywhere else. He's as much my responsibility as he is yours, remember?"

Tears welled in her eyes at the sincerity in his voice. "He didn't have to be. You didn't have to stay around, and I'll always be grateful to you, Amos Humphreys…always."

"Well, Mimi Humphreys, we are a family. Regardless of the fuckery that it is, we've been a family for the last ten years and nothing…" Amos gave her a look that was filled with the unspoken name, "…is going to change that."

River nodded as the tears streaked down her cheeks. "Amos, I can't keep lying to him. I love him," she paused as the words caught in her throat while she tried to continue, "and it's killing me to keep this from him. How can I not tell him? What kind of person does that make me?"

The man who had held and comforted her through so many of her heartaches pulled her to him once again as quiet sobs shook her body.

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