TW: it gets a bit angsty and depressed
Amy once asked the Doctor when his birthday was. When she declared that, according to her own counting of days, it should be her birthday tomorrow and demanded the Doctor take her somewhere nice. And then she got curious about how Time Lords mark their birthdays. Do you celebrate the day you were born on? Or do you celebrate the day you regenerate into your current incarnation? What about when you regenerate in the TARDIS or on another planet? Do you have a Gallifreyan clock that always tells you what time it should be for your timeline?
The Doctor pulled the TARDIS into a more violent than necessary shake (That's what she thought, anyway. That or the Doctor and the TARDIS had an Emergency Protocal of some sort.) and Amy dropped the subject when she regained her balance and got her breath back.
Rory once asked the Doctor when his birthday was. When the Doctor declared out of nowhere one day that according to his calculations, it should be Rory's birthday and the Doctor and his TARDIS had had a mid-night meeting and had decided to take him somewhere nice, Amy can be his plus one. Amy pouted. Sensing danger,Rory quickly seeked to change the subject. The first question to blurt out of his mouth made Amy glare at him and he could hear her calling him all sorts of names silently but loudly. But this was a different anger, one that wouldn't cost him a night's soothing and cooing and making bad jokes to see Amy smile again, and allow him to kiss her while words that went along with 'stupid face' were still on her tongue. So it's okay.
'Rory, control your wife!' The Doctor ignored the question and hid behind him dramatically, clinging to his shoulders and everything.
'It's okay, Doctor.' Rory patted his hand, 'she's mad at me. You are safe.' The Doctor untangled himself and gave him a goofy grin. 'I'll leave it to you, then.' He carefully avoided Amy's side of the room, giving Rory a thumbs up and a grin that screamed Punch-Me-In-the-Face before slipping away.
Rory looked at Amy, who for some reason looked even more annoyed at him. Luckily figuring out why Amy was having an emotion was Rory's favourite thing to do. And he would never get tired of it.
River once asked the Doctor when his birthday was. When they were ice-skating, the Doctor's hand tight on hers because 'You never know River a lot of things can cause a great freeze over like this.' - not because he's scared, of course. They were there because it was River's first birthday in prison and the Doctor remembered that time River mentioned to him she really liked Tom's Midnight Garden when she was at school. (She and Amy may had spent many hours discussing how the Doctor may have caused the events in the book.) So natrually - since she didn't know him too well at that time, personally, albeit having spent most of her life being told stories of, and studying the man - she asked him for the piece of information that she could not find anywhere, thinking about ways she could return the favour since she was capable of quite some extraordinary things herself.
'Oh when you are my age, celebrating birthdays doesn't really matter.' The Doctor told her, tugging on her hand so they are skating closer. The Doctor's face was slightly flushed from the cold and the exercise. 'Plus it's hard to keep track when you start traveling. Timey wimey stuff, you know.'
River looked at the whiteness that extended in front of her far beyond the furthest her eyes could see, and covered every surface of the buildings on either side. She listened to all the sounds of laughter surrounding them.
'But there must be a time, Doctor.' She insisted. 'There must be a time that once in a while not too long and not to short you sit down and celebrate passing another year, and reflect the things you did in that year and look forward to the future.'
The Doctor smiled at her softly, and River frowned at him and raised her chin because his smile said unspoken words of 'Oh River...', of 'You will understand this someday', of 'I wish the day never comes when you understand this, but I'm so sorry.'
This was River's least favourite smile of the Doctor's. She wanted to understand. She wanted the Doctor to trust her with his words and thoughts because she loved him so much and she wanted to be the one he share his secrets with.
But for now, she had to settle for the knowledge that once the Doctor had given her that smile, it's time to talk about something else.
Somehow the topic of the Doctor's birthday came up at what they were now refering to as their Family Meetings.
'Did you ever find out when the Doctor's birthday is?' Amy asked Rory because, they are all aware of the fact that the boys sometimes had talks of their own, just like there were things the Doctor and Amy only talk about when Rory's not there.
Rory shook his head. When the Doctor didn't want you to know about something, it was hard to even find time bring up the subject, it seemed. But no one would be surprised if this wasn't a coincidence.
Then the two of them turned to look at their daughter.
River hated to be the one not able to bring answers but after a sigh that all of them understand as 'Well...it's the Doctor', she shook her head as well.
'We should do something about it.' Amy said after a second's thinking.
Rory and River nodded in unison.
'Am I getting warm?' The Doctor said in a squeaky voice as he walked into the library one day and suddenly found himself ambushed, his eyes covered by a piece of cloth and several arms started steering him.
'You don't ask that when we are guiding you.' Amy told him, carefully staying away from the edge of the swimming pool.
'What do I ask then?' The Doctor asked, his flailing arm nearly punched River in the face.
'You don't ask anything. And PUT YOUR ARMS DOWN.' River said as she ducked before said arms threaten to make contact with her again.
'I don't like this game.' The Doctor tried to break free, but three pairs of arms restraining him gently but firmly, and three voices making noises that range from 'It's okay Doctor trust us.' to 'Doctor Behave!' was not something easy to escape. And before he knew it the Doctor felt himself being dragged into another room (the floor underneath changed from a glassy echo to silent thick carpet.
'You are NOT ALLOWED into my study!' The Doctor was suddenly uncooperative again. 'I espcially made my study unaccessible to anyone except me!'
The Ponds shared a look of amusement. Amy winked at Rory, who blushed and looked away sheepishly.
With collected effort, and lots of near misses, yelps and shouty instructions, Amy, Rory and River managed to squeeze the Doctor into his armchair by the fire.
'Okay.' The Doctor said, he seemed to have regained his composure now he sensed he's in his own chair. ‘What is this all about?'
anger started to emit from him. Though no arm is keeping his limbs down now, he did not move to remove the blindfolder over his eyes. Even with a significant proportion of his face rather comically covered, Amy, Rory and River involuntarily took a small step backwards and hesitated.
It was Amy who recovered first and, taking Rory and River's hands in hers, she squeezed them in encouragement. She prompted River with a look.
'Doctor,' River said.
The Doctor raised his chin ever so slightly to show he was listening.
'You know what day today is?'
Rory gave her a 'This is NOT how we discussed?' frown, but then, he was used to the plan changing all around him, the pros of growing up with Amy and Mels, well, River.
'We are on the TARDIS. Days are irrelevant.' The Doctor said, impatience seeping through his voice.
'Wrong.' River said.
Amy looked at Rory, in the kind of way that parents did when their child was not looking, one that whispers 'what's she doing?'
'It's your birthday.' River said in a cheerfulness that bounced rather awkwardly off the walls and got absorbed by the carpet.
The Doctor stayed silent.
'Well we know it's poprobably not,' Rory added hastily, 'but since you never told us, we decided we will pick a day for you, and celebrate it...'
There was a twtich on the Doctor's face that made Rory trail off.
'There's nothing about a birthday that's worth celebrating.' The Doctor said, quietly. 'Two thousand years, did you celebrate your birthday with Amy in the box?'
He continued before Rory could stutter out an answer, and saving him from having to come up with one.
'But it's easier for you. You know where you are heading to. You know where the end is.'
River looked at Amy, who nodded. Silently she pressed a button on her vortex manipulator.
There was not a sound in the room except for the TARDIS humming, hearts beating, and lungs breathing.
Maybe it's the blindfold that's making the Doctor spill out his most secret words; maybe it's being in his office, in his chair; or maybe it's one of his many tactics...
'When you get older, people start to forget your birthday. Because those who knew had left, because you drifted apart and they forgot. and when that day rolls around it's just another brutal reminder of what you have lost, of what you no longer have, of how long you have been living, of how... it's just you now. After a while it's just easier to not do birthdays, to stop counting, to just keep going, embrace new things, and not look back.'
The Doctor finished talking, and his words hung in the air, heavy and suffocating. None of the Ponds knew how to react to that. Seriously, how do you react to depressing, but oh so real words from the lips of an old, old man? How do you tell them to Don't think about it? How do you convince them that the world is not like that, when they've lived so long in it? They will only laugh their old man's 'Oh young one, so innocent and fresh faced' laugh and cover up their sadness.
Rory looked at Amy and River with a loud Question Mark and River replied with an anxious look around the room, they need their back-up plan NOW, or the moment will be lost, never to be brought up again.
The office door opened then, and the collected sigh of relief in the room following the movement could free a moon from its orbit.
'Who is that?' The Doctor asked, alert. But in a swish of coat, his hands reaching for the blindfold was grabbed and the Doctor tensed.
'Happy Birthday, Doc.' said Jack in all his charm. Taking advantage of the Doctor's stun, he cupped his hands (still clutching the Doctor's) on the Time Lord's face and kissed him, pulling back just when the Doctor started asking for more.
'You thought I'd forgot about it, didn't you?'
There was something very satisfying about the Doctor stumbling over his words. That was the thought that went across this room then. Especially when you were the ones that planned it.
'Shall we have cake, then?' River interrupted, not wanting to be left out of this important moment.
'Yeeaahhh, cake!' Jack apparently abandoned the Doctor and bounced to where the Ponds were, by the time he reached them the four of them were bent over in muffled giggle.
'I thought I was the one getting special attention here?!' The Doctor stood from his chair, tore off the blindfold in one go and exclaimed in an extremely pouty voice.
Even though he had known where he was and who he was talking to all along, it seemed actually getting his eyes back made the Doctor daze. He blinked several times in the kind of confusion one just walked out of a cinema and saw the outside world being as it was.
Not to mention before his eyes, the Ponds have decorated his office with ballons and banners and shiny things, completed with a beautiful cottage shaped cake put in the center of a table that didn't belong in this room before.
The Doctor blushed the deepest shade of red and looked down at his feet, shifting, mouthing silent words that must somehow involve 'I hate you', 'how dare you' and 'this is impossible'.
Amy led the way as the four friends of the Doctor's walked up to hug him, putting a party hat on his head when he was lost in the tangle of limbs.
In this huge group hug they chanted 'Happy Birthday, Doctor.' and other tunes of celebration River and Jack had taught the group beforehand in secret meetings.
When the cake was shared and crackers were pulled (try tell the Doctor those were just for Christmas), the five of them lay on the carpet, looking at the ceiling where modules of stars made their complicated dance.
'Happy Birthday, Doctor.' Amy said again. 'We are on the TARDIS so time is irrelevant. Just call us whenever you feel like celebrating.'
'I will.' The Doctor said, smiling.
There was sadness in that smile. But two pairs of lips was pressed onto his cheeks, then, and the Doctor had to settle for the contentment of now.