River felt something tug on her earlobe.
She rolled over, with a smile on her face, and came face to face with a small tabby kitten. It looked at her, slightly cross-eyed, and totally adorable.
"Oh, no," she groaned and rubbed her hand down her face. The kitten curled up on the hollow of her shoulder and purred. Rumbling against her skin.
"NO! No, no, no!" she yelled out the open door into the deserted Tardis corridor.
Awkward footsteps pounded down the hall and the Doctor slid to a halt in the doorway. "What!" he said with a panicked look on his face, scanning the room for monsters.
She pointed at the kitten on her chest. "Absolutely not!"
He gave her a totally innocent look. "I didn't do anything!"
She gave him a grumpy face, but didn't sit up. The kitten was still rumbling, soft and warm on her shoulder. "And I suppose this is the Peruvian Ambassador?" she said.
He wrung his hands and shook his head, "I don't know, you brought him in here." He walked over to the bed and sat down, looking at her. She was lying in a lacy nightdress, with a tiny orange kitten on her shoulder, and her hair all billowed out around her head like a glorious sunset. The kitten was half hidden.
He grinned. "You do look cute though."
"Doctor. I am giving you precisely one minute to get this cat off me, then I am going to start shooting." She glowered at him, one hand reaching under her pillow.
He frowned, disgruntled, "All right, all right, there's no need for that.
"Come here, sweetling," he scooped up the baby cat. It was so small he held it cupped in one hand. It blinked up at him, he rubbed noses with it. "You don't want to sleep with the grumpy old lady anyhow..."
"Watch it with the "old" buster brown, I am armed you know!" River swung up out of bed, waving her gun around.
His eyes slid over her as she slid out of the bed. The kitten snuggled warm into his neck and chewed on his bowtie. But his eyes were all for River, all sleepflushed and satiny, grumpy and curly, and lovely.
"Stop looking at me like that," she grumped, scowling at him.
"You're beautiful," he said.
"I know that," she scowled. "Where did the cat come from?"
He grinned. It was a miracle anyone survived Stormcage when she always woke up in such a bad mood.
He jiggled the kitten, and belatedly rescued his bowtie. "You had him in your purse. Don't you remember?" He struggled with the tenacious kitten, who had his tiny teeth firmly in the soggy silk and wasn't letting go. It growled menacingly at him, in a soprano register.
River grinned. "He's got spirit. How did he get in my purse?" She looked around and pulled on her satin robe.
The ivory satin robe flowed over her, accentuating her curves, and the Doctor's brain shut down. River, in the morning, ought to be illegal.
She smiled at him and sauntered over, "Oh, I am, Sweetie. On several different planets," she said, making him realize he'd said it aloud.
He blushed crimson.
She took the kitten away from him and worked the bowtie free. He snapped out of it. He tried to retie the bow, but it dangled limply. He frowned down at the soggy mess. He lowered his head until his eyes were level with the kitten's, he wagged a long finger at it. "Silk is not good for kitty digestion," he said, sternly.
The orange cat looked at him with big green eyes, it licked its lips with a tiny pink tongue. "Milk!" the Doctor said, spinning around with his finger pointed in the air. "That's what you need. A big saucer of milk for big kitty bones!"
He rambled out of the room, in search of calcium for their guest. All legs and elbows.
River looked down at the cat. "Now look what you've done." She held the cat up to her face. It licked her nose. She rolled her eyes. "Yes, yes, you're adorable." She tucked the cat under her arm like a football. And followed the Doctor.
River padded barefoot into the kitchen and found the Doctor rifling through the cabinets. There was already a collection of bowls standing on the countertop, some of them huge.
"Good grief, Sweetie," she said, dropping the kitten on the table. "We want to feed him, not drown him."
The Doctor turned around with a jug of milk in each hand. "What do you think? Cow's milk? Goat's milk? Hussrflour milk?" He nodded to the forest of milk jugs on the counter, all different sizes, and some in very strange colors.
"I think cow's milk will suffice." She pulled a small bowl off of the counter and took it to the table before he could choose a larger one. She went and got down a box of cereal and chose a bowl for herself, when she turned back she found the Doctor stirring chocolate syrup into the kitten's milk with his finger.
The kitten was already lapping it up. "Doctor!" she yelled and ran over to pull the bowl away, "you can't give a cat chocolate milk!"
"Why not? It's good!" He pointed down at the kitten. It sat back and burped in satisfaction. Then licked the chocolate mustache off its whiskers.
"It's bad for them!" River protested. They both watched the animal for any signs of distress. But the kitten simply curled up in an orange ball and went to sleep, purring like a motorboat.
"Huh!" River set down her bowl and poured herself some cereal. She sat down and started to eat, stealing the milk jug from the Doctor. "Where did he come from? How did he get in my purse?" she asked.
The Doctor sat down across from her with a huge bowl. When she looked up from the cat, he was squeezing chocolate syrup over his cornflakes. She grimaced.
He grinned at her look. "You love it!" He offered her the first bite off his spoon. She glared at him haughtily. He tapped her lips with the chocolate drizzled spoon. She only took it because he insisted. She crunched on the cornflakes. Oh, all right, he was right. She did love it. But she was a grownup, even if he wasn't.
He grinned at her, not fooled.
He dug in. "What do you remember from last night?" he asked. Honestly, that bowl was big enough to bake a cake in, River thought. She turned her mind to the question.
"The ambassador's ball?" He nodded. "Not much, really. We danced, the champagne was good. But it was a bit boring. There was no alien invasion. No scandal. No one so much as tried to steal anyone's jewels." She crunched on her shredded wheat for a few minutes. "How did we get back here?" she finally asked.
He grinned. "After you insulted the Duke of Manhattan's secretary, we were escorted back to the Tardis at gunpoint. There was a bit of a brouhaha behind us as I recall."
"I wonder why?" she asked.
He pulled a string of sapphires and pearls out of his jacket pocket. There was a diamond the size of a goose egg dangling from the bottom. "This might have had something to do with it." he said.
She gave him a haughty look. "I was just keeping in practice. Besides, she insulted your bowtie." She went back to her cereal.
He grinned. "Perhaps purple plaid was not the best choice for formal."
She looked back up, her face resolute. "You were very handsome."
He gave her one of those dark-eyed looks that made her wish he was further along in their relationship.
"So," she said, pushing her bowl away. "What are we going to do about the kitten?"
"We are not keeping him!"
The kitten stretched on the table and looked up at them, as if he knew he was being discussed. He sat up and started washing his face with a paw.
"Of course not, he's far too young." The Doctor dangled the necklace in front of the kitten, the kitchen lights reflecting off the sapphires. The kitten batted at the diamond. He bounced up on all fours and pounced on the necklace.
"We'll take him back. He can return the necklace for you," the Doctor said, dragging the necklace, and the attached kitten around the table, as the little cat growled and wrestled with the necklace until he was thoroughly wrapped up in it.
River sighed. "I suppose it's best." She yawned hugely and wiped a hand over her face. "Maybe then I can get some sleep."
They materialized back at the ambassador's mansion. The place was crawling with policemen. People rushing back and forth. The Tardis was instantly surrounded. Guns, howitzers, and rocket launchers were aimed at them.
The Ambassador and his wife came running out of the house, arms waving, yelling.
"Good grief!" River exclaimed, still in her nightgown. "All this over a necklace? It's not even real!"
"Ah, yes," the Doctor said, watching the monitor. "But quite a lot of the crowned jewels in the universe aren't. Okay," he clapped his hands together and scooped up the kitten who was still locked in mortal combat with the necklace on one of the console chairs. The necklace was winning.
River untangled the little ginger cat as the Doctor held him. She draped the necklace back around him more elegantly, where it could easily be seen.
"Now you be a good little messenger and take this back to the bitchy lady," River said, dropping a kiss on the little cat's head.
"River!" the Doctor protested her language.
River rolled her eyes. "He can't understand what I say."
They took the kitten to the door, and set him down. The Doctor opened the door a crack, leery of the guns outside, and carefully scooted the little cat out the door with his boot.
They both watched out the crack as the little cat galloped off toward the Ambassador and his wife, stumbling over the necklace, fat little chocolate milk tummy bobbling from side to side.
The Ambassador's wife screamed on seeing it and ran forward.
"Really," River snorted in disgust. "It's only a necklace."
The fat ambassador almost tumbled down the stairs in his eagerness.
His wife stumbled forward, her arms outstretched, tears on her cheeks as the kitten gamboled right toward her, necklace flapping.
The kitten reached her and stretched up, and up, and up, and ran the last few feet on fat baby legs. "Mummy!" he cried. He held up the necklace. "Look!"
She scooped up her son and peppered his face with desperate kisses. The Ambassador caught up and enveloped them in his arms.
Guns cocked outside the Tardis. Reminding the Doctor and River that they had the door open.
They slammed the door shut. And slammed their mouths shut.
And stared at each other.
"Yes. Fine." River said eventually, rubbing her sweaty palms down her nightgown. Her heart was beating hard at the close call. Her hair was still fluffed out with bedhair, and she was still barefoot.
"I think I'll just go finish my nap now," she pointed vaguely over her shoulder.
"Your catnap," the Doctor said, grinning, his eyes twinkling like mad.
She glared. "It wasn't on purpose!"
"Said the catburglar," he said gleefully.
She pulled her gun out of her robe pocket. She pointed it at his nose. "Don't make me use this."