“I don’t see why we’re waiting for your … who did you say it was again?”
“Rory’s second cousin. Twice removed,” Amy said, sliding past her mother to get milk and butter out of the fridge.
“And it was her husband who gave you this house?” Tabetha cast a wary, but appreciative, look around the good-sized, yet still cozy kitchen. Hardwood cabinets mixed with stainless steel appliances, and it was twice as big as her own even though her daughter now lived in a terraced house rather than a detached.
“Investment. He didn’t want to let it go to waste, so Rory and I are managing the property for him. You keep telling me to do something in my spare time, Mother.”
“I was wanting you to have babies, not manage properties and sell perfume.”
Amy bit her lip. Hard. “If only you knew,” she muttered under her breath.
“What was that, Amy?”
“I said I hope you like the stew.”
“Well, we really should be eating, dear. You know your father needs to take his medication at a certain time.” Tabetha picked up a basket of rolls while Amy unplugged the slow cooker and carried it to the table. “It’s really rude of them not to phone you about being late.”
“They’re flying in from America, Mother. They can’t use a mobile on the flight.”
“Surely they’re at the airport by now. Where in America did you say they live?”
“Ah, that’s why you two suddenly went off to Utah a few months ago!”
“We can go ahead and start then,” Amy said just as the buzzer rang … then it suddenly changed to a high-pitched whine. She immediately slammed her hands over her ears. “They’re here!” she yelled as the whine changed in rapid succession to a trill of flutes, a cockerel, and three gongs before falling silent..
Rory immediately yanked open the door to find his daughter and son-in-law hunched over the doorbell. He coughed. They didn’t look up from their work. He coughed a second time. “Um … Doctor?”
The sonic cut off, and they looked up together. “Rory!” The Doctor immediately clasped him on the shoulder as he slipped his sonic into his jacket pocket. “We were just making some improvements!”
“You were just messing with it,” River replied, picking the sonic out of the Doctor’s pocket and quickly shutting off the buzzer. She mouthed, “It’s fixed,” to her father, who rewarded her with a grateful look.
“I was improving it. Everyone should have a unique doorbell.”
“I think Moth …” River’s voice trailed off as Tabetha Pond wandered into the front hall. She quickly cleared her throat. “Amy and Rory would prefer to keep things the way they are.”
Amy followed her mother. Well, isn’t this the picture-perfect model of a family, she thought. Perhaps if we were all on Eastenders. “Oh, good, you’re here. Dad’s already at the table.” She moved between her mother and her daughter and pasted on a bright smile. “Mother, this is River Song and her husband,” she made a slight grimace at that, “the Doctor.”
“Sorry we’re late,” River apologized, then leaned toward Amy. “You have to get used to saying that some time,” she murmured in her ear.
“It’s still weird,” Amy whispered back. “I mean, I’ve always thought you and the Doctor were married, but that was before I found out who you were.”
“Had a little trouble breaking her out this time,” the Doctor explained as he took in the wainscoting and tapped the walls. “It took a couple minutes longer than planned. You know,” he said, turning his attention back to River, “they really are making great strides in their security.”
“They really are trying.”
“Breaking her out?” Tabetha eyed River warily, then carefully slipped off her antique silver bracelet and slipped it into her pocket. “Are you a criminal?”
“No, just a psychopath,” the Doctor replied, cheerfully, beaming at River as if that was the best accomplishment anyone could ever achieve.
Tabetha went white.
The Doctor meandered down the hall and kicked at the skirting boards. He pivoted and beamed at Amy. “Oh, this is a sound place, Amelia Pond! No cracks in the walls! Oh, I did very well with this, don’t you think?”
“Isn’t this your place to begin with?” Tabetha gave first Amy, then the Doctor, a wary look. “You did lend it to them to manage your properties, right? You mean to tell me you’ve never been here?”
The Doctor glanced over his shoulder, started to reply and noticed the twin scowls from Amy and River. “What?”
“He owns it,” River said coolly and took a business card from her purse. She passed it to Tabetha. “Idris Properties LLC, based out of Salt Lake City. We own 357 rental properties throughout the U.S. and Britain.”
The Doctor raised an eyebrow. “We do?”
River’s glare bore into him. “We do.”
“When did I …”
“Right, time for dinner everyone!” Amy interjected before the Doctor could dig a deeper hole for all of them.
River edged closer to Amy once more. “I’ve brought two bottles of the ‘57 red from G’var that you like.”
“Good.” Amy took a deep breath and felt the headache already pounding at her temples. “I’m going to need every drop.”
Shortly after telling her parents that the Doctor was alive, River, Amy and Rory discussed the best way of letting her grandparents know of her existence. After realizing that nothing sounded the least bit plausible, they decided to follow the Doctor’s rule #1: Lie. They concocted a believable cover story, and River spent a good month coaching the Doctor in-between running for their lives, 29 Stormcage breakouts, three prison riots, stopping two wars and starting three, helping Isaac Newton discover gravity and frequent, spectacular sex.
Of course, he forgot.
“So, you’re Rory’s second cousin?” Augustus asked the Doctor as he scooped peas onto his plate.
“Twice removed,” Rory clarified.
“Really?” The Doctor heaped stew atop a mound of rice. He gave a half-frown as he mulled this over, twirling the spoon and flinging gravy onto the wallpaper. “How come I never knew that?”
“I reminded you of it last night, sweetie.” River took the spoon from him and shot an apologetic smile at Augustus and Tabetha. She gave the Doctor’s arm a fond pat. “He’s really starting to forget things in his old age. Bless.”
“I am not old, River,” the Doctor protested with a scowl. “I’m 1,106, thank you very much.”
“Eleven-hundred what?” Tabetha sputtered.
“Eleven-hundred six … weeks old,” River quickly said, coming up with the first number that sounded somewhat plausible. “So, he’s really ah ... 21.”
“And he’s getting old?” Tabetha eyed River, then the Doctor. “And just how old are you, crazy psychopath? You’ve got to be at least 40. You make it a habit to seduce younger men?”
“Mother!” Amy shouted.
“Oh, well, I quite like being seduced. Grown rather fond of it,” the Doctor leaned toward Augustus. “You haven’t seen what she can do with ...”
“Doctor …” Rory groaned.
“I was just going to say a frying pan, three screws and a couple packets of Gummy Bears. Remember that device you made from it?” The Doctor turned to River.
“Oh, the X’laxi bomb! You helped with the wires. All of that sugar-coated smoke. But, it did clear the plague from that quadrant of the planet.”
“But, that setting you programmed into the sonic was brilliant! You know, I think if we keep working at it, we can finally use the sonic on wood!”
He grabbed her hands and they bounced in their seats from excitement. “Yes! And we can …”
“River? Doctor?” Amy cut in.
They guiltily looked around to see Augustus busily clearing off half of his plate, Rory studying the pattern on the slow cooker, Tabetha gaping at them with her fork suspended in mid-air, and Amy’s long-suffering look. River squeezed the Doctor’s hands once and quickly dropped them. “Sorry,” they murmured together.
“I certainly hope that your children take after our side of the family,” Tabetha told Amy.
River and Amy merely exchanged looks across the table. “Eat the stew, Amy’s worked hard on it, and don’t spit it out this time,” River reminded the Doctor and began to eat.
“So, what do you do when you’re not in prison?” Tabetha asked.
“I’m an archaeologist.”
“So, you’re in prison for stealing from tombs?”
“Archaeologists don’t steal from tombs, Mother!”
“Well, they did have to base Indiana Jones on something,” River replied and winked at her father, then turned her attention to her grandfather. “What football team do you follow?”
The rest of the meal passed in an almost-normal fashion. Amy’s frazzled nerves began to ease as the five of them carried on a somewhat normal conversation … except for the Doctor. When 15 minutes passed without the Doctor saying a word, Amy knew something was wrong. He kept looking into his lap and was fiddling with something. She really hoped he wasn’t groping River under the table. Not that she minded that they shagged like rabbits -- unlike Rory, she’d come to terms with their adult daughter having a sex life -- but she would have to listen to her mother and …
“Oh, River! I got it!” The Doctor crowed as the pudding was set out.
“Got what, sweetie?”
“The setting on the sonic! I think you can finally sonic wood! See?” The Doctor flipped the sonic on and the beam hit the wooden leg of the table. It disintegrated, the dishes all sliding off into Augustus’ lap. He deftly caught the bowl of pudding and sampled it.
“You really are improving, Amy, love,” he praised his daughter. “Got a spoon?”
“I’m really sorry about this, Amy,” River apologized as she swept broken dishes into the bin.
“Well, all things considered, it was rather tame for the Doctor.” Amy sat the slow cooker on the counter and tilted her head, inspecting the damage. “You know, I was expecting worse. I even upped the insurance on the house, just in case.”
“Well, my mother and father should be going home soon.” Amy grabbed a couple of dishcloths. “I am looking forward to that bottle of wine.”
“You and me both.” They shared a fond smile. “Really, I’m glad you invited us, Mother.”
Amy and River winced, then turned together to see Tabetha standing in the entry to the kitchen, gripping a fistful of dirty cutlery.
“Well, not really,” Amy started to explain. “You see …”
“Oh, I know what I’m seeing here, Amelia!” Tabetha tossed the cutlery in the sink and jabbed a finger in her daughter’s face. “You’re involved in that kink stuff, aren’t you? I told your father when you became a kiss-o-gram that you’d be ruined! And now you’re letting a psychopath call you ‘Mother!’” She turned on River. “I want you and your … slave out of this house right now. Stay away from my daughter, you freak!”
Before River could respond, Amy angrily tossed down the dishcloth.
“That’s it. I’m sick of this.” She advanced on Tabetha, fury snapping in her eyes. “You’ve been nothing but rude to River and the Doctor since they got here. I’ve sat there all night and listened to you berate them and call River a psychopath. But no one will call my daughter a freak, especially you!”
“Amy, you …”
“Get out, Mother. Now!”
Amy took several deep breaths and dashed away a tear. “I’m sorry, River.”
“Well,” River said in a shaky voice, “I wasn’t expecting to be on their Christmas card list anyhow.”
Amy turned and saw that River was looking at the back garden out the window over the sink. She looked calm, but Amy knew her well enough to know that she wasn’t really OK. “River …”
“You shouldn’t do that, Amy,” River said softly. “You need to apologize to your mother.”
“You’re asking me to choose between my mother and my daughter? I can’t do that. I know I didn’t get a chance to properly raise you.” Amy moved to her side and slipped an arm around her. “But, you’ll always be my daughter, and you’ll always come first. Even before my mother. No matter how much older you are -- and really, I don’t want to know -- but you’re still my child.”
River laughed a bit and brushed away the tears that had streamed down her cheeks. She sniffed, then smiled at Amy, who was wiping away tears of her own. “It’s nice to know that I didn’t get it all from Kovarian.”
“No you didn’t, sweetie.”
They linked arms, smiling at each other as the Doctor meandered into the kitchen. “Your mother was in a big hurry,” he observed. He tugged at his ear and toed the tile a bit. “Didn’t offend her, did I?”
“No, Doctor, you were yourself.” Amy snagged his arm so she could pull him into the hug as well. “I think that was the best Sunday dinner we’ve ever had.”
“Actually,” Rory said, joining them. “It’s the only Sunday dinner we’ve ever had.”
“Then we’ll just have to have another one next week, won’t we?” Amy said. “Just the four of us.”
“That’s a really good idea,” the Doctor said. “How about on 24th century New New Earth?”
River’s eyes narrowed. “Why there, Doctor?”
“Oh … well … Tabetha made you upset, and I really don’t like it when someone insults you, and …”
Tabetha’s outraged screech came from the front hall.
“What did you do to my mother, Doctor?”
“It’ll wear off in three hours! Well … maybe five. But no more than 13, I swear!”
“Right.” River yanked open the back door. “Into the TARDIS, everyone!”
They barely managed to get in the TARDIS before Tabetha burst into the kitchen covered in pink goo.
Meanwhile, Augustus was thoroughly enjoying the game on Rory’s 72-inch flatscreen. It was, he told his wife much later, the best Sunday dinner he’d ever attended. Could Amy host it again next week?