She supposed she should be jealous; for the second time, they chose to buy a house rather than live within her walls. She couldn’t bring herself to be, though. Devana in the 61st century was one of the most peaceful planets, perfect for Little One to grow up with some semblance of safety. It was important to them, her Thief and her Child, that Little One had a yard to play in, a space to bring friends around and have birthday parties, and a stable, linear place she could always return to. They wanted so much for her to have what they never did: a shot at a normal, happy upbringing.
It wasn’t like the TARDIS went unused. That lovely house in the woods – far enough from town to avoid questioning neighbors, but close enough as to not be isolated – was in need of some work. What better transport for all that lumber, paint, and wiring than a box that was bigger on the inside? Even once renovations were complete, Thief made good use of her. The university River found work at was just a twenty-minute underground ride away, but such tight spaces seemed to bother her Thief these days. As intertwined with her mind as she was, the old girl had seen that small, dark room many of times, saw all the marks on the wall tracking the days of the Doctor’s imprisonment. She could hardly blame her, and was grateful for the trips, however short they were.
Little One always came along for the trips, strapped to the chest of the mother who carried her while they paid a visit to the mother who chose her. They’d spend time in River’s office or sit in on one of her lectures. When asked, the Doctor would claim to be bored while her wife was at work, but the old ship saw the true reason, saw the loneliness that nagged at her Thief when left idle for too long. River had her suspicions, of course. She knew the Doctor very well. As such, she didn’t mind the occasional visit from her wife and daughter.
Apart from once. One sunny afternoon, Thief arrived at the university, leaving the box with Little One in toe. Much sooner than usual, she returned on her own, mumbling under her breath.
“I was not being that much of a disruption,” she griped, bitterly replaying events in her mind. There were a few inaccuracies in her wife’s lecture, and she took it upon herself to point them out. The students should be learning the right stuff, after all. River didn’t seem to appreciate this, unceremoniously escorting her out of the classroom after the fifth interruption and a brief debate. The Doctor tried to tell her that the diaper bag she’d brought was still by the chair, but that just led to River taking the baby from her, saying that she was welcome to stay before closing the door in her face.
The audacity of that woman! The TARDIS could’ve laughed, had she had the ability. Her Thief’s ability to read a room had never been the strongest, no matter what face she wore. And oh, did she have a lot of them!
That pout was still on her face when her wife returned, baby Hope still on her hip. “How was the rest of class?” Thief asked as she pretended to do maintenance.
“Went quite well, once that obnoxious woman left.” She wore that usual teasing smile as she sat down her bags. “Between you and me, I think she only shows up because fancies me. Pretty face she is, but runs her mouth too much.”
Making a face, the Doctor finally looked up from the console. “Hilarious. Did Hope enjoy your inaccurate lecture?”
“Oh, she had a wonderful time.” She shifted the six-month-old to her other arm as she approached her wife. “Such a good little assistant. And the word you’re looking for is condensed. I was going to wait to go over the finer details over the next few lectures, but a certain 2000-year-old toddler had to go and have no patience.”
Thief kept pouting as she pulled the levers to take them home. An agreement was reached later in the day. Thief could sit in on the next class but moving forward, would only be allowed one “correction” per hour.
Having her Child back, back with her and back with Thief, brought the TARDIS much joy. Too long had passed since their last meeting, when they said goodbye for what the Doctor thought to be the last time. The old girl felt every ounce of pain that went through the then-Scotsman’s hearts, a pain that was only to be topped by one of the more physical kind, when the next Doctor brought Little One into the universe. Worse still was how little she could do to help her Thief. Pain was not always so easily soothed by a hum, or flash of lights. Even once Little One was around, Thief had been lost and lonely. It was no coincidence that River’s escape pod crashed onto that uninhabited planet, or that the Doctor just happened to be there the same year her wife was resurrected. The reunion was inevitable, but sometimes a little push was just needed.
The TARDIS maybe went a bit far in her interference when it came to Little One. The moment she came online, back when she was still growing inside of Thief, it was impossible to resist reaching out. She loved Little One, loved her as much as her Thief and her Child, but the continued influence on her still budding consciousness had a side-effect. Hope Song was incredibly telepathic for an infant, even by Time Lord standards. Her mind reached out to all whom she shared a bond; the TARDIS, her two mothers, and a fourth buzzing no one else seemed to hear. Far from the worst thing, but still, perhaps not something the old girl should have done.
That seemed to be a theme between her and the family’s newest addition. One particular evening, Thief failed to close her door all the way after searching for something she needed. Little One was quite good at crawling by this point, her tiny limbs moving fast against the console room’s illuminated floor. Her blue eyes were locked onto the custard cream dispenser, and her goal was clear in her mind. Walking wasn’t something she’d mastered yet, but pulling herself to her feet was easy enough. Her tiny hand grabbed at the dispenser, thinking of all the times the biscuits appeared there for Thief – or as she called her, Mummy. The petal to operate it was right next to her foot, but the TARDIS could see that she hadn’t made the connection yet. Not wanting to disappoint, she went ahead and had one released, earning a smile and squeal of delight from Little One. The baby grabbed the biscuit, biting into it with her four, tiny teeth. With her mind alight with dopamine, the TARDIS couldn’t resist dispensing another. Then another. Then another. Little One had to be the happiest baby on the planet, sitting there with half a dozen custard creams in her lap. She made a mess of crumbs as she munched, but the TARDIS didn’t mind, not if it made Little One happy.
“Oi! What do you think you’re doing?”
Little One looked up, seeing her mummy hurrying towards her and eyeing the treasure in her lap.
“Ohhh, you are so naughty!” She bent down to pick up Little One, stuffing a few of the custard creams into her pocket.
“And you!” She glared at the crystal time rotor as she stood up. “You just gave them to her?! She hasn’t even had dinner yet! You can’t just-!”
Her rant was cut off by Little One, looking to her with innocents as she fed her the custard cream in her hand. Of course, Thief couldn’t help but smile as she took a bite.
“You’re lucky you’re cute,” she said, still chewing on the biscuit.
Little One gave a small babble. Proper words were another thing she hadn’t mastered yet.
“What’s all the fuss about?”
Thief turned around, seeing her wife entering the TARDIS. “Seems someone wanted a snack, and another someone didn’t stop her.”
River laughed as she reached Thief and Little One, eyeing the half-eaten treat in the baby’s hand. “What a little trouble-maker.”
Now looking to her Mama, Little One reached out her tiny arm, offering her what remained of her custard cream. Snickering, River accepted.
“You’ll get ants if you don’t clean that up,” she said to her wife, eyeing the crumbs as she ate the biscuit.
“Over two thousand years of time and space, and never once have I gotten-” Something caught her eye. Little One had a new custard cream in her hand and was starting to munch on it. “Where did you…” Studying her daughter, she noticed the front pocket of her yellow overalls, how the patchwork bumble bee bulged out quite suspiciously. Reaching inside, she found two more custard creams. “Oh, you little sneak!”
River was already laughing. “Her mother’s daughter.” She took Little One from Thief, grinning as she held her in her arms. “You’ll get a belly ache if you eat all those.”
The Doctor nodded in agreement. “It’s true. Believe me, I know.”
Hope’s attention was to the console. She held out her remaining treat, offering it to her beloved, unseen guardian. The TARDIS hummed at the gesture, thankful even if there was no way to accept it.
Little One was such a treasure, to all of them. As that one Earth song goes: Call it love and devotion. Call it a mom's adoration. Foundation. A special bond of creation. Hope Amelia Song had to be the luckiest little girl in the universe, having three amazing mums looking after her.