What Child Is This

By alwaysgus

Mystery / Romance

Chapter 6

He gave her an apologetic raising of his eyebrows and a crooked smile. "I have been evicted, so it seems."

"Is that so? Again?" River's smile was brilliantly misleading. Perhaps Gus saw a welcoming gesture, but the Doctor knew that some serious nastiness was just around the bend.

"Oh, absolutely. She said 'Go away now', shut the doors behind me and off she flew, noisy brakes and all," he explained without shame and with a grin on his face.

River raised an eyebrow of her own. "Really? Since when does she talk back?"

"Oh, River, so many adventures to share, so little time…although I am on no schedule to speak of…we can catch up on all the little secrets…"

"Secrets, Doctor?" The smile was still plastered across her face, yet the tone of her voice struggled to keep up the façade.

"Secrets? Did I say secrets? So sorry…I meant to say adventures." The pair exchanged knowing looks. "My mistake."

Gus watched them volley their retorts back and forth, much like watching a game of tennis. He took advantage of a break in the repartee and raised his arm above his head, waving his hand enthusiastically. So much so, in fact, that he knocked the Doctor about the head repeatedly in an effort to get attention. River may have let it continue for a bit longer than necessary, just to cause the man some discomfort.

"Yes! Tiny person in the air! Have you a question for your audience?" The Doctor announced loudly, staring into River's eyes as he spoke.

Gus cleared his throat and began, "I have two questions, actually…"

Actually? The Doctor mouthed to River. She returned his question with a Hell if I know look.

"First…who is River?"

The confused expression that danced across the Doctor's face was worth having to kick off her deluge of lying a bit early. "It's a nickname. Only the Doctor gets to call me that. Next question."

"Second, why do you call your ship 'she'?" Gus had begun swinging his legs and made random contact with the Doctor's hip, causing him to flinch with each kick. Yet he allowed Gus to continue with his little boy energy.

"Well, it's proper that traveling vessels are…"

The Doctor's voice droned in exposition as River turned her back to them, looking inside the house for one of the kids. He saw her motion to someone with her head and whisper something to the child whose attention she got. The girl walked away, and River returned her focus back to Gus and the Doctor.

"…but if I do that, won't it be harder to hear…" came a voice from the hall.

"Just do it!" River exclaimed, cutting off the girl's sentence.

"Ugh! Fine!" was the response, followed by a loud door slam. "Done!"

"Trouble in mother stuff?" The Doctor inquired, trying to peek over River's shoulder into the house.

"Nothing, really. Just some bathroom privacy issues," she said without missing a beat.

"So, is TARDIS her name?" Gus asked, ignoring the sub-conversation between the two adults.

"Well, TARDIS is more what she is…not who she is, I guess."

"Does she have one? A name?"

River smiled wickedly. "Yes, Doctor. Is there something in particular that you call her? Tell the sweet little boy."

The Doctor swallowed hard and glared at River. "Umm…sometimes I might call her…uh…" He scanned his surroundings for something to use in place of "sexy" and then grinned smugly. "…Sweetie…"

"That's very nice name. Isn't it a nice name, Mimi?"

"Yes, it is. I quite like Sweetie, to tell you truth," she answered with pursed lips.

"You should always tell the truth. God says lying is a sin. Isn't that right, Doctor?"

The game of glances cast between himself and River had taken on a life of its own. They had managed to have a conversation of facial expressions underneath Gus. The Doctor had somehow been able to keep up with the boy while also studying the face of the beautifully exasperating woman in front of him. He watched her pull her bottom lip between her teeth and felt the stirring in his belly that had led him back to the stormcage so many months ago. Remembering that he had a child clinging to him made the thoughts running through his head seem shamefully inappropriate.

"Right, Doctor?"

"What?" His mouth felt as if it were filled with cotton.

"Ain't I right that lying in a sin? That's what God says," Gus explained, leaving very little room for argument.

River cocked an eyebrow and waited for his response.

"I believe I've heard that somewhere before," he answered vaguely.

"Well, I'm telling you it is. You just shouldn't lie. And that's the truth."

"So, what does that make you, Doctor?" River asked with a mischievous smile.

The Doctor closed his head and took a deep breath, pushing down the thoughts and feelings that were beginning to bubble inside. He reached around and held onto Gus before twirling him around on the porch. "A superhero!" The child laughed and held on for dear life.

River chuckled to see them both having so much fun. Fun was something they both deserved…something they all deserved. She was brought out of her contentment by faint noises from the bathroom inside. She needed to start juggling…and soon.

"Okay, you two. I have an idea…Hey!"

The spinning stopped at the slight raising of her voice. They both looked up at her as if they had been caught shaving the cat. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Gus, how about you take the Doctor upstairs and show him your drawings? I have a few things to take care of before we go on a little adventure of our own."

"I already showed him. We drew one together with my Spirograph," he said.

"No, your other pictures…" She drew out the word to build the intrigue.

"Oh!" Gus' eyes widened and he crinkled his nose. "He's too cool for little kid drawings, Mimi. He fights aliens, you know."

"Are you kidding? Kid drawings are my absolute favorite drawings. In fact, I collect them, and I bet yours will be worth millions one day. I should know. I collect them…that makes me an expert." The Doctor winked at River. "Want me to have a look?"

"Yes, please!" He kicked his legs out in delight and clipped the Doctor's hip once more.

"And then when we get done, I'll show you a really cool bruise!" The Doctor promised as he climbed the stairs, still carrying the boy on his back.

"Yay!" Gus yelled excitedly and began telling him about all his scars. "…and then I fell off the porch and got this one…sorry…I didn't mean to poke you in the eye…"

River let out the breath she had been holding and tried to shake the tension from her body as she walked down the hall towards the bathroom. She opened the door and slipped through, collapsing against it as it closed.

"What in the hell is going on, River? If you haven't noticed, the length of my legs and the width of this room do not play well together. I have a cramp now. You wanna rub it out?" Amos complained and teased from under the sink.

"He's here."

"Who's here? Peterson? Already?"

"No…" The reality of the situation set in hard and fast now that she was in the room with Amos, and she began to feel a bit faint.

Amos looked raised his head to look at her and saw her pale and terrified face staring back at him. "He? You mean, Him? He's here?"

"Yes."

"In Delaware City?"

"Upstairs…" she admitted quietly.

"Upstairs!" He rose quickly and banged his head on the P-trap pipe leading down from the sink. Rubbing his forehead, he ducked around and sat upright. "Is Melody upstairs?"

She gave him that why-in-the-hell-are-you-asking-me-a-stupid-question look.

"Of course, she's upstairs," he mumbled to himself. "Why didn't you stop him from going up there?"

"It was my bloody idea. I had to find a reason to get him to go somewhere that didn't include me...or you...or me and you." She could feel sweat begin to form at her hairline.

"And none of the other rooms would appeal to him? The yard, maybe?" During the pauses when he wasn't speaking, his mouth fell open in shock.

"We were already in the yard! I panicked!" River pushed off the door and paced the tiny bathroom in circles. Panic was something that she rarely experienced, and she was ill-equipped to function in the midst of it. She sat down on the edge of the bathtub and bent over, elbows on knees and head in hands. "Besides, he already knows she's here."

"Oh, Christ. This just goes from worse to shitballs," he replied in true Amos fashion, rubbing his forehead in bewilderment.

River chuckled and felt some of the dread drain from her shoulders. "Gus would have hit his knees and talked to Jesus for a good five minutes if he had heard that."

A laugh shook through Amos as the visual played out in his mind. "He told me earlier that he was going to pray extra hard for me on Sunday."

"He has it reasoned out and planned already. What happened? How did we raise a tiny preacher?" River asked, never any less confounded at the thought.

"We?"

"Yes, we. He was the same way when you had him…" she pointed out.

"Just doin' my job…" Amos added. "Where is he, by the way?"

Silence.

"River…"

She chewed on the inside of her lip and slowly raised her eyes to his, reluctantly pointing upwards.

Amos leapt to his feet and grandly mimicked her gesture. "The roof? Heaven? Cause surely you don't mean upstairs with the Doctor!"

"Keep your voice down!" She warned and then thought on his words. River stared at the floor and asked quietly, "And could you please not say things like that?"

"Like what?" His tone was still a bit loud until he realized how he had misspoken. Walking slowly across the floor, he sat down next to River and kissed the top of her head, encircling her waist with his arm. "Damn. Sorry, Hals."

River grinned and rested her head on his shoulder. "You called me Hals."

"No, I didn't."

"Yes, you did."

"Is it smart to leave the two of them alone for that long?"

"They've already found a kindred spirit in each other. The damage is already done. Telling those stories may not have been one of our shining moments, in hindsight…" she concluded with a sigh.

"Well, regardless, we have progressed from shitballs to clusterfuck," he stated accurately and eloquently. "What now? Tell him the truth about Melody and send him on his way? Not that much to it, I guess. I mean, it's you. He'll bend the rules for you, River. You know that."

"Could it really be that simple?"

"Nothing is ever simple between the two of you. Never has been, Song. But he trusts you," Amos reassured. "More than that, he loves you."

"Not yet…" she mumbled sadly.

"Take it from me," he whispered as he buried his face in her hair. "He's had more than enough time to love you."

She slid a hand down his thigh and squeezed his knee. "There's one more thing…"

"There always is…"

"The TARDIS left him here." She held a breath.

"What do you mean 'left him here'? For the day? Running some errands while we babysit? That kind of left him?"

River lifted her head from his shoulder and dabbed at the corners of her eyes with a nearby washcloth. "It's rather indefinite…usually…"

"Of course, it is. And I suppose he's staying here?" Amos asked through clenched teeth.

"Amos, it's Christmas…"

"Isn't that when he's usually saving London from obliteration or infestation?"

She scrunched one eye and smiled in the face of disaster. "Lucky us?"

"Well…goddammit…"

"That will be four Hail Mary's and no dessert after supper, Mr. Humphreys," she razzed, standing and holding out her hand to him. River pulled him to his feet and wrapped her arms around his waist, leaning in to a comforting hug.

Amos embraced her protectively and spoke into the mass of curls that tickled his face. "River Song, you are the most amazingly strong woman I have ever met. I just hope he understands that when the proverbial shit hits the fan."

River pulled back from him and asked, "What comes after clusterfuck?"

He pursed his lips and breathed out a high-pitched whistle before simulating an explosion. They both laughed, and Amos placed a charmingly sincere kiss at the corner of her mouth. "We'll figure it out later. I should escape before the husband catches us," he said with a wink.

"What about the tree? Gus will be disappointed if we don't have that tree up in time for the Grinch tonight," River pleaded.

"I'll leave the truck with you and come back for it tomorrow. Spend some time with him, River. Let him be normal for a change," Amos suggested with a squeeze of her hand.

"Hey, you made him weird when you had him…"

"Honey, I meant the Doctor."

"Oh."

Amos poked her in the side and walked backwards towards the door, adding "…and there's no chance for Gus to be unweird…"

"You ass…"

"Our Father who art in Heaven…" Amos stumbled when she rushed him, jabbing him in the side playfully.

He opened the door in mid-giggle and was quieted by River's sudden throat clearing. Amos looked up and bit back a nervous smile.

"Well…hello there. You must be Andy…"

"River said you were clever. Close enough. We finally meet, Doctor."

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