Characters/Pairings: Eleven/River, Amy/Rory
Alternate link: AO3
Summary: In which - to nobody's surprise - the Doctor is late, has a horrible taste in presents, and damages the flower bed some more, but everyone still loves him anyway.
Author's Note: Unashamed fluff. This is basically my reaction to all the angst since The Angels Take Manhattan. Also, my first ever DW-fic, so hopefully it's not too bad...
“I’ve told you at least a hundred times to stop leaving the bloody brakes on and now you do it?” River asks disbelievingly as the TARDIS lands noiselessly in the Pond’s backyard.
The Doctor’s head pops around the side of the console, sporting such a blinding smile that some of her grumpiness can’t help but evaporate immediately.
“Of course! It’s a surprise party, River. It has to be a surprise!”
“I doubt you come as much of a surprise to anyone, sweetie,” she mutters, the small smile tugging at her lips belying her tone of voice. “Have you told anyone you’re planning this?”
He sighs exaggeratedly, the picture of exasperation. “I think the concept of a surprise has passed you by here, River.”
He fidgets a little when she just continues to look at him, one eyebrow raised.
“Fine,” he huffs, “I told Rory. I don’t fancy getting sworded for being too late for his wife’s thirtieth birthday, you know.”
“Oh, he isn’t that bad.”
She chuckles lightly at his comically affronted expression.
“You’re not the one who keeps getting threatened every time I lay so much as a hand on you in public, River!”
“Oh, you know it’s only a joke darling, don’t pretend otherwise. And speaking of you laying hands on people, you have been doing that a lot recently. Something on your mind sweetie?”
She simply loves watching him turn red and splutter – it’s positively adorable that he still does so after so many years of marriage and part of what makes him, irrevocably, her Doctor.
He must’ve have seen some of the thoughts passing across her face, for his blush is quickly replaced by an impossibly warm, fond look as he steps up to her. One hand lightly caressing her cheek, he murmurs, “Always.”
For a moment they’re poised on the edge, nearly falling into each other’s arms to engage in some of the aforementioned activities, but then the Doctor coughs a little, straightening up. “Well, we should probably get going, or we’re really going to be late, surprise or no surprise.”
“And that would be no surprise at all, considering your driving skills,” she teases, drawing back a little. He’s right of course.
“Oi! My driving is perfectly fine!” he says indignantly, but is far too busy bouncing around like an overgrown puppy in search off the present he’s stashed somewhere to take real offense, and anyway he knows her too well for that.
“Whatever you say, husband,” she calls back, just as he turns to her, a slightly lumpy package wrapped in ridiculously garish neon green wrapping (she doesn’t even want to know where he’d unearthed that atrocity) in his arms.
“There we go with the sarcasm again. Is that a Pond thing? That’s definitely a Pond thing.”
“Yes,” she agrees cheerfully. “And an enlightened women thing. And a defence mechanism for people travelling with you.”
The Doctor pouts a little – probably because hehehe had never quite got the hang of sarcasm, especially when it’s directed at him – but proceeds through the doors without protest.
Leaving the TARDIS after him, River takes note that he’s parked the ship in Amy’s flower bed again – the poor plants just can’t catch a break with him around. Judging by his slight wince (Amy does have an impressive set of lungs on her and lacks any kind of ear-drum preserving hesitation to use them), the Doctor notices it too.
Before they can even take another step, an angry, very Scottish voice rings out. “Where’ve you been? You should’ve been here hours ago!”
“What?” the Doctor exclaims, waving his hands around a little, “No, I wasn’t! This was supposed to be a surprise!”
It probably would’ve been more of one if he hadn’t said that, but considering that Amy has already given the impression of being anything but surprised, River supposes it doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Apparently the Doctor has also reached that conclusion, for he asks suspiciously, “How did you know?”
“Oh, I badgered Rory until he told me,” Amy answers, cheerfully unrepentant and entirely unmoved by his look of abject disappointment. “Now get over here and give me a hug you idiot.”
That’s one command the Doctor doesn’t mind obeying. Especially since Amy seems to have put her irritation at his tardiness aside – or maybe she’s just too used to the man of time somehow failing entirely to live up to his name. When Amy turns to her, arms outstretched and demanding a hug, River doesn’t hesitate either, glad to see her mother again, not to mention the smile on the Doctor’s face as he surveys his Ponds, all gathered together.
Soon enough Amy is dragging both of them towards the house. The Doctor throws one last furtive glance over to the flower bed, but carefully avoids pointing the mishap out to Amy. She is probably going to notice it herself sooner or later, but apparently he’s trying to put it off until the end of their visit so he can flee before retribution strikes.
Rory is in the kitchen, making tea in wary anticipation of having to calm down both his wife and the Doctor sometime soon. Catching sight of him, the Doctor immediately dumps his bulky package into Amy’s arms (with only minimal flailing) to free his arms for an equally enthusiastic hug with ‘Rory the Roman’, which he still insists to be an absolutely brilliant name.
Both River and Amy watch the two of them fondly, with shared amusement at Rory’s reflexive face of discomfort at this overt man-love (neither of them actually buy that he minds – it’s the Doctor after all).
“Presents!” the Doctor exclaims, twirling back around and once more proving himself to be more of a nine year old at heart than anything else.
“That one’s mine,” he adds, rather redundantly pointing at the neon green monstrosity.
Amy takes one look at the duct tape wrapped all around it and goes for the scissors. It takes far longer than is entirely reasonable to unwrap the whole thing, but finally the Doctor’s idea of a great present lies revealed.
River can barely hold back a snort at Amy’s and Rory’s near identical looks of incredulity.
“What?” the Doctor says, looking from one disbelieving face to the next. “Hammocks are cool! Almost as cool as bunk beds. They’re like swings, but bigger!”
Amy says, “Right. Well, thanks.”
Two minutes later the frankly enormous hammock is hanging between two trees in the back garden and the Doctor is standing next to them, rubbing his hands with glee.
“Watch and learn,” he announces grandly, taking a run-up.
To absolutely everyone’s surprise he actually manages to land in the hammock – River suspects he tinkered with it beforehand, or maybe it’s just the fact that it’s so big that absolutely no one could’ve missed.
The Doctor grins at them, bright and happy like a kid in the metaphorical sandbox. “I made a few adjustments.”
He taps the sonic against the hammock once – and it immediately starts rocking to and fro at a breakneck speed. There’s a lot of flailing limbs and a yelp of surprise, followed by a muffled ‘oomph’, until finally, with the whir of the sonic, the motion dies down again, leaving the Doctor tangled hopelessly in the folds of cloth, his dark mob of hair, which is peeking over the edge of the part of the hammock obscuring his face, even more floppy and messy than usual.
“Somehow this didn’t go quite as planned,” the Doctor mumbles into the ensuing silence, voice muffled by the edge of hammock stuck against his face.
For a moment longer everyone just stares at him, then River starts laughing, bending over helplessly, and Amy soon follows suit. Only Rory keeps quiet, his face torn between amusement and sympathy, nice man that he is.
When she can finally breathe again, River says, “You two go on and finish the tea preparations. It seems I have to go and rescue my dear husband again.”
“Mph!” the Doctor says behind her, as loudly as he can manage with a face full of cloth. She pats him on the head.
Tea time is a lively affair, even discounting the fact that all the jammy dodgers ‘mysteriously’ disappear from the biscuit mix in an astonishingly short amount of time. But then again, one can’t exactly envision a meal with the Ponds to be anything else (unless it’s breakfast – River knows for a fact that Amy is one of the worst morning monsters ever). Naturally as soon as Amelia Pond is involved in something, it’s bound to end up a lively and most probably loud affair. However, it’s Rory, who usually manages to give off an air of being the responsible one, who can end up the soul and pizazz of the conversation. He’s just fooling everyone with that innocent face, really. River heartily approves, especially considering that these are traits she’s definitely inherited from him.
She doesn’t make a secret of how frequently her eyes linger on the Doctor, though. He’s been moody lately, even a little downtrodden sometimes, and it’s not a good look for him. In fact it’s a very worrying look when he’s usually jumping around like a giraffe on steroids. It’s really nice to see him so relaxed (outside of bed) for once, even if the ease with which he’s engaging in conversation with her parents makes her all the more suspicious that his bad mood has something to do with them. This suspicion is only furthered by the fact that her refuses to tell her outright what’s bothering him, instead avoiding her questions with surprising talent (usually either by ambushing her with a snogging session, or getting them shot at).
She regularly catches him throwing fond looks her way as well. She can still remember a time (when she was still so young and clueless as to the deep trust that would grow between them) when he used to bemoan, with that peculiar mix of aged gravity and sadness he’s perfected, the fact that she only pretends to be relaxed most of the time, hiding anything else behind an overabundance of mischief and snark. Sometimes she see remembrance in his eyes when he looks at her, relaxed and happy, but it always passes – he’s never been anything but good at taking advantage of the good moments.
Stars are already blinking up in the sky, when Amy finally breaks. “Oi, why don’t you two get a room!”
“Because, dear mummy,” River smirks, ignoring the Doctor’s spluttering next to her, “you wouldn’t be in it. And we’re celebrating your birthday.”
Warmth unfurls in her chest when Amy’s smile goes soft. Family. Humany-whumany, as the Doctor would say.
“Which reminds me, I still have to give you my present.”
Next to her the Doctor suddenly perks up, but his interested face quickly dissolves into a (rather adorable) pout when River tugs Amy upright to lead her into the garden. River ignores him. His pout intensifies.
Rory sighs, and starts clearing the table, sensible man that he is. He apparently has already learned that when two women conspire not to tell him something, there’s nothing to be done about it. Then again, he’s been married to a Scot for years now, so that was probably covered in ‘How to Survive 101’.
Later, when they’re lying snuggled together in the bed in the guestroom (having stayed after Amy had threatened to do horrible things to his wardrobe if he even thought of scarpering on her, after having cheerfully ignored Rory’s warning to ‘better not be shagging in our house’), River sighs contentedly. The Doctor burrows even close in response, pressing his face into her neck and hair so that his soft breath ghosts over her skin.
He shifts a little, freeing his mouth to quietly ask, “So what did you get Amy then?”
She can’t help but laugh. “This is your idea of romantic pillow talk, sweetie?”
His silence even sounds sulky. “The last time I tried doing that you accused me of being a soppy sentimentalist. Besides you refused to tell me all day. I don’t like not knowing things.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” she comments dryly, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, I gave her a promise to have a mother-daughter day, just the two of us, whenever she feels like she really needs it.”
She can feel his pleased smile against her skin, before it changes into a small frown. “Then why didn’t you just tell me in the first place?”
She grins. “Where would be the fun in that?”
He huffs lightly, but doesn’t protest – after all he’s sitting in the proverbial glass house when it comes to different ideas of fun.
“The hammock still has you beat, darling.”