“Sweetie?” The Doctor heard River's voice came from down the corridor to where he stood by the Tardis console. He idly noted in one part of his mind that it was the wrong corridor, since she had been heading for the wardrobe after he had picked her up from Stormcage. Now she was coming from a couple passageways down, her footsteps replacing her voice as she got closer until she came into the room. “What's this?”
He turned with one great large excited spin, arms swinging above his head. He wondered if his body spinning caused his arms to swing or if his arms swinging made his body spin. A few centuries in this form and he still had questions. Always good when an incarnation kept things fresh.
All such thoughts, and every other one, stopped when he saw what she was carrying. He hadn't seen it since Demon's Run; actually after Demon's Run when she had brought it back to him after taking her parents home.
“Can't lose this, my love.” She had smiled at him so softly as she held it. “Much too lovely a treasure.”
This River here with him now was a younger version. Her bare arms and prison clothes were smudged with dust from digging around in storage where he kept the antique. He really should clean up the place, but what had led her there in the first place?
A certain hum from the console, like someone trying to innocently whistle, made his eyes dart that way and his lips rose in a smirk. He had a good idea who had taken River away from the wardrobe.
He wondered if she saw the amazing coincidence that his father had painted it Tardis blue, centuries before anyone would use that name for the colour. He watched as she read the Gallifreyan on the sides. Her eyes flew to him and then back.
“It's yours,” she said in awe. “This is your cot, isn't it?” She set it carefully on the glass floor at the foot of the steps and sat gracefully next to it. Her fingers gently ran over the wood as she traced the words in their faded gold and then up to the hood where she laid her hand and let her eyes finish exploring.
So many demons clawed inside his chest. Demon's Run, Amy and Rory, the Church and Kovarian...
But the sight of her now... She cherished his baby cot already with a warmth in her eyes and a glow in her spirit that eased away the warring darkness. It left only the feelings of seeing her back then as he raised his eyes from the translating prayer leaf to his bespoke Melody Pond.
He was glad they were alone; this was between River and him. He slipped his hands into his pockets as he smiled at her. “Not just mine. Yours. You were in there, just like me.” She looked up in surprise and he crossed to where she sat. “Through your Ganger.”
Her eyes darting back and forth told him she was already searching for the memories, but he asked gently anyway. “Do you remember, River?”
Even he with his Swiss cheese memory could still remember laying in this cot, just like any other Time Lord would be able to do, and he would have the ones through the mental link to a Ganger if he had been in her place. He had seen just how vast her older versions' memory was, but he didn't know if the terrible trauma in her first two regenerations kept her from being able to recall memories from that far back.
She was looking to a place far beyond here. “I...”
He felt she was straining and it hurt him to see it. She actually wasn't, but he was too eager for her not to have to sift past her Silence training in Leadworth and the terrors of Graystark Hall to even consider that. He plopped down in a pile of long limbs at the foot of the cot.
“Let me help?”
Her smile was soft but took on a touch of wicked. “Oh, Sweetie, I always say yes to you putting your hands on me.”
He smirked. “Now, now, River.”
Her voice was husky. “Now is a perfect time. So is the-moment-I-was-onboard and as-soon-as-we're-done-here.” But she smiled at him, warm and lovely.
He held out his hand for the one that lay in her lap and kissed it when she gave it to him. He curled their fingers around the one knob in the same way as she had done with him on Demon's Run. He touched her forehead with his in a caress and a held breath as he gently reached in and back to her beginning.
He knew. Oh, he knew she'd have the memories. He cleared away any bit of fog that hovered around from Kovarian's machinations until they sparkled clear and clean. Like the tears in her eyes as he opened his to gaze into hers.
Her time with Amy was always there, a foundation that kept her grounded in the nightmares: her mother's first words of “You're mine” as she still learned the idea for herself, and those others about be brave and this man is your father... When she was older in her second incarnation and couldn’t sleep, she’d stay with Amy and get her started talking so she could drift into slumber, nurtured by her mother's voice in the same way that had calmed her in her infancy.
After that memory came Rory as he leaned over the crate where he had found her. The enchanted hero rescuing her, resplendent in armor and cape, and whose first words were quiet hushes and “It's okay, Daddy's here. That's me, I'm your Daddy, and I love you already. So much.” and “Let me just see you, okay. Make sure everything's fine.” and the gentle touch of his hands that was just like his voice and “Let's go find Mum. She's going to be so happy.”
He cried as he and Amy held her and said she was beautiful.
Loved and beautiful.
Then came the only other person in her future to whom she would ever utterly belong. He had seen her hundreds of times already, although he didn't know it. It was her first sight of him, and neither of their lasts.
He smiled at her and talked to her and taught her the word Mummy. Such a good word. She enjoyed all the attention and--
“I criticized your bowtie?” she said more than asked in a What fun! sort of way.
“Yes, you did. So rude, River.”
Three people held claim to her hearts, but another being held equal hold on her and at last they were together again: the Tardis, her other mother, golden lovely presence in her mind and a whispering in her ears that could only be compared to the songs of the Hollow Hills. It was beautiful and of love and joy, even though tiny Melody Pond had no idea those words existed. She only knew the feeling of them.
Amy held her and the Tardis wrapped around her and filled her, because she didn't care this was her child's Ganger, and that she was the only one who knew that. Melody would hear and feel and see all of this, and so the Tardis spoke.
Then the Doctor threw the wrong switch, and ghastly grinding and pulses wiped out the sound and feel of the Tardis. Neither she nor Melody ever really forgave him for that.
He opened his eyes again. “Sorry, River.” He looked so woeful about breaking that moment for them that she took his lips and held them for a simple, lingering kiss as she drew him back with her into her mind.
Everyone misunderstood her crying back then. Mummy shouted at the Doctor and he shouted back, and then she was taken outside and away from the Tardis, and she hated that even more. She tried telling everyone – loudly – and they still misunderstood until she was fed up with the whole thing – and all of them too a bit -- and could really just use a lie down, thank you very much. Not that they listened to that either, no matter how noisily she said so.
Until he said, “She's not hungry, she's tired. Sorry, Melody, they're just not listening.” and brought her a tiny little Golden-Blue Mummy just her size. It was an it though and not a she of gilded light and the lyrical voice, and its colours were faded.
Still, it was:
“Very pretty, according to your daughter.”
And the Golden-Blue Mummy quietly (to everyone else) let her know she was still here. She was always here for Melody. Then the Doctor took her from Mummy and laid her down inside, smiling, and she...
Well, she said something about his hair that he didn't appreciate at all. But he let it go, the way she bore him no malice for telling her she couldn't say “Big Milk Thing” anymore, which was much more descriptive no matter how very nice the word Mummy was.
He had pulled the swinging, dangling thing closer above her head before laying her down, and Mummy played with it now. Then at last Melody could rest. It had been such a day.
The Doctor held the memory there while he gave her the gift of the similar sight from his own memory: framed by the ceiling in his parents' room as he laid in the same spot inside his first Tardis coloured walls and thought about how much he really, really wanted those beautiful things above his head.
River's eyes flew open as she stared in wonderment at the cot touching their knees where their legs now tangled together. Her fingers played reverently in the mobile as her mother had done. The Doctor caught a flash of her room in Graystark Hall and another mobile that she had made herself, her small hands bending foil and wires as she copied this one through the blur the Silents had put around her mind. She hadn't even understood she was doing it.
She turned back to him quietly, eyes shining, her whole expression glowing. Just like that shared moment on Demon's Run when he knew at last.
Later, he needed to tell her how she must be strong enough to wait until the end of the Demons Run battle, no matter how much they asked and despite Rory being the one who asked. So she could pull the Doctor up from where he fell, into an oasis called I am telling you around this very cradle.
Her fingers slipped into his even as they wrapped around the cot knob and he squeezed them tighter. They leaned into each other again and shared those moments of beginning in the same place and the same enchantment.
This cot: his cot, her cot, their cot where they lay cradled, while above them and filling their eyes were their first stars, surrounded by walls of the bluest blue ever seen.