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When You Least Expect It

Chapter Text

Ch 1

 

The Doctor held his son close to his chest as he walked into the room with the girls. He tried to not look like he'd been sobbing, hoping the girls wouldn't notice.

 

The girls ran to him, staring at the bundle in his arms, "Is that my baby brother?!" Freya exclaimed, as Arthur whined again, asking where River went.

 

"Yes," he nodded, not answering Arthur. "Indoor voices now." He put a finger over his lips and crouched for the girls to see their brother.

 

"Can I hold him?" Amelia asked, as both girls peered over to look at their brother.

 

"Sure. But you have to sit down and be very gentle."

 

She nodded scurrying into a seat and holding out her arms. He shifted the baby into her arms, keeping his hands there as support.

 

"Can I see Mummy?" Freya asked, looking up at the Doctor, completely innocent of what had happened.

 

He hesitated, chest tightening and mouth suddenly quite dry. "Don't you want to hold your little brother first?" He managed.

 

She thought about it, then nodded, waiting quite impatiently for her turn. Arthur whined in Amelia's arms, grumpy that it wasn't his mummy. Amelia was perplexed at the little boy who breathed and moved and made noise unlike her other brother.

 

"I wanna hold him not! It's my turn." Freya held out her arms.

 

"Keep your voice down, lovie. Arthur can't handle loud noise yet." He moved to take his son back. Arthur started crying again, wanting River even more now and missing the comfort of her thoughts. "Sh... sh, lovie. It's okay, you're alright." He tried to comfort, letting Freya hold him.

 

Freya held him for a few moments before making a face, "He's too loud."

 

"I know. He's just upset right now." He scooped Arthur back up. "Babies tend to cry a lot when they're upset." He explained.

 

"What is he upset?" She asked.

 

He felt fresh pain in his hearts at the question, knowing that they couldn't be oblivious forever. "Because he wants Mummy."

 

"Well then let's go see Mummy." Freya stood up, about to head for the room River was in.

 

"Wait, Freya. You can't go in there." He panicked, feeling a bit sick about having to tell them their mother was dead. "I need to tell you something. I've got to tell both of you."

 

"What is it?" Freya asked, turning to face him.

 

He swallowed hard, sitting in front of them. "Sometimes... when a baby is born, the birth doesn't always go well. It's not too often, but sometimes the mummy or the baby doesn't always... end up okay."

 

"Where's Mummy?" Amelia demanded, sensing where the conversation was headed.

 

"She's... she's gone to be with your other little brother." He whispered. He hoped River was at least given the chance to see William.

 

"What do you mean gone?" Amelia whimpered, "I want her to come back."

 

"I do too, but she isn't coming back." His voice broke.

 

"No!" She started to cry, running towards the room, "Mumma! Mumma!"

 

"Amelia!" He called, not wanting her to go in there yet. River hadn't been cleaned up and there was far too much blood for the little five year old to witness.

 

She refused to listen, running into the room and stopping when she saw River. Vastra, who was still in there and had begun to clean up her friend, looked up in alarm. "Amelia, you shouldn't be in here."

 

Amelia just stood, staring at her mother. Her lip trembled and tears cascaded down her cheeks as she stepped a bit closer, "Mummy? Mummy wake up."

 

Vastra walked over to the girl, crouching in front of her to block her view. "Now is not the time, Amelia. You must go back to your father until it's okay to come in here."

 

"No! I want my Mummy!" She sobbed, trying to move past her and reach her hand out to River.

 

Vastra caught Amelia in her arms. "Your Mummy is gone, little one. I'm so sorry, but that is the way things are now."

 

Amelia collapsed into a bundle of sobs, "She promised. She can't be gone, she promised. I want my Mummy! I need my Mummy!" Vastra gathered her up and rocked her, murmuring and trying to soothe her. Amelia pushed her away, not wanting anyone's comfort, only wanting River.

 

The Doctor came in without Freya, making a point of not looking at River's corpse. "Amelia..."

 

She didn't respond, curing into a tighter ball, crying hysterically. The Doctor handed Arthur to Vastra so he could scoop up his daughter. This was a promise to River he was going to try hard to keep. "Sh... Amelia, I know this is scary and I know how sad you are, but I'm still here for you, alright?" He sighed. "Do you want to be with Mummy?"

 

She nodded, crying into him. "I don't want her to be gone."

 

He nodded, bringing her over to River's corpse. "Listen to me, sweetheart. When you lose someone close to you, it's going to hurt for a very long time. Not physically, but on the inside. It's going to feel like this every time you think about it or find something of hers that she left behind, or even if a pillow still smells like her, it's going to hurt." He started to cry again. "But it's going to ache a little bit less every day. That doesn't mean to tomorrow you're going to feel better, because tomorrow she won't be back. But I promise, it won't feel like this forever. She'll always be with you, in your hearts. You'll find little pieces of her everywhere. You've got her eyes. Arthur has her smile. We all have her love. We'll always have that."

 

Amelia reached down, wanting to hug her mother. If she closed her eyes, and ignored the coldness of her body, it was almost as if River was still there, hugging her back.

 

He set her down and let her hug her mum. The sight was enough to tear him apart all over again. "Vastra... can you bring Freya in here? She's with Jack."

 

She nodded, leaving the room to get the girl. Amelia whimpered as she cuddled further into River. He rubbed her back in a soothing motion.

 

Jack and Vastra came in with Freya after a few minutes. Jack carrying the girl and Vastra carrying the baby. Amelia looked up at her sister. "I d-don't think Mu-Mummy's coming b-back."

 

Freya had been crying as well, those words only making her cry harder now. "But she promised. She promised we'd all be together." Jack put Freya down next to her sister and she mirrored Amelia.

 

"It's the b-bad sleep. She's n-not gonna wake up."

 

"But she hasta wake up!" She cried at the feeling of how cold her mother was, "Who's going to read us stories and give us kisses?"

 

Amelia looked at her father. "W-w still have Daddy..."

 

"But I want Daddy and Mummy." She whimpered.

 

"Me too!" Amelia found herself in a new bout of tears. Both girls curled up against River, sobbing. All they wanted was to hear her voice again, feel her arms around them and get one last kiss from her.

 

Vastra and Jack bowed their heads at the mourning family. Jack was probably the only one in the room who was  still keeping Missy in mind.

 

Amelia and Freya both stayed curled up against their mother's body for what seemed like hours. Arthur started to wail loudly again. The Doctor eventually took his son back, comforting him against his chest. "He's hungry..."

 

"I'll go find some formula." Vastra murmured, leaving to go to the other room.

 

He sat back with the girls, watching them sniffle. Arthur's sobs suddenly stopped, staring at a seemingly blank space in the air beside the Doctor. He frowned in confusion. "Not hungry any more?"

 

The baby continued to stare at the space, gurgling something about Mummy to the empty air. His hearts stuttered and he turned around. In Arthur's eyes, River was standing there, smiling and whispering how everything was going to be alright, but to the girls, who had also looked up, the space was empty.

 

The Doctor investigated the air, turning in a complete circle with but ending up disappointed when he found nothing but cold. His eyes trailed back to River's body, reminding himself painfully that his wife was dead now and whatever Arthur was looking at wasn't real. At least the boy wasn't crying now, but that made him the only one in the room who wasn't.

 

Freya looked angrily on at her brother, her eyes still swimming with tears. "Freya, lovie..." The Doctor said, sensing her mood change. "What's the matter?"

 

"Why is he smiling?" She was getting angrier, "This is his fault! It's his fault that Mummy's gone!"

 

"Freya, it's not his fault. It was no one's fault, sometimes these things happen with no reason." It wasn't entirely true, but there were too many reasons to blame that playing 'pass the fault' would take days. "Maybe he just sees something new and it made him smile. Everything's new to him."

 

"It is his fault!" She cried, a fresh wave of tears coming, "If he wasn't born then she wouldn't be gone!" She shouted, "I don't want a little brother anymore, I want Mummy!"

 

He instinctively held the baby closer. "Freya... this was Mummy's choice."

 

She blinked, "What?"

 

He sighed heavily, sitting back down. "Your Mum and I...  we knew that this would happen. We knew for a long time, and we had a choice. We could chose to have your little brother or... not have him. And Mummy chose his life."

 

Her lip trembled, "Why would she do that? Why would she choose to leave me?"

 

"She didn't want to leave you, sweetheart. She wanted you both to be happy. You two have wanted a little brother for a very long time now. She wanted you to have him, she wanted him to have a life." He remembered again how happy she was to hear her son cry.

 

"But I don't want him anymore!" She cried, "I don't want him here!"

 

"Now, don't say things like that." He frowned. "Wishing him away isn't going to bring Mummy back. Mummy wanted him, I want him, and you'll learn to want him here, too." He looked at his son. "Mummy's part of him. She's part of all of us."

 

She crossed her arms, "I won't learn to want him, I'll never want him. It's his fault Mummy's not here and I'll never forgive him!”

 

He blinked at her, trying to assure himself that her feelings would in fact change and this reaction was only in the heat of her grief. "I'm sorry you feel that way right now, but Mummy isn't coming back and he's not leaving."

 

She stared angrily at him, before cuddling back into River's side. He wanted to hug her and tell her it would be okay, but he knew he'd be pushed away. Vastra returned with the formula in a bottle and gave it to the Doctor, who tried to feed it to Arthur.

 

Arthur's gaze had shifted to the Doctor's shoulder, and he had been making sounds as if trying to get someone's attention, though it wasn't directed at the Doctor. He fussed when given the bottle, still staring just past his father.

 

"Arthur, there's nothing there." He looked over his shoulder again to make sure. "See? Please, just drink? I know it's not as good as what Mummy could give you, but it's all you've got.”

 

Arthur's wailing suddenly grew louder, the noise sounding distressed and resembling the words come back. Freya blocked her ears, "Shut up!" She shouted, even though she knew she wasn't allowed to say that phrase.

 

"Freya, we do not say things like that." He frowned at her disapprovingly.

 

"I can say whatever I want and I want him to shut up!" She shouted at the baby who only cried louder.

 

"You're going to get a timeout if you keep up with that attitude. I know you're upset and hurt, but that doesn't give you the right to say things like that."

 

"Make him stop crying!"

 

"I can't. He wants Mummy." He said quietly.

 

"Well then he deserves to cry because it's his fault that she's gone." She clung to River.

 

"Alright, that was your last chance." He said more sternly. "You've just earned yourself a time out."

 

"No!" She sobbed, burying her face into River's side, not wanting to be taken away from her.

 

"You can survive three minutes. Vastra, could I have some help?"

 

"No! No! No! Please, no!" She was making the most distraught screams a child could make, clinging to River with her life. "Mumma! No!"

 

The Doctor and Vastra hesitated before Vastra spoke up. "If you apologize to your father and promise no longer to speak so rudely, you can stay." She was crying too much by now to say anything, her whole body shaking with sobs. Vastra scooped up the girl and rocked her. "Hush now, dear."

 

The Doctor nodded his appreciation, trying to get Arthur to latch again.

 

"No!" Freya screamed when she was removed from River's side, "Put me down! No! Mummy!"

 

"You can go back when you apologize." Vastra's stern voice was more intimidating than the Doctor's.

 

"NO!" Her screams were growing loud enough to carry through the walls, "Mummy! No!" Vastra sighed and brought her to the other room for her time out.

 

"Doc, are you sure this is the best time to be punishing her?" Jack sighed.

 

He shook his head. "No.. I just don't know what to do. River was always better at this."

 

"This is the last time she's ever going to physically be with River. We shouldn't be taking it away from her. She's acting out because she's upset, now is not the right time for punishment."

 

"I know, you're right." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Arthur, why won't you eat? Please, for Daddy?"

 

Jack went to go bring Freya back. Arthur finally took the bottle, only eating a little before crying.

 

The Doctor went to sit in the corner chair, trying to get him to eat more as he watched the people in front of him. Amelia had been silent the whole time, almost as still as her mother. She was still crying, a small, forgotten bundle of sorrow. Freya was a puddle of sobs and incoherent complaints in Vastra's arms as she was brought back and placed back in her previous spot.

 

It was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

Ch 2

 

The girls stayed beside their mother’s body, crying and clinging to her for hours. They refused to leave her side, refused to eat and didn't dare give into sleep.

 

Arthur had eventually fallen into a restless nap. The Doctor had refused to put him down at all, staring as his wife and daughters the entire time. Though Vastra and Jack offered food to everyone, no one took it.

 

River's picture box appeared beside the chair the Doctor was sitting in, along with the framed picture of her that she and the Doctor had picked out not days before. The Doctor refused to look at it for a while, knowing the sight was sure to break him more, but eventually gave in, frozen to the spot. River’s eyes seemed to sparkle in the picture, reflecting nothing but happiness.

 

Vastra came again to urge him to eat, but he didn't register her words. "I've got to go to the nursery."

 

"What? Why?" She frowned.

 

"It's not finished. River wanted it finished." He stood, not exactly thinking clearly. "I've- I've got to go fix it. Missy broke the walls. Well I broke the walls, but I need to finish it."

 

"Doctor, it can wait." Vastra put a hand on his arm, "You can't leave now."

 

"No, I have to." He pushed the heel of his hand to his forehead. "The picture. She wanted him to remember her that way. I need to hang it up."

 

She kneeled down in front of him, "Doctor, he's right here. You don't need to go hang it right now. Why don't you just show it to him instead?"

 

"I..." He looked between her and the baby in his arms. "He's not safe. None of you are safe and I... I promised to keep you all safe. She wants the ceremony where William's was and we can't go anywhere because we're not safe and I have to keep you safe . There's no- there's no point in having a nursery if he can't sleep in it and play in it and he's not safe . We're not safe."

 

"We're safe here. For now, we're safe. Please, please stay with your children. They need you right now."

 

"They need their Mum and I'm not their Mum." He closed his eyes.

 

"No, they need their Father. You know that. You promised River you would help them through this, now is the time to honor that promise." She whispered.

 

He look a shaky breath and was silent for a long moment. When he looked up at his friend, his eyes were wet but something in them said that her words had reached him.

 

After another moment he stood and took the picture box with his free hand before going over to his daughters. "Girls... I have something for you." Both girls looked up at him, their faces wet and blotchy from crying. He sat on the edge of the bed. "Come here. This was Mummy's."

 

"It's this her picture box?" Amelia asked quietly, inching closer.

 

"Yes." He nodded, setting it down. "Do... do you want to look through it?" They nodded timidly. "Here..." He rifled through until he found one of River. It was from an anniversary of theirs on Dochremi, the one he'd been talking to River about to distract her during labor.

 

"Mummy looks pretty." Amelia murmured, staring longingly at the photograph.

 

"She liked to dress up when we went out together." He told her, tone matching.

 

Amelia started crying again, burying her face in his arm. He shifted a still sleeping Arthur so he could wrap his arm around her. "It's okay, lovie."

 

"She's never going to play dress up with me again." She sobbed.

 

"No... I'm afraid not. Why don't we look at another picture, hmm?"

 

Freya nodded on his other side, also teary eyed. He gestured for her to come to their side in case she wanted a hug or something of the like. She shook her head, still angry with him for taking her away from River. He quietly took out another picture.

 

This time, it was a photograph of River laughing as she hugged Freya. It looked recent, probably from Arthur's baby shower. Freya blinked hard and looked away, clinging to River's cold, stiff hand.

 

Amelia sniffled, "Did Arthur get to take a picture with Mummy?"

 

"No." He replied sadly. They'd been a bit preoccupied.

 

"Oh..." She looked down.

 

"Mummy helped pick out the pictures in his room, so he'll still have nice ones."

 

"They're my pictures, I don't what him to have any." Freya frowned.

 

"No, Freya, the pictures in his room are going to stay in his room. We can hang some up in your room if you'd like." He tried to get her off the subject.  

 

"You said they were mine and Amelia's and I don't want him to have any. He never even got to know Mummy. He doesn't even care that she's dead!" It was the first time anyone had referred to River as dead.

 

"He does, actually." He said quietly. "He's been in Mummy for the past eight months and they've been able to communicate with each other for most of that time. That's why he's been crying, love. He's just as sad as you are, as we all are."

 

“No he's not." She stuck her tongue out at the baby.

 

He huffed in frustration and again hoped this was just because of her mourning. He pulled out another picture, this one of River at a dig site. Neither girl said much about the picture, just looking at it with sad eyes.

 

He went through quite a few, explaining some of them and just staring at others.

 

"Which one is your favorite?" Amelia asked quietly.

 

"Of Mummy?" He looked over to where he'd left the framed picture. "That one."

 

"Which one is that?" She asked, peering over to see it.

 

"Vastra could you...?"

 

Vastra nodded, bringing the photo over to them.

 

"Mummy picked this one to be framed. It's... it's how she wanted her kids to remember her." He said clearly to include Arthur in that.

 

"I like that one too." Amelia whimpered, touching the glass of the frame lightly.

 

"Maybe we should hang it up somewhere we all can see." It wasn't the original plan, but he thought it might be worth it. Both girls nodded, liking the sound of the idea. "Right in the living room, yeah?" He suggested.

 

They nodded again. "Or in the console room."

 

"Yes, well I think we're going to be spending a lot of time in the house... once we have all of this worked out. You guys will be going back to school... when you feel ready for it." He told them.

 

"Oh..." Amelia sniffled, "Can I have a copy for my room?"

 

"Of course." He nodded, thinking he could make a few copies and Arthur could still have the original in his room like he and River agreed.

 

"Can we put it next to our bed?" She asked.

 

"Yes, but you might have to wait until we can make copies." Not to mention have access back to their room.

 

Toby wondered into the room, peering up at the bed River was laying on. The Doctor glanced at the dog. "Are you girls hungry?"

 

They shook their head as Toby nudged River's limp hand.

 

"Not even a little?" He urged. "You don't have to get up, I can bring you something."

 

They shook their heads again, looking at Toby when he barked at River, then whimpered.  

 

"Hush now, Toby." He murmured. "She's not going to wake up." The dog tried licking her hand, not understanding.

 

He patted the bed even though there wasn't much space with the family crowded on it. The dog tried to jump up, momentarily distracted by the baby. He crept over, sniffing the small face.

 

Arthur shied away in his sleep, gurgling unconsciously about the big kitty.  

 

Toby pressed his nose against the baby's head, licking his face. This time the baby opened his eyes, the small orbs widening in surprise at the large fluffy thing. The dog barked a bit too loudly, unintentionally of course. Arthur jumped and his face scrunched up as he began to cry.

 

"Good boy, Toby." Freya patted his head.

 

"No, bad boy." The Doctor frowned, and pointed to the floor as an indication for the dog to leave the bed.

 

"No, Toby. Good boy. Stay!" Freya held him tighter, not letting him get off the bed. Toby whimpered, confused as to who he should be obeying.

 

"I don't want him to leave." Amelia whimpered, having stayed quiet until now.

 

The Doctor hesitated. "He scares Arthur when he barks..."

 

"He didn't mean to." She looked up at him with her big sad eyes, "It was an accident. Freya's just being mean."

 

"Well... alright." He gave in, not feel like he had the position to deny them anything right now. He was at least glad to know Amelia didn't share her sister's opinions about their brother. "But he only has one more chance."

 

"Why are you being so mean?" Amelia glared at her sister.

 

"Because it's his fault. He took Mummy away." She replied bitterly.

 

"No, it's not! And Mummy wouldn't want you to be so mean!"

 

"Well Mummy isn't here and if we didn't have a stupid little brother she would be so it is his fault."

 

"I don't think he's stupid." Amelia whispered.

 

"He's a killer." Freya added harshly.

 

"He's a baby ." She snapped back.

 

"He still killed Mummy." Freya fixed her glare on the floor.

 

"When our other brother died you didn't say Mummy killed him"

 

"That's because Mummy wouldn't do that."

 

"And our brother didn't do that either."

 

"How do you know?" She hissed.

 

"Because I do and if you weren't such a big bully you would too!" Freya fell silent, eyes burning with tears. "Go away Freya. Nobody wants you here if you're going to be so mean." Amelia frowned, arms crossed.

 

"No! I'm not leaving Mummy!"

 

"Mummy wouldn't want you either if she knew how mean you were being!"

 

"Well maybe you didn't even love Mummy if you think our brother is good because it's his fault and you don't even care!" Freya blurted out.

 

"Now you're just being stupid! You're the one who didn't really love Mummy because you don't love our brother and you know that she would want us to!"

 

"Girls, please stop-" The Doctor tried to but in, but Freya was already sobbing. She jumped to the floor and ran into the other room. Amelia watched her go, glaring. "That wasn't very nice of you, Amelia." The Doctor murmured.

 

"She started it." Amelia whispered.

 

"I'm aware that she wasn't being very nice either, but she's hurting right now just like you are."

 

Amelia pouted, not saying anything more.

 

He sighed. "Vastra? Could you take Arthur? I need to check on Freya." Vastra nodded, gently taking the baby from his arms. "I'll be right back." He kissed Arthur's forehead and then Amelia's before following to where Freya had gone.

 

Freya was curled in a ball in the corner of the other room, crying quietly.

 

"Freya? Dearie?" He approached her cautiously. She didn't answer, curling tighter into her ball. "Hey, it's alright. I only want to talk to you." He murmured.

 

"Why?" She whimpered, peering up at him.

 

"Because that's what daddies do when their daughters are sad." He said softly. She relaxed just a tad, lifting her head a bit more. He sat down in front of her. "I'm sorry about what's happening. I'm sorry it's making you so sad and hate your little brother."

 

She looked at her feet, still not saying anything.

 

"I just wanted you to know that I'm going try to help you through this as much as I can. I can do some of the things that Mummy did, like kiss you goodnight or make you mac and cheese..." He continued. "I know it won't be the same, but I'll still be here for you."

 

"But she won't be here." Freya choked, "I'll never get to talk to her again. I'll never get to tell her I love her again."

 

"She knows how much you loved her. Trust me, she knew. And she loved you and Amelia more than anything." He breathed.

 

"But I won't ever get to hear her say it again." She sniffed, tears welling up in her eyes again.

 

He scooted closer, wrapping his arms around the girl. "Actually, I might have a little something for you that might help."

 

"What is it?"

 

"Your Mummy and I made a video, it was a long time ago when she was pregnant with you and Amelia. She talks to you two in it, she tells you that she loves you."

 

"Can I see it?" She asked almost immediately.

 

He managed a weak smile for her. "Yes, of course."

 

"Now?" She stood up, a small light in her eyes.

 

He nodded as a small and old fashioned television materialized in the room with a plastic and block-like tape next to it. "Put the tape in and press play."  

 

She carefully slide the tape in, pressing the button.

 

There was static for a moment before some of the audio kicked in. "Sweetie, that's not suppose to plug into there."

 

Freya's eyes were fixated on the television, staring at the static, which soon turned to some footage of the Doctor's shoes. "Are you sure? I don't think it's working."

 

It was the Doctor's voice, then footsteps and soon River's bare feet joined the footage.

"You're holding it wrong."

 

The camera soon pointed up to the ceiling and they could see that it was the TARDIS library. An exasperated sigh came from River, "Here, you have to hold it like this." The camera moved once more, the picture going from the ceiling to River's face.  Freya and the Doctor smiled.

 

The camera was set down by River on a table, or some other non-moving surface, and the pair settled on a couch in front of it. It was clear that River was pregnant, she appeared about half term. "Why are we doing this again?" She asked

 

"Because one day you'll want more than all those photos to look back on. Besides, what if our daughter wants to see something like this and all she has are photos? Trust me, you'll thank me."

 

River had a beautiful, happy glow about her. Her eyes sparkled as she looked into the camera. She looked so much better than she had the past few weeks; healthy and breathing. "Would you like to start?"

 

"Well, yes. As a matter of fact." The video Doctor cleared his throat and shifted his hand around, eventually settling on draping an arm over River's shoulders. "Hello Baby. I know that's not your name and you're probably not a baby while you're watching this, but we haven't got a name yet so, for now you're 'Baby'." He coughed nervously again. “Uh, you're Mum and I just wanted to let you know how excited we are to be parents. I haven't been a dad in a very long time and your Mum hasn't ever been a mum before... I think."

 

River leaned into the embrace, laughing nervously, "No, I can't say I have been a mum." Her expression changed to a warm, loving smile, " But like your Father said, we're so excited to meet you. And we want you to know that we love you, and we always will. No matter what becomes of us in this ever changing universe, we will always love you."  

 

"Ah, see now? You don't think this is so bad." He turned to River, teasing.

 

"Oh, shut up." She laughed weakly, turning to give him a kiss.

 

He rested his hand on her stomach, pulling away excitedly after a moment. "Did you feel that?"

 

Her eyes light up and she nodded, "Do you think that kick meant 'I love you two, too?'"

 

"Quite possibly." He kissed her cheek.

 

"I think probably." She smiled, resting her head on his shoulder and looking down at her abdomen, "I love you, my sweet baby."

 

"I love you, too." Freya whispered to the screen, hardly a whisper.


River's eyes flickered back up to the camera one more time, her smiling face the last thing on the screen before it turned to static again.

Chapter Text

Ch 3

 

The Doctor hugged his daughter closer. "Feel a little better?"

 

Freya nodded, hugging him as tightly as she could manage, "Do you have any more videos?"

 

He thought for a moment. The first that came to mind -all River's idea to catch on tape- was nowhere near appropriate for her to see nor was he ever planning on showing it to her. "Uh, I think we've got one of our weddings on film.”

 

"Can we watch it?" She asked quietly.

 

He nodded as the TARDIS materialized the tape. "Will you go put it in?"

 

She nodded, getting up and carefully removing the first tape before placing the new one in. This one was a better sort of qualify, mostly because the Doctor wasn't the one handling the equipment.

 

Immediately he and River appeared on screen under a terrace of flowers. "Ah. Third wedding. Mummy wanted to have an Earth ceremony like the one your grandparents had."

 

River was wearing a white gown, rather simple, but elegant. She was only looking at the Doctor, eyes fixated on his face. The Doctor's tux matched what he'd worn on the Pond's wedding night, though his bowtie was from his first wedding, a tradition.

 

Each Pond was stood on the side, Rory as the best man and Amy as the maid of honor. The priest doing the vows was unfamiliar to the family, but appeared jolly none the less. He went through the vows, and River and Doctor on screen repeated after him when told to do so with nothing but love in their eyes.

 

When it came time for them to kiss, River practically pounced on him, hauling him to her for a deep, passionate kiss. The guests there cheered and he dipped River down like he'd seen in Earth movies, lips never leaving hers. River was laughing when she pulled away, pressing her nose to his.

 

"We should have the next one on Trudchi." The Doctor laughed alongside her.

 

She gave him one more kiss, "Let's get through the wedding night first, shall we? I'm rather looking forward to it ."

 

He blushed and took her hand, saying something in her ear about his plans for that night as they walked off view of the camera.

 

The video cut to what seemed to be later that night, with River and the Doctor slow dancing in Amy and Rory's backyard. The pair didn't seem aware that they were being filmed. The camera turned in the holder's hand showing Amy grinning with her finger to her lips before it turned back to the dancing 'newlyweds'.

 

River seemed to be talking to her husband, though it wasn't clear exactly what she was saying.

 

"What's Mummy telling you?" Freya whispered.

 

"She was reciting an old Gallifreyan poem to me." The Doctor murmured reminiscently.

 

"Can you tell it to me?"

 

"Kr'Ibrii ka'RI ty'Et yuesiikl kara siira ophe'I anyue'Vabrii sii'A ty'Et shenkasii'Eara..." He began, the ancient language rolling off his tongue in sync with what River was whispering in the video.

 

Freya didn't understand at least half the words. She was quiet until he was finished, looking at him with wide eyes, "What does that mean?"

 

"It's a bit complicated, but it means... well it's about love and how it makes you feel inside and about your lover. How every little thing your partner does is like magic."

 

"Oh..." She nodded.

 

The video ended. "There's another poem by the same person. Mummy would tell you and Amelia when you were still in her belly. It was about the relationship between parents and children and it was so filled with love."

 

"Can you teach it to me one day?" She asked, hugging his waist again.

 

"Yes," He nodded returning the hug. "Now Freya, I do also want to talk about your feelings toward your little brother."

 

Her expression hardened, "Why?"

 

"I think we... should strike some sort of balance. You don't like him," He said, though he didn't believe it. "But I think you'd rather sit with Mummy than hide away here. The thing is, Arthur, Amelia, and I also want to sit with Mummy."

 

"He already got to sit with Mummy." Freya frowned.

 

"And so did you, but that doesn't mean you're done, now does it?" He replied calmly.

 

"No, but he got more time than me!"

 

"So did I, but you're not saying I should go sit with her." He sighed. "Look, I know this is very hard for you, but you don't have pass the blame. Sometimes these things just happen for causes no one can control."

 

"But it is his fault! If he wasn't born then she wouldn't be gone."

 

"If he wasn't born and Mummy was still here, you'd still be very much wanting a little brother." He pointed out.

 

"I only want a little brother if he's not a killer ." She snapped, crossing her arms.

 

"This would have happened with any baby Mummy might have had. Brother or Sister. Arthur or Terra. This still would have happened." He tried to explain.

 

"Then Mummy shouldn't have had another baby." She frowned.

 

"You asked her to." He whispered. "You and Amelia had asked for a very long time. She wanted to make you happy."

 

"But I told her that I didn't want a little brother if it was going to make her sick or get the bad sleep." She whispered, eyes filling with tears. She felt like this was her fault now.

 

"She didn't know right away what would happen." He soothed. "By the time she realized, she didn't want to give him up."

 

"She should have. He's not worth it." She sniffled.

 

"Mummy would think he is." He murmured, hoping River's opinion might mean something to her. "And Mummy thought you'd love getting to be a big sister."

 

"I told her I didn't want a brother or sister if she was going to get the bad sleep!" Freya curled into herself again.

 

He rubbed her back. "Lovie, she couldn't give up Arthur. And she wanted you to love him like she did. I know you blame him and maybe you can't be a big sister to him right now, but I really hope you come around soon."

 

"I don't like him. I just want him to go away." She began to cry again.

 

"I think you'd be sad if that happened, too." He murmured.

 

"No, I wouldn't." She shook her head, "I don't like him!"

 

"Do we call people names when we don't like them?"

 

"No." She frowned.

 

He nodded. "That's right. He's only a few hours old, Freya. I know you don't like him, but you have been being mean..."

 

"No I haven't!" She began crying harder, sniffling and sobbing.

 

He ran his hand over her curls in a soothing motion. "It's alright to admit your faults. Nobody is going to think you're any less strong than you are."

 

"I'm not being mean." She sobbed.

 

"Would you call Amelia mean if she called you stupid and said she didn't want to be your sister?"

 

Freya just continued to cry, not responding, though she knew he was right. He hoped he was starting to get through to her, holding her close and rocking again.

 

She sobbed heavily for another fifteen minutes, keeping her arms wrapped around herself. He attempted to whisper comforts to her, letting her know that she was still very loved and cared for. "I want my Mummy." She cried.

 

"I'm so sorry, my love. Mummy's gone." Her sobbing continued, only growing louder. "I'm here, Freya. I'm here." He tried to assure, imagining that she felt quite alone.

 

She didn't calm down for quite a long time, her heart hurting with how much she missed River.

 

By that time, Vastra and Amelia had come in. Arthur had been left with Jack in the other room. Freya was still sniffling, curled up in her own tiny ball. Amelia still glared at her sister, but had her attention drawn to the television. "Why's that here?"

 

"B-B-Because I w-was w-watching something." Freya sniffled.

 

"What were you watching?" She insisted.

 

Freya shook her head, not wanting to share with her sister. She wanted to keep the videos of River a secret, feeling like they were just for her.

 

"It's my and Mummy's third wedding." The Doctor said, not mentioning the other video for now, allowing Freya to still have it be personal.

 

"Can I see it?" Amelia asked, looking hopefully at the screen.

 

"Rewind it and then press play." He nodded.

 

Vastra helped her work the VCR, then sat beside the Doctor and Freya. Freya didn't like her sister getting to see the video at all, but watched attentively as it started to play again.

 

River and the Doctor appeared back on the screen, running through the wedding again. Amelia sat on the floor, staring an almost shock. Her mum was there laughing, standing, breathing. She could hardly remember the last time River looked that lively. Freya started sucking on her thumb, curled up against the Doctor's chest. She could have stayed there all day watching the video.

 

The Doctor told Amelia the same thing he told his other daughter when she asked about what River was whispering.

 

"Are there more?" Amelia whispered once the video had ended. He nodded slowly. "Can we watch them?" She asked.

 

He pointed to where Freya had left the other tape. "You' have to rewind that one, too."

 

"No!" Freya cried, jumping up and taking the tape.

 

"Hey!" Amelia lunged to get it back. "No fair, I wanna see it!"

 

"No! It's just for me!" She held it close to her chest.

 

"Freya, she's allowed to see it, too. It was for both of you." The Doctor said sternly.

 

"B-But it's for me! Mummy was talking to me!" She started to cry again, squeezing the tape.

 

"That's because we didn't know there were two of you yet." He explained gently.

 

"So it's mine! It's just mine!" She sobbed, the video had felt so special and personal, she didn't want to share it.

 

"Amelia, maybe you can see it later..." He suggested. Freya needed an anchor like that video that could just belong to her for now.

 

"But I want to watch another video." Amelia pouted.

 

"I know, and you will, but could you wait until your sister feels ready to share with you?" He asked. She sighed and nodded. "Thank you, lovie." He offered a weak but appreciative smile.

 

Freya had started to calm down now that she knew the video would remain hers.

 

The Doctor sighed heavily, mentally exhausted. He half expected River to just walk into the room and suggest a game to the girls. Instead he got Jack entering with a fussing Arthur.

 

"I think he needs a diaper change." Jack muttered, holding the fussy baby out for the Doctor.

 

"Right." He stood and took his son. "I'll take care of that." Freya glared at the baby as he was passed from Jack to the Doctor. The Doctor tried not to notice. "I'll... uh, be right back." He said, deciding it best to change him in the other room.

 

Amelia came running to the Doctor a few minutes later, holding another tape. "Daddy, look!"  Her name was writing on it in River's handwriting.  

 

He looked up from wrapping Arthur in River's blanket. "What's that, lovie?"

 

"It's another video! For me!"

 

He scooped Arthur into one of his arms, holding out his other hand. "Let me see."

 

She handed it to him, "Be careful with it, it's mine."

 

He nodded his understanding. "...Are you sure it's not labeled for your grandmum?"

 

Her face fell, "Oh.... I don't know."

 

"Have you watched it yet?" He pondered. She shook her head. "Tell you what, let's take a peek and see, yeah?" He suggested.

 

She nodded, though her hopes had been a bit squished  He lead her back into the other room. "Do you want to put it in the telly?" She nodded. He handed the tape back to her.

 

She carefully put the tape into the VCR and pressed play.

 

There was static for a very long moment, before River appeared on the screen. She was alone in Amy and Rory's bedroom, looking very sad, though trying her best not to be so tearful on screen.

 

The Doctor instantly recognized that this was only a week or two after Manhattan. Amelia stared at the screen, her eyes wide and watery, willing with all she had that the video was meant for her.

 

"I was going to start off with something sappy, maybe something to tell you how much I miss you," River started. "But I can't get out of my head the promise I made you: that we'd name our daughters after each other." She wiped at her eye with the heel of her hand. "I almost want this to be for her so I can tell her about her namesake, but I can't make this for someone who doesn't exist and probably never will."

 

Amelia's eyes welled up with tears and she began to sob when she realized the video wasn't for her. The Doctor wrapped her up in as best a hug he could while still holding Arthur.

 

"The thing is, I've not thought too much about having kids until you were gone. I've always just... dismissed the thought, and I don't know what it is now that's making me feel more... maternal." She lied, pausing again to sniff. "I need to go away for a bit, just to get back to my old self. I just can't do that if I'm still clinging to you. It's not a goodbye, I just needed somewhere to put this that wasn't my diary."

 

The Doctor started to realize exactly when this was, exactly what had happened that he had been oblivious to at the time.

 

Amelia's wails grew louder, all she wanted was a video of her own. Her body shook with sobs against the Doctor.

 

"It's just been really hard this past week with-" The video was cut off as the Doctor pressed pause. He felt it was making his daughter too distressed.

 

"It's all right love. Sh, sh, it's alright."

 

"W-w-why isn't th-there one for m-me?!" She sobbed.

 

"I don't know." He stroked her hair. "But that doesn't mean she didn't love with all that she could love you with."

 

She didn't calm down, "B-but Freya got a v-video and my b-baby brother g-g-got a b-blanket, but she d-didn't give m-me anything."

 

"Technically the video was meant for both of you..." He muttered. "How about we find something she'd want you to have, hmm?" She didn't really answer him, crying too hard to respond.

 

He sighed and rocked her, resuming the video. It was mostly for his own curiosity: he'd never seen it before and River had only mentioned a few times, never really talking about the miscarriage he knew was recent for her in the video.

 

Amelia's wails grew louder when she heard the video turn back on. Vastra crept over, gently taking Amelia from the Doctor, shooting him a look. "Doctor," Vastra murmured, her tone a bit sharp, "Perhaps we should wait until she calms down."

 

He reached to pause it again, deciding he could watch it later in private."Um, right." He nodded quickly, hitting the eject button. "Sorry, I... sorry."

 

"Come now, Amelia. Let's lie down for a bit." Vastra murmured.

 

"I don't wanna! I want Mummy!" She squirmed.

 

"Shhh, shhh, no. We're going to take a rest for a few minutes and then you can see her."

 

"I want to see her now." She bawled.

 

"I know you do." Vastra murmured, rubbing her back, "But I think you should lay down for a minute to catch your breath. Once you've had a minute to take a break, we'll go see her."

 

It look a moment, but she eventually nodded, rather spent from her fit. Vastra gently put her down on one of the beds, "I'll be right back, let me get you a blanket."


The girl nodded silently. Had she let her father continue the tape, she would’ve seen that River had taped over the end and added a piece for her. For now, no one knew.

Chapter Text

Ch 4

 

Freya moved to crawl up on the bed, occupying the opposite end that her sister was at.

 

"Amelia...." River's voice floated through the room, though Freya didn't seem to hear, "Amelia."

 

Amelia's head shot up, fresh tears springing to her eyes. "Mummy?"

 

River's form sat on the edge of the bed, shimmering and pixilated, "It's alright, my sweet."

 

She reached out for River though her hand went right through her. "Come back! Why can't I touch you?"

 

River put her hand so it would have been touching Amelia's head if she were more than just a projection, "Because I'm not really here. Only my mind is here."

 

"Then go back to your body." She insisted, sitting up. "Then everything will be okay."

 

"I wish I could, my love, but I can't. It's not that simple." She looked at Amelia, then Freya, then the Doctor across the room.

 

"I don't understand. Just come back. Please come back." Amelia whimpered. No one else seemed to see River. "Why didn't you leave me a video?"

 

River shook her head, eyes sparkling with tears, "I did, I did leave you a video. And there are other things for you and Freya and Arthur and Daddy back in my room. I promise, I didn't forget to leave you things, my darling. I love you so, so much. And I'm so very sorry."

 

"Don't leave us! Don't leave me! You hafta come back and make things better! Please, Mummy, stay! Come back!" She was sobbing all over again.

 

"Doctor!" Vastra called, running to Amelia, alarmed that she appeared to be yelling at nothing.

 

River did what resembled a hug, "I wish I could Amelia, I wish I could, but I can't. I'm so sorry. Oh, Amelia, I'm so sorry."

 

Amelia tried to hug back, grasping at the air in vain. "Mu-mummy!" She wailed. "Don't go! D-don't go!"

 

River moved off the bed standing a few steps back as Vastra ran to Amelia, holding her tightly, "Doctor! Come here, quickly!"

 

"No! Go away!" She struggled against Vastra. "You're not Mummy!"

 

The Doctor rushed over. "What's going on?"

 

"I don't know! She's screaming as if River's here, I don't know what's wrong." Vastra moved away.  

 

River's eyes softened as the Doctor came over, reaching out to touch him. He passed through her hand, nothing about him showing that he noticed her ghost. He took Vastra's place beside his daughter. "Amelia, lovie. Talk to us, what's wrong?"

 

River's face fell and she took another step forward towards to Doctor, wishing he could see her.

 

"Mummy!" Amelia sobbed, pointing towards River, "Mummy come here!"

 

"There's nothing there." He whispered, feeling her forehead.

 

"No! Just look! She's there! She's there!" Amelia wailed, reaching for River.

 

Vastra went to the spot she was pointing at, standing half in River's ghost. "I'll get some fluids for her."

 

"Daddy, please! Look!" Amelia sobbed, "Please, but her back in her body. Put her head back in her body and it will be all better."

 

"I can't, sweetheart. Even if she were there, I can't put a ghost back. Her body is too broken." He told her, trying to keep his voice soothing. He looked toward the spot, right at River's eyes in fact, but no recognition flashed. He only saw empty air.

 

"Then fix her body and then put her back." Amelia whimpered.

 

River walked right up to the Doctor so she was nose to nose with him, "You never could see what was staring you right in the face..." She muttered.

 

"I'm afraid it doesn't work like that." He sighed.

 

"Mummy, why can't he see you? You're right there."

 

"I don't know, sweetie." She whispered, "Maybe he just doesn't want to. You can see me because you have a mental link with the TARDIS and you're open to the idea that I could still be here. That's allowed you to see me. Daddy has a mental link with the TARDIS to, but… I suppose he's already closed his mind to my thoughts."

 

"But that's not fair!"

 

"What's not fair?" The Doctor urged.

 

"Mummy said you can't see her because you're not thinking about her anymore." Amelia looked at him. She hadn't exactly understood what River was saying, so her explanation was a bit off.

 

"That's not true. Of course I'm still thinking about her." River hadn't left his mind for weeks in fact.

 

"You have to let her mind into yours." She whispered.

 

"Like a psychic link? I can't link with her if she'd dead." He said, sadness building when he realized he'd never have the chance to again.

 

"Yes you can! The TARDIS will help you! The TARDIS will make your head and Mummy's head come together and then you can see her!'

 

"Her mind has gone. She's wherever people go after they die." He rubbed her arm, turning to Vastra. "I don't think it's hallucinations... Impressions of Timelords can be held in other Timelord minds for a while after death."

 

"Why won't you just try?" Amelia whimpered, "Please."  

 

He sighed but nodded, thinking it would make her feel better. River stood in front of him, eyes fixated on his, willing him to see her. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the TARDIS, assuming the old girl would lead him to where he needed.

 

"Please...please... " River breathed, taking a step towards him.

 

He linked quickly with the TARDIS, able to search in rooms, not for life, but for it's essence in consciousness. His eyes shot open, but not because he’d found River, but because he found someone else. He stared frighteningly at the wall. "She's here."

 

"No, I'm here..." River whispered, reaching out for his cheek a tear trailing down her own.

 

He stood. "Vastra, take the girls to the other room." He handed Arthur to Jack. "It's Missy."

 

Vastra swept the girls up and ran to the other room with Jack.

 

River stayed beside him as the wall began to get pounded in. The door to where the girls now were disappeared and he pulled out his sonic, holding it at the ready.

 

The next blow made a hole big enough for Missy to step through, looking annoyed, "No more hiding, Doctor. I'm finished with hide and go seek."

 

"You're just mad because I won." He spat back.

 

She cracked a smile, "Won? Oh, hardly, Doctor."

 

"I've had you searching for nearly two days. That's got to count for something." He gripped the sonic tighter.

 

River touched the Doctor's arm gently, standing in front of him as if she could protect him in some way.

 

"If you think I was searching all that time, you're mistaken. You should see the state the swimming pool's in. Oh, and the library. Fire is just so much fun." She mused. "Though I did some mucking about and I did find this peculiar thing." She held up River's diary.

 

"No!" River's eyes widened and she ran to snatch the book out of Missy's hand. The book didn't move as River couldn't truly touch it.

 

"How the hell did you get that." He demanded.

 

"Oh, it was just laying around, out in the open where anyone could get to it. It's quite interesting actually, shall I read a bit to you?" She opened the book, flipping through the pages dramatically, "Oh, here's a good one! Dear Diary, I lost the baby." Missy's face contorted into mock pity, "Oh, how sad."

 

"Stop it. Just stop it! You have no right." He moved forwards to snatch the book back.

 

She hopped back, grinning madly as she flicked through the pages again, ignoring him, "Ah, this one's good too. 'Dear Diary, The Doctor says I'm dying'...oh quite interesting indeed."

 

"River's personal feelings are not your toys. Give it back, now!" He growled.

 

Missy stared at him for a moment before ripping several pages out of River's Diary and throwing them on the floor. She then tore the rest of the book in half and threw it at his feet, "Fine, take it. I was bored with it anyway."

 

He got to his knees, collecting the diary up with the greatest care he could manage and placed the pages back in order. "You're bloody heartless."

 

Missy shrugged, "She can always write a new one."

 

"She can't." His voice broke, holding the battered and broken book to his chest.

 

"What do you mean she can't? Has she suddenly forgotten how to write?" Missy sneered.

 

"Something like that." He swallowed.

 

"Oh, Doctor..." River whispered, going to stand between him and Missy, touching his cheek, "If only you would open your eyes."

 

"It this a guessing game now?" Missy put her hands on her hips. "The children bit her hands off, now that's a clever one." At the Doctor's silence, Missy stomped her foot for attention. "Oi, talk with me will you? I'm bored. You can only stick grenades into so many places before it gets old. Go on, crack a smile. Give me a riddle. Tell me a story where everyone dies in the worst way possible."

 

He wasn't listening to her. He was searching again. River moved so she was standing beside him, reaching to hold his hand. He looked up, eyes clearly somewhere else. "Once upon a time the was a young boy from Gallifrey. He had a best friend, but one day they grew up and parted ways and didn't see each other for centuries at a time. They had encounters, not always on the best of terms, but one encounter left the boy dying in his best friend's arms. So the friend mourned then moved on. When the boy found a way to live and found his friend again, he was infuriated that the friend had moved on and tried to destroy his life, somehow not understanding that it only created a chasm between the two." It didn't take a genius to understand the story was about him and Missy.  

 

Missy rolled her eyes, "I'm not trying to destroy your life. I'm trying to improve it."

 

"Perspective, Missy. From the moment you came back, you've caused me misery. Hell, I might have been happy to see you, army of Cybermen or not, but then you went and harmed the woman I hold most important in the universe and haven't stopped. So, no. You are not improving it." He ground out.

 

"You're throwing your life away for a mutant!" She hissed.

 

"Well that's my choice, isn't it?" He crossed his arms, stare piercing.

 

"I'm trying to help you see how bad your choices are! Procreating with that thing is an disgrace to the Timelords! You can rise to so much greatness and you don't have to tend to her simpering needs. You'll regret the choices you made, Doctor." She sneered.

 

"The Timelords are dead! They're nothing but a title, one that I betrayed when I decided to play god." He could feel a fresh lump in his throat, but fought against it. "I stole a box and ran because I didn't want to be like they were. I don't want greatness- I'd take your army if I did. I just don't want to be alone, and with you I feel worse than a stranger! You can't give me your power; you can't give me admiration when you don't even understand the compassion and love that I've taken so long to find! For someone up on such a high horse, you really know nothing about people."

 

Missy shook her head, fuming, "You'll regret the choices you've made Doctor! Just wait!" She flipped the vortex manipulator on her wrist and slammed on the button.

 

He cursed. "Full ship scan: life forms!" A screen appeared on the wall, showing the life forms of Freya, Amelia, Vastra, Jack and Arthur in the other room. It also showed the Doctor, and another life form beside him.

 

He looked to his sides, though frowned when he didn't see any of the cats or Toby. "Narrow search: this room. List species."

 

One Time Lord, One Human plus Time Lord


His hearts tightened. "There must be some mistake..."

Chapter Text

Ch 5

 

"Doctor..." River whispered, putting her hand on his shoulder.

 

His head turned a little, indicating he'd heard the sound. Her breath caught, her words stuck in her throat. He turned, reaching out to the space in front of him, which was still just air to him.

 

She closed her eyes as his hand passed through her cheek, silent tears rolling down her them. "You still can't see me, can you..." She whispered.

 

He shook his head, at a loss for words. She broke down into silent cries, turning her back to him. "How are you here?" He whispered.

 

"It's the TARDIS..." She whispered back.

 

"You're... saved?" He clarified, mind travelling back to Darillium and the Library.

 

"Yes, I- I think so."

 

He almost smiled. "Please tell me I'm not dreaming."

 

"I don't think you're dreaming, my love." She whispered.

 

"Amelia could see you. She could talk to you." He said, urging her to explain what the girl couldn't.

 

She shook her head, "That's because Amelia's mind was open to seeing me."

 

He wasn't sure how to respond to that. Did she think he didn't want her back? "It's harder for them to understand your death when they've only just found out... I've known for a while and you died in my arms."

 

"But you still can't see me. I'm talking to you now and your mind is still closed to the thought of me." She breathed.

 

He could hear the hurt in her voice. "It's hard to remake the connection when our mental link was broken the way it was. I don't even know where you are, where to focus on."

 

"Right..." Her voice was thick, and she began to move away from him.

 

"River, tell me where to focus." He pleaded softly.

 

"No, Doctor...I can't."

 

"W-why?" He begged.

 

"Because you not being able to see me means you've already started moving on and I don't want to hold you back from that." She breathed.

 

"It’s been hardly a day . I want you back as much as the girls do." He insisted, voice breaking. "I don't want to move on." He'd been pushed to for months, though. River had been telling him to move on for so long, that it was all he could do keep it together for the girls.  

 

"If that's really true, then you would be able to see me." She sniffed a bit.

 

"I'm trying. I'm really trying." He closed his eyes, focusing again. "But there's blockage." It didn't seem to be caused by their of them, probably MIssy.

 

"Then that's something you need to figure out." She whispered, not realizing that it wasn't from him.

 

"I don't know how." He choked. "Please, I need you."

 

"No, you need to do this yourself. It's something I can't help you with."

 

He swallowed. "Will you stay with me, then?”

 

"If you want." She breathed, her voice trembling slightly.

 

"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't." She was no longer looking at him. "...Unless you want to stay with the girls." He added quietly.

 

"I can stay with you for a bit." She whispered.

 

This time he did smile, though weak as it was. He moved to sit on the cot. "I don't know how to convince Freya to like Arthur."

 

"You just have to give her time." She murmured, "She needs to adapt to the change."

 

He nodded, imagining and hoping that she was there sitting next to him.  River was on the other side of the room, sitting on the floor, not looking at him. She didn't say anything for a bit, sitting in silence.

 

"Are you still there?" He asked after a while.

 

"Yes, I'm still here." She murmured.

 

He let out a breath of relief. By this point, he'd added up that she thought he'd moved on already. The truth was far from it, but he didn't have much of a way to convince her otherwise that something (besides death) was blocking their connection. "You're connected to the TARDIS right now... can you see if Missy is still on board?" He didn't want to find her with the girls or messing with the wires. He wanted her gone.

 

"Yeah, sure..." She sighed, falling silent to run through the TARDIS before coming back to him, "I think she's gone. I can't see her."  

 

"Good, thank you. I just... have a feeling that she's going to pop up when my guard is down." He explained.

 

"I understand." She nodded, though he couldn't see her, "I'll warn you if she comes back on the ship." Her voice sounded deflated and she was starting to feel like she was just his computer system.

 

"Thank you." He looked at the space next to him as if she was there. "...I love you."

 

"Doctor..." She sighed.

 

"...Yes?" He frowned slightly.

 

"Please, don't..." She shook her head.

 

"Don't... love you?" He asked, confused.

 

"Don't say it! Please! You need to keep moving on, and my being here isn't helping." Her voice shook, "I should go..."

 

"No, please don't go." He begged.

 

She didn't really have anywhere to go, the TARDIS wouldn't let her fade, but she could leave him. "I have to. I can't hold you all back like this."

 

"It's hardly been a day. Any sort of 'progress' you think we've made is going to be minuscule." He stood, eyes alert and panic filled. She didn't answer him, crying quietly into her hands. "Are you still there? River?" He stepped to the side, then forwards, not exactly sure where to be looking.

 

She didn't answer him, knowing that since he couldn't see her, he would think she'd have left.

 

"Please, no. Not again. Don't leave me again." He spent a good few minutes pacing around, scanning every nanometer of the room as if it might show her form, all the while muttering about needing her back. When his search produced no evidence of her, he plopped back onto the cot in defeat, not bothering to fight against the tears anymore.

 

River stayed in the corner of the room, sobbing silently.

 

The door reopened and Vastra came in, checking wearily if the coast was clear. The Doctor could hardly see his friend through his blurred and watered down vision.

 

"What happened?" Vastra asked softly, kneeling down next to him.

 

"Ah-Amelia was right." He managed.  

 

She frowned, "What? What are you talking about?"

 

"River's co-consciousness." He breathed shakily. "Save to the-the TARDIS. My wife, my wife..."

 

Vastra's eyes grew wide, "Are you sure?"

 

He nodded. "Sh-she's on the scan."

 

"Does this mean we can bring her back?" She asked, looking up at the monitors.

 

"I don't know if the TARDIS can make a viable body." He had managed to steady his words, though his breathing was still pieced together. "She wants us to move on."

 

"Are you going to at least try to bring her back?" Vastra pressed.

 

"Of course I am." He replied quietly, tears flowing silently now.

 

"How do we do it then?" She was eager to try and help her friends, hating to see them suffering so much.

 

"Uh," He scrubbed his hand over his face, trying to wipe his eyes. "A genetic sample to start. The old girl can build an organic body from that exactly like her old one."

 

"And what do we do with her old one?" She asked.

 

"It still needs to be burned." He whispered hoarsely. "We can't mend it or revive it."

 

"So then we'll do just that." She touched his arm, "Everything is going to be okay."

 

"But it's not." He wavered. "I have no idea how long it will take to generate a body for her, let alone it if will work and even then I have no idea how to put her consciousness back." He put his hands over his face. "She thinks I don't love her anymore because I can't see her but I'm trying as hard as I can. I think Missy's screwed with the TARDIS."

 

"Then why don't we go look and see what she did?"

 

He sniffed. "What about the girls?"

 

"Jack is with them. They're alright." Vastra encouraged. He nodded, rubbing his eyes again. "Doctor, this is a chance to get her back. Are you not happy?" She asked, confused as to why he wasn't more excited.

 

"It's the best news I've had in days." He tried to smile. "I'm just... she thinks I don't love her." He repeated.

 

Vastra thought for a minute, "Doctor, I'm sure she's hurting just as much as you right now. She's stuck in a world that's neither here nor there. She wants you to be happy, but she doesn't want to be left behind either."

 

"I don't want to leave her behind. I want her back." He looked up, eyes red but sincere.

 

"Then tell her that. Tell her exactly how you feel."

 

"I can't. She's gone somewhere. I tried to tell her I loved her, and she left somewhere." He looked at the floor.

 

"Have you tried to locate her on the monitor?"

 

He shook his head, suddenly feeling like an idiot. He'd been so distraught that he hadn't even thought to check. That and he was giving River her privacy. "Will you check for me?" He hadn't yet the energy to move.

 

Vastra nodded, going over to the monitor and refreshing locater, "She's in the hall, right outside this room."

 

He brightened, just a bit that she hadn't gone far. He stood, and went to the hall through the door that had reappeared. "River?"

 

River looked up, but didn't answer, though soft sniffs could be heard coming from where she was sitting. He sat next to the sound, putting his hand down in hopes it was near hers. "I'm sorry about before."

 

She looked down at his hand, placing her hands on his, though it passed right through, "Why are you apologizing?"

 

"Because I don't think I said the right thing." He murmured. She fell silent again. "Well actually, it's more of what I didn't say." He corrected. "I've been so... well I haven't been myself lately." There was no need for explanation behind that. "And I think it got in the way and clouded how I... reacted."  

 

"You don't have to do this." She whispered.

 

"I don't. But I want to." He looked in her direction, features soft. "I want you to understand that knowing you're still here is the best news I've had in a long time. I want you to know that I'm going to do absolutely everything I can to build you a body and get you back. I want you to know that I know how hard and scary it must be being stuck the way you are."

 

"But I don't want to hold you back from living your life."

 

"River, you are what gives me life. Having you gone has felt like, like drowning on dry land. You're not holding me back, you're pulling me forwards."

 

"I'm sorry." She wrapped her arms around herself.

 

"Don't be." He encouraged. "Because I'm going to bring you back. I know that I can now, though it will be hard."

 

"And what if it doesn't work?"

 

"I'm not sure." He shrugged. "The TARDIS will probably let you go, then."

 

"Let me go? What do you mean let me go?" She sounded alarmed.

 

"She's storing your consciousness, but she's also keeping it well and actualizing it so we can speak." He explained. "It's like you're caught in her safety net, and she has the power to release you. But she won't unless everything we try to bring you back fails."

 

"So if you can't bring me back, then I won't be worth keeping around?! She'll just dump me like I'm nothing?" She stood, backing away from him.

 

"No, no! That's not at all what I meant!" He tried to amend quickly. "Would it not be cruel to keep you in limbo? I want you to stay as much as you want to be back, but the TARDIS doesn't necessarily have the ability to keep you for years on end."

 

She shook her head, crying quietly. She had thought that even though she wasn't truly alive anymore, she would at least get to see her children grow up, but it appeared that that would no longer be true.

 

"River... there's still hope..." He murmured, trying to sound assuring. "There's still options."

 

"I'm dead! There are no other options!"

 

"You're still here, so there are." He kept his tone grounded.

 

"Please stop." River was shaking now.

 

"...Why?" She didn't answer, willing the TARDIS to let her disappear. "River?" He asked again, praying she hadn't disappeared again. "River, please, are you there? I need you to know I could be able to bring you back and I'm going to hang on to that until you're in my arms with beating hearts."

 

She was sobbing silently, begging the TARDIS to let her go. The TARDIS didn't oblige, but she moved her to the room the girls were in. This only made her more upset. She didn't want the girls to see her now, not like this.

 

Freya and Amelia were asleep, Jack watching them like a guard dog. River relaxed a bit when she saw the girls were asleep. Jack couldn’t see her as he wasn't connected with the TARDIS, but sensed some sort of presence and straightened his back, quite alert.

 

River was staring at the baby in his arms, circling around the room so she could stand in front of him. Arthur, who unlike his sisters, was awake, and immediately saw River when she came into few. He made a small, excited noise.

 

"Hello, my darling baby." River smiled, tracing a finger along his cheek. He made a high pitched, delighted sound, turning his head to her like he could feel her finger. She smiled, leaning in to kiss his forehead.

 

Jack stared down at Arthur, confused as to what was making the boy so happy.

 

"I love you, Arthur." River whispered, nuzzling his cheek.

 

"Muh! Uu-ooh." He babbled back, earning a raised eyebrow from Jack.

 

"Mmm, yes." River laughed, completely ignoring Jack, "I wish I could hold you, my sweet."

 

He pouted when she said that, wanting her contact. "Uh!" His sound was more upset.

 

"It's alright, my sweet. You can pretend to hold my finger if you'd like." She whispered, holding her pointer finger out to him.

 

He grabbed at the holographic digit, attempting to pull it to his face. Her finger followed his motion, her eyes sparkling. He nuzzled close to her hand, almost able to feel her warmth.River leaned close to give him another kiss on the cheek.

 

"At least you're not crying anymore." Jack muttered.

 

"I love you so, so much." She murmured to Arthur.

 

"Nnn!" He gurgled, trying his mental connection to her. River couldn't understand what he was saying, as her connection no longer worked in the way that it used to. He started to whimper. "Nuh, nnh!"

 

"Oh, now you're upset?" Jack started to rock him.

 

"I'm sorry, my darling." River whispered, stroking his head. He squirmed and wiggled his whole arm free, reaching for her.

 

His sudden movement startled her, as it appeared he was falling, and she instinctively jumped to catch him. While her hands went right through him, Jack quickly repositioned Arthur to a more sturdy position. "Hey, no falling alright? Your mother would have my head. Twice."

 

Tears stung in River's eyes as she remembered that she would never get to hold her children again. The boy started crying, though it was most quiet that normal. "I'm sorry." River whispered. "I'm so, so sorry."

 

Amelia started to stir at her brother's crying. River was about to say something to comfort Arthur, when she felt her body tingling. Amelia sat right up, looking at River. "Mummy?"


River couldn't answer, her mind drawing blank as the tingling feeling grew more into a burning sensation. The room disappeared around her, though it wasn't the TARDIS or even the Doctor pulling her away. She tried to concentrate, trying to figure out what was going on. The burning became more intense until it felt like being ripped apart. Everything around her was suddenly blindingly bright, and then she was gone.

Chapter Text

Ch 6

 

River watched in fear as the room around her seemingly transformed into a white one with nothing but walls, one of which had a screen on it. She was starting to panic, spinning around and trying to find a way out.

 

"Now, dear. That's not going to work. I'm very good at what I do, so your actions are useless," came a woman's voice.  

 

River spun around, looking at the screen.

 

It had been switched on, Missy's face displayed with a triumphant look. "I'll give you a hint. You're not in the TARDIS."

 

"How did you do that? How did you even know how to get to me?" She glared at her.

 

Missy explained to her like it was a drag. "Oh please keep up, I've been stalking around your pathetic blue box for days. You think I didn't know what you were all up to every second? I'm a Timelady, a real one. I'm more brilliant than you ten times over."

 

"What do you want with me? I'm dead. I'm useless to you." River growled, crossing her arms.

 

"The Doctor seems to think you're the bee's knees." She sighed, obviously in disagreement. "But since you are technically dead, it's my turn to keep you as a pet and his turn to suck it up and get his thumb out of his mouth. I've been doing some poking around your past to see what the fuss is about. That blue book of yours was dreadfully sentimental and not nearly as exciting as I'd hoped."

 

River rolled her eyes, turning her back to the screen.

 

"Don't pout, it's disgusting to look at." Missy made a face to match. "Have you figured out where you are yet or do I have to spell it out for your minuscule brain."

 

"Just tell me." She growled.

 

"Ugh, you really live up to the title ‘halfbreed’." She inspected her nails. "Did your hubby tell you about his birthday present? You're in a nether cube."

 

"Do you not understand that there is nothing you can do to me now? I'm dead. Keeping me from my family won't do anything."

 

"Yes and no." She replied, resting her head on her fingers. “Yes, you’re dead, no: there are plenty of things I can still do to you.”

 

River rolled her eyes again, sitting on the floor with her back to Missy, not wanting to deal with her.

 

"You're no fun." She pouted. "I'm not trying to get at you, nimwit. I'm trying to get at him. He's probably running around his TARDIS trying to figure where the hell you went if he can get past the block I put in."

 

"I wouldn't be so sure of that." River muttered.

 

"Oh?" Missy raised a penciled eyebrow.

 

"Are you going to do anything to my children?" She asked, changing the subject.

 

"If I was, I wouldn't tell you." She mused. "At least not yet anyways."

 

"Don't hurt them." She warned, "Hurting them will not help your situation with the Doctor, it'll only make it much, much worse."

 

Missy shrugged. "No, but it will rid the universe of the abominations. I quite like that plan actually, thanks for the tip." River shook her head falling silent again. "Well, while you mope about in a box in my pocket, I've got some mischief to make." The screen powered off.

 

As soon as it did, River buried her face in her hands and cried. She refused to give Missy the satisfaction of seeing her so upset, she had held it in until now. Just when she had thought she was going to be able to stay with her family, they were taken from her again. She wanted to badly to just disappear and die completely. She didn't want to be stuck in a half-world where she could be toyed with but couldn't protect or see her family. She really was destined for hell.

 


 

Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Vastra had been working beneath the console for at least and hour. He was getting frustrated, only just managing to undo the block Missy had placed, but now he was having even more trouble locating his wife. "I don't understand his." He voiced to his friend.

 

Vastra shook her head, "I don't know, I don't understand it either."

 

"I should at least be able to locate her." He muttered. "It's not like she'd be able to leave."

 

"Perhaps she was never here in the first place." Vastra mumbled.

 

"She was." He insisted. "She was on the scan. I talked to her. Amelia talked to her. Arthur could see her, too." He added, realizing that had been the case.

 

Vastra sighed, "You should spend some time with your children and take a break from this."

 

He sighed in frustration, pulling at one of the wires. The TARDIS made an angry noise and he muttered a sloppy apology. "Alright." He scrubbed his hands over his face and pocketed his screwdriver. "You're right. I need a break."

 

"You should take them to your flat, I think they need to get away from the TARDIS for a little bit." She suggested.

 

"Do you think that's the best idea with Missy still around?" He peered up at her.

 

She sighed, "Perhaps not."

 

"I just need them safe and happy. And right now I can only partially assure one of those things." He looked at the floor before turning to go to his kids. "Thanks for helping me try to find River."

 

"Of course, if you think of anything else, let me know." She nodded, "I need to retrieve some things from your bedroom, if you don't mind. River... requested that I do this for her if she..." She trailed off.

 

He nodded. "I understand. I'll be with the girls."

 

Freya was still fast asleep, while Amelia was huddled under a blanket with the picture of River, crying. The Doctor moved to sit next to her, glancing at Jack. "Amelia, sweetheart?"

 

"What?" She whimpered, not moving from beneath the blanket.

 

"Has something happened?" He asked, wondering if there was a new reason for her crying.

 

"Mummy left." She started sobbing again, "She disappeared. I saw her and then she disappeared."

 

"Her data ghost?" He frowned. She nodded, clinging tightly to the picture in her arms. "...How exactly did she disappear? Did she just fade or... some other way?" Something didn't add up.

 

Amelia was too distraught to answer now, wailing into the blanket. He gathered her up into his arms, holding her as comfortingly as he could. "Hush now, lovie. It'll be alright, she'll come back."

 

"I want her to come back all the way. I don't want just her head to come back, I want her whole body to come back." She sobbed.

 

"I'm working on that." He murmured, rocking. The TARDIS by now had probably started to generate a body.

 

Arthur was starting to stir in Jack's arms, gurgling and drawing Amelia's attention. "How's he been?" The Doctor asked. The question was directed to both his daughter and Jack.

 

Jack shrugged, "Fine. A bit fussy, but all babies are like that I guess."

 

"Let me hold him." He said, quite glad at the moment that he spoke baby.

 

Jack gently placed the baby in his arms. Arthur stared up at his father with his big round eyes. "What happened to Mummy?" He questioned Arthur.

 

Arthur whined, saying that she had disappeared.

 

"I know, lovie, but how? In what way?"

 

He gurgled about there being lots of light, and then Mummy had gone. The Doctor frowned, the comment just about confirming his suspicions. "That's not how it should work."

 

Arthur began to cry, wanting River back.

 

"Sh, sh... It's okay." He held his son to his shoulder. "We'll get her back I promise you, we will." He reached over and got a bottle for him. "Jack I need your help with something..."

 

"What do you need?" He asked, sitting up.

 

"I think Missy took River." He murmured, not wanting Amelia to hear.

 

Jack frowned, "How? Why?”

 

"Because unlike me, she lives up to her title." He said a bit vaguely. "Manipulation is kind of her thing."

 

"What do you need me to do?"  

 

"I need you to find Missy. If we find her, we find River. I doubt she'd go very far from what she's keeping her in."

 

Jack nodded slowly, "I'll do my best."

 

"Thank you. Really, it's more than I should ask from you." He smiled appreciatively.

 

Jack got up, leaving to the console room to use for his search. The Doctor moved back to Amelia's side knowing he had to comfort the girl. "We're going to get Mummy back. I'll bring back her mind and her body if I can."

 

"Really?" She sniffed, looking up at him.

 

He nodded, knowing she needed the hope, They both did. Hope was what got him and River through her last days. Hope was what had driven them forwards for such a long time, and it was what his daughter needed to pull through. "I've got a plan. And if it works, then yes."

 

"What if it doesn't work?" She asked quietly.

 

"Don't worry about that, now. I'll figure something out. Promise." He tried to sound assuring, though knew he shouldn't make promises.

 

Amelia curled up with her picture again, not saying anything else. He rubbed her back in a soothing motion, beginning to murmur an old lullaby. Amelia wiggled, holding the picture so she could look at it. He looked over the picture with her, lips still moving.

 

"When was this taken?" She interrupted.

 

He stopped singing, thinking for a moment. "I few months before you were born, I believe."

 

"What was she doing?"

 

"Reading to you and Freya." He replied, though it was only a guess. She might have been studying, or reading to herself.

 

"Did she do that a lot?"

 

"Yes." He nodded, this time more sincere.

 

"What else did she do?"

 

"Well, she'd tell you stories that weren't from books. Things from her past and things she made up." He reminisced.

 

"Can you tell me one of the stories she made up?" Amelia thought that hearing one of the stories would make her feel better.

 

He nodded, thinking for a moment. Most of the things she came up with were rather cheesy and childish, but gave her great delight to tell to her babies. He began one about a fairy queen. Amelia continued to stare at the picture as he told the story.

 

Freya woke near the end of the story, listening in quietly. Even Arthur was in a quiet trance. By the end of the story, Toby was curled up with Amelia, head resting against her arm so he could also look at River's picture.

 

"He misses her too." Freya murmured. Amelia nodded in agreement, patting the dog's head.

 

"We all miss her." He sighed. Toby leaned over to lick the glass of the frame.

 

"Don't do that." Amelia scolded, wiping away the saliva. "You'll smudge it."

 

Toby whimpered, then barked at her.

 

Amelia frowned. "She's not here right now." Toby whimpered again. "Stop it. It's not going to bring her back."

 

Freya mirrored her sister's expression. Toby began to back off, going to sit in the corner.

 

Amelia and Freya sat close for the first time in a while, seemly guarding River's picture together. Arthur whimpered, wanting to see River again. The Doctor re-positioned the baby in his arms so he could see the picture better. It was about all her could offer.

 

At that moment, the TARDIS materialized a screen on the wall and turned it on,  showing a recent video of River. All eyes flicked up to the screen (expect Toby who was watching Arthur who had his eyes fixed on the picture of River). The video seemed to be a compilation of recent events, starting with the past Christmas when River had told the Doctor she was pregnant.

 

The Doctor frowned. "We didn't film that..."

 

The girls didn't seem to care, just happy to see their Mum again. They all watched as the Doctor on screen started to bubble with excitement and began talking to River's belly. River's face was more lively than it had been in the past couple months and was full of nothing but love. The screen switched to River and the Doctor cuddling up in bed a few weeks later. Amelia wondered onto the screen, crawling up into the bed with her parents.

 

Amelia held the picture tighter, one of her hands latching onto her father's jacket sleeve. "I remember that." She whispered, enviously watching herself get to cuddle with her mummy.

 

The next clip was when River and the Doctor were telling the girls they would be getting another little sibling. The video jumped to the night of the party they had when they had gotten the TARDIS back.

 

Amelia and the Doctor exchanged emotions as this was the night that he and River found out about that she was going to die. The screen showed the dancing, the moment of blind happiness that they thought could never be taken away. The married couple in the video danced like it was their wedding night.

 

The screen suddenly turned off, showing static for a bit, and then turning back on. There was a new video on, but the same night, showing the Doctor and River crying in the console room after they had dropped their friends off.

 

The Doctor frowned, not wanting the girls to see their sadness.

 

"I love you, so, so much... I don't want to lose you." His virtual self had his wife in his arms.

 

"I know." River clung to him, "I know. I need you to know, I love you more than anything, but if something happens, you need to think of the girls, okay? They'll need you more than ever, and you need to be there for them 100%, do you understand me?"

 

Both Doctor's nodded, the present one remembering her words and expression as clear as day. It was a promise he made to her constantly and now more than ever was time to uphold it as best he could.

 

Amelia hid her face against the Doctor once more, getting upset all over again. He wrapped his arm around her, wondering if there was another reason the TARDIS was showing them this, or is it was even the TARDIS's doing at all.

 

The screen flashed the word 'Make' before cutting to another scene. This time, the Doctor and River were fighting.

 

"Stop this." The Doctor muttered, not wanting his children to see nor to be reminded of how River had pushed him away for weeks. "Cut visual feed to this room."

 

The video cut out, then flashed back on. The word 'room' flashed across the screen, then showed Amelia unconscious after she had nearly drowned.

 

Amelia started crying and the Doctor's stomach knotted. This couldn't be the TARDIS's work. All the previous video feed had been from the TARDIS because she could see -'see' being a loose term for it- what had been going on. But this, Amelia's drowning, the TARDIS hadn't come until the end, and there was no way this feed was from her.

 

The word "for" appeared on the screen, and the video of River just hours before she died, when she had been vomiting blood.

 

The twins buried their faces half in terror of what they saw and half in raw distress, but the Doctor couldn't look away. "Make room for what?"


Just as he said that, "Auntie Missy!!!!!!" flashed across the screen.

Chapter Text

Ch 7

 

"Jack! Vastra!" The Doctor called, needing to warn his friends. There was no response from them, though Arthur started to wail in the Doctor's arms. He rocked him unconsciously, stomach doing flips. "Girls, we've got to move." He tried not to sound too urgent.

 

"Now why on Earth would you do that? Trying to get away from me, again ?"

 

His blood ran cold, almost afraid to turn around and see who the voice belonged to. A hand came to rest on his shoulder, another wrapping around him to touch Arthur's head, "Oh, a baby.... Do shut up." Missy snarled.

 

Arthur only cried louder at Missy's touch, the sound close to resembling screams. The Doctor flinched away from her, him and the girls jumping up from the cot. He stood defensively, the girls hiding behind him.  

 

"What? My family isn't happy to see me?" She smiled, holding her arms out as if she was expecting a hug.

 

"You are not even close to family." He seethed.

 

"Well, maybe not now, but we could be." She moved closer, holding her arms out to take the baby.

 

He held his son tighter. "Could be is could have been. You passed up your chance at forgiveness a long time ago."

 

"And why is that? What did I ever do to seriously hurt you or your family?"  

 

"Are we talking the whole record or recently, because both have a long list." He took a step back.

 

"Recently." She murmured, a slow grin spreading across her face.

 

"You stopped me from getting River proper help." Anger was evident in his tone.

 

"The proper help for what?" She pretended to have no idea what he was talking about.

 

"You know what." He bit out. She'd been here for days, stole River, and somehow found or made the footage he'd just seen. He had no doubt she knew it all.

 

"Now, dear, you decided to hide from me all on your own. When I came here, I just wanted to talk. You were the one that ran away. You are the reason she's dead."

 

If he'd left the TARDIS then, they'd all be far too exposed to the mad woman in front of them. "You hid River from me when she needed medical attention. If you wanted to talk, you had days to do so without hurting her." He countered, hearts drumming heard enough that he could feel them against his bones.

 

"It's always something with you, isn't it." She huffed, crossing her arms.

 

He ignored her. "Where's River?"

 

"She's in the other room, dead. My goodness, have you forgotten already?" She laughed.

 

"That not what I mean. Her consciousness." He demanded.

 

" Ohhh , you mean this?" She pulled a little white cube out of her pocket.

 

"Precisely." He nodded, concealing any other reaction.

 

"Would you like it?" She asked, inspecting the box.

 

He raised an eyebrow. "Are you offering?"

 

"Hmmmm, no. I think I want to keep her for myself."

 

"What use is she to you?" He glared.

 

Missy shrugged, "Entertainment? I'll find some use for her I'm sure."

 

"Well that's a terrible birthday present, isn't it. You were wrong, by the way."

 

"Wrong about what, hmm?" She raised an eyebrow.

 

"My birthday. The army you tried to give me all those months ago as a present, it wasn't my birthday." He stated.

 

"So? Haven't you ever heard of an early birthday gift, Doctor?" She rolled her eyes, "I swear, sometimes you're as dimwitted as the half-breed."

 

"Who gives a birthday gift over half a year early?" He said, though it was besides the point.

 

"Does she have mummy?" Freya asked.

 

"I want Mummy!" Amelia wailed.

 

"Nobody appreciates evil step-mums these days." Missy exaggerated a sigh.

 

"Give her back!" Freya shouted, drawing sudden courage to run forward and push Missy as hard as she possibly could. Missy hardly budged, grabbing Freya's arm and lifting her like an old rag doll. "Ow, ow, ow! Put me down!" Freya kicked wildly.

 

"No. Little girls who misbehave deserve to be punished." She raised her other hand to strike the girl.

 

The Doctor moved as quickly as he could, running right for Missy ramming her with his shoulder before she could lay another finger on her daughter. Missy dropped Freya out of surprise. Freya fell onto the ground, the little cube landing right next to her. She immediately scooped it up, holding it protectively.  

 

"Do. Not. Lay. A finger . On. My. Children." The Doctor practically growled, fists clenched.

 

"You mean our children." She smiled, holding up her hand. River's wedding ring was now on her ring finger.

 

"How the hell did you get that?" Everything in him was tight with rage.

 

"If you don't want people to take your valuables, then you shouldn't leave them just laying around." She smirked, having stolen the ring off of River's body.

 

"It wasn't just lying around. Give it here. Now." He demanded.

 

"No! Finders keepers."

 

"That ring is no more yours than you are the mother of my children. Give it back." He said again.

 

"Make me." She snarled.

 

"Girls, run." His voice was low, and it was more of a warning that they shouldn't see what he was going to do. The girls ran out of the room, Amelia somehow managing to take Arthur with her.

 

"I'll ask one more time." He hissed, eyes narrowed. "Give me the ring."

 

"No!" Missy hissed, glaring at him.

 

He lunged forwards, simultaneously sweeping with his leg to knock her feet out from under her. She jumped, narrowly avoiding this move, though she had been expecting it since he had used it the last time. "Nice try."

 

He let out a frustrated grunt, jumping at her again. Missy cackled, jumping around the room like they were playing a game.

 

It took him a good few minutes before he managed to properly trip her. She landed on the ground with a thud, sticking her tongue out at him. He quickly moved to pin her, trying to assure she couldn't escape again. "Give me back the ring."

 

"No! It's mine now!"

 

"It will never be yours." He forced her arms together so he could hold them with one hand and grab for River's ring with the other.

 

She growled, trying to bite his hand as he held her. His response was to strike her face, scratching her eye in the blow. He then wrenched the ring from her finger without a care if she got hurt. She howled in pain, shrinking back for a moment. He jumped off her as he had what he wanted.

 

She lunged for him once he was off of her, "You don't play nice, Doctor!"

 

"I don't steal wedding rings from dead people!" He managed, toppling under her weight but keeping a firm grip on the ring. She tried to pry the ring out of his fingers, forcing all of her weight on him. "Get off!" He cried, trying to wiggle out from beneath her.

 

"No!" She hissed, trying to force him down harder.

 

He gathered and exerted his strength, throwing her off his with a large motion and an 'Agh!' She fell onto her back, hissing in anger.

 

Just then, Jack came running into the room, moving to a defensive position by the Doctor's side. Missy stood, fuming as she looked at the pair.  

 

"Where's Vastra?" The Doctor asked the other man, hoping he knew.

 

"She's with the girls now." Jack murmured, barely glancing at him.

 

"Good." He breathed, glad to know his children were safe. At least for now.

 

"Freya has River." He added.

 

The Doctor perked up and Missy checked her pocket, becoming even more outraged. "That little brat. I'll scratch her eyes out!"

 

"You won't step a bloody inch near her." The Doctor hissed.

 

Jack reached for his gun.

 

"Oh, looks like things are getting a little steamy in here. Guess I should-" She vanished with a flash before her sentence ended.

 

Jack and the Doctor stared. "Where'd she go? Damn it, she could be anywhere."

 

"Do a scan of the TARDIS." Jack suggested.

 

"Scan for life forms. Full ship surveillance." He ordered.

 

The screen flickered to life to show the results of the scan. One Canine Life Form. Three Feline Life Forms. One Human Life Form. One Silurian Life Form. Four Human Plus Time Lord Life Forms. One Time Lord Life Form.

 

The Doctor let out a breath knowing Missy hadn't found the girls. He still found it a bit surprising that River qualified as a life form. If he gave it some though, it wasn't entirely strange; Lots of life forms didn't have pulse, including the very ship who was performing the scan.

 

"She's not here." Jack breathed, as he read the scan over the Doctor's shoulder.


He nodded. "Come on. I need to be with my kids." Jack nodded, following after him.

Chapter Text

Ch 8

 

They made their way cautiously through the halls, passing familiar rooms until they found the girls. The girls were huddled in a corner, Vastra holding the baby and shielding all the children protectively.

 

"Vastra...?" The Doctor murmured, stepping into the room.

 

She stood quickly, looking startled, "Is everything alright?"

 

"Well," He looked down at the ring he held in his palm. "It could have gone worse."

 

Arthur had not stopped wailing since Missy had come, crying about how much he wanted his Mummy and Daddy. The Doctor carefully took Arthur back into his arms, rocking him. "Sh, sh. It's okay I'm here now."

 

He settled down once the Doctor was holding him, though he still mewled for River. The Doctor sighed quietly, turning to the girls. "You two alright?"

 

Amelia nodded, though Freya didn't answer, huddled into a ball, protecting the small cube she held in her hands with all she had.

 

"Freya, lovie... do you know what's in that box?" He asked slowly.

 

"I think so." She whispered.

 

"Tell me then." He kept a calm tone.

 

"Mummy's in here. The mean lady said Mummy was in here."

 

The Doctor nodded. "That's right. Mummy's mind has been put in there." He replied softly. The cube could actually hold her indefinitely, unlike the TARDIS.

 

"Can you get it out?" She whispered.

 

He shook his head. "Not really, at least not until there's a body to put her in."

 

"But she has a body already. Why can't you use that one?"

 

"It's too broken, love." He whispered. "I'm sorry."

 

"I can fix it!" She pressed, "I have the light, I can fix it!"

 

"No." He responded quickly. This had been another promise to his wife: to not let the girls use their regeneration energy. "It won't work on her." He lied. "She's already been gone too long."

 

"Then find another way to fix her!"

 

"I am." He continued in a soothing manner. I'm trying my best to find another way to fix her, but it will take time."

 

"But she needs to come back now . I can't wait!"

 

"Come here." He murmured. She crawled closer to him, a bit hesitant. He reached out his hand to her. "You are such a strong girl. You are so brave for going through this, and we will get Mummy back. I swear, but you have to be a little stronger and be patient, alright?"

 

"For how long?" She asked, holding the cube tighter.

 

"I don't know, dear." He apologized. "As soon as I possibly can."

 

"I miss her." She whimpered.

 

"I miss her too." He agreed, pulling her into a one armed hug. She hugged him back, silent tears rolling down her cheeks. "Do you want to see if we can find away to talk to her?" He asked.

 

Missy had said she intended to toy with River, which indicated that she had some way to communicate with his wife. She nodded, reluctant to let go of the cube.

 

"Amelia?" He looked to the other girl, thinking she'd want to join, too. Amelia crawled over, taking his hand. He offered a smile to them both. "The console room with have what we need."

 

They nodded, following him quietly. Vastra and Jack followed as well, both on high alert.

 

Arthur was growing fussy again, wanting to hear a story. "Settle down, lovie." THe Doctor uttered, trying to think of one he'd want to hear. "Girls, what was your favorite story that Mummy used to tell you?"

 

"The one about the princess and the dragon." Freya responded first.

 

He nodded, beginning to retell the tale to Arthur. Arthur started to settle down, eyes fixating on his bowtie. The Doctor smiled weakly.

 

They arrived in the console room and he shifted the baby to one arm. "Freya, dearie. I'm going to need the cube now."

 

"Why?" She held the cube tighter, reluctant to give it to him.

 

"I've got to toggle a few things so we'll be able to talk to Mummy." He said softly.

 

"Don't break it." She whispered, hesitating before holding it out to him.

 

"I won't." He took it with as much care as possible and set it gently in a slot on the console. Handing Arthur to Vastra so he could work quicker, he set about connecting wires to the box and switching settings on the console. He pulled the screen around front, everyone's eyes on him as he worked quietly.

 

It was good few minutes before the screen turned to static then started to form an image. River began to appear on the screen. She looked to be trying to fiddle with something.

 

"Mummy!" The girls ran closer to the console.

 

Her head snapped up and she stared out at them. "Amelia! Freya!"

 

"Why are you in a box now?" Amelia questioned immediately. "Just come out and come back!"

 

"I can't, my love. I'm sorry, it's not that easy."

 

Her lip wobbled. "But you got out into the box…”

 

"Well that's because someone else moved me, I can't do it on my own." River explained.

 

"...And Daddy doesn't have a place to move you back." She echoed her father's words, the situation starting to make more sense.

 

She nodded, "I'm sorry, sweetie."

 

"What's in there?" Freya asked, half thinking that if the cube opened there'd be a miniature River inside.

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"You're in a box and we hafta take care of it or else you'll get hurt." It wasn't exactly the most clear answer, but it was the best the distraught girl could give.

 

"Only my mind is in the box, sweetheart." She explained, not going into the details as it was too complicated, "The rest is just wiring."

 

"But I can see all of you, not just your head." She frowned.

 

"Well, that's where all the wiring comes in. It creates a sort of virtual world for my mind to spend time  paired with a virtual recreation of my body. That means you can see me, and it looks like I'm in an ordinary room, but if you opened up the box it would only be wires.’

 

"...Oh." She looked down, disappointed.

 

"I'm sorry." River breathed, her heart breaking for her daughter.

 

The adults all stepped into River's view, wanting to talk to her as well. River brightened a bit when she saw her friends. All three smiled, it being the first time any of them had been able to see her. Arthur only whined.

 

"Oh, Arthur, my love. It's alright." River called, "Mummy's here!"

 

Vastra adjusted the boy in her arms so he could look right at his mother. He cheered up at the sight. "Nuh!"

 

"Hello my baby." River smiled, touching the screen. Arthur flailed out his hand for her and Vastra brought him right up so he could touch the screen as well. "I hope you're being a good boy." River murmured, smiling at him.

 

Arthur gurgled, and Freya shook her head, not thinking he was any sense of the word.

 

"What's wrong, Freya?" River frowned, noticing the girl's expression.

 

"He's not  been good at all." She huffed, crossing her arms.

 

"What do you mean?" River looked at the rest of the people in the room to confirm Freya’s claim. None of them were in full agreement.

 

"He's loud and annoying and he took you away!"

 

"Oh, no, sweetheart. He didn't take me away." She shook her head.

 

"Yes he did!" She stomped her foot. "It's all his fault you're gone. If he wasn't here, you'd still be."

 

"But you can't blame him. It's not really his fault, Freya. He didn't have a choice. I was the one that made the choice, so if it's anyone's fault, then it's mine."

 

" You never wanted to die! You never chose to. He wanted to take you away!"

 

"No, sweetie, he didn't. He didn't know that he was going to take me away. Only Daddy and I knew. If I had wanted, then I could have chosen not to have Arthur, but I wanted to have him."

 

"Why would you do that?" She whimpered.

 

"Because I wanted you to have a little brother, and I wanted your Daddy to have a son. When I found out what was going to happen, I loved him too much to not have him."

 

"You left us all alone!" She finally gave in to crying, plopping down to sit where she stood.

 

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I know, I'm so sorry. I wish I didn't have to." River wanted to reach out and hug her daughter, but she couldn't.

 

The Doctor scooped up Freya and held her, knowing it was what River would do if she'd been able to.

 

Tears stung in River's eyes, though she tried to hide it, "I'm so sorry."

 

"It's alright, Riv. She'll come around. She just needs time, like you said." He murmured.

 

"This is all my fault." She whispered, shaking her head, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't....I couldn't lose another baby."

 

"Neither could I, River." He admitted. "If I was in your position, I would have done the same." She sunk to the floor, head in her hands. She felt horrible now.

 

Amelia tugged on Vastra's skirts. "Why's Mummy so sad now?"

 

"She feels like she let you down." Vastra whispered, "She wanted to have your brother, but she also didn't want to die. She made the choice that she felt was the best, but she feels like you're disappointed in her."

 

Amelia thought about this. "I'm glad to have a little brother, but I want Mummy, too."

 

"I know." Vastra murmured, bending down to hug her.

 

"But I know it's not her fault or Arthur's fault." She added.

 

"But your sister thinks that, and that's what's hurting her."

 

"I tried to tell her that she's wrong. But she won't listen."

 

"I know, I'm glad you tried to help."

 

"I don't think she really thinks that. She's just really sad. We all are." Amelia pointed out.

 

"Yes, that exactly what I think. And the only way to really mend sadness is to give it time to run it's course."

 

"But I don't want Mummy or Freya to be sad that long." She frowned.

 

"Well, we could try to cheer them up." Vastra offered, giving her a small smile.

 

"Lift me up to Mummy?" She asked.

 

She nodded, scooping the girl up so she could see her mother. Jack took over holding Arthur.

 

"Mummy! Mummy, I know you're sad. It's okay to be sad and cry, but I wanna talk to you." Amelia looked over her Mum's crumpled form.

 

River quickly composed herself and looked up at her daughter, giving her the best smile she could manage, "What is it my darling?"

 

"I'm not disappointed. I mean, I'm really sad because you went away, but I really like my baby brother and so does Auntie and Daddy and Freya but she won't say so." Amelia wanted her mummy to know how brave she could be.

 

River's smile became more genuine, "That makes me very happy, Amelia."

 

Amelia smiled, a proper smile. "Freya doesn't really blame my brother. She's just sad. But you're going to come back because Daddy rescued your ring and can fix you and it'll be okay again."

 

"My ring? What happened to my ring?" She asked, smile fading slightly.

 

"The evil lady who keeps trying to be my evil step mum took it, but Daddy protected us and fought her and got it back and then she went away somewhere." She explained, realizing River hadn't known all this. "I don't like her at all. She keeps trying to mess with us and she didn't let Daddy see you and I think she's the one who put you in there."

 

River nodded, wishing that she was there to protect her children from Missy, "Don't worry, my love, Daddy and Auntie Vastra and Uncle Jack will protect you."

 

"They have been." She confirmed. "It's going to be better, Mummy. I love you a whole lot and I'm gonna give you the biggest hug ever when you come back."

 

"I look forward to that hug." She smiled, "Can I talk to Daddy now?"

 

Amelia nodded, blowing her a kiss before Vastra set her down. The Doctor stepped forwards, setting Freya down on the jump seat.

 

"Hi..." River breathed, touching the screen again.

 

He let his hand up to the screen against hers, imagining the warmth of her hand though he couldn't feel it. "Hello, love."

 

"Can you see me this time?" She asked softly.

 

"Yes." He smiled softly. "And what a wonderful sight you are for tired eyes."

 

"I miss you." She breathed, wishing she could move closer and embrace him.

 

"I miss you, too." He replied, both their expressions saying more than they ever could.

 

"When do you think I'll be able to get out of here?"

 

"I'm not sure." He sighed, wanting her out as much as she did. "The TARDIS has already started a reconstruction of your body. If could be days, a week. Probably longer. She’s focused a lot on tracking Missy and keeping her out so she can't put all her energy on you at the moment."

 

"I want to come back to you as soon as possible." She breathed, wanting to say that even a few days was too long, but she held back.

 

He nodded in agreement, having the same thought. He turned the ring around in his hand, eventually holding it up for her to see.

 

She smiled weakly, "I wish I could wear it now."

 

"Me, too." He hummed. "I'm not sure where I should put it. I want to keep it safe for you."

 

"You'll find a place, I'm sure." She breathed, her heart aching the more she talked to him. "Is there anyway to speed up the development process?"

 

"Not that I've found so far." He murmured. "I'm sorry you might not be there for your birthday. I got you a present."

 

"Did you?" She tried to ignore the first part, not wanting to hurt any more than she already was.

 

He nodded, "It's in our bedroom, in the closet. The box with the blue and gold wrapping."

 

"How old am I turning, again?" She tried to laugh.

 

"I'll leave you to figure that one out yourself."

 

"1605!" Amelia claimed.

 

River laughed, "That’s closer to Daddy’s age, sweetie. He’s a lot older than I am"

 

"1505?" She guessed again.

 

"Less than that, my sweet."

 

"Two hundred and eleven." This time it was Freya who spoke up, sounding quite sure that she was right.

 

"That’s only a few years off. Though, in a more general answer: too many candles to fit on a birthday cake." The Doctor smiled.

 

River nodded, "I love you all so much."

 

"I love you, too." They all said it, but the Doctor's eyes were locked on hers, his voice separate from the girls'.

 

Jack cleared his throat, "Doctor...I have an idea."

 

All heads turned curiously towards him. "About River’s age?"

 

"No, about getting River back faster. You said that the TARDIS is dividing its power, which is why it's taking so long to generate a new form, but we could hook up the Hub and with power like that, we could have her back in a day."

 

The Doctor’s immediate expression was of joy and excitement, though it quickly turned to worry. "With power like that, we'd be a beacon to Missy."

 

Jack shook his head, "She already knows where we are, so what does that matter?"

 

"It matters that once we start a process like that, we can't stop it in the middle or else the whole thing will backfire and we'll have to start again from scratch. If Missy comes, we won't be able to just hop in the TARDIS and fly away and she won't necessarily be able to protect us."

 

"Fine, then we set up external power deferrers, wave blockers, we do this completely incognito. We'll set up other power spikes around the world to distract her. Doctor, we can do this."

 

He looked at River. "Do you think it's worth the risk?" He thought it should ultimately be her choice, as it was her body being affected.

 

"I don't know… If Jack can mask our energy signature..."

 

He looked at Vastra and the girls, wondering their input too.

 

"I want Mummy back as fast as possible. I want to do what Uncle Jack said." Freya piped up.

 

"I want us to be safe." Was all Amelia had to say about it.

 

"Doctor, don't you want your wife back?" Jack pressed.

 

"Of course I do." He said, almost offended that he'd even question the fact. "I also don't want to risk having that chance." He added, then sighed. "But I think..." He paused for another moment of thought. "It's worth a try."

 

"I'll start setting it up then!" Jack was already running out of the room and into the Hub, pulling out wires and starting up monitors.

 

"Vastra, I know it's a lot to ask, but could you find Ianto and take the kids out for the day? If Missy-... I don't want them to see that. I don't want them in harm's way." The Doctor asked.

 

"Of course." She murmured, beckoning for the girls to follow her out of the room, to find a stroller for Arthur, leaving the Doctor and River alone.

 

He took her in. "I ought to go help Jack." He murmured, though didn't move. "I can leave the interface open for you if you want."

 

River nodded, "When you finish setting everything up, will you come sit with me?"

 

"Of course." He nodded. He'd need to brief her on some things anyways.

 

"Hurry back then." She breathed, "I'll be here."

 

"Love you." He murmured, going off to help Jack.


"Love you too." She called.

Chapter Text

Ch 9

 

It took about two hours to set up everything that needed to be done and another hour before the Hub was feeding the power to generate River's new body. Jack stayed in the Hub, making sure everything kept running smoothly.

 

The Doctor plopped back down in the console room, looking rather tired.

 

"You look exhausted." River murmured when she saw him.

 

"Yeah." He sighed. "A bit."

 

"You should rest. You don't have to stay with me." She murmured.

 

"I don't, but there's nowhere I'd rather be." He lifted his head to look at her.

 

She smiled weakly, "I'll be fully with you soon. It's just a matter of hours now."

 

"Hopefully." He returned the smile.

 

"How's the baby been?" She asked softly.

 

"Restless. He want's you back, too."

 

She nodded slowly, "And how are you? Aside from tired."

 

"Well... hopeful. More than I've been in a while… Remember how you felt when you got out of the Library?" He asked. She nodded. "This... is going to feel a lot worse."

 

She nodded again, "I was expecting it would be like that."

 

"I just want you to know what to expect. You might be immobile for a little while." He said slowly.

 

"But I'll be back, and that's all that really matters."

 

"I want you to be back to a life and body you want to be in." He told her.

 

"What do you mean? Do you think I don't want to come back because I'm going to be immobile for a few days?" She asked.

 

"No, no. That's not what I meant." He thought of how to put it. "It's just, you were so sick at the end of your pregnancy... I just thought it might be ... a little frustrating for you, not being 100% immediately. I have no doubts about you wanting to come back." He added.

 

She sighed, "I don't mind not being 100% right away, I'm just happy I'm coming back."

 

"Just a matter of hours." He echoed her words.

 

"Is there  anything else you have to tell me?"

 

"I just wanted to make sure you knew what was coming." He shook his head. "And if  you have any advice for putting a consciousness into a body, that would be welcomed."

 

"Be gentle." She murmured, "I don't have much other advice."

 

He twiddled his thumbs nervously. "I don't want to mess up something this important."

 

"You won't." She gave him an encouraging smile, "I believe in you."

 

He smiled up at her. "Unconditionally?"

 

"Yes, unconditionally."

 

He sat up a bit straighter, feeling a bit more brave. "Luck and faith hasn't failed yet."

 

"I love you." She gave him a weak smile, "Now please, you should get some rest."

 

"Moving is too much effort." He teased, leaning his head back on the seat instead.

 

"I wish I could be with you." She whispered, her hand resting on the screen.

 

"You're closer by the minute." He looked up again. "Can I ask you something?"

 

"Of course, anything." She nodded.

 

"When you, uh, died," He started. "Did you... go right to the TARDIS? Was there... something else?"

 

"Honestly, I don't remember, everything was a bit fuzzy. I think… I think I was uploaded straight to the TARDIS."

 

He nodded. "So can you remember?"

 

"I can't remember, Doctor, I'm sorry." She whispered, "Everything was so blurry."

 

"It's alright." He said calmly.

 

"I wish I could remember, my love." She whispered.

 

"No really, it's okay. Besides, it probably wasn't the most pleasant thing."

 

"No, it wasn't." She muttered, sitting down finally.

 

"And coming back I doubt will be painless." He added, watching her movements.

 

She didn't say anything, putting her head in her hands.

 

"River?" He leaned forwards. "What's wrong?" He wondered if he'd hit a nerve.

 

"Nothing." She mumbled into her hands, "You should rest."

 

"I won't, knowing you're upset. Tell me." He encouraged.

 

"I don't really want to talk right now. I just want to think." She confessed.

 

"Shall I go, then?" He asked.

 

"You can stay if you really want to."

 

"I want you to be comfortable." He said, thinking it was her decision.

 

"Doctor, please..."

 

"Okay, I'll go." He gave in. "I'll check in on you in an hour or so." He made to head into the TARDIS, not to rest though, to check on River's body. He couldn't rest now even if he tried.

 

River's body was developing in a fluid chamber and much faster now, all the necessary pieces coming together to recreate her. He arrived and stared over her body, the sight making him a bit uneasy. She floated peacefully in a large tank like some sort of fetus. He could see endless amounts of tubes and wires connected to the tank, guessing that about half of them were for power. The body did quite resemble her, but it wasn't her just yet. It was empty and all too... new. The TARDIS would recreate her as exact as possible, he knew, but there was still so much missing. Scars, marks, certain variations in her skin that he'd mapped countless times.

 

The Doctor waited.

 

River's body continued to develop over the hours, resembling more and more her old self, however, as predicted, there were certain things that the TARDIS was unable reproduce, like the scar her inner left thigh, or the mark on her right side. The Doctor frowned as he waited and waited for the marks to appear. He was unaware how much time had passed, eventually getting up in search for River's old body.

 

River's old body was back in the room that she had died in, though no longer in the state they had left it. Missy had wreaked some havoc on River's former body. There were now gashes all over her flesh, and the word ‘disgrace’ had been carved into her arm as well as a number of other degrading terms.

 

The Doctor's hand flew to cover his mouth, shock being and understatement to what felt like a blow to the gut. He was going to sodding kill Missy when he saw her. He slowly approached the corpse, tears pricking at his eyes. "I'm so, so sorry."

 

Soft sobs echoed through the walls, the TARDIS trying to show that River had found out about this, and this was partially why she had seemed so upset a few hours ago.

 

"Can you bring her to me?" He asked softly of his ship. In the meantime, he took a scanner and cataloged marks on River's body. Not the new ones made my Missy, but old scars and things the TARDIS had missed in the reconstruction.

 

Rivers consciousness began to appear sitting on the floor, not yet noticing that she was being summoned. He turned to her, moving silently to sit in front of her. She finally noticed him, jumping to cover her tears, "Doctor! What are you..." She saw past him at that moment, her words trailing off.

 

"It's okay, my love. It's alright." He murmured, hand outstretched to her.

 

She was reluctant to take his hand, not wanting to feel herself pass right through him.

 

"It's alright, River. I'm here. Just look at me." Each words was warm and full of comfort. "You're here."

 

"But I'm also there. That's still a part of me."

 

He nodded in agreement. "Take my hand." He urged again.

 

She hesitated, but did as he asked, preparing herself for the heartbreak of not being able to touch him. Instead, his hand wrapped around hers. He brought his other hand to cup her cheek, thumb brushing over her soft skin. "There, now. See?" "

 

How are you doing that?" She asked in disbelief, staring at his hand, "I'm not really here."

 

"You're always here to me." He gave her a proper smile, eyes full of affection.

 

"But I don't understand. This should be impossible." She whispered, squeezing his hand to make sure she was really touching it.

 

"You coming back to life should have been impossible." He squeezed back. "You falling in love with an idiot like me should have been, too."

 

She managed a soft smile, until her attention was drawn back to her former body. He watched here eyes, knowing where she was looking. "Shall I put some plasters on you?"

 

She shook her head, "Bandages won't fix it. They'll never heal, it will always be like that now." Her voice gave away her hurt.

 

"River... you do know that we still have to have a cremation?"

 

"I know, but still....We'll be putting to rest a body, my body, that's been mutilated ."

 

He rubbed her arm in comfort. "I'm so sorry, love." He couldn't think of a way to fix it.

 

She was trying her best to hide how much she was hurting, but she couldn't. He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to him. She pushed him away, not wanting his attempts at comfort.

 

"River..." He looked at her.

 

"What?" She whispered.

 

"...Maybe we should go somewhere else." He suggested.

 

She shook her head, "Leaving won't make a difference. The damage is already done."

 

"Yes, but it's obviously making you uncomfortable to be around." He pointed out.

 

Before, she'd wanted to have contact with him. Now she was pushing him away. She swallowed, "I'm upset, and rightfully so."

 

"I know. I'm not saying you don't have the right." He quieted himself, thinking he was probably pushing pointlessly.

 

"I want to go." She whispered.

 

"Where?" He asked.

 

"Away from...that." She nodded towards her body.

 

He nodded, taking her hand. "Here, come on."

 

She stood up, turning her head away so she wouldn't have to look at the scene anymore. He lead her from the room, going to their bedroom. He hadn't been in since she'd died.

 

She relaxed as they left the room, though she kept a tight hold on his hand. He sat on the edge of the bed, not letting go of her. "Why didn't you tell me about the videos?"

 

"I wanted them to be a surprise." She whispered.

 

"I think they really helped the girls." He told her.

 

She smiled weakly, "I'm glad. I was hoping that they would."

 

"I'd forgotten we filmed the wedding. I can't even remember the camera man there."

 

"I think we just set the camera up ourselves." She rest her head against his shoulder.

 

"Oh yeah." He chuckled, leaning closer to her.

 

"You know, I really want to kiss you right now." She breathed, watching his face.

 

He met her eyes. "I would have absolutely no protest to that." He'd wanted to kiss her since he realized she wasn't really gone.

 

She started to lean in, eyes flickering to his lips. Their mouths met, his moving softly and lovingly against hers. She melted against him, wrapping her arms around his neck. His hands moved to her waist, pulling her close. The kiss broke after several moments, River pulling back with a large grin.

 

"Now there, see?" He was cupping her cheeks. "That's not so unwelcomed, now is it."

 

"I love you." She whispered, "We haven't kissed like that in a while."

 

"We can kiss like that all we want." He smirked.

 

"In a few hours we'll be able to do a little more than kiss." She purred, leaning in to kiss him again.

 

"Who says we have to wait?" He murmured against her lips.

 

"Are you sure you want to do it now?" She pulled back just a bit, "You do remember that I'm..." She trailed off, not thinking she needed to finish.

 

"Yes, I'm aware. I'm also aware that you've got two other bodies in the TARDIS so that makes three of you." He pointed out. "But this you can feel this me, and this me can feel this you." He kissed her cheek.

 

She smiled softly, "If you want to do this, so do I." She murmured.  

 

"One kiss at a time then?"

 

"One kiss at a time." She echoed, nodding.

 

He grinned, meeting her lips. She made this kiss more passionate, letting her guard down. He returned the passion, giving as much as he got and letting his hands in her hair. Her hands wrapped around the lapels of his jacket, pulling him closer. He leaned her down softly to the mattress. She kissed him hungrily, teeth running along his bottom lip.

 

He hummed. "God, I've missed you."

 

"I've missed you too." She breathed, pulling him down more.

 

His hands raked over her body, mouths crashing together.  She let out a small gasp when he touched her, eyes fluttering closed. He started the hike up her ghostly dress, hands smoothing over her thighs. She shifted to make the task easier, already working on his shirt.

 

He pulled the dress over her head, taking a moment to let his eyes wander over her. "Enjoying the view?" She teased.

 

"Categorically." He breathed, unable to resist the temptation. He kissed a column down her neck to her collar bone, tasting her skin.

 

She let out a small whimper, her hearts pounding. He shrugged his shirt to the floor, hands and mouth working her skin.

 

She was growing more and more impatient. "Doctor, I need you..." He made a sultry hum, obliging and trailing his hand frustratingly slow down between her thighs. "Doctor." She whined, rolling her hips down towards him.

 

He chuckled and pressed the heel of his hand against her clit, creating the desired friction. She gasped, hands tightening in his hair.

 

"More?" He asked her, though it was more of a tease.

 

"Y-yes. More." She moaned.

 

The sound sent chills through him and he slipped two fingers inside her, wanting to hear more. Her moan was much louder this time and she ground her hips towards him. She arched her back, gasping with each movement, "Doctor."

 

His mouth was trailing hotly down her body. He brought it lower to her sensitive nub, using his free hand to work his trousers and pants off.

 

"Doctor..." She cried out, one hand wrapping around his wrist.

 

He lapped up her juices with ravenous vigor, the taste of her bursting across his tongue. Her cries were going louder and louder, her grip on him tightening. He managed to rid his bottom half of clothes, slowly stopping his movements and moving up the bed.

 

As soon as he was close enough, she dragged his lips to hers, rolling her body towards him. He grunted at the contact, murmuring a bit incoherently; something along the lines of 'want you, need you'.

 

He turned them on their sides, pulling her leg over his hips in a bit of a sideways straddle before entering her. She moaned, pressing her body against his. He rocked his hips against hers, hands wrapping around her and cupping her arse. She buried her face in his neck, kissing and sucking up and down the column. He groaned her name, arching to her.

 

"I love you." She murmured against his skin, rolling her body towards him. They were completely pressed against each other, aside their hips which kept up the back and forth.

 

"I love you, too." He uttered back in Gallafreyan.

 

She smiled, growing more and more distracted by the feeling of bliss. His grip was bruising, hips pushing into hers roughly. She was growing closer to her release, encouraging him on.

 

He groaned her name again, heat growing low in his gut. All his senses her clouded by her. The touch or her, the smell of her, the sound of her all very welcomed. She pressed her forehead to his, her eyes fluttering shut as pure bliss took over.

 

He quickened his pace, driving them both higher than they'd been in a long time and sending them tumbling over the edge with nothing but each other holding them to reality.

 

She tumbled over the edge with cry of his name, her lips reattaching to his. His release was laced with shouts of jumbled words of praise and affection towards his wife until he stilled, speechless and panting.

 

She giggled, breathlessly once they were both finished, curling against him, "Those were some very interesting compliments."

 

He blinked at her, grinning like an idiot. "I said those out loud?"

 

"Yes, you most certainly did." She laughed, pressing a kiss to his nose.

 

"Okay, I might have exaggerated some, but they were still true." He scrunched up his nose, then returned the kiss.

 

"I've certainly missed doing that." She murmured, tucking her head beneath his chin.

 

"I think that was the first time since our coming home party." Which was to say months ago.

 

She nodded, hands trailing along his bare chest, "You'd better not have gotten me pregnant again. I don't know how to take care of a half data-ghost baby." She teased.

 

He laughed, a hand mimicking her movements along her back. "I think three children is plenty."

 

"If you stick with three you won't get a Terra." She murmured, having grown very fond of the name over the past several months.

 

"We could always get Toby a friend." He teased.

 

"I don't think your mother would appreciate having a dog named after her instead of one of our children." She smiled.

 

"Well then I should inform you that data ghosts can't get pregnant," He knew she already knew that, though. "But if four kids is something you want to talk about, I'm all ears."

 

She thought for a moment, "I think we should get acclimated to having three children before we seriously talk about a fourth one." She murmured, touching his cheek, "But for the record, as of right now, I'm not opposed to the idea."

 

He smiled, then reached for the scanner on the bedside table. He pressed a few things, then set it back and replaced himself where he'd been cuddled with River.  

 

"What did you just do?" She asked, curling up tightly against him.

 

"Made adjustments to your new body." He murmured.

 

"What adjustments?" She frowned slightly.

 

He kissed the crease between her eyebrows. "Adjustments so if we really want to, we can have more kids without having a repeat of the past months. The TARDIS is getting rid of the scar tissue and revitalizing your systems."

 

"Oh." The smile returned to her face, "Thank you."

 

He brushed his nose against hers. "My pleasure."

 

"Well, if we do end up deciding to have a fourth, it's an excuse for us to do this lots and lots of times." She smiled, nuzzling his nose.

 

He pulled the blanket over them. "Who says we need an excuse."

 

"Well, we don't, of course." She pressed a kiss to his cheek, "But it's an excuse to do it more than usual."

 

"As much as you want." He promised. Footsteps started from down the hall and the Doctor sighed, thinking Jack was going to ruin his cuddling time.

 

"Do you want to put clothes on? Or do you just want to lock the door." She breathed, nipping lightly at his ear.

 

He pulled the covers over both their heads and let out a giggle. "Option three: hide under here."

 

She laughed, snuggling close to him and giving him a soft kiss, "I like this option."

 

There came a knock before Jack came in. "Heya Doc, Vastra called and she- Oh. Well hellooo, Doctor." They could hear the smirk in his voice.

 

River laughed, giving the Doctor another kiss to muffle the sound. "Go away, Jack." The Doctor tried to sound annoyed, but the sight of his giggling wife was making him smile too much.

 

"Havin' a bit of fun with yourself there, Doc?" Jack teased.

 

He poked his head above the cover's and did his best to glare at the man. "Who says I'm alone?"

 

River laughed again, peering out from beneath the covers and resting her head against her husband.

 

"I take it I'm not allowed in on this?" Jack crossed his arms, eyeing the pair.

 

"I'm afraid not." She smirked, "Perhaps another time."

 

"It's no fun to catch you two like this if I end up without any end of the stick. Or other parts." He half wished for a little bit of x-ray vision. "Anyways, Vastra called because the girls wanted to go to a candy shop and she didn't know if you guys would allow that."

 

"Yes, that's quite alright, as long as they don't have too much. A couple of pieces at most, they'll have to eat dinner in a little while and I don't want them filling up on sweets."

 

He nodded. "I'll call her back. TARDIS says your body is just about done, so finish up all," He made a vague hand gesture. "This."

 

She grinned, "We'll be back in the console room in a bit. Thank you, Jack."

 

The man saluted and left them. The Doctor pouted at nothing in particular. "I suppose we have to put on clothes then."

 

"Well, maybe just a few more minutes of cuddling." She murmured.

 

"Good." He hummed, hiding under the blanket once more. She curled back under with him, giggling quietly. He pressed a kiss to her curls. "The girls will want to hog you all to themselves when you've got a physical form."

 

She nodded in agreement, "I want to hold Arthur again as soon as possible."

 

"I can arrange that." He grinned. "As long as you can promise you'll be back for good this time."

 

"I promise I'll never leave you again." She breathed, pressing a kiss to his lips. Even though she didn't necessarily have control over that, he melted into the kiss, joy washing over him at finally having his wife back. "And do you promise me?" She murmured, looking up at him through long eyelashes.

 

"I do. To the best of my ability." He vowed.

 

"Good, I'm glad."  

 

They stayed there in each other's arms for what turned out to be another quarter of an hour before finally getting enough motivation to put their clothes back on.

 

She slipped back into her dress, going over to help him tie his bowtie. He moved to rest his hands on her hips, watching her nimble fingers. She straightened it once she was finished, giving him a kiss on the jaw, "There."

 

He pulled her closer for a proper kiss, holding her close. She hummed against his lips, snaking her arm around his neck. He pulled away after a moment, resting his forehead against hers. "Love you."

 

"Love you too." She whispered, nuzzling his nose.


He took her hand as they started to make their way to the console room.

Chapter Text

Ch 10

 

River was a bit nervous heading back, not knowing what to expect from this experience. She’d never been a ghost before, let alone been put back into a body.

 

"Jack?" The Doctor called upon entering an empty console room.

 

"Out here!" He responded from the Hub.

 

They followed his voice out the door, River squeezing the Doctor's hand. Jack was down in the autopsy bay, having already taken the liberty of moving River's new body to the table. The girls were back and waiting with Vastra and Ianto near the couch.

 

"So, how do we do this?" River asked, staring at the body before them.

 

"With lots of patients and cooperation." The Doctor murmured. "I need you to lie on the table."

 

She nodded, laying down as instructed. She overlapped the new body almost perfectly.

 

"Now, Jack's got your physical self wired up. He's going to be kickstarting your brain while I... install you."

 

Jack went to the computers and the Doctor went next to her, placing his fingers on the temple of her body and her data ghost. River closed her eyes, bracing herself for the process to start.

 

The Doctor nodded to Jack, who started up a programme. "You're going to feel a mental pull, don't fight it. It's only Jack."

 

"Alright." She whispered, starting to feel the pull after a moment and giving in to the sensation.

 

"That's it, love. Just keep your mind nice and open. Relax." His tone was soothing. "The pull might vary in intensity as Jack works, but just focus on me, alright?"

 

"Okay." She murmured, trying to relax as much as possible. Jack gave a thumbs up to confirm he was properly connected and ready.

 

"Alright, now try focusing on your big toe through the pull you're feeling." She focused on her big toe as she was told. "See if you can find the part your brain that will allow you to move it."

 

She concentrated hard, trying to move the toe. He murmured encouragements, watching her toe for movement. It twitched after a full two minutes.

 

"Good work, River." She was exhausted after the one simple movement, unable to respond. "Take a rest now." He murmured, feeling her exhaustion, "Then try all the toes on that foot."

 

She took several minutes rest before trying again, focusing all of her mind on moving the toes on both feet. This took even more time, feeling closer to ten minutes before her toes scrunched up. She could feel her energy draining as she exerted more effort.  

 

"Your toes moved, River. Take a rest." He urged, knowing that this was going to be a long and exhausting night.

 

She tried to relax again, frustrated that she was exhausted and all she had done was move her toes. He stroked her hair back and he instructed her to move onto her ankles.

 

They went with this process for hours and hours, him telling her where to focus and how to move.

 

The girls were given dinner by Ianto who'd taken to telling them stories and entertaining them. Their bedtime rolled around, so they came down to River to say goodnight, who was only up to abdominal muscles at that point. River said goodnight, trying to not look so tired.

 

"Will you be done in the morning? Will you be back?" Amelia asked.

 

"I don't know, love." She breathed, "I hope so."  

 

The girl nodded and kissed her cheek. Freya did the same. "We love you, 'kay?"

 

"I love you too, my loves." She smiled weakly, "Take care of your brother for me." They nodded, Freya still seeming a bit reluctant about it but less so than before. "I'll see you in the morning."

 

"Night night." Amelia waved as Vastra ushered the twins off.

 

"I'll make sure your children are seen to bed." Vastra told River and the Doctor.

 

"Thank you." River murmured, giving Vastra the best smile she could manage.

 

"Ready?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Yes, ready."

 

They moved on to lungs and spent a full hour trying to get her body to inhale just once, which then required the same amount of time to rest. The night dragged on in similar fashion as they tuned her motor skills in her hands, arms, and face.

 

The sun was coming up by the time they'd covered everything, and even then, they still weren't done.

 

"You've done so wonderfully, River. We're at the home stretch."

 

“What else do we have to do?" She asked, exhausted.

 

"We need to permanently lock you into your brain. Right now you can control your body with effort that will be easier with time, but you're only connected through what Jack and I are doing." He explained.

 

"So how do you lock it in?" She whispered, not liking this whole process.

 

"Well... in a tug-of-war sort of way. The pull you feel from Jack is going to increase and I'll mentally push from the other side through our connection." He said, though sounded more like he was sugar coating it. "Only, your body will be resistant to the change... so it might- it'll probably hurt."

 

"Everything seems to hurt." She grumbled.

 

"I know, and I really am sorry. But it's almost over love." He offered a smile. "You're almost back."

 

She fell silent, just wanting to get it over with. He waited a moment, then nodded to Jack, who increased the intensity of the pull. River tried not to show the pain that it caused, and focused on letting the pull take her. The Doctor eased into his push against her consciousness. She let out a whine of pain as the feelings grew more intense.

 

"Almost there, almost there..." He muttered, wincing at her pain. She didn't answer, not having the strength.

 

The minutes dragged out in high tension until he felt her click into place. "Jack, stop now!"

 

Jack stopped the system as fast as he could. The Doctor withdrew his mind from River's, cupping her face. "River? River, love, can you hear me?"

 

Her eyes slowly opened, and she looked up at him, as if trying to process what he had just said.

 

He let out a breath of relief. "Take a breath. Go on, just like we practiced." She took a shaking breath, unable to do much else. "It worked." He whispered, pressing his forehead to hers. "Thank Rassilon it worked."

 

Moments later, she was passed out, completely exhausted from the ordeal.

 

"I think we should put her on a breathing mask for a few days." Jack suggested, "It can help her adapt."

 

The Doctor nodded, scooping her up in his arms. "Let's move her to the medbay." Jack shut down the Hub equipment. The Doctor moved back into the TARDIS, knowing the other man would follow.

 

The sickbay was already set up when he arrived and he set River on the bed. The TARDIS had made the sickbay more homey for River, the bed having her favorite blanket laid across it and her picture box on the table beside it. He fetched an oxygen mask for her, carefully securing it over her mouth then sitting on the edge of the bed. She looked so peaceful as she slept, hair sprawled out encircling her head.

 

Jack wandered in some time later, finding the Doctor curled up next to his wife, both asleep. He tucked the blanket over the pair before going off to find a bed for himself.

 

River slept throughout the night and far into the morning, her body trying to gain as much strength as it could. The girls' little feet were what woke the Doctor in the morning. He squinted his eyes open, finding two little faces peering at him.

 

Freya whispered, "Is Mummy back yet?"

 

"Yes, she's back in her body." He whispered back, yawning.

 

"Can I talk to her?" She asked excitedly.

 

"I'm afraid she's sleeping right now. It was very tiring getting her back, so she's going to be like that for at least a few days."

 

Freya pouted, circling to the other side of the bed, wanting to curl up with River. He patted the bed for both girls to climb up. The girls clambered up onto the bed, snuggling against their mother and father.

 

Arthur began to cry down the hall, making it known that he was now awake. The Doctor finally rolled out of bed. "You two stay here. I'll be back." He went down the hall to the nursery. Arthur's cries grew louder when there wasn't an immediate response. "I'm coming, I'm coming." He quickly made his way in, turning the light on and scooping the baby up. "There's no need to fuss."

 

He whined, asking for River as usual.

 

The Doctor smiled softly at the boy. "Looks like you've got a treat today." He started walking back to the medbay. "Mummy's got a physical form again."

 

He cooed, liking the sound of whatever he had just said. The Doctor murmured to Arthur as he reentered the medbay, making sure to stay quiet. He placed Arthur on River's chest, keeping a hand on the boy's back so he'd stay balanced.

 

River stirred as the baby was placed on top of her, her eyes fluttering open slowly. "Auh." Arthur wiggled, trying to get his mum's attention.

 

She looked at him, a small smile spreading across her face, "Hello, my love."

 

Mummy! Mummymummymummymummy! He made a noise of excitement.

 

She couldn't understand what he was saying, as the connection they had had not been rebuilt, "Hi." She whispered again.

 

The girls perked their heads up, beaming. "You're awake!"

 

"Yes, I'm awake." She laughed softly, turning her attention to them. They tackled her with a hug, mindful of their baby brother. "Oh, gentle girls." River whispered.

 

"You're back, you're back!" They were too caught up with her not being dead to pay much mind to her words.

 

"Yes, I am. Please be gentle, my loves." She repeated.

 

They listened this time and settled themselves. "Back for good though, right?" Amelia asked.

 

"Yes, back for good." She tried to nod.

 

"Daddy says you're going to be tired for a long time." Freya said, not happy about that part.

 

"Yes, I'm sorry my love. I will be, but I'll get better with the more rest I get."

 

"You said that last time and then you got worse." She fretted.

 

"This time will be different. I promise." She whispered.

 

"Pinky promise? Cross your hearts?" The girl didn't seem convinced.

 

She nodded, "Yes of course."

 

Freya held up her little finger. "You hafta do the thing."

 

River tried to link pinkies with her daughter. The Doctor took her hand, helping guide her weary fingers.

 

Freya frowned. "Why'd he do that?"  

 

"Because I don't have enough energy to do it myself right now, but the more rest I get, the sooner I'll be back to normal."

 

She nodded in a quiet understanding. "But your birthday is really soon."

 

"I know, so hopefully I'll be a bit better then."

 

"But you won't be better by tomorrow." She pointed out.

 

"No, but I'll be able to move on my own, hopefully."

 

"What kind of cake is there going to be?" Amelia interrupted.

 

"What ever kind your father wants. He can choose." River looked towards the Doctor.

 

"Marble with vanilla frosting." He said decisively, his sweet tooth doing most of the talking.

 

"Sounds delicious." River murmured, looking back at the baby who was now growing fussy.

 

Arthur had been trying to talk through the mental connection the whole time, mostly just repeating the word 'Mummy'. Disappointment was all he was getting out of it.

 

"What's the matter, my sweet?" River whispered, bringing a shaking hand to rest on his back with the Doctor's after some effort. He started mewling, not quite at the point of wailing, but clearly quite unhappy.

 

"I think he's hungry." The Doctor murmured.

 

"Can I feed him?" River asked, not knowing if it was still possible.

 

"Your body hasn't had enough time with Arthur to trigger your hormones to produce milk." He explained to her. "They will within the next day or two, but for now you're stuck with bottled formula."

 

She nodded slowly, pressing a kiss to Arthur's head, "I'm sorry, sweetie, I can't help you."

 

"You can give him the bottle if you're up for it."

 

"I can help!" Amelia chimed in.

 

River laughed weakly, happy to see her daughter so enthusiastic to help with her little brother, "I'd love to give him a bottle, and I'd also love the help."

 

"I’ll prepare one." The Doctor offered, going to rummage through the cabinets until the TARDIS  give him what he needed.

 

A few minutes later, he wandered back over to the now properly crying Arthur. "Here we are."

 

The bed position had been shifted so River was sitting up now, though she needed help re-adjusting the baby in her arms, "I'll start him off and then you can help me hold the bottle, alright Amelia?"

 

The girl nodded eagerly, Freya just watching indifferently. River held Arthur carefully in her arm, coaxing the bottle into his mouth. He latched greedily, round, wet eyes staring up at her. Amelia took over holding the bottle, feeling how she expected big sisters felt.

 

River looked over at the Doctor, beaming. "Isn't that lovely..." He murmured and smiled back, remembering the girls' first feeding.

 

River glanced at Freya, hoping she would get over her initial grievances with her brother. Freya was staring at the baby, though more in a decisive manner than a glare. "Freya, my love, would you like a turn?" River asked gently.

 

She shook her head. "I'm okay."

 

"Alright." She didn't want to push her, looking back down at her son.

 

"You really like him." Freya muttered after a moment.

 

"Of course I do. I love him just like I love you. He's my baby." She looked back up at her, "Are you unhappy because I love him?"

 

She shook her head and tucked her knees up to her chest. "I just didn't know if you really meant it 'till now... You don't blame him or nothing."

 

"Of course I don't blame him. It wasn't his fault."

 

"Was he the only reason you wanted to come back?" Freya looked up at her mother, eyes glistening.

 

"No, no he wasn't the only reason. I wanted to come back to be with you too." She whispered. Freya silently nodded then moved to curl up against River's side. "I love you, Freya." She whispered.

 

The girl turned her head to River, the words returned in a muffled way. River looked at the baby, then up at the Doctor. The Doctor gestured for River to put her arm around their daughter. The girl seemed to just want comfort and that could be given easily through the physical contact. River wrapped her arm around Freya, sighing.

 

"Well," The Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets. "Since one of us is eating, can I make breakfast for the rest of you?"

 

The girls nodded, "Yes! Can we have muffins?"

 

"'Course. What kind?"

 

"Apple and chocolate chip." Amelia suggested.

 

"Coming right up. You can stay here, I'll bring them in when they're done." He smiled at his family, then left to the kitchen.

 

The girls curled up with River, the whole family content to be reunited.

 

Vastra wandered in some time later. "River, you've got physical form again."

 

River nodded, "Yes, and it feels good to be back."

 

Vastra smiled at her friend, practically beaming. "I'm so glad that after all you and your family have been through, your struggle has been rewarded."

 

She smiled back at her, "Thank you."

 

"Where's the Doctor, may I ask?"

 

"He went to go make breakfast for us." She murmured, looking down at the baby for a moment.

 

Vastra nodded and approached the bed. "Arthur looks delighted."

 

She laughed softly, "You think so?"

 

"Certainly more so than the last few days." Vastra reached down and stroked the boy's cheek for a moment before looking at the twins. "And how are you, little ones?’”

 

"I'm happy Mummy's back." Freya snuggled against River, Amelia nodding in agreement.

 

"We all are." She murmured. "Well, I just wanted to say goodbye to you all. I'll be heading home when the Doctor finishes cooking."

 

"Thank you so much for staying with us." River whispered.

 

"My pleasure. I'm just glad you're all okay now. The Doctor can see to your recovery and I do suppose you have a lot of... catching up to do with your family. You know where to find if you need me. Or to visit, of course. Tea is always at half past four." She added.

 

"I don't know what we would have done without you." River held out her arms to give her a hug before she left, "I'll see you soon."

 

"Bye-bye Auntie Vastra!" The girls chimed, waving to her.

 

Vastra waved as she headed out of the room, back to her home.

 

"Did Auntie Vastra know what was going to happen to you?" Freya asked after a few minutes of content silence.

 

River nodded slowly, "She did, but I made her promise not to tell anyone."

 

"Does that mean Uncle Jack knew too? And Clara?”

 

“Yes." She murmured, "You can't be cross with them for not telling you, I made them promise not to. So if you're going to be upset, be upset with me."

 

"Why did you tell us?" Freya asked quietly, Amelia looking up curiously as well.

 

"Because I didn't want you to be sad for all that time. I wanted to be able to make happy memories with you, without you both constantly thinking about what was going to happen."

 

"...I was pretty happy." Freya acknowledged, thinking about the amazing moments that had happened in the past many months. Getting the apartment, her birthday, and countless other things.

 

River smiled softly, "Good, I'm glad."

 

"And... I think I can be happy now too." She added, looking up at River.

 

River's smile grew wider, "I'm even happier to hear that."

 

The Doctor came in with the muffins just then, the smell wafting over to the girls and River.

 

"Those smell wonderful."

 

"Are you up for one?" He asked River. It was still pretty early for her digestive system to be properly running, but her body came with an empty stomach anyways.  

 

She shook her head, "I don't think I'll be able to eat it."

 

He nodded, and handed each of his daughters a muffin. "Well, it might take a little while."

 

"I'm happy to just keep holding Arthur." She smiled.

 

He settled next to his wife and wrapped his arms around her and his son. Amelia moved next to Freya, munching contently. River rested her head against the Doctor's shoulder, looking down at the baby, letting the boy chew on her finger.

 

"You know, I think everything's going to alright." The Doctor murmured, and he really meant it now.


She nodded in agreement, "I think so too."

Chapter Text

Ch 11

 

The sound of Arthur crying was what brought the Doctor out of his sleep. He found his wife through the sheets and nudged her with his foot. "River, it's your turn." He mumbled.

 

River groaned, reluctantly stumbling out of bed and down the hall to the nursery, "Alright, alright. Mummy's coming."

 

She yawned as she approached the crib. Arthur reached up for his mum, red faced and teary eyed. He'd been beginning to teethe and hadn't let his parents have a full night's sleep in a week.

 

"It's alright, my love." River murmured, scooping the baby up, "You're alright." She rubbed his back, grabbing one of is teething toys before heading back to her bedroom.

 

"You've brought company." The Doctor squinted up at River and their son as they came in.

 

"I thought he might like to see you." She murmured, kissing the baby's forehead as she sat back down on the bed, "Are you hungry, my love?"

 

Yes. Eat, eat! He whined. Their telepathic connection had been reformed over the past few months, with training and effort.

 

"Alright, alright. We'll feed you then." She began unbuttoning her top, eyes still half closed.  

 

"Lie back, love." The Doctor suggested, putting a hand on her arm.

 

"Hmm?" She stifled a yawn, laying back. Arthur made a mental demand for his milk.

 

"I can take the girls to school today." The Doctor offered, noting the pink line of sunrise outside the flat's window.

 

She nodded, holding Arthur up to eat, "We can both take them if you want."

 

"I want you to have the rest you need." He shifted to kiss her cheek, more awake now.

 

She smiled weakly, "We should take Arthur out today."

 

"You think so?" He scooted closer to her, peering over her shoulder at Arthur. "Where?"

 

"Just to the park." She murmured, tilting her head to lean against his, "Nowhere fancy."

 

"I love parks." He grinned. "I like that idea."

 

"Oh, but we're supposed to be hosting tea this week for all the girls friends’ parents.” She groaned.  

 

"Is that this week?" He raised an eyebrow. "Well, I guess we'll be going to the shop instead."

 

She sighed, closing her eyes and nuzzling his cheek, "I don't like any of those parents."

 

"They aren't too bad... What don't you like?"

 

"They're all so… dim." She murmured, readjusting Arthur to a more comfortable position before letting him continue to eat. "They're more concerned about their child's ability to spell, than their ability to defend themselves."

 

"Human children generally don't need to know defense. They develop slower and at this age aren't as bright as Amelia and Freya." He murmured.

 

"Well they don't need to be so critical of me." She muttered.

 

"They assume you're like them, but maybe it would help to talk about something other than self defense or education." He suggested.

 

"But it's not just because of that. They don't like me for… most things I do." She glanced down at the baby, wincing slightly when he bit.

 

"Like what?" He was getting confused now. How could anyone not like the amazing woman his wife was? Sure, she wasn't the most social when among humans, but it still didn't make sense to him.

 

She sighed, "It doesn't matter. You're hungry today." She murmured to the baby, changing the subject.

 

The Doctor decided to let it go. It was early and if it was terribly important, she'd tell him later. "I think he gets more so in the mornings."

 

She nodded, pressing a kiss to his cheek, "Do you like having a third?"

 

"He's absolutely wonderful." He affirmed, "And I think the girls really love him, too."

 

She smiled, "Do you think Freya's been handling it well?"

 

He nodded. "She's certainly making a lot of progress."

 

"Oh! Arthur, be gentle with Mummy." River murmured, frowning slightly.

 

The Doctor winced sympathetically. "Did he bite?"

 

She nodded, "He doesn't quite understand that he can't bite down while he's eating."

 

"He'll learn if you remind him often enough." He smiled. "Our children are brilliant learners."

 

She laughed softly, "Yes, that's true. We're going to have to wake the girls soon."

 

He looked out the window again. The sun was just viable now, the sky full of more fiery colors. "Can we stay like this a little longer?"

 

"Of course." She smiled softly, nuzzling his cheek.

 

He cuddled close to her, and they lay there in the quiet of their house. Arthur finished his breakfast and was quiet in River's arms until he started to whine again.

 

River had started to fall asleep again, the sound waking her up. "Shhhh, shhh, it's okay." She rubbed his back, "What's wrong, my love?"

 

"It's time to burp him." The Doctor carefully took the baby from her arms, holding Arthur against his shoulder and patting his back.

 

"You're going to need the cloth." She murmured, reaching over to her nightstand to get one of the rags.

 

"Thanks." He placed it over his shoulder then resumed burping his son. Arthur's whined increased, then he spit up and calmed.

 

"Oh, that was a big one. Mummy has such a good boy." River smiled kissing his cheek and wiping off his mouth.

 

"Yeah, you say that now only because you're not the one with spit up on your back." The Doctor took the rag off and chucked it into the hamper in the corner of the room. She laughed softly, giving him a quick peck before trying to steal the baby back. "Oi, you had your cuddle with him. My turn now." The Doctor insisted.

 

"Alright, fine." She curled up beside him so she could look at the baby.

 

Toby trotted into the room, hopping up on the bed. Arthur grabbed for the dog, having grown a liking to him. Toby trampled over the Doctor to go and lick the baby. The Timelord fell over. "Ack! River help!"

 

"Doctor! Watch the baby!" She was more concerned with the present safety of their child, than him, hauling the dog back by the collar and then going for the baby.

 

"Sorry, sorry." He apologized quickly and let Arthur into River's arms. Toby turned to face the baby, wapping the Doctor in the face with his tail.

 

"It's not your fault." She murmured, checking the baby over, making sure he wasn't hurt.

 

Again, again! Arthur giggled.

 

"No, not again." River breathed, holding him close to her chest, her heart hammering.

 

"River, you alright?" The Doctor asked.

 

She nodded, not speaking, though she was shielding the baby from the dog.

 

"Toby, go." The Doctor pointed towards the door, realizing he was making River uncomfortable. The dog jumped off the bed and slunk out of the room. "...Better?" He asked?

 

She didn't answer, rocking back and forth with the baby, squeezing her eyes shut.

 

"River..." He put a hand on her arm. "It's alright. It's okay, Arthur's okay." She flinched before finally relaxing, her breathing returning to normal. He offered a smile. "Sorry about that. Won't happen again, promise."

 

"It wasn't your fault." She whispered, pressing a kiss to Arthur's temple, "We should get the girls up."

 

"I'll do it." He stood. "I think you could use some extra cuddling time."

 

"Are you sure?" She asked, glancing up at him.

 

"Yes. Of course." He kissed her forehead.

 

"Okay." She whispered, curling back under the blankets, the baby securely in her arms. He looked at her for a second, admiring how the pale yellow light of the sun coming up splayed beautifully across her, before finally going to the girls' room.

 

The girls got up with minimal difficulty, always happy to go to school to see their friends. The Doctor made their breakfast and helped pack their bags, which mostly consisted of coloring books and crayons. River came down a bit later, with Arthur, double checking to make sure everything the girls needed was in their backpacks.

 

"Did the girls tell you they've got a field trip today?"

 

"Oh, really? Where are you going?" River asked as she searched for Arthur's teething cream.

 

"Ms. L said we're going to the science museum!" Amelia cheered excitedly.

 

"Oh my, that sounds like loads of fun!" She smiled, "I want you two to be careful, alright? Listen to Ms. L and don't wander off."

 

They nodded.

 

"Oh, that reminds me... I sort of volunteered as a chaperon. Also, I need you to grab something from Torchwood for me." The Doctor rubbed the back of his neck.

 

Her face fell a bit, "Oh, umm...alright. What is it you need?"

 

"It's a... thingy. With nobs and bits. Ask Jack, he'll know where it is." He lied.

 

She raised an eyebrow, "A thingy?"

 

"Yes! A thingy. An important thingy." He declared.

 

She huffed, quite unhappy that the plan to spend the day together was now falling through, "Fine. I'll go on my way to the shops."

 

"Thank you dear!" He smiled. "I promise I'll make it up to you later."

 

"We should go get dressed then." She directed the comment to Arthur, "We have a busy day ahead of us." She went and kissed the tops of Amelia and Freya's heads. "Can you give your sisters kisses?"

 

"Uuh!" Was Arthur's response, along with a wiggle. Can't reach!

 

She held him up to each girl in a distance that he could manage. His kisses were sloppy and more of him just pushing his head forwards, but it made the girls smile anyways.

 

"Oh, good boy!" River praised, giving him a kiss of his own.



"And one for Daddy!" The Doctor cooed, taking Arthur for a moment.

 

River smiled weakly, watching as Arthur gave the Doctor a big sloppy kiss on the cheek, "Have a fun time at the museum."

 

"We will!" They all said, gave River hugs and kisses, and left for the school.

 

River and Arthur went upstairs to get read. It took a while to actually get out the door since the pets needed feeding, Arthur needed changing, and the pram wasn’t where she’d left it. Toby joined the walk when she and Arthur actually left and arrived at the Hub.

 

"Look who it is! My favorite Timelady and co." Jack greeted River with a hug.

 

"Hello, Jack." River smiled, hugging him back and pushing the pram into the hub. "The Doctor sent me on an errand to pick something up. He said it's a 'thingy' with nobs and bits?"

 

"I don't remember the Doctor leaving anything here, and everything in here has nobs and bits, but you're free to poke around. I can watch the little man for you."

 

"Alright, I would appreciate that. He may be a bit sleepy, he usually naps around now." She carefully lifted the baby out of the carriage and handed him to Jack.

 

"Piece of cake." He grinned, going back up to his office and leaving River to search.

 

She began searching through the various objects, rather frustrated with her husband for sending her on this errand with absolutely no information. After a few minutes the TARDIS started to materialize.

 

"What are you doing out of bed?"

 

She turned, eyebrow raised, "Sorry?"  

 

"You're..." The Doctor stood before her, looking absolutely baffled. "Supposed to be resting."

 

She raised an eyebrow, "And why, exactly, am I supposed to be resting? You're supposed to be on a school trip."

 

"Well… um..." He lost his words, a million questions tumbling through his mind and almost onto his tongue.

 

She hummed softly, "Are you alright?"

 

He approached her, acting awfully different to the chipper Doctor from the house this morning. He let out a breath when his hand met the skin of her cheek.

 

"Doctor?" She murmured, staring at him, "Wh-" She was cut off by the start of wailing from down the hall.

 

"That's... Arthur?" He said in breathy whisper, almost like he'd never heard the sound before.

 

She was starting to really understand what was going on now. "Spoilers." She whispered, a smile breaking out on her face thinking of all the happy memories that were to come for him.

 

"You... know when I am then?" His eyes brightened.

 

"Well, I do now." She laughed weakly, "The awe in your voice gave you away. You'd better get used to that sound, sweetie." She smiled, referring to the baby's cries.

 

"It can't be much different from when the girls were born." He chuckled back, the sound watery. "It's been so long since we had to do diaries."

 

"Yes, it has. I guess I'm a bit out of practice." She glanced back towards the baby's cries, "I should probably go attend to the baby."

 

"And I should probably not see... timelines and all." He made no move away from her, though.

 

She could tell he was reluctant to leave, "Keep taking care of me and I'll be just fine. Cuddling and kisses go a long way and all the trouble you may or may not have on Arthur's birthday is so worth it."  She was tempted to say Terra just to mess with him, but instead leaned in to kiss him, "Let's keep this meeting our little secret, yeah?"

 

His answer was a passionate kiss, all the emotions he had pouring out. There was so much more in this Doctor's kiss, like if he let go, she'd shatter. She kissed him back with as much love and passion as she could, knowing he needed it.

 

When they broke apart, she laughed softly, "Take care, my love. I'll see you soon."

 

"Sooner than you'd think." He was smiling and crying like an idiot, though he didn't seem to notice or mind. He finally went back the the TARDIS, knowing he wasn't supposed to be there.

 

She turned and headed down the hallway, her voice echoing back to him, "Alright, alright! Mumma's coming!"

 

"I got this one, River." Jack called back, though didn't sound convincing.

 

"Are you sure?" She asked, already coming into the room.

 

"I know how to change a diaper, but if you have a diaper bag with you, that would be great." He said. "Was that the TARDIS I just heard?"  

 

"Yes, the Doctor dropped by." She called as she ran to get the diaper bag.

 

"And he didn't even say hello. How rude." He teased.

 

"I couldn't let him see the baby, it was the wrong Doctor." She explained.

 

"Oooh." This engrossed him, his tone like a school girl talking about crushes. He took the diaper bag from her. "Come on, spill."

 

She shook her head, "There's nothing to tell. He was only here for about two minutes."

 

He nudged River with his elbow. "Aw, come River. I'm sure it's int-" The sound of the Hub door opening and closing cut him off. "Oh, I guess that'll be the present version of your husband."

 

"You can go meet him, I'll finish up with this little one."

 

"Nonsense. I'm almost done." He chuckled, clearly just wanting more time with his nephew. "Go get 'im."

 

She smiled, turning and running out of the room. Her Doctor was poking about at computers, trying to make himself look busy.

 

"Hello there." She grinned, leaning against the stairway railing.

 

"Oh, River!" He straightened himself up so quickly that he nearly knocked himself over. "Uh... did you find the thingy?"

 

"Yes." She smiled, "I did find the thingy."

 

"Good." He coughed awkwardly, then made his gangly limbs take him over to her. "Turns out the field trip had too many chaperons so they didn't need me." IN truth he’d never actually signed up to me one, he’d only said so she’d say what he remembered her saying.

 

She wrapped her arms around him, "So does that mean you're going to spend the day with me?"

 

"Yes." He nodded, then pecked her lips. "Besides, we've got some tea to pick out." She nuzzled his cheek, humming, happy that she was going to get to spend the day with her husband and their son.

 

"Good as new and smelling like a rose." Jack announced, carrying Arthur down the stairs.

 

"Heya, Doc!"

 

"Oh, there's my baby!" River smiled, holding her arms out for the baby. J

 

ack handed Arthur over. "You guys leaving already?"

 

River nodded, "I'm afraid so, we have some errands to run."

 

He exaggerated a sigh. "You guys need to come about more often."

 

"We will, I promise." River smiled. Jack waved them off and the three plus the dog left the hub.

 

"Where to, sweetie?" River asked, making sure Arthur was nice and warm in the pram.  

 

"I probably should have made a list. What do we need? Tea..." He started, then couldn't quite think of anything else.

 

"Biscuits, we need more milk, something for the girls and their friends to snack on..." She listed off.  

 

"Sounds like a mission for the grocery store." He decided.

 

She nodded, taking his hand and walking with him and pushing the pram along. They looked utterly human at the moment. That is, until Toby spotted something and started running ahead of them.

 

"No, Toby wait!"

 

"Toby!" River called, "Come here!"

 

The dog barked, but didn't listen. The Doctor scrambled after him. River stayed behind, not wanting to risk hurting the baby by trying to run with the stroller. The Doctor followed Toby down an alley, both of them falling silent.

 

After a long moment or few, Toby ran out without the Doctor, whimpering.

 

"Toby?" River whispered, peering into the alley, her hearts pounding. Toby tried to nudge her in the opposite direction, not wanting her down there.

 

The Doctor was lying on the ground. She froze a few steps into the alley, gasping, horrified. "Doctor!"

 

"Nngh... River, you have to run." The Doctor tried to prop himself up on his arm, holding his head.

 

She scooped up Arthur from the pram, holding him tightly to her chest, "No! I'm not leaving you."

 

"She's here. She'll hurt you. Please..." There was blood coming from beneath his hand.

 

"I can't abandon you." She whispered, wanting to step in and help him, but afraid of putting Arthur in danger.

 

"It's a trap. Just go! " He begged.

 

She began to back up, torn between helping her husband and protecting her baby. Toby barked, pulling on River's dress for her to run, but at that point, it was too late.

 

"Oh, of course it's a trap. I'm the queen of traps. "

 

River still tried to run, making the decision that the Doctor could defend himself if he really had to, she needed to protect their son.

 

"Ah ah ah." Missy clicked her tongue and blocked her path. "Now where do you think you're going?"

 

She didn't answer, trying to slam her with her shoulder and bolt. Missy easily countered, pushing River hard instead. She stumbled, but managed to stay on her feet.


Toby growled, trying to bite Missy, allowing River to finally get past her. Missy make a frustrated noise, trying to go after River, but the Doctor managed to grab her leg. "Just keep running River! Find the girls!"  

Chapter Text

Ch 12

 

River hurried with the pram and dog to the museum that the girls were visiting, running through the place to try and find them. She was stopped by one of the employees.

 

"Excuse me, miss, I'm going to have to ask you not to run. And there are no animals allowed in here."

 

"Yes, I'm aware, I'm sorry, but I need to find my daughters. It's an emergency."

 

Toby trotted ahead, barking for River to follow. She got after him, finally seeing the girls. She rushed over to them, quickly speaking to their teacher and coming up with a story about an accident and that the girls needed to come home immediately. She whisked them out of the museum.

 

"Did Daddy really get in an accident?" Freya worried.

River hesitated, "Let's just get home." She shooed her along. They went into the TARDIS when they got to the flat, which was parked in the living room.

 

"Mummy..." The girl insisted, climbing up on the jump seat. "Is Daddy hurt? Is he okay??"

 

"Yes," She lied, giving her a smile, "He's alright, but he needs my help with something very important, so Uncle Jack is going to come over and watch you." She was already piloting the TARDIS to Torchwood, Arthur starting to cry in her arms.

 

"Well why couldn't it wait 'till after the field trip?" Amelia frowned.

 

Her smiled faded a bit as she tried to think of an excuse, "Because it has to do with saving the world."

 

"Oh, oh can we come!" This only excited her. "Please, please, please? I wanna help! I can save people!"

 

"Not this time, my love." She murmured, "I need you to take care of your brother for me, can you do that?"

 

Amelia nodded, only pouting a little. She knew that her parents considered caring for her little brother an equally if not more important job.

 

Freya tugged on River’s dress for attention again. "Uncle Jack doesn't need our help with that. I want to finish the field trip!”

 

"Well, I want you here, just in case he needs your help. Because you know what? I think you're much smarter than Uncle Jack. Once I'm finished, I can take you back to your field trip if you'd like."

 

"Can you get us back when we left so we don't miss any?" She crossed her arms. Last time the girls had been pulled out of school, they had come back and missed an entire month, though that was mainly the Doctor's poor driving.

 

"Of course, my sweet." She kissed her forehead, "Now, would you like to hold your little brother?"

 

Freya nodded, feeling more confident that this was only a short break from school. She sat, as it was a rule for getting to hold the baby, and held her arms out. "Where is Daddy, anyways?"

 

"He's out starting to fix things right now." River put the baby in her arms, giving her another quick kiss before running to the doors to get Jack.

 

"Can't get enough of me, huh?" Jack flirted as he was dragged into the TARDIS. "River Song, you bad-" He cut himself off when he realized the girls were there.

 

"I need you to watch them." She whispered, glancing at the girls.

 

"What's going on." He frowned, knowing that tone.

 

"It's Missy. She found us while we were out. I don't know where she or the Doctor are now. I had to leave him, I couldn't let her get to the baby." She shook her head, squeezing her eyes shut. Luckily the girls were out of earshot.

 

"You need me to keep them safe." It wasn't so much of a question, but more of a confirmation that he would do so in confidence. "Your place or mine?"

 

"The Hub." She murmured, "I may need the TARDIS."

 

He nodded, looking at the girls and putting on his 'funny uncle' face.  "Hey kiddos! I've got a super fun computer game for you if you come in here." Amelia immediately jumped up and ran into the hub, Freya needing to wait until he took the baby. "Don't worry, Riv. I'll call you at the first sign of trouble." Jack assured, patting her arm with his free hand.

 

River nodded, thanking him as he left. She then took off in the TARDIS, back to the place where she had left the Doctor and only a few minutes after she’d first left. There was nothing there now, the Doctor having left or been taken. Probably the latter.

 

"Well you certainly that hook easily." Missy was leaning against the TARDIS, fixing her lipstick in the mirror.

 

"What do you want?" River hissed, glaring at her.

 

"Oh, that's right. You were too dead to hear that I'm planning to ruin your life." Missy grinned.

 

"Well, I'm not dead anymore, so care to inform me?"

 

"Yes, because I really just wanted to take this time to explain to you my evil plan." She said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. "But don't worry. Half the job is already done."

 

"What half is that?"

 

“Well, dearie,” Her sinister grin returned as she circled River. "Messing with thick people is really quite easy. Change some wind here, talk to some people there…. Think of all the bad things that have happened to you since you and what's-his-face decided to create those little disgraces. Things you might blame on, say, other people. Things you might blame on nature."

 

River shook her head, "What are you implying?"

 

"Oh, go on, trollop. Even a half-breed could put it together. Then again, those idiots with the dumb eye patches had trouble with it, too."

 

She glared at her, still unclear what exactly Missy was referring to.

 

"Your thick skull is really making this conversation quite boring for me." She pouted. "Do you have any tea?"

 

"Well I'm sorry I can't read your mind." River snapped, "Most people don't have that ability, you know."

 

"The Doctor and I used to be able to, before he shut me out at least." Missy seemed to enjoy toying with River.

 

"Well, now he shares that ability with me." River replied cooly.

 

"Hardly." She countered. "Whatever you think you have, it's nowhere close to what it could've been if you weren't a mutt."

 

"At least I'm not a lonely Time Lady who can only get attention by kidnapping and terrorizing her former friend."

 

“Don't forget allowing the stupid eye-patch-people to track your family, break into your TARDIS on several occasions, putting the Vashta Nerada spores in the books, providing that ghastly woman with that weird drug for you, drowning the thing you call a daughter..." She listed, counting on her fingers. "I think I'm missing a few, but I do love a track record."

 

River suddenly felt like she couldn’t breathe. "You drowned Amelia?" She stared at her, startled, before something else clicked in her brain, " You let the Silence into the TARDIS? You're the reason my expedition left only Mr Lux alive?? You’re the reason my son died?!!"

 

Missy inspected her nails. "It died? Oh good, I was hoping that would happen."

 

River’s expression hardened and she attacked her, taking her to the ground.

 

"Now, now, there's no need to get temperamental." Missy struggled. "If you kill me now, you'll never find where your dear little hubby is."

 

She had dealt with Missy enough to know that her games of ‘be nice to me and I'll tell you what you want’ never worked. She'd need to use force to get information out of her. River grabbed hold of Missy’s collar, ramming her head into the ground, "Where is my husband?!"

 

"Oof, now that's just going to make me dizzy." Missy exaggerated the expression.

 

She did it again, "Answer me!"

 

Missy growled, surging up and flipping them over. She grabbed River's wrist and forced her to hold her vortex manipulator as they dematerialized. River didn't even look to see where they were when they landed, forcing another flip so she was on top again.

 

Suddenly hands were on River, wrenching her off the other Timelady and forcing her to the floor. Missy stood, rubbing her head and dusting herself off.

 

"Get off of me!" River shouted, struggling against whomever was holding her.

 

"I believe you've been here before." Missy put her hand on her hip. "Welcome to the Papal Mainframe."

 

River continued to battle the person holding her, "What do you want?" She shouted at her.

 

"Well in short, you'll all be dead by the end of the day. Chain her somewhere useful." Missy waved to the orderly to take River away.

 

"Get off of me!" She shouted again, struggling with all of the force she had. Another person came to help restrain her, dragging her down stairs and to a cell. They chained her to the wall and left with a firm slam of the door.

 

She struggled against her chains, trying to escape, "If you don't let me out this instant, you'll regret it!"

 

"Don't I know it." The reply came from behind her, on the other side of the wall.

 

She froze her shouts falling silent for a moment.

 

"River?" The man's voice asked. "You still there? You're not a figment of my imagination, are you?"

 

"No..." She breathed, "I'm here."

 

"Oh." He seemed a bit disappointed. "So then you really did get captured. Are the girls safe?"

 

"I hope so..." She murmured, guilt flooding through her when she heard the disappointment in his voice.

 

"Did you leave them with Vastra?"

 

"I'm not going to tell you." She shook her head. She wouldn't dare risk someone overhearing and finding out where they were hidden.

 

He nodded, though she couldn't see him. "Sorry, I should have asked something else. They took my sonic first day here, I'm awfully bored."

 

"What do you mean first day?" She breathed.

 

"I mean the first day I was here." He stated.

 

"How long have you been here?"

 

"Four days, I think. There isn't exactly a clock in here."

 

She shook her head, trying to struggle out of the chains again, she fighting so hard her wrists threatened to break.

 

"River..." The Doctor worried at the sound of clanking metal. "If you're trying to break out, it's not going to work. I already tried." She ignored him, trying harder than before. "You're going to hurt yourself!" He said louder, think maybe she hadn't heard him.

 

There was a snap and she cried out in pain, the warning coming too late.

 

"River!" The called out to her, worry taking over completely.

 

Her breathing was heavy now, trying to work through the pain, "I-I'm okay, I'm alright. I can get out now."

 

He was silent for a moment. "Is it both of them?"

 

"Not yet." She murmured, "But it'll have to be."

 

The sound of one chain falling against the wall came before the tugging resumed. His hearts clenched and if he had been able to cover his ears, he would have. He didn't want to hear her in pain because she was in a place she shouldn't have been in the first place. There was another snap, followed by a muffled mix of a whimper and a cry of agony.

 

He squeezed his eyes shut. "I'm so sorry." She was silent, the sound of the other shackle hitting the wall. He wished he had regeneration energy to give her.

 

"I-I'm out now." She whispered, though the pain made it hard to concentrate.

 

"Give yourself a moment, will you?" He begged.

 

"We don't have a moment." Her breath was ragged, as if she had just ran a marathon.

 

"Well you need one." He couldn't imagine what pain she was in right now.

 

She fell against the wall, on the brink of passing out from the pain. One self-inflicted wrist break she could handle, two was too much.

 

"Just breathe, okay?" He instructed from the other side of the wall. It was all he could do since he couldn't physically comfort her. She nodded, despite the fact that they couldn't see each other.

 

The sound of footsteps could be heard coming back towards her cell. Missy's face soon appeared in the bars of the window in River’s door. "Aw, you did the fun part without me."

 

She ignored Missy, still focusing on breathing.

 

"Looks like you didn't enjoy it as much as I am. No matter. Did him in doors tell you to do it?"

 

"No." She growled, still not looking at her.

 

Missy grinned, "Oh, Doctor!" She called.

 

"You just stay away from her!" The Doctor shouted, not having heard most of what they were saying.

 

"You know, I think I'm in the mood to play a bit of operation!" She called, stepping further into River's cell, "And your wife will make the perfect patient."

 

"Get away from her!" He cried, starting to struggle against his bonds. He was nowhere near as strong as River was, and wouldn't be able to break out like she did, but that wouldn't stop his attempts.

 

"What shall we fix first, hmm? Perhaps we should remove a few organs to make sure she can't spread her mutt blood again." She snapped, two orderlies came in behind her to grab River. They secured her arms behind her back, holding her wrists rather tightly.

 

River fought back until they grabbed her wrists, melting in pain.

 

"Oh, I do love a weak spot." Missy drew a knife from her pocket.

 

"Doctor!" River called, not seeing a way she could get out of this on her own. She tried to fight, but the grip on her wrists was almost unbearable.

 

"Yes, call for help. I makes things more hilarious." Missy sneered.

 

The clanging metal in the other room didn't stop, the Doctor trying furiously to get to River. There was a snap, but this wasn't of bones breaking; it was of metal. River's heart was pounding, the snap making her more nervous as she didn't know if it was the Doctor breaking the chains or something else.

 

Even Missy paused at the noise. "What does he think he's playing at." She glanced over her shoulder as if she would be able to see through the wall to see what he was doing.

 

The scraping of metal against the floor started along with footsteps that were coming closer. Missy turned to the door to see the Doctor standing there, utterly enraged that she would even dare touch his wife. The cuffs were still around his wrists, the chains dragging behind him having been broken off.

 

River was staring as well, relieved to see him again. Missy, though surprised, kept a cool exterior, twirling the knife in her hands, "Well, look who finally showed up to the operating room. Just in time to watch your pet get sterilized."

 

"You. Will. Not. Touch. Her." He ground out, raising his arm and whipping a chain at her. It wrapped around the arm she was holding the knife in and he yanked as hard as he could.

 

Missy stumbled, barely catching her balance before yanking back. The Doctor was pulled to his knees, but instantly jumped up and tacked her. She fought back, calling for assistance. She tossed the knife aside, as she wasn't aiming on killing the Doctor. The orderlies idiotically let go of River and went to try to restrain the Doctor.

 

"No, you idiots!" Missy snapped, "Get both of them!"

 

The Doctor took the other chain and attacked one of the orderlies before they could move back to River. "River, run!"

 

River ran behind him, "Come one, let's go." She touched his arm.

 

"A bit busy, give me a sec." He huffed, getting the chains untangled from Missy and the orderly. "Okay, now run." River grabbed one of the chains, wincing a bit and then taking off.

 

They sprinted down the hall, Missy close on their tails. "Please tell me you have the TARDIS."

 

She shook her head, "Missy used her vortex manipulator, but there has to be another way to get out of here."

 

"We have to assume no one here is our friend. But there's too many to fight." They went around a corner. She nodded in agreement, on the lookout for any immediate threats. "We've got to find somewhere we can barricade ourselves so we can have second to think."


She nodded again, glancing over her shoulder. They took twists and turns in attempts to shake Missy off their trail, pushing themselves as fast as they could manage. They came across a room and darted inside, setting to barricading the door.

Chapter Text

Ch 13

 

Once they were finally barricaded in the room, River closed her eyes, trying to catch her breath, before looking down at her wrists.

 

"May I see?" The Doctor asked, out of breath.

 

She nodded, holding her arms out to him. He gently traced over the swollen, bruised skin, doing his best not to put any pressure on them. "I'll make you temporary splints. You'll need them until we can get somewhere with help."

 

She winced, despite his gentleness, "Okay." She breathed, "I'm sorry."

 

"You did what you had to." He murmured, searching the room for something to make the splint with. They seemed to be in a religious sort of chamber, as there was an altar there, though it was shaped like a bed. He started taking apart what he could.

 

River stayed out of the way, feeling rather useless as she could do almost nothing with her hands.

 

"Aright." He came back to her when he had enough things to split her wrists with. "This won't be comfortable."

 

She shook her head, "I don't want it then."

 

He frowned. "If your wrists don't heal properly, the long term effects won't be any less harsh."

 

"Fine." She sighed, "Here."

 

He started with her right hand, carefully securing a piece of a bar and a piece of wood on her wrist with his bow tie. She winced, holding still so he could finish.

 

He pressed a kiss to her fingers when he'd finished. "Almost done, just one more wrist to go."

She tucked her head against his neck, "Can we rest first?"

 

He nodded. "Yes. Whatever you need." Her body was shaking slightly, not because she was afraid, but from the sheer physical shock it had just endured.

 

He wrapped his arms around her, sitting them gently on the floor.

 

"Are you alright?" She whispered, nuzzling his neck.

 

"Are you?" He asked back.

 

"I asked first." She teased.

 

"Oh very well." He gave in. "I'm... alright, given the circumstances."

 

"I'm sorry for leaving you." She whispered, "But I couldn't let her get to Arthur."

 

"I don't hold you to any fault on that. Our children are first priority."

 

She nodded, leaning in to give him a soft kiss. Their lips moved against each other's gently and lovingly. "I love you." She murmured against his lips.

 

"I love you, too." He whispered, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "You never answered my question."

 

"I'm alright." She breathed, leaning into his hand, "Especially since you came to my rescue."

 

"You were the one who came to my rescue first." He chuckled.

 

"Yes, but you saved me from getting my organs cut out." She kissed his jaw.

 

"Now what kind of husband would I be if I let that happen?" He smiled.

 

She laughed softly, "I was quite impressed with your breakout."

 

"I'd been working at the chains for days. They were weak already." He explained.

 

"Ah, so it had nothing to do with me and the lives of any potential future children being in danger?" She asked playfully.

 

"Nothing at all." He teased.

 

She pouted, playfully, "Oh, pity."  

 

"Does that disqualify me from getting any potential future children?"  

 

"Well, no. I suppose not." She looked up at him, "Do you want them?" They hadn't really talked about it yet.

 

He shrugged. "I don't know yet."

 

She laced her fingers through his, "Alright." She murmured, "Take your time."

 

He nodded. He didn't really have any objection to another kid, but Arthur was only a few months old and Missy was still a huge threat. It wasn't the time to be thinking about babies. "How about that other wrist?"

 

She nodded, holding her other wrist out to him. He wrapped it up as quickly as he could, not wanting her to be in pain for long. She tried not to wince, needing another break after he finished.

 

"We need a plan." He advised. "And quickly."

 

"Do you have any ideas?" She asked, eyes still closed.

 

"Not very goods ones." He admitted. "And not ones I'm sure will work."

 

"Well, we need to find a way to stop Missy from following us home." She murmured, looking up at him.

 

"Or else the kids won't be safe." He added in agreement, then swallowed worriedly. "All the other times, it didn't work. All the other times, she came back and the consequences keep getting worse. ...but I don't know if I can bring myself to take the permanent solution."

 

"If you won't do it, I will." River stood, pacing. She didn't want to endanger her children and there was only one way to stop that from happening.

 

He nodded slowly. "That would be better, but we don't exactly have an armory." He looked around.

 

"And I can't use much else with broken wrists." She sighed, walking around the room, "There has to be something in here though."

 

"My chains, you can use the wood pieces as a club..." He stood and did the same as River, peaking around corners and behind curtains. "Ooh, that could be useful."

 

"What?" She asked, walking to his side.

 

He pulled the curtain back further to reveal a display case. To their luck, it was a showing of old fashioned weaponry, mostly pistols. "I guess we do have an armory."

 

"Doctor..." River murmured, "I don't think I'm going to be able to do this. I won't be able to use any of this with both of my wrists broken."

 

"Then..." He looked at her. "We'll work together. As it should be."

 

"But you do realize that you're going to have to do the actual..." She hesitated to say the word.

 

He nodded solemnly, setting his jaw. "It's not the time for me to be sentimental. Whatever she once was to me, won't matter right now. You are what matters. Our children are what matter. I have a duty of care to you all, and that means protecting you at any costs. This is just one of the costs."

 

She leaned in and kissed him deeply, passionately. "You can do it."

 

"Not without your help." He held her close. "Together, River."

 

"Together." She nodded, melting into the embrace.

 

They stayed like that for a moment before he pulled away and smashed the glass case. He collected the pistols and knives, pleased (and a bit conflicted) to find the guns already loaded.

 

She gave his arm a squeeze, heading back towards the door. "Now that we have the weapons, what's next? What's our plan?"

 

"Well... stand and fight. Missy is either going to kill us, or toy with us and then kill us. But she's not coming through that door alone and she's not coming unarmed. We need to isolate her. Once she falls, the Mainframe will fall with her. We’ll need to get her vortex manipulator and we'll need to blow this place up. Also we need to not die."

 

She nodded, taking a deep breath, "We should try to get her in here."

 

"That won't be a problem." He assured. As if on cue, there came a pounding from the other side of the door.

 

"Sorry, we're busy." River called, hoping to irritate Missy.  

 

The banging came harder. "See if you can use the chains." The Doctor mouthed.

 

"For what?" She mouthed back.

 

He tried to mimic the movements of fighting, hoping she'd get the message. She tilted her head, not understanding what he was trying to imply.

 

"Well you need something to defend yourself with." He huffed.

 

The next bang caused some of the barricade of furniture to fall away. She took a plank that he hadn't used for her wrists, though not without an eye roll. He tried to give her a thankful smile, the door being forced open a significant crack.

 

Missy was right upfront, her arm reaching through the crack.

 

"Visiting hours are over, Missy. Come back tomorrow." The Doctor said, weapon secure in his hand. River stood on the other side of the door, ready to wack Missy's hand.

 

Missy reached in, trying to push away the things in front of the door.

 

"Pull her in!" River mouthed to her husband. The Doctor pocketed his gun and grabbed Missy's arm, yanking as hard as he could.

 

MIssy fell into the room, River slamming the door behind her. Missy jumped up, anger etched on her face. She grabbed the closest thing, which happened to be a metal pipe, and started for River.

 

River fought back with her plank, though every movement she made with her hands was agony in her broken bones.

 

The Doctor panicked, taking the gun back out and raising it. His hesitation was like being chained up again. He had no idea how to aim, and there was the possibility of hitting River. The thought of having to fire it at all was enough to make his hands shake, but regardless, he pulled the trigger.

 

The first missed by a lot, but the second shot hit Missy, by some miracle, right through the chest, close enough to nick one of her hearts. The Doctor ran over to his wife, eyes wide in shock as he motioned for her to back away.

 

River struggled out of his arms, needing to get the vortex manipulator.

 

"River, wait. She's going to-" He cut himself off as Missy looked up at the pair, starting to glow gold.

 

"You have to hit her again." River called, still trying to get the manipulator.

 

"Why don't you just take her regeneration energy? She won't make it without all of it." He counter-suggested, though was already gripping the gun again.

 

"What do you mean?" She asked, staring at him.

 

"Take the energy to heal your wrists." He repeated, not knowing how to clarify it much further.

 

River grabbed Missy's wrist, trying to figure out how to take her energy. She hadn't realized that regeneration energy could be taken, she thought that it could only be given.

 

"You've got to invade her mind and force her to redirect the energy flow to you." He instructed.

 

She tried to hone in on Missy's mind, trying to do as he said. "No...! Stop...!" Missy managed, though it was already working for River's behalf.

 

The pain in River’s wrists seemed to melt away as the light dancing around her.

 

"Keep your focus!" The Doctor encouraged. Missy cried out, struggling in vain to get away.

 

Now that her wrists had begun to heal, River’s grip grew stronger, and she held Missy tightly, her focus keeping. Missy's strength and life force drained away. The light soon faded and the Timelady slumped forwards, completely limp.

 

River didn't lose her focus until the light was completely gone, staring at Missy's motionless form. The Doctor urged her to back away again, finding that his voice was gone. River collapsed against him, unable to look away from the figure in front of her.

 

"We... we killed her." He croaked.

 

She shook her head, "We have to finish this." It wasn't the time to dwell on what they'd done, they had to finish the job if they wanted to get back home. She walked over to Missy's body, retrieving the vortex manipulator.

 

"Maybe you should hold the guns now." He breathed, staying close to her.

 

She took the guns from him, giving him the vortex manipulator in return, "We need to try and find a way to blow this place up."

 

"There's a main control room on the top deck." He said quietly, trying to save his emotions to deal with later.

 

"If you use the vortex manipulator, we can get there." She murmured. He nodded and programmed the device, gesturing for her to put her hand on. She gently placed her hand on his.

 

He paused, looking at her for a moment before pressing the activation.

 

The console room was not empty, though River immediately went to work with the guns. The Doctor tried not to look, focusing on finding the controls. The others were taken care of in no time, leaving the Doctor to work in peace.

 

"Alright, I've found most of the controls. Jam the door and help me find the ones for the engine." He instructed, now totally focused on his work.

 

She nodded, running to open the control panels on the automatic door, messing with the wires and then helping him investigate the control panel.

 

It took them a good ten minutes at least to fully identify what each button did. "What I wouldn't give for a sonic right now." He muttered. "Alright, reroute any power you can to the motor. It'll overload this thing and this place with go down."

 

She nodded, immediately going to work rerouting power and then jamming the controls so it couldn't be undone. He worked on lowering the engine capacity so it would blow more quickly.

 

The lights flicked and went out, the whole place starting to shake. "River, we've got to get out of here."

 

She grabbed his hand, helping him type in the coordinates for where the TARDIS had been left. Alarms started everywhere, and the far wall started to crumple. They weren't going to wait around and see the damage.

 

They left with a flash, landing flat on their backs in a very familiar console room. River was breathing heavily, frozen on the ground. Her body was still pumping with adrenaline, the blood rushing in her ears.

 

The Doctor managed to prop himself up on his side, turning quickly to her. "You alright?"

 

"...Yes." She breathed, after a moment. She was starting to calm down now. "Are you?"

 

"Mentally or physically?" He sat up, rubbing his head.

 

"Both." She murmured, sitting up as well.

 

"I could be better." He said in the same tone. "I could be dead, too."

 

"She was the reason Amelia nearly drowned, she was the reason William died, I can't.... I'm sorry, but I can't feel guilty for what happened." She shook her head.

 

He stared at her. "She what?"

 

"She was behind all of that. Everything to Silence did to us..." She swallowed, not wanting to go into the details, "She was bragging about it and..." She trailed off.

 

His regret was knocked out of him and he scrambled to his feet. "Where are the girls?"

 

"Arthur and the girls are with Jack at the Hub." She stood, already heading for the controls. They started piloting as quickly as they could, the TARDIS shaking with the flight.

 

As soon as they landed, River ran out the doors, eager to see her children. The Doctor followed at an equal pace.

 

The Hub seemed empty, but soon there was giggling from upstairs. River darted up the stairs, relieved to hear giggling. The parents came into Jack's office, finding that their daughters had convinced Jack to let them put makeup on him. He looked rather like a clown.

 

River laughed when she saw him, "Jack, you look wonderful!"

 

"Arthur thinks I look terrifying. He won't let me pick him up!" The man laughed.

 

"Where is he?" She asked, looking around the room.

 

Jack pointed to the baby carrier seated on one of the side desks. "He's been fussy, but the girls helped me calm him."

 

"Oh, hello, my love." River smiled, walking around and lifting the baby up out of the carrier.

 

Arthur made a nearly toothless grin, kicking his legs out and gurgling. River pressed kisses all over his face, bringing him over to the Doctor.

 

"There's my little man." The Doctor smiled, taking his son from River and cradling him close.

 

"Did you and Daddy save the world?" Amelia hopped over to her parents, letting Freya finish Jack's makeover.

 

"Yes, we most certainly did." River smiled, leaning down to kiss her forehead. "

 

From what?" She asked.

 

"Don't worry about it." She murmured.

 

The girl nodded, "Does this mean we can go back to school now?"

 

"Of course, if that's what you want to do."

 

"Not before giving your Daddy a hug." The Doctor added, crouching to his daughter's’  level.

 

She hugged him tightly, eager to get back to school. Arthur waved his hands greedy towards Amelia.

 

"You too, Freya. Come give me hug."

 

Freya finally finished with Jack's makeover, hopped over to hug him as well.

 

He smiled widely with his children safe in his arms. What happened today wasn't something he'd hoped to repeat, but they were what he was fighting for. They would always be what he was fighting for, and he'd slaughter half the universe before letting them get hurt. "River?"

 

"Hmm?" She was watching the scene with a warm heart, smiling widely.

 

"I want another one."

 

She laughed softly, "How about we talk about it after we take the girls to school, yeah?"

 

He nodded. "Alright lovies, back to your field trip."

 

"Yay!" The girls ran back into the TARDIS, followed by River.

 

The Doctor paused before going. "Thank you, Jack."

 

Jack gave him a salute, "No problem!"

 

He nodded a thanks then joined his family in the TARDIS.

Chapter Text

Ch 14

 

It was before bed that night when River brought it up again. He was only being playful, but it was still something she’d had on her mind since he mentioned it. They were in bed and he was examining her wrist.

 

"It looks good as new."

 

She smiled softly, "Yes, I'm happy I didn't have to wait for them to heal on their own."

 

"Me, too." He agreed, pressing a kiss to the pulse point on her wrist.

 

"Can we talk about something?" She asked.

 

"You mean what I mentioned before?"  Apparently it had been on his mind too.

 

She nodded, moving her hand so it rested in his.

 

"I didn't mean terribly soon. " He clarified, watching their interlocked hands. "Arthur is still a baby and the girls only just started school... but if it's something we wanted to do, or if it just happened, then I would be on board." He looked up at her.

 

She opened her mouth to say something, hesitating.

 

"Riv?" He asked softly. "You can say no."

 

She sighed, "I'm not defiantly saying no, I just think we need to talk about this more in depth."

 

"Now or later?" He wondered.

 

"Now, if you don't mind." She murmured.

 

"I don't mind." He smiled encouragingly and sat up straighter, looking quite attentive.

 

"Well, to start, our flat only has three bedrooms." She murmured, unsure of how to voice her feelings.

 

He paused, seeming to go ever the blueprints in his head. "Oh yeah. Well, that's not too hard to fix."

 

"How are we going to do that?" She asked quietly.

 

He shrugged. "We can convert one of the rooms, Arthur could have a roommate, we could renovate, use the TARDIS, or we could move."

 

"I don't want to move." She pulled a blanket higher. "And we can't wait too long to have another one."

 

"We don't have to move. It was only a suggestion." He assured. "How long is too long?"

 

"Well, I don't really want to girls to have to adjust to another baby now that they're starting to get older. Two years, I think, is too long."

 

“So you think if we were to have another, it should be soon." He stated.

 

She nodded slowly, "Don't you?"

 

"Well, sure. Soon is fine."

 

"Do you think we'd be able to handle four?"

 

"We've handled the universe blowing up. I think four kids won't be much harder."

 

She swallowed, "I don't know if I can do it."

 

"Then you can say no." He reminded gently. "I'm not going to kick and scream."

 

"But I don't want to say no." She squeezed his hand.

 

"Then don't pressure yourself to say yes right this instant. I sort of sprung this on you, but you said two years. That's plenty of time to think about it, talk about it more..." He kissed her nose. "Decide later."

 

She sighed, burying her head into his neck. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her there for a good moment, breathing her in.

 

"Do you want to sleep now?" She asked quietly.

 

"Absolutely." He yawned. "Nothing makes you miss your bed like for days on a concrete floor."

 

She settled under the blankets, nuzzling his cheek

 

"I love you." He whispered.

 

"I love you too." She breathed, giving him a soft kiss.

 


 

 

The months flew by, the girls adapting to school well and the Timelord family finding a nice balance between their adventurous lifestyle and their human home. The days grew colder as winter began to settle in and soon enough was getting ready to leave again.

 

River had fallen asleep with Arthur during his afternoon nap one day on the couch in front of the fireplace.

 

The Doctor had spent most of the day cutting out various colored, paper hearts. It was Valentine's day and upon the girl's insistence, and a bit of his own, decorations were in order. He'd just finished making River a ridiculously sappy card, when he wandered into the living room to find her and their son. Rather than wake them, he tucked a blanket around the two and settled on the floor in front of the fire. The girls were in school, so it was just the three of them in the house.

 

River stirred as the blanket was placed around her, yawning and looking around until she saw her husband. He didn't notice that she was awake yet, eye still fixed on the small fire. She nudged him with her foot lightly, staying quiet so Arthur would remain asleep.

 

He turned, smiling at her. "Nice nap?"

 

She nodded, smiling back at him. He handed her the card her made, shifting to lean against the couch. She read the card, smiling at the words, "Thank you, my love." She murmured.

 

He leaned up and kissed her nose. "I doubt that'll be the last one you get today." She laughed softly, shifting the baby in her arms, "Your son made a mess in his room this morning."

 

"Why is he always my son when he makes a mess?" He teased.

 

Arthur mumbled, but didn't wake. River giggled, rubbing Arthur's back lightly, "He's not your son only when he makes a mess. He's also your son when he needs to be changed."

 

The Doctor laughed softly. "And your son when he accidentally makes a bad word with his blocks."

 

She laughed again, nuzzling the top of Arthur's head, "Fair enough."

 

The Doctor reached his hand up and stroked Arthur's cheek. Arthur cooed, his eyes opening slightly. "Did you enjoy your nap, too?" The Doctor bubbled. His son nuzzled into River's chest, yawning and cooing. "Now there's a sight I'll never get tired of."

 

River smiled, pressing a kiss to his head. "I've been thinking about...another one."

 

He looked up at her. "You have?"

 

She nodded, "I think I want to do it."

 

"Any reason behind that?" He asked coolly, though he was quite excited.

 

"I don't know." She breathed, "Ever since we've started talking about it, it's been on my mind and now, our family feels… unfinished without another one."

 

He beamed at her, leaning up her kiss her lips this time.

 

"Happy Valentine's Day." She murmured against his lips.

 

"Indeed." He grinned.

 

Arthur squirmed, feeling squished. "Would you like getting a new little brother or sister?" River asked him, adjusting his position so he wasn't so tightly between them.

 

He waved his arms and giggled. He didn't understand what River said, but he knew responding the way he did to the tone she used was usually met with something interesting or rewarding.

 

River laughed, giving him kisses all over his face. He let out a small squeal, squirming. "Would you like to go see your Daddy?" She asked, passing the baby to the Doctor.  

 

The Doctor held Arthur above his head, eliciting another high pitched noise from the baby.

 

"If you want, we can start trying tonight." River purred in the Doctor's ear.

 

"Do we have a sitter?" He looked over at her, lowering his soon to his chest.

 

"No, but we can do it after the kids go to bed."

 

"Only if you're quiet." He teased. "Which reminds me, is it my day to pick them up, or yours?"

 

"Neither, Clara said she'd drop them off." She smiled, nipping his ear.

 

He blushed. "Be prepared to get covered in hearts. The girls are very festive."

 

“Now who’s fault is that?” She hummed, busy pressing kisses down his neck. Arthur caught fistful of River's hair, gleefully giving it a tug. "Ow!" River winced, "Arthur, gentle!" She tried to pry his hand away from her hair.

 

"I think he's trying to tell you that he shares his sisters' opinions on us kissing." The Doctor helped detach the boy's hand from River's hair.

 

"Well, nobody's going to be getting another baby without any kissing." She murmured.  

 

"Don't worry, love. You can kiss me all you want after we put the kids to bed." He assured.

 

She pouted, "I don't know if I can wait that long."

 

"Well, you said Clara is coming with the girls. We could ask her to stay and watch them for a little bit."

 

“I don't want to keep her. I actually think she has a date tonight. I suppose I'll be able to wait if I must."

 

"Is she going out with that P.E teacher?" He asked.

 

She nodded, "Maths, and I think so."

 

"We should invite them for tea soon." He suggested.

 

"That would be nice." She kissed his cheek, "Which reminds me, we're supposed to have tea with Vastra tomorrow."

 

"I'll bet she has that tea that helps with your morning sickness." He pointed out.

 

"Yes, but I don't need it just yet. You're going to have to actually get me pregnant before we start worrying about that." She smiled.

 

"That’s a two person job." He reminded, giving her a kiss.

 

She laughed against his lips, "Yes, it is. I don't want anyone to know that we're going to try again. We can tell Vastra, but no one else."

 

"And why is that?"

 

"I just want to keep it private for now. After what happened the last time, I want it to stay between us." She breathed.

 

He nodded. "I don't think Arthur will blab about it."

 

She laughed softly, "No, I'm sure he won't."  

 

"And River?" He added. "It won't be like last time."  

 

"Or the time before that." She added, resting her head against his shoulder.

 

"Yes, it won't be like that either." He promised.

 

She closed her eyes sighing, "I know."

 

He kissed the top of her head. "Good."

 

"Uhn! Uhn!" Arthur kicked his feet, starting to get fussy.

 

"Don't worry, lovie. I haven't forgotten about you." The Doctor offered Arthur his finger, who immediately attempted to stick the digit in his mouth.

 

River smiled weakly, "The girls won't be home for another two hours or so. We could take Arthur to the park down the street."

 

"Hmm, but I'm so cozy." He hummed.

 

"Well, I suppose we could stay here." She glanced out the window, watching the snow fall.

 

They watched the snow fall for a long while as they stayed in their cozy corner. They switched off who was holding Arthur from time to time and the Doctor tended to the fire.

 

When the girls came home, they were absolutely covered in snow, clearly having had played in it on their way there. Their noses and cheeks were pink with the cold and they were asking for hot chocolate.

 

The Doctor offered for Clara to have some tea, but as River predicted, she elected to go home and prepare for her evening. He took care of the girls and soon they were cozied up with River and the Doctor by the fire.

 

They ended up watching a movie, the girls wanting to sit in the Doctor's lap. About halfway through, they decided they wanted to continue cutting out hearts, hopping off the couch and getting out all of the arts and craft supplies they could find. Once they had about 30 hearts cut out, they ran around the house pasting them on the walls and pinning them to everyone's clothes.

 

"Told you it wouldn't be the end of the hearts." The Doctor murmured.

 

River hummed, "Girls, can you settle down? Your brother is trying to sleep." She asked, "How about you go play with Toby in the snow?"

 

"Actually," The Doctor added, "You've got to clean up your craft, and then you can go play."

 

The girls nodded, cleaning up the mess they had made before going out to the backyard. River and the Doctor made dinner while the girls played, calling them in when it was ready. They chattered away about the little Valentine's party they'd had at school with lollipops.

 

Eventually it was time to brush teeth and the Doctor helped the girls get ready for bed while River tended to Arthur who'd woken up crying.

 

Finally, the kids were asleep and they were both in their own bedroom. River was laying on the bed, sighing softly and closing her eyes.

 

The Doctor settled next to her. "Tired?"

 

"Yes, a bit." She murmured, turning on her side to look at him.

 

"Not to much I hope." He teased softly.

 

She laughed, "No, not too much. It is Valentine's Day after all..."

 

"And traditions are traditions." He added, leaning to kiss her.  

 

She kissed him back, gently nipping at his lip. He pulled her close, pressing flush against her. She deepened the kiss, wrapping her arms around him. He returned the gesture, chuckling as he suddenly turned them so she was lying on top of him. Her kisses moved from his mouth to his jaw to is neck, her lips leaving small love bites in their wake.

 

He hummed at the pleasant sensation, reaching to pull her top off. She assisted him in taking off her top before returning to the previous task, sucking on his pulse point. "Mm, Riv..." He breathed, turning his chin up to expose his neck better. She hummed against his neck, causing his skin to vibrate. He moaned softly, hands going to roam her skin.

 

She smiled, moving to the other side of his neck and repeating the action. He avariciously grabbed her bum in response. She gasped, giving him a small nip in return.

 

He caught her lips with his own again, starting to work her her trousers off. She now started on his shirt, sucking on his lower lip. Soon, all articles of clothes had been tossed onto the floor.

 

The Doctor pushed his hips up teasingly. River shivered, her eyes growing dark. Stilling holding her against him, he suddenly lurched them up into a sitting position, so her legs were wrapped around his hips. She yelped at the sudden movement, clinging to him. He chuckled. "Alright there?"

 

She nodded, "Yes, you just startled me."

 

"Not so bad now, is it." He teased.

 

"And now I can do this." He grinned then leaned his head down to her chest, pressing an open mouthed kiss to the top her her sternum. She moaned, pressing her body into him. He dragged his mouth even lower, pulling one of her breasts between his lips.

 

She whimpered, rolling her hips towards his. He pushed his hips against her in response, this time slipping into her. She moaned, grinding her hips roughly into his. He grunted, hands all over her back and hips.

 

They set a pace quickly, moving and bouncing in sync. Her nails raked down his back, her hips rolling roughly into his. His brought his touch forwards, working her chest with his hands and mouth. She sucked on his neck once more, her movements growing more and more desperate.

 

He shifted them yet again, lowering her to the bed and bracing his hands on either side of her head. She moaned into his mouth as she kissed him, arching her body up to his.

 

The kiss was heavy and passionate, hot breath against each other's skin. He pushed into her harder, able to get more leverage. "Doctor!" She cried, trying to muffle her moans against his skin, holding him so tightly she was almost hovering over the bed.

 

"Hush, you'll wake the children." He panted, though was having trouble containing his own sounds of pleasure.

 

She let out a breathy laugh, "I'll try my best." She murmured, nipping his earlobe.

 

Heat grew low in him, his movements getting more frantic. She was growing more and more desperate for him as well, clawing at the skin of his back. "Nnh, River." He groaned. She rolled her hips roughly into his in response.

 

His control was slipping, his hips losing rhythm. She encouraged him to let go, grinding her body against his. He buried his face in her hair, the cry of her name muffled. His movements stuttered as his orgasm crashed over him.

 

Her body shook as her climax hit hard. She too buried her face against him in an effort to muffle the noise.

 

He lay breathing heavily on top of her for a moment before lifting his head and kissing her nose. "Happy Valentines Day, wife."

 

"Happy Valentine's Day." She purred, pressing a kiss to his lips.

 

"If our baby is born in October, you'll know exactly what night she happened." He grinned.

 

"She?" She smiled.

 

"Call it a guess." He finally rolled off her, settling beside her.

 

She curled up next to him, resting her head on his chest, "If it is a girl, what will we name her?" She already had a name in mind, but she wanted to know what he would say.

 

"Didn't we agree on Terra?" He asked.

 

She nodded, smiling, "Yes, I just wanted to see if you remembered." She murmured. "Do you still like it?"

 

"Yes." He nodded, wrapping his arms around her.

 

"And will her full name still be Terra Aurora Song or will we change her middle name since we have Arthur?"

 

"I think we can think about it more when we actually know we're having a baby." He kissed her shoulder. She nodded, pulling the blanket over them and closing her eyes. "Night, love." He whispered.


"Goodnight." She murmured back.

Chapter Text

Ch 15

 

The days began to get warmer and the snow became slush, much to the girls’ and Toby's delight. Mud always caked their shoes, yet still the carpet managed to stay clean. Winter boots were replaced with rain boots and sneakers and the sun was out more often than not.

 

The girls decided to make it a project to help River with the back garden, though half of it was an excuse to go to the flower shop. The only thing that seemed to not be changing with coming Spring was flu season.

 

Unfortunately, the whole Song family had been hit with a raging case of the flu. While the girls were finally getting better, River and Arthur were still in middle of it. River was trying to balance taking care of her sick daughter's along with the sick baby all while being under the weather herself.

 

The house had been on lockdown ever since the girls came home with the sickness and the family hadn't left the house in nearly a week. The Doctor and River often switched off who was taking care of who.

 

Today, the girls were well enough to be left alone for short amounts of time, though it also happened to be one of days River was hardest hit with the illness. The Doctor did his best to tend to her and Arthur, generally keeping them in the same room for efficiency, though he already had to change the sheets once.

 

"Doctor, really, I'm not that sick." She insisted for about the hundredth time, trying to get out of bed. "You need help."

 

"Really, River, I've got him." He insisted, as was his regular response. He was rocking Arthur, sitting in a chair near their bed. "And you need to stay resting. You'll never get better if you don't rest."

 

"Did the girls get lunch yet? I can make them lunch." She offered, feeling useless just laying in bed.

 

"I've got water on a timer. You're just going to make yourself nauseous again."

 

"Alright, alright fine." She whispered, settling back down. "How is he?" She asked, nodding to the baby.

 

"Having a hard time settling." He sighed.

 

"Let me try." She sat up slowly, holding her arms out.

 

He stood and deposited a whining Arthur in her arms.

 

"Shhhh." She murmured, rubbing the baby's back. "It's alright, Mumma's got you." She whispered, holding his fevered body against hers. He still didn't settle, stomach turning. "I know, I know, sweetie." She whispered, continuing to rub his back, holding him still as to not further upset his stomach.

 

"I'll get a towel." The Doctor volunteered, thinking Arthur was going to retch again.

 

River nodded, feeling rather nauseous herself. He quickly ran to grab a towel, getting back in time for Arthur to throw up all over himself then burst into a crying fit.

 

"Okay, okay." River breathed, trying to get as little sick on her as possible, the smell of it making her stomach churn, "I bet you feel much better now." She kissed the top of his head.

 

Arthur was too busy crying over it to acknowledge her words. The Doctor quickly discarded the towel into the laundry bin. "I think it's time for another bath for him."

 

"I'll come sit with you." She breathed, starting to get up, the crying baby still in her arms.

 

"Are you sure you should be getting up?" He asked warily.

 

"Of course I'm sure. I have a little stomach bug, I'm not dying." She breathed, getting to her feet.

 

"That doesn't mean you don't need to take care of yourself." He filled the sink up with water, taking the baby from River.

 

"I am taking care of myself." She insisted, "However, children come before parents, and I want to be here to help you. You know how fussy he gets during his bath time."

 

"Fine." He gave in, undressing the infant and putting him in the little sink bath.

 

River tried to entertain the baby and keep him from crying too much while the Doctor cleaned him up. Arthur stayed relatively calm, though it was mostly because he was too exhausted to throw much of a fit.

 

"We're going to take a nice nap after-" She cut herself off, rushing to the toilet to throw up.

 

"I tried to warn you." The Doctor murmured. She glared at him. "Do you want some saltines?" He offered.

 

She shook her head, leaning forward to throw up again.

 

He rinsed Arthur off a final time then swaddled him in a fluffy, clean towel. Tucking the boy in one arm, the Doctor moved to hold his wife's hair back with his free hand.

 

"Really, I'm fine." She panted, once she was finally done throwing up.

 

"You're sick. I know you've had much worse before, but that doesn't mean you're in any condition to be trying to do more than lie in bed and taking something to help settle your stomach. Ginger ale might do the trick if you're willing." He added.

 

She sighed, "Alright, fine. I'll have the ginger ale." She stood, slowly heading back to bed.

 

He handed Arthur over to her once she was settled, "Be right back, love." He kissed her forehead then headed down to the kitchen.

 

"Take your time." She murmured.

 

The Doctor tended to the cooking, set a timer, and grabbed a ginger ale for River before moving to check on his daughters. The girls were bundled up in blankets, coloring.

 

"Doing alright, kiddos?" Freya nodded, but Amelia shook her head.

 

"My tummy hurts again." She sniffed, wiping her runny nose on her blanket.

 

"When was your last Tylenol?" He asked.

 

She shrugged, "After we finished the movie." That had been about an hour ago.

 

"Hm, do you want to try a ginger ale? It can help." He offered her.

 

She shook her head, "I want to take a nap."

 

"Tell you what: How about you eat lunch first, then come join Mummy and your brother for a nap?"

 

She nodded, starting to get up. The Doctor stayed down stairs with them and waited for the food to be ready. He prepared some macaroni and ate with the girls. Amelia began to fall asleep as they ate, her head drooping lower and lower until she was fast asleep, face first in her bowl.

 

The Doctor chuckled and scooped her up, wiping her face clean. "What about you Freya, can you make it all the way up stairs?"

 

Freya nodded, crawling off her chair and heading up the stairs. The Doctor followed with Amelia in his arms as they went to his bedroom.

 

"River?" He knocked first. "You've got some napping mates."

 

Arthur was in his bedside crib, but River wasn't in the bed anymore, back in the bathroom throwing up again. He sighed and placed Amelia in the bed, Freya crawling in after her sister.

 

The Doctor remembered he'd left the ginger ale downstairs, ran to get it, then returned to go tend to River. By the time he got back, she was sitting on the floor, trying to catch her breath.

 

"The girls are napping on our bed." He handed over the drink.

 

"Thanks." She murmured, taking a sip of the drink.

 

"What about the baby?"

 

“In his crib" He told her.

 

She nodded, starting to stand. She wasn't yet on her feet when she started feeling woozy and had to sit again.

 

"River, you've been like this for a week and you're much worse than the girls..." He fretted. "Maybe we should run some tests."

 

She shook her head, "No, no. Honestly, I think it's getting better now."

 

He sat next to her, his expression showing he didn't believe her. "Can you even make it to the door without getting dizzy?"

 

"Well that's not fair. Just because I'm dizzy now does not mean I'm not getting better." She took his hand, squeezing it lightly.

 

"No, but it does mean you could have something more serious than the stomach bug. You're quite pale..."

 

"Doctor, please. I don't want to have an argument." She sighed.

 

"Alright, alright. I'm just worried." He admitted.

 

"Yes, I know." She murmured, "I promise, I'm fine. Just trust me." She stood slowly, "I need to make a phone call."

 

"To whom?" He asked.

 

"Vastra. I promised her I'd call."

 

"Oh." He nodded.

 

She stood, pressing a kiss to the top of his head, "I'll be right back. How about you lay with the kids and I'll join you in a few minutes?"

 

He nodded again, going back to their room and joining his children.

 

River went to the other room, dialing the number. Vastra picked up on the other end. "Hello?"

 

"Vastra, hello." River smiled weakly, happy to hear her friend.

 

"Ah, River. I was hoping that was you." She smiled through the phone.

 

"Oh? And why is that? Have you missed me?" She laughed softly.

 

"Of course I have. That, and concern since you informed me your children were ill."

 

"Ah, yes, well they're doing much better now. The girls should be back in school soon and Arthur is my little warrior." River cleared her throat, voice dropping to a lower level, "I was actually calling to ask you something."

 

"A favor?"

 

"Well, sort of. I was wondering if you had any more of that tea that's supposed to help with...morning sickness?"

 

"Yes I-... Morning sickness?" Vastra realized in shock.

 

She laughed softly, "Yes, morning sickness."

 

"Do you mean to say you're going to have another child?" Vastra asked with growing excitement.

 

"Yes, I do. But you mustn't tell anyone, you're the only one that knows right now."

 

"I'm honored, but why tell me first and not your husband?" She asked.

 

"I don't know if I'm ready for him to know." River whispered, smile fading, "I don't think I'm ready for anyone to know, but I needed to talk to someone and you're the one person I trust as must as him."

 

"May I ask what it is you fear?" She threaded carefully.

 

River let out a shaky sigh, sitting down on the floor. "I don't know if we're going to be able to do it. We're already so busy with the three, I can't imagine what it's going to be like with another baby. I think we should have talked about it more, but I didn't think it would happen right away. I thought we'd have more time..." She swallowed, "I don't know if I really want it. I suppose it's too late to decide I don't want another now, but..." She buried her head in her free hand, trying to calm down, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be unloading everything on you like this. I just need to find a way to be happy about this before I tell the Doctor."

 

"Unloading is exactly what I'm here for." Vastra replied gently, deciding not to question further. "I believe you are making the right decision to find yourself an anchor before you inform the Doctor, but I would recommend finding it quickly. You are clever, but so is the Doctor and he may discover what you're hiding long before you want him to. Travel could help and my door will always be open to you. Perhaps... focusing more on your child and less on how you'll manage it."

 

"Yes, I know." She sighed, "Thank you so much for listening. I should go before he comes looking for me."

 

"You can stop by anytime for the tea. It was lovely talking to you. And for what it's worth, congratulations."

 

"Thank you." River whispered, "I'll see you soon." She hung up the phone, sighing. Arthur started crying from upstairs. River slowly got up, running upstairs to tend to the baby.

 

Arthur was squirming in his crib, one of the cat's having jumped in with him.

 

"No! No! Get out of here." River shooed the cat away, scooping Arthur up to comfort him. "It's alright. Shhh, you're alright." She whispered, carrying him out of the room.

 

He calmed when in his Mum's arms, whining a little and curling to her chest.

 

"Shhh, shhhh." She continued to murmur, rubbing his back. "Are you hungry or do you just want to sleep?"

 

He pushed against her again, indicating he wanted food.

 

"Okay, let's go sit first." She carried him to the nursery, sitting down in the rocking chair before getting ready to feed him.

 

The Doctor came in just then. "Finished your phone call?"

 

She nodded, holding Arthur up to her breast to feed, "She invited me to spend some time with her once I get better."

 

"Oh. For how long?" He frowned slightly, thinking the offer was was strangely spontaneous.

 

She shrugged, "She, Jenny and Strax have been working on a case for a while now. It involves some ancient artifacts and they thought I might like to help." She kept her tone casual.

 

"Nothing like an archaeologist's touch." He teased, moving to peer over her shoulder at their son. "But you won't be gone for too long, will you?"

 

"No, I promise I won't be gone too long." She smiled up at him, feeling Arthur shift so he was resting comfortably against her warm skin as he ate.

 

"Who's going to keep me warm at night, then?" He chuckled, kissing her cheek.

 

"You have three children that I'm sure will be happy to snuggle with you while I'm gone." She laughed softly.

 

"I get the kids all to myself." He grinned. "Lucky me."

 

"Ah, so now you're happy to see me go?" She teased.

 

"No, but there's a good and a bad side to everything, isn't there?" He pointed out.

 

Her smile faded just slightly, "Yes, I suppose so..."

 

Arthur wiggled one of his arms and reached up with grabbing hands.

 

"What is it my love?" River asked, letting him grab onto her finger.  He let his arm back down, refusing to let go of her finger as he nursed. She smiled down at him, "Will you miss me if I go to Auntie Vastra's?"  

 

He tried to make a noise, but milk spilled out of his mouth.

 

"Oh, dear!" River laughed softly, reaching for a cloth to clean up the mess.

 

"I think that's a yes." The Doctor decided.

 

She nodded, letting Arthur finish eating. "I was thinking, perhaps now that it's finally getting warm again, we can take the girls on the camping trip they've wanted to try."

 

"I didn't think you liked camping." He pointed out.

 

"Oh, I don't, but the girls have been asking and I think I can manage to suck up my detest for camping for a weekend." She shrugged.

 

"Well first you'll need to get better. And you have that thing with Vastra. How about the next three day weekend the girls have?" He suggested.

 

She nodded, "Yes, that sounds good. When is it?"

 

"End of the month? I'll have to check a calendar." He shrugged.

 

"Right, we can plan it more later." She shifted Arthur so he could be burped.

 

"I can do that if you want." He offered.

 

"No, it's alright. I've got it." River smiled weakly.

 

"You look a bit less pale." He observed.

 

"I feel better actually." She nodded.

 

"Oh you won't be leaving so soon, will you?" He put on a pout.

 

"The sooner I leave, the sooner I'll be back." She pointed out.  

 

"Hmm." He considered. "It's just awfully short notice."

 

"I'm excited, that's all." She shrugged.  

 

"Well you haven't been doing archaeology for a while." He recalled.

 

"And that's exactly why I'm so excited to go."

 

"I'm quite glad for you, though I'd like you not to leave until at least tomorrow. I just want to make sure your fever is down."

 

"Doctor, I'm fine." She whispered, "I don't need any more monitoring."

 

He sighed. "You were turning up your guts less than an hour ago... but it's your call."

 

"If I'm too sick, I'll come home." She stood, "But I really want to go, and I should pack."  

 

The Doctor took Arthur, who immediately started complaining. "Alright, but you should expect calls. If not from me than from the girl's saying hello."

 

"Of course." She leaned over to kiss his cheek, "I'll miss you."

 

"I'll miss you too." He caught her around her waist, pulling her into a hug.

 

She hugged him tightly, burying her face in his neck.

 

Arthur whined and the Doctor chuckled. "He's going to miss you too.”

 

River smiled, cupping the baby's cheek, "I'll miss you terribly, my sweet. Don't worry, there's plenty of milk in the fridge for you."

 

Arthur grabbed for her again, whining becoming more sad.

 

"It's alright." She pressed a kiss to his forehead, "Mummy will be back soon."

 

"The girls are still sleeping." The Doctor said. "Do you need help packing?"

 

She nodded, "Yes, that would be nice."

 

He offered a smile and followed her to their room. She grabbed her suitcase out of the closet, gathering some normal clothes before heading into the TARDIS to get some Victorian style dresses.

 

The Doctor found her archaeology tools, her scanner, and her dairy and packed them for her. He also woke the girls to come say bye to her.

 

The girls were confused, wondering why River was leaving so suddenly. "Why can't we come?" They asked, meeting her in the console room.

 

"Because you have school." She kissed each of their heads, "And you know we must try to be as linear as possible with school. I shan't be gone long and you can phone me every morning when you wake up and every night before bed."

 

"But how long are you going?" Freya frowned, wanting an exact number.

 

"Well, I don't know yet. That all depends on how much work Auntie Vastra has for me."

 

"Will it be more than a few days? A whole week?" She fretted, not letting the subject go.

 

"It won't be more than a week." River took the girl into a big hug, "I'm just a phone call away if you need me."

 

Freya buried her face against River with a sad sort of sigh. Amelia joined in the hugging. They hugged for a good few minutes before finally pulling apart.

 

River gathered her things, insisting that the TARDIS could drop her off by herself and that she didn't want to risk them returning on the wrong day and messing up the time streams.

 

The Doctor and the girls moved to just outside the door. "Last kiss for the road?" He asked.

 

She leaned in, giving him a deep, long kiss, "I'll see you soon."


"Looking forwards to it." She waved before closing the door and piloting off to Vastra's.

Chapter Text

Ch 16

 

River was greeted at Vatsra’s house with the tea she’d been earlier promised. River pulled her bags out of the TARDIS, then moved to hug her friend, "Is it horrible that I've just left my family?"  

 

"I wouldn't call this leaving them. You have intent of returning, don't you?" Vastra asked.  "This is simply... A break for mental recuperation and a lot of the time that is most effective when away from family." She added.

 

She nodded, "Yes, I suppose you're right."

 

Vastra smiled, "Why don't you sit down, relax a little, and tell me all you didn't over the phone."

 

River sat, sitting down across from Vastra, taking her tea. She closed her eyes, sitting back and gathering her thoughts before speaking again, "What would you like to know?"

 

"Over the phone, you said you didn't expect it to happen so soon. Was the child intentional?"

 

"Yes, in a way." She murmured, "We talked about it, and we agreed it was something we both wanted, though I don't think I gave myself enough time to consider it."

 

"And now it's something you don't want?" Vastra asked.

 

"I don't know." She sighed, taking a long sip of her tea, "There are some days when I'm so happy that there'll be another one, but most days....I don't want our family to change."

 

"Are you implying that you think another child will create a negative change?"

 

She nodded slowly, "The girls don't seem to want another sibling, and we already have so much less time with them now that we have Arthur...I don't think I made a wise decision."

 

"How far along are you?" Vastra set down her tea.

 

"Nearly four months." She whispered. Under linear circumstances she’d be just over two months, but River had been taking the TARDIS out for days at a time and coming back only seconds after she left.

 

"And when did you discover you were pregnant?"

 

"Almost immediately." She glanced down at her tea, "I was running tests to check my fertility levels two or three weeks after we started trying and..."

 

"I see." She seemed to be pondering. "Pardon my asking, but did you try anything to... intervene?"

 

"What do you mean?" Her eyes flickered back to meet her friends.  

 

Vastra hesitated, trying to keep her words delicate. "Have you done anything to... stop this pregnancy."

 

There was a long pause before she answered, her gaze once again no longer meeting Vastra's, "I considered it....and I almost did, but..." She sighed, ashamed of her response, "If the Doctor ever found out, I can't imagine what he would say. He would be so upset..."

 

Vastra reached her hand across the table in a comforting gesture. "When you do tell him, what state of mind would you like yourself to be in?"

 

"I'd like to be more accepting of the situation, but I'm starting to fear that that will not be the case."

 

"You came here to change how you feel. You want this change to happen and therefore, with effort, it will. As your friend, I want to help you achieve this as best I can however I can. ...Does the Doctor know you're here?" She added the question.

 

"Yes," River nodded, "I told him I was helping you with a case and that it wouldn't take more than a week."  

 

"Though if you need some more time, the TARDIS is at your disposable." Vastra pointed out.

 

"Yes, but I'm afraid time isn't on my side in this situation. I'm already starting to show, and the longer I wait to tell him, the more upset the Doctor will be that I kept it from him."

 

"We'll work quickly then. But your progress won't stop when you leave. This will be something you need to work on continuously through this pregnancy." Vastra informed her.

 

"I know." She breathed, drinking the last of her tea.

 

"Feeling a little better?"

 

"Physically? Yes. Mentally?" She sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose, "I don't know yet."

 

"Well I only meant physically. Why don't you go with Jenny and she'll help you settle in the guest room." Vastra offered.

 

She nodded, "Thank you."

 

Jenny took River's bags and led her to the guest room. She helped set up the bed and show River where things were before letting her have some privacy.

 

River unpacked her things slowly, before sitting on the bed, trying to collect her thoughts and work through everything that was happening. It seemed like a short time, but must have been longer since Vastra came in after a while saying that dinner was ready. River nodded, going downstairs with her to eat with the rest of the group.

 

Afterwards, Vastra and River continued their conversation, going into depths on all that they could.

 

"Have you had any prenatal care yet?" Vastra asked at one point.

 

"No, not really. I've taken a few supplements here and there, but not as much as I should be taking."

 

"Strax and I can help out with that while you're here. He can even do an ultrasound." She offered.

 

"I don't want anyone besides you knowing." River shook her head, "I don't want anyone else knowing before the Doctor does."

 

"If that is the case, I can operate Strax's equipment on my own. If you'd like me to, that is."

 

She nodded slowly, "I suppose that would be alright."

 

"We can start the tomorrow if you're tired." Vastra suggested.

 

She shook her head, "No, I'm not tired." She was about to say something more when Jenny popped in.

 

"Professor Song, your children are on the line."

 

"Oh, excuse me one moment, Vastra." River jumped up, going to talk to the girls.

 

They greeted her jubilantly on the other end. Getting to use the phone was a treat to them. They told her that the Doctor said they could go to school the next day but Arthur was still sick so Clara was going to take them.

 

"That sounds wonderful! Make sure you ask your teacher about what you missed. Have you eaten dinner yet?"

 

"Daddy made our favorite!" Frey a chirped.

 

"Oh, good!" She smiled, "Remember to brush your teeth before you go to sleep."

 

"Will you be home tomorrow?" Amelia interrupted.

 

"No, I'm afraid not, my love."

 

"Aw!" They both pouted.

 

"I promise I'll be home soon, just not tomorrow." She whispered.

 

"The next day?" They asked hopefully.

 

"Probably not. I probably won't be home until next week."

 

"But that's so long!" They complained. "Arthur's never been without you for that long."

 

"I'll try to get home sooner." River soothed.

 

"We'll take care of him." Freya promised.

 

"Thank you my sweet." She smiled, "You two should get to bed now, you have to get up early for school."

 

"Daddy wants a turn first." Amelia said.

 

"Alright, go brush your teeth and pick out a book while you wait for him"

 

They nodded. "G'night mummy! Love you!" With that they handed the phone off to their father.

 

"How's the baby?" River asked, once he got on the phone.

 

"He tired himself out an hour ago. My guess is that he'll wake me up tonight, though." The Doctor responded.

 

"Did you put his blanket in the crib with him? He may not wake you up if you did." She tried to offer.

 

"I did, but if he throws up on it it won't do any good to my sleep."

 

She sighed, feeling guilty for leaving him alone with the three kids, "I'm sorry. Do you need me to come home?"

 

"No, I can handle it." He tried to say with as much confidence as he could. "Don't worry yourself over it."

 

"Are you sure?" She asked, one hand falling to her stomach.

 

"Absolutely." He grinned through the phone. "Just you watch, he'll be back to health by the time you come back."

 

She smiled, "I'm sure he will be."

 

"Maybe you'll be better too. I know Vastra's got herbs to help with the flu." He recalled.

 

She laughed weakly, "Yes, she's already got me drinking all sorts of teas."

 

He chuckled. "Good thing you like tea."

 

"Yes, it's a good thing." She felt a sudden lurch in her stomach, the feeling nearly causing her to drop the phone.

 

The girls called him in the background. "The girls are calling, I guess I have to go now."

 

"Okay." She breathed, "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

 

"Love you." He murmured.

 

"I love you too." River clicked off, going back to finish talking with Vastra.

 

"How is your family?" Vastra asked on her return.

 

"They're doing fine. It sounds like the girls are doing better, but Arthur's still sick." She sat down, her mind still on her family.

 

"Is this the first time your son's gotten sick?"

 

She nodded, "I shouldn't have left him..."

 

"It's only natural to worry, but I'm sure the Doctor will contact you if there are any problems." Vasra tried to comfort.

 

She shook her head, "I was so selfish to leave..." She buried her head in her hands, "I need to go back."

 

"Now, River..." Vastra reached her hand over. "You're not being selfish. you're making sure you're okay and by doing so you're being selfless to the child you are now carrying. I know that you care for your family and I'm sure you want to make sure this baby will have love from its mother. That's exactly why you're here." She offered a smile. "Stay the night, if you please? If you still feel this was in the morning that you should pack."

 

"Okay." River took a deep breath, trying to calm down, "I'll stay the night..."

 

"...Do you still want the ultrasound?" She asked.

 

"Yes. That would be nice." River nodded.

 

"Go lie down in your room, I'll get the equipment."

 

"Thank you."

 

Vastra stood, going to find Strax. River headed back to her room and lay down. Vastra joined a short while later, explaining that Strax had been reluctant to give up the equipment.

 

She nodded, "This will be the first time I'm actually going to see the baby."

 

Vastra smiled softly, hoping this would help River to her goal. She quickly set up the mechanism, placing it on River's middle. A projection of the fetus immediately sprung up from it.

 

As soon as the image was up, River closed her eyes, her body tensing. Vastra didn't notice for a moment, looking over the projection. "The fetus appears to be in fine health-... River, are you not going to look?"

 

"I don't want to. I can't."

 

Vastra brought her hand down and brushed River's shoulder comfortingly. "Why not?"

 

"I don't want to see it." She repeated.

 

"River... please just open your eyes." She urged.

 

"I can't do this without him."

 

Vastra silenced herself and stopped pushing, instead nodding and turning back to the examination. "The child is a bit small for how far along you are. I can get you started on prenatal vitamins."

 

She nodded, "Alright, if you must."

 

"You can tell the Doctor that they're something for the flu." She turned off the device and took it off River's stomach.

 

"Yes I suppose that'll do for a few days." She said with a sigh.

 

"It's... alright to open your eyes now." River slowly opened her eyes, relaxing. "You can keep this if you want." Vastra offered the device. "Less bulky than an ultrasound. I'm sure the Doctor will find it useful when you're ready to fill him in."

 

"Oh, no I don't want to take your machine." River shook her head.

 

"It's not mine, it belongs to Strax. But he won't miss it. He's got plenty of other toys." She insisted.

 

"Alright, if you insist."

 

Vastra smiled. "I'll leave you for the night. You need to rest."

 

"Goodnight, Vastra. Thank you for everything."

 

"My pleasure." She murmured, then left.

 

River curled up on her bed, trying to get a good night’s rest.



The morning brought sunlight and smells of breakfast filtering into River's room. It was quiet and peaceful with the occasional bit of bird song. River hadn't gotten much sleep, spending most of the night up worrying about Arthur. She had re-packed her bags, then un-packed then re-packed once more. She was currently pacing the room, dressed in Victorian attire with a corset cinched tightly around her waist.

 

It was Vastra who came to see if she was awake, knocking on the door.

 

"Come in." River called sighing as she looked for her earring under the bed.

 

Vastra kept her expression warm as she entered, though faltered slightly when she saw River. "A corset? I don't think that's the most wise choice given your condition."

 

"I need it, my dresses won't fit without it." She murmured, avoiding her gaze.

 

She approached River with a soft tone. "Then we'll buy you looser ones and you may borrow a dress of mine."

 

"But I don't want anyone to see it." She breathed, " I'm not ready to see it." She was referring to the bump that was becoming more visible by the day.

 

"My clothes with be loose enough until you get a dress that fits, and I'll make sure the tailor adjusts it to your wants. You may wear a coat or shawl in the meantime if it will make you feel more comfortable." She suggested.

 

She sighed, sitting down on the bed, hand brushing across her stomach, "A corset can't be that bad yet..."

 

Vastra sat next to her. "There is a reason your dresses don't fit correctly and needing to bind down to hide it is only further proving that you're at the point where a corset is damaging." She was careful not to use the word 'baby' or anything the like.

 

"I'm probably not fitting into my dresses because I've been eating terrible foods lately." She tried to reason, "It's too early for me to be very big."

 

"Food doesn't grow that fast. Denying what is in front of you is not healthy for either of you. You're 15 weeks, aren't you?" "Just about..." She breathed, "But I'm not usually this big at this point."

 

"Only the more reason to take caution sooner rather than later." Vastra urged.

 

She sighed, "I don't understand how I can be this size when you said yesterday that the baby was small."

 

"Small baby doesn't always equate to small belly." She explained. "If you've been wearing the corset for as long as I think you have, than your body would take upon itself to protect the fetus and shield it; padding if you will. The more you wear the corset, the more your body tries to protect and the less room there is for the child."  

 

River buried her head in her hands, suddenly feeling an overwhelming desire to see the Doctor, "Alright, I'll take it off."

 

Vastra put a hand on River's shoulder. "Thank you. There's breakfast waiting... when you're ready."


She nodded, waiting until Vastra was gone before heading to the TARDIS, not taking off her corset just yet. She wanted to go see the Doctor first.

Chapter Text

Ch 17

 

River made sure the TARDIS was silent, landing in the middle of the day when the girls would be at school and Arthur would be napping. Arthur was napping with the Doctor today, settled on this father's chest on the couch. Both were snoring softly.

 

River smiled softly at the scene, feeling a warmth in her stomach. She walked quietly over to her two boys, kissing the Doctor's head.

 

He shifted his head and stirred, eyes opening and lips curling into a smile. "Am I dreaming?"

 

"I'm afraid not." She smiled back at him, eyes shining.

 

"Well, it's just was pleasant either way." He whispered. "What are you doing home so early?"

 

"I'm not coming home just yet. I'm afraid this is only a quick visit since I missed you so terribly." She pressed a kiss to his cheek.  

 

He turned his head and caught her lips. "Mm, I'm just that irresistible, aren't I."

 

"Yes, something like that." She smiled weakly, touching her nose to his temple.

 

"How's your find going?" He hummed.

 

She shook her head, "I don't want to talk about that. I just want to talk about us." She circled around the couch, going to sit next to him.

 

"Us?" He raised an eyebrow.  

 

She nodded slowly, "Yes, us."

 

"What about us?" He asked.

 

She shrugged, dancing around the subject she had in mind, "Is there anything you want to discuss?"

 

He shook his head. "Arthur's been getting better. I think the peak of it was when you left."

 

"Good, I've been worried about him." She touched the baby's head gently, glad to see him sleeping so peacefully.

 

"I figured as much." He watched her carefully, seeing that there was clearly something on her mind.  

 

"He's still so little." She murmured, more to herself than anything. It was another thing she had been worrying about, having another baby while their most recent one was still so young.

 

"Yes, babies tend to do that" He commented.

 

"I don't know if I want another baby."

 

He looked up at her. "Is that why you haven't told me about the pregnancy?"

 

"Excuse me?" She stared at him, shocked.  

 

He adjusted Arthur in his arms, so he could sit up a little without disturbing the boy. "Is that why you haven't been ready to tell me about the baby because you don't know know if you want it?" He asked again, curious.

 

She laughed uncomfortably, "What are you talking about? What baby?"

 

"River, I live with you. I share a bed with you. I know the signs as well as you do and I figured it out a while ago." He paused. "...I'm sorry for mentioning it, I was trying to wait for you to be ready to tell me, but you just seemed so anxious about it."

 

She shook her head, "I have to go." She ran for the TARDIS.

 

"River..." He called after her and tried to get up, but Arthur jolted awake at the movement and started crying.

 

She locked herself in the ship, going to the controls and flying far, far away from their home. She didn't go back to Vastra either, she flew to the furthest place she could immediately think of, just wanting to get away from it all.

 

The Doctor sighed sadly, hushing Arthur. He should have just stuck to waiting for her to say it first instead of blurting out like he did. He'd thought that conversation was going to go better, but River was more afraid than he knew. "Do you think Mummy's going to be okay?" He directed the question at Arthur but knew the infant wouldn't understand.

 

Arthur sniffled, whining for his Mummy, looking around trying to see where she had gone.

 

"She's visiting your Auntie, remember?" He rocked him, though had a feeling River was somewhere else now.

 

He started crying again, wanting her back. Talk to Mumma! Talk to Mumma! He wailed.

 

"She needs some space right now." He tried to explain.  

 

Want Mumma! His cries grew louder when he didn't get what he wanted.

 

The Doctor shifted Arthur to one arm, getting up and calling Vastra. Arthur began to calm down now that the Doctor was going to the phone, thinking it meant his mummy would come back.

 

Vastra picked up on the line, "Hello?"

 

"It's the Doctor, sorry, when are you?” That was generally the first question he asked when dialing outside the time period.

 

"Well, River is currently working on an archeology case with me if that helps."

 

"Yes, good. Is she there?"

 

"No, I'm afraid she's not. She hasn't been here all day, I actually thought she was back with you."

 

"She was but... well I pushed her a bit far and I think I've quite upset her." He admitted.

 

"Why? What happened?" Vastra's tone turned very concerned, her mind trying to think of where River would have gone.

 

"I'm not sure if it's my place to say."

 

"I believe I already know what it's about." She sighed.

 

He took a moment to realize that the week River was going to spend away probably had more to do with the baby than the artifact. "Well, the thing is, I already knew about it and I told her that I knew, and she... she left."

 

"Oh, Doctor..." Vastra breathed.

 

"I shouldn't have pushed, but she was saying how she wasn't ready so I brought it up... I don't know. I'm an idiot and now I have no idea where she is." He was becoming more worried by the minute.

 

"We have to find her, she's not thinking clearly right now. She's been doing things she knows aren't good for the baby." She spoke quickly, "I don't want her to end up making a rash decision that she'll regret."

 

"But how do we do it? I've got three kids to take care of who all think their Mum will be back and full of smiles in a few days. And I'm almost out of formula." He added.

 

"It's possible that she'll come back on her own." She struggled to keep the doubt out of her voice, "I can look for her for you."

 

"I have a feeling that if we don't find her soon, she'll be away for much longer than we planned." His shoulders slumped and he sighed again. "I'll call Clara and ask her to bring the girls over to Torchwood from school. I think we'll need Jack's equipment."

 

"I'll meet you at Torchwood." Vastra replied, "Don't worry, we'll find her." She added, before hanging up.

 

The Doctor spent the next couple of hours setting things up with the people in this time period. He called Clara and Jack, telling them both of the plan, but not telling them about the baby or other details. River deserved to have this be as confidential as possible. After that, he got Arthur ready to go with a diaper bag and the stroller, leaving the cats food, but bringing Toby along. He stopped at the market on his way to pick up snacks and formula.

 

By the time he got to Torchwood, Jack and Vastra were already working, Clara and the girls wouldn't be arriving for another two hours. Monitors, charts, scans and satellite hacking codes were displayed across all the available screens in the Hub.

 

Meanwhile, galaxies away, River was curled up, alone in the TARDIS. She had powered down the ship almost completely, cloaking it in almost every way she knew how. She didn't want to be found, she wanted to be alone to think about everything that was happening. The ships hum was her only companion, the noise heard more faintly since the just about only the life support systems were running.

 

Back at the Hub, the search team was growing more and more frustrated as the hours ticked on with no sign of River. They were looking and using every method they knew. Clara was in charge of taking care of the girls since she didn't know as much about alien space tech as the rest of the group.

 

"Doctor, if she were to go somewhere, where would she run to?" Vastra asked, re-running scans to all of River's favorite planets.

 

"I doubt she'd leave the TARDIS. She'd isolate herself, but she'd still need the security and safety of the ship." He said, though wasn't 100% sure.

 

She sighed and nodded, "Yes, I suppose so, but where would she bring the TARDIS?"

 

"In the vortex, or possibly the end of the universe? Or the beginning... somewhere hard to find."

 

“Vastra, plug that scanner into one of the computers. I've figured something to make this go faster." She nodded, plugging in the scanner. "It's a bit of organization really. If we're trying to sort through every piece of derbies in deep space, it could take eons. I've set a requirement for the TARDIS's description." The Doctor explained.

 

Vastra moved aside so he had room to work, watching over his shoulder through the process. He programmed each computer to run his algorithm since each one was looking at a different part of space and time.

 

Vastra and Jack held their breath as they watched the screen calculate. There was another long wait of almost an hour while they watched with screens with tense shoulders. If a search didn't match, the computer automatically chose a new place and time to sift through.

 

Eventually, though, the screen did beep with a result. "There she is!" Jack pointed to the screen, "Alright, I think I have a program in here that will be able to hone in on the TARDIS using any nearby satellites. We could bring her back here by overriding the controls."

 

"No." The Doctor said quickly. "That not going to help the situation. We need to go to her and not make her do anything she doesn't want... maybe I should go alone."

 

"Yes, Doctor, I think that would be best." Vastra nodded, "We can stay and watch the children for you."

 

"The formula's in the stroller and so is a story book. I'm not sure how long this will take..."

 

Vastra nodded, "I understand. Don't push her into anything she doesn't want."

 

"I'll try my best." He nodded, rummaging for his vortex manipulator. "Jack, coordinates?"

 

Jack read the coordinates off to him. He programmed the VM, looked at his family once more. "Wish me luck."

 

"Good luck." Vastra murmured, watching him with worried eyes.

 

He hesitated, "What if nothing I say helps?"

 

Vastra shook her head, "I don't know. You'll just have to figure it out."

 

"I really hope I don't screw things up further..." He wanted to comfort River, to talk this out without her running. Holding his breath, he finally dematerialized himself.

 

River was asleep in bed, looking pale and ghostly. She hadn't eaten in a while, nor had she bothered to turn on any of the lights in the TARDIS, it was freezing cold and eerily silent.

 

The Doctor appeared in the console room with the sound of crackling electricity from his transport. Immediately, he was hugging his tweed around him a little tighter and looking around. River wasn't in this room so he went to the controls and turned the heating back on. He wasn't sure why it was off in the first place, but he was sure that River was probably cold too. He then set a scan for River, since it would be easier than searching.

 

The TARDIS displayed River in their bedroom, on the bed. The heat slowly began to kick on, though it would take a while to reheat the TARDIS. He noticed quickly by the information that she was sleeping and wondered if it was worth it to wake her. He figured she was tired after the emotional weight the day had held and opted to let her sleep. He could wait in their room, but that would probably startle her when she woke. He sighed, deciding to just wait on the stairs.

 

It was a couple of hours before she woke, drifting into the control room to see why it was suddenly so warm. Her waist looked rather small, tied tightly in with a corset, obviously, she had not listened to Vastra's comments.

 

The Doctor heard her footsteps but didn't turn around. She would see him, and if she was ready would stay and talk.

 

Her footsteps stopped immediately when she saw him. Without saying a word, she turned back around and went back down the hall. He stood and turned in her direction. "River?"

 

Her whole body tensed at the sound of his voice, stopping.

 

He quieted himself, taking Vastra's word and not pushing her. He figured she wouldn't be ready, but how was he supposed to send the message that he was there for her?

 

"What do you want?" She whispered, turning slightly.

 

"I want to talk about this." He replied. "But I'd settle for just letting you know I'm there for you through anything."

 

"What is there to talk about?" She whispered, sounding tired and defeated.

 

"Clearly a lot. I still haven't heard completely how you feel. Or why you feel that way." He added.

 

"This isn't how this is supposed to be happening." She whispered, burying her head in her hands.

 

"How did you want it to happen?" He asked carefully.

 

"I wanted to be happy about this. I wanted to surprise you and I wanted us to be able to be happy about it together."

 

"We can't still do that... just... not in the order you planned."

 

She shook her head, "Don't be stupid. Of course, we can't!"

 

"Maybe not the surprise bit, but the other bits are entirely possible."

 

"No, I wouldn't count on it." She was shaking, looking on the verge of passing out.

 

He bit his tongue and forcing himself to think before he said anything. "I'd like you to explain because I don't understand. All of this is new to me. All the emotions you've been hiding... Last I knew, we'd both agreed we wanted this. The way you're acting now is very sudden to me. At the least, I want to help."

 

"I don't want this baby." She whispered, "I didn't give myself enough time to think, and I changed my mind right after we tried those first few times, but it was too late, and now..." She let out a shaking breath, "And now it doesn't matter what I want, so there's no point in talking about it."

 

"It always matters what you want, especially now, in this situation. Everything that's happening, that's going to happen now, needs to revolve around your decision." He took a step towards her.

 

"There's nothing we can do about this now, so no, it isn't my decision anymore."

 

"There's always something we can do, so yes, it is. It's also your decision to be concerned about its health or not. It's your decision on whether you can love a child you never really wanted. It's your decision whether we do this together or you push me away." He paused, expression as warm as he could make it. "I take all my cues from you and whatever you chose, I'll be with you."  

 

She was silent, trying not to show her emotions. She knew that no matter what he said, with him hovering over her, she would always be influenced to pick a certain choice, even if it wasn't truly what she wanted. "What am I supposed to say now?"  

 

"You could tell me to go sod off. You could tell me to stay sit with you." He murmured. "But you don't have to say anything at all."

 

She wrapped her arms around her middle, looking away from him, "I don't know what I want."

 

"Then I'll give you space for now. And if you make up your mind that you want me there, I'll be in the console room." She didn't say anything, feeling woozy, like the whole room was spinning. "Do you need anything?" He asked before he left.

 

She shook her head, her lungs burning due to the fact that she had tied the corset around her waist so tightly.

 

He looked her over carefully "Are you... wearing a corset?"

 

"No." She lied, trying to get air into her lungs.

 

"River, that's not something you can hide. I can see the shape of it." He said, concern growing.

 

She swallowed, "It's fine."

 

"It's not fine." He frowned. "You look pale..."

 

"And what does my complexion have to do with what I'm wearing?”

 

"Well, I'm very sure that you didn't put white powder on your face. Corsets aren't good for your body, especially that tight." He pointed out.

 

At that moment, her body just decided to give up, unable to continue fighting for air and maintain a conscious state, so she fainted.

 

"River!" He caught her and lowered her to the floor, flailing his hands for a moment before aiming to remove her corset. As soon the corset was off, and her body was able to get more air into it, her skin started to return to its normal color.

 

He left it on the floor as he scooped her up and took her to the medbay, putting her on an oxygen mask. Without thinking about it, he also started setting up the ultrasound. She lay unconscious on the table as he set up the machine, unaware. He was about to start prepping her when he stopped himself, realizing what he was doing. This wasn't something he should do without her permission, but he also reasoned that the baby could be hurt from her lack of oxygen. No. Not without her permission. He put the probe down and waited for her to wake up.

Chapter Text

Ch 18

 

River slowly began to wake up after about ten minutes, her body finally deciding it was alright for her to be awake again.

 

"River?" The Doctor hovered over her, hand stroking her hair back.

 

She blinked slowly, looking confused, "Doctor? Where am I?"

 

"Medbay." He murmured.

 

"Oh..." She breathed, not looking at all concerned.

 

"You passed out because your corset was too tight." He explained, though had a feeling the already knew that.

 

She shook her head, starting to sit up, "Oh, well, I'm fine then. It's nothing."

 

"It's something." Countered, urging her back down. "...You did that on purpose."

 

She stared at him for a moment before responding, "That's an awfully large accusation."

 

"And that was an awfully large measure to take." He sighed and sat next to the bed. "River, it's not too late to get rid of it."

 

She tensed when he drew closer to her, "I never said I wanted that." "You implied it... and if it is what you want, I'd rather have that than this."

 

"I didn't imply anything." She got up, going for the door, "I can't do this. I can't." She stopped in the doorway, "Please leave."  

 

He nodded and stood silently, knowing he's said the wrong thing.

 

"Don't come back." She was shaking, "Don't come looking for me. Just leave me alone."

 

He paused at the door. "River, I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"

 

"You didn't mean what?" She snapped.

 

"I didn't mean to say that." He said, hardly above a whisper, not meeting her eyes. "I... I didn't mean it." He wanted to slap himself probably as much as she wanted to slap him.

 

"Then you shouldn't have said it." She hissed, her eyes burning with a mix of anger and hurt and absolute terror. "How could you even think to say that? After everything we've been through? After all of the babies I've lost...How dare you."

 

"I wasn't thinking. I want this baby. It's..." He felt his words were pointless to counter her grief or his guilt. He'd just been so caught up trying to think of what was wrong, he thought the baby was the source of it. Only he hadn't been thinking and words had just started without him and he'd made idiotic assumptions because he had no information to go on. He had corned himself into exactly the scenario he was trying to avoid. Getting rid of the baby was that last thing he'd want, and having River hate him wasn't on top of the list either. He wouldn't be surprised if she told him to never talk to her ever again, with the way he'd screwed up, though he really hoped he'd find a way to get his words together before that could happen.

 

"It's what?" She whispered, watching him with an intense expression.

 

"It's what I've wanted for a long time." He whispered. "I'll... I'll go now."

 

She swallowed, still standing in the doorway, blocking his way. "I'm sorry..."

 

"Not as sorry as I am." He murmured to the floor. He felt more than terrible about what he'd said, the knot of guilt in his gut still tightening.

 

She was silent, staring at the floor for a minute. "Why?"

 

He blinked at her. "Why... did I say it?"

 

She nodded.

 

"Because..." He hesitated and thought carefully this time. Because he was an idiot who didn't think sometimes. "Because seeing you so... scared about all of this, so closed off to it that you hid it from me, that you ran from me... it hurt just as much as... the other thing. I was focused on thinking how to stop you from being scared, that everything else just slipped my mind until I'd said it."

 

"I didn't hide it to hurt you." She breathed, "I hid it because I didn't want you to watch me choose."

 

"I know... I thought you shouldn't have to choose alone, but if you still want to, I can go."

 

She shook her head, "You already know, so what's the point in going?"

 

"Because you haven't finished whatever sort of mental recuperation you were doing, and I know you tend to need space when it comes to that." He said.

 

"Do you trust me to be by myself?" She asked. At the moment, she didn't exactly trust herself.

 

He wasn't sure how to answer that question. "...I won't be leaving the TARDIS."

 

She sighed, finally giving into her feelings, "Can you stay?"

 

He nodded immediately. "Of course."

 

"Thank you." She whispered, "Can we go sit somewhere?"

 

"Yes." He nodded again, reaching for her hand.

 

She hesitated before taking his hand. She still wasn't completely relaxed, but she was trying. A bit of his tension left at her touch and he started to walk towards the console room. She followed though she was a bit confused as to why he was heading for the console room instead of one of the many living rooms they had.

 

When they arrived, he pressed a button on the console. The TARDIS started to go somewhere, though there was not jostle or the noise of the breaks.

 

"Where are we going?" She asked quietly, not ready to face their family and friends back at the Hub just yet.

 

"Somewhere you'll like." He murmured and opened the doors. A yellow-green light illuminated him from the outside and he turned back to her. "Come see."

 

She slowly walked towards the doors, peering to see where he had brought her. They were still floating somewhere in space, no notable planets around, but in front of them was a small nebula full of colors similar to the ocean with the exception of the yellow hues. She stared out at the nebula, sighing, "It's beautiful."

 

"I found this a little while back. I was going to show it to you on our anniversary." He told her, looking at her more than the nebula.

 

She took his hand again, squeezing it gently. "Does it have a name?" She sat down on the floor of the TARDIS so her legs dangled out. He did the same as he thought.

 

"A few, yes. Do'Acek, Maetheso... there's actually a half-formed planet in there that's used as a meditation center. The nebula emits a chemical that helps people relax and find peace, so it fits quite nicely."

 

"Is that why you brought me here? Because it's supposed to help relax people?"

 

"No, we're not close enough to be affected. I just liked the colors because they reminded me of your eyes." He hummed.

 

She smiled softly, glad that he hadn't brought her here for the relaxation, "Oh, I see." She leaned into him a bit more, daring to rest her head against his.

 

He smiled, even more relieved to have her opening up a little. "Is this a good place to sit?"

 

"Yes, it's fine." She whispered, giving his hand another squeeze.

 

"Do you think you'll come home soon?" He squeezed back.

 

She began to tense again, "I- I don't know."

 

"It's alright not to know yet." He assured quickly.

 

"I'm a bit cold." She breathed, snuggling closer to him.

 

He gave her his jacket and wrapped his arm around her. "Better?"

 

She leaned into his arms, nodding, "Yes, much better. Thank you."

 

"Good." He smiled softly, having a small understanding that right now she needed a break from talking and thinking about all the things weighing her down. Some quiet would be welcome.

 

She fell asleep after a while, resting almost peacefully in his arms. A part of her was still mad at him for bringing up the baby before she had been ready to discuss it, but she kept that to herself, for now, needing to rest.

 

He shifted her a little more comfortably once he realized she was sleeping, playing with her hair out of habit and hoping this moment wasn't temporary.

 

She was asleep for several hours, getting some much-needed rest. The TARDIS had done half an orbit around the nebula by then, filtering the warmth from inside closer to them.

 

After her nap, River began to stir, pulling the Doctor's jacket closer to her body.

 

He looked down at her, staying quiet in case she was only awake for a moment.

 

"Back hurts..." She breathed, opening her eyes a bit more, looking up at him.

 

"That would probably be from napping on the floor. I can give it a massage if you like." He offered.

 

She shook her head, "No, I want to go lay down somewhere else."

 

He nodded. "Living room?"

 

She nodded. He wiggled out from behind her and stood, offering a hand up. She accepted his help, swaying dizzily once on her feet.

 

He steadied her. "You alright there?"

 

She nodded, "Just a bit dizzy."

 

"Did you eat today?" He asked.

 

"Of course, I ate today." She answered honestly.

 

"I guess you just stood up too fast." He said. "Come on."

 

She followed him to the living room. The TARDIS had started up a fire since she knew River always enjoyed sitting in front of the fire. The living room that they were in had a large sofa in the middle with lots of blankets and pillows. There were pictures of their family hanging all around the dimly lit room.

 

"I don't remember the pictures being in here before." The Doctor noted, taking a seat on the couch.

 

River didn't sit right away, looking at the pictures around the room one by one. "Neither do I. The TARDIS must have put them up."

 

He looked too. "They're nice pictures, though. I like all the memories."

 

"Me too." She whispered, touching her fingertips to the glass of a very recent one of their whole family, pets included.

 

"...What are you thinking?" He hummed.

 

"That I don't want to disappoint them...or you."

 

"Why would you disappoint us?"

 

"By getting rid of the baby..." She closed her eyes.

 

"Are you going to?" He watched her.

 

"No." She breathed, "Of course not."

 

"Then there's no reason to fret."

 

She sniffled, pressing her forehead against the glass of the frame, "I don't want to hate the baby. I want to love our baby."

 

"You will. Even if it takes time, I promise you will." He patted the space next to him.

 

She sat down slowly, obviously upset, "I'm not ready for another baby."

 

"But we are going to have one and you only have so many months to come to terms with it... do you have any idea what you're going to do?" He asked, also realizing he didn't know exactly how far along she was.

 

"No." She whispered, "That's why I was staying with Vastra. She was trying to help me get through this."

 

"Are you going to go back to her?" He asked though he had an idea of her answer.

 

"I don't think so, not anymore." She sighed.

 

"How was she trying to help?"

 

She shook her head, not wanting to discuss it.

 

He didn't push the question. "She and Jack and Clara are watching the girls right now."

 

"Oh....and what about Arthur?"

 

"He's with them too. I left hem formula for him." He added.

 

"Is he still sick?" She asked quietly.

 

"His temperature was down this morning, so he's just about better. He misses you, though."

 

"I miss him too." She whispered.

 

"We can go back to them." He offered.

 

She nodded, "Alright, I'd like that."

 

"Stay in here if you like. I'll drive." He said, standing.

 

She lay down on the couch, pulling a blanket over herself. For some reason, she was exhausted and just wanted to go back to sleep. The Doctor went back to the console room and took the TARDIS smoothly to the Hub.

 

The sound of Arthur crying could already he heard. He was hungry and did not want to have formula milk again. The Doctor stepped out of his blue box, quickly spotting his son in Vastra's arms. The girls were at her feet, wanting to help try and feed their brother.

 

"Oh, good. You're back." Vastra looked almost relieved.

 

He took over holding Arthur. "Yes, how were the kids?"

 

"The girls have been very good, and excellent helpers. Arthur on the other hand, refuses to eat, though his stomach is grumbling."

 

"He tends to get sick of the formula if it's all he get for more than two days. The good news is Mummy’s back to help out with that." He directed that last bit toward Arthur.

 

Arthur perked up at the sound of ‘Mummy’ still sniffling and wiggling around.

 

"I'll take him to see her." He paused. "I'm not sure if she's up for being around too many people... so I'll let you know when she's ready to see you too."

 

Vastra nodded, understanding, "Give her my best."

 

"I will." He headed back into the ship, the girls following. River had moved from the living room into the console room to greet her family.

 

"Mummy!" The girls ran up and attached themselves to her.

 

"Hello, my loves!" River beamed, bending down to hug them tightly.

 

"We missed you so much!" They exaggerated the 'so' just to help prove their point.

 

"I missed you too!" She smiled, kissing their cheeks. They attacked her with hugs and kisses until their arms were too tired and try were just cuddled up next to her.

 

Arthur was still wailing, growing hungrier. The Doctor coughed, "River? There's someone else who missed you."

 

River stood, walking over to the baby, "Oh, hello there." He handed Arthur off to her.

 

The baby instantly clung to her shirt and pushed his head against her. "I don't even get a hello? I'm just your feeding machine?" She teased, kissing the baby's cheek.

 

"Vastra says he's been refusing the formula so I think he'd prefer hugs later." The Doctor voiced.

 

She glanced at him, "Alright then..." She breathed, "I'm going to go feed him in the living room."

 

"Girls, we've got to wait here." The Doctor said, knowing they'd run after her otherwise.

 

"Awwwwwww why?"

 

"Because it's Mummy's private time when she feeds your brother, remember? She'll be done soon." He explained.

 

"Oh...." They sighed, letting River go.


"She'll be back in a moment." He promised. They nodded as River carried Arthur out.

Chapter Text

Ch 19

 

Arthur was still whining for food, hunger drowning out his excitement to be with River.

 

"Okay, okay." She whispered, sitting down and undoing her top. He greedily latched, calming as soon as he was nursing. "Gentle, my love, Mummy's sore."

 

Arthur didn't understand, though tried to do as she said. She let Arthur feed for as long as he needed, rubbing his arm gently.

 

He was quiet when he finished, having a satisfied look. Full.

 

"Are you going to say hello now?" She asked, smiling down at him. He reached his hands up for her, making a gleeful sound. She laughed, pressing kisses to his face, "That's what I thought."

 

Mummua! Mumma! Where'd you go?

 

“I had to go away for a while." She whispered, "Mumma's going to have another baby, so she had to take care of some things."

 

Arthur only half understood, thinking this meant another big sister. "Buh!" He said excitedly.

 

"Yes, you're going to have a little brother or sister soon."

 

More big sister! He bounced.

 

She laughed softly, "No, my sweet no big sisters. Only a little baby."

 

Am I 'little baby'? He asked.

 

"Yes, and now we're going to have another one."

 

I'm a big sister? He looked up at her with round eyes.

 

She laughed again, "Big brother." She corrected.

 

Big brother, big brother!  He tested it out, liking the title. She smiled, kissing his cheek.

 

A few minutes more passed before the Doctor knocked on the door. "Is it safe to come in?"

 

"Yes, I'm done now."

 

He gestured behind him and the girls came skipping in.

 

"Hello, girls!" River beamed, still cuddling Arthur. They clambered up onto the couch and cuddled next to her. She kissed the top of their heads, "I missed you both very much!"

 

"We're making clay bowls in art class!" Amelia grinned.

 

"I learned about butterflies in science class!" Freya said at the same time.

 

River smiled, "I can't wait to see your bowl, Amelia. And maybe we can visit the butterfly center this weekend."

 

"Please, can we? Can we?" Freya got even more excited, Amelia joining in.

 

"Well, we'll have to see." She laughed.

 

"If Mummy's feeling up for it, then yes." The Doctor added. "She's had a very tiring time with Auntie Vastra."

 

River looked up at him, a small frown crossing her face.

 

"There were a lot of reports to write about the artifact she was working with." He continued, so the girls wouldn't ask too many questions.

 

River's frown only deepened. "I think it's time Arthur goes down for his nap."

 

"Aw but Mummy, we just got here!" Freya held onto her.

 

She sighed, "Well, I suppose he could wait a little while."

 

"He can sleep on your lap," Amelia suggested.

 

Arthur was starting to get fussy, not liking the light and the noise and wanting to sleep.

 

"Shush, baby brother. Go to sleep here." Amelia instructed.

 

"Shhhh. Shhh. Okay." River murmured, rubbing his back, "You're okay. Just go to sleep."

 

I want my bed! He complained. I want my blankie!

 

"Alright, fine. Mummy will bring you to bed." She stood, not wanting to keep him up and throw off his whole sleep schedule.

 

"Can I come?" Amelia insisted.

 

"Of course you can, but you have to be quiet." She nodded.

 

"I'm coming too!." Freya hopped off the couch.

 

River lead them out of the room and down the hall to where Arthur's nursery was. She gently set him down in his cot, tucking the blanket around him. "There you go."

 

Arthur clung to her finger. Big brother.

 

River smiled weakly, though she felt a knot tighten in her stomach. He thought the words again, contently, liking the sound of them

 

She bent down, kissing his forehead, "Sleep, sweetie."

 

"Night, night, Arthur." The girls said, blowing their own kisses to their brother.

 

River ushered them out, turning off the light as they left. "

 

Why does he go to bed so early?" Freya asked.

 

"He's not really going to bed, sweetie. He's just taking a nap. He'll be up later." She lead them back to the living room.

 

"Oh." She nodded. "Are you going to nap too?"

 

"Well, no. I wasn't planning on it, why?" She asked.

 

"'Cause Daddy said you were tired from arca-ologly." She replied, mispronouncing the word as she usually did.

 

River sighed, shaking her head, "Daddy's confused, I'm not tired."

 

"Why'd he think you were?"

 

"I don't know." She lied, "But I promise he isn't right."

 

"Does that mean you can play?" Amelia asked hopefully.

 

"Of course I can play!" She smiled. They dragged her off to their room, getting out some games.

 

River happily spent the next few hours playing with her daughters, glad to have to distraction.

 

Vastra and Jack came into the TARDIS looking for River by that time. They searched around until they found the girls' room, peering in the doorway but not interrupting yet.

 

The girls collapsed into a fit of giggles on top of River who smiled and hugged them tightly. A moment more and they noticed the adults in the doorway. "Auntie Vastra! Uncle Jack! Come play with us!"

 

River looked up as well, a bit surprised to see them. "The Doctor mentioned we could come see you now. How are you?" Vastra asked River.

 

"I'm fine." She breathed, not quite looking at her, "The Doctor seems to be making a lot of decisions for me today."

 

"We can go if you'd like." Vastra offered, sensing she was a bit upset.

 

"It's fine." She breathed, growing increasingly upset with the Doctor.

 

Amelia got up and pulled Vastra and Jack into play with them. River continued to play with the girls for a bit, along with Vastra and Jack, though she seemed a bit more distant.

 

Arthur started to cry from the other room, having woken from his nap. "I'll be right back, I have to get the baby." River excused herself, going to the nursery.

 

The Doctor was already there, scooping Arthur out of his crib and rocking him.

 

She stood in the doorway watching him for a minute, "Where have you been?"

 

"Hmm?" Her turned to her, not sure where her tone was coming from.

 

She stared at him, expecting an answer.

 

He blinked at her for a second, then adjusted Arthur who was quickly lulling back to sleep. "Well, I was in the living room for a while. It was quite cozy so I waited for you to come back. When you didn't, I went to check on Arthur and watched him for a while because he was sleeping in an awfully cute position. Then I went to look for my old cot since we'll probably be needing it soon unless you want to use a different one." He listed, voice quiet for the sleeping baby. "I didn't find it, but I did hear you playing with the girls eventually so I went and told Vastra and Jack it was probably okay to come see you because they were waiting very patiently because we didn't know if you wanted to be around people or not. You sounded pretty happy so I figured it was a good time." He explained. "Then I looked for the cot again, still no luck, and then Arthur started crying." He finished. "And here we are, though you look less happy than you sounded."  

 

She sniffed, "I don't like you deciding things for me."  

 

"I... Sorry." He was a little taken back. "I didn't realize I was. I can get Vastra and Jack to leave if you want me to."

 

"I shouldn't have come back." She whispered, "I wasn't ready to come back..."

 

"River..." He tried to sooth, rubbing her arm with his free hand. "We're all very glad that you came back, but it's okay not to be ready for all this. Why don't you go lie down somewhere, I'll deal with everyone?"

 

She stepped away from him, standing there for a few moments, before going down the hall to their room. He looked at Arthur, feeling rather like he had deja vu. "Just you and me again. I don't suppose you have anything to say to Mummy that could make her feel better?"

 

Arthur just whimpered, not liking seeing River so angry.

 

"Me neither." He murmured. "Will you sleep now, lovey?" Arthur whimpered again but agreed. The Doctor tucked him back into his crib, then went to the girl's room.

 

The girls were still running around with their Aunt and Uncle, laughing and dressing them up.

 

"Girls, are you hungry?" He asked them, watching them run back and forth.

 

"No, we already had dinner," Freya answered.

 

"Oh." He nodded. "What are you playing?"

 

"We're playing horse race!" She smiled, then proceeded to do her best horse impression.

 

"Where did Mummy go?" Amelia asked.

 

"Uh, she had to... finish another report." He lied quickly. Vastra looked up at him for a moment, eyebrow raised. He shrugged, gesturing that they'd talk later.

 

"Come play with us!" The girls tugged on his arms, wanting him to join in their games. He agreed, participating in the games until it was their bedtime.

 

The girls were unhappy to be going to bed, but went without much complaint since they were so tired. The exhaustion left them not even realizing that they hadn't said goodnight to their mother.

 

The Doctor helped them get ready, tucking them in. "Goodnight sweethearts."

 

"Goodnight, Daddy." Amelia yawned, snuggling into her pillow.

 

He left them to their dreams, going off to find the other adults. Vastra and Jack were talking quietly in the hall. He smiled weakly at them. "Thank you for your help today."

 

They nodded, "Of course. How is the Mrs anyway?" Jack asked, glancing down the hall.

 

"Well... I can't really say." He rubbed the back of his neck.

 

Jack raised an eyebrow, "What's that supposed to mean? Do you not know?"

 

"She told me that it was too early for her to come back and then went off somewhere. Our room I think." He sighed. "She told me to stop deciding thing for her, which I wasn't aware I was doing, so I can't tell you how she's feeling because I'm not her."

 

Jack put his hands up in defense, "Alright, alright. I guess we should leave you two to hash this out then."  

 

"No, I don't want to fight with her." He frowned. "I just was trying to comfort her, but I keep saying the wrong thing."

 

"She's having a  lot of trouble coping with what's going on. Maybe instead of using words, you could use gestures. I don't think she wants to hear your words right now, she just wants to know that you're there." Vastra offered.

 

The Doctor nodded, open to anything. "Thanks. Do you need a ride home?"

 

They both nodded. He led them back to the console room and drove them both back to their homes, Jack first and Vastra second.

 

"If you need any more help, I'm just a phone call away," Vastra said as she left.

 

"I'm sure you'll be hearing from us soon. Thank you for taking care of River."

 

"It was no trouble." She waved as the door closed.

 

The Doctor turned back to the console and fiddled with some controls for a moment, taking a breath. The kids were all asleep, but he found the quiet to be making him a little nervous. He didn't want to mess up again, though Vastra's advice was a bit comforting. He started to stroll towards his and River's room, thinking she'd be there.

 

River was in their bathroom, having fallen asleep in the bathtub. It took the Doctor a few minutes to find her, confused as to how she'd fallen asleep there. Quietly, he scooped her out of the tub and dried her off, wrapped her up in a towel and brought her to the bed. He tucked her under the blankets, going to get changed into pajamas.

 

"Doctor...?" She mumbled sleepily.

 

"Hmm?" He responded, looking over at her.

 

She sat up slowly, "Where are you?"

 

He rounded the bed, standing next to her and smiling softly. She reached out to take his hand, squeezing it softly, "I'm sorry."

 

He squeezed back. "It's alright."

 

She sighed, slowly standing up to put her pajamas on as well, discarding the towel. He quietly changed finished by her side.

 

She sat down on the bed once she was changed, her hand lightly falling on her middle. He sat next to her taking her hand again. She stared at her middle until Toby came in, jumping up on the bed. The dog settled his head on River's leg, licking the hand on her belly.

 

She sat in silence for another ten minutes, before speaking, "It's quite cold in here."

 

"We could get under the blankets." He suggested.

 

She nodded, crawling beneath the heavy sheets, though the temper seemed to be dropping. He slowly cuddled close to her, Toby shifting to snuggle on her other side. She curled up against her husband, appreciating his warmth and presence.

 

The TARDIS only continued to grow colder, the chilly temperatures waking Arthur some time later.

 

"Shall I get him?" The Doctor asked when he heard Arthur crying.

 

"If you don't mind." River nodded, "Can you bring him in here?"

 

"Of course." He slipped out of bed, shivering on the way to the nursery.

 

Arthur was wailing in his crib, his nose, fingers and toes all red from the cold.

 

The Doctor quickly picked him up, blanket and all, and held him close to warm him. "Sh, sh. It's alright Arthur. I'll warm you up." He murmured, bringing him back to the bedroom.

 

By the time he had gotten back, Toby had also snuggled under the blankets with River, his nose just peaking out beneath the covers.

 

"Why is it getting so cold?" The Doctor asked, slipping back into bed.

 

"I don't know." River breathed, immediately snuggling up to the Doctor and the baby, covering them in the heavy fur blankets she had retrieved from the closet while he’d been gone. "The heating must be broken."

 

"The heating doesn't break." He pointed out, confusion not lessening.

 

"I don't know then, maybe the TARDIS wants us all to sleep together." She was more concerned in warming the baby.

 

She left the bed and went back to the nursery, getting a warmer pair of pajamas and a hat for the boy. They bundled Arthur up until he looked more like a swaddle of blankets with a little red nose. He'd stopped crying, though was still sniffling because of the cold.

 

River kissed his nose, holding him against her though she was starting to shake herself. The Doctor held her close, arms around her. "I bet ten minutes before the girls join us."

 

She nodded, curling up against him for more warmth, "You don't think being in a room this cold could hurt the baby, do you?" She asked. It was the first time she had shown any serious concern for their newest child.

 

"Well... it's probably not the most healthy. Your body heat will be more concentrated on the baby so you'll likely be more affected." He explained.

 

She nodded, "Okay..."

 

The girls wandered in a few minutes later, wrapped in all of their blankies. They wedged themselves between their parents, "Why is it cold?"

 

"We don't know, my loves." River murmured, helping them get settled.

 

"I like getting to snuggle," Amelia grinned. Freya only complained about the cold.

 

"I like getting to snuggle too," River smiled, kissing the top of her head. "Now try and get some rest and don't squirm too much or else you'll wake your brother." Arthur had fallen asleep on River's chest, emitting soft little snores.

 

The girls closed their eyes and were quickly asleep as well. River glanced over at her husband, worried that the children were going to get sick all over again with the strange weather on the TARDIS.

 

"Do you want me to investigate the heating?" He asked her.

 

"I don't want you to leave us." She murmured, weaving her hand around the little bodies between them to hold his hand.

 

He met her halfway, holding her hand. "In the morning then?"

 

She nodded, nuzzling his cheek over the heads of their children. He smiled, watching her sleepily.

 

The temperature took another dip down over the next few minutes. River made sure Arthur was nestled warmly against her chest before tightening the space between her and the Doctor so the girls would be warmer. "Are you alright?"

 

"Fine aside from the cold. You?" He whispered back, the cats creeping into the room  to join them.

 

"Glad to have my family so close." She breathed, smiling weakly.

 

"Me too." He breathed, though was more worried about the heating than he let on. The TARDIS heating hardly ever broke down. In fact, maybe only a handful of times all together and all of those had been extreme situations. The cold now he'd only experienced once before. "Try to sleep. I'm sure the heating will be back to normal soon."


"Alright." She whispered, closing her eyes and trying to drift off.

Chapter Text

Ch 20

 

"River!" The Doctor shook her shoulders, voice emergent. "River get up, now!"

 

"Doctor..." She groaned, her head hurt and she tried to swat him away.

 

"River, please!" He was starting to cough. "We have to get out of here! Quickly!" She started coughing her eyes opening slowly. "We don't have time." He scooped her up, Arthur still on her chest and started running for the console room. Smoke and gas were filling every room and he could hardly see as he ran.

 

"What's happening?" She choked on the smoke around them, holding the baby tightly.

 

He didn't answer, going straight for the doors and not stopping until he set her down safely outside the TARDIS and next to the girls who had run ahead of them. Looking back at the ship, his stomach twisted. "We... crashed."

 

"What? What are you talking about?" She turned to look at the wreckage of the ship.

 

The lights of the blue box were all shut down and the smoke they were fleeing from pouring out rapidly. It was on its side, looking completely broken.

 

Arthur started wailing. Big Mummy's dead!

 

"Shhhhhh, shhhhhh." River whispered, trying to smooth the baby, "shhh...."

 

"That... No. That's not possible." The Doctor frowned, though his theory was only growing.

 

"What?" River asked, "What's not possible?"

 

"The TARDIS crashed. She's... dying." He whispered.

 

"Is there anything we can do?" She asked quietly, staring at the wreckage.

 

"I... don't know." He swallowed. At the very least, they couldn't go in there with all the smoke.

 

She wrapped her free arm around him, "I....I'm sorry..."

 

He scrubbed his hand over his face, trying to get a hold of himself. "Where are we?"

 

River turned around to look at the scene before them, but all of a sudden felt very very sleepy.

 

"Mummy, my head hurts," Freya complained, sitting down on the ground. Amelia did the same.

 

River knelt down beside them, kissing Freya's head, "So does mine, my sweet. It's probably from the crash."

 

"I want to go home." She whimpered.

 

She wrapped her arms around the little girl, "I know, I know."

 

"I'm tired." Amelia leaned against her mother. River bit her lip, not knowing what to do. She glanced down at the baby who was starting to fall asleep.

 

"We've got to move somewhere safer." The Doctor said, scooping up Amelia.

 

"Can you get Freya too?" She asked, unable to carry the baby and Freya.

 

He nodded and propped Amelia on his hip so he could hold both his daughters. "Come on. This gas is spreading."

 

River nodded, walking behind him. It was only a moment before she started to collapse, falling on her side to avoid crushing the baby.

 

"River!" He rushed to her. "River, are you okay?" She was unconscious, as was Arthur.

 

The Doctor started to panic a little, moving and placing the now unconscious girls a safe distance from the TARDIS before moving back to drag River and Arthur there too. He only made it a few feet before passing out himself.

 




River's eyes snapped open, her whole body shaking with coldness.

 

"Mummy I had a bad dream!" Freya had sat up in bed, lip wobbling. Arthur was crying as well.

 

"It's alright. You're alright." River whispered, wrapping her other arm tighter around her daughter.

 

"It's cold! Why is it so cold?" Amelia had woken too, sniffing.

 

"I don't know, sweetheart. How about you snuggle closer to Toby, he'll keep you warm." She suggested, arms too full to reach her.

 

"I had a bad dream, too." She grumbled, curling up to the dog.

 

"I'm sorry, my love." She murmured, managing to reach her back with her hand. "How about we go get some warmer pajamas for you two to wear."

 

"But I don't want to get up. It's cold."

 

"If you'd like, you two can stay here and I'll get you some warm things."

 

"I'll come to." The Doctor finally spoke up.  

 

"Can you watch the baby, girls? Keep him between you and don't squish him too much." She gently set the baby down between her two daughters. They nodded.

 

The Doctor slipped out of bed to follow River. River lead him down the hall to the girls room, her whole body trembling.

 

"We're going to have to change when we get back." He nodded quietly, lips pressed tightly together.

 

"Are you alright?" She whispered, glancing over at him.

 

"Bad dream." He murmured.

 

"I had one too." She whispered, "We all had one."

 

"A bit curious, don't you think?" He asked.

 

She nodded, "Yes, it's...strange." She rummaged through the girls drawers, trying to find their winter pajamas and socks. "Maybe we should get two layers for them."

 

He nodded in agreement. "Maybe we should investigate this cold while we're up."

 

"Perhaps, yes." She glanced down at her hands which were bright red and throbbing.

 

He took her hands for a moment, trying to warm them before gestured for her to follow to the console room. She kept her hands entwined with one of his as they walked.

 

The console room seemed even colder than the rest of the TARDIS, The Doctor instinctively holding River closer when they arrived. She was shaking violently once they there. her body sending any and all heat to her abdomen. She melted into the Doctor's warmth.

 

"Maybe you should go back to bed and try to warm up." He fretted.

 

The already dim lights in the TARDIS suddenly shut down. "No, I don't want to leave you." She whispered, nuzzling into his body to try and share in his warmth. "It could help if we get some scarves and wrap them around my middle to keep the baby warm."

 

"Better yet, a heating pad." Hand still in hers, he felt his way toward where he knew he had a chest of warm things for her. He started rummaging, tossing her blankets and coats until he also found the portable heating pads. There were eight of them and he took them all out. "We should bring these back to the girls." He said, turning one on and handing it to his wife.

 

"Thank you." She breathed, fixing it so it was sitting against her stomach. She was still trembling and stayed as close to him as possible.

 

He turned back to the task at hand. "Something's drained the power... probably the same this that's making it so cold."

 

She nodded, "Where are we, anyway?" She asked, unsure of the location of the TARDIS.

 

"No idea. Scanners are down, it's like she just... dead." His eyebrow knit together with concern, skipping over to the door. "Guess there's only one way to find out."

 

River nodded, taking one of the door handles and pulling. Immediately, a draft of cold even worse than the cold already in TARDIS, hit them smack in the face. River gasped at the extreme coldness of the air, shaking so violently that her knees gave out from beneath her.

 

The Doctor squinted for a second then shut the doors quickly, shaking. "It's a cold star!" He looked over at her. "River!" He bent down to her, pulling her against him.

 

"It's f-f-f-freezing." She breathed, turning into his body.

 

"It's a cold star. I'm surprised we made it this far. Just hang in there, love." He gathered her up and brought her away from the door which already had frost growing on it. Her  lips were dry and pale and she clung to him, not wanting to be separated from the warmth he was providing her.

 

He reached over and grabbed another heading pad from where he'd left them all in a pile, switching it on and giving it to River. She hugged it close to her chest, closing her eyes for a moment. He closed his eyes as well, arms secure around her.

 

"Can we go back to our room?" She whispered, wanting to cuddle with him in the warmth of their bed.

 

He hesitated. "I think we need to work a bit more on this cold problem... It's more serious than you think."

 

She nodded, "Alright, but I want to check on the baby and make sure he and the girls are alright."

 

He nodded. Kids first.

 

He helped her stand, keeping his arm firmly around her. "This cold is making me so tired." He murmured. She nodded, answering with a yawn. "You too, huh?" He asked, leading her from the console room.

 

"Yes, and I'm worried...."

 

"About the cold?" He clarified.

 

"Well, no...about the baby."

 

He nodded his understanding, his features remaining schooled though he was pleased with her concern for their child. "The heating pads will definitely be a huge help, though if you feel like something's wrong, let me know immediately."

 

"But I'm afraid if something does go wrong, we won't be able to find out what or fix it since all the power seems to be out."

 

"Oh." He said in the realization that the machines wouldn't be working. "Well, the portable ultrasounds go on batteries. Do you want to grab one?”

 

She nodded, "Yes, perhaps."

 

"...Did Vastra check on the baby at all during your visit?" He rerouted them towards the med bay.

 

"Yes, she said it was a bit small but other than that it was alright. I didn't see it, though..."

 

He nodded quietly. "I can do an exam if you want me to... if you're ready for me too." He added.

 

She shook her head, "Not yet...I want to get back to the children."

 

"Alright." They picked up the portable ultrasound then headed to back to the kids, giving them heating pads of their own.

 

"How's my baby doing?" River murmured, lifting Arthur up.

 

Arthur cuddled into the heating pad, relieved to have such warmth. Cold, cold, cold!

 

"I know, sweetheart, I know. Are you hungry?"

 

Yes! He cooed eagerly.

 

She kissed his head and sat down on the bed, wrapping the two of them beneath a blanket and unbuttoned her top so Arthur could feed.

 

Big brother. Arthur hummed, content against his mother's skin.

 

"Yes, I know." She held him so he could share the warmth of the heating pad on her belly.

 

Baby okay?

 

"What do you mean sweetie?"

 

Cold. Baby cold?

 

"Yes, a little bit. But don't worry."

 

Warm square. He pointed out.

 

"Yes, that's keeping it warm."

 

We need BIG warm square!

 

She laughed softly, "Yes, we do." She glanced at the Doctor.

 

Birdies.

 

"What birdies?" She yawned.

 

I hear birdies. He yawned in return, snuggling against River.

 

"Stay close to Mummy." She whispered, fighting to keep her eyes open.

 

Why... birdies... He drifted off, not finishing the thought. River started falling asleep as well, holding Arthur close.

 


 

Gas was surrounding the Timelord family on the rocky space they crashed at. River jolted awake, coughing and choking on the air. "Doctor!" She called.

 

"Over here!" His voice was more distant, somewhere from out of the gas. She stood and ran towards the sound of his voice, holding Arthur against her chest so he wouldn't breathe in the gas.

 

"Where are you?" The Doctor called.

 

"I don't-" She coughed, "I don't know? I can't see anything!"

 

"Just get out of the gas! It's spreading from the TARDIS, it's deadly!"

 

She held Arthur tighter, running as fast as she could out of the gas surrounding them. Arthur started wailing and hacking. She stumbled out of the gas finally, stroking Arthur's back and looking over him, extremely worried. Arthur whimpered unhappily, sounding like he was going to spit up.

 

"Okay, it's alright. You're okay." She whispered, trying to hold him in a way so he wouldn't get spit up on either of them.

 

He vomited a bit, then started to calm, asking where the rest of the family was.

 

"I don't know… Doctor!"

 

"River?" He echoed back, sounding further than before.  

 

"Where are you?" She called back, looking around.

 

"Other side! I've got the girls safe!"

 

"Is there any way I can get to you without going through it again?" She asked, glad that the rest of their family was safe.

 

"I don't know, I don't think so." Concern was obvious in his voice. "It's spreading! The gap is only going to get bigger."

 

"What if we loop around it?" She called, "We may be able to-" Her words cut off with a groan.

 

"River?" He called for her. She didn't answer him, squeezing her eyes shut and clutching her middle. "River are you okay, are you still there?" He panicked.

 

"I think something's wrong." She called, "I think the gas did something to the baby."

 

"What is it? What's going on?"

 

"I don't know. I don't know what's happening, it hurts a lot."

 

"Just... stay where you are! I'll find a way to you. Hang on!" He said frantically, though any attempt to go around the gas would probably take a very long time.

 

River sat, hoping it would ease the pain. She cuddled Arthur close to her chest, hoping that vomiting would be the only way the gas affected him.

 

"Has he told you the bad news yet?"

 

River frowned, "What?"

 

"That's a 'no' I take it?" The voice said.

 

"Who are you? What are you talking about?" She stood again, turning around.

 

A balding man with round glasses stood behind her, rather on the short side, though his face was pinched and unwelcoming. "I'm talking about me."

 

She took a step back, holding Arthur protectively against her, "Who are you?"

 

"Don't you recognize me?" He adjusted his bow tie. "Or did the daft man not tell you?"

 

"Tell me wh-ah!" She cried out at the lurch of pain in her abdomen.

 

The man laughed. "Come on, that's not even the worst you've had."

 

"Excuse me?" She stared incredulously at him.

 

The man flickered then disappeared, reappearing on the other side of her. She immediately stepped away, shielding the baby.

 

"So that husband of yours didn't share. No surprise there."

 

"Get away from me." She growled, "Doctor!"

 

"Don't get your knickers in a twist." The man said, looking bored. "People like you call me the Dream Lord."

 

"I don't care you who are or where you came from. I want you to leave me alone!"  

 

"That's not going to happen, I think we both know that."

 

"What do you want then?" She snapped.

 

"I want you to understand exactly what kind of situation you're in and just what kind of power I have over you."

 

"Then get on with it." She hissed, glaring at him.

 

"It's more fun to have you figure it out." He sneered back. "As for power, well..." The Dream Lord raised his hand and closed it into a fist.

 

She felt a huge rush of pain, groaning and falling to her knees.

 

He looked smug. "I'll let that sink in. In the meantime, let's see how fast you can get away." The gas seemed to be expanding more quickly.

 

River looked back at the gas, scrambling to her feet once she was able to and running.

 

Big Mummy's dead! Scary man! I want Daddy! Arthur was not happy about any of this.

 

"Shhhh." River hushed, as she ran further from the gas behind them, needing to get Arthur away as fast as possible.

 

Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Where's Daddy? Where's sisters? He demanded.

 

"I don't....I don't know, sweetheart. Hush now, Mummy has to think." She looked around, trying to find some place they could hide. There looked to be an incline in the distance, something that likely had cover.  She spotted the incline, running for it and calling for the Doctor.

 

There was no answer.

 

"Now that's really going to help." The Dreamlord appeared in front of her path. River ran right through him.

 

Why are there birdies? Arthur asked.

 

"I don't...I don't know...." She whispered, collapsing to her knees, and the laying down, suddenly too overcome with tiredness to move.


"Mummy!" Amelia called, though River was unconscious by then.

Chapter Text

Ch 21

 

"Mummy!" Came Freya, completely shaking with the freezing cold TARDIS.

 

River awoke, back in bed with the children, immediately moving to warm them up, "It's alright." She murmured, wrapping her arms around them, "We'll be alright."

 

"There's frost in the hall." Her teeth chattered. "It's never been this cold before."

 

"Doctor?" River called, helping the girls get bundled up in the clothes they had retrieved earlier and wrapping Toby and the cats up in a few more blankets they had, allowing the animals to snuggle with the children.

 

He took a moment to blink his eyes open, sitting bolt upright. "Are you okay?"

 

He asked frantically. "I don't know." She whispered, trying to hide how shaken she was.

 

Toby crawled up so he was practically laying on the girls, while the cats snuggled between their bodies. "What's happened?"

 

She hesitated, glancing at their daughters, "Girls, can you tell Arthur a story?" She asked, gently placing the baby between them, hoping it would provide a distraction for them while she spoke with the Doctor.

 

They nodded. The more people in their warmth pile, the better. River moved to the other side of the bed, fixing the blankets around the children to make sure they were as warm as possible before turning to the Doctor.

"I need you to tell me exactly what happened." The Doctor kept to a whisper, sounding quite serious.

 

"I don't know." She whispered, "I don't know what's happening. We were here and it felt so real, and then I woke up, or I thought I did, and the TARDIS had crashed, and then I woke up here again, and then there again..." She shook her head, "I don't know what's happening."

 

"Bravo, Mrs Doctor. You're finally getting it." The comment wasn't from the Doctor.

 

River jumped to stand in front of the children, looking in the direction of the voice.

 

Arthur started crying again, and the Doctor glared, " You ."

 

River hushed Arthur, scooping him up and holding him close.

 

"Yes, me. It's not like you were expecting anyone else. And that's not the point, is it?" Though the Dream Lord spoke to the Doctor, his eyes were kept fascinated on River. She didn't look at him, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of having her attention. "You still haven't told her, naughty little Doctor. I almost want to ruin the surprise myself." Whatever sort of cheery tone he put on was obviously a mask and could almost be mistaken for disgust.

 

"Told me what?" She looked at the Doctor.

 

"What's going on... It's happened to me before. He's happened to me before." The Doctor admitted.

 

"What do you mean?" She asked, frowning.

 

"It was a long time ago, with your parents. He showed up and trapped us in two different worlds-"

 

"-One was reality and one was a dream." The Dream Lord cut in. "Both will try to kill you."

 

"How do we make is stop?" She asked the Doctor, still not acknowledging the Dream Lord.

 

"We have to figure which is which before we die in reality." He muttered.

 

"What?" She stared at him, "How could you not tell me this?"

 

"I was trying to, but things kept getting in the way and not dying was a little higher on the list." He shivered.

 

She shook as well, curling against him, "I can't tell which one is false, they both feel so real."

 

"That really is a shame, dearie." The Dream Lord said unsympathetically. "Because you're the one who has to choose."

 

"Why am I the one that has to choose?!" She snapped.

 

"You're pieces in my game. You move where I tell you to, and I say the choice is to be made by you. It was ever so entertaining to see your mother struggle." He added.

 

"Doctor," She whispered, looking up at him, "Is there any other way to end this?"

 

He shook his head. "He won't stop switching us until you've chosen, or we're dead in both worlds."

 

"I don't know." She shook her head, burying her face in her hand, "I don't know. I can't risk choosing the wrong one and killing our children, and you."

 

"Look for dream jets." He tried offering. "I sorry this responsibility has been put on you, but we all trust you. We'll be okay so long as we keep moving."

 

"It has to be the other one..." She thought slowly, "The TARDIS cannot be destroyed with a crash, at least not to the point of dying. It's impossible."

 

"The TARDIS is also completely drained of power here and drifting towards a cold star. Is that any more possible?"

 

"Perhaps they're both false then..." She breathed.

 

"Oh for Pete's sake." The Dream Lord interrupted and rolled his eyes. "You're boring me already. I've got an idea. Let's split you up with the kiddos. Say goodnight to Mummy and Daddy."

 

"No!" River cried, jumping to grab the children as if that would protect them.

 

The Doctor moved to do the same, already covering his ears to block out the bird chirps even though it made no difference. River tried her best to stay awake, wrapping her arms around the three kids.

 

"Mummy, don't go to sleep," Freya begged.

 

"I won't, sweetie." She whispered fighting had to stay awake.

 

"You will." The Dream Lord countered, easily intensifying the urge to giving into sleep.

 

"I'm going to stop this." She whispered to the girls, "Mummy will stop this, don't worry." They hugged her closer, the Doctor already unconscious. "Stay warm." She murmured before slipping into sleep.

 


 

The gas was only a few yards away from River, and there was blood pooling beneath her legs. River jolted awake, about to scramble to her feet until she looked down. When she saw the blood, she screamed.

 

The Doctor was still running to her, close enough to hear her. He only ran faster, carrying his two unconscious daughters. She was paralyzed by the sight, clutching Arthur closer to her. The baby's head lolled, still trapped in the other world.

 

It was a few minutes before the Doctor managed to finally reach her, completely out of breath.

 

"It's this one." She was shaking, "This is the dream."

 

He set the girls down, getting down River’s level. Seeing the blood, he pulled her against him. "Are you sure?"

 

She buried her head into him, "I don't know, but I want it to be."

 

"We can end it here and now. We could wake up… we could not. You've got to choose, I trust you."

 

"I choose this one." She whispered, holding him closer. The gas inched nearer.

 

"I'm glad the kids aren't here to see it." He murmured. "Because death it the way out."

 

"If I chose wrong, I want you to know that I love you." She moved to hold the girls, wanting to be close to her family.

 

"I know." He breathed.

 

"I love you, too." He cupped her face and kissed her, the gas engulfing them.

 

It wasn't completely painless. It stung their eyes and lungs. They clung to each other as suffocation set it, but almost as soon as it did, they felt everything stop and go cold. Thoughts faded away the world stopped.  

 

A little hand poked at River's shoulder. She slowly began to stir, eyes opening. The little hand persisted, trying to shake her. She opened her eyes fully, looking in the direction of the shaking.

 

"M-M-Mummy!" Amelia tried to say, too cold to say it steadily.

 

"Amelia!" She smiled as much as her frozen form could, squeezing her tightly.

 

"Th-the ice got in h-here too." She buried her face in her mother's shoulder.

 

"Mummy will save you," River whispered, slowly getting up, ice clinging to her hair and frosting the tips of her fingers blue. She moved as quickly as she could to the console room. The Doctor followed.

 

The console room hardly had an inch of surface that wasn't iced over. "This one is a dream too." She said with some effort, "We have to stop it."

 

The Doctor didn't question her this time, already knowing that she was right. He moved to the controls alongside her. It took some effort to move the buttons and levers, but after some force, she was able to get them to go the way she wanted. They worked together to set the ship for destruction until there was only one button left to press.

 

"Ready?" She whispered, hand hovering over the button.

 

He put his hand over hers and nodded. "Together." She lowered her hand on the button.

 

Death came quickly this time, in a huge white flash of light.

 

The Doctor felt as though he was just a consciousness floating in limbo, that was until warmth engulfed him and he felt the bathroom floor under his face. The light became white tile as he realized his head was very sore.

 

There was a splash beside him as River scrambled to stand up in the tub, practically falling out of it. She quickly grabbed a bathrobe, securing it tightly around herself.

 

"River?" He sat up and look up at her.

 

She relaxed once she realized that everything was alright, "Oh....sorry. I had the worst nightmare...."

 

"Wasn't a nightmare." He whispered, standing.

 

"What?" She stared at him, wrapping her arms around her belly.

 

"I had it, too. The Dream Lord, the two worlds. That happened." He reached for her.

 

She took a step back, "No…”

 

"River listen to me, we're alright now. Everything's okay now, it was an alternate reality." He explained, realizing she'd misunderstood.

 

She relaxed just slightly, "Are you sure?"

 

He nodded. "Positive... but we can check if you want." She nodded slowly. He took her hand and offered a smile. "Come on." She let him lead her, still appearing nervous. "We can check on the kids first." He offered. She nodded, turning and heading for Arthur's room.

 

Arthur was whimpering in his crib, complaining about his 'nightmare'.

 

"Oh, it's alright, my love." River quickly walked over to his crib, lifting him up and cuddling him close to her chest, "Mumma's here now."

 

Cold, cold! Cough-y air, scary stranger! Not a big bother! Arthur was still in a panic about the whole thing.

 

"Shhh, shhh." River rocked him back and forth, "You're warm now, there's no stranger here, just Mummy and Daddy."

 

Big brother? He curled to her.

 

She laughed softly, "Yes, you're still a big brother." She looked up at the Doctor.

 

He smiled back at her, then at their son. "Everything's alright now. Go back to sleep, lovie."

 

"Mummy and Daddy will come back and check on you soon." She whispered, kissing his forehead. Arthur seemed content with the answer, happy to be put back in his crib. "I love you, sweetie. Sweet dreams." She tucked him, back in, walking back out.

 

They went to the girl's room next though they were already up and murmuring to each other.

 

"Are you girls alright?" River asked softly.

 

"We just had the same dream," Freya informed her, confused by the fact.

 

"You know, that can sometimes happen with twins if they have a very special bond." River lied, smiling at her daughters.

 

The girls grinned excitedly at each other, sharing something unspoken then giggling.

 

"It's the middle of the night, try and get some more sleep," River smiled, kissing both of their foreheads.

 

"Why are you awake?" Amelia asked, crawling back under her covers.

 

"Daddy and I were watching a movie and it just finished." She lied again.

 

"Kiss me goodnight?" She asked.

 

"Of course." She smiled, leaning down to kiss her daughter on the cheek.

 

"Me too!" Freya insisted.

 

"Don't worry, I'm not forgetting about you." She walked over to her and kissed her as well.

 

"Night, Mummy."

 

"Goodnight, my beautiful girls. Sweet dreams." She smiled, once again leaving with the Doctor.

 

"Feeling better?" He asked.

 

She nodded, "Yes, I'm relieved now."

 

"Good." He wrapped an arm around her. "Still want to check?"

 

"If you don't mind."

 

"Not at all." He lead her to towards the med bay. She squeezed his hand as they walked, a bit nervous about seeing their baby for the first time.

 

He began to set things up when they arrived, letting River seat herself on the cot. She sat slowly, adjusting her robe so he could get to her stomach. He put the gel on her skin and got to work with the probe, all the while making his movements gentle.

 

She closed her eyes again, mentally preparing herself to see the baby. The Doctor tapped the screen after a moment. "There we are." He murmured softly.

 

She slowly opened her eyes, looking up at the screen. He tilted it towards her, tracing over the image. "Head, body, legs... do you want me to find the heartbeats?" She stared at the image, not answering him right away. "...Riv?" He took her hand.

 

"Yeah?" She breathed, squeezing his hand softly.

 

"You alright?"

 

She nodded, giving his hand another squeeze.

 

"Is... this alright?" He gestured to the screen.

 

"Of course, it's alright, it's just...." She trailed off, "It's the first time we're seeing our baby… sometimes I forget how monumental this moment is."

 

"Me too." He agreed. "Though I'm quite enjoying it."

 

"So am I." She whispered, surprising herself a bit.

 

"Heartbeats, then?" He asked.  

 

She nodded, "I want to hear them." He nodded and released her hand so he could isolate the hearts and amplify their sound. "Wow..." She whispered.

 

"Nice and strong, no complications there." He commented, unconsciously beaming.

 

She reached for his hand again, pulling him closer to her. He put the probe down and settled on the edge of the bed. "Lay with me?" She asked softly. He nodded, turning off the ultrasound then laying next to her.

 

"Do you think it's a boy or a girl?" She asked softly.

 

"Statistics say boy, but my gut says, girl." He settled his arms around her.

 

"That's what you said the last time." She smiled.

 

"Well, maybe I'll be right this time." He teased. "Unless you think it's a boy, in which case the universe will generally take your side on it."

 

She shook her head, "I happen to agree with you this time."

 

"We should still think of a boy's name, just in case." "Do you have any in mind?"

 

"I like Ian... or Wilfred." He suggested.

 

"I like those." She smiled, tracing circles on his chest, "What about Jack?"  

 

"Absolutely not."

 

She giggled, "Oh, why not?" She teased.

 

"Because- Didn't we have this conversation the last time we were naming babies?" He realized.

 

She laughed again, "Yes, because you know I love teasing you with that name."

 

"You wouldn't really name our kids that, would you?" He asked cautiously.

 

"No, I wouldn't." She pressed a kiss to his chin, "Besides, I don't think you have to worry about that since we're having a girl."

 

"I'll worry until we're 100% percent certain of that." He couldn't help a grin. "And even then I'll worry a little because maybe she'll be a boy in her next regeneration and choose Jack as a name."

 

"That's also a possibility with Amelia and Freya." She smiled.

 

He exaggerated a groan and buried his face in her shoulder. "Any name but Jack."  

 

"Really? Any name?"

 

"Okay, maybe not any name." He corrected, knowing his wife could think of much worse.

 

She hummed, "But if it's a girl, I know we talked about Terra Aurora Song, but since we have Arthur now, I was thinking maybe we could change her middle name?"

 

He nodded. "What were you thinking?"

 

"I was thinking maybe Vastra?"

 

He smiled and held her closer. "That's perfect."

 

She smiled, curling into his arms, "I'm glad you like it."

 

"Vastra's been the best a friend can be to us without question. I think she's more than earned this."

 

"Of course, she has. Shall we tell her or do you want to keep it a surprise?"

 

"A surprise for now." He decided.

 

She nodded, nuzzling his cheek. "Our secret."

 

"We should get some sleep. Real sleep."

 

She nodded, "Alright."

 

He got up from the bed. She followed, taking his hand and walking back to their bedroom. They settled back in the bed, the Doctor snuggling up to her again. She yawned, resting one hand on her belly.

 

"River?"  

 

"Hmm?"

 

"I'm glad it wasn't real. What happened, I mean." He was still thinking about the blood.

 

She tensed a bit, curling closer to him, "...Me too."

 

He held her closer, thinking that doing so would help to stop reminding him of all the other memories it brought up. She squeezed her eyes shut, the memories that haunted her dreams rising from the back of her mind.

 

"Arthur seems excited." The Doctor said, trying to distract the both of them.

 

She nodded, "I'm happy he's excited. He keeps calling himself a big brother."

 

"It's a very exciting thing when you're only eight months old. Maybe he see's how much the girls like it." He added.

 

"Oh, my..." She breathed, "I keep forgetting he's only eight months old."

 

"He'll be nearly a year and a half when he gets his little sister. Or brother." He pointed out.

 

"Well, not exactly." She shook her head, "I'm nearly four months now, so that means the baby's due in another four months and he'll just be a year by then."

 

"Oh, right." He nodded. "I forgot how far along you are."

 

"He's still so young..." She murmured, "I wish we had waited."

 

"We can handle it." He encouraged.

 

"Are you sure?"

 

"Do you remember when we saved those hostages o n Raxomairi with nothing but a bottle of seltzer, a pistol, and an earring? A baby will be a piece of cake." He assured.

 

"We're not going to have any time with the girls anymore." She worried.

 

"You said the same when Arthur was only a month old. We'll always be able to make time for our daughters." She sighed, closing her eyes, still worrying. He kissed her forehead in quiet assurance.

 

"Goodnight." She murmured, trying to push the stressful thoughts away.

 

"Goodnight, love." He replied softly. She closed her eyes, thankfully not taking long to slip into sleep.

 

Chapter Text

Ch 22

 

The auditorium was almost completely full of parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and every other kind of family that a little kid could have. River and the Doctor had managed to get seats close to the stage, bringing Jack, Ianto, Vastra, and Jenny along with them. (Strax was made to wait out of sight as to not scare the humans and Vastra wore her vial for the same reason.)

 

"Did you get the flowers? And did you remember to bring the camera?" River asked, bouncing the fussy baby in her arms, checking the clock once again to see what time it was.

 

"Yes, and yes, don't worry." The Doctor smiled, camera at the ready. He pulled out a pacifier for Arthur. "Your filter still working?"

 

"Yes, but I wore a loose dress just in case." She murmured, kissing Arthur's forehead as he finally settled down. "How were they when you dropped them off? Was Freya remembering her lines?"

 

"Wouldn't stop reciting them. They're out of their skin with excitement." He informed her.

 

She smiled, "Good, I'm glad."

 

The lights started to dim and the audience around them quieted down. The curtains opened, the girls on stage with their class. They were in flower costumes, beaming.

 

River's smile grew when she saw her daughter's, thrilled that they were smiling so brightly. They spotted her and waved as discreetly as they could as the number started.

 

"Take a picture!" River whispered, waving back at the girls. The Doctor fumbled, getting the camera up and snapping a photo along with most of the other parents. She beamed, even Arthur's attention being drawn to the stage.

 

The girls sang along cheerfully with the others on stage, only fumbling the dance once or twice. Arthur thankfully remained calm throughout the performance, only getting fussy at the very end.

 

The audience cheered and clapped as the children bowed. Arthur didn't like how noisy it had gotten and started whimpering.

 

"I'll meet you outside." River murmured, getting up and carrying the baby out before he started to full on cry. The Doctor nodded.

 

Arthur squirmed but soon calmed as they got further from the loud people. River sat down outside the auditorium, bouncing the baby and talking quietly to him.

 

Flowers. He thought about the pretty colored plant things his parents had brought, only recently having learned the name. "Looowuf!" He tried to say. Arthur had made a new game of attempting to say words he liked, though couldn't never really get the hang of it.

 

She laughed, "Flowers, my sweet. Fffff-lowers."

 

"Fooo-wuh." He tried again.

 

She smiled, kissing his forehead, "Very close, sweetie."

 

"Muh!" He grinned. 'Muh', ‘no’, and 'Da' were the only things he could stay without much trouble.

 

"Yes! Very good!" She laughed again, beaming, "Your sisters will be out very soon."

 

They won't bring the loud, will they? He asked, unsure.

 

"I don't know, my sweet. They might, but I promise it won't last very long."

 

He buried his face against her. No loud .

 

"It's alright, I've got you." She murmured, rubbing his back.

 

The auditorium doors opened and people started filing out of the room. Clara was the first to find River, having sat away from the rest of her friends since she had to help out with lighting. She greeted the woman with a hug. "What'd you think?"

 

"Oh, it was wonderful! All of the children did so well." River smiled, hugging her tightly.

 

Arthur waved his arms, grabbing onto Clara's shirt. "Oh, careful there, kiddo." She laughed, trying to detach herself from the baby's grip.

 

"Are you coming over?" River asked. All of their friends had agreed to have a little after party at their flat.

 

"'Course I am! Wouldn't miss it." She smiled brightly. "But I've got to stay and help clean up, so unless you're all willing to wait a bit, I'll be a bit late."

 

"Oh, I would stay and help, but it's way past Arthur's bedtime and he's been getting fussy."

 

"I can tell." Clara managed to free herself from Arthur's grip. "I'll catch up later, then."

 

River nodded, "See you soon." She turned to look for her family, letting Clara greet the rest of her students.

 

Jack and Ianto found River next, though they stayed and made pleasant conversation with her. Ianto was holding Arthur when the rest of the gang came chasing behind the girls. Freya and Amelia were beyond themselves with pride and excitement for the party, tackling River with hugs.

 

River hugged them tightly, "Oh, I'm so proud of you! You both performed so wonderfully!" They both tried to say something at once, sounding like an overloaded computer. "Slow down, girls." She laughed, "One at a time."

 

"Daddy said there would be chocolate cake and I want ice cream too and can we stay up late, pretty please?" Amelia said.

 

"Well, alright. I suppose you can." She nodded, "Are you ready to go?"  

 

Freya nodded. "Auntie Vastra's ready to be out of her vial."

 

"Alright, then we'll get going." She took both of the girls hands, leading them out and making sure the rest of the group was following.

 

The girls waved to their friends as they left, walking home with their family. They chattered the whole way, Freya announcing that she was going to be a movie star one day.

 

The group filled up the dining room of the flat, River going to put the baby down before she and the Doctor brought out dinner. It was the girls' favorite: homemade mac' and cheese. There was also a fruit salad and some wine for the adults.

 

River poured wine for each adult, except for herself and the Doctor, and helped the girls get food.

 

"I wanna do a toast!" Amelia insisted, standing on her chair.

 

"Alright, be careful," River warned, not wanting her to fall off the chair. She took her seat beside the Doctor.

 

Amelia cleared her throat for dramatic effect. "Ahem! I wanna make a toast because... because it's been a really brilliant night and I've got people to thank for thank. Thanks for coming to see me in my show, we worked really hard. Thank you, Mummy and Daddy, for helping make costumes and driving us around and stuff and making my favorite dinner." She picked up her cup of milk. "To, um, to acting and family!"

 

The table followed her lead, raising their glasses and repeating "To acting and family!"

 

Freya and Amelia got up so they could clink glasses with everyone. Amelia paused at River. "Mumma, you forgot your wine."

 

"Oh, no, I didn't forget. I'm not going to have wine tonight." She glanced at the Doctor, seeing if he was ready for them to make their announcement. He glanced back with confidence.

 

"But you always have wine." Amelia countered.

 

She laughed, "I don't always have wine, my love. Now, Daddy and I have our own announcement to make."

 

Amelia's excitement grew again as she scurried back to her seat and stood on her chair once more so she could announce to the table: "One more thing! Mummy and Daddy have something to tell us!"

 

River stood and started taking off her perception filter. "Well, the Doctor and I are quite pleased to announce that in a few months, there will be another addition to our family," River smiled, taking the Doctor's hand and squeezing it.

 

The adults immediately smiled and congratulated her, but the smile couldn't have been wiped off Amelia's face quicker. The girl sat in silent shock, staring at her mother. Freya wore a similar expression.

 

The smile left River's face one she saw the girls' expressions. She went over to kneel in front of them, "What's wrong, my loves?"

 

"I don't want you to die again!!" Amelia burst out, louder than necessary.

 

"Oh, sweetie. That's not going to happen, this time, I promise. Things are very, very different. I'm not going to die, everything will be alright." She wrapped her arms around the little girls, pulling them close.

 

Freya sniffed."You said that last time. You kept saying it was fine. You lied to us and then you left us!"

 

"I'm not lying, honestly. Last time, there was something wrong with the place where the baby grows, but this time, it's all fixed. I cross my hearts that nothing is wrong this time." She held them tighter, wishing she could just take away all the fear.

 

They clung to her. "How's it fixed?"

 

"It's very complicated, but I promise that it's all fixed. I would never decide to have another baby if I knew I would be leaving you."

 

"B-but what if something happens." Amelia warbled. "Something always happens."

 

River bit her lip, glancing at the Doctor for help.

 

"Amelia," He got up went to them, doing as River had done. "We're not going to shut you out. If something happens, we'll let you know. But if something does happen, I'll be able to fix it. I can fix almost anything, can't I?"

 

She nodded, hesitantly, "But what if you can't fix it?"

 

"Then I've got the help of all your Uncles and Aunts. I've got the universe in a box. Something somewhere will be able to help, I promise." He assured.

 

"Are you still upset?" River asked gently.

 

Amelia shook her head, worn out. "I'm scared."

 

"How can I fix that." She hugged her once more, all of the negative feelings about the pregnancy that she had still been fighting starting to arise again.

 

"Can I sit on your lap for dinner?" She asked shyly.

 

River nodded, "Of course, sweetie." Amelia brought her food over to River's place at the table.

 

Quiet conversation resumed. River tried to reignite the happiness and excitement of the night, though she felt as if she had ruined it. The girls distracted themselves with eating and talking to their family about the play, though they clearly weren't as energized as they were before.

 

Once everyone had finished dinner the plates were cleared, and the cake was brought out. River stayed behind in the kitchen to wash the dishes. The Doctor volunteered to help her, doing the drying. River was quiet as they washed.

 

"...You doing alright?" He asked after a while.

 

"Yes..." She murmured, "Are you?"

 

He nodded. "Yeah. I am."

 

"I ruined tonight..." She whispered.

 

"River, you didn't." He looked at her.

 

"I did ." She stopped what she was doing, "They were so happy and now..."

 

"Now they'll come to terms with it and learn that it's going to be okay." He finished.

 

She sighed, "But they shouldn't have to do that. We should have talked to them about this."

 

"They would’ve had the same reaction. It had to happen one time or another," He pointed out.

 

She swallowed, "I'm worried that we made the wrong choice."

 

"We can't change it now." He wasn't sure exactly which choice she was referring to. "We've got to persevere with what we've got."

 

"I'm sorry." She whispered, "You're right." She went back to washing the dishes, falling silent again. He feared he might have said the wrong thing, but didn't push the topic further.

 

They washed and dried for another minute before Amelia tiptoed in with her plate, tugging on River's dress. "I'm done with my cake."

 

"Ah, thank you, my sweet." River murmured, taking the dirty plate from her and sticking it in the sink.

 

Amelia watched her movements, eyes falling to her belly. "It grew...?" She hadn’t noticed before.

 

"Well, no, not exactly. I've just been wearing a perception filter."

 

"The thing that hides it?" She confirmed.

 

River nodded, "Yes, exactly."

 

"Who were you hiding from?" She looked up at her mum.

 

"Well, I just wanted to hide it until I decided to tell you." She explained.  

 

"Why did you wait?" Amelia's tone was curious.

 

River shook her head, not wanting to talk about it, "How about you go back out and play with your Aunts and Uncles. They're going to leave soon."

 

"They want you to come, too." She informed.

 

"Alright, I'll be in in a minute."

 

Amelia nodded and hugged River's legs before scurrying back to the others.

 

River turned off the tap, turning to the Doctor, "Are you coming back in with me?"

 

"Yeah." He nodded. "We've got people waiting."

 

She sighed, starting to walk back into the other room. He briefly wondered if he'd said something wrong again or she just didn't want to deal with people. Either way, he put on an assuring face for her and the girls, following her back to their guests.

 

River put on a happy face for her guests as they walked back into the room, taking a seat on the couch in the living room where the group was now gathered. The girls quickly snuggled up with River, wanting to be physically close to her.

 

The conversation somewhat revolved around the new baby, though no one mentioned the girls' reaction. Vastra was quite chipper, proud of River for her progress. River tried to seem as happy as possible, though all the questions about the baby were rather overwhelming. She glanced at Vastra, considering telling her about the name they had chosen later on.

 

"Mummy?" Freya tugged on her arm. "Am I having a little brother or little sister?"

 

"The baby's going to be a girl. So you'll have a little sister." She smiled weakly.

 

She smiled back, genuinely interested in the news, as was everyone else. "Can we name her Elsa like the ice queen?"  

 

River laughed softly, kissing her forehead, "We'll see." She glanced at the Doctor, unsure if they should share the name they picked. He looked back at her and shrugged as to say now was no different than later.

 

"We actually have pretty much decided on a name." River began, glancing around the room.

 

"Is it a pretty name?" Freya asked, everyone's eyes on her in anticipation.

 

"Well, I think it's pretty." She smiled, "Daddy's Mum's title was Terra, so we've decided to name her Terra."

 

"Ooh, I like that," Clara grinned.

 

"Good choice." Jack agreed.

 

"Thank you." River beamed, "We've picked her middle name as well..."

 

"Let's hear then!" Clara leaned forwards excitedly.

 

"The Doctor and I both thought it would be fitting if her middle name was Vastra." She said, looking to Vastra.

 

The woman let out a small gasp of pleasant shock, an ear to ear smile breaking out on her face. "I'm... more than honored."

 

River smiled, getting up to go hug her friend, "I'm glad you're happy. You deserve it."

 

Vastra hugged her tightly. "Thank you. Thank you so much."

 

"It's the least I could do." She whispered.

 

"It's more than the most you could do." She let out a chuckle.

 

River smiled, giving her one last squeeze before returning to her seat. Vastra seated herself closer to River this time, smile never faltering.

 

The rest of the night went on rather smoothly, their friends all departing late into the evening. Jack and Ianto helped carry the girls to their rooms before they left since the two children had fallen asleep listening to their family talk. The paternoster gang were the last to depart, Vastra was still beside herself, giving River more hugs at the door.  

 

River smiled, "We'll keep you updated."

 

"Thank you." Vastra beamed, wishing them goodbye and good luck. River waved, closing the door behind him and then turning to the Doctor.

 

"You feeling alright?" He asked with a soft smile.

 

She nodded, smiling back, "Better than before."

 

"That's good. Vastra was quite happy about the name." He reminisced.

 

"I know." She hugged him tightly, "I'm so glad."  

 

"Me, too." He relaxed against her, pleased that she'd cheered up.

 

"Do you want to take a bath with me? I think I could just a quick soak to relax before bed." She murmured, heading for the stairs.

 

He nodded and followed. "I'd love to."

 

She smiled back at him, climbing up the stairs and into their bathroom, running the water. They undressed, discarding their clothes in the corner of the bathroom before climbing into the filling tub.

 

River let out a sigh, relaxing in the warm water surrounding her.

 

"The girls were quite good in their play." He rested his arm on her shoulders.

 

"Yes, they were excellent. I was very impressed." She hummed, resting her hand on her belly.

 

His hand followed soon after, resting over hers. "She's getting big."

 

"She's healthy. Though I'm starting to wonder if there is two of them in there." She joked, resting her head against his shoulder.

 

"I think you were bigger with the twins at this point." He laughed.

 

She laughed weakly, "I don't remember anymore it was so long ago."

 

"They're not even six yet." He chuckled. "Good thing we have pictures."

 

She nodded, "How did we not figure out there we two of them until so late when I was that big."

 

"Neither of us had seen a Gallifreyan pregnancy in a long while. Plus, Freya's placenta was blocking Amelia on the ultrasound." He reasoned.

 

"Yes, I suppose so. I think Terra's going to be big. She's bigger than Arthur was." She commented, putting her other hand to her side.

 

"You're also in a better condition that you were with him." He added.

 

She nodded, "Yes, that's true. But he turned out just fine. He's healthy now and just as big as he should be."

 

"And I'm sure Terra will be, too." He grinned.

 

"You know, I do feel as if I'm running low on kisses." She murmured.

 

"Well, it just so happens that I have some." He chuckled, leaning over to kiss her. She beamed, pressing her lips gently against his, moving her hand to rest against his cheek.

 

He hummed contently. "Anything else you need, love?"

 

She shook her head, "No, I'm fine just laying here for a few more minutes."

 

"Maybe more than a few minutes." It was so pleasantly warm, he didn't want to get out soon.

 

"That's fine with me." She hummed, closing her eyes. He grinned to himself.

 

They stayed curled up in the bath with each other for a while, just enjoying the calm, before something pushed against River's hand.

 

River had been starting to fall asleep when she felt the push, startled awake. "Doctor? Did you feel that?"

 

"What?" He asked, tone still relaxed. "I think she just kicked..." She breathed, sitting up a bit more.

 

He woke up a bit more at that, repositioning his hand next to hers. She waited to see if the baby would move again and confirm what she thought she had felt.

 

A moment passed before the little foot pressed against their hands again. She took in a gasp, a wide smile spreading across her face.

 

"That was most definitely a kick." His expression matched hers.

 

River laughed, leaning over to kiss him, glowing. He moved his lips softly against hers. "Today is full of surprises."

 

"It certainly is." She whispered, "She's strong."

 

"Just like her Mummy." He commented.

 

"Oh, stop." She smiled softly.

 

"Never." He teased, feeling Terra tumble and kick softly.

 

River laughed as Terra tumbled around, "She certainly had lots of energy."

 

"Maybe it's the cake you ate."

 

"Maybe.. .or maybe she's hungry again." She murmured.

 

"Is that a hint that you want more cake?" He chuckled.

 

She smiled, "Yes. And I think Terra would also like some apple pie."

 

"That will require some baking unless you want to skip that and see of the TARDIS has some." He informed.

 

"I don't mind baking." She murmured, "As long as you don't mind."

 

"Not at all." He grinned, reaching for the drain. She smiled back, kissing his jaw then standing and getting out of the tub.

 

The water drained and the Doctor grabbed towels for the both of them. She took her towel from him, drying off and then wrapping her arms around his waist, "Love you."

 

"I love you, too." He kissed her.

 

They headed off to the TARDIS’s kitchen, leaving the door open in case the girls were to need them. They spent the next hour or two baking pie. Time lost meaning to them as they laughed with each other and exchanged kisses and flour on each other's noses. All the while, Terra playing with her new found ability to kick.

 

As the smell of the pie filled the room, River took the Doctor's hands, pulling him into the middle of the room, "Do you remember the first time we went dancing?"

 

"The very first time? I tripped so much, it's hard to forget." His cheeks gained a slight dust of red.

 

She laughed, "The first time you took me dancing, you were absolutely perfect. I suppose you had gotten the hang of it by then."

 

"Oh yeah, that wasn't my first time, though." He recalled. It was all wibbly-wobbly, but luckily her first time dancing with him hadn't been his last with her. "It was your birthday, wasn't it?"

 

She smiled, nodding. "And, do you remember when we found out I was pregnant with the girls?"

 

He nodded. "That was a life changer."

 

She squeezed his hand, "But, a good one, right?"

 

"Not a doubt." He confirmed, grinning widely.

 

"Do you think we ever would have had children if I hadn't… if I hadn't come to you after my miscarriage." She whispered.

 

"I think it would've happened eventually." He shrugged. "But time took this path and now we're here."

 

She looked up at him, nodding slowly.

 

"I like it here." He offered a warm smile and tapped her nose. "Dance with me?"

 

"I'd love to." She whispered, giving him a weak smile.

 

He placed his hands gently on her waist as the TARDIS started some music to dance to. She swayed gently with him, tiredness starting to settle in.

 

They danced until the timer for the pie beeped. He pulled away and put the done food on the counter top.

 

"It smells wonderful." She murmured, "Though I'm not terribly hungry anymore."

 

"Pie for breakfast then?" He suggested.

 

She smiled, "That'll give it time to cool. Bed now?"

 

He nodded. "Bed now."

 

She took his hand, turning off the lights and walking upstairs, not bothering to go to the bedroom in their flat.

 

They got into bed, curling up to each other. "Night, love." He said.


"Goodnight." She whispered, drifting off.

Chapter Text

Ch 23

 

In the early hours of the morning, River woke up screaming. The Doctor shot up at the noise, panic flooding him. "River!" She was sitting up in bed shaking like a leaf, eyes wide open. "River? River what's wrong." He urged, moving his hands up and down her arms. "Talk to me, are you okay?"

 

She nodded slowly, confirming that she was alright, "I had a nightmare." She whispered.

 

He pulled her against him, hearts still pounding from the startled. "It's alright, you're safe." She held him tightly, her whole being trembling. "It's alright, it's alright." He kept saying in an attempt of comfort. "It's safe here, you're okay."

 

She buried her face against him, starting to relax after a few minutes. He rocked her a little, continuing a stream of sweet nothings to calm her. "...Do you want to talk about it?"

 

She shook her head, "No, I just want you to stay with me."

 

"I'm not going anywhere." He assured, holding her close.

 

Terra shifted, then kicked softly, having felt the transfer of River's fear. "She's scared," River whispered, putting a hand on her belly.

 

His hand followed. "Think to her something that isn't scary."

 

"I-" She started, "Okay, I can do that." She closed her eyes, thinking of the Doctor. Terra began to settle at her mother's thoughts, making the mental equivalent of a smile. "She's calm now." She whispered, "She likes you."

 

He gave a small smile. "I'm glad." She curled closer to him, keeping her hand on her belly. He slowly lay them back down. "She talked yet?"

 

"No, not yet." She murmured, "Do you think we should be worried?"

 

He shook his head. "She's been responsive to your movements and emotions, I think it's alright for now."

 

She nodded, holding onto his arm, "We should call Vastra and tell her that she moved. She'll want to know."

 

"In the morning." He agreed. "You need your rest."

 

"I don't want to go back to sleep." She whispered.

 

"...Are you worried you might have another nightmare?" He asked carefully.

 

She nodded slowly, "Yes."

 

"Can I help?"

 

"How?"

 

"Telepathically." He replied. "Just something to make you feel better."

 

She glanced at the clock, sighing, "No, we have to get up with the girls soon anyway." She whispered.

 

"Oh. Alright." He hadn't realized the time, though still was on the side of River sleeping.

 

"Are you alright?" She asked softly.

 

He nodded. "I should be asking the same to you."

 

"Yeah, I'm fine." She whispered, tracing her hand along her abdomen.

 

"You're worried." He murmured.

 

"Yes, but....I'll be alright." She breathed, giving him a small smile.

 

"I know." He returned the gesture. "But I want to be there for you any way I can." "

 

But I don't want to cause you any additional worry." She murmured.

 

"I'm your husband, River. It's our jobs to take care of each other regardless." He replied.

 

She sighed softly, "It's about Terra..."

 

"What about her?" He encouraged.

 

"Well, you said it before. She hasn't used words yet. All of our children had used words by now..." She breathed.

 

"You're right..." This caught his attention, it having not occurred to him before. "Do you think something's wrong?"

 

"I don't know, that's why I'm worried. But like you said, she's been responding to all of my other mental cues..."

 

"So probably not something mentally wrong, just sensory." He suggested.

 

"So...you do think something's wrong then?" She whispered, her hearts quickening.

 

"Well, she's healthy physically and mentally, we can confirm that easily." He started. "But, I wouldn't ignore your instincts."

 

"I don't want there to be something wrong." She whispered, terrified of the idea that something wasn't right with their baby.

 

"River, I'm sure she's alright. We can get up and check." He offered.

 

She nodded, "I'd appreciate that."

 

"Come on." He got up, offering a hand and a weak smile. She smiled back, getting up slowly, though her stomach was in knots.

 

He lead her to the medbay. "There's a device from Oculi V that they invented to specifically observe the brain waves of fetuses."  

 

"Okay..." She whispered, "How does it work?"

 

"I just rest it on your belly. Lie down." He instructed. The device was curved to fit around her.

 

She nodded, laying down on the cot. He placed the scanner over her, staring it up. It made a small whirring noise and he took her hand. "It'll transfer the data to my sonic. We'll have results in a mo'." She nodded, reaching for his hand.

 

They waited for a moment in anticipation before the whirring stopped. He squeezed her hand and got out his sonic. She squeezed his hands tightly.

 

He examined the data. "...It's her hearing."

 

"What?" She whispered, her hearts pounding, "What about her hearing?"

 

"Well... there isn't really any." He rubbed the back of his head. "She can't hear."

 

"What?" She stared at him, hands shaking, "No, no that can't be right. Run the test again."

 

"River..." He hesitated, then nodded and ran it again. She closed her eyes, praying that the results had been wrong.

 

The Doctor looked at his sonic again, shaking his head. "Still the same."

 

She shook her head, "No..."

 

"River," He tried again. "It's... not the end of the world." It wasn't exactly the news he wanted to hear, but it also wasn't something he considered awful.

 

"It's my fault....this is because of me." She whispered, her heart pounding and her head spinning. Although this news wasn't catastrophic, she was still upset, feeling that the things she had down early on in the pregnancy had caused this.

 

"No, River. It's not your fault. There's no way of telling that at this point. It'll be okay. Our baby is okay right now, and that's what matters." He tried to assure.

 

"But if I had taken care of her better in the beginning. If I hadn't done all those things that I knew could harm her..." She took the device off of herself and stood up, needing air before she passed out.

 

The Doctor hesitated to follow her, thinking she'd need space, though decided to go after her anyway. He was a few paces behind.

 

She fled out of the TARDIS, heading for their backyard. Toby caught sight of her running, following her out to pet door to the yard. He barked excitedly at her, thinking it was breakfast time. She ignored him, slowly sinking down to the ground until she was sitting in the middle of the yard. Toby rubbed his face against her shoulder, sitting next to her. She still didn't acknowledge his presence, staring blankly at the space in front of her.  

 

The Doctor caught up with her, coming into the yard out of breath. The sun wasn't fully up, sending soft patterns of light across the yard. He walked over to her, sitting next to her quietly. He didn't try to say anything, though offered his hand to hold.

 

She turned her head away from him so she couldn't see him, keeping her hands tightly in her lap. He sighed inaudibly, slowing taking his hand back and looking out at the yard.

 

"Please, leave me alone." She whispered.

 

He didn't say anything, getting up and going back to the house. Her words sat in him like cold water, but he knew that she needed time to process this without him hovering.

 

Toby followed the Doctor as he went to get the girls ready for their day.

 

River sat, silent and unmoving for most of that morning. The girls peered out the window to watch her for a bit, not understanding why she was just sitting outside. Though they were excited to get to school and talk to their friends about the previous night's performance, so they didn't pay her too much mind.

 

The Doctor and Toby took the girls to school before going on the dog's walk, as was routine for school mornings. On their return, Toby ran straight to the back yard to sit with River again.

 

The Doctor didn't, assuming her request was still to be abided by. Instead, he went to the kitchen to make her something, knowing she hadn't eaten today.

 

The phone rang, while he was in the kitchen with Vastra on the other end, calling to see how the family was doing after the previous night. The Doctor paused his cooking and answered, though regretted the action as he wasn't exactly sure how to respond to it. "Um... Well, Terra started kicking." He said, recalling River's idea to tell Vastra.

 

"Oh, that's wonderful!" Vastra sounded very excited, "I'm sure you two are thrilled!"

 

"It was a thrilling moment, yes." He agreed, though both of them were currently far from thrilled.

 

"Is there something wrong?" She asked, sensing something was off by his tone.

 

"Uh... can you hold for a second." He said in a rush, putting the phone down. He tried to think of what to say, circling around the kitchen for a moment before going to the back yard. "River?"

 

"What is it?" She asked, only making half of an effort to look at him.

 

"Vastra's on the phone." He told her nervously. "She... I don't know what to tell her."  

 

"Don't tell her anything," River whispered, slowly standing and going into the house.

 

"Do you want to take the call?" He asked, still skittish.

 

She really didn't want to talk to anyone, but she took the phone anyway.

 

"Doctor?" Vastra sounded more worried than before.

 

"No, it's River." She whispered.

 

"Oh. How are you, are you okay?" She asked quickly.

 

"I'm fine." She murmured, trying to sound as normal as possible, "How are you?"

 

"Concerned with how your husband was acting." She replied cautiously.

 

"I'm sure it was nothing, you know how he is sometimes." She tried to wave it off.

 

Vastra seemed to believe this, audibly relaxing. "He mentioned Terra started kicking."

 

"Yes, she did." River murmured.

 

"That's wonderful news! How do you feel?"

 

"Alright."

 

"Just alright?" Vastra raised an eyebrow.

 

"Yes, is there a problem with alright?" She asked.

 

"No." She amended. "Alright is fine."

 

"Good." She breathed.

 

They made small talk for a short while, before Vastra finally said she had other business she needed to get to and bid River goodbye.

 

River put down the phone, slowly walking upstairs to check on Arthur. The baby was still sleeping, gurgling slightly with a stuffed Dalek hugged close to his chest. She touched his cheek gently, careful not to wake him up. Arthur leaned into her touch in his sleep, his gurgling stopping. She kissed his forehead, "Love you, my special boy." She whispered.

 

He began to stir, blinking sleepily up at her.

 

"Go back to sleep, my love." She whispered, urging him to rest.

 

"Muh!" He refused, reaching up for her.

 

"Would you like to come sleep with Mummy?" She asked, carefully lifting him up.

 

Yes. Arthur insisted.

 

She held him close, carrying him back to her room.

 

Mum, mum, mum. He mentally mumbled.

 

She smiled weakly down at him, "Yes, I see you."

 

Big brother! He grinned. He'd not stopped his excitement about the fact, reminding his parents every day, just in case they'd forgotten.

 

She swallowed, ignoring the statement and crawling into her own bed with him in her arms.

 

He snuggled into her. Sisters?

 

"They're at school right now." She murmured, wrapping the blankets around them.

 

Play again? He asked.

 

"No, no play again." She smiled, "Just school."

 

Is Daddy at school?

 

"No, I actually don't know where Daddy is." She murmured.

 

Why? He frowned.

 

She just shrugged, "Go to sleep, sweetie."

 

Not tired. He insisted.

 

"Well, then why did you want to lay down with me?"

 

Because I love you! He giggled and waved his arms.

 

She laughed softly, kissing one of his hands, "I love you too."

 

"Muh-mmm!"

 

"Yes! Very good!" She praised, nuzzling his cheek.

 

He started babbling nonsense sounds, proud of himself for making the word.

 

She smiled, "Good boy."

 

"Da." He said, wondering again where the man was.

 

River sighed, "Would you like to find him?"

 

Yes. Arthur confirmed, getting excited. She stood, walking to the door with him to go find the Doctor.

 

The Timelord had resumed his work in the kitchen making a lunch for the two of them.

 

She stopped in the doorway, turning Arthur so he could see him, "There. Are you happy now?"

 

"Da-uh!" He reached out for him with grabbing hands.

 

The Doctor looked up and smiled at the pair. "Are you hungry?"

 

"A bit." River murmured, "And I'm sure Arthur is getting hungry as well." She moved closer to him so Arthur could reach.

 

The baby latched onto his bow tie as the Doctor took him in his arms. "I made fruit salad and sandwiches."

 

She smiled weakly, "Thank you."

 

"And you, Mister Grabby Hands," He said to their son. "have delicious mashed carrots and banana." They'd been trying to wean him on to solid foods, which for the most part was proving to work just fine.

 

River touched the baby's head, kissing him just above his ear. He did a happy sort of wiggle. Food now.

 

"Alright, let's sit you down." She murmured, going over to open up his high chair.

 

Arthur wiggled more, feeling very squirmy this morning. Food, food, food.

 

"Settle down, sweetie." She murmured, taking him from the Doctor once more and setting him down in his chair.

 

The Doctor  handed over the baby food as well, going to set their food on the table. River sat in front of the high chair, getting a spoon full of Arthur's lunch and trying to feed it to him. He eagerly opened his mouth and tried to swallow as much as he could, which in reality was only about half a spoonful at a time. She scooped the bit off food that didn't make it into his mouth off his chin, feeding him once more. "Someone likes his carrots."

 

"Just wait until he can try fish fingers and custard for the first time." The Doctor teased, handing her a plate.

 

She laughed weakly, feeding Arthur until he was finished before starting in her own food.

 

"How are you feeling?" The Doctor asked her after a moment.

 

"Fine." She whispered, "You?"

 

"Good." He replied with a small smile.

 

She nodded, "That's good."

 

"Can we... Find a time to talk about what happened?" He asked.

 

She tensed but nodded slowly.

 

"It doesn't have to be terribly soon if you're not ready to." He added.

 

"What's the point in waiting? It's not going back to go away.."

 

"No, but waiting might mean you're more open and really ready to talk about it." He pointed out.

 

"I don't have time to get ready! She's going to be here in a few months and we are by no means ready to take care of a baby who can't hear!"

 

He sat calmly, trying not to flinch at her tone. Arthur whimpered, not liking it at all. "River, a Deaf child isn't going to..." He paused to think of the wording. "...Be as difficult as you think it is. I know 15 different sign languages from Earth alone, which I'll gladly teach you and the kids."

 

"Sign language isn't my only concern, Doctor." She glared at him.

 

"Sorry." He looked at the table. "Tell me more, then."

 

"We're going to have to find her a special school and we'll have to install alarms that she'll be able to see when the doorbell and the telephone or the fire alarm goes off. We're never going to know what she wants because she doesn't know how to use words. I was already worried about having another baby and now...." She stopped talking, unable to continue.

 

"You can still use telepathic words with her." He said quietly. All the stuff she'd mentioned was still far off, it wouldn't be needed until Terra was older, but they could handle that. He had a feeling that communication and bonding was a bigger concern to her.

 

"She doesn't understand them, Doctor." She shook her head, burying her face in her hands.

 

"Because she doesn't have anything to go on. Remember how you communicated with Arthur before he knew how to use telepathic words?" He urged.

 

She shook her head, "It won't work."

 

"Tell me what you tried."

 

"Why?" She snapped, "I've already told you that it hasn't worked. Why do you have to keep pushing me?"

 

Arthur burst into tears. Stop yelling!

 

River jumped at the sound of the baby, knocking her glass onto the floor. "I'm sorry, sweetie." She whispered, quickly picking him up, "I'm sorry."

 

You have to let go, you have to let go.

 

The Doctor started to go clean up the shattered glass. She didn't understand what he was talking about, just continuing to hush him. Arthur kept repeating the phrase.

 

"Ow."  

 

She put the baby back in his chair, thinking maybe he didn't want her to hold him and then turned to look at the Doctor. The man had stuck his finger in his mouth, "Glass is sharp." He mumbled around the digit.

 

She rolled her eyes, getting down on the floor to clean it up herself, "Go put a plaster on your finger."

 

He nodded slowly and went to do as he was told. She cleaned up the shattered glass, dumping the little sparkling bits into the trash. The Doctor returned with a neatly plastered finger, picking up his still complaining son. River sighed, looking at her husband and the baby.

 

"Do you understand why he's saying that?" The Doctor asked.

 

"No." She murmured, sitting back down and rubbing her temples.

 

"Would you like me to tell you?" He sat as well.

 

"Alright, fine."

 

"...He means your telepathic link." He said slowly.

 

"No, absolutely not." She shook her head, "I'm not cutting my link with him. He's not old enough yet."

 

"Cutting and letting go are different." He sighed. "He's only a little younger than the girls were when they stopped, but your link with them was already thinning as it naturally should. With Arthur, you're holding on more tightly than you should be."

 

"Then don't make me do something I'm obviously not ready to do." She whispered.

 

"I'm not making you do anything. I was only suggesting and explaining the situation because it's also why Terra's not responding to you in the way you want."

 

She shook her head, "This was a mistake. I knew I wasn't ready for another baby yet."

 

"No." The word came out firmly and not from the Doctor, but the little boy in his arms.

 

River looked up at him, frowning.

 

"No!" Big brother. Arthur looked quite upset, to say the least. He didn't have the vocabulary to tell River that he cared a great deal about his little sister, but tried to anyway. Keep her safe. Keep her safe !

 

"You, stay out of this." She warned, feeling as though her family was ganging up on her.

 

"I think it's nap time." The Doctor muttered, more to the baby than to his wife.


River turned to clean the table and wash the dishes. The Doctor sighed, bringing Arthur upstairs before he could start a bigger tantrum.

Chapter Text

Ch 24

 

Arthur started crying as he was carried upstairs, worried about his baby sister.

 

"Shh, hush now lovie. She'll be fine. It's alright." The Doctor rocked him as they went to the nursery.

 

He continued to sob, refusing to calm down.

 

"Come on little man, I know Mummy would never ever let anything bad happen to your little sister, even if she doesn't act like it all the time. She just scared, she lashes out when she's scared." He tried to assure.

 

He sniffed, finally starting to settle. The Doctor placed the boy in his crib, leaning over to offer a finger. "Mummy cares about you so much, that's why she doesn't want to let go. She loves you more than she knows what to do with." He smiled. "It's scary, you know, with what happened around your birth. I think... I think she thinks something bad will happen if she lets go. " He sighed, knowing Arthur wouldn't know most of what he was talking about. "Don't worry. She'll be okay eventually."  

 

Arthur whimpered, holding his father’s finger tightly, Love Mummy too...and baby .

 

He chuckled softly. "I'll let them know."

 

He finally settled down enough to take a nap. The Doctor made sure the boy had his stuffed Dalek then turned out the light and left.

 

He wanted to go to River and at least be able to give her a hug or something along the lines of comfort, but he didn't think she wanted him around her. He decided to instead go to his office in the TARDIS and start looking into the things River had before mentioned they'd eventually need.

 

River finished washing the dishes in the kitchen, wandering into the TARDIS looking for a distraction. Tiber heard her steps and eagerly went to follow her. She drifted quietly through the halls, stopping in the doorway of the Doctor's office when she noticed the door slightly open.

 

He was over his desk, scribbling something down on paper. A few books were open around him as well as a tablet. She was so quiet, he didn't notice her, that is until Tiber took the liberty of announcing their presence.

 

He looked up.

 

"Is Arthur asleep?" She asked softly, not moving from her place in the doorway.

 

He nodded. "It took a bit, but I got him to settle down."

 

She nodded, glancing at the floor, "Good. Do you want me to pick the girls up later?"

 

"I could come with you." He offered hopefully.  

 

"If you want." She leaned against the doorframe.

 

"I do." He nodded and offered a smile. "Were you looking for me for something?"  

 

She shook her head, "Sorry, I didn't mean to disturb you." She turned to leave.

 

"No, it's alright." He stood. "I wasn't that busy." He closed the books.

 

"I was just going to go read for a bit..." She murmured, still hesitant and backing up further.

 

"Oh. Alright. You could... read in here. If you want." He offered.

 

She hesitated, feeling Toby brush up against her leg, "I-" She sighed, "I suppose so."

 

Tiber and Toby both went to settle on the couch, looking back at River, expecting her to follow. She slowly walked over to the couch, sitting stiffly. The Doctor turned back to his research, thinking that it would be too smothering if he were to come sit with her.

 

"Are you sure I'm not bothering you? You seem busy." She whispered, glancing at him.

 

"No, no. Not at all." He insisted, Toby snuggling up to River.

 

She pet the dog's head absentmindedly. "What are you doing?" She asked softly.

 

"Looking into all the things you mentioned earlier. Things we'd need for Terra." He told her.

 

She visibly tensed, "Right...of course. I should leave you to that then." Tiber jumped onto River's lap, settling himself against River's belly. Terra pushed back softly.

 

River jumped up as soon as Terra kicked, knocking over a few things in the process.

 

Tiber yelped as he was dumped on the floor and the Doctor looked up, alarmed. "River?"

 

"I'm sorry, I-" She glanced at the Doctor, "I can't do this." She quickly headed for the door.

 

"River wait, what happened?" He went after her. "River?"

 

"I can't do it." She repeated her voice trembling, still making her way down the hall, shaking her head.

 

"Please, calm down. River, talk to me." He urged, though he already knew what she was talking about.

 

She slowed to a stop, breathing in such a way that he thought she might need a paper bag. "What is there to talk about?" She fell back against the wall, her whole body shaking, "There's nothing we can do now! There's no way to fix this."

 

"You said that when we thought you were going to die, and we still beat that, but that's not the point. River, it's not something we're supposed to fix, it's something we're supposed to live with. You're overwhelmed and you have every right to be. It's been less than a day and I know you need more time to deal with this." He sighed. "I just... I need you not to shut me out while you do."

 

"We didn't beat it." She whispered, turning her head away from him, "I still died. This is all my fault. I should never have agreed to have her."

 

Terra nudged her ribs.

 

"Would you give her up now just because of this?"

 

She tensed even further when Terra kicked, "No... But if I had just made the decision from the start to give her up… or if I had just pulled myself together and not done all of those horribly dangerous things in the beginning, then she wouldn't be like this. It's my fault. And now, every time I look at her, I'll be reminded of how awful I was. Of how I don't deserve her. And of how I am the cause of any struggles she may face because she's deaf."

 

He disagreed, though knew it wasn't time to voice that. "Then that's when you need to set your mind to. Not what you could have done, not what you might screw up in the future, but how you can limit the struggles she could face. You're her mother and saying you can't do it isn't going to help her. If you don't think you deserve her, then do all you can to earn it."

 

"I'll never be able to make up for what I did." She shook her head, "And what about the girls now? And Arthur? It's not fair to them that we'll have so much less time for them now. Even less than we had originally thought."

 

"The girls will be eager to help out, you know they will. There's two of us for a reason. We can balance this out together."

 

She didn't look convinced, "We have to tell them tonight. We can't keep it from them."

 

"Do you think you're ready for that?" He asked.

 

"No." She murmured, "But they'll be upset if we keep it from them. They're upset enough as it is about the whole new baby situation."

 

"Only because they think they'll lose one of you again. That's not going to happen." He murmured back.

 

"We still have to tell them." She squeezed her eyes shut, her body refusing to stop shaking.

 

"I know."

 

He slowly put a hand on her arm as to make sure it was okay to do so. She slowly turned her head towards him, wanting his comfort. He rubbed her arm, though feeling how much she was really shaking, he pulled her into a warm hug. She fell against him, holding onto him tightly. He let out a breath, relieved that she was letting him close. He made the embrace as welcoming and comforting as he could.

 

She swallowed, letting out a shaking breath, "We also need to tell Vastra."

 

"Today?" He clarified, voice soft.

 

"I don't see the sense in waiting."

 

"Alright." He nodded. "Let's call her after the girls." She nodded, falling silent. "Do you still want to read your book?" He asked.

 

She shook her head, "No, I'll just leave you to your work now." She whispered, starting to stand.

 

"I'll be right here if you need anything." He said, very willing to abandon his work for her.

 

She nodded, heading for their room on board the TARDIS. She sat for a little while, cleaning a few things up. When it was time to pick the girls up, she headed back to the Doctor's office.

 

He had began put away his books, leaving his notes out to come back to later.

 

"I'll go get the baby." She murmured. He nodded, going to get a leash for Toby.

 

She out to the nursery, to where Arthur was still napping. Being careful not to wake him, she lifted him up out of the crib, blankets and all, and carried him downstairs where the pram was waiting. She set him down, making sure he was still asleep as she re-tucked the blankets around him and pulled the sun visor down so the light wouldn't bother him.

 

Toby eagerly trotted into the room, dragging in the Doctor by the leash. River looked up, smiling weakly at the sight. "Alright, read-EY!" The last bit was a yelp as Toby gave another firm tug, making the Doctor sprawl forwards.

 

"Oh! Toby!" River scolded as she pushed the pram out the door, "Gentle!"

 

The dog listened to her, settling to stroll next to the pram in a protective manner. The Doctor straightened himself out, trying to act as if he'd been in control the whole time.

 

River smiled, entwining her  hand with the Doctor's. "Would you like me to hold the dog and you can push Arthur?"

 

"No, I can do it." He insisted, puffing his chest out a little.

 

She squeezed his hand, glancing down at the dog once more. He seemed much more obedient towards her than the Doctor, walking proudly.

 

"I think he's just excited to do something." The Doctor noted.

 

She nodded, "Yes, I suppose you're right. We've been so busy with the girls' play we haven't had time for him lately."

 

"I played with him a lot this week, it's just been today." He pointed out.

 

She hummed, nodding. "Yes, I guess so."

 

They made quiet conversation as they went towards the school, arriving and waiting with the other parents. They were still a few minutes early and a couple parents came over to talk to them as they waited. Most were curious about the new baby bump River had since it was her first time out without the perception filter. River tried to seem as relaxed as possible, answering the questions the rest of the parents had.  

 

One mother, who River didn't get along with, and whose daughter the girls' didn't get along with, was standing by, commenting, "Oh my, one baby barely a year and another on the way? Valentine's Day accident?"

 

The Doctor held River's hand firmly, glaring just the right amount so only she'd notice. "She not an accident." At least, she hadn't been when she was conceived, but the Doctor still took offense. Terra was rare and unique in the universe and these people ought to be honored to be in the presence of a growing Timelord.

 

"That's the lie we tell all of our accidents." She sneered. The other parents whispered to each other, some in defense of the Songs, the others giving into the other mother, afraid of her.

 

"Is that what you tell your daughter?" He stood his ground, though wasn't sure where those words had come from. River stared at him, surprised at his reaction.

 

"Well, I never!" The woman gawked and huffed, sticking her nose in the air. "You ought to learn your place."

 

"No, you need to learn yours." River snapped, "And maybe you can teach your daughter some manners while you're at it."

 

"Coming from the woman who let her's miss nearly a month of school for some petty ‘family drama’." She shot back.

 

"You have no idea what goes on with my family," River growled.

 

"Not when you're so secretive and uptight about every little thing. It's a wonder why no one trusts you." With that, she huffed and walked away, thinking herself above the likes of them.

 

River turned away, silently waiting for the girls to be let out, which was only a minute later. As soon as they were out the door, she whisked them away, heading home.

 

"Mummy, we're walking too fast," Freya complained, having thought they might slow down sooner.

 

She finally started to slow, not realizing how fast she had been walking. "I'm sorry, my love. I didn't realize."

 

"Are you okay? You and Daddy look kinda mad." She observed.

 

"We're alright. We got into a little argument with Sasha's mummy. That's all." She murmured, leaning down to kiss her forehead.

 

"I don't like Sasha." Freya murmured, though appreciated the kiss.

 

"I know. Let's get home and I'll get you some milk and cookies."

 

The idea excited both girls and they gladly strolled along back home. Arthur was awake by the time they arrived at home. River set him by his toys in the living room before going to get the girls their snack.

 

They sat at the kitchen table, completely forgetting to ask more about the argument. River glanced at the Doctor, unsure if now was the time to tell them about their baby sister.

 

"Once you girls finish that up, Mummy and I have something to tell you." The Doctor said for her.

 

Amelia looked up in alarm, "A bad thing?"

 

"That's sort of up for you to decide. Everyone has a different opinion." He said coolly.

 

She frowned, "What is it?"

 

"Finish your cookies first." He urged.

 

"No. I want to know now." She demanded.

 

"Alright, alright." He sighed, taking River's hand. "It's about your baby sister." River squeezed his hand, her hearts pounding.  

 

"What about her?" Amelia seemed even more alarmed now.

 

He went right on with it. "We've found out that she's going to be a little different than you and your brother and sister... She's deaf."

 

"So… she can't hear?" She confirmed.

 

He nodded. "That's right."

 

River watched her daughters carefully, waiting for their reaction. They didn't seem to know what to think of this.

 

"How are we gonna talk to her?"

 

River answered, "There's something called sign language. It's a way of communicating with your hands. You'll be able to talk to her that way. Daddy knows it and he said he'll teach it to us."

 

"Show me." Freya insisted, a bit suspicious.

 

"What do you want me to say?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Say my name." Freya murmured, staring at his hands.

 

"[F-R-E-Y-A]" He finger-spelled out the letters for her.

 

"Now say Amelia and Mummy's names."

 

He finger-spelled Amelia's name, though for River he used the actual sign for river instead of spelling it.

 

"Why is Mummy's name different?" Amelia asked.

 

"Because her name is also a thing and everything has a sign." He explained.

 

"And you'll teach us?" She asked.

 

"Yes, of course." He nodded.

 

"I'm going to go call Vastra." River murmured, standing and kissing the Doctor's temple.

 

He smiled weakly. "Let me know if you need me there."

 

She nodded, kissing his forehead once more, "I love you."


"I love you, too." He said without hesitation, explaining more to the girls as she left.

Chapter Text

Ch 25

 

River grabbed the phone, going up to her bedroom to make the call. Vastra answered, excited as she generally was when the Songs called.

 

River swallowed, her stomach turning, "I have to tell you something."

 

"That's a rather worrisome start to it." Vastra frowned. "Is there something wrong?"

 

"The Doctor and I ran some tests on Terra last night..." She started.

 

Vastra became more alarmed. "Don't linger, just tell what's going on."

 

"She's deaf," River whispered.

 

Vastra, like the girls, wasn't actually sure of how to take the news. "How are you taking the news?"

 

"I-" She swallowed, "Not well."

 

"Would you be willing to discuss that?" She asked carefully.

 

She shook her head, "I'd rather not."

 

"That's alright." She didn't push it. "What does the Doctor think?"

 

"I don't know...He said it wasn't the end of the world but… He's more optimistic than I am."

 

"Is that what you think? That it's the end of the world?"

 

"No, but....It's my fault." River murmured, "And I'm upset with myself."

 

"It's genetics. In what way is it your fault?" She questioned.

 

"It's not necessarily genetics." She sighed, "It's because of what I did those first couple months..."

 

"I see." Vastra disagreed, though understood that River's guilt had found a way to present itself and weigh on her. "Have you voiced this to the Doctor?"

 

"Yes." She murmured, "He said I need to do everything I can for her so I can earn my way back to deserving her."

 

"Do you agree with that?"

 

"Yes." Her voice shook.

 

"Do you think you don't deserve her now?" Vastra fretted.

 

"After what I did, I don't think I'll ever deserve her." She whispered.

 

"I can't say I agree with that, but you must know that Terra will love you unconditionally from the moment she's born. You may think you don't deserve her, but she deserves a mother like you, who cares about her child so much that she doubts her own abilities." She paused. "She doesn't need perfect. She needs you."

 

"But she doesn't deserve someone who consciously tried to harm her." River shook her head.

 

"You stopped, though. You stopped and then you spent all your time protecting her. You'll still protect her when she's in your arms when she walks when she flies. You'll be there to catch her, won't you?"

 

"Yes, of course." She whispered.

 

"Then let the past be the past. She'll know you care and surely that must be what's important." Vastra encouraged.

 

"I don't want to talk about this anymore." River was shaking, sitting down on the bed.

 

"Alright," Vastra replied softly. "...I'm glad you called."

 

"I promised to keep you updated so..." She sighed.

 

"If you ever need anything, I'm here for that as well. You could even just show up at my door." She offered.

 

"Yes, I know." She whispered. "Thank you. I should get back to my family now."

 

"Good luck." Vastra murmured, bidding her her a goodbye.

 

Vastra whispered a goodbye, hanging up the phone. She spent another few minutes just laying on the bed, gathering her thoughts. She then headed back downstairs to be with her children.

 

The girls had moved into the living room to play with Arthur, currently trying to teach him how to sign his name. Arthur didn't quite understand what they were trying to do. He still didn't have a fantastic grasp on how to coordinate his hands, so he mostly just wiggled his fingers and waved his hands around.

 

"No, like this." Freya and Amelia tried to help position his hands, though the bay couldn't retain the shapes.

 

"Be gentle girls." River murmured as she walked into the room.

 

"Mummy look!" Freya jumped up. "Daddy showed me how to do everyone's names!"

 

"That's wonderful, sweetheart." She smiled weakly.

 

Freya proceeded to sign her name and then the names of her siblings, though she fumbled with the vowels, doing them in the wrong order.

 

River smiled, "You're already very good at it." She murmured, really having no idea what any of the hand gestures meant. "Did he show you Terra's name?"

 

She nodded. "[T-E-R-A]"

 

"Two 'R's my sweet." She corrected.

 

"You know the letters?" She asked, wide-eyed with excitement.

 

"Well, no, but I noticed that you didn't repeat any of the letters, so I figured you forgot the R's." She sat in a chair, rather tired from the day.

 

"Oh." She nodded. "What's for dinner?"

 

"I don't know, I forgot all about dinner." She reluctantly stood, "I'll go figure it out."

 

"River, I can cook tonight." The Doctor offered.

 

She shook her head, "No, no it's my night. I'll do it."

 

"Call if you want help." He said.

 

She nodded, going to the kitchen. River searched around for a while, trying to find something to cook for the girls, finally settling on pasta, which she somehow managed to burn horribly. The Doctor hurried in at the smell of smoke, asking what was going on.

 

She was coughing, trying to clear the air around her. He quickly opened the door to the yard, helping fan the fogged air out. "River, go sit down."

 

"I'm fine, really." She coughed.

 

"You're practically choking." He worried. "How did you burn the pasta?"

 

"I don't know, I just… got distracted." She gasped, finally leaving the kitchen for some air. He put the pasta in the sink, trying to lessen the smoke with water and cloth.

 

Arthur started crying in the other room just as Toby started barking. "I'll get them." The Doctor moved back to the living room. "Just try to breathe, alright?" She nodded, still coughing into her elbow.

 

He went to scoop up Arthur and try to calm him down. "What's wrong, lovie?" Arthur continued to wail, hungry and cranky. "Sh, sh. It's alright, you'll eat soon." He went back to River. "I think it's a takeaway night."

 

She nodded, having finally caught her breath, "I guess so."

 

"Pizza?" He asked.

 

She shrugged, "Whatever the girls want, I'm not terribly hungry. I think I may go to bed soon." She murmured, reaching for his hand.

 

He shifted Arthur to one arm so he could take her hand. "That's alright. You've had a long day."

 

"I don't want to leave you all on your own with the children." She sighed, squeezing it lightly.

 

"Well, Arthur seems ready to sleep, too. I can handle them River." He assured.

 

"Are you sure?" She asked, standing and taking the baby in her arms.

 

He nodded. "It'll be fine. Promise."

 

She nodded, kissing his cheek. "Call me if you need anything."

 

"Don't worry."

 

She headed upstairs, putting Arthur down and then going to bed herself.

 

The Doctor ordered pizza for the girls, cleaning up the burnt pasta while they ate. He helped them with homework and played with them until they had to go to bed. They were well enough behaved, having lots of questions about deaf people and sign. He finally got them to bed, going to his room to join River.

 

River was fast asleep in bed, curled up in the sheets, with her hair sprawled out around her. One hand was resting on her belly while the other lay across the space where the Doctor slept. The Doctor smiled at the sight of her, changing and sliding into bed next to her. He took her hand, holding it close to him.

 

She nuzzled closer to him in her sleep, relaxing at his touch. It was the first time all day he'd really seen her with a calm expression. He kissed her knuckles as wrapped his arms around her. "Sweet dreams, love."

 

Toby trotted into the room, hopping up on the bed to lick the Doctor's face and lay across them.

 

"Toby, not right on top on us." The Doctor nudged him. Toby whimpered, wanting to lay with them. "Fine." He sighed, though still shifted the dog so he wasn't really on top of River.

 

He barked happily, pawing at his owners.

 

"Hush, Toby. River needs to sleep." The dog whimpered, pawing at her. "Toby." He said more sternly. "Let her sleep. You can have her attention in the morning."

 

He growled at the Doctor, nudging closer to River.

 

"Oi, don't talk to me like that. She's had a rough day." He whispered, watching River in hopes she'd stay sleeping. River looked as if she may wake up for a moment, but soon settled back to a deep sleep. "Just be careful, Toby." The Doctor murmured, closing his eyes.

 

River woke around 3 am, sweating all over and feeling rather sick. Toby had shifted by then, snuggled against her side. He raised his head, excited to see her eyes open. She pat his head, then stood, going to open the window and sit by it to get some fresh air.

 

He jumped up and followed, sitting in front of her and wagging his tail expectantly. She ignored him, resting her head against the wall. Toby made a small noise, putting his head on her lap.

 

"Shhh." She whispered, putting her hand on his head. He pushed up against it, wanting attention. "What?" She sighed, looking down at him.

 

He wagged his tail some more, blinking up at her. Terra nudged her ribs.

 

She stiffened, freezing for a minute. A light breeze came through the window, making her curls move a bit. Terra nudged again. Stop! She thought automatically.

 

A tingly gray and inky blue were the mental response. The kicking stopped.

 

River sighed, relaxing back into the chair. Toby pushed against her hand again, this time, barking.

 

"Shhh!" She scolded, "No barking."

 

The Doctor had already started to stir at the noise, mumbling something about the dog. She sighed, glancing over at the Doctor. He reached over to River's side of the bed, sitting bolt upright a moment later.

 

"I'm over here." She called, knowing he was looking for her.

 

His gaze instantly went to her, staring for a few seconds as he visibly relaxed. "Why are you up?"

 

"I woke up and couldn't fall back to sleep." She murmured.

 

"Did you have a bad dream or something?"

 

She nodded, "I don't feel very well, but I'll be alright. I just needed some fresh air." She breathed.

 

"Oh. Do you want anything? Glass of water?" He offered.

 

She shook her head,"No, I'm alright." She whispered.

 

"Can I sit with you?" He asked.

 

"Of course." She murmured.

 

He got out of bed, sitting in a chair next to her. Toby didn't pay him much mind.

 

River reached for his hand, squeezing it lightly. He squeezed back and smiled. They listened to the wind for a minute or two.

 

"You said you felt sick?" He asked. She nodded, closing her eyes. "In what way?"

 

"Nauseous." She murmured.  

 

"A bit past morning sickness, aren't you?" He pointed out.

 

River shrugged, "It's not uncommon for morning sickness to last the whole pregnancy."

 

"I would, however, get suspicious if it's waking you up at early hours of the morning. Do you want a ginger ale to settle your stomach?"  

 

She shook her head, "Really, Doctor. I'm fine."

 

"Alright." He sighed, squeezing her hand again. "I just worry."

 

"I know you do." She murmured, "But I promise I'm fine."

 

He nodded, trusting her word.

 

"She was kicking before..." She whispered after a few minutes.

 

"She was?" He looked hopefully at her.  She nodded slowly. "I'm glad she's discovered movement. Is she still now?"  

 

She nodded, "Yes, she stopped."

 

"Oh." He sounded a little disappointed, wanting to feel.

 

River frowned at the disappointment in his voice, "Maybe… if you put your hand here she'll start again." He nodded, placing his hand where she said.

 

She mentally tried to encourage their daughter to move, not wanting to disappoint her husband. She got a hard magenta in return and no movement. She opened her eyes having no idea what the colors were supposed to mean.

 

"River?" The Doctor looked at her, confused by her expression.

 

She swallowed, looking at him for a moment then quickly standing. "I suddenly feel so tired, I think I'm going to go back to bed." She lied.

 

"Oh." He blinked and stood to follow.

 

She climbed back into bed, wrapping the sheets tightly around herself and closing her eyes. Green came as the Doctor lay next to her, constantly changing shade. She was silent for several minutes.

 

"Doctor?"

 

"Hmm?" He responded, facing her.

 

"Do colors mean things?"

 

"Yes. Colors have all sorts of connotation in almost every culture to exist." He paused before he could go off on a ramble. "Why?"

 

"I was just wondering." She lied again, "Do the Timelords have meaning behind colors?"

 

He nodded again. "Tons, but most heavily in communication between TARDIS's and pilots." He explained.

 

"Ah, I see." She whispered, one hand falling to her belly.

 

"It's conditional, like, I don't know. Give me an example color."

 

"Magenta."

 

"Magenta, good. It can be a warning or aggression when applied during and let's say an argument. But it can also express wonder if that's what's going on." He told her.

 

"What about gray?"

 

"Grey is a lot. If it's scattered and sort of itchy, it closer to fear and shying away from something. If it's smooth or wavy it's calmness. Brighter grays can be contempt and occasionally curiosity. Dark ones are stubbornness." He explained, having fun teaching this to River.

 

Her stomach flipped and her heart sank, "And blue?" She asked, voice trembling.

 

"Hmm, also a lot. Light blue is excitement, greener blues are creativity. Dark blues can be a disappointment, secretiveness, or loneliness depending on the shade. Thicker blues are helplessness, and wispy blues can be excitement or more commonly curiosity."

 

"Oh...." She turned so he wouldn't see how upset she was. She was afraid to even ask about the green, horrified and distressed by the meaning of the other two colors.  

 

"River?" He put a hand on her shoulder "You alright?"

 

It took her a few minutes to respond, trying to sound as normal as possible, "Yeah, fine."

 

"What's wrong." He frowned, able to see that she wasn't fine. She shook her head, not wanting to tell him what she had done. "Does it have something to do with the colors?" He tried again.

 

She didn't answer, biting her lip hard.

 

He sighed at her silence. "Come here." She hesitated, very slowly coming closer to him. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close. He didn't ask about the colors again, deciding it was best to not push her right now.

 

She tried to hide how distraught she was, but on the inside, all she could think about was how she would never be able to be a good mother for Terra. How would they ever be able to bond if all she ever did was push the baby away and disappoint her?

 

He held her for a long while neither of them talking, though, after some time, Terra nudged in the Doctor's direction, thinking green again. River was afraid to ask what green meant, staying quiet.

 

"...I can feel her." The Doctor murmured.

 

"You can?"

 

"She kicked." He pointed out.

 

She nodded, "I think she'd rather be close to you than to me."

 

He shook his head "I don't think that's true. She lives in you for one thing, and she knows you at this point as kind and a protector."

 

River swallowed, shaking her head, "No, she doesn't."

 

"How would you know?" He questioned.

 

"The colors..." She finally admitted.

 

"What would that have to do with-... Oh." He realized, glancing down at her belly. "Is she.. using colors?"

 

She nodded.

 

"The colors you asked?" He clarified.

 

"Yes." She nodded again.

 

He didn't need to clarify which variation of the colors Terra had communicated, River's reaction already giving that away. "When?"

 

"Before you woke up." She whispered.

 

"It couldn't have just come out of the blue." He reasoned aloud. "Could there  have been something to evoke it?" She was silent, refusing to answer his question. He rubbed her arm quietly, deciding after a moment that he wasn't going to get a response. "..Has she used anything else?"

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"Other colors, other ways of communicating." He listed.

 

"She used green..."

 

"What kind?" He asked. "All different shades."

 

"Hmm." The Doctor looked at her. "Do you want to know what that means?"

 

She shook her head, "No."

 

"It's not anything bad." He urged gently.

 

She sighed, "Fine, tell me."

 

"It's an apology for shutting you out." He said quietly.

 

"Well, it's meant for you." She whispered.

 

"There's no reason for it to be meant for me." He pointed out.

 

"Well, she wouldn't kick for you earlier." She murmured, "And she only thinks green when you're near."

 

"Because green also mean family in light hues." He told her, though that did prove her point a bit. He entwined his hand with hers.

 

"So she wasn't talking to me then, she was simply thinking of family?"

 

"I think she had a change of mind from how she was feeling before and was trying to tell you that." He voiced.

 

She closed her eyes, thinking about what he had said.

 

He held her close. "Why don't you get some sleep?"

 

She nodded, "Okay..."

 

"Love you." He kissed her forehead.

 

Terra kept thinking green, though it started to lull as she became calmer.


"Love you too." She whispered, eventually falling asleep in his arms.

Chapter Text

Ch 26

 

Toby woke up River, practically slobbering on her face. River groaned, trying to bat the dog away. "Toby....stop it..."

 

He refused, barking right by her ear.

 

She yelped, jumping up, startled by the sudden loud noise, "Toby!" He stalked off the bed, tail between his legs and pouted up at her.

 

It took her a few minutes to catch her breath, glaring at the dog, "What do you want?"

 

He went in a circle then sat in front of the door and barked again. The Doctor began to stir. River slowly got out of bed, thinking the dog probably had to go out to use the bathroom. "Alright, alright. I'm coming." He whimpered in anticipation.

 

She stood, leading him out the door, "Come on." He eagerly trotted down the stairs and scratched at the back door until she opened it for him, rushing outside. She waited by the door for him, letting him do whatever it is he needed to do.

 

Mr Thomas tried to escape into the yard, seeing that the door was open. "I don't think so, mister." She scooped the cat up before he could escape, closing the door. Toby whined, wanting to come back in. She opened the door for the dog, closing it once again once he was inside. He quickly went to his food bowl, nudging it.

 

Footsteps could be heard coming down the stairs. She fed the dog, and the cats, giving Toby a pat on the back.

 

The Doctor came downstairs, hair sticking out in all directions. "Riv?"

 

"Hmm?" She turned, laughing a bit when she saw him.

 

"There you are." He grinned at her. "You weren't in bed."

 

"Sorry, the dog wanted to go out." She yawned, leaning against the counter.

 

He nodded his understanding. "Can I make you breakfast?"

 

"That would be nice." She smiled softly, easing herself into a chair.

 

"What would you like?" He asked, opening up the fridge.

 

"Eggs? Maybe some cinnamon buns?"

 

He looked at what they had and nodded. "That's doable, though the cinnamon buns will take longer."

 

"I can wait." She smiled.

 

He got to work cooking, doing his best not to mentioned what had happened last night. He didn't think River would appreciate the subject. She didn't say much, her mind elsewhere.

 

The girls came down a bit later, smelling the food cooking. "Cinnamon buns!" They excitedly ran to the oven peering at the contents.

 

"Careful girls, the oven is very hot," River warned. They took two steps back, Toby joining them to watch the sweets bake.

 

Toby barked at the oven, wagging his tail, wanting whatever was cooking.

 

"That's people food, Toby." The Doctor said. "You already ate."

 

He whimpered, barking again and jumping up to press his paws to the oven.

 

"No!" Freya pulled him back, thinking he'd get burned. "That's dangerous."

 

Toby whined, walking over to River and sitting on her feet.

 

"Eggs are done." The Doctor announced, depositing them from the pan onto River's plate.

 

"Thank you, sweetie," River smiled. Toby jumped up on the table, wanting some of River's food.

 

"Oi, down with you." The Doctor shooed him off. He jumped down again, going back to sit with the girls.

 

Arthur started whining from upstairs and Toby got up yet again to trot upstairs to him. He was rather restless that morning.

 

River followed Toby upstairs, "Mummy's coming." She called as she hurried up the stairs.

 

The dog got there first, trying to wiggle his nose between the bars of the crib. Arthur's tears subsided when he saw the nose, reaching out to grab it. Toby snorted at the little hand, trying to lick it. Arthur giggled, still sniffling a little when River walked in. He reached up to his mother once he spotted her silhouette.

 

"Good morning, sweetheart." She murmured, lifting up and cradling him against her chest.

 

Doggie. "Wooh."

 

She smiled, "Yes! The doggie says woof!"

 

Arthur grinned. Hungry!

 

"Alright. There should be some mashed sweet potatoes waiting for you downstairs." She held him close to her, leaving the room with the dog.

 

"Da." He said, pushing his face against her.

 

"Daddy's downstairs, and so are Amelia and Freya." She murmured, kissing his head. She hoped that he didn't remember what had happened the day before.

 

Sisters. He thought warmly.

 

"Yes, sisters." She repeated, carrying him into the kitchen.

 

Amelia and Freya had moved to the table, looking up at River as she came in. "Look! There they are!" River pointed to the girls, holding Arthur so he could see.

 

He clapped. "Ammmma!"

 

"What about me?" Freya asked.

 

The boy looked at her, deeming her: "Yaya."

 

"Hey! You forgot the 'F' and the 'R'!" Arthur's face started to scrunch up. "And you can't forget the F because that's the most important letter!" Freya continued. He started whimpering.

 

"Freya, he's only a baby. He's still learning how to talk and certain letters are hard for him to pronounce." The Doctor said, taking the cinnamon buns out of the oven.

 

"Oh, well I can help him practice!" She offered.

 

"That's a lovely idea, dearie, but try to be a bit nicer." He murmured.

 

"I didn't mean to be mean." She pouted.

 

"I know, but sometimes things can come out harsher than we mean them to be." He glanced at River. River didn't meet his gaze, going to put Arthur in his high chair.

 

The boy clung to one of her fingers. Sister doesn't like me.

 

"That's not true, my sweet." She whispered, "She loves you very much."

 

I'm not doing it right so she doesn't like me! He sniffed.

 

"Shhhhh, shhh." She hushed, lifting him up again and rocking him gently. "Freya, I think you should apologize."

 

The Doctor brought the food to the table.

 

"I'm sorry." She whispered. Arthur blinked at her, shying away.

 

"Will you eat now?" River asked him softly. He hesitated, still watching his sister. "Please?" She asked, "For mummy?" He finally gave a small nod. "Thank you, my love." She smiled, putting him back in his high chair.

 

He kicked his legs, the thought of food distracting him. River got a jar of mashed sweet potatoes out of the cabinet, sitting down to feed the baby. The girls and the Doctor reached for a cinnamon bun. "River, do you want one?"

 

"In a minute." She murmured, focused on feeding Arthur. The boy didn't push away the potatoes as he sometimes did, deicing he liked them today.

 

"Yes, good boy." River praised, glad she wasn't getting food thrown at her today. He flung his hands up, trying to reach for the jar. "Do you want to try holding it?" She asked, as he sometimes was good about holding his own jar.

 

He clapped and reached again. She gave him the jar, "Now, no throwing or else you won't be able to hold it again."

 

He didn't seem to register, eyes wide with curiosity. She watched him examine the jar. He decided to shove his fist into the potatoes, making a gleeful noise.

 

"Sweetie, the potatoes are not toys. You have to eat them."

 

He frowned, yanking his hand out and shoving what he grabbed in his mouth. "Yes! Good job!" River smiled, clapping her hands.

 

"Does he want a cinnamon bun?" Amelia asked.

 

"He can't have a cinnamon bun yet, my love." River answered, taking one for herself, "He's still too little."

 

"Too little for a cinnamon bun?" She didn't quite understand.

 

"Too little for solid foods. Babies can only have soft mushy food and liquids." She explained.

 

"Like jello!" Freya listed.

 

"Yes, he could have jello." She nodded.

 

"Not for breakfast, though." The Doctor added. Arthur shoved his hand back in the jar, looking around at his family.

 

"Do you think he'll like being a big brother?" Amelia asked.

 

Big Brother! He thought, trying to communicate it verbally, "Baaa Buddaa!"

 

"I think so." The Doctor nodded. Though he wasn't part of the telepathic communication, verbal babbling was easy for him to understand.

 

River nodded in agreement, "He's been babbling about it quite a bit."

 

"That's because it's exciting. I like being a big sister." Freya told them.

 

"I'm very glad that you like it," River smiled, one hand moving to her belly.

 

"He's gonna have three sisters!" Amelia giggled. "I wonder what it’d be like if you were a boy and Terra was a boy and I had three brothers." She described to Freya.

 

"I like having a brother and sister, but Arthur will never get to have a brother, so maybe you should have another baby," Freya told the Doctor.

 

He chuckled. "Four children is plenty, Freya. Besides, if you want him to have a brother you can try being a boy in your next regeneration."

 

"But...I like being a girl. I don't want to be a boy." She glanced at River, "Maybe Terra will want to be a boy."

 

"I wouldn't mind trying to be a boy," Amelia said.

 

"Well… then you can be a boy and I'll stay a girl and then Arthur can have sisters and a brother!"

 

"I doubt you two will have to worry about regeneration for a very long time." The Doctor added in.

 

River nodded, getting up and kissing both the girls' heads. "Come on you two, I think it's just about time to get dressed." The both grabbed one last cinnamon bun and hurried off to their room, Toby following.

 

River sighed, sitting back down in her chair, looking at the Doctor.

 

"You alright?" The Doctor asked, watching Arthur shove more potato in his mouth.

 

She nodded slowly, "Yes, why?"

 

He shrugged. "Just curious."

 

"Are you alright?" She asked, watching him closely.

 

He nodded, reaching his hand over to hold hers. "I'm fine."

 

She squeezed his hand softly, "Good."

 

Arthur banged his fist on the table. "Gah-b-b-b-b!"

 

"What is it, my sweet?" River asked, refocusing her attention on him. He settled as soon as her eyes were on him, just wanting attention. "Let's get all those sweet potatoes off your face, yeah?" She smiled, getting up to get a wet washcloth to wipe his face.

 

The Doctor started cleaning up the other plates and cinnamon buns.

 

"I think we should go out today." River murmured, "We could take the girls to the beach."

 

"Are you up for swimming?" He asked, going to wash the dishes.

 

She shrugged, "I'll be able to swim for a bit, but I can also stay with Arthur. He'll probably be more interested in playing with the sand."

 

"I suspect so." He smiled at previous memories of the boy attempting a sloppy sandcastle. "Let's ask the girls."

 

She nodded, "Alright." She cleaned off Arthur's face, and then took him out of his highchair. Terra shifted as she stood, stretching out her leg. River stopped for a minute, startled.

 

The Doctor glanced at her, "You alright?"

 

"Yeah...she moved.."

 

"You look rather surprised by that." He pointed out.

 

"I'm fine..." She whispered, "I'll go get Arthur dressed."

 

"Alright." He murmured, finishing the dishes and drying his hands. "I'll get the girls ready."

 

She nodded, giving him a quick kiss and then heading up the stairs. Arthur burped, then started babbling about being a big brother again. River tried to smile as he talked, changing him out of his pajamas and night diaper into a swim diaper and a swim suit.

 

He frowned at the new garment, waving his arms. Put me back.

 

"Shhhh, you're fine. We're going to go to the beach! Remember, you had so much fun last time." She murmured, getting his sunhat and sunscreen.

 

Sandy water. He tried to look through his memory.

 

She hummed, "Yes, this time, you and I can try and splash Daddy, what do you think of that, hmm?"

 

Water splash! He got excited, forgetting about the bathing suit.

 

She smiled at his excitement, scooping him up and grabbing a blanket and a few of his toys and books. "Now, let's go get the rest of your things together."

 

Play, play, play! He clapped.

 

"We'll play very soon." She promised.

 

Sand house. He insisted.

 

"Yes, yes, we'll make a sand castle." She carried him downstairs with the rest of his belongings. She set up his basket with pillows and blankets for his nap time, setting it up like a bed, placing his books, toys, and snacks on top.

 

The Doctor and the girls joined them, all in swim gear and carrying buckets and shovels. River passed the baby off to the Doctor, going to change herself and get more sunscreen.

 

Eventually, the family was all ready and bustled into the TARDIS. "All the beaches of all the universe, where do we go?" The Doctor asked them.

 

"I want to go to the one with all the gems in the water!" Freya exclaimed, not remembering the name of the beach.

 

"Aru' Sumsta." He informed, setting the coordinates, "I love the sand there, it comes in every color you can think of."

 

The girls nodded, the two of them having decided that was their favorite beach. They were convinced that they would see a mermaid there one day.  

 

"And off we go." The TARDIS lurched. The girls bounced around the console, excited to see the beach and look for mermaids. The two ran ahead when they landed, the Doctor trying to hurry after them with as much of their things as could fit in his arms.

 

River took the rest of their belongings. Toby ran after the family.

 

The Doctor was trying to set out the towels and large shade umbrella quickly since the girls were impatiently waiting. They weren't allowed in the water alone.

 

"You go swim with them, I'll set this all up." River murmured, setting Arthur in his basket-bed on one of the towels. The baby immediately squirmed to reach for the sand, gleefully.

 

"You sure?"

 

She nodded, "Of course, go on."

 

He grinned and kissed her cheek before pulling his goggles down and running with the girls into the gleaming water. She smiled.

 

She set the towels down neatly, setting up the umbrella. She then lifted the baby up out of his basket, nuzzling his cheek, "Sand or water?"  

 

"Nannnd!" He voiced loudly, trying to reach back to the colorful grains. She set him down on the ground, letting him play in the colorful sand.

 

Diggy thing. He requested, already flicking sand everywhere. She got the shovel, figuring he would want a pail as well and handing it to him.


He squealed and grabbed the shovel, waving it around frantically before trying to dig a hole. She helped guide his hand in the motion he needed to dig, kissing the top of his head.

Chapter Text

Ch 27

 

Soon there was a little hole in the ground, sand in the pale, and a proud looking toddler sitting in on the beach.

 

River smiled at her son, "Very good, my love! Have you had enough now? Shall we go swimming?"

 

"No." He pouted, wanting to fill the bucket.

 

"Alright, we'll keep playing with the sand then." She murmured, pulling him onto her lap, but in a position so he could still reach the sand. He babbled some nonsense as he dug more. She brushed back his wisps of hair, kissing the top of his head once more.

 

Toby decided to join the girls in the water.

 

Terra kicked against her brother. River glanced down at the baby, wondering if he had felt the movement. Arthur didn't seem phased, very focused on his work with the sand. She laughed softly, glancing towards the water to see where the Doctor and the girls were.

 

They were climbing around a few meters out where a chunk of the gems came above water. The girls were jumping off it and doing cannonballs. River smiled at the scene, playing with Arthur until he was finished with the sand.

 

Splash! He insisted, deciding he wanted to be in the water now.

 

"Alright, we'll play in the water for a little bit and then you have to take a nap." She scooped him up, carrying him towards the water.

 

Don't want a nap. Play time! Splashy!

 

"Yes, I know. We're going to do that now." She assured him, nuzzling his cheek. He kicked his legs excitedly.

 

She brought him to the edge of the water, dangling his feet down so they touched the water.

 

Too shallow. He frowned, still squirming like a worm.

 

"Okay, okay." She murmured, wading in a bit deeper so his ankles were in the water.

 

Want to play with sisters! He demanded.

 

"We're going to wait here." She shook her head, "They're swimming in the deep water and you can't go there just yet."

 

Them come here! He looked up at her.

 

"What? You don't want to play with Mummy and your baby sister?" She pouted.

 

He looked conflicted, but eventually nodded at the idea. Sit. She sat down, keeping him in her lap.

 

He grew delighted again at getting to be more in the water, hitting the surface to make a splash.

 

She smiled, scooping some water up in her hand and letting it trickle onto his head. He squealed again, flailing a bit and accidentally knocking into her belly. Terra kicked back, light green, bubbly white.

 

River laughed, repeating the action, thinking he hadn't even noticed Terra's kick. Arthur attempted to splash his mother back, throwing water above him, though most of it landed right back on him. She laughed harder, finding the action very cute.

 

More bubble-white, then it shifted a more shiny one and Terra kicked again. Arthur poked back this time.

 

River watched him carefully, wanting to see how he would react to the movement once he realized it was his sister.

 

Breakfast poking me?? He stared, confused as he got in a bit of a poking war with his sister.

 

"No, sweetie." She chuckled, "That's Terra, your baby sister."

 

Sister!! He put both hands on her belly. Trapped!

 

"No, she's not trapped. That's where she lives. Babies have to live in their mummy's tummies until they're big and strong enough to come out."

 

Egg nest...?

 

"A bit like that." She whispered, "Now, how about you and I go lay down for a nap and then when you wake up, your big sisters will come and play with you."

 

Not done. He insisted. Sister out now to play.

 

"She'll be playing later too. It's your nap time now, Arthur."

 

Why not out? He frowned.

 

"Because she's still too little." She scooped him up and then stood, carrying him back to their towels.

 

How long? He pouted.

 

"A couple of months." She dried him off with a towel, and then grabbed one of his blankets, draping it over him and laying down with him beneath the umbrella.

 

Too long . He yawned.

 

"The time will go by much quicker than you think." She murmured, giving him a kiss on the cheek, "Sleep now." He didn't complain, this time, more worn out that he'd admit.

 

Toby came back to shore, shaking himself out. River shielded the baby from the droplets of water, looking out in the direction of the Doctor and the girls again. They appeared to be searching for mermaids now. She smiled softly, holding the baby protectively as she started to drift off as well.

 

Toby, still awfully soggy, tried to curl up next to River. The wetness of the dog startled her awake, "Oh, Toby. You're all wet." She grabbed another towel, rubbing it against his fur in an attempt to dry him off.

 

He warmed up to her, liking the towel and thinking it was some sort of brush. She smiled, leaving the towel draped over him so he could dry off. Toby settled to nap with them as River returned to her protective rest over Arthur, though she was a bit more relaxed now that the dog was with them.

 

Terra turned, pushing up into River's ribs. River winced, pushing down on the spot with her fingertips, finding Terra's position extremely uncomfortable.

 

Sharp white and a firm kick.

 

River didn't know what white meant, but the strong kick in the ribs was rather painful and she winced again. Terra kicked two more times before shifting to kick her spine instead, all the while thinking the sharp white.

 

River slowly got up, calling for the Doctor. She was growing concerned that white meant there was something wrong.

 

He and the girls came to shore, the latter grabbing towels and rummaging through the picnic basket. The Doctor dried his hair off looking fondly at his sleeping son. "Everything alright?"

 

"I hope so." She whispered, "I need you to tell me what a color means."

 

"Sure." He sat in front of her as the girls found sandwiches to munch on.

 

"White." She watched him carefully.

 

"All white or a certain kind?" He clarified.

 

"Sharp white."

 

"Boredom." He chuckled. "Is that what she's telling you?"

 

She nodded, "She won't stop kicking my spine."

 

He scooted up to her, resting his hand on her belly. "Terra, lovie, I know you're bored but that's going to hurt Mummy."

 

River immediately tensed when he started talking, "Doctor...She can't..."

 

"I know." He said softly and smiled reassuringly up at her. "But she can feel the vibrations of my voice. She can feel my hand."

 

She closed her eyes, taking in a deep breath. She didn't say anything else, glancing over to make sure Arthur was still asleep. He was still all cozy and tucked in his little nest, making soft snores.

 

Terra turned and pushed against the Doctor's hand. River swallowed, looking back to the Doctor, then at his hands.

 

"See?" He said. The white softened and began to go into a light blue.

 

River still looked very hesitant, "She likes you..." She murmured.

 

"You mentioned." He replied.

 

"Mummy, do you want anything?" Freya asked.

 

"I'm alright, my love. Don't forget to have some of the tomato slices I brought." She kept her eyes on the Doctor. The girl nodded, going back to the food box.

 

The Doctor met his wife's eyes. "...What?"

 

She shook her head, "Nothing."

 

"Something." He countered. "What's on your mind?"

 

She shook her head, "I don't think..." She sighed.

 

"There's a start. Don't think what?" He urged.

 

"I don’t think she cares for me very much. She never seems to be happy when it's just the two of us."

 

He frowned. "Maybe you're just not bonding in the way she wants to." He tried to guess.

 

"Maybe..." She sighed.

 

"You do tend to tense when she kicks..." He observed.

 

"It's not on purpose." She murmured.

 

"I know." He soothed. "But your connection is still there even though it's weak. She can probably understand some of your emotions."

 

"Well then maybe it would be better if you cut our connection." She whispered.

 

He shook his head. "I'm not going to do that."

 

"Why not?"

 

"Because it's not going to make her go away and it's not going to make her stop kicking, but it is going to make her feel lonelier than she is now." He explained in a level tone.

 

She sighed, squeezing her eyes shut.

 

"Sorry... I know you don't want to talk about it." He murmured, sitting up and looking out over the water. "I know you're not ready to have her... but I think you care more than you give yourself credit for."

 

She shook her head, swallowing. "Be careful, I don't want you to wake Arthur."

 

He nodded and fell silent, trailing his gaze back to her. She was staring at the ground, barely breathing.

 

"Would you like something to eat?" He asked, moving on to a different subject.

 

She shook her head, "No, I'm alright." She whispered.

 

"What did you and Arthur get up to?"

 

"Well, we played in the sand for a bit." She nodded towards all the holes in the sand, "And then I took him in the water, but we weren't in for very long."

 

"Tired himself out already." He smiled at the boy.

 

"He's still a very young baby, remember." She whispered, her gaze turning to Arthur.

 

"Yeah, I know." He shrugged.

 

"My baby..." She murmured, fixing the blankets around him.

 

"He's almost one." The Doctor murmured.

 

"I know." She bit her lip, eyes still focused on the boy.

 

"I wonder if he'll care much about cake flavor." He laughed a little. "Otherwise, the girls will just pick their favorite flavor."

 

She smiled weakly, "We should start trying to teach him how to walk."

 

"I think that's a good idea. The girls will probably want to help."

 

She nodded, "I'm sure they will."

 

The girls had taken over the beach toys and were in the process of building a sandcastle.

 

"You want to go with them?" He asked, looking over at his daughters. "I can watch Arthur."

 

"I think they're alright. I don't want to hover over them too much." She murmured.

 

"They were talking about getting to play with you earlier." He told her. "I think they want you to be the mermaid queen if they find one."

 

She glanced at Arthur, always reluctant to leave the baby.

 

"I've got him, Riv." He assured.

 

"...Okay...." She whispered, "I'll go...play with the girls then."

 

He offered a smile. "You should take some snacks over."

 

She nodded, slowly gathering the snacks, watching the baby for another moment, hesitant to go.

 

"Or I could go." He said after a moment. "If you really want to stay with him."

 

"No." She sighed, "You said the girls wanted me to play with them, I should go."

 

"We can get them to come build over here." He pointed out.

 

She shook her head, "No, no it's alright. I'll go. Just… take care of him. Make sure he stays in the shade and he doesn't get hot. If he wakes up, he needs to eat and I brought a few books and toys for him. I don't want him to play in the sand or water right after he eats." She wasn't acting like she was only going to be a few feet away.

 

"River... you're not even going to leave my line of site." He frowned. "You alright?"

 

She took in a deep breath, "Yes...I'm fine."

 

"You sure?" He looked concerned.

 

She nodded quickly, "Yes, I am."

 

"...Alright." He wasn't convinced, but like he'd said, she was only a few feet away.

 

She walked over to the girls, sitting beside them and helping them stack up the sand. Amelia started to tell her mother the intricate story about her sandcastle about the little sand gnomes who lived in it and helped the mermaids collect the shells and gems that washed ashore.

 

"Oh, my, that's quite interesting. Have you seen any mermaids today?"

 

"Freya said she saw a tail, but I didn't see anything." She said.

 

"Well, there's still lots of time left in the day to spot something," River assured her.

 

"Will you come help?" She asked hopefully.

 

"Of course, I'll help!" She  smiled.

 

"I wanna finish my sand castle first." Freya butted in.

 

"Alright. We'll finish the castle and then we'll go look for mermaids." The girls agreed, Amelia showing River the gem she'd found.  "That's beautiful, sweetie." She praised, helping finish up the castle before leading them to the water.

 

They eagerly ran in with their floaties, showing her over to the place they were searching. River followed close behind, helping them swim in the waters. They went back to the rocks where they'd been jumping before, the rocks blocking their view of the beach. River let them bring her over, pointing out all the colorful fish in the water.

 

"I wanna catch one!" Freya insisted.

 

River smiled, "Alright, we can try."

 

"You can hold your breath the longest." She pointed out. "You have to help."

 

"Yes, I know." River nodded, "I'll go first." She took a deep breath, sinking under the water. The girls watched her hair splay out around her head, becoming easily weightless under the water.

 

The light bounced the colors of the gems onto her skin and the fish, who didn't seem bothered by her presence. Her hands moved slowly behind the fish, waiting until they were close enough before she snatched the end of one. The one she'd gotten struggled, wiggling furiously. She carefully brought it closer to the surface so the girls could get a better look.

 

"Woah!" Amelia reached to poke it.

 

"Be very gentle, sweetie," River warned, not wanting her to hurt the fish.

 

She relaxed her hand, moving to carefully stroke it instead. Freya did the same, eyes sparkling.

 

River smiled softly, "Alright, ready to let it go now?"

 

Amelia nodded, though Freya shook her head. "Let's keep it as a pet!"

 

River shook her head, "No, we can't do that. The ocean is his home. He'll be very sad if we take him away from where he lives."

 

"Oh." Freya nodded quickly. "Then he can go back to his friends now."

 

"Alright." River let the fish go, watching as it swam away.

 

"It's swimming slower than the rest." Amelia pointed out as she saw it join the other fish who'd moved about a meter and a half away.

 

"Don't worry, he'll catch up," River assured her.

 

"Look it." Freya pointed as the other fish slowed down for the one they'd let go so it could be part of the school.

 

"See? I told you there was nothing to worry about." She smiled at her daughter.

 

"That's because his fishy friends helped him," Freya said.

 

"They care about him and don't want him to feel left out," Amelia added.

 

River nodded, "Yes, exactly."

 

"They're like a little fish family! I bet the mermaids have them as pets."

 

"Well if the fish are around here, then it must mean that the mermaids are nearby too."

 

"Let's follow them!" Freya cheered.

 

“Alright, but I don't want to go too deep." River let the girls follow the fish, staying close behind them.

 

"Why not?" They asked, doing their best to paddle fast.

 

"Because I want to stay close to the beach."

 

"Mermaids don't go near the beach."

 

"Sometimes they do." She tried to convince them, growing more anxious as they got further and further from the baby.

 

"When?" Freya frowned.

 

"Sometimes when people are in trouble, mermaids will come near the beach to help them."

 

"But no one's in trouble." Amelia pointed out, a bit worried.

 

"Yes, you're right." She nodded, just as her mind began to burn red.

 

"We can stay on the rocks." Amelia tried to compromise.

 

"Alright, but let's go back to the beach for a moment. I have to check on your brother." River was starting to suddenly get a massive headache.

 

They nodded and finally went back with her. She helped the girls back into the beach, suggesting that they look for shells while she went to see the baby and the Doctor. They hurried off to do so, forgetting about their reluctance.

 

The Doctor was sitting under the shade of their beach umbrella, playing patty-cake with a now awake Arthur. River sat beside them, kissing the baby on the head. "Hello, again."

 

The boy caught hold of one of her damp curls. "Muh!"

 

"Be gentle, sweetie." River murmured, prying the hair out of his fingers, "Mummy doesn't like hair pulling." At least not in that situation.

 

"You ought to tie it back." The Doctor suggested.

 

She hummed, leaning in to give him a kiss, "And how are you?"

 

"Well." He smiled. "What'd you get up to?"

 

"We saw a fish and the girls got to touch it, and then we were looking for mermaids." She smiled, the pain in her head only growing, "And you?"

 

"Arthur got to figure out how to eat a grape and then we've been playing games. Oh, and he learned the sign for 'mummy'." He added.

 

Her smile faltered, "You're already teaching him to sign?"

 

"Just a word or two. I wouldn't be surprised if he forgot already, though." He looked up at her. "Should I not do that?"

 

"No...no, it's fine." She sighed, closing her eyes, "She's showing me red, what does that mean?"

 

"What kind of red?" He frowned.

 

"Really dark, burning red." She squeezed her eyes shut in an effort to soothe her headache.

 

"Does your head hurt?" He reached a hand out for hers.

 

She nodded, squeezing his hand when she felt it connect to hers, "What does the color mean?"

 

"Same thing as the cloister bell in the TARDIS. It's a warning." He whispered. "We should get you inside."

 

"What?" She murmured, looking up at him, "A warning?"

 

"Let's get you inside." He repeated.

 

"But the girls, and the baby..."

 

“They can come in, too." He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand. "But we should move while you can still walk."

 

"What?" Her eyes grew wide.

 

"Your headache it going to get worse. Really worse." He told her. "Go to the med bay, I'll gather up the kids and everything."

 

"Doctor, what's going on? Please, don't hide it from me." She whispered.

 

"I don't know exactly. Warnings are for a lot of different things that the equipment in the med bay will help us figure out. What I do know is that this color comes with mind numbingly bad migraines."

 

She looked terrified, her face completely drained of color. "Okay." She whispered, "I'll call Vastra and see if she can come over to watch the kids."

 

"Go straight to the med bay after, alright?" He tried to look assuring. "We'll figure this out."  

 

She nodded, giving him a soft kiss, "I'm sorry."

 

"It's alright." He squeezed her hand. "Just hang in there. I'll be right with you."


She nodded, heading into the TARDIS and calling Vastra.

Chapter Text

Ch 28

 

The TARDIS went into flight after a few minutes, as the Doctor had gotten all the kids and their things inside. Vastra's voice eventually could be heard as she took over watch of the children, then the Doctor's footstep coming closer to the med-bay.

 

He entered the room. "How's the pain?"

 

"Getting worse..." River whispered, curled up on one of the cots.

 

"Vastra's here. She said hello and hopes you're alright." He relayed the message to her, speaking softly so he wouldn't agitate her headache.

 

"Can we find out what's wrong?" She asked, more worried about the baby than anything.

 

He nodded, going over to their equipment. He brought over what looked a bit like a crown, with wires connected to a scanner. He placed it on hear head, attaching some of the loose wires to her temples with sticky circles.  

 

"Why does something always have to go wrong?" She whispered.

 

He didn't have a good answer for that, taking her hand as an act of comfort. "Nothing of great value is ever handed over on a silver platter."

 

She nodded, taking in a deep breath. He brushed his thumb anxiously over her skin as he stared at the scanner and waited for results. "...That's not good." He murmured when the screen finally beeped.

 

Her stomach dropped to her toes, "Doctor… what is it?"

 

He looked up at her, keeping his expression and tone level. "It's Terra. Your connection is being cut."

 

"Why?" She whispered, "And why is it so painful?" She had had her connection with a baby cut before, but it had never caused her pain.

 

"The neglect of the connection is causing it to break down and Terra's own withdrawal from you is like wrenching a tree from the ground- as opposed to an external force which works more like scissors." He made a noise somewhere between concern and a sigh. "Any connection disruption is painful unless naturally faded."

 

She shook her head, "How do we stop it?"

 

"You need to let go of Arthur and start using your connection with our daughter." He said quietly, knowing that she didn't like that option.

 

"No." She flatly refused, "I'm not letting go of him."

 

"You won't immediately lose him, it'll start deteriorating like it did with the girls." He tried to persuade. "But you will permanently lose communication with Terra if you don't do this."

 

"I need to be connected with Arthur. I can't lose him." She shook her head, trying to stand and take the device off of her head.

 

He pushed her shoulder lightly back down. "He's not going anywhere, River. He's still going to be safe and sound in your arms. He's learning to talk now, he knows how to communicate with to you without telepathy. His world won't end, but Terra's will. This is all she has right now and it'll be all she has until she can use sign. She already clearly feels scared that you're not there."

 

"I can't. He may not need it, but I do ." She stood again, "I don't want to let go of him, I'm not ready yet."

 

"There isn't a way for you to have them both." He worried he might lose this. "Would you like me to get him?"

 

"No, Doctor, you can't change my mind! I've told you that I don't want to let go of him!"

 

"You'll only have his connection for maybe a couple more months before it goes on its own. I don't understand why you're denying Terra this." He frowned, biting his tongue.

 

"Because I don't want her!" She shouted, "I've tried to tell you this again and again but you won't listen!"

 

"Because you still care." He whispered. His tone seemed bitter, but his expression had fallen and his gaze had dropped to the floor.

 

He pressed his lips tightly together turning to leave. She watched him go, swallowing thickly. He wanted to turn around. He wanted to hold her and give her more time, to stop her physical and emotional pain, but his feet kept moving forwards. His brain was too busy working on 'Because I don't want her'.

 

River could have chosen the world where she'd miscarried, she could've gotten rid of Terra when he'd first suggested or even in the many months where she'd hid the pregnancy from him. She could have just told him she didn't want another one, but she kept on willingly trying with him. All her actions pointed his thoughts in the opposite direction of River's words, but it didn't stop him from being confused and hurt.

 

River locked the door as soon as he was gone, crying silently, alone in the med bay. Her head pounded and a part of her was regretting what she had said, but she wouldn't take it back.

 

The pain was growing to the point where it was blinding. The red didn't stop, some times becoming brighter. Inky blue and the itchy gray occasionally made it's way onto the sides but were always soon overtaken by the red. The other colors only made River more upset.

 

She didn't know what to do, not wanting to be the reason her daughter felt so alone, but nowhere near ready to give up her connection with Arthur. The knot in her stomach only tightened and she wished that she hadn't pushed her husband away. She couldn't make the decision on her own and she was running out of time.

 

The TARDIS hummed in a way only a mother could, assuring River that she'd do something. A moment later, footsteps came and a feminine voice was hushing a baby. River fell silent, not wanting to see Arthur or Vastra, the two she was guessing we're coming down the hall.

 

"Muuuummauuuh! Mumumumuh!" Arthur didn't seem at all happy with Vastra or the lack of River around him. The wailing made River’s pain in her head unbearable and she was on the verge of passing out.

 

There came another set of footsteps and this time a man's voice. "Here, let me take him." River still refused to make a sound, her eyes fluttering shut as the pain started to completely take over.

 

The TARDIS practically growled at those in the hall, pushing the med-bay doors closer to them. Vastra turned at looked at the doors directly behind her, "That's odd..." She murmured.

 

The Doctor looked as well. "It's the med bay." He murmured. Behind the doors, River lay completely unconscious. "The old girl has been leading me in circles."

 

Vastra raised an eyebrow, "Do you think perhaps you should go inside then?"

 

He looked at the floor. "River and I got into a fight." He admitted, though wasn't sure if 'fight' was the right word for it. "I don't think she'll want to see me."

 

"That may be true, but if the TARDIS won't let you get away from the room, wouldn't you believe there's a good reason for it?"

 

He nodded slowly opening his mouth to say something, but closing it and instead internally scolding himself. This wasn't the time to run. This wasn't the time to leave River to do this on her own, it was something that concerned both of them and if he were in her place he wouldn't want to be alone. He suddenly felt very guilty for leaving in the first place, adjusting Arthur on his hip. "Why'd she bring you here too?"

 

Arthur was still crying, "Muuuuummmmaauuhh" He made grabby hands towards the door, sensing that's where River was.

 

The Doctor rubbed Arthur's back, deciding that was the answer to his question. "Are you going to come in?"

 

Vastra shook her head, "You two should go in alone."

 

He nodded and finally moved to enter the door, though the moment the doors slid open Arthur started crying even louder and the Doctor's hearts dropped to his knees as he saw his wife. "River!"  

 

Vastra immediately took the baby out of his arms so he could help River who had cut her head on the edge of the cot when she had fallen. He gathered his wife up in his arms and put her on the cot. "This is my fault, this is my fault I shouldn't have left."

 

"I'm sure it wasn't entirely your fault." Vastra murmured, trying to hush the baby.

 

"I thought she'd choose Arthur when I left but she hasn't chosen yet." He murmured, placing his fingers on her temples.

 

"Can she still choose if she's like this?" Vastra asked, concerned for her friend and the baby.

 

"Not without guidance. She won't know which way she's going unless she can fight the process." He closed his eyes. "Watch her vitals for me."

 

She nodded, watching the equipment, "Be careful..."

 

"Careful is relative." Especially where he was going. River's mind was not an easy place to navigate through, but none the less, he entered.

 

It was almost as if River’s mind was on fire and overwhelming feelings of terror, despair and loneliness were immediate feelings that hit him. The Doctor immediately worked on trying to counter and dampen the emotions, not sure if they belonged to Terra or River. There were still shields up over memories and sections that River hadn't had the opportunity to take down.

 

River immediately resisted the Doctor's presents in her mind, not understanding who the intruder was. He physically tensed as River wasn't gentle with these things. He tried to show her familiarity and a few memories she would recognize belonged to him.

 

She opened her mind a bit more, but she was still rather resistant due to the fight they had had.

 

" Do you understand what's happening?" He tried, knowing that he couldn't go directly to her yet. There was no response from her, though it was unclear if she hadn't heard, or if she was just ignoring him.

 

He concealed his frustration, instead moving on to searching for her, though that was perhaps more difficult. " We don't have much time. This could to a lot of damage to your brain and our daughter if you don't let me help."

 

River let the blockade melt a bit more, but refused to give herself up completely. She wasn't ready to choose, and she knew that if she completely let him in, then she would have to.

 

He was able to feel where Terra was yanking on at this point, moving towards where her mind and River's connected.

 

Normally, an aura of a calm warmth would be present around it and it would look almost like if someone had made a rope out of pale regeneration energy. What he saw had more of a theme of someone's arm being ripped out, the rope thin, red, and dripping and straining on River's mind in a way that made even him wince.

 

He could still see tendrils of where Terra was still trying to reach out or had already tried, those parts cut, burnt, or reaching for nothing.

 

The barriers in River’s mind weakened further, not by choice this time, but because she was losing the strength to hold them up.



The Doctor looked down the rope to see if it would lead anywhere, noting quickly that it swelled like a sore muscle. The red was dark and heavy and almost fog like, just as River had described. She had to be in there somewhere.

 

Deep within the fog, River was hiding, surrounded by tormenting memories of her death less than a year before, the babies she had lost, and the fear of the future ahead of them, all of the things holding her back from making her decision.

 

The Doctor looked for a way into the fog, trying hard to think of how to get through it. There was really only one path and that was the connection, but he was afraid to walk on it. Would he snap it? Would he affect it in some way?

 

Itchy gray flooded around him for a moment, though not from the baby this time. The color was soon dominated by the red once more.

 

"River, I need a bridge. Please, you can't keep doing this alone." He begged. There was nothing for a few minutes as she considered her options. Finally, a weak path started to form, as it was the best she could do.

 

The Doctor wasted no time moving across as fast as could be done, hesitating for a moment when he reached the edge of the fog. He could get as lost as River was in there, but he also might find her and that was all to motivation needed to step inside.

 

The bridge that River had built collapsed behind him as it took a great deal of effort for River to maintain since all her mind wanted to do was focus on the pain.

 

"Where are you? I'm here, how to I find you?" The Doctor asked more frantically than before.

 

"I don't know..." She whispered, "I don't know where I am." Her words echoed around him as the fog began to form an environment.

 

He at first thought it was because he was near River, but then realized it was a defense. It was a graveyard, one styled as the kind that was built after wars and there was only one name on all the graves: William.

 

Even though it was her mind's own defense, the sight still pained River. She could still feel it and it hurt more than she could explain. "No!"

 

The Doctor saw the false sky flash a grey-green, River’s voice like thunder. "River, let me to you. Please, I can help end this."

 

"I don't know how!"

 

He stopped running. "Focus. Think of me. Pick a memory and think of it."

 

She tried to focus on one of her favorite memories of him, but her concentration kept swaying. The names on the graves changed, some still reading William, some Terra, and some Arthur.

 

"No, River you've got to concentrate. I know you can, you're the strongest woman I know." He paused, trying not to look at the graves. "Our second wedding. You remember that? A proper wedding that we could invite all our friends to, your parents to."

 

She tried hard to concentrate on the memory, thinking of the feeling of his hands in hers. The names of their children started to melt from the graves so they were just slabs of stone. The Doctor concentrated on the same memory, how beautiful she looked in that dress. Her feeling of terror slowly began to fade too as she became more relaxed with the memory.

 

The graveyard began to morph until the gravestones were just rocks lying on a ground of grass. The Doctor moved forwards, spotting a figure sitting on the ground. She had her hands over her eyes and her back to him. He reached her, sitting in front of her "River."

 

She slowly removed her hands from her eyes, looking up at him. He put his hand over hers. "I'm so, so sorry." She sniffed, tensing when he touched her. "Do you know what's happening?" He asked his first question again.

 

She shook her head.

 

"The process Terra started isn't stopping and you're caught in the middle of it." He began to explain, keeping his voice as soothing as he could as he went through the whole thing with her. She tried to hide how scared she was, but she was struggling a great deal.

 

The thoughts around them were melting as her mind weakened with the ever growing pain. The grass faded back into the red fog.

 

"I'm so very sorry, but you've got to choose now or Terra will decide for you."

 

"I can't. I can't choose between my two children." It was a much different answer than before.

 

"Who would it hurt more?"

 

"I don't know. It would hurt both of them."

 

He shook his head, "Arthur would be alright... Have you seen what your connection with Terra looks like?" He asked.

 

She shook her head, "Arthur....I can't lose him." She whispered.

 

"You won't loose the connection all at once. He's not going to go anywhere. He's here in the room, waiting for you to open your eyes."

 

"I can't." She murmured, "My eyes won't open."

 

"Because we're trapped here until you choose." He reminded.

 

"I don't want to choose! I've told you that I don't want to!"

 

"You haven't seen the connection." He whispered.

 

"I don't want to see it." She shook her head.

 

"Why?" He frowned.

 

"Because I don't want to pick her."

 

"Yet you don't want to lose her either."

 

"I'm not ready to have her. I don't want to do this." She shook her head.

 

"Then you must already know what you'd see if you looked at your connection."

 

"Stop pushing me!" The fog fluctuated, making a sharp point to pierce him with. He winced, flinching sideways as his side was impaled. "I can't do this. I'm not ready to let go of him." The more distressed she became, the more the graveyard scene began to return.

 

"Think of what binds you to him in the first place." He looked around nervously at the stones. She tried to think of their connection, the names on the stones reappearing. "What makes you his mother isn't that you can talk to him without words, it's because you care for him through thick and thin. You're there when he asks for you and you give him what he needs. That's not going to stop, not ever." He said.

 

"I can't...Doctor, I can't." She shook her head, "I won't do it."

 

"So choose Arthur then."

 

"But that's not what you want."

 

"It's a choice and it's what will get us out of here." She was right, though.

 

River closed her eyes, and one of the connections snapped, though at the moment only she knew which. The red fog all of a sudden vanished and they were left in what looked like the Singing Towers of Darillium.

 

He blinked at her, holding his side. "...You did it."

 

"Please go away now." She whispered, the barriers in her mind slowly returning, though they looked damaged. She immediately began blocking him out, hiding the connection she had chosen from him.

 

He thought about protesting, but her tone of voice and barriers had him withdrawing himself back into reality.

 

River was still unconscious, Vastra watching them with concern.

 

The Doctor lowered his hands, arms aching from holding them up so long. "... I think she'll be sleeping for a little while."

 

Vastra nodded slowly, still trying to calm Arthur down, who seemed to be crying even harder now. Arthur could feel the choice River had made, sobbing as his connection with his mother already began to weaken.

 

"Put him on River's chest." The Doctor said tiredly. "He's probably upset about her choice." He was under the impression that River had chosen Arthur, also aware that Arthur had encouraged the opposite yesterday.

 

Vastra gently lay the baby on her chest, watching the little boy wiggle and whimper against his mother. The Doctor moved his wife's hand over the boy, hoping it might help to calm him. "Don't worry, lovie. She'll wake up soon."

 

"Muuuuuummmahhh." He whimpered, wiggling.

 

The Doctor stroked the infant's back. "Shh, it'll be alright."

 

"I'll leave you two alone." Vastra murmured, quietly leaving the room. He murmured a thank you for her help as she left.

 

River didn't wake up for another hour or two, her eyes opening slowly. Arthur was the first to notice, as his father his fallen asleep in the chair holding River's hand. "Muh!"

 

"Hello, my love." She whispered, "I'm so sorry..."

 

He nuzzled to her. Weaker.

 

"I know." She swallowed, holding him close, "I'm sorry."

 

"Tuppph." Sister?

 

River closed her eyes, not wanting to talk or think about Terra.

 

Sister! "Buh-d." Sister hurt??  

 

"No, she's fine." That's all she would say on the matter.

 

Arthur relaxed. "Mummm," She didn't say anything else. Staying very, very quiet.

 

Terra's connection was stronger now, a constant and much warmer hum in the back of River's mind just as it had been with the other children. River made no effort to acknowledge the connection. Keeping her mind blank.

 

Arthur babbled quietly, mostly to himself. He was pleased to have his mummy awake as it was a huge comfort from the shock of their deteriorating connection.

 

She rubbed his back, glancing at the Doctor. The Timelord was slumbering in the chair, still with River's hand in his. The ordeal has tired him as well, though probably not as much as River. She gently pulled her hand out of his, closing her eyes once more.

 

He didn't stir, though his hand clenched at the now empty space between his fingers and lack of warmth. River started to fall asleep again, holding the baby close against her.

Chapter Text

Ch 29

 

The next thing to wake River  were small fingers and curious eyes poking over the side of the cot. She blinked slowly, looking down. "Hello, Amelia."

 

"Auntie Vastra said you might be awake. Why were you sleeping?" Amelia whispered.

 

"Well, I had so much fun at the beach, it tired me out." River lied, touching her head gently.

 

"Growing babies makes you tired." She reminded herself. "It's dinner time and me and Freya want to go out."

 

She internally sighed, nowhere near having enough energy to take them out, "Alright," She stood anyway, "Where would you like to go?"

 

"The place that Uncle Jack took us on that green planet with the rings and the funny plants with stripes." She informed River.

 

"There again?" River asked, knowing exactly which restaurant they were talking about, "Are you sure?"

 

"Yes!" She nodded. "Today was suppose to be an outdoors day, but we left early so now we get to go there." Her logic made more sense to her sister.

 

"Alright, alright. We'll go there then. How about you go get your shoes on and I'll get your brother ready.”

 

"What about Daddy?" She pointed to the Doctor who was still asleep.

 

"Let's let him sleep." She murmured, leading her out of the room, "It can be just the four of us."

 

"Five." Amelia skipped along. "My little sister counts. And what about Auntie Vastra?"

 

"I think Auntie Vastra will want to go home and eat with Strax and Auntie Jenny, don't you?"

 

She nodded. "I'm going to go put on a fancy skirt!" She scurried ahead of her and off to her room.

 

River went to the console room, offering to bring Vastra home. She placed Arthur on the floor so he could crawl around while she flew the TARDIS. She stayed very quiet as she worked on the controls, her movements a bit sluggish, and it took her a couple of tries to get the controls set right.

 

"River?" Vastra asked cautiously.

 

"Yeah?" She didn't really look up.

 

"Are you positive you're completely... recovered from your ordeal?"

 

"Yes, I'm fine." She whispered.

 

Vastra put her hand on River’s shoulder. "I'd love for that to be true, but it doesn't take an expert to see it's not."

 

"Well, I don't really have time to recover. I have three children that need to get fed, my husband is sleeping and they're not your responsibility, they're mine."

 

Vastra tried not to flinch at her tone. "That doesn't mean you can't accept help. Nothing and no one say that. And your husband can and should be woken up at a moment's notice."

 

"I can handle this on my own." She sighed, "Thank you for coming to help. I can take it from here."

 

She bit back her disagreement, smiling instead. "Thank you for having me. Good luck tonight."

 

River closed the door behind Vastra, going to get Arthur ready and then bringing the girls to their restaurant.

 

They were their usual energetic selves, running around River and wanting to look at every little thing around them. River was quite obviously exhausted, chasing the girls around while holding the baby. She eventually got them corralled at their table, bouncing a crying Arthur while trying to help the girls read the menu. They got River to read them every item was before choosing what they regularly got.

 

The waiters were as sympathetic as they could be, though the family still got stares from other customers, likely because of Arthur's volume.

 

"Arthur, please, please, settle down," River begged, trying to hush him. He didn't listen, just as he hadn't been since they got there. He hated the lighting and the people and the noise. "Arthur, please." She was growing more and more upset, tired and distressed at the realization that handling all three kids by herself was something she seemed to be rather horrible at.

 

"Dah!" He wailed. Home, home!

 

"We can't see Daddy right now, we have to eat. It's eating time, remember? We'll go home very soon, I promise." She hushed, rocking him back and forth.

 

Loud. Too loud! "Nuuuuuuh!" He complained.

 

"Arthur please, please settle down for Mummy." She begged.

 

Quiet! Make quiet!

 

"I can't make it quiet, sweetie." She murmured.

 

Whhy?? He sounded like an earlier version of his father.

 

"Because it's not possible." She sighed.

 

River struggled through the rest of dinner, trying to balance her attention between her son and her daughters. By the end of the night, she was beyond drained, apologizing to the waiters and leaving them a large tip as she led the girls out.

 

The TARDIS tried to make herself as welcoming as she could, her hum soothing and the lights of the console room warm. River wanted to collapse once she was in the doors, but the girls had to be put to bed. She ushered them upstairs, helping them brush their teeth and put their pajamas on, tucking them into bed.

 

"Can we have a bedtime song?" Freya asked.

 

River sighed, nodding. She sang her a short, off-key lullaby, nearly putting herself to sleep. The girls were oblivious to her exhaustion, setting in for the night.

 

River then went to put Arthur to bed, and then to check on the Doctor. The man was still out cold, though strangely, there was a streak of blood coming from his nose.

 

"Doctor?...!" River hurried to him, shaking him, trying to wake him up. He made a hardly audible grumble but didn't stir further. "Full body scan of the Doctor!" She shouted, still shaking him and trying to wake him up.

 

The scanner on the bedside table flashed to show it was calculating before beeping with the information. His hearts were twice as slow and his brain function had lowered considerably. "Dammit, Doctor!" She quickly set up several more scans to try and find the source of the problem, running to the medicine cabinet to find something in hope of bringing up his heart rates.

 

The TARDIS tried to be helpful, showing her in the right direction to which medicines he needed and displaying a complicated amount of information relating to his brain scan. She injected all of the medicine the TARDIS showed her but had great difficulty deciphering the brain scan in her tired state.

 

Afraid that she was going to run out of time, she pressed her fingers to his temples, trying to enter his mind just as he did for her. “Oh, how does he do it? Like thi-aah!” She was immediately thrown into quite literally a whirlwind of memory and thought that wrapped around her and pulled her roughly down until she hit something hard. River could feel the pain resonating through her body, the metal connections strong enough to transfer to her physical form. "Doctor?"

 

"River please, no!" The voice belonged to the Doctor, but not her Doctor, not the face she married. All of a sudden, River was surrounded by books and wooden floors, the scenery moving around her. She was brought face to face with herself, the other her in a spacesuit and a metal crown.

 

River stiffened, quickly turning so her back was to the memory, "Doctor? Doctor, it's not real!" The countdown of the computer rang louder and as it hit zero, light exploded around her and the floor opened up beneath her. Shadow engulfed her and she was falling again.

 

This time, the landing was on her feet. "Doctor?! Please, listen to my voice!" River looked around for him, hoping he was somewhere nearby. It became clear that she was in some version of the TARDIS med bay and suddenly there was a scream.

 

It was her own, emanating from the cot in front of her. She was there again, part of the Doctor's mind, writhing in pain on the bed and clutching at her apparent midsection.

 

"Come on River, you can do this. It'll be over soon."

 

"Doctor!" The non-memory River shouted as loud as she could, trying to dissolve the nightmare with her own happy memories, "It's just a memory! Think of something else!"  He couldn't hear her.

 

The space around her suddenly filled with what could only be assumed as water. River was washed ashore to red sand and the sound of explosions.  She couldn't keep up with his mind, her's already too weak from the intensity it had endured that afternoon since she hadn't given herself time to rest. She stumbled through the memory of Arcadia's fall, "Please, Doctor. I can't do this."  

 

There were vague, half complete people pushing her as they ran in the opposite direction as she was going. Most were in armor engraved with Gallifreyan symbols. There were ships above what was now a ruined city, beaming down Daleks and bombs.

 

The path she was on directed her behind a wall with words hammered into it: 'No more.' Lying on the ground in front of it, was the Doctor, her tweed wearing Doctor. River rushed towards him, kneeling down in front of him, "Doctor....Doctor, can you hear me?"  

 

His nose was bleeding, just like in his physical body . "What are you doing here." His eyes didn't open and his mouth didn't move.

 

"I'm trying to help you. " She touched his face, pushing back his hair, "There's something wrong and I'm trying to fix it."  

 

"It's too dangerous for you to be in here. The baby..." He tried to say.

 

"I need to help you. You need to tell me how to fix this." She pressed.

 

"What's going on with my body?"

 

"Your hearts are very slow, so is your brain activity. I don't want anything to happen to you." She hadn't really realized until this moment that if she didn't fix it, he could be in very serious trouble and that thought terrified her.

 

The body in front of her curled towards her, like a child seeking comfort. "Sharp. You poked me."  

 

"What do you mean? I didn't do anything..."   She looked down at him, confused.

 

"No, in the fog. Something stabbed me." He tried again, showing her the memory.

 

"I don't understand, Doctor." She could feel her mind screaming, begging her to give up. If she didn't solve this quickly, her mind would snap under his.

 

"It couldn't have harmed my physical body so it must have hurt me somewhere in here. You've got to find where and repair it. It'll probably show in the form of an altered memory." He instructed.

 

She stood, looking around her for some sort of flaw, though the longer she spent in his mind, the hazier her vision grew. The Doctor's body rose, at least part of it did. It seemed like a glowing ghost had risen from his body. He took her hand. "This way."

 

She followed him, each step another shock to her brain. He brought them out of the memory to what seemed like a bank of them "We've got to look for anomalies."

 

She nodded, looking around the scene memories floated by them, each emanating a color of how the Doctor felt during the time. Most that went by had colors signifying fear, sorrow, and loss. There was quite a lot of loss.  

 

She tried to keep focused, finally seeing one strange looking memory float by. The memory was from his early days with River, sometime during the Pandorica incident. The events displayed didn't match with what had really happened, the scene rather warped with parts missing and things added.

 

"I found it." She murmured, "Now how don't fix it?"

 

"I can't help you there." He murmured. "This memory looks normal to me because this is what I think happened. You need to repair it before the damage spreads."

 

She closed her eyes, focusing on the warped memory and trying to repair it with her mind. Nothing seemed to happen, though the Doctor's back stiffened. She tried harder, taking the stiffening as a sign that something was happening.

 

"Here." He tried to help, tapping the memory. Suddenly the whole thing spread out around her scene by scene. "What's different? I know you were there, so try replacing it with the memory you have."

 

She did her best to repair what she knew was wrong, searching the memory from top to bottom. He watched the new information, frowning at how different it was from what he'd thought he'd remembered. He kept glancing at her somewhere between worried and stunned. She wasn't paying much attention to him, wrapped up in what she was doing.

 

The red sand started to crumble, leaving a tiled floor. They were in a museum, the Pandorica open and around them and the Ponds and River running down the hall towards them.

 

"Does that look right?" He asked.

 

"Yes, I think so." She sighed wearily.

 

"Then you've got to get out of here before you're crushed." She nodded, though it didn't seem as though she had actually heard him.

 

He started at her, waiting for her to move. "Go. Now!" She fell to her knees, breathing heavily. "Dammit, River."

 

He pulled on her arms and suddenly they were flung upwards. The Doctor let go and River went crashing back through the way she came.

 

The force was enough to throw her about a foot away from the bed, landing unconscious on the floor.

 

Vastra was standing over her, looking very concerned and instantly trying to help her up, worrying more when River didn’t open her eyes. "Oh dear..." She did her best to drag River over to separate cot getting her onto it and moving to tend to her.

 

River’s forehead was burning with the overheating of her brain. Vastra started to realize what she'd walked in on, running to get ice and surrounding River's head with it.

 

The Doctor's mind was a dangerous place, even for full Timelords and River's mind wasn't much safer. Vastra didn't know why, but the two had gone int o each other's minds unprotected and now both were suffering dire consequences.

 

River's nose had started bleeding as well, get heart rates dropping. Vastra looked frantically around the shelves, finding the device she'd scanned the River’s baby with a few months ago. Quickly setting the dials and buttons, she placed it on River's chest, running to get more ice. She'd need a constant supply. River's mind was shutting itself down to avoid further aggravation.

 

The TARDIS flashed to show the information to Vastra, who made a frustrated noise. She had no idea how to help either of her friends without accidentally hurting them. The TARDIS, looking to help the woman, began to show diagrams and names of medications she had to give River in order to help her.

 

Vastra went over the list, already mentally crossing off ones she knew weren't safe. Strung high, she searched for the ones the TARDIS suggested, still having strong doubts. The device she'd put on River was only a temporary fix to keep her hearts steady, and even so, she was afraid her efforts would fail her friends.

 

The TARDIS scanner showed a positive response to the device, though it was unclear if the response was permanent. Vastra found what medications she could, triple checking all the labels before preparing syringes with each one. She checked the scanners again, trying to process all the information she was given and keeping watch for new notes or more clear directions.

 

After about an hour, River's stats looked stable enough so that she didn't need anyone treatment. "Oh thank the Goddess." Vastra sighed in relief, slumping into a nearby chair and putting her head in her hands.

 

Arthur started wailing down the hall, his cries starting out as whimpers, soon turned into loud, hungry wails. Vastra, concerned to leave the parents alone, got up to tend to the crying baby. His cries increased when there was no immediate response, wanting River and the Doctor.

 

Vastra went to the nursery, scooping him up and hushing him. "It's alright, little one."

 

"Muuummaha." He whimpered, "Daa!"

 

"They're a little busy at the moment." She murmured, walking back to the med bay.

 

"Daaaaaa." He whimpered again. Vastra sighed and put Arthur on the still unconscious Doctor's chest. He whimpered and squirmed, wanting the Doctor to wake up.

 

Though his nosebleed had stopped and he'd been stable since River had intervened,  the Doctor was still repairing. "I'm sure he'll be awake in the morning."

 

Arthur calmed down a bit, babbling to himself as he lay on the Doctor. She certainly hoped they'd be awake, though she was praying to the Goddess that they would just make it through the rest of the night.

Chapter Text

Ch 30

 

As the hours ticked by, River remained stable for the most part. There were a few jumps in her brain waves, but they quickly corrected themselves.

 

Sometime in the early hours of the morning, Arthur whined for River and Vastra switched him to lie on her chest instead. She didn't sleep at all. Arthur eventually fell asleep on his mother's chest, holding onto her hair.

 

It was about an hour or two after the lights on the TARDIS signaled morning that the Doctor twitched. Vastra stood, going to his side and watching him closely, hopeful. His hand twitched, then made a fist, then lifted and scrubbed over his face as he groaned back a yawn.

 

"Doctor?" Vastra sounded hopeful.

 

"What-...." He took a deep breath, wincing at the light. "My head is killing me."

 

"Oh, thank goodness." She murmured.

 

"What happ-" He suddenly sat bolt upright, flinching at the pain it caused. "River!"

 

"Doctor, you need to lay down." She murmured, pushing him back down lightly.

 

"No, River. Is she- I need to help her." He clearly wasn't clear headed.

 

"She's alright right now, just calm down and lay back. You need to rest."

 

"What happened, no, is she-?" He managed to catch sight of her in the other cot, not feeling at all assured.

 

"She's resting, just as you should be. Now please, calm down."

 

He let out a puff of air and put his hand on his forehead. "How long have I been out?"

 

"Since last night. Not too long after you called me." She murmured.  

 

"What about River?" He fretted.

 

She shook her head, "I'm not exactly sure. She took the children to dinner not long after you.. .fell unconscious. She seemed extremely tired and I was worried about her so I can back to make sure she was alright and I found her like that."  

 

"This is all my fault." He groaned, burying his face in his hands.

 

"Doctor, I'm sure that's not true." She tried to assure him.

 

"No, it was my mind. She shouldn't have gone in. I tried to tell her." He sounded distraught.

 

"She's not naive, Doctor. She knows how dangerous it is to enter your mind. She knew what she was doing and you can't blame yourself for the choices she makes."  

 

"But it was my mind that hurt her." He whispered.

 

"But it wasn't intentional."

 

He shook his head slowly. "It wasn't. I'm sorry. I just... I feel so terrible that all this is happening. She doesn't deserve this. She deserves to be safe and happy and she's not."

 

Vastra couldn't argue with him on that point. She had the same concern for her friend. "Do you know which connection she chose?" Vastra had seen it on the scan of her brain several hours before when she had been trying to help recover River's stability. H

 

e nodded. "I do." He'd been able to see when River was in his mind, most of hers exposed at the time. "But I feel like I pushed her into it." Once again, Vastra didn't comment. She knew how much the connection between River and Arthur had meant to River, but she also knew how much River valued the Doctor's opinion deep down.

 

"I don't want her to neglect Terra, but I don't want to force that relationship on her because she's not ready. Ugh, I just feel like a useless idiot."

 

"She'll come around eventually." Vastra murmured, though she wasn't terribly confident.

 

"I don't know if she will. She can act like it for Terra's sake, but I don't think she will." He sighed. "I don't know what to do."

 

"Give her time. I don't know what other advice to give you other than that. You two will work it out. You always do."

 

"I hate the in between, though. What if she hates me for pushing her? What if she hides her fear more than she already is?" He turned on his side to look at his wife. Her nose had begun to bleed again.

 

Vastra glanced back as well, going to wipe away the blood, "You'll work it out." She repeated.

 

He tried to sit up again, not feeling any better about the situation. "She needs Ikhynase."

 

"I'll get it for her then. You stay down." She walked over to the medicine cabinet, getting River the medication she needed.

 

"In her neck is most effective." He murmured, feeling useless.

 

She nodded, injecting the liquid into her neck. "Would you like to see your son?"

 

He nodded, allowing himself to sit up in bed. She gently scooped up the baby, carrying him over to his father. "Hey, there champ." He murmured. Arthur gurgled happily, reaching up to touch the Doctor's lip. "What have you been up to, little man?"

 

"Muhmaa." He murmured.

 

"She's sleeping, lovie." He sighed, Arthur tugging his lip.

 

As he did this, River coughed, slowly starting to wake. All three pairs of eyes went to her, Vastra moving to her side and the Doctor trying to get up. River moaned in pain, opening her eyes slowly. All three were above her at that point.

 

Arthur clapped. "Muh!" River stared at the baby for a minute, looking very confused.

 

"Mama muhma mumahw!" Arthur reached for her. River opened her mouth to say something, then closed it, staring blankly at the Doctor.

 

"River?" Vastra asked. "Do you know where you are?"

 

She shook her head slowly.

 

"Do you know who we are?"

 

She frowned. "Of course, I know who I am."

 

"No, us ." Vastra pointed to herself and the man beside her. "The Doctor and I. Arthur. "

 

She shook her head slowly. The Doctor's face went pale and he had to sit down.

 

"What can you remember?" Vastra continued questioning.

 

"That's mine." She murmured, pointing to Arthur, recognition suddenly sparking in her eyes.

 

"He's your son, yes. Can you remember his name?"

 

"Arthur." River said affectionately, holding her arms out.  

 

Vastra plucked Arthur from the Doctor's arms, depositing him with his mother. The boy didn't at all object, mumbling 'muh' a few times.

 

"Hello, my sweet." River murmured, smiling down at him.

 

"River, you're not finished. You've got to concentrate on what's going on." Vastra redirected her attention. She held the baby close to her, her eyes flickering hesitantly to the Doctor. There was no sign of recognition in her eyes.

 

"Can you remember your other children?" She asked.

 

She nodded, "Amelia and Freya."

 

"And her name?" Vastra pointed to River's belly.

 

"Her?" River asked, looking down at her middle.

 

"The child in your womb." She clarified.

 

"I don't know."

 

"Did you know she was there?"

 

"Yes, but I didn't know it was a girl." She murmured.

 

"You and your husband found that out not too long ago," Vastra explained.

 

"My husband?" She raised an eyebrow.

 

"The father of your children. They do have a father."

 

"Obviously." River snapped.

 

"But you can't remember him...?" Vastra stood her ground.

 

She shook her head. The Doctor looked more concerned and distraught by the moment. "But..." River looked at the other  woman closely, "I know you."

 

"Yes, we've known each other for a very long time." She replied softly.

 

"You're my friend. You're Vastra."

 

"That's right." Vastra took a seat on River’s bed. "And I'm here to help you."

 

"Who's that?" She asked, nodding towards the Doctor.

 

"He's... He's the Doctor." She murmured.

 

"Doctor who?"

 

"Just the Doctor." The Doctor spoke up, voice broken.

 

"Are you my Doctor?" River asked, a bit confused as to why a professional would be getting so emotional.

 

"Depends on the day." He muttered.

 

"And what's that supposed to mean?" She asked.

 

"Nothing." He looked at the floor.

 

"Not much of a professional, are you?" She frowned. There was something in her mind that was turning her off to him.

 

"I never said I was, I only told you my name."

 

"Well, that's awfully confusing and not much of a name if you ask me." She huffed.

 

"It's a title." He frowned. "Many if not most Gallifreyans have a title different from their name."

 

"Well, I'm sorry to say I don't much care to hear your history. I want to go home." She tried to stand.

 

"This is your home," Vastra said. "You're in the TARDIS."

 

"This is not my home." She scowled, "What's a TARDIS?"

 

Vastra blinked, ignoring her question. "Where do you think your home is?"

 

"My flat." She murmured, "Where else would home be?"

 

Vastra hesitated. "Do you... know what a Timelord is.”

 

"Yes, of course, I know what a Timelord is. I'm a Timelord, or at least partly. Now, I don't want a history lesson. I want to go home." She was only on her feet for a moment before falling.

 

Vastra was only quick enough to catch Arthur, not River. The Doctor immediately got up and was instinctively at his wife’s side. River’s eyes snapped open and she looked around, panting slightly, "Where am I? Doctor?"

 

"I'm here. You're in the med bay." He searched her face.

 

"Oh...I....oh, my head." She murmured.

 

"Does it hurt? Do you need something?" He asked quickly.

 

"I'm fine." She sighed, slowly getting up and sitting back on the bed.

 

"You fell, you're not fine." He fretted.

 

"I am fine, Doctor, please ." Her tone had an edge to it.

 

He bit his lip. "I have the right to be worried." She stiffened but didn't say anything.

 

"Muuuh." Arthur wiggled, wanting to be back in River's arms. River wanted to hold him, reaching her arms out.

 

Vastra put him back. "I wouldn't stand up this time. That was close."

 

River cuddled the baby close to her, trying to use their connection.

 

Mad at Daddy?  

 

Sad. She thought back, holding him tighter.

 

Sad at Daddy? Arthur didn't understand.

 

She nodded, Sad that Daddy didn't want me to pick you. Sad that I couldn't hold onto you.  

 

Still here. He still didn't really get it, but he thought that might help.

 

She swallowed, holding him tightly. Her shoulders shaking slightly with unrealized tears.

 

Holding me now...?  

 

Shhhh . She murmured, nuzzling his cheek.

 

Very soon, footsteps came down that hall and the girls peered into the med bay. "Mummy!" Amelia ran into the room. "Are you sick?"

 

River shook her head, finally looking up, "No, I'm alright."

 

"Why are you sleeping in here? When did Auntie Vastra come back?"

 

"She came back last night and we all fell asleep in here after checking on your sister."

 

"Is she okay?" Both girls started climbing on the bed.

 

River nodded, "We just wanted to see her."

 

"Do you have pictures?"

 

"Oh, no. We forgot to take them." She lied.

 

Freya frowned. "Well, can you look again so we can see?”

 

"If you want." She nodded.

 

"Yay!" She clapped. "Daddy, bring the thingy over so we can see our baby sister!"

 

River glanced at the Doctor, very hesitant to see their child. He slowly brought the ultrasound, looking at her to make sure it was okay. She was extremely stiff, her face draining.

 

"River if you don't want to..."

 

"It's fine." She said quickly, not wanting to disappoint the girls.

 

"Alright. Lift your shirt please." He murmured She slowly lifted her top so her belly was exposed.

 

"I wanna help!" Amelia insisted, reaching for the blue gel. River watched her daughter, refusing to look at the screen.

 

Arthur made a noise, curious as to what the screen was showing. "Beeee Baa!" He tried to say.

 

"Yes, Arthur. That's your little sister." The Doctor pointed, doing a look over of the screen himself.

 

"Me ba ba!"

 

He nodded. "And she looks to be doing just fine."

 

River still wasn't looking at the screen, watching Arthur instead. The boy was staring wide eyed. Looks funny.

 

"That's what small babies look like." River murmured.

 

How is it in the box now?? He glanced back at her belly.

 

"Magic." She answered, too tired to explain.

 

"What's magic? Freya asked.

 

"Nothing, sweetie." She murmured, wanting to go back to sleep

 

"Can we have breakfast now?"

 

"Of course." She murmured, "What would you like?"

 

"Pancakes!" Amelia grinned.

 

"I can make them." Vastra offered, "Would you girls like to help me?" She felt that the Doctor and River should have some time alone.

 

"Yes !" They cheered, rather distracted from whatever their parents were up to.

 

"I want chocolate chips!" Freya insisted.

 

"Alright, we can do that," Vastra smiled, going to take Arthur from River. Arthur whined, not wanting to leave River's arms. Vastra ignored the whining, leading the girls out of the room.

 

The Doctor turned off the ultrasound, wiping off the gel from River's skin and starting to clean up a bit. River shifted so she was sitting up, staying silent.

 

"River?" He said after a minute. "Do you remember what happened?"

 

"A bit." She sighed.

 

"Would you like me to fill in the blanks?" He asked.

 

"No. I'd rather not remember."

 

He nodded. "...Do you remember who I am?"  

"Yes." She nodded slowly.

 

He relaxed some, looking at the floor. "I'm... sorry about what happened."

 

"Don't." She squeezed her eyes shut, "Please...don't..."

 

He snapped his mouth shut, sitting slowly on the edge on his cot. She buried her head in her hands, wishing she hadn't had to choose her daughter over her son.

 

"Do you want me to go?" He whispered. His arms ached to hold her, but he had a feeling he'd be pushed away if he tried.

 

"I don't care what you do." She sighed, her tone wasn't harsh, just tired and defeated.

 

He stood and walked towards the door, though instead of leaving, turned and settled into the chair Vastra had sat in. She glanced up at him. He tried to look as assuring as he could. "Tell me if you need anything for the headache."

 

"I'll be fine." She whispered. "Are you alright?"

 

"Tired." He murmured, not bothering to mention his own headache.

 

"You should rest then."

 

"I am." He murmured, wiggling in his chair to emphasize.

 

"I mean you should take a nap." She clarified.

 

He shrugged. "I'll be fine."

 

"Alright, then." She sniffed. He leaned back and fiddled with his thumbs. "Is there something you want to talk about?"

 

“I... No." He looked at his hands, knowing she didn't want to talk about what happened, though he realized that silence wasn't a good choice either so spoke the first subject that came to mind. "You haven't learned any sign yet."

 

"It's only been two days." She muttered.

 

"Just an observation." He backed off quickly, though knew that there wasn't a ton of wiggle room around the timing.

 

Periwinkle started on the edges of River’s mind. She grew more frustrated when the color appeared, not knowing what it meant.

 

"The girls quite enjoy it, though. I didn't think they'd be so excited." He murmured.

 

"At least they're happy." She sighed, rubbing her temples.

 

"You sure you don't want anything for the pain?" He offered again.

 

"It's not the pain." She sighed, "She's using colors again and I don't know what they mean."

 

"I do if you tell me the color."

 

"Periwinkle." She looked at him, a slight frown on her face.

 

"Empathy. The kind felt when apologizing." He replied.

 

She swallowed, nodding slowly. The color turned more earthy, though the hue stayed sharp. "She's showing green now."

 

"What shade?" "Earthy, but sharp."

 

“Guilt for something unchangeable."

 

Stop it.   River thought back.

 

Stop it. Terra echoed, unclear on the meaning of the words. River was surprised by the words, not having expected to get anything back.

 

"River?" He looked at her, wondering what changed her expression.

 

"She repeated what I said..."

 

"That makes sense." He murmured.

 

"Why is that?"

 

"It's a way to learn if she doesn't know what a word means yet." He explained.

 

"Right." She breathed, slowly resting a hand on her belly, "Of course."

 

"You could try talking to her a bit more... Help her learn." He suggested gently.

 

She stared at him, obviously tensing, "I could."

 

He watched for carefully, taking note of her tension. "You don't have to now." He added.

 

She nodded slowly, "Right..."

 

Terra nudged against River's hand. For the first time, River didn't immediately pull her hand away, looking down at the spot. The Doctor looked as well. Another nudge, then pale yellow.

 

"What does yellow mean?" She asked softly.

 

"Darker can relate to worrying, light leans more towards hope."

 

"Come put your hand here," River whispered, moving hers away so he could put his on. The Doctor carefully and lightly placed his hand where hers hand been, constantly watching her body language to make sure his actions were okay.

 

The color slowly disappeared replaced by the emotion it had been representing.

 

River gently placed her hands over his, allowing him to use more pressure, sighed, "I don't want to fight with you."

 

He looked up at her, allowing his breath to escape. "I don't want to fight with you either."

 

"I love you."

 

He smiled. "I love you too. And I'm really sorry about what's happened. If I'd had control over it I would have stopped it."

 

"I'd rather not talk about it, Doctor." She whispered.

 

"Alright." He nodded, daring to wrap his arms around her. "That's okay."

 

She closed her eyes, pressing her face against his shoulder. He held her a bit more confidently.

 

Mum.

 

River sighed, not noticing the word at first.

 

"You hungry?" He asked.

 

Mummmm . This time, it was more like a hum.

 

"Not really." She sighed, though she tensed a bit when she finally noticed the hum.

 

"You should rest then." He murmured.

 

"I'm sure Vastra was up all night trying to help us, she needs more rest than I do."

 

"We could ask her."

 

River closed her eyes, pressing the palm of her hand against her forehead as the hum intensified.

 

You alright?" He frowned.

 

"Yes, I'm fine. Let's go talk to Vastra." She removed her hand, raising and walking out of the room. He followed and they headed towards the kitchen where they could hear Arthur still whining.

 

"Mummy's coming," River called, walking faster down the hall when she heard the baby's cries.

 

There was a stack of pancakes in the middle of the table that the girls were feasting from. They waved at River when she entered. Vastra was trying to calm Arthur, pacing with him in her arms.

 

"I can take him." River murmured, holding out her arms and smiling at her daughters, "You should go rest."

 

Vastra handed the boy off and he immediately calmed. "I... Are you sure? What if something happens again?"

 

"I'm positive." She kissed Arthur's temple, "Go."


Vastra smiled at River and nodded a small thanks, disappearing into the TARDIS.

Chapter Text

Ch 31

 

"What would you girls like to do today?" River asked, sitting down next to Freya.

 

"Fairy kingdom!" Freya declared at the same time as Amelia said,

 

"The Caves of Sinatolle."

 

"What if instead of those things, we had a rest day?" River suggested.

 

"Aw! But I want to go on an adventure." Freya pouted.

 

"But we just went on one yesterday." River pointed out.

 

"We left before we saw any mermaids." She countered.

 

"Freya I don't think Daddy and I have enough energy to go on an adventure two days in a row."

 

She sighed. "What about tomorrow?"

 

"We'll see, but I can't make any promises." Freya nodded.

 

Amelia didn't seem as phased, pointing at the pancake stack. "Want some?"

 

"Of course! Did you help make them?" She asked.

 

"Yes!" Both of them nodded.

 

"That one has extra chocolate chips." Amelia pointed.

 

"Oh, well then I'm sure they're delicious." River beamed, glancing up at the Doctor, "Would you like some?"  

 

He nodded, wondering what had changed to make her so much happier than before. Maybe she was just acting that way for the girls. He grabbed plates and forks for them as Toby padded into the room. Toby sat in front of the Doctor, barking at him, hoping to get some food.

 

"Girls, has Toby gotten breakfast yet?"

 

They nodded, "And he got a pancake."

 

He shook his finger at the dog. "Stop begging, you already got some."

 

He whimpered, putting his front paws up on the man's lap. The Doctor caved, letting him lick the syrup from his fingers.

 

River finished her food, picked up Arthur to feed him in the other room. Toby tried to follow her, thinking she might be more willing to give him a pancake. "No, Toby I'm not going to-" She stopped, grabbing the doorframe with the hand that wasn't holding Arthur.

 

Toby pushed his nose against her leg and the Doctor looked up. "River?"

 

"I'm not going to feed you." She finished and then exited the room as if nothing had happened. The Doctor followed.

 

Arthur began to grow fussy. "Alright, alright. You'll get fed in a minute." River whispered, taking him to the nursery, not noticing that the Doctor was following her.

 

The boy continued to complain until River was sitting down and he was receiving his breakfast. She stroked his head, leaning back and closing her eyes as he ate.

 

"River?" The Doctor finally made himself apparent.

 

She jumped, "Hmm?"

 

"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you." He stepped into the room, peering at their son. "It's just that you never really answered me."

 

"What was your question?" She asked, grabbing the blanket off the back of the rocking chair, draping it over their feeding son so the Doctor wouldn't be distracted.

 

"Well, it was a more general sort of..." He shook his head, getting on with it. "You paused  back there in the doorway. I know I shouldn't worry so much, but I do and I just wanted to know if you were alright." He said sort of all at once.

 

"I'm fine." She murmured, closing her eyes.

 

"Tired?"

 

Tiber and Mr Thomas stalked into the room.

 

She nodded, "A bit."

 

The former of the two cats tried to jump on River's lap, thinking there'd be enough room for him. Arthur started to whimper and wail when he got scratched by the cat's claws.

 

"Oh, Tiber!" River cried, looking over the claw scratch on the baby's leg. "It's alright, Arthur, I've got you."

 

Why'd he do that? Arthur cried as the Doctor shooed the cat away. Ow, ow!

 

It was an accident, my sweet. He didn't mean to do it.  

 

It hurts! Make it go away.

 

She leaned down, kissing the spot, "It'll stop hurting in a minute. Finish eating now." River sighed, looking back up at the Doctor once Arthur had settled and gone back to feeding.

 

He tried to offer a smile or at least some sort of assuring look. "I can look after the girls today if you'd like to rest."

 

She shook her head, "I don't want them thinking that something's wrong."

 

"Then we'll let them know nothing's wrong." He reasoned.

 

"And you think they'll believe that?" She sighed, "I'm fine, Doctor."

 

"Alright." He conceded.

 

Terra kicked in Arthur's direction. Arthur began to cry again, not liking all the disruption during his meal.

 

"I'll go check on the girls." The Doctor said.

 

"Oh… alright." River breathed.

 

"I’ll come back with them." He promised. "But they shouldn't be unsupervised."

 

"Right. Go ahead."

 

He kissed her cheek and went off to the girls.

 

Terra pushed again. She put her free hand on her belly, putting counter pressure on the spot.

 

Mummmm.  

 

"Shhhhh." River hushed.

 

Why?

 

She swallowed, not saying anything. Terra nudged yet again and Arthur let out an unhappy noise.

 

"Shhhh." River held Arthur tighter.

 

He wiggled. Nap.

 

"Okay. Let's go put you down for a nap." She fixed her top. He seemed to calm at this, nuzzling against her. She stood, gently placing him in his crib. He grabbed the closest stuffed animal which happened to be a bear and hugged it close. She smiled softly, nuzzling his cheek and giving him a soft kiss.

 

"Muh." He blinked up at her.

 

"Yes?" She held her finger out for him.

 

He grabbed it and tried to stick it in his mouth.

 

"Hey!" She laughed. "What are you doing?"

 

"Ngah." He replied.

 

She smiled down at him, "Love you. Can you say love you, Mumma?"

 

"Wuh-mmmma!"

 

"Yes! Very good!" She praised.

 

His eyelids grew heavy. Sing song.  She sighed, singing a quick lullaby. Arthur was asleep by the time she finished. She quietly exited the room to find the rest of her family.

 

They weren't in the kitchen anymore, laughing coming from down the hall. River followed the noise, walking down the hallway. The Doctor, girls, and Toby had all found a room with bouncy floors and walls.

 

River stood in the doorway, watching her family, "What are you all doing?"

 

"We found a bouncy room!" Freya called, bounding over to her.

 

"Yes, I see."

 

"Come bounce with us." She pulled on her mother's arm.

 

"No, I think I'll just watch. I don't think Terra would want me bouncing around."

 

"It's so fun! It's like there's not gravity."

 

"Well, I'm glad you're having so much fun," River smiled.

 

"I'm gonna bounce all day!" Freya declared and then jumped off to do so.

 

The Doctor took her spot next to his wife, a little out of breath. "Arthur asleep?"

 

River nodded, "Yes, he's asleep."

 

"He'll probably be up for lunch." He pointed out.

 

She nodded again, "Yes, he usually is." Leaning over, she pressed a soft kiss to his cheek.

 

He smiled softly, resting his arm around her waist as they watched their daughters. "We ought to give Vastra a ride home when she wakes.

 

She hummed, resting her head against his shoulder. "Yes, but let's let her sleep for now."

 

"We should properly thank her for helping us."

 

"Of course, we'll thank her."

 

"I meant with like chocolates or something." He corrected himself.

 

"We could take her to dinner." She suggested.

 

"Ah, now there's a good idea." He hummed.

 

"And speaking of going out to dinner. You haven't taken me out on a date in a while." She murmured.

 

"We've been a bit busy." He pointed out. "But if it's something you're up for, do you want to go out with me?"

 

"I would love to go out with you." She murmured, giving him another kiss.

 

"Lady's choice. Any place in the universe you want." He grinned.

 

"I'd love to go to that open air market in Sav'tena, but in the wintertime when it's all decorated for Kushcula." She smiled, "They may have some blankets we could get for the baby."

 

"Now the only problem is getting a babysitter. If we go while the girls are at school, we'll only need someone to take care of Arthur."

 

"We could drop him with Jack. I know he loves watching his nephew."

 

"He'll spoil the boy rotten." He laughed, though was in agreement.

 

"My baby? Rotten? Oh never!" She laughed.

 

Terra gave a hard thwack towards River's ribs, the movement of her mother’s laughing startling her. "Oh!" She winced, laughter immediately stopping.

 

"River?" He stopped too.

 

"I'm fine..." She whispered, rubbing the now sore spot.

 

"Kicking hard?" He tried to guess, watching her hand make small circles.

 

She nodded, "I guess she didn't like it when I laughed."

 

"I suppose it would be an odd thing her her to experience." He observed.

 

She hummed, "Yes, I suppose you're right."

 

"She probably doesn't understand what caused it."

 

River nodded slowly.

 

"So, Sav'tena. Just the market or a meal too?" He changed the subject.

 

"Oh, meal as well. Don't think you'll get to get around buying me dinner." She cheered up once more, "There's a restaurant that I heard is absolutely wonderful but I'm sure it'll be absolutely crazy during the time I want to go."

 

"I'll see if I can land on a quieter day." He promised. "What does it serve?"

 

"Well, they marinate everything in red wine. They have Kalkavash, brazen fargen. "

 

"Oh, that sounds brilliant." He hummed. "Excellent choice."

 

"Thank you." She beamed

 

"I know I just ate pancakes, but all this food talk makes me want something good. Any requests for lunch?"

 

She hummed, "I don't know. What are you in the mood for?"

 

"Something with fowl. Defiantly in a bird mood." He decided.

 

"Fowl?" She raised an eyebrow.

 

"Chicken, duck, j'knard..." He listed some examples.

 

"You're making me hungry."

 

"I could go early and cook something really spectacular for you and the girls." He suggested.

 

"Mmm, that's very tempting."

 

"Aren't I always?" He teased.

 

"Oh shut up." She hit his arm playfully.

 

"Not a chance." He chuckled.

 

"Oh, really?" She chuckled, leaning over and giving him a kiss. He kissed back happily and Terra kicked against the laughing. River was too wrapped up in the kiss to pay her daughter much mind. Terra calmed as the laughing stopped.

 

The Doctor cupped his wife's cheek.

 

She blinked at him, smiling softly, "What?"

 

"Nothing." He murmured, smiling back.

 

She grinned, "Oh, okay."

 

"If you must know," He bopped her nose. "I was just thinking how wonderful you are."

 

She raised an eyebrow, "Oh, really?"

 

" Really really . " He nodded.

 

She beamed, pressing her forehead to his, "Love you."

 

"I love you, too." He kissed her again. The girls saw, this time, creating a background chorus of grossed out noises. River laughed against his lips, slowly pulling away.

 

Stop it. Terra echoed River's words from before.

 

She tensed, laughter stopping. No. Terra went quiet, trying to figure out the meaning of the new word.

 

"River?" The Doctor looked at her with a slight frown.

 

"What?" She whispered, turning her attention back to him.

 

"You... look a bit tense." He observed.

 

"Oh...I didn't realize." She murmured, "I should… check on the baby."

 

"Alright." He offered a smile and rubbed her arm.

 

"I'll be right back."

 

Toby stopped bouncing long enough to follow her from the room. River smiled at the dog's company, leading him to the nursery.

 

Arthur was still asleep in his cot, legs kicking out in correlation with whatever he was dreaming about. River smiled, watching him for a few minutes, not wanting to disturb his sleep. Toby, on the other hand, didn't have as much courtesy, licking the boy's hand which was sticking through the bars of the crib.

 

"Hey, Toby, no." River scolded quietly, grabbing his collar and pulling him away. He whimpered and Arthur stirred at the noise. She hushed the dog, hoping he hadn't woken the baby.

 

Arthur whined as he woke, looking around.

 

"Shhh. Okay." River sighed, touching Arthur's tummy, "It's just Mummy."

 

He looked at he a bit startled bit relaxed a bit. "Muh."

 

"Yes, Mumma." She repeated, smiling down at him.

 

He blinked up at her, starting to really wake up now. "Wuf!" Doggy.

 

"Yes, doggy woke you up."

 

He lifted his hand up, examining the sliminess Toby left behind. Ew.

 

River grabbed a baby wipe, cleaning the saliva off of his hands. "There, all better."

 

He reached his hands up to her. Up!

 

"Okay, up we go." She lifted him out of the crib, nuzzling his cheek. He made a gleeful noise and Toby pushed against River's leg in protest of being ignored. "Well if you wanted my attention so badly, you shouldn't have woken him up." She told the dog, giving him a pat on the head. Toby made something similar to a huff, marching off back to the girls who wouldn't be as reluctant to play as River was.

 

River bounced Arthur on her hip, "Want to go see Daddy?"

 

Yes! "Da!" He grinned. She smiled, carrying him out the door and down the hall back the way she had come.

 

The room had changed into a jungle gym by the time she'd returned, the girls climbing on anything they could get their hands on.

 

Terra's mind was still buzzing away and the mystery meaning of her few and newly discovered words.

 

"These two are going to be absolutely worn out later," River commented, coming up beside the Doctor.

 

He nodded in agreement, looking up at her. "And someone else isn't." That was directed towards their son.

 

"Unfortunately not." She murmured, pressing kisses to Arthur's cheeks, trying to make him giggle. She succeeded, the boy giggling and squirming.

 

"I don't think you'll mind that too much." The Doctor smiled at her.

 

"Of course not!" She laughed, tickling Arthur's belly. She was much more affectionate with Arthur than she had when the girls were babies and she gave him much more attention and love than she was giving Terra.

 

"Looks like we all have some competition." He commented, watching her ogle over their son.

 

"What's that supposed to mean?" She paused, looking over at him.

 

He shrugged, adorning a playful tone. "All he's had to do is be in the same room as you to get that look on your face. Some days, it takes me flowers and a meal to get you so gleeful."

 

She didn't find the comment as playful as his tone, "Well, that's certainly not true."

 

"Only teasing, dear." He added.

 

"It doesn't really sound like it." She muttered.

 

"Sorry." He apologized.

 

Arthur whined, wanting the attention back. River just shushed him softly. Arthur stopped complaining, going to observe the new room around him. River let him crawl along the floor to explore.

 

Toby strolled by the baby's side, helping him figure out his crawling. River watched the baby closely, obviously wanting to be near him.

 

"He's getting pretty good at crawling." The Doctor commented.

 

She hummed softly, "He'll be walking soon."

 

"We should get him one of those walker thingamajigs like you said."

 

"Yes, but I don't want to spoil him." She murmured.

 

"The girls were around this age when they started using that thing. We probably still have theirs somewhere."

 

"We could look for it later if you'd like."

 

"Sounds good." He murmured, watching as Arthur stumbled a bit and Toby nudged him back into balance.

 

Arthur looked up at the dog, giggling. Toby sniffed the top of his head, pushing him to move back towards his parents. Arthur wasn't very interested in going back towards River and the Doctor. He tried to wiggle in the direction of his sisters instead.

 

The dog kept sitting in front of him, annoyingly blocking his path. The boy looked up at the big animal, whimpered when he didn't get his way. Toby made a similar noise, pawing at the ground and again trying to get him to go the other way. Arthur started to wail, trying to hit the dog out of his way with his tiny fists. Toby blinked down at the small thing, not affected by the hits.

 

The Doctor came over and scooped Arthur up. "Now, now. What's the matter, lovie?"

 

"Siiaaass!" He cried, pointed to Amelia and Freya.

 

"Oh, that's all?" He smiled softly, carrying over to where the girls were.

 

"Yaya!!!" He beamed, pointing to Freya.

 

The girls climbed down from their perch at the noises of their brother. "That's my name!" Freya said excitedly.

 

"Ammeee!" He tried Amelia, this time, clapping his hands.

 

"I think someone wanted to see you." The Doctor informed them.

 

"Do you want to play spider monkey rescuers with us?" Amelia asked.

 

Arthur made a noise of approval, but the Doctor shook his head. "He's too little for climbing."

 

"Well… what if he's the baby spider monkey? Then he doesn't have to climb."

 

"What does the baby spider monkey get to do?" He asked.

 

"Well, the baby spider monkey is in danger because he got lost and stuck in a tree so he has to pretend to be stuck and Freya and I will come and save him since we're the spider monkey rescuers." She explained.

 

"Well..." He considered, glancing back at River.

 

"If Daddy can stay with him then he can play," River said from her spot.

 

"Alright, I guess he can play then." The Doctor nodded, turning back to them.

 

"Yay!!" The girls cheered.

 

Toby padded back over to River, taking the Doctor's spot. River pat the dog’s head, sighing softly.

 

Terra kicked. Mummm.  

 

River swallowed, finally responding to the call, What is it, dear?

 

Little shimmering pieces of excitement bubbled up to River as it was the first non-hostile answer she'd gotten from her mother.

 

She cleared her throat, shifting slightly, Do you need something? She kept her tone gentle, despite her discomfort.

 

There was a moment of thought, though it was unclear whether it was to think of her answer or figure out what River was saying. Words . Terra finally replied.

 

What about them, my love? She asked

 

...Need ....More. Terra managed.

 

Don't worry, you'll get more. River thought, You're getting very good with your words.

 

The next emotion was mild frustration as Terra didn't feel like she had many at all, let alone good use with them. More.

 

In time, Terra.

 

Terra? She echoed back questioningly.

 

Yes, darling. That's your name. She watched the Doctor as she spoke with the little girl.

 

Name. She repeated, distracted by the thought of possessing one.

 

River let the girl think, falling silent. Arthur squealed in excitement from his place in the Doctor's arms as the girls 'rescued' him. River smiled, her heart warming at the sight.

 

"Maah!" He squirmed. She waved to the boy, blowing him a kiss.

 

The Doctor brought him back over to River. "I think he wants you to hold him for a bit."

 

"Oh, gladly." She smiled, nuzzling the baby's cheek.

 

"Guboo! Saiiissss, uhn!" Arthur babbled, trying to tell her about the game he'd got to play.

 

River laughed, "Yes! Yes, I know! I saw."

 

He giggled and settled into her arms. Big brother.

 

She kissed his forehead, "I don't think you've gotten to feel your sister move yet today." She murmured.

 

His eyes widened at the idea. Move??

 

“Yes, here, let's see if she'll move for us." She stretched out her legs, sitting Arthur down on them so he was facing her belly. She moved his hands so they were rested just where Terra's feet were.

 

Terra pushed back in surprise at the touch. Who??

 

That's your big brother, Arthur.

 

Brother. She repeated, not really knowing what it meant. Her mother seemed fine with the person, though, so it helped relax her.

 

River smiled at Arthur, "Can you feel her?" The boy made a gleeful noise in confirmation. She smiled, "You two will have so much fun together."

 

He looked up at his mum. When?

 

"Soon." She pressed a kiss to his forehead.

 

But how soon? He insisted.

 

"A couple of months."

 

He pouted, pushing a little on her middle. No, sooner.

 

"No, sweetie, you have to wait."

 

Why? He complained. Play.

 

"Because she's not big enough yet." She didn't like him pushing on her belly.

 

Make her bigger.

 

"I can't. She has to get bigger on her own."

 

He made some sort of snort which was meant to be a huff. How do we play?

 

"You'll only get to play with her after she's born." She clarified.

 

Oh. He wasn't too happy about that. River sighed, hoping he wouldn't get terribly upset, though she could tell he was already cranky from not getting enough sleep during his nap.

 

Terra nudged back against her brother, starting to figure out who he was. Arthur whimpered, looking back at the Doctor.

 

"What the matter, little man?" He looked down at Arthur.

 

"Baabaa siia!" He whined, pushing against his sister again, trying to express his discontent with the situation.

 

"Careful there." He sat down in front of the two, pulling Arthur a bit further away to he couldn't push that hard. "I know it's not fun to be patient, but your sister's got to grow big and strong before she can come out."

 

Arthur whimpered, trying to crawl back into the spot he had been in, not liking getting pulled away.

 

"Is he being gentle enough?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Of course, Doctor, he's only a baby." This was a lie, of course, but she would never deny her son.

 

"The girls were very destructive babies. Do you remember how many lamps they knocked over?" He teased, though didn't stop Arthur.

 

"What, are you afraid he's going to break me?" She teased back.

 

"You're not very breakable, love." He chuckled.  

 

"That's for sure" She smiled, pulling him in for a kiss. Arthur squirmed between his parents as they tried to share a kiss over him. River pulled her husband closer.

 

"Nuh!" Arthur complained though the Doctor was very far from any complaint. River smiled against his lips, not paying their son's complaints much mind.

 

The Doctor finally pulled away when the boy's tiny hands found and yanked on his bow tie.

 

She smiled at him, "Well that was enjoyable while it lasted."

 

He raised an eyebrow at her, trying to extract his bow tie back from Arthur. "How about that fowl then? If I start now, it'll be ready by lunch."

 

"Alright, I'll be here with our children."

 

He gave her another quick kiss then stood and went to the kitchen.

 

"Shall we go play with your sisters?" River asked, standing with Arthur in her arms.

 

"Saais." He grinned his approval. She smiled, carding him back over to play with the girls. The girls dragged them into their game and they played with vigor until the Doctor called them for the meal.

Chapter Text

Ch 32

 

River and the kids came to the kitchen breathless and laughing, sitting down to their meal. The Doctor had roasted a duck and seasoned it just the way River enjoyed.

 

"What did you all get up to?"

 

"Oh my, this smells amazing," River smiled.

 

"We played Super Hero Archeologists and Mumma TARDIS made us bad guys and everything!" Freya explained.

 

"Really? I can't believe I missed that, sounds like you had a brilliant time." The Doctor sat next to his wife after placing the sauce down.

 

"Don't worry, I'll give you an in-depth recap later tonight." River winked, dishing out lunch for the girls.

 

He tried not to blush, though failed in doing so. "Where's Toby got off to?"

 

Amelia answered, "He's still barking at the bad guys. He didn't like it when they were holding Mummy and Arthur as hostages."

 

He chuckled. "I suspect not."

 

Arthur started whimpering at the mashed peas in front of him, pushing the jar away.

 

"What the matter, lovie?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Muuummmm!" He cried, sticking his hand in the pea jar and flicking it towards his parents.

 

"Oi! No doing that." He wiped the mashed pea from his face, looking at River.

 

She frowned, peas splattered on her cheek. "Well, I suppose I'll go feed you then."

 

"We could try giving him a different flavor first." The Doctor suggested.

 

"We could." River murmured, getting up to get a new jar.

 

"Try banana. He usually likes that."

 

She got a banana jar out of the cabinet, setting it down in front of the baby. Arthur looked suspiciously at it, then at the duck, reaching for that instead. River watched in surprise at her son's choice. He made an insisting noise and grabbed again. Want that!

 

"You can't… Arthur that's not for you."

 

But why not? He pouted.

 

"Because you don't have enough teeth to chew it, my sweet."

 

He stuck his finger in his mouth, feeling the tops of his very few teeth. "Tooop."

 

"Yes, now do you want bananas or do you want Mummy to feed you?"

 

"Mumm." He hummed, though was disappointed that he couldn't have what his sisters were having.

 

"Alright, come on you. I suppose Mummy will have to have her lunch later." She sighed, scooping the baby up.

 

"I'll make sure to save you a good piece." The Doctor promised, a bit disappointed she couldn't join them.

 

She nodded as she left, carrying the whimpering baby out.

 

"Why does Mummy always have to leave to feed Arthur?" Freya asked.

 

"...Do you know how babies get fed from their mums?" He asked. They shook their heads. "Well... babies get breast milk from their mothers so when they get fed it's a sort of private thing." He explained.

 

"Oh..." They murmured, going back to eating, quickly losing interest in the subject.

 

Toby joined them after a while, looking a bit tired from running around after holographic enemies. River joined them right as they were finishing lunch, looking rather cross.

 

"Alright, River?" The Doctor looked at her.

 

"Fine." She muttered.

 

"You look upset." He observed.

 

"Your son was throwing a temper tantrum."

 

"Do you want my help with anything?" He tried to offer.

 

"No, it's handled now." She sighed, "He's sleeping again."

 

"If he wakes up again, I'll get him so you have a break." He offered her the plate of duck he'd saved.

 

"Thank you." She murmured, sitting down to finally eat. It was a bit cold now, but the flavor was all still there.

 

"The girls were telling me about a new school project they're starting on Monday."

 

"Oh, are they?" She asked, trying to forget her sour mood.

 

The girls nodded, grinning and jumping in to tell her about the English leader they were going to learn about. River smiled and nodded, listening with interest.

 

Toby put his head on River's leg as the twins chatted, wanting some of her food. Terra ended up kicking Toby square in the nose as he was so close to her. The dog jumped back in surprise, whining in the back of his throat.

 

River laughed softly, looking down at the dog, "You didn't like that, did you." He pawed at the ground, sitting to beg for food from a safe distance.

 

She looked up at the Doctor, "This tastes lovely."

 

"I'm glad you like it." He replied proudly.

 

She suddenly reached for his hand, squeezing it tightly.

 

He frowned slightly. "You alright?" She closed her eyes, hiding a grimace, nodding. He wasn't at all close to convinced, keeping hold of her hand. "Girls, are you done with your lunch?"  

 

They nodded, "Can we play?"

 

"If you put your plates in the sink and it's not too loud. I think we're going to have some down time for a while." They nodded, putting their plates in the sink.

 

Once they left, he turned back to River, looking over her as if he might find and injury. "Are you sure you're alright?"

 

She nodded again, starting to relax, "Yes, I'm sure."

 

He squeezed her hand. "Good." He cleared their plates. "So, what do you suggest we do in our downtime. Movie?"  

 

She nodded, "A movie sounds nice."

 

Toby wasn't too happy about all the food being put away, but followed the pair to the movie room and settled with them on the couch. River sat, propping several pillows behind her back, "What do you want to watch?"

 

"Something unbelievably sappy." He decided.

 

She laughed, "Anything specific?"

 

"Well, preferably something really old with bad acting." He added.

 

She smiled, reaching for the remote. "Well, I can't say I watch many sappy romantic movies, but I may have just the thing for you." She turned on the television, putting an old movie on.

 

"Ooh, I like this one." He hummed once he realized what movie they were watching. She settled against his shoulder.

 

As the movie rolled, she paid less and less attention, her mind on something else. He didn't notice her distraction, to absorbed in the movie.

 

She stiffened about halfway through, squeezing her eyes shut. As his arm was around her, he felt the tension jump up and pulled his gaze away from the television. "Riv?"  

 

"Yeah?" She breathed quietly.

 

"What's wrong?" He asked.

 

"Arthur...."

 

"Arthur? He's napping, isn't he?" He wasn't sure what she was talking about.

 

"You promised me this would happen slowly."

 

He blinked at her. "It's supposed to."

 

"Well, it's not."

 

"What do you mean?" He frowned.

 

"My connection with him, I can hardly feel it."

 

"Do you want to go to him?" He asked.  

 

"He's sleeping..." She shook her head, "I don't want to go wake him."

 

He took her hand. "Your connection with him isn't gone, it's just weakening... faster that I thought."

 

She pulled her hands away, standing up, "Obviously."

 

"Look, I'm sorry. I didn't know this would happen."

 

She shook her head, "Just watch your movie." She headed out of the room. He didn't really want to watch the movie anymore, worried more about River.

 

River went to go sit with Arthur, silent so she wouldn't wake him. The boy moved about in his sleep, limbs occasionally jerking one way or another. She didn't speak at all, clinging to the little bit of him that she had left.

 

It was a little while before Arthur opened his eyes, whimpering.

 

"Shhh, shhh." She murmured, standing up and going to stand over the cradle.

 

"Muuummmmmmm!" He reached for her. River scooped him up, nuzzling his cheek.

 

He calmed some, clinging to her. What's... happen??

 

"We're not going to be connected anymore." She whispered, his distress upsetting her even more. He made a noise of protest, not really understanding. "I know...I know." She whispered, holding him tighter.

 

He transferred a feeling to her that was some mix of worry and sadness. She tried to comfort him, squeezing her eyes shut to hide the fact that she wanted to cry.

 

Sisss....?

 

"What about her?" She asked.

 

Okay?

 

"She's fine." She sighed.

 

Big siss... papa?

 

"They're fine too." She murmured, holding him tighter, never wanting to let him go.

 

Fine too. He echoed. Come back.  

 

"I can't sweetheart. I can't make it come back." He threatened to start crying more, burying his face in her collar. "I'm sorry." She whispered, voice breaking, "I'm so, so sorry."

 

Warm... His little hands grabbed fistfuls of her shirt.

 

"Hmm?" She whispered, brushing the hair on the top of his head.

 

Arms... hands... warm.

 

"I'm glad you think so." She sat down in the rocking chair, rocking them back and forth, wishing she could hold onto him for longer. The baby listened to his mother's hearts beat a steady rhythm, thinking of one of the stories the Doctor had told him. River was trying not to cry, stroking his back comfortingly.

 

Story.

 

"Not now, my love."

 

Why? This was accompanied by an audible pout.

 

"Let's go see Daddy." She whispered, carrying him out of the room. He didn't seem to mind this answer, babbling softly.

 

River brought her son to the sitting room, back to the Doctor. The movie had been turned off and the man was just sitting there in the blankets. He looked up at her with a weak smile.

 

"Your son wanted to see you." She murmured.  

 

"I see." He patted the space next to him. "How is he?"  

 

"Upset." She didn't sit.

 

"Oh. Does he want a hug or a song or something?" It was really all he could offer.

 

"He wants a story." She placed the baby in the Doctor's arms, going to sit in a different chair.

 

His stomach grew a bit of a cold not, thinking she was mad at him. "Alright, little man." He whispered. "What sort of story do you want to hear."

 

"Mummmmmm."

 

"About Mummy?" He thought for a moment. "How about the time she saved a whole spaceship full of people, hmm?"

 

"Nooooo." Arthur shook his head.

 

"What about when she lead a French revolution in the 46th century?"

 

He squirmed, signaling that that would be good. The Doctor began into the retelling of that, doing the best he could with the details since he was only telling what he'd heard from River and history books. River stayed quiet the whole time, just watching his feet.

 

When he finished, Arthur was starting to grow heavy-lidded. River had her eyes closed, leaning forwards, holding her head.

 

The Doctor quietly stood with their son, walking over to her. "Do you want to hold him again?"

 

"No, I'm fine." She whispered.

 

"You sure?"

 

She stood, seemingly pulling herself together, "Yes, Positive."

 

"I think the story put him back to sleep." He looked at Arthur.

 

"That's good." She rubbed her side absentmindedly. "I'm going to go out."

 

"Where?" He asked, a little surprised.

 

"I'm craving some of the bread we had when we took the girls to that medieval festival." She also thought getting out would be a good distraction from the deteriorating connection to her son.

 

"Oh, you're not going to the same place, are you? That king was absolutely dreadful. He'll be all over you if he knows you're there."

 

"Well, it's a good thing I'm good at hiding." She smiled, "Unless you want to come with me."

 

"We can't leave the kids alone." He reminded though he'd have loved to go with her.

 

"We could get a sitter." She murmured, "Jack will be more than happy to, I'm sure. He hasn't seen the girls in a while." She whispered. Usually, when she was having cravings, she didn't let things like this go.

 

"That's a good idea. Shall I get him on the phone?"

 

"I can do it." She smiled, grabbing the phone and calling up Torchwood.

 

The conversation was quick and soon enough, Jack was at their door with Toby jumping at his legs. River was changed in a purple medieval gown when he came to their door, "Hello, there."

 

"Why does it always take so long for you to ring me up? You're not as linear as you think you are." He teased, pulling her for a hug.

 

She laughed, hugging him tightly, "Why don't you ever ring me?" She teased, "The girls have been asking when they'll see you again."

 

"I bet they have. Which one is this?" He gestured to her belly.

 

"Terra." She murmured, "The Doctor is putting Arthur down now."

 

"And this is why you call ahead. Terra was learning to walk last time you were here. I guess now isn't the best time to ask if I can get her roller skates." Toby barked and Jack knelt down to pet the dog.

 

River tensed at the mention of her unborn daughter, "Well, I'll get the girls for you then." She went to get the girls, giving them and the sleeping baby all kisses when they were finally ready to go.

 

"Mummy, can't we come?" Freya asked.

 

"Not this time, my love. It's special Mummy Daddy time. I promise if you want, we can go back another day."

 

She accepted this answer. "I'm gonna play fairy princess with Uncle Jack."

 

"That sounds wonderful, sweetie." She gave her a hug, "I'll see you soon, have fun and be good." River waved goodbye, going back inside the TARDIS.

 

The Doctor and River piloted to the kingdom they'd gone to with the girls for their last birthday.

 

"Don’t you think you should wear a perception filter?"

 

"Why do you think I should do that?" River asked, crossing her arms.

 

"Just a suggestion, you don't have to. We're a year or two after we last came here." He amended.

 

"Well, then I'd rather not." She didn't say anything more, stepping outside the doors. He followed her from the TARDIS.

 

They'd landed very close to town, this time, most of the people not paying much mind to them, much to the Doctor's surprise.

 

"Oh, it's a bit chilly." River murmured, shivering, "Would you be a dear and fetch a shawl for me?"

 

"Here, just take my jacket. I'm not really cold at all." He dropped his coat over her shoulders.

 

She sighed, "Right, thank you."

 

"Let's find that bread for you, yeah?" He took her hand.

 

She nodded, "Right, the bread." She walked with him, hoping nobody would recognize her, and especially not the Doctor.

 

Unfortunately, many of the townspeople tipped their hats or bowed their heads to River. The Doctor, however, didn’t find this very unusual. "Look, they remember us."

 

"Oh, how lovely," River smiled, regretting inviting him along in the first place. "Now, I can't remember exactly where that bread vendor was. Perhaps I should look this way, and you can look that way?" She asked, pointing in opposite directions.

 

"There's no rush." He pointed out. "We've got time to stroll."

 

"Oh, but I'm so hungry, Doctor, sweetie, please." She insisted, "We can stroll after we've found the bread."

 

He confided. "Okay, meet me here after, alright? If it takes more than an hour I'll find you."

 

She nodded, "Of course, I'll see you soon." She quickly headed off in the opposite direction.

 

One of the villagers soon came up to River, bowing. "Your majesty, the king has requested to you him immediately."


"Oh, wonderful. How I've missed him terribly." She smiled, "Take me to him." River was lead to the castle, the Doctor obliviously looking for a bread vendor who had stopped selling a year ago.

Chapter Text

Ch 33

 

"Where is my King whom I've missed so terribly?" River called as she was brought into the throne room, slipping on the emerald encrusted wedding band that had been given to her by his majesty.

 

"Here, my dear queen." The King sat on his throne, everything about him radiating with arrogance and a hint of stupidity, not much of a change since the last time.

 

She smiled, walking to him with arms outstretched, "You look even more handsome than I remember. I cannot begin to tell how much it made my heart ache to be without you for so long."

 

He seemed to inflate a little. "I was expecting your return as of yesterday. This place is cold without your presence."

 

"I'm so sorry, my darling. We ran into bandits on the return, it was only when one of the footmen sacrificed himself for me that we managed to escape." She reached his side, sitting on his lap and kissing him deeply.

 

He looked only relatively sympathetic to her story, though instantly and rather disgustingly puckered up for her. "Had I been with you, no bandits would have dared come near."

 

Had she gotten the chance, she would have cringed so kiss such a man, "Oh, I'm sure, your looks alone could scare off any man." She purred, resting her hand on his arm.

 

He put his uninvited hands on River's belly. "Our son, how is my heir?"

 

She smiled, trying not to look at the state of his hands, placing her own over his to hide the sight, "Getting stronger every day, just like his father."

 

"I expect nothing less." He grabbed her face and non-verbally demanded another kiss. She was used to him doing this by now, though it still took some restraint not to react negatively. She gave him another deep kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck.  

 

Just then, a pager boy ran up to them, coughing quietly to make his presence known. The King pulled away and glared, taking this action as a rude interruption. River didn't move from her perch on the man's lap, glancing at the boy. "What?" The King demanded.

 

"Uh, s-sorry sir, your majesty, sir. The man you said to alert you of has been spotted in the marketplace."

 

"What is he talking about, my love?" River murmured, nipping his ear, trying to get his attention back to her.

 

"That king you used to belong to." He somewhat spat, clearly not fond him. "I just knew he'd try to get you back. Bring him to me." That last part was directed to the page.

 

River swallowed, "Oh...Does he have to come in here? I don't want to see that horrid man, I want to spend time with you." She rubbed his chest, "If we ignore him, he'll probably go away."  

 

"He should have gotten my message that if he were to ever set foot in my kingdom that there would be consequences, he must pay the price. And," He added smugly. "I've been waiting for an opportunity to show him that I always get what I want."

 

She didn't want the Doctor destroying her plans, so she quickly resorted to the one thing the King always agreed to, "My darling, I've been away for so long, I need you to satisfy me." She purred against the shell of his ear, " Please , I can't wait another moment or I'll simply die. Besides, wouldn't it be so satisfying to deal with my former husband after you've had your way with me?" She trailed her hand down to his thigh, hoping to buy some time to come up with an alternate plan.  

 

He let out a throaty chuckle, though outside of his head, it sounded pathetic. He stood, grabbing her wrist and dragging her off to their chambers, though the pager boy was already off to find the Doctor.

 

River let out a breath of relief, following behind her "husband", as he pulled her to their chambers. "My lord..." She started as she was shoved up against the door once inside. He grinned devilishly, snogging her sloppily. He was under the impression that he was rather good at this, though all of his so call 'nights of passion' with River, had been hallucinations given via a certain someone's lipstick. He didn't have to know that, though.

 

She was quick to apply her lipstick and snog him, hoping to get him to cancel his attack on the Doctor under her influence. "Darling..." She tried again, guiding his head down to her neck so she could actually speak to him.

 

He sucked roughly at her skin. "The bed is always so cold without you."

 

She rolled her eyes, "I'm sure it is my love."

 

"Sweetie pie," He slurred, her drug working fast, "Why did you ever marry that other man. His face is stupid."

 

"I don't know what I ever saw in him." She breathed, "I'm surprised you even remember what he looks like."

 

"Don't think about him while I'm satisfying you. Only think about me." He said boastfully.

 

"Of course, my lord." She smiled, "Where do you want to take me this time."

 

"Here. Now. Bend over."

 

"Oh, but you've hardly even touched me." She breathed, "I want to feel your hands all over me." She added a moan to the end of the statement, knowing the more she buttered him up, the better chance she'd have of getting him to call off his confrontation with the Doctor (even with hallucinations on her side).

 

His hands landed greedily on her shoulders, clearly thinking he was touching somewhere lower. "Anything for you, my queen."

 

She gave him several fake moans of pleasure, though they grew a bit more real as his hands eventually found their way down to her breasts. She had to admit, as much as the man disgusted her, she did enjoy getting some pleasure out of the act. "My love, I don't know how I could possibly have gone so long without your touch." She moaned.  

 

"I'm sure your dreams of me held much reality." He pinched.

 

"And how badly did you miss me?" She purred, sucking in a breath when he pinched her, which he would probably pass off as a sound of pleasure.

 

"As the prisoner misses the sun." He declared.

 

"Truly?" She pulled him closer to her, "And how badly do you want me?"

 

"Like a dragon wants gold." He breathed.

 

"And what exactly are you going to do to me now that you have me again?" She purred, the words sultry and smooth, though this was important as he was known to request her to speak about her favorite parts of their escapade, so she needed to know what he was seeing in his hallucination.

 

He described a very vivid and rough experience to her. He probably thought he was being sexy, but he sounded rather like a horny teenager who didn't know how to talk dirty.

 

"Oh, my. How, utterly delightful." She smiled, though her voice was tinged with disgust. She added another layer of lipstick, hauling him against her lips.

 

He was instantly out of it and much more delirious than before, stumbling back and flopping on the bed. River rolled her eyes, wiping the remainder of the lipstick off before going to sit by the vanity to fix her hair. Knowing he'd be out for at least ten minutes, she had some time before she had to undress him, and herself, to make it look like they had actually committed the deed he would have imagined.

 

"You're almost tolerable when you're unconscious." She muttered, getting up after a few minutes and starting to undress him, throwing his clothes about the room. Before she could start with her own clothes, there was a knock on the door.

 

River faked a few loud, high pitched moans, "Oh, darling! More, there, please!" She cried, not bothering to go to the door. Usually, when there were knocks like this, she could scare off whatever servant was outside the door by pretending they were occupied.

 

The knocking didn't stop this time. "Um, very sorry my lords! So sorry, but there is urgent business!"

 

River quickly threw off her clothes, slipping under the blankets in case the servant decided to open the door. "If you don't leave now, the King will have your head, no matter how urgent the business!" She snapped.

 

"The man he requested is here, ma'am, your highness, ma'am. His head is at a higher risk than mine, and if the King no longer wishes to confront him, he'll be hanged ahead of schedule." The boy persisted, though his tone was obviously intimidated.

 

River swallowed, trying to think quickly. Grabbing one of the sheets and wrapping it around herself, she went to the door, ruffling her hair a bit before opening the door just a crack, blocking the servants view of the bed. "The King no longer has any interest in meeting with the man." She dropped her voice lower, "I, however, do wish to confront him. Please, take him to the west wing sitting room. Don't speak of this to anyone, my husband will be ever so cross if he finds out, though he's more likely to take your head off than mine. Now, take him through the servants passages and lock him in the sitting room. Confiscate anything on his person, no matter how stupid and useless it looks."   

 

He nodded, looking quite serious. "Where shall I put the confiscated items?"

 

"Hide them in the servants quarters, I'll retrieve them later." She shut the door after that. The boy ran off to the throne room where the Doctor was chewing at the rope around his wrists.

 

River returned to fixing up the room, grabbing water from the wash bin and flicking it on herself and the man to falsify sweat. Making sure her hair was in disarray, she crept back into bed, positioning his arms around her, and closing her eyes, waiting for him to wake.

 

When he woke, he made some sort of noise that was supposed to be a purr but sounded more like he had congestion. "Satisfied, love?"

 

"Of course, my king. You always satisfy me." She smiled, pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth.

 

"I do love our reunions." He hummed, hand reaching down to squeeze her bum.

 

"As do I." She rolled so she was on top of him, straddling his waist. "Now, I do have a request to ask of you." She murmured against his lips as she leaned in to kiss him once more.

 

"Within reason." He murmured.

 

"I was hoping you'd cancel your meeting with the man I used to call my husband." She murmured, rolled her hips against him in hopes of softening the request.

 

He frowned. "Why would I do that?"

 

"I have no desire to see him ever again. It would upset me greatly to see you getting so worked up over a man who doesn't deserve our time. And you know that worrying isn't good for me in my fragile condition." She batted her eyes at him, looking as helpless as she could manage without wanting to vomit.

 

"That is why my intention is to rid the land of him, my queen. Clearly, he has come here to claim you back and I must punish him for it."

 

"Oh, my sweet, I beg you not to do this. As much as I hate the man, think of all of the trouble that will come with killing him. My daughters will have to come and live with us, and I know you don't like them very much. And we'll be responsible for marrying them off to wealthy suitors when they're older, which will take away some prospects from our own child, should it turn out being a girl." She tried again, bringing his hand to her belly, "You wouldn't want that for our princess, now would you?"

 

He looked like he was giving this some more thought, which for him was a challenge. "I do not wish that inconvenience on us, though I'm certain you will bear us a son. I will order my men to simply force him to go back to his own land."

 

"Oh, thank you, darling." She kissed him once more. "And if it's a son you desire than a son I shall give you, though it does trouble me that he will only be second in line to inherit the throne, after your first son." She was testing him now, seeing if he was in a good enough mood for her to ask about her real goal.  

 

He scoffed. "That boy is a disappointment. When our son comes of age, Henry will likely be getting slaughtered in travels."

 

"Is that a prediction or a guarantee?" She raised an eyebrow, tracing circles on her abdomen.

 

"More of a prediction, but I decide who the throne goes to next." He pointed out.

 

"Well, it would please me greatly if you were to make our son the heir to the throne." She murmured, giving him a smile. "Which reminds me, I believe, before I left for my last trip, I was promised something." He raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to elaborate. "You promised me a crown with an emerald center stone." She murmured, "Remember? A crown for your lovely queen?"

 

This was what she was truly after, the crown. It had been around longer than anyone could remember, and was perhaps one of the most valuable artifacts in the medieval century, though no one at the time knew it. She knew the King had somehow come into possession of it, though it wasn't exactly clear how. She had seen it once, confirming that he did, in fact, have it, though, despite his promises to give it to her, he had been withholding it for the past few months.

 

"Yes, but that head of yours is plenty pretty without a crown." He toyed with one of her curls. "And I've decided to wait until our son is born. It shall be a reward for your efforts."

 

She bit back a groan of frustration. This mission was taking much longer than she had originally intended back when she started it. "But darling..." She pouted.

 

"My love, you have no need for a crown. All in this land know you belong to me and it is an artifact meant for viewing and not wearing."

 

"Of course, it's meant for wearing, they wouldn't have made it into a crown if it wasn't." She huffed, standing up and taking the sheet with her.

He was left on the bed, cold and bare. "You're just overreacting because you're a woman. I have more gold than that crown is worth. I can get you ten times the about of jewelry."

 

"I don't want ten times the amount of jewelry, I want that crown." She hissed, gathering her clothes, "You don't care about me, that's why you don't want me to have it. After I'm going through all this discomfort carrying your son. Your people don't respect me, the servants don't listen to me and nobody will think of me as queen until you put a crown on my head!"

 

"I have offered you many golden crowns but you will not settle!" He countered, frustrated as well.

 

"Because I want that crown! I don't understand why you won't give me what I desire when I have given you everything you've asked!" She fired back.  

 

"It was a gift for my last wife!" He finally growled. "You will learn to hold your tongue before making such accusations of me! That crown was a gift for her but her death came untimely when bearing our son. You have proven prettier than her but not more useful and you are in no place to think you can demand such items without earning your keep of them!"

 

She swallowed the statement silencing her. In all the time she had spent with the man, she had never known him to be sentimental, and though he still was a horrible, misogynistic brute, she felt a pang of pity for him. She gathered the last of her clothes, "I'm sorry." She whispered though the apology was for the loss of his wife, not her behavior.

 

"Leave and do not return until I send for you." He crossed his arms, refusing to look at her.


She slipped her clothes, on. "I'm going to go see the midwife if you need me." She murmured, pausing at the door. He muttered something probably quite rude under his breath, nose in the air like a pouting child. "I'm sorry, darling." She repeated, hoping she hadn't just destroyed what she had been working towards for months now. She didn't wait for an answer, this time, exiting the room.

Chapter Text

Ch 34

 

The page boy had been waiting anxiously down the hall for River, puffing up his chest when she finally approached.

 

"Did you do as I asked?" River asked quietly.

 

He nodded. "The man is talking nonsense and keeps asking for you."

 

She sighed, "I'll see to it that he's put in his place. Tell no one of this, and I'll give you a handsome reward for your troubles." She smiled, "If anyone asks, I went to the village to see the midwife."

 

He nodded again and lead her to the servants quarters. She followed him, giving him a few gold coins as a reward once they arrived, the halls that they traveled through were empty. She opened the door to the room the Doctor had been locked in, relocking it behind her before turning around.

 

He was tied up in a chair, looking very miffed, but also pleased to see her. "River!"

 

She walked over to him, untying the bonds, "You need to go home, now."

 

"Wot? Why? River, can you please untie me and explain what's going on? People keep telling me I have no right to be here and that you're the queen." He said all in one breath.

 

"Doctor," She knelt down in front of him, touching his cheek. "I may have told a bit of a lie and I'll gladly explain it when you're out of danger. Now please, before you get us both killed, go back to the TARDIS."

 

"River I'm not leaving y-" He stopped, face falling. "Are those... what's on your neck." There was obviously a lot more hurt in his tone now.

 

"Please..." She murmured, "I'll explain later, but I promise it's not what you think it is. Now I need you to leave before you get us both killed."

 

"Give me at least something, please." He searched her face, not giving in.

 

"I can't explain this without having to explain everything else." She whispered, "I just need you to trust me now, can you do that?"

 

"You have hickeys on your neck from someone else and people here who say you're married to someone. I'm going to need a little more than your word." He managed.

 

"Well, I didn't have sex with anyone if that's what you're implying. Explaining it now would only put me in danger, so if you'd rather be informed than have me be safe then I'll explain." She was trying to be gentle.

 

"I... I want to you be safe." He muttered. "You'd be safe if you left with me now. How do you intend to get out of here? "

 

"I can't leave now. I have to stay, and I'll have no trouble leaving if I do. It's you that I'm worried about. I should never have asked you to come with me." She kept her voice very very low so only he could hear, "Please, Doctor. Just this once, trust me and leave."

 

He stared us at her, thinking maybe she was being threatened. "If I was in danger, would you leave me if I asked it of you?"

 

"Only if my presence was the thing putting you in danger."

 

He finally gave a small, sad nod. "They took my things."

 

"I'll get them back for you and bring them with me when I come home." She whispered, kissing him softly, "I love you." She pulled her vortex manipulator out of the folds of her skirt. "Use this and go back to the flat."

 

She went to the door, making sure the coast was clear as the VM wasn't very quiet. Luckily the halls were clear and she gave him the signal that he could go. "I'll be back before dinner, promise." She blew him a kiss, and left the room, not wanting to risk getting caught a moment longer.  

 

In the halls, the pager boy ran into her again, though it wasn't by accident. "Your majesty, the King is searching for you. You must run to the town before he knows you're still here."

 

"Oh, thank you!" River breathed, fastening her pace.

 

Running into the village, she slipped into the midwife's home as discreetly as possible. The midwife had made an agreement long ago with River; she always went along with her schemes even if she didn't know what they were about.

 

Currently, the midwife was stalling several guards and the King at the door. River slipped through the back door, fixing herself as she listened to the midwife thank the King yet again for the honor of being the royal midwife.

 

Getting ready to put on another act, River grabbed a handkerchief off the table, dabbing at her eyes as she stood for the King when he finally barged in. "Oh! Your highness." River curtsied, "I wasn't expecting you to come so soon."

 

He looked her up and down. "Is there any new about the heir?"

 

"He's in perfect health according to our lovely midwife." She added a sniffle to the end of her statement, dabbing at her eyes again and giving him a sad smile.

 

"Why are you so tearful, wife. That is good news." He frowned.

 

She shook her head, "Of course it is. I'm very pleased. My tears have nothing to do with our child, and you shouldn't trouble yourself with them."

 

"I will trouble myself with what I want. Explain yourself." He insisted.

 

"I simply feel horrible for making you so cross with me. All I want is to be a good wife for you. I often fear that I don't deserve you." She turned her face away from him, trying to imitate crying.

 

He pondered over this a bit, The King was not easily forgiving, but he did often soak up any groveling and River's tears, in particular, seemed to hit some sort of soft spot. "You had much too much freedom in your previous marriage, you are still adjusting to a proper and more civilized place." He seemed to think this counted as accepting of her apology.

 

"I do hope this won't change how you feel about me." She looked up at him, eyes sparkling with tears she’d forced.

 

"No," He shook his head. "You've clearly seen your wrongs. And what man and wife don't have a row now and then?"

 

"Oh, thank you, darling." She murmured, kissed his hand, kneeling for him.

 

He chest puffed up for a moment before he realized and shook his head. "Do not kneel, wife. That is for the people to do."

 

"Of course darling."

 

She was about to stand when a kick from Terra sent her back to her knees. Her hand flew to her belly in surprise. Both the King and the midwife looked worried, the latter going to River's side. "I'm alright." She murmured, though accepted the help up.

 

"Is there a problem?" The King demanded as the midwife made River sit down.

"No, darling. I'm fine." River tried to assure, glancing at the midwife.

 

"Sir, I recommend you return to the castle. I was not finished with my examination."

 

River stretched her hand out to her husband, "I'll see you soon."

 

He squeezed her hand looking over the two with concern before leaving.

 

They waited and watched the door shut. "You don't have to do this." River told the midwife.

 

"It won't be your head if something happens to the little one." The midwife had never actually examined her before, and River was a bit nervous about it.

 

She started feeling along the swell of River's middle, fingers gently prodding. "Have you been feeling anything unusual?"  

 

"Not at all." She murmured.

 

"She's pressing into your ribs, I'd suspect at least some discomfort." The midwife said in the same tone. "Is that why you stumbled?"

 

"Why do you say she?" River asked, looking at the woman.

 

"You're carrying low. I've helped enough women through this to have a sense of what's what. I doubt you'll be wanting to let your husband know that, however."

 

"I’d rather that stay between us." She murmured, wincing when Terra moved higher up. Terra seemed to be trying to avoid the hand of the midwife, sharing River’s distrust.

 

"Are we almost done?" River asked, worried that the woman was going to try and listen to her heartbeats.

 

"She's rather big for how far you are." The midwife frowned, though was judging by human gestation which was longer and produced smaller babies.

 

"Well, she's healthy."

 

"I'm worried it could cause problems with the birth."

 

River shook her head. "Well, you can't stop her from growing."

 

"I'm afraid not, I'm just knowing what to prepare for."

 

"Are we finished now?"

 

"Are you in a rush?" She countered.

 

"No." She shifted.

 

The midwife sighed and got up, going over to her medicine box. "You shouldn't travel so much in your condition."

 

"I have daughters in another kingdom that I have to visit."

 

"Send a page boy and let them know you can't make it until after this one is born." She insisted.

 

Terra settled lower now that she wasn't being poked anymore.

 

"I'm not due for several months yet, surely I can make a few more trips."

 

"If you must, I cannot recommend more than one."

 

River huffed, "Fine. Now are we quite through?" She was very anxious to go.

"I'd rather have a listen to the heartbeat, but if you're so insistent..."

 

"Yes, I quite like to go-ah!" River tried to stand but immediately sat back down.

 

The midwife went quickly over to her. "Your majesty?"

 

"I'm fine." She insisted.

 

"No, tell me."

 

"I want my husband," River whispered, closing her eyes.

 

"He's not allowed in here while I'm doing examinations."

 

"He's the king, he can be wherever he bloody pleases." She snapped.

 

The midwife shrank a little. "Shall I send for him?"

 

"Yes, you'd better do that." She hissed.

 

She quickly retreated from the house, off to go get the King.

 

River leaned back, relaxing and trying to formulate a plan. She had faked the pain, of course, to buy herself time. She needed to get the crown, and she wasn't going to give up and abandon her mission.

 

Terra kicked lightly against River's spine. Mum!

 

What is it, dear? River sighed, rubbing her back in discomfort.

 

Pretty. She hummed, relaying an image of the crown which River had unknowingly shared with Terra.

 

River smiled, Yes, it is. Another moment of thought went by when an idea dawned on her. Can you help Mummy with something?

 

Help! Terra echoed excitedly, thinking this would mean bonding and hopefully winning over more of her mum's affection.

 

River put a hand to her side, happy her daughter was so willing. I need you to do lots of kicking and wiggling for as long as you can when I say go. Can you do that for me?

 

She hesitated, fearing she might hurt River.

 

It's alright, if it's too much for me, I'll ask you to stop .

 

Her hesitation eased into a confirmation, agreeing to go along with her instructions.

 

Thank you, my love.

 

Terra started practicing a little, experimenting in which directions she could stretch while they waited for the midwife and King to return. As soon as River heard the midwife opening the door, she gave Terra the signal to go.

 

The King rushed to River's side and Terra started kicking quite hard, determined to do a good job. River immediately grabbed his hand, the pain that spread across her face much more real than if she hadn't asked for her daughter's help.

 

"Midwife, I demand you to tell me what is wrong!" The King practically shouted.

 

"Darling, please don't shout." River flinched, as the midwife jumped and ran to River's side to finish the examination.

 

"The babe is restless and her belly is tight. I fear her time will come too early."

 

"I want to go home." River whispered, turning to the King, tensing at once of Terra's most recent movements, "I want to go back to the castle."

 

"My love, my queen. You must allow this woman to help you or you and our son will be in peril." It was the most concern the King had shown in the duration of River's scheme.

 

She squeezed his hands, "Alright, but I want to know what she's going to do."

 

"There are some medications that might help, but I can't guarantee anything."

 

Terra delivered a firm blow towards River's pelvis. River gasped, clutching the spot where the baby had kicked, "I don't want possibilities, I want guarantees!" River groaned, "My love, I need a moment alone to speak with you."

 

The midwife took her medicine box into the other room, not wanting to be yelled at again.

 

"I want another midwife." River whispered once the other woman was gone, "I want someone who actually knows what she's doing."

 

"She is the best midwife in the land." He frowned.

 

"But she doesn't know how to help me. She has expressed judgment on our son's size and hasn't even bothered to listen to his heart beat yet. I have remained in correspondence with my previous midwife, Clara, whom you have met, and I happened to know that she has left my former kingdom and is staying in a port no more than an hours ride from here in search of work. She was very knowledge when it came to dealing complications with my twins, and I know she will know what to do now."

 

"Your pain worries me greatly. Is there time to fetch her and return before it is too late?" He placed his hand over River belly and Terra kicked at him, not liking his unfamiliarity.

 

"I believe so." She placed her hand over his, "But I must request that you fetch her. You're riding skills are better than anyone else and I know you will get her to me swiftly."

 

"Of course my love. Anything to keep you safe."

 

She kissed him deeply, "Bring me back to the castle first?" She asked softly.

 

"Can you walk?" He asked.

 

"I think s-ah!" She winced as Terra gave her another whack.

 

Getting tired.

 

"Are you sure?" He wasn't convinced.

 

She shook her head. Rest now, my sweet. Mummy's very proud of you .

 

Terra settled, bubbling at River's pride for her.

 

"I don't think I can walk."

 

"Then you must give me the information about the woman you need and remain here."

 

"No, I refuse to stay here another moment." River needed to get back to the castle in order to contact Clara and actually get her to the town she was supposedly in.

 

"You informed me you couldn't walk." He reminded.

 

"Then you need to call one of the guards to carry me back. You cannot leave your queen in the place of common people when she is in such discomfort."

 

He got up quickly and fetched the guard outside who had accompanied him here. They came back in a few moments later, the guard scooping River up with strangely familiar ease.

Chapter Text

Ch 35

 

The three marched back to the castle, leaving the midwife without explanation.

 

The King walked with all his arrogance and the armored guard, surprisingly, was making an effort to not bump River around too much (that is if one was paying attention to his tenderness).

 

River was relatively relaxed now that Terra had quieted down.

 

They burst into the castle and River was rushed to her bedroom and made to lie there while the King barked orders about protecting her.

 

"My love," River lay back on the pillows, "You must go now."

 

"Tell me where and I shall fly."

 

"Glastinaine is the name of the port where Clara is staying." She murmured, as servants fluttered about around them, closing the curtains, adding more pillows and blankets to the bed, and removing River's shoes.

 

In the chaos of people, she spotted the guard again, getting temporarily distracted as she remembered his gentleness with her, a rarity in this kingdom where all the guards she had come across were rough, much like her 'husband.'

 

Quickly drawn back to reality, she finished her explanation, "Clara is young, with brown hair. I'm sure you'll recognize her when you see her. I have confidence in my king." She squeezed his hand.  

 

The King urgently kissed her, a very bruising kiss with teeth, and pulled away to look at her sternly. One would have to be looking carefully to notice the armored guard look away in what some could consider a cringe. "I will ride with godspeed. I will return soon, my love."

 

"Every second I am without you will be a stab to my heart." She murmured, pressing a final kiss to his knuckles, "I anxiously await your return."

 

He quickly left, barking something about getting the horses ready. The servants still bustled, wiping wet rags across River's forehead, and preparing hot towels as if she were actually about to have the baby.

 

"I would appreciate it greatly if I could be left alone for a bit. I need rest." She told them all.

 

The servants looked among themselves, clearly hesitant. "With all respect, your highness, the King will have our heads if we do not attend you. He wishes for your and the heir's safety."

 

"While that may be true, he'll also be furious if he returns and finds me exhausted from you all not letting me sleep." She snapped.

 

The servants quickly fled, not wanting to face her temper. The guard, however, stayed.

 

"I suggest if you want to keep your job, you should leave as well." She hissed at him.

 

The guard look at her, looked at the closed door, and took a step or two towards her. "I don't actually have much of a job here."

 

River immediately scrambled back, "What are you talking about? What are you doing?"

 

"Oi, calm down River. Honestly, do you really think I'm going to do something?" The guard stopped and took off his helmet revealing a familiar big chinned face.

 

"Oh, thank god." She visibly relaxed before shooting him a stern look, "I thought I sent you home."

 

"You told me to hide my presences. No one asks a guard to lift his helmet." He countered.

 

"I gave you my vortex manipulator because I wanted you to actually use it, not just carry it around." She sighed, rubbing her temples, "Well, now that you're here, I need your help."

 

He held in an 'I told you so', instead nodding. "Is it about Clara?"

 

"Yes, I need you to bring her to Glastinaine in time for the King to find her." She murmured, hesitating before continuing, "And then I might need you to get Arthur."

 

"Why do you need him, should I explain to her you need her to pretend to be a midwife, and when are you going to explain anything to me ?" He asked all at once.

 

She sighed, "If you bring the TARDIS here, I'll explain everything once we're both on board."

 

"Clara, Arthur, TARDIS." He listed, obviously not liking any of this. He pulled out the vortex manipulator, typing in the coordinates. "Don't snog anyone else while I'm gone."

 

"TARDIS first, then Clara, then Arthur." She repeated, wanting to make sure he got the order right.

 

He frowned, reset the coordinates, then paused and looked up at her. "You were faking those pains, weren't you?"

 

"Go!" She hissed, "Actions first questions later. Honestly, this is why I don't invite you along ever."

 

"I thought we were going out for bread. Sorry for being concerned." He bit back, disappearing with a static sizzle left in the air.

 

She sighed, feeling bad for snapping, but she needed this done.

 

Less than ten minutes went by before the blue box materialized silently in the corner and a still armored Doctor stepped out with a sleepy Arthur on his hip.

 

River lit up when she saw her son, getting up and running to take him.

 

"Mummm." The boy mumbled, not really sure of what was happening, but easily accepting to her embrace.

 

"Clara's in the town and in on the scheme. Questions yet?"

 

"Only if you can prevent anyone from overhearing us or walking in on our conversation." She murmured, nuzzling the baby's cheek.

 

He huffed, not able to guarantee that. "Just tell me about Arthur and you didn't answer my question from before."

 

She sighed, glancing towards the door, and then pushing him inside the TARDIS, running to the console and piloting them away from the kingdom.

 

"River." The Doctor protested. "Just talk to me, will you?"

 

She poked her head out of the TARDIS doors, making sure they really had left before finally turning, "I'd appreciate it if you stopped shouting the word scheme at me in the castle." She muttered, "You're going to ruin everything I've been working for in two bloody seconds if you keep doing that."

 

"Language." He gestured towards their son who was getting to be more awake now.

 

"I'm trying to get a crown. A very, very important crown that is going to get melted down and change history if I don't get it, but I almost have it. All I need to do is pretend to have the baby and the King will give it to me." She murmured, squeezing Arthur lightly, "We need to wrap him in a perception filter to make him look younger, or better yet, a psychic blanket so the King will see what he's expecting to see."

 

"So Clara's going to come and help you 'deliver' a baby for a crown. You'll need a filter too so you don't look pregnant anymore." He was clearly still not approving of any of this. "Why does he think the baby's his?"

 

"Because I told him she was." River smiled at Arthur, giving him kisses all over his cheeks. "And Terra has been quite brilliant in all of this too." She added.

 

He scrubbed a hand down his face, missing that last bit. "River, I know all this is important to you and it's all some crazy plot, but there is an image in my head of you kissing another man and I'm in no way comforted by the fact that it's part of the trick."

 

She stared at him for a moment, then started to laugh, "You're kidding, right?"

 

He stood shocked, "No, I'm not kidding, River! You didn't tell be about any of this and I'm sure it's gone on long before this afternoon. I find you trying to get rid of me and then all of a sudden you're calling someone else your husband..." He stopped, looking at the ground.

 

She was growing angrier, "You are such a hypocrite!" She snapped at him, "How many times have you hidden things from me? How many times have you married and kissed other women? Would you like me to name a few in case you've forgotten? I'm sorry I don't want to sit at home and play housewife for you all the time." She growled.

 

"I never expected you to!" He defended. "And any woman I've married in my life was before I married you, not after! I'm sorry for having the audacity to express concern when my wife waltzes me into her scheme involving a separate marriage!"

 

Arthur started to whimper.

 

"That is not true!" She shouted at him, "And you haven't even bothered to see if he and I are actually married!" She threw her hallucinogenic lipstick at him. He winced when the lipstick hit his head. "I don't understand why when you want to go off on an adventure, anything goes, but as soon as I do it you've got a list of problems!"

 

She handed Arthur off to him, piloting them back to their flat. "Get out. I don't need your help."

 

He fumbled when Arthur was thrust at him. "You said you needed Arthur." He bit, avoiding her glare.

 

"I'll do it without him, just get out!" She hadn't been this angry with him in a very long time. The Doctor hugged the whimpering tot close and flinched at her tone, doing as she said and stalking out back to the flat.

 

She slammed the door as hard as she could behind him, turning with her back pressed to the doors. Arthur was crying on the other side, picking up on his parent's distress and not liking the loud noises.

 

River regretfully moved away from the doors, slowly setting the coordinates, so she would land in the closet of her chambers, tears blurring her vision.

 

Terra nudged softly. Why sad? I do it wrong?  

 

Not at all, my dear. She thought back to her. You were wonderful. She clocked the TARDIS, glancing at the door one more time, ready to take off.

 

"Maaaaauuuuuuummaaaaaaaaaa!" Arthur cried, the sound loud enough to carry to her. River sighed, walking towards the door, opening it with her hands on her hips.

 

The Doctor sat on the couch, lips pressed together, and trying to calm Arthur. The boy's face was red and tears flowed freely down his cheeks. She wordlessly walked over to them, snatching Arthur out of his arms and trying to comfort him, immediately turning her back to the Doctor.

 

Arthur clung to her and buried his face against her dress. The Doctor said nothing, though he quite wanted to.

 

"Hush, my love, hush now." She murmured, rubbing his back soothingly. "Mummy loves you."

 

With you! Stay. He quieted into loud, hiccup-y whimpers.

 

"I can't stay." She whispered, nuzzling his cheek, "I have to go, but I'll come back." She didn't say soon as she always did. After the fight she and the Doctor had just had, she didn't exactly want to be with him anytime soon.

 

Come! I come! He whined, his grip on her dress not faltering.

 

"As much as I would like you to come, you can't." She sighed, pressed a kiss to his temple, "I don't have anyone to look after you."

 

You!

 

"I can't, I'm sorry." She hugged him tightly, "I wish you could come, but I can't watch you."

 

Whhhhhhhyyy? He started to panic.

 

"Because I have other things to do." She sighed, "How about I come back for you in a bit, yeah? Would you like that?"

 

"Noo!" Stay! He squirmed.

 

"I can't." She was growing impatient, "Here, take him." She put him back in the Doctor's arms, going back to the TARDIS.  

 

"We'll be at Jack's." He managed over Arthur's pleas of "Muuumma!"

 

"I don't really care where you'll be." She shot back at him, going back inside the ship.

 

The TARDIS took off without waiting for River to give the command. River fell in surprise, banging her side in the process.

 

Terra kicked out in surprise. What's that??  

 

River groaned, touching her side, Mummy fell. She breathed, slowly standing up and peeking out of the TARDIS doors, stepping out and going back to the bed.

 

There were sounds of scurrying servants outside and Clara's voice in the hall.

 

Mummy hurt?  

 

A bit… She squeezed her eyes shut, holding the spot she landed on.

 

I help! How help?

 

Clara burst into the chambers in a dramatic show, the King at her heels. River pressed her face into the pillows of the bed, clutching the blankets around her tightly.

 

Clara turned to the King. "I'm going to have to insist that you are not in the chambers while I work."

 

River looked up at them, "Don't worry, my darling, I'm in very capable hands now."


He hesitantly left and Clara quickly went over to the bed, putting down her bag of 'midwifery supplies.'

Chapter Text

Ch 36

 

"Alright," Clara whispered, knowing the King was right outside the doors. "Fake midwife, check. What do you need me to do?"

 

River took a breath, trying to ignore the throbbing on her side, "There are bottles of water with red dye in the console room, I need you to get them and pour them on the sheets. The TARDIS is in the closet." She whispered.

 

Clara nodded and quickly went to fetch them.

 

River faked some groans as Clara spread the fake blood on the floor and the sheets around her legs once she returned.

 

"So, just to be clear, are we faking a stillbirth?" Clara asked, disposing of the now empty bottles.

 

"I'm not sure yet. You need to call him back in here, tell him I'm having the baby, but I want to see him. Don't give him any other updates besides that."

 

"Okay. Do you want me to flick some water on you or something for sweat? You're going for realistic, right?" Though not really knowing what this whole ordeal was about, Clara was having a bit of fun with the whole 'lets trick a King' thing.

 

"Oh, yes, good thinking." River nodded, glad to see Clara was so excited about it all.

 

Clara produced some water from her bag as well as a bit of makeup. "Mind if I make you look a bit more flushed and exhausted?"

 

"Go for it." River smiled weakly, letting her do whatever she wanted.

 

Clara delightedly got to work making the scene look right. "You could try holding your breath for a bit to help with the flush. It'll also make it easier to pant."  

 

River nodded, thanking her, "You should fetch him now, we don't want to overdo it, we have to make me look worse over time."

 

Clara put the things away, standing and dusting herself off before putting on the correct expression to go confront the King. River started panting, making sure she was in a position so that he would see the "blood."

 

There was concerned murmuring outside and then a loud exclamation from the King before he burst in. "My love, you told me she was the best in the land!"

 

"She is, my darling, she is. But not even the best in the land can prevent some things from happening." River reached for his hand, crocodile tears flooding her eyes.  

 

"Surely our son will die if he is born now, oh my love, how could I have not seen this coming?"

 

Clara stood at the end of the bed, watching River for cues.

 

"C-Clara stated that perhaps stress from our fight could have put me in this state." River glanced at Clara, inviting her to confirm before, touching his cheek, "And now that row might be in vain as I may never wear that crown now." She tensed, faking a contraction.

 

Clara tried to sound as medical professional as she could. "Yes, high stress from arguments have dangerous effec-"

 

"Oh, my beautiful queen!" The King interrupted. "This is all my doing! And over some silly piece of gold. I vow, my love, you will receive it as soon as I can give." He stroked her cheek, the touch probably the gentlest he'd been since he'd married her.

 

River leaned into his hand, "The sooner the better, my da-Augh!" She made to look like she was having another, worse contraction, to alarm him further.

 

He pulled her into his arms, holding her through the false pain. "I cannot bear to lose you, my queen. Please, can you promise your survival?"

 

She clung to him, knowing he loved to be treated as her hero, "I will try my best, my darling. And should our son not survive, I promise we will have another." She pressed her face into his neck, wetting it with her false tears.

 

"Your majesty, I must insist that you wait elsewhere while I tend to your wife." Clara urged.

 

River nuzzled his neck, then let him go, "Be brave, my lord."

 

Clara ushered him out and turned back to River. "Wow, you are really good with the whole 'pain' thing. I honestly thought some of that was real."

 

"Well, when you've had four kids, you know what to do." She smiled weakly at her, "You should send for hot towels in a bit."

 

"Gotcha. So, do you have more of a plan. Anyone fake dying today?" Clara sat on the edge of the bed and offered River a butterscotch from her bag.

 

She declined, thinking for a minute, "If he gives me the crown, then yes. If not, then no..."

 

"This crown you're after, it sounds like something he'll only give up once you're through with all this."

 

River hummed, "What do you suggest we do?" She was curious and so far, Clara had proved to be very good at this trickery.

 

"You don't actually have a baby prop or something, do you? I think he'll be much more willing to give you the crown as a reward if he actually gets what he wants. What about Arthur? Also make a pained noise," she paused a moment. "Now."

 

River nodded, groaning in "pain",  "We could certainly get Arthur. The only problem is if I have the baby, I risk losing my biggest bargaining chip for the crown."

 

"How?" Clara frowned, not quite following.

 

"Well the baby is the thing he wants the most at the moment, and so far, I've found it very beneficial to scare him into giving me the things I want. I was thinking, if I manage to scare him enough into thinking I'm going to die, he'll give me it."

 

Clara nodded, River’s logic seeming fine. "But what happens after? Knock him out and run for it? Leave him with a plastic baby doll and an IOU? Isn't there supposed to be some sort of clean up?"

 

"Or I go on a diplomatic visit and get captured and killed on the way home." She had clearly planned this.

 

"And bring the 'baby' with you so he doesn't have anything. Oh, that is good! Evil, but really good."

 

"Why thank you." River smiled, "Now, which plan should we go with, having the baby, or stopping the labor. If we have the baby, we'll need Arthur. If we stop the labor, we can try to get the crown from him again, and if it fails, can stage a dramatic scene go into labor again, which will hopefully make him feel guilty enough to give me the crown." She groaned at the end of the sentence to fake another bout of pain.

 

Clara flinched, then tried to laugh it off. "Oh god, I thought that was real for a second. Um, baby. It's more solid and I think will get better results. Plus, all this scenery has to have a dramatic plot, don't you think?"

 

"Yes, I quite agree." She smiled.

 

"Problem, though, I can't fly the TARDIS and Arthur is a bit old for the part."

 

River sighed, "Alright, we need to find a way around that."

 

"Don't have you weird alien things to make him look like a preemie? Like what you use to hide your pregnancy sometimes." Clara suggested.

 

"Well, we have psychic blankets which work like psychic paper, we could use that." She suggested.

 

That sparked an idea. "Do you have the psychic paper with you? We could get a message to the Doctor so we don't have to use the TARDIS."

 

"No," River breathed, "I don't want him here. We're not exactly speaking at the moment."

 

Clara frowned but decided that it was probably best not to ask at the moment. They'd work it out, she assured herself, as they always did. "...Okay, maybe someone else can pick Arthur up? No, hang on, can the psychic blanket make the King see a baby without there actually being a baby in there?"

 

"It's possible, but I'd rather at least have a doll there so it'll be easier for us to keep track."

 

"Can the TARDIS make something? Like, a little robot that looks like a baby? Wait is that too silly?"

 

River smiled, “Yes, I think that's a bit out there for the TARDIS.”  

 

"Okay, regular baby doll then. I can go grab that. Also, where do you keep the psychic blankets?" She was getting excited again.

 

"Don't worry, the TARDIS will show you."

 

Clara nodded. "Back in a tic. Make some more noise."

 

River's groans grew louder, but she flashed Clara a smile to assure they weren't real. The younger woman quickly headed into the TARDIS. River waited for her return, gasping and groaning as she did.

 

Clara came back with the blanket wrapped up. "I used one of the twin's old toys if that's alright. Also, I got a perception filter for after."

 

River smiled, "That's perfect, thank you."

 

"Right so," She sat back on the edge of the bed. "now it's all a matter of timing, right?"

 

River nodded, "We could call him in here again now, he'll be wanting an update anyway."

 

"Isn't it improper?" She pointed out.

 

"Does it look like he cares? Half the things he says to me are improper."

 

Clara gave a shrug of her shoulder as if to say, 'fair enough'. She hid the things from the TARDIS in her bag, "How about the whole 'near death' thing, we doing that now?"

 

"We could try it." She nodded.

 

"More makeup!" Clara decided, clapping her hands as if this were a girly slumber party. She set to work making River look very pale from blood loss and even more exhausted than before. "Okay, put your legs up like you've been pushing."

 

"Yes, ma'am," River smiled, putting her legs up.

 

Clara arranged the sheet purposefully. She paused like she had an idea, then got the things from before back out of her bag and hid them under the sheet. "In case he insists on staying." She explained.

 

"Good thinking. I may have to invite you along more often." She winked.

 

"I can't say I'd mind that." Clara grinned. "Make sure you can get the filter on discretely. I'm going to get him, make some more dramatic sounds, throw in some words."

 

River nodded, doing just as Clara suggested.

 

The King was pacing very anxiously outside the door when Clara opened it. "Sir, her condition is very dire, I'm not sure she'll ma-" He pushed past her into the room.

 

River whimpered when he entered, her eyes half opened as she lay in the heap of blankets and pillows. She made it seem as though she could hardly lift her arm to take his hand.

 

"Oh, my River, my queen." He looked utterly distraught. "The Gods cannot take you from me now, oh please tell me this is not the end."

 

"My darling, Philip, if only I had been better for you." She groaned, putting a hand to her stomach, "If only I hadn't feared to be without your kingdom's acceptance-"

 

"None of it matters now. You will have all you desire, now and forever." He promised, stroking the side of her face.

 

River made her hands tremble as they reached to touch his face as well, "I'm afraid it may be too late. If I don't have that crown within the hour, I may never live to see it."

 

"I will inform you, sir," Clara tapped his shoulder. "That whatever last words or last gifts you have for your wife, there may not be another time."

 

River cried out, clutching her stomach once more, fake terror flooding her eyes once more.

 

"My love, I do not wish to leave you, but if there is no other time..." He hesitated.

 

Clara nodded, "Yes, yes absolutely, there is no other time."  

 

"I will return, please do not join the other side before I do." He begged River.

 

"I'll stay here just to see you again." She whispered.

 

"Hurry!" Clara rushed him.

 

The King ran out of the room, shouting at the servants to open the vaults to the crown jewels.

 

"Looks like we don't need my backup plan just yet. How long do you think he'll take?" Clara asked.

 

River shrugged, "If he's hurrying, twenty minutes at the most."

 

"Oh good. Gives me time." She got another butterscotch out and popped it in her mouth. River smiled, though she still played her part as they waited. Clara commented at one point that River could have been an actress.

 

When she heard the King rushing back, she positioned herself at the end of the bed.

 

"Scream."

 

River clutched the sheets of the bed, crying out like she was in agony.

 

The door burst open with the King storming back in and servants behind him, carrying something on a pillow.

 

River looked weakly back up at her husband, "My love..."

 

He gestured for the servants to bring over the pillow, the object on it the polished gold crown River had been after. "Oh, darling." River murmured, staring at the crown, "It's beautiful."

 

"Here." He placed it on her matted curls, kissing her forehead. "Let this be the anchor for your soul, a message to the Gods that you are too beautiful for death's hand to take you."

 

She smiled weakly up at him, looking exhausted though inside she was thrilled to finally have the crown in her possession. "You are so wise, so handsome, so brave and so strong. You are my true anchor, and the Gods must soon see that we are to perfect for one another to be torn apart."

 

"I shall not leave your side, I cannot bear to." He insisted.

 

"Don't you fear for what people may think of the impropriety of it?" She groaned, the noise reaching a near scream once more.

 

"The people need not have to know." He glared at the servants, ensuring none would spread a word of it.

 

River screamed again, clutching his hand as tightly as she could. He winced and the servants ran from the room.

 

"Your majesty King, if you will, there's something in my bag I need to help your wife," Clara said.

 

"What is it that you need?" He asked, glancing at her for a moment, before looking back at River.

 

"There's a small, thin black box if you would please." She was talking about her phone, but she knew the King would have no idea what it was.

 

The King immediately went in search of it, to worried to even question the object. Clara took the phone and hid it with the other things, making it look like she was doing something important. In reality, she was looking up sound effects for a baby crying. "Big push now, ma'am, hard as you can!"

 

River leaned forward, "pushing" and trembling with the effort. The King held her all the tighter, not actually familiar with any of what was going on. River groaned, falling limply against the man, clutching his arm.

 

They made a big show of it for the next little while, making it King think he was witnessing the birth of his heir. Clara sometimes would mutter something worrying like 'she's losing too much blood' or 'stay awake, River' to add to the terror effect. She felt a little bad for how pale the King was looking, but she also prided herself on that as it assured they looked very convincing.

 

"Last push, now, your majesty." Clara wondered if River would pull anything for their grand finale.

 

"My love..." River murmured, turning her head against the King's chest, "I don't know if I have the strength to continue."

 

"You must." He squeezed her hand. "My love, you must find the strength in you to bear our son."

 

Terra gave a low kick. River held his hand tighter, "I cannot bear to leave you. If only I had your strength."

 

"You have more strength in you than any woman in this land, I'm certain of it." His hand was aching at this point, but he endured it thinking River was enduring much more.

 

"If you have that much faith in me, then your words must be true." She murmured, pulling him in for a kiss.

 

Terra kicked agitatedly against the weight of the King, knowing it wasn't the Doctor. River ignored her daughter, finally breaking the kiss and pretending to finish pushing.

 

Clara made enough hand movements to look like she was catching and wrapping a baby, really just tucking her phone into the psychic blanket and playing the sound effect she'd found. "You've got a little baby boy!" She announced, handing over the deception.

 

River immediately looked up at the King to make sure he believed it, slipping on the perception filter.

 

"He's so small..." He looked like he'd had a hard time managing to make words, face quite pale.

 

"That's what children who come to early look like." Clara murmured as she placed the "baby" in River's arms, "With careful nursing, he'll be alright and grow just as strong as you, your majesty."

 

He reaching out a finger, the blanket allowing him to see a little, live, breathing baby wrapping his tiny hand around the digit. The King promptly fainted.

 

River rolled her eyes, "Oh, honestly...."

 

"Might make clean up a little easier," Clara commented. "So much for the whole 'men can handle more gore'." She chuckled.

 

"Yes, I suppose." River smiled, "Would you mind calling someone in to put him on the bed?"

 

She nodded and moved to the door, grabbing two hovering servants. Clara helped them get the King on the bed next to River and clear away the bloodied sheets. River closed her eyes, trying to relax as she was actually a bit tired after all the acting.

 

"You should take a lemon drop or tea for your throat," Clara suggested once the servants had gone. "I can imagine all that yelling is very good for it."

 

River's eyes opened once more and she smiled tiredly, "I would love one if you had it."

 

She searched in her bag again. "All I've got's a cough drop."

 

"Oh, then never mind." River glanced at the King, resting a hand on his chest.

 

"Checking it he still has a pulse?" Clara teased.

 

River didn't respond, watching him carefully, "He's surprised me a lot today..."

 

"You made him go through all that thinking it was real, people act all sorts of ways when presented with a trauma like that." She started rummaging through her bag again, mind elsewhere so the words just sort of slipped out. "Didn't the Doctor act differently than you expected when he had the same experience first hand?"


River's eyes shifted to look at Clara, tensing immediately. She didn't have time to respond before the King began to stir beside her.

Chapter Text

Ch 37

 

The King opened his eyes, trying to sit up. "My wife, where is my wife? My son..."

 

"Right beside you, my love." River murmured, touching his arm gently.

 

He looked at her, realizing his surroundings and turning slightly red. "Please tell me I didn't faint."

 

"You've had a very stressful day, my love," River smiled, still looking exhausted.

 

"I feel like a fool. You were almost taken from me and all I can manage it the most cowardly of actions!" He frowned.

 

"You are certainly not a fool." River assured, "You had every right to faint."

 

A servant ran into the room, squeaking and bowing nervously, "Sire, a large crowd has gathered outside the gates. The people are worried for their Queen."

 

He looked between the servant and River. "What shall I tell them?"

 

"If you'd like, we can tell them of the birth of our son together." River murmured, smiling at him.

 

"You must stay in bed. Surely it's dangerous for you to do anything but rest now." He looked genuinely concerned for her.

 

"A walk to the balcony down the hall will not kill me, especially if I have your help." She murmured.

 

"With all respects, ma'am," Clara interjected. "I can't recommend leaving your bed. Your body need rest without exception."

 

River sighed, "Alright, But I want us to make the announcement together." She told the man, "For now, tell them that I am alright and resting, but don't tell them of our son."

 

He nodded and rose from the bed, "I'll be only moments."

 

"I'll miss every second you're gone." She blew him a kiss.

 

Clara frowned once he left. "Whatever happened to getting killed by bandits? You don't look at all in a hurry to leave."

 

River shrugged, adjusting herself on the bed, "I didn't realize you were so concerned about my leaving. Don't worry, I can take you home tonight, you don't have to stay with me."

 

"Yeah, but you've got three kids and a husband waiting at home." She pointed out. "I know you've got a time machine and all, but you've got what you wanted. Aren't they more important than finishing this story?"

 

"I think perhaps it's time I take a bit of a break from the Doctor." River looked away from her.

 

Clara stared in surprise, not knowing what to say without crossing lines she knew well to stay behind. "That's, um... Is there..." She stopped and gave up trying to find words.

 

"You can go wait in the TARDIS if you'd like." River murmured, "I'll tell everyone that you left."

 

She coughed awkwardly. "It'd be little weird that your midwife up and left, wouldn't it?"

 

"Not exactly. There are women all over having babies, and the hard part is over now. It wouldn't be completely unbelievable if you left."

 

"...Do you want me to go?" She asked, which was really what she was trying to get at. Maybe she'd accidentally said something wrong.

 

"It's up to you, but I don't plan on leaving for a while." She murmured.

 

"I'll, uh, I'll stay through the evening." Clara decided, wanting to ask how much was a while. River nodded, not saying much else.

 

The King returned shortly, quickly back at River's side. "There are a thousand wishes for your health and a thousand more."

 

"I'm very glad to hear it." She tried to give him a smile, though her mood had changed greatly.

 

"How's our son?" He looked at the toy affectionately. "He's very tired, he's had an exciting day." She murmured, wrapping the blanket tighter around the object.

 

"I don't think exciting is the word for it." He stroked the doll's face and kissed River's forehead. Before River could stop them, tears began to fall and for once, not pretend tears. "My love?" He looked at her. "Whatever is the matter?"

 

"I'm sorry..." She tried to hide her face, "I'm only worried about his health." She lied.

 

"The midwife said he'd be alright. Didn't you?" He looked to Clara.

 

Clara nodded, trying to figure out of River's tears were real or not. "As long as he get's taken good care of."

 

"We can do that." He assured. "I'm confident." River nodded, closing her eyes. "Perhaps you need to sleep." He fretted. "You have used so much of your strength today, already."

 

"Yes, I suppose that would be best." She murmured, trying to dry her eyes.

 

"Midwife, leave us." He shooed Clara away.

 

Clara quickly left, but not before making a face at the back of his head.

 

"I will stay with you and watch over our son while you rest." The King took his place back on the bed.

 

"No, darling, that's why we have servants. You have a kingdom to run." River pressed gently.

 

"He is not yet an hour old, I will not have him in the hands of anyone but us or the midwife." He retorted. "You are more important than any kingdom."

 

"You have been so sweet to me." She breathed, watching him, the weight of the crown pressing on her head.

 

"I have not acted any differently." He wasn't quite sure what she was talking about.

 

She smiled weakly, "Then don't trouble yourself with my words."

 

"You rest now." He urged again, moving to take the doll.

 

"No." River turned her body, holding the doll protectively, "I want to keep holding him."

 

"My love, you must rest."

 

River shook her head, "Will you get me water?" He nodded and left the room to fetch her a glass.

 

River jumped up, locking the door behind him and running to the TARDIS. Terra kicked at the sudden movement, bracing herself.

 

She ran to a closet on the side of the console room, grabbing a broken Teselecta that the Doctor had been working on. She hooked it up to the console, changing the outer image to look like a premature baby. She hadn't thought of this before, and at least the image wouldn't change if its blanket was removed.

 

Tossing the doll aside, she wrapped the small, lifelike machine in the blanket, sliding back out of the doors and into bed. The machine wiggled in River's arms, just like a newborn would and produced small noises in response to touch and sound.

 

Brother! Terra couldn't tell the difference. River let her believe it was her brother, not wanting to explain the story.

 

The King returned with the glass, offering it to River. Once he returned, she let him hold the baby, falling asleep for several hours.

 

River woke when the servants entered with dinner, yawning and looking around the room. The King was too wrapped up in the little teselecta to notice and the servants to busy scurrying around to make the food look right.

 

"Are you happy, my love?" River whispered, a pang of pity hitting. He seemed to adore the little baby after only a few hours, and a part of her felt guilty for tricking him.

 

He looked up at her to acknowledge her being awake, the prop stealing back his attention. "As happy as a poor man is to gain a fortune." He grinned.

 

"How has he been?" She asked, glancing at the food.

 

"Better than expected, though I believe he wants a meal." He murmured.

 

"I can feed him." River held out her arms to take the baby. He delicately put it in her arms.

 

She smiled at the little machine, imagining he was Arthur, "Hello..."

 

Mechanic eyes clicked up to the source of the sound. River stared at the machine, realizing that it wasn't Arthur she was seeing, but another face she had seen before. When she had changed the image of the Teselecta, she had simply put on the first image of a baby she could pull from her mind. She hadn't taken the time to actually look at the face until now.

 

William blinked at her with her own eyes, reaching up to her as he was programmed to recognize her as his mother.

 

She was frozen, staring and taking in every little feature of the baby. His chest moved in small steady breaths something she'd never seen him do before.

 

"We should name him." The King said. "A good strong name will bring him luck."

 

She opened her mouth to speak, but the words caught in her throat. She touched the baby’s face, "Yeah..."

 

"Any proposals?" He looked expectantly at her.

 

"I want whatever you want." She murmured, too distracted by the "baby" in front of her.

 

"I'm fond of William." He suggested.

 

She sucked in a breath, "William..." She repeated.

 

"The name has been carried by great leaders in my family." He added.

 

"It's lovely." She nodded slowly.

 

"Are you hungry?" He asked, noticing the platters of seasoned meat.

 

"Oh, yes, very." The words finally pulled her eyes away from the baby. He shifted off the bed, retrieving a plate for her. "Thank you, my love." She murmured. "Have the servants brought the cradle in?"

 

"Not yet. He hasn't needed it yet."

 

"I believe, after dinner. It would be a good time for us to announce his birth to the kingdom."

 

"I told our subjects there would be news in the morning." He informed her.

 

"Ah." She nodded, "Perhaps your other son then?"

 

"He's had no interest in you since you came here, but I suppose." He didn't seem to approve highly of the idea, though.

 

"Perhaps we shouldn't trouble him then."

 

He relaxed at this. "He'll hear one way or another."

 

"I do think you should show a bit more compassion towards him. Despite his disinterest in athletic activity, he is very wise for his age and that could be very useful when it comes to running a kingdom." She sighed.  

 

"Nothing is more useful than power and he'll get none of that from spending every hour in the library." He huffed. "Besides, he may well not be the one to run the kingdom next."

 

"Well, I don't think that's true. He could study battle strategies, see which crops would grow best in our kingdom, learn medical skills to teach the soldiers who go to battle. There are so many things he could do with his book knowledge, you must have more faith in him."

 

"He has yet to prove himself, or any of his 'skills' useful. He doesn't act on anything, he doesn't work." He crossed his arms.

 

"Perhaps it's because you haven't given him a chance." She pressed.

 

"I've attempted to make him work. I've sent trainers and pushed him outside. He responds to nothing."

 

"I could try talking to him. I know, he doesn't have much interest in me, but perhaps I can find a way to speak to him."

 

"Do what you wish, but there is little reason to."

 

"I do want you to break the news of his brother's birth to him."

 

"Fine." He said reluctantly.

 

"Thank you, darling."

 

He sighed and took a plate for himself. "Eat up, you must be exhausted."

 

River nodded, eating slowly. William's attention was drawn towards the food. River's attention was turned back to her 'son,' watching him closely for the rest of the meal. He seemed bothered by the smell of it, or at least its presence since he couldn't actually smell.

 

She finished eating, pushing the food away and going back to entertaining the baby. As a programmed newborn, he didn't actually do much but shift his gaze around and wiggle his arms. He yawned occasionally, but mostly just stared back at River.

 

There was a knock at their door about an hour later, a servant coming to clear away the food. "Can you call for the prince?" River asked.  

 

The servant nodded and bowed to the three of them.

 

"And bring in the cradle." The King added.

 

River held the baby close to her chest as it started to "fall asleep." It wasn't long before the servant returned with the King's son trailing behind.

 

"Be gentle." River reminded the King. He huffed, posture stiffening.

 

The boy stared at the floor silently as the servant left.  River glanced between the two, then sighed, deciding it would be best if she started, "Henry, your father and I wanted to introduce you to your brother."

 

He tiptoed over towards them, peering at the bundle. "He's early, isn't he?" He asked.

 

"Yes," River murmured, "He did come a bit early."

 

"What went wrong?" He looked her over as if she should've been injured.

 

"It doesn't really matter now." She shook her head, gesturing for the King to continue.

 

He looked between River and Henry with a frown. "We've named him William."

 

"Like my grandfather, and his grandfather." The boy commented.

 

The King looked away. "It is his now."

 

"Would you like to hold him?" River asked.  

 

"If it's allowed." Henry  nodded.

 

"Of course, it's allowed, he's your brother." River murmured, gently passing the baby to him.

 

"Don't drop him." The King added a bit harshly.

 

"Darling..." River sent him a glare, "He knows not to do that." He rolled his eyes.

 

Henry cradled the teselecta with textbook expertise. "You're very good at that," River commented.

 

"I've been reading about infants for a while." He replied.

 

"Really?" River smiled a bit, "How long have you been doing that?"

 

"Since you said you were going to have a baby." He murmured.

 

"My, I didn't know you had such an interest in the baby."

 

"You didn't ask." He pointed out. "And you've been away."

 

"Well, I was thinking, perhaps it is time for us to spend some time together as a family." She murmured.

 

"Doing what?" He questioned.

 

"Well, I thought you and your father could go hunting one day. We all could spend some time in the library and you could show us some of your favorite books. Whatever you'd like." She smiled.

 

"I don't... really enjoy killing animals for sport." He murmured, hesitant to push his preference.

 

The King huffed again.

 

"That's alright." She glared at her husband, "Darling, do you have a suggestion for something you and your son could do that he would enjoy?"

 

He muttered something under his breath.

 

"What was that, my love? I don't think I heard you." Her tone had a bit of an edge to it, a warning to him to behave.

 

"A carriage ride in the forest." He managed, though obviously, it wasn't what he'd said originally.

 

"That would be lovely." River smiled, "What a lovely idea."

 

"I like that better." Henry agreed.

 

"I'm glad. You two should do that soon."

 

"When you can join us." The King insisted.

 

"No, I want this to be an activity between father and son." She murmured, "It will be fun for the both of you."

 

The King snorted in disagreement. Henry just moved his attention back to his little brother. "He doesn't look much like father."

 

"Well, he came very early. I'm sure his features will develop as he grows older and he'll look more like your father."

 

"Your eyes." He pointed out softly. "And I think he'll have your curly hair."

 

She smiled softly "We shall see."

 

"Father's hair color." He noted, observing the very little hair on William's head.

 

"I think he has your father's jawline." She smiled at the King.

 

The man seemed to puff up a little at this. River beckoned him over and  pulled him down for a deep kiss, murmuring in his ear, "Why don't you give your son a nice compliment."

 

He rolled his eyes, not as distracted as River had probably hoped. "I will when he's deserving of one."

 

"Please?" River pouted, kissing him again, "For me?"

 

"Like what?" He huffed.

 

"Anything you can think of."

 

He made a frustrated noise, though it wasn't quite a growl. "You... know a great deal for someone your age." He managed, though couldn't help but glare sharply at the floor the entire time.

 

"I-um...Th-thank you, father." The boy stammered.

 

The King let out a puff through his nose. "I don't see the point of that." He murmured to River.

 

"The point was to make him feel good. Plus, I found it very attractive." She purred.

 

"...If you wish to be alone, I can see that William gets settled to bed." Henry offered, feeling quite awkward.

 

"Hmmm, how does that sound to you?" River asked the King.

 

"I believe it would be good for him to rest. You must rest, too, wife." He added.

 

She nodded, "Don't worry, I will."

 

"The midwife said bed rest. You must stay in good health, so you must rest now." He insisted.

 

She sighed, "Darling, I'm fine."

 

"You said that when you first felt the labor pains start." He countered.

 

"So? Everything turned out alright.”

 

"You nearly lost your life." He fretted.

 

"But I didn't." She huffed.

 

"I'm eternally grateful for that, but it will mean nothing if you were to get hurt. Please, my love."

 

She sighed, "Fine."

 

"Thank you." He smiled weakly. "...And to you for seeing to your brother." He said towards his son.

 

"You're welcome." The boy murmured, carrying the teselecta out.

 

"Your midwife must stay for a few days to see to your recovery."

 

"We'll talk about this later." 

 

He hesitated but decided she was right and the topic could wait. 

 

"I'm proud of you."

 

"Why?" He frowned.

 

River smiled, "You handled your son so well. However, you did lie to me."

 

"What do you mean?”

 

"You said he had no interest in me or the baby, but apparently, he did. He's been reading about babies ever since we announced my pregnancy." She murmured.

 

"He mentioned nothing to either of us until now." He pointed out, refusing to be called wrong.

 

She raised an eyebrow, "So you're saying that you had no idea he was interested in the baby?"

"If he was really interested why didn't he come speak to you about the pregnancy?"

 

"Because he's afraid of you."

 

"I see no reason for that." He sat on the bed and crossed his arms.

 

River sighed, "You can hardly get a compliment out without growling at him."

 

"So?"

 

"So that's no way to treat a young boy." She murmured.

 

"He's nearly twelve, he ought to have tougher skin by now."

 

"No, he shouldn't!" She was growing angry, "Besides, I'm sure this treatment is nothing new and it is how you have been towards him his entire life. I, however, will not let this continue, especially not with my son."

 

"William will be far from the disappointment Henry is." He scoffed. "Just give it time and he will bring honor to our kingdom."

 

"Henry could bring honor to the kingdom as well if you ever gave him the chance." She hissed.

 

"I did and he failed to be anything more than he is." He didn't like that River was trying to change his ways.

 

There was a soft knock at the door, and Henry entered once more, "I-I wanted to tell you that..." He trailed off, too nervous to continue.  

 

"Well, spit it out." The King pushed.

 

"Philip, stop it." River snapped.

 

He glared back, falling silent.

 

"What is it you were saying, dear?" River's tone softened as she turned her attention back to Henry.

 

He shifted his feet and stared down at them, speaking in a mouse-like voice. "William's asleep now. The midwife has been put to watch him."

 

River nodded, "Thank you for telling us. I was thinking, perhaps tomorrow you could come in here and help me read him a story. I'll let you pick out whichever one is your favorite."

 

He nodded, a smile ghosting over his lips as he looked up at her finally.

 

"Alright. Well, then I'll see you tomorrow. Go and get some rest."

 

He nodded again and bowed slightly before scurrying off.

 

"Perhaps you should sleep in another room tonight." River glanced at the King.

 

"So you can rest better?" He frowned.

 

"If that's what you want to think, then fine." She huffed.

 

"What is your real reason?" He insisted.

 

"I'm disappointed in you."

 

"You just said you were proud. You're the one who's babying him." He recrossed his arms.

 

"I'm not babying him! I'm treating him like an eleven-year-old boy should be treated! If you ignore him and treat him the way you have then, of course, he'll never succeed. He'll be too afraid to even try. Can't you see that he just wants to connect with you."

 

"Don't tell me how to treat my son! His purpose is to become prepared to run this kingdom and clearly, he isn't going to. We have another heir, so there is no point in tending to a lost cause!"

 

River stiffened, "Get out."

 

"Fine then." He growled back, stalking out and shutting the door louder than necessary.

 

River waited about an hour before calling for Clara. She was led in by another servant and quickly left alone with her. "Do you want me to take you home now?" River asked softly, getting out of the bed.

 

"If it's not too suspicious." Clara nodded.

 

River nodded, locking the bedroom door just in case, and bringing her to the TARDIS, setting the coordinates. Clara looked like she wanted to say a number of things, but kept silent through the flight.

 

When they landed, she finally felt brave enough to ask: "Do you... want me to tell the Doctor anything?"

 

River closed her eyes, sighing, "No, thank you."

 

"Not that you might be gone for a bit?" She dared to push a little.

 

"Clara." River shook her head, "I said no."

 

She nodded, going to leave, but pausing in the doorway. "River?... Um, good luck. With everything."

 

"Thank you for your help." She nodded slowly.


"Anytime." She bid River goodbye and left the TARDIS.

Chapter Text

Ch 38

 

In total, River was gone for three weeks. Of course, she went and visited the girls and Arthur at night, taking them out on adventures, and then dropping them back off at home. She missed the twin’s birthday party but made it up to them soon after.

 

She made no effort to see the Doctor and gave the girls no messages to give to him. During the last week, she didn’t visit at all.

 

During the day, she a great deal of time with Henry, trying to improve his confidence and relationship with the King. As Henry began to open up more and more, River began to delay her departure.

 

The King's relationship with River grew more binary through the days. They were either arguing over how to treat Henry or fawning over William. Arguing generally ended in them spending time apart and fawning tended to involve a lot of snogging.

 

The Teselecta grew steadily as is was programmed, easily fooling all who were around him.

 

The girls often questioned River as to why she was gone all day, and at least twice a week brought cards and flowers from the Doctor which River ignored.

 

During her last few days in the kingdom, River ensured she was on good terms with the King, nearly wearing down her hallucinogenic lipstick in the process. She also spent some alone time with Henry, working especially hard to make sure he would be alright when she left.

 

Though River's efforts might have only been a dent in the King's direction, to Henry she was practically a savior. He was sharing almost daily with his father about his readings, even if the man only gave a huff of acknowledgment in return. (The King had taken to ignoring the boy instead of making rude comments to his face.)

 

River was exceedingly proud of the progress she made with Henry, though it was upsetting that she would have to leave him as he grew more and more attached to her.

 

The night before she resolved to go, she sat Henry down for a final talk, assuring him that no matter what his father thought, he was brilliant and would make an excellent ruler one day. Henry confessed that he didn't think he would become heir to the throne.

 

"Father doesn't agree with you, that's partly why he had another son."

 

"Well, I want you to prove him wrong. Show him that you are perfectly capable of being King. I promise everything will work out in the end. I believe in you."

 

"He does not. He thinks there are specific qualities to a king that I do not have." He looked at the floor.

 

This mission has been so unlike the ones she used to go on. Normally, she wouldn't get involved in issues like this, or she would have just sided with the King on the matter, but now that River had children of her own, she pitied the boy that had been left to fend for himself all his life.

 

She gently pulled him into her arms, as she would do to comfort her own children, "I hope his ignorance will not crush your spirit. I will try to talk to him once more before my trip, but then you must do the rest. Try to show him how brilliant you are, and perhaps he'll change his mind. It won't happen overnight, it'll take time, but you have to trust that it will happen."

 

He sighed, leaning to her embrace. "Why must you go?"

 

"I have to go and visit my daughters, remember?" She murmured.

 

"Why can't they come here? I want to meet them."

 

"Well, they're still very young, and I don't want them traveling alone, but I promise that I'll take you with me another time."

 

He cheered up at that. "Do you have the book I gave you? You have to read it to them."

 

"Yes, of course, I'll read it to them. I'm sure they'll love it." She smiled.

 

"They're going to meet William for the first time. Do you suppose they'll like him?"

 

River's breath caught at the thought of the girls actually getting to meet their lost brother, the image sending an ache through her heart, "I think they'll love him." She whispered.

 

Henry grinned. "I believe your words have truth in meaning and I am grateful for them. I will miss you while you're gone."

 

"I will miss you too." She smiled, "Now, I must go speak with your father about the matter, I'll come say goodbye once more in the morning before I go."

 

"Goodnight." He murmured.

 

River spent the rest of the night with the King, trying to convince him to give his son a chance between rounds of "intercourse." The King was rather loopy from it all but he kept saying something along the lines of 'needs to prove knowledge's worth'.

 

"What if I promised you another heir?" She murmured, nuzzling his collar as they lay in the sheets, gearing up for another round, "When I return, we'll have another baby if you give Henry a chance while I'm gone."

 

The King seemed hesitant but intrigued by the offer. "What do you propose by giving him a chance?"

 

"You don't ever actually listen to him. He has truly brilliant ideas. He's only eleven and he already has plans on how to make the Kingdom more money through trade. Most eleven-year-olds, even if they do love to read, wouldn't be able to come up with plans like that. So, if you take the time to sit down and speak with him, and genuinely listen, then I'll have another one of your heirs."

 

"Can it not wait until your return?" He hoped.

 

"No, it must happen while I'm away."

 

"Why?" He insisted.

 

"Because that way, when I get back, we can start trying right away." She purred, kissing his jaw.

 

He hummed, "Very well, I will make the effort, but that does not mean I will take enjoyment from it."

 

She smiled, quite pleased with herself, "I didn't realize you were that eager to have another child."

 

"We will produce many, many heirs. It is the Gods' word for us to spread our bloodline very far. But we must be more careful next time so the child is not untimely."

 

"Yes, but for now, we can be as rough as we'd like. Now, shall we go again or is my poor king too tired for another round." She teased.

 

"Again, my dear queen." He grinned.

 

The next morning, River said goodbye to Henry and the King, promising to return soon. With the crown on her head, she headed off with the Teselecta, into the woods where she had positioned the TARDIS.

 

She set the coordinates for a few weeks later when she was meant to be returning. She tossed a few of her dresses onto the path and then set a fire about a mile down the road as the thieves of the woods usually did. When the townspeople saw the smoke, they would surely come running.

 

The fire grew very quickly, though that was probably due to the use of gasoline. It was mere minutes before the sound of horsemen approached.

 

River cloaked the TARDIS, hiding in the doorway of the ship.

 

None of the horsemen were people River would recognize, likely just the first guards the King could find. They examined the fire and the clothes. "Go after the traitors. Find them and kill them. We shall report back to the King: His wife and son have been killed.”

 

River next went to the court to make sure the King would be properly informed, though this time she just watched from the scanner.

 

He was throwing a proper fit, overturning chairs and doing a fair about of intimidating yelling. "You will search the entire first inch by inch! I will have revenge!" The guard rushed off to do as he'd said, other servant running around and trying to fix the room he was wreaking. "Take me to the carriage, I need to see it!"

 

River watched for a few moments, not at all surprised by his reaction.

 

"Sir, there is no more carriage. It was burnt to ash." Another guard reported.

 

"You will take me to it!" He roared. The guard nodded, leading the King out to the forest so Henry was the only one left in the throne room.

 

The boy had skipped anger, not really having much in him to begin with. He had been crying silently but left alone he allowed himself to become louder, sinking in his chair.

 

River's heart broke for the boy, and she wanted to run out and comfort him. She had hoped that they hadn't been close enough for him to be terribly upset, but it seemed that she was wrong.

 

He sat there and sobbed.

 

Terra kicked in confusion as to why River was sad.

 

River grabbed a cloak from the closet, pulling it on. She couldn't let the boy just sit there and suffer.

 

Why sad? Terra insisted.

 

Because I made someone else sad, but I didn't mean to.

 

Who? Big brother?  

 

No, someone else. She stood at the door of the TARDIS, not knowing if she should risk going out.

 

Who? Terra asked again.

 

River ignored the question, slipping out of the TARDIS, the cloak masking her face. Henry didn't see her, face buried in his hands. She gently wrapped her arms around him when she was close enough, rubbing his back.

 

He nearly jumped, clumsily scrambling back. "Who are you? H-How did you get in here?"

 

"Shhh, it's alright. I just need you to be quiet, okay?" River pulled the hood back so he could see her face, "Please, don't shout."

 

"H-how are you alive?" It came out more as a whimper.

 

"I can't explain it, and I can't come back either." She murmured, brushing her fingers along his cheeks to rid them of tears, "I just want you to know, everything will be alright."

 

"You're a ghost aren't you?" He sucked in a shaky breath, hand over hers.

 

She swallowed, then nodded, "...Yes, I am." She murmured.

 

"Is William dead too?" He sniffed.

 

She nodded, keeping her hand on his cheek, "Yes, I'm afraid so."

 

"Why?" He managed.

 

"We were attacked." She murmured, "But that's not why I'm here. I wanted to come back and tell you that you are so brave and so good. Has your father been making an effort to listen?"

 

"He sat with me a few times and we talked about plans for the kingdom." He wiped his nose on his sleeve. "He liked my ideas."

 

"See?" She smiled, "Didn't I tell you he would? Now, I don't know if my...death is going to make it easier or harder to talk with him, but I want you to keep trying. Now that he's seen how brilliant you are, it'll only get easier." She encouraged.

 

"No, it won't. He's furious, lost over your death. He will be gone in spirit."

 

"Then bring him back." River whispered, "You can do it, I know you can. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day, everything will be better. It'll be alright, I promise."

 

"Will you go to him?" He asked.

 

"Do you want me to?" It hadn't been in her original plan, but if it would help the boy then she would do it.

 

"I don' think it will do him much good..." He hesitated, remembering the temper of his father.

 

She nodded slowly, "I must go now. Be brave, don't let your father knock you down."

 

He squeezed her hand harder, not wanting her to go. "Please, take care of my brother on the other side."

 

"You know I will." She gave him a small smile, finally letting go of his hand, "You're going to make a wonderful king one day."

 

"P-please don't leave us." He begged.

 

"I can't stay." She shook her head, "But you don't need me anymore. You'll be just fine, I know it."

 

"I do need you. I can't be alone again."

 

River sighed, "You're not alone. You'll have your Father this time. And I'll come back to see you."

 

His eyes widened. "When?"

 

"I don't know." She shook her head, "But I promise that I will."

 

He nodded sadly. "Will you bring my brother, too?"

 

She nodded, "Of course."

 

"Thank you, mother." He whispered.

 

She swallowed, "I'll see you soon." She pulled the hood back over her head, and went back to the TARDIS, taking off and finally heading home.

 

It was night when she landed, the flat dark and quiet aside from Toby's snores coming from the couch. River stepped out of the TARDIS, taking in the room. She almost immediately wanted to leave again but didn't.

 

Toby twitched in his sleep. In front of him, on the coffee table, there were cards strewn out. The handwriting wasn't the neat scrawl of the Doctor like it usually was, but messy marks made by the girls.

 

River sighed, walking over to the cards and picking them up. There were doodles of the family on them, some including the pets, but each one said 'Happy Mother's Day', though not always spelled right. River was unsure if she had missed Mother's Day or if the next day was Mother's Day.

 

She sat down on the couch, head in her hands. Toby woke at the movement, sleepily shifting so his head was on her leg. River pat his head, sighing. He made a questioning noise up at her, tail wagging. River ignored him, getting up and going to sleep in the TARDIS.


He whimpered, popping up and trotting after her. He curled up in bed with her, very insistent. She quickly fell asleep, exhausted.

Chapter Text

Ch 39

 

In the morning, River was woken by dog slobber, Toby happily licking her face. "Ugh, Toby!" She hissed, pushing him out of bed. He plopped to the floor, looked expectantly up at her. She slowly stood, going to leave to TARDIS. Toby followed her, acting a lot like Tiber.

 

The dog got ahead and River followed him out the doors. He hurried to the kitchen where he knew someone would be up to feed him. She rubbed her sore back, following him at a much slower pace, wanting to sit and have a glass of water.

 

The cats were in the kitchen when she entered, hovering around a pair of hands opening a can of food for them. River paused in the doorway as her eyes fell on the owner of the hands.

 

The man didn’t notice her, as his back was to her. It wasn’t until he straightened up and got the dog food from the cupboard did the Doctor turn around and still his movements, staring. As soon as their eyes met, River averted her gaze, looking everywhere but at him.

 

"How long?" He asked quietly, forcing himself to him and finish the task of feeding the dog.

 

"Three weeks."

 

"A month." He gave an answer too, though she hadn't asked.

 

She returned to silence, going to get a glass of water.

 

"The kettle's on." He whispered. "Do you want some tea?"

 

"No."

 

He nodded and sighed silently. "You're not back because of me, are you?"

 

"Why would I be back because of you?" She asked, getting a glass out of the cabinet.

 

"Because you might've been ready to speak to me." He sounded hurt. "You might've been ready to hear an apology. Because I'm your husband and I haven't so much as laid eyes on you in a month ."

 

She sighed, massaging her temple, "Alright, let's hear it then. Let's hear the apology."

 

He blinked at her, not realizing she actually wanted to listen to him. "I've... I've had a million different versions of this conversation in my head. All of them are rubbish so I'm not going to use any of them, but I'll start with obvious: I'm sorry."

 

He looked at the cats, eyes scanning around for something to focus on before deciding it wasn't worth hiding from her gaze. "I'm sorry for what I said, for how I made you feel. I'm sorry that that topic keeps coming up, and I'm sorry it drove you away. I... I was really confused at the time and hurt and I lashed out. I made assumptions that cost me you."

 

She watched him, her face not changing from its cold expression, "Feel better?"

 

"Not really." He admitted. "That was kind of rubbish apology as far as apologies go..."

 

She poured herself a glass of water, sitting down at the table, not looking at him.

 

"Though, I don't think you wanted to hear it either." He added.

 

"What day is it?" She asked, not looking at him.

 

"18th of May." He murmured.

 

"Not the date, the day." She muttered.

 

"Saturday." He tried again. She nodded slowly. He paused for a moment of thought. "If you're asking about Mother's Day, that was last Wednesday."

 

"I wasn't." She snapped, though her expression fell and she closed her eyes.

 

"Thought you'd want to know anyways." He said, hardly audible. River sighed, burying her head in her hands. "River..." He finally sat across from her. She didn't answer him and didn't look up. "We have something planned for you still... If you want."

 

"Oh, seriously? Is that why you think I'm upset?" She snapped at him again.

 

"No, it was just an effort to make you feel better." He muttered, keeping his tone calm.

 

She stared at him for a minute, then stood, leaving the kitchen and going back to the TARDIS. "I shouldn't have come back."

 

He jumped to follow, Tiber coming along too. "River, you're due in barely a month, please don't disappear again."

 

She ignored him, going back inside the ship and locking the door.

 

He knocked, trying not to sound frantic. "Please, River!"

 

She tried to set the coordinates, but she quickly saw that she had nowhere to go. Her get away for the past seven months had been all used up. She pulled some levers, slamming down on one of the buttons, just needing to get away.

 

The TARDIS groaned in protest, not moving since the Doctor was clinging to the outside. "If you want an out, just say so!"

 

"Let go!" She shouted, hitting the button again.

 

The ship made the same noise, but this time started dematerializing. River sunk to the floor, her forehead pressed against the console. The TARDIS landed, a small jolt around the console.

 

What's wrong?  

 

River didn't answer, staying in the same, silent position for hours.

 

Terra tumbled restlessly, trying to ease her boredom. She kicked and moved and practiced the words she knew, trying to get a response from her mother.

 

River wanted to just disappear. She refused to speak. She hardly moved. The hours stretched, and she began to lose track of time. The TARDIS hummed to her, trying to sooth her the only was she could.

 

She eventually fell asleep in the console room in the same spot where she had been sitting for hours.

 

The Doctor hadn't let go of the TARDIS when it took off. Though the ship had extended her shields for him, he had still passed out, when they landed, staying knocked out for a good two or three hours.

 

He didn't try to confront River again when he woke, figuring he would upset her more, instead taking in his surroundings. When he figured out where he was, he sat, leaning against the side of the box and waiting.

 

River stayed asleep for a few hours, eventually waking up and getting up to go look outside. They'd landed on on a small piece of land surrounded by water, identical islands scattered around this one. Each was covered in red flowers and four moons hung in the early morning light.

 

She stood in the doorway, not noticing the Doctor at first. He wondered if he should say something, eventually deciding to. "Do you recognize it?"  

 

She stiffened at the sound of his voice, "What the hell are you doing here?"

 

"I didn't let go." He murmured, eyes fixed on the island closest to them.

 

"And you left our children alone!" She slammed the door, going back to the console.

 

He stood and followed her in. "We're in a time machine, we can be gone for five seconds."

 

"Well, the whole point in my leaving was to get away from you."

 

He flinched, "I just want you to talk to me. Why is that so much to ask?"

 

"Because I don't want to talk! I want to be away from you!" She turned on him, "Why can't you understand that?"

 

"Could you?" He forced out a little louder.

 

"Yes!"  

 

"How? How could you possibly justify it if I wanted to be away from you without contact for that long?" His attempt at calm was failing him. He wasn't exactly shouting but is was clear that he was upset. "How could you think that it would be okay to just up and leave my children and the woman that I love?"  

 

"Get away from me!" She shouted at him, "I don't want to see you anymore! All you've ever done is push and push and push me to points and places where I'm not comfortable! How could you say you love me when you do that? How could you say you love me when you're constantly making me feel as though I'm not good enough for you? You make me feel as though I'm always doing something wrong!"  

 

He felt like the wind got knocked out of him, any comment about her hiding the damage until she was already broken caught in his throat. "Ask for an out then."

 

She stayed silent for a minute, "What’s...?"  

 

"What's what? " He bit out, staring intently at a leaver.

 

"What's my out." She murmured.

 

"It's out of this marriage. I'm not going to stay in limbo and I'm not waiting around with false hope when you've already made up your mind about how you feel about me and made assumptions about how I feel about you. You want an out, so ask for one." He gripped the console.

 

His words broke her heart and made her feel woozy. It wasn't at all what she wanted, but to her, it didn't sound like he was terribly opposed to it, "Can you...drop me off with Vastra?"

 

He took a shaky breath, looking utterly drained at he reached for the leavers.

 

"So is this it?" She whispered.

 

"This is what you want." He managed, fighting against his own voice. "This is the only thing I can give you to make you happy."

 

She stared at him, disbelief across her face, "Is that what you really think?" She shook her head, her whole body trembling as she walked towards the doors, "If that's honestly what you think..." She trailed off, unable to find the words to express how hurt she was.

 

"Please, tell me I'm wrong then." He looked over at her.

 

"If you really think that this is the only thing you can do to make me happy..." She shook her head, "Then you're not wrong at all." She whispered, finally stepping out of the TARDIS.

 

The Doctor collapsed onto the jump seat, head in his hands as the TARDIS levers moved on their own.  

 

River fell into the closest chair, crying quietly in her hands when she heard the TARDIS disappearing behind her. Vastra was there in moments by her friend's side, arms wrapped unquestioningly around her. River buried her face in her friend's shoulder, sobbing.

 

"My dear, what happened?" Vastra rubbed River's back.

 

She tried to explain, but she couldn't, unable to control her tears long enough to speak a coherent sentence.

 

Jenny came in to see what all the noise was about, quickly exiting and shooing Strax into another room.  

 

"Why don't you sit somewhere more comfortable, Jenny will make some tea." Vastra offered warmly. River hardly responded, a sobbing mess against the woman. Vastra sighed sympathetically and urged her into standing, bringing her to a cushioned couch while keeping her in her arms.

 

River finally began to calm enough to speak, recounting what had happened to her friend. Vastra listened carefully, Jenny brought in tea somewhere along the way  River paused several times to keep herself calm.

 

Vastra looked like she had a number of comments by the end, though said none of them, giving River another hug. "I'm so sorry." River barely acknowledged the hug or the words, as stiff and still as a stone.

 

Jenny came in to offer another round of tea. River declined hers, having hardly touched the first cup. Vastra accepted hers.

 

"I do not believe this... separation will be permanent." She said after a minute.

 

River glanced at her, "Why?"  

 

"It's difficult to explain." She put down her tea. "But it's obvious neither of you wants this."

 

"Sometimes it's less about wanting it and more about needing it."

 

"What you both need is each other regardless of how inconvenient that need is."

 

She shook her head, "So you're saying that it's good for me to be with a man who thinks that the only way he can make me happy is by giving up?"

 

"No, that's not what I'm saying at all." Vastra sighed. "Did he know at all? That this was how you felt, was this the first time you've told him this?"

 

"This isn't the first time we've had this argument." River whispered, "We've fought about this before, but it's never been this bad." She buried her head in her hands.

 

She put her hand on River's shoulder. "I believe you both need time to cool down."

 

"You don't understand." River whispered, "It's not going to get better this time. It can't always get better."

 

"And if it were? If he came back and tried to fix it, if he came back and tried to talk... What would you do then?"

 

"If he came back to talk, I would listen, but I can't say that anything would change or get better." She sighed, "I can't live the rest of my life listening to him tell me he loves me, and then making me feel like I'm the worst person in the universe."

 

"Perhaps it would be beneficial for you to speak back. Change won't happen unless it's elicited..." Vastra stopped and shook her head, not wanting to push so soon. "You are welcome to stay as long as you need."

 

"Just because I talk back, doesn't mean things will change." She sighed "Besides, I don't know if he'll ever come back."

 

"I can't say I agree. Would you like help setting up your room?"

 

"No, thank you." River whispered, "I can do it." She slowly stood, heading up the stairs.

 

Vastra sighed worriedly after her, heavily debating on calling the Doctor to get his perspective. She stood, going to the phone and calling the TARDIS.

 

The phone nearly used up all its rings before someone picked up. "...Hello?"

 

"Doctor." Vastra murmured, "Are you alright?"

 

He thought about lying but, didn't have the energy. "No."

 

"Can you tell me what happened?" She asked gently.

 

"Hasn't River told you?"

 

"Yes, but I want to hear it from you now."

 

He sighed hollowly. "River left me. We were having that stupid fight again and she left for a month and she left again. I tried to talk to her and immediately she ran and she said she never wanted to see me again and... well, I offered her an out." He admitted. "I don't know if I was expecting her to take it but she did."

 

"Did you really think the out was the only thing you could do to make her happy?"

 

"I... no. I couldn't- I can't think straight. I was trying not to say anything, I was trying to be simple because I didn't think she needed me crowding her, but-" He pinched the bridge of his nose. "I really just don't know what to do. She thinks I don't respect her and I just... I don't know."

 

Vastra sighed, "I think you two need to talk, face to face, and clear everything up."

 

"She doesn't want to see me. She said that she doesn't." He reminded.

 

"She was upset. You know how she says things when she's upset."

 

He nodded slowly, though Vastra couldn't see. "I also know she likes space when she's upset."

 

"How about you come by in a few days, that way she has time to cool off and you have time to figure out what to say to her."

 

"Alright." He breathed. "Do you... never mind. Just, take care of her please."

 

"Of course." Vastra murmured.

 

"Thank you. And if she'll hear it, tell her I'm sorry."

 

"I think it would be best if I saved that for you to tell her." Vastra murmured.

 

"I understand. ...Thank you."

 

"Of course." She murmured, hanging up the phone.

Chapter Text

Ch 40

 

For the next three days, River hardly left her room. She refused to eat and spent most of the days sleeping. Vastra did her best to urge her to eat or come to other rooms of the house to get a little movement in her. Most of her efforts were useless. Vastra exchanged plates of old food for new ones. The curtains remained drawn, and River never really seemed to realize that her friend was even in the room, lost in her own thoughts.

 

Today was no different, though this time, Vastra sighed purposely loud enough for River to hear. "River, you really need to eat something."

 

"Not hungry." River murmured.

 

"That can't be true you've hardly eaten in days." She urged.

 

"Vastra, please. I'm fine. I'll eat when I'm hungry."

 

"There's fresh food for you here." She put a plate down were River would find.

 

"Thank you." She murmured quietly. Vastra offered a weak smile, going down stairs.

 

River ignored the food but finally got up out of bed, getting dressed for the first time in days.

 

Terra kicked at River's ribs, as she had been for a while in her attempts to be motivating. River winced, pressing her hand to her side as she moved slowly around the room, struggling to fit herself into the Victorian styled gown.

 

Terra prodded back against were the dress pressing. No .

 

Stop . River sighed, giving the dress another tug.

 

Uncomfortable. She gave a mental frown.

 

This is all we have. She sat down on the edge of the bed once the dress was finally on, contemplating if she should even bother going downstairs or if she should just get back in bed.

 

Terra wiggled and adjusted grumpily. Papa.

 

River could immediately feel the tears threatening to fill her eyes, Please, don't Terra.

 

The girl hadn't felt his hand in a very long time and had recently started complaining about its absence. Sisters?

 

River just wanted the little voice in her head to stop. She needed it to stop. She buried her head in her hands, crying quietly. Her whole world, everything she had known for years was crumbling at her feet and she didn't know how, or if it could ever be fixed and all Terra was doing was making it worse.

 

Terra continued asking for her family, partially drowning out the sound of the TARDIS materializing.

 

River was laying on the bed, looking as if she was about to start tearing clumps of her hair out, crying. There were murmuring downstairs and footsteps coming up before a knock on the door. River barely heard the knocks, Terra's complaints once again drowning out the sound.

 

"River?" It wasn't Vastra's voice. "River, i-it's me." The sound only made her more upset. "Can I come in? I'd like to talk..."

 

She sighed, trying to collect herself. "Fine, come in."

 

The Doctor opened the door quietly, closing it behind him. "Vastra said I might find you here."

 

She kept her back to him, looking down at her now ring-less fingers. "Here I am."

 

He stood there for a good minute watching her and taking in the darkened room. She looked paler and he also noted the untouched plate of food on the dresser. He shifted his feet before somewhat blurting out, "River I don't want you to take the out."

 

She sighed, the words not meaning much to her, "If that's what you came here to talk about, then I'm sorry, but I've already made up my mind."

 

"I don't want you to have done because you think I wanted you to." He watched her shoulders rise and fall.

 

"It's more than that now."  

 

"What changed?" He asked.

 

"I had time to think." She whispered.

 

"...I did too. That's why I'm here." He wasn't trying to beg on his knees for her back, but he wasn't above it. "I need you to know that what I said was stupid and in the spur of a moment where I was hurt. I do respect you, even if it doesn't come across that way all the time. I feel awful that I ever made you feel like you were anything less than you are."

 

"How is this time going to be any different from the other times we've had this argument? Things have never changed." She swallowed, not wanting to cry anymore, "I think, maybe we were a better team when we were apart."

 

"You know that can't be true. We can make this time count, we can make the change because there's no point in letting our mistakes bury us when we can learn instead."

 

She shook her head, "I don't know if I can trust that."

 

"Is this any better? Hiding in this room, not eating... you look miserable. And yes, I know what miserable feels like, it hasn't left me for weeks." He shook his head, refusing to stray from this, this wasn't about him. "River, a month ago I was your family. I'm not going to give up so easily, I was an idiot for considering it."

 

"Just because I love you doesn't mean we should be together." She took a deep breath, her voice breaking on the last word, "I can't live with you anymore." She whispered, "I can't constantly feel as if I'm chasing after a dream that I'll never be good enough for."

 

"Ground me then. Tell me to shut up and slow down and listen. Tell me to change, because right now I'm at your will to bend. I can't read minds and I can't know what I can do to make you understand that love is all the reason there needs to be for us to be together. I can think of a million more than that.

 

I'm not trying to be up on a pedestal. I'm not trying to be the Timelord victorious, I'm just a man with a box and kids and chasing after the only other person in the universe who could possibly understand me. I'm sorry that I made you feel like you weren't good enough, I feel exactly the opposite. I never meant to distance you, I'm really trying hard to not, but I need you to meet me halfway."

 

"Where is halfway?" She couldn't look at him, it hurt too much.

 

"Talk to me like I'm not already gone. Telling me what I can do to start making amends, to start changing for you."

 

"I don't want you to change who you are for me. That's not what a proper marriage is." She shook her head.

 

"Neither is making you feel like crap. I want to be better for you, River. I can't afford to make any more mistakes." His expression was pleading.

 

She swallowed, staring at him. She didn't want to say no, but she also couldn't bring herself to say yes. His eyes trailed down to the floor.

 

"Look. I want to be there for you. We have kids together, we're about to have another... I can't- I can't do this alone and I don't want you to have to be on your own for this when you don't have to be. I'm sorry that loving you made you feel horrible. I don't know when it started, but I feel horrible.  I'm sorry I couldn't love you the way you needed but that doesn't mean I don't respect you. It doesn't mean I don't still love you with all that I have, and I want to learn to do it better. I just can't figure it out if you don't help me. I'll... be downstairs."

 

She laughed bitterly, "You're already doing it again."

 

He stopped. "Tell me what I did."

 

She shook her head, trying to hide how crushed she was, "You said, 'I'm sorry that loving you made you feel horrible.' Do you know how I feel when you say things like that? You make me feel like I'm not allowed to be upset. You make me feel like I'm the worst person in the world. The innocent Doctor and his wicked witch of a wife." She paused, "And to think I almost said yes. It hasn't been five minutes and it's already started again."  

 

"I-I didn't mean it like that. You are allowed to be upset, you have every right to be furious. Please, that's not what I meant by that..." He said in a panic.

 

"Then what did you mean?" She looked away from him, "If that's not what you meant then why did you say it?"

 

"I-It was meant that I'm rubbish, it wasn't a blow at you, It was to point out my incompetence at all this." His voice shook.

 

She shook her head, "That's not what you said. I think… I think this conversation is over now."  

 

"River please, I didn't- don't, I-I can't..." He held his breath to stop himself from tripping over any more words.

 

She hadn't realized that she had started crying again, "I'm sorry, Doctor. I can't do it anymore."

 

His fists clenched by his sides. "There's no better reason to be together than love." He choked out. "There's no better reason to fix this than love." He looked away and turned to the door.

 

River sunk to the floor, crying into her hands, unable to hold it anymore.

 

The Doctor only made it halfway down the stairs before sitting and breaking down himself. He hit himself a few times in the head, muttering 'idiot' as his vision blurred with tears.

 

Vastra climbed the stairs slowly, sitting beside him, "Doctor? What happened?"

 

"I screwed it up again." He croaked.

 

Vastra sighed, "Do you want me to talk with her?"

 

"I don't see what good you can do. My mistake seems irreversible."

 

She sighed, "I'm sorry, Doctor, I don't have all the answers."

 

"I know, I know." He said into his hands. "I just... I can't lose her, Vastra."

 

She nodded, "I know."

 

There was a minute of silence before he stood shakily, "I'll be downstairs."

 

"You're not going to try again?" She asked.

 

"I will. Just not right now." He needed to collect himself, or at least let himself break down where Vastra didn't have to see. And River needed some more space at that.

 

Vastra nodded, "Take your time." She waited on the stairs for a short while, listening to the happenings downstairs.

 

She could hear Jenny offer tea and Strax offer to blow up something, both of which the Doctor declined. She stood eventually, and went off to River's room, knocking softly.

 

"Yes?" It took River about a minute to answer, her voice sounding faint.

 

"It's Vastra. May I come in?"

 

"Yes." She murmured, though she didn't stand from her place on the floor.

 

The door clicked open and Vastra spotted her, moving to sit in front of her. "What happened?"

 

River sighed, having stopped crying by now, "I don't think we're going to...stay married."

 

"Now how can that be true?" She protested.

 

“He's never going to stop. I'm always going to feel the way I feel when I'm with him."

 

"Why didn't you before, then?" Vastra questioned.

 

"What do you mean?" She asked.

 

"You've been married to this man for decades untold and have shared great and lasting happiness with him. My perspective is limited, of course, but he does not seem to be acting very differently and your recent troubles... well, I can't help but think there must be an alternate and new problem that has been with you only within the past months that is perhaps causing the tension."

 

River swallowed, already knowing what the new problem was, Terra. "Perhaps I've finally had some clarity."

 

"There are many names I would give this, but clarity is not one of them."

 

River tensed, "Then what would you call it since you seem to know what's going on in my head so well."

 

Vastra backed down. "My apologies, River. I don't mean to pose as though I do." She sighed. "It's only that it doesn't take much to see that you are angry and scared. I wish to help the both of you." She added quietly.

 

"Even if I went back to him, I don't know how we would ever be able to get back to the way we used to be after this." She whispered.

 

"With a little understanding and more communication." She suggested. "But I believe the external problem would be the first problem to deal with."

 

River buried her head in her hands, feeling like no one was understanding, "Fine. Fine, you all win. I'll go back and pretend like nothing's ever happened. I'll live the rest of my life with this man who I'll never be able to look at the same way again!"

 

“River that’s not what I-” The Timelady was already out of the room, going to sit in the TARDIS.

 

The ship took off on its own accord, leaving Vastra and the Doctor behind. "Hey!" River ran to the console, trying to stop the machine from going, "What are you doing?!" The TARDIS whirred mechanically, not listening to her directions. "Stop it!" River shouted at the machine, hitting the console in frustration.

 

The TARDIS stopped in a sudden lurch, landed. River glanced towards the doors, slowly walking towards them and opening them.

 

She was back at the place she was a few days ago with the small islands of red flowers. It was darker, this time, orange light reflecting on the water alongside the blue from the light on the TARDIS and the multiple moons.

 

"Why did you bring me here?" River whispered.

 

Alone. It was Terra who responded.

 

I didn't say I wanted to be alone. River growled, going back to the console, and hitting the coordinates to go back to Vastra.

 

The TARDIS didn't budge.

 

Bigger Mummy says I'm alone.

 

Well, I don't know what she means by that. She was only growing more irritated when the TARDIS didn't listen to her.

 

The controls locked themselves.

 

Big Mummy says I can't hear.

 

Well, I don't know why she's telling you that!

 

She not tell you to understand. She tell me to show sound. Two sounds.

 

River ignored the words, this time, not understanding what her daughter was trying to say. She slammed on the controls, tugging on the levers.

 

The TARDIS groaned angrily in response.

 

Mummy, I'm scared!  

 

I don't know what you want me to do! I can't fix you! I can't fix anything! Just stop talking to me!

 

I'm not broken! I'm not little brother! I'm not sisters or big brother or Papa! She kicked hard.

 

River screamed in frustration, hitting the controls once more.

 

The button she slammed sparked. "Voice interface enabled." River growled, hitting the button again to turn it off. The hologram deactivated and everything was still.

 

She closed her eyes, leaning against the console and trying to pilot the ship once more. A few select controls moved for her like un-oiled metal. "Why won't you work?!" River hissed, the few controls that did move weren't the ones she needed to get home.

 

Her question was met with silence.

 

"Why are these the only controls you've made work? What's so special about these?" She sighed, pressing a few of the lit buttons.

 

The TARDIS started flying, this ride very smooth and quiet like a tiptoe. River sighed, sitting down in the jump seat, knowing that wherever they were going, it wasn't where she wanted to go.

Chapter Text

 

Ch 41

 

The ship made a thud to indicate the flight was over. River stood, going to the doors to see what the TARDIS wanted this time.

 

She was in a bedroom, not one she'd been in before, though. She didn't know where or when she was, slowly stepping out of the doorframe.

 

"Who are you?" The voice came from her left and somewhere lower than her waist. "Are you a fairy godmother?" River froze, looking down to where the voice had come from. There was a little girl looking up at her, features unfamiliar. "You don't look like a fairy godmother."

 

River looked at her, having no idea who she was. She turned to go back into the TARDIS, not bothering to answer her.

 

The girl ran forwards grabbing hold of the bottom of River’s dress. "Hey! You can't go!"

 

"I can too go!" River tried to pry her dress out of the girl's hands, 'Let go of me."

 

She stubbornly clung. "But you look like grandma's picture! You have to be a ghost or a fairy or something because you died."

 

River stopped, staring at her, "I have to go." She tried harder to get away.

 

"You're a ghost. If you were busy in heaven then why did you come down? Grandma, please?" The girl pouted.

 

River managed to pull her dress away, going inside the TARDIS and locking the door. "What the hell are you doing? You know you can't do things like that!" She growled at the machine.

 

"Grandma!" The girl banged on the door.

 

The TARDIS made a noise of disagreement.

 

"Please, grandma? You have to tell me about uncle William! Daddy doesn't have any paintings of him."

 

River sunk down to the floor, not wanting to fight anymore. She was so emotionally exhausted, she just wanted it all to be over.

 

"I'm getting him. No leaving, okay?"

 

"Please, stop," River whispered to the TARDIS.

 

The TARDIS was silent and soon the knocking resumed, though it was softer.

 

"River?"

 

This was Henry's voice, though much older.

 

River turned in surprise. Up until now, she thought the little girl had been Arthur's, she hadn't realized that it wasn't actually her granddaughter at all. She slowly opened the door, looking out at him.

 

Henry, now taller than River, looked back at her with a smile and the little girl on his hip.

 

"See, I told you, Daddy."

 

River opened the door a bit further, looking up at the man who, in her timeline, had only been a boy a few days before.

 

"I'm sorry if River alarmed you. I know you haven't met her yet." He said to the woman.

 

"You named her River?" River whispered, looking back at the little girl.

 

"River Willa Bartholomew." He confirmed.

 

"She's lovely." River gave him a small, half-hearted smile.

 

"I've told her lot about you, I just didn't think you'd ever visit her."

 

She nodded slowly, "Is...is your father still alive?"

 

Henry shook his head. "No, he died when I was twenty. But he did get better like you said." He offered a smile, looking her over before pausing at the sight of her middle.

 

"I'm glad to hear that I was right. I should really get going now." She murmured, starting to shut the door.

 

"Must you go?" His look saddened, momentarily distracted.

 

"Yes, sorry." She said quickly, "I'll come back soon."

 

He smiled. "I'm glad to hear that."

 

"Bye bye, grandma!" The younger of the Rivers waved.

 

"Goodbye." The older one whispered, shutting the door and going to the console, "Take. Me. Home." The TARDIS took off once more, for once listening and going to the flat. "No!" She sighed, "To Vastra's."

 

The ship made a noise that could easily have been hesitance.

 

"Go!"

 

It took a long moment before the TARDIS decided to listen and take her there.

 

River was angry with the ship, storming out when they landed and going to find the Doctor. He was in the kitchen, trying to disassemble a light fixture. "Come on, let's go home." River hissed.

 

He looked over at her quite confused. "Oh... alright." She turned and walked back to the TARDIS, hitting in the coordinates of their flat.

 

He sat and twiddled his thumbs awkwardly as they went home, really unsure of what was going on and half expecting to be yelled at or kicked out. River didn't say anything, brushing past him and out the doors once they got home.

 

Toby was sitting outside the box, having a habit of running to it when he heard the wheezing sound. River ignored him, walking right past him and into her bedroom.

 

The Doctor slunk out of the TARDIS, going to check on the girls instead of bothering River. He didn't think she wanted to be bothered by him.

 

The girls were still fast asleep as well as Arthur.

 

He smiled weakly at them as he checked on each, seeing them sleeping making him realize that it was night now and that he hadn't had decent sleep in a long time. He doubted tonight would be different, but regardless, settled onto the couch for that.

 

There was a shattering sound from their bedroom, followed by Arthur crying. The door to their room opened as River went to get the baby. The Doctor jumped at both noises and rushed to tend to his son, not having realized River had gotten up to get Arthur, too.

 

River scooped the baby up out of his crib, trying to soothe his crying by rubbing his back and rocking him back and forth.

 

"Muuuumuaaa!" Arthur wailed, clinging desperately to her.

 

"Shhhh, shhhh. Okay. I know, I'm here. It's alright, Mumma's here." She soothed, kissing his temple. He hadn't seen her in a long while and he didn't know where she'd gone, not old enough to understand the Doctor's excuse of 'an archaeology thing'.

 

River nuzzled his cheek, having missed him terribly. "I'm here." She whispered. Arthur very gradually began to calm, reducing to normal sized sobs instead of wails.

 

The Doctor had stopped in the doorway, realizing River had it covered, instead going to their room to see what had been smashed. River had thrown a picture of her and the Doctor from one of their weddings that had been on her bedside table at the mirror. Both the picture and the mirror had shattered.

 

The Doctor stared at the bits of broken glass, stomach so tight that he felt sick. River cleared her throat from the doorway, still holding a whimpering Arthur. He turned back to look at her, eyes welled up.

 

She wasn't looking at him, eyes fixed on the ground, "I'd like to go to bed now, so if you wouldn't mind...going..." She cleared her throat again, "I think we should sleep separately tonight."

 

He didn't say anything, quickly going past her and back downstairs. River closed the door quietly behind him, crawling into bed with Arthur and trying to fall asleep.

 

She ended up just staring at the wall, the ache in her chest to painful to let her drift off. Arthur fell asleep on her chest, snoring softly with a bit of River's top still clutched in his tiny hand.

 

River nuzzled the top of his head, stroking the baby hairs. "I'm sorry." She whispered, "I'm sorry I've made a mess of our family. I'm sorry for pushing your Daddy away from me. I'm sorry for losing your brother. I'm sorry for hurting your sister to the point where she'll never be able to hear. I'm sorry for being afraid. I'm sorry I don't know how to be a good mummy for you."

 

He gurgled in his sleep, wiggling his nose for a moment before relaxing. She gently stroked the bridge of his nose, kissing the top of his head.

 

Terra hadn't been very active since she'd gotten yelled at, mentally or physically. River didn't seem too concerned about Terra, holding Arthur close until she fell asleep.

 

The cats stole her company in the night, all three cuddling up in little buns around her warmth.

 

In the morning, Arthur accidentally woke himself by rolling off River's chest. "Muumaaa!!!"

 

River jumped awake, instantly looking around to see what was wrong. Arthur had landed with his face awkwardly squashed between a cat and River's arm. He cried out in for her help, clearly very upset to wake like this.

 

"Ohh, sweetie." She smiled weakly, gently lifting him up to rest against her chest once more. He whimpered, curling into her for protection.

 

Samantha, who he had landed on, perked her head up to look at what had disturbed her, sniffing curiously in the baby's direction.

 

River stroked Arthur's back comfortingly, "It's alright. You're alright."

 

Samantha rose, stretched, and tried to resettle on River's legs against her belly.

 

Terra kicked aggressively towards the cat. Samantha looked down, growling at River’s belly. Arthur whimpered again, afraid by the noise.

 

"Shhh." River murmured, nuzzling his temple. Terra kicked again at Samantha, then at her brother.

 

"Are you hungry?" River asked Arthur, running her finger down his cheek.

 

He squirmed at the feeling, giving a confirming "Ngah."

 

"Do you want big boy food or Mummy food?" She asked.

 

"Bii!" He told her.

 

"Alright, come on you." She murmured, getting out of bed.

 

Samantha was eager to follow, the other cats waking and joining as they all decided it was time for breakfast as well.

 

River led them all down the stairs, putting Arthur in his high chair, then feeding the cats. Arthur whined impatiently.

 

"Alright, I'm getting it." She murmured, finishing with the cats, then going to feed Arthur.

 

He tried to grab the spoon, wanting to try and do it himself. She let him take it, watching him closely. He crammed an overly full spoon of mashed banana in his mouth, making a delighted hum. River smiled, kissing the top of his head.

 

"Abaah!" He tried to say something around his mouthful.

 

"You can't speak until you finish eating." River laughed.

 

"B-burh." He grumbled and made an effort to swallow. "Bapa."

 

She stroked his hair, "Hmm?"

 

"Babb sah!" He frowned at her lack of understanding, pointing to her middle.

 

"What about her?"

 

He made a grabbing motion and pouted. She stood, moving closer so he could feel her belly. He put his hands against her, eagerly expecting to feel his sister.

 

"I think she's sleeping, my love."

 

"Noo!" He said in demand to feel a kick.

 

"Arthur, please." River sighed, "She's not moving right now."

 

He was about to make another noise of protest when he burped and distracted himself by doing so. He reached back for the spoon and continued digging in his jar. She sat back down, massaging her temples.

 

Mr Thomas and Samantha slunk out of the room and Tiber jumped on the table, looking for River's attention. Footsteps started from the stairs.

 

River wasn't paying attention to any of it, sitting with her eyes closed.

 

Tiber made a soft mule as little feet made their way into the kitchen and hands tugged on River's nightie.

 

River opened her eyes, looking down at the girls, "Good morning."

 

They looked up at her with wide eyes. "When did you come home?"

 

"Last night while you two were sleeping." She smiled weakly.

 

"You didn't wake us up." Freya frowned.

 

"It was very late, I didn't want to disturb you." She murmured.

 

"You missed Mummy's day," Amelia said quietly.  

 

She closed her eyes again, not wanting her daughters to be against her too, 'I'm so sorry, girls."

 

"There was a thing at school that all the mummies went to... Did you read the cards?"

 

"No, I didn't get a chance." She felt like she had left them down, growing more and more upset with herself.

 

"...Are you going to go away again?" Amelia asked timidly.

 

River sighed, "I don't know..."

 

Freya immediately clung to her leg. "But you can't go again! You didn't even say bye and Daddy said it was work but you always say bye and that was a really long time and you can't go again!"

 

River wrapped her arms around Freya, "I promise, if I have to go again I'll say goodbye this time."

 

She clung to River, trying very hard not to cry. "Mummy, where did you go?"  

 

She debated on telling her girls the truth, pressing her cheek against the top of Freya’s head. Amelia tugged on River's dress quietly, wanting a hug, too. River pulled her into their hug, trying not to cry herself as she imagined their reaction to her telling them about her and the Doctor.

 

Terra shifted uncomfortably between their weight. River ignored the movement, as usual, holding the girls tighter.

 

"Will you be here for Arthur's birthday?" Amelia sniffled.

 

"Of course, I'll be here for that." She murmured.

 

"Are you taking us to school today?" The other girl asked.

 

"Of course, I will." River nodded.

 

"Are we going to be late?" Freya looked at the clock, noting that they usually got up earlier.

 

"I'll take you in the TARDIS." River murmured, "You should have breakfast."

 

She rubbed her eye. "Will you make us your special pancakes?"

 

"If that's what you want." She nodded, getting up and starting to get the ingredients together. The girls found seats at the table, petting Tiber.

 

River made the pancakes, setting them on the table and dishing them out to the girls. They ate somewhat hesitantly, still unsettled by River being gone. River sighed, helping them get ready for school and then flew them off in the TARDIS so they would be on time.

 

She returned to the flat, going to clean up breakfast. Toby was sprawled across the couch where the Doctor would have been. Tiber was under foot again.

 

River nearly tripped over the cat several times as she washed the dishes and placed them in their rightful spots. Tiber mewed up at her, trying to jump onto the counter. She sighed, petting his head. Arthur whined, not wanting to share River's attention.

 

River carried Arthur back to her room, wanting to lay down and take another nap with him. The picture and mirror had been cleaned up, most of the other framed photos moved somewhere other than that room.

 

River glanced around, surprised to see all of the pictures gone. Arthur grabbed one of her curls, pulling excitedly. "Alright, alright." River sat on the bed with him, letting him crawl around.

 

He and Tiber explored the bed, investigating pillows and creases in the blankets. River smiled as she watched them, eventually pulling the baby into her arms and under the blankets for a nap.

 

Arthur squirmed, wanting to move more.

 

"No, we're napping now." River tried to get him to fall asleep.

 

"Rah." He insisted, kicking his legs.


She sighed, "Alright, fine, no nap." She stood, carrying him out of the room, going to find the Doctor.

Chapter Text

 

Ch 42 

 

The water from the shower was running and the door to the bathroom closed, indicating that was where the Doctor was. River decided to wait for him, sitting near the bathroom door, playing with a puzzle with Arthur.

 

The boy was delighted in the game, clapping and squealing periodically. The Doctor eventually emerged from the bathroom, towel wrapped around his waist. River's eyes remained on his face, not wandering as they usually would have at the sight of him in a towel.

 

He blinked at her, surprised to see her waiting there. "Did you... need to shower, too?"

 

"No." She whispered, "I wanted to talk."

 

"Oh." He wiped the wet hair from his eyes.

 

Her eyes looked tired and sad, her face not expressing much different, "I'm sorry."

 

He blinked some more as he registered the words. "You're sorry?" He thought he was the one supposed to be apologizing to her.

 

"I'm sorry that this is happening now." She nodded.

 

"Yeah." He nodded. "Me, too." He wouldn’t have liked for it to have happened at all, but the timing was pointing him towards the hypothesis Vastra had reached. "

 

We...should tell the girls." She whispered.

 

"I don't- Not yet. Eventually, but I think it's too soon." Telling the girls, to him, made it that much more real. That much of a solid, one-way path leading River away from them.

 

River sighed, hating that this was happening, wishing he would find a way to convince her to stay with him. "We can't hide it for too long."

 

"It's not- I really don't think, i-it's only..." He snapped his mouth shut and took a breath to stop his stupid bubbling and make full sentences. "I think that right now neither of us are on solid ground, let alone common ground... we ought to find that first."

 

"And how do you propose we do that?" She asked.

 

"Um, more talking." He rubbed the back of his neck. "We need to communicate, really properly communicate with each other. The misunderstandings are probably more irritating for you that they are for me..." He coughed. "We're, uh, we're pulling at each other in opposite directions. There needs to be more leeway, more compromise... communication." He repeated.

 

She nodded slowly, looking down at the baby.

 

"Do you need me to take him?" He asked, wondering if she wanted a little time to herself.

 

She shook her head, "No, we're fine."

 

"He's been alright then?"

 

She nodded, "Yeah."

 

He shifted his feet for a moment. "I'm going to go get dressed."

 

She nodded slowly, "Okay."

 

"I'm going to make some tea after. Do you want some?"

 

"Sure." She went back to playing with Arthur. The Doctor went off to change.

 

Arthur took one of his puzzle blocks and tried to jam it into the wrong shaped cut-out hole.

 

"Close, but not quite." River murmured. He tried again, though didn't try a different hole. River laughed softly, "Try another one, my love."

 

He huffed, the action looking a bit like he was deflating. He followed her instruction with no less force into the correct hole, but accidentally crushed his own finger and started wailing.  

 

"Oh! Arthur." River immediately scooped him up, wrapping her arms around him and going to inspect his finger, "It's alright. You're alright." She kissed the small finger, holding him closely. The skin was starting to bruise and Arthur was no less distressed by it, even with her affection. "How about we get some ice for you." She murmured, a bit concerned by the bruising.

 

She brought him to the kitchen, continuing to kiss his finger and his head in comfort.

 

The Doctor came down shortly, looking concerned at the wailing tot. "What happened?"

 

"He crushed his finger when he put a puzzle piece in," River informed, concentrated on getting the baby's tears to stop.

 

"Have you gotten ice?" He stepped closer, looking at Arthur.

 

She nodded, "He doesn't like it. It's too cold for him."

 

"Let me try something." He went and fetched a paper towel, running it under cold water and wringing it out. "Here. Try this instead."

 

She wrapped the cool towel around Arthur's bruised finger, brushing tears from his cheeks. The boy choked on a few more sobs, nuzzling into her shirt and starting to calm a little.

 

"Oh, thank goodness." River whispered, kissing the top of his head, "Thank you."

 

The Doctor gave a small smile. "Poor thing probably got a little too excited with his toys."

 

She nodded, "I guess so." She gave Arthur another kiss on the forehead, rubbing his back.

 

He whimpered, soft light starting to emit from beneath the paper towel. River stared at the light, hearts stopping, "No, Arthur, no, don't do that!"

 

He blinked up at her, the light fading as soon she said so. He'd stopped crying, though, only sniffling from his previous tears.

 

River couldn't find her words. She had never watched one of her children do that, and even though Arthur had only been doing it to heal his finger, not because he was dying, the sight still pulled at her heart.

 

"I... think you can remove the towel now." The Doctor broke the silence, staring as well.

 

She swallowed, still not moving. He slowly took a step towards her, carefully unwrapping Arthur's finger, which now looked perfectly fine. Arthur promptly stuck the digit into his mouth.

 

River squeezed her eyes shut, holding him tighter. "Mnng." Arthur adjusted himself.

 

"Should I put the kettle on?" The Doctor offered.

 

"If you want." She murmured.

 

He set up the tea. "...You should sit." River nodded, sitting slowly. "He's alright now." The Doctor murmured. "Arthur's just fine." She nodded again, looking as if she'd hardly heard him.

 

Arthur blinked up at her, tears dried by this point. River sighed, head in her free hand. "Mah!" Arthur grabbed one of her curls.

 

"Arthur..." She sighed, removing the hair from his hand.

 

He pouted and the Doctor chuckled softly. "I remember when the girls went through that phase."

 

She hummed, not sounding as amused as he was.

 

Eventually, the water for the tea was ready and the man prepared two cups for them.

 

"I'll pick up the girls today." River murmured.

 

He nodded. Arthur tried to grab at River's cup of tea. "I'll watch Arthur then."

 

"Okay." She murmured, holding the cup out of the baby's reach.

 

There was another moment of quiet, filled with Arthur's efforts to make his arms stretch towards the cup.

 

"So, um, I was thinking about Arthur's birthday."

 

"Oh?" River turned her head slightly to indicate she was listening.

 

"The girls want to have a little party for him, I think we should take him out to that flower garden on Vaetir, too."

 

"That would be nice." She nodded, "He'll like that."

 

"Maybe, maybe we could get Clara to watch the girls and we could bring him there."

 

"You don't want to take the girls?"

 

He shrugged and looked at a spot on the table. "I just thought Arthur could get overwhelmed, and we always do two things with the girls so we should with him. It's his special day, you know? It'll be easier to focus on him."

 

"Oh..." She murmured, "Well, if that's what you want to do."

 

"I- that's why I'm asking you. You've got half the say."

 

"Well, it's a nice idea, but I'm worried about how the girls will feel about it." She sighed, "We took Arthur when we went out for their birthday, and with Terra coming… I worry that they'll feel less and less important if we don't include them."

 

"Alright, that's a good point. Let's bring them, then."

 

"Do you mean that or are you just saying it to make me happy because lying isn't going to make any of this better."  

He looked at her, wondering how she'd react if he had been the one to say that to her. "I'm saying it because I think you're right, River."

 

She relaxed a bit. "Oh..."

 

"Foowah!" Arthur declared, having given up reaching for the tea.

 

"Shhh." River hushed him.

 

"He's just saying that he's excited about the flowers." The Doctor informed her.

 

River resisted glaring at him. "Arthur do you want Mummy to take you to the playground?"  He waved his arms excitedly and made an approving noise. "Alright." She smiled, kissing his temple, "Let's go then."

 

"Do you want company?" He offered.

 

"If you want." She shrugged.

 

"We'll bring Toby." He added. She nodded, going to get Arthur's stroller.

 

Soon enough, the three and the dog were all on their way to the playground. River was quiet for most of the walk, not looking at the Doctor. Toby and Arthur were absolutely delighted, neither able to keep very still.

 

When they got there, Arthur was set in the sandbox, Toby digging beside him. River sat with the two, making sure Toby didn't fling any sand into Arthur's face. The Doctor also sat watching the three, offering Arthur a small plastic trowel.

 

Arthur soon decided that he wanted to bury Toby in the sand, trying to pile it up on top of the dog. The Doctor chuckled as Toby sat obediently, accepting the sand shower with a wagging tail.

 

Arthur giggled as the dog's feet began to disappear beneath a mound of sand. The dog leaned over and licked his cheek. River sucked in a breath, putting a hand to her side.

 

"You alright?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Fine." She muttered.

 

"She kicking?" He tried. She nodded, removing the hand.

 

"Ama?" Arthur looked up at River. "Yaya?"

 

"They're at school, love."

 

Arthur looked concentrated, trying to figure out what that was. Giving up, he asked for them again.

 

"They'll be here soon." She assured.

 

He accepted this answer, reaching for her. "Up!" River scooped him up, nuzzling his cheek. He made a gleeful sound and Toby stood to sniff at him.

 

Arthur kicked his feet, accidentally kicking the dog in the process. "Oh, Arthur! Careful!" River reached out to pat the dog's head in comfort.

 

"I don't think a one-year-old can do terribly much damage to him." The Doctor glanced between the two.

 

"Well, he still hurt him." River murmured, "I don't think it's very pleasant to get a kick in the face."

 

"No, I suppose not." He nodded.

 

River scratched behind Toby's ears, then brought Arthur over to the swings. Arthur kicked wildly once in the baby swing, his attempts to get it moving. River stood behind him, pushing the swing gently. Toby ran back and forth under the swing in time with it, chasing Arthur's feet.

 

They played until it was time to get the girls. River put Arthur back in the stroller, heading for the school. The Doctor split up and took Toby home.

 

Arthur was delighted to see his sisters, though the other parents stared rather disdainfully at River, suspicious of her return. River tried to ignore the stares that only made her feel worse.

 

When the Doctor got back to the flat, the phone was ringing. He let Toby off his leash, dodging around him to get to the kitchen phone. "Hello?"

 

"Oh, good. Hello, Doctor." Vastra was on the other line.

 

“Vastra.” He shooed the dog off so he could give her is attention. "What can I help you with?"

 

"I wanted to talk to you about River if you don't mind."

 

"Um, yeah. That's fine, I guess." He agreed.

 

"Well, I'm rather concerned for her health."

 

"Oh?" He immediately sounded more concerned.

 

"Well, she hasn't had a stress free moment this entire pregnancy. I just fear for the health effects that all the stress she has been feeling."

 

He nodded. "I should have noticed." He didn't know how to make it less stressful, though. His mere presence around River seemed to make her uncomfortable. "Do you suggest anything?"

 

Vastra sighed, "I can't say I have any suggestions." She murmured, "I just wanted to make sure you were aware."

 

"Thank you. Maybe I'll try a spa thing? I don't think she wants to really sit and not do  much, but it might be worth a shot."

 

"Of course." She agreed.

 

"Alright." He sighed worriedly. "We'll see how that goes. I don't know how much I can promise since we're sort of... well I don't know what we are but I can see it isn't stress-free. Thanks for calling."

 

"Don't mention it." Vastra murmured, bidding him goodbye and hanging up.

 

He sighed and put the phone back on the receiver, standing there for a moment as he thought about all the things he ought to do. (Or wished he could do). Eventually, he went to the TARDIS and dematerialized from the house.

Chapter Text

 

Ch 43

 

River came home with the girls and Arthur not long after the Doctor had left, getting them settled with snacks.

 

"Where's Daddy?" Amelia asked.

 

River frowned, looking around, "I...don't know..."

 

"Maybe he went to get something." She guessed, eyes focusing on her snack.

 

"Maybe." She tried to smile.

 

"Bah." Arthur added, not actually sure what they were chatting about, but wanting some attention.

 

"Hello, my most handsome baby." River cooed, the sight of her son cheering her up a bit. The boy grinned at her praise.

 

The TARDIS materialized about ten minutes later, the Doctor fumbling out with arms full of things.

 

The girls scrambled out of their chairs, running to hug the Doctor's legs, "Daddy!"

 

He wobbled. "Hang on girls, let me put this down first."

 

"What is all that stuff?" Amelia asked, letting go. River stood in the doorway, with Arthur in her arms.

 

"It's uh..." He plopped it all down on the kitchen table. "Well, some of it was supposed to be treats for you girls and Mummy and Arthur," He paused and looked at the plates of snacks. "But it looks like Mummy already took care of that... Well, I guess it could be saved for later." That last bit was said to himself. "I thought I would land earlier."

 

The girls peered onto the table trying to reach for the goodies the Doctor had brought back.

 

"Or you can eat them now. That's fine, too." He spotted River. "Do you want any? It's from your favorite pastry shop."

 

"Oh..." She seemed surprised, sitting down in one of the empty chairs, "Alright..."

 

He took one of the boxes the girls weren't digging in and offered it to her. "There's a bit of everything since I didn't know what you were in the mood for."

 

"You didn't have to do this." She murmured, opening the box and carefully examining each pastry until she found her favorite one.

 

"You skipped lunch." He said, fiddling his thumbs. "I wanted to."

 

"Thank you." She almost smiled, eating the treat.

 

"Nuh." Arthur reached for the box. River reached inside, breaking apart a small raspberry pastry for him. He eagerly shoved a piece into his mouth. River kissed the boy's head, smiling weakly.

 

"I'm going to go put this stuff away." The Doctor murmured, picking up the boxes that didn't have food in them.

 

"What is that stuff?" Freya asked.

 

"Some of it's a surprise for your brother." He answered.

 

"And what's the rest of it?" Amelia questioned

 

"That one is a new mirror." He pointed. "And that one is flower bulbs for the garden."

 

"Can we plant them now?" They asked excitedly.

 

"Yeah, sure." He nodded, glad that she hadn't asked about the rest. "Just let me put all this upstairs."

 

Freya stood on one of the chairs, grabbing one of the boxes they had forgotten to ask about, thinking it was bulbs and opening it. Immediately a wispy blue fabric sprung up, the box no longer it holding back. "What's this?" She asked, starting to pull the fabric out of the box.

 

"No, Freya!" The Doctor panicked, realizing she'd opened the box. "Don't touch that."

 

"Why not? What is it?" She asked again, though she let go of the fabric.

 

"Well, it was supposed to be a surprise for Mummy." He sighed, tucking it back into the box.

 

River looked up at him in surprise, then back down at the box.

 

He handed them the box that did contain the flower bulbs. "I'll meet you girls in the yard." They took the box, running out to the yard, chattering about what flowers the bulbs might be.

 

He gathered the rest of the things up in his arms. "Do you, uh, want to plant with us? Or nap with Arthur, maybe?" He asked River.

 

"I...think I'll nap with Arthur." She whispered, eyes fixed on the box for another minute.

 

He nodded. "Okay. We'll be in the garden." He went to go put the things upstairs and fetch some garden tools.

 

River brought Arthur over to the sofa, going to take a nap with him there. He was worn out from the park all day, finding sleep easy. She nuzzled his head, falling asleep quickly herself.

 

Arthur's very loud giggling was probably a factor in waking River some time later. River groaned, eyes opening slowly.

 

The girls were in front of Arthur, hands and knees covered in dirt. He was laughing at them as they were showing him words in sign language, thinking it was a puppet shot of some sort.

 

River tensed as soon as she saw the girls doing sign language, "Why don't you go wash your hands." She murmured.

 

"But Arthur likes it. We're not done." Amelia insisted, grinning.

 

"Please, girls. I don't want you getting dirt all over the house." She whispered.

 

"Okay." They gave in at that, going off to wash their hands. Arthur pouted, wanting the funny hand shapes to continue. River stood going to find the Doctor, taking Arthur with her. The baby fussed some as River walked.

 

The Doctor was in the kitchen, looking like he was starting to prepare dinner.

 

"I can do that if you'd like." She offered.

 

"Nah." He shook his head. "I got it."

 

"Alright." She nodded slowly.

 

"How was your nap?" He asked.

 

"Good." She murmured, sitting down and rubbing her back. "Were the girls good?"

 

"Oh, yeah. They were great." He smiled over his shoulder. "Are you in the mood for chicken?"

 

"Oh, well, I'm not very hungry, actually, but I'm sure the girls would love it."

 

He frowned slightly. "Are you still full from the pastries?"

 

"...Yes." She nodded, though she had only eaten a small little pastry.

 

"Well... I'll set some aside for you in case you get hungry later." He decided, concerned at how little she'd eaten today.

 

"I'm going to go give Arthur a bath."

 

“Alright. Join us for dinner after?" He asked hopefully.

 

"Sure." She headed up the stairs to wash Arthur.

 

Arthur wasn't too keen on having a bath, making it difficult to get him to cooperate. River grew more and more frustrated to the point where she gave up, forehead pressed against the edge of the tub while Arthur splashed around in the shallow water with what was supposed to be his towel.

 

Arthur was pleased to soak his towel, practicing the names of his sisters. Terra was still. River's shoulder's shook as she leaned against the tub, so tired of the terrible week  she was having.

 

"Muh-mah?" Arthur prodded her arm curiously. She didn't answer, sniffling quietly. "Muuh!" He tried again a bit louder, recognizing her crying as a bad thing.

 

She took a deep breath, pulling herself together and drying her eyes, "What is it, my love?"

 

"Nad." He offered her the soaked towel, thinking it would act as some sort of consolation.

 

River took the towel, placing it off to the side, "Thank you. Time to get out now?" He gave a confirming splash. She turned to get a new, dry towel, scooping him up at drying off his little body. He squirmed minimally, this time, this usually being the bit that didn't bother him so much.

 

Once Arthur was all dressed, River brought him downstairs to sit with the rest of their family for dinner.

 

The girls were very chatty about flowers, deciding the fairies all wore petals for their dresses. Arthur watched them, hoping for more hand tricks. River watched the table silently, half listening to the girls' conversation as they talked.

 

"Mummy, can we pick the flowers when they grow?" Freya asked.

 

"If that's what you want to do." She nodded. Usually, she would have said no, but she wasn't really paying attention.

 

"We can make flower crowns!" She said excitedly. "We hafta start planting in the front yard, too."

 

"Maybe another day." River nodded again.

 

"Can we tomorrow? Please?" She begged.

 

"We'll see."

 

"I can go pick up more bulbs tomorrow." The Doctor offered. River stopped answering, eyes seeming to glass over.

 

The kids didn't notice, and though the Doctor did, he didn't comment on it in front of them. "Are you girls done?"

 

They nodded, "Can we watch a movie before bed?"

 

He looked at the clock. "Only if it's short."

 

They nodded, bringing their plates to the sink and going to pick out a movie.

 

Arthur started fussing again, the Doctor watching him closely. River touched the baby's head as if that would get him to stop fussing.

 

"Do you want me to put him to bed?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Sure." She nodded. He stood and gently scooped Arthur out of her arms. "Goodnight, sweetheart." She murmured to the baby, kissing his head as he was lifted up. He babbled back to her as the Doctor took him upstairs.

 

River helped the girls put in their movie and then went to sit in the kitchen again. The Doctor came down with the baby monitor in hand, pausing in the kitchen doorway. "River?"

 

"Hmm?"

 

"Um, you alright?" He urged himself to go sit at the table with her.

 

"I'm fine." She whispered.

 

He knew that was a lie, but didn't push it yet. "Arthur's asleep." He murmured. "And I left the box on the bed for you."

 

She nodded, "What's in it?"

 

"You don't want a surprise?"

 

"I-" She sighed, "Why are you doing this?"

 

"Why am I... Giving you a gift?" He clarified.

 

She nodded.

 

"Because, well... It's not to apologize if you think I'm trying to get you to forgive me. I mean it is and I am, and that would be fine if you did but that's not what it's for. It's because, well, I just wanted you to be able to feel good about something, I mean, have something that isn't a stress factor since you have much more than is good for you." He stared at the table, thinking he'd fumbled that explanation.

 

"Oh..." She murmured, her reaction similar to what it had been earlier, "Shall...shall I go open the box then?"

 

"You can whenever you want to." He murmured.

 

"I guess I'll go do it now..." She stood slowly, touching his arm as she passed, "Thank you." She looked like she wanted to say more, but didn't.

 

He looked up at her and smiled, more hopeful than he was a second ago. "Welcome."

 

She headed up the stairs, to their room, sitting down on the bed next to the box and opening it slowly. The blue fabric once again sprung from the box, up close it was clearly one of many layers. River slowly pulled the fabric out, curious as to what it was. The layers of fabric worked beautifully together, all rich shades of blue. The bust of the material gave away that it was a dress.

 

She sighed as she looked over the dress. It was beautiful and under any other circumstances she would have loved it, but now, the sight just made her sad. It reminded her of all the other times the Doctor had given her a beautiful dress and then whisked her off on some fancy date. It made her feel like she was making all the wrong choices now.

 

Carefully, she set the dress back in the box and lay down on the bed where she could break down without interruption. What she had missed were two small slips of paper tucked into the folds of the dress: all-day passes to her favorite spa, that now lay on the floor. River eventually fell asleep, still not seeing the passes.

 

The Doctor crept in after putting the girls to bed and checking on Arthur. He wasn't going to stay but wanted to check on River and see if she approved of the gifts. She stirred and woke when he walked in, immediately wiping at her cheeks to get rid of the tear tracks that still stained them.

 

"River?" He asked softly, not able to see if she awake in the dark.

 

"Yeah?" She murmured, reaching over and turning on the lamp on the nightstand.

 

He looked at her with a small smile. "Sorry, did I wake you?"

 

"It's alright." She shook her head, struggling to sit up. "The dress is beautiful."

 

"I'm glad you like it." He murmured. "The kids are in bed. I just wanted to check on you. I was wondering if you decided on who to bring?"

 

Her brow furrowed, "What do you mean? Bring where?"

 

He was under the impression she'd seen the tickets. "With you tomorrow. Well, it doesn't have to me tomorrow if you don't want. I just didn't want you to think you had to bring me, you can bring Vastra or someone. You don't actually have to use the second one, I got two just in case you wanted company."

 

"Sw-" She stopped herself before she could use the pet name, "Doctor, I don't know what you're talking about."  

 

"The tickets." He frowned slightly.

 

"What tickets?" She raised an eyebrow.

 

"The spa passes. Did I not put them in there? I swear I put them in there." He took a step forward, accidentally stepping on them. He looked down at the crinkle. "Oh."

 

"Oh..." She looked down to where his foot had stepped, "They must have fallen when I picked up the dress." He picked them up, dusted them off, and offered them to her. "Thank you." She murmured, her eyes lighting up as she looked them over.

 

"Like I said, you don't have to use the second one. It was just in case."

 

"Well, I don't want it to go to waste." She murmured, "And I do owe Clara for helping me."

 

"We can call in the morning." He suggested.

 

She nodded, "Thank you again."

 

"No problem. I'll, uh, I'll let you sleep now." He turned to go.

 

"Wait!"

 

He stopped and turned back to her. "Yeah?"

 

"I-" She stopped, changing her mind on what she was going to say, "Terra hasn't moved in a couple of hours. Could you do a scan for me? I would just do it myself, but you’re always better at it than I am."

 

"Corse." He nodded. "I'll go get the scanner."

 

She nodded slowly, "Thanks."

 

He smiled weakly and went to go fetch it.

 

Toby was on the bed when he got back, his head resting on River's belly. The Doctor entered cautiously, going to the side of the bed. "Alright, give this a second." He murmured, programming the scanner. She nodded, watching him carefully.

 

He placed it against her belly as it possessed. "Is she usually this still?"

 

"Not really. She's been still before but not for this long."

 

He nodded. The scanner beeped and he looked through the results.

 

"What does it say?"

 

"It doesn't look like anything's wrong." He replied. "She's alright."

 

"Good." River placed a hand on her side, "I guess she's just resting then."

 

"A bit long to rest." He murmured. "But I guess so."

 

"Or maybe she's just cross with me..." She squeezed her eyes shut sighing, "She's been missing you."

 

"Oh." He blinked at her. "I didn't think she could hold much of a grudge."

 

"I don't know why she's not moving then." She was growing more and more upset, struggling to hide it, "Maybe...you could try just...putting your hand here...." She pointed to where the girl was resting.

 

"Alright." He nodded and carefully placed his palm over the spot. It was the first time he'd she'd allowed him to do so in a long while.

 

River's body immediately went rigid and she closed her eyes, biting her lip to stop it from shaking.

 

"If you don't want me to, River..." The Doctor worried at her expression.

 

"No, sorry it's fine." She whispered, her voice trembled. She opened her eyes, though she avoided looking at him.

 

Terra nudged ever so slightly against the Doctor, barely enough for either of them to feel. River stopped breathing, staring at a spot on the wall.

 

He pulled his hand away, hating how uneasy it was making her. "I'll let you sleep."

 

She stared at him, searching his face with eyes that were fighting to hide her sadness, "Will things ever be better?"

 

He didn't hide from her gaze. "With Terra. or... us?"

 

"Both."

 

"I can't promise anything about the future, but I'm not ever going give up on either." He replied.

 

"I miss you." She stared at him, wishing that they could, at the very least, just hold on another again.

 

He slowly reached for her hand. "I miss you, too. More than I would ever wish on someone else." He could feel his eyes start to sting.

 

She let him take her hand, gripping his as tight as she could, "I want everything to be okay again, but..." She choked on a small sob, "I'm afraid..."

 

"Afraid of what?" He urged gently.

 

"Of everything." She tried to wipe at her eyes.

 

"River..." He held her hand between both of his. "The universe has never been fair to use for very long... and we've faced a lot of things, more than a lifetime's worth of things gone wrong. But we survived through those and we did it together. I'm afraid too... I'm afraid of losing you. I'm afraid of our family falling apart. I don't want any of that to happen, and I don't want to be the kind of person you have to push away. I'm saying that this fear... it's not irrational. It's not worth drowning in, and it doesn't have to be faced alone."

 

She shook her head, "But I'm tired of being pushed to places where I'm completely uncomfortable. I'm tired of always feeling like the bad guy." She sighed, "And I'm afraid that if I stay with you, no matter how much you say those things will change, they never really will."

 

He stared down at their hands. "I never meant to-... I'm still going to try. I even if you don't think I am or it takes you time to see it, I'm going to try my hardest to not make you feel that way. Neither of us can fix anything overnight though so I can’t promise this will be better tomorrow. Let's... Take this one day at a time."

 

"I just need to know I'm not making a mistake." She breathed.

 

"I can't tell you what's right and wrong and as much as I wish I could, I can't promise I won't make mistakes. I can promise that I'll always try to fix them, though." He sighed.

 

She sighed as well, "I know you will."

 

"I'll, uh, I'll let you sleep now." He stood quietly.

 

She nodded slowly, "Goodnight."


"Night, River." He said back, going downstairs to sleep on the couch again.

Chapter Text

 

 Ch 44

 

River's sleep was restless, though when she finally did fall asleep, she stayed out long into the next day, not waking until noon. Tiber had curled up right to her face, his snores purr-like.

 

"Morning..." She murmured to the cat, stroking his back gently. He lifted his head and looked at her, blinking lazily.

 

Sun spilled onto the bed from the window, the cause of Tiber lying so close to River's face. River blinked, shielding her eyes from the sun. Slowly she stood and headed down the stairs. Tiber stayed on the bed to enjoy his sun spot but the other two cats caught up with River in the hall and followed her down.

 

Arthur's giggling came from the living room as well as light from the telly. River wandered into the living room, smiling when she saw the baby.

 

Some old recording of Sesame Street was playing, though Arthur was distracted by the Doctor and the dog. The former had a baggie of Cheerios and kept placing them on Toby's head. The dog would waste no time trying to get the cereal piece off his head and into his mouth. Arthur tried to help, but most of the Cheerios he tried to put on Toby ended up in his mouth much faster, though he was no less entertained.

 

River leaned against the door as she watched them, smiling at Arthur's giggles. Samantha rubbed against her leg, emitting a small noise before scurrying over to Toby.

 

River moved to sit beside Arthur, wincing a bit as she sat. The Doctor smiled softly at her. "There's breakfast for you in the kitchen, though it's probably a bit cold."

 

"I'm alright." She kissed Arthur's head.

 

"You're not hungry?" He looked a bit worried at that.

 

"Not terribly." She shrugged.

 

"Oh." He murmured. Arthur squealed as Toby licked his whole hand.

 

"What have you two been doing?"

 

"I showed Arthur the garden after we brought the girls to school and he insisted we watch this when we came inside, though you can see where that went." He told her. She nodded, patting Toby's head. "I talked to Clara about the spa, and she said you can go to Sunday to pick her up."

 

"Alright." She closed her eyes.

 

"Is that something you want to do today?" He asked.

 

"I think I'll just wait until Sunday comes on its own." She shook her head.

 

"Alright." He nodded. "Sleep okay?"

 

"Yes, but it took me a while to fall asleep last night."

 

He hummed sympathetically. "I guess that's why you slept so late." She nodded, rubbing at the aching muscles on her back. He looked at her carefully. "You alright?"

 

"Yes, I'm fine. My back's a bit sore, that's all."

 

"Do you want a massage?" He offered.

 

"I..." She hesitated, "Alright."

 

He scooted over to her. "Lower back or higher?"

 

"Higher." She murmured.

 

He nodded and started to give her a massage. Her muscles were tight and knotted beneath his hands. He didn't comment on it, working on each knot as best he could. She relaxed as the knots began to loosen, closing her eyes and relaxing a bit.

 

Arthur and Toby finished off the Cheerios, the boy tugging on River's clothes to demand more.

 

"No, no more my love. You can't just eat Cheerios all day."

 

He pouted "Eeewos."

 

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, Mumma doesn't have anymore." She shook her head. He whined and plopped his head down on her knee. She smiled at him, and tapped his nose, "I'm sorry to say pouting isn't going to make Cheerios magically appear in my hands."

 

He didn't look like he believed her, blinking up at her with puppy-dog eyes close to his sisters'. River laughed, kissing his forehead, "Maybe if you give Mumma a nice kiss on the cheek, I'll go get some more for you."

 

He reached up for her, less crabbily than before. She leaned down so he could reach her face. He very sloppily smooched her cheek, the Doctor chuckling. River' smile grew and she looked happier than she had in days, "Alright, I'll go get you more now."

 

"I can do it." The Doctor offered. "You look awfully comfortable."

 

She hummed, pulling the baby into her lap. He got up to go get more snacks from the kitchen. Arthur was grinning again, happy in his mum's arms.

 

River was playing her favorite game with Arthur when the Doctor returned, tickling and kissing him all over until he was breathless with laughter. The man smiled at his wife, thinking he hadn't seen her smiling so genuinely in a while.

 

He sat back with them, putting down the plate of snacks. He'd brought back apple and cheese slices along with the cheerios. Samantha was immediately curious.

 

River took some of the Cheerios, giving them to Arthur, "Can you say 'thank you, Daddy?'"

 

"Saaa-coo Da!" He shoved a handful in his mouth. River laughed softly, nuzzling his cheek.

 

"That almost sounded like a full sentence." The Doctor prided.

 

"Almost." River smiled, "He's getting so good a speaking."

 

"Not too far behind where the girls were at his age." He added, picking up an apple slice. "Arthur, can you say apple?"

 

"Appa!" He reached for the slice the Doctor had picked up.

 

He let the boy have it. "Well, there's a good start."

 

"Appa," Arthur grinned again, chomping on the apple slice.

 

"Forgetting an 'L' there, lovie." The Doctor informed.  Arthur pouted, not liking that he was wrong. "App-EL." The Doctor emphasized the 'L', trying to show him how to do it.

 

"Appa?"

 

He smiled and shook his head. "Good enough for today."

 

"Appa! Appa!" Arthur sang, bouncing in River's lap. Samantha ran behind Toby, not liking the loud toddler.

 

River beamed, nuzzling his cheek. Arthur was momentarily distracted by River, squirming. "Mummah!"

 

"What is it, my love?" She asked.

 

"Up!" He insisted.

 

River lifted him so he was standing on her lap, kissing his cheek. "How about we start practicing walking?"

 

He concentrated on his feet, trying not to wobble and topple over. He clung to her for balance. She lifted him again and put him on the ground, holding his upper body so he was still supported.

 

"Aah... Muh." He babbled, sounding unsure of his new position.

 

"Don't worry, I've got you." She assured.

 

He failed his arms as he tried to balance himself, staring at his parents. River slowly began to encourage him to move his feet forward. Arthur whimpered, dependent on River's hands to hold him up.

 

"It's okay!" River smiled, having no intentions of letting him go. He nervously wiggled his foot forwards, more of a slide than a step. "Good job!" She praised. He looked from her to his foot, hoping he was done now. "Can you do one more?" She asked.

 

Arthur frowned stubbornly. "No."

 

"Please? For mummy?" He looked skeptically at his feet, starting to move the other one. "Good boy." River smiled, giving him a kiss and letting him up off of his feet once more, holding his in her lap.

 

"I've been meaning to get out the girls' old walker thingy." The Doctor said absentmindedly.

 

She hummed, "Do you want to hold him?" He nodded. She passed Arthur off to him.

 

"Do you have thoughts about the afternoon?" He asked, cooing at his son.

 

River shrugged, "...What did you tell the other parents at the girls' school?" She asked after a moment.

 

"About what?" He drew his attention up at her.

 

"About my not being here?" She was remembering all of the looks she had gotten when she had gone to pick up the girls the day before.

 

"I said that you had an emergency on your side of the family you had to attend to." He said. "...Why?’

 

"They were all...giving me nasty looks yesterday." She murmured, sighing and rubbing her temples, obviously getting stressed.

 

"That odd... I can ask about it if you want." He offered.

 

"I-" She sighed, "It doesn't matter." She lied.

 

"Course it matters." He replied.

 

"If you want to ask them, you can." She murmured.

 

He sighed, just wanting a yes or no from her. "Do you want to come with me to pick the girls up later?"

 

"Not really." She shook her head. She looked up at him, feeling as though he was cross with her.

 

"Alright." He nodded. "Do you want to watch Sesame Street with us?"

 

"Okay." She whispered.

 

The three of them settled back on the couch, Toby trying to climb up, too. River's mood seemed to have shifted. She was quiet and distant once again. The Doctor placed Arthur between them, the boy favoring his mother to snuggle against. She held him close as they watched the show, Arthur sometimes trying to talk to the characters on the screen.

 

At one point, Toby jumped off the couch and tried to eat the plate of snacks left on the ground. The Doctor stopped him and brought the plate to the kitchen.

 

River fell asleep again, which was unlike her. Even when pregnant, she wasn't usually this tired. The Doctor wasn't in a rush to wake her, not thinking much of it. He got her a blanket and scooped Arthur up, turning off the TV.

 

"Looks like it’s just you and me little man."

 

"Yee a me!" He repeated.

 

"Not too loud, dearie, we don't want to wake Mummy."

 

"Mummah?" He looked around, trying to see River.

 

"Right there." The Doctor pointed back to the couch where he'd tucked River in.

 

"Seepy?" Arthur asked.

 

"Yeah." He nodded. He had a few hunches about her tiredness but said none out loud.

 

"Seepy?" The boy said in a tone asking why.

 

His father shrugged. "Well... sometimes if you have a lot going on in your head it can make you tired."

 

Arthur didn't really understand what he was saying, soon getting distracted by Toby. "Oi, I'm not feeding you." The Doctor said to the dog. "You got fed this morning."

 

Toby barked, pawing at his legs. "Hush, you'll wake River."

 

He didn't listen, wanting food.  

 

"Toby..." He warned, heading to the kitchen.

 

The dog finally stopped, eagerly trailing behind his master. The Doctor went right for the door to the yard, urging Toby out. The dog whimpered, barking again.

 

"Hush." He pointed to the door. "Out."

 

Toby slowly walked out the door, tail between his legs. The Doctor sighed looking at Arthur. "Do you want to go outside again?"  

 

He shook his head, "Sessy Seet!" He cried, wanting to watch the show again.

 

"Arthur, Mummy's sleeping in the living room right now, so we can't wake her with TV." He reminded gently.

 

He pouted. The Doctor was not so immune to the look. "How about we see it the TARDIS will play it for you, yeah?"

 

"Noooooo." He whined.

 

"What's bad about the TARDIS?" The Doctor asked.

 

"No mumma."

 

"Well, you can have either or, little man. Either cuddle with Mummy or watch TV in the TARDIS."

 

"Mumma en Da!"

 

"Not both, lovie." He reminded. "Pick."

 

"Mmmmmm...toad-y!" He pointed to the dog who was moping at the back door. The Doctor looked over at the dog and stepped into the backyard, sitting next to Toby.

 

"Puppy!"

 

Toby sniffed at Arthur, momentarily distracted.

 

The Doctor smiled. "Very good, Arthur."

 

"Puppy!" He cheered again, reaching to hug the dog. Toby tried not to move as the little person clung to him, rapidly moving about his tail. "Pay Puppy!" Arthur commanded, wanting to play with the dog.

 

The Doctor dug around in his pocket until he found a tennis ball and offered it to the boy. "Throw this and he'll play fetch."

 

Arthur took the ball, throwing it right at the dog's face, not realizing he was supposed to throw it away from him. Toby jumped and make a yowling whimper, moving away from Arthur.

 

"Puppy?" Arthur frowned, looking up at the Doctor.

 

The Doctor picked up the tennis ball again and tutted softly at his son. "Fetch is throwing the ball as far as you can, then the dog going to get the ball. Look." He threw the tennis ball to the other side of the yard.

 

Toby hesitated, trying to decide if it was safe to get the ball. After a moment, he ran after it, picking up the ball and bringing it back. "See?" The Doctor grinned at Arthur. "Try that."

 

"Fow!" Arthur threw the ball as hard as he could. It didn't go very far, but Toby still chased it. He trotted back and delivered a slobbered covered ball to Arthur.

 

Arthur stared at the slimy ball, deciding that if the dog liked to carry it in his mouth, maybe he would too. He took the ball, immediately trying to stick it in his mouth.

 

"Oi." The Doctor stopped him. "This isn't for eating. No eating this." Arthur looked up at him, lip trembling. "The ball is for throwing." The Timelord reminded, Toby waiting restlessly to run again. "You'll get sick if you have it in your mouth."

 

Arthur started to cry anyway. It was around the time he usually went down for a nap and he was growing cranky.

 

The Doctor put the ball down and started rubbing his back. "Oh, Arthur, It's alright. What's wrong, lovie?" Arthur sniffed sticking his fist in his mouth in response.

 

He stood with the boy in his arms, going back inside and allowing Toby back in too. "How about a nap with Mummy, hmm?”

 

"Mummah..." He nodded.

 

"Alright." He said softly, still rubbing his back. He went to the living room and placed Arthur down in the little nook between River and the back of the couch.

 

"Mummmah?" Arthur reached up to tug one of her curls.

 

"She's asleep, Arthur." The Doctor sat on the edge of the couch, looking at the two.

 

River started to stir, eyes opening slightly at the noise. "Mummah!" Arthur said more delightedly.

 

"Hello, sweetie." River murmured, eyes opening a bit more. He pulled on her curls again, his expression gleeful. She winced, "No, no, Arthur. Don't do that."

 

He pouted, possessively refusing to let go. She tried to pry the hair out of his hands, frowning.

 

"Noo!" He cried.

 

"Can you please help me?" River looked at the Doctor, wincing as her hair was pulled more.

 

"Arthur," The Doctor leaned over and gently stroked the backs of his little fists. "You've got to let go of Mummy's hair." Arthur started to cry again, clinging to his mum. "You don't have to leave her, honey..." He sighed. "I think he just needs a nap."

 

She nodded, "I'll take him upstairs." She slowly sat up with the baby in her arms.

 

"I'm going to pick up the girls soon, are you still going to stay here?" He asked.

 

She sighed, "I suppose I can come, but Arthur has to come too then."

 

He hesitated. "I don't think he can handle much more, poor thing."

 

"Well, we can't leave him home alone." She murmured.

 

He shook his head. "Um, you don't have to- will you stay with him?"

 

"Of course." She nodded, rocking the baby slowly, "Are you going to...talk to the other parents?"

 

"Only if you want me to." He replied.

 

"Well, I don't have to know, but...I'm curious."

 

"Alright." He nodded. "I'll see what I can figure out."

 

"Thank you." She carried Arthur upstairs. The boy was still whimpering, not wanting to go in his cot since it meant letting go of River.


"Shhh, Shhh." She soothed, going to sit in the rocking chair instead of putting him in his cot. He calmed down slightly when he realized she wasn't going to put him down, snuggling and sniffling against her. River rocked back and forth with him until he fell asleep, humming soothingly.

Chapter Text

 

 Ch 45

 

The Doctor took Toby along when he went to pick up the girls, going a little early so he could talk with some of the parents.

 

Toby seemed very anxious on this outing out, not wanting to sit still. The Doctor allowed himself to be dragged along by the dog.

 

Other parents were already there, waiting for the dismissal bell. Toby paced around the Doctor's legs when we went to talk to the other parents: Sitting, then standing and trying to walk back to their home, and then sitting again. The Doctor kept the leash loose so the dog could move around, but never let him too far.

 

"Hey, Gary." He tried to make conversation with one of the other adults who he was fairly well acquainted with.

 

"Hello, John." The man gave a polite nod.

 

"So, uh, how's everything?" He tried to strike up a conversation.

 

Gary shrugged, "Good. Jessica's parents are in town this week, so we've been entertaining them. How about you?"

 

"Well, River recently got back from her trip and we're working on getting the nursery ready." It wasn't entirely true, but he watched the other man's expression to see if mentioning River would prove anything.

 

His expression shifted, "Ah, that's great. I'm glad she's back." It was obvious the words were false.  

 

The Doctor held back a glare. He was suddenly feeling much more protective of his family, but he had a thing to investigate so he only made note of it in his head. "Yeah, she's pretty jet lagged, poor dear, thought everyone was staring at her when she came to pick up the girls yesterday." He forced a chuckle.

 

The other man laughed uncomfortably, "Yeah, well..."

 

"Even if she weren't imagining it, I can't imagine the reason." He tried to sound as casual as he could, wishing he was actually friends with these people. It would have been much easier or at the very least less awkward.

 

Gary sighed, "Look, I'm sure she's a lovely girl, but there are a lot of parents here who...aren't too fond of your wife. They all love you, but they don't...they don't really care for River. I don't have a problem with her, but..." He scratched the back of his head in discomfort, "I'm not the person you should be talking to about this."

 

"You must hear the talk." He urged, knowing that Gary probably did have a problem with her and was trying to pass the blame. "I don't bite.”

 

"John...I'd rather not talk about this.." He laughed uncomfortably.

 

The Doctor stuck his hands in his pockets. "Alright, I'm just playing you mate." He decided that human beings were about as useful and talkative as fruit flies for the time being. River had hardly interacted with these people and there were judging her for what, being a little different? He recalled the argument with Sasha's mum a while back but didn't think there was a connection. "Been a long day, know what I mean?"

 

He nodded, "Look if you really want to know, I'd talk to Monica, you know, Sasha's mum."

 

"I... don't think we're on the best of terms..." He hesitated, having been trying to avoid that.

 

"Well, she kinda started...everything. And she really doesn't seem to have a problem with you, she's actually on your side."

 

Side? There're no sides. What kind of self-respecting adult starts rumors? The Doctor thought. He himself had pretty blurry lines for what was childish and what wasn't, but this was just immature, not to mention hurtful. Monica hadn't the faintest idea of who River was and what she'd been through. The Doctor found himself growing angry. "Have you seen her around?"

 

"I think she's over by the swings."

 

"Thanks. Um," He paused. "I know River can come off strong and whatever you think of her is your own business... but she's a really wonderful person once you get to know her." With that, he and Toby went towards the swings.

 

Monica was there, chatting away with a group of women, though the conversation halted when the Doctor came closer.

 

"Uh... hi." The Doctor managed a wave to the circle. He wasn't going to let his emotions control this, he was here for River.

 

"Hello, John. What a pleasure to see you." Monica, the obvious ringleader of this pack of immature parents, smirked.

 

"Can I talk to you?" He said seriously, not looking for banter.

 

"Of course." She stepped aside, leaving the circle of women to talk to him, "What do you want to talk about?"

 

"...River got back from her trip." He started, arms crossed. Toby sniffed at the woman, moving to sit behind the Doctor's legs.

 

"Yes, I saw." She sneered.

 

"Have you been talking about her?" He huffed.

 

She shrugged, "I can't say I haven't been. I think people need to know the truth about her."

 

"You think you know?" He didn't hide his glare so much now.

 

"I have enough information to piece things together. Besides, I feel sorry for you. She's not trustworthy, she's secretive, snippy, and what kind of respectable woman leaves her family for over a month, especially while she's expecting?"

 

"What kind of respectable woman spreads rumors about another?" The words slipped out before he could stop himself. In for a penny, in for a pound. "She's been through more than you could wrap your thick head around. And for the record, her father had gotten into a serious car accident and she needed to be there." That hadn't happened of course, but she ought to feel bad for her accusations.

 

Monica glared at him, though the last bit made her eyebrows raise, "Oh? Car accident? That's not the story your daughters have been telling. They said that she was on a work trip. So which is it, John, work trip or family emergency?"

 

"I told my daughters it was a work trip because River and I haven't figured out how to tell them their grandfather is dead." He uncrossed his arms, hands tense at his sides. "You've been making assumptions about my wife and I don't care what you tell yourself she's like, it is completely childish of you to go around and spread lies about her."

 

The woman, not having a comment to fire back just crossed her arms and walked away. The girls came out of school minutes later, bouncing around, happy to see their father. He gave them hugs and hurried them off the school grounds, not wanting to stick around.

 

River was waiting for them when they got home, already getting out the girls' after school snacks. Toby sat under the table while they snacked and told about their day.

 

"Is Arthur still asleep?" The Doctor asked River.

 

She nodded, "Yeah, he finally went down right before you got home." She sighed, sitting down in a chair rubbing her eye. She had only been up for an hour and she was already looking exhausted again.

 

"Did you eat yet?" He worried.

 

She nodded, "I had some fruit."

 

"Good." He smiled weakly. "You look tired."

 

She nodded, "I am rather tired."

 

"How come you don't kiss anymore?" Freya piped up, "You always give Mummy a kiss when you see her but you haven't been doin' it since she came home."

 

The Doctor blinked at the girl, surprised at her sudden comment. "I thought you didn't like when we kissed in front of you."

 

"I don't like it, but it's weird that you haven't kissed because you used to do it all the time." She made a face at the memory.

 

"Well, um, Mummy's been tried lately so... Uh..." He looked at River for help.

 

River opened her mouth to say something when Amelia interrupted, "Do you and Mummy not love each other anymore?"

 

"What, of course, we love each other!" The Doctor frowned. At least he still loved River all the same, though he wasn't completely sure that was mutual.

 

"So why don't you act like it anymore? You don't even sleep in the same bed." She pointed out. The girls obviously weren't as oblivious to their parents change in dynamic as they had originally thought.

 

He looked at River again, nervously fidgeting with his thumbs. She was staring at the floor, not knowing how to answer her daughter's questions.

 

"Look girls... Mummy and I had a fight and we're just working some things out right now." He sighed. "That doesn't mean we don't love each other anymore, we still do."

 

River nodded, "We'll always love each other." The Doctor smiled weakly at her.

 

"But then why can't you be like you were?" Amelia frowned.

 

River answered this one. "Well, sometimes, when Mummies and Daddies have fights, they don't want to kiss for a while, even if they love each other. It's like when you and Freya have a fight. You still love each other, but you don't want to share your toys with her for a little while, just like Mummy and Daddy don't want to...share things for a while."

 

"But how long is a while?" She fretted, having a feeling it would be longer than when she and her sister had fights.

 

River shook her head, "I don't know, sweetheart. But I promise it won't be forever."

 

Amelia didn't look very believing of that. "What'd you even fight about? You've never been like this before."

 

"We don't really want to talk about it, my love." She murmured, massaging her temple.

 

"But we could help!" Freya butted in. "Is... Is it our fault?"

 

"Of course not!" River assured, "But it's a private thing that we have to deal with on our own." She was tensing, growing more and more stressed.

 

The girls looked down at the remainder of their snack, only picking now.

 

"I'm going to go check on Arthur." River murmured, standing. The conversation had obviously upset her, but she didn't want her family to see.

 

They nodded, the Doctor cleaning up after the girls and urging them to do an activity. The girls went outside to play, soon forgetting about their talk. Toby joined them and the Doctor went upstairs to check on River.

 

She had gone to their room, sitting on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands. He knocked on the doorframe. "Riv?"

 

"Yeah?" She lifted her head, looking up at him.

 

"I, um... Are you alright?" He asked stepping into the room.

 

She nodded, "Yes, I'm fine."

 

He didn't believe that but he didn't push. "Alright. I just want to see if you needed anything."

 

She nodded, "Thank you for checking on me."

 

"Is there anything I can do or get you?"

 

She shook her head, sitting in silence for a moment. "You do know that I still love you, right?"

 

He nodded. Though he had doubted it before, the words were a great comfort. "Yes. And you know you're still my everything?"

 

She nodded slowly.

 

"The girls are playing in the yard, I think they're okay now."

 

"That's good." She whispered, standing and approaching him. He watched calmly, taking in her features.

 

She took his hand, examining it in hers. Her ring was still missing, though she hadn't looked to see if his was still there. He'd never taken his off, the metal band still sitting there, shiny and well taken care of.

 

Her fingers slowly slid along the metal. "I don't know where mine is..."

 

"Did you lose it?" He asked softly.

 

She sighed, "Yes… I didn't think I would ever wear it again."

 

His expression remained schooled. "And now you think differently?"

 

"I-" She hesitated, "I want to give you another chance. I want everything to be alright between us, but if things don't change..."

 

"They will. I will. I'm going to change, I'm going to do everything I can to be a better husband to you."

 

"I'm not saying that you specifically have to change, I'm just asking that you be more… conscious of me."

 

He nodded. "I will, I'm trying and I'm not going to stop trying." He assured. She nodded, eyes shifting to focus on his. He looked back at her, hope shimmering there but not quite reaching the rest of his face. "Thank you... For deciding to give me another chance."

 

She nodded again.

 

"Um, so I did ask around when I was picking up the girls... I'm afraid it isn't good news."

 

She sighed, closing her eyes, "I'd rather not hear it then."

 

"Alright." He agreed.

 

Arthur started whining from the other room. She looked up at him, watching his face as if expecting something more, and then turned to go get Arthur.

 

"Um, River?" He turned, hoping she hadn't left earshot yet.

 

"Yes?" She turned, looking back in his direction.

 

"Do you, I mean um, I can recreate your ring. If you want me to."

 

She closed her eyes, it hadn't been what she had hoped, "No, no I don't want you to do that."

 

He nodded. "Oh, alright."

 

She turned, going to get Arthur. The boy was whining in his crib, limbs flailing and reaching. "Hello there." River smiled softly, lifting the boy up and kissing his cheek. He grew less fussy, making sleepy noises at her. "Did you have a nice nap?"

 

"Nuh." He mumbled against her.

 

She kissed his temple. "What's wrong, my sweet?"

 

"Puppy." He frowned.

 

"Toby's downstairs, do you want to go see him?"

 

"Baw!" He remembered, still disappointed about not getting to do what he wanted with the tennis ball.

 

"Shhh. How about I put you down with some of your toys. I bet that will be loads of fun!"

 

He hesitated and made a bit of a huff. "Baw."

 

She set him on the floor, getting a ball for him, "There you go."


He grinned and immediately tried to chew on it, unable to actually fit it in his mouth. River sighed, going to lean against the doorframe, feeling quite sore.

Chapter Text

 

 Ch 46

 

After a few minutes, Arthur decided that the ball didn't actually taste as good as Toby thought it did and looked up at River. "Up."

 

She lifted him with a groan, trying to hold him in a way that was more comfortable for her. "Come on, let's go downstairs."

 

"Mummm." He hummed, staring at her.

 

Her steps halted just as she reached the top of the stairs, putting a hand to her side and wincing.

 

Muh!" Arthur tried to get her attention. She ignored him, starting down the stairs. He whined at her the whole way down.

 

River set him down with the rest of his toys in the living room, sitting down on the couch, needing a rest. Arthur was anything but restful, banging his toys around loudly. She closed her eyes for a few minutes, her head starting to hurt.

 

The girls came into the room, faces pink from running around in the yard. "Mummy, what's for dinner?"

 

She opened her eyes, looking up at them, "Oh...Umm… What would you girls like to have tonight?"

 

"Can we order pizza? Pretty please?" Freya asked.

 

"Of course, we can." She nodded, too tired to argue or cook. She got up to get the phone, ordering pizza for their family.

 

"Can we have some of the goodies Daddy brought back? There's still leftovers." Amelia added when River got off the phone.

 

"After dinner, my love." She nodded, feeling another sharp pang in her side.

 

Amelia pouted but didn't protest, distracted. "Mummy, are you okay?"

 

"Yes, of course." She smiled, trying to hide the discomfort.

 

The girls looked unsure but shrugged. "Can we have cake at Arthur's birthday party?"

 

"Yes, I promise there'll be cake." River nodded, sinking back onto the couch.

 

"Chocolate cake?" Freya hoped.

 

River nodded again, "That's Arthur's favorite.”

 

"And mine!" She grinned. "Me and Mia have been working on a super secret surprise present."

 

"Really? A super secret surprise present?" She smiled, "That' sounds very exciting." The girls nodded and scrambled up on the couch. "You two are such good big sisters."

 

"Daddy's been helping a little, but he's really going to like it!"

 

"Oh, really? Well, I'm very glad." She smiled weakly, "You two are very thoughtful."

 

"Are we going to go somewhere exciting?"  

 

"Yes, but we haven't decided where yet." She nodded, "Now, why don't you two go wash up so you're nice and clean for dinner."

 

They reluctantly got off the couch and scurried off. River sighed, another but less painful than the last, pain came over her. She half wondered where the Doctor had gone off to. She hadn't seen him since she had gone to get Arthur and their little house wasn't big enough for him to really just disappear into it.

 

Toby wandered in and sat with Arthur who was delighted to be near him. "Puppy!" River sighed, laying down with a sigh, feeling a good amount of pressure on her lower back. She had one hand pressed against her back in an effort to ease the discomfort with counter pressure.

 

It was only a minute or two before the Doctor wandered in, behind the couch so River couldn't actually see him standing there.

 

"Da!" Arthur declared gleefully.

 

River looked at the baby, then up behind her. The Doctor smiled softly at her. "Hey."

 

"Hi." She whispered, giving him a weak smile back, "Where did you go?"  

 

"I was just fiddling in the TARDIS." He murmured.  

 

"Oh." She nodded, turning her face so he wouldn't see her wince again.

 

He rounded the couch, the wince not slipping by him. "Did you think I was doing something else?"

 

"No, what else would you have been doing?" She shrugged, "I was just wondering since I hadn't seen you."

 

He nodded and glanced at their son. "Arthur's woken up, did you hear the word he figured out today?"

 

"No? What word?" She asked, having not even realized he said a proper word earlier.

 

The Doctor pointed to Toby and Arthur grinned and cheered: "Puppy!"

 

Once again, River missed it, squeezing her eyes shut and moaning quietly. Her husband looked back wordily at her. "River, what's wrong?"

 

"I'm fine." She shook her head, "It's just her position... is not very ugh-comfortable."

 

He frowned, "What's she doing?"

 

"Her head is digging into my back and her back is pressed down against my pelvis." She opened her eyes, looking up at the ceiling.

 

"...Have you tried asking her to move?" He suggested.

 

"Yes, and she won't. She's been ignoring me."

 

He nodded, remembering her letting him that last night. "May I...?"

 

She sighed but nodded. He tentatively pressed his palm against their daughter who was very stubbornly wedged into her spot. He nudged very slightly, seeing if she'd respond.

 

Terra kicked happily but refused to move. She wedged herself further against River's hips, quite comfortable. He sighed sympathetically, taking his hand away. "I think the best I can offer is a back rub."

 

River shook her head, burying her face in a pillow.

 

"River?" He said softly.

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Is there anything I can do?"

 

She shook her head, "No, not really."

 

"I can start dinner." He murmured.

 

She shook her head again, "I already ordered pizza for us. Just sit with me, please?" She looked up at him.

 

He nodded willingly and settled against the couch. She sighed, reaching out to take his hand, needing something to squeeze something to distract her from the ache.

 

He squeezed back softly. "Arthur's learning quite fast."

 

She nodded, her grip tightening as Terra shifted further, "We really need to start the nursery soon."

 

"Actually... that's partly what I was doing on the TARDIS." He said.

 

"What?" She frowned, "Without me?"

 

"I was only making sure the room existed, I didn't put anything in it. It's just an empty white room." He revised his earlier statement.

 

She relaxed a bit. "Oh, alright."

 

"We should do some planning, though." He tread carefully, making sure she was alright on the subject.

 

"There's a lot of pressure on my hips." She huffed, ignoring his statement.

 

"From her position?" She nodded. "What kind of pressure? River, do we need to go to the med bay?" He fretted quickly.

 

"No, no, I just need you to figure out some way to alleviate the pressure because it hurts." She squeezed his hand again, though was calmer than he was. "Distract me, please."

 

"Okay, um, right. Distraction. What about Arthur's birthday? Have we figured out all the details of that?" He tried.

 

"No, no I don't want to talk about that."

 

"Okay. Uh... nursery plans?"

 

She shook her head, "You do the talking, something else, please."

 

"Alright." He thought for a good moment. "Can I tell you a story from when I was a boy on Gallifrey?”

 

She nodded "Okay."

 

"So, as you know, I skipped class more than I should have when I was a boy. I was only in my third year at the time and one of my friend's had told me to meet them out at the big tree outside the academy. I listened foolishly and went there instead of to class, but he wasn't there. I must have waited for three hours there before I noticed that he'd carved something on my favorite climbing branch."

 

She nodded, signaling that she was listening.

 

"The note told me to go into the forest." He continued. "Which was really a stupid idea because I didn't have anyone with me and if something were to happen, it'd probably take days to find me. But it doesn't take many to agree I was an idiot, so I did go to the forest. The note had said, 'keep your eyes off the ground' so I went in staring at the tree tops instead of looking where I was going. I ran into three trees and tripped nearly a dozen times before deciding to just climb up. I looked through every nook and cranny and nest before I found his next clue on a piece of paper on the top of one of the highest trees."

 

She laughed softly, though immediately tightened her grip on his hand when Terra kicked, not liking the jostling she got when her mother laughed. He gave a small smile, squeezing back.

 

"I fell after that. As soon as I had the note I stepped on a faulty branch and fell right out of the tree. broke my arm too, but I didn't know that at the time. It kept getting worse after that. Night was starting and the forest was really quite a scary place at night. On top of that, the note had ripped and I could only read half of it. I figured out that the next clue was by the river, but I didn't know I was wrong at the time."

 

"Can you stop for a minute?" She asked, tugging him closer to her. He nodded, quieting himself.

 

She pulled him so his forehead was against hers. It was probably the closest they had been in a long time, but she wanted the contact. He blinked at her, surprised by the action but not at all protesting. She had her eyes closed, so she couldn't see his expression. Normally, he would kiss her, touch her cheek, rub her shoulders, and her heart ached when she realized he probably wouldn't do that now.

 

"Is, uh..." He lightly rested a hand on her shoulder. "This the sort of distraction you meant?"

 

"I...I don't really know what I meant." She whispered, her voice wavered ever so slightly, "I just- ...I...." She tried to find the words she was looking for, "I've missed you."

 

He smiled warmly. "I've missed you, too, love."

 

She smiled weakly, opening her eyes. He unconsciously rubbed his thumb back and forth, breathing her in. She gently brushed her nose against his, "I'm starting to feel better..."

 

The contact sent a few chills through him. "From the pain?"

 

"Yeah." She murmured.

 

"Good." He breathed. "I'm glad."

 

She hummed, eyes darting down towards his lips.

 

He caught the flicker, hearts surging. "Can I...?"

 

She nodded.

 

He pressed his lips slowly down to hers, still unsure of himself. She leaned right into the kiss, urging him on. He was a bit surprised, letting his hand move up to cup her face.

 

She relaxed against his hand, slowly started to pull away after a moment. He pulled back enough to look at her. She watched him with shining eyes, touching his cheek gently. He smiled, leaning to her touch.

 

Arthur tried to get their attention from his place next to Toby. River smiled back at her husband, not even noticing Arthur.

 

"Mummah!" Arthur protested, refusing to be ignored.

 

She finally broke her gaze from the Doctor looking over at the baby, "What is it, darling?"  

 

He crawled over to the couch, grabbing onto the cushions and trying to pull himself up.

 

"Oh, my, look at you!" River praised as he started to stand. He wobbled and he hoisted himself up, leaning on the couch and trying his very hardest not to fall over. She put a hand on his back to make sure he didn't topple backward, "Arthur! Good job!" She cheered, kissing his cheek.

 

"Up!" He frowned. She lifted him up so he could lay on her chest. "Muh." He hummed more satisfied.

 

She nuzzled his cheek, "Hello, sweetheart."

 

"Puppy!" He pointed.

 

River's eyes widened, finally hearing the world, "Yes! Yes, puppy! Very good!"

 

"Puppy, puppy!" He repeated, enjoying her approval. She laughed, kissing his forehead, and smiling at the Doctor.

 

The girls finally made their way back into the room, noticing that their parents looked happier than before.

 

"The pizza should be here any minute, girls." River smiled at them.

 

They grinned. "I want Daddy to finish his story!"

 

The Doctor hadn’t realized they’d overheard. “Well, alright, but it's not the happiest ending. I got in a mess of trouble before my friend pulled me out of it."

 

"We want to hear!" The girls cheered.

 

He nodded. "So, I went down to the river and I sat on the bank to see if I could see any more clues. It was getting pretty dark so I wanted to I wanted to find it quickly."

 

The girls climbed up on the couch to sit with River and Arthur. The Doctor went through what he remembered, which involved several encounters with animals, a running into the trees, and a lot more clumsiness.

 

By the time he got to the part where he was out of the forest, the doorbell rang.

 

"I'll get it." River murmured, trying to disentangle herself from her family members.

 

The girls jumped off the couch and ran to the door first. "Pizza, pizza!"

 

River followed slowly, one hand on her back. "Alright, take a step back."

 

They crowded her legs, staring up at the pizza man. She paid for the pizza, then shooed them into the kitchen. Toby joined them, jumping up on a chair and staring intently at the pizza boxes.

 

"Down, Toby," River ordered, getting plates for the four of them and putting Arthur in his high chair.

 

Toby whined, retreating under the table. She pat his head, sitting down, trying to hide a wince.

 

The girls grabbed slices and Arthur reached towards the good smell. River got Arthur a slice, cutting it up into very little pieces that he could eat.

 

"Eeesa!" He beamed, shoving a bit in his mouth. River smiled, not very hungry herself.

 

"Are you going to have some?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Not hungry." She murmured, rubbing the underside of her abdomen.

 

"Are you sure?" He frowned slightly.

 

She nodded, "Yes, I'm positive."

 

He decided to ask more about it later. "Girls, say thanks to Mummy for ordering pizza."

 

"Thank you, mummy!" They said with mouths full of pizza. Even Arthur made some noise of appreciation, dropping one of his little pieces down to Toby. Toby was happy to clean up the mess Arthur was making.

 

"If you don't mind, I think I'm going to go lay back on the couch." River murmured.

 

"Tired again?" The Doctor asked.

 

"Yes, that and sitting isn't the most comfortable position for me to be in right now." She eased herself up, "I felt much better while I was lying down."

 

They all nodded. "Can we eat in the living room so we can still all sit together?" Freya asked.

 

"If you're careful." She nodded.

 

They balanced their plates carefully and followed her to the living room.

 

"Can you bring the baby?" River asked the Doctor, her back already making her pay for lifting him up so much earlier.

 

"Sure." He scooped up Arthur and brought his plate, too. She lay down on the couch, using pillows to prop herself up.  The others sat on the floor, the Doctor placing Arthur in front of him.


River settled with her family, smiling softly.

Chapter Text

 

 Ch 47

 

Once dinner was ended, the girls went up to get ready for bed. Toby followed them, leaving Arthur and the adults.

 

"Her position still bothering you?" The Doctor asked. River nodded. He sighed. "I really wish I could do something more."

 

"Baah!" Arthur pointed to River's belly.

 

She sighed, "Me too."

 

"But lying down helps?"

 

She nodded, "When I lay down she doesn't dig into my hips as much.”

 

"You should move to the bed soon." He suggested.

 

"Why?" She frowned slightly.

 

"More comfortable," He shrugged. "And it's nearing bed anyways."

 

"Right, of course." She started to stand, though she could barely manage to sit up.

 

"Do you want some help?" He offered.

 

She nodded, "That would be nice." He extended his hand to her. She took his hand, finally managing to get up.

 

It took her several minutes to walk to their room, waddling at a snail's pace. He helped her settle into bed, Arthur balanced on his hip.

 

"Are you going to stay with me tonight?" She asked softly.

 

"If it's alright with you." He answered in the same tone.

 

She nodded, "I'd like it."

 

He smiled. "Then yes. Absolutely."

 

The girls ran in, dressed for bed and carrying a book to read. River offered to read the girls their story, and then kissed them goodnight as they dragged the Doctor off to tuck them and Arthur in.

 

Toby curled up on the bed with River, resting his head on her leg. She pet his head, closing her eyes.Terra shifted slightly away from Toby, more wedged against River's back. River groaned, hating the increased pressure on her back.

 

Toby lifted his head, looking at her curiously. She ignored the dog, taking slow, deep breaths.

 

The Doctor returned shortly, looking a bit concerned. "You alright?"

 

She shook her head, "She shifted and she's putting more pressure on my back." She stated, not mentioning how uncomfortable it was.

 

"You look like you're in pain." He observed.

 

"Well, I can't say it's very comfortable." She grumbled.

 

He nodded. "Maybe lying on your side will help." She nodded, shifting to lay on her side.

 

Toby moved off the bed and the Doctor slipped his shoes off to move on. "Any better?"

 

She shook her head, "Not really."

 

"Pillows?" He suggested.

 

"Yes, that might help." She murmured.

 

He helped her stack pillows behind her back, Toby watching from the floor. She leaned back on the pillows, sighing.

 

"No help?" He guessed.

 

"Not really, but I appreciated your help." She smiled weakly.

 

"I hardly did anything." He frowned, wishing he could have been more effective.

 

"Your suggestions were very nice." She shifted.

 

"I have a few more if you're not tired of them." He smiled weakly as Terra suddenly gave a firm kick downwards.

 

"I'd li-" She groaned, pressing on the spot the girl had kicked.

 

"Riv?" He frowned worriedly.

 

"I'm fine, it was just a kick." She assured, "I'd like to try more things."

 

"Next idea was a hot bath." He murmured, still looking concerned.

 

She nodded, "I'd like that."

 

"I'll start the tap." He got off the bed, going to the bathroom to turn the faucet on.

 

Toby was the one to keep River company while the Doctor kept an eye on the bath. Terra periodically kicked during this time, never softly and always to spots where it was terribly uncomfortable to be kicked. River tried not to groan, squeezing her hands in a tight fist as she waited for the Doctor.

 

When the bath was full, he returned to the room. "Do you need help up?"

 

"Yes, I think so." He took her hands and supported her to standing. She needed to walk very slowly to the bathroom, one hand pressed on her back. He acted as the support she needed.

 

"So I'll, uh, leave you to it then." He said when they got there.

 

She hesitated, still holding onto his arm, "You can...stay if you want."

 

He looked at her and nodded with a small smile. "Thanks."

 

She took off her clothes, needing help getting into the bathtub. He assisted her in, sitting on the edge of the tub. She leaned back in the water, humming.

 

"Helping?" He asked hopefully. She nodded. "Oh good." He relaxed. "I'm glad."

 

She closed her eyes, relaxing in the tub.

 

"I'm sure there'll be lots of hot baths on Sunday."

 

"Why? What's on Sunday?"

 

"The spa with Clara, remember?"

 

"Oh, right. Yes, of course." She nodded.

 

"They specialize in working with heat. Not fire," He corrected quickly. "I mean like hot rocks and water and things."

 

"Mmmm, I can't wait." She smiled.

 

"I'm sure Clara's over the moon, too. She seemed very excited." He informed.

 

"I'm glad. She certainly was a big help to me."

 

He looked at her questioningly then remembered what she was talking about and nodded. "That went well then?"

 

She nodded slowly, "Yes, quite well."

 

"Good." He murmured.

 

"Yes." She whispered.

 

They were quiet for a moment and Toby stalked in curiously.

 

"Do you have any thoughts for the nursery?" The Doctor asked.

 

She shook her head, "I hadn't really thought about it much, you?"

 

"I had a few idea's about color." He shrugged.

 

"What did you have in mind?"

 

"A light blue. Or a turquoise maybe." He voiced.

 

River tried to smile, though it didn't quite reach her eyes, "That'd be pretty." Terra shifted and settled low.

 

"Glad you think so."

 

River shifted, wishing Terra would just get away from her back and her hips.

 

"You could wear the dress to the spa." He said, trying to keep the conversation.

 

She nodded, "Yes, that would be nice. What will you do with the girls and Arthur?”

 

"I didn't have a particular plan. We'll probably go out to a park."

 

"That sounds nice."

 

They made quiet conversation for a while, Toby at one point trying to get in the water too, but the Doctor stopped him. River eventually decided that she had had enough and was ready to get out. He offered her a fluffy towel and helped her back to the bedroom.

 

She changed back into a warm nightgown, settling into bed. The Doctor settled next to her, Toby on the end of the bed, determined to be close to the Timelords.

 

"Why are you hovering so much today?" River asked the dog, patting his head. Toby only looked at her, nuzzling to her hand. She scratched behind his ears, smiling softly. He made a pleased noise and rested his head down. She smiled tiredly, leaning back on the bed.

 

"Sweet dreams." The Doctor murmured.

 

"Goodnight." She whispered back.

 

-x-

 

By the morning, Terra was wedged up by River ribs and the Doctor and Toby crowded either side of her, both sleeping soundly. River hadn't gotten much sleep with Terra moving and shifting into the most uncomfortable positions possible and by morning she looked crabby and exhausted.

 

The girls crept in, peering around the side of the bed. She didn't notice them, finally starting to fall asleep.

 

"Mummy," Freya said in a loud whisper.

 

"Mmm? What is it?" She breathed, rolling over to look at her.

 

"Are you going to take us to school?"

 

"Mmmhmm." She hummed, not really hearing them.

 

"An' we need breakfast," Amelia added.

 

"Okay, in a minute."

 

"Mummy, it's already 7:40." She insisted.

 

"7:40?" River was more awake now, "You girls are going to be late! Doctor!"

 

"Hmm?" He stirred, squinting up at her.

 

"The girls are going to be late for school!"

 

He bolted up and stared at her, then at the kids and jumped out of bed. "Come on!" The girls ran after him, River unable to move  as fast as her family.

 

The Doctor started packing lunches and making breakfast at the same time, rushing himself. River had gone to the girls’ bedroom to get their clothes out for them, helping them get dressed and rushing them downstairs.

 

"Can you make sure their bags are packed?" The Doctor asked, trying not to burn eggs. She nodded, making sure everything was in each bag and that they weren't missing anything.

 

The girls gobbled down their breakfast, Toby trying to take some. River shooed Toby away, going to feed him so he would stop bothering them.

 

The Doctor got their shoes and bags on. "Give Mummy goodbye kisses." The girls ran and kissed River before wiggling their bags on. "Now, we're going to walk really fast, alright?"

 

They nodded, already running out of the door. "Bye Mummy!" They called, the door shutting louder than they meant to.

 

River waved, sitting down on the sofa. Toby jumped up and curled up to her. She smiled, petting his head and closing her eyes, trying to fall asleep again. Tiber joined soon after, trying to settle himself on River's chest. River was asleep by the time this happened, curled up on the couch.

 

The only one who paid any mind to the cat was Terra, who was not happy about him. River was awake as soon as Terra started kicking, groaning not so much because she was in pain but because she had been awoken again.

 

As Terra kicked she managed to transfer a few irritated emotions to River, something she hadn't done in a while. River shooed the cat away, hoping it could make her daughter stop. Terra calmed some, settling back was she was, though she was still unforgiving of the cat. River sighed, rubbing her temples.

 

When the Doctor came back, he looked a bit flustered.

 

"Are you alright?" River asked, looking up at him.

 

He let out a puff of air. "Yeah. Just a bit embarrassed. And I feel like an idiot."

 

"Why?" She frowned.

 

"We were so rushed I didn't even consider that we have a time machine."

 

River stared at him for a moment, then laughed, "Neither did I."

 

He chuckled at her amusement. "The good news is we got there in the nick of time."

 

"Good, I'm glad." She smiled.

 

"Next time let's hope one of us can figure it out beforehand." He smiled back.  She nodded. "Well, did I miss anything exciting?"

 

"Not really, only the fact that your daughter is determined for me to be constantly uncomfortable."

 

"Oh dear, is she at it again?"

 

"When is she not at it." She mumbled.

 

He gave a sympathetic hum. "Do you want some tea?"

 

She nodded, "Tea would be nice."

 

"I'm on it." He popped off to the kitchen.

 

"Thank you." She called. Tiber, padded after him, curious about what he was up to.

 

The cat meowed, jumping up on the counter. "Down." The Doctor pointed sternly.

 

He mewled, nuzzling his arm.

 

"No. Down, Tiber. No cats on the counter." He scooped the cat up and put him on the floor.  Tiber went  to sit with River.

 

The Doctor brought in the tea when in was done, offering River cup just the way she liked it.

 

"Thanks." She murmured, taking a sip.

 

"Looks like a mellow day. Minus that bit this morning." He commented.

 

She nodded, tracing circles on her abdomen. "I don't mind a mellow day." He had thought as much, settling next to Toby on the couch.

 

The morning was spent in soft conversations about nothing in particular.

 

River frowned as she glanced at the clock, "I'm going to go check on Arthur, he doesn't usually sleep this late." The Doctor nodded.

 

Tiber was the one to follow River. She crept up to the nursery, opening the door.

 

Arthur was sitting up in his crib, entertained by Samantha who had gotten inside. He was also babbling quite a bit, practicing various combinations of continents and vowels.

 

"Good morning, sweetheart." River murmured.

 

He blinked up at her and grinned. "Muh!"

 

She smiled, scooping him out of the crib, "I didn't know you were awake!"

 

"Biiii wo-ah!" He tried to answer.

 

She nuzzled his cheek, not understanding, "Let's go downstairs and see daddy."

 

"Papa." He hummed. Samantha joined. River carried him down the stairs, taking him to the Doctor.

 

"Look who's up." The Doctor grinned at his son.

 

"He was talking with Samantha."

 

"He doesn't know how to speak cat, yet." He chuckled.

 

She smiled, kissing the baby's cheek, "Well he was trying to learn."  

 

"Well that bit doesn't surprise me, our boy is brilliant. Aren't you, little man?"

 

Arthur screeched happily, clapping his hands. The cats scampered from the room and the Doctor only grinned wider. "I believe that was a yes."

 

River smiled, "Now that Arthur's up, what do you want to do?"

 

"I'm not picky." He shrugged.

 

Toby made a noise close to a whimper. River glanced at the dog, wondering what was wrong.

 

"I think he wants his walk." The Doctor translated.

 

"We should go for a walk then."

 

He nodded and Toby jumped up to wait at the door. River got Arthur's stroller, settling him in. The Doctor got the leash and diaper bag and soon they were off.

 

They kept a slow pace, River still tired from running on only a little sleep. Terra didn't cause much trouble aside from lowering River's lung capacity. Arthur was very babble-y as they walked, which the Doctor told River was ramblings about the cat.

 

River was very out of breath about ten minutes into their walk, needing to sit down. They were just outside the dog park, Toby yearning towards the field as they sat on a bench. River closed her eyes, wanting to relax for just a moment.

 

"Mummuh!" Arthur interrupted, reaching out for her.

 

She opened her eyes, smiling weakly at him, "Yes my love?"

 

"Uuup." He insisted.

 

"No, not right now, my sweet. Mummy's very sore."

 

"Up! Up!" He frowned, wanting her to hold him.

 

"No, Arthur. Not now." She repeated.

 

The Doctor scooped him up instead, hoping it would settle him. The baby quieted down, content to be in someone's arms, even if it wasn't his mummy's. "There we are." He soothed the boy. "You alright, River?"

 

She nodded, "Yeah, I'm...tired."

 

"Did you sleep okay?" She shook her head. "Maybe you should go back and nap." He suggested, feeling a bit bad for making her come out when she was tired.

 

"No, I'll manage. If I took a nap every time I was tired I'd be sleeping through my entire pregnancy."

 

He chuckled. "Fair point."

 

Toby tugged at his leash, wanting to go play with the other dogs in the field. River sighed, looking at the dog, "Must we?"

 

He whimpered.

 

"Why don't we just let him off his leash?" The Doctor suggested. "He comes when I whistle."

 

"I don't want to chase him around if it doesn't."

 

"I can do that bit if it comes to it." He offered.

 

She sighed softly, "Alright, fine."

 

"Stay out of trouble." He told the dog as he leaned down and freed him from the leash. Toby bolted towards the other dogs. "He'll be fine." The Doctor and Arthur watched in amusement.

 

River looked less amused and more distant. The boy stayed amused while the Doctor looked over at her.

 

"You okay?"

 

She stared off for a minute, before registering that he had said something, "Hmm?"

 

He offered a smile. "What are you thinking about?"

 

She shook her head, "Nothing."

 

"You were spacing out there, a bit." He informed.

 

"Oh, I didn't realize." She murmured, blood trickling out of her nose.

 

"River..." His expression had changed quickly. "You're bleeding."

 

“...Oh.” She felt the blood running across her lips, going into her purse and fetching a tissue.

 

"Does your head hurt?" He fretted. "Do you feel okay?"

 

"I do I have a headache." She murmured.

 

"How bad, for how long?"

 

She shrugged, “Getting progressively worse since I woke up.”

 

"Why didn't you say anything earlier? We should go back..."

 

"I'm fine." She tried to protest.

 

"Your headache is bad enough to cause a nosebleed. It's cause for serious concern." He countered.

 

"Alright, we'll go back, but you have to get Toby."

 

He nodded and whistled loudly for the dog. Toby looked back at them, very reluctant to come. The Doctor stood and whistled again, patting his legs. "Here, Toby!"

 

The dog walked about halfway towards them. The Doctor started towards him. "You silly old dog, it's time to go!" He whistled again and made it look like there was a treat in his hand. Toby bounded towards him, wagging his tail.

 

"There we go." He triumphantly got the dog's leash back on and headed back to River. River was sitting with her head in her hand, her other hand holding a new tissue to her still bleeding nose.

 

"Think you can make the trip back?" He asked, putting Arthur back in his pram and giving Toby a real treat.


"I hope so." She stood. He wasn't sure if he should put his arm around her or not, pushing the stroller quickly along.

Chapter Text

 

 Ch 48

 

Arthur was drifting off by the time they reached the flat.

"Why don't you go to the med bay, I'll put him down and meet you there." The Doctor murmured.

 

River nodded, going into the TARDIS and starting up the scanner. The Doctor made sure the baby monitor was in his pocket before hurrying off to find River.

 

She was laying on a cot, the results of a scan pulled up on the screen.

 

"Any good news?" He asked, looking at the screen.

 

"Results say high blood pressure due to stress." She murmured, "I didn't read the rest."

 

"Haven't seen that in a while." He murmured, obviously talking about something else.

 

"What?" She frowned, looking over at him.

 

"Can't remember the official term for it, but the locals called it something like rash of the mind." He said, still looking at the information.

 

"And what exactly is a rash of the mind?"

 

He finally turned to her. "It's a thing Timelords get when their telepathic connections are misused or mistreated. Occasionally seen in mentally linked lovers, but it's most common in those who bear children."

 

"What you do mean mistreated?"

 

He thought. "Overuse, sudden use after a lack of, tugging from either side, re-connections or disconnection..." He stopped. "I think there's more but I can't remember. And I say mistreated, I really mean just anything that would cause the irritation, though I suppose mistreating it would do that too." He looked up at her.

 

She was obviously annoyed, "Well I don't know why that's there since I haven't even been using the connection, much less mistreating it. I don't know why you won't just cut it and save me a lot of trouble."

 

He blinked at her, trying not to react to that last bit. "I, uh, if I had to make a guess as to why you've got this, it would probably- actually two guesses. Guess one: that whole mess with the connections before and having to choose one... it could still be tender to the touch from all that. Guess two: there's pulling, but not from you."

 

"I cut my connection with Arthur for her before I was ready, I don't know what more she wants." She took a deep breath, "I just want it to go away. I don't want it, I want this to stop."

 

He swallowed. "The irritation can go away and your blood pressure can normalize with a day’s rest and some focus on healing... we don't have to go to extreme measures."

 

She laughed bitterly, "That's so easy for you to say when you're not the one actually dealing with it."

 

"Just medical advice." He murmured. He knew he was getting into territory where he had to tread carefully. "Sorry. You're right. Your body, not mine. What do you need?"

 

Her nose had begun to bleed again, an indication of the amount of stress she was feeling. "I want you to cut my connection with her. You've done it before and with much less reason, I don't know why you won't do it now."

 

He stared at the floor, voice quiet. " Because I did before without much reason." He echoed. "And William... "

 

She visibly tensed, "That wasn't the reason he died, you know that."

 

"I do know, but I remember how I felt because of that. How you felt because of it, (or at least how you told me how you felt)." He sat in down in a close chair.

 

She sighed, burying her head in her hands.

 

"I just can't bring myself to do it again, not after the last time." He gave a heavy sigh. "But if it's really something you want, I'll make a block."

 

"This isn't what I wanted." She was shaking, "From the moment you told me you knew I was pregnant, nothing has been going right. This isn't what I wanted for our family, for our children. I don't-" She couldn't continue, afraid she would really lose it if she did.  

 

"I'm just trying to take this one problem at a time, River. If you try to hold it all at one you're going to be crushed by the weight of it all." He hadn't moved his eyes from the floor.

 

"There are too many problems for me to take it one at a time." She whispered.

 

"It's still exhausting to do all at once... even two or three at a time would be immensely better. The longer you hold it, the heavier it will feel." He said, remembering another factor to rash of the mind.

 

"Well, there's no way to deal with these problems." Her voice shook.

 

"Not alone, no." He began to look up at her.

 

She was still shaking, trying to calm herself down, "I don't know what to do."

 

He stood and moved to gently sit on the edge of the cot. "Stop trying to figure it out alone."

 

"There isn't a way to fix most of the problems whether I'm alone or not."

 

"Talk to me, then. Tell me what they are, you never know if you don't try." He murmured.

 

She stared at him for a minute, trying to figure out where to start. "None of this started the way I wanted it to. I wanted to get to tell you that I was pregnant when I was in a place where I was happy and comfortable with it, but..." She didn't want to say she had felt like she was pushed into it, "I never got that. I felt thrown into it before I got the chance to process it myself, and now every time I think about it, it h-" She stopped before she could say 'hurts', "There isn't a way to fix that."

 

"You aren't going to be pregnant forever." He thought aloud, taking that in. He'd already partly known how she felt, at least in the beginning. She'd done so well at hiding it he'd thought she had found that happy place, at least until recent events uprooted all that. "I thought... In the beginning, I wish that I hadn't pushed you so much. I was trying to help, but obviously, it was a rubbish sort of help that really only counteracted the goal. And then I thought you were okay because you stopped saying all of this out loud but then we found out she's deaf and you weren't okay. What I'm trying to say it, you could be right about always feeling like that, but you never know how things change. They can change so quickly for us and our thoughts and emotions evolve with the times... they might not, but time does have a tenancy to heal at least a bit."

 

She shook her head, 'It doesn't matter how much time will pass, I'm never going to feel better about that. It's like saying that in time I won't be sad that we lost a child." She took a breath, "I never got that happy moment that I needed, that I still need." She took another breath.

 

"There's still time..." He fiddled with his thumbs. "Do you think that moment will never come?"  

 

She was quiet for a minute, "I don't think so, not anymore."

 

He disagreed but didn't say so. "Do you think it's too late...?"

 

She nodded.

 

"I don't think it is too late." He said softly. "Are all the other things, related to this? Caused by this feeling of not being ready?"

 

She sighed, "Yes, I suppose so."

 

"Tell me about some of the other things."

 

"I'm afraid the girls will be upset that we have so much less time with them than before."

 

"I think that's only a temporary thing, Arthur and Terra will both get older and less dependent. I think that we'll still have time, we can make time, whether it be with the family or just one of us." He tried to assure.

 

"But Arthur and especially Terra won't be independent for years. By the time we'll have time for them they'll be much older."

 

"Didn't you worry the same thing about Arthur? That turned out okay, didn't it? The girls adore him and they don't think we ignore them now. What if we started doing a weekly family thing?"

 

"Yes, but we're going to have four kids now, two of them babies. You remember how busy we were when the girls were both infants. And Terra..." She trailed off, "She's going to need even more attention than we've had to give the others."

 

He was starting to really want to go and change time for her and give her the time she needed to process this. "You're right, she will, but there are two of us for that reason. The girls understand that and we won't shut them out."

 

She shook her head, not having faith in his words.

 

"What if we started doing those family outings again?" He suggested again. "Every week, no matter what's going on, all of us will spend time together."

 

"You want to do family outings with a newborn?" She raised an eyebrow.

 

"Okay, it doesn't have to be outings," he corrected, "it can be as small as family game night."

 

She sighed, "Fine."

 

Her sigh made him unsure. "...Are you saying fine because you want me to zip it or because you want to do the idea."  

 

"No, I think it’s a good idea, I just… don't know how long we'll be able to keep it up. I don't think you understand how busy we'll be."

 

"You never know know until it happens," he said, "If we start it up, then Terra's born, we can see where we are and how things go." He was probably underestimating a bit, but he was almost sure that she was overestimating. He also had a much more hopeful look at it that she did.

 

She closed her eyes, "I just wish I had had the chance to figure this all out so I could actually enjoy these few months and bond with her the way I'm supposed to be."

 

He watched her expression, feeling a bit useless that he could give her nothing but words of comfort, which in all probability didn't go very far. He started to think of what he might do if he could change time, though scrapped every idea since none of them would be possible. “I wish I could find a way to extend the time before she comes and give you that chance.”

 

"No, absolutely not! I don't want this pregnancy being any longer than it has to be. I'm tired of having her constantly right there, I'm sick of her being in my head!" She knew very well that he was clever enough to figure something out.

 

He jumped at her tone. "Sorry, it was only a thought!"

 

The tension in her shoulder's had grown, and she pressed her eyes shut.

 

"...Still don't want the block?" His voice had gone quiet again. She didn't answer, trying to get her body to stop shaking. "Your nose is bleeding again." He murmured, grabbing her another tissue.

 

She took the tissue from him, avoiding his eyes.

 

"You ought to lie down and take a rest. This stress is really getting to you."

 

She nodded, getting up and walking to their bedroom in the TARDIS.

 

"River?" He followed in the hall. "Can I get you anything?"

 

"No, I'm fine." She murmured.

 

"Uh, shout if you need anything. I'm going to check on Arthur."  

 

"I will."


He nodded and quietly went to Arthur's flat nursery where he'd been napping.