Doctor Who is the property of BBC Television, and I freely admit that I'm borrowing their show and they retain all rights, etc.
Author's Note: Rory/Amy. River & Rory friendship. Rory & Eleven friendship. Major spoilers for season 32/A Good Man Goes to War/Let's Kill Hitler/The Girl Who Waited.
Rory knows the moment that breaks him.
It's standing on one side of a flimsy wooden door and listening to his wife from a future time stream on the other side plead with him not to let her inside even though her younger self is lying next to Rory alive; because her younger self is lying next to Rory alive he has to let the Amy pleading with him die.
He lasts another two days in the TARDIS before he can't take it anymore.
He's not the adventurer Amy is despite having the knowledge of over two thousand years of history in his head; of being a warrior when all he's ever wanted to do is help sick people get better. He wouldn't change it – if he had to make the decision again, he'd stand beside the Pandorica and keep Amy safe for another two thousand years – but right at that moment he wants nothing more than to go home.
"A holiday!" declares the Doctor. "You just need a holiday. I know the very planet! Very sunny, lovely cocktails and there are these birds…"
"Home." Rory states. "I just want to go home for a bit." He catches Amy's frown. "You can stay if you want." Even if it kills him to say that because it's not that he doesn't trust the Doctor with her life – it's just that he doesn't trust the Doctor with her life. Except he does. "Maybe you should check out the holiday planet." He forces a smile.
"Are you sure?" asks Amy, sliding into his personal space, wrapping an arm around his waist and cupping his cheek. "I can come with you."
"Nah," Rory tries to smile again, "I'll be fine."
"If you're sure…" Amy looks at him intently.
"I just need a break." Rory says truthfully. From dying, from time travel, from pretending…
Amy nods. He sees the concerned look that she exchanges with the Doctor before the Time Lord twirls back to the console and navigates the TARDIS back to Leadworth.
Rory watches the disappearing blue box and heads into their home. It feels empty without Amy. It feels like she really has died.
An hour later the feeling hasn't gone away and he's sat on the floor of their bedroom, his hands clutched around the teddy bear he had bought for the baby – for Melody. There's a closet full of baby stuff that he knows now won't ever be used. He and Amy have carefully avoided the subject of their daughter since leaving her in a hospital years into the future; leaving her to become River Song.
He determines the house is the last place he wants to be. He packs a bag and heads out. He catches a bus into town; gets on a train. He ends up at a small seaside town on the East coast of Scotland where his family used to vacation when he was a child. He sleeps like the dead in the first B&B he comes to with a vacancy sign.
He sits on the bench and looks out at the crashing waves beyond the rocky shore. The wind is brisk and he's sure his face is red. The breeze tugs at his hair and his clothes. He pushes his hands deep into his coat pockets to warm them. His eyes settle on a young couple with a child on the shoreline. The father hoists the young boy onto his shoulders and the child squeals with delight.
He's never going to have that with his daughter. All those moments he should have had as her father are gone; stolen and lost in time.
He loves Mels; Amy's best friend, his friend (loved he guesses is the more accurate tense as Mels is gone and won't be coming back – another loss to factor into the complicated Melody + Mels = River equation). But for all Mels had joked that Amy and Rory had raised her, they hadn't. They'd grown up with her but they hadn't been the ones to hug her when she was upset; celebrate her successes when she achieved something – like that horrendous talent competition when they were ten; kiss her skinned knees better.
Well, OK, yes they had been but they hadn't known she was their daughter.
Rory would have hugged her more if he'd known.
He would have loved her more.
He is only mildly surprised when River sits down beside him. They sit in silence for a long time watching the waves.
It's only when she reaches for his hand, sliding hers into his coat pocket to slip her fingers around his, that he realises he's crying; that he's probably been crying for some time.
"I lost you." He says eventually.
"I'm right here." River replies.
But she's not. Melody isn't here; River is. It's not a distinction he knows how to explain to her or to himself because from the moment that River told them that she's their daughter, Rory has loved her just as much as he loves the baby who he's only held once.
"I've never built a sandcastle before." River says incongruously.
Rory darts a look at her. She's staring out at the same young family he'd watched earlier. They're building a sandcastle on the beach. He frowns because surely Mels built a sandcastle but his memory comes up a blank.
"We could build a sandcastle if you want." Rory offers.
River grins at him. "I'd like that."
Which is how Rory finds himself tracking down shells for windows and twigs for the bridge across the moat while River constructs the biggest sandcastle Rory has ever seen.
They sit eating ice-cream cones from a van; Mr Whippy's with old fashioned flakes stuck in them and strawberry syrup that consists entirely of E numbered ingredients. The ice-cream melts and runs down River's fingers. She licks them gleefully.
He always thinks of River as full of life, but more than that, enjoying life.
It warms his heart, the comparison between mother and daughter.
The Amy he'd lost, an Amy who had waited thirty-six years for them to find her, she'd reminded him of River; smart, sassy and kick-ass, a survivor; his Amy for all the years stolen from them, all the years that he hadn't spent with her. His heart aches again. He'd let that Amy go in the end because she'd given him back those years, those days to spend with her younger self.
He'll never get them back with Melody. She'll never be the red headed daughter he sometimes dreams about who calls him "Daddy."
But she'll always be River; the smart, sassy, kick-ass survivor who loves life, he realises.
River searches in her pockets and Rory hands her a tissue and helps her wipe her fingers clean.
The tide is washing away their sandcastle.
"It's been a good day." River remarks, her hand is tucked into his again in the warmth of his pocket.
"Yeah." Rory says because it has.
"I should probably be heading back."
To the prison. And there are so many questions there; answers he's certain he doesn't want to know.
"Yeah." He says again, swallowing down the urge to ask her to stay and spend another day with him.
River smiles and leans in for a hug. He wraps his arms around her tightly. He doesn't want to let go but he does.
He watches the sandcastle until there's nothing left.
He hears the TARDIS before it lands beside the bench.
Amy sits down next to him in the darkness, loops her arm around his and snuggles into his side. They watch the distant ripples across the moonlit ocean; listen to the sound of the waves breaking against the shore.
She rests her chin on his shoulder.
"I lost you." Rory says because he did lose her; she'd died on the other side of the door and he hadn't been able to save her.
"No, you didn't, you idiot," Amy whispers, "I'm right here."
"We lost our baby." Rory says, putting into words what they've avoided saying.
Amy hums. "We found River." There's a stubborn note in her voice that dares him to contradict her.
And she's right, just as River had been right. And she's wrong, just as River had been wrong.
Like mother, like daughter. He loves his girls so much. Tears sting his eyes; run down his cheeks.
She kisses him and nudges his nose with hers. "You said other me gave me back the days she lost. I don't want to miss any of them."
Rory sniffs and swipes at his eyes. "Yeah, OK."
They stand and walk hand in hand back to the TARDIS.
The Doctor looks relieved to see Rory although he immediately begins to talk about another planet, other far flung sights that he hasn't taken them to visit yet.
Amy ignores him and pulls Rory away, through the corridors to their bedroom. They sleep wrapped tightly around each other.
Rory watches her for hours when he wakes up before he bestows a kiss on her forehead and slips away, pulling on jeans and a t-shirt before making his way to the control room.
The Doctor is there, tinkering, his jacket discarded, sleeves rolled up.
"Ah, Rory!" The Doctor says catching sight of him. "Stopped off briefly at the B&B while you were sleeping. Very nice landlady. Bit too gossipy if you ask me but does a lovely cup of tea." He points to the bag sitting on the steps.
Rory sits down beside it and pulls out the teddy-bear he somehow couldn't leave behind. The Doctor hovers awkwardly before he sits beside him on the step and places a finger carefully on the bear.
"I spent the day on the beach with River." Rory answers the unspoken question. "We built a sandcastle." He pauses, a thought occurring to him. "You'll tell her that we did, won't you? That's why she showed up."
"I'm not sure it'll be me." The Doctor replies. And he's serious; there's no hint of mischief in his too old eyes. "Your wife lasted forty-two seconds before she insisted she couldn't travel without you and we turned back. The TARDIS took us to where we found you instead."
Time travel sometimes makes Rory's head hurt but he gets it. What was a day for him was a minute for Amy and the Doctor, thanks to the TARDIS. River's a child of the TARDIS too although Rory hasn't quite worked out what that means yet. He's not sure he wants to. Still, maybe he'll thank the TARDIS for giving him a day with his daughter, or perhaps she gave his daughter a day with him.
Because he gets it now: I'm right here. Maybe his girls had – have –a point. He'll enjoy whatever time he gets with River, let go of time he'll never have with Melody. Rory returns to his room; to the Amy he has and finally lets go of the Amy he lost.
Amy's holding the bear when he wakes up again. She's sitting cross-legged in their bed, her fingers tracing over the bear's ears and eyes. Rory pushes a hand through his hair, sits up and wraps an arm around her.
"I'm an idiot." Rory acknowledges because he knows Amy is hurting too and he's thought only of his own pain for the past few days; hasn't been able to focus on hers in the fog of his own grief.
"Yes," Amy agrees, "but you're my idiot." She kisses him and settles back against his shoulder, pushing him back onto the pillows so they're comfortable. It isn't long before she speaks again. "You saw River yesterday, didn't you?"
He doesn't question how she knows. He feels guilty because Amy is River's mother and she probably would have loved to have spent the day with her too. He makes a non-committal noise which he knows Amy will take as a confirmation.
"I knew she'd be a Daddy's girl." Amy mutters.
Rory hears satisfaction in her voice though as if she's pleased that father and daughter are bonding.
"She's going to love this bear." She notes wryly.
Rory remembers River's delight in the sandcastle; her joy at eating the ice-cream. He thinks Amy is right; their daughter will love the bear.
"So, what do you want to do today? Go to that holiday planet the Doctor was on about?" Amy asks, waving one of the bear's paws at him.
Rory shifts and kisses her. "I don't care," he says truthfully, smiling at her softly, tracing her youthful features lovingly with his fingertips, "as long as I spend it with you."
When she smiles and takes his breath away, he knows it's the right answer; time will never change that.