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family ties

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On Aurora Pond's first birthday, her older sister brings her a small blue notebook wrapped in paper that glows and shimmers like the Medusa Cascade. Her sister's husband brings her a book of fairy stories and reads to her about the Dalek Emperor's New Clothes. She giggles and tugs on his bow tie, and he listens for a minute, then looks down at her fondly and says, "No it's not, it's cool."

Her parents laugh.

+ + + +

Aurora Pond lives the average life of a seven year-old. She goes to school, she reads and practises her handwriting, she plays games with her friends, and then she comes home to her mother and her father in their little blue house with their lovely dark blue door, where they have dinner and talk about what she did at school and what her parents did at work.

Her father, Rory, is a nurse. Once, one of the children in her year at school tried to tease her about her father's job, and she punched him in the nose.

When her mum came to talk to her teachers after, she looked like she was having a very hard time trying not to laugh. Her teacher wanted her to say that she was sorry, so she faced her classmate and said, "I'm sorry you're a prat."

Her mum took her to get ice cream on the way home. "It's our little secret," she said.

Aurora Pond does one thing that most children of seven do not do. She keeps secrets, and she keeps them very well.

She hears her classmates whispering other people's secrets, secrets like, "Billy liiiiiikes you," or Sarah Beth stole all the chalk so we don't have to do maths today. These are not the kind of secrets that Aurora keeps.

Her sister is a superhero, and her uncle, who is really her brother-in-law, is a funny man with funny hats who brings her books and toys from other planets. His name is the Doctor, which she thinks is very silly. He says it would be even sillier if he were to be called "Brother-in-law-uncle-Doctor," which makes her giggle.

"I'd much rather be a cool uncle than a stuffy brother-in-law," he tells her.

Her sister laughs and says, "Small chance of that."

Her mother says, "Good one," and brings them all a cup of tea.

Her father drives a pretty red convertible, which is cool, but the Doctor drives a time machine, which is cooler. When she has to do a history report for school about Winston Churchill, her mum tells her all about the time that she met him. Her father tells her it is probably a bad idea to include the Daleks in her report.

+ + + +

Her best friend is a boy named Alfie. It's okay if Alfie knows some of her family's secrets, because the Doctor is a friend of his mum and dad. He sometimes calls Alfie "Stormageddon" when he comes to visit.

Her brother-in-law-uncle is very strange, but she loves him.

+ + + +

For Aurora's ninth birthday, she goes with her family to America. If anyone asks, she tells them that they are flying on a plane. She gets on her parents' computer and looks up flights from London to Washington, D.C., which is where her father says they will be going. She picks an airport and an airline so if her friends ask she can tell them.

Other children's parents tell them that lying is bad. Aurora's parents tell her that sometimes it depends on the lie.

Her sister flies the time machine this time. The Doctor makes a grumpy face, but the TARDIS doesn't make any unhappy noises when her sister works the controls. River lets her pull the lever to land. It's very cool.

They go to Washington D.C. in the year 1972 so they can visit her other uncles, who are named Canton and David. They are not related to her parents at all, and they are married but not married, which she doesn't really understand, but Canton is an FBI agent with a gun and everything, and he reminds her of her sister. She likes David. He's a doctor, the medical kind, not the flying through time and space kind, and he likes books about spaceships and aliens.

On the way home, they go to back to London, but not the right year. Aurora meets two ladies who fight crime with long sharp swords. She pouts when no one will let her hold one.

"Mum got to be a pirate once," she says, arms crossed, once they are back in the TARDIS. "She had a sword."

"Rory," says her mother, but her father waves his hands and swears he didn't tell. Her parents glare at the Doctor.

"Sorry," he mouths.

+ + + +

She asked once why she and her parents and her sister and everyone else she knows keep on growing and getting older even though the Doctor never does.

"Growing up is silly, you never want to do that," the Doctor told her. "I've been avoiding it for a long time."

"That isn't an answer," she told him.

"How old do you think I am?"

She stared at him for a long time. "Old," she said finally, and he smiled at her, but his face was sad.

+ + + +

Three days out of every school year, she gets to skive off school for any reason she likes, unless she has a test she is avoiding. Sometimes she stays home and draws in her blue notebook while her dad watches old black and white films. Sometimes, if River is visiting, she will go out with her sister.

River is a bit jumpy sometimes. A lady with an eyepatch walks by them in the park and River's fingers are so tight around her own that she yelps.

"Sorry," her sister says, patting her shoulder. "Thought I saw someone I knew."

River doesn't come around for awhile after that, but her parents tell her that it's nothing she did wrong.

She says that she believes them, but she doesn't.

+ + + +

The Doctor turns up at Christmas when she is eleven. She nicks his sonic screwdriver and accidentally breaks her bedroom window.

She has to help with the filing at her mother's company for a month as punishment. At least her mother's assistant is nice. Donna doesn't say anything when she slips out for a coffee, even though her parents don't like her drinking caffeine.

Donna is hilarious and loud most of the time, but sometimes, when she's been quiet for awhile, she'll come up with an absolutely brilliant idea but forget about it five minutes later. It almost reminds Aurora of the Doctor. Almost.

+ + + +

When Aurora is thirteen, she steals her sister's diary and reads it, cover to cover. She doesn't say she's sorry when she's caught. She thinks the tears running down her face are apology enough.

"You can never, ever, tell the Doctor what you read," River says, and she nods.

"I promise," she says, and she means it.