What Child Is This

Chapter 30

"I like this curl. It bounces a funny bounce."

River laughed softly and swatted at his hand. "Is that why you keep tugging at it?"

"I'm thinking that its bouncy dynamics could be useful. Think of it as an experiment, of sorts," the Doctor explained with a smile as he pulled at the curl once more.

She flipped over to lie across his chest, resting her chin on folded hands in order to peek up at him. "Sweetie, don't you think we've been each other's experiments for long enough?"

The Doctor looked down at her and smiled. "What kinds of experiments and for how long, exactly?"

River's lips brushed at the skin over one of his hearts. "Well, I could tell you…"

"But then you'd have to kill me?" he teased.

She bit on the inside of lip and pondered his jest. There was a right and a wrong way to answer, though she wasn't sure which would be the lie. So, she chose not to answer at all and nipped him on the shoulder playfully.

"Do you really think I am so easily distracted, Dr. Song?" He heard the words leave his mouth, but he was puzzled as to why he had spoken them…unless it was simply the habitual untruth-telling. Because, truthfully, her tongue…whether in her mouth or on his skin…was a constant distraction for him. How had the universe not collapsed in on itself because of a fatal distraction by her lips? Had he just not been looking? And if so, why the hell had he not been looking?

Was the universe doomed now that his body seemed to be unable to function properly without some part of her body nearby?

He drew small circles along her arms and back as his mind tried to sort through what had happened and what he willed to happen.

"Do you? Really?" River's eyes asked the question even more quietly than had her voice.

"I'm sorry…what?"

"Are you ready to love me, Doctor? It's not as easy as writing it." She saw the confusion in his eyes, and she sat up, smiling down at him sweetly. With her forefinger, River began to trace out words in symbols that were recognizable to only two in the known universe. As her finger moved, the outline of the words seemed to glow with a gleaming trail of golden dust…the language was coming alive as it was exchanged between the two of them. River's hair fell across his chest as she leaned down and placed a kiss over her writing, as if to seal it upon his skin. He blinked rapidly, and when he returned a steady gaze to his chest, the glow was gone. The meaning, however, was not lost.

"River…" His skin tingled and flamed as she kissed her way from heart to heart.

"Hmm?"

"Are you my wife?"

She looked up at him through a veil of curls and with eyes on fire. "Do you want me to be?"

"I have the strangest feeling that I haven't a choice in the matter," he replied with a grin.

River fought back a smile and winked. "Spoilers…"

The Doctor rolled her over quickly and positioned himself along the length of her. "Aren't we a little far along in the game for secrets now, River?" he asked before he took her by the wrists and held them tightly over her head.

"Oh, there's always a secret, Sweetie, whether it's being kept from you or by you. There's never a perfect moment when we each know exactly what the other knows. One of us will always be holding something back…mmm…"

He began kissing down her arm, allowing his teeth to scrape her skin occasionally. His need for her intensified with her moans of approval, and he struggled to keep his emotions and desires from making him appear needy and weak.

Because that is exactly how she made him feel in moments when they were alone and their skin melted into each other in a way that made it difficult to tell where he began and she ended. He needed her in way that he had never needed another, and he was frightened that such a weakness held dangers for them all. Sometimes he had to make the hard decisions…would he be able to make a choice between his head and his heart if the universe aligned in such a way. Could he do what had to be done, as what had been necessary for Donna and Rose – both of whom he loved dearly. Rory had proven time and time again that love conquered all, but he and River were a different sort of all. Their all had a name…and floppy hair and overworked logic.

What if the choice was the universe or Gus?

Then, there really was no choice, was there?

River moaned in protest as the Doctor fell alongside her and stared up at the ceiling, his randy mood having suddenly fled. Rolling over to face him, she propped herself up on her elbows and dropped her chin into her folded hands.

"Performance anxiety?"

He snapped his head in her direction and was met with twinkling eyes. "What? Are you saying…what? No! Of course not! I…what! No. That's…just absolutely not…absurd. You're talking nonsense, Dr. Song. Sense that is non, that is what you are talking…"

"So, that would be a no?"

"That would be a hell no," he answered with a bite in his tone.

Unwilling to let it go, River sighed and stroked his arm reassuringly. "It's okay, Sweetie. It happens to all men sooner or later. You are over 900 years old. It's nothing to be – "

"River! I AM NOT ANXIOUS ABOUT PER…HAVING…AND I AM NOT A MAN! Not exactly. I am a super man."

"You're Superman? So, you're Santa Clause and Superman? That makes sense, I suppose. Then you wouldn't need a TARDIS. You could fly around the globe lickety split…oh, sorry...didn't mean to bring it up again, Sweetie." River hid her smile behind her hands and waited for his frustrated bumbling.

"NOT THE SUPERMAN! A MAN WHO IS SUPER!"

"But I thought you aren't a man?"

"You need an off switch." The Doctor rubbed his temples and readjusted his position to face away from her.

River giggled and scooted up to him, leaving kisses across his shoulder blade. "Well…I do have an on button…"

"Stop trying to be cute. It won't work." He couldn't keep the smile from his voice.

"And how do you propose that I stop being cute? I promise you that the alternative is rather unpleasant. I do still have a gun, you know." She slid an arm under his and hugged him tightly, nuzzling her face into the back of his neck. He smelled like books and citrus and genius and heart.

"Oh, I don't doubt it for a moment, love." The Doctor took her hand and enclosed it in his. Her chest rose against his back as their breathing fell into synch. He listened to the rhythm of her breaths while his rapidly beating hearts calmed.

River, however, could feel the pounding under their clasped hands. The tell-tale sign of a worried Doctor. He could be tied to an explosive and maintain the widest of grins. His lips and tongue had told thousands of lies, but his hearts…not one.

She kissed him lightly behind the ear and whispered, "Hey, what's got you so quiet, huh?"

"Nothing. I can be quiet," he teased.

"Not a chance. What are you thinking about?"

Getting you killed, leaving our son an orphan, single-handedly destroying the world. Take your pick, he thought. "Cheese."

"What? Cheese?"

"Yes. I am a doctor of cheese. Even cheese needs careful thought."

River kneed him playfully in the rear. "A doctor of cheese. You can't be the doctor of everything because you might be the doctor of something. Cheese gets sick?"

"Oh, yeah. From the smell of some, cheese can die horrible deaths. It's a fact, you know. I can bring cheese into the world, and I can take cheese away. It's a vital role I play in the world of dairy," he explained with a false lightness in his tone.

Her voice was small and soothing when she next chose to speak. "Well, in case it happens to not be about cheese…I love you…so don't be afraid to be honest with me, okay?"

His only response was a simple nod and a squeeze of her hand.

She was rather quiet for a while, now worried about what worried him. For a moment, she forgot to agonize over her decision that would continue to keep them apart – even more painful, that would keep him separated from his son. She had almost drifted off to sleep when she heard his shaky voice.

"Will he ever call me 'Dad'?"

As she had no answer, she pretended to be asleep. One less lie to tell.

"Ok, little man, almost done…"

Amos untied the bow tie and slid the shirt down the arms of the sleepy child. After securing his feet into the footie pajamas, he stood the boy up as best as he could and zipped him into the warmth of the thick fabric. "There you go. Alright, climb under the sheets."

Gus clumsily found his way under the covers and buried himself underneath their comfort. He folded his hand tightly into the duvet and tucked it under his chin. His chest rose and fell as he gave into the exhaustion from the night's events. Amos smiled at the memory of the number of nights he had watched that tiny chest to make sure that it did, indeed, rise and fall continuously. Those had been long and terrifying nights…and he wouldn't trade one of them. After placing a kiss on the boy's forehead, Amos crossed the room and had the door nearly closed when he heard a small voice call out to him.

"Yes, sir?"

"Can you find somebody for me?"

Amos walked back over to the bed and sat down. "I'm sorry, little man, but I didn't hear you."

Gus opened one of his eyes and looked at Amos. "I need you to find somebody for me."

He looked at the child inquisitively. "Okay…sure. We'll talk about it tomorrow."

"I need you to find the little boy without memories," Gus said before yawing deeply.

"I don't understand, son."

"There's a kid without his memories 'cause I have them. I need you to help me find him. It's real important, Amos."

Amos' heart skipped beats as he thought on Gus' request. "What do you mean, you have his memories?"

"There's a little boy…I think he's little…I know what he knows. And if I have his memories, he might be lost and probably really scared." His voice had hushed to a whisper as sleepiness got the better of him.

Amos stood and stared down at the boy, his hands shoved nervously into his pockets. "We'll talk about it later, okay?"

"Yes, sir…"

Amos left the door cracked and walked away before Gus had finished explaining.

"I think he belongs to the Doctor," he whispered into the darkness of his new home away from home.

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