What Child Is This

Chapter 5

The Doctor sat under the tree for quite some time after Gus went inside and mentally rifled through his obligations and justifications. He owed it to Amy and Rory to stay put wherever he was; they may have to wait a bit longer, but he could possibly find out what he needed to know about baby Melody from adolescent Melody. He had a responsibility to Melody and River to make sure their timestreams were not irrevocably damaged. It was unclear if the paradox had already created ripple effects. Just those two obligations were reason enough to stay in Somewhere Near Philadelphia in December 1969. Those were the Time Lordy problems that needed solving. Perhaps this was his assigned Christmas fiasco. Maybe he was exactly where he was supposed to be…chances were excellent that Britain was spared this Christmas and America was the center of the end-of-the-world. It was his duty to stay and thwart the evil plans of evil things being despicably evil. He owed it to himself as a Time Lord to uphold the Time Laws. Blah-blah-biddy-blah...

However, the Doctor had spent most of his life protecting, saving and living amongst the complicated creatures at the top of the Earth's food chain. To say that he wasn't in some ways human himself would be a gross denial. Saving baby Melody and protecting her timestream were simply justifications for figuring out the bigger puzzle of River, Amos, Gus and a handful of giggly and hormonal girls, and how they all fit together in this little universe River had somehow created. He had made a promise to Gus, and he intended on seeing it through. If he was truly honest with himself, which he wouldn't be and break his own rule, he would admit that he could care less right now about his formal obligations. True, his best friends were waiting on some news, but the news he could bring would be better than the news he had, considering he currently had no news.

But the driving force could be summed up in one word.


Who in the hell was this Amos? What had occurred between the night of the moon landing and after the Byzantium that would lead her to go looking for something somewhere that was else? They were still on good terms at Demon's Run, rocky though it may have been in the beginning. She was seemingly content when he left her cell after the landing, considering the awkward circumstances of his leaving and what it meant for their whatever-they-had. All smiles at the wedding of her parents. All business at the Byzan…hmmm...

…when was River ever all business? He thought carefully back to their angel mission. A bit of flirtation, but their interactions had consisted mostly of shop talk. There was that business with the clerics, but that had been sorted out…hadn't it? The secret had been revealed. River was some sort of murderous vixen. Was that the extent of the hushed knowledge? She had apparently fulfilled her duty to the clerics since she had been Somewhere Near Philadelphia for five years. Hadn't she said five years? Did she say she had been here for that long? Or maybe it was that Gus had five years…

The pounding between his eyes got worse.


What had Gus called him? Dreamy Amos? Well, that could mean any number of things, really. Once he dreamed of killer pumpkins with snappy claws that were just tall enough to cause men some serious discomfort. And then there was the time he dreamed that turtles were falling from the sky and killing people by blunt force trauma. Hmmm…and just last night he had dreamed that River was wearing a small….

Chances were that "dreamy" did not mean killer pumpkins or dive-bombing reptiles.

The Doctor rose hastily to his feet and walked towards the narrow country road. He snapped his fingers and listened for the TARDIS brakes. He needed clothes, money for colored pencils and information. He waited for several minutes and was asked by a few travelers if he needed a ride to town. Of course, they never said what town, so he still didn't know where he was. He politely declined and sent them on their way with an awkward wave.

"Oh, come on!" He yelled to no one – specifically, to no one in the treetops. "I'm staying! I just need things. Lots of things. Things that I keep in you! I snapped these fingers!" He held them up to the sky and snapped them again. Just in case the one snap wasn't loud enough, he held up the other hand and broadcast the signal in stereo. "Now. Come. Here."

He shoved his hands in his pockets and feigned patience. Just before he began to do his angry dance right there in the street to the tune of manic snapping, he heard his ship squealing near. He took a deep breath and shook the residual frustration with her from his body. He stood still and waited for the materialization to finalize, his hair had flopped over his eyes from his shaking about and masked his irritation.

Because the TARDIS had fantastic mood sensors, he put on his most sincere fraudulent smile and gently opened the doors. Though by the time he reached the console, he was as surly as he had ever been. He paced around the console in a semi-circle, passing the scanner with each patrol. He would randomly stop and begin to ask a question and then continue pacing. Pausing in front of the scanner, he turned a few meaningless dials and threw a lever or two. He was fidget piloting…except the TARDIS paid no mind to any of his manipulations. The ship went unhovered and unthrottled. It was a mutiny. He banged a fist against the typey thing.

"Okay, okay, okay. I apologize," he said in defeat. "I have some stuff. Unpleasant stuff. Now, you dropped me here, so you've got to give me something if I am to stay to do whatever you think needs doing…"

The scanner flashed and waited for a command.

"Right." More pacing. "Where are we?"


"Delaware? What in the hell is Delaware?"


"So…forty-five minutes outside of Philadelphia…"


The Doctor did a double take at the scanner. "Really? You're choosing now to be cheeky?"

No response.

"Okay…" He clapped his hands and rubbed them together impatiently. "So, I'm in the middle of nowhere in a place we'll call Forty-Five Minutes From Somewhere. Why?"

No response.

"Look, you brought me here. Just give me a little something. River? Melody? Gus? Amos? Janie?"


"Yes? Yes to whom?"


"Previous? You previously did not answer!" he snapped in frustration.


The Doctor punched erratically at the air and kicked out a leg simultaneously for several seconds, yelling in a monotone manner that sounded much like angry singing. "I. Am. The. Doctor. You. Are. The. TARDIS. You. Must. Answer. My. Questions." He slouched forward, made tiresome by his tantrum.


"Seriously? Who are you today?"


"Truer words…" he mumbled as he considered what information was vital to discovering why the TARDIS had seen fit to dump him in a place that didn't even register in the mental files of a 900 year-old Time Lord. Or as he was known to some…superhero. Okay, just one.

The Doctor took a deep breath. "Okay...Amos."


"What? Have you been infiltrated by some dodgy Earth virus?"


"Seems to me you have a serious case of arsehole."


"You haven't answered my last question! Who is this Amos chap?"


"Acceptable," he read out loud. Not a who, but a what...Acceptable. Not dangerous, but not preferable. That was how the Doctor's internal translation matrix understood it. "I can handle acceptable. What about River? And Amos, I mean. River and Amos…"


"Well…that's terribly upsetting." He stopped walking and leaned against the railing in front of the scanner, scratching a non-existent itch on his scalp. "About what?"


"Ah…back to cheeky Sexy. Right then, no more time to play today, friend."

The Doctor hurried to his bed chamber and began packing for his stay. He tiptoed around the shards of glass that still littered the floor around his dresser, evidence of his near unraveling just hours before. That would be dealt with at a later time. After stuffing a suitcase with several variations of the winning tweed jacket, bowtie and brace combination, he paused and considered his situation. He had no idea how long he would be wherever he was...because DELAWARE was still nowhere.

And then there was an Amos.

He removed all of the costumes but one and raced to back to the console.

"What is dreamy in 1969?"


"Dammit! Clothes! I need clothes!" Several popular styles of dress flashed on the screen, and the Doctor took visual notes. "Oh, absolutely not. Those are my choices? A Beatle or a hippie? I do not understand why you so dislike me..."

No response.

He raced down to the end of a rarely-wandered corridor and went into the wardrobe closet. Packing his case with a few pieces that he recognized to be appropriate for almost any era, he returned to the control room. "I need money."


The Doctor was nearly at the end of his rope with his oldest companion. He decided to take the humble approach and put clever on the shelf for a moment. "I need to get the little boy some pencils," he said quietly.

He heard the familiar clicking of the currency dispensing machine. "That's quite few pencils."



The Doctor smiled and wrapped his arms as much around the console as they would go. "I don't hug you enough."



He stuck out his tongue towards the scanner before hopping down the steps to the door. The door opened for him, and he walked through it with a brighter attitude. He was nowhere notable in a rather ordinary era and about to spend an unknown amount of time with a woman who frequently found him displeasing in a house full of children…girl children…and Gus. Then there was Amos. What could possibly go wrong?

That little bit of humanity had plagued him with an unfortunate run of stupid. Ignoring that flashing light thing that advised him to beg entrance back into the TARDIS, he pocketed his cash, picked up his suitcase and made his way back to the noisy house on the hill.

River had watched him kick about in the road, waiting and snapping. She assumed his behavior was TARDIS-related but knew that it couldn't be as simple as him leaving quietly. There was muffled cursing from the bathroom down the hall as Amos tinkered with the plumbing. She had called him yesterday about the busted pipe and had forgotten to put him off until she could rid herself of the Doctor.

The Doctor and the TARDIS had disappeared just before Amos' truck had rolled into the driveway. Amos was also under the assumption that he would be taking her and the kids to get a Christmas tree…because River hadn't untold him. In fact, River hadn't told or untold quite a bit and hadn't done much to juggle the situation, either. She was trying to get her lies in order, but everything needed a lie. The only truth she could tell was about Melody, and it seemed to be the reason he was there. So, maybe if she waited for him on the porch and explained how Melody came to be with her, reassuring him that there would be no interruption in her timestream…maybe if she handled that bit of business, he would get back in the TARDIS and run off to his whatever and whomever was waiting.


And she had held onto that hope until she saw him emerge from the TARDIS with a suitcase and subsequently watched the ship vanish from view.

"Oh, dammit!" More swearing from inside the house. "Hals! I need a large bowl!"

River stuck her head in the door and yelled, "Could someone get Amos a big bowl, please?" She saw Gus run across the kitchen and laughed as he quickly disappeared carrying a bowl nearly as big around as he was tall. It was a simple life she had made for herself, filled with amusing calamities and annoyances…with only a few heartaches thrown in for balance.

She heard the familiar sound of little footsteps behind her as she leaned against the inside of the front door. "Amos is swearing something awful in there. He needs to do some extra praying at church on Sunday, I think. Good thing there is two Jesuses waiting around right now."

River grabbed the boy in a tight hug and swung him around to face her. "Two? One isn't enough?"

"There's the regular Jesus and the baby Jesus. And Amos needs both of them working on that potty mouth," he proclaimed in his best little-boy-preacher tone.

River rubbed his hair into a mess and released him from her playful embrace. She exhaled a worrisome and nervous sigh as she saw the Doctor open the front gate. If she hadn't been so anxious, she would have been furious.

Gus heard the creaking of the gate and spun around, hoping that his new friend had returned. Not disappointed, he ran down the steps and past the Doctor, sliding to a stop and turning around to jump on his back. The lanky man jostled the boy until he settled into a comfy piggy-back ride, and the two chatted as he walked up the driveway. Gus' tiny hands were hooked around the Doctor's neck, and the Doctor supported him with an arm nestled under the boy's rear. There was nothing awkward whatsoever about the gesture…which was, in itself, awkward.

"Hey, Mimi! The Doctor needs a place to sleep for a couple of days!" Gus called from the yard.

River blinked back tears as her two heartaches strolled towards the house, both smiling from floppy ear-to-floppy ear.

From a bedroom window upstairs, Melody also watched the scene unfold. Saw the man leave his box with a suitcase and walk towards their home.

Just when she thought she was safe, trouble had found her again. And no matter what stories Ma'am told the little boy, this man was not a superhero. She wasn't telling all the stories.

Melody ran across the room and retrieved her bag from the closet, filling it as full as she could with clothes. Then, remembering her last escape, she tossed a few pieces back into the drawer to leave room for food. She tied the bag and hid it underneath her bed.

The scared little girl sat in the rocking chair and pulled her knees up to her chin, tears leaving tracks along her cheeks.

Ma'am had lied. Nowhere was safe.

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