LOSS AND HEALING

Chapter Nine

Once again, Lori was amazed how willing her daughter was to try on new shoes when the Doctor was there, teasing her and making her laugh. She finally decided on a pair of pink and white Nikes and the Doctor urged her to walk around while she stood with him and admired them. They laughed when Mandy began to strut around and pretend to be a fashion model while they clapped enthusiastically. While they drove on, Lori finally had to ask her friend if he had ever been a parent.

"Yes, long ago," he said while they drove down I-70 towards home.

"I can tell, you're a natural at parenting," Lori said.

"Well, I love children," the Doctor said.

"I can tell that too. I'm glad you're here to help. Besides, it gets boring sometimes with just me and Mandy during the day. It's nice to have other adults here to talk to."

"You mean you don't enjoy the constant repetition of break it down now?" the Doctor teased.

He laughed when Lori rolled her eyes and shook her head.

"I want to apologize too," Lori said.

"For what?" the Doctor said with a frown.

"For the scuzziness of the area. It's embarrassing showing you just how hick it really is," she said.

"Nah, it's not your fault the place is seedy. Besides, I've been to mankier places than Kennard, Indiana. No worries. I quite enjoyed your tour. I love knowing my surroundings and learning the history of it. Please don't be embarrassed. I'm glad that it didn't affect you and turn you in a beer swilling redneck while you were growing up."

"Oh God, that's the last thing I want for me or my family," Lori said.

"Mommy, I got new shoes!" Mandy chirped.

"I know, baby, do you like them?" Lori said, looking at her in the rearview mirror while Mandy inspected her feet.

"Yes," Mandy said.

"Good because they were worth the cost of new ones," Lori said to the Doctor. "She runs and plays so much that secondhand shoes from Goodwill just won't cut it. We can't afford shoes all the time so we have to make them last."

The Doctor thought about that. He had an idea forming in his mind, once again to help his adopted family but he kept the idea to himself for the moment.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOX

When they arrived home and came through the door, the Doctor called out for River as he carried in the sacks of food and his drink. He heard her call back and went into the lounge where she was sitting and reading a book from the TARDIS library while Rex lay near her. He perked up and trotted over to the Doctor. The Doctor greeted him hello with a rub to the head before he zoomed over to River.

"Break it down now!" the Doctor said when he reached River. "Boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom-break it down now!"

"What are you doing?" River said while Mandy and Lori giggled.

"Singing to you, you don't like it?" the Doctor said innocently.

"Not really, no," River said.

"It's Mandy's song, she made it up all by herself," the Doctor said.

"Then let it be her song and you find one of your own that's less annoying," River said.

"We have lunch, burgers and chips," the Doctor said, holding up the sacks. "Tiny burgers that you can eat in two bites. I got you burgers and chips because I didn't know what you wanted."

"Thank you, sweetie!" River said, patting his cheek.

He grinned at her.

"BREAK IT DOWN NOW! BOOM-CHICKA…"

"Oh, button it and go away," River said, rolling her eyes.

XOXOXOXOXOX

After passing out the food, Lori went and got the photo albums. She came out of her bedroom with four of them and gave them to the Doctor while he, River and Mandy sat on the sofa.

"The tornado photos are in the top one," Lori said, pointing to the first album.

"Tornado photos?" River said to the Doctor while he thanked Lori.

The Doctor explained what Lori said about the tornado devastating Kennard while he sat the bottom three beside him and opened the top one. At the front were a few photos from the 1800's. Old faded tintype photos of men and women with Lori's descriptions of who they were written under them. River snuggled with the Doctor and they ate their food while they looked at the photos. When they got to the tornado photos, the Doctor was amazed at the damage. Half the town had been flattened to the ground, trees were splintered like toothpicks and there was devastation all over.

"And only one fatality from this?" River said to the Doctor while she pointed to one of the photos.

"Yeah and six months after this happened," the Doctor said.

"I'm surprised, given the damage here," River said.

"So am I but you shoulda seen the town now. It's been rebuilt but they still have empty buildings there."

"Well, small town like that, not many people wanna live there now."

"That's what Lori said," the Doctor said, nodding, as Mandy came over and munched on a chicken ring while she looked at the photos.

They looked through the photo albums, the Doctor loving the photos of his adopted family in different stages of their lives and especially the baby photos of the children. While they did that, Lori straightened up the house and tried to plan what to have for supper. The Doctor came to a photo of Lori and her parents and remember what Michelle had said.

"Lori," the Doctor called to her.

"Yeah?" Lori said, coming from the kitchen.

"I'm looking of a photo of you and your parents. Michelle said that your mum died. What about your dad then? I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said…" he said, holding up his head when he saw the stricken look on her face.

"No, it's fine," Lori said, walking over to them. "Mom died about five years ago and Dad went a bit berserk with grief. They were extremely close and when she got pancreatic cancer, he tried everything he could to save her and blamed himself when she died. He became very depressed after that and we tried to help him but he finally moved to LA to get away from us. I haven't heard from him in a couple of years. I think he just lost a part of himself when he lost Mom. That's why he wasn't around for the holidays."

"And Jim's parents?" River said.

"They died in a car crash when he was a teenager and his grandparents raised him but they're both dead now," Lori said.

"Oh, I'm sorry," the Doctor said.

Lori nodded and stroked Mandy's cheek when she came and stood beside her.

"The children never knew them but I met them when I was dating Jim and they were good folks, although they were racist as I said. "But they meant well. But my dad…" she said with a sigh, "I can understand his grief because I lost Mom too but to cut himself off from his family and grandchildren," she said, rubbing Mandy's cheek.

"That's why I brought him here," River said, pointing to the Doctor. "I didn't want him ending up like that and cutting himself off from everyone because he lost Mum and Dad."

"Are you better now?" Mandy said, walking up to the Doctor.

"I am," the Doctor said, tousling her hair. "And I hope things work out between you and your father."

"I hope so too, for his sake," Lori said. "He shouldn't be isolated like that. Especially since his mental state was fragile to begin with. But I tried calling him repeatedly and emailing him and he won't answer me so there's nothing I can do on my end."

"Maybe in time he'll realize that he's missing out on his grandchildren and reconnect," River said. "Just give him time."

"I am, that's all I can do right now," Lori said.

"I do love the photos, by the way," the Doctor said. "I love the ones of the children when they were small."

Lori chuckled and nodded.

"Do you have any of yourself when you were a child?" she said.

"No. My family had the holocubes that contained the photos of me as a child and those were destroyed with Galilfrey."

"That's horrible. You lost your family too?"

"Yeeeeah but…to be honest, I was never close to most of my family and I lost contact centuries beforehand. The people that traveled with me, they became my family and I lost some of them as well."

"You've had a rough life," Lori said.

"I have but…I try to focus on the good and let the bad fall by the wayside. Doesn't always work but I try," he said.

"That's all you can do sometimes," Lori said with a shrug. "Gotta keep moving forward and pressing on."

"I agree," the Doctor said, nodding.

"Well, I was thinking about what to fix for tonight, do you have any ideas?" Lori said. "I was considering tacos and some Mexican food."

"Ooo, that sounds delicious!" the Doctor said.

"Tacos, Mommy, I want tacos!" Mandy said, jumping up and down.

"How about you, dear?"

"I wouldn't mind having that. I vote for tacos," River said.

"Okay, I guess it's unanimous then," Lori said, "Enjoy the photos while I prepare the meat for tonight."

The Doctor thanked her and they watched while she walked into the kitchen. He set the photo albums aside and stood up.

"Come with me for a moment, I want to get your opinion on something," he said to River.

"Can I come?" Mandy said.

"Sure, come with me then," he said, taking her hand.

River and Rex followed them as he headed for the stairs.

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