River watched him from the top of the stairs. He’d managed to make enough changes to the Tardis that her floors had returned to normal and knowing that there’d be very few circumstances where River would be anywhere near the ceiling, he’d managed to convince the old girl that the downing padding up there, could go too.
They’d reached a compromise, the Doctor and his Tardis; he’d allowed her the padding on the rails and she’d allowed him to think he had any say in the matter. She could feel the Tardis in her mind, that constant, steady warmth that had protected her and guided her from a very young age, even long before she’d known what it was; and the old girl was cackling at him, which only caused River to smile.
She made her way down the stairs, being careful in her movements so as not to raise any kind of alarm in the be-speckled man, dangling from his swing and wearing his over-sized goggles. The Tardis had been gentle with her ever since they’d left Leadworth; no sharp turns, stops or turbulence; not even for fun. She appreciated it, greatly, but she also missed it.
“What are you doing, Sweetie?” She asked, carefully lowering herself to sit on the stairs and tucking her skirts between her knees. Her flowing nightgown was a gift from the Tardis, left hanging on the door of their closet the day she’d discovered that her usual nightgown no longer fit around her burgeoning belly. It was champagne coloured and cut off at the knees, with a soft, creamy-coloured underskirt that made it look pretty and feminine and only made River’s beauty glow a little brighter when she wore it.
The Doctor looked up, smiling when he saw her in the nightgown, with Amy’s tattered old red cardigan hanging over her shoulders. The sleeves were too long, only enhancing the differences in River’s and Amy’s size, and they hung over her hands, her fingers only just barely poking out, her thumbs, protruding through small torn holes. She looked precious, all creamy silk, tattered wool and hardened brown leather, always ready to run, even with lost moon of Poosh, hidden under her night-dress.
“Just making some adjustments. Shouldn’t you be sleeping?”
River shrugged. “I’m not tired,”
The Doctor hopped out of his swing, tossing his goggles in the seat before swaggering his way towards her. River smirked, watching how he leaned over the railing to face her head on. “Isn’t the baby tired?”
“She’s a Timelord, my love, how much sleep do you think she needs?”
He laughed, swinging himself around to sit on the stairs beside her, his limbs flying out in awkward directions before they fell into place at her side, his thigh pressed to her thigh, the side of his boot to her boot, his shoulder to her shoulder and her hair tickling his ear.
“Rest then, perhaps, River?”
She smiled, leaning into his side and savouring the warmth of his body pressed to hers. She tucked her arm under his, wrapping it around and hugging him closer; resting her head on his shoulder. “This is restful to me, Sweetie.”
“What do you think your parents are doing, right now?”
River sat up suddenly. “That’s a strange question for you, Doctor. Especially because we’re currently floating in the vicinity of the fiftieth century...”
She didn’t complete the sentence, knowing that the Doctor knew exactly that she meant. It didn’t seem to bother her, knowing they were apart from her parents and knowing that, in the century they currently resided, her parents no longer existed. They could find the descendants of her family, perhaps, if they searched Starship UK long enough – and knowing the family Pond, at the first chance they’d have escaped to the stars; but they’d never even entertained the thought.
She’d never even entertained the thought, as far as he was aware. But he had such a sudden sense of nostalgia over his long gone Ponds. Seeing River, waddling around his Tardis – the Tardis, their Tardis – with all the grace a woman in her condition could carry, had forced him to think of Amy and the days she’d lost. He felt selfish and a failure, and yet so very blessed.
It wasn’t long ago that he’d have run away from River, if she’d appeared in his Tardis with the news she’d given him, not six months earlier. Two regenerations ago, he’d have turned his back on her and broken her heart. Sometimes he tried to imagine what it would have been like, had he known her back then. But it was too painful even to imagine.
River was the strongest woman he’d ever known. Plucked from her parents, from him, as an infant and raised as a weapon. But not just any weapon, a bespoke assassin, all for him. He supposed, their failure was in not teaching her to hate him. She was taught that she was to kill him, but not a soul had thought to tell her she should hate him. And so she’d killed him as a game and laughed at his misfortune, all the while admiring his whimsy. She’d been fascinated and intrigued and had turned their training around to spite them.
His assassin had become his saviour, in more ways than one.
His destroyer had become his protector.
But she’d never have survived his ninth self. All darkness and brooding and self-hate. The world had been a game for him, a clever lie to escape the guilt. She’d have not survived it. His precious, precocious, fragile River Song.
“I was just thinking, you know,” He kissed her temple and rested his hand against the fabric covering her rounded belly. “That we could name her, you know,” He swallowed, looking up into River’s smiling eyes. “After your mother.”
River’s eyes started to water. “I think that’s a beautiful idea, Doctor.”
“I mean, it’s not a Gallifreyan name, she can have one of those too. But it’s a good Timelord name, very fairytale, perfect. Kind of like yours, River Song.”
“I have a good Timelord name?” She winked and the Doctor blushed.
“Well, it’s nothing like mine,” He sighed and River reached up to touch his face gently; reverently holding his cheek in the palm of her hand as she studied his face. Not even seeing the face, but the soul that wore it like glistening armour.
She never saw the faces he wore, not really. And he’d never really understood how she was capable of that, until he’d found out just what she was. Until he’d discovered that she was magnificent.
“She’ll know your name, Doctor. She’ll read it in the stars and she’ll love you, like I do.” She brushed her thumb across the blushing of his cheeks. “She’ll understand.”
A tear escaped his eye, trickling down his face to land on the tip of her thumb and River breathed out a sigh, her eyes glistening with tears of joy as their impossible child fluttered within her. The Doctor giggled, feeling their daughter’s movements where her belly was pressed to his though he sobered when she moved just the slightest bit closer and he whispered. “I never expected this.”
“But you deserve it, my love. You deserve her.”
“I don’t know that I do. I thought that life was gone. On Gallifrey I saw my last days as that man, I waved goodbye to them and I accepted it.”
“For all the pain you’ve suffered, for all the goodbyes, you deserve to have her, my love. You deserve all the days she will give you and the knowledge that when you’re gone, she will go on.” River breathed, pressing her forehead to his as a golden glow bleed out between them, filling the room with warm light. “You’re no longer the last.”
“River Song,” He signed, pulling her closer and letting his mind filter into hers, everywhere at once, filling every corner of every thought, spoilers be damned. “You’re the most magnificent creature in all the cosmos.”
She chuckled. “No,” She shook her head, rubbing her hand across her belly. “She’s still cooking.”
The Doctor let out a riotous laugh, kissing her lips roughly, with almost raw emotion.
His Ninth self couldn’t have handled this.
He was just thankful she’d waited.
The Ponds who waited. What a wondrous improbability.